About Heather Adventure

Spectator turned Adventure Seeker
Left--me at 20 years old and a size 28. Right--me last year.

Lost in search of Adventure

I remember being at a very young age and longing for adventure. My parents signed me up for Brownies (Girls Scouts) and I was under the impression we’d go on wilderness hikes, camp, and maybe even go mountain climbing! That’s what I saw the kids doing in the Boy Scout commercials; I assumed we’d get to do that too. Instead I learned how to sew on a button and chop an onion. It was crushingly disappointing.

I wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones and go on amazing adventures. Or play Dukes of Hazard and get into mischief running from Boss Hog. The other girls my age wanted to braid hair or play dress-up. Even playing sports, although physical and challenging, was unfulfilling. I wanted adventure, not uniforms and soccer balls.

I didn’t quite fit in.

Going into my teens and early twenties, I lost myself, never being able to find the right challenge to inspire my personhood.

Like many others and for many various reasons, I ended up eating. A lot. Once I hit 320 pounds at the age of 23, I stopped weighing myself. I felt a flicker of panic knowing that I was about to surpass the maximum size at clothing stores and already couldn’t fit into booths at restaurants. But I didn’t know how to change the course of my life. It seemed useless, like using a pebble to damn the rushing force of the Niagara Falls. 

Then two things happened: Flipping through the channels on a Sunday afternoon I came across an interesting show that rekindled my desire to chase adventure. It was a documentary following teams competing in the Eco-Challenge. They biked, hiked, camped, survived, canoed, did orienteering, and rappelled. It looked amazing!

The second thing that happened was terrifying. After walking up a short flight of stairs my heart started racing and I could not catch my breath. I sat on the floor, put my head between my knees but nothing seemed to stop the weight that was crushing my lungs. I was slapped in the face with the reality that morbid obesity is a fatal condition.

I made an important decision that day. I wasn’t going to let the deafening voices around me that said I was lazy, undisciplined, ugly, and too fat stop me anymore. I was going to move forward. I wasn’t going to worry about what others would think when they saw me exercising. They could yell their cruel comments out the car window and throw their garbage at me, that wasn’t going to keep me from enjoying the outdoors any longer.

I knew in my heart I was a capable and driven person and, more importantly, that it was time to stop making excuses and to start living my life. 

Finding my own Adventure

Going to an aerobics class was not going to cut it for me. I wanted to do the Eco-Challenge. However, I knew I had a long ways to go before I would be healthy enough to endure that kind of physical exertion.

I started with walking around the block every day. The next week I did two blocks. By the third week I started jogging. I made it 20 feet before I thought my lungs would explode. Each week I continued to jog a little more and walked a little farther.

When I started, being able to jog an entire mile without a walking break was as insurmountable as climbing Mount Everest. So when that day finally arrived, after what seemed like the stretch of a lifetime but was really only a few months, I felt as though I was on top of the world—unstoppable!

Adding an exercise routine to my daily schedule came naturally. Diet changes, unfortunately, were much more difficult. Making food choices was an overwhelming task. I wrote down every morsel of food that passed my lips and measured every serving. I made most meals ahead of time and stored them in pre-measured single serving containers. This took all the guesswork out of the process.

Evenings were the hardest, being alone in my apartment with food just sitting there in the cupboards, wanting to be consumed. The temptation was too great. I started going to a coffee shop down the road carrying a novel and just enough change for a cup of tea.

HOnce the diet and the exercise routine synced I began seeing results on the scale. Encouraged by dropping a dress size and being able to run an entire mile, I decided it was time to create my own Adventure Race.

I bought a used kayak and salvaged my 1993 Bianchi Nyala from my parent’s garage. I stored the kayak at my brother’s house, which was down the road from a boat launch. Every Saturday I began my day with a 1 mile run through Duncan's Woods. Followed by a 4 mile bike ride to my brother’s house where I dragged the kayak down the road and set out for a 30-minute paddle. Afterwards I biked back home.

Redwoods in California
As the weeks and months passed, I dropped more weight and the distances in my “adventure race” grew longer and longer. I looked forward to Saturdays when I could spend the day biking and paddling with the wind on my face and the warm sun on my back.

Some weekends I’d drive to Ludington and explore the hiking trails at the State Park or I would load my kayak on top of the car and drive north to explore a new river or lake. Every weekend was a new adventure to be found. I was at peace, I had finally discovered myself.

Chad and I

Shortly after that I met my husband. He took me on my first back-packing trip along Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks. We explored the wilderness in northern California, wandered through the mighty redwoods and tiptoed through a herd of wild Elk. We've hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail and I've ridden the whitewater rapids of the Rocky Mountain gorges. Two kids later, we’ve been living the adventure ever since!

Mountain Biking

If you want to find out a little more about how I started mountain biking and racing, you can read a short bio at the Grand Traverse Mountain Bike Association webiste.


Mike Ver Duin said...

Go Heather! You are doing Great!

Chad R. Allen said...

Heather, wow, this made me cry. I had no idea. I can't wait to talk with you more about your journey. What a story, what a journey, and what an inspiration you are. And you're not a bad writer, either, young lady! So pleased to know about this blog, and to know you better too. Peace.

Jon Wilcox said...

You have an inspiring story Heather! You've shown tremendous spirit and fight, and you've been diligent in living a life that makes your heart come alive. That's awesome! Well done... and yet, of course, your story still has much to come! By the way, Ludington rocks. My family loves that state park and Hamlin Lake... both sides of our family have places up there... it's our summer stomping grounds.