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!

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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!

“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!

Embrace Your Joy!

photo 4Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year and it’s obvious when you look around my home.  I’ve just spent the last two weeks decorating, so yes, it’s very evident that I love Christmas!  The holidays bring me great joy!

Joy is an appropriate topic for today’s post because after all, tis the season!  My post is inspired by a few things.  One of those inspirations is Nelson Mandela.  People who spread love and good will in our world are a great source of inspiration and much can be learned from the legacy that this man left behind.  While the world mourns his passing, those closest to him are dealing with intense grief at the moment.  Joy is the farthest thing from their minds.

As a matter of fact, this season is one that many can’t find joy in.  Accidents still happen.  People lose their lives.  Disease is still diagnosed.  Employees lose their jobs.  Bills still come in the mailbox.  Families break apart.  Depression and suicides increase.  Life doesn’t suddenly change to cookies, glitter and snow angels when Macy’s Santa arrives in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Transforming my home and singing carols is more apt to cause people in these situations to be even more depressed.

So, how can I write about joy when there is so much pain and disorder around me?  You knew I was going to answer that, didn’t photo 5you.  My own life hasn’t been all happy and joyful, nor have all of my Christmas seasons been filled with gifts and shiny things.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that.  I’ve experienced Christmas with accidents, loss, illness, no money, bills, break ups and brokenness, so I understand how difficult this time of year can be.  No, I wasn’t happy with my circumstances during those times, but I was able to be grateful for what I did have and look for the bright side of whatever the situation was.  I’ve always found someone or something that inspires me to find joy.

Another source for my inspiration today is a member of the running team that my husband and I belong to.  I’ve photo 5 (2)never met her in person, but I’ve seen enough of her posts on our team website and Facebook, that I feel like I know her and for that, I am grateful.  Honestly, I’m grateful for all of our team as they all are wonderful people who encourage and support each other in all of the highs and lows that come with injuries, recoveries, victories and defeats.  We all need people like this in our lives.  Today, while I am not diminishing the rest of our team in anyway, I want to highlight one.  And here I go naming names again and this time I actually have permission.  My inspiration today is Nancy.

photo 1 (2)Each day, Nancy posts a little personal story and how she was able to find joy in her day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day.  I’ve come to look forward to reading her, “Go embrace your joy” messages.  I want to share what she posted on facebook last week.  I’ll just copy and paste exactly what she posted, as I can’t say it any better.  Here you go:

“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.” ~Ralph Marston

“A few days ago I shared with you all that after having fallen into a funk in my life I sought the guidance of a therapist–a person who helped me develop the tools to carry me through the obstacles–to change my perspective of this incredible and many times challenging journey we call life. 

There are many who perceive anyone seeking help as being weak or unable to cope. Sadly seeking help for a photo 4 (2)broken bone, a headache, blurry vision, even a toothache has never been questioned by my friends, but the minute they heard that I was in therapy, some friends became quite uncomfortable–giving me a side-way glance or total silence as if my problems were contagious–as if may I have a screw loose or that I am nuts. The truth– I believe the judgment from others is one biggest reasons people do not seek intervention–they don’t want people to think they can’t figure out life on their own. But sadly this perception is so unfair.

What I have learned over the years is, if I already knew everything I could about life, than there is nothing more I could learn. There would be little or no reason for me to change, to evolve to transform my life. Unfortunately, unlike your car, we aren’t born with an owner’s manual to guide us through the trials–what to do when our own internal check engine light comes on. We learn to do what we have to do just to survive–that is what we are wired to do. 

With each passing year I worry less about what others think of me, something that I spent way too much time and energy doing in my past, electing to focus more on what I think of myself and the nurturing friendships that bring me joy. Am I a good person? Am I a compassionate person? Am I kind? Loving? Giving? Do I bring joy to others?

The truth is–not everyone will like me–my goal in life is not to give up who I am to be loved by others, to be liked by others–as long as I am kind and respectful, you get me in all my whacky doodle ways. I love to have fun–I find being happy and joyful takes far less work than being miserable and angry. And as I have come to believe there is joy to found every day–sometimes you have to look far and wide for it and other times it’s right before your eyes. 

HAPPY SATURDAY FRIENDS–GO EMBRACE YOUR JOY!!!!”

Nancy started writing her posts about joy when her therapist gave her a homework assignment to find at least one thing that bringsphoto 2 (2) her joy every day, even on the dark days.  She said that some days, it was just finding a penny on her run, or seeing a rainbow after a storm, or a smile from a stranger.  She wrote this about finding joy in another one of her posts.

“Finding joy is a choice– it’s about rewiring our brain to move from negativity that can became such a part of our lives, to finding joy in the simplest of things. Certainly I would love to take full credit for my epiphany, but life in all its ups and downs is meant to be shared. More times than not, the joy does not lie in others, but is buried deep within our own hearts–we just have to open our eyes, hearts and minds to this amazing gift.”

This blog is named what it is for a reason.  It’s my own quest to become more of a real person, not one who puts on the socially accepted mask, flashes a fake smile and pretends my life is like living in a rose garden every day.  While I do like shiny things and I’d like to make you think that if it were even possible that I would ever pass gas, I would emit tiny puffs of glitter, we all know that’s not really how it is.  I want to share in the real life journey we are all on, because we all need support and encouragement.  We all need the encouragement of people around us during the difficult times, like my running team does for me.

photo 3 (2)Nancy is being real.  She’s sharing what is uncomfortable, but what she is really doing is encouraging others to be better people.  Because she chooses to be authentic, I’m encouraged to listen.  Her words speak to my heart, therefore, I’m encouraged to grow and I too, can find joy.  Maybe she’s not doing it on the scale that Nelson Mandela did, but she’s doing her part to spread love and good will in our world.

The past several days, we’ve been privileged to hear more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what he stood for.  We’ve also heard many inspiring words of wisdom that were uttered through his lips.  They were really an overflow of his heart.  This particular quote got my attention.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela 

photo 1Nelson Mandela was authentic, the real deal.  He spoke in a language that could be understood by all, because he spoke to something that is buried deep in the hearts of all.  It’s love and goodwill that speaks to us.  That’s the language of the heart.  So in this world where all that glitters isn’t gold, where it’s hard to find the true meaning of the season in the frenzy of activity and plastic trees, I’m hoping more of us will open our eyes, hearts and minds to look deep inside ourselves and others for those real gifts that are real and authentic.  Spread some of that love and goodwill around.  Go embrace your joy!

Thanks Nancy!

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

Happy Birthday “R”!

balloon treeI’m breaking away from the “super proud mom” theme of the past few days, but I can’t quite let go of it completely.  I’m just going to mix it up a little bit, because I’m not done being super proud.   Today’s post will from the perspective of a “super proud wife”.  This won’t become a series though, because the last I checked, I only have one husband to brag on and he deserves to be bragged on!  We’ll stay with the letter theme and name him “R”.  It’s his birthday today, so this post is perfect timing.

I’ve already told you how we met in “My Knight in Shining Armor Story”.  After two previously, really screwed up marriages, I finally got one right.  Some of us just need a bigger learning curve.

“R” met me as a single mom with two kids already.   Having the courage to take on an instant family makes him “point worthy” right off the bat.  The night of our first date was as the Christmas season was approaching and my kids and I were decorating the tree when the doorbell rang.  “R” got to put the angel on the top of the tree before we left for dinner, which has been a tradition ever since.  My kids seemed to be really comfortable around him, too, and he was good with them, so that raised his score.  Yes, after twoscoreboard to many screwed up relationships, I was definitely keeping score.

Not only did “R” inherit a prepackaged deal, he also won the rights to my bill drawer.  I must tell you that this bill drawer had its own organizational system.  I didn’t have to do anything but put the unopened bills in the drawer and they organized themselves with the oldest being on the bottom and the newest on top.  It was a system especially developed to ease my mind and cut down the financial stress of being a single mom.  Whatever was in that drawer became out of sight, therefore, out of mind.   As hard as it is to admit how horrible that system was, imagine the courage it took “R” to accept that drawer when he accepted me.  Yes, give that guy some more points, maybe a high five even!

In the early days of our fast moving courtship, my soon to be husband did everything right.  He always had the right answer, he was super intelligent and seemed to have wisdom beyond his years, he had a good job and he was incredibly talented musically.  As a matter of fact, it was a song that he wrote for me that broke down the high walls around my heart and gained him access.  The fact that he shared the song as we shared a container of ice cream may have helped a little, too.  Ice cream was a staple in my family.

Sad-love-quotes-Trust-it-takes-yearsSpeaking of high walls around my heart, previous abuse and rape meant a lot of emotional baggage was traveling with me on our new journey together.  Trust was difficult for me.  Letting someone get close and really know me was difficult.  “R” would constantly tell me he loved me, but I would just let the words roll off.  If I really believed him, it meant I was opening myself up to be hurt.  He constantly paid me compliments, I mean many times throughout the day even.  My response was always to either ignore what he said or deflect them somehow.  He would stand in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me I was beautiful.  I would look away, never saying thank you, never receiving it.  He never gave up though.  Year after year, he patiently kept doing it all right.  I don’t know how many years it took before I started to listen and believe him, but it was many.  Yeah, more points here!  Big time points!Hugs heal

Our premade family of four grew to become a family of six.  There were some wonderful years in the last 25 and some really horrible, even hellish years.  I’ve talked about some of those times in previous posts, but I’ve just shared what it was like for me, as if I was alone in it all.  “R” was there, too.  He hurt, too, but of course, no one saw that.  Those years didn’t seem to scare “R”.  He didn’t run like others surely would have done.  He stood fast and he held tight.  He remained strong and focused with an amazing ability to keep things under control.

I’m remembering the health crisis I had two years ago.  Not that I remember a lot about the days in ICU, but I do remember when I icuwould wake up occasionally and he would jump up from the spot where he kept vigil.  He would do all he could to make me comfortable or offer help in any way.  How difficult it must have been for him, not just to see his wife in that condition, but still having to carry the responsibility of his job and everything at home during that time.  He didn’t seem to miss a beat in any of it.  I vaguely remember seeing his mom walking into the room once.  I heard her ask him how he was doing.  He said, “I’m just taking care of my wife”.  He certainly has taken care of me.  He’s taken very good care of me!  And the score board numbers keep adding up.

“R” works a very demanding job that doesn’t sleep.  Even if it did sleep, since it’s an international company, it’s always 8:00 to 5:00 somewhere.  They keep him around, they’ve promoted him over the years and the pay checks keep coming in.  All the people that I know that he works with really like him, so I think he must be really good at what he does.  I can’t forget to mention that I’ve been sleeping with a college student for the past few years.  “R” takes classes, too and I’m proud to say he’s a straight A student.

cyclist_superhero_by_night_oval_decalWe’ve had lots of highlights in the past couple years, thanks to “R” getting us involved in this running thing he loves so much.  He’s my marathon man!  We’ve been doing races every couple months and most of them we’ve gotten to travel for.  It’s been so much fun!    He is also big into cycling now and he’s become a mad man clipped on pedals.  I slow him way down when we ride together, but he doesn’t mind because he says he loves when he gets to ride with me.

There is so much more I could say, but I think you get the idea.   He may not be perfect, but he’s still my Mr. album coverRight.  This past summer we were cruising on the Mediterranean.  We had many beautiful nights, but one in particular stands out in my mind.   Picture it with me.  Sitting on our balcony with good wine in hand, sailing over smooth seas, warm air, gentle breeze, full moon reflecting on the water, sound of the water lapping the sides of the ship and “R” is singing to me.  “You’re once, twice, three times a lady…”  Yep, he melted my heart.

Let me tell you this “R”.  While you’ve racked up more points than I could ever count, I’m the one who scored the most when I married you.  You’re once, twice and always my man!  I’m proud of you “R” and I love you with all of my heart!

#NaBlaPoMo

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

I’m a Runner! I’ve got Proof!

I’m about to make my case to the fact that I’m a runner, as well as present the evidence to back that up!

Here are a couple pictures of me actually running in a race.  No, these are not photo shopped!  I was there, really!

Exhibit A: Running the 3TV Half Marathon last November.

PHX Half

Exhibit B: Walking the P.F. Chang’s Rock N Roll Half Marathon this past January.  I had to walk this one because of three herniated disks in my neck, but I finished.

RocknRollHalf

I am a runner; therefore I have a race schedule.  I don’t expect to be winning races at my age, but I do expect to be the best I can be.  Here is my race schedule for 2013.

Exhibit C: 2013 Race Schedule.

January 20th – PF Chang’s Rock N Roll ½ Marathon

March 24th – Arizona Distance Classic ½ Marathon

May 19th – Cleveland Rite Aid ½ Marathon or Surfer’s Path ½ Marathon in Santa Cruz (Undecided)

July 21st – Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon

September 1st – Oregon Wine Country ½ Marathon

November – Yet to be decided, but there will be a race!

I have a coach to help me be the best I can be.  His name is Jeff Gaudette and here is his website.  Just ask him.  He knows who I am.  He’s had to put up with all of my injuries and he hasn’t given up on me, not just yet!  J  Actually, I don’t think he will give up on me as long as I don’t either.  And I’m not giving up!

Exhibit D:  My coach’s website:  http://runnersconnect.net

I am a runner and therefore I train to be the best I can be.  I have a training schedule from my coach.  Here’s what he assigned for this week.  I’ve been doing more cross training the last few months due to an injury, I’m still recovering from.  It used to be more impressive, but it’s been awhile…

Exhibit E: Training Schedule

Monday, March 25 – Off / Rest Day

Tuesday, March 26– 60 min. elliptical = Achilles Routine

Wednesday, March 27 – 4 miles easy w/3×20 sec. strides + Core Routine

Thursday, March 28 – 45 min. elliptical easy / 45 min. bike hard

Friday, March 29 – 5 miles easy + Core Routine

Saturday, March 30 – 6 miles easy + Core Routine

Sunday, March 31 – Circuit Training Routine

 

I have ugly toenails!  It’s a runner thing.  The jury is still out as to why this happens to runners.  Some say it’s just the result of shoes that don’t fit properly.  Some say, it just goes with the territory, but I’ve been told by several runners that these identify you as a runner!  So here are my ugly toenails.

Exhibit G: Runner’s Toenails.  Just kidding!  I couldn’t bring myself to post such an ugly picture.  Take my word for it on this one!  One big toe nail is half off.  It’s in the process of growing back, but you can see underneath what’s left.  The other big toenail is all black underneath and about to come off and one of my littlest piggies looks like it’s in danger of following suit.  I try to make them look better with polish, but I don’t think it helps much.  They’re just downright ugly!

 

I’ve made a huge investment in this body!  Almost all runners have to deal with injuries, some of us, more often than others, as is evidenced here.  Here are my running related medical receipts for this year, so far.  All I can say is, it’s a good thing my husband loves me!  Oh, and if you need a good physical therapist, ask for Nate.  He treats many athletes, so they can keep hitting the streets.

Exhibit H:  Physical Therapy Receipts.

photo (12)

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that a girl likes her shoes, but there is a difference with runners.  It’s not just the girls who like their shoes!  It’s the same for the boys and the girls.  We love our shoes!  This picture is of mine and my husband’s shoes outside by the pool, because that’s where running shoes are the happiest; outside in the fresh air, in beautiful places!  Oh, and we can tell you exactly how many miles we’ve put on each pair.

Exhibit H: “Our” Running Shoes.  

Running Shoes

 

 

 

Here are the workout clothes, minus the ones in the laundry.  I took a picture of the jackets and vest too, but that was really boring, so you just get to see the clothes, minus the under armor.  Yeah, this is still pretty boring.

Exhibit I: Workout Clothes. 

Workout Clothes

 

 

 

 

I’m not airing my dirty laundry here, so you will just have to take my word for this one, too.  We have more workout clothes in our hamper, than we do regular clothes.  OK, that is partly because my husband sends some of his work clothes to the dry cleaner, but still, workout clothes are a big part of our laundry!

Exhibit J:  Laundry.  Couldn’t bring myself to post this one either, so imagine the odors.  OK, maybe not!

Here are the bibs from the races that I’ve done.  I am missing three of them, but they are around here somewhere.  That’s just one more thing that attests to the fact that I’ve left the Type A lifestyle behind.  My husband on the other hand, he can show you every one of his bibs! There are some awesome memories with the story behind each of these bibs.  I’ve written about some of the races in previous posts.  I think the most memorable one is the 911 Run to Remember in NYC.  The name on the white bib, Sanae Mori, is one of the victims of the 911 attacks.  She was a 27 yr. old woman from Japan who was attending a business meeting on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center that day.  It was a very moving experience to run with some of the first responders and victims family members.  I will never forget it.

Exhibit K: Race Bibs.

Bibs

 

 

 

 

These are my finisher medals from the races I’ve run.  We’re not even two years into this running thing, so not too shabby for a start!  One of these days, there’s going to be a full marathon finisher medal in this group.  I just know it!

Exhibit L: Race Finisher Medals.

Medals

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing you will see among runners is weird tan lines.  I guess this applies more to the ladies.   You’ve heard about the “farmer’s tan”.  I think the “runner’s tan” tops that.  You might notice the Road ID and Garmin tan lines on the wrists, the phone arm band tan line, the t-back top tan line, the tan line around your ankle from your running shoes, the really odd tan lines from the tape the physical therapist applies, and the tan line from the running shorts in various lengths.  All of these tan lines are not so appealing when you put on a bathing suit.  I try to blend them with spray tan in a can, but I know they’re there.

Exhibit M:  Weird Tan Lines. 

Ok, you really didn’t think I would post that picture, did you?

This should count as proof, too.  We’ve spent good money on gear.  These are all the miscellaneous tools of the trade.  This is the gear.  Some of these items are for injury and recovery.  In case you aren’t familiar, the taller cylindrical items are foam rollers.  The smallest ones are for travel.  There is also a PVC pipe and what’s called “The Stick”.  These are items that are used for sore muscles.  We roll on or over the sore spots to help them heal.  This is where the term, “hurts so good”, originated from.  The tennis ball and la cross balls are used for healing, as well.  Placing these balls right into the joint socket in the hips and pressure points in the legs, back, shoulders and neck brings almost instantaneous pain or relief, whichever applies for the given area.  The rest of the gear doesn’t really require any explanation.

Exhibit N: The Gear.

Misc. Running Gear

 

 

 

 

Lastly, may I present to you an expert, eye witness?  He’s a Marathoner, (That’s hot!) and he’s been with me at every race.  He’s my husband.  He said it himself that I’m a runner.  I say that counts!

Exhibit O: My Husband.

Run to Remember

 

 

 

 

Why do I need to validate myself as a runner?  Well, today I guess I feel the need because of the race we attended this past weekend.  My husband and I were in the Arizona Distance Classic, in Tucson, AZ.  It’s a beautiful course that winds through the foothills of Oro Valley.  It was enjoyable, because of the surroundings and because my husband was with me.

Let me put in another plug for Mr. Spargo before I go on.  He’s trained hard and trained far beyond me this past year.  Every race for him now just gets better, as he puts his training to the test.  For this race though, he sacrificed what could have been another personal record and stayed with me, the whole race!   He’s awesome!

The sad and frustrating part was that it was yet another race that I ended up having to walk most of the course.  I have been recovering well now from my injuries and finally got workouts on my schedule that had miles of running without walk breaks.  Because of what’s become a long and frustrating string of injuries this past year, I’ve been forced to do a lot of walking in these races.  I wasn’t expecting to have to do hardly any walking on this one, but my knee didn’t hold out well on the hills, so we walked most of the way after mile four.  Walking doesn’t make me feel much like a runner!

I do know that my “who” is separate from my “do”.  In other words, my identity isn’t in what I do, but it’s in who I am as a person.  My “who” isn’t what my profile says I am.  I do domestic activities, but that doesn’t make me a Domestic Diva.  I run, but my identity isn’t in running.

Having all of these setbacks has caused me to do a lot of thinking on this running thing.  Why do I run?  Why do I want to be a runner?  I know the answer to those questions now.  I love how running has influenced my “who”.  Running has changed who I am.  It’s made me stronger in many ways.  I’m mentally tougher.  In order to reach a goal, you have to do things that are unpleasant, things you probably don’t feel like doing.  I don’t wake up every morning and look forward to my run.  I actually, put it off.  I like to take my time to relax in the mornings, drink my coffee, read, and get caught up with my Facebook friends.  I almost never get that “runner’s high” you hear about, so most of my runs are more of a chore than fun.  But I love the sense of accomplishment when a workout is done!  When that runner’s high does happens, it’s just an added bonus.

Running has increased my tenacity.  It’s helped grow that “never give up” spirit.  It’s helped me learn to push through obstacles.  It’s taught me the importance of taking care of this body, so it can be healthy enough to last many more years.  It helps me to be a better me!

So yes, I’ve had to walk more than I’ve wanted to.  I’ve had setbacks I didn’t want to have.  I’ve not been able to complete my goal of doing a marathon yet, but I’m not giving it up.  Actually, my body mechanics aren’t really built well for running and if you throw in the age factor, it’s going to take a “God thing” for me to finish a marathon.  I have to put in a plug for my friend, God, here.  I don’t do anything without his help!  He takes my “do” and makes me a better “who”.

So, the moral of my story today: No matter who you are, let your “do” make you a better “who”.  If you need a little help sorting out your who and your do, my friend is always ready to help.  Just ask.