A Happy Ironman!

For those of you who have been following be from the beginning you know there has been something which has been on my heart for a long time. For over a decade I’ve been training, not training, and waiting to hear the words, “Darchelle, You Are an Ironman.” On October 2nd, 2021 I heard those exact words and I’m here today to write about that day. You’ve all been here on this journey leading up to this day.

Packing: making my list and checking it a 1,000 times!

First, I must say thank you to everyone who has been here for the entire journey. My Facebook post after the race simply said Thank You. I truly had no other words. I have to thank my husband who supported this journey and now that I’m done he has the space to pursue his next journey in life as well. Thank you for waiting and supporting. I have to thank my babies for never making me feel guilty when I left them to train and my biggest thank you is the support they gave the day of the race. I have to thank my parents who made the trip to Indiana and were there every step of the journey from beginning to end. My dad was my bike mechanic, and I have to say he did an amazing job as I had no issues on race day. My mom made sure everyone had matching shirts so I wouldn’t miss them on the race course.

I’ve also had some incredible friends who where there for me the entire time. Mimi made the trip to Indiana and supported me through out the day.

Timyra photo bombing Mimi and me at the finish! My face truly says it all!

My Ironman training was an extremely long and lonely process.  I didn’t just get up one day and decide I wanted to do an Ironman and a few months later do it.  There were years of training and many setbacks that led me to this day.  Ironman Indiana was the 4th time I was registered to do Ironman and this was the first time I was able to make it to the start.  The last six weeks of training where grueling.  I struggled with stomach issues that kept me up after my long bike rides and I had to do my long runs the next morning.  I did all my biking alone, but I am extremely thankful for my running buddies, Larry and Kelly, who showed up for me every Saturday morning to pull me along through my long runs.  Other than those runs, I trained 100% by myself.

Kelly and Larry!

I also have to thank everyone who I am calling my Ironman tribe who followed me all day on the app. These are the people who were thinking of me that entire day. Every time I crossed a timing pad I could feel all their energy and encouragement pushing me to the finish. My running friends kept our group chat going and I loved reading all the comments after I finished. All of you are incredible and made this day possible.

Updates from my running buddies group chat.

For the swim start you lined up by anticipated swim time.  So after I lubed up head to toe in combat ointment (This is absolutely my new favorite anti-chaffing ointment.  I get it from http://www.docspartan.com.  They are a Veteran owned company who employ people straight out of rehab.  This is a company I want to support and they make really incredible products), Timyra and my  Dad helped stuff me into my wet suit.  They acted as my sherpas on race day. I’ve never had a sherpa before and it was awesome to have two of them with me at the start. This would be my first wet suit legal race and with the water only being 65.3 degrees F, I was very happy to be able to wear it.  I got in line for the swim near the 1 hour and 20 minute flag.  The race officially kicked off and I waited for my turn to enter the water.  Ironman had us enter three at a time every five seconds.  Close to my entry I met Kilt Man for the first time.  He was waiting at the start to give hugs to those who needed them.  I gladly accepted.   

The swim went off rather uneventfully.  I don’t recall all that was going through my mind while I was out there.  There certainly were times where I had moments of nausea, but I let those thoughts come and then go.  I spent a lot of the swim breathing just on my right side to help stay on course and beat the choppiness causing my nausea.  The swim was a two loop course and when I got out to run along the beach to get back in, I saw one of my dearest friends, Mimi.  Right after I saw her I noticed my Dad.  I quickly introduced the two and got back in the water for lap number two. 

Saying Hi halfway through the swim!

My exit from the water was super motivating and I was happy to see I finished in 1 hour and 22 minutes.  As I ran up the slope to transition I saw TJ and my mom.  The joy I felt at that moment knowing everyone was there to support me was overwhelming.  This is the first time my family has been at a race to support me and to know they were going to be there with me for the entire day gave me exactly what I needed. 

Existing the water. Picture courtesy of TJ.

Due to the length of this race I decided not to wear my triathlon kit.  Instead I wore my sports bra and a pair of SmartWool underwear under my wetsuit.  Because of COVID precautions Ironman removed the changing tents, so we had to figure out how to modestly change at the bike racks.  I removed my wetsuit and put on my bike shorts and shoes.  I then promptly peed standing next to my bike.  This is Ironman after all, I believe peeing everywhere is authorized.  This was the only place I had an unorthodox pee that day, and I’m rather certain the volunteers at the end of the bike rack knew exactly what I was doing, but I’m also certain I was not the first or last person they saw peeing that day.  A funny side note, when we got home TJ helped unpack some of my gear. He put my bike shoes outside and mentioned they were out in the rain. I said, “Oh that’s ok, I peed on them and they probably need a fresh water wash down.” He said, “No, I was squeezing them out trying to dry them out.” That is true love! I put on my bike jersey, helmet, sun screen, and left transition for my 112 mile bike.

Leaving to start 112 miles. That is one hell of an outfit!

The bike was the part of the Ironman I most feared.  There are so many things that can go wrong and you are very reliant on many things going right besides just your body failing. You have to make sure your bikes doesn’t fail as well.  You also have to ensure you’re eating and drinking to make sure you’re ready for a marathon after your ride.  All of this takes a lot of training and some luck.  During training I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and it took me many combinations until I got it right.  In training I can say I never really did get it right, but somehow on race day I finally refined my nutrition to the right combination.  For the entire ride I repeated and repeated and repeated Pharrell’s Happy. That song truly sums up how I felt the entire day and pure joy was what I felt the entire ride.  Over the 6 hours and 45 minutes it took me to finish the 112 miles there were times where counterproductive thoughts started to creep in and I just put on my blinders, let the thoughts go and kept on being happy.  For a few miles around the 60 mile mark I started to experience right side pain and cramping.  This is something I battled all training.  As the pain crept in I became really angry with the pain and told it not today. I forced the pain out with my breath and again went back to being happy.  Also at mile 60 was my special needs bag.  I did stop for a minute or 2 to eat a few tums and grabbed the water bottle I had in there.  This was also when it started to rain.  The rain wasn’t heavy, but it was certainly more than a sprinkle.  The roads did get a little slick, but I kept my blinders on and stayed happy.  The bike course was essentially a two loop course and the out and back for the turnaround (which we did twice) was on a road that was chipped, sealed, but not black topped. The road was rough and again the thought of a flat entered my mind, but I quickly let that go and remained happy. 

Out on the bike….always smiling!

To sum up the bike, those 6 hours and 45 minutes went by quickly.  I ate when I needed to eat and I drank when I needed to drink.  My food of choice was a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a few Gus, and Tailwind powder in my water.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong and the ones I most feared, didn’t.  I didn’t have a flat tire and I didn’t fall.  A lot of people did experience some really nasty falls and I would see them bandaged on the run, if they made it to the run.  TJ said he saw someone who broke their ankle, they were not even able to turn their foot to get it out their pedal.  I did get rained on for about 40 miles, but I let that go and stayed happy.  I had my second and third encounter with Kilt Guy on the bike.  He gave me a high five and was cheering for me like he knew me.  The best part was seeing my family four different times and seeing their excitement for me.  I was ecstatic to finish the bike and to feel as good as I did the entire ride. 

Entering transition after the bike!

As I approached bike transition I could see runners on the run.  At one point I feared I was going the wrong way and just said out loud, “Am I going the right way?”  A volunteer promptly told me I was.  I dismounted my bike and started the run to rack my bike.  I stopped and asked a volunteer if I took off my bike shoes and gave them to my dad would that be considered outside assistance.  He told me to accidentally drop my shoes over the barrier and I’d be fine, so I did just that. Yes my pee filled shoes now also full of sweat and dirt.  As I was running to put my back on the rack I did have a few moments where I thought, oh my, I really do have to run a marathon.  That is a long run.  I quickly released that thought and gave my bike a kiss saying thank you for getting me through those 112 miles better than I ever could have anticipated.  I changed out of my bike shorts into my runs shorts, took off my bike singlet, changed my socks and laced up my running shoes.  To top off the outfit I put on my pink hat that has a heart and the words run.  I ate a few crackers and tums.  I opted to use the porta-potty this time instead of peeing myself right there in transition.  By the time I went to the bath room I was ready to run.  I could hear the finish line music and felt ready to do what I needed to finish this Ironman. 

The run course was a two loop course where we looped up a hill to the finish and then back down for the second loop.  The run course was never flat and at no point did I mind.  I’m a runner and this is what I do best.  There was a part of me that wanted to finish the marathon in under four hours.  That didn’t happen and I knew it wasn’t going to happen about 3 miles in.  It wasn’t because I didn’t feel well, I just knew that running a 9 minute mile wasn’t going to happen and I needed to be ok with a 9:30.  I wanted to enjoy the run and I didn’t want to get bogged down with negative thoughts.  So again I acknowledged what was happening and then let it go and continued to be happy.  I’m sure you’re wondering, I did continue to sing Happy for the entire marathon.  I ran the entire time and enjoyed every step.  As I came up the hill on my first loop of the run I could hear other people finishing and I could hear, “so and so, You Are an Ironman.”  This was the only time I tiered up on the race and it was because I knew I was going to finish. I looked at TJ and said, “Next time that is going to be my name.”  My dad even has me on video saying it.  I was happy to run back down that hill knowing I was only 2 hours away from something I’ve waited a decade for. 

I’m saying next time that will be my name!

To sum up the run, like the bike, those 4 hours and 8 minutes went by so fast.  I was happy the entire time, I smiled at everyone, said thank you to the volunteers, and told everyone I passed they were doing awesome.  I ran for a mile or so with someone who told me he had never been happier in his life than at that moment. I can’t say that was exactly how I felt, but I know what he meant.  I also saw Kilt Guy as I turned the corner with about 2 miles to go.  I saw him and said, “You won’t see me again today.” Kilt Guy slapped me on the ass and said, “Go Get’m Ironman.”  I will never forget the motivation I felt then.  He was the first person to call me an Ironman and I believed I was one. At this point it was rather dark and those heading out on their second loop where all getting lights and the lights were blinding me.  I was ready to be done. 

The moment I turned to the finish line was absolutely incredible.  I started pumping my arms and screaming yes.  My dad has a video of me running down the shoot and you can see me pumping my arms and I gave them a thumbs up.  The best part of that video is when I hear Timyra yelling, “Go Mommy.”  I tear up every time I think of it.  It was so important to me to have the kids there to watch and see what all my training was about.  A few days after we got home I found Timyra reading a book called Becoming an Ironman. I have in our library.  I wonder if this may have sparked something in her? 

The best part of course was crossing the line.  I heard, “Darchelle Caces You Are An Ironman.”  I immediately started screaming, “I DID IT” and I didn’t stop screaming.   I stared looking around at other finishers and pointed to them and screamed, “You, did it too.”  I was acting absolutely crazy.  TJ said I was acting like my 20 year old self at bar close.  I had no voice the next day because I could not stop yelling, “I DID IT.”  All throughout my training I was convinced I would cross the finish line and just start crying.  I have at least a decade of emotions, blood, sweat, and tears that I left out there on October 2nd, but that is not at all what happened.  The only emotion I felt was pure and utter JOY! 

The night of the race I really didn’t sleep at all.  My adrenaline was out of control.  Even after lying in bed (next to my 2 year old, I’m pretty sure most Ironman weren’t sleeping next to a 2 year old the night of their race), my heartrate was still 87, which sleeping mine is usually in the low 50’s.  I got up at two in the morning to eat because it took that long for my hunger to come back. The energy and excitement stayed with me well into Sunday evening. After we celebrated Timothy’s birthday I did end up crashing and I slept awesome!

After Ironman I thought I was going to feel a huge sense of relieve and feel as if a huge weight was lifted from me and I don’t feel that either.  I am very proud of what I did and I’ll talk about it to whoever will listen.  I wear my Ironman apparel essentially everywhere.  I flew to VA a few weeks after the race and I wore my Ironman hat, Ironman mask, and my carryon was my Ironman backpack.  Is that over kill?  I’m not sure when I will take my participant bracelet off, but it won’t be anytime soon. But even with all that, I don’t feel relief.  It’s as if the bar has just moved!  I hate saying, “and what now”, but there will be a what now however, I’m still in the process of figuring it out.  Right now I work out doing just what I want and someday I will get back on my bike, but not for awhile. On October 2nd, 2021 I retired the sweatshirt my sister bought be four years ago for my birthday, yet I’m sure I will find myself wearing it every now and again. I believe there will always be a part of me that is in Training, for what right now I’m not entirely sure.

My what now will probably be a combination of fitness and other things I’m still trying to figure out! What I do know is whatever next is, it will make be very HAPPY!!

My first car sticker!

HARD-ly Lazy

I’m not sure where this blog post will go, so be here with me as you go on an adventure through my stream of conscience as I write.

A very good friend told me she was going to run 20 miles to exorcise 2020. As you know me, I’m always up for extreme exercise challenges and to run 20 miles to say good bye to 2020 is right up my alley. Except for one thing. As I wrote last time, it’s not my brand to look back. I live a life of moving forward and 20 miles for 2020 just didn’t fit. I decided instead I would run 21 miles to say hello to 2021. This was the plan I made for Friday afternoon January 8th.

The night before my run, I backed my camel back, made a nutrition plan, and put out my clothes. I couldn’t find my electrolyte tablets, which I knew could be a problem, but decided to ignore it and hope for the best. I left the house around 11 and it’s windy and is certainly not a great day for a long run. Especially since my longest run in months has only been 10 miles. Despite the these conditions, I’m ready to make the most of it and do my best to keep the wind on my face for the first part knowing it will be on my back to finish.

By mile 9, I’m feeling miserable and seeing stars because my electrolytes are just not right and I have no way to fix it. At this point I know even if I ran straight home I will be at 13 miles. I start to think how can I salvage this run and still make it more than just a long run. I know Saturday morning I’m going to run 7 miles with my friend Larry, so if I can run 14 then I will have run 21 miles in 21 hours. I reset and this is my new plan.

Along with the long run on Friday I had a scheduled swim with Timyra. In late December, we joined the YMCA so we would have a place to swim. To be able to swim during COVID we have to register for a time and a lane. So shortly after I finished my run I hit the pool with Timyra to swim 2,350 meters.

For most people and probably for almost all people running 14 miles and then swimming a mile and half would be an extremely accomplished day of working out. But here is the thing, I spent the remainder of that day feeling lazy. Yes, you heard me correctly, LAZY! As I write this I know it sounds crazy and I started to think why. What was causing me to feel this way? I realized the lazy I was feeling really had more to do with failure. I set a goal for the day to get to 21 miles and I only made it 14. It wouldn’t matter what I did for the remainder of the day, because I didn’t get to 21 I told myself I was lazy and failed.

Since my 21 miles in 21 hours, I’ve considered trying to get to 21 miles again and then I ask myself why? I set out to do the mileage to welcome in a new beginnings and fresh starts. I realized I’ve done this with or without the miles. My mind is already there. I also realized I need to give myself more grace. We tend to me our harshest critics. Is there an area in your life where you are overly hard on yourself when the rest of the world is overly impressed? This is where you owe yourself some grace. I’m learning to see moments as these as an opportunity to give myself perspective and the grace I deserve. There was truly nothing weighing on those 21 miles except an artificial pride in accomplishment. I am still ready to face 2021 with joy and continue this amazing journey of living!

Be Real

Today is the first day of 2021 and I’m already tired of people saying they are so glad 2020 is over and there is no way 2021 can be worse than 2020. First I want to state a reality, bad luck knows no time. It is impossible to state definitively that 2021 has to be a better year than 2020. The only way that even has a remote chance of being possible is if you do something to make it so. I do believe you have it in yourself to make 2021 a great year, but before you head out on this journey I challenge you to be real.

The question you need to understand is really how terrible was 2020? I understand 2020 was a unique year for all, but was it bad? Please answer these questions: Do you have your job? Do you have your health? Do you have your family? Do you have your friends? To understand the magnitude of 2020’s uniqueness and how it effected you ask yourself what is different today, January 1st 2021 verse January 1st 2020? Once you truly reflect on this, I would venture to guess that your retrospective of 2020 will prove it was a strange year to be sure, but nothing terrible!

The Caces House New Year’s Eve (at 10:30 pm)!

This morning I revealed the first day of January on my daily desk calendar. The quote supports my thoughts on 2020 and I wish people would get real and start to see the truth or their lives. Change and growth has no way of taking root until a true introspective has taken place. The quote states, “What is new in the world? Nothing. What is old in the world? Nothing. Everything has always been and will always be.” Shirbi Sai Baba.

I’ve been thinking about how really great 2020 was for me and my family. I understand many saw sadness last year, but I do believe this sadness would have occurred regardless of a pandemic. It probably would have shown itself differently, but it most likely would have been there. What I also know is others sadness, grief, frustrations, heartache, and more don’t have to be mine. When I’ve listened to the Venerable Bhante Sujatha teach he speaks often about listening and being kind to others but never taking on what is theirs. He always says you must take care of yourself first and you can not do this when taking on others pain. I want to be a role model to my children that despite all the changes and fear in the world, we as a family are happy and well. We don’t have to see what is in the news and be sad, there is always happiness and kindness everywhere and that can be theirs instead.

My children have proven over the last years they are full of resilience and this would have shined in them with or without a pandemic. Personally I don’t put up with pity parties of any kind. I know this can come across as unsympathetic and in some cases cruel, but I truly believe we personally have control over how we react and can control how outside and uncontrollable events effect us, our moods, and attitudes. I’ve said many times that my cup is always two-thirds full and I expect those around me to live in those types of cups. Of course, we all have our ups and downs, but we are learning how to take control and set the mindsets that we’ll be through this and be better for it.

I truly hope the world didn’t wake up today, January 1st 2021 and believe anything changed from 11:59 on December 31st 2020. You and I are all the same. If you think you need to change, take time to conduct a true look at yourself and evaluate what should change and make a plan with goals to make these changes. Write it down and make it so. I also challenge you, especially if you believed 2020 sucked, to conduct a retrospective on the year and truly understand the REAL suck level of 2020.

I want to end with some highlights of a great year!

  1. I’ve been working from home since March, and the time home is amazing!
  2. My runs with the kids and especially seeing Timyra excel on the track!
  3. Moving in to a house that fits us!
  4. All the great camping trips (we camped before it was cool)!
  5. Remote drill weekends (again meaning more time at home)!
  6. Receiving, learning and practicing Reiki, this also brought amazing energy into my life and house!

My Protest


Writing for me has taken a back seat, but every time I walk away from this blog I never forget it’s here. I do miss the therapy this blog gives me. Although unlike when I was in Afghanistan, many times the topics I want to write about are too often too close to the people closest to me. When I was publishing while in Afghanistan I wasn’t writing about people who I cherish and love and it was highly unlikely they would ever read what I was writing. Now I know the people I’m writing about will read and I don’t usually want to go there in such a public forum.

My 2020 goal was to be more open minded and expand my ability to have empathy.  I did this by reading many, many books well outside my comfort zone to help me see things from a different perspective.  It has helped me humanize people I otherwise would have had no sympathy for.  I have grown a lot this year during that and want to write all about it.

Right now I’m feeling the need to wage a protest. When you are not in an organization, if you are infiltrated into an establishment you can not affect or influence change from within. My protest is against party politics. I am OVER being told you have to choose. I don’t want to choose. I don’t want to be told I have to choose and I’m starting a protest. Like organizations of the past and present who wage protest for change, they did it because they had to. Like women’s right to vote, right for gay marriage. When women wanted to vote they couldn’t vote for or create a law that would allow them to vote because they were not in the organization they wanted to influence. The only way to have their voices heard was through protest. I want my voice heard, so her I am protesting.

I friend of mine who I truly respect and who has been able to affect and influence change recently stated on a podcast she was interviewed for that she loves her country but she doesn’t like or agree with everything. She can still have pride in her country despite the state of the nation. Over the summer, I started to feel true sadness and have been carrying a heavy heart regarding humanity in general. Terrible things have been happening and in my mind, in regards to the police shootings and the violence against blacks, no side can be “right”. No one has all the answers. The police brutality, is wrong. The rioting and looting, is wrong. The civilians shooting and taking the law into their hands, are wrong. So until we can stop dividing and stop blaming and pointing fingers and start uniting no change can occur. Solutions don’t come from finger pointing. This has been weighing on me heavy. Yet, despite it all I do truly love my country.

The divisiveness is what is weighing on me the most strongly. I struggle intensely with party politics. I believe our elected officials have a duty and obligation to inform their constituents regarding the true impact of what they vote into law. This is not happening. One reason this doesn’t happen is because then they would have to speak out against their party lines. Once someone speaks out against their party they lose their funding to run for office and lose their job. This boils my blood. The party politics we are forced into are meant to divide us and not unit us. Without unity we are not going to see the change we need.

My protest is on my ballet in November. I am tired of being told there are only two choices for President and you have to choose one or the other. I am tired of saying I’m not voting for one and then people assuming I’m voting for the other. It’s so engrained in to our culture that you are either one or the other. There is no middle and I’m tired of this.

I want to encourage people to vote! I want people to vote for the candidates on the ballet who they truly believe will do the job required and represent you! But my challenge is for you to stop voting for a candidate when you are choosing the better of two evils. Stop voting for one side because you don’t like the other. Stop voting for your party because that is just what you always do. Why do we have to accept this? We don’t have to. What I am proposing is vote and leave the parts of your ballot blank where there is no qualified candidate. If you were hiring someone for a job you would not just hire the best of the worst in the candidate pool. You would broaden the candidate pool and find the right person for the job. It’s time for us to do the same for our country. The country we love but don’t like right now.

My challenge to you, is if you feel like it’s time for change. If you feel you’ve had enough of party politics and subpar candidates who divide the country rather than unite it. Then join me in my voting protest! VOTE!

Four Kid Bliss

Here I am at a drill weekend again and as promised, I’m writing.  Last drill I thought I would be writing about how I’ve been reading (actually listening) to all these books and they are changing my overall perspective on life.  And for the most part, they are and I’ve come to some real thought changing conclusions.  I am finding that in the end we are all human and I’m feeling a lot of sympathy for people who a few years ago I would have dismissed.  However, I’m sure I will come back to this topic another time.  I really want to answer this questions.  How do you do it all?  I am asked this question at least on a weekly basis and I don’t have a good answer.  The answer I usually give is if you were in my same situation you would do it too.

When I was pregnant with Eugene I kept seeing articles and research about how moms of three are the most stressed and moms of four are the least stressed.  The reason for this, as the articles stated, was when you get to four you stop caring.  I take that, as you get to four you start to understand what is really important and worth your time and what’s not.  You learn how to divide and conquer, which means you know you can’t be at everything for every one of them.  You know you are not going to make every after school activity and not only do you know you can’t, you don’t feel bad when you don’t.  When you get to this point the stress because less and you start to understand what’s really important and take a few minutes to relax.

timyra swimming

I realized I had gotten to this point of four children bliss a few weeks ago when I was picking up my oldest from her Saturday morning swim practice.  As a fourth grader swimming for a swim team, I dropped her and her friend off for practice at 7:15 am and met my friends in the parking lot of the school.  We went for a nine mile run while they swam.  I didn’t feel any guilt about not watching her hour and half swim practice.  Had I watched I could never have given her any valuable feedback on how to improve.  I know enough about swimming to get through the swims in my triathlons with some efficiency, and that’s about it.  She has coaches and I trust they are giving her the attention she needs to grow.  I’ve spoken with the coaches and I know she’s well behaved and works hard at practice.  I don’t need to know more than that, so instead of watching her I use these precious moments to go for a run and spend time with my friends.  I don’t need to watch my daughter workout at the sacrifice of my own workout.

After the run I walk into the high school, where they swim, to pick up my daughter and her friend.  There are multiple parents already in there waiting (because they stayed and watched practice) and we started talking about what we have planned for the rest of the day.  One mother mentions they have a birthday party.  Then she went on to say she feels like she’s going to be spending all her children’s childhood going to birthday parties.  I state, I’ve stopped bringing the kids to the numerous birthday parties we are invited to.  If we attended every birthday party they were invited to, we would be at multiple birthday parties nearly every weekend.  For my four year old, she’s in a class with kids who all have birthdays within four months of each other.  There really is at least one party every weekend, as they are all turning five in the next few months.

I told these mother’s when we receive an invitation for a birthday party, the first thing I do is check the calendar to see if it’s even possible for them to go to the party.  Then I ask my child who so and so is.  If they don’t really know, I leave it at that and throw the invitation in to the recycling.  If they know the child, I proceed to ask do you play with so and so at school.  If they say no, I throw the invitation in to the recycling.  If they say yes, then I ask if they want to go to the birthday party.  Then after passing through all these questions I will most likely take them to the birthday party.

When I told these mother’s my process for deciding if we’re going to a birthday party you would have thought I was depriving my children of basic childhood rights.  One mother told me she makes an extra point of taking her children to a birthday party when her child doesn’t really know the child who is having the birthday.  She wants to make sure her child is making as many new friends as possible.  And a mother of four sees this as, why do I have to spend $20 for a birthday present and take my time (which is precious) to take my child to a birthday party for someone they don’t even know.

There are more examples of this throughout my everyday.  I let my kids play outside unsupervised.  All (except Eugene), get themselves ready for school including getting their breakfast and all without being asked.  I don’t say these things to shame other parents.  But, just because you have less than four kids doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the four kid bliss.  Everyone’s child can be more independent, when allowed.  Your children won’t be shunned if they skip a birthday party or six.  There is really no shame in taking time for yourself when your child is otherwise occupied with activities (you can do this when they are not occupied with activities as well).  As a matter of fact you really should.  I promise you they will be fine when coaches are left to coach.  Leave all the guilt and just care less.  I mean isn’t the point of raising your children to one day send them out into the world to be self-sufficient and independent adults.  These are all skills we as parents can start instilling from the beginning.  I really do encourage all parents, weather you have one or ten children to take advantage of the four kid bliss.

So how do I do it?  I have FOUR KID BLISS!  or I’ve stopped caring (one or the other)!

Mindful Pivot

Even with all my good intentions, I did not manage to write as much as I thought I would. To maintain this commitment to myself I’ve decided to write each month during my Navy Drill Weekends. During those weekends I am almost always guaranteed some time to myself to write. Then I can think throughout the month about what I want to write. So January is month one of 2020 and month one of me writing during my drill weekends. I miss this outlet.

I want to quickly reflect on 2019.  2019 was a year of a lot of change for us and successes. 2019 was the year we welcomed Eugene and became a family of 6. I got my project management certification, was selected for Commander in the Navy, and in October I left a job I loved at Life Fitness for a better job at Trustmark which gives me the flexibility to be home more. I raced my first marathon since 2016 and qualified for the Boston Marathon by nine minutes (remember Eugene was only six months old). I also ran my first Ultra Marathon in December, a 50 kilometer race and took 3rd place female over all and finished in 4 hours and 34 minutes.

end of 50k
As I go into 2020 I really feel like I need to redirect and focus. I want to be more deliberate in everything I do. I needed to take a moment to pivot and do it with mindfulness. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I believe you should always be making an effort and thinking about what you can do to improve. Change doesn’t need to be tied to a certain day or time of year. This year however, I’ve really decided to commit to some New Year’s Resolutions. I started the process of vetting out my commitments for the new year in October. I was in pursuit of activities that didn’t involve eating and drinking. Think about how everything you do includes eating and drinking. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise to those close to me, but since I’ve been back from Afghanistan I have not had more than a handful of alcoholic beverages. And since Eugene was born I have had even less. I feel better, I sleep better, I weigh what I weighed in high school, and without alcohol I have to be more mindful. There is no going home after a long day and numbing yourself with a drink. You are required to really face life and you can’t live it numbed or replace what you need to be feeling with something else.
christmas 2019
Mindfulness is my overall resolution for 2020. It is my word for the year. This started when TJ and I joined a good friend of mine and his wife at a Buddhist workshop about love and kindness meditation. This was something we could do that didn’t revolve around food and drinking. Now we did go out for an early dinner afterwards, but it wasn’t the focus of the event and I really enjoyed the food and company afterwards sharing our experience from the workshop.
bhanti
My same friend also recommended we watch the NetFlix documentary The Game Changers about eating plant based. The documentary had a strong impact on us and how we want to eat at home. Since watching we transitioned to a primarily plant based diet. So far I love it and the kids have no problem eating lentils and lots of vegetables. I would cook this way anyway and now that everyone is eating it, dinner is much easier. We also gave up coffee and switched to matcha in the mornings. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I feel without the coffee. A another friend of my mine stopped drinking coffee and she said now when she’s tired she knows it and takes the time to rest where as when she was drinking coffee she could hide being tired behind the coffee. This makes sense to me and supports why I don’t drink alcohol. This is just just another way to be more mindful in everything I do.

Following the workshop I started thinking more about how I could incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. For 2020 I used Tom Zigler’s Wheel of Life to make goals that focus on seven core areas of life (thank you Katie Vervoren for mentioning this to me). They are mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal, and career. I listed out a few key things to focus on in each of those areas all with mindfulness as a focus. I also asked the kids and TJ to do the same. Taylyn, even though the youngest, was the most enthusiastic to write out her goals. She was so cute and drew little pictures about things she wants to focus on.

I’ve read and heard so often that sharing your goals makes you more likely to achieve them so here is what I’m focusing on in 2020. All of these were written through the lens of mindfulness.

  1. Mental –
    1. Let go of making my goals other people’s goals
    2. Give up being right
    3. Make a strong effort to listen – especially to the kids
  2. Spiritual –
    1. Do love and kindness meditation daily
    2. Go to Yoga once a month
    3. Attend a Reiki workshop or class
  3. Physical
    1. Schedule rest days
    2. Bike the 28 weeks to the 70.3 in June (follow the plan)
    3. Understand if Ironman can be a 2021 goal
  4. Family
    1. Have everyone sett goals in the family and check in with them
    2. Go to Church every Sunday where it works
    3. Leave my cell phone at the door when I get home
  5. Financial
    1. Create a zero based budget
    2. Pay off my car
    3. Make every purchase mindful
  6. Personal
    1. Read / Listen to a book once a month outside my comfort zone and shows a difference perspective
    2. Eat vegetarian at home
  7. Career
    1. Be a “Go To” person at Trustmark,
    2. Research Agile Certification

Thank you for letting me share where I am planning to do in 2020. I’m hoping to be able to check in throughout the year give progress updates. I already feel strongly about writing about my goal where I am listening to / reading books outside my comfort zone. I really think this has already changed me and I will write more about it next time. I feel as if I’ve gone on long enough and I have a solid thousand more words to write on the subject.

I am committing to writing again in a few weeks. Until then I sincerely hope you take a minute to breath. Think about what you want, write it down, and get started. Always remember to say this to yourself (and I’m stealing this from my favorite yoga instructor, who I think stole it from Bhanti Sujatha the monk) I am happy. I am healthy. I am loved. BE KIND!

She Tried, AND….

One of the most rewarding parts of my time in Afghanistan was when we were able to invite the the young ladies from Free to Run onto the base to run.  These young women show strength and determination in a setting I could never imagine.  These women want change.  They need change.  The are looking for something that is their own in a country that doesn’t want to let them and in a world that wishes they could.

I came home from Afghanistan with dreams and those dreams altered and shifted course, but never at any point did I ever believe they were not possible.  I am a mother of four incredible humans, two of which are perfectly strong girls.  I will nurture and care for all of them as long as they will let me.  I pray daily to be the role model they deserve and when I do misstep they have the grace and patience to forgive and learn from me.

As part of my journey home, and hopefully someday in conjunction with an Ironman (I just can’t let it go.  Dreams and goals are what keep us going and give us a reason to get up!  I’m not giving up on mine), I committed to race for the charity She Can Tri.  This charity was founded by a friend, Jackie Faye, who I served with in Afghanistan.  She is an amazing women who is doing great things for women who really need it.  The current focus of her charity is to train Afghanistan’s first women triathletes in partnership with Free to Run. They have their sights set on competing in the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand.  I want to be part of their journey and help get them the funds they need to reach their dreams. 

While I am racing and wearing my She Can Tri suit there are always people cheering me on screaming, SHE CAN TRI.  The support I receive from strangers is inspiring.  This triathlon season has been a season of rebuilding my base.  I was talking to a friend of mine who is struggling with injury and can’t train like he would like.  We talked about having to train for where we are today.  I thought I would have Eugene and be back in half Ironman shape this fall.  The reality is, I’m not there.  I’m not even sure I will be there next year.  My life is full of conflicting priorities and this one needs to fall to the bottom.  I am thankful to be able to run hard and the rest will come.  I will continue to tri, but I need to be realistic about where I am at today.  I need to embrace my current situation and nurture what works today and tomorrow will come.

I am blessed to live in a country which allows me to raise my girls to believe they can do anything.  The opportunities for them are basically endless.  They will never have to wonder if they have the support to do what they dream.  Timyra has already started her triathlon career.  She always knew she could tri and is out there TRIng her little heart out.  I want to ensure she will always be able to pursue her heart without adversity.  She may never know the hardships of the Afghan women, but I will do whatever I can to teach her so she can appreciate her fortune.  She knows the stories of these women and will race to raise money for their dreams.

My girls are also fortunate enough to have an amazing male role model in their life who supports them in everything they do.  TJ is always there for all his girls.  He takes amazing care of the three of us.  He is always cheering for us even when he’s not standing right there at the finish.  Sometimes he can’t be there because he’s home taking care of the little ones, but he’s always thinking of us and cheering for us from afar.  The majority of women in Afghanistan are not supported by the men in their life.  They TRI, but they do not have the support to lift them up and keep them TRI-ing.

All of us have a try in us and we need to embrace it.  The effort of trying has the ability to get us far.  If you don’t even start and try you’ll never know what you can do.  For these Afghan women they tried and look what they are working to accomplish.  Please look into your heart and consider giving to a cause I truly believe in.  These girls need us to make their dreams come true.  Follow this link to She Can Tri to contribute.  Timyra and I are out there TRI-ing for them and hope you will TRI too!

Still Not an Ironman

A year ago today I returned home after being gone for over thirteen months.  My sister and I were able to pull off a super surprise.  My family thought I was coming home the following week, so when I walked down the stairs at my sister’s house everyone was shocked.

I’ve been back a year, but I still say I just returned.  What I’m learning talking to my friends who served there with me is, you can take us out of Afghanistan, but you will never fully take the Afghanistan out of us.  Afghanistan certainly left a tattoo on my heart and as I age it will sag and fade, but it will always be there.  From my last post, I’m still wearing my bracelet with no intention of taking it off.

On July 4th 2018 I had the next year planned.  We had multiple camping trips booked.  I was racing with the pinnacle to be the Ironman in October.  In the middle of all that I would return to my civilian job.  In the spring, TJ and I were going to take a trip to Spain and Italy just the two of us.  And I’m sure we would end the year taking some great camping trips with our family of five!

I also said when I came back I would keep writing and I did write a few times over the last year, but not as often as I thought I would.  I’ve missed this blog and I am making a commitment right now to write more often.  I am not making any promises of what more often is, but more than eight times in a year.  I do want to write about the day Eugene was born, but I’ll get there another day.  However, Eugene Daniel was born fast and furious at 1:39 am on April 2nd.  He was born only a few hours after I posted my last blog post.  He’s happy healthy and the perfect addition to our crazy family.P12

There is certainly still a pull on my heart to become an Ironman, but I’m letting that wait for another day.  The reality is, it’s just not in the cards this year and probably not next year either.  But what I need to remind myself is that Ironman will always be there and despite not achieving that particular goal I had a really amazing year.  I may not have heard the words “Darchelle You Are an Ironman,” but I should still be proud of what this year morphed into.

I am extremely proud to be the mother of four.  Our life has turned super crazy, but I love every minute.  I can’t get enough of their smiles and laughter.  I am proud watching Timyra as she turns nine next week, becoming a strong independent young woman who will conquer the world as an amazing adult.  She makes solid well informed decisions and works hard at everything she does.  Her courage and work ethic would make most adults look bad. lulu.jpg

I am proud watching Timothy at the age of six.  He is the sweetest boy, who always takes others feelings into consideration.  He broke his arm over Labor Day weekend while we were camping.  All he was concerned about was making sure his brother and sisters never broke their arms.  He apologized because we had to come home from camping early.  He works harder than anyone on the soccer field, playing with the eight year old boys and often practicing so hard he makes himself sick.

buddy.jpg

I am proud to watch Taylyn at the age of four out wit and outlast just about everyone.  Her confidence and independence is unmatched.  She is a handful, but I will never be afraid sending her out into the world.  She will take any bull by the horns and tell it who is boss!Taylyn

I am proud watching Eugene as he grows and changes everyday.  He completes our family and makes all of us better.  He teaches us patience and I believe he will keep me young.  At only three months old, we are still getting to know each other, but I can’t wait to truly meet the sweet boy we created.  eugene.jpg

I spent this 4th of July running fourteen miles on the 4th.  I enjoyed the time to reflect on this last year and let go of what I missed and truly love what I have.  Not only did we add to our family, but I passed my Project Management certification exam and I was selected for promotion in the Navy.  Not a bad year at all! 

What I want to remind you today is we all have our Ironmans.  Replace Ironman with the thing you want to accomplish, yet continually seems to be just out of reach.  You should always be proud of the effort you put towards each and every goal you set.  You also need to remember you may not have heard you are an Ironman, but you heard something else just as great and don’t let that be overshadowed.  I can’t say I’m an Ironman, but I can say this….

Darchelle You are a Project Management Professional!

Darchelle You Are a Commander in the United States Navy!

Darchelle You Are a Mom of Four!

Darchelle You Are a Wife!

Darchelle You Are Loved, Respected, and Awesome and don’t forget that!

And I’m all these amazing things even without my Ironman, and you are too!

Not a Joke

Today is a day full of jokes and crazy antics and from the beginning of this pregnancy I’ve felt like April First would be the day he was born.  I’m not sure he will come today, however I really hope he does.  With the other three I never made it to thirty-nine weeks, and today I’m thirty-nine week and one day.  This baby boy has been doing things his own way from the beginning and he continues to do things his way.prego

Last week my oldest two were on spring break.  Obviously, we were not able to take them anywhere for spring break because I needed to be close to home just in case.  We are fortunate enough to have amazing family who made their spring break great.  They spent the first part of the week in Lake Geneva with my Aunt Ann and Uncle Kevin and then the second part of the week in Milwaukee with my Aunt Tammy and Uncle Jeff.  I am so thankful they were able to take the kids for the week and give them a really great spring break, because I couldn’t.

As a side effect of the kids being gone for the week, I was able to get some rest.  I took a minute to breath and take care of myself.  Although the week was very strange and I had no idea what to do with myself most of the time, I certainly prefer to be busy all the time rather than have nothing to do.  I am so used to taking care of someone else all the time and I went from that to no one.  I really was lonely and missed the kids like crazy.  I know things are about to get even crazier, yet this week gave me a moment to reset and make sure we are ready for our next addition.

In the hopes of giving this baby an eviction notice I went for a “walk” every morning.  By walk, I really mean, I ran a half mile and then walked until the song I was listening to ended and then ran again.  For the most part this last week the weather has been amazing and it was nice to be outside and still running.  As a side effect of my daily run / walks my March overall mileage was higher than it had been since December.  I can’t tell you how much being able to run has helped me with this pregnancy.  I struggled accepting what pregnancy was doing to my body, but I was still able to keep part of myself by running all the way until the end. march-miles.jpg

Since baby is still cooking on April 1st, I started the month with my run / walk combo.  Two years ago on April 1st I ran a marathon.  Last year I ran with my friends in Afghanistan for our weekly themed run and this year I made it through four miles running trying to get this baby out of me.  April 1st running

This last year has been full of huge life changes.  Our lives have moved in many directions and we’ve pivoted in ways we never thought we would.  The thing is I wouldn’t change any of it and I am so thankful for everything we have.  As a small side note, and probably why I’m writing this blog post in the first place is, I still feel like I just came back from Afghanistan and I’m not sure when I won’t.  Nine months is certainly not enough time and I don’t know how much time will.  I thought when I finished the Ironman that would be the moment, the pinnacle, the time when I could say I’m back and not “just back”.  As a matter of fact, I have a bracelet a boy scout gave me as I was leaving North Carolina to go to Afghanistan that I’m still wearing.  I said I would take it off once I finished the Ironman.  When I crossed that finish line I could leave Afghanistan behind and remove the bracelet.  I’ve said it so many times, Timyra and Timothy even talk about it.  The thing is I don’t know when I’ll be ready to take off the bracelet and be able to say I didn’t just leave Afghanistan.  I certainly don’t know when the Ironman will part of my life again, so that is probably not the time.  But when you see the bracelet, don’t ask, I tell the kids not to.  Just let me have it there and I promise I’ll take it off when I’m ready.   bracelet.jpgMaybe I’ll be ready when little man number four arrives and maybe not.  What I do know is I’m super excited to meet him.  I would be even happier if he showed his face today.  Come out little man, I think April Fool’s Day would be the perfect birthday for you, I hope you agree!  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Being Home

All holiday season I was asked a similar question over and over, all having the same meaning.  “Are you happy to be home?”  “Doesn’t it feel good to be home this year?”  “You have to be happy that you are home this year.”  Of course, my answer to all of these questions was a very strong and resounding, YES!

elf fmaily
A Family of Elves

But here is the thing, I am happy to be home.  I wouldn’t trade one moment at home with my family for anything else.  Yet, this holiday season brought about a sadness and strangeness I had never known before.  I was truly sad for my fellow service men and women deployed over the holidays.  I know the feeling of just getting through the day, knowing that when you wake up the following morning there will be nothing special about that day and you are happy the holiday has passed.  Knowing you are one day closer to going home and knowing there is one less day you’ll miss the memories everyone is making without you.  My heart hurt for them.christmas family

There was extra pain and sadness because the weeks leading up to and after Christmas were especially violent in Afghanistan.  Every time I read an article stating we had lost another service member to an Insider Attack or another improvised explosive device detonating killing more innocent victims, I cried a little more inside.  Before my deployment, I never bothered to watch the news or read about a country on the other side of the world.  Now I can’t help but be interested.

As a matter of fact, as I wrote this, I read an article about the Taliban’s negotiations this week in Qatar with the U.S.  News stories like this give me hope, but I am hesitant to be too hopeful.  I have seen what it’s like there and the fact that the Taliban are talking to the U.S.A, but the President of Afghanistan was not there, makes a strong statement on how this will go.  The Taliban has also stated they want the U.S out of Afghanistan and there is a six-month flexible timeline to determine the U.S. exit plan.  All of this could lead to progress, BUT….  I feel like BUT has been Afghanistan’s history and I’m hoping this will have a happy ending!  Although I am not convinced it will.boys in louisville To help with happy endings, in early December TJ and I took a trip to Louisville for a long weekend.  It happened to be around our wedding Anniversary, so it was extra nice to get away and spend time together.  We had a great time just being together without the kids and being able to simply be alone together.  Prior to that trip, our last night alone was when I came back in February of 2018 and we spent the night downtown Chicago when we went to see Hamilton.

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Chris Outside of The Stan

An extreme added bonus to our trip was a good friend of mine who I served with in Afghanistan was also there for the weekend.  Chris was there with his brother and father-in-law.  Being able to see him was important to me for two reasons.  One, and probably most importantly, was that I needed to see a friend of mine from Afghanistan not in The Stan.  It was important to spend time together outside of a war zone and just be in the normal world together.  The other important element of this trip was I wanted TJ to meet someone I spent my time with over the year we were apart.  I wanted to bring him into a small part of that world.  It was important for me to have him meet a friend from the year in my life he missed to help make it more real.  The old saying, put a name with a face!

What else I know has a happy ending was how we spent our holidays.  I was able to stay home for almost two weeks with my babies and I went for runs with my friends.  The very best part was that I was home with my loved ones.  We spent our Christmas Eve in our traditional way.  A few years ago, we started ordering Chinese Food, Christmas Story style, for dinner.  This year the kids all participated in the Christmas pageant at the Christmas Eve Mass.  Then we went home and had a movie night where we watched Home Alone.  Home Alone is a classic I remember watching often when I was Timyra’s age.  All the time we were making memories together instead of half a world apart.

The memory making hit me the hardest last week Sunday.  We were stuck inside all weekend due to extreme cold temperatures.  To help burn off excess energy we had a family evening dance party.  Some how I was able to embarrass TJ while dancing the Macarena in our own home, that speaks wonders to my dancing skills.  Despite the questionable dancing, we were all laughing, being loud and just making memories.  As I sat down to watch the chaos, which is my life, I started to cry.  I was overjoyed just BEING HOME!