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?

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

The first mile? It lies…

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Jeff and I at the North Face Endurance 50K last December. Jeff’s first 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon and ultra. All in a single race. 🙂

The first mile of a run is pretty typically…

…a liar.

Those first few minutes are not the whole truth.  It’s not even an accurate indicator of what’s to come.  It won’t be how the entire run goes.  You learn that you just kind of have to grit your teeth, ignore the lies and look for a spot to settle into…

Runners seem to all know this truism about that first mile.  Most runners are merciful enough to pass this wisdom along quickly to newbies they encounter.

Just ask my friend Jeff about that first mile.

The first mile we ran together?  This normally energetic and happy and optimistic person was … well… suddenly very NOT.

Not at all the happy, funny, positive guy I’m used to being around.  I kept encouraging him. ‘Jeff – the first mile sucks. It will get better. Hang in there. Keep moving.’

He made some pretty pointed comments to me that can’t be repeated on this blog.  Use your imagination. He sure did.

By mile three he was finally settling in and ready to kick into high gear.

He was no longer cussing me.

And most notably? He was smiling again.

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North Face 50K. We’re at the 10K mark of the race.  AFTER the first mile, but well before mile 20ish where he was using another finger in the pictures. 🙂

I got to thinking about this concept/phenomena the other day when I was running (comfortably and beyond that first mile). Why is it that with close to three years (averaging six days a week…) of working toward becoming a runner — why does that first mile still just kind of suck?

Let me reiterate something important…  I am NOT talking about THE WHOLE run. It really is just that ‘getting started’ part of each run that is not to be trusted.

Even this morning on a short, easy run on familiar and favorite terrain — it takes me a mile or two (or three on some days) to settle in, get a rhythm, push the naysayers that are screaming in my head out of my brain.

It takes me some time to simply battle it out with my legs and brain and heart and get all systems to accept that I’m going to run no matter what other plans or ideas they may collectively think they have.  So they should all just shut up and start working together already, please and thank you.

You’re really wanting to ask me why…  WHY do I keep running if it’s that hard each and every time I lace up my shoes and get started?

Good question.

Very good question.  

One I ask myself often.

It is because I know how I feel when I’m DONE running.

Not just a single run, mind you, I am talking about the cumulative HABIT and lifestyle of running.

No matter how poorly I may do in a single day, how much I fight my mind at the start, how wet/cold/hot/sweaty/grumpy/dirty/chafed I am, even if I trip and fall flat on my face…

I never, not once, no matter how good/bad/weird/hard the run is…

I never regret RUNNING.

Running as a habit buys me endurance and health and strength and pride in myself and a growing trust in my body’s ability to do difficult things. This doesn’t even touch on the other perks running has dropped in my life…  The friends, scenery, memories, laughter, enjoyment of being outdoors and discovering (after40 years!) the pure joy of being ALIVE and moving.

After that first mile or two, I almost always hit a groove or at least find a spot of some comfort with the routine.  My mind begins to settle down, my feet get more comfortable finding the earth and my heart starts trying to find the sky. 🙂

And besides, I will often remind myself, no one ever said the good things in life would come easy or be comfortable.

And the consistent, persistent habit of running?

It has very literally saved my life.

Running is hard. Making the time is hard. Fighting through some initial discomfort each time, each day, is hard.

All of that is still far easier than living with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Running is just one of several important tools that help me continue in the process of cementing a lifestyle shift that keeps 220 pounds lost and gone.  Eating well and being active daily is what we hope, if I am lucky, will keep diabetes away for a few glucose-stable decades.

When that first mile sucks — all of THAT is what I try to remember.

When I start my Garmin and head out on a run, I use that first mile to try to remind myself of where I was four short, fat, unhealthy years ago.

I focus on the result and reward that I know – for me personally – comes from the process of fighting through that first mile day in and day out.

I think about how hard I have worked to create a new healthy lifestyle.

I think about being handed a bone-fide second chance at living life to the fullest.

I think about no longer being T2 diabetic or taking shots or swallowing handfuls of prescription meds.

I often think about how I have the ability and capability to run and walk and move when others do not and can not…

That first mile can lie all it wants.

I’m done listening.

I’m in this for the long run. (Pun intended.) 🙂

What do you do to get through that ‘first mile’ of whatever tough activity you have in front of you?

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Mid-run shenanigans. 🙂

I’m so sorry…

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Jeff, Wendie, Josh, Taryn and I. Running to the finish line of the 2014 Eugene Marathon to watch Hannah cross the line with a Boston qualifying time! (Photo Taryn Hand)

I have had two conversations this past month with women who were obese and working their BEHINDS off to get healthy.  Both are 12 months or more into their transformations. They’re determined. Loving the changes they are experiencing. It is great FUN to talk to them! (One of them is successfully and aggressively reversing Type 2 diabetes!)

Conversations with people chasing down new and healthy lifestyles almost always find their way to the topic of learning how to love running/exercise/activity.  How do you make activity a permanent part of your new life? Making the time in your daily routine, have accountability partners, signing up for classes, having a goal…  We rehashed all the tricks that work.

Individually they finally expressed the same underlying concern…

They want to start running and know that they will be more successful in learning how/sticking to the habit if they were to join in on walks/runs with other people.

But they’re worried and embarrassed and fearful…

‘People will make fun of me.’

‘They’ll get frustrated at having to wait for me because I’m so slow.’

‘Maybe I should wait until I’m in shape and thin before trying to run with anyone.’

‘I won’t be able to keep up.’

I KNOW the feeling.

I remember the fears with stark clarity.  I was in the same boat when I started.  I will admit that I even dip my toes back in those waters of self-doubt periodically if I’m tired, or feel intimidated or I am trying something new….

Fearful and apologetic

The layer of fear and trepidation and hesitation was more suffocating than the layers of fat I was wearing…


Here’s the advice I passed along.  (I work to keep this front and center of my brain even now…)

1. Find a group/person that specifically says ‘everyone welcome’.  Take them at their word.

2. Be honest about your abilities and goals.  If you can run a 14 minute mile – and you are working to run two miles in a row.  GREAT!  Tell them. No shame, no bragging, no apologies. If you won’t be able to keep up or there’s another group that’s more your speed; they WILL tell you!

3. Plan to have fun!  Enjoy being outside, with other people who love to be active.  The enthusiasm of being around people who love what they’re doing is contagious.  Try to leave your insecurities and discomfort and fears in the car.  Be positive about what you think you’ll experience and you will be surprised how often your expectations become reality.

4. And last, but perhaps the most important? DO NOT APOLOGIZE… Groups that run with a variety of abilities often have pre-set spots where they’ll re-group mid-run. When you arrive to the group of runners who are waiting for the rest of the group to gather up before heading off on their next section; do not apologize for being the last one to arrive or for making them wait.  Just don’t apologize for anything… You’re giving it 100% of your best effort. You’re moving and trying and growing and being brave — and they know it.  They’re happy you are out there with them.  I promise you that this is the truth.

Apologizing highlights your insecurities.  Chronic apologizers can be tiresome for even the hardiest, most supportive of souls…

I know.

I did it for YEARS….


I spent decades apologizing.  For being fat.  For being in someone’s space.  For not fitting in my airplane seat.  For having to have special accommodations for my size/diabetes.  For being the last runner up the hill.

I spent the first year running apologizing left and right.  ‘Uh… HELLO.  Look at me.  280 pounds and literally shuffling along in a 10K and trying not to die.’  I didn’t belong in this world of runners and I just KNEW someone wanted to tell me that; and didn’t have the guts.  Make no mistake — I was giving it 100% effort every single time I put on my running shoes!  But I knew I didn’t look like any of the others who were out there at the event…

My reaction?  (The reaction I’ve used my entire life?!)  Self-defense mechanisms firing like a freaking machine gun…

Apologize profusely before anyone can point out the obvious.


I went on my very first trail run with my friend Josh Gum.

He’s the first person who asked me to go on a run with him. He wants everyone to learn to love trail running like he does. He said he would run/walk/hike — whatever it was I was capable of doing/wanting to do that day. For some odd reason, I just trusted that he was telling me the truth.

I was nervous as hell – and apologizing all over the place for the first few months I was able to find time to run with him.  He would run ahead at times and I would catch up and apologize for making him wait…  He would stay with me for bits and we would chat about running and life and tell jokes and I was hammering him with questions about running/trails/food/lifestyle shifts.  Chafing.  Good lord.  We talked a lot about preventing chafe. 🙂  I would routinely apologize for holding him back from running faster. Or if I was sucking wind and just trying to hang on and run a little bit further…  He would tell me stories, not let me quit or we would run in companionable silence.   I would apologize for being so slow when I could finally breathe again.

At one point he tired of telling me to stop apologizing.  He told me, gently yet firmly, he was done listening to me apologize for learning to run and giving things 100% and I needed to knock it off.

I needed to stop doing it for my own good.

I had nothing to apologize for.

I walked away and really thought about what Josh said.  STILL think about that short, yet important, conversation.  I need to ask him about it one of these days, but I figure he thought I would work ‘apologizing’ out of my system with some confidence and experience running.  When he realized it was just a bad, self-deprecating habit that didn’t belong in my life or my new lifestyle I was building; he cared enough to call me on it.

And I trusted him enough to listen.


Honestly?  You might run into competitive, mean, snobby, impatient, whiny, defensive, judgmental folks in your journey to learn to make activity a solid part of your life.  But be fair about that for just a moment… We run into jerks in all walks of life. It’s just that we’re hyper-tuned to it around our bodies/running/sweating because we’re feeling so horribly vulnerable.  In so many aspects of life we – as strong and smart people –  tumble/fight/persevere through those interpersonal obstacles multiple times a day and don’t even look back. But jerks exist.  Just don’t go running with them a second time.  🙂

You WILL also be blessed beyond measure to find some amazing, strong, fun, funny, wise, kind people on this journey to health!  Keep your eyes wide open.  There are LOTS of good people out there that will support, encourage, nudge you along when you need it the most.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their journey to become active?

Compare and contrast

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Family time at Disney. Dan, Deb, Justin, Joey. My mom went the year Disney opened the park.  Disney celebrates its 60th anniversary this year!

‘Please pull the lap bar firmly down on your lap.’

Some situations lend themselves to comparisons.  You can’t help it. You have too much experience with it not to recognize in a moment of history-driven clarity, some of the changes that have occurred over your lifetime.

Disneyland is one of those situations and places for me.

I grew up in So Cal, a life-long fan of the Disney enterprises.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Walt’s Magic Kingdom and time with family and friends.

I was just there on a short trip with my sister, bro-in-law and nephews.  A MUCH needed vacation with my family.

I’ve been to Disneyland on and off my entire life.  This was the first time I’ve been here since I’ve been at a set, comfortable weight and also solid and happy with my eating habits.  I’m in a good spot. It was fun to be back to Disney to see how my new lifestyle meshed with my old stomping grounds.  Happy old with happy new. 🙂

I did discover that walking by corn dogs, endless candy, Dole whip or Churros is still NOT easy.

In fact…

It’s STILL damn hard.

Which isn’t really that surprising.

Those foods have very happy memories tied to them.

I realized that very little with Disney is really hunger driven (except for screaming toddlers — that could be hunger or nap!) it’s mostly driven by emotion, smell, impulse, boredom (from waiting in lines!), marketing/availability or crowd pressure.

I’ve been at Disney when I was 400 pounds and now at a healthy weight, with more established eating habits; there was a BIG difference in how I experienced Disneyland this time around…

Lot’s of comparison moments. And my family was chiming in with ‘remember when…’ comments. It wasn’t just me thinking them.

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Disney 5 years ago. My sis and I went the year my mom died. I’m probably close to 285 pounds in this picture. 

The one thing that remains the same?  The MAGIC of time, laughter and fun with your sister, bro-in-law and nephews. 🙂

Here’s the random collection of what I noticed this time around…

You can not help but recognize that food has strong emotional ties in a place like Disney. And even when you LOVE your new life, planned carefully, brought most of your own food and you KNOW you feel like crap when you eat junky foods….  You still smell a waffle cone baking or see someone eating a Mickey Mouse designed caramel apple and it’s all you can do not to go find it/eat it.  I spent a lot of time reminding myself that while the smell triggered happy thoughts, I most certainly didn’t have to actually eat anything to enjoy the moment or the memory.  Lots of brain calisthenics while standing in line for rides relating to food and hunger.  And a few accountability/reality check-in texts to a friend helped too.

My nephew Joey was riding with me on a ride. It gives the instructions that the smaller person should sit to the inside.  He innocently told me I had to get in the ride first.  I smiled HUGE and laughed.  He was totally confused.  He’s 6 feet tall. I’m like 5’7″, maybe. 🙂 However, I clearly remember when he and his brother were little dudes and I couldn’t ride on rides with a set lap bar with them — because when it touched down on my ‘lap’ — it wouldn’t have protected them at all.  My lap was too big.  The lap bar now TOUCHES my lap, it’s doesn’t land awkwardly on my belly.  Such a cool sensation to feel that lap bar touch down on the tops of my thighs. 🙂

Waiting in the ques for rides, I can walk normally through the turnstiles and size-restricted openings they use to control crowds.  I didn’t have to turn to the side or shimmy through narrow openings and hope that I and my belly would fit.  And if we (me and my belly) didn’t fit easily, I clearly remember the embarrassing gymnastics required to fit through the openings or to fit into rides desperately hoping that NO ONE NOTICED.

I rode the swings in California Adventure for the first time ever. Loved it. Knew I would. Rode next to Justin and laughed and screamed and enjoyed flying through the air the entire time.  I’ve always wanted to ride those swings, but they had a 250 pound maximum limit.

I am no longer a T2 diabetic, however, I still know where all the Sharp’s containers are located through both parks.  I noticed that at the end of the day the containers were nearly full.  Most of them look like insulin needles.  I KNOW those syringes are used for other things, but I got to wondering just how many T2’s were walking around the park with me…

Walking around and even standing for long periods of time felt GOOD.  I’m physically fit this time around.  It was not a chronic pain-fest of trying to move forward, covered in blisters and chafe and miserable from the heat and looking for a place to sit because I was totally exhausted from simply standing and walking.

Food? I packed a lot of my own stuff and carried at least a meal’s worth of snacks in my purse into the park each day.  I stuck to my plant-based eating the entire time. Was it easy? Not too bad to be honest. Disney actually has some great plant-based eating options if you look around. I rather enjoyed the challenge of trying to find healthy, plant-based options. And made several happy discoveries!


I am grateful for my family and to be able to spend time with them.  The boys are growing up so danged fast.  There will come a time when vacationing with their Auntie is not high on their list.  Thankfully, that time is not now. 🙂

I do continue to battle the daily fear and anxiety that ANY break from this carefully crafted new lifestyle will land me back welcoming my old, unhealthy ways with wide-open arms.  That didn’t happen this time.

It felt good to break from the routines of life and yet really miss them at the same time. Food, exercise, sleep. And then to be just as excited to get back into the routines seamlessly and happily. I loved Disney AND I’m excited and ready to get back to running.  How cool is that??!  🙂

I was also reminded that this new lifestyle is good, hard work, ever-evolving and not to be taken for granted for even a single day.

All of this is a CHOICE.

One bite at a time. One step at a time.

My job is to just keep making one good choice after another as often as I can.

Vacation to Disney with my family was a great choice.

DNF / SOB

Betsy in sun

DNF.

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…

DNF.

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’

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…

Positives?

  • 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.

Boundaries.

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If only all boundaries were this clear… 🙂

One of the pieces of this whole lifestyle/T2 diabetes/weight loss journey that has been the most mind boggling to me?

Boundaries.

Some I had to learn, some I have to set and some I’m just now stumbling into.

In the trail/ultra running world that I have fallen in love with — it’s all about respecting, learning and pushing boundaries. Then you train and work to get past perceived and real boundaries.  (Feel the fear, ignore the temporary pain and do it anyway.)

Then there’s people. Holy smokes. Hands down, relationships and boundaries involving people have been the hardest for me. Figuring out where boundaries might be helpful, testing the waters, re-setting, communicating, re-enforcing those new boundaries.


I know I’m writing a blog about ALL KINDS of deeply personal stuff.  I’m almost always willing to be in intimate conversations with people (even strangers!) who want advice or need a listening ear or want to share their successes. I speak publicly, openly, honestly about the journey I’ve been on, what I’ve learned and the changes I’ve made in my life.

So I understand that what I’m about to say is an odd, conflicting confession of sorts…

I have also been establishing some boundaries.

I have never considered myself a guarded person. This has been new and uncomfortable ground for me.

Yet, in the past two years I found myself in a place where I had to put up some defenses to protect myself and my newly established habits.

It threw me off balance for quite some time.

I did what I usually do at first when things get difficult; I ignored it all. (Genetic trait, I’m pretty sure.)  Big, scary, hard topics coupled with the fact that I harbor a sincere, deeply embedded worry that I might disappoint or hurt someone. So, I just averted my eyes and hoped it would all settle out, resolve itself, go away…

Even when it was painfully obvious that ignoring some of these growing issues was not a sustainable or healthy strategy… I continued to fight it because it just felt wrong and selfish.

‘Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even if we risk disappointing others.’ — Brene Brown


I was 392 pounds, insulin dependent, Type 2 Diabetic.

I successfully battled diabetes and lost a lot of weight (non-surgical).  I’m told that losing that amount of weight and reversing full-blown T2 is a rare, single-digit feat of accomplishment.

That low percentage seems legit to me, given that I have only found a handful of people who have done the same thing in successfully re-inventing their lifestyle.

Please understand — I absolutely have stalwart friends, cheerleaders, support and encouragement.  100%.  More than 100% at times.

I was 2 years into my journey when I finally connected with a handful of individuals across the US who had ‘walked in my shoes’ and truly understood what I was trying to do.  They’d been there.  Done that.

It was so exciting to finally make these connections!

Over time, in conversations with each of them, they have all expressed roughly the same version of sentiments about our respective journeys…

It’s a lonely, hard, life-changing, I-will-never-go-back, you-really-have-to-do-it-on-your-own, kind of road.

The other common angst that emerged from conversation with these folks?

Just because we have lost 100+/reversed T2 does not mean we are ready or able to help someone else with their journey.

No matter how badly we may want to. No matter how much others want us to be able to help them.

Hearing this insight being repeated from others in various stages of their journeys, was hugely interesting to me.  I was struggling with this very issue. I saw my lack of being able to handle the pressure of it all as a serious character flaw.

They helped me begin to see it for what it was; just another part of the process.


I’m still learning how to thrive and survive and maintain in this new world I’m building.

I mean – c’mon… I’m new to this!

I spent 42 years obese, sedentary and making really poor food choices.  I was a freaking expert at living an unhealthy life.

I’ve only been learning and living this new healthy life for 4 short years.

The truth is that I was routinely getting overwhelmed by the fact that even though I’ve been IN this journey; I couldn’t answer all of their questions, I couldn’t help everyone find (or stay on) their own path and I couldn’t fully support other people emotionally on their own journeys.

I’m one person who’s still trying to figure out her own life.

It’s really an impossible equation, yet one I was trying to own and live up to whole-heartedly.

Last year two of my good friends talked bluntly with me about setting boundaries. In their own ways they said they were watching me struggle, quite inelegantly and painfully, with trying to be counselor/coach/cheerleader/emotional support for a cadre of people near and far.

And they could see it was hurting me.

‘Bets, have you thought about the fact that you could likely ‘drown’ while trying to help someone else?’

They were hard, good conversations.

I’m not a crier.

There were plenty of tears as I really tried to accept what they were telling me and then figure out what I was going to do about it all… I mean – I KNOW I was put on this planet to help people.

Know that for a fact.

Yet, they were telling me a very basic truth…

If I’m not focused and actively working on being healthy and whole and stable; What good can I possibly do for anyone else?


As I continue to figure out what I need, how I feel, what makes me feel strong and what I really struggle with — I keep working on boundaries.

Not the kind of boundaries that cut me off from the world and box me in.  That’s not at all the goal.

I’m working on living/healthy boundaries that protect and nourish and help me feel safe enough to take some bigger, stronger steps. The kind of boundaries that will ultimately allow me to help others and stay on my feet (running!) for years to come.

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Testing boundaries in trail & ultra running.

What a ride…

248231_10150320004126258_5696017_nThe adventure of my life these past four years is kind of unbelievable. And even though I lived every single moment of it… It still doesn’t seem entirely real to me.

It’s been four years, July 2, since I woke up knowing I had to change my life.  Literally and figuratively. I woke up with a feeling of fierce and yet total determination. I didn’t have any idea HOW to get it done; I just knew I had to get it done…

What did I have to ‘get done’?

Most of you know my story… I was 392 pounds at my heaviest.  Type 2 diabetic, insulin-dependent, morbidly obese.  I woke up on July 2 and decided that I no longer wanted to be ‘the walking dead’.  Just getting by in life was no longer acceptable. I wanted to LIVE my life.  I didn’t want to take shots.  I didn’t want to be T2 diabetic.  I didn’t want to be morbidly obese.

LUCKY for me; these were medical issues that I had a chance at possibly changing.  A long-shot with terrible odds; but a shot none-the-less.

For some reason, life was handing me the gift of an open door AND the clarity to see it. I understood on some level that I was being one last chance to build a different life than the one I had been living.

I walked through the open door.  And I am not going back.

Without a doubt, it has been the wildest, messiest, craziest adventure of my life. Very little has gone exactly as planned.  Yet; I’ve wound up exactly where I am supposed to be.


I started to reflect on how to distill all 1,460 days of this incredible journey down into a worthwhile thought or two…

What have I learned? 

What would I want someone to know was important to me?

What matters to me now that I’m in the daily process of practicing and cementing all of these  lifestyle changes?

After some serious miles of running and thinking/contemplating/reflecting these past few weeks there is one thought that keeps running (pun totally intended!) through my brain pretty much non-stop…

‘Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.’ — Anon

Even with solid, life-goals right out in front of me to stay focused on, I’m also learning to embrace that the paths leading to those life-goals are very, very much like the twisty, unpredictable and beloved trails that I am learning to love to run…

(I LOVE the symbolism. 🙂 Not gonna lie.)

I love that the trails I run can serve as a constant reminder for me to stay focused forward, looking ahead.  And yet they also serve to remind me to appreciate the texture and detours and bumps in the road of the journey.

July 4th is the celebration of our Country’s birthday and Independence.

And I see July 2nd as MY very own personal independence day.IMG_7002-web

Swimming. (Dragging baggage into the pool…)

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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?’

Gulp.

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…

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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.

Really.

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;

‘But…’

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?

Western States Training Camp. Lessons and highlights.

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Erica, Spencer and I went down to Auburn California to be a part of the Western States Training Camp this past Memorial Day weekend.

We ran long, trail miles for 3 days in a row.

It was fantastic.

Life-changing.  (Not being cheesy. It really was.)

I loved every minute of it.

OK.  Maybe not every single moment.  (Lightening, snake, exhaustion, etc…) But the less than fun moments are some of the best teachers. Looking back less than a week later, I can tell you that I do love those less than happy/perfect moments.  Those hard/un-fun moments in particular are the ones that I plan to draw on, learn from and use to help make me a better person and stronger runner over time.

This was all about experimenting, taking some risks, learning and growing.

This was my first time running this kind of distance. There were some important lessons handed my way.

One category of lessons I would have to call ‘boring running crap’.  The other category is more along the lines of life lessons.


In the ‘boring running crap’ category I either learned or re-confirmed the following:

  • Good socks rock.  Wick moisture, protect your feet. They have a really hard job to do!  Buy good socks.
  • Shoes are your main ‘tool’. No new shoes on race day. (I did not pull that rookie move.) I was entering new territory with terrain and mileage and discovered that not all of my shoes work for the kind of running I like/get/want to do. (This means… SHOE SHOPPING! 🙂 )
  • Fueling. Huge thanks to Erica for her persistent help. We worked for many hours to figure out and practice timing/quality/quantity of fuel during runs.  When we got it mostly figured out/implemented on day three – I could TOTALLY tell the difference of having gotten it right. HUGE SUCCESS!
  • Compressions sleeves are magic and not just for recovery. This big-calfed girl is a new convert to wearing them WHILE running.
  • Chafing.  Boob chafe to be specific.  It is as miserable as it sounds.  I have no idea what got me; the heart rate strap, my bra, my hydration pack… Was WAY more careful day two and three to use body glide. Liberally. Everywhere. On everything. Body glide is cheap insurance.
  • Pooping and coffee. Both are important. BEFORE the race.
  • If there is a photographer on the course they will be a) at the most significant uphill portion where EVERYONE is struggling to even walk upright/uphill… b) when you chose to blow a world-class snot rocket or c) even if you are running and feeling like a million bucks the picture will show both feet planted firmly on the ground. 🙂

In the ‘life lessons on the trails’ category?

  • Study up on poisonous plants in the area you are running in so you don’t accidentally squat in a patch of something that will remind you for DAYS that you should have avoided it…  Just sayin’.
  • When you are offered water — take it.  Top off bottles and packs every chance you get.
  • NO better sight towards the end of a cold, soaking wet, lightening storm filled run than friends waiting at the nearest accessible trailhead to make sure you are OK… And being able to tell them you are OK. 🙂
  • When someone takes a moment to say hello, say hello back. The trails were FULL of cheery greetings and encouragements.  Every single runner I encountered was friendly. Be a positive part of these temporary communities that spring up during events on the public roads and trails.  Everyone wins.
  • Say thank you to ANYONE who spends their time to volunteer. For anything.  They’re giving up their time to help YOU.
  • Laughter calms nerves.
  • Share. If it won’t leave you in a bad spot; share what you have if someone needs it.  The kindness will be returned to you in some way, at some point.
  • Never pass up the chance to use a porta-potty.  Even if it’s on a trailer, hitched to a truck.  And the truck engine is idling. 🙂
  • Stop and take a picture of the things you are enjoying in life.  You aren’t in that big of a hurry.
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Proof that Erica and I ran on these historic and storied trails!
  • You (OK me….)  WILL have moments when you aren’t comfortable or don’t feel great or are scared or aren’t happy or you wonder WHAT you have gotten yourself into. Don’t judge the entire effort by ONE single moment.
  • Everyone (OK… me again…) should know some basic survival skills. Especially if they have a strong desire to spend their life running long distances in the woods. 🙂  (Lightening, snakes, poisonous plants, etc.)
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This little bandit slithered across the top of my foot as I was running (screaming!) past…
  • Watermelon is the best fruit in the world. Period.

Epic adventure.

Great weekend of learning in the safety of friends.

Memories made, miles run and training for some really big things this summer/Fall are now underway.

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