“I’ll Have Another” Podcast with Lindsey Hein!

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Hello and Happy, Happy Friday!! I’m so pumped for the weekend – especially since it’s supposed to absolutely gorgeous! I’m looking forward to relaxing a ton, some running, pool and sun time and some bbq’ing with my whole family on Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day. If you happen to be one of the 5 (maybe 10? haha) men who read this blog and are a dad (of a human or furry friend!), Happy Father’s Day!!

I’m super excited to share my interview that I had with my good friend, Lindsey, last weekend! I know I mentioned it here already, but if you are into podcasts, definitely check out Lindsey’s I’ll Have Another podcast. Every single episode I have listened to has been amazing – the interviews feel like a couple of friends are sitting in your living room chatting about running, families, work or whatever other topic it may be.

Lindsey and I chat about everything from my time at West Point and the Army, being a stay at home mom with the boys, starting this blog (4.5 years ago!), training for an Ironman, returning to work and life/running lately.

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    My Army Days

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    My army days were some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life.  For those reading that don’t know my background, I attended West Point from 1999-2003 and then served on active duty until July 2009. Ten amazing years, three deployments, countless lifelong friends and finding my husband were all because of serving.

    I didn’t even know West Point existed until my sophomore year of high school. No one in my family had gone nor served in the military, so it wasn’t until my older sister started receiving college brochures that it appeared on my radar. I was instantly interested and began researching and looking into the requirements to attend. The summer going into senior year, I was accepted in early admissions, pending a physical fitness test, physical, congressional appointment and successful completion of my senior year.

    I almost didn’t attend because I was medically disqualified for two reasons. First, my vision is pretty bad and I was told that it was not able to be corrected to 20/20 vision, even with glasses. Second, I had/have a heart murmur that “could limit” my physical fitness and ability. Thankfully, I went to follow-up doctors and was able to show that I could see 20/20 with glasses and that my heart murmur was benign and would not impact my physical ability.

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      Highs and Lows

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      Some of my closest girlfriends!

      This weekend was {this} close to being an absolutely perfect one.  Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to the boys (who were being watched by my sweet sister!) and picked up three of my college girlfriends from the airport/their apartment in NJ enroute to our 10 year college reunion at West Point. Friday night was an organized dinner where we got to catch up with all of our classmates who had come for the reunion. We had decided to go sans significant others/kids so that we could have some girl time – we haven’t all been together in years.

      We didn’t make it to bed until 2am – WAY past my normal bedtime but totally worth the exhaustion we all felt at 6am the next morning when it was time to get up and get ready for the day. Saturday consisted of watching the pre-game parade (first parade I have seen since I graduated):

       Having lunch in the mess hall (cafeteria):

      Hanging out in North Area (location where we had formation 2x/day):

      Touring the gym:

      and lastly, attending the football game:

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        Enjoy Each Mile

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        Graduation and Commissioning Day (May 30, 2003)

        Today is 10 years since I graduated from West Point.  The last 10 years feel as though they flew by.  I can so clearly remember being back at West Point.  But at the same time, being back at school seems like a lifetime ago.  I’m always amazed at how it can feel like that.

        My four years at West Point were where some of my best memories were made and where some amazing friendships began.

        Looking back, life seemed SO easy then.  Yes, we had a pretty heavy course-load, extracurricular activities and the occasional room inspection that would take us hours to get ready for (truth be told though, I loved having a spotless room =) ).  But, that was really all we had to concern ourselves with.  No little ones to look after, no cooking, no bills.  We were in college, enjoying our freedom, and making cherished memories with one another.

        The best part, for me, was that my girlfriends and I were all together.  I was in the same company (and roommates) with my girlfriend, Lauren, for the last three years.  I lived with Annie during our freshmen year.  But, we were never more than 1/4 mile of each other.  Meeting for dinner, tv watching, and girl talk was an almost daily occurrence.

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          What’s Beautiful?

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          When do you feel most beautiful?

          Is it when you are all dressed up for a special occasion?

          Or when you have your hair or makeup a certain way?  Or wearing a certain outfit or accessory?

          Or maybe you are like me and it’s when you accomplish a goal?

          At that moment, I feel unstoppable.  I feel strong.  I feel beautiful.

          One of the first times I really experienced this was during the summer of 1999.  I spent six weeks going through Cadet Basic Training (CBT), also known as “Beast Barracks” at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  I do not remember a lot about that summer…it’s mostly a blur of images and moments that remain in my memory.  But I remember the last day – we were on an 18 mile road march back to West Point after spending a week living in tents outside.  The ruck march was a requirement in order to successfully complete CBT and begin our first academic year at West Point.  The route was extremely tough – there were several large hills (including a ski slope) we had to climb – all while carrying our rifles and 35 pounds in our ruck sack.

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            No Greater Sacrifice

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            After four years at West Point and over six years serving on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army, I have seen my share of death.  The number of friends, classmates, and coworkers that have been casualties of the war on terror is too high for me to begin to count.

            I think there might be the perception that you expect death or become almost immune to it if you are in or around the military.  Yes,  death is always a possibility when you deploy but I think most service men and women would tell you that they expect to return home to their loved ones.  You know there is an inherent risk when you join the military, but the desire to serve your country is greater then any fear you may have.

            And let me tell you.  It doesn’t get easier. In fact, I would argue that it gets harder.  You get so tired of having to say goodbye to friends and coworkers, of good people losing their lives way too soon, and of seeing happy families torn apart and changed forever.  You get frustrated because things seem to stay the same despite their giving of their life.  And you get annoyed when other trivial stories get more press than your friend’s passing.

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              Hardest part of being deployed

              What’s the hardest part of being deployed?

              This is almost always one of the first questions asked of me when I bring up my military background. As a Captain in the US Army who deployed three times to Iraq, it is a fairly easy answer: the last few weeks prior to departing the US.

              I would get to the point where I just wanted to deploy – it always seemed like time stood still the last few weeks I was home and I felt like I was living on borrowed time.  The quicker I left and arrived in Iraq, the quicker the clock would start counting down to my return.  Emotionally, I found myself pulling away from those I was closest with as d-day got closer.  I think I subconsciously believed it would be easier if I didn’t feel as close to my family.  The goodbyes were the worst part – that last conversation with my husband, mom, dad, sisters while I was on “American” soil – knowing that the next time I spoke to them I would be in “harm’s way”.

              Once the goodbyes were over, it often took upwards of two to three weeks to get from our base in the US to Iraq. The flight over was not direct and often took upwards of 20 hours – we stopped in Maine and Ireland on our way to Kuwait which was the forward staging area prior to our flight into Iraq – basically the last time to check weapons, equipment, and go over last minute guidelines.  My time in Kuwait varied each time [from a few days to a few weeks], but I’d eventually make the bumpy, hot flight up to Iraq. [I was stationed at three different bases for each of my deployments – Tikrit, Taji, and Baghdad.]

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                Running in Freedom

                Christmas Dinner - Iraq style

                On Nov 11, 2008, I was heading out for my daily afternoon run.  I was building my base for training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I ate my pre-run snack of whole wheat bread and peanut butter about 90 min before I left.  I laced up my Mizuno Wave Alchemy sneakers.  I turned on my Garmin.  It sounds like what I do before most long runs.  But that’s where the similarities end.

                I was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I was almost finished with my 12th month on a 15 month deployment. Although the end was in sight, it was an extremely hard time for me and most of the other soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division.  We were approaching the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and what would be the 2nd holiday season in a row that we would be away from our family and loved ones.

                Three years ago, I didn’t get to pick out my running clothes – I had to wear the issued physical training (PT) shorts and shirt every day.  I couldn’t run with my IPOD.  I couldn’t zone out during my run (I often ran along the inner perimeter of the base and there was always a chance of an indirect fire attack). I couldn’t wear my hair in a ponytail (had to be in a bun). I couldn’t relax after runs – I had to shower and rush back to my desk where I was working 15+ hour days.  I didn’t have a day off for 15 months.  I couldn’t go back to my room at the end of the day and have complete privacy (I shared a 10×10 trailer with Becky, another female Captain – thankfully, she was awesome!!).

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