An Evening in Coupeville.

Good morning from Coupeville, Washington, on the glorious Whidbey Island. It’s just after 7 here. I’m here with six women, and three of us are awake so far. The coffee is brewing – my contribution since it’s really the only thing I know how to make – and I’m thinking back to what an incredible evening we had last night. Joanna made a taco dinner for us, and Kristie made blackberry cobbler from fresh blackberries that she picked on a walk. Afterwards, we sat around the living room reading to one another the things we’ve been working on. Being in a circle listening to the stories of women I love is perhaps my most favorite way to spend an evening. Continue reading

What I Learned at Aldermarsh.

This week on Whidbey Island, I’ve spent my days writing, running, sharing words in a circle of wonderful women, and getting to know them more fully as we spent evenings before a fire with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea, depending on our moods. It’s been a wonderful week.

The week didn’t go quite as I expected or hoped, but I’m winding down and preparing to head home with two very important insights. Continue reading

The Very Thing You Crave.

I spent some time today listening to a recording about an Arbonne nutrition boot camp. One statement in the recording really made me think.  The woman speaking said, “The very thing you crave is likely what’s killing you.” She was talking about food – gluten or carbs or sugar – but isn’t that true more generally?

It got me thinking about what I crave, not in terms of food, but in life. For a couple of years now, I’ve paid close attention to the Enneagram line of thought. In that system, I’m a Peacemaker.  According to the book I read, a Peacemaker’s basic fear is loss and separation, and a Peacemaker’s basic desire is inner stability and peace of mind. I think those things are absolutely true about me.

I put a great deal of effort towards avoiding loss and separation. For much of the last few years, I’ve been torn between Austin and Portland. My life was in Austin, but my heart was in Portland. I tried living between the two. When I was in Austin, I felt far from Portland and all that it offered. When I was in Portland, I felt far from Austin and all that it offered. I had a hard time separating entirely from one to embrace fully the other, and my heart hurt most of the time because I was angry that the separation was required of me to make either work. Couldn’t I have both lives? Shouldn’t that have been possible? In the end, my efforts to keep a foot, and effectively the peace, in both places got me nowhere.

I’m not in Portland. The life I wanted there doesn’t await me anymore. I’m not in Austin. The life I’ve built here doesn’t feel like me anymore. Both lives are gone.

I have moments when I feel overwhelmed by the loss of both lives. But as I spent time last weekend with people from my childhood, it occurred to me that, in this place of complete uncertainty, every opportunity stands before me. I’ve always said that I wished I could go back to my youth and do things over again. I’m almost forty, so I can’t go back to my youth exactly, but I’m effectively in a place of asking myself the same questions I was asking in college.

Who am I? What do I want to do? Where do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to spend my life with?

The kid I was let others influence those answers. The adult that kid became allowed her deepest cravings to immobilize and slowly kill her. In this place of starting over, what will the person I am now do? I don’t know yet. My next steps aren’t clear, but I’m smarter, stronger and more adventurous than I have been. So I think it’s gonna be good.

The Story Behind the Story.

Yesterday, I posted a race report about last Sunday’s Ironman. This morning, as I was running with my friends and wearing the awesome shirt I was given at the finish line of the race (pictured below), it occurred to me that there are many stories within and around my story about Ironman that I didn’t tell. Here are some examples.

  1. The night before I flew out to Coeur d’Alene, I went to see Megan Hilty of Smash at the Topfer Theater. She spoke and sang and made me laugh. I loved it, even though it meant getting home at midnight before an early morning flight.
  2. In Coeur d’Alene, we got lucky with the weather. It rained Wednesday, Thursday, Friday morning, Monday, and Tuesday. Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday (race day) were perfect.
  3. There were 848 first timers in the field. Mike Reilly likes to call them Ironvirgins.
  4. Five people lost over 70 pounds training for this race. Of those five, three people lost over 90 pounds. The biggest loser lost 175 pounds. He jokingly said he lost 175 pounds twice because he also got divorced.
  5. After the opening dinner (where these statistics were handed out), Mom, Jeanie, Malinda, Brian and I were walking home and narrowly avoided getting hit by a car that had hit a parked car and was speeding away from the scene. He ended up speeding a bit too quickly and skidded into a pole and then proceeded to run off on foot. Brian chased and cornered him until the police showed up. That was way too much drama for my taste and frightening to see how close we were to getting run over by a car on the streets of Coeur d’Alene.
  6. The oldest male competitor (a 72-year-old) got hit by a car during the bike portion of the race. As of Monday morning, he was in the hospital but doing well. I hope he has since made it home and is well on his way to recovery.
  7. During the last couple of hours of the Ironman, the pro winners come to the finish line to hand out medals. So when I crossed the line, Heather Wurtele put my medal around my neck. I love having that experience. I suspect they are as exhausted as the rest of us, so for them to stand out there for hours late at night dancing and cheering with the crowd and handing out medals is pretty amazing. Thank you, Heather. Your presence meant a lot to those of us who finished late in the day.
  8. In the line for finishers’ store, I stood behind a woman I had met this past August in the Canada finishers’ store line. This is sometimes a crazy small world.
  9. At my rental house, I didn’t have wireless Internet so I was disconnected the entire week except for my phone. It’s been a long time since I went without Internet access for so many days. I kind of liked it.


Window wisdom.

I’ve been rushing from one thing to the next, trying to workout, trying to keep up at work, and trying to rest. Functioning on four hours of sleep this morning, I’m not terribly clear headed and could go on and on about things being hectic blah blah blah. But that’s not what gave me pause today.

I was reminded this morning that sometimes we take – I take – everything much too seriously.

I carry a particular badge of honor daily.  It’s a sticker on the rear window of my car that says 140.6, which is the number of miles traveled during an Ironman. That sticker has lived on my car since June of 2008 when I did my first Ironman, and it’s how friends and family identify my bright blue FJ Cruiser from all the other FJs out on the road.  Before that sticker, people would often call me with random questions. “Were you driving down Mopac at 9 this morning?”  “Were you at HEB at 9 last night?”  “Are you stopped on 290?  I see a car like yours two cars ahead of me.” I put the sticker on my car, not to make it more easily identifiable but because I wanted that sticker for months before I earned it.  I wanted that sticker desperately.

Driving through town, I see lots of stickers that identify various distances that people have accomplished – 26.2, 13.1, 140.6, 70.3. These are our badges of honor. We taken them very seriously, until of course we are faced with something that disarms us in the most charming way:

Message received.

Avoiding the post race slump.

After a focused effort like Ironman, I consistently find myself asking, “What’s next?” I thrive on a steady effort towards something, and when it’s done, I miss it. To keep my mind well, I need to plan the next thing.

The obvious next thing for me is Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013, but that’s not until next June, so I’ve been thinking about things I can do in the interim to keep myself active and happy. I’ve scheduled a few marathons between now and then, but the much more immediate goal is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Trail running.

I run all the time on Lady Bird Lake, which is a trail, but it’s not really trail running. That’s path running. When I say “trail running,” I’m talking about running on the greenbelt or somewhere similar that involves narrow paths, rocks, and navigating somewhat through the woods. I’m talking about running where people like to hike and mountain bike. I’ve avoided trail running in the past. I don’t much care for narrow paths, rocks and navigating through the woods. I much prefer not to have to think when I run. But I’m intrigued by trail running because the people I know who do it really love it. They do 50 and 100 mile runs, largely on trails, which I believe is much harder than straight running on the road or regular paths. So in my off season from Ironman training, I’m going to give it a try.

My friend Susan coaches a trail running group called Trailhead Running. I popped online once to check it out and decided I’d sign up after seeing their slogan: “You’re not lost. You’re with us!” That’s perfect for me because anyone who has traveled anywhere with me knows I have absolutely no sense of direction, which is part of why trail running scares me. I did one trail run in 2008 as part of a triathlon endurance camp with Texas Iron, a great training group. The very first run was a short trail run, and everyone described the path and swore we wouldn’t get lost. We didn’t, but I did. I fell behind and somehow ended up running all alone on a path that felt like it led nowhere, and it scared me to have no idea where I was or where I should go.  Somehow I made my way back to the group but it scared me enough to keep me off the trails for the last four years. This week that changes.

Trailhead Running has an all women’s introductory group starting this Wednesday. It’s eight weeks of learning the basics of trail running. Best of all, they have a “no drop” policy, which means no one gets left behind. I’m doing it, and I also plan to do the trail running race they are encouraging us to do at the end of the course. It’s a race on November 17 in Warda, Texas. (No, I don’t know where Warda is.)

I’d ask you to wish me luck for the class, but I’m pretty sure I won’t need it. I won’t be lost. I’ll be with them!

So jealous.

While I was biking 112 miles during Ironman Canada, Erin got to meet Jordan Rapp.

I’ve said before how much I adore Jordan Rapp.  He inspires me. He is a champion of Ironman races and of life given that he came back from a bike accident where he was left for dead and re-emerged an Ironman champion. I saw him win Ironman Canada in 2011, and I heard him speak at the awards banquet with humility and grace. He is gentle and kind. To see what I mean, listen to this video where he talks about the bike accident:

I had hoped he would race Ironman Canada this year, so that he could win it again and greet me at the finish line, as the champions do during the final hours of the race. He had won the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York just two weeks earlier, so he didn’t race, but he was on site in Penticton to serve as a commentator.

On race day, Erin had just seen me heading out of town on the bike, so she went to a cute little place on the bike route in Penticton for breakfast. Standing in line, Erin heard his distinctive voice, and without even turning around, she knew that he stood behind her. Normally, she would have done nothing but maybe steal a glance, but Erin knows how much I adore this guy, so she worked up the nerve to talk to him. I’m so glad she did because now I have this:

I am jealous she got to meet him, and I’m thankful she thought of me when that opportunity presented itself. Normally, my favorite photo from an Ironman is my finisher’s photo, but not this time.

Thank you, Jordan, for being a champion in so many ways. And thank you, Erin, for knowing how much this photo would mean to me.

Great run this morning in a fun shirt!

This morning, I did my first workout since Canada. Kerry and I met at Lady Bird Lake and ran the five mile loop on the trails. It felt wonderful, especially the first few miles. Towards the very end, I could feel my legs tiring, but I’m sure that’s because we were super speedy this morning. Right, Kerry?

I had to wear some of my new finisher’s gear from the race. I bought lots of long sleeve stuff and a couple of short sleeve technical tees.  This was the one I chose to wear today. It was from the men’s side of the store, but I really liked it, so I got one. I like that it clearly says Penticton on it, since this is the last year the race would be in Penticton.

The finisher’s store is a strange phenomenon. At 5:30 in the morning on Monday, the day after the race, I got in line for the store, which opened at 7:00. When Erin and I got there, there were already about sixty people in line ahead of us. When the store opens, they let a certain number of people in at a time to buy clothing and such that says “Finisher” on it. The whole week, anyone can buy Ironman stuff, but they don’t bring out the finisher stuff until Monday, and then it’s a mad dash for the sizes you want. Smaller women’s sizes especially are hard to find if you don’t get up early and get in line. That’s why I got up at 5:00 even though that meant only getting three hours of sleep on the night after the race.

We were among the last few people who got into the store with the first group. And damn, I made out like a bandit. I got a couple of short sleeve shirts, a long sleeve technical shirt, a fitted long sleeve pullover, a looser long sleeve pullover (also from the men’s side), a windbreaker-type biking jacket, a thermal biking jacket, and the race jersey. Obscene, I know, but I won’t be going back to Penticton, and I had a great race, so I convinced myself it was okay.  Plus, I actually put a few things back, believe it or not!

Clearly, much about the Ironman experience falls to the extremes. For some of us, that includes the finisher’s store. And for me, that stuff is worth every penny.