Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful!

No words can really describe how I feel this Thanksgiving. But a picture certainly can...
I am SO THANKFUL for Nathaniel's safe return last Sunday, after a 7-month deployment to Afghanistan. A lot of stuff happened during this deployment - on both ends. We've both lived a lot of life and our perspective and views of the world have definitely changed.

We are so grateful for the time we have together, our family and friends (and my doctors), and the opportunity to enjoy the life we live.

Welcome home Sweetheart - I am so thankful for you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Happy Event

In spite of feeling like my legs had NO response when it was time to go fast in the pool, burying my head in the jar of peanut butter, and encountering the same difficult passage over and over (and over!) again in Mahler, there were some pretty beautiful moments during my day...

The most wonderful of them all, though?

Watching my friends reunite with their spouses after a 7-month deployment. Words seem so inadequate at a time like this....so I won't even try. But seeing this, makes me grateful for Nathaniel, our military service members, and all the special people in my life.

Welcome Home ADVON!


Gee...it makes me want to go hug Nathaniel- More importantly....this picture makes me smile, makes me feel happy, and reaffirms my faith in Happily Ever After.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Training Mojo

It's been an interesting, good, fun week, training-wise. And for the life of me, I can't remember the last time I said that. I'm finding that my body can pretty much handle 10-12 hours of training without getting sick (KNOCK ON WOOD), and in all honesty - I'm really really really enjoying myself.

Repeat: I'm really really really enjoying myself!

I'm still wrapping my head around the recent health "adventures" (is that the right word?).... heath "escapades"....healthcapades?

No - that sounds too much like "icecapades" for my liking.

I'm still trying to come to terms with everything that has happened this year. And while I've accepted the fact that setting a new half marathon PR is not realistic for my November 14th race, at the end of the day - I love the structure of workouts, of running, and beginning to feel bits of Healthy/Happy/Athletic Marit resurfacing. But most of all (and the most important) I'm having fun.

I've always loved running, loved working hard and putting myself out there - feeling the tremendous satisfaction of pushing beyond what I thought was possible, one sweaty, caboose-like breath at a time.

And no, I'm not (nearly) as fast as I used to be. But you know what? Right now... after everything that has happened.... I don't give two shits about my time or pace. At this point, victory is lining up ON the starting line, as happy and healthy as I can be.

Okay... that's a slight fudge. But very slight.

I AM doing tempo work, have some fast stuff on the schedule.... and that work is keeping me honest. Trust me - running 5 or 6 miles at "goal race pace" will do just that. Keep you honest.

At the end of the day, I just want to have the best race that I can possibly have - everything else is (as I so frequently say) icing on the proverbial sheet cake.

And on a completely different note.... I don't think Joel McHale from "The Soup" (Nathaniel's favorite show...) thinks very highly of the "Real Hosewives of Beverly Hills." Just a hunch. But you be the judge -
Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Weekend recap & BOUS pictures!

What a weekend, eh? LOTS of racing, lots of cheering, and HOLY COW!! Just a lot of people toeing the line, putting themselves out there, taking risks, and living the dream. Totally. Awesome.

Saturday was bittersweet for me; in the Kona lead-up, I wasn't sure how I would feel on the actual day of the race. Race week, I was grateful to not experience the pre-race nausea-inducing stress. Last year, I distinctly remember telling Nathaniel that, "If I can get through Kona, ANY future race will seem easy by comparison."

How true - but how sad at the same time. If only I knew then what I know now. But that's the case for so many of us, and I know that with whatever I'm going through - 1) I'm not the only one and 2) I'm not alone. I take great solace in those facts.

Saturday morning was hard, and watching the race start on Ironman Live was bittersweet: I was ecstatic for my friends....but I cried at the same time. I don't miss Ironman training, per se. But I miss the sport.... I miss biking outside and the training associated with it. I would do just about anything to time trial down a long stretch of road, feeling my legs powering through the sting of working HARD.

And part of me misses the life I once had; learning to live with lupus, my auto-immune disorder, and the complications that I have as a result, is challenging. I have great days, true. But there are other days where, for lack of a better word, I feel like I'm training for Ironman (but without the benefit of actually training). I'm only going to say this once - because I know that so many people have it a lot worse than me, and it the end I'm grateful for all the things that I DO have... but it just seems so unfair. And sometimes I'm just really sad.

So Saturday....I let myself be sad and I watched IM live. Drinking an entire bottle of wine and getting completely drunk off my ass WOULD have been appropriate, save for the fact that I'm on blood thinners and am therefore limited to 2 X 4 oz servings (of wine).

Bloody fantastic.

There's not really much else I can say about that. Oh well. Bah fucking humbug.

But I was cheered and buoyed by the fact that Sunday morning, I would be cheering Julia (Team Minnesota!!) and Seeley (Team Florida!!) at the Best of the US National Championships, about an hour north of me, in Mission Viejo, CA.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about race spectating. I did a lot of that after breaking my back, and it was difficult - I wanted to much to be out there, competing, participating, racing. But the 2010 lupus/DVT/PE versus 2008 broken back is VERY different, as is my mentality from one situation to the other. I feel like such a different person now, from who I was back in 2008; and the life-lessons I learned then, are (without a doubt) helping me now. If it's possible to age 50+ years in a relatively short time frame, I think I would fit the bill.

4:20 am Sunday rolled around, and after minor cursing at my alarm and plenty of coffee consumption, I was headed north on the 5 by 5:15. The benefit of an early-wake-up call? VERY light traffic into Orange County. I only got lost once and before too long was walking the half-mile stretch from where I parked the car to the race site. I may have stopped to pee in the bushes once along the way, but I can neither confirm nor deny such actions.

It was GREAT seeing Julia, and meeting Rich (her fantastic hubby) for a second time. My job, aside from cheering my lungs out and being the best race Sherpa I could possibly be, was to take fun pictures. Yes, I may have brought multiple cameras, but I've never gone to a race with the mindset of capturing images... It's always been about racing and cheering. Plus - as a former racer, I have the benefit of knowing all the cool pictures I would have LOVED to have seen while I was racing.

Plus, I really like the "Best of the US" triathlon series. Jerry and Trudy (race organizers) are icons in the sport and truly fantastic people. I wanted to give them both hugs (which I did!).

Julia was a stud - leading the chase pack out of the water, working hard on the bike, and bringing it home on the run. But I'll let her share that on her race report. It was also awesome to cheer on Seeley - and I was SUPER happy to see her running to a Top-5 finish.

I think what I noticed most about these athletes - these top triathletes from their respective states - was their drive and determination. No matter the circumstances or challenges - goggles getting kicked off, bike headset slipping, or hot temperatures on the run - they pushed through. They kept going, fighting to the very end. And the reason they were able to persevere through the ups and downs of racing? Because they practice... they train through those difficult moments.... and they are hungry for personal victory (whatever their definition of victory may be).

I think that's what I miss most about the sport - not so much crossing the finish line (although that's always an amazing feeling), but I've never felt so alive as I have in those times were I KNEW things were hard, where I wanted to slow down and stop...but I didn't! When my drive, determination, my mental focus as an athlete overrode any instinct to give in. The feeling of beating the odds, of breaking barriers, of raising one's performance to the next level is an incredible one.

I believe that I'll experience this in the future, one day - through running or swimming... I know that whenever I reach the top of a mountain peak, I feel that sense of elation, that feeling of being alive and persevering through. Quitting is always an option - but I didn't cave, didn't give up, didn't give in.

And who knows? Maybe I'll enter a triathlon at the last minute if I'm feeling okay.... Never say never. It's not just about being on blood thinners - because if it were just that, I think I would eventually be comfortable racing (indoor trainer workouts... closed race courses.... etc).

But the health complications of the lupus just downright suck. (Yes, I am very eloquent with my words, am I not?). I NEVER want to feel the way I felt going into Kona last year... and then again earlier this year, getting sick over and over and watching my dreams of racing with each subsequent illness, slip a little further away. How many times can one's heart break?

I never know how I'll feel each day when I wake up... some days are great, while others I feel like shit (from late August last year going into Kona and then the months after - every day I felt like shit... but I chalked it up to the training, to the race. At least now, I DO have regular days where I feel fine!). As for the good days vs shit days, I'm never sure if it's because I'm dealing with a flareup, or if I just woke up in the middle of the night and - um, for example - ate peanut butter by the spoonful. I guess my thought-process with this feels so undefined, because I'm still figuring things out for myself.

And I'm probably still in a bit of denial over everything. Yeah, that too. It's one thing to say it... it's an entirely different beast to feel it, deal with it, and accept it. It's a work-in-progress. That's all I can say.

Racing and training is supposed to be fun - and I need to be in the mentality (and understand) that 'Hey - I have this thing, this auto-immune disorder where my body just (for lack of a better word) doesn't "work normally". I look healthy... I act healthy... I eat a very healthy diet, exercise, do all the "right" things - but I just have this thing, and my body is different.' I'm still thinking this one through, still learning to deal with this aspect of life. Talking to Rich - a cancer survivor - was extremely helpful...picking his brain about these things while Julia raced, was a very good thing for me.

Back to racing....

It's wonderful to watch people do this - to make their dreams come true. I guess that's also why I love the sport....because anything is possible. Oh - and the people ROCK. (Oh - and if you ever see me at an event, PLEASE come say hi! Marta - it was SUPER to meet you!)

And finally... a few pictures from the race. CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who raced - good races, bad races, and everything in between. It is NOT easy putting yourself out there, facing the many challenges associated with competition. But you did it - congratulations to all.

Pre-race happy! Don't let the smile fool you - she's actually really fierce.

Lining up under the start banner.

Best of the US - Men's start!

Breaking the surface in those first few race moments...

Best of the US women running in the water.

Sunrise over the lake.

A lone swimmer rounds the final turn buoy, under the watchful eye of a lifeguard. And my favorite picture from the day.

Julia, leading the women's chase pack out of the water.

Getting ready to ride!

...which is exactly why Rich and I walked the 2 miles to T2, and then ran back to T1/Start/Finish to see the race end.

Men's leader into T2 - I think this is Bruce Genari, of Team Timex, but don't quote me on that. His dismount was a thing of beauty.

Look - I'm wearing pink socks! If I'm wearing compression hosen for medical purposes, does that take away the nerd factor, or increase it? At least my legs are almost the same size.

Julia, approaching T2. Yes, she had a dismount that even Jen Harrison would be proud of. Clearly, she's been practicing!

BOUS Men's champion from Alaska!

Seeley, focused to the end.

I recognize that flag! Yes... you can take the girl out of Minnesota, (but as I've said before) - you can't take the Minnesota out of the girl. It is and will forever be, home.

I love this picture - because it epitomizes what racing is. These women were not racing to win...but fighting for 6th place. And, um... those are the best looking abs EVER. I can say without any abashment or shame, that I'm jealous.

Rich and Julia, in one of those beautiful moments.

My friends - Julia and Seeley! Post-race smiles!

I think we've all been here, at some point or another.

Though it was very warm at the end of the race, arm warmers are becoming an awesome fashion-statement. I feel "hot" (literally) wearing them (but oddly enough, not out of place). If it helps with my sun exposure, well, then - there you go. At least I can be outside, right?

Julia, under the race start, with Lake Mission Viejo behind her. Man, I would have LOVED to be in that water.... NO SHARKS!!!! Hello?!? That is huge for me! For what it's worth... I brought my swimsuit, just in case.

Free post-race smoothies. I may never leave.

Team Minnesota - 3rd Overall in the "Best of the US" team race! HOORAY!

Sometimes you just have those moments where everything is "right", and you feel like you're walking on air. Julia - booking it to the finish!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Scattered Randomness

I've got the itch to write - but I don't really know what to say. Ever have those moments? I think we all do. Just scattered randomness. So....while many embark on this race weekend, I've been thinking the following.

In no particular order....

(cue harp dream music)

- Even though I had fun in Kona, I am SO happy that I'm not racing the Ironman. But that's today. Tomorrow.... well - tomorrow I'm sure that I'll wish I could be running down Ali'i drive. Alls I can say kids: LOVE it while you live it, because you never know how or when life will change. I'm not mad or upset - sure I'm a little sad... but that's just because there are many aspects of the sport that I miss. And given everything that's happened, I think that's a pretty normal response.

- I have a sneaking suspicion that Shitty Kitty is allergic to wheat. Is that even possible in a cat? Low and behold, I changed up her food from Science Diet to some Organic Cat Stuff (written while rolling my eyes), and no more projectile cat vomit.

- I nearly drove off the road when I heard the public radio commercial advertising the season opener of the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra. Holy Cow - that's me!! Well - me and 150 of my closest orchestra friends.

- It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the minute you buy a bag of coffee beans from a coffee shop - you see the same bag of beans on sale for $5 less at your grocery store.

- A slice of Minnesota is coming my way! Good friend, fellow blogger, and Jen Harrison athlete-extraordinaire Julia, is in town racing "Best of the US" up in Mission Viejo on Sunday. Sure, I'm excited to watch her race - but when she asked if I wanted anything from home - my response? A Pearson's Nut Goodie, please. Clearly - you can take the girl out of Minnesota, but you can't take Minnesota out of the girl. And she's bringing a salted nut roll for Nathaniel. We are BOTH excited!

- My cankle is going down! Yes, it's been a very very gradual process.... but still! Blowing out every vein in one's leg by growing a massive series of clots is NOT conducive to award-winning ankles. Or limbs. I've come to terms that I will never be a Leg Model - not that I was ever planning on it, but I always kept my options open. Hopefully you can detect the self-deprecation in there. Anyway....there's less cankle and more definition in the ankle/lower leg region. Fantastic!

- When a friend asks if you want to swim with her - even though the workout entails 4400 meters of "fun" stuff - you don't think twice. And I think that's the biggest difference of the Me from this year, versus the Me from last year. At this point in my life - training is a joy on the days I feel healthy enough to do it. For me - that's all that matters and makes all the difference in the world. Funny pictures and all.
Here's to taking life a little less seriously, enjoying what you have while you're doing it, and embracing the challenges! GOOD LUCK to everyone this weekend - my thoughts will be with you all.... Swift Wings my friends!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The NEW Month!

Am I the only one, or is everyone else happy to have September behind them? Yes - it was a long month, filled with lots of learning, growing, contemplation - serious bits like that. But there was also some fun stuff thrown in as well, for good measure. Just because.

Well - you know. Just because.... this is life and The Fun Stuff is important. (Alright - how many times can I say "stuff" in one post?)

A few highlights....

But before I post pictures - I just wanted to thank everyone. The comments were awesome, and the emails and phone calls really wonderful. Words can't express my gratitude, so I won't even try. I haven't gotten back to everyone, but I'm doing my best. Thank you - to each and everyone of you. It hasn't been an easy road, has it? But we ALL go through difficult times. Please know that your support and love has made all the difference.

Oceanside Pier Swim - I didn't get eaten. And I deserve the coke, even if I could only get a few sips down.

May Lake, High Sierra Camp - Yosemite National Park.

Annabelle, my friend's daughter. I wish I had a green straw like that.

Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out. Restaurant Week in San Diego...thankfully I was one of the designated drivers.

Oceanside Pier.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a threesome with a helicopter and my husband.

Big Bear Oktoberfest! Sponsored by Bud Light. Cheers!

I didn't have the heart to weigh my pack, but Tristan's came in at 32 pounds. Note the dust - there was LOTS of it!

The Symphony is in Session! Excerpt from Mahler's 1st Symphony. This means we're supposed to play really really really really really fast!

And with that - I'm off to practice Mahler. Cheers for October!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A New Beginning

Hello friends – it’s been a while since I’ve posted. You’ll have to forgive me – you see, I’ve started this post over and over again, but it never really came together the way I envisioned. And it’s a pretty important post, so I wanted to get it “right.” I guess talking about it makes it real, and up until a week or so ago, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that step We’ve been through a lot together – you and I – and this is just another phase, another part of the process. Thank you for your support – as always, it means the world. Read on!

I’ve always felt that the mountains are calling my name. It doesn’t matter which ones or where; up until recently, climbing Mt. Palomar on my bike was “where I found myself”, I fell in love with Nathaniel all over again while hiking the rugged terrain of Alaska last year, and from my home in Southern California, I find great solace when looking towards the peaks of East County.

Yes, the ocean is wonderful and blue, but give me a winding trail, the promise of a USGS survey marker (or not), hilly topography, and a group of willing friends, and I know – regardless of elevation gain (or loss), cold temperatures, and the threat of bears – I’ll be happy.
I never really knew how much I enjoyed hiking and backpacking until this past year – first as a way of recovering from last year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and then more recently when I kept falling ill. Times were tough, as they would be for anyone, but I always felt happy while hiking distant peaks. I felt alive. I felt normal and healthy. I felt like myself.

Training and preparation for races fell to the wayside, with one bad health episode after another. Between too many sinus infections to count, pneumonia, the DVT/PE (remember what I said?: GO to the nearest hospital IMMEDIATELY if you start getting a cankle or any sudden swelling) – this year has been completely different from last.

I don’t have any regrets though, and I’m dealing with the anger and sadness. Nope – it’s not fair; but then again, life rarely is for anyone. And just when we think we’ve got “stuff” figured out, Mother Nature throws another curve ball our way.

If anything, this year has taught me to roll with the punches, take myself less seriously, do the things I love with the people I love, tell Nathaniel I love him multiple times every day, call my friends and family more often, and embrace the simple pleasures – because at the end of the day, it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had odd blood test results. My counts were always a bit off – too low on one end, not properly formed in a different way, with all sorts of different markers in between to add an extra bit of confusion and exasperation. I remember telling Nathaniel a little over a year ago that, “something isn’t right….” – but not knowing what it was OR how to test for it.

When I switched to Scripps from the Navy Health Care, my doctors immediately noticed a few abnormalities. But we thought – in part – it was due to the pneumonia and multiple sinus infections. I was due for another round of blood tests late June or early July – but when my body decided to form, develop and grow a major thrombosis, and subsequently throw a sizeable clot into my lung (directly through my heart…. Do not pass Go….do not collect $200…. Go directly to Jail) – the planned testing fell to the wayside, and instead I had multiple blood drawings for various reasons.

And still; my counts were off, my numbers were WAY out of whack….but there was no “real” indicator that something major was wrong. From the outside, I appeared a happy and healthy late 20-something female – with a love for Peanut Butter Cups and Swedish Fish. I was extremely active, did most of the things I wanted to do (minus the open water swimming bit… we ALL know my fear of sharks), and followed a healthy lifestyle. It just didn’t add up.

Eventually (and trust me when I say this could be a LONG post, so I’ll cut to the chase) – I was referred to one doctor, who referred me to another doctor….who ordered an entirely new round of testing. A few results came back positive, and towards the end of August I found myself on a first name basis with the phlebotomists at my health clinic.

Awesome.

You know it’s just fantastic when you have multiple standing orders at the lab – from different doctors.
But throughout this ordeal – I kept reminding myself that it could be much worse….and that I have so much to be grateful for, am lucky in so many ways. I knew that Nathaniel was concerned, and he did the best he could to support me through this process. It’s hard answering his questions when, half the times, I didn’t even have the answers myself.

When I was first given the prognosis of “lupus” – I didn’t know what that meant. Naturally I turned to Wikipedia (and yes – I’m sure my doctors are rolling their eyes), and other medical sources online. I wanted to know more about my diagnosis – information is, after all, power. Also, I wanted to be prepared for a long list of questions for my doctor(s).

Would you be surprised, if I said that I researched and wrote down tons of questions?

No – I didn’t think so. There were three full pages of inquiries (double sided). I’ve always been thorough.

Essentially (and you’ll have to bear with me, as I’m still learning myself), Lupus is a type of auto-immune disorder, where one’s immune system attacks its own body’s cells and tissues. There’s no real understanding of why someone has it, and every case that presents itself is different. The course of the disease is extremely unpredictable, with periods of illness (called flares) alternating with remissions. Lupus is known as one of “The Great Imitators”, because it often mimics or is mistaken for other illnesses. Diagnoses can vary widely between patients, and some people can suffer for years with undiagnosed symptoms.

In my case – my doctor’s believe that I’ve had this for at least ten years, but most likely many many more.

The great news – is that we’ve got medication that can help control the flare-ups. I’m starting on a very basic Lupus medication, and we’ll see how my body responds to the therapy. I’m trying to stay positive; because I would rather know than not know.

Thus far, my doctors believe that the Lupus is affecting me in three specific ways: 1) High Photosensitivity 2) Hematological 3) And I tested positive for something called Lupus Anticoagulant.

What does this mean?

Well – for starters, exposure to sunlight can affect my health. As someone who loves to be outside, leads an active lifestyle, and lives in Southern California – This. Just. Plain. Sucks. Ass. For years – in spite of copious amounts of sunscreen use – I’ve dealt with sunburns and redness. And the difficult part? I thought it was my fault – I thought I was doing something wrong. So…. Major photosensitivity – check. (Suddenly retirement to the Pacific Northwest or Alaska doesn’t seem so far reaching. Except for the bears, of course.)

And my Photosensitivity in turn, can lead to Hematological flare-ups. Without getting into too much detail, my white blood count in extremely low, red blood cells are oddly shaped, and my body’s ability to fight off infection just plain sucks. And there’s some other stuff – but well, I’ve thrown a lot at you already. But it is what it is, and in spite of my best efforts – I can’t will myself to feel better. This is unlike a race, not at all like going for a run… I can’t just will myself to finish. It’s a different beast all unto itself; not tangible, something I can’t touch and make better through practice or perseverance. It’s all part of a process – one that I’ve gradually learned to accept.
I don’t like it – but I’m learning to accept it. I think that’s why this post has been so difficult to write, and more difficult to publish.

The third component is a bit trickier, and something that raises a red flag immediately, especially given my history of extreme DVT/PE. If you want someone who can grown one heckuva blood clot, that would be me. The Lupus Anticoagulant means that I naturally produce “sticky blood” and have a higher predisposition towards clotting. I’ve had two tests that both came out positive for this, and will be taking a third (blood test) in early November. As of now, we’re assuming that blood thinning medication will be a lifelong plan.

I’ve spent the past three or four weeks trying to figure out what all of this means – both short term and long term. It’s no longer about training and racing….right now I just want to enjoy the Little Stuff with my friends and family – things that make me happy. And I’m grateful for the opportunities where I get to do just that.
The theory is that I’ve had a major flare-up since sometime last September 2009 – when I first started feeling ill and having breathing difficulties. I spent SO much time in the sun during my IM Hawaii buildup, and there were undoubtedly other stressors that triggered the flare. From a triathlon perspective, part of me is really sad when I think about this. I didn’t feel like “me” going into Kona, but chalked it up to Ironman training and the fatigue that can accumulate with a long season. I think I could have done so much better in Hawaii had I been healthy –

And I’ve cried so much about that already that I don’t want to cry any more. Because looking back on it, that was seriously one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it saddens me to think that I may not have had the race that I could have had – through no fault of my own accord.

On the flip side…I wish I could go back and give myself a hug. I am so proud of what I did, of how I physically and mentally held it together throughout the entire IM process. And doing it while dealing with a major Lupus flare-up, makes me love the person that I am even more. It wasn’t easy – but I did it. I also have some pretty incredible friends and family to thank – your support means even more...I didn’t go it alone, that’s for sure.

And now I understand why it was so different from Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I never thought I would say this – but thank goodness for ‘May Grey’, ‘June Gloom’ and coastal fog. I never thought a weather phenomenon could affect my health for the better, but apparently it can.

Remember what I said before about retiring in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest? Minus the bears, it sounds pretty darned good right about now.

But to talk about my Lupus diagnosis in terms of triathlon seems silly and superficial. There is so much more at stake than this sport.

My long term and short term goals remain largely the same: lead a happy and healthy life….doing things I love with the people I love. And as always – everything else is just icing on the proverbial sheet cake.

When I first learned of my diagnosis – especially with regards to the hematological and lupus anticoagulant (and a lifetime on blood thinners) – my thoughts were not with this sport, or never racing a triathlon again (one of my new mottos: never say never). Instead, I thought about my life with Nathaniel.
Even though we’ve been together for over ten years (holy cow!) – there is still so much we want to do, an entire lifetime ahead of us. I would gladly trade all the sports in the world, if I could just wake up next to him, share a cup of coffee, and do all the things we love to do….the simple things. Going for a hike, walking to the Daily News CafĂ© for breakfast, Pizza Port for a pint…

The thought of NOT being able to enjoy life the way we have because of my health saddens and scares me. I know that I’m not the only one, though. Anyone (and their family/friends/loved ones) dealing with a major illness or health scare, shares these same sentiments.

The flip side: I’m not willing to let my health get in the way of my happiness – because there is SO MUCH to be grateful for. So…. I might not be able to bike safely because of the blood thinners… but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to run and swim. Or go backpacking with friends…Or dabble in outrigger canoeing….Or get in a rowing shell again….Or...climb 10,000+ foot peaks in search of a USGS Survey Marker while watching the sun set....Or – the possibilities are simply endless.
For so long I’ve been focused on triathlon and doing the very best that I can within this sport. And that takes A LOT of dedication, a large commitment – both from me, but also from my family/friends. Anyone who pursues a passion (athletics, but anything – for that matter… music….art….work….etc) – knows that it takes time, dedication, sacrifice, commitment, and a whole host of other adjectives. I think the most successful individuals are those who can balance – who manage to pursue excellence with having fun and enjoying life/family/friends/etc.

Last year, I never ever ever would have spent a week backpacking through Yosemite. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to… but I was too afraid of missing a key workout, of not being totally focused and 100% ready when I lined up on the starting line. That’s in part, what made me a successful athlete – that’s what it took for ME to be ready on the starting line. Complete focus… some people can do it differently, though. And that’s okay.

This year, well – we all know that it’s been different. And as such, I’m doing things that I wouldn’t normally have done in the past. It’s not a bad thing; I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m in a very different place. One isn’t “worse” or “better” than the other – it’s just called life.

Not biking has been hard for me. And with a lifelong dependence for blood thinning medication, I have some pretty big personal doubts about my ability to race triathlon in the future. Staying healthy is hard enough, as I never know when I'll have another flare up, or how the flareup will affect me. As for the thin blood: it’s just not safe – and there are no guarantees. I’m at the point where, although I LOVE the sport – it’s the people IN the sport that I love more. Yes…I could probably still bike outside; but at what cost?
I know the chances of bike crashes and accidents are slim, and I’ve had a pretty safe record in the past. But I have crashed my fair bit as well…and I know how precious life is, how much I love my friends and family – internally bleeding to death because EMTs can’t stop my blood flow is NOT how I want to go. I don’t think I could happily ride my bike, if every time I went out, I was worried about my safety – worried that one crash and an inability to stop my blood flow could end it all.

Seriously – knowing my luck, it would probably happen on my FIRST ride out.  And for those who are wondering – this is EXACTLY why I have a hard time swimming in the open ocean. Yes – I love love love the water; but this is totally superseded by my conviction that with any stroke, I could be eaten by a giant shark below. Is it likely? No. But still…. The worry is there. Back to the bike and returning home safely-

Honestly – I think about that every time I go for a ride…but to have it heightened by the knowledge that I’m a lifelong Coumadin person – that’s hard. Some people can deal with that, and maybe one day, I’ll be able to as well. I just know that in the interim, there are SO many things that make me happy – so many experiences that I get to enjoy.

And at the end of the day, I want to be able to enjoy a long and happy life with my friends and family – doing the things that WE love to do. Together. The pressure of planning a race season and subsequently worrying about NOT getting sick is not something I want to deal with. The "not knowing" is the worst - as it is for many people. I’ve had a hard enough year, had enough near-death experiences that I’m a different person from 365 short days ago. I’m looking at life with a different pair of glasses, so to speak.

I’ll continue to run and swim for as long as I can. And maybe I’ll hop into a rowing shell… it’s been 10 years since I rowed seriously – who knows? The worst that can happen is that I flip a boat – and having done that twice already, it’s not all that bad. Then there’s the backpacking…. Nathaniel and I are already planning a through hike of the Lake Superior Hiking Trail sometime next year (health permitting)… although I had such a fun time in Yosemite with a great group of friends, that I’m reconsidering…..

Some of my happiest memories have been in the sport of triathlon. I wouldn’t be the person I am, without those experiences. I’ve also learned so much about myself – who I am, why I do the things I do, how to be happy – while participating in this sport. And I’ve made some of the most incredible, absolutely BEST friends ever. Triathlon (for me) is less about swim-bike-run, and more about the amazing athletes and supporters that I call friends.
I’m embarking on a new stage of my life. It’s been really hard to write this post – because I know to a certain extent, that I’m closing a door on one chapter of my life. But when one door closes, another always opens. At least – that’s how I’m looking at it.

On a deeper level though – there are ALWAYS doors open, all around. It’s just a matter of whether or not we choose to go through them. For so long my door has lead me to the sport of triathlon and elite racing. Now – I find myself heading for a different path all together.

I’ll still write and take pictures – continue to train for my November half marathon…but I’m excited about the prospects of trying new things. There is no “right” way to this wonderful adventure we call life. There will be some new bits as well – backpacking, and who knows what else? The possibilities are, I’m happy to say, endless.

I’ll conclude by quoting myself – I was reading over my IM Hawaii race report the other day. Just before I started with the actual race report, I wrote the following. For what it’s worth – I still feel the same way today.

It is what it is; it became what it was meant to be. And in the end, I can only take away the experiences and learn my lessons accordingly. This is life, and I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities in the first place. And for that I am grateful, and happy.


I guess some things always stay the same. Thank you for your love, friendship, and support. And as always – hug your family, tell your friends that you love them, and take the time to enjoy the little things… because that is what truly makes a difference, what makes us who we are.