Why Didn’t You Bring Ice Skates? {Half Marathon Musings}

Today was the Hypothermic Half Marathon up here in the subarctic.

The name of the event is slightly ironic this year since it was a balmy -3 when I started out; have I mentioned how much I adore El Niño? Instead of dressing like an eskimo, I had on a few light layers and didn’t have to put my jacket over my water belt to keep my water from freezing.

A few years ago it was -27 for this race. ACK!

A few years ago it was -27 for this race. ACK!

Basically, we are experiencing a tropical heat wave up here.

Subarctic tropical heat waves in the subarctic create havoc – ice, slushy snow and completely uneven, slippery as heck surfaces are a direct result of hovering around zero for months on end.

  • They should have renamed the race to the “Why Didn’t You Bring Ice Skates? Half Marathon”.
All of the roads were some sort of variance of these conditions. Not dying quickly became everyone's primary goal.

All of the roads were some sort of variance of these conditions. Not dying quickly became everyone’s primary goal.

Have I ever mentioned that I am a klutz?

Thank goodness for those weird grippy things you clamp onto your shoes. Sure, your toes fall asleep and running on pavement feels like you’re running on sand while wearing them but it’s better than a trip to the ER.

Yup, those round things get wrapped around your shoes and help you avoid death. Pure brilliance.

Yup, those round things get wrapped around your shoes and help you avoid death. Pure brilliance.

Rewind 7 days.

Instead of finding me running next to hundreds of very fit people wearing spandex, you would have found me sick as a dog in bed wondering if I was going to die. Three days of not eating, many trips to the doctor and antibiotics comprised the beginning of my week.

While in bed and running a fever, I received an email about the race details which also let me know that the race was sold out and if I wanted to sell my spot, many people would be happy to get into the race. Not only did I want to sell my spot, I wanted to die – luckily both of these options took more energy than I had at the moment, so I just went back to sleep.

Here’s the thing – I don’t run, bike, ski, weight train, etc simply for an event, I train because I want to be a woman who can say “HELL YES!” to things she wants to do in life. When I signed up for the race a few months back, I knew I would be able to run it no problem despite the crazy schedule of 2016 that was already looming.

I am glad my social running ways have paid off.

The truth of the matter is, I don’t love running. I run long distances because the friends I run with are amazing and the coffee at the end is always fabulous. Most weekends this winter have found me running long distances early in the morning with amazing women. Waking up around 6:30 am, drinking a few cups of coffee, reading random news, writing, having a small breakfast and then running somewhere between 16 and 26 kilometres before 10:00 am on a weekend is a fine way to kick off a day; it leaves you another 12 hours to do whatever you want or need to do and means you’ve already checked off something great for the day.

  • Being a woman who loves to check things off lists got me to the starting line this morning.

Despite the rough start to the week, I was there with my friends ready to check off something great this morning.

Good friends go through the start of the race rigamarole together.

Instead of being able to show up and simply start running at the start time, you have to pin a number to your chest (which if you have a chest is a feat in and of itself), line up outside and then hop around in the cold in a effort to stay warm while you wait for someone to tell you you can start running. Then a giant mass of people slowly lumbers through the start line and running doesn’t commence for quite some time while everyone sorts out their pace.

If I do sign up for a race, I don’t race for a time because pinning success on a number is a horrible way to live. Been there. Done that. Sure, having a time you’re aiming for is a great idea, but to make that the indicator of success – meh!

I love that my phone thinks I burned 1900 calories.

I love that my phone thinks I burned 1900 calories …

Conditions are rarely ever perfect.

Nothing is ever perfect, nor am I even close to perfect. The not perfect conditions of life paired with my many imperfections have taught me to be tenacious and positive while maintaining a dichotomous balance of striving and acceptance.

To me, this is successful living.

  • Rather than chasing success, live successfully when no one is watching.

I race simply because I can, not for a specific number on a time chip. It reminds me that I am alive, healthy and a woman who knows what it means to dig deep and do something hard and not die.

Learn to do hard things.

While running this morning and putting one foot in front of the other I realized that if I hadn’t signed up for the race, there was no way I would be out running today, not even 10 km – heck, I don’t think you could have gotten 5 km out of me.

If you pay attention to the internal conversations you have when you want to quit, you will learn a whole lot about how you think and what effect it has on your life. The pressure to keep running and do both loops (whoever thinks looping a race is a good idea needs to be hit over the head) shows you that you can do hard things and when you want to quit, you realize you have untapped resources to keep going.

Running a race gives you the opportunity to dig deep and find you have more grit, determination and ability than you previously knew about.

Dig deep friends, there is more inside of you than you know. Oh, and whatever you do, get those grippy things for your shoes!

Loppet Or Lose It

Cross country skiing, like cycling, simply makes me happy.

As part of Project Winter Love, I have strapped the slippery sticks firmly back onto my feet and found myself sliding through the Edmonton River Valley on a consistent basis. It has been a few years since I have been skiing and I couldn’t be happier to be falling over on a consistent basis.

The moment I clip into the skis, a smile spreads across my face. Apparently there is something about sports where I get to attach things to my feet, whatever the case I love the mix of hard work, nature, community and solitude that come with both sports.

Have I mentioned that I am rather hilarious at cross country skiing?

Despite my loving every second of it, I have yet to realize my full potential. When the 78-year-old women pass me, I simply wave and smile and remind myself that form is everything and I still have yet to develop good form.

This morning I attended a cross country ski lesson in an effort to help me ski faster than 4.8 kmph and not die after an hour of skiing. After 4.8 kilometers, I am nearly dead, carbs are required immediately and I could give a camel a run for its money with the amount of water I consume.

It was a GLORIOUS morning to slide around with some old and new friends.

It was a GLORIOUS morning to slide around with some old and new friends.

While learning how to give the cross country skiing grandmas a run for their money and dusting snow off my arse, I was reminded of six good life practices.

#1 Get up, don’t give up.

Have you ever found yourself knocked down, looking at the sky wondering what happened to you? This is not the moment to take your skis off, it is the moment to get up and try again. You failed. So what? Keep going and leave the hill when you have accomplished something. Becoming proficient or successful at something requires going through a whole lot of ineptitude and failure.

#2 Don’t confuse hard with hate.

I love skiing and when I am around the other skiers on the tracks, I consider everyone a friend and am happy to talk to anyone and everyone because we have a shared passion. And it is hard. Some of the best and most enjoyable things in life require hard work — a great job, building a business, creating lasting and meaningful relationships — just to name a few. Don’t complain about it being hard, simply enjoy the work and the people who are working alongside you and celebrate the power and strength you build over time.

#3 Look forward, not around.

Always look where you want to go because where you look is where you go. Keep your head up and point yourself in the direction you want to go, not where the other skiers are sliding around. As soon as you start comparing yourself to others, get distracted by other paths and worry about the exact angle of your skis, you’re most likely going to fall over. Be you, do your thing and go where you’re supposed to go – the more you focus on your progress and form, the better you’ll become and the quicker you’ll get to where you want to go.

#4 Loppet it or lose it.

Beyond the sport itself, I love that they have a fun name for a day of racing in the snow. What woman doesn’t want to loppet? Exactly; especially when there are cookies and hot cocoa to consume along the way as you loppet. You have to use what you learn – practice, become proficient at all the techniques and small things that make a huge different. Integrate what you learn into your life so you don’t have to keep starting over. And if you get offered a cookie for making a lap, savor it and don’t consider the calories.

#5 Practice falling over.

Sometimes you need to abruptly stop and the best way to do that is to fall over. Become proficient at failing in life. Learn how to fail quickly, without breaking anything and then get right back up. The best skiers are quick to fall over when they need to and know how to get right back up and keep moving.

#6 Do what makes you happy.

Life is so much better when you’re happy – and the best thing you can offer to the world is a happy, healthy you. Let yourself enjoy, laugh, tease the other skiers, and go on adventures in life. Some days the last thing I want to do is suit up, but as soon as I am out on the snow, I can’t stop smiling. Filling yourself up with happiness until you’re overflowing only brings joy, love and kindness to your work, family and friends – learn the discipline of doing what makes your heart happy because we all live from our hearts.

This is my new, 'loppet-ready' stance.

I am ready to loppet!

Sport doesn’t just keep my body healthy and strong, it teaches me about life, shows me who I am, reminds me what I am capable of and builds the discipline of continuing to grow and challenge myself. It has taught me to do things afraid, failure isn’t fatal and to keep learning, trying and growing as I go about my life and goals.

So the question remains, who is up for some loppeting?

Feel The Fear Without Being Fearful

I was backing out of my parking stall at 3:17 am on Christmas Eve morning when I heard a strange beeping noise followed by a very odd light popping up on my car’s dashboard.

With only a small nap under my belt and already running a little bit late, I fell back on what my days in IT consulting taught me to do; I turned the car off, waited 30 seconds and then fired her up again.

The light was back on and the weird beep happened a second time.

Adrenaline ran through my body and random scenes of me on the side of Highway 2 in -20 degrees celsius watching my car go up in flames after I barely escape with my purse and cell phone flashed before my eyes.

  • What can I say? *shrug* Drama adds flavor to life.

Rummaging through the owner’s manual to figure out what in the world the orange circle with little lines around it meant, I learned that my brakes needed servicing. Death by car fire was no longer imminent, I was due to be in America in just a few hours, and small nieces were awaiting my arrival …

To brake or not to brake, that was the question.

Airport Christmas lineups were looming, I was already later than I wanted to be, I had experienced no issues braking while driving Lucie previously (yes, I named my very adorable car) and the light for service just came on.

Being the highly practical and adventure embracing woman that I am, I drove the airport and didn’t really give it much more thought until I came back home.

Oh shoot! That darned light. Lucie, what am I going to do with you?

Lucie and the car light

Strange little light …

Yesterday I got the news about the light – sensor problem. Two options were presented: enjoy the glowing orange light or pay more than a few hundred dollars to make it go away. An oil change and a carwash later, Lucie and I were on our way with the little orange light happily beaming up at me.

Did you know that humans come equipped with warning lights and sensors?

They are called feelings.

If you are alive, you are constantly experiencing feelings – what you do with them is what matters.

Some feelings are constant, like the brake sensor light on Lucie. Fear is a regular and consistent feeling for most of us, whether or not we check the fear and what we do with it is what makes all the difference in the world.

  • Feeling fear is fine, living fearful is not.

When your indicator lights come on – happy, sad, angry, lonely, scared, overwhelmed, apathetic, to name a few – don’t just keep driving, refer to your owner’s manual and see what they mean.

This can be as simple or as complex as having a conversation with yourself. Start here –> “Wow. I feel so insecure and lost, tentative about everything, what’s that about?”

feelings

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Find your answers, grab what you need, make necessary course adjustments and get going.

Going through life without dealing with your indicator lights is fine until it isn’t; simple as that. If you live without taking note of all your indicator lights, it will seem as though without warning things start to blow up and you might only escape with your purse and cell phone in hand as you watch your car go up in flames while you shiver on the side of the road in the middle of the night when it is -20 degrees celsius.

Knowing what your feelings are telling you helps you live an authentic and fulfilling life. I don’t know about you, but being with people who know who they are and embrace it are an amazing and beautiful gift to the world.

beautiful heart

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There are a whole lot of ‘Lucie Brake Light’ emotions in life, figure those out and keep driving. Now, when the oil light and the check engine light come on, pull over, turn the car off and flag down help; whatever you do, don’t keep going.

Feelings are what they are, not bad or good, simply information and they bring color, depth and grace to life – they help you LIVE. Take your feelings with you on the journey of life, but for goodness sake, DO NOT LET THEM DRIVE, that is your job. Let your feelings hold the map, ask questions and point out the scenery along the way, but never hand them the keys.

  • Allow yourself to be with your emotions; as you go travel through your feelings you will find a fuller, richer, and deeper life waiting to be lived.

Grab all of life, even the hard, scary and painful feelings, because when you learn to go through those when they come you will be given the gift of ease, confidence and wholeness in another season.

What are your ‘Lucie Brake Light’ feelings? How do you practice listening to and learning from your your emotions?

Pants Keep You Safe

Life as Donloree is always an adventure and I would be remiss in not sharing my latest ‘Very Donloree-esque Fiasco‘ with you.

  • Consider it an early Christmas present.

I have yet to figure out why and how so many crazy things happen to me. It doesn’t usually bother me, after all, I am always up for trying something new, but there are moments when being unique, quirky and adventuresome can create slightly ridiculous situations . . .and I have no idea what to do other than laugh at myself and share the ridiculousness because we all need to laugh more often.

be bold

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Small problem. Teeny problem.

Adventure finds me even when I am not looking for it which means I usually find myself at the mercy of the latest crazy event rather than leading the charge.

My work revolves around wearing cute dresses, suits and fabulous heels while sitting at boardroom tables and figuring out how to make strategic plans happen through people.

  • You betcha – I work and consult in Human Resources.

Recently I moved to a new industry, one I knew nothing about — structural steel fabrication. I knew things were going to be different when I received a hard hat and safety glasses along with my laptop during my first day in the office.

Do you know there is no such thing as steel toed high heels? Seems a bit odd to me; I mean, how is a woman supposed to coordinate her outfits and not look ridiculous while traipsing through construction sites? (*Read with sarcasm*)

Unluckily for me, ‘Ridiculous‘ seems to be my middle name.

My first construction site tour was quite the learning experience. I was feeling both competent and confident with my new steel toed boots over one arm and my hard hat, safety glasses and borrowed safety vest in the other. I was prepared to pop on my boots, throw my other gear on and walk around an innovative build in the heart of downtown Edmonton and learn more about the construction process.

Sitting around the boardroom table with my gear on while listening to the safety instructions for the tour, I was distracted by a comment thrown my direction from the woman running the event.

Woman running the eventI sure wish I had sweat pants for you.
DonloreeWhy? Do I look cold in my dress?
Woman running the eventNo, but if only I had pants for you.
DonloreeWhy do I need pants? Is this a dress-free zone?
Woman running the eventNo, but the construction site is. It is a safety requirement to wear pants.
DonloreeReally? I need pants to walk around in my steel toed boots? 
Woman running the eventYes. You have to wear pants or we can’t let you on the tour.
DonloreeSo I am not going on the tour because I am wearing a dress? Really? Pants are safer than a dress?

The “make sure you bring these things” email didn’t say anything about dresses being banned; I brought all the required CSA safety gear, in fact this was the debut of the brown and blue steel toed boots that are now part of my work wardrobe.

Woman running the eventI wish I had better news for you.

My brow crumpled and I went back to distractedly listening to the instructions on what to do in case of a fire or bomb scare while on the tour. Without warning, one of the men in a white hard hat jumped up from the table and ran out of the boardroom and came back just as I was affixing the decal which stated I was trained on the safety protocol for the site to my hard hat.

Here was a man used to solving problems — he found some pants.

  • Spare pants.

Not just any pants but his personal spare pants in case of a pants emergency on the job site, which brought me firmly into emergent status.

Twenty people looked at my expectantly as the jeans were offered to me along with a huge, satisfied grin.

What’s a woman to do?

Reaching out, I tentatively took the pair of jeans and wondered if the floor could swallow me whole.

Man with the pantsYou can put them on in the small boardroom down the hall, we will wait.
DonloreeSure? Ok. I will be quick …

There is nothing quite like huddling in the corner of a boardroom full of windows without blinds on the 20th floor of an office tower downtown while pulling on a strange man’s spare, emergent pants over your tights to make you feel vulnerable and ridiculous.

I am a 5’8″ tall woman; even so the owner of the spare pants and I were nowhere close to being the same size. The pants did not come with a belt and I wasn’t about to ask for one.

Grabbing a handful of waistband and dress, I hitched up the pants and took a deep breath as I exited the boardroom.

True to their word, everyone was in the hall expectantly waiting for me.

I found myself standing next to the man who came to my rescue, looking up I made a comment which only made things worse; something I am unfortunately very adept at doing.

Uh…thanks for the pants. I am Donloree. I feel like I should be properly introduced to you since I am wearing your pants and all.

The comments from the 19 other men in the hallway were less than appropriate after I learned his name was Tanner; I found myself wishing once again that the floor could swallow me whole. And I felt bad for Tanner’s wife as she was brought into the conversation without her permission.

Head held high and cheeks bright red, I walked forward while holding onto Tanner’s pants for dear life.

  • Do you have any idea how unsafe it is to wear pants 3 sizes too big under a dress and over tights while traipsing through a construction site?  

And hot?

Let me be crystal clear, not sexy hot, heat hot. I started to pour sweat as we learned about the custom staircase, the requirements to keep the existing trees as part of the build and how all the unique specifications were addressed throughout the design.

I hid in the back row and wiped the sweat off my brow during the group picture at the end of the tour, there was no need to have an official record of my latest moment of complete ridiculousness.

I wore pants to the next event I went to that was hosted by this group, even though it was a dinner. I suppose I am one of those people who just doesn’t like to have the same ridiculous adventure twice.

  • Consider this a Public Service Announcement for all women – bring pants everywhere you go, they keep you safe.

What woman doesn’t want to be safe?

36 Years To Become Real

Rules and I don’t get along well; I find they chafe and I may be severely allergic to several varieties of them, yet I have one rule for my birthday –  I am allowed to do whatever I want to do without apology.

  • For those of you who know me well, the no-rules-rule makes sense.

Today is my 36th birthday.

After 5 days straight of work, coaching clients, evening classes, hosting a small dinner party, two Christmas parties, jazz and wine with friends and then a late night of dinner, drinks and dancing with friends who also have December birthdays which took me firmly into my actual birthday this morning, ‘being a hermit‘ topped the list of things I wanted to do for my birthday.

  • Being a hermit and soulful reflection go hand in hand in my world.

This morning after waking up at 6:45 am despite being out until well past midnight, I decided to hike to the edge of the river valley ravine with a latte in hand and watch the sunrise while reflecting on my last year.

Donloree Edmonton

This year has brought about a few more laugh lines around my eyes, the crease between my eyebrows has taken up more permanence and I continue to lose ground in the fight against cellulite and none of it actually bothers me.

  • The gift of this year was fully stepping into what it means to be real.

I am a very real woman, so real it hurts and yet there is no other way I would want to be.

The Velveteen Rabbit.

Earlier in the year during one of my weekly library runs where I illegally park downtown for 3 minutes, sprint past homeless men while they comment loudly on my ability to run in high heel and then grab all the books and DVDs I put on hold so I don’t have to actually go find the books on the shelves, I grabbed the Velveteen Rabbit off a featured shelf at the front of the library.

velveteen

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Nostalgia captures me when I least expect it. Velveteen Rabbit? What woman without children checks out the Velveteen Rabbit?

  • This woman.

I remember reading this book as a young girl and experiencing emotions which I didn’t understand at the time. Tucking it under the latest leadership book and memoir of the week, the Velveteen Rabbit came home with me and landed on my living room table.

Reading through it at the age of 36, I felt my eyes well up with a few tears. Suddenly, I understood the emotions I had 28 years earlier.

not perfect

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Life is an hourglass glued to the table.

I started to understand the beauty of being real when I hit my 30s; suddenly I realized that I am built to go forward, life doesn’t have a reverse or pause button. There is no such thing as perfect and the only way to stay pristine is to stay in the box, but real life is lived outside the box.

not back

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Its messy outside the box, messy and vulnerable. The more open and vulnerable, willing to take the risks I know I must to be able to live the life I want to live, the more real I become.

  • Becoming real both hurts and heals you – a mystery that you can only understand through experience.

Sitting on the bench this morning as the snow muffled the sounds of the city, I heard nothing and then I heard everything. I heard my heart and it is happy to be alive and living an extremely real existence.

bench

The real life is worth living. Don’t underestimate what you can do with your life and don’t let it pass you by. Life is a gift; it is your’s to keep safe and inside the box or to break free and experience the gift of becoming real.

Do stuff. Dream. Risk. Try. Laugh. Work your arse off. Love deeply. Be courageous. Fail. Succeed.

Simply put — choose to be amazing, choose to be real.

Project Winter Love

During the winter months, the subarctic and I have a tenuous relationship.

The summer months in the subarctic are great – the short, warm nights make things like long bike rides after work, hikes in the valley, picnics, drinking wine on a patio with friends until late, getting up at 4:30 am to hit the gym before work and whatever else tickles my fancy – easy to do. In fact during the summer, it seems live I a whole year because 6 hours of sleep seems more than enough when the sun only needs about 5 before it starts a new day.

winter coming

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  • Old Man Winter means hibernation and a whole lot of layers.

To survive winter up here, you have to be rather organized and resourceful. I already get up before most of the world is awake, but the alarm gets set back even further to a time that starts with the number 4 in order to accommodate my coffee drinking requirements, the time it takes to find all the required layers for the day and the mandatory windshield scraping so I can avoid running into things while driving to the gym at 6:17 am.

Driving home at 4:45 pm and for it to already be dark outside is a hard reality to face; it means by 9:00 pm my body thinks it is about midnight and I find myself in pyjamas and drinking tea wondering what happened to the evening.

I have lived in the subarctic for 18 winters and not thoroughly enjoyed even one of them.

  • Winter will not change, so change I will.

Enter Project Winter Love.

Instead of complaining and bemoaning how dark, cold, long, depressing and hard winter is, I have decided to like it, to enjoy it. Seasons are important – you can’t do everything in every season; there are times and places for things and when they come, the key is to dive deep and enjoy what you can in the season you are in.

season

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A huge part of living a good life is drinking in all of what life has for you in the season you’re in … even when it is dark, hard and cold.

  • Project Love Winter involves three key elements — gratitude, sport and adventure.

Gratitude.

Taking time to feel the bitter, winter air freeze your nose hairs, *ahem* I mean smell the roses, is always a good practice. Winter up here in the subarctic is rather beautiful. Hoar frost covered trees, icicles, mountains drenched in snow drifts, one of kind snowflakes and northern lights are just a few of the winter gems which are easily overlooked by moi.

Hot drinks, wine in front of a roaring fireplace, winter sports, the stillness that comes from a giant snow fall, sweaters and fabulous winter accessories are all things I do not get to experience when it is light out until 11:30 pm.

  • Bring on the sweaters baby!

Last weekend while out for an early morning 22 km run with some other crazy women, I had to stop and take a picture of the river as we traversed the valley on foot for a few hours.

Edmonton River - Winter

You don’t see this in the summertime!

Drinking in beauty always makes your soul a little bit bigger and your face break into an amazing smile.

And I do have to say, there is nothing quite like feeling the -40 weather chill you to the bones in less than a second; at that moment it is very clear how alive you are and being alive is a good thing.

Sport.

Put me on a bicycle and I am a happy woman. Seriously.

In the summer, if I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day the best way for me to remedy the situation is to put on some spandex and clip into my pedals and cycle until my heart is content. An hour or two later, I am drenched in sweat, carefree and happy.

My x-country skis are literally waxed and ready to hit the trails. It finally snowed the other day, and not just a little bit. As my cute car and I slid into the office parking lot with the heated seat on high, I couldn’t help but smile and wonder when the trails will be groomed and ready to have me be ridiculously happy on them.

Edmonton river valley winter

I am looking forward to seeing gorgeous views like this as I ski along this winter.

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  • I was very happy to see the snow pour from the skies.

Plans for skiing in the evenings and on the weekends have been made with friends and I cannot wait to make my first snow angel in the snow when I fall over … because I tend to fall over. I may be sporty, but I am also very clumsy.

Ski-Loree anyone?

Adventure.

There are many, many things that I rarely do and avoid during the winter – no more. I have started a winter adventure list of fun things to do this winter.

A few random things from the list:

  • Hot ‘beverages’ and northern lights
  • Snowshoeing in the mountains
  • Knit giant wooly socks and hope they fit – knitting can be QUITE the adventure if you’re me …
  • Hypothermic half marathon?
  • Birkebeiner …. maybe?
  • Hikes in the National Parks
  • Light a fire in my fireplace and let it snow (I am officially afraid of burning my condo down)
  • Christmas lights at the Legislature and Candy Cane Lane
  • Outdoor running and fitness races
  • Bonfires and sledding with friends
  • Christmas shopping on Whyte

The best part of adventures are having them with people you love, so friends get ready to be recruited to enjoy winter with me this year.

Heck, I may be convinced to try downhill skiing again, but that would take a whole lot of courage to look death in the face again; although this time I suppose I don’t have to go down a black diamond I could simply be reasonable and stick to the Edmonton ski hills and bunny hills.

Am I the only one who has struggled to embrace winter?

A down-filled jacket, additional base layers, cold weather running gear, headbands and windproof shells have been dug out of the closet or were bought in August and those hand warmer and foot warmer things will be bought in bulk.

Having what you need to ensure you don’t die a slow, cold and frozen death makes everything better – especially heated seats in your car. I am sure a woman invented heated seats.

I would love to hear your suggestions and things you do to enjoy the winter months. What makes your heart sing about winter?

What is on your Project Winter Love list?

Courage Is Contagious

When we deny our stories, they define us.

~ Brené Brown

I don’t simply read books, I savor, devour and consume them … at least the good ones. I dog ear pages, underline things, write notes in the margins and spill coffee on the pages; if I have loved a book, it looks nearly dead by the time I am finished reading it.

Brené Brown’s newest book, Rising Strong, was just consumed by your’s truly.

Wine and a fabulous book, I need nothing else on a cold, dark evening in the subarctic ... well except a crackling fire in the fireplace. :)

Wine and a fabulous book, I need nothing else on a cold, dark evening in the subarctic … well except a crackling fire in the fireplace. :)

The past 18 months have been rather quiet on my blog; if you are still reading, you get a gold star for sticking with me through one of the darkest, hardest, most painful and quietest seasons of my life. I am still traveling through the murkiness, but I am starting to see some glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe one day I will share more about this season, but for now and most likely a very, very long time, I am leaving it where it is – in process and not just my story. My parts of the story have been shared with people who love me, not in spite of all my imperfections, but because of them.

  • If imperfections make you lovable, I might be one of the most lovable women on the planet.

Despite thinking at times that I might not make it and wading through the aftermath of people going out of their way to shame me and share unwanted opinions about my decisions which had to be made for my well-being and health, I continue to live a full and meaningful life and struggle through the pain that comes with being brave.

brave courage

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Living a life and being alive are two distinctly different things.

Nearly all of my twenties were spent ‘being alive’ and it wasn’t until I entered into my thirties that I realized I wanted to live and not just some of life, but all of it; to grab life and experience the highs, lows, depth and adventure that come with a life well lived.

You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure – hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write your own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.  (Page 45)

It may sound like an overstatement, but I often say that becoming a coach saved my life. Without a doubt in my mind, I can stand behind this statement. In order to lead someone somewhere, you have to know how to get there and be equipped to overcome the obstacles along the way; you have to have been there before.

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Becoming a coach who can lead people across the chasm of the impossible means I had to cross and have to continue to cross the chasms of my ‘impossibles’ with someone else leading the way.

Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. ~ Pema Chodron. (Page 155)

Courage, vulnerability, grit, and rising strong were all skills I needed to learn, embrace and continually practice in order to move me from merely staying alive to living a life full of color, emotion, adventure, joy, pain and vulnerability.

Oh vulnerability…

This epic season of my life has felt like the longest, most intense and never-ending vulnerability hangover a woman could ever experience. Through all the hardship, pain, loss and confusion I have experienced alongside some unprecedented amazing and joyful experiences, I am proud, extremely proud of myself, because I am being the woman I am supposed to be and continuing to live with an open heart and to be vulnerable.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Jung (Page 251)

Awakening and staying awake is not easy, but it is the most important work you can ever do with your life. Your job is to live YOUR life, all of it.

Back to Brené.

I love Brené because she is human and grapples with her work; she is up to her armpits in the mess and doesn’t have all the answers, but she does have a way forward; her courage is contagious.

One of my practices after spilling coffee all over a book I love is to type out all the gems which made me write in the margins, put stars next to paragraphs and underline things.

The end of the book grabbed me. After practical ‘how tos’ and stories about people living out how to rise strong, Brené simply drove her point home in the last chapter.

Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people – including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time … brave, afraid, and very, very alive. (Page 254)

It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. You are worth it. I am worth it. I am learning how to live in the dichotomy of being brave and afraid and am also very, very alive.

How are you living? Are you very, very alive?

The ‘Have Done List’

One of my rules in life is to try things at least once.

I am not allowed to hate or say I can’t do something until I have tried it. If I have tried it and hate it or can’t do it, I am allowed to freely share my opinion and never do again if I don’t want to.

  • What can I say? I am a woman who likes to have an opinion about a lot of things.

There have been things I have tried, thought I would hate or be horrible at and yet ended up loving — hilarious things like playing squash, being a translator and installing toilets. I have tried things I thought I would love or be completely fabulous at and HATED — eating sushi with the fish eggs that explode in your mouth, group bicycle rides in the river valley and baking homemade bread, just to name a few.

You never know what’s going to float your boat …

… and if you’re me, you HATE boats.

Being willing to try things creates a very fabulous thing called a ‘Have Done List’.

I am constantly thinking about what to add to my ‘Have Done List’ because its a fun thing to grow.

Earlier in the year one of my early morning running partners sent me a text telling me she was running in the Edmonton marathon and wondered if I wanted to train for the half marathon.

Here’s the funny thing about running … I kind of hate running … but I love running with fabulous people and the coffee and conversation afterwards is always great.

When she asked if I wanted to run the race, it somehow quickly got put on my ‘Would Like to Have Done List’.

The ‘Would Like to Have Done List’ list is a dangerous list, it is the list that makes me become comfortable being uncomfortable and say yes to doing crazy things. Triathlon? Need I say more?

Darned lists!

A training plan was created, a race was picked and then focussed running commenced.

Did I mention that I hate running?

Did I mention that I LOVE putting things on my ‘Have Done List’?

If you want to add races to your ‘Have Done List’, here is some advice from a sturdy woman who is learning how to stop running like an elephant and tends to be a bit of a klutz.

Piece of Advice #1 – Carry water with you. 

Once you start running more than an hour at a time, you must carry water with you. I am a resourceful woman and didn’t want to carry water with me because I didn’t want to be one of those runners … you know … the ones with the water belts. I created routes around water fountains in the river valley after being ridiculous and bursting into a Mac convenience store 10 kms from home with salt tracks running down my face and desperately thirsty. I wanted to keep my minutes per kilometre under 6 minutes, but in an effort to not scare the attendant while slurping water out of the bathroom sink, I had to take a really poor time on kilometre number 13, which is hard to swallow if you’re competitive like I am.

Consider me indoctrinated into the subculture of running.

Buy a water belt, they may seem super lame to all non-runners, but in fact they are awesome.

Love it! It doesn't flop around, it fits my phone, keys and cards, AND its streamlined. Two thumbs up!

Love it! It doesn’t flop around, it fits my phone, keys and cards, AND its streamlined. Two thumbs up!

I have one that even has a pouch to hold my phone, cards, and keys – if I fall over dead one of these days, at least the police will know who to contact.

Piece of Advice #2 – Embrace running tights.

I am not the kind of woman who enjoys wearing spandex anything in public, but when you start running for more than 45 minutes at a time you need clothes that suck to your body and keep things from chafing.

I embraced this years ago in the realm of cycling, so why not with running?

My newest foray into running tights came via Superdry – they sent me an email to see if I would give their clothes a try on my running adventures and of course I said, “YES!”

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I love when things match – always makes me happy.

I picked out the cutest and brightest clothes possible because if you’re going to embrace the running tights, you might as well do it with gusto and go all in.

The holy-pink-Batgirl tights (my name for the colour, not their’s) had good things and less than optimal things about them.

Good things.

  • They basically glow in the dark and I got to be the early morning light for everyone else running in the dark with me.
  • They are long enough for my long legs – no ankle coldness to overcome!
  • Small pocket at the small of your back to keep some essentials in, which is great for running – less to hold onto or lose out of your jacket pocket when you’re trying to find a place to put your gloves once you’ve warmed up.

Less than optimal things.

  • They are only one layer and the pink colour showcased the colour of my underwear to everyone we passed by which means several homeless men were keenly aware that I was wearing my dark raspberry coloured underwear that morning. This colour would be great under some other pants or shorts, I have a feeling this wouldn’t happen with the other two colours.
  • The sizing was off, at least for my body shape. I ordered a medium as per my usually wearing size 8 US and found myself  hitching them up as we ran. This could be more to due with the fact that I don’t own hips, but when you order these go smaller than bigger; that’s the great thing about running tights they stretch!

The running hoodie is fabulous and cute – I have a feeling I am going to be wearing this in the subarctic most mornings that I find myself meeting the women at 6:00 am to go running in the subzero temps that are looming.

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On the run to go running! I am not organized enough to be able to have time to stop and take a non-blurry picture. This is as good as it gets friends.

It has a hood that cinches up with ease while running, double layer thickness, wicking away capabilities, thumb holes, an inside pocket for my phone and the medium fits my broad shoulders perfectly. It washes great and it dries over night no problem. Perfection!

Piece of Advice #3 – Make fabulous running friends.

Run with people who you like a lot and tell them stories, listen to their stories, laugh, think deep thoughts, be ridiculous and whatever else you feel like – simply share your lives as the kilometres go by.

  • In fact, this is the most important thing you can do.

Running alone is horrible, even when you have great music because when you have 5 more kilometres to go and all you can do is think about how you want to be done … it takes mental grit to get your arse back to your car without calling a cab. Although if you’re like me, you don’t bring money along so it really limits your options for being ridiculously lame. I try to create situations for myself where there is no option except to finish – it usually helps and sometimes bites me in the arse hard.

A half marathon is now firmly on my ‘Have Done List’.

And yes, I finally can say with pride, “Half marathon? Oh you betcha. I’ve done one of those.” MEC put the race on at the end of the season and I signed up last minute. It was a race that had 6 epic hills in it, but I finished it wearing some running tights, drinking water from my water belt and finding a few fabulous friends to chase down along the way.

By the time I finished, I was covered in salt and nearly unable to walk, but it was done!

After eating three bananas and catching up with an old friend at the finish line, I mustered enough energy to drive my little standard car home so I could consume half the food in my kitchen and have a very hot epsom salt bath.

Not guts, no glory … or something.

So the question remains, what are you going to put on your ‘Have Done List’?

Two Ballet Flats and an iPhone

Two ballet flats, which looked to be around a size six, caught my attention as I ran in the dark last Thursday. My running partner and I were on the beginning leg of our 10 km run and were just starting to warm up before the sun had even dared to come up.

When my alarm rings at 4:10 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I tend to wonder if I am crazy.

During June and July in the subarctic, getting up at 4:10 am isn’t hard because the sun has already been up for awhile. Waking up to a sunrise in process that is sharing glorious reds, pinks and oranges makes it easy to get up … or at least it keeps me from wondering if the world is coming to an end or questioning my sanity.

Now that it is fall and 4:10 am greets me with a sky the color of freshly laid asphalt and only 3 degrees, I don’t wonder about my crazy status – it is clear that I am out of my mind.

But that’s the thing about accountability, it even has the power to get my lazy arse of bed before the birds start their morning chatter.

The running women await my arrival, so I stumble in the dark towards my kitchen – opening my eyes is always optional at this point in the morning.

Coffee must be drank, at least two cups, prior to me leaving the house.

I have my priorities straight and am compassionate towards the rest of the world; no one needs to have an under-caffeinated Donloree on their hands.

As we approached the ballet flats, which I assumed a very fit woman must have lost during her morning bicycle commute to the University over the High Level Bridge, I felt the urge to pick them up and post them on social media so the fit, professional woman wouldn’t have to go barefoot or clomp around in her bike shoes all day.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky; it seemed endless as it stretched deep into its black abyss of nothingness. The glimmer of the iPhone lying abandoned between the two shoes was faint but nonetheless it winked at me, pleading for attention.

My initial thought was that there was an iPhone-less and ballet flat-less woman in the city and disaster abounds.

I was completely correct, but not in the way I thought.

Without fully understanding what was happening, my body slowed down and turned towards the owner of the shoes. She was already on the other side of the fence with her size six feet hanging off the four inch ledge and her two fists holding onto the chain link fence while facing the river below.

Her body shuddered as she contemplated what she believed to be her only option – death.

Four inches of cement and ten fingers separated life from death.

Adrenaline and calm suddenly coexisted in my body.

“I need to call 911. You need to talk to her, be with her.”

Some of the longest minutes of my life stretched out in front of me as I waited to be connected to police services while watching a tiny, young woman take one hand off the fence as stories of pain, abuse, neglect and horror poured out of her soul and trickled down her cheeks.

Now only five fingers separated life from death and there was no one there to help us to keep it from happening. My heart reached out in silent connection as I tried to will her to come back over to safety and experience love and hope in the words we shared with her.

Forty minutes later the police removed us from the scene, Shivering and brokenhearted, we started the 1.5 km reverence-filled run back to the YMCA.

As I tried to get ready for the day without crying in the locker room, I answered an unknown ID call on my phone. A deep breath filled with hope and dread entered my lungs.

She chose life.

Her ten fingers reached out and latched onto a small glimmer of hope for a better tomorrow.

Tears filled my eyes and I shared the news with the other women in the change room; collectively we shared a sigh of relief and cheered.

Two days later I ran across the bridge and spent the kilometer being grateful for how wonderful my life is; despite how utterly crazy, hard and complex it is.

I have more than enough, despite all of my problems.

The mental image of the abandoned ballet flats will never leave me and will come to mind every single time I cross the High Level Bridge; a reminder to choose hope, be grateful, and to always run through life with amazing people by my side.

It is my victory bridge.

Later that afternoon, I called to see if someone could tell me which hospital the tiny, gorgeous woman has been taken to – of course they couldn’t – simply because she needed to hear the truth in my heart that kept threatening to pour out of my eyes.

You matter. You are important. You are not invisible. You have not been forgotten.

All I wanted to do was take her in my arms and say, “I was on the bridge with you. I see you. You matter. You are worth fighting for and there is nothing in my power that I wouldn’t have done to keep you with us. Stay. Fight.”

Perhaps she isn’t the one who needs to hear this truth today. Perhaps it is you.

You matter. You are important. You are not invisible. You have not been forgotten.

If you’re on the other side of the fence with only 4 inches of cement and ten fingers keeping you from death, ask for help and let yourself be seen.

Reach out and grab onto hope, no matter how faint the glimmer.

And for those of us running by, don’t pretend like it isn’t happening when you see it. Stop and face your humanity and the person in front of you, no matter how scary it may be in the moment.

Oftentimes when you help save a life, you end up saving your own.

Opportunity Doesn’t Usually Knock

I am a woman who has entered into the middle stretch of her life. In a marathon, I would be in the section of the race where you just keep plodding along and the spectators are few and far between.

Yet, the middle of nearly everything is the best part … let’s take the Oreo as a prime example of everything that is good about the middle. Or a Boston Cream doughnut. Or a molten chocolate lava cake topped with ice cream.

*shakes out of food coma*

The middle is where everything changes.

Being 35 years old and sticking my head up every now and again to see where my life is at and what other people are doing makes me grateful.

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In my twenties, I was hustling; believing I was behind everyone else. That I was somehow a failure because I didn’t build a technology business with only a 3 dollars in my pocket, solve the water crisis, feed 1 million hungry children or cure cancer. I was utterly normal, boring and predictable.

At the age of 20, I thought I knew everything and was wise. It turns out I knew basically nothing and was ridiculous and ungrateful.

Reality really does bite sometimes. HARD.

The questions about “What are you going to be when you grow up?’ and pressure to have 2.5 children, a dog and always present a shiny picture of happiness has faded.

  • I am neither shiny nor grown up – and you don’t have to be either.

The middle of the race is where small changes yield huge results. You can’t change where you are in your race, but you can change how you run.

Opportunity doesn’t knock, it usually races past you and you have to run to catch it. Stop sitting at your front door, peering out the window and hoping the knock will come.

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Some opportunities will pass you by, others you will catch while you keep running and there are some you shouldn’t chase.

Opportunities come when you are in motion and running the race that you’re supposed to run; not someone else’s. I don’t know how many times I veered off my path in my twenties to run someone else’s race, got stuck in the brambles and found myself back on my path limping along while bleeding profusely.

The best thing you can is is keep running, training and working hard on YOUR race.

When someone else passes me, I have learned to cheer them on and applaud them for working hard and chasing the opportunities that have come along on their path. Everyone who does what they are supposed to do with their life deserves acknowledgement and honour – there is no room for jealousy or bitterness in a life well lived.

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When you take the long view and learn the art of running just a bit faster, you will arrive where you want to go sooner – your capacity to do more with your life will grow.

Don’t lose sight of what you’re supposed to do each and every day.

Most days are ‘boring’. But what you do with your ‘boring’ matters. The boring days set you up to be able to chase down opportunities when they cross YOUR path.

One of my favourite things to ask myself and others is, “Was the diem carpe-ed?”

How are you running your race?