Skaha Lake Ultra Swim 2022

2 + years of writers block feels a little like the start of a swim event.

You stand there on the shore, breath short, heart racing, wondering if you still remember how to “swim” while you wait for just the right moment to take the plunge and begin throwing one arm over the other. It’s hard to decide where to begin. Will your fingers still know what to do? Can you still type? But I suppose, just like swimming, if you love to write, sometimes you have to just start and let your soul open and reveal itself.

From where you are.

Even if the dishes aren’t done and the floors aren’t vacuumed and the laundry list of to-do’s is a mile long and largely unchecked.

Even if that last time you wrote was before everything in your world came undone.

I wanted to return to The Skaha Lake Ultra Swim long before the deep reasons I ultimately signed up came to life. The year I raced it in 2019 began with a traumatic event with our son, Conner. Several more life altering things followed throughout the year like a landslide. I thought I was handling it all pretty well but really I was just taking each trauma and putting them in a box to deal with later. I used my training to cope but in January of 2020, about 6 weeks after my shoulder repair, I suffered a significant mental health crisis. Without the ability to train which helped manage my mental health, all my stacked up boxes became too much for my psyche. For a long time I was unsure of how I would return to the me I was before it happened. I wasn’t really sure that I could. Even though I was surrounded by supportive friends and family, I felt more lost and alone than I’d ever felt in my entire life. Ultimately, my brain had betrayed me and learning to trust it again would prove to be my biggest endurance event ever. An ensuing pandemic certainly didn’t help but to be honest it was the least of my worries. At that point in time I didn’t know if I would be able to continue my job, or if I would ever drive a car again. Or take a bath alone. Or be able to remain living in the PNW because I now suddenly had an intense and irrational panic response to, of all things, rain. Collectively those two years were incredibly formative in my middle age life, leaving me, at 47 years old, questioning everything I’d ever believed. I’d never felt more incapable or more aware of my missing resilience then I did at that time.

I’d placed a tremendous amount of importance on this swim. I think some part of me believed that if I could just do this one hard thing, and perform better than I had in 2019, it would be proof that all was not lost and the me that is me, was still in here somewhere. I chose Skaha over another Ironman because it was the last big thing I’d done and my disappointment that day left me hungry for redemption. ( I did not know it, but at the time of my last Skaha swim, my rotator cuff was torn, which explained so much.)

I’d learned that a spot was available to coach with world record holding English Channel swimmer, Sarah Thomas. I bravely reached out and to my delight, she brought me on board. It was hard to stray away from something familiar in the coaching world. But, putting my trust in someone who knew NOTHING about me and had no history with me seemed like a great way to help rebuild my courage, confidence and resilience. After my breakdown, doing things that were new and scary seemed like the only way to fight my way out. I felt like I no longer remembered how to be brave. That all those years of Ironman where I had to do things scared, never happened. I had 10 years of endurance racing under me but I felt totally new. No history with a coach also means no excuses. I had a great support team in Sarah’s Swimmers and was inspired regularly by all the various feats going on by everyone. What a gift they all are!

I learned so much working with Sarah. During my intake I passively told her I would be content if my results were unchanged from 2019 (5:04), I just wanted to train for it without a torn rotator cuff this time. (In a way, this was my safety net-just be okay with the same.) But she was quick to correct that plan to say, “Lets get you stronger AND faster.” I have never swam so much volume or worked so hard in the water in my life. In the end, from January to race day, I’d put in over 290 training miles to prepare to swim 11.8 kilometers. I still can’t quite get my head around that volume. When she’d sent me my plan, I remember looking down at the build weeks and seeing I would be swimming 25,000 yards a week. For many weeks in a row. I whispered to myself, “she’s lost her mind.” Little did I know that she was laying a foundation of strength that I desperately needed to rebuild myself. Thus began 8 months of the most arduous swim training I’ve ever LOVED doing!

The true joy and satisfaction for me is all in the showing up and doing the work.

Up early on 8/5, a Friday morning for my last pool swim before leaving for Canada. Tapering is always such a challenge for me. I don’t “rest” very well and idle time leaves me feeling more sore than activity does. I make nervous small talk with my friends at the Y before putting on old faithful one more time. Old Faithful is this swim cap!! Not only has it been my only pool swim cap but it’s from my first Skaha event in 2019~It may or may not have some mildew spots on it. I don’t care. It’s been so reliable!

We arrived in Penticton late Friday afternoon. It’s about a 7 hour drive from our home, through some beautiful areas. The Wenatchee forest is stunning and the enormous hillsides as you enter Canada show you your true human size as they tower over the tiny cars passing by. As we rounded the corner and entered Okanagan falls, the tip of the lake came into view. From here we drove the length of the lake to get to our lodging. As we drove along, my eyes got wider and I found myself doing some square breathing as the overwhelm settled on me like a wet blanket. “F*ck. It’s so long….” Josh replied, “Yep. But you’ve got this.”

It’s one thing to look at a lake on paper or online. You think to yourself, “it’s big, but it’s doable.” Then you drive next to it. For over 20 minutes in a car going 50 kmh. But you’re still not at the end. And it’s dark. And deep. So deep. I immediately remind myself that the depth doesn’t matter. I’m not going to the bottom. I’m in a wetsuit. I am NEVER going to the bottom. But the lock on the fear box has been blown off and is laying somewhere in another town, thereby letting all the uninvited scaries out to play. Ugh.

“Why am I doing this again?” I ask rhetorically. He doesn’t have an answer.

We checked in to The Bowmont Motel which sits about 5 miles north of Skaha Beach Park. A quaint little room that did not have a stove, but a little kitchenette which would serve us perfectly for toaster waffle making. The room was unable to accommodate our kayak, but we didn’t fret. We were thrilled to use our Viper lock again to secure our boat, safely on top of my car. It was a long drive so for dinner we walked from our place over to Bad Tattoo Pizza. The wind outside was showing us its power as we walked along the waterfront of Lake Okanagan. It didn’t keep the native birds from dancing overhead or the ducks from bobbing along or the children from swimming and playing, but I was grateful to be on land and not fighting my way through that chop.

Once back at our room, I find myself stoic, searching for my Ironman game face but only finding the ugly-crying-for-my-mommy face. My fear meter is at a legit 100/100. And I know it’s because I am still struggling to break through this partition of who I “was” before my breakdown to who I “am” now. Because the who I “was” had a huge tool box of courage and go to’s for these types of get your sh*t together and put on your big girl panties situations, but the who I “am” now is crying for her mommy. So instead of “should’nting” on myself, (you shouldn’t be afraid, you shouldn’t be crying..) I take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s okay to feel these things. And I identify them as being terribly uncomfortable but that is okay too. And then my friend Wendi reminds me that since I’m an endurance athlete, I wear a sports bra and bike shorts a lot so I’m really good at being uncomfortable and still getting sh*t done. And I don’t know why, but that helps me so much!

On 8/6, Saturday morning, we were up early for a practice swim before race check in. Josh did a nice run down to the beach to meet me and I drove down with all my gear. As I got out of the car, I tried to gather all my courages as I walked toward the water. I approached slowly, taking it all in. The power this water held over me, felt immeasurable. Much like life in many ways, water can turn so quickly. Often without warning. As I stood there, aware of the gritty sand beneath my Chacos, I took a deep breath. SO much has changed since the last time my feet stood here in 2019. Yet, I looked around at the kiddie slide, which was perched here at our last visit. And the chipped paint on the handrails. And the floating docks and buoys. All steadfastly present. Seemingly frozen in time for the last 990 days. Except me. I wasn’t steadfastly present. My mind was all over the place. But I was feeling frozen. Everything has changed for me in the last 990 days. Missing my friend and mentor Greg the most as I stand here grappling with my own self confidence. I find that in those moments I am looking for any sign that he is here with me. To remind me that “everything I need is inside me.” I mean, I know he is, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when you love someone, the things they’ve taught you live in your heart long after they leave this earthly world. I decide I need to get out of this deep thought and get into my wetsuit or this day is never going to get started, so I make my way up to a shady spot to get lubed up and ready to go.

Just then, I feel this sudden urge to turn around and look at the water. As I whip my head around, there in the water, right where I was just standing, is one white feather. Delicately floating there, beckoning me.

My eyes well with tears for I know…

I can just hear him now. “What are you waiting for? It’s just a practice swim.” He was great at saying much by saying little.

So I garner my guts, get into my suit and have some fun.

As I walk into the water, I whisper for it to be nice to me. We aren’t strangers. Lets work together, water, Okay?

After the practice swim, where I enjoyed a trip down the slide, it’s packet pickup and then a drive to Freshii for lunch. Thinking about the big goals my swim group goes after makes me wonder about my own abilities. This swim tomorrow is like an average training day for most of them. Its hard to get my mind around that volume of swimming but as we drive along lake Okanagan, I think to myself, “Wow. Can you imagine swimming the length of this?” Out of curiosity I looked it up. Holy hell. 83.89 miles. That’s one for Sarah and the others. 🙂

At some point in the day, between our packet pick up and dinner, we made a trip to the evil empire, aka, Satan’s Playground, where I found these devilishly reduced priced pens. I couldn’t help but laugh at the coincidence.

Later that afternoon, my daughter sends me her boyfriend’s thoughts after telling him I’m going to swim across this lake.

I have to say, he’s not wrong in his suggestion. I rather like it! 😀

Back at our room and after a little nap, we found a tasty chicken sammy for dinner. For dessert a walk along the water of Lake Okanagan and an ice cream cone.

Once back at the room, I was nervously gathering and preparing my things. So different from Ironman, the fueling for swimming is only one discipline! I could feel my self doubt about the coming day knocking on the door and before I could throw the deadbolt, it let itself in. The imposter syndrome that always shows up for me on race day eve, was now hovering around me like the smell of burnt popcorn. I must redirect my thoughts! I realized I hadn’t checked my daily Timehop yet so to distract myself, I opened it up.

As if it was meant to be…. This was in the memories for the day:

It seemed apropos.

Then I prayed and had a good, stern talk with myself. “You are trained for this. You can do this. I know you’ve told yourself there’s a lot riding on the day tomorrow-but the truth is.. the REAL truth-is that NOTHING is riding on tomorrow. Your ultimate recovery is not going to magically come to fruition when you exit the water on the other side. As a matter of fact, even if you DON’T exit the water on the other side, your recovery is still going to happen. Because it’s been happening every day since that incident. Every day that you’ve worked and had counseling and been honest with yourself about how you feel and are. And tomorrow is merely the completion of something hard that you committed to do. In the end, no matter the outcome, there is no firing squad waiting for you. Don’t give your energy away to this. Save it for the swim.”

I took a deep breath and tried to will game face to come over me in the night.

Then it was off to bed with us. 5:00 am will come early enough!

8/7 Race morning: I’m up early to eat my ‘long swim breakfast’ of 3 protein waffles, butter and real syrup with a good cup of Joe. A quick look at Timehop and I’m not disappointed! What a great sign to see just how far I’ve come! It would take me over a year from this photo to get the courage to put my face in the lake. And another year to master it.

Our little room at the Bowmont Motel is at the other end of Penticton so we have about a 10 minute drive to the park. We arrive, unload and Josh heads to park the car. While he’s gone, I get my athlete number paddle and situate my fuel and fluids onto the front of the boat in my special charcuterie tray. I have feeds scheduled every 45 minutes, with a calorie intake plan of 180 each feed plus 10 oz of Nuun each stop. I’d marked my bottles so that I could better visualize each portion of fluid. Drinking in the swim is not my strength so this visual really helped me in training.

The fire over the hill has sent us some smoke signals which are settling near the finish line, 11.8 kilometers away. The water is still and beckoning and I feel strangely calm.

My GPS dot beacon is active and should start tracking me right at 7 am. I am excited for my mom and friends to be able to stalk me. I picture Sarah’s Swimmers excited to see MY dot moving along this body of water and know the excitement as I have felt it watching theirs! My phone is double bagged and loaded into my safer swimmer. I’ve had a solid breakfast. I’m rested and hydrated. I’ve brought along my good luck Frog who will be with me along the swim. Frog always hated swimming but he did Ultraman here and in some weird way, I have some comfort knowing he went before me in this lake. I know he’s with me now, telling me, “You’ve done the work. You’re ready!”

After the Canadian national anthem and the conch blow, the swimmers and boaters made their way out to the semi floating start which placed us just before the “Extreme drop off” warning buoy. I can feel my heart rate climbing immediately and then a little shudder courses through my body. Either my engine is starting or I’m about to have a panic attack.. deep breaths. (Think about coming in 68th. Just 68th. A tiny bit better is all you need today. Take the pressure off.. maybe instead of expecting a huge PR, you can let yourself be content with #68th. More on this hash tag below in the take away section.)

And then, before I could turn back and run to TickleBerry’s ice cream shop, the horn blew and I was swimming! Initially I kept my eyes closed as I did not want to see the Extreme Drop Off below me in the water. I swam that way until around my first feed at 45 minutes. I just focused on my turnover and breathing. Using my counting to 12 to bring me down from orbit if I began to panic. Swimming north to south is all down hill, right? 🙂 The sun was blinding as it rose up over the mountain to my left and with every 3rd and 9th breath, I watched as it climbed an invisible ladder to its high noon pedestal. To my right, every 6th and 12th breath, I saw my faithful king of the kayak, Josh. My mind has taken a million memory photos of him over these training months. He was great to get actual photos every mile and was updating my mom along the way because apparently my dot did not activate at 7 am and it appeared as if I was chillin’ in the parking lot.

Early on, my back began to bother me at my left SI ( a problem area) and I again kicked myself mentally for not adding core work into my regimen of training, even though I told myself I would. I wish I could tell you all the things I thought about during this swim but honestly, I just did a lot of counting to 12. (Why I can’t say, it’s just been a go to for the last few years of training in OW and my brain likes it.) In between blocks of 12, I did have to stave off a few moment of panic. Irrational fears can just rise up when your mind is only counting and staring into nothingness for 4.5 hours. (Swim time is weird. It passes in a way only a swimmer can understand. I guess it’s sort of like “sleep time.” Like, when you go to bed at 10 and wake at 6, you’re aware that 8 hours passed but you have no real recollection of it passing. Because your eyes were closed and your brain was somewhere else. Open water swimming for me, is sort of like that. Except my eyes are open but I’m mostly staring into the abyss of “night.”) I felt grateful for Wendi who had sent me a video the night before which basically showed an image of someone beginning to have irrational panic. That person then took that panicked thought from their brain and placed it behind a piece of glass marked “break in case of emergency.” The idea was to recognize irrational thought, take control of it or “put it away for later” by placing it behind glass. I don’t know why it helped me so much but I used that imagery several times in my swim.

(I feel like my chest is tight and wheezy, OMG is this SIPE?!!) no. that’s the fire smoke not SIPE. You’re fine-keep swimming.

(There are monsters in here!!) there’s no such thing as monsters because monsters are only in books made of paper and paper dissolves in water. Therefor they cannot live here.

(My arm and hand are suddenly numb-something must be wrong!!!) that’s just your neck because you’re turning it a million times.

(why can’t the native fish of this lake, like The Pea mouthed Chub Fish be cute??!!) ok.. that one wasn’t panic related but WAS really distracting and made me lose my count a few times. So I put HIM away for later too. 🙂

I stopped at 45 minutes for my first feed. 1 spring gel (180 cals) and 10 oz of Nuun. It was already warming up by the time of that first feed. I worked hard to pee, but I need practice. I think it’s what took the most time.

Heading into my next feed I was feeling hungry so I’d planned to alter my plan and eat some “solids” which are really not solid at all but rather a slurry of oats and fruit, a consistency that resembles baby food. 😛 I downed 1/2 a Wolf Pack (175 cals) and capped it for the next feed, followed by nearly the rest of that first electrolyte bottle.

I had my watch set to buzz me once every 500 yard split. Mentally this was a great decision because in moments of monotony, I would just picture myself at home in my lake, heading to the next familiar marker. Judy’s dock, just past the buckets, the three sisters trees and the old wood stack. I never visited the Bellagio in this training which was a bummer but Sarah advised on the straight swims to track my splits. In addition, it made the most sense because this event is a point to point, straight down the lake, so Josh and I did a whole lot of that.

While swimming, I noticed a large boat in my left rear peripheral. I swam cautiously but was also aware of it approaching only to learn it was the race pontoon on patrol. Apparently they had a photographer on board as well who grabbed these shots!

I was just thinking to myself, “Finally, that Uber I called for has arrived!” 😀 They gave Josh many kudos on holding his line and reminded him to continue on and let me come back to him if too much distance between us formed.

This of course happened more beyond Ponderosa Point, so much so that I found myself feeling extremely vulnerable when in my flash seconds of seeing him when breathing, only allowed me to see the boat and not his hat or face. That was how I knew we were too far apart. The hard part there though, is getting back to where he was. It just doesn’t happen instantaneously. There’s a lot going on under the water that he can’t see-churning and tiny currents caused by water activity which make lateral moves far more challenging. At least for me.

Mile 3 commenced. Then a feed. Then some jerky speedboats went through creating Fat Salmon like conditions with big weird rolling swells. 1-2-3-4, just lean in and time your stroke and breath. I immediately felt discombobulated and popped my head up to check things out. “Just some a**hole on a boat” yelled Josh. “Keep going, your doing great!”

More counting. More breathing. 3-6-9-12. Sun-Josh-Sun-Josh. I am so thankful that I can bilateral breathe. I trained myself years ago when doing Fat Salmon because of the sea wall in that swim. Sometimes the wind and chop is just so that you gotta pick a side. lol!

I am aware now of both how close we are to Ponderosa Point (the only timed cutoff which is 8k in and you must arrive by 4.5 hours) in this event and the only buoy out here besides the finisher chute. The buoy feels close and I think we are way ahead of that time cutoff, but as I said, swim time is weird. You don’t have any real concept of time passing when the scenery doesn’t change. I ask Josh, “Are we close?” “Are we going to make the cutoff?” I feel a bit stressed because the pontoon boat has made a few passes and this makes me immediately visualize them laying in wait to pluck me out of the water if I am not there in time. He laughs sweetly and says, “you’re about 1 hour and 15 minutes ahead of that cutoff. Keep it up, we’re almost to the point!”

The point mind you, just feels so damn far away. But I’m doing the math in my mind now because I know that Ponderosa is about 5 miles in. And that means just about an Ironman distance swim left until I can stand up. Just an Ironman distance swim left until I can eat a sandwich. Just an Ironman distance swim left until I can exit this lake and hope to have the healing I so desperately came here for. Just an Ironman distance swim left until …. well, you get the picture. The list was long. An in between bullet points, just more counting.

After rounding the corner at Ponderosa Point, I suddenly remembered something from racing here in 2019. This section is an absolute WASHING MACHINE. Like a Slap-Chop gone wild! With no real rhyme or reason, the conditions radically worsen. I had nothing but time passing to speculate so I surmised that it must be related to the narrowing of the lake. It’s just a chop fest-the kind where you can’t really get a good cadence down, or when you do, a big wake comes at you from two sides and tosses you around like a rag doll. I found myself getting frustrated here and then in the quiet, I heard Greg’s voice whisper. “Don’t panic. Lean in. You know how to swim in chop, you’ve done it plenty. It’s choppy for everyone.” I knew he was right. And I knew he was here with me. And I know he was watching and was proud of us and our teamwork today. ❤

This is where Skaha really shows her colors. She makes you work and dig deep for that finish. And she makes you swear. And she throws some random grass your way just for good measure. Because you know, we ALL love a slimy creepy thing flung over our shoulder and face mid swim. 😀

Mile 6.66-because why not?

The next few miles were a proverbial sequence of:


I had a couple of intermittent pop ups to right myself after a bad toss around. Josh was quick to correct and say, “you’re good-keep going!” And he was smart to avoid talking stats to me because I’d asked him early on not to. Unless it was critical. Like missing a time cutoff. But looking back I bet it was hard for him when we were ahead of schedule, to contain his excitement. Alas, don’t count your chickens and all…

As I swam on, the finish buoys were finally in sight. They of course, as most things in open water, appeared closer than they were, but at this point I knew the finish was near and there was nothing that was going to stop me. I had told myself my mantra above many times throughout the day, and now, soon, my hard work would come to fruition. As I got closer and closer to the buoys I began to recap the day for myself between threes, sixes, nines and twelve’s, I thought about all those 500 yard splits behind me and envisioned them in a nice straight row, like a long dragon tail. With the exception of the skipped last feed, I’d stuck mostly to my fueling plan. I peed twice and even though it took FOREVER, I was happy to need to go, because: YAY HYDRATION! I staved off most of the moments of panic and felt good throughout. I had zero shoulder pain and zero loss of power in my surgery arm-this made me feel deeply thankful for my orthopedist’s skilled hand.

That blazing red buoy floating there like an enormous ruby, beckons me in with her siren song…

Then, suddenly, like the flip of a switch, someone turned on the light and for the first time in over 4 and half hours, I see rocks! Oh lord I’ve never been so happy to see mossy covered rocks in my life! Even the long plants that appear to be reaching for me, are a blessed sight! And although on this last bit, where I’m sighting for myself, I still have a ways to go, I can see the finisher chute on land. I can see little flashes of people as I inch closer and now I’m trying desperately to suppress the lump in my throat because I know the end is so close. Soon, I will stand up and hug my husband and be upright and stop counting and I’ll be a Skaha Swimmer again! I don’t get caught up in what my time will be because I am just so happy to have just swum this distance with no pain. As I get closer and closer the water eventually becomes too shallow to swim. But it’s also too deep to run. The moment I pull my feet under me, I feel the sandy surface between my toes and it’s heavenly! I don’t even think about the fact that sleeveless wetsuits make me look like a busted can of biscuits. All that matters to me is that in mere seconds I will be done! I push myself up and I do a sort of run-through-quicksand exit. People are clapping and cheering. Up and over the mat, my watch is stopped and I can’t believe my eyes as I simultaneously hear Steve King, who’s reading my athlete bio, announce that I’ve come in almost 30 minutes faster than my previous Skaha time!

I catch my breath and for one split second I feel like the 7 am start of the day just began, yet here we are at 11:35.

On the other side of the lake.

I did it.

We did it!!

We made it.

Searching for my husband who’s already dragged the boat out and over to the side, I run to him and give him what feels like a thousand thank yous.

In truth it was probably only one but internally it was infinity.

Even that hardly seems like enough though.

All the 4 am wake ups for the pool, all the Sunday open water lake swims and 290 miles of swim training is what got me here today. I couldn’t have done it without my husbands support and willingness to lead and hold his line.

I feel really good on land. Glad to be done, but no where near wasted. I paused for a moment and searched myself… realizing again, that I’d made it. I apprehensively assessed myself. Was I satisfied with THIS performance? Was it enough to bring on the ceremonial healing I’d somehow expected to occur at the exit?

For reasons I won’t question, I can honestly say, I didn’t care about either of those things. I only knew that I felt this accomplishment. And that was one of the tools I’d been most desperate to reclaim in my recovery-the feelings of accomplishment. You would think they would come easy after doing something hard, but my crisis left me with the same numb feeling you get when your foot falls asleep. You look at your foot and you know your foot is there below you, but you can’t feel it, and if you can’t feel it, how can you trust it to hold you up?

Today… Today I am FEELING this accomplishment.

And I am grateful on the deepest and most humble level.

I find that my face is beaming in a way it hasn’t in so very long. And the feelings are lasting and are so tangible I can almost touch them. Like a warm and loving embrace. That, or I have a mild sunburn. 😉

A swim like this calls for POST RACE ICE CREAM!

The day after we got back, my friend at the pool asked if I would go back. I didn’t even hesitate before saying an enthusiastic “Yes!” It’s so funny how the mind works quickly to make you forget the most uncomfortable parts of something that only a few days earlier had you crying for your mommy.

Maybe it’s this thing that deeply sets your soul ablaze? Maybe it’s remembering that growth happens outside your comfort zone? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the realization that something really awful can happen to you. And that thing can reshape you and change parts of you you didn’t even know were vulnerable. But that in that change, that metamorphosis, you learn new ways to tackle fear. New ways to embrace the parts of yourself that you find unlovable. Instead of fighting to get back that which cannot be returned, you begin to adapt and learn to live on THIS side of the partition. You make friends with those traumas and you work to integrate them into your life instead of denying the inevitable and running the other way.

In the end, it turns out… I did get out of the water a different person. It just took me 12 days to write about it so that I could make that discovery.

Race day was two weeks ago today. At this very time, two weeks ago, I was feeling for the first time in over two years, the feelings that come with accomplishment.

Sitting here now… I can still feel them!

Never give up on yourself.

If you’re lost, trust that those who love you, will find you.

Then, let them help you find yourself.

My take aways:

1. Stick to your fueling plan. I ate at intervals 5,9,13 and 17. It should have been: 5,9,13,17 and 21. Even if you feel awesome and think you only have a half iron distance left to swim, stick. with. your. plan. Because it will turn out you actually have a skosh more than a full iron distance left to swim and those calories and electrolytes can only do you a solid if you take them. The last calorie feed I took was at the 17th interval, just before Ponderosa Point. I had an additional one timed, but at that point it appeared we were much closer than we actually were (the remaining stretch was about 4500 yards). So I didn’t eat at that stop. I took in some quick electrolytes but for some reason I skipped that gel, not wanting to “waste time.” Fortunately, it didn’t cost me too much but I might have felt a little better if I’d taken that Spring Gel.

2. Core work and strengthening. Do it and be consistent. Nobody likes it. It’s not the slightest bit gratifying, but your back will thank you.

3. Those couple of 4 hour swims my coach gave me in training saved my a**. If I had not done those swims, I don’t think I could have performed the way I did. Not only did they prepare me to swim 4 solid hours but they were the big confidence boost that I really needed!

4. Be honest about your ego. Accept that if you can’t admit that you have some weird thing in your ego that prevents you from yielding easily to your kayaker, you are dooming yourself to an unsuccessful swim. No matter how straight you swim historically. Or how well you sight. In this race, your kayaker is your SALVATION! Share the glory!! If it’s your husband and you are a control freak, take a deep breath and let it go. This man wants you to succeed. His primary goal today is to see to it that that happens. He will not lead you astray. **I am so fortunate to have him. (who’s cutting onions?)**

5. Practice treading water and eating. Do it in the pool by starting your swims in the deep end so that when it’s time to drink/eat, you have to do it treading water. At least a few times. This tip did not occur to me until the end of my last long 4 hour training swim. But I will try it for whatever my next event is.

6. #68th. What a strange and wonderful perspective to get. My work wife Boram is not familiar with racing. Or placing. Or any of this weird numbers stuff we all do and care about. When preparing for this event, first she was shocked because who swims that far for fun but then she curiously pulled up my results from 2019 and discovered I’d come in 69th. “Okay, so you just need to come in 68th then.” She said it with such conviction that in that moment, it seemed ridiculously simple. That’s merely a tiny improvement. Surely that’s attainable! (She did not understand that the number of participants and finish time logistics data, (like if there were only 68 participants and I was 68th, I’d be DAL and that would NOT be a good day for me,) but that didn’t matter. For whatever reason, just knowing I could aim for a tiny improvement and that I was already a winner in this persons eyes, allowed me come back down from panic orbit more times than I can really say. Thank you Boram!!

7. Keep showing up. Consistency is the key to any big change. Fine tune the things that will allow you to maintain that consistency. If that means weekly meal prep so you can get up at 4am to train, so be it. Preparing work clothing a week at a time so you can be to the office straight from the pool? Do it! Endurance events don’t train for themselves and showing up is the hardest but most critical step!


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#1616 The number that lives forever!



The woman who started this IronFire in my belly, Lisa J. Ballou!

There wasn’t something magical in the lake..


I’d intended to do this write up yesterday.. on the ACTUAL anniversary but the day and the motivation to make it look how I pictured it, got away from me. Still, I believe in that whole “better late than never” thing, so I’ll write it up today as if it was yesterday. And today is  better anyway because the memory of yesterday as it turned out, carried me through my brick this morning!

I will never forget the day… although as I write this now,  I can’t recall if I’ve already written about it. 😀 So if this story sounds familiar, I wouldn’t be surprised. I tell it often! 😉

June 8, 2010.

It was a Tuesday evening.

It was the first “Lake Swim” with the Kitsap Tribabes.

And I was absolutely terrified. Like, so terrified that earlier in the day, I tried to think of a dozen ways to get out of going. As if wearing a bathing suit when you’re 45 pounds overweight isn’t bad enough, I was gonna have to swim in dark water too.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t worried about drowning. I know how to swim, but it’s been many years since I’d been in dark water. You know, I was used to the clean, chlorinated stuff.. the stuff you can peer through like a liquid window!

So I stood there… 37 years old.. in my bathing suit, as the cold June air danced over my goose bump riddled skin, listening to Lisa tell us all the important things we needed to know and all the things we needn’t worry about. It’s just lake grass by gummy…and people pay good money for when they get a seaweed wrap! That giant fish you’re scared to see? It’s just tiny Nemo! Harmless and way more afraid of you than you should be of him! (She actually sacrificed liberated a live goldfish into the lake that night as we all watched while eating a ceremonial Swedish fish, together, in a freaky lakeside communion ceremony!)

I looked around at all the new faces I’d grow to love and count on. These beautiful women from all different walks of life. ❤ Some exuding a calm confidence, some looking around as I was, wondering what the hell we were actually doing there. The air was saturated with eau de courage and determination. It smells like fear and failure and growth and commitment and healing all rolled into one!

As Lisa explained what we were to do, I could feel myself frozen standing there. Trying to put on a brave face,  Amanda and I stood there hand in hand making dumb expressions at each other.

All we had to do was swim to the first pole (B) and back (a). There was even a rope lined with pool noodles, and swim angels and everything!

Here’s a picture of those poles:


Looking back now, I blush to think of how unnecessary it all seemed yet how important at the same time, if for nothing else but to offer the sheer sense of safety I felt. 

I stared with a deep uncertainty out into the lake. That pole.. It seemed  so far away.. how would I ever get there and back again?

Then, without further hesitation and before I could make my escape, it was time to swim! We inched our way into the lake and I watched as the perimeter of my feet became ensconced in silt and dirt. My heart was pounding harder than I’d ever felt it before and I was trembling deep in my core. I knew I could back out. I knew I didn’t HAVE to go in…

But there was something.. something that pulled at me, against any will I had. Something that told me in my heart of hearts, for whatever it was meant for, that if I didn’t get into that water at that moment and make myself swim to that pole…well… in the most simple terms: Nothing was ever going to change for me. 

I just knew…

And so before I could change my mind, I plunged into the drink, and high head crawled my way to that pole as if my life depended on it! And then back to the shore as fast as humanly possible before scrambling up the bank to the safety of my towel.

As I turned around to look out over the lake, to the brave ladies still swimming (we were a huge group in a small area of water..) I felt like a million chilly dollars! I did it! I made it! I was surely a different person now than the woman who entered the lake only moments before.

This moment-for me-it was like an Event Horizon! I could have never predicted how radically things would evolve for me-how I would evolve- from that moment on.

And do you know….that pole? Do you know how far away it was?

25 yards.

25 yards!!

No matter what I am doing on June 8th of any year, I remember this day. I let myself go there and be in that moment. I recall the way my bathing suit felt. How cold the water was. The nervous laughter all around me that has long since settled into the soil of that beach. Sometimes when I walk down there to swim, I swear I can hear Lisa’s bullhorn and the giddy sounds of a hundred brave women, wafting from the branches of the giant evergreens that live there.

This morning was no different… the only difference was that today, I was swimming over 2 miles.

In preparation to swim 3.2 miles at Fat Salmon in 4 weeks and ultimately to swim 11.8 kilometers at Lake Skaha Ultra Swim in Canada in 9 weeks!

June 8th was 9 years ago…I am radically different and yet still very much the same person I was then, now.

While I can now swim with my face in the water, I still struggle with opening my eyes in the dark murk, but I make myself do it! Every swim, I fight that urge to squeeze them closed and instead remember that I am bigger than the things I’m afraid of out here.

Just because something is difficult that does not mean it is impossible.

9 years ago I changed. But it wasn’t something magical in the waters of Wildcat Lake.

It was me.

I changed me!!

I made the decision and I saw it through. I didn’t know that at the time of course-I guess I thought it was magic! 😉 I actually didn’t put that moment all together until today, about 3/4 of my way through my run around the lake! And so just as on that day when something told me that if I didn’t get in that water, if I didn’t make myself swim to that pole-nothing would ever change for me? I find myself in that same place again in my life right now.

I have to make myself go.

It’s been a long 6 months wrought with some major changes in my life. I’ve been disconnected and isolated all while trying desperately to fight my way back to who I was before.

And not feeling like I’m making very much solid progress…

Today, I decided that instead of trying to “get back to where I was” perhaps the best thing to do was to just start.

Stare down that first “pole” in my life, try not to be intimidated by how “far away” it seems, and just start.

Right now.

From where I am.

“Difficult” is not “Impossible.”

You can almost always start over.

You don’t need magic to do it.

You just need YOU.

Twenty One Pilots Vancouver, BC

What an amazing way to spend May 12, 2019 also Mother’s Day! Seeing one of my most favorite bands with my girl, Chloe!

After missing the Tacoma show with her in November because of Ironman, I decided to surprise her with these tickets! I was so excited to tell her about them, that instead of just blurting it out, I thought I’d be clever in how I let her know we were going!

Josh and I went to Hot Topic so I could get a TOP shirt and then I just casually wore it that night. When she came home from work that evening, I was sitting on the couch. As she walked past me, she noted my shirt and said, ” Mom! Are you wearing a trench shirt?!” I responded, “of course I am. I love Twenty One Pilots (a total truth, BTW) Besides, I’ll need something to wear to the show won’t I?”

Ah! The look on her face was priceless! Well worth these seats! 🙂  It meant a trip to British Colombia but we made an adventure out of it!

On the day of departure, we were up early and raring to go! We had a long drive and the show was at 7:00 pm~ We hit the Kingston ferry and began our journey to Canadia!


A pit stop into a Safeway and a little Proof Of Life photo to Josh, from the back storeroom-lol!


We decided to stay on the cheap and got a room at the YWCA! Parking proved to be a complicated situation as we learned in the elevator. We thought we were hot sh*t getting a space in the garage RIGHT NEXT DOOR for 45 bucks. In the elevator on the way up to our room, we learned that particular garage was a hot spot for theft as the ladies in the elevator shared. Did I mention they were carrying every belonging they had left on them? Their car had JUST been broken in to and all their kids backpacks and belongings were stolen.

I have never moved so fast to get my car out of a garage. As soon as we unloaded our luggage we were back out the door to get a new safe location in place. We ended up at the library about a half mile away and although it was inconvenient, it was secure. As for the hotel, I thought it was super cool digs and the money goes to women’s services! You do have a communal bathroom/shower situation, but for one night, Chloe and I made it work and it was adventurous!  Plus an added bonus of this great letter outside our window!


We had our trench outfits all planned out, we’d shopped to find the perfect army green pants and jackets and got lucky with our finds from both Old Navy Clearance and Target Clearance. I was at a little bit of a loss for how this would all go down, but I love TOP music so I figured what mattered was the music, not whether or not I fit in. 🙂 My 19 year old daughter wanted to hang out with me AND see a concert? I’d wear a monkey suit if I needed to for that kind of time with her. Luckily, no monkey suit was required but we did need to get creative with some duct tape. And a tri-pod for that little selfie!

We began to make our way over to the venue to get some merch and along the way discovered that we were going to roast in our trench outfits! So after getting a ton of compliments and then grabbing our merch we made our way back to the Y (only 2 blocks away) to drop our goodies and change our clothes. We imbibed in a macaron in celebration of seeing the boys in only a few more hours!! I was like a kid in a macaron store… lol… so excited to see them live!


On our way back we encountered these lovely ladies who were in love with Chloe’s kimono! Chloe ensured that she had extra tape with her and I just loved watching her share it with these other members of the clique. As a fan of boy bands like Depeche Mode


and Duran Duran


we female fans tend to believe that WE are the number one fan of the group and NO OTHER girl could POSSIBLY love them the way we do. That goes for every fangirl. They all think that way. So to see THIS interaction, just girls truly loving the same band boys and wanting to show their commitment to the band in unity, was so refreshing!


As a mom and somewhat outsider in terms of this genre, the language they spoke was  unmistakable as that of true fans. I wiped away a few tears as I watched Chloe tape up this young lady who was attending her first ever concert with her dad! Her smile and enthusiasm was infectious and the energy in the surrounding area was electric!


This girl was so ecstatic to have something so simple yet so meaningful to the fans as this yellow duct tape! It was a true sign of unity among the clique!

I was so happy a passing fan agreed to get this picture of my girl and I! Fanny Packs (which we spent a lot of time deciding on) and all!


We were so excited to get inside the venue. Roger’s Arena was super nice! Great floor plan, super easy to find our seats and did I mention these seats??!! Man did we get lucky! Chloe really wanted to be in the pit but I was grateful for this location. Lots of leg room and the end of the front row floor.


We were so excited for the show to start!! Don’t let those empty seats fool you-this place was packed to the gills about 20 minutes later!


Soon enough the lights went down and the curtain went up! Behold… THE TORCH!


There really aren’t any words to adequately describe the show that followed but here is a montage of photos to help Chloe and I remember always what a special night we had with our favorite band! You’re amazing Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun!









The following morning, I sat for a long time watching my baby girl sleep. Oh how many hours I’d spent all during her babyhood doing that. This morning was not unlike those, with time passing swiftly and I, blissfully unaware. For here, in this very moment, she was with me, safe from the complexities of growing up, happy in her dreamland and all mine. I knew a hard talk between us was coming, but for now, in the silence, there was nothing but love filling the airspace.


After rousing her to get the ball rolling, I walked down to the local Starbucks for some coffee. When I returned, she was up and getting ready to head out, and off we went to find a Tim Horton’s. It was the one place she desperately wanted to go while in Canada.

It’s a special thing if your kid wants to twin with you. To be fair I was insistent, but still…. she was willing-I’ll take it! 😉


We schlepped all our stuff to the parking garage which was miles away at the library and searched for Tim Horton’s for breakfast before the trip home could commence. After breakfast, we walked through town, stopping at the London Market. As we strolled through I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for my daughter, who’d introduced me to this band. It took some time for them to grow on me, but once I really listened to their lyrics, I realized quickly that the boys and I came from a similar place. It was then that I was 100% sold on them as a band. My ears still ringing a little from the venue, I cared not as it was the most memorable concert I’d ever been to.

As we made our way to the border crossing, we talked about the experience itself and how amazing each facet of it was for us. We shared that we both have songs by them that literally make us choke up and get goosebumps at the very mention of the lyrics. For me it’s Car Radio. For her it’s Taxi Cab among many others for both of us. The line in the border crossing was incredibly long so while we waited we made an imaginary list of what we would be “claiming” to bring over into the US. That list was this:


It’s a long drive home and since we’d had a little parental ‘run in’ before the weekend began, I’d put that issue on hold for the concert. I too was so looking forward to it not only for the venue but for it being Mother’s Day as well. But this little run in could not be ignored and I had to take off the friend hat and put on the mom horns and address this issue. Trapped in the car and unable to flee me, may have been unfair but it was the time we had alone to handle this tough topic. On the way home we talked about the serious stuff, like smoking. And vaping.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s that you can’t make someone else stop doing something if they are bound and determined to do it. But you should still try and should not sweep things under a carpet because you feel your words will fall on deaf ears.

My own mother tried for years to get me to quit smoking. I wasn’t an experimental smoker. I was a full blown smoker. And I was young. Sure, you can say as a parent you have control, and to some degree in the beginning, you do. But I was good at hiding it until it was well outside my own control to stop. My mom and dad had both been smokers, so they knew its addictive powers.

Still, my mom tried. And my grandma tried. My grandma, who was suffering with severe COPD and Emphysema, who I watched all my life, struggle to breathe because of cigarettes, ultimately needing 24 hour oxygen, begged me to stop.

I was naive. I was stubborn and I refused to think it would ever happen to me. “I’d quit long before that” I told myself. But the truth is, time passes swiftly as a teenager and young adult, and before too long…it’s been TOO LONG.

I was 21 when I quit smoking. March 31, 1993. I’d been smoking since I was 13. Seriously since I was 14. 7 years. The nicotine patch had just been released on the market and held promise for people wanting to quit. They were costly, required a prescription and not covered by insurance. My grandmother, in another attempt to get me to quit offered to pay for the prescription for me if I would commit to try. Why the timing worked I don’t know.

Perhaps it had something to do with my best friend Jody, who at the time, was fighting but in the end stages of terminal bone cancer. On the day of her passing, I hadn’t smoked in 2 months. The patch and several tubs of red vines, had helped me over the hurdle of quitting. On the way to the hospital, I asked Josh to get me a pack of cigarettes. Shocked and grief stricken at the thought that my best friend was gone, I’d begun to crack under the pressure. Just as he reached for the door of the circle K, I yelled out the window, “STOP! Never Mind!” And that was that. I never craved a cigarette again. Since that time, I’ve dreamt of relapsing and always wake with terrible regret. When I see pictures of myself smoking, I shudder now, thinking of all the second hand smoke I subjected my best high school friend Kristie to all those years. Sigh… alas. That is history. And she has forgiven me.

As far as my girl goes, she is young, independent and has a lot of freedoms. Ultimately she will have to decide to do what is best for her in her life, but I would be remiss if I didn’t attack this topic like my life… like HER life, depended on it.

She has assured me that it was a “temporary thing.” Just as I assured my own mom it was just a “fleeting thing.”

I have to hope she isn’t as good of a liar as I was.

I will say, that despite that tense period of time in the car, there are some moments that drive you closer together regardless of how they should force a wedge between you. I am thankful for the relationship I have with her. While it can be tumultuous at times, even in that period it is filled with a passion for our bond. One we both fight for. And we both are willing to go toe to toe to get it sorted out. To an outsider it may appear unhealthy, but to us insiders it’s no different that trying to calm a frustrated toddler.

You have to be firm but fair. Hug them while they struggle, because they want you and hate you all at once. You have to smooth their tear matted hair with love and truth. The tables turn from time to time and it has been she who has had to be firm but fair with me. I am grateful she cares enough to risk it.

Parenting and friendship are a complicated dance move and while I was never a natural dancer, these are steps I’m forcing myself to perfect. By repeating them over and over again, I am memorizing the routine.

She’s a great teacher and I am a lucky student!

I love you my girl! Thank you for going with me to the best concert I’ve ever been to!! I’m so happy to be part of the clique and in the trenches with you!

If the shoe fits!

Sunday 1/27/2019

I have weird feet. I mean, they’re not really weird in the true sense of the word. But they’re long and thin and finding shoes that aren’t running shoes, has been a struggle my whole life. So when you find yourself sitting before someone and they offer you a shoe that looks like it could be what your foot has been searching for you have to be ready to try it on.

“Have you ever been treated for bipolar disorder?”

I just looked down sheepishly as a quiet laugh escaped my lungs. The tears were already perched on the edges of my eyelids, well hidden under my glasses.

I considered his question before answering.

There was a time I did a trial run of a new medication, mostly because I wasn’t sleeping well, but the results didn’t work in my favor in the ‘side effect’ world.

After meeting with my new PCP on Thursday (who also happens to be someone I work with) and explaining to him what I’ve been experiencing the last 8 weeks or so, he posed the question. I jokingly told him I’d worn mascara today which was a good sign of optimism in that I might make it through a conversation about anything deep, without crying. 😉

I didn’t.

As we sat there discussing my past history and my current symptoms, in my mind an imaginary list somewhat resembling a paper filled with needed grocery items, was receiving a sequence of check marks.

Milk? check. Bread? check. Hypo-mania? check. Depression? check. Racing thoughts? check. Insomnia? check. Mood swings? check. Crying? well that last one is a given. 😉

I couldn’t be surprised really, and I suppose I wasn’t. It isn’t the first time I’ve been sitting in a chair describing the event I feel I just came out of. I’ve always experienced about a 7/10 in the list of symptoms so it’s been easy to deny by saying, “there’s only a few.” But this IS the first time I’ve described what I’d experienced and felt like I’d just survived a plane crash while doing it. In the past it’s just felt exhausting and disorganized and exhilarating. But this time? My depression took a dramatic turn into some unprecedented depths. And I was not prepared. Imagine driving down a dark highway and hitting a patch of black ice. You can grip the steering wheel as much as you want, you’re still spinning out of control, in slow motion. Now imagine someone in the back seat pulls a hood over your head, taking away your ability to see. Along this highway, you have periods where your car regains some traction and you can see, but only temporarily. You never really feel like you get your car back into your own control with any consistent stability. It seems there’s no end in sight. This goes on like a loop reel from a movie projector that’s run out of film.

Remember how that happened in elementary school? It made that funny flip-flap-flip-flap sound until the teacher turned it off. I loved movie days. Sitting in the dark with your friends, temporarily taken to a different reality on film. I hated the tell tale flip-flap sound because it meant the teacher would turn the lights back on. And there would probably be a worksheet waiting for you.

Anyhow, that was the best way I could describe the darkest parts of the last few months and while it may sound dramatic, I believe that when you describe something to someone else and it feels like it was life or death, it just may have been. I couldn’t leave out the the highest points of it though, that came in between like a swinging pendulum. For instance, as dark and untethered as I felt, the pendulum in the light looked like this: I never missed a day of work or training, but I found my head hung lower, I made less eye contact with people and withdrew as much as possible without making it too obvious that something felt terribly wrong. To be fair, I had dozens of periods of grand creativity and seemingly endless productivity. But even those weren’t the true form of productivity because sometimes there would be a “start” to something, but no “finish.”

Throw a handful of marbles into the street during rush hour, then go try to chase them all down while you dodge cars… this is kind of what it feels like. Powerful, momentous and out of control. It can be terribly wonderful!

So we talk there for a while, and as we do I’m thinking about all of the times in my life these symptoms fit me like a well worn shoe.  I was blessed with some amazing genetics like creativity and humor,  but the flip side to that coin were some crummy ones too. I have always told myself this wouldn’t happen to me. I worked really hard to dodge this bullet. As if you can dodge your genetics. I’ve been proactive in that I have found ways to manage and do damage control along the way when needed and I’ve done this for many many years.

I mean, I just signed up for REGULAR depression and anxiety. THIS was NOT part of the deal.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about this big A-HA moment I had about sugar addiction, but looking back now, the hood removed and my spinning wheels at a stand still, I can see again, how my body has medicated me with sugar cravings. It wasn’t so much that the secret wasn’t important-it really was. But it was also a symptom of hypo-mania. I was feeling so terrible that I turned to the same thing I’ve always used to medicate myself when my actual medication falls short.

“So, I think you may have a mild case of Bipolar II disorder.”

If this is mild, please don’t show me the spicy case. Being in medicine with some medical knowledge and having some (a lot) background with mental health within my family, I am quite grateful for the addition of the “II” at the end of that differential diagnosis. There is a radical difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II.

At this point in my visit, I do not feel any sort of stigma except that I am quick to clarify that my hypo-mania only manifests as creative and not any of those other ways you read about. I’ve always kind of viewed it a super power, something I long to tap into during creative dry spells. I feel a deep sense of my faith as I feel God gave me discernment to hear specifically what was needed. And as the day went on, I couldn’t help but feel more confirmed in the likelihood of this diagnosis as I replayed some events of the last 8 weeks. I say 8 weeks but it has really been much longer according to some people closest to me. They say the shift started much before that.

“Much before” means early fall.

Again I’m not surprised.

The funny thing is, it always starts in the fall. It starts gradually, like a metronome, small ticks and little episodes move back and forth, before it turns into a swinging pendulum with a momentum all its own. This change in seasons seems to be my “switch” and has been for many years. I always expect it so when it shows up on my front porch like an annoying but lovable guest, I still let in come in for an extended visit despite the fact that it leaves crumbs everywhere and never takes out the trash. It has never been more inhospitable, as it left a huge mess for me this time.

I learned long ago that exercise is a great way to manage your depression but for someone with any manic tendency this too can push you towards an event if done in excess. In talking, my PCP and I  don’t think I exercise excessively, as my training routine hasn’t changed dramatically but after Ironman, my exercise regimen went from high octane to nearly caffeine free as I entered a normal period of post race recovery. In a perfect world, this would be fine but for me, this time, I had the perfect set of other circumstances that dropped the proverbial match onto a set of old newspapers.

The seasonal change and loss of daylight, my sudden decrease in endorphins paired with the standard post race blues (there is tremendous build up for 140.6 miles), my inability to run due to injury and then the ever emotionally difficult time of Christmas.

My period of  hypo-mania looks like a lot of things. It manifests in various ways, sometimes I only sleep 4 hours a night but this can only go on for so long before the crash happens. Sometimes the seemingly innocent baking of dozens of cookies, turns into dozens and dozens of them. Or a project started years ago, suddenly needs to be finished. For example a tiny doll version of my very good friend. I finished it 😀  But I wasn’t satisfied, so I made a second one. As I look through my phone, I see the multitude of pictures taken during that creative period. While I look on at them with an excited pride at what I made, the symptom of mania is clearly what is staring back at me.

And let me be clear: if I’ve ever baked you cookies, it doesn’t mean I was in some flipped out state. 🙂 They were likely just cookies. Just as when I eat candy, I’m not in a hypo-manic state typically.  It’s just candy for candy sake. But sometimes when I make cookies (or whatever the thing I’m making is) I get this overwhelming drive to make a lot of them and as the engine revs up during the process it becomes a self fulfilling sensation as the cookies get made the endorphins get released and the high gets higher. Again, it’s not always with cookies. And it’s not constant. 

That part of this disease is what I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to become beige. This kind of high is one I can’t replicate any other way. Creativity is its own powerful outlet. It feels like fireworks and decadent sweets and the force of a damn breaking against the pressure of a million gallons of water, all rolled into one. Sometimes subtle and sometimes rapid fire. Quite frankly it’s ridiculously intoxicating! An action that I feel I cannot control, a thought process that reminds me of what Einstein must have experienced in his moments of radical mathematical discovery. I’m not saying my mind is a genius, and we all know how I feel about math, but I have always appreciated my ability to quickly process a creative idea and see it come to life. Sometimes, twice!  😉

I suppose the hardest pill to swallow; pun intended, is that this realization confirms what I’ve always suspected.

That sometimes I can’t trust my brain to be my ally.

When you strip away all the joking, the funny “I’m feeling pretty manic so if you want something done, now is the time to ask me” offers that I’ve given to people over the years, the idea that my brain could deceive me when the pendulum is in the dark, is deeply unsettling.

It’s as frightening as sharing this post.

So now, the decision is whether or not to add in a medication; something more geared to THIS diagnosis.

And that is where I’m at currently.

It is not a decision I will make lightly. But it is also something I won’t sit on for endless weeks. I know that as the days get longer, the light stays out for greater periods and winter gives way to spring, I’ll begin to feel better and better. It’s in THAT time where I’ll forget about my annoying yearly guest and think, “Naw… it was just the season. You’re alright. You’ll be fine!”

The thing is, I AM alright. 🙂

I’ve always been alright.

Like someone with pre-diabetes who does all the proactive things they’re supposed to do to prevent actual diabetes, they still have a pancreas that defies them. It appears that I’ve likely crossed over and need some insulin now.

It’s not a death sentence.

But you know, in this life, unless you live on an island alone, the people around you who love you? They want you here! So when you discover something about your health that could have a radical impact on your actual presence; your actual life, it is your responsibility to act, if at all possible.

Years ago, when they told me my obesity was the cause of my fatty liver, that the way I was eating and living would lead to heart disease and diabetes (again with those bad genetics) it took me a long time to act. Too long!  But when I did? Everything changed! It got better! I’m not saying it was easy, but it was so worth the effort!

It was Maya Angelou who said these empowering words:


It’s not always so simple Maya, but I totally relate to this phrase because to me it means OWNERSHIP. And ownership is how we walk INSIDE of our own story, no matter how crazy or disorganized it is. It’s how we avoid the hustle.

I know about the stigmas that are out there.  I know this might explain many character traits I have to the people who know me, although the people who know me well, have always known this was a part of me. And I know this might change what people think about me too. But the ME that is me, wants to be here. And that person never wants to experience an encore performance of the time period I see when I look over my shoulder now.

This diagnosis doesn’t have to be public. But I share it for the same reason I’ve shared other things in this blog, that some deem ‘deeply personal.’ Your mental health is no less important than any other part of your health. If you’re reading this, and you identify with any of it, I want you to know you’re not alone.  And I want you to know that the people who love you want you here, no matter what your dark matter tells you in the fog. And I want you to know that tomorrow needs you. 

So please bear with me while I try to do better.

 And please oh please, whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t stop asking me to help you with projects. It’s truly what I love; to help, create and see things come to life. It’s my outlet, so really, when you need me to whip something up, essentially, you’re helping me keep my “insulin levels” at a reasonable number. ;D

And if I make you cookies, please don’t connect them to this post. Please just see them for the oatmeal butterscotch discs of heaven that they are. And if I make you a gift, know I did it with love because you’re important to me and that the only part of my mental health it had to do with is that it came from a place of adoration.

And thank you for listening. ❤

I’m just not the Type

to let things go. And by “things” I actually mean things. Tangible items you can see and hold. Functional. Fun. Worthy of a persons time and creative process.

No, I’m not really the letting go type-I’m more of the “Wait! I might need this” “Wait! This has too many memories attached to it” “Wait! I got that to make this or that for so and so!” type.

What I know about the creative brain is that this sort of “holding on” of items is not uncommon. I have a rather odd collection of things that fall into the above category. Some of those projects have been started but sit unfinished and some of them are waiting for me to breathe life into their lungs. There are wild whirlwind ideas sitting in my mind and loft collecting dust, and simple but unique gifts that have yet to be born, safely tucked into drawers and perched on shelves. Waiting.

Lately, I’ve found myself experiencing a deep sense of urgency to purge my belongings.

It seems mid-life has brought forth an unusually large serving of introspect to my table. If you hang around with me, you won’t go hungry because a big dinner plate overflowing with insight is being served daily, Monday thru Friday during regular business hours. After hours it gets especially busy. No shirt? No shoes? No problem! This meal gets served with little regard for what you may already be eating so bring your appetite and your eating pants!  In my family we refer to them as “Hungarees.” 😀

To that note, what I’ve found is that when I stumble upon these items, they are no longer filling me with creative fireworks, just an overwhelming feeling of “unfinished business.”

Take for example this Typewriter:

typewriter 7

I bought if off Craigslist about 7 years ago. First, Craigslist is not something I’ve ever been comfortable with.  I mean, it’s a little shady to meet a stranger in a public parking lot to purchase something second hand. My nickname could be #anxietygirl because I spent a week filled with worry over this meeting. Would the guy be creepy? Would he fake some back injury and tell me he couldn’t carry the machine to my car, that I’d have to come to his to get it and then throw me in his trunk? And what would the people of Central Market think when they found an empty parking spot with a giant typewriter sitting in the middle of it but not a person to be seen anywhere?

I’ve seen too many crime dramas. 😉  But I was motivated to get this hard to find typewriter and decided I was wasting my time playing “worst case scenario” about this encounter. It cost me about 40 bucks and a weeks worth of worry, but when I saw it in person, all was forgotten.

The guy was actually quite nice and shared a bit of history about the typewriter during our exchange. It was used at the University of Washington Medical Center to transcribe medical documents! At the time I just considered that bit of history another interesting selling point for the jewelry I’d planned to make. But later, that tiny detail would become the main reason I couldn’t bring myself to sever any of its limbs. I was in it for those tombstone key shapes in particular, as they are hard to come by.

Never mind that I actually had NO IDEA how to either A) take one apart or B) make any typewriter key jewelry. Still I was confident in my creative ability to be able to figure it out, make some extra cash AND deliver a unique gift to my friend.

Then: I discovered Long Distance Triathlon. And all of my “creative intentions” were put on the back burner. Um… I have a lot of back burners.

This typewriter due to its behemoth size, has been living in my garage. It’s been on a shelf, near the floor, behind a box that gets used but moved often to the left or right of the shelf it sits on. Still, no matter what, I see it.  I see it when I come in to or out of the garage. For most people, the garage is a great hideaway for things of the “unfinished business” type. But for me? It’s that for me too, but it’s also where I ride my bike. From my seat I can see the shiny metal curve of the keys and the little indents from years of fingers being pressed into them. I spent a ton of time on my bike trainer this year and that lends itself to lots of thinking.

So there, in corner, staring me down, was more “unfinished business.”

The truth is my “failure to launch” was really related to the fact that I’m just too sensitive to dismantle it. It was hard to find so that means it has value. Maybe not monetary value per se, but value none the less. Besides…what would I do with the rest of it once I’d taken off its fingers? I tried to think of ways to re-purpose the other parts of it but by the time I got to that slice of the process pie, I became too overwhelmed by all of my reasons not to, to continue.

Cue my friend and coworker Mike!

He worked in my department for several months last year and it was there that I learned just in conversation, that he too, loves a typewriter and actually has a collection! We would talk periodically about the nuances of the machines themselves. The way they sounded, the various types of fonts that are available and mostly, the key cap types.

I’d told him about this tombstone key Royal that I have and my reasons for buying it in the first place. He listened intently as I explained sheepishly why it was still in one piece. First, how would I even choose what letters to sell and to whom? I mean, you can’t just give someone two random letters in a pair of earrings, except maybe the “X” and the “O”. I’d have to commit to either being all random or know enough people with strange vowel-less names so that once I’d spelled out whatever word I’d chosen, none of the other keys would become homeless. Pair that with the thought of what this machine did for its life: This machine, with it’s clacking keys and deep ash black ink, pressed letters into paper thereby documenting peoples very existence. Their births, their deaths, and every medical situation in between.

As I listened to myself explain, I knew somehow, even though it sounded crazy, that it made sense to him.

Many months passed after he and I talked about this. Ironman came and went and the introspective journey began once again. It was in early December, after a bike ride that I had my last stare down with those tombstone keys. The feelings of “unfinished business” were plastered on too many visual items for me to tolerate it any longer. This beautiful machine, with all of its history was just being wasted, hidden here in my garage.  I knew that it needed a new home and if Mike was willing, I would re-purpose it to him.

On December 12th I brought it to the office. It weighs so much that I had to use a medical cart to bring it into the building. As I wheeled it through the lobby, I felt like a nurse bringing a baby to its mother from the nursery after its first bath. I felt proud of my decision to let it live its best life, even if that meant it would be with someone else. I was excited again for the first time in years, about my ownership of this machine! This time, my excitement stemmed around the joy of someone else about to take it over and what kind of happiness it might bring them.

When I got to Mikes station, I will never forget his expression! Sheer joy beamed from his face by the sight of this machine, despite its neglected condition and need of an actual bath, he began to spout out random details about the style, the year it was made and a bunch of other things unique to this particular model that caught me by surprise. He was literally gazing at it as if he were a new father. ❤

Mike even had his own typewriter guy who would clean it up and make it usable again!

Standing there, in one swift second my years long feelings of “unfinished business” received a stamp of “completion” as I handed off the Royal behemoth.

typewriter 4

A few weeks later, Mike came looking for me at work and handed me a folded up note. I knew immediately that it was a typed letter because I could feel the risen indentation of the letters on the opposite side of the paper. “Is this from the Tombstone?” I asked urgently. “It is.” He replied. “It’s a speedy little machine and runs like a dream!”

I hurried excitedly back to my desk, the note tucked safely in my pocket. I feared opening it because, lets face it, I cry at everything tender and kind but even more so lately. I’d never actually used the machine so in theory, this would be the first time I’d be seeing it’s voice. Still I was too excited to wait, so I slowly unfolded the letter and looked down at the written word inside:

typewriter 1

As I stood there reading it, I could feel the raised edges of the typeset on the back, resting gently against my finger tips.

typewriter 2

I was so over the moon and filled with some weird feeling of growth as the letting go process continued to offer me new freedom.

Later Mike sent me a picture of it in its new home:

typewriter 3

In this long process of letting go, here’s my self talk:

“On the scale of Joy versus Burden if the Burden outweighs the Joy, it’s time to let it go.”

Ultimately, at the end of the day, you can’t take any of it with you. And after you’re gone, what you’ve behind left becomes someone else’s heavy thing.

And while the empty space in my garage of “intentions” may not be noticeable to someone else, to me it represents that growing pains are real, even in adulthood. And that if you’re willing, the thing you let go of, might just become a source of real joy for someone else.




When your secret meets the light of day.

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I have a secret.

I guess it’s not REALLY a secret if other people know about it, but it still feels like a secret. Secrets sometimes bring excitement and giddiness. Like when you know that someone is about to get the surprise of a lifetime, but they don’t know it yet. And even though you’re chosen to be in the know, there’s always an underlying sense of urgency for the secret to be revealed because the anticipation can be suffocating. Those are the kind of secrets people want to have.

Then there are other secrets. The kind that make your cheeks red and hot with shame. The kind of secrets which have lived and breathed for years. So many years in fact, they probably have a birthday that passes each year, uncelebrated but always remembered.

That’s the kind of secret I have.

I don’t know its birthday but I can close my eyes and see with impeccable clarity the day it was born.  I can see what it was wearing. I can remember the smell and I can recall the excitement in my pounding heart when it happened.

Don’t laugh.

But my secret started with a handheld Pecan Pie.

Tiny tin and all.

In my mind, I can recall the sound and feeling of the plastic wrapper. And the closing “whoosh” of the giant 1970’s sliding mirrored door where I hid in my closet, in the left lower corner of the first bedroom in our apartment at 2216 4th Street in Santa Monica. Our little unit was just below the landlord. They were English and had a little dog named Katie who must not have been very well behaved for they clapped their hands and stomped their feet in sequence when they called her name. It happened a lot.

So there I was. Me and a tiny pie. I sat in the dark, in secret and ate that pie. 

That’s the problem with secrets. They’re like bats. They live in the dark because it’s the only place they can really survive. The light is painful and blinding when you shine it in their faces. They squinch their eyes tightly and refuse to look. They know if they wait long enough, you’ll give up and go away.

I was about 7 years old. 

I’d snuck out of our little apartment and had run across a very busy 4th Street to the tiny liquor store on the other side. The Vietnamese couple who worked there were always happy and smiling. Later that year or the next, the husband would be shot and killed at gunpoint when that little store was robbed. (that detail is unrelated to my secret, but very much related to my pecan pie so I think it bears mentioning.)

I have always craved sugar.

And somehow over the course of my life thus far, I have continued to struggle with that craving but have yet to conquer it. As I grew, I used food to comfort myself. Not just in sad times, but in times of joy as well. All the feelings a person could feel? I feel them 10 times more intensely. Sometimes, I feel the feelings of other people, on top of my own. For many years, I did not understand that what I was experiencing was a form of deep empathy. On a personal level, being an empath has created many challenges but on an interpersonal level, it has allowed me to connect with people on a much deeper level and for that I am so thankful.

As a young girl I was not equipped to make sense of all that the gift of empathy entailed and so I turned to food. It was always there for me. Sugar became my greatest ally and it always made me feel good! I was a heavy kid beyond the age of 7. Prior to that, my nickname was Skinny Bones Jones. What tipped the scales at that time in life I do not know.  Even now when I see the few pictures of myself from that age to adolescence, I shudder. Who recoils when they see a photo of their childhood self? Good grief.. but I do. Because all I can see is my chubby face that screams “NO SELF DISCIPLINE.”

Sugar wasn’t always the culprit of my weight issues, but it was the primary one.  And while I have two different colored eyes and a larger frame, I also have Depression and Anxiety and have since my adolescence. Like brown hair and the family varicose vein on my left leg, it’s the part of my genetic makeup that runs deeply in my family.

The jury is still out on the connection between sugar and depression but my experience over the last 6 weeks is really why I’m writing today. I won’t bore you with all the details that led to my Come to Jesus moment 4 days ago, but I will set the scene so that later, when I’m sailing in this boat again, I remember what started it and how it could have ended.

It was November and I’d just finished my Ironman and while the day itself was great, I was disappointed that I was unable to run my marathon at my race. And although I was still able to PR the day, my disappointment could not be ignored. What can I say? It doesn’t make tons of sense but it’s the truth.

When I tell people that Triathlon saved my life, I’m not being facetious. The very sport has taught me the fundamentals of discipline, perseverance, determination, endurance, suffering, modifying and how to overcome just about any obstacle to both make it out alive and make it to the finish line. I literally apply these teachings to my every day life now. Not just in my training, but in my eating.

Specifically of sugar and sweets.

As an empath I feel a lot. And as an emotional eater that’s a slippery slope sometimes. I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the years and I feel I deeply understand my relationship on an intimate level. We’re on pretty good terms actually, but you can see how things could get complicated from time to time. My success along the way has never conquered my desire to both hide and consume sweets. To always have them at the ready.

But that secret though.

It has never been confronted publicly.

Then again, my secret has never made me feel the way it did this time around.

Life or death.

Sure I’ve talked about it. Hell-I’ve even joked about it. I mean, acceptance is the first step after all.. it’s just that somewhere on this road, my acceptance never got me to the  recovery phase.  Instead it just became complacency.

First I’d hide my sugar to keep my kids from eating it. They were young and didn’t notice. And although this was eerily similar to my pecan pie history, I wasn’t sitting in a closet. And I wasn’t 7. I was an adult who could make my own choices. So I did what we all do when we’re doing what we shouldn’t do, but insist on doing it anyway.

I justified it by whatever means necessary.

I hid it for all kinds of reasons. Out of sight out of mind mentality really worked for me most of the time. But on the most basic level, I really needed to know it was there when I wanted it. I didn’t want the kids to have it because it wasn’t good for them. And over time, my secret behavior remained unchanged, but my children grew.

And grew.

And my secret remained unchanged.

Only now my children knew.

At first, I was filled with shame when they caught me stashing something in the pantry.

“It’s better if I don’t see it.” I’d tell them.

It seemed so harmless. I never considered the message I’d be sending.

They grew to know this pattern and they learned that they could count on it. They knew I always had something sweet hidden somewhere. I’d find them at the pantry staring into it, almost willing something tasty to appear. After finding nothing, they’d inevitably ask, “Mom-do you have any sweets hidden anywhere?”

They even knew about the ice chest! Who did I think I was fooling?

I’ve been very open about my relationship with food with my children. And again, I’m deeply grateful for this because they’ve seen me talk myself through moments of discipline. They’ve heard me correct my self talk to a more positive and empowering affirmation. I no longer say things like, “I can’t eat this.” Instead I say, ” This isn’t very good for me, and I’m worth things that are good.” I have learned that the word “Can’t” somehow makes me feel rebellious and incites impulsivity with sweets. It might seem weird. But you know, since I see myself in my children, I want them to have some coping tools for their tool box. We talk a lot about self talk and its power. Outward and open is the only way to do that. Being willing to really look at the how and why of a behavior that keeps repeating itself might be painful.. but you know what else is painful?


So after Ironman. I was disappointed. And hungry. You’re at a decent calorie deficit post race.. for a few days anyway. It’s late November in the PNW. And it’s dark. I have depression which I manage with medication and exercise. For the most part, I do alright with that combination. But there are other forces at play this winter. Christmas and all that it brings to my table. And before I realize what’s happening I’ve purchased a one way ticket on the “I’m just gonna eat my feelings” train. It’s just left the station and is headed straight into the eye of the storm…

A category 5 Sugarcane was about to make landfall and there was not a raincoat long enough or rubber boots tall enough to protect me from the shit storm that I was driving myself to.

It started innocently enough, but patterns are patterns and once an “eater of feelings” always an “eater of feelings.” “I’ll just have dessert…” but then…I began to consume sugar-specifically candy- without ANY regard for ANYTHING. I didn’t have to eat very much of it, but I was eating it regularly. Daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. At this time of year, there are sweets everywhere. So even the occasional daily binge wasn’t really all that strange. But with my training at an all time low, my body was not equipped for the influx of glucose that I kept flooding it with. Somehow the few days I’d thought were passing, turned into a week. And then two weeks. And then Three. Four. Five. Six.

And during that time, I became less of who I know myself to be. And it felt like I cried all the time. I stopped looking up. My smile faded. It seemed like I was forever reapplying my makeup for work. Thank God for glasses that  hide swollen eyes. When asked how I was, I diverted my eyes so as to keep it together. I avoided my friends and phone calls and I even stopped snap chatting pictures of myself. I hated my face. It was all puffy and the only expression it had was despair. There was not a filter on there that could hide the sudden deep vacancy I was experiencing. I saved all my energy for work and training because it was the only thing that didn’t require me to “feel” until even that wasn’t working any longer. My body was swollen all over as my weight climbed to a number it had not been in many many years.

As the dark continued to consume me, I felt powerless to stop it.

The fog around my brain was so thick and suffocating, even my breathing felt shallow. My eyes felt at half mast most of the time and my face became more expressionless over time because it really felt a whole lot of nothing.

I love winter, but the darkness it brings with its short days is challenging. About 3 weeks into December, I bought myself a happy light. I’d used one before but it had been many years. When it arrived, the placebo affect alone gave me my first feelings of hope.

Still they were fleeting. Nothing good was lasting.. and many times I found myself driving down the highway, not really able to see myself in the future any longer. My brain was telling me that my absence wouldn’t matter. I could truly feel nothing but nothingness. And while all of what I am describing came in waves, when the wave would hit it was like a Tsunami. Causing for the moment-total devastation. I would rebound but the feelings of anything good, lacked endurance. And the untethered sensation became so overwhelming I suddenly could understand how a person could just decide to be done living.

During these crushing, rolling waves, everything felt dull and muted. I never thought about hurting myself, I could just see how a person in the wrong state of mind at the wrong time could just decide to leave this life. Even the reality of this-the fact that those types of thoughts do not align with who I am, was met with indifference.

This too should have caused me alarm. But it didn’t.

I really wasn’t sure what was causing all of this and I just kept waiting for it to pass.

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On Wednesday morning, while I was in the shower, I had an imaginary conversation with someone I had an upcoming meeting with. In it, I was answering a question I knew they would ask. The question was “when did you start to feel like this?”  As I formulated my answer I could feel the familiar lump form in my throat-the one that indicates just how under the surface all my feelings really live. I could feel the hinges coming off as I forced my foggy brain to look back.

Shuffling backwards in my memory, I created a timeline. And in it I could see very clearly the one thing that was different. Suddenly, my mind was blown wide open as I realized I was under the influence by my own hand. And it was at such a toxic level it had clouded my thinking and completely changed my perception of my own life.

If ever there was a holy bitch slap, this was it!

It’s the candy!

I threw the shower curtain back and looked at my own reflection.  I was not 7 and I was not sitting in the darkness of the closet on 4th Street, but my heart was pounding with the same excitement I felt that day all those years ago.

Like a row of dominoes,  I began to hurriedly inventory the locations of all the candy in the house. The candy in the house isn’t what I’ve been eating actually, but the behavior of hiding it is just as toxic as consuming it.

I knew that it was now or never.

And it felt quite literally like a do or die situation.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten dressed so fast in my life! I flew down the stairs as if my very existence depended on it. Without pause, I opened every cupboard, every ice chest, looked behind every cereal box and to all the places I keep my secret. As I gathered all the crinkly bags and boxes, I replayed every uncomfortable “I’ll save this for later” excuse I’d been telling myself. “I’ll use this for training.” “I’ll keep this for baking.” “These are good for movies.” I don’t go to the movies, by the way- so you get the picture. All of those things are innocent enough, until they aren’t any longer and they go from being an item you’ve stored to one that takes on a life of its own and calls to you from the other room, tempting you like a siren song. If what I’m describing makes sense to you, then you’ve probably heard the siren song too-and we are kindred spirits.

So I laid it all out in front of me.


My not-so-secret, secret.

All that money spent. Not just on this collection, but really in my mind, over the lifetime of this secret. The financial loss was nothing compared to the physical and emotional cost I had incurred.

And while I was filled with a deep hot shame over this thing that still controls me, I felt more alive than I had in 6 weeks as I stood under the glaring light of incandescent truth, there in my kitchen.

If I’ve learned anything in my life about my own relationship with food it’s this: Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know before you learned it. But be prepared because once you’ve learned it, you are responsible to take action.

Later when I shared the photo with my husband and told him how ashamed I was by what I had purged from our house, he quickly replied, “Don’t be. None of it’s open.” ❤

I drove to work that morning, a giant bag containing the secret to my oldest habit, sitting in the back seat. It was silent back there. That secret had its eyes squinched up tight because I was shining the light on it. It wanted to go back to the dark secret place of the ice chest, but I told it no. Never again are we doing this dance.

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My drive down the highway that day… it was better than it had been in 6 weeks.

I was not 7.

I was not in Santa Monica.

I was an adult.

And I was holding myself accountable.

Later that day I donated all that candy.

To me it’s a poison, but to someone else, it’s merely a treat.

Now don’t get me wrong-I’ve not sworn off candy forever. But I very clearly have a different understanding of its power over me now and should I choose to consume it, will do so now, with more mindfulness than ever before.

I quit smoking because cigarettes cause cancer. It was the hardest substance I’ve ever given up and I failed many times before I succeeded.

But you know what, I’ve decided that sugar is even more dangerous for me. In excessive amounts it intoxicates me like alcohol. It affects my decision making, my awareness, my well being. It changes who I am.

As I reflect on this period of time, what I ultimately realize is that the loss of control for a person who so very tightly holds their own reins, was a terrifying experience. To know that it was most likely caused by sugar and even more importantly, fed to me by my own hand is something to take ownership of so that I can prevent it from happening again. Sometimes your demon needs to be shown the light of day..sometimes the very act of the stark truth being seen, takes away the power it has over you.

I thought it would be a terrible detox those first few days, but every time I saw something tempting, the fear that those dark thoughts that invaded my mind would return, soured any sugar craving I may have had.

It’s day 4 today and as I look around, there is no fog to be seen.

Even in the dark, there are no secrets hiding.

The ice chests sit empty in the garage.

And I am tethered.

Planted firmly to the ground, looking down the road, months from now.

I breathe a sigh of relief because you know what?

I see myself there.

08/25/2022 update: As I sit here, reading this blog and knowing the unfurling of events since writing this, I feel it’s appropriate to make an addendum.

                                                                      It’s not the candy.

I mean, candy is certainly part of the story, but….

It’s not THE culprit for my fog, tears, wet blanket mentality.

No… it’s actually Bipolar Depressive Disorder. 2.

I think it’s important to note.

I’m doing so much better.

     I still love candy.

2018 Stats, Numbers and other Stuff

I think the last time I sat down and did a YTD numbers crunch was the year I did my first Half Ironman. I remember at the time, being in awe of the totals. Not because they were so amazing but because I have always seen myself as someone who lacks discipline. Yet, those numbers that year, very clearly showed me that I DID in fact have that trait in my character!

If I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling with some serious depression. The ins and outs of that are for another writing though.. but among other things this round of depression has affected my desire to write. I had so wanted to finish the unfinished before the end of the year… alas. Here I am. 5:20 in the morning on New Years day, sitting in front of my Happy Light with a hot cup of coffee and some data that in the big picture doesn’t really mean much of anything. (Insert shrugging emoticon here.)


My brain is a funny thing.. and numbers seem to be the thing I can sit down and do at my computer. Perhaps it’s because deep down inside that little mind machine, I’m ALWAYS searching for proof of discipline, and if there was ever a year that I needed to have it, it was 2018.

So without further delay, here are the numbers. For better or for worse.

From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 I:

  • Swam: 434,851 yards or 247 miles for a total of 127 hours and 43 minutes in the water.
  • Biked: 3540 miles for a total of 207 hours and 38 minutes on a HARD AS HELL BIKE SEAT spinning my legs in circles.
  • Ran: 540.1 miles for a total of 99 hours and 16 minutes of pavement pounding goodness.
  • My total hours spent training and racing combined ( I think-because it’s hard to break down the metrics to that specificity) are: 434 hours and 37 minutes.

In the events category, here is what my 2018 year held for me:

  • 10,000 yard birthday swim in the pool: 2 hours and 58 minutes.
  • Fat Salmon 3.2 Mile Open Water swim: 1 hour and 50 minutes. (gut punch)
  • Joint Base Lewis McChord Sprint Triathlon: 1 hour and 26 minutes.
  • Tacoma City Half Marathon: 1 hour and 59 minutes.
  • Park to Park 2.5 Mile Open Water Swim: 1 hour and 20 minutes. (second gut punch)
  • Best of the West Half Ironman: 6 hours and 41 minutes.
  • Orca Half Marathon: 2 hours and 9 minutes
  • Ironman Arizona: 14 hours and 24 minutes.
  • The 12K’s of Christmas as a Mall Walker Athlete: 1 hour and 44 minutes.
  • Total time spent racing: 34 hours and 29 minutes.
  • Total accumulated racing miles: 273.79
  • Total calories burned in racing: 15,941

And some other random stats:

  • Number of training and racing Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches consumed in the year: um… I don’t think I want to figure this one out. But any ride that was 2 hours or more got one and centuries had 2. So I’ll guess at about 25. Dear lord.
  • Most junk food consumed or bought with the intent to consume: Best of the West weekend. Dollar General-we can’t quit you and your wares. You have the best deal on all delicious snacks. #meetmeatthedonuts
  • Number of century bike rides done: 5.
  • Done in the garage on my trainer: 3.
  • 3 Saturdays in a row. That’s a lot of  Twenty One Pilots and Pandora.
  • Longest Bike Ride: 112 miles done indoors.
  • Longest run: 16 miles on the road.
  • Shortest workout. 200 yard run on the track following an 8 week hiatus from injury.
  • Biggest PR: 11 minutes over my best half marathon of 2:10 at The Tacoma City 13.1.
  • Second biggest PR: 10 minutes over my course time of 14:34 at Ironman Arizona in 2015 at Ironman Arizona in 2018.

And some “Discipline, Discernment and Determination” stats:

  • Most challenging “lean in” “suck it up” “get over yourself” moment: Re-injuring my tibia during a race and then during subsequent ironman training, thereby forcing me to walk 18 miles of my Ironman Marathon.
  • Most amount of time taken off for injury recovery: Collectively over the course of the year, I took off 14 weeks of running. I never knew I would love to run when I started this sport. But this year, I have missed so much of it. Like, deep in my soul-missed it. Today, January 1, 2019 marks the first day back to running in 6 weeks. #fingerscrossed #onemileEASY
  • Most mind bending “Gods timing is everything” moment: The Tacoma City Half Marathon when I had a holy encounter with a bereaved mother at the finish line. That was a great blog post to write. ❤
  • Most exciting sight where I squealed like a kid on Christmas Morning: Watching Wendi finish her first Ironman! HOLY every awesome swearword! The look on her face is one I will never forget!
  • Strangest thing I asked my husband to do in a race: “Tell Wendi her face is open for business.” Seriously, he looked at me like I was crazy. I mean, this was in the middle of an Ironman so I think I probably was a little crazy.. it was after mile 20 on the run.
  • Biggest challenge I took on this year: A 10,000 yard birthday swim in the pool. 5.68 miles. There aren’t any words really for this one. But doing it helped me feel more confident signing up for the Lake Skaha 11km Ultra Swim in 2019.

I’m sure there are many more funny stats that I could’ve collected, but for now this is it.

When I pause and look at all of these stats what I take away from it in the most simple terms is that I still have discipline. And what I’m remembering in writing this is that my depression is a disease just like diabetes. High blood sugar affects a diabetics ability to think clearly. Depression has the power to cloud my perceptions in a big way. Insulin and diet control help diabetics. Diet control and exercise help me. My depression isn’t isolated to the winter.. it’s as much a part of me in the warm summer months as mania, as it is in the dark winter days, as a paralytic…it doesn’t keep me from training because I use it as a tool to supplement my medication.

But still, like diabetes, my depression is often invisible to the naked eye. And sometimes even to those who know me well. So if I seem disconnected, distant or “uninterested”, it’s more likely that struggling with a fog that is always threatening to catch me off guard and engulf me.

Still, even in darkness, when depression has it’s grips tightly around me, I know there is light to be seen. This road is not unfamiliar to me so I lean in and search for it.

Sometimes a healthy dose of Vitamin D from the sky brings you around. Sometimes it comes in the form of a plug in box called a Happy Light that you ordered on Amazon and received in less than 24 hours!  Hey, listen: whatever gets you through the day, use that-because tomorrow needs you! ❤

After this writing, Josh and I went to the track.



It wasn’t a long run and it wasn’t an endurance event, but you know what? It was a run.. and it required discipline. And it was with someone who does really know me.. even when I don’t know myself. I am so thankful for this very patient and intuitive human who surprises me at how he can peel away the layers to reveal what’s really going on. Even if that means gutting the pantry to get me to talk. 😉

So on that note, Happy New Year!  Thank you 2018 for all the challenges you offered me. Today is the first day of 365 chances to choose optimism.


Waking up an Ironman. Again. :)

I’m up on Monday morning at 4 am when I turn over and feel like the IronTinman! You’re never more aware of how many things can be sore at once, than you are after an effort like this.

4 hours of sleep almost to the minute. This just makes me laugh. 😀

Moving slowly and quietly so as not to wake anyone, I venture down to the lobby and find that it’s a ghost town.

This place has pretty great coffee and I get first, second and third dibs.

I sit alone for about 20 minutes and let the feelings of yesterday leak out of my eyes. I have so many of them that I don’t even bother wiping them away. There’s a barrage of emotions doing the salsa in my heart. All I can do is sit there and be an audience to the dance.
My gaze settles on my shin, looking at it the way you would a child who just went one step too far. You’re equally patient and frustrated with them but are somehow, filled with compassion, so you don’t send them to time out.  I felt discouraged by the discomfort but still so proud of how it held on and got me through, at least allowing me a few two mile increments of running time.

Between sips of the hot vanilla coffee, I summarize my race piece by piece and sort out all the different parts of the day. Feeling a little shell shocked, as if I’d just been running from an assailant but had barely made it through a locked door, I was now standing on the other side of it, safe but breathless.

There’s a lot of “waiting to exhale” in Ironman.

The phrase “what an honor” doesn’t really capture how I feel about seeing Wendi finish her Ironman. She came down that chute, strong and steady, arms held high in victory! Knowing the inner workings of a persons spirit and then seeing them finish something like this, gives one a true appreciation for what the brain will allow the body to do to reach it’s goal.

Katy! A hard fought for day and a finish line that she so rightfully deserved:) She didn’t let past experiences get in her way, but instead used them as a stepping stone to climb this ladder!

❤ Jeanette… she fought hard too, but after combat swimming and a possible rib injury caused by another athlete, she pulled out on the bike. It’s the worst when an Ironman day ends that way. So much goes into the preparation, but she has a great attitude and that will be what brings her back next year!

 Jeff Dahle! He finished! It was his 6th Ironman!! The human spirit knows no bounds when the heart is determined to finish what it starts.

I  feel accomplished in the way I’d executed the goals I had for the day, the idea of them gripped tightly in my hand as if they were a tiny precious stone I’d just found in the dirt.

  1. Avoid a swim panic, swim the buoy line aggressively and do my best.
  2. Pedal consistently on the bike, take full advantage of all hills, follow my nutrition plan and do my best.
  3. Ugh. I’d had so many goals for the run. Still I executed what I had to work with by walking with more purpose than ever in my life. Black or white thinking was my ally this time. “You’re either running or walking. There’s no shuffling-it’s inefficient for you.” I can say with 100% certainty that in the end, I did my best.

In the coming days, I’ll loosen my grip and gaze at that stone. I know it’s important to see each one clearly because in the coming days, I will find myself picking apart the day like a well trained medical examiner. I’ll do what we all do, I’ll try to “see” where I could have done better. That’s all a part of Ironman too. 🙂 And it’s where a lot of learning takes place.

Back at the room, I am smiling ear to ear despite my hobbling as Wendi and I, Josh and Doug get ready to rock our swagger down to the merchandise tent to look for finisher’s jackets. It feels good to walk, albeit awkwardly, to breathe the fresh air and to be finished with a years worth of training.


It’s bitter and it’s sweet. Just like dark chocolate, although I prefer milk.

The village is all but broken down already with haphazardly placed pop up awnings and empty boxes strewn about. Just two days ago, athletes teemed through this area, overflowing with anticipation for the coming day. Now the silence here makes you wonder if you dreamed it all up.

Then you take a step off the curb and feel all the miles and know it really happened!

It’s  6:30 and there’s already quite the line at the tent! We wait and make small talk with other athletes acutely aware of the fact that we’re all a part of this weird gang called Ironman.

It’s got quite the initiation process, but once you’re in-you’re in! 🙂

A mad rush ensued through the door once they let us in to find our size.

Z finishers gear

They really get you in the wallet with this “finisher” stuff. We search again for event water bottles, but to no avail. You disappointed us here, Ironman merchandise people-all we wanted was a bottle to set at the end of the pool lane. It’s kind of like a baby picture sitting there, reminding you of what you made with your body. Each time you come up from a hard interval, it’s what you see and you remember: I can do HARD THINGS!

Back to the hotel, snug in our coats, we have breakfast and then it’s time to break down Esther for the trip home.
Doug and Wendi are staying one more day but deliver us safely to the airport where we bid Arizona Farewell.

Z Home bound

Until next time, Ironman…



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