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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past-Musselman race report

Where to start here?  When we got home from Australia, I wrote about it, and then I moved on fairly well, in my (potentially uneducated) opinion.  I’d run through the full gamut of emotions in the week before the race and during it that by the time I got home, I was just glad to be home, and I did my best to leave what happened there, there.  While I’m a believer (by now) that feeling feelings is necessary and not denying that tough times are tough, even if it’s just a silly sport and other people have it worse, at some point, perspective has to kick in that yeah, it is actually just a silly sport, and it really could be worse.  Plus, what good was dwelling going to do for me?  I could live in the past and make myself miserable, or I could put it behind me and forge ahead.  I’ve seen what dwelling and self-pity look like, and I didn’t want that to be me.  So, onto the next goal it was-Musselman.

   Since this race report is going to be stupid long, I feel like some background on my relationship with Musselman is a good thing to mention here.  In 2010, I raced it as my first 70.3.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I had no inkling that I might be decent at it.  I shocked myself with a 1:30 run, which brought me up to second place, way beyond my expectations.  In 2011, I decided that I wanted to come back and see if I could challenge for the win, and maybe go after the 1:28 run course record.  On a 92 degree day, I did pull off the win, but fell just short of the run record with a 1:29.  I said I’d be back in my post-race interview, and I really did mean it.  Then, a week later, I signed up for Placid, and spent my next couple of years racing IMs around that time instead.  In 2015, Musselman would have worked into my schedule, but the labral tear ended that idea.  Since I was already registered but couldn’t run, I dropped to the aquabike, and finished just short of the bike course record (not that it would have counted anyways), and in an overall time that led me to believe with a decent run, I could maybe take a crack at the overall course record, too.  Last year, I just wasn’t fit enough to go after these goals, and opted for the Racine debacle instead.  So, that brings me to this year.  I thought that going after any of those 3 records (bike, run, and overall) would be a good way for me to move on past the disappointment of Cairns.  I registered while still in Australia.
Sharing pictures of my old MM bike setups makes me happy.  2010's sideways "aero" bottle, camelbak, clip on aerobars I didn't use..the best.

I mean, SO much better in 2011...or not.  Slightly sideways double aero bottle, neverreach, crooked helmet, and at least a tri bike, although I was hit or miss on riding in the bars.  Oh well.
On the run in 2010.  I'm smiling because the guy in front of me definitely hulk flexed for the photographer, and I was in a good mood because I was running a lot faster than anticipated, so I laughed.  Still remember this.

With my 2011 stuff.  Such a baby still.
   But, this isn’t to say it was all smooth sailing, dive head first into training, crushing it type living.  Whatever disease I (we) had just did NOT want to go away.  Lower GI symptoms, horrible reflux, a lack of appetite, uncharacteristic food aversions, etc all continued, with the worst really just being crushing weakness.  I had several rounds of blood work and (still totally grossed out by this) stool tests to look for every GI disease on the planet, but nothing came back positive, which was sort of frustrating.  I wanted to get back into training and not lose all of my IM fitness, but it definitely wasn’t happening early on.  Race week, I had done absolutely nothing.  The first week back in the US, I think I managed to get in all of maybe 3-4 hours of what amounted to moving while feeling really, really bad.  The week after that, maybe 9 hours of jogging, feeble spinning, and slapping water happened.  After that, I did manage to soldier through twice that volume, albeit forced and rough.  Finally, after four ugly weeks, I began to feel better, and my last week of real training and the taper week heading into Musselman went ok enough.  Still, my fitness seemed suspect.  My swim sort of came around to its normal mediocrity (low bar) race week, and my run lost the least, but my bike numbers…ew.  Horrid.  I tried to let go of the self-induced pressure on records and placement, as the women’s field was extremely strong with several ladies I have the utmost respect for this year, and all I could control was my effort and execution on the day. 

I did get to sneak in the local town July 4 10k in there!  It was actually a decent run and sort of the turning point to feeling a little bit ok again.  Plus, I got to pose with an alpaca afterwards.  Jennie likes animals.

So, two days before the race, I did absolutely have to give the micro mussel, a ridiculously fun super sprint where adults ride tricycles and big wheels a shot!  The aero helmet was clearly necessary.  It was a blast, although riding my nephew's big wheels was a LOT harder than it sounded.  Photo courtesy Dan Bell photography.

Killer dismount skills.  As an aside, I *might* have missed some bike training the week afterwards because my old medial knee pain kicked up.  Ummm....

But, I mean, I got to run across the finish line with the Bailey!! Look how happy the Bailey is.  That was the best.
  Race morning, I was somehow more nervous that I’d been for any race in quite some time.  It was almost the blessing and the curse of the local race-no hiding if it didn’t go well!  Thankfully, prep went smoothly enough.  I was in the second wave, which was nice.  Although I was taking my sweet time and missed my chance to warm up swim, I’d gotten in a jog, and the water temp was fairly warm but still wetsuit legal for a non-pro race, so no huge deal.  My experience with non-pro races has been that the first few hundred meters aren’t as stupid of a straight sprint for position, and then things thin out fairly quickly, anyways.  For a pro, I’m a pretty lousy swimmer, but in the general realm of triathletes who also didn’t take up swimming until adulthood, I’m not terrible, and can generally sort of hold my own.  This ended up being the case-I didn’t kill myself at the start, and found myself doing my own thing by the first turn buoy. 

  This ended up not necessarily being a good thing.  I had a bit of trouble sighting after the first buoy, and ended up swimming head first into a kayak that was perpendicular to the race course, for whatever reason.  OOPS.  The kayaker apologized, and then told me, “well, you’re way off course”, which…not really.  I was maybe like 10 yards wide.  Oh well.  My eye socket was stinging, but I decided I was fine, collected myself, rejoined the race course, and carried on.  Once around the second turn buoy, the combination of some goggle fogging and sun glare meant that I really couldn’t tell where I was going.  I breaststroked a bit to try to find some buoys and even tried slowing down so the woman who kept smashing into my feet when I did so would take the lead, but neither of those plans worked out.  So, by that point, I was passing some of the men in the wave ahead of me, and I just made sure that I could sort of see people on either side of me until I got into the canal.  Once in the canal, the rest of the swim was uneventful, although I was a bit flustered from the earlier snafus, and ready to get out of the water.  I didn’t feel like I had swam great otherwise, so when I got out of the water and saw that I was somehow right around 30min, a decent 70.3 swim for me (and was in the top 5 of my wave, go figure), I considered it a small miracle and zipped through transition. 

Since I don't have any swim pictures, here's the puffy gash above my eye from smashing into the kayak. #sopro
   The start of the bike actually felt decent.  My recent experiences with outdoor riding had been the misery of Chattanooga, where I had nothing, and a horrible long ride over the course the previous weekend, so feeling good on a bike just wasn’t something I’d encountered recently.  My power goal was thus a low bar, as I’ve been pretty frustrated trying to hit numbers that I couldn’t in some of my previous races.  I was easily over it, so keeping things in check was a nice change.  I had to surge a bit the first 15-20 miles to get around some of the solo AG men ahead of me, but overall I was very, very pleased with how clean everyone was riding around me at that point.  Familiarity with the course felt like an advantage.  Soon enough, I was getting reports that I was the second female.  I knew Kait would build a baller lead on me out of the water, so I was right where I wanted to be.  I had to back things off a bit about 15-20 miles into the ride when my stomach started having some issues handling nutrition (a concern heading in, given things hadn’t 100% reset yet), but I switched over to liquids and gels, and overall felt pretty in control.

   Much of the middle part of the bike passed without incident, leaving me just generally being in a fairly good mood.  I started getting reports from spectators that I was maybe a couple minutes off the lead, so I figured I was making up some ground.  I had to make one move up a hill to break away from a male ego, but otherwise, all good.  Watching my splits pop up, I figured the bike course record was safe.  I was making decent time, but it seemed like I’d come in just under 2:35.  Good enough, I’d thought.  Kait was riding strongly ahead of me, so I felt fortunate enough to be able to pass her for the lead just before 40 miles.  After that point, I decided that I just wanted to get through the rougher road in Sampson state park without incident, and then see if I could do something I haven’t been able to do in a race in ages-bring my HR and power up a bit the final 10 miles, rather than watch it drop.  The park was fine, and once onto the smooth road, I told myself that I just had another hard half an hour to go-something I’ve done many times feeling worse.  I was completely alone at that point, couldn’t even see any other racers, so it almost became a solo TT. 
Bike shot!  Sooo, just gonna go out on a limb here and say that maaaaaybe, just maybe, some improvements have been made throughout the years with that setup.  Courtesy Dan Bell photography.
   I still didn’t think I had a chance at the record until I got into the final 8-10 miles, and realized that my speed was higher than expected.  When we’d ridden the course the previous weekend, that section had been straight into a nasty headwind, so the slight tailwind of race day was obviously a huge difference.  I had a mental dialog with myself at that point-play it safe, don’t bust my legs, come in a little above the bike course record, and then get after it on the run, or go for it?  What if I tried and failed?  It took about 30 seconds for my “screw it, I’ve got a chance at this, and I’m going to go down trying” voice to kick in.  After enough disappointments in the sport, what did I have to lose?  I pressed with whatever I had left in my bike legs, with a whole lot of panting and grunting, and just willed the last few turns to come as quickly as possible.  I got back into the part a few minutes under the record, pulled off my very non-pro dismount with my bike computer reading 2:28, and tried to sprint in bike shoes across uneven ground pushing my bike to the transition mat, knowing it had taken me a bit to get from transition to the mount line and started before I’d started my garmin.  When it still read 2:28 as I stopped it (actual official time 2:29), I figured I’d definitely come in under the previous 2:31 record.  This, to me, was a huge win on the day.  I’d come into the race with zero confidence in my biking abilities based on my recent training and racing, and came out having met a goal I’d pretty much given up on, and the knowledge that I could make myself hurt late in the bike and execute a ride again.

   My T2 was about as skilled as my swim-I’d made the decision on a hot, humid run earlier in the week that I’d wear my two piece kit, getting myself the option to take off the top and run in a sports bra if race day got hot, which it did.  Now, I’ve always been pretty damn self-conscious of my stomach, and I’ve never had chiseled abs.  After a couple of abdominal surgeries in the off season, my belly button is a patchwork job, and I get major issues with bloating.  But hey, it’s a freaking triathlon, not a bikini contest.  Everyone can wear whatever the heck makes them comfortable (and is still sort of decent).  It’s not like spandex makes that much of a difference, anyways.  So, sports bra it was, and I didn’t regret the choice at all.  Anyways, soapbox aside, I’d practiced taking off the stop, but getting wet tight sleeves over wet elbows was a different story, and I fumbled around getting stuck in it #sopro.  Once on the run course, as expected, I didn’t feel really all that great after pushing the end of the ride.  No big deal.  I didn’t know how much of a lead I had, but I was through transition and onto the run course without any other women coming through, which was good-there were several strong ladies in the field I knew I’d have to hold off.

   While I had sort of given up on the bike and overall course records heading in, I still admittedly did hope for the run course record, as my running had been going pretty decently, at least.  I needed 6:40 pace.  With the tough hills in the middle of the course, I figured I’d have to build a bit of a cushion early on, in the flat portions.  Well, that didn’t work out so well.  I just couldn’t get into the run-I’m not sure if it was the bike effort, or the heat playing a role as I went from getting off the bike through the first couple of miles without really getting a chance to cool myself much.  After my second mile split popped up slower than I would have liked, I really just went into troubleshooting mode-don’t look at the splits, cool at aide stations, keep things controlled, read what my body needed.  I passed one man in the first mile or so of the run, then again spent the first half completely alone, running along sidewalks and roads and feeling sort of like I was on a long run.  Systemically and leg-wise, the slogginess never really went away.  I was overall ok-still smiling and interacting when I did see people I knew out there-but just was kind of flat.  Up until the main hill on the course around miles 7-8, the dirt/rock Barracks Rd, I was actually behind the pace I had set back in 2011.

  Then, up Barracks, things began to shift a bit.  I didn’t necessarily feel much better, but I started to catch a few men, and once up, my mile split popped up far faster than what I had done in the past.  I didn’t know my total race time, but I saw that I still had a good chance for a sub-1:30 run, which probably would put me close to the course record?  Who knew.  All I knew was that I had a few downhill miles to get some speed up.  I took advantage of that, and then the course rejoined where many were heading out for their first few miles.  That alone was an instant boost-I saw many familiar faces, and the town had come alive with cheering and support.  It was almost a combination of double awesome-personal cheers from friends in the sport, and community support for being the first woman through.  I think I even *might* have smiled a few times in the later stages of a 70.3 run.  Go figure.  Sort of like the bike, I got to the 10 mile point, saw my time, and realized that wait a minute, mayyybe I did have a shot at that previously given up on course record.  It would take about a 20min 5k, or just over.  I knew I could run hard for 20min.  So that’s what I set out to do.
My paper cover model shot.  That Hansen is so hot right now.  No, literally I was probably hot.  Note there is a sponge.  While my bike setup might look more legit, some #sopro things never change, at least.
   The last couple of miles of that race along the lakeshore, well, I remembered how to really, truly, let go and get myself into the deep again.  I’m not one for formal race visualizations and stuff like that necessarily, but my mind drifts during training sessions (and when walking the dogs in the woods, admittedly-very philosophical), but I will admit that my mind had gone to that exact scenario from time to time-running along Seneca lake, with a narrow margin of time left to reach a goal seven years in the making, one that just had never worked out with timing and health and my years of IM pursuits.  After Australia, I had vowed to myself that if I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be in that position, I’d tap into all of that bullshit and go down swinging, because for the love of everything, even resilient athletes need a freaking bone every now and then.  So there I was, in that exact scenario.  Usually, I spend the last couple of miles of a race counting down the distance, trying to hang on, slightly on the defense.  That day, though, was different.  Race director Rich had joined me on the bike at that point, and my internal dialog was entirely focused on challenging myself to see what I had-find out what’s left in there.  Dig.  Go faster.  Move!  I had something left in me, and I was loving getting it out.  I thought about Mary waiting to announce me in, knowing that she had seen something in the clueless kid there six years ago, and had reached out and transformed my life as an athlete.  I knew my parents and Dave were waiting (and our dogs), and would be excited to see me come in.  Half a mile from the finish, I ran past the place I had sat and cheered in 2012, the last place I had seen Heather alive, when she had, in typical Heather fashion, wished me good luck in Placid the next weekend despite being half a mile from finishing her own major goal.  That was the final kicker I needed.

   I had maybe wanted to enjoy the final stretch, but I saw the clock, I saw my run time, and I heard Mary calling me in, so I just threw myself in until I got across the timing mat.  After that, it was game over on letting the lid off my emotions.  No, I mean, it’s not like I won an IM or something, but those 3 course records had become personal to me as time had gone on, I hadn’t woken up that morning feeling like it would happen, but then it did.   After every disappointment and thwarted IM attempt, I’ve coped in part by telling myself that I would eventually see a reason, there would eventually be some sort of personal triumph that would be a million times more meaningful than it would have otherwise, I just didn’t know it yet.  Keeping this faith has been hard, really, really hard at times, but some small part of me has held on no matter what has gone on.  So, accomplishing some goals several years in the making was no small deal to me personally, and that was that.
Finish line feelings and stuff like that. :)

Sometimes we look loving and stuff.  Touching Christmas card material right here probably, because the chances of a nice picture of us not in spandex are low.

More spandex-clad Hansens

I felt like an outtake picture with some awesome people here was necessary.  Gorgeous.

Dave didn't listen to me about how running up a mountain in Colorado was a bad idea so he couldn't run and had to aquabike, but at least he won.  Let me point out that I swam faster than he did, though.  This hasn't happened in years. #suckitdave #heracedmeinthepoolwarmuptwodayslater #maleego #sobruised 

Yay women's podium!!

With Kait!  Who crushed the swim course record like a boss!

UB alum pic!!  Tim was second in the men's race.  Good day for the old Bull pride! #ubbelieve
   I probably should wrap this up at some point, though!  I can’t even describe how touched I was by all of the comments, congrats, and kind words I received regarding this race.  The support was absolutely amazing.  Special thanks to my normal squad who stands by me no matter what-Dave, Jesse, my parents, etc.  Also need to throw out a thanks to Kelly and Stephanie for their assistance with our canines over the weekend, and for being generally awesome!  Also thanks to our BSR team sponsors who played a huge role on helping me make the most of myself on the day- Zone3, Reynolds, Ice Friction, Kask, Lake cycling, Ruby's lube, Hiball energy, F2C nutrition, Juice performer, Bonk Breaker.  For now, it's time to wrap up some more hard training, attempt to stay in one piece (easier said than done), and keep literally every part of me crossed that maybe I can make that IM thing happen in a few weeks in Tremblant!!  I know better than to count on it, but here's to eternal hope.

After taking the group selfie with Tim, Dave accidentally took a selfie.  Naturally, he's talking.  At least it's sort of artistic with the sky.

Then he handed me back my phone, and I accidentally took a self.  Naturally, I look confused and concerned. #restingconfusedface #restingconcernedface

The dogs did not take a selfie, but since Dave and I did pretty much in our natural states, here they are in their natural states-Bailey rolling in something, and Moose smelling something.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

And the hardest part...(on Australia)

  I'm overdue for a Chattanooga race report, and I do have one mostly written, but I'm going to go a little out of order here, for therapeutic reasons, and try to dissect what happened last week in Australia.  I thought I'd have finally finished IM #10 by now.  I hoped that I might be in a position where I was able to entertain thoughts of Kona points and strategy.  Instead, I'm once again trying to pick up the pieces, put disappointment behind me, refocus, and move on from the latest disappointment.

  When I first started training for Cairns, I didn't really have high hopes for my performance.  I just wanted to do an IM.  In the weeks leading up to the race, though, my fitness began to click.  While the distance intimidated me again, my workout evidence pointed to the fact that yes, I was ready, more ready than I had planned on being at any point along the way.  I never would have openly admitted it, as I like to keep the expectations and pressure down, but I did feel like if I could remember how to put it together, I had a shot at contending for the final podium spot on a great day, and top five on a good day.  I was heading down under to compete, not just participate, and it excited me.  I checked the boxes of the final week, got myself through, and was in the homestretch.

   Dave and I had a conversation with my parents one evening over dinner about IM.  You have to have such good luck to make it work, he'd been arguing.  I wouldn't say that, I countered; you just have to put in the work, avoid bad luck, and execute.  And so it went.  I feel like I should have run out of bad luck by now.  I feel like I should have earned something good when it comes to IM.  I feel like I've paid my dues, and it should have worked.  But, that's not how it works.  It's not like I've built up little bad luck antibodies that can ward it off.  Our flights got screwed up on the way to Cairns, despite the fact that Dave had checked and called and confirmed with the airlines the day beforehand.  We were able to get rerouted and rebooked, but the butterfly effect had been set into place-somewhere on those planes or layovers that we weren't originally supposed to be on, something microscopic got into my system that would prove to undo me.
Brief stop in Brisbane during a layover for a run along the river!  So much hope.

These kangaroo signs were everywhere.  Much like the moose signs in New Hampshire, they were a TOTAL disappointing fake out.  We didn't see ONE kangaroo in the wild.  Only in the crocodile park thing, which doesn't count.  Asshole elusive kangaroos.

   We got to Australia on Sunday, a week before the race.  I was tired, definitely dragging, but nothing I wouldn't have associated with travel and jetlag.  Monday morning, I got up, assembled my bike, and went out for a little bike and run.  Both felt like crap, and I had no energy.  I again brushed it off-flights, time changes, no caffeine, still recovering from my last push into the race.  The lower GI symptoms started later that evening.  Well, ok, weird, but my internal clock was still off, and I'd had a giant salad and bunch of popcorn earlier that day.  I woke up starving on Tuesday, but the lower GI symptoms persisted.  We walked down to the beach to catch the sunset, and on the way back up, I really just started feeling awful.  Like, dragging my feet, could barely walk awful.  While Dave pestered me about what we were going to do that day, I yelled at him that I just needed to lay down.  I got back and hit the couch.  My stomach began to turn on me.  At first, simple foods calmed it down; as the day progressed, I stopped eating.  My temperature rose.  I didn't even have the energy to sit up, all I could do was lay and watch TV.  I tried to stay calm about it-probably just a 24 hour virus, I'd feel better the next day, I'd be fine by the weekend.  I chose to worry about missing training instead.  I went to bed that night expecting to wake up in the cold sweat of my fever breaking, but it never happened-I was only waking up to my GI system.
The sunrise was pretty, though.  So at least I got to see that.

I never actually made it into the water down there.  This "treat your jellyfish sting" station helped to ease that "disappointment".
I had to.  This blog entry needs some levity.  If I can't unsee Dave's freakishly pasty thighs in a paisley speedo, then the internet shouldn't be able to, either.

   The next day (Wednesday), still feverish, nauseous, entirely drained, and with less than desirable intenstinal happenings, I found a doctor that would take walk ins, figuring that if I could at least get my hands on some anti-nausea meds to calm down the stomach pain, I'd be able to get in food and fluids to get my strength up and be good to go for the race.  I did get some meds, and while they did help, I still couldn't get much into me.  Thursday morning, I did feel better.  Not wanting the whole trip to be a waste, Dave and I went to a crocodile park, saw animals, held a koala, and then ventured off to a waterfall.  Somewhere in there, my fever and fatigue returned, and I still wasn't eating.  He started having some early symptoms.  Friday morning, while Dave's symptoms were seeming to stay less systemic and more lower GI (he was eating the whole time), I was still mildly feverish, repulsed by the thought of most food (which NEVER happens), fatigued to the point where walking 5-10min wiped me out, and letting go of the race.  Checking in and going to the pro meeting was painful, as I felt like a fraud.  Dave opted to switch down to the 70.3, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to race.  Well wishes and advice telling me to eat, drink, keep my hopes up were sweet, but I couldn't force myself to eat and drink without feeling sick, and the fatigue was crippling.  Even minimal activity was a huge effort.
Crocodile sanctuary dude.  Pretty sure this guy was like, eating golfers or something.  

This little wallaby guy let us pet him!!  So cute.  Petting furry animals makes everything better.

Koala!!!!!!!!  No amount of feeling like crap was going to keep me from my koala moment.  He was SO SOFT AND SNUGGLY.

They let Dave in for a picture, too.  I feel like this is sort of an awkward family photo, only with an adorable koala instead of a baby, so it's ok.  And for the record, here's where I verify that no, I did not withdraw from an IM and call it "stomach problems" when I'm really pregnant.  Because yes, I have been asked.   Which is fair.  But koalas only for now.  And dogs when at home.

The waterfall we went to

   I talked to Jesse Saturday morning, and to my relief, he didn't even suggest that I give it a try.  If I thought I even had a chance to get through any of the race, I would have showed up to the swim start, but the thought of 2.4 miles in rough salt water was enough to turn my stomach, I just wanted to spend my time laying down, and at that time, I was suffering from acid reflux that made being prone impossible.  I turned in my chip, which was easier than picking it up had been, and focused my attention to hoping that Dave would be able to survive the half.  Given how I felt, I couldn't believe he was ok enough to race, but he was going to go through with it, and I hoped it would salvage the trip a bit.  Race morning, I found him before the swim start, sent him off, and despondently walked along the beach to the bike out, beginning my day of trying to hold it together.  Dave had a decent swim and looked ok heading out on the bike, so I breathed a small sigh of relief, and left to drive down to the run course before I could hear the canon sound for the full.
Race morning sunrise colors.  Seemed to fit the vibe.

   The rest of the day was an emotional roller coaster.  I couldn't see Dave's splits, but he was moving up in his age group on the bike, so I kept my fingers crossed he'd be ok.  He didn't look great on the run, and was definitely feeling the effects of whatever we had, but he held it together well enough to snag 8th in his age group.  Waiting for him at the finish line hurt; I found myself staring down the red carpet I'd spent so much time dreaming about from the outside.  Afterwards, we got some food (I was having a brief reprieve), and had hours to kill before rolldowns.  We got bored sitting in the car, and finally opted to brave heading out to catch some of the IM run.  Needless to say, watching the pro women come through tore my heart, already scarred and pieced back together a thousand times in the past few years, out of my chest and stomped on it yet again.  At the end of the day, though, Dave was able to snag a spot to 70.3 worlds, salvaging something out of nothing, and we explored some night markets, which was a really neat, unique experience.
Dave run pain face.  Sponsored by immodium.

Ticket back to America punched!  Dave didn't want me to take a picture or make a big deal out of it, because he's annoying and doesn't see it as an accomplishment given it was just sort of a so-so day for him, but I did anyways.  Because, it is an accomplishment, and I've wanted to punch him several times lately over his negativity about his abilities.  Everyone tell Dave he's good at this stuff.

   We spent a pleasant Sunday packing up and exploring Port Douglas and Cairns a bit before heading out to Brisbane to start the long journey home the next morning.  My "feeling better" progress was slow to seemingly nonexistent at times, as my appetite and energy were barely recovering.  I tried a couple of 30min jogs in there, which were 2min/mile slower than what I'd been running heading in and loaded with breaks.  They spiked my nausea afterwards and drained me, but absolutely confirmed that no, I could not have even attempted to race.  Thankfully, I have no regrets haunting me on that decision.  In fact, until I had my first MRI a couple of weeks after crashing in Cozumel and found out that I actually did break stuff, despite the fact that I could barely walk in that time, I felt more guilt and weakness over that DNF than I ever did about this DNS.  I can't say that travel home felt good in the least, and my first couple of days back in Rochester were about survival (especially given I somehow still can't stomach coffee...SAD FACE).  I'm not entirely sure what struck me down (trying to figure it out at the moment), other than the fact that it was/is pretty nasty and prolonged.  Dave and I still are very slowly coming along.  Both of us are struggling to do any sort of training, he's now in the reflux stage, I'm still hit or miss on the eating front, and I'm still struggling a bit with waking up in the middle of the night, needing to sit up to tame the waves of stomach upset.  But, the past couple of days (well, mostly today) have shown actual signs of improvement, so I'm hopeful that I've turned the corner to the home stretch of whatever got me.
Random restaurant in Port Douglas called "Dave's", that offered a discount to anyone named Dave, and featured a "wall of Daves".  Help me.

Another picture of water that looks nice but is probably loaded with man-eating crocodiles and giant jellyfish up in Port Douglas.

Last morning in Australia!  View from breakfast in Brisbane.

This is what it looks like when the third seat in your row ends up empty, and you get skycouch without having to pay for it on your 11 hour flight!

And an airline reschedule resulted in first class on the final leg!  All the other women were all done up and proper while I watched Anchorman, greasy and unshowered from hours of travel, wearing some old comfy run pants.  According to Dave, I was probably the first person in first class to watch Anchorman.  And?  I watched Dodgeball while in peasant class on the way there, sooo... #stayclassy

   I remember starting out one of my long runs when training for Cairns, back when my butt pain was more prominent and I wasn't sure if it would hold out or not.  Something clicked in my head then-yes, I so very badly wanted to race an IM in Cairns, and I feared another setback.  But, although I had moments of thinking that every piece of bad luck was the straw that's going to break the camel's back at the time, I've managed to find my way around them thus far.  No matter what happens, as long as I have the choice to press on, I will.  I can't control everything along this journey, but that part, the not quitting part, is entirely up to me.  Some part of me still holds onto the belief that it's going to come together, and when it does, it's going to mean SO much more than all of the times that it came together before I knew what it was like to deal with all of the BS that I used to only worry might happen someday, back when my triathlon journey was some fairy tale journey.  Shit happens (sometimes literally), to absolutely everyone on the planet.  When you're living it, you deal with it, you make new plans, and you move on.  I've made new plans, and as soon as my body gets its strength back, it'll be full steam ahead.  Maybe they'll work out, maybe they won't, but that's no reason not to go after them like they can work out.  In the great scheme of life, missing an IM is HARDLY the end of the world.  I mean, I've had plenty of times in the past couple of weeks where I've internally whined about how I could possibly still be nauseous, before realizing that it's just a drop in the bucket, in reality.  I'm not undergoing cancer treatment, which would make me a lot more nauseous for a lot longer while, you know, worrying about my life, not just some stupid race.  Perspective.  Yeah, it's still disappointing, because I put so much into it, it's been so long, and I was finally ready, but...I was finally ready.  My "new normal" body can get itself ready, even if there are a few imperfect stretches along the way.  Food poisoning (or whatever it was) doesn't change that.  My heart will scar over and heal.  I'm looking forward to ponying up and getting back to work, because I can (or hopefully will be able to in short order), I still have this opportunity, when so many can't.  And for that, especially when I've gone through periods when it wasn't possible, I'm grateful.    

  So, that was Australia.  Not the kind of report I was hoping to write, but such is life.  We still got to visit the other side of the world and experience an entirely new place, so that's a gift in itself (and, Master Chef Australia was actually pretty entertaining when on the couch :) ).  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to reach out to me, wish me well, and show me concern and caring when I was down and out.  I had wanted to complete that race to prove those who had believed in me throughout this time right, and that remains my goal moving forward through the summer.  The fight will continue!  Also, thanks to Big Sexy Racing, and our fantastic team sponsors including Zone3, Reynolds, QR, Ice Friction, Kask, F2C Nutrition, and others who had me fully equipped and ready to go, even if my body didn't cooperate!  Next time. :)

One of my favorite little cartoons.  Because, this.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Into the fire-2017 life

   I blinked, and then it was April.  In reality, life has just been happening, and I've started half a dozen different blog posts in that time, none of which have been finished.  I should first mention something I announced via social media a few months ago-I'll be racing this season as a member of Big Sexy Racing's new pro squad, with several other outstanding athletes (and people).  This was a great opportunity that somewhat unexpectedly popped up for me this year, and I'm excited to represent some new companies and sponsors and their products.  I'll be updating this blog with fresh links and such on those, and stay tuned to the blog for a little more information on some of those!  Of note is that my coaching situation hasn't changed-who else could I trust with my crap after all of these years? (Sorry, Jesse.)  Anyways.  As for life.  For a while, I was just still in the post-op recovery mode, semi-cranky and trying to figure out my body and find my way.  Finding my way took a whole bunch of work, targeted strengthening and body work, and patience, arguably mostly from those tasked with dealing with me (and my moods).  When I started to find my way, I went through an odd period (late January/early February) where I was struck down with abdominal pains that rendered me flat out miserable, non-functional at times, and ultimately in an ER CT scan machine.  While that was a rough period in time, it turned out that my post-pelvic surgery body apparently just needs some, well, consistent help moving things along (slightly TMI, but what hasn't been with all this pelvis crap?).  Once that got in order, well, I actually got into training and it sort of got real.
During the stomach mess.  This was legitimately how bloated/distended I was at times.  It totally could beat some people's 20 week baby bump pictures.  Needless to say, this was not comfortable.

   After my stomach saga, I went to QT2 pro camp at the end of February, joining up halfway through.  I was undertrained, unfit, and in an environment where I never really thrive, anyways.  I had a few rides there where I was riding so far off of the back of everyone, losing faith in my abilities, just generally questioning what I even thought I was doing down there, pretending like I'm still a pro triathlete.  The truth was, in those moments, I couldn't be comforted by words or justifications.  I just had to (be allowed to) keep going, because doing the work was the only solution to the problem, even if doing the work meant I had to face the truth that doing the job was going to be a lot harder than I recalled.  So I kept going.  I did the work.  I wasn't always in a positive state of mind, but I started and finished every workout I was given exactly as it was laid out in front of me.  Finally, on the final day of camp, over the course of nine miles of 800m run repeats on a bike path, Beth and I both managed to find something inside as we hit each and every one at paces faster than we would have given ourselves credit for a few days earlier.
This was our "yep, as good as we're gonna look right now, that was a lot of running faster than normal" selfie.  Hawt.
   I came home, and after some recovery, started to actually get back into something that resembled real, true, IM training-those deep, dark, long places I'd both deeply feared and missed.  The prolonged layoff from that type of work has left me in sort of a mental tug of war at times.  It's pretty easy to tell myself, "it's ok, look how far you've come, it's understandable if you're not doing well or can't make it through training".  I've had plenty of instances of indulging that line of thought throughout the past couple of years.  Maybe there's some short term gratification.  But, in the longer term, I end up being too easy on myself, which eventually just leads to the lingering emptiness of not getting to where I would like to be.  I'm honestly just done with this "justification"-it's crossed the line from reason to cop out.  But, at the same time, there's past comparison.  This is the nagging reminder of how much stronger, faster, thinner, more powerful I used to be 3-4 years ago, how much more volume and intensity I used to be able to pound out and push through.  It's the little voice that says, "yeah, but..." when I check my workout numbers and start to feel decent about them.

   The trick, then, has turned into balancing the two.  I need to remember where I'm coming from in the recent tougher times, but also where I've been in the further back, more successful parts of my past.  But, the first part needs to be in a way where I'm not letting myself off the hook because something's hard, and the second part needs to be in a way that helps me to believe in my future self, rather than put down my current self.  Easier said than done.  When it comes down to it,  I've come to realize that the day to day push and grind of training is, in fact, hugely fulfilling to me-more so than painting lawn chairs, tearing up carpet, or organizing cabinets.  I can't put into words why this is, but I know how I feel about it.  I've seen the "other side", I've lived it, and, really, I want this sport to be the predominant part of my life right now.  There's no right or wrong, that's just how I feel.  Even when the numbers haven't been there, I'm still better off on multiple levels with it.

We had a windstorm the week after I came home from Florida and lost power for five days.  This pine tree fell in our backyard.  It's still laying there, because training is better than adulting.

We also had a snowstorm the week after the windstorm.  Everywhere was closed, including the gym, so I ran in it.  It was sort of dumb, but sort of awesome.

Oh, and, NEW BIKE!!!  Still a QR PR6, but an upgraded, super pretty one.  With an ice friction chain!  Jennie needs free speed these days.

   With that, though, also comes more risk.  As much as I've tried this year to just put the past behind me and move forward in training, fact of the matter is that I've had multiple fractures, surgeries, and areas of soft tissue damage to the same general area of my body in the past two years, and I'm attempting to train myself to compete in a really long event to the best of my abilities, not content to simply finish.  This means that despite my (and my awesome support staff's best efforts), I'm at a higher than normal risk of stuff going wrong.  And, the more I invest into training and the further along I get, the harder it gets when anything goes wrong.  I finished a couple of solid training blocks where things went right.  I was starting to actually feel like I was really training for an ironman again, and I loved figuring all of the "training hard" stuff out.  Things didn't feel perfect, but they were functional.  Then, something went wrong.  My left (the side I landed on but didn't break) butt/sacral area went out on me.  I had to bail on a couple of rides and runs, and to put it nicely, I didn't take it well.  Maybe it's cliched, but the closer you get to the fire, the more you get burned.  I got unnecessarily and disproportionately upset, considering if I was just better off not even bothering to risk it in trying anymore-at least that way, I wouldn't have that high of a ledge to fall from.

   That was dumb, though.  That's not living.  I forced myself to stop wallowing, I asked for help, and I remembered that people really are good, and will be there to support you, even if your dreams and goals seem sort of silly.  So, just like a million other things that came before this, I'm working through it, with the assistance of those who have been there a million times before, and it's responding decently enough, for now (albeit sore from some injections yesterday).  Really, I only missed a few training sessions, so the world really wasn't ending as horribly as I was pretending that it was.  With that, the goal remains the same-IM Cairns, in less than 8 weeks.  Dave and I had flight credit from our cancelled trip to New Zealand when I withdrew from that IM last year, and that race made the most sense.  He's registered, we're going regardless, so I'm going to do every damn thing in my power to make it to a freaking start line ready to compete my heart out, whatever that might look like.    I also would be remiss here to not give a shout out to the huge roles that Tiffany at Metta therapeutic massage and Kenny Tsang at Active Care Chiropractic have played in keeping this screwed up body functional-I would recommend them to anyone, a million times over, in a heartbeat (and I work in healthcare, so I like to think I know my stuff here).  And, of course, perhaps more of a task has been keeping my mind out of my way-Dave, Jesse, and those who I have running text and/or email bitch sessions deserve shout outs for this one.  So, well, that's kind of a discombobulated wrap up on life lately!  Imperfect and bumpy at times, but not without light, hope, and help from the kindness of others.  We'll see.  I might not trust my body, but I still have to believe that this is going to be possible, and move forward like it could happen. :)    
And matching lazy orange puppies, just because.  This was during the power outage time, actually, when I was biking upstairs because it was too freaking cold in the basement.  Totally a motivational view.

Friday, December 30, 2016

On fear and forward movement. Cheers, 2017.

  "Your dream must be bigger than your fear."

 Taped on Dave's old college desk next to a giant clunky desktop computer in our study, a room that serves more as a dumping ground for bathing suits, wetsuits, transition bags, and gloves than anything else, is a fortune cookie fortune that bears those words.  I'm not sure when I initially stuck that on there, but it must have been years ago, because I can't even remember the last time I turned on that computer.  But, those words have stuck with me, no more so than over the course of this past year.  At many points, the saying became my mantra to get me through the rough points of doubt.  My relationship with fear and triathlon goes way back, though, to my beginnings, and as 2016 draws to a close, I've found myself reflecting back to many experiences along the way.

 I remember my first ride on a road bike.  During the spring of 2009, with steadily increasing hip, shin, and pelvic pain (that would later turn out to be a stress fracture or two), I decided to use Dave's birthday as an excuse to purchase a $200 aluminum Schwinn from Walmart in order to get in some outdoor exercise that wasn't running.  I'd obviously had bikes before, but before that point, they'd consisted of 3 speeds with coaster brakes, and a secondhand "mountain" bike purchased from a garage sale for $40.  The day that road bike came, I assembled it and set off with no clue what I was doing, mostly afraid of the skinny wheels, with a side of excitement to try something new.  I white-knuckled it through the neighborhood a bit, before inadvertently turning onto a road that had JUST been chip sealed.  By some miracle, I managed to stop and turn around without wiping out, heart pounding.  From there, I made it home without incident.  Still, despite the fears, I kept at it, monopolizing what was supposed to be a joint present (of course).  At some point, I was diagnosed with that old pelvic stress fracture, and I registered for the Finger Lakes triathlon after determining that I was in fact capable of swimming the distance continuously.

   So much about that first triathlon terrified me.  I did end up eventually upgrading the Walmart bike to a decent entry-level road bike of my own (that actually fit).  I met a woman at the pool one morning, Lauren, who took me under wing and rode me around the course the following weekend.  She zipped down the hills, while I rode the brakes.  My first time wetsuit swimming in open water was about a week before the race, at a clinic put on by a local bike shop for first timers.  Needless to say, there were a few obligatory moments of panic.  The day before the race, I almost hit a dog while squeezing in an easy ride, but I did finally figure out how to properly use my front derailleur.  Race day, I again panicked early in the swim.  I thought of Lauren's words of wisdom-"you can't sink in a wetsuit".  I thought of my mom and Dave there to watch me, and I didn't want to let them down by not getting through the swim.  I also thought of all of the yards I'd swam that summer, reassuring myself that I did in fact know how to swim, and it was the same activity I'd done for so many hours, just in a different setting.  I swam respectably enough.  On the bike, the hills that had seemed so intimidating on the training ride seemed to have shrunk, and my desire to hit a 20mph average (my goal) dwarfed my brake-squeezing instincts.  The run was painful, but after not running for so much of the summer, I was just too excited to be out there to care.  I came in fourth that day, and in a moment of walking back to transition after the race, I found myself in tears.  The sense of pride and satisfaction that came from completing that race well were intensified by knowing I'd overcome far more trepidation than I'd felt before any running race.  I had a sense that I'd found my new sport, and I wasn't turning back.

   Sometime around the start of the next year, I signed up for my first 70.3, Musselman, on a whim-a new challenge, one that once again scared the crap out of me.  I trained for it, not really knowing what I was doing or what I was getting myself into or what I was doing.  This came to a head the weekend before the race, when Dave and I attempted to ride the bike course on one of those 90+ degree, humid, heat and air quality advisory days.  With little knowledge of fueling, woeful amounts of fluid on board, and no smartphones to guide use when we got lost, we ended up separated.  I guzzled water in a winery bathroom, ready to pass out, somehow found my way back to the park, and was about to head out and look for Dave when he made his way back (I added in that detail to prove that at one point, years ago, I could beat Dave on a bike).  How in the name of everything good and holy was I going to get through that, plus a swim and a half marathon a week later??  I made it to race day with that debacle in my mind, and I was panicked over the fact that I'd never really run more than 3-4 miles after long (2.5-3 hour) rides.  I couldn't fathom what was about to happen, and it showed at the start line.  I remember my sister's former college roommate finding me before the swim, telling me to just breaststroke if I started to freak in the water, and that I was a good athlete, I'd be fine.  She was right.  With little knowledge of pacing or fueling, I'll never forget getting off the bike, and settling into the run at a pace that both felt easy and was far faster than any expectation I had.  That run pace carried me further up into the race than I would ever have dreamed to be possible.  My fear of the unknown and uncertainty of my abilities to get through it morphed into complete joy and sweet surprise when I crossed the finish line as the second female, just under 4 hours, 56 minutes after the start.

Let's face it, this post is useless if I don't take the opportunity to once again make fun of my bike setups of years past.  Here I am, combating that dehydration of the training ride the week beforehand with my camelbak and sideways "aero" bottle in my clip in aerobottleholderbars.

But then I finished and it was cool.  I even touched Dave.

   But, that didn't leave me with a newfound confidence, or erase my insecurities and apprehensions heading into 2011.  I researched and learned more about the sport that had found me, figuring out what 70.3 worlds were, and how I could qualify for them.  Well, huh.  Maybe I'd give that a shot.  Dave and I signed up for the Mooseman 70.3.  I also added another source of anxiety to my triathlon life, switching from a road bike to a brand spanking new tri bike.  Just because I had clip on aerobars on my road bike didn't mean that I'd ever actually used them (other than as a hands-free bottle holder), and this transferred over to the tri bike.  I had no idea how to ride the thing, rarely even shifting because I was too afraid to let go of the brake hoods to reach the bar end shifters, let alone ride in the bars.  During my first training ride out on it, I tipped over on a climb because I wasn't downshifted enough.  I occasionally managed to get my left arm down-my days of "half aero".  I began to research the course I'd signed up for.  A huge climb, done twice.  A windy descent to follow.  What if I tipped over on the climb again?  How could I get through it twice?  And I hated descending.  That was even worse.  Once in New Hampshire, I worked myself up to the max as we drove the course and went through the check in process.  Everyone looked faster than me.  The bike at the end of the rack in my age group had race wheels and the shoes were clipped in, she obviously knew what she was doing and was fast.  Could I even bike under 3:00?  That all continued until the race started.  Once again, I was fine as soon as I was in motion.  I remember little about it, except that I got through the chilly swim and the hilly bike (in my "half aero") upright and in decent enough position to make headway on the run.  I do remember how it felt to win my age group that day.  I remember once again being shocked and speechless about not only meeting, but exceeding my goals.
No idea what's going on here, but I have my resting anxious/confused face going in full force.

My classmates in college and grad school always used to hate me because I'd freak out before tests and then get, like, a 98 on everything.  Seems relevant here.

Not that race, but my "half aero" should be noted.

  The rest of that summer was spent preparing for Vegas worlds, and getting over my fears related to the race and the course.  In the midst of racing with a stomach bug a month later, I dropped into my aerobars for the first time, too wracked with fatigue to think about what I was doing or be afraid of it.  That was all I needed to figure out that skill-to not think, just do.  I rode over to one of the quiet, big hills by the bay, and did repeats every Monday to prepare for the hilly Vegas course.  I tried race wheels, and didn't give up on them when I wanted to cry in crosswinds during my first ride.  I raced more, and had success.  The summer was blazing hot, and I forced myself to keep shirts on and sweat it out during midday track workouts every week.  While all of that should have built confidence, it was for naught about a week before heading west.  Someone shared a preview of the amateur race with me.  My name was in it.  Until that point, I'd been happy just to qualify, with no expectations for the race itself.  Once the seed of outside expectation was planted, the nerves started.  These only intensified once we got into Vegas, where it was hot and dry and the hills on the bike course intimidated me to no end in training rides beforehand.  I doubted everything about myself, to the point where I was in tears before the start of the race (didn't help we were one of the last waves), swearing to myself that I would never do another tri after that, I just couldn't handle how scared and nervous I got before each and every one; the anxiety was relentless.  I probably don't even need to say it-what ended up happening there was the same as what had happened at every other race I've ever done, tri or running.  Once in motion, I was fine.  Instead of that being the final race of my triathlon career, I ended up with a world AG title and a pro card.  So that was that.
The classic near tears pre-Vegas picture

Again, shut up Jennie, no one believes your pre-race crap

   The following year, my fears shifted to those big things that any first year pro and first time IM deals with-as in, lining up with the best, and, well, tackling 140.6.  These seemed fairly justified, all things considered.  This time, though, I had a coach and teammates and friends to guide me along the way, and a husband training alongside me for his first IM, too.  That's not to say my pre-race mental state and general anxieties didn't raise questions about my ability to handle it all, but these were largely erased as soon as I was racing.  I was able to demonstrate that so much of that was a defense mechanism, designed to lower expectations and self-induced pressure, that faded into a process-oriented stoicism once I got going.  That year, the next, sure, I got nervous before big races, and I always found something in particular to fixate on, but by and large, I kept things to a normal, healthy (maybe arguable) level of nerves, not abject fear.  I raced well.  Then, 2014 began to throw doubt into my mind.  First, a DNS that made me start worrying that every time I felt even normal tired, I was about to fall down the rabbit hole of excessive fatigue again.  Then, a mechanical that made me forever obsess about my front brake.  Then, just when I thought I had it together again, I ended in the Mexican hospital.  And that was that.

   2015 was a wash.  Then came 2016.  I didn't make it beyond New Year's day before getting the old butt fracture site x-rayed again.  The 13 minutes of running I made it that day were the last 13 minutes I'd make it continuously for almost five months.  When thinking back on last spring, though, I only tried running a few minutes a handful of times, giving up on myself before trying to get going not because it hurt too much, but because it still hurt a little bit.  I was too afraid of the debilitating pain that I'd experienced over the winter to even want to try in the spring.  I took having to withdraw from races that winter hard, and I was scared to let myself hope again, to risk yet another broken heart.  I turned to my doctor, who gave me the green light.  And with that, I began to work my way through the season that played out.  Your dream must be bigger than your fear.  I repeated that to myself so many times along the way.  I had no choice.  Getting over the Achilles heels of my Cozumel experience-bottle handling and wind-was no small task.  At times, I wondered if I'd need professional help of some degree to help myself over what felt like crippling anxiety I felt even thinking of them.  My overwhelming desire to race again won out, though, at least to break the seal.  Then came Racine to throw me for another loop-a miserable race existence of my own doing, born from my sheer panic in wind and resulting refusal to hydrate.  That was my warning, and my impetus to get my act together with the controllables.

   I've documented the rest of this past year plenty-the ups and downs, how eventually I had my moments of races that came together smoothly (Timberman, Barrelman, Austin), and the way my steely stubbornness and crazy dreams began to push fear aside again on our Kona trip.  But, that doesn't mean that I'm not still afraid of a whole ton heading into next year.  Because I am, big time.  I've done everything that I reasonably could this off season.  I rested.  I had a couple surgeries to fix what could be fixed.  I did absolutely nothing but walk my dogs for four weeks.  I've been methodically rehabbing myself, and I turned myself back over having my training schedule written for me before I even could be overzealous.  But...but.  What if I'm never the same?  What if, despite all of my best efforts, despite the fact that nothing is glaringly obviously wrong with me, I just can't do it anymore?  What if that stupid little butt bone deformity is going to continue to set me back?  I'm afraid that I'll never make it back to an IM start line, let alone a finish line.  I could drive myself nuts.  Sometimes, I do drive myself nuts.  But then I get a grip (arguably...).

   In the wake of Carrie Fisher's passing earlier in the week, I saw this quote floating around: "Stay afraid, but do it anyways.  What's important is the action.  You don't have to wait to be confident.  Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow."  (Note: I've never seen any Star Wars movies-blasphemy-but I liked the quote.)  Hasn't this always been the theme of my triathlon career?  The anecdotes above represent some of my favorite moments of my years in this sport, and they all have a common thread-rising above fear.  Risk/reward.  If I waited until I was confident that something was going to work out, I'd never do anything in life.  There would never be any reward.  At some point in the lead into any of those big days, those great moments, I was a freaking mess.  But, I went ahead with them anyways, because something inside of me wanted it more than I feared it, and nothing was ever as scary as it seemed once underway.  So, that's what I have to do now, staring down 2017 and the uncertainty and fear related to trying to get my Ironman life and dreams back.  Move forward.  Find confidence when I can.  Devote myself to the controllables-the rehab, the slower than molasses progression.  Listen.  Do what I'm supposed to without being a giant pain in the ass (maybe just a small one).  Just keep plugging away.  One of my favorite self-talk messages at the end of long races has always been, "you haven't come this far to blow it now".  This mantra sort of works now (along with, "don't do anything in December that you're going to regret in May...again").  So, that's going to have to be what I go on heading into 2017-I'll try to keep my head straight, level it all out, and remember that I have dreams that are bigger than my fears.

Since we're on the theme of Chinese fortunes, here's a good, classic one from our Christmas Chinese.  Dave and I ended up flying solo on Christmas day, so we obviously ordered Chinese.  It felt right.
And the original fortune discussed here.  I could have moved the ancient white out bottle, but I felt like it sort of fit to describe how long that thing's been taped up there.  But look, 32 is a lucky number.  I'm 32.  26 is, too.  I was 26 when all of the good 2011 stuff happened.  I'll go with it.

And, of course, a Moose.  Why is the Moose relevant, other than that she's always relevant?  Because the Moose is a year into kidney disease now.  She doesn't spend her time worrying about if and when she'll get worse from it.  She looks forward to her dollop of peanut butter with pills hidden in it twice a day, and then goes and runs around the woods and smiles and begs me for petting and shoves her face in my face when I'm trying to do rehab.  Don't worry.  Be happy.