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.

 

 

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How basketball made me miss Jesus

Recently I was at a natural food store with three friends of the yogic sort, one of whom is an Episcopal priest. This mix has huge happy hour discourse potential. Alas it is a working lunch and therefore dry.  I found myself curious about the spiritual path of the priest in particular because without the collar I might have expected  layers of mala beads.

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I typically find others’ stories much more intriguing than my own so I was flummoxed when the question boomeranged. A seeker raised Catholic, I found myself saying I was a ‘non-practicing Catholic’.  Whaaaaat? The things I love: the incense, the ritual, the quiet reverence to the great mysteries. The structure. The guilt.  I was addicted to it all. And I had the best example possible in the most elegant and wise of practicing Catholics, my mother.  For all that has been revealed that is wrong with the Catholic Church, my mother was right.  Gone far too long and much too soon, my mother is my angel, my muse, my best friend, my example, the bar and arms I seek.

How could I have SAID that?

But it’s true.  I haven’t been to Mass much in the last many months.  This Ironman Texas (April 27) training and the sleeping habits  of my millennial children make me weary of Sunday morning church fights in my home.  Lame.

And then there’s Tony Bennett, head basketball Coach for the Virginia Cavaliers.  He is in Minneapolis in virgin (for him) Final Four territory and gives credit where credit is due. To his blessings, the many blessings in life, indeed to his Jesus.  He says is faith in Christ is the ‘greatest truth’ he knows.  And he’s the darling of basketball, especially this weekend. No dirty tricks, no questionable recruiting tactics, Clorox white, humble to the core and I want some of that pie. I used to visit that bakery regularly.

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Maybe, just maybe my Mass just looks a little different now.  It is on a bike for 80 or 100 miles with my favorite people racing for a cause I never wanted but couldn’t live without. Maybe my Jesus is in the quiet of my heart as I beg for sleep or in the search and  find for the will to take one more step toward that finish line or the lift of my arms as reach out to hug my sister. My Jesus is near. I just haven’t been to his house in a minute. He is in my house.  In the brick one and the visceral one. And I know I practice a lot.  Yoga and triathlon and love. I just miss Tony Bennett’s out loud Jesus. Maybe mine is just a little more quiet for now.

I won’t be quiet when Virginia takes on Auburn.  Jesus, take the ball!

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Messin’ with Texas

In August of 1993 I traveled to Irving, Texas to visit one of my college roommates – a darling of the rolling hills of Roanoke, Virginia hailing from Harrisonburg – home of my beloved JMU Dukes.  Roya took me to the Stockyards in Fort Worth, a Dallas Cowboys pre-season game in their (then) new stadium, introduced me to restaurants galore, and is responsible for my previously rejected now unbreakable addiction to guacamole.  We enjoyed cold beer (have you ever been to Texas in the summer – hot so hot) and while listening to great music we were mesmerized by this big, beautiful world into which we were catapulted just a few years before.

In 1990 we had matriculated from James Madison University completely wide-eyed and (a little) wild for life ahead.  My Roya and I spent many a early morning in our rambling off campus abode contemplating life over tea (me) and coffee (her).  The sounds of the Today Show with Katie Couric’s Virginia roots inspired conversation of the big lives we had before us. When Roya saw an opportunity to move west to Texas she said ‘yes’.  She currently is on a quest to keep inspiring ‘yes’ from our precious group of Dukes.  And it’s working.

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Roya, in the middle under the ‘armpit’ made us stop and pose for a selfie during a recent reunion trip to Florida.  We said yes.

Since her ‘Yes Quest’ some of us have (among other things): started or restarted a yoga practice, made plans to see the Gin Blossoms, enrolled in a Body Combat Sculpting Class, traveled to Whistler for skiing, continued to be badasses at work, and started the essential contemplation of ‘what’s next?’, and ‘what do you want and need to do?’, ‘how will you get there?’

I am currently training for Ironman Texas. A plan already in the works, there is a precious spot (for me) where (before the plane tickets are purchased) one can NOT say yes to Texas (or any Ironman) and enjoy some fitness for a bit because training has certainly kinda begun.  The tickets are bought and the proverbial hay is making its way to the barn.  I am messing with Texas where everything is bigger – like the life I have because I know and love my Texas Roya. She is adventurous, crazy/scary smart, gets up before the Longhorns and sees life as a gift to be lived.  Her heart is bigger than Texas and I am inspired by her to say Yes everywhere I can.  Thank you, my dude!

So on April 29 and beyond, when I am asked if I am glad I messed with (Ironman) Texas, what do you thing the answer will be?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

2018 is All Jacked Up – Already

I mean, CRAP! In like a lion, 2018.  Is it too early to ask for the lamb?

I am all jacked up for this year because it is the one wherein I turn fifty, (shhh!).  Saying ‘yes’ as much as I can is.  Pondering ‘how’ not ‘if’ cool things can be done.  Not just dreaming but developing action plans for doing Very. Big. Things.  In life, in work, in sport and adventure, at every intersection possible.  In my 49 years, I have loved each New Year for this fresh opportunity.

13 days in and 3 biggies already.

#1 – We lost him:

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My sweet-natured, loyal to the core, gentle-spirited uncle, godfather and friend. It was sudden to say the least. Fit and healthy in mind, body and soul, he died at the gym. His exit from here and entry to his heaven stunned  his large family and devoted friends. We love and miss you, Frank H. Nott. We are reeling from the loss of you. However, I am comforted to know your energy is commingled now with your sisters and brothers and parents who paved the way before you.  I am grateful to feel it is a little more okay to hit the highway to heaven – I just don’t want it t happen to me anytime soon. I got sh*t to do.

Lesson: Ya better get going, people – you never know when it is your time.  Repair what’s broken. Create your dreams. Dump love along the way.  Everywhere.

#2 -I did this:

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I had my 5th or 6th surgery to remove skin cancers from my face.  This is not really a biggie but starting off a year with surgery and scars is kinda a thing. I list it really for the irony.  The surgery was scheduled for Feb 6th. I got a call from my surgeon that she wanted to fit me in on 1/8 the same day and almost time that Frank left. As my face was getting fixed my aunt and cousins were falling apart. My face will heal fast. My prayers for my Aunt and cousins picked up pace and continue so. Drop one down (or up) for them if you are so inclined.  Thank you.

#3 – January happens.

Every year.

This month is full of significant milestones. Anniversaries of loss, births and memories of knuckle grinding, bootstrap pulling, breathing to survive.  We have been remembering for 21 Januaries now.  New sh*t in the pot of heart-searing memories re-etched year after year.  This is a pot I will gladly keep stirring – because it’s a poke at the bee’s nest of pure pure love.

And so themes for 2018 are:

Love.

Yes.

How.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

Watch Party

A fan of Ice Cube, Tiger Woods, the James Madison University Dukes, Running, Ironman and all things Yoga, it was a good day.

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Running

It wasn’t good just because I ran 7+ miles with my Iron-mommas and tri-babies plus one Navy Seal in the making. A display to admire, this guy upped his fitness game by strapping on a 20 pound vest and still schooled us all finishing the route with barely a pant or sweat bead forming.  I love him.

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Tiger

It wasn’t good because I was moved by Tiger Woods’ come-back-ability.  An athlete and person down, way way down, he impresses the best with a return performance that reminds me how brilliant the human body is.  Couple that body with indomitable spirit and it’s a let’s-see-where-this-takes-us show to behold. Like or hate the man, people like me who think the human body is brilliant and resilient see past the past and enjoy God’s grace in gracing us mortals with this exquisite structure to hold our soul.

 

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Tiger checks his shot at the Hero’s World  Challenge

I will just keep fighting.  It is what I have always done.  – Tiger Woods

I get what he did. Don’t worry I won’t suggest Lance Armstrong explore pharmacy as a comeback career.I have my limits.

 

James Madison University Dukes

Alum and football fan this is my true Good Day Maker. First, I had a virtual football Watch Party with them:

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JMU Alumni and Colorado Besties

Two thousand miles apart and with the brilliance of texting, we simultaneously cheered/sipped our Dukes to a quarterfinal victory.  Six days later, I witnessed our Dukes berth into the semi final game – IN PERSON.

With one second left, a field goal sealed our deal one step closer to Natty #2 (that’s coolspeak for National Championship) in Frisco, Texas.

One game to Friso – Frisco (can’t you hear Dr. Dre singing the riff in California, the iconic 2Pac Anthem?) I like Dre too.

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Fingers crossed. Looks like next week, there will be another virtual watch party.

Join me?

Oh, and yoga?  Every damn day.

Janeyoga