DNS and DNF…

I haven’t written an update on my triathlon efforts lately, so I think it’s time for some catching up. In case you aren’t familiar with what DNF and DNS stand for, here’s a little Tri education. A DNF is dreaded. You do not want to have it listed beside your name on a race results list. It means “Did Not Finish.” Almost everyone who races has had one or will have. The tri world is super supportive when someone else gets one, but when it’s labeling your race, whether we admit it or not, it hurts. It’s a disappointment, no matter how supportive others will be about it. I had my first DNF this last May at the Santa Rosa Ironman 70.3. Insert sad face here.

 

A DNS doesn’t make an athlete very happy either. The sting of a DNS may be a little less painful depending on the situation and the perspective of the athlete, but yeah, I would have to say, I still dread those, as well. A DNS means, “Did Not Start.” The athlete never even gets to toe the start line. I had at least a few of those this year. After you put out cash for a race, invest in gear, training and travel… Insert another sad face here.

 

It’s this seemingly, perpetually injured body that’s caused me to have to cross races off my calendar this past year, thus the DNS labels listed by my name on race rosters. Arthritis in the spine, impinging the sciatic nerves and affecting everything else down the chain, is the root issue.  I don’t want to get into all of that, though. I hate to talk about my health issues. It seems I spend enough time talking to doctors, so I’d rather stay positive here.

 

The DNF listed by my name was for the Santa Rosa Ironman 70.3 in May. I invested in the race, the gear, did the training and traveled to get to the start line. It felt really good to finally be back in a race. It was a cold, windy morning, not my ideal race conditions, for sure. I managed to make the swim cut off time, even after having to stop several times because the cold water affected my asthma and I couldn’t breathe. I seriously considered having a boat take me into shore, but with rest stops, I was able to keep going. I was so happy when I got out of that water, though!

 

After the swim, racers had to run up a long and very steep boat ramp to get to the transition area where our bikes were waiting. My body isn’t able to regulate temperature properly, so when I get cold, it’s no joke. it’s difficult to get warm again. I needed to be warm for the bike portion of the race. I needed my body to stop shaking and my fingers to have feeling so I could shift gears and brake, especially on that first curvy, two-mile downhill stretch with a sharp turn at the bottom. After the swim, my fingers were so cold, I couldn’t zip on my dry jersey or stop shaking enough to do much of anything I needed to be doing right then. As a result, my transition time was way too long. The bike course was really hilly with more climbing than I had ever done. Because of my bad knees, I had avoided hills in training, hoping I would still somehow make it in the race. Between the cold, the hills and my stops at every aid station to take off a layer of clothing, I missed the bike cut off time by six minutes. I finished that whole bike course, only to pull up to the dismount line and have the race director meet me, take a picture of my helmet and race number, rip off my timing chip and tell me I was done. DNF! My first DNF! And I hope, my last DNF!

I did have one other DNS, since the Santa Rosa half Iron. That was in July when I was supposed to do my first full Ironman, again in Santa Rosa. And again, due to injury, I didn’t even get to start. I did have one race finish this year and that was the Chula Vista Triathlon in August. I was able to complete my first 100 mile bike ride in September, the Amtrack Century, complete with it’s California hills, including the Tory Pines climb! I thought I was going to die on that, but thankfully, the ice cream they served at the top saved me.

 

I’ve got one more race on the calendar this year, my “A” race, Arizona Ironman. In 25 days, 14 hours and 48 minutes from right now, I’ll be toeing another start line. I’m trying really hard to stay focused and positive. I don’t think that staying positive means that you deny that you have an issue. Being positive is moving in a forward direction regardless of what’s trying to hold you back. It’s being fully aware of the circumstances surrounding your situation, but not allowing the negative to overwhelm you. It’s guarding your heart, mind and thoughts from controlling your situation and bringing you to defeat. It’s knowing who you are and being confident in that. I might feel fear, but it isn’t going to stop me from what it is I need to accomplish. I’ll do it afraid.

 

So, right here I’m not denying these ongoing body issues are fighting me with a vengeance right now. My back and the sciatica have my hip and hamstring all fired up. I’m in treatment, and trying to get injections scheduled as soon as possible, hopefully in time to help. I haven’t been able to walk without limping this past week. There, I’ve said it. I know what my circumstances are and the challenges they present to my ultimate goal. BUT, I’m not going to focus on that. I’m not going to let that stop me at this point. No, I don’t intend to be stupid about it, but at the same time, I know that I have 25 days, 14 hours and 47 minutes to do all I can to get ready for that race. I won’t focus on the fact that I can’t even walk right now. I can still swim and bike, so I’ll just move my focus. When the negative thoughts come, I fight back with the truth of what I can do. Yes, I feel pain, so I’m doing all I can do to help my body recover and get stronger.

Our time is valuable. Our bodies are valuable. Our minds are valuable. It requires a fight to keep discouragement and defeat at bay when circumstances threaten to rob us of whatever it is we chase. Allowing any negative thought to take up that valuable piece of real estate in your mind, hurts you. You give your power to the negative, the dark side, so to speak. When you fight back with the truth, what was negative can actually make you stronger. This applies to many areas in life, not just my race.  I can’t afford to waste my time, my thoughts or my health, by not doing all I can do to fight back, and neither can you.

 

I use this a lot, but I truly believe it. #ificanyoucan People have said that I’ve inspired them. That’s really nice and I appreciate the support and encouragement! At the same time, I feel inspiration is useless if it doesn’t lead to action and change. Maybe triathlon isn’t for you, but better health, more exercise, being more positive, more courageous, fulfilling your purpose, those are things we can move toward, things we need to be able to fight for.

So, for the next 25 days, 14 hours and 47 minutes, you know what I will be doing. Of course, I’ll be praying a lot, too. I know I can’t do anything without divine help. If you want to toss some prayers into the hat for me, I’ll appreciate it much.  I want to hear whole words, not letters, associated with my name. It’s what I hope to be my birthday present for my 60th year of living on this earth, words blasting from the speakers as I run down that finisher’s chute and across that line, “Bobbi Spargo, YOU! ARE! AN! IRONMAN! The fight’s on! #ificanyoucan #IMAZ

#womenfortri #Ironman

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Hagg Lake Tri – I’m Coming For You…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#whyracing #whyracingevents #hagglaketri

My Why – This Triathlon Thing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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