Challenge Roth Race Report

That Time I Learned What I Already Know

Warning: Long post, but 140.6 miles is a long way to go. Thanks for taking the time to read.

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Plane Ride – Clair and Tracy

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.

The Swim

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SpeakUp Race Team Ladies – Practice Swim

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.

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Nerve-calming nutrition

I digress.

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 Bike

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.

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It wasn’t pretty but I got it done.

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.

The Run

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.

My Frenchman

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.

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Jean-Marie and me at the finish. Poor lighting. But it was perfect.

My Heroes

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.

My medal.

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.

 

Challenge Roth taught me what God’s been trying to show us all for all time.

We have Enough. We are Enough.

At 48, I believe.

Cheers.

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On to the next.

3 Reasons to Quit Something You Love

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Soon, I am going to quit teaching Yoga. Given the name if my blog, it may seem a bit insane and it does feel super weird.

After all, teaching Yoga:

  • Makes me happy.
  • Is legal.
  • A part of the very core of me.

Albert Einstein is much smarter than me and he said insanity is:

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

I  need change. As I stare at the exit sign of my 40’s I know there is so much to do – new paths to take and time won’t wait.

If you are like me and want to squeeze tons of life out of every single moment, go on travel adventures, make a difference every single day, you may need to free up some space in your mind and calendar for new gigs.  You cannot take on new endeavors make any more $$ and set your sails with the wind at your back if you are too busy moving food around your plate. Even if you love everything you do, too much is just that too-the-hell-much. Nothing changes and you end up insane.  I want to be insanely happy and the process isn’t for the faint of heart.

So I say good-bye for now to something I love (you should think about it too) Here’s why:

  1. To get better at it and to practice more. I rarely make time to practice yoga.  A good teacher has a consistent self practice. What I currently get is a few random poses around the house.

And the occasional Bikram Yoga treat.

2.  To focus on new challenges. A new relatively new triathlete, I am racing my first (2) Ironman distance races this year and Lord, the training is kicking my butt.

I want to be a student too. I am considering additional certifications in the yoga, health and wellness arena. Maybe I’ll just go away to college with him. No, please don’t go. 

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My first is leaving the nest and I am insane over it.

3. To give good attention to current endeavors that give back, can be financially rewarding (I have 2 more to send to college) and also bring me much joy.

They include:

Working with my sister at the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation and SpeakUp5k.

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Writing this blog and for this magazine.

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Grow my direct sales Rodan + Fields (premium skincare brand) business. I love working with wonderful talented people who are helping others love the skin they’re. This will end up being what supports my dream journey…

To living.

To really living.

Yoga Teaching, we’ll get back together when that thing called Time, says it’s okay.

For now it’s okay to say good-bye. I will always love you.

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Him too:

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Dang, it’s hard to say good-bye.

 

 

3 Shots of Tennessee Whiskey

I had every intention of practicing yoga on my recent trip to Nashville. I researched studios in a trendy ‘hood called the Gulch, a dynamic area of urban development and redevelopment located between Music Row and Downtown. The Gulch is an exciting combination of the old, the adapted, and the cutting edge. It pulsates with opportunities for the very best Nashville experience.  I almost went here.  Almost.

I was too busy having epiphanies and getting out of my comfort zone to bother.

They did not come as after-effects to shots of Tennessee Whiskey though I think one could argue that such a drink or song could cause hallelujah moments. Amen??

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Whiskey in Tennessee is like coffee  most places. Consumed with anticipation of its sweet and smooth effects.

I am not a whiskey drinker which I kept secret in its capital. I did, however, feel what I imagine to be similar ripple effects from shots of such. I felt more calm, more capable and happy with hope and anticipation for life’s next chapter(s) after shots of a different kind. All thrown back in Nashville, my  new favorite city (for now).

Shot #1

A conversation with her:

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There is nothing like a heart to heart conversation with an old friend to take the adhesive off a ‘stuck-feeling’ outlook. Thanks, Beth for a million years of friendship. I can see clearly now one should dream, prioritize, make a task list and act. Duh!! Thanks for not, saying ‘DUH’!!

Shot #2

I did my best to stick to my Ironman training plan by taking a ride on this:

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Twice. For a total of 2.75 hours, 2 of which were in HR zone 4 and sometimes 5. The endorphins and sense of accomplishment is a hangover I welcome.

Shot #3

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I did not have Justin Timberlake or Chris Stapleton (at least in the carnal sense) as they belted out the sweetness of strawberry wine. I did however spend the evening in the Country Music Hall of Fame for a business dinner and private concert (300 people) by him:

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That’s Richie McDonald of Lonestar fame. Though they have many hits in their own right, I did not realize that he wrote Walking in Memphis, sung by Marc Cohn – which is one of my  all time favorite songs. My maiden name is Handy, no relation to WT. I do however have a prayer in Memphis Nashville.

Here are some some after-effects of my 3 shots:

I bought boots.

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I stayed out very, VERY late. (I did not drink Miller Lite – I am discerning.)

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I opened my mind. I closed out the weekend with a beer. (I don’t like beer.)

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That Fat Fire is for you, Beth. The actual epiphanies, that’s for a later post.

Cheers.

Do you practice yoga and train for long-ass races while on vacation?

 

4 Bits O’ Honey

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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.

  1. This note.IMG_1265

Here is its author, my first born who leaves for college the fall.

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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.

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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.

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4. A spontaneous wall-sit contest.

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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.

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Huge Bit O’ Honey.

 

5 Lessons From a Juice Cleanse

Recently some friends and I did a 3-day juice cleanse offered by the cool folks at Bikram Yoga Richmond where, besides offering mind-blowing, sweaty yoga, they sell amazing fresh made juices for post practice pick-up on a regular basis. From time to time they do a full-on cleansing program where the daily diet includes 3 juices, one shot of juiced ginger and one smoothie. All were fresh, marvelous, and packed with nutrition. Whereas I would totally do it again and look forward to it, here are some lessons from my first juice cleanse which  may make the next one even better. 

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  1. Hunger Games – If you are considering a juice cleanse, do it with friends – keep your phone nearby so you can text each other constantly. Let the quips fly.  It’s fun and funny to give your intestines a nice flush.

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On a cleanse, apparently hunger doesn’t build, it comes in waves. Have some good books on hand to occupy your mind when it does show up. I recommend each of these wholeheartedly.

2.  Beets still make me want to vomit – Each juice had a number of plants in them but there is one marquee item like carrot, spinach, or beets. All were to-die-for delicious unless you have an aversion to one of the main plants. When I was 19 I went on a 3-day diet that included a lot of beets. The evils of quick weight loss fads did not resonate with me back in college. I did lose 4 pounds in 3 days but mostly from having to plug my nose to swallow the beets. After a while, I gave up eating them altogether. That was back when a girl might take Dexatrim or a good diuretic to get rid of the beer bloat.  Ahhhh memories.

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3.  You don’t need as much food as you think. For some, hunger is associated with panic. Do your research ahead of time to keep your fear away. You can and will survive a juice cleanse and will likely feel better on the other side. There are many proponents of a limited calorie diet or occasional fasting program to encourage mental clarity, good digestion, and weight loss.  This study is convincing. I am thinking of making it part of my regular cycle of eating.

4.  There is a spiritual aspect to hunger. When a wave of hunger came I was forced to be in the moment, not react, have faith that the discomfort would pass and know that all is well. Deep breathing, reading and tea helps. Sounds a lot like yoga and mediation. If the practice was triggered by hunger, then hunger is good.

5.  Chewing is fun. I need to masticate everyday. Just a little. Raw almonds are perfect. Toss a few back and that impulse is satisfied.

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Afterwards I had more clarity, felt victorious and knew my pipes were clean and functioning well. And my 3-baby belly was flatter.

Can’t wait for the next cleanse. Cheers.

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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.

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Ponder this.

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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.

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This guy was smitten with the message.

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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.