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:
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.
I began a new 8-week session teaching yoga to my beloved students from CarMax Headquarters. I see some new faces and my loyal’s. One loyal’s face looked new. She had fresh love all over it – I recalled that I hadn’t seen her in a session or two and she reminded me why. Her 2nd daughter arrived and her face was stamped in the glow of Mom-love. The kind that no matter the poop, the tantrums, the little no sleep, the sketchy decisions (theirs and yours), the hopes, the fails, the worries, the many nights waiting for teen drivers to get home and the unknowns – you would take that drug again and again for the high of their faces and oh, the places we all go. HAPPY Mother’s Day!
2. My fastest Fifty
Not a trick I turned but miles I laid yesterday during the Cap2Cap Half Century Bike Ride. I was hoping for under 3 hours and 2:59:10 it was! At almost 50 years of age and a slowing run pace (as if that’s possible) I was super stoked to turn my legs over like that. And it’s a good thing because Ironman Florida, here we come!
3. My opportunity
I get to work alongside my sister.
If you are interested in mindfulness, listen to this Facebook Live recording.
4. My Mom
I still am incredulous that my little soul landed in her almost 50 years ago. I have missed her every single day for over 21 years.
I have never been fast and I am okay with that. My best marathon time is 4:20.
In 2014 I added in swimming and biking and became an age-grouper triathlete with realistic expectations. I can hang on the slow side of the middle of the pack on a good day.
I do it for this:
And because she does:
And for her legacy:
I do this for fitness, to test myself, because I am fascinated by human endurance. Whatever the reason a person endeavors to travel 140.6 miles WITHOUT A MOTOR and IN ONE DAY, it’s a big F**king deal. I bet none of them expects to be last. DFL (dead f**king last)
I was. You can read about it here. The full truth. Full disclosure. 16:55:42. Barely BARELY Ironman cut off.
For the last 7 months (to the day TODAY!) I feel slight tug of embarrassment whenever anyone asks about my first full ironman distance tri.
I say things like:
‘It was something.’
‘I barely made it.’
I never say: ‘I was last.’ But I was. I came in just ahead of the sweeper who was tooling about on a basketed bike wearing a smile that seemed so out of reach for me.
But I found a smile:
I would come in last again for this. But I don’t want to. Not so much because I am embarrassed anymore but because I had to dig so deep for so many hours to make it.
I don’t want to have to go there for so long again.
So if you see me at Ironman Chattanooga in September, remind me I am one and done on being DFL.
2nd to DFL would be a PR.
I am working hard and plan to cut copious amounts of time from the race.
I will hug whomever is DFL. I know what it feels like.
Warning: Long post, but 140.6 miles is a long way to go. Thanks for taking the time to read.
A long time coming with purpose that cannot be over played, Challenge Roth 2016 in Germany was an epic adventure. My first full-distance triathlon, my first trip to Europe, my first time turning 48. My first days after crossing the finish line are fresh with hope and intention and inspiration. I have almighty God, a mighty fight by my niece, and the magic blessing of love from my family and friends, teammates and strangers to thank for this life I now have after the race. This is one of those defining events that marks life before July 17, 2016 and after. I hope this happy hangover never goes away.
After a severe OWPA (Open Water Panic Attack) during the practice swim, I was filled with dread the nasty monster would again take up head space during the actual swim 2 days away. Because our teammate who triples as a nationally known coach, race director and endurance sports entrepreneur, got back in the water to talk us back from the OWPA ledge I started to believe I could keep my head clear of the water demons. So I did what most might. I had a beer for lunch.
My mantra that was engine for the swim was: All Good. No Doubt. Go. Go. Go. Compliments of my sister, Mary-Suzanne. It was the exorcism to the OWPA monster who rattled my front door during the race but never got in. Because I have poor sighting skills am an over-achiever I swam 2.8 miles instead of the required 2.4. Oh well. I was still (super) happy with my time.
The course was magical – through towns so picturesque and quaint, God owes me nothing for the dreams of Europe He planted in my head when I was a little girl. I had technical issues (lost chain at the bottom of a major hill which I cranked up with no momentum from a previous downhill, mistakes with water bottles, cages that didn’t hold and general nutrition probs. I have A LOT to learn here) that stole time but not enough to keep me from the cut-off.
The legendary Solar berg hill is as astonishing as Roth veterans testify. They say the energy from the crowd pulls you up that hill in Froome and Frodo fashion. I say I knew my quads had a ton to do with it but the push from the crowd who loves their country and their race kept the legs churning.
After 112 miles, and more hours than I expected, I happily turned my bike over to the volunteer to start the final leg of the race of my life so far.
During a pre race pep talk, my dear friend Beth Risdon shared that the key is to learn to ride the wave of the day. Don’t get to comfortable in the highs and know the lows will pass. You need to stay mentally strong and believing that things won’t necessarily get worse when you are struggling.
Because of a nagging foot injury I had a run/walk race strategy from the start. I felt pretty good and settled in to that for the first 4/5 miles. Slowly but surely I began to break down. My painful foot and GI issues plagued my run. As I passed the half marathon mark I knew I wouldn’t get pulled from the course but I also knew unless I picked up speed I may not make the Roth-specific 15 hr time requirement. Ironman time limit is 17 hours.
The Darkness and The Light
While on the last out and back at about mile 17/18 the sun began to set. As I entered a stretch of trail I took the head lamp and started to mentally and spiritually break down. I knew all of my team mates were finished or almost and realized there were absolutely no other runners near me. It occurred to me that the ones behind me were pulled perhaps at the half way mark and I started to believe they were the lucky ones. (I am not minimizing the terrible feeling of being pulled off a course that has your heart and soul all over it but whereas I was well into the run… 18/19 miles at this moment I still had a shit-ton to go)
I was alone in a foreign country with a very painful foot and stomach issues. Course support was just about nil. No water. No food. No cell phone. No light. No one.
I exited the woods about mile 20 still very much alone.
Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward.
I reached a stretch of soft pavement by a lovely during-the-day canal and saw blessed volunteers breaking down what would be the last opportunity for water or calories. I desperately needed both and knew my body would gobble them up faster than the finish line loomed.
Don’t stay in the lows. Don’t stay in the lows.
Grace is worried about me. What if my legs buckle and I can’t move? There is no food. There are no people. I have no cell phone. I still have 4/5 miles left. I am alone in a foreign country. No light. No food. No people. Depleted…. almost.
I toyed with shame an embarrassment. No one wants to be the sweeper or the last teammate. With the SpeakUp Race Team, I am in company with Kona kings, Could-be-pro’s, and born-to-swim-bike-run athletes with heart, moxie and staying power who eat pain to help others. I may not have speed but I refuse to be the weak link. I did not want to be pitied. Pride poked through my madness but quickly left when I needed to stay in the moment to make it. Pride took up precious space in my constitution until it left with this prayer. (remember I am still very much in the race. At this point it’s my race I am going for Ironman time.)
God, I know I am in your Grace. But I am afraid. Help me.
Within moments a gentlemen came behind me and asked in broken English if he could Finish This with me.
God, really? That was fast.
In true Cameron Gallagher fashion, I said to him: “Let’s Finish This.”
Jean-Marie is from France, a 3-time Challenge Roth Finisher with a number of impressive races under his belt. I am in very, very good company in every way. We have each given over to mostly walking with a few stretches of jogging. It is mile 22.
Two strangers, one an angel to another. We knew we’d Finish This and likely in Ironman time. Along the way he learned about our amazing SpeakUp Race Team, our purpose and our maker. I learned his family has been dealing with mental illness for quite some time.
I have a spot in Paris for my family to visit and a free tour guide.
He taught me to be proud of myself. I taught him about the changing face of depression and mental illness drawn by Cameron. We held each other up – he more than I, I feel sure. But together, nonetheless, we fought the good fight. We finished the race. And with a little help from a friend, we kept the faith.
My team. My husband. My BFF in Boulder. My friends. My children. My siblings. My parents. My collective extended team family. My Coaches. My niece, my Cameron. All.
You are my all in all.
They don’t give out Ironman medals at Challenge Roth. Our Moose gave me his. Our Jeff gave me his commemorative finisher’s beer stein. This belongs to Us. All of Us.
Here’s his medal
Thank you, Moose
Challenge Roth taught me what God’s been trying to show us all for all time.
You matter. What you do makes a difference. Everything you think, every word you speak, every task you complete and those you don’t. Everything matters. It’s a gift to be alive even when it’s hard.
During a recent workout led by my Ironman, Businessman, Great Man brother-in-law, a pack of athlete ambassadors planked, lunged, bear-crawled, sprinted, stretched and fist pumped knowing the mantra is true. Give purpose to everything you do, it all matters.
Thanks, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winning Poet, Mary Oliver for the ask.
The journey. The destination. Make it all count.
Ponder away but don’t forget Socrates’ wisdom:
To do is to be.
This guy was smitten with the message.
I hope you are too.
Go. Do. Be.
Runners: It’s an honor lace up your shoes even more when it’s hot or cold or you hurt (but aren’t injured) or you don’t want to.
Yogi’s: That mat is your salvation, unfurl it, salute the sun even in the rain. Before you know it, you’ll be standing on your head resolving all your issues.
Tri-athletes: How awesome is it to move our body over crazy long miles in water, on a bike, on your legs? When it gets hard and you are suffering you thank God that you can. Your highs and your lows – all of it matters.
All people: It is not what you do when you chase your dreams but who you have become while you are in the process of achieving them.
February 16, 2015 brought snow, froze my pipes rendering me waterless with 3 children during a major Virginia snow. It also brought a new era to my 46 year old body. I am now a member of the tattoo club.
Meet the artist. The one-of-a-kind Leigh Odom.
A lady with “Baby Phat” embroidered on her silky gold vest took this pre-tatt pic. Thanks, Ms. Phat!
Here’s the geography of my future body art:
Straddling backwards a soft, high-backed leather chair of worn crackled red, I sat listening the musical cadence of Leigh’s voice as he told of his life’s work – a story that sounded like song. And sing it, he did. The machine purred. The lines got laid. It stung like a mother. One hour later I had a new shoulder.
Leigh has the soul of an artist. Skin is one of his many media. He is kind and gentle and talented with bright lights behind his eyes. Helps since he uses needles to draw.
We all have a story. I am wearing mine. Thanks, Leigh.