Quote of the day

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

Joseph Campbell

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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Please, if you can, donate today! Such an important cause!

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)???)