I just want to be normal.

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I went on a group trail run this past week.

I had a meltdown.

This trail running group is welcoming and they encourage anyone to join them.  I know the individuals who go to this run are fast and strong and experienced.  I went into this run — which I had honestly been artfully, purposefully dodging for over a year — with trepidation.

‘Can I keep up?’

‘Was I fit enough?’ 

The answer turned out to be no.

I couldn’t really keep up.

I got dropped on the first set of hills.

I spent the next 90 minutes or so wishing I had not gotten momentarily, stupidly brave and decided that I would give this a try. I spent the time listening to some shitty voices in my head about being slow and worthless and a burden.  I was questioning my fitness and training.

I spent the entire run DREADING the moment I would be the last one to arrive to the top of the trail, last to the top of the hill, last one back to the parking lot where everyone was waiting for me.

Emotional shitstorm is the best phrase I can think of to explain what happened.

I felt like I was in over my head.  I was embarrassed at being the last up the hill. I was beating the crap out of myself instead of enjoying the company, the scenery and the privilege of spending some time running on a glorious early Spring Oregon night in the Mac Forest.

Spencer reminded me multiple times on the car ride home that all of the other runners are only worried about their run. They were NOT thinking about me at all.  Let alone were they thinking I was worthless, or a burden or that having to wait for me meant anything other than we follow a code of trail running that makes sure everyone who goes out on a run comes back in.

No judgement, only safety.

Intellectually I get that.

This whole meltdown is about my self confidence in the world of running.

This is about trusting the process that I am working through in establishing this still-new-to-me lifestyle of plant based eating, running and maintaining my weight loss. I run with some baggage.

This group had to wait for me in three places.

There is nothing that embarrasses me quicker, or more completely these days than having a group of runners wait for me.

Within about 15 minutes of a 90+ minute run I was flustered, negative and quiet. I thought seriously about asking Spencer to give me the keys to the car and I would just wait in the car.  BUT having to explain to Spencer, let alone the rest of the people standing around waiting for me at the trailhead  that I was quitting because I felt like I was in over my head seemed like a far worse option than just gutting out the run.

We got done with the run.  Everyone was waiting in the parking lot for me to work my way off the hill.  I made quick good byes.  Spencer and I jumped in the car to head home.  I wasn’t going to tell Spencer anything. I was embarrassed. I didn’t really have the words to tell him what was going on.

But we know each other pretty well at this point.

And I suck at poker.

I lost it and attempted to tell him what I had been feeling the entire run.  What I said among some other personal and strongly worded, emotionally laden, harshly worded self-judgmental  crappola was ‘I HATE BEING LAST! I’m so %^$&ing SLOW…’

I was attempting to process it all, through the debilitating fog of shame and embarrassment.

Why were the voices zinging around in my head so freaking nasty…?


 

I went for a run today and I got some really good thinking time in.

I kept thinking about how disproportionate my reaction was to the reality of the situation.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?  And why is having a group of fellow-runners, friends waiting for me such a trigger?

By the time I got home from running today I had narrowed down part of what I was sure was really eating at me…

I needed to talk to Spencer about it.

‘Spencer. I think all of this stems from me just wanting to be normal. And not be in a spotlight for at least once in my life.’ 

 

I lost 220 pounds,  I reversed Type 2 Diabetes. BIG things — I get that.  Visibly shocking even and most people reply with disbelief.  I can’t hide my weight loss and changed body.

But what I have FINALLY figured out about ME…?  I reclaimed my health and lost weight  in large part to try to become ‘normal‘…  I’ve never really been ‘normal’ at any point in my life that I can remember.

I just want to be NORMAL.

I want to be able to fit in an airplane seat.  Buy clothes anywhere, anytime.  I don’t want to need medicine. I really don’t want people to notice me personally for any reason unless I wanted to speak up, wear funky clothes or do something that warranted attention.

I really, really just want to be normal for the first time in my life.

Honest.

Running is a big part of that normal equation for me. Even though I pick really long distances which most people don’t understand — it’s all a critical part of helping me reach a ‘normal’, healthy, sustainable life.

I was telling Spencer that when you are the LAST person in on a run; you have everyone’s attention. Casually, fleetingly, non-judgementally.  BUT for that split second you are the focus of attention.  And in my mind — since I’m last it’s hinging on my body, my weight, my ability, my fitness — and I feel incredibly vulnerable.  If I were thinner, faster, a better runner – they wouldn’t be waiting for me.

It’s a fierce, instant trigger for me. 

And now I think I’m beginning to understand why.

Running has become my most beloved tool, my safe haven in this lifestyle process that is constantly changing.  It’s the place where I get to be me.  ALL of me. No one else but me.  Where I get to build me into the person I want to be. No one else can do the work, take the credit or see the rewards.

Running is about a whole lot more than just the physical act of running.


 

I have told Spencer, as a coach and now as my friend and business partner, that I want to get faster, be a stronger runner.  He was asking me – in light of all of this – if that goal has changed.

No… The goal has not changed, but I was finally able to but some words around WHY I want to run faster.

I don’t want to be faster to beat anyone. I don’t care about getting on a podium.  It isn’t to shorten a race or spend less time running.  It isn’t to be seen as a better athlete/person/runner.

I want to run faster so I can beat the race cutoffs and finish a race when everyone else in the middle of the pack finishes.  I want to be faster so I’m not the last person across the finish line. So I’m not the last person to the top of the hill.  So I’m running so ‘normally’ no one is noticing me.

Regardless of my motivation — the goal remains the same.  The work I have to do to get there — well… That remains the same too.

It took some serious mental gymnastics to come to the conclusion that what I really want in ALL of this is just to be NORMAL

As Spencer reminds me all the time…  THIS is all part of the process.

I just want to be normal.

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My uterus is NOT falling out…

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I am a bit cranky right now.

I am down with a mean little sinus infection.  I am choosing to listen to my body and giving it good food, solid sleep and some quality healing time.  (And there’s also the fact that my coach ‘strongly suggested’ it was the smart thing to do.)

But I haven’t run in days. And the ritual of getting ready, running, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a solid training run… Well.  I miss it.

I’m was in a conversation with a woman at work today about the fact that I was not running.

‘Good to take a break and let your body heal. You know running is hard on your knees and back and I just read that too much running is really bad for your ‘girl parts’.’

Ok. Huh. Girl parts.

The conversation could have gone several different ways at that point.

If I were getting in my regular training time and not feeling icky-sick and exercise-deprived, I would have laughed and said something like…

‘I wear a good sports bra and I’m not using my uterus anyway.  I am more worried about being attacked by a cougar while I’m out running trails.’

But as I said, I am not getting in my regular training runs.

I’m publicly admitting that I am a little cranky.

Ok. I’m grumpy. Maybe even a little more than grumpy.

So I wound up being pretty blunt and pointing out that Type 2 Diabetes and those extra 220 pounds I had been carrying around for close to 20 years had been trying really, really hard to KILL me.

So when you think about all of that?  My love for running and the possibility of my uterus falling out is the least of my worries…


But this whole exchange caught my attention.  And leads me to a bigger question…

And my size-11 feet are kicking right up against the base of a pretty big soapbox…

Why can’t women support, promote, encourage other women? 

Why can’t we enthusiastically support other peoples loves and lives?

Why can’t we just support what other people say they love and want to do without placing our fears and judgement and unsolicited opinions on THEIR dreams?

Seriously.

And I’m guilty of this crappy dream-dousing behavior too.

GUILTY as hell.

This whole ‘girl parts’ conversation made me aware of the potentially fantastic shift that could occur if I were to choose carefully about how I react and comment when people invite me into their conversations about what they cherish and value and love…  What if I just declared myself ‘on their team’ no matter what that team might be?

SO I’m going to pay attention to it for the next few weeks and see if I can’t make a new habit out of supporting — without hesitation or placing my own judgements/concerns/jealousies — on what THEY are excited about.

I’ll give my little social experiment the rest of this Lenten season.  I’ll be intentional, supportive and endeavor to learn why they feel so passionately.

Not sure this will save my uterus from falling out the next time I get to go for a run, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. 🙂

(My sister says I should have named this blog, “I’m ovary being sick.”)

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Supporting someones dreams and hopes. Wendie was giving me some last minute ‘GO KICK ASS’ words of encouragement. 🙂  (Wendie, Pac Crest)

 

What if I just give up..?

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First 10 K, 4 years ago.  The work was just beginning.

I look back on some of my early journal entries from this lifestyle make-over and wonder how in the hell I made it to today.

Honestly.

Why didn’t I just quit?  

It was brutally hard at times.

I get the ‘How did you not give up?’  question perhaps more than any other single question.

I don’t have a good answer.


 

I mean, I had quit every other time I tried to lose weight and start exercising.

I am really succeeding for the first time.

Check out these journal entries…

1/10/2012: ‘I tried step aerobics class.  I didn’t understand the routines and can’t physically keep up. Stood behind my ‘step’ and marched in place for 45 minutes. Drenched in sweat, red-faced and couldn’t breathe from working so hard. It was humiliating. I walked out to my car crying. I feel ashamed and embarrassed.’

The very next day…

1/11/2012: ‘Today is the first day of circuit weights. I’m 5 hours post-lifting and I am so sore I can’t lift my arms. I could only do about 1/5 of the workout. Maybe less. I can’t bend, my fat belly is yet AGAIN in the way. Everyone in there has been doing this for years and I’m intimidated to hell and back.’

HOW and why did I keep going?

Why didn’t I just go back to my old, comfortable, easy ways?

My journal posts those kind of sad, too-honest, desperate entries, then the following weeks I’m only documenting glucose readings, weight, noting that my appetite is through the roof.

There is curiously nothing else about the aerobics,  weights classes, walking or learning to run.

Nothing.


When I do get asked how I kept going when things were tough, I usually answer with something basic, but true:

I wanted my life to be different.

I was tired of being sick and tired and I was ready to do the work.

Those sound like platitudes or motivational quotes. Those were really, truly how I FELT.  Fiercely, totally, with my whole heart. I was NOT giving up this time no matter how hard it got.

I knew there was a different life that could be mine.

I had promised myself I would do what I had to do this time around to get healthy, get fit – create a whole new ‘lifestyle‘. This time around was NOT yet another a one-fix wonder, a silver bullet, a starvation plan.  I – the chronically impatient – KNEW I had to be patient this time around because I was trying to exchange prescription drugs for food and exercise.

I HAD to invest the time and effort to build something I could keep and do for the rest of my life.

When I think about it, even before I committed to trying to change my lifestyle — I was often hungry, sore and defeated because I was fat, sick and totally out of shape.  I mean, I was taking 3 shots a day, handfuls of prescription meds and I was carrying anywhere from 100-220 pounds of extra weight most of my adult life.  That takes a substantial amount of WORK.

So really the whole ‘hungry, tired and sore’ thing hadn’t changed.  It was no longer a valid excuse for me to be using.

I think my brain and my heart recognized the equation of wanting to fight for healthy and that needing to find a long-term, permanent solution was the only way to make this work.

The little fire in my soul that was SCREAMING ‘things can be so, so, so different for you if you would just work at it!’ was what I was choosing to listen to this time around… I could finally hear it loud and clear.

The biggest of the mysteries for me that remains in this whole adventure is why that little voice — smothered for so, so long —  was finally what I was choosing to listen to, what I was focused on…


My journals intrigue me.

They confirm that I’m crappy at journaling. They’re frustratingly incomplete.

By my 2013 journal they’re full of race bibs, happy benchmarks and lots of running related notes.

I’m not sure when that switch occurred.

Personal details about that critical interlude are just simply missing from my journals entirely.

I wish I would have taken better notes or written more descriptions so that I could tell people ‘THIS is what I felt, how I did it, why I kept going…’  But I don’t have any of that information collected. And do not remember most of those details.  Perhaps I blocked them out because things were that hard OR more likely — they felt profound enough at the time I figured I would never forget and I didn’t bother to write them down…

I’ll be writing stuff down a little more carefully from now on. 🙂


 

I would hazard a pretty good guess that the reason I kept going was that my motivation – the reason driving all the changes – was so, so different than any other time in my life.

This lifestyle change was not a reaction to someone’s opinion of what I should weigh/eat/do.

This was entirely about finding health and life.

This had nothing to with a number on the scale or a size of dress.  And EVERYTHING to do with getting free from Type 2 Diabetes before it was too late.

This time I was carefully and systematically searching for the things I would needed to make this a lasting lifestyle.

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This is how I feel about life. 🙂  No words needed.

Remember the moment…


 

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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 the Mountain Lakes 100 mile race.

Now you get to spend the next eight months training for it! Then on September 24th you get to freaking toe the line!

You are wholeheartedly, bone-deep, excited!  Giddy even. You spent the week walking around grinning ear-to-ear. You have gone to bed each night happy and very much at peace with the decision to embark on this wild adventure.

Josh Gum planted the idea in your head to run a 100 miler about three years ago. He introduced you to the idea of ultras and endurance sports. (‘You don’t have to go fast, you just can’t give up…’) The idea that you might be able to run 100 miles, you, Bets, – the former morbidly obese girl, Type 2 Diabetic, the girl who swore she hated running – this idea, has become an obsession, a deep-seated desire.

Since the day the seed was planted, you have been wondering, dreaming, becoming focused on the idea that maybe, just maybe, you might have it in your heart and soul (and legs) to actually run something obnoxiously, audaciously, fantastically long; like a 100 miler.

The last three years you have been dedicated to learning the art and sport of running. And while you’re just barely getting started, that hasn’t stopped you from totally falling in love with trail running in the process.  Falling in love with all of it.  The people, the sport, the experiences, the miles, the challenge.

Every single thing about trail running appeals to you, speaks to you, heals and nourishes and strengthens your soul.

You have also learned that this life adventure with trail running is not just about running.

This whole process of getting ready for and tackling a 100 miler is really about wondering if you have the fortitude and ability to take a really big, scary goal and then TACKLE it, own it, beat it…

This is about putting your hard-fought lifestyle changes to the test.

This is about getting stronger.  Brain and body.

This is about really LIVING your life.


You spent your 20’s and into your early 40’s as a 392 pound, morbidly obese, Type 2 diabetic.

You were ALWAYS saying to yourself;  I…

‘… can’t run.’

‘… can’t do that.’

‘… am too fat to do that.’

‘… am pretty sure that would hurt…’

‘…am too old.’

Here’s the kicker…

How can you really hate/deny/be fearful of something you have never done?

Be honest with yourself Bets. You had never gone running.  You weren’t eating healthy. You weren’t being active. You weren’t doing anything long enough to form an actual, honest-to-goodness opinion of your own.

You were just accepting the passive opinions about your abilities and limitations based on ASSumptions. (We all know what word features prominently in ASSumption.)

Well…

You are done assuming.


This effort will require you to give your very best on every, single, possible level. It will test everything you think you are made of. And you have been told/warned/not-so-gently-reminded by people you love, trust and respect that this is going to test things you never knew were going to be tested, never dreamed you would encounter.

This will change you.

‘It’s going to be an experience that will change you in ways that will surprise you.’  — Josh Gum

You are ready for that testing.

Not just on race day, but you are ready for the testing that you know occurs every step of the way during the training process too.

Gaining new distances, building your core/back, learning to fuel, endless practice running down hills, even more endless practice with speed work, running uphills, power hiking.

You want to hit that start line for Mountain Lakes KNOWING that you kept putting in your best effort every single time you put on your running shoes.

If you commit 100% to the training, on race day you can put all of that together and enjoy the magic that happens when hard work and a heartfelt goal start racing in the same direction.

You did not just sign up for this on a whim.

You have been tenacious, intentional and consistent in working up to a fitness level where you feel wholeheartedly ready to train for and do your first 100 miler. You spoke with Spencer at length about what you wanted to do more than two years ago.

With guidance from both Spencer and Josh, you decided you had the perfect race in your sights and you picked Mountain Lakes for your first 100 miler.

You know you can do this.

Spencer says you are ready to train to run 100 miler.

Team Gum (Josh and Wendie) have said they know you are up to the task and will support you 100%.

That’s all the validation you wanted or needed to eagerly hit the ‘sign me up now!’ button.

Now go throw your heart and feet onto the trails and get training for this sucker.



 

So when and if the times get dark or scary or daunting, I will look back on this note and remember what I was thinking and feeling.

I will also be reminded that this is not just about running.

It has never, ever been entirely about running.

This whole, amazing adventure is about something much, much bigger. It’s about owning and chasing down a dream. It’s about believing in myself. It’s about intentionally choosing to push into new, scary territory. It’s about living life to the fullest each and every single day.

 

 

Giving the Sharps container the boot…

Four years ago today I took my last shot of insulin.

1,460 days ago.

I wrote this post for Facebook… It is fascinating for me to look back and see where the journey had taken me.

And where I am today.

#throwbackThursday


 

Facebook, February 4, 2013.

I am diabetic.  Most of you know that.  I’m not exactly reserved and shy about it. 🙂

I am a type-2 diabetic.  My body makes insulin. Plenty of it actually.  Through years of abuse, I’ve messed up the receptors that recognize insulin and know how to use it.  (Think about trying to use a baseball glove to catch a soccer ball…  Just doesn’t work very well…) And it was MY OWN DAMN DOING.  Type-2 diabetes is by and large a lifestyle disease. There are rare exceptions.  But I was not.  I made poor lifestyle choices.  I ate too much. Ate things that weren’t solid choices for my health situation.  And I loathed sweating and exercising.

My feet hit the floor in July 2011 and I decided I was done.  D. O. N. E.  Done with needles and shots and doctors and monthly blood tests and being fat and being unhealthy and slowly, but very, VERY surely killing myself.

Done.

It has been a journey and an adventure and the hardest work of my LIFE!  And it will continue to be a fight all the remaining days of my life. I am not out of the woods. I am not done. There are still hurdles. That’s OK – I’m up for the fight.

Tonight is a bit of a celebration for me — indulge me for a moment…

Tonight is ONE YEAR since I took my last shot of insulin. 

A year ago started what was to become a mass exodus from prescriptions drugs that is ALMOST complete. One drug left to exit.  I was taking 72 units of Lantus, 2 other injections, 5 other drugs to regulate sugars and other attendant issues with out of control sugars/diabetic issues in May 2011.  But there is only ONE drug left to quit. And that day is near. 🙂  Focused on being totally medicine free by early 2014.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of being shot/needle/sharps container/supplemental insulin/shot-in-the-belly FREE.  WOO HOO!   And no… I am not celebrating by eating a piece of cake. Tempting. But not tempting enough… I’ll probably celebrate with a big ol’ cold Honeycrisp apple. 🙂

A lot has changed in the 18 months since I started on this journey.  I worked closely with my doctor. Shared my plans.  She sometimes agreed – sometimes re-directed.  We worked on decreasing the insulin in small increments weekly over many months.  It was NOT a fast process, but slow and steady (and truthfully terrifying – as staying off of the drugs relies TOTALLY on my maintaining serious lifestyle changes. I am trading food and activity for drugs.)… I have not missed a Weight Watchers meeting since July 2011.  I relied on advice/reader boards on the American Diabetes Association website for help with specific issues and food challenges.  I  continue to be surrounded by family and friends who cheered me on EVERY single, tiring, painful step of the way…  I was never, ever alone.

My doc said in her 25 years of practicing medicine she has had two patients work their way off substantial meds without surgical intervention. Several times she has had to research our next step – since this isn’t something she has practice in working with…  Kind of cool to be the challenging patient in a GOOD way.

Will I be able to stay off of insulin for the rest of my life?  No.  Not likely.  Research indicates that diabetes will re-emerge again at some point. But the longer I can go without insulin, the longer I can stay with TIGHT self-control on blood sugars, the longer I can go without casuing collateral harm to my eyes/heart/kidneys/heart — the better for me!

I bought myself a hat from the Life Is Good store in Maui while I was there for the marathon a few weeks ago… It has a picture of Earth with the words  “Happy to be here”.

I am just happy, really happy, to be here.

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The Diabetes Walk in Portland. The Gum’s and about 25 other friends were there with me!  It was a magical day! This was a celebration of me getting off of Insulin. Our shirts said ‘All Bets are off’. 🙂  Hence the name of my blog…