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.
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.
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.
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.
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??
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).
A conversation with her:
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’!!
I did my best to stick to my Ironman training plan by taking a ride on this:
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.
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:
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.
I stayed out very, VERY late. (I did not drink Miller Lite – I am discerning.)
I opened my mind. I closed out the weekend with a beer. (I don’t like beer.)
That Fat Fire is for you, Beth. The actual epiphanies, that’s for a later post.
Do you practice yoga and train for long-ass races while on vacation?
This year my daughter turns 16. Her behavior is not always sweet (what teenager’s is??) but her heart and soul always is so. She is intense and beautiful and deeply feeling. A thinker. She is my teacher of patience and compassion.
She reminds me to always do and be better. Just when I think – I’ve got this parenting thing down with her she mixes things up. First blush, this frustrates me – Can we just have a smooth sail for a moment?
The wind and life always changes. Thank God. I love fresh air. Thank her.
According to numerology:
16 – is the number of perfect completeness.
In the Tarot, number 16 is the Tower card which symbolizes great changes, moving on to something or someplace completely new.
According to the Bible:
The number sixteen is symbolic of love and loving.
This duality of true love is represented by 8 + 8 = 16.
My girl will be 16 on March 16, 2016. Triple Whammy.
Currently she is training for her SECOND half marathon to honor her beloved cousinwho left us on her 14th birthday March 16, 2014. She was just 16.
On December 23 I drove 34 miles at 5:15am to swim 2,000 yards with my race team. On this day, Dave Murray – guitarist for Iron Maiden turned 59. I am not a fan of British heavy metal music but I am of events that inspire a good headline. This one is truth indeed.
Here they are:
My teammates extraordinaire (plus one not pictured, here) – the best of the best in heart, tenacity and inspired purpose. It’s never easy for me to get up in the 4’s as I call it… but getting to see my own personal Iron Maidens makes me smile each and every time no matter the ungodly hour.
And so it’s a year of such. Lucky me. Two long distance triathlons when I haven’t done even one.
2016, I have you by the fitness horns.
Led by a Coachand an angel, our team will blaze a trail 140.6 miles long and make a difference in the lives of those effected by depression and anxiety. We are finishing the work of a beautiful maiden whose iron will and determination to live her truth and help others remains tattooed on our purpose.
One of the jewels of our training can be a regular yogaand mindfulnesspractice. I eat this up as a yoga teacher and new triathlete would. I will be serving it by the bucket loads to my team mates. Mostly, I think they are up for it. Just maybe not in the 4’s.
Athletes, do you incorporate yoga in your training?
Yogi’s, do you also love a good swim, bike, or run?
Life is hard. Life is busy and if you are like me you have about 590 things going on in your mind at once. This trait makes Yoga my perfect mate and hardest endeavor which is probably why I love it so. Stillness is almost extinct in this day and age where multi-tasking is revered and doing more means we ARE MORE. And yet I am convinced that in stillness we finally truly begin to live. Savasana or Corpse PoseCAN BE the HARDEST YOGA POSE there is.
Doesn’t that look exhausting? I once had a panic attack during Savasana – never mind that the room was 107 degrees. There is so much vitality in ‘dead body’ pose, never mind the oxymoron. Indira Gandhi said:
And there you have it. In the frenzy of modern life, stillness is the key to vitality. In the repose of corpse pose we are vibrantly alive. BUT HOW THE HELL DO WE GET THERE?
How do we become still and focused?
1. Practice a crap load of yoga!
It is said that yoga is about peeling back the layers and finding the simple truth. Your authenticity. The place you are aligned and happy and not distracted and pulled in a thousand directions which is my usual state of mind. Anything other than the truth is a lie. So all the unrealistic expectations you have for yourself and the way-too-dense to-do list are lies. So get back to your truth and your mat and maybe Savasana won’t feel so flippin’ hard. It can be luscious. We can remember the peace of the stillness and bring it to the great activity that is the truth of our lives. Indira says it’s possible.
2. Clean up your diet!
Get rid of crap you don’t need.
Your body will like it.
Your digestive processes can operate with efficiency and precision.
It is proven that some foods help brain function.
In Carol Sorgen’s article: Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain. It is said that if we add these ‘superfoods’ to your daily diet, you will increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.
Nuts and Seeds
Dear God! I think I just died and went to good-food-choices heaven. I love all of these. If they can help me focus and live better. huge, huge SCORE!
They say eating a green pizza bigger than your head works too.
3. Find a ‘Focus Mantra’
This idea may sound a little vague and a lot woo-woo but hang with me. Focus, Dang it!
A mantra is: any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power. (Dictionary) My personal one for personal reasons is:
Fight. Finish. Faith.
Find something that grounds you. It can be as simple as one word like ‘believe’. It can be a little more lengthy like Indira’s quote above. (Don’t say I never gave you anything. You have your very own Focus Mantra now.)
4. De-clutter everything.
I am very very sentimental but I do not keep things I don’t need, love, or use. Just because Great Aunt Ethel (whom you never met and passed on in 1965) touched a soup ladle (and you don’t even like soup) doesn’t mean you have to keep said ladle. You are NOT are a sinner if you give it to Goodwill. Others I am very close to probably disagree.
And keep your living and workspace clear of crap you don’t need, love, or use. Clean lines and open spaces invite good thinking and calm minds. Not like this:
This is my current workspace. It is an example of what NOT to do. Because of a recent profound loss, I am giving my entire life a haircut. No more dead-ends that take up space and serve no purpose. This means my home, my calendar, my relationships, my to-do list and my commitments. Lean and open is the new approach to everything including my body and mindspace. Here we go!!!
5. Be still
To cultivate stillness and focus you have to practice. Do some of this:
That is all.
I am in this quest with you. I am still me. I am still certifiably an adult with ADD. I have:
100 areas of interest
755 goals for the year
And 1 life (as far as I know) with 24 hours in each of a finite number of days. This is not easy for me but anything worthwhile never is. There is magic and vitality in the stillness. I will focus on finding focus and perhaps Savasana won’t make me an actual corpse.
Do you have trouble focusing?
How to you right yourself in the waves of distraction?