76 Million Reasons Not To Die

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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.

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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

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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:

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19 months later, we  had her:

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Then we had her:

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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:

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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!

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Why You Should Always Take the Train

On Sunday, my husband and I took my oldest to college. It hit me like a freight train.

I knew it was coming but didn’t anticipate the impact.

Sure I:

  1. Deal with the ache of missing him daily around the house. (knew it)
  2. Wish I could have stayed longer when we dropped him off. (normal, kinda)
  3. Face the fact that much of my job with him is done. (endings, not doing well with this one)

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I like beginnings much better. Until I went to Germany with the SpeakUp Race Team, I had never been on a train. Because of the beer and comfy seats, I love this mode of travel.

Just yesterday I said good bye to Nick as he boarded the big yellow bus for the first time.

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What feels like 2 seconds later, I did this:

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Organized his dorm room and stood next to him for a big moment – The last hug before I was no longer his daily confidant, baseball sherpa, homework advisor, cook (sometimes) and nag (kinda, sometimes).

He is ready to fly and for that I couldn’t be more grateful for all his new beginnings. (And for the record, mine too)

He is prepared!

As we were loading the car I noticed one of his Thomas the Trains sitting in the box marked “desk”. I pointed it out to him as tears welled for a moment long gone:

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He said:

Mom, you gotta bring Thomas. It’s good luck.

His childhood brings him strength and hope and luck for the hard work of new beginnings. That’s just what I needed to let him go and grow.

And to begin again in a life of change and adventure. How blessed am I for the chance.

I am so lucky.

Has to be the train.

 

One Thing I Am Obsessed With and Why You Should Be Too

I have a bevy of beautiful girlfriends; smart, adventurous, fun, accomplished, driven queens of their kingdom who inspire me everyday. Of particular note, is my friend Jen who could and probably has been mistaken for Kelly Lynch or Michelle Pfieffer.

I was super excited when KellyMichelleJen came to a few of my yoga classes earlier this summer.

Jen gave me a book she thought I would enjoy, she was super-sized right.

Here’s the obsession

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I want to attain a level of fitness as I approach 50 that is currently stunted by the untrue mantra, ‘sucks getting old’.

No it doesn’t. It means you are here drawing new, never-been-done before inhales every single second. Makes me giddy to think of it and to read this book.

One excerpt:

Webb argues that exercise can improve our bodies at any age, hailing it as the most powerful tool we have to forestall aging and prevent and even treat just about every chronic disease that exists today. “If we had a drug that did what exercise did, it would be the biggest revolution ever and would be promoted all over the world. And all you have to do is go out for a run.”

I am staring at 50 with rose-colored glasses and this affirms my passion for exercise. I am not going down as age creeps up, unless it’s opposite day.

This book is filled to the brim with research-backed expert, nutritional advice and preaches from the Bible of Yoga and Cross Training – my own personal fitness scripture. Among other, I-love-you athletes and experts in their field, Webb went to see the world’s oldest yogi to glean sage advice for living with vitality to old age.

Tao Porchon-Lynch who turns 98 tomorrow.

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Happy 98th Birthday Tao! I love you.

Like the author:

I want to enter the second half of my life in the best shape of my life.

And I will get older, faster and stronger – a nice side bonus will be more energy, better quality, good moods, and a leaner frame. Good Lord, now I can’t wait to be fifty.

I bet this book is pretty good too:

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I  never said I wouldn’t have fun along the way. Margarita’s, anyone?? (only with fresh organic lime and Patron, please)

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How are YOU staring at the rest of your life?

Join me on my journey, please. Details to come.

 

3 Recovery Revelations

With Challenge Roth 140.6 in my rearview mirror, I want the euphoric after-feeling to last forever.   Alas, deadlines, family responsibilities and bills are taking up the vista on the view out the front.

But that’s may fault. It’s up to me to recall and imprint the lessons and successes and pure love of the day and to let the experience take root.

In the days following my return flight I did a 3-day juice cleanse, took 4 yoga classes in 5 days; 3 hot and 1 suspended, and found my way back to my strength trainer. I executed a days long festival; Jane-a-palooza, as a way to beg forgiveness for missing my daughter’s 13th birthday to chase my dream race Challenge Roth. I dug back in to personal and professional projects that I had placed on hold.

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Jane (left, orange) and Mom during day 1 of Jane-a-palooza – “Yoga on Ropes”

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have to climb up from a low so low during the run. Now the work begins to be the change that I felt after the race and to banish old beliefs about abilities, capabilities, and possibilities.  While I am still recovering and discovering a new path since July 17 a couple of big things became apparent.

Revelation #1 – I do not need drugs to sleep

Dealing with chronic insomnia since my early 20’s, I was taking melatonin every night to help me sleep. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I don’t know if my body was jolted into making its own because of the physical demands of the race or if I have had spontaneous healing – either way I have been sleeping drug-free since July 13. Feels good.

Revelation #2 – I still like to run.

4 miles hot and humid. A herd of dragonflies levitated and danced about with synchronicity at mile 2. They are never far away. This is my favorite one.

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Beauty on Beauty

Revelation #3 – Reconnecting is essential.

Training takes up so much time and energy, some areas of life don’t get the attention you want to give. Time with family and friends is sucked up in to bike wheels or pool lanes. Neglected people, projects, goals, and bucket lists items wait patiently for attention. I am here.

 

I am ready to love on you all.

And plan for the next big race.

 

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.