Shaming the Fat Kid

I have always thought of myself as a fat kid. Always.

As an athlete, I was never the fast girl whose job it is to get on base and run. My job was to hit the ball really far so that that fast girls who were on base in front of me could score. I wasn’t super-fat. I know that, but I was definitely aware of the fact that I was not an outfielder or a short stop. I could play those positions competently, without making errors, but I didn’t have the range to play them if there were other tiny girls on the team. When I’m honest about it, I really just think of myself as on the edge of fat. I always out-ran the skinny girls over distances greater than or equal to a quarter of a mile, which meant something, but I still wanted to be agile and quick.

I went to the doctor a few months ago, which is actually a big deal. I hate going to the doctor. I hadn’t been in something like 7 years, because they seem to always shame me about something. Last time, the shaming had to do with my unwillingness to submit to invasive exams and tests aimed at identifying problems I almost certainly (like less than 1% chance) didn’t have. This time, the shaming was about my weight.

During the visit, my NP told me I was morbidly obese. Then she reached over and grabbed the extra flab on my tummy. Then she told me I was probably infertile and that she wanted to run a bunch of tests on my hormones along with doing normal lab work. She also wanted me to lose 60 lbs. by logging all of my calories and eating almost no carbohydrates, aka Atkins.

I went home and did some BMI research, and, realistically, I was something like 75 lbs short of morbidly obese. To put this into perspective, an adult male Golden Retriever might weigh 75 lbs. That’s the upper range of their weight. So now, picture Katie, running a marathon (which I did about 6 months prior to my doctor’s appointment) with a large, male Golden Retriever strapped to her stomach. That’s how absurd this whole thing was.

I decided to do an assessment of my weight for myself. If we start with a mild respect for the BMI, which I really don’t have, I was about 10lbs into the obese range. I’ll admit that I’m overweight. That’s what I mean when I say that I’m on the edge of fat kid… I have both a figurative and literal soft spot for caramel lattes, microwaved cheese crisps made with aged, sharp, and expensive cheddar, and good gelato. I know that. I also know that I can hold plank pose longer than even makes sense and I can run for more than an hour without too much trouble. Regardless, BMI said I was obese, so I decided I should probably lose weight – not 60 lbs, but maybe 20.

Then there was the hormone thing to deal with. NP felt pretty confident that I had a serious hormonal imbalance and needed to be put on the pill. When the labs came back, they showed that I’m really pretty healthy. I had a Vitamin D deficit and low HDL (the low HDL is very likely a genetic thing passed on by my father). Most of my other numbers were on the healthier side of normal. I had two hormones that were slightly out-of-whack, but those two are highly dependent upon what time of the month it is, so we’d need to test them a few more times to know what’s actually going on with them, and I really felt like the amount of out-of-whack they were exhibiting was negligible.

Basically, my Nurse Practitioner made it seem like I was on death’s doorstep when I’m really very healthy. She scared the hell out of me and completely shamed me… needlessly. She didn’t listen to anything I told her. I told her that I’m a really active individual. I’m a runner and a yogini (yogi?). I’d recently become a Vegetarian. I didn’t feel any aches or pains. I felt I’d had too much wine in 2015, so I hadn’t had any for several months. I didn’t have any noticeable symptoms of anything. What she heard was, “I’m in denial and I’m ashamed of my actual behaviors so I’m minimizing them to you.” I told her there was no way in hell I was going to download an app to count calories because I hate technology and would rather jump out of a moving vehicle than count all of my calories. She heard, “I’m lazy and intend to gain 5 lbs a year until I become completely bed-bound at the age of 55, needing a hoyer lift to transfer my morbidly obese body from bed to recliner.”

And the horrible thing about all of this is that I’m probably not going back to the doctor for another 7 years. I may try to talk myself into seeing someone else. Or I may just continue what I’m doing and harbor hatred and disrespect for PCPs, even though I know they don’t all suck.


Sidenote: the result of my own research is that I decided to lose 20 lbs. I’ve currently lost 13 (in about 11 weeks). If I gain back 3 of those lbs, I will again be obese, but, for now, I’m simply overweight.

How did I lose 13 lbs, you ask? I did not log any of my calories anywhere. I did not limit my carbohydrates to Atkins level of intake. I did continue drinking a caramel latte every morning. I did completely give up gelato, substitute cauliflower for rice, stop eating snacks, stop eating at 7:00 pm most nights, and add about an hour (maybe an hour-and-a-half) of workouts to my week. I did watch every documentary that exists about food and diet. I did limit myself to eating two meals a week that were prepared or cooked by someone other than me – this includes Chipotle and the Trader Joe’s frozen food section. I did spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and what I was going to cook. I did read a ton of cook books and check out every Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels, and Billy Blanks workout DVD the library has.

That’s what works for me, because in he 31 years I’ve known myself, I’ve figured out that I am not okay with giving up my morning caramel latte. I’d rather spend the entire day fasting from all solid foods than give up my latte. I am okay with working out all the time. I’m also okay with cooking all of my meals myself. I am not okay with phone apps.

I just wish healthcare professionals brought a sense of creative problem solving and diversified care to the table. It’s almost as if they believe I am the same as every other person who has a high BMI. It’s as if they don’t understand how much I feel like life is not worth living without a good latte… as if they don’t understand that there is an uncountable number of variables that impact a person’s body weight… as if they believe there is only one way to skin a cat.





The Day My Dreams Came True

There I was, standing opposite an enormous, roided-out teenage boy, who was trying to hit me with a ball…

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually know whether the kid takes steroids; all I know is that he is a big dude.

So, basically, I’ve always wanted to put together a teacher dodge ball team to participate in the tournament at the high school where I teach. It’s a grand affair, and the students take it far too seriously. They always put together some sort of team uniform/costume – usually with little regard for the school dress code. Some of the teams practice. All of them move insanely fast, as if dodging bullets instead of balls… Matrix-style, of course.

Teachers, sadly, are not the most athletic of people, and, despite the numerous humiliations they suffer daily on their jobs, none are too enthusiastic about putting themselves into a situation where lots of people would see them get hit with balls. However, with them knowing that this is my last year at IRHS, I was able to put a team together.

The team consisted of me, the tall, young, athletic History teacher who coaches soccer and runs in his free time, the doesn’t-know-how-old-he-is trash-talking Calc. teacher, the super-hero-obsessed and admittedly-unathletic Bio. teacher who played as a favor to me in spite of getting the flu just days before the tournament, the youth leader and thin, but uncoordinated English teacher who had no business being out there (I wouldn’t have asked had I known how embarrassing her throw really is), and the 4-ft tall Spanish teacher who didn’t even show up.

So… our first match was against a team called Swoll (or possibly Swole – it means uber buff) Team 6. They were all football players with arms the size of my thighs. In between matches, they did push-ups because they promised their coach they wouldn’t let the tournament put them behind in training… even though football doesn’t start again until like August or September. They played in red, white, blue, and various military-style gear, such as ammo vests, boots, etc…

And they wrecked us in the first game. However, the matches went to the best of two out of three, so we had another shot.

It went down to me and the History teacher against two teenagers pretty quick. I managed to get one of the enormous teens out with a well-timed throw, but the History teacher went down at exactly the same time, so…

there I was, standing opposite an enormous, roided-out teenage boy, who was trying to hit me with a ball…

After all of the balls ended up on my side of the court, I gathered them together, got one in each hand, and went for it. I honestly didn’t even get close to him with three consecutive throws. I back-pedaled, thinking I was ready for anything, and he launched one at me that I did not dodge Matrix-style… I stood there, bewildered, as it hit me directly in the chest without me even making one movement.

And yet, that tournament made my dreams come true.

After running a marathon in a few weeks, I intend to get a team together for the Tucson Dodge Ball League. Who’s with me?!

Spring Break Update 2015

Work has been enjoyable of late, so I was oddly concerned about Spring Break breaking my rhythm. I honestly didn’t feel like sitting at home for a week, and, since I’ve recently begun querying agents, I didn’t have much to write. Don’t get me wrong – I’m planning the next manuscript, and I’m enthusiastic about it, but it isn’t yet time to start writing the thing, because I haven’t gotten the characters and conflict worked out in my head just yet. I haven’t even hit that moment when I’m ready to build outlines. I’m just thinking. Therefore, there is no significant chunk of writing to be done this week.

So, my concern for the week was how to fill the time. This is the first break from work that has probably EVER concerned me in this way.

Still, there are always things to be done… people to see, messes to clean up, errands to be run. I began by spending an evening with Steve and Lori, which is how nearly every break from work begins for me. However, this time, there was a distinct purpose: reset the check engine light on my car. I borrowed their code reader, and we worked it out. The next morning, I woke up bright and early, and drove my ancient car down to the emissions place. I went through the whole shebang, passed, and decided to take the long way home. Ten minutes after passing, the check engine light came back on, and I celebrated. I felt a distinct sense of, “I’m going to start my own band and we’re going to lead a revolution!”

Next, I spent a good, long while at the sbucks, finishing up the registering of my car.

Next, I went to the Tucson Festival of Books, which was delightful. I love the festival for so many reasons, but a new one that I observed this time is how beautiful it is to hear authors speak, because of the subtleties that cling to those who care about language. Example: I can hear the difference between “affect” and “effect” when an author pronounces the words… it’s lovely.

In addition to the beauty of authors’ speech, I also heard some incredibly writerly ideas that fueled my drive to be published. The authors spoke of how “great” only has real meaning in its aspiration, and how Joseph Heller evidently examined his success with Catch-22 and tormented himself a little bit about his inability to write another book as good as that one… until he concluded that the reason he’d never written anything as good as Catch-22 was because nobody else had either. That made me smile.

One more thing that struck me at the festival this year was the number of authors who’ve written books in multiple genres. When I read about writing online, there’s such a push to build a “brand,” which often means writing the same type of book again and again, so that readers who love one type of book will come to rely on you.

But I don’t want to keep writing the same type of book.

I want my next project to be for adults. I want it to be satire. I want it to be hopeful. I want it to be a clear and immediate separation from the first book.

So it’s reassuring that other authors have found success in crossing genre barriers.

I left the festival, went home, and walked.

I’m at an interesting place with the running, because I’m about to start legit marathon training (it doesn’t count until you’re more than half way there), and I’m super-excited. However, I’m supposed to be tapering this week, because I’m running a race this weekend… but I don’t feel like tapering. I feel like running. That’s never happened to me before, so we’ll see if it’s an asset in the race this weekend.

Finally, I paid my taxes, then went to church.

At church, things were falling into place in a frustrating manner, mostly because God seems to have laid out a path for me that I’m hesitant to walk. I sort of wish (in a half-hearted way, of course) that He’d leave me alone. I know that’s not really what I want, and that His plans for me are better than my plans for myself, and yet, I still would rather do what I’d like to do.

I’ve been slightly obsessive lately about the secretary position. It’s a highly secular thing for me to be doing, and sometimes I feel as if God is separate from it and I’ll have to keep myself from drifting, but it seems He’s weaving things together and placing me where He would have me. Also, there was one of those odd moments when someone I hardly know cursed around me, then apologized and proceeded to say something like, “I hope you’re not one of those good, Christian girls.” I was all, “Actually, I am.” Then he felt the need to explain his aversion to Christianity, and we were able to talk like normal human beings. It ended up being nice, but you never know where those things are going to take you in the long run.

Other than that, I’ve got a race to run, a tattoo to get, books to read, people to see, and relaxation to have. I’m looking especially forward to getting dinner with Donna Brenda, who I haven’t spent time with in ages. I reconnected with her on Facebook, because, yes, I now have a profile. It includes false info about my age and a few other things, but it exists. And I intend to figure out how to get it to stop posting every single time I update a book on Goodreads… I don’t intend to be “that person” on your newsfeed… I just don’t know how not to be just yet. Give me a month before you block me. 🙂

Ragnar 2015 and How I Tore My Pants :-)

Okay, so I’ve been slacking on my blogging duties of late. I promise I have several good excuses, though.

First and foremost, I’ve not had a weekend to myself for a bit, and I don’t have the interwebs at home. This is the first solid chunk of time I’ve had to myself since Valentine’s Day. I totally don’t say it like that to make you sad for me. I honestly don’t even remember what I did on Valentine’s Day, so it couldn’t have been all that bad.

So… since the V-Day, I ran Ragnar 2015, which is my new favorite Ragnar I’ve ever run. Mostly, I enjoyed running a respectable distance without suffering very much.

Also, I ate it pretty hard, which hasn’t happened to me in at least a decade.

Basically, I was on my second run of the race. It was nighttime, maybe like 8 or 9 p.m. and I had 7.8 miles to run. I started off pretty slow, and several jackasses blew past me. I knew I’d eventually run a few of them down, because they were mostly dudes, and their egos frequently get them into trouble on a race like Ragnar.

There was one dude in particular who blew by me, and slowed way down about a half-mile ahead of me.

So I did what you do in Ragnar. I hunted him. Slowly.

It took me something like three miles to catch him. He looked relatively fit, which always makes the triumph all the greater. The problem was that right around the time I intended to leave him behind for good, we starting hitting the stop lights. So I’d leave him behind, and then he’d catch me at the light. Then, he’d blow across the intersection like a bat out of hell, because men who aren’t runners, but who run are like that. In about 5 minutes, I’d pass him again, and then I’d run into the next red light.

We continued on in that annoying pattern for something like 3 more miles.

And I was pissed.

When we finally hit a spot where there were no lights in sight, I took off. I even passed another dude soon after that because I was so highly motivated. In Ragnar, you call it a kill when you pass anyone, so I was feeling pretty good about my 2 kills. I could hear the sounds of the exchange in the distance. I was enjoying the run, feeling like a barbarian in the night…

and I don’t even know what happened, but I ate it. Hard.

I hit my right knee first, then both hands, then my left knee.

Then my left calf cramped up like nobody’s business, so I shot both of my legs into the air and went into happy baby pose, trying to get my calf to calm the hell down.

That’s when my second kill came up to me.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. I’m good,” I told him, still lying on my back with my feet in the air. He looked at me with severe pity.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’m just going to sit here for a minute.”

He left, and I struggled with my calf some more.

Then, I saw him. The jackass I’d hunted for a solid 6 miles… that’s an hour of the race. He was at least a quarter-mile back, but there was no way I was letting him have the victory.

I jumped up off my ass, and starting sprinting as fast as I could. My left calf wasn’t protesting as much as I’d anticipated, the right knee of my pants was def. ripped, and there was some blood, but my left knee didn’t start to bruise for at least an hour after the fall. Also, kill #2 was up ahead and I had every intention of deleting his zombie kill on me from my record, by returning the favor.

“Sorry, man. That was embarrassing,” I said as I passed him once again.

He just shook his head as I ran past.

I sprinted across the final intersection and into the exchange, where I slapped our bracelet onto Shirley’s wrist, but I was dumbfounded when she didn’t move.

“I can’t go,” she said.

“What? Why?”

“There’s an accident up ahead. They aren’t letting any runners out.”

So as my two kills caught us yet again, I tried to keep my broken heart to myself. They trotted into the exchange, and their teammates got to leave at the same time mine did, in spite of my ridiculous efforts to improve us from 9,083 rd place in the race to 9,081 st (I made up those numbers).

Regardless, I got to feel like quite the badass, and I’m looking forward to my next race.

Not a Retraction, but Perhaps a Clarification…

So, after yesterday’s post hit the interwebs, I got together with Steve and Lori for our normal Friday night thing. And, honestly, I didn’t even realize I’d posted what I posted, because I write things, and then usually schedule them like a month in advance. Also, I hadn’t written with malice or anything more serious than an annoyance at what seems like an unhelpful paradigm sucking the life out of modern America.

The paradigm goes something like this: I want ‘A’ to be true about me. ‘A’ seems to be true about my friend _______. Therefore, I’m going to talk to friend about every strategy I plan to implement in my life to make myself more ‘A’ in the next month or so.

I realized this is what was bothering me when Steve and Lori were like, dude, that was a crazy blog post. Also, I realized it when we started talking about Bible studies, fellowship, and accountability.

Because, in the paradigm, ‘A’ can equal just about anything, but it seems to often equal skinny and/or spiritually magnificent.

We modern Americans have the problem that we rarely have to solve problems through a slow burn. We just pull up Amazon and buy some gadget or possibly a self-help book to fix our problems.

The thing is, there are some problems that have more to do with who we are than what we have or even what we do.

One of those problems is Fat Kid.

So, let’s be real – I take in more calories every day than just about anyone I know. I weigh more than most of the men I know and all but one or two of the women. I can’t seem to talk myself out of getting a white mocha from Starbucks every day of the week. I HAVE FAT KID SYNDROME, which manifests itself in my life through the whispered siren song of all peanut butter cups within a 50-mile radius of me.

I am not good at saying no to peanut butter cups.

I YEARN FOR THEM, and I give into their seduction about twice a week… in a good week.

However, I am EXCELLENT at exercising.

Exercise has been one the few things in my life that I’ve rarely neglected for much longer than a month here or there in the past 20 years. And, the thing about it is that I’m not particularly good at the physical feats I perform. At one point in time, I was an excellent softball player but, nowadays, I run, do yoga, and ride my bicycle. I run slower than pretty much everyone else in the world who considers herself a runner. My yoga practices are not at all elegant. And my bike is meant for meandering.

Additionally, I’m not the type who exercises every day. I usually make it three or four days a week, and, granted, I do a lot of things that other people would count as exercise… but I don’t count those things.

The other thing I do really well is I read. In fact, I can think of exactly one person in my life who rivals (and, actually exceeds) my reading prowess. This is an awesome thing to be good at on a number of levels – not the least of which being that I don’t struggle to read my Bible. I struggle to pray more than anyone I know, for sure, so don’t take this the wrong way. Additionally, I admit that I don’t read my Bible every day. I probably read more of my Bible than most folks who do read it every day, because I sometimes read five chapters a night for three nights in a row, then don’t read it at all for two days. I generally read it cover-to-cover, which is exactly the way church leaders tell people not to read it. Also, on the days when I don’t read my Bible much at all, I listen to sermons and read books about theology. Reading books that aren’t the Bible instead of reading the Bible is also something that church leaders say not to do, and while I get why they say that, I don’t feel any shame about it.

I’m talking about reading my Bible and exercising, rather than talking about saying no to peanut butter cups or sitting down to pray, because they’re the two areas of my life that people often admire. Friends go on diets and/or Bible reading tears with me as their accountability partner… and they inevitably burn out completely before the end of one month.

This bothers me a lot. I don’t mind being an accountability partner to someone who is pulling his or her own weight, but I really don’t like people asking me to make the impossible happen… and I only use the word impossible because Americans have unreasonable expectations.

Americans really need to stop thinking they can fix the “problem” with a month of dieting or reading their Bibles every night. They need to stop believing in the power of the quick sprint, and realize that sprinting hard at any time in a 60-70 yr race inevitably leads to walking LONG sections of the course later, because the body seeks balance in its output. Also, consider that, in the harsh reality of nature, humanity is terrible at sprinting. However, we are incredibly capable of killing a gazelle by slowly running after it until it drops dead from exhaustion. I am a firm believer that we were meant for long, slow races.

AND the thing about it is that running any race requires a humility before the ridiculous task of outrunning the gazelle.

Becoming thinner requires a humble, slow trudge, as does spiritual maturity.

It bothers me when my teacher friend gives up half of her salad dressing and tells me how hard she worked out the night before because she’s currently trying to run right up on the gazelle’s ass, when what she really needs to do is just barely keep the gazelle in sight. But pointing that out only makes her run faster, because she wants to prove me wrong.

Which is stupid.

Because I’m not wrong.

Because, even though I’m not thin, exercising is something I do well, and, in fact, it’s one facet of who I am. WHICH IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL.

The goal is not thinness.

The goal is not reading the Bible every day.

The goal is being a person who is healthy and satisfied both physically and spiritually. The goal is a change in who you are – a change in identity.

I am Katie – slow runner and reader of texts other people find tedious. It would take years, and possibly even decades, to rob me of that identity…

Just like it would take years, and possibly decades, to make me into a vegan who enjoys talking to God with vulnerability and trust…

Just like it would take years, and possibly decades, to make my friend into someone who is physically healthy.

That’s why her half-eaten salad packets, unwillingness to bend over to pick up trash, plans for daily workouts, request that I hold her accountable, etc… bother me. She’s going to spend a month or two committed to losing weight. She’ll probably stop short of losing an amount of weight that’s healthy because when I ask her to set goals, she refuses, and she’ll probably never make it a priority to pick the trash up without mechanical assistance, which would be my first step if I were her. And, somehow, I now share ownership of that failure because I’m her “accountability” partner who brings her salads that aren’t healthy enough. She’s asked me to help her complete a task that she’s impeding herself from completing. She’s asked me to get something done, and is now sabotaging my efforts to help her get it done, even though I know what it takes to get it done.

I know that’s a selfish way of thinking about it. I should be able to help her without this level of frustration.

But I’m frustrated. That’s what the post was about. It didn’t have much of a point, other than to admit that I’m frustrated, and it’s making me judgmental to the point of obsession over my friend’s half-eaten salad packets.

An Arbitrary and Shamefully Judgmental Pet Peeve

I have a friend at work who is woefully overweight. I’m sure BMI classifies her as obese, if not morbidly obese.

I am not particularly gazelle-like in my own existence, but I am bothered every time I eat lunch with or discuss life with this friend. Her size, honestly, isn’t what bothers me. The thing that I can’t stand is how often she talks about or displays her inability to perform normal tasks that her body should have no trouble performing.

Example: She bought one of those go-go-gadget arm extender things so that she can use it to pick items up off of her classroom floor rather than bending over. Her body should be able to bend over. She’s in her 40s.

A few months ago, she started asking me to bring her a lunch everyday, which I’m happy to do. I buy myself five pre-made Trader Joes salads every Sunday, so, most of the time, I just buy her an extra salad. Sometimes I get fancy and make something more awesome than that.

When she eats her salads, she sometimes only uses half of the dressing packet, which is the source of my judgmental pet peeve. I know that she’s trying to save calories wherever she can, but that half of a salad packet saves her about 100 calories – 200 tops.

Additionally, she marvels at the things I can eat.

Additionally, she asks me to be her diet and exercise accountability partner, then claims that she can’t do much of any exercising. She can’t run, so I suggested she sign up for a 5k that she would walk. That was going to be too easy, she said, so I suggested walking with weights on her ankles or giving herself a time goal. She didn’t want to do that, so I suggested yoga; she said child’s pose hurts her knees. And all I can think is that her knees wouldn’t hurt so bad if she’d start using them. Also, they wouldn’t hurt so bad if she’d lose 50 lbs.

Also, she marvels at my ability to exercise.

And I just want to put her on America’s Biggest Loser so that someone would yell her out of this hopelessness.

Because the fact that child’s pose and running hurt is a bright red, flashing sign that suggests, “Hey! You need to run and do yoga!” Because asking me to bring her lunch every day isn’t helping her take control over her own eating habits, no matter how often she can talk herself into throwing away half of the salad dressing. She just needs to start using her body to do the things it should be able to do… like bending over to pick up the trash kids leave on her classroom floor.

The Great Peruvian Escape

The fire line was visible from the hot springs. It was slowly making its way down a ridge across the river from us, and when I asked Amy if we should be worried, she told me it was really unlikely to jump the river.

So we went about our business.

We got out of the hot springs, muscle aches much diminished. We’d already hiked something like 34 ish miles in 3 days, and we lacked only a few miles more… maybe 6 ish.

I was glad to be nearing the end of the adventure.

I’d experienced a gorgeous glacier as intimately as I could ever want to, and my knee was pretty jacked up. It was filled with fluid, which isn’t particularly surprising, because I’d experienced that exact injury in the same knee just a few years before. Additionally, I’d done altitude sickness, jungle, sheer cliff faces with loose gravel, and I’d done it with exactly ZERO training hikes under my belt.

But definitely I felt ready for it to be over. I wouldn’t say I was “done,” because I felt pretty decent, but I was ready to see Machu Picchu and get ready for the long flight home.

Amy was sitting at a picnic table journaling or knitting, so I went and sat with her, as the plan was to play cards as soon as Steve and Lori finished hot-springing.

That’s when I noticed the ash.

It wasn’t raining down on us like sleet, but it was floating down, which didn’t seem ordinary to me even though everyone, hikers and Perufians alike, seemed to think it was.

I pointed the ash out to Amy, who seemed unimpressed by the whole thing, but I really felt at that moment that I was the only sane person around


Come on. Shouldn’t we have started packing up the moment the first ash particle floated down into our hair?

Darkness eased toward our camp, and just before dinner time, Steve, Lori, Amy and I decided to take a look around the campsite at the other tents. We were feeling pretty superior about our guide team and camp setup and were wondering how many other folks were camping there that night. We basically wanted to see their campsites so we could feel awesome about our own. Also, We’d been on the trail with some of the same hikers for the past three days and were interested to see what other groups had planned.

We went down by the river, and, there it loomed in the dusk: fire.

On our side of the river.

On a ridge that was hidden from the view of our campsite.

The ash falling on me wasn’t from the visible fire that everyone was thinking about: it was from the hidden fire – the one that was just around the corner from us.

Steve got serious pretty quickly. We talked about the prospect of having to gather all of our gear and stand with it in the river, because, you see, there was fire on both sides of us now: on the other side of the river, leading up the river and riding parallel to the road out, and on our same side of the river, following it in the opposite direction and blocking our escape that way.

Amy left us to go find our guide and talk to him. She still seemed unconcerned, which is probably a perfectly-fine way to be, but I wasn’t raised like that. Most of the lessons I learned from my father involved safety. Don’t expect other people to take care of you. Don’t expect other people to be smart about things. You take care of yourself. Safety first. If shit goes down, go farther than you need to go before you look back.

So I was pretty much get-the-hell-outta-here-NOW in my head.

Amy later accused me of being panicked, but I honestly don’t think I was. I definitely thought we should get out of there, but my panic reached almost exactly the same level it reaches prior to running a half marathon. My digestive system went into overdrive, but I was otherwise thinking things that I think I should have been thinking.

We went back to the campsite, purchased water, and packed things up just in case.

I think some of the hard core response is attributable to all of the gaming. Steve and I both play video games and I’m sure our brains have been impacted – maybe not in all positive ways, but certainly not in a bad way if we’re in a worst-case scenario. We were united in our plan to get away from the fire and both had our game faces on.

I don’t think Amy has played a video game in her entire life.

I don’t think she’s read a disaster book, watched 24, or come up with a survival plan for the zombie apocalypse.

That’s one of the things that put us in conflict.

Also, Amy admitted that she hated feeling like a tourist. She observed our behavior as touristy and panicked.

I assumed the news reports would call all of us tourists when they reported on our fiery deaths, so I didn’t really care what the Peruvians thought of me, as long as we got the hell outta there.

So, argument ensued.

The cooks had finished making dinner, so should we eat before we left?

The Peruvian park ranger hadn’t called for an evacuation yet, so should we wait to find out what he thought?

Lori had to play diplomat, because, even though she was with Steve and me in our plan to evacuate regardless of what others chose to do, you know, there’s a reason she’s an Executive Director, and I think it has something to do with her way of talking people through things.

There was a language barrier, and right about the time our guide called for a car to come get us in ten minutes, and we agreed to eat dinner (a nice compromise), the park ranger called for the evacuation.

In light of that development, I thought we’d get going. I thought we’d give up on dinner.


We sat there and ate. Inside our dining tent. In the surreality that only exists in those moments when your life would make a decent hour of reality television.

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned up, and the dance band on the Titanic played until the end, we ate in the midst of impending doom.

I shoveled the food in my face, which, in retrospect, may have contributed to later troubles.

Others ate at their normal paces.

The electricity went out. Then it came back on.

We tried to help pack stuff up, but whenever I picked up a tarp to fold it, one of the Peruvian guys came and took it from me.

Our car came, and we got in, only to discover that the fire had traveled up-river quite a bit, so we drove parallel to it for something like 7 ish minutes.

We stopped and picked up a dude with some little kids and drove them out to the closest town, which was about 10 minutes from the hot springs.

So, if you do the math, you figure that the fire was something like 3 minutes away.

That wasn’t really good enough for me. I wanted more like an hour or two between me and the fire, especially if I was expected to sleep that night.

So there was more arguing about what to do. Amy and the Peruvians were for staying in that town. Steve and I were for getting out of Dodge. Lori was on our side, but a little less screw-what-you-think than Steve and I were.

Tension ran high.

And the decision was made that we would do the next day’s hiking overnight.

And we’d have to carry all of our stuff with us.

Lori would want me to tell you that I’d brought several books with me, because they gave us a big duffel bag to put our crap in and to be carried by a mule, creating more space than I’d accounted for or could fill with clothes and food. So I brought books.

Sue me. I like books. And reading in a tent by headlamp is oh-so-romantic.

However, when I’m about to flee from wildfire on foot, overnight in the Peruvian wilderness, the books don’t hold the same place in my heart they have when there is no fire.

So Lori’s favorite part of the whole trip was when I had to be like, “Hey, I definitely can’t carry all of my stuff.”

In my defense: I was more than willing to leave the books there and pay the library back for the loss. I mean, come on, fiery death – or books? Fiery death? Books? You leave the books without a second thought.

Back to the main story, though. Everything got worked out so that we each carried our day pack with whatever we thought we’d need for the next 2.5 days, and we went.


Fluid-filled knee.

Tempers barely-checked.

And I had to take a dump in the darkness just about once an hour, because that’s my body’s reaction to long-distance races and, evidently, wildfire.

Additionally, I was tired of wearing tennis shoes and wanted to wear my running sandals, so I made the bold decision to do that night with my toes exposed… because I’m B.A.

We walked along train tracks most of the time, and there were some scary, Stand by Me moments with river-crossings, but it was an adventure. There was jungle on both sides of the tracks, and there were nighttime spiders that had glowy eyes.

And I wouldn’t take it back if I could.

Who else in the world can really say they hiked 40 miles in 3 days, up to 15,000 ft, down into the jungle, on the edges of cliffs, and fled from a wildfire at night, belongings on her back, on wounded knee? Well, Steve, Lori, and Amy can all say that or all of it minus the knee thing. And David, our guide. But who else? That’s right – nobody you know.

I feel like a badass every time I think about it.