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Finding my key words

In some photos you can see it -- black marker all over the backs of my hands.

For a few races, the markings included my race number, but on days when that happened, I became a bit peeved.

Because it ruined my happy place.

I'm not sure exactly where, how or why it started, but last summer during my first season of triathlon, I took to writing key words and phrases on my hand. My right hand contained a word of strength, often simply just the word "strength" as a way to bring me back to focus on what I knew for sure about myself in the midst of the chaos of the swim start and the drudgery of the final two miles of the run.

My left hand sported my "happy place" or words and phrases that made me smile, made me laugh, brought me back to reality when I started to take the whole thing a bit too seriously and needed to relax. Most common phrase last year: chocolate milk.

But this year, I decided to up my key phrases game.

I'm going with the reminder band bracelet tacit.

Thanks to Amanda Cavo of the Canisius women's basketball team for giving me the idea in the first place. She had a batch of bracelets made for her team in the summer with the date of the conference championship on them to remind them through all the hard work, that's what they were playing for.

In that spirit, I had a bracelet made with my goal times for the Buffalo Marathon and for Muskoka 70.3.

Now, I'm thinking of using that same tactic with key words and phrases.

I asked for suggestions from friends and family members. So far, my brother has suggested "pants" because he thinks it's a funny word.

My coach suggested "If not today, when?" and "Not by might, by spirit."

And I'm pretty sure my friend Jessica will suggest "Warrior Goddess" because that has been prevalent in her text messages to me this week.

I know some runners who use mantras while running, repeating things like "the pain is temporary, quitting is forever."

At the end of the day, it comes down to whatever gets you through the workout or the race.

Because at a certain point, it has little to do with skill and everything to do with attitude.

All those "what ifs" I've listing this week come under the category of "fear." Collecting them in one place, labeling them and putting them away allows me to focus on the positives. Those fears? No need to worry about them. All packed away and being handled by someone else.

Now, it's time to laugh and remember just how strong I really am.

And if I need some inspiration, there are always the results of friends I know who just completed the Boston Marathon.

My friend Amy ran the race in 3:38.29 -- an 8:20 pace that literally had me jumping for joy in front of my lap top.

Former co-worker Sharon Linstedt ran a 4:15.07 while Jen Gwin, an assistant women's basketball coach at Canisius, blew me away with her 3:02.05 time, which ranked 81st among women.

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