My Happiness Secret

2018 has nearly come and gone, which means my 39th year on the earth has nearly come and gone.

Being born two weeks before the end of the year means, at least for me, that planning, goal setting, and dreaming of accomplishment starts early for the upcoming year. The planning is always a bit ridiculous, but what else are you going to do on the short, cold winter days, other than plan for the days when the sun never sets and adventure is calling?

And the reflections … those happen too.

It seems that every year has a theme, whether I chose it or not. The last year has been about acceptance, more specifically self acceptance.

What you want and what you get aren’t always the same.

Acceptance is an art form which requires perseverance to go through things when life hits hard, wisdom to know when you need to give yourself a break or keep pushing, courage to change things in your life that don’t work for you, and optimism to remind yourself of everything you have and what is possible.

Photo

  • Acceptance is anything but passive.

Oftentimes I wonder why I run, especially this past year. 2018 has been a year of injuries, plateaus, and inability, culminating in a fall on the ice that resulted in a severe rotator cuff strain. While laying on the ice in the dark river valley and trying not to pass out from the pain response, all I could think was, “I was just trying to be athletic … will I ever be competent at this sporting thing?” The tears on the 3 km walk back home were more about my inabilities than the pain.

Nearly half of my 2,250 kms this year were modified, trying to recover from injury and going slower than I wanted to go.

Yet where else can I practice the art of active acceptance like I can with running?

I am one of the most competitive people I know. I am also one of the least athletic people I know.

  • When you put these two things together, well, it is just funny. And deeply disappointing on a personal level.

A childhood full of reading books, studying Spanish, working at McDonalds after school, and baking ensures that my biomechanics are severely underdeveloped and my imagination and ability to create a future out of words is overdeveloped.

Now, if you need me to walk up and down mountains all day long and carry heavy things long distances without caring how long it takes, I am your woman. Unfortunately, this is not a valuable commodity in today’s world.

Like any good cake, it is good to have a few layers; let’s add in being a woman.

My Eastern European heritage and fabulous autoimmune disease ensures that I will never be thin and willowy unless I embrace an eating disorder. Trust me. About 10 years ago, I gave it everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to become society’s picture of perfect and it literally nearly killed me.

  • Enter the battle of ‘er’.

Thinner. Hotter. Smarter. Richer. Funnier. Cuter. Curvier. Fancier. Faster. Stronger. Smoother. Younger. Prettier. Bustier. Perkier.

Part of being a woman is not being told you’re not enough and fighting the constant losing battle of age and society’s expectation of perpetual youth.

The comparison trap is real, even when you’re 38, nearly 39-years-old.

The hardest realization I’ve had to accept as an adult is that I am severely average.

I am never going to win a race if more than 10 people show up; a sponsored athlete, I will never be. Giselle has nothing to worry about with me running around in the world in my size 8 pants. And I didn’t burst onto the scene at the age of 25 as an amazing writer who wowed society with her abilities which outshine her age.

Growing up and being told that you’re special and amazing is sweet … but suddenly one day, you just realize that it’s not true.

The gift of this realization and resulting acceptance was a deep relief that I’ve been living up to and expanding my potential even though it didn’t previously feel like it.

Through these past years, I have found the secret for happiness – be weird, lean into the chaos, and enjoy the ride.

Just accept your weird self and do not try to fit into any societal molds or measure yourself by other people’s expectations.

  • Do your thing, be great at what you want to be great at, and don’t worry about things that you aren’t great at if they don’t matter to you.

I will never be a domestic goddess or athletic superstar, but loving my people well, writing, being great at my job, experiencing wonderful corners of the world, and summiting beautiful mountains; these things I will be amazing at and do with my whole heart.

Suddenly the world opens up and you find yourself doing things that you never thought possible, living a happy life which results in not being able to think of one thing to put down on a ‘What to Accomplish Before I Turn 40” list because you’re already doing everything you had previously been dreaming of.

Donloree Angel's Landing

Grab the moments when they come and savour them. Getting to the beautiful places isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it!

Acceptance is a deep understanding of what is true and what exists, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in your current situation or boundaries.

Acceptance is the starting line, where you go to next is up to you.

Pushing, building your capacity, failing, getting up, smiling, and remembering that the whole thing is a journey and not a destination is active acceptance.

And perhaps that is why I run, simply to practice expanding myself so I can build my capacity to keep going, do more than yesterday, and build an amazing life. Even if I am only merely average to the onlooker, I am amazing compared to the Donloree of yesteryear and that is all that matters. I have spent the last few years doing incredible things with very special people and living a better life than I ever knew was possible and it all started with acceptance, a full heart, and open hands.

Practicing acceptance allows you get to grab onto beautiful experiences and live a great life because you’re not caught up in trying to change other people, complaining, or holding onto bitterness.

And yes, it is true, with a full heart and open hands, you are ready to receive and also lose. The fact that both happen isn’t important. What is important is how you manage through loss and gain; both require acceptance.

Donloree bike country road

When you find yourself in the country, smoked out of the mountains from the summer fires in BC, adventure can still be found. Happiness comes when you are where you are with your whole heart.

Accepting the daily struggle and finding the glass that is half full leads to having bigger glasses to fill.

And eventually you find that you can fill your glass past half full.

What if your glass eventually starts to overfill? What if you just get to be happy?

If I Hold Your Hand, It Doesn’t Mean I Love You

Or even like you all that much.

Even if I do show you my pink, lacy underwear. Again.

Bearded Physio Man – “You really have to stop holding my hand.”
Donloree – “I know. It isn’t because I like you. I don’t trust you.”
Bearded Physio Man – “How about you help by just holding your IT band steady and stop moving?”
Donloree – “It is hard to not want to harm you while you shove needles into my hip you know.”

It is hard to like someone who is stabbing needles into the the tightest part of your arse and then twanging them for good measure.

  • It is possible that I don’t know how to follow instructions. Or that I don’t really read or refer to them much at all.

Needless to say, you never want to build IKEA furniture with me … mostly because I will build it three times, incorrectly in a new way each time, and then finally fish out the instructions with the Oompah-Loompah shaped man showing you what to do. Chagrinned, I will follow his pudgy lead and eventually build it correctly.

I just don’t like instructions.

I am a learn by doing kind of woman.

This is probably why I found myself, once again, desperately trying not to slide off the physio table while squirming away from the Bearded Physio Man and sweating like I was running a marathon in Death Valley in the heat of summer.

If you make me stab myself, it is really going to put a strain on our relationship.
~ Bearded Physio Therapist Man

I thought I followed his instructions. Truly. And I was so happy to have graduated and I really didn’t want to see him again which, in my opinion, is the sign of a healthy patient – physiotherapist relationship.

Apparently I referred to the instructions and threw them in the garbage. Taking it easy to me is biking to work and back 3-4 times a week, running slowly after the Speedsters twice a week with my new, amazing running form, and then hiking up a mountain or three on the weekend.

I really didn’t think I was pushing it.

Now I am back to square one – cut off from everything once again. This past week has been torture just doing my strength exercises as assigned by the Bearded Physio Man, Running Yoda, and my massage therapist who cringes every time I land on his schedule.

After a week of being completely boring and a long weekend that included picking out paint colors and cleaning out the storage closets in my house rather than fun, outdoor adventures, I needed a reprieve.

While trying to get off the physio table and not slip off of it from all the sweating, I brokered a deal.

Donloree – “So am I done? Can I leave the den of torture now?”
Bearded Physio Man – “Yes, off you go to do nothing other than your exercises.”
Donloree – “I have to do something. Please. I am tired of being pathetic.”
Bearded Physio Man – “What do you want?”
Donloree – “I want to hike.”
Bearded Physio Man – (Watching me struggle to stand up) “How long?”
Donloree – “10 km?” (Thinking one way and not saying it out loud)
Bearded Physio Man – “How much elevation gain?”
Donloree – (bats eyelashes while trying to stand up like a normal woman) “900 meters?”
Bearded Physio Man – “Fine. 2 hours. 10 km. No more than 900 meters of elevation gain.”

Proud of my negotiating skills, which definitely need more honing since he gave me everything I asked for, I lumbered out of the office like a drunk elephant.

So I have my instructions, which I have already modified in my weekend planning. If I take out some elevation, doesn’t that give me more distance?

My math makes sense … doesn’t it?

Mountains here I come!

All You Own Is The Effort

In the continuing saga of, Donloree Tries to Become A Runner, I decided to go a different route with the professional help.

  • The one thing that is clear with all of this is my need for professional help.

After graduating from physio, I continued to hurt while running and even hiking. I have continued to do everything I was instructed to do, except for stopping when it hurts. If you are 19 kms into a 34 km hike on top of a mountain, there isn’t much to do other than to keep going.

Skyline Jasper

19 kms into Skyline in Jasper on a blustery day. Sometimes being in the storm is just where you need to be!

Calling for a helicopter seemed like an over reaction to the Bearded Physiotheraptist Man’s instructions to, “When it hurts … STOP.”

In an effort to avoid more needles being shoved into me and then twanged, I sent an SOS message to Edmonton’s running guru and owner of Fast Trax, Jack Cook.

Jack is the Yoda of running.

He is a man of few words with a running resume as long as the North Saskatchewan and also a bit elusive. You never know if he is going to be at the shop, running a race, or even in town – he simply appears from the behind the running shoes in the shop some days. Where he wasn’t, suddenly there he is.

Seeing how there is nothing Yoda-esque about me and I am usually tripping over something, I realized our schedules would never align to talk about my inabilities and get some personalized advice while waiting for everyone to show up to run on a Wednesday night or Saturday morning.

So I sent a smoke signal, AKA Facebook message.

It went something like this ….

Hi Jack – random question. Do you help people figure out how to run better / correctly? I am pretty sure this might be half of my problem. I can’t seem to make it more than 10 km these days without seizing up and I am tired of hurting constantly and being SLOW. Or if you have a recommendation for someone who does this, it would be appreciated. I have also been told I run like Captain Jack Sparrow, if we could work on removing the pirate from my gait, that would also be appreciated. THANK YOU!

Apparently technique advice is something the Running Yoda does – who knew?

I showed up in all my pirate running-esque glory on a Thursday evening just as the work day was ending. My wrap dress, heels, and pearls were quickly swapped out for shorts, a running t-shirt, and my new running shoes specifically made for people with high arches who supinate and heel strike … whatever that means.

All I knew was that I was ready to be assessed.

Which I loudly announced to Jack and the other people in the shop. What can I say? When I get nervous, I tend to talk louder.

A giant smile from the Running Yoda and we were headed towards the treadmill.

The first thing we did was break into a slow walk and then a medium paced walk. Let me tell you, I am amazing at walking. Suddenly confidence that I probably shouldn’t have had filled in all the places fear had been hiding.

  • 5 mph on the treadmill and I was still walking. Like I said, I am amazing at walking.

Finally the treadmill went fast enough that I was forced to run. And I did so in all my heel striking, supinating glory. It was even caught on video. After a bit of running, we assessed my inabilities in slow motion.

Then the exercises and practicing began.

It turns out that my amazing walking is screwing me over. I run like I walk, which is an injury waiting to happen.

  • I actually have yet to become a runner.

I suppose this is why you go see the Running Yoda, how else are you supposed to know these sorts of things?

Due to all my bike riding and weight lifting, I am a quad and calf dominate woman who doesn’t use her posterior chain to move herself forward the way I am supposed to. I basically muscle myself forward and walk extremely fast, so much so that it appears to be running to those casually watching.

Lovely.

Running Yoda“How does it feel when you run?”
Donloree“It hurts. Everywhere. All the time. And it is demoralizing. I am slow.”
Running Yoda – Nods thoughtfully
Donloree – “I just want to be able to run and be happy. And not have EVERYONE run away from me ALL THE TIME. You know those weirdos who say it was fun? I want to be able to say that one day. I guess I want to be a running weirdo.”
Running Yoda – “I see. At least your problems are easy to fix.”
Donloree – “Amazing. I love easy to solve problems. Music to my ears.”
Running Yoda – “We are going back to the beginning.”

  • Anyone who has gone back to the beginning of anything knows that it is absolutely demoralizing.

For the next 30 minutes we worked on my running form while running 2-3 mph.

It is hard to even walk this slow – running at this speed took all my mental discipline.

Many videos of the slowest running on the planet were taken and reviewed and then coaching, exercises, and tweaks were applied. By the time I left, a hoard of snails had lapped me and were at the bar drinking martinis, laughing at the tall, very white woman who runs like an elephant.

I would also laugh if I saw a very white woman running at 2 mph with her arms crossed. In fact, I did laugh … a lot.

Another one of my nervous ticks – laughter.

My new running mantra:

  • Start running earlier, run slow, sooner.
  • Little circles, little circles!
  • Core, chest up, less arms.

I put it all into practice on Saturday morning. Instead of running 26 one-minute intervals with the Speedsters, I simply ran to make the Running Yoda proud. 8 km later, I was suddenly walking extremely fast again and not running. I began to hurt and I lost my ability to make little circles. So instead of trying to muscle out the remaining 4 km back to the shop, I simply called it a day and walked it in.

The good news of Sunday was that everything was sore, not just my right calf. Muscles I hadn’t used in awhile were talking to me and I knew I had done the right thing.

I struggle with the fact that I am nowhere even close to being a decent runner and that on race day, I come across the finish line long after all the Speedsters do.

While the snails were passing me and laughing, the Running Yoda reminded me that none of us are going to the Olympics.

At the end of the day, all I own is the effort.

How much did I give it? Did I give my day everything? Did I make myself proud with how much I tried?

  • Outcomes rarely belong to you. In fact, they don’t.

The only thing you can control is how much effort you give towards your work, training, relationships, and the things you want in life. There is never a guarantee that you will achieve anything, so you had better learn how to have fun along the way.

Photo

Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to have fun while walking so fast that I appear to be running.

Remembering that the only person I ever need to race is the Donloree of yesterday is an amazing gift. Kicking her ass is a whole lot of fun and the only thing I should ever care about.

At the end of the day when my head hits the pillow, being able to say, “Yes!” in response to, “Did you kick Yesterloree’s ass?” makes a smile stretch from ear to ear.

Impress yourself.
~The Running Yoda

Smiling through life, no matter how hard it happens to be at the moment, is an amazing way to live.

All you own is the effort.

I Thought I Might Need New Friends {Havasu Adventures}

A few months ago, while the subarctic was still in its annual deep freeze, a conversation about running down to Havasu Falls started up with some of the Speedsters. Don’t ask me how, but I was included in the crazy adventure planning. For a few months I just let the conversation swirl, after all, there was no way I could run to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a day … nor could I possibly run 30+ kms .. the farthest I had ever previously run in one stretch was 28 km. That adventure nearly killed me and made it clear that I am never going to be an ultra marathoner.

So the conversation swirled.

And I agreed, it would be fun … because it would be! Theoretically speaking, of course.

  • They took my agreement of fun as confirmation of my participation.

I had seen the pictures and definitely wanted to go … but it seemed impossible.

Finally the day for signing up for a spot at the overnight campgrounds was around the corner. We met for coffee to discuss logistics and plans.

I confessed my inabilities and fears about dying at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I told them I was not going to do it … that I am not a Speedster and they have the wrong woman.

Somehow, an hour later, I found myself agreeing to run to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a day over the May long weekend.

It was clear that I needed to find some new friends.

Their confidence buoyed me and I was excited.

Then I was nervous.

And then scared.

Then I was going to back out … after all dying in a canyon is a bad way to go, even if it is grand.

More conversations ensued.

I was doing this thing.

Then I was injured.

I submitted myself to all kinds of physiotherapy in an effort to be able to see Havasu AND get out of the canyon in a day without requiring helicopter assistance.

  • Flights were booked, plans were made, and then the googling began.

Panic set in once again.

  • Water – how am I going to have enough? How do I purify it?
  • Heat – how do I avoid sunstroke?
  • Running – how do I keep up?
  • Shoes – which ones do I use to avoid tripping and falling into the canyon?
  • Rules – no day hiking … what does this mean? We are running, not hiking … we have a reservation and paid to be there, but do they tag you when you come in and go out?! Can you ‘day run’?
  • Running backpack – I need one. Does cute and functional in this kind of a thing exist?

My poor, speedy friends … they heard it all … several times.

Finally, the day of departure came. My suitcase was filled to the brim and included my cute little purple running backpack, water purifying solution, snacks galore for the run, three different pairs of running shoes, and about seven different clothing options for whatever weather might come our way.

  • Getting on the plane at 8:00 am on Saturday morning, I was both prepared and petrified.

As a ‘warm up‘ we decided to do some hiking in the Grand Canyon on Sunday, the day before the big Havasu Falls day, you know, to build confidence for the next day.

Grandview Trail

I took this picture on the way up on one of my MANY breaks. The Grand Canyon is so massive that in some ways it is hard to ‘see’ it.

While down three miles down into the canyon at Horseshoe Mesa on the Grandview trail, it seemed doable.

  • And then we had to go up.

Which, in theory, should have been just fine. After all, I do a lot of hiking and climbing up steep mountain paths – the 800 meters of elevation gain in roughly 6 kms should have been tough, but doable.

Instead, I gasped for breath, poured sweat, and felt ill – extremely ill.

  • So much for a confidence booster.

While in route to Seligman, the small, hilarious town that is a home base for nearly everyone going to Havasu Falls, I considered my fate while wondering how I could be this out of shape. Not sure if the day’s poor performance had to do with dehydration, slight altitude sickness, heat, or a combination of all three, I was anything but sure about the next day’s adventure.

Seligman, Arizona

The town has 450 people, two restaurants, about three motels, and a lot of personality!

Coming to the conclusion that I should at least start the adventure and give myself permission to turn around whenever I felt it would be too much only took a two and a half hour car ride of discussion with Speedy, more dissection of the current state of affairs with the other two Speedsters over dinner and the largest piece of carrot cake know to humanity, and the realization that the only thing to do is Seligman other than go to Havasu Falls is to literally watch the tumbleweed roll by.

I am not a tumbleweed watching kind of a woman.

When 4:30 am rolled around and the alarm went off, I was already awake and had been for nearly two hours.

30 minutes later, we were on the road munching and on breakfast.

Despite being sleep and caffeine deprived, I was confident.

Confident that I might die.

The drive from Seligman to the Supai trailhead is about 90 minutes of single lane highway that winds down to the giant crack in the earth known at the Grand Canyon. At 6:30 am, we were parking in the large lot filled with the cars of the brave souls who have literally gone before us.

  • Sunscreen was applied.
  • Icky trailhead outhouse was visited.
  • Pre-death pictures were taken of the start.
  • A giant deep breath of resolve was taken.

From my hours of research on Google, the trail to Havasu was described as everything from ‘easy‘ to ‘epic‘ and the elevation loss was anywhere from 750 to 1,200 meters. Seeing how I barely made it through 800 meters the day previous, all my confidence was scattered somewhere on Horseshoe Mesa.

The one thing that is clear about the trail on the internet is that the first few miles are switchbacks and then the following 7 or so miles are a very gradual descent into the visitor centre in Supai Village.

I decided to do the switchbacks and then make a decision.

After all, even if I got three miles in and decided it was impossible to do the whole day, climbing back up would be completely possible by the time the Speedsters finished exploring the falls 7 miles down the trail.

The trail zigged and zagged down for about 30 minutes and then suddenly levelled out. Surprised by the lack of difficulty, I put my camera in my backpack and started chasing the Speedsters when they started running.

Havasu Falls Trail

Let the slow descent begin! Easy trail running at its finest. PHEW!

Social pressure of running with the group and passing people on the trail (you don’t want to run by and then have them pass you later) kept my feet going.

An hour and a half later, I somehow found myself at the Supai Village checking in with the rest of the group.

With my wrist band in place and shoes full of sand, I was ready to explore the falls.

Havasu Falls - Supai Village

Check! Rules are being followed and we are ready to see the falls – let the gorgeous views begin! (This is my ‘fierce’ face.)

Starting out so early in the morning meant most of the hikers were still behind us on the trail and everyone at the campground was either sleeping still or had already packed up and we had surprised them on the trail as we ran by them on their way out.

  • We nearly had the falls to ourselves.

By 11:45 am, after a few snacks and rehydrating, we were ready to head back. Everything except Beaver Falls had been seen by your’s truly; the several water crossings and additional 4 miles didn’t seem worth it to see an even bigger copy of the two falls I had already seen. Besides, I had another 10 miles / 16 km to go and I had already put nearly 20 kms on my feet which were starting to feel more than just a bit blistered.

Havasu Falls

So happy to have found the falls! The miles there and back were worth the beauty!

After wading through the sandiest parts of the trail close to the town and emptying my shoes three times, I was ready to start the run up to the car.

My resolve to run back to the car lasted for nearly a kilometer.

My legs protested and I agreed. Falling over and hurting myself because my legs were turning to jello didn’t seem like a good idea. There was another 8 hours of daylight left; even if I hiked at a sloth’s pace, I would make it to the car with daylight to spare.

Besides, I didn’t think the Bearded Physiotherapist Man would approve of all the uphill running and after nearly dying three times, I would do anything to avoid having him stick needles into my hips and proclaim that my showgirl days are over.

Two of the Speedsters decided to check out Beaver Falls – after all, this is most likely a once in a lifetime adventure. They caught up with us about a kilometer before the climb began. Hearing that they didn’t make it there due to the amount of water crossings that were above waist high confirmed that I made the right decision to simply turn around and start back.

The previous day’s tribulations were fresh in my mind.

I let the three of them start the climb and then took a deep breathe and began.

As always, climbing is not easy, but it was the correct amount of ‘not easy’ on this day. I made it to the top about 15 minutes after the Speedsters and felt on top of the world.

  • Why do I make everything so difficult?

While pounding back some water from the dust covered rental car, a frazzled woman came into my view. After a few days down at Havasu, she had arrived to find that her car wouldn’t start. Jumper cables and directions on when to start the car and how you should NOT to turn it off right away were given. Receiving a giant hug from a tiny woman who was amazed at my knowledge of all things mechanical wasn’t the worst way to end a day that I thought might end in disaster.

Avoiding disaster and fixing someone else’s at the same time was just about perfect.

We drove back to the tumbleweed town and ate dinner at a cafe who’s slogan is, “You kill ’em, we grill ’em!” Getting up from dinner, my legs buckled. Tired, worn out, and stiff, I had to take a wide circle towards the door.

“How much wine did you have?!” asked one of the other tables.

Laughing, I simply responded, “Havasu – in one day. It isn’t the wine!

Sweet, blissful sleep came in about three seconds after lying down, even though my feet with the twoonie sized blisters on both heels hung off the end of the very small bed.

Havasu falls, Grand Canyon

A lovely place to visit, but I am sure glad we didn’t camp down there. A real bed, a hot shower, and not hauling 50 pounds of camping paraphernalia out of the canyon is the way to go!

It is important to risk failure.

To do the things you think are impossible. And to have amazing friends in your life who will help you go farther than you knew you could, friends who believe in you when all your faith has been scattered to the wind.

  • So now that I don’t need new friends, I simply need a new adventure.

I wonder what will be next to be checked off on the Donloree Have Done List

And as I set out on the next adventure, which will have its own set of fears, stress, challenges, and questions, I will remember to not judge yesterday’s fears with today’s wisdom.

It is, as they say, impossible until it is done.

What are you willing to risk being a failure at? Why not leap off the cliff – what if it turns out you can fly?

SaveSave

SaveSave

What Girl Doesn’t Want To Walk Like Quasimodo?

After having to cancel last week’s physio appointment due to strategic planning sessions at work, I wasn’t very motivated to show up for today’s appointment.

Seeing how I am able to clip in and bike 30+ km in a day and even go for a 10 km hike after biking to and from work which is a 20 km round trip, I decided I was cured.

  • But running is still a bit of a disaster and if I am being completely honest with myself, I just wanted to be cured.

When the reminder popped up on my phone that my appointment with the Bearded Physio Man was looming, I wanted to call in sick for the day.

But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

Besides, the pesky trip to the Grand Canyon where I am supposed to go to the bottom and back up in a day is looming

My fear of dying at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is greater than my fear of the Bearded Physiotherapist Man which resulted in me showing up for torture at 6:15 pm.

Waiting for the impending doom is never pleasant.

Whenever I am nervous, I tend to sweat.

It is one of my less sexy attributes.

Lying on the table, I was warm enough without the heat packs – by the time 15 minutes passed, I was feeling dehydrated and glad I had applied a second coat of deodorant.

Bearded Physio Man – So it’s been awhile since we’ve seen you. What’s the verdict?
Committed to the Process Donloree – Well, I had to cancel last week due to work. Did you know there isn’t an option for, ‘My boss doesn’t understand real life problems?‘ for your cancellation reason? I opted to say I was better and didn’t need the appointment … but here I am. Again. I am not better.

After reviewing my inability to run and the vice grip which wraps around my ankle while running, especially after a day of wearing heels, we had a diagnosis.

Bearded Physio Man – So it’s your soleus. That’s a bitch to work out. Are you ready for it?
Committed to the Process Donloree– Awesome? But after this I can be done? Never see you again? That is, if I survive?
Bearded Physio Man – It’s going to hurt. A lot. No two ways about it.
Committed to the Process Donloree – I even stopped wearing heels! If you know me at all, you would know what a big deal this is. All of those cute shoes … and for what?
Bearded Physio Man – You don’t need to wear heels. You’re tall.
Committed to the Process Donloree – No. Heels are a must. You have no idea. A girl has to be able to wear heels! I’m down to four pairs, FOUR pairs of shoes for work. It is a complete disaster.
Bearded Physio Man – Well then, let’s get you back in those heels!

I love a man who has a firm grasp on the priorities.

While he shoved needles into the deepest parts of my calf and my leg flopped on the table like a fish gasping for water on dry land, I remembered that I was paying to have this done.

  • It turns out the the Bearded Physio Man is an equal opportunity torturer.

As I flipped onto my back to have the front side of my calf receive similar treatment, I nearly slipped right off the table.

That pesky sweat response had come out in full force.

Committed to the Process Donloree – Who knew one woman could sweat quite so much? 
Bearded Physio Man
 – It is because you’re an athlete. The athletic ones always leave here drenched.

I think he was just trying to make up to me after hitting a nerve in my ankle. For about 2 seconds it felt like I had dropped a toaster into the bathtub with me in it.

  • Its always good to feel alive.

Or something.

Getting off the table was virtually impossible. Bent at the waist and unable to fully stand up, we reviewed my next set of exercises and the get back to running plan.

Bearded Physio Man – So running. Try 5 minutes.
Committed to the Process Donloree – Tomorrow?
Bearded Physio Man No. Not even close. Maybe, just MAYBE, five minutes on Wednesday.
Committed to the Process Donloree – Then 10 minutes on Thursday? And maybe even twenty on Friday. I am supposed to do this Grand Canyon thing in a few weeks – that’s 20 miles. Am I going to be able to do 20 miles?
Bearded Physio Man – You should be fine as long as you’re not ridiculous.
Committed to the Process Donloree – Well, now we are really in trouble … aren’t we?
Bearded Physio Man – If it hurts, what do you do?
Committed to the Process Donloree – Stop. I am supposed to stop.
Bearded Physio Man – And come see me. But if you take it easy and aren’t ridiculous, perhaps we never have to see each other again. You are done with me for now!
Committed to the Process Donloree – Done?! I graduated? I am done!!!

After a high five and a handshake, I lumbered to the front desk to pay for the torture and then did my best to drive my little red jeep home without crashing.

Note to self – get an automatic car next time.

  • Apparently when you graduate from physio, you look and walk like Quasimodo, but this girl is not complaining!

Despite the fact that I can’t walk without throwing my right leg forward while being bent at the waist, I am apparently going to be back running on Wednesday … for a full five minutes.

Photo

Starting at square one is never pretty, but at least I get to start again.

Now, to just avoid being ridiculous … there is always hope that the impossible is possible!

Flipping The Seasonal Switch {Subarctic Musings}

The days may be long, but the years are short.

Somehow the seasonal switch got flipped up here in the subarctic. Just last month I was plugging in my little red jeep and trying to not die in the -20 degree weather.

Maligne Lake, Jasper

Literally knee deep in snow on Maligne Lake just a few weeks ago …

  • 45 degrees and 3 weeks later, we officially have spring.

Every single winter, I wonder if I am going to make it … if I am going to live through one more god forsaken tundra of a winter.

Life is full of seasons.

Some are long, hard, cold and seemingly never-ending, but one day it will end. When the summer comes, as it eventually does, you won’t know how to enjoy it if you haven’t practiced living well when it was winter.

Looking back over the last few years, the greatest skill I have developed is how to enjoy today and fully love the people in my life when I have them.

When you live with an open heart and open hands you’re vulnerable to being hurt and you’re able to let an incredible amount of amazing into your life.

You can’t have one without the other.

Life’s path is not wide and straight. It is narrow, twisty, and a constant climb.

Either you find a way to fully be where you are and enjoy it or you will complain about the climb and how narrow and twisty the path you’re currently on and not move forward. Standing still, complaining, and looking for an escape route is a waste of time.

If things need to change, change them.

Elk Island

You’ve got to love the lakes that crop up on the trail during spring up here!

Humans are designed to only move in one direction – forward.

Although we come equipped with a rearview mirror, it is only to assist us in moving forward; reminding of what is behind as we encounter the newest obstacles in life. The rearview mirror brings wisdom. Glance at it from time to time, but don’t drive your life with your eyes glued to it.

  • Sometimes I find myself wanting an easy life, but the truth is what I want is a fulfilling life which only comes from accomplishment, choosing to do hard things, and overcoming the obstacles that plague me day to day and year to year. 

Growing and being able to do more, sustain more, and live a better, fuller life season to season means embracing the dark, twisty, hard climbs; giving yourself fully to what is in front of you.

This week as I have ridden my bike to the office with a dress and heels crammed into a backpack and enjoying the cool spring mornings, I couldn’t be happier to find myself heading into summer once again.

Scott Bikes

This is my happy place …. a girl and her bike.

Being the kind of woman who clips in at 7:10 am and hits the trails before the morning management meeting doesn’t happen overnight. Running all winter, weight training 3-5 times a week, and hiking up mountains on the weekends whenever I can makes this an extremely easy feat, much to the shock of most people in the office.

  • And I couldn’t be happier to have to pedal home after a long, frustrating day.

It is what you do with your cold, dark seasons that matter most.

Happiness is easy to find in the summer seasons, but if you want more out of life, choose to do the things that make you happy when it is cold and dark even if you don’t feel like it. Practice the things that make you happy and do them, even if it takes work to accomplish.

It takes courage and discipline to change what needs to be changed and then open your heart up to love your life and the people who are in it.

  • Do it. Be courageous. It is worth it. Always.

Are you ready for summer? The years are going by fast …!

My Career As A Showgirl Is Over

Or, more accurately, never got started.

Hearing that you are most likely not going to be a showgirl while a man is shoving needles into your hips and you’re trying not to scream is not what most women do on a Wednesday afternoon.

  • Apparently I am not most women.

I went back to the Bearded Physio Man for more torture yesterday. After all, if you are going to get better, you have to follow all the steps. You have to do the work. You have to go through the pain.

At least that is what I was telling myself while writhing on the table. Did you know there is an artery right by your IT Band that if nicked could be disastrous?

Me either.

I have to say, having a stranger with a beard grab your IT Band and then having to remain calm while needle gets shoved into it … well … there are more pleasant things to do with your time.

Ticklish doesn’t even begin to describe how it feels when someone touches my IT Band. Taking a deep breath and trying not to grab the needle and throw it across the room, I complied with the treatment.

Bearded Physio Man – Do you want to do this?
Slightly Panicked Donloree – No. But I’m not the kind of woman who backs away from a challenge. Let’s go.
Bearded Physio Man – These hips!
Slightly Panicked Donloree – Amazing right?
Bearded Physio Man – They are sure something…

Despite my tight hips and inability to do high kicks which would help me transition nicely to a job as a showgirl, I nearly kicked him in the head.

It was an accident, although most likely in my heart it was on purpose. 

Still Not Running Donloree – Is it better? Am I better? Do I get to be done and run now?
Bearded Physio Man – Last week we simply worked on the superfluous stuff, we are finally getting to what matters. You’re an onion, lots of layers.
Still Not Running Donloree – Well with my career as a showgirl on standby, we really do need to get me back on the road. A girl needs goals you know.
Bearded Physio Man – 5 km. Slow. Jogging.
Maybe Running Tomorrow Donloree – Sure, awesome. Back at it!
Bearded Physio Man – No hills. No racing. No stairs. No mountains. No intervals. 5 km FLAT and SLOW.
Maybe Running Tomorrow Donloree – Ok, I will jog with the sloths – not the speedsters. And if it hurts … I will stop. Promise.
Bearded Physio Man – Yes. For the love of everything good in the world. Stop. You’re not my first, you know. Runner that is.

I thought it was nice he considers me a runner. 

Dropping by the Frank’s x-country race on my way home from physio was confirmation that I made the right decision to NOT change back into my shorts and t-shirt and run through the knee deep puddles that have formed in the trails.

Edmonton River Valley

Hello from the sidelines!

Clutching in my little red jeep was hard enough, walking even harder. At least now I know what it will be like to be 98 years old.

The good news is I am officially back on the road, albeit slow and short. A woman’s got to start somewhere … doesn’t she?

Flat, boring, slow, and uneventful 5km here I come!

I Am Officially A Running Failure

Wow. These are the tightest calves I think I’ve ever seen,” is not what you want to hear when a man is shoving a needle into your calf and then jiggling it around.

Over the last three weeks, I have run a sum total of 2.5 kilometres.

And those were over the weekend in Jasper – it was as far as I could go before the epic pain in my right leg returned. Everything from my low back to my calf just hurt and then I seized.

Medicine Lake, Jasper AB

Luckily I could still hike and enjoy some of the beauty!

After three months of being in a lot, and I mean, A LOT of pain while running, I made an appointment with a physiotherapist recommended by one of the Speedsters.

Arriving at physio, I quickly changed out of my dress and heels and into my workout gear. Then there I nervously sat behind those kinds of curtains you find in an ER room. I was just glad I got my shorts and shirt on before the curtain flew open on its track.

The ambiance of the physio office was more emergent than I preferred.

Nervous about what was going to happen, the feeling of being in an ER room did nothing to calm my internal stress. There were no nice, cushy offices with art on the wall to relax in and I started to feel a bit claustrophobic in my tiny blue, cordoned off area.

A bearded man slid the curtains back and introduced himself while somehow fitting himself, me, the physio table, and a chair in the eight by four foot space.

  • In this very tiny space, I did all the requisite bending, squatting, and stretching.

Then we emerged from the curtained area and I jogged around the office while he watched and judged. It is hard not to try and run like a running superstar would run when someone is watching you. I had to remind myself to run in the way that I always run, the way that would make my sloth ancestors proud.

Bearded Physio Man – So how long have you had this pain?
Idiot Running Donloree – Oh, three months now. It hurts to run. It always hurts to run. One of the speedy women told me that I just need to move through the pain and one day it just stops; my legs just aren’t strong enough yet according to her. But it ALWAYS hurts. A lot. How much is this running thing supposed to hurt?
Bearded Physio Man – It’s not. Not after running for years and years and only going 12 kilometres.
Idiot Running Donloree – So, do I need remedial running lessons?
Bearded Physio Man – You need less pain tolerance. Most people who are in as much pain as you are would last three minutes, not three months.
Idiot Running Donloree – So now what?
Bearded Physio Man – Well, we can do this the extremely painful and fast way, or the painful and slow way. I can stick needles or my hands into your muscles, either way it is going to hurt. It is up to you. How do you prefer to go?
Idiot Running Donloree – Well, I am the kind of woman who goes all the way, umm … not like that, I mean I am not afraid of some pain to get me out of this disaster. And the sooner the better. I will carpe the physio diem!

For the next 20 or so minutes, I let a man who I just met see my lacy green underwear while he poked needles into my arse and made me sweat. 30 needles later and a lot of discussion about my hobbies and traveling adventures while I tried to not yelp in pain as he twanged the needles after sticking them into some of the tightest muscles known to woman kind, I tried to stand up.

Getting off the table was the most Herculean feat I have done in awhile.

I looked at him through the sweat dripping off my brow and asked an important question. “I am pretty ridiculous. This is ridiculous, right?

Slight pause.

You have a lot of potential for change and improvement.

The Bearded Physio Man may have a career in politics after he’s tired of poking needles into people.

Or automotive repair.

Your back is supposed to be the chassis, not the source of the power. Its supposed to transfer the power. You run with your low back, your calves have seized, and your ankles basically don’t have any flexion left. You’ve broken your chassis and lost your source of power.

Once we were done comparing me to a car, we moved onto reviewing all the exercises I should be doing over the next week which are actually more like medieval torture methods than exercises.

So can I start running again?

No. You can bike, you can swim, you can do yoga … no deadlifting, no squats. No running. Next week, we review how to run so as to not have this happen again. In the meantime, pressure point release with that lacrosse ball every other day. It should make you want to cry.

There something to be said for being a strategic failure.

Sometimes you need to give up and just say you can’t and then find another way. Don’t wait until you find yourself paying a man to shove needles into you and compare you to a broken car.

Photo

Also? Don’t blindly listen to the super fast, makes everything look easy people.

If you want to die while doing something and it never gets better and only get worse, there is probably something wrong that you need to deal with. Smiling isn’t going to help.

  • No one ever knows what it is like to be you. Ever. No matter how much they have ‘been there‘, they have never been exactly where you are now. 

For now, I am officially banned from running. But I need to pick up the habit again because I have a pesky 20 mile adventure waving at me from May and, as always, the goal is not to die.

Here’s hoping the Grand Canyon doesn’t swallow me whole!

More Than Just Miles

Last March, I decided to be brave and start running with a speedy group of runners.

I am not speedy.

My genetic potential is comparable to that of a sloth; these people have cheetah running through their veins.

Their jog is my race pace.

For just over a year, I have spent nearly every Wednesday night and Saturday morning running a warm up pace that makes me overheat, then starting the interval workout which involves me sometimes running slower than the ‘warm up pace‘ and watching the lithe people run away from me at incredible speeds, then ‘slinky-ing‘ forward while they run back for me on the recovery, watching them sprint away from me some more, and then eventually finding myself labouring up a hill to exit the river valley at the end of the workout to find the group of speedsters waiting to fist pound it out before we run back to the shop at a cool down pace which only makes me sweat even more.

I know, I make it sound like SO MUCH FUN.

So, why in the world do I keep showing up?

Because, after running nearly 600 kms with these people, I have found a group of people who dream big dreams and literally chase them down with all that they have.

  • Impress yourself.

My assumption was that someone of my athletic caliber would never be welcome, but what I found was a group of people who push themselves to their limits, until they fail, so that they could expand and grow. And all they request is that you do the same – no matter what it looks like.

Edmonton in the near spring

It was a gorgeous evening for a run with the speedsters up here in the subarctic. Listening to the crunch of the snow under your feet and the huff your breath as the day turns to dust and you run towards the twilight is a wee bit magical.

 

Despite my genetic potential, these are my people.

Whoever you surround yourself with effects who you are becoming. And in my effort to become a better woman, one who knows how to recover from failure and has humility, there is no better place I can find myself than one of the slowest people in a pack of speedsters.

  • Isn’t it better to be pushed towards your potential than held back by your own mediocrity?

I rarely want to actually go to run after the speedsters on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I always want to have run, to have accomplished. And when I am done with the workout and completely spent, happiness and pride fills my chest.

  • The coffee after the weekly near death experience helps too!

Weaving the discipline of the weekly workout into my schedule and having people who know who I am and what I want to accomplish helps me keep moving forward, to keep putting in mile after mile.

We were all made to fly.

Photo

And the lesson that I keep learning, because I am a very slow learner, is that all I need to do is give whatever is in front of me my absolute best without self-judgement and that success looks different day to day.

And after quite a few months and hundreds of miles, I find myself keeping up with the pack now and again. In the midst of the miles, I have shared snippets of life with some fabulous people and find myself getting faster and more compassionate towards humanity. Sharing people’s struggles and success in the midst of the footfalls and breath huffing out of your lungs changes you.

  • Getting faster at this running thing suddenly became a fringe benefit of living with a bigger heart and more people to do life with. Even if those people can literally run circles around me.

Sometimes it is good to take a step back and remember that showing up, where you show up, and who you show up with is your choice.

Always.

Who are you going to chase? Where are you people? How are you showing up?

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

The Great Balancing Act

Earlier this month, I heard that one of my friends has stage 4 breast cancer. She is my age, full of life, fit as you could ever want to be, and lives an adventuresome life with her little family.

  • For two days my mind was in a bit of a fog due to the shock.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to struggle through her new reality.

Last time I saw her, which was only a few months ago, she was fine. Or so it seemed to me. We talked about life, work, trying to make your way in the world with art and your own business, traveling, fitness adventures, and the joys and stresses of family life. Our biggest concerns revolved around things which just sound silly now.

Witty as ever, she made me laugh until my stomach hurt and when the coffee was gone and when it was time to leave, my spirits were higher than when I arrived.

This kind of horrible news is always a shock and despite our efforts to avoid the terrible things in life, they still have a way of finding us now and again.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear news like this, I simply want to abandon all responsibility and just LIVE – whatever that means.

Photo

The real problem with life is, you don’t have an expiry date stamped on your arse so you don’t know when you’re going to go. And nothing about life is equal or fair, so guessing about these things is a complete waste of time.

Enter the great balancing act.

You have to go to work, pay the bills, eat your vegetables, workout and train, get enough sleep, and do all the boring, mundane things that ensure you are healthy and are taking care of yourself. And yet, there are the days when you must throw caution to the wind and do ridiculous things, stay up late, celebrate, get on the airplane bound for somewhere tropical with only three days notice, and drink deeply from the well of life.

  • In the end, it comes down to the fact that you can’t do everything and you need to choose. Choose what it means to live a good life NOW. Every single day.

Waiting for the good life to start means you’re going to find yourself sitting at the window, looking out at the world, wondering how to get through the glass when all you need to do is move away from the window, put on your shoes, and walk out the front door to start your journey.

Your only job is to do you, and do it well.

Photo

Living a good life every single day means being fully present where you are at, not apologizing for saying no to people and opportunities that come your way, and saying YES to love, adventure, discipline, and the people you want to share your life with.

Be where you are and give 100% of yourself to your day, work, and the people you choose to let into your life.

  • If you are with someone, love them well – Give them your whole heart and request the same back from them.
  • Do your best at work – Show up, work hard and act like you’re being graded on what you do or don’t do, because you are. Hard work results in opportunity, money in your pocket, and accomplishment.
  • Buy less things – Spend your money and time on experiences, being with the people you love, and seeing the world, not working to accumulate things you need to pay someone else to clean.
  • Push your body hard, sweat a lot – Go to the gym and train hard, find your running shoes, clip into your bike pedals, hike the mountain, dust off the skis – simply move move a whole lot and push your body past what you thought it couldn’t do; you will be surprised at what you can do and who you meet along the way of doing it!
  • Let yourself enjoy the things you love – Embrace your inner nerd and don’t give another thought as to what other people think about you and your weird hobby and passions.
  • Get up to see the sunrise – There is nothing quite like welcoming the day as the sun starts to light up the sky. Some days are glorious artistic displays of colour and other days simply go from dark to light, but each and every day deserves a grateful welcome with a cup of coffee in hand.
  • Spend more time outside – Even if you are as pale as I am, buy the 6-pack of 80 block at Costco and get on with enjoying the great outdoors. Even in the winter, take time to enjoy the feel of the sun on your face, however cold it may be.
  • Say thank you – Finding your way to gratitude isn’t an easy task, but it is worth doing. Learning to find the gift in the mess and thanking your teachers who have come through your life, whatever form they have come in, is worth doing because when you can say ‘thank you’ you also have found peace.
  • Dream big dreams – Cultivate your dreams and go after them in small ways every day. Chase down a big, hairy, audacious goal or twelve and risk failure. Life is not safe, so don’t make your life about avoiding failure; embrace it.

Living each day like its your last balanced with responsibility is not easy, but it does bring a certain richness to life. Having the question, “What if this is my last ______?” in the back of your head as you go about your day changes what you give to those around you and your work.

Polarizing what you do and who you do it with isn’t a bad thing. The gift of clarity in a very grey world is something most people don’t have.

Photo

Life is going to happen; the good, the wonderful, the bad, and the terrible – how you go through the seasons is up to you.

In fact, it is the only thing that is up to you.

Practice living an amazing life, even in the little ways, every single day because in the end, your practice becomes your way of being and creates your memories and shared adventures. And when the terrible comes, as it will for each of us now and again, you will find yourself doing surprisingly well in the midst of terrible, terrible things.

Isn’t that what we all want? To live a good and full life, no matter how much life we have?

Life truly is an adventure, a terrible and wonderful adventure, live it. All of it.

SaveSave

SaveSave