Moving mountains. (Why I coach.)

Trasnrockiees Run, 2016, Colorado 2016.
Lots of mountains climbed.

“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ― Najwa Zebian

This is my favorite quote.

These words often worm their way into my mind during a tough workout or race as a sort of mantra. If you were running/cycling with me you might hear me mumbling ‘…climb….’ Sometimes with an expletive.  Sometimes just that single word.  It’s at those moments when this quote is going through my head. 

For a long while this was a mind-expanding epiphany. Now it’s profoundly motivating and a touch-stone of sorts. This quote has found it’s way to the core of my coaching philosophy.  

Turns out I was not the only one trying to freaking carry the Cascade Mountain Range on my back – when it was meant to be climbed, explored, enjoyed. 


When someone is tackling a lifestyle shift that involves triple-digit weight loss or battling health complications that accompany obesity or reversing life-long unhealthy behaviors; there’s some… uh… tremendous baggage we have to trip over, name, claim, move, give-away and figure out along the way.  

Mountains of shit.  

Mountains. 

So, I have one simple job at the very start: I listen to their mountain(s).  

Listen patiently and with grace and creating space for them to be raw, honest and share and say things they’ve perhaps never said aloud/confessed/acknowledged to another person.  

When someone is willing to trust you and tell you how they got to a place they really don’t want to stay, a place that might even be trying to kill them, a place they aren’t even sure how/when they arrived…  A place that is oddly and sadly more comforting that the unknown of trying to change…

Honor them by listening to them talk about the mountains they are carrying.

Those mountains they’re carrying, they’re going to have to learn in their own way, and in their own time, that they were meant to be climbed.

If I’m really lucky, they’ll invite me along for the learning, work, sweat and adventure that follows when we learn to climb ‘their’ mountain one step at a time. 


I get asked ‘why do you coach?’ and ‘what kind of people do you coach?’

The simple truth?

I got certified as a health and wellness coach because I wanted to be the person I NEEDED when I was starting to lose weight, reverse type 2 diabetes and learning to be active as a morbidly obese woman.

I’m coaching the kind of people I was just a few short years ago.

I was obese, morbidly obese, grossly overweight, fat.  Call it what you want. I was very ill, unhealthy, with a lifestyle-induced disease. Yet I had this wild, burning desire to change things and NOT A SINGLE CLUE where to start…. I needed help.

There was a whole lot of wonderful/helpful/supportive humans who had (and still have) my back and I refuse to deny their role in helping me change my life…

…But the other truth was that I needed a level of specialized expertise I couldn’t find…

You can’t take someone who is inactive and carrying 100-300+ pounds and apply a normal ‘weight loss and activity’ plan. You can’t. Well you can, and the desperate client is going to try to do what’s being asked; and they’re likely going to get hurt and discouraged and give up. I know what I’m talking about. That cycle of failure is one I know intimately.

The coach has two jobs… The first is to believe in your client. The second is to start from where they ARE; not where they used to be, or where they think they should be…

  • What do you do if you can’t reach your feet to tie your shoes? Or normal shoes don’t fit on your feet?
  • Where can you find a 48FFF bra that someone can actually run in? How do I compress my belly rolls or other body bulk so I don’t get hurt when trying to move?
  • What if I’ve been (or get) laughed at, or the race times don’t allow me to be on the course because I’m slow or the gym equipment is not rated for my weight?
  • How do you start running/moving when you weigh 300+ pounds?
  • What if you have complicating medical conditions that limit what you do – they aren’t just handy excuses; but real barriers?
  • What if no one else in your life supports your desire or efforts to change?
  • What if you can not do even day ONE of the ‘Couch to 5K program’? You can’t even get on the gym floor to try a sit-up/push-up? You get winded walking up the stairs to the indoor track?

The issues that the overweight/obese face and deal with in their daily lives can swamp them before they even get started on a routine. They see the mountain they have to carry or climb; when you’re 100+ pounds overweight ‘carry’ AND ‘climb’ seem to be the same effing insurmountable level of effort needed...  They know it’s going to be chaos, messy, uncomfortable, lonely, discouraging and hard and they barely have the energy to get through the day.  They’ve likely failed in previous attempts. They need someone who’s been there and can help them navigate the barriers and feel some hope and stay focused on the long-term goals.

I have a health and wellness coaching certification. This past Fall I went one step further and got additional education and training in working with those who are inactive, obese and/or are dealing with chronic illnesses. I spent hours learning how to get people moving safely and get some solid lifestyle skills in place to keep them moving towards health. Learning about change behavior, social/physical obstacles and best practices. It was odd to learn about all of this and look back and apply it to my own journey. I got a lot right with sheer determination and dumb luck. I got plenty of stuff wrong – and now I know better and will help others do better. 

As someone invited into a life-changing process, how can I help people learn to CLIMB the mountain instead of carrying it?

I coach because I have been in their shoes. And their 48FFF bra. And their sweat-drenched clothes from walking a mile. And questioning whether a piece of gym equipment can handle my weight.

I coach because I love helping people find a new, healthy path in their life.  

I coach because the people I’m lucky enough to support are doing the exceptionally hard work of trying to get handle on their lives. I know how hard that work is. 

I know, as their coach, that I’m being invited into a really special place in their journey to help them figure out exactly how to get started climbing when they’re standing at the bottom of a mountain and aiming for the top.  

My coach Spencer.  He led with belief in what I was trying to do and together we worked out the details of HOW to make it happen…
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Los Cabos Ironman 70.3

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1.2 mile ocean swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run.

That’s how you get the 70.3.

78 degrees water temp, 84 degree biking/running temp.

70 minute cutoff out of the water. 5:30 cutoff on the bike from the start. 8:30 cutoff on the run from the start.  My goal was FINISH, or if we want to get really specific, I was hoping to pull off an 8:15-8:20 finish and beat the cutoffs.

This was my first triathlon. Ever.

Mike Larsen (Spencer’s coach and my friend) talked me into trying this. I was cussing him at points and turns during training. His ears had to be burning intensely the 48 hours prior to the start.

Mike is the kind of man who instils instant confidence with short declarative statements of absolute belief in your abilities. Someone believing in you is powerful-good medicine in my book. When he said ‘Bets, you’re ready, why aren’t you doing this?’ I freaking hit ‘register’ on the event before really thinking it through.

And then I buckled down and trained hard and well and smart.

Waiting on the beach, sun rising, with a bunch of nervous-as-hell, back-of-the-packers, getting ready for a running start from the sand of Palmilla Beach into the ocean to swim… I thought I was going to cry, puke, pass out, grab a cab all the way back to Oregon AND kick Mike Larsen in the shins for convincing me I could try this distance. I felt like I didn’t want to disappoint Mike. Or Spencer. Or me. Or any of the humans in my life who hand me their blind belief when I tell them my wild dreams. I was in Mexico, standing on a beach with 1,000 other people, in a bathing suit, getting ready to run into the ocean and swim a mile.

Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

Swimming for me has been a damned soap opera. I panic in the water. Like; flop on the deck of pool and cry. I never learned how to swim as a child. I’m not strong or fast in the water. Getting to the ocean swim was a white-knuckle, mean-street-fight of simple grit over the past few years. I worked my ass off to get to a point where I could swim remotely well enough to even think I could try this.

Standing on the beach watching the fast folks run into the ocean – Spencer among them – I decided that my mind was my biggest tool in this whole thing. She needed to be on my side. She needed to believe we were doing this. So I had a little internal pep talk.

‘We’re doing this… We’re strong. We’re brave. We’ve worked so hard. And you can always grab a kayak and go back to shore – but you HAVE TO START. And SMILE DAMN IT!… You are alive to be part of this. You chose this. Quit acting like a kicked dog who doesn’t belong here. YOU EARNED THIS — go swim…. ‘

The man at the swim chute patted me on the back and said ‘vamanos’. I ran down the beach and hit the water. Ran a bit in the shallow water and then — dove and started swimming.

The first 750 meters was ugly. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get into a rhythm with a stroke. I was hitting people. They were hitting me. I was fighting waves and currents. I was fighting panic. I finally decided I was done. I was quitting.  I couldn’t do this.  I was clearly in over my head. I looked for a kayak to flag over and tell them I’d like a lift back to shore. I was bobbing up and down in the water getting face-smacked by the waves. Done. I wanted to be done. I would just go watch Spencer race this thing.

My trail sister Daisy – her brother Scott was a triathlete. Scott was killed in a training ride over a year ago. It was a horrible, senseless tragedy. I had talked to Daisy before coming down here to get a boost of confidence and she had said Scott would be proud of me for being scared senseless and doing this anyway. So I was bobbing up and down in the water, unable to see a kayak, wanting to cry and finally said out loud — ‘SCOTT… Uh, wanna swim with me…? I’m terrified. Daisy said I could ask you for help…’

Then I got stung by a jellyfish. Ouch. Stung a second time. WTF? That hurt…

Then I pulled my head out of my ass and decided that I wasn’t going to quit this thing.

I was not going out of this event without a fight.

I put my head back in the water determined to get cut-off in the 70 minutes and dragged out of the water, but this was not ending with me QUITTING… I started to swim and saw a pair of feet (ugly feet BTW) and bubbles and I suddenly knew — I FOLLOW THIS GUY. I stick to him like glue and swim for all I’m worth to keep following him. I am 100% convinced his name was Scott. 🙂 I swam hard and strong and learned to turn to the non-chop side to breathe, and breathe on the 2 count, not the 3 count. I threw my training out the window that worked for the pool and got aggressive about adapting to the ocean. I didn’t worry about sighting the buoys — he ‘ Scott’ was doing that work. And I swam… Hard. Steady. Turning around buoys, never losing site of the ugly feet, and finally I could see the bottom of the ocean coming up to meet us and I could see… shore… Whoa. SHORE.

I came out of the water and Tracey was there and I said ‘Did I make the cut off????! and she said ‘YES! GET YOUR ASS ON YOUR BIKE!’ So I took off running to my bike.

59:56 out of the water on a 70:00 cutoff.

Then it hit me.

I never for one hot-second thought I was going to actually get out of the water.

I hadn’t looked at the bike course. I was going through the motions getting ready for this thing; but I had not convinced my mind I could swim. The details of the bike and run were murky at best. And now I was going to get to go bike and run! IN MEXICO, in an IRONMAN…. WOO HOO!

The bike was hilly. The roads were in pretty crap shape. HUGE potholes, lots of determined driving to keep from wrecking my bike. Spencer was kicking ass on the bike and was coming toward me on the out and back and gave me a subtle 2-finger wave as he sped past that I knew meant ‘YOU GOT OUT OF THE WATER AND I AM SO FUCKING PROUD OF YOU. FINISH THIS THING.’

And it was game on…

I had gotten out of the water.

I was on my bike.

I rode as aggressively as I could. I love my bike. I’m getting better all the time. I at one point hit a pothole and lost all the fuel out of my pockets and damn near wrecked my bike. So I had to play fueling catch up for the rest of the ride/run — which was not ideal, but my ultrarunning training kicked in and I happily looked for ways to adapt. It was hot and hilly, but I loved every single pedal stroke of that course. Ocean on one side. Desert on the other. Fans yelling ”Andale Vamanos!” and cheering wildly. Aid stations so stocked and friendly. I learned QUICKLY how to keep peddling, grab bottles, eat fuel and throw the trash in a very short distance.

I looked at my watch and it said I had been on the course for 2:51. I knew I was biking about 16 MPH and that I had 16 miles left. I remember thinking ‘Mike would be so freaking proud of me if I could break 4:00 hours on this ride…’ My goal had been roughly 4:30. I picked a bigger gear and decided to push. I wanted Mike to be proud of me. And honestly — I was kind of trying to chase down Spencer. I worked hard all summer learning to handle my new bike; now was the time to throw it all together and finish this thing strong.

I hit the bike finish line at 3:50 and ran into the transition. Racked my bike, threw on my shoes. Started walking out briskly to eat and settle down and get the feeling back in my feet.

I exited the transition to start the run and saw Spencer and said ‘I FINISHED THE SWIM!!!!’ He said ‘Enjoy every moment of this.’

I walked fast, jogged. I had to wake my feet up from the bike. I was hot. The pavement was new blacktop. But I know how to run on tired legs. And I was grateful to be healing so well from a bad hamstring/knee injury. I was NOT going to hate on even a single second of this run. Again – ultrarunning training kicked in. I grabbed ice and stuffed it in my bra. Dumped water on my head, ran from shade spot to the next palm tree shadow. I pulled out all the ‘cool body temps’ tricks and used them.

In the back of the pack — we usually form informal tribes. We cheer each other on. This event, with a multitude of languages, was no different. Encouragement in forms/languages/gestures I didn’t understand as anything other than encouragement. I gave back all that I got.

I was coming into mile 7(ish) – the turn around. And I saw a face that was a brand-new-to-me friend. She’s a professional athlete. Her name is Adelaide. And she was cheering for me – using my name. I was floored. She’d been done for hours – and she had come back onto the course to cheer for me. I stopped and said ‘how’d you do ?!” And she started yelling and waving her arms at me ‘DO NOT STOP — RUN, RUN, RUN!!!’ So I did.

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Adelaide and her husband Kennett, so, so supportive!  Kindness matters.  Deeply.  They’re proof.

Shortly after that, I heard Spencer cheering. I was DYING to know how he had done. He jogged next to me for a few steps and I said ‘How did you do?’ he simply said ‘Podium.’ I sobbed. Another story entirely, but to see someone work hard and chase their dreams and have a stellar day,  all of that was contained in that one word… He kept telling me to run – and I was; crying for pride and happiness for him.

Between Adelaide’s kindness at staying at the event to cheer on a back-of-the-pack athlete and Spencer’s podium finish news — I negative split the last half of the run.  I was running with the lightest heart and springy legs and … I was just happy to be able to run and I was feeling fit and healthy.

Coming into the finish I caught up to a guy walking. Santiago. We had been sharing bike/road miles trading places during the day. There was NO WAY HE WAS WALKING to the finish line. I patted him on the back and said ‘think maybe we should finish this thing together?’ He smiled and fell in beside my slow, steady run gait. We ran the last mile. He let me cross the line right before him.

I will admit it’s pretty damn cool to hear ‘Betsy Hartley, Bend, Oregon, YOU are an Ironman.’

I finished in 7:47 (ish).

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Open Water Swim

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I did an event this past weekend that combined a 500 M open water swim (lake) and 12 mile bike ride. With my knee not 100% healed for running just yet, I opted for the very elegant sounding aquabike event.


This recent swimming episode started six months ago as ‘I am a supremely pissed-off, injured runner who HAS to be in the damn pool because I can’t run.‘ It’s morphed into ‘I really like swimming, a whole lot.’

I’m as surprised as anyone.

Trust me.

I am afraid of the water and have been my whole life. My friend Kerri reminded me that once upon a time I told her I would never visit Hawaii because it meant flying over water.

While a pool is a contained environment, the idea of an open water swim (OWS) in a lake or ocean takes fear to a new level. I have never been a swimmer and yet knew I wanted to do a triathlon at some point. I have been reminded a bunch of times that swimming is a skill that can be learned. And I have also been reminded that I don’t usually let fear stop me…  So I began over the past few years, with coaches, trying to learn how to swim and manage anxiety around water. I was not gaining endurance or building skill or learning forward momentum in the water; I was simply learning that I have a wicked strong dog paddle and can ‘safety stroke’ through a panic attack while staying in the water.

Plus there’s the whole body image thing that just hangs around like an annoying little sibling shadowing my every move… Right on my butt at all times…. Being seen in a bathing suit is something that once upon a time (for about 20+ years) kept me out of the pool. I’d been made fun of in a bathing suit in high school and the taunt/words/mortification are still easily remembered. I have gotten a WHOLE lot better about being in a bathing suit in public through practice and being around supportive people of all shapes and sizes who are comfy in their own skin. My body works hard and I love her. Yet I would be lying if I denied that those first few moments on the pool deck, in a bathing suit, always increase my heart rate just a touch.

So, all of that background is to say; there has been a whole LOT of focused practice in the water these past six months. Learning endurance, getting over the bathing suit hurdle and learning to like and respect water.


I signed up for the event at the last minute, after thinking about it for 3 months. The tipping point was realizing that once I did the event — I’d have my own opinion and experience to base things off of, instead of a creative cache of ‘worst case scenarios’ playing out like Netflix in my brain.

Got tired of being afraid of a bunch of unproven, unknowns…

Signed up.

Showed up.

Swam.

Loved it.

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When I was wading into the water to start my assigned wave, I acknowledged that the chances of panicking and fleeing for the shore at any moment were fairly decent. I wasn’t being defeatist or negative about it at all. I didn’t start this whole thing with the idea that I would bail. Quite the contrary. I designed a race plan to give myself a little breathing room and grace in a new and scary situation. My fear of water was big. So I made a big, safe plan to help my brain accept and manage the fear.

I mean one of my friends, trying to explain the OWS to me said ‘It is kind of like swimming in a washing machine with maybe one or two pissed off cats thrown into the mix to keep it from being boring’.   That kind of requires a plan. 🙂

Here’s what I was going to do…

  • I would give it my all. ANY stroke that worked to move me forward was fine!
  • At any point and time, ONCE things started, if I panicked or felt unsafe I would flip on my back for a count of ten and breathe.
  • If that didn’t work THEN I could simply swim for shore or swim to a lifeguard and ask to be done.

My only self-imposed rule was that I had to START this thing. No quitting before the gun went off.

Having that safety plan actually made me feel a whole lot braver.


I think I swam some variation/interpretation of every possible legal type of stroke and about 15 made-up strokes. It was a chaotic, messy, funny, rolling shitshow of a swim!  NOTHING perfect about it from a technique standpoint. Not a single thing. I simply swam to keep moving forward no matter what it looked like. All those hours of practicing in the pool and watching videos and being coached on the perfect stroke suddenly seemed HILARIOUS!  This felt like a freaking street fight of a swim where anything was legal and allowed. ‘I’ll see you one free style stroke, with a subtle left hook to get your foot out of my face’ HA! AGAIN – nothing intentional or mean. Just a bunch of forward moving bodies, in close proximity, trying to get back to shore. I was laughing in my head the entire swim.

It was awesome.

I thrived in that chaotic environment in the water. I knew I could roll on my back to breathe – so I never panicked. Not for one moment. It was this glorious, bubbly, mess and we were all trying to get to the buoys and get to the shore.

I came out of the water, almost dead last, smiling and happy and wondering how I would ever go back to the boredom of the pool again.

Back to the pool is exactly where I’m headed. Today. I have so much work I can do to get stronger and build endurance in the water.

I will also acknowledge that the very next time I hit the open water I could in fact panic and wind up swimming for shore or a course lifeguard. I’m keeping my safety plan intact. It worked perfectly.

Every experience in the water is to be respected and I understand that every event experience will be different.

I feel so, so lucky to hit the shore after my first OWS and have loved the experience of being in a competitive, lake environment exceeded ALL my expectations!

Kudos to Best In the West Events (Blair and Staci) for putting on a safe, well-run race that welcomes ALL levels and abilities into the sport.  

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Sierra giving me the ‘you can do this and you’re going to love it!’ pep talk.  I adore this women who crushed her own event this past weekend!

Five – oh!

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PC Rita V at Waldo 100K — we were all volunteering. 🙂

I turn 50 tomorrow.

I’m excited for this next decade.

I’m healthy and active and living a pretty fantastic life. Which wasn’t true even 10 short years ago. A lot has changed and I am ready to enter a new decade as healthy and active as I have ever been!

I remember when I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes — and my numbers were shockingly bad — the off-hand comment from the Doctor was ‘you won’t make it to 50 if you don’t change your ways.’ I know it was a randomly selected number chosen to simply scare me into action. It didn’t work for about 8 years. In your 30’s – 50 seems a long, long ways away.  (It isn’t. 🙂 )

Yet, I will admit that number stuck in my head and has been a sort of ‘destination’ for a the last 7 years or so as I worked to get healthy.

So, yeah – there is some pretty nifty satisfaction in reaching 50 years old and being in good health.

Healthy. Happy. Non-diabetic. Living a life I could never have imagined had I stayed 400 pounds and dependent on insulin.  Assuming I’d made it this far the realities are that if I was still Type 2 Diabetic, I would likely be missing digits or limbs or be dealing with failing kidneys or far, far worse….

Flip to the other side of the potential coin? I will admit that there is some wistfulness as I wonder what life could have been like had I heeded that warning in my 30’s and bought myself another whole decade of this healthier version of my life.

Yet, that’s not my story.

I have no regrets.

I’ve learned and loved and lived the best I could once I decided I was going to change things. The saying ‘when you know better, do better’ resonates deeply with me.  Regret is a wasted emotion. I eventually learned better and I’m doing better.

So tomorrow is a day to celebrate simply being alive.  I’m going for a bike ride with my friend Cat, we should hit the halfway point up by Mt. Bachelor/Elk Lake for an open water swim with Spencer sometime before noon.  Then Cat and I will bike back home.  Hopefully gathering some Bend-area folks for a guacamole-only dinner. 🙂    My sappy/mushy point of view on this celebration/journey/adventure; bike 50, swim and leave the last 50 years of the old me in the lake, walk out with the new me ready to live the next 50 with gusto and then bike 50 home.

That’s the plan. 🙂

I wonder what the next 50 years will hold in store for me? What I’ll get to do? How I’ll choose to embrace each of the remaining days I get?

I’m honestly just glad to be alive, to give it a go and see where life takes me in this next decade or two or five.

#lifeisgood

 

Being called names out the window of a car…

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Biking today up a popular climb in Bend, a guy in a car slowed, nosed over toward the bike lane and yelled out the car window at me…

‘Fat C*^%!’

Ok.

First.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong and we have a really wide bike lane — I was way to the inside of it. He was the only car on the road. He wasn’t pissed at my biking skills or road etiquette.

Second.  C*^% is just a word.  Not one I own, accept or use.  It’s just a word to me. But he had some intended meaning and anger behind it and I understand that it is vulgar and offensive.

Third. DO NOT CALL ME FAT. That’s my own personal weapon of choice.  I am the only one that is allowed to call me fat. I usually use it when I’m beating the shit out of myself. Don’t try to validate my emotionally-messed up thinking by using my favorite self-loathing word…  Asshat.

Fourth. Hugely threatening to be solo on a stretch of road and have someone nose their car over (only enough to yell – I never worried about him hitting me with his car – just to be clear), slow…  YELL. Then pull back onto the road. I’ve heard too many stories about riders of all sorts being harassed by drivers. I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t even me as a female being targeted. This was simply me as a cyclist.

Fifth. You made me slow down on a climb and I had to jack with all the gears just to keep moving and not tip over in my clips. Asshat X2.


I quickly texted Spencer so someone would have location/time stamp.  Also because if I didn’t do something I was going to start crying.  And if I got crying, I was going to need someone to come pick me and my bike up off the road….

There’s no crying in cycling.

I hate being called fat. I hate feeling intimidated. Crying is how I respond to most of that.  I fight the tears HARD, but then they usually fall. My reaction to stress has always been to cry. I am not a sappy crier. I’m a pissed off/embarrassed/ashamed/overwhelmed crier.  Those types of emotions and situations are MUCH more likely to trigger tears.

When the car was gone, someone knew my approximate whereabouts, I still had a hill to climb and a workout to get in….  I started pondering the episode and trying to decide whether to be pissed or cry.

I pretty quickly opted for pissed.

The word ‘fat’ is my own personal weapon. To have someone else lob it in my direction hurts. Always has. The worst memories I have of being bullied in high school and beyond include the word fat. Followed by ugly.  They were usually paired up. I hate both of those words. And it always scares me that they’re right – that I really am fat, ugly and ALL the emotional-laden BS that I attach to those words that they have NO CLUE even exists for me….

I have spent a lot of time trying to ‘grow’ past that notion. It took me about a mile of riding to realize…

UH….

This was NOT personal, this guy doesn’t know me. I wasn’t even going to ride this route today until the last minute,  so it was in NO WAY personal.

I felt unsafe, but I was prepared.  I’ve spent time thinking about exactly this type of situation. I texted a friend with basic whereabouts/time because it didn’t feel like it was at the ‘911’ level. I was watching for other people to help or turn to. I KNEW I could steer and ride my bike around/out/down and escape. And baring something really whacky or scary — I could jump off my bike and run up the mountain. Even in bike cleats. I know I can. (Thank you trail running).

So…  I took some deep breathes. Pedaled a bit. Decided I wan’t going to let him have MY workout that I’d been looking forward to all day. I didn’t own the ‘fat’ or ‘c*^$’ part of the yelling because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t cry.  I was wary and eyeballs open for the car, to be sure, if he decided to turn around I was going to be ready to react.  I never saw the car again for the record.

So I kept peddling.

Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t ‘fat’.  The difference this time around?  It wasn’t punishment peddling;  ‘you are fat, he said you’re fat, get moving fat ass.’  It was like ‘NO, you worked hard to be fit, you’ve waited all day for this ride. This is your bike, your body and peddling is what we do when we’re working up a sweat; now get down to rocking this workout like you know you can. And don’t let that asshat get in your head.’  I don’t know that that distinction will resonate with everyone. But it sure made my brain happy that I could choose NOT to own something and re-focuse pretty damn quickly on the task at hand which was trying to push hard up Skyliners.

I got to the turn around point, texted Spencer ‘I’m at the bridge (turn-around). I’m pissed. Might be one of the best climbs I’ve done.  F*&^%er called me fat.  That pisses me off.’


This is going to sound a little backwards, but I’m always a wee-bit grateful when these little reality bumps hit and I can see how much I’ve grown in my thinking and reactions. I don’t love being called names or feeling threatened.  Yet in the end it just kind of highlighted the right things, the healthier thinking, the better reactions in my life. I’d kept my wits, had thought through a safety plan, thought through how I wanted the words to affect me and then chose to just kept peddling.

And by the way….

I PR’ed up and down that road like I’ve never PR’ed before.  So — um… Thank you? Mr. Asshat for properly motivating me to ride that stretch as hard as I knew I was capable of riding it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes/comparisons.

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A new town, new apartment, new job….

These are such kick ass times to take inventory. I get caught up in comparing. Old life/new life. Fat Betsy/healthy Betsy. How can I not? It’s such a stark reminder.

I just moved to Bend, Oregon from the other side of the Cascades. Changed jobs after 14 years. Started a new professional adventure that – while only 4 days in – is something I can tell is going to be wildly fantastic and is aligning ALL the parts of my life. Moved from a house to an apartment. Working to build a new base and network of friends. ALL kinds of changes!  All good and all wanted, yet still big, scary and unsettling.

I worked hard to make the changes to my lifestyle a few years ago and I’ve worked just as hard to make these recent changes. I knew that a move could up-end a whole lot of those carefully structured ‘good habits’ if I wasn’t paying attention.  PERFECT time for old habits to slip back in, especially when loneliness lurks and self-confidence gets pushed around because of all the changes.

Even welcome changes can open the door to mental mischief if we’re not paying attention.

So I was hyper-alert to eating, timing, prioritizing those things that I needed to do in this new location to get right into the routine that keeps me healthy. I put a plan in place.  I made finding a pool, getting out on my bike, finding some trails my top priority.  Even more than the normal ‘adult’ stuff we’re supposed to focus on in a move, like address changes, unpacking boxes and finding a couch. I also forced at-home/cooked meals and not making brew-pubs/restaurants the focal point of gathering and meetings.

Here’s the list of ‘I can not believe this is my life!’ moments from the past 10 days:

I’ve officially used the shower at the gym more than I’ve used the one at my new apartment.  The locker room is super welcoming and friendly. I felt HORRIBLE intimidation going the first time, but it very quickly went away.  This pool (JUNIPER) is amazeballs. 🙂

I didn’t have to transfer prescriptions and find a pharmacy that takes Sharp’s containers. Or find a place at work to stash insulin and needles. Or explain why I’m ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom 2X a day. Or why I have finger-prick blood all over my desk and papers…

I am using my meetings with new colleagues to make them walking meetings. I can walk and talk at the same time. 🙂 I’ve looked for walking paths around my office. Not candy stores, bakeries, ice cream shops or fast food options.  That one BLEW my mind when about 3 days in on the new job, I realized I hadn’t brought lunch and didn’t even know where to go because I had NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION to food stuff.

I’m finding new coffee shops and places to eat and buy groceries and not having to battle the old food-related locations that were so much a part of my 400-pound life. Coffee for the sake of coffee/views/friendly barista/welcoming customers and work spaces. I don’t even know where the Taco Bell or McDonalds are. I’m going to keep it that way.

I found a gym. I have a new favorite trail. I’ve gotten some good bike time in. I haven’t even bothered to look for a new doctor because I only need well-patient care.

I’m meeting new people because I’m on hikes and group rides. Not because we’re in a diabetic counseling workshop.

There’s more. Lots more. Big and little. This just highlights for me how different life is now that I am focused on health. No longer having to worry about weight limits, fitting in a chair, or walking a block and being exhausted.

I LOVE Bend, my apartment, my new job, the sunshine!

I’m also still very much in love with what focusing on my health has given me each and every day since I started this lifestyle journey years ago.

Reminders and comparisons.

 

Ultras/Binge Eating Disorder

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I know this topic is likely to be too obscure for some folks. I’m really writing this for my ultra running friends. Hoping to start a conversation or get their help in making some connections or get your thinking on this topic…


For me, ultras and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) are inextricably and pretty wickedly connected. From the first ‘Holy shit, could this really be what’s happening?’ moment to the ‘Wow. Makes sense even though I detest the idea…’ moment it took me about 6 months to puzzle it out.

The information I can find about Eating Disorders are mainly about Anorexia or Bulimia. Like this great read from Trail Runner Magazine which covers a whole lot of valuable ground. Yet, I can not find anything about the ties between ultras/endurance and BED specifically. I can’t be the only one dealing with this. When you mesh the Google ‘percentage of U. S. population…’ stats of ultras at .5% and BED at 3%, statistically, I still don’t think I can be alone in this mess.

What forced the issue? An acute episode of BED rearing its ugly head along with a planned off-season/down-time from running. (My blog about it is here…)

Running was no longer there to hide behind.

It’s absence made things brutally and undeniably clear.

I was hiking one day and was gobsmacked with the realization that I was using running to hide/feed the BED. It was this nasty, covert, and destructive cycle that I couldn’t really see because I was so deeply in it. I wasn’t running from something or even too something.  I was running FOR something.  And not for something good or worthwhile or sustainable.

I stopped in my tracks.

Sat my butt down on the side of the trail and wrote some notes on my phone while a newt cruised by to see what I was doing.

This felt BIG.


Here’s what I wrote on my phone: “I love long runs and hate tapering. I run long (5+ hours) and I have ‘permission’ to eat anything and everything in any quantities I want.  When I taper, food gets restricted, weight creeps up. I run long, eat how I want and basically don’t get ‘caught’ bingeing because the huge volume of food I’m eating is ‘acceptable’. Tapering unleashes sneaky-ass behaviors that I thought I’d banished once and for all. Including lying about food.’

BED brain thinks about food as an acceptable/necessary/urgent replacement for something missing or to fill an emotional need.  This has NOTHING to do with hunger.  Not.a.single.thing. For me food can take the place of damn near every emotion on the spectrum.  I’m just as likely to eat that emotion in the form of trail mix as I am to actually feel and experience it. No amount of cajoling/shaming/lecturing can fix it.  I’ve often said ‘pizza was never mean to me…’   When you have THAT kind of relationship with food you need professional help.

Running gave me the ability to ignore/continue/not-fight with my BED all in the name of ‘recovery from ultras/training’.  I wasn’t running for the love of running.  I was very much running to manage my weight since I binge, but I don’t purge…  I was very much running to make the occasional huge volume of food I was eating not look out of whack.

I was running to hide my eating disorder.  Even when I didn’t know that what I had was an eating disorder.

Eff.

I was ready to face all of this and not ignore it or hide it anymore. Scared shitless, but ready. I needed help beyond caring and concerned friends. After muscling my way through the post-acute phase of intense blues / shame / depression / anxiety / hopelessness / panic that lasts for several days after a binging episode…

I got into therapy.


My brand new therapist immediately, like first 20 minutes of first session, said running was an issue. I immediately told her she was dead wrong. Not politely.  I was rude and defiant. Defiance is my go to when I’m ashamed and someone’s getting close to the reason for the shame or embarrassment.

I flat out denied the connection. I lost 200 pounds, reversed Type 2 Diabetes. Running had SAVED me. Who the hell was this woman to say running was part of the current problem? Was she not listening to me? ….

The therapist quickly said we could agree to disagree about the role of running in my eating disorder. We would focus on other things. {Smart ploy…} That lasted two sessions.  I began to honestly assess what I was doing and why. Journaling impulses, noting emotions and starting to make tentative connections between feelings and food.

Damn if she wasn’t right…

Writing everything down it was impossible to ignore the connection. Running sat smack in the middle of the BED pile. It was about 2 sessions in where I had to concede she had a point.

More than a point. Ultra running was the 500 pound gorilla in the room.

I hadn’t replaced food with running.  I had used running to hide, enable and deny my BED. A crucial distinction. I hadn’t let go of ONE thing and grasped tightly onto something new.  I hadn’t given up anything at all.  I’d just masked what in the hell was really going on.

I think the college students I worked with would call that a HOT MESS.

Ultras and BED are married up in epically dysfunctional fashion for me.

As long as I ran long, I could pretend that eating 3,000+ calories at a single time after a long run was ‘normal recovery’.  Eating whatever I wanted for the week of a 60+ mile week was acceptable. I basically kept signing up for races to make sure I still had high mileage weeks and really full training schedules so that my bingeing wouldn’t be detected or life would seem ‘normal’ because of the training load and my food intake.

Eff.

So what now?  Great question. I have some tentative answers.

  • Awareness is a huge part of the battle. Talking about it. Knowing that my ultra friends support me when I get ‘wonky’ about food or food discussions.
  • Not running ultras or being lured in by Ultrasignup for a while is my main strategy for staying focused.  I needed a break from running.  I’m using this downtime in all the best ways possible. And NOT viewing it as punishment.
  • Rebuilding my running from the ground up when the time comes to hit the trails again. Slowly, carefully. Knowing food is fuel and that’s the only place it will hold in my running.

I didn’t take on this whole lifestyle change to give up when things got hard.

I will be running again, soon, for all the right reasons.