Holistic Wellness in Austin, TX

Hill Country Ride for AIDS 2018 (Round II: Lessons at the Finish Line)


It’s been a bit over a week since the Hill Country Ride for AIDS 2018 took place and it’s time for a blog post on the subject.  If you’ve never heard of this wonderful charity event, now’s the time to learn about it.  Next year’s ride will be here before we know it (yay!) and each and every one of those who organize, donate, volunteer, ride, and benefit from the largesse have our own magical stories to tell.  I’m firmly in the volunteer category, and I expect that I’ll be a lifer.  It’s that wonderful!

For those who don’t know about the event, a very brief introduction: the Hill Country Ride for AIDS (HCRA) is the largest fund-raiser for HIV/AIDS services here in central Texas.  Preparation, in the form of fun training rides and social gatherings, starts several months before the day; day of, some 600 riders and a tremendous group of volunteers show up at Krause Springs for a family-friendly day of riding, camaraderie, and good works.  The funds raised by this event are given to nine area HIV/AIDS nonprofits.  The HCRA  started in 2000 and is a beloved local event that draws people from all over the country.  No matter what you are doing to become involved, it is a joy and an event to remember always. (If you would like to learn more, check this link, here.)

Everyone has their story about the Ride.  For me, it very much resonates with memories of the differences between my first time doing field acupuncture at a Spartan Race (here) and the second time I participated as a student intern just before I graduated from my 4.5 year master’s program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (aka herbalism).  There’s a line that they use at the Spartan events: you’ll know at the finish line.  In essence, you’ll know how tough you are when you get to the end.  And for me, at that second one (I wrote about it here), I knew by the end of the day that I was ready to graduate.  I knew at my finish line and it left me with confidence that sustains me to this day.  So much had changed between the two experiences of the Spartan Race.  Same goes for the Hill Country Ride.  This time, I learned a few things about myself as a practitioner and yes, I’m not the same person I was in 2016, not by a long shot.

Funny how these things work, isn’t it?


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The first time I volunteered with the Ride was fairly soon after I had gotten certified to practice the traditional Chinese medical massage known as tui na (pronounced “twee nah”).  Tui na is a separate medical specialty in China, one that is akin to being an orthopedic doctor.  The certification that I hold (AOBTA-CP) signifies that I successfully undertook 500 hours of study that included supervised internship under the direction of my beloved teacher, Dr. Yongxin Fan.  Because I love the modality so dearly, I audited extra terms and signed on for more internship rotations than I needed.  As anyone who follows my blog knows, I also write about the modality and am always enthusiastic about introducing it to others.  This is why I volunteered for the HCRA (plus, of course, who can resist Prentiss when he asks you to volunteer?).  Even after my acupuncturist license is granted (soon, I hope…right now, it’s just paperwork and waiting since I’ve finished my board exams), I will continue to practice this venerable healing art.  Being able to share it at the HCRA is an honor and a joy.

I remember the first HCRA with great fondness.  My friend, Jacob, and I went together and we were both a little bit timid and unsure.  We set up our things at the location of our assignment and waited for riders.  One after the other, we treated people and did our very best to give them the most wonderful service possible.  What I remember most of all, besides the wonderful hug that Prentiss gave us both at the end of the day, was that one rider had a pulled muscle and I resolved his issue with my iron thumb of doom (you’ll have to read my first HCRA blog post for the tale of the iron thumb of doom; it’s a bit of a long story). I remember feeling so proud of myself!  The rider was in pain and not sure of the extent of the injury.  I palpated and gave my assessment.  And then I laid the thumb of doom down on the situation and voilà: resolved!  I treated that patient a few days after the event, but my work on the day of had really made a difference.  This was a big boost for a relatively junior AOBTA-CP and I still remember how happy I was at the time.

I’ve been practicing outside of school now for about three years as a bodywork therapist and health coach.  I’ve graduated and finished board exams and when my license is issued, I’ll add acupuncture and herbs to my roster of services.  I have a pretty solid professional identity already.  This day’s Ride brought out aspects of my self as a practitioner that I hadn’t noticed, though.  Much like healing, I find, personal transformations are not generally linear.  Epiphanies like fireflies sparkle.



This year was marvelous!  My super-bestie, the excellent and wonderful Jennifer Kipp (of Spartan Race 2016 fame), is revising for her board exams so she showed up at noon.  Another volunteer, a physical therapist, arrived at about eleven or so.  I was alone from 9:30 until then, and it gave me time to set up and get into my own rhythm of things.  This year, instead of just my hands, I brought cups and ear seeds and gua sha instruments (for more on those, see the links I provide below).  I had folding chairs set up and my massage table.  By the time Jennifer got there, it was starting to get busier and busier and we had a marvelous time introducing people to traditional Chinese bodywork therapy.

I pause when I start to write about how things are so different now.  Honestly?  My eyes start to shine with tears.  It’s hard to put into words how it feels to be capable of treating a large number of people, one after the other, and to be able to genuinely do something good for each one.  When Hurricane Harvey came roaring through Texas, I volunteered at the Red Cross Command Center in Austin (and blogged about it, of course, here).  That time, I was alone and I managed to treat 20 people on the first day I was there.  My hands were terribly swollen and pained after the first day and I was in awe of the hard work that the Red Cross people were putting in for the benefit of us here in Texas.  At this year’s Ride, I lost count of how many people I treated and it was a completely different vibe.  Even so, there is something so very moving about treating many people in one day like this,  and treating many people who are tired because they have just done something wonderful for someone else is an honor no matter where you are.


Tui Na in service


This time at Krause Springs, it was a fun event and people were joyful and full of happy energy.  Fabulous disco music blared, the sun shone brightly, and people were lining up to sign the line and get a treatment from either me or from Jennifer.  We put sparkling crystal ear seeds on those who wanted them and the more plain ones on others who preferred the more unobtrusive style.  It was tremendously fun to share our love of this medicine with the riders.

People who ride have tight neck muscles on their left side, I learned.  The lovely Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are able to maintain their gorgeous lashes throughout their rides, I saw.  A hug from Prentiss at the end of the day makes the event sheer perfection last time and this time.  When one is having such a good time, even if one works from 9:30 to 5:30 with only one bathroom break and no food, it’s still incredibly fun and not nearly as exhausting as one might think.  By the time we were packed up and ready to go at about 6:30 or so, though, both Jennifer and I were starving beyond words, though.  Oh, yes! This I learned for sure.

I think what I loved most was just hearing even the short version of people’s stories.  Why they rode.  What their aches and pains were.  What they wanted to learn about traditional Chinese medicine.  If they had gut health issues or leg cramps or carpal tunnel syndrome.  What they hoped to get out of their treatment.  People want to be healthy and to feel good and touch therapy is such a marvelous way to deliver a boost to health and wellness.  Everyone comes to the Ride for different reasons but we are all there for love, and we are all there because we want to support a worthy cause.  Just like last time, we were all united for a common good.

This time though?  I am a different practitioner.  I’m more confident, I’m more experienced, and I know so very much more than I did in 2016.  One would hope that this would be so, but developing as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner is like healing.  I tell my patients that healing usually is two steps forward, one back; three steps forward, one back; maybe a big jump in improvement and then a few tiny backslides.  Healing isn’t linear.  But then one day, you realize that your forward movement is consistent and your backslide is minimal and lesser in number.  Before you know it, you’re consistently and noticeably in a much better state of health.  Before you know it, things have changed.

It’s like that for traditional Chinese medicine practitioners too, I discovered.  When you are an intern–oh, that’s HUGE when you first start.  You share a room and treat one patient per rotation; your partner treats another.  If you have your own room when you are more senior, you treat up to three patients in a rotation.  If you’ve got a heavy term, you may have two back-to-back rotations in one day and that feels like a LOT.  Well.  Being able to easily treat over twenty people in a long day of enjoyable work and not be overwhelmed or utterly gobsmacked by all of it?  Being able to treat so many and do it in such a way that you don’t wreck your hands because you have much better technique than before?  Being able to move from one case to the next and know what you’re doing, consistently and without fanfare?  All of it together is huge.  These are things that mean you’ve arrived.

I’m here, world.  I am here.  I knew it before this event, sure, but at the 2018 Hill Country Ride for AIDS finish line?  Oh, I really knew it like never before.

Thank you, Hill Country Ride for AIDS for giving me the chance to share my love of traditional Chinese bodywork therapy with others.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn more about myself as a practitioner. Thank you, Dr. Fan, for being my teacher and mentor and inspiration.  Thank you, Jennifer Kipp for being my super-bestie and taking time out of your board exam study to share the day with me and with all who enjoyed your marvelous treatments.  Thank you, Prentiss for the hugs and the love.  And thank you to all who share their stories and their aching muscles and bones with me.  It was such a beautiful day.

Thank you, and see you next year!



My office now (top row); me on my first day as an intern (bottom row); inspiring posts (both rows)


If you’d like to read a blog post about any of the following topics, click on the links:

~~~~~ Tui Na ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Cupping ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Gua Sha ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Moxibustion ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Ear Seeds ~~~~~ Aesthetic Treatment ~~~~~ ~~~~~ The Iron Thumb of Doom ~~~~~

A great article about traditional Chinese medicine and distance cyclists can be found here (not mine, but quite informative).  Any further questions?  Here’s my contact info, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask!





Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine.  If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog and/or my Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for health coaching services.  If you are interested in acupuncture, herbs, and/or Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.

Acupuncture is great for you but if you’re nervous about needles there are certainly other options.  Have you ever thought to try traditional Chinese bodywork? In addition to acupuncture, I offer tui na (similar to massage) and other ancient Chinese therapies, including cupping, gua sha, moxa, and more.  If you are looking for a holistic wellness consultant and coach, my services can entail short or longer term programs.  You are your own best investment, and when you take charge of your wellbeing you invest in yourself now and for the benefit of your future.

Note: Material on this web site is not intended to replace your treatment or care provided by an MD. It is for educational/entertainment purposes only. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness.  Always consult your primary care doctor for health concerns.





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