Saturday, September 23, 2017

Live another year

Once a year, and thankfully only once a year, I have to visit my local oncologist and today was that day. She's a nice enough person, and a good doctor, but I dread this appointment nonetheless.  Truth be told, deep down I know I'll very likely receive the same news as last year; "You're slightly anemic, but your blood counts are holding steady and nothing has changed."  This is, truly, good news.  I get to live another year. But no matter how optimistic I am that each year will be the same, there's still a part of me that wonders if this will be the year I instead hear "you're white blood counts have gone through the roof and we need to find out if it's spreading." They say that day might not ever come, but also that it could.  It could be next year, or in 5 years, or 20, or never.  And until then, I live in one-year increments.  I get to live another year, but what about the year after that or the next one after that?

I spend a fair amount of time in between these annual visits reminding (convincing?) myself that if it was spreading I'd know it.  I would feel different.  Something would hurt.  I'd be exhausted (well, I am but I know it's from hard training and not getting enough sleep).  I wouldn't feel good after eating.  Something.  I like to think that I know my body pretty well and am pretty tuned into what is going on after all these years and especially the years of running and training and listening to my body every single day.  But would I? Would I really have some warning?  Or will I one day show up at my yearly appointment and have the surprise sprung on me that not all is as good as I had thought?  I don't obsess over it (well, maybe a little because I am the obsessive type), but it's always just kind of there in the back of my mind.  And I go to my yearly appointment, and I see the people in the waiting area, or receiving treatment, and I think "that's probably going to be me some day."

And that, that, is why I run.  That is why I train and push my body.  That is why I try to eat as healthy as I can (and organic as much as possible).  I have to do what I can, whether it actually helps or not, to try to decrease my odds of getting that bad news because I've got a lot of life left to experience and things I want to do.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Failure

The thing about failure is that it mostly matters to no one but yourself.  Nobody cares that you didn't accomplish what you set out to do.  Nobody cares that you worked really, really hard and it wasn't good enough.  Nobody cares that you really put yourself out there just to try in the first place.  Nobody, but you. And when you are your own harshest critic, frankly, failure feels just as big and as bad as it would if everyone else did care.

I have failed at numerous things in my life, but it has never gotten easier.  I've learned and grown from most of those failures, but they still sting.  I have forgotten many of my failures over the years, but some of them still haunt me regularly.  I have gone back for redemption, sometimes succeeding and sometimes finding that I've failed that too.  And while that stings the most, what I've learned is that I. AM. NOT. A. QUITTER. even when sometimes i am . . .

To the outside world, I have it all together, but inside my head I hear the constant scream of "Failure!  You are a failure!"  It's not the 1/3 (almost) success rate in my Half Iron quests.  It's not the soul crushing day to day life of my work.  It's not the daily feeling of not being good enough . . . for my kids, for my husband, for my clients.  It's not my incredibly high standards I hold for myself, even when I know those standards are nothing short of ridiculous.  But, if it's not any of these things . . . then what is it?

If I were to say that the last 2 1/2 years of my life have been incredibly difficult, I wouldn't be lying, or joking or even exaggerating.  Everything has been turned upside down and I'm still grasping for some normalcy, some resemblance to something that makes me think that when the dust finally settles it will all be okay. I've had many people tell me how strong I am, how strong I was and how they don't know how they would have gotten through.  I got through it, but here I am over 2 years later wondering how, knowing I'm not as strong as anyone thought, knowing I didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't have done and heck, they probably would have done it better, more confidently, and even had some fun along the way.

Who is this person?  What happened to that woman who would do whatever she said she'd do, even when no one else thought she could?  How did she end up chasing goals just to prove to herself that there's still some of that in her?  How did she end up thinking she was a failure even when she succeeds?  Who is this person I have become?  And how do I make her go away so I can find the real me again?

And yet, here we are.  I get up every day.  I make my kids lunch, and get them off to school with hugs and kisses and lots of love.  I push client work out the door and earn a living.  I eat as healthy as I can and run, and run and run and run.  I walk my dog, run with my kids and tell my husband I love him (and unlike a lot of married people, I actually mean it).  I read, and knit and clean up around the house and then go to bed and do it all over again, and again and again.  I wonder if this is all there is, and if so.  Is this failure?  Or is this success?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Four hours to nowhere

Four hours is a long time to ride a bike. It's even longer when you aren't actually going anywhere.  And you're staring at the same four walls, in your basement, with only one window, starting at 5:00 a.m. On a Saturday.  Four hours of spinning your wheel, without moving one inch.  Watching YouTube videos and counting down the miles, to nowhere.

The thing about riding on a trainer is that it gives you a lot of time to daydream, to think, to pray.  Sometimes this is a good thing, a great thing even.  Sometimes you just wish you were done.  Occasionally you do all of the above and then realize that you still have 3 hours to go.

But at the end of the ride, my legs are tired and I feel accomplished.  I know I've done what I need to do to prepare.  I also know that these training rides to nowhere in the basement in the dark of the early hours before anyone else in my family has woken for the day are mentally tougher than anything I'll face on the road, anything I'll face on race day.  That preparation is just as important as moving the legs for 4 hours non-stop.  The toughness I'm building inside will be so important on race day, when I'm tired and thinking about quitting.  And in life, when I want to give up, like I wanted to so many times over the last 4 1/2 months.

And in the end that's the real beauty of all of this . . . having the dedication and learning the patience to work toward a goal that won't be accomplished for months.  There is nothing more satisfying than working so hard for something for so long and then finally getting to the finish line and knowing that in this "I want it right now world", you were willing to give 6 months of your life for this one, brief moment of success.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Early hours

When I decided to train for the 70.3, I seriously thought "I'll only have to get up 30-60 minutes earlier most days.  That's not too bad."  While it is somewhat shocking that I've remained dedicated to the time-intensive training plan (only missing one scheduled workout in 10 weeks), 30-60 minutes less sleep six days/week has turned out to be huge.  It probably doesn't help that I'm still covering the vast majority of home duties...but honestly I don't think I've ever been this tired in my life.  Not even when the kids were infants.  There's no way to describe it except to say that I'm exhausted.  Biking, running and swimming 100+ hours every week is enough to make me tired (although surprisingly generally not sore or stiff), but getting up at 3:45-4:30am six days every week has made this a test of devotion and mental strength.  I didn't expect this at this stage of training.  Thankfully I've recruited a friend of two crazy enough to meet me at the house once a week at 4:30am to run with me.

Anyways, the result is that I can now nod off (for at least a moment or two) almost anywhere at almost any time.  Work is my favorite dozing location--I can't call it napping because I am typically on alert for someone entering my office.  But, I've also stolen a moment or two while waiting in line to pay for groceries.  While using the restroom . . . embarrassingly I will admit it.  While folding and putting laundry away . . . sure thing.  I've even resorted to making my kids pick bedtime books that they can mostly read to me (instead of me reading to them) and only opening my eyes when they startle me awake to help sound out a particularly tough word.  Today was supposed to be nap day, but it's clear it's not going to happen.  But tomorrow's another day, right?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Swimming, or something like that

Swimming is not my thing, and by "not my thing" I mean REALLY not my thing.  Neither of my parents know/knew how to swim so as a child I endured round after round of swim lessons because they felt it was of the utmost importance that I at least knew the basics in case I ever really needed it.  I somehow managed to pass most of the swim classes, even if I am still traumatized by the thought of diving, and even managed to pass the required swim portion of 9th grade Gym.   I was always the kid who seemed to "forget" my swim suit at friend's pool parties and was happy spending my day under an umbrella reading when we went to the beach.  Friends who see me coming out of the pool, even now, immediately ask "Why are you swimming? Are you injured?"

When my husband suggested that I should do the Xterra sprint-length triathlon two years ago, I thought he was kidding and I may even have laughed out loud at him.  "Come on, it's only 250 yards.  Anyone can swim 250 yards." he said.  Um yeah, whatever.  250 yards is 2 1/2 football fields!  Did he have any idea how far that really was?  Meanwhile he was preparing for his 1 mile swim, the whole time making it look as easy as sitting on the couch watching TV.

I did eventually take on the challenge and managed to swim that 250 yards, in open (cold) water.  I spent most of the swim on my back with my dear friend Amy grabbing my arm to pull me in the right direction every time I headed off course, but I completed the swim and wasn't even the last one out of the water.

It's been two years since he first made that suggestion and while I still don't like to swim, I've managed to subdue my fear of being in the water, and have even managed to find a comfort zone--at least when the water's shallow enough that I can touch.  It is not pretty, it does not feel good,  and most swims include at least a half dozen brief moments when I feel like I'm suffocating, but I've somehow managed to transform from the runner who could almost make it one length of the pool (20 yards) to just someone who can swim over a mile (with my face in the water) in less than an hour.  I've got a long way to go from swimming laps in the YMCA pool to an open water swim of 1.2 miles, but considering what I've already overcome the rest (hopefully with some actual swimming lessons) should be a piece of cake.

And if not, there's always the rescue volunteers, right?!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

26 weeks and counting

Tomorrow I officially start my journey toward the 70.3.  A 26 week training plan (that's six months, ack!), that starts with an easy 45 minutes spin and a 45 minute swim.  As long as I only think about each workout as an individual workout and I don't look at the whole week at a time, it looks pretty manageable.  It's only when I think about the fact that I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. or earlier 4 days each week and that I have to pull two-a-days at least twice each week that I start to feel a little panicky about what I've signed on for.  And I haven't even started thinking how freaked out I should be about completing the actual race.  I just have to put the work in every day and I should be fine, right?

I just need to remember that I'm doing this for Chad and that I am one determined, and tough, chick.  I got this. I GOT THIS!  Have i got this??

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In an instant


Somehow almost a year has passed.  A year since I've even considered having anything to say, interesting or otherwise.  It's easy to blame it on "the busyness of life", but the reality is that life is so overwhelmingly busy because I've let it be that way.  I've brought it upon myself, trying to be a good wife, good mom, good employee, good friend, good daughter (and in-law) all while training and pretending that all that busyness was the way it's supposed to be.

And then one day two weeks before Christmas I received a phone call, well two phone calls actually (one from each spouse, at the same time, which made me dread hearing what they had to say).  The voice on the other end very calmly said "Chad had an accident on his bike.  He's broken one or both legs and you need to come out to the ambulance and then go to the hospital.  Bring the kids, we'll take them for as long as you need."  While I'm incredibly thankful that voice was calm, and coming from a friend--people I would trust my kids with under any circumstances, it was really the last thing I wanted to hear at that point.  What do you mean he was in a bad accident?  Christmas is 2 weeks away and I have a lot to do!  I have a ton of things to take care of at work before the end of the year!  What does all this mean for everything we've worked so hard for over the last 12 years together?  Will he be okay?  Oh God, please just let him be okay...

It's amazing how quickly life can change, in an matter of seconds.  Instead of the stress of Christmas, year-end and the never-ending but overwhelming to-do list, suddenly all I really cared about was whether Chad would be okay.  Suddenly, it was so clear that none of that other stuff mattered at all.  Who cared if Christmas wasn't "perfect" or if the clients' work didn't get done.  Not me. Doesn't matter.  Please, just let Chad be okay.

Over the next week Chad endured two surgeries and a 7-night stay in the hospital, bedridden and in pain.  Five broken bones, three limbs, leaving only his right arm useable.  No weight on either leg for 4-12 weeks.  Hospital bed, slide board, wheelchair, commode, cleaning pin points, daily shots, endless logistical planning just to get him to the doctor's office for follow up appointments--these things have become daily life.  And surgeries, the fourth (and final) completed today.  The worry that he will never walk comfortably again, and that he might not ever run again.  The likelihood of arthritis on the left ankle is 100% and the possibility of having to have the ankle replaced at some point (a year, 10, 30?) is very high.

And through it all, what I feel most is gratitude.

He does not have a head, neck or back injury.  It's only broken bones and he will heal.  He may never again be a distance runner or an Ironman, like he's dreamed about, but for purposes of our life with him he will essentially be okay.  And for that we are both so incredibly thankful, and fully understand that it is only so because God blessed him with a landing on his feet and not on his head, neck or back.  To add to the feeling of gratitude, our friends, acquaintances, church family, bike community, parents of our kids' friends, etc., etc., etc. have showered us with an incredible amount of support, love, food, help and anything you would possibly imagine.  It's been overwhelming at times, and again we are so very, very grateful.

Which leads me to the point of this post.  In the midst of it all, while Chad was grieving his potential long term injuries, I decided to sign up for a 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon.  Door County, July 19, 2015.  I've been thinking about doing this for awhile now (notice I don't say "I was thinking about trying this"?) but was thinking 2017, after Chad's 1/2 Ironman this year and his full Ironman next year.  But he can't do his dream race this year, may never be able to do it at all, in fact.  Yet he wants to go watch anyways, so I thought that maybe I could do it for him--give him a reason to cheer and make him proud.  Maybe I can give him a little bit of the excitement to tide him over until he can get back to doing something competitive again.  Training starts in 2 weeks and I'll admit that I'm scared.  Well, terrified actually, at least of the swim... and the hilly course.  But hey, scared never stopped me before and this one is important for so many reasons.  And really, you never know how much time you have to follow your dreams so I've realized you have to take advantage of the opportunity when it's presented or you might not get the opportunity again.  So, here goes ...