Monday, March 31, 2008

Musical Athletics

Music has been a theme throughout my life.

Growing up, my parents exposed me to a wide variety of music. At a very young age, I learned an appreciation for a mixture of classical music and old-time country (think Oakridge Boys, The Judds, and Alabama). The taboo that country music gained during my high school years meant little to me as a little blond-haired, pig tailed girl.

I can still remember dancing in circles around the living room with my younger sister, as Alabama blared through the stereo player. My 6-year old mind wasn’t ashamed of the foot stomping and clapping. We looked downright silly, yet remained two peas in a pod. I was in a world of my very own, literally dancing to the beat of my own drum.

In addition to my country music dances, I began playing violin at the age of 6. For 12 years I studied, I practiced, and I played my heart out. It wasn’t always fun – as there were many times when I would have preferred to play outside, but it was something that I loved doing, something that I was naturally talented at.

I had a series of wonderful teachers who have left their imprints on my spirit and heart forever. I no longer play the violin as I used to, but the lessons I gained from all those years of study far outweigh any other education I received while growing up.

Simply stated, music has been with me all throughout my life.

In college, my shift turned towards sports and athletics. Initially I rowed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The run of the boat over the waves, the sound of the bubbles rushing past the gunwales, the thud of the finish, the sound of the catch, and swish of our blades feathering in unison stay with me to this day.

Rowing, as with music, was all about the senses.

Bodies swinging in unison helped propel the boat across the surface. Oftentimes I would close my eyes and simply listen to the sound of my fellow oarswomen, the hum of our shell. Though my eyes were shut, my ears, my body picked up on what was necessary to keep going. I would listen for the catch of the stroke; listen to the sound of the seats flowing up and down the slide. I listened for the sound of my own catch, as my blade dipped below the surface of the water, and then heard the water bend around my oar. The sound of my fellow oarswomen working kept me honest, and pulling at my best.

Assuredly, team boats were fun, but the boats I gained the most satisfaction from were either the single scull or double scull. The small boats, meaning the individual or pair are the only ones driving the boat through the water with each stroke, are truly an honest reflection of the rower’s effort. The boats will only move as fluidly and as quickly as the individual is willing to pull. There is no slacking. In an eight-person shell, it’s easy to let up. However the single and the double are brutally honest. Letting up means, quite simply, that your boat slips further and farther behind the rest.

My competitive instinct could never allow for this, and as such, I developed into a great single sculler in a relatively short time period.

In the small boats – especially the single – every sense is heightened that much more. Your breathing, the sound of your hands on the oar handles, the hum of the boat gliding across the water’s surface, the reverberation of the finish as the blade exits the water. There is no other sound except for the sounds that you and the boat make together. In harmonious unison you pull and the shell responds, skirting across the water – two repeated puddles of water on either side of the boat the only reminder of your presence.

While rowing, I was constantly listening, my ears attuned to the blades skimming across the surface, the birds chirping from the surrounding forest, the sound of my heartbeat rushing in my ears, water whipping under the oarlocks, and the repeated slide of my seat.

I was completely and utterly in my own private world, listening to my very own sweet symphony.

It’s been nearly 6 years since I last sat in a boat, and it’s something that I think about less and less as time gradually slips by. When I first stopped rowing, I was devastated. But as the years have slowly passed, I have fallen love with another sport and can vividly recall a plethora of emotions devoted to triathlon.

And now, that I am no longer able to swim, bike, or run for a few weeks, my emotional awareness with the sport seems to be heightened even more. If I close my eyes, I can take myself to the pool, hear the sound of the water rush by my ears. Likewise, the hum of my rear cassette, and cadence of my foot strikes, remind me of my bike and run.

While I am happy to have these memories, these sounds that keep me company, I must acknowledge that it is not the same. But it gives me hope…

Earlier today, Nathaniel and I drove up to Whiting Field, for my first post-surgery appointment with my Primary Care Physician. As the forests and farms flashed past the windows, it was all I could do to think about the numerous bike rides I’ve completed in and around Milton and the greater Whiting Field area. Peanut Farms, Cotton Fields, random general stores, white churches with small steeples, the Blackwater State Forest – all beautiful spots that I’ve grown accustomed to and love to experience while on my long rides.

These are the areas that I’ll miss for the next few weeks. There’s just something so powerful, so beautiful about biking through charming countryside, feeling yourself grow stronger mentally and physically, and knowing that you’re improving with each pedal stroke. And while it’s not quite hilly enough for my taste, it is still beautiful. And the surrounding area has left an imprint on my biking soul.

One spot, in particular, I knew would be difficult to pass. It was the Hwy 89 turn-off, where Hwy 87 and Hwy 89 split - approximately 2 miles from Whiting Field. In the past, I’ve always done my 10-mile bike time trials along this wonderful, but challenging stretch of Hwy 89.

I start just past the donkey farm (remember – rural Florida!), power my way five miles out, turn around, and repeat the process all the way home.

It is painful. It is brutal. And for the most part, it’s honest (more honest with a power meter!). Some of the most difficult moments of my life have been accomplished on that road. But stripped down, bare, and giving it all on my bike is something that makes me happy, it drives my soul and I find myself wanting to experience more.

Just before we hit the Hwy 89 turnoff, I imagined what being on my TT bike, decked out in my Zipp race wheels, would feel like. What it would sound like. Music to my athletic soul, a symphony of my heart’s desire.

I closed my eyes, and immediately could hear the whomp whomp whomp of the disc wheel as it sliced through the still air. I could feel myself shift into the big ring, the gears humming under my body, the sound of the chain against the teeth growing louder as I increased the power on the crank.

I could hear the wind rushing past my ears, over my helmet, down my back, and beyond the end of the bike, my body tucked in the most aerodynamic, yet powerful position possible. I can feel my hands gripping the aero bars, feel myself slide forward on my saddle, and experience the pure thrill of adrenaline as my legs pump harder and harder with each stroke.

The wind is screaming past my helmet now, but it doesn’t stop me. I am all power, my body scrunched up, exploding with every pedal push and turnover. I can hear the gears shifting as I add on the power, experience the pop in acceleration, and know that I am in my element. My heart pounds in my ears, sweat beads on my forehead. Yet I press on, I continue, and do not let up.

I hear myself breathing, feel my chest heaving, and am delighted by the smooth efficiency at which my bike is whirrrrring away under my powerful body.

My eyes were still closed, and my athletic melody continued. And I smiled.

Tabbitha may experience nirvana while scooting towards the rug, Nathaniel gets it while flying his helicopter, and I, well, I experience one form of Nirvana while time trailing down the road at 25 mph, my senses open and hearing the power that I generate.

As we passed the Hwy 89 turnoff, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I was quiet as I contemplated my situation, but bound and determined to be back out on the road as soon as possible. I turned back and caught one last glimpse of my TT road disappearing off towards the North, and vowed to return sooner rather than later.

For now, I’ll have to contend with my senses. And my senses are all about the music of my sports, the resonance that my sports produce, the reverberations I make while participating in my sports; the splash of my hand entering the water, the click of my bike shoes locking into the pedals, the sound of my feet crunching across my favorite wood-chip trail. For now this will have to do, this will help remind me of what’s waiting at the end of my recovery. They are realistic, they’ll keep me grounded, and they’ll keep me sane.

So yes, on beautiful days, I’ll miss my running shoes, and I’ll miss swimming with my lane partners at Master’s. But I also know what’s waiting for me when I return. I know how wonderful the sport of triathlon is, how grateful I am to it, and to all who participate in the sport. The sport is literally music to my ears, and will help throughout my rehabilitation.

And so far, imagining myself time trailing with my race wheels was pretty fun. I’m looking forward to when my dreams become a reality, when I can hear the sound of my disk wheel going whomp whomp whomp as I accelerate to top speed. And it won’t be for too long – that, my friends, I am sure of.

Next time you have the opportunity to swim, bike, run, or engage in your sport of choice – what do you hear? Just stop for a minute to listen, and you may even surprise yourself. I know that I did.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

R-A-N-D-O-M

R-A-N-D-O-M sort of day (inspired by a quick conversation with Dad)! So this is fitting - Enjoy:

R:

Rain, then snow. At least that's the forecast for St. Paul, Minnesota tonight and tomorrow. According to my Dad, who doubles as an expert weatherman, the current precipitation of rain is supposed to turn into snow as the temperature drops from 40 to below freezing overnight. And then, it's supposed to keep snowing, and snowing, and snowing... you get the drift.

And drifts will be aplenty - of snow that is. It's supposed to be a huge winter storm. My heart goes out to the hearty Minnesotans - hang in there my friends. It can't get much worse, can it? (Prophetic last words, I suspect).

No ifs, ands, or buts - the winter up North has been brutal. Unfair. Cold. Windy. Unpleasant! And nothing that I, or anyone else says can detract from that point. So I'll remove myself from the conversation, which is easy to do as I'm writing this myself.

A:

Atlanta, the city where our Grey Toyota Camry has been parked for close to three weeks. The car's name is Basil - in case you're wondering (after Basil Fawlty of "Fawlty Towers", a 1970's British Comedy where John Cleese played the title character. The 12 episodes revolved largely around a hotelkeeper - Cleese - who hated his guests. Hilarious!) Before my trip out to California, I drove up to Atlanta (cheaper plane tickets on the fly!) and had the privilege of staying with uber-tri-chick Kellye Mills and her family.

However, after my spectacular crash and subsequent adventure in California, my family and doctors suggested that I fly to Pensacola instead of Atlanta (thus avoiding the 5.5 hour return trip with Basil!). Me AND my rear were grateful.

Kellye and her family were awesome, and have been so patient with Basil sitting in their driveway – thanks guys! Nathaniel and the Marine that he’s driving up with are both fantastic as well, and I feel so lucky. Incredibly fortunate. They’re on the way home, determined to make the 11-hour round-trip in one day. (And yes, I am worried. I get antsy when Nathaniel flies or drives a long way in heavy traffic. An 11 hour trip is no easy task...hence the late night writing on my part) Like I said before, I am grateful to Nathaniel and to Caroline for helping me out – something that I would have never been able to do, given my current condition.

Dude – my butt/back feel bad after 15 minutes in one position, let alone a LONG car trip. I suppose “A” could have dubbed for “ass-pain,” Or better yet, “pain in the ass.” Which is exactly what I would have been, had I been stuck driving.

Finally, one more Atlanta shout out: Big CONGRATULATIONS to Kellye for running a great ½ Marathon, the Atlanta ING Half. Stellar race, my friend. And all in Atlanta.

N:

No lights. No power. No electricity. But just in the bedroom. Oddest thing happened today: about 15 minutes after Nathaniel left (it never ceases to amaze how stuff in general breaks or cracks or develops a problem the instant the Significant Other is gone. Huh? What do you know?), I flipped a switch in the bedroom and ZAP! The TV and light went out with a POP. Like the “big girl” that I am, I called Nathaniel, and then checked the circuit breakers. I felt so proud of myself for figuring out how they worked, but was none-too-happy when my flip of the switch produced no electricity. Nada.

After a phone call to the front office and a visit from the Emergency Maintenance, I have been told that, “The electricity to the Master Suite is not working.”

Really? No way! Could have fooled me.

Brilliant.

I could have told them that.

Instead, they’re going to “look into it” and maybe call an electrician in the morning. I was told that one other apartment in our “Apartment Home” complex had a similar problem, and they had to rip out the wall to fix whatever was wrong.

Well, that’s just super!

In the meantime, I have no lights in the bedroom. And no electricity. And no TV. Which normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but as Nathaniel is gone and it’s only Me and The House Monster, I was looking forward to basketball and channel surfing. Instead I enjoyed lots of good conversations with friends, writing, and reading. Not all bad - just unexpected, random.

D:

Drink and drink and drink some more. I am the Queen of water and prune juice. Not together, but the combination makes the prune juice sound somewhat more palatable. It’s rather thick, you see. But, the PJ has thus far helped keep me regular and pain-free in that "derierre" department. Never did I realize how constipating pain meds and being hooked up to an IV that dispensed pain meds for 5 days – could make me. I’ve always been a “super pooper”, so being stopped up is no picnic. Booo!

My wonderful gastroenterologist put me on a strict Vegetarian-like diet. I am allowed a small amount of lean proteins, but I’m supposed to stick with fresh veggies and fruit. And prune juice – he wants me to drink plenty of it. Great.

Somehow, I discovered that Peanut M&Ms weren't in the mix. Nor the Peanut Butter Cups. Let's be real: if you're 27 and need to see a gastroenterologist, you deserve as many Peanut M&Ms as you want. Then again, perhaps not. Maybe those little suckers are the reason that you're there in the first place...

Hhhhmmmmmm...... Okay, so scratch the Peanut Butter Cups, and let go of a few of the M&Ms. Fruits and Veggies - I eat a lot of those.... yep, I can happily handle those.

I am even willing to go without dairy or cheese (the Doc said they contribute to constipation!) for a few weeks. But Prune Juice?!? Wow – it’s a toughie. But I’m willing to do what it takes to get myself “back to normal” – in every sense of the word. So the PJ it is.

A glass with breakfast and a glass before I go to bed. And I figure that as long as I’m drinking plenty of PJ, I should be allowed a treat. Like a chocolate egg (for the life of me, I cannot find any Reese’s Pieces Easter Eggs! Humbug!). Or a cup of jello. Or frozen raspberries. Or a spoonful of Peanut Butter. Or…or….or…Something good to look forward to with the PJ. This has become a necessity. Trust me.

If anyone out there has any brilliant ideas on how to doctor up the Prune Juice, you have my utmost attention. And respect. Because the stuff is vile.

O:

Ouch, my butt hurts. The back hips hurt. Owie! For lack of a better word. Old news, though. And I’m sure that it’ll stay with me for the next few weeks. I’ve sort of gotten used to how it feels, and I don’t notice it quite as much. The Tough Cookie at her best. But it would be nice to shift positions at “normal” speed. Right now it takes me approximately 45 seconds to bend over and pick something off the ground. That is, if I don’t use my feet to get to it first.

Yes, I now use my feet and toes (namely) to grasp objects and pick them up. (I know what you're thinking, so I'll save you the trouble. Ape-like - yes. But you should seriously try it. Look to your left. Now look to your right... is the coast clear? Good! Now drop something small and easily graspable on the ground, and slowly, carefully, give it a shot. See.... You CAN do it! Kind of fun, right? Hooray!)

It’s a heckuva lot easier than doing a lunge every time I need to get something from the floor. And, if you know me, you know that I’m a bit of a klutz and tend to knock stuff over. So if I can get my feet to grasp it – excellent! Otherwise, I’ll perform yet another lunge (trying to keep my back straight and pelvis in alignment. NO twisting or torquing of my body.) The only problem is, I need to keep track of which side I'm lunging from. I want to be even-sided after my recovery is done. If I spend the next two months only lunging on my right foot - well, it'll be piece of cake for my left foot. So even lunging is my key!

I know that it’s hard for Nathaniel (and earlier in California, it was hard for Dad also) – seeing me struggle with the little things that used to be so easy prior to The Accident. But that’s okay. There are times when I’ve let him help me out (like picking up the 19.6 pound House Monster – THAT would be a disaster!), but other times – like retrieving papers from the floor – that I’ve wanted to do it myself. Even if it takes 45 seconds.

Because sooner rather than later, it’ll take 40 seconds. And then 35. And then 25. And so on, and so forth. Small steps, small progression, and pretty much I’ll be returning to my old self.

So yeah, there will be some “ouch” now – but that’s okay. At least I have a now!

M:

Me! Marit! Self-picture on the bike. (Don’t know if I should admit this because of my crash) – but Sunday the 16th, Brad, Thomas, Chris, Elizabeth, Cat, and myself all went for a really fun spin up along the coast and back. On the way back to Brad’s Condo, I managed to grab hold of my camera and snap a few shots of our little group. It was great. On a whim, I took a photo of myself.



When I think of biking, it makes me happy. When I see this picture, I smile and realize how happy I was at that point in time. When I see this photo, it makes me want to hurry up and get better, to jump back on, and find myself all over again. My trip to California was magical in so many different ways. Yes, there was a crash – I can’t take that back. But it’s not the end; I still have a long way to go. And I learned so much from the trip, more about the sport, more about my friends, and more about myself.

Being around good people, around fantastic athletes, great friends, and a wonderful family have all helped to shape and mold me into the person I am today. Even with the accident, I know I can get better, I know I can get back on my bike, and I know that I will once again find myself cruising down the trails in California, snapping head shots of myself as I grin into the camera and think to myself, “I am having the time of my life!”

And I can’t wait.

So that's my R-A-N-D-O-M day. We all have them, so you might as well make it a good one!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A new CRACK in life

Not often do we get a new "crack" in life. On March 17, I did.



And, if that color palate doesen't suit your fancy, how about this one instead?



And if that's not enough, I hope you enjoy the ever-informative side-angle view.



I'm still waiting to discover what "great inspiration" my surgical scar will give me. Not often do we fall spectacularily off our bikes and severley break of Sacrum. Leave it to me - on my last day of training - to do the darn near impossible. Odds were against me beforehand, but somehow as I was sumersaulting through the air, the odds didn't matter one bit.

And you know what? After my doctors said that it would take 3-6 months before I would recover, before I would regain normal bladder and function, up to 12 months before I gained full sensation in my pelvic region from the all the nerve damage, and a year before I could really lead a "normal" life, I decided that I didn't like those odds.

They just don't sound like the kind of odds that I'm used to, or the sort of odds that I'm willing to accept. They just don't sound like "me".

I wish I had a timeline to base my recovery on - but I don't. There is no simple answer, no easy way. I can't go down a list, checking off boxes as I progress from one level to the next. I don't think that an injury like this, on any athletically-inclined person, can ever be given a "specific" recovery timelime. Every one is different.

This will stay with me for life, I am positive. The effects will hopefully go away in time, pain will gradually grow dimmer and dimmer, the scars will eventually fade, and hopefully - sooner rather than later - I will turn back into the athletic person I once was. My mind hasn't changed (well - if so, hopefully for the better). But I know that my body will. Near bedrest for 2 weeks, and the next few weeks with limited moving around - it's bound to change. But through it all, I'll still be me, still be inherently my same self. If only a little altered, a little older, and a little wiser.

And I'll be hungrier than ever to get back into the swing of training, of racing, of doing what I love.

It's a process, though. All part of my road towards Ironman, my Life journey.

That, my friends, is not based on odds. Each patient, each case, each break is unique and different. Putting a 6 month timeline based on "odds" seem downright silly to this Eager Beaver.

Or, if you prefer, as my Camp HTFU Sisters called me, the Tough Cookie.

And besides, the way that I see it, now I have a new "crack" on life.

Sorry - I just couldn't help it. I know, I know. Horrible. :)

My surgical scar literally looks as though my butt crack, my (ahem) derierre, has simply been extended 5 inches up my back. My lower back has now morphed into my butt. Biking shorts, swim suits, bikinis, low rise jeans - have all taken on a new meaning to me and my uber crack/crash wound.

No, I'm not ashamed of it, and I could care less if it leaves a permanent scar. A "flesh wound" as my British Comedy counterparts would exclaim. I'm sure it will - and it'll remind me of what a tough cookie I truly am.

I just don't want people looking at my backside, and thinking that my butt is showing. What would YOU do? :)

Great! Super!

That will make biking in a pelaton exciting... No one will want to be behind me, the butt-lady, with her 5-inch butt crack. Or so it might look. I've considered the possiblity of getting a super cool tattoo. But am unsure. We'll see. My husband has a word for these (the tramp stamp) but I don't like that.

I couldn't pick where I fell, where I broke myself. And in part, where I was re-born. Because, in essence, that's partly what happened. My Mom sent me a birthday card - delivered to me by Dad - when he arrivede on the 18th. I thought long and hard about the meaning of this - but I think she's completely right.

I can choose look at my accident, my crash as a celebration, as a new chapter, a new beginning. I can't help what happened; what's done is done. Finito with one spectacular flip. But I control my response. I think that's why I'm trying to be so positive, even though it's been difficult at times. Yes, there have been a few tears, a few fits of pain, but more often than not, there's been a lot of laughter, a lot of healthy self-realization, a lot of happiness on my part.

Not happy that this happened, but happy that I'm alive, that I can walk, that I have normal bladder function - after I was told that I never would have it. And at 27, when you're all by yourself (except for an awesome ELF by your side - thanks Liz, I will never forget that), 2000 miles away from close family, husband, support system, and any other friends, it's a bit scary. I can't pretend that it wasn't.

But I survived. I got through. I beat the odds that were given to me in the hospital, and am still going strong. Still kicking, so to speak. And its going to take a lot more to break my spirit than a crash on beautiful 101.

And if I want to celebrate my scar, celebrate this new chaper of my life with a beautiful tatoo - or display of artwork, well so be it. If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears (envision me with my hands behind my ears, listening attentively).

So that's it. My new crack. A step on my new path. A journey on a new life. And now you can all see. Altered picture and all (green pants, purple skin, etc...)

Finally - big congratulations to everyone racing this weekend. There were lots of races, lots of successes, and I've been sending out so many good vibes! Courtenay, Chris, Ness, Eileen, Beth, Bree - any others? were all today. Tomorrow Ludi, Kellye, and Courtenay again (super stud tri chick who bikes as well!)... - any others?

Wow - lots of friends racing their best, setting new records, achieving their goals. It brings tears to my eyes, and makes me smile. I am so proud of everyone, so happy for your success. Way to go you guys! Congratulations and know that I was thinking about you, sending positive thoughts your way. Cheers!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Meaning of HOME

We're home! And we were greeted by our fat, gray cat - Tabbitha. Who, it seems, put on a pound or two. A never ending battle, I tell you. I left, and she was a "healthy" (ahem) 18.2 pounds. Remeber - she's big boned! And I return, and she's gone up to 19.6. Don't blame ME - I wasn't the one who gleefully picked up a gray mass and huffed over towards the scale. No siree!

That, my friends, was my husband.

I swear. Not kidding. Totally serious. Scouts honour.

He was curious about the cat, about how heavy she was. Humbug! Apparently he didin't get the note about afternoon water retention and such. Tabbitha didn't look too pleased either, and made a few swipes at him while the pair were standing on the scale.

I warned him. Dude - I wouldn't want to be picked up and weighed, even if "my people" came home after a long absence. Bugger off!

Oh well - today was his turn to make me laugh. So after the petting, the picking up and kissing, and cooing, and everything else calmed down, I got a chance to say hi to Tabbitha.

(Just kidding - Nathaniel would kill me if he read this before publication. He professes to "hate" the cat. But secretly loves her. Ssshhhhh! It's aparently a big secret.)

FYI: I didn't get the memo.

Nate loves the cat. And the cat, well, ah (how do I say this?) sometimes loves her Dad. Yes - her Dad (said firmly).

No - in all seriousness, we both saw Tabbitha, pet her, and then Nate really did make a bee-line for the bathroom scale, cat in tow. Priceless, I tell you.

What are your thoughts?



And finally, for Tabbitha. The meaning of HOME:

(Nate's version of HOME for Tabbitha)

Hungry OR Half-witted (it was a toss up.)
Ornery OR Offensive. (again - could go either way)
Monster OR Mindless or Meddlesome(ditto)
Evil OR Enigma

That was - who else? Nathaniel. Can you tell he really loves her? He's sitting up in bed, pj's on, thesaurus open on his lap, completeley ignoring Mythbusters - one of his favorite shows. Occasionally he'll let out a huge burst of laughter and toss out another word. Yep - he REALLY loves this cat! He just tossed out "hefty" and when I said that I wanted "good" words, his response was, "there are none. How about Old Maid?" Yes, I really feel the love. And you would too, if you were here. And could manage to stop laughing. Fun times at the Lauterbach's and Chrislock-Lauterbach's on a Friday night.

You wish you were here! (WEll, maybe not. Scrabble anyone? :)

(Marit's version of HOME for Tabbitha)

Happy
Over-eaten
Missed
Energetic (yours truly)

Tabbitha's version of HOME, now that her parents are here:

Harmonious
Obliging
Morale (good morale! No attacking! Yea! Well, maybe a little...)
Elated

Other words that Nate threw out: Misanthrope, Miserable, Moldy, Execrable (meaning damned, cursed, you-get-the-idea. Love all around from Nate to Tabbs. Two peas in a pod, I tell you...) Hauteur, meaning arrogance. Opportunistic... Miserable (her or him? that's my question. It's the second time he's used that word. hee hee hee) Extraneous. Yadda yadda yadda. Yawn. This list could go on and on. And on. So I'll make it stop.

Haltergebleiben! (Another made up Marit word, or "Maritism". Oh yes, my friends, there are plenty).

And finally - the admission: Nathaniel JUST said, "As much as I hate the kitty, I kind of like her too. 'Expressive' because she has a lot of personality. Sometimes too much for her own good."

Ah - I knew I could get it out of him. Good Man!

Enough said.

And now we ALL know. Cue evil laugh: BBBWWWAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

It's great to be home - have my own bed, see the kitty, have all my things, be able to recover ouside the confines of a hotel and hospital.

But the material goods all seem so meaningless in the wake of this accident. I have my health. I have the ability to walk, to use the bathroom, to recover, to keep my spirits up. I have the ability to choose how I want to live my life, how I want to thrive post-accident. I have the ability to live my life the way I choose. And even though I love my bike, love my goggles, love my running shoes - they can't make those decisions for me.

I have the ability to make my challenges into my opportunities (was reminded of that in a very special email that I got a few hours ago).

I have myself, my family, my friends, and yes - my Tabbitha.

And I am so grateful.

I know the road won't be easy. I know it'll have its ups and downs. And I know there will be tears ahead. (Today included. It's just what happens after spending 4.5 hours in an airplane seat. Yes, you might even cry too. Your butt gets sore. So does the back. And the heart. But you keep going, HTFU, take some pain meds, and make yourself laugh - like writing the various meanings of the word "home". At least I can spell THAT correctly!) The good thing, is that I'm sure there will be more good days instead of the bad, more progress, day-by-day. But it all depends on my outlook, on how I choose to live.

Just yesterday, my Dad said that the hardest part was over. That the good days would be more and more plentiful. Good would outweigh the bad... And you know what? He's right. Thanks Dad - for everything. I was so grateful to see you in California. Thank you for being there for me - I don't know how else to thank you. I love you. I wish that Mom could have been there too, but am looking forward to seeing her soon.

So, I'm home. And life is almost like it was before.

Except I've got a long road ahead of me. And my butt hurts. Hhhhmmmm - sounds more and more like IM training, huh? Like I said before: you never know what's around the next bend.

I'm looking forward to getting back into my normal groove, getting a routine established. I still have a lot of thank-you notes to write, a lot of emails to respond to. I can't tell you all how much they have meant. Just a little earlier tonight, I recieved a touching letter via email. It was from another athlete, who along with her husband, is training for IM Arizona. And get this - it's her 30th birthday present to herself. Brilliant! LOVE IT!

I laughed, cried, and laughed some more as I read and re-read her email. It meant so much... It's stuff like this that makes this sport so incredible. Looking at it from the outside - swim, bike, run - it can be incredibly selfish, incredibly individualistic. But there's an entire world out there, an entire community of people who truly care about each other. And for what it's worth - it has made all the difference for me thus far.

So before I get too sappy - thank you.

Great to be home. Wonderful to have my snowmen pj bottoms, have a soft kitty to snuggle with, have a hubby who makes me laugh, and a plethora of other wonderful things that are simply too numerous to tick off. So I'll stop.

Home - like Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."

And I for one, concur.

PS - the "piece de resistance" for today: see - they really DO love each other. Nathaniel and Tabbitha. Tabbitha and Nathaniel.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shorts & Answers

Today is a good day. And why, pray tell?

Well, for starters, my catheter came out. Hooray! YOU would be jumping up and down if you had your catheter removed, I promise. No longer do I have to carry around my pee in a bag. No longer do I have to have an inflatable balloon (they used water to keep the balloon inflated in the bladder) stuck up my you-know-what, you-know-where. No longer do I have to sleep in a certain position in bed, for fear of tugging on the catheter. And no loger do I need to wear shorts in sunny SoCal, for fear of showing off my petite folley.

So yes, today IS a good day.

Not all systems are "go" for launch, though (lately, I've been a big fan of the NASA terms. Can't quite figure out why, though. I was sending out an email to a fellow blogger friend yesterday, and I kept saying things like "not much longer till blastoff" and "ready for launch" and "all systems ready for go". Weird, I know. Maybe the folley/catheter combo is made from NASA rubber, which is slowly seeping into my brain. Who knows? If it can help me pee, great. If it can make me super smart, even better. If it can fix my spelling problem, then "Blast-OFf!") - as I may have to self-catheter myself for a while until my Sacral Nerve heals from the crash.

(The sacral nerve controls a lot of the pelvic functions in our bodies. Mine was virtually crushed in my impact, yet strung out and stretched/contorted in various positions from the bone break, and (to make matters worse)had several bone chips and fragments imbedded in it. If you're gonna "go", you might as well go "all-out", right. Sigh. My wonderful/genius spinal/neurosurgeon Doctor who-made-me-cry-50%-of-the-time-I-saw-him, managed to save my nerve, fix the broken Sacrum bone (S-1), and free the nerves from the awful position they were forced in due to my crash. The resulting nerve damage has been mostly controlled to my bladder functions. I have feeling in my "lady bits", more so on the left side than on the right. The right side of my Sacral Nerve was the side that sustained more damage, so it goes to figure that the right side of my body would feel more of the impact. So there's a chance that it may take a few days or a few weeks for my bladder to regain full function. My doctor's have projected a full recovery, and each day I regain more and more sensation. I have no doubt that I'll be at 100% feeling-wise soon, it'll just take time... and right now, I've got plenty of it!)

It's not a big deal. Something that the doc warned me of. And it gives me something else to look forward to with my recovery.

Go figure.

Today, I'm wearing shorts. Tomorrow I'll be able to pee on my own.

Life is good. :)

Ah - and the answers. There were a few questions in the "Comments" section that I wanted to answer. So, here we go:

1) Beth: Love the comment. Yep, today so far has been a "non-sed" day. Thanks!
2) Ness: Heppier? Just put a "ch" sound in front of the "h" and that's how my Czech grandmother would pronounce happier. Excellent!

3)Kate: Yes, Coconut cream shower gel and lotion and lots of sunshine and surf with the hubby. Yum!

4)Erin: Thanks! I LOVE my lurkers. I had so many incredible comments and well wishes out there from "the lurkers". And it totally made my day. I had no idea that so many people read and enjoyed my blog. It really means so much. So thanks for all of your comments. I had to sit and think about your "nuts" comment, and I think you're right. Not in a crazy-loony-bin sort of way, but I think that if you want to do well is something - sport, music, business, life, etc... - you have to be at least a little "crazy". I look at and look up to a lot of the pros and people who have come before me, and I'm simply amazed. After my first sprint triathlon (Janesville YMCA Sprint, Wisconsin back in 2002...) I actually took 2 years of from racing, because it seemed like way too much. I couldn't wrap my brain around how people could "race" Ironman. I think it just takes a bit of time.... and a little bit of crazy to pursue your dreams. What's crazy to me may not be crazy to someone in the business world. I can't imagine working 16 hours a day, then again, those people who work that much, probably can't imagine spending hours upon hours upon hours, day after day, working out, sitting in the saddle.

There are always exceptions, though. You gotta be a little crazy to succeed... :) (Again - in a GOOD way)

5)Danielle: Yea - waterproof scrabble! You would NEVER get me out of the bathtub with that thing. And, I could even entice Nathaniel to hop into the bath with me - bubbles and all.

6) Courtenay: Safe trip to LA. Kick ASS in your race this weekend. Will be sending good vibes your way. Nathaniel and I are flying out of San Diego on Friday morning... so we won't be here for the weekend... so sad so sad.

BUT - I can get back in the water in 3-5 weeks. Or whenever the stitches/incision heals over. The Scary Spinal/Neuro Doc said that my healing was going “beautifully” and that I’ll be at 100% before I knew it. This, coming from the guy who made me cry the first time I met with him. Somehow, I think he’s telling the truth. So, 21-35 days. Already counting down. :)

7) Hi Mer! Like I said before, I love “the lurkers” – write more often! I LOVE and truly enjoy the feedback. Here’s the scoop: Nathaniel and I have fallen in love with San Diego. There’s about a 50-50 chance we could be stationed out here by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall. We BOTH want San Diego. So much, so that my husband – who is pretty tame and rarely shows a lot of excitement – is gathering housing information, rental info, and realtor information. Just the other day, as we were walking hand-in-hand up from the beach, he admitted that he wanted to live in Del Mar, as close to the coast as possible. Or, “any of the little, cut, wonderful towns along the coast!”.

I looked at him and was impressed. 3 adjectives? Wow – he really IS impressed. And happy out here. Naturally, we would have hoped for different circumstances, but I’ll be sure to let you know if we’ll be out here… (fingers crossed). Thanks for the offering of help – I appreciate it!

8) Ashley: Dude, that’s why you’re my SC Soul Sister. J Enough said!

9)Brooke: If its one thing I’ve learned this past week or so, is that I’m bound to have plenty of ups and downs. Lots and lots and lots. Yes, you’ll never know what you’ll get with me. A mixed bag, per se. And, suffice to say, I’ll keep it interesting.

10) Kellye: Hey – you’re totally right. Be “sed” when you’re “sed”, be “heppie” when you’re “heppie”, and figure that the rest will all fall between. No sense rushing it one way or another. Nathaniel just reads my blogs (some times, if he has nothing else to do…), doesn’t bother spell checking them for me. I would probably drive him nuts, if I had him check it every time… Although, if something is horribly off, I’ll tell because he’ll give me a twisted grin and start off by saying something along the lines of, “Sweetheart, you are such a creative speller.”

And then I know my “creative spelling hat” was on while I was writing.

11) Alili: Careful with liquids and keyboards! My Dad would flip out if he knew you had a beverage of ANY sort near your computer. I’ll just refer to Brooke’s comment: You never know what you’ll get with me. And that’s a good thing…

12) Mira: Thanks! Yes – I’m ½ Czech. My Mom was born in Czechoslovakia… so yes, that’s the random connection. I spoke Czech while growing up, can still pronounce Czech words and stuff, and know enough to “sort-of” get around Prague if I really needed to. One day I’m determined to return and learn in “properly”, as it’s such a beautiful language. And FYI: yesterday, I was “miserni”… if you don’t know what this means, you’ll find out soon. I’ve got a blog about half-done that deals with the topic of this word. J

13) Cathy: Most excellent! I’m not alone! Yee-haw! And neither are you.

Hope that everyone has a great day.

Be happy: especially if you can pee. It’s not so fun when you can’t. So when you can, life is GOOD. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to visit “the porcelain bowl office” if you get my drift.

All systems: Go for Launch!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sad Spelling Pep

As you ALL know, I am an awful speller. And now that my "spell checker" is broken on blogger, and I simply don't have the patience to write up my entries on a Word document, spell check, and THEN transfer it over to blogger - well, please accept my sincerest apologies.

Yes, I am educated. I graduated from UW-Madison with a BA in History (focus on East Europe and the former Czechoslovakia)... but alas - my spelling still suffered.

No where has it been more apparent than a few minutes ago when I took my third glorious shower since The Crash.

I was pouting. My back hurt. My butt was asleep. And I'm constipated. YOU would be crabby too, my friends. But Nathaniel is being a Saint, doing simply a marvelous job at putting up with my mood swings (today really WAS a great day. He tried falafel and loved it.... we met a wolf named Nicky, who's ower was 94 years-young and walking at a fast clip along the hill bluffs above the Pacific... we talked to a couple who had JUST gotten engaged... we drove up Mt. Soledad - wow, what a climb! - and generally had a great day together).

Tonight was different. Around 9:30 pm, I was "partied out". And I got emotional.

Great.

After a few tears, I decided to take a shower. A real treat for me at this point - the coconut shampoo and body conditioner is great, and the hot water feels fantastic against my skin. And besides - it was either the hot shower or continue being sad with Nathaniel... so I opted for the shower.

And Nathaniel was very happy.

QUICK NOTE: I haven't taken any pain meds in about 10 hours... So there is NO REASON why my spelling IN THE SHOWER should have been that OFF. And another point... pain meds and showers don't really get along. Especially if you're a self-professed klutz like me. Very good stuff.

So in the shower, in an effort to cheer myself up, I started thinking of acronyms for the word SAD.

Here's my list...

Silly Emotional Drama

Stupid Emotions Downloaded

Sorry Enough Done!

Snapple Eggplant Dried (fill-in-the-blank)

Stop Exit Delete

Stuff emotions down

And after a few minutes it hit me...

Everything I was spelling was S-E-D, not S-A-D.

And that was enough to make me giggle.

And then, I decided I was probably a saftey hazard in the shower. So I got out, dried off, applied plenty of coconut body cream, threw my clothes on (which takes about 10 minutes), and voila - here I am.

So in essence, I cheered myself up.

I know that there will be plenty more of these UP and DOWN days. That's only natural. It's part of the process, part of what I'm going through. And that's okay. I've accepted that fact.

I just never thought I could cheer myself up by so horribly misspelling the word SAD. Then again, life is full of surprises. You never know what's around the next hill.

So keep going! (Said Sad Spelling Sed! Now 5X fast!)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Butt Scoot

(Mira: 4, 13 hours ;) Thanks for asking!)

Today, I butt-scooted down a Mountain. Well, it wasn't really a mountain. And no, I certainly didn't butt scoot all the way. Just part of the way.

You know - butt scoot.

The thing our House Monster does when she's got an unmentionable stuck in her rear end.

The first time Nathaniel saw Tabbitha butt scoot was in North Carolina. He was amazed, had no clue that a creature of any sort would do such a thing. We were still living in our first apartment on Cherry Point, MCAS (we moved into a house on base after nearly 2 years in the apartment, only to leave for Florida 9 months later. We were told by the housing office to move...another story). Tabbitha had just dropped a bomb of sorts in her box, and front-paw-pull after front-paw-pull, was powerfully dragging her butt across the floor - towards our bedroom - while giving Nathaniel a blank stare.

He claims that she was giving him the most innocent, nonchalant of looks. A look that clearly stated, "I know I'm up to no good. But I'm so cute that you'll let me do anything."

Determinted Tabbitha, was just beyond the door, a mere foot or two from our beautiful 5 X 7 Oriental rug...

At the time, I was in the bedroom, relaxing and reading on our antique wooden bed. The only carpet in our airy apartment was said Oriental rug next to the bed.

Suddenly Nathaniel, while standing at the end of the bed exclaims, "What is she doing?"

I looked up, momentarilly paralyzed by what I saw, and felt my heart nearly stop beating. I swear. Scouts honor. There was Tabbitha, her pressed hams (Nathaniel's term for her butt - another being "hamhocks") pressed firmly on the floor, happily butt scooting her way towards our precious Orientla Rug. The ONLY rug in our sparsley furnished/decorated apartment. She was literally one or two determined pulls away from achieving nirvana at the expense of our red, yellow, brown, and green rug.

Ass-dragging, skidded bliss. Our Oriental Rug was about to have a little more brown added to its color pallate.

I saw the cat. Saw the bewildered look on Nathaniel face. And realized in an instant what was about to happen.

"NO!" I yelled. "Don't let her get to the Rug! STOP HER!"

Nathaniel was even more startled than Tabbitha. The poor guy - he jumped at the sound of my voice. Our determined cat, however, continued on her path towards kitty bliss.

Sensing the urgency of my voice, and watching in amazement as I lept out of bed towards Tabbitha, Nathaniel lunged towards our butt-scooting cat, and managed to save our beautiful Oriental Rug from Tabbitha's cat-rear. Tabbitha, a mere paw's length away from making her very own deposit, was forced to abandon the transaction, and fled in the direction of the kitty box.

But we did notice a few turd marks and skids on the vinyl floor. Which was a lot easier to clean than the alternative, poopey carpet. Trust me.

So yes, that was Nathaniel's first encounter with the butt scoot. And it was a close, close call.

Today was his second. And it was at my expense. And no worries - I didn't have any unmentionables stuck in my rear. That, my friends, had already been taken care of earlier, thank-you-very-much.

Because we're staying at the Best Western Stratford Inn in Del Mar, CA (sounds beautiful, doesen't it. It is, I promise!) we're a mere stone's throw away from the sparkling Pacific. We can see the water from our suite - and it's beautiful. So we decided to head out towards the beach, for a hand-in-hand walk along the crashing surf. The tide was out, our timing was perfect, and after a quick jaunt down a block through a friendly neighbor's backyard and past some beautiful houses, Nathaniel and I found ourselves at the edges of Del Mar's cliffs.

Well - first we had to head down a steep, short, rocky hill...

And then - we had to cross (carefully!) the railroad tracks, used by Amtrak and the Pacific Coaster... (no trains - hooray!)

Finally - we were walking hand-in-hand along the beach.

One small, teeny, weeny, insignificant little detail - we were about 50 feet or so above the ocean, up on the Del Mar cliffs.

NOT the surf-side stroll we had in mind, but the path was nice (next to the train tracks), the day was loveley, sky the same sparkling blue as the ocean, and we were willing to walk along the path as long as it took until we found a break in the cliffs.

Only other small, teeny, weeny, insignificant little detail - the sandy cliffs extended a long way in both directions.

Sigh.

Brilliant.

And then, as though sensing our slight bewilderment, a surfing diva appeared from behind us. Her wetsuit was rolled halfway down to her waist, her feet covered in the same material as the suit. Her black sports bra was the same color as her wetsuit, and very carefully, she balanced her ivory-white surfboard ontop of her head.

We greeted her Hello! - and watched, impressed with her balance as she continued her way along the path.

Even balancing a surfboard on her head, this chick was faster than me. Then again, I had back surgery less than a week ago, was sporting a catheter and folley under my capris (YES YES YES - I GOT INTO MY FAVORITE CAPRIS TODAY FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! No - my body isn't back to normal - yet - but at least this was a promising sign. The khaki capris were a lot more snug than I like. But the poit is, my friends, is that they fit! Huu-ray!), flimsy flip-flops on my feet. Oh well - she really wanted to surf.

And I don't blame her one bit.

If I was a surfer, today would have been a beautiful day to ride the waves. Yes - they were little. But the swell looked amazing, and there were surfers dotted along the coast in both directions. It was wonderful - watching them hop on their boards and ride the waves. Just like a dance.

All of a sudden, our white-surfer-board friend paused, looked over the cliff, and proceeded to walk down the cliff towards the water - white surf board on her head the entire time.

Nathaniel and I paused, awestruck by her balance and dexterity. The surfboard was now mere inches above the cliff top, rapidly descending behind a flowering shrub of some sort. Quickly Nathaniel and I made our way towards our wetsuit-clad friend, and peeped over the edge. Navigating a rough trail cut into the sandy cliffs, this girl was making her way effortlessly down the path, surfboard still expertly balanced on her head.

Wow.

What great a great core! What great balance! Spectacular stability!

Then again - she IS a surfer...

Nathaniel and I looked down. And then looked at each other, simultaneously sizing up the cliff and sizing up each other. I just know... I've know the guy for nearly 8 years. I can tell what kind of look he's giving me...

"Can we do it? Can you get down with your thingy? Will you be okay?" The questions tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them.

I just gave him "the look" (The look of incredulity.) My "thingy"??

Ok-ay.

"Of course!" I replied, cheerfully trying to calm my sweating palms. "I'll just butt scoot down the hill and everything will be okay."

It had gone from being a "cliff" to a "hill".

It's all about perspective, right?

Then again, I looked down and felt myself internally squirm. The cliff, er hill, was steep. And it was sand. And unstable. And there was a long drop to the sand and ocean below. And I had just had surgery... And I was carrying a "thingy" around (Folley - thank you very much!). And my flip flops weren't exactly the most appropriate of footwear for the terrain.

But I really wanted to be at the water's edge...

And my surfboard-toting friend had made it down just fine, surf board balance on her head the entire time.

Let's face it - how bad could it really be?

But still... I thought of my humorless, stern spine/neurosurgeon. He wouldn't approve. I thought about my parents. They definiteley wouldn't approve. I thought of my coach. And she - moreso than all of the others - would kill me if I made myself worse...

But my determination won out, and carefully I made my way down the cliff, er hill.

Butt scooting on my ass the entire time.

It was sandy, and I felt my shoes slip a bit. And firmly on my butt I sat. Legs would extend out, feet would plant as firmly as they could, hands would support my torso and butt, and gingerly I scooted forward. Foot-by-foot. Down the cliff - er hill - down, down, down. Very much the embodiment of Tabbitha. Like I said before, no deposits were left. Even though the sand was of a similar consistency to kitty litter...

I don't really remember how many switchbacks I crossed - perhaps 4 - but kept going. Feet extend, heels dig in, hands plant under my butt, butt moves forward, legs bend, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. I don't really think I could have gone back up, quite truthfully... I let Nathaniel pass me towards the end, and remained firmly planted on my derriere, even as he jumped the final 6 feet to the sand. I could feel his impact.

The final 10 feet were the worst. I slowed my scooting (I was quite efficient at this point) as I neared the edge. To my dismay, there was nothing but empty air the final 5 feet between the edge of the cliff bottom and the sand. And newsflash: I'm a bit over 5 feet. A loveley 5'4, thank-you-very much! I thought briefly of jumping into Nathaniel's arms - how romantic! But that thought was soon squashed away by the fear of our impact together. The thought of me, catheter, folley, body-post-surgery all falling-like-a-stone into Nathaniel's open arms was simply too much.

Knowing me, I would probably squash the poor guy. He would be a body imprint, 18 inches below the sand. And me - with my catheter and folley - would lay spread eagle and moaning. Just my luck. We would take each other out by our foolish fantasy. Yeah. Not so much.

Don't cue the romantic music. Don't think of the couple - locked in embrase at surf's edge. We would both be hospitalized. Nathaniel for injuries sustained by his wife's impact. Me for insanity, for making the leap in the first place.

And ever so briefly, while the fantasy played through my mind, I was overcome by a fit of giggles.

If we had actually attempted this leap, I'm positive Coach Jen would have REALLY killed me. Dr Leary would give me another stern lecture. And my parents would swear that they weren't related.

Imagine that conversation: "Hi Jen - I made it down the cliff intact, but it was my stupid attempt at fulfilling a romantic fantasy of jumping into my husband's open arms at the water's edge that did me in."

It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Thankfully, Nathaniel managed to point out a few well placed foot ledges that had been carved out of the sandy rock. Whatta Man!

And after a few more minutes of turning off of my butt, placing my feet in the proper spots, I found myself on the soft Pacific Sand. And a mere 50 meters away from the crashing surf.

Safe, sound, intact. (Cue the romantic music!)

Needless to say - we walked 2 miles down to the public beach in Del Mar, and then slowly (and safely) made our way back up the hill side community, through the town and past the quaint shops of Del Mar, and eventually found ourselves back at the hotel.

It was a wonderful day, a great adventure for Nathaniel and myself. Even if I had to butt scoot down a cliff - er hill - to do so.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blasted Speed Bump Sh*t (BS BS)

Dear California Parking Lot Speed Bump Association:

My name is Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach. I am an elite triathlete, and have a high pain threshold. Until today, when I encountered NO LESS THAN 35 SPEED BUMPS IN 2 PARKING LOTS! Here is my story.

5 days ago, I underwent back surgery to repair my S-1, or a broken Sacral bone and severe nerve damage in my spine. After a record recovery, I was released from the hospital a mere 4 days after my surgery. All things being equal, my doctors, nurses, and the medical community in general was impressed with my recovery.

Today, in an effort to bring some semblance of normalcy to my life, my loving husband of nearly 5 years and I headed out to the local grocery store, in effort to pick up a few delectable goodies for our prolongued stay in California. Strawberries, Greek yogurt (thanks Liz!), peanut butter, fiber-enriched bread, red peppers, sushi, and leftover Easter candy (giant Peanut Butter Bunnies!) were on our list.

Spirits were high as we drove smoothly along the beautiful California road towards the grocery store.

However, the mood within our rented Toyota Corolla changed for the worse the minute Nathaniel and I entered the parking lot of the VONS.

After crossing over 10 speed bumps in our FIRST parking lot, we backtracked OUT of the lot, disgusted by the incredibly high numbers of speed bumps. Unfortunately on our way OUT, we hit THE SAME 10 THAT WE WENT OVER ON THE WAY IN.

Both passengers in our car were disgruntled, unhappy, and slightly worse for the wear. Me - the back surgery patient - worse off than my unhappy husband. WE had simply had enough. Then and there, we decided that VONS - inspite of their wonderful sheet cake - would not get our buisness.

First grocery store down.

A few blocks up one of the Carmel Roadways (it could have been Carmel Creek, Carmel Drive, or Carmel Roadway - who knows. It sounded delicious), we encounted another small shopping center, which to our delight, included a Ralphs, along with a few quaint restaurants, a movie theatre, a chocoletier, Einsteins, Barnes & Noble, and a few other stores.

AND, unfortunateley, and ENDLESS AMOUNT OF SPEEDBUMPS.

There were so many, Nathaniel and I lost count. We hit at least 7 in on the way to the grocery store. And the same number on the way out. At least.

All I know, is that somewhere along the way, I felt a tug and pull in my lower back, let out a few zingers of curse words (Bloody Effing Hell! Being the tamest of the bunch), and experienced a slight tear in my recent closed up stitches.

And all from the speed bumps in the parking lot.

Fact: Nathaniel was going no more than 1 mph over the speed bumps

Fact: Marit was unhappy after 5 bumps. Imagine how she felt after 20. 30. 35...

Fact: When Marit is unhappy, Nathaniel is unhappy.

Fact: California parking lots DO NOT NEED 10 SPEED BUMPS PER STORE. AND IF SO, DRIVERS NEED TO BE RE-EDUCATED. PARKING AND SPEED ENFORCEMENT SHOULD BE PUT IN PLACE OF THE ZILLIONS OF SPEED BUMPS. PARKING LOTS IN CA SHOULD COME WITH A WARNING FOR PEOPLE WHO RECENTLY UNDERWENT ANY KIND OF SURGERY.

Fact: Marit and Nathaniel will NOT be shopping at stores that have more than 5 speed bumps in their parking lot.

We - and my doctors - would appreciete any help or suggestions you could make in order to solve this problem. The number of speed bumps are out of control. And, quite frankly, it shocks me, after all - there are Plastic Surgery Centers on nearly every other corner. One would think that for the amount of plastic surgery, the gazillions of patients would complain. Let's be honest: stitches for back surgery can't be all that different from stitched from a boob job, right?

And, torn stitches are still torn stitches, both ways you look at it.

Anything you could to to remedy this problem would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Observations

Hey there Sportsfans!

As usual, time has slipped away, and I find myself stuffed full of chocolate cake, sleepy, SORE, and happy that Dad and Nathaniel are such good company. All we need are Mom and Karyna, and the family would be complete. Throw in Tabbitha, and you've got a really full hose. However - given Tabbitha's attack-like disposition, combined with the fact that I don't want anyone else injured, Tabbitha would have to stay home.

If I've told her once, I've told her a thousand times: "Tabbitha - we don't attack our friends and family!"

But she never listens.

She just blinks, knowingly at me, and then lashes out at Nathaniel. Poor guy.

And our other friends.

(SORRY!)

FYI: Keep Caroline in your prayers this week - she's watching our House Monster while Nathaniel is keeping me company and playing a big role in my recovery.

Okay - where was I? Good question. Who knows? Not I. So proceed on, I will.

Great.

(Don't be alarmed - I talk to myself quite frequently. I find that for the most part, I make good company. Go figure. I think it explains a lot.)

Okay - I've been keeping a lot of mental observations over the past few days. On the drive home from the restaurant tonight (Dad took us out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse - wonderful!) I started to tally up as many as I could remember.

Enjoy!

-Make sure you wear some sort of nipple protection with your hospital gowns. Ladies - a sports bra or regular bra works great. Guys - you're on your own. Unlesss you want to give the busten-halter look a try. Otherwise, bandaids would help a lot as well. The cotton of the robes isn't quite as forgiving as the fabric I'm accustomed to.

-While we're on the subject of hospital gowns: make sure that yours is properly fastened in the back. Yeah. Good stuff. Otherwise you might find yourself walking down the hallway to rounds of applause after you pass. Not that this happened to me - just something I thought about before requesting a second robe to wear front-to-back. All I'm saying is cover all your bases! And keep your bases covered.

-Wow. There sure are a lot of speed bumps in California. Quite a pain in the you-know-what. Especially if you just had surgery on your you-know-what you-know-where.

-Be aware that nothing that you show the nurses will surprise them. It doesen't matter if your apologize in advance, or give them fair warning. Which I did all last week. Hopefully with YOU, nothing will be new either. (But it doesen't hurt to apologize. How would YOU like to poke around someone's rear end?) Wait. Don't answer that. Sorry I asked.

-No shark sightings yet. But it doesen't mean I haven't spent plenty of time looking. I know that they're there...

-It's funny to see non-triathlon people (Dad and Nathaniel) react to the Pacific Ocean temperature (currently, a balmy 57 degrees). They jump and yelp in surprise. I smile and wade further into the surf.

-Post surgery and post accident, my body has decided to swell. Literally, it is swollen. I no longer have cankeles: hooray! Instead, everything from about mid-thigh level through my waist is thicker, solid, swollen. For the first time in recent memory, I look as thought I've got "back". "Baby Got Back" could be aptly applied to me, at this point. Go figure. Just fall of your bike, have major surgery - and voila! The perfect Brazilian Butt Lift!

-My clothes no longer fit. Yoga pants, SOFT cotton shirts, and sandals it is. Yippee! Nothing tight or constrained. And if anyone says anything to me about my appearance, I'll just spray them with my folley. hee hee hee. Because I can!

-Speaking of plastic surgery: wow - there's a lot that I've seen. Not all that great for a Midwestern-girl-at-heart-currently-living-in-Florida, who looks 20-30 pounds heavier, and walks around (to quote Bridget Jones!) "like she's got a giant gherkin thrust up her backside." Not the most fantastic time to look/feel bloated and slow. Oh well. My real body is just hiding, lying in wait until the perfect opportunity to emerge and reign supreme.

Did I just say that outloud?

:)

-The waiters and waitstaff at really nice restaurants look as though they're part of an intricate dance: one moves to the left bearing a tray of chocolate desserts, while the other moves to the right, balancing two trays of wine and water. Brilliant (although, we were hoping for a crash... would have thrown some drama into the evening. Alas, nothing happened.)

-When you're a nice patient on a tough hospital ward, the nurses will fight over which one gets to work with you. AND - if they really like you, they'll bring you extra cherry and strawberry jello. My nurses - especially Pam and Suzanne, were fantastic, and I will forever remember them. They brought me jello AND helped conduct a super-secret covert operation on my behalf.

Wednesday night, around 10:10 pm, I found myself being moved from one double room, to a private room. Quickly and quietly, Pam, Suzanne, and the floor assistant Carmelita, stealthily transferred me (on my bed), my drawers, bags, flowers, IVs, and other items across the 4th Floor West Ward. The mission was to give me a private room, so that Nathaniel could sleep in a cot beside my bed. I had been rooming in a double - which was scheduled to get an additional patient sometime in the middle of the night. So, operating under super secrecty (this was very unconventional, and my move wasn't approved by anyone else...a big no-no at this particular hospital), Camelita, Pam, and Suzanne moved me (strapped to the bed and slightly bewildered) into a different room.)

They were GREAT!

Morale of the story: be nice to your nurses!

-Now that I'm recovering, I'm beginning to itch. A lot. The road rash is NOT fun, and I woke up last night - not to the pain in my rear - but from my elbow road rash cracking open from putting the slightest amount of pressure on it. Go figure. Neosporin should be part of a race kit, if you ask me.

-This is the WRONG time to have it be "my time of the month." Which it now is. The good news: is that the sensory nerves that are in control of THAT particular bodily function are all in working order. Most excellent.

-Do not make comments on other people's blogs after taking pain medication. You might not follow your own train of thought. Something that I only do half the time, anyway.

-I feel other people's pain: while watching a player go down during the NCAA basketball tournament, I felt my butt involuntarily twitch. Not a pleasant experience, but great because THAT sensory nerve is working and accounted for.

-I am becoming a super stud at chaning out the overnight folley to the daytime folley. Simple! Down to 7 or 8 minutes from 20 (yesterday).

-Make sure that when you make any slightly or potentially embarassing statements over the phone, that you're not on speaker phone. Like I was. I thought I was talking to my Mother-In-Law, who used to work as a nurse. So there I went - chatting away about my medical issues, the good, the bad, the ugly - thinking that at least SHE would understand. Lo and behold, the entire Lauterbach family is now aware of my medical issues. The good, the bad, AND yes - even the ugly. They tried to understand, but I think they were more grossed out than anything else.

-People who are on speaker phone should be warned!

-I can still maintain my sense of humor and zest for life a few days after my accident. Sure, I"ve had a few down spots, but I've also had a few up times as well. That's life.

-You gotta roll with the punches!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Emails Batman!

Wow.

This will be quick - because I have got a LOT of work to do...

I just opened my email for the first time since the accident, and it seems that my email box is literally bursting at the seams.

And now, I am tearing up - just at the thought of all the well wishes and emails...

I intend to answer them all... it may take a while. But I just wanted to let you know... thank you.

Sob.

(But I'm smiling!)

Thank you.

Flying the Coop!

Apparently, I am either the world's BEST or world's WORST spinal patient. Either one you choose, I have "flown the coop" and am DISCHARGED from Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA.

YIPPEEEEE!!!!

(Not that there was anything wrong with the hospital - but for Pete's Sake! It was a hospital! Dude! YOU would want to leave if you could, right? The food wasn't all that bad though... the cafeteria was loveley... the staff was excellent... hhhmmmmm. Long pause....)

Ahem.

Back to reality.

Thank You!

Really - I am checked out. Gone. Finito. Kaput!

My departure took place earlier this afternoon, around 4:00 pm local time. After giving and recieving hugs from the nurses, donating my many boquets of beautiful flowers to the 4th Floor (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU OUT THERE!) Spinal/Neurological Ward, packing up my gear (how much stuff can one person amass after a few days in the hospital? Seriously!), emptying my Folly for the umpteenth time, talking to Dr. Richard (my petite, yet vibrantly red-haired, and eternally optomistic urologist) for a few minutes, triple checking the room for any final items - Nathaniel and I walked hand-in-hand out of the hospital.

And then the air, the sweet-smelling, warm, salty, flower-filled air hit me. I inhaled, and it was simply beautiful. I closed my eyes, holding onto Nathaniel's hand (quick note - not recommended for any post-surgical spinal patients... beware!) - and simply inhaled the wonderful, fresh air.

No - not the same as on the top of Mount Palomar, but beautiful and sweet nonetheless.

We slowly walked towards the car, where Dad and his rented Prius awaited. And my Dad, with his infinate enthusiasm, was so excited to show me how the Prius started.

"You just push a button! Look!" He exclaimed.

I laughed, and then pressed the button.

Like father, like daughter.

After a drive along the coast, we arrived at the Stratford Inn (spelling?) - a Best Western in Del Mar, CA (Cat - where you stayed last weekend!) Dad and Nathaniel have been here for a few days, and now that I'm here - I can say that it's as great as they claim.

It beats a hospital room! :)

For the first time since Monday, I was able to shower. Wow. I will never take for granted a steamy, hot shower. Or shampoo. Let's just say that hospital bed + dirty hair + surgery cap + random rinsings = not-all-that-clean-hair.

The coconut shampoo and conditioner was so good, that I had to shampoo AND conditioner my hair a second time. You would have done the same - trust me.

Afterwards, the three of us headed out for a late dinner of Sushi and are now watching NCAA Bsketball. Aside from the hospital paraphenalia and my Folley, it almost seems like the three of us are taking a fun-filled, adventuresome family vacation. Thankfully, my Dad isn't like Clarke W. Griswold. Or Greaseball. Or whatever it is.

And no - Nathaniel has never made a dog jump off the Eifel Tower (Rusty, the token male child, threw his baret off Le Tour Eifel, and a fru-fru dog went after it. Stupid dog! But funny scene!).

So there you have it - nothing groundbreaking (already did that on Monday, thank-you-very-much!) tonight. Just back to the normal. Or as "normal" as I can do. Ahem.

Thank you again to everyone out there. I am beyond touched. You have all played such an integral part of my recovery, and I am forever grateful.

I finally have my computer AND internet back, so I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's blogs, commenting as much as I can, and answering my emails. It may be a slow process... but believe me - I'll have plenty of "down" time, er RECOVERY time, to do so.

It's great to be out of the hospital... and well ahead of schedule. Hurrah! No, I can't skip down the road (my doctor's and body prevent me from doing it) - but the little girl inside of me is jumping up and down.

I have a feeling that sooner (rather than later) she'll emerge, and I'll go flying by the seat of my pants in one direction. Can't wait!

*One quick note: Dad, Nathaniel and I will be out in San Diego for another week or so. Dad is flying back to Minnesota on Sunday, but Nathaniel and I are staying in town for a bit longer, in order for me to see the surgical team and specialists who have played such a big role in my recovery. I've got an appointment with the Spinal/Neurologist on Tuesday (the same guy who asked me, "What did you learn?"). The others (urologist and internal trauma) are still waiting to be scheduled on Monday morning, first thing.

However - there is always hope. Just yesterday, I made my stern and seemingly unforgiving spinal/neurologist break out in laughter at something I said. I asked him if there was a limit on how much walking I could do.

When he replied, "No...", I got visibly excited and said, "Oh Boy! I can't wait to do laps around the 4th floor! This will be GREAT!"

He laughed and said, "I wish all my patients were as excited about walking after back surgery as you are."

He has NO idea!

Like I said before - there is always hope. In more ways than one.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Post BACK!

I don’t even know where to begin, how to start – so I’ll do as I usually do, and simply delve in.

First of all: A HUGE THANK YOU!!! To EVERYONE out there. Your thoughts, well wishes, prayers, good vibes, phone calls, flowers, notes, pick-me-ups, and everything in between has made such a tremendous impact. I have spent much time on the phone with my Mom and with Jen, discussing all the kind-hearted posts and comments. As of now (Thursday, March 20th at 1:45 pm PST) I haven’t been able to go on line and read or respond to anyone. But please know that I am forever grateful…

I cried more from the well wishes and thoughtfulness of everyone out there, than from the impact of my crash (Kapow! Torry Pines couldn’t get the best of me – ha! And no, that’s not a challenge. It’s simply a statement of truth.)

Rest assured, as soon as I can spend any amount of time on line, I WILL! And I will comment as much as I can.

Several times over the past few days, Mom has read to me (via cell phone) all the tremendous outpourings of support through various blogs and comments on my blog.

And I am so grateful.

There were a few times in the past few days where I could feel myself getting a little blue, could feel the sadness, doubt, and insecurity creep back into the horizons of my brain. But a few words from my Mom and glances at all the emails and comments that Liz printed out for me on Tuesday have made all the difference for me.

So thank you, my friends.

Second: Sorry if my writing is a bit scattered, skittered, or what-have-you. I’m still on the pain medicine, so my thoughts may be a bit “fuzzier” than usual. As of a few hours ago, I’m off of the IV pain meds – yippee! And instead, am on regular pain pills. But as with any triathlon, as with any sort of event, it’s a matter of time trying to figure out what combination works and what doesn’t.

(It took me several months to FINALLY figure out what I was planning on using nutrition-wise for IM Arizona). So I’m going to give my doctors and nurses a break when it comes down to figuring out which pain meds work best for me.

So – while you may find humor in my blog and with my writing – you may have reason to find even more with this particular entry. Ahem.

Third: An update.

As of now, my prognosis is very good. HOORAY!!!! J

Initially what appeared as a hip or pelvis fracture, turned out to be a broken S-1, or Sacrum. It was very difficult to diagnose, due to the location of the fracture. The initial X-Ray indicated a break; the subsequent CAT Scan showed an even more serious injury, and the final MRI revealed the need for emergency surgery.

The good news is that this is a very small section of the non-weight bearing spine. My Mom went on “the Google”, and was given a very helpful diagram of information regarding this bone and its relation to the spinal structure. If you’re interested, I recommend that you do the same. (Sorry that I can’t provide the link, as I’m writing without “the Google” J)

My doctor found that both the anterior and the posterior part of the S-1 was severely fractured. Additionally, there were several large bone chips and fragments imbedded into my Sacral nerve (spelling – sorry! It’s the meds!). The Sacral nerve is important, as it controls many of the sensory parts of the pelvic region. Right now, post surgery, I’ve got about 60-65% sensation in my pelvic region – not back to full capacity, but wonderful considering the severity of the injury.

Both sides of the Sacral Nerve (left and right) were damaged in the impact. The approximate healing time is unknown, and varies from patient to patient. I could be back to “normal” in 3 weeks, 3 months, or even 12 months. But all systems should be “go” within a year or so.

The S-1 bone will take between 8-12 weeks to mend. The great news is that I can swim, can do low-impact cardio, and will become a rock star in the pool. Jen Harrison: Watch Out! You’ve got ME to contend with! (In the far far far future – but bring it on!).

There are so many unknowns with an injury of this magnitude. Technically, I broke part of my back and sustained severe damage to my nerves.

Then again – this WAS the non-weight bearing part of my back and only the sensory nerves.

However…

Add in the factor that I’m a pretty decent-in-shape triathlete, and you’ve got an entirely new kitten-caboodle.

And finally…

I’ve got a great sense-of-humor, great attitude, and try to roll with the punches. So if I get lemons, I’ll more likely-than-not, try to make lemonade. Or something of the sort.

Let’s just say that I’m a big believer in the healing power of a positive mental attitude.

And besides, I’ve often found that there are so many things in life that we simply can’t control. However, WE CAN CONTROL HOW WE REACT, HOW WE RESPOND.

We choose our attitude; we choose how we want to behave (well, as long as the pain meds aren’t too strong!)

If I could go back in time and change what happened last Monday, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can’t.

And as Grumpy Bear in the “Care Bears” used to remiss, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk!”

(He was also the one who claimed, “We’re not here to bake cookies!”)

No use crying over what has already happened. Yes, I’ll be sad, have painful moments. And I know that there will be good days and bad. That’s only human, that’s part of life. But I am determined to heal as quickly and as safely as possible. This is merely a small detour in my life.

So, there you have it.

I am so grateful to everyone out there. Your support has been simply overwhelming, and I will forever be grateful. If I could personally thank each and every one of you, I would… But know that you ALL have played a tremendous part in my recovery. So thank you.

And I’ll leave you with this:

Before the accident, I was embarrassed about my butt. Never a big fan of “flashing” or “bearing my bottom”, my derriere has lead a tame life. 3 years on my high school Cross Country Team, and my bottom never saw the light of day. Go figure. However, for the first time on Sunday, I actually managed to produce a BM in the woods after our run (Liz was SO proud!). If the bush that I squatted behind could be permanently scarred, I’m sure it would be. (this, my friends, is the meds talking. Enjoy)

Post-accident, it’s been an entirely different story. First thing Monday after the accident, Liz took a gander at my rear. And after biking up to Chris and Thomas, Chris pulled out my shorts and commented, “what a great bruise!” I was sporting. And finally, to add insult to injury – while laying flat on my stomach on Brad’s floor – Thomas pulled out my shorts, took a long look at my ass, and stuck a bag of ice on my bruise. With a few choice words, of course.

In the hospital, it’s been no different. I find myself apologizing to the various doctors and nurses when they take a peek at my butt. They have assured me, however, that they see many butts (and asses) in their line of work. So mine is one of many.

But its still mine. My butt.

And for now, my butt is broken.

But its not defeated. Yes, it hurts. And yes, it prevents me from doing what I love. But the outlook isn’t permanent, and before I know it, I’ll be back up on my feet, swimming, biking, and running my heart off.

But for now, I’ll stick with the walking. (Without the walker, of course!) That has already been discarded, given a permanent place in my closet of post-surgical accessories. Hooray.

Besides, I’m already causing enough ruckuses on the 4th floor of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. After abandoning my walker, I’m walking laps upon laps around the corridors, catheter and Foley (pee pouch) in tow. And I’m surging past my neighbors from room 411 and room 413 in the process.

Yep – I’m back.

Thanks again to everyone out there. Love to you all!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Morning Update

Raise your hand if you feel as though you've been hit by a truck?

It's interesting to asses how my body feels after 4 tough days of swim + bike + run + repeat. I am tired. I AM sore. But I also want to keep going...

California is great, and the prospect of our "last ride" has me a little sad.

Yes - there probably will be tears (mine), but Thomas and Liz have some challenge going about climbinb a big big big hill.

Thomas told Liz that, "In an hour and fifteen minutes, I'll show you what it means to climb!"

Without missing a beat, Liz responded, "Oh - you mean when I'm already done at the top?"

I just sat back and laughed. It's been a great weekend, full of great/epic/tough/hard/incredible/fill-in-the-blank training sessions, and now we've got our last ride.

Liz vs Thomas.

Thomas vs Liz.

While I don't aspire to sit at the back, for the first time, I think the view will be well worth my effort (or lack thereof).

No - I take that back. I'll still be working my butt off, climbing in the gearing that Chris instructed me to use. But I'll have a heckuva good time watching Liz and Thomas go at it.

That is, if I can look up quickly enough to see them without falling off my bike. I think Soledad hill is pretty steep.

Another challenge.

Another opportunity.

And I can't wait.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Swami Ride

(This was Saturday Morning's Ride. I finished the recap Sunday night... just a quick note.)

I never knew what it was to cry on the bike.

But today, I learned.

The task: Ride with the Swami's.

The mission: Be aggressive, work hard, hang on as long as you can.

The result: tears, anger, frustration, more tears, resolve.

I was downright scared going into this ride. Liz gave me some very helpful advice: 1) Shift smoothly 2) Don't coast. (Sherpa Thomas advised me to, "Ride like hell. Whatever you do, don't stop!")

I was oddly quite in the van on the way over to ride headquarters (Nytro). But this is what I wanted, this was part of the reason why I came out to California to train.

The group was fast, they were intense, and holy shit! Their bikes - fully carbon, many decked out in race wheels, the latest high-tech weight saving devices to reduce weight and conserve precious grams. I was mortified. My bike - my trusty old Giant road bike, 3 chain rings and all (Big ring, Little ring, Granny Gear) - looked downright pitiful compared to everyone else's speed machines. Chris assured me that it would take 3 of "their" bikes to equal my Giant's weight.

Thomas, sensing my fear and doubt, assured me that the weight of the bike was the least important, the least of my concerns. I needed to focus on myself, on my riding, on my ability - on the factors that I could control. What good would an $8,000 bike with $1500 race wheels do, if the person in charge could't ride, didn't have the "right motor?"

A theme that stuck with me through the day.

I may not be the fastest - may have a 3rd "Granny Ring" - may carry a camera, extra gels, salt, baggies of CarboPro, and other misc items that make me heavier - but at least I would try.

And try I did.

I managed to hang with the "A" group (mostly Cat 1/2 Men - Liz, and I were the only women who rode with the group, save 1, something that neither of us wanted to point out to each other, but discussed in great detail afterwards) for around 30 minutes, before entering the wonders of Elfin Forest.

During the "warm up", I was amazed at how tired my legs were, how labored my breathing was, yet listened in amazement as the incredibly fast guys all around chattered away. They weren't even out of breath, and I was huffing zone 4 up a few longer climbs.

Right before turning into the Elfin forest, towards the top of a fairly long climb, I could feel myself slipping. It was so, incredibly painful - I kept watching the wheels of the guys in font of me pull futher and futher ahead.

Just when I thought my time was over, that I was bound to be enveloped by the pack and spat out the back - left to my own devices to ride some Elfish-road in San Diego County, I felt a strong, solid hand on my back, giving me a huge push forward. Before I knew it, my speed had increased, and I found myself again with the group. I had never been given a push like that - some stranger coming up behind me and willing me forward, helping me to bridge the gap. (Later I discovered that my savior-of-the-moment was Chris. I thought it was either Chris or Thomas, but was unsure due to my delirium at the time.)

After makeing a quick right onto Elfin Road, the pack drew together, bunched up, and then... BAM! Attack the rollers, attack off the front, attack attack attack.

It was all I could do to hang on.

I was helpless, watching rider after blue-clad rider go around my tired and weak body, and rejoin the group. This time there was no hand on my back, no one to give me that extra push forward. I looked back, and realized there was no one behind me.

I was all alone.

And I was maxed out.

My heart was pounding, my legs were screaming, my tricpes were aching, and emotionally I was spent. I had just worked my hardest to hang on, to ride as strong as I could - and all within a matter of a minute, I was discarded off the back end.

I took a deep breath, and looked at the empty road behind and then focused forward, on the pack quickly growing smaller in the distance.

I was working my hardest, but there wasn't a damn thing I could do.

And that's when the tears started.

I cried out of frustration. I cried out of pain. I cried out of sadness. I cried because I didn't know what else to do. I was broken, riding as hard as I could through the Elfin forest - a "magical place" according to my own friendly ELF - yet sobbing on my bike.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to maintain any semblance of pace whatsoever, I needed to stop my crying, get my act together, and push forward. I had 2 options. 1) Stop. And where would that get me? Absolutely no where. PLUS - I had no clue where to go, and I figured that once this damned road ended, there would be some sort of direction about where to go. Or 2) Keep going.

So ride I did.

There was a rider ahead who had fallen off the pace, and was adjusting his ipod (who bikes with an ipod?), who happened to look back and see my pitiful, lonley self, biking forward. With a quick hello and a few encouraging words, "Big Mac" as he called himself (the guy was seriously over 6'5 and named Mac. As in Mac Truck) said that we would work together and pick up the stragglers one by one.

I gathered myself as best as I could, and rode his wheel.

After a few minutes, he upped the tempo and I matched his speed as best as I could. After questioning me on how I was doing, I replied, "My legs are toasted. I climbed Palomar yesterday."

"Oh yeah?" he replied. "I'm a 52 year old Dad of 5-year-old twins. Are we even."

That shut me up. And I didn't complain anymore. Not one bit.

Not about my tired body. Not about my heavy bike. Not about anything. I just shut my mouth, held back the tears (a few came out on occasion), and simply dealt with it.

I couldn't control my bike. I couldn't control how my body felt.

But I could control how I reacted to my situation.

So me and Big Mac rode through the wonderous Elfin Forest, picking up stragglers along the way. After 15 minutes, we had amassed another 4 or 5 bikers, and were our own little pack. We were all hurting, all had been spat out the back. But we were still going.

I was still going.

Looking back on that ride - it was incredible. The range of emotions, how I felt, how I responded, my tears, my anger, my pain - those are the things I was hoping to experience on this trip.

I am so happy - looking back - about this ride. It was good for me, it was good to crack. To experience it all. I want and need to ride with faster people, to push myself beyond my limits.

Because yesterday, I met my limit and broke. And now I'm stronger for it. I pushed past it, discovered more about myself than I knew before the ride, and found that (inspite of tears), I can keep going.

And - to be brutally honest - I hope it happens again.

Sunday night stuff

I'm sitting on the couch. There is talk of clucking chickens (Liz), clothing options for tommorow's ride (Thomas), and cardboard box break down (Chris). We're all tired, but happy. Well fed, but happy.

And discussing our final ride tomorrow morning.

What's more effective? Hill repeats or a big hill called Soledad?

I don't really know, don't have a clue. Chris and Thomas are debating the two, Liz is doing something half-relaxing, half-painful on the foam roller, and I'm sacked out on Brad's comfortable leather couch (which dubbs as Thomas's bed).

Today was a triple workout "recovery" day. Meaning we go easy, but long. An easy swim (where yours truly got to lead the lane) that involved meeting a few Chicago-ians at the local YMCA (Bob Mitera - great guy! And a few others), followed by an easy 60 minute run (no rattlesnake sightings), and then an easy 1:45 bike after a L-O-N-G and L-A-T-E breakfast at the world-famous Einstein's bagels.

Our food break was great, as it reminded me of mid-morning collegiate study breaks at Einstein's with Nathaniel. Oh, how time flies!

We all had bagels. I experienced my my first chocolate bagel bite (courtesy of Brad), and had coffee with my cream. Or something like that.

At one point, I had to laugh: standing in front of the 5 coffee jars were Chris, Thomas, Brad, and Cat (stellar triathlete that Liz coaches) and Liz. Oddly enought, Liz stood in front of 2 coffee jugs. Go figure. The ELF needed to be fully caffienated. And no one - Sherpa Thoams, Chris, Cat, or Brad - was getting in her way.

I just stood back and laughed.

After our ride along the coast, we cruised back to Brad's. The views were incredible - blue sky, whispy clouds, thunderhead in the distance, and mountain is the background. And the Pacific - blue and sparkling. It was wonderful, magnificent - and I find myself sad at the prospect of tomorrow's departure.

But we've still got one ride left. One more to go.

And now Chris and Thomas are debating the merits of a hill called Soledad and another hill near Del Mar Hights. There are hidden turns, endless "ups", and pedal stomping involved. Liz is on her laptop, looking up the exact gradient of the hill. She has just reported that, "It is a 12 minute climb. And you will be going 7 mph."

Chris and Thomas are joking about "delivering papers." Not as in news papers, but zig-zaging back and forth because the gradient is so steep.

The things you learn at camp with fast people. Wow. Go figure.

All I know is that it'll be painful, it'll be hard. I have been told to NOT use my small (Granny Gear) ring. Chris is looking up the gearing he wants me to use on one of the climbs (no Granny Gear, no small ring - POWER up the hill).

And I will go along with it. I will do my best, train my hardest, and leave bits and pieces of myself along the way.

Self-discovery at its best.

I'm here...

Hey Sportsfans!

I'm alive and well.

Well - bareley.

It's Sunday - but I can't really tell, because I'm stuck in some sort of weird space/time warp. Go figure.

The good news, is that its sunny and beautiful.

The bad news, is that I'm trashed. Tired. Cynical. Bitter. And my sense of humor has changed - think "Fargo" and "Kill Bill". Yeah - good times. But Liz, Thomas, Chris, and Brad are all stellar superstars. And they seem more amused by my antics.

I got half way through an update yesterday - but it was late, and I was tired, and I prefered to listen to Chirs and Thomas trade shaving advice. Chirs uses Conditioner and Tomas takes 25 mintes. Per leg.

That's what you get when you train with PRo men. Good stuff.

They make you laugh. Hard. (At least I didn't pee my pants!)

Anyway - yesterday was hard. Very hard.

It was the hardest group ride I've ever done. There were tears (mine) and more tears (mine) - but I realized while speeding through the Elifn Forest (Dumbledore on my back) that by crying, I was waisting breath. So through the sobs, I told myself to "HTFU" focus on the task at hand (hang on to the back of the pack and try to catch up with any stragglers - because, after all, 2 is better than 1) - and I found myself biking with a 6'5 52 year old guy named "Big Mac".

Big Mac had twins and worked full time. When I complained (the only time yesterday) that I had climbed Mt. Palomar, he said, "Try being the father of twins and working full time - are we even?"

I quickly shut my trap, got in his draft, and kept going.

It was incredible: I reached my breaking point, but was forced to keep going.

So I did. I had no other option. I wasn't interested in being lost in the Elfin Forest - didin't want to see what kind of tricks my mind would play while riding solo and crying. So hang on to my Mac Daddy I did.

And now, I'm eating oatmeal, having Liz's STRONG coffee, and getting geared up for a swim and an easy run.

And I've just been informed that I'll be "leading the lane."

Wonderful - now I'm swimming with the PROs, I'm leading the lane, AND I'll have to keep track of my laps.

But bring it on - today is a new day, and I'm up for the challenge.

Yesterday's report is 1/2 finished... it'll be out later today.