I was recently at a Leadership Development Workshop down in Arizona for Univera, a research company that has developed amazing plant-based products that have been helping my clients, when I met Rita. The first evening of the workshop someone mentioned that if anyone was interested in climbing Camelback Mountain in the morning to meet outside the hotel at 6:15 am the next morning. It sounded like a great opportunity, so I met this random group, we all stuffed together into a convertible, and made our way to the trail. A few people went ahead, while I and a few others paced ourselves with Rita, a 74-year-old dealing with Lyme Disease. (Don’t get me wrong, she made great time!)
We made our way up the mile-long climb to 2,700 feet, which took us a little over an hour. It wasn’t just a hike up a trail – there was some definite rock scrambling involved. We made it to the top just in time to enjoy the sunrise before we had to make it back down the mountain for our first speaker. At the top, I was very moved as Rita got emotional and told us her story about how just a year ago, she could barely get herself up off the couch, let alone climb this pile of rocks! She had made a pact with herself that she would do something new every week. What a way to start out the year!
On the way down the mountain, she told me about her past as an endurance athlete, and I knew I had to share her story. We even made a pact that if she is able to get well enough to train for another Iron Man, that I would join her! She is such an inspiration!
Name: Rita Losee, ScD, RN
Hometown: Bath, Maine
Currently Living: Brunswick, Maine
Sport: Triathlons, Hiking, Mountain Climbing, Rock Climbing
Favorite Physical Activity: Running
Favorite Healthy Food: A bowl of mixed fruit, ricotta, cinnamon, and walnuts.
Biggest Athletic Accomplishment: Finishing the Hawaii Ironman in 12 hours, 41 minutes, and 27 seconds; walking the Appalachian Trail, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Also giving birth to two kids naturally, the smaller one weighed in at 9 lbs.
High School: Morse High School
College & Degree: Maine Medical Center School of Nursing in Portland, ME; Bachelor of Science at Newton College of the Sacred Heart; Master’s in Counseling and Doctorate of Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University
How old were you when you started playing sports or exercising?
I grew up on a farm in Maine with six brothers, and we spent a lot of time outdoors climbing, swimming and playing. There were also stories of my grandfather having been very physically fit. He rode his bicycle from Orono, ME to West Bath, ME (two hours’ drive-time today) on dirt roads in 1913. I also have a photos of my grandmother with her basketball team from 1906. I played basketball when I got to high school too, except you could only play intramural as a girl because there was one gym and that went to the boys. Rules decreed that girls could only run half-court they didn’t think girls had the stamina to play full-court. Guards would be on one end of the court and the forwards at the other end.
I loved being physically active; I think the family stories taught my unconscious that it was good to be active and the adults respected and admired athletes.
However, it was at age 30 when I read Helen Keller’s words, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” At the time I was a suburban housewife, happily married, mother of one, and working part time. Those words changed my life path as I instantly decided that my life was going to be an adventure. So from then on I set out to master everything I could physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It led me to doing the Hawaii Ironman, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the Appalachian Trail, and many other things. I became an avid runner and a proficient rock climber. Whenever a decision would pop up in my life, I would ask myself, “What would a woman of adventure do here?”
Did you have a coach for any of your training?
One of my professors when I was working on my master’s degree told me I needed to run. I ran a mile and thought I was going to die. I did it on and off for a year before it was my habit; I was a runner. Later, it was Julie Moss’ amazing finish at the Hawaii Ironman that inspired me, and thousands of other people to start doing triathlons. At the time, women just weren’t televised reaching that deep into themselves to reach a goal. I did my first Olympic Distance with a heavy old bike with no toe clips, with a goal of finishing in three hours. I finished in three hours and four minutes, and was hooked. Once I was competing – and winning – regularly I began to wonder if I could do an Ironman.
That “Could I” question wouldn’t go away. The only way I was going to get an answer was to try to do an Ironman. My first Ironman qualified me for Hawaii. What would a woman of adventure do here? In that effort, I hired Hank Lange for some serious coaching to get me ready for my the Hawaii Ironman.
Can you talk about what happened to your health?
I was on the Appalachian Trail hike March 5 through August 29, 2000. I walked into a shelter and pulled off my pack and boots (after weeks of living in the woods 24/7), and saw a small freckle I hadn’t seen before. I poked it, and it moved, and I realized it was a deer tic. Over the next couple of weeks I pulled of 4 or 5 more. I then went home for 4th of July, and second or third day woke up with no energy: I could barely turn my head my neck was so stiff. However, I had been doing over 20 miles per day of hiking for weeks, so thought maybe I was just tired. I gave myself 24 hours to recoup, and if I wasn’t better would go to the ER. Well, I went to the ER, and they confirmed my suspicions. They gave me some antibiotics, and said if I was better in 24-48 hours, I should be fine. Within two weeks I was back on trail, continued at 20 miles per day, I finished the course of antibiotics, back on the trail, hiking 20 miles per day.
I finished the hike, and was feeling low energy and achy. Other hikers said it can take a few months to recover from the hike, so I again attributed the symptoms to that. I had another test done in September of 2000 and it came back positive. Then was given three weeks of antibiotics, but still was not feeling better. Then three months worth. By February, I still wasn’t feeling better, and so my doctor referred me to a doctor the specializes in infectious diseases.
Inch by inch deteriorated. I couldn’t even get off the couch. By this point, it was out of control, and began more than a decade of antibiotics. From Nov., 2004- June, 2005, I was on intravenous antibiotics. Seventeen days after they pulled the PICC line out, I felt like me and ran a 5k.
However, I wasn’t really healthy and couldn’t maintain a normal life. Doctors often had a stereotypical viewpoint of me. For example, I had physiological stress test on me. While training for the Ironman. I was 45 years old, and my VO2 max was equivalent to 18-year-old male. Fast forward, and in the second test I knew I didn’t perform well, but it read “normal” for my age. However, because of my background as an athlete I knew my own body, and knew “normal” doesn’t mean “healthy.”
By autumn 2009, I was functioning at a good level. I was working twenty-four hours per week as a nurse, walking every day (even starting to run), finishing a book manuscript, and being socially active. In late October, I went to get my thyroid medication because the pharmaceutical house that manufactured it simply stopped shipping it. I got put on a generic brand, and by early December I was having strange symptoms,
On January 1st, 2010, I did the Lobster Dip in the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Maine, worked 3 – 11 as a nurse, went home, and felt fine. By January 5th, I was almost dead. I couldn’t walk upstairs without my pulse shooting to 115 bpm. I couldn’t stand up without feeling dizzy, so I laid on the couch and read books all day. I often couldn’t get up to cook myself dinner, so too often dinner was two bowls of ice cream.
I was sick and semi-functional from 2000 to 2010. From January 2010 until 2014, I was dreadfully sick and all too often, completely non-functional. Throughout this very long ordeal, I maintained the belief, “every cell in your body knows how to heal.”
To illustrate just how debilitated I was, I recall a summer day from 2014. I needed to go to both the library and the grocery store for a few items. It took just as much self-coaching and determination to get both those errands done as it did to finish mile 23, 24, and 25 in the last leg of the Ironman. But because of my background as an athlete and what I could mentally push through because of that training, I got them done! I also managed to hold to my intention of robust health even in the absence of any evidence that I would ever recover.
How did you recover?
In January 2010, I, for the first time in all the years I had been ill, questioned whether I would ever get well again. I determined that I was going to get off medication; I did a 28-day fruit and vegetable detox, and continued meditating.
In April 2016, which was hell-month for me, a nurse friend whose business was Univera from Think Local, a networking group, started me on Univera products. With Univera, my cells finally had the resources to heal themselves (for more information you Univera, click here). I currently take Univera Xtra, Aloe Select Mango, RegeniFree, GoVera, Prime, Regenicare, Aloedophilus, and as of two nights ago, Anti-Stress.
I can tell when I push myself too hard, because I get insomnia. Well, I was up for 22 hours during my travel on my way here, and then I hiked Camelback Mountain on three hours sleep and attended workshop sessions all day. The climb was very difficult for me. However, I took my Univera supplements and I’m perfectly fine. I also am not feeling sore at all today! I also think that because I had been so active in my past, I was able to recover much faster.
I just started taking Anti-Stress and am finding my sleep pattern greatly improved.
What is your current exercise regimen?
I am working 16 hours per week as a nurse; I get a lot of exercise walking for 8 hours at a stretch. I walk outside as often as I can and do a monthly exercise challenge with Univera colleagues. When I get home, I will be going to the YMCA, and getting back into yoga, lifting, and running on the treadmill.
How would you describe your current diet?
I stay pretty close to gluten-free, although I don’t term myself gluten intolerant. I do seem to have a cast-iron stomach. I also am ice-cream-free. I emphasize fruits and vegetables. I eat as little sugar as possible. I eat a lot of home made Crockpot dishes with loads of vegetables, chicken, and herbs.
I have a Grow Tower in my home from which I can harvest fresh greens all year, even in Maine where today the high temperature will be in the single digits.
Do you include a routine for mental health?
Right now I am doing Joe Vitale’s visualization techniques in morning, as well as the Ho’oponopono chant when it feels right: “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” It’s what I told my legs all the way up Camelback yesterday!
Do you feel your job allows you work/life balance?
My real goal is to resume life as a professional speaker. I never met a microphone I didn’t like. Working in a long-term care facility is difficult, because people younger than me are expected to die there. It is incompatible with who I am right now. However, it’s what I need at the moment, so I’m working on doing my highest and best there.
I am feeling totally grateful for the opportunity to go to Scottsdale, get better acquainted with what a great company Univera is, and get to know some of the superb people who are part of it. I am proudly living young! I am joyously living Univera!
If you or someone you know would like to be a featured athlete on this blog, please email a brief bio to firstname.lastname@example.org.