So this is the 40s

In the blink of an eye, I’ve entered the 2nd year of my 40s. Truth be told, the journey has lasted several years. 40 felt like such a milestone in my life. Is it middle age? What have I accomplished? Do I LOOK 40? They’re all trivial questions, but they let me set foot on what has been some of the most interesting years of my life, thus far.

When I was 38, the thought of turning 40 started entering my mind. I could feel the months counting down but it was still over a year away so it was parked. I focused on other parts of my life, jumped at opportunities presented to me, and trained my ass off for my 100km ultramarathon goal.

When 39 hit, the conversation became more real. It turned into a year of discovery on what 40 would mean to me, and to change the heaviness of that number to a year of reflection and opportunity. Instead of avoiding it, I took it head on and decided it was a year of #digginginto40. Long discussions with Elaine over many, many, MANY hours of mountain adventuring made the actual event of entering a new decade into a non-event. My mind was set and I was ready.

But why does 40 mean so much? What about it carries such weight?

Now, at 41, I can say the only things that have changed that I wasn’t quite prepared for were the external events and discussions that come with being on the Earth for those many years. The landscape of considerations with every decision made has shifted. Overnight, you don’t dramatically age and life isn’t over. If you feel that way, then it likely has gradually manifested itself and you finally took notice on the morning of your 40th birthday.

Instead, I look around and absorb and breathe in my environment. The realities I face can be uncomfortably real. My parents are aging so no longer am I just considering myself when I think of major life decisions, such as buying a new home. I need to know I am setting myself up to ensure that they are taken care of. And not just in a general sense, but in the details – are they going to live with me? Are they going to downsize and live close to me? What sort of care can I plan for? What lifestyle do they have now and how can I create continuity for them?

Photo Credit – Brice Ferre Studio

And what about me? My conversations have turned a corner and medical history, death and wills are being discussed. My conversations also include hard truths, whimsical silliness, and mad appreciation – the building blocks in making the vision of my future world an absolute, undeniable reality. The steps. The process. The who. The why. It comes fast and furious and every action I take is with intention.

Now, at 41, I know a lot of things but I also know I don’t know a lot of things. I’ve long learned that life will continue flowing the way it wants but I have control over the direction of my metaphorical boat, who’s in it, and how it runs. So, here I am and to that, I say, “Lean in. Lean gently but with unbridled passion.”

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My Community

Running.

it levels the playing field

we’re on par with each other
we’re connecting thru one medium

we’re one, together.

there is no old
there is no young
there is no fast
there is no slow
there is no rich
there is no poor
there is no judgement

there is no royalty

there’s you
your shoes
the company
the laughter
the memories
the pounding of your feet on the ground
the sound of your breath with each step

the sheer joy of running

this is what we share
this is why we show up
this is community.

In the past week and a half, I’ve not only experienced this but lived it.

First, the 2nd VRC Annual Flight Crew X East Van Run Crew Summer Social – a gathering of run crews and runners from across North America.

Almost 200 wicked people that you’d want to get to know running through the streets of Vancouver, and then finishing up with delicious food, cold beers, rad hats, and statement socks. Conversations were flowing and friendships were strengthened and formed. Geographical barriers were non-existent. Laughter filled the air into the late hours of the night.

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Two days later, one of the biggest running parties took over Vancouver. The SeaWheeze Half Marathon brought together 10,016 runners from around the globe to crush a goal, experience Vancouver for its raw beauty, and celebrate over yoga and music in beautiful Stanley Park. The two biggest highlights for me:

  • I was part of a special group of 40 people who were Pace Beavers and were privileged enough to lead groups to their goal time. But beyond that, I was connected to not only the Pace Beavers who were all lululemon ambassadors, but to all ambassadors who came to SeaWheeze. Through multiple events, ending with a picnic style dinner at the SSC (lululemon head office), we shared, mingled, and connected, creating friendships and bonds that go beyond the weekend.

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  • As a Pace Beaver, there is a responsibility I have to have integrity in the promise that I will carry my runners across the finish line in a certain time. It may not seem like much but it is a true honour to lead and hold tight to the trust that runners from near and far have given to me. This was my 4th year as a Pace Beaver and I cannot begin to express how excited and overjoyed I get when I help someone achieve and crush their goal. This is what drives me to continue giving to the community in any capacity I can.
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Photo Credit: @lululemonYVR

Luck doesn’t begin to describe it. I feel as though I’ve won the jackpot when it comes to life and I keep getting the winning ticket. I’m an ambassador for both Vancouver Running Co and lululemon, each providing me avenues to connect to my community and space to create more. My passion is so deeply rooted in authentically connecting with people through our shared unbridled love of run and celebrating every success along the way. In all capacities. On all terrain.

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At the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival… with multiple run crews and ambassadors from around the globe, all as one.

Open letter to my mother

July 25, 1997

Dear Mom,

I’m trying to write you this letter, but I fail to find a constant stream of thought and the perfect articulation of words to paint an accurate picture of what 19 years has been like without you. It’s impossible to express the loss of a parent at the infantile age of 21. Legally, an adult, but so far from being prepared for the true realities of life.

Did 19 years really go by? 21 is too young. 21 is too young to lose you. I had so many expectations of moments we were to share, and advice you were to impart on me. Even thinking back now, I find myself rejecting the stream of events that unfolded. The diagnosis. The expected time remaining. The treatment. The end. It all went wrong, and you were stolen from me, our family, your husband – our world.

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Every day I miss you to my very core, and every day I find solace and comfort in the strength I have from you, the care for others you instilled in me, the values by which you’ve raised me and how I live by them daily. I find peace and calm from those very things, because that is the only way I can get through a day knowing that you’re not here.

I fear I’ll forget pieces of you, as I desperately grasp onto our every word, touch, glance, laughter, learning. I have memories but they’ve softened over time. Have I filled in the the gaps accurately? Have some memories slipped through never to be remembered again?

The weight of these thoughts could collapse a person’s reality, and they have from time to time, but an attitude of unbridled gratitude for the constants in my life have been my saviour. They provide a euphoric lightness that grounds and surrounds me daily and has allowed me to find inspiration and positivity in all areas of my life.

The path I’ve chosen at each turn and crossroad ahead of me may not have been what we had originally imagined or planned, but I know you’d be proud and happy for me. I’ve surrounded myself with the best people who inspire, appreciate, and care for me. I come home to shared love, laughter, and support from a man who is my forever. I think it’s everything you had ever wanted for me as a parent.

So, today, in your memory, I paid tribute to you the best way I know how. I climbed a mountain, as I have in previous years, and let the air fill my lungs. The struggle and effort of each step was muted by the magnitude of the grief from the loss of you.

Your youngest daughter,

Linda

A Little Bit of Dignity

You don’t see anything out of the ordinary when you look out my window, but take a few minutes to listen to my story. I’ve been looking out my window across the way a few times a day searching for a man.

Last Wednesday, I step out of my building to meet my nephew. While I wait, I witness a young man (no more than maybe 20 years old) running down the street with a full garbage bag in his arms. In pursuit is an older Asian man yelling at him to stop. By the time I realize what was happening, the young man throws the bag (filled with empty cans) against a tree and proceeds to casually walk across the street and down the walkway to his destination, as though nothing had happened. The older man catching his breath gets down on his hands and knees to pick up the cans that have fallen out of the bag after it had burst from the impact. All I could do was walk over, help him collect his cans, and ask if he was ok. He thanked me, and I proceeded to meet my nephew.

I came back into my home a few minutes later, shocked and appalled at what I had witnessed. I looked out the window and the older man was stacking his collection of empty cans and started down the road. I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, so I went through my recycling as fast as I could to collect any bottles or cans I had. I threw them into a bag and ran out the door to find this man. He was gone.

So everyday, I look out my window several times a day to see if I can find him so I can add to his collection. People don’t necessarily choose their circumstances, but they can choose the path by which they thrive and survive in life. The least we can do as human beings is show them some respect and dignity. I am so deeply saddened by this, and I hope I get to properly meet this man sooner than later.

Death by Paper Cuts

Healdsburg Running Company

Tucked in the heart of the Russian River area is a quaint little town called Healdsburg.  If you find yourself stumbling around what I can only call Downtown Healdsburg and you’re a runner at heart, your feet will walk you through the doors of the Healdsburg Running Company.  There may be tents outside with people in trucker hats milling around and chatting.  There may be a family fun run about to happen.  There may also be a Salomon Demo Fleet.  Above all else, what you will definitely find is a gentleman by the name of Skip whose warm, fun smile fills his face and whose voice captivates and fills the room.  You’ll be greeted with the familiarity of a regular, and brought into conversations as though you were there from the beginning. HRC isn’t a large store, but it’s the cornerstone of the local running community. In the 30ish minutes we were there, we were given about 10 things we could do and about 10 restaurants, tasting rooms, and breweries to visit. It was like walking into a family friend’s home.

 

Goals

Asking goal times is a commonality among friends when a race is thrown into the conversation, and with this one, I did and I didn’t.  My last race, Squamish 50, was highly unsuccessful, suffering from nausea for most of the day. Lake Sonoma had 2 purposes:
  1. Erase the emotional scar of Squamish 50, and complete a race the way I know how: 100% physical effort and 0% stomach issues.  Time-wise, anywhere between 10:30-12:00 would be reasonable.
  2. To witness a really great friend, Elaine, cross the finish line of her first 50 miler.  We trained together, until the last 6 weeks before the race when she encountered a foot injury.  She was smart during those 6 weeks and didn’t push her recovery too soon.  The main thing I told her was that she would go in under trained a little bit, but she’ll finish.

Death by Paper Cuts

Drive about 20 mins outside of Healdsburg on April 9th to the South Lake Trail around 6am and you’ll find almost 400 runners ready to toe the line at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile ultramarathon. The field is deep, as this race is a Golden Ticket race for Western States. As I made my way to the portapotty line, I couldn’t help but overhear 2 runners ahead of me chatting about, surprisingly, running! Way Too Cool 50k was a month prior so stories were shared, and then they moved onto the impending race. One talked of how they’ve consistently done a positive split of an hour on the course, even though they thought they were going out conservative. Then, “Death by Paper Cuts” was how it was described. What an odd and unpleasant way to describe the next 50 miles we were about to run.

 

Without giving it too much thought, we proceeded to go through the morning pre-race motions and got ready for race start. I told Tav that my goal was to hit the halfway mark at 5.5 hours feeling good. So, let’s see how the day would unfold…

 

There was no California sun that day with rain in the forecast, so I was geared up with a tank top, arm warmers, and a jacket, and off I went. The first couple of miles were on undulating road and Elaine and I were quickly separated. I tried to balance my road instincts with my ultra brain (READ: Don’t run too fast ahead). We then jumped into the trails and it was, again, undulating. I didn’t go into this race with a pace in mind because, as anyone who has ever run an ultra before will tell you, there’s no way to run “a pace” the whole way.  My watch auto-beeps every mile so it gives me a gauge of some average based on whether the last mile was more uphill or downhill.  Seeing the times that were coming through, I felt like I was doing well at being conservative – almost a bit too conservative, BUT, I’ve never actually run a race conservative, so there’s always a first.  I was tempted, and even gave in on occasion, to pick up the pace though, because you gotta have a little fun!

 

Every ultra I do, I do want to make sure I take the time to enjoy what I see and experience so I always carry a camera. Today was no exception. Along the way, there was a view of the lake and I stopped to take a shot or two. A runner (Oscar!) came up behind me and told me to hand over my camera. It caught me off guard, but I did what I was told. He took my camera, went past me, and then turned around to take a couple of photos of me. “Smiles before miles” was what he said. So very true, and a great reminder.
Smiles before Miles!
I knew the first aid station I would see my crew was at 11.6 miles (Warm Springs) so it would be quite a while. There was a small water-only aid station before that and it came and went – a little earlier than expected – but this is trail and distances are generally approximate. Next thing I know, I’m rolling into the aid station where my crew was, with jacket and arm warmers in hand. No sun, but high humidity had me stripping down layers after the 2nd mile. I looked at my watch. 9 miles.  Something’s not right. But, not something I can do anything about, so I grabbed what I needed and continued on.

 

The course continued to undulate, with varying grades. Reviewing the elevation profile before the race, I knew there were a couple of bigger hills I’d have to deal with at the midpoint, but it didn’t worry me too much because that just meant bigger downhills – my favourite. What I FAILED to see in the elevation map was the lack of flat sections to recover from all the climbing or descending. I hit the aid station at Madrone Point (18.8 miles on the course, not according to my watch though) and my crew was nowhere to be found. I remember Tav mentioning about missing the aid station somewhere but I was sure he was supposed to be here. So I had a drink and a 1/4 peanut butter & jelly sandwich and waited. And waited. And then I decided to just go. The climb out of that aid station seemed long. I asked some people at the aid station if crews were coming from where I was going to be going and they said yes, so I was hopeful. I climbed up the steep hill and at the top of that hill were the familiar faces of Tav and Sean (Elaine’s husband). I was relieved. Tav checked my fuel and fluids, said Elaine looked good, and then sent me on my way. But I was getting tired, and my legs hurt and I knew what was coming. This was a big downhill, then a big uphill to the midpoint aid station, and then turn around to redo what I just did, backwards.

 

My mind was all over the place. I tried to stay as focused as possible, but my legs and back were hurting a lot more than I was expecting. When I finally got to the halfway aid station (appropriately named No Name), I was so relieved. At halfway, here was a rundown on me:
  • My watch read 19 miles.  I don’t know what was happening with it.  I don’t use my watch necessarily to tell me to go faster or slower, but I do want to know how far I am.  My watch turned into an annoying stop watch at this point.  The distance between aid stations became a guesstimate on what my watch would ACTUALLY read when I got there.
  • My legs.  Oh, my legs.  My quads were hurting from the downhill.  My hammies were hurting from the climbing, which aggravated my back and sciatic.

 

At this point, I knew I was going to have to fight hard to finish. It wouldn’t be a strong finish, and I anticipated a big fade, but I knew I would finish. And it would hurt. A lot.

 

Leaving the halfway aid station, it would be a big downhill and then a big climb. The downhill turned into awesome, to ok, to tolerable, to sharp shooting pains in my quads. The uphill teetered between a slow jog, to a strong hike, to a stroll mixed in with aching hammies and stabbing pains in my lower back.
I finally made it to the top of that hill where I saw the guys earlier, about 1/2 km before the next aid station (Madrone Point). I was hoping for a bit of comfort, but I was rushed forward. All day, they kept saying that I was right on pace with the fastest time on my chart so I knew they just wanted me to maintain momentum. What they didn’t know was that my legs were done. But that’s what your crew is for – to keep you moving forward. So there I go, flying down the hill to the aid station, and exhausted from pain when I arrived. Another PB&J sandwich, and I continued onwards. It would be 7 miles before I saw my crew and it would feel like forever. Each step chipped away at what was left in my legs, assuming I still had something in them. But each step forward proved there was more. It would just take more of me mentally.
Finally, the last crew aid station. Warm Springs. 38 miles. Watch: 29 miles. I had 12 miles. Somehow, at this point in the race, I was STILL on pace with almost the fastest time on the pace chart I gave my crew. I have no idea how that happened, but I prepared them for a BIG fade. I told them that I was done and then overdone. I was in a lot of pain. And there would be no hope in hell of me doing the next 12 miles in 2.5 hours. Probably not even 3 hours. But, they are my crew and they are here to not let those doubts seep in too deep. So we parted ways and the next time I would see them would be when I was allowed to stop.

 

The next 12 miles were not pretty. I could still run the downhills, passing many people, but the uphills were literally just a slow stroll. I had no strength in my step, and I was getting a strange pain in my right foot. I resolved to the reality that this would be the rhythm for the next 3ish hours, with a sitting break at one brief sadistically placed aid station (Island View Camp – 45.5 miles), a 400m out and back section, to stretch my back and legs. I’m going to take a moment to describe this aid station. The 400m was downhill. You can’t access it by car so the crew takes a boat in with the supplies. Think about that. That means, we are at the lowest point possible. The lowest. But I digress, because I have a race to finish.

 

Finish Line
The moment I heard the sound of cheering in the distance, I was filled with happiness and relief. But I still had to move forward. So, forward I moved. One step at a time, until the trail finally ended and it was a straightaway to the finish line. I stepped across the line, high fived the race director, and took a huge sigh of relief into the arms of Tav. It was over. Finally.

 

Watch, I hate you.
Legs, you hate me.
Body, you hate me.
Stomach, you’re hungry but we did it.
11:17:59.  30mins on flat according to my data.

 

Death by paper cuts.  Spot on.

 

Note: 30 minutes after I was done (a pattern throughout the day), Elaine and I shared our finish line hug.  I couldn’t have been thrilled and proud of her!!
hugs

Saying Good-Bye

In less than a week, I’ll be saying good-bye.

I’ve had long hair for 25 years, and I’ve always said that I would only cut it if I was going to donate it.  Well, now’s the time.  So, in less than a week, I will be saying good-bye to at least 10 inches of hair.  But, that hair symbolizes more than just hair.  I’ll be saying good-bye to part of my youth, a piece of my identity, a security blanket.

BUT, to that, I say:
  • to my youth: I’m only as old as I feel and I may be 40, but I feel young!
  • to my identity: As each day goes by, I am more sure of who I am and the way I see myself is not directly related to the length of my hair.  I am a life partner to the best man I know.  I am a fierce and loyal friend to people who enrich my life beyond my expectations.  I am a community connector.  I am a runner.  I am forever grateful for what I have, and will strive to be more.
  • to my security blanket: Along the journey to the place where I currently plant my feet, I stopped needing you.  So it’s time for YOU to be free of me.

NOW, since I’m #DiggingInto40, I’m turning the tables on an action that once scared me.  I am filled with anticipation and excitement.  And, to extend my passion for giving back, I am raising funds for charity.  The charity I have chosen is Wigs for Kids BC, a 100% volunteer-run program out of BC Children’s Hospital that provides wigs to children with cancer and other serious illnesses at no charge, as well as essential drugs and feeding supplies not covered by MSP.

I WILL raise at least $3000 – the cost to create a wig. The labour alone costs $800. I WILL be a zero cost to this charity to improve the quality of life for 1 child.

I’m matching the first $1,000 so if you can spare a few dollars, I’d really appreciate it. It’s for the kids (truly!).

Yours in gratitude,
Linda

#DiggingInto40

DiggingInto40

As I enter my 41st year – first, hold up… how did I get to 40 so quick?? – but I digress .. as I enter my 41st year, it’s given me the space to reflect.  I reflect on my past, take inventory of my present, and point my internal compass to a place that continually excites and inspires me.

Being 40 isn’t really scary or sad or daunting.  What I’m moreso aware of are the things relative to me at and come with being 40 years old.
  • It’s been 19 years since my mom’s been around, but I think about and miss her to my core every single day.
  • If I’m 40, then my siblings are nearing 50 and my father’s nearing 80 – although those are the realities that I accept, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are easy to grasp.
  • The number of white hairs on my head are growing exponentially – it’s an uphill battle that I may have to give up on soon.
  • Certain health tests and risks are now a routine concern, such as mammograms, early onset menopause, osteoporosis, etc!
  • All the things “Anti-aging” are now necessary.
But, given all this, I know I’m also lucky in life, and am full of gratitude:
  • There is laughter in my home every day.
  • I am surrounded by unconditional love.
  • Not only have I been given opportunities, I have created opportunities.
  • I have a thirst to learn.
  • I am connected to those communities about which I am most passionate.
  • For whatever reason, people show up for me and the space I’ve created.
  • I’m ever curious and absolute in my desire to grow.
  • The things I value in my life are purer than gold, shine brighter than diamonds, and more valuable than adamantium (see what I did there?).

When they say 40 is just a number, it really is.  It’s not what people in their 40s say.  Ok, it’s not JUST what people in their 40s say.  Take a minute now.  Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath.  How do you feel?  I sure as hell don’t feel 40, whatever that means.  Age is just something that quantifies years of memories and experiences, the events that took place to have you land where you are today, the decisions that shaped how you currently process information and emotions, the perspective you have when you see the world.  All the while, you have a calm understanding of the vastness around you and the opportunity that lies ahead.

I’m flipping 40 on its head and I am more adamant than ever to create memories and relationships that will enrich my life, and be the person I aspire to be.  I’m not going to ignore 40.  I’m #DiggingInto40.  Watch out for me.