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Friday, January 16, 2015

"It'll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar"

  (Disclaimer: unlike Taylor Swift, I do not have a long list of ex-lovers to tell you I'm insane.  I can't vouch for my sanity, but I can vouch that I wasn't a crazy party girl in college.  Anyways.)

  In my last post, I had said this: "And maybe it's selfish and short-sighted, but I think that sometimes when we're disappointed or upset over something, we need to allow ourselves to feel those emotions and not feel guilty about them just because we could have it far, far worse"  A couple of my close friends had given me a little feedback about this-basically, that sometimes it's ok to feel bad without feeling guilty about it, just because someone else's bad is worse than your bad.  I struggle with this.  They struggle with it, too.  And honestly, my mostly positive outlook and efforts to focus on what I can do haven't been forced-wallowing isn't going to heal one damn part of my body.  I can still do a LOT more than a giant proportion of the population.  But I still have had those moments every now and then.  I've had moments where I just wanted to scream and cry and throw things, when I wanted to forget that moment, when I wanted more than anything to be turning onto my street, pushing out the final few ticks of a run to finish my training day.  I had a few days where the physical pain just did not seem like it was ever going to fade, and I just got sick of trying to look on the bright side of all of it.  For the most part, I've kept these times to myself or shared them just with an intimate few, as the world doesn't necessarily need to know when I'm sad (even though I'm sharing it here, at your own risk?).

And if your way should falter along this stony path, it's just a moment, this time will pass.

  I had one of those days last week. 1/5/15, or 5 weeks, 1 day post-crash.  I had no good reason for it, really.  I'd gotten up, I'd swam, I'd gone to the gym and ridden the recumbent bike, and I was in the middle of doing some strength work when I somehow couldn't take it anymore.  Maybe it was the music streaming into my ears, maybe it was struggling to do simple things with my increasingly unrecognizable body in my increasingly uncomfortably snug clothes, maybe my lack of mobility was increasingly catching up with me, maybe somebody (me) just had a case of the Mondays.  I was trying to do some sort of core exercise, but something hurt (more than normal) and I couldn't do it, and suddenly I couldn't take it anymore.  I felt my eyes start to fill, and I quickly threw some sweats over my sweat-soaked clothes, put on my coat, and made my exit, expertly avoiding any eye contact in order to hide my weakness in that moment.

I once had a grip on everything, it feels better to let go

  I got into my car.  I tried to think of someone to turn to, but I couldn't come up with anyone who would get it or justify me, so I flipped through the radio and drove.  And I don't want the world to see me, cause I don't think that they'd understand; when everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am.  Well, that fit, at least.  I got to the roundabout where I normally turn to go home, but I kept going straight instead.  The sun was shining brilliantly, but the wind was whipping, freezing cold and unforgiving.  I drove up towards the lake, along one of my normal run routes, only in reverse.  I watched the brown waves beat upon the frozen shore, angry and unforgiving. I let them pacify me, and turned for home, up the gradual hill that sometimes I run sub-7:00 pace up when I'm in shape, something that hasn't even made it onto my radar yet.  Once home, I crawled into bed for a quick nap before work, because I just wanted to not have to think.  

Feeling heavy; tried to steady; it's all you've got

   If we weren't disappointed because we didn't reach a goal, then what was the purpose of having the goal?  Shouldn't we care about it?  If we didn't miss something that we do day in and day out when we can't do it, then why would we be doing it in the first place?  Shouldn't something that takes up a huge portion of our time, energy, and, well, life be something that we enjoy enough to miss?  Why would we do it otherwise?  Never once in nearly six years of being a physical therapist have I looked at a patient and said (or thought), so you hurt your shoulder gardening, and now you're disappointed that you can't garden anymore?  Well, at least you didn't get flesh-eating strep and have to get your arm amputated!  Who cares!  Be happy that you're injured, because it could always be worse!  My point is, we all have things that we enjoy doing, and just because they might not seem important to someone else or are totally unnecessary for survival or the betterment of society, it doesn't mean that they aren't or shouldn't be important to us.  I wouldn't expect a painter who can't paint (or, can only create rudimentary outlines of objects) to be brimming with excitement, so I shouldn't necessarily expect myself as a triathlete to be bouncing up and down (with happiness, I might be bouncing up and down with pent-up energy by now) because I can't do my triathlon things.  Hobbies and interests can be passions, and there's not a darn thing that's wrong with it.  I've had people asking me why I do this kind of stuff since I was 12, and I don't have a way to explain it, other than that plain and simple, it's a part of me.

I'm not over, I'm not over you just yet.

  And, also, this sport does matter, in my opinion.  No, it's certainly far from a basic necessity of life, and it really, truly is a privilege, not a right, to have the means to compete, but it just matters.  Why else would I willingly spend hours on end staring at the black line of the pool, looking at the basement wall on my bike, or running in every weather condition know to mankind?  Why would I spend a good portion of my life trying to teach myself to push aside discomfort?  Why else would I spend so much time, money, and energy doing something that carries the risk of acute hurt and injury?  I watched some insane mountain biking competition the other weekend where competitors more or less rode down a straight-out cliff.  During the broadcast, they played a clip of the athletes talking about the injuries that they had sustained and overcome.  It might seem nuts from the outside looking in that these guys kept coming back, over and over again, but I got it.  When we find what makes us tick, we do it.  

And I laugh to myself, while the tears roll down, cause it's the world I know.

   Triathlon, in some weird way, is just some sort of little microcosm of life.  We start off knowing nothing, gain a little knowledge and start to think that we know more than we do, and then finally become smart enough to learn that we'll never know it all, and someone can always teach us more.  We learn that when stripped down to a basic level, we can all find something in common.  We learn gratitude for the plethora of good, supportive, kind, helpful people out there.  We struggle, we triumph, we fall down, we get back up again, because that's all we know how to do.  Material possessions are great, and money can help buy a lot of stuff, but what's inside is still more important.  We learn that sometimes risks pay off, and sometimes they entirely blow up.  There's a time for patience, and there's a time for going for it.  We like some parts more than others, usually because that's what we're best at, but our best chance for forward progress comes from taking on those parts that don't come as easily.  There are major highs and lows, and a whole lot of the mundane in between.  Although some minutes, hours, days, weeks seem like they're never going to end, eventually, they all do.  When I look back, I remember the highs-those great training days when it all clicked, those happily discharged patients, the finish lines, the thank you notes from the runners who met their goals, but I know that the lows and the mundane were necessary to get to them.  At some point, it just becomes about continual forward movement, heart, love, and learning a whole heck of a lot about yourself along the way-usually, that there's more inside of us than we might think.

No it don't come easy; no it don't come fast...desire, taking me so much higher, and leaving me whole.

   I went to work that night, and moved forward with my life.  The next morning, I was back to the pool.  A couple of days later, my ribs finally started to come around, and somehow, I started to come around. A fraction of an inch and a fraction of a second may have put me at the side of the road, watching my goals slide away last year, but sometimes blessings come in weird packages..  For me, right now, the silver lining is quite ironically swimming, or the Achilles heel that has plagued me throughout this whole triathlon career.  I made zero progress in the pool last year.  Quite honestly, I actually regressed in both my times and my attitude, even though I was able to hide it fairly well on race day (case in point: this week last year, my 200/1000 test was a 2:34/14:11. My swim meet times in December were a 7:06 500, and a 2:45 200.  Yikes).  I'm pretty sure that my training logs towards the end of the year began to resemble the ravings of a madwoman descending into an angry lunacy.  Swims were fueled by equal parts frustration and apathy, and I jumped out of the pool shortly after starting in a fit of anger on more than one occasion.  Why?  I don't know exactly, but it was likely a combination of an upper extremity nerve entrapment problem, negativity feeding upon itself, and two well-meaning individuals who just couldn't figure all of it out.  

A moment of love, a dream, a laugh-stay there, cause I'll be coming over, while our blood's still young, it's so young, it runs, won't stop till it's over; won't stop to surrender.

   But now, the closest I get to feeling "normal" is when I'm swimming.  Maybe I can't kick much, but the pull buoy allows me to bilateral breathe, which helps to decrease some of the underlying causes of the nerve problems.  Swimming is feeling less like exercising, and more like training.  And I like training.  If nothing else, I can channel my need to chase goals and numbers and volumes into the water.  The pool is my outlet.  I've started to be able to put in some volume this week, my arms are feeling it, and it definitively feels like awesome.  If finding some...dare I say...enjoyment? in swimming is a side effect of this whole thing, than I'll take it. I still wish I could go back in time and smack myself in the face when I thought that telling Dave, "wouldn't it be ironic if my pelvis was broke and all I could do was swim for a while?" was a funny joke while I laid on a gurney.  But, I've never had a chance quite like I do now to work on it, so work on it I will do.  I'm also recumbent biking and water running, but those are a bit harder to judge (and I'm generally surrounded by people ~40 years older than me while doing them).  I'm also surprisingly finding some satisfaction in the weight room.  I always did like lifting back in the day, and I'm rediscovering that for some degree.  Again, I can see objective improvements, and every week I'm finding that my body can handle more and more there.  My legs are sore right now because my pelvis finally let me lift enough to make them that way, and that also feels like awesome.  

Maybe redemption has stories to tell; maybe forgiveness is right where you fell.

  The x-ray (please forgive me someday when I need you, ovaries) I had earlier this week confirmed what I already knew-healing, but not healed.  I'm fully prepared for little setbacks along the way.  I'll have times where I'll be upset about my fitness, where I'll feel like I'll never get it back, where I won't want to be kind to myself about it-the fact that I couldn't roll over in bed for a few weeks won't change that, it's in my athlete DNA.  I'll be beyond grateful to get back to "normal", but that won't mean that I won't miss my fitness until I find it again.  I know, without a doubt, that I'm going to have to be very, very careful when I am able to start running again (at least another five weeks) if I want to avoid having little injuries creep up here and there as my body goes from unloaded to loaded, concentric to eccentric.  My SI is shifted, my right leg is shorter than my left, and my right glutes are just now starting to remember how to fire.  Those will probably persist long after the bone is done being laid down.  Still, I'm working on all of this, and thankfully, I have a knowledge base (and many resources) to help out with this aspect of it all.  

Get up, get up, get off your knees; get up, get up, get on your feet, now, give it all you've got.

   For now, I'll control what I can control, do what I can do, and allow myself to feel what I'm feeling.  Although I maintain that this was mostly some ploy by the universe to force me to swim more (ha), a part of me also feels like I needed to get back to that girl with the broken butt (the first time), who first put on a pair of goggles, bought a bike, and delighted in every small hurdle crossed on the way to her first triathlon finish line.  Before Kona points and expensive bikes and pro cards and prize money, before pressures and Ironmans and banners and Mexico and crashes, there was a sort of clueless, sort of scared kid still hanging onto her runner identity, totally unaware of the crazy yet wonderful path her life was about to veer off on simply because she hurt herself one too many times and wanted to try something new.  That girl had plenty of self-doubt and uncertainties, but she also had a silly sense of belief, and ability to dream, and a penchant for pushing herself day in and day out in pursuit of that thing that can never really be articulated.  Maybe I'd just crossed too many finish lines, and I needed something to assure that each one would become fulfilling again.  I'm remembering what I was like back then, I'm remembering what it felt like to feel so strongly with every hurdle, and I'm realizing that no matter what happens in the race, my next finish line won't be crossed with some vague sense of ennui, and I won't immediately start looking for what I didn't do so well in the preceding hours.  I lost a lot of things in Mexico-skin, my original 2015 goals, my perfect IM finish rate-but at the end, maybe I'll gain even more.

  Oh, and that girl from a few years ago?  She was afraid to grab a bottle from her frame, too ;)         

Don't stop believing.