Thursday, August 24, 2017

I Am Actually Proud

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I don't say that often. That I am proud.

I don't even know if I've ever said it but not really meant it. It feels like just saying "I'm Proud" is so cocky... and pretentious.

(Well THERE'S a sad, small glimpse into my confidence, psyche and upbringing. But anyway...)

I'm often proud of the people in my family. It's a pride I feel FOR them, and a happiness I feel for their accomplishments.

This time, I'm actually proud of ME. And it feels strange to type it. I don't know that I've even said it aloud. Maybe to The Hubs, but that's even doubtful.

This past weekend I competed in my second sprint triathlon. It's my third triathlon this year, (well, EVER) but the first one was a "short" distance. The sprint is longer and consists of a 750m swim, a 20km bike ride, and then a 5km run. Like, all at once. On the same day. Back to back. Moving non stop. (Who chooses to do this shit you ask? I dunno, seriously.)

Me and The Hubs had talked about triathlons in 2016. He signed up for an Olympic (Standard) distance lake race in the fall of 2017. I had (breathlessly, slowly, poorly) completed the Whistler Mudderella course in fall 2016 when other ladies there were talking about triathlon. It seemed interesting - the sports involved were far less likely to cause surprise injuries or rib sprains or torn quad muscles like the obstacle race bullshit always ended with me.

Me + FUN, not-typical physical exertion/race = FAIL




Source (I think, I'm not sure, I fucking hate Pinterest and its pop ups....)


The seed was planted, but I knew that I wasn't fit enough. Or strong enough mentally. I had finally put my butt back on a bike for the first time in TWO LITERAL DECADES in spring of 2016 and the idea of 20km seemed like a distant dream. It was the first bike I'd ever used with hand brakes! Then I was extremely ill with a chest infection for October, followed by a solid month of virus in our household for December.

The idea of completing something that seemed so massive just seemed impossible. Those around me (not The Hubs) were quick to tell me it would be stupid, that I do things like that and get hurt, that I couldn't do it. And so I believed that. I decided I wasn't capable.


And with all my aches and pains and health problems, I went on a run on vacation in January. And my stomach pain temporarily subsided. I felt so sluggish, out of shape, and pathetically slow compared to the patient (and not even REMOTELY out-of-breath) Hubs, but I did it. In the sun. There were walk breaks, but it was the only time on vacation when my stomach didn't feel terrible.

So we went for two more runs. And for a fleeting moment, I felt STRONG when I was running up an incline. It was quick, but it was an incredible feeling.

And so, that began my training.

Spin classes in the pouring Vancouver rain, running around an indoor track, and swimming. Oh dear lord the swimming. I still so totally and completely SUCK at swimming, but even there I've made leaps and bounds.

I have very vivid memories of beginning to drown in a pool as a child. My mom couldn't swim so couldn't jump in to save me. I remember it all so clearly. And it's never left me.

So I learned to swim with my head above the water at all times. My front crawl (or freestyle?) was like that of a lifeguard, where I keep my face up and out of the water the entire time. It was exhausting. The back half of my body is angled down, and basically acts like a dickish anchor, impolitely slowing me the f*ck down no matter how hard I swim.

The short triathlon was hard. It was a 50m long pool and I took long breaks at the end of each lap. I still need breaks now after every 25m. Yup, every.single.frikkin.one. But I'm doing it still. I swim the 25m in about 29-31 seconds consistently. Any slower and I seem to sink. Can't really go much faster. But I need a break at the end of the lap because I'm not breathing properly.

In April I finally forced myself to learn to swim with my face in the water, properly(ish), and it was AND CONTINUES to be wholly terrifying. No exaggeration, the entire swim is a full blown panic attack for me, every time.


This liquid is going to swallow me. (Source)


But I'm not giving up, motherfuckers. Nope.
Yippy kai ay.
I have no idea how that is actually supposed to be written and I'm too bloody lazy to google it.

So I completed this sprint triathlon. My swim was slow. And I have to put myself in a slow bracket because my overall time IS around 26 minutes. But my laps are fast so I'm gurgling and looking for the swimmers in my lane that are actual NORMAL swimmers who don't freak the fuck out and breathe normally but just swim more slowly. I have to haul ass and then rest at the wall. It's not ideal but that is where I need to be. I'm eating feet and then passing if I can, just so I don't sink, and even though I tell my lane mates my weird system, I'm sure I'm annoying them. But that is how it is, and I do all I can to stay out of the way.

I got my bike, and went for it.

I had completed a 55km bike race in July where shit went sideways for a multitude of reasons, and I thought I was having a stroke. Turns out it was a migraine with aura, which took most of my vision away for the last 5km of the race. I was worried that it would be another exercise induced deal at the triathlon, and was prepared to stop and leave the race if I had to.

This was the first race where I was able to pull and drink from my water bottle, and grab chews from my jersey WHILE CYCLING. Laugh if you want, but this was a big deal for me. Before I was too forward/arm heavy and would appear to be suffering from spontaneous electrocution on my bike before fantastically crashing to the ground because I'd tip sideways. I did end up stopping for water for a minute or two at the turnaround point aid station because the Gatorade I had was tasting slightly like ass and bad breath. Mmmmmmm.

It felt like I was moving much slower than my May race, but it turns out I actually went quite a bit faster. I didn't know until I was done. And that was on my hybrid bike. I still really want a proper road bike and clip-in cycling shoes. But baby steps for now.

Then, the run. I suck at running, but I have been trying to keep at it. I'm not the fastest, and my post-baby bladder sometimes likes to just fuck with me and decide I need an ISTA-PEE, regardless of my surroundings or proximity to an ACTUAL TOILET. But, I digress.

Actual photo of me on my last training run. (Source)


This run had hills. One really big one. And I HATE running up hills. I had to take a few walk breaks and figured I shouldn't be in the race. It felt like the opposite of those slopes on vacation. I stopped for water. I couldn't maintain my pace, and felt like I had blown it.

Then I forced myself up the last hill and in another half kilometre, I was done.

I looked at my watch - I had shaved 14 minutes off of my time from three months prior.

I thought I made an error on my watch. But I hadn't.
I actually started to cry a little. I hadn't passed Hubs based on our swim start times (before he had always passed me once or twice which was the motivation I needed to keep strong). I didn't know anyone else, had almost not signed up because I was literally so scared of the swim, afraid that I wouldn't be able to finish, worried that I'd be a joke to those who enjoy seeing me fail. I didn't sleep the night before. My already constant-in-every day anxiety was so insane. I hadn't been able to train as much due to illness, heat, air quality and scheduling with Baby D.

And I crossed that finish line STRONG. I was scared, but I was brave goddammit.
And I can say, for the first time in a very, very long time, that I am proud.

And that's a big deal.


_____________________________




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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Sad Heart & Broken Pencil Crayons

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This is another one of those probably-too-hard-on-myself things, but it is still my reality and so I'm going to write about it here.

I've recently learned a new name for my bullying myself. It's called harsh superego and it fucking sucks. But more on that another time.

I struggle as a mom to Baby D to give her all she needs to thrive. I have fairly extreme fatigue, I'm training for my second (YES - SECOND!!) triathlon, I'm working through abusive/narcissistic parent issues in therapy, and I have treatment-resistant depression and anxiety.

Before Baby D, I had a hard time getting up and out of bed. I've never had energy. I have never in my teens or adult life woken refreshed. Or ready to seize the day. EVER.

But that is the reality of my life, and my health and my body. So I zone out sometimes, I'm always tired, in chronic pain, and I'm fighting some serious demons from a really sad childhood. There are new revelations every day and it is just draining.

Is that an excuse to be a shit mom? NOPE. Am I ALWAYS a shit mom? NOPE. But I know I let the fatigue take over and I don't want to play on the play room floor or draw. The kind of things that Baby D's Aunts and loving Grandparents (read: not my father) would be all over.

It pains me to write it, but it's true. Playing in the play room is the last on my list of things I want to do. I love to snuggle her, and tickle and fling her around the living room. I love to bike with her, or pull her in the trailer. I love to walk with her, but she usually resists me like I've asked her to floss my teeth with live electrical wires. I love when she will just talk to me and ask questions and we can look at the world. We play pretend superheroes with our hands and she loves it. We can play board games or read as long as she is willing. But the play room. I hate the play room.

I used to like to sit on the floor or draw, but she has a way of making me just sit and watch. Or I get a feather to play with and she gets the good toys, lol. I used to love to draw but she stopped working with me. I lost interest fast.

So today I sat in the play room while I was doing some bill payment/internet-y stuff (no, not porn). We talked while she drew and she told me what she was doing and showed me her work. It seemed like a decent compromise. I noticed a few of the pencil crayons she picked up were worn down.

Then, it was off to swimming lessons. Usually I do laps at the same time, but I'm recovering from the flu and just getting her to the pool took gargantuan effort today.

Fast forward to tonight. She was in bed. I'm still having post-surgery pain from February of last year. Yeah. I really wanted to sit in a hot epsom salt bath, but I figured I would stay downstairs to keep our senior, borderline dementia dog company for a while. Buy a few hours for later when he barks for company in the middle of the night.

And I remembered the pencil crayons.

I grabbed the sharpener I bought specifically for keeping those babies at the ready, and went to the play room to find a few.

All but five were broken off or worn down. And it hit me hard.

It might not seem like much, but it actually says a lot.


If I had drawn with her, even just one of the last six times the kid had asked me to.... when I was tired and late off the draw, scrambling to make dinner in reasonable time... when we got back from somewhere after I'd exercised and I was feeling utterly spent... when the laundry pile was overflowing onto the floor and couldn't be ignored anymore... when I had to clean up the dog's incontinence for the third time that day and start bleaching down the floors... when she had been previously been giving me all of the threenager sass and attitude I could stand and I just needed some separation from her... when I desperately just needed to finally eat and maybe rest on the couch for 20 minutes...

All those times that it would have taken a little extra effort, but not THAT much effort...

I would have seen that she couldn't even draw with them. I didn't give her that time. I didn't give her even a few minutes to draw. And that's not okay.

Yes she had crayons overflowing, and the few markers left that were miraculously capped and not dried out. But the pencil crayons were my love when I was a kid, and I gave them to her. And then I ignored her and them.

I will never catch up to the housework. I will never be clutter free, or a good cook. I feel so much guilt around not being better domestically and keeping on top of things. But this kid is only going to want to draw with Mommy for a while. She will only be this little, and this creative and interactive NOW. I keep hoping that soon I'll "feel better" and have more energy. The reality is that she deserves the energy I have, and we will NEVER get this time back together.

Tomorrow we're going to fucking draw. You bet your ass. With a boatload of sharp, fresh pencil crayons.


____________________________




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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Cycling for the Terrified (Me)

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So... many of you out there probably have an idea of what it's like to be anxious. At least, occasionally, anyway. Maybe some of you do suffer with more regular anxiety in your life. Maybe it just pops up when there is something particular stressful happening in your life.

Then, there is the lucky type such as myself who gets to shoulder generalized anxiety disorder with a hefty side of social anxiety. It's pretty great. For one low price, you get to constantly worry about every little detail of your life - the safety and well-being of the people you love, every pain/ache/unwell feeling in your own body, the safety of the roads, the safety of the car seat straps, the strength and function of the locks on all the exterior doors of the house, the quality of life of the dogs, the balance between structure/learning and downtime for your active child, the damage Trump is doing already as "President", the global warming crisis....

Okay, wow, that was just the current top-of-mind stuff.

So... after many, many, many years of trying to work through a lot of that, here I sit! It seems to be a part of me that has no intention of waning or leaving.

Nowadays, especially since having Baby D, I realize that I need an outlet. Exercising seems like as good as any option (mind you, if you read this blog or know me in real life, you know that never seems to work out very well because my body seems to enjoy injuries and illness far far more than being active and healthy....).

But then creeps in that motherfucking anxiety.

Baby D is in a class so I can bike. But... I don't know how to change a flat tire. I don't even own an extra tube. I have a portable pump, but I don't know where to attach it to my bike frame so it's been a fixture in the back seat of my vehicle (Pro-tip: super helpful to have a pump somewhere inaccessible and useless!). I also fear speed. I clocked just under 40km/hr downhill yesterday and I nearly had to change my bib shorts. I see any twig or uneven surface as a possible Stephanie-launching enemy. I AM that person that would hit a branch the wrong way and break all my limbs while landing on a dump truck.

I worry that something will happen with her and I won't hear my phone ring. Or that I will end up too far from my home or car and not make it back in time. I set an alarm on my phone, but also fear it's set wrong or won't be audible. Seriously. I set an alarm yesterday, and it never went off while I was riding. Turns out I somehow set it for 1:50pm but specifically for Friday. It was Monday.

Riding on the road means certain death. Drivers in BC are terrifying, even moreso when all there is between you is some air and a helmet. If I pull the kid in the trailer, you bet your ass we're on a trail without traffic.

So I try to live life. I don't want my fear of all things to keep me down and hiding behind drawn curtains. For someone without anxiety, that only seems logical. I feel like those readers who also suffer, either openly or privately, will understand just how much more daunting trying to get out there and bike, or swim, or run, can be when you fear a thousand scenarios beyond just getting yourself out there and moving.

I know I can fail. Or just really suck at the sport. That isn't where the fear lies. I was raised to assume I will fail. But I recognize that it'll take work to really see gains, and there's no way to improve unless I keep trying. And the chronic pain? It can just STFU for a little while because I will hurt whether or not I exercise.

I've been told that I am foolish to keep training or exercising when I get hurt so easily. While I see the truth in that when it comes to things like obstacle races (I can't effectively train for some of those motions/movements, and I've been injured at them repeatedly, so I'm done with those for the next few years, anyway), I am still working towards racing. Having a goal of something that really scares me, even keeps me awake some nights, is something to really work towards. I take it seriously and know I have to put in several workouts a week if I really want it to happen.

Riding can feel so freeing. It's awesome to be able to physically climb some of the badass hills around here. I need to take breaks, but I don't quit. I feel fear but also excitement, which is pretty amazing. I AM capable.

I fear stupid shit AND big shit. So I might as well still aim high. 

I watch Baby D, and although she is just finally starting to show more signs of apprehension and hesitation before some activities where she can get hurt, I also see her total zest for life and willingness to try something. And she usually LOVES it once she gets out there. She's inspiring. She's everything I want to be when I grow up. Ha.

_________________________________


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Not Entirely Sure How...

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But it's true.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.






Indeed it is true.

Have a wonderful day!

_______________________
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

How Do You Train When Your Body Hates You?

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Some of you may know that I've struggled with health issues, illness and injuries throughout my life.

Many of the more recent injuries were from attempting fun sporting events or races with insufficient training, bad luck and a body seemingly made of tissue paper. At this stage and age, I know I can't do it anymore and just hope for the best. So I've been a very good girl since Mudderella in September of 2016. I went in with some training, but had been set back from illness and two injuries sustained over the summer.

I made it through that uphill obstacle race using caution and survived unscathed. That's the first event with a successful outcome.

When I was growing up, sports and exercise were never really a part of my life. I did a fun dance class when I was young, but the vast majority of my sporting and exercise exposure was through different events at school.

And even then, the first time I skied when I was 11 or 12, I managed to break my baby finger. On the bunny/baby slope. While wearing mitts. On a snow fence to the opposite side of my injured hand.

That type of shake-my-head-what-the-hell-happened type of injury was the first of many.

In high school gymnastics I was injured trying to dismount in a straddle from the high uneven bar, over the low bar, to land on the ground. I'd done it many times before, but on that particular day, whoever installed the high bar into the metal post stands forgot to actually ATTACH it. The bar bounced up and out of the poles and I managed to smash both ankles into the low bar. And to make matters worse, Coach Mackey forced me to jump back up to the high bar immediately, and the pain was horrific. The memory is seared into my mind. Her wanting me to "get back on the horse" did not fit well with damaged tendons.

Anyway, this idea of being hurt isn't new. But I've tried to train better as I've gotten older. And my body has resisted me at every step of the way.

I've wanted to continue with obstacle races and challenges, like the wine country half marathon, to prove to myself that I am capable. To have something to look forward to - a goal that both scares and motivates me. A reason to keep moving and eventually feel a sense of accomplishment.

While raising Baby D is an accomplishment, and something wonderful, my world is relatively small. It's taken a major shift just since January of 2017 to realize that it's okay for me to go exercise for myself. To plan and take the time to do it for me.

And I have also had a shift in my thinking and endurance. Previous medications I had been on caused me to overheat really quickly and even pushing my heart rate would make me feel incredibly ill. I would try and assumed that it was just that I was too overweight/out of shape and that exercise would stop being so hellish once I was "conditioned". Having those medications out of my system has been ASTOUNDING. I start to feel unwell when I push my heart rate to the max zone, and understandably so, but overall exercise is challenging in a GOOD way - I don't feel that horrible drowning feeling that I used to. That is incredibly freeing and has allowed me to ramp up my intensity.

So... I had started training more seriously. Nothing over the top or insane. Activities maybe 4-5 times per week. Running (which is still jogging/walking intervals for me), spin classes and swimming.The odd random fitness class like kickboxing or rock climbing or aerobics.

Before 2017 I had tried ONE spinning class, and I figured I would never be strong enough or fit enough to do another. But I CAN. I AM STRONG ENOUGH. And it feels fucking AMAZING to finish a class and know that it was a big fear of mine but I can do it. And improve in it.

But with this training, I've tried to eat more often. I usually have horrific nausea in the morning so I've started forcing myself to chug a green smoothie with protein powder, chia seeds, spinach, peas, hemp hearts, avocado and water. It's gross yet, surprisingly, I don't feel like throwing up afterward.

I reduced my caffeine intake to half a cup of coffee, or 2/3 cup of tea, and I have DRAMATICALLY cut back on alcohol. I used to drink a few bottles of wine a week. Now, I'll have it if we have dinner with friends, and have had a glass on maybe four occasions at home since mid-November.

Here comes the new hurdle...my body has basically told me to fuck off. I woke up 5 weeks into training, feeling like I'd been hit by a truck. I thought it was a period setback. But I got worse... and worse. And at the end of that week I went to the hospital emergency room when I nearly passed out after an inactive day, and a nap.

I have atrociously low iron stores, but the rest of my blood work was stellar. On paper, I was a rock star. At home, I was barely keeping my eyes open to take care of Baby D. The doc explained that he had seen cases like mine before and he believed that it was over training.

OVER TRAINING??? I was just being HEALTHY. Or at least trying. Unsuccessfully. I never pushed myself to feeling horrible. I worked hard in whatever activity I was doing that day, but never went insane. I really believe that while it was an increase from what I was used to, it was well within what a "NORMAL" person could easily manage.

And yes, I know, I'm not normal. But this is nuts. I'm ending week two of rest. I did an 8km outdoor bike ride with the Hubs yesterday and was very tired after.

I hate feeling helpless when I really made good choices, didn't FEEL like I pushed myself in any kind of harmful way. The Hubs can do a 6+km run and swim 1km no prob and play hockey later that night.

So how do I train when my body hates me? When 5 weeks of progressive training results in 2 weeks of uselessness? I signed up for my first even in early March and I hate being sidelined.

And while everyone likes to say to stop or slow down a bunch, imagine being me. Trying, doing everything right, looking perfectly healthy on paper. Trying to do what thousands of other do every day. I want to have goals, something to work towards, and it is so frustrating when it just seems like I need to take a two week vacation because my body hates me.

I'm going to start back in much easier this week, slowly, but I still want to do my race.
I hate constantly feeling like I'm benched.
Like I can't PARTICIPATE in life. In fun things.

It's so disheartening and upsetting.

_____________________________


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