Birthday Hike, Darcy Comes Too

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I turned 21 on July 18th. I sort of thought I would be more emotional. I had a serious existential crisis when I turned 20, but 21 just feels good (maybe it’s the bourbon).

In fact, it was one of the BEST birthdays I have ever had. This year my birthday was on a Tuesday which meant my family celebrated the weekend after (so everyone would be off from work).

I didn’t mind– I was stoked my birthday was in the middle of the week because my favorite hike, Old Rag, is known to be PACKED on the weekend. I planned to make the venture alone, but my older sister Darcy had the day off so she came too :)!

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Jim Will Always Come Too

James Bradley, June 19, 1960 – May 14, 2017

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner

Jim Bradley didn’t believe that the people he trained needed to become strong, he believed that they were already strong and they could grow stronger.

Jim looked at me in June of 2015, a time when few people believed I had any strength at all, and he definitely believed I was already strong.

If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today. I was 93 pounds at 5-foot-10 and eating 400 calories a day.

I wanted to recover and I wanted to do it myself, but every specialist I met said that I was incapable, without even speaking to me. They said I needed to  be sent to an inpatient facility three hours away from my family and be confined to a hospital bed with a feeding tube down my throat.

Jim did speak to me. He asked me what I wanted to accomplish and what my goals were.

I said  I wanted to be healthier, stronger and faster.

That was all he needed to know. I wanted to achieve something and he could help me do it. I had a deep hunger and he had a deep gladness that could meet it.

No frantic emotion, no uncertainty and absolutely no fear.

We met twice a week and he carefully crafted a plan for me to follow the rest of the week. Believe me, he did not make it easy. He expected that I do exactly what he asked.

He said I would need to eat 3,000 calories a day, eat before AND after my workouts, get medical clearance, and not run until my weight was stable. I was mortified. Those were the things that I feared most.

I agreed, though, and you bet I followed through. All I needed was someone to say, “you can do this and this is how.”

He didn’t go easy on me in the gym either. Those workouts were KILLER. We never did the same thing twice. It was always challenging, always fun and always what I needed.

When I was ready to go back to college, leaving Jim was the most difficult part. Jim was there for me at every step, though — always checking in on me, always sending me new routines, and always available to answer my questions… even the ridiculous ones: “Should I work out with strep throat?” (Answer: NO!).

Jim never showed the tiniest bit of doubt in my abilities and I responded by never giving him a reason to. We worked together for two years. We both always showed up and we both always gave 110 percent.

What’s incredible about his dedication is that I wasn’t the only one.

That same level of care and belief extended to all the people he trained and coached – and there were so many.

When someone puts belief in your abilities, it makes you believe in yourself – and when you believe in yourself, there are no limits to what you’re capable of.

Jim knew that. It’s what made him an extraordinary trainer. It’s what made him an extraordinary father, partner, friend, guide, teacher, coach and mentor. It’s what made him an extraordinary man.

I am devastated by his passing. I will miss so much: the laughs, the jokes, the stories, the advice, the chats, and the teamwork. I will miss seeing his truck at the gym, I will miss his voice pushing me through a workout (though, I promise it will be in my mind forever). I will miss him boxing with me, I will miss the “games” we played, I will miss our fist bump after each workout.

He was much more than a trainer. He was my friend, mentor, guide, teacher and hero.

I know that I will grieve him for a long time, with so many others that he touched, with so many others who loved him too.

When faced with that grief, it’s tempting to think I can’t continue following the track that Jim was walking with me, that I am not strong enough.

But as soon as that thought crosses my mind I hear Jim say, “continue to be strong because you ARE. I taught you everything you need to know, you know exactly what to do.”

No frantic emotion, no uncertainty and absolutely no fear.

I am grateful for his presence in my life and I am grateful that he is not done with me yet.

I know that for the rest of my life, I will be a reflection of him.

He gave me a deep gladness and I will strive to meet the world’s deep hunger.

I will continue to be strong and I will show others that they are strong too.

Clarion-Little Toby Trail, Biking Not Hiking!

 

When we all still lived at home, my parents frequently took my siblings and I on adventures.

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When we asked where they were going, they’d just say, “crazy, wanna come?”

Sometimes we complained when hiking in the rain, or whined when biking in the cold, or totally freaked out when canoeing with alligators (it was scary, okay)… but we were always glad we went.

For their 25th anniversary, they went on a 100-mile bike trip together without us kids.

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Valentine Flats Recap

The weather was gorgeous last weekend: 70 degrees and sunny. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of longing for my coastal Virginia home and a sandy beach.

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I had to settle for somewhere a little closer, but I still found myself a “beach.”

The Valentine flats trail, located in the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area, leads to the rocky banks of the Cattaraugus Creek — not sandy, but I’ll take it.

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