Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dad

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We found out that my dad had liver cancer on October 23 (please note, my dad never drank, and did not have hepatitis or cirrhosis). Exactly 50 years to the day from the day he and my mom promised their forevers to each other.

I read everything I could about liver cancer and I knew it was bad. 

He passed on December 12 after three days in in-patient hospice care (mostly in a coma). My mom, brothers, sisters-in-laws, and myself were all touching him, assuring him that he had done all he needed to do for us as he took his last breath. Before he slipped into a coma, I asked him if he knew how much he was loved. He assured me, he did. In the end, the only thing that mattered was that he knew he was loved by us, and we knew we were loved by him. 

The vacancy he leaves is indescribable but the legacy he leaves makes me so, so proud and grateful to have had him for a dad. 

Dad's funeral was on New Year's Eve. We had to accommodate for my niece's wedding (on December 19th) and the fact that he would be buried in the National Cemetery in Riverside, which assigns a date for the burial rather than the family choosing a day. New Year's Eve seemed like a weird day to have it at first, but as always - it was exactly the way it should have been. I wrote and delivered the eulogy for his funeral, below. 
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If you knew my dad, you knew him to be very gentle and very kind. He was a quiet guy – not the type to pass on wisdom through big words or witty phrases. But as I’ve had some time to reflect on his life and what it was like to be lucky enough be his daughter, I’ve recognized that he taught some very important life lessons in just being who he was. So I’ve come up with a list of what I am calling “Life Lessons as lived by Frank Hathaway,” my dad. 

My dad was born in Chelsea, Vermont in 1939. He was the third youngest of 13 children. I am guessing that being a younger of 13 kids has a tendency to make a person either crazy or very, very patient. Luckily for us, with my dad, it resulted in incredible patience.
Yes, he was very gentle and always, always nice. I never heard him swear, ever. The only time I can remember him saying anything negative about anyone was usually someone he didn’t actually know – like an athlete that wasn’t playing well for the dodgers or an athlete that was playing well against the dodgers.  I can think of three things that triggered his anger: the dodgers losing, tripping on the phone cord (before cordless phones), and really bad freeway drivers.
This kindness was manifested in the way he spoke, typically softly and was reinforced by his authentic, tender spirit. And you would see it everywhere. For example, coming up to a stop sign, he would let every single other car go before he would take his turn (giving my mom a chance to exercise her own patience). He also refused to kill a spider in his own home, explaining to my nieces those spiders were “his friends.”

This lesson, lesson #1 is something he wore on his sleeve and it was the thing we will all think of first when we remember him. Lesson #1: Be kind.

My dad’s family moved to Southern California from the east coast when he was 8 years old. It would be another 12 years before my dad would be introduced to the love of his life, my mom, in 1960.They met in a roller skating club where they would eventually participate in couples skate competitions together. He joined the army when he was 21 years old, spending several years in the 101st airborne division. During this time, he would court my mom, who was still quite young, calling her on her sixteenth birthday from fort ­­­­­Campbell, Kentucky to tell her that if it was “God’s will,” they would end up married one day. Marry they did, a few years later. My dad would spend 50 years and six weeks lovingly devoted to my mom. As a husband, he made it clear that his family was his priority. He was not assertive in nature, but he would do anything for his wife and kids. And he did - working whatever jobs necessary to make sure we were provided for, doing the grocery shopping on the weekends, serving as the scout master, dance instructor for the dance festivals, baseball coach, and resident cheerleader at every single event- sporting, drama, vocal, academic, or otherwise that his kids had going on. His family was the most important thing to him, and this was clear to everyone around him.

He loved the church, his community, and his responsibilities there. As us kids grew up and moved out of the house, he took on new responsibilities working at the temple and more recently, the bishop’s store house helping fill food orders and doing warehouse maintenance. He loved these responsibilities. He took them seriously and rarely missed an opportunity to serve in this capacity. If my dad missed a shift at the temple, we knew he was really sick.  There was no excuse for backing out on a commitment. As evidenced by the fact that my dad kept his responsibility at the bishop’s storehouse until five days before he began to lose his ability to walk.

I think it’s important to note that he did these things with joy. With a seemingly permanent smile on his face, he was almost always happy and he very, very rarely complained. If he didn’t enjoy the task at hand, you would never know it. Lesson #2: Know your priorities and keep your commitments (with joy).

So I’ve said a lot of really great things about my dad, but I want to make it clear that he wasn’t a total pushover. He had some sass and kept his commitments to some weird stuff. For example, he had a deep, unwavering love for jelly donuts. I remember as a young girl, I would go grocery shopping with my dad because I knew I could talk him into buying me a chocolate filled pastry. I’m sure he secretly hoped I would come grocery shopping with him because that would mean he could justify buying a jelly filled donut. In the last few weeks of his life, he virtually lived on jelly donuts. I have made a promise to carry on my dad’s legacy in love of jelly donuts. (I think I’ll have some help.)

He was also devoted to the Dodgers and held quiet, but real commitment to any team that beat USC or the Patriots. Even though I went to USC and my brother and his family love the Patriots as much as my dad hated them. He loved wild berries and talked about growing up on the east coast where they would pick berries and eat them fresh. He loved Elvis. He sang Elvis songs to my mom when they dated and listened to the “Elvis Holiday Station” on Pandora in the weeks leading up to his passing. He hated telephone cords, maple syrup, and chocolate and peanut butter combined. He found great joy in roller coasters and was quite persuasive in getting his kids to ride along as soon as we were tall enough. I am so glad that he did not outlive this love for the thrill of going upside down. He was committed to being on time- sometimes to an obnoxious extent. My mom recently told me that he insisted they leave three hours early to get to their temple shift in Los Angeles. I drove him to several doctor’s appointments as he became ill for which we arrived an hour and a half early. He was very, very serious about being on time. 

I’d like to do a little experiment. If my dad helped you or your family or, if you served with him in some capacity, you please stand up?

I have heard over and over since he passed that my dad was always doing something to help someone. He never said no, was selfless and indiscriminate in his service to others.

Like I said before, he was not assertive. He didn’t necessarily see where help was needed, but if you asked him to do something, you better believe he was going to do it. And he would probably do it an hour early. Lesson #3: If you can help someone, help them. You can always help them. 

If you were to look through the stacks of old photos in my parent’s home, you would find at least one picture of me and my siblings as infants, our dad holding us out as we stood in the palm of his hand. It was our job to balance, he would hold us up. This was a signature “hold” for my dad and his kids; something that always makes me smile when I come across it.


Growing up as a child of my father’s it was clear that we were supported in every single thing we did. I mentioned earlier that he and my mom were resident cheerleaders for anything that we decided to do, no matter how zany the decision.  But my dad (always supported or led by my mom) took it to a new level…

I ran cross country in high school. Cross country is probably the second worst spectating event in the world, next to cycling. My parents made it work for them, though, when they decided to bushwhack up the side of a hill to get to a part of the course that would be unattainable for any other “regular” parent. I remember running and being frightened at their presence as they screamed at me. “What are you doing here? How did you even get here???”

Images of my dad have become so important to me in the weeks after his death. I’m noticing small nuances, glimmers in his eye, body language, and facial expressions that I probably wouldn’t have noticed before. I came across one recently from the day I did an Ironman. My family had waited and cheered patiently on an extremely warm day in St George for 15 hours, 59 minutes and 32 seconds while I swam, ran, and cycled my way to almost obliteration. I finished, absolutely disgusting, salt crusted onto me, stinking up the finish line… The picture taken is the worst photo ever taken of me. But it’s also my favorite. Because all I can see in the finish line photo are my dad’s arms reaching out over the barricade to me, saying in his ever so gentle way, “I don’t care that you stink to high heaven, I am so proud of you that I need to wrap my arms around you.”


My siblings and I have done our best to challenge dad’s commitment to supporting us – he never once wavered. From troubled teenage years, to quitting jobs and moving to Africa, to making some questionable relationship decisions, to cancer, to raising kids, to moving, making big (sometimes dumb) purchases - he did not question, he was not critical. He was supportive, always. This kind of care is enough to make a girl believe she can do anythingLesson #4: Find your balance and I will always support you.

Our family has been so grateful to hear such lovely things about my dad since he passed away. One of my favorites was a dear friend of the family who said, “He was a redwood in my life.” Being an outdoorsy girl, I love trees, and there may even be photos of me “hugging” a redwood. So I love this metaphor.

Redwoods are evergreens that can grow up to 350 feet tall and 22 feet in diameter. Having no natural predators, they can live hundreds of years. And while their root system is relatively shallow, it can spread 60 to 80 feet outward, intertwining with other nearby trees for support and stability. While not immune, their bark contains a natural resistance to fire. Because of their stature, redwoods support an ecosystem of smaller trees, ferns, shrubs and small mammals.  They are steady, adaptable trees, absorbing amazing amounts of water in their foggy habitat and thriving on small bits of sunlight.

I suppose it’s appropriate to address some of the obvious differences between my dad and a redwood tree… Namely, at his tallest, my dad was 5’6”, 5’4” at last measure. He loved his jelly donuts, but did not measure 22 feet in diameter.

But the metaphor is a beautiful one – my dad, not tall in stature, but tall in pride for his family, and the life that he created, supporting his little ecosystem with all that he had. He was strengthened by the wide root system he developed and reinforced by his community and his ability to give and receive from his village. He had no enemies. He was steady and strong in his commitments and his love for his family.  Lesson #5: Be a redwood.

It is impossible to imagine life without the gentle influence and endless advocacy my dad provided. Gratitude for having a father who treated my mother so well, who truly loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally, who never spoke badly of anyone, and who served indiscriminately and selflessly bursts from those of us who are lucky enough to have known his influence. The loss of dad, his soft voice and gentle spirit, has left a giant vacancy in our lives. But we are comforted in having a sure understanding of where he’s gone. My dad passed on a Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm. I like to think he was just 2 hours early to his reunion that was scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm. A party that included his mom, dad, all 12 of his brothers and sisters, so many of our dear friends and family, ELVIS, and of course, the Savior.

My brother and I were stopped by a dear friend last week who talked about all of the things I have mentioned here. He said something hit home to me, bringing me both peace and putting some weight on my shoulders. Between his tears, he said “You guys have some amazing blood running through you. It is your responsibility to make sure you carry on his legacy.” And so, while I am limited by my own sass and lack of compassion, I will be sure to do my best to carry on his legacy. Listed, but not limited to these five lessons my dad taught us in the way that he lived.
  1. 1)      Be kind.
  2. 2)      Know your priorities and keep your commitments.
  3. 3)      If you can help someone, help them. You can always help them.
  4. 4)      Find your balance and I will always support you.
  5. 5)   Be a redwood. 




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

50 Miles for Rwanda (or some other African country)

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The longest I'd ridden on my mountain bike going into the Rwanda ride was 32 miles. I had all these very good (lofty) intentions of coming off of Ragnar feeling amazing and strong and then having a huge weekend of riding before the 50 mile Ride for Rwanda.

That's not what happened. What happened was I tried to go ride 45ish miles after a couple days of rest after running 16 miles untrained and my legs revolted. I started a second loop of what I normally ride and ended up turning around after pushing my bike up the first hill. And then I tried not to cry and I texted Suzanne who is also training for Leadville (and probably being smarter about it): 


I have such amazing friends. She talked me right off the ledge... 

So basically, when I got to the start line for the 50 mile ride, I had ridden a little over half the distance of the ride. Ever. In my life. This isn't the first time I've trained so half-assedly, so I knew it was gonna be rough. I also don't quit... So I knew it was going to be a long day. 

But I can do anything for 7 hours. It's basically just going to get the mail... for 7 hours. 
"Good Luck" charm coffee at 5 am. If Rosie can do it, I can do it!
And really, that's all there was to it! The ride was almost exactly what I expected. A little bit painful after 4ish hours in the saddle. Soreness in places I'm not sure I knew existed before (my arms and back!), cramping in my legs (and of course, I forgot my salt tablets so I also started to lose my strength of mind), and general fatigue. Most of this is predictable. But there were a few things that were new to me... 

1) I forgot to eat. It's much more difficult to shove food in your mouth when you need to have to hands on the handlebars (and brakes) to maintain an upright position. I got all bonky and angry and felt like I was going to barf and/or start pushing people off their bikes. It didn't go away till an hour or so after I got some food in me. Some stranger also handed me a pill and told me it was salt, so I took it. And it helped! 

2) I am SO MUCH BETTER at descending than I used to be. Guys weren't pining to get around me on the downhills. I was holding my own and it was AWESOME. (This also happened on the uphills, too...)

3) Since I am holding my own on the downhills and the uphills (you know, for the most part), I have decided that I am officially a mountain biker. And that is a rad feeling. 

4) Even though I held my own, I walked parts of some of the hills and struggled through the middle of the race. I learned that I have a long, LONG way to go before I'm ready to ride double the distance at 10k feet.

So, I'm focusing in my training a little bit... I will be applying the lessons learned in this little do-dad to my training for Fire Road. Feeling SUPER STOKED to learn what I got to learn at this point in my training. Here are stats: 


I was so so so lucky to ride with my friends from Two Wheels One Planet (totally unexpected as I usually like to suffer alone). We kept our smiley faces for most of the ride!

We did it!!! 


Thursday, April 16, 2015

CancerBirthdary: 37, Off and Running!

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Marky told me back in October that the Ragnar Relay was on my CancerBirthdary this year. Meaning, it fell on April 10 and 11. I was diagnosed on April 10 2012 and my birthday is on April 11. While the timing seemed unfortunate at the time, I have a huge appreciation for it now. Somehow, it just seems appropriate to celebrate the fact that I'm still alive the day before I celebrate that I have life.

For the last few years I have celebrated my CancerBirthdary by rallying 5-10 friends to come climb halfway up Mt Baldy to the old green ski hut, stay the night there - celebrating by making stew on a wood-burning stove, drinking, playing cards, and relishing in the clear, noise-free, starlit sky. It has become an awesome tradition. This year it included rallying 14 people to come run a 30ish hour relay race with me.
A few of us at the hut a couple years ago
We did it right. We dressed as Richard Simmons, didn't take ourselves too seriously. We had experienced, well trained runners and brand spankin' new runners. We were separated into two vans, six runners and one driver in each van, each of us running anywhere from 10-23 miles. I was responsible for a whopping 16 miles (separated into 3 legs). 16 miles is not a problem for me, but I hadn't really run much in the past month - so it scared me. When I initially began my Leadville training I made a point to keep running during the week (because of a pesky little thing called osteoporosis, which I am now at high risk of because of that whole cancer/hysterectomy/aromasin/can't-have-estrogen-in-my-body thing - the impact exercises are super important) and I was running pretty fast and feeling pretty strong! Until I came home from Costa Rica feeling a lot more relaxed and interested in eating during lunch than running... So I was worried about my 16 miles (which turned out just fine).

One super cool part of the whole thing is that I was projected to run just after midnight on my birthday. I was really  hoping I would be able to start running around 11:30 and run (literally) into my birthday... but that's not the way it happened and I'm just fine with that. My second leg of the race started at 1 am on April 11, was 6.5 miles long and lasted exactly one hour. I listened to The Airborne Toxic Event (TATE) while I ran and thought the whole time (in a sing-songy voice) "it's my birthday... it's my birthday... it's my birthday..." Bring on 37! I can't imagine a better way to start it...

I'm so stinking happy to be alive. So thankful to have crazy friends to join me in an adventure like this. And - as always - grateful that my body continues to put up with me. Feeling stronger than ever and overwhelmed by the ability to do what I can, I'm ready to hit the trail for Leadville training.
Team Richard Simmons - in all our glory

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Leadville Training - Buildup to the Rwanda 50 Miler

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Alright so now that I've said that I'm going to track my training here, I'm actually going to try to track my training here.

I have been riding a little bit since I found out on Jan 15 that I was selected into the Leadville lottery. I have ridden 717 miles this year and accounted for 49,626 ft of elevation gain. That's kind of rad. But 717 miles doesn't sound like that many...

The Leadville 100 isn't a super technical course. It's a lot of fire roads and a little bit of pavement and a few technical sections (from what I've been told, anyway). The hard part of Leadville is the distance, duration, and altitude (again, from what I've been told). So this is what I'm training for. Long and not-so-slow hill climbing on not-so-technical hills. It's hard to train for altitude in SoCal... So I'm trying to add a few rides/races elsewhere to be able to anticipate what the altitude is going to do to me.

One of those races is the Fire Road race in Cedar City, Utah. It's 100k and starts at 5800 ft and climbs to 9500 ft, twice - with 7500+ feet of elevation gain. I feel like this might be a good gut check to see how training for Leadville is going. So really, I'm training for Fire Road.

In an attempt to train for Fire Road I've decided to do the Rwanda 50 mile ride here in the OC in April and starts at 800 ft and climbs to 1800 ft with 5,556 ft in elevation gain. I feel like this will be a good way for me to know how it feels to be on a mountain bike for 50 miles. So really, for now, I'm training for the Rwanda 50 miler.

I rode my brand new iron steed a couple weeks ago, the day after a 65 mile road ride. I figured it would be a great ride since my legs were mostly fresh (coming off a vacation to Costa Rica and a lot of laying in hammocks). I was stunned to realize that I didn't seem to have the muscle power in my legs that I'd had going into my Costa Rica vacation. I mean REALLY! It was awful! I kept having to get off the bike when I should have been able to ride! I brought up the rear for the entire ride which really causes a mental breakdown for me. I stayed off the bike for the week and tried to run (ah-hem, last minute training for my CancerBirthdary Ragnar celebration) and found my legs were REALLY beat up from Sunday's mountain bike ride. So I stopped running and decided to "wing it" for the Ragnar relay this weekend (I'm responsible for 16 miles of the race... should be interesting.)

On Friday I finally conceded to the constant nagging of my new mountain bike to take her out again. So I did, with a group of friends to a relatively easy trail. Again, my legs didn't have the muscle I'm used to, but this time because my legs were so fresh, I was able to make it up the big gnarly hill. I beat everyone up the hill because I couldn't seem to spin like I wanted. So I was mashing, up the hill. Still, blaming my legs for not doing what I was asking of them. I almost fell over when I finally got to the top of the hill, leaning on my handle bars, trying to find breath and looking at the ground when I realized that my chain wasn't anywhere near the big ring (the smallest gear) and also realized that it wasn't my LEGS that were the problem, it was the rear derailer!
Whiting, after I realized I still had my legs!

I took the bike to the shop to get the shifting situation sorted (which I now realize I can do myself) and took a day off before going back out. Sunday was my longest mountain bike ride ever... 32 miles, 4700 ft of elevation gain and quite possibly the best ride of my life. The bike makes me a beast of a climber and a much more confident descender. I know that time in the saddle is contributing to my improvement - but I'm still shocked at how great it went. I'm feeling really strong and really happy and pretty confident that I can handle the Rwanda 50 miler.



And there you have my first ever training write-up...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Leadville Training

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Since my blog is so popular (no one is reading it), I've decided to document my training here (ah-hem...) I'm not very good at follow through when it comes to this space and I'm pretty sure my version of (coach-less) training will not be super impressive to anyone should they stumble to this place... but the idea of keeping track of my training here has a purpose... 

Here's the thing: Leadville is a big freaking deal. People hear I'm training for it and they look me up and down wonder how in the world I'm going to push this vessel to do 100 miles on a mountain bike at 10,000+ feet. So part of this is about my training, part of this is proving that I can do it, and part of it is about proving that anyone can do it. (Cause if I can do it, anyone can. I truly believe that.)

I started doing a little spin/core clinic at my favorite bike shop, Two Wheels One Planet about 5 months ago. It's been a great way for me to push myself in a different way and make sure I'm getting some core workouts in (I HATE strength training/core training/anything that isn't endurance training). I met Will there, the shop owner, who heard my story and took a liking to it. Will's response to my announcement that I was doing Leadville was the same as almost every other person (who knows what Leadville is): What are you going to ride? Ummm... I have a perfectly good aluminum 26" Specialized that I happen to LOVE and THAT is what I'll ride! After a lot of conversations with a lot of people and a lot of comparing the weight of my (heavy) bike to the weight of other people's (carbon) bikes... I gave in. 

Will was instrumental my bike purchase in a couple of ways...

1) He let me try different bikes. I'd only ever ridden my sweet stumpjumper (which I still love) - and had never experienced life on a 29er or a 27.5 or a hardtail or a carbon mountain bike. So for a few weeks I experimented with a few different bikes. It was probably the most important time in my 5 years of riding a mountain bike. I learned so much about my strengths and weaknesses and what I could expand on just with the purchase of a new iron steed. I have always been a better climber than descender, but a 29" hardtail carbon bike made me a beast on a long slow incline (hello, Leadville!). That being said, the 29" hardtail carbon bike also made me feel like I'd been in a car wreck. Like, for reals. Bones I didn't realize I had were hurting. Ribs hurt. Neck hurt. All the things hurt... After 18 miles. I could only imagine what I would feel like after 100 miles. Also, this fancy hardtail only had one chainring in the front, which made an amazing climber out of me on a long, slow incline, but I couldn't get it to turn on anything really steep... I needed more gears. 

So I went with a carbon 29" full suspension 2x (2 chain rings in the front - more gears, and the ability to get up steep hills, hopefully). She's a Giant Anthem. She's my second mountain bike, but the first one I chose and paid for myself. Together, we are going to make some amazing memories. 

2) Will hooked me up with an amazing deal on my new steed. He also hooked me up with a rack (until I can afford to buy the one I've got my eye on). 

3) The peeps at Two Wheels One Planet have also been instrumental in helping me achieve one of my new year's resolutions - to ride with groups. I've been riding with the TWOP group on Sunday's, swallowing my pride when it comes to tired legs and crappy descending skills and learning a TON. I'm getting better at this whole mountain biking on things other than a fire road thing. 

It's been a really rad, empowering experience to do all of this with nothing but my own motivation behind it (meaning, no male influences driving it). I've never had a shop treat me like I knew what I was doing, or treat me like I deserved to know what I'm doing. I am gaining confidence in the fact that I am a cyclist and quite frankly, I'm getting really strong on the bike. 

So there you have my first post on Leadville training that doesn't actually talk about training for Leadville at all. S'ok. more to come on that... 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Connecting (more) Dots

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Leadville

dot dot dot

Gianna

dot dot dot

Leadville.

(I hope.)

I wrote about Gianna in a post about two and a half years ago when I went to Leadville between my fifth and sixth chemo treatments, then again last year when I went to Annapurna - inspired by my dear friend who had become my light in survivorship. Proof that there was indeed life after the big C.

Not coincidentally (cause there's no such thing), Gianna died of  (recurrent) metastatic breast cancer while I was running the Annapurna Ultramarathon on March 1st of last year. Somewhere around mile 28 I sped off from the group I had been running with for at least the last 7 hours. I needed to feel the wind on my face and the pavement under my feet. My friends were upset that I would take off so hastily without an explanation. But I didn't really have an explanation until I got back to the hotel and realized that Gianna had died. We all agreed that she had come to visit me that afternoon, bringing me briskly to the finish line - as she would have done herself.

Leadville represents so many things for me. I was so, so sick when I was there. Unable to hike (what would normally be a no-brainer for me) halfway up powerline. It was so difficult to get me there that we decided it would be best to leave me there all day rather than bring me down for lunch and back up again for when the riders returned. So Virgie went to get us both lunch, leaving me and Tate on the mountain for almost 11 hours. When the riders did return to powerline, 80 miles into their 104 mile ride, they somehow breathed life into me with their encouragement for my pathetic, bald self even though clearly it should have been the other way around. It was one of the best days of my life. And so, before she found out her cancer had returned and before it got really bad, Gianna and I talked about doing it together one day.

To be healthy enough to actually consider participating in this race, to imagine actually riding down powerline (and then pushing my bike back up it 60 miles later) with all of those beautiful athletes, to bringing Gianna's spirit back to the race I'd met her at, to being able to give whatever light I have in me to a race and place that gave so much to me when I needed it most ... my heart is completely full.

I found out on January 15th that I was selected into the Leadville 100 MTB lottery. Training is in full force (except for this week as I'm galavanting around Costa Rica spending way too much time in the sun and drinking way too many gin and tonics). Post hysterectomy (and on new meds) I feel strong and healthy and ready to tackle this beast.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015