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.’

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 2.01.53 PM
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.

IMG_1683

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 5.10.21 PM

There are miracles everywhere.

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 6.43.24 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 7.08.40 PM

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!

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 7.24.47 PM

Let the Adventures Begin

IMG_0958
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:

IMG_0955

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!

 

4 Things I Love

  1.  Mommas Drunk With Love

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!

fullsizeoutput_3e7
My drugs angels

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!

IMG_1871
I don’t love the trainer, but it works!

3.  My opportunity

I get to work alongside my sister.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 8.39.01 AM
Love beyond words.  Purpose beyond measure.

If you are interested in mindfulness, listen to this Facebook Live recording.

4.  My Mom

mom
Seriously and unforgettably my very best gift.

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.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother Earth Counts!

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 8.46.30 AM

76 Million Reasons Not To Die

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-9-24-17-am

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.

img_3335

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

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-10-11-19-pm

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:

img_0277

19 months later, we  had her:

img_0287

Then we had her:

img_0534

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:

screen-shot-2015-11-12-at-12-35-46-pm

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!

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 8.15.01 AM.png

 

 

Everything Matters

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.59.17 AM

Ponder this.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.03.19 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.11.17 PM

This guy was smitten with the message.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.12.32 PM

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.

And never, ever give up.