We’re nearing the end of 2014, and early next year I will celebrate the six-year anniversary of my second brain surgery. Health milestones are important to everyone and my second brain surgery is especially significant to me because this was the surgery where I was warned I might not be able to walk or move in the same way afterward.

My brain tumor is in the left parietal lobe, which means it controls the sense of touch, balance, and body awareness in the right side of my body. After my second surgery I lost a lot of feeling in the right side of my body. I can move my arm, leg, feet and hips, however, I am “unaware” of them.

All of this back story is a long way of getting to the point I am getting to right here:

This non-natural athlete, who has never played sports (team or individual), who started weightlifting two and a half years ago at the age of 33, made a crazy decision about 3 months ago: I am going to compete in a weightlifting competition. Yes, a real one. With heavy weights and everything. Time to lace up my lifting shoes!


Some people like running. Or, they may hate running, but feel like they need to do it in order to keep active and burn calories. And these people set goals to run in organized running events. There are 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, full marathons, ultra-marathons, you name it. There are even runs with cool themes where you can get chased by zombies or have colorful dust thrown at you. But I am not a runner and I don’t like to run.

What I do like is weightlifting.

About two and a half years ago I started working out with Allyson, a trainer at BodyTribe Fitness in Sacramento. And about a year ago, Allyson introduced a few movements to me that I thought would be scary: Olympic weightlifting.

Have you ever seen someone do the clean and jerk? Or a snatch? If not, check out these great examples on the Internets:

I had seen people do these lifts in the gym, and when Allyson told me she was going to show me how to do this (with super light weights) I thought she was out of her mind. After Allyson reassured me that I would start with a super light weight, I was willing to give it a try.

I immediately fell in love with the way these lifts made me feel.

What I love about the Olympic lifts is that they are a thinking-woman’s movement. Unlike a deadlift, bench press or squat where you move up and down, an Olympic lift is technically complicated. You must snap your body up, then down, and then up again, all while thinking about where you are going, without losing form, in a split second! For someone like me this comes with extra challenges, but it made it all the more fascinating.

Here’s me practicing the “clean”:

A video posted by The Liz Army (@thelizarmy) on

I started finding myself looking forward to the days at the gym when the Olympic lifts were incorporated into my workouts. I poured through YouTube for videos of other people doing the lifts. I started following lifters on Instagram. I even found myself using egg white protein powder! Allyson added the lifts to my routine for when I worked out on my own. My interest kinda spiraled out of control from there.

A few months ago an idea popped into my head: I wanted to enter a weightlifting competition. I mean, why not? You gotta start somewhere. Amateur runners are allowed to be in half-marathons, so why can’t I be an amateur weightlifter? Why not? Why not? Why not?

Unfortunately, a weightlifting version of a 5k is not readily accessible.

I told Allyson about my goal to go to a competition. I told her that my expectations are not to go on to the Olympics. She did not laugh at me. In fact, she said she would train me to compete.

I have no idea what I am doing (but Allyson does!). I might get there and the weightlifting people might say, “Go lift that heavy bar,” and I won’t even be able to get it off the ground. But I want to train for it and enter the competition, just to say that I did it. Does any of this make sense?

What ifs?

Starting in January I will “officially” be in training for an event (possibly two events) that are in August 2015. Just admitting that I am going to do this in a public format (i.e., this blog) is insane for multiple reasons:

  1. What if my tumor starts growing again and prevents me from competing?
  2. What if people see me competing and wonder why some 35-year old amateur thinks she is cool enough to mingle among the ranks of “strong people?”
  3. What if I get there and I don’t qualify?
  4. What if? What if? What if?

I remember the first time I got a tattoo it hurt SO BAD, but I told myself, “Once this is over I will have the tattoo and it will never hurt again.”

Then when I was being prepped for my first brain surgery I thought, “At least I will never have to do this again.”

Then when I was being prepped for my second brain surgery I thought, “Well, I am doing this again, but if I do this then everything else in my life, from here on out, will never be as scary in comparison.”

And so far nothing else has compared to the craziness of a second brain surgery. Nothing else is as scary. Nothing. Nothing else.

Not even a job loss. Not even job interviews while you are on chemo. Not even job changes. Not even talking to members of Congress. Not even working for a start-up. Not even doing a TED Talk. Nothing is as scary. Nothing. Is. As scary.

And here I am, making a conscious decision to do something that takes eight months of commitment–eight months of training to do something intimidating, and awkward, and difficult.

But I can’t say it is scary because I told myself six years ago that nothing would be scary ever again.