Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Keep Calm and Gray On

When I was born, I had a tiny sprout of dark auburn hair at both the base of my neck and on the top of my head. This was a footprint of my father, a boisterous Irishman whose thick and dark auburn hair had long since faded to gray - and mostly fallen out - and its impression was imbedded on my personality in the most stereotypical ways. As a child, I was always reminded by my father that I was a typical fiery redhead, even after those auburn locks faded to a ruddy brown, then to a bleached out blond, and back to a mottled reddish brownish shade through my childhood: I was temperamental, I was loud, I had that hair-trigger temper. These characteristics have both served me well and gotten me into some trouble through the course of my life.

At 17, I began dying my hair back to what I liked to believe was my "real" color. And from that day forward, I dyed and dyed and dyed my hair all sorts of shades of red, from medium reddish brown (my go-to shade) to light amber brown to dark auburn to an unfortunate experiment with burgundy (they should call it what it really is: purple). In case you are wondering, that is 24 years of dying hair, mostly from the box in my own bathroom, on average 4-5 times per year. I shudder to think of how many vacations I could have gone on in lieu of vanity.

Currently, on my bathroom counter, a box of hair dye has been sitting for at least a month. Every time I look in the mirror, my silvery gray roots are mocking me, shouting for protection from other human eyes. Normally, I would cover those puppies as soon as I notice them growing out from their medium reddish brown umbrella, but for some reason, I have been resistant to open that box of dye. It could be laziness, but I don't think so.

I think it is time for me to stop hiding under the red.

I found my first real gray hair in high school. My father began to go gray in his late 20s, and by the time I was born, like I said before, what little hair he had left was a snowy shade of white. It aged him, along with many previous years of hard living, and I always kind of felt bad that at the age of 48 he had a daughter in Kindergarten whose teachers thought he was her grandpa.

Looking older than I am is a scary prospect, especially at 41. I certainly don't want to be called grandma by my kids' teachers. But I think I am different from my father. I don't wear the wrinkles of all the bad decisions I have made in the corners of my eyes like he did. I feel younger than my real age, and I hope I at least look as young as I feel. But I am tired of wearing a mask on my head to cover up the years that I have lived.

I am going to go gray naturally. It almost hurts to type it, to admit that I am acknowledging the years behind me, that I am going to show the world that I am not really a redhead. Anymore, anyway.

We'll see how this goes. I might wake up one morning and decide that I just can't do it and cover it all up. I hope, though, that I can let go of the time, the expense, the hassle, and the facade, and just be ME. I still hope to be a fiery redhead, just with a little bit of silver fox thrown in to the mix.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why I Stayed

Not only did I stay, I wouldn't leave when he gave me the opportunity.

So many opinions on domestic abuse are being passed around lately, thanks to the Ray Rice situation. Every time the video footage of his then-girlfriend/wife shows up on my tv or laptop screen, I don't watch it. It's invasive, it's violent, and it's shameful. And I've been there, to a certain extent.

I grew up in a home where I had seen my father and mother go to blows on a regular basis. I once watched my father pick my mother up at the shoulders and slam her down into a chair with such force that I was sure he had broken her neck. I watched her fight back, I watched them threaten each other with death, I listened to them scream at each other with an unbelievable amount of hatred. But she stayed. She always stayed.

Even as a child, I was perplexed by her staying. I asked her why. I always got a vague response that amounted to something like "It's not that easy" or "You will understand someday". But I never did understand.

I was at the receiving end of that violence on occasion, usually disguised as discipline at my mother's hand. I had to pick switches, I felt the buckle end of a leather belt lash my back, I was slapped, I was once choked, I was called names, I was told that I was hated. I stayed. Because I was a kid and I had nowhere to go.

After high school, I was able to leave home for college. I was far enough away to build a life as an adult, to make something of myself. Only, packed among my clothes and shoes and teddy bear was the baggage of never feeling truly loved and accepted, along with feeling woefully inadequate about myself and completely unprepared to handle any relationship of any kind, friendly or romantic. I was lost, but I didn't know it, because I seemed like a generally happy person. On the outside.

At 18, I craved attention from boys. I felt ugly and insecure all the time, and when a cute boy paid me some mind, it was euphoric, although confusing because why would anyone like something like me? My first "relationship" in college was with a boy that lived in my dorm. He was an athlete, he was smart, he was very handsome, and he only wanted me around when he was lonely. And I totally accepted that, because it was attention. I allowed myself to be used in a such a degrading way, and I think I knew it was degrading, but I went through the motions of this "relationship" for a good 3-4 months. And then I met J (initial changed to protect the scummy). One night at a party, I was dancing and letting go and having fun with friends. J began dancing with me. He was handsome, he had a warm smile, and we had an instant chemistry. It wasn't long before we went out, and then we were in a relationship. It was a tornado.

At first, he seemed to adore me. He thought I was cool, he loved my taste in music, he liked my friends. For weeks, it was amazing, and I wondering if J was "the one". Things probably began to go south immediately, I was just so infatuated that I couldn't see through the fog.

It started with passive-aggressive comments, then moved to outright insults about my weight, my intelligence, my voice. His words wounded me, but because I was so insecure, and because I thought all relationships were this way (thanks to my parents' model), I didn't think anything was wrong with it. Being the type of girl that I am - which is feisty at times - I would often argue back. Eventually, our verbal fights began to get physically violent.

He didn't like going to class, so he would often gently persuade me to stay with him in his bed. And I did. It wasn't too long before I had let my grades take a nosedive.

Everyone thought J was the greatest guy. And to everyone else, he was. He was charismatic, he was sociable, he was the King Bee of our social circle. Guys looked up to him. Girls wanted to be with him. I wasn't about to let that go, there must be some good in him if everyone else sees it. It MUST be something I'm doing wrong. I would try to be better. I tried to lose weight, I kept my opinions to myself, I tried to dress exactly how he wanted me to dress. If I did something to upset him, he would ignore me for days, or worse, treat me like I wasn't there if we were out together. If I dared to get angry and confrontational about his behavior, he publicly shamed me to our friends in order to put  me in my place.

Once, at a party, I walked into a bathroom to find him on top of another girl. I was so blind with rage that I smashed food in his face, making a terrible scene. You'd think I would be smart enough to leave at that point. You'd be wrong.

A male friend of mine, who had actually refereed one of our boxing matches, actually told me that we were perfect for each other because, "there is so much passion there."

One night, we were arguing at his apartment. I don't know why, of course. There was never any good  reason for us to be arguing. It's just what we did. I threatened to leave and he told me to "go ahead". In a fury, I threw my car keys at him. This angered him, and he picked me up by my shoulders and slammed me against his refrigerator, telling me that he could kill me, that nobody else would put up with me, that I am nothing. He then let go of me, and as I slid to the floor in shock and terror, he climbed on me and started to choke me. I don't know how long that lasted, but I think he stopped because he scared himself. I got up, ran out to my car, and sat there for a long time. I didn't leave, I just sat there. I wanted him to come get me, for whatever reason, but he didn't. As the minutes passed, I got angrier and angrier that he wasn't coming out to get me. So I stormed inside and we fought some more.

I honestly don't remember how that evening ended. But I stayed.

After that, J tried to end things. And rather than taking the opportunity to get the hell away from him, I actually begged him to stay with me. I actually begged. It was pathetic, but I didn't know what else to do. I think I thought I loved him, and I didn't know what else to do. I remember that I was able to convince him to stay with me, and he put me on some kind of probation, where I wasn't allowed to call him, he could only call me when he wanted me around.

Mind you, this was a mere six months after we had first met. This was not years of history together.

As the semester was drawing to a close, J rode down to my parents' house with me to store some stuff from my dorm room. At one point, I was alone in the room my with mom.

"What is that bruise on your arm?" she asked me.
"This? Oh, I must have gotten it when I bumped into a wall or something."
She was obviously suspicious. I was embarrassed.
"Don't stay. You don't have to take that from him. Please."

My mom knew what was going on, because she had been living it.

At the end of the semester, I went home to my parents' house for the summer, and J went to his home for the summer. Being away from him was freeing. I went out with my girlfriends, laughed and had fun. It was wonderful. One day he called me to tell me that we should break up.

"OK" I said, and hung up the phone. It was as simple as that.

It wasn't the last time I had to see J, not by a long shot. We unfortunately had mutual friends, so he was around a lot over the next few years. He continued to play mind games with me, making snide remarks under his breath, knowing fully that I was terrified of him. Even though I had finally found someone (several months later) that treated me with love and respect, the damage caused by that "relationship" resonated. I had panic attacks when we were around him, and eventually we stopped going around those mutual friends.

Years later, my life is in a good place and well, he didn't fare so well. Or so I was told.

So why did I stay? And why didn't I leave when he gave me the chance the first time? I don't know. I really don't know. I can blame my parents, I can blame J. I can certainly blame myself. I think when everyone else seems to see something that nobody else does, you think that either you need to change to fit with that person or that you can change that person and make them better with you. It's complicated chaos.

And everybody's chaos is different.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Caution - Changes Ahead

Things look a bit different around here! Besides the cobwebs in the corners, you might also notice a new name to this here blog, along with a new tag line. I thought about shutting her down forever, but something just wouldn't let me. I realized that, while I am more than likely done training myself into an early grave, I am not done with writing or with running or with life. Lucky you!

Many things have changed in my head and in my heart over the last several months. I talked about my health issues the last time I posted here (what was that, like 100 years ago?), and even though I found out what was happening, 2 different doctors were unable to tell me why it was happening. Long story short, my thyroid gland decided to take some acid and it when on a really crazy trip in my body, completely throwing everything inside me over a cliff. Four months, 2 scans, 2 ultrasounds, approximately 600 doctor's appointments (and 600 doctor's bills), radioactive pills, and too many blood tests later, my levels have stabilized. I was told that I had thyroiditis, which of course means the doctor has no clue why my thyroid thought it was The Lizard King and could do anything. And it will likely happen again. I don't know when, either. Fun!

During the last few months, and after a lot of reading and research, I came to the conclusion that I am likely responsible for all that happened inside my endocrine system. After weathering an unbelievably stressful professional situation during which I allowed myself to be bullied and verbally abused for two horribly long years, along with training too fast and too hard for too many long races in too short of a time period because all of that anger and resentment and depression had nowhere else to go or I would have probably either gone postal and be sitting in jail right now or have done something very bad to myself (sorry for the lack of commas), my body eventually just said, "Yeah, we are done here." The deep, dark chasm of stress and emotional pain that I was residing in felt inescapable, and my body (and mind) reacted accordingly.

On the outside, I'm sure it all looked great. I was in the best physical shape of my life - well, not really. I was nursing injury after injury. I was very underweight. And most days, I wished that I hadn't woken up that morning. Despite that, I raced for 3 solid years, culminating in a Half Ironman last year that nearly done me in. I realized soon after the post-finish line glow wore off that trying to outdo my friends, my husband, and myself with every race just wasn't worth it. Where in the beginning I looked to running and triathlon as a way to keep me alive, it quickly turned into something that felt like was killing me in every single way.

Sheesh, this post is all over the place, and I am sorry for that. But these days, I am all over the place. For so long, I pushed everything down and I was consumed by fear (you would be, too if your doctor uttered the words "cardiac arrest" in your general direction). Having my doctor tell me that it was all ok (for now) felt like I was given a second chance, and it snapped me out of my 3 year-long crappy mood. I am fully aware that it could have been worse, that others are suffering far more than I, and that I am a pretty lucky old broad. I'm getting paid to write again, I am easing back into running, and I am trying to find my smile.

Bear with me.

"All great changes are preceded by chaos." ~Deepak Chopra

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Information Superhighway is Experiencing Delays

This will be stream of consciousness. I apologize in advance.

In an effort to find out more information about hyperthyroidism and thyroid disease, I have been scouring the Internet for reliable sources that will educate me enough to fight work with my doctor regarding my care. I have also joined 2 Facebook groups in the hopes of connecting with others who are experiencing some of the same issues as I am. I am now thinking that this was not such a great idea, though. All it has done has scared the ever-living hell out of me. From reading about cardiac arrest to heart failure to thyroid storm to bulging eyes to leaky guts to hearts pounding in throats all the live long day, I feel this strange combination of over-informed, misinformed, and uninformed.

I'm beginning to think that life was better when I didn't know what was going on and I was just feeling crappy all the time. Ignorance is bliss, or at least less disturbing than the "knowledge" that I have now.

And I still have a week before I go in for more thorough testing. I reckon this is so that the doctor can see if my thyroid levels have stabilized, changed, or gotten worse over time. And now that I know what the issue is, I am finding that all of the weird things that I thought were because of anemia or asthma or pre-menopause are just more obvious and amplified. This is making me edgier and more anxious to get the tests done. I am still in a gray area, but it's more like a big gray loop that I just keep going around and around.

I don't want to have something wrong with me. I don't want to always think and talk and write about hyperthyroidism of Graves Disease or autoimmune disfunction. I want to go back to the way it used to be, when I complained about how much I hate running, how slow I am on a road bike, and how freaked out I am about an upcoming race. Not knowing if I can do the things that I thought I hated, but now realize were a gift and a privilege, is frankly pissing me off. I don't want to be told that I CAN'T run or exert myself, I don't want that decision made for me.

As long as I am upright, I will keep moving, though. Even if it is mere walking, or yoga. This isn't the worst thing in the world, it is just an adjustment. There are others far worse off than me, by a long shot, and I need to put this into perspective.

On a side note, I have completed 23 days of my May Runstreak. I am plowing through, I have 8 days left! For June, I plan on swimming 20 total miles for the month as my fitness goal. Having a goal is a great thing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fear of the Unknown

I'm in a gray area right now, and I don't like it one bit. After months and months of feeling just plain bad, I finally took myself to the doctor at the beginning of the month. I suspected that I had anemia, based on my nearly constant exhaustion, along with the muscle fatigue that I was feeling when I attempted any type of workout. At first, I chalked it up to the approximately 3, 500 races that I trained for and finished since the beginning of 2012, including 3 half marathons and a half Ironman last year. I figured that I had run my body into the ground, that I had exhausted every resource that it had available to it, and that my body was staging a revolt. But after Augusta, I gave myself several months of time off and lighter workouts, hoping that my body would heal up and I would be back to fighting form eventually. Of course, in my advanced age, I knew that it would take some time to get there.

But month after month, nothing ever changed. Training for St. Anthony's got more and more difficult with each passing week, each workout - no matter how big or small - felt like a Herculean task. I was tired all the time, and no amount of caffeine perked me up. I had insomnia, which I naturally thought was the reason for my constant zombie state. But then I started to notice other symptoms, things that I had never really experienced before: profuse sweating during and after my workouts, even when the temperatures were COLD, shortness of breath, excessively dry skin and lips, weird muscle aches, the list goes on.

I assumed I had exercise-induced asthma. I assumed I had anemia. I assumed I had overtrained myself into oblivion.

The doctor did a full set of blood tests - 4 vials of my blood's worth - and the results came back really great. Perfect cholesterol levels, perfect glucose levels, perfect B12 levels. But then there was my thyroid levels. The initial FT4 screening came back at .06, way into the hyper range. The low end of normal starts at .50. Now I have an answer. 

When I say I am in a gray area, I mean that I have to wait another few weeks to get some more specific thyroid tests, and then we go from there. But, being the type of person that I am, I have done huge amounts of Internet research on Hyperthyroidism, and while I am relieved that all of these things that I had been - and continue to - experiencing are part of a real issue, I am scared to death. Ahead of me, I am looking at massive diet changes, copious amounts of medications for the rest of my life, and the possibility of having to have my entire thyroid gland surgically removed. I have never had a real health issue to deal with in my entire life, except for a fractured vertebra, and again, I am scared. I am scared about these changes that I will be forced to make.

Despite all of this, I have been loyally working to complete my runstreak. I have run every single day this month so far, at least 1.5 miles. It is difficult, it hurts, it is hard to breathe (though my asthma inhaler does help), and I feel like less than half of the athlete that I used to be. Many mornings, while running, I hold back tears when I think about how it used to be nothing for me to go out and run 5 miles, and now I can barely make it around the block. I am angry at my body for failing me just when I was learning how to take advantage of its every talent and resource. And for now, I don't know how to fix it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just Breathe

After a miserable race at St. Anthony's Triathlon a few weekends ago that I would just like to put behind me (although, I am happy to report that I dropped more than 4 minutes off my swim time from that race 2 years ago!), May 1 arrived and it was time to hold up the bargain I made with myself, and start my runstreak. I was a little afraid, a little hesitant, and honestly dreading the idea of running 31 days in a row.

It was an ugly race for me, but at least I got this really cool (although really heavy) stained glass finisher medal

Before I was able to hit the pavement for my first run of the month, though, I had to visit the doctor. I've talked about how difficult running and training have been for me for the past several months. Mostly, my lung capacity has felt compromised when running (also a little with swimming and cycling), as if there is a cork in my windpipe keeping me from taking in enough air when I try to run faster than a jog. After doing a little research on my own, I began to think I had developed exercise-induced asthma. But I also worried that there were other issues afoot, thanks to my nearly-constant physical fatigue.

I visited an Internist, a nice enough woman who seemed to agree with my self-diagnosis, and prescribed me an Albuterol inhaler and some allergy medication. Four vials of blood were sucked out of me, and a complete blood work-up was ordered.

My first run after using my inhaler was nothing short of miraculous. Though my endurance is in a seriously pitiful place, I was able to run AND breathe simultaneously. I did not have to stop and bend over in order to attempt to suck in as much air as I could, and I did not feel even the slightest bit of panic due to the feeling of being strangled. It was as if I had been renewed. I felt like a runner again! I don't love using the inhaler, I hate being on medication, but I feel like it is helping me, and I am grateful for having a set of lungs filled with air again!

So back to the runstreak. It is now May 7, and I have run 7 days in a row! I am running 1.5 - 2.75 miles per day. I know the distance isn't there - YET - but I am already beginning to feel as if I could run farther at the end of each run. It is hot and humid outside, but now that I can breathe again, I feel like I have power and I feel my speed gradually beginning to return. This weekend, I plan to run a 4-miler, then next weekend, a 5-miler, then the next weekend, a 6-miler, and I plan to cap the month off with a 7-miler. Surprisingly, my legs feel strong each day. I suppose that is because I am not doing any real distance each day, but the continuity and the steadiness of my pace is hopefully allowing my legs to ease back into some real strength (and some of my thigh cheese to melt away). Incredibly, right now, I don't hate running. I am, however, frustrated with the feeling that I am starting over again completely.

My lab results came back yesterday, and my thyroid tested in the hyper range. I had feared that I had hypothyroidism, like my father, so this was a weird twist. Side effects of hyperthyroidism include shortness of breath (check!), restless sleep (bingo!), itchy & dry skin (bullseye!), moodiness & depression (BOOM), among a few others. I go back in 4 weeks to have my thyroid tested again, and we go from there. But to now know that there is a concrete reason for feeling like I have been falling apart for the past year or so is a such a huge relief.

One week down, three to go in my runstreak, and there's no real finish line in sight. My goals now are more humble, more like baby steps than giant leaps. I know that it will all come back to me, in due time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Run Streak

Hello again to all of my invisible readers!

It has been a good, long while since I have had the desire to sit down and write about anything here, or anywhere for that matter. I'm in the middle of some kind of change, physically and emotionally, and I don't know why or what or how. Waking up each morning, I question my purpose on this rock, and each day, I go to bed no closer to the answer. 

My internal crisis is not the point of this post, however. I have been thinking for a while about ways to change things up, in my fitness and training routine, that is. I had to face the cold and hard fact that I am just plain tired of training all the time, especially for triathlons. And I am even more tired of "racing". I think I broke some kind of unwritten rule when I began racing 3 years ago, and I did way too much way too fast and the honeymoon of it all ended rather quickly and abruptly. 

If I had one piece of advice to offer anyone who is new to running, multisport, or fitness in general, it is this: TAKE YOUR TIME. Don't be in such a hurry to accomplish everything at once. Enjoy the journey that your body and mind are going through, and pace yourself (literally and hypothetically). Allow yourself the time to savor each accomplishment before tackling the next one. You will enjoy yourself a lot more, and you will perform better because you have been kind to your body. Learn from my mistakes.

Anyway, at the end of this month, I am doing one last race for a long while, St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg. Training has been tough, due to weather (RAIN, WIND, COLD!!!), due to my kids' seemingly endless stream of weekend swim meets, and due to my complete apathy. But, I will get it done (which is no attitude to have, I tell you!). Beyond that, I have nothing scheduled. This is both relieving and terrifying at the same time.

Because I have no races to dread look forward to, I have been trying to think of some challenge that I can present myself which will keep my body moving, and maybe even help me find my way back to loving somewhat enjoying running. And a few days ago, it hit me: A RUN STREAK. I was inspired by a few friends that did this several months back, and I have one friend who is attempting a run streak for over a year (that's crazy and incredible!).

Beginning May 1, I will run at least 1 mile each and every day of the month, rain or shine, humidity be damned. I hope to run at least 15 miles per week, and I hope to coerce recruit some friends to join in with me, both for accountability and for moral support. This isn't going to be a competition of any sort, other than with the person that stares back at me in the mirror each morning. For me, I have found the best person to compete with is myself.

It's not a huge achievement, but it is what I can manage right now. And I am hoping that it will help me remember why I began running in the first place, four years ago this month. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, I will be running toward something instead of letting it chase me away.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Quite frankly, Cancer SUCKS

On Thursday, February 13, my husband will turn off his alarm at 4:45 a.m. and climb into the shower. He will get dressed, start the coffee, make the kids' sandwiches for their lunches, and he will eat his breakfast. I will get up at 5 a.m., join him in the living room for our brief morning conversation over coffee before the chaos of getting everyone out the door commences at 6:15 a.m. It will be like every other week day. We will talk to the kids about what will be happening at school that day, I will remind them to get their bags ready for the afternoon's swim practice, and I will kiss everyone goodbye as they head out for their days of work and school.

The only difference about that particular day is that, in the forefront of my husband's mind, and my own, will be the bitter fact that it is the 20th anniversary since the death of his mother. Every year since that awful day, we have stopped to remember her. Every year, we talk about what she missed in our life by being taken too young. Every year, we remember how powerful her love was for her children and we strive to give our own kids - her grandchildren - the same.

Sue was a mom, and if you asked her what she did and what she was, that is likely the very first thing she would have told you. She was a commanding presence, but not in any kind of overbearing way. She was gentle, but led her family with strength, and when she was suffering from the viciousness of cancer, sometimes you hardly knew it. She smiled a lot, she laughed a lot, and I'm told she had kind of a naughty sense of humor, something that my husband was too young to notice or appreciate before she left the world.

Breast cancer struck her in her thirties. She had two young sons, and no time for being sick. She beat it once, with the love and support of her family and friends, but mostly due to her own strong will. But it returned, and it took her when my husband was 20, and his brother was 16. It made a widower out of their father, and it left two boys with questions of "why". They were angry, they were devastated. You see, good people shouldn't suffer, mothers shouldn't leave their families, kind and generous people like Sue shouldn't have to feel pain. That's not how the world works in the mind of a boy who doesn't realize just how incredible his mother was until she was taken from him. And 20 years later, that's just how that same boy, now 40, feels.

We are old enough to understand that life isn't fair, not that it's easier, though. We talk all the time about how proud Sue would be of her grandchildren. We see her legacy in their many smiles, and how my children possess that same commanding yet humble presence. She would have given the same love and devotion to her four grandchildren that she did to her two sons, and the hugs would have been unending.

Cancer just doesn't really care who you are or what plans you have for life. Cancer is such a bastard.

In the 20 years since Sue passed, we have watched my father-in-law fight and beat cancer, and we have watched two of our young cousins beat cancer's ass hard. We worry what this means for our own children, whether they will be faced with the same fight one, two, or three decades from now. We wonder if our grandchildren will be left without their father or their mother because of cancer. What a crappy thought thing to have to think about.

If you have beaten cancer, you are amazing! If you know someone that has beaten cancer, make sure that they know that you think they are amazing. And if you have lost someone to cancer, never forget them.

Take a look and donate!
American Cancer Society
First Descents

Friday, January 17, 2014

Clawing My Way Back to the Middle

I've recently become reacquainted with Hazel, my trusty steed (bike). Hazel and I have been through a lot. We've trained together, we've raced together, we've fallen together, and we've gotten back up together. After Augusta, though, I never wanted to see Hazel again. I was tired of her, and from the way she was handling there at the end, she was pretty darn sick of me, too. So, I put us on a break. I stuck her in the back of the garage, and thought nothing of her for about 4 months, until I had to start thinking about her again when I signed up for a race this coming spring.

I don't love cycling. I have never loved being on a bicycle. I didn't love it when I tooled around my neighborhood on the ugly lime green bike with the horrible 70's banana seat, I didn't love it when I traversed the UF campus and dodged pedestrians during my freshman year on the pretty red 10-speed that my dad got me for graduation, and I really didn't love it when I had to fight traffic my junior and senior years at UF on the cheap green Huffy mountain bike that I had bough at Walmart to replace the pretty red 10-speed that I abandoned on campus two years earlier.

I didn't even learn to ride a bike until I was almost 10 years old. Isn't THAT sad? I was diving, doing the backstroke, and maneuvering flip turns at 5 years old, but I couldn't ride a two-wheeled bike until puberty.  

Sometimes I wonder why I decided to take on triathlon. Knowing full well that I would have to get on a bike and not only ride it proficiently, but that I would have to do it for countless hours and miles, I still dove in and went for triathlon with breathless enthusiasm. It was a love affair that lasted until I was training for a Half Ironman, and after the umpteenth 3 hour bike ride, dodging rednecks in beat-up pick up trucks on the rural roads of North Florida, that I finally realized that me and bikes are not friends.

My husband LOVES riding a bike. Ever since I met him, he has been a bike junkie. He loved mountain biking when we first met, and now he loves long Sunday rides on the open road (though, I think he still prefers his first mountain bike, a blue Raleigh with a Primus sticked emblazoned on the fork. You never forget your first, after all.). Now, 20-something years later, his love for the pastime has not wavered.

I have made it one of my resolutions to learn to love my bike this year. I am determined to develop strength on the bike, and I am determined to develop a fondness for cycling in general. 

So, I have climbed back on to my incredibly uncomfortable saddle, and I have been taking Hazel out for morning and afternoon rides, chilly wind be damned. I am amazed at how much bike fitness I lost in the last four months, and I am struggling to maintain a speed that would keep me in the middle of the pack. But I will not give up on Hazel, and I won't let her give up on me. And I will be back in the middle of the pack come April, when I race at St. Anthony's.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The "L" Word

As of late, I have been practicing really, really hard at something, and have gotten really, really good at it.  I have been honing my craft, working to elevate it to its highest form or artistic representation.

I have been working toward becoming the laziest person on planet Earth.  And if not planet Earth, at least the laziest person in my area code.

It has literally become too much effort to work out.  And, many of you might want to kill me for saying this, I have loved every minute of it.

Augusta, as I have discussed ad nauseum, took a ton out of me, physically and mentally.  But I don't think it was just Augusta and the training leading up to it that did me in.  It was the past 3 1/2 years.  When I started running, I literally hit the ground running, and never stopped.  For 3 years, I was always training for something.  The training was everything I needed at the time, thanks to a terrible professional situation that was the focal point of my life (and my family's life) for 2 years.  Training helped me work out the stress, anger, and anxiety of that situation.  And I think Augusta was the finish line for a lot of things, figuratively speaking.  It was a culmination of this epic (sorry for the overused verbiage) life transformation that I thrust upon myself, and it was the release of a great many personal demons.  And those demons plopped themselves down, front and center, during the holidays.

With nothing to train for (at the time), I was left a little aimless in my fitness endeavors.  But I was also left with the baggage of the last few years, and realizing that I had never really, truly dealt with any of it, I hit a wall of emotions and anger that took me a bit by surprise.  This, of course, left me feeling physically weak and unmotivated to do anything about it.

I know, I know.  I should have hit the pavement and worked it out through training.  Believe me, I know just how beneficial training is for depression and anxiety.  But the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if all of the training I have done for the last 3 years wasn't just a way for me to push aside the real issues I needed to look in the eye, a way for me to focus on something besides my internal pain, a kind of a band-aid.

I continue to enjoy my little hiatus from the world of "crushing it".  It has given me a lot of time to think, and think some more, about where I've been, where I am now, and where I am going.  I don't want to give up what I have spent the last 3 years working so hard for, because it has become a part of me, but I do want to make sure that I am doing it in order to become a better person, and not just to put a mask on the person that I already am.  Does that even make sense?  

And so, I have 4 more days of my lazy bliss before I begin training for my next race.  I am excited to dive in, I am excited to work hard, and I am excited to look at everything through new eyes.  My journey is continuing, just on a slightly more beaten path.