Monday, May 18, 2015

Cutting the Thorns off of Roses

Yesterday I raced the Raleigh Ramblin' Rose Super Sprint triathlon.  It is a women-only race series in North Carolina dedicated toward empowering women to take on a triathlon.  The distance makes it an attainable goal for newer athletes, but is still challenging so that even seasoned triathletes can go "all-out" for a podium finish.  Or people who want to improve, like I hoped to.  And I did.

Photo credit to Lindsay Wirthlin

Last year, the bike course was one mile longer, and I finished the race in 1:10.  This year, my new coach wanted me to finish it in 1:04.  I topped that by finishing in 58:42. Very happy about that.

But I was most happy to meet Andrea Peet.  I finally got to give her a hug, and meet her friend Julie (who raced the Ramblin Rose wearing #179 and it was her race for the Team Drea Challenge).  We all had lunch together after the race with other Team Drea supporters.

Me, Andrea and Julie

This past Friday, Andrea shared with Team Drea that her dear friend is now an ALS Warrior-Spirit.  Her friend, Lisa, diagnosed shortly after her wedding, passed away last week.  I know this was incredibly difficult, angering, and heartbreaking for Andrea. She asked us to please race, run, and remember her friend this weekend - and I certainly did as I pushed through my own physical pain/discomfort that goes along with racing.  Please rest in peace, Lisa McMillen - and many prayers of comfort for your family.

Andrea has said more than once that she believes an ALS diagnosis is harder on the spouses than the patients.  This weekend I also met Andrea's parents and her husband, DP.  Andrea's mother is a very sweet woman - she has a comforting, positive aura and I very much enjoyed the brief conversations I had with her.  Her father is very sweet, always had a smile on his face and was very kind to me and my children.  And DP is tall, handsome and also very kind.  I get the impression he is a lot like my husband.  You know, a little bit quiet and shy, but very intelligent, kind and funny.

DP and Andrea last month at a Half Marathon

At one point I caught Andrea watching her husband as he left the restaurant for a bit.  The only way I can describe her eyes is "love."  I know that love, because I feel that way, too, when I watch my own husband sometimes.  She loves him so much - Andrea loves all her family and friends with every bit of her soul.  She loves this crazy world so much - she wants to make it a better place.  And that is one of the many qualities about her I am thankful for.  Her "love," her honest caring, is what inspires me to want to keep on doing all the things - to never quit.

More so now than ever, I also want to dedicate my races to her family, friends and especially her husband.  We WILL find a cure for this disease.  I wish so much, with all of my heart, I could make that happen today.  Right now.

Andrea and Julie on the cover of Endurance Magazine after racing together in Chapel Hill last year

Please consider donating to my page for Team Drea.  Take a moment to read about the wonderful work the Blazeman Foundation does for ALS research, patients and families.  Thank you.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Letting Go and Holding On

A few blogs ago, I repeated "I don't care!"  I sort of regret that now (although, I still honestly am not competition-driven when it comes to triathlon, looks, whether or not my kid is smarter/talented, etc.).  Over the last three weeks I've realized just how much I DO care.  And that is 100% to do with Andrea Peet.

When I whined about being slow in the water, how much I didn't like it, and how aggravated I was at triathlon - Andrea sent me a message about how she was scared before her first open water swim triathlon, and the cut-off's for her half-ironman.  Something just snapped within me after that message.  I shook myself out of that haze, regrouped and realized I needed to keep my head on straight.

1.)  I am not, have never claimed to be, and actually don't even want to be a "podium-er."  It's wonderful for those who do, I would love it if it happened for me, but it just isn't *my* motivation.  Truth - until/unless I get my core fixed, I will simply not be super-fast at anything.  That's ok!  I am just stoked to swim, bike and run.  It makes me happy, even when I don't think anyone else is watching me (this candid photo credit to Dennis Geiser of Inside-Out Sports Triathlon Club).

2.)  I am raising funds for the Blazeman Foundation.  Bringing more awareness to ALS research - because it isn't a "lifestyle-induced" illness.  90% of the time it is a completely unexpected, "sporadic" turn of fate in one's genetic code.  This is why we need to continue funding research for ALS, and eventually develop a cure.  The Blazeman Foundation is near to my heart because of Andrea's connection to Jon Blais, his parents (who are AWESOME and run the foundation), and because Mary Ann and Robert do not take a salary - 99% of funds collected go directly towards ALS research.

3.)  We truly have just one life.  One.  I see so many lives cut short - friends of friends fighting cancer, childhood cancer, ALS, car accidents, illness, so many tragedies resulting in death.  And while those definitely need to be mourned, we need to continue to love the life we have.  Whatever hand we've been dealt, try to find the light.  I've seen my parents go through many health scares.  When my son was five months old, I flew home on a moment's notice because my father was in the hospital.  I knew it was bad, and my mother sounded terrified.  My father did mostly recover from that scare and has made many positive lifestyle and medical choices to help him continue to enjoy life.  Five years prior to his incident, my mother had a major, risky five-hour heart procedure (successfully completed).  I remember the helplessness.  I put on a brave face that day, but the truth is I wasn't brave.  I can just be a great actor.

And that is why I love triathlon.  There is no acting on race day.  There is no acting when you train.  You do it.  This weekend I swam in the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge.  1.2 miles of waves, swells, whitecaps, wind and rain.  It was like "man overboard" during a hurricane (ok, maybe the waves were not *that* high), being tossed about.  Trying to take a breath and having a giant wave of water slap me in the face, spitting it out, turning my head the other way only to be dropped face-down into the water.  Trying to "sight" (see the buoy markings on the swim course), but looking up at the wrong time only to see a large swell of water, nothing in sight but waves. The crazy in all of that?  I actually never truly considered quitting. Not once.  My body kicked into some unknown gear, an insane survival instinct that I cannot describe, no matter how much I babble on about it (too late). I just knew I had to swim, to keep looking for other swim caps on swimmers, and then eventually look for the shore.  And I did it.  Slowly, but I did it.

I let go of all of my fears on Sunday.  I held on to courage - especially as my wonderful training friend, Jennifer, and I rode the Ironman 70.3 Raleigh bike course.  After the swim. *insert crazy-laughing emojii here*  You know, just during Tropical Depression Ana.  We faced sideways rain, high winds, lots of hills, and even more car traffic, but we rode 54 miles back to downtown Raleigh.

You hold on to strong, positive things.  And try to let go of the crap, the sandbags, the blergh.

It's not running from reality - it's making a choice to be proactive, to be positive.  Andrea's mother told me, "Be Brave!  It works!" before Beaverdam.  And she was right.  It sure does - and even though it's on my Road ID (forever!), I still wrote it in Sharpie on my wrist yesterday morning, and I always will.  "Be Brave."

That's not to say you don't get a free pass to whine, complain, be angry, be sad, and so forth - when life is crap.  You do. We all get to whine, no matter if it's about ill-fitting shoes, a sore throat, or a terminal illness. You can't let anyone else define your "crap."   But just try, just please try to...

Let it go.

and then -

Hold on.

Let the crap go, and be able to differentiate crap from serious.  And then hold on to each and every positive you can find.  You just have to, it's the only way to get to shore.