Quote of the day

FOLLOW YOUR BLISS AND THE UNIVERSE WILL OPEN DOORS WHERE THERE WERE ONLY WALLS

Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recovery


Is there such a thing as post Ironman blues? Kind of like postpartum depression? From the many ironman finishers I've spoken to, it IS indeed a real thing. Perhaps I'm just having withdrawal from the constant physical and mental prepping that I've been doing for such a long time.

In my most recent blog post I wrote that I had been training for 210 days leading up to Ironman Lake Placid.  The truth is that it was more like 500 days if I take into account all of my 2013 training and racing leading up to and AFTER last year's Ironman Mont Tremblant. My 2013 season started in January and officially came to an end. 11 months later, on October 31st.

I took November and December of 2013 "off" and got back into training on January 1st, 2014. I raced three times this year leading up to Ironman Lake Placid: a fast and flat Olympic in Colorado, one of the most brutal half ironmans in the world, Wildflower 70.3, and many people's bucket list "triathlon/xterra" race called The Escape from Alcatraz.

So, basically I either trained or raced from January 2013 to November 2013 then again from January 2014 until just yesterday. That's a lot in 2 years.

About 50 miles into Sunday's 112 mile bike ride my body reminded me of ALL the racing and training I had done in the past two years. It reminded me that fatigue is cumulative and muscle strain can happen in microscopic ways that don't manifest until out under extreme stress.  My body reminded me all right.  And it didn't do it gently.

My left knee and right hip lit up like a Christmas tree and my body was screaming for ice, a knee brace, Advil...or to simply STOP. For the next 62 miles, and a total of 7,000 feet of elevation gain, I pushed through this pain: the most pain I've ever raced with to date.

The good (I mean GREAT) news is that I had such incredible mental focus and fortitude there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to stop. And I didn't. I kept going.

People passed me. Hundreds of people passed me. In fact, I did not pass a single person except when I was bombing downhill.

This was not only a test of my perseverance and pain tolerance but of my ego. I wish she would just go away! In order to keep going I did something a friend recently suggested I do: I took the emotion out of the pain. You see, what she told me was that  pain is both an emotional and sensory experience. So if I took away the emotional component, I only had to deal with the sensory part. And that's what I did.

It turns out my mental toughness helped me numb down some of the remaining sensory input and the rest of the throbbing pain was handled by my indomitable fortitude (something I should thank my parents and ancestors for; it's genetics baby).

The days after finishing an Ironman are difficult; not just on the body but the psyche. There are a million legitimate explanations for why this occurs but none of these reasons help make the restoration process faster. It's not the way the cookie crumbles. Just like everything in life, it's a process. Recovery, healing, growth, learning, understanding...it's all a process.

Life is in a constant flux of change, set backs, moments of elation and moments of uncertainty and the unknown, to name a few. Even when we set goals like finishing an Ironman, regardless whether we actually achieve our goal, the process of trying still takes a toll on us. We are indeed emotional creatures and "judgment day" comes with repercussions.

Some people deal with the moments after they have crested their goals by quickly setting another goal. This may be another Ironman or a new life project. This makes complete sense given how we humans like to keep a forward momentum. But sometimes doing this is just taking the path of least resistance to avoidance.

I personally see my post-Ironman emotions for what they are. I do not want to replace these unsettling emotions with anything else. I want to sit with them, dance with them (as another friend says), and learn about my own humanity from sifting though the trenches. This is how I overcame my eating disorder.

So, what I've learned about myself during my recovery from bulimia and now from Ironman, is what I do NOT want. I do NOT want to reflexively fill in the empty voids with something else; something frivolous. I want to sit with the very raw and unpleasant emotions that I feel: fear, loneliness, uncertainty etc. I want to sit with them and have CONVERSATIONS with them.

I feel confident that is the only way I can keep moving forward towards a better version of my former self; and moving forward allows me to improve my own human condition.

I have come so far and yet I still have leaps and bounds to go. I have to, want to and  need to keep this recovery train on track, to be the best daughter/sister/friend/lover I can be and to help as many people and animals as I can in this lifetime.

Perpetual forward momentum with grace and gratitude.  That was my mantra for the entire Ironman. It is also my the mantra for life.

Thank you for coming along on yet another one of my journeys. Thank you for donating your time, your money and your unwavering support.

With love and gratitude,

Emi

Saturday, July 26, 2014

MY HERO'S JOURNEY

It's go time. For 210 days I have been training for tomorrow's Ironman Lake Placid. I will be racing for recovery, for friendship and family, for discipline and unwavering dedication, for love of multisport and for my body's never ending quest to move. But mostly, I will be racing for ...myself.

Since January, I have put in countless hours of physical training and mental training. I've had fantastic days when my energy and confidence were soaring and my body was performing top notch.  I've also had trying days when I struggled desperately to drag my tired and sore body out of bed at 4 am to workout or simply skipped a workout altogether. Sometimes, I didn't work out for days upon days. If my body said "don't", I listened and I didn't.

You learn a lot about your body and spirit when you train for an endurance event like this. You learn to really hear and feel your body. You listen to what it needs whether it's rest, nutrition or surging well beyond your comfort zone. Perhaps that is why many do this sport: to push their bodies and minds to new realms of tolerance, awakening, (pain) and success.

People often ask this question to ironman triathletes: "why do you want to do an ironman?" Most answers revolve around having specific personality traits that makes us "intense",  "crazy" or "type A".

I personally think Ironman training and competition is more about finding out how much you can push yourself; testing the limits of the human physical, emotional, mental and psychological potential. Yes, there is a little crazy thrown in there but, hey, we all posses it!

When I registered for my first Ironman (Ironman Florida in 2006) my intention was simply to complete the most prestigious triathlon event. At that time, I had spent over 5 years racing triathlon and legitimately felt I had built up my endurance enough to get to a place where I could race in the ultimate triathlon.

But that's when my injuries started. It's simple really: my body was breaking down from overtraining and malnourishment (secondary to an eating disorder and resultant body dysmorphia and abuse) . Bad combination. You see, having an eating disorder really impinges upon peak body performance; peak brain performance; ability to hold relationships and to uphold commitments and much, much more.

In 2006, 5 months before my first Ironman, during a half ironman in Miami, I hurt my hip.  I felt something literally "snap" on a down pedal about halfway into a the bike portion. I finished the race but I was hurt. I sought out an orthopedist opinion, had an MRI and began what became a year long attempt to rehab through physical therapy. But after a year I still was no better and still did not have a definitive diagnosis. I had to withdraw from the Ironman race.

Almost a year after the injury occurred I saw an amazing orthopedist in NYC for a second opinion and he nailed my diagnosis within minutes of looking at my MRI from the previous year!! He ended up performing surgery on my right hip in September 2007. Then came another FULL year of physical therapy.

When my hip finally felt normal again I got back into training and then began racing in 2008. Within a year, I started have severe RIGHT knee pain- my ITB (iliotibial band). This just goes to show how when one part of the physiologic mechanism is disrupted the others are prone to injury from compensation and/or weakness. I had "fixed" my hip but my knee said "hey, what about me??"  I underwent yet another year of physical therapy in an attempt to avoid surgery. But this didn't resolve the issue and finally my dear friend and orthopedist was convinced enough that I needed surgical intervention. He was willing to perform a rare procedure called IT band release.  And just like that, I was under the knife again in June 2009.

IT band surgery was a tough surgery to recover from. Much harder than the hip surgery. But by 2011 I was good enough to bike across America (3,907 miles!) in the name of eating disorder awareness and recovery. My body had done some pretty remarkable healing and I was ready to go!

In April 2012, I moved to Denver, CO where I started a new job and began "altitude" training, so to speak. I competed in a handful of races in 2012 and had a successful year all around. In the summer of 2012 I finally got the gumption to sign up for a other ironman...again. Ironman Mont Tremblant.

If you've read any of my blog you will know that that race didn't go over so well. About 20 miles into the bike portion, my steering tube fractured (simply put, my bike fell apart). I took a fall and when I got up I realized that my Ironman dream was over. At least for 2013.

Over the next few months my wounds (mental and physical) healed and I knew I had to get myself into another Ironman.  I had to finish what I started. So after just 2 months "off" from training, I began training again.

Fast forward nearly 8 months and here I am today, July 26th 2014, a day before Ironman Lake Placid. Ready to go. Chomping at the bit. Surrounded in spirit by so many people that I love who I know are rooting for me....including MY voice inside of me that says "I know you can do this! It's been years in the making and there's nothing Emi cannot do.  It's time to get 'er done."

I am thankful to be here and look forward to showing my potential, my passion and my resilience. Joseph Campbell  spoke about The Hero's Journey, the most important element of which is to RETURN to tell your story.

Well, that is my story. To be continued...

With love,

Emi


Thursday, July 24, 2014

GRATITUDE

I woke up one morning last week and was compelled to sit down in front of my computer and put together a video as a gesture of gratitude to the people in my life: past, present and (future).

The process of making the video was rather emotional but exceptionally fulfilling and left my heart bursting with love and joy. In a matter of one week I reconnected with many "old"friends; from grade school through veterinary school and beyond.  Since all of my own photos (the 35mm ones) are currently in NY and I live in Denver, I relied on friends to send me pictures. And they did!

For my friends and family, chances are, you will find a picture of yourself somewhere in the video but, if you don't, it's not because I didn't try to include you or that I didn't think of you ... it merely reflects a lack of time and resources. If you DO see yourself in the video I hope you like the picture I chose. Regardless, I hope you enjoy watching as much as I did creating.



Thank you to all the exceptional people that have helped me become the woman I am today.  My sun doesn't shine without you.

Count down to Ironman Lake Placid!

Bring it on!!






Monday, July 7, 2014

Disambiguation



“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude” -RWE


On July 2nd 1776, the United States gained independence from Great Britain. (It is believed by most that The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776 which is why we celebrate it on July 4th.)

For those of you who read my posts regularly, you know that I try to link specific holidays to something more closely associated with the present day human experience. In the case of this blog, I usually like to show how my personal struggles with bulimia have in fact helped me to transcend to a better version of my former self; how years of struggle evolved into recovery and enlightenment.

Independence for me means many things but mainly it means freedom from oppression, especially that imposed by myself ON myself. You see, for decades, I was my own worst enemy- my own limiting factor. I couldn't disambiguate my childhood wiring of what I THOUGHT I needed to do or become or love from what I actually NEEDED to do or become or love in order to live a life of bliss: the life I was intended to live.

Ten years ago, even 12 months ago, I couldn't have written what I am today with such conviction because back then I wasn't convinced. But today, now more than ever before, I can see my life and the people and experiences in my life for what they truly are: part of my journey towards independence.

Independence can mean different things to different people.  What does it mean to you?

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Less than 3 weeks left to IMLP. Please like, share or donate today!

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's time. Swim time. Run time. Bike time. Laugh time. Donate time.

I just spent the past weekend in Vail, Colorado on a much needed "retreat" from Ironman training, work-related challenges, personal hardships and.... from the linear path my life had recently taken.

Since returning from Lake Placid, NY where I had trained on the Ironman course a few weeks ago, I was feeling exhausted. I wasn't sleeping well and felt stressed- body, mind and spirit.

After a weekend that consisted of equal part rest and PLAY, I am finally beginning to feel like Emi again.

Zip-lining

Great view at the top of Vail mountain after run/hike up!

That's me running!


Gerald Ford Amphitheater
Colorado Symphony+Chorus
Beethoven's 9th

Closer view of the talented musicians
 
Bliss
Vail, CO
 


Yes, I am still fatigued but I've been Ironman training for seven months and, well, that's to be expected.  What's important is that I'm in a better state of mind and feel ready to take on this Ironman challenge with all I can give.

The plan between now and July 27th is to:
  • eat well (fresh, healthy, good food)
  • rest enough (8 hours of sleep per night!)
  • follow my training plan (my coach, Jen Gatz, is fantastic and knows what she's talking about)
  • listen to my body (give her a break if she tells me she needs one)
  • give my friends and family love and attention (I must not lose perspective)
  • continue to fundraise for MentorCONNECT (please, please donate TODAY!!!!!)
AND...
  • focus on finishing this Ironman dream one STRONG step at a time.


Heaven on Earth
The top of Vail mountain
Vail, CO

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PAPA BEAR


Happy Father's Day! I know so many wonderful fathers.  Of course, carrying a wee bit of bias, the most wonderful of them all is mine, Colonel Bernard W Berger, MD.  

I spent the past few days in Lake Placid, NY training on the Ironman course I will be racing on in July.

The Adirondacks are breath-taking and I enjoyed the fresh air and simple pleasures this area had to offer.

The weather was not the most agreeable but we made the most of it.

Thursday was gloomy with on-and-off showers so we swam in the "not-so-mirror-like", Mirror Lake. There was quite a strong current and 1.2 miles of the 2.4 mile swim was into a dramatic chop. We were being slapped around relentlessly by white caps and no doubt I swallowed a few pints of Mirror Lake.

Still, I had a lovely swim.

On Friday, it was pouring rain. Dumping. We decided to take a long run and ran a tough 18 miles around the ironman course. I appreciated what it felt like to run the final 2 miles UPhill back into town. This is a two loop run course. So, for the race I will "rinse and repeat", as my coach says. That's going to be a grind, especially after the bike (see below).

On Saturday morning, the rain had finally stopped and the sun popped her head out for a bit. This was as good a day as any to ride the bike course...twice.  Two loops, 112 miles, which included screaming downhills on not-so-smooth pavement, false flats and an infamous 20 mile section of climbing heading back to town the tail end of which includes the "three bears". This is a series of 3 hills right before the turn-around in town named "mama bear", "baby bear" and "papa bear". Riding the loop twice ("rinse and repeat") means this course takes you again through these climbs, with a total elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet...and so, there are really 6 bears. Rawwrrrrr!!!

By the time I returned to the biggest climb/bear, "papa bear", on the second loop, the rain had been pouring down on me for about 45 minutes and the pleasantries of riding on such a beautiful bike course had faded. My quads were screaming and my fatigue had set in. The only thing I could do to trick my mind into grinding up this final climb was to think of "papa bear" in a different light: to think of "papa bear" as my own father and embrace, respect and LOVE the climb.

And so I did.

I can only imagine what it will feel like to swim 2.4 miles BEFORE biking this course and run a marathon AFTER it. This will indeed be an epic race.

Happy Father's Day to all the stupendous "papa bears" out there. You are loved.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Irongirl 2012
I have the most amazing friend. Her name is Aniela Swider. We met in college in 1995 and formed an immediate and indescribable connection that has flourished over the past 20 years. 

To think about our relationship almost draws me to tears.  Even today, after all these years, our dream is not only to be in each other's lives but to work together despite having very different professions (I am a veterinarian and she is an attorney).

Yesterday, Aniela and I were reflecting on our relationship and she said "you know, you should blog about real friendship some time. I bet a lot of people with eating disorders have a hard time having friends. But even one is enough." She is right. When you are lost and consumed by an eating disorder, or anything for that matter, sometimes all you need is one person to pull you through.

I asked her to write this blog. This is what she wrote...

I met our faithful author about 20 years ago. We were so different. I arrived to college as a 17 year-old mess. I think I had unintentional dreadlocks and I only had two river bags stuffed with dirty laundry because I needed to get in one final rock climbing trip before preseason volleyball. Then enters Berger (I know she has a first name, Emi,  but in the college sports' locker room world we disposed of first names so she will always be Berger to me) onto the volleyball court as an unexpected teammate.  She was brilliant, beautiful, stylish, artistic, popular and CONFIDENT, at least that is what I saw. It took me a while to figure out her hidden demons, maybe a year or two, because I was young and na├»ve. No one from my hometown had ever had an eating disorder so I just couldn't understand, even though I lived with Berger and spent all of my time with her. When I finally took off my blinders to Berger's problem, I did nothing. NOTHING. Great friend huh? Let me repeat. I did nothing, not a damn thing. It's one of the biggest regrets of my life. 

Fast forward to the amazing time I found out Berger was moving to Denver.  After living in Africa  I missed my friend dearly so I internet stalked her and, in 2011,  found her blog on biking across America. She was biking across America in the name of a hidden disease: eating disorders. She came out, so-to-speak. I cried with relief. I yearned for her companionship and she welcomed me back with open arms. Berger was in a veterinary conference in Denver and we met up for the first time in almost 13 years....and time never stopped. The rest is history.  
When she first moved to Denver, Berger needed recovery support so I made some phone calls. The next thing I know, I was talking to a potential therapist and bawling my face off about my failure as a friend 20 years ago ... to the point where this poor therapist on the phone wanted ME to see her, not Berger.  At this point in the blog, you're thinking "what does this have to do with me and the journey to Ironman?" Be patient.

Berger has forgiven me. She turned my cowardliness into a positive. She says she needed to want to help herself in order to recover.  Guess what? Berger forgives me for everything. Wait ... she never really gets upset at me for longer than 10 minutes because when she is upset, she tells me and it's over. She expects one thing from me. I am to be me. That's the only rule between us. We get to be. Just be. That's friendship folks, and no matter your struggle or your best moment, if you can find just one person with whom you can ultimately just be raw, you're a lucky being. We need one person in the universe who will answer your wolf call with a wolf call, even if just to respond "I'm out here and I understand you."

I told Berger she should blog about friendship because I could only imagine that individuals with eating disorders (or any secretive behavior for that matter) may not understand how much true friendship mattered or even what it felt like. I'll tell you. It feels like you are never, ever, ever alone - regardless of circumstance or occurrence - you are never alone. Trust me, that has gotten me though many a sleepless night.

If I look back at our communication in person, email, text - the gamut - I see things that are hilarious, touching, painful. I see gut wrenching struggles two friends can share with each other. I see questions and brutally honest answers. I see two people with athletic pursuits figuring out how to be the most supportive each one can be to the other, even when it's the middle of the day and Berger is in surgery and I am arguing with an assclown German lawyer (I am an attorney by the way). But what I truly see is Berger and me ... able to be raw with each other and never expect anything from the other except support and love. We never disappoint each other because our expectations are only that we can both be ourselves. 

I have to stop now because I don't want to ruin my computer with my tears as I write this blog. It was an honor to do so.  Berger, I will always love and accept you unconditionally for exactly who you are, just as you do me.  I hope your readers can have or find the same thing. This friendship is the thing in life that makes me know I am living. You're a Healer through and through. 

Thank you Aniela Swider for your eloquent and candid expression of our friendship. It brought me to tears.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

THE TIME IS NOW

I never pegged myself a "procrastinator" because I was always the type of person who got things done VERY far in advance. Whether it was college papers, trip planning, packing and even getting to the airport super early. As I've gotten older, however,  I find myself getting "stuck" more in thoughts. It's not that I still don't relish in my ability to get things done and get them done in advance. It's just that certain things draw me to distraction and sometimes I feel paralyzed with a thought.

Many famous psychologists call this obsession with thoughts "fusing with thoughts". The fact is, human beings, have a VERY large frontal lobe which is where analytical thought occurs. That's why it's so easy to get caught in a thought process where we can spend minutes, hours, days, months and even years, spinning on a hamster wheel. We are neither moving forward nor backward, just in a circle. And, therefore, we never get anywhere.

Dogs, for example, have a much smaller frontal lobe than human beings. Perhaps this is why dogs truly live in the moment. They live for the tennis ball or the frisbee; they forgive and forget; they miss us terribly when we're gone and they are always happy to wake up each morning because living is wonderful! (I am constantly reminded of this at work and feel blessed to spend days working with creatures that live in the moment).

Fusing with a thought leads to obsessing over a thought and we lose productivity in our lives. We all know this. So how do we take control? How do we stop hovering and start moving forward? The first step, at least for me, is awareness of the times I start fusing.  This awareness lets me literally jump off my hamster wheel of thought, get a of the grip of my frontal lobe and actually ACCOMPLISH something. Even if that accomplishment means being "unstuck".

So, today, I ask you, what is it that you've been "stuck" on and how are you going to DO something about it? Today, I am getting off my current hamster wheel (my hip hurts, my time trial bike doesn't seem to fit me, how am I going to get through this Ironman???) and DOING something I believe in. I am advocating for eating disorder awareness and recovery. I am posting on my blog in hopes that I can convince someone out there in cyberspace to donate to my cause and maybe yours too. Let's "de-fuse" together.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

LETTING GO

Sometimes a journey begins by letting go.

I had a conversation with my mother the other night about letting go; specifically about how she had to let go of her three children as we grew up. She felt great pains leading into this Mother's Day as she was acutely aware of how long it had been since she had us all under one roof.  I am not a mother myself, but I can only begin to imagine what it feels like to create, foster, support and spend nearly every day with a child and then, eventually, to let them live their own lives.

My first real departure from home was when I was only 14 years old when I went to boarding school. This was a decision I had made and, despite what I imagine was a good amount of fear and reservation of letting me go away, my parents did just that, they let me go.  They knew it was something that could better my education and that I WANTED to go. And that was enough.

Over the next 13 years I attended prep school in New Jersey, college in Chicago and veterinary school in London. Following that, I spent 5 years working near home and, then again, I set out for Denver where I have lived for the past two years. 

Today is a hard day not to be with my mother, my creator, as well as the rest of my family who are celebrating in New York. But it's a good time for me to reflect on the notion of letting go and what it has meant for me in my own personal life.

The most intimate and best example of letting go I can give you is that which revolves around letting go of my eating disorder (bulimia). Even after I began my initial stages of recovery, I still held onto it and used it as a "crutch". I would resort to vomiting usually when I was overwhelmed.  When the physical act of vomiting stopped, the eating disorder voices in my head still lingered. Those witches happily chimed in whenever they damn well pleased.  I realized by allowing these voices in, I still had not escaped from the prison of my eating disorder. It took a LOT to quiet these voices and, to this day, they still rear their ugly heads, especially when I'm tired or stressed. The increase in the volume and intensity of my ironman training, as such, has led to more physical stress, and again these evil voices, like a chorus, seep into my thoughts. I have to work hard to fight them back and allow myself to reach out and gain reassurance from friends and colleagues.  Most importantly,  I have to remind myself that there is a reason I consciously let them go; they are a waste of my precious time.

One of my favorite blog posts I wrote this year was about throwing away my scales (I did this in January). Throwing Away The Scales post For the first time in my recovery, I let go of a very powerful crutch. I knew I was using the scales as a means by which I dictated my daily self worth. (There is a quote I have saved as my background picture on my iphone that says: "Detecto: This scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That's It. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, strength, love or character.")  I knew that I had allowed weight to inappropriately filter into so much of my life, yet, for some reason, I wanted to have a scale around; like some sort of twisted and cryptic security blanket.

By throwing away my scales, I let go of the notion that my body weight should and could control who I was as a woman, a friend, an athlete and a mentor. Around the same time, I mustered up an immense amount of courage and took a leap of faith in the way I ate. Instead of constantly being aware of when I ate or what I ate, I just decided to eat whatever I wanted (I usually eat healthy anyway), but more importantly, whenever my body told me she was hungry. I let go of the idea that food consumption needed to be controlled in such a militant and what was, to me, detrimental way.

Just the other day I took a major time out. I literally pulled into my garage, turned the car off, and sat there for 45 minutes sifting through why I had been feeling so anxious lately. I knew I was still exhausted from last week's race but there was something else on which I couldn't quite get my finger. And then, with the rain falling softly outside, like music to my ears, I figured it out. My disappointment in last week's race had much less to do with loss of pride and the failure I felt as an athlete (not just because I thought I failed myself but because I thought I had failed others as well, including my sponsors) but rather, it had much, much more to do with the pressure I put on my new found belief in eating and the HUGE leap of faith I had taken with thinking of food as fuel, not an enemy.  For the first time in my racing career, I had spent months not only training hard but eating properly and without calculating or over-thinking food. For me, this race was a chance to finally come full circle and complete one of my most important and powerful hero's journey. Hero's Journey post I wanted to race like a rockstar and finally be able to tell my brain "see, I told you so!!!"

For decades, I was deathly afraid to overeat for fear of both triggering a bulimic episode and gaining weight. Even when I tried to eat well during ironman training last year,  I still under-ate simply because I didn't know how to eat. Today, I have let go of the fear of eating and finally am beginning to understand how to eat.  Last weekend's race was spectacularly hard on so many levels and I'm lucky to have completed it. I wouldn't have been able to do so if I hadn't been OK with fueling before and during the race. (And my body wouldn't have recovered if I hadn't fed it properly afterwards.)

Letting go can be very difficult but perhaps we should see them as a path to new beginnings and hope for a future we could never have imagined.

Mom, in letting me go, you let me live, to learn and to grow. For that, I love you infinitely. Thank you from the depths of my soul.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

WICKED WILDFLOWER

This is going to be a longer post. Mostly because I need to vent and writing is cathartic for me. Also, because there are a lot of details.

Wildflower 2014:

“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

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I trained for Wildflower with gusto and a newfound confidence as food as fuel (not as my enemy, as my previous eating disorder affliction "voices" had convinced me of for decades). I trained hard and with determination. I think many people can attest to that. I also take great pride in my competitive drive and my desire and ability to do well. I have high expectations of myself and I feel others do too. I'm ok with this but sometimes it's a bit overwhelming.

Yesterday's race was the hardest half ironman I've ever competed in and now I know why it's ranked among the toughest in the world.

I watched a video last week that opened my eyes to what kind of race I was about to face.  This is not the first time that I've signed up for a race without looking at the course (before I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid I signed up for Ironman Louisville, reflexively- that was a mistake).  Sometimes triathlons are simply chosen because of their time frame compared to other races you are building toward. This was the case for me yesterday.

If I had done my research, I could have built myself up mentally and perhaps made wiser travel decisions (um, not drive for two days before a race because I was scared to take apart my new bike- ironically I lost a front wheel while traveling in a way I thought was the "safest" for my bike!). If I had done the research, perhaps I would not even have done this race purely to keep my racing confidence up and not have to sift through this post-race ego crap. Or maybe I still would have done it for the challenge and to tick it off my "bucket-list" races.

So, I truly did not know what I was getting myself into until a few days before the race! I thought it was just a tougher course. Ha!! Not quite.

As it so turns out the comedy of errors that occurred before and during the race ended up making it into a VERY difficult (I almost threw in the towel after I finished the bike) and, in some ways, a gut wrenching racing experience. I started to make a list of these "errors" in my head and decided to call them "parts" (like a play).

Part 1: I acquired my brand new Felt DA 2 a week before the race. I took it out for two rides and got some adjustments before packing it in the back of my car.  I was hoping it will feel ok when I raced

Part 2: A very hectic week work-wise and relationship-wise leading up to my...

Part 3: 1,200 mile drive from Denver to Paso Robles, CA which took me all day Wednesday half a day Thursday.

Part 4: Thursday, I got my front wheel stolen from my car (race wheel- $1,000!)

Part 5: That same day I experienced some personal strife with one of my best friends which lead to fighting and tears.

Part 6: Race check-in.  It was 97 degrees outside, windy and I began to actually get an idea how ruthless the hills of California are (how could I have forgetten this? I did, after all, bike over some nasty passes near the end of my bike trip across America in 2011).

Part 7: Race day. I had to wait at transition for nearly 2 hours before my swim wave even started. Laying on the pavement in the sun trying to conserve my energy and maintain hydration was a tough way to begin a brutal day.

Part 8: At 9:25, nearly 1.5 hours after the pro field started, women's 35-39 age group finally takes off for the swim. I take it easy-ish for the 1.2 mile swim so as to conserve for the run then bike then run. As is always the case, my open water swim time is minutes behind my pool time due to a number of factors. And starting in one of the last waves (18/19) means it will take a good amount of effort to swim around and over people who you catch up to in the waves prior.

Part 9: The first transition, from the swim to where my bike was racked, was a 2.2 mile grind which started with an 18% grade uphill strait out of the water. Then, for the next few miles, we had to run along dry lake beds in soft, soft sand.

Part 10: I mounted my new bike hoping for the best on this course despite not having ever raced on it. Within the first 5 miles of the ride (all climbing) I find myself checking my garmin and wishing it would move faster. Soon thereafter,  I got a "heat" headache which lasted the rest of the race.

Part 11: A few thousand of feet of climbing on a new TT bike caused me massive lower back spasms after about 15 miles of riding.  (This was probably a road bike course- people on road bikes would spin up the hills past me like I wasn't moving)

Part 12: I transitioned off bike to another run portion. I almost didn't continue the race. I couldn't even touch my feet because my back was in such a spasm. I actually had to sit down to put on my running shoes. But I decided to at least try. Immediately we are thrown on trails that go up, up, up. 70% of the total run was on lose packed trails with killer hills/scrambles (worse than Hyner Challenge for those of you who have done that race). I walked a TON for the first 5 miles (I have never waked in a triathlon FYI).

Part 13: I had to toss the insoles of my (dirty) running shoes at mile 5 aid station because they bunched up after a crazy descent into the valley. That left my feet feeling nearly "bare" and they took quite a pounding for the last 8 miles.

Part 13: Where is the ice on this course? The Gatorade and water were luke warm at best and ice was only given out by a spectator around mile 10. My core body temp had been sky rocketing from the first 5 miles of the bike and it wasn't until 6 hours into the race that it finally started cooling off (ice cubes shoved into your sports bra does wonders to drop your core temperature).

FINALLY there was pavement beneath my feet and semi-flat terrain....and that's when I got my legs back.

Which leads me to switch things up and give you the most notable and "positives"of this race experience:

Part 14: I finished with a strong stride, passing about 20 people in the last mile, and 40 people in the last 4 miles.

Part 15:  A fellow from a local bike shop who I called in a panic on Thursday ( after I had realized my front wheel was missing) said he would gladly lend me HIS front wheel for the race. I collected it from him at his store on Friday morning. No charge and no CC information taken, just my name and number and good faith that I would return it. And, just like that, I had a decent aluminum front racing wheel.

The only problem was was that I had carbon break pads that I neither wanted to ruin or change out (carbon break pads will get destroyed with aluminum wheels as the metal gets transferred during breaking). So...

Part 16: ...I strolled into the DT Swiss tent on Friday AM and asked the mechanic if hehad a carbon front wheel I could rent. He (Sean Hensley) said that he was just about to build one which he would be happy to let me use! So, DT Swiss loaned me a front carbon wheel the day before the race. For free. Now that's amazing.

Part 17: I didn't lose my googles on the swim. I had no flats on the bike. I never dismounted from the bike despite the back spasms. I fought up each hill in bigger gears than I wanted without fail. I allowed myself to stop at each mile on the run to refuel and dump water over my body. (Normally I do not stop at aid stations when I'm "racing". This was "surviving"). I accepted the challenges of the day at the time I confronted them and just kept moving forward: one stroke at a time; one down pedal at a time; one foot in front of the other.

Part 18: With the help of my friend Nicole, I was able to maintain hydration and fueling for this HOT, relentless and arduous race. Without pre-race planning I think I would have ended up in one of the many ambulances I saw on course getting pumped with IV fluids.

Part 19: The volunteers at the race and people all around this area were simply a pleasure to be around.

Part 20: I ran with a guy for a few miles who insisted on singing Whitney Houston songs. And, yes, he hit the high notes.

Part 21: I enjoyed post-race coors light (Colorado represent!), a great meal and a movie with one of my best friends.

Part 22: I finished this race!!

I battled and I didn't give up. I had amazing friends (you know who you are) supporting me the entire  way and I am grateful for that most of all.  Although I did not finish where I had hoped in terms of my age group, I finished with strength despite adversity.

We live and we learn. When my ego rears it's ugly head I have to smother it and remind myself of the glory of doing just that, living and learning.

One race doesn't dictate the rest of my race season nor does it take away my worthiness as an advocate for the triathlon teams I represent, for eating disorder recovery as well as for the hopes of this blog to raise money. Most importantly it does not prove or disprove me as the hard working, compassionate woman that I know I am.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

THE WILDFLOWERS OF MAY

Happy May! (Or as my family would say, "pinch and a punch for the first day of the month")

In a few days I will be racing my first race of the season. It just so turns out that this is a BIG race- not merely because of the distance (1/2 ironman- 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) but because it's in California where it will be 90 degrees, very hilly AND I will have driven to California from Denver (which I am in the process of right now!). My choice to drive vs fly is mainly due to the fact that I literally just got my new time trial bike and I really don't want to take it apart to ship it. Also, the airfare, rental car fare and hassle of lugging a bike around makes a road trip seem so much more desirable. Plus it's a ROAD TRIP!  Adding to the craziness of this race is that it's venue has changed a bit due to low water conditions in the lake we are swimming in. The swim start is now 2.2 miles away from the transition area (where the bike is racked). This means all athletes have to get shuttled to the swim start, where we complete the swim and at the water's edge, get out of our wetsuits, throw on a pair of sneakers and run 2.2 miles back to the transition. And THEN we get on the bike for a hilly 56 mile ride. (For those of you who do not know a normal triathlon progression- it's usually swim, bike then run: not swim, run, bike, run).

Ever since learning of the challenges of this course I have had to really take a step back and mentally prepare for not just the brutality and suffering of the race (which I have no problems with) but with my goal times for this half ironman. I have no right comparing it to others I've done and my expectations for a personal record need to be abolished mentally so that I can blissfully celebrate upon it's completion.

This will be one heck of a way to begin May 2014!

 How will YOU begin this month? (...Perhaps donating to a wonderful cause (please)???)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Strength of a Forever Healing Broken Heart

A few weeks ago,  I had a kind of ephiphony. For the first time that I can remember, I appreciated my heart for more than just the love that it houses. I saw it for it's potential to break, to rebuild and it's forever endurance and hope.  My heart, like yours, has suffered break, it has healed, filled with more love and broken all over again only to become stronger.

Our hearts become powerful through a culmination of life experiences; whether through failed relationships, loss of loved ones, loss of a job or a house, afflictions with eating disorders or other addictions....the resultant "heart breaks" that occurs are seeds of potential that are planted within us.

I truly believe our heart has a far greater capacity than for love alone. And it's far bigger than the fist-sized, 4 chambered organ that is nestled behind our ribs....

My past affliction with bulimia, although tragic in some ways, has made me into the woman I am today and it made my beating heart more supple and expansive. So, as I turn another year older, I will not regret the experiences that brought me to this point, and I am looking forward to those which I face in the future that will make me even stronger.

 Please help me honor the upside of our individual heartbreaks and battles, in all their various forms,  by donating to a wonderful cause. Donate Here!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

HEARTSEASE

It's been two years since I moved to Denver. I cannot believe how time has just zipped by. I suppose most of us feel like life passes us by quickly, and often too quickly. Until just recently I used to mourn the loss of time. I think that most of my sorrow stems from the fact that I "wasted" a lot of time while consumed by things that, at the end of the day, and with a lot of hindsight, didn't deserve my frontal lobe obsession. But I suppose that's part of what wisdom is: knowing what is worth our precious thoughts.

I think back on my time in Colorado thus far and am happy to report a lot of personal growth. This month I will celebrate my 37th birthday and am finally at a point in my life where I feel like my mind is clear.

Lucid.  Oh, what a wonderful state of mind.

That is not to say that I have all the answers or do not experience moments of anxiety. It's that I still feel at peace despite moments of chaos, uncertainty and unknowns.  I still wonder what direction my life will take next but I'm more excited than anything.

When I was about 5 yrs old, my mom asked, "Emi, what are you scared of?". Without hesitation, I said, "Nothing. What is there to be scared of?".

Oh boy.

Throughout the next 30 years of my life I found out all about fear and how often I allowed it be my path of least resistance. Instead of facing my fears and growing from them, I allowed them to consume me and prohibit me from achieving my potential. Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do one thing every day that scares you." I believe this is important BUT facing our fears must be done with intention, so that they can work to our advantage.  Fear itself is resistance, facing your fear and overcoming it is freedom.  

Something has changed inside of me recently and its allowed me to finally experience a level of comfort in my own skin that I have never had before.  Once I allowed myself to open the doors to all the possibilities that surrounded me; including doing things that scared me... I have begun to find my own true bliss. Finding your bliss

2014 feels like its going to be a grand year.

Life is what you make it right? So, tell me how your 2014 will be equally as grand. If you allow for it, great things might just happen.

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It's April! In Denver that means the wildest and most unpredictable weather patterns. (It was a glorious April 1st. Today it's snowing!) It is a great month to give to a fantastic cause so please donate! Click the donate button to the right or the link below

Link to MentorCONNECT paypal donation page

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Power of Together

This blog, which is a journey to my ironman is not meant for me to merely tell you about my (boring? not-so-boring?) daily habits, rhythms, training, racing, thoughts, hopes and dreams.....it's really about me trying to bring my friends, family and strangers together to help support a cause that is very dear to me. MentorCONNECT

Until recently, as in the last few years, I did not share the intimate stories of my eating disorder past with anyone. It wasn't until I finally acknowledged the power of sharing my story; of asking for help; of offering my help; of being ok with having the support of a community of people who have experienced similar struggles, that I realized how empowering it was not to be alone in my struggle. I had to finally be willing to give up trying to recover and to "figure it out" by myself.... because the truth is, it wasn't working.

If you've read my previous posts, you might have come across the one on Joseph Campbell's "The Hero's Journey".  (If you haven't read this post, please do so now. Here's the link The Hero's Journey) I like to think of my past struggle with bulimia as one of my most important heroic journeys of self-discovery.  Even though it pains me to think of this past, I know it was important for me to become the woman I am today.

In The Hero's Journey, the last phase of the journey is a "Return" phase. To return is to share your story with others. This blog is a manifestation of my "Return" from my dark journey through a past in which bulimia haunted my daily rhythms'.  For you to understand my journey doesn't mean you too  had to battle with an eating disorder. But rather, that you, like us all, have struggled, in any capacity.

Struggle, after all, is part of the human experience. But what we do with the struggle we face is more indicative of the strength of our character than anything else. What I learned from my journey, and what I continually learn day in and day out, is that reaching out to others helps us overcome our own struggles with more ease.

So, in the writings of this blog, I want share my ironman story, but, more importantly, I want to share my story of recovery and hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PUSHING THE LIMITS

\mathrm{VO_2\; max} = Q \times\ (\mathrm{C_aO_2} - \mathrm{C_vO_2})

Above is the Fick Equation for maximal aerobic capacity, or VO2 max.

If you've ever had a max test performed you surely remember "the suffering".  VO2 max is reached when one's oxygen consumption remains the same despite an increase in workload. That's the point of maximal exertion....and it HURTS!! The test is usually performed on a treadmill. The exercise intensity progressively increases while a machine measures the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of one's inhaled and exhaled breaths.

While I didn't have another V02 max test done "per say" on Thursday, I certainly feel like I reached my V02 max. My "maximal exertion" was reached while performing my second fitness test of the year. In particular, while I was doing the 1/2 mile treadmill sprint test.

I posted my previous fitness test results but I will post them again for reference.

My first fitness test was performed on January 22nd and these were my tests/results and the order they were performed:

1. 1/2 mile treadmill sprint:3:03
2. Sit-ups in 60 sec: 56
3. Max Push-ups without breaking rhythm: 30
4. 209lb leg press max without breaking rhythm: 41
5. Pull ups from dead hang: 2
6. Plank max time: 2:09

Since the first test, I have been working hard to build up my strength. Lifting 3 times a week, eating loads of protein and pushing myself out of my comfort zone in many ways.

This past Thursday was judgment day.  I had goals coming into the test which was mainly to top all my previous results.  And I did... except for one: push-ups.

1. 1/2 mile treadmill sprint: 2:45
2. Sit-ups in 60 sec: 60
3. Max Push-ups without breaking: 30
4. 209lb leg press max without breaking: 50
5. Pull ups from dead hang: 4
6. Plank max time: 2:31

In hindsight, I pushed WAY TOO HARD on the treadmill sprint which taxed my body for the rest of the testing. I really just wanted to break 3:00 but I ran hard enough to break 2:46. I remember sprinting at 11 mph for the last 1/8 mile saying out loud to my trainer, "I don't know about this", then in another breath asking him to dial up the mph even more. The distance seemed to turn over in a ridiculously slow fashion. (Why does time seem to slow down during moments of suffering but goes by in an instant in times of joy?) 

I am most proud of my treadmill exertion and pull-ups. I am most dissatisfied with my push-ups and plank. Ironically, I had put the most time and effort into practicing push-ups and plank over the past 6 weeks, yet those seemed to be my "weakest" elements of the fitness test. It just goes to show that preparation for one type of event/movement/sport can actually make you stronger at another.

When I was nearing the end of my half mile sprint I hit my maximum aerobic effort and even tapped into some anaerobic suffering. I cannot remember the last time I hit such a limit. My lungs were literally burning and my body was teetering on failure. It took me days to recover from that one test but in 2:45 seconds it gave me insight into what my limits are the thrill of pushing past them.

Today I'm stronger than I was yesterday, and tomorrow I hope to be stronger than I am today. And, by this I mean in life, not just fitness testing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a term coined by the famous mythologist and philosopher Joseph Campbell. I just watched a film about this called "Finding Joe" and thought it was absolutely fascinating so I wanted to share it with you. I will do my best to explain what it is and how it can be applicable to all of our lives.

The Hero's Journey is a circular algorithm, a metaphor really, for life. I think of it as Joseph Campbell's version of the circle of life.   It's core or center point for rotation is living a life in which we follow our bliss.

In the Hero's Journey there are 3 phases: Separation, Initiation and Return. Because it is a circular algorithm, when you have reached your first return you go back to a point of separation. And the cycle starts again.

In the Separation phase there is a call to adventure. The phone literally rings, we hear it and eventually, if we don't ignore it (and you know when you've ignored this call), we answer it.  Once we are open to the idea of separating (i.e. when we get the courage to answer the phone), we then begin the initiation phase. Essentially we are catapulted into the next version of ourselves.

In the Initiation phase we become part of new adventures in which we face our fears head on; we are tested, moved to a crisis point, struggle with internal conflicts and then, at some point, we come out on the other side. Some equate the Initiation phase to entering a dark forest of our deepest fears.  After facing trials and tribulations, turmoil and strife we, eventually, come out into the light in which we have conquered our fears. This is the point at which we can and will "return".

Somewhere between the initiation and return phases there is a death of part of our old self. We shed our old skin because its no longer of use to us. With our transformation comes a new meaningful life at which point we enter the Return phase where we return to tell our stories to others. We have thus completed the hero's journey.

In order to go through our hero's journey we need to be willing to accept the challenge, endure the pain of discovery and be willing to shed our old skin. Campbell says that when you are willing to delve into this journey, "doors will appear for you where doors will not appear for others". Each of us has a unique adventure to face, a unique fear to conquer so that we can all return to tell our story to others.

Campbell believed that each of us is born with a seed of potential that wants to be actualized.  Unfortunately, we live in a society that puts us under a hypnosis so that we forget that "life is the fruit of (y)our own doing". Instead, we become conditioned to listen to what society tells us we should and shouldn't do. This prevents us from discovering our true selves and, instead, most people end up on the treadmill of life and never get to the point of actualization.

The story of myth allows us to go beyond what we thought was possible; to explore and unearth our potential as it was when we were born, before society covered it with layers of false reality and false expectation. 

What I learned from Joseph Campbell is that the mythical life is part of each one of us. The challenge we face is the unearthing of our potential. We need to transcend most of what society has told us we should and shouldn't do so that we can live our very own Hero's Journey of self discovery and therefore live the life we were intended to live .

We can only be the hero of our own life when we decide to stop being the victim of our own life. So I challenge you, today, to go find YOUR adventure (answer the phone!), face your fears, shed your skin, separate, initiate, come out stronger on the other side and most importantly return, so that you can tell your story. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

FRIENDSHIPS AND RECOVERY

This has been a great week for connecting with old and new friends.

Yesterday, in a span of 12 hours, I connected with some of my all time favorite "old" friends.  I spoke to my college bestie, Aniela, received an email from one of my boarding school besties, Kate, and had dinner with one of my current Denver besties, Travis.  During my morning run around Wash Park on a most glorious morning in the mile-high city, I breathed in the fresh air and thought, "sweet air"...then I laughed because I was reminded that this very expression is one my friend Vanessa always said when we were mountain biking out east. Hope you're getting some sweet air today Vanessa!

After my run I had the pleasure of meeting up for coffee with Ellen Hart, a world class athlete (former marathoner...as in Olympic trials marathoner, current top Ironman (Kona) Age Grouper,), a graduate of Harvard University and University of Colorado School of Law, a mother, a wife and an overall woman extraordinaire. Ellen also struggled with bulimia and became an advocate for eating disorder awareness and recovery. Her story prompted the creation of made for TV motion picture called Dying to Be Perfect in 1996.

Ellen is the type of woman who walks into a room and brings with her a rush of energy, good nature and poise. Ellen and I exchanged stories about recovery, training and life. Her recovery from bulimia, like others I know including myself,  came from her willingness to open up and to share her story.    
After meeting with Ellen, I was again reminded how important relationships are in recovery and in life. The former is actually the premise by which MentorCONNECT's founder, Shannon Cutts, created MentorCONNECT: a place where "relationships replace eating disorders".  This is why being a board member and ambassador for MentorCONNECT is so invaluable to me and to the thousands of others who have joined this online community.

In others we find strength...and recovery.

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From now until March 2, 2014 MentorCONNECT has joined forces with NEDA (National Eating Disorders Awareness) on a Virtual Walk to raise money, support and awareness for eating disorders. This is "virtual" walk done through social networking and your support is always appreciated. Please click the following link to learn more and donate. Virtual Walk

Monday, February 10, 2014

IT IS BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN NEVER LOVED AT ALL

Remember that movie with Hugh Grant called "About a Boy"? Remember how his life was divided into 30 minute blocks of time just to fill in the gaps? (if you have not seen this movie, please go get it now and watch it- priceless). Lately, it's become more apparent to me that much of my time and energy the past few years has been looking for ways to fill in my small gaps of time. Personally, I'd refer to them as voids. We all have them. Some call it "wander lust" some call it "soul searching". Right now, I call it frustration and exhaustion.

What fills your voids? What makes your life more complete with vs. without these elements?

One paramount part of who I am is my adoration for animals. Have you ever loved some one, some thing, some place, some idea....so much that it hurts? Well, that's how much I care for the well being of animals.

Over the years I have been a part of the passing of a lot of animals, my own included. I still reflect on certain days, certain years, certain moments...and can vividly remember the sobering thought of realizing that they will never return.  There is a big topic in the veterinary field called compassion fatigue ( Compassion Fatigue). The idea is that those who work closely with animals every day can become almost numb to the emotion of it all. This is most commonly seen in the decision to euthanize. I think the idea is valid, but not for me.

The past two weeks have been harder for me than usual. Ah, lets call a spade a spade...the past 4 weeks have been hard for me...and there are a variety of important reasons why this is the case, only one  of which I will delve into tonight.

The past two weeks have come with the passing of two very special animals in my life and others. They were not my own but what they exemplified as loyal creatures and love givers, made me feel like, at any time, any place, any where, any how, they would have embraced me. Given me a lick or a tail wag or a nudge. Just because it was me. Isn't that what true love is?

Last week my good friend Bailey Stevens died at home. Bailey was a handsome yellow lab who was  a trouper through and through. He never missed a beat of a tail wag or a treat and endured many trials and tribulations over his long life. Most recently (last year), I removed his spleen which had a 5 lb. tumor on it. It was on the brink of rupturing when I gently exteriorized it from his abdomen (I'll never forget that).  The tumor was benign (a very rare occurrence for tumors of the spleen) and even though he was 10 yrs. old at the time of surgery, he recovered like a champ. I remember the day after surgery, he looked at me as if saying "hey doc, where's my breakfast and why is there this giant lamp shade around my neck??". He spent the next year romping around with his little sister Denale and they were such fun when it came to seeing them for appointments. My last kiss from Bailey was in late December 2013, at a wellness check-up where he seemed to be doing great.

On Wednesday morning I got a message from the office manager saying Bailey died over night. After talking to his dad, I believe Bailey suffered GDV (gastric dilation volvulus), meaning his stomach bloated then twisted on itself (did you ever see the movie or read the book "Marley and Me?" Same disease Marley died from).  Sounds like Bailey had, as usual, a grand evening meal then played with his sister for awhile before he started going down hill. He began vomiting foam and was restless. Mr. Steven's said he was upstairs, downstairs, outside, on the couch, on the floor...but couldn't get comfortable and he continued to non-productively heave.  In the course about 8 hours he eventually went to find himself a place outside to rest. It was there where Mrs. Stevens sat with him until he passed. Today Mr. Stevens told me that when Bailey died, he cried not just for Bailey but for all of his dogs that had passed (this man does not cry easily and I don't believe he had yet outwardly mourned the loss of his other previous dogs until now). Bailey spent his whole life giving love and getting love in return. He conquered injury, illness and a major surgery. But, in the end, what he faced was too great for sweet Bailey. I will miss you my friend. So much.

Today was another particularly trying day. Coming off a week of a sore throat which then turned into congestion and then a fever over the weekend, I had just about enough energy to get to work for half the day. I felt a great need to be at work for a few reasons including, calling owners back regarding blood work I ran on Saturday and, more importantly, to see a another sweet lab named Buddy Bailey.

Buddy had been diagnosed with cancer last month. He had multiple nodules in his spleen and liver and it was really just a matter of time until the cancer  took over his body. He was a big, handsome black lab with a lustrous coat. He was full of energy and a zest for life.

I spoke to his mother on Saturday afternoon who said that Buddy refused food for the first time since his diagnosis. She elected to watch him closely the rest of the weekend and come in for an appointment today. Well, Buddy's energy continued to decline as did his appetite (although mom said he managed to have a yummy pot roast last night). On presentation today he was too weak to stand and he was pale. His abdomen looked distended and I believe one of those many masses might have been bleeding into his belly.

After I spoke to mom and dad and we all agreed it was time for Buddy to go, Heather, a wonderful vet tech, and I entered into our comfort room (a room that is down the hall from the waiting area and main exam rooms) to place an intravenous catheter. We place a catheter for every euthanasia. It gives us the security of being in the vein and, even if the animal moves, it will not affect our procedure. The final few moments of any animal's life is precious and we try to make it as smooth as possible.

Heather and I tried for nearly 45 minutes to feed a catheter into one of Buddy's fragile peripheral veins. The problem was he was so under perfused (low blood pressure) and hypovolemic (low blood volume) that every time we entered a vein it either collapsed or blew, meaning it became useless. Mom and dad sat at Buddy's front end the entire time Heather and I tried. They kept petting him and telling him what a good boy he was and every so often he would give them a tail wag just to say I love you too and its going to be ok. They were just as brave as Buddy.

I cannot remember the last time I had such a difficult time performing a euthanasia and I hope this never happens to anyone. Eventually, we had to use Buddy's jugular vein because that was the only vein that was prominent enough to feel, feed and inject. Buddy, until the very end, showed me what a patient, tough, enduring and loving dog he really was. I am so sorry for the delay today Buddy. Thank you for your patience and for showing us all what it means. We will all miss you sweet boy.

These are the nights I lay awake. These are the nights I cry and feel a deep sadness in my chest. I can only hope that Bailey and Buddy have met and are full of energy, spirit and, always, love. I also hope they have met the other dogs and horses that have passed through my life personally and to my relatives that have passed and all the loved ones in YOUR lives that have passed. I hope they are having fun and let's thank them all for reminding us how each day is a blessing.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

THE SUFFERING OF SICKNESS

I don't think anyone likes being sick. And, boy o' boy, I am no exception. I have a very low threshold for tolerance of feeling even just a bit under the weather. So the past week has been brutal for me. It started off with a sore throat on Tuesday and until yesterday I felt like I was swallowing shards of glass every time I swallowed.  As if that wasn't bad enough, around the same time I developed a lower urinary tract infection. So, basically, from my shoulders up and my waist down I felt like I was a voodoo doll being stabbed with pins. Thrilling! I began antibiotics to treat my UTI as I believed by upper respiratory infection was probably viral.

Yesterday afternoon I felt like I was making a bit of a turn around and made sure to get myself into bed by 6:30 pm so that I was feeling as good as I could for work today. Well, some time around 10 pm I woke up shivering and really congested. My temperature normally runs low and I have a history of feeling cold (worse before I was treated for hypothyroidism). But last night I was both shivering and febrile. My temperature was at 99.6 degrees F. My normal temperature runs low at 96.5-97 degrees F so, I was BURNING UP. I popped 600 mg of Ibuprofen, flushed my sinuses (hooray for the neti pot) and tucked myself deep under the covers trying desperately to warm up.

I woke up every hour on the hour after that and eventually decided there was no use in trying to sleep any more and I got up at 2 am. I thought it was a good opportunity to write about my misery (haha). And now, its 3 am and I'm sitting on my couch watching the women's skiathalon  (formally known as "the pursuit") live in Sochi....in a tank top and sweating (perhaps out of empathy for these women who have been pushing hard for 38+minutes) ...

Every time I get sick and the stubborn part of me wants to take over my mind, I am reminded of times like these where if had really given in, in the beginning, I might not be in such a rut. Then again, I may just be succumbing to a major viral infection and I was bound to get this sick. Chances are though that I didn't give in like I should have Tuesday and Wednesday.

In training, always listen to your body...not the sometimes corrupted and ridiculous mind of yours that tells you "don't miss a workout", "keep pushing, its not that bad" or "resting will put you behind".....because all of these negative thoughts are blasphemous. Rest. Rest. Rest. It is natures best remedy.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

SUPER BOWL INSPIRATIONS

Being in Denver during the conference playoffs and now as the Super Bowl kicks off, is quite a fun experience. The camaraderie of this amazing city is pretty special. "United in Orange" is the motto and I think I've seen more orange jerseys/shirts worn the past two weeks than I can ever remember. It reminds me in part of college athletics, especially the first year of my college volleyball season when we moved up the leaderboard ladder swiftly. The more we won, the closer we got to the conference championships. We were continually moving closer to being united as a team. The culmination of the pre-season, season and post-season efforts was invigorating and intoxicating. The same holds true for the Broncos and the Seahawks today as their seasons culminate on Super Bowl 48. The same will hold true for any athlete training for their biggest race or game of the season. For me, of course, this is Ironman Lake Placid.

I just completed my first month of base training. One more month and "phase 1" is complete. I gotta say, I have been working harder than I can remember ever working in the past, mainly on strength training. Strength sessions are occurring 3x per week and I spend 60-90 minutes during each session. And I'm pushing myself hard. Like "grunting" hard. One of my main goals is to become stronger so that I perform better. Also, adding muscle means I will be burning fuel faster and more efficiently and thus maybe becoming leaner. And, yes, I want to drop my body fat percentage down to fighting weight. Who doesn't?

Go BRONCOS! As for everyone else, keep fighting your fight and digging deep to get yourself to the kick-off of your dream game/race.

During what I imagine will be some funny commercial breaks, time-outs or the half time show during today's game, please take a moment to click on the donate link. I have a big monetary goal and I would love to feel invigorated by your contribution. United in giving.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

BASELINES

Coming off a moderate volume of workouts last weekend I happily took Monday "OFF" from working out (as per my workout schedule, Mondays are my dedicated day off). Tuesday came too quickly and I was back to the grind. I managed a 60 minute spin on the trainer before work then squeezed in a 40 minute easy run along Cherry Creek trail after work. Wednesday, I slept in (well, as late as this girl sleeps in...usually 7:30 am is as late as I go). After a morning full of coffee infusions and getting lots of odds an ends done around the house, I jumped into the pool for a very kick-focused and tough 60 minute swim.

I was running late and had about 90 minutes to 'recover" from the swim before my training session. This was a complimentary training session with Pat Conrad, a personal trainer I met through my dear friend, fellow athlete extraordinaire and ambassador for Ragnar, Aniela Swider.  A few weeks back I had "crashed" one of their one-on-one sessions and so today I had expected the same type of workout: a 60 minute non-stop circuit/core/plyometric boot camp.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

As it turned out I was meeting him for a baseline fitness test. If you've never done one of these I guess I would describe it as a series of varying exercises which are time/speed/repetition focused and where the inevitable outcome is an insane amount of lactic acid build-up.  The goal is to set a baseline of fitness to build off of so that when the fitness test is repeated, usually months later, you have improved on many if not all levels.

My baseline fitness was preceded by body fat testing (with calipers), measurements of the circumference of my thighs, calves, arms, waist and hips. There was, of course, a place on the information sheet for my body weight (as well as my neck circumference :-)).  I swiftly declined weighing myself as it was, is and will always be an unnecessary evil for me (see my previous post: Saying goodbye to the scales).  The numbers generated from my measurements are, for now, just numbers in my head. Yes, I would like to see how they change/improve, but I will not focus on them.

Then the work started.

1/2 mile sprint on the treadmill  - as fast as my legs would take me (and, yes, when I was pushing 11.5 mph I had visions of myself falling smack dab onto my face). Since I had never done something like this and, by nature, I am a "conservationist", I started off too slow to hit a sub-3 minute time, but damn near close.  Next time I will start fast and finish faster, no problem.

Sit-ups for 60 seconds- as many as possible using proper form: elbows to knees on the up and shoulder blades making contact with the floor on the down. Pat of course was standing on my feet FLASH BACK presidential physical fitness test!!).  In my head I wanted to get to 60 but I hit a wall at 50 and managed to squeeze out, in a most painfully slow way, 6 more, for a grand total of 56.

Push-ups. Full, not modified, push-ups with good form; as many as possible without breaking rhythm (i.e. if I paused, slowed down or sped up....game over). I squeezed out 30.

Plank: Holding a proper position for as long as I could until failure. 2 min 09 seconds. (ps: my body started shaking after 30 seconds)

Pull-ups: From a hanging, dead weight position, wide-grip. To be honest, I wasn't even sure I could do 1. I managed 2.

Leg press: 209 lb. Max out without breaking rhythm or form. 41 reps completed.

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Re-testing was originally scheduled for for May 1st but my coach (Coach Jen) encouraged me to try again March 1st. Below are my goals or May 1st but I'm looking to see if I can hit them all sooner. To be continued! 

1/2 mile: 2 min 50 sec
Sit-ups: 62
Push-ups: 40
Plank: 2 min 20 sec
Pull-ups: 5
Leg press: 45

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This week I was reminded what a great motivator baselines are. When you take time to establish a base-line (or it catches you by surprise like mine did on Wednesday), whether its for work, fitness or any aspect of your life, you have foundation for improvement.  And, maybe, with hard work, you will end up doing things you never thought you were capable of. 

Please don't forget to make a small contribution to my cause. I know the race is months away but every day leading up to it counts and your donation, however big or small, will benefit many people.


Friday, January 17, 2014

GET ME OFF THIS HAMSTER WHEEL

Negative thoughts. 

Instinctively, we try to push them away, ignore them or replace them with what we think are more "peaceful", "happy" and "kind" thoughts.

MY negative thoughts have a tendency to hang around in my brain- the frontal lobe to be exact. I obsess with these thoughts (think hamster wheel) and it has proven to be exceptionally detrimental at times. Some, maybe 25%, of my mindful obsessive thoughts have become fuel for my academic, musical and athletic career (good things).... but most of these thoughts create(d) a chaotic and unpleasant environment in my mind.  In school, I was never satisfied with an A-. 25% isn't even a D, its a clear F. And, as its turns out, me, nor anyone else, should be OK with that grade.

Wednesday night I was able to listen to a Teleconference offered by MentorCONNECT featuring a wonderful member of our MentorCONNECT community, Shannon Doyle. In this hour long teleconference Shannon said a number of poignant things but one thing really stuck. She made a clear differentiation between negative thoughts vs. negative actions. She said that negative thoughts do not have to create negative actions.  This concept probably seems pretty obvious to you but, for me, in that one instance, it seemed profound- it gave me clarity, pause and might have helped me to "re-set" a little.  Teleconference Link

So this is what I think. Maybe we should stop focusing on or, in my case, obsessing over, the negative thoughts. Maybe we should simply acknowledge them, accept them on some level and then let them go. Our mindful energy should instead be spent on not allowing (refusing!) negative thoughts to manifest into negative actions. The truth, the very important and hopeful truth is that one does NOT have to precede the other.

Remember, thoughts are just words in our head. They are not law. They do not control us. Negative thoughts will come and go but they certainly do not implicate negative actions...that is....as long as we don't let them. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

AWAY WITH THE SCALE(S)

January 3rd marked a pretty momentous day for me. I threw away my body weight scales. I had not one...not two...but THREE scales in my house and, to be honest, they were dragging me down. Literally.

I have been meaning to get rid of my scales for years really. I spent a LOT of time on them and unfortunately my weight on any given day dictated much more than it should have. The scale had a hold of me like nothing I have ever known....it was consuming, suffocating and detrimental to my overall health.  The irony of it all was that I didn't want to let it go. I suppose it was a crutch for me, in a way. Only, when the weight wasn't what I wanted, the crutch became more of a weapon than a support mechanism. I cannot tell you how many times I was emotionally beaten by that scale.

So, this year started with a very bold and hopefully momentous act of "letting go". Maybe some of you can relate to the inappropriate grip the scale or anything else for that matter can have on you. I guess what I encourage any of you to do is to recognize the demon(s) that lurk in your mind and then make a conscious decision to NOT let them rule you any more. 

The truth is, the scale can only give a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That's it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, possibility, strength, character or love. And it was time for me to let it go. What can you let go of today, this day, in this new year??

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I would love your feedback on this post! It's very important/poignant to me. Thank you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

INSPIRATIONAL GYM RAT

I was just starting my run on the treadmill yesterday when the hum of a loud and rather annoying voice overshadowed my iTunes playlist. I turned my head abruptly over my right shoulder and saw a woman on a treadmill behind me yapping loudly to another woman standing next to her. This loud bantering carried on for the next 40 minutes as she conversed with just about everyone who walked by her. Now, this woman was definitely fit and what some might deem a "gym rat". She wore black 3/4 leggings and a matching sports bra which showcased her lean body; a body that was highlighted in tattoos over the insides of her arms and down along either side of her torso (we are in Colorado after all).

So, needless-to-say, I had a very difficult time focusing on my own workout. I found myself instead thinking of ways I could approach her and tell her to quiet down...or to complain to gym management that I was a victim of noise pollution. I kept telling myself that that this attitude was NOT the way to begin the New Year and it took every ounce of self control to let it go.

Ironically, today, when I went to the gym to lift after work, guess who I found myself working out next to?  Yes, you guessed it. This time we both happened to be in the fitness studio doing our own separate workouts. I groaned under my breath as I started to jump rope. She, of course, took it upon herself to hook her music up to the studio stereo. I groaned again. But then something happened. I heard a song on her playlist that I had never heard before (and, yes, our friend was singing without abandon to it) and realized it was a really, really cool and inspiring song. Something inside of me changed and I began to find rhythm in my routine. In the corner of my eye I could see her busting out some amazing plyometrics and working really hard (can you say grunt?!). I found it to be totally inspiring!

About 15 minutes later she walked in front of me to put her mat away and said "sorry, excuse me" and that's when I new I had turned a corner in my approach to her. I said "No problem. You know, I wish your music could play every time I worked out in here". She laughed and said "thanks" and for the remainder of our time spent working out "together" she sang out loud and shared infrequent insights about her playlist with me. 

Who would have thought someone whose neck I wanted to wring less than 24 hours earlier could end up helping me push myself harder? All I have to say is, thanks gym girl. I'm sure you will annoy me in the future but I will look past your loud cackle and high-pitched screams for now and use your energy and groovy tunes to make me better.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

Happy 2014! Today marks the beginning of yet another adventure for me and I'm really excited to share it with you! 

On July 28, 2014 I will compete in Ironman Lake Placid held in beautiful Lake Placid, NY.

(An ironman, for those of you who do not know, is the quintessential triathlon competition. It is comprised of a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike and finished with a marathon (26.2 miles of running). And, yes, these events are done on the same day, in succession and mandatorily under 17 hours.)

Between now and then I will be blogging about my journey to the start line; the rigorous regimen of eating/sleeping/training....and repeat.  (I will also be juggling a full work schedule and some semblance (or not) of a social life).  During my blogging efforts, I hope to raise money for a very important organization to me called MentorCONNECT, a global eating disorders recovery and mentoring community. http://www.mentorconnect-ed.org/

In 2011 I published daily accounts of my journey across America on two wheels (http://transamerica-slipstream.blogspot.com/) and realized that blogging was a phenomenal way to share my experiences with my friends, family and even people I had never met. It also became a means by which I was inspired to push harder and dig deeper.

Please offer me and MentorCONNECT your support and I invite you with open arms to come along for what I imagine will be a most glorious ride to the start line of an amazing race.

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Today I completed my first day of training. The next 8 weeks are considered a "base/building phase" and, for me, a "reawakening phase". Today's workout was comprised of a 40 minute run and a 60 minute swim as per my friend and coach, Jennifer Gatz M.S, M.A.T Exercise Physiologist (http://jayasports.com/welcome/). I didn't think I would be ready to train again so soon - my last race of 2013 was a half ironman in Miami at the end of October- but, as it turns out, 8 weeks of training as I please (focusing more on lifting, less on cardio and less on overall intensity), with no particular training regimen, can rebuild and repair a worn out body and mind. Let the games begin!