At 3 am in the ER of St Charles Hospital waiting for my mom to return from a CT scan (head contusions after a midnight fall at assisted living home), I had an epiphany. It seemed ideal for a pre-dawn Easter morning in an eventful 2015. Mom turned out to be fine and by 5 am she was home tucked into bed – but I was changed.
What is an epiphany: a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.
I am focused on training for my favorite race of the year, the Olukai Ho’olaule’a on May 2 on Maui. It is my third year doing the full event after one year doing the “fun race” inspired by Suzie Cooney. Each year Ed and I have returned to Maui in May for the challenge and celebration that this race means to us. Ho‘olaule‘a – literally, it means “celebration”, but for participants and Olukai, it’s also an expression of gratitude. I was about to come to complete understanding of the power of that premise.
In that noisy emergency room I had been reflecting on the sorry state of my cardio/endurance preparation for this year’s race. One outrigger practice with my Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club last week reinforced my lack of stamina. This was followed by a trip with daughter and granddaughter (spring girl trip) that started with them having the stomach virus and ended with my succumbing to the beastly germ. Now on Easter I was just getting my strength back – with just 3 weeks to go for training,
Back story: The team from Olukai consistently share with the community gifts of time, energy and spirit. Circumstances had provided me with a 2015 filled with the opportunity to share my personal gifts of time, energy and spirit – but not so much the training I believed I needed for my best foot forward at the Ho’olaule’a. In late December 2014, my 92 year old independent, active and strong Dad had a stroke that put me in a full time care-giver, life energy support role. Mom was already in need of support as she worked to maintain her personality as Alzheimers chipped away at her mind and age ravaged her body. A brand new, absolutely joyful addition to my life, a wonderful granddaughter, arrived and I was delighted she was close enough to spend a few mornings a week with me – a true treasure.
Time, energy and spirit: I was blessed to have something to share with those who needed and filled me simultaneously. But SUP training – back burner at best.
So what was the big epiphany? Simple! I was sitting in the ER remembering the best moments of past year’s races and NONE had to do with how fast I was going or how ready to bring a PR I was. It was ALL about the experience. And whatever fitness and preparedness i bring to this year’s race, I will be 100% ready to bring awareness and gratitude for simply participating. A total, joyful realization. Here is the short list: (the best thing is the last thing)
1. Watching Danny Ching charge past me on the way to the start in the 2014 event. Yes, I was in the same race!!! Then wonderful Suzie Cooney paddled by and said, “Get on your knees girl, it’s gnarly out here. Save your energy and have fun.” And I did!!!
2. That first dunk in the deepest, most blue ocean I had ever been in. Go Pro on my head it recorded the first of many 2013 dunks into the sea – but this one was astounding. I launched belly first into the deep and there was a moment of absolute wonder before my brain registered – “Tiger sharks live here”- and I leaped back onto my 14′ Naish Glide barely getting wet. But the next 8 miles of ocean engaged me totally. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at age 64, born and raised in Florida, living landlocked in Oregon – but here I was in an event and among a culture that resonated with everything connecting to the ME that I celebrate.
3. Sean Sweet of Sweet Waterwear calling out, “look out on your right” as I was readying to go through the keyhole in the reefs at the end of the 2013 event. I looked right and saw an overhead swell way past the “go for it” timing, but I went any way. I WANTED to ride that wave even though I had never ridden a real wave on my Naish 14 foot race board. I pearled and went for a catapult launched swim and wound up past the inner reef stoked and paddling with a grin toward the finish.
4. The colors: In 2014 we didn’t know if there would be any down wind push for our journey. Swells were not as huge as 2013, but they were hammering the inner reefs. In 2013, I steered way clear of the inner reefs by going too far out. In 2014 I made sure to stay with the inside paddlers. In doing this I got scary close to the break at Sprecklesville. The swells came from the stern quarter of my board and lifted me before cresting shoreward then smashing, crashing onto the reef. White foam zoomed skyward silhoutted against every shade of blue – but I was safely out of the impact zone. It was knee-knocking scary to be that close to the break, but awesome at the same time. I stayed with the inner pack and paralleled this wonder for some incredible minutes of the race.
5. This year I realize I have no idea of my time or place from the prior years. To improve my time, would I improve my experience? I need to be fit and skilled enough to be ocean savvy and safe. (Done) I also needed to bring my energy and spirit to the start so I can savor (and be grateful for) the total experience. Best Olukai Ho’olaule’a moment: 2013, the last 5 minutes. After rarely seeing my husband Ed during the entire 8 miles, I survived the keyhole through the reefs into Kanaha Beach Park area and then as I was heading to the big yellow Olukai buoy I saw Ed paddling away ahead of me. I dug like crazy and gave it my best to catch him. He was almost within shouting distance as we tore off our leashes and jumped into the shore break. Cool volunteers from Olukai grabbed our boards and we had that last 1/4 mile (or some distance) sprint to the finish. Rubbery legs threatened to send me crumbling to the sand, but I kept Ed in my sights and ran toward him. The tune from “Chariots of Fire” hammered in my brain and made me laugh. My feet plodded through the sand and we finished 15 seconds apart. He turned around fter he finished, looking for me – as he always does. And there we were. Together at the end of an amazing adventure.
Will I be at my most ready for the Olukai this year? In fitness – not so much. If awareness and gratitude for being ready enough to complete it and enjoy it – absolutely. Sometimes life gets in the way of personal goals – the things we think we need to strive for. Sometimes life opens your eyes to what really matters. To that – I thank the Universe.
See you on the shore of Maliko Gulch on May 2. High five me if you see the old lady with a blue KIALOA Paddles hat and a rented 14′ Naish Glide.That happy person will be me. Enjoy the “fun race” hosted by Olukai, Suzie Cooney and Archie Kalepa on April 25.