Ironman at 30

10 Mar

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I am going to put it out there for the world:  I will do an Ironman at 30.

This basically means that sometime in the Summer of 2016, I’ll be signing up for a very long day of swimming, biking, and running.  I’ve been dreaming about doing triathlons for years, and ever since I did my first sprint triathlon last summer, I feel totally hooked.  It is an amazing community that satisfies my competitive nature and need for long-term fitness goals.  I haven’t felt this way about something since college basketball, which feels amazing!

This summer I’ll be doing two events as baby steps toward becoming a better triathlete:  a Olympic distance triathlon in Steamboat Springs, CO as well as a Long Course Aquabike in Aurora, CO.  I decided that when I turn 30 years old next year, I should give myself a birthday gift – the gift of being really badass.

When people tell me that they have completed an Ironman, I immediately have a high regard for their fearlessness, fortitude, and discipline.  I feel jealous.  I’ve found that jealousy is a really good way for me to understand what I really want. Finishing an Ironman is obviously not something you accomplish overnight. Luckily, I love the process of getting to race day.  The days spent swimming and biking outside are amazing…even some days I enjoy running!

Does anyone have any suggestions of Ironman locations that we could also turn into a post-Ironman vacation?

“No one’s gonna wait for you, no one’s gonna wait for you. So do it now. Do it right now.” – Ingrid Michaelson, “Do It Now”

I’ll be Home for Christmas

22 Dec

For the last couple years, every December I get a bout of the Christmas blues.  I feel alone and ready to play Joni Mitchell’s “River” on repeat.  I am also not sure what to say if I head back to Mattoon for the holidays.  When I was in college, I would tell people I was heading “home”.  But after over two years in Denver, that statement doesn’t feel accurate anymore.

Mattoon is where I grew up, where my family lives, and where I can curl up and feel immediately safe.  But it’s not really my home anymore.  Not necessarily that Denver feels like my home either.  We’ve met some great people here that Eric and I consider our “Denver family”.  They are priceless jewels on a journey where Eric and I have too often relied solely on one another for support.  However, there are big moments here where I can feel the lack of family like a huge aching hole in my heart.  We’ve moved to a place without a safety net.  It’s completely up to us to take care of one another.  I mean, most of our friends in Denver fly “home” for the holidays.

So where is home?  Maybe after a certain age home exists in many shapes and forms.  Up to this point, Eric and I believed that someday our entire family would move to Denver.  All the people we love would experience and love Colorado as we do and move here to congregate around our goals, dreams, and aspirations; our safety net would be reborn!  Even right now, this feels ridiculous.  However, Eric and I both held onto this dream with a white knuckled grip.  It helped us deal with missing our cousins, nephews, and younger sisters grow up. It helped us cover up the regret of not being there to support our parents and grandparents on a daily basis.  It helped us push away the happy hours and deep conversations that we’ve missed with close friends.

Maybe home isn’t really a place; it’s the people.  Maybe saying “my home is Denver” doesn’t feel right because my home is actually Eric, Penny, and Jojo.  My home is where my loved ones are and, right now, that’s not one specific place.  Even if I’m sitting in our Denver living room with Eric, covered in Penny and Jojo’s snuggles, our home is still scattered all over the country.

This Christmas, we’ll be staying in Denver, and I’ll be stepping into that sadness, regret, and loneliness with the knowledge that these feelings exist due to the strength of the love that I feel for my family and friends.  I miss them every day.  But it also means that my home isn’t affixed to a permanent location.  My home is all over, even in places I’ve never been before.  After all, even our tiny apartment in Denver is just an apartment without my best friend.

They say that home is where the heart is
I guess I haven’t found my home
And we keep driving round in circles
Afraid to call this place our own

And are we there yet?
Home, home, home

-Ingrid Michaelson, “Are We There Yet”

Don’t Listen to the Demon

20 Nov

Penny wink

The peaceful snore of a basset hound.

The warmth from a cup of tea, feeding energy into my palms.

Hearing the sound of a blender in the morning; the first acknowledgement that my best friend is making breakfast and getting ready for his day.

Laughing with friends over margaritas that I haven’t seen in too long; they are truly family.

These are all things I take for granted every day.  Things that truly make life worth living and enjoyable.  It’s so easy to get lost in translation.  Too often I let the world around me cloud my feelings, judgement, and overall mood.  Too often, I let fear make my decisions for me, keeping me from taking on projects or challenges that I am interested in undertaking.

I am presenting my capstone work tomorrow at the Global Health Symposium at my alma mater, the Colorado School of Public Health.  I will be talking about the relationship I found between malaria severity and increased distance from health care in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northeastern Tanzania.  I worked long and hard on this research, but I still am afraid…of so many things.  What if they don’t think it’s worthwhile? What if they ask me hard questions I can’t answer? What if I don’t present the information well?  These questions have been eating me up all week long.

I have finally come to a realization.  I care about the work.  I enjoy presenting.  I want to disseminate what I have learned.  Who cares if anyone else cares?

I should be living my life for me, not for anyone else.  And that goes for YOU too!

I like to think that this comes easier with wisdom and life experience.  I am so lucky and have so many great people in my life, and yet, I tend to focus on worry, stress, and other emotions that aren’t useful to anyone but my own ego.  Sorry, Ego, I think I’m going to do this on my own.

“Let the demon sit in the corner and have her temper tantrum.  She’ll never go away but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to her.” – Amy Poehler

To live an intentional life.

1 Oct

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This weekend, Eric and I sat down to watch the documentary “Tiny”, which is about a man who bought a piece of land out in the mountains of Colorado and decided to build a tiny house on wheels.  It was really moving and also didn’t hide all the struggles that sometimes go along with following your dreams and living an intentional life.  I’ve come to realize how many decisions we humans tend to make out of fear, almost automatically.  Somehow these unintentional decisions start to add up over time, and one day we look around and wonder how we got here.  I’ve been thinking about this more these days, that idea of making very intentional decisions every day.

Life moves quickly.  Sometimes autopilot seems like the easiest and most efficient option.  However, I worry of where that will really take me.  Will it take me where I want to go?

I just finished with grad school.  Everything about grad school was intentional:  the decision to apply, where I applied, the university I chose, the courses I took, the professional experiences I undertook.  Now, having finished my MPH and starting a new full-time job, I have found living intentionally more difficult.

This summer, I had such an amazing experience doing research in East Africa.  It was such a life changing experience in so many ways, and I have grown to love the cultural discomfort that comes with flying to a foreign country where I don’t know the language and immersing myself in day-to-day life.  I’m still trying to process this summer and what it meant to me.

I find myself thinking, “So what now??” Life has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time that I find myself in a period of transition and re-evaluation.  I keep coming back to the idea that I really want to live an intentional life.  I want every decision I make to be very intentional and in line with what I want in the future and my values.

To me, living a simple life with less possessions has been the most effective way for me to live intentionally.  And the tiny house movement shown through the documentary “Tiny” is a really cool representation of how living intentionally can change someone’s life.

The more I think about what I want out of life, the more that little tiny house in the mountains sounds like a good idea….

  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”
― Henry David Thoreau

Mwanza (in photos)

20 Jun
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Mosque

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Convenience Store on my way to work

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Bead Market & Building under construction

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Watch out for holes in the sidewalk!

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Dala Dala (aka. shared minibus)

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These birds wake me up every morning…

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Kiddos playing at primary school

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Got to hang out with these lovely ladies one Sunday! The girls were so cute – we talked Barbies.

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Walk to work!

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Dr. Seuss trees?!

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Pool at the Malika Hotel…not the best experience from a service standpoint but definitely a cool pool.

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View of Mwanza and Lake Victoria

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The women here have amazing balance…I snuck this picture while trying not to be creepy.

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Bike shop

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Michael and man with bucket. Everyone carries things with their head here.

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Steep climb up the hill to get to Bugando hospital – see man pushing his bike carrying lots of coals for cooking.

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CUHAS headquarters – this is where I sit and work all day.

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Bugando Hospital entrance!

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Another view of how steep the hill is.

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The other view from my window. No idea what’s going on here.

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Sunset over Lake Victoria

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Birds eye view of the city.

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Playing some football!

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Another view of Lake Victoria

Sunday Funday

8 Jun

I got a day off of work! Yay!

Wanting to relax, I went to the Hotel Tilapia and spent the day by the pool and looking out over the lake with my laptop.  It was nice to have a little solitude while still being around other people in the hotel.  Here are some pictures I took of the pool and pool-side bar!

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My First Week in Tanzania

7 Jun

Well, I made it!  The flight to Dar es Salaam was long but pretty comfortable.  Unfortunately, the next day, I had an all day delay in the airport to get to Mwanza where I am working.  It was long but at least the Dar airport had Wifi! Otherwise, it would have been a very long day.

Here are some highlights (or things I found hilarious) from the first week:

1.  Watching people drive here is initially terrifying.  First, they drive on the opposite side of the road than in the US.  That in itself gives me minor heart attacks.  Secondly, the entire transportation system is like a very well executed, yet intense, game of Frogger.  In Mwanza, I have seen one stop light, which means that people have to dart across the road where there are openings like on Colfax in Denver.  This combined with the slightly insane driving of vans, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles makes it a very intense experience.  Especially if you are also dealing with remembering which side of the road the cars are coming from.  All that being said, it’s very well executed.  I have yet to see an accident or anyone hurt.  Very impressive. 

2.  Lake Victoria is so beautiful!  I have an amazing view from my hostel so every evening when I get off work, I come home to the sun setting over the lake. Pretty epic.

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Lake Victoria from the Hotel Tilapia where I got a drink and some fruit!

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3.  I have Internet! This will make me sound like an old person, but I still can’t believe that I can plug in a little USB thingy with a SIM card in it and get Internet.  It’s amazing.

4.  I’m staying at a Catholic hostel in Mwanza, and in my first week there were three weddings and receptions.  Man, do they know how to party!  It has sort of hurt my sleeping but it’s oddly comforting to hear people having fun and partying from my room.  In the last wedding, it sounded like they were wrapping it up/cleaning up and all of a sudden I hear “How am I supposed to live without you” by Michael Bolton.  MICHAEL BOLTON! They listened to the entire album before closing it down.  Hilarious.

5.  The fruit here is amazing, but I’ve only been able to eat out twice (and get fruit) because of work and needing to get back before the sun goes down.  Other than the fruit, the food is not really for me.  Lots of fish, other meat, and white rice.  Luckily, the other night I bought some peanut butter, honey, and bread.  I feel much better now.  Below is a picture of my first dinner at the hostel.  The fish was staring at me…so I made it look like I ate some and decided to do dinners on my own from there on out.  I cannot wait to eat at my hipster vegetarian restaurants when I get back.

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6.  I think the roosters here are on USA time because I’ve heard them crowing at all hours of the night.  C’mon man, let a woman get some rest.

7.  Kids here are cute and always want to talk to you.  Mainly because I am a “Mzungu” or “foreigner”.  Okay, so maybe everyone wants to talk to me because I’m white (mainly dudes and kids).  I’m a weird celebrity here.  Being a celebrity is tough, especially when there are weird stalking experiences by a “gang” of teenage girls.  As I was walking up the steep hill to the hospital for work, a group of girls on the opposite side of the road called out “Good morning!” and “How are you?” multiple times.  It’s funny because kids here say “Good morning!” to you regardless of the time of day.  Again, very cute. I replied respectfully, but apparently I had not given them adequate attention.  They proceeded to cross the street, which is not always an easy feat, and follow me the entire way to the hospital serenading me with “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and constantly saying “Good Morning!” and “How are you?”  I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be afraid. I mean, teenage girls are scary.  I used to be one.

8.  Living in close quarters with insects has been a transition.  Thank goodness for the bednet.  It’s like a cocoon of safety, although I have already gotten a couple of bites just from going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, etc. in my hostel.  Those sneaky little bastards.  Hopefully, I don’t get Dengue or Malaria, but I’m not sure what else to do about it except try to avoid them and wear bug spray as much as possible.  Image

I miss Colorado in the summer, but it’s comforting to know I’ll be heading back pretty soon!  I’m working hard and trying to suck the marrow out of the whole experience.  I’ll keep updating as much as possible!

In Health & Happiness,

Kacy