Lost in the woods. (This isn’t a metaphor.)

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12/31/2016

Dunn 50K ‘Fat Ass’. (Fun-group run, no awards, no bibs, no timing.  Just a run with friends.)

Dunn is our local forest, tough terrain, and only a few really run in it regularly.  For most of us, this was a chance to experience new territory!

Spencer designed the inaugural course with help from our friend Cary Stephens.

They’re diabolical dudes.

Course was WICKED hard.

Steep goat hills, bushwhacking, game trails, technical and jaw-dropping scenic views.

PERFECT stuff for an ultra to test limits and close out the year.

The course was impeccably mapped/marked. We were all given a turn-by-turn sheet with GPS mileage/flagging directions, overview map with elevation profile and detailed section maps.

We were set.

I ran the first part of it with a tribe of five women.  We all run ultras, the distance wasn’t freaking us out. New terrain that isn’t super-well defined had us being cautious and sticking together.

The directions were precise and easily followed even if the course was ridiculously difficult. Flagging was perfect. We were all happy that Anne Miller was willing to navigate while we followed along.

At the half way point two of the women in our group were done.

Anne Miller was one of them. Fighting a cold for a few days, she told us before we ever started that morning, she was only going 15 miles.

At the only aid station/turn-around, Bonnie Wright, Rita Van Doren and I loaded up on water, chatted quickly with Spencer and Bonnie’s husband, Mark.  Said good bye to Jen and Anne. Hugged the Miller clan and took off for the second half of the course.

Things were great for the three of us until we hit 20.62.

This is where we went wrong…

And I will say, for the record, that it’s not so much a ‘we’ went wrong.

I feel like this mistake was largely mine.

I was the one who convinced Bonnie and Rita to go with the mileage and visible ‘landmarks’ instead of the signage.

Our directions said to follow the sign and flagging and that we would be going up a steep bank and into the trees. We were to follow the green flagging up the side of the hill, bushwhacking.  We saw a steep section of the bank that was pretty heavily torn up with what looked like shoe prints.  No sign. No flagging.

But we were at the EXACT mileage marked on the directions.

We went past the section for about .2 of a mile looking for the sign or flagging.  We didn’t see any. And NONE of the turns had been off by even .1 of a mile to this point.  Figuring that the mileage had to be right – since it matched the physical description of what were looking for, we went back to the spot where the bank was torn up. We finally agreed that even without the signage, we should go up the bank and into the trees scouting for green flagging.

We knew we had to go .3 of a mile uphill once we were in the trees.  (In this ultra designed by Spencer and Cary we quickly learned that given any vagueness about the intended direction; the answer was always GO UPHILL.  Kind of kidding… Kind of not.)

At that .3 of a mile mark, we still have no flagging.

We’re totally bushwhacking on a forested canyon/side hill at this point.

We keep going, looking for flagging or a road.

We talk about going back or forging ahead to the road that HAS to be uphill from us and scouting for more flagging.  We made the group decision to keep going up the hill. It was a SLOG.  Downed trees, tall ferns, no trail, holes the size of truck tires… Not fun. Slow going. Yet totally in line with the rest of the course we had experienced.

We’re banking on the idea that at the top we’ll have been headed in roughly the right direction and be close enough to see familiar flagging.

Yet somewhere in this mess we begin to realize…

And actually admit…

We’re lost.

And we can’t backtrack.

We don’t even know how to backtrack at this point.

We’ve gone over the uphill mileage stated in the directions — and still have no road or flagging.

Somewhere in there we all agree that I need to call Spencer.  I get voice-mail. I leave a detailed message telling him time, distance, where we think we are.  I say that we’re together and staying together no matter what.

I state clearly in a back-up text at this point that we know we’re *&%$ing LOST.

Spencer is at the start area and there is NO cell reception.

With more climbing and guessing and bushwhacking we finally DO get to a road.

Hallelujah!

Short-lived happy dance!

We re-group. We each kind of grab an idea for problem solving, keep each other in sight and get to work.  Bonnie and I go one direction looking for flagging or signage or intersecting trails or landmarks.  The road dead ends.  Rita was trying to harness technology to help us with GPS or maps. We didn’t have enough connectivity. We gather up again, and head down the road in the other direction looking for flagging or identifying marks of some sort.

We’re more than an hour lost at this point. Spencer has a voice message from us, but no one else knows we’re lost.  Bonnie has also tried to call her husband, Mark.

Mark is with Spencer in cell-phone-no-man’s-land. And we have spotty/random reception at best.

Then it hits me.

ANNE MILLER.

She’s my friend.  She ran with us. She knows the forest.  And we can get calls out.  Just not to the guys at the start line.

We call or text Anne.  I don’t remember which we did first.

HERE enters our Guardian Angel.

For the next 3+ hours we either text or call Anne and she would try to helps figure our location, collect and get information to Spencer.  She leaves her house, brings her son Andrew and they head back to the staging area. (Andrew knows the Dunn as well as Spencer and Cary and had JUST run the 50K course earlier that day.)

She texts us at one point when we admit that we’re pretty damn scared…

“We will not abandon you!”

And not to spoil the ending of the story; but she didn’t.

Neither did Spencer or Andrew.

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Knowing we were ultimately trying to navigate to a peak to get back on course or get to a recognizable spot, we opt to go uphill on the roads when we get to a ‘Y’.

After a few other turns and decisions – aiming to keep climbing up hill – we eventually hit a road with RACE FLAGGING.  RELIEF!!!  I think Bonnie and Rita would agree with me — this was a moment of profound relief.

As we start following the flagging it occurs to us — this race is loosely an unconnected, 2-loop course.  We don’t know if we’re on the first loop, the second loop — or if we’re headed to the start or back to the half-way point.

We’re still kinda lost.

BUT we have flagging to follow.

We follow the flagging looking for landmarks that match our turn by turn sheet.  We can’t quite get what we are seeing and what’s printed in the directions to line up enough to help us figure out where we are.

We’re getting text messages/calls out to Anne as we have service and/or landmarks to report.

We had made it clear that the three of us were sticking together and following the flagging even if we were going the wrong direction or on the wrong ‘loop’.

Details get hazy at this point, but we kept moving and communicating. We eventually get to a spot where I can get a call out to Spencer/Anne. And this time we have clear enough landmarks, details of where we are and what we’ve traveled through…

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They know where we are!

They’re sending Andrew up to rescue and guide us in. I’m told that he will be coming from our backs.

We are told to keep moving, keep following the flagging.

It’s starting to snow.

It’s getting dark.

Even with headlamps we’re having a LOT of trouble finding the flagging until we’re right on top of it.

We start this routine where Bonnie scouts for flagging, Rita stays about 1/2 way between the two of us and I stay by the last known flagging. Bonnie would find the next flagging.  Rita would call back to me and I’d move to catch Rita. I’d park by the new flagging while Bonnie searched ahead.

Without even talking about how to make it work…  We just worked out how to make things work…  TEAM WORK.

I realized on that side-hill that this was TEAM WORK in all its gut-clenching, hard-working, glory.  I remembered thinking these were woman — very much including Anne — that I would now do anything for…

Anything.

Anne, Spencer and Andrew all knew we were safe at this point.  And it turns out we were on the last 5 – 6 miles and headed in the right direction

But the three of us sure didn’t feel safe just yet.

We felt lost and scared. We were getting cold and we can’t see the flagging which we’re supposed to be following so we don’t get LOST again…

We’re scrambling up this horrendous, ridiculous, face of a mountain — when I look back down the climb and see a headlamp.  I BELLOWED out Andrew’s name.  I didn’t know I could yell that loudly.  I’m pretty sure Corvallis, 20 miles away, heard me.

Andrew reaches us.

This 20-something young man, who has now run this ridiculously steep grade TWICE in a single day, arrives on the side of the hill to find 3 crying, exhausted, cold, GRATEFUL middle-age women waiting to be rescued.  He calmly asked if we all had good batteries in our headlamps, if we were warm enough or needed gloves/coats and tells us that we were going to keep moving. He asks me to text his mom, because his mom would be worried about him.  I do just that.

Efficient, calm and we are on the way to the finish line following Andrew’s lead.

So much relief.

Andrew ran with us, walked with us.  Chatted to us.  Listened to our rambling/frantic re-cap of the day’s adventure. He even helped Rita re-tie her shoe when her laces came undone and her hands were simply too cold to function.

We ran a bit of a short cut just to get back to the start area and end this epic adventure. We were greeted with fierce hugs and a warm fire.  And Mark’s hot chocolate!

I hugged Anne like my life depended on it. At that moment in time that was exactly how I felt.

The three strongest feelings that day?

My gut when I KNEW we were lost.

My head when they said they knew exactly where we were.

My heart and soul flooding with gratitude for my friends.

Two days later Bonnie, Rita, Anne and I were texting about the fact that we’re still emotional about it all.  It could have had a different ending.  And we all know that.

There is an incredible gift in these uniquely strong and fire-tested friendships that are built on and around the trail running community.

I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.

Rita, Bonnie and I ran just short of 30 miles, so we didn’t officially do the 50K.

We managed to climb 7,100 feet of vertical gain.

Lost. Found. Friendships. Teamwork. Problem solving. Logical thinking. Communication. Battling fear. Fighting for others. Selflessly helping others. Sometimes this ultra running thing has very little to do with actual running.

Thank you Anne, Andrew, Spencer for getting us off the mountain and to the finish line. 

Bonnie and Rita…  Thank you.  

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Honest advice from a friend…

My good friend and fellow trail runner, Jill Puleo (check out her YouTube chanel) gave me permission to share this recent conversation we shared on Facebook.  It’s personal from both sides of our stories, but her advice to me…?

Holy cow.

Her advice to me is too damn good to keep to myself.

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Jill (rockstar in the picture above!) and I have only met ONE time in person. Yet we have both worked to build a strong and growing friendship based initially on two simple things: Curly hair and trail running. 🙂  We met at Western States Camp 2015 waiting for the run for day two to start.

Our friendship essentially started from a three minute conversation at the start of a run.

How awesome is that!??

Here’s the Facebook conversation between Jill and I recently.

Betsy:

So the day you checked in with me?

Thank you following your gut or intuition or whatever was guiding you Jill. I had had a rough day.

Longish story as short as possible? Spencer had a run/stride analysis with a local coaching/Ultra-running/Guru that we all love and respect, Joe. Spencer loved it, gained a ton from it – and was quick to tell me that I should get one done as well. I made some comment at the time about ‘I’m not fast enough to have a stride.’ and dismissed the idea.  Spencer would bring it up every once in a while… ‘Are you going to get your stride looked at by Joe?’ and I would say something benign and dismissive like ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘maybe’.

Well this past weekend we had a full weekend of training. I am starting to ramp up training from an extended recovery period.

Spencer says he is only going to suggest to me one more time to seriously consider getting my stride looked at and then he’ll drop the topic but do I understand that this  would be a really beneficial thing to do?

So I say yes, I’ll go see Joe. (I’ll admit I said it with the unmistakable tone of bitchy, forced, pissed-off….)

I email Joe and get an appointment.

I go.

Joe is AMAZING. SO much patience and knowledge.  And it turns out I do have a stride and it’s kind of messed up or least could be a lot more efficient and ‘healthy’. He appreciates that my goal is to be running when I’m 70 and that I want to invest time in building a ‘healthy’ stride since I’m fairly new to running. He spent over two hours with me talking about what was weak/strong and how to work to fix some of the things he saw to get me to a healthy stride.

Here’s the deal… And this is what ALL of my resistance was about… He videos you running at different speeds and from different angles. And then you get to watch in ((slow-mo)) while he shows you your legs, angles, back, feet, arms… I assume it’s fascinating and instructive had I not been totally and utterly horrified at seeing myself running on video.

I saw a woman who looked fat, lumpy, flappy, floppy — her hair looked horrible and she really, really needs a new bra. I was so heartbroken at how I looked on that video I could barely hear what Joe was telling me.

And then we go through some range of motion exercises and cues — and we run/tape again. Again…. I’m watching the videos totally transfixed with how fat and awkward and horrible I look.

In my mind I’ve thought I looked happy and solid and like maybe even just a teeny, tiny little bit like an athlete when I run. Seeing the video removed ALL postiive thoughts I had about my body while running. I think deep down I KNEW this is what would happen which is why I was defensive and avoiding it all…  I drove home choking back tears the entire way in self-pity.  I know that Spencer knows something is wrong well beyond the stride analysis thing and me ‘not being fast enough to have a stride’.  And I’d just about rather cut out my own tongue that explain that I just didn’t want to see myself on video…

Seeing myself on video running was actually far worse than I imagined.

Jill, please tell me to grow up. And that everyone hates their self on film. That I need to get over it – so I can get working on what really matters – which is a healthy stride…

I’m stuck in horrified, defensive and bitchy mode.

I want so badly to have a different body than I do… And that makes me sad. I know you will understand that because we’ve talked about body image issues before. And I KNOW that learning to love my body as it is, is a process.

I always seem to know exactly what to tell others who are struggling.

But if you would have seen the video of me running — you would understand my current horror and sadness…

Jill:

The video: YES I UNDERSTAND.

I understand so, so very much.

I am still suffering from seeing pictures of myself that my friend posted of me from her wedding in which, I look like a puffy old crow with a hooked nose and thick calves.

I am not going to tell you to grow up.

I am not going to tell you to “practice self care” (whatever the eff that means…I HATE THAT PHRASE) and I am not going to tell you that it doesn’t suck. Your body was made in a way that doesn’t please you and you fight it every day. Being flippant about that and telling you it will all go away with a journal and a cup of camomile tea is epic bullshit.

Secret?

OK here’s a big one: Although I believe in the Body Positive movement, I don’t really get some parts of it. I feel like there are many good points, but it also seems like there are a lot of excuses being floated around. You know what I mean…?

It’s those people who don’t want to feel ANYTHING uncomfortable. Well you and I both know that if you don’t feel anything uncomfortable, you are not growing. You are also not challenging yourself. I would like to sit home today and eat M&Ms. That would make me VERY comfortable. And the body positive people would say that after multiple days of doing this I should love the body that results. BUT NO. Because that is NOT FRIGGING HEALTHY.

So, my idea is this: I like to think of my body like I think of my my sister in law…I have to accept it for what it is, even like it sometimes, but I don’t have to love it.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE YOUR BODY.

But, I do think that you have to love what it does for you, and that’s where I choose to focus my thoughts. Or at least, I try. I know I am not a fabulous runner. I mean, I am not fast and I will never win anything. I do have this pretty amazing talent for long distances. I get more comfortable the longer I go and feel better doing it too. I think to myself that I like this about my body and I thank it for getting me this far.

BUT I DO NOT THANK IT FOR THE CELLULITE I’VE HAD SINCE I WAS 10.

I don’t care how much goddamned tea I drink I am never going to love my cellulite. I don’t know if this helps, but your body has done and will do a lot of things.

Maybe it’s a partner, a co-worker, a sister in law…

It doesn’t have to be your true romance.

BUT YOU…you, on the inside…well, you’d better love that part because inside that package is a heart and a mind and a soul and all of it is pretty spectacular.

As far as the video/photos go…you have the choice to never look at it ever again or watch it over and over. I try to think to myself: which of those options will allow me to be who I want to be once I stop watching? Like, I don’t want to be a total bitch all day, so I should probably NOT go through my high school yearbook, you know? Not without vodka, anyway.  

You don’t get an award for being OK with watching your body flop around on a treadmill and being OK with it. But, it is nice to feel good and treat others well (aka: NOT be a bitch after said viewing) so in this case: YOU ARE JUSTIFIED and welcome to not ever look at that video again.

Don’t say “I should get over this” because that diminishes your feelings. Say “I will get better at handling this” because unlike the self-help/life coach/body positive ladies, I do not believe that this feeling will go away.

I think that instead of wishing it away, ya better cozy on up…because if you want to get through it by making it ghost, you’re in for a world of shit when it comes crashing back unexpectedly.

So, think about what you like about what your body does for you and focus on that. LIKE it. APPRECIATE it. But, don’t feel like a failure if you end up giving it the side-eye most of the time. You’re allowed.

That being said, be sure that you are not comparing your body to other bodies. I am pretty sure you don’t do this, but scrolling through Instagram can be incredibly defeating. All of those gorgeous bodies in front of gorgeous mountain ranges can be hard to watch…

OK that’s enough full frontal Jill for now…haha

Sending love as always

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are never alone.

Deeply grateful for you, our friendship and your stellar, blunt, authentic advice.

Thank you Jill.

Diabetes doesn’t go on Holiday…

img_4329-jpgI had to pull out my glucose testing kit this week.

It’s been in retirement for 3 years.

I am not gonna lie.  It was a bit of a low moment.  I was sad and a little scared.

I had a sudden flash of fear that Type 2 (T2) Diabetes was back or trying really hard to creep back in. I was noticing some things…  Things that seemed disconnected, but hauntingly familiar.

Fuzzy thinking. Thirsty. Sleepy. Insatiably hungry. Irritable out of the blue/out of porportion. Craving sugar.  Feeling ‘puffy’.

Not just the normal things that happen in life, I mean, the ‘symptoms’ were out of place given what was happening in my life.

All of the sudden it dawned me WHY these were familiar…  This is the crap that happens when my blood sugars are out of whack.

I hadn’t felt these symptoms in these odd clusters in over three years…

Holy crap.

It was time to test and see what the numbers had to tell me.


I tested as soon as I put the pieces together and realized I was possibly experiencing some blood sugar issues. My post-prandial (2 hours post-meal) glucose was 111.  For me — that’s a solid, if tad-bit high, number.  But respectable.

Whew.  Little breathing room and stab of relief.

I tested a fasting number the next morning and it was 110.  Exhaling in relief.  On the high side, but arguably good.

Yesterday was 100.

I’m in a ‘safe space’ with the numbers I’m seeing and recording.

They’re not as low as I would like, nor are they as low as I can make them when I’m keeping my diet ‘tight’.

While I’m clinically in a non-diabetic range, I still felt pretty clearly this was a wake-up call.


After Mountain Lakes 100 miler back in September, I had a revelation of sorts.  The conversation in my head (and out loud to Spencer…) went sort of like this:

‘I just ran for 100 miles, for close to 30 hours and fueled that effort with about 5,000-6,000 calories of SUGAR.  And while that’s pretty typical running fuel for ‘normal’ folks, uh…  You aren’t normal.  How horribly WRONG/DUMB/STUPID/RIDICULOUS is that equation for someone like YOU??!  Can I remind you that you used to be morbidly obese, insulin-injecting, T2 for two DECADES.  HOLY CRAP BETSY.  You’re a reformed T2 diabetic and you just ran (which you can only do because you are no longer morbidly obese) eating pure, easily accessible to your blood, sugar. This.is.utterly.asinine. You can’t keep doing this.  It’s a recipe for disaster.’

So I made the decision that I needed to change some things.  Immediately.

It all has to start with my day-to-day food plan.


There’s a health condition called ‘Insulin Resistance’.  It also gets talked about as ‘Carbohydrate Intolerance’.  I’ve done a ton of research on it, and I have come to understand that I am no longer T2 Diabetic, but I am still insulin resistant.  And I always will be. I can certainly manage it, but it’s not going to go away. While it is not an entirely accurate description, I kind of think of it as being ‘allergic’ to carbs.

((Here’s the disclaimer in all of this:  I’m an experiment of one. I lost over 200 pounds, reversed type 2 and somehow fell head-over-heels in love with the endurance running world. Turns out that there aren’t a lot of people like me out there, and the ‘normal’ rules for food/nutrition/fueling just don’t ever seem to work well for me. My solutions and chosen paths are not likely to work or make sense for anyone else.))

I’m well aware that if I eat too many carbs {ANY KIND OF CARBS – YES… Even the ‘healthy ones’}  I get swinging blood sugars.  If I keep carbs {even the healthy ones…} to a minimum — my glucose stays in a horizontal and largely stable line.

‘My body hates carbs!’ — me

‘No.  Your body loves carbs.  It loves them to DEATH.’ — Deb, my sister.

So…

Good-bye to my plant based diet that I loved and enjoyed for almost three years. (Averaging 300 – 400 ish grams of carbohydrates per day with a healthy balance of grains, fruits and veggies.)

Hello again to my old friend, no-and-low carb. (Averaging 40-70 grams of total carbs per day.)

I’m tightly restricting my daily carbohydrate load. ANY carbohydrate source.  Aiming for whole, non-processed foods. And I am most especially vigilant for any of the added or hidden variations of sugars/corn syrups that were truly and absolutely my worst enemy as a T2.

I know how to do this.

I just willingly and knowingly strayed from the basics that got me ‘here’; I strayed from the food plan that helped me lose weight, become non-diabetic, learn to run…  I mean I reversed T2 Diabetes — I suddenly felt FREE and healthy enough to try new things with food, fueling, diet.  So I did!  I’m totally OK with those experiments and what they have taught me about myself and the way my body works.

I just find it humbling and interesting that I am back where it all started.

Back to the very basics of what worked when I first started this crazy journey.  Back to low carb, NO SUGAR, low glycemic indexed foods.

((For my running friends who are wondering about fueling during training and events that this dilemma now hands me…  Well. Join the crowd. Me too.  I’m lost and little bewildered with it all at this moment in time.  But I am deeply driven by the knowledge that if I want to stay healthy and running; I have to stay the course in managing this or T2 Diabetes could possibly win this whole freaking thing. I won’t, can’t let that happen.  So let the new fueling experiments begin. 🙂 )) 


This week has been a solid reminder that T2 diabetes is still chasing me 365 days a year.

It never takes a Holiday.

But, guess what?

I have NO PLANS to take a Holiday either.

How do you make someone change?

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One of the hardest questions I get about my journey in losing weight and reversing type 2 diabetes usually comes in the form of…

‘How do I talk to someone I love/know/care about that they need to lose weight?’

The basic answer, based on my personal experience, is; you really should NOT.

You can not motivate someone else to embrace big changes.

Any of the other folks I’ve talked to who have embarked on significant life changes echo my sentiments.  We all seem to agree that we were ultimately motivated by some seemingly random moment in time or collection of small happenings or a ‘critical’ incident. The decision to make the lasting hard changes was never spurred on by someone’s ‘helpful comments’.

In fact, the opposite seems to be true.  Those times people tried to talk to us about being overweight, unhealthy?  We were NOT ready to listen, resentful to the message bearer and/or defensive that someone should personally attack us about our food or weight.

Not exactly a great set-up or fertile ground for healthy conversations.

Nothing anyone ever said to me about my weight or T2 Diabetes EVER convinced me to change for the long term.

Subtle, friendly, mean, direct, scientific, jokingly.

None of it.

Sure, the times someone approached me or talked to me about my weight or health or how my body looked, I’d make short-term/panicked changes out of grief or embarrassment or blind-hope even. But I wasn’t ready to do the hard-as-hell, wholesale, gritty work needed to make a sustainable change. No one could have convinced, guilted, cajoled or begged me into doing it until I was READY.


  • I was 350-400 pounds, grocery shopping.  Yet again embarking on another diet I’d found in some magazine or had been told about by a friend who was miraculously and easily shedding weight. I was loading up my grocery cart for a successful start to a new diet.  I had ‘light’ everything — including ice cream and ‘diet’ cookies. Everything in the cart was ‘on the diet’. This skinny, older man stopped me in the pasta aisle, looking in my cart and then looked me square in the eye and said loudly ‘You really don’t need all that ice cream and junk food.’  I remember leaving the fully loaded cart in the middle of the aisle and going home — totally mortified.
  • I had an aunt tell me ‘You don’t think drinking diet soda is all it will take to make you thin do you?’ (I was about 13 and remembered thinking that I did, in fact, think diet soda was at least one of the answers that was going to save me. I mean it wasn’t sugar soda and Weight Watcher’s said it was Ok…)
  • I had multiple friends in a variety of ways tell me that the reason I was single was because guys don’t date ‘fat chicks’ and if I could just lose weight I would find that elusive happiness and find the right guy.
  • ‘Do you really need to eat that?’, ‘Aren’t you on a diet?’, ‘Should you be eating that?’.
  • Another relative gave me the ‘we care about you and you’re killing yourself and you won’t be around to see your nephews grow up’ ultimatum.

These comments and interactions may have meant to inspire, enlighten, encourage, scare or spur me into action, but they were by and large (pun intended) destructive and hurtful no matter how the message was delivered or who said it.

When you’re fat/unhealthy/overweight/out of shape; YOU DO NOT NEED SOMEONE TO TELL YOU ANY OF THAT.

You already know it… In all it’s painful and degrading glory.

You are well aware of your situation.

Someone telling you this obvious truth doesn’t make you instantly go… ‘Wow.  Geez.  I didn’t know that.  I should do something about that.  I am so glad they said something!’

It makes you feel deep shame. It pisses you off. Wounds you.

It beats you down because you know you’ve tried so, so many different things and none of them seemed to work and you really, truly do not know what else to do…

You’re humiliated.  You can’t hide the problem of being overweight or obese.  Hell, you publicly WEAR your problem for the whole world to see every minute of every day.

In no way did anyone’s ‘helpful’ comments ever give me the power and energy to embark on the changes that I ultimately would have to make.

Fat chance.

From everything I’ve read about the paradigm of change; telling someone they have a problem doesn’t usually help them move into action to resolve the problem. The trigger for real, lasting change usually comes from a seemingly innocuous, yet life-defining moment, a health scare, turning of the years or some other very personal ‘bottom moment’.

The moment when inspiration for change strikes and STICKS is very personal and pretty darn hard to explain.

If you are that person who is still insisting that someone in your life really needs to make a change, needs to lose weight, needs to get healthy.  You care deeply, are afraid for their health and you genuinely  want to help. You just.need.to.do.something…

The list below are the traits I sought out for my ‘team’ when I was finally ready to face the truth, do the work and make a change.  In hindsight, these are the things my friends had been slowly and quietly doing over the years to try to get me to a healthier place. These are THEIR tricks…

{Actions speak far more loudly than words ever will.}

  • Listen.  Listen for open doors or pleas for help or blatant defensiveness or fear.  Then, and only when they open the door and invite you in, do you have permission to engage in the conversation about how you can help them.  Don’t answer questions that have NOT been asked. Don’t offer advice that has NOT been asked for.
  • Set an example. Sign up for a 5K and invite them to join you to train for it and walk or run it. Move your normal meeting spots to a walk or coffee shop instead of a bakery or fast food lunch. Find subtle, genuine ways to shift the patterns of your friendship away from food and toward conversation, activity.
  • Be ready to embrace their change WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.  There are all kinds of programs that people lean on/cling to/buy into when they are ready to commit to losing weight and changing their lifestyle. Programs and options we may or may not agree with or understand. BUT if someone wants to lose weight, learn new eating habits and get moving — GET OUT OF THEIR WAY!  If someone is simply jazzed that they have found something to be excited about — be excited with them!  If they’re willing to own it, work it and make it part of their life; who are we to judge?!  Our job is to unequivocally support them.

‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can not make it drink.’

The horse will drink when it’s good and thirsty.

Not when YOU think they’re thirsty.

Save

Save

My pants are getting tight…

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These were my old 26/28 or 5X pants.  In this picture I’m about 170ish pounds and a size 10-12 L/XL.  Just for reference.

I have gained some weight since early August.

No it’s not muscle, not fluid retention.  (Nice try.)

It’s plain, ol’, legit weight gain.

I have to own it for what it is…

I’m trying not to panic. I’m trying to remember this is ALL part of the process, the adventure.  Life.

But the idea and process of gaining weight – even a little –  terrifies me given my history.

My brain – multiple times a day – chimes in with something along the lines of…

‘One pound?  Might as well be 200 pounds Bets!  You’re gaining weight. Slipperrrryyyy slope. This might just be the time you can’t stop it…’

I KNOW that gain/loss are normal parts of this whole process.  And will remain consistent, persistent company for the rest of my life.

I have been rallying with…

‘This is about being healthy. Fit. And being healthy and fit for a lifetime. You know what to do, you’ll get it done. You’re worth the work.  ‘

This is more than a single pound.  Yet, I’m not entirely sure exactly how much weight — since I don’t rely on the scale anymore.  I am working to use ‘environmental cues’ so that I do NOT get caught in that ‘weighing myself 5 times a day’ craziness that has plagued me in the past.

One day about 4 weeks ago I noticed that my pants were fitting tight.  I felt a tickle of panic.

The past 3 weeks it has been noticing new things daily… My rain coat, race shirts, work shirts are all snug.  I’ve spent the past 10 days or so trying NOT to panic. And trying to figure out exactly what to do about it all.

Weight loss, maintenance, fitness. Not a single one of those is linear or given or constant. You gotta keep working at it.

Every.single.day.

I know this.  Yet I haven’t been paying it the attention it deserves or demands.

Training for and running the 100 miler was extraordinary. I’m hooked. I am already eyeing the next one. 🙂  The reality for me is that between tapering, resting an irritated achilles, ample recovery from the actual 100 miler, a post-race infection…  I’ve actually had about 6 weeks of very, very low activity.  And let’s throw into that mix that I never reigned in my eating.  I was eating like I was still running 100 mile weeks.  Plant-based, healthy, BUT TOO MANY CALORIES.  So while the ‘tight pants predicament’ is disappointing and slightly frustrating and panic-inducing – it is in NO WAY an actual surprise.  I have been eating more and moving less for weeks. And that equation is exactly how I got to be 400 pounds and Type 2 diabetic in the first place…

I need to focus on eating whole, nutrient-rich foods, in appropriate serving sizes and get back to moving more.

That simple.

And that freaking HARD.

It’s hard to get things back on track.  Being off track is so ‘easy’ and fun.  Until it’s not.  And then it’s just daunting, hard, tireless work.

Here’s my plan for the next 21 days to get my habits back on track…

Accountability communicating regularly with a handful of friends who get my goals, my compulsions, my excuses, my food/fitness levels and history.

Tracking.  Write everything down. Not just what I think looks good, appropriate or healthy.  All.the.foods. Write them all down.  (True confession. I used to lie in my own food journals. Especially at Weight Watchers when they used to review the journals at your weigh-in. I would lie BIG TIME, then we would all act SHOCKED when I had a weight gain, because my food journal was perfect… Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done that…)  Tracking makes me more mindful and intentional.

Apples. If I am hungry and cruising in the kitchen/pantry for food during non-meal times, the rule is I can eat an apple. And if an apple doesn’t sounds good?  THEN I AM NOT TRULY HUNGRY.  Time for a gut check. Or a glass of water.

Check my thinking. I really did think I was ‘cured’ of my compulsive thinking and behaviors about and around food.  Uh… Yeah… No.  No way. That stuff might take a hiatus, you might have some tight control over it a while and you can even ignore it for short periods of time. But it never goes away. I’m working through this with a dear friend and mentor who battles eating compulsions as well,  she reminds me to take things minute by minute, NOT even day by day.  A day is a BIG, HUGE CHUNK of time when you’re managing food!  She will gently and then not-so-gently remind me that I need to focus on what I can do in the next 5 minutes to help myself…  Maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour.  But thinking in small, manageable ‘bites’ of time.  Be mindful.  Breathe.  And we agreed that I need to only eat when I can really think about what I’m eating and doing and limit all distractions.  (No more eating in the car,  while walking across campus, mindlessly at the computer or standing at my desk…)

Routine. I will get back to running soon, which will help body and soul. 🙂  But there are other things that work well that have fallen by the wayside.  Packing snacks and lunches.  Keeping easy to eat, healthy items, visible and up front in the pantry and fridge.  Using a part of my weekend to roast veggies and get things ready for a successful week.  Making my health a priority, not an after thought.

No hoarding or hiding.  This one is hard to admit. I was SO, so, so good at hoarding and hiding – ninja level for decades. And I have found myself recently hiding food. It was subtle and I was trying to justify it to myself as ‘I’ll need food after a run/work, so I’ll just keep it in the car.’  I’m really hiding it from Spencer, my roommate.  I don’t want him, or ANYONE, to know the quantity of what it is that I’m actually eating. He would never judge or comment. He just wouldn’t.  BUT I am fully aware that what I’m doing is eating way too much of something that is best in small quantities or probably best not being in my daily diet at all; and I don’t want to get ‘caught’. When I’m hiding food and worried about what someone is thinking, I KNOW I have a problem.  The other giveaway about hoarding/hiding was this week I realized I’m keeping things hidden in three different areas in my office, so that if I open one cupboard, any given person only sees about 1/3 of the total stash I have squirreled away. Granted — this is all plant-based, healthy stuff.  I’m not hoarding snickers bars. 🙂  But none-the-less, it’s stupid and self-defeating and self-sabatoging. It’s the behavior, not the food that is the core issue. I’m the only loser in this game.  I stopped it for over four years and yet in the past four weeks I can see it slightly, quietly, trying to creep back in.   I’ve talked to my accountability team. Have taken everything out of my car.  At work on Monday — I’ll consolidate all of the food in one spot.

I’m using the time between now and the end of the year to get this train back on her tracks.

…Running back in the mix, plant-based foods at the core, sugar GONE, walks with friends instead of food, apples front and center in the fridge, kicking meditation up a notch, spending time with friends who are working toward the same goals…

What do you do to get things back on track?!  

I would love to hear other helpful tips…

 

100 miles.

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Mountain Lakes 100, 2016 (29:42:19)

I have been working to build for this race for several years.  Josh Gum planted the idea of an ultra in my brain one of the very first times I met he and Wendie.  The idea that I might actually want to try to run a 100 miler was born. Stumbling, cautiously, fearfully — but the idea was solidly planted years ago.

I picked Mountain Lakes 100 specifically last year.  Spencer and Josh both thought it was great choice for a first attempt.  Great race directors.  Local race. It was at a time of year that Spencer, Josh and Wendie could help me.  I had plenty of time to train.  Local running friends had experience with the race/terrain. The biggest training block I would need to make happen was already built in with this summers TransRockies event. It was perfect.

I signed up.  I mean, that is about all the stars you can possibly even ask to try to align.

And they all aligned.

We will ignore the taper tantrums and the pre-race, night-before terrors that fill me each time I get ready to run a race that has a tight cut-off.  My confidence usually heads for the sewer and it’s an all out fight to remember my training and battle my head into a positive position. I am better at this than I have been in the past, but it was pretty intense this time around because this was totally new, unknown and SCARY AS HELL!

I had a few goals going into this race…

  1. Finish before the 30 hour cut off.
  2. As Ken Ward suggested, start slow, then don’t slow down. I wanted to finish strong.
  3. Intermediate goals relating to getting to my crew in certain windows of time.
  4. Mini goals of getting to and from aid stations efficiently and not wasting time.
  5. And perhaps most importantly to me… I wanted to stay happy and smiling and maintain a good attitude.  I get sharp and sometimes snarky when I get scared or embarrassed.  I know it.  And I wanted to be the happy runner from 0-100 even though this was going to be the scariest thing I had ever done.
  6. NAIL fueling.  Stay on Gu’s every 20 minutes.  (For 30 hours…  Yup.  That’s 90 Gu’s.)  Eat solid fuel at aid and with crew. Drink plenty of water.
  7. When I hiked it was to be strong, with purpose and intention.
  8. Run the downs.
  9. Enjoy the experience.  This has been on hell of a journey.  This is about that journey, not about a destination.
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No better crew.  Anywhere.  Spencer, Josh and Wendie.

0 – 5.30

8 AM.  BEAUTIFUL weather. Off we go!  The first bit of the run is on a rutted forest road. I was running the same pace as a local runner from Corvallis, Roger, who is perhaps the kindest man I know.  We chatted about our strategies, excitement and wisdom others had passed along to us.  I focused on walking the uphills starting early in the race. We wished each other luck. I would spend the rest of the day trying to chase him down.

We got turned onto single track for a bit — winding our way up and over to another forest road that descends for several miles.  Climbing over downed trees, across narrow rock ledges.  I’m told it was a beautiful section.  I was carefully watching my feet. 🙂

5.3 – 11.4

We hit aid station one and I checked in quickly and kept going.  The next section was forest road and all down hill.  SO RUNABLE!  Shaded, smooth, easy.  I was focused on running this with ‘no effort’.  I had been told by some of the experienced runners that if at any point in the first 50 miles of a 100 miler you even begin to question whether you’re pushing too hard; you ARE working too hard. Back off.  So as I ran comfortably down hill I tried to stay aware of it just being chill and easy.  Chatted with some great folks around me.  We’re all pretty fresh and hyped up to be doing this thing!

11.4 – 20.75

Hit aid station two and made my first mistake.  Knew that the climb back out was long  (9 ish miles, 2,600 feet of climb) and thought I had enough water in my hydro to make it and get out ahead of a pack of people onto the single track.  I would discover about mile 18 or so that I was out of water, it was warming up and that my fuel choice doesn’t do well without water.  I puked up one Gu, then skipped one — so went early in the race for over 40 minutes without fuel or water.  That is just DUMB. I had pulled out my trekking poles and was using them to work the uphills.  This is the first of many times I would slam my toes into a rock. I got to run a section of it with my friend Rita which was wonderful.  Hiking with intention. Staying focused on getting the first 25 miles done and done well so that I set a good tone for the rest of the race…  I felt like I was settling into and enjoying the task at hand.

20.75 – 26.05

Running back to the lake.  Familiar roads.  Water on board.  Fuel going down. And I was getting super excited.  It was runnable roads BUT way more important was the fact that I WAS HEADED TO MY CREW!  This is the first spot I would see them.  Weeks of tension about getting to the start line, starting the race, had evaporated and I was simply overjoyed at the thought of seeing Spencer, Josh and Wendie.  About mile 25.5 I HEAR Wendie’s familiar WHOOP WHOOP and ‘THAT’S MY GIRL!’  She runs up to me with flatted coke in a polka dot cup.  I could have kissed her.  I was smiling ear to ear and she led me through the Olallie Lake aid station toward our crew car as I was handing her my pack. Spencer was running up to see what else I needed.  I should have been calm and thoughtful.  I was spastic and erratic and thrilled!  MY FRIENDS WERE THERE.  They stayed focused — THANK GOODNESS — and got me re-fueled, watered, stocked up, dealt with some potentially annoying chafe in the hind-end area 🙂 and back on the trail quickly.  Of the entire race — that thrill of seeing those faces I love so dearly that first time, starting nerves gone, a smart race started… It remains one of my favorite snapshot memories.

26.05 – 29.15

There’s a thing in Ultra running called ‘Bonus Miles’.  It’s when you get lost/go off course. It sucks.  I got about .5 of a bonus mile.  I left my crew and simply missed the turn for the next segment.  A car was parked right in front of the entrance to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the perfectly marked trail.  I’ll forever be grateful to the angel who got out of her nearby car and chased me down in her flip flops and got me turned around.  I only lost about .5 of a mile.  But I had to work to not let that little detour shake my confidence. Back on course, I started running on the exposed ridges of the PCT and realizing that I would see my crew again shortly — then not again for hours. Josh had told me to spend the run segment organizing my thoughts around what I needed for nightfall.  I did just that.

29.15 – 36.65

Made sure I had pants stuffed in my hydro pack and changed my shirts . For me this was a big deal… Quickly, publicly, stripping down to a sports bra at an aid station in front of a bunch of strangers. Was going to just leave things alone, but Spencer pointed out, my entire shirt front was wet from a leaky water nib on my hydro pack and I was headed back into what was going to be a dark and cool run.  Shirts changed, fuel on board, headlamp/torch in the pack — I was off again in a matter of a few minutes.  These next miles were enjoyable, runnable. Great people.  I wasn’t even watching my Garmin.  I knew I was comfy and doing well and being smart about choosing how to tackle the terrain directly in front me. I have a feeling the scenery was beautiful.  I was too scared to take my eyes off my feet.  But I was feeling strong, confident and comfortable.

36.65 – 43.85

I hit the aid station.  Grabbed some solid food.  Filled up my hydro and scrambled out fast. Same as the previous section — I couldn’t believe how easy I was moving and I was well over the 50K mark.  I was starting to feel pain and fatigue and my feet were starting to feel every rock on the path, but I felt pretty darn good all things considered. That was a strong confidence boost.  I knew I was supposed to be getting miles put down while the sun was still up and I could see what I was running on.  I knew things would naturally slow once I was using a torch.

43.85 – 49.35

I had to put my headlamp on, the lead runner finally came charging toward me and I had yet again kicked a rock.  And this time I kicked a very sore toe and went down to my knees trying to catch my breath.  Not depressing or defeating in anyway — but the growing cautiousness and pain around my feet coupled with the darkness slowed things down a bit more than I wanted. This is where I got aggressive with my trekking poles.  I let them do the work. It sounds funny — but I kinda/sorta ran this section using my arms.  I would bear my weight on the poles to get a little hop/pop over rough terrain.  It was entertaining and distracting.  Returning lead runners were starting to come towards us and in the dark — those oncoming torches were beautiful and deeply comforting.  You know you’re headed in the right direction if returning runners are coming toward you. I got to the aid station and my friend Jason Leman was there!  Hugs, chatter and encouragement.  I told him I was fighting nausea from all the GU.  He encouraged me to drink some Ginger Ale and eat some solid food before leaving the station.   I did all of that and almost instantly felt better. I was out of there fast… Because the next section…

49.35 – 54.65

This next section was all about getting to Wendie, my pacer.  This section was dark, descending, technical — so I moved as quickly as I could.  I needed to get to the aid station as much before midnight as possible to grab Wendie and head out on a 16-mile loop. My plan was to use this section to give us as much of a time buffer as I could, without wasting so much energy that I was not able to finish the dang race.  I ran this segment alone, except for a few oncoming runners.  It was really dark and lonely and I started to wonder how I was doing with time; had I slowed too much in the dark?  Your mind plays tricks on you in the dark.  You hear things, you worry you’re lost, you lose track of time, you can’t do basic math.  You wonder why you’re doing this crazy thing.  No significant low at this point, just starting to wonder how the rest of this adventure would play out if I was behind the pace and with my feet getting increasingly sore.  Instead of recalling the plan I created and forcing those ideas in my head — I was starting to understand and accept that the story of this adventure was actually being written as I ran and that I only had control over my own forward motion and how I reacted to whatever happened…

54.65 – 60.65

I heard Spencer yelling for me as I neared the aid station. I think hearing him say my name out of that pitch darkness was one of the BEST sounds in the world.  It was right around 11 PM.  I’d been working the race for 15 hours. Spence asked what I needed and I said I needed him to look at my foot – just in case whatever was happening was something we could easily fix and relive some pain. I asked for ibuprofen.  And solid food.  I asked him if I had slowed down too much in the last segment and had ‘screwed myself’ from being able to get around the lake before the cutoff.  ‘Absolutely not, you’re right on target. You are doing great!’ He sprinted ahead yelling ‘Betsy’s in…’  I got up the trail to the road and the aid station was to the right.  My beloved crew was directly to my left.  And friends Kristie and Tony — total happy surprise! – were at the road cheering and yelling for me.  I don’t know for sure — but I think I tackled both of them and a few other people in fierce, quick hugs.  I was happy to see people! Sat in the chair.  They took my shoe off and said my toe looked sore, but it looked fine.  (No one said it – but ‘SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP’ was thick in the air!) It looked normal. Huh. Felt horrible.  We changed socks while my shoes were off.  Spencer crammed food in my hands and told me to get a move on. My Wendie girl, took off in front of me leading me to the aid station and calling out my number and moving right on through.  With one critical stop to grab a big hug from my friend Jami Sutter for about 20 seconds.  Jami whispered fiercely in my ear ‘YOU HAVE GOT THIS!’ We were off again, we chatted and ran and moved quickly the first mile.  I had to stop.  Uh… I was just gonna pee.  But my body had other ideas.  I was only about 12 inches off the trail.  It’s funny as all get out now, but at the time it was — well… Actually it was funny then too.  We got back on the trail and about a mile later paired up with Roger and his pacer John for some spirited and funny conversation for several miles.  We had a great time trying to stay in front of them and a few other runners – and then later trying to catch them.  The time and miles FLEW by with Wendie leading the way.  We got to a series of bridges.  I was leading and I stepped of the edge of one and yelped.  I called back to Wendie ‘STEEP DROP OFF!’.  She followed me – and when we turned around the drop was about 7 inches tops.  I knew then that I was fatigued and it was only going to get worse…  Everything was feeling exaggerated. It was a funny moment that had us laughing at the absurdity for several miles.

60.65 – 66.25

In and out of aid in about 90 seconds. Wendie ran ahead and took charge of simply getting me what she thought I needed.  Perfection.  We are trying REALLY HARD to not waste time.  On this section we’re on the other side of Timothy Lake on sweet, groomed, single track and headed back to the Dam.  Spencer and Josh are going to be at the dam.  Wen is singing, I’m chewing Big Red gum after violently gagging on an orange gel. Wendie coaxing me gently and then not so gently to keep moving at a decent clip.  “The boys are waiting for us. Let’s surprise them and get there early.” If I were more experienced or perhaps in better shape or it was daylight — this section was really runnable.  I was hiking as fast as I could and jogging in stretches, but I couldn’t string together any decent length runs….  My feet were sore.  I started to feel like my legs needed instructions to work –and it was taking a lot of brain power to keep them moving. I start to feel like my left shoe is tied too tightly.  I mention this to Wendie.

66.25 – 70.95

As we arrive to the wildly lit up Dam we are treated by a great, white, full moon… Josh was mooning us as we arrived to the station. A sight I may never be able to clear out of my brain. 🙂 Josh encouraged us to run on the flat asphalt while we could and he led us to the car where Spence had everything set. Changed out of my my dying Garmin to Spencers Garmin, as mine was dying and I wanted to track this whole monster. 🙂  Wendie had to help me put on running pants because I was finally cold and I couldn’t bend and we didn’t want to take my shoes off.  *Picture this*  In the dark, everyone has headlamps on. we can hear a music from the aid station behind us.  Spencer was force feeding me Top Ramen out of a hydro flask. I’m emptying my pockets on my hydro pack/changing watches/eating. Wendie was trying to remedy the fact that my torch had died.  Josh was taking care of getting Wen ready for the next section.  *THAT PICTURE*.  That is another snapshot in my head and heart of all my favorite peeps taking care of each other to get ONE of us to their goal… I know that’s odd, but this image proved to be a silent, powerful, emotional moment that I would pull up and look at in the coming hours.  Spence and Josh inform me that time is ticking — and we have to keep moving. And they tell me that when we get to the next aid station — Wendie is done pacing, Josh takes over and we’re not stopping for much of anything except essentials.

Wen and I take off for the next rendezvous point and this section is where I finally hit a low.  A quiet, mind-bending wonder at what I was doing and whether I could leg out another 30+ miles, with over 3,000 foot of climb and do it before a cutoff…  It was not sadness.  I know that I have run smart and hard and done everything as right as I possibly can to this point.  I know that if the plug got pulled at this point on the race — I ran a great one.  But there is a sense of heaviness.  Daunting.  Fear. I knew that what is in front of me is really what this beast is all about and I am starting to worry that maybe I am not entirely up to the task…  Wendie’s doing everything she can to coax me to stay present.  Reminders to breathe.  Asking me what hurts.  Offering me gum and food. Singing songs. Finally she just says ‘you OK being quiet with your pain B?’  I say yes. I don’t know exactly how to tell her I can keep handling the physical pain — it’s my head I’m battling.   I don’t have to tell her — she knows me.  I am afraid putting it into words will make it real. So I stay quiet, grappling to find a positive foothold to climb out of this particular low spot. We hit the aid station faster than we thought we would, which was so exciting!  Spencer runs out to greet me as Wendie runs ahead to alert Josh to get ready to run.  I quickly tell Spence I’ve hit my first low. He says it’s OK, you know these are part of what happens, keep moving forward, keep breathing through it. We don’t talk about it; but Spencer knows that some of this ‘low’ is tied to the new pressure of actually getting through the aid station before the cut off. And yes that sounds weird — but here’s the deal; if I miss the cut off THEY end my race.  The decision is out of my hands if I miss their cut off.  If I make the cut off — which I did! – it’s all on me to make it or break it to the finish line.  I want the finish line.  With all my heart I want that finish line.  The low was simply a new set of emotions setting in to keep me company for the rest of the trip.  I tell Spence that the ‘mantra/idea’ working for me is ‘SHUT UP BRAIN, your legs know how to do this work, get the hell out of your own way and let your legs run the way you were trained…’  I would tell myself that over and over and over for the next 10 hours.

70.95 – 76.25

We arrive to the aid station quicker than we thought. It’s 3:45 AM.  I needed to be through the aid station by 4:00 AM.  Wendie had helped me shave 15 minutes off the trip!  I hug Wendie, grabbed some food. Josh and I waste no time and hit the trails.  We would only be about a mile or two in and we start a climb. A big, long climb. I am slowing with each step.  Taking smaller steps.  Dragging my trekking poles instead of using them. Josh is beginning to run through numbers for me, paces and times.  I suck at math, especially when I am trying to run. BUT I know that what he is telling me is I have to keep moving – and I have to keep moving faster than I’m currently moving or we can’t make the finish line.  Anxiety and panic smash into my chest. In the dark.  With Josh coaxing me to move faster.  And I begin to cry.  I’m quiet and crying for miles. Josh is reminding me to use my trekking poles to help myself on the uphills. He would have to remind me to use those damn trekking poles for the next 30 miles.  He is reminding me to keep moving and eat and drink.  He already has his hands full and we have 9+ hours more to go.  I start to feel deeply guilty and realize that when I asked Josh to pace me on this adventure I had NO IDEA what kind of runner I would be.  I did not realize AT ALL how much work I was going to be asking him to do.  We are running back on the PCT toward Olallie Lake, in theory this should all be familiar.  It’s dark and not feeling familiar at all.  My brain is relieved to have someone else in charge and I understand that I am not able to make small, easy decisions at this point.  I know it.  I’ve abdicated responsibility for myself into the hands of someone I trust. And I’m using my energy to fight the mental fog and fear in my brain and just stay present.  Josh has to remind me several times — all we have is right now, this minute.  He would say ‘Hey, B, are you here with me?’  I would say ‘no…’ or ‘Not sure’  he would say ‘Get here.’  And I would work to breathe and stay focused on getting one foot in front of each other up that endless hill.

76.25 – 81.75

This aid station straddles the trail and we literally ran straight through.  Not stopping at all.  We kept moving in the dark.  I think this is about when we started to get some day light.  Josh would say we had to run the flats and he would have to coax me every single time. I’m still fueling good.  I had to pee again.  And again… My body had other ideas.  I can only laugh that I have now pooped in front of the entire Team Gum.  But the best part was that I am 70ish miles in and squatted and did NOT fall over, fall asleep or need help standing back up.  I had been warned by other female ultra runners that squatting might become an issue late in the race — and it never did for me. As we’re heading into the aid station a few things happened. We’re on a LONG SUSTAINED climb.  I’m slowing down.  A runner and pacer pass us and they make small talk.  They comment about how they’re moving as fast as they can and basically indicated we should be moving that fast or anyone behind them won’t make the finish line. That comment breaks down the fragile barrier I had oh-so-carefully-constructed in my brain.  For the next 20+ miles I would now obsess about times, paces, miles and time of day.  I am very aware that I am racing time.  I was aware of it at 8:01 the day before when I started the race.  I knew it. BUT this comment throws that old-fiendish lens of fear over the top of every moment.  We finally see the aid station and Josh tells me ‘run to the station and you can sit in the chair for 2 minutes.’  I am an idiot – and a sucker – and tired – so I run. 🙂  I flop in a chair after grabbing a fig newton and JASON Leman appears!  He hugs me.  Reminds me I can turn off my torch. Helps me figure out where to stow it in my pack.  He lies to me telling me how great I look and how strong I am and how well I’m doing.  I will forever love him for that much-needed, positive exchange. This becomes another one of those moments I’ll never forget. Josh tells me time is up and we leave.  I want to cry.  I want to stay.  What happens if I just stop running and leave the race…?  Will my friends still love me? I realize this is NOT HELPFUL THINKING.  I know that I need to stop thinking about quitting and start thinking about how to keep the pain from commandeering my thoughts and focus entirely, solely on that finish line…

81.75 – 88.95

This is where I hit a low.  And I feel like I stayed in this low to about mile 99.9999.  I fought every step.  I cried.  I sobbed.  I kept moving.  Josh at one point said ‘how’s your heart?  How badly do you really want this?’  He let me stew,  he would change topics, he would remind me to eat, he would coax me to run and he was never more than about 5 feet away.  The sun is up, it’s warming up.  I’m trying to run – but I am also very aware that every step is jarring.  I start this involuntary response that has to be tied to pain, I’m now involuntarily whimpering and groaning with every step.  I try to stop it – and I can’t.  It’s annoying me.  I mention it to Josh and he says ‘JUST LET IT HAPPEN.  It’s OK.  This is painful and tough and there’s no judgement and if it propels you on — great!’  I’m just confused that I have no control over it. Other runners are passing us and I’m crying and whining and making these guttural groaning sounds with every step. We’re headed to an aid station.  Josh reminds me that we really don’t need anything and we should really keep moving  He’s not panicked about the time, but he’s watching it, adjusting for the fact that I’m slowing down in each segment.  This segment was about equal parts of rolling ups and downs.

88.95 – 96.45

It’s warm.  I’m thirsty and running out of water because all of the sudden I can’t get enough to drink. Fueling is still on target because Josh is simply handing me fuel at this point and I’m not arguing.  Every once in a while one of the chews/blocks falls out of my mouth as I’m trying to breathe or chew — I get accused of spitting them out. 🙂  I was NOT.  I thought about it – BIG TIME.  And we laugh about that when I admit that I was considering it, but not doing it on purpose. Gu and blocks were gagging me at this point.  But I knew the only person I would hurt by cutting calories was me – and I was already hurting about all I could stand. Bonking — which is largely preventable — would be downright stupid and irresponsible at this point in the game.  We pass a volunteer.  She says 4.4 miles to the next aid station.  WHAT SHE FAILED TO SAY is that it was about a 4 mile climb.  It.would.not.end.   I am whiny and know it. I’m totally annoyed with myself.  I am hot.  Out of water.  Josh is sharing his with me.  I am mentally checking out of the race at this point.  I’m seriously thinking when we get to the next aid station maybe I’ll just stop.  If I throw myself in the bushes or better yet on the ground — I’m 180ish pounds of dead weight; what the hell is Josh gonna do?  I’d show him… 🙂  A few times I was trying – earnestly – to run and I would get 3 or 4 steps in and that’s all I could manage.  Josh would say great job, then quietly a few beats later; let’s try that again. We hit the 90 mile mark and Josh says ‘You’re 10 miles out, you’re doing this — can you believe it?!?’  And the hardcore sobbing begins.  I am literally shaking so hard that Josh has to grab my pack to keep me from tipping over off the trail.  I want to tell him ‘YES!  YES!  I know!!!’  And all I can think is ‘TEN MILES?!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  IT MAY AS WELL BE ANOTHER 100…’ So I just sob and say nothing.  We settle into a patter of me groaning or asking time/pace, distance and whether we can make the finish line in time.  And Josh asking me to eat or run.  It’s companionable.  I haven’t dropped any F bombs in his direction — which is  a major victory. 🙂   I am trying to remember one of my goals was to keep a good attitude…  The climb won’t end.  And when it finally does — we travel for what seems like another 4 miles to the turn off to the last aid station before the finish. We run in, I grab some coke. Josh is filling my pack. I am hiking back out of that aid station, sucking down soda, moving toward the finish line, for all I am worth.

96.45 – 100.95

I wish I could say I was smiling and happy and calm and jogged the last little 5 K to the finish. That would be a great ending to this adventure.  That’s not what happened.  It was a lot of the same from the last segment.  I believe that this segment took us 90+ minutes. Hot/exposed climbs, self-doubt, fear, pain and walking forward anyway.  Running as best I could on terrain that made sense given the hours and wear on my legs and my obnoxiously sore feet.  Out of no where Spencer shows up to run in with us.  I was so, so happy to see him, but I don’t know that I conveyed any of that.  I had a singular focus and it was on ignoring the pain and moving forward no matter what.  Time seemed to stretch out.  I moved slower and couldn’t seem to move faster even with intense coaxing.  People passed us.  All of them were cheering us on.  The trail would NOT END…  Josh finally said at one point ‘You can hike this in and we’re still going to make it.  Do you believe you’re going to finish?’ Again… The stupid, uncontrollable sobbing.  No… I didn’t believe it. Not at all actually.  I think this might have been the point when I stopped, hunched over and was just stopped on the trial.  Josh grabbed my pack and gently pushed me forward and said something along the line of ‘oh no you’re not…’  Spencer said pretty sharply ‘ C’mon Bets. Keep moving. You’ve got this.’ Spencer and Josh were both coaxing me and praising me for my ridiculous stutter step running that was all I could manage.  I had a team of incredible power at my back. A team like none other.  A team that loved me even though I was at the lowest possible point.  And they wanted me to get the finish line. I wanted the finish line. And I would do anything to keep from disappointing either of them… But my mind was DONE and I having to use all my energy to remind my legs to lift and move. Lift and move. Breathe.  Repeat. We had some confusion as to when the trial ended.  Spencer ran ahead to do some recon.  We finally rounded a bend (after about 1.25 miles further than we thought it should be…) and hear Wendie screaming for us!  I’m literally about a 1/4 of a mile from the finish and have about 20ish minutes to spare at this point and I have no response to seeing this amazing woman and friend other than to utter a quiet, somber ‘thank you’…  I can not wrap my head around the fact that I might actually see the finish line before the cutoff after two days of running.  We break out onto the short section of road and my whole crew runs with me.  Spence says “c’mon, let’s run this in.”  We can hear the finish line, see it at this point.  At this point I tell Josh I do believe I am going to finish.  We all gave a small, relieved laugh.  And my friends, my support, the people who carried me to this finish line run with me into a human-made finisher’s chute.

I crossed the line at 29:40:19.

I had 19 minutes and 41 seconds to spare.

I had just attempted and completed my very first 100 miler.

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A week later and I remain overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, encouragement.

I still can’t find the right words to thank Spencer, Wendie and Josh for what they did to get me to that finish line.  Not just race weekend, but over the past 3+ years.  Thank you just doesn’t seem to convey what is in my heart…  And then there are so many other people who helped me along on this journey that I’m afraid by naming one, I’ll forget the others.

This type of endeavor takes a VILLAGE.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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My heart is so, so full.

My feet are sore.

And this feels like the exact, right, perfect spot to be.

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Remember the moment…

Taper craziness has set in. This event is DAYS away. This was a good reminder of the WHY… I am ready to run. 🙂

all bets are off...


IMG_8129 Wendie snapped this pic about two seconds after I clicked ‘YES, I really, really, REALLY want to register for the Mountain Lakes 100 miler!’  This captures the moment, the feelings perfectly.

‘Write a note to yourself while you are so excited. In those rare, fleeting or dark moments when you aren’t excited, you’re exhausted or you feel scared or unsure about what you have just signed up to do, you can look back and read the words, your very own words, and remember this moment…  

Remember the ‘why’.’Peg Herring 

Peg is my mentor and friend who at the same time also said…

‘I do not understand what you have chosen to do. Not at all. But you need to know that I support you 100%.  You can do anything you set out to do.’

So, here’s the note I wrote to myself. 🙂



Bets,

You just signed up for…

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