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:
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:
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.
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.
A fan of Ice Cube, Tiger Woods, the James Madison University Dukes, Running, Ironman and all things Yoga, it was a good day.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Fingers crossed. Looks like next week, there will be another virtual watch party.
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.
I don’t know if is this morning’s prana pumping party (aka kundalini yogaclass) hosted by the marvelous Holly Henty or that fact that I have just had the 3rd of 3 surgeries on my face to remove skin cancers but I feel better than I have in 3 weeks.
In less than 3 weeks I have:
Received 113 stitches in my face.
Taught a yoga class and given a talk looking like this (although a shower was involved):
Learned to drink water and wine like this:
Showed up at Thanksgiving looking like this:
I also got to experience this:
I was not and am not in a health crisis but the work was necessary if I want it to say so. I feel so refreshed, so free so grateful to have access to an amazing surgeon, health insurance, and the means to pay for the balance on this bad boy. (I estimate my out of pocket to be around $25 per stitch.) Merry Christmas to me, I suppose.
Besides the people, prana, and stitch-free state of affairs, I am stoked from a run-in with an angel this morning. As I was braiding my daughters hair I reflected that my mother (almost 20 years an angel) would have loved watching her daughter weave shapes into her granddaughter’s mane. I decided to ask if she was with us. I felt her presence but wanted a REAL SIGN. (hello, where’s the faith??) I asked her to show me by having my daughter say something in the next 10 seconds, could be anything.
10, 9, 8, (lord, please let it happen)
7, 6, 5 (I just know Jane will speak)
4, 3, 2, 1 (nothing. RATS)
All good though. I don’t like to be tested either.
About an hour later, as we began our yoga class, Holly reminded us that we are infinitely connected to our source of life. Before and after to umbilical cord is cut. The connection never dies. I connected it to my mother-yearning-moment of earlier and just KNOW I was meant to hear it.
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.
When my mindfulness skills are sharp I can find sweet things in the little things but at times that is a tall order.
When I was in my early 20’s I had high expectations about the grande adventures life had in store for me. Single and searching in the early 90’s, I wondered if I’d ever find a mate, have a cool job, or experience the titillating life I had conjured in my mind. My Mom would tell me to settle down, and suggest there is profound greatness in the present moment, in the real things right in front of me rather than the yearning for a life not yet lived. If I missed today’s sweet things, I would never appreciate tomorrow’s the view from the mountain top.
So today I present 4 bits of real honey that might make me notice the view of the valley if I let it.
Here is its author, my first born who leaves for college the fall.
2. A photo of my Mom and me in 1989 I found buried in a post on Facebook. She died in 1997 and I did not know this photo existed. I miss her every single day. I do not miss my hair in this picture.
3. Sportsmanship that makes me want to cry and super proud to be a product of Richmond, Virginia Catholic schools like Michael Gbinije. For the record, I am a huge UVA fan.
4. A spontaneous wall-sit contest.
When one is training for one’s first Ironman, one finds opportunity to work-out most anytime.
No one ever argued the sweet feeling of the finish line.