The Selfie.

I’m a master at the “selfie.” For years, I’ve been taking pictures of myself with my friends. I like my selfies. I tend to look best in my selfies because I know exactly when I’m going to push the button to take the picture. I like my pictures so much that I’ve used selfies I’ve taken on this blog again and again and again.

At Hood to Coast, someone on my team caught me in the act.  Here’s the picture I was taking:


And here’s the picture of me taking the picture:


I like this photo – not just because I think I look lean in it – but because its existence affirms for me that, in those few days in Portland, I was not alone. I was surrounded by incredible teammates who made my first return to Portland since October of last year warm and memorable.

It also makes me realize that I acted, to some extent, as though I was alone, when in reality, I wasn’t.

There I was on the beach with eleven teammates, many of whom were just a few feet away, and it didn’t occur to me to ask one of them to take our picture. I just did what I always do and took it myself. I do that. I like the independence and the control of a selfie, but I also tend to function in a self contained manner because I’m used to being alone and I don’t like being a bother. It wouldn’t bother me one bit to take a picture for someone else but to ask someone to take a picture for me? That feels like an imposition. Why take up their time? Why take them away from what they are doing and risk interrupting a moment or a thought?

I worry about that sort of thing a lot. Even in relationships, I’m cautious about imposing myself on others. I love having people I love in my space, in my home. I’m super relaxed and never worry about things being used or moved or broken or stained. I just love having someone with me. But in their homes, I worry that I’m in the way or crowding them or putting something where it doesn’t belong or where it might annoy them.

Last summer, I took Bread and Butter to Portland for some months with me. Now I love my children, but they make lots of noise at night when they are hungry, and they need litter boxes, which always stink, even if I clean them daily. I know we were welcomed there and wanted, but it was stressful to try to be in that space without being disruptive and smelly – or perhaps more accurately, without feeling disruptive and smelly. It was just hard.

I’m at my best, at my most relaxed, in my own space. In my own home, I can’t be in the way. Independent, I can’t be a bother. I can’t be a nuisance. I can’t get in anyone’s way.

I’m realizing that the way I am sometimes isn’t good for me or the people I’m around. I wouldn’t want any of my friends to think that they shouldn’t tap me on the shoulder and ask me to take a picture. And I know that my friends similarly wouldn’t feel bothered, but would be saddened to know that I felt uneasy asking for their help. And I know no one who invites me into his or her home wants me to feel uncomfortable. So why not just go and relax?

It would be good for me to relinquish some of the independence, the control, and the fear of putting people out – to recognize and acknowledge that there are people around me who can and want to help and who want me in their space and maybe even who want to create a space that is shared. I’m just not used to thinking that way or having that level of comfort with others, even people I love.

And I do love every person who was with me in Portland. Very much.


A Short Story.

Last week, on my way out to Portland for Hood to Coast, I ordered a drink on the plane. It wasn’t an adult beverage because I don’t really drink many of those. Instead, it was a bottle of Vitamin Water. (Southwest lets you use their drink coupons for more than just adult beverages.) While I was living in Portland last summer, I developed a bit of an attachment to Vitamin Water. I purchased a bottle every time I went grocery shopping at the neighborhood Fred Meyer and enjoyed it on the walk home. I liked that little routine, so flying out to Portland for the first time since last October, a bottle of Vitamin Water felt right.

This is the bottle they gave me.

photo (1)

It’s a small bottle. You can gauge the size with respect to my hand. And on the white part of the label, there’s some print that you shouldn’t miss. It says:

so, yeah. this bottle is shorter than normal, but shorter is better. want proof? what’s better, a short or long phone call with your parents? a short or long download time? and who doesn’t want to be on a short list? that’s right, short is killing it right now.

I laughed out loud and showed the bottle to my friend Catherine, who was sitting across the aisle from me. I then packed the empty bottle safely into my backpack and carried it to and from Portland with me so that it can reside on my kitchen window sill for as long as it makes me smile.

No, things aren’t perfect in my world, but I’m feeling good, working a lot, traveling a lot, trying new things, and surrounding myself with incredible people – lots and lots of incredible people. With each passing day, I’m becoming more certain that I will find my way.

My short self has to agree that, in lots of ways, short is killing it right now.

Nyad’s Final Attempt.

I just read that Diana Nyad is heading for Cuba tomorrow to make her final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. I got nervous for her. I feel invested in this woman, not just because I love endurance events, but because I’ve met her and felt the magnitude of her heart in person.

What struck me most in the documentary that I recently saw about her and in the question and answer session she and a member of her team did afterwards was how she handled the people in her inner circle who expressed doubt about her efforts. There are people on her team who looked at her when she was deciding whether to try again and told her that maybe she shouldn’t, that maybe she should stop. My brain translated their doubts to, “Enough is enough. You’re being ridiculous.” When they said those things to her, she looked back at them and said the equivalent of, “I love and appreciate you, but I know what I need to do for me, and I’d love to have you out there with me.” How confident she must be to be able to so lovingly deal with people. I want her spirit, and I think I have some of her spirit in me.

I have long believed that the people I love have the greatest ability to hurt me. If a total stranger says something harsh to me, I can let that slide pretty easily. But when someone dear to me says something harsh, that burn lingers in my heart for quite some time. Still, I don’t write people off even when they cause me pain. When I know someone genuinely cares for me, I can’t write them off, even if they say or do something that indicates a lack of belief in me, in my choices, or in my ability to achieve my dreams.

Parents are a perfect example. They don’t always say or do what I want them to, but I know without even a speck of doubt that my parents always – and I do mean always – are coming from a place of love for me. I’ve had my share of differences with my parents on everything from what I should study to who I should date to where I should live. I know that I have let them influence me more than once down a path that was inconsistent with my heart’s desire. I’ve had arguments with them that resulted in seasons of not talking to them as much as I would have liked. But I have never reached a point of thinking that my life would be better without them. I will never reach that point. Whatever happens between us, I will always, always try with them because I believe their hearts towards me are real and huge.

I’m the same way in relationships. After a breakup, I sometimes let go of people, but I don’t let go of someone I love who I believe loves me. Even when I’m the one getting dumped, I try to maintain at least a friendship if I can’t have the relationship, and I hold on and try some more and continue to try until I reach a point of believing that they have no love for me. Sometimes it’s painful to be unable to let go. Sometimes it’s hard to watch someone I love start a new life with someone else, but I do it when I believe the love was real and remains, despite the circumstances.

When I met Diana Nyad, she said “It’s easy to do anything with heart. And when you lose heart, you can’t do anything.” I believe that to be true whether the issue is a chosen physical task or the emotional task of loving others who don’t believe in you or your dreams in quite the same way that you do.

Diana Nyad is trusting her heart in this effort. She’s doing what she has to do – what she knows is right for her. She believes her goal is worth all of the energy she can muster and all of the pain she can tolerate. And she isn’t doing it alone. She has a team of people working with her, some of whom think she’s gone too far, but she loves them deeply and believes in the relationships enough to want them by her side to the very end.

I’m rooting for her with all my heart because I admire that kind of drive and commitment to who and what you love.

Diana, you are and will always be an example to the rest of us to chase dreams of all kinds with everything we have in the most gracious and loving way. Swim safely. Swim strong. May this and all of your dreams come true.

Missing Canada.

Three years ago today, I was preparing to race Ironman Canada for the first time. I was there with my mom, and my dear friends Erin and Rey showed up to help cheer me on. Two years ago today, I was spectating Canada in Penticton while Erin raced. She had gotten excited as a spectator and signed up when she was on site with me the year before.  A year ago today, Erin and I were driving from Penticton to Portland after I had completed my third Ironman. This year, I’m sitting in my office in Austin, Texas. I didn’t go to Canada. The race moved from Penticton to Whistler and rather than go to Whistler this past weekend to volunteer and sign up for next year’s race, I did Hood to Coast. I loved every minute of that event, but my heart did miss Canada in more ways than one.

I’ve spent the last couple of days debating signing up for Canada in 2014. I’m already signed up to race Coeur d’Alene in June of 2014. Canada would be on July 27, just over a month later. (They changed the date this year. Normally, Canada is at the end of August.) I’d already be trained and would just need to maintain my fitness between the two and try to keep healthy.

But then I asked myself why. Why do I want to race Canada next year? I didn’t have a good answer.

Right now, I want to race it because I want so much to go back to the experiences of 2010, 2011, and 2012. They were not easy times, but they were really good times in the company of people I loved. But just wanting to go back? I don’t think that’s reason enough to put my body through two races within one month’s time. So rather than race, I’m considering planning a trip to Victoria, Vancouver, and Whistler to do some sightseeing and to spectate. That way, I can see the course, be on site at the race to sign up for 2015, and see a part of the world that’s been on my list for a while.

I’ve been telling myself that 2013 has been such a year of travel that 2014 needs to be a year of being at home. Other than planning to race St. George and Coeur d’Alene, I was thinking I’d park my happy butt at home and just be. But now I’m thinking differently. It would be an adventure to see that part of British Columbia. I think I’m at a place right now where I want to continue having adventures.

A number of you have told me you didn’t believe I would stay at home next year. Turns out you were right.

Canada in July of 2014, anyone?

Changing Images.

My Hood to Coast team has been sharing photos since we got home from the event. One of the photos I saw was this:

Finish with friendsI loved it immediately for two reasons. First, I love these girls. They embody so much of what I want for my own life – kindness, determination, humor, courage, and ability. I could go on and on about them. I just love them. Second, I like how I look in this photo. I don’t often taken full body photos of myself because I’ve never been one to love my body. I especially have never loved my legs. They are thick and stocky and have been since I was a little kid. I even remember kids in middle school joking about how my thighs connected when I walked – something that wasn’t true about most of the string beans I grew up with. But when I saw this photo, it occurred to me that my legs don’t look all that different from my friends’ legs – and I think my friends are both gorgeous girls with amazing bodies. My legs aren’t as defined, but I actually kind of like how they look, and I’m encouraged that they will only look better and better as my training continues.

Y’all, that’s huge for me. To like how I look? That’s practically unheard of.

I started my TriDot training program in January with the goal of getting faster. Weight loss has been a nice by-product, but it was never the goal. I’m down fifteen pounds, which is just ten pounds above high school weight, and I think my weight will continue to drop. That’s all well and good, but what means the most to me is that I see the beginnings of a shift in my confidence level.

When my friend Rey was in town about two months ago, we went shopping because my pants were so big that I could pull them down even when they were zipped and buttoned. On that spree, we bought skirts, and I’ve actually worn those skirts. In Germany, again I bought skirts. To feel comfortable in my skin to the point of wearing skirts is a new place for me. And it’s a place I enjoy.

I love this picture. And I love that I love this picture. I can’t wait to see how it feels to find more definition in my legs. I’m approaching forty and liking how I look? How exciting.

Hood to Coast 2013.

This weekend rocked. I had a ridiculous amount of fun doing a nearly 200-mile running relay from Mt. Hood, east of Portland, to the Oregon coast. My team of twelve consisted of Catherine, Lucinda, Jenn, Eily, Paul, Elizabeth, Eric, Jake, Fred, Mike, Jeanne and me. Catherine and I flew out Wednesday night. The rest of the team arrived on Thursday. We raced Friday and Saturday – as in we raced through the night. Then we flew home on Sunday.  This van decor from another team’s van captured the experience:

Hood to Comatose

Hood to Comatose indeed! I’m equal parts exhausted and exhilarated. And I learned so much.

  1. We had six people in each van, and everyone agreed that the vans reeked about mid-way through the 30-hour event. We had changes of clothes, but still, the stench was awful. And it didn’t bother us one bit because we were having so much fun. Turns out even a cramped and smelly car can be wonderful with the right people.
  2. Each member of the team ran three legs of varying distances and levels of difficulty. My first two were around 6 miles long and hilly. My third was four miles long and relatively flat. I ran my first leg early Friday afternoon, my second leg at 11 at night, and my third leg at 8:30 on Saturday morning. I could handle the running and actually did quite well on each leg. The biggest physical challenge for me was the being up all night aspect of the race. When I had moments to sleep, even 15 minutes here and there, I took them. And when we had over an hour to sleep on a high school gym floor, I passed out cold.
  3. After sleeping on the gym floor, we had the option to shower at the high school before heading back out on the road for our third legs. I took the option and paused momentarily when I realized that the showers were not stalls, but community showers – a pole with multiple spouts. I think I can safely say that never in my nearly forty years have I been willing to shower publicly. But in my exhausted and sleep-deprived state, I showered, and it felt damn good to be clean and feel somewhat awake for a bit.
  4. Oregon is beautiful. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there these past few years, but I hadn’t been since last October, and I caught myself in awe of the place once again. The rental house on the lake, the course through the country, and the beach were all incredibly beautiful. I love Portland and Oregon. They hold a very special place in my heart.
  5. I love hard efforts. This was a hard effort. Our team pulled together, powered through the night, and came out laughing and celebrating on the beach. No tension. No drama. Nothing but smiles and laughter the entire way. When we were done, we were celebrating, not just the effort, but our sheer enjoyment of the company along the way, despite the challenges of the event. There’s really nothing better than doing great things with great people.

Though it may take me a few days to recover, I loved this event. I loved the racing. I loved the company. I loved the environment. I would do this race again in a heartbeat. For sure.

Getting the Call.

Yesterday, I posted this picture and caption on Facebook:

photoI start crying and look who comes running to check on me. I swear they know things. And for the record, I’m watching the ESPN documentary on Sheryl Swoopes, a pioneer in so many ways.

Today, one person called and asked, “Why are you crying?”

Now that, folks, is someone who cares about me and how I’m doing – someone who asks questions, listens and loves me no matter what the answers are. The call wasn’t necessary, but it was a gesture I won’t soon forget.

What I Learned From Mary Decker Slaney.

Thanks to Facebook, I heard yesterday that ESPN was airing a documentary on Mary Decker, an American middle distance runner known for a fall during the 1984 Olympics that crushed her dream of Olympic gold. I watched that documentary tonight for the first time. I say “for the first time” because I’m absolutely sure I’ll be watching it again. I’ll watch it when I’m feeling bummed about something. I’ll watch it before I head out to a big race. I’ll watch it any time someone comes over who gives even a little damn about running, sports, achievement, having goals or wanting to be a better person. The story offers so much.

She was a running prodigy, winning races and earning recognition at age 12. At one point, she held every U.S. record from the 800 meter to the 10,000 meter distances. Plus, she held the world record in the mile. She didn’t get to compete in the 1972 Olympics because she was only 13 when the Olympic Trials happened. She didn’t compete in the 1976 Olympics because she was plagued with injuries. She didn’t compete in the 1980 Olympics because the United States boycotted the event. Then in 1984, she fell. She had only three laps left in her only Olympic race, and she fell. She injured her hip and was carried off the track by the man who would become her husband.  After awful media coverage over her attitude surrounding her fall and her tears after the race, she went from being called “America’s Sweetheart” to being “America’s Crybaby.” She took some time off to heal and came back in 1985 to have her very best season. She continued to race and win and competed again at the 1988 Olympics at the age of 37. Still the medal eluded her.

To this day, she remains the United States record holder for the 1500 meter, 3000 meter and mile events. According to this film, the times she posted then would put her on the Olympic team now. She was that good. But she never won Olympic gold or any Olympic medal. Ever.

The film talks about her single-minded focus on being the best, about her obsessive need for approval as a child, and about her “delicate constitution” as an adult. It talks about her incredible ability to train and compete through pain. Those things struck me. I admire her commitment and think I understand something about needing approval and drawing validation from performance. What struck me more was that she came back from that fall and raced again, even at the Olympic level. What struck me most is that she continues to run – and continues to love running – today.

Looking back on her career, she says, “The easiest thing in the world to do is to win. It’s simple. You win. You are happy. Life is wonderful. It’s a much greater skill to learn how to deal with the disappoint and the challenges and the losses.”

Wanting to learn about dealing with disappointment is sort of like wanting to be patient. In my church, we used to joke that you should never pray for patience because there’s only one way to get it and that way is never fun. Similarly, I want to learn to deal with disappointment without ever having to actually experience it. But we all experience it sometimes. I might be experiencing disappointment today. You might experience it tomorrow. We all face it at some point. That’s okay. What matters is how we respond.

I’d like to respond as Mary Decker did, not immediately after her race, but in the months and years later when she built her body, her spirit and her reputation back up. (I did some more reading on her and learned that she was later involved in a doping scandal, but that wasn’t part of this film, and from what I can gather, it wasn’t something actually proven as to her.) Like Mary Decker, I’d like to get myself back together after disappointment, get back to doing what I love, and do it better than anyone else.

Oh, and the guy who carried her off the track and later became her husband? They’re still together. He apparently didn’t judge her for the behavior that led to her condemnation in the press. He just stuck with her and continues to do so today. I’d say that kind of love and commitment is better than any medal a girl could win.

Work incredibly hard doing something I love with someone I love and who loves me forever by my side? Yes, please. I want to be like Mary Decker.

Wednesday List #22 – Words I Love

I’ve been noticing quotes lately. I used to be quite observant. In college and even law school, I would take notes on all kinds of things that struck me. As an adult and a working person, I’ve spent lots of time looking down – at my screen, at a book, at the ground beneath me – and less time looking around. Even so, words have found me. Here are some that have struck me lately:

  1. I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult? – Hermann Hesse’s Demian
  2. “Stay” is a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary. – Amos Bronson Alcott’s Concord Days
  3. Be slow to fall into friendships; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant. – Socrates
  4. You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened… or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the f*ck on. – Tupac
  5. Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always. – Rainer Maria Rilke
  6. Got the sunshine on my shoulders. Got a fist full of four leaf clovers. Yeah my cup runneth over. My sky is blue. Been kissed by Lady Luck. The stars are all lined up. Every arrow that I aim is true. But I miss you.- Kasey Musgraves song “I Miss You”
  7. Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey
  8. I hope you’re the end of my story. I hope you’re as far as it goes. I hope you’re the last word I ever utter. It’s never your time to go. – Pistol Annies song “I Hope You’re the End of My Story”

I hope something in these words spoke to something in you.

Implementing Change.

Back in February, I did a run clinic and learned something about running form that immediately improved my performance. At the clinic, in addition to teaching me POSE running, the instructor also challenged me to change my shoes. I was running in the Nike Structure, which is a perfectly good shoe for the kind of shoe it is. She challenged me to try a zero-drop shoe or a transition shoe towards the zero-drop shoe.  I didn’t right away because I had just purchased a few pairs of my Nike shoe. (When I find something I like, I tend to buy a few pairs because shoes change so frequently.) Then a few weeks ago, I went back for a refresher clinic and, again, she challenged me to change my shoes.

This weekend, I finally bought a pair of zero-drop shoes. This is what I bought:

Running shoesSee how there isn’t a huge wedge at the heel? My old shoes had a huge sole, so I could heel strike and the shoe absorbed the pressure. This shoe discourages heel striking and forces me to land more on the ball of my foot.

I tried them out this morning on a 20-minute run. They felt different. I could tell immediately that I was bouncier than I normally feel. When I was done, I checked my watch and saw that I’d been running at a 10:54 pace. Usually, when I just go out easy without thought to pacing, I’m in the 11:20 to 11:40 range, so 10:54 is a little quicker than normal for me at that level of effort.  Now it’s possible that I was just rested this morning because I’ve rested much of the last week. (With the exception of one swim, I did nothing last week.) But I think it’s more likely that the shoe forced me to adapt my form, and that change made me faster.

I’m excited to see what happens from here. I’m going to alternate these with my old shoes for a while to give my body time to adapt. Even with this morning’s short run, I can feel my calves more than usual. But pretty soon, I hope to be in these shoes all the time. Running with better form. Running faster.