Boston, you're my home.

I don't know if this is the right time to be blogging.  I don't know if I should have taught a cycling class on Newbury Street this morning. But, I did and I am, because that's what I do on Tuesdays...even though my heart is broken and my city is weeping. Because I needed to step away from the news and the questions and the overwhelming emotion...and find my strong. The Boston Marathon has been an intimate part of my life every April for the past 12 years. As an undergrad at Northeastern, we would skip class and push our way to the barrier of the finish line, whooping for runners that we never knew. I always had to leave early, and while my friends used their fake ID's to get past the bouncers on Boylston (don't try that now...), I would hop into Van109 and head down Storrow for afternoon practice on the Charles. We could hear the crowds from a distance as the late runners made their way to the finish line.

Finish Line

In 2004, my senior year, after my coxing career was over, I committed to bandit the damn thing with my awesome friend Carrie. We trained diligently in a terribly cold and snowy winter only to find ourselves in 95 degree heat in Hopkinton.  It was the most terrible-wonderful-exhilarating-painful race I have ever run. I remember running up the most awful hill of the race -- the tiny one through the tunnel under Mass Ave -- tears streaming down my cheeks as I made the turn onto Boylston.  I started sprinting to the line, past revelers that had been me the years prior.  I had lost Carrie earlier on and was not expecting anyone to be there to watch me cross.  I did not have a number, my family was far away, and my teammates were again at practice.  But, as I neared the finish, I heard my name being screamed from just in front of Marathon Sports.  My sister, an undergrad at UVM at the time, had taken the bus down to Boston to surprise me and was waiting with the proudest little sister hug. I crossed the line and fell bawling into her arms. The emotion that I felt that day still pulls at my heart whenever I think about it.


In 2010, I took a job as the Outreach Director of Community Rowing, and discovered that one of the most forward thinking youth programs at the boathouse -- G-Row -- had been chosen as one of the BAA's Marathon Charities that amazing gift to any non-profit. So, now as an adult, I had the opportunity to experience the inner workings of the Boston Athletic Association's preparation for this monstrous race while guiding a team of runners through their own 26.2 mile journey. We organized fundraisers, and weekend runs, and gear orders, and coaching sessions...all the while raising tens of thousands of dollars for a little program that changed young Bostonian girls' lives. It made very real for me the incredible meaning of the charity teams of the Boston Marathon. From living the runners' personal connections and stories to being a director of a program that benefited from the immense generosity afforded by the BAA. I was humbled.


Yesterday, my amazing friend Melinda was running her third Boston on Tedy's Team -- Tedy Bruschi's charity that brings awareness to stroke. Melinda runs for her mom, who suffered a massive stroke a few years ago.  This year, she was running with her brother. Twice this spring, I joined her to teach a charity ride --stRides for Stroke -- at Recycle Studio, where we met and now both instruct. At the last event, I got to meet her inspirational Mom and Dad and their story became that much more personal. She's kind of my hero (and a ton of other peoples'...)


So there I was this year. I was heading to the finish line to cheer her on. It was 2:30pm, and I had been tracking her online to make sure I timed everything right.  I was going to ride my bike over Mass Ave bridge and head down to Marathon Sports.  I had dropped JP off at his ritualistic afternoon practice but needed to stop at the bank quickly before I headed down. I never go to the bank.  Ever.  I hate the bank (...and the post office). The lines make me completely insane. But I needed a cashier's check. I was pissed because I was running late to the course. While drumming my fingers waiting for the teller to type in all the information with his two index fingers, JP called, frantically asking where I was. When he told me the news my heart fell into the pit of my stomach. Instantly, a flurry of texting and FaceBook messaging and tweeting began as we all tried to locate our friends that were out on the course. Through some sort of miracle, all of my friends that had been on Boylston had either just left or hadn't yet made it. My husband's rowing team, who had been at the line only an hour before, were safe with him at the boathouse. Melinda and the other runners I was going to cheer were safe -- either finished already or corralled by the BPD in Kenmore. Now, all there was to do was watch. And cry. And send love. And give thanks.

Runners Stopped

And that's where I find myself today.  After a gut-wrenching night, mourning for our city, the race that is so much a part of us, and the innocents that were harmed, I struggle to maintain composure. I taught this morning because I needed to be there, with the people of my city...and they needed it too. I am writing because I was scared and sad and now I'm mad and determined. Boston is a place that teaches you that. To be stubborn and feisty. No person I know ever backed down from a fight in this town. There's a time for tears, and then there's a time to be strong.  Now is the time for strong.

The Boston Marathon is more than a road race. It's a life event where a daughter fighting for her mom can run the same course as the most elite runner in the world. Where athletes, non-athletes, spectators, students and proud families, stand together to honor the work of the runners that dedicate their entire being to crossing the painted finish line on Boylston.  It's the best day to be in be from Boston. And we will not let this break us. We will cry, but we will teach, and write, and scream and laugh...and run...again.

Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 2.39.36 PM

UPDATE:  You know that moment when you burst out crying at the end of an amazing movie when the hero saves the hostages and there's a happy ending? That's how I feel today...except it's real life. We were locked down in our houses for 15 hours yesterday, the carjacking and shooting was a block from my house.  My friends' houses were surrounded by hummers and tanks with law enforcement brandishing assault rifles. We went for a run at the end of the quarantine and were serenaded by cruisers speeding to the scene where the suspect had been found.  Myself and all my fellow runners cheering them on. A former teammate, turned state police officer, was on the scene when they caught the villain bleeding in a boat.  I taught a spinning class where a runner of the marathon had her first workout since Monday...tears and all. My husband and his Boston team had a race this afternoon...they won. Big Papi states, "This is our f*cking city!" at our beloved Fenway.

If there is a definition of surreal, the past 48  hours is it. But, we are #BostonStrong. And I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing city. We will run again. JP and I will run next year. So will everyone else. Because we have to.

Be for things, not against them.

This post doesn't really belong in any of the Move, Eat, Drink, or Rest categories.  It's more in the Life column.  With the start of the New Year, we all tend to reassess our live's ambition, set new goals, and redirect.  This year, I am experiencing a major shift.  As a person in the nutrition and exercise world, I see a lot of crap.  Bad diets, really bad diets, dangerous diets.  Ugly workouts, really ugly workouts, dangerous workouts.  And my initial response is to rail against them.  Sometimes, I just want to throw things and scream at how stupid I think this crap can be.  (My latest target is this ridiculous and shameful marketing scheme by Coca-cola).  But there's a problem with temper tantrums and stump speeches...nobody wants to hear it.  In fact,   going on the offensive is often such a turnoff that, even if people agree with you, they won't do what they know is right just to demonstrate their own free will.  You can see examples of this everyday:  in politics, in raising kids, in employee/boss relationships...

So, in response, my new intention is: Be For Things, Not Against Them.

Be For:  Eating lots of Fruits and Vegetables

Be For:  Working out hard, and often

Be For:  Drinking water (and wine...)

Be For:  Enjoying Life and being Mindful of the details

Be For:  The teachers and mentors and friends that spread a positive and healthy message

and most importantly,

Be For: Finding the Positive Aspect of any Situation.


Because it's so damn easy to get caught up in negativity.  We live in an on demand world where everyone automatically moves to criticize, or judge, or question.  Railing against things that drive you nuts - because they're cruel, or unjust, or unsafe, or unhealthy - is not helping anyone.  Getting your digs in only causes stress, and anger and defensiveness.

So, instead of being against the things that I disagree with, I'm going to be for the things that I find important. Because then the positive things will start to counter the negative and will slowly build a coalition of productive energy, deeds, and eventual change.  I am going to be FOR the things that I feel strongly about, and then be patient enough for the change to happen.

It sounds so simple, but it is going to be profound.


Ulysses Contract

Ulysses (or Odysseus, as he's also called) in Homer's the Iliad & the Odyssey went to war.  He was a brilliant warrior - renowned for self-restraint and diplomatic skills.  In fact, that whole Trojan Horse trick?  His idea.  Smart guy.
Ancient Warrior Pose.

Anyway, on his sea-bound trek back from the battlefields (a journey which oddly took him 10 years...), he wanted desperately to hear the fabled Sirens sing.  The Sirens were shrewd creatures that lured sailors with their mesmerizing songs to shipwreck on the deadly rocks surrounding their island (devious wenches....).  So, he tied himself to the mast of his ship and ordered his crew to stuff bees wax in their ears, lest they hear the Sirens' song and be compelled off course into the cliffs.  As the ship sailed passed the island, Ulysses heard the singing and was apparently driven half-insane, demanding his crew untie him so that he may dive into the ocean and swim ashore.  This, of course, would have meant certain death.  When the ship had passed safely away from the Sirens' island, the crew cut Ulysses loose, unscathed from temptation.

Ulysses and the Sirens_Herbert James Draper
What, you may ask, does this clever tale of Greek mythology have to do with health?  Well, based upon the bargain that Ulysses made with his future self, the term "Ulysses Contract" has evolved.  A Ulysses Contract is a freely made decision made to obligate oneself in the future.  And, this, S.P. readers, has everything to do with health.

For example, my husband and I just spent the past two weeks (that's 14 days...or 336 hours...or 20,160 minutes...but who's counting...) abstaining from alcohol.  Gasp!  I know, it was awful.  But...we had decided that we needed to detox a little before the outrageously demanding academic year started up again.  (In previous years, we ramped UP on the drinking, determined to squeeze every last boozy second out of the summer...but all we ended up with was a huge bar tab and a hangover.  So, we decided to try a new, sober-as-a-bird, strategy).  However, in order for this plan to work, we needed to purge our house of the delicious bottles of California Cabernet, French Chateauneuf, and Spanish Garnache.  If there were full bottles on the shelf, our future selves would drink it.  Those two weaklings were NOT to be trusted!

Yes.  Wine Flu.  That's it.

And there, is the crux.  Tangible decisions must be made today by our sane, logical (sober) selves in order to ensure our future health goals and risks.  If the temptation is there tomorrow, are you going to be able to overcome it?  Are you sure?

This is why we make verbal commitments, and pay lots of money for personal trainers, spin studios, and WODs.  If we have an appointment, we will go.  If the food's simply not there, we can't eat it.  So, it is essential to empty our freezers of pints of Haagen Dazs, our cabinets of Frito Lays, and (even sometimes) our wine racks of Italian Barolo. Because we know our future self won't be able to resist hitting the snooze alarm, savoring one last spoonful, or pouring one more glass.  In the moment, in the actual flash of decision, we think that brownie is a good idea.  Hell, were sure it's a great idea! We jump overboard.  But, when you are on a mission for health - fitness, weight loss, successful aging - you cannot be tempted by the Sirens, lest you end up on the rocks.

So, you make a bargain, a contract, with your own self  - the self that lives two days, one week, one month from now.  "If I don't have Peanut M&M's in the house, I won't eat them".  "If I sign up for that yoga class next week, I will go".  "If I commit to meeting my friend for a run, I will get out of bed".

Making a Ulysses Contract with yourself, ensures that you won't bail.  You'll go (because you said you would).  You'll run (because your friend is running).  You'll eat broccoli with brown rice instead of frozen pizza (because that is what is in your fridge).  You won't jump overboard, because you knew it was coming.  You are prepared.

So, go do it right now (while you're sober and motivated).  Throw out the crap.  Make a verbal commitment.  Sign up for that class.  Paint yourself into a corner.  Because, you will never, ever regret eating a healthy meal or doing an extra workout.  But you will regret bailing on your plan, sneaking that last donut from the box, or not going to the gym.  You will regret jumping onto the rocks.  Be strong and set yourself up for success.  Do it.  Do it right now.  Or your future self might change her mind...

A Major Award!

So I was beyond psyched for Strong Process to be nominated for an Inspirational Blogger award by the awesome ladies over at  SleepEatGymRepeat AND then the very next day by the ever insightful Aspiring RD!  This is this little blog's first major award!! To which I say, "It's indescribably beautiful...reminds me of the 4th of July!!".

Honestly, though.  I'm honored that people are inspired by reading about the healthy living ideas swirling around in my head!  Thanks, girls :)

As an Inspirational Blogger, I am supposed to dish on 7 things about myself that people may not already know (hmmm, could get interesting...), and then pay it forward to 7 blogs that Inspire me.  Good positive blogging karma, if I do say so myself!

So,  here's some random dirt on me:

1)  I'm a sucker for a trashy beach read.  I know, I know...I'm supposed to be reading textbooks and journal articles, but sometimes my head just needs some good old fashioned brain candy.  Besides, there's a slew of research out there that says reading fiction is good for you!  Apparently, it helps you negotiate social interactions (uh-huh...).  I'll admit it, I read the Hunger Games.  Devoured the entire damn trilogy in a weekend.  I feel no shame.
2)  I hate melon.  Canteloupe, Honey Dew, even Watermelon.  I have no idea why.  The concept of a nice juicy melon on a hot day sounds absolutely delicious to me.  But every time I put a piece in my mouth, I spit it back out.  It drives me bananas when I order fruit salad and all I get is a bunch of melon a few grapes.  I keep thinking melon-taste will grow on me (like it did for tomatoes, which I used to hate but now can't get enough of...), but it's just not happening.  Weird, I know.
Hmmm....maybe I would like this watermelon.
3)  I'm 30.  Almost 31 (in three weeks).  I know I look 16, but I swear I'm a grown-up!  Most people want to hide their age, but I want to shout it from the rooftops.  I AM THIRTY!!
4)  I LOVE food blogs.  Can't get enough.  I could read 'em all day.  Love the recipes, love the pics, love the peeps that write 'em (more on this when I make my Inspirational nominations...).
5)  I miss eating meat.  The thought of a nice juicy steak makes my mouth water (it's watering right now just thinking about it).  But, I'm stubborn.  Until I find a good reason to eat it again - as in, I become a recluse in the rural wilderness where a local hunter or independent farmer brings freshly butchered meat directly to my door - I won't.  But, don't tell anyone, I snuck a bite of Turkey last Thanksgiving.

This is not me...I just wanted you to see how ridiculous this test is.

6) My VO2max is 63ml/kg/min.  I just did a treadmill test in our lab the other day.  I'm proud of it, and I had to brag!

7)  I will take Winter any day over Summer.  Hands down.  Hot, humid, summer days make me batty.  Sweating when I'm not exercising turns me into a bonafide crazy person.  My ideal vacation would be a trip to South America in August...smack-dab in the middle of their ski season.
The seven blogs that Inspire me are....drumroll, please!
1)  101cookbooks - Heidi Swanson and her beautiful website were my first blog-love.  I draw inspiration from her recipe (and life) journal pretty much daily.
2)  Ultra Shocking Revelations - Ok, if you need a little sass in your life, Eliza is your girl.  This bigger than life blogger holds nothing back.  Ultra-shocking, yes.  Ultra-refreshing-honesty, double yes.
3)  Hyperbole and a Half - So, maybe this chic has been struggling with some stuff lately (and is super brave to blog about it), but hot-damn she is funny.  Check out "The sneaky hate spiral" and "This is why I'll never be an adult" if you just need some roll-around-on-the-floor-tears-streaming-down-your-face laughter.
4)  Smitten Kitchen - Fearless cooking from a tiny kitchen in New York.  This blog is about real food, that real people can cook, that tastes real good.  My go-to for every day meals.
5)  La Tartine Gourmande - Whoa.  This lady can COOK.  and LIVE.  and PHOTOGRAPH. and WRITE.  Talk about inspiring.
6)  Root - Molly has style.  Like, holy crap how does she make that look so good, style.  She just moved to the south of France (yeah, right..??!!) and posts incredibly beautiful stories, pics, and designs to inspire your inner creative goddess.
7)  Whatshouldwecallme - This one was sent to me about a week ago.  I don't know if this is blogging.  I don't know what it is, really.  You're welcome.
So, I hope that you can draw some inspiration from these blogs and thanks so much for reading Strong Process!xoxo, Rachele