Hagg Lake Tri – I’m Coming For You…

FullSizeRender (35)When my husband told me to look at several race choices and pick one, as a way to celebrate my birthday weekend, there was one important piece of criteria the race had to have. It had to be an easy, relatively flat, bike course. I also didn’t feel ready for an ocean swim, so, no ocean, therefore, no sharks to worry about, was number two on my list. Weather was a lesser determining factor. Being from Arizona, cooler temperatures sounded a lot more inviting, than heat and humidity. Races in mosquito infested areas didn’t make the cut, either. Other than that, a beautiful course, nice downtown, shopping areas, good food and wine, hiking or other outdoor activities, all of those would be pluses. After looking at several races in many states and checking all of the bike courses, I settled on the Hagg Lake Triathlon. It appeared to have a few rolling hills with minimal elevation, a lake swim, cool temperatures, a beautiful race venue and it was in Oregon, one of our favorite states to visit. Portland has so many fantastic restaurants, and with wine country close by, it would be a perfect way to celebrate a birthday weekend!

We had our bikes shipped ahead of time so they would be ready for us. Race week, the weather was looking pretty rough from an Arizonan’s perspective, low 50’s and a steady rain. That’s winter in AZ. To the locals in Oregon, our gear bag contents probably looked ridiculous. We had enough layers, we might have been warm enough for snow. Race day, actually ended up being pretty near perfect though. It was in the low 60’s with cloudy skies. It looked like it would rain, but never did, and the sun actually peeked out a few times.

All of our pre-race activity went smoothly. We arrived early. Our bikes were there waiting and ready for us. Athlete’s Lounge was the sponsoring bike shop. They did a wonderful job taking care of our bikes.

IMG_6397Next was body marking. For my non-triathlete friends, body marking is when they write your race numbers on your arms and also your age on your leg. Race day was the actual day of my birthday, so for the first time this year, they wrote my true age on my leg. I remember how appalled I was when I did my first triathlon and they wrote my age on my leg! I soon realized it wasn’t so bad though, when during the race you pass people who are younger than you. It’s no big deal anymore. As they say, “Age is just a number, THEY WRITE ON YOUR LEG.”

My husband and I got our gear all set up in transition. We both noticed a lot of really nice bikes and that the field of athletes looked to be pretty experienced. Not that it was intimidating at all…  🙂

The only thing I didn’t get to do, which may have made a big difference in my race, was a FullSizeRender (37)warm up run. I have asthma and being able to run first really helps me with the breathing when I swim. Since we had to be out of the transition area early, that wasn’t going to work. Everyone was already putting on their wetsuits for the swim. We got our wetsuits on and headed down to the lake for the start of the race. We were unaware that we were allowed to do a warm up swim, but we weren’t by the lake early enough for that. At least we got a couple minutes to get in the water, which gave me a chance to be sure my goggles weren’t leaking.

Here’s where the story starts. That swim. I’ll never forget that swim. That swim made me think about not doing triathlon ever again. That swim made me think about never wanting to swim again, period! I had a triangle of three buoys to swim around. I was to do two loops. It started out ok. I choked a little, which I do from time to time. I ran into a couple people. That happens. I swallowed water. That happens, too. But by the time I was around the second buoy, the wind had kicked up the water and there were waves like none I’ve ever had to swim in before. The water was choppy. I’m used to swimming in a lake with high canyon walls, protected from wind, really. There are no boat waves, just kayaks and a few paddleboards. I’m a wuss, is what I’m saying! No matter how I turned my head to breathe, I got a mouthful of water instead of air. I choked several times. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to swim with my head up. I still couldn’t breathe. I stopped to catch my breath. I sat in the water watching  swim capped heads pass by, all seemingly unaffected by the turbulence that was causing me to lose hope that I could finish one loop, let alone, two. I rested a few times, and then tried to propel myself forward. Every time I put my face in the water, within not so many strokes, I was choking and out of breath again. I finally reached the second buoy. A boat was there and the man was yelling for me to turn, which is what I was going to do as soon as I got around the buoy. I wasn’t understanding that the wind had blown the buoy off course and I had swam farther than I needed to and he was trying to tell me I didn’t have to swim around the buoy, but could turn in toward shore sooner. Blame the slowness of understanding on lack of oxygen, maybe… There was another boat guy after the buoy. Winded to the point I felt my wetsuit choking me, I asked if I could hold on for a few minutes. I’m not sure how long I did hold on, but I did a lot of talking. I apologized for having to burp, because burping is what one has to do much of when they drink half a lake. He said he had seen worse. Poor guy. He was a good listener. I talked about quitting, about how I thought I was going to be last and how I had never quit and I didn’t want to quit, but I couldn’t breathe, and I still had another loop to swim. My stomach hurt from swallowing so much water. My wetsuit felt like it was choking me. I wanted that medal! I didn’t want to be last… Finally, he acted like it was time for me to get going. He didn’t try to influence me. He just listened and said he would be there if I needed him. So off I went toward that last buoy. It was so close to shore. I could go in and this whole horrible mess would be over with or I could go back out into the waves one more time…

IMG_0920It’s amazing how much thinking you can do under duress. I have a mug that says, “The Mind is the Athlete.” It’s so true. I had so many reasons not to finish the race. They sounded good to me at the time. Hey, breathing is a big deal! I really wanted that medal, though. When you train hard, you should get something to show for it, right!  How many people wish they had what someone else has, but they aren’t willing to do what it takes to get it? I thought about that in the water. I did NOT want to finish that swim! The only way I was going to get that medal was to stay the course, finish the race and cross that line at the end.

There was another very powerful thought that went through my mind. As I said, it was my birthday. Thanks to Facebook, my friends and family knew we we’re doing the race, so I was getting a lot of support from that. I had briefly scanned some of the posts as we were driving to the event. My mom had posted. In her post she said I was an example of courage and perseverance. Wow, the power of the words we speak! My mom’s words were power that day. No I didn’t feel courage at that moment and finishing that swim was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was going to be what my mom said I was. I rounded the third buoy and I kept swimming. If you think you’re hearing Dory singing, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming…” It’s me! I sing it all the time now.

The rest of the race, I just had to make the best I could of it. By the time I got back to transition, my bike was the last one, meaning I was the last one to get out on the bike course. The thing I feared the most, being last… I thought it would be like it has been in other races, I’d be able to make up time and pass people, but not so. The bike course that I initially chose for it’s easy rolling hills, well, I must have gotten mixed up with all the courses I had looked at. This one did not have easy rolling hills. I train on mostly flat routes because of issues with my knees, so not only was I not prepared for the hills, my knees were very unhappy with me. I also hadn’t had to use the gearing on my tri bike much, since I ride flat routes. That further complicated my race. We had to do two loops around the lake. The first loop, riders that were finishing their second loop passed me, but once I started my second loop, I was on my own on the course. It felt really lonely after a while out there in the woods. Then there was the stupid fall. It was just stupid! Of course, the support motorcycles show up out of nowhere and catch me on the ground. I did one of those things where you jump up, bush off, say I’m ok, and take off, too embarrassed to acknowledge the blood running down your leg. I was so glad when I finished that bike ride and got back to transition again. SO glad!

Many people had finished the whole race and were walking around with their medals on and packing up their gear to go home. Here I was just getting ready to start my run. I couldn’t believe it. I was really going to be LAST! I had never even come close to doing this badly in a race. Even in my first couple triathlons, at my age, I still came out around the middle of the pack for all ages on my time. Now I knew how it felt for those who do come in last, those who still have to push themselves to keep going to get across that finish line, even when they know they’ll be last. It was a horrible feeling! But I wanted that medal. I still had worked hard. I still had done the best I could with the circumstances at the time. I still had to fight to get to the finish. It was very humbling. The whole thing was, but I think I needed humbling, so that’s ok.

As it turned out, I did catch up to one other lady on the run. I wouldn’t have had to be last, if I didn’t want to be, but it sure didn’t seem worth it to pass one person and make her feel the way I knew I would have felt, so I stuck with her. We enjoyed the rest of the race and crossed the finish line together. We’re all better together, right! I do have to say, even though it was my worst race ever, the race director, the volunteers and the spectators that were left, made the finish line awesome. My husband had mentioned to one of the volunteers that it was my birthday. He told the announcer, who had called everyone back to the finish line as I was coming in. Everyone sang happy birthday to me at the finish line. Yes, I was a little embarrassed, but at the same time, it took some of the sting out of being last. And I got my medal! IMG_6415

I learned a lot from this race. I hope it’s the bad race experience that’s behind me and I’ll never live through again, but no guarantees on that. I’m glad it’s over, but at the same time. I’m glad I did it. It didn’t kill me. It did make me stronger. And Hagg Lake, I hope you can hear me. I’m coming back for you!

Thank you to Sherri McMillan and staff of Why Racing Events and all of the wonderful volunteers of the Hagg Lake Tri and Du. This is a beautiful race venue, a challenging course, and a very well run race! Everyone was awesome!

Thank you, to Don and Russell from VeloZoom, who took care of the AZ end of the bike shipping process and then Christine and Gary from Athlete’s Lounge who took care of our bike’s in Oregon!

#whyracing #whyracingevents #hagglaketri

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When Fear Runs Deep…

20140515_030355283_iOSI opened my eyes as I had already done many times throughout the night, waiting for the sound of the alarm to signal that it was finally the right time to be awake. It had been one of those nights. You know the kind I’m talking about, when your mind won’t get quiet and sleep evades you. It felt as if I had been semi-conscious for the last several hours. Nervous apprehension had replaced every last bit of excitement I felt the previous evening, as I had prepared for this morning. It was to be a big day for me! Another milestone was to be reached. Another step crossed off the list of steps I needed to take on this road to become a half Ironman finisher. My first 70.3 triathlon at the (young) age of 58 was a big deal, one I really was unsure that this body with all of its aches and pains could actually endure. Today was the day to put on that new wetsuit I had packed and go to the lake for my first open water swim. You should be hearing the theme from the movie, “Jaws”, playing in your mind right now.Jaws

Maybe it seems silly to you that swimming in a lake would be a big deal. I had splashed around in the lake as a kid. I even thought my little doggie paddle for a few yards every so often as I played, was actually considered swimming. As a matter of fact, I really thought I could swim, that is until I took my first real swim lesson two years ago. My coach at the time informed me that my doggie paddle was not “real” swimming. I learned that I actually had to put my face in the water! I found myself embarrassed as I was made to practice bobbing up and down in the water at a public pool, to blow bubbles out of my mouth and nose. I had to do it in front of “real” swimmers even! That was six weeks before my first sprint triathlon. Six weeks was not enough time for me to get this swimming thing. That first race was so hard! I was out of breath after the first 50 yards. I had to stop and rest each time I reached the end of a lane. I won’t say how long it took me to finish that little 400 yard swim, but let me tell you, I was slow!

A hamstring injury the week following that first race, kept me out of the pool for several months. That was followed by several months of swimming using the pull buoy, as I wasn’t able to kick. In spite of the injury and lack of proper training, I felt I needed to do a 2nd sprint the following year in order to keep my standing as a triathlete. I signed up for the same event I had done before. That swim was even worse than my first had been!

I really wanted to do this triathlon thing, so here’s where my current triathlon coach enters the picture. Swimming is her strong area. She’s been working with me just over a year now. Believe me when I tell you, this swimming stuff hasn’t come easily for me. I’ve worked hard and I’ve come a long way, but even recently at a master swim session, my coach was laughing over some weird movement I was doing in the pool. Somehow, she always manages to find something to correct, as a good coach should, I might add.

Fear.1I remember many of my early swim sessions with her. Every time I had to do a workout, I fought anxiety and apprehension. I remember times when I dreaded getting to the end of the lane and I knew she was going to have me do another lap, and then another and another. I was so out of breath at times, I felt lightheaded and even in a state of panic. There were a few times I even wanted to cry. Ok, maybe I did cry, but I sure couldn’t let her see that. I imagine I’ve made her wonder if I would ever make it as a swimmer. Even if that’s not true for her, it definitely is for me.

Confidence about my swimming had evaded me as much as sleep had the Strengthnight before this big day. I had volunteered to drive out to the lake that morning. A couple of my team mates were riding along. One was a seasoned open water swimmer. I didn’t know at the time, but our coach had given him strict orders to stay with us and keep us safe. Poor guy! Who would want that responsibility! The other team mate was a near neighbor, a.k.a., my “tri in the hood friend”. We had begun to do some of our training together. She was new to this open water swimming experience, as well. Even though she had been a swimmer longer, she was as nervous as I was. It’s funny to think back to one of our early swim sessions with our coach. I remember her commenting on how she would never be doing any open water swimming. Never say never, right!

 

It had been years since I had been to this particular lake. While the desert landscape was beautiful, the road is narrow as it winds up and down the sides of the mountains. The anxiety was building in my chest and my shoulders grew tighter with each hairpin turn. Of course, our conversation over how nervous we each felt only amplified the tension. I rounded a bend and had my first view of the water. The lake looked huge and the boats so small from our elevated vantage point. It’s good that I had passengers in the car that day, for had I not, I’m sure I would have turned around and high tailed it home!

When we arrived at the lake, several other tri club members were already putting on wetsuits. Trying to get a wetsuit over aged, loose skin that just moves up with the compression of the suit, well, that’s just an ugly story. Having to do that in front of others is down right, humiliating. I’m glad it took what seemed like forever to get the suits on. Anything to delay us from having to get in that water was okay by me. But alas, the moment arrived and it was time.

My “tri in the hood friend” and I had only planned on splashing around a bit to get used to the wetsuit, maybe swim along the shore a little, but certainly not go in over our heads. We were told we wouldn’t drown in a wetsuit, as it makes you more buoyant, but still, the idea of going deep was frightening.

Motivational-Quotes-40I’ll never forget the first time I put my face in the water. It was so cold, it took my breath away. It took several times of bobbing up and down before I could blow bubbles under the water and take a breath when I came up. We swam along the shore a little and stopped to stand up every 25 yards or so. There was security in knowing we could still touch the bottom. I think I was ready to call it a day after about fifteen minutes, but our seasoned team mate seemed determined to be sure we actually got in a little more of a workout. He was able to get my friend to swim out to a buoy. It wasn’t too far off shore, but it was definitely beyond my comfort zone. She was very pleased with herself over having done it and apparently she wasn’t satisfied with me not having the same experience, so now there was double the pressure for me to swim out to the buoy. Not wanting to jeopardize my “tough, old lady athlete,” status, I resigned myself to oblige their request. It was horrible! I forgot to breathe. I choked. I swam crooked and ran into my friend. Each of those things caused my heightened anxiety level to become a complete state of panic. My chest felt like it was being crushed and I couldn’t breathe. I stopped and begged for someone to unzip my wetsuit. Our seasoned team mate told me to keep it zipped. I had to get used to feeling that, as it happens to even experienced swimmers on occasion. I tread water for a minute and tried to calm myself until I could breathe. So much for the tough, old lady athlete! I did make it to the buoy once that day and as you can see, I lived to tell about it.

We had many lake visits over the summer, but there were very few that I

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

didn’t experience the whole gamut of emotions associated with my fear of the swim. It was particularly unnerving when I found myself panicking in the water just two weeks prior to my half Ironman event. That was an ordinary workout day, which didn’t include the hectic frenzy of bodies thrashing about, which is what takes place in a race scenario. I couldn’t imagine how incredibly terrifying it would be to experience that during the race.

One thing I have learned about fear, not that I would deny that I felt it, but the more you talk about it, the more you give it a voice, the more it grows, the more powerful it becomes. I couldn’t afford to talk about it, so I didn’t. That would only feed it.

Another thing that I had learned about fear, I had heard from a speaker one time. They shared an acronym for fear. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. My fear was ungrounded. Sure, there was evidence. I had panicked in the water, MANY times! And it was terrifying! But it wasn’t real. The facts were, I could swim. I had listened to my coach. I had done my training. I had put in the hours, the distance, the time. And I hadn’t drown, not even “almost”, not even once!

FullSizeRender (18)

Packet pick up day! Some of our tri team mates with our awesome coach on the left. Less than 24 hrs. until the big event!

The week before the 70.3 Ironman event, I was amazed that I felt excited, rather than anxious, as I usually felt before a race. I mean I was really excited! Training for this had involved a lot of sweat and tears. I had gone from seriously doubting my ability to even do this, to knowing I would finish. My emotions were running high all week, so it didn’t take much to cause whatever I felt at any given moment to spill out. My coach said that was normal.  In spite of my carefully laid out plan for the morning of the event, it seemed as if everything was going wrong. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. I left the house later than was planned. It was raining. Two freeway ramps that I had planned to take to get to the venue were closed, forcing me to exit in an area I was unfamiliar with. I lost my wrist bracelet which I had to have to get into the transition area. Four different people working the race venue, had me running all over the park area to get help with the bracelet issue. When I finally got to the transition area and saw my coach standing there, I felt as if I would explode. She knew just what I needed. After she hugged me, she got in my face and with a gentle firmness, instructed me on what to do next. She was perfect! That minute or two made all the difference in the world to me. I had just enough time to get my transition area set up, stand in the bathroom line, get my wetsuit on and get in line for the swim start. My coach and team mates were there, along with my husband and one of my sons. My son read me an incredibly, awesome text which he had sent me that morning as encouragement, but I didn’t have my phone, so I hadn’t seen it. That made me teary eyed! Ok, everything made me teary eyed at that point, but his text was really special! I could feel slight undercurrents of frayed nerves, but I chose to block out any negativity and stay focused. My strategy was simple. I had borrowed it from the movie, “Finding Nemo”. Nemo and DoryAnd yes, I’m admitting that I even watched the movie that week before the race for inspiration. I was going to take Dory’s advice and “just keep swimming.”

It was time and our group was called to enter the water. We swam out to the start line and waited for the horn to sound, and we were off! The hectic frenzy of thrashing arms, legs and bodies was just as crazy as it had appeared in the triathlon videos. All of the things I had feared, happened. I choked. I couldn’t breathe. I got kicked, swam into and slapped in the face – HARD. Someone grabbed my leg at one point and it felt like they were trying to pull me under, but I just kept swimming. I stayed calm. I was amazed at how calm I felt. I kept focused on the next buoy, then the next and the next. By the time I rounded that last buoy, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wasn’t swimming by my own strength that day. Yes, I had trained for it, but I knew I had supernatural help. As it turned out, I wasn’t even the slowest one in our group, which amazed me even more, because I’m always the slowest one. My son and my husband said they were shocked when they saw me run past them, as they didn’t expect to see me for, at least, another ten minutes.

That’s the biggest part of my race story. The rest was just fun. Because of Ironman Runongoing knee issues, I had to ride easy on the bike, just fast enough to make the cut off time. On the run, I kept stopping to try to get what felt like rocks out of my shoe, but there were no rocks. It turned out to be a bigger issue with my foot. I had a killer headache, I think from lack of salt. I had dropped all of my salt, right up front on the bike course. I ended up walking a lot of the run portion, as a result of all of it, but I knew I would make the cut off time so I wasn’t concerned. It was hard and it was hot, but I had a blast! Crossing that finish line was a high that I’ll never forget! It stuck with me for a long time after the race, too!IronmanAZ70.3

I can’t tell you my story without sharing the most important thing that I’ve learned about fear. That is the fact that I don’t have to have it. I can choose to not fear. Real life experience has a way of teaching us things that become rooted deep into the fiber of our beings. That truth for me is that I have a big, powerful and completely, faithful God who always comes through for me. Even when life throws unfavorable things my way, as it has often, God has always, one way or another, worked things out for my good. Helping me with a little swim was easy! When fear runs deep, my faith is deeper still.

You didn't come this farWhat’s next? I’m not sure. I’m grounded from biking and running right now until my knees and foot recover. Yes, there is the thought that it would be really cool to do a full Ironman one day, but right now, it’s hard to imagine it being a possibility with this body. Of course, I’ll never say never, because we all know what happens when we do that, right!

My Why – This Triathlon Thing…

JQN_0586-(ZF-5809-28111-1-001)I realize that’s it’s been a really long time since my last post. I have lots of reasons, or should I call them excuses, maybe. Busy… yes, just like everyone else, only I’m “retired”. All of those things that I thought I would have time for – well, I’m not quite sure what happened there.  I will say, what I am doing, I do love. No it’s not all fun and games, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunities that I do have. Thank you to my hard working husband for allowing me this freedom earlier in my years than most get to have it!

About this triathlon stuff, it’s not really the fun part of my retirement. While I’m trying to keep the positive thoughts going, I have to admit that it’s not easy for me.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that injury has been a huge part of my journey in this stuff. I’m embarrassed to say that after all of this time, injury is still a part of my journey. I posted a photo journal awhile back if you want to check it out. “Coping with Injury…” I haven’t had a break from physical therapy in over a year and a half now. It’s only been about six weeks since I graduated to bi-weekly rather than weekly visits. Even with insurance though, this stuff gets expensive! Let’s not forget to mention all the appointments with the specialists that keep sending me to physical therapy!

For those who might need the nutshell scoop to catch up, here you go. Just skip this paragraph if you’ve been along for the ride. Since my husband inspired me to start this athlete type activity about four years ago now, I’ve had just about every piece and part of this body from the neck down worked on. The list includes feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, upper and lower spine, shoulders, arms, hand… The biggies that forced the cycles of extended time off followed by having to start all over again were: a stress fracture in the hip, two major abdominal surgeries, herniated disks with nerve impingement in the upper and lower spine, sciatica, a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone and bone contusions from a bike crash. Things that remain on going and cause flare ups along the kinetic chain include arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, bursitis, and tendonitis, as well as nerve pain from multiple cysts in the spine.

So really, who does this? Shouldn’t I be a poster child for something?

And then there is this thing you have to do at the very beginning of a triathlon called swimming. It’s been almost as The sky is not y limit
challenging for me as the injuries, or so it feels like it is anyway. I started taking lessons a year and a half ago and I am just now feeling like I’m starting to get it. Even still though, I feel anxiety every time I get in the pool. In the last couple months I had to start swimming in open water. That’s a whole new challenge I’m having to overcome in.

You might be thinking, “Give it up already, lady!” I admit, I do ask myself why I don’t give up. I ask it pretty often, too. So for both of us today, I’m putting it down in writing, so I can remind myself whenever I need to, why I do this.  Here goes.

  • Exercise is healthy for my body. It’s going to hurt regardless of what I do or don’t do, so why not let it hurt for my good.
  • It makes me stronger. My bumper sticker: “Strong is what’s left when you’ve used up all your weak.”WIN_20150601_130942
  • I’m happier with my appearance. Not too bad for a retired lady. My husband is happy, too!
  • It’s a way I can be good to myself.
  • I get multiple rewards from it, as you can see.
  • I get metals. I think I’ve become a metal junkie.WIN_20150601_132408
  • It gives me a goal to work toward. My first half Ironman, 70.3 miles, is in October this year.
  • It makes me mentally stronger. I have to get past the tough workouts in my mind before I can physically accomplish them. When my body says “no”, my mind says “go”.
  • I found an awesome coach who says she will never give up on me. If you’re looking for a coach, check out this bio!
  • I’ve learned I can do far more than my mind or anyone else thought I could. This is a huge reward for me.
  • I love the freedom I feel when I run and bike.
  • I get to watch the moon set and the sun rise when I’m out on my workouts.Sunrise
  • When I’m doing a workout I can meditate, refocus and regroup from whatever life is throwing my way.
  • I can sing, talk to myself and even throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Of course, I’m more apt to do these things when I’m in a deserted area.
  • It’s great stress relief. Yes, retired people still have stress.
  • I’ve made lots of new friends and they’re awesome!
  • I get lots of support and encouragement from these new friends. We’re all in this together.
  • It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • It keep me disciplined.
  • It causes me to eat healthier as I know my body needs fuel to function properly.
  • It causes me to be more sensitive about being sure to get proper sleep each night.
  • I sleep better!
  • I can reward myself with desserts on occasion and the calories don’t stick to my thighs!
  • It makes me feel younger.
  • It’s empowering.
  • My husband is proud of me. He likes the results, too.
  • It enables me to participate in a sport with my husband, giving us more time together.
  • We’ve been able to take several trips together for races. We’ve run in some beautiful places. Kona Tri Start LineSmith Rock Half MarathonMountains 2 BeachBarcelona

I’m sure there are more reasons that aren’t coming to mind right now, but you get the idea. I have many good reasons to keep doing this triathlon thing! So for now, the plan is to continue. I have days when I can’t do what I want or what’s on the schedule, but I do what I can, when I can. I am smarter about my training and recovery. I listen to my body and I do recovery in “beast mode”. I do my physical therapy exercises and stretches. I use my recovery tools – foam roller, rumble roller, PVC pipe and the stick. I ice and heat the different pieces and parts daily, sometimes multiple times. I’ve done injections, dry needling and nerve blocks. I even have a home traction unit and I use it!

My why? Because it’s worth it! I’m worth it!

I’ve been told from time to time, that I’m an inspiration. I’ve been inspired by others at times, but it’s usually an emotional reaction, not inspiration that moves me. I might be mentally stimulated to “feel, but the best kind of inspiration for me is inspiration that moves me to do, to act. My husband inspired me to start running. The joy and enthusiasm he had moved me to action.

Maybe you read my list and saw things that you would like for yourself. How often do we see what someone else has and we want it, but never take the steps necessary to get there. We have reasons, or are they excuses, as to why we can’t do the same. This can apply to many things in our lives.

Running 1There is nothing amazing or inspiring about me. I’m just like you. I have bad days, I have disappointments, issues, and times I don’t want to work out or don’t feel like working out. So how did I get here? One day at a time, one workout at a time. I overcame each negative thought, one at a time. I overcame each injury, each setback, one at a time. Each step in the right direction gets me closer to where I want to be. Progress is often slow, but slow progress is still progress.

What’s your goal? What’s that big thing you want for yourself, that change you need to make? What’s stopping you? If I can do it, you can do it, too. Anybody can do it! So why not take that first step? Take it now before you change your mind!Do it NowJust do it

“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

I’m a Triathlete!

As promised, from yesterday’s #NaBloPoMo post, here is a little recap of my 1st Triathlon.  I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already since I crossed that finish line!

Back in August, I took my husband’s challenge to put the cross training in biking and swimming to good use and I completed my first Sprint Triathlon.  He told me that I could do it and I believed him.  It was hard, but I did it!  It was especially hard as a brand newbie swimmer, but it was an awesome experience.  I can’t wait to do another one, after I learn how to swim better, much better!

photo 1With my husband serving as my personal one man pit crew, paparazzi, chief encourager and nerve soother, we arrived at the race location.  I could tell that he knew I was on edge, as he seemed to be extra cautious with his words and actions that morning.  I tried to be extra sweet, but don’t think I was very good with that.  I had gotten myself worked into a bundle of nerves over this thing.  It was the swim portion of the race that I knew I wasn’t ready for.   I just wanted that swim to be over with!

The bike racks were already full by the time we arrived, so I had to find a place along the fence to set up my transition area.  I liked it that way though, as I knew it would be easy to find my bike after the swim.

Six weeks from the time of starting beginner swimming lessons to doing your first triathlon is not enough time!  I’m serious when I say beginner.  My first lesson was how to blow bubbles in the water!  The morning of the race, it was 55 degrees, which isn’t bad compared to some of the temperatures we’ve experienced at the start lines of our half marathons.  But this race involved getting in a pool at 55 degrees, then jumping on a bike and riding in the wind while wet.  Ask my husband and he’ll tell you.  I don’t do cold.  It didn’t help that I waited for photo 2over an hour to even start the swim, standing barefooted on cold concrete.  So yes, I was a bit chilled that morning.

It was finally my turn to jump in the water.  I panicked a little right off the bat.  The water depth was at 7 feet which is well over my head.  I was supposed to jump in and swim from there and I hadn’t trained that way.   I was used to starting from a standing position at the end of the pool lane.  Glitch one!

“They”, meaning people who do races, tell you not to do anything new on a race day.  I wanted everything to be perfect.  Everything matched, because I knew that should make me at least 10% faster, right!  My goggles were looking a little foggy and I wanted them to look shiny and new.  I read online that if you use baby shampoo on your goggles, they won’t fog up, so I tried it the day before the race.  The goggles were nice and shiny and they matched!  The problem was, they didn’t seal around my left eye.   Maybe it was the lavender baby shampoo that made a difference.  I don’t know, but have you ever tried swimming with one eye shut?  Glitch two!

photo 3I did make it to the end of those incredibly long lanes!  I had to rest often, but I wasn’t alone at those rest stops, so that made me feel a little better.  Waiting until the end of the pack to start the race had some definite advantages.  I didn’t get kicked in the face and no one swam over top of me.  I had to pick up my pace to break away from one guy who was doing the backstroke over the top of my legs, but that wasn’t so bad compared to the horror stories I had read about.  I was so glad when I came to the end of that last lane and I even had enough strength to pull myself up on the side, barely, which was almost glitch three.  I was out of the pool and that dreaded swim was over.  I thought it would be a piece of cake from there and it pretty much was.

I felt really good once I got going on the bike.  I started passing people and was surprised that I really wasn’t cold at all.  I knew I was making good time on that portion.  The only glitch on that leg was coming back to my transition area and finding that someone photo 4else had stolen my spot along the fence, so I had to go find a spot on the rack for my bike.  I didn’t like having my bike separated from my transition area, but I did what I had to do and stayed focused.

I was especially surprised at how hard it was to go into the run after biking and swimming.  I had done some “brick workouts” in my training to help me be prepared for this, but apparently not enough.  Plus, I’m sure that the fact that I had just been easing back into running after being off for four weeks, didn’t help.  I announced myself as I came up behind people to pass.  “Heavy breather passing on your left.”

Finally, it was over.  I crossed that finish line more winded than I have ever crossed a finish line before, but I think more thrilled than I ever photo (14)have been before.  I was a Triathlete!

I was lousy at the swimming, but made good time with the bike and transitions.  My total time was 1:34:35.  I finished 2nd in my 55+ age group, which I was very happy about, even though there were only three people in my age group.  My overall ranking with the women though was 71 out of 131, so not too bad for a newbie at my age with almost all of the women being younger.  Ok, it was a big deal for me, so I just had to tell you about it.  #NaBloPoMo

Domestic Violence… It’s NEVER Ok!

As always before I went to sleep, I reached down to be sure that the knife was still hidden between the mattress and the bed rail.  I kept it there just in case I would need it to protect myself during the night.  There was always the fear that somehow he would find it and the weapon that I hoped would protect me could be used against me.  Of course, this was not my only fear.  It was just one of many that come with having an abusive partner.

Knives themselves brought terror to me.  To think that I would even consider that one would protect me was almost ridiculous; however, it was now my best option.  Well, I guess my best option would have been to leave, but to consider that also brought fear, so much so that it didn’t seem to be a viable option in my mind at the time.

I love to cook, but cooking involves knives.  I understand how a chef’s knives are a prized possession.  In the hands of a chef, they are a necessary tool used skillfully with speed and accuracy.  A Chef can do such amazing and creatively wonderful things with a knife.   That’s what knives were intended to be used for.  To this day, even seeing a knife in the hands of a skilled chef makes me cringe.  I can only watch them work with one eye open.   I will never be able to handle a knife with the speed of a chef.  Knives bring back memories…

There was the time that a knife was used in a sexual assault against me.  It doesn’t feel good having a knife blade pressing against your skin, not that it really distracted from the atrocity that was happening to me.  All these years later, I can still see it at my waistline, almost still feel it.  I wrote about that in an abstract way in series of previous posts in my Fairytales from the Dark Side.  “The Dark Room…”, “The Dark Room… Continued” and “The Dark Room… The Final Chapter”, tell that story. 

On another occasion, I remember not only the sight of knives being hurled past my head, but also the sound as they stuck into the wall behind me.  It was all for the thrill of watching me be terrorized.  Yes, that’s a really bad memory, too.

It wasn’t just knives that brought fear.  Actually, any object that could be picked up and thrown or any body part that moved suddenly in my direction, those brought fear.  Hands that could be used in a loving caress one minute could have a death grip around my throat the next.   Arms that could hold me in a secure embrace one minute might be pushing me down a flight of steps the next.  A mouth that could be offering kind words one minute could be screaming obscenities the next.  Never knowing what was going to happen next, that brought fear, too.

Riding in a car and not being the driver brings fear.  I think anyone who I’ve ridden with can attest to that.  I can’t seem to keep myself from giving driving directions as a passenger and it doesn’t matter what seat I’m in.  You see, I remember the time that the car was spun around wildly in the middle of the freeway, more than once.  One time, I must have deserved it, though.  He was right.  I didn’t have a picture of him in my wallet.  There were the times that the car was driven onto railroad tracks, dangerously close to oncoming trains.  That was more than once, too.  I will never understand how someone finds pleasure in seeing someone else in terror.  I guess it must be like watching a reality horror flick.  Of course, you never forget someone trying to push you out of a moving car vehicle either.  Yes, I’m much more comfortable being the driver.

This particular night, the feel of the knife on the bed rail brought enough of a false sense of security that I thought I would be able to sleep.  He had tried to throw me out of the upstairs bedroom window earlier on this day, but he seemed pretty out of it by bedtime.  I thought the large amount of alcohol in his system would keep him asleep for the night.  Or it could have the opposite effect as it had done in the past and turn him into a raging lunatic.  Yes, the knife was a false sense of security, but thankfully that night the alcohol did keep him asleep.

Yes, there was mental abuse, as well.  There was the unfaithfulness in a relationship that brings betrayal.  That’s mental abuse.  (Yes, that happened more than once, too.)  Being verbally degraded and devalued on a daily basis is mental abuse.  The constant need to have to “walk on eggshells” out of fear of making the abuser angry is an abuse.  Having to live in fear 24/7 is mental abuse.  The ramifications of such abuses are just as long lasting as physical abuse.

Why didn’t I leave?  I didn’t leave because I was afraid to.  I was afraid for my life.   He threatened to hurt me if I tried to leave and I believed him.   I couldn’t see any safe way out.  How would I take care of myself and my son, and now the unborn baby I was carrying on my own?  Where would I go?  It was all just too overwhelming to consider.

I couldn’t tell anyone.  He would hurt me if he found out that I did that.  I knew that whoever I told would just tell me to leave.  They really wouldn’t understand.  I mean, he was always sorry afterwards.  He promised to never do it again.  Maybe this time, he’d really mean it.  People can change, right?

This was all years ago for me, yet the unnatural fears I was left with as a result, took years and much help to recover from.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I made it out alive.  Many aren’t so lucky.  You would probably be surprised to find out that someone you know is the victim of abuse like I’ve described.  Maybe even, it’s you.

Abuse is NEVER ok, not even once.  Too many ignore those first warning signs.  It’s easy to let reasoning justify the choice to stay in an abusive relationship.  The reality is there is NO good reason to do so.

Warning signs: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm#warning

October is Domestic Violence Month.  There really is a lot more help available today then there was when abuse was happening to me.

If you are a victim or know someone who might be, please get help.  You don’t have to stay a victim, but it usually can’t be done alone.

I’m happy that here in Arizona, Maricopa County just launched a new website to help victims of domestic violence.  Please, please, if it’s you or someone you know is being abused, go to: http://geo.azmag.gov/maps/victimadvocates/  Here you can find a map of places that will help, as well as phone numbers and other helpful links for those outside of Arizona.  Do it now, while you are still one of the lucky ones.

Hey World, Meet Chloe!

Hey World, let me introduce you to Chloe!  See the cute little Yorkie face peaking out from under the clothes in my closet.  That’s her.  She likes to hide there.  That’s just one of her hiding places actually.  She likes to hide a lot!  Chloe is a rescue dog.  I don’t know what I rescued her from, but it must have been something pretty horrific because she is afraid of everything.  I’ve had her for about nine months now and I think I may need to hire a dog whisperer so I can help her, if there really is such a person.

Chloe is afraid of most sounds.  When I’m cooking, which is often, she stands and stares at me, ready to run out the dog door as soon as a small appliance makes an appearance on the counter or any chopping starts.  She will run and stand outside and watch me through the patio door until she feels it’s safe to return or I call her to come back in.  When I’m getting ready to go somewhere, she knows when I’m about to grab the hairdryer and out the dog door she goes.  Her hiding place then is behind our pool pump.  Cleaning day is an absolute nightmare for her.  She’s afraid of the vacuum cleaner, the duster, the mop, the broom, all of it!  She hides outside behind the pool pump until I call her to come in.  She will visibly shake and pant for quite a long time after all the scary equipment is put away until she is sure the perceived danger has definitely past.  I try to calm her, but it’s to no avail.  She’s so tiny and I worry that she’ll shake herself into a heart attack or have a heat stroke from hiding outside.  It’s summer in AZ and it’s a bit warm right now.

There’s more Chloe is afraid of, but I think you get the idea.  I don’t know what it’s going to take or how long it’s going to take for her to get over her fears.  She is in a good, loving home now.  She gets lots of attention.  There is another Yorkie here for her to play with.  She has never been given a reason to be afraid here.  Life is good for her, yet she is paralyzed by fear.  Her fear robs her of comfort that she doesn’t find in her dusty, hot outdoor hiding place.

Chloe’s perceived threat isn’t real in our house.  Whatever it was is now gone from her life, yet the unnecessary fear lingers.  It controls her actions to the point of hurting herself.  I’m the one in our family that she feels the safest with.  She is almost as comfortable with my husband now, yet her fear has her missing out on loving attention she could be getting from other family members.  She’s adorable and everyone wants to pet her or hold her, but she barks and runs from them.

Isn’t that so much like some of us?  We all have fears and many of those fears at some point in our lives were well founded. But what about when we’ve moved on and are in a safe place and around people who have never given us a reason to be fearful?  Why do we feel a need to hold on to old fears?  We paralyze and imprison ourselves when we do that.  We are afraid to risk letting go of the fear so we can totally enjoy this new place.  We give our power to the fear and enable it to overpower us.  We imprison ourselves and rob ourselves of opportunities to learn, grow and succeed, to give and receive love.

How can I break Chloe of her fear?  Should I force her to face her fear by blocking her from her hiding places?  We’ll talk more about fear another time.  Maybe I’ll get brave enough to share my own, but for now, any Dog Whisperers out there?