My labor of love…..
Last week I was contacted by Seacoast Online to be interviewed about the 10th anniversary of Pumpkinman. While I was thrilled and excited about the opportunity to talk all things Pumpkinman, I also realized this could be the platform I was searching for to announce my retirement, something I had been struggling with/wrestling with/ignoring/ denying for a few months.
It’s never easy to leave a job and co-workers, but this was different. Pumpkinman was never a job, the people connected with Pumpkinman were never “co-workers,” they were and are my friends. Pumpkinman was my baby, it always will be. And while, over the years, I had been contacted to see if I would buy into the big named productions, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take Pumpkinman’s personality away by adding a corporate logo to its face.
But, the time has now come for me to move on. I said ten years ago if I could make a go at this and make it successful I would do it till my daughters graduated high school. Mia is now a sophomore at Boston University, and Lydie a senior, is planning to study in England in January and then off to college next fall, so the timing was right and the time is now.
It’s never easy to say goodbye.
It’s bittersweet to leave what I have nurtured and watched grow into something more than just a triathlon. More than just a race. I have watched our community come together. I have watched the likes of baseball and football coaches chatting with lycra clad athletes and finding commonalities among them. I have watched student volunteers turn into athletes racing. I have watched teachers and principals challenge one another to a racing duel. I have watched elite athletes like Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson cross the finish line, and I’ve witnessed athletes like John Young (who is a dwarf) compete and succeed. I’ve made some of my most dear friends because of Pumpkinman.
It was for me, the race that gave to me, far more than I could ever give it.
The towns and residents of South Berwick, Eliot, Berwick and North Berwick have embraced the race with such vigor and ownership, I sometimes feel like they don’t need me to lead the charge, and with that in mind, it was easy to gracefully pass the torch to my friend, Rachel. Nothing will change about the event, no one will even miss me behind the scenes, especially since Rachel, Kyle and I have been glued at the hip for the last five years.
Next weekend will be bittersweet on so many levels.
Life changes in the blink of an eye. And this year, has been one like no other. The events that happened this year, don’t really have anything to do with why I am handing the reigns over to Rachel, but they did impact my decisions on how and when I choose to do it.
The first big life event was, I got divorced. That was huge. Jeff and I were together for 26 years; more than half our lives. He was and always will be an integral part of Pumpkinman. Much of the safety on the roads is in part due to his diligence and constant watchful eye….he’s taught Brad (Rachel’s husband) well, so rest assured nothing will change. Jeff also made sure I always found humor in the event every year. Trust me I am a stressed out mess, but he always one way or another made me laugh at some ridiculous event that happened over the course of the weekend (who will ever forget naked man in transition – I don’t even think you had to be there to know the “blinding” story).
I also sold the family home and moved to a little farmhouse in Berwick….which has been great and scary at the same time. I’ve had to learn to be independent and prove to myself I can do things on my own (like removing the dead mouse that Bella killed as a gift to me). The bonus is, I live just two miles from Spring Hill, so I have had a watchful eye on all the paving and road construction all summer.
If you follow me on social media, you know I am on the west coast a lot. I love it there, and plan to move to the Pacific Northwest in the future. What’s most exciting is my new adventure ….I’m starting a company!
My close friends know this but in a nutshell here’s the story (excerpt taken from the soon to be unveiled website) scroll to the bottom if you want to skip this part….
The journey started in 2014 when Brady, my 14 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, was starting to hit the bumpy part of aging. He still had his spirit, but he was starting to need a little help getting up in the morning; he creaked, moved slowly and on some days he just didn’t get up.
I was trying different nutritional supplements to help keep him active and happy but I kept coming across articles that had a common theme: recent innovation and research in an extract of HEMP called CannaBiDiol (CBD). CBD was proving to have significant benefits for dogs, especially aging ones. On the next visit to Mike the vet I asked about it and was surprised when he didn’t reject it outright. He’d been hearing more and more about interesting developments so I decided to dig deeper and see what I could do to help Brady.
Making version 1, 2 and 3……After reading everything I could about the science of CBD and what was going on, I tracked down a source and set about trying to make a treat. Version 1 turned out harder than the average walnut and probably didn’t win on taste, but an hour after his first biscuit, Brady was walking about like he used to as a younger dog. The next day I witnessed a similar effect which really surprised me…I just didn’t expect such a dramatic change.
Batch after batch, I continued to improve the recipe. I learned more about CBD, where to get the best source and how to use in the recipe. Most importantly – I started to understand the right amount to use for the best effect. And so began the task of making biscuits I would buy. Biscuits that were made well, blended from great ingredients, independently tested to the highest industry standards and give positive results. There were many biscuits burnt, long nights on the computer and a lot of trial and error.
My small kitchen became a hive of activity but it smelled delicious as different batches of biscuits cooled. Friends popped over to grab some for their dogs and before long I couldn’t walk thru town without someone stopping me, wanting some for their dog.
Brady and Austin……As the weeks passed Brady enjoyed life. He was a lot more active though he moved in a slower and more measured way, but occasionally I saw the puppy in him again. He was much more likely to regain his curiousness about something, to be more affectionate to me and even playful.
Austin, my 1 year old puppy couldn’t have been more different. He was in great shape and had no issues getting up…a ball of energy from 5:30am his energy ranged from full-on to exhausting! At some point I let him try a biscuit and I was just blown away by how much he seemed to chill out and relax.
So began a nice few months of walks…Brady was happy to get out with Austin happy to trot along, still a puppy but less crazy. I got to spend brilliant time with them both and they enjoyed each others company. I couldn’t hold off the sands of time and one day Brady left us. Obviously, it was sad beyond words but I was grateful having been able to spend so much active time with him. It wasn’t that his life had been extended, but that his enjoyment and quality of life was much higher.
And so we became Austin & Kat…..Word of my biscuits continued to spread. I received feedback from friends – I loved hearing how the treats were making a positive difference and after some encouragement decided to take a leap of faith. I enlisted the help of some awesome friends and began the pleasure and pain of starting the company (looking back I had no idea how hard it was going to be)!
Since Austin would sit patiently, waiting for me to finish yet another batch and since he’s been chief product tester it seemed only natural to put his name on there too.
So we are starting Austin & Kat , our bakery is in Spokane and we’ve partnered with Bumblebar (go buy one they’re yummy) to copack and distribute (Picky Bar – Pro Triathlete Jesse Thomas uses them too)…..
If you’re still reading, thanks! I’ve enjoyed every moment (both good and bad) these last ten years. The journey has come full circle and I am excited at what lies ahead…I am also really scared, but at this point, if I wasn’t a bit scared, really excited and ready to take on the world, then I wouldn’t be alive. I am also going to start racing again in 2017….I’ve not yet ruled out Ironman, but to be honest, Ironman took over my life, and made me forget and ignore what was really important. I won’t ever judge anyone for taking the challenge on year after year, I just know for now, I need a bit of a different type of balance in my life.
oh….and yes, I did meet someone pretty cool too. His name is Tim. I hope you’ll get to meet him in the future.