From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.2

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The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 2: “You’re The Best French Fry Ever” – #TeamExtreme Recap

Another leg down, another country we've never been to, and Kristi and I landed on the podium during The Amazing Race once more! This week's episode was able to capture a lot more of the "real" action from the race (i.e. - the action that played a major role in any team's performance). Without needing to spend as much time introducing the teams' background's and only covering 10 teams' journeys, allowed for this. However, there's still a few details to fill in about our race.

Why were you in such a hurry leaving the mat in Iceland if all the teams were on the same flight?

When Kristi and I opened our clue, it told us that we had flights reserved for that afternoon, but that if we found a more advantageous flight, we could take it. So we were in a hurry to get there to see our possibilities! When we got to the travel agency, we found a flight that would arrive about 30 minutes earlier than the original itinerary. We were likely the ONLY team who could make this flight as it left in just over 2 hours (which would mean we had to race to the airport). It would be a longer day of travel with a connection through Oslo, but an advantage is an advantage, right?

Why didn't you book the alternate flight?

Going into this race we told ourselves that if we were the only team who could get on a seemingly advantageous flight, that we SHOULD NOT take it. We learned from watching this show that it's sometimes safer to have other teams around you, especially early on. However, adrenaline (we're on the Amazing Race) and ego (we want to maintain our lead) played a role and we were VERY close to pulling the trigger. Jody came in and left, calm, cool, and collected, so we could only assume that they took the original flight. Then we realized that the airport was not the one for which I saw the sign close by, but actually 50 minutes away. (This was when I realized we had directions from the wrong airport in leg 1).

By taking the second flight, we ended up with hours to get to the airport. So, we decided to take a bus to save money. In the bus ticket office, we took off the boots given to us in Leg 1, and asked them to take them to goodwill. Hopefully they ended up there! We took the bus with Yale, Well-Strung and Indy, while other teams, with later starts, took taxis. This was the first opportunity that we had to actually talk with Trevor & Chris, since we were on different flights to Iceland.

When did you arrive in Belgium?

We landed in Amsterdam around 7 or 8 p.m. and had to take a train from Amsterdam to Antwerp. All the teams got in an unnecessary footrace to the train station to all end up, yet again, on the same train! When we arrived at the station in Antwerp, we had to find the chocolate shop. It was after 10 p.m. at this point, but we had to assume that were going to be thrust into a challenge as soon as we found the shop. So, we started running, again. Well-Strung got their first, followed by Indy, followed by Kristi and me. This is when we learned that the shop wouldn't open until 9 a.m. the next day. Time to hunker down.

Where did you sleep?

We slept on the floor of an old hotel? Not entirely sure what the building was, but we were in a large open room that had a small kitchen/bar in one corner, and one random couch in the middle. Everyone found their spot and set up camp. Amazing Race production was kind enough to provide teams with  light foam sleeping pads, but we didn't need them since we brought our own. Or so we thought...We gave Indy our sleeping pads, so they could double up, but it got really COLD overnight. Kristi and I kept adding layers until we had nothing left in our bags. Turns out inflatable sleeping pads don't hold heat well. Poor Cedric, however, didn't sleep a WINK that night. But it didn't seem to impact his performance the next day.

Kristi crushed the Roadblock, what was her strategy?

We arrived to the Sky Climb in 8th place...not where we wanted to be. Fortunately, there were 4 spots on the sky climb, so Kristi was able to go on the second ride, tying us up with the teams who arrived in 5th, 6th and 7th. Though most teams successfully completed the challenge on the first go (some of that is questionable though...), Kristi was able to get up the ladder and back down to the bottom before the ride was over. She wrapped her leg around the ladder, which helped keep her more vertical, thus making the climb faster. This enabled her to jump off, jet over to me, to read our next clue. She crushed it, passing 3 teams and putting us in 5th place, but you should have seen the bruises on the inside of her thighs!

Why did you choose to do "Old Print" and not "Diamond Glint?"

This was a very easy decision for us to make. In the description of the detours, there was an element of Diamond Glint that was very subjective: determining color and clarity. I don't think the mathematics element was actually the problem for any of the teams, but determining those values. Both of these factors changed the formula, so if you got them wrong, your answer was wrong. You'll have to ask a team who did it, but that's my guess. Old Print sounded much more straight-forward. Once we figured out that it needed to be a mirror image, we were able to move pretty quickly through it.

You left the detour in 2nd place, why did you arrive at the square in 4th?

When we got our clue leaving the printing press, we found a very nice woman who spoke flemish to translate it. Then we pulled out our "trusty" map of Antwerp and asked her where Silvius Brabo square was. We had a tourist map, which had images of historical buildings on the map. She pointed to one on the shoreline (or so I thought) and we navigated there quite smoothly, but it was the wrong building. We got hung up a little longer because we saw production equipment for post-race interviews. Eventually, we found someone who pointed us in the right direction and we made our way to the square.

What were your thoughts about the "Head-to-Head?"

For the first time in Amazing Race history, teams had to go head-to-head in a challenge. We knew signing up that the masterminds behind The Amazing Race could do anything they wanted, anytime they wanted. We were warned on the start-line that there would be twists this season, but I don't think any of us ever anticipated this. Kristi and I benefited from the head-to-head in this episode. Arriving to the square in 4th, Kristi beat Evan in the head-to-head, thus leading us to a 3rd place finish. The exciting part of the Amazing Race is that it tests racers as all-around competitors, from physicality, to grit, to intelligence, to social prowess.

The head-to-head nearly nullified our performance in all other challenges. Sure, getting there early gives you more opportunity to stay in the race, but continuing on in the race comes down to whether or not your good at the head-to-head skill. The argument can easily be made, however, that is true for any challenge you face. If you get stuck on one challenge in one moment of this race, it can be the end. Ultimately, I thought it was quite exciting to watch the Frites Race on TV. I thought it would get old after a while, but it kept me on my toes and I even knew the outcome!

Kristi's Thoughts on the Head-to-Head:

Kristi, however, felt more strongly about it. She was saying as soon as we were done, that there was only one team who would be going home that day: Goat Yoga. I was hopeful that the skill element would play more of a roll, but I wasn't the one who did the Frites Race, so I have to defer to her. Kristi asserts that if the head-to-head was in the middle or beginning of a leg that led into other challenges it would be better. That way, you would have other challenges through which you could potentially make up time. She was not a fan!

On to the Next!

Kristi and I race off to Morocco this week! We've never set foot on African soil, so we're excited to go there. Episode 3 is going to be action-packed, so hope you can tune in! 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm MT/CT on CBS!

Learning to Let Go

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It’s the last day of 2017. Though we are free to make fresh starts at any point in the year, January 1st certainly nice ring to it. I recently moved into a new home that my husband and I have been tirelessly working on over the last year – built from the ground up. This whole process involved shoving our stuff in storage for 2 years and cohabitating with my mother for the last 8 months (bless her heart for putting up with my three messy boys and me)… The whole process of packing & unpacking our belongings led me to purge A LOT of stuff. Items that had been in storage for years that I hadn’t even thought about, clothes that hung in my closet that I never wore, trinkets and gadgets collected at various events that never got used. This was the easy part. It felt good to let it all go – cleansing – allowing only the possessions that continued to serve me to find a place in my new home.

I also uncovered photos from my past, cards received after my father passed away, a wallet full of receipts from the last 2 weeks of my father’s life: spin class, hospital food, funeral dresses. These things were more difficult to say goodbye to. It seemed there was a part of me still clinging to an alternate destiny, denying the outcome of his illness. But amidst those things, I found a Christmas card that I wrote to my father 3 years ago – his last Christmas. Though at the time of writing it, I had no idea it would be. In the card, I encouraged him to do something that he always encouraged me to do: LET IT GO.

Let go of your expectations, let go of your ego, let go of what was, let go of what could be… LET IT ALL GO. Anytime I’d have a result that wasn’t favorable, a challenge with a sponsor, jealousy of another athlete’s “opportunities” this would be his advice. I used to not understand it. I couldn’t recognize that within “letting go” you could still yearn for greatness, seek improvement in your life, and achieve excellence in your field. I thought “let it go” somehow meant “giving up.” But, it does not.

Letting go is learning to live with an open heart. It’s learning to strive without attachment to the exact outcome that you want. It’s about being immersed in the moment you’re currently in, accepting all the gifts and lessons that are being offered.  When I wrote that card to my father in December 2015, I had just gotten back into a halfpipe for the first time after tearing my ACL going into the 2014 Winter Olympics. At the time of tearing my ACL, I thought my career was done, that I would never compete again, that I’d never ski to “my standard” again and therefor didn’t want to waste any time doing it. Fortunately, as the snow fell and the competition season started, my desire to be in a halfpipe and to compete again took over. That contest in Copper was liberating. I finally understood what my father was telling me all these years. By letting go of all the bull, I was able to just enjoy skiing. I didn’t pressure myself to perform at any level, just invited myself, my soul, and my body to ski a halfpipe and express what felt true.

For my father, the treatments for Leukemia were taking a toll. A toll that we thought he would persevere through, a toll that we assumed had an end that didn’t involve the end of his life. He had so much edema in his body that wearing shoes (let alone ski boots) would cause immense pain and rupturing of surface tissue. For those of you who don’t know, my father is the one who taught me how to ski. He LOVED skiing. As far as sports go, this was his favorite. And in the winter of 2015, he didn’t think he’d be able to go.

So, we bought him the gift of a sit-ski lesson through the National Ability Center at PCMR. We encouraged him to let go of how he used to ski, of what his body used to be able to do, and we got him on snow. Without letting go in that moment, this experience wouldn’t have happened. My sister and I wouldn’t have that memorable, final run with my father. Lucky for us, he was willing.

 

In 2017, I’ve been reminded of this lesson more than once, though I didn’t realize it until I found that card. The hidden gifts that the universe has in store for us began to appear this year. A perfect example of this was the opportunity to compete on The Amazing Race. This was a full-circle gift returned from not getting my “desired” outcome in other situations.

In 2014, I applied to be on the show Survivor. I made it quite far in the casting process, but ultimately, they decided I wasn’t a fit for the show and I wasn’t invited out to finals casting in LA. The casting director told me that maybe I’d be a fit for another season or another show, but I was certain she was just letting me down softly. I was bummed, but I let it go. Instead, I planned a solo mountain bike road trip on which I met my now husband.

Fast forward three years. My husband and I built our relationship around adventure and in our wedding vows agreed to be one another’s adventure partners for life. When I got an unexpected invite to go on a mountain bike sailing trip in Iceland, it was met with great resistance by Chris. It was a financial burden and a trip that would use up precious vacation time that I couldn’t later use for an adventure with Chris. This was a major point of contention for us. I felt like I was missing out on a great opportunity by saying no, Chris was convinced that there would always be opportunities coming my way. So, I let it go.

Instead of Iceland, we planned an epic trip for some bikepacking in Alaska – a trip that both of us could experience. Another couple months later, on a random Friday evening in July, merely 6 days before we were supposed to leave for AK, I got a text message asking about my interest in competing on The Amazing Race. *($(*^%(@$&*@&$*#&(*$%&*?!?!?!?!? Seriously? Seriously. To make matters even more interesting, the day I received that text was the day that I would have been on a plane to Iceland had I said yes to the biking/sailing trip. Had I held on to my belief that Iceland was going to be the last and best and biggest and greatest adventure that I’d ever have the opportunity to experience, had I continued to dig my heels in with my husband, had I not let go, I wouldn’t have even seen that text until it was too late.

What are you cheating yourself of because you just couldn’t let something go? By focusing on what “should have been” we’re denying ourselves the beauty of this moment. By staring at a closed door, we’re feeling to see the three others that just opened in front of us.

I’m sure, like me, at lot has happened for you in this past year. There are always lessons to learn and carry forward, but there is also a lot to let go. I invite you to let go of what didn’t go your way in 2017, hold onto everything that went well, and carry that into the new year. Be present and patient with your journey – there are often gifts hiding that you cannot yet see.

2018 mantra: come what may.

Happy New Year, everyone! As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. All the best in 2018!

Social Media - The True Cost & Value

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Before I get into this, I want to say something. YOU ARE LOVED. I know sometimes it may not feel that way, but it is true. Not only are you loved, but you have immense value to this world. And, you’re really cool. Seriously.

7 weeks. I went 7 weeks without a single Instagram post. Hardly anything on Facebook over the same amount of time. Twitter? Forget it. I’ve been opening my Instagram for the last few weeks, somewhat scrolling through my feed, blankly staring at my profile, pondering ‘what will I post, when will I post, if I post? What am I doing right now that is interesting, that people will like?’ Because, honestly, my desk job is quite boring (as far as Instagram is concerned). And I haven’t wanted to do much since I got back from the-trip-that-I-can’t-tell-you-about-for-a-few-more-months…I’ve been inside mostly. Or working on the house that my husband and I are building and helping my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And working. And trying to get my website into a functional state, and trying to write my bio to appropriately reflect where I am (who I am?) at this stage in my life. And none of it is interesting in photographical form.  I could post an old photo, but what’s the point of that? That’s simply me trying to sell you on some part of me, which is only A PART of me, but not who I wholly am. But who am I wholly? Who are you? And who cares? I do.

The value of social media is something I’ve always debated. There is value and power there, but is it a value and a power that aligns with what I want in life? Does is support me and my loved ones in a compelling way? As I’ve taken a step back from social media, its “importance” has become more vivid. It is folded into our daily lives in a truly incomprehensible way. It is seemingly necessary. But why? It also became apparent, in my 30 days without a phone, that social media’s primary purpose is selling other people on something. Yes, even you are trying to sell someone on something. Yes, even me. If you’re not selling something, whether it be a product, an opinion, or a value, your post feels meaningless. But is it? At the very least, it doesn’t feel impactful. And if it isn’t impactful, who’s liking it?

If people will only “like” the most interesting and exciting parts of our lives, if we are constantly filtering our posts to show only those aspects of our lives, we are reinforcing some TERRIBLE patterns. We are reinforcing that we are only valuable if we are interesting, if we are fighting for some just cause, if we are daring, and bold, and beautiful, and edgily strong, and outspoken, and kind. But fuck that. WE ARE ALL VALUABLE. Even when the most interesting thing you do all day is add cream to your god damn coffee, YOU ARE VALUABLE. Hell, maybe you don’t even drink coffee. Guess what? STILL VALUABLE!

I’ve heard the argument that social media is a great way to connect people, to spread the word about (ahem, sell) a great cause, to make people aware of differing perspectives, to tear down barriers, to share, because as you know, there’s strength in numbers. But I’m just not so sure. After a month without a phone, I realized that there is more power in connecting with people around you. There is more power in connecting with a stranger, because they, most likely, will have a different perspective than you; at least more so than what shows up in your Facebook feed comprised of your friends or however their algorithm decides to show you information…

But I have returned. And why? I guess now I’m ironically trying to sell you on the perils of social media by using social media...such a hypocrite. Sadly, one of the first substantial things that I learned since returning to social media, is that one of my dear friends took her own life. I knew she was fighting an inner battle, had been through some rough patches, but from everything I saw on social media, she was winning that battle. Smiles, horses, dogs, bikes, friends, travels. These were the highlights in her reel. And no matter how many likes she got on these posts, no matter how many words of support and encouragement and love, it wasn’t enough. Suicide happened before the advent of social media, but the dichotomy that exists between what is inside and what is outside is far more transparent now. Not to mention there are scholarly articles written about the link between extended social media use and depression. Even more so than simply time spent online. We seem to be poisoning ourselves.

So, if there is one thing that I’m trying to sell, that I want to sell, it is this: please think about how you connect with people. Think about who you’re connecting with and how, think about the time you spend on social media and the true value behind the interactions you’re having, think about how you feel when scrolling through your feed. Does it bring you immense joy? Okay, then proceed. Does it make you feel down about where you are in life? Do feelings of envy or jealousy arise? Does it happen after seeing a specific person’s posts or when looking at most of your feed? Do you get stressed out thinking about what photo to “share?” Then maybe some changes are needed. Please, I beg you, unfollow someone if you experience negative feelings every time you see their posts. Even if they’re family, or a supposed close friend. If you want to punch in me in the face after you see my posts, then please, unfollow me! It’s not worth it.

Beyond how social media makes you feel, ask yourself how you feel in your own life, with your real friends who you see in physical form. Perhaps you don’t spend much time socializing with people in person. How does that make you feel? Content and happy? Excellent. Lonely and sad? Maybe this is an area that needs some work. Reach out to someone. Express how you’re feeling. Ask for someone’s time. We are all busy, but we all have time for a friend in need. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that we’re all in this juggling match called life, trying not to drop any balls, and prioritizing based on fragments of information. We don’t have the whole picture. Until someone says, ‘I’m feeling down and could really use some quality time with you,’ it may not make the cut. And instead of putting the onus on the hurting, try to reach out to someone today. A friend whom you may not have spoken to in a while. Let them know they’re loved. In Tricia’s words “be kind.”

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

― Mother Teresa 

 

Conquering Mountains - SheLift Retreat Aspen

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Self-acceptance and body confidence is something with which most women struggle. Popular media bombards us with images of “perfect bodies” and, more recently showcases the perfectly smooth and proportioned “full-figured” body. Yet, the polarity of this spectrum neglects most of the population. To say that these images convey an inaccurate picture of what our real bodies look like, would be a massive understatement. And people with physical differences, for example, missing limbs or bones, are becoming more alienated than ever.

Sarah Herron was among them. Born missing the lower half of her left arm, she struggled to find anyone she could relate to. Wanting to find love, Sarah signed up to become a bachelorette on ABC’s The Bachelor in 2013. Though she didn’t find love on the show, she realized, that before all else, she needed to love herself. Over the course of several years, Sarah started to push her physical limits through skiing and hiking. Sarah states, “I soon realized that with each new run I came down faster and better, my confidence skyrocketed. This confidence translated into a new-found self-acceptance that didn’t come from anyone else’s approval or acceptance of me, it was 100% self-made.” So, after hiking the 782 vertical feet to the top of Highland Bowl with skis on her back, she decided she needed to share the power of this experience with others. Shortly thereafter, SheLift was born.

Our Mission

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  ― E.E. Cummings

SheLift’s mission is to help young women and girls realize their own worth and to generate self-compassion through outdoor adventure, so they can boldly step into the world as their authentic selves. This mission is built around four foundational concepts. First, to provide a safe supportive environment for girls to connect with peers facing similar life obstacles. Second, to motivate one another to try things that take us out of our comfort zones to grow and overcome personal insecurities. Third, to bridge the gap between girls and influential mentors who can change their lives. And finally, to create a more accepting society that inspires young women to live authentically and be proud of their bodies.

The Retreat

On March 18, 2017, a group of seven women stepped onto the tarmac in Aspen, Colorado for the first time. Near strangers, brought together by their physical differences and united by Sarah Herron’s courageous vision to challenge the status quo, would partake in the inaugural SheLift Retreat. For four days, they would connect, reveal their deepest secrets and greatest insecurities, and conquer personal mountains by taking on the challenge of learning to ski or snowboard. 

Upon arrival in Aspen, the SheLift ladies ventured to the Strafe Outerwear storefront at Highland Mountain to hand-select their ski clothes for the weekend. This all expense-paid trip, was designed to remove any barriers to participation including the financial burden of getting all the gear. Strafe is “inspired by a dedication to living life in the mountains” and their vision fits hand-in-hand with that of SheLift. They were generous in donating their top-of-the-line Cloud Nine Jacket and Pant to each of the women.

As for skis, Icelantic Skis’ founder Ben Anderson, graced the group with his presence, sharing the company’s vision. “The Icelantic community is an inclusive gathering of those seeking connection, exploration and innovation in all aspects of their lives.” With that in mind, they equipped SheLift with a quiver of Maiden 101 skis with custom graphics, so that this experience could be shared for years to come.

On The Hill

“We don't know who we are until we see what we can do.” ― Martha Grimes 

When we face challenges, we often surprise ourselves. So much of our fear and doubt is self-created because of things we do not understand. Once we take on learning a new skill and realize that it was within our abilities, it opens-up a world of possibilities. If this is possible, then what else can I do? By giving these young women the opportunity to overcome the challenge of learning to ski, we open them up to the power within themselves. A force that cannot be stopped.

By partnering with Challenge Aspen, SheLift paired each girl with an instructor of her own, dedicated to her unique needs and learning style. The staff was hands-on in taking each girl through a steady progression. Starting on one ski, feeling how it glides and moves across the snow, learning where the edges are and moving on from there. By the end of day two, every girl had progressed to riding the chair lift and descending a full run, but that’s not to say it was without difficulties.

Every girl crashed at some point during their experience. For Kimberlee Johnson, who lost the lower part of her right leg as infant, being on skis required the use outriggers and the learning curve was slightly harsher, but her perseverance was astounding. Or Catherine McCain, who took a big hit on day two, despite a rapid learning curve her first day was reminded that not only are we capable of more than we often realize, we’re also a lot more resilient.

The Revelations

 “If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.”  ― Jiddu Krishnamurti

When the girls arrived in Aspen, they didn’t know what they were getting into, but they certainly had expectations about the experience. Perhaps they wanted to rid themselves of self-doubt, shame, or body-image issues or perhaps they simply wanted to learn how to ski. Undeniably, they were looking for change. What likely surprised them all, was that this retreat wasn’t so much about changing who they were, but realizing who they already are and embracing it.

Though this retreat was built around skiing, most of the connection happened at the house over home-made dinners and fireside snacks, as the ladies reflected on their day. To be introduced to one another in an all-accepting space allowed for instant bonding. Conversations flowed effortlessly from pop-culture and body-image, to how to cut vegetables or curl your hair with one hand. Witnessing the growth and transformation of these women in an environment that simply encouraged them to try new things, without fear of judgement or worry of failure, was awe-inspiring. As Kim Jozefiak reflected, “The retreat encouraged me to live authentically, be kinder to myself, and not be afraid to share my story.”

As the week progressed, not one woman in the house had spoken without tears in their eyes – mentors, Sarah Herron & myself, included. Hearts opened, and the most confident seeming among the group began to shed layers to reveal that even they have self-doubts. Sarah prompted conversations to get each girl to think about what makes her feel the most confident. For some, like Alexis Graham, it was perfecting the art of makeup, for others like Lillian Martinez, it was going hiking. The SheLift retreat was a reminder to do what makes us feel most alive, regardless of what societal or familial expectations may be.

What’s Next

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”  ― Brené BrownDaring Greatly

Despite feeling separated because of their differences at home, their differences were the one thing that brought them together in Aspen. In the end, these women were united by their physical differences and learned that underneath it all, we’re all seeking the same thing: a sense of belonging, love, and acceptance. Michelle Polanic shares that “this retreat taught me that I am worthy of love, beautiful inward and outward, and that I can move mountains.”

We are not who others say we are. We are not our bodies, nor our minds. We are not made simply to live and to die, but instead, to give and receive love. As SheLift rolls into its second year as an organization, these 7 women will become foundational to our future efforts. Going back to their homes, across the expanse of North America, they will become pillars of support for younger women facing similar challenges. The grass-roots initiatives of SheLift will be integral for the continuation of our efforts and are at the core of changing the world for the better. We want more young women and girls to feel as Chris DeLeon does; “I now have a new found confidence, a new passion for snowboarding, and a group of lifelong friends that I can depend on to continue to push me to grow and encourage me to love myself everyday.”

Want to empower young women and girls to conquer their personal mountains? Click here to donate or share this link and spread the word! To read about our inaugural retreat attendees and their experiences, click here.

“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” ― Heath L. Buckmaster

  teeki

Death and Decision Making

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20160220_112639-01 Death is an inevitable part of life but can work its way in at unpredictable times, knocking you down to your knees, taking your breath away. Yet everyday we see athletes pushing the limits and breaking records in outdoor and action sports. Taking risks and defying death - until they're not. What compels them to continue?

Facing Death

On April 29th, 2015, my father passed away. I was by his side in his final weeks, days, hours, and breaths. Details of his death circle around my mind daily. His frail skeleton of a frame, sunken eyes, transparent skin, were all signs that death was near, yet life remained pulsing through his veins. He fought so hard to stay alive, fought through pain and discomfort, so that his physical being could remain by our family's side for moments longer. He cherished his life.

I was the last person to see and speak to my father in his wholly right mind before he got sepsis, erasing the possibility of stepping foot outside a hospital again. As he laid there, emaciated from days without food and so severely dehydrated that nurses couldn't get an IV into his vein, I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he was scared. "Yes," he paused, "that's the first time anyone has asked me that." Of course he's scared, you idiot, I thought to myself, even though he never showed it. 

This encounter made me acutely aware of how shy we are about death, and how many of us live in denial of its reality. After his starting treatment for Leukemia in 2010, none of us ever talked about the possibility of my dad not making it. Nearly five years elapsed, as if talking about death would somehow manifest it. I later learned that my father was also scared on mountain peaks, yet again, despite all my time with him up there, I never knew.

Not Afraid? Or In Denial?

I know a few skiers who claim they're not afraid of death, but I am. Partly, I'm afraid of what dying would mean for my future (or lack thereof), but moreover, I fear how my death would impact those I love. I don't want them to hurt because of me. I don't want that deep inescapable ache in their hearts to be because I died. Missing someone who has died is among the worst feelings on this earth. Nothing can be done to remedy it. It's just a piece of your heart, frozen in time, constantly weighing your chest down. You'll never get to see that person in their physical form again so you hope and pray that your memories of them will suffice to carry you through your darkest days.

My vigil and my final words to Sarah.

In the last year, two prominent women in the snowsports industry lost their lives in avalanches. Both while filming. I don't know what exactly transpired to lead to such dire outcomes; I wasn't there. It's common to place judgments from afar about what decision-making took place, but it's unfair. We weren't part of the conversation. The deaths of Matilda Rappaport and Estelle Balet hit close to home for me. Along with Liz Daley's and Sarah Burke's deaths in recent years, these women represent me. We fall into the same demographic. These accidents happened to them and it could easily have been me. It just wasn't.

We like to think that we can keep ourselves safe by always making the right decisions. But we all know that we can't evade death forever. Even in my dad's case, my family replayed the tapes so many times trying to figure out where things went wrong. It's easy to look back and point fingers because, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. In the scenario of backcountry skiing, these moments of decision making seem to be a bit more concrete. But are they?

Why Do We Continue to Take Risks?

Jen Hudak jumping a cliff at Rocky Point at Alta, UtahSince stepping away from halfpipe competition, I've been spending more and more time in the backcountry. An ironic result of not being willing to risk my body in a halfpipe any longer, I now spend time in an even more life-threatening environment. Risk assessment is something I've become quite privy to, but awareness and good decision making only keep us so safe. It seems that not a month goes by that our community doesn't hear about another person who lost their life to the mountains, most of them in avalanches.

I've struggled to transition away from my life as a professional skier. The dichotomy between feeling there is untapped athletic potential running through my veins and sensing there is more to life than reaching that potential, keeps me at war with myself. Is there more to lose than to gain? Yet, even as I relinquish professional pursuits, I'm still a skier, through-and-through.

Time in snow-covered mountains makes me forget my troubles, at least temporarily; it helps me make sense of my thoughts and process my emotions. I find myself in a meditative, trance-like state as I work my way up long skin tracks while I feel, dissect, process, and reflect. As I drop into an untouched slope of powder, outrun my sluff, or navigate steep terrain I feel exhilarated, elated, but even more so, I feel inseparable from earth and life force itself. I think to myself, with my arms outstretched and smiling face looking up to the sun, "this is what it's all about." My happiness, sanity and sense of self depend upon time spent in the mountains. But it's not always safe.

Measuring Real Risk

Over the last ten winters, an average of 27 people/year died in an avalanche in the United States. It's impossible to say what percentage that is because we have no way of counting backcountry travelers accurately. But 27 isn't a huge number. From 2002-2012, an average of 41.2 people died skiing or snowboarding on a resort. This is out of 54 million skier visits in the 2012 winter, which equals a .000076% chance of dying. Car accident fatalities however, totaled 32,719 in 2013, equal to 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people. A .0103% chance of dying in a car accident. If you ski, that means your chance of dying in a car accident is 135 times greater than dying on a ski resort. And no one seems too concerned about those odds... It's if driving a car is a "necessary" risk and skiing in the backcountry is not.

Our perspectives on life verse death and risk verse reward are personal. There is no one-answer-fits-all to the question, "why do these athletes continue to take such dramatic risk?" In the end, I suppose I'm not trying to answer that question but to ask another: who will your death affect? I think about this constantly. For me, it's my mother, husband, sister, brother-in-law and niece. It's helped me draw some distinct lines about what risks I am willing to take. I think about my family before I go into the mountains every morning. I take risks, but not unnecessary ones, I avoid avalanche terrain on dangerous days, I wait for a stable snowpack to ski. But accidents can happen.

Life is short and our time should be spent in a way that fulfills us, brings us joy and allows our inner child to live fully. If living daringly on the edge is the only way for you, please be honest with yourself about what there is to gain, but also to lose. Discuss it with your loved ones. We will never escape death, and so, we must appreciate life - respect it, treat it with care, and explore our potential.

That's all for now, there's a conversation I need to have.

MM Rapaport Hargin Foundation & Sarah Burke Foundation:

"We want to inspire and support skiers, entrepreneurs and others to pursue their passions. We strive to improve gender equality both within and outside of skiing, and increase safety on the mountain." To support the MM Rapaport Hargin foundation, click here.

"The Sarah Burke Foundation is committed to the altruistic ideals embodied by Sarah’s life and her actions. The foundation will preserve Sarah’s goodwill and her actions, by supporting and inspiring current and future generations. All support will allow us to carry on Sarah’s spirit and legacy by supporting others in sport." To support the Sarah Burke Foundation, click here.

References: 
  1. Colorado Avalanche Information Center, US Avalanche Accident reports,<http://avalanche.state.co.us/accidents/statistics-and-reporting/>, Feb 15, 2017.
  2. "General Statistics." Fatality Facts. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview/2013>.
  3. "Odds of Dying." Injury Facts: NSC.org. 21 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts-odds-of-dying.aspx>.

Finding Purpose In The Little Things

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In 1955 a young girl named Susie Williams asked her friend Billie Jean King to play tennis. Billie responded, "what's tennis?" 17 years later, Billie Jean King championed the effort to get Title IX approved so that women in an educational institution could have equal opportunities to play sports; a year later, she beat Bobby Riggs in the infamous tennis match dubbed "The Battle of The Sexes;" and a year after that, Billie founded the Women's Sports Foundation. Billie had purpose. Billie Jean King

Living on Purpose

Fall used to be my favorite season.  It's a transitional time that used to represent all my hopes and dreams and now just represents all my short-comings. Maybe that's a little harsh, but it's how I feel. Over the last year I've struggled to make the transition away from life as a professional athlete. I miss my skiing career. I miss doing something that I feel I was born to do, I miss challenging myself, pushing the limits, living my purpose and exploring my potential. I miss it. All of it.

My insides ache for flexibility that once defined my daily existence. It aches to live a life that I was meant to be living, to live my PURPOSE. In attempt to fill that void that skiing so adequately filled, I started taking on a million small projects. I've been attempting to add more purpose to my life. So, I've been mentoring young girls in mountain biking, sitting on the board of another non-profit, fundraising for a third non-profit, finishing my college education, getting a "big-kid" job in an office from 9-5, racing professionally in a sport other than skiing, taking on freelance writing assignments, and helping my husband start a custom teardrop trailer company. My days have become so "full" of intention and purpose that they leave me depleted.

How Did I Get Here?

When my dad died, I reflected a lot on the quality of life that he lived. The delicate balance that he struck between work and play. My dad was brilliant, ahead of his times. Got his master's degree from MIT in one year, taught computer science at Yale for 32 years, and wrote a progressive computer programming language. My mom is brilliant in her own right. Valedictorian, got a perfect score on her SATs, and went to Yale School of Management for her master's degree. Oh, and don't forget about my sister, she was no slouch either. She gave the class-address at her high-school graduation, got a PhD in clinical psychology and now helps kids and families live better lives.

You see, when I was skiing, I felt okay being so different from the rest of my family, because I was making a difference in the world. I had a purpose! But now that I've made the attempt to "transition" out of it, I'm confronted with the reality that at 30 years old I'm supposed to start over at an entry-level job while I juggle trying to finish my bachelor's degree and maintain my 3.8 gpa, while still living a life of PURPOSE by making a difference in the lives of others. It's a heavy burden to carry.

Finding Purpose

For some reason I've felt that I'm only worth what I'm contributing. That at the end of the day, if I'm not making a massive difference to someone somewhere, then I have no value. The little things don't ever feel like enough.

I began this post with a story about Billie Jean King, but the story was really about the young girl who first asked her to play tennis. The world doesn't know Susie William's name in the way it know's Billie's. Yet, without Susie, Billie never would have found the sport of tennis, become the first female athlete to earn a six-figure income, broken more glass ceilings than we can count, and created one of the most influential non-profit organizations for female empowerment: The Women's Sports Foundation.

Susie was 11 years old when she asked Billie to play. She wasn't overanalyzing her actions or trying to force her life's purpose out into the world. She was simply following her heart, doing something she loved and sharing it with someone else. This action had a powerful ripple effect.

I've spent the last year trying to leverage this next phase of my life to make a massive difference in the world, but perhaps that's not my role. We can't all be the Elon Musks, Billie Jean Kings or Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. But we can help them flourish. It takes all types of people to make this world go round.

As I continue navigating this transition, I'll be mindful of how my small actions may have unforeseeable effects. I'll feel good about doing what I can and stop worrying about whether it's enough.

I always love to hear your thoughts! Let me know where you find purpose in your life and how it has changed for you over the years!

7 Tips for Making Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

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Happy New Year! New Year's Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. I don't know about you, but 2015 took its toll on me; my lifestyle changed dramatically, grief and depression initiated some bad diet choices that eventually became habits (excessive sweets, lots of cheese and more fried foods than I'd care to admit). My strong-willed days of working out for 4+ hours a day and following the WHOLE30 Program seem long behind me, buried with my hard-focused goal of becoming an Olympian. But, I've sacrificed too many of my good habits, and I refuse to let my rough past year defeat me. Thank God for the New Year.I am welcoming 2016 with open arms.

Last year was a roller-coaster of a ride for me and though I don't doubt that 2016 will have its fair share of challenges, I'm feeling very optimistic about the year ahead. In the past, I haven't been the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions because I was consistently motivated and didn't need a kick-in-the-butt to get me going. This year, that's not the case, but my years of goal-setting for skiing have helped me strategize how to become the best version of myself in 2016.

So on that note, here are my 7 tips for making your new year's resolutions stick!

#1: Focus On the "WHY"

This may sound obvious, but if we set a goal or a resolution about something that we don't truly value, our motivation won't help us push through the sacrifices in order to attain it. Do you really want a rock-hard body and a 6-pack, or do you want to wake up feeling energized and strong? Dial-in on the WHY behind what you want (i.e- I want a rock-hard body so that I feel good about in my body) and begin focusing on the latter part of the statement- feeling good in your body. Sure, weight-loss and dieting goals are one of the most common to set, studies show 66% of people set fitness goals for the new year, but is that really what you're after? Maybe adding some yoga or meditation into your day, a little extra time in nature, or a 30 minute walk with your dog several days of the week will reconnect you with your body in a way that allows you to not only feel good about it but also in it.

Walking Lunges: Stand with dumbbells grasped to sides or a barbell on your shoulders. Step forward with first leg. Land on heel then forefoot. Lower body by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Stand on forward leg with assistance of rear leg. Lunge forward with opposite leg. Repeat by alternating lunge with opposite legs.

#2: Be Specific

Me and my sister took our dad to the National Ability Center to sit-ski on Christmas Day 2014. We had no idea it would be our last Christmas together.

If we aren't specific about what we are trying to achieve, it's impossible to gauge our progress. If we can't gauge our progress, it's easy to lose motivation. And if we lose motivation... well, you can see where I'm going with this. You want to lose weight? Great, how much and in what time frame? You want to improve your finances? In what ways? Reduce your debt? By how much and by when? One of my resolutions this year is to "be a better citizen." If I left it at that, I'm not sure I'd do much more than loan sugar to my neighbor when he or she should ask. So, I've broken it down: once a month I will give back to my community in some way. There are lots of options here, but some things on my agenda for this winter are to volunteer with the National Ability Center and to organize an event with SheJumps.org. I'm using the next two weeks to build out that plan in month-by-month detail.

#3: Be Realistic

Yes, I want to improve my diet, cut my body fat percentage, and lose a little bit of weight. Yes, I've followed strict plans in the past, but my life situation is different now. If I say that I'm going to start eating paleo again and plan to workout two hours a day, 5 days a week, I'm just setting myself up for failure. So instead, I'm cutting any added sugar on days that start with "S" and eating real food breakfasts 5 days a week. You may think this is backwards, but for me, it's realistic. During the work week I have less time and more stress. Food is my drug of choice, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm currently eating added sugars of some kind everyday. Two days is a great place to start. It provides a foundation from which I can begin implementing better choices over time. Also, I'm less likely to eat out during the week, so I'll be exposed to less temptation- the weekends are when the temptations really strike.

#4: Pair Something You LOVE With Your Resolution

One of my favorite ways to pass time on a road-trip is the Freakonomics podcast. The podcast came to be following the great success of the book by economist, Steven Levitt and writer, Steven Dubner. One of the more compelling casts that I listened to this year was titled "When Willpower Isn't Enough." In it, Katherine Milkman (PhD in Computer Science and Business) presents her theory of "temptation bundling." She proposes that if you pair two things, like your new year's resolution (something you should do, but don't entirely want to do), with something you really enjoy, but shouldn't be doing (like watching TV), then you'll be more likely to stick with your resolution. For me, this means pairing foam-rolling and stretching with an episode of Homeland. (Note: If you value your time, don't start watching this series! It's so addictive!) The key is that you must make a rule that you can ONLY do or have the thing you like, if you're doing what you've resolved to do. So, are there two things that you'd be able to pair together to give this method a shot?

#5: Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

I have twice signed up for Deepak Chopra's and Oprah Winfrey's 21-day Meditation Challenge only to make it part way through day 2 before dropping out. I would see the daily emails containing links to the20110302_J_Hudak_037 day's meditation and would convince myself that I'd just start a few days later where I had left off. In fact, I'm pretty sure I still have all the emails, unopened in my inbox... The main reason for this failure wasn't lack of time or lack of desire it was my failure to acknowledge my surroundings. This includes people, spaces, animals and objects. There was a shy part of me that wanted to try to meditate in private, to secretly sneak away from my fiancee so that I could meditate, without needing to explain why I wanted to start this practice. So, I woke up before him to meditate on the first day of the challenge, sat down on my couch and pressed play. It wasn't 5 minutes before my dogs were disrupting me because they needed breakfast, and by the time they were fed, my fiancee was awake. Then I felt embarrassed to say I needed some time to finish my morning meditation. The reality is that Chris would be entirely supportive if I had clued him and would probably have helped me find 20 quite minutes a day for 21 days... So, what is it in your surroundings that may be getting in your way? Are you able to turn that hindrance into an asset?

#6: Write It Down, Type It Up, Print It Out & HANG IT UP!

When I was competing full time and trying to be the best in the world at a sport that involved a significant amount of risk, I had to push beyond my comfort levels A LOT! It wasn't easy. If I had

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 28: UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session at the Sheraton Rio Hotel on July 28, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

relied solely upon myself and was not accountable to anyone else, I would never have become a 2 time world champion or X-Games gold medalist. Every single goal was written down. Every big goal was broken down into smaller goals, and each of those goals was WRITTEN DOWN! I shared them with my coach, Elana Chase, and she kept me accountable for my actions. This is probably one place where my over-developed sense of responsibility has served me quite well, and yours can too. I understand, you probably don't have a coach or trainer by your side when that ice cream craving strikes, but if you clue your family and friends in, they can keep you in check. (Just don't get mad at them when they actually do try to keep you line!) Another trick I've used in the past is posting an image of what I'm striving for near a source of temptation. You know the saying "out of site, out of mind?" Well, these images make sure that your goals are not forgotten, whether they be an image of Ronda Rousey on your fridge, or a picture of the new car your saving for tied around your credit card.

#7: "Fresh-Start Effect"

Another interesting tidbit that I learned from my Freakonomics friends is the notion of a "fresh-start effect." This phenomenon describes an aspect of the human psyche which keeps a tally of events and files them away into segments of time. Thus, on January 1st, we are able to reflect on our lives in great perspective, write-off the happenings of the previous year, and move forward into the next. The key takeaway here is that we can create these time periods at any point. Every day is the start of a new 365-day cycle: the first of the month, the start of a new season, or following a birthday. If you aren't quite ready to make a new year's resolution, don't force it. Keep your eye other opportunities for a fresh start and move forward when aspiration is it's strongest. You don't have to wait for the next January 1st.

Please share your thoughts on what helps you stick to new year's resolutions in the comment section below! You'll be entered to win a POC Auric helmet and an Under Armour jacket of your choice! I'll select the winner next Monday night, January 11, 2016 at 6 pm MST.