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Answers, Waiting, and the New Normal

So I finally got some answers to this vexing pain last week. I went to see a spine specialist (orthopedist) who looked at my MRI and pointed out quite clearly that I have a ruptured cervical disc. The disc material is pressing quite intensely on my 7th cervical nerve, causing this crazy pain AND some weakness in my arm. It was upsetting to see this but also unmistakeable, and also a relief to see in black and white how much absolute sense it makes (all that PT training came flooding back). He has recommended an epidural injection tomorrow to try and bring down the inflammation and swelling. He said it will most likely result in dramatic pain relief (OH BOY! I can’t wait!) and then it will remain to be seen if there is continued weakness from any nerve damage. Then I will have to have a surgical consult, and I don’t like the sound of that, but I am just taking one day at a time, which is about all I can do.

This picture scares me. But if it's gonna take away the pain....
This picture scares me. But if it’s gonna take away the pain….

It was a pretty rough weekend. Mr. McBody was away at a conference all weekend, and I had a lot of time and space to wallow around in a hazy painful cloud. It got a little surreal at times.  I learned by Sunday that it is a good thing to try and keep a schedule. To try and be as functional as possible. I had some company come visit on Sunday and it made a HUGE difference to shower, get dressed and see friends for just a little while. I have learned that I have about a two-minute window from lying down to sitting or standing up, and after that time passes, it just hurts like the devil. However, assuming the “ballerina” position does take some pressure off. When I was at the doctor, he said that this is a classic diagnostic tool and he sees it all the time.

I was really upset when I went to the doctor on Friday, and they told me I had missed my 9:30 appointment. What! It turns out, in my narcotic haze, I had heard “October 11th” and I just kept focusing on the “11” part of it, and showed up at 11:00. But the doctor saw me in the waiting room, looking desperate with my arm over my head, and he squeezed me in. I think he pretty much diagnosed me from across the room, even before seeing the MRI.

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It’s amazing how life can just shift from one version of reality to another. In the span of a few weeks, I have gone from being one of the world’s busiest people, to someone who needs to gather every bit of endurance and energy just to take a shower or get through a five-minute meal at the table.

It’s been a real opportunity for reflection. To really consider my priorities, my identity and what is important. It means a lot to me to be able to continue to write and read. I’ve been snarfing down books. I spent all day Friday reading Alice Munro. So excited about her Nobel Prize. I’ve also been able to spend some real time working on my own writing and editing, when I’m not knocked out by painkillers. I have been able to enjoy some pretty alert hours every day.

My literary hero.

 

I started reading Dave Eggers’ The Circle, yesterday, and I’m almost done. It’s pretty mesmerizing, especially under the circumstances. Right now I feel like I would go mad without social media to keep me connected to the world. But there’s a balance. There’s nothing like human contact, face to face. There’s also nothing like snail mail. I got this awesome get-well gift from one of my writer friends which made me laugh out loud.

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Font joke! hahahaha

It is amazing to me how quickly a body can degenerate. Today I stepped on the scale just for curiosity and I am down more than five pounds. I am sure this is 100% muscle wasting. It takes all my strength to pick up a wet towel. I get shaky standing up even for a few minutes. I feel like I am just dissolving. But I also know that  once this pain is managed, it also does not take too long to regain what has been lost. I’m not totally distraught over it, it’s just kind of remarkable.

I’m eating well, under the circumstances, even though I’ve had about zero appetite (I’m burning about zero calories, too). Before this all began, I had hired a Task Rabbit as kind of a “sneaky caregiver” for my mom. She often is lonely and bored in the afternoons, while we’re all (normally) rushing around working. I thought it might be a good idea to have someone help out with cooking a couple of times a week, with her involvement, so she has some company, AND so that we have some decent food to eat rather than some takeout on the fly. As it turns out, this person has been an absolute godsend. Whereas she was first helping out because I was too busy, now she’s helping because I”m just incapable. THAT part has been like a dream come true. I scroll through Foodgawker and send her links to things that look good, and voila- a few hours later there it is on the kitchen table. AND, my mom really likes her. It’s a win-win.

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Thai Chicken Zucchini Meatballs – MMMMM.

The last few days have just felt like interminable WAITING. Waiting for an answer – and now waiting for a treatment. I really, really hope that this injection will do the trick so that I can get back to my life. But it will be “going back” in a different way. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my priorities. I don’t want to just be rushing around madly from one thing to another, just because I can. I want to slowly re-integrate the things that really matter.

I’m also zoning out a fair amount. I watched the entire first episode of Scandal, which I’m finding addictive, ludicrous and entertaining. Probably just the medicine. And I’m getting to be all long distance doting-grandma to Juniorette’s new baby. Everyone, meet Junie. Isn’t she adorable?

Junie the Hedgehog
Junie the Hedgehog

So, tomorrow morning I’ll be going to the Surgery Center and facing the needle. I’m ready. SO ready to turn some kind of corner.

It’s A Small (Small) World

Here's where you'll find me. All day.
Here’s where you’ll find me. All day.

I’m amazed at how my world has shrunk down in the past two weeks.  Not so long ago, I was driving all over the Bay Area, often over a hundred miles a day, visiting my physical therapy patients at home, commuting to San Francisco to the Writers’ Grotto to write, leading my Weight Watchers meeting and doing a million errands in between.

All that has come to a screeching halt.

Now it’s a big deal to go downstairs in the morning for a cup of coffee. It is a much, much bigger deal to take a shower, wash my hair, towel dry, get dressed, dry my hair. That is like a huge, big ordeal. To have someone else drive me to a PT or medical appointment takes everything I’ve got.

I am grateful to still be able to comfortably use my computer most of the time. But sometimes even that is too much. And then it’s me and a book, or me and my dog, or me with my face up against my little iPhone which seems to contain the entire universe of everyone else going to the gym, working long hours, training for races and everything else that was so recently my Normal.

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Is this the triathlete? Who could do a 5k any old weekend on the spur of the moment? Not right now, baby.

It’s hard letting go of that stuff. It’s hard realizing this probably isn’t going to be all better by next week. It’s hard shedding appointments from my calendar, over and over again. Tonight I had to miss my second Weight Watchers meeting and that just made me so sad. I miss my members.

There are still things to be grateful for. I still feel connected. I am still a part of the world, even though I cannot be in it in the same way that I am used to.

One of my dearest friends, a meditation teacher, sent this to me just now. A gift.

Breathe out all pain as black smoke with each exhale
imagine it completely dissolves into the atmosphere
Breathe in white light that dissolves into you leaving you with a relaxed comfortable body and peaceful mind.
do it with each exhale and inhale.
There are a couple of things out there in the future that I really do NOT want to give up on. One is to be able to read with my fellow Grotto writers at Litcrawl (part of Litquake) on October 19th. We’re going to read in a bowling alley! How awesome will that be.  I really hope that I can manage that.
The second thing is my big, 25th anniversary trip to Mexico with Mr. McBody. We are scheduled to leave on October 27th. All I need to do is make the plane flight(s) and then I can lie down again if I need to. But I will be devastated if I can’t manage it.
So here I am. Physical therapy, rest, special pillows, ice packs, black smoke, white light. Exhale.
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Exposed, Again

exposed-2

When I realized that this week was the 4th year anniversary of the Exposed Movement, originally started by Mish at Eating Journey, my initial reaction was to scoff and whimper, “No way.” I remember feeling pretty great about exposing myself when I joined the movement in 2010. I had been working on my health and fitness for about a year, and I was feeling confident.

This year, I could not be in a more different place. This week I have been debilitated by crazy, relentless pain, and the simple acts of showering or trying to eat a 10-minute meal sitting up have been excruciating.

But as I began to read – and be inspired and moved by- other “anniversary” exposed posts – Carla and Karen and Emily, Jules, Kate and Roni – I felt like, the biggest part of Exposing oneself is in the showing up. As is. And of celebrating what there is to celebrate.

This week, I’m celebrating the fact that I can still find a comfortable position in which to write (on my back, laptop propped on knees). When my writing is taken away, it’s all over. But I’m also contemplating where I’ve been SINCE that first Exposed post back in 2010.

2010

Since then, I’ve:

  • completed two triathlons
  • managed to stay within 5 lbs of my goal weight, and remained on staff at Weight Watchers
  • kept on my committed path of trying to be as healthy and fit as I am able
  • been able to discontinue my diabetes medication completely (although temporarily back on due to all the anti-inflammatories I’m on)

These are all big victories to me. The greatest victory I see is that I have not given up, not taken a U-turn or stopped caring or acting in behalf of my health. I might not be the unstoppable, badass triathlete I was in 2011, but that’s okay.  Here’s a picture I took this afternoon.

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This arm-over-the-head position is the only one that is not excruciating when I’m upright these days.

I’m still here.

What would it mean – what would it look like and feel like – to expose yourself?

Six Things Pain is Teaching Me

I thought I knew pain. I had had my share of it — from hip arthritis to sprained ankles to gallstones and two bouts of childbirth. But nothing has been like the past two weeks of astonishing, electrifying pain that has nearly disabled my every activity.

It started so innocuously. There was an enticing looking trampoline in the back yard of a house we were renting to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I climbed on to bounce with friends, no more than a few minutes.

But the morning after that two-minute jump, I woke up and found that my neck and upper back felt stiff and tweaky, like I’d slept on my pillow wrong. I figured it would go away as soon as I started moving around and loosening things up.

I was wrong. I entered, for the first time in my life, a growing, debilitating, excruciating pain that just would not go away. By the fourth night,I wasn’t able to sleep in my bed any longer. I was up every two hours, crying, only able to find intermittent relief if I rolled around on the floor with a lacrosse ball wedged underneath my shoulder blades.

I went to an acupuncturist. It got worse. I called my primary care physician. I went to physical therapy, where I was iced, and electrically stimulated, and taped. I got prescriptions over the next week for muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, narcotics in stronger and stronger doses, laxatives to ease the constipation of the painkillers, and finally, a Fentanyl patch, which is what they give women in labor. I felt like I was in labor, and that I was going to give birth to a spiny creature through my upper back. This made me vomit violently, causing even more spasming in my back. I had an MRI, which took every ounce of meditation practice I had ever experienced. I took hot, neck-deep baths with Epsom salts.
hot baths up to my neck
hot baths up to my neck

I applied blue ice and microwaved, aromatherapy shoulder wraps. I got a plastic goose hook with a sharp beaky hook, and the only thing that allowed me to tolerate walking around was simultaneously digging that thing into my upper back, poking and clawing at the relentless spasm. A sweet friend came over and gave me a wonderful shiatsu treatment and when she left, I was comfortable lying on blankets on the floor. I dozed off feeling blissed out. But when I got up, the pain returned.

The only thing that gave me pure relief was regular doses of Percocet which allowed me to drift into comfortable sleep. The minute I put myself into a sitting or standing position for more than five minutes, the chewing, clawing sensation resumed.


I have learned many things during this Time of Pain. Things I never really appreciated until now. I learned that:

  1. Pain is expensive. During this period of pain, I had to give up hundreds of dollars for concert tickets I had paid for. Nobody on Craigslist or Facebook wanted to see Jackson Browne as badly as I had. Ditto for a triathlon I had registered for (I went, driven by someone else, to cheer on my friends who had signed up to support me). Ditto for a hotel room I had pre-paid to stay in for a friend’s out of town wedding. It has added up big time, all these things I paid for when I assumed I would be active and well.
  2. Pain is boring.Not only for me, wandering from one horizontal surface to another, but for the kind people who ask me every morning,”How do you feel?” and getting the same tired, dogged answer every time. “Not so great.” I wonder how long these friends will want to stick around when I am not the upbeat, active person I was before that damn trampoline.
  3. Pain is on its own timeline. It seems like maybe it’s getting better. My husband (who has been a saint, and given new meaning to the words “in sickness and in health”) observes that at least now I am “comfortable at rest” instead of “agonizingly uncomfortable no matter what position.” But two weeks into it, I want to be better than able to lie around on my back all day. I need to get up and out and around. I need to be able to drive my car without crazy discomfort or narcotic wooziness. Pain doesn’t give a shit about my schedule, my calendar, my job or my plans.
  4. Pain doesn’t show on the outside. After I employ Lamaze breathing techniques to endure a shower, toweling off, getting dressed and drying my hair, numerous optimistic acquaintances have exclaimed, “You look so much better!” But I am cringing from the stabbing red-hot poker that is assaulting that area between my scapula and my thoracic spine. They don’t notice that it doesn’t take longer than me for ten minute to end up on the floor again, seeking out the ball, the foam roller, the ice bag. I know that I looked “fine” when I was cheering my buddies on at See Jane Tri, but I was feeling terrible. I had to stop several times to roll on a picnic bench.
    Lily rocked the tri. I rocked the cheering on. Sort of.
    Lily rocked the tri. I rocked the cheering on. Sort of.
    I had to lie down on the ball every few minutes.
    I had to lie down on the ball every few minutes.

     

  5. Chronic pain is absolutely debilitating. I am a physical therapist. I used to work primarily with people who had endured years and years of pain. I think about them now. I think about how they used to relay their stories to me and weep. How I didn’t really understand the depth of the mental and emotional exhaustion that pain can exact on a human being. It has only been two weeks for me, but I see that this could be a long road.
  6. Pain is mysterious. Nobody can explain, really, why it hurts the way that it does. Maybe it is a rotated or twisted thoracic vertebrae, out of alignment with a rib. Maybe it is a neuro-electrical loop that won’t close or stop. Maybe it is muscle spasm. Maybe it is the “moderate narrowing” of my cervical spine, pressing on my spinal nerves. Maybe it just IS. Many people can jump and fling themselves around on a trampoline to no ill effects.

As I write this, I don’t know how or when I will feel “normal” again. When I will be able to effortlessly bathe, or eat a meal, let alone drive around in my car all day and practice as a home health physical therapist. When I will be able to swim in open water, ride a bike or run a 5k race. All of these things are like dreams to me now. All I can do is take each moment, each moment of discomfort, to try and learn someting, try and find a shred of compassion for myself and this situation. All I can do is ask for patience and a bit of relief.

heat? ice? whatever.
heat? ice? whatever.
sadly, this is not always possible.
sadly, this is not always possible.

The Week In Which I Cried A River, then Found Hope

hip
These are my actual hips.

So it’s been a rough couple of months out here. I’ve basically been having nonstop right hip pain ever since the Oakland half marathon, and it’s been bumming me out big time. The hardest part has been not knowing for sure what was wrong – was it a muscle pull? Bursitis? For a month or so I thought it might be due to some pretty big fibroids I have. But although they are clinically classified as “huge,” they have not grown or changed in size since 2009. So my gynecologist was not ready to do anything drastic until I got a complete workup from an orthopedist.

I finally went and had that evaluation on Wednesday. First he did a physical exam. He said he was pretty sure that I did have hip arthritis, and also based on my symptoms, pretty sure I am going to need a total hip replacement.

Thud.

(that was my heart falling out of my body onto the floor)

I had been sort of bracing myself for this possibility. I tried to recover myself quickly and then I asked, “But what about running?” I think I had this picture in my head, like, as soon as I can just get FIXED, then I can carry on with all my usual stuff, that has, been by the way, on hold for a long time. He said, you know, people are going to do what they’re going to do, but we really do not recommend it. Especially for a young person, we want that new joint to last a long time, and the more you use it, the faster it will wear out.

And then I started crying. And pretty much didn’t stop for about eight hours, until I passed out from sobbing. I had to go to my Weight Watchers meeting. I drove past the site of See Jane Run and totally LOST MY SHIT.

I thought, that was my last race. Of my entire life. I thought, I was going to do that half marathon. And now I never will. I was choke-sobbing all the way to the parking lot of my WW center. I tried to pull myself together. A few of my observant members noticed that I looked like hell. They asked me if I was having a bad day. I really could not even talk about it for fear I would start hysterically wailing right there. I went and hid in a storage closet until the meeting was supposed to start, and miraculously I got through it more or less. It was frankly a relief to talk about SALADS for half an hour.

I got back in my car. The waterworks resumed. I had this image of coming into the house and seeing my beloved medal rack with all my race bling hanging there. I was wailing as if the world was over. Part of my world WAS over. I went home and crawled into bed. I felt like I was seventeen years old and the love of my life was breaking up with me. The love that I had never thought I’d have. Who ignored me my whole life and then finally turned their attention to me and said I was worthy.

Mr. McBody came in and held me as I carried on. I told him that he was not allowed to utter the words “swim” or “bike” until I deemed it acceptable. It was like when we lost our first child. People kept saying I would go on to have other wonderful children. Which turned out to be TRUE, but at that moment it was the last thing on earth I was able to hear. So, I might go on to have a wonderful biking or swimming life, but at that moment I needed to mourn the running.

Sometime during all this melee, I received a text from my dear friend Carla. She texted, Have you seen hiprunner.com? They have an e-Book….

my new community
my new community

I took a look at the site on Thursday, when my head was throbbing and my eyelids looked like giant waterbeds. I made some sort of wild noise of disbelief and joy as I read about other runners who had undergone hip replacements and who were… RUNNING! WHAT!?!?!?!?!? I immediately posted a comment of OMG OMG OMG are you kidding me?! I received a very warm welcome and an invitation to join the Hip Runners Club. Did I want to participate? HELL YES.

So. I have dried my tears. I am dusting myself off and looking toward the next whatever-it-is. I don’t know when this will actually happen because I need to find myself a new orthopedist (the one I saw this week is retiring) and I am going to find one who believes that some form of running post-op will be okay.

And I’m gonna order myself this T-shirt. Game on.

Bring it on.
Bring it on.

I’m A (Slightly Hobbled) SuperJane!

me and Kerina, SJR social media star!
me and Kerina, SJR social media star!

A few months ago, I was thrilled and honored to be nominated as a SuperJane, aka an ambassador for See Jane Run. This was such a fantastic thing for me, because I have loved and adored SJR ever since I ran in my second 5k back in 2009. There’s nothing more joyous and celebratory than getting a champagne flute and chocolate at the finish line of a race! (I also love SJR for awarding medals for a 5k race – THAT is so awesome and validating)

Me and Pubsgal, See Jane Run 2009
Me and Pubsgal, See Jane Run 2009

I was so excited to do my first SJR Half Marathon coming up this Saturday. But ever since March, my hip has been getting more and more zingy/painful. I think that I may be finally getting down to the bottom of what is causing this pain (should have final news by next week), but it has meant a serious curtailment of my training. This has been really disappointing.

I have finally had to come to grips with the fact that I’m either going to be doing the See Jane Run 5k verrry slowly this weekend (walk/jog), or I’m going to be a cheerleader. Which is prety cool in and of itself. There’s nothing like cheering on other runners, especially beginning runners. My second See Jane Run, last year, was also really special because I was able to run with my friend Mary, who was doing her very first race. This race is one of the friendliest, well organized and encouraging races for women of all abilities, speeds and sizes. Which is why I love them.

Me and Mary (her first race!), See Jane Run 2012

For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling kind of glum about not being able to do the half marathon like I had planned. I then spent a fair amount of time feeling like SJR had made a complete mistake in asking me to be, of all things, a “Super Jane.” But then I took a look at their manifesto and it brought a lump to my throat and smile to my face.

manifesto

A bunch of members from my Weight Watchers meeting have gotten all excited about participating in the race this weekend. They’ve designed a group T-shirt and are all full of enthusiasm. For most of them, it is their first race. I am so happy for them and will be so thrilled to be at this event with them. It’s okay that I’m not running at my best pace. It’s okay that I’m not going to do the half marathon (this time). Some of them will be walking. I will  hang with them and have a rockin’ good time. This is what being a Jane is all about.

It will be a beautiful day. Bring on the bubbly and chocolate!

 

Diary of an Injury

I’ve been dealing with a hurt hip ever since the Oakland Half Marathon over a month ago. I’ve been trying not to freak out about it, but it continues to persist off and on. I have to admit it has slowed me down both physically and emotionally. Trying to remain positive.

For the first week, it was hurting a LOT. So much so that it made me wince to walk even a short distance. I was traveling that week, and the combination of post-race, then a long plane flight, then a bunch of sitting made it really hurt. I didn’t find relief until I located a used softball for $1 at a sporting goods store.

Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!
Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!

After I got home, I finally decided that I needed to seek professional help. I went and found a physical therapist that I really liked.

I enjoyed the massive ice packs.
I enjoyed the massive ice packs.

However, alas, after three treatments I discovered that this particular place was not covered by my insurance plan and would not be reimbursed. Big sad. 😦

I decided to take a different route. I went back to my trainer, who also is very skilled at body work. I went in there limping about a week ago. He mashed on my hip and stretched me for over 90 minutes. After he was done, I was pain free. He’s so good at what he does.

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magic hands
magic hands

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was kind of discouraging. But I’ve been trying to focus on other things. I started taking a MSBR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Class. Which has been amazing and wonderful. I think it has helped me cope with this injury more than anything else. It is a weekly class held at the Writers’ Grotto where I write. It’s been a real opportunity for reflection. Am I doing too much? Not enough? Am I getting lazy, or am I resting it appropriately? It is so hard to know. I’m just trying to be patient.

Last week I got this brochure in the mail and damn, I’m tempted to take it just so I can figure out what the heck is going on, and how to fix it. A friend of mine suggested that I look into trying to get some of those black rings inserted. Heh.

Physical therapist, heal thyself.
Physical therapist, heal thyself.

The See Jane Run half marathon is three weeks from today. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do. Part of me is still so reluctant to downgrade to the 5k, but I kind of know that’s what I need to do. I haven’t run more than three miles at a time since the Oakland Half.

My meditation and mindfulness practice has taught me that this, too, shall pass (I hope).

Improv Workouts from Beach to Forest

I’ve been traveling for the past couple of weeks. Working out has been severely curtailed, although I’ve tried to keep up with the minimum of “twenty minutes of something- anything!” as much as possible. I feel my body sort of weakening.

I got on a plane just a few days after finishing the Oakland half. My hip was already feeling pretty wonky. But then sitting on a plane for 6+ hours, then sitting in a car for another day, then a bunch of writing – and more sitting – it’s been orthopedically tough. I have only really had one run since I left California on March 28th- a shivery cold run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Brrrrr. But pretty.
Brrrrr. But pretty.

Since then, a few hikes and many beach walks. The first beach walks on soft sand were kind of excruciatingly painful for that hip.

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I tried to get an appointment with the local physical therapist but that didn’t work out. I ended up going to a sports store, one of the few little shops open during the winter season. Near the front door, a wire basket with a sign “Used Softballs $1.” That was pretty much one of the best one-dollar investments I ever made. I brought that baby home and rolled the heck out of my hip. OWIIIIEEEE. But good owie. Necessary owie. The ball rolling has made a huge difference. After the softball sessions, the beach walks ended up being a lot less painful.

Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!
Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!

This week I’ve made a complete change of scene – back to California. I had one day at home and I was so glad to get back onto my “home” trail a few blocks from my house. Ahhhh.

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Then on Thursday, I relocated to a friend’s remote cabin/barn/cathedral in the woods. Kind of amazing. We are miles from anywhere. The forest here is stunningly peaceful, beautiful. Yesterday I took a hike and explored around. Today I took another one. I was feeling like, this is nice, but it’s just not ENOUGH. I found a little clearing and did a bunch of 100-set invisible jumpropes on the soft pine needle floor. It was really cushy and comfortable. I worked up a tiny little sweat. I hike along a deserted logging road. Did I mention there is nobody around here for miles and miles? I took off my shirt. Because of that. The sun felt so nice.

Little trees growing in the road
Little trees growing in the road

I am not normally someone who walks around in a sports bra. Yeah, you can do that if you are young and buff and such, but not if you are an over-50 somewhat mushy, haven’t-done-weights-in-too-long kinda gal. I poked at my upper arms as I walked. This did not make me happy. I picked up some thick branches that were almost logs. Maybe 5-10 lbs or so. I lifted and pressed as I walked. That felt good. I put it down and did some more invisible jumpropes. I did some hill repeats, carrying the log thing. I was having fun jumping and hauling logs around in the woods in my sports bra. Hahaha.

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I got back to the cabin (after getting just semi-lost and bushwacking my way back) and felt better about my level of activity today. It was fun, improvising it up out there in the forest.

I’m looking forward to getting back home next week. To doing some night swimming at the pool with my buddy Lily. To getting back to seeing my trainer now and and again.  To having some fun at a Nia class.To working my way back up to another half marathon in June.

Traveling is good. It brings you out of yourself and the dailiness of it all, to seeing things in a new way. I’m grateful for my forest workout today, for feeling free under the trees and the sun.

My Achilles Wrist, My Achilles Mind

Ah, I’ve been gone a long time, haven’t I? People have been noticing. I’ve been getting emails and also in-person inquiries of “How ARE you? You’re not blogging!” It’s true. I have been gone a long time. And I now understand how people can sometimes just evaporate from the blogosophere.

It pretty much started during my Yosemite snowshoe weekend. (actually it started much earlier, but the most current issue started then) I woke up the next morning with a pain at the base of my thumb, near my wrist. I didn’t really give it much thought. But it pretty much persisted for weeks and it kept getting worse. Finally it was keeping me up at night and I was yelping in pain every time I tried to do ANYthing with my left hand. So I went to my good friend who also happens to be a hand physical therapist (handy, huh? no pun intended). She confirmed my suspicions that I had a raging case of DeQuervain’s Tendinitis (see, I *was* paying attention in class 30 years ago!!). I had a “double positive” Finkelstein’s sign and my left wrist was measured to be swollen. She made me a nice splint to keep it in a good neutral position, and prescribed 2 weeks of NO SWIMMING or BIKING. (or anything else that aggravated my condition)

Two weeks of no swimming or biking! But… but… but… I’m training for a triathlon! That was the start of it. At the end of two weeks, my wrist was only about 20% better. AND I came down with a horrible nasty cold thing which had me in bed for a week, and then after that, I was well enough to work but then not well enough to do any kind of workout AFTER work. Two weeks + two weeks = a month.

A month of barely any training other than some jogging put me into a serious funk. I felt awful, and wimpy, and sorry for myself, and pathetic and all sorts of other things. I ate things that seemed to help for about half a second and then made things two hundred percent worse. I spiraled into yuckitude.

I thought about quitting. But I’m a MENTOR. Which makes things so much harder. I think as a regular participant I would have felt fine saying “This is just not my season to do this” and I would have bowed out. I’ve done that with other races in the past and it hasn’t been the end of the world. But I really really struggled with being a horrible role model and bad mentor and blah blah blah.

It took me a long, long, long time to come around to the decision to scrap the Maui Tri plan altogether (complicated by the fact that my buddy Lily had also decided that Maui was not a realistic option for her). Then what was left? Wildflower! The steepest, hilliest, biggest and baddest triathlon around (except for maybe Escape from Alcatraz, which I would not consider under hallucinogenics). I never wanted to do Wildflower. EVER. I was never even the teeniest bit tempted. But guess what? Maui does not have a Sprint distance option. So it looked like it was down to the Wildflower Sprint (otherwise known as “Mountain Bike Course”) or nothing.

When recommitment week came, I sat and stared at those papers for hours. I cried over them and paced around and just did not know what to do. Finally I signed up for the Wildflower Sprint and that’s where we are. I am one of 2 people from our team (2 out of 50) who is doing the sprint option. When it’s that much of a minority, I can’t help feeling kind of out of it, kind of not really part of the “real” team. And so on and so forth.

It’s been a freaking struggle. And it’s been hard to blog about because I’ve just been in this bad place in my head.

But recently things changed sufficiently for me to turn things around a little. One, I realized that Life is Short. This was accentuated by attending two memorial services this weekend, for two men/husbands/life partners of women friends of mine. One passed away after a decade of illness and suffering. The other died suddenly and unexpectedly. Both events were MAJOR wakeup calls. You never know when you will become extremely ill OR when you will be healthy, exercising and eating organic and then die suddenly anyway. So why suffer needlessly?

Last week I realized how much I was dreading certain things in my life. One of which was various aspects of tri training. I decided to stop beating myself up for a million reasons in a million ways. I realized that nobody was holding a gun to my head and MAKING me train for a triathlon. And that the person most responsible for my suffering was ME. (um, duh)

So I decided to cut myself a break. For one, I didn’t force myself to get on the bicycle when my wrist is still hurting. It still hurts me to pick up a cup of coffee, to wash my hair, to pull up my pants. The conservative treatment I’ve been following so far has helped, but not enough. So I’m going to a hand doctor and see if a cortisone shot might not help. It has its risks, but I am ready to move on and try it now.

Last week I went back to my beloved trainer for two workouts. I almost cried it felt so good. I was able to fully use 3/4 of my limbs and I got a crazy workout in. I was a very happy sweatball. I remembered that working out can feel good.

I also realized that there is such a thing as fit. I really like the people on my team, but I also think that the fit is not the best one for me. I am constantly feeling (through my own doing, not theirs) so slow, incapable and wimpy. I am always the last. And while I am not competitive so that I need to WIN (hahahaha), but I also really dislike people having to wait for me to finish while they are standing around. I like being middle-of-the-pack.

This coming weekend is Wildflower Training Weekend. Which is a big wild camping trip in which we get to test out the course, but instead of doing it as a tri we will do the swim/bike on Saturday and the run on Sunday. It is really going to be a test for me, in which I decide, OK, the mountain bike tri is going to be just fine. Or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, I’m just going to let it go. I’m going to be a good mentor and cheerleader and not cry about it anymore.

So this long absence has been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve had a really rough time but I’ve also had some major epiphanies and there’s a lot of change coming, not just with the triathlon training but in other areas of my life. Transition is hard but it gets you to the next place, and that’s a good thing.

I hope that some of you are still around to read this! I’ve missed being here.

 

 

 

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