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!

The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

“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!

Coping with Injury – A photo Journal

Keeping it short today, because we all know I’ve talked to much this week.  So today’s story will be in pictures, mostly.  I got the MRI results for my hip and hamstring yesterday, the injury I’ve been dealing with for the past two months already.  Short story is moderate to severe Tendinitis in the hamstring and a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone, mixed with some osteoarthritis, bone marrow edema and bone contusion.  Sad story is a long recovery and NO running, biking or swimming for four to six weeks and then we’ll reevaluate.  How will I cope with this?  Well, as you can see, I’m writing more.  While I’m sad, I’ll be just fine.  The bigger question is, how will all of my gear cope with this???

No one wants to see the things they love go through something like this.  Imagine the heartbreak of being shoved into a closet and ignored!  Who wants to be left on a rack to collect dust?  Yes, anything left laying around my house will collect dust.  It’s just a rule I made up.  My husband always said, “When you pass fifty, you are allowed to make up crap”, therefore, I make the rules and abide by them.  Today though,  I decided I needed to take swift action to make the things I love feel better.

Here are my bathing suit, swim cap and goggles.   Of course, the obvious way to keep them happy is to let them be in the pool.  I’m letting them float around on the raft for a bit.  They say if you love something set it free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours and if it doesn’t, it never was.  So today, I set them free to float.  I have a feeling they will come back to me.

Swimming Suit

Here is my bike.   Its happiest place is on the streets.  I could take it out for a walk, but a bike on a leash would look silly, so, I will let it stay on its rack at home.  You may wonder how this is therapy at all.  Well, you see, it’s beside my husband’s bike, so that is the next best place to be.

Bike

Here are my running shoes.  Don’t judge.  This is not excessive.  You know how it is for a girl and her shoes!  My shoe’s happy place is outside, even running in puddles at times.  So I put them outside by the pool to get a little sun and turned on the waterfall.  They brightened up, so I could tell this made them feel better.

Running Shoes

And that my friends, is how we’re coping with injury.

#NaBloPoMo

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

NaBloPoMo???

Doctor. patientI was sitting in the doctor’s office today.  I read the email.  I read the post explaining the email.  I read the words, “challenge” and “exercise”.  Both words caught my attention.  While I’m not one to viciously grasp hold of every challenge I’m faced with, I’ve discovered a bit of a competitive edge in me that likes a challenge.  And exercise!  If you know me, you know exercise is definitely an important part of my life.  Once again, these two words are having an influence on my day.

The email said it was “Nablopomo” Month.  It’s short for “National Blog Posting Month”.  How have I been blogging for a few years now and I’ve never heard of this before?  The challenge is to write a blog post every day for the month.  I’m not assuming that you want to read one of my posts every day for the month, but the challenge is just for me to get it out there.  This challenge is one I can choose to do.  The post explaining it said it was an “exercise” in writing.  It’s an exercise I can choose to do to help me build that writing muscle, so why not mix challenge and exercise in this arena that I love so much!

he_crosstrained_square_sticker_3_x_3I’ve been a runner for the past two and a half years.  My husband and I have a coach, which means a daily workout schedule, so yes, I’m getting my exercise.  I’ve had a long string of back to back injuries which have caused me to have to do a lot of cross training during my recovery periods.  I took up biking a year ago and have had to do a lot of pool running, but I’ve just recently started swimming, too.  Just three weeks ago, I took my husband’s challenge to put the added training in biking and swimming to good use and I completed my first Sprint Triathlon.  I think I’ll write about that tomorrow.

photo (5)My husband and I ran in the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon at the beginning of September.  I had been experiencing some hip and hamstring soreness that week before the race, but thought I would be okay to run if I kept an easy pace.  I was good until about mile ten, but the tightness I felt was bad enough that I was afraid if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to run again.  I even passed up the ten mile wine stop!  Somewhere in that next mile though, I had to start taking some walk breaks until I crossed the finish line.  I took four weeks off of running after that and concentrated on beginning swimming lessons and biking.  I was easing back into running two weeks before the Triathlon.  I thought I should be fine for that since the run was only a 5k.  My hip and hamstring was sore, but didn’t seem any worse than it had been, so I continued to ramp up the training.  After all, I didn’t have much time to be ready for our next race in November, the Big Sur Half Marathon.

Last week while swimming, something in my hip or leg snapped and shot pain across the top and down the back of it.  I was instantly frozen in the water.  As you know, not kicking and stroking while in a pool lead to sinking.  Verbalizing my discomfort while under water didn’t work out so well either!  After sucking in a huge gulp of pool water, I managed to get the good leg under me and very calmly hop to the side of the pool.  Controlling my reaction so as not to show the fact that I was gagging on lungs full of H2o and in great pain, I just stood at the end of my lane, smiling at the other swimmers.  I managed to choke out the water from my lungs while the other swimmers had their heads under the water, so no one knew I was having a problem.  I’m sure I helped them improve their workout sessions that day, as they assumed I was just standing there watching them, sizing up the competition, as athletes are so inclined to do.   I’m shaking my head at that right now.  Why are we like that?  Why am I so afraid to show anyone my weakness or flaws?  Maybe that’s a post for another day in this challenge.  Anyway, that’s how we’re back at the doctor’s office, once again.

I need to say for the benefit of my caring friends, which I do appreciate, that I have been under the care of my doctor and physical therapist through all of this.  All of my activity up to this point has been with their approval.  I haven’t been mistreating my body!  🙂

swim bike runThe doctor did his exam and ordered an MRI to see what kind of damage I’ve done now and then he said those words that I hated to hear.  No running.  No biking.  No swimming.  Nothing!  I’ve already been off of all training, everything, for a week now.  If you’re an athlete with a workout and race schedule, I know you understand.  This is torture!  This is not the challenge that I would choose to take.  This is a challenge I have to accept by default.  No exercise!  It’s so much more fun when we can choose to do something rather than be forced into it.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

writer signThere is a choice I can make today, and not by default.  I can choose to make the most of this!  As I find myself with more time on my hands right now, why don’t I go ahead and write.  That writing muscle could use a good workout, so let’s have at it.  Since we’re going into the busy holiday season, I might not get a post in every day, but it sure won’t hurt to try, so here goes!  #NaBloPoMo

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” 
― Roger Crawford

The “Doright” Muscle – Work it!

bike at sunriseThis morning was beautiful here in AZ!  We had a brief, very brief, reprieve from our normally hot summer temperatures.  Our lows were in the 70’s this morning!  Normal lows this time of the year are upper 80’s to low 90’s so, yes, this was NICE!  I had a bike ride on my workout schedule today and the cooler temperature just added to my enjoyment!

I love my rides, almost as much as I do my running.  I don’t wear any headphones to listen to music on my rides.  It’s just safer that way.  I find that without music blaring in my ears, I’m much more focused on my thoughts.  Of course, family members and friends are always at the forefront of my thoughts and today was no different.

Another thing on my mind this morning was my workout schedule and how important it was to make sure I get my strength training done.  It’s not the focus of my workouts, but it is necessary for me to maintain the thing that is my focus, which is running.  Without the PHX Halfstrength training, all the supporting muscles won’t be able to handle the load that I put on the muscles used to run.  You know, how the leg bones connected to the hip bone.  I can have a strong leg, but the hip has to be able to support it.  If the supporting muscles aren’t strong, I run the risk of injury, which means no run at all.  Being on the injury list is extremely frustrating for a runner.  I speak from a place of a lot of experience on the subject of injury, so, no matter how busy the schedule, the strength training must be done.  It’s the right thing to do.

“What’s the point?” you ask.  Those two strings of my thoughts this morning; family, friends and muscles are closely tied.   You see, I know people who struggle with things and some of them struggle with their own will and doing what’s right.  Of course, we all have our struggles and we’ve all struggled with doing the right thing, but I see a relationship between them and muscles here.

When I started running, just over two years ago, I was over what the ideal weight should be for my build.  Like everyone else, I had tried all kinds of diets, cleanses, pills and exercise plans, for years actually.  I would have seasons of success, but before long, the weight would be back and whatever muscle I had gained, would disappear.  When I started running, I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or get healthy.  My only motivation was to be able to run so I could spend more time with my husband, who had started running.  Yes, I did lose weight and yes, I did get much healthier and I did love the result!

The benefits that came from running were great motivators to help me keep up the good work, but my focus wasn’t on fewer calories, burning fat or building muscle.  Running made me want to eat healthier meals, so my muscles could have the proper fuel they needed to help me continue to do what I wanted to do.  I wanted to run, so I took the steps needed to help me do it.  Eating healthier was the next right thing for me to do.  I started reading about running to gain knowledge.  That was the next right thing.  I got a coach to give me direction and help me improve, another right thing.  A workout plan came with having a coach, thus, I had a workout schedule.  Skipping a scheduled workout on days when I didn’t feel like running wasn’t an option, even though there were days I had lots of good reasons to not run.  I had a coach to answer to, so I ran.  I had to exercise my mind and emotions, stretch beyond my perceived ability and develop a new mental toughness.  My focus was on running, the thing I wanted to do.  All the resulting benefits of doing the next right thing, were just icing on the cake.  Oh, and running lets me have my cake and eat it too!

Let’s jump back to the family and friends who struggle with doing the right thing.  What do you think about shifting the focus here, much like my focus shifted from losing weight to just doing what I wanted to do, which was run?  If the focus were on doing what we really want to do and we do the next right thing in whatever the given situation, instead of focusing on the thing that we don’t want to be a part of our life, it seems that the results would just fall into place as part of a natural progression.  If we focus our time and energy on the goal we want to achieve, instead of the mess we may be surrounded by, we are looking ahead to a better tomorrow, a better future.   Keeping our focus on the mess or the thing that’s become a monster with the power to destroy our lives, is like spinning our wheels in the mud.  We waste a lot of fuel trying to move forward and we might move a little, but we sink right back in.  We get nowhere and we stay stuck in our rut.

1-4-man_flexing_muscles_21ed3It’s going to take some strength training to get us where we want to be.  I like to keep things simple, so my suggestion sounds really simple, but it’s not so easy to do.  May I suggest that the focus be on exercising the “doright” muscle?  That’s pronounced “do right”, and the meaning is simple.  It just means that the focus be on doing the next right thing.  You focus on the here and now.  Even if you find yourself in a very dark place and you can’t see any way out, there is almost always one right thing that you do know to do, so do that.  Stop looking at the darkness or the impossibility of the situation.  As you do it, you strengthened the “doright” muscle.  Often doing the first right thing will help us see what the next right thing should be, so how about another rep.  Do it!  Maybe that’s all the strength you have for today, but tomorrow is a new day.  Plan to wake up and only look at the next right thing to do and do it.

All those little “doright” reps, are just small individual movements, but when you keep doing them, you achieve something much bigger Donkey_1_arp_750pxand you get to the place you wanted to go.  It reminds me of the story of the donkey who fell into a deep hole.  The farmer couldn’t get him out, so he decided to bury him.  As the farmer shoveled dirt into the hole on top of the donkey, the donkey shook it off.  He made a little movement, a small step on top of the dirt that was supposed to bury him.  After many repetitions of those small steps, the donkey found himself in a new place, outside of his hole.

Over time, it’s going to get easier and easier to work the “doright” and before you know it, that muscle will become more toned and defined.  People will start to notice the change and compliment you on it.  Before you know it, you will have moved forward.  You’ll be in that new place now and find it’s not so dark anymore.   You’re stronger than that monster from your past and he’s no longer a threat.  You’ve become an athlete!  And what’s an athlete do?

Give me 100 “do rights”!  Now let me see you flex!      woman flexing