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Riding the Wave: “Failure” and Success

I’ve been quiet for a while!! Work has been busy, life hectic and, I’m not going to lie – training somewhat non-existent.  But!! That’s about to change. Time to get back on the wagon before it gets so far away that I can’t catch it.

I’ve got three races under my belt so far this season. Two half-marathons and one Sprint Triathlon and they’ve been met with mixed success. I’m having to learn how to work with this new, slightly broken, body. My gait has changed and certain muscles have weakened since by battle with Vestibular Neuritis and its been a “fun” little game trying to get back to full strength.

The good news: Failure is becoming motivating. The motto of “embrace the suck” is pretty much the name of the game but at this point it causes as much laughter at myself as it does frustration.

Here’s how things have gone so far….

 

Race #1:  The “HELP ME!!!” Half Marathon really called the Winnipeg Police Service Half-Marathon

It’s a nice day in May. A little windy but not too shabby. Which is impressive for Winnipeg where you never really can predict what the weather will do in this crazy Canadian city.

I’m running with a friend from work.  He’s faster than me but not enough for me to worry about it. I should be able to pace him fairly well. I tell him that I am not going to miss my goal of under 2 hours by 26 seconds again because that would just suck.   We’re off and running at a steady 5:21/km . I’m feeling good and we are joking a bit about how work is going to hurt the next day.

And then it hits. The attack of the IT Band. Barely 10 km  in and I can feel the pain creeping up in to my knee. I mentally tell my body to piss off because I do not have time for this and there is a long damned way to go.  I let my running buddy run ahead so I don’t screw up his time and I push as best I can.

I walk.

I grunt in frustration.

I text my best friend who is out with an injury and she tells me to “EMBRACE THE SUCK!!”

I walk. I run. I cry. Damn does it hurt.  About mile 11, a woman runs along side me as I am dragging myself up a small incline. She puts her hand on my back and tells me I’m ok. And I cry some more out of pure frustration.  Just after mile 12 I see a guy sitting on the ground with the medics around him and I tell myself “THAT WILL NOT BE ME”. At mile 13 the end is in sight but I can no longer bend my knee at all. I’m barely jogging and even that .1 seems insurmountable.  A man runs along side me, put his hand on my arm and pulls me along with him. He keeps pulling me until I tell him that “I’ve got it. I’m good.” Runners are truly amazing and supportive people.

I crossed the finish line at 2 hours 5 minutes… well, I DID say I didn’t want to miss the 2 hour mark by 26 seconds.

I embraced the suck.

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My very supportive colleague waited for me at the finish. Notice my awkward stance as I can no longer use the right leg 
Race #2:  The Triathlon that Hates Me really called the Triple Threat Triathlon in Birds Hill Park.

So, one rarely expects their first tri of the year to be fantabulous but this race seems to be out to get me. Last year I dubbed it “the race from hell” because everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong and this year wasn’t leaps and bounds better.

The disorientation from the vestibular neuritis kicked me in the butt in the swim and I had to stop more than once to try to reorient myself. It was a crummy swim.  My sense of panic was high because of the disorientation and I just couldn’t seem to get myself back under control.

Now, my goal is always to beat my best friend, Sandra. She is fantastic and about as competitive as me. In theory, her long legs should allow her to kick my butt. Our athletic therapist has said that she is like a gazelle and I’m like a bulldog (woof?). And, while I’d much prefer to be compared to the long, lean, graceful gazelle (especially considering I’m a dancer), the bulldog seems about right some days (although I hope I’m not as short and stumpy as that implies) .

Imagine my surprise as I come in to transition, annoyed with myself for screwing up the swim so badly, and find the Gazelle still getting herself ready for the bike! ALL IS NOT LOST!!! I manage to get out of transition mere seconds behind her and now the race is on!! I hit that bike course like…well…a bulldog. I pulled away from her and used every ounce of my being to make sure she didn’t catch me. One loop done and as I’m heading out for the second I pass her on her way in.  Panic sets in that she’s going to catch me and I hammer down convinced that every athlete coming up behind me is her.

Back in to transition, rack the bike, still don’t see the Gazelle. Start running. Now, I should mention that I have Raynaud’s Disease as well. It’s a lovely little circulatory issue that causes my toes and fingers to go numb. Usually this happens when I’m cold but I’ve noticed lately that hard bike rides or strenuous runs can bring it on as well.  And, it rears it’s ugly little head and for the first kilometer my toes are completely numb. I wiggle them, I shake them, I curse them, all while trying to maintain a reasonable speed. EXCEPT!!! That courtesy of the neuritis, I am under trained.  The under training begins to show and the knee aches slightly but I am quickly distracted from the IT Band issue by the horrible cramping in my left quad… oh crap.  It’s two kilometers in to the 5k run and I’ve cramped up. This is a first for me. It sucks. I don’t recommend it.  I stop, massage, run. Stop, massage, run. Bear down and grunt in pain and aim for that finish line!!

Failure comes in that I was a little slower than the year before when it was the race from hell but…. I still manage to beat the Gazelle.

 

 

Race #3:  The “Singing in the Rain” Half Marathon really called the Manitoba Marathon

It was rainy. It was cold. It was like 15 degrees cooler than it should have been on a June day. It was a nasty start. I was supposed to meet Sandra, who will now forever be called “The Gazelle”, and her husband before the start of our waves. He was going to start in wave 1 and she was seeding herself in to wave 2.  Unfortunately, that never happened. I waited for almost an hour to catch the shuttle to the starting point, had to sprint to drop off my bag and wave 1 was underway before I was anywhere close to settled. I managed to get in to my wave and find a pace bunny with just minutes to spare.  I happily followed the 1:55 pace bunny (who I am convinced was going slightly faster than that pace). I wondered if I would ever find The Gazelle.

At the earlier part of the race, we passed the cemetery where my Dad is buried. It was Father’s Day and I felt the emotion starting to build up. I waved at my Dad as I ran past and asked him to help get me through a race where I probably shouldn’t, according to the athletic therapist, have been running.

I got a fun little game going with another runner in the 1:55 pack. He may not have been playing but I certainly was. I would run past him and settle myself in to a spot, only to have him come racing up and past me, so, I would race up past him and the game continued for quite some time. Somewhere a long the lines, the 1:55 pack moved a little further away and I heard another runner comment that they were definitely faster than the 1:55 pace.  I didn’t care. I had my goal and I was going to, hopefully, get there.

The first 10k flew by, which was a nice surprise, and I was still pain free.  I heard a voice call my name and I turned to see The Gazelle beside me on the course. I had caught up to her and was comfortably moving past. We chatted for a minute about meeting up at the end and I continued at my pace… and then the pain began again. Luckily, when the twinges began it was at about the 15km mark. I did have to pull over and adjust my IT band strap and allowed myself short, less than 1 minute, periods of walking to try to deal with the pain.  I was always trying to be aware of my time. I didn’t want to miss my goal time by 26 seconds…again… the last 2 km were excruciating and I wondered if I had lost my goal time. I hadn’t seen the 2-hour pace bunny pass me but I had been distracted by the pain.  My pace was dropping and I was worried about the time but I kept pushing. I told myself that I would be able to deal with the pain later and just to keep on moving.

As I came around the corner and in to the stadium I made the decision to just give’er! The my watch and the timer indicated that my goal was in sight and I raced for that finish line with every ounce of my being.

I cried but this time from the incredible emotion that comes from meeting your goal. 1:59:08. That’s under 2 hours and I will happily take it.  I’m sure my Dad was with me as I struggled through the end and it was fitting that I made that goal on Father’s Day.

 

And, now it’s onwards and upwards. Time for a new half marathon goal and to get ready for the Hecla Triathlon….and maybe to let that IT Band heal a little.

 

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The Spaces Between Us

I have a race tomorrow. And I also have a friend’s birthday tonight. I will likely go for a little while, making sure I’m in bed early so I can be ready for the first sprint triathlon since I got sick/was hospitalized in October.  Now, I’m 99% sure that I will be fine and even though I’m undertrained, I am aiming for a successful race. But, I am nervous about not being well rested. Exhausting my body can trigger some of the sensations of vertigo. I don’t want that mid race.

 Here’s my struggle. So many of my friends are supportive of my new found love of the race. They have been encouraging and respect the things I have to miss to be successful. I had to miss a wedding last year because the race was just a little too far away and am missing one this year for the same reason. Those friends were understanding and knew that I was there/will be there in spirit. They understand that this is important to me and that I was already committed.

 But, what do we do with the friends who are less understanding? The “closer” friends who make comments like “why don’t you just quit because you have to miss things?” It changes the friendship. It changes the closeness. It changes my enjoyment of the experience when someone who is supposed to support me doesn’t.

I am someone who tries to do three things at once all the time (hence the whole “triathlon” appeal lol) because I don’t want to let anyone down. I try to do it all and often that means not doing things for me– like training.  And, when I can’t do it all, I feel badly.

And tonight, I don’t know if I can do it all but I don’t know if the understanding will be there. 

Maybe more than half crazy

My athletic therapist and I had a visit today. I was in pain. My hips were killing me and my knee started to hurt so much that I tapped out during a run (which I never do). She treated my injuries and we talked about my illness in October. 

Suddenly it all made sense.

My comments to friends about not feeling like I’d fully recovered are accurate. I’m not crazy!! (Well, at least not when it comes to that 😆)

I hurt because my body is fighting to stabilize. I’m burning out because my body is still working harder to balance as I run. It makes sense.

I have a half marathon coming up in two weeks and it’s scary. The finisher’s gift last year for that half marathon was a blanket. That blanket was with me in the hospital. It was a reminder that I am strong, even when I couldn’t stand up on my own. There is an importance to completing this half marathon: a year ago it was the first one I ever ran, my cousin helped start it, and it’s blanket comforted me when I was at my weakest. But, it’s scary to know that my body isn’t 100%. It’s scary to have to change the goals from personal bests to merely finishing. It’s scary to wonder if my body will fail or be strong. The unknown is frightening. 

I feel determined to finish, even if I have to crawl. 

6 months ago, I couldn’t stand on my own. It was months before I could run without tipping over.  In two weeks, I will challenge that same body to run 13.1. 

Undertrained

Wobbly.

Weaker than I’d like. 

But determined, and maybe stubborn enough to get through. 

Continuing the battle

I got sick in October. It’s now almost Christmas and I’m still dealing with the effects. What a struggle it is to try to get back on track.  I still have bad days with the vertigo and the other things that came along with the virus (the confusion, anxiety and depression) still linger at times.

For the first little while, all I wanted to do was run and cycle and I was so frustrated that my body wouldn’t allow me to be successful doing it. I tried and found some successes but the frustration eventually took over. I moved on to some strength training because it didn’t increase the dizziness as much but the truth is – my energy and motivation are gone. I WANT to get back on track but the energy it takes to train seems to be more than I have. So, I stick to short strength workouts a couple times a week.

I get so frustrated with myself that I’m not training properly and then that frustration leads to a sense of defeat. When the defeat kicks in, I am unmotivated to train. And then I become frustrated with myself for not training properly. What a lovely cycle. When I do train, runs and cycle sessions are usually met with step backwards – less speed and endurance or increased dizziness. I went from running a half marathon and getting ready to set a 10k PB to finding 5k a struggle. It’s heartbreaking and I’m not used to failure.

We have a big trip coming up over Christmas and I was looking forward to going for a run in each place we stopped – Kansas City, Memphis, New Orleans and Galveston- before taking my run to the cruise ship decks but I fear my goal with go unachieved.  Perhaps the ability to run outside without snow might create a little motivation when we get on the road but for now, it seems a challenge.  I’m not usually one to walk away from challenge but this illness seems to be kicking my butt.

I wonder how others with this illness get back on track. At this point, even though I have done it, I’m afraid to run. It honestly scares me. What if I fall over? What if I can’t do what I think I should? What if…

 

Health and heartbreak 

My body failed me. 

And it failed me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. It wasn’t an injury that took me down, it was my health. The day of my last planned 10k race of the season I was hospitalized and never got to run.  It has been a frustrating and awful few weeks. I’m recovering now…I’m getting there but I’ve been afraid to really talk about it for a few reasons.  One is that there is this ridiculous idea that we are supposed to suffer in silence. And I ascribed to that for a while…but finally the silence makes the struggle worse and about two days after I admitted to struggling, I started to really improve. The other is the accusations by a very select few that I was exaggerating or faking my illness, or that it was only a matter of over training and my body was just tired. None of which are true.

It was the most terrifying morning of my life. 

I thought I was dying. I couldn’t stand or walk. I couldn’t get to the bathroom on my own. And it was the difference of an hour. At 4 am I woke up thinking I was late for my race and was fine. I went back to sleep and woke up and hour later and everything had changed. I woke my husband for help. He had to lift me, carry me, dress me. I was helpless. I was unable to open my eyes because I would be instantly sick. I couldn’t get myself off the floor. 

I should be at the race
At the hospital, every examination the doctors wanted to do made me ill. I couldn’t move or open my eyes. IV drips of Gravol didn’t stop the spinning or the nausea for a while. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I had gone from being strong and ready to set a personal best in the 10k race to having to be lifted out of bed and helped in the bathroom. I was humiliated and scared. It was beyond what I thought I could handle. I felt weaker physically and emotionally than I ever had.  The diagnosis: likely a nasty and ugly viral infection. 

Able to sit up the next day

By the next day I could sit up some but I couldn’t be left to move on my own. Nurses or my husband monitored me as I shuffled my feet along the floor, staring down at the ground because it was the one thing that didn’t move on me. They moved me to a ward where I was the youngest by over 30 years. The woman next to me would scream all night in Italian (which now has an element of hilarity) and I still couldn’t do anything on my own. Out of stubbornness I would try only to get scolded. I wanted to go home.

In my head- home was the golden ticket to recovery. I would get home and all would be well. And then I got home. And I didn’t get better. I was still too dizzy to do much. 

Recovering at home

I was miserable. So miserable, in fact, that I went back to work sooner than I should have. I tried to go back to dance classes, and cycling on my trainer. I was still dizzy and my brain was fuzzy. I just wanted so badly to be “normal” again.  I managed but not as well as I’d like to think. I was afraid to admit that I was struggling because I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak, or lying. There had been select accusations that I was faking. It was crushing. I needed help but was scared to ask. 

I am grateful for those who stepped up and let me vent or cry in frustration. I’m grateful to those who drove me around and made sure I was safe.

I’m on the mend. I’m not 100% but today was a good day. I was able to dance with my classes and when I came home, I was able to drive myself to an appointment. Better yet- I was able to run. It was slow and unsteady. I had to use the handles of the treadmill to steady myself and I pushed perhaps a little too hard but even at a full minute per km slower than usual, today’s run felt like success. 

Slow but at least I could run

I don’t know why my health failed. But I do know that I won’t take for granted my ability to put one foot in front of the other. 

And I will come back stronger. Eventually. 

The Dance 

Ever feel like “it’s just not my season”? 

I’m feeling a bit that way today. My legs are on fire all the time, I’m not powering through the hills like I managed to be able to do last year and I feel like I’m not managing to get any faster. Maybe it’s just not my season. 

There’s a race in a week and a half and instead of thinking that I’m going to go and kill it, I’m thinking that I’m going to “hopefully survive.” I haven’t managed the improvement that I wanted to.

It’s the mental game. It can get in the way. It’s causes you to doubt yourself more than any physical thing. Have I trained enough? Too much? Why am I not faster? Is this all I’ve got? Question after question to psych yourself out. 

Triathlon is a dance between the physical and the mental. They take turns leading and if one is a bad partner then the dance fails. 

My dance is off beat now.

A Weighty Topic

This year has been a variety of struggles -injuries, hectic schedules, etc but the most frustrating one has been weight gain. I know that any friends who know me will start rolling their eyes here because I’m still not exactly the biggest person in the world. My current weight, although desirable to many, is one that I’m not comfortable with. I’m not comfortable in my own skin.

A about 10 years ago, I started a new job and gained a considerable amount of weight. I was a much larger woman than I was accustomed to being. I felt unattractive and unhealthy. So I decided to change it. I ate better, I worked out and I lost 50 lbs. I was so happy and proud and it’s actually what brought me in to running (which I am eternally grateful for).

This year, however, something has changed. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I slacked some on my healthy eating, maybe it was the high amounts of stress, but whatever it is, I have started to gain.  At first, it was a matter of just not losing my “summer weight.” I’m backwards to most people and I’m super active in the winter because I’m teaching dance at work plus training so in the summer I GAIN weight (thanks to lake living and eating ) –usually about 10lbs and then it goes away when the school year kicks back in. This time it never really went away. I got some of it back down but not in the way I was accustomed. And then it got worse and more weight came on. Now I sit at about 7-10lbs heavier than I usually sit in top form. And I’m devastated. I know it’s not much, but I have a small frame.

Logically, I know that the number on the scale shouldn’t really matter that much and it should be about how I feel, how strong I am and how fast I am in my races but this where the struggle comes in. Because I spent a bunch of time injured this year, I don’t feel as strong, I don’t feel as fast and my body isn’t responding in the way I want even though I am training hard.

My husband is the king of sabotage by snacking all the time on the least healthy foods, wanting steaks and bacon and eggs on the weekends and eating at all hours and I have very little/no willpower when the smell of bacon fills the house and food is being waved under my nose. And it doesn’t help that I LOVE to cook. Whether it’s healthy or gourmet cooking, I love making food. Entertaining over a meal is one of the things I enjoy the most.

There seems to be nothing I can do to get my body back on track (which I know is just the frustration speaking) but this weight gain along with the injuries is just making me feel as though my body is betraying me. In my head, I tell myself that some of this gain is muscle – that I have added strength even though it doesn’t always feel like it — but in the end, the frustration wins. My body isn’t quite as sleek as I want it to be and in the summer months of living in bathing suits, I’m not as confident.  I miss my muscle tone and the feeling of being light on my feet.

Most of the time when I try to talk to people about this, they roll their eyes and tell me I’m being stupid. They make fun of my concerns or disregard them entirely. My usual weight is lower than that of most friends my age. One friend finally seemed to understand and said that it’s about what you are used to and comfortable with for yourself.

I likely won’t be able to do as much about it in the summer as I want (even though it’s race season) but I need to find a way to not let my body image frustration affect my performance as an athlete. The mental game becomes a weighty topic.

Half Marathon!

Yesterday, I ran my first half marathon. What a crazy experience that was! I’m super proud of the fact that I did it but it made me question my sanity a little! 

For days leading up to it I was panicking and having nightmares that I couldn’t do it. I figured there was no way that I could get through running 21.1 km. Plus, being the overachiever that I am, I set myself this stupid goal — that I wanted to finish in 2 hours. 

For nights I tossed and turned and wondered how this was ever going to happen -especially considering I am just coming off of injury. And then it was race day. Ack!!!
I am amazed that I was not only able to do it but that I was still smiling at the end. I was hurting, my feet and knees were on fire, but time passed faster than I expected.

 I was so happy to run with a friend through most of the race. A high-five from him at the half way mark was a good boost and having someone with me made the nerves settle before the start. 

I spent a portion of the race just admiring the amazing group of people who had taken on this challenge. I was in awe of the amount of people in their 60s full out running this race (and kicking my butt!) and the dude who ran it BAREFOOT (what!?!!)

It was a wild race of emotion. From terror to elation. There were times it felt like I was never going to make it, times where I was flying high and having a great time, times when I just wanted to GOOOOOOOO and times when I wanted my friend to slow down because there was no way I could do that pace. 

I had made the choice to think in miles instead of kilometers because 21.1km seems insane but the smaller number of 13.1 miles seems manageable (plus, I have zero concept of how far a mile is). And, I think that choice helped. On the way out, I noticed where the 12 mile marker was and when I saw it on the way back -what a boost it was!!!

I started to tear up at the 12 mile marker. I couldn’t believe that I had made it that far. And then there were the cheers and the shoutouts from the spectators and I ran faster than I had the whole race, fighting tears the whole time. In the last 100 meters there were kids shouting at another racer (male) “don’t let her beat you!!!” and so he sped up. But so did I. 

And I crossed that line before he did.

And I finished my first half marathon in 2 hours and 26 seconds.


And I may never walk again.
 

Half Crazy?

Like being a triathlete isn’t crazy enough!!!  People are already pretty convinced that I’m insane and my over-achiever tendencies are already mocked on a fairly regular basis. So, what do I do?  Decide to make it worse!!

My new challenge is a half-marathon and while in theory that makes me “half-crazy”, I’m pretty convinced that this makes me completely insane. Padded room, anyone? Just me? Ok.

I am now going to have to work to run WAY further than my sprint distance of 5k and considerably longer than my max distance of 13.2km.  And the best part? I haven’t left myself enough time. Only 10 weeks with a vacation in the middle of it. Good planning on my part.

Half crazy? Oh, hell no! I’m RIGHT FREAKING NUTS

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