How we met:
Anabel is an Ironman, a cancer survivor, and empowers others to find out how strong they are. She’s a yoga and cycle teacher, a future mama, and works on daily balance just like the rest of us. She is Dynamo.
I am no stranger to instagram. My account (@carrot_bowl_bonnie) is mostly filled with yoga and the occasional blog, food, and family additions. At some point Anabel (@anabelwcapalbo) and I began following each other, both being Portland yogis was a pull for me. When I found her, I followed the link to her blog. Although she doesn’t blog that often, there was enough of her story there to intrigue me and realize that I was in close contact with someone who makes a difference. She does. Fast forward months later and she suddenly starts teaching yoga at the studio that I attend. We were meant to meet. She teaches a hot power 2 class that I attend weekly and sweat my guts out. She pushes comfort boundaries, always gives us space to listen to our souls, and shares her wisdom. It’s my honor to go to her class.
Anabel is Dynamo. She is joining the Carrot Bowl Dynamo community. These are people who daily do their thing and hardly realize they are an example, a powerhouse, and that sharing their story empowers other’s lives. I truly believe that when we listen to each other’s stories, when we let ourselves be affected by them, taking the lessons forward in our own lives, we become better people. We are kinder, more compassionate, and more dedicated to living full and mindful lives. It’s all about how we act with each other. It’s all about fighting hard to keep moving forward, no matter how that looks person to person. Anabel, thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m a better person because of you. You rock, lady.
Since having cancer, how do you think your attitude to living in the present has changed?
I think that in a sense, there’s no way that it doesn’t change. Obviously it’s going to be very personal for everybody. Everybody’s journey through that is going to be completely different. I think for me, I was 23 at the time, so real young, right out of college. Thinking I was invincible basically…not that anything like this would ever really happen. I think ever after that, what it really makes you do, is make you stop and think a lot more. Think about what you’re doing at the moment, what you have done, just the idea of wanting to live a very high quality of life.
There’s something I struggled with for a while and still kinda struggle with a little bit. This idea of guilt that comes with surviving something like that because there are so many people who do not. That’s something I’m still trying to figure out. In a certain sense, it’s not positive to be constantly putting a ton of pressure on yourself. Am I doing enough things? Am I doing big enough things? Am I saving the world? That’s not always going to be productive. But there is a very real sense I was given this other chance that a lot of other people are not given and wanting to make sure I’m treating that as seriously as I think that it is.
I had Hodgkins Lymphoma, so it was a blood cancer. The doctors will tell you it’s a good kind, which is hilarious. (laughs) What do you want me to say to that? Good as in it will just go away and I don’t have to go through hell to get rid of it?
Have you always been athletically competitive?
Mostly after cancer. I was athletic, although not really as a little kid, my mother loves to tell stories of the things I would do on the soccer field when I was 5 years old and not paying attention at all. She would tell me that I had to kick the ball one time in a game. So I’d find an opportunity of an open ball and run and kick the ball, then I would have this huge sigh of relief like, I’m done, I don’t have to do anything else.
It wasn’t until high school that I really started to be competitive, at least at athletics. I started nordic ski racing actually and loved it. I think that was where I really realized I thrived on pushing myself, what that felt like, and what that brought me.
I definitely had my share of a good time in college. I ran, stayed fit, I did a lot of water skiing, that kind of thing. Since I got sick so close to after getting out of school, really all of that [triathlete competitive racing] came afterwards.
Are triathlons your main race?
Mostly triathlons. I’ll do running races, I’ll do swimming races, occasionally bike races, though they’re not my favorite. Mostly I’d consider myself to be a triathlete. My strength is in consistency so that’s what I gear towards.
What is your greatest fitness achievement?
That’s such an evolving thing, which I think is a really good thing. With every season there is awesome things that happen.
I would definitely say my first triathlon was a great achievement, something that I’d never done before. Looking back on it now it’s almost funny to look at it as a big achievement, but it was! The first time I did half iron man, that felt like a really big achievement. And then obviously my first ironman felt like a really big achievement. And the first time I flat out won a race, things like that. I’ve flat out just won one race. I’ve won a couple age group things, but that was the first time. That was at a race outside of Eugene last year. It was cool. It was very cool. It was last year getting ready for Ironman Whistler in Canada, so it was early last June, just about a year ago.
I think that’s what I love the most about triathlon and the idea that there’s always going to be progress that’s made. There’s always going to be those accomplishments to find. I think that’s what continues to get me excited. Maybe one season you spend time on one thing and the other season it’s another thing.
What’s the Ironman community like?
Not to be typed…triathletes are the weirdest crew of people you’ll ever meet in your life. It’s awesome. The thing about it is, it’s so funny because I always forget that Ironman in the grand scheme of society is like this teeny thing, really not that many people. But when you’re in it, you can so easily lose yourself in it and in a good way, lose yourself in that community.
I’ve made some really good real friends that I met for the first time at a race. It’s a very close community. I think because it attracts a very similar type of person. There’s always a person who wants to do it as a bucket list, but in terms of people who are coming back, and they’re coming back, it’s a small community. Which is fun! It makes for an interesting dynamic because most of the time the people that you’re racing, if you’re not friends with them, you know them. It’s not this anonymous thing. It’s awesome and it’s fun to see other people’s accomplishments and to learn from other people’s experiences too. There’s pros and people who race countless Ironman’s a year, but for people that are amateur, you’re probably going to do two in a season, possibly three, but that’s really a stretch. Every time you do it it’s still a big deal.
How does yoga fit into your story?
This is one of those things you feel like the universe brought you.
I had been really interested in yoga all throughout college. I started practicing about two or three months before I found out I was sick. It’s sort of crazy to think about now because yoga was the only thing I was able to do during the entirety of my treatment. The way that the chemo I was on, it starts to be cumulative in it’s effect on your red blood cells. Toward the end you’re pretty wiped, you’re pretty done. I actually continued to lose weight even with the steroids they give, so the doctors cut me off of running. Yoga was the one thing that I kept doing. I would go every single week. It was the one place outside of my house, I was living with my parents at the time, that nobody was judging me. Not judging in a bad way, but no one was looking at me funny or treating me differently than I had been treated before. It was literally the one place I would go out of the house with no wig, no hat, just as myself. And that for me is probably the biggest reason I started teaching.
That gift I was given in that period of my life is sort of something I don’t feel like I’ll ever fully be able to repay. Just that safe place that I could be in my own body which felt so foreign and so out of control, because I wasn’t controlling anything that was happening. The ability to still have that and to have that connection, and to have that connection to the class and the community, that’s really why I became a yoga teacher. It’s basically something I feel like I’m going to be repaying for the rest of my life. Not in a bad way. Just in a way if I can provide a space like that for somebody going through something in their life when they need that sense of no judgment, that sense of community, and they need that time to connect to themselves, that’s what I hope to provide to somebody. It was provided to me in spades in a time when it’s really hard to deal with, it makes people really uncomfortable.
How has having cancer changed your fitness approach?
I don’t know if it’s changed, but it may have made me a little more aware of my body and understanding the need for rest and recovery. Understanding the need to sometimes bag it and not do what I was supposed to do that day and be okay with that. Admittedly I’m not perfect at it and I try desperately to get something done and it ends up in a flight of tears. I’m just trying to listen, maybe listening a little too much at times saying, “well, I’m probably tired” when I could have gotten a little more out of myself. That’s on ongoing thing that I deal with. And at the end of the day, just being grateful to do any of it.
What are 3 goals you have right now?
1. At one time to race in Kona, which is the Ironman race championships in Hawaii that you have to qualify for.
2. I’d like to race in the Boston Marathon at one point because I know it’s something well within my ability.
3. Just to feel content and fulfilled with what I’m doing, have done, and hope to be doing with my life.
What are you most excited for in regards to your pregnancy?
I’m excited to find out when the baby is born, whether it’s a boy or girl. I’m just excited for that new stage of life and everything that it will bring. I know it’s not going to be easy and some of it won’t be rainbows and unicorns. But there are going to be pieces that are amazing. I’m just ready to really grow our family. Really just to meet this little peanut!
Who is your hero?
There are probably so many that I can think of in different regards, from different pieces of my life. In a very real way, my mom for sure. She was very constant and a wonderful force in our lives. She’s also extremely talented, she’s an artist, she does scenic work. What she’s given me is this idea that you can be completely invested in your family with all of your being, but also still have these things that fuel you personally. I think I would want my kids to be as proud of me as I am of her. To continue to hang on to those things that make me who I am even right now and hope that those things can inspire them to find whatever it is that makes them happy.
What message do you love to share in the classes you teach (yoga and cycle)?
I think why I like teaching is to help people see that they have a lot more than they think that they do.
It might not be easy to bring out and it might not come naturally, but if you you’re willing to do the work to find out, how gratifying and wonderful that is. And in how many pieces of your life that can be effective, not just on a spin bike or yoga mat. I think that idea comes a little bit from my experience. You have a lot more than you think you do. That doesn’t mean anyone is invincible to anything, but I do think that people are not aware of how strong they are until they are tested. Some people are not tested and that’s so wonderful and so awesome that they can have that in their life, but just that idea that it is there. If you tap into it, it is there. Just helping people to really see that. What I’ve been through is not any different than a lot of other people would react. It’s just something that I had to do. It’s not like I had a choice. At least having the knowledge that the fight is worth a lot if you let yourself find it.
How do you maintain balance?
I’ve definitely gotten better at this as I’ve gotten older. Learning that being busy does not mean that life is full and satisfying and wonderful. It means it’s busy. And it doesn’t mean that when you have a lot of wonderful things in your life you won’t have a little less time sometimes. I think I’m learning that not every single second of the day has to be accounted for to mean that your life is productive in the way that it should be. If every single second is accounted for, you’re probably not giving yourself the opportunity to take stock of things and really look at what your life is full of. I’m grateful to have the opportunity and ability to have the time to do that.
How have you inspired others?
I have so many mixed feelings on this. I hope I inspire other people by just continuing to do the things that I love to do. I think that actions speak a lot louder than words and so I hope that it’s not from a place of proselytizing, but from a place of fighting through something that was hard, coming through to the other side, and continuing to do the things I’m passionate about and push myself and challenge myself. Sometimes I’ll fall or have a horrible heinous race or as a parent I will make mistakes. I guess always be doing things to better myself and to hope that that is what is inspiring to other people.
Do you feel like when other people have come to you in this way, you’ve been able to accept that?
It’s really hard. And probably the answer is not as well as I should. I think that coming on the other side of a journey like that, it’s something that affects people and affects other people, and makes them be inspired by you. It’s a little hard for me to accept because I felt like what I did was just what I had to do. It’s hard for me to see that as something out of the ordinary that was inspiring. It’s just what it was. I don’t say that like it all happened and was wonderful. I fought really hard to get back after it was all done and to get to the place I am right now. I hope to sort of make a very different journey after this baby is born, to be back in racing and do something I’m proud of. It’s definitely something I have a hard time accepting and something that I should probably be a little better about.
What has biking taught you?
Perseverance. It’s the thing I’ve struggled most with for sure.
What has swimming taught you?
It’s taught me more about, even as you are challenging yourself, things can be enjoyable. Swimming has taught me about comfort in the uncomfortable. It’s something that I enjoy and am naturally good at, so it’s the thing I have to work the least at. It’s something I really like doing.
What has running taught you?
Humility for sure. It’s one of those things that one day feels like you’re on top of the world and one day that you’d rather just sit in the grass and cry. It’s probably something that’s teaching me a lot of humility at the moment. I have some days that are great while I’m running during this pregnancy and then I have some days where I make it 2o minutes and then walk the 10 minutes home because I can’t really keep my heart rate down and I just have to stop. It’s hard. It’s very very hard. You never know what you’re going to get when you step out the door.
What has yoga taught you?
The biggest thing being a yoga teacher has taught me is that it’s not about me. It’s just about hoping to be able to create space for other people. This is a dichotomy because yoga is such a personal practice. But both with yoga during cancer and yoga now, just that the power of letting it not be about me is pretty amazing.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Living and loving life. Being a good mom, a good wife, a good friend. Being as best as I can be in the relationships that are important to me and being happy and being whole.