The Wisdom of Ironman Texas

A very bad haircut inspired the phrase business in the front, party in the back. It appropriately describes my Ironman Texas 2019 experience. Also true, miracles happen in the back.  The miracle of pulling off 140.6 miles by water, bike, and leg engines with just enough training and fitness to get it done.  Just enough.  Knowing her careful and methodical training plan was only kinda followed by her client, my coach’s coaching of me in the hours leading to the start gun were:

‘Your goal is to finish. Your race, your pace, on your terms.’

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Coach Coral (left) and her people

I seem to have a panache for late day Ironman finishes (3) where the cut-off watch-dogs play cat and mouse with my finish line.  Luckily I grabbed it before they did.

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I owe my Texas finish to my sister, my team, my husband, my children, my niece, my coach, my purpose and Eduardo.

Who’s Eduardo?

Between you, me and the fencepost, Eduardo is my angel who landed around mile 18 of the run and did not leave me until the finisher’s chute. He was part of a posse flanking his nephew who was just ahead of me.  This tight-knit family collectively longed to hear the six words:  “Eduardo’s nephew, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”  Eduardo’s nephew needed his tribe. And I needed one member. I didn’t even know it, yet.

A lot had happened before mile 18 of the run.

A 2.4 mile swim in a lake with moderate water quality and narrow canals. A 112-mile bike ride, 80 of which were on a closed expressway with a thigh pumping, breath stealing headwind for half of the 80 miles on hot, hot asphalt. And 18 miles of a 3 loop run course that was slowly sucking my soul.

And then my legs and my belief in my finish were restored when a nice man asked me if I was okay.  I said yes.  He said I looked like I could use a friend. Indeed.

I learned Eduardo was an ultra runner with an ultra heart. He had just completed a 50 mile trail run and before that a marathon with his beloved second wife.  He blessed me with his presence and words and stories and encouragement along the long, long way of an Ironman day. In his mid-fifties I asked Eduardo if he had children.  He giggled a ‘No’ with a twinkle in his eye and a confession that his most proud living came after age 40 and one wife.  I realized I had crossed paths with a human saint with a real life.  I kept encouraging Eduardo to go on with his family so he wouldn’t miss his nephew’s well deserved finish.  He told me he enjoyed our ‘run’ and liked helping me.  He said I inspired him.  WHAT??  He was impressed the duration and heart of my effort and I told him I was honored to be his mirror.  Indeed that was my reflection of Eduardo’s life story.  At least the bit I knew. Eduardo told me I was going to do this and I knew he was right.  At the beginning of the finisher’s chute, a smiling Eduardo told me to go get that medal.  I wish Ironman announcer, Mike Reilly could have started the long awaited phrase ‘Clair Norman, you are an Ironman’ with “Because of Eduardo…”

Indeed the miracle of human connection can always be found in the back.  Lots of other places too.

Like in the clink of a cold beer cheers on a Sunday morning  after living a life in a day.

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There are miracles everywhere.

 

 

Let the Adventures Begin

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My 2018 Gift of Gifts

In 2018 I turned 50.  I experienced loss and much love and made a solid commitment to say ‘yes’.  Now the charge is to follow through and become who I always have been and unapologetically do all the things to set the table for the grand feast which is: The Second Half, Part Deux, post intermission showing-stopping, color popping, hip-hopping ‘talk-to-me-baby’, don’t stopping moments rich with NOW. And guess who made me do it?

Not a prolific writer (and I love many).  Not an endurance athlete extraordinaire (I know many). Not a half-famous, passion-stirring goose-bump making guest on an addictive podcast about yoga, meditation, the resilience of the human spirit or the nectar of human story. (I have a constant diet of tons).

It was her:

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My youngest.  We share a birthday and dreams of travel.  She gave me the above journal along with a note I will cherish for all of my remaining days. In it she details her own desire to travel, adventure, be kind, compassionate and accepting WITH ME. I just love her heart.  It is relevant to note the journal is a re-gift (Jane does not have a job and therefore $ to purchase gifts).  She received it from her mother’s best friend a couple of years ago with a note encouraging her to travel and live life and…. and in a circle of trust and with great serendipity I am the receiver of that precious gift through my baby girl.

And may we all have such a gift.  Permission.  The gift of being okay right where we are so we can experience all that ‘is’.  Near and far.  For me it is through travel and writing and endurance sports and yoga and mediation and learning and spreading love and acceptance through my work.

Jane and I got an early start on finding honey close to home.  Not far in miles, but worlds away, we spent a night at a ski resort.  Together.  We visualized Virginia as Versailles.

 

We didn’t even ski.  But it was perfect.  Fresh air and fresh croissants with brie (the wine is mine) does the mind good in a moment of buttery surrender to Now.  We watched movies, had dinner with friends and bought handmade leather purses from a street artisan. Bliss.  And no $ on air fare. That is to come.  All in sweet time.

Welcome to now.  Welcome to 2019.

Thank you joy and sorrow.

Thank you Jane and Thank you Journal.

Guide me.  Heal me.

Take me away and drop me back right here, right Now.

Now, let’s have some fun!  Salut!

 

Always Go

You’ve done it too. When your alarm innocently does its job to nudge you up and into your life you at 4:45am (ungodly hour but you have goals and a body that needs to move) you immediately consider sleep over cycling (or yoga, or swimming, or running).

And therein lies the unfailingly present daily question: Go or No Go?

You think of the many reasons for no go. I NEVER sleep. I will get my workout in later today (yeah, right.) I have done really well this week. I just don’t want to today.

Just sit up. It is much easier to blink away the sleep from an upright position.

And therein lies the expression: Think straight.

Go.

Always, go.

No one ever regretted a work out. Ever.  Or an adventure or a challenge or an opportunity to live big. You have to Go to Go Big.

Here are 2 times people I know and admire who recently went Very Very Big.

Check out what my friend Rebecca said about her June 3 adventure at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…. Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. “ – Shel Silverstein
My goal for this race was to have fun. I didn’t break any records at Escape from Alcatraz but I surely did something that a year ago I didn’t think I could do. And I had an absolute ball doing it!! I made so many new friends from around the world in the process, including this girl who finished the swim with me. First race I’ve done where I talked to my fellow athletes all along the way.
If you think you can’t do something or are afraid to do something, but wish you could, that’s a sure sign you better just try.

You’ll never be sorry you did. Always GO.
#fightfinishfaith #speakupraceteam

I awaited every text, every post during that day and still feel spun up with gratitude that Rebecca chose Go.

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For my friend, Garland – I feel sure No Go is never an option. The Virginia native and former owner/director of Bikram Yoga Richmond is working hard to open her beautiful yoga studio, Kauai Hot Yoga  in Lihue, the commercial center of the island of Kauai where besides daily life-changing yoga with Garland and her team, you a can experience a variety of natural wonders like a 1,000 year old aquaculture reservoir and many tropical  treasures that make you wonder which side of heaven you reside.    A teacher, mentor and friend – Garland is a dreamer with work ethic and moxie to make it all happen.  I am so proud of her and when it comes to visiting her yoga studio, for me, it’s

A GO!

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Of her beautiful tree, Garland says: Be the tree! 🌳 Grounded in your roots, strong in your trunk, and flexible in your branches💚 #yoga #backbend #movebecauseyoucan

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One thing is for certain, I will be choosing ‘Go’ on November 3 when the horn blows to start swimming at Ironman Florida.

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I’d Always Go anywhere with them.

 

 

 

 

 

76 Million Reasons Not To Die

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At almost 80 years old, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is one of the wonders of the world, and one of the most photographed things on the planet.

By 2020 it will be impossible to die by jumping off of it. According to a Golden Gate District press release, a  stainless steel net, will be installed about 20 feet down from the main Bridge roadway, extending 20 feet out, with a slight raise on the outer edge will deter suicide attempts and catch those determined to try.

Beginning on the east side, the net will be installed along both sides of the Bridge, running 1.7 miles in each direction. It will be constructed to have minimal visual impact, with 90% transparency.

This super safety net costs $76 million dollars.

According to Kevin Hines, it is worth every penny. Kevin, like over 2000 others, tried to end his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

He, like 35 others, failed.

Thank God.

On Wednesday, thanks to the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation I got meet him and hear his story firsthand. Kevin is holding Cameron’s SpeakUp5k race shirt. (2014 edition). Cameron’s cousin, Kathleen (my daughter) is on his left.

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Kevin had a rough start. He was born to parents addicted to hard drugs. As a toddler, he was adopted by people he considers his parents and raised in a family with love but not without problems. His parents divorced, a beloved teacher committed suicide, and in his teens he succumbed  to bipolar disorder with paranoia and auditory and visual hallucinations. He was sick. He needed help. He felt he had no hope.

Sixteen years ago this Sunday, Kevin methodically and purposefully made his way to the bridge hoping for a sign not to jump. He didn’t get it. However, he says he experienced instantaneous regret the minute his hands hit the rail. But it was too late to pull is body weight back. It took 4 seconds to break the surface of the water at which time he broke several vertebrae. The bone fragments pierce many of his internal organs. He used  his arms to get to surface. It took much more than 4 seconds to break the surface of the water from the other direction. And he has severe asthma.

He now works as a mental-health advocate, traveling the world to share his story in the hopes of preventing suicide. His first book, Cracked, Not Broken, a memoir of his life before and after his suicide attempt, was released in 2013.

Kevin’s father, Patrick Hines now sits on the advisory board for The Bridge Rail Foundation, which works to stop suicides on the bridge. That group is largely responsible for advocating and raising the $76 million dollars for the life-saving net.

The first time Kevin spoke publicly about his life after the suicide attempt was to a group of 7th and 8th graders at his alma mater.

Bingo!! Schools!!!

This is the focus of programming like Minding Your Mind provided free of charge to area high schools by the CKG Foundation. These are school based workshops and presentations to give teens real tools and resources to help with anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues. And to end the stigma associated with these challenges.

Kevin is so stoked about the work of CKG, he had to pick up Cameron’s shirt.

He says he will come run the SpeakUp5k next year and you should too.

We welcome you with open arms, Kevin Hines.

 

 

19 Reasons to Drop the Mic

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Boom.

At 2:21pm tomorrow I will have been married 19 years. I never tire of a good race, birth, or relationship story and I do wholeheartedly believe every single one of us has one or a few. Here’s my story and why I simply must drop the mic.

I met my husband 20 years ago tomorrow at a party my cousin threw to mark her move to a new neighborhood that would soon become mine. She thought I may like her new neighbor but probably didn’t bank on having her cuz, bestie, partner-in-crime literally living a hundred yards from her kitchen table one year later.

Boom.

We met. We chatted. Three weeks later, he asked me out on a date. 9 weeks later my mother died suddenly.

Boom. Biggest ever.

Two weeks later at her gravesite he asked me to marry him. Seven months later, a year to the day we met, I said ‘I do’ forever. Six days later, I got pregnant.

Boom. Oops.

We had him:

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19 months later, we  had her:

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Then we had her:

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Boom. Boom. Boom.

16 months later, my first love – my Dad – died of a heart attack in his car.

Boom. Seismic.

A number of years passed. Big stuff. Little stuff. All kinds of stuff happened on this amazing journey we call life. Two and  half years ago, we were changed forever.

We lost her:

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My sixteen year old niece. Her story is here.

Boom. Broken.

From the beginning we have been going through big booms.

Meeting and marrying my husband is a case study in serendipity. When my mother died I had a brand new, called-when-he-said-he-would boyfriend who made me a laugh at the ready to help heal my broken heart. His million good qualities are only matched by my immense hope that he knows how well loved he is. By many – especially me.

He is tenacious, kind, loyal, compassionate, an amazing listener, an athlete extraordinaire, shy by nature, award-winning salesman who puts his family above himself with every breath he takes.

(That’s 15 booms mic drops if you are counting.)

He a wants only the best for me, supports my crazy, is a good cook, a gardener, with a sense of humor that still makes me belly laugh 19 years later.

One day I’ll get him to take my Yoga class

BOOM!

(The seven half marathons we’ve run together just isn’t enough).

We should all have a Mike  mic story like this.

Oh so very lucky, me!

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Why You Should Always Take the Train

On Sunday, my husband and I took my oldest to college. It hit me like a freight train.

I knew it was coming but didn’t anticipate the impact.

Sure I:

  1. Deal with the ache of missing him daily around the house. (knew it)
  2. Wish I could have stayed longer when we dropped him off. (normal, kinda)
  3. Face the fact that much of my job with him is done. (endings, not doing well with this one)

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I like beginnings much better. Until I went to Germany with the SpeakUp Race Team, I had never been on a train. Because of the beer and comfy seats, I love this mode of travel.

Just yesterday I said good bye to Nick as he boarded the big yellow bus for the first time.

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What feels like 2 seconds later, I did this:

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Organized his dorm room and stood next to him for a big moment – The last hug before I was no longer his daily confidant, baseball sherpa, homework advisor, cook (sometimes) and nag (kinda, sometimes).

He is ready to fly and for that I couldn’t be more grateful for all his new beginnings. (And for the record, mine too)

He is prepared!

As we were loading the car I noticed one of his Thomas the Trains sitting in the box marked “desk”. I pointed it out to him as tears welled for a moment long gone:

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He said:

Mom, you gotta bring Thomas. It’s good luck.

His childhood brings him strength and hope and luck for the hard work of new beginnings. That’s just what I needed to let him go and grow.

And to begin again in a life of change and adventure. How blessed am I for the chance.

I am so lucky.

Has to be the train.

 

One Thing I Am Obsessed With and Why You Should Be Too

I have a bevy of beautiful girlfriends; smart, adventurous, fun, accomplished, driven queens of their kingdom who inspire me everyday. Of particular note, is my friend Jen who could and probably has been mistaken for Kelly Lynch or Michelle Pfieffer.

I was super excited when KellyMichelleJen came to a few of my yoga classes earlier this summer.

Jen gave me a book she thought I would enjoy, she was super-sized right.

Here’s the obsession

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I want to attain a level of fitness as I approach 50 that is currently stunted by the untrue mantra, ‘sucks getting old’.

No it doesn’t. It means you are here drawing new, never-been-done before inhales every single second. Makes me giddy to think of it and to read this book.

One excerpt:

Webb argues that exercise can improve our bodies at any age, hailing it as the most powerful tool we have to forestall aging and prevent and even treat just about every chronic disease that exists today. “If we had a drug that did what exercise did, it would be the biggest revolution ever and would be promoted all over the world. And all you have to do is go out for a run.”

I am staring at 50 with rose-colored glasses and this affirms my passion for exercise. I am not going down as age creeps up, unless it’s opposite day.

This book is filled to the brim with research-backed expert, nutritional advice and preaches from the Bible of Yoga and Cross Training – my own personal fitness scripture. Among other, I-love-you athletes and experts in their field, Webb went to see the world’s oldest yogi to glean sage advice for living with vitality to old age.

Tao Porchon-Lynch who turns 98 tomorrow.

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Happy 98th Birthday Tao! I love you.

Like the author:

I want to enter the second half of my life in the best shape of my life.

And I will get older, faster and stronger – a nice side bonus will be more energy, better quality, good moods, and a leaner frame. Good Lord, now I can’t wait to be fifty.

I bet this book is pretty good too:

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I  never said I wouldn’t have fun along the way. Margarita’s, anyone?? (only with fresh organic lime and Patron, please)

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How are YOU staring at the rest of your life?

Join me on my journey, please. Details to come.