Ditching the b*&ch. (Finding joy.)

We’ve been home from Transrockies (TRR) for 3 weeks. I’m still thinking about the incredible experience, missing my new friends and wishing I could just live in a tent and run all day, every day.  I told Kevin Houda, the event organizer, he ruined reality for me. 🙂

This is what I put in my journal as if I was writing it all down for my friend Wendie.  She was hiking in Yosemite at the same time I was in Colorado and I wanted to share all of this with her. So you’re really reading my note to one of my dearest friends.

This would be the day that I found joy.  Right after finding a Yeti.  A cheerleading Yeti named Fitzy.

If we’re being honest, I know I have been a grumpy bitch when it comes to running for the past year and a half.  NOT overt, at least most of the time.  And not usually aimed at anyone but MYSELF. But I would so easily and quickly go to the negative if something went wrong, or less than perfect, instead of going to my normal optimistic/positive frame of mind.  I really hope no one on the outside noticed this personality shift, but I am afraid they did.

Well, I ditched that nasty bitch on the trails today on stage 3 of Transrockies.

I have just had, for the 3rd day in a row, the best day running.  Ever.  This just keeps getting BETTER.  I have enjoyed each and every step of each and every run so far.

I’ll set this up for you a bit, in the same way all seemed to click into place for me…

You know I have been working for two+ years to get to the point that I could endure and enjoy six days of running.

This event is 120 miles, 20,000 foot of vertical climb. At significant altitude. (Which, for inquiring minds, does make it kind of hard to breathe when you train at sea level.)

I’m in a tent village of 550 trail runners from around the world, by a perfect/picturesque lake, at Novo Guides/Camp Hale Colorado. Every single person here, from runner to volunteer is 100% supportive of, engaged with and part of the trail and ultra world.  So — I’m surrounded by people who get me and my desire to run really long distances for fun and they want to do the same.

I.  Am.  In.  Heaven. 

Back track a few weeks.  I had that training week from hell.  By design.  I had to do a big volume week to get ready for the 100 miler.  So it was close to 100 mile week – which I have never done. I know that I allowed the fatigue and negative energy from that week of hard physical and mental work to cascade down about six weeks…  To where I finally had a full-on meltdown and told Spencer I never wanted to run again.  I think I also said things like I was selling all of my shoes, never wearing a running shirt again and un-friending anyone who posts about running on Facebook.  It was pretty epic. Totally ridiculous NOW of course, but in that moment – I FELT IT.  Joyless, exhausting and scary as hell.  I felt apathetic.

And apathy, as you know, scares me more than ANYTHING.

So here’s where I have to be really honest with myself.  If I back track a year or so, I have been caught in a low-grade, persistent comparison trap.  ‘She’s thinner’, ‘they’re faster’, ‘he climbs better than I do’, I didn’t hit my pace, I barely finished that run, they logged more miles than I did this week and we’re doing the same race. Oh how I wish I could grab that time back from that grumpy-comparing-bitch that I was. I drove myself crazy.  I drove Spencer crazy. I probably drove you crazy. I’m pretty sure there are some people who I have met in the past 18 months or so who think that this comparing, self-denigrating, self-loathing is my permanent disposition.  It’s not…  REALLY! I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person at my core.

However, when it comes to running this past year/year and a half, I have to admit that I got caught by the throat in this horrible cycle of comparing and beating myself up.

So today… Today I willingly, forcefully, ditched that grumpy, nasty piece of work in a creek as I ran. She made a big splash when she landed. I totally took her by surprise. 🙂

I was running and just sorta started piecing it all together and realized what I had allowed to happen. Realized that this was my chance, my choice, to grab my happy, joyful self BACK.

The creek was cold and swift and beautiful and was the ideal place to let that ugliness quickly and quietly wash away without contaminating anyone else in the process.

I am so happy with that choice and that moment. Goose-bumps, ear-to-ear grin and profound relief. 🙂  I felt free and light and happy and could only think over and over and over again…

‘I FOUND MY JOY AGAIN!  Man.  I missed her! I missed her so, so much!’

I started running for the joy of it all four(ish) years ago to lose weight, gain health and to be part of a community that embraced the lifestyle I was chasing.

I started trail running specifically because…

  • There’s no judgement in trail running.  If you have feet, shoes and desire to learn; SOMEONE is going to be eager to convert you to our dirty side of the world. 🙂
  • You do what works for you.  Period.  I mean, you have to figure it out  – but no one cares what or how you go about it.  It takes ALL kinds. 🙂
  • And you can NOT tell a trail runner by looking at them. There’s a ‘type’ that the elites MIGHT look like, but usually a trail runner is identified solely by their HEART.  It’s what is INSIDE their chest and brain that sets them apart and makes them who they are.

Trail running and the ultra world seem to be full of people working to heal themselves, find themselves, grow, change — those are JUST the kind of people I want to be around.

I ran 24ish miles on Tuesday. Then climbed Hope Pass Wednesday.  Stage 3, Thursday, my legs felt good when I woke up; no aches and pains.  None! And even better?  My MIND was excited to see what the trail was going to be like,  who I would meet on the trails and what I would learn. Today was about legging out another 25 miles in the best fashion I could with some hills and rolling terrain.  No time requirement, no judgement and no real plan other than I would give my best and practice what I have spent the past few years learning. I met GREAT people. I took a pictures.  I just ran, with no Garmin beeping at me, no real plan, no expectations…

I just ran.

And I ran straight toward the joy I used to have in my early days of running.

She welcomed me back like a grateful, forgiving and long-lost friend.

The night before we started to run TRR, Spencer gave me his coaching brief. It usually goes something like this…

‘DO not stop and pick up rocks. No selfies. Limit the conversation – if you can talk while you’re running/hiking, you aren’t working hard enough. Eat often and plenty. Stick to the plan.’

So when he said…

‘Bets, I want you to just breathe, listen and do not respond to what I’m going to say…  This week is going to change your life if you let it.

And then he proceeded to tell me to meet people (ALL the people!), pick up heart rocks, take pictures, talk to volunteers, and just work to enjoy each and every step of the journey…

I listened.

With my whole heart, I listened.

Stage 3 felt life-changing, healing, like a reunion of the happiest kind.

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THESE women know joy.  Michelle and Andi.  Happy, strong, brave, trail sisters. 🙂

I am a trail runner.


I lost myself on a mountain Friday.

And I found myself.

Friday was intensely emotional.  Like the kind of day where tears are all over the place and I seemed to have no way to stop them.  And my heart was busting open.  And I can’t find the right words to explain any of it.

I hate crying in public so I did a lot of hiding in porta-potties and my tent.

Stage 5 of Transrockies. It’s a hard stage. Lots of people struggled with it. I felt strong, it’s the kind of running I like and it involved some serious power hiking (13 miles of it).  I ended the day in 35th for the stage. I have NEVER had a solid result like that. So there’s that little emotional tidbit… I raced my ass off. And it worked. That alone would have been justification for a few tears. 🙂

Then there was another emotional tidal wave occurring during and after the run…

Right around checkpoint 2 I had what I can only describe as a breakthrough.

Except that while it kind of slammed me in the chest and mind; I’m still trying to figure out exactly what in the hell happened.

I went through the checkpoint and grabbed watermelon and small cup of coke. Grabbed 3 Gu’s to re-fill my pack and barreled out of the station. (Spencer’s voice in my head ‘quit dicking around and wasting time at aid stations.)

I left about 30 people in the aid station and was once again by myself.  Every other day I’ve fallen into a similar paced tribe and had great people to run along with.  Today — no one was around.

I was running on a ridge line above Vail, CO. I looked left and right and all I could see was mountains and trees and clouds and some of the most beautiful scenery ever.  It took my breath away how beautiful this country was that I was getting to run in, and see up close.

I started thinking about how THIS IS MY LIFE.  I’m running. In the Rockies.  And I have friends at the camp. And I’ve made some new friends that will be lifelong. And I’m running. I’m hiking.  I’m healthy…

This is my life.

Then the shovel hit me in the face.


I’m a trail runner.

I’ve been waiting for the day I would no longer instantly and resolutely identify with my 400 pound former self.  I was always the heavy girl.  I still see myself that way.  Still judge everything against that benchmark. Still startle when I see my reflection sometimes and don’t recognize myself..

I’ve been waiting to see a certain number on the scale, or buy a certain size pants, or — fuck — I have NO CLUE what I was really waiting for to understand that that is no longer my life, no longer my identity.

Along the same vein…  I run.  I only say ‘I’m a runner’ to appease Spencer.  It PISSES him off no end that I run and work out and train and race and refuse to see my self as a runner.

Today on that exposed ridge, in Vail, with no one around.  I ran.  On the dirt.  Bawling.  And gasping for breathe, not just because of the altitude – but because I was totally overwhelmed with happiness and understanding and acceptance.

I kept running and the tears flowed.  I got to Checkpoint 3 and there’s a guy that I’ve become friends with who is an ultra runner —  his name is Mike and he here at Transrockies as a volunteer.  Outlandish costumes, cowbells and loud encouragement at the most unlikely of spots on each stage to cheer on every single runner. And he happens to be one hell of a great guy.  I feel safe with him after knowing him for about 72 hours.  I ran up to him, tears all over my face,  at the checkpoint and said ‘please put on your coach hat and tell me to run the 5 miles down the hill as hard as I can, because I’m tired and I don’t want to run, but I’ve had the best running day possible so far…’  He said ‘RUN! You can do this, I’m proud of you!’.  I grabbed watermelon and coke and again took off.  And proceeded to practice descending down hills — on legs that are tired — just the way Spencer taught me.  I was moving fast and strong and confident on the straight downhill stretches.

Then about halfway down he hill I got passed by Brett.  A runner from Chicago. He’s an athlete who I have been sharing parts of the trail with briefly each day.   By the halfway mark of each day he’s usually way ahead and I won’t see much of him until dinner. He went running past me with about 5 K to go, as I was walking a section sucking down some fuel and said ‘BETSY!  Come on, run!’. I didn’t have a chance of catching him – but it didn’t stop me from trying.

That moment triggered another onslaught of tears — which by the way make it hard to run… But here’s a guy who sees me as a runner.  Not the fat girl. Just a runner.  And he has NO CLUE of my history or background or story.  He just sees me as a runner – who somehow got in front of him late in the race. 🙂

And that shovel of realization hit me again…

The finish line I can hear Spencer yelling for me before I even rounded the corner to the finishers chute.

If there is one person in this world who gets the complicated package of my fat girl psyche and my refusal to identify and OWN my rights as runner — it’s him.

I was crying down the finishers chute and then found him.  Told him – choking on those freaking tears that seem to be cropping up even now — ‘I’m not that 400 pound woman anymore.  I’m a trail runner… I left the fat girl on the mountain.’

I sat in front of Spencers tent much later in the day. We would do a daily debrief and catch-up of how the day went and how we feel about things and what we need to be thinking about for the next stage.. This time was more about my emotional neediness.  Spencer, much to his chagrin, is a security blanket for me. I was emotionally raw and hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  And I couldn’t stand being alone, or being around people who don’t know me or my story at a time when something this big has shifted in my mind and heart and was swamping me.  The conversation meandered around about the day and with me crying and not knowing how to explain what had happened on the mountain – but me needing to know that he, of anyone, understood how HUGE this moment was for me.  He kept telling me to write it all down.  I kept telling him I have no real fucking clue what happened on that mountain – but it was undeniably life-altering.

Here I sit writing (and crying…) trying to explain to anyone else who would possibly care — what happened in Vail on Stage 5 that is going to make a different person tomorrow. And forever more….

Words aren’t going to do this episode justice.  They can’t.  It’s a change of heart.

It’s been a shift a long, long, long time coming. It’s letting go of the familiar and comfortable and the steel anchor that held me back all at the same time.

It’s scary as hell.

I feel totally and utterly confused about exactly what happened on that mountain.   And grateful.  And kind of stunned. Perhaps I’ll never entirely know or be able to explain it.  And I think I’m OK with that.

I woke up Friday morning knowing I could run, work hard, give 100% effort and that it still wouldn’t make me anything other than the former 400 pound woman who took up trail running as a hobby and to lose weight.

I am about to go to bed on Friday night a trail runner.  A trail runner who found running and then it and the people in the trail community helped me save my life. I am trail runner who can lay down a great personal effort because I’ve been trained and paid attention and worked hard — not as payment for past sins.

I am a trail runner.

I left my 400 pound former self on those very mountains that I watched from the airplane all those years ago…

And yes.  I’m still crying.  Just letting the tears flow.  I figure it’s years of fighting and ignoring and denying finally leaving my body… For good.

Saturday is stage 6.  I’m going to fight like hell, run my ass off and enjoy every single STEP of the journey.  I’m going to celebrate finding myself in the Rockies.

I’m going to run some trails.

The mountains are calling… Transrockies here I come!


‘Each fresh peak ascended teaches something.’ — Sir Martin Convay

I am piling up clothes, shoes and supplies because I am about to pack a bag (several bags actually, because packing light is NOT one of my super powers…) and embark on an adventure.

An epic adventure that I’ve been working toward for the last 2 years. It’s cheesy to say, but it’s kind of a dream coming true moment for me.  I leave in a matter of hours!

My heart beats a little faster when I get asked about it, I break out in a big-ass grin and I have been walking around randomly humming ‘Rocky Mountain High’ (Yes.  I know it’s not just about the mountains. Save the jokes. But I am the girl who grew up listening to John Denver on vinyl… )

I have flown a TON for my work over the years. I worked mostly west of the Mississippi River – flying in and out of Portland Oregon.  My flights commonly hubbed in Denver.  We would soar over the Rockies coming into and out of that airport.  I can remember thinking many, many times as I stared out the window at those incredible mountains…

I wonder what it looks like in those mountains?  What is it like to actually be in those mountains?

How would it feel to climb up on one of those exposed ridges and feel like you could turn 360 degrees and see the ends of the earth?

At close to 400 pounds — looking out the window as we flew over the mountains ranges and simply wondering what the Rockies looked like was the extent of my connection to any of those fabled peaks for decades.

But life has a way of changing. 🙂

I don’t weigh 400 pounds anymore. I’m not a Type 2 Diabetic dragging along a Sharps container and pen needles. I don’t get winded and red-faced after walking half a mile. I’m active and healthy and damn it all… I WANT TO SEE THOSE MOUNTAINS. I want to KNOW those mountains. I want to walk in those mountains and breathe in that (thin!) air and just see what it looks like from the ground.

Not from the plexiglass window of an airplane.

So I am going to Colorado for a running event/race/camp.

I’m headed to the Transrockies Run.  Kind of what it sounds like…  It’s a 6-day running camp in the Rockies.

I am traveling with Spencer, Dave, Erica and Sean.  And for 6 days we get to run, camp, make new friends and SEE, LEARN, RUN THOSE MOUNTAINS!  120 miles of those mountains.  And about 20,000 feet of vertical climbing in and on and around the Rockies.

It’s epic.  It’s scary.  It’s exciting.  I’ve never done anything like this in my life.  Never thought I could ever do something like this in my life.

Oh… BUT I CAN NOW and you have no idea just how badly I WANT to…!

The old life I lived… I wouldn’t have been in shape to hike anything beyond the parking lot. I couldn’t sit in the car for 120 miles without being in extreme discomfort. I wouldn’t have fit in a sleeping bag.  Sleeping on a sleeping pad, on the ground would be the recipe for never getting back up off the ground.  I wouldn’t have trusted the camp to have enough of the sugary/fat/processed foods I was living on.  I never would have fit in a portable shower stall….  Get the picture as to why I believed something like this would never, ever happen?!

But that’s not my reality anymore. 🙂

I’m really going to try to absorb and enjoy each moment. I intend to enjoy EACH and every single step I get to take in those fabled, rugged and spectacular mountains.

I have worked for 2 years, steadily, to get to the point where I feel I can run the mileage and handle the back-to-back-to-back running.  I know I fit in my sleeping bag 🙂 and I’m totally OK with the food they will be serving.

It’s almost go time.

It’s time to meet those mountains with my very own feet.

We’ll fly over those mountains coming and going from Colorado.  But on the trip home… This time… This time I’ll know as I stare out the window, I’ll know what those mountains actually look like from the ground.

Now I really have to get serious about packing… 🙂

‘The mountains are calling, and I must go.’ — John Muir

Before and after pictures are kind of a crock.  The real changes, the changes that matter the most are the changes of the heart.  The doors opened.  The live you decide to live, instead of just exist or survive.  This picture was 400ish pounds and surviving in the day to day.  SHE’s who I am taking to meet the mountains… 🙂