Moving Forward. Your Only Option! Ironman Canada Run

One of these days I am going to get this right!  The marathon of the Ironman.  Running is my passion.  I have been a runner since I was a young girl.  I have always loved it.  In 2010, I couldn’t WAIT to get to the marathon of Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  That’s where my magic would happen.  We won’t go back and talk about how not magical that day was was.

Canada…my time to redeem what had happened in 2010.

My run training was kicking butt!  Aside from the fact that… I trained only 9 weeks for Canada.  I almost didn’t race, and literally at the 11th hour, called a friend and coach of mine, to see if we could salvage this Ironman in any way.  We had 9 weeks, start to finish.  7 training weeks, and 2 weeks of taper.  **Now (disclaimer) I do not, and would not suggest this training plan to anyone.  AND, I am not coming from a seat on my couch into this training.  I had an incredibly strong base to start with.  So, I went into this race thinking “just finish” and  “what can I push my body to do?”

So back to the story~ Off of the bike into T2, I was feeling great!  My bike had been awesome, and I had tons of gas in the tank, my body feeling awesome!  In T2, I talked to myself…..talked through the fact that even though my training had not been as it should, I was feeling GREAT!  I felt strong, had hit my long runs, but was a little concerned that my longest run had been 17-miles.  HOW.  WAS.  I.  GOING.  TO.  PULL.  OUT.  ANOTHER.  NINE.  MILES?  But I trusted my training.

This time in transition, I did have a “personal attendant”  She was sweet, and we talked about Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3.  She was wearing the visor from this years race.  I commented and let her know that I would be racing there next year. (My first 70.3)  Yes, I do things backward!  As I changed, she told me her story about her race….that’s all I remember.  Not the story…but that she told me about it….and wanted to keep telling me about it, as I was trying to leave transition.  HAHA!  Three things were going through my mind at this point; 1. I felt GREAT!  2. Don’t forget to hit the water station on the way out to fill my Napalm flask, and 3. Ummm….the friend I caught on the bike was probably out of transition (BOYS!  They are so much faster) and there needed to be a little chase down!

Right out of T2, I saw my friend who was volunteering.  I ran towards her, screaming and fist pumping until I got to her embrace.  We hugged and jumped up and down, screaming!  What a great moment!  It’s moments like that during these races that are unforgettable.  It’s something you carry with you.  Something, you dig out of your heart pocket later on when you need a pep-talk, and a reason to keep moving forward.

I rounded the corner back down the Lake Drive.  This part of the course at the beginning of the run is so fantastic.  Lined with spectators, cow bells, horns, kids running all over, people waving their signs, and one of the best places to see family and friends. It’s lined with restaurants full of cheering “fans.”  This part is also one of the hardest parts (for me) because when you are finishing, you run RIGHT past the finishers chute, and have this one-mile loop heading away from the finish, back out, then turn around to head back to the finish.  It’s bittersweet.

Along the first part as I was heading into this little loop, I saw so many friends.  People who had made the drive up to Canada, JUST to cheer us on.  Again, seeing people you know, means the World.  I came up to the turn around, and the first timing mat, and saw my family.  Screaming, and jumping up and down!  I stopped for photo ops, sweaty hugs, and to chit chat for a brief second.  I told them, I was feeling SO great.  Running on dead legs (that is to be expected and I know that goes away) but over-all I was feeling like a million bucks!  They then let me know….that our friend, was right ahead of me.  They told me, “you have to go catch him!”  **I love living in this town.  There are a lot of triathletes.  All of them our friends (even if you don’t know one another, there is that bond).  It is so nice to have healthy competition!  So….with a little wave, I was off.  I caught up to my friend, and chatted for a minute.  We laughed because I think he knew, I was coming to chase him down.  Then, I was off!

I knew that people had said this run course was “challenging”  I had driven in a few weeks prior when my friends and I came up to ride the bike course.  It was challenging.  Some really good hills!  But I like that type of run course.    It was also beautiful, with sections along the lake, that I knew would take my mind off of any issues that would plague me.

My first 3-4 miles, I felt so good!!  I was keeping a great pace.  Smiling, waving and talking to spectators and people on the course.  That is another wonderful thing about racing.  The people you meet along the way.  I cannot say this enough!  I was, at this point thinking to myself, that this race was going to be amazing, with the way I felt.  I tried to keep on my target pace, per my coaching and training, but a few times was having a hard time keeping my pace under control.  I felt THAT good!  Then, out of nowhere…pain!  Pain, in my ribs, pain in my lower abdomen.  Not sickness, but stabbing. I blew it off for a few minutes, until it hit again, so hard that it stopped me in my tracks, and doubled me over.

WHAT THE…..?

I stood back up, and walked a few steps.  I felt alright, so I started to run again.  WHAM!  Hit again.  Doubled over. I really could not figure out what was going on.  I stood up again, and walked.  Feeling better, I started a slow jog, and again, one after another after another, these stabbing pains in my ribs and lower belly.  I could tell that they weren’t necessarily from GI distress.  I have been down THAT road before.  This was different.

I decided I just needed to walk a while.  I had a young girl (maybe early 20’s) walk up to me…we talked.  This was her first triathlon.  The 2nd woman I had met on this course, that this was their first, ever triathlon.  WOW!  She was struggling a bit also with some leg pain.  It’s nice to have someone to commiserate with.  We decided we would try running a bit, but it ended for both of us quickly.  We tried to stay positive and encourage one another.  Again, we ran, and stopped.  This continued for probably another mile.  A very long, excruciating mile! Then…like magic, her leg cramps disappeared.  She was sweet, and said, she felt bad to leave me.  “Are you kidding me?  GO!!”  “Rock the rest of this race!”  My words to her.  I hope, she had a fantastic finish.  I never saw her again.  I dropped her story, pain and gratitude into my heart pocket.

I started to become really down, somewhere around 10 miles.  This was a disaster, and I just could not figure out what was going on.  I kept stopping at aide stations, port-potties (thinking maybe….that was the problem) but noting was helping.  Just before mile 11ish, I just couldn’t take it.  I sat down.  I had literally just passed a man, laying in the dirt, curled up into a tiny ball, writhing around.  I stopped and asked if he was alright, and did I need to flag down medical.  He moaned, and said no.  This is the thing about Ironman, these althletes are some of the toughest people I have met.  That utter will to finish at all cost.  That determination, fortitude, courageousness, bravery, and resolve is like none other.  I could tell this man, in pain and in the dirt, was going to pull it together and finish!  As I sat on the road, everyone that passed me asked about my well-being.  Kind, good-natured, merciful people..all concerned about their fellow racers.  My heart was sinking at this point.  I really was uncertain that I would be able to finish.  Tears pricked my eyes.  I had COMPLETELY blew my time!  I was sad, angry and unforgiving to myself.  Medical came up to me, and asked how I was and if I was done with my race.  “Paula, are you done with your race?”  Am I?  I shook my head, no, and he asked if I could please stand up and walk with him a few steps.  I did, and when we reached his bike, I didn’t stop.  He yelled to me, to have a great rest of my race.  I just kept walking with my head down.

Another aide station…I stopped and went into the Porta-potty, and just sat there.  It was steaming hot in there, and I just sat.  Then….all of a sudden, I hear it…my husbands Scooter!!  NO WAY!  He’s out on the course, driving and looking for me.  I came bursting out of the potty to see him disappearing around the corner.  I was about to lose it from sadness.  I just needed to see him.  My heart broke!  I walked through the rest of the aide station in a fog.  I heard a few people ask if I was ok…I ignored them.  I was in misery.  Still in pain, still unable to run, and now…my biggest fan just missed me.  I took a tiny sip of water at this aide station.  The 1st one in a while.

It seemed like forever before I saw my husband.  He had driven out to the turn around, Run Special Needs, and was a little concerned he said, when he didn’t see me.  Thank goodness he had to come back.  This run is a out and back.  He stopped and I told him, I just wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue on.  I walked and he rode in the road next to me.  I wanted to just hop on the back of his scooter, and be done with this whole thing.  He told me, our friend who I had passed at the start of our run was not doing well either.  Same issue as me, and was not far behind me, but was struggling as well, and was considering stopping.  I continued walking. Hubs said he was going to ride up to special needs and wait for me.  He left.  I wasn’t sure, truthfully, if I would make it to special needs.

I plodded along, meeting another woman walking who told me this was her 2nd Ironman.  After the first one she said she would never do it again.  Then….her best friend developed cancer, and it was her goal to overcome cancer, and complete an Ironman.  She told me with tears in her eyes of the journey of her friend.  Her surgery, radiation and chemo.  About her incredible braveness to be undergoing chemo, but making the decision to sign up, train and race IM Canada.  More and more of their friends jumped on board, and there were a whole group of them racing, honoring their friend’s fight to make it to the start, and ultimately to her first Ironman finish.  As we walked, she told me how sore she was, and that every part of her wanted to give up, but she just couldn’t.  “Look what my friend has gone through…if she is still out here, we are still out here!”

Again…another story I tucked into my heart pocket, and continued forward.

As I came down the hill towards special needs, I had that familiar pang of wanting to stop, but then thinking, there are only 13.1 more miles to go.  I had come 127.5 miles….was I really going to stop, or was I going to will myself on, remembering the stories, not beat myself up for blowing my run time, for allowing myself to show some grace to my body and soul for being a “runner” who was not running on this day?

I got into special needs, and almost to the timing mat and turn around, when from out of nowhere my friends BOUNDED in front of me over the mat, and said, “I’m gonna beat you!”  And over that timing mat he went! It made me laugh so hard!  And I felt happy, that he must be feeling better.  I saw my hubs and sat down with him with my SN bag.  I took my shoes off and noticed the huge blisters covering the entire bottom of my right foot, a blister along the right edge of my foot, and wrapped up around my pinky toe.  My  last two toes on the right foot were also red and bleeding at the cuticle.  No wonder my feet had started to hurt.  I changed my socks, and put some BioFreeze on my feet.  That stung, but cooled them down, and it felt incredible.  I got up, took a sip of water and told my hubs that I was going to try to make it one more mile to the next aid station.  I handed him my 2nd gel flask, because I knew I wasn’t going to use it.  I wasn’t taking in any nutrition at the time, and just couldn’t.  I had managed in the first 13 miles to down my Napalm, but barely.  He said, “are you sure you want me to take it?”  Knowing he could not give it back to me if I needed it on the course.  On course help during an Ironman (besides the aid they provide) will get you DQ’ed.  I had him take it, and off he went to meet me at mile 14.  BIG Mistake!

As I watched him ride back up the hill out of special needs, I wanted to bawl!!  People cheering me on were not helping.  I was so miserable!  I hated ever step I took.  I hated everything about Ironman.  I was mad at myself, mad at my body, mad at my mind, mad that I hadn’t trained harder, mad that I had decided to race at the last minute, and just irritated about the whole RIDICULOUSNESS of an Ironman race!  And I was sad, for all of the above reasons.  Such an overwhelming stream of emotions.

And then something dawned on me….I had barely had any water!    ~To be Con’t

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The beginning of the run! Feeling great!!

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Stopping in for a photo op with my friends and family!

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The Bike (Ironman Canada)

Coming out of the water, I was elated!  My swim had been strong and my best time to date.  What a way to start my race!

Coming into T1, I was quickly stripped of my wetsuit (this is the greatest thing ever, and those wetsuit strippers are incredible and efficient) I grabbed my bag and headed into the changing tent.  It was busy, and this year, I had no “personal attendant” like in 2010.  I took my bag in and sat on a chair.  Again, since I pared my nutrition down so much, I didn’t have the bag of food rolling around like I did in 2010.  I grabbed the only things in my T1 bag.  Helmet, glasses, arm warmers, gloves, race belt, bike shoes.  I had decided this year, I was not changing any clothes.  What I had on in the swim was staying on me all day.  Pearl Izumi Tri shorts, and an Ironman Canada pink tri top.  Easy, swimmable, breathable, wicking.  My T1 was 5:46.  WAY faster than my first IM, where I honestly think I had ordered up a Mani Pedi and a pizza delivery.  Wow!  (I’m getting better and better at this)

I left the tent, and found a “sun-screener,” slathered up, and ran towards my bike.  There she was, looking all shiny and ready to be rode hard all day on this tough Canadian bike course.

Leaving through town is like being in a parade.  The streets are lined with hundreds of spectators, cheering, yelling, waving signs, ringing cowbells, horns, clappers.  It is such a confidence boost, and is something you need to hold onto as you get out on to more remote parts of an IM course.  Ironman, can be a lonely sport, and if you don’t have the mental toughness or the ability to store up the cheering and good thoughts from friends, family, and spectators, it can get pretty desolate, and isolated feeling.

The first part of the course after heading out of town heads along Skaha Lake, its relatively flat, and I think a very pretty part of the course.  I had been told from MANY veterans of this race, to keep in control of my speed from the start until Osoyoos.  It is easy to go out too hard.  This part of the course is flat, with some little rollers.  But I knew I needed to keep my legs fresh for what would be hitting me once I got to Osoyoos and beyond.  I really tried to watch my speed.  It was hard!!  I just felt so great, and wanted to make up as much time as I could.  I kept hearing the voices of friends who have raced here, telling me to keep it in check.  The later part of this course can be brutal.  I had to slow myself down more than a few times!

I was happy that I had made the trip up to ride the course a few weeks before.  I knew what was coming in the passes, and even though we didn’t ride the entire course, riding the passes a few weeks before was a great confidence builder in me.  I knew where I needed to conserve energy, and where I could go for it!

Making the turn in Osoyoos, I knew this meant Richter Pass lay right ahead of me.  I still felt strong and really relaxed.  I made sure that I was right on with my nutrition.  One bottle an hour.  I had my Garmin set to vibe at me every 15 minutes, but for some reason, it never did, or I was too anxious to feel/hear it.  No matter, I was still checking and making sure I was taking in exactly what I had planned for.  (A big mistake I had made in 2010)  I stopped at an aide station right before the Richter Pass climb, and filled up one more bottle with my Infinit.  I had planned 6 bottles total, but had extra powder, and filled one extra, knowing that special needs on this course was not at the half way mark (more like around 70 miles)

I started my climb up Richter Pass.  This is the first major climb and about 11K long.  Richter is about 2300 feet high.  I knew to stay relaxed and steady.  Not to push this one too hard, because this isn’t even the halfway point yet!  I stayed in the saddle, and just enjoyed the climb up, staying very consistent. There were a lot of people along the way cheering/with music and that made it a lot of fun!  I steadied it up and felt a tiny bit of rest at the false summit, then made the rest of the climb (the last 1.5K) to the rockin’ party at the summit!  I felt great!  Strong!

The next part of the course was where I knew I needed to pull some inner strength. The rollers, or as they are referred to, the seven sisters, or the seven b*tches, are a series of big rollers right after you descend Richter Pass (there are actually 10 total)  They SUCK!!  I’m not going to lie.  They really put me to the test.  The wind picked up a little along this part, which made me nervous because I had heard that the wind can get brutal towards the out and back and towards the Yellow Lake climb.  I wondered if it was windy on these rollers, how would the wind be later?

I took the rollers one at a time, and just busted them out.  I was happy to see that we were coming up to the out and back.  I knew I was done with the b*tches, and could carry on to the out and back and Special Needs.

The out and back.  I really have nothing good to say about the out and back.  It was quite possibly the most brutal part of the course.  The pavement in this part of the ride is horrible.  Like old chip seal.  It’s bumpy.  It is around 20K total with a slight grade.  Enough that you can feel it.  It was HOT.  It goes through a section of orchards, bee farms and grasslands.  This is where I started to feel some fatigue.  I tried to keep my mind positive.  I knew that this would be the ONLY place on the course that I might see someone I knew, since this is all a one loop course.  I tried to look for my friends that were racing to keep my mind off the demons that were trying to sneak in.  I honestly felt like I was going to burst into tears during this part.  I finally made it to Special Needs, and was refilling bottles, when FINALLY…I hear someone call my name.  One of my friends was rolling into special needs.  It was a nice boost.  He came up and stopped as I was filling bottles, and asked how I was feeling.  It was a quick chat, and off he went.  Seeing him for that split second, cheered me up a bit, and gave me a little motivation having him in front of me to chase down.

Out of the out and back, I knew I had one more climb up Yellow Lake.  This comes at around 90-miles, and things were starting to hurt.  My butt, my feet, my neck from being in the aero position for so long.  As far as energy, I felt pretty good, I was just SO ready to get off the bike.  I don’t care who you are and how much time you spend on your bike, after 112 miles you are ready to get out of that saddle.  Yellow Lake is a 20K climb.  It feels like it may never end.  I prayed a lot going up this climb.  I was thankful the wind was calm (which is rare) which made it hot as Hades.  I was starting to get really tired and my legs were feeling some fatigue.  I kept looking for my family.  I hadn’t seen them all day since I left for the swim at the start of my race.  I knew they were going to try and see me come through town (they didn’t) and they said they would be up on Yellow Lake.  I climbed and climbed looking for them, and could feel myself feeling a little sad. (Again, those demons try to creep in to mess with your state of mind)  There were TONS of spectators lining the road.  They say it gets like the Tour de France on this part, and it really was.  Towards the top, the crowds grew.  They had music playing, people were running along side me…this was such a nice pump!!  I actually was laughing through part of this because the spectators were crazy and just off the chains!  Had this crowd not been there, it would’ve drained me emotionally.  It was a sweet boost, and I needed one badly.  I passed another friend on the final part of the climb, and we chatted for a brief second.  (Sometimes just a few seconds of a friendly face/voice makes a HUGE impact)  I finally made it to the top, and knew I had to cut my nutrition at this point.  Keep on water only, so the protein would digest in my stomach before the run.

I still hadn’t seen my family.

At the top, I took my last chug of Infinit.  This nutrition is the BOMB!!  After what happened in 2010, I was nervous about GI distress.  My Infinit formula was right on!  Dialed in just specifically for me and race day.  I love this stuff, and cannot say enough about it!!  My energy was great all day, and my stomach never suffered on the bike!  And not having to take any other supplements (electrolytes, salt, calories, protein, carbs, amios etc) takes the guessing out of the day.  Especially in long endurance days, when your body and mind play tricks on you.  One bottle an hour…thats all I had to remember.

I knew the rest of the ride was going to be pretty fast.  It’s a long downhill with one little hill, then a 20k decent into Penticton.  I was back feeling pretty optimistic after the Yellow climb.  I was cooling down a bit, and knew I had a lot of downhill to rest my legs for the marathon.

FINALLY….As I am making the last little climb, I see my friends and family!  They were like an oasis in a desolate desert.  Cheering for me!  Screaming and yelling!  I was so happy to have finally caught up to them!!  I rode by, giving fist pumps and high fives.  They yelled to me and told me our friend who had caught and passed me through Special Needs wasn’t that far ahead of me…..motivation like a cheetah!!  I took off!  Screaming downhill into town at 40+mph speeds.  My family caught me in the car as I was almost into town, and I felt the last little pump I needed from their cheers to get me back into town!  ****And yes, I did catch our friend!!

Almost to the Top!

SO Happy to see my Family and Friends!!

And….On a Side Note- 50 Things to Get to Know Me Better

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

Don’t think so, but know there was a last minute name change, by my grandpa, I think. And I share my middle name with my Dad’s twin.

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2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

Yesterday before my hubs raced his first 70.3 triathlon. I was so proud of him!

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3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?

I like it, but I think sometimes people have a hard time reading it.

~It might be a little too fancy and curly for some!

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4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?

No meat for this fit-chick!

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5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?

Yes. 21,20 and 14

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6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?

My gosh, Yes! I am loyal, fun and always ready for a good time/laugh.

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7. DO YOU USE SARCASM ALOT?

Not over the top, but can be pretty sarcastic on occasion.

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8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?

Nope.

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9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?

Probably, just to try it. After I went sky diving, I really didn’t have an urge to bungee. It seemed a little anticlimactic.

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10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?

Granola with berries or oatmeal.

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11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?

I am 99% barefoot or in flip-flops. My running shoes have bungee laces….so no.

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12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?

Yes. I am strong in faith, as well as mentally and physically.

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13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?

Tempt Hemp ice-cream in chocolate fudge.

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14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?

Their sense of humor, their smile and their eyes.

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15. RED OR PINK? Pink

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16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?

I can be very naïve and gullible.

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17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?

My family and friends in California and Pennsylvania

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18. FAVORITE ANIMAL? Pig

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19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?

Barefoot (see above) My kicks are blue, orange and pink!

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20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?

A piece of rosemary toast with raspberry preserves.

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21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?

Complete silence, and it is utterly, beautiful!

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22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?

Orange/Tangerine

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23. FAVORITE SMELLS?

Rain, the woods, plumeria, the ocean, sandalwood, lavender, puppy breath.

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24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?

Our son.

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25. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?

Wow, this is tough one. I love both the mountains and the beach. If I had to choose one….beach house/bungalow

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26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?

Football, Gymnastics and Triathlon

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27. HAIR COLOR?

Blondie-Blonde

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28. EYE COLOR?

Blue with a hint of gray towards the pupil.

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29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?

Nope, but I do wear glasses for reading.

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30. FAVORITE FOOD?

Cuisine wise: Thai and Italian Food wise: Berries and vegan pizza

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31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?

Happy endings, but do love getting the crap scared out of me by scary movies.

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32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?

The Darkest Hour

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33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?

Pink tank

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34. SUMMER OR WINTER?

Summer (but to be completely honest, Fall)

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35. HUGS OR KISSES?

Both!

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36. FAVORITE DESSERT?

Anything with chocolate.

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37. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?

Cardio, but I love strength too.

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38. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?

Hmmm…I guess computer. Not a big TV watcher.

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39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?

Committed by Liz Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

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40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?

Mac Book…no mouse in this house!

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42. FAVORITE SOUND?

Laughter

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43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?

The Stones

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44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?

Central America (I think that is the furthest)

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45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?

Inspiring those around me.

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46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania GO STEELERS!!

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47. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?

In beautiful, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

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48. DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS?

2-dogs: A Love-sponge-butter-faced, Golden Retriever (Tucker) and a scrappy, sassy, take-on-the-World, yorkie. (Ava) and we are about a week away from adding a new member….shhhh, it’s a secret. =)

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49. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR AS FAR AS GOOD QUALITIES IN A PERSON/MATE?

A good sense of humor is huge with me. You HAVE to make me laugh, because sometimes, in relationships, that’s all you can do. Other than that, loyalty/faithfulness, honesty (love me enough to be honest) kindness, joy, adventurous spirit, fun, secure in themselves, has their own goals, and own things that they love (how BORING to have everything in common) very independent and a love for our Creator.

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50. FAVORITE WORKOUT?

Running and Yoga

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