Stop Stepping On Your Saplings

Do stuff, risk failure and keep going. 

Accomplishing amazing goals and becoming proficient anything requires you to start and then keep going; to accept the work, time, discipline and sacrifice it takes to get what you want out of your life.

  • Ignorance gets you started; purpose keeps you going.

And just in case you were curious, it always takes more work, emotional energy, time, heartbreak, discipline and perseverance than we think it will at the start.

Start now. Carpe Diem. Go. Begin. Commence.  

tree

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How often do we look at other people’s trees and wish they belonged to us?

Jealousy versus inspiration.

If you water your trees, you get fruit. If you water other people’s trees, you get an empty watering can.

Yesterday I participated in a six hour mountain biking clinic put on by the Dirt Girls which I jokingly referred to as ‘How Not To Die While Mountain Biking.

  • It was a day of fruit for me.

While poised at the top of a hill ready to go down and attack some obstacles on the bottom, I suddenly had a moment of  unexpected reflection.

It was cold, yet fabulous. Obstacles galore were overcome and technical skills will be integrated into my biking hence forth!

It was cold, yet fabulous. Obstacles galore were overcome and new technical skills will be integrated – watch out hills, curves and roots you are about to be tackled!

How did I become a woman who knows she needs to be one of the first to try the skill challenge so her fear doesn’t grow into an insurmountable mental giant that cannot be overcome, no matter how safe it is?

  • Tree watering.

15 years ago I couldn’t even run the length of a football field let alone run something like 30 kms or bike through the river valley for a whole afternoon. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of life, but I planted some seeds and kept watering them.

The process of seed to sapling to firmly rooted tree takes a long time.

How often do we step on the small, green shoot that breaks through the ground because we are annoyed that the seed didn’t turn into a glorious oak overnight?

  • Stop it.

The small shoots of growth which show up as ineptitude will eventually grow into competence if you choose to cultivate them and submit to the slow process of sustainable growth.

If you want to get somewhere, you have to keep going.

It takes time to grow an orchard which feeds your soul. 

My whole professional life revolves around helping people and organizations figure out where they are ‘now‘, what they want next and how to get it. In the course of a week, I ask the question, “You’re here now, so now what?” about 100 times in various ways.

It is too late for yesterday, you are correct. The good news is yesterday is done and we are firmly in today.

  • So now what? 

Be inspired, not jealous; start planting your own trees and celebrating what you are doing with your life. Dream, set goals and water your trees.

consistency

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And for the love of everything that is good in the world, be inspired by other people’s trees. See what is possible and work your arse off to do what you want with your life and be who you want to be.

What kind of orchard are you cultivating?

Just Say ‘No’ to Ultramarathons

Whenever I find myself thinking, “I’ve got this. No problem.” quick re-assessment rather than going forward with confidence needs to take place.

Most times I am completely fine and I have whatever ‘it‘ is, but the moments when I don’t, or in this case the 4 hours, quickly become epic.

  • I run with crazy women. Crazy in a good way, but at the end of the day crazy is crazy.

Which means, by association, I am firmly in the crazy category.

Running is not something I enjoy all that much. I love being fit, strong, capable and powerful – able to do more than the average woman, but I do not love running. I run for the challenge, cross training, to be healthy and to grow my mental discipline. Most of all, I run to spend quality time with my friends; they keep me on my toes, both literally and figuratively.

The crazy women are training for the Blackfoot Ultra Marathon, I am not, I repeat, I am not running 52 kms on hilly trails for fun. Nonetheless, yesterday I went for a run out on the trails with them for ‘fun‘ and ‘moral support‘.

blackfoot running donloree

Welcome to spring in the subarctic tundra and the ONLY flat part of the run.

There were a few small problems, aka gaping holes, with my support.

  1. The route was the most challenging course I have ever run in my life.
  2. 25 km was the plan. Prior to this, I had only run 26 km once before with 22 km being the average long distance and 16-20 km being comfortable.
  3. My right quad and IT band are currently on strike.
  4. AND I am still recovering from a monster cold.

But why not? You only live once, right?

I heard myself say, “What the heck – could be fun…. Besides, I have never run x-country trails for that long of a distance. It will be an adventure.

Holy adventure Batgirl.

We met at 7:30 am at one of our usual starting locations, then we piled into cars and drove for 45 minutes to the middle of nowhere, aka Blackfoot Park.

  • The plan was simple – do a loop.

Loops I can do, and no I don’t need a map — thank you for asking? I decided it was going to be simple – one loop and voilà, amazing run complete.

Apparently everything I decide doesn’t pan out the way I think it will.

Back to those pesky, gaping holes.

  • The terrain was freakishly hilly, as in that is all it was – hills. Literally over 100 of them were completed by your’s truly.
  • There is no water on the trail other than sloughs and I finished my 2 litres of water at the 20 km mark.
  • Coughing up a lung while trying to eat a few gummies on a walk break resulted in aspirating my carbs instead of ingesting them.
  • The loop was something we needed to create in the matrix of trails, Donloree – 0, Nature – 1.
  • Deep life lessons learned by continuing forward when all you want to do is sit on the ground and weep become annoying instead of meaningful after 3 hours of hearing the leaves crunch under your mud collectors *ahem* x-country running shoes.
  • I would have died without my more advanced running friends who had sunscreen, extra water, blister packs, advil, gluten free granola bars, a sandwich or two, 3 litres of water and alcohol wipes in their super athlete water packs.

Oh, did I mention we got lost?

Lost. I hate being lost.

The main problem with being lost is that you can’t go back the way you came because you have no idea where the path went. As is true in life, the only way forward is to keep going and the map is only helpful once you’ve orientated yourself to where the heck you are now.

  • Orientation sometimes takes longer than you expect and oftentimes reorientation and even re-reorientation is required.

The map with the ‘you are here‘ screw was less than optimal. We would find ourselves at an intersection with three intersecting trail options, only two existed on the map and the one we thought we should take was straight on the map and a hairpin turn in real life.

We spent a lot of time looking at the green maps and cursing the men who made them.

blackfoot map

Looks helpful, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, the map needs to be about four times this size with more details. MANY more details.

It was pretty at the start and then as time went on I stopped caring about the new green grass poking through the brown tundra, the crunch of the leaves under my feet and the blue sky with fluffy clouds. My whole body hurt and death by wild animal seemed like a good alternative to continuing; the coming of spring no longer brought joy to my soul.

Swear words formed in my mind as the next hill appeared and it was all I could do to keep them from spilling out of my mouth; I was not always successful in this pursuit.

Reality check.

The encouraging and hopeful women of the group looked at their Garmins around the 23km mark and let us know we only had 2km more to go.

I am a realist and couldn’t ignore the fact that we had been lost for awhile and additional hills and trails were coming up; I knew we had more than 2km left to go. At the 25km mark, four of us started to walk and ravenously ate all the food we had left in our packs; water was a thing of the past for all of us.

  • It has to flatten out at some point” was what I kept telling myself; the truth it is doesn’t and it didn’t.
run stat April 16

As you can see, we were lost in the middle for a decent chunk of time. Notice we did MORE than the requisite 25km. Kill me now.

Not only was it hillier and longer than I anticipated, it was warmer out than I thought it was going to be; the transition from winter to summer is always a bit rough. 17 Celsius felt like a tropical heatwave. I nearly peeled my shirt off at the 18 km mark, then I wondered out loud if anyone would care if I ran without pants because at 7:00 am tights, not shorts, seemed like a good plan.

  • I kept my pants on and kept running.

And all I could think was, “Where is my bike? What in the world am I doing out here without my bike?”

I love cycling.

While on the trails I bemoaned the fact that killing my body by putting one foot in front of the other probably meant my plan to pedal for hours and hours on Sunday would need to be readjusted.

  • Note to self: always prioritize cycling.

Another important learning of yesterday is that 25 kms of happy mountain biking not even 12 hours prior to running 28 kms of hills is probably not the wisest thing a woman can do; you live and learn … or you’re training for a half ironman or ultramarathon, neither of which I am doing.

There is a gift in being naïve, it gets you out there. Just make sure you have some gumption and fabulous friends to get you back home.

Are We There Yet?

Over the past two weeks, I have had more conversations than I can count with clients, coworkers, friends, running partners and people in the grocery store line up which can all be summed up by the age old car trip query, “Are we there yet?

  • The answer is, “Nope.

Life is a never ending journey of climbing to the top of a mountain, enjoying the view and peace from the top, finding another mountain to climb and then doing the hard work of travailing, traveling through switchbacks, descending down into dark chasms only to have to immediately climb up the other side, fording rivers and slowly picking your way up a winding path next to a sheer drop off to arrive at your next, well-deserved and glorious mountaintop view.

If you have ever hiked up a mountain, you know that despite the beautiful vistas along the way it can be a lot of work, somewhat dangerous, hard and tiresome. Yet the pay off of being able to see more of the world and sit back and enjoy the view for awhile is rather satisfying and worth it.

  • No one climbs to the top of a mountain and stays there indefinitely, there is always another mountain to climb.

When you’ve climbed to the top of a mountain, scaling another peak doesn’t seem complex. In fact, you can probably see it from where you are and it feels like shouldn’t be too hard to get to; after all, you got to the top of this mountain, right?

And so the next journey begins.

The gap between where you are and where you want to be is usually larger than you realize when you start out.

  • Most of life is lived in the gaps.

Steep climbs paired with some glorious vistas and fabulous seasons of easy climbing have taught me that who I am and who I am becoming is always and completely up to me. I can’t change what happens in life as I climb my mountains, but I can choose to do my best under pressure and become a strong climber.

Diamond

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Over the last season, I have been practicing a few things to help me do a little bit better as I navigate the gaps which make up most of life.

#1 Be where you are

Being happy is not about avoiding pain. How much happiness you are able to experience is directly related to how you go through painful experiences. Happiness is the gift that comes from learning to experience all of life, even the most painful and unpleasant things. Lean into both pain and happiness as it comes in life; go through the pain and savour the amazing times. There is a deep sense of joy that comes when you finally arrive on the other side of hardship, a peace and lightness that cannot be taken away because it is rooted deep into your soul and fills the space that loss has left behind.

road

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The best views and incredible peaks require the most work to arrive at the top.

And when you find yourself at the top or running through a beautiful meadow, throw your arms wide open, smile, let the sun shine on you and laugh as you happily spin around.

  • Lean in and drink deeply of all life has to offer.

#2 Take risks

Someone whom I respect and quite adore once told me, “In order to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs.”

Exactly.

Oftentimes, to get what you want out of life you have to break what currently is in order to make something new. It isn’t for the faint of heart and it takes courage to create a new future.

Pearl

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Risk is never comfortable, but once you’re clear on what you want and where you’re going, you owe it to yourself to execute. Simply not doing what you know you need to do, avoiding, or not making a choice is actually making a choice; every single action and inaction has its risks, both seen and unseen.

  • What if it isn’t broken, rather just open?

#3 Learn to be ok traveling sans map

There is a certain finesse and je ne sais quoi involved in simply moving forward when you don’t know every twist, turn, step or climb in a journey.

Or more aptly put, no guts, no glory.

I have learned the art of gathering what I think I might need and then just doing the next thing because there is no Google Mapsloree app out there to tell me what the next life turn is, where I am going, when I am off course or what time I am due to to arrive.

The road

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Once you’ve started on a journey and descended into the valley, it can become hard to see where you’re going and it is easy to feel desperately lost even though you are moving towards where you want to go and what you want to do with your life.

  • You’re not lost, you’re in process.

#4 Tell yourself a better story

A business acquaintance of mine noted that I have “a legendary optimistic approach to life”. I laughed out loud because I would simply call myself a realist who takes all things into consideration. I am adept at seeing all the problems and all the possibilities; the glorious, good, interesting, boring, bad and ugly.

seeds

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I have simply decided it makes sense to spend more of my time worrying about what could go right rather than what could go wrong since whatever I tend to over analyze and obsess about rarely happens anyway.

  • Worry about what to do when it goes right.

 #5 Throw caution to the wind

I make more plans than the average woman. I have goals, lists, spreadsheets, I am prepared – heck I have everything from dental floss to bike tools in my purse at any given moment. I pack my lunch the night before and get up before the sun to train. And then opportunities show up which I have to say YES to and all plans get thrown out the window and I wonder how in the heck I am going to accomplish what I just agreed to, yet there is nothing else I would rather be doing at the moment.

I am notorious for saying yes to things that make my heart sing and then figuring out how to do them once I start; instruction manuals are rarely referenced which only adds to the chaos and adventure.

The truth is no one knows what they are doing and the only way to grow your capacity is risk epic failure while learning how to do things you don’t know how to do.

chance

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Because I am human, the only way I actually grow is by external pressure. Not knowing how to do everything I have committed to keeps me on my toes and forces me to keep learning, striving and risking failure. Every good woman needs a challenge and adventure in her life which helps her show up every day and give all she has to the task at hand.

  • Make the bold choice and take the opportunity when you come to a fork in the road.

The next challenge in life is rarely easier than the last.

Every single day is an opportunity to become a little bit better, develop, reflect and grow through, not just go through, life. Most days pass by without much notice, but the training you do and the purposeful choices you make in how your respond to life is who you’re becoming and it is what prepares you for the next, bigger, harder, more challenging peaks and valleys which scatter the landscape of your life.

  • If you don’t start the climb, you will never arrive at the top.

If life is anything, it is dichotomous, and that is what makes it good even when it is hard.

Move forward, keep going and be purposeful in how you go about your life. Your only job is to be an amazing you, so go after it with everything you have and don’t look back.

Life Is Too Short To NOT Ride Bikes

Summer love.

The long, dog days of summer are just around the corner and I can’t wait, mostly because it means my bikes get to come out of hibernation. Living in the subarctic does have its benefits and one of the main perks is the antithesis to the dark days of winter; LONG, warm days fill the summer months, days which are full of pedalling and a rather sore arse now and again.

happiness

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  • Fact: We only have two seasons up here, winter and summer.

Surprisingly enough, I am experiencing twinges of sadness as Old Man Winter fades into the background and the flip for summer is about to be switched to the ‘on’ position. In the fall, I decided to embrace the cold days with Project Winter Love and it turns out I didn’t get in nearly enough skiing, long runs in the cold with icicles forming on my eyelashes, walks in the snow and drinking hot beverages while window shopping and people watching, nor did I manage to fit in a snowshoeing adventure or a snowy hike in the mountains.

  • Snowy mountain hikes, snow shoeing and a loppet are happening next winter. Consider it done.

In the winter, I tend to hibernate. More sleep is required, my crockpot usually has some sort of thick, hearty stew or chilli simmering in it and being social is limited to 2 to 3 times a week. Up here, once you’re home, it takes a lot to go back out into the snow and -20C or colder.

Summer, be still my heart.

During the week, my alarm rings somewhere between 4:15 am and 5:00 am. In the winter, this means I have a 3 to 4 hour head start on the sun, but in the summer I get to wake up with the sun. It is glorious to drink coffee on my patio while the sun finishes cresting the edge of the earth and I smile from the bottom of my heart, simply happy to be alive before I train and hit the office.

Summer brings about a lot of things I love – hiking, sitting on patios with friends while drinking wine, fires late into the night, picnics, afternoons at the lake, being able to sit out in shorts and a light jacket and watch northern lights and fun last minute adventures with friends, but most of all it means biking.

Clip me in baby!

Last weekend, it was ‘hot‘ here, a balmy +9C, so the whole city was outside, some even in shorts, embracing the change of the season and I was right with them on my bike.

I opted against the icy, mooshy trail next the river as I didn't need a 'Donloree slid into the river' story to tell everyone at work on Monday morning. Neither of us were still white at the end of the ride.

I opted against the icy, mooshy trail next the river as I didn’t need a ‘Donloree slid into the river’ story to tell everyone at work on Monday morning. Neither the bike nor I were still white at the end of the ride.

Sure, there was still snow in the river valley, but it didn’t stop me from grinning like an idiot and being happier than a pig in mud … and let me tell you, there was a whole lot of mud!

I’ve decided to be purposeful in savouring the season I love most in the subarctic. And I am going to do it while connected to my bike because whenever I am clipped in, it seems everything in the world makes sense and there is nowhere else I would rather be … until my arse starts to tell me otherwise.

I just need to go cycling

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Project Savour Summer.

I have zero problems loving summer, but there are moments when I want to slow down and simply savour the people in front of me, to enjoy and drink deeply of the people and experiences I love most.

A few things I am already planning on deeply enjoying these upcoming months:

  • Ride and possibly race with the Dirt Girls
  • Run through Central Park with two of my favourite friends
  • Head west for a few days to nearly die riding in the mountains and hike through the Rockies
  • Evening walks, wine and dinner with friends
  • Drive away from the city lights and watch northern lights dance late into the night
  • Camp with a fabulous group of women as long as there are showers and flush toilets (I am old and high maintenance)
  • 24 Hours of Adrenalin with a group of coworkers – I am apparently the only woman interested, but then there aren’t many of us women out there in steel fabrication so I will represent
  • Watch the sunset and the sunrise as often and as much as possible
  • Run through Blackfoot to help my crazy ultra marathon friends train for their craziness (I am not, I repeat NOT, training for a marathon or ultra marathon)
  • Find a new city to explore and see what amazing places, people, culture, music and nature it has to share
  • Spend time writing on coffee shop patios like the Little Brick while drinking lattes and trying to avoid a sunburn
  • Complete a duathlon or triathlon (maybe …)

There is no time like the present to be grateful for and savour what you love. I was awake early this morning, so I rode into the sunrise with coffee in my backpack and happiness in my heart.

Edmonton Easter Morning Sunrise

Perfection. And colder than expected! My adorable new Coeur cycling kit will have to wait for warmer temps before it makes a showing.

I have a feeling there are going to be many more early morning rides in the river valley with coffee in tow because, why ever not?! Listening to the stillness, watching the birds play in the sky, smiling at the chatter of the squirrels and seeing the ice give way to spring was the perfect start to this Easter Sunday.

Note to self: when it is -2C, make sure to wear gloves because riding back with only one hand on the handle bars and the other in your jacket collar in an effort to recover feeling in three fingers is a bit risky for a woman named Donloree.

  • We don’t get more moments in life, so how deeply we live the ones we have matters.

Life is good when there is wind in my helmet, my feet are clipped into bike pedals and there are trails to blaze.

What makes your heart sing about summer? What adventures are you choosing to live?

Fear Less

Every completely fearless person has one thing in common – they are all dead.

If you want have great memories when your body doesn’t work the way it used to, build deep, meaningful and lasting relationships with the people you love and accomplish those things you must do, you are going to experience a whole lot of fear.

  • One of the great dichotomies in life is the more you face fear, the more you live. The less fear you face, the less you live.

Experiencing fear is an integral part of accomplishing your dreams and growing your potential. If I lived a life without fear, I would simply stay in my house where it is safe and nothing can harm me, do the same job for the next 25 years, go on vacation to the same place at the same time every year, not meet new people, not try new things and keep to what I know how to do now.

do more than exist

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When a person lives like this, things which didn’t used to be scary suddenly are, they start to do less and less with their lives and the dreams which used to light them up become an impossibility.

Reduction of life is not the goal.

You’re either growing and expanding or shrinking and atrophying – there is no such thing as a static state in life. You have no control over the fact that life constantly moves and you must respond to it; what you do have control over is how you respond and the direction that your life goes.

The other week while spending five hours trapped in a crammy tin can with wings, I had long conversations with the people I had to crawl over at the three hour mark of the flight in order to go to the bathroom. Travel, work, hobbies and fitness always come up in my conversations with seat mates – there is nothing quite like telling a perfect stranger random stories about your life. After awhile, the woman next to me made an odd statement about her perception of me. My response, which tumbled out of my mouth without hesitation, was not what she expected.

Middle Seat Lady – “You’re fearless.”

Donloree – Nope. Fear lurks everywhere – there is always something to be afraid of, I simply have things I want to do with my life and the day I let fear make my choices I am completely screwed. Fearless, never. Courageous, yes. Brave, sure.”

Disappointment crossed her face.

I realized I am not afraid of what she is afraid of so I had a special ‘fearless‘ status in her eyes. Yet, the truth remains that as one grows in life there is always something new to be afraid of, to overcome, to conquer.

I was somewhat surprised by my candour, but the truth of what I said remains.

Fear is not the enemy.

Fear lurks everywhere – trying to avoid it is a waste of time and energy. Instead of trying to be without fear, take it in stride and simply look it in the face, take a deep breath and choose courage. Be brave, relentless in your pursuit, disciplined, focused and joyful; fear simply gets to come along for the ride until it gets bored of being ignored.

Fear is not the enemy

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Admitting fear and experiencing it isn’t weakness; dwelling on it and letting it define what you do and how you live your life is.

Instead of trying to be fearless, we need to learn how to fear less.

If and when you fail while facing your fear, try again; the bravery of yesterday will give you courage for tomorrow.

  • Being afraid and moving through fear is an integral part of living a good life.

Every fear moved through and conquered is the realization of a goal or dream. Being brave is not an easy pursuit, yet living a life you’re not supposed to live isn’t easy either.

Be grateful for the opportunity to be brave as you move towards and through fear when it shows up on your path as you accomplish your goals and experience the realization of  your dreams.

What fear are you kicking in the teeth these days? How do you fear less?

Surf In My Hair. Sand In My Shoes.

Nothing could wipe the smile off of my face in that moment; there was nowhere else I wanted to be and the beauty of the world made me gasp as I found myself standing on a surfboard with the ocean roaring under my feet.

One of my happy places - ocean, sand, wind, waves. The only thing missing is a bicycle!

One of my happy places – ocean, sand, wind, waves. The only thing missing is a bicycle.

Feeling the power of the ocean first behind me, pushing me towards the shore and then suddenly standing on it and being one with the wave made the world stand still and everything was blissfully quiet inside the roar of the ocean and within me.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
~ Annie Dillard

This past week was spent adventuring with my best friend in Sayulita.

The adventures were not all that we had planned simply due to some extenuating circumstances – a tropical disease, some sort of 48 hour well-hello-there-you’re-new-to-Mexico epic stomach flu, strong riptides and the first rainstorms Sayulita has had in 4.5 months kept us from doing all we had planned.

Nonetheless adventure met us in the way of surfing, talking with extremely interesting people from all over the world, wine tasting in a rainstorm, drinking way too much coffee at Yah-Yah’s, eating amazing food and chasing the neighbourhood rooster out of her bookstore, to name a few.

Here comes the rain ... AGAIN. Surfing and swimming were quickly replaced by shopping and wine.

Here comes the rain … AGAIN. Surfing and swimming were quickly replaced by shopping and wine. We are adaptable, what can I say? 

Hiking through the jungle, random pop up fashion trunk shows, learning how to cook chiles rellenos from the cutest and kindest Mexican woman on the planet, coffee bean picking with Julia and paddle boarding are firmly on my list for the next visit. The last thing I needed was to try to explain my name in Spanish to a man who was rescuing me from a jungle ravine or coming home with a story about how I had to get CPR on the beach story to tell my grand-nieces one day.

I am part explorer, a woman who always needs a mountain to climb.

I wasn’t designed to do the same thing forever, day in and day out. Without new challenges and enough to do, well, I atrophy.

  • Whether you realize it or not, the same probably goes for you too.

This is one of the many reasons why I travel as much as I can; experiencing a new part of the world full of people, food, adventures, languages, wine and places to explore on foot, a bike or something else just makes me happy.

big world

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Despite my love of travel, airplanes and I have a love / hate relationship.

Airplanes are glorious inventions – they are much better than traveling across a continent in a car or crossing an ocean on a boat. On the other hand, they could use some extreme help as they are basically crammy tin cans which give me the opportunity to practice my zen ways of being and simply be at peace with my thoughts for hours on end while being smashed in between two strangers.

Everyone hopes for good people to be seated next to them on an airplane. The last thing anyone wants is to be trapped in a tin can and strapped down next to weirdos, creeps or drunk people. I know this isn’t Kosher to say, I also dislike sitting next to larger people, simply because when the armrests have to go up for you to fit in the middle seat … well being jelly in that sandwich is about the last thing anyone wants to experience, especially for hours on end.

  • Sigh. Just call me Jamloree.

If you ever think it might be me walking down the gangway towards the plane, the litmus test is whether or not the woman in question is muttering prayers and bargaining with God for things like emergency exit rows, the need to be upgraded into first class so a family can sit together, an empty plane or that only skinny yoga people decided to take the flight in question.

Perspective.

These are the moments when I wonder why I put myself through the tin can torture, and then I remember; the tin can with wings is taking me to a new place, a new world and gives me the opportunity to do something I have never done before.

Sayulita street

The colours, tastes and smells are glorious. I love learning from and being in other people’s worlds so I can bring back some of the colour to my world.

Life really is short.

We only have so many hours on the earth – doing what you love, being happy and sharing your life with people you love is a glorious experience and something we all need to do as much as is humanly possible.

Truly living means grabbing onto life as it comes, whether it is hot and sunny or cold and rainy. It means learning to smile and enjoy your moments even if you just tossed your tortillas for the third time that day and couldn’t eat your dinner without napping halfway through.

  • It doesn’t matter if you are running for cover from a rainstorm or out on a nice patio sharing your heart with your best friend over a nice glass of wine – what you make of your moments is what you make of your life.

climb the mountain

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What is most important in your life becomes clear when you take time away from the daily grind and let go of all the have-tos for a week or two. There is a centering that happens inside of you during and after traveling to a new place and seeing more of the world. A reconnection with the purpose which beats inside of your chest is made; your unique heartbeat, the things you must do in the world before you die find a way to be heard again.

The biggest challenge in life may be to not let go of what and who is most important and live in such a way that you do what you must do and always love the people in your life who you are never supposed to let go of.

love something

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The longer I live, the more cognizant I am of the tenuous status of life – nothing is guaranteed. Some people live longer than they should, living a horrible semi kind of a death and others suddenly drop dead with an assumed 40 more years in the life bank.

  • Here’s the thing — we are all dying, so we need to live while we’re alive.

Plan for the future, dream, work your arse off, love like today is your last day and live on purpose.

Go. Now. Do not look back. The world requires exploring.

… and whatever you do, make sure to get sand in your shoes and surf in your hair. As much as and as often as you can.

What is your next adventure or mountain to climb?

Once Upon A Time When I Thought I Knew Everything …

Do you remember being 18 years old?

I do. I knew everything. Either as I get older, I am becoming less intelligent or I was suffering from a severe case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome before life came at me with both barrels blazing. It turns out there is a lot that I didn’t know and a few things I did know but didn’t want to acknowledge.

  • Youth; it really is wasted on the young.

Despite feeling as though I have lived through 75 years, I am only 36 which gives me the unique opportunity to be quasi-young and move through the next few decades with more wisdom than most people have in their 30’s and 40’s. That’s the thing with going through hell, it either kills you or makes you strong and resilient.

Oh and ‘Life’, please accept this as formal, written notice that I am strong enough to make it through the duration of this decade and require no more epic, life adventures which nearly kill me. I am putting my notice in for a 2.5 year sabbatical for all life learning lessons and ‘opportunities to grow’. Please and thank you.

Do you ever look back on the decisions you made yesterday with the wisdom of today? Stop cringing, you did the best you knew how to do and so did I.

  • I promise.

There are a lot of things I would do differently if I had them to do over, but if you are like me – extremely human – then there are no do overs in life, simply wisdom gained.

Somehow while thinking about all the advice I wish I could give my 18 year old self, I ended up writing a ‘Dear Donloree’ letter.

Its what writers do, they write …

~ ~ ~

Donloree,

It’s me. Or more accurately it’s you, twice as old as you are now. I have so much to tell you. First things first, society still has the unspoken rule that women have to wear nylons and you are going to break the rule on a consistent basis because it is a stupid rule.

I realize you just got the internet and are enjoying the new fangled thing we call email, but wait until you have a mobile phone that is the size of your palm, talks to you, only has two buttons and basically does everything you could ever want except practical things like laundry or scrubbing the toilet. Life is about to spin faster than you thought possible and fill up with details that people think are important, but all of these things are mostly noise.

One would think with all of this progress, we would have gotten past the nylons requirement by now.

  • I know; I am deeply disappointed too.

Your life is not going to turn out the way you think it will and you will learn that very few people’s lives do. And the people whose lives are exactly what they thought they would be at the age of 18, well, I feel sorry for them; it must be a rather boring existence to have peaked at such a young age.

You are going to move to a new country, marry, divorce, start a business in an industry you don’t know exists yet, write books, earn a Bachelor’s degree that has zero real life application, nearly die from a disease with a weird name and rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Travel, adventure, running other people’s companies, learning how to do all kinds of things you never thought you would do, completing crazy physical feats and changing the world for one person at a time, starting with yourself, is how you’ll spend the next 18 years.

I know; I am a complete disappointment in the language department. What am I doing with my Spanish, you ask? That has yet to be seen, but all I know is a UN Translator doesn’t usually get to travel to lead negotiations and solve world crises, they sit and type all day long while listening to people talk. You suffer when you spend too much time at a desk – you need to make change happen which often lands you in crazy adventures and you love it.

Being a kickass HR woman and Executive Coach suits you much better and it means you get to wear cute dresses and fabulous shoes while making a societal statement by refusing to wear nylons.

  • Two birds. One stone.

Many epic and hard things await and many amazing and jaw dropping experiences are also in the future for you.

In order to get through the hard and be able to savor the amazing, here are five things you need to do to have a great life.

#1 Choose wisely – choose happy, not hot.

You are going to spend hours, days, heck even months in your 20’s, worrying about how your body looks, under eating and over training in an effort to be attractive for other people.

Please stop; this is a complete waste of time.

Instead of caring so much about how your body looks, simply take care of it. Only eating celery and almonds and then killing yourself in the gym it is not taking care of your body.

With your metabolic baseline and autoimmune disease, you can be magazine cover hot or happy and beautiful in a very Donloree-esque way, but not both. I have experienced both and being happy is a much, MUCH better way to live.

I have been a size four and it doesn’t make you any happier or guarantee that you’re beautiful. Happiness and beauty are inside jobs. I am completely serious. Skinny chicks aren’t the happiest women on the planet, in fact many of them are suffering from a severe lack of food and wine enjoyment and all the friends and adventures that come with a side of calories. Being thin only means there is a better chance your size might be on the clearance rack, but nothing else in life is better because of it. Being fit, healthy, strong, loving the skin you are in and knowing who you are and being it without apology, well, that has huge benefits. Find the balance of being active, fit and healthy and send your scale to hell while biking all over the countryside, grabbing onto life and experiencing what it means to live a life full of joy and adventure.

beauty

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  • The truth is, happy is beautiful, at least to the people who matter.

And in regards to the people who only pay attention to you if and when your body fat is in the single digits, feel free to make judgments about their lack of depth and character.

#2 Let the kind voice help you captain your ship.

There are two competing voices in your heart and mind. One is kind, gentle, and intuitive and feels like a gentle ocean breeze under a full moon on a warm, clear summer night. The other is mean, brash, loud, and angry and feels like getting a root canal without Novocain. The volume and value of these voices is in direct correlation to the attention you give them. Pay attention to the first voice, even though it seems counterintuitive; it is the voice has your best interest in mind.

Possibility

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When you hear it say, “Don’t walk down the aisle” or “You should talk to that person” or “Say yes!”, do it. Do not question this voice even though it takes you into a place of vulnerability – its where the best things happen even though you might feel like you’re going to die.

  • Feeling like you’re going to die and dying … two very different things.

#3 Make peace with fear.

Sometimes when you are afraid, you need to run away. Other times when you think you might die, it means you need to keep going and do the very thing you’re scared of.

If a man wearing an eye patch is running at you with a knife and threatening bad things, run away.

If you are afraid of what people will think, that you might fail, you might care or love the person across from you more than they care for or love you or many other stories that start with being vulnerable and end with the unknown, feel the fear and do it anyway.

  • Risk living a big, full life – it is worth the vulnerability hangovers which hit you now and again as you travel on a path of accomplishment, love, compassion, success and adventure.

wings

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You have at least another 18 years, so make them amazing and go for it!

#4 Carpe the damn diem. Every. Single. Day.

Work your tail off. Learn to be an amazing executioner. Dream big and move your arse. Learn how to be a morning person sooner – get up, drink coffee, be grateful, write, train and eat your second breakfast before the rest of the world is up. When an opportunity comes your way and you want to say yes, SAY YES, then go about figuring out how to make it happen. You can and always will find a way to do what you’re supposed to do in life when you keep saying yes to your heart.

  • Do not let one day go by without doing something purposeful.

now

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Become great at doing the next thing even if it is boring and lame. Yes, I pack my lunch, gym bag, work clothes and laptop bag the night before and leave them at the front door. Your brain synapses don’t fire quickly at 5:30 am and let me tell you, forgetting your bra is an epic fail you really don’t need to experience more than once. You will be glad to know the messy high school years passed and you learned how to be organized, efficient, minimalistic and not run around like a chicken with her head cut off. Phew, right?

Remember your Senior Project and all those late night Algebra marathons? You stopped being ridiculous with deadlines and channeled your energy into things like triathlon, half marathons, bodybuilding competitions, speaking at business conferences, traveling, catering weddings, home renovations and car repair.

  • A woman can’t have too many skills, I am completely serious – learn how to do many, many things.

#5 Most importantly, love with your whole heart. Always.

Life has a way of breaking your heart. Whatever you do live in such a way that you can always love. This means learning to forgive quickly, decide everyone is doing the best they know how to do and simply give love away. Love is a river until you hoard it. Hoarding love leads to stagnation and then when it comes time to love all you will have is a swamp to draw from.

And make sure to always give yourself the most love, grace and compassion you know how to give and then add some more.

lover

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And, yes, some people just suck.

Regarding the people in your life who only want to abuse you, use you up and benefit from your abilities and skills – remove them immediately. Learn how to do this quickly and efficiently. Saying, “NO” is having boundaries and keeps you in a place of love. And when people tell you that you must love someone who abuses and manipulates you, remove them from your life as well.

Life is a series of opportunities to choose who you’re going to be and who you’re becoming; always choose the path that makes you proud of yourself even if it flies in the face of convention.

  • Do not lose heart; for without it, you cannot truly live.

Whatever you do, break more rules sooner. There are so many rules that just don’t matter.

Please also ensure you also apply the standard, no-name brand of advice – travel more, buy less stuff, say no more often, floss, start using eye cream before you have crows feet, invest in RRSPs, eat the slice of cheesecake and don’t count the calories, care less about how clean your house is before your friends come over and never, ever try to give yourself a bikini wax.

I could warn you away from all the mistakes you are about to make and keep you from all the hardship and pain that is coming your way, but I won’t because these are the things that make you real.

And being a real is the only way to live a great life.

  • You’re not just going survive; you’re going to thrive.

What about these scars? Scars are beautiful things; they are reminders of lessons you’ve learned and places you will never go back and are a constant reminder that you are extremely resilient.

Feel free to share any or all of this advice with your young, idealistic friends who also know everything – it might just help you avoid a few of the EPIC bumps along the way. Or maybe not. Its ok if you don’t because I know you’re going to be amazing, so no worries.

No matter what, not giving yourself a bikini wax is the one piece of advice I would take to heart. Or at least be prepared and have ice and Band-Aids on hand, you are going to need them …

With love and admiration,

Donloree, age 36

PS – Always buy great shoes – no matter what happens they will fit, even after a few nights out with the girls and many bottles of wine. And there is never judgment, only fabulous panache and style to accompany you as you take over the world.

Mouthy

Tina Fey and I would get into trouble if we were friends. 

I admire a woman who speaks her mind, isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and others, is smart, swims against the current of societal expectation and is known to be a bit mouthy and bossy now and again. This might have something to do with the fact that I have been known to be rather mouthy and a bit feisty when fighting for someone or something I believe in.

Reading Tina’s book, Bossypants, made me laugh out loud in a Starbucks which scared the other coffee drinking people; I couldn’t help it, she’s hilarious. I giggled at her irreverence towards things that most women get stuck on (see: photoshop and magazine covers, women over the age of 70, page 157) and I found myself nodding my head in agreement towards her approach to and perspective on life.

Tina Fey, Starbucks, Donloree

It always makes me laugh when they misspell my fake name at coffee shops. Have we stopped teaching children how to spell and are relying solely on iPhone autocorrect? Oh help!

On being a feminist. Sigh.

She, like me, is a feminist but the strange breed of feminist that gets annoyed being labeled a feminist because most of the times the conversation is tiresome, predictable and slaps labels on you which are unhelpful and surprisingly sticky.

I dislike applying the term ‘feminist‘ to myself simply due to the baggage the society has tied to it over the decades.

As per usual, society takes the most salacious and ridiculous examples they can find and affixes them to terms with superglue. The core of feminism is not trying to make women better than men; simply put, it is a demand for equal rights, access, opportunities and treatment.

On the flip side, I am also a ‘masculinist‘, I think men should have equal rights, access, opportunities and treatment as women.

  • I need to start a new movement –> the ‘Peopleist’ movement.

I am envisioning Peopleist shirts, flyers, hashtags and perhaps even a picket line complete with tagboard signs and angry chanting … both bras and jock straps would be burned in a massive pile on the steps of an important government building.

Somehow I just don’t think this is going to catch on …

Being a woman living and working in a man’s world for nearly two decades, aka usually being the only woman in the room, I have come to accept and overlook things which my radical feminist friends would be outraged about. In my experience, taking the feminist platform gets frustrating and actually makes it harder to be a feminist that gets stuff done for all women everywhere.

do your thing

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Tina summed up my brand of feminism quite nicely …

So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.

If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece, “Over! Under! Through!”

Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares?

Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.

~ Page 144-145

Totally.

Most of the time the larger conversations you want to have in life don’t require words; attitude, discipline, action and perseverance are the things which create lasting change and clearly state your stance.

People experience and remember what you do, how you make them feel and who you are – not what you say.

  • Always trust what people do, not what they say.

Decide what you want, say yes and go after it, even when the societal rules tell you it shouldn’t / can’t be done – create some permanent wins.

Figure it out

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What’s a permanent win, you ask?

The things in life that no one, no matter what they do, can take away from you are permanent wins; also known as being your own unique brand of amazing. When looking back on life, these accomplishments make it on your highlight reel and cause you grin like an idiot.

And I will continue to do as Tina suggests, aim to look good while being an odd brand of feminist because it justifies my fabulous shoe collection.

It’s not vanity, because if you look weird, it will distract from what you’re trying to do. If you look as good as you can, people will be able to pay attention to what you’re actually saying.

~Page 126

The challenge of life is to figure out what permanent wins you want to have to your credit and then go after them with everything you’ve got while not caring what people think. Sounds easy, but its not – especially the ‘what people think‘ part – even when you’re my age.

What permanent wins are you going after? What kind of Bossypants are you going to become?

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.

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?