Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Difference Between Life and Time Travel

I want to talk about progress.  And backsliding.  And how that is all a part of the process.

This year, I started having significant breathing issues.  I have dealt with asthma for a long time but it seemed like it was getting worse... and changing.  It eventually became clear that I was aspirating my stomach contents when I exercised.  This explained how I could be fine for the first 40 minutes.  It explained why I could never eat or drink easily in a training setting or just before.  This explained how some of my "asthma attacks" seemed more like choking and less like wheezing.  I have had GERD since I was a kid and now it had finally come home to roost.  There is a post or twelve worth of commentary on all of the things happening to try to bring that under control.  But that is not what this post is about.  It is about the side effect of one of the medications and its effect on my life.  And what that really means in the bigger picture.

Years ago I was REALLY overweight.  I've posted about this so you may already know that.  I lost weight while I was in martial arts training through diet and exercise.  I made a lot of mistakes (that post is a different post too) but got about 70 lbs off.  Then I blew out my knee really badly and ended up having to take an enormous amount of time off and never was able to resume my sport.  I slipped into a period of low activity and gained 50 lbs back.  I felt like a failure.  I slipped.  I felt like I went backwards to that heavier place and time.

Then I found triathlon and cycling and I got active again.  When the weight began to come off, the diet followed easily.  I lost the 50 plus 25 more.  But then I started getting sick and getting hurt because I wasn't actually fueling my body correctly.  I worked with a couple dietitians and under their guidance I put about 15 lbs back on.  Then I was the fastest I had ever been.  That was a magical period where I was the right weight, gaining power, fueling my workouts, and responding to training.

But I thought I was too fat so I went on a diet.  And gained 10 more lbs.  Ummm... howzatwork?  Again, I felt like I was failing but this time I did not see myself as a failure.  That is a pretty critical difference and the beginning of a really important shift.

Then I started trying to develop myself as a sprinter and focused more on performance and forgot about the weight for a while.  My weight leveled off and I got super strong.  I valued something higher than being "skinny" and began to see the advantage in the unique way that I am made.

Then this year happened and I got sick.  And then the breathing issues started happening.  I don't know what triggered what.. I only know where it got me.  It got me on a medication that can make it really easy to gain weight.  So I did.  I'm at a weight and size that I am uncomfortable with.  And I am trying my best to avoid feeling guilty or allowing it to erode my sense of myself as an athlete.  I'm not allowing myself to feel like a failure.

I'm at a weird place in the journey.  That is all.

Fluctuations happen.  They are normal.  What isn't healthy is feeling like the sky is falling because you've had a "backslide".  Why do we look at it like that anyhow?  I haven't gone backwards.  I am heavier because of the state of my health and activity right now.  I have not gone back in time.  I am not younger.  I am not driving the car I was driving when I was 245 lbs.  I am not wearing the same clothes I was wearing when I was 190.  I have not lost life experience.  Nope.  None of that.  Fluctuations, even big ones, are a part of life.  They are not failures or a reversal of achievement (I still did that thing, even if it seems more removed now) or a trip back in time to an earlier incarnation of me.

I will not allow this.... become this...

...and especially not THIS!

This is still a part of moving forward and if I choose to go forward more conscious and disciplined with my eating, I will gain less or lose more than if I don't.  Getting active again will be an incremental process as I heal.  The only consequence of some weight gain is that I will return to racing form a little later.  Some days that matters to me enough to really fight it.  (The medication increases appetite- it's given to anorexics to help them gain weight- so it can be a little maddening sometimes.  It makes me feel really hungry, really frequently.)  Other days, I really just don't want to feel insanely hungry and it is more important to me to be comfortable than 5 lbs lighter.  It was a helpful realization that the hunger was an artifice.  I am neither starving nor am I insane.   I am just here... now... not failing... and not traveling in time.

If I want to weigh less, I know what to do.  If I want to be fast again, I know what to do.  I also know that I am not in the best position to chase down those results right now and that will also change.  Or maybe it won't and I will fall madly in love with some other way of expressing myself.  No matter what, I'll go forward to do it because life is a one way trip.

Maybe your "backslide" is weight.  Maybe it is fitness.  Maybe it is financial.  WHATEVER it is, unless you have found a way to travel through time, you did not go backwards... SO STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP!!  You are here, now, and only have your present and future actions to affect change.  You know what to do.

So if you don't have one of these....

...Or one of these...
then you probably didn't go backwards!

I'm not the weight I want to be.  I am not at the fitness I want to be.  None of these things are permanent and keeping my head in a good place is the quickest way to the state of affairs I desire.  The most important thing is realizing that all of it is a part of the journey and none of it is the only thing that matters about me.  Each day will be another step and I will travel in a particular direction.  My choices and actions will determine if they take me closer to my current goals or towards some other heading.  Look forward and look up.  It's good advice when running or on a bike and in life in general.

I will ride my bike down this road as soon as I am able.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


From the 380 mile first date
...and theme of the year 2015

I posted exactly three times in 2014 and this will be my first in 2015.  Change has been the "reason for the season" since I last posted regularly.  This year was so difficult that I mostly felt the need for privacy.  But now I want to share because I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I see that this road is going some where amazing.

So. Much. Change.

This year has brought so much change.

It actually started in November of last year when I met a wonderful man who was as fast on a bicycle as he was intelligent.  We went on a 380 mile ride that had 18,000' of climbing and many miles of dirt roads because... how better to get to know someone than to be pushed to your breaking point in their company? :/
From the tour with Mr Fastandawesome

In December, the love-sick Duck went mountain biking with said fast and intelligent man, henceforth know as Mr Fastandawesome.  Because I'm not so savvy in the skills department, I toppled over at the entrance to a rock garden and accidentally put my hand out.  I tore a tendon in my arm which took me out of work for a while.  I was also diagnosed with advanced arthritis.  This news came at the same time as a call from a friend offering me an opportunity to get involved with a triathlon/endurance start up that would grow into a coaching and timing/events company.  I said yes.  What did I have to lose?  The next thing I knew I was being trained and prepped to start coaching athletes.  I lined up a mentor and before I knew it, I had my first athletes. :my new professional home.

My new professional colleagues

Then in January, my vaccinated self contracted whooping cough.  That had me laid out for two months.  If you have ever had whooping cough, then you know.  If you have not, it is hard to imagine how sick it makes you.

In March, I traveled to Mississippi for work and aside from one little blip in my health that sent me to the ER, I managed to stay pretty healthy.  While I was there had some very cool rides on the beach.  I was able to get some wonderful photos from that trip.  Upon returning, I went to my first stage race with my new team.  We did well.  Despite still being weak from the illness, I placed 2nd in the time trial, won the road race, and was 4th in the GC.  The team put 4 people in the top 5 of the GC and won each individual stage with a different person.  It was a great day to wear green!

Winning the sprint to win the road race at Corsicana

In April, I became sick during a stage race and had to withdraw in the final stage.  The next day, my beloved dog Wilbur was killed in an accident.  That night, my illness turned into a kidney/UTI infection and landed me in the hospital.  That was a weekend that took some time to recover from.  Meanwhile, the man I met had become a cornerstone of my life and cared for me and loved me through this terrible time.

Good Bye Little Man... I'll miss you forever.

In May, I was able to do start working a bit more but I was plagued by repeated asthma attacks.  It was getting terribly out of control.  I raced a few times in a local crit and on the track.  I had mixed result ranging from being very competitive to getting dropped immediately, depending on the state of my breathing on any given day.  My ability to train steadily declined and so did my fitness.  In the last 4 weeks leading up to the state TT where I hoped to defend my title, I was so ill that I was averaging about three hours a week.

The TX state championship finally arrived in June.  I finished the ITT mid pack with a sad time several minutes slower than the previous year.  The next day was the TTT and I was terrified that my body would betray me and I would let my team down.  But I held on.  We finished as a team and won the title.  I was a state champion for the second year in a row, but this time as a member of the winning team.... FRESH racing!

FRESH Racing on the podium!! TTT win!

That was my last race of the year.  I decided to take an indefinite amount of time off to heal and address my issues.  Over the summer, it became clear that my breathing issues were linked to stomach issues that I had made a lifetime career out of ignoring.  The stomach issues were likely reaching a crescendo because of the NSAID therapy I was doing for the arthritis.  I began to pursue answers in that direction as my health reached an all time low.  In the meantime, the coaching business was growing like a weed.  I found myself with more and more clients as my athletes racked up more and more podiums.  The business, iTri365, was a thing... a real thing... and I was starting to believe I had found my purpose.  I was also coming to believe that my ability to make a living braiding had finally reached its end.  I hurt too much, was too sick, and was no longer interested in leaving the wonderful man that I had met to wander around the country from show to show like a vagabond.

itri365 TRIBE!! 
During the month of July, Mr Fastandawesome and I took a vacation.  Like all things this year, the vacation was themed "Get As Far From The Comfort Zone As Possible"!  In other words, he took me to the top of the world!
Mt. Assiniboine

Top o' the Nub

August came and my break from braiding and change in approach to my health started showing some improvement.  Mr Fastandawesome raced the Leadville MTB 100 and I found some glimmers of my old self running crew for him.  It was an amazing experience!!  I found a bit of love and a bit of skill developing as I kept returning to the trails.  But my breathing was still bad and I was very weak.  Still, I figured I had to start back somewhere and I knew what it would take to come through it.  Fitness is no mystery.  It's simply a process.

Mr Fastandawesome being, well, fast and awesome!

In September, after we returned to Austin, I started riding a bit on the road and began a program of light running.  I continued to work with a GI specialist and we started considering a possible surgical fix.  That involved a series of tests to determine if I was a good candidate.  I made up my mind that I would take whatever time I needed and return to health... and racing... next season.  Since my deductible was now paid, I decided to also have my shoulder looked at since I had been dealing with pain and reduced range of motion for years.

I wanted to try the new S5 as the change in the geometry looked promising for me.  I borrowed a bike from the local shop and took it for a spin.  I went to the Veloway to test it in a safe place, free of cars.  As I rolled into the first turn during my warmup, the front tire exploded and I went down.


Ambulance ride hard.

Trauma ward hard.

I had shattered my eye socket and ruined my shoulder.  48 hours later I was in surgery having my face put back together.  My shoulder would not require surgery... or rather the MRI revealed so much arthritis that surgery would have a poor prognosis.  I also had ruptured my bicep tendon and torn my labrum. Not to mention lost a lot of blood.


I have been coming to terms with certain uncertainties.  I don't know if my vision will ever be normal again.  I may never regain feeling in my face.  I have some scars.  My shoulder injuries will take 6 months to heal to a state of pain-most-of-the-time.

I have arthritis in my hands, shoulder, knees, neck.... I will live with pain for the rest of my life.  I have scars, nerve damage, and plates in my face.  And I have met the most wonderful man I have ever known and he has stood by me through these difficulties unflinchingly.  I will never be able to make a living working with horses again.   And I have a great new job that I love.  Wilbur is gone.   And I am raising a delightful puppy named Sprout.  For every black cloud, there is more than a silver lining... there is a wide open door to the future.  I have seen my old life fall away and a new one that is better than I ever imagined growing in its place.

I have no regrets.  I keep looking forward and that is where I will go with this blog.

Where ever I go from here, I don't go alone.