Is it me or women’s fitness magazines are increasingly looking like men’s magazines such as Maxim?. I stopped reading fitness magazines because it gave me the anxiety to look at the perfect bodies on their pages, and I can’t think of a single person that thinks, I really need to feel bad about myself today. I mean, it can’t be positive that I am incredibly fit and healthy yet somehow according to those pages I am still far away from my ideal body.
I fell in love with adventure and endurance sports because I loved the freedom of not caring about what I looked like. In fact, it was exactly that what drew me in, I will never forget my first stage race where I spent a week of running in the Sahara desert without showering because it was a self-supported race and it was designed to be raced in the wilderness.I felt years of growing up in a culture that put the value of women on their appearances than any other accomplishments washed away the dirtier I became. 10 years later, the ultra-community seems to have fallen into the same trap that I wanted so desperately to leave behind. While there are so many amazing examples of men and women that don’t give a damn about anything other than having fun and doing what their love, there is an increasing tendency on platforms such as Instagram to equate fitness with washboard abs and seemingly perfect butts. I spend on average 3 hours a day doing something physical because that is what I love, but I don’t have washboard abs and have lots of cellulite and stretch marks, and you know what, I don’t care, I don’t love it, but I don’t care because it no way impacts my lifestyle negatively.
Now, I don’t want to police women’s choices, if that is what they choose to pursue as a goal go for it, what I don’t want is the pressure for other women and especially young girls to feel that being healthy is not good enough, you also have to look a certain way. So please stop selling me your heavily photoshopped photos and starving bodies as a healthy lifestyle and instead label them as what they are, looks oriented lifestyle.
Last night Mayweather took on McGregor in a much- hyped fight. I didn’t want to watch but even if I made my intentions clear from the beginning it was received with eye rolling. Mayweather has several convictions for domestic violence, in one incident his own son called the police when he was beating the boy’s mother and Floyd’s wife yet he is reportedly got close to 300 million for the fight. Maybe I am naive but how are not more people more enraged? I think we are becoming accustomed to protesting but not following through, marching for women’s rights but not showing up to vote to make sure the people we elect to share our values, we like to think we are outraged with politicians not taking global warming seriously but continue to buy bottled water when tap water is safe to drink, say that we are not racist but call Confederate monuments part of history or think that a football team calling themselves Redskin is just fine. Even in my own house, the fight was on, I try to retreat to my room and was met with more eye rolling and was told that I was exaggerating. One particular low moment for me was watching a celebrity show up to the fight to support Floyd, that in itself wasn’t the problem, many celebrities showed up to the fight because they knew it was going to be watched world wide, this celebrity, however, received an award from a victim’s of domestic violence shelter for advocating against violence, I know because I received the same award that night, of course he didn’t show up, he sent a short video pledging his support again. I wonder how the victims in that shelter felt last night if they saw that, I know how it affected me, it made my blood boil in anger. Anger over the fact that he could accept the award and be called a hero but not accept the responsibility that entails like it was just something this particular celebrity needed to do to further his image, and I know it has to be because there is no way I could stand there in that venue and not feel deeply the pain and fear Floyd’s then 10-year-old son felt that night when he had to call the police when his dad was beating his mom with the help of one of his friend James that stood guard on the door to make sure his friend Floyd could assault his wife without being interrupted ( see his testimony in the picture below) . Victims still pay a higher price by being discriminated against, criticized for staying and the few instances that they reported they are called gold diggers while the perpetrators are celebrated and worshiped. So please tell me again how last night fight was worth watching or celebrating. Maybe this is the first time you heard this but if you knew about it and decided to watch anyway it says that as a society, we value more our right to be entertained than we value an other human being’s right to dignity.
: showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.
How wrong I was about my documentary Be Relentless, it was a dignifying tribute of my early struggles and a celebration of the woman I have become. I showed up Friday at the Downtown Independent Theater to a sold out crowd, I was so nervous before the film begun, but the warm reception quickly calmed my nerves. Brad Riley, the director, had a surprise meeting with survivors of human trafficking, it was as emotional as it was beautiful. After 40 minutes at the meet in greet, it was time for the movie. I am not going to spoil it for you; the story flowed beautifully between hardship and triumph. People in the audience waited for close to an hour after the film ended to talk to me, the common feedback is that they left the theater educated and empowered. Thanks to everybody that contributed to the making of Be Relentless, Brad Riley, Jessie Marek, Creative Visions, UN Women LA, CAST, UN Blue Heart Campaign, TV Azteca, Fiesta Americana Hotels and all the private donors.
My new documentary is finally released this weekend. I dreamed that story for years before it became a reality so why am I not excited? By now the narrative has been diluted to suit the perception of the audience, years of abuse reduced to a tabloid headline, “Former Sex Slave Shatters Guinness World Record.” My world record was meant to empower victims and educate the public that I am much more than what happen to me, somehow my story turned into a roadhouse freak show. I want to talk about the circumstances that led to the abuse, but the conversation seems to focus rather on the details of what happened. I get that is important to talk about it, after all, it was me who open up that dialogue, it was important that as many victims identified with my story as possible so they could draw strength in my story that it is possible not only to survive but also thrive. I did and interviewed this morning for the BBC Outlook, and I reached a point when I couldn’t go there anymore. I want you to know that I been in places of imaginable pain because of the abuse and I survive it and what is really remarkable is that I have no desire to stay there, locked in the pain and time in my life but will rather focus on where I am and where I am going, so if you are in a place where you can’t seem to be able to escape or move forward do know that is only temporary, I can’t tell you how long you will be there, it all depends on your personal circumstances but don’t quit. The most upsetting part of telling my personal story is the painful realization of, not only, the apathy of so many people that could have helped me but how close I came to giving up. I can recall the times easily when giving up felt like the best option, and by living large now, I am celebrating life. I hope you take comfort in my story to know that while the road might be hard and full of obstacles, the view from the top makes the journey worthwhile.
I have been frustrated lately because I am still struggling when training. I had been experiencing severe nerve pain in my neck and shoulders since the world record almost three years ago. I guess it didn’t help that I went straight into racing after the world record, I didn’t take any time off and I guess now I am paying for it. I took last year off, and this year I am training very little and focusing more on rehab and form. I kept looking at races and adventures I want to do and just led to more frustration. Lately, I tried a different approach I am letting my body dictate the length and intensity; I guess a lot how it all started. 11 years ago I just headed out for a trail run or a mountain bike because it made me happy not because I had to train for a race, at the beginning it was about finding peace and enjoying the moment and it’s exactly the opposite of what I have been doing lately, I been pushing my body too hard without giving it a break because in the past my body had been able to sustain the grueling training schedule but right now my body need a break and so does my mind. Since the new approach, my mood has improved, and I can workout more than I was able to recently simply because I am training smarter. Even on the runs that I feel great, I take the time to stop enjoy my surroundings, a little reminder that life all about the journey. I am not sure why is so hard to listen to our bodies or to the internal voice, maybe is because we are bombarded with information from so-called “experts” telling us what they think we should do, but in reality, we should spend more times listening to ourselves. After all, I know the difference between the good hurt and the bad hurt both physically and emotionally. Ask yourself this question when confronted with physical or emotional pain, “is this making me stronger or is this making me sick?” Sometimes we don’t have the option to stop a bad pain, after all, I went through a divorce and many other challenges in my life, but I made sure that during those times I was more careful than usual and I didn’t add to it, that is why I didn’t drink or dated while I was going through my divorce and that is also the reason why I haven committed to any races this year yet. Sometimes the best medicine is practicing self-care.
The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself – Steve Maraboli
“Your dreams don’t have an expiry date, take a deep breath and try again.”
It sure feels like a new beginning, the last year and a half it felt like I was catching my breath as waves kept pushing me down. I get that it’s to be expected given the fact that I undertook a difficult battle; the right to live authentically. Browsing through social media I often see a post regarding authenticity, in reality, however, I see conformity. I am usually fine at pursuing my interest, but this time, however, criticism got to me. I found myself afraid of making decisions, and when looking at races, I kept second guessing myself, this is an unusual state of mind for me; I felt paralyzed. I could have justified it to protect the ego, and I often did, by thinking out loud “maybe I have done enough” but I know deep down that this isn’t true, there are many goals that I wish to achieve. So I took a step back and tried to figure out where the doubts were coming from, some were things as financially I couldn’t afford to pursue some of them, at least not yet, but the major problem lied on emotional and physical burnout. In my search for the truth I jumped the cliff but fail to check how deep was the water, I had not practice safety, just like I do during an expedition or a difficult race, when advocating I fail to have a safety plan in check. And that is what you need when pursuing dreams, the bigger the goals, the more you will need to anticipate setbacks. Anything is possible it takes a lot of determination, grit and the ability to pick yourself up after a fall that will get you there. The most important point is to believe that is possible. Long time ago when my youngest son was in grade 3, he came home with a note saying he had spent time in detention, when I asked him what happen he told me the teacher told them they could do anything in life, that there were no limits, his best friend leaned over and told him that that was so stupid, he wanted to be liked by his friend so he said to the teacher exactly that, that that was stupid, after the teacher got mad he tried to outsmart her by saying ” if I pump my arms up and down is not like I can fly is it” and when everybody laughed he was sent to the office, after listening to him instead of getting mad, I asked him, ” have you tried yet” he looked at me and asked ” what” ” pumping your arms until you fly” he said ” that’s impossible, EVERYBODY knows that!” I smile and said. “unless you are willing to spend years pumping your arms up and down without results your claim is just a theory, just like your teacher’s is a theory so is yours” he didn’t say anything after that, all I wanted as to rescue my son from the world of reason, a little insanity is more fun, Robert Siltanen quoted,
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I went for a short run today, and I am still struggling with pain on my neck and shoulder from the world record two years ago. I took a year off racing hoping it will help heal it but it has not gotten better. I am looking for answers, and so far it only seems to be related to extreme fatigue, the world longest triathlon was hard on my body. I am attending physio and doing yoga, and my doctor seems to be very optimistic about it. I also bought a guitar to help with the stress since I can’t exercise as much I would like. I had such a great workout yesterday, my body felt strong, and I was able to push as hard as I am accustomed, have you ever trained and it feels like your insides scream? I have, I get that feeling, like a primordial scream that tells me I am alive, I get that feeling on my runs or during my swims sometimes, and I sure miss the feeling of my soul and body connected. I am learning patience, while my mind is ready for the next adventure my body still needs more time. I guess you can say that I sit at my computer looking at photos of people doing races and I feel heartbroken like I am watching pictures of an ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend. The reason why I have been absent on social media is that I love going on expeditions and I been feeling blue lately because I had to take a break. Sports is part of who I am, but every athlete goes through a period in life when the body needs care and TLC, where I am active is in advocating against violence against women it takes a toll on me emotionally, but it’s a conversation that is much needed. So I hope you don’t mind as I jump in here from time to time to rant about what keeps me up at night, good and bad. May your life take you on many adventures.
Much has changed since I last posted or rather not enough has changed. I didn’t race at all last year. Instead, I went to several high-profile conferences to speak about my personal experience as a survivor of sexual violence. At first glance, it was a huge success, I been praised for my courage and victims from all over the world thank me for giving them hope, and then I went into a deep depression and suffered a nervous breakdown. I keep thinking why I seem to make a breakthrough and then go on to experience a paralyzing setback, and the answer is that maybe I haven’t learned what I am supposed to learn about this part of my life. Let me take you back to what happen after I set the world record for the longest triathlon.
I set out to break a Guinness world record to get attention about sexual violence and human trafficking thinking the problem lied on the reluctance of talking about rape and human trafficking but the problem was not the lack of communication but rather how we communicate about this issue.
After I had spoken for the first time about my experience, there was no shortage of interviews or people that wanted to hear more about my story, to the point that feeling encouraged I shared parts that I never intended of sharing because the pain and trauma were simply more that I could handle. I kept sharing and denying my pain because I thought this was my duty to help. The more I shared, the more it seemed to open up people to discuss this issue it didn’t matter if I was left in pieces every time. Something that I notice was that while I was on stage, people listen and seemed to pay attention but after I step down from the stage is where the resistance continued. As a society, we like the idea of doing something about it but lack the desire of actually changing our behavior to make a real difference, for lack of better words I had become a symbol of an ideal, not an actual agent of changed, a prop of this cause if you must know. It took me a while to figure out that while we like the idea of being part of a movement, we lack the desire to take the steps necessary to carry the movement forward into action. Maybe social media has a lot to do with it; sharing information and letting the world know where you stand is a vital step forward but not enough if you aren’t willing to take it to the next level. Like checking labels and making sure you are not consuming products that use force labor, denying people of jobs that are dignifying, and having zero tolerance for any behavior that promotes objectification and violence towards women and children.
I also notice a trend to praise people or organizations that cater to victims of sexual violence and human trafficking, the white savior syndrome, usually a white male that witness an injustice and decided to do something about it. Doesn’t sound that bad right? The problem doesn’t lie on the desire to help; the problem lies that we spend more time and resources and maintaining these heroes that we do supporting victims.
I spoke at an event recently, I stood on stage for 15 minutes trying to educate wealthy supporters about human trafficking, and why they should care, the president of that organization took the stage after me and spoke for a full hour about the horrors he had seen and heard. I could hear the thunderous applause after the director was done speaking. While my broken bones and terrifying memories of suffering at the hand of so many drew sympathy from the crowd, it was the director the real hero in this story. I got a jacket and a water bottle with their logo and got sent home to struggle to feed two kids as a single parent and while he collected a percentage of the total amount raised that night as part of his salary. Now you see the problem? I went home and listened to some of my survivor friends and realize it wasn’t an isolated event, every single one of us is highly sought after on stage but struggled in real life finding opportunities. I would like the conversation around sexual violence to be different from now on, fewer questions about how many men have raped me and more questions regarding what can we do today to support and empower victims.
Right now I am not training or racing as much as I would like to, as we speak, every part of me would love to be immersed in training or hide at a 100-mile race but being still and feeling my discomfort is the best I can do to advocate for other victims.
We need to look at advocating for victims of sexual violence, and human trafficking beyond a sad story you hear on the news and more like a systematic problem society is facing.
Is hard to talk about passion without talking about guilt. Passion is usually something we don’t have to do, but rather, something we want to do.
Our lives after childhood is for the major part spent on things we have to do. That when guilt often appears for the first time. Remember the first time your parents told you you were to old to be running around like that anymore?
As a single mother, guilt is something I had to deal with for a long time. If I worked until late I made sure my kids got every ounce of my attention to make up for it as well as a trip to their favorite restaurant. And pursuing a passion on top of that?! that was just plain crazy.
So how did I get over feeling guilty every time I left my kids for a long run or to go to a race? My last adventure I was gone for almost 3 months and I enjoyed every bit of it.
What I did was realized that I deserved to be truly happy and that my kids and family would want that for me too. Spending some quality time pursuing something that makes you feel like a kid again, the wonderful feeling of being totally focus and absorbed on that very moment is food for your soul. One of my least favorite words is compromise, why do I have to settle for less? I want my life to be extraordinary even if that means working harder or having some struggles in the middle to accomplish what I set out to do. My family initially complains, every time, but when they see me happy, focus and spending the time we
So three months is unrealistic to most people I know, but I started with just one hour a week when my kids were little, I was already single so I used to hire a baby sitter and took piano lessons close to my house. So I never became a musician, but for one wonderful hour a week I dreamed I was.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others. Marianne Williamson
When words are both true and kind, they can change the world. ~ Buddha
I ran Tijuana’s marathon these past weekend. International Network of Hearts invited me to join them since they were the featured charity of the run. I was excited to be part of it, for training I need to run as many marathons in the next six months as I can but the most important reason was that I was looking forward to finally meeting one of my heroes. My boyfriend Kevin and I arrived the day before to a full schedule that included catching up with some of my childhood friends, picking up the race package and meetings with the entire team of my next project 25in25 where I am going to attempt to set a record of completing a long course triathlon a day for 25 days from Cancun to San Diego. In early 2014 I will be swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 128 miles and running 26.2 miles a full marathon/ day for 25 days. You are probably wondering a couple of things right now, can it be done? And/or why? As much as I love to run, I love adventure more. It’s getting tough to join the races that I want to do, they fill fast and some are by invitation only. I love that the ultrarunning scene has gone mainstream, after all that is part of being part of the social network community to share my experiences and inspire others to try new things. The disadvantages are of course is that then I am scrambling with everybody else to run races. So is time to find a new sport in the extreme adventure scene, ultratriathlons. If there is one thing that separates me from others isn’t talent or ability but my brain sees things differently. Most people gets discouraged when they see odds like one in a million chances, I think I want to be the ONE! So I quickly get to work. Right now the longest ultratriathlon race is the double deca in Monterrey Mexico, 20 times the distance of an Ironman in 20 days, or 20 in 20 days, everything about it appealed to me, especially when I heard that only one person finishes a year and very few attempt. When I heard the struggles of Alma, the director of INH I knew it was time for a new project to raise funds for her shelter and awareness about human trafficking. I open up about my history of abuse and violence, even as a survivor of human trafficking where I can’t thank God enough for having had the incredible fortune of having escaped before I had been sold. When I talked to Alma about her girls, and Marisol’s story of her incredible journey I spent many sleepless nights wondering why me? Why did I escaped and not Marisol? Our lives would have probably been parallel, I knew that I could never make sense of things, there are is no meaning behind tragedies like that, the only thing I could do was to make something positive out of it. Marisol was sold as a young girl to a man that took her to the USA, having a very sick mother she willingly follow him thinking that she was going there to work to pay for her mother’s medical bills but ended up being sold over and over again for sex as well as becoming her captors sex slave. What breaks my heart is when Marisol talks about going to prison being one of her happiest day, the day she was finally freed from the horrors of her slavery and it was the day she went to prison for a crime her captor committed. Marisol spent 17 years behind bars still deprived of her freedom but compared to the prison she had lived it was paradise. Its being two years until she finally regain her freedom fully, having her sentence reversed and declared innocent with the help of a catholic nun that advocated for her. Finally meeting her after the marathon, her first in freedom, having ran in prison to keep sane, it was incredibly powerful and symbolic for her but bitter sweet for me, I am happy she is finally free from the horror she lived but I also know that it’s difficult to escape the nightmares. My biggest pain is that even though she was a victim, and forced into that lifestyle, she has limited limitations, not because of her abilities but because of our society. The stigma will follow her forever, she will relived the shame and humiliation that sex crimes bring, sex crimes aren’t about sex, they are about taking your dignity away, trying to destroy the very core of human existence. “ You could have escape, obviously you liked it” was one of the comments she heard recently. I admire Marisol’s strength, her ability to handle everything so positive and with class. Sitting there across her I felt the closeness that comes with being able to be yourself, to be accepted and understood. I like meeting other victims, I feel less alone, yes even after all these years and my Facebook friends I still feel lonely sometimes. The loneliness that one feels when you are silenced, when you loose your voice and identity because society wants you to be somebody else. ” I know what happened to you but I don’t want to hear about it” the loneliness one might feel when coming out as gay ” I acknowledge you are but I don’t want to know anything about it” the shame that that brings, like there is something wrong with us. Marisol and I took turns telling out worse moments like we needed to purge our souls even for a second. Marisol is the strong one, I am the lucky one. Even through all my pain, I had the support of my family, that was always the source of my strength, I don’t know if I had not given up if I had been in her shoes. So doing a documentary to hopefully influence a chance is something that at least let’s me sleep a bit better a night. Compared to the difficult journey she still has ahead of her my 25 Ironmans in 25 days are a walk in the park in comparison. I will be following the trafficking route from south to north, passing through towns to empower the community, to have each one declare, not in my neighborhood, a very powerful neighborhood watch program. I have faith in humanity, I have faith that Marisol will have plenty of opportunities ahead of her, that she will be celebrated as the amazing survivor she is, a proof that goodness does succeeds against evil and that one day she would not only live an abundant life but she also finds a person that would look into her eyes and say, I am here to chase your nightmares away.