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Making Use of Downtime

“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself.

For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness

is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
Martha Washington

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Hi All!

I am pleased to report that as some of my activity restrictions are being lifting, life is starting to return to normal around here… which is a good thing because I was starting to go a little bonkers not being allowed to exercise (We’ll just say it didn’t agree with the PTSD and that I’m happy to be sleeping through the night again).  

Currently, I have returned to work and survived my first full week back including one hellish weekend shift.  I have also resumed swimming!  In fact, at the two week mark from surgery some super cool peeps from the tri club and I went to the lake to celebrate my first day off swimming restriction.  The only downside was that it was windy out and the water was choppy which definitely did not agree with my motion sickness.  The good news is, it definitely encouraged me to kick harder and swim faster!

Speaking of which, I also am thrilled to inform you that I have started an Open Water Swim Training Program through the Lake Quassapaug Sailing Center.  Now I get to swim on my Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings off with a bunch of swimmers who are far superior to me.  On the bright side, they give me a head start.  Plus, they are all really fun people… hilarious actaully…  I have gone out with them twice already, and I feel like it has helped a lot with getting used to the wetsuit.  In fact, I have to be honest that open water swimming has really grown on me.  *gasp*  I think I may even prefer it to the pool at this point.  The lake water is cool (ok COLD) and refreshing, and you can’t beat the scenery.  Today I swam in the pool for the first time since surgery and the water just felt really warm and gross in comparison (at least upon first getting in anyway…)

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My newest home for swimming… you can go ahead and be jealous now…

Aside from starting to swim again I also spent a little time on the bike trainer.  Then yesterday I went for my first post op run (more on that to come… I decided to just go big.  After all it was my three weeks out from surgery marker!)

For all of you wondering what I did with the rest of my free time (riiiight… you’re thinking What free time?!, but trust me, I had lots of it….)  So to keep from climbing the walls, I decided to finally order my wedding photos and redecorate the living room.  It all started because I found a great piece of furniture to hide all of Adam’s cycling gear… which has been slowly taking over the house, especially the dining room table.  Then I decided that instead of trying to hide of his stuff (because I’m realizing it’s futile… he’s never going to be the kind of guy who puts things away…ever… it’s just not who he is) I would try to camouflage it instead.  I know! Genius, right?

Here are my efforts:

ImageOur beachy wedding photos and newly wed pillows 🙂

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The hubby’s new bike gear storage with new bike themed decor…

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And our nifty new clock

I think the hubs was both touched and impressed by my efforts to incorporate his love of cycling into our living space.  Of course, he was not quite impressed enough to actually use his new storage area, but at least I have a place to put all his stuff when I clean up after him.  I also believe he was happy to see our wedding photos finally hanging… although I bet he was secretly sad to see all the photos of the dogs go.  

So apart from my run yesterday which we will discuss in a separate post, that is all the shenanigans I have to update you on for now.  I have surprisingly been doing a good job of laying low and keeping out of trouble… with the exception of yesterday’s run.  In my defense, though, I was told that my activity level should be dependent on my pain, and I really don’t have any.  Plus, it’s not like I have been lifting anything which is the really important restriction.  After all, as much as I love and adore The Bloggess, I don’t want a Who trying to escape from my belly button. 😉  

Stay tuned!

We Should All Be Pro-Women *Trigger Warning*

“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women!

There is so much yet to be done.”

Susan B. Anthony

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I am going to do my very best not to fly into a feminist rant, but it’s very difficult not be offended as a woman, survivor of abuse, and human being when a “respectable” (see George Will, I can use snarky quotations too) publication like The Washington Post publishes this kind of anti-female garbage.

In his “opinion” article Pulitzer Prize–winner Mr. George F. Will claims:

“Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

He goes on to attack the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. ‘sexual assault’” by providing an example of a college student who was forcibly held down and raped by someone she had been previously “hooking up” with.  Despite the fact that this woman clearly reported she had said no, Mr. Will apparently believes this doesn’t count as a sexual assault because she didn’t physically try to stop him?  Or because she waited six weeks to report the incident?  Or maybe because she had previously had sexual relations with him, so that meant she was fair game?  Or was it because she was asking for it since she was lying in bed with him?

I’m not really sure exactly what Mr. Will is asserting as justification to how this isn’t sexual assault.  Perhaps he would like to clarify.  In fact, maybe he would like to do so to the parents of the girl he just publicly ridiculed for reporting a rape (because obviously she was doing it for the coveted victimhood privilege… gosh I wish that existed when I was in college… I would totally have made up a story about being assaulted)

Then, not having dug a deep enough hole for himself, Mr. Will then goes on to criticize the utilized definitions of sexual assault referring to them as:

capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape.”

Capacious indeed.  I could see where it is a real stretch to consider “nonconsensual touching” and having sex with a woman too drunk to give consent under the umbrella term of sexual assault.

In truth, I don’t find it surprising at all that conservative white man with an ivy league education would find it difficult to understand let alone empathize with the amount of unwanted sexual advances that the young women of this country experience on a regular basis. Of course he would find it offensive that women wish to pursue higher education without fear of being groped or raped by their coeds.  It is a totally unreasonable request.  Why should we as women expect to have access to education without having to fear for our virtue when we clearly belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?  If we all just accepted our place in society, we would be safe at home under the protection of our husbands.  We clearly have brought all of this on ourselves.  Right George?

What I do find surprising and downright offensive is that The Washington Post would publish this kind of damaging misinformation.

In a single, narrow minded and uninformed article, this man has undermined the issue of rape on college campuses, claimed that the prevalence of rape is grossly overestimated without any actual data to back his claim (beyond statistics from a single university which did not include any surveys of women on campus, but solely reported cases), and openly shamed victims of sexual assault by claiming that victim privilege encourages false reporting.

I think my head may just explode from the total lack of sense this article makes.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE someone take this man and put him in a room of survivors of rape.  Make him listen to their stories and hear first hand what it is like to be re-victimized by society.  Let him get an idea of just how traumatic it is to be betrayed and violated sexually by someone you know and trust.  Maybe then he will understand that trigger warnings are not a measure for “students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence (dammit, Hamlet, put down that sword!) or any other facet of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity.” 

Better yet, have him watch The Invisible War or read When Women Refuse, just someone please educate him.  Then while you are at it, please educate society.  This type of propaganda is not okay.  It only serves to set women back; and when you set back women, you set back society as a whole.  We make up half the population.  Women’s issues are Society’s issues.  It’s time for society to start caring about violence against women.

There are good reasons why only a small fraction of assaulted women come forward.  The first is that due to lack of education and awareness, many women don’t realize they have been assaulted immediately.  This does not make what happened to them less of a crime.  The second is the overwhelming and pervasive victim shaming and blaming that goes on in our culture of which Mr. Will has so eloquently and graciously provided an example.  The reality for survivors is a far cry from any coveted privilege.  Rather it is an anxiety ridden time filled with despair and self loathing which is only coupled by prevalent public shaming and ridicule.

The only privilege I have ever seen associated with being a survivor of violence against women is SURVIVING because there are many women who don’t.  But then, they were probably all asking for it too, right Mr. Will?

There is a reason the #YesAllWomen campaign exists.

I’d just like to ask Mr. Will when the last time was that he felt he needed to carry mace?  A rape whistle?  How about have an escort walk him to his car (for protection, not as a paid service)? Watch his drink to avoid getting roofied?  Or watch his alcohol intake in general? … the list goes on and on.

My point is, George Will, that you have a lot to learn about the other half of the population before you start accusing us of lying to seek out a privileged victimhood.  Walk a few miles in our shoes and then come back and tell us how coveted it is to be a survivor of sexual assault or violence against women in general.

PS.  Just in case you think this backward thinking is an isolated incident, check out this other gem from the Washington Post.  They have concluded that the answer to ending violence against women is to marry… which someone should have told my ex husband because I’m pretty sure he became physically violent after we were married.  He must not have read their article.

Taking It Easy is Not So Easy

“Strange, what being forced to slow down could do to a person.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

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Hello My Loves!

I am on day 11 of Purgatory, and it’s going about as well as you would expect.  The first week was not so bad because I had been planning to take it easy after the REV3 anyway.  Plus, I was sore and tired from surgery the first few days, so I didn’t feel up to doing a whole lot.  I took advantage of my extra free time and caught up on writing, cleaning, spending time with my family, and even doing some gardening.  Then week #2 started…

The funny thing I have learned about myself in all of this is that aside from work and working out (and my family), I don’t really socialize.  Now that I haven’t been allowed to do either, I’ve had no one to talk to other than the hubs and my mom… which is kind of a bummer (possibly even more so for them…).   I guess I could take this as a newsflash that maybe I should make some new friends outside of the gym and tri club, but then what would we talk about?  

On the bright side, my yard looks great!  Before my surgery I had decided it was time for a change, so I painted my front door BRIGHT (think FIRE ENGINE) red.  Then I repainted my front steps because they looked kind of drab in comparison, and they were due for a facelift.  

 

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With all my recent free time, I figured the gardens could use an overhaul too… Which was totally allowed because it involved no heavy lifting.  So I finally divided some of my plants that were going bonkers and moved them to other parts of the yard that were bare.  Then I went to Lowes with my mom and we found a CONCRETE BULLDOG!!!!  My mom decided Adam and I needed to have him, so she bought him for us for our anniversary.  (Isn’t she the best?)

 

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Our new guard dog… I still need to name him.  I was thinking Uga… he sort of looks like one.  Isn’t he cute !?! I know it’s not a metal chicken, but I still think he’s pretty awesome.

Anyway on Sunday the hubs left me all alone for the entire day while he did a century ride for the Tour De Cure… so being left to my own devices, I got into all kinds of trouble (obviously).  First, I went to yoga, but it was all good because I warned the instructor that I just had surgery.  I totally did not do any poses that would compromise my healing… and I NEEDED IT.  It was SO RELAXING!   It completely got all my jitters out… temporarily.  

Then I figured I would just stop at Home Depot on my way home and see if they had mulch on sale because we really needed some for the gardens (with all the hot weather we’d been having my transplanted flowers were not happy… they needed something to cover their roots and hold onto moisture).  It turned out they did have mulch on sale, and the bags were really light…. so I bought 12.  In my defense, if the universe did not want me lifting those bags (which I reiterate were really light, and I only used my arms… no core… I swear) then they wouldn’t have been on sale.  Plus, some nice guy loaded them in my car for me because apparently I look helpless being all feminine and such.

After my new friend and I got all the much in the car, I went back and bought a bunch more stuff… including a lot of stuff I probably didn’t need.  The thing is, putting me in the garden department is like putting me in a running store.  I can’t be trusted on my own.  So, like I said, my yard looks great.  Also just for the record I did ask my family for help with the mulch when I got home… and then took care of it myself when they didn’t come.  I assure you that it was rather uneventful.  I only had one small turf war with the wasps/bees (who have dug holes all over my garden and yard), but I am pretty sure I won.  I have the hose to thank for that… that and my crazy ninja skills sneaking during the night.  They looked pretty irate the next morning when they found their homes covered in a layer of wet newspaper and a few inches of mulch.  I’m sure my neighbors thought I was nuts, but what else is new?  

Aside from my antics with the yard, I have managed to stay pretty low key.  Interestingly, with my all my spare time for reading and stalking the internet, I learned that my idol The Bloggess is suffering the same fate.  She also recently had surgery because she had a Who trying to escape from her belly button.  Clearly we live parallel lives because we are both so awesome.  My friends have warned me that I too will have a hernia if I continue to push my luck post-op, but I have assured them that getting a hernia through a laparoscopic incision is actually incredibly difficult to do.  In fact, I have actually only seen it happen twice in my whole career.  I guess that just makes the Bloggess extra special… and talented.

Oh and speaking of my career, I got two separate packages from my coworkers yesterday to wish me a speedy recovery.  I would like to remind you that these are surgical PAs and Nurse Practicioners… Look what they sent:

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The cards said “get well soon,” but this is what I think it probably should have said…

Clearly, these are my people.  They said they even waited a week to send all these treats, so I could actually enjoy them without getting sick… although I am pretty sure if I eat all of it, I will be in a sugar induced coma anyway.  These are the same people, by the way, who think the amount of exercise I do is bad for me.  Really guys?  

In case you were wondering, I did bust open that candy and eat it.  No, I did not even make a dent in it, however I did enjoy some peanut butter cups.  MMmmmm Peanut Butter….  I also did not get sick or have pain after, which is pretty epic in my opinion.

That is all I have to update you on for now.  Sorry for the long post, but I did add lots of pictures to make it more interesting!  I hope you all have a fantastic day!!!! 

#thriveon

 

The Detour

“I used to have all these plans and think ‘Ah, I have my whole life figured out’,

but then I realized no matter how much I plan: life happens!

So I find myself living day to day trying to do my best, 

embracing every moment as a learning opportunity

and chance to get to know myself a little more.”
– Q’orianka Kilcher

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I’m guessing that after reading the title of this post, most of you have figured out the direction this is going.  No, I’m not pregnant.  Yes, I am temporarily out of commission.  It’s kind of a bummer, but I was really ready for a break anyway.  Besides, another week and change and I’ll be back to running, swimming, and cycling (on the trainer at least…)

Let me start by saying that I DID NOT over do it at the REV3.  I one hundred percent went easy that day and did not push myself.  I may be a glutton for punishment, but I’m not stupid (ok, not most of the time… at least when it comes to injury prevention anyway).  I knew I was in new territory, so I raced according to my goal- which was simply to finish.  I went slow and enjoyed the experience.  When I crossed the finish, I still had plenty of juice left in my legs.  I felt strong and knew I could have covered more mileage if I had to.  This was not particularly surprising considering I had actually trained for a half.

It was a nice feeling to cross a finish not completely spent for a change.  I didn’t want to end up sick or dehydrated so I was careful to get plenty of calories and liquid out on the course.  In all honestly, it was probably the best I had ever felt at the completion of a race.  

The hubs and our friend (who both biked out to meet me) made it home well ahead of me due to the post race traffic and had already ordered lunch when I arrived.  I still felt great after eating and showering.  It wasn’t until a few hours later after dinner that I started to feel really crummy.  At first, I thought I was simply getting a migraine from being out in the sun all day.  I tried taking a nap, but woke up overwhelming nausea and epigastic pain.  All I could think was “This is not going to be good”.  I sent the hubs to get some zofran hoping I could avoid a trip to the emergency room, but taste of the tabs almost sent me running back to the bathroom all over again.  I decided that if this is what morning sickness is like then there’s probably a good reason I’m not pregnant yet.

When the pain and nausea had not improved an hour later I finally broke down and had the hubs bring me to the hospital.  I gave the surgical team a heads up that I was headed in and pretty sure my gallbladder would need to come out.  I did have luck on my side in that the surgeon oncall that night was one the best that I work with. (Thank God for small favors!) 

As it turned out, I was right.  My gallbladder was the culprit and needed to go.  This was no great shock to me.  However, I was struck by whatImage a coincidence it was that my gallbladder attack happened only hours after completing my first tri.  Here I had worked my butt off over 10 months and managed to make it through the whole race feeling strong before my symptoms started.  That was an epic #WIN in my book! What’s more, had I not downgraded to the Olympic course, I would have raced on Sunday instead and would have missed out all together!  

Obviously I considered this the universe at work in my favor as repayment for every ounce of good karma in my life.  Can you even imagine how devastated I would have been to have invested all that time and energy only to miss out on my big chance?  It’s just too depressing to even think about.  I am so beyond grateful for whatever triathlon guardian angel hooked me up on this one.  I am forever in your debt!  

As far as the surgery itself, it may strike you as funny, but I was less nervous in pre-op than I was gearing up for the race!  With the timing of how I got sick and who the surgeon was on call, I just felt like the universe was looking out for me and it was going to be okay.  I can’t even describe the sensation, but I was completely at ease.  There was not even a little part of me that was worried going in.  In fact, I felt incredibly lucky to not only know exactly what was going to happen, but all the staff taking care of me as well. 

It’s hard to be scared when you are surrounded by people who know you and care about your well being.  Every person (ok almost every, but the Emergency Room was legitimately getting slammed so I have to cut them some slack) was so kind and caring throughout my stay.  I really feel blessed to receive the care I did.

The only part I was disappointed about was that I missed volunteering at the REV3 half and my niece’s first birthday.  I guess life happens though.  All I can do at this point is be grateful for everything that went right and just roll with it.  Luckily, my sister was ok with throwing another party for my niece with just immediate family this weekend.  Plus, now that I won’t be able to race in the Griskus Olympic, I should be able to volunteer that course instead.  In terms of taking time off from training, I feel like I have been handling it pretty well.  For one thing, it’s given me a chance to catch up on other things I’ve been neglecting… like writing. 😉  It’s also given me an excuse to slow down for a change.

So that is my story about my slight detour on the path to 70.3… and eventually 140.6.  Luckily I still have my whole life to get there!

#KeepDreaming #ThriveOn

What Will You Stand For?

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Hmmm, so yesterday was a pretty heated day for me.  How about all of you?  I think what actually bothered me more than all the hate, ignorance, and degrading comments on that page, is how many other people must have seen it and not said or done anything about it.  While I understand that sometimes standing up for what is right can be a rather sticky and unpleasant business, doesn’t it leave you feeling lighter than just standing by and witnessing a gross act of injustice?

Now I am by no means claiming to be perfect.  Anyone who reads this blog know better!  However, I am never going to be the type of person to not speak up (ever again!)  I spent far too long being too polite to stick up for myself, let alone other people.  It was something I needed to change to grow as a person, and it’s something our culture needs to change as well.

Unfortunately, I feel like the individuals of this society have been so conditioned to mind their own business and not get involved that even when something completely damaging and malicious is occurring right in front of them, they still don’t act.  

The misconception is that unless someone is degrading us personally, that it is really none of our business.  Well, I for one, would like to call bull$h*t on that point.  IT IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS.  Let me explain why.  

Those people who were ganging up and publicly ridiculing a young girl were doing so in front of a lot of other people.  When there is no negative feedback, they just go on to assume that they aren’t doing anything wrong.  By doing nothing, you are essentially condoning their behavior- behavior that can only exist in a setting where it is condoned.  In other words, if someone had spoken up when the page first started, maybe it wouldn’t have ever gotten so far.  Better still, if someone had spoken up at the first derogatory comment uttered by any of the page organizers, maybe it never would have gotten to the point of being created.  

We currently live in a culture where people think it is totally okay to publicly degrade and sexualize women.  It’s in the media, music, all over the internet, and in everyday conversation.  We are so flooded with it, that no one seems to find it offensive anymore.  At what point does it become not okay?  At what point do you stand up and say something?  

It’s not a problem exclusive to women either.  It is a problem with society in general.  When did it become acceptable to insult and mistreat a person simply for not agreeing with them?  Why are we as a culture so callous toward one another?  How can we all want the world to be a better place, yet say nothing when someone makes a derogatory, racist, insensitive, or offensive comment?  We have lost our feedback loop.  

We have produced a society where individuals feel they can say and do whatever they please without fear of repercussion… and then we wonder why there is so much violence, hate, and lack of compassion.  It starts with the everyday conversations.  It starts with holding each other accountable.  It starts with getting comfortable with (politely) telling the people around you when they behave in a way that offends you.  It starts with you and me.     

The best way to make an impact in this world is to start with the small things and the people around you.  For example, I have a coworker who had a regular habit of referring to every person and situation that irritated him as a derogatory term for a woman or part of her anatomy.  After spending an entire 13 hour shift of pointing this out to him every time he did it (and equating it to me using a insulting term for male anatomy every time I was annoyed), he finally got the message.  He’s not a bad guy.  He just honestly had never thought about it.  Now he makes an effort not to use that kind of language (at the very least when he’s around me).  If each of us said something when we heard degrading comments (not just against women, but in general), then maybe just maybe we could make an impact.  I, for one, could live very happily if I made it through the rest of my days not ever again hearing the “N” word, “C” word, any other racial slur (for that matter) or another woman referred to as a b*t@h or hoe.  

I know it seems like a small thing, but that is how the ripple effect works.  Change the conversation and soon you’re changing the culture. 

I am not sure how many of you have seen the recent commencement speech given by Admiral McRaven, but I think he has some pretty sound advice that is applicable not only to the graduating class he was addressing.  Rather, I believe we all can use a reminder every now and then of how much power we have to change and shape the world we live in.  

In addition to all the eloquently stated tips he offers, I’d also like to add some of my own:

Be kind. Treat those around you with compassion. You never know when yours may be the only compassion another individual sees in a day or a lifetime.  You would be surprised what a long way a little caring and understanding can go in this world.  

Do what you can.  Don’t worry about it not being good enough.  It’s about the effort and intent.  So do what you can with what you have right now; and when you can do more, do more.

Lead by example.  There is a lot to be said for a life well lived, so live your life well and show others how to do the same.  Sometimes people just need an example.  You never know who you might be inspiring.

Use your voice.  So many people forget they even have a voice.  Speak up!  Don’t ever voluntarily give up your power.  Your voice can make a difference.  Use it wisely.

At the end of the day when your life is over, is it really going to matter how much is in your bank account or how impressive your resume was?  To me, it seems like the most important thing would be to have made a positive impact during my time here.  I’m not going to be the person to find a cure for cancer or win a Nobel Peace Prize, but at least I will know that I was kind to those I met along the way, did what I could to make the world a better place, tried my absolute best to lead a good life, and spoke up.  If in the process I manage to change the way even a few people think or act then that is just an #EPIC bonus.

 

 

Adjusting My Sails

“I can’t change the direction of the wind,

but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Jimmy Dean

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So before I update you all about my latest big decision, let me fill you all in on the latest going ons of the week.  No big surprise that’s it’s been a busy one!  Let’s break it down shall we:

The Good

On Saturday I went for a Daffodil Group Ride with some peeps from the Tri Club which entailed a very scenic 26 mile ride through the countryside.  It was loads of fun, and I was able to keep up this time without any real trouble.  It also was a great opportunity to meet some new people and get some mileage in on my bike.  Due to the frequent stops for photos (and chatting) it was terrific practice for clipping and unclipping too!

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Lately, I feel like every time I get on my bike, I get more and more comfortable… and consequently that much better.  I have been extremely fortunate to have joined an exceptional Tri Club (through our local YMCA) with members who have been beyond supportive.  I was so afraid initially of people getting annoyed with me for being too slow or a giant chicken, but in reality everyone has been nothing but encouraging.  The group ranges from elite athletes (who –ahemwin Ironmans) to novices… to train wrecks like me.  Sometimes I feel like the only newbie in the group, but I think that is primarily because I am always trying to push myself to do the harder rides and workouts.  At no point, though, have any of them made me feel like I don’t belong or am not good enough to train with them.  I have truly enjoyed getting to know every member I have met so far.  

Plus, I have found that group riding has done wonders for my comfort level with cycling.  I am so much braver when I am with the Tri Club peeps.  I think a lot of it has to do with being distracted by the company.  Making conversation with the people around you is a great way to relax, as it turns out.  Who would have ever guessed?  

Anyway, the ride was by no means easy.  There was a long steady climb for a good part of the way out and lots of quick winding downs coming back.  I spent most of the trip trying to catch the two gentlemen ahead of me, which was perfect for motivating to move faster without getting freaked out about it.  They were both very warm and friendly, and the fact that one of them happens to be a minister only added to my ease about being around them. (I told him I felt much safer riding with a minister.. maybe that’s why I worked so hard at keeping up!)

I definitely came off the ride on a high note.  I managed a moderately difficulty route… (Did I mention all the left turns, traffic, and intersections (ie cycling hazards) at the beginning?) AND I wasn’t even that tired at the end.  Mostly I was hungry, but that seems to be my biggest issue with cycling.  I suppose I will have to work on balancing well enough to eat without stopping… mental note to add that to my goal list…

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The Bad

Now that we’ve covered the highlights of my weekend, let’s recap where it all went down hill, shall we?  

Having conquered my Saturday bike with dignity still intact, I was feeling pretty optimistic going into my first open water swim.  After all, I am a swimmer now.  I go to the pool and turn out laps like it’s my job.  I just keep going, and all is good and right in the world.  

Enter the wetsuit…

I thought it was a great sign that I scored a great deal on The Clymb, and that my wetsuit came in time for the first session.  However, I was slightly nervous having read all the horror stories about first time experiences with open water swimming and wetsuits.  I expected the suit to feel tight.  I expected to feel anxious about not being able to see more than a few inches.  I even expected the water to be really cold.  Somehow, though, I did not expect to struggle as badly as I did.

Image  On the bright side, I did have a few things in my favor.  The first is that swimming, in general, causes me anxiety and makes my heart rate skyrocket.  In that sense, I am very accustomed to having to calm myself, slow down, and get my heart rate under control.  This came in handy when the discomfort (and resulting anxiety) associated with the freezing water and tightness of the wetsuit caused my my pulse to quicken.  I spent almost the entire first half of my swim doing a modified version of breast stroke (speaking of strokes… Coach M may have had one if she saw my technique) so as to keep my face out of the water… which just happened to be a cozy 64 degrees.

Being completely stupid and delusional a glutton for punishment, I had decided to forego starting simple and went straight for the half ironman course instead.  After all, if I can swim over 2 miles easily in the pool, then 1.2 miles should be no problem, right?  Yeah, not so much… There was a point when I considered turning around sooner, but I knew there was a dock waiting at the turn around for the HIM where I could get out and warm up before heading back.  Had I done a shorter route, defrosting was not an option.  

By the time I reached the dock, I was managing 6-10 strokes at a time before my heart rate would climb.  I considered this a major victory.  I was very grateful to have my own personal Triathlon Guardian Angel looking out for me (the same Tri Club member who offered reassurance and called me a rockstar at the duathlon).  I hadn’t realized that he kept an eye out for me the whole way, and I actually felt guilty that I had caused him to stay in the freezing water so much longer than he would have otherwise.  He kept telling me how great I was doing and meant it sincerely (which is especially amusing when you consider that I probably looked like I was drowning).  In the beginning, he tried to swim beside me and give me advice on sighting and my stroke.  Eventually he gave me space to sort it out on my own.  It wasn’t until I saw him at the dock that I was aware of how long he had been keeping tabs on me.

Once he saw I finally had the hang of things, he headed back.  Meanwhile, I only stayed out of the water long enough to warm up enough to breath before hopping right back in to start the swim back.  Because they were already taking down the course, I had my own personal kayak escort for the entire stretch back (sort of the equivalent of the running sag wagon).  I am proud to say that I did at least front crawl the entire way back.  I only stopped twice briefly to change strokes and catch my (frozen) breath.  I finally was getting the hang of sighting and was kicking harder than I probably ever had in my life to get to that shore (and my fleece pants!).  

Even though I should have been proud of myself for sticking it out, I wanted to cry.  My half ironman dreams seemed so out of reach at that moment.  Here I had invested so much time and effort, but it did nothing to prepare me for that swim.  The open water swimming was a whole separate beast.  It was yet another hurdle I needed to overcome, and it made me realize how badly I wanted it.  

I was surprised when I got out of the water that I was greeted not just by other people, but by some cheers.  I thought everyone would have already packed up and headed home, but instead they were there encouraging me.  They said they were impressed by how much I had swum (especially given how much extra I did going off course) and were surprised when I told them it was my first open water swim.  I think one woman’s mouth even dropped when I told her I had only first started swimming in October.  So all in all, I guess it was not as epic a failure as it seemed at the time.

The Ugly

As I said, I am a glutton for punishment.  I think we are all well aware of that by now.  Any normal person who had an exhausting morning of fighting a wetsuit in freezing water would probably call it a day, but I needed to know if the REV3 bike course was doable.  I had heard it was hilly and challenging, however, I also have heard that triathlons tend to be less hilly than regular cycling.  I convinced the hubs to ride it with me, and within 10 miles I was ready to turn around.  My body was exhausted, and to be 100% honest- I WAS SCARED $H%TLESS.  The course was all up or down.  It was really steep at parts, and the wind was so bad it was literally knocking me off balance.  Since the last miles of the course are a repeat of the beginning anyway, we basically covered over 20 miles of the course.  I felt completely defeated.  I couldn’t believe I had worked so hard, and yet I was light years away from what I needed to accomplish for this race.  

Being the most supportive husband on the planet, the Adam rode the course on his own yesterday to see how bad it was.  He biked all 56+ brutal miles just to see how long it would take and gauge if I could do it.  I had no idea what he was up to until I saw him this morning.  He finally agreed with me that there was no way I would make it through in the allotted time.  He is a FAR superior cyclist than me and it took him 4 hours.  He said he had every faith in me that I could handle the course, but didn’t think there was any way I would do it fast enough for the cut off, especially after swimming.  It must have been far worse than I ever could have imagined for him to concede this.  He did finally admit that it only became progressively harder throughout the route.  

The Silver Lining

Obviously, I was disappointed, but he only confirmed what I already knew in my heart.  The race I have had my heart set on for the past year is a greater monster than I ever could have imagined.  I am not giving up on my dream to finish it one day, but it won’t be this year for me.  Instead, I went ahead and registered for the Olympic Distance.  Given that I am still scared to death, I am pretty sure I will still be challenging myself… which also means I should be able to live with this decision without being too disappointed.  As Swim Bike Mom likes to say, the important thing is to Keep Moving Forward.  

I may not meet my goal in the initial timeframe I set for myself, but I am also not giving up.  I still want to do a half ironman this year, and I still want to do the REV3 Quassy (someday).  In the meantime, I will continue to take steps to get there- even if they are baby steps instead of giant leaps!  Right now, the next step is the REV3 Olympic Course.  

In the words of Diana Nyad (my idol who I tried to channel during my freezing, anxiety provoking swim):

 I will find a way.

 

The Next Step

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

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Can you all guess what I did today?  Anyone?  Okay I’ll just tell you then.  I started my book!  I wrote the whole preface/introduction today.  That means that writing a booking has gone from being one of the dreams I want to accomplish someday to one that I am currently making a reality.  Holy cow!!!  It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few pages because it’s started, and someday it will be finished.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is ever published.  It’s more about the principle of following through on something I’ve always wanted to do.

Up until this point I’ve have been doing the ground work.  I’ve gotten into the habit of writing regularly.  I put a lot of effort (and myself!) into this blog.  I have found my voice and identity as a writer, and been more open and honest than I ever thought I would be.  I’ve even built up my media presence.  All these smaller goals I’ve set for myself have been stepping stones for this major leap.  

I’m sure there are people who will be surprised or think I’m not qualified, but as far as I’m concerned their opinions don’t matter.  Every great author was once an everyday guy or girl just like you and me.  People aren’t born into greatness; they set out and create it.  I will succeed because I am crazy enough to believe I can.  I am a writer not because I have been published, but because I write.  My message to the world is no less valid or needed than any other work out there today.  

I believe in leading by example, and I want the world to know that you don’t need to have a perfect life or upbringing to get somewhere in life.  Every life is full of setbacks and failure.  It’s how we deal with them that builds our character.  Does surviving trauma leave scars?  Yes, absolutely!  Does it mean that you are damaged? Heck no!  

I would never wish the trauma I’ve experienced in my past on anyone, not even my worst enemy.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from it.  We all know that bad things can happen to good people.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that good things can come from bad situations, good things like growth and strength. 

I want people to know it’s ok to embrace your past along with your present and future- even if it’s ugly and full of mistakes.  Take what you’ve learned and draw from it.  Don’t for even a second stop to be ashamed.  We all have made poor choices in our lives.  They make us human.  They don’t define us.  It’s never too late to let go and start living fully.  Nor is it ever to late to set a new goal or chase your dreams.

It’s not about living a perfect life.  No one is perfect.  Perfect is the enemy.  It’s unachievable.  Authentic, however, is achievable; and it’s a great way to go.  

There is nothing particularly original about sharing my story from victim to survivor and ultimately thriver, however that is the point.  I’m not some elite super athlete.  I am an everyday women who took a rather round about journey to finding herself, a journey that involved a lot of anxiety, tears, self doubt, and crazy mileage and dreams.  Never in a million years would I have ever believed that I would be a survivor of domestic abuse, but I also never dreamed I would be a marathoner, ultra runner, swimmer, cyclist, or triathlete.  I am not fearless.  If anything I am a huge chicken.  I’m clusmy.  I was cut (repeatedly) from my track team and kicked out of swim class, but I never quit.  Now I am training for a Half Ironman.  

Believe me when I tell you that “If I can do it, so can you!”