Always Reach for the Summit

Always reach for the summit…

Kulia i ka nu’u…

“Kulia i ka nu’u” is a Hawaiian olelo, or proverb.  Olelos are part of the oral tradition passed from generation to generation in Hawaii, my homestate.  A place that will always be a part of my heart, no matter where I am in the world.

“Kulia i ka nu’u” – this olelo was passed to me by my friend from high school, Kathy.

When she sent this to me, I just kind of welled up.  Yes, teary eyes, but also a full-hearted feeling.  Kathy said this olelo reminded her of me.  And it sung to me too.  It is exactly my philosophy.

Reach for the summit. 
Pursue excellence. 
Judge progress versus one’s own capabilities. 
Foster a life of giving back, to others, to the community. 
And always try.  Because you can.

This week has symbolised a lot of summits for me.

First there is the new “summit” in my shoe.  Yep.  New orthotic inserts.  I finally received these, more than a year after I began to develop foot pain from running.  I know that I post on Twitter occassionally about my aches, and that for a while last year I posted about my foot pain.  This pain has now become a part of my life, just something that I manage.  I talk about it a lot less, as managing pain is the same for me as managing to wake up and shower in the morning.  In May of this year I had an appointment with Elaine the orthotics expert, and she hinted to me that the pain may be something that I can more than manage with ibuprofen gel and stretching, but something that we could try to correct with a new orthotics solution that would better address my biomechanics.

Views are divided about using orthotics in running shoes – or indeed about how bulky running shoes need to be.  But for me, with very high arched feet and weak ankles due to my nerve disease, orthotics are a necessity.  They correct my biomechanics and enable me to run without injury (in combination with dedicated training and a sensible approach, which is where Coach T slots into my equation).

So in May we took my feet…

Cast them in foam…

Manufactured new orthotics, and then with some walking/jogging in the National Hospital decided on an additional wedging solution to try (before finalising the orthotic shape)…


And now I’m am in the “trial period” in a new pair of New Balance trainers (that prescription too will change with further study of my biomechanics), wearing my ankle foot Push Aequi support braces, and getting ready for the final weeks’ push to the London Triathlon.

Note – these are the old old New Balance, but you can see the additional ankle support I use…

It is a lot to ask – to get used to new orthotics with only 3 weeks left before the London Triathlon, in addition to doing the training to get me around 10k with as much running as possible.  The experts see nothing wrong with this, but a constant feedback loop is required.  I need to pay close attention to my body at all times: where are the aches and pains if any, or is it just muscle soreness; does the shoe fit work right with the wedge height; am I stable enough.  Lots of feedback.  I have Elaine’s email, and with Coach T’s training prescription I am optimistic I will get there.

Another summit – inside my shoe, and in advance of doing my first Olympic distance triathlon.  Scary.  But…

Always reach for the summit…

It is the simple act of reaching for it that matters.  We shall see what happens, because you can never know if you do not try.

Another huge summit for me over the past week was reaching the decision to step down from my current position as the Director for Alumnae Expansion with Sigma Kappa Sorority.  I rarely describe personal stuff on Mondays (that is usually a Thursday topic – my thoughts) but the decision to resign is major for me.  A true summit experience.

I am passionate about giving back to organisations that I have benefitted from.  As a member of Sigma Kappa in university and continuing my experiences as a member of her European Alumnae Chapter, I have valued each and every interaction I have had with my sisters.  I have had the privilege to meet with and interact with so many wonderful women, and to serve on a local and national organisation level as a volunteer.

There is a time when the return on volunteering diminishes.  My energies and focus have changed significantly over the last year.  I find myself needing – out of choice and necessity – to focus on my own healthy and well being.  I have made choices since the start of 2010 to refocus aspects of my life around these choices, and for those activities that remain, they must energise me and satisfy me.

Admitting to burn out when you are a Type A person is hard.  Maybe some people can relate to that.  But the alternative – building up resentment, or just doing the bare minimum to be considered a “good volunteer”, are not options for me.  Those choices do not align with who I am.  So when looking at the activity, seeing that it was draining me rather than energising me, that the position was not meeting my personal needs…  I had to say goodbye to my position as Director for Alumnae Expansion.

Coming to make this decision was both painful but obvious.  The choices of how we spend and give our time are deeply personal and by definition must be evolutionary in nature.

One particular tweet from TriShaman seemed both timely and appropriate when I was reconciling my decision with my feelings over the last week:

“Surround yourself with inspiring people that help you learn and grow to shape all you achieve.”

I have given what I can, I have taken the inspiration I could, and the time is right for change and evolution.

Another summit.  A personal choice that was difficult to make but necessary, and liberating.

Always reach for the summit.

Without doing so, I firmly believe that I will never know success.  Because without reaching for the summit, I will never understand failure.  I will never test and strretch my limits.  I will not try.  And without trying I will not do that which is deemed impossible. 

I leave you with another olelo, this one from another high school friend of mine, Ulalia.

‘Ike aku,  ‘ike mai
Kokua aku, kokua mai
Pela iho la ka nohana ‘ohana


Recognise others, be recognised
Help others, be helped
Such is a family relationship

Thank you for reading, letting me share, following me as I reach for the summit, and for being a part of my extended virtual family…

3 responses to “Always Reach for the Summit”

  1. Donna – you are an absolute inspiration. I’m so excited for you as you are so close to the London Tri. You will reach this summit – and then, no doubt, begin looking for the next ridge to crest.

  2. Hi Maria,

    Thanks so much for the note!  I have a feeling I am going to hang around at this particular summit for a while.  There is still so much to do, learn and improve on here.

    I can’t wait for you on Sunday.  I will be tracking you at Lake Placid.  Go Maria Go!


  3. Hi Jude,

    So far so good. My orthotics are ok the main adjustment for me has been in my hips.  My feet have also felt really tired.

    I’m trying to be good and follow the plan to slowly break them in.  That said I wore them for at least 7 hours yesterday marshalling a triathlon – swapping between them and my Birkenstocks.  Hm.  Probably not a smart plan.  But just tired feet today.

    I do have burning on my right foot, I am thinking it is the sock / ankle orthotic combination I am using.  It has not been there for shorter distances, but now that I am going more than 5k regularly it is something I have noticed.  I am going back to Nikes and trying their full compression sock range (foot is same as lower ankle socks I already use).

    Thanks for reading my blog and keeping in touch!  And you should totally TRI.  I am a firm believer that anyone can learn the swim with patience and practice.  The feeling of finishing a multisport event is just sheer elation!


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