Swimming. (Dragging baggage into the pool…)

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Wade and I, 2014 Pacific Crest. He did the Triathalon. I did the Duathlon. WHY?  Because I chickened out of the Tri AFTER Wade signed up.  Three words:  Open. Water. Swim.

‘I can’t swim.’

One day about 18 months ago I was telling my dad that my friends Joe and Josh did Ironman events.  I admire the hell out of those two and I admitted that I was kinda-sorta wanting to do an Ironman too…

I was telling my dad that I wanted to do one, but it would never happen because I just can’t swim. I have never been able to do more than dog paddle and float.

My dad waited about 3 days. Then we had this conversation (and yes – it was one-sided)…

Bets. I’ve been thinking about something you said.

It’s total bullshit.

You can learn to swim just like you learned to run and bike and control diabetes and lose weight.

Quit saying you can’t and *&^%ing figure out a way to learn how.

All righty then…

Being called out by my dad started me on a stop-n-go journey.

My friend Drew gave me the name of a well respected swim coach.

I didn’t call for 3 months.

Finally called and took things no further.

Then purposefully forgot about it all and figured — HEY, I’d called a swim coach. That was at least ONE step in the right direction… Right?


Spencer and I gave our Novo Veritas presentation this past March.  After the presentation a guy walked up to chat.

He said…

‘I’m Troy.  You may not remember, but you called me about being your swim coach, a long time ago…  You ready to start lessons?’

Gulp.

Truth?  I’m SCARED of the water.

Mostly I’m scared of trying to breath and having water nearby.  Like ANYWHERE near my face.

I finally told Troy about this near-phobia I have with water as a way of lamely explaining why I had never followed through the first time I contacted him about lessons.

He assured me he would be able to help me learn to swim.

The part I didn’t tell him?  I have body image issues; big time. To say that I am not thrilled about being in a swimsuit in front of ,oh — ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING — is a bit of an understatement. And then there’s this whole NEW learning curve that involves using my body for something athletic (did I mention this has to be done in a swimsuit?) and someone was going to be watching me…

Let’s just say I knew full well that I would be dragging a ton of baggage with me into the pool.

I called Troy. We set up a time to get swim lessons started.  I was ridiculously nervous for DAYS before the first lesson.

We’re on swim lesson #11 right now.

And LORD is this man a patient coach and teacher.

I get frustrated with myself when I don’t learn things instantly or see profound progress.  I’m battling consistently present fear.  Some of my  good friends can tell you, I’m a peach when I’m embarrassed, scared or frustrated with myself.  Just trust me — if you don’t know me very well — Troy really is approaching sainthood to have hung in with me this long. 🙂

For weeks I was literally having panic attacks/hyperventilating on the freestyle swim.  EVEN though I can literally put my feet on the bottom of the pool at any given moment, anywhere in the lap pool.

While I’m still battling some fear about breathing/water…

Even I have to admit that it is getting much better.

I’m actually gaining some confidence in the water.

I told Troy after the 4th or 5th lesson ‘I think the life guards are finally looking a little more relaxed when I’m in the pool.’ 🙂


Friday’s lesson was a really good one for me mentally.

Troy and I had a good conversation during my lesson when I arrived at the end of a lap still struggling with breathing and gasping for air…

You just have to get comfortable with the learning…

Yes.  This is about learning. Not just about swimming.  Huh.  I felt like a lightbulb finally clicked ON!

While I have to figure out how to stay calm and remember ALL of the things I’m supposed to be doing to move in the water, Troy’s main point was that I need to simply appreciate the process of learning something new.

Get comfortable – once again – with the bumps and bruises and non-linear flow and FUN of LEARNING.

Give myself a small measure of grace for simply facing my fears and really trying to learn to swim.

Give myself some forgiveness for getting one thing right even if I get 5 things wrong.

Give myself a dose of patience for learning a new skill, while keeping up my other training.

Laugh at and WITH myself as I learn.

Troy has been trying to help me enjoy the process ALL along. I was too blind to the mechanics of a totally new sport and my avid fear of the water to see what he has REALLY been trying to teach me until this past week.

So after talking to Troy I spent the weekend thinking about a few things.  Namely that I really want to focus on embracing and LOVING the process of learning.

I LOVED learning how to run. I LOVED learning how to control blood sugars successfully and how to ride a bike and how to do a sit up.  I struggled in the moment and I certainly hated parts of those processes, but the deep sense of accomplishment you get when you really understand and learn a new skill is something I seem to have forgotten all about.


I told Troy from the very start of our lessons that I had big goals…

  • I want to do an Ironman.
  • I want swimming in my ‘tool kit’ for cross-training.
  • I want to be able to throw swimming in for cardio should I sustain a running or biking injury.

And yet what I told Troy I wanted MOST from learning to swim?

I really want to be one of those sassy and funny 90-year old ladies rocking the swim cap, confident in her swimsuit and kicking everyone’s ass in a slow, soothing, methodical, lap-fest that last for hours.

What fear are you working to conquer?

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Faux fears and the next big thing…

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Happy chance meeting! Finding friends on the trails. Out for various training runs. (L-R, Brandon, Laura (holding Patch), Drew, Spencer, me, Ana Lu and Carlos)

My favorite question?

‘What’s the next big event/race/running thing you have planned?’

First?  I LOVE talking about running and moving and being healthy. Anyone’s running, anyone’s passion for activity, anyone’s healthy. 🙂

Second?  I totally get a kick out of people associating me with running. Totally.  It will never get old.  For the longest time I denied it; I knew runner-runners.  Like, you know — the fast, sleek, athletic people?; it was not me. And that’s ALL I thought running was.  Now?  I realize the world of running accommodates anyone. Anyone.  If you put on shoes with the intent of going for a run; you’re a runner. I LOVE being able to identify with this group of diverse, brave, determined people.

I was at a gala this past week and talking with people I only see periodically.  We were having great conversations about life!  They all eventually asked me what’s up next event-wise.

‘So what crazy run do you have next?’

I answered the questions about a dozen times.

And that repetition of my own answer got me thinking…

The running and training that I do is not entirely for events.

Really.

If I strip it down and examine the whole process and my motivation/desire…  It’s not really for the events at all.  I wanted to tell them about some of the other great things I’m doing that aren’t event related…  Like trying to learn to swim.  Finding new trails. Finally figuring out fueling.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love events.  I’m a people person. OF course I like the event portion of this whole process. The event is really the celebration, the party!  The culmination of months of training and running and miles and learning should be celebrated.

And while I am not doing races to be competitive, I care DEEPLY and totally about doing my best and being as prepared as possible.  I’m doing events and races to meet people, have fun, see new terrain, challenge myself to a new adventure and test my limits/strength.

So then why exactly do I train and spend hours each week running/biking and working out if it isn’t to go to races?

I’ll let you peek at my current goals…

  • To be fit. (Fit feels so, so DAMN good.)
  • Enjoy ALL of the life that I have left to live.
  • Be ready for the next grand adventure.
  • I don’t want my fitness (or lack of…) to stand in the way of life.  At all.  It did.  For too many YEARS.  No more.

That list above, that is why I run and train and work on getting fit.

It really isn’t as simple or straightforward as just being ready for the ‘next big thing’.

Unless that next big thing is LIFE. 🙂


I’ve been picking harder and more robust challenges for the last two years.  I mean, I have been working hard and staying focused and building up to them.  They are challenges that terrify and fascinate me all in the same breath.  50K, learning to swim, 50 miles and beyond…

Part of the reason I keep picking bigger and bigger things to train for is pretty simple and obvious if you think about it…

I’m afraid.

I made a deal with myself almost 4 years ago that I would force myself to give anything that I thought I was afraid of (that wasn’t illegal, immoral or just super-dangerous…) a shot.

I wanted to see if I could teach myself to get over the fear. Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Trite saying; but at the same time a very true operating statement.  Could I face fears and go around/over them?

I wanted to form reality-based opinions of my own, not continue to be bound by the perceived boundaries of the past-me.

The answers to this point have been yes… I can (mostly) get over/around/beat-down the fear and get it done.  It may not be pretty, or well-done or even particularly smart.  In a few cases it left scars. 🙂

AND I am having a HELL of a lot of fun doing it!!!

I need to remind myself of all of that.

I need to remember just how much work I have done to get to this point, how many fears I’ve conquered…

A good friend recently called me out on my ‘fearful’ attitude.  I thought I had pretty much pushed fear to the edges of my life – and I thought it would stay there.  Turns out that fear is tenacious and strong-willed. (Sounds like me. 🙂 )  Trepidation, lack of confidence, self doubt, negativity; call it what you want — seems to be trying to creep back in…

The tell tale warning sign?  (this took me about two weeks to key-in on and discern…) I realized that when I am nervous about something, afraid or embarrassed that I might fail — I start a conversation with one simple word;

‘But…’

I’ve been catching myself using that sentence starter quite a few times these past few months.

‘But’ negates the entire comment.  It tells the listener that they don’t really have to believe anything you’re saying… Because YOU don’t really believe it yourself…

I have to kick the ‘but’s’ back out of my thinking and language.

Tackling fears is NOT linear or simple.  Nor is it ever a completed task. And that’s the lesson I’m working on learning.

There is the legit fear that we have to heed to stay alive and safe.

This isn’t that fear.

This is the fear that we allow to creep in at the edges, create boundaries, limit our work/dreams/goals and cripple our thinking.

I’m calling it my ‘faux fear’.

I am going to keep working, one step at a time, to show my faux fears the door…

What fears are you working to conquer?

Commencement Speaker at Gervais High School; Change is an option.

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Karie Hoffman, talked me into giving a commencement speech. And yes.. I’m wearing my running shoes. They were part of the speech AND they were the Gervais High School COLORS!

Gervais high School, Oregon.  June 6, 2015.

Did you know that there is a traditional and accepted form for a memorable commencement speech?

Seriously.

I Googled it.

Here’s the formula that they said would work…

‘Someone older than you, who, over the course of their life, has made a series of funny, memorable and perhaps even dreadful mistakes {that would be me}, gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with their best years of their life stretched out in front of them {that would be each of you}. ‘

I mean it has to be true and good advice – right??; it was on the internet.

I’m going to stick to the formula that Google says should work.

Plus I know full well that I am the ONLY thing standing between you, your diplomas, posting on Snapchat and Instagram. And your parents and loved ones are itching to post all of your baby pictures next to pics of you in your cap and gown all over FaceBook.

OH! ONE MORE THING! The ONLY other job I have, according to Google, is critically important and it is… to keep this sucker short.

In fact, the shorter the better.

So here is my short and heartfelt advice for each of you…

Change is ALWAYS an option.

No matter how old, young, worn out, successful or stuck you may feel in your life…

Change is ALWAYS an option.

You will walk out of here today thinking you know where your life will take you. I can tell you, as many here could surely do the same, that it may or may not go as you have planned.

Changes are part of life. And they can happen TO you. Disasters, circumstances, events – those can all force us to HAVE to accept changes in our lives.

But that’s NOT the change I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about the change YOU enact, YOU embrace.

The change YOU make happen.

There are the all kinds of stories of famous people who started off in one field or endeavor and then JUST CHANGED. They woke up one day, decided they would straight-up chase their dreams down and change their lives.

Walt Disney was an editor at a newspaper. He left to start and build the empire we now know as Disney.

Ellen Degeneres was an oyster shucker and paralegal. She changed directions and hit it big as a comedian and is now a top-rated and beloved entertainer.

And then there are much, much more humble stories of life change.

Like mine.

{You know the older person who is supposed to have done something funny, memorable or made a dreadful mistake in their life… }

I weighed well over 200 pounds when I was in high school.

I graduated as the heavy girl. I have ALWAYS been the heavy girl. I had some solid, good friends, enjoyed high school.  I will be honest and say that I was bullied and made fun of a bit for being the big girl.

I went on to college. I was the heavy girl in college as well. I loved College, got decent enough grades and had a great circle of friends who loved to eat and drink.

I started my professional career as – you guessed it – the heavy girl. Although, truth be told, by my late 20’s and early 30’s using the word ‘heavy’ was just being kind. I was fat. Medically speaking I was obese, morbidly obese.

By my mid 30’s I was close to 400 pounds. I was taking 3 shots a day for type 2 diabetes, I was insulin dependent and taking a ton of prescription medicines.

Now…

Some of you sitting here today really want to ask me why ANY of these already mentioned sets of circumstances was not the tipping point for me making some serious life changes…

{PAUSE…  Breath…}

{Quietly…)

Has anyone ever told you how to boil a frog?

Let me tell you…

(Please don’t try this at home…)

If you were to take a frog and try to dump him into a pot of boiling water he would jump right back out to freedom. Lightening quick. No hesitation. He would know he was in deadly danger and he would do whatever he had to to escape with his life.

Now take that same frog and put him in a pot of cold water. Set it on the stove and turn up the heat… The frog will stay in the water even to the point that it starts to boil… He gets used to the hot water over time, he adjusts to it – he acclimates to it. He doesn’t understand that his situation is killing him.

THAT is how you boil a frog.

{PAUSE…  Breath…}

I was the frog.

I spent my entire life fat. I was totally used to being fat. I didn’t gain the weight overnight. I had slowly and methodically put weight on over decades. And while I was slowly, but very surely dying, I was simply used to life as a fat woman.

This was my life.

I was the frog.

While I was happy and professionally successful, I was Type 2 diabetic who broke into a sweat walking into the grocery store. I could not tie the laces on my shoes because I couldn’t reach my feet. I had adapted, entirely, to life as a morbidly obese woman.

I had also convinced myself and (I thought I had convinced everyone else around me) of two important things.

{1} I was perfectly OK with my life as it was.

{2} I couldn’t change; the project was TOO big. Lose 220 pounds? Reverse type 2 diabetes. Those things just aren’t done…  And I had tried and failed at every possible diet on the planet…

July 2011 rolled around and there were a bunch of things that happened. My mom, and best friend, had died the year before. My diabetes was getting out of control – even with increased medicine. I had tripped, fallen and hurt my back.

I woke up and realized I really was fat and miserable.

July 2nd 2011 I decided that I was going to change.

I KNEW, knew I could have a totally different life than the one I had been leading…

KNEW it at my very core.

And I was willing to do the work to make it happen. 

The option to change was totally and entirely in my hands.

{Pause}

{READ fast…}

Did I have an exact plan?
Did I know what I was doing?
Did I know what to eat, how to start exercising, how to get off of insulin?

No.

Was I scared? Did I make mistakes? Did I think about quitting – like – oh 1,000,000 times?

Yes.

{Pause}

But I started anyway.

Blindly and wildly.

Because CHANGE was an option.

I started eating less and moving more.

And I kept at it.

Eating less and better quality foods. Like… A salad FULL of veggies instead of a large bag of doritios and a coke. THAT kind of eating better.

And moving more…. Like parking father out at the grocery store, or taking a flight of stairs. Things that actually made me work up a bit of a sweat.

And then things began to slowly change…

I had to learn new skills and I made plenty of sacrifices.

I found some new friends who ate healthy foods and liked to walk and hike and bike and run.

I had to start weaning myself off of insulin and other medicines.

The numbers on the scale started to drop.

The distances I walked started getting longer and longer.

And the exciting part?  

My story of change is STILL happening.

As I stand here today – one month short of 4 years on this crazy, wild adventure — I am NO LONGER type 2 diabetic. No longer taking any kind of medicine. I weigh about 165 pounds. I eat a healthy and balanced diet that is almost entirely plant based.

And – my favorite part of this whole story!!?! I am a runner.

The former fat girl from high school who would proudly and defensively tell people ‘I only run when chased’?  She now runs. 

I just ran two 50K’s in May. A 50K is a 32 mile trail events.

And I LOVE it.

In fact, this summer I plan to run a 50 mile race.

YES… – just for fun.  And NO… Not because anyone is chasing me.

In fact, I am wearing my trail running shoes today because they are your school colors.

(SHOW FOOT! And remember you are in a DRESS, on a STAGE…  Be a lady….)

I have worked hard to make lasting, life-long changes that would take me in a totally different direction.

I LOVE my healthy, non-diabetic, running life!

{PAUSE… Breath…}

Change is ALWAYS an option.

You may not need to hear or may not even understand this message right now when your young and exciting lives are unfolding in front of you with unlimited possibilities and new beginnings.

But some day, some day… You may be tired of editing a newspaper, or shucking oysters or being unhealthy…

And I am hoping that you will tuck this idea into the back of your brain. Know that at some point when your life hits a crossroads, or you wake up one day and simply and purely decide you want something different…

I hope you will remember that CHANGE IS possible and CHANGE IS AN OPTION.

One of my favorite quotes is by Rachel Wolchin…

{PAUSE.  Breath.}

If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.” 

We have feet.

We are not stuck.

We CAN change.

Change is an option.

Tomorrow can always be an entirely different story than today.

Thank you for allowing me to join your celebration today!

Congratulations to the 2015 Graduating class of Gervais High School!

{Curtsey, wave and run off the stage.}

Western States Training Camp. Lessons and highlights.

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Erica, Spencer and I went down to Auburn California to be a part of the Western States Training Camp this past Memorial Day weekend.

We ran long, trail miles for 3 days in a row.

It was fantastic.

Life-changing.  (Not being cheesy. It really was.)

I loved every minute of it.

OK.  Maybe not every single moment.  (Lightening, snake, exhaustion, etc…) But the less than fun moments are some of the best teachers. Looking back less than a week later, I can tell you that I do love those less than happy/perfect moments.  Those hard/un-fun moments in particular are the ones that I plan to draw on, learn from and use to help make me a better person and stronger runner over time.

This was all about experimenting, taking some risks, learning and growing.

This was my first time running this kind of distance. There were some important lessons handed my way.

One category of lessons I would have to call ‘boring running crap’.  The other category is more along the lines of life lessons.


In the ‘boring running crap’ category I either learned or re-confirmed the following:

  • Good socks rock.  Wick moisture, protect your feet. They have a really hard job to do!  Buy good socks.
  • Shoes are your main ‘tool’. No new shoes on race day. (I did not pull that rookie move.) I was entering new territory with terrain and mileage and discovered that not all of my shoes work for the kind of running I like/get/want to do. (This means… SHOE SHOPPING! 🙂 )
  • Fueling. Huge thanks to Erica for her persistent help. We worked for many hours to figure out and practice timing/quality/quantity of fuel during runs.  When we got it mostly figured out/implemented on day three – I could TOTALLY tell the difference of having gotten it right. HUGE SUCCESS!
  • Compressions sleeves are magic and not just for recovery. This big-calfed girl is a new convert to wearing them WHILE running.
  • Chafing.  Boob chafe to be specific.  It is as miserable as it sounds.  I have no idea what got me; the heart rate strap, my bra, my hydration pack… Was WAY more careful day two and three to use body glide. Liberally. Everywhere. On everything. Body glide is cheap insurance.
  • Pooping and coffee. Both are important. BEFORE the race.
  • If there is a photographer on the course they will be a) at the most significant uphill portion where EVERYONE is struggling to even walk upright/uphill… b) when you chose to blow a world-class snot rocket or c) even if you are running and feeling like a million bucks the picture will show both feet planted firmly on the ground. 🙂

In the ‘life lessons on the trails’ category?

  • Study up on poisonous plants in the area you are running in so you don’t accidentally squat in a patch of something that will remind you for DAYS that you should have avoided it…  Just sayin’.
  • When you are offered water — take it.  Top off bottles and packs every chance you get.
  • NO better sight towards the end of a cold, soaking wet, lightening storm filled run than friends waiting at the nearest accessible trailhead to make sure you are OK… And being able to tell them you are OK. 🙂
  • When someone takes a moment to say hello, say hello back. The trails were FULL of cheery greetings and encouragements.  Every single runner I encountered was friendly. Be a positive part of these temporary communities that spring up during events on the public roads and trails.  Everyone wins.
  • Say thank you to ANYONE who spends their time to volunteer. For anything.  They’re giving up their time to help YOU.
  • Laughter calms nerves.
  • Share. If it won’t leave you in a bad spot; share what you have if someone needs it.  The kindness will be returned to you in some way, at some point.
  • Never pass up the chance to use a porta-potty.  Even if it’s on a trailer, hitched to a truck.  And the truck engine is idling. 🙂
  • Stop and take a picture of the things you are enjoying in life.  You aren’t in that big of a hurry.
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Proof that Erica and I ran on these historic and storied trails!
  • You (OK me….)  WILL have moments when you aren’t comfortable or don’t feel great or are scared or aren’t happy or you wonder WHAT you have gotten yourself into. Don’t judge the entire effort by ONE single moment.
  • Everyone (OK… me again…) should know some basic survival skills. Especially if they have a strong desire to spend their life running long distances in the woods. 🙂  (Lightening, snakes, poisonous plants, etc.)
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This little bandit slithered across the top of my foot as I was running (screaming!) past…
  • Watermelon is the best fruit in the world. Period.

Epic adventure.

Great weekend of learning in the safety of friends.

Memories made, miles run and training for some really big things this summer/Fall are now underway.

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