Tag: inspiration

Elka Strong, indeed!

When I think about the people in ‘my tribe‘; those who inspire me; those who make a permanent impression on who I want to be as a person…Elka Troutman is another beautiful badass who may not know how much she inspires me.

My daughter was in kindergarten, when I volunteered to be a class mom. Elka was my partner…I’d never met her before…I had no idea.

The first time Mrs. Forrest sent out an email with details of a project that she wanted help organizing. I eagerly went to task and read through the email and sorted through the list of donations, volunteers, scheduling details – ready to jump into service. I hadn’t made it to the closing salutation before getting the most wonderful email to the class parents and brilliantly organized project outline from Elka.

The whole year went this way. At first I’d try like crazy to organize something first, feeling like maybe I wasn’t pulling my ‘room mom’ weight, but it was pointless. She’d breeze through it, so efficiently that eventually I decided that the best way to help was to happily do anything she wanted.

One of my favorite kindergarten / Elka days was when I finally met her in person at the Thanksgiving feast. Not only was she brilliantly smart and the most amazing mom I’d ever met, she swore like a sailor. The perfect woman! (I’m pretty sure I tried to hire her that day.)

Elka’s a champion for so many teachers and important education initiatives in our community – not the least of which is the incredibly successful summer reading program. She’s an avid fan of her sons’ many athletic endeavors and teams. She’s created the most wonderful family. She has a great attitude – she has lofty goals and ideals – but always keeps it real.

Now, I’m always delighted when I see Jake’s name on Hannah’s class list. It means it’s going to be a great year. And it’s not just me – Elka’s woven into the fabric of my family. A couple of years ago, Hannah crafted this big idea for a combination Halloween / Birthday Party. She wanted to invite lots of her friends, decorate the house, have everyone wear costumes, and play all sorts of Halloween games. It was quite an elaborate 10 year old scheme. After presenting all the details, Hannah looked at me, put her hand on my shoulder and supportively asked,

“Do you think we should ask Elka to help?”

JBR 41When our kids were in 4th grade, Elka told me she’d started running again. She was training to run the Jingle Bell Run with her family. Elka has vertigo. I can’t imagine running while my head felt like it was going to spin off my body or I felt like throwing up with each step. I love to run and I’ve run through injuries, but this level of endurance and tenacity was something else. And of course she did it. And in the process, she changed my definition of limitations in my own athletics.

The past 2 years, Elka’s been fighting awful, aggressive cancer. The cancer really F-ing sucks. Elka, however, grows more brilliant in her ability to impress and amaze. Her weakest moments make her a stronger inspiration. Her longest strings of swear words, make her all the more eloquent and beautifully human. Every post on Caring Bridge from her and from Jeff push my idea of limitations and strength to a level I didn’t know exists.


The Original Badass Betty

At 5:30 in the morning, small talk doesn’t flow easily. It can take years to get to know your poolmates, one incoherent sentence at a time. But over time friendships are made, your tribe expands, and you sometimes find inspiration in people who were once strangers.

The Original Badass BettyBetty Weaver is one of these inspirational forces (not just because of her name). Betty’s a feisty 89 years old. She’s been a pool regular long before I joined. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30am, she’s at the pool with her duffle bag ready to swim, almost without exception.

As with most of my heroes her accomplishments are many, but her attitude is what I find most remarkable.

She makes all of her own swimsuits. (I didn’t even know this was possible) Most days she climbs in and out of the pool on her own and on days when her back is bad, she uses the chair. She doesn’t love this, but it’s better than not swimming. Once she’s in, she swims laps in the first lane for 45 minutes.

Once in a while, not very often, she has falls. When she gets up – on her own or with help – she’s usually laughing and calling herself silly. She claims that she’s getting better at falling, because mostly she falls forward, which is much better than backward and bumping her head.

When she was 74, she started collecting swimming medals at the Senior Olympics. (She notes that she would’ve started a year earlier, but her daughter had scheduled her for a white water rafting trip) She’ll joyfully tell you that her secret to winning is outliving her competition. And if you stay on the topic long enough, you might learn that last summer, she gave her medal away to another senior athlete who hadn’t won a medal before.

She’s always been an independent spirit.  When she was 2 her favorite thing to say was “I do it, myself.” She had her own role model for aging happily; a friend who lived to 103. Despite losing most of her sight,  wearing uncomfortable braces because of her horribly arthritic legs, and developing mouth cancer in her late 90s which forced her to eat baby food until she died, she was always happy and had a great attitude about life. “She took things as they came and made the best of what she had. She smiled all the time and was so nice.”

When I see Betty in the morning, I always hope I can be just like her. I told her so once and she sloughed off the compliment and broke her strategy down to the most simple process…

“When I wake up in the morning and I check to see what still moves. Whatever’s still moving, I move it as much as possible that day.”

Simple. And then she smiles and laughs.

Betty’s one of the biggest benefits of early morning swimming. Her smile is as inspirational as her discipline. She provides the most colorful commentary about my Betty Designs swimsuits; seeing her name everywhere and having her own team delights her. She’s  especially silly when it says “badass” on the butt.

Me and Betty WeaverMy Betty Teammates and I decided that Betty really is an original and should have some Betty gear, so we recently gave her a visor. She loved it! But the next time I saw her, she was concerned. She’d gone home and looked up what “badass” meant and it sounded awful to her – “someone who’s difficult to deal with and mean-tempered”. That didn’t sound good to her. I explained it was more of the “distinctively tough or powerful” part of the definition that we’re talking about. That she was OK with and was happy to be a badass again. 

Betty turns 90 in November. She warned that we better not do anything for her birthday. (She’s fighty, sometimes.) I think it would be impossible not to celebrate. Not just making it to 90, but for being a beautiful badass at 90 – and for the  wonderful possibility that we could be, too!

My coach is this awesome!

Kelsey Abbott wins Rev3 Venice OlympicI posted about starting with a new coach last week, or so.

I wanted to clarify her awesomeness.  Not only is my coach, Kelsey, awesome – she is this awesome! 

This is Kelsey. Overall female finisher for the 2013 Rev3 Olympic Distance Triathlon. She is amazing and I am completely honored that she’s coaching me this season.

Up hill

InspirationI have one rule for running up hill.

I never ask myself how I’m feeling when I am running up a hill.  My answer is never positive.  And worse – listening to my answer creates an opening for more negative thoughts and almost always spirals right down into ” I don’t think I can do this – maybe I should quit.”   It’s so much harder to run up a hill when I’m telling myself I can’t do it.

Running up hills, like the one on Green Street in Ashland’s Half Marathon, is just hard.  The energy requirement creates enormous physical stress on the body.  This physical stress triggers our hormones and becomes mental stress or a negative perspective.  The fact is that the hill will always be easier to climb if you tell yourself that you can do it.  (think little engine that could – “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”)  The second fact is that there will always be hills – so it’s best to have a strategy before you are halfway up and thinking about quitting.

Here’s some good news.  If you happen to find yourself without a strategy tomorrow, while running up Green Street – we have added affirmations on the course for you.  So one step at a time – you can conquer the Green Street Monster.  If you find yourself running next to a woman dressed as a fairy muttering “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” – say hi.  That’s me!

Good luck tomorrow to all the runners!