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)

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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