Obesity and COVID-19.

I have a big space in my heart for those who are learning to be active, and those living with type 2 diabetes and obesity. I was firmly in those worlds for decades; I know the fear, shame, challenges. I also know how much it meant to be surrounded by people who believed I could change. Day by day, it would still take years find health and they stood with me.

It was a huge mountain.

I want to repay that stalwart kindness and collective support by helping others. Helping others understand that breaking out of those dangerous, non-linear ‘health holes’ is worth every single drop of sweat, every tear, setbacks and sore muscles. Health, not weight is what I focus on as a person and as health coach.

Social media has undeniably been a significant tool in connecting me to the people who want help and those who work to help others. I have been off of social media for 100+/- days now. (Blog here…) I was pretty content to stay away. The recent headlines and conversations surrounding obesity/COVID-19 have me re-thinking my self-imposed social media ban and how I really desire to be part of these growing and on-going conversations.

Even being surprised, like everyone else, by the daily developments in our world I still found myself shocked and upset to see obesity grabbing some of the current headlines and a jarring one at that:

Obesity puts you at greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.(Study here explains the details of why.)

Obesity with a side of panic and public shaming. A not-at-all-awesome combination.

Early in the pandemic response; the fat-shaming was driving me a wee bit cray-cray. ‘The mask isn’t for COVID-19 it’s for the dreaded COVID-19 POUNDS….’ comments/memes. As if the worst thing that COVID-19 could dish out was some weight gain. For those with shame around their bodies, eating disorders, body dysmorphia or even teeter-tottering self confidence those messages aren’t helpful. They become hyper-amplified with the fear and panic surrounding the pandemic responses. None of it is funny or harmless. Those of us who align with various ideologies around fat and health are familiar with ‘nothing is worse than being fat’ mentalities, jabs and jokes. Sadly familiar ground for some of us.

Then things escalated.

I struggled writing this blog. What has been largely personal and private battles for individual health has become a matter of increasingly urgent public health discussions. It felt like it was a slow burn when it was ‘just’ an obesity epidemic and now it’s full throttle as COVID-19 pushed the additional perils of obesity to a new forefront. People assume they can look at you and know what you eat, how much you move, what health issues you may or may not have. Public comment and scrutiny like never before. Meanwhile obesity can not be resolved with an overnight magic bullet so those living with it can only take baby steps to change their life and health outcomes. Shame and panic have never worked to help people make lasting changes.

If you’ve missed them; here are the headlines…

‘Having obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.’ (CDC)

‘An estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight. Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight. These are also major challenges for America’s children – nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight, up from 19% in 1980′ (Source: IHME)

‘National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.’ (source NEDA)

People who are obese are in greater danger of being more ill/dying with COVID-19.

The personal layer that I’m aware of for myself and many others, and can not be ignored, is that woven into the mix is Eating Disorders (ED)… In elevating this conversation to a very public forum, where everyone can comment and opine, we’re inadvertently pushing into the world of ED’s as well. And in my opinion, obesity and ED’s are not something you can simply untangle or isolate or easily explain and throw COVID-19 into the mix and you have a bonafide shitstorm. This is a twisted and difficult but excellent time to help with some public education and stigma-breaking. I don’t have the answers, but I can’t ignore that the conversations happening are really important for us to be having.

Prevention of being infected with the virus is the key for all of us. Attention to improving overall/general health markers and being at a healthy weight is also important for at least 160 million of us. Suddenly what most of us were able to manage as a more personal shame/issue/problem or at least as a ‘local’ problem that only involved those who physically interacted with us is now very PUBLIC and callously and carelessly being discussed ‘about’ us. Piling shame on shame never helped anyone heal or grab hold of new habits or feel good about the slow, baby steps they’re taking to head in a new life direction.

I too am confused. And scared. I’m wondering what to think and who to believe and how to help those who need help. Meanwhile I have to work hard to stay focused on balancing my own mental wellness while living in a body that is healthy and yet looks visibly overweight…

How do we publicly talk about health and obesity without shaming those who struggle? That’s the core issue I am interested in. COVID-19 adds another urgent health layer on top of a really complicated problem. I don’t have answers, but I have ears and a willing spirit and I’m not afraid of the tough conversations or the hard work.

And I know, from hard-fought personal experience, that the view from the top of the mountain is always worth the climb, no matter how long it takes. And this is one hell of a mountain…

Deleting apps…

I don’t know about you but this is my first global pandemic. Annnddd…. I’d be totally fine if we never, ever had to experience this again.

I don’t want to gloss over the serious nature of the events gripping our world right now. It weighs heavy on my mind and heart. Yet as the panic began to ease up a bit this Spring, it created the chance for meaningful conversations with friends that we might not normally make time for. Friends began sharing about their personal ‘silver-linings’, or the smaller, more nuanced lessons they were learning about themselves and their priorities for life during this time of turmoil.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned seem to be universal; Don’t get low on TP, working from home has a distinct converse relationship to personal hygiene and 20 seconds is a really, really long time to wash your hands. Also fascinating to me? Most of us hadn’t really EVER been washing our hands correctly anyway. Who knew?

I had my own story about personal growth. This crisis handed me a much needed reset. I went from complaining or rejoicing or chasing after the mundane and relatively trivial in the day-to-day to caring deeply that I had a roof over my head, a job, and no one I knew was sick. Period. That was the extent of my focus.


Conversations went from ‘I don’t like the color of the new Hoka running shoes and downtown parking is nutso….’ to ‘Are your family and friends safe? Do you still have your job?’ And then taking the time to really listen to the answers.


A conversation in April with a good friend crystalized and cemented what I’d been noodling for a few weeks: social media was an increasingly toxic element in my world. I was as addicted to the dopamine hit and validation that come with ‘likes’ as the next person. Yet I could see that I had reached a point of consistently looking at a post and being able to answer ‘did this enrich my life and inform me of something worth knowing?’ with a rapid, flat ‘nope’.

I hit social media to escape the real world and suddenly internet-misery and anger and half-truths were morphing into the real world for me. I would quote ‘some random friend on Facebook’ as a given expert. I found myself endlessly comparing myself to and judging others. Two of the things I don’t like to engage in at all, ever, were becoming all-consuming end-games on social media for me.

I would scroll and judge. I would scroll and feel like a steaming pile of crap. I would scroll and be irritated or upset or find myself unfollowing people for their posts… Rarely would I scroll and feel happy, smart or enlightened.

Sound familiar at all?

As I scrolled I would think: ‘They’ are doing way better at staying active and fit and they don’t have to battle their weight. That’s really what ‘they’ think science is all about? ‘They’ are sure acting self-righteous in their blanket pandemic-shaming of others without knowing the situation or abilities or problems others face. ‘They’re’ whiny. ‘They’ aren’t even taking a moment to acknowledge the suffering consuming the world around them…. Throw in a daily smattering of random posts covering pandemic-shaming, racism, judgement, fat-shaming and political pandering and you have….




The part of me that wants to assume the best in people would start showing up when I was NOT scrolling… Who the hell am I to judge anyone for anything? Everyone is doing their very best to hang on and BE who they are in the middle of this chaos. Survival and thriving and getting-by sure looks very, very different for everyone.

You get the brutally ugly idea.

The inside of my head wasn’t the place I wanted it to be when I was scrolling.

Ugh. ‘THEY’ were driving me crazy. And with something ridiculous like 4,000 FB ‘friends’ I don’t even know who most of ‘they’ are! I was comparing and judging and feeling snarky and in many cases with people I do not even know in real life.

Give me a break. That’s not me. That’s not how I want to show up in this world. Social media was hardening my heart, numbing my brain and forcing thoughts to the front of my mind that just didn’t ring true.

And – light bulb! – I actually have a whole lot of control over that input. I needed to practice feeding my brain better experiences and information. I started with pulling the plug on social media interactions and to see if that worked…

I deleted the apps about 5 weeks ago.

The first day or two without FaceBook/Instagram/Twitter were admittedly odd — simply for missing the habit of scrolling or using the phone to fill gaps of silence/boredom. Very quickly I figured out that I missed the HABIT, not the content. With that breathe of knowledge – I knew I’d made the right decision.

It’s been…Glorious. So freeing to be disconnected from the artificial and not-always-so-nice world of social media and yet be more intentionally connected to the voices and hearts of the people in my real world.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back on social media platforms. When and if I do come back, it will be with a simple plan to keep social media as a time-appropriate and mildly entertaining distraction. I don’t make a living on social media and most of the folks who need to find me can easily connect to me in other ways. I have the luxury of choice. And I’m exercising it.

What has my unplugging from social media done for me? Here’s what I’ve observed so far: I am comparing less. Finding more in life to simply enjoy. Less distracted. More connected. More sure of myself. Listening more intently and hearing a whole lot more than just what’s being said. More satisfied with my own life.

Your turn: Have you taken a break from social media? What did you learn? I’d genuinely enjoy hearing what others are experiencing or ways you’ve found to enjoy social media instead of reacting to it… Please reply or leave comments on this blog. Given my hiatus from social media, I’m not likely to see your comments or thoughts otherwise!


I rarely get outwardly mad. It takes a lot to push me to that point. Yet, even if I am angry – I loathe confrontation… And just for fun, let’s throw in that I’m also a professional-level people-pleaser. My disdain for confronting things/people if they make me mad often shows up as a refusal to stand-up for myself so I don’t make anyone else uncomfortable. I have spent my life stuffing down emotions and not confronting anyone if at all possible.

I mean – if you mess with my nephews or my friends; I’ll confront you. And you might not like me or ever forget the encounter. I’m wildly protective of my people.

But make me mad or mistreat me?

Eh. I’m likely to internalize it, spend hours with self-blame trying to figure out what I did to provoke anger or mistreatment and pretend like NOTHING AT ALL is wrong. I don’t love that about myself and never have, yet figured it was just a quirk of my personality and because no one beyond me was bothered, there was no real harm being done.

Well… Turns out non-confrontation and hiding emotions are at the root of my eating disorder and ignoring them (surprise!) really doesn’t work so well… So at 51 I am learning to manage anger, discomfort and confrontation for my overall physical and mental health. After 18 months of therapy, with a really good therapist, I finally feel I have some good tools to use when I do want to express myself. The coping skills, for one of the first times in my life, don’t involve abusing or restricting food.

I went to a new primary doc a few weeks ago. I have been trying to establish one since I moved to Bend. I have struck out. Nice people, general disease management; none of them seem to get my type 2 diabetic past and my desire to stay off of meds. All of this makes me miss Dr. Marske a lot… She and I didn’t always get things right; but she never gave up on me trying to help myself and she always listened to me. Always. I continue to appreciate and better understand what a gift I had in my relationship with this special doctor.

As I briefly explain my history and my desire and efforts to stay off meds to these new doctors, I watch their faces shut down before they even hear me out. Usually around the time I say ‘… I reversed type 2 diabetes by eating low carb and I now run ultras…’ I always think they figure I’m in cahoots with Dr. Google, will grasp on any ‘fad’ and maybe that I’m even trying to tell them how to do their job; which isn’t the case. None of it. I acknowledge that a patient educated in their own disease, their own healing and ardently eager to be a part of the solution might get confused with someone seeking a specific answer/drug/remedy.

I met with this most recent new doc and when asked the reason for the visit, I told her that I was there for three things; a flu shot, survival tactics for perimenopasuse and a referral to an endocrinologist since I was concerned with my fasting blood sugars being higher than I liked (per my own daily testing with a glucometer). I told her I was pretty sure the perimenopausal crap that I’m suffering and the elevated glucose readings are related; but I just can’t seem to figure out the connection well enough on my own to manage it. I admitted I was getting concerned about what I was sure was an elevated – with no stopping in sight – A1c. I told her I was nervous and frustrated because the things I had done to lose 200 pounds, reverse type 2 diabetes and wean off of insulin were NOT WORKING in the same ways they had for the past 7 years.

After a volley back and forth she finally said ‘I appreciate that you are concerned. I don’t feel you should be worried, your daily fasting numbers are well within an acceptable range. But for good measure let’s first test your thyroid just to check things out…’


I was worried about my A1c. It’s a marker I understand well. And I was doing all the same things day to day and the numbers were moving… In the wrong direction. And I know from years of experience that if the daily fasting are too high (the math is pretty simple) the average will be HIGHER – which is NOT what I was after…. My numbers weren’t fine – my gut KNEW it before the blood test would confirm it. I also knew my thyroid wasn’t the issue – yet I appreciate a doc wanting to rule things out with their own tests/eyes/facts. I get all of that. (BTW, snarky side note, ask any fat woman and she will tell you that every doc tests her thyroid as a possible culprit for weight gain. Any. Doctor. All. The. Time. I’ve had my thyroid checked a bazillion times. Even as recently as a year ago – all was well. The ‘thyroid check’ is hotly annoying at this point, AND before anyone jumps me about it; I know it’s due diligence. Doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying.)

As I was listening to this doc work through her perfunctory checklist and essentially brush off my concerns; I was done…

I suddenly realized I was frustrated. And maybe ‘mad’ was starting to surface…

Not at her specifically, but cumulative upset at the health care system that seems set-up to ignore the patients, prescribe meds and – in my uncharitable and arguably jaded opinion – ignore that the WHOLE body needs to be working together.

I am done with docs not listening to me and not taking my experience with this disease into account. I am done with being caught in a disease management system that throws around the word wellness and doesn’t mean anything by it unless they can prescribe it in a pill bottle. I am done with trying to convince a medical professional to be worried for me and to refer me along to someone who specializes in what I live with.

I was not looking to be placated, I was looking for HELP.

I looked her in the eye and said ‘Can you please give me a flu shot. And I agree with you that we should order the blood work so we’re not blindly guessing about my numbers. Thank you.’ I was ready to let ALL the other requests I had floating in the air between us just go away – it was obvious I was going to need to find yet another doctor… Her comment back to me was ‘Even if your number is elevated from the last year; I think the first step is that you need to see a registered dietician so you’re eating a balanced diet and come back to me in six months to re-check your blood work.’

This was the moment I got mad… I felt mad. I felt my face flush and my heart starting to race.

And I decided I was not going to stuff it down this time. So I took a breathe and dug deep and used my new anger-confrontation-communication tools.

I said exactly what I was thinking in calm and even tones. ‘I can’t afford to wait six months. From lots of personal experience with this disease, I know that a dietician isn’t the answer at this point. In fact the Standard American Diet that dietitians are taught to prescribe is exactly what helped land me here in the first place. I can’t convince you that I know I am standing on the edge of life-threatening trouble that I know all too well and I desperately want to avoid again. If I do as you suggest; in six months I’ll be six months sicker and six months further down a road I don’t even want to be on.’

I got the flu shot.

I also got my blood drawn.

And we left things hanging right there…

Turns out my hbA1C (measure of long term blood glucose management) is higher than it has been since I went off of insulin almost 7 years ago. By a lot. I mean I was diagnosed at 11.2. It’s been solidly bouncing around between 4.8-5.2 for over five or six years now. Last week it was 5.9. The measure for pre-diabetes is 5.7-6.4.

I’m technically pre-diabetic again and that is NOT OK…

It is as I feared.

And yet I was and am being told not to worry.

The blood test results, which I accessed on-line simply had a note attached from the doctor that said ‘labs are fine, re-test in 6 months’.

I knew things weren’t right and I’m lucky, on one front, that I have a deep history with this disease and know the basics and when to worry and how to keep pushing for help whether she agrees with me or not. I’m also lucky that this isn’t my word against the world; the blood numbers along with my history with a metabolic disease backs up my concern – and in the right hands that specific information will spur some action and concern. I just have to find that doctor.

I’m still mad. Mostly at the system. But maybe a little mad at the specific doctors that won’t take me seriously and won’t listen.

At the same time all of this was happening I finally and fortuitously connected in real life, via a multiple year Facebook-friendship, with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella in West Virginia. Dr. Cucuzzella is Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel and a Professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. He hosts and teaches healthy running medical education courses. He’s also has MODY (maturity-onset diabetes of youth) and he’s an ultra runner. Long ago I reached out on a social media forum asking for advice on eating low carb while also training for and running ultras. He had some really helpful insight and practical solutions that focused on being able to run yet knowing that the end-game was really about steady control of my blood glucose long term.

Dr. Cucuzzella recently invited me to be a part of his healthy running gathering this past November. It was an amazing educational experience with lots of fantastic new connections forged. We finally got to meet face to face. It was awesome to meet one of your long-time advocates and champions in real life for the first time.

So here’s the behind the scenes LONG story short: Dr. Cucuzzella listened to an abbreviated version of my growing frustrations about docs/blood sugars. He said he thought he had a solution for me. He prescribed a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) so that I could do some of my own detective work to figure out what the heck is going on with my blood sugars. I wear this device on the back of my arm 24/7 for 2 weeks at time and monitor, via an app on my phone, how my blood sugars trend given my diet, activity, stress. The ultimate outcome? I should be able to self-correct and adjust my lifestyle choices to get my hbA1c right back down where it belongs. I now have real-time data that I allows me to alter or change things I am eating or doing based on legit, real-time feedback. I’m a week in to this experiment and have collected really interesting data points and implemented some simple changes. It’s empowering and fascinating.

Keep in mind, while this is HUGE for me personally and I’m beyond privileged to have made the connections, taken this trip and to be able to afford to pay for this tool OUT OF POCKET to get the help I need… I had to go from freaking Oregon to West Virginia to find a doc who would listen to me.

But how many people are lucky enough to have a Dr. Cucuzzella in their lives?! I know I have the luxury of insurance. I have the privilege of being able to pay for minor things out of pocket when a doc says it’s important and insurance says ‘not so much’. I know all of that. I take NONE of that for granted. And the fact that this preventative measure is NOT covered by insurance is a WHOLE OTHER blog…

I remain deeply concerned that people have to be their own strident advocates. I remain baffled as to why a system would continue to dissuade/dis-incentivize medical providers from focusing on preventative or lifestyle measures that work. They have scientific PROOF that these lifestyle interventions WORK…. This isn’t voodoo science – they have the data!

I’m upset that the ‘system’ seems content to wait until something has to be prescribed.

I intellectually knew that our health care system is profoundly broken; but I guess this is me arriving waaayyyyy late to the party to say; HOLY SHIT IS THIS BROKEN AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

I’m standing up for myself and not accepting ‘wait six months’. I’m taking my health back into my own hands.

Yet I’m scared for the people who won’t stand up for themselves or patiently wait simply because they’re paralyzed into overwhelm by the options or are too sick/tired/depressed/scared/poor to keep pushing back on the system…

Or that they trust that the system is doing what’s best for them…

What about them?

I wasn’t asking for a prescription to a controlled substance or to cheat the system or even for a silver bullet. I was asking for help in figuring out why what had worked for so many years was NO LONGER working…

Instead of bottling it all up this time around, or simply being an ostrich and ignoring what’s happening or even choosing to be naive and assume things would ‘work themselves out’, I said what I thought and stated what I needed. I’m very proud of myself for that victory alone. I left her office and went for a run. I got the CGM. I’m collecting my own data and already making tweaks to keep those numbers in a healthy range on the day-to-day. I’m reaching well beyond the confines of our traditional insurance/medical system to get the help I need to stay free from type 2 diabetes…

And yet again I am looking for a new primary doc to work with me.

** 12/2/2019 on the news, as I am writing this blog, they quoted a CDC report (here) that 18% of US Adolescents (12-18 years old) have pre-diabetes. THIS USED TO BE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY AN ADULT DISEASE… The #1 intervention for prevention/reversal at any life stage for pre-diabetes is lifestyle changes… Preventable. Docs and other folks in the health care system writ large have GOT TO get this prioritizing prescriptions over lifestyle changes thing figured out. Like yesterday. We are running out of time. Lifestyle adaptions and interventions should be the norm; not pills in a bottle… *Stepping off of my soapbox*….

Concussion (Knocking the brain around…)

Your brain is encased in bone for a reason. And when it collides with that bone – things happen…. Bad things.

Most know the bad parts of concussions – and I’m learning that those symptoms and issues vary for everyone, cause of accident and severity. And then positive outcomes seem to vary based on compliance for recovery. You don’t do the right things – you just keep setting yourself back.

I’m not always compliant. To this – I am being obnoxiously compliant.

Lots of water, limited screen time, blue-blocker glasses, keeping stress low, lots of sleep, frequent naps just to close my eyes and maybe a few more naps. I’m keeping my nutrition on point.

While there were some really bad times and symptoms that would stop me in my tracks… There’s also some good that has come about for me in this situation and that is still kind of a shocker…

Good from a concussion? Yes…

I’m funnier. Maybe not a ton funnier – but I swear, I’m funnier. Or maybe it’s just that I’m laughing at myself more. Either way – there’s more laughter in my life. And that’s awesome.

I’m more patient. People are having to express patience with me and my slow thinking and my one arm… While I’m struggling for words, or how to express an emotion or prioritize the need for help or say things I just KNOW coming out of my mouth make no sense… I seem to understand that MAYBE others around me are dealing with something I can’t see or some reason they aren’t in a hurry. And I’m totally OK with that shift to patience. I hate that I can be an impatient asshole sometimes and I’m thinking this perspective shift that humans need a little more patience in their lives is necessary and good – and I’m embracing it.

Binge eating disorder (BED). I hit the ground and gave the almighty amygdala (brain) something ELSE to worry about. And the compulsions surrounding BED seems to be on hiatus. I KNOW I’m not ‘cured’… But this break from those compulsions is a welcomed respite and proof that I can work to gain some relief when it does return. I’d fallen in a 17 month-long pit thinking that those compulsions lurking around every corner were just the new reality for me. This concussion proves that’s not the case. And this gives me hope. Lots of hope.

Help. Asking for help. Struggling through an issue on my own. I’m independent. I really prefer to GIVE help. But I’ve had to ask for help. From little things to big things to embarrassing thing. It’s been a good lesson in letting people help me… Washing hair, running errands, asking questions I know I should know the answers to… And I reached out to others with concussions asking them for their advice and help and to tell me their stories and warnings and best advice. And begging them to tell me that this would get better. Listening intently. And then writing stuff down because I am super forgetful right now. (Thank you Sophia for that tip!) All of this is a great reminder of how I can ask for and give help in the future and stay connected to others who’ve been in my shoes. Humbling, heartfelt reminders are always a good thing…

I’m healing. I’m 28 days post-wreck. Bones mending. I’m barely going to have a scar because my surgeon was amazing. And the concussion symptoms are getting fewer, less, smaller…. And I am heeding all the warnings to enjoy the healing and keep following the precautions.

I lost about 10-14 days of memories post-wreck. I have snippets of memories and snapshots during that time, but it’s sketchy and filled with holes. I spent a lot of time confused and scared and wondering if this was the new normal. I had frequent headaches, blurry vision and would get super fatigued simply from keeping my eyes open. And I’m happy to be on the other side of the worst of it.

It hasn’t all been bad. And that’s pretty damn good.

Bike wreck and concussion.

The last 14 days have been a blur; mountain bike wreck, surgery to repair my broken collar bone, a substantial concussion and plenty of pain meds.

June 1, I was in Colorado to speak and participant at the Skirt Sports Ambassador retreat. The morning I was going to speak, I took advantage of a group mountain bike ride. It was an epic ride – until the very moment it wasn’t.

I lost about an hour of time and have no memory of the wreck or rescue.

One minute I was riding and laughing and hooting/hollering and the next moment I was in a hospital and being told to hold still while they performed a CT scan. I remember being wheeled back to the ER room and seeing Michelle and Jen for the first time even though they had been there for a while… I would lose that hour – and to date not a single recollection or memory of what happened has come back.

I was told I had a concussion and that the helmet I was wearing had most assuredly done a good job of keep me from much, much worse harm. I had a ‘fracture’ in the left collarbone. I had scrapped up my left leg sliding on the dirt as well as bruised my calf pretty good by colliding with what we suspect was the pedal.

The plan was to keep me drugged up/pain-free, fly home to Bend and consult with a surgeon there about the collarbone… The Boulder ER dressed me up in scrubs, a sling and then turned me loose to Michelle and Jen’s care.

Even with a broken bone and a concussion; I can pull off a selfie. I wanted a reminder of these two angels who stayed with me in this scary-painful moment. Angels with sass and humor. (Me, Jen Szabo, Michelle Sroda)

I wanted to go straight back to the Skirt Sports retreat and give my speech. And I guess I was fairly adamant… Ok. Single-minded. Annoyingly persistent. I guess when I was on the ground, being transported and early in the ER I kept making the point to everyone that I had to go give a speech. I don’t remember any of this. But that’s what they’re telling me… And it makes sense… This is a speech I had been working on for more than six months. It was about ‘belonging’, a message near and dear to my heart. Nicole DeBoom, a woman I deeply admire, had invited me to be a part of this event. I was responsible for part of the program. It was the reason I had traveled to Colorado in the first place.


Jen and Michelle were fairly easy to convince to go along with my exiting-the-ER scheme. The plan was to go straight to the retreat. Speak. THEN Michelle would take me to Target to get the pain meds prescription, something to work as a bra that wouldn’t have to go over my left shoulder (TUBE TOP for the win!) and a shirt that I could button up. Easy. Straightforward plan.

And it worked. HECK YES! It worked perfectly.

I gave the speech (here is the link) on ‘Belonging’. I think I did just fine considering that in the days that followed I would begin to understand just how hard I had crashed and how beat up my body and brain really were. New aches, pains, bruises would continue to show up for the next 10 days…. But I wanted to give that speech – and I did!

I flew home from Colorado on Monday June 3rd. Within hours of landing back in Oregon I was consulting with a great orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Woodbury showed me that it was in fact a 2+cm break of my collarbone and the break would need to be surgically healed/corrected with a plate and screws. Surgery on June 7th was successful. I have the post-op on the 17th. More good news to follow I am sure – I’m healing really well! 🙂

The concussion I sustained from hitting the trail is a new beast. I grew up on a farm and have had my fair share of broken bones. I trail run so I’ve come to a few ‘complete and involuntary’ stops and felt the muscles get super cranky for a few days afterward. But the concussion is proving to be alarming and scary and slow-healing with daily reminders that this is going to be all new territory.

I know there are people in my life who know what this is all about; I am on a new, steep learning curve. I’ve told people – the concussion is by far the worst of the injuries. And I mean it. Grabbing for a word and not catching it many, many times a day. Unexpected and seemingly illogical emotional responses or non-responses. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurry vision, low grade anxiety, exhaustion. I’m sure there are other symptoms I’m forgetting – which, ironically, is another thing that can happen with a concussion. And yes – I have been following a concussion protocol and have PT for the concussion lined up and ready to get started next week. I am aware how serious this is and I feel like I’m doing all the right things to help my brain heal. I’ve got one brain – I intend to take care of it.

In the meantime my friends are patiently letting me re-tell (X100) stories and repeat ideas and thoughts. Because I can’t seem to remember what I’ve done or who I’ve told anything too in the last few weeks… It’s all jumbled and confused. And that patient processing time from friends is an amazing gift. In the past 5 days or so, I’ll catch myself remembering that I have already said something! And with the headaches and blurry vision no longer happening – I feel like these are all signs my brain is physically healing.

I am beyond grateful for those who were literally on the ground with me in Boulder, helped me get back home to Oregon, helped me through surgery and the awful early days of dependence and confusion. Nothing like taking the independent 50 year old and forcing her to ask for help with the smallest of daily personal tasks including putting my hair in a ponytail, helping me get dressed or letting me hold their arm while I step off a curb…

I knew it, but reminders are always welcome; I’m blessed with some amazing friends and family. And I have been treated with kindness and compassion by complete strangers which is a whole different level of gratitude…. People have been generous and caring even when I couldn’t form a sentence and they could tell that I was fighting hard to try to make sense of things.

I’m humbled. Grateful. Soaking in the love, care and kindness being abundantly scattered my way. And that helps me heal. I am healing really well. Which as a post-type 2 diabetic still stuns the crap out of me! My body really does want to be healthy and my job right now is to do all I can to help her find that footing and let her do her work.

P. S. Sometimes big, traumatic events teach us really important and basic lessons. I’ve had a bucket full of ‘a-ha!’ moments in the last two weeks…. And here’s one of my new favorites: When you offer to help someone try to be as specific as possible. I would get these wonderful text messages that would say ‘let me know if I can help’ and my concussed brain could NOT process what of the 1,000,000 undone and pressing things I could possibly ask them to help me with. Or how could I ask them to spend money or help with something mundane or personal or put their life on hold? My brain would fizzle out. Almost literally. My heart would be happy they reached out. And my brain would go blank at the stress of having to sort, prioritize and choose. I wouldn’t take them up on the offer because I was literally incapable of making a request or sorting out what I needed. However when Peggy texted me and said ‘do you want me to come over and wash your hair in the kitchen sink and then we can go for a short walk?’ I could simply say YES — OH, PLEASE! YES! And I might have literally said ‘a-ha!’ out loud. 🙂

FLASH! (Not a news flash… Hot flash.)

Menopause. Perimenopause. ‘The change.’

Call it whatever you want, it’s the end to a woman’s reproductive years. And it’s a years-long process of the ovaries shutting down hormone production.

And some strange shit starts happening to your body.

You suffer in silence for a while because you aren’t really sure what’s going on and nothing is overtly or consistently alarming. A couple of sleepless nights, gaining weight in strange places – like, oh … say your arm pits and brief hot flashes.

Suddenly you blurt out to a friend (sorry Pat!) that you’re leaving sweaty ass-prints on chairs because of hot flashes that are NOT the flu and you can’t sleep and you feel like maybe you’re losing your mind. She has the good graces to softly laugh with you, hug you and welcome you to menopause. She assures you it’s normal and that it will go away some day…

You’re dumb-struck because that never occurred to you…

When I started reaching out for support and solutions, other women came out of the woodwork, as strong tribes of women often do, to share their stories of entering and thriving in perimenopause (literally; surrounding menopause) and menopause. They talk about how they manage moodiness, insomnia, weight gain, hot flashes … oh the hot flashes. They commiserate, share things that work, things not to waste your money or time on and tell you their hacks for surviving work-week hot flashes. They laugh with you as you suddenly throw off your coat and go stand outside in the snow, sweating. I’m grateful for being welcomed into this sisterhood with candor and humor and patience.

Emotions about the change can be all over the place as each woman grapples with what this changes means for her life. And for the record; that’s on top of the emotions or exacerbated by the out of whack emotions related to menopause. Some rejoice at not having periods. Some struggle with the idea that this marks ‘old age’. Some feel off-kilter because they spent decades getting used to a rhythm with their periods and now it’s luck-o-the-draw and ‘surprise!’ when periods change or stop showing up or show up for months on end and won’t go away… Every women I’ve talked to has a different array of emotions – but they absolutely have some sort of emotions around this change in their life. We have a visible, tangible ‘shift’ to a new phase of life happening within our bodies. Honestly, it’s hard not to have some emotions around it.

Here’s the list of fun (normal) stuff we get to contend with as our body starts a phenomenal hormonal shift with estrogen in decline … some women get hit by all of this and more, some only experience one or two symptoms.

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes, night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness, change in sex drive
  • Sleep disturbances, insomnia
  • Mood swings, depression, anxiety

{Click here for some good information and resources.}

The average age for entering into menopause is 50 years old. And you can have symptoms for years before, during and after. You’re considered in menopause when you’ve gone a full year without having a period. But even then; these are just rough guidelines according to my doc who said ‘each woman is very different’. The one thing we all seem to have in common is that it seems to arrive in big-ass hurry one day and then it’s not in any hurry to move along.

So me personally? My body is physically adjusting to the decline in estrogen by going on a sleep-strike.

My worst symptom by far is insomnia.

Yeah, I’m having the typical hot flashes. They arrived in January. First I thought I was battling the flu or a whacky thermostat at work or I’d over done the cross-training by shoveling snow for three days straight. Nope. Just good ol’ fashioned hot flashes. They’re annoying and wake me up at night drenched in sweat with my covers kicked clear across the room. As some one who works out regularly – the feeling of a hot flash is uncomfortable with my face and torso suddenly becoming hot, sweaty, flush – but the feeling of being a sweaty mess all the time? I’m used to that. 🙂

For me, the sleeplessness is the worst. Not being able to go to sleep or stay asleep is a new kind of torture for me. I have bragged in the past (karma anyone?) that sleeping was my super power. I could sleep anytime, anywhere … Slept through a fire alarm at a hotel. Can sleep on planes. I typically get into bed and don’t even have time to read a chapter – I’m out like a light.

Insomnia reached a critical point this past week for me. With 20+ days of three hours or so of sleep each night. I had tried every remedy thrown my direction. Nothing, not even Benadryl which usually knocks me out flat, worked. Most of that sleep was in 40-50 minute blocks. I was losing my mind, crying, frustrated, anxious, hungry, exhausted, disoriented. I was absolutely falling apart.

The tipping point that forced me to call my doc? Got to Master’s swim class, swam 50 meters crying IN my googles the entire time. Gave up. Got out of the pool, crying, and went back to work to tell them I was sending myself home sick. I cried from 11:45 am until about 7 PM that evening for no reasons other than I was utterly exhausted. When I called my doc with my request for help in finding sleep and my suspicion that I was entering menopause; she got me in within a week. Her words were ‘you don’t have to suffer, we can treat the symptoms.’ We parsed out all the options, especially given my background with type 2 diabetes (remember insulin is a hormone…) and I chose to start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I started with an estrogen patch and progesterone pills on Monday and slept for 5 hours that night. It was heaven. And the sleep seems to be getting a tiny bit better with each passing day.

I’m glad I made the choice I did. I’m starting to feel human again. And I haven’t cried in a week. 🙂

We don’t seem to typically talk about menopause. Or I wasn’t paying attention until I urgently needed the information. I’ll concede that might be the case. My mom is gone – so I can’t ask her any of the burning questions about what it might be like for the genetic women in my family, but I also know that my family didn’t always openly talk about periods or ‘private’ stuff. I remember trying to tell my granny Dolly that I’d gotten my period when I was a teenager and she made a grimace and shushed me … and I never mentioned it again. So there’s that. That might be why I felt blind-sided and ill-prepared and then scrambled to get answers about what in the hell was happening…

Most of the women I have talked in the past few weeks mention suffering through the process ‘because what else are you going to do’ and suffering alone just waiting for the symptoms to go away ‘because no one I know talks about menopause’.

And I just don’t think we should be alone in this common life-shift that all women are going to experience. I don’t want to be alone. Do you?

I think that most of us would welcome the company and support during this time of big changes. Even if all we can do is laugh with each other about how ridiculous it all seems as we suddenly combust into a sweaty mess. If you have any good advice or stories or questions — hit me up. I might even be able to get back to you at 2AM when I’m wide-awake… 🙂

Writing a book…

Oh boy….

First… My DEEPEST and most sincere apologies to any of my writing/author friends for the naive and rude assumption I had about the writing process.

I am totally humbled. Big time.

I thought I would take my blogs, stick them in order, title a chapter or two, put a picture on the cover and call it good. Done.

Yeah. WOW. It turns out that this is not how this works….

That’s not how ANY of this works.

I knew it was going to take more work than that; but I wasn’t prepared for the adventure we would wind up on trying to get this book into print…

We didn’t publish in the Fall with the first draft of the book like we thought we were going to. Variety of reasons, but mostly – I just knew it wasn’t ‘right’.

We went back to basics… Big bummer. Not going to lie. I mean, I thought we were so, so close to done at that point. It was a big disappointment.

I sat with the book for a few weeks wondering if I should just abandon the effort and leave things in blog format. But it finally came down to one thing; I really, really wanted to publish this book. I wanted my story in a format where it might actually be able to HELP others.

So I rested. Regrouped. Let the disappointment of the first effort fade.

And then I found a new editor, a content editor. She looks at everything through the lens of ‘would a reader care or understand?’. Does this order make sense? Is this story necessary or helpful? She’s asked me to go back and explain people and relationships. She sent me on a journey that involved some deep soul searching to answer some really tough ‘why’ questions. She felt that not addressing those ‘why’s’ were a huge gaping hole(s) in the book. She works hard to make sure my voice shows up, maybe with just a few ‘F” bombs edited out, but she also reminds me to be funny and sassy and use puns. She wants me to publish a book that keeps readers riveted.

I’m close to having a manuscript ready to publish. FINALLY! From the first effort to now? I have spent hundreds of hours of editing, writing and re-writing this winter. Just about every spare waking moment was spent writing. The work is paying off. I still have some writing and editing that needs to be done – but it’s getting close.

I think I finally have my story in a logical and interesting order so that people who have triple digit weight loss in front of them or are grappling with pre/type 2 diabetes can at least follow my story. Not that my path will be theirs. Again, that’s not how any of this work. BUT perhaps my story will help them get their own feet on their own path and get moving.

And this book, instead of being cobbled together blog posts that would’ve been ‘ok’ (maybe), has become something I’m immensely proud of. ‘All Bets Are Off’ has been one hell of its own adventure to write. I find it humorous and even somewhat comforting that the writing process seems to have paralleled that of running an ultra when shit has gone south about mile 65. 🙂

And the finish line is in sight.

Spring 2019.

Moving mountains. (Why I coach.)

Trasnrockiees Run, 2016, Colorado 2016.
Lots of mountains climbed.

“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ― Najwa Zebian

This is my favorite quote.

These words often worm their way into my mind during a tough workout or race as a sort of mantra. If you were running/cycling with me you might hear me mumbling ‘…climb….’ Sometimes with an expletive.  Sometimes just that single word.  It’s at those moments when this quote is going through my head. 

For a long while this was a mind-expanding epiphany. Now it’s profoundly motivating and a touch-stone of sorts. This quote has found it’s way to the core of my coaching philosophy.  

Turns out I was not the only one trying to freaking carry the Cascade Mountain Range on my back – when it was meant to be climbed, explored, enjoyed. 

When someone is tackling a lifestyle shift that involves triple-digit weight loss or battling health complications that accompany obesity or reversing life-long unhealthy behaviors; there’s some… uh… tremendous baggage we have to trip over, name, claim, move, give-away and figure out along the way.  

Mountains of shit.  


So, I have one simple job at the very start: I listen to their mountain(s).  

Listen patiently and with grace and creating space for them to be raw, honest and share and say things they’ve perhaps never said aloud/confessed/acknowledged to another person.  

When someone is willing to trust you and tell you how they got to a place they really don’t want to stay, a place that might even be trying to kill them, a place they aren’t even sure how/when they arrived…  A place that is oddly and sadly more comforting that the unknown of trying to change…

Honor them by listening to them talk about the mountains they are carrying.

Those mountains they’re carrying, they’re going to have to learn in their own way, and in their own time, that they were meant to be climbed.

If I’m really lucky, they’ll invite me along for the learning, work, sweat and adventure that follows when we learn to climb ‘their’ mountain one step at a time. 

I get asked ‘why do you coach?’ and ‘what kind of people do you coach?’

The simple truth?

I got certified as a health and wellness coach because I wanted to be the person I NEEDED when I was starting to lose weight, reverse type 2 diabetes and learning to be active as a morbidly obese woman.

I’m coaching the kind of people I was just a few short years ago.

I was obese, morbidly obese, grossly overweight, fat.  Call it what you want. I was very ill, unhealthy, with a lifestyle-induced disease. Yet I had this wild, burning desire to change things and NOT A SINGLE CLUE where to start…. I needed help.

There was a whole lot of wonderful/helpful/supportive humans who had (and still have) my back and I refuse to deny their role in helping me change my life…

…But the other truth was that I needed a level of specialized expertise I couldn’t find…

You can’t take someone who is inactive and carrying 100-300+ pounds and apply a normal ‘weight loss and activity’ plan. You can’t. Well you can, and the desperate client is going to try to do what’s being asked; and they’re likely going to get hurt and discouraged and give up. I know what I’m talking about. That cycle of failure is one I know intimately.

The coach has two jobs… The first is to believe in your client. The second is to start from where they ARE; not where they used to be, or where they think they should be…

  • What do you do if you can’t reach your feet to tie your shoes? Or normal shoes don’t fit on your feet?
  • Where can you find a 48FFF bra that someone can actually run in? How do I compress my belly rolls or other body bulk so I don’t get hurt when trying to move?
  • What if I’ve been (or get) laughed at, or the race times don’t allow me to be on the course because I’m slow or the gym equipment is not rated for my weight?
  • How do you start running/moving when you weigh 300+ pounds?
  • What if you have complicating medical conditions that limit what you do – they aren’t just handy excuses; but real barriers?
  • What if no one else in your life supports your desire or efforts to change?
  • What if you can not do even day ONE of the ‘Couch to 5K program’? You can’t even get on the gym floor to try a sit-up/push-up? You get winded walking up the stairs to the indoor track?

The issues that the overweight/obese face and deal with in their daily lives can swamp them before they even get started on a routine. They see the mountain they have to carry or climb; when you’re 100+ pounds overweight ‘carry’ AND ‘climb’ seem to be the same effing insurmountable level of effort needed...  They know it’s going to be chaos, messy, uncomfortable, lonely, discouraging and hard and they barely have the energy to get through the day.  They’ve likely failed in previous attempts. They need someone who’s been there and can help them navigate the barriers and feel some hope and stay focused on the long-term goals.

I have a health and wellness coaching certification. This past Fall I went one step further and got additional education and training in working with those who are inactive, obese and/or are dealing with chronic illnesses. I spent hours learning how to get people moving safely and get some solid lifestyle skills in place to keep them moving towards health. Learning about change behavior, social/physical obstacles and best practices. It was odd to learn about all of this and look back and apply it to my own journey. I got a lot right with sheer determination and dumb luck. I got plenty of stuff wrong – and now I know better and will help others do better. 

As someone invited into a life-changing process, how can I help people learn to CLIMB the mountain instead of carrying it?

I coach because I have been in their shoes. And their 48FFF bra. And their sweat-drenched clothes from walking a mile. And questioning whether a piece of gym equipment can handle my weight.

I coach because I love helping people find a new, healthy path in their life.  

I coach because the people I’m lucky enough to support are doing the exceptionally hard work of trying to get handle on their lives. I know how hard that work is. 

I know, as their coach, that I’m being invited into a really special place in their journey to help them figure out exactly how to get started climbing when they’re standing at the bottom of a mountain and aiming for the top.  

My coach Spencer.  He led with belief in what I was trying to do and together we worked out the details of HOW to make it happen…

Los Cabos Ironman 70.3

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1.2 mile ocean swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run.

That’s how you get the 70.3.

78 degrees water temp, 84 degree biking/running temp.

70 minute cutoff out of the water. 5:30 cutoff on the bike from the start. 8:30 cutoff on the run from the start.  My goal was FINISH, or if we want to get really specific, I was hoping to pull off an 8:15-8:20 finish and beat the cutoffs.

This was my first triathlon. Ever.

Mike Larsen (Spencer’s coach and my friend) talked me into trying this. I was cussing him at points and turns during training. His ears had to be burning intensely the 48 hours prior to the start.

Mike is the kind of man who instils instant confidence with short declarative statements of absolute belief in your abilities. Someone believing in you is powerful-good medicine in my book. When he said ‘Bets, you’re ready, why aren’t you doing this?’ I freaking hit ‘register’ on the event before really thinking it through.

And then I buckled down and trained hard and well and smart.

Waiting on the beach, sun rising, with a bunch of nervous-as-hell, back-of-the-packers, getting ready for a running start from the sand of Palmilla Beach into the ocean to swim… I thought I was going to cry, puke, pass out, grab a cab all the way back to Oregon AND kick Mike Larsen in the shins for convincing me I could try this distance. I felt like I didn’t want to disappoint Mike. Or Spencer. Or me. Or any of the humans in my life who hand me their blind belief when I tell them my wild dreams. I was in Mexico, standing on a beach with 1,000 other people, in a bathing suit, getting ready to run into the ocean and swim a mile.

Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

Swimming for me has been a damned soap opera. I panic in the water. Like; flop on the deck of pool and cry. I never learned how to swim as a child. I’m not strong or fast in the water. Getting to the ocean swim was a white-knuckle, mean-street-fight of simple grit over the past few years. I worked my ass off to get to a point where I could swim remotely well enough to even think I could try this.

Standing on the beach watching the fast folks run into the ocean – Spencer among them – I decided that my mind was my biggest tool in this whole thing. She needed to be on my side. She needed to believe we were doing this. So I had a little internal pep talk.

‘We’re doing this… We’re strong. We’re brave. We’ve worked so hard. And you can always grab a kayak and go back to shore – but you HAVE TO START. And SMILE DAMN IT!… You are alive to be part of this. You chose this. Quit acting like a kicked dog who doesn’t belong here. YOU EARNED THIS — go swim…. ‘

The man at the swim chute patted me on the back and said ‘vamanos’. I ran down the beach and hit the water. Ran a bit in the shallow water and then — dove and started swimming.

The first 750 meters was ugly. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get into a rhythm with a stroke. I was hitting people. They were hitting me. I was fighting waves and currents. I was fighting panic. I finally decided I was done. I was quitting.  I couldn’t do this.  I was clearly in over my head. I looked for a kayak to flag over and tell them I’d like a lift back to shore. I was bobbing up and down in the water getting face-smacked by the waves. Done. I wanted to be done. I would just go watch Spencer race this thing.

My trail sister Daisy – her brother Scott was a triathlete. Scott was killed in a training ride over a year ago. It was a horrible, senseless tragedy. I had talked to Daisy before coming down here to get a boost of confidence and she had said Scott would be proud of me for being scared senseless and doing this anyway. So I was bobbing up and down in the water, unable to see a kayak, wanting to cry and finally said out loud — ‘SCOTT… Uh, wanna swim with me…? I’m terrified. Daisy said I could ask you for help…’

Then I got stung by a jellyfish. Ouch. Stung a second time. WTF? That hurt…

Then I pulled my head out of my ass and decided that I wasn’t going to quit this thing.

I was not going out of this event without a fight.

I put my head back in the water determined to get cut-off in the 70 minutes and dragged out of the water, but this was not ending with me QUITTING… I started to swim and saw a pair of feet (ugly feet BTW) and bubbles and I suddenly knew — I FOLLOW THIS GUY. I stick to him like glue and swim for all I’m worth to keep following him. I am 100% convinced his name was Scott. 🙂 I swam hard and strong and learned to turn to the non-chop side to breathe, and breathe on the 2 count, not the 3 count. I threw my training out the window that worked for the pool and got aggressive about adapting to the ocean. I didn’t worry about sighting the buoys — he ‘ Scott’ was doing that work. And I swam… Hard. Steady. Turning around buoys, never losing site of the ugly feet, and finally I could see the bottom of the ocean coming up to meet us and I could see… shore… Whoa. SHORE.

I came out of the water and Tracey was there and I said ‘Did I make the cut off????! and she said ‘YES! GET YOUR ASS ON YOUR BIKE!’ So I took off running to my bike.

59:56 out of the water on a 70:00 cutoff.

Then it hit me.

I never for one hot-second thought I was going to actually get out of the water.

I hadn’t looked at the bike course. I was going through the motions getting ready for this thing; but I had not convinced my mind I could swim. The details of the bike and run were murky at best. And now I was going to get to go bike and run! IN MEXICO, in an IRONMAN…. WOO HOO!

The bike was hilly. The roads were in pretty crap shape. HUGE potholes, lots of determined driving to keep from wrecking my bike. Spencer was kicking ass on the bike and was coming toward me on the out and back and gave me a subtle 2-finger wave as he sped past that I knew meant ‘YOU GOT OUT OF THE WATER AND I AM SO FUCKING PROUD OF YOU. FINISH THIS THING.’

And it was game on…

I had gotten out of the water.

I was on my bike.

I rode as aggressively as I could. I love my bike. I’m getting better all the time. I at one point hit a pothole and lost all the fuel out of my pockets and damn near wrecked my bike. So I had to play fueling catch up for the rest of the ride/run — which was not ideal, but my ultrarunning training kicked in and I happily looked for ways to adapt. It was hot and hilly, but I loved every single pedal stroke of that course. Ocean on one side. Desert on the other. Fans yelling ”Andale Vamanos!” and cheering wildly. Aid stations so stocked and friendly. I learned QUICKLY how to keep peddling, grab bottles, eat fuel and throw the trash in a very short distance.

I looked at my watch and it said I had been on the course for 2:51. I knew I was biking about 16 MPH and that I had 16 miles left. I remember thinking ‘Mike would be so freaking proud of me if I could break 4:00 hours on this ride…’ My goal had been roughly 4:30. I picked a bigger gear and decided to push. I wanted Mike to be proud of me. And honestly — I was kind of trying to chase down Spencer. I worked hard all summer learning to handle my new bike; now was the time to throw it all together and finish this thing strong.

I hit the bike finish line at 3:50 and ran into the transition. Racked my bike, threw on my shoes. Started walking out briskly to eat and settle down and get the feeling back in my feet.

I exited the transition to start the run and saw Spencer and said ‘I FINISHED THE SWIM!!!!’ He said ‘Enjoy every moment of this.’

I walked fast, jogged. I had to wake my feet up from the bike. I was hot. The pavement was new blacktop. But I know how to run on tired legs. And I was grateful to be healing so well from a bad hamstring/knee injury. I was NOT going to hate on even a single second of this run. Again – ultrarunning training kicked in. I grabbed ice and stuffed it in my bra. Dumped water on my head, ran from shade spot to the next palm tree shadow. I pulled out all the ‘cool body temps’ tricks and used them.

In the back of the pack — we usually form informal tribes. We cheer each other on. This event, with a multitude of languages, was no different. Encouragement in forms/languages/gestures I didn’t understand as anything other than encouragement. I gave back all that I got.

I was coming into mile 7(ish) – the turn around. And I saw a face that was a brand-new-to-me friend. She’s a professional athlete. Her name is Adelaide. And she was cheering for me – using my name. I was floored. She’d been done for hours – and she had come back onto the course to cheer for me. I stopped and said ‘how’d you do ?!” And she started yelling and waving her arms at me ‘DO NOT STOP — RUN, RUN, RUN!!!’ So I did.

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Adelaide and her husband Kennett, so, so supportive!  Kindness matters.  Deeply.  They’re proof.

Shortly after that, I heard Spencer cheering. I was DYING to know how he had done. He jogged next to me for a few steps and I said ‘How did you do?’ he simply said ‘Podium.’ I sobbed. Another story entirely, but to see someone work hard and chase their dreams and have a stellar day,  all of that was contained in that one word… He kept telling me to run – and I was; crying for pride and happiness for him.

Between Adelaide’s kindness at staying at the event to cheer on a back-of-the-pack athlete and Spencer’s podium finish news — I negative split the last half of the run.  I was running with the lightest heart and springy legs and … I was just happy to be able to run and I was feeling fit and healthy.

Coming into the finish I caught up to a guy walking. Santiago. We had been sharing bike/road miles trading places during the day. There was NO WAY HE WAS WALKING to the finish line. I patted him on the back and said ‘think maybe we should finish this thing together?’ He smiled and fell in beside my slow, steady run gait. We ran the last mile. He let me cross the line right before him.

I will admit it’s pretty damn cool to hear ‘Betsy Hartley, Bend, Oregon, YOU are an Ironman.’

I finished in 7:47 (ish).


Open Water Swim


I did an event this past weekend that combined a 500 M open water swim (lake) and 12 mile bike ride. With my knee not 100% healed for running just yet, I opted for the very elegant sounding aquabike event.

This recent swimming episode started six months ago as ‘I am a supremely pissed-off, injured runner who HAS to be in the damn pool because I can’t run.‘ It’s morphed into ‘I really like swimming, a whole lot.’

I’m as surprised as anyone.

Trust me.

I am afraid of the water and have been my whole life. My friend Kerri reminded me that once upon a time I told her I would never visit Hawaii because it meant flying over water.

While a pool is a contained environment, the idea of an open water swim (OWS) in a lake or ocean takes fear to a new level. I have never been a swimmer and yet knew I wanted to do a triathlon at some point. I have been reminded a bunch of times that swimming is a skill that can be learned. And I have also been reminded that I don’t usually let fear stop me…  So I began over the past few years, with coaches, trying to learn how to swim and manage anxiety around water. I was not gaining endurance or building skill or learning forward momentum in the water; I was simply learning that I have a wicked strong dog paddle and can ‘safety stroke’ through a panic attack while staying in the water.

Plus there’s the whole body image thing that just hangs around like an annoying little sibling shadowing my every move… Right on my butt at all times…. Being seen in a bathing suit is something that once upon a time (for about 20+ years) kept me out of the pool. I’d been made fun of in a bathing suit in high school and the taunt/words/mortification are still easily remembered. I have gotten a WHOLE lot better about being in a bathing suit in public through practice and being around supportive people of all shapes and sizes who are comfy in their own skin. My body works hard and I love her. Yet I would be lying if I denied that those first few moments on the pool deck, in a bathing suit, always increase my heart rate just a touch.

So, all of that background is to say; there has been a whole LOT of focused practice in the water these past six months. Learning endurance, getting over the bathing suit hurdle and learning to like and respect water.

I signed up for the event at the last minute, after thinking about it for 3 months. The tipping point was realizing that once I did the event — I’d have my own opinion and experience to base things off of, instead of a creative cache of ‘worst case scenarios’ playing out like Netflix in my brain.

Got tired of being afraid of a bunch of unproven, unknowns…

Signed up.

Showed up.


Loved it.


When I was wading into the water to start my assigned wave, I acknowledged that the chances of panicking and fleeing for the shore at any moment were fairly decent. I wasn’t being defeatist or negative about it at all. I didn’t start this whole thing with the idea that I would bail. Quite the contrary. I designed a race plan to give myself a little breathing room and grace in a new and scary situation. My fear of water was big. So I made a big, safe plan to help my brain accept and manage the fear.

I mean one of my friends, trying to explain the OWS to me said ‘It is kind of like swimming in a washing machine with maybe one or two pissed off cats thrown into the mix to keep it from being boring’.   That kind of requires a plan. 🙂

Here’s what I was going to do…

  • I would give it my all. ANY stroke that worked to move me forward was fine!
  • At any point and time, ONCE things started, if I panicked or felt unsafe I would flip on my back for a count of ten and breathe.
  • If that didn’t work THEN I could simply swim for shore or swim to a lifeguard and ask to be done.

My only self-imposed rule was that I had to START this thing. No quitting before the gun went off.

Having that safety plan actually made me feel a whole lot braver.

I think I swam some variation/interpretation of every possible legal type of stroke and about 15 made-up strokes. It was a chaotic, messy, funny, rolling shitshow of a swim!  NOTHING perfect about it from a technique standpoint. Not a single thing. I simply swam to keep moving forward no matter what it looked like. All those hours of practicing in the pool and watching videos and being coached on the perfect stroke suddenly seemed HILARIOUS!  This felt like a freaking street fight of a swim where anything was legal and allowed. ‘I’ll see you one free style stroke, with a subtle left hook to get your foot out of my face’ HA! AGAIN – nothing intentional or mean. Just a bunch of forward moving bodies, in close proximity, trying to get back to shore. I was laughing in my head the entire swim.

It was awesome.

I thrived in that chaotic environment in the water. I knew I could roll on my back to breathe – so I never panicked. Not for one moment. It was this glorious, bubbly, mess and we were all trying to get to the buoys and get to the shore.

I came out of the water, almost dead last, smiling and happy and wondering how I would ever go back to the boredom of the pool again.

Back to the pool is exactly where I’m headed. Today. I have so much work I can do to get stronger and build endurance in the water.

I will also acknowledge that the very next time I hit the open water I could in fact panic and wind up swimming for shore or a course lifeguard. I’m keeping my safety plan intact. It worked perfectly.

Every experience in the water is to be respected and I understand that every event experience will be different.

I feel so, so lucky to hit the shore after my first OWS and have loved the experience of being in a competitive, lake environment exceeded ALL my expectations!

Kudos to Best In the West Events (Blair and Staci) for putting on a safe, well-run race that welcomes ALL levels and abilities into the sport.  

Sierra giving me the ‘you can do this and you’re going to love it!’ pep talk.  I adore this women who crushed her own event this past weekend!