Monday, June 25, 2012


The invention of a new word (flabbergaseous), cancer treatment milestones, and Millie the recording artist. More of my videos here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Platinum Day

Today I raced my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. Some good advice (thank you D) led me to approach the event with a handful of goals rather than one make-it-or-break-it definition of success. My Gold-medal goal was to finish in under 3 hours 15 minutes; Silver, to complete the whole thing feeling strong throughout, no matter what the time; and Bronze, to finish in under 3 hours 30 minutes, even if I crossed the line delirious and staggering. Book-ending these goals were two outliers: first, my secret Platinum goal - to finish in under 3 hours. And on the other end of the spectrum, the simple hope that I didn't crash my bike, get a flat tire, or cramp up on the run.

In order to finish in under three hours I believed I would need to complete the mile-long swim in under 30 minutes (it took me 32) and the hilly 26-mile bike course with an average speed close to 20 miles per hour (I didn't quite make 18.) By the end of the bike leg, I was tired and discouraged, afraid I wouldn't have enough energy for the run. I consoled myself with the fact that I'd survived without a flat, without a crash. As I shucked my helmet and bike shoes and slipped into my running shoes, I noted that Jim was right there cheering me on regardless, happy and exuberant no matter what the clock had to say about it. Which reminded me that I am enough, that when it comes right down to it, achievement isn't the point, that it is amazing that I am doing this at all, that I am one of the lucky ones with a body, at age 42, able to do this at all. Who cares what my time is?

For the first time all morning, I was racing with a smile on my face.

The six-mile run was comprised of two out-and-back repeats, descending and then climbing the same long hill. Since even when fresh I generally don't run more than 11-minute miles on my own, I figured it would take me an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the run.

But I was wrong.

Cheering on friends as we passed each other along the way, I somehow managed the run in less than an hour, finishing the race – to my shock and delight – with a time of 2:57.16.

Icing on the cake. It absolutely made my day.

On top of that, I discovered soon after, I had registered as an "Athena." Since I weigh a bit more than 160 pounds I qualify for this special class of athlete, (the male equivalent is "Clydesdale" with a weight minimum of 200). Of all the Athenas, I came in second-fastest. So in addition to my personal Platinum, I also got my name announced, a round of applause, and an actual hunk of metal to call my own!

And then, best of all, I met Karen Newman, a breast cancer survivor and world-class triathlete whom I had just learned about last week. Just a few days ago I was watching her interviewed on national television for her triathlon success during chemotherapy. She is the first woman I've ever met in the flesh who, like me, did triathlons during cancer treatment, who, like me, goes out into the wide world without a fake breast to disguise her mastectomy, who, like me, is active and athletic and also has lymphedema. We compared arms, we compared chests, we compared stories, and when I walked away from that conversation, I felt like I'd had a moment of respite from a certain loneliness and vigilance about the reactions and judgments of others.

To oversimplify the point, when you are the only one you know meeting a particular set of challenges in a certain unusual way, it's not easy.

Meeting someone else walking the same path? It helps.

And it made my day all over again.

Monday, June 11, 2012


This is it. The decision gets made here. Plus cute poodleness and overworking a painting. More of my videos here.

This weekend, between triathlon training obligations and the resulting never-ending laundry pile, I made a quick drive up to Massachusetts to attended a reunion with college friends I hadn't seen in over twenty years. It's not the first time I went to something like this and had my mind ever so slightly blown by the experience.

Part of it was walking around the rural campus that at one time had felt so new and vast. Somehow, over the years, it has contracted. The buildings now looked shabby, smaller, and closer together. I felt like I was touring an aged movie set. It was as if that time in my life was a story that the me of today did not live.

Thinking back to my short time there (I lasted two difficult years at Hampshire before walking away from college entirely for over a decade), I felt fragile, timid, alone, and insignificant, somewhat invisible, only marginally likeable. The surprise I felt this weekend when people I wasn't sure would even remember me greeted me with gusto made me notice that I still, on some level, carry that expectation that I am a marginal being.

But this is changing.

I spotted an old neighbor in the crowd, sporting the same big smile that warmed my shivering heart in the old days. Even so, I was always so timid around him, as if that warmth were not really meant for me, or if I let it show that I was lonely, it would brand me as unworthy of love. Even now, I wasn't sure he'd remember me. But a second later he spotted me and cried out, "Amy!" smiling wide and opening his arms for a hug. As I stepped into that hug it felt like a thin layer of glass shattered and fell away from my body.

When presented with the opportunity to revisit your past, I urge you to go. Especially if it wasn't an unequivocally wonderful time. It is so good to realize that the bad stuff is over and maybe, actually, wasn't exactly as bad as it seemed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

You are Unrepeatable

Small Pong, Mummy Leg, and High Tens with Millie. Now that's living! More of my videos here.
Recently I came across a recorded book at my local library called Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. I'd never heard of her, but apparently she's quite famous for her teachings on stopping compulsive eating and quitting dieting. All I knew was that compelling title, and my desire to have something to listen to in the car.

Excellent book, entertaining and smart and laced with love. Her bottom line idea, if I may be so bold as to attempt to sum it up, is to slow down and pay attention, to love ourselves, with food and otherwise. It sounds so simple, and yet it can feel so impossible. But Roth gently peels away all the layers of confusion and distraction that get in the way of doing just that, and she does it with humor. If you need a little inspiration to take better care of yourself - whether you're female or male, whether or not you're overweight or think of yourself as someone with "issues" with food, I highly recommend this read.

"We are unrepeatable beings," she says. And, "The promise of a diet is not only that you'll have a different body, is that in having a different body, you'll have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you'll love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being. Only kindness makes sense. Anything else is excruciating."

 Check her out:

More of my videos here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Seventeen Simple Rules to Live By

Some meals are goodie-two-shoes delightful. (Clockwise from the top: homemade hummus, cabbage and carrots and kimchee with peanuts, stirfried kale and broccoli stems with onion and lentil sprouts, kidney beans and broccoli rabe, and in the center, kale and beet salad with tahini-lemon dressing.)
And some meals are just plain goodies, and they remind us that we make our own rules and that we are already good enough. (On my plate today: chocolate chips, gluten-free pretzels, and a homemade banana/peanut butter/hemp milk popsicle.)
I swiped this list from Buster Benson. Check him out. He's doing cool stuff.
1. You must not dilly-dally.
2. You must be your word.
3. You must have good intentions.  
4. You must admit to being the maker of meaning.
5. You must not feel sorry for yourself.  
6. You must have a vision that you are striving for.  
7. You must tie creativity and experimentation with survival.  
8. You must be the change you want to see.
9. You must rally others with your vision.  
10. You must stake your reputation on your better self.  
11. You must be comfortable with the consequences of being who you are.  
12. You must share.  
13. You must make your own advice and take it.  
14. You must manage your stress, health, and clarity.  
15. You must study your mistakes.  
16. You must retry things you don't like every once in a while.  
17. You must make time to enjoy things.