Wednesday, December 23, 2015

World's Toughest Mudder 2015

"The ability to accept our limitations and learn from the viewpoints of others” 
― Kamil Ali

This is only 5 weeks after the fact, but surgery and narcotics had a larger impact on my body and brain than I had anticipated. Better late than never. I’m lucky this one didn’t end up in the blog grave yard known as drafts…

What a roller coaster of a year this has been. With the underlying and subtle negativity that is illness, I have experienced and been shown so much love, positivity, happiness and community.   

Deciding to do World's Toughest Mudder

If you have been following along with my posts, you know that I had effectively withdrawn from World’s Toughest Mudder 2015. I started making plans to pit crew for my friend Liza and to support all my friends and WTM family participating in the race with hugs, love and positive encouragement.

Almost exactly a week before WTM, I found out that one of the most wonderful people in my life and an instant best friend, had found cancer in her body again. Not only did it come back, but she started radiation and still wasn’t going to withdraw from WTM. 

After speaking with her on the phone, I immediately called my mom and told her. My mom and I both had the same thought: I should see if she would be willing to let me run World’s Toughest Mudder with her.

I reached out to her and she said: “…if you want to do WTM, you should do it for you, not for me. And we can run together as two friends supporting one another exactly as it should be.”

I really had to think about that for a bit. Was I doing this for her, or was I doing this for me? When it came down to it, I was doing this for me. I wanted to do this with her so I could spend time with a wonderful woman and get to know her better. She would be able to keep me in check, so I don’t injure myself and we can do it with each other for support.

After making sure I was doing this for the right reasons, I responded:
“I wouldn't be doing it if your cancer hadn't come back. That much is true. I want to win the race, so me doing it this year doesn't make sense. Especially since I don't know how to take it easy. It's true I'm doing this because you have given me an opportunity to. I'm not doing this to hold your hand. I'm not doing this because I think you can't.

I want to do this because I want to see what strong looks like.
I want to do this with you because you inspire me.
I want to do this with you because I will regret not doing it with you.

You are one of the only reasons I've kept my head out of the gutters with not training and being sick all year. YOU are my hero in many ways and I want to walk with you doing the event that has changed my life and shown me who I am. I think doing this with you will make me a better person...”

With that, she agreed and I immediately reached out to TMHQ about reinstating my WTM entry. In a brief moment of panic, I ran to my gear boxes. Who does a 24 hour race, coming off the couch after 6 months of doctors appointments instead of gym dates and only a week to prepare?! Fortunately the "Type A" tendencies in me had all my gear from last year, perfectly organized and inventoried. I would only need to worry about nutrition and logistics. I guess that's not completely true. I would very much need to pay attention to my body and how much it can handle. Any risk of injury and I would need to stop running. Surgery isn't scheduled until after World's Toughest Mudder, so I would be running with swollen tonsil on top of all my other symptoms. This might be a bad idea, but a risk I am willing to take. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

World's Toughest Mudder Flashback

"To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them."
- Picabo Street

My dad piping me across the finish line for the 9th time.
45 miles completed.

This is a great view of the sand storm in tent city.

Coach Brad wrapping me in a space blanket and
walking me back to my pit.

          This was the moment where I found out how much I had to give. I had a horrible lap. Electroshock therapy broke me down when I had to go through it for the 7th time and I felt like I didn't have any more to give. My dad piped me all the way to my tent, where I sat down and thought through all the things I didn't think I could do, while my mom and coach fed and patched me up. I mindlessly accepted their help and ran through how I was supposed to go back out there. Everything hurt, my ankle had given out and my mind was letting the doubt slip in. In the midst of all these thoughts, Sean Corvelle's voice popped into my head. He reminded me that "Nobody's better than your best, but your best will make you better." And I realized that giving up wasn't my best. 45 miles wasn't my best. Walking out that start line for the 10th time and going 5 more miles, that would be my best. I stood up without a word to my team and marched my broken body back on course.

          So, to all my friends and mudder family preparing for WTM, remember this: You will find a low point and when your body and mind have broken down, when you feel like there is no more, when you are doubting yourself, know that you CAN. You are incredible, you have worked so hard to be there, you have put your best for forward, and you are capable of more than you know. If you can't find inspiration to go back out, come find me and I will be there to remind you how amazing you are.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Letter to the WTM Community

"Life hands us a lot of hard choices, and other people can help us more than we might realize. We often think we should make important decisions using just our own internal resources. What are the pros and cons? What does my gut tell me? But often we have friends and family who know us in ways we don't know ourselves."
-Sheena Iyengar

Hey WTM family,

          I am devastated to admit that I will not be running World's Toughest Mudder this year. I am still not healthy, and I am out of training time. If I were to compete with the amount of training I currently have under my belt, I would be risking injury that could take me further away from my goals. It is hard for me to look at the big picture, and my long term goals when I think about this event every single day. Every single part of me wants to be on that course with all of you this year, but it just isn't a good idea.

          So with that, I want to thank EVERY SINGLE PERSON who is training for me. Thank you to those people who added a mile to their train, to those who dedicated a run to me, or a TM lap. All of you helped pull me out of the dark place I was hiding in.
I am incredibly sad that I won't be running.


Do not worry, I will be there to support all of you in return.
My dad, the bagpiper, will be there too.
I will see all of you in 46 days.

Hanna Copper

PS: Special thank you to my Seattle team (see photos below). You all changed your pace to help me and my mom through the course. You put your own training on hold to make sure I could get through it. It was the single best tough mudder lap I have ever done. I love you all.

This is my mudder family, literally lifting me up.
They do this for me in more ways than one,
but at Seattle Tough Mudder they did it physically.

My mudder family and uncle are pushing my mom up to me,
so I can pull her on top of Everest (15' quarter pipe).
This photo makes me more proud that any other!

My Seattle Team:
Leslie Copper, Mike Wacker, Luigi Pascua, Kevin Chow, Scott McCracken,
Joe Herman, Carlo Piscitello, Steve Nix, Hanna Copper, Lee Bauck, Lia Marley.
Not shown: Jon Copper; my dad and the Bagpiper.

My dad, Jon Copper, piping us all across the finish line. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."
-Helen Keller

I would like to ask the OCR community for a favor, and anyone else who would like to participate. As many of you now know, I have been sidelined for the better part of this year by an illness with an unknown cause. All the treatments I've tried have failed; 7 rounds of antibiotics and 2 rounds of steroids.

I can't train, and that's the worst part.

I am asking for the community to add one additional mile to their training for me? I am feeling lost, uninspired and depressed. I have been an athlete my whole life and don't know what to do with myself when I can't be active. I am 10 weeks away from World's Toughest Mudder and I don't have any miles to show for it. My training has been simply battling for my health. This seems silly to ask, but I'd like to feel like I'm doing something. If I can inspire others to up their training by just one single mile, it will hopefully inspire me to take it one day at a time, stay positive and look towards World's Toughest Mudder.
How many miles can the community help me reach by WTM?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Real Life Post #1

"Stars can't shine without darkness."
A friend of mine, Mike Wacker, recently posted an article about campus suicide and the pressure of perfection. It was an eye opening article with one major aspect that stuck with me. In the article it’s referred to as Penn Face. “An apothegm long used by students to describe the practice of acting happy and self-assured even when sad or stressed…” The face that we show to our friends and family through social media. “Friends’ lives, as told through selfies, showed them having more fun, making more friends and going to better parties. Even the meals they posted to Instagram looked more delicious.”

As I was reading this portion of the article I reflected on how I portray myself on my social media outlets. While the photos, posts and links are a genuine representation of myself, they are one dimensional. The positive, happy, beautiful side of my life. I choose not to share my worries, setbacks and upsets. I choose not to share the “ugly” or unpleasant side of life. I rationalize this by telling myself I don’t need to publicly “complain” about the negative things happening in my life. And while I think bitching and complaining through social media is lame. I think there is a constructive way to share a multidimensional life on social media the way you would in a face to face conversation.

When going through my post history, I can tell when things were going really well, versus when I was having a hard time. Frequent posts shared my joys and happiness and when the posts became infrequent it was due to a lack of inspiration and happiness to share. If you asked my friends to describe me in one word it would be positive. I believe this to be a genuine part of my character. For the most part I can always see the light in things. I keep this in mind when I share parts of my life on Instagram and/or Facebook, choosing to share only the happy and positive things. I am afraid to share any other part of my life for fear of seeming negative.

Very few of my friends share multiple sides of their life and when they do it rarely seems constructive. More like a quick rant/vent, usually about someone else. Shelby, a friend from high school, breaks this trend regularly. Her post share her life dealing with MS. The good, the bad and the ugly. I enjoy reading her posts, and seeing her pictures! I don’t know why it is so hard for me to do the same thing.

In an effort to change the trend of putting on a face, I will try to periodically share a “real life post”. Starting with this one.

As almost none of you know, for reasons stated above, I have been sick for going on 3 months. Slowing my training and eventually stopping it completely. It started out with a nasty cold that put me on my ass for a week. That cold turned into pneumonia and bronchitis. I recovered from that just in time to have my wisdom teeth out. Shortly after that I contacted strep throat. It couldn’t just be regular strep, it had to be penicillin resistant strep. About 3 days after I finished the 10 day course of penicillin, the strep came back and I went through another course of antibiotics only to find out that they prescribed me the wrong one and had to give me yet another round of antibiotics. In all I have had 6 full courses of antibiotics in the last 2 months. Ironically I have been taking the best care of myself I ever have, eating healthy and focusing on functional strength training. Yet this is the sickest I have ever been.

The problem is, that being sick isn’t the hard part. It is what it is. Not training is another story. I have lofty goals in racing this year and those goals have been all but shattered. As I got sick with one bug after another, the time continues to tick away. The events on my calendar move closer and the mileage I want to reach become less and less of a reality. The bottom line is I don’t have enough time to build my mileage at a safe and healthy rate to reach my goal by November. All of this is a nice little recipe for depression. A quote from the article: “In what is described as depression and experienced as emptiness, futility, fear of impoverishment, and loneliness.” At one of my doctor visits, I let my PCP know that I have stopped my training in an effort to reduce stressing my body. She said, and I quote “Oh great! You’ve stopped stressing yourself physically and traded it for mental stress!” Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

            So what now?! I have 15 weeks until World’s Toughest Mudder with minimal training behind me and not a clue when I can start over. I am most certainly depressed and my only known cure is exercise. I am looking for what I am supposed to be learning from all this, trying to see the silver lining. I feel so very trapped in an endless cycle, moving excessively fast towards race day.

What is my answer? Do the best I can. As Sean Corvelle often reminds us at the Tough Mudder start line: “Nobody is better than your best, but your best will make you better.”

Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Day Back in the Saddle

"The hardest part about training is making the decision to start training at all.” – Wolfgang G├╝llich


After a long hellish time away from the wall, I am back! I have been climbing lightly for about a month now, but today is the day I restarted my training. With minimal training equipment I needed a training routine that only requires the floor, a pair of rings and a chair. My friend and personal trainer Eleni Kehagiaras hooked me up with a regime to get me back into shape. It includes bicep curls, rows, squat jumps, lunge jumps, jumping jacks, dips and my least favorite…running. I will be adding some lower back and abs as well. I am hoping that by the time I get home from Europe I will be in good physical shape so I can train hard for climbing.

The “wall” I have to work with is very small, and not the best for training. Compared to my Portland stomping grounds, it isn’t much. However the people that climb there make all the difference. I have met a great group of people who have been very welcoming and friendly. 

The "wall" in Sigmaringen.


Other than the “Wall” I have been to two gyms. One in Ravensburg that has great features on their lead wall, and another in Munich called Boulderwelt or Boulder World. It’s an all bouldering gym with very interesting wall designs and is very spacious. Being all bouldering, it reminded me of my home gym The Circuit and how much I miss it!

I have yet to climb outside! The outdoor area near me is known as the Donautal. It is escarpment after escarpment of polished limestone all around five to ten minutes from my front door. I am just waiting on some good weather on my days off!  I have planned a trip the second week in April to Kjuge, a bouldering area in Sweden. I plan on meeting up with some friends I met while climbing in Kalymnos. Hopefully I will get some good weather so I can get the most out of my trip!


Living here in Germany has been and continues to be such a great experience. Adjusting took some time but now I feel very comfortable and happy. Working with the kids every day is so much fun, and a dream come true. For those of you who don’t know, my stay in Germany has been 12 years of dreams and planning. The woman I am an Au-Pair for was my Au-pair when I was 4 years old. After she left, my family and I took a trip to Germany to visit her. During my stay I decided that I must come back and live here, and maybe be a nanny for Silke. Around 3 years ago this dream started to become a reality when Silke had her first child. We started planning, and setting a date for me to come. It was so unreal until I got here. The kids are amazing. Magdalena, age three; is a bubbly, sensitive little thing. She has super cute Harry Potter glasses, and loves to play hide and seek. Lukas, almost one; is also known as “The hardwood Surfer”.  He doesn’t crawl! The lays on his stomach much like a surfer on a board and uses his arms to pull himself around the floor! It is the weirdest thing! I actually got on the floor and tried to do what he does all day every day, and it is really difficult. (I might weigh a little more than he does.)

I spend most of my time with Lukas, because Magdalena goes to kindergarten during the day. My day consists of feeding Lukas, getting him dressed, then making Magdalena’s lunch and driving her to kindergarten. If I don’t wave at her when I leave, her day will go completely sideways! So, always remember to wave good bye. Then I come back, give the key to Silke so she can go to work and Lukas and I keep the house clean. He helps me fold the laundry (meaning I get to fold it twice), we have lunch, and we go for walks. Silke usually is home in time to put him down for a nap. After nap time I try to do a project with Magdalena once a week. This week we made rock candy. I think at least a quarter of the sugar needed for the candy was poured on the floor! The sugar crystals are growing in jars on the windowsill.

Magdalena and I blowing bubbles.

Every day here is a new experience. Whether is a trip to the bar with new friends, or learning a new word in German. It’s something that I will never forget and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to live and work here.