Spicy Guacamole

Thought I’d share my Spicy Guacamole recipe with everyone! Enjoy!!

Since I had 2 parties to attend recently, the following ingredients are doubled. However, feel free to modify to your taste.  Please note, you can freeze the tomatillo mixture for future uses.

Ingredients:

10 ripe Haas Avocados

4 Jalapeno Peppers

2 lbs of Tomatillos

4 large Garlic Cloves (unpeeled)

8 Tomatoes

1 small Sweet Onion (note:  I did not use any onions when preparing. Personal choice!)

Cilantro

Salt

Steps to Preparing  Awesome Guacamole:

Peel shell, wash and roast Tomatillos in oven  for 30 min @ 375

After roasting the Tomatillos for 15 minutes, add in the Garlic and Jalapeno Peppers for 15 min – turning once

While the Tomatillos, Garlic and Jalapeno Peppers are roasting, chop Cilantro and dice Tomatoes. If you choose to add Onions, dice the Onions  into small cubes.

Once the Tomatillos, Garlic and Jalapeno Peppers have completed roasting, you need to peel the roasted Garlic, chop into smaller pieces and place into the blender.

Remove the stem from the Jalapeno Peppers and place into the blender.  If the hot-hot from the Jalapeno Peppers is too much, remove the jalapeno seeds prior to placing into the blender.

Add the roasted Tomatillos into the blender.

Place 1/2 of the chopped Cilantro and Tomatoes into the blender.

Add Salt.

Puree mixture.

Mash Avocados in a bowl. Add Tomatillo mixture until suited for your taste.

Add remaining Cilantro and Tomatoes. If desired, add diced Onions to the Avocado and Tomatillo mixture. Mix well.

Add Salt to taste.

Enjoy!!

I remember….the total disbelief then the horror of the reality….

NYC

Each year as the days go by, you may give a pause in your daily routine when you realize it is once again September 11th.

I can only guess what wide range of emotions must be felt: shock, horror, disbelief, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. All may replay within yourself just like it did on September 11, 2001 when you first heard.

It is without a doubt that most people remember exactly where they were when they first found out. For me, I had just kissed my husband and son good-bye and was quickly getting ready to leave for work. This was at 7:30 am CDT.

16 minutes later the first plane would hit the North Tower.

I stood in stunned disbelief of the news being reported with the feelings of panic starting to set in. My initial thoughts were of my husband and my son. Should I go get my son from school? Knowing my husband was on a commuter train headed to Chicago, what may soon be happening there? Would this horror manifest itself in downtown Chicago? I had many friends and colleagues in New York. Oh my god, are they ok? Nothing to date had taught me how to handle the terror brought to our soil, our lives, our country.

17 minutes later, the second plane would hit. This time, the South Tower.

Scared of what our future would hold immobilized me.

34 minutes later, the third plane would hit The Pentagon.

I remember holding my stomach as I was pregnant at the time with my second child. What kind of world was I bringing this unborn child into? All the illusions that we grew up with were shattered. No longer was the world as I knew it safe.

30 minutes later, the fourth plane would crash into the field in Pennsylvania.

Each year as the day looms before us, I remember.

I remember as if the present no longer held me and I was standing in front of the television watching the news coverage play it over and over again.

I remember vividly the days and weeks that followed. The silence of the skies around O’Hare was deafening. Glancing at the airport as I passed it on my daily commute showed a ghost town. A new awareness of our surroundings and of strangers and being ever vigilant and on guard. And yet, I also saw the kindness of strangers and of fellow commuters who replaced their aggressive driving to ones that drove along side you not against you.

As I write these thoughts down for the very first time, 13 years later, the flood of emotions is overpowering.

I remember.

Never forget.

Never forget to tell those around you that you hold dearest how much they truly mean to you. For you have the opportunity to do so where the 2977 victims of 9/11 can no longer.

Remember.

Be strong.

Don’t give into the terror.

20120812-NewYorkCity-911MemorialPark-23Edit

TinkerBell_Frame   As I mature as a runner, I have come to realize that I do not run for the medal, the swag, nor the PR. I simply run to feel free in body, mind and spirit.

Over the last couple of years, I have become intrigued with various races that challenge me in distance, stamina or simply to enjoy the camaraderie of running with friends. I find myself being asked what races I have signed up for. Given this, I have taken a quick inventory for 2014. While I may just add a few more challenges to my dance card, here’s the fun I have in store so far:

January

January 11 – Polar Dash Chicago 10K  

Chicago-Polar-Dash-2014               

Review

 

January 19 – Tinkerbell Half Marathon   

2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

Review                            

February

Ahhh, man!  No races on my dance card.

 

March

March 15 – Get Lucky 7K                     

Get Lucky 7K2nd year running!

              

March 30 – Shamrock Shuffle 8K               

Print    3rd year running!

April

April 5 – Chicago Quarter Marathon   

Chicago Quarter Marathon      

May

May 4 – Cinco de Miler – 5 miles              

Cinco de Miler     

May 24 – Soldier Field 10 Miles   

Soldier Field 10 Mile4th year running!           

May 31 – Mudderella           

mudderella-nynj-saturday-may-10-2014-65.png                     

June

June 7 – Allstate Half Marathon           

All-State-13.1_Chicago_Color-LOGO        

June 22 – Color in Motion 5K                

Color in Motion 5K

July

July 4 – 4 on the 4th

4onThe4th

August

August 10 – Chicago 10K

Chicago10K_small

 

August 24 – Fort 2 Base (10 NM)

Fort2Base_v22nd year running!

September

September 27 – Ditka Dash

October

October 25 – Monster Dash 10K

Monster Dash 10K

November

November 8 – Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K (7am)

MickeysJingleJungle5K

November 8 – runDisney Kid’s 1 Mile Race (10:45am)

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November 8 – Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon (10pm)wineinde

December

TBD

Interested in running any of these races? Just click on the race banner which will route you to the race site.

Link

Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2014

Tinkerbell Half Marathon

Sunday, January 19, 2014 – 5am

2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

You traveled how far for a race?

1742 miles!

HelloCalifornia2

Hello California!

Did you win prize money? Nope!

Then, why would someone travel that far to “just” run in a race? Easy! For the unbelievable, magical experience to run thru Disneyland. It’s where dreams come true. It’s where you can be a kid again.

TheTINK

And, you truly can.

The Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland was my 1st of 3 Disney races that I am running in 2014. As this was also my 1st Disney race, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In speaking to runner friends who have ran Disney races in the past, I heard nothing but high praise.

I was not disappointed.

In general, Disney races begin very early in the morning.  My guess is to give the runners the full experience of their parks without competing with the fellow park goers. As a Disney runner, you are able to run throughout the park on a beautiful course past rides and have the opportunity to stop and take pictures with the characters. I had heard that I would have the opportunity for photo ops, but quite honestly, the competitive part of me could not imagine wanting to stop and snap a quick pic.

With the Tinkerbell Half Marathon beginning bright and early at 5am, I had set several alarms to make sure I would pop out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. OK, hmmm….let’s just say, with sleep still clouding my eyes, I did luckily roll out of bed at 2:30am. Given this was my 3rd destination race, I have learned that despite the very early hour, I need to make sure I give my body the proper fuel. There is nothing worse than running a race knowing you might just have a PR and your body totally running out of fuel in the last quarter of the race. Oatmeal and peanut butter at 3am…YUM! (not really!!)

Great Running Temp!

Great Running Temp!

Suited up & ready to run!

Suited up & ready to run!

By 4:15am, I was out the door ready to walk over to the start line. Yikes, it’s really dark!

It’s DARK! And I’m walking to the race…I’m nuts!

It’s DARK! And I’m walking to the race…I’m nuts!

But despite this early hour, many other runners were doing the same and the walk to Disneyland was a nice warm-up.

With the arrival at Disneyland, the park was buzzing with excitement, crowds along the route were forming and the runners were getting to their corrals. With this mass amount of people, one would think that they were visiting during normal park hours, not 4:30am!  In general, most runners were dressed in some type of outfit to commemorate the race. Costumes & tutu’s galore! Not to be outdone, there were many, many men running in tutu’s as well!

As I had submitted a prior race time, I had the good fortune to begin in Corral A! Holy cow, what the heck? Are they sure they didn’t make a mistake? I don’t think of myself as particularly fast, so, Shhhh! Starting at the front of the pack as opposed to waiting for your turn many, many, many minutes later is great!!!!

Check it out! Corral A!  YES!

Check it out! Corral A! YES!

Getting my game face on! Let's do this!

Getting my game face on! Let’s do this!

To begin the race in true Disney style, FIREWORKS!!! (cue in Katy Perry’s song)

So cool!

So cool!

Then the runners were off to begin their magical journey with smiles on their faces, pixie dust carried along their sides and the belief that the Tinkerbell Half Marathon adventure would make memories to last a lifetime.

Run! Run! Run!

Run! Run! Run!

For some of you, you may be curious what a runner should do when running the race long before sunrise.  Must you bring a head lamp? No, you do not. Disney does a great job of making sure the course is well lit and very well marked.

TinkRunnersFor the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, the journey began close to the resorts where we proceeded to run along the area hotels before winding back through to the California Adventure Park.

My daughter, Alex’s, favorite ride!)

My daughter, Alex’s, favorite ride!

As I ran past the Tower of Terror, I had my 1st encounter with the Disney characters being available to the runners for photo ops.

What to do? What to do?

Here were the characters from The Incredibles! Such indecision! However, as I ran past them, I found myself stopping along the side and took a quick pic.

TheIncredibles

Stopping for no other reason than to capture the moment was all it took for me to do as they say, “When in Rome…..” From then on, I was hooked! This is fun! This is really, really fun! And, that is why I traveled 1742 miles from Chicago to Disneyland. For the fun!

These lights are GORGEOUS!!

These lights are GORGEOUS!!

Sure, I could have dug deep, ran “like the wind Bullseye from Toy Story” and captured a PR from this very flat, fast course. But, then I would have missed out on running up to the characters, getting my picture taken or chatting with another runner while we ran side by side.

No idea who these dudes were, but why not?!

No idea who these dudes were, but why not?!

Stepping out to the dark side??  Nahhhhhh!!!

Stepping out to the dark side??
Nahhhhhh!!!

Thanks, Merida for the archery lesson!

Thanks, Merida for the archery lesson!

It is definitely the type of race that you would run with family or friends. However, even if you run it alone, there is much joy and camaraderie to be shared with the runners around you. The running community has such a big heart. In the various races that I have ran, runners will help each other out no matter their personal goals.

TomorrowlandTink

Thanks, Ariel!

Huge thanks goes out to the Ariel who realized I was running alone and stopped mid race to offer her help in taking my picture.  What a treasured memory!

As we wound our way through the California Adventure Park and then through the original Disneyland Park, the miles went by quite quickly. Before we realized it, 6 miles had been completed. As we were leaving the Park, 3 blocks of ladies from the Red Hat Society were lined up along the course encouraging us all to go, go, go! Little did I realize at the time, but these 416 Hatters had arrived at the 6 mile mark as early 2:45 a.m. to secure their spots and cheer us on.

Thank you Ladies!

Thank you Ladies!

As the race continued on through the neighborhoods surrounding Disneyland, signs were posted reminding us of the sleeping neighbors. Unlike Disneyworld, this park which dates back to 1955 is nestled within the Anaheim community.

Along the routes, if you found yourself in need, there was an abundance of port-a-potties. (Thanks, Disney!!) The water/Gatorade stops were well spaced and the volunteers were helpful, smiling and always encouraging. I cannot express enough gratitude to the volunteers that take their personal time to help.

Right after Mile 6 – Big Hugs!! Thank you for getting up so early & taking great care of all of the runners!!

Right after Mile 6 – Big Hugs!!
Thank you for getting up so early &
taking great care of all of the runners!!

As I was running into downtown Anaheim, I witnessed a beautiful California sunrise. Stunning! Big thanks to the folks around Mile 9 who had orange slices ready. #Love! It was just what I needed.

Throughout the course, high school bands played and cheerleaders cheered. These kids were awesome!

As with most races, you tend to develop a rhythm when running in step with those around you. I paced a majority of the race with a lovely runner dressed up as Pocahontas. It must have been something about that feather that grabbed my attention and propelled me along my run.

As Mile 12 came in sight, you once again found yourself entering the California Adventure Park. But, this time, instead of heading into the park, you run along the outer perimeter on your way to the finish line. After a few twists and turns, there it is!  A huge amount of people were lined up along the course screaming and cheering every runner that ran by.

And before I knew it, my Disney adventure was complete. I crossed the Finish Line.

FinishLine_TINK

With a huge smile on my face, I was given the Tinkerbell Half Marathon medal.

Simply awesome!

Yeah!!

Yeah!!

But the fun did not end there.

Disney was not done providing a wonderful experience. Top notch nutrition was handed out.

After 13.1 miles, I needed this!

After 13.1 miles, I needed this!

And best of all, the post race band was incredible. It was a military band that was belting out No Doubt songs and I could have sworn it was Gwen Stefani singing…yes, they were that good!

PostRacePartyTink

As I reflect back, a week has past. I left Disneyland with a smile on my face, a sense of accomplishment and memories that will indeed last a lifetime. I flew home that same day. A 4 hour flight with muscles beginning to stiffen up may not be ideal, but it brought me home sooner to my family. While I wished with all my heart they could have been there in those crowds cheering me on, I knew that they were thinking of me during the race and waiting to receive my text with “DONE!”

If you have ever thought about running a Disney race, do it. It is one of the most wonderful running experiences I have had.

For those of you who love an extra challenge like me, keep this in mind, Disney offers a Coast to Coast Challenge. If you run at least a Half Marathon on each coast within 1 year, you receive a special medal to congratulate you on your performance. For those of us that run, it is so hard to pass up a challenge! The shiny bling at the end is nice, but it is truly the joy of running that pushes me forward.

Coast to Coast Medal

Coast to Coast Medal

Guess that’s why you will see me at DisneyWorld in November 2014 running the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Wine & Dine Half Marathon

What’s even better? My whole family is traveling to Disney to run with me! Running is no longer just Mom, it is all of us. There are 3 races that day and we will have runners in all of them. So very excited!

Chicago Race in January? Are you completely Whack-a-Doodle?

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It’s January in Chicago!

Who the heck runs outside along the Chicago Lakefront in January?

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Downtown Chicago – Pre Race

Well, many it seems!

No longer is running outside in Chicago in January just for the die-hard runners.

It’s a time to get together with friends who happen to be just as nutty as yourself and who perhaps think “Why not?! I’m up for a challenge, but most importantly some fun!”

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Me & my nutty friends!! (Traci, Mary, Carrie, Jenny, Angie, Mary, Nanette & Amy)

And, that is the common theme when joining the many other runners at the Polar Dash Chicago 5K/10K/14 Miler.

It’s a time for fun, camaraderie, and the feeling of accomplishment.

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Me & my gurlz! Headed to the start line.

Do not look at this as an opportunity for a PR. Winters in Chicago can be brutal. Mother Nature can, at times, be a very unforgiving wench.  A mere week before the race, we saw wind chills at -45F and snow (lots & lots of snow!!).  Fortunately, during the Polar Dash Chicago, we were rewarded with temps of 36F at the start of the race. Downright balmy, but not without challenges. The course itself was sidewalks and the Lakefront bike path. With the warm up of temps during the preceding days and cool down at night, the course was icy in patches as well puddles as deep as Lake Michigan or so it seemed. Was this unexpected?  No.  Again, you must bear in mind that you are here for the fun and come with the expectation that you will encounter this.

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How peaceful Lake Michigan looked during the race!

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Race Course along the Chicago Lakefront

Team Ortho put on a fun race. This was my 3rd race with this organization. The swag was great! Love the jacket, but the penguin hat, while very cute, fit extremely snug. Even my 6 year old said “Mommy, it’s kind of tight!” However, I jammed that penguin on my head to keep in spirit with the fun of the day.  The course was similar to previous races and the turnaround for us 10K’ers was well directed. Race volunteers were out cheering on the runners and provided us all with a little extra motivation to get our rear in gear to make it to the finish line. While all 3 races finished at the same point and could potentially pose some frustration given the different levels of runners, no issues to report. Remember…it’s all about the fun!

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Look who I found right after I crossed the finish line! It’s Vernee & Heather!

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Heck Yeah!!! Time to Celebrate!

For some of us, especially myself (I am not embarrassed to admit), getting the medal at the finish line is a great motivator.  A little bling is always great!

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Bling, baby!!!

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Ooohhhh! Shiny!!! Well earned Medal at Polar Dash Chicago – 10K

I would be remiss if I did not give a Huge Shout-out to all the volunteers who took their personal time to help us out!!  Any race I run, I am always very thankful.

2014 race season is off to a great start! What better way to begin the New Year than with my friends doing something good for us and laughing about it the entire time.

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Hear us ROAR!!!!!

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Special Congratulations to Nanette & Traci for completing their 1st 10K!

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What race would not be complete without one of my notorious collages?!?!

Running down a Mountain

http://bigcottonwood-brooksee.rhcloud.com/

Saturday, September 14, 2013 stands as the day that I embarked upon my latest running adventure.

Say Hello to the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half Marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah!

It was just a race, right? Not exactly! This race would be my 1st Half Marathon running down a mountain. Sound easy? Well…. the race website announces that this may be the fastest half marathon course you’ll ever get the opportunity to run. Many of the runners have reported achieving significant PR’s in the half marathon on this course. The reality that one should keep in mind is that this is nothing less than an intense course. Do not underestimate it!

This was the 2nd year for the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half. Last year brought out 1000 runners. However, this year, the amount of runners quadrupled! 4000 runners strong!

Given that this is a rather young race, it definitely does not come off as an inexperienced organization. It is quite the opposite. From their website, email notifications, expo to the actual race and post-race celebration, it speaks of a well-organized, running machine.

Race day began for me at 2:15am! This now holds the dubious distinction of being “THE EARLIEST” I have ever gotten up for a race. Knowing that I had to begin boarding a bus starting at 4am, I wanted to make sure that I went thru my normal race routine especially having some type of breakfast to fuel the 13.1 miles that would start 9 miles up the Big Cottonwood Canyon at 6:40am.

MeAtBefore4am

Not even 4 am! Hello Utah!!

Despite this predawn hour, the bus ride up the mountain was a party-like atmosphere. If you didn’t know anyone, you surely would be by the time you disembarked at your destination.

It definitely can give someone a brief pause while sitting on a tour bus as it twists and turns on the winding mountain road in complete darkness!

StandingInTheDark

Yikes! It’s like really dark up here!!!

Once the ride to our destination was reached, out you went to wait until race time! Hello, dark and spooky forest in a place I have never been!

Never fear, given the running community that it is, there is always someone you can strike up a conversation with while you wait.

Was it cold? Oh yes! But thanks to the organizers behind this race, part of our swag bag came with a pair of gloves and Mylar blanket.

As race time approached we chucked our gear bags into the back of the truck where they would be waiting for us at the finish line. As I looked around, you could see the anticipation and smiles as our adventure was set to begin.

And then we were off!

RaceStart2

Big Cottonwood Half Marathon Start Line

Despite making my journey from Illinois which is relatively flat, I did attempt to train the best I could with a lot of hill work. But, to be honest, while it did help, it still did not prepare me for the steepness of the road we were thundering down on with all our might! Gravity was indeed pulling us down and your first instinct is to lean backwards to slow your descent, but I soon learned to just let myself go. The race course was indeed one of the most scenic places that I have had the good fortune to run on. While I could hear the Big Cottonwood River flowing off to my left, I had to keep focus on the roads twists and turns. Is this course fast as promised? Oh, yes! But with this comes a level of difficulty given the steepness of the road.

Race_BC3

Whoo-hoo! Look out!!!

Race1

Is this road steep or what?!

Race2

Beautiful view!

BigCottonwoodRiver

Big Cottonwood River

For us Half Marathoners, it was 9 miles down the canyon before it leveled off somewhat until our final destination.

Was I exhausted as I was approaching those last 4 miles? Extremely so!

Low on fuel? Definitely.

Legs felt like noodles? You better believe it!

But I was almost there!

With a quarter of the race left to run, I was starting to hit a wall of exhaustion. A few steps, I had to walk and focus on that next point where I picked up my run again. I thought going from Mile 11 to 12 would never end, but here came pretty ol’ Number 12 and I knew I was almost done.

Lots of folks were out cheering and it really does give you that extra mental push.

And, then, there coming up at me was the Finish Line!

FinishLine2

Hello Big Cottonwood Half Marathon Finish Line! I love you!!

The decision that I had made over 3 months prior had finally been realized!

I had to come here to run this.

And then I did.

Yes, I even PR’d it too. My 1st Big CottonWood Half Marathon finish came in at 2:06.

Race_BC4

Finally a Post Race pic that I’m not a sweaty mess!

With that finish came a great deal of satisfaction and one of these biggest, gosh darn medals that I have earned! The motto of the race is Go Big and they certainly did not hold back.

Medal_Bib

Well, hello pretty medal! You’re so cute!

Post-celebration was great. Runners were well fed. I even stuck around to see a friend from LA finish his fastest marathon ever.

As I reflect back on this journey, it has now been 4 days post-race. I can finally walk without shuffling forward. I have been sore in places that I have never been sore before. When folks ask me if I would run this again, I would have to say, yes.  As many races I have run, this indeed was one of the most enjoyable and beautiful. However, that mountain has my respect and I hope to be even better prepared next year.

 

UPDATE: A couple of months post race and runners have now received their free videos. Enjoy: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201528235940036

Standing on the other side today…

Navy Pier Fireworks From Adler Planetarium

It’s the 4th of July and my alarm is screeching at 5am!

What? Wait?  It’s not a work day! Surely an hour or two more of treasured sleep….

No.

In the life of  a runner, up early, get your run in, zen out, zone out, make yourself better is your 1st thought to the start of your day.

Why?

Simple. You can’t think of not doing it.

But today, Thursday, July 4th is a little different than most Thursdays…it’s Race Day!

Adrenaline, perhaps even some slight nerves, begin to make their appearance.

Grab my gear, head out the door, but wait….

Today is different.

This race is different.

Not running!

Wait…what?

Standing on the other side today.

Can I do this? Will I be disappointed that I’m not out there running with everyone?

Today, I’m volunteering my time and cheering the runners on while I hand out water.

Over the years, I have ran in several races and have grabbed water along the way at the aid stations, so thankful to see that hand extended with that much needed water. Today I was that hand.

It was fun, inspiring, and even a little chaotic….

So many runners came through, many strangers, some friends, but all had faces that lit up when they saw you!

Many thank you’s were spoken, lots of smiles & even comments of Thank you for being here today, it means so much to us! WOW!

Have I ever said that at a race?

And as the race was winding down, with fewer runners coming by, I thought to myself, no, not disappointed that I didn’t run, just so very excited for those that did and what a great start to my day!

Back to sweaty booty, err, I mean Bootcamp!

Today marked my return to Bootcamp after the heat, humidity-filled Half Marathon this past Sunday.

Feeling good, body was recovered and dying to get back to its normal early-AM routine of cross-training! Mind you, I will be first to admit when I miss my workouts, I am crabby, mean, out of sorts, whatever…it’s just not good. Call it what you will, I need that Endorphin release! Yes, yes I do!

Knowing that my normal instructor was on vacation, I was prepared to work out with another highly skilled instructor who has this dazzling smile that can lull you into a sense of no worries and all is right with the world.

However, behind that smile, lives a WARRIOR!  Not just a warrior, but a warrior chief!

He demanded, we gave!

When he had us do 20min AMRAP (a what??), we focused, we sweated, we strained towards that 20 minutes….and that was just the start!

A quick chat amongst friends between sets? NO!

A few muttered F-bombs? Oh, hell yeah!

At the end of that 50 minute workout, with most of us a little glassy-eyed, sweat continuing to course down our bodies in rivers, our arms and legs starting to shake from fatigue, we walked away with a sense of accomplishment, a bright outlook to the possibilities of today and parted with the words of “See you tomorrow!”

Thanks, Miguel!

Oh, did I mention, our instructor is a professional MMA Cage Fighter?

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