Grace, Tenacity, Humor (Meeting Tenley Albright)

On Friday, July 18, Tenley and I left for Tampa to fly up to Boston. In addition to Boston, the trip would take us to Connecticut to spend time with dear friends, then to New York City where we indulged our love of NYC and saw more friends. The reason for going to Boston deserves its own post, though.

The library was my sanctuary as a relatively bright yet awkward, athletically challenged, overweight elementary school kid at W.E. Cherry Elementary in Orange Park, Florida. Then (as now) I would pretty much read anything. I gravitated to a biography of champion figure skaters. I am not sure how many times I checked that book out over my elementary school years, but I have to have been one of its most frequent readers. That book was the first time I was introduced to the name “Tenley,” because it covered the career and eventual gold medal Olympic championship of Tenley Albright. I can’t say that at that moment I said “if I have a daughter someday I will name her Tenley” but the name was always on my short list.

My fascination with figure skating was a constant throughout my life. I got to attend the National Championships in Detroit in 1994 (yes, the year of “the Kerrigan/Harding incident) and in Providence, RI, in 1995.

1996 rolled around, with a due date in July for our daughter, and the naming process began in earnest. Wayne wanted to indulge his love of Russian history with “Anastasia.” Several options that would honor his recently deceased sister Ann Elizabeth were contenders: Eliza, Liza. I had a “J” category: Josie, Jocelyn. I wanted to honor my Aunt Grace, who was a favorite, but I have a superstition that naming a kid Grace dooms her to a lifetime of clutziness! The more we tossed around the “Tenley” idea, the more it stuck. That’s how Tenley Anastasia came to be.

And thus started 18 years of:

Is that a family name?

Tinsley, Tensley, Other Variations

And 18 years of me trying to convey to Tenley Albright, after whom our Tenley was named, how much her story had inspired me and that I wanted her to know how we had made the choice to name our daughter Tenley.

I wrote letters, sent emails, tried every way I possibly could to share this information with her. Selfishly, I felt like I was the only one with the brilliant idea to use this name but as it turns out I was most definitely not alone! In an October 2011 blog post, “get a response from Tenley Albright” was #1 on my list of “22 Things I Haven’t Done.”

Lo and behold, I eventually did get a response (her wonderful daughter Elee found my blog and communicated with me and facilitated a response) but that blog, and the power of social media, coalesced into this moment on July 19, 2014:

Tenley Albright

Meeting Tenley Albright at the Skating Club of Boston/”My Name is Tenley” Party

Eight days later, it is still difficult to talk about this evening without gushing. About how well organized the event was. About how gracious Tenley Albright and her daughters were (this picture was taken almost as soon as we walked in … she agreed to as many private pictures as we wanted to take, and a professional photographer took a picture of Tenley Albright with each of the 66 Tenleys present). About the relief for this prosopagnosic of everyone being named the same thing. About ice skating (yes these two Floridians laced up!).

ice skating

About the ice skating demonstration, including a young Tenley (Rutledge). About the video, the dinner, the testimonials almost every Tenley gave about living with the name (apparently I need to visit a certain well-named watering hole in DC next time I’m there!). About the utter classiness of the event (classy yet welcoming). (For the Boston Globe article about the event, click here.)

tenley photo session

(My shot from afar of the Albright/Kiger photo moment.)

Right before the picture of Tenley Albright and me was taken I tried to stumble through the “I read a book about you in 4th grade and that’s what inspired me to name my daughter after you” story. What my statement lacked in finesse, I know it made up for in sincere gratitude.

Tenley Albright is an individual with many accomplishments, including overcoming polio, winning an Olympic Silver Medal (1952), winning an Olympic Gold Medal (1956), becoming a physician, raising three daughters, and (currently) directing the MIT Collaborative Initiatives. All of those things are very, very big deals, and make me happy that I named my daughter after someone so successful.

But after spending an evening with her (and the 66 other Tenleys), there is something much more basic that speaks to me. As I wrote that evening before turning in for the night, she demonstrates grace, tenacity, and humor.

And she was real and kind.

Those are the kinds of attributes that blaze even brighter than the Olympic flame.

I am grateful.

Assembling all the Tenleys for a group photo (note each one has a flower in her hair!).

Assembling all the Tenleys for a group photo (note each one has a flower in her hair!).

This brief video provides a glimpse into Tenley Albright’s life:

***Lastly, this blog is about my experience. Ultimately this was intended to be for my Tenley. And although she shared with me many of her impressions, and the conversation she had with Tenley Albright during their private moment together, I can’t speak for her. Her story is hers to share if and when she wants to.

Speaking of Spirulina

There is a torrent of information available on social media related to fitness. If you want an opinon on how to exercise, eat, sleep, or cogitate, social media is your place, as long as you don’t believe everything you see.

Recently, spirulina has come to my attention. It started when Energy Bits was tweeting about their product, during a #runchat. One thing led to another and I found myself holding a cute round tin full of 100% spirulina algae tablets.

Had I not been educated by the EnergyBits representative and other research I conducted, I would probably still be calling spirulina a supplement, but it is a food. Spirulina is grown in water (it takes a month to grow), harvested, dried, and packaged.

The claims made by fans of spirulina lead a consumer to believe that consuming this protein packed, nutrient rich algae may lead to:

  • increased energy level
  • increased endurance
  • increased alertness
  • reduced blood pressure
  • weight loss
  • reduced hunger
  • reduced fatigue
  • healthier skin and hair

Who wouldn’t want all that, especially if the way to get it involves simply swallowing a handful of tablets a few minutes before a workout (or before any task that requires focus)?

I agreed to try a sample of Energy Bits. (I should have read the admonition to “swallow” rather than “chew” as a beginner because that first tablet definitely had an “under the sea” taste to it!) On two mornings, I swallowed 30 tablets five minutes before my scheduled interval workouts.

The first outing, my cumulative time for an interval workout was 5 seconds faster than the previous identical workout.

The second outing, my cumulative time for an interval workout was 2 seconds faster than the previous identical workout.

This was not a scientific study — my faster times could have been a function of my improved conditioning, a morning temperature that was slightly cooler than before, or legs that were at a different stage of “tired.” But all runners want to be faster so I’ll take it and I’ll give the Energy Bits credit in these cases!

I also noticed on each of the days, especially the first day, that my appetite seemed to have less of an edge and my energy level felt steadier than typical as the day progressed. Summer days that start with 5 a.m. workouts don’t always bode well for a “drag-free” work day so I can use all the help I can get there.

For another perspective on Energy Bits, check out Shannon Colavecchio’s review here. I agree with Shannon that the price point of $115 for a month’s supply (1000 tabs) presents a challenge to some (including me right now).

To add to my “spirulina experiment,” I also consumed energy bars containing the algae on three mornings last week. The first was “Spirulina Ballerina” from Barre Bar.

Spirulina Ballerina contains: Dates, walnuts, pecans, agave nectar, hemp seed, hemp protein, rolled oats, ground flax seed, dried coconut flakes, brown rice protein, spirulina, vanilla, sea salt, peanuts.

I kept the spirulina sequence going Saturday morning with a “Spirulina Dream” bar from Raw Revolution.

Here are the ingredients:  Organic Cashews, Organic Dates, Organic Sunflower Seed Kernels, Organic Agave Nectar, Organic Almonds, Organic Spirulina Powder, Organic Sprouted Flax Seed (They contain tree nuts and are peanut free.)

In the case of both Spirulina Bars, at the risk of stating the obvious, I will tell you that each one was a shade of green that was a very vivid thing to wake up to! When I showed one boot camp friend the picture of one, she said “it looks like a shingle.” It may be difficult to turn an algae bar into a beauty queen among food bars, but the nutritious qualities (especially the appetite reduction) make up for the cosmetic challenges. Spirulina is, to me, still an acquired taste. But it is one that I could get used to and I think if I were more in the habit of eating vegan, it may not seem so drastically different from the breakfast foods I typically consume.

Back to my verdict about spirulina.

I am pretty skeptical about sales pitches. For that reason, I dig around for source documents.

This post provides a good overview of spirulina’s characteristics.

I found the original document that provides the background behind the role spirulina algae plays for NASA (a big part of the pitch for spirulina).

The parent company of Energy Bits talks extensively about the use of algae by Olympic athletes in this press release.

One of the claims about algae that I particularly love, since I have an interest in the fate of food-impoverished people all over the world (don’t we all?) is that The World Bank and the United Nations have (according to Energy Bits) “declared algae to be the answer to the world’s food shortage.”  The Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, (IIMSAM), a permanent observer to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has declared spirulina “as one of the most efficient tools through which the malice of malnutrition can be successfully tackled worldwide.” Wow.

Spirulina – it starts as this:


And has the potential to do so much……….

My Favorite 2012 Olympic Moments

I am sorry that the Olympics are ending tonight. They have stolen a few hours of sleep from me over the past couple of weeks – nights when I could not tear myself away even when I knew the results.

Here are a few Olympians who made an impression this year:

Nate Brannen

Nathan is a Canadian runner who lived here in Tallahassee for a while, and co-founded Capital City Runners. His second Olympics, running the 1500, did not end as he hoped. He fell in the semifinals, got his calf sliced up by another runner’s spikes, and came back to finish 12th out of 13th in that race. I am heartbroken that he did not have the finish he dreamed of but I am floored and awed by his class and valor in finishing the way he did. Someday when his daughter is old enough to understand, she will know she comes from persistent stock! (An interview with Nate is here and another writer’s perspective is expressed here.)

Photo Credit: Nate Brannen’s Facebook Page

 Oscar Pistorius

There was copious coverage of Oscar Pistorius, who ran the semifinals of the 400 meter race as a double amputee, on carbon fiber prostheses. When the winner of the semifinal race, Kirani James of Grenada, tapped Pistorius on the chest and traded bibs, I loved the moment (I also wondered how they got their numbers off so fast because I have never been able to get a race bib off without getting a safety pin stuck in the thing!!). I learned a lot from this article about Pistorius.  I also learned a bit of the backstory behind this image that has been viral on social media:

Ellie May Challis has a new fan (and so does Oscar Pistorius).

Beth Tweddle

At 27, Beth Tweddle won a bronze medal in the uneven bars, representing Great Britain. Her appearance was not something I had “caught” in the steady stream of spoilers throughout the day on social media. She has won a European Championship, a World Championship, and 4th at the Beijing Olympics. According to this article, she has had six broken ankles, three broken shoulders, and both cheekbones smashed (ouch).This was her last chance to represent Great Britain, and she did so in fine form! To be 27 and capable of competing in the Olympics is such a big deal, physically. When my daughter was a competitive gymnast, I saw young women with overuse injuries and other insults to their bodies that they will deal with forever. I have read of college gymnasts who have had hip replacements. I can only imagine the sacrifices Beth Tweddle has made to keep competing, a course that began when her parents enrolled her in gymnastics at the age of 9 to keep her quiet! Her hard work paid off.

Source: Bing Images

Muhammad Ali said, “he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” I salute these three Olympians who personified everything that is right about the Olympic spirit.