Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not exactly like Captain Phil, but sort of...

I've thought a million times over the past few days about how to write this blog post - let alone start it. But from the beginning is best, so that's where I'll begin.

First thing's first. I'm alive and okay - doing great, given the circumstances. I've managed to keep my sense of humor, even while flashing an entire corridor of patients and hospital staff. And yes, I was grateful when my nurse kindly brought me an extra gown. So...sense of humor: check.

Second: Holy Cankle Batman!

And notice that I say "cankle" not "cankle-s". Because I've got one, not two. And from the angle where I now sit - hospital bed with my right leg propped up on several pillows, my awesome Cankle is joined by a Fat Foot. Seriously - it has it's own zip code.

Let me begin - back up for a bit. And in all seriousness - keep in mind that you are reading this blog after the fact, and I'm alive. Here we go-

Monday morning I went in for a routine appointment with my awesome Primary Care Doctor. Remember how she fixed my sinus and pneumonia woes? Because of her help, I've been able to regain my health, start training, and return to my normal lifestyle.

I was hoping to get a referral for an Orthopedic Surgeon, as I suspect that I have Chronic Exertional Compartmental Syndrome (CECS) in my lower right leg. The varicose veins are a side-effect, and I thought that by treating them in the beginning of the month - I could rule out those veins as the culprits to my leg pain. My Vascular Surgeon was very helpful, but ultimately the sclerotherapy didn't eradicate the problem. I continued to train with the medical grade compression hosen though, I was still experiencing swelling and discomfort akin to CECS.

Just before the appointment ended, I asked my Doc if she could take a look at my right leg. It was swollen and uncomfortable - even without running. I thought I may have twisted my ankle while trail running the previous week... it was sore and painful to the touch - but not SO painful that I couldn't continue to train and run.

And that's when things began to pick up.

Without pausing for thought, she informed that I NEEDED to have my leg examined via ultrasound, just to rule out a blood clot. I had no idea swelling could be associated with blood clots or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) - but it can.


Scripps Clinic in Vista had an ultrasound machine, and I was booked immediately. I didn't really think I had a blood clot - but I followed my doctor's instructions and headed over. Before I left, she informed me that IF something was going on, the ultrasound techs wouldn't let me leave and she would contact me shortly. But that I would probably be fine... but she really wanted me to get the ultrasound for peace of mind.

Driving to Vista, I was slightly alarmed - but I easily talked myself out of any real concern. I'm a 29-year old VERY ACTIVE triathlete, in great shape, and I ran 1:45 yesterday morning... had a fantastic bike ride the day before.... IF there's a clot, well - that just can't be. Whatever. She's just being thorough - and that's why she's awesome. But man - that would suck... It's like a Milan Kundera novel, where the characters go through tons of shit before finally finding happiness, only to die in the end.

So - I may have broken a few speed records. Oh well.

In Vista, the staff was really good at getting me in and prepped for the ultrasound.

I really didn't think they would fin anything. I had had an ultrasound before my Sclerotherapy injections back on May 21st. BOTH legs were completely clear of clots - superficially and the potentially deadly DVT kind.

The ultrasound tech even joked with me that she routinely saw cases, where people had swollen limbs - but they rarely turned out to be blood clots. My ears perked up when she saw my leg and commented, "Well, gosh! You do have the symptoms, though."

10 minutes passed, and I could feel her rolling the ultrasound device on my upper right leg, near my groin. I tried to make conversation - after all, I'm a talker - but I figured I should let her do her job and that distractions for something like this would NOT be good.

20 minutes passed. She was still working in the same area.

30 minutes, and I was finally allowed to turn, allowing her access to the back of my leg.

I tried to stay relaxed and not fall asleep. Instead, I started fingering violin pieces with my left hand, trying to pick out notes and remember all the proper fingered passages. My favorite stand-by was Fritz Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro. I got through it at least six times before we were all finished.

40 minute passed.


60. I changed positions and she ran the ultrasound device over my lower leg. I thought about asking if she could see a minute broken ankle bone, but kept my mouth shut.

70...75 minutes later, she announced she was finished.

And I knew I was in a world of trouble.

As I started getting dressed I commented, "It's bad - isn't it?"

She looked at me and said, "I can't tell you anything. Your doctor will have to discuss this with you."

So I casually said, "Okay - I'll just get dressed and leave."

"I'm sorry. I'm going to need you to stay in the waiting room until we can have someone talk to you."

Oh fuck.

So I got dressed, choked back a few tears, and made my way to the waiting room. That was the most frustrating part - knowing that something was very very very wrong, but not knowing exactly what it was, or the extent of it. As I sat, I noticed two pregnant women and their significant other's seated next to them. They seemed so excited and happy - both sets of parents were learning the sex of their baby. I think they were 22 weeks along.

And me, fighting back tears, with a ticking time bomb in m leg. My fat leg.

The irony didn't escape me: didn't Alanis Morissette write a song about something like this?

I thought about WHO I could call - because I was so scared and alone in that waiting room full of hope and anticipation. I ruled out my parents - I didn't want to alarm them when I didn't even technically know WHAT was going on (even though I suspected a blood clot). And Nathaniel was flying and out of touch - so leaving a voice mail on his phone was quickly shot down as well.

So instead, I called the closest person to Family that I have out here - Mer Trowbridge.

I had just been out with her, Dave, Soren, and her wonderful Mom Lynne the night before. We had margaritas and awesome food at Mama Testas, the San Diego eatery that defeated Bobby Flay with their version of Fish Tacos in his "Throwdown" Food Network TV show. Sorry for that run-on sentance, oops. But really - I had a great time and enjoyed my scalloped soft tacos.

Mer was wonderful and offered to drive 45 minutes up to Vista from Scripps Ranch - but I squashed the idea. I wasn't sure how long I was going to stay or what was going to happen. Though I WAS pretty sure that I would miss my Master's swim workout. That much I knew.

By 11:30 pm, I was told to meet my doctor back at Scripps Coastal in Carlsbad. I figured it couldn't be that bad, right? I mean - they wouldn't let me drive 75 mph down the freeway, endangering my life and the lives of others...right? I mean - they would helicopter me to an ER if they thought I was going to drop dead. Right?

The drive passed by in a blur. And all I could think about - was that I love Nathaniel. I've had a great life with him...and I'm so happy. I'm just so happy. I've finally figured out a lot of things... and I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. And House Monsters. And I love Nathaniel - most of all. This WILL be okay - because whatever it is, I'm going to fight it.

I love Nathaniel. What if I never see him again? I just...I just love him.

A few more tears were shed and I made it in record time back to my original clinic.

Very quickly I met with my doctor and a few nurses. They gave me a shot of Lovenox, an anticoagulant therapy indicated to help reduce the risk of developing DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, which may lead to pulmonary embolism (PE).

Actually, they taught me how to inject myself with Lovenox - and I did so. My doctor said that she wanted me to learn how to administer it to myself because I would have to do so 2X per day for an unspecified amount of time. But I still wasn't sure what was going on...

My doctor returned to the room and confirmed that the ultrasound had indeed yielded the presence of several DVTs, and that it was pretty serious. She quickly inquired about any shortness of breath, any wheezing, vomiting, heart palpitations.... I told her that I hadn't experienced any of those symptoms... expect for the shortness of breath. But that was from training, I figured. Story of my life - right?

And then the final kicker: she wanted me to head to the Scripps Encinitas ER for a CT scan - just to rule out a clot in my heart or lungs. In her words, "They are expecting your immediate arrival. It's probably nothing, but I would really feel better knowing that you don't have a clot in your chest or anywhere else."

Double fuck.

But I felt fine. Just fine. Absolutely okay. Normal. Fine. Great. Dandy. Like nothing was happening. Great. Annoyed that I was missing my Master's swim. Ticked that I didn't have my computer and my phone was about to die.


I decided to make a quick detour to the house. On the off chance that Nathaniel was home from his flight - he could be there. But more importantly, to grab my phone charge. I timed myself - 5 minutes to get as much stuff as I could...

Yes - that competitive instinct is still there. DVT or not.

I packed a backpack in record time, dumped a bunch of food in the House Monster's bowls, threw in my makeup bag (because I want to look good in the ER), grabbed the camera, and debated weather or not I should clean the cat box.

And yes - with my bag packed and ready to depart on my way to the hospital to confirm that I DO NOT have a Pulmonary Embolism, I decided to take care of the box.

I figured - I was already there... I had been given a dose of fast acting Lovenox... and God forbid something should happen to me, I DO NOT want friends and family thinking I neglect my cat box.

After all - Nathaniel's call sign is "Litterbox". And no - not because we have two cats. But because "Lauterbach" is hard to pronounce. Or maybe because we DO have two cats. Who knows. Funny how that world of call-sign-giving works...

With a clean cat box and clean conscious, I bid farewell to Tabbitha and Anabelle and sped down the five towards Scripps Encinitas.

My brief wait in the ER waiting room was expedited by a combination of people watching + menial check-in tasks. I gave the usual urine sample, an unusually high 12 vials of blood (by number 12, my vein had stopped cooperating. Dude - I would have stopped cooperating if I was that little vein), watched World Cup replay action, and burst into tears when Meredith ran into the waiting room - bearing gifts and happy feelings.

She mentioned that Soren was sleeping in the car and that her Mom was reading - and that she wanted to stay with me as long as I needed. I think I cried again.

The time passed by quickly, and before I knew it, I was ushered into a bed deep in the bowels of the ER. Mer offered to step out while I changed into my hospital gown - but I've had plenty of hospital experiences before. And unfortunately, I know that maintaining a fair amount of modesty isn't always possible.

So she stayed.

And - while the tech applied EKG stickers all over my chest and abdomen - joked that I was the "Female Lance Armstrong".

"Really? Did you write a book?" he asked, with obvious interest. Nothing about mad cycling skills or fathering 5 offspring post cancer.

"No - she has a blog" Mer triumphantly explained.

I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hide. But as it was - I was flat on my back, boob exposed and flushing with embarrassment. And I laughed as well - how could you not. Leave it to Meredith to say something like that. And I loved her for it.

Later she shared the bag of loot - pretzels, peanut M&Ms, Red Vines (no Swedish Fish, she explained!), trashy magazines, a paperback, diet coke, squirt, and a toy that Soren had decided to share. I was touched. And wanted to devour the M&Ms right then and there - but wasn't sure if that was kosher, given the fact I was awaiting a chest CT.

So I waited. While my stomach growled and the machines I was hooked up to beeped away.

At some point, my ER doctor came in - and I recognized him as the SAME one who had diagnosed my pneumonia. I liked him already. Mer commented, "Good, he's old and crusty. He knows his stuff."

Time was passing, and I knew Meredith needed to feed Soren and spend time with her Mom. Nathaniel was still at work and I knew he wanted more than anything to be with me - to be by my side - but it was just beyond his control to be at my side. And besides, we didn't have all the answers and I refused to alert family and friends before I had a clear picture of the situation as a whole.

I insisted that she leave - even though she made it clear she would stay - gave her a HUGE hug, and told her I would update as I learned more. And that I loved her.

Time seemed to slow down and speed up. I thought about the what-ifs and pondered many different hows and whys...But before I knew it, I was being wheeled into the CT Scan room.

I tried to settle my mind... I knew blood clots anywhere were dangerous, and in all honesty - I was doubtful of one's presence in my lung. I would have felt it, right?

The CT Scanner has always been slightly disconcerting. I always think of the scene from "Contact" starring Jodi Foster - when she's sitting in the machine that's going to send her to a different universe. And I know that the CT machine won't harm me - but I'm always afraid that some piece of metal I had implanted will get ripped from my sternum when it gets fired up. FYI: I don't have any metal in my sternum.

But because it was a chest scan, I got VERY up close and personal with the machine.

The tech explained that this was all routine - that they saw plenty of DVT patients for suspected Pulmonary Embolisms and that, even though he couldn't confirm I was okay, things usually were clear. No worries.

I've heard THAT before. But I kept my thoughts to myself.

He continued on and explained that the timing of the scan was important - because we had exactly 90 seconds from when the special CT scan dye was injected through my IV, to take the pictures of my chest. I felt the warmth of the dye spread up my arm and over my shoulders, and down my other arm. Quite relaxing, actually. I was surprised when I felt the warmth spreading through my groin and made a mental note that yes, it DID feel like I had just peed myself, like he warned it would. Noted.

I held my breath when the machine told me to hold my breath. And I breathed when it told me to breath.

And then we were done.

Even though I was wheeled out of the scan room and back to my regular spot, I realized I had been holding my breath. Even though medical personal had been telling me - all day - that "this was routine" and "most people are negative"... I had been positive for every test. I was nervous and scared.

I know the nurses realized this - because they waited with me and cracked jokes about the World Cup. We discussed mountain biking and swimming - and I commented that I REFUSED to ocean swim anymore for fear of sharks AND that mountain lions sketched me out so I carried bear spray.

And if you think I'm kidding - I'm not.

While waiting for my pulmonary embolism test results, I was STILL confessing my fears of rogue sharks and mountain lion attacks. Hey - it only takes one!

45 minutes later, I overheard my doctor on the phone with (who I'm assuming was) the cardiologist or radiologist. I could see the scan of my chest and lungs from across the room - and in spite of the seriousness of the situation, I couldn't help but be fascinated by the image. It was the same thing when I broke my sacrum.

And then my world came crashing down, when I heard my doctor say:

"Well - that's one sizable clot. Do you see that? How can you now? Yes, I've got a lock on it. Wow. Look at that thing."

The red haired nurse looked at me nervously. I could tell he didn't want me to hear the news that way. I could see other staff in the room and pause - looking between the computer image to me and then back to the computer image. "It's okay..." I whispered, afraid that if I spoke too loudly I would miss the rest of the conversation. "It's not like he's not going to tell me anyway..."

But the shock of what I had just mistakenly heard, negated any future conversation processing.

I felt like Roy Scheider from "Jaws" - where during a shark attack, the camera zooms to his shocked face while the background slips further away. I think the producers of "Lost" use this cinematic trick as well.

I was dimly aware of my doctor coming over and breaking the already-known-news. Very large clot...embedded in lungs... passed through heart.... lucky to be alive... athlete, right? saved you...clot....very lucky girl...clot....clot in lungs...lucky....alive.

I honestly don't remember a lot after that point. I pulled myself together enough after the doctor left to call my parents. I explained that I would be in the hospital for an estimated 3-5 days depending on how my body adjusted to the bloood thinners and medications they were putting me on. I know that my folks felt awful that they weren't with me and that thy were actually out in Philladelphia with my siter, her fiance, and his family.

Honestly - I was really happy they were all together. It was the best possible scenario to receive news like this. Although, I think I repeated word for word the line that I used in 2008 when my Dad picked up the phone and I told him I was in the hospital.

"Hi? I don't want you to panic. I'm okay. I'm just in the hospital..."

And from there the rest is history.

It's two and a half - almost three (because this entire process started Monday morning at 8:30 am) days after the fact. I'm still alive, still processing, still dealing with the aftermath of learning I should have died from a blood clot that passed from my legs through my heart and into my lungs.

When you're in the hospital, hooked up to various machines,monitored around the clock for any sudden change, and chased down by a very worried intern when the battery pack on your portable EKG machine dies -it give you a lot of time to think.

For now - there are SEVERAL factors that most likely contributed to my DVT and PE. We can't choose one alone - but the combination of a few caused for the 'Perfect Storm'.

*Suspected Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (injury to the lower leg, possibly caused by an undiagnosed stress fracture stemming from shin splints. I DID have quite a bit of lower leg pain back in January and February, and I found an entry from Training Peaks where I noted acute right shin pain during a run in Wisconsin...)

* Varicose Veins and treatment of Sclerotherapy. Even though the superficial veins of my right leg were treated, it's still a shock to the body when 11% of it's normal blood pathways are suddenly zapped into oblivion.

* Possible twisting of right ankle during June 21 trail run. It was AFTER that run where I began experiencing swelling... and it got progressively worse last week.

* Birth control. Six or seven weeks ago, I stopped taking Ortho Tri Cyclin Lo and began a course of Seasonique. I hate getting my periods, and the benefit of Seasonique is that I would only have 4 periods per year. I used to ALWAYS just skip the sugar pill on Orth Tri Cyclin - but with a change in my insurance, I couldn't refill my perscription every 3 weeks...I needed to wait the full 28 days. Seasonique seemed like a great alternative.

* Genetic predisposition to blood clots. I have a family history, and this could certainly be a factor.

Where to begin? Again?

For now - I'm SAFE and well cared for at Scripps Hospital. I keep reminding Nathaniel that they fixed my back and extensive nerve damage back in 2008. This should be a piece of cake!

Still, Nathaniel kept repeating, "That's like Captain Phil from "Deadliest Catch". You're just like him...and he died."

Well - that's partly true. On the flip side, I'm not a male, chain smoking, 300 pound, seated on my rear for 40 hour stretches, alcohol slugging, 60-year old Crab Fisherman. I love Alaska - and I love seafood. But Captain Phil - God Rest his soul - wasn't exactly the poster child for "healthy living."

I thought I was.... I'm 29 years old... healthy... active... lively... non smoking... not sitting for long stretches... healthy eating (YEA TOFU STIR FRY!) love.... married for 7 years (today!)....healthy...normal....29 year old...

The most firghtening element of all of this - I feel fine. Aside from one really fat foot - I feel fine. Normal. Healthy. Like I want to go for a swim or pound out a run... return to Del Dios Highway and bike like a woman posessed through Rancho Santa Fe into Solana Beach. I DO NOT feel like I had a clot pass through my heart into my lungs.

By the doctor's estimate - the moved several days ago...and a nurse friend commented that even though I may not have felt the usual symptoms of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness - the symptoms could have manifested themselves in some other way. She suggested extreme fatigue, and something suddenly 'clicked' in my brain.

Friday afternoon. It happened so suddenly. I was supposed to head out to lunch with Meredith, but our plans changed at the last minute. Instead I had taken out my violin in effort to get some practice into my fingers. Half way from putting the violin under my neck, I had a sudden urge to go to sleep. Exhaustion overtook me and I decided that my BEST course of action - was a quick nap. Back could wait.

I fell asleep nearly as soon as my head hit the pillow, and awoke nearly three hours later to my cell phone ringing. I answered it, but with much confusion. I had NO idea who the caller was, and lied my ass off in order to prevent hurt feelings. Sorry!

But I felt wiped - and I NEVER take naps that long. Ever. Yes I'm tired from training (yea!) - but that is NOT normal.

Our suspicion (and it can never be substantiated), is that sometime around that time, my body was fighting for oxygen. While the clot made it's way through my heart and into my lungs - my body was struggling for life. I still feel physically ill when I think about the chances of me laying down to take a nap - and never waking up.

And then going for a 4+ hour bike-run workout Saturday morning, hitting the tail end of a volunteer beech cleanup that afternoon, and a late dinner with another couple. And then Sunday - a 1:45 run along PCH, routine housework, snuggle with Nathaniel, and dinner with Dave and Meredith. Normal stuff. At least normal for me/us.

I just don't know how to explain it. I can't. I don't think I ever will.


So far my EKG is normal, vitals are all good, and x-ray of my ankle showed no broken bones. We're still awaiting the results of the ultrasound done on my heart - hopefully that will come through in the next day or two. But the biggest factor is the blood thinner medication.

Right now I'm getting two shots per day of Lovenox. Additionally, I'm taking Coumadin and trying to get my INR (International Normalized Ratio) levels between 2 and 3. Right now I'm still hovering below 1. My hospital stay is contingent on my body's ability to adjust and adapt to the Coumadin - the SOONER that the INR levels rise and stabilize, the sooner I can smoke this Turkey Joint.

Nathaniel would love that. The House Monsters would REALLY love that.

And let me tell you - I would REALLY REALLY love that.

But we're also working on ensuring that the clots in my legs dissolve. I know that now I'm receiving the proper medical treatment and therapy, my risk of throwing another clot has greatly subsided. But I still have a hard time and night falling asleep for fear it will happen again and I won't survive. I was so lucky last time - so incredibly lucky.

So now we watch and we wait.

As you can imagine - my 2010 Triathlon Season is over. Finished before it really even began. Nope, I couldn't catch a break between the sinus issues, pneumonia, and near fatal pulmonary embolism. Again - it's all perspective. Yes, I'm sad. But more importantly - I'm alive. It really sucks, yes. Is it fair? No. And while I'm really going to miss training for a little bit, and racing - deep down I felt that something was really wrong with regards to the compartmental syndrome. I was just waiting for confirmation from the orthopedic surgeon.

But this past year has also taught me a lot about living and life. I know that my NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is my health and happiness (and that of Nathaniel and the House Monsters!). And that in the end - I really just want to be able to throw my arms around Nathaniel when he returns from a flight, play with the kitties, and grow old while rocking on front porch swings with lots of grand children around the two of us. I want to be happy. I want to be alive.

Racing and triathlon - thanks in part to the Ironman corporation - isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And even if I spend next year racing only springs and olympic distances, I know I'll be okay. I'll be more than okay - I'll be alive and happy.

There are so many thank yous and people that I will forever be grateful for. My friends and family - there have been A LOT of emails going back and forth. I waited for a few days to publish a blog because I DID NOT WANT ANYONE to read this firsthand on a blog. Even if it was my blog.

My Primary Care Physician - who I am convinced saved my life. Without her quick thinking tenacity to figure out WHAT is going on, I don't think I would be here today.

The staff at Scripps Hospital Encinitas, Scripps Coastal Clinic, and Scripps Vista - simply put: thank you.

My wonderful coach and even better friend (and that's saying a lot), Jennifer Harrison was instrumental in getting the word out. I sent her a quick email Monday night without any information about what had happened... when I told her Tuesday morning we were both in shock. But she mobilized in a way that only Jen Harrison can do - and quickly sent out an email to 20 or so people.

I tried to respond right away and assure everyone that I was OKAY... feisty... joking about shark attacks...but lucky to be alive. And that they could pass on this email and forward it to anyone they wanted to. I KNOW that I had forgotten a few people - and for that I apologize. I would blame the lack of oxygen going into my system... but I can't because I'm at 100% full saturation.

To Nathaniel - I know it broke your heart when you couldn't be here right away. But I love you and I always will. Happy Anniversary Sweetheart! 7 years.... 107 to go... I can't wait to grow old with you, rocking in our chairs, while the crickets sing their midnight songs.

Additionally, Nathaniel's squadron has been WONDERFUL. I called them after I called the family - By Tuesday morning the amazing Gunfighter Gals had mobilized and brought more baked goods, "entertainment" magazines, candy, beef jerkey, clean underwaer, flowers, swedish fish, more flowers, diet coke, lilac shampoo and conditioner - and more of other things than I EVER though possible. Even though Nathaniel has been in the Marine Corps for nearly eight years - I feel like we're finally "home" with The Gunfighters.

Everyone who has stopped by (HOORAY FOR VISITORS!!!!!!), sent emails, texts, called, and left voice mails. My understanding is that my voice mail box is full. Please accept my apologies - your support, love, concern, and friendship means the world to me and I WILL get back to everyone. It may just take a while - but that's okay because my INR number is taking it's sweet time. And besides - I think the nurses are in awe of my popularity. As I was the fat kid with little social skills growing up, this is pretty cool. I feel so loved - thank you.

And finally - to the entire Trowbridge family. I love them all - and they've always been there for me. These past few days were NOT easy for many many different reasons - but the entire bunch, Soren and his wiley hair included, have been MY family. I love you guys.

I am so sorry if I'm forgetting anyone...blame the blood thinners.


I know it's a long road ahead - but it's one that I get to take. And for that, I am grateful. Sharks, mountain lions and all. For now - I'll keep smelling the roses, ecstatic that I even get this chance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Motivation

Have you ever had one of those moments where you KNOW that you're working hard, doing awesome, hitting your watts, in the proper heart rate zone,and things are just peachy? And that because you are doing so wonderfully, the work that you're putting forth feels effortless.

I can confirm, this is EXACTLY how I felt roughly two hours into my 4+ hour Saturday bike-run workout. Nope - nothing like Ironman training (thank god!), but my LONGEST bike ride since Kona. All three hours and thirty-one minutes.

Pure. Bliss.

But then something happened - unexpected and wonderful at the same time.

I was descending Del Dios Highway from Elfin Forest. And yes - while the descent is wonderful, nothing the least bit unexpected happened during this part. And given my history (*ahem *cough *cough) of sub-par descents, the boring SAFE kinds are by far the best.

I knew there were two or three riders behind me - so I gestured for them to pass me, to move ahead whenever they felt comfortable. Bombing the decent at 45+ mph with unpredictable canyon winds and traffic in the next lane just isn't my style. Yeah.

One guy moved ahead, but the other two tucked in behind me until the way way way bottom.

And I don't really know why the girl said what she said, or gave me the look that she did - but as she was passing me while drafting off the wheel from the guy right in front of her, she commented, "Hang in there."

It was the tone of voice that made me cringe.



Like..I'm riding cautiously down a CANYON, avoiding glass and debris and traffic, and you pass me when I'm soft pedaling at the bottom while drafting off your male cohort. Awesome.

The trio hooked up together and rode ahead, up the inclines towards Rancho Santa Fe.

And before I explain any more, I should say that whenever I ride Elfin Forest in this direction - I ALWAYS dig a little deeper, push a little harder from the outskirts of Rancho Santa Fe through to the Solana Beach sign before San Deguito park. Always. Doesn't matter if it's an "easy" ride or MAKE YOURSELF HURT kind of ride. I have a special place in my heart for the smooth hills and rolling terrain.

Simply stated: it's a pleasure to ride. And I'm happiest when I'm working my tail end off. Hello? That's just something about my competitive personality, I guess.

Half way up the next hill - I made my move. I thought briefly about giving the trio a minute or two head start, and then catching them. BUT - that seemed so anticlimactic... like I was letting her win by easing up and then powering forward. No go.

I wanted to make the pass, wanted to work hard, and wanted to give myself the satisfaction of blowing past someone who made me feel like a slow rider.

And yes - I know it's all in my head. I'll readily admit that, and then some. But at the same point - this IS how I felt, and I wanted to do something about that. So I did.

Throwing the bike into the Big Ring, I put my head down, got aggressive, got aero, and rode my ass off for the next 14 minutes. It was WONDERFUL. After the first minute, I stopped thinking about the group behind me, and instead focused on the elements that I could control...

Proper gearing up the hills (because they HURT), positive self-talk to PUSH THROUGH the hard parts, keeping my head down in aero and holding my bars in that no-guts-no-glory-all-or-nothing grip that hurts so good, and riding my bike with the fearlessness and abandoment that I so love,

After the first hill or two, I forgot about how I looked, what things felt like, the burning in my quads, or the grips on my bars... it was just me and my bike. And for the first time in a really long time, WE were fast and happy.

Usually I'm not one to be motivated by other people... It pretty much comes from within. However, once in a while - dropping the hammer is AWESOME.

Speaking of hammer dropping... A BIG HUGE AWESOME CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who raced last weekend. It was a doozy, eh? Extra special congrats to Angela on earning her Kona slot, and to Meredith - my awesome friend who raced her FIRST triathlon since becoming a new Mom to uber-kid Soren. I am so happy for and proud of everyone.

Let's keep on keeping on...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bike Torture and Potato Thursday

Yesterday, I thought I was going to die while riding my bike. And before you get your knickers in a twist - I was NOT outside, was NOT doing anything stupid, and was completely following Jen's instructions - indoors on the trainer.

Yes, it was one of those kind of workouts.

And while I was riding, pushing watts that I haven't seen in, well, eons, and my quads were SCREAMING for a break, and my lungs were burning with the effort (but they could keep up - so that's awesome), and sweat pooled on the pad under my bike....I decided that on nearly ANY DAY, I would prefer a 5-hour zone 2 ride, vs 5 minutes of max effort pain.

Raise your hand if you're with me.

Bottom line - which trust me, my bottom was hurting enough for everyone - you train your body for the specific type of race you're aiming for. And that's not to say, when one races Ironman, one can't be fast. I just can't recollect 5 minutes of max effort pain. On the trainer. Alone with my thoughts. Suffering.

Eight weeks I've been training - eight weeks since restarting the daily workout regiment, and I'm finally beginning to feel like myself again. And that's a GREAT thing.

But let me tell you - the short, hard hurts. Even more the second time (because at that point you KNOW what you're in for, and that no matter what you do - the pain of pushing high cadence + high power = massive discomfort), and third, and fourth...and you get the point. Cross-eyed and delirious, I could have sworn that I heard Nathaniel arrive home from his flight - which would have really been something, given the fact that he was in a meeting at the same moment as my workout.

It was somewhere during my second set of 5-4-3-2 at a specifically prescribed interval, that I decided 5 hours at zone 2 sounded better. Not exactly feasible given the fact that my longest ride to date (since IM Hawaii) has been 3.25 hours. But better.

And yet...I hung on. I knew that letting up, shifting to an easier gear would NOT help me awaken my fast-twitch fibers, would not be conducive to achieving my 2010 Season Goals...and that at this point, embracing the pain, accepting the fact that THIS WILL HURT, and putting my head down and dealing with it - was the best course of action.

So I did.

And I have full confidence that you can too.

My reward? Potato Thursday with some awesome friends... The Gunfighter Gals, we call ourselves, just because. But that's another story all together.

And what, pray tell - do we do for Potato Thursday? Well... we bake a lot of GIANT potatoes (see image at the top), top 'em with anything and everything, and enjoy. Yes, there were great times and lots of booze - but that's part of the bargain with these friends. And if it means I suffer on my bike for 75 minutes before Potato Thursday - well all the better.My training schedule hasn't come out for next week, and is it okay to admit that I'm already a little nervous? But more importantly, I'm EXCITED, I'm READY, and I'm LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. And that, my friends, is no small potatoes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Signs of Competition...

Hello! Howdy! How are you?? It's weird - but things have been A LOT busier than I would have imagined, which feels very strange because the symphony is out of session. Go figure. But that's life and we all have to live it.

I realized last weekend that I'm approximately 4 weeks out from my FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON!!!! VINEMAN 70.3. True, I'm still in base-building, per Coach's orders...and for the most part, I'm behaving myself - following the plan and not going HARD when I'm supposed to go EASY.

And remember what I've said in the past about HARD and EASY? My hard is different than your hard, and my easy may not be as slow as your hard, and it's so complicated that I can hardly keep up with myself. But you get the point.

But I realized the other day, during my longest run to date, that there have been little things, little signs that I'm antsy to race. I'm getting the itch to compete... curious? Well, follow along...


10. In the morning, I'll race to see how fast I can empty the dishwasher. I've only broken one cup so far...Nathaniel claims that I'm surprisingly efficient. Little does he know....

9. While waiting for my dinner at Noodles the other day, timing how long it took my plate of Japanese Pan Noodles to emerge. 4:30 - awesome.

8. Schlepping bags upon bags of groceries into the house has NEVER been fun. However... when I challenge myself to take 10+ bags per hand, well, it makes life interesting. The electrician working in our basement thinks I'm crazy. He's mistaken: I just need another outlet.

(sorry - really really really bad joke. Sigh. I know I'm getting old when I come up with stuff like that, and then actually put it into practice. ugh.)

7. Counting the number of green lights I hit while biking on Pacific Coast Highway. No, I'll never jeopardize my safety - because unlike some other cyclists, I won't race a moving 2 ton vehicle for prime intersection position. But if it's yellow...and there are no 1) waiting cars or 2) cops - I'm going.

6. Upon getting passed by 4 Marines running their Physical Fitness Test, deciding that I would keep pace with the leaders (from the other side of the trail)- even if it meant passing Guy #4 back. He didn't believe me when I told him, "Good Job - you're doing GREAT! Hang in there!!" Luckily, after 10 minutes they went one way and I went the other...but I still kept the pace up...I would be lying if I said the pass didn't feel good.

5. At the gym, making SURE I bench press more than the lady with the Shape UP Shoes. Seriously- do those things really work? I've always though diet and exercise was the answer, NOT the shoes? Seriously. Yes, I will beat her, no matter what. And then some.

4. When I noticed a TIRE FLIPPING contest advertised at the grocery store, I contemplated it - just for the challenge. Post flip hernia and all.

3. Hiking with idea of an extra loop turns into a 4-mile detour. But it's a beautiful day on Laguna...the meadow is WONDERFUL at 5000+ feet...Look at the scenery! Although he's a trooper, he put his foot down. The second time.

2) While spending Thursday at the San Diego Fair (a future blog post - I promise), speed walking past as many people as possible, even if I had to turn around and meet up with my group again. And YES, it was a long long long day. And I am not a Fair Person - let's just leave it at that. Stay tuned.

1) When Nathaniel takes a shower, seeing if I can take a faster shower in the other bathroom. And dry my hair... And apply moisturize (dude - it's Southern California and dry!)...And make the bed....And have my first cup of coffee before he gets out of the shower. In his defense, I don't think he realized this the first or second time. But now, well - now he's catching on. Clearly, I need to move faster.

..And one more, just because:

1B) Timing myself while playing Kreisler's "Allegro" from Praeludium and Allegro. I think my hand cramped the other day - at least that's the only explanation I can come up with for the odd sensation in my fingers. Suddenly playing it at "normal" tempo feels...easy. long as I can make it sounds good - that, my friends, is the key.

With that, I'm off. Perhaps to finish my stupidly long SD Fair seriously was the longst. day. ever. and. it. just. didn't. end. Ever have days like that? Of course you have... Regardless, I did have fun. It. just. took. forever. Like - my slowest Ironman time was faster - if that's an indication. And towards the end, I would have MUCH rather been crossing the finish line than exiting the fair grounds... At least the medal and post-race satisfaction would have been awesome.

Maybe I'll see how long it takes for me to write that post... yeah... that's it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Support BALLOU Skies! (and some other odds and ends)

Originally, I did it for the Peanut Butter.

You friend Kim was sponsoring a contest for Peanut Butter...and I really love the stuff. Like - really LOVE the stuff. As in...I've been known to sleepwalk and eat peanut better. The empty spoon next to the sink is the only record of my midnight encounters. But...still...proof.

But then I got to thinking...and doing something just for Peanut Butter (while very tasty and delicious) seemed so wrong. Especially when the cause is so much bigger than, well, Peanut Butter.

It was originally through dynamo Kim Schwabenbauer that I became aware of Ryan's story. Ryan Ballou is an incredible young man - not just because of all the amazing things he can do. But because he does so much while fighting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative muscle disorder that affects all muscles within the body.

I know that my health issues post Ironman Hawaii were not easy. But it doesn't hold a candle to what Ryan and his family endure on a daily basis. And still, they work through the daily challenges, raise an incredible amount of awareness and funding, and refuse to stop fighting this degenerative disease.

Ryan: even though we have never met - you and your family are an inspiration! I pledge to raise awareness through my blog for Ballou Skies. And I encourage my readers to check out Ryan's site and support the cause as well.

I'll leave you with this, a great quote from Anne Frank:
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

THANK YOU Ryan and Kim - the two of you truly are an inspiration!

In other news....

Today I went SPLAT on my run. You may find yourself asking: how does this happen? Well...let me tell you.

S: Sailing through the air was I, due to my

P: Poor eyesight and concentration. You see...there was a helicopter flying overhead and I couldn't help but wave at the Crew Chief...They were less than 30 feet off the ground, flying at 60 knots or faster. You would have waved too...especially if your husband flew one of those things. Because they are pretty cool. And I was hoping it was Nathaniel and I was just captivated when it appeared on the horizon and couldn't help myself - like a little kid at the fair, running faster and faster because you're excited and you want to keep up! There it is! RIGHT THERE! YEA! And before I knew it, I was

L: Landing face first in a pile of dust and mud. Hopefully alone?

A: Absolutely not.

T: There was a group of Marines out training, thirty feet away.


While I was airborne, I do remember thinking 1) This landing is going to hurt and 2) I hope I don't wet myself on impact. Yes to number one, and most definitely NO to number two.

Although a few minutes later after some highly embarrassing moments (for me AND the petrified Marines - clearly they're not used to seeing a runner bite the dust), I did reflect that I'm grateful for all the core strength and push ups that I do... because it could have been very ugly with my collarbone.

And if you - my friends - ever find yourself in this position (picking dust out of your teeth and wiping the mud off your cheeks with an audience present) - don't be alarmed! Crack a few jokes, smile, pretend you were supposed to trip (duh!), say something funny about something, and then RUN LIKE HELL TO GET AWAY FROM THE PEOPLE WHO WITNESSED YOUR CLUMSY FALL.

The end.

But not yet.

Seriously folks - check out Ryan's site. I'll provide the link just to make it easy. And ANYTHING you can do...wonderful. Even if it's just clicking the link. Thank you!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Telephone Pole Hill, June

As a study in Southern California seasons and seasonal changes, each month I've been taking pictures of (what I'm calling) Telephone Pole Hill. When we first moved here at the end of 2008, I was amazed at how green everything seemed. Within a few short months - everything green was gone, replaced by dust and brown.

This year, I've decided to see if I can actually keep track of the changes. And yes, I realized that I missed April. But still - we've had a great start.

It was Nathaniel, during last weekend's hike who reminded me to take the picture. What a guy.

March 2010
May 2010
June 2010
What you can't see is the June Gloom. It was definitely present during our hike, but only extended a few miles inland. Yes, it's always nice to see the sun.
(Even if you have to work a little extra harder, or walk a little further to experience it's rays).

And finally, proof that we CAN survive activities that involve coordination, balance, and fun in salt water. Yes, we Stand Up Paddled in the Carlsbad Lagoon. However, even though we saw plenty of jumping fish and one very small ray, I was never fearful of (ahem) sharks. Whereas, had I been swimming - well, I just wouldn't have been swimming.

Open water in a protected lake. Yes.

Open water in salt water where there are big things with bigger teeth and you never know what's under you and anything could happen and your imagination is working overtime and it's just not fun because you're fearful that every stroke could be your last? No.

I think that's why I managed to stay upright the entire time. And had a blast in the process. Next time the goal is to bring a water-proof camera because you just never know. But for now, this is the post paddle glow.With Rachel and Jessica, at the Carlsbad Stand Up Paddle Club. And yes, I think I know what my shirt says... I love peace is Chinese or Japanese or Mandarin or something. At least that's what the people up in Minnesota told me. I just liked the heart and fit, and the peace thing - that's nice too.

It should read I love not being eaten by sharks, yeah. Or... I love Stand Up Paddling...even better.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Photographic evidence DOES exist...

...Because there is so much sadness and devastation in the Gulf of Mexico. And because while watching the news, I couldn't help but tear up at the images of destroyed communities, suffering animals...and if that wasn't enough, hearing about service members killed in Afghanistan hits very close to home. I just couldn't watch anymore.

Instead, I tried to 'think happy'. And those who know me, know that I'm a sucker for America's Funniest Home Videos. Nope, I don't have a video to share, however. But. However. There DOES in fact exist photographic evidence of me wearing compression hose while riding my bike.

I made Nathaniel leave the room and barricaded myself in for a few hours while riding the trainer. But before I set off on my very boring - but totally necessary trainer ride - I took a picture of how truly and utterly ridiculous I looked. No - it doesn't change what's happening to the Gulf, and hearing sad news from Afghanistan will always put me on edge. But...sometimes we just need to take a step back and smile.
And YES - I AM WEARING BIKE SHORTS UNDER THE HOSE. Please reassure me that YOU can at least see them. This week, I'm only wearing the knee-high compression hose to help with my veins. But still. Clearly, there was a reason that 1) I rode INSIDE and BY MYSELF and 2) I didn't let Nathaniel see me in person. There are just some things he shouldn't be aware of.

Even Tabbitha was alarmed. But she kept me company for the duration of my ride, so at least that was nice.
And finally, a few pictures from our Saturday afternoon hike. Nathaniel got dressed in full hiking gear - pants included. He wanted to be extra precautions of Rattlesnakes. I laughed and responded that we had NEVER seen a Rattlesnake in the Mike TERF area of Pendleton.

And naturally, no less than five minutes into our hike, we saw a BIG one.Oops. My mistake. Yes, sir, I will gladly take a piece of humble pie.

I suddenly felt very exposed in my shorts.

I didn't take as many pictures as I normally do - Nathaniel set a blistering pace. I think it's the fact that I'm beginning to train and had already swam Masters and water ran that left me chasing his wake. But he definitely set a great precedent charging up a big hill, in full Marine Garb. What a stud.Perhaps like riding a fixed gear up Palomar? (And then back down the thing...?)

As for me - a quick self portrait just after I got Nathaniel charging the hill. I think it's a Marine thing. Or maybe just a Nathaniel thing. Or...maybe because I told him there was a RitterSport with his name on it, that I had snuck into his emergency supply pack and we could take a break at the top of the next hill.I couldn't help but laugh. And you would have too.

(Let's face it, a little chocolate will make ANYONE smile).

So...when life gets you down and blue, be grateful that you're not stuck indoors riding your trainer with 2 PAIRS of compression socks...and a cat that's giving you a look like she feels sorry for you.

At least this one wanted to snuggle.The Mini Monster is most definitely still mini, but NOT a monster here. I don't know how Nathaniel got the camera so fast - but there you have it. (Perhaps another Marine thing? No - I'm pretty sure it's a Nathaniel thing.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Power of Positive Thoughts

Entering my fifth (or sixth...? Is fifth-and-a-half a word? If not, it should be) - but I digress. Entering my fifth-and-a-half week of training, things are humming along. So far I'm not fast, I'm not in super duper let's race! shape, and I don't physically resemble the athlete that I was this point last year (final taper leading into Ironman Coeur d'Alene).

However I'm happy and healthy - and that counts extra. So there.

But the fast part, the in-shape part...that will happen, eventually. Especially after workouts like today's morning swim. Let me share...

Right now, my only training intensity comes from swimming. I'm still in base training with regards to biking and running, (re-)building that ever-important aerobic engine (CRITICAL, if you ask me). That being said, I still carry a bit of trepidation, afraid that if I push too hard I might get sick again.

I know - odder things have happened.

But still. When you spend half a year dealing with one illness after another, taking extra precaution is second nature. Suffice to say, I'm being extra careful, and trying to not do anything stupid.

And it's easy - in the middle of a tough set, when my lungs feel like they're about to burst, my shoulders feel like lead, and the feet that I'm trying to stay connected to seem to slip further ahead and I can't keep up - to wonder if I'm feeling bad because I'm coming down with something...because my immunity is weak...or if it's because I'm working my way back into being in shape.


At the end of the day, I know that the best person to judge this, is ME. But trust me, when I'm this close to falling off the back of our lane train, and sitting out for 50 meters (while the rest of the lane keeps going) is akin to a GIANT piece of sheet cake - it's tough. Because in those moments, that wall looks pretty tempting, and thoughts of "preparing myself for the next set" are tantalizing.

So, all I'm saying - is that I'm flexible. Willing to STOP if something doesn't feel right, but also willing to work my rear-end off when I can.

Enter: The Power of Positive Thoughts.

A few weeks ago - during my first or second swim post pneumonia - Jen's workout instructions included a note to swim 500, alternating 50s with negative thoughts, followed by positive thoughts. And yes, I've done plenty of training (and racing!) using positive thinking to make myself feel better, perform better - and even trick my body into believing that I'm feeling GREAT (final 8 miles of IM CDA - I grinned like a fool trying to make myself believe the power of my positive mental thought was stronger than my failing quads. It worked. And within five steps of finishing, my legs seized up and I couldn't walk).

But I can't remember the last time I deliberately forced myself to think negatively while training. Lord knows, I've spent enough time in therapy retraining myself to think positively, to break down negative thoughts into positive ones. And...yadda yadda yadda.

During the exercise, though - I only lasted for one 50, instead of the five that she had wanted. One was enough to get the point: our negative thoughts have a MOST DEFINITE impact on our actions, performance, and behaviors. It doesn't take a PhD to teach you that. But 50 meters - where I told myself that my swimming sucked, that my strokes were choppy, that I looked like a beached whale flopping in the water - was enough to leave my physically slower in the water, discouraged, and ticked off at Jen.

Lesson learned - thank you coach!

Oh, and sorry for the four-letter-words associated with your name. I could not help myself.

Ever since that workout though, I've made an extra effort to reinforce my training with positive self-talk. Even when running slowly up a hill (I AM RUNNING UP A HILL! I AM DOING GREAT!), even while my heart rate reaches zone 18z biking up a hill (I'M NOT DEAD YET! I AM DOING GREAT!), even when I can barely hang on during a swim set (I AM HANGING ON! I AM DOING GREAT!)- the positive self-talk is great.

Today's swim session was hard. And I knew we were in trouble when at the beginning of the main set, our lane leader strapped on fins, turned to me and remarked, "I'm leaving after the 200..."


So I turned to Kelly just as she turned to me, and I remarked, "I'll lead number 3, if you do number 4." Indeed, the two of us would prevail - through thick and thin, through the inevitable pain that awaited.

The first two sets passed in a blur, and I was only slightly panicked as I set out for set number three. I can't remember the last time I lead any sort of Master's workout, and even though our lane had dwindled from three to two (including yours truly), I was a little nervous that I wouldn't make the send off. Yes - it was close...and definitely uncomfortable...and during the FAST 300, I seriously questioned how the hell I was going to get through the 800 meters of set #4.

But I pushed those thoughts aside, and focused on the things I could control. Myself - right here, right now. Stroke by stroke, turn by turn, we made our way through the set and finished exactly where we were supposed to.

The effort, though, had left me frazzled. Tired, nervous for our final set, and seriously contemplating sitting out a 50 or 100...

...It would be so're still can do it during the second or third 100....just a 50...catch your will get you ready and you'll be faster for the final's just a 50....

I didn't know how I would do it.

But...I did.

(Like with anything that seems so far away, so out of reach - if you fixate too much on the end destination - Thanksgiving, for example - those 5.5 months feel like forever. But, if you take it day-by-day, week-by-week and not think too much about turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and pumpkin pie - the day will eventually arrive. And then we celebrate! I think that's the biggest lesson I learned from Ironman - 140.6 miles seems impossible. BUT...step by step, we get to the end.)

*I can only say the extra food thoughts are because I'm training again. Mmmmm....stuffing....mmmmmmmm......

Ignoring the sets that were ahead, my goal became twofold: 1) tackle ONE SET AT A TIME 2) STAY POSITIVE. Even if I finished with only a few seconds of rest on the wall before starting the next set, that would be OK. I was doing it! I could! I was! I am!! I CAN!!!

And yes, the 4 X 100 was painful...and even though I was given the benefit of a draft (and the rest interval was increasing by :05 per 100), I barely made the send off. But...I did make them.

The final 100 before the FAST 400, I told myself that - in spite of feeling tired and coming in just before the send-offs, I was setting myself up GREAT to really rock the 400. And then I shut off my mind and swam my guts out.

It wasn't easy - but the rewarding things in life rarely are. There were times when I wasn't sure if I was even remotely close to Kelly's feet, but with each flip turn I made sure to BLAST off the wall, streamline as long as my lungs could hold, and pull myself forward with powerful stroke after powerful stroke. The first 200 was lonely, and even though I didn't think I was keeping pace - I NEVER GAVE UP. And with about 150 meters left to go, suddenly I noticed the presence of more and more bubbles and I knew that I was doing it, that I was holding on.

I don't remember much about the final 100 - I'm sure that my form resembled that beached whale, and my turns were less streamlined than I would have liked. However, the one thing I remember was thinking, "YOU ARE DOING GREAT YOU ARE DOING IT YOU ARE DOING GREAT!"

The positive thoughts....when everything else was lost, when I was on the verge of peeing myself because the effort was so tough - I turned to positive thinking to get me through. And it did. And there's no doubt in my mind that positive thinking isn't confined solely to the world of triathlon. When we set our minds to it, we can achieve great things - of that, I am sure.

If I can do it - five and a half weeks of training post-pneumonia - so can you. Enjoy the practice, enjoy the feeling, enjoy the success my friends.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekend Notes...

I used to have a problem with sleep-eating. Ever happened to you? You wake up with the taste of something-familiar, yet unfamiliar in your mouth, wonder how the heck it got there...only to discover a trail of cheezits and a half-eaten box perched on the kitchen counter.

This may or may not have already happened to me.

Friday morning, I woke up and I could detect the faint aroma of...peanut butter. And...I could have sworn that I dreamed of peanut butter - crunchy, smooth, creamy, peanut buttery, delicious - as well. Good feelings were gone when I saw this next to the sink:

I haven't had the heart to check the peanut butter jar. Suffice to say, after my next evening swim - I will eat MORE, to stave off any midnight sleep eating. Thank god we don't have any cheesecake in the house.

It's one thing to eat yummy-tasting things and truly enjoy the experience. But it's something else different when you can't even remember eating said item in the first place.

Speaking of training (and the increased appetite that accompanies such endeavors), I feel like I'm finally progressing from here:

To here:

But I'm not yet here -
(Although with a lot of hard work and effort on my part, I believe I'll eventually make it. Without a doubt - it just takes time...and that - my friends - is okay. It's simply part of the process we all go through)

And as though I didn't have enough fun at the pool with my camera, I saw this posted on the Water Polo Gear Shed - even though those kids are, like, 14 and most of the time their aim (and ability to catch the hurtling ball) is 97.5% accurate, I thought this was pretty neat...
It never hurts to be reminded of these things now and then.

And yes - I live in California...and when you live in California, you see things like this...
Last but not least - I know it's a HUGE race weekend for a lot of folks... GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN! For me - with the symphony - we've got a full concert schedule on tap. Yes, my 'picture of the week' (which doesn't always keep a weekly schedule...) has been changed and is the same as the one below...but it bears repeating. Just because.
Thanks to Cat for the photo - it was neat, albeit a little weird - to have someone from the 'sports/triathlon' world listen to the Me from the 'music/symphony' world - but there you go. Stranger things have happened and I'm happy to report that I didn't see her dozing off (thanks in part to the brass and percussion sections, who played their parts marvelously!)

I'm not sure what Nathaniel and I will do with our free time. Luckily he's not flying and is game for tonight's (or tomorrow's) concert. I've tempted him with free desserts and potluck delights after the Sunday performance, as it's the symphony's final concert of the 2009-2010 concert season. And it's one thing to hear Britten's 'War Requiem' - but it's an entirely different story when free brownies and baked goods are offered to musicians and their families afterwards... I'm just saying...

Have a GREAT weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


First of all, let me start this post by assuring you, that NO PHOTOGRAPHIC evidence exists. None - zero, zilch. And yes, while I realize that a picture equals a thousand words (yadda yadda yadda), I can safely say that some things should just NOT be photographed.

My lower half would be one of those things. (Or would that be two, because I have two feet, two legs, etc?)

Let me back up for a sec, okay?

Do you remember a few months ago, when I was experiencing lower leg problems? Swelling, inability to run without pain, cankles....? Well, I did. It's easy to forget about that with all the sinus and pneumonia drama - trust me, I know.

Anyway, I've had a history of cankles and my lower leg veins-popping experience wasn't going unnoticed. I just didn't know what I could DO about it.

Three weeks ago, things became alarmingly clear.

It was pretty embarrassing, actually. Especially since I noticed it at the gym. While doing lunges of all things. Lunges! I don't mind lunges - they do wonders for the body. And it looks especially impressive if you add an 8 lb medicine ball to your routine. Suddenly the uber hard core Marines flexing the muscles in the mirror take notice.

I took a step forward on my right leg and - WHAM! There it was, clearly defined in the mirror. It flashed briefly, and I thought, for a second that my muscle was having a spasm. Alternate lunge side was fine. Another lunge forward on the right side and - BOOM! Again, I saw what looked like a snake flash up my leg from my ankle to my shorts line.

Um. Hello? Excuse me? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Now, I'm not one to normally gawk. And I certainly don't make a practice of standing in front of mirrors and flexing - we all know I make fun of people like that. But, when I spotted my first varicose vein while lunging, all bets were off.

I waited for the Marines working out behind me to leave, and then within seconds of their departure, I found myself holding the lunge position which made my unsightly vein most noticeable.



There was more than one.

How? Why? What, where when? WHY??

Miraculously, I managed to not get pulled over while speeding home - and did the first thing that any normal person would do. 1) Looked up every article and source of information about varicose veins on the internet 2) Stared in the mirror at my vein.

Veins. Bloody Hell.

Luckily, I had a doctor's appointment later in the week, so I figured my awesome primary care physician could help me out with any questions or concerns. While lunging at the gym a few days later, I snuck a peek - just to confirm they were still there.

They were.

My doctor was really helpful and referred me to a vascular surgeon.... one ultrasound later (which consisted of holding my breath and making grunting noises akin to giving birth...meant to promote blood flow in the lower extremities...), the surgeon gave me the *great* news. While I'm in great physical health - the valves on my leg arteries are not functioning properly, and therefore causing varicose veins in the superficial veins, blood to pool in the legs, fluid retention, and....cankles!

I remember being the only kid on the high school cross country running team with cankles - yeah. Nothing says awkward teenager, like the violin-playing girl with cankles. Now, I understand why.

Thankfully, there are things we can do NOW to alleviate the pressure and pain and swelling that these veins have been causing. Ultimately, though - the surgeon warned that within 5 to 10 years (sooner if we start a family), I would most likely need to get my veins stripped. It's just how I'm built...the genetic cards I was dealt. Goody!

But taking the bad along with the good - because there are lots of GREAT things I pulled from my relatives that I would NOT change - is a part of life. So, I'll take everything together, and learn as much as I can along the way.

Ultimately, we decided on sclerotherapy - a minimally invasive procedure, that involved injecting the affected veins with a solution that would make them (warning: graphic!) - shrivel up and die. The veins that were causing me problems weren't large enough (YET!) to warrant anything extremely invasive; and the idea was to prevent other veins from being affected, and to eliminate the already-formed varicose veins.

I decided to have the procedure as soon as I could after returning from St. Paul. I'm in week 4 or 5 of my base building period, and given the severity of pain and increased cankle-ness while training (yes, I wear compression socks while running - but I do it for MEDICINAL purposes, NOT for fashion purposes!) - I wanted to get this taken care of asap.

June 1st came and doctor was very nice, and the injections didn't hurt too much. I've actually dealt with much worse pain in my life - but no one likes to hear about that stuff. Broken bones, missing toenails, hiking boot blisters - pretty much a mood killer. Besides, I wanted my doctor to focus on treating my veins. NOT gasp in surprise when I described the size of my last hiking boot blister.

So... I ever-so-helpfully traced the squiggly veins immediately after my Tuesday morning run with a water-friendly colored pencil. He was only slightly alarmed and confessed that initially he thought the lines were scars. But he laughed and said that he had a device that would help him find the veins that needed injecting.

Humph. I didn't know that. I was just being helpful.

45 minutes later - yes 45 minutes to deal with the veins on my leg - we were done.

Immediately after the injections, I needed to put on my compression tights.

Now... these aren't ordinary compression tights. No, no, no my friends. These are medical grade hose, designed for people with severe vascular and leg swelling. And not that I've timed myself...but it takes me between 5-7 minutes to put them on.

Per leg.

Like a sweaty Biggest Looser contestant trying to squeeze into size 2 leather pants. Some things just aren't meant to go together.

They are SO difficult to wrestle on, that the doctor returned to the room and asked if I needed assistance. Yes, yes I do. But I'm too embarrassed to call for help - confined to this plastic exam table in my underwear, sweating, and cursing with medical-grade hose barely over my right foot.


It didn't help that the techs who entered were younger than me.

*You know you're getting 'older' not only when people younger than you are assisting you with embarrassing tasks, but also - when you are so desperate for their help that you just don't care.

I swear, I thought I heard something 'pop' in our effort to get the hose on, but we eventually got it up. Cooking spray would have helped - barely. Now that I was in, I wasn't sure how I was going to get OUT. But... I had a full 48 hours to contemplate that dilemma. Because per doctor's orders - I was restricted to medical hose AT LEAST 48 hours post-procedure, in order to ensure the superficial veins remained closed.

For good measure, I slid a second knee-high, medical grade compression sock over my waist-high ones. Just to be sure. And no, I was rendered no assistance during that endeavor. But they stood by, just in case.

And was 48 hours of compression-hoosen bliss.

Let me tell you - NOTHING gets a man going like waist-high medical grade compression stockings. (no photographic evidence exists.)

Thankfully, Nathaniel was flying night flights this week, so didn't really notice. And for the record, I'm not exactly sure that's a good thing - the fact that I'm wearing the VERY APPARENT compression gear that I am and my husband of nearly 7 years does NOT notice when he crawls into bed after hours of flying.

The first night was the roughest, because the hose was itchy, hot, and kept pinching me in very intimate areas. Additionally - I found - if I fell asleep with my knee bent or in any position other than straight-legged-and-on-my-back, circulation was cut off. There were some kicks, and I'm embarrassed to admit how many four letter words were uttered before 4 am. For the record - I could feel the welts forming, and was sure that my compression sock's brand would be forever compressed into my skin.

And I am. With another 14 or 15 hours left to my compression hosen bliss. Hopefully though, the varicose veins will be gone, my leg will return to normal, and Nathaniel will notice when I'm no longer in waist-high hose. After nearly 7 years of marriage, that my friends, would be wonderful.

Until then, I'm compressed. And counting down the hours.