GoPro Mountain Games: Measure of Progress

 The gang at the start!

The gang at the start!

I want to start off this post with a beautifully articulated quote by the sorely missed Anthony Bourdain “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

Anthony perfectly conveys how the end of this weekend at the GoPro Mountain Games left me feeling. With a realization of how far I have yet to go but also a useful tool to measure where I am currently both physically and mentally. I experienced a calmness, a surrendering to whatever outcome, as I waited at the downriver race start line. Years past I would pace around the grounds, fighting the urge to throw up, trying to force food down. I didn’t feel that once…I looked at this race as an opportunity to gauge my personal fitness and to get to know my body better. 

It has been a long time since I have felt strong. For two to maybe three years I was suffering from compartment syndrome in my forearms. I had surgery two Winters ago and last years race was five months post surgery…I was still very weak (I think I finished 12th and I was too sick to compete in the SUP Cross the following day). But this is the strongest I had felt in years!

 Photo: Rick Lore courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

Photo: Rick Lore courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

For the first time Women were scheduled to start before the men and I was the first one up. As I listened to the count down, one foot in the river, one foot on my board, I only felt excitement for the feeling of piercing the water with my blade and pushing my body as hard as I could. And I did just that, there were moments I thought my shoulders and wrists were going to explode…but I stuck with my mantra and kept paddling. For half of the course I had a little humming bird leading the way (of whom I talked to almost the whole time), this surprisingly helped a lot! My run was clean and I didn’t feel wrecked like I normally do after the race…which means I probably could have gone harder if my shoulders and wrists would have allowed it. I was excited to see the results but had no expectations.

Our finish times still unknown, myself, Yuka Sato, Jessica Cichra, Guillermo Loria, and Nadia almuti got dressed for the mud run in whatever random costumesque attire we could find….and well, the pictures speak for themselves…

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 Photo: Rick Lore

Photo: Rick Lore

 Photo Rick Lore

Photo Rick Lore

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Covered in mud and freezing we found out the results to the race. Yuka in first, me in second, and Ashley Bean in third. I was ecstatic, you would have thought I won! Yuka, visiting from Japan, is second in the world right now in the ocean racing scene, she beat me by a whole minute. I was so happy she won! 

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Riding the high of my results for the downriver race I went into the SUP Cross feeling confident but not as calm. SUP Cross can be much more intimidating, the number of female participants is a testament to that. We went from 20 racers in the downriver sprint to a total of 8 female racers for the SUP Cross (there were 53 male SUP Cross competitors). SUP Cross is like slalom kayaking but in heats of three or four and is great for spectators which adds to the intimidation factor. It’s also a low-water year so the risk of hitting rocks was much higher (see video below to gain a better understanding of SUP Cross). Normally this is my favorite event, it’s exciting, showcases a paddlers skill very well, and sometimes it ends up being 50% luck…it can be a total crap shoot. 

The GoPro Games SUP cross sometimes has a different vibe than other cross events. It can be much more cut throat and often times we have issues with gate disputes. For the first time I was one of the disputers. I was told I missed a gate I know I didn’t and several spectators testified to that. So I spent 20-30 minutes running up and down the course trying to find someone with video proof. Once I did I couldn’t find the organizer to show it to. I was being told several different things, I was in and then I was out and then I was in again and then I was out. It was emotionally draining, highs and lows being thrown at me from minute to minute. It was sooooo incredibly hectic, I ended up breaking down and crying. 

 Photo: Kathy Summers

Photo: Kathy Summers

You try to tell yourself over and over that it doesn’t matter, it’s just SUP Cross, but when you give something your all it really doesn’t matter what it is. I ended up still advancing to the finals despite all of this. Tears running down my cheeks, I dipped my face into the river, and waited for the whistle. I ended up getting second behind the very strong Sage Donnelly and Yuka came up behind but not without a really solid fight. 

Afterwards, Yuka and I both collapsed into each other and cried and cried and cried. Competing at such an intense level alongside your peers and people you love can be so emotionally abrasive. When it’s all over you need a release, a purging of those emotions, and crying in that moment felt like the only way.  

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I generally don’t like or care about race re-caps but this weekend was different than all the rest and I got exactly what I needed out of it. During the downriver sprint I could feel all my hard work and self discipline paying off. My mental training with meditation allowed me to keep a calm and clear mind. But during SUP Cross, a much higher stress event, I lost control of my thoughts and mindset…lost in the downward spiral of negativity and unable to shift out of it. And that is okay. We must be kind to ourselves when we trip up and we must look for the lesson….there is always a lesson.  The GoPro games was a great reminder of how far I have yet to go, as well as a wonderful reminder of how far I have come.

I Am Not A Yes Woman

Being back on the road and surrounded by people every single day has been a great challenge for me, in a good way. I was so hard on myself over the weekend of Paddlefest for not honoring my morning routine...I allowed it to throw me off mentally instead of accepting that every now and then I'm going to miss a journal entry or go days without meditating. Routine is great but it's also important to be flexible and hold space for yourself to miss a day or two or five. Sometimes you have no choice but to make your number one priority sleep and work. 

Being surrounded by the river community has been wonderful....I love seeing all the familiar faces and catching up on how everyone's Winter went. But these events can also be overwhelming and take some adjusting, especially after a Winter of my only company being Heather and a dog. I had to be very flexible and accept getting pulled off course due to a run in with good friends. This is a different kind of year for me. It was the first Paddlefest I wasn't drinking (and the first pfest where I wasn't hungover) and the first year that I've really been honoring my commitments and the things I need to be my best self. I have these routines set in place for a reason and one is to help me stay on track with my one year of sobriety and my lifetime of work on my personal mental health and clarity. 

Summer's past I would suffer from such intense fomo, always worrying I was missing out on something....inducing a very intense anxiety that would take precedent over my mental and physical needs for overall health. THis has resulted in me getting very sick multiple times in a season. I was worried about letting people down and not living up to certain expectations that I thought others had for me.  I wanted to be the chill girl that was up for anything, that could party hard and paddle 10 miles the next day without skipping a beat. But truth be told that is not me. I am not the yes girl. 

I feel my absolute best when I'm in bed by 9:30 and up by 6:30. It truly bothers me when people try to pressure me into staying up late when I don’t want to. I don’t mind staying up past my bedtime when I have the freedom to sleep in and get my full eight hours…otherwise let me go the fuck to sleep 😴  I use to worry I would be perceived as boring so I would muscle through and have a few drinks to help bring me to the level of everyone else. But I'm done with that life. There will be times when I want to go to yoga instead of surfing because I listen to my body and I know what it needs. I will no longer push my body to the brink of injury because I have now built up the strength to say no. There will be times where I don't want to talk and I'll want to be in silence (don't take it personal). And all of this is okay!

One night at Paddlefest I was feeling down on myself for not journaling or meditating that morning because we had a wicked early 7am meeting. Instead of wallowing I realized it didn’t matter if I did it in the morning or at midnight…what mattered is that I did it. So I broke away from the group…something I would have never done in the past because of the FOMO. I walked to the river with my journal, wrote, then closed myself up in my van and meditated, and crawled into bed before the sun went down. I don’t believe anything else could have brought me back to center as quickly and easily as those two actions did. It just solidified in me what I already knew…that these two things are crucial to my well being. 

I’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point and will continue to do so. I have been trying to teach myself that I’m not in competition with everyone else…I’m not vying for the acceptance of others…I am me take me as I am or not at all. I have people that love me for me and that is enough. 

Honoring My Commitments

 Photographer: Heather Jackson

Photographer: Heather Jackson

The season is here! I've moved out of my room in Erie, CO...I got the friend and ME time that I was looking for. Turns out Heather and I really needed each other over the past few months, funny how things work out. But now, I'm back on the road, in the van full-time and it feels pretty good. But I'm not going to talk about van life because I'm sick of hearing about it and don't want to be identified by the fact that I live in a van...this is a part of me that will change...it is not me...it is a lifestyle choice...that's it. Moving on. 

I've never been so calm in my life and I probably have the most packed schedule I have ever had. Projects, events, people, and places move in and out of my life like the ebb and flow of the ocean. This used to disorient me but now it's like I'm in the eye of the hurricane, while chaos and time spins around me quickly...I'm in the center where it's calm and quiet. The thoughts of all I have to do are still there, spinning quickly in my mind, but they rarely have bearing on my emotions. 

Really, I'm grasping at straws here on what to write about. I've made a commitment to myself to write a blog once a week...every Wednesday. I made that commitment last week and as you can see...I didn't stick with it. So even though I'm not feeling inspired to write (no scratch that, I want to write, I'm inspired to write, but I don't know what to write about)...I'm showing up...here I am....I'm writing!!!! 

It's so easy for me to honor my commitments with work but to blow off commitments I've made to myself that don't pay the bills. Seems like writing a blog on my website that maybe a handful of people read is not a valuable use of my time. But the truth is I LOVE writing and I don't do it as often as I'd like aside from my morning and evening journaling. 

So, here's the start of something...an incomprehensible rant that doesn't really have an ending...but an honoring of my commitments. This is for me, not for you...so sorry not sorry for probably wasting your time :)