Street Cred

Philly 10K
4,500 Runners (Sold Out)
Bib #1221

My friend Tracy from high school, aka #somekindarunner, and I made plans to meet up at a halfway point over the summer and do a fun race together. Enter the Philly 10K, a 6.2-mile loop through South Philly and Center City along 76 city blocks. This annual race has been going on since 2014, hosted by a group of proud Philadelphians to celebrate the history and diversity of the city. The race entry fee includes a finisher T-shirt and keepsake, but no medal. The robust crowd was very friendly and the race was well organized. Even if medals aren’t involved in a race, I still try to do my best and use the opportunity to compete against myself and put my training efforts into practice. My end time was 1:05 with an average pace of 10:28. After the race, we enjoyed the street festival, headed to the hotel to clean up, and then went for a delicious meal before parting ways on our mini road trips back home!

Bonded by Mud

Tough Mudder Full, Whistler Olympic Park
12+ Miles
19 Obstacles
12,300 Participants From Around the World
Bib #374707

I eagerly entered the corral at the starting line. The MC gave the crowd a pep talk about how the mentality of Tough Mudder isn’t how fast you can cross the finish line, but rather about pushing yourself and accomplishing something extraordinary. “It’s not about medals,” he said, “it’s about camaraderie.” That’s why IF you complete a Tough Mudder challenge, you receive a coveted finisher headband and T-shirt, not a medal.

I was at the Tough Mudder solo, but I hoped to come across a kind comrade or two for help at obstacles I physically couldn’t do by myself. I never expected it to happen at the second obstacle! The Hero Carry requires a teammate to carry you for a set distance; switch and then have you carry them. A guy with a wild mohawk said he didn’t have a partner. He instantly scooped me up in his arms and carried me, then at the switching point, we linked arms to the end of the obstacle. As we ran to the next obstacle, he introduced himself as Randy. It turned out that he was doing the Tough Mudder as part of a trio with his best friends Trevor and Kelsey. Our teamwork continued and by the third obstacle, Kelsey turned to me and said, “welcome to our team!” That’s how I ended up being adopted as the fourth member of their group.

I was sweating from the physical exertion, but oddly, I also had goosebumps and my teeth were chattering. I’m not sure why I was surprised that a challenge I was doing on Whistler Mountain in Canada was cold!?! It was a mental trip seeing snow on the ground at various points of the course. As Kelsey and I rounded one of the corners Randy pelted us with a snowball!

When we approached the first water obstacle Kelsey advised me to take off my shirt so I would have something fairly dry to put back on. I thought it’s a short sleeve shirt, it can’t possibly make a difference, but I took her advice. She said “hand your shirt to him” and pointed to a man on the side. I was like OOOK, here’s my shirt stranger. We successfully completed the obstacle, got our shirts, and put them back on (it did in fact help and make a difference). Kelsey said, “Oh, by the way, that’s my dad.” I said, “well, this is the most interesting way I have ever met someone’s parent!” Her parents were along the course at certain points as spectators to support her.

The temperature became cooler as time passed and the frigid water obstacles proved to be the most challenging I had ever faced. Unfortunately, I failed three of the water obstacles, which bummed me out. They didn’t count against me in the challenge, but I was very disappointed in myself. I never trudged through so much mud in my life. During one of the stretches of running, I came across a sneaker casualty. Apparently, someone had lost their sneaker in the mud and kept going! There’s definitely a reason why the word mud is part of the name. I ripped my leggings and collected several brush burns and bruises. Randy positively referred to them as our “accomplishment tattoos”.

In Spartan races, it’s a tradition to jump over a fire pit of flames as the last obstacle. Equally scary, Tough Mudder tradition ends with maneuvering through live electrical wires over water pits. It’s called Electroshock Therapy. I proudly made it to the end and earned a coveted orange finisher headband and shirt. Kelsey’s parents were there to congratulate us. Her mom came to my rescue and handed Kelsey a foil-like wrap to put around me. I never thought a thin silver sheet could feel so warm. I looked like a giant baked potato, but I didn’t care.

Just like the MC said, the challenge was indeed about camaraderie. I am grateful that I made three new friends who literally lent me a hand several times along the way, and cheered me on as one of their own. Thank you, Kelsey, Randy and Trevor!   

The Tough Mudder Full was my second big healthy comeback goal for 2017 and my first Tough Mudder event ever. My aim was to finish the challenge in under four hours. I am proud to share that my trio and I completed it in a little over 3 hours and I am now an official Tough Mudder Legionnaire!

The third big healthy comeback goal I set for the year is six weeks away. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures as I attempt my first triathlon, the VA Momentum SUPTri in Bridgewater, VA, on July 29! 

Since the age of eight, I have continuously been presented with challenges in which I needed to be fearless to overcome. That’s how I came up with the theme of living a fearless life for my adventure blog. Each time I felt like I couldn’t make it through yet another life test, I learned that I am stronger than I thought, especially with the loyal support of others.

THANK YOU to my family, friends, community and business sponsors OrthoVirginia, Westfields Dental and Flyte Fitness for continuing to believe in me!

OrthoVirginiaWestfields Dental

Back in the Saddle Again

40th Anniversary TD Five Boro Bike Tour, New York City
40 Miles
5 Boros [Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island]
4 Bridges [The Madison Avenue Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, Pulaski Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge]
1 Day
0 Cars
32,000 Cyclists From 43 Countries
Bib #10492

For the past 40 years on the first Sunday in May, riders from every state in the nation and around the world descend upon NYC for a bicycling experience unlike any other, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. I found out about the event through my friend Marisa’s Facebook post. Intrigued, I looked it up online and immediately registered for the event after reading the description!

I completed some Spartan challenges, 5K, and 10K races, but never a bike race. This event went beyond the first-time aspect for me. Last summer, on June 29, I flipped off my bicycle and was pinned under it when I hit a camouflaged raised gravel section on a path. I got major road rash down the entire right side of my body and broke my right wrist. A kind-hearted stranger named Gigi picked me up and took me to an Urgent Care. In July, I was put back together by Dr. Daniel Laino, who permanently screwed a titanium plate to my wrist. I then attended regular Occupational Therapy sessions with Karen Popovich, an amazing certified hand specialist at Ortho Virginia.

In February of that same year, I had half of my body cut open for another surgery. I was determined to make a comeback from these two surgeries instead of allowing them to bring me down. I set three major fitness goals for 2017. It seemed fitting that the first event involved cycling. My family and friends were not thrilled by this news, but they supported me none the less because THEY ARE AWESOME. I trained the best I could leading up to the race, fitting short and long bike rides in whenever possible. I also kept up on all the Bike New York Facebook posts and email updates.

I was very nervous going into the event. I had just passed the one-year mark for the first surgery and it had only been 10 months since my wrist surgery. Was I in over my head? Would it be painful? Would I be able to successfully complete all 40 miles?

No. A little. Yes!

I was placed in the first wave of cyclists, which was ideal. I could feel my body shaking as I approached the starting location. I asked a stranger in front of me named Alyssa to take a photo of me for posterity because I’m horrible at selfies. We started sharing brief background stories and the conversation helped to put me at ease. It was Alyssa’s second time doing the bike event. She turned out to be one the coolest people I have ever met! We stuck with each other throughout the race and she would give me heads-ups about what was coming. Aware of my health journey, the fact that it was my first bike race, and my first visit to NYC outside of the Times Square area, Alyssa insisted that I stop at a few key points to take photos for my Instagram collection.

The TD Five Boro Bike Tour was my first big healthy comeback goal for 2017 and my first bike event ever. My aim was just to complete the event, although, in my mind, I hoped to finish it in four to five hours. I am proud to share that I completed it in 3 hours and 40 minutes!

Event Fun Facts:

  • You are required by law to use a bike bell when riding in NYC.
  • Whenever we crossed into a borough people from that area would shout with pride,”What up Brooklyn!”, etc.  Alyssa is from Queens, so when we approached her borough I joined her in an enthusiastic shout-out.
  • People would yell and point “water bottle”, “bike chain” “pothole” in an effort to save someone from getting into an accident. Surprisingly, there were a lot of random water bottles scattered along the route. A seasoned racer told me that it’s common for people to knock their water bottles out of the holders.

The second big healthy comeback goal I set for the year is fast approaching. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures as I attempt my first Tough Mudder Full taking place at one of the top toughest venues, Whistler, BC, on June 17!

No one is truly an island unto themselves on the path to success. These names may not resonate with you, but I could not achieve my goals without the emotional and financial support of Alicia, Jenny, Rita, Gigi, Aunt Linda, Gina, Chad, Beverly, Lito, Angela, Marisa, Tonya, Linda, Robert, John, Melissa, Kim and my first-ever business sponsors OrthoVirginia, Westfields Dental and Flyte Fitness. THANK YOU for believing in me!

OrthoVirginia

Westfields Dental

Tote-Worthy

galotgo_bag

Get your very own limited edition #galOTgo reusable tote bag for only $10 (+shipping for out-of-state)! It’s the hottest accessory this spring/summer!  😉  I am selling the bags to raise funds for big races I am participating in as part of my healthy comeback, and to promote women to live fearless lives through my galOTgo brand!

I was training for a Spartan Trifecta weekend, then, in 2016, things took a turn and I underwent two major surgeries that caused me limited mobility. I felt helpless and depressed. My best friend Jenny encouraged me to turn my mindset around by setting new physical goals. I picked three major races to focus on and have worked very hard to rebuild my strength and mobility through occupational therapy and yoga classes. I found mental strength along the way through my community who are pillars of support and keep me motivated.

The classic black tote has the hashtag on one side and makes for a fun conversation piece as people try to decode it like a personalized license plate. The bag is 12×12.75×8 with an 18″ carry strap and removable plastic bottom insert. The bag is great for:

  • workout clothes
  • beach gear
  • diaper bag items
  • shoes
  • groceries
  • and more!

I keep reusable bags in the trunk of my car and on my coat rack at home for use on the go!

NOTE: If you are local I will deliver bags to you directly; if you live outside of the Northern Virginia area I will ship bags to you. To place an order, please email me at galOTgo@gmail.com

Thank you!

Thank You for Rooting for Me

I am sad to share that the Spartan organization contacted me to say that Spartan Race Cuba for March is canceled.

cuba

I have been training hard for months, even on days when I was in pain recovering from my surgeries and felt like I physically couldn’t do it. Every time I am out training I do my best to give 110%, drawing motivation from the incredible people who have been supporting me along the way.

I am not sure I believe the reason their government gave Spartan, especially given the current state of our nation. Politics aside, I did what I know best when faced with things out of my control, and adjusted my goals … again.

Here is my new race schedule for 2017… (Note to My Financial Donors: The registration and travel are booked for these races, so they are a definite go!)

40th Anniversary TD Five Boro Bike Tour
May 7, NYC

  • On the first Sunday in May, 32,000 cyclists from around the world come together to ride 40 miles through every borough of NYC on streets closed off to cars. It is the largest charitable bike ride in the US, with proceeds funding New York’s free bike education programs.

Tough Mudder Whistler
June 17, Whistler, BC

  • Whistler, BC, is very special to me because it is where I worked in 2010 for the Paralympic Winter Games. It was a life-changing experience, and I cannot wait to return to the area!

VA Momentun SUPTri
July 29, Bridgewater, VA

  • A unique multi-sport event that replaces the traditional swim portion of a Tri race with Stand Up Paddleboarding! The Tri starts with a one-mile paddleboard section in the North River in Bridgewater, followed by a 19-mile bike through the countryside, and finishes with a technical four-mile run on hilly terrain at the Valley Pike Farm Market.

I will continue to train and keep you updated along the way as I tackle these goals!

I am VERY GRATEFUL to my financial sponsors like OrthoVirginia, Rita Rich, Jenny Hogan, Alicia Kenney, Robert Brown, Gina Galli, Linda Barefoot, Marisa Palumbo, Beverly Marsters, Gigi Guzman, Tonya Harris, Angela Manning and Lito Velandria; and my product sponsor Flyte Fitness. I am also thankful to those who reached out to me in written support. ALL OF YOU ROCK! My GoFundMe account is open for anyone who would still like to make a donation to me toward the other two races.

Determination and Gratitude

2016, to say the least, was a year filled with medical drama for me. I underwent major surgery in February and was looking forward to recovery so that I could stay on track with my goal to participate in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August. Six months later I was nearing recovery and got into a bicycle accident. I broke my wrist, along with major road rash and bruises. My years of training for and participating in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August were officially dashed.

Through my bicycle accident, I was connected with Dr. Laino, an accomplished hand surgeon at OrthoVirginia. He implanted a permanent titanium plate and five screws in my wrist. Then, like the passing of an Olympic baton, Karen Popovich, an amazing physical therapist, took over my care in thrice-weekly PT sessions. She provided me with consistent mental and physical support that resulted in me thriving at a positive rate.

Recovering from two significant surgeries within months of each other can take an emotional toll on a person. I went through a brief period of self-pity until my friend Jenny gave me some tough love reminding me that my situation wasn’t permanent, and for that reason, I should feel lucky. I quickly adjusted my defeatism mentality and set new goals for 2017. I became fueled with a desire to reasonably beat the recovery periods for the surgeries and come out on the other end equally strong, if not, stronger. I read an email that Spartan was holding a once-in-a-lifetime race event in Cuba on March 18, 2017, open to only 1,000 participants. The opportunity intrigued me for many reasons. The March date seemed like a reasonable amount of time for me to prepare and aim to get back in challenge race mode. I submitted my application for the sprint and I am happy to share that I made the cut as one of the 1,000 racers! I shared my good news with Dr. Laino and Karen and asked for their medical approval, which they provided.

Next, I have to secure benefactors to cover the more than $3,500 in race expenses (race registration, airfare, hotel, etc.). I started a GoFundMe account and my friends have been very supportive (special shout-outs to Rita, Jenny and Alicia). I also need the help of business-level sponsors. I thought about how OrthoVirginia had a key role in building me back up after my accident and what a great sponsor they would make, so I reached out to them for support. Their director of marketing just notified me that they will be making a contribution! I am very grateful to OrthoVirginia and I look forward to them being part of my race experience in Cuba.

I have reached about $1,000 of my fundraising goal so far. If you or a business you know of are willing to join OrthoVirginia in sponsoring me, please contact me at galOTgo or you can make a direct donation through my GoFundMe account https://www.gofundme.com/galotgo.

I hope to make my friends and sponsors proud in March. More importantly, I am determined to show that when life presents you with challenge after challenge, you may need to keep readjusting your goals, BUT never give up on them!

SPONSORS: Contact me to have your company’s name and logo added!

OrthoVa_horizontal copy

What’s SUP? (Stand-Up Paddle Boarding)

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Lesson With Surf Reston
Instructor: Steve
Class: 2 hours
Location: Lake Anne, Reston, Va.
http://www.surfreston.com/

My best friend Jenny knows me well; she booked paddle boarding lessons for us for my birthday! We arrived at Lake Anne and met our instructor Steve, a chill and encouraging dude, along with eight other class participants. Steve spent about 15 minutes at the start of the lesson teaching us about our equipment. He explained that we should use the handle (aka soap dish) in the center of our board as a marker on where to stand.

We also learned about the three strokes:

  • Forward Stroke used for moving forward; catch (the water), power (pull the paddle through) and recovery (back to the front and repeat on the other side) (CPR)
  • Stop Stroke used for stopping; also known as the reverse sweep
  • Sweep Stroke used for turning your board around

Fun Facts: SUP is a slang term used by boarders that stands for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding. The end of the paddle is shaped at an angle to mimic a swimmer’s hand and cut through the water!

Ready for our adventure, we launched off the shore of the lake kneeling on our boards with our paddles across the front of us – from that point we were supposed to slowly stand. It was a hot, sunny and VERY windy day. About five minutes into being on the water before standing, I headed right into a massive shrubbery section on the side of the lake. All good, nothing to see people, I shouted! (I was happy that Jenny didn’t have access to a camera. 😀 ) I quickly recovered, stood and paddled away for the remaining hour+. It was more fun than I ever expected and an amazing abs and arms workout. I cannot wait to return and do it again, especially since Surf Reston offers a discount for repeat business and yoga paddle boarding classes. You cannot bring your phone with you while you’re boarding in case you fall in the lake, but Steve took photos for everyone and posted them on Flickr.

I have an evolving bucket list, which is how my Gal on the Go blog originated. I say evolving because there are some items on the list that I knew about when I created it, and some activities that I was unaware of and added along the way … like when I was “co-pilot” of a plane in Vermont and paddle boarding in my area. The paddle boarding lesson was a day I will never forget; a shared life experience with a friend is priceless and what Gal on the Go is all about!

Power of Positivity

My boyfriend who was mean and dismissive is now out of my life, as Bono eloquently put it, “What you don’t have you don’t need it now.” I joined a fitness Meetup group to keep busy, which has resulted in friendships with amazing people who have all added joy to my life. We gather every Saturday morning at the Reston Town Center. Our fearless leader Irina always brings enthusiasm and provides us with a kick butt workout. One Saturday, she had us run the stairs of the five garages, and when we reached the top of each garage we paused to appreciate the beautiful views of Reston and take silly pictures. Another Saturday, she had us alternate single and double steps up seven flights of stairs in variation for 40 minutes with a loop run every time we reached the rooftop. There is genuine camaraderie among the group, which consists of individuals at all fitness levels. Members look out for each other during the workouts and yell “you go girl” or “you can do it.” We share photos of our time together at the end of each Meetup and Irina adds inspirational fitness quotes to them. A fun way to spend mornings!

In the Zone

Writing about sports isn’t new to me. I report on Spartan Races across the country and I worked as an Olympic News Service reporter for hockey in Sochi. They are in my comfort zone. Recently, I was granted a rare one-hour interview with Bob Fitzsimmons, a successful lawyer for deceased football great “Iron Mike” Webster. I was completely intimidated by Bob and the sport of football. I did a lot of research and worked intently on crafting and recrafting questions that I felt were worthy of Bob’s time and would provide appealing information to readers. Bob put me at ease from the start and it turned out to be one of my favorite interviews! Last Word on Sports (LWOS) published the article today. I hope you will give it a read and find it interesting, whether you are a sports fan or not.

NOTE: Photos were provided to me for use by Bob Fitzsimmons.