Guest blogger Jeff Sherman: I accidentally ran a 50K.

My friend Jeff run a 50K last December.

On accident. 


He didn’t want me to have to run alone. Seriously. That is the sole reason he decided, with less than 24 hours notice, to run a 50K.

When I tell people Jeff is like the little brother I always wanted and never had — can you see why?

You’ll read his account of his accidental 50K , but I have one of my own stories about this epic adventure to share with you first…

Jeff KNEW he had to fuel (consume calories) to be able to endure this event.  Josh and Spencer had hammered home that point perfectly. But at the first tiny taste of the Gu he had picked out the night before at the grocery store, he refused to eat his fuel.

He hated the flavor and texture.

This episode occurs like 3 miles in on a 31 mile day. 

He was flat out refusing to eat his energy gels.

I start yelling at him, begging, pleading, I even told him at one point to just plug his nose and swallow the damn stuff… He just kept looking at me (all of this is happening while we were running) and saying ‘No.’   And then would lift the Gu packet to his face and without tasting it — he would make a face and gagging sounds. 

After several frustrating miles, we eventually reached a compromise of sorts. 

We traded gel flavors.

After some serious coaxing he finally decided to try, and liked my salted caramel flavored Gu’s. I wound up with his barely-tolerable Raspberry flavored Gu’s.

I mean only TRUE friends would give up their Salted Caramel flavored Gu’s just to help someone else through a race.

Right?  🙂

Thank you Jeff for embedding and creating such happy and cherished memories into an event that I will remember with pure joy for the rest of my life.

Take it away Jeff, my accidental ultrarunning friend

Bets loves telling this story.

This was her first 50K, and I was privileged to share the experience with her.

Yes—on accident, I had the privilege to race with her! I was not supposed to run this thing. And, not to mention, I had not raced since high school, and even then, those were 5Ks!

So, in this single race, I ran my first 10K, half-marathon, marathon and ultra.

Bets told me “Jeff this is something we HAVE TO SHARE!!!”

Think of all the stories that would be in ONE race weekend report!”

I said “Ok!”

First thing: I DO NOT want to downplay how much work Bets put in on this race… her first Ultramarathon. She wants to be an ultrarunner and this 50K (~31 miles) was her golden ticket to becoming that runner. She worked her butt off for this race. Almost literally. 🙂 She. Trained. HARD!

Meanwhile, I was running maybe 2-3 times per week with her (on her short distance days) and she was putting in 5-6 days a week training for this crazy thing. She asked me to travel with her, mostly just as support from the start line, aid station, and finish line.

I was promised there would be little running involved.

“Absolutely, I am in.”


ferry boat
The great yellow ferry boat’s deck.  Spencer, Bets, Hannah, Wendie, Josh and Jeff.

The idea was that I would travel to The North Face Endurance Challenge (TNF50) in San Francisco with Betsy, Spencer, Hannah, Josh, and Wendie, as their friend. Not a runner.

Wendie and I would crew for everyone else. Basically, we would load shoes, water, Gu’s, and lube in a backpack and jog between aid stations.

Sounds like fun to me!

When we flew in to California, Josh mentions he is not feeling well.

I don’t think about the comment too much, other than Josh had planned on running with Bets. I knew she might be a little nervous about going alone.

The next day [pre-race day], we drive to San Francisco and pick up running bibs. When we get back to the house, Josh, Spencer and I go out on a “shake-out” run. About 2 miles in on this slow, flat, dry run I make a comment to Josh,

“You know, if you are too sick to run tomorrow, I think I could run with Bets.”

They both looked at me with shocked faces, and then responded with huge smiles and yelling, “F%*# Yeah!” The context for their original shocked faces is that, up to this point, I was adamant to anyone that would listen that I was not a runner. Just a friend of Betsy’s who liked being outside.

The fact that I expressed interest in the run, was a little out of left field.

Bets, Wendie, and my Mother (not on the trip) did not share the exact, instantaneous, enthusiasm of the guys.

“You have never run a 10K race before, let alone a f@#$ing 50K on trails!” – anonymous

Josh did end up being too sick to run… and the teaching began. Between Josh and Spencer, I “learned” how to run an ultramarathon at the dining room table in our rented Yellow Ferry Boat.

I have never listened to anyone so intensely before in my life. I learned how to eat a Gu (NASTY- snot textured sugar packet), when to take a salt-tab, when to eat an Imodium (extremely important to keep the Gu in), how much water to drink, how to run downhill.

I listened to every single word.

Still today, I proudly quote Josh Gum before starting a long run.

Race day arrived.

We woke up early, covered our feet in this nasty paste lube and sent Spencer off on the 50 miler. Meanwhile, Bets, Hannah, and I, had an hour to sit around and process the ridiculousness of what was about to happen. I remember saying (several times),

“wait… this is going to take how long?!!”

Oh god.

In my head, I know I can do this. Bets and Josh keep telling me this is about mental toughness.

That is 99% true, if you have trained for your race!!!

If I can leave you with anything from this blog?   Train for races. Whether you train with a coach or from a variety of online sources, it makes a difference.

Trust me.

Happy jeff

This picture was from Bets and I at the “start” of the race, when I had run my first 10K (6.2 miles). No biggie.

This is fun.

We were having so much fun! Stomachs weren’t upset, we had climbed less than 1,000’ in elevation, laughing the entire way.

Life was good.

Then came mile 16ish.

Both of us may have fallen just a little behind on fuel and we had some upset stomachs.

[Short preface: Bets told me I could go this far into detail in the story.]

This is a nice way to say that we left some dignity in the bushes along the course. Apparently, pride stays in the rental van when nature calls during ultrarunning.

The trails were a slippery, muddy mess from the rain storm the day before, so people were really not paying attention to our bathroom trail side-excursions… Well, except for one poor gentlemen who followed Bets off the trail, thinking that was the course. I didn’t know what to say, so I just yelled,

“NO!!! She’s pooping!”

Let’s just say Bets was not impressed with me announcing that fact to a squadron of runners.

Then came mile 26.

This is the point where a normal marathon stops!

We still had 6 more miles – with hills – to go.

Here was my attitude at the time when Betsy asked for a selfie…

Not happy jeff

This part of the race hurt.

It hurt really bad. Every muscle ached. I was sure this was what death felt like.

She was smiling, but holy crap this was HARD!

I know at some point I laid down by a porta-potty and asked Bets if she could,

“just leave me here to die.”

After a few choice words were thrown at me, I picked myself up and onward we limped.

The trail was absolutely beautiful… In hindsight. We could see down onto the Golden Gate Bridge, out towards the water on one side and beautiful valleys on the other.

All we could talk about… Pizza and beer. Bets talked about pizza and I talked about how I could taste the beer. No more disgusting watered down sugar packets. This was our conversation for the last 6 miles. Pizza and beer.

We came across the finish line happy for the picture, but it was really time to be done.

We finished a few seconds past the 8 hour mark.


Looking back, it’s hard to think about how tough the run really was, because I keep thinking about how much fun I had running with a great friend.

We kept each other mentally strong and now have some really great stories to tell.

I would go back in a heartbeat, but NOT for a 50 miler. 🙂

Wishing Bets the best in the 2015 TNF50 MILER!!

Life raft.

Ana Lu and I in the finisher's chute. Photo credit to Josh Gum.
Ana Lu and I, Mac 50K 2015. Photo credit, Josh Gum.

‘Running is 90% mental and 10% physical.’

This past two weeks… My brain handed me an a$$-whooping.

I have been in a battle with my brain. BIG. TIME.

And it was clearly winning.

Hands down this past 10 days or so have been the most mentally grueling days of running that I have had so far.

When you look at my Garmin/Strava – whatever would float your boat and give you information about my running – things looked pretty normal.

I can assure you my brain was NOT normal.

So what the heck happened?

I had a run a little over a week ago that left me feeling profoundly embarrassed.

I won’t go into details, because the more I actually spend time sorting this thing out,  the more I realize it is NOT about the details.

Not at all. 

It was entirely about how I reacted and the things I allowed my brain to latch onto and the things I kept telling myself  that just weren’t helpful or true.

A single run left me feeling embarrassed, humiliated and sad. And I let it get to me. I let it beat me down for over a week.

The next couple of runs following the ‘incident’ were horrible. Run a little. Stop and cry. Run a little. Walk in a crying tantrum. Run totally pissed off at myself and then stumble along crying in anger. I was oddly even more grateful in those moments that I run trail.  At least there were no human witnesses.

I had a recording of things running through my mind that were mean, uncharitable, nasty.

And I was listening to them intently.

And I was crying. A lot. I’m just not a crier.  That reaction alone was bewildering and confusing to me.

I had lunch with my friend Ana Lu the other day. I was explaining all of this; the process, the aftermath, some of my conclusions. I asked her what she did when/if she found herself in such a state of emotional turmoil.

For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to know Ana Lu, among the many great things about her; she is compassionate and unfailingly optimistic.

The one idea she had for me – that I think was particularly brilliant and helpful – was to build myself a ‘life raft’.

She told me to write myself a love letter, call a friend, pray, run in my favorite spot, read positive stories, journal, run with good friends who wouldn’t question my silence or tears, buy new music, put a huge note/poster on my wall with my next goal to keep me focused and excited…

And as an emotionally open person she told me (an avowed non-crier) that when I feel like crying mid-run I really just needed to STOP and cry my heart out – hold nothing back. Get it out of my system. No matter who’s watching. 🙂

She said I should use one or more of those ideas as my ‘life raft’.

She also told me I should blog about all of this. Not just because of the running aspect. She argued, that no one really talks openly about this side of the lifestyle change process.

It took me about three days after the ‘incident’ to realize that running was simply the trigger for this current emotional upheaval.  A conversation with my coach is what really helped me start to recognize and understand what was going on.

Ana Lu saw it too and she’s a good enough friend that she gently called me on it.

This wasn’t about running at all.

This was about self doubt. Fear. Lack of confidence. Shame. A distorted body image.

This was about the work that NOW needs to be done to help my brain catch up with where I’ve taken my body and my life.

And I think running is actually going to prove to be the perfect tool to help me figure this all out.

The maintenance portion/cementing lifestyle part of this whole journey is actually, statistically, harder than losing the weight.

Quick side note. Having been an overweight, chronic-dieter all of my life – I’ve always heard the idea about losing weight being the easy part… Quite honestly I thought people were totally full of crap when they said that.  Losing 220 pounds and reversing T2 diabetes was freaking HARD, relentless, scary work.  But now?  Now that I’m at a solid weight, eating healthy, staying active and focused on keep my weight within a healthy range… Turns out… They weren’t really full of it.

It’s all hard.

This ‘staying where you are’ stuff, holding strong to new lifestyle pieces you fought to reach, processing through the mental pieces that led to being almost 400 pounds after 40+ years?

This maintaining stuff is complicated and hard.

Ana Lu told me that statistics showed that once someone reaches their goal (whatever that lifestyle goal/shift/change may be) they are way more likely to bask in the glow of achievement for a short period of time and then quietly and slowly relapse into old habits.

Turns out that maintaining lifestyle changes is not the norm; it’s statistically not how the story ends for most folks.

I reached my goal of abolishing T2 diabetes and losing 220 pounds and learning to run…

So now what?

NOW I continue the hard work of hanging onto my lifestyle and really learning about my new life as it works day-in and day-out.  And continuing to diligently pitch some of the old crap – as I find it –  out of the boat along the way.

I’m not the same person I was.

I loved my old life and I love my new life.

I just have to keep working to help my brain catch-up with where I’m at. 🙂

Thanks to Ana Lu’s idea, I now have a teeny-tiny emergency life raft cobbled together. It is anchored close by and ready to go for the next run.

Do you have a life raft?

Ana Lu, Carlos, me and Spencer. Dimple Hill. 


Betsy in sun


If you have entered races to run, ride, Tri — you are probably cringing (in sympathy) right about now.  You know what those little letters mean…


Did Not Finish.

The SOB (Siskiyou Out and Back) was this past weekend. My first attempt at running the 50 mile distance. I made it 41 miles and missed a course time cutoff.  My race was over after 10 hours and 17 minutes.

Not by my choice.

8 miles short of the finish line.

I have been working for this distance since the day I met Josh and Wendie Gum three(ish) years ago and Josh uttered the word that would begin to radically change my ideas of running…


Ultrarunning is any running distance over a marathon (26.2 miles).  I’ve done several 50K’s (31 miles) and I’m now working on the 50 mile distance.  I have friends working to crush the 100 mile distance this September. Combinations and distances in ultrarunning are endless. Mind-blowing.

I am utterly enthralled and in love with this sport, the people, the community.

I’m trying to get my mind around what a DNF means.

This is my first.  And it won’t likely be my last.

What did I learn?  How do I apply the lessons to my training and my next race?

I’m also trying to soak in the absurdly obvious fact that I have a handful of patient and loving friends who were giving me space and yet keeping me close all at the same time.  Letting me figure this out on my own.

One of the top lessons came from a conversation with a seasoned ultrarunner who was volunteering at the station where I DNF’d.  He sat with me for quite a while.  He said he knew I wouldn’t understand what he was saying immediately – but it would sink in at some point…

Here’s the essence of what he told me:

You trained hard.

Logged countless miles and hours. Learned and practiced. Fell more in love with the sport and your body’s ability to work hard. Saw new trails.  Met new people. Pushed boundaries. Gained strength.

You showed up and toed the line when others were too scared to sign up or show up.

You ran 41 miles.

NO MATTER how today went no one can take any of that away from you.  It’s yours. You earned it.

Today is just one more day in that process.

Here’s what I have learned so far…


  • I finished a solid 41 miles.
  • I’m safe, healthy. Not even a blister or lost toenail.
  • I could see two years of work with trying to fix fueling (calories on the run) and gut issues play out perfectly. FINALLY!
  • Descending (running down hills) and my confidence with descending was much improved over my work at Western States Training Camp in May.
  • My mental strength was solid and my strategies for conquering my scared/negative/self-defeating thoughts WORKED.

41 miles of good stuff.

I don’t think I have to tell anyone that it hurts the heart to miss a goal that you have worked hard for.  I felt pretty crushed. Embarrassed. Frustrated.

However, I was NOT defeatedVERY important distinction.  I never thought about NOT doing this again, all my thinking was scrambling to figure out what I screwed up on, what I needed to get better at and how to fix it.

What have I learned?  What will I work on?

  • Become a faster runner.
  • Run more of each hill.
  • Hike faster/stronger on steep stuff.
  • Don’t be a jackass/rude/dismissive to the volunteers at the aid stations.  I was NOT!  Several of the other DNF’s exhibited poor sportsmanship and crappy attitudes.  Never OK.  Ever.

This is my breakdown of the race. (Here’s the map sob-50-mile-map)

I have several running friends who read this blog and they suggested that my version of a play-by-play would be interesting. Typically race reports are more about strategy, fueling and terrain – things that would help other runners know what to expect and how to prepare to run the course. Uh… Mine aren’t. My ‘race report’ is about what I was feeling and thinking.

I hope that you enjoy my ‘race report’. 🙂

Mile 1-4.  Scared to death. Super upset belly. Breathing wouldn’t settle in. I was gulping air and trying to find a rhythm for my feet and lungs…  I got paired up on the single track with a woman from Gold Beach, OR.  She said she was really struggling with nerves/belly/breathing.  I admitted the same. I thought about it for a bit and then told her that ALL of that could be easily explained away by 1.) too much coffee at the ass crack o’ dawn to make sure we pooped before the race and 2.) the freaking altitude (5,000-7,000) for us sea-level girls.  We laughed and nerves were instantly gone…  For both of us. I ran with my new friend for 22 miles and DNF’d with her as well.

4- 22. I worked on getting comfortable. Welcomed the routine of trying to settle into a long run.  I kept going over the course map and my plan in my head, reviewing the map mentally to see if I could tell what might be coming next terrain/aid station-wise.  Fueling (calories) was perfect to the minute and my gut stayed intact.  I remembered thinking – no matter how the day goes: this segment is a win on a bunch of important levels, training is playing out perfectly and these are things I can keep building on. Looking back – I also have to wonder if this section – where I was feeling the most comfortable – is this where I should have pushed harder? Would more effort here have made the difference?

21 – 22. The women grouped up and running with me at this point started talking about how we were not going to make the time cut-offs. The talk was about races they hadn’t finished.  How HORRIBLE the hill ahead of us at mile 25 really was. How they probably should have trained more. It was negative and soul-draining. I played with positive mantra’s/sayings in my head and tuned those women OUT.

23 – 25. I raced through the aid station forgoing water, purposefully, to leave all the women behind me.  I hiked with what I thought was solid purpose.  Including a fast hike up the rock field to the tippy-top for the ‘token’ to prove I had been at the turn-around point on the course.

25 – 28. Turn around and run back to the aid station. I focused on fast feet.  I ran the entire way.  Every step. If I was going to miss a cutoff, I wanted to at least have done it running downhill in the way I had trained.

28.  Wards Fork aid station volunteers said keep moving and I should make the  cutoff at Jackson Gap. I knew this was the 6-7 mile sustained climb section between aid stations.  Mental anxiety is spiking back up at this point. I kept working to stuff it back down. My strategy ALL along had been to hike this entire segment fast with a little running if I hit flats. More of the trail was runnable than I remembered on the first trip through. If it got flat or I could see a small crest – I ran. I pushed hard.

35.5.  I hit Jackson Gap aid station and they said I was at the cutoff; I had to keep moving.  Those words were just a huge mind f*&k.  I looked at the volunteer who was talking to me and burst into tears.  I just stood there crying and trying to pull my shit back together while they filled my hydration pack with ice, made sure I was physically OK to keep going, handed me some grapes and sent me up the road.  I was already moving at what I thought was going to amount to an all out effort for 50 miles; I wasn’t sure how much more I could push at this point and actually have anything left to finish. Coupled with a mistake rookie-style? I hadn’t written down any of the distances from aid stations. I KNOW BETTER. The volunteer said it was 4 miles; it was over 7.  I was mentally pushing to piece things together as I ran, I felt confused and turned around at what was likely the 4 – 5 mile mark because I knew I should have been at an aid station. I was clueless at this point because my Garmin had died.

Two guys in front of me walking up the hill right out of the Jackson Gap aid station suddenly turned around as I was headed uphill.  They said they were done, they’d done the math and there was no way they could make the cutoff.  “No reason to put in the effort at this point.”  I nodded and kept moving past them.  I remembered thinking ‘F*&^ THAT.  I’m not quitting.  They’ll have to pull me off the course…’ I stopped crying, put my head down and got serious about trying to make the cutoff.

35 – 41. I ran when I could and walked on the steep ups.  I also had to walk on some of the steep downs. I noticed I was getting tired; my toes were dragging and catching everything as soon as I let my attention waiver. This section is partially on a steep North facing slope that I swear was really just a game trail with an immediate and unforgiving drop off. Falling would require search and rescue.  No joke. I was also stuck on the narrow single-track with a PSYCHO running companion. She was hysterical, depressed, loud, opinionated, abrasive.  When I slowed; she slowed. When I ran; she ran. I wanted to push her off the cliff. BUT that’s not nice or allowed.  So I worked HARD on not letting her non-stop chatter get in my head.  I kept thinking about even though I was pushing the cutoffs and my gut was sinking with the idea that this next cutoff might be the last…

  • I was running a race I could be proud of.
  • Spencer (coach) wouldn’t be disappointed in me, my effort or my attitude.
  • I hoped everyone was wrong and that we would beat/slide past the cutoff.

I was trying to stay in the moment with picking-up and purposefully placing my feet, breathing calmly and keeping my mind working by counting groups of foot steps that were taking me closer to the finish line.

41. Siskiyou Gap aid station, done for the day.  Here’s the snapshot in my head:  I crest the hill from some trees, with single-track in front of me.  I see the tent at the aid station in a small clearing.  A woman (not the psycho one, she was finally behind me a bit…) that I had been running behind for several miles is between me and the tent in the open space, sitting on her knees with her head in her hands.  Five volunteer faces look up at me as I come out of the trees and three of them start shaking their heads slightly… You don’t even really need to hear the words…. ‘I’m sorry. Your day is done.’

This is the race that earned me my first DNF.  It really is a SOB. 🙂

It’s also the race where I met new friends, got sage advice and learned that I CAN fuel correctly. By early that evening I was reminded that my family and running friends are pretty damn spectacular.

And at the end of the day(s), with the pity party finally done and my mind settling into accepting the lessons that were handed to me…  This race turned out to be a fantastic training run on stunning trails and one more character building experience in this whole process of embracing and living a healthy lifestyle.

And no one can take any of that away from me.

Swimming. (Dragging baggage into the pool…)

Wade and I, 2014 Pacific Crest. He did the Triathalon. I did the Duathlon. WHY?  Because I chickened out of the Tri AFTER Wade signed up.  Three words:  Open. Water. Swim.

‘I can’t swim.’

One day about 18 months ago I was telling my dad that my friends Joe and Josh did Ironman events.  I admire the hell out of those two and I admitted that I was kinda-sorta wanting to do an Ironman too…

I was telling my dad that I wanted to do one, but it would never happen because I just can’t swim. I have never been able to do more than dog paddle and float.

My dad waited about 3 days. Then we had this conversation (and yes – it was one-sided)…

Bets. I’ve been thinking about something you said.

It’s total bullshit.

You can learn to swim just like you learned to run and bike and control diabetes and lose weight.

Quit saying you can’t and *&^%ing figure out a way to learn how.

All righty then…

Being called out by my dad started me on a stop-n-go journey.

My friend Drew gave me the name of a well respected swim coach.

I didn’t call for 3 months.

Finally called and took things no further.

Then purposefully forgot about it all and figured — HEY, I’d called a swim coach. That was at least ONE step in the right direction… Right?

Spencer and I gave our Novo Veritas presentation this past March.  After the presentation a guy walked up to chat.

He said…

‘I’m Troy.  You may not remember, but you called me about being your swim coach, a long time ago…  You ready to start lessons?’


Truth?  I’m SCARED of the water.

Mostly I’m scared of trying to breath and having water nearby.  Like ANYWHERE near my face.

I finally told Troy about this near-phobia I have with water as a way of lamely explaining why I had never followed through the first time I contacted him about lessons.

He assured me he would be able to help me learn to swim.

The part I didn’t tell him?  I have body image issues; big time. To say that I am not thrilled about being in a swimsuit in front of ,oh — ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING — is a bit of an understatement. And then there’s this whole NEW learning curve that involves using my body for something athletic (did I mention this has to be done in a swimsuit?) and someone was going to be watching me…

Let’s just say I knew full well that I would be dragging a ton of baggage with me into the pool.

I called Troy. We set up a time to get swim lessons started.  I was ridiculously nervous for DAYS before the first lesson.

We’re on swim lesson #11 right now.

And LORD is this man a patient coach and teacher.

I get frustrated with myself when I don’t learn things instantly or see profound progress.  I’m battling consistently present fear.  Some of my  good friends can tell you, I’m a peach when I’m embarrassed, scared or frustrated with myself.  Just trust me — if you don’t know me very well — Troy really is approaching sainthood to have hung in with me this long. 🙂

For weeks I was literally having panic attacks/hyperventilating on the freestyle swim.  EVEN though I can literally put my feet on the bottom of the pool at any given moment, anywhere in the lap pool.

While I’m still battling some fear about breathing/water…

Even I have to admit that it is getting much better.

I’m actually gaining some confidence in the water.

I told Troy after the 4th or 5th lesson ‘I think the life guards are finally looking a little more relaxed when I’m in the pool.’ 🙂

Friday’s lesson was a really good one for me mentally.

Troy and I had a good conversation during my lesson when I arrived at the end of a lap still struggling with breathing and gasping for air…

You just have to get comfortable with the learning…

Yes.  This is about learning. Not just about swimming.  Huh.  I felt like a lightbulb finally clicked ON!

While I have to figure out how to stay calm and remember ALL of the things I’m supposed to be doing to move in the water, Troy’s main point was that I need to simply appreciate the process of learning something new.

Get comfortable – once again – with the bumps and bruises and non-linear flow and FUN of LEARNING.

Give myself a small measure of grace for simply facing my fears and really trying to learn to swim.

Give myself some forgiveness for getting one thing right even if I get 5 things wrong.

Give myself a dose of patience for learning a new skill, while keeping up my other training.

Laugh at and WITH myself as I learn.

Troy has been trying to help me enjoy the process ALL along. I was too blind to the mechanics of a totally new sport and my avid fear of the water to see what he has REALLY been trying to teach me until this past week.

So after talking to Troy I spent the weekend thinking about a few things.  Namely that I really want to focus on embracing and LOVING the process of learning.

I LOVED learning how to run. I LOVED learning how to control blood sugars successfully and how to ride a bike and how to do a sit up.  I struggled in the moment and I certainly hated parts of those processes, but the deep sense of accomplishment you get when you really understand and learn a new skill is something I seem to have forgotten all about.

I told Troy from the very start of our lessons that I had big goals…

  • I want to do an Ironman.
  • I want swimming in my ‘tool kit’ for cross-training.
  • I want to be able to throw swimming in for cardio should I sustain a running or biking injury.

And yet what I told Troy I wanted MOST from learning to swim?

I really want to be one of those sassy and funny 90-year old ladies rocking the swim cap, confident in her swimsuit and kicking everyone’s ass in a slow, soothing, methodical, lap-fest that last for hours.

What fear are you working to conquer?

Faux fears and the next big thing…

Happy chance meeting! Finding friends on the trails. Out for various training runs. (L-R, Brandon, Laura (holding Patch), Drew, Spencer, me, Ana Lu and Carlos)

My favorite question?

‘What’s the next big event/race/running thing you have planned?’

First?  I LOVE talking about running and moving and being healthy. Anyone’s running, anyone’s passion for activity, anyone’s healthy. 🙂

Second?  I totally get a kick out of people associating me with running. Totally.  It will never get old.  For the longest time I denied it; I knew runner-runners.  Like, you know — the fast, sleek, athletic people?; it was not me. And that’s ALL I thought running was.  Now?  I realize the world of running accommodates anyone. Anyone.  If you put on shoes with the intent of going for a run; you’re a runner. I LOVE being able to identify with this group of diverse, brave, determined people.

I was at a gala this past week and talking with people I only see periodically.  We were having great conversations about life!  They all eventually asked me what’s up next event-wise.

‘So what crazy run do you have next?’

I answered the questions about a dozen times.

And that repetition of my own answer got me thinking…

The running and training that I do is not entirely for events.


If I strip it down and examine the whole process and my motivation/desire…  It’s not really for the events at all.  I wanted to tell them about some of the other great things I’m doing that aren’t event related…  Like trying to learn to swim.  Finding new trails. Finally figuring out fueling.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love events.  I’m a people person. OF course I like the event portion of this whole process. The event is really the celebration, the party!  The culmination of months of training and running and miles and learning should be celebrated.

And while I am not doing races to be competitive, I care DEEPLY and totally about doing my best and being as prepared as possible.  I’m doing events and races to meet people, have fun, see new terrain, challenge myself to a new adventure and test my limits/strength.

So then why exactly do I train and spend hours each week running/biking and working out if it isn’t to go to races?

I’ll let you peek at my current goals…

  • To be fit. (Fit feels so, so DAMN good.)
  • Enjoy ALL of the life that I have left to live.
  • Be ready for the next grand adventure.
  • I don’t want my fitness (or lack of…) to stand in the way of life.  At all.  It did.  For too many YEARS.  No more.

That list above, that is why I run and train and work on getting fit.

It really isn’t as simple or straightforward as just being ready for the ‘next big thing’.

Unless that next big thing is LIFE. 🙂

I’ve been picking harder and more robust challenges for the last two years.  I mean, I have been working hard and staying focused and building up to them.  They are challenges that terrify and fascinate me all in the same breath.  50K, learning to swim, 50 miles and beyond…

Part of the reason I keep picking bigger and bigger things to train for is pretty simple and obvious if you think about it…

I’m afraid.

I made a deal with myself almost 4 years ago that I would force myself to give anything that I thought I was afraid of (that wasn’t illegal, immoral or just super-dangerous…) a shot.

I wanted to see if I could teach myself to get over the fear. Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Trite saying; but at the same time a very true operating statement.  Could I face fears and go around/over them?

I wanted to form reality-based opinions of my own, not continue to be bound by the perceived boundaries of the past-me.

The answers to this point have been yes… I can (mostly) get over/around/beat-down the fear and get it done.  It may not be pretty, or well-done or even particularly smart.  In a few cases it left scars. 🙂

AND I am having a HELL of a lot of fun doing it!!!

I need to remind myself of all of that.

I need to remember just how much work I have done to get to this point, how many fears I’ve conquered…

A good friend recently called me out on my ‘fearful’ attitude.  I thought I had pretty much pushed fear to the edges of my life – and I thought it would stay there.  Turns out that fear is tenacious and strong-willed. (Sounds like me. 🙂 )  Trepidation, lack of confidence, self doubt, negativity; call it what you want — seems to be trying to creep back in…

The tell tale warning sign?  (this took me about two weeks to key-in on and discern…) I realized that when I am nervous about something, afraid or embarrassed that I might fail — I start a conversation with one simple word;


I’ve been catching myself using that sentence starter quite a few times these past few months.

‘But’ negates the entire comment.  It tells the listener that they don’t really have to believe anything you’re saying… Because YOU don’t really believe it yourself…

I have to kick the ‘but’s’ back out of my thinking and language.

Tackling fears is NOT linear or simple.  Nor is it ever a completed task. And that’s the lesson I’m working on learning.

There is the legit fear that we have to heed to stay alive and safe.

This isn’t that fear.

This is the fear that we allow to creep in at the edges, create boundaries, limit our work/dreams/goals and cripple our thinking.

I’m calling it my ‘faux fear’.

I am going to keep working, one step at a time, to show my faux fears the door…

What fears are you working to conquer?

Mac 50K (Yup… That’s not a typo.)

Ana Lu and I in the finisher's chute.  Photo credit to Josh Gum.
Ana Lu and I closing in on the finish line. Photo credit,  Josh Gum.

2015 Mac 50K is in the books. (31 miles, also called an Ultra). Mac is run on scenic, stunning trails in a gorgeous forest.

This was my second 50K. Even factoring in the first 10K I walked with Hannah when I weighed 280 pounds, this race was by far the hardest physical thing I have ever done.

Climbing over hills, jumping over logs/creeks and roots, steep ascents/descents, amazing scenery, great camaraderie with other runners and amazing volunteers.

Here are a few moments from Saturday that made me smile, lifted my heart…

  • Friends I was NOT expecting to see, standing in the middle of the forest cheering all of us on.
  • Taryn and Laura with the mid-run assist of a much needed banana and hugs.
  • Patrick riding beside me as I walked up a lonely stretch of sun-exposed road.  Gently reminding me to get fuel in my belly for the miles ahead.
  • Carlos helping me load salt tabs in my pack at the aid station because my hands weren’t functioning very well.
  • Ana Lu telling me (as I was whimpering with each step up a gentle slope) that she was ‘getting me to the finish line’.
  • The high school volunteer who kindly put ice cubes in my nasty/sweaty/filthy hydration pack while it was still on my back.


Happy and meaningful snapshots for my heart from a damn fine day.

I love this sport, race day or any day, because it tests the individual. And yet in a strange way it’s almost like a team sport.  We all genuinely want everyone else to win their personal race.  NO matter how they define it.  If they’re fighting their heart and guts out – we’re rooting for them. Period.

When someone was stopped on the side of the trail around mile 17 or so, all you could hear were echoes through the forest of other runners asking ‘you OK?’ as they paused on their way past.  Or you come across someone struggling and you just buddy up with them (or they with you!), distract each other and encourage each other as best you can while you happen to be on the same stretch of trail. We generously share supplies when we have what someone else needs (salt tabs anyone?).

For Mac, I put into motion the training that Spencer and I have been working on for the past 6 months. Actually we’ve really been working on foundation building for Mac for a solid year.  It all came together on Saturday.

I did encounter some serious cramping in my shins, calves and feet. It was possibly from fatigue, heat/electrolyte imbalance, my lack of experience navigating super-steep terrain or even all of the above…  It just made things a bit tougher than planned.

I finished my race in 8:04.

And even with the stupid shin cramping agony; that is a WIN for me!

Racing these long events, my biggest issue is my head.  I start to question what I’m doing and it gets more insistent as my body starts to hurt and push to the edges of my training. My head starts to battle for control.  And the control it wants is clear and absolute; it wants to shut down my body and make everything comfortable and easy and safe.  Immediately.

From about mile 20 to the finish, I was really battling my brain. Even with friends running with me and trying to distract me; my head was going for the mental ‘sore spots’.

Everyone has them.  I am NOT alone.

Spencer and I have had tons of conversations about how part of the training we do for endurance events is specifically FOR the mental battles we face.

So for every negative thought, I would conjure up a positive.

  • Focus on my breathing. I WAS very alive and totally breathing.
  • I was running and moving. There are people, some I know and love, who do not/no longer have that option.
  • Marveling that my body could work so DANGED hard for so long and WILL be able to do even more with training and time.
  • Every single step was taking me closer to the finish line, to other goals, to becoming a stronger woman.
  • Pizza. 🙂 (Not gonna lie. I think about pizza a lot when I run.)

I finished the race and was greeted by friends.

Lots of friends. Old and new. Hugs and congrats and encouragement for everyone.

We were all verbally stepping all over each other trying to inquire about others that we had lost track of during the race. Was everyone back and OK? How was everyone feeling? Loud and happy chatter!

In the interest of full disclosure; I had one mercifully brief breakdown just after crossing the finish line. I realized I had DONE it, I was physically and mentally exhausted and it was the eve of Mother’s day.  My mom has been gone for 5 years and she would be so, totally, insanely proud of me.  She was wheel-chair bound and I just happened to glimpse a wheelchair with someone’s loved one waiting at the finish line.  It was JUST enough of a trigger… I suddenly felt heartbroken and totally lost without my mom for a few moments. MAN would she have loved what my life has become and the people in it… A legitimate feeling of sadness and loss that was perched at the surface bubbled over.  I was emotionally raw and depleted anyway.  Why not just give in to it?  I grabbed a hug from my friend Jeff and maybe, just maybe, cried on him a little bit…

Dried my tear(s).  (I’m not normally a crier. And I was dehydrated anyway. 🙂 )

Grabbed some more water and some orange slices.

Went to search for more friends.

Took pictures. Hugged anyone and everyone who wanted a hug. And some who didn’t. 🙂 Even though we ALL smelled like yeti’s.

Spent some time just reveling in a sport that is as much about a new-found, welcoming family and a team environment as it is about the amazing individuals  and characters who embrace it.

I love this sport more every time I lace up my shoes.

Close to mile 6. Photo credit goes to Jeff Sherman who sprinted ahead, laid down on the ground and let us ran at/hurdle over him as he snapped the shot. Hannah, Josh, me, Ana Lu and Kristie.


18 events in 2012. Most were walking events, and I was beginning to experiment a little with running. My first trail event. A 45 mile bike ride. 🙂 I knew NOTHING about being coached or running or tapering.

I’m getting close to a big race.

One of the final parts of getting ready for a race is called tapering.  (Those who have tapered are groaning in sympathy right now…)

You train, work hard, plan, focus, learn, grow for months…


You back things off for the week or so before the race.  (It only feels like a month or two… #tapertantrum)

OK.  That’s not true.

I haven’t shut it all down.

I’m still doing core work, running a little, stretching. And I am still trying to learn to swim… But my coach, Spencer, has me on a seriously scaled back running plan from what I would normally be doing if we were in an active training period.  (Uh… Appetite does NOT scale back accordingly just for the record.  It seems to have missed the tapering memo.)

In the past the tapering period has been a quasi-nightmare for me.  I spent the ‘down time’ convinced that I was gaining weight and losing ALL of my fitness and knew there was no-way-in-hell I would be ready for race day when I spent the days leading up being ‘lazy’…

I mean, you take the girl who fought for more than two years to learn to love to run and worked hard to make exercising an iron-clad lifestyle habit and you ask her to stop

Stop the routines I worked so hard to develop.  Stop working hard every time I put on my running shoes.  Stop being focused on food intake and energy outputs for a short period of time. Stop doing the thing that I know was almost single-handedly responsible for my ability to get off of insulin and reverse Type 2 Diabetes?


I’ve heard people describe the tapering period as ‘vacation’. No way.  For someone STILL trying to cement all of these notions, habits and practices into my head and life, it was more than a little daunting and scary.

Stopping and scaling things way back just seems wrong.

So tapering normally meant I was cranky and testy and started questioning all of my training and driving my friends and coach crazy with questions laced with self-doubt…

‘How’s the taper going? Have you killed anyone yet?’  — text from a friend

Yeah.  I was a peach while tapering.

So why taper if it drives me so nuts?  First, my coach says so.  Second, I’ve done it enough times now that I KNOW it works and that it’s an important part of the training process.

Quite simply? Tapering pays off on race day.

I understand now that what you’re really doing during the taper is bottling up energy and letting your body and mind repair and rest so that you can be totally ready to RUN your heart out.

When I was tapering for the North Face 50K back in November/December, I realized what a mental battle tapering really was for me. I took really good notes on the process and captured my thoughts and feelings along the way. I noted multiple times that I was feeling sincere anxiety at the inactivity.  I feared that I would enjoy the break from running so totally and completely that I would just decide I was never, ever going to run again.  I talked a LOT about being afraid of gaining weight and thought about how I would manage food if exercise was totally taken out of the equation. I thought maybe I would forget how to run.  I was worried that by sitting ‘idle’ all of my fitness was slipping away.

My brain was taking up the slack for the decreased physical activity.  And not in a good way.

Then race day came.  I ran well. Felt great.  Loved every minute of it. KNEW the morning of the race, before I ever got near the start line; tapering had worked exactly as it should have.

I finished the race and still wanted to run again. I was eager to get back to training. My weight is ALWAYS going to fluctuate. My fitness for race day was perfectly intact and ready to go to work.

So this time around I focused on NOT allowing that mental chess game to begin. I’ve focused on just enjoying it as part of the whole training process.

This is a local event.  LOTS of friends running it. It’s the ground, trails, mountains that I have fallen in love with.  It’s where I practice.  When Spencer and I talked about goals at the beginning of this year I told him that for this race, I not only wanted to do well, I wanted to enjoy every piece of the process.  Taper included.

Race day arrives in 5 days…  I will get to see my friends and people I only see at races and I will meet new friends.  I’ll lace up my Brooks and pin on my number and slip on my hydration pack. AND I will know that all the training I did is about to be turned loose and tested and used. 🙂

And the dreaded taper is officially OVER…

And I’ll run. 🙂



Mary, Thomas, Joe, Shannon and Miriam… BOSTON MARATHON elite and energetic cheer leading crew! 🙂

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of running TO something vs. running FROM something.

This basic theme keeps cropping up and brushing at the fringes of recent conversations.

I flew to Boston to cheer for friends running THE BOSTON MARATHON this past weekend. (Hannah, Wade, Ana Lu and Spencer’s friend Matt – ALL ran their first Boston!)

Flying is fun for me. Especially now that I don’t need a seat belt extender. 🙂

I’m an extrovert. I love to talk to people. I think everyone I meet can possibly become a friend.

I’ve met some phenomenal people by striking up random conversations, heard amazing life stories and made new friends.

This trip was no exception.

I was on planes FULL of runners! Everyone was excited, lots of chatter about running.

Conversations about running usually start with ‘how did you get started with running?’ or ‘how long have you been running?’. I can now tell my running story in a few short sentences…

“I used to weigh close to 400 pounds. I’ve lost 220 pounds. I was type 2 diabetic, taking three shots a day less than four years ago. Eating less and learning to run have very literally saved my life.’

I got asked twice on this trip ‘what forced me to finally change my life?’

People usually ask me the same question using phrases like ‘what made you…’, ‘what drove you…’ or ‘why did you finally decide…’

This time they used the word force. I feel that ‘force’ is an odd word to use in regards to personal changes. So when I walked away, I thought about why the use of the word ‘force’, in a casual conversation, was irritating me.

‘Force’ is a negative word.

But I knew that wasn’t all that was bugging me.

I thought about it over the next two days. What I started to discern was related threads of a life-long pattern: Any time I have ever failed at anything or given up or decided I didn’t want to do something — it was because there was an element of being ‘forced’.


It was someone else’s idea about what/how I should be eating.

I was not buying into the idea at all. (‘I don’t believe in myself’ could be inserted here…)

I was afraid, defeated and/or desperate. (Not a choice, a lack of options…)

A key differences this time around? This has all been MY CHOICE. 

I was ready to fight and I was feeling brave.

I was RUNNING TOWARD something.  I wasn’t fleeing. I wasn’t running away. I wasn’t being forced.

This has all been my decision. I want it. I work at it every day. 

Reversing Type 2. Losing weight. Running. Finding a way to stay healthy for the rest of my life. 

I wanted this change more than anything I have ever wanted in my entire life.

I also realized that I was slightly offended that someone would think someone/something else was actually, or specifically negatively, to credit for all of my hard work.

Forcing someone to do something is NOT a recipe for long-term success.  We all know that… Right?

I lucked into a great conversation with some women at the airport, post-marathon. Three of them had run the marathon, two of us had not. They asked us what kind of running we did; and quickly and generously brought us into their conversation.

After talking about times/paces/the course, the conversation went to funny signs, grossest porta-potties, weirdest running attire, best shirts, supportive volunteers.  The funny and incredible stories that a large event brings to the surface!

Talk moved to coaches and the process of how you go about getting ready for a really big event. All of us had coaches. We talked about the positive impact of preparing for a big event with someone by your side the entire time who cares about your safety and growth and goals. Lots of laughter and eye rolls and stories about how our coaches individually torture us in their own ways.

We all acknowledged that our coaches had more belief in who we were and what we could do than we had in ourselves at points and times. And that running was actually only a small part of what they are actually teaching us.

We talked about training. Training is what makes you into the athlete.  The ‘event’ is the celebration, the party!  You have done the WORK, put in the hours and learned a lot about yourself during training. The event is where you put it all together and see it in action!

Training is the process that makes you, builds you.

I had mostly figured out why ‘force’ bugged me.  But it seemed related to the bigger idea of running to/from something… So I spent time on the first leg of the flight home thinking about why I run and train.

Training and running for me is entirely about moving TOWARD something.

It’s really that simple.

I am not running FROM anything. Learning to run wasn’t someone elses idea. Even when Spencer gives me ridiculous hill repeats and I know I’ll hate that specific workout; its still ME choosing each day to use running as a process to stay healthy.

Even in the very beginning of this crazy odyssey to learn to run, I wholeheartedly accepted and appreciated that everything (even the really hard stuff!) was part of the process of moving toward a place I really, really wanted to be.

‘Force’ is the not the right word. Not at all.  I don’t like it. I’m sticking ‘force’ in the same category as ‘have to’ and ‘can’t’.

But it served as a great catalyst to frame my thinking about some things that really needed to be considered in greater detail.

It helped me get crystal clear about the fact that I am literally and figuratively running TOWARD a whole bunch of really great stuff!

What are you running toward?!

Coaching: A race report…


Spencer, my coach, asks me to write a race report after big events.

What did I feel?  What did I learn? What went right/wrong?

That kind of stuff.

A professional writes a race report to talk about strategies, course design, etc.  People can then learn about them as an athlete and the race from a runners perspective.

My report? Well… mine is not meant for anyone but Spencer to read. Just keep that in mind.  It’s more personal reflection than actual race report.

Corvallis Half Marathon is coming up next month. My friends are getting ready for it!  I will be in Bend running a trail event this year instead. Bittersweet from a tradition standpoint, but my happy place is really on trails these days.

Spencer and I had been working together for close to a year at the point this was written. This was a race that I wanted to run faster.

So we trained.

Corvallis Half 2014 Race Report

I do best when I look and plan forward. Having said that, I enjoyed a bit of reflection relating to this event…


2012. 3:01 finish time. Weaning off of insulin. WILD blood sugars. 254 pounds. One goal; finish the sucker. My first half marathon. Trained to walk it all, but day-of decided I would jog across intersections. There were a ton of intersections. I had already signed up for 2013 Maui Marathon. Hoping I would enjoy 13.1 since I’d already blindly (stupidly?) committed to something a bit bigger. Hannah finished the race, doubled back on her bike and then walked me in from about mile 9. Gently. I was chafed and tired and sore and blistered. Climbing the stairs out of Reser Stadium (at the finish line) back to my car had me in tears. Literally.

2013. 2:41 finish time. Solid year of no needles, close to being off all prescription meds, 199 pounds. Walked/jogged race with Gums until mile 10 when I had a sugar crash and just couldn’t function. Corrected it way too late, and not well enough. Walked in… Thrilled I’d beat the previous year. Walked all of Bald Hill, and up Walnut.

2014.  2:09 finish time. Med free, 5 months post-op (skin removal), 172 pounds.


Slept well, ate clean all week. Felt totally ready, rested, excited to run. Nervous under it all. I never really fought tapering. I could tell I was bottling up energy that I would want and need.

Fastest mile was the last. I’m proudest of that small accomplishment within the race.

I felt easy and comfortable to mile 8. Strong and not a question in my head that I could do it until mile 10. At 10 I started to wonder how much longer I could push as hard as I was pushing. The last two(ish) miles hurt.

My mind started to flirt with thoughts of stopping and walking around mile 10. I didn’t want to quit, but toyed with the thought of what would happen if I did. How would you react if I just refused to run? My thoughts would then rebound strongly back to ‘but that’s not what I want. I can out last this. I $%*king trained for this. I can do this.’ I was absolutely starting to battle my head the last two(ish) miles. You encouraging and barking at me to pick it up/keep it up would snap me out of it. I was aware enough to know that you were intentionally breaking up the negative thoughts in my head.

My mind was oddly blank while running. I have no clue what I thought about. I can remember snapshots of the event. I remember fighting my head the last two miles. I remember seeing Drew and he said I looked strong. I remember seeing Josh at Walnut/Oak Creek. I vaguely remember that there were aid stations. I know you were talking to me, giving me instructions the entire time; but can’t really remember words. Not much else registered. I normally remember with clarity; people, scenery, stupid outfits, people who I can tell are struggling that I just want to cheer on, or that arrogant ass who walks until I catch him (it’s always a guy) and then he takes off not wanting to be beat by me. None of that registered. I don’t remember passing but a small handful of people that I had to actually work to get through/around, never looked at the aid station volunteers, only the sunburn reminded me that it must have been sunny. No clue what occupied my thoughts after mile 4.

DAMN you can be pushy. I knew NOT to argue. Wow. Have seen flashes of it, obviously, given my penchant for arguing with you.  You have a very distinct ‘coach’ tone that means NO refusals.

I asked you for fuel around mile 10. Should have taken it a bit earlier. Proud of myself for trusting you and for asking for help when I started to realize I was going to need it. This was a big step for me.

Being paced is really an amazing experience. Intimidating, powerful. I felt like I was able to follow everything you asked me to do, responded or reacted appropriately. The training pieces were starting to click together in my mind. (Gotta stop hating on track/speed work.) All the work WE have done in the last 10 months was in motion. Bit overwhelming to grasp that THIS is what we had been working for…  And it was working.


I keep looking back this week, since there are now events and experiences I can compare with some understanding of the effort needed to improve. I try not to get caught up in living in the past. Seeing this all written down makes me realize that I need to cut myself some slack from time to time and simply acknowledge that as far I want to go… I really have come a long way.

Wendie right before the race – after you had left to go to the start with Hannah – I blurted out/confided in her what I’d worried about all week; I didn’t know if I could even beat 2:22 (my goal). I was afraid you would find me on the course and l would already be done wanting/able to run. I was scared I would disappoint you and Hannah. Wendie listened to me then grabbed my face and said: ‘Get those thoughts out of your head. Do not let those {creative expletives} rent any space. Do you hear me???! Kick them to the curb. Right $%#&ing now. ‘ She then kissed me hard on the forehead, threw my head back, told me to run my ass off and stalked off. Never even looked back at me. CLASSIC. Perfect.

Asphalt is boring.  Trail for me.

Up next/Questions?

Ramp down into Reser!? Felt like I was going to fall flat on my face if I ran down the ramp at the pace I was running right before hitting the ramp… Spencer, I don’t think I know how to run downhill.

I need to work on cleaning up my diet again. I think I have it mostly dialed in, but then spent last week re-focused on healthy carbs, more veggies. Had great blood sugars. Solid control. Felt great. Slept well. Drank TONS more water.

I need to learn to carry a water bottle. Period. I skimp on water every single time I run. You forced the issue before/during the race and I could feel the difference toward the end and after the race.

I have some mental strength issues to work on… Confidence. Trusting the training. Trusting you. Trusting me.

If you don’t write a short report once you are done with a big event – you should think about getting in the habit. It is FUN to look back and read what you did, what caught your attention, what you learned.

And how you have GROWN… 🙂

2:09 on a 2:22 goal. 🙂 Thanks Spence.

Clips and commando. :)

Abbigayle is a sassy, brave, vibrant young lady who lives with Type 1 Diabetes. We were riding in the Diabetes Association TourdeCure this past summer. She is my inspiration!

It’s the time of year for me to get my bike, Jenny, out and start riding!

My bike is named Jennyanydots after a character in the play CATS.  Jennyanydots’ job is self-prescribed; she keeps the mice and cockroaches in line and away from destructive, mischievous behaviors.

PURRFECT (get the pun?!) reminder for someone who intends to keep 220 pounds off and T2 Diabetes solidly in remission through lifestyle changes…

Jenny is a glittering metallic black frame with polka dots 🙂 and pink bar wrap.

ZBmb3AXflp9WtvEg-d081ES_1y1a_iGe4F0PYRjUpYEI love her. 🙂

She has taught me a few really important lessons.

Beyond learning about endurance, confidence, camaraderie and new levels of fitness, I would have to say the most memorable lessons so far involved clips and bike shorts.

Anyone who rides is probably starting to chuckle to themselves…  The lessons those two items teach seem to be legend.  MANY funny stories start with one of those items in the starring role…

Once learned; they are never forgotten. 🙂

We’ll start with bike shorts. First thing you should know is that the padded portion of the shorts — that align with the seat to protect your valuable parts — is actually called the chamois.

It totally makes you feel like you are walking around with a full diaper.

They are flattering on NO ONE.  Ever.

And yet they are wickedly useful if you want to be on your bike for longer than… oh… a mile.

In general if it’s a good pair of shorts, padded for a gender specific rider; they are worth their weight in gold.

The biggest lesson about the chamois?  It’s NOT meant to be worn with underwear. It is really meant to be the only thing next to your skin.

No one ever told me that.

I knew women who were riding when I started and I’m still kind of pissed that not a single one of them clued me in on this important little tidbit…

The shorts I bought – true, they were clearance rack specials – didn’t have any kind of instructions or warning labels.  Just how to wash and care for the chamois.

Turns out underwear will eventually create additional friction points INSIDE of the shorts… And you can get some spectacular chafing on longer rides.  Like the kind of chafing that leaves scars.

So about mile 28 on my first 65-miler I find myself pitching my bike to the ground and waddling into a porta-potty to strip off my bike shorts and underwear.  I stuffed the underwear – not even remotely trying to be subtle — into the nearest trash can. And getting OUT of those bike shorts with my feet still in bike shoes/clips, while trapped in a tiny and miserably hot porta-potty? I’ll remember the experience for the rest of my life.

Limping back out to my biking companions begging for lube/glide/anti-chafe/numbing relief was humbling and embarrassing as hell.

Desperation won.

My ALL male riding companions were highly amused and entertained as this played out. I was not. I was miserable. There was NO WAY to hide it — they all knew what the issue was. My only solace?  One of them got to laughing at me so hard, he tipped over on his bike.  SMALL, petty victory. But a victory for my ego.

I got things as squared away as possible.  Finished the ride.  And walked funny for the next two weeks.  That was July 2013. I have biked plenty of underwear-free, happy, amazing miles since that day. 🙂

So… next up would be clips…

I was so hesitant to ride with clips.

I was convinced that I would be attaching myself to a death contraption with no way to escape.  They looked scary. I had heard stories about how they took some serious getting used to.

I finally realized that I loved riding enough to figure out this clipping in/out thing…  A couple of friends wore me down. They convinced me that it would make a noticeable, positive difference over distances and on hills.  (For the record, they were right!)

I got great advice from my friends Joe and Josh who had their own war stories about learning the ins/outs of clips.

  • Clip in WHILE holding onto a barn/door frame.
  • Practice the little ankle/heel flicking motion that un-clips your foot — practice it a ton — while your bike is stable and NOT moving.
  • THEN ride on grass or a soft surface.
  • Practice pushing off, clipping in, clipping out and stopping on a soft surface.
  • ONLY THEN should you go out on the road.

I practiced a bunch. I felt great and confident.

I mean HOW could I possibly forget that my FREAKING feet are attached to my bike?!?

Off I went.  I did great!  I rode for about 3 miles.  Felt confident.  Could feel that I could use my legs pushing AND pulling and that these clips were going to let me use ALL of my muscles to make the bike move!  It was truly an exhilarating feeling!

Then I hit the stop sign to cross Highway 226.

I started to stop.


I suddenly could NOT remember how to get my feet unattached from the bike.  I tried pulling my feet up — which is NOT the motion. It’s a simple, fairly dainty ankle/heel flick away from the bike that actually does the uncoupling…

I stopped at the stop sign, yanking WILDLY on my feet…

ALL practice totally forgotten.

I tipped over, in a very gentle fashion, in super slow motion…   Totally attached to both pedals.

A trucker passing by slowed down and, realizing I was OK, merrily honked at me and gave me the thumbs up sign. I flipped him off as I laid on my side, tangled in my bike, laughing and trying to figure out how I was going to get my feet unattached and get up off the ground.

I got it figured out and started off again — this time vowing to practice clipping in and out LONG before the next stop.

I STILL think about clipping in/out LONG before I plan to stop. 🙂

Heel flicks and Commando. 🙂 

That’s what my bike has taught me so far.

I know we’re not done learning together. 🙂

What lessons has your bike taught you?

Gum, Pote and me on a kickass girls summer ride. We were tearing up the road. 🙂