I Don’t Care If You Like Me

Whistler 50

I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me……now I look around and wonder if I like them.

Last weekend I spent three days with fifteen women.  It was a girls weekend in a local resort.  A few of us spent most of Friday relaxing in Whistler.  Shopping  and drinking beer at the pub. Or both.  A few more arrived in the early evening after work, more than ready to decompress after a long week.  A few more didn’t make it up until the next morning.

Mexican Corner

By Saturday evening sixteen of us were sitting around two tables at a great Mexican restaurant swapping stories about everything from work to kids to travel.  Collectively we had run 160 km (99.5 miles)that day.  Some of us were tired.  Some of us were exhilarated.  Some of us were just happy to be sitting up and awake.  The margaritas were flowing freely.

This was not the first time we had done something like this.  Over the past five years a core group of us, plus a few willing ( and not so willing) additions, have ventured out of our comfort zones to run (notice how I didn’t say compete) in a relay race each year.  Really it’s just an excuse to go away for the weekend without our spouses and kids.  It’s not really about the running any more.  Last year we spent 33 Hours in a Van.

Chick Peas

But here’s the thing.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would have fretted for days about doing this.  Not the running or being away from my family, but spending that much time in close quarters with women that, sometimes, I don’t really know very well.  I would have worried about whether or not I was interesting enough or whether I was accomplishing enough in my life.  I would worry that, perhaps , there would be somebody that would disagreed with my opinion and (heaven forbid) wouldn’t like me. I would worry that I wouldn’t “fit in”.

Now, to quote a wise running companion, I don’t give a rats ass.

Don’t get me wrong.   These women are incredible and I enjoy spending time with each of them for various different reasons.  But do I spend time worrying about whether they like me or not?  Nope.  And I hope that they feel the same way.  The more time you spend worrying about whether or not people like you, the less time you have to get to know them.

For example, I now accept that it’s okay to be away from the pack sometimes.  In fact I’ve found that it can be a saving grace.  It is not unacceptable for me to say “Hey! I’m just going to go for a walk and I’ll meet everybody back at the room”. Maybe you just need some space or maybe you want to hit up the bakery without letting anybody know that you are secretly craving a slice of coconut cake.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

I guess what I am trying to say (not very eloquently) is that it is one of The Best Thing in Life to be able to experience all that this type of weekend can bring by simply being yourself.

PS – that’s not me in the opening picture.

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33 Hours In A Van – Re-posted from a year ago

ragnar start

It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

ragnar 1

After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

ragnar 2

At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together,  I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

ragnar 3

The Yin and the Yang of Aimee Cakes

paris cake

The weekend before we met for coffee, my friend Aimee had done a MOMAR race. For the uninformed, MOMAR stands for mind over mountain adventure race. Kayaking, running, x-country biking, more running and more biking over 50 kilometers and a ridiculous amount of elevation. Despite not feeling great the week prior to the race, Aimee was the first solo female to cross the finish line in just over 6 1/2 hours. “I got lucky”. (Somehow, I find that hard to believe.) The week before that she had created the MOST beautiful, delicate, pink Paris themed cake for my seven year old’s birthday party. (see above) I was curious to find out how a life with two boys under the age of five, adventure racing and cake decorating all came together.

I first met Aimee about three years ago when I did a 200 mile relay race in Oregon. We were in the same van and I couldn’t have asked for a better team mate. Happy, easy going and willing to sleep in a field in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m not stereotyping cake makers (okay, maybe I am) but if you had a vision in your head of a cake decorator, it may involve an apron, flowers and tea. None of that is Aimee. She is more likely to have just come back from a trail run or bike and may even have some mud in her hair. Yet, there she is making her own fondant and creating unique and delicious cakes. “I’m a Gemini so I’ve always felt a sense of yin and yang in my life”. Over the years she has realized that she needs to balance her love of physical activity with something creative. So she started Aimee Cakes.

Her cake decorating days began at about fourteen when she would bake cakes (from boxes she admits) and decorate them with butter icing and flowers. Her cakes have certainly evolved. Looking back at the cake she decorated for her sister’s wedding she thinks it looked “pretty” but lacked a certain something. Today she whips up cakes and cupcake for birthdays, weddings and special events on a regular basis. The cakes she loves the most are the ones that tell a story. The cake pictured below was for a birthday party and includes the birthday girls love of dogs, the ocean, crab, beer and stand up paddleboarding.

deep cove cake

After competing in triathlons for a few years Aimee was looking for a change in her physical challenges. An opportunity came up for her to compete in a MOMAR race in central BC. It didn’t go that well and she finished a six hour race in ten hours. Somehow she didn’t really care and was hooked on the sport. In her early years of adventure racing she did a nine day 800 kilometer endurance race. It was during that race that she first experienced the need to push through when times got tough. Yes, I would say that sleeping for two hours in a bug infested field and then having to portage a canoe up a mountain requires a bit of mental and physical push. Maybe that’s just me.

aimee on her bike

So, similarities between adventure racing and cake decorating? You wouldn’t really think so, but surprisingly there are quite a few. For both activities there’s the challenge of not always knowing what is around the corner. The fun of having something thrown at you and having to figure out how to best tackle it. Creating a replica of the Eiffel Tower can be just as difficult as a sabotage trail half way through a race. In adventure racing, things don’t always go the way you plan. Conditions can change and throw you off course. The same is true for cakes. Something you think will look awesome suddenly doesn’t work and you have to start over again. Additionally, getting too excited can cause mistakes and time. In a race it can be the difference between winning and not finishing. In cake making it can mean a cake that stays upright or a cake that falls over. In both cases it’s not over until it’s over and Aimee knows how to push through and get to the finish line every time.

Aimee’s approach to life (which she credits her husband with) is pretty simple. Have a vision, work hard, be intense, relax when you need to and enjoy your accomplishments. Right now, her yin and her yang appear to be in perfect balance and she is enjoying life to the fullest. Down the road she would like to take Aimee Cakes to another level and there is no doubt in my mind that she will do just that. The Best Things in Life for Aimee? Playing with her amazingly cute little boys, getting out for a trail run or bike with her dog and creating stories with her cakes.

birthday cake