Rubicon

Over the course of the past three years, I have grown and gone through more than I thought possible.

  • Or wanted to.

Contrary to how I would prefer to live, from time to time I have caught myself fearing the future, waiting for the other shoe to drop and imagining the worst.

The problem is, some of the horrible things that I imagined happening, happened.

Yet, here I am still alive and happier than I have been in a long time or even thought possible anymore.

  • Difficult things happen all the time and it hasn’t killed you yet … even when you think you’re not going to make it.

At least this is what I was telling myself while on the third mile of running up slick rock in a race in Moab a few weeks ago.

You may feel like you’re going to die, but you’ll survive. You’re a woman who can do hard things! Just don’t fall off the trail on the way down, k? Keep going!

For half of April and May, I threw caution to the wind and explored the Southwest of the USA. There is nothing like forgetting what day it is and having no reason to figure it out.

  • Traveling is an important part of life; at least my life.

When you go somewhere new, you learn more about the world and a whole lot about yourself, if you’re open to it.

20 days of adventure.

Before leaving, a massive list in the form of a custom Google Map was created. I pinned places to visit and hikes, adventures and things I wanted to see and do. Notes, links and thoughts were included in each pin, and yes, I even had a color coding system.

Southwest Adventures Google Map

I know. I am ridiculous and overzealous … there is no way you can do over 100 amazing things in 20 days. We only accomplished the green icons, I guess there is another trip down south in my future!

One of the things I found in my ‘Googleage’ was a trail race in Moab, adventure capital of the Southwest.

  • I put it on the map.

The website was pretty and it seemed like the perfect thing to do as a prep race for my impending mountainous adventure in July.

With only a few hours left before registration closed and while covered with red dust from a full day of exploring and hiking through canyons in Arizona, I found myself paying the race fee.

After closing my laptop, I promptly forgot about the race while exploring the Grand Canyon, slot canyons, natural bridges, gulches and many other incredible places.

Little Wild Horse Canyon

It is easy to forget about things when you’re adventuring! We nearly didn’t make it on time to pick up our race packages — Little Wild Horse Canyon was unbelievable.

Finally arriving at Moab just as the race packet pick up was about to close, I found myself wondering what I had actually signed up for.

Cute Race Director Woman – And you heard about the river crossing?
Donloree – No. River? Crossing?
Cute Race Director Woman – Yes. The Colorado is backed up so the wash is running deep. It came to my waist this morning. It’s at the end.
Donloree – And we have to go through, not around it?
Cute Race Director Woman – Right through. But it’s at the end. Just bring dry clothes along for after.
Donloree – Ok. Sure?

Waking up to snow on the morning of the race with the impending river crossing at the end of the race made me want to simply DNS (that’s fancy runner talk for ‘Did Not Start’).

Amasa River Crossing

I was not too impressed the night before the race …

Cue internal pep talk.

You’re Canadian. You can do this. You scoff at snow. You are better than snow. You’ve got this …

As I started the race, I gave myself permission to stop running at any time and simply quit.

Great idea in theory, but there was a small problem with the pact I made with myself … once on the course, I had no idea how to go back and not get lost.

Two miles into the relentless climb, I realized my only hope of getting off the mountain was to follow someone who I thought was also doing the 6.5 mile race.

  • Like life, the only way to survive was to keep going and figure it out while in motion.

Finally arriving at the only aid station, I took solace in the fact that I was still alive and was not lost. Three glasses of water and four orange slices later, I decided to keep going, but I had a question first.

How much longer?

Donloree – The guy giving the directions on how not to get lost out here said the aid station was at 2 miles. Did he mean two miles in or two miles left? Do you know how much further? I feel like I have been running longer than 2 miles …
Woman slicing and arranging fruit – Hmm. I have no idea. Bob, do you know?
Bob – Shoot! I meant to ask that before we got up here. I have no idea. Maybe you’re halfway?
Donloree – So, you have no idea how much longer?
Bob – No and I am glad I am in charge of water and not running. Good luck.
Woman slicing and arranging fruit – Totally! I would hate to be running today. You’re brave.
Donloree – I feel out of shape and I want Starbucks. I haven’t had coffee yet.
Woman slicing and arranging fruit – (Raising her coffee and smiling) Get a cup when you get back to town!

I didn’t harm them, if that is what you’re wondering.

It turns out the aid station was located two miles outside the finish line and after turning a corner, I could see the finish line.

Thus began the descent.

Seeing how I ran up the 4 miles of hills slower than a pregnant turtle, I tried to make up time on the downhill.

  • Insert small problem — extremely technical single track with a sheer drop off on the left.

Avoiding death prior to the swim portion of the race became my new goal.

I have never been so glad to see a murky river in my life.

No longer caring about how icky it might be, I fearlessly took the plunge without a moment’s hesitation.

As per the firm instruction of the race director, the course went through the river and if you didn’t cross there, you were disqualified.

Wet, muddy and officially annoyed, I crossed the finish line.

It took a banana, two glasses of water and a sandwich to make me human again and able to interact with society without biting anyone’s head off.

Amasa Race

Welcome to the race course … up, over, around and back down. This is the look of “Sure, I can do that tomorrow. No problem!”

Pride quickly filled the place annoyance had just occupied.

I can’t believe I just did that. It wasn’t pretty but it is done.

Everyone is running a race. Your life is your race.

Sometimes it is easy, oftentimes it is not.

The decisions you make, even the whimsical ones late at night when you’re covered in red dust from a full day of hiking, put you on a path. Most decisions in life seem banal and mindless … yet all the little things you do or don’t do set your course.

As you run through life, giant chasms of decisions come your way and you have to figure out if you are going to take the plunge or DNS.

There is rarely any way to undo what you decide; you are the one who has to live with yourself and your decision. Choose wisely.

Sometimes it is less horrible than expected. The river had gone down over night and after a few quick seconds I was on the other side of the river only with only half wet shorts.

I was lucky – it is not always this way. Sometimes it is worse than expected and you nearly drown. (I know, uplifting thoughts with Donloree …)

Whatever you do, when you’re crossing a Rubicon, make the decision which makes proud of yourself after you have a sandwich or two and are once again able to interact with society in a kind manner.

  • What Rubicon are you facing? 

Make yourself proud, do the hard but happy thing — cross your Rubicon without hesitation.

Speedy Is Not My Middle Name

Last Saturday morning I found myself bear crawling up a set of icy stairs out of the river valley, wondering how I get myself into these situations. As I desperately tried to not start a domino effect of people wearing stretchy clothes, I had this sinking feeling like I didn’t belong.

Actually I know I don’t belong.

I was in the midst of taking the shortcut back to where we had started with a few other people who needed to be at certain places by a specific times because I was very tired from running with some of the speediest people in the city.

And when I say ‘with‘ I mostly mean ‘around‘ or ‘close by’.

For some reason I have agreed to run a leg on a Sinister Seven team this year. I am in charge of not dying on leg two. I am not being ridiculous, my goal is to not get injured while putting in a decent pace so as to not embarrass my teammates who, for some strange reason, think it is a good idea to have me run with them.

  • Even stranger, I said yes when they asked me.

In an effort to avoid experiencing a medi-vac experience first hand, I have started running with Fast Trax. They are a group of super speedsters who rarely fall over on the trails because they run like gazelles and are known for winning races.

Showing up for the first time was reminiscent of my first day in the fourth grade when I changed schools. Everyone knew everyone else, where to go and what was expected. Once again I was the awkward girl with the strange name who was trying to look like she knew what she was doing.

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All of the super speedsters come equipped with watches that beep incessently and track everything about everything, they all know the lingo and run at ridiculous speeds while still being able to talk.

I am just a girl with an iPhone and a “MapMyFitness” app.

Nearly every workout goes something like this:

  • Warm up run (20 minutes)
  • Insane speed intervals
  • Recovery run (10 minutes-ish)
  • Insane speed intervals part duex
  • Cool down run (20 minutes)

Everyone sprints until the computer on their arm notifies them it is time to jog for the allotted recovery time and then when the beeping starts again, they start running like their arses are on fire.

*Rinse and Repeat*

Three minutes into my first workout, I found myself wondering how I was going to survive. Their warm up pace felt like sprinting to me, but according the the website, which I had read earlier that day, sprinting was next. While banter about races, upcoming vacations and work swirled around me, I simply tried to keep breathing and not lose the group. I have been lost on a group run before, its embarrassing when a search team of speedsters has to come back to find you lumbering along unhurt, simply suffering from a case of being severely average.

After everyone else was warmed up and I was already half dead, we paused to go over the workout as a group.

“So tonight we are doing 2 minutes by 6 with 1 minute of regeneration, always slinky-ing back, 10 minutes of recovery and then 2 minutes by 6 with 1 minute of regeneration again and then we run back home. Your sprint should be at your half marathon pace. Any questions?”

Sure I had questions, but heck as if I was going to ask any of them.

  • Half marathon pace? What’s that?
  • How do you not fall over on the ice?
  • What happens if I pass out? I didn’t sign a waiver form. Shouldn’t there be waivers for this sort of thing?
  • The tightness in my chest … is this due to being out of shape, running anxiety or a combination of both?
  • What is this about a slinky?
  • Why am I the only one experiencing an extreme gravitational pull on her Lululemon pants?

No problem. I got this.

The fated words I usually utter prior to something ridiculous, painful or epic happening.

  • Luckily I kept my big, fat mouth shut for the the first workout.

There is an art to looking smart, just don’t say anything. While they sprinted ahead at whatever ‘Half Marathon Pace’ is, I simply ran fast and tried not to lose sight of them, knowing I could not do this for more than 2 minutes; 21.1 kms was completely out of the question.

Then we did that 11 more times with a ‘regeneration run’ in the middle of the torture.

Regeneration RunA painful gait associated with leg trembles, wheezing noises as your lungs search for oxygen molecules and bewildered thoughts of rain despite the cloudless sky as sweat drips off your eyebrows.

Somehow I made it through to the end of the workout and was more than happy to jog at a Donloree approved pace back to the Fast Trax shop.

The downside of looking smart – no one tells you anything.

All the speedsters were waiting at the top of the last hill for the last runner, which happened to be your’s truly.

  • No runner left behind … or something.

I was simply trying to make my legs continue to turn over while going up the hill which is stressful without fourteen pairs of speedy eyes watching the horizon for your long awaited arrival. At the top, all I wanted to do was bend over at the waist and work on getting air into my lungs. My arrival cued a celebratory circle of fist pounding followed by sprinting the rest of the way back to the shop.

Somehow my jello legs and I made it back without losing the group completely.

Yes. I was the woman leaning on the light post at the traffic stop; sometimes you can’t will yourself to stay upright and require additional help in whatever form you can get it.

Being the worst person in a group of elite athletes isn’t the worst thing in the world; maybe some of their speedy superpowers will rub off on me.

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The path to being good at something is choosing to accept being horrible when you start.

Only up from here … right? 

Back To The Basics

The other day one of my crazy, fit friends sent me this text …

Oh no … I have a love / hate relationship with epic goals.

My immediate reaction was to respond with, “No! Are you crazy? I hate running … Yes, ok, when and where do I sign up?”

  • Do not fear, an epic commitment to spend half of my life running over the next few years has not been made … yet. 

My absolute favourite way to compete in races or fitness adventures is with very little notice and no specific preparation; competing just because I can. Planning to not plan is a thoughtful response to my incredible ability to over train and over do things. If I am completely focused on training for something, its annoying. I have even been known to annoy myself, which in and of itself, is quite the feat. And then after being very annoying, I get injured and all of the focus and discipline becomes null and void.

The ‘Why the heck not Half Marathon’ Approach.

I decided to run my first half marathon the afternoon before the race. Not having anything better to do on that particular Sunday morning and my need to do interesting things led me to swing by MEC on my way home from the ritual Saturday morning after run coffee and pick up a race bib.

Carbing up, tapering, water loading, myofascial release therapy, pre-running of the race course and all other preparatory things which real athletes do prior to a race were not done. There was no time. I was running 22.1 kms in 14 hours and I probably needed a good 8 hours of sleep.

I simply did what I always do before a long run on the weekend — the exact same thing I had done the morning before to run 16 kms with the girls – sleep, coffee, water, a small breakfast and then run.

I am a very average athlete. In a pack, I am in the middle and if I stand out stand out in an athletic crowd it is from my ability to get injured or have a clumsy near death experience, which, let’s be honest, is rather ridiculous.

Some days I wonder if I can even call myself an athlete … the answer to this question and many other fitness ponderings came in the form of a book passed to me by one of my gorgeous, blonde running friends.

Nerd + Fitness Hobbiest = Woman who reads fitness memoir-esque books.

Born To Run

It’s true … I have been known to haul books around the weight area for an hour so I can read while cycling after I am done training …

Deep within the story woven throughout the pages of Born to Run, I found myself sighing a deep breath of relief; every person on the planet is designed to run.

  • I know, deep thoughts with Donloree …. Yet how often do we simply dismiss the obvious?

Being the hilarious humans that we are, we overcomplicate and spend a gazillion dollars on something that is woven into the fabric of our DNA. When taken back to the basics, simply put, we are meant and built to run.

The ultramarathon query came to me while I was armpit deep in the story and becoming highly curious about my potential as an athlete.

Reading the book I remembered that inside of me there are the makings for a fit, capable and skilled athlete and that I need to point myself in the direction of the things I want to do with my fitness adventures and simply LIVE and TRAIN to the best of my ability.

Every. Single. Day.

For me, fitness isn’t about training for the next race, hike or epic adventure I decide to try, rather it is about living a good life and having the option of climbing to the top of the mountain to see what I can see.

An average week of training for nothing in particular at this juncture in my life looks something like this:

  • Monday Evening – Running hills
  • Tuesday Lunch– Training back with sprints
  • Wednesday Lunch – Training chest and arms
  • Wednesday Evening – Running intervals
  • Thursday Lunch – Training legs
  • Thursday Evening – Possibly a shorter run or a hike
  • Friday – Whatever the world I want to do or not do …
  • Saturday – Long run or bike ride (spring, please come soon!)
  • Sunday – A run, hike, training or long bike ride … depends on how I feel

Perspective.

I am surrounded by amazing athletes; people who can literally run circles around me while barely breaking a sweat while I wonder if my next breath will be my last.

For anyone who doesn’t have an active life, they want to die looking at my schedule and for the people who run circles around me … they laugh at how easy I take it week to week.

As annoying as it is to be one of the slowest people in a group of fitness fanatics, it causes you to go past what you think is possible and grow your capacity.

In the whole scheme of life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. It simply matters that you are moving and pointing yourself in the direction of where you want to go in the long run.

Right, that pesky ultramarathon question ….

Let’s be honest, I am probably not going to run an ultramarathon, but I also don’t need to answer the question for quite some time. Until an answer is required, I am going to be out there kicking my own ass on a daily basis and training hard while going back to the basics.

My fastest times running, biking and hiking were when I was simply doing it for the fun of it; enjoying the race against public transit while riding 20 kms one way to work, running with friends who were doing longer, faster distances and hiking all over the Rockies because there are things to see and experience,

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Sustainability.

In a world where boredom creeps in faster than a cold snap up here in the subarctic, we are quickly disillusioned with our inabilities rather than delighted with our abilities. If you want to open the door up for things such as running an ultramarathon, biking across a few countries in Europe, hiking tall mountains, doing things you never thought you could do and seeing parts of the world that very few people get to see, you need to choose the path of doing hard things and embrace it.

To be able to sustain a decent fitness level in a world where you get paid to sit takes purposeful action and discipline. You must move past the ‘train for a race’ mentality. Too many times we focus 16 to 20 weeks of our lives and make extreme diet and activity changes so we can run a race or wear a piece of clothing and then once its been checked off the list the reward is going back to the sloth-like activities which got us into a place of requiring an extreme life change.

Trust me. I know. Anyone who has dieted and competed in a bodybuilding show knows exactly what I am talking about; completely and utterly ridiculous.

  • Been there. Done that. Bought the bikini.

Learning to be ridiculous in the right kinds of ways.

Training because you want opportunity and the option to say yes to something when it comes is harder than the narrow focus of training for a single event. There is no end in sight, there is just the next day of training, eating well and fully showing up for yourself in your own life. There is no finish line, no medal, no one on the sidelines cheering you on; there is only you.

Once you realize and accept that life is always going to be hard in some way, you suddenly get to choose which hard you’re going to have – regret and pain or discipline and focus.

Swimming through life.

Swimming in open water, you quickly realize how different it is from swimming in a pool.

  • There are no lines 12 feet below to guide you.
  • The water may be anything but pristine.
  • Shoreline quickly disappears as you set out.
  • At some point, you are in the middle of nowhere trapped between the start and the finish.

In order to get where you are going, you have to keep your head down, swim with good form and then look up every once in awhile to ensure you’re still swimming in the right direction.

Course corrections are often required and good form is always required.

Life is in the open water.

Point yourself towards where you want to go and use good form. When you get to the tricky part where you can’t see the start or the finish, keep going with confidence because you are doing all the right things to get to where you want to go.

Every morning when you wake up, ask yourself a few good questions:

  • What do I want?
  • What’s not working?
  • What must I do today?
  • What needs to change?

After you are honest with yourself, and only after you’re honest with yourself, lean into your day and live in such a way to honor your answers. Go to the gym, have the hard conversation with your boss, book the appointment you’ve been avoiding, dig your bike out from the back of the garage, tell your family what they really mean to you, quit something, open up a blank page and start writing, say yes to something you want to do, wear the sassy heels, get rid of things you don’t need, stop deciding you can’t, be gentler with yourself or simply roll the window down and sing along with the radio at the top of your lungs.

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Above all, avoid choosing the easy route get good at doing hard things and run, cycle, train, swim, stretch, swing a racquet … move your body and sweat. Training your body gives your mind permission to expand and you will be surprised at what you accomplish.

Go ahead, surprise yourself, I know I will.

How To Combat A Severe Case Of Some Day-itis

There is always tomorrow to do things, right? 

Sure …

If you are anything like me and 99.985824% of people in the world, you have a ‘Some Day List’. The items on this list are the things that you will accomplish one of these days, when you have the time and life affords you the luxury of nothing pressing, emotional space and money to do all the things that you want to do.

  • Stop laughing!

Whether your Some Day List is written down or just in your head, I have no doubt it gets randomly consulted and is rarely prioritized. I know for myself, my Some Day List usually runs through my head when I am overtired and unimpressed with my extremely responsible ways.

Execute on whimsy.

The adult in each of us tends to take over every morning when we wake up and keeps us from throwing caution to the wind and being completely irresponsible, which is good … MOST of the time.

The ying to the to yang of responsibility is whimsy; last minute, not fully formed ideas which involves figuring it out as you go, doing something you don’t know how to do and having all sorts of shapes and sizes of adventures.

Last week on Thursday, it was decided, “Mountains on Friday!” After all, ‘hike to the top of a snowy mountain in winter’ is on my very random list of things I would like to do some day and the weather promised to be glorious. A hotel was booked, skis packed and the gas tanked filled.

Within 53 minutes of finishing all the requirements for my clients, my bags were packed and nothing but the open road laid ahead.

Canmore February

Somehow, being in the middle of nowhere and quasi snowed in was exactly what was required.

Due to the risk of avalanche hiking to the top of a mountain was ruled out. (Note: death by avalanche while hiking to the top of a mountain is not on my Some Day List.)

Even in the summer, it is hard to alpine hike many places in the Rockies, but I was willing to try if the snow pack and conditions aligned because the list of mountains and hikes which need to be explored and summited seems to be never-ending.

Mt Rundle Canmore

The snow was up to mid-calf and made everything stunning. Two days of hiking through forests and trails with views like this was incredibly rejuvenating.

Carpe the snowy diem.

Exploring frozen waterfalls, hiking through snow drifts and x-country skiing on a run that changed on the course from a green run to a blue run without notice filled the weekend. Mountain air, ginormous breakfasts, coffee and belly laughter is just what I needed to remind me that life is happening now, not possibly tomorrow or next year.

Donloree xcountry skiing

Serious?! How does a green run suddenly become blue when there wasn’t a new trail introduced?!? As you can see,it made my brow furrow, but happiness won the day.

I am constantly teased about my organized ways, but as lame as it sounds, it is a good idea to schedule in time to be spontaneous.

Or put it another way which sounds less OCD and is more socially acceptable, be purposeful.

  • However you need to frame it, just do it.

In the midst of my running away for the weekend with only 19 hours of notice given to my real life, I ran across the #SomeDayInFeb Project. Reading through the short front page, I can’t help but agree; life is distracting and spins faster and faster every single year you are alive. It is easy to find time for meaningless things and we rarely make time to do the things that matter, the things we want to talk about when we are old and our brains are trapped in bodies that don’t move like they used to.

Why can’t ‘some day’ be today?

Being the list maker that I am, I sat down and starting capturing the random ideas rolling around in my head. After 12 minutes, my list was growing long and nothing of consequence was really on it. Most of the things on my 12 minute old list simply require action and a few moments of focus to tip my ideas from possibility to reality.

One of these days…

  • Go flamenco dancing in Spain
  • Cycle through through a country in Europe
  • Take a hot air balloon ride (if my fear of heights can handle it …)
  • Drink wine and eat chocolate while star gazing in the middle of the night out past the city limits where the only light is from the moon and the stars
  • Hot yoga
  • Paint something red
  • Complete a big, snowy hike up a mountain
  • Comedy — do stand up
  • Cello lessons
  • Skinny dipping
  • Go on a safari
  • Pet a baby cheetah or lion
  • Hike the Grand Canyon, Red Rock Canyon, Moab … the list goes on and on …
  • Swim in a tropical waterfall
  • Hug a koala bear
  • Travel to every continent
  • Walk on the Great Wall
  • Publish another book or twelve
  • Let baby turtles go free into the wild
  • Catacomb tour
  • Compete in a mountain bike race
  • Run in a mountain trail race
  • Go caving
  • Move to Europe for a few years
  • Paint a painting and hang it in my house (it has to not be horrible)
  • Spend time in the rainforest
  • Travel – the list of places is endless

Thinking through some of the random ‘some day things’ that I have already done, I smiled and happiness once again won the day.

It is fun to admit to people that I have catered a wedding, am able to do plumbing on weekends and evenings, glued a bedazzle suit to my arse and competed in a bodybuilding show, eaten dinner in India with a tribal family where we used giant leaves for plates, run a few half marathons, published two humorous books and designed and installed a 600 tile backsplash for my kitchen and hand cut every tile … to name a few of the random adventures I have had along the way. Yes, I am completely ridiculous, but ridiculous makes for a fun life.

Who doesn’t want to have more fun in life?!

What do you want to do with a few moments of focus and some good, old fashioned action? What are you doing ‘some day’?

**I apologize for any sideways pictures. “Some day” I might figure out why Wordpress publishes them sideways after I fix them and make them right side up. hah!**

 

Because I am weird and I know it …

One of my many quirks is that I often listen to podcasts while training.

The upside is that I learn a lot interesting things and kill two birds with one stone, but the down side is that sometimes my training suffers due to one of my other quirks – my need to make notes of ah-hah! moments as they come along.

The other evening I found myself running alone through the Edmonton river valley trails with only my thoughts, extremely dark, icy trails and a woman named Debbie Millman in my ears to keep me company.

Edmonton night running

The snow and downtown glow lights the way … kind of …

I had not heard of Debbie Millman prior to pressing play on Tim Ferriss’ podcast a few Thursdays ago, but within moments, I knew I was listening to one of my people.

Debbie has battled the darkest demons, the ones who live inside of herself, and won.

So many things she shared, including her story of triumph over years of sexual, emotional and mental abuse, were poignant and challenging. She has not had an easy life and her path to finding her spot in the world was circuitous and fraught with failure, confusion and courage.

  • Courage is more important than confidence; you will never be confident if you don’t choose courage, just try and refuse to accept failure.

What you actually do shows you what you really want.

It was -15 C, very dark and I had just been nearly maimed by a man running sled dogs on the trails but it didn’t stop me from risking frostbite to capture some of the ah-hah! moments as they came along.

Debbie Millman notes

She had a lot to say or I just have a lot to learn; either way I nearly froze into a Donloree Popsicle a few times while stopping to take notes.

Why are we so often reluctant to admit what we want?

We do weird things to keep our closest and most important desires and dreams alive and then we pretend like we aren’t doing them or they aren’t that important to us.

  • We are rarely honest, even with ourselves, about what we truly want. And if we are, we judge it harshly while at the same time, shaping our lives around what we want most.

My third decade on this earth was mostly spent frantically searching for self acceptance and trying desperately to be at peace with myself. I spent nearly all of my twenties in a frenzied manner climbing the corporate ladder, training and dieting myself down to a size 4, doing everything in my power to have a ‘shiny’ relationship, working on being perfect and pushing myself to be someone society would accept with open arms.

Society’s affection is fickle.

Peace with yourself comes when you’re honest with yourself about what you want out of life, accept who are you and then live a life true to both of these things while trading in expectations for adventure.

  • When you’re walking your path, the journey is hard, exciting, full of adventure and fulfilling. When you’re walking a path meant for someone else, it is just extremely hard.

 

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Simple but true.

Now that I am officially closer to 40 than 30, it is clear to me that every single day matters. The more you live, the less time you have left to live. The quality of the rest of your life depends on you choosing be to honest with yourself and do what you want to do with your life.

Every. Single. Day.

Living a life true to you is not easy because often times there is loss, extremely painful loss, but living in a way that you can be at peace with yourself is the only way to actually live a remarkable life; it is the foundation and safe place to set out from on your next adventure.

  • You have to answer for you, no one else.

No one said it will be easy, but it is definitely worth it.

When you look at yourself in the mirror without flinching, what do you see? What is your life truly about? Is the journey hard, full of adventure and fulfilling or just hard?

The Feminist Comparison Trap

On being a feminist.

This past week the conversation about women’s rights came to the forefront of media and conversation throughout North America. You would have to either be dead or be deaf and living under a rock to not have read about or watched the Women’s Marches and the resulting commentary.

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Much to my chagrin, feminism is not something I openly discuss much because, as the past few days have proved, participating in the conversation can put labels on you that are so sticky you can’t seem to peel them off.

  • Sometimes the labels are fraught with stigma and fear, so much so that the doors they seek to open often get slammed in your face when the labels are visible.

I do my best to be excellent at what I do so no one can help but notice me for who I am, not what sex I am not … yet … sex-based discrimination and marginalization is deeply ingrained in our culture.

To march or not to march is not the question.

The real question is how do we continue the conversation without judgment and work together to move the world forward in the fight for equality and freedom for all people?

Most of my professional life I have been the only or one of the few women in the room. I know what it is like to suggest an improvement, have it be perceived as nagging and then have a man suggest the same thing 12 seconds later and somehow in the space of two breaths my idea is suddenly valid and accepted because it was uttered from the mouth of someone with a Y chromosome.

Fact: women are marginalized in this world, both in big and small ways.

A few ways marginalization and sexism in my personal world has showed up …

  • Earning 50% less than my male peers.
  • Being told I have to submit to a man and do what they say because they know better simply because they are male.
  • Turning down sexual propositions from men in authority who hold the future of my job in their hands and have no accountability for their actions.
  • Hitting the glass ceiling in an organization because I hold the highest role any woman in the organization can hold and it is middle management.
  • Unwanted physical touching in a social work setting and having other women and men make light of the situation when I have asked for help.

No, I have not been beaten for showing my face in public, been mutilated, disallowed a bank account, sold into a marriage for my family’s financial gain or forced to do slave labor and pretend it is being a wife.

I have not suffered greatly; after all I live in Canada.

Yet I have suffered; we all suffer, men and women alike.

  • If I have to have another conversation with a new college grad struggling to make her way through the sexism in her first real job or a high school girl about how it isn’t fair that she is perceived as a sex object and is thought to only be capable of answering phone for the rest of her life, it will be one too many.
  • If I ever have to sit at a business dinner next to a man who asked me to have sex with him the week prior and then found ways to brush up next to me and pretend like it never happened just so I can have a job and take care of myself while I find another job, it will be 1,000 years too soon.
  • If I have to reorient my opinion to be perceived as helpful and submissive instead of confrontational in a business meeting just so the message can be heard and I can be part of the conversation, they will be words which are bitter to speak.

Why do I put up with this? Why not speak up?

If I am honest with myself about the times I have not spoken up, it is because speaking up creates more peril than safety. Losing future work, risking the next promotion, no longer having a seat at the table and losing my job are real threats. I can’t even start to understand what it would be like to have beating, rape, murder and enslavement as real threats in my daily life simply because I am a woman.

And so I, a woman who has experienced low levels of suffering which has been judged this past week on social media as a first world problem, appreciate the voice put to the problem; appreciate the reminder that I have a voice and I am entitled to use it for both myself and others.

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Even those of us who are perceived to be strong, powerful and privileged find it hard to speak up at times; we sometimes lose our voice and our way and find ourselves shrouded in shame which is not our own.

My marginalization isn’t better than your marginalization.

Marginalization, abuse and discrimination is completely wrong and needs to be stopped wherever and whenever it happens, no matter how big or how small.

It is time for us to stop marginalizing the suffering and simply work together to stop the suffering, whatever the suffering is and wherever it is happening. When we no longer listen to understand, stop suspending the belief that we are right and harshly judge other’s experiences, we are driving down a perilous road.

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Its true, to create opportunity it is going to take a lot of hard work but I have a feeling we are up for it. At least I know I am up for it, labels and all.

This weekend was a poignant reminder for me to be the woman I want to be 30 years from now, risk a little bit more and judge a whole lot less.

Everything valuable comes at a cost – what are we, what am I, willing to pay? What am I willing to risk for freedom?

Less Chaos, More Kick Ass

Bienvenido to January; the month for diets, resolutions and gym memberships …

… better known as the month which is severely annoying to work out in when you live in the subarctic.

The gym is full of resolutioners which makes me just want to bike, run stairs and ski outside, but outside currently has the potential to kill me.

Oh Canada!

severe weather warning edmonton

Lovely …. “A period of very cold wind chills is expected. The coldest wind chill values will be between minus 40 and minus 45. Temperatures will drop sharply behind a cold front that is sweeping across north and central Alberta today generating extreme cold conditions …”

Today while training over my lunch hour, I had to walk through a cardio induced wind tunnel to get to the change room from the weight area. The amount of people biking, running and elliptical-ing (yes, its a verb … just add ‘ing’ and wah-lah!) created more than just a small amount of breeze; my hair blew back and it all felt very movie-esque as Cake’s ‘The Distance’ played in my ears.

Thank goodness I am a ridiculous, goal setting maven and had already made all my resolutions for 2017, otherwise the ridiculousness in the gym may have caused me to set the New Year’s Resolution to avoid all resolutioners wearing stretchy pants.

Every January I sit down and think about the things I would like to have on my Have Done list for next January; all those things I want to be able to shrug my shoulders at and smile with satisfaction that they are completed and I didn’t die while doing them.

My mantra of 2017 is ‘Less Chaos, More Kick Ass!’

Oddly enough, there is nothing unachievable on my list and I find it rather boring to look at and nothing is calling my name.

  • The ‘less chaos’ part of my mantra for 2017 makes me want to yawn.

The only goal that even invokes some emotion is to not die while running leg 2 of Sinster 7 which, if you knew how clumsy I am, would invoke fear in you as well.

Leg 2 – Hastings Ridge. Beginning at the base of Hastings Ridge, runners begin a grueling climb to a rewarding view. Once atop the ridge, you get a view of the entire valley, including Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters; certainly worth the punishing climb to the top! There is no time for rest as runners drop down the other side and head towards Blairmore to the finish of leg two.

  • Distance: 17km
  • Gain: 852m
  • Loss: 1024m
  • Max Elevation: 1873m
  • CPs*: CP2 – 10km
  • Difficulty: 3/7 Note — Difficulty is based on how hard the leg is in comparison to the other legs of the race, in our opinion ie: Leg 6 is 7/7 meaning it is the hardest. Every leg of the race is hard.
  • Trail Type: Single track, double track, dirt road
  • Est Time: 1.5 to 3 hours

Seriously, I don’t know another woman who is as likely to fall over, trip, run into something while walking or crash on her bike. For example, earlier this year after successfully running over 10 kms of trails in Stanley Park, I literally fell over a small crack in the sidewalk on Robson Street and scraped and bruised myself up to the point of requiring a massive Band-Aid application and then a slow meander back to my hotel in order to avoid further harm.

  • For a woman with my bubble wrap requirements, the race could result in complete chaos … and not the good brand of chaos. 

Inspiration can come from the most random of places.

In the midst of being bored with my goals and ambitions for 2017, I ran across a very interesting documentary on the weirdest ultra marathon on the planet – The Barkley Marathons, The Race That Eats Its Young.

Beyond all the weird details around how no one knows how to apply, only 40 people are selected for no apparent reason, how you might need to bring a flannel shirt and a license plate with you in order to be able to run, the fact that the course changes each year and there is only one map for 40 runners to look at and when people quit Taps is sarcastically played while they contemplate the meaning of life; something resonated deeply with me about this race.

You need attempt to do things you will most likely fail at; fail incredibly at.

Failure is the greatest teacher anyone can ever have and if all you do in life are the things you can do, life is is going to be comfortable and really boring.

When I think back on when I have felt the most alive, they were the times I risked complete and utter failure. Training for a bodybuilding competition, quitting my job and starting my own coaching and consulting business, leaving a 14 year marriage, speaking in front of 600 women at a breakfast, publishing my own books and making a few massive career changes have all been fraught with extreme failure and incredible success.

“Sometimes you have to prove something to yourself when it defeats you; but I gave it everything and still failed and I’m ok with it.”
~ One of the crazy runner people at the Barkely Marathon who had Taps played for him two years in a row

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One of the most curious things was watching the runners who had quit the race. They stayed around and helped those who were still running. It is interesting who you find in the trenches with you when you are struggling to reach a goal that is bigger than you are. As you expand yourself and reach for more, you find your people.

  • Shared failure can and often does lead to an incredibly sweet, shared success.

Looking again at my list tonight, I have a feeling a massive edit is about to happen as I answer the question, “What epic failures must I risk this year?”

And no, I am not going to apply to race in the Barkley or any other ridiculous ultra marathons. I may be crazy, but I am not that crazy.

There is a book / screenplay which needs to be written, a career change coming, thousands of kilometres to be hiked, biked and ran and some corners of the earth which need to be explored; all of which are still rather vanilla, if I am honest with myself.

  • Apparently I don’t want less chaos. It turns out I need to embrace chaos and kick ass. 

There, that’s more like it.

*Giant, happy sigh*

What epic failures are you risking this year? Who are you going to share your success with?

The Year Of The Willow

Life is crazy – get used to it.

Apparently this is my giant ‘ah-hah!’ moment after 37 years of being Donloree. It isn’t very deep, but it is oddly profound.

Last night, I found myself up later than I should have been in a hotel room in downtown Vancouver, reflecting on the past year of my life … because, after all, it was my birthday. What else does a writer and introspective woman do on her birthday when traveling for work other than write and muse while the city starts to fall asleep?

The meaning of birthdays has changed as I have gotten older. Instead of looking forward to what I get to do next, I find myself looking back to see what I accomplished, how I made it through the crazy and wondering what the upcoming year will hold rather than what I’m going to make happen.

The irony of adulthood is not lost on me.

They, whoever *they* are, say, “Embrace the chaos,” which never made much sense to me until this past year. Too many of us brace ourselves against the chaos instead of leaning in with arms wide open and grabbing onto the unwieldy thing called life.

Embrace – to receive gladly or eagerly, accept willingly … or in the words of moi, grab onto with both hands and your whole heart and simply remember that you’ve ‘got this.’

After 13,505 days of living on this earth, I now know that it is up to me to choose my chaos and do what I need to do for myself with my life.

There is always something hard to conquer, a mountain to climb or some crazy, unplanned epic twist in the plot of my life, so it might as well be the chaos which helps me have the life I want to have and help me explore every single corner of the earth that is calling my name.

  • Your job is to choose your kind of crazy and make it happen, no matter what.

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On becoming a willow.

When the storms of life come, it is second nature to brace yourself against the forces coming your way and try to stand tall and never waiver. Yet it is the supple willow that bends, embracing the force of the wind, which withstands the storm.

  • Withstanding the storms of life takes patience and flexibility.

I have learned to be the willow over the last few years; it isn’t passive, rather it is active, disciplined and focused. It is one of the hardest things I practice on a daily basis, to keep my hands open and be able to give and receive despite everything which swirls around me.

The thing about storms is that they eventually pass and die out. When the calm returns, there is nothing more amazing than feeling the sun shine down on you as you stand tall once again while your face breaks into an unstoppable smile.

Many lessons were given to me this year as I flexed, bent and adjusted. My birthday gift to you is to share some of what has been woven into the fabric of my soul as I went through the days where nothing seemed to change but looking back on the year, everything changed. Everything.

Ten willowy lessons from embracing the storm.

  1. Living a good life is a not a past-time; it requires grit, determination, discipline, courage, vulnerability and heart.
  2. Look fear right in the eyes and tell it to get in the backseat, strap in and put a cork in it if it is going to come along because you’re going places and don’t have time to listen to whining.
  3. Try. Fail. Try. *rinse and repeat until you succeed*
  4. Courage is something that needs to be practiced on a daily basis. It looks like standing up for yourself, risking your heart and saying yes; it can sound like anything; but it always feels like fear.
  5. Indecision is a yield sign, not a destination. To not decide is to decide.
  6. Brokenness is an opportunity to build something new.
  7. When things, people and opportunity get taken away from you it leaves room for more – always choose your next something wisely.
  8. Laugh until you can’t breathe, no one dies from experiencing too much happiness. And if you do … well, what a way to go!
  9. Be boring and do all the right things – floss, workout, train hard, sleep 8 hours a night and eat salads – 85% of the time. The other 15%, throw caution to the wind and do whatever you want to do with the people you love most in the world.
  10. And always, ALWAYS be honest with yourself about you need and take it without apology.

Life is crazy AND weird.

Two years ago, I would have never, ever imagined that I would still be living in the subarctic, making a living simply through consulting, traveling all over Western Canada for both work and fun and have everything and nothing change all at the same time in my life.

And yet, I don’t know when I was more deeply calm and happier than I found myself last night, in another city, completely unsure about what the next year of my life will hold. The only thing I am sure of is that I will continue to go after what I want and chase it down with my whole heart.

How about you? What have you learned from being a willow?

Injury-itis

As I felt myself falling, the warning from the beginning of the race ran through my brain.

Be careful racing tonight. There is a lot of single track and there are many technical parts on the course – leaves, roots, logs and holes.

Confirmation that the course was extremely technical was given as my knee hit a rock, my hand rammed into a small boardwalk and the woman running behind me leapt over my body to avoid starting a domino effect on the course.

It was official, I was holding up about 100 other runners. What else could I do other than jump up and keep running?

  • There is always time to assess the damage after you cross the finish line.

My knee and hand were numb, so I decided I was fine.

There is a reason I rarely train to race or even race at all; it usually ends up with me requiring some sort of medical attention.

In reality, running a 7 kilometre cross country race should not be a problem … but as life goes, there are always problems.

  • Problem #1 – I am competitive
  • Problem #2 – I am a klutz

Looks can be deceiving … I now have a perma-crease in my hand. I should have went for stitches, instead I scrubbed it out really well and held it together with bandaids for three weeks.

My latest foray in trying to overcome my inner klutz and be completive in sport resulted in paying a man I barely knew named Jeff to bend me into a Donloree pretzel and hurt me for my own good

Welcome to active release therapy.

“You’re going to have to stop holding my hand Donloree … Donloree … its ok, just let go on my hand! ” was heard alongside my laughter and shrieks of pain as I tried to remove his hand from my hip while he worked on releasing my IT Band.

Three days before I was due to fly to Victoria to run in a short race as part of the Victoria Marathon, I was unable to walk and I knew my ridiculousness from racing the week before had gotten the best of me.

Watching your speedy running friends cross the finish line while the t-shirt you got for not running is already packed away in your suitcase, well, it is hard not to feel lame.

  • At least my feelings matched reality – I was walking like an 80-year-old woman in desperate need of a hip replacement.

Being the lame, very average athlete of the group means you sometimes have to make your own fun. The day after the race, the super runners were off to run up the side of a mountain or four and I was left to my own devices.

Sending them off with their speedy ambitions and a happy wave, I found myself at the base of Mount Finlayson, ready to go for a hike. Alone.

Only one small problem, I couldn’t find the trailhead.

After meandering through a day use area full of families with small children, looking at three different maps made up of very small lines and following a few people with fishing poles around for a little bit, I finally stumbled across a couple that looked outdoorsy and were also searching for the trailhead.

  • Before you knew it, a hiking threesome was happening.

The hike up was glorious, full of roots and steep portions, finally ending in a scramble; AKA don’t look down or you might fall off the mountain.

Mount Finlayson Hike

I thought it was a meandering hike through a forest since I was out of the Rockies … I guessed wrong! I wore two too many layers. Oops!

Stories were swapped about past adventures and life challenges and perspectives were shared on everything from politics to cooking; laughter and loud storytelling scared away all wildlife within a 5 km radius.

  • My number one goal while traveling or adventuring alone is to not get raped or pillaged; everything else is frosting on the adventure cake.

It would have been easy to let this goal keep me from venturing out to see the world on this morning, well that and the fact that I was walking like I was an old woman; but no woman named Donloree lets a little plantar fasciitis and complete hip misalignment keep her from seeing and experiencing what the world has to offer.

Mount Finalyson

It was the perfect day to be on top of the world!

While standing on the top of Mount Finlayson with my newfound friends, my heart was full and I remembered a few important truths about life.

  1. Starting out alone doesn’t mean you have to or will finish alone.
  2. Silence and solitude have more to say to you than you realize.
  3. When courage meets you at the crossroads of opportunity, you need to follow where it leads even if you are limping a wee bit.
  4. Thoroughly enjoying the people on your path while you are with them is one of the best things you can do with your time.
  5. Feeling lame and incapable doesn’t mean you actually are those things – doing your best with what you have results in fabulous adventures.

At the bottom of the mountain, I hugged Jen and Mark goodbye and wished them luck on making it to their plane on time. I plunked myself down on a picnic table to stretch out my newly seized legs and I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot; it was a perfect hike and my heart was full, overflowing in fact.

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My trip to the island was full of beaches, hikes, sea stars and anemones, lighthouses and even a castle, but there was something special about the hike up Mount Finlayson. Perhaps it is because it reminded me that doing things you aren’t sure that you can do, things which are very you and require mental grit and courage to complete, results in expanding your capacity to live well.

  • There is always an opportunity in front of you, sometimes it just takes looking at three elevation maps, wandering around somewhat aimlessly for awhile and then inviting perfect strangers to be your friends in order to find it.

And yes, it is highly possible that once I was back home, I was immediately back in Jeff’s office paying him to torture me while holding his hand and screaming under my breath.

Racing … am I the only one who has injury-itis as a result?

**And the pictures are still sideways for some reason – oh the joys of the interwebs! Just tilt your head to the right while reading … and imagine them less squished than they are! **

Let’s talk about regret, baby …

Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be … let’s talk about regret …

If you’re my age, plus or minus 5 years, the Salt n Pepa song is rolling though your head.

  • You’re welcome.

For the last seven weeks I have been experiencing what it means to be ‘semi-retired‘ at the age of 36.

The business I was working for as the HR Director shut it’s doors and I have found myself reinventing myself and leveraging my consulting and coaching skills in a very interesting market up here in the subarctic.

This has been one of the easier endings I have experienced in the past few years; yet it is still incredibly difficult to navigate. Glancing in the rearview mirror, it is easy to listen to the voice that apparently knows everything and is superior and haughty in their assessment of my work and what I should have done differently.

Enter a microcosm of regrets.

  • I should have never changed jobs.
  • Why didn’t I take bigger risks in the executive meetings?
  • If only I had stuck to my guns and didn’t back down …
  • What if I had died on that hill? Apparently it WAS worth dying on …
  • Why didn’t I spend more time growing my consulting business rather than thinking about work?!
  • Maybe I should have been more mouthy and less self-protective …

And this is only a snippet of my personal regrets … corporately, there are many more.

  • The idea that you can live a life without regrets is ridiculous.

Of course you are going to have regrets; the only way to not regret anything is to be dead. And even then I am not 100% certain regrets won’t find their way into our dreams while we take the giant dirt nap.

Regret is part of life; what you do with it is what matters.

Some of the most painful regrets are the ones which are a result of trying to avoid regret in the first place.

  • I call this the Regret Circle of Death.

Regret Circle of Death – Oh I can’t do that. I won’t do that … I might regret it. Or should I do it? I should have done it. Maybe I should do it now? Maybe not? If only I had done it then. Is it too late now? Maybe I still have time. Its too late. If only I had done it … but I thought I would regret it. Now I regret not doing it. SIGH. What now?

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Next thing you know, five years have passed and you’re still not doing what you want to do because it carries with it the potential risk of hurt and regret. Suddenly you find yourself full of regrets about not living the life you wanted to live; not living your life in a way that is true to who you are.

I think somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Don’t strive to live a life without regrets. Learn to deal.

Should of …
Could of …
Would of …
If only …

In order to not crash while navigating life, you need to spend most of your time looking out the windshield while only glancing in the rearview mirror every now and again.

  • After all, as human beings, we are made to go forward.

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Regrets will haunt you unless you deal with them and learn from them. Either they are something which fill you with shame every time you glance in the rearview mirror or they become an important lesson which shapes you to be an incredible human being and able to live a full, big life.

When the painful endings in life come, instead of berating yourself, ask good questions.

  • What am I most proud of?
  • What would I do different next time?
  • Who am I now?
  • Where didn’t I show up? Why?
  • Where did I hold back?
  • What would I do again? Not do again?
  • What hurts? Why?
  • What do I want now?
  • Where to from here?

Accept the fact that you will have regrets – just make them worthwhile and choose to risk regret by loving, living and losing.

And when you lose, lose well by learning from the regrets which haunt your dreams so you can start dreaming about an amazing future once again.

When dealt with, regret can become an intimate teacher which reveals things to you about yourself and the world, helping you expand and grow to be able to do and be more. Accepting and learning from regret gives you the ability to not fear living a full life and reminds you of how far you’ve come and what you’re capable of.

Moving through regret has taught me that showing up, grabbing onto life every single day, giving what and who is in front of me my whole heart and being fully present where I am is always worth it.

  • And it has taught me to dance, even when life continually rains on me.
If it is raining, put on the rain coat and get out there. There is life to be lived!

If it continually rains, put the raincoat on and get out there and dance even if you look ridiculous. There is life to be lived!

How has moving through regret taught you to live a better life?