Turbulence at all altitudes

In the next 9 days, I’ll be in 4 different countries, with each hop being more than 5 hours. I’ll cover more than 100 km of changes in altitude before I get back home. With every flight, there’s are always rough patches, smooth patches, and the unexpected glass of wine spilled on you by the woman sitting next to you (true story, and it was not intentional or deserved, just for the record).

These next nine days are a microcosm of the last six months – I haven’t blogged publicly during that time for a number of reasons, most of which was turbulence. I didn’t really know which direction I was headed, and I couldn’t reach my laptop because the fasten seat belt sign was on.

No, seriously, fasten your @#$% seat belts. This puppy is about to barrel-roll.

Quick stream of consciousness recap since March. Each of these alone would be blog-worthy, but alas I am rich in humor, prose and adventure but time poor. Go.

  • Returned from Saigon to Australia where Khanh visited Manly for the first time. Torrential rain during an outdoor Opera House performance of Aida, delight in Josh Pyke and the Sydney symphony, a stunning day at Palm Beach, and a wet hike down the side of Govett’s Leap near Blackheath did not disappoint. Neither did my first colonoscopy.

2015-04-24 16.08.48

Palm Beach.

  • San Francisco, the city by the Bay. A weekend with Khanh in Santa Cruz where I was the de-invited wedding guest, and fled from an Orca in the water that turned out to be a porpoise.
  • On to Virginia, for my nephew’s first triathlon. Incredibly proud as we passed each other on the run. My first ever podium, though the competition wasn’t exactly elite.


“No sharks in Virginia, right?”

  • Prague! Apparently one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I did not see the outside of my hotel room as yet another sinus infection crushed me. 12 hours of meetings, 12 hours of hazy delirium. Repeat four times then get on a plane.
  • Gdansk, Poland! Presenting in a zombie-like state to 400 people, my speaker rating was essentially “this American is not horrible,” which is apparently high praise in that part of the world. Struggling still and not sleeping well, my team in Poland are such phenomenal hosts, that even in the haze of medication and insomnia I had a huge smile as the go-kart track blurred beneath my wheels. Luckily there are no drug tests in go-karting.

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Gdansk at night. Similar to Gdansk in the day, only darker.

  • Back to Virginia. My 12 year old niece crushed me in a 5K, running 21 minutes, and being the first female across the line, and eighth overall. My pride overflows, but I will also have my revenge!

bekah 5k

The entire family after their 5K. First place goes to my niece in the pink. Until next time…

  • Back to San Francisco. Living in the Marina I do not fit the stereotype, but I am amused and not freightened by it’s homogeneity. I am not a homogene-o-phobe.
  • Colorado for Dan’s Buck’s party. Three days of hiking and two days of celebrating including hot springs induced male nudity, a midnight digestive system attack from a freeze-dried Mexican dinner (imagine running in the dark with a plastic shovel and a flashlight on a very narrow trail, when every second counts), and the joys of seeing one mostly unclothed man in a hot tub slap another mostly unclothed man in that same hot tub in the face as hard as he can.

2015-07-18 10.11.22

Only the residents of Colorado are higher than the mountains

  • Back to San Francisco. An afternoon hike of pure happiness near Stinson Beach, including a quick swim in a calm, placid lake.
  • Back to Sydney for three weeks. A fairwell to Tobes and his arms.
  • Back to San Francisco for Dan’s wedding. Sick again. Amazing to see my brothers from Austin, and the Heller family, all of whom are family to me. As the sun set on the brutal oven that surrounded our black suited band of musketeers, I asked myself “Why have I left my family?” A week later, a perfect weekend, filled with two loops of Paradise, a dip in Aquatic Park, a run across the Golden Gate, and best of all time spent simply being, with Khanh.

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It’s not a seal. It’s just BJR-in-a-wetsuit.

  • Back to Sydney on September 6th.

By September 6th, I had spent 123 of the last 365 days out of the country. As one friend asked, “If you like Australia so much why are you never there?

The cult of FODMAP


“If it tastes good, spit it out.”

After Ironman Busselton in December, it took my digestive system about two weeks to recover from the 11+ hours of liquid sugar I had dumped into it during the day. In April, after talking to an ENT specialist about my sinus challenges, a Gastro specialist about the last 10 years of what I thought was a reaction to my medication, my nephrologist about the same problem, and the exceptional Meredith Terranova, it became clear that during my transplant, my digestive system had been completely reset. All the immune suppressing drugs and antibiotics conspired to destroy the healthy bacteria I had built up through a steady diet of dirt, Tang, peanut better, condensed milk, and lint as a child.

The recommendation was FODMAP. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Fructose Free, etc. Very similar to Paleo, but more restrictive as it eliminates a lot of fruits and vegetables. Starting in April, within three weeks of this caloric torture I could already tell the difference. Trying to eat like a horse while not being able to eat 90% of the meals in most menus was not something I want to repeat. I’ve now folded back in everything except gluten, and I’m using something call “UCAN” (as in ‘you can’ complete the race without a sprint for the port-a-loo) for race nutrition and recovery. My last half-Ironman was much better – even the next day, nothing out of the ordinary. One small step for bacterial chemistry, one giant step for my behind. I love when I write something, and then have to stop for three minutes because I’m laughing so hard. Do I care if you laugh? Maybe?

Sunny Coast half-Ironman

wetsuit before the race top half

“Of course I’m smiling. I am completed unprepared for this.”

I’ve never attempted a race as undertrained as the Ironman Sunshine Coast 70.3 last weekend. With the travel schedule above, I did minimal maintenance training, and crammed in a handful of mid-length efforts in the few weeks before the race. My mate Nick joined me to support me in the race, and getting to see my coach and teammates was the best part of the whole weekend.

Once again my TT bike is a pain to maintain. The brakes were fully locked on the wheel and no matter what adjustment I tried, they were jammed. The local bike shop fixed, though they were incredibly lose. “It will stop, I just can’t tell you how long it will take,” said the mechanic. Um…

Despite predicting a disaster, I finished in 5:13, which is good for my fitness level but not a stellar time for an incredibly fast course. I started in the third wave but somehow managed a 32 minute swim. My bike was lazy at best, my heart barely working while my legs were clearly not conditioned for it. I did run a PR for the half-marathon (as part of a half-Ironman) – the highlight being half way up the hill near the end of the first lap, a woman who I had been leapfrogging said “Come on, brotha” and got me to pick up the pace, which helped propel me for the remaining 11K across the finish line.

I have another half-Ironman in Austin in November, where I will be in better shape but likely register a slower time given the equipment and course. The next day I returned to a brutal episode at work, then flew to Asia, and within 24 hours I could not focus my eyes or make coherent sentences. For these kinds of reactions I really should at least get the chance to take some interesting hallucinogens.

Our radar shows clouds in a pattern of a question mark

illustration of clouds in the shape of question mark on sky background

I’m a planner. I love google calendar and JIRA – I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at any time. Usually, a lack of a plan begins to slowly brew anxiety that boils over, and I close my eyes, jam the throttle forward, and push the yoke left, right, or some other dangerous combination, and see where I end up.

My emotional compass points West, across the Pacific. My skin is magnetized by the salt (and negative ions – look them up, they are totally science stuff…) of the ocean outside the window of my apartment. The uncentered, off balance gyroscope in my psyche careens off Argentina into Austin, through Northern Virginia, and comes to a rest against the Pyrenees. My legs are begging simply to sit still, even for a minute.

For now, I’m just letting the trade winds take me, and resisting the urge to attempt aerial maneuvers. Just over the horizon is Cambodia, where a piece of me that I left two years ago is waiting to be reunited, while a warm heartbeat will join me inside of the monsoon. I can’t wait. Stay tuned.

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