Let’s start with a softball question: how long have you been with the UW?
I just finished my 7th year.
If someone didn’t know you, how would you describe your role?
I’m the head of Human Resources for UW Medicine. I have four directors who report to me, and they handle day-to-day HR operations for UW Medicine. I help with strategic vision, regarding the HR issues involved.
Why did you decide to be an ambassador for The Whole U?
I am really, really into work-life balance. That’s very important to me. I try to ensure that the people who report to me also have that. We all work hard and I want to make sure that we don’t burn out so that we can feel fulfilled, be productive, and provide excellent service to our clients.
And I’m very into fitness and it just seemed like a good combo and an exciting new program. I was an athlete growing up, then did nothing for a few years when I adopted my daughter as an infant because I was busy chasing her around. Several years ago, I started doing triathlons, but I hated the running. I felt like I didn’t have good form and I just didn’t enjoy it. During the off-season–I still talk like an athlete–I decided to take a class to improve my form. I took a class from Laura Houston and now I love running! I’ve stopped doing the triathlons and just run instead.
So running went from being your least favorite to your most favorite?
What challenges do you face when it comes to fitness?
I have a chronic autoimmune disease; I was diagnosed about five years ago. It affects me every day. Autoimmune diseases cause your body to attack itself. My disease targets my joints, my immune system is weak so I get sick easily, and I have some neurological issues going on. I can’t regulate my heart rate, blood pressure or body temperature, which of course impacts running! Every day I feel joint pain.
I think it made me more determined to be fit in a lot of ways. I was really afraid that if I stopped running I would just do nothing and I would use this as an excuse. I wasn’t ready to do that…I would feel like the disease won. In fact, I probably run more because of it.
How do you train?
I try to run regularly. For me, I like to have some goal. I always try to set a race a few months ahead of time. I just did the Snohomish Women’s 10k, I’m going to do the Shore Run 10k next, and I have a half marathon in October. Half marathons are my thing; I’ve done seven half marathons in the past couple years. I love the distance because it’s hard enough that I have to really train for it, but it’s still doable.
I’m going to be 50 in March so I’m doing a marathon to celebrate. I’ve registered for the Phoenix Marathon and Lauren Updyke is helping me with my training plan. I also did a holiday fitness challenge with HR folks that challenged us to work out 30 out of 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. I ran 31 out of 35 days for a total of 132 miles. There were a few days when I didn’t really feel like going for a run, but I got out there when I remembered the challenge and thought about those folks who were exercising “with” me. If I have something out there that I’m trying to complete or I’ve made some commitment, then I’ll do it.
It doesn’t sound like you’ve slowed down!
Not at all, but in some of those races I’ve really struggled. In the Cinco de Mayo race I fell five times because I had so much joint pain that day. But, I finished it! I keep telling my wife I’m trying to be stubborn but smart. I work with fantastic UW Medicine doctors to make sure that I’m not doing anything that hurts my joints. They know that running and being fit is important to me so they work with me to ensure that I can keep doing that.
When I run, I’m a back of the pack person. I’m not fast, but I really enjoy it and I feel like I can’t be that sick because I run all the time. One good thing that came out of all the health stuff is that it really taught me to take advantage of every day. If I feel good today and I can run, I do it, because I’m not positive I’ll be able to do it tomorrow. That’s the positive spin. It gets really old managing health issues all the time. But I’m really fortunate. I have great doctors and great insurance so I can get the care I need.
What direction do you think The Whole U should go from here?
I think health means different stuff to different people. The thing I like about The Whole U is that it’s not a one size fits all program. It allows people to really focus on the things that are important to them. For me it’s running but for someone else it might be something different.
I was gone the weekend of the Scavenger Hunt but I really liked that kids could be involved. I coached kids sports as an adult and it’s important to me that we teach kids to be active and fit so that they incorporate it into their lives early on. My daughter asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, and I told her I wanted her to run a 5k with me! We ran the Furry 5K and it was awesome!
What Guinness World Record do you think we should break next?
World’s biggest conga line!
If you were to start a social group, what would it be?
A book club. I’m a big reader. I met my wife at book club. I’m really introverted so I’m not a big social person, but I do the Good Reads challenge. Last year I read 20 books. This year I’ve committed to reading 25 for the year and I’m ahead of pace. Goals are what keep me motivated.
Many thanks to Nicki for sharing her story!