We Love Clare – What my Sister Dying Has Taught Me About Living.

“Can you go over to my moms house to check on her, she’s not answering the phone and I got a message that I should go over there” I knew when I got that call from my niece something was really wrong this time, I felt it in my gut. I got in my car and drove like a bat out of hell from Santa Cruz to my sisters house in the valley.

When I arrived at my sister Clare’s house, I was not prepared for what I saw. My sister, my gorgeous, energetic, funny, crazy sister lay there on her bed on the verge of death. The moment I saw her a primitive scream and cry came out of my body that even I didn’t recognize, I scared myself. All I will say about the state of her condition when we got to her is that it was so bad that one of the paramedics had to leave the room crying.

As the next few weeks unfolded, my sister was in ICU on life support, we didn’t know if she was going to live. Clare did regain consciousness after being in a coma and we went through all possible options to determine if there was anything that could be done to save her life but unfortunately there was not. This once firecracker of a woman with so much life in her was dying at 39 years young from liver and kidney failure but she didn’t know it and we had to tell her.

So my father, my youngest brother and I decided we would tell her. We would go into her room with the doctor and we would tell her that nothing could be done and that she had weeks, maybe a month to live. My father sat down by her bed and held her hand as the news was delivered. He was so incredibly calm and soothing, the same way you would approach a small child that was frightened. He showed no fear, no sadness, just pure comforting love for his first born daughter as she lay there sobbing at the news that her life would be over soon. I honestly don’t know how he did that, how he was able to overcome his own grief and sadness to ensure that his baby girl felt safe in such a terrifying moment…absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful moment.

There was a burst of energy that woke me and filled the entire house, she was everywhere around me. I knew in that exact instance she had passed away before I even found the courage to walk over to her bedside to confirm.

I lay there on the floor of the Tara Home hospice cottage that had become her home, our families home where took shifts caring for her around the clock in the last 100 days of her life. I feared that exact moment, I had mentioned to my family I was afraid she would pass on my watch and that I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

On May 4th at 3:30am exactly, that moment I feared most arrived, my sister was gone. She was gone and her daughter lay in the room next to us asleep on the couch and I on the floor near her hospital bed, I was paralyzed with fear. I was afraid to stand up and walk over to her bed and see her lifeless body. I was terrified to wake her daughter and tell her that her mother had passed. My heart was overwhelmed with immense grief for the call I had to make to my mom and dad to tell them their daughter was gone. My heart broke even more as I called each of my brothers to tell them their sister was gone and to hear these strong men I’d never seen shed a tear sob. My heart broke over and over again as I delivered this news.

Moments after my sister passed, I woke my niece and called my immediate family members, I started the Buddhist ritual I had been instructed to do once she passed and until the Buddhist nun, Drimay arrived. Once Drimay was there, the traditional prayer ceremony began . As the sun rose my niece, Drimay, and I were by Clare’s bedside with chanting and prayer. It was another one of the most profound, beautiful, and painful moments of my life, it was the moment my heart broke wide open as the pain and love poured out of me.

It took me awhile to even start processing my own grief as I was stuck in the place where I felt most safe, taking care of arrangements and worrying about others. Part of me didn’t want to be still with my grief, to process everything I had experienced, I knew it was going to consume me like a tsunami and it did.

Everything about losing my sister was traumatizing and difficult, from the moment I found her on the brink of death in her home, the moment we had to tell her she was going to die, and being with her the moment she did. And aside from all of that, my best friend, my homie, my advice giver and seeker, the one who knew me better than anyone else was gone.

In the last days of Clare’s life we had very deep and profound conversations about life, death, happiness, what she regretted, and what she saw in me and my life that I needed to change. She made me promise her that I would live life to the fullest for both of us and that I would seek true happiness, love, and fulfillment in my life.

So here we are on the eve of the five year anniversary of her passing away and the tears and grief I feel are just as raw and real as they were then. My heart is still broken, I still miss her every single day, and I’m trying really hard to live up to the promises I made to her and as I reflect I don’t know that I’m doing the best job. I’m trying my hardest and I’m living and being as real and authentic as I can, even if it’s not understandable by some. I feel everything so much deeper since her death, it’s like sensory overload. Sadness feels so much more intense, anger feels so much stronger, love feels so much deeper —-everything in life makes me feel so much and sometimes it’s overwhelming. However, I would much rather live life honestly, real, and raw because anything else now feels suffocating.

Clare in her death gave me life and I intend to honor her and pay tribute to her life by being exactly who I am truly and authentically and to love those in my life like there’s no tomorrow. No regrets, live, love, laugh, cry, and surround yourself with people who feed your soul.

Much love Clare, your little sister misses you like crazy and she’s trying her best to make you proud. Thank you for in your death bringing so much life back to our entire family and so many friends that love you. ❤️💛💚🙏🏽

Endurance Training- The Fine Line Between Tough and Stupid

In the last decade or so that I have been embarking on this endurance sports journey, I have learned a lot about myself physically, mentally, and spiritually through the experience of pushing myself to achieve more challenging and constantly changing athletic goals.

One of the things that I struggle with as my body and abilities change over the years and as I keep pushing the envelope so to speak, is my ability to recalibrate and know when I need to push harder or back off. The line between tough and stupid is very gray to me when I get into the depths of my endurance training. It is very hard to tell sometimes if it is “normal” fatigue and physical discomfort or if I’ve gone into stupid land.

Whenever I’m straddling that fine line between tough and stupid, such as right now, this Tommy Lasorda quote always comes to mind “The difference between possible and impossible lies in a persons determination” which definitely doesn’t help in terms of me accurately assessing the situation because I’m always going to lean towards attempting the impossible, smart decision or not. Haha

We don’t achieve things in life by running from our fears and by staying inside our comfort zone and playing it safe. However, with maturity and life experience one should be able to know how far outside the comfort zone to go – or just say fuck it and go all out and see what happens.

I really struggle with defining where that fine line is because I’m a complex combination of being a very methodical, organized, regimented, and analytical person, maybe too much so a lot of the time. Yet on the other hand, there’s this kind of rebel wild energy in me that urges me to go with the fuck it approach and throw caution to the wind and go all out, pedal to the metal.

It’s very fascinating for me to observe the parallel that exists between my training approach and my personal life. Endurance sports have and are continuing to teach me so much about myself on a mental and spiritual level.

So where am I at 34 days out from attempting to run the Bryce Canyon 100 mile ultra? I’m in the process of doing a very well thought analysis of how my body is really feeling and I’m trying to really listen and be smart and not let my inherent stubbornness, pride, and gladiator mentality cloud my judgment.

Over the last few weeks my body has been speaking to me very loud letting me know I need to pay attention to what it is saying and slow down, actually it’s not really given me a choice, it’s launched a strike. The superwoman approach works for me most of the time but not as of lately. I need to SLOW way down across the board with everything going on in my life because I’m expending way more energy than I’m generating or receiving and I’m in major energy debt.

I’m not sleeping nearly enough even for the average person who needs to function on a daily basis, let alone with this type of physical output. This is all very interesting to me because I’m used to using my willpower and mental toughness to get my body and mind to do what I want it to, you have to in endurance sports.

To all of this business my body is telling me WELCOME to 38 and welcome to reality young lady — if you’re going to put your mind and body into such an exceedingly difficult state and expend this kind of energy output, YOU NEED TO TAKE REALLY GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF!

As I have previously mentioned, my endurance training teaches me a lot about myself and I’m learning a great deal especially right now, I see clearly I don’t take care of myself the way I need to. I need to learn to redirect my energy and focus inward and stop doing so much and giving so much to things and other people that drain my energy . I can’t take care of or give anything to anyone if I don’t do the same for me first. I’m a giver by nature and it’s much easier to do for others then it is to do for myself. Any circumstance I’m present in personally or professionally, I want to be fully present and give it all my energy and focus. But do you know what? There’s not enough Rohanna energy for me to expend at that level in so many different directions.

So over the next few weeks I’m going to do a better job of taking care of myself. I gotta refocus and recalibrate and pull my energy and time inwards. I’m going to listen to my body, rest more, relax more, and respect and appreciate how hard my body has been grinding. This will help me to make an informed and rational decision about running that 100 miles June 1st or playing it safer and dropping down to the 50 miler and pushing the 100 mile goal out to later in the year.

I know for a fact that based on sheer stubbornness and a little bit of crazy that I could run the 100 but I’m also assessing how much damage I could possibly do to my body and I’d like to keep running all year long. My running is one of the most important and fulfilling things that I do for myself, I need it. It’s my therapy, my church, my escape, my happy place.

So in a nutshell, I’m not superwoman, I need to take care of numero uno first and foremost and I need to REALLY listen to my body and treat it well so that I can keep running the distance literally and metaphorically. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running❤️💛💚🏃🏼‍♀️

Life is what happens when you’re busy trying to train to run a 100 mile ultra marathon

Insanity…that’s pretty much the word that sums up my life these last two months. Life sure has a fascinating sense of humor. Of course in the midst of the hardest part of my training when I’m running my ass off literally and metaphorically, life has to go bezerk on every other front.

I’m tired, like EXHAUSTED and constantly hungry beyond words. I wish I could say that it was all from the crazy amount of training I’ve been doing but that’s not even it and that alone is bat shit crazy. My insomnia is at one of its nastiest peaks and this is making it very hard for my body to recover the way I need it to in order to maintain the training demand and prevent injury. In addition to that, my job has been INSANELY hard – like my mental exhaustion is right on par with the physical – I’m a well put together hot mess presently, like tripping over my own feet and walking into walls. Hahahahaha

But wait…there’s more. The beloved family cat Markus who is an emotional support pet for my kids got very ill and nearly died twice and needed round the clock care after his stay in kitty cat ICU. So let’s also add car troubles, wonderful encounters with the IRS to the equation too. Oh yes, on top of all that, why not try and dabble a little bit into the exceedingly disappointing world that is dating in Santa Cruz because I really need more irritation and energy drain in my life. I’m telling you, my life is comedic gold, the curve balls keep coming and I’m trying my best to stay focused and on track. Just gotta keep my sense of humor and laugh through the tears.

So back to that running thing I’m trying to do…my life is tracked in an excel sheet and an app on my phone. I have to be so organized with my time that I can probably tell you what I’ll be doing a week from today, how many miles I ran, and what I ate. The shit is REDONKULOUS! However, I’m still moving forward and I’m still showing up to the start line of that race at 3:30am on June 1st, hell or high water I’m doing this. At this point how confident am I? I don’t know, I have no idea what my body and mind will do past 65 miles, that’s the furthest distance I’ve run in a race and that was soooooo hard! And who knows what else life is going to throw at me between now and then.

To test the waters I did run a 50k a few weekends ago on a very hilly, hot, and hard course and I was able to pull off a third place women’s champ win. It was a grueling 6.5 hours of running and I had to give it everything I had to make that happen and it was very difficult. Like I had to talk shit to my legs to get them to move up some of those hills. I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t think to myself many times “OH MY GOD THIS US ONLY 1/3 WHAT I WILL BE RUNNING IN JUNE – how the hell am I going to be able to withstand like another 20 something hours of running?

Who the hell does this kind of shit and why? I do for some crazy reason and I’m determined and I’m going to make it happen some how. Haha

In life, in running nothing goes according to plan and humor, adaptability, determination, and passion are what make it happen. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running. And if you see me out there running bring me a cheeseburger and a beer because I’m probably starving. Hahahahaha

Mental Endurance Training- Fake it Until You Can Make it!

The late great Muhammad Ali once said “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” This is the best life advice out there when it comes to getting your mind engaged and believing you can accomplish things that scare you or feel impossible. This is a fundamental principle I employ in my athletic training and in life in general.

I am not an inherently confident or athletically gifted person who just thinks “oh ya, I can totally run 100 miles, no problem at all” Are you for real? I’m scared shitless! I probably say to myself at least 10 times a day “what have you gotten yourself into? How the hell are you going to run a 100 miles in under 36 hours in the desert of Utah?” I’m just your average hard working single mom trying to pursue athletic goals I wasn’t able to achieve in my younger years because I started adulthood at 16 when I became a mom. I had a lot of goals and dreams and I think I probably could have taken my athletics far in college and beyond had my life taken a different route. However, my life took the route it did and I wouldn’t change it for anything because my two amazing children have shaped me into the woman I am today and they are my greatest source of motivation and inspiration.

So back to the Muhammad Ali quote, I have to do A LOT of positive affirmations and quite honestly ego inflating shit talking to convince myself I can do this. You have to get your mind to buy into it or else you won’t survive all the hours of physically and mentally challenging training. I don’t always like getting up at 4:45am to workout everyday before I go work a full day, running on my lunch hour, and waking up at the crack of dawn on the weekend to run for 5 hours. I’m tired, I’m sore, and I got a lot of pressure on my shoulders as it is juggling a high demand job and being a single parent. But do you know what? Every single time I doubt myself I say “if someone else can do it, why can’t you? You are beneath no one or nothing and if you work hard you will succeed. And if you fail the first time you attempt a monumental goal like this, you will try again and you will succeed because FAIL means First Attempt In Learning!” Do I actually believe this every time I say that? No! But anytime that self doubt and negative self talk starts up again I just repeat that same thing back to myself.

The other portion of the mental preparation has to do with meditation and visualization. Not only do you have to talk yourself into it, you have to imagine yourself doing it. See yourself at the start line, see yourself running the course, think about all the beautiful sights and the euphoria you will feel during portions of the race. You also need to keep it real and see yourself in very physically, mentally, and emotionally difficult situations and see yourself overcoming them. And most importantly, see yourself crossing that finish line and feeling so damn proud that you just accomplished a lifelong goal. I can absolutely see myself sprinting across that finish line, tired and sore from the battle. I can also see myself overcome with emotion and pride with tears streaming down my face as that fucking runners high kicks and the pure magic of that moment when in the midst of that pain and joy, I feel more alive than ever.

So here’s to faking it until you make it. Don’t ever discount yourself or think you can’t do something whether it’s in athletics or life in general. Take that first step, talk some positive shit to yourself and ask yourself, “if someone else can do it why can’t I?” Don’t worry about the logistics or anything else, you have Dream or a goal, hell YES you can do it and don’t let yourself or anyone else convince you otherwise. Another great Muhammad Ali quote to further solidify my point “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was” BELIEVE IN YOU!

If you ever need a cheerleader in your corner to inflate that ego to get your mind on board, hit me up, I love nothing more than to see other people succeed and accomplish goals and dreams that scare them. We are all here to love and support each other and I am so grateful to my family, my friends, and my coaches for helping me believe I can. Find your tribe of people and get after those seemingly unattainable goals and LIVE. We only got one shot at this life, GO BIG! ❤️💛💚🏃🏼‍♀️💪🏽👊🏽

Running Through the Storm of Life – Christi’s Race

And so the journey to run the Bryce Canyon 100 mile ultra marathon begins…we’re off to one hell of a rough start but we’re going to make it happen. All of the sudden it has dawned on me that I only have 4 months of training to get into bionic woman shape before my race in June; can you say “PANIC” moment?

I pretty much lost half of December and all of January due the traumatic loss of my very dear friend and colleague of 18 years, Christi who was only 43. This loss really hit me really hard and shook me to my core. I felt paralyzed by grief and anxiety and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the traumatic loss of yet another really important woman in my life. Four years ago my big sister Clare, my best friend, my partner in crime, my heart, died at age 39. Christi, Clare and I were all friends and when Clare passed away, Christi was there by my side supporting me and helping me through it all.

On December 22nd, 2017 I got a call that I wasn’t prepared for, a friend called me and said “I need you to pull over if you’re driving, I need to tell you something, Christi went into cardiac arrest  and is in critical condition at Dominican hospital.” My whole body flooded with fear and anxiety as I let the words sink in. I immediately got back on the road and drove to be with Christi. When I arrived at the hospital, the same hospital my sister Clare had been in 4 years earlier, I found myself running down the hall as fast as I could sobbing uncontrollably and feeling a sense of urgency and panic to get to Christi’s side, I selfishly needed her to be ok.

Christi remained in a coma for a week before she passed away, she never regained consciousness, I never got to say goodbye. I can’t begin to tell you how hard losing both my sister and Christi has been for me. For the last month I didn’t want to do anything, I felt like my light just got totally dimmed and the grief and depression made me so lethargic. I couldn’t sleep, I cried every day, multiple times a day. I didn’t want to do anything, not run, not exercise, not socialize, and not work…anything. And in the midst of all that sadness, I was also trying to detach myself from a really painful situation with someone that I love who really broke my heart over the last year.

So needless to say, 2018 started off really shitty for me. A week or so ago I woke up one morning really early and I just felt happy to be alive and totally at peace – Like happier than I have been in years. It was like the storm that was looming over me subsided and the sun was out again, I had a renewed appreciation for life. I can’t tell you how amazing that felt, I was happy to open my eyes, happy to be in my bed, happy about my new home, happy to see my son sleeping, happy to be greeted by my cute cats, happy to enjoy my coffee in predawn silence, and REALLY happy to get my ass up and out the door at 5:15 am to workout.

So what does all that have to do with training to run a 100 mile race in the desert of Utah? Oh it has everything to do with it. You see, endurance sports are what gave me the courage and the strength to get through all the challenges that I have had in my life over the last 5 years. In a nutshell this is what my life has been for several years, my sister died, I got divorced and became a single mom of two kids, my niece (Clare’s daughter) got thyroid cancer and moved in with me while she was recovering from treatment, I had to unexpectedly move, got my heart broken big time, I got outside my comfort zone professionally and started a new very rewarding but high pressure position at my company, I had multiple personal health issues including chronic insomnia and anxiety, my cat of 17 years died, my grandmother nearly died twice, and the list goes on and on.

I’m not explaining all this to throw myself a pity party; I’m explaining it to give context to the relationship to my endurance sports as a way that I cope with life, it’s my therapy. In the last five years because of all that life stress and to get through it, I raced my first Ironman 140.6 mile triathlon, I ran two marathons, ran three 50 mile races, ran a 65 mile race,  and now the grand finale for 2018, I’ll run a 100 mile race in June. I think the main reason I’m drawn to endurance sports, ultra running in particular, is that if I can get my mind and body to do something that difficult, that real, and that raw, I can get through anything life has to throw at me. There’s something deeply gratifying and fulfilling on a profound spiritual level that my training and racing give me, it’s what keeps me grounded and focused despite the tornado of life swirling around me.

So its 125 days and counting until race day, training for this race is sure to be one heck of a life changing adventure.  There will be much more to come as I embark on this next journey to run 100 miles. I’m dedicating this race to Christi who has inspired me to want to live life to the absolute fullest, to love those I have been blessed to have in my life with all my heart, to having the courage to be real, honest, and vulnerable, to forgiveness, and to getting way outside my comfort zone and taking chances in the pursuit of real happiness, inner peace, and spiritual growth.

Much love to you all! ❤️💛💚🙏🏽

Rohanna Runs 100 – The Journey Begins…

Thanks for joining me!

I’m a born and raised Santa Cruz girl, single mom, endurance athlete, and lover of life. I look forward to sharing my athletic and spiritual journey with you as I somehow figure out how to balance family, career, social life, and training to run my first 100 mile ultra marathon in Bryce Canyon this June.

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“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”         ~Buddha~