Friday, August 8, 2014

Final reflections, the next challenge, and an invitation

Almost two weeks after my first Ironman, I still feel just like this:

I was a little worried about re-entry, but I'm sliding back into the real world easily and enjoying things like sleeping until 6 am, a glass of Pinot Noir, and reading books without pictures. My body feels fine, even though I got my ass handed to me by the Varsity Girls on Wednesday morning's bike ride. I feel great until I exercise, and then I feel like my bike weighs a hundred pounds, the pool water is liquid metal, my running shoes are elephant feet. It's OK, plus I have the best excuse ever. How long you think I can get away with this?

I'm still celebrating, and I don't want to let go of this thing quite yet; my medal hangs from my rear view mirror and I can't bring myself to cut off my Ironman plastic bracelet.

So this is all great, but here's the thing. For all the celebration, the praise and attention, the pride and joy and gratitude, for the extent to which this has been a life-changing experience, there's something lacking.There's a part of me that feels wholly unsatisfied. Because as much as this has been a  peak experience for me personally, what has it done for the world? Yes, it sounds like my experience has inspired some people to do some positive things, which makes me so, so happy. But I want more! I want this Ironman to make a difference not just to me and a handful of friends, but to a much larger audience. I'm inviting you to help make it so, and here's what I have in mind.

[Here's the link I'm headed toward if you want to stop reading now:]

Last year I participated in the Dempsey Challenge, a fundraiser for the Dempsey Center, which provides totally free services to people with cancer and their families. The event is an emotionally powerful and inspiring weekend that allows participants to choose the challenge best suited for them--a 5k or 10k walk or run on Saturday, or a 10, 20, 50, 70, or 100 mile bike ride on Sunday. Last year's Dempsey Challenge was my first 100-mile bike ride.

But this year: How do I do something called a "challenge" right after I've finished my first Ironman? When I consider what it's like to have cancer, or to love someone who has cancer, I know that no "challenge" I dream up for the weekend could ever compare. One of the most profound realizations I've had during my Ironman training is that, for right now, I am in the rare position where I get to choose the things that challenge me physically--I'm not being hit with a terrifying diagnosis, struggling through chemo and radiation, caring for a loved one. The enormity of this privilege strikes me every time I get on the bike, or in the water, or into my running shoes. 

So now, in honor of all the people who don't get to choose their challenges, and in deep appreciation for my own miraculously good health, I'm planning a weekend that will be physically and mentally demanding, and I'm hoping you'll feel inspired to support the center with a donation of any amount.

The plan is to ride my bike to Lewiston on Friday, a distance of 75 miles. On Saturday I'll run the 10k. I'll ride the 100-mile bike route on Sunday. It's about 14 hours of exercise in three days. I am a little nervous about this much volume given how tired I feel when I exercise right now, but it's 6 weeks away, and I'm reasonably confident it will work.

Why am I doing the Dempsey Challenge, of all things? Like just about everyone, I have lost people I love to cancer. My niece, Phoebe, had a brain tumor that took her life a little over three years ago. She would be 9 this month. Two young friends, Forest (age 18) and Carole also had brain tumors that took them away just two months ago. My uncle Tom died in his 40s. I'm riding and running in their memory. I'm also going in honor of a few special friends and family members who got the horrible, scary news of cancer and faced it with a kind of grace, courage, and determination that makes my Ironman look like the puny little game that it really is (I will not name you, but if you know me, and you've shared your cancer story with me, then I mean you, and I am thinking of you right now). Finally, I'll be there in honor of my dear friend Tom, who discovered the Dempsey Center when his cancer came back. I can't tell you how happy I am that he'll be riding his bike with me this weekend. 

I love the Dempsey Center for what they do and how they do it. They provide support, education and integrative medicine to anyone impacted by cancer. This means nutrition, counseling, massage, support groups, programs for kids whose parents have cancer, reiki, yoga, fitness classes, grief and bereavement services, all kinds of things. And tons of hugs. This organization is the real deal: grounded in professional excellence, powered by love. 

Would you consider helping me help all these people who don't get to choose their challenges? Last year, my generous friends and family donated over $3000, which was staggering and wonderful and amazing. This year, I have set an especially ambitious goal of $10,000 (Which, ahem, also happens to be the number at which I would be invited to go on a private bike ride with a bunch of professional cyclists and Patrick Dempsey, a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy. Which would be, you know, nothing short of awesome. But, oh right, it's not about me, so let's just raise as much as we can.)

I would look so good in this photo.

Here's a little more news to sweeten the pot: I was invited to be one of two adults on an AWESOME team of students from Edward Little High School in Auburn. This means everything I raise will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Positive Tracks Foundation, whose mission is to get kids involved in athletic events to raise money for other causes. Win win win win win.

If you'd like to give any amount, even a couple bucks, I would be so grateful. 

To donate, just click here:

And if you'd like to spread the word, please feel free to share this post. 

Thank you so much!


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