Fat Shaming

IMG_5633I want to talk about fat-shaming.

I have been fat-shamed.  Lots.  In some cases I remember incidences specifically. In some cases it’s more like hashmarks tallying up the number of times something happened…

I hear lot of stories about it too, from a surprisingly wide variety of people when they choose to get vulnerable and tell us their stories. Men and women, just to be clear. They try to be casual or funny.  They’re not.  They try to tell me it was parental/relative ‘love’.  It’s not.  They try to tell me they deserved to be the butt of a cruel joke.  They didn’t. They try to tell me they’re over it, they’ve dealt with it; then their face crumples.

You can’t ‘un-hear’ things said about you.

I have tried.  And tried. And tried.

The point of this post is to raise self-awareness and propose some action.

I’m actually kind of tired of trying to define it, explain it and wrap my head around all of the phrases/off-shoots/hashtags/movements.  I think I found one way to cut through the crap and change the tide. And if this isn’t the way – at least it’s action while we re-group… 🙂

This all starts with individuals being kinder, gentler to themselves and those around them that are struggling with weight, body image, food issues…

That simple. (And hard…)

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I’ve enjoyed some amazing support. The one person who knows my whole heart, whole story?  My sis. 

Fat shaming is about actions and words.

Equally devastating.

The actions range from elbowing someone’s fat rolls if they sit next to you on a plane, not hiring someone for a job because you don’t like how they look, making pig sounds as they walk by….  Need I go on?

 

Words  What you say to someone can stay rattling around in someone’s brain for years.  (And years….)  We all know that.

{Use your powers for good.}

I’ve written this before; but the old ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ childhood rhyme is utter bullshit.

Words wound. Words create. Words fill your heart with joy. Words build. Words destroy.

Words matter.

Deeply.

At the core fat-shaming – defined by Psychology today is ‘An act of bullying, singling out, discriminating, or making fun of a fat person. The shaming may be performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight/obese realize they need to lose weight or they will die, become ill, and/or never succeed in life or relationships. Fat shaming is an individual bias against people who are considered unattractive, stupid, lazy, or lacking self control.”

For me the fat shaming started early.

Middle and High school were predictably the worst.

Now they would have called it bullying.

The worst was coming out to my car my Junior year.  Popular back in the day was the bumper sticker that said some version of ‘No Fat Chicks’.  A doctored version with the ‘no’ removed was stuck on my car.  I was being called a ‘fat chick’.  I suspected people thought it — this removed all doubt. I was a farm-girl in the middle of LA and I was fat.  I was an oddity no matter what… But my farm girl side had the tools; I pulled out some silver tape, covered the bumper sticker and drove home. A car full of high school boys were laughing and pointing and taunting. I knew all of them. My mom, both of us in tears, helped me scrape it off my car. We never told anyone. To this day it can make me cry if I think about it long enough. The tears then were for the cruel act.  The tears now are of sadness that my mom is gone, coupled with the deep gratitude and love for the woman, beyond that of being my mom, who knew what it was like to be ‘unacceptably large’ in our society.

Back then; my friends, relatives and most of the responsible adults around me just turned a blind eye.  I was told to ‘lose weight’ and the ‘mean comments’ would stop. So hard for me sometimes to accept friend requests on social media outlets from people who said things that 25 years later I still remember.  However, I friend these high school ‘friends’ because the only way to change the tide on ANY of this for ME is to forgive and do what I can to make things different for myself and others as we move forward.

You can’t embrace your future if you’re busy clinging onto useless bitterness tied to your past.

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My mom.

Workplace.  Dating.  Stores.  Restaurants.  Travel.  You name it — I have a story that relates to being embarrassed, belittled, made fun of, hurt. And before someone suggests it; these were not times where I was being overly-sensitive or reading too much into something. These were pointed comments and situations that were clearly aimed at me being fat in their space, them trying to ‘save me’ or simply ‘stating the obvious’.

I would bet solid money that most of you reading this blog have some stories that you could also share.

I also have the stories of having lost weight and people making comments that assure me they like me much better now…  In and of itself another form of emotional upset. “You’re pretty now!’, ‘Why are you still single?’ and ‘You must love your life now!’

I’ve been diving into this topic with both feet trying to learn what can be done to change the tide. And trying to learn how to help other men and women who struggle.  If you would like a little side-trip to understand just how pervasive this issue is, or you’re still not clear exactly what constitutes fat-shaming….  Google fat-shaming and click on the option to view images.  It should break your heart.

Fat isn’t the only thing shamed. Anything we deem ‘not normal’, ‘not acceptable’ with help from marketing and social media is fair game — right?  Since I was the former 392 pound woman; fat shaming is where my heart and brain lie. I can talk about being morbidly obese in the US.  And no longer being obese.  I can talk about both.  And I do. All the time.

It’s not like you can hide being fat/overweight/obese.

It’s not like I was fat/overweight/obese to piss anyone off, or make myself a target.  There were some really complicated dynamics behind my weight — as with ANYONE — and being shamed for it never drove me to do anything other than eat, hide, cry…  It never provoked the need to change.  Only to try to hide and to avoid people…

So you’re wondering what to do?

So am I to be honest.

I think we just have to start somewhere.  The following list is the best of the advice I could glean from the tumble down the rabbit hole of the  interwebs/books/podcasts/experts; so this is where I am going to start…

  • Be kind to MYSELF.  The worst, most destructive, most hateful fat-shaming is the shaming we do to ourselves.
  • Shut other people down when they say mean things about themselves or other people.  Support the positive.
  • Stop commenting on anyone’s food and clothing choices, how their body looks.
  • Comment on and praise actions, kindnesses, abilities, rather than appearance.
  • Don’t re-post, like or comment on mean-shit on social media.  It’s NOT funny.  What if it was ME, YOU or someone we loved the picture was captioning?
  • Don’t assume. I don’t know what someone else journey is, why they eat a certain way, what they’re facing, what health challenges exist in their lives…  Take one breath, one moment, adjust my thinking about the fact that maybe I don’t know what’s best for them.  Or what might hurt them.
  • Taste my words before I spit them out.
  • Use my ‘powers’ for good.

What have I missed?  What else would you add to this list?

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Just START!

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Spencer and I started this business, Novo Veritas, over 2 years ago.

I love it.  All of the work and hours and challenges and success.  More and more every day. It’s a hell of a ride, an intense privilege to work with our clients and we’re currently taking this business in directions neither of us ever dreamed possible…

My personal favorite part of the whole business adventure?  The privilege and honor of being invited into someone’s life at a time where their hearts and minds are more than likely vulnerable, ashamed, determined, brave, scared, fierce, focused and much more.  They invite us in.  Trust us with their stories, their history, their fears and deepest hopes.

And then sometimes, if it all works out just right, they even allow us to join their team.

Most of the people we get to work with approach us for one of two basic reasons…

  1. Tell me how to get started.
  2. Be on my team.
  3. (A close 3rd place would be….)  Hold me accountable.

In the past few weeks a handful of people have reached out to me asking how to get started – and how to build their own teams.  The following is a list I created about a year ago and pulled from one of my previous blogs.  And it’s still the advice I give, still what I believe in my heart.

AND it also happens to be the advice I wish I could have listened to when I got started on this journey to change my life.

 

Here’s what I wish I had been told.  And in the cases where I was told; I wish I could have embraced and BELIEVED it…

1. Your weight fluctuates.  Daily. It will go up or down during training.  If you have your period.  If you eat too much salt.  You smelled a cake being baked. The rotation of the earth. 🙂 Sometimes it’s really legit gain because you simply ate too many calories over a period of time. But you have to understand that your weight isn’t stable in the day to day. Not gonna happen. Quit even thinking it’s possible. And you know what?  It isn’t meant to be. You thought you got to a number and stayed there with just a little effort?  That this whole bodyweight thing was simple math and cut and dried?  Uh…  HELL NO.

2. Take measurements.  I really WISH I had known how big my hips or belly or thighs were at my largest.  I didn’t take measurements because — hell — who really wants to know that they have a 90” waist?  You will wish you had those body measurements for reference and reassurance in the process. At any point when you’re feeling ‘fat’, stalled, discouraged or just wondering how far your journey has taken you — you can pull out a tape measure and be assured, well beyond the confines of a stupid scale, that you were NOT gaining anything but muscle or fitness.

3.  Worry is wasted energy.  Spend time looking for solutions and opportunities.

4. And for the love of ALL THAT IS HOLY quit beating yourself up. YOU, who you are at the very CORE of your being, has nothing to do with the number on a scale or the packaging of your body. NOTHING.  Please, oh please, just believe me on this one.  I’m in tears writing this.  I am crying for you and for myself too. Because I know you won’t believe me, you can’t fathom what I’m trying to tell you… This is the last thing you can possibly wrap your mind around when you’ve battled your weight your entire life and a number is staring you in the face — a number you hate.  A number so large you didn’t know the scale went that high. I know that feeling of panicked desperation and hopelessness as well as I know the sound of my own heart beating. Text me, call me, reach out to me and I will spend the rest of my life relentlessly reminding you of your value to our world. And if you can’t believe yourself, then trust that I’m a way better judge of YOUR value than a stupid mechanical piece of crap you bought at Costco.

5. Don’t pick a number for a goal.  (See 1.) Don’t pick a clothing size either. That’s really just another number. Pick a feeling, activity, ability, destination.  You want to climb stairs and not be gulping for air?  You want to feel solidly OK with how you feel in your birthday or bathing suit? 🙂  You want to be able to hike, run, walk, move better….  PICK something that isn’t a transient, essentially meaningless, number.

6. Know that the BIG picture is worth all the little steps, mis-steps, concerns, questions, sacrifices. It’s hard work. It’s worth it.  They’re points of feedback and learning.  And this whole ‘get healthy’ thing is in NO WAY linear.  No way.  There is nothing direct, logical or straight about this path you are on.  And you’re going to be making shit up as you go.

7. Do NOT let that scale dictate your mood to the world.  So you can’t not weigh…  I get that, but we should keep working on that. 🙂   So you step on the scale and it’s up a bit?  DO SOMETHING about it.  Don’t be a bitch. Or walk around like someone ran over your dog. Or have a short fuse with loved ones.  Or start restricting food because you don’t ‘deserve’ to eat. Or start secluding yourself from the people you love because you feel you don’t ‘deserve’ their love or you’re deeply embarrassed. Stop allowing that stupid, effing, scale to affect your mood.  Reach out. You may not have great control over how you feel, but you can ALWAYS choose how you act and react.

8. Please, please, please love on yourself.  And believe in yourself.  Hang tightly to HOPE. Hope is powerful stuff. YOU will do this.  And you can’t see the day, but it’s coming; you will be healthy and happy. Your weight should not be allowed to dictate ANY of that.  You have so much to offer the world.  You’re an aunt.  A sister.  A friend.  A daughter.  A momma. A lot of really, really remarkable things that no one else in the whole entire world can possibly be! We were only given ONE of you. One. Do what you can each day to help yourself get healthy so you can be around and enjoy the life in front of you.

9.  This isn’t a short-term investment.  Trust the process. Life-time commitment. You will look at something daily and judge it as not moving, plateaued, failing.  HANG ON and look at this from the 3,000 foot view, look at this from a 365-day investment. You will see growth.  YOU WILL.  Really!  Keep at it.  You didn’t gain the weight over night.  You will not lose it overnight. Trite and irritating – but TRUE.

10. One of my favorite songs is ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ by Tim McGraw.  If you are like me you’re living this weight loss journey with a lot of fear.  Fear of going backwards.  Fear of judgement.  Fear of FAILURE…  The ‘what if’s’ can paralyze you…  Holy smokes.  The fear you have embraced and live with could choke an elephant. What if you could just enjoy the journey for what it was and live each day like you are trying to be your very best? Living like you’re dying doesn’t mean you live with no consequences for your choices.  It means you accept each day, each moment for what it is and keep moving toward the goal you want to reach…  (And for back-up… See this video by Brene Brown.)

Trust the process.

Keep moving forward.

Love on yourself.

Happy trails. 🙂

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Wearing my underwear backwards.

08_13_16_trrT_0506-ZF-7509-90007-1-001-014When I was 250+ pounds I used to wear my underwear backwards.

I had a pretty funny flash back to this forgotten and semi-embarrassing fact this morning running with my friend Carlea.


Last year I bought some running tights on super-sale from some obscure running site.  I do this periodically.  I get wonky, weird, off-season, running clothes bargains.  Once in a great while I find something amazing!  It’s all super cheap and a fun, daring, fashion-themed shopping-game of adventure.

This time around it was colorful running tights super cheap.

I show up to meet my friend Carlea at the Saddle for a run.  I wore the screaming-hot-pink tights today for the first time.  They… uh… were built weird. But they were really cute!  I told Carlea I figured I would get used to how they fit as we ran. (Always a bad idea.  Running clothes/shoes really shouldn’t need a break-in period… But in the face of cute/fun clothes; I always forget this ‘trail rule’.)

How weird was the fit? There was a ton of extra fabric in the front/crotch area and they were what we will politely call ‘plunging low rise’ in the back.  So I kept fidgeting with the stupid tights trying to keep them up over my butt.

We finally stopped about 3 miles in while I tried to figure out how to remedy the situation and keep running without flashing everyone in the forest. Carlea and I got to laughing — fairly sure I had to have the tights on backwards.  We checked.  Nope.  But, they sure seemed to be built backwards.

‘I think I figured out why they were on sale’.– Me.  Every time.

We got things sorted out and PG-rated for the rest of the run.  I got to chuckling.  I finally told Carlea that these tights were reminding me of a habit I had when I was obese.  I had kind of forgotten about it.

I have always loved the idea of having matching bra/panties. I just do. When I was obese and desperately wanted to feel good about how I looked and wanted to feel attractive – this duo always did the trick.  Cute undies was a near-daily goal.  When I was wearing a size 26/28 the options were limited.  Or ridiculous. Or really, seriously functional; steel belted bras with really wide straps, scratchy/ugly lace and cotton granny panties.

I finally, after years of searching and failed attempts, found a bra and undies set that matched and FIT and was cute.  I was so freaking excited!  I wore them all day at a conference, felt like a million bucks and was thinking I needed to go out and buy the dang undies in every color they made.  As I got undressed at the end of the day…

I discovered that I had in fact worn the underwear backwards all day.

They fit perfectly, totally ass-backwards.

Huh.

Why had they fit so well you might be wondering?  Well….  I was close to 400 pounds.  And I was built very much like an apple with all my weight in my belly.  With a really flat butt.  My belly was significantly larger than my butt.  So undies are typically cut to cover your bum and lay flat on your belly – right?  They didn’t work for me and my apple-shape.

But wearing them backwards worked for my body…

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Disney with the family.  And yes… I am about 99% sure I have my underwear on backwards in this picture. 🙂

So for about 10 years I pretty much always wore my underwear – cute or otherwise – backwards.  A problem accidentally and creatively semi-solved. I never admitted it to anyone, never advertised it.  But wasn’t proud of it by any stretch.

I was just too fat and misshapen to wear underwear normally…

So I adapted to what worked for me at that time.


So today Carlea and I were laughing over yet another clothing failure I snagged from a clearance rack.

I have lost weight and had the full-body lift surgery to remove 10 pounds of excess skin from my belly/waist.  While I am still built a little funny at my waist with some skin scarring and bumpy surgical ‘seams’ at the sides of my hips — I now have a pretty typical ‘runners’ butt and fairly flat belly.

NOW I can totally wear matching bras/undies if I want to – without having to wear them backwards. 🙂  (I just have to remember to pack them in my gym bag. 🙂 )

Turns out that even putting my underwear on can serve a daily reminder of how my healthy lifestyle now is so different than my Type 2 diabetic/obese days.

Carlea and I both had a really good laugh as I shared this story with her.

I managed to get back to my car and not accidentally show my bum off on the trail.

Today anyway. 🙂

*Screaming-hot-pink running tights are now free to a good home.

 

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Scabs. Type 2 diabetes.

I was running down a hill on Thursday night, looking at the stunning forest ALIVE with flowers, laughing with friends.  First sunny day we’ve had in like 2,000 days.  Ok.  Maybe 200 days.  But it was feeling SOOOO GOOD to be outside in the sun, running!

Then I fell.

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I was running one moment – and on my face the next.  No sensation of falling, no chance to catch myself.

Kissing the dirt.

Hazard of our sport. And not my first fall.

My friends Mark and Sarah heard me crash and helped pick me up.  We pretty quickly figured out I’d tripped on seemingly thin air.  And had somehow — YET AGAIN — totally avoided all of the major land mines that I should have fallen on. Roots, rocks — I easily could have smashed my head, broken a wrist or shoulder or rib and should have had far greater body damage.  Nope.  I landed on one rock and a bunch of soft dirt.

I am one LUCKY fall-er.

I jammed a finger and tore up a knee.  It knocked the breathe out of me.  Minor damage.


I used to be Type 2 (T2) Diabetic.  I was a T2 for over 15 years that we can effectively piece together and explain.  And one of the things that alerted everyone to my T2 being OUT OF CONTROL – was lack of healing with sores.

Around the start of my T2 diagnosis, I got a blister on my foot and 6 months later I’m in with an infection specialist and we’re talking about cutting part of my foot off.  My T2 was newly diagnosed and  I had not bothered to change a SINGLE thing in my life; I was waiting for the medicine to do it’s work.  I didn’t want to change anything.  I wanted to take the drugs and still eat what I wanted.   And that wound stayed consistently infected and increasing doses of varied antibiotics weren’t working.  It stayed infected, never scabbed up.

It refused heal.

And then once I was diagnosed T2, got on meds — healing to extremities were still dicey and scary for the next decade.  I was Slllooooowwww at healing.  Better, but slow. And it was something I watched all the time…

In case you’re wondering about the connection…  The medical explanation is that high/uncontrolled glucose (T2)  impairs healing.

(‘Higher or poorly controlled glucose control means a wound cannot receive adequate nutrients or oxygen, resulting in slower and less effective wound healing. Nerves in the body of a diabetic patient are affected when blood glucose levels are uncontrolled, which leads to a loss of sensation or diabetic neuropathy.’ — diabetic advocacy website)

Regardless of the medical explanation — I can tell you from ‘field’ experience that when my sugars were high; healing from anything was slower if not nearly impossible.

The first year I was learning to run, 5ish years ago, I was still trying to get off of insulin and figure out how to use food and exercise instead of drugs. I was still T2.

I would carefully, compulsively check my feet after every run.  I have diabetic neuropathy in both feet, can’t feel significant portions of each foot to this day.  I have ripped an entire toenail off and never knew it until I took my shoe off. (Trail running friends are like ‘COOL, damn… That’s so lucky to not have feeling in your damn toes!’ My other friends are pissed I didn’t warn them about this gross description.)  But my feet could get hurt, I wouldn’t feel it and weeks could then go by with me having an open wound…

Fast forward.

I face planted on Thursday night during our weekly ‘franking’ run.

I’m off insulin (4+ years) and no longer T2 (3 years).

It’s Sunday and…  wait for it…  I HAVE SCABS!

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I’m healing so fast and well.  It stuns me.

 

I mean, I’m hella sore.  I tried to run yesterday and my body rebelled.  So I rested. Hard  🙂  It was the right thing to do.

But today — I’m like 100% better than yesterday.  I have bruising showing up in the normal patterns, I am forming scabs, the muscle soreness from coming to an abrupt and involuntary stop is already getting better.

My healthy body continues to amaze me.

She’s kind of badass sometimes. 🙂

The chance for me to have ruined major organs and really done a whole lot of damage to my body as a T2 diabetic were HUGE.  And yet here I am…  Self-inflicted trail-wound healing beautifully and fast.

I’m healing like a normal person.

I never thought a scab would be exciting.  But it’s such a sign of progress and health and healing for me…  In more ways than one.

Life is good.  Run happy. (Stay upright!)

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Zion 100 miler and chasing a finish line…

17523124_10154763997078423_2477238029137083914_n.jpgI trained for the Zion 100 miler. This past Friday/Saturday I ran 75ish miles of the race.

On their official race list I am what they call a ‘DNF’.  Did Not Finish.  It means that I toed the start line and never crossed the official finish line.

But life isn’t really about finish lines right..?  

It’s about the journey.

It’s about living the dash.

It’s about learning and growing and moving and loving — not just about arriving.

This was a vivid and forceful reminder that I need to spend more time and effort just enjoying the journey.

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Hannah, Matt, Spence. So many sappy, heart-felt emotions when thinking about these 3 souls.  

I have no idea who the quote or idea is truly attributed to – but it’s common advice given to those embarking on these monster events that you run the first 1/3 with your legs, the second 1/3 with your brain and the third 1/3 with your heart.

I think I used a lot more heart this time.

While you can run these buggers unassisted, I live for the moments when I can see my crew and meet new friends.  This sport, for me, is the ultimate team effort.

I am proud of what I did, how I raced, problem-solved and stayed calm.  I am also proud of how I accepted the results when it became painfully obvious halfway down Gooseberry Mesa that we couldn’t make the cutoff to the next aid station.

I didn’t cross the finish line, but I won big in some very important ways.

The terrain was tough and there were some challenges. It’s an ultra and if you aren’t ready for tough or challenges or fear or pain or being humbled — um… You have likely picked the wrong sport.

Examples?

I reached an aid station that had run out of water, as I had, during the heat of the day.  I got lost navigating around on some of the endless slick rock in the daylight.  Got lost again with my trail sister/pacer Hannah on the rim of another mesa about 1 AM along with about 5 other people; and Hannah saved us all with her quick legs and sharp mind.  I started getting hot spots on my feet — that would turn to blisters — around mile 3 of the race.  There were fierce gusting winds that almost blew me over and I weighed close to 190 pounds on race day.

I want to share, in random order, some of the things this ultra schooled me on…


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Mile 53.  So excited to see crew.  I got to pick up my pacer Hannah, I would no longer be running alone in the dark.

76 miles is still a long freaking way to run.

Running a race in smaller segments, mentally, is the ticket for me.  Thank you Andrew and Spencer for that racing trick. I raced 13 mini-races, within one single race.  My strategy was to get from aid station to aid station and then focus on the best strategy to get to the next aid station.

Cactus are assholes of the plant world. 

Coke is amazing, soul-saving liquid when you’re racing. Followed closely by watermelon with salt, pickles, cheese quesadillas.  BUT not all together.  Especially the pickles and coke. That was a mistake.

If you are pooping in the middle of the desert and following trail etiquette by being off course 100 feet or more, facing your bum away from your fellow approaching runners….  It does NOT mean that an entire pack of mountain bikers won’t come right up behind you.  Literally.   They, nor I, will ever be the same for the experience.

My brain is my biggest enemy.  I have to stay alert to her shenanigans.  She can be cranky, sneaky, mean.  They only person ever doubting my ability to do this race, was me.  Not Spencer, Hannah or Matt.  Or any of my beloved running friends.  Or any of the bazillion kind souls who sent texts, called, emailed, FB’ed me…  Just my brain.  And I am getting better and better at shutting that crap down, ignoring it or re-directing my thinking.  So much better.

*Sap alert*.  We are better people when we have strong, smart, caring, loving friends in our life.  We just are.  We might have one or two or fifty.  Number doesn’t matter, quality does.   Friends.  That’s what this is all about for me.   17861839_10155965230531258_4199045014150158133_n.jpg

I trained hard, raced well, fought hard, dug deep, did all the right things that I knew to do.  Our crew was spectacular. And I can honestly say the results were better than the belt buckle I thought I was chasing…  This course taught me some crazy cool lessons about what I’m doing right and where I can get stronger if I choose to commit to the work. I didn’t get injured.  I live to train and race another day. This race was a win on so many levels.  

I fought my head hard for the first 35 miles. Around mile three we had hit a narrow segment on the steep single track that required about a 20 minute slow down. Ok.  Actually it was a total stop; stood in line on the face of a mesa and chatted with my new friends.  (We had a rope assist up a chunk of the trail that all 250(?) of us were waiting to use… One at a time.) And we had the same traffic jam on the way back off the Flying Monkey Mesa.  For those who race — you’re doing the math… Yeah.  When you are up against time cut offs from the start line, like I am…  That bottle-neck took AWAY any of the margin I was planning and working to build. By mile 3 I was already in head games about cutoffs and not having any breathing space in my race plan.  It hit me HARD.  By mile 3 of this race I was seriously thinking I needed to just quit and was already fighting off tears.  GOOD LORD. My head had a list of reasons why I should just quit and stop for just about every step of the first 35 miles of the course.  I KNOW that when you get in a ‘low’ (moment of fear or doubt or apathy)  you KEEP MOVING.  So I kept moving according to plan while I fought with my pissed off brain. Getting that far behind that early in the race was a serious mental road block that I battled for 12+ hours.  But I didn’t quit… I did NOT QUIT and this right here is probably my biggest win of the race…  Because all I wanted to do was quit.  And I didn’t.

When a near-by runner tells you they feel like they’re going to throw-up, trust their judgement and get out of the way.

When something starts to nag at you — take care of it the best you can because it’s only going to be magnified with miles.  Take the moment and fix it.  So…  I was getting blisters by mile 3.  In the past I would have kept going figuring I didn’t have the time to spare and I could manage the pain.  Spencer and I actually talked about this pre-race; he reminded me that as crew they would make the call and I was to go along with their call if they were working in my best interest.  The example he actually used was about shoes and correcting whatever was wrong with them at the first point I noticed them.  I’m notorious for trying to ignore the nagging — when it’s something FIXABLE and have created some bad situations for myself and my feet.  THIS TIME I think I shocked Spencer when I cruised into mile 15 and asked to stop, change socks and shoes.  While blisters were kind of my downfall at the end of the day, I KNOW FOR CERTAIN I bought a hell of a lot more mileage by trying to take care of things early — when they presented themselves.  BIG lesson for this mop-top trail runner in patience and paying attention to what my body is telling me can be fixed.

You can sunburn the back of your knees.

Putting on lip balm in a dust storm is just a dumb idea.

Ice in your water pack/bladder, when it’s warm out is a straight up gift from the heavens.

Peeing when the wind is gusting and swirling is just… interesting…  And I’m not the only one who struggled with this little practical joke from Mother Nature. (Same goes for snot rockets.)  It was actually funny to watch the guys dancing around and trying to outsmart the wind.  We girls…  Uh…  We’re not quite so flexible or lucky. I had some serious penis-envy going during the wind storm.

‘Fear is what you’re feeling.  Brave is what you’re doing.’

Barreling into an aid station and hearing your friends yelling for you is the sweetest of all sounds in my world…  (Sappy again…)

Barreling into an aid station and seeing the faces of two other runners you know and love and who you did NOT expect to see jumping in to hug your smelly ass and help you without any fanfare or hesitation…  One of several mental snapshots I will have the rest of my life. (Thank you Rebecca and Ben!)

Mental snapshots?  Climbing Gooseberry Mesa.  Wicked steep climb.  (1.5 miles and 1,500 foot of vertical gain…)  I was struggling up that biotch of a climb and bombing down is our friend Ty Atwater. He yells my name and must have seen the tears, dirt  – and possibly vomit at this point – on my face.  He was on his way back down and headed for the finish line and would be top 25 for the 100K…  He stops, hugs me and reminds me to breathe and tells me quickly to climb, stop, breathe, repeat and keep repeating until I get to the top.  Deep gratitude for this young, talented runner taking the time to stop and comfort me.  Another mental snapshot I’ll keep close to my heart for years to come.

I managed my pre-race nerves and taper craziness WAY better.  I think it was meditation, better nutrition, focusing on time with friends and simply knowing that you can’t know everything about what’s in front of you.  And that’s the beauty and magic and secret of these events.  I was afraid and nervous no doubt and apologies to anyone caught in the taper cross-hairs!  But not terrified like I was heading into Mountain Lakes.  I wanted this finish line as badly as I wanted Mountain Lakes, understand that my hearts desire to do well was exactly the same.  But the fear was more a deep and wide level of respect for this distance and the challenge instead of stark terror of the unknown.

Spare headlamp.  ALWAYS pack the spare headlamp.

Double shot espresso at 4 am is like liquid gold.

Brushing your teeth after the race feels the best.

Showering after the race is where you discover all the chafe and sunburn you didn’t know you had.

Speaking of showering… There is NO SMELL on earth like that of an ultra runner.  We should bottle it up.  It would sell.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Ok… Forget that whole idea.  Who are we kidding?  Spencer and Matt wrapped me in a blanket and rolled the windows down on the car on the ride back to our house.  And then I was ordered straight into the shower – clothes and all.  And handed a garbage bag to put my clothes in. HA!

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Walking off the course. (Spencer, Hannah.  Picture Credit goes to Matt.)

I walked off the course, instead of across the finish line.  This was a long road to walk, but I walked it with friends by my side.  Hannah was with me when I broke down and understood meeting the cutoff was not going to happen despite every single thing she and Spencer and Matt had done to get me there.  Spencer and Matt walked up the road to meet us not knowing what they would find…  I cried. A lot. I was crushed by the idea that I was disappointing my crew and hadn’t done what I set out to do.  They hugged me a lot.  And then we walked, as a tribe, back to the car.

This picture means the world to me because of the people in it and the friend who is out of the frame capturing the moment for all of us to remember…

A picture is worth a 1,000 words.

And this one captures my entire heart.

 

 

 

Spencer. {The 20 day mindfulness experiment}

img_4352-jpgIt’s a fairly rare privilege to get a front row seat to watch someone dig in, confront fears, acknowledge demons and start making some really hard changes.

It’s sucks when those changes spring-up from fear, despair, soul-deep hurt and pain.

I have recently had a front-row seat to some really hard work being done and Spencer gave me permission to write about what I saw and experienced.

Spencer is my coach, business partner, room mate and most importantly, he’s one of my closest friends.

He embarked on a 20 day ‘experiment’.  He choose to blog about it daily.  Writing and journaling were for his own accountability.  His candor, vulnerability and willingness to document the experiment in his blog is already helping others.

‘I started this 20 day mindfulness challenge because I was hurting, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  I couldn’t bear to have the voices in my head take over every moment of my life.  Perhaps I had reached another bottom of sorts, a bottom much different than what I had gone through with drinking, one that has proven more insightful and revealing.  I really didn’t know what would come of this challenge, my only hope was that it would help create new habits around a better sense of mindfulness.’ – Spencer

I watched and observed.

I listened.

I made notes.

20 days went fast.


I was there close to the moment that started the ball rolling downhill on this whole 20 days of mindfulness project.

Spencer says it best, ‘hitting bottom’.

That moment when you know something has to change, or nothing ever will…

It was a running injury.

On the heels (pun intended) of a long recovery from a previous injury.  He had been oh-so-careful to work back to longer runs and fully heal the injury.

Bam.

Injury.

Again.

But the running injury was by far the least of the wounds this time around.

I saw the anxiety, frustration and most scary of all? Blank apathy. Maybe it was resignation or defeat? Whatever it was, it’s not something I am used to seeing on his face.    It doesn’t belong on his face.  At all.

He had the dead-eye look of someone who was done, actively giving up.

I was scared.  Really scared and trying to hide it.  Because…  Well… That’s not exactly a super helpful response in these kinds of situations.

I wasn’t scared of the injury.  What he was telling me seemed to be a pretty typical running injury for some of the people in this sport who hit high volume miles and are doing a lot of vertical on technical terrain.

I was, however, totally alarmed at his ‘doneness’.

I was suddenly way more worried about his head, his heart, than I was about his body, knee or ankle.

I listened to what happened, what he was feeling and trying to wrap his mind around.  I tried to help the best I could, but I don’t know how to chase voices out of someone else’s head.  And he sure as hell wasn’t looking for comfort or help or answers anyway.

It was a heart-wrenching moment to hear him say he’d reached the conclusion that he needed to give up on chasing his childhood dream.

“I’m done.”

A dream, his dream, that I had bought into because he believed in it so deeply.  And that I supported 100%.  And that I knew meant the world to him.

He was crushed.

Hell.

So was I. For him.

It was a weird few days that followed as he was injured, hurt, deeply sad and struggling.

He finally arrived at the idea that this whole ‘episode’ had little to do with the actual running injury and everything to do with his inability to be consistently mindful and present.  While he was healing his body, he would also work on healing his mind.

Spencer will tell you he has trouble staying in the ‘now’. His default is to react based on the past and project into the future.  When he’s in a practice of journaling, eating well, sleeping solid hours, taking care of his body AND meditating — he does much better at staying in the now and not letting the past rule his thinking.

Some of those important pieces had slipped.

He arrived at the idea that he had to put some work into learning the basic skills needed to be mindful.  (The blog talking about the fight with his mind is here…) He set out to develop an actual routine and practice for being mindful.

Not just the idea or the words.  How in the hell does someone actually DO IT, make it a regular part of your life?

The first couple days of this experiment threw him off.  Forcing things to fall into a new routine, struggling with learning new tools and routines and accepting changes while still battling the problem was a freaking huge task.

He wasn’t exactly the easiest of souls to be around for a few days.

BUT, when he realized that mindfulness could quiet his brain, stop the train of thought and anchor him — even if just briefly in the NOW, even just for seconds at a time…

You could feel the shift.

It was palpable.

Like, I walked in the house and could tell something big had changed for him about 5-6 days in on this experiment.

He believed it was going to work, that it was worth the work.

I’ve had an interesting vantage point.

I’m an outside observer, yet since we’re room mates — I got to witness the experiment as it played out in real time. It put me in a unique spot to notice the changes in his habits and attitudes, small and subtle shifts.

Those fragments of success have added up over the past 20 days.

Big time.

The small trio of breaths he takes to center himself in the middle of a task. I can hear him breathing while he’s in the middle of making breakfast, working on something or just catches his mind wandering into places it doesn’t need to go. 🙂

The change in a morning routine that excludes TV, phones, emails and other ‘environmental clutter’ and focuses on meditation, quiet, calm and setting an intention for the day.

I get to hear the first-hand accounts of situations that he handled differently; calmly, accepting — given a past history with similar situations that were never handled in quite that way.

Shutting the phone off and choosing to interact with people intentionally, personally — instead of in a reactionary fashion simply because a text or email comes flying in.

At first he talked about how things were going to ‘suck’.  Just the other day he said he knew things would continue to be a process and he would continue to learn.

Less resistance. Less fighting.  Less anger.  Less fear.  Less hurt.

More leaning-into.  More acceptance.  More peace. More patience.

Lots of little things, that matter a whole lot.

Here’s to now, right now, Spence.

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One of my favorite pictures. It captured a typical, yet very memorable, moment in our friendship. Transrockies. Stage 6.  Exhausted and fighting to get to the line and improve my overall standing for the event. He caught me about .3 of a mile out and ran me in – as he does often at events that we’re both running.  What you can’t see is what mattered the most…  He quietly and calmly reminded me several times that he was proud of all the work I’d done, how I never gave up even when things got really hard and to just keep putting one foot in front the other like we trained to do.  He even got a little sappy at one point and said ‘this moment, this, this is why you should never give up on your dreams’.  Right back at you Spence.

 

 

 

Taper crazy.

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Tapering.

Since I have some free time on my hands at the moment, I figured this was as good a time as any to try to explain some of the running things I talk about non-stop — for my non-running friends.

Actually, this idea was prompted when I said something this weekend about tapering to a work-related friend.  It was met with a blank, confused stare.  And they finally said ‘I don’t get it.’

I then tried to explain.

I thought this information might be helpful to some of those close to ANY runner or athlete as the taper crazies for Spring events start to set in… You’ll know to simply smile/nod,  tell them they are going to crush their goals because of all their hard work, and walk away.

For real.

That is a legit plan for encountering someone who starts the conversation off by warning you that they are tapering…


Getting ready for an event is a process.  A long, hard, complicated process that requires dedication and focus and committment.   The more I do and watch and get to be a part of these events the more I realize just how hard everyone works to chase down these crazy dreams.

It involves plans for training, logging the actual miles, learning new skills, maybe some study or practice on the course, racing plans, recruiting crew, running in all kinds of weather, even planning for your rest/recovery.

I’m sure I am still forgetting a bunch of stuff that has to happen to get to the start line.

The idea behind tapering is essentially ‘fueling up the car and getting it ready for the road trip.’  You’ve trained, practiced, have everything packed, memorized directions, have your race plan laid out….

Take a quick break (taper) and hit the road (race)!

I’m still really new to this sport.  But, in watching my friends and other local runners — there are clearly some defined styles and personalities that emerge during the taper…

There’s militant, precision taperers. 🙂   They follow the letter of the law.

There’s nervous taperers.  They fear they’re losing fitness, they’ll sleep through the start line, they second guess their training, every twinge or ache or twitch is an impending disaster that will keep them from racing.

There’s casual taperers.  My friend Wade. “Eh…  I think I should probably taper here soon.  Maybe. What do you think?’  ‘When’s the race Wadeo?’ ‘I think it’s in two weeks, maybe three.  No.  Two.  Let me check…’

There’s the ‘I earned this and I’m going to enjoy it’ taperers.  They hit yoga, meet up with friends, sleep in, have dinner out and just enjoy the down time from logging miles to catch up on life.

The mean little sister in this group would be angry taperer.  ‘I hate this.  This is stupid.’  Snappy, cranky, ill-humored.  Ask them a question and get handed your head. They’ll comply, but they’ll be pissed about it.

There’s fighters. ‘I don’t need to taper.’ ‘Tapering doesn’t work.’ ‘I can run well on tired legs.’

There’s fake taperers.  ‘I AM TAPERING…’  ** Said while running long miles, fast workouts, logging mileage JUST short of normal, hoping to not get called out on their non-tapering/taper…**

And I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of other types. 🙂

I’m personally a cross between precision, I like following plans and rules. Especially if I know it works for me or someone I trust. And I have enough experience to know now that rest helps my body and gets my mind antsy enough to want to push hard on race day.  Tapering is a good thing for me – even if I deny it in the moment. 🙂

And I’m also really, really good at being a nervous taperer.  And just to keep things really interesting for the folks around me I throw in 10-15 minutes surprise sessions of being an angry taperer. Oh and if it’s a really long taper — a little whining and insecurity in panicked moments that make no sense to any witnesses — JUST to keep things fun and exciting for my running friends.

And my poor roommate. 🙂

It’s taper time for me.

Zion 100 miler is in 10 days depending on how you count.

And whole bunch of my friends are tapering too!

FUN TIMES!  😉

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We’ve all busted our rear-ends, we’re ready to go, we’re excited — and we’re a little jealous of our non-tapering friends.

Just being honest.

Ok.  Really?  Totally jealous. Somedays I can’t even look at social media when I’m ‘resting’ and they’re frolicking in the FIRST days of sunshine we’ve had here in Oregon since like 2002. I find myself wishing there was ‘fear of missing out’ button on Facebook or a feature to block anything running related so I can pretend everyone else is tapering too.

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There’s also some distinct seasons in the running community as well.  As distinct as ‘school’ or ‘Football’ season.  And it has nothing to do with the weather for most of us.  We run in all kinds of weather… 🙂

There’s the training period where we’re all getting ready for races and looking for partners who will leg out the crazy long/weird/specific runs/adventures/schemes we have planned.  Rebuilding our base.  Learning new skills.  Making new friends.  The frenzy of running to meet the goals you set while you were recovering or tapering or had a moment of weakness and signed up for a race. 🙂

There’s race season — where we’re all on TOTALLY different schedules.  And we’re tapering, missing out, cranky, excited, joyous, determined, recovering, volunteering, running long miles.  We’re all over the map – and trying to keep up with all of our friends race/event schedules is a full time job! We want to wish all of them success every time they race — which is basically every weekend between now and October. So.Many.GOOD.Events.  So many!

There’s recovery season. Where we take a break, re-group, plan.  For some they grab other sports to work on. For some this period is a day. 🙂  For some this is a month, 3 months or longer.  It is simply marked down-time, letting the body and mind recover.  Waiting for that ‘itch’ to run to creep back in and around the edges and signal that you’re ready to start training and building again.

And of course — none of us are training, racing or recovering at the same time. 🙂

If you have a runner/racer/cyclist/triathlete in your life and they’re getting ready for a big event…

Just be patient with your dream-chasing, goal-crushing friends.

Tapering is a critical part of the training/resting/recovery/racing process.  And it really is mentally difficult to work so hard and then simply shut everything down, ‘sit on your butt’ (that’s what it feels like) and let your body get ready to FLY.

Smile/nod patiently,  tell them they are going to crush their goals because of all their hard work, and if you really want make their day — ask how you can track their race and cheer them on. 🙂

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