All sizes. All.

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Is that my hair or a bush? You decide. ūüôā (PC C. Stephens)

I love trail and ultra running. The people, the challenges, the community, the support.

Soul-enriching, strength and character building beyond anything I have ever done or been involved with in my life. It’s saved and changed my life in ways I can barely begin to describe. I hold those random, bubbly, precious feelings near and dear and tightly in my heart.

While deeply satisfying and challenging, I will be the first to admit that it is really not a very glamorous sport.

If you’ve run trails or ultras you’ll feel this list is missing something. (Tell me what you would add!)

If you have not run trails or an ultra you might be wondering… ¬†Just how not-glamorous can this possibly be?

Well…

Pooping in the woods, snot rockets, chafe, sweat and mud and dirt. Blisters. Missing toenails. Black toenails. Sunburn in the oddest of patterns and places.  Did I mention chafing? Squatting in poison oak. Headlamp batteries dying and leaving you in the dark at 4 AM. Hallucinations, scabbed knees, puking, smelling like a yeti, digestive issues, swamp-ass.

ūüôā

I know I’m missing some critically UN-glamorous, probably hilarious, things.

But you get the idea.

Some of you are totally horrified and wondering what on earth there is to possibly love about this sport. You’ll just have to trust me. ¬†The thrill of covering a whole lot of miles, seeing country I would never see any other way, supported by amazing people and the challenge of pushing myself well beyond the normal boundaries…

It’s all worth it.

Every bit of it.

I feel strong and bad ass and challenged and alive.

It’s worth ALL of it.

Some of the best ultra-runners in the world wear skirts when they run. ¬†The woman are strong, talented and fearless. ¬†And they’re wearing these practical and comfortable and cute skirts. ¬†Win, win, win. ¬†It’s as close to glamorous as we’re going to get in this sport. I always wanted to try to pull off that look. ¬†Except that I am a larger size than the elites. And having lost 200+ pounds; well, my upper thighs need a little more care and coverage than most peoples. I simply need a longer inseam in the built-in shorts than is typically offered to help prevent the aforementioned chafing.

I searched high and low and experimented with all kinds of product lines¬†for well over two years. I want to look cute in race pictures. (Ego!)¬† I also want to respect the spaces I’m running in, special spaces that are wildly scenic. Kind of like dressing up for a party, I like to dress ‘up’ out of respect for the place I’m visiting and running in.

And let’s face it… I don’t need to spend each run¬†looking like I’m wearing whatever doesn’t smell and like I dressed in the dark with whatever garments I could put my hands on.

Then I found this active dress company out of Seattle…

And our local running store, Running Princess, sold the dresses.

I saw one.  Bought it.  Ran in it the next day.

I kind of fell in love with their dresses.

I wear my own compression shorts under it – and WA LA!

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Checking out the horizon. Staring at the far off Gooseberry Mesa that I’ll be climbing in about 20 days during the Zion 100 miler. (PC C. Stephens)

I finally had the running dress/skirt I’d been searching for for over two years!

The dress is from a company called Nuu Muu.

And there’s one additional and really vital thing about them that has become increasingly important to me…

They support active women of all sizes.

Legitimately.

ALL sizes.

Some companies say they do. This company does it in their branding, marketing, size offerings, event support. I know.  I watched and looked and snooped around to see if this was JUST their clever marketing niche, or if they really meant it.

Their commitment to active women of all sizes is at their core — and it’s obvious. As someone who was starting to be active and painfully stood out EVEN MORE than I already was at 300ish pounds in my boxy cotton T’s and ‘big and tall’ men’s shorts from Walmart…

I instantly felt a surge of gratitude¬†and compassion for this company’s approach to helping woman feel strong and pretty and confident while being active…¬† No matter their size.

And now a days, I’m 180ish pound, about a size 12-14. ¬†I find really cute active clothes and sometimes at my current weight and fitness I still don’t fit in their largest offering. I can run a 100 miler, but they don’t make clothes that fit me.¬† Huh. Their message is clear and frustrating to me. ‘We don’t want larger women who are active being seen as our customers or brand ambassadors.’ ¬†OK…. Maybe that is not their intended message at all. However, that’s certainly what I hear LOUD AND CLEAR.

Spencer and I ¬†were having a conversation about a running team that I am on. Last year after some consideration and a wild dose of courage, I applied and got accepted.¬† I never expected a yes. It was totally a thrilling moment for this former 400-pound, non-active woman to be invited to join a running team! ¬†I was over the moon. ¬†It is a group of women across the country that are all tied to a clothing line by their love of running. I was expressing to Spencer that I was not sure how much longer I would stay on the team after a year of being on it. ¬†He suggested perhaps I hadn’t given it enough effort, hadn’t worked to reach out and meet some of my fellow teammates. ¬†I finally said that I never felt like I fit in. They only offer up to size 12 in clothing and I can only fit in a select few of their ‘looser fit’ garments on a good day.

The racing singlet they give you for being on their team barely¬†fits over my boobs and so I have never even worn it to represent them when I run.¬† I won’t wear it in public.

It’s great, high quality and fun clothing line for some woman, and while I respect and loved the community of supportive women, the clothes just don’t work for me. And perhaps more importantly, their clothing is not an option for the women I am trying to reach, work with and encourage who are learning to love being active and themselves wear sizes 12 – 30.

I told Spencer that I was in a spot with my running and health and with our business, Novo Veritas, that I was truly interested in finding companies that I could suggest and endorse that embraced the idea that active woman come in all sizes.

I want to find companies, events and products that back up OUR brand with theirs; they show support and exhibit the understanding that woman are fierce, bad ass, healthy in all sizes.

Women (and men, let’s be fair!)¬†kick ass, conquer mountains, battle fears and chase down dreams in ALL shapes and sizes.

I told Spencer that I wanted to intentionally throw my support behind those endeavors that recognize active, adventure-seeking, healthy people of all shapes and sizes.

And then I found this dress.

But it turns out to not even really be about the dress.  It was more about finding a company and a community that support me and all of the other women I know so we can go out and do daring and bad ass things.

No matter what it may be. No matter our size. ūüôā

What daring and bad ass things are YOU up to?!

‘Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will. ‘ – Anne Klein.

Save

Fear.

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Perched on the edge of the monolith that is Angels Landing, Zion National Park.  Pictured with Cary Stephens.  Cary is an accomplished ultra runner who bravely and patiently spent the weekend legging out the mileage with me that I needed in my last big training block.

For me there is a rush in facing off against a fear.

There is a rush, a feeling fully alive moment, a thrill. Maybe it is just INTENSE relief when you are safely on the other side of your fears.¬† But there is no denying that you ‘feel’ something big and profound and unforgettable as you dive head first into something you are afraid of.

And get to the other side.

I never thought I was afraid of heights.

I have a healthy respect for heights.¬† Or more accurately, a healthy fear of falling. I can go to the top of tall buildings and enjoy the view, climbs ladders and scramble onto the rooftop, ride a Ferris wheel, run (carefully) along a mountainside with a cliff on one edge.¬† I’ve always figured I wasn’t really afraid of heights.

This weekend I was doing one of my last training blocks for a race. I met up with a friend in Southern Utah who had volunteered to play trail guide and preview part of the course with me.  We took one day away from the course and ran in Zion National Park.

JAW DROPPING!

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Holy smokes is that place stunning!

Eloquent orators and authors have carefully picked the perfect words to attempt to describe this amazing spot. ¬†I ran out of good words really fast. I mostly stopped and uttered ‘wow! ‘about a 1,000 times. ūüôā ¬†Sheer walls, views in all directions and colors and shapes that simply don’t seem to belong together in nature. ¬†Yet are entirely nature in all her perfect glory.

There’s a hike to a popular spot called Angels Landing.

My friend Cary and I opted to go in to Zion National Park and hit two of their big climbs in the same day. ¬†Observation Point and Angels Landing.¬† At the end of the day we had over 24ish miles and about 5,000 feet of vertical. ¬†(GPS doesn’t work well in those rock canyons so the vertical is a close guess.)

It was an incredible training day!

Here’s a shortened/edited version of their description to park visitors about Angels Landing:

‘The Angels Landing Trail is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the national park system. Zion’s pride and joy runs along a narrow rock fin with dizzying drop-offs on both sides. The trail culminates at a lofty perch, boasting magnificent views in every direction… Narrow ridges with deep chasms on each of its flanks. Hikers pull themselves up by chains. The last half-mile is across a narrow sandstone ridge, anchored with support chains attached along some sections of the sheer, narrow fin.’

I read that and went ‘AMAZING! Let’s go! I have to see this!’

We hiked and ran Observation Point (wow!) and then headed over to Angels Landing.¬† We climbed for about 3 miles up switchbacks and fairly smooth, well-traveled, but steep and stunningly scenic terrain. We get all the way to the top where it narrows down to go out on the ‘fin’ and it is at this point that the words I read earlier began to get real…

It really is a little, thin, bony, spiny back of a fin from one monolith top to another. ¬†With anchored chains. ¬† Like… ¬†The ‘fin’ is not even ONE PERSON wide in some spots. ¬†There are rock chasms you have to shimmy though to higher ledges. More narrow than the opening of an typical escalator — with a 1,500 foot drop to the canyon floor on either side if you miss a step.

I did a lot of self-coaching on that fin.

A lot.

I ended the day with a re-defined respect for heights.

You use this anchored chain to hold on at the super narrow parts.¬† It turns out I man-handled every single link on every single yard of that chain for the .5 mile out and the .5 mile back. ¬†I was terrified to let go of that chain. ¬†I did really graceful and elegant things like plopping down on my butt and schooching with my body stretched out on the ground toward the next chain post to hook my foot for safety. ¬†I groped total strangers who wouldn’t let go of the chain, while I was focused on doing the same… NOT LETTING GO of that damn chain while still trying to keep moving. ¬†It’s sandstone – and super ‘sticky’. ¬†You have GREAT traction on your feet in the dry weather.

No matter.¬† Didn’t care how good the footing was.¬†I was terrified for a full mile — which took an hour — to get out to that landing and back.

There are some small chasms within this fin that you have to basically shimmy into for a bit and then climb up, out and over.

Enter the OLD¬†fear that I did not expect to encounter…¬† Real-life, experience-based fear of being the fat girl who can’t ‘fit’ in something. ¬†(A chair, a car, a doorway, a freaking-rock-chasm-on-top-of-a-rock-monoltih.)

Beyond being afraid of the dizzying heights I had several paralyzing moments where I looked at the width of the opening in the rocks, the narrowness of the passage with two people on a ‘ledge’ and thought ‘I AM NOT GOING TO FIT.’

Actually the thought in my head was…

‘HOLY CRAP. I am NOT going to fit, I’m too fat. I’m going to get my fat ass stuck in (not ON) this rock, block traffic, have to be rescued and cut out of a cliff and ruin a National Monument…’

The chasms were tall, narrow and you eventually have to work yourself up and over the chasm to the next layer of ledge.¬† There were points of narrowness where someone larger than a healthy weight wouldn’t fit. ¬†They just wouldn’t.¬† I saw it play out several times in the span of about .25 of a mile.

I’m balancing what I see happening to others with the messages firing from my brain who still sees me as 400 pounds at this moment in time.

I am well aware that once upon a time I would have been the women that would have had to turn around before the summit because I wouldn’t have fit on that trail.

Deep breath.

Check in on THAT moment and the reality in front of me and only that.  

Push the fear aside and stare down the facts…¬†

I fit!

And bonus? I have upper body strength to hoist myself up to the ledge (thank you Jordan, strength coach!)

Repeat. ūüôā

I climbed that fin, shimmied up chasms, walked out on the monolith. Found ways around and up and over. So did almost everyone else.

And it was wonderful…

FREAKING EPIC!!!

Once we were back to the initial landing I realized I felt exhausted, depleted from spending an hour with FEAR.¬† And we still had about 3 hours to run. ūüôā

I felt ‘fully alive’.

However I remember with the most satisfaction the feeling of quieting my brain and not quitting.  For going on even when I was afraid.  For breathing and pausing and problem solving and for getting my brain to shut up long enough for me to decide where to place my foot in the next step.

I didn’t let fear win this time.

It got me thinking deeply about fears.

And how we allow them to limit us.

Often I believe we either assume we can’t do something or simply let fear shut the door in our face and accept it. I’m not talking about phobias or fears born of hard or life-changing experiences that leave us scarred. ¬†I get those and I get why those can’t be ‘worked’ around.

I’m talking about the more mundane/normal/regular fears that we accept as facts in our lives.

We have to respect fear for our own survival, I mean it’s there to protect us on several levels.

Fear¬†is:¬†An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation¬†of some imagined event or experience. — Psychology Today

I’m talking about the fears that we haven’t fully explored, the ones we just kind of blindly accept. Or the ones that crop up unexpectedly even. The ones that perhaps rob us of some of life’s defining moments and treasures.

There is joy in being fully alive.

There is blessing in staying alive because you respected that warning shot of fear.

But are all of my/your fears legit?

Are you limiting yourself because you’re afraid? ¬†Am I?

I did a lot of things this weekend that I normally categorize – big and small – in my brain as ‘being afraid’ of…

It’s Monday and here I am after a good day of work and normal routines. ūüôā ¬†I survived my fear(s) this weekend. ¬†Hell, I not only survived, I thrived, I lived, I conquered!

I’m feeling like a happy, tired, fear-facing, adventure girl at this moment in time. ūüôā

Lifestyle changes are fraught with fears. ¬†I know most of them well.¬† Really well. ¬†And I know that most of the time the things we are afraid of aren’t really real. ¬†They aren’t the true foe.

Sometimes those fears are deep and true and were learned with hard experiences and upon closer inspection/introspection we may simply have to respect them for what they are.

But…

But what if being afraid is simply our own choice to stand still and choose to accept a closed door because we’re too afraid to open the damn door?

That’s no way to see the world or enjoy life or grow or LIVE.

I’m challenging you – just as I challenged myself this weekend – to think about what you fear and consider, just for a moment, for a single moment, what would happen if you were to reach out, open the door and JUST SEE what happens.

Just see what lies on the other side…

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Save

Gym shower.

Spencer and I were invited to present to a group of college students.

It was fun, went great and they asked some of the BEST questions. ¬†They aren’t easily embarrassed and they didn’t hold back.

They quickly got to the personal stuff.

After the presentation a young woman approached me. ¬†Spencer and I look forward to¬†sticking around after a presentation for a bit and chatting with people. They’ll usually ask a question that one or the other of us is better equipped to answer. ¬†We just kind of organically move through the group helping each other get everyone’s questions answered.

This time, the young woman bee-lined for me.  As she approached I could see tears starting.

I moved to the side – and took her gently with me…

‘I want to work out at the gym, but I can’t do it. ¬†I need to. I miss it. I know I should be. I can’t.’

We talked for a little bit. I was listening and trying hard to figure out what the underlying objection/fear was. I could hear her telling me stories and excuses.

But she wasn’t telling me the truth, just yet.

After some conversation about how she was fit and active in high school and it just wasn’t happening the same way in College, we finally hit at the issue.

She tried to casually just slip in this story…

‘I am about 90 pounds over my ideal weight. I was at the gym last year. Showering after a class. These two other girls – thin, tan, beautiful — were chatting about how they felt fat and ugly. ¬†I don’t know them. ¬†Have never seen them. The one girl says to her friend something about how ‘at least we don’t look like some of the other ‘fatties’ in the gym’, with a noticeable head nod and eye roll in my direction. ¬†I did NOT imagine this. It happened.’

She was ashamed.

And deeply wounded.

Tears were angry tears and sparse at this point. ¬†And she was absolutely WILLING me to tell her it hadn’t happened they way she experienced it.

She wanted someone to be mad at, someone to fight with, someone to disagree with her.¬† It wasn’t going to be me. ¬†I understand her. ¬†I have been there.

I’m also pretty damn sure that she also wishes it had never happened.

But it did.

And we can’t change that.

I said ‘I’m sorry that happened to you. I believe you. And I can see how deeply it hurt you.’

We just kind of looked at each other for a bit as she struggled to control her emotions.

I finally said ‘You’re brave. ¬†Strong. ¬†And ridiculously smart. You know the choice is yours to make. ¬†What are you going to do about this? ¬†Are you going to allow¬†two girls you don’t even know — who very likely have their own miserable, sad, ugly story and issues — stop you? ¬†Determine your future?’

I offered to go to the gym with her — as her defender and companion. ¬†Learn the gym. ¬†Meet some of the regulars who quite frankly don’t care if you’re a 3-headed alien as long as you don’t mess with their routine or get in their way. ūüôā ¬†Just be there with her.

Give her a new experience that is not steeped in shame.

I’m waiting for her to take me up on the offer.

The wound to her soul and confidence is deep. ¬†I know that. ¬†I’m not trying to minimize that or ignore her pain.

I just want her to get mad enough to fight back for her self.  Defend herself.

Fighting back is a much more productive stance than passive acceptance or hiding in shame.

WHY?

Why do we humans strike out in such hurtful ways at each other? ¬†She was at the gym, in the shower and had been working out. ¬†That’s ALL anyone knows. ¬†Who the hell really cares what her body looks like? ¬†No one has any idea what she’s hiding, suffering with, running from. ¬†No one has any idea her path, her hearts desire, her goals and dreams.

Woman in particular seem to have a capacity for being horribly mean to other woman.

We tend to be so hard on ourselves.

We really, really don’t need outside help.

And the ‘mean’ girls… ¬†They’re hurting too. I just have a less patience for how they choose to exhibit their ‘hurt’…

Meanwhile, I’m stuck thinking about the young woman who won’t go to the gym.

My heart hurts for her.

And there’s really nothing I can do.

 

 

 

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

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12/31/2016

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

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

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

They’re diabolical dudes.

Course was WICKED hard.

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

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

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

We were set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where we went wrong…

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

I feel like this mistake was largely mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We keep going, looking for flagging or a road.

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

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

Yet somewhere in this mess we begin to realize…

And actually admit…

We’re lost.

And we can’t backtrack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah!

Short-lived happy dance!

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

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

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

Then it hits me.

ANNE MILLER.

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

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

HERE enters our Guardian Angel.

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

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

“We will not abandon you!”

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

Neither did Spencer or Andrew.

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

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

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

We’re still kinda lost.

BUT we have flagging to follow.

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

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

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

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

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They know where we are!

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

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

It’s starting to snow.

It’s getting dark.

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

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

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

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

Anything.

Anne, Spencer and Andrew all knew we were safe at this point.  And it turns out we were on the last 5 Р6 miles and headed in the right direction

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

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

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

Andrew reaches us.

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

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

So much relief.

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

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

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

The three strongest feelings that day?

My gut when I KNEW we were lost.

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

My heart and soul flooding with gratitude for my friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie and Rita… ¬†Thank you. ¬†

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Honest advice from a friend…

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

Holy cow.

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

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

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

How awesome is that!??

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

Betsy:

So the day you checked in with me?

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

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

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

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

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

I email Joe and get an appointment.

I go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jill:

The video: YES I UNDERSTAND.

I understand so, so very much.

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

I am not going to tell you to grow up.

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

Secret?

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

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

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

YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE YOUR BODY.

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t have to be your true romance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending love as always

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are never alone.

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

Thank you Jill.

Diabetes doesn’t go on Holiday…

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

It’s been in retirement for 3 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy crap.

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


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

Whew.  Little breathing room and stab of relief.

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

Yesterday was 100.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

‘My body hates carbs!’ — me

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

So…

Good-bye to my plant based diet that I loved and enjoyed for almost three years. (Averaging 300 Р400 ish grams of carbohydrates per day with a healthy balance of grains, fruits and veggies.)

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

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

I know how to do this.

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

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

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

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


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

It never takes a Holiday.

But, guess what?

I have NO PLANS to take a Holiday either.

How do you make someone change?

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

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

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

You can not motivate someone else to embrace big changes.

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

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

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

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

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

None of it.

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


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

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

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

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

You are well aware of your situation.

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

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

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

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

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

Fat chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not when YOU think they’re thirsty.

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