Monday, May 18, 2015

Crow Feet Wrinkles and No Regrets

It hit me in waves. A sense of undeniable grief I haven't felt in awhile. I had to lay down. Moonli wagged his tail to console me. After sobbing and feeling the hole in my heart open, I pulled myself up and reached over to dust off the memory book with Ryan's face on its cover. He's been on my mind a lot lately.

I started leafing through its pages, photographs from years gone by. Memories unlocked with the glance of a smile, the curling of lips, the beginnings of my crow feet wrinkles I wouldn't trade for anything. All of those trips, all of those experiences we shared - I don't regret a single one. I don't wonder what if we had done something different. No way. We lived life exactly how we wanted to, rich beyond our wildest dreams.

Ben came to check on me. I had shut my door, something I never do. I just wanted to sit, to be sad, to live, to breath. His hug a welcome oasis in a storm of tears.

The next morning, the storm cleared. I got up, I pinned on a race number. Puffy eyed and a little numb. I had no expectations for the day. Nothing to lose. When I took a corner hot, had a gap from the group my mind eased. I wanted to feel empty. I wanted to put everything out there. I road without emotion, without connection to what my mind was telling my body. I stopped looking at my power meter. I just concentrated on the road and the terrain 10 feet in front of me.

And my gap grew. Miles flew by. I was off the front for 3.5 of 4 laps. I didn't care where I placed. This ride was for me. To feel alive. To feel human. When the group caught me, I was empty. And I loved every minute of it.

Later that night I found out Dean Potter died. I wonder if there's a connection between the two - missing Ryan and feeling the deep sense of loss I haven't felt in a while. We have this one life - and I'm living it to the fullest.

And then the next morning I learned Susie Dillar from work passed away this weekend. When it rains, it pours.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happiness Watts

Snapshot from my TrainingPeaks account....
3/30/15 - TSS - 228.6 (Rode the Parkway in Tennessee Smoky Mountains) Acute Training Load: 195.4 Chronic Training Load: 113.9 Training Stress Balance: -78.8.

That's called a training hole, ladies and gentleman. Benjamin and I put in some solid riding over the past five days - tallying 360 miles with 10,468 meters of climbing. That's 34,343 feet. Whoa. That's higher than Mt. Everest. Dang.

So, what are you doing next March? Want to come to Tennessee and get your butt kicked? We're planning on doing the big daddy ride (120 miles with 11,000 feet of elevation gain) twice. Go big or go home. An excellent way to bring in another birthday and kick off a new year.

What's next? A little rest, some speed work and we'll be FLYING!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dealing with lemons since 1978.

Sometimes life gives you lemons.

Working in the coaching industry, my job is reliant on people. They come in all shapes and sizes - not just physically but mentally too.  I advise them on certain workouts to set them on a path to obtain their goals. And I help them carve out a balanced life approach, listening to their dreams and goals and encourage them to stretch and reach. I use a progressive periodized coaching principle - where successful completion of workouts means a little bump in load each week. Each workout builds on the previous one. Fitness is gained from week to week, day to day, interval to interval.

And then life gives you lemons.

Injuries happen. Accidents happen. Life happens. Shit happens. Whatever you call it - happens.

So we adjust plans, we move things around and calmly talk to clients letting them know what no matter what - we will deal with it together. A coach is a champion for their clients, holding their best interests in mind. Letting them know you really care about their success happens on many levels. Whether that's from day to day, week to week, race to race. No matter what, as your coach, I applaud your efforts because through each effort, each intention you set and complete or attempt to complete means that you are growing. And that is some cool shit.

I love my job.

Dealing with lemons since 1978. :) 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What's your bliss?

A woman from the car dealership picked me up today so I could retrieve my car from the shop. She was in her mid-fifties and had a ginger red bob haircut with pink lipstick. We started talking about cars and how nice it would be to know how to fix them.

"Guys have it easier, usually their fathers will teach them," she told me.

"Huh, that's interesting. My dad was a car salesman. And the only thing he taught me was how to wreck them," I responded. It's true. By the time my dad was 21 years old, he had totaled a handful of cars by reckless driving. I have him to thank for my love of speed and pushing the edge on rubber wheels.

Our conversation drifted from there. At one point I told her I could work on bikes.

"Well that's easier. Bikes are more unisex," she said. Are they?

Our conversation drifted further, and I told her about my cycling background and riding down by the river in Eugene as a kid. How sports were ingrained in my being from very young and how I enjoyed school and studying, but what I really lived for was recess. Dodgeball and basketball with the boys? You bet. I was often the last one in once the bell rang.

"Your dad must have taught you all of that," she assumed.

"Actually, I credit my older brother. I had to keep up with whatever he was doing," I said.

"Let me ask you this, did you always know? When you were little did you know you wanted to be an athlete?" she asked.

"I didn't think I had a choice."

She admitted to me she was curious about people who are passionate about what they do and figure out how to make a living from it. She had recently divorced and was now on her own, forging her own way. Except now she has no idea what that looks like.

"How do you follow your bliss?" she asked.

"That's an interesting question. I've been doing it so long, I don't know what it's like not to," I said.

I didn't tell her that I experienced tragedy and that it made me not want to live another minute not doing what I loved. Life is short. We have one shot so we better live it to the fullest. Bucket lists, dream goals, living it up and enjoying each moment is a top priority for me.

"I will say that you should surround yourself by people who are doing what you want to be doing," I mused. "Don't settle. Take little steps and set a goal, always striving toward. Until one day you wake up and realize you're doing exact what you want to be doing."

"Thanks, Jennifer," she said.

"Thank you - and follow your bliss!"

Monday, March 02, 2015

New name, new life.

I'm getting used to my new name: Jennifer Sharp.

And there are things I miss, things I long for and things I said good bye to when I decided to make the change.

An identity, a connection to someone, a previous life.

Triplett was my married name. Ryan and I met when we were teenagers. We grew up together, navigating through life and experiencing more than most. Mountains, rocks, trees, hikes, wandering the western United States, National parks, getting stuck on 7,000 foot granite faces, outdoor playgrounds... a life I miss when I see photos of climbers with their torn skin and strong hands.

To love someone that much and then lose them was a gift I was given. One that cut a deep, deep scar. One that made me see the true beauty in life and appreciate more, love more, smile more.

I embrace my new name, my new loving husband, my new life. My passions are still strong, though evolved from before.

Last week I ventured into the mountains with the puppies in the backseat of the Subaru. I left in the afternoon as big snow flakes covered the road. I escaped the Denver metro area an hour before it shut down, before white snow encased it. The roads looked foreign - unrecognizable from the storm. The freeway shut near Copper Mountain and traffic diverted through Leadville. I sensed danger, I could feel the mountains reclaiming their passes. The Subaru fishtailed down a slick road, causing mild alarm and yet I drove on until I couldn't anymore. Traffic stopped.

And it reminded me of a time when I was by myself. When I had to forge my own way. When I rediscovered my own identity. In some strange way, I loved every minute of it. I needed to feel, I needed to process, I needed to be alone in the middle of a blizzard on a 11,000' mountain pass.

I called Benjamin to let him know I was alright. He was thankful to hear from me as he had seen photos of the jack knifed semi trailer that blocked west-bound lanes. I was more than alright - I felt alive.

Ryan's dad passed a little over a month ago. The original Triplett. He death was painful and somewhat quick. He died within a few months of his diagnosis. I went to his memorial service last weekend and gave a heart felt eulogy. He was like a father to me. And I miss him.

Standing in the middle of the storm made me shout, "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?!?"

And I wonder if the storm was, in its own way, screaming back at me, "YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!"

So then I played the next four days in its snow covered mountains. They're good for the soul, you know.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TEDxSeattle Update

I parked in downtown Seattle with an extra 20 minutes to spare. I sat in the car, practicing my four minute speech out loud. With five minutes to go, I got out and headed up the busy street to the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Condos. Nervous, excited, curious, thrilled, petrified.

Although on time, I was the last to arrive. We headed into an elevator to the top floor where a group of 12 people greeted us. The TEDxSeattle curators introduced themselves and then let each person in the room explain their connection to the show and what to expect.

A hundred and eighty people applied, forty people made an audition, and a total of twelve people would make the cut. We auditioned in groups of four, each given a four minute time slot to sell our ideas. Afterward the curators and audience would ask questions.

The woman sitting next to me volunteered to go first. She had a kind and gentle soul. But I had a hard time following what she was trying to share. What she started her talk with had nothing to do with the supporting facts and she ran out of time before she could complete them. The curators stopped her, asking her to summarize what she wanted to share in one short sentence. She couldn't do it.

"Who's next?"

I immediately volunteered. I had practiced, reminding myself of when to pause for greater impact. To read the audience, to let them help me tell my story. I made eye contact with everyone in the room. But I couldn't stop my tears. I couldn't compartmentalize the weight of the subject and my emotions took over. Talking about Ryan's sudden death even seven years after the fact still leaves me in puddle.

"Grief is a gift."

I started to get my resolve back. The more I focused on the change I want to create, the more powerful my voice became.

"Our culture does a poor job acknowledging that part of living is dying. And I want to start a conversation that changes that."

The audience clapped, I wiped my face, thankful for the opportunity. Thankful I was brave enough to stand up in front of a room of strangers.

"You know, this could just be a really sad, emotional story. But what intrigues me is that the stages of grief haven't seen change in over 30 years," one of the curators commented.

Yes! Exactly.

"I remember you. I remember when your husband died. It rippled through the climbing community," the intern who was 16 at the time of Ryan's death, commented.

"I remember seeing you on TV, and how angry you were," said the other curator.

Except I never went on TV. And I wasn't angry. I didn't want to correct her in front of these people.

"Are you prepared to be the spokesperson for this?"

"Yes. There's a reason this happened to me," I immediately responded.

"Why not write a book?" Already did.

"How about a blog?" Been there done that.

"Why TED?" the curator asked.

"Because TED is a conductor for change."

I sat down shortly thereafter. I knew I had a good chance. I had a hard time listening to the next women's speech. And then a film maker, the last one in our group, went.

"Pardon my visual cues," he started. "I'm hoping to be coached so I don't need to rely on such."

The following is my recollection of his story....
Twenty years ago, he freight train hopped around the states. (He looked to be in his late thirties, maybe early forties.) While on the east coast, he went to a punk rock show and listened to a woman sing with such raw lyrics and emotion, he was naturally drawn to her. He approached her during the intermission and asked where she drew her inspiration from. She admitted to him that she had been molested as a child and singing was her form of therapy and expression. The film maker wanted to know more.

"We're headed to the west coast next. To Seattle. You should come," she offered.

So he did. He hopped on a series of trains, finding himself in Spokane, Washington. From there he hitch hiked, getting picked up by two men in a two-door hatchback Honda Accord. They let him into the back seat on the driver's side and the driver started asking him questions. Within an hour, they pulled off the main interstate, turning up a desolate road.

"We're just stopping for gas," the driver said.

The film maker noticed the gas gauge was nearly full. When they didn't see a gas station for miles, the driver told him they were headed to pick cherries. Except this wasn't cherry picking season. Sensing danger, the film maker started to beg them to let him out of the car. The driver pulled out a gun and shouted at the film maker to shut up or he would shoot him.

Carefully, he pulled out a pocket knife out of his backpack and opened it on the seat next to him. Tension built in the car.

The driver pulled the Honda over, telling the passengers he had to pee. He handed the gun to the passenger and told him to watch the film maker.

Not knowing what kind of mood the passenger was in since he hadn't said a word this whole time, the film maker started begging with him to let him go, that he was a good kid, that he wouldn't say a word.

"SHUT UP! HE SAID YOU SHOULD SHUT UP!!!" the passenger was pointing the gun at him.

The film maker took the pocket knife and jabbed it as hard as he could into the back of the seat, compressing the vinyl enough so that it barely grazed the passenger's back. It was enough to scare him, and he jumped out of the car. Acting instinctively and quickly, the film maker opened the driver side door and ran as fast as possible into the woods, escaping the kidnappers.

He ended his story. The room sat speechless. Then what? How did you escape? A master storyteller of suspense!

"My job as a film maker is to show perspectives," he continued. And he wants to show perspectives that are less known. Like from the view of the attacker. Why did those men pick him up? Why did that punk rocker get molested? His TED talk would be about the importance of seeing different perspectives.

The room exploded in applause. It was incredible.

The curators told us they would talk on Monday and let auditions know their decision shortly thereafter. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with old friends and mustering up courage to deal with old strings, like selling my old wedding dress and sorting through Ryan's old climbing magazines left in the basement of my old house that my sister now occupies.

Monday came and went. By Thursday, I still hadn't heard. No news is good news, I figured. And then an email came.

"We truly enjoyed meeting you and hearing your story.  We know you've been patiently waiting to hear back from us.  Unfortunately, we have some difficult news to share that impacts your application.
We have decided to cancel TEDxSeattle 2015.  This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, and we did not do so lightly.  A host of factors, both event-related and personal, have made it clear to us that we will serve everyone best by making this decision now.
We trust that you will find other forums to tell your story, as you wouldn't have made it as far as you did in our process if we didn't already believe in you."

Lame sauce! But it beats rejection, I guess. And that's not going to stop me in getting my word out there...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TEDxSeattle Audition - Coming Soon!

I'm petrified. And yet I'm thrilled.

About a month ago my sister told me that TEDx is coming to Seattle. She sent me a link to their application and on a whim I filled it out. I want to share with the world my experience with sudden death as a gift and my desire to shift the paradigm around death and dying.

Grief is a gift.

So I filled out their extensive questionnaire. What is it that you want to share? Why do you feel the audience needs to know this? What is it that you hope to change in the world? How does your presentation fit into Seattle's TEDx brand, Dive In? Where have you dove into something before? Have you been coached? Are you open to being coached?

I answered all of their questions truthfully and openly. And in a way, I didn't expect to hear anything back.

But I did.

Within a week I received an invite to audition in Seattle. Except there was one minor glitch - they wanted me to audition on 12/13/14 - our wedding day. I responded immediately and the curator told me not to fear - they were going to hold a second audition for people unable to make the first one. My audition is now on 1/23/15.

And I'm petrified and thrilled.

A platform. A way to get my word out there beyond my local community. An opportunity!

Time is ticking.

Being the book worm I am, I perused Boulder's library - looking for books on presenting and on grieving. To my surprise, there are more books on grief and dying then when I first looked back in 2008. And yet none of the titles at first glance focus on the light in the darkness. None of the books jump out and appear to throw a life line during a troubling time when most people are searching for hope.

I grabbed a few titles published after 2008 to see if the main theme remained the same. It's hard to revisit the darkest time in my life, yet it's inspiring to go back there and be reminded of what I can bring to the world: my own perspective on the subject.

I also found a book titled, "Talk Like TED." Nailed it. And as I read about the hours and hours of practice, the need to connect to the audience through narrative and showing them something new, something that inspires, something that they can learn from - I panicked.

How on earth is my story about Ryan's death going to inspire complete strangers?

On the other hand, how is it not?

My self-doubt flooded my mind as I read this morning and I was answered with the following:

"Some speakers take a defeatist attitude. They don't think they have anything new to teach people. Sure they do. We all do. We all have unique stories to tell. You might not have the same experiences as the speakers in this chapter, but you have stories just as interesting and valuable in your journey of discovery. Pay attention to the stories of your life. If they teach you something new and valuable, there's a good chance other people will want to hear about it."