Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let Go

Today I came across this question posted by a friend.

Only two words to sum up what you wanted to tell your younger self. How do you sum up years of living and experiences in two words. I thought about it and I decided that my younger self really needed to hear only two words. 'Let Go'. 

Let go of expectations. Life is so much simpler and kinder to you when you don't approach everything with a preconceived expectation. It's like racing. Do the training, bring a great attitude and let it happen. 

Let go of judgement. Yes, it is good to not judge others but mostly I needed and still work on not judging myself. Why when we race do we need to define the race as a good or bad race? How about just accepting it as a race and it was what is was? Easier said than done, but it is after all just one event in a life of events. It is hard to not label oneself when thinking about athletics. Everything doesn't need appraisal.

Let go of baggage. Even the smallest bag can become very heavy if you need to carry it for years. Drop it, and move away. At first you may feel you have forgotten something but over time you will get adjust to having the freedom of movement without carting the load around.

Let go of plans. Hard for me, I like to have a plan BUT life isn't about planning everything. I remind myself often that sometimes we have to give up the life we planned to have the life waiting for us. So often when I take a turn on a trail that I didn't plan I find myself enjoying new territory I didn't even know existed. Just like life, take a turn and don't follow a map you wrote twenty years ago. The journey will open up before you.

Let go of the brakes. Momentum is a wonderful thing. Often when things are going really well and flowing on the mountain bike, the best thing to do is let go of the brakes and you will go over obstacles without even knowing they were there. Same in life, if you are death gripping the brakes every little bump in the road becomes a mountain to get over. 

Let go of perfection. Nothing and no one is perfect. Often we find ourselves trying to handle everything perfectly. Be the perfect friend, be the perfect partner or do everything perfectly. It's okay to just do your best. Your best is perfection in process. I have a tattoo that has a few spots where the ink didn't take. The tattoo artist wanted to fix it for me. I refused. I needed a daily reminder that perfection is unattainable. Instead of aiming trying so hard to be perfect, be real. 

Dear Younger Self,

LET GO and then hang on and enjoy the journey cause its amazing!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Contaminate the World

A few weeks ago I found myself in a situation where I was infected by two very contagious people. We have all been hearing lately about horrible infectious diseases, leaving us all with a fear of catching a catastrophic  illness. What I was reminded of during my experience was that not everything that is transmitted from one living organism to another is a bad thing.

Let me explain. I met up with a friend and her friend to do a lovely day of hiking and running in my local mountains. As soon as we were in the parking lot there was laughter and silliness. I can tell you that the symptoms of having fun quickly were evident and we were spreading that infection up and down a mountain. When you come upon three grown woman who spontaneously break into song frequently it seems that smiles are transmitted to other peoples faces. The fun loving and friendly attitude quickly took over everyone we came in contact with on our journey.

I knew that these two were kindred spirits pretty quickly but the fact that we were all life long carriers was cemented when I told them that I sometimes like to run with airplane arms. Instead of questioning what I was talking about, our trail turned into a runway with three planes tilting and negotiating steep banked turns. We put in many miles that day on the trail and I knew that it was a good workout because my cheeks were sore. Laughter is good medicine and good exercise. These two ladies understood how the mountains feed my soul and that a positive fun loving attitude nourishes ones spirit.

Today a friend of mine posted something that reminded me that the best thing we can do for the world is be happy. So go ahead, be highly infectious and contagious in your attitude.... and next time you run, spontaneously break into song while you flap your airplane wings. I promise that the only thing this illness will do is cause a giant smile:)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Being a Tumbleweed

If I were a plant I think I'd be a tumbleweed. Once again the wind uprooted me and I am blowing around. I spent the winter establishing a new home base but for the summer I have returned to Colorado. The beauty of being a tumbleweed is although I am blown away from my roots, over the years I have managed to drop seeds in several places. This means that almost where ever I am I feel like I am home. 

Returning to Leadville Colorado has been a giant homecoming. I have had family reunions with my Leadman family and have been out playing with my great friends. It really has been like summer camp for me. I am not racing this year and that has allowed me to do so many adventures I have dreamed of for years. 

One of my favorite places in the world is the top of Hope Pass. I love being surrounded by the majestic mountains and the serenity overwhelms me. This weed was able to get herself blown up there for a night. Opening the tent in the morning and looking out at meadows of flowers below the peak of the mountain was amazing. If I am ever to run the Leadville Trail 100 again, the memories of my night at the Hopeless aid station will fuel me for miles. I found great hope for the future and all the adventures to come while I was there. 

Good Morning!

Some women are flowers in the garden of life. I'm okay with being a weed, it means I'm hardier and unlike an orchid don't need special conditions to thrive. To really make me happy, let me be free and experience all the world has to offer. I thrive when I am outdoors in nature and my perfect date night is under the stars. 

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

I'm grateful for all the places I have blown and all the seeds I have sown for now I am enjoying the flowering of all my wonderful friendships. Tumble on:)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Not a Lone Wolf

A while back I played one of those silly Facebook games. The one where you post a thing and everyone tells you how they met you. I know my life is full of wonderful people and it was a great way to be reminded of how many of them came into my life. Not surprising to me was that most of the people that I feel very close to I met through sport. What is surprising is that the sports I participate in are considered individual sports. Even more surprising to me was that so many of the people that I value I met through swimming.

For some reason swimming turned out to be the most social of my activities. Maybe it was the fact we were practically naked and in very close proximity to each other that we bonded so quickly. I found you got to know your lane mates very well over the course of a few workouts. You would learn who was a natural leader and who liked to follow. Some people were excellent mathematicians and surprisingly to me the accountants and engineers seemed to struggle the most with the clock. It was simple math but they couldn't quite get it????? The biggest thing was you found out who had a sense of humor, who you could count on to push you when you needed it and pull you when you needed that. Many a strong friendship was forged in chlorine and salt water for me. Some of my best training partners and friends I first met in the pool. I knew if we connected while staring at a black line we would do well out on the roads.

The bonds that I have forged over the years in miles of sweat, laughter and yes sometimes tears will always remain strong. Maybe it is all that fluid that has rusted us together. It could be that like army buddies we have seen battle together through strong winds, hail storms, cold snaps and heat waves. There is something about being stripped down to the raw essentials of who you are with another person that leaves you with a life long connection. Its the glimpse into the window of their soul when all the shades have been removed. We may not always be sharing training but once we have been training partners and bonded at that level we always have a thread stringing us together.

One of the hardest parts of moving for me has been leaving behind my tried and true partners in training. There is nothing like being on the wheel of someone who you trust completely and can predict what they are going to do before they do it. I miss my pals and the push they gave me but I know that in my new community I will find more people to add to my life posse, it just may take time. We all may be out there racing with one number on us, but never are we an individual, there is always a team behind us supporting us. To everyone I have met through sport, thank you for teaching me how to be tough and for all the good times. I may appear to be a lone wolf but I know that my pack is never far away and in that I find great strength.

"for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hibernation Ends

The bears that are causing bear jams all over the Bow Valley and I have something in common. We have both come out of hibernation. It appears that spring has arrived and with it we have started to venture out. I'm not sure how the bears decided that it is spring, I mean it still snows randomly, but for me it is that I can ride my bike after work without snow pants. I guess that is spring, and maybe summer too. 

As a way of really getting myself out of my den I signed up to do a local women's half marathon. Now I have been struggling with my little 'pelvis, back, abdominal' injury all winter and while I have my good days they are far between and my running isn't very consistent. Hard not to compare to last year but for every peak there is a valley. I am spending some time in the valley right now. One day I may climb back out of it. For now I am just trying to be all zen and in the moment and enjoy that I am out running. It was a beautiful race and I got to really look around and take in the scenery, for longer than I would have liked. There were women running around me that were having the best race of their lives and I had no right to be all mopey. Just like the bear on the side of the road causing the bear jam, I tried to be oblivious to what everyone else was doing and just enjoy foraging along after a long winter of hibernation. It worked, I got to the finish line in one piece and met some very nice ladies along the way. 

There was a time in my life that I would have been over the moon ecstatic with the time I posted. I would have felt that I had trained very hard to finish 21km. I didn't walk a single step of the way and in my 20's that would have been victory in itself. Now I post that time and my perspective has changed so much that I felt underprepared and slow. Who am I to judge and label my performance? This year isn't about pushing my limits or excelling athletically. This year is about getting back to the root of it all and having fun. Being kind to myself in the journey and celebrating that I love an active outdoor lifestyle. Not every year has to be about accomplishing a 'bigger' and 'better' goal or being at a higher fitness level. Right now, I am just going to spend some time enjoying where I am, the time you spend in the valley gives a different perspective than the time on the peak but it can be just as fulfilling. 
'My valleys are higher than most peoples peaks' Dan Gable

Thursday, May 8, 2014

True Courage

'Courage is like a muscle, it gets strengthened by use'

As athletes we spend time training for our upcoming events. We decide what that event may be and we structure specific training. When I was training to do Leadman I wasn't swimming because I was putting all my effort into running and biking. I have been back in the pool swimming and I have found that although I am not swimming as well as I once was, I still am able to swim. Each time I go to the pool I am getting stronger and feeling better. I am restrengthening my swimming muscles that I had given a break. After over 20 years of swimming I am finally able to say there is muscle memory and recall for the feel of the water. Getting older has its advantages, just like my swimming technique and muscles I have many more years of base training in courage.

This last year I confronted many of my fears. I took them on head on and I didn't back down. I was terrified of doing the Leadman but I broke it down into tangible parts and got to work. I was petrified of making the major life changes that I undertook, but like in running the 100 miles I took one step and just kept on taking the next steps gaining momentum. Throughout it all my friends and family kept telling me I had the strength and courage to do what needed to be done. I was full of fear, fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of the unknown and fear of pain. But courage isn't about lack of fear. Courage is about facing the fears, acknowledging them and moving forward anyways. 

'Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear-not absence of fear' Mark Twain

In life when we are going through events or experiences we don't always know why. It is in hindsight that we gain insight. I now know why I spent the last year training my courage. I had draw on every bit of that courage over a week ago. My best buddy who had been my constant companion for over 12 years was struggling. She was having neurological episodes and they were getting more severe. I had always promised her a quality life and that quality was gone. As much as it pained me to watch her lose her dignity and spark I knew that the pain of losing her would be greater. I had to draw on every ounce of strength and courage that I had. Luckily, I was not alone and her ability to create love benefited us both. On April 28th at our home Tana was put to rest. I feel that a part of my heart and soul was taken with her. I miss her tremendously but I loved her enough to take on this pain so that she would be able to run fast again and be at peace.

'Being loved deeply by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage'-Lao Tzu

I can't explain the connection that I had with Tana very well. I know that she did way more for me than I ever did for her. Last summer she was my lifeline when I was facing my fears and finally becoming honest with myself. Whenever I was overwhelmed or feeling shell shocked she would know just what to do. Sometimes, she would rest her head on my leg, other times she would throw her toy at me. Either way, she always made me know I wasn't alone and that we were a team. The last year of her life she got to live in the mountains and be in the snow and she always had a smile on her face. It is through her that I have met many wonderful people and she continued to make special connections right up until the end.

I know Humu was waiting for her and they are spooning once again:) and Tana is heavily sighing that Humu chooses to be SO close!

Tana is no longer physically present but I feel her every where. Since I let her go I have had amazing runs. It is like old times and I sense her running right next to me, except uphill then she charges and taunts me from the top. My ears still strain for her sounds at night, I still think to open her door in the morning and I still look in my mirror every time I drive expecting to see her lounging back there watching the world pass. I don't have the heart yet to wash her nose prints off the windows or vacuum all her fur out of the cars but even when I do those things I know that her nose prints will never be erased from my heart. 

'Without great love, we don't experience great loss'.

Tana taught me about unconditional love and complete trust. In the end that is what it is all about. Loving and trusting and forgiving. She gave me so many gifts and I am so grateful for all that we shared. I'm glad that she was here long enough to see me really happy with a life full of love and laughter. So, if you see me out on the trails and I am laughing and smiling looking down to my left, just know that Tana and I are doing what we loved to do together best. AND watch out if you are racing me cause I have a special angel pulling me along:)

'Whoever said diamonds are a girls best friend, never had a dog'.

 True courage comes when you allow more love than fear into your heart-Kiki

Monday, April 28, 2014

Past the Pain

Sometimes you don't know you are in pain until the pain is gone. The pain just becomes part of your normal. You accept it as the way it is, or it creeps up on you in stages until it is just a companion on your everyday travels. I relearned this lesson recently.

In December I crashed my mountain bike. It wasn't a spectacular crash, I just went down and went down hard. There was no reason for me to crash. I wasn't doing anything extremely technical, quite the contrary, I was cruising along at a good speed on nice flowing single track in the desert. That was I was cruising along until I wasn't, then I was on the ground with the wind knocked out of me and a instant feeling of nausea and dread. I looked at my elbow and saw skin flaps and blood and knew my ride was over. I was so focused on the elbow and the subsequent sutures and the pain in the elbow that at first I didn't notice the other parts of my body that took impact. But there were a few. I was well medicated for a few days which seemed to make me think that I was feeling good. I tried to do a 24 hour run for New Years. It ended up being a shuffle fest with prolonged breaks every 5 miles or so. I gave up on the idea of running and decided to just shuffle a few laps now and then with friends. I still had fun, but I knew my hips and groin were not quite right. 

Funny thing about pain is it seems to be bed buddies with denial. I was able to convince myself when I got home that the stiffness in my pelvis was from driving hours on hours back to Canada. I was able to go with that theory for a few weeks. Then I switched to the difficulty I had whenever I tried to run was from my lack of running. I got frustrated with my lack of fitness so I just tried harder. The fact that I could barely stand up after a run was just that I had let myself go. I fought to run and push through even though my legs felt like they were pushing through cement with each step. Not only was I in denial, I'm also a bit stubborn- okay a lot stubborn and refused to believe that I couldn't fix this myself. On and on this pattern went. 

Finally, I listened and I got a chiropractic adjustment. As soon as I stood up and walked I couldn't believe it. My hips moved freely, which meant my stride was smoother and longer. I went for a run and ran freer and more comfortably since last June. You see my ankle injury was finally to the point I could run without favoring it when I crashed my bike. It wasn't the running that shocked me though, it was the little things. Putting on my pants and standing on one leg I found myself bracing for and concentrating very hard, except now I didn't need to. Standing up from sitting could be done quickly and turning over in bed I didn't have to plan logistically. As an athlete in a race we need to embrace the pain, make friends with the pain and often ignore the pain. Learning when to shut that off and notice the pain is something I need to work on. I could have had an adjustment and had my SI joints in place back in January, BUT no, I let the pain seep in and become a part of my life. 

Its a lesson for life as well. How often do we just accept things the way they are, let the discomfort settle in and become pain that we just live with? It can come on quickly or slowly and just attach itself to us to the point that we don't notice it is there. Not until we do something about it and make the adjustment to rid ourselves of pain do we realize how much it has seeped into us. As soon as we cross the finish line the pain of the effort vanishes. Sometimes it isn't until we remove ourselves from a situation that we realize how much pain there has been. I have found joy in running again. Maybe having some pain now and then lets us truly appreciate the pain free moments. Without having seen the rain, do we really appreciate the sun? 

Find a place inside where there's joy and the joy will burn out the pain. J Campbell

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Eating an Elephant

My apologies for my lack of posting lately. My plate has been full. You see I've been eating an elephant. Big task for a vegan and a little overwhelming at times. I have made many drastic life changes in the last 8 months and with those changes comes work. I have left a 22 year marriage, moved back to Canada after 21 years away and started to reestablish myself in a new community. I chose to do all these things but that doesn't mean at times I didn't feel bogged down, instead of eating the elephant there have been times I was just choking on it. Instead of looking at the bite in front of me I would start to look at the whole thing. 

There were times when I thought I had gotten through a leg of the thing to turn around and find out it had grown back. Not everything could be accomplished easy and in one sitting. Some things needed to be done two or even three times. I wasn't always making forward progress but slowly the list diminished and the elephant went from being a giant bull to a little calf. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room at times I would address it directly. When I was scared of the elephant I would think of him dancing around in a pink tutu and quite frankly nothing wearing a pink tutu is that frightening. 

Throughout this whole process I have been grateful for my years and experience in endurance events. Quite frankly, life is one big endurance event and the races I have done have just been training days for the real deal. In a race there are always set backs and changes in plans and goals. Life is no different. In races I look at the challenges as ways to get stronger and overcome. I have tried to apply this to life. If you want to have a stellar race you need to go through some pain and discomfort. If you want to just get through a race you can just coast along in the comfort zone. Same with life. To really live a life you need to move out of the comfort zone at times and have the courage that you are strong enough to get to the other side. 

When we toe the line in an Ironman or a 100 mile running race or any other big endurance challenge we are best to not look at the whole race. It will overwhelm us and leave us feeling a bit paralyzed by the huge undertaking. I have practiced this lately. I have focused on getting to the next buoy in the swim, the next aid station and at times just putting one foot in front of the other. By keeping in the moment and dealing with the immediate task at hand I have slowly been able to move through each stage of the changes. I can't force things and have to let the race come to me at times. I need to slam a gel or in this case a glass of wine now and then to keep from bonking. But now when I look up I can see the finish line in the distance. I have had the best cheering squad in this event and even though they couldn't eat the elephant for me, my friends and family have sat at my table and helped me cut it up. I know this isn't my last big event and that my life is onto a new and exciting chapter. I also know that there will be more elephants that come along and the only way to eat them is one bite at a time. People ask how you run 100 miles, you don't run 100 miles you run one step at a time and eventually you have covered 100 miles. 

Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change. Arthur Burt

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Live on the Edge

Several years ago my mom gave me a little carved pewter circle that I carry with me daily. It is a reminder of how I want to live my life. It has a simple message 'Live on the edge'. Over the summer my Lead family would say 'if you aren't living on the edge, you are taking up too much space'. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to take risks in life, do things that scare me and push my limits. BUT, if you are living on the edge there are times when you can slip and fall. That is when you  truly learn the value of your life and the people in it. Sure, people can watch you while you teeter on the edge but it is those who are willing to come to the edge with you that matter. More importantly it is those who will hang over the edge when you slip and pull you back up that make life the best.

2013 was a year of living on the edge for me. At times it could be said that I was hanging off the ledge by my fingernails. During this time, I always had people willing to lay on the edge and hold my hand until I was able to get back up. They never let me free fall and I am so appreciative. It was a year of big adventures and monumental changes and I never felt like I was without my parachutes. Even if I were to let go and fall to the bottom I knew I would have a fall softened by love of those close to me. For all of you that watched me and walked with me (some of you literally walked for miles with me) I thank you. I feel like my feet are firmly back on solid ground but I will never let myself get too far from the edge. It is at the edge that you see the vast vistas of possibilities in life and from where I am now standing the view couldn't be more spectacular. 

“Come to the edge’, he said.
They said, ‘We are afraid’.
‘Come to the edge’, he said.
They came.
He pushed them…
And they flew.”
– Guillaume Apollinaire