Saturday, May 31, 2008

Crawfish Anyone?

Well - it's late and well beyond my bedtime.

You see, tomorrow morning my new cell phone alarm (a very thankfully not-so-annoying ring chime) is going off at 3:00am.

Yup, you read that correctly: 3 in the morning.

For all you British folks, that's 9 GMT, right? At least I think I have my calculations correct, although my math skills are not to be trusted.

That's why I did history is college. Again, another story. For another time.

Nope, tomorrow, I'm leaving Penacola and heading west towards the little town of Bush, Louisiana. Never heard of it? That's okay - neither have I. If you're ever heading West on I-10 from Lower Alabama, hang a right when you get to Lake Panchotrain (horrible spelling, I know), and you'll eventually run into Bush.

Well, after going through a maze of back country roads.

But tommorow morning, I'll be RUNNING into the water for my very first open water swim race. Actually, I've got a few going on. The first is an 800 meter "help a youth" swim, where I'll get to accompany one of many young girls (ages 8-16) as they embark on their first open water experience.

I guess that wouldn't be a good time to bring up alligators. Or snaks. Or bull sharks.

Hhhmmmmm......

Well - I wish I could say I would sacrifice myself for the safety of the little kiddo that I'll be swimming with. But if I feel anything fishy or suspicious nip at my toes, well - suffice to say I've been working on my upper body strength (note: the hand crank picture in my finally-updated photo of the week), and I have no qualms about placating said mysterious water creature with a tasty 10-year-old snack.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

But I am excited about helping younger kids swim in open water. What a great opportunity!

Next up will be the Masters 1600 meter swim. Only a mile - I know. Not like the 3 mile bridge swim that I spectated last weekend - but still open water. And that makes me happy, to say the least.

I think the most difficult part about the "race" will be exiting the water. I'll be in search of my bike... or perhaps I'll just keep running and running and running.

So tommorow, if you happen to be in Bush, LA and see a blond woman, wearing a black bathing suit and sporting an extendo crack on her lower back, rest assured she's perfectly "normal". Just in search of two of her other sports. Honk nad wave and she'll grin right back atcha.

Very exciting day on tap. And as the time is now a bit after 10 and I'm supposed to wake up at 3 - well, YOU do the math. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Congrats to all who raced today. Next up: tomorrow!

Friday, May 30, 2008

MY RUN!

Sometimes, words just don't do justice.

Today, this was my view:
And my feet - my wonderful feet attatched to my legs, attathched to my butt, attatched to my hips and back, and you get the idea.... huffed for 3.5 miles around the track.
30:33 of the best minutes of my life.

And I can't wait for tomorrow to do it all over again.

(Good luck to ALL racing this weekend! It's a biggie - my thoughts, well wishes, and good vibes are following you all! And I'll be cheering from Florida - or as one PT patient said today "nope - NOT Florida. We live in the Panhandle. Lower Alabama!" Ahem. I stand corrected. But from Pensacola, I'll be cheering - jumping up and down and letting my pure joy and exultation cross my face. Because I CAN! Speedy, safe, smart, and fun racing this weekend to ALL!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The First Run

Thank you to All for the comments - they were all very meaningful and read and re-read several times over. YOUR support has been simply overwhelming throughout this entire process. And I thank you for that.

Today I walked into phyiscal therapy a slightly different person. Not different as in new hairstyle - still the messy pony tale.

Not different as in new shoes - still the same old running shoes that I've demoted to strength training or for PT.

Not even a new shirt - still an old race shirt (St. Anthony's 2007).

No - it was ME that was different.

And let me tell you, that this anger thing - harnessed properly of course - can really be an effective tool (again, when used properly).

While driving to PT, I rehearsed what I wanted to say to Jonathan, PT extrordinaire. Yes, I know that I'm not at 12 weeks yet - the timeframe I was told I could possibly-maybe-perhaps-slightly-if-everything-is-going-well-think-about running. After yesterday's crying in the shower - not pretty for Nate or The House MOnster - but refreshing all the least, I've decided to harness the anger and use it towards my advantage.

Remember, this is all part of The Journey. As new to you as it is to me...

So instead, I went to PT with a battle plan, running shoes (the ones I wore during the Pensacola half marathon - me and my inexperienced self figured that I needed all the cushon and support I could get - so why use racing flats for anything over a 5K - right? And even from Florida, I can still feel JH, ELF, and Soul Sister Ashley rolling their eyes)

Ahem.

I may be fast - may have the days when my super speedy-ness is working. But I'm still a newbie at heart. So work with me.

But I digress.

So I marched, plan perfected in my head, into PT and told J-Flo that 1) I am recovering FASTER and BETTER than anyone has ever seen (must be some sort of record) 2) I am completely off anti inflamatory medication 3) I am following ALL directions and doing everything by the book 4) Pool running is NOT challenging enough and that I'm not getting the workout that I need 5) We didn't know my leg weight BEFORE the crash, so had no way of judging what is "normal" and what is NOT "normal" for me 6) The best way to build up hamstring muscles for the type of activity that I engage in is RUNNING and 7) I did 270+ Lunges without complaint. I can do anything that I set my mind to.

But I ALSO told him that there were several things that he wanted me to try, I did - AND they didn't feel right. So I stopped - and waited until my body was ready.

Because if its one thing that I'm MORE terrified of than sharks or monsters lurking under the bed - is re-injuring my back/sacrum/butt by doing something stupid.

Like, say, for instance - running when I'm not supposed to. (Or jumping out of the way of LIttle Green Snakes....)

So I haven't. Run that is. Jump out of the way of Little Green Snakes? Heck yeah. YOU would have - I guarantee. Then again, you probably aren't the type to place yourself in a perilous situation like the aforementioned. But again, I digress...

So after examining my shoes, checking my pelvis bone for tilt, examining my scar, and watching me walk - J-Flo gave me permission to run on the treadmill...

SO TODAY I RAN FOR 20 MINUTES ON THE TREADMILL!!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn't stop smiling... it was incredible.

The only down side? It didn't go faster than 6.0 miles per hour (10 minute miles for all you math nincomepoops out there. Ahem - like I once was).

When I asked if I coud go faster, one of the physical therapists said that the treadmill, "doesn't go faster."

Uh. Excuse Me? It does NOT go above 6.0? Did I just hear that correctly? Or is my pure exultation affecting my hearing?

"Oh no," Kim continued. "We've never had anyone who needed to go above 6 miles per hour. This is a phyiscal therapy clinic. Most people practice walking or simply walk backwards."

Oh.

Well - I can say that I did both before running. Walking was fine, walking backwards was comical - luckily the handrails (which I made fun of before I got on) proved to be useful. So there.

And now, my friends, now I can run.

I don't go fast and I don't go far.

In fact, when Jen adjusted my schedule for my newfound event, she wrote, "Run embarassingly slow. Preferably alone."

Check Coach.

Don't know if she was refering to the fact that I would either be embarassingly slow or embarassed to simply be going SO slow.

Honestly? It doesn't matter. Because I'll be running.

Today I discovered that anger is indeed my friend. It is not to be denied, not to be pushed aside. No - I need to confront it, yell, scream, stare it down, and then harness the energy it produces and turn it into something useful. Like fighting for what I believe in, or what I think is right.

Or what I know in my heart I can do.

So tomorrow morning, at 5:45 am - you'll find me running (at a snail's pace) around the track at UWF. Watching a beautiful sunrise and marveling at the promise of a new day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sidewalk Holes

There's A Hole In My Sidewalk
Autobiographical in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson


Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my faulf.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fallin...it's a habit...but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

A close friend handed this sheet to me earlier today, and I couldn't seem to get it off my mind. Throughout my recovery, I have done anything and everything I can/could do to NOT get angry about the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Because deep down, I know and accept the fact that it WAS an accident.

I certainly didn't want a gigantic swam of bugs/gnats and God-knows-what else to riccochet off mine and Elizabeth's helmet as we were riding down Torry PInes.

I certainly didn't want to crash into Liz, flip off my bike, breakk my sacrum, and suffer subsequent nerve damage.

And I most vehemently did NOT want to miss out half my season because of this accident.

And while (thus far) I've been overwhelmingly positive about the accident and the circumstances surrounding it, today - for the first time in 10 weeks and 3 days (not that I'm counting) - I got mad.

I cried.

I threw the remote across the room (something I watched -to my horror - my sister do 12 years ago - and vowed NEVER to do).

I yelled.

I screamed.

And then I hopped in the shower, sat down, and had a good cry. I let it all out - the anger, the fear, the frustration - the everyone telling me that I cant...

And you know what? I feel better for it. No longer am I internalizing my anger, keeping my hidden sadness bottled up inside. Instead I let it out. I fought back against the apartment owners who said my trainer was disturbing the new neighbor's below. And I am prepared to fight my physical therapist about my lack of hamstring strength.

Who are they to give me another excuse that I can't. If they are unable to come up with something, I've got a few ideas of my own up my sleeve - and no longer am I afraid to use them. I know by body well enough: if I canhandle a Jen Harrison workout for 3+ hours on the trainer, I can handle just about anything.

Trust me.

And I've come to realize that anger is a natural emotion. It is part of the healing process. Hell, it's part of MY healing process.

And like the aforementioned poem states - there's a hole in the sidewalk and I fall in. It is NOT my fault. And again. And (even) again. But eventually I'll learn how to navigate through the hole and eventually around the flipping thing.

And one day, I'll walk down a different street all together.

Until then, I keep moving forward, determined to acknoledge my anger and furstration that I've kept bottled up inside for so long. But I still realize that I can NOT help what happened, only how I choose to respond.

And with extra knowledge gained, I'll be that much stronger, fiercer, and ready to return in full force. It just may be a while as I'm finding my way out of a hole.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Can!

Well, today I didn't recieve quite the news I was hoping for. It seems as thougy my hamstrings are a bit weaker than my quads (sheesh - even I could have told my physical therapists that.... with all the quad and glute strenght I've got, I could crush cans with my legs.... or something of the sort) and as such, they want to give me another week or two before I start engaging my hamstrings with running.

So for now, I'm still off the running.

But in spite of my slightly saddened mood, upon my drive home, I realized that there were still plenty of things I could do.

And - even better than that - that I'm able to do inspite of breaking my back.

-I can and will walk normally (well, as normal as normal is for me).

-I can drive a car

-I can swim to my heart's desire - and as such, have my FIRST open water swin race next weeked. Yes, on June 1, I'll be swimming in the Crawfish Crawl Open Water Race - or something like that. Just as long as the organizers scare away all the 1)alligators 2) cottonmouth snakes (very poisonous, aggressive, black snakes that live in the waters around these parts) and 3) bull sharks (which have an amazing capability to swim and survive in fresh water... gulp) - than I'll be fine. If anything, that'll give me extra incentive so swim out as fast as I can.

-I can cuddle up with The House Monster and read on the couch

-I can walk (pain free) up a flight of stairs. Or 10 flights, if you want.

-I can perform 270+ lunges. (And still counting)

-I can jump away from Little Green Snakes as they chase me in the forrest

-I can do flip turns and set personal records on my 200s in the pool (not kidding about that one).

-I can balance on the Swedish Ball a la circus elephant.

-I can tickle Nathaneil and am speedy enough to get away when he realizes what I'm doing.

-I can lay on my stomach, read my morning blogs, drink coffee, and eat grapefruit all at the same time (something I never would have attempted had my back not been broken).

-I can hand cycle so hard that the machine makes too much noise for those around me.

-I can drive stick shift and start from a dead stop at the top of a STEEP hill.

-I can do an upside down handstand (with a touch of assistance, naturally).

-I can pick up The House Monster. All 19.2 pounds of her. (Yes, we're up a pound. I think it's sympathy weight for me. I'm up about 4 pounds from where I was pre-crash)

-I can void my bladder without a catheter.

-I can do housework - but somehow my "back" has procluded me from getting any of it done. Oops!

-And there are so many other things that I CAN do... It seems an awful shame to focus on the one thing that I can't.

SO am I a little bit sad? You bet your bottom dollar. But as each day passes, I'm THAT much closer to accomplishing my goals, having my dreams of running come true.

What can you do?

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Case of the Mondays

Today I'v been in a bit of a funk.

Not the "I'm-drinking-before-noon-because-its-5-o'clock-somewhere" funk.

Not the "I was awoken in the middle of the night last night because the new tenants in the apartment directly above ours could only be doing what sounded like acrobatics at 2 am" funk. (true story, fyi. Thank God it only lasted 10 minutes or so, and we only heard the bed - nothinge else. I swear, when I finally meet them, I'll giggle.)

Not even the "I need to time my workouts around thunderstorms" funk.

No - today I realized my funk came from two different sources.

1) Yesterday I spectated the Pensacola 3 mile bridge swim. It was an even that I would have liked to have done last year, but coincided with a local triathlon. Me - being the triathlete that I am - opted for (can you guess?) If you picked the swim-bike-run sport, you ARE correct.

So after begging, pleadeding, and promising everything short of my firstborn to my physical therapist (who Coach Jen said had the final call), I was shot down in my attempt to swim the race.

Humbug.

I thought it would have been a really great challenge - less than 10 weeks after a very serious bike crash and already I'm back at it, doing the things that I love. Sure, not quite the swim-bike-run event that I'm used to - but hey, we've got to start somewhere!

Yesterday while spectating the race, walking the 3.14 mile bridge with fellow WBS (World's Best Sherpa) Joanna from Gulf Coast Half, I couldn't help but think how absoluteley flat and perfect the water would have been. Something - even in my state - I could have handled. And YES, I was on the look out for the the tell-talek figure of sharks galore, but thankfully spotted non.

And for the record - everyone did GREAT at the race. I was SO PROUD of Donna for doing it, but also ran into several other local athletes that it was great to catch up with.

Inevitably, talk of the crash came up.

Instead, I would have prefered to talk about the swim.

One compeditior joked that she wouldn't mind swimming back. And if I could have borrowed goggles and a cap, I would have been with her in an instant (in spite of my shorts and tee-shirt. I could have stripped down to sprots bra and undies, right? Or at least worn the running shorts - extra drag, right???)

My second "funk" is coming from questions around my physical therapy tomorrow.

Tuesday at 1:00, I have a date with the strength testing machines. And IF (and only if) my legs are strong enought, I MIGHT be allowed to start running.

I am so nervous - lately I've been dreaming about running, and oddly enough, I can feel the various sensations as I run. The slipperiness of the pine needles as I run through the forest, the slant of an uphill as I charge up, the sound of the surf as I run along the beach....

But it all hinges on what happens tomorrow.

It's always interesting to read about other people's lives. What may seem completely rediculous to one person, may be the "norm" for another. I was sad that I didn't do the Bridge Swim, and as a result, spent half of yesterday looking up open water swim races. For the record - I found one over in Lousiana next weekend.

I guess that only time will tell, and I won't have the answers that I need unil sometime tomorrow around 3 pm.

So pardon me if I seem a little different or out of focus. I AM focusing, trust me. It's just not on something that most normal people would expect. And if there's anything that I've learned about myself as of late, is that rarely (if ever) do I march to the beat of everyone's drum. I tend to go off on my own, find my own beath, and drift along.

And hopefully by tomorrow night, I'll be drifting along the rubberized surface of the UWF (University of West Florida) Track.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Well folks, this is what it's going to be tonight: bits and pieces of my life from today. Riveting, I'm sure (to say the least). But as I'm an introvert with no inclination towards the glitzy and glamorous lifestyle a la overpaid celebreties, this is "as good as it's gonna get."

Random smatterings from my day:

-The House Monster has taken over the ugly brown couch. As long as there's a pile of laundry (waiting to be folded, no doubt), she's there.

-I completed my FIRST BRICK (2.25 trainer ride + 60 min water run) workout post crash. Logistically just a tad more challenging than the normal bike and run. In my case, the trainer beckoned followed up by the water running belt at the UWF Aquatic Center. So dedicated to my transition time I was, that I didn't bother throwing on a suit. I simply ran in biking shorts and a sports bra. Now THAT is dedication!

-This morning Nathaniel told me that, "It's a well known fact that one guy will tell another guy that the best way to see what his future wife is like is to see what she gets like when she's hungry." After my near melt-down last night when I got off the bike around 8:15 and our favorite Sushi haunt was booked solid until just after 9, the Marit Monster in me emerged. Simply put: I am not a happy camper when I'm hungry. But for some reason, Nathaniel married me in spite of my interesting behavior when I'm on the prowl for food.

(Note to self: there should be an emergency bag of Peanut M&Ms hidden in the car on occasions such as these! Then again, if I knew they were there, they wouldn't stand a chance any way)

-Thunderstorms are rapidly becoming more and more present in the Panhandle this time of year. Yesterday we were in for a treat: I had the pleasure of watching lighning snake across the sky from the (relative) safety of my bike trainer. In spite of the power flickering, I remained intent on the workout. Jen would have been proud!

-My uterus is up for grabs. Its that time of the month. And it doesen't matter if Nathaniel brings home a small container of fat free frozen yogurt (chocolate!) or the big container of fat free frozen yogurt (chocolate!). It becomes one of the staples. And has now disappeared completely. Oops.

- After spending more and more time on the bike, my saddle sores are returning. Too much information, I know. But at least I don't have Chris W. walking in on me while I'm applying lotion to my nether-regions - like I did to him in California. (Chris and Liz were in the bathroom, and Chris's hands were down his bike shorts (doing gosh-knows-what. He claims he was applying chamois cream). I walked in and walked out immediateley. I'm not sure who was more embarassed: Chirs or myself. Liz and Sherpa Thomas could NOT stop laughing, though. And now, looking back, I have to admit it was pretty funny.

-After going without a Diet Cherry Coke for an unspecific number of days, that first sip tastes fantastic. Not that I need it. But boy - it does taste great.

-No matter how many times I've watched "Fawlty Towers" (in my opinion, the greatest British Comedy ever produced), I still find the episodes hilarious. John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, and Conne Booth (main actors, I believe) are brilliant. AND funny.

-Making your Significant Other a ham and egg breakfast sandwitch AND coffee makes your own breakfast taste all the better. And you score extra points during the day.

-I'm only 98 pages into my 1014 page Novel. I think I've got a l-o-n-g way to go.

-The cell phone has yet to be replaced. For those few trying to contact me, please accept my sincerest apologies. I have a feeling I'll be getting a new one tomorrow. I always thought I would replace the battery before I replaced the phone. Oh well. The first phone I had got washed, and this one simply got, er, crushed. I think that three times will be the charm.

-Doing insurance paperwork for my accident brought back some flashbacks that I haven't thought about for a long time. And while they weren't great, it WAS good to deal with them. I don't want to bury the past: I want to remember it and grow stronger because of it. And I'm proud of the job that I'm doing thus far. Sometimes the flashbacks will take me by a bit of a surprise, though.

-I noticed that there was a photograph that was slightly crooked in the house and HAD to fix it. Am I the only one with OCD who does this at times?

- Tomorrow I'll be spectating and cheering athletes on at the Local 3 mile Bridge Swim and Aquathon. You had bet your bottom dollar that I did EVERYTHING in my power to be allowed to participate. But alas, I wasn't given the green light. Something about the potential for choppy water and such. Humph. But I understand - when I'm finally unleashed, well, that WILL be interesting...

And now, my House MOnster is giving me a look. Either she 1) Wants the computer to herself (unlikely) 2) Wants to sit in my lap 3) Wants the ugly green recliner to herself or 4) Wants to sit on my lap while I'm sitting on the Ugly Green Reliner.

No thanks to that one - I'm off to bed. Well, first I'll grab a caffiene free diet cherry coke and my book. I may even crack 100 pages before I fall asleep. Then again, you never know.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Tale of 270 Lunges

Once upon a time, there was a girl who dreamed about racing Ironman Arizona and the Age Group World Championships. She worked very hard to make her dreams come true….

She swam lots of laps at the pool….

She biked over mountains….

And she ran as fast and as far as her coach would let her.

One day, she hurt herself in a bike crash out in Sunny and Beautiful Southern California.

But she didn’t let that dampen her spirits…

After a brief hospital stay where she made lots of friends with the friendly staff and even the scary Spinal/Neurological Doctor, she was released and eventually flew home to Pensacola.

Shortly after arriving in Florida, she began a new regiment of training.

She did lots of walking in the pool….

She hiked through the forests (making friends with Little Green Snakes along the way!)…

And she attended physical therapy faithfully three times per week. Every week.

But even though she was doing everything in her power to heal, and even though she had received so many wonderful notes, gifts, and support from friends and strangers alike, she was still a teeny-weeny bit sad.

She would watch her fellow physical therapy counterparts, and wish that she could do the things they did.

She saw the softball players tossing the medicine ball against the trampoline while balancing on the bosu ball….

She watched the basketball player attach stretch chords around her ankles and side shuffle across the room…

She saw people stepping on platforms, balancing on the Swedish ball, playing catch with their trainers while balancing on the inverted bosu, doing ab work on the same Swedish Ball, hopping, skipping, jumping, and looking as though they were working really hard.

Her physical trainer, J-Flo, noticed her upside down smile and commented, “Soon! You’ll be doing so many lunges that you’ll WISH you could be getting heat stems and ultra sounds on your back!”

And still the girl smiled, but was determined to heal even quicker.

At the six week mark, the girl had a CAT scan – which revealed bone that looked perfectly normal. Doctors and therapists were in disbelief over her miraculous recovery, but she knew (deep down) how amazing her body truly was. So she simply smiled and requested to do her lunges.

But her physical therapist made her wait.

Instead, bit-by-bit, she began tossing the medicine ball against the trampoline, but without the bosu ball….

And she was given the lightest stretch chords to tie around her ankles so she could slowly side step across the room…

And gradually, she got to step on (mini) platforms. And she was allowed to kneel on the Swedish ball (with one finger on a high table for support). But still wasn’t allowed ab work on the ball…

Then one day, two weeks later, her routine changed a bit…

She was allowed to stand on the inverted bosu ball while throwing the medicine ball against a trampoline. (And in spite of nearly knocking one of the knee replacement patients over with an errant throw, she kept pressing on).

And her aim, strength, and stability became better…

She was permitted to side-step with the heavy stretch chords across the floor. 10 X 10 steps in both directions became her new norm.

And her legs, glutes, and resolve grew stronger…

And finally, she was told to step up on the 2 foot platform holding a 12 pound medicine ball for 5 minutes, kneel on the Swedish ball while playing catch with the 4 pound medicine ball, and was at last allowed to do ab work on the ball.

Ab crunches, Russian twists, oblique work, back extensions, and any and every exercise her physical therapist could think of were given to the girl…

And still, in spite of sore stomach muscles, her body began to change, her core grew stronger than it was before the accident, her balance and stability became surer, and she soon realized that she was a better athlete because of this experience…

Then today, the girl was given the green light to work on lunges.

Oh yes – she had lunged forward and back across the room for 5 minutes last week, but she was hungry for more. And she let her requests be known to all.

So when her physical therapist announced that today would be, “leg day!” She knew she was in for a special treat.

After warming up on the stair master (15 minutes at level 7 (out of 14), stepping up on the 24 inch step with the 12 pound medicine ball for 5 minutes, side stepping across the room 10 X 10 times with a FAST tempo, hopping (yes – hopping) back and forth with the light resistance band, completing leg extensions (3 X 15 at 80% of max), balancing on the Swedish ball, and completing 5 minutes of walking lunges forward and backward across the room, her physical therapist told her that she was all “warmed up!”

Then he handed her the 10 pound medicine ball with the following instructions:

“Now we’re going to add multiple planes to our lunges. Instead of just forwards and backwards, we’ll be moving to the right and left side.”

He then proceeded to demonstrate what ONE Lunge looked like. It went as follows:

Lunge forward with the right foot and back.
Lung to the right side with your right foot and back.
Lunge to the left side with your right foot and back.
Lunge forward with your left foot and back.
Lunge to the right side with your left foot and back.
Lunge to the left side with your left foot and back.

Repeat a total of 3 X 15 per side.

The girl quickly agreed, but furrowed her brow. She tried doing the math and figuring out how many lunges total that made. But it didn’t matter: because she was on a mission. She and her 10 pound friend (the wonderful blue medicine ball) were going to complete the lunge sets.

All three of them.

While the girl was lunging, one of the other physical therapists responded, “You’ve got 90 lunges! Wow!”

And still, the girl smiled and kept lunging.

This was, after all, exactly what she was hoping and waiting for.

After the first set of 3 X 15 (6 lunges total per rep), the girl walked over to the drinking fountain and did the math. Even though she had a hard time remembering swim laps or calculating the number of bike sets, she very quickly realized that she would be completing a grand total of 270 lunges.

Not including the five minutes of walking lunges before she even started her current set.

But still, the girl said nothing. No complaints were uttered from her lips.

Instead, she grasped her faithful 10 pound companion-medicine-ball and started on her second set.

At this point, the girl had attracted a lot of attention from other patients and physical therapists alike.

But the girl was not focused on them.

Instead, she remembered something that her blogging friend Bree had written to her, “The training is harder than the race. If you can do the training, then you can do the race…”

And with each lunge, she focused on that ideal. With each lunge, she resolved to become better, smarter, faster, stronger, tougher, more driven. With each lunge she remembered less of the accident and more of who she is. With each lunge she chipped away at the old barriers that were holding her back, and instead broke through to the new levels. With each lunge she spread her wings a little further – wings that had been hiding, but were there all along, yet she did not realize it – and prepared to fly.

With each lunge, she simply became herself.

And after another 80 minutes of physical therapy, the girl was happy but tired. She knew she would be sore, but she didn’t mind. This was all part of the process, part of the plan.

And now she’s 270 lunges closer to her goals and dreams.

(As a side note: after dinner, the girl though she might attempt a lunge in the kitchen, just to see if she could… She got down, but wasn’t able to get back up. 270.5 completed.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Personalities at PT

*Quick note: I absolutely destroyed my cell phone. It is now broken in two - I'll b e getting one tomorrow and will see if I saved all my data to the phone OR to the phone chip. Let's cross our fingers for the latter. In the mantime, I'll be sure to post what I CAN do in a while. For those of you that have my number - could you please email me your cell number? Thanks in advacne... :)

Now that I’ve spent several weeks in physical therapy, I’ve acquired a pretty good idea of the varying personality types that work and train at my specific PT studio. So in the style of Elizabeth Fedofsky’s Swimmer Personality Types, I present you – dear readers – with the Personalities of Physical Therapy. Enjoy!

The Over Achiever: Individual who wants to do everything now. They won’t stop, they don’t always listen, and they’re downright stubborn about their program. They want to get better and get on with life. But they always show up (on time!) to appointments and are generally agreeable. They look forward to new challenges and are generally good natured. A real challenge to the physical therapists.

The Golf Pro: Usually attending physical therapy because they need a break from The Tour. They have some sort of injury, but don’t exactly know what or where. They are looking for “their swing” and are waiting for their next “big tournament”. They constantly chew gum, flirt with the assistants, and show up wearing pressed chinos and a striped polo shirt.

The Ex Golf Pro: A retiree with chronic shoulder, arm, or back problems. They had a great career, and now enjoy golf in their free time. Physical Therapy is a hindrance, as it forces them to adjust their swing. But they work twice as hard as their younger counterparts, simply for the love of the game. They constantly chew gum, flirt with the assistants, and show up wearing pressed chino sorts and a striped polo shirt.

The Knee Rehabilitation Patient: Constantly making faces whenever they have to bend their operated-on knee. Spend much time in leg traction and doing flexibility exercises. Generally wear loafers, shorts, and are in the latter stages of life. Have a sense of humor and are good natured about the long scar on their legs. Don’t like balance exercises, as it forces them to wobble uncontrollably.

The Guy on the Cell Phone (always): The cell phone is constantly ringing, and he never fails to answer. Doesn’t matter if he’s doing lunges, step ups, leg extensions, balancing on the bosu, or all four - has always got the phone pressed to his ear. Most annoying when the physical therapists are trying to explain something to him, and he’s still on the phone, chatting away.

The Soccer Player: Usually has some sort of knee or hip injury from kicking hard on their dominant side. Good looking, short, tan, and in-shape, this patient presents a unique challenge to physical therapists. With uncanny hand-eye coordination, they are masters with the medicine ball and trampoline, but don’t like stretching or spending time in traction. Are devoted to physical therapy and will listen to their therapists as they do their coach.

The Softball Player: A sturdy, tall-ish, gal in her late teens or early twenties. Most are constantly working to rehabilitate shoulders or knees. A quiet intensity and focus surrounds most of them. But there’s always one that flirts with her physical therapist. Like the soccer player, most of them have a lot of respect for their physical therapists and treat them like a coach. Except for the lone flirt of the bunch: she’ll do anything she can to draw attention to herself.

The Volleyball Player: Tall, lean, and usually very tan, she draws attention from all the male clients, most notably The Golf Pro, while she moves from one station to the next. Generally, her shorts are as short off the court as they are on the court.

Mr/Ms Missed Appointments: Individual who chooses when they show up. They have no shame in skipping appointments or being late to said appointments. They come whenever they choose, and clearly aren’t all that interested in physical therapy. As a result, the physical therapists enjoy making them stretch or do extra push-ups. And the on-time patients enjoy watching the show.

The On-every-occasion Late Comer: Usually the younger crowd, although busy professionals are know to show up late. They breeze in, 10, 15 minutes after their appointment time with barely an apology or else a half made-up excuse for their tardiness. Their excuse would be believable, however as their lateness is a constant, the physical therapists see right through their excuses. They are also subjected to additional work.

The Occupational Patient: Sits at the table with the occupational therapists, working on hand and wrist movements. Common activities include marble count, sewing practice, and small motor skills. Most patients look as though they crochet their own clothes. And the therapists do as well. Always calm, collected, and quiet, they tend to shoot wary looks at the athletically-minded patients.

The Retiree: Can be confused with the Former Golf Pro. Usually an avid golfer who just wants to get their swing back. Flirts with the assistants, chews massive amounts of gum, and wears khaki shorts with polo shirts stretched tightly across their abdoment. They spend 6 months out of the year on all-you-can-eat cruises, and look perpetually tanned. Always in search of a better golf swing.

The Flirt: Can be confused with The Softball Player or The Volleyball player. Happy to bat eyelashes and do whatever their physical therapist says – as long as the therapist is a good looking young male. Will attempt to use persuasive good looks to get out of the hard stuff, although not always successful.

Barbie: Shows up perfectly made up, eyelashes in place, make-up perfectly applied, and not a strand of hair out of place. In spite of doing the work, never breaks a sweat. Or smells bad – unless the scent of flowery perfume counts. Usually tall and tan. Has an aversion to flat-soled shoes.

Ken: Barbie’s match. Tall, dark, tan and generally hairless and handsome. Has pearly white teeth and a smile that he’ll flash at anything with a heart beat. Can be confused with The Golf Pro, right down the the pressed chinos and striped polo shirt. Smells strongly of aftershave and cologne. Never sweats and is adored by the female secretaries. Has a fake laugh to match his fake smile.

The High Schooler: Never stretches or does his assigned physical therapy at home, but shows up on time because his mom drives him. Hates stretching, but generally willing to make a fool out of himself doing all sort of different exercises. Looks at physical therapy as a “game”, and believes that he’ll inevitably get better – with or without the physical therapy.

The “I Can’t”: Person who never thinks they can do anything, even if they’ve done it before. The knee replacement “can’t ride the bike” and the shoulder surgery patient “can’t rotate with the 5 lb weight.” Tend to give up before trying. Very infuriating to The Over Achiever, and the two normally clash. Frustrating for the physical therapists – but they are determined to make this person do something. Miracles are known to happen.

The Basketball Player: Very very tall. And coordinated for their height. Always wearing baggy shorts and has the latest and greatest new shoes. May even have their own shoe contract, usually as part of a basketball team. Does the work without question, and treats their physical therapists like their coach. Except the PTs are willing to stretch out their shoes and get said shoes “game-ready.”

The Hurt-on-the-Job-er: The person who fell or hurt themselves while working at their job. Depending on their career choice, they may spend time at the Occupational Therapy table, or else on various other pieces of equipment. They show up wearing work clothes: overalls, paint-spattered shoes, or (in the case of occupational therapy), self-crocheted sweaters.

The Funny Guy: Always cracking jokes. Will joke in the chair, while climbing a stair. Will joke while stretching on the wall, or doing sit-ups on the ball. Always ready with a quick response and funny comment. Humor is self-deprecating, but appreciated by all. Enjoys making fun of the late-comers, but mostly pokes fun of themselves.

The Over-confident One: The person who will attempt any pose or any new exercise without question. Usually tends to make a complete fool out of themselves, as they roll off the ball, drop a weight, or toss a ball way off the mark. Can be exasperating for the physical therapists, but their wherewithal is appreciated. Can be mistaken for The Over Achiever and vice versa. But innately different personalities.

The Professional (office worker): Shows up with cell phone and office gear in tow. Depending on where they work, will sometimes bring a change of clothes – suit and tie or pants suit – into the physical therapy office to change after their session. Are always on time, follows their routines without question, and devote their full attention to their progress. Have been known to answer the cell phone, but keep their work separate from physical therapy appointments. Not to be confused with The Guy On The Cell Phone.

The Whiner: Confused with The “I Can’t” individual, except The Whiner is much worse. Not only complains about what they can’t do, but perpetually whines about what they have to do. Something is always not right with them, and they do their best to make every one else aware of their problems.

The Cheater: Are known to skip entire sets of workouts or drills. Finish their assignments oddly early and without sweating. Not to be confused with Barbie. Their progress is not great, as they are constantly cheating on their sets. Unwilling or unable to do hard work. Do not get along well with The Over Achiever or The Over-confident One.

The Great Debater: Tries to finagle different exercises or drills out of their physical therapist. Will debate every last element of their physical therapy, right down to the color hand weights and the times they’ll return. Enjoys the attention from others at the PT studio, and enjoys conversing with all. Has been known to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing.

The Jock: Constantly reliving their high school days, as they were (self-professed) “the best of their lives.” Played football baseball, or basketball and enjoys discussing game-winning shots from 10 years ago. Does not understand The Golf Pro, retirees, or triathletes.

The Rotator Cuff Injury: One of the most painful injuries, but determined to make it through better than before the injury. Especially popular with Softball players and Golfers, this injury requires a lot of patience, and using light weights. Patients are know to make awful and horrendous faces while being stretched out.

The Uncoordinated One: Person who is given a 4 or 6 pound medicine ball, told to “toss sideways against the trampoline”, and who promptly ricochets it off the side of the trampoline, nearly beheading the stretching knee replacement patient. Self-professed klutz. Jokes that there’s a, “reason why I do multisport.”

The Always-Using-The –Bathroom One: Self-explanatory. After EVERY exercise, makes a trip to the bathroom. Makes other patients aware of their own limited bladder space, and thus the line forms. Tends to drink lots of coffee, in spite of their overactive bladder.

The High Heels and Jewelry One: Can be mistaken for Barbie. Always wears jewelry and high heels. Is perfectly made up, smells nice, and has her hair done up. Does not sweat. Questionable weather or not she’s human at all.

The Teacher’s Pet: Always doing what the physical therapist says. Is a little over-eager to please, and is willing to sacrifice dignity for balancing on the Swedish ball. Shows up 10 minutes early and brings treats for all the office workers.

The Animal Lover: Loves all animals, has lots of pets, and smells oddly of dried cat food and fur balls. Talks obsessively about her cats. And then passes around pictures.

So there you have it. Just want to make a side note that IF there is any similarities between REAL people and those portrayed in this article, it’s PURE coincidence. Trust me –unless you want to show up to my Physical Therapy studio and see for yourself. Only make sure if you do decide to attend, you show up on time. But if you don’t, that’s okay. I and my fellow PT patients would enjoy a good laugh, while you attempt 3 X 25 Bosu Ball pushups.

I can only do so much to help you, although, I DO enjoy a good laugh while watching others on the bosu... Wait and wee!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End (Or is it...)?

The feeling of reading a really good book is like no other. At times, my life is wrapped around characters such as Kinsey Millhone, Harry Potter, or I follow the exploits of famous mountaneers Joe Simpson or Anatoli Boukreev. I love reading about the human spirit, adventures that top no other, exploits for the non-fainthearted, fictional history, mystery, and the mastery of overcomming challenges.

My latest read, Ken Follett's "Pillars of The Earth" was wonderful, deliciously long. The characters, plots, themes, history, and reference to art history and 12th Century England was superb.

And a few days ago, I found myself becoming inexplicably morose.

On the plane ride home, I figured it out.

It was because I only had 70 pages or so left. After 800 some-odd pages, I was nearing the end of the novel. My read was almost complete. And as a result, I was sad. Downright depressed.

Peanut M&Ms or Peanut Butter Cups would be no good in a situation such as this.

I am such a book nerd. I am picky about what I read, only allowing myself to delve fully in to a book when I am interested or engrossed. Some books take right away: like I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for Sue Grafton's "Kinsey Millhone" detective series and Harry Potter.

Who doesen't love Harry?

Oh yeah, my Dad.

Oh well - I'm sure if he actually read the series, he too would be charmed.

But that's aside the point.

I guess that if I'm not interested by the first chapter or two, I'll put the book aside and instead, reach for another. And this methood is both good and bad. Good - because I really DO love the books I choose. Bad, because I have to go through a lot of bad ones to find that really great match...

"Pillars of The Earth" (POTE) was truly a diamond in the rough.

I stumbled across it on Greg Remaly's site - thanks Greg! Greg is a phenominal and really fast pro triathlete, who "likes stuff" (his quote, not mine). A few weeks ago, I saw POTE on his site, and resolved to pick it up and read it while home in Minnesota.

Within the prologue and first chapter, I was hooked. And it was only a few days before I was half way done.

On my return flight, I started off the (early!) morning with 150 pages left. By my final flight to Pensacola, I was a mere 40 pages away from the wonderful ending.

But I was sad.

Not because the book was a dissapointment, or because I missed my parents (although I DID miss them very much - already!), but rather because I was almost done with the book.

And this, my friends, is a new experience for me.

I can honestly say that I've never felt the same inclination while racing. I've never wanted to go back to the start of the run after finishing...unless the race was REALLY bad (but - knock on wood - it has'n't happened JUST yet). Instead I'm focused on the road ahead, compeditors ahead and behind, my own body, and my own race.

Never have I found myself grim at the prospect of only 1/2 mile left.

Usually it's the exact opposite.

Somewhere over Alabama, our plane hit a bit of rough turbulence, and even though my seat belt was firmly fastened, my water was covered, and I was focused on my book, I felt my heart rate spike and heard the airline flight attendant's laugh nervously.

Now THAT is something that you don't ever want to hear: the flight attendant who decides that he/she's had enough of turbulence and the crummy flights. The last thing I want is the person who is supposed to protect me when the plane goes down, is to be nervous themselves. Humbug.

So I heard the piar laughing nervously and JOKING about the new pilot up front.

Great - another thing to worry about when i fly.

BUT, in the process of gripping the side seat, one attendant saw what I was reading, and informed me that the sequel was just as good as the first.

What?

Did she say sequel??

Sure enough, she did.

The rest of the book was spent in pure exultation and enjoyment, as I turned one page after another. Suddenly the ending, the conclusion of the book didn't seem so sad: I knew there was another great read AND a SEQUEL at that. Life was great!)

The thought of ending such a great novel was sad to me. Odd how we cecome attached to inanimate objects, or how our lives become intertwined with characters from a novel. Nnt that I'm planning on joining a convent or pursuing a carreer in architecture or cathedral building, but this book was one of the best I've read in a long time. I didn't want the storyline, the plot, or the characters who I've come to know and enjoy reading about so much to dissappear or to end.

But I relished the ending of the book, secure in the knowledge that a sequel was a mere car trip away at Barnes and Noble. And it was wonderful! (Although I do recomend reading it with a good Art History book or Architecute text book. Very helpful!)

So earlier this morning, when I finished my PT session, I hopped in the car and got myself the sequel. "World Without End" takes place 2 centuries later than "Pillars of The Earth" - but it's events and story line remain present in the main city of Kingsbridge.

And that's all I'm going to say.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read my sequel. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. But in the mean time, please understand if my entries are shorter than usual. I've got another 1000+ pages to read through, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things I learned...

Made it back to Pensacola safe and sound. Flights were good, albeit departing at an ungodly hour (5:30 am), meaning that the alarm chimed at 3:30. Can you say tired? Check. No drunk, 400-lb, loud men next to me; in fact I had my very own row on both flights. Sweet. And I was home by 10:40 am, greeted by one Happy House Monster.

And then the fatigue set in.

After 3 hours of sleep, I expected nothing less. And I've been fading ever since.

But as I unpacked, wrote, read, and napped in a state of semi-conciousness, I reflected on the many things I learned, experiences that I had during my trip home. It was so wonderful to see Mom and Dad, spend time with friends, and revel in the beautiful (albeit cool) Minnesota Spring.

So some of the things I learned...:

-I will take off my shirt while huffing away, cursing my coach (in a good-sort-of-way!), and doing high power/high heart rate/low rpm sets on the spinner bike. Only the second time in public that I've taken off my shirt to reveal a grey sports bra. I don't know who was more surprised: me, or the staff at the YWCA. But I didn't mind, so it didn't matter.

-My Dad gives Misty and Miranda, The Minnesota Little House Monsters (except they do NOT attack. They're really sweet, docile, and affectionate), at LEAST 1/3 bag of cat treats upon entering the kitchen. Like I said before, they've got him trained quite well.

-I am a master at driving stick while eating cereal out of plastic bags. Desperate times call for desperate measures: after a 2 hour session at the gym, you would do nothing less. Trust me.

-Crunchy Peanut Butter is awesome all by itself. Hhhmmmm. There's a reason why I don't buy Crunchy Peanut Butter.

-I got up close and personal with a Sloth. Seriously - not kidding. On Monday, Dad and I had a great morning exploring the new Como Science Center and Conservatory (I think that's the name... but not sure. It's connected to Como Zoo and the BEAUTIFUL Japanese Gardens), where we saw said Sloth sleeping in a tree. Did you know that Sloth's pick one tree and spend most of their time in that exact tree? Yeah - they can recognize it by the scent. And for the record, they head down to ground-level about once a week to, ahem, use the bathroom. The little guy in the Conservatory was sound asleep, with one arm grasped around a branch. Looked like a big mass of brownish-redish fur. And arm - can't forget the arm.

-I'm almost done with Ken Fowletts' "Pillars of The Earth". Phenominal book, great read, and really interesting. The first thing I did when I got home (after greeting The House Monster and locking the door), was to pull out a few of my Art History and Architecture textbooks from my college years. Yes, my brief-stint as an Art History major has prooven very useful while devouring this novel. And I was extremely happy to research the cathedrals, building terms, and dates mentioned in the book. As it stands, I've got about 30 pages left. Rest assured, you know what I'll be doing when I finish this blog.

-Sushi class was a blast. On Sunday, Mom and I took a 3-hour course in Sushi making. It was really fun, very useful, and now - prepped with oodles of knowledge and a better understanding of what/how/why I need to do the things I do in order to produce stellar rolls and bite sized delectable bits - I'm confident in my sushi making abilities. Now if I could only find sushi-grade fish in Pensacola, life would be good.... The last thing I want to do is kill or maim myself or my Other Half with tainted fish. Yuck. That would be icky.

-My parents are SO SUPPORTIVE of me, my dreams, and helping me to achieve them. I am very lucky...

-So is Nathaniel, for that matter.

-And we might as well throw in The Housse Monster while we're at it.

-Pain pills are no longer necessary when flying. My back, butt, and body handled the flying, standing in line, security checks, walking aimlessly around, and turbulence like a pro. Then again, it HAS been 9 weeks and 1 day since the crash (not that I'm counting...).

-Costco has everything. And for very reasonable pricess. Well - almost everything. Mom and I managed to get enough food to feed our little household for weeks, but forgot salsa. Go figure.

-The sun rises earlier and sets later in Minnesota than it does in Florida. Even though I set an alarm every morning, I awoke well before it went off. Excpet today, of course. The sun don't rise at 0330. Trust me. Unless you're in Alaska or Siberia or something. And given the choice, I would pick Minnesota over the other two.

-Tuesday night? Deadliest Catch. My date with Nathaniel consisted of watching crab fisherman off the Alaskan coast. Romantic? Not so sure about that... but I love the guy, and the show is (dare I say) growing on me...

-When I lived in Minnesota my parent's had the smallest kitchen ever. And, it had red carpet to boot. After the Kitchen and back yard re-do, the house looks better than ever. Go figure. I grow up, move away, get marriend, and THEN the house looks wonderful. Kids are expensive, I tell you. I wish Mom and Dad had done their kitchen remodel years ago, but I'm really happy that they have the house of their dreams. THAT makes me happy.

-The staff at the YWCA got to know me pretty well. They should: after all, in 5 days, I went to the Y a total of 12 times. And many sessions were well over 2 hours. Suffice to say, I got my $35 worth (the rate of a weekly pass. A tad high, in my opinion. But I was determined...)

-Even though we didn't eat anything Norwegian for Norwegian Constitution Day, we (myself, Mom, Dad, and friends Virgie and Harold) had a great time listening to Norse folk music, discussing politics, science, writing, art and a plethora of other topics, and enjoying the wonderful flag displays. Make sure that if YOU ever decide to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day by unfurling hundreds of little flags, that you've got a lot of patience. It is not a task for the fainthearted.

-Every time I go home, I cry and am sad when I have to leave. I spent today in a bit of a funk: tough to bid farewell to Mom and Dad (even if it is only for a short while). There's just something specail about Minnesota and home to me...

And now, Nathaniel is asleep and my book beckons. Tomorrow is another day that includes phyiscal therapy, another day to work on my recovery, and an opportunity to meet challenges head on. 9 weeks and 3 days post accident - not that I'm counting.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flag Unfurling

I've heard that patience is a virtue.

But when one is unfurling millions of little Norwegian flags attached to itty-bitty threads of string, patience soon runs out. Save yourself the trouble, trust me.

These past 8 weeks and 6 days (not that I'm counting), I've learned a lot about patience. Thanks to some wonderful friends and support - Jen, Ness, Nathaniel, the parents, doctors, Ludi, Ashley, Liz, Mary, Leslie, and dozens of others that I probably forgot because I don't have the patience to continue - I've gotten through the worst time (recovery wise). After a poignant (and gutsy, I might add) email from Ness about REALLY taking my time and allowing my body to recover BEFORE swimming or returning to training, I exercised my own lesson in patience.

No pun intended.

So, one would THINK - with my newfound recovery patience - that I'm a "pro" when it comes to waiting, taking my time, etc etc etc.

But no.

And I came to this conclusion after the third flag of gazillions ripped from the tiny spindle of thread, while I was trying to hang streamers of Norwegian flags from the windos, buffets, doorways, and fireplaces, and any other suitable display place in my parent's house.

What I originally deemed a "5 minute decorating task", quickly turned into a 50 minute marathon session. And there were only 7 banners of flags hung decoratively around the house. YOU do the math, I'm to impatient to attempt.

But the house looked great: all festive and decked out for the Norwegian Constitution Celebration.

Last night we had some great friend's - and fellow Norse people - over for dinner. Dad made beer brats, Mom made Czech potato salad, and I picked out the chocolate dessert cake. Not exactly Norwegian fare - but the herring, flags, streamers, festive napkins, and Hardunger fiddle music purchased at Ingebritsen's in Minneapolis (Scandinavian deli and gift store that has become a hotbed for Scandinavian-Minnesotan's all around.)

My Mom calls it Disney Land for people with a Scandinavian/Norwegian/Minnesotan accent.

And as I was browsing through the various flags, dolls, jewelery, coffee mugs (imprinted with "Uff-da!"), calendars, crafts, wooden salad bowls, and everything-else-I-could-ever-need-from-the-Motherland-er-homecountry, I couldn't agree more.

For yesterday's celebration, the house was decked out, the food was great, the company was better, and we had a great time. Beer Brats, Czech potato salad, chocolate cake and all. And the flags - daintily displayed throughout the house - added to the Norse feeling of our little celebration.

Just don't ask me to unfurl any more. I have a feeling that these will be up for a while.

Friday, May 16, 2008

St Paul Post day 1

Well, I'm here. I'm alive, and I'm listening (with great amusement) as my Mom explains to my Dad why she wants to take a computer course with one of her best friends. It turns out that the guy who set up her ibook failed to give her any passwords. And as we all know (in this password-happy-society), passwords are essential.

Isn't it great to be home?

(And now Mom and Dad are talking about "sticks" and how you can "stick them into the computer, save your documents, and then take them in this little tiny space and stick it into a new computer." I think they mean a thumbdrive? Or am I the one who's totally wrong?)

The trip here was eventful, unfortunately. The fat man at the lone bar in Pensacola Regional Airport was checking me out as I huffed over to my gate. And later - to my great horror - as I arrived on the small plane destined towards Memphis, my booze-drinking friend was happily sitting next to me. Finishing off his cocktail.

I didn't realize drinking before the plane took off was permitted - but I guess that I was wrong. Never mind the fact that it was only 11:15.

So there I was, squeezed into my 1/2 of my plane seat, trying to say out his vodka-stench, and blaring my ipod while I ignored his drunken bantor. And go figure: he HAD to order the bloody mary just as we were experiencing turbulence.

Yeah. Good stuff. You can imagine what kind of flight it was.

To my great amusement, my drunken neighbor turned up on my next flight destined to St. Paul. Thankfully he was a few rows up and over. I could tell by 1) The rasping cough 2) The stench 3) The loud comments 4) The 2 vodka bottles served to THAT row mid-flight.

Great.

Otherwise - things have been a blast thus far.

Well, for the most part. The three of us went to go see an Italian film...not naming any names here, but we were a tad dissapointed. Considering the last movie we all saw at The Uptown Theater was "The Lives of Others", this one didn't hold a candle to it. And I wasn't the only one with this assertion.

Aside from that - I've spent a few hours at the local YWCA. Between the wate running, biking on the spinner, and swimming (tomorrow!), I'm almost one of the "regulars". Well - not quite. But going to the gym twice in one day consitutes for something.

And now, the three of us, along with my old cat Misty are sitting on the back patio. Mom is talking to the cat as though she's a 6 month old child, and Dad has admitted that the cat, "gets kind of demanding sometimes."

That's what happens when you feed her treats EVERY time she gimps into the kitchen. (For the record, Misty has been terrified of the kitchen ever since the remodel began two years ago). So Misty enters the kitchen = Mom OR Dad giving her several treats.

Who's conditioning who? Never mind - I don't want to know.

Tomorrow we celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day. A very important day for Norwegian's The World Around. Mark it on your calendar - May 17, 1814. As Norway was being transfered from Danish to Sedish control at The Congress of Vienna., the Norwegian's drafted their own constitution at Eidsvol (spelling is way off. My apologies to my Norwegian counterparts). The Norwegians drafted their own constitution and laws, but retained the same monach as the Swedes. The Swedish King remained Norway's monarch, but in all other senses, Norway was self-governed.

And now that we've all had our history lesson for the day, I'm off to bed. (Thanks to Dad for the great lesson!)

But before that, I'll listen to my parents talk about the cats, the movie, Norwegian independance, and tomorrow's celebration.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gulf Coast RR by DS

Before my coach spits tea all over her computer (after reading the title of the post), let me explain that the race report mentioned in the header is not my own. And unless my back has decided to miraculously heal and my name is Donna, then I can't take credit for a race well done.

As my fellow Panama City Beachers - Mary and Ashley - have all posted their race reports, my blog was feeling a bit, er, left out.

Is that even possible?

Yes, I've decided that it is.

As I am unable to race in my current state, the race reports have been a bit lacking. Unless you want to count race walking other spinal patients of the 4th Floor Recovery Ward at Scripps La Jolla Hospital. Which, I might add, I did with a passion. But let's face it - it's just not the same walking down another person using a walker, even if you are also using a walker.

Perhaps I'll write about that one day...

I think my nurses were at first concerned, amused, and then concerned when I was still walking after 50 minutes. I am totally serious here. This was (by the way) 2 days post surgery.

Anyway, here's Donna's race report! Enjoy!!

Last weekend was the Gulf Coast Half Iron Distance Triathlon in Panama City Beach, one of the big tri's I've been training my heart out for. And it was wonderful, worth it, and I'm ready to go again!

Joanna and I leisurely drove over from Pensacola Friday afternoon, stopping along the way in Destin to grab sandwiches and soup from Panera and hit the Shoppes. We met Marit, Mary and Ashley, (three amazing athletes, and very cool women) at the hotel that they graciously shared with us! After introductions, Joanna and I went to scope out the race site and I picked my packet up. Lots of vendors and LOTS of people and TONS of really cool bikes!!! (especially when compared to my purple handlebarred dinosaur) Then we went back to the room, I did my quick bike/run pre-race brick workout, showered, and went to drop my bike off in the transition area. Carrabbas was next for a De!- licous pasta dinner- and then to bed!

3:30 a.m. Breakfast number one, clifbar. back to bed.

4:00 a.m. Awakening to the chorus of 5 cell phone alarms, and shortly after, Marits excellent french press coffee. She really knows how to do this whole triathlon thing!

4:45 a.m. Second breakfast. Chocolate boost and banana. Leave for race site.

5:00 a.m. Set up transition area and hit the port-o-potties 5 to 10 times. Pre race nerves. WOW. ;-)

6:00 a.m. Head to swim start, shimmy on wet suit and get ready to RACE!!!!

6:30 a.m. Swim start for women 25-29 age group. 1.2 miles in the choppy Gulf of Mexico. Off to bike 56 miles and then to run 13.1.

5 hours, 27 minutes and 12 seconds later, I crossed the finish line. 45 minutes faster than my last time at this distance one year ago. I guess the 'if you want to quit your job but can't, then this is the training program for you' training program worked! Awesome! I made the podium for my age group. The awards went 10 deep and I was 10th which is wonderful- a lot more than I was expecting.

My swim was solid, the bike was very smooth, and the run while hot, humid and sunny was ... well... I finished! And even with a sprint at the end. Details and pictures soon to be up at gulfcoastriathlon.com.

There you have it!

In her second half ironman, Donna did fantastic! It made me so happy to see her race: diving fearlessly into the surf, wizzing by on the bike (could spot her because of the bright purple handlebar tape - a great help to two sherpas desperately scanning the crowds of bikers - comes strongly recomended. Your bike may look a bit, er, bright. But it is easy to spot. Trust me!), and storming out of T2 on the run.

As for me, well, today I'm heading home to St. Paul, MN for a few days with my folks. Right now, as I'm not racing - but getting back into training - is a perfect chance to spend some quality time with The Folks. Mom even looked into a weekly pass to the local YWCA, so I'll be able to continue with my water running, swimming, physical therapy, and (now! hooray!) biking. My goal is to NOT spend a lot of time at the gym, but as my recovery and rise to triathlon fitness grows, I know that I'll need to put in some good quality work.

And trust me, I am super excited about that.

In general, it'll be wonderful to see my parents. Last time I saw Dad was out in California. I hope that he's stoked about the difference. (I know he will be). Mom was here in Florida in April, and hasn't seen the swimming-water running-physical therapy workout-biking gal that I've become. My scar, while not as puffy, is still there, still as prominent as ever.

And I'm glad about that.

Because I'm looking at it as a battle wound - a badge of honor. Yes, it still looks like a butt crack - but that's beside the point.

Because let's face it: things on the surface are very different then how they are deep down. But not in a freaky bad-sort-of way. You just can't judge a book by its cover.

So when I get to the airport and get searched, wanded, patted down, and everything short of giving up my firstborn (no - not happening YET), I'll have a great story about the scar on my back. 8 weeks and 4 days Baby! (Not that I'm counting!)

To St. Paul and Mom and Dad - here I come!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Missing: Lats

WOW!

I am incredibly lucky -

So much, that I can't believe that I'm about to write what I'm going to write.

Additionally, I am one great-big happy camper.

Here we go!

(And keep in mind - this is not complaining. Just a statement of the fact).

I am SO sore. I can feel my soreness resonating throughout my body. I am aware of every little movement, every little step, every single breath that I take. The arms, lats, chest, legs, abs - everything is one red hot level of OUCH!

It started Monday, when Physical Therapist Jonathan told me we were going to work on arms and abs.

It sounded suspicious, like conditioning work. I was assured that was.

"You're at the point in your recovery," he began while pulling out the bosu ball from under one of the benches. "That we can start getting your conditioning back. We can do specific strenght work, as long as it helps your back and doesn't hurt."

Then he made me do a million pushups.

Just kidding, sort of. It was actually 3 X 15 pushups off the inverted bosu ball. And later I did another 30 pushups off the Swedish Ball. Do me a favor: don't do the math.

And that was pretty much how Monday's physical therapy went. It was hard, it was work - and I loved every minute of it.

I may have left my pecs and lats at the PT Office, but it was a great session.

Additionally, I was given the "All Clear" to start biking FOR REAL. After bringing in my ISM Adamo Saddle and explaining the mechanics of riding a bike, Jonathan decided that I could ride for up to (but no more) than two hours per day. The catch? I could ride an hour in the morning and an hour at night.

It's a start!

Again - I floated out of the office (sans pecs and lats).

Yesterday's 4800 yard swim was a turning point. It was one of those challenging workouts where a lot of T-pace work. I sent Jen an email, asking about pace. Her reply was cheerful, a bit too cheerful, if you ask me.

She gave me permission to swim my 100s on a fast XX pace - and I was momentarily stoked. But then I added up the nearly 3200 yards of T-pace work, and my knees begain to quake. Literally.

But I set my goals, decided that I could hold a specific pace and vowed to not dip below that. And besides, the fact that my pecs and lats were sore - what did that matter? I was swimming, I was going to work hard, and I wanted to embrace the challenge.

About half way through my swim, I began experiencing an odd sensation in the lats and triceps. I was pulling as hard as I could, but couldn't quite understand what was happening. I hit the wall, noted my time, and took off precisely 15 seconds later.

Came in again, with nearly the exact same time.

And the workout - the longer sets and then the slower sets were pretty much all off the same 100 split. (Which was 1-2 seconds below my goal - huurah!).

During my final set of FAST 50s, my pace remained the same. It didn't matter how hard I pulled, how fast I flipped, how much I kicked, my body had reached the end of its line. I willed myself forward, grateful for the opportunity to feel this way.

At every flip turn, my abs burned. My lats were gone, left somewhere 2000 yard back. The triceps were hanging in there, but were about to blow spectacularily. And my chest, well, I think it was there. It looked like it was there. But I couldn't be sure.

Almost an hour and twenty minutes later, I flopped out of the water, my first attempt to exit the pool unsuccessful. My arms wouldn't work. I grinned as the guy in the lane over gave me an odd look, and redoubled my efforts. Even though Jen might like it if I spent more time in the pool, after a monster 4800 yard set, I had had enough, thank-you-very-much.

But I was still proud of what I had done, how I worked through the swim.

It was during the short drive home that I found myself thinking over the swim and my physical therapy. I am beginning to feel more and more like my old self, meeting new challenges head on, feeling myseslf push through hard workouts. I'm still not physically the person I was, but I'm getting closer and closer each day.

This morning I am beyond sore. I don't know how I'll manage another "arms and core!" day in PT. But I know that I will. And I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Because that's what my soreness is: a second opportunity, another chance. In no way will I ever complain about the monotony of a workout, will I lament how tired or fatigued I am. 8 weeks ago I was told I would never be able to do the thins I am, would struggle with walking. Yet here I am, able to swim Jen's workouts and do billions of pushups in PT.

(Off the bosu ball, I might add).

And that's the thing that I realize - it's okay to be sore, it's okay to be tired. It's just the attitude with which we choose to look at ourselves, view life that matters. I am grateful for the opportunities, happy to be where I'm at. And while my lats are somewhere in lane 7 at the UWF Aquatic Center, and my pecs are hiding with the bosu ball at the PT studio - the point is, is that I can do these things.

So today as I head off to physical therapy, I'll remember how happy I am. And if I'm lucky, I'll find my pecs waiting for me with the bosu ball. The lats are another matter - but I know they'll turn up sooner or later.

Monday, May 12, 2008

8 Weeks

Well, after a fun-filled and adventursome weekend, I made it home - safe and sound - back to Pensacola. Nathaniel was happy to see me, and The House Monster was extatic. And while it's great to be back home with my Other Half and Kitty, I find myself a bit sad about leaving my friends.

I don't know how to describe last weekend, except for magical.

It was simply fantastic seeing Mary and Ashley all over again. And while I wasn't racing (and there were a few tears at the start of the W25-29 wave), I loved being in the atmosphere, cheering people on, participating on some level in this sport.

So today, naturally - I felt myself a little sad.

I miss my friends, miss the beach... but will always hold dear the memories that we created.

Thanks Mary and Ashley - I love you guys!

And, for the record, Mary invited Ryan to be an honorary member of Camp HTFU, after hearing his rendition of becoming an Ironman last year at Florida. The poor guy had a faster bike split than run - caused by severe internal GI distress. Vomit and poop don't even begin to describe what this guy went through.

But after stumbling through the final 5 miles, he finally heard, "Ryan Barnett...." and his first thought was, "God? Is that you? Have I died?"

And then he crossed the finish line.

I've never seen Mary Eggers laugh as much as she did Saturday after the race. She was all smiles, listening to Ryan tell his story. Without getting too much into the graphic details, I caught Melissa - his super wife and fellow sherpa extraordinaire - giving me a disgustetd look.

And I returned it.

Ew - boys are gross.

But Ryan did stellar - finishing his race a mere 5:00 off his goal time, and grabbing some serious hardware in the process. 2nd Clydesdale - Congrats Ryan!

And today - well - toady marks the 8 wek anniversary of my accident. Has it really been 8 weeks? Wow. Time has really flown by. However, looking back, 8 weeks would have felt like an eternity from a hospital bed.

I have learned so much about myself through this process, through this Journey. And while the accident was unfortunate, nearly everything that has happened since has been wonderful.

So in celebration, I'm writing about the top 8 funny things that have happened since my crash. Enjoy!

8) Being able to pick up The House Monster. All 18.2 pounds of her.

7) Doing laps around the 4th Floor spinal ward of Scripps La Jolla Hospital, and "racing" fellow patients in the process. It was then and there that I knew I would be back before I knew it.

6) Having a lady tell my my pants were too low. I'm assuming that she saw my Extendo Crack, but I wasn't sure. Oh well - if you've seen one butt crack, you've seen them all. Except for mine. My extended one is unlike anything you'll ever see.

5) Doing core work on the Swedish Ball at physical therapy, and rolling off because the ball was slippery. I laughed for 3 minutes until I regained my composure and tried again. My wonderful PT wasn't happy about my antics, and decided to demonstrate himself - only to slip off the ball. Nearly wet my pants in the process.

4) Recieving all the cards, packages, and well wishes from friends, bloggers, and complete strangers. In the midst of a bad day - where I'm frustrated or sad - I'll pull out cards or pictures, and soon I'll smile and realize how grateful I truly am. It's an even better pick-me-up than a shot of whiskey. And it doesn't burn on the way down.

3) No ice baths! No freezing water! No ice bumping against my legs! Need I say more???

2) Trying to "save" some beached rays during the Gulf Coast Half getaway weekend. After sitting in the sand with Mary for half an hour, watching the skates and rays play in the waves, we returned to the room and I glanced out the balcony. To my horror, the rays that I had fallen in love with, had gotten caught up in a crashing wave, and were flopping around on the sand.

Without thinking, I ran down the two flights of stairs and hit the beach. Mary and Ashley yelled that the little critters were okay and back in the water. But I had to see it to believe it.

All I remember is them yelling at me to, "NOT RUN!"

I tore across the sand, not listening to their cries of, "We'll tell your coach! We have her number!"

And sure enough, the rays were okay.

And I got to run across the sand. (My back felt great!)

1) Regaining sensation on the right side of my pelvic region exactly a week after my surgery while walking down Pacific Coast Hwy 101 in Del Mar, California. It was very embarassing, as it felt itchy -for lack of a better word. Nathaniel found it hilarious, and encouraged me to scratch my itch. For the life of me, I was unable to do so.

For Pete's sake - there was stopped traffic and people eating at ousdie cafes. Scratching my pelvic area in public did NOT seem the right thing to do - post surgery or not.

8 weeks. Wow. Still a can't believe it happened - but I am amazed at all the good that has come about since the crash. And it gives me hope, makes me realize that We all have the ability to make something negative and turn it into a positive. Because, after all, we can't change what happens, but we CAN control how we reach, how we choose to respond.

And with a lot of good friends, wonderful family, and a very devoted House Monster, I'm excited and optimistic about what the next 8 weeks have to offer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Morning After (still in PCB)!


Holy Wind and Waves Batman!

This morning the three of us awoke to crashing surf and blowing winds. The Palm Trees are waving uncontrollably back and forth, and the white caps in the water stretch as far as the eye can see. Red flags and warnings have been posted all along the beach, and I can only wonder what if this would have been yesterday.

But it wasn't.

Mary was the first one up, and half awake, I saw her head out onto our deck, greeting the mornig surf and stretching. She's feeling great after her race yesterday, not too sore, just happy to have a great first race under her belt.

Ashley was the tired one of the bunch. Stuffing one of her three pillows over her head, she turned down the offers of fresh coffee, and told us to close the balcony door. We readily obliged. After stumbling out of bed, she was the one to declare Let's go to Waffle House.

And so we did.

It seems as though our final day trip to Waffle House has become a tradition for Camp HTFU ladies. So in planning our next destination, we need to ensure that a Waffle House is nearby. (And for the record, Mary got her "official" Waffle House coffee mug, complete with a coffee stain and chip.)

As for me, I'm feeling contemplative.

Looking across the blue-green waters of the choppy Gulf, I'm thinking about all the events that transpired yesterday. The race, the sherpa-ing, meeting new friends, and best of all: the time that the three of us spent together after the race.

Later in the day, Mary and I wandered down to the beach and sat in the sand, letting the waves tickle our toes. I've never had so much fun, or so much sand in my shorts. It was great watching the rays and skates playing in the surf, their ability to fly through tubes of water reminded me of birds soaring overhead.

After raiding the Wal-Mart (because, let's face it: Panama City Beach is not complete without a trip to the Wal-Mart of Waffle House!) of junk food and dinner, our evening picnic on the water's edge was one for the memory books.

I am sad to be leaving today, sad to have to tell my friends so long for now and see you soon! I know that we will, and that we're already planning our next trip together.

HTFU Girls Gone Wild. Or something like that. Only if you can count Mary jumping through waves in a pink cheetah suit, Ashley discussing the merits of her own body odor and skank, and me trying on Hooters shirts.

And yes, we DID find the "H" in HTFU. For "H" Bomb, according to our matching Hooter's Shirts. (For the record, we look stellar in our matching outfits).

And now, Ashley has just left - and the room feels empty without her. Mary is packing her bike, and together we're plotting our final swim together (in the Panama City Beach Aquatic Center, as the Gulf is a no-swim zone today). Her plane takes off at 3:30, so we've still got plenty of time.

After a weekend like this, it makes me appreciate and love the friends that I have, grateful for the time we get to share, and love the sport that I've chosen. I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend - with the girls I love.

Me and Mary on the beach!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gulf Coast Triathlon

Well - the race was today. Could you tell?

Ah, and what a whirlwind it was.

I had no clue that sherpa-ing was so tough. It's one thing to race, to get caught up in the pre-race jitters, the prep, the race itself, and the recovery. But the sherpa is there through it all: worrying, helping, running around, waiting, doing some more running around, more waiting, answering calls from friends and families of the ahtletes racing, waiting, waiting, waiting...

And waiting.

And today was only 5 hours for almost all of my friends.

Imagine what an Ironman is like

So to all the Race Sherpas out there: Thank you for what you do. Triathletes, athletes, sporty-peoples in general could not do what we do without your support.

Highlights from the day include:

-Ashley literally choking on her oatmeal at 4:30 am

-Mary yelling how she LOVED the water and had a meeting with Jaws, while watching the waves roll in.

-Ashley putting on her wetsuit legs while sporting a plastic bag over her feet. Surprisingly, it slid on fairly quickly. To our complete and utter amazement.

-Standing on the beach and wathing the waves of athletes take off. I was nervous, happy, and tearful. Nervous for my friends, happy that they were spending a day doing what they loved, and tearful because I couldn't be out there. I was THIS close to running in the water as my wave was called out, but Sherpa Joanna held me back. And gave me a hug to help my tears.

-Seeing Mary, Ashley, Ludi, Donna, Amy K., Ryan, Petra, Katy, Stephanie L., Jennifer P-H, and several others that I can't remember out on the course.

-Yelling GO GO GO! at the top of my lungs at strangers.

-Yelling at Amy to "Go get her!" and having her say, "Are you Marit?" FYI: she pronounced my name correctly. Whoever told her - thanks! Had a chance to meet her at the finish after her win. She looked graceful and fast running down the chute, but collapsed into a wheelchair afterwards. First person I've seen give an interview from a wheelchair after winning a race.

Hilarious! But she deserved it!

-Managing to see all my friends on the bike AND get pictures. Yes, Super Sherpa indeed.

-Hugging everyone after the race, inspite of their sweat and grossness. At least they had sweated everything out. I was just a bundle of messy workout clothes, topped off with slightly damp hair. I know, I know - looking like a million bucks. Well, not so much.

-Hearing 8 Mile at the start of what would-have-been my wave

-Seeing Mary smile at every junction I saw her on the course

-Cheering for Ashley and having her yell, "This is for YOU!" Cried again right there.

-Comparing pieces of chocolate cake vs vanilla cake at the store. That was for Liz.

-Sitting on the beach for Mary for half an hour after the race. We were wearing bathing suits and sitting in the surf, and ended up with 3 pounds of sand in our suits. We had to wash very carefully, as we didn't want to grow any pearls in unmentionable areas.

-Letting Ashley pick the movie choice post-race. It was about ballet. I love her, but will never understand her choice in movies.

-Listening to the sound of the surf while reading my book.

-Being so proud of my friends - for going out of their comfort zones, pushing themselves and taking a risk, and pursuing their dreams. I am so proud of these incredible women, and love them all. I am honored to be here, grateful for the friends that I have.

-Our Trio Beach Junk Food Picknic at dusk. We decided to spend the entire time spread on the blanket without talking triathlon. We were successful. And it was the most I've laughed in a long time.

-Watching athletes on the course cheer and support each other.

-Running down the batteries on Mary's lap-

(hee hee hee)

Love to my friends. Thank you for sharing this with me! Congratulations to everyone who raced and who Sherpa-ed!

Friday, May 9, 2008

PCB Day 2 (pm)

Well, the bikes are racked...

The Nutrition has been prepared...

Race clothes are layed out...

Aero helmets are at the ready (and looking like they're an extension of the "Green Goblin" character from Spiderman!)...

And my girls are calm, cool, collected, and handeling this part like the Superstars they are.

Because let's face it: the night before a race is always the most difficult. At least that's how it is for me. And why is that? Because you can do absoluteley nothing about it. You just wait. It's literally the calm before the storm of race day.

Racing is a joy, racing is fun; racing is the celebration at the end of your training. But everyone gets nervous - myself included.

But it's been great spending time with Mary and Ashley (and later Donna and Joanna). I have learned so much from them, am so happy to be here. I wouldn't want to spend the night before the Gulf Coast Half with anyone else.

Mary is her usual sunny self. Relaxed, cool, excited and ready to celebrate. She is very excited about the swim, as the water promises to be a bit more turbulent than last year. Her power on the bike is simply amazing: but the training and effort she has put forth to control her bike and enhance her run has really caught my attention the most. I her pace discussions, her incredible running schedule, and I know that she has the finess, the fitness, the strenght, and the courage to chase down her dreams.

Mile by mile, step by step.

And as usual, she'll be smiling the entire time (working hard, YES!), but more importantly, celebrating the fact that she is LUCKY enough to race a half ironman. Because let's face it: not everyone who wants to can race.

(very small sniff from the girl with the broken back, er mending back).

And my South Carolina Soul Sister Ashley Long. She is model triathlete all the way. And while the swim may shake even the most fierce compeditors to the core, earlier in the day while staring out at the chirning Gulf, she muttered, "F*ck it!" And sprinted into the water.

I have never been so proud.

After diving under the waves and leaving Mary and I breathless and bewildered on the beach, Ashley Long found her swimming gene. And we had to drag her out of the Gulf.

I am not kidding.

She is ready, she is fast, she has an incredible bike strength (again, I saw her drop ALL the Camp HTFU'ers while climbing a hill into a headwind), and can run FAST off the bike. Her strenght shows through, just as much as her quick smile. Even though this is her second half ironman, I know that she's ready. Ever since watching her and training with her in South Carolina, I know that this girl has what it takes. As soon as that gun goes off, Ashley Long will run headlong into the beckoning waves of the Gulf.

And I can't wait to cheer.

And finally, Donna. I haven't had the pleasure of knowing Donna as long as I've known Mary or Ashley. I met her at the UWF pool in Pensacola, and have been incredibly impressed by her tenacity and dedication. Her work ethic and desire are only a small part of who she is and what she can do. I've seen her swim, know that her rowing background lends her strength in the water she may not even realize she has. Her bike is ready to go, purple bar end tape and all, and she has a very fast run. Even though she's newer to triathlons, I know that she'll put herself out on the course tomorrow and walk away loving what she's discovered.

And those are the racers.

The two sherpas (World's BEST Sherpas, I might add!) include myself and Joanna. Tomorrow we will rise early, brew coffee, support, carry, lend a helping hand, pump, console, soothe, fire up, help, cheer, wave, wistle, snap-photos, and do anthing else in our power to support the incredible ladies racing. We are so proud of them, and feel lucky to share in their day.

I was a little sad while Ashley, Mary, and Donna racked their bikes in transition earlier. I really miss this sport, am so grateful to what I've gained through it, and want more than anything to run headlong into the crashing surf tomorrow morning. I know my time will come - but this race was really special for me last year, and as such - it holds a special place in my heart. There were some tears in the car as I drove back to the hotel with Mary. She was very consoling, and told me to let it out and that I have these feeling for a reason.

And she's right.

So I won't deny my own sadness, but I'll ALSO remember the good things, the good times, all the positives that have come from this race, from this sport.

The race is about celebration: it is only part of the Journey at large. It is a happy day, full of hard work, pursuing one's dreams, doing what one loves, and having the ability to swim-bike-run. Tommorow is a happy day for those racing (and spectating).

And while I know it'll be hard, I will do my best to live up to the World's Best Sherpa name. Coffee is a must, as Ashley has gone without it for several weeks (an impressive feat all unto itself).

We are getting up at some oddly early hour, as Mary wants to eat oatmeal at 2. Or was it 3?

All I know, is that I'll get up at some early time, brew coffee, and hit the raod at 4:45 am. And I'll cheery my friends, my soul sisters as they complete yet another part of Their Journey. Yes, it will be hot, it will be warm - but Joanna and I are ready to have a blast.

And afterwards, Mary has vowed to spend the next 24 hours in a bathing suit on the beach. I think Ashley admitted to being the "Queen of Skank", because of her drive down and the pungent odor she produced, and as such - told Mary that the showers WOULD be taken, and that the bathing suit WOULD come off in exchange for another at some point.

There was also promises of eating Peanut M&Ms and drinking wine on the beach. We'll see.

First - the race. And then a New Journey, a New Chaper begins.

PCB Day 2 (am)

So far, so good.

Apparently, Panama City Beach CAN handle the three of us. However there are two more on the way. So you never can tell.

Currently I'm sitting on the deck of our awesome hotel, overlooking the beautiful (but roaring) Gulf. I just brewed our second French Press of coffee for the day, and the one and only Ashley "Speed Racer" Long is sitting next to me, feet propped up and munching away at Honey Nut Cheerios while people watching below.

There are two individuals who just entered the Gulf wearing iner tubes around their waists. Great for kiddies, but no so great if you're 35.

And if the inner tube barely fits around your waist, you might (just might) want to reconsider.

(We just harbored a bet that the iner tube people would be the first ones to get knocked over by the 2-4 foot swells.)

The morning dawned bright and early. Well, not exactly bright, but early.

Awoke to the sweet sounds of the crashing Gulf at 5 am. Mary had insisted that we leave our door open - and for the most part, its working out great. We can hear and see the water. But everything in our room is coated with slick moisture, brought about by the infamous Florida humidity. I am very careful when plugging in appliances to brew coffee.

But electrocution hasn't stopped me yet (knock on wood).

Did I mention that I've brewed 2 French Presses worth of coffee?

Thought so.

Shortly after waking up, I headed off to the local Aquatic Center, and knocked out my water run and swim. As the conditions of the Gulf are not condusive to long distance swimming, I figured I'd get my 45 min swim in the relative safety of Long Course Meters.

However, it didn't stop me from practicing a few entries with Mary and Ashley. And I had a blast.

The feeling of dashing in (carefully - I timed my approach during the smaller of the waves, as to avoid any impact with my back)), feeling the water on my body, jumping headlong into the green waters, and kicking my heart out was wonderful. And once we got several meters from the beach, it was the best feeling, just riding up and down and up and down and up and down...

At one point, I yelled, "Watch out!" to Mary. She panicked and swam towards me, and then got pummeled by a wave as I ducked under.

When I surfaced she was laughing, and joked, "I thought you saw a shark!"

Apparently I'm not the only one with sharks on the brain.

I don't know what else to say.

Mary has joined us on the balcony, and our room is now being cleaned. It is disgusting: coffee grinds all over the sink, dirty towels on the floor, garbage full of girl stuff, underwear here, bras there - the usual.

What else to say?

Uummm - for the first time in my life I tried sucking on a Nuun tablet. Without the water. Apparently Desire Ficker does it: and what works for her, should work for me, right? At least that's what Mary said while popping half of one into her mouth. Ashley got the other half, and me - being the HTFU'er that I am - popped the entire thing in.

Word to the wise: don't try this at home.

It was one of the most disturbing feelings that I've ever experienced in my mouth. And I know that's probably not saying a lot - but the combination of flavor and fizzy was overwhelming. Yuck. I was the first one to spit it out.

Then again, I did have the entire flippin' thing in my mouth. I was disturbing to say the least.

Other highlights include: too much suncreen application. I would not be doing my job as the WBS if I allowed my girls to get burned.

So if they looked as white as ghosts, well, the'll have me to thank for it later.

Additionally, when Mary and I were sitting on the deck at 5:45 am, we spied 4 young lads galavanting towards the surf. Were they drunk? We were unsure, but watched with great delight as they took turns playing in the surf. I was slightly tempted to flash then - but as soon as that though came into my mind, I quickly pushed it away.

Where did that come from?

Perhaps from the last time I was on vacation at the beach with Nathanile, I may have flashed a passing helicopter. But I was too inebriated to remember.

Ah - those were the good old days.

Ahem. Moving on.

Now, we just spied Elizabeth Fedofsky's husband's fat twin. The guy was rinsing a wetsuit and had the biggest grin on his face. So cute!

But he looked up our way after Mary took a picture. A little obvious perhaps, but then again, we're on vacation at the beach.

Overall, so far so good. We're off to the expo in a few minutes to get packet pickup, and then return for bike cleaning and some shopping. Can you believe that this hotel doesen't serve fruit for breakfast? So wrong.

And now I must go.

But not before I mention that our iner tube friends gut got pummeled. And there's only one that's still in the water. He looks to be okay - but you never know. We'll have to stick around to find out.