Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P4)

Part Four: Reflections and Thanks


So, as I mentioned before - the course had been shortened and I did not have the opportunity to complete 140.6 miles at an Ironman race course. To some people, it probably seems silly to be upset about such a thing. But it was honestly heartbreaking. I was offered a lot of very well-meaning advice from a handful of folks. But, probably the best advice came from Andrea Peet, who referenced the movie Gleason when she said, "It shows the power of the human spirit -- even when things are hard, or sucky things happen for no apparent reason."

I know that Andrea, and raising awareness for ALS, are my "why." I know that showing my children that you work as hard as you can - whatever that may be - and you do your best is also "my why." And that you show up and keep doing your best even if you aren't going to be the first-place winner. (or get your 140.6 sticker). That it's perfectly fine to have things in life you love and enjoy, even though you aren't pro-level. (And even when you're not even close). Those were all "my why."

So, yeah - it's kind of a big deal to me that I still showed up that morning on race day. I showed up while the winds were howling. I showed up despite having had two bike crashes and not really trusting my bike. I showed up even though I knew that if I crossed the finish line, I wasn't "technically" going to be an Ironman finisher (in the 140.6 sense). I showed up even though I had people raise their eyebrows at me, "you've never run a marathon before?" I showed up even though I was terrified at the thought of running a marathon, and was convinced I was going to get hurt doing it. I showed up even though my training volume wasn't as high or as consistent as most recommend. I showed up even though I had an anxiety attack one week prior.

I.
Showed.
Up.

And I would do it (a not-by-choice shortened race) again in a heartbeat, because we do the things.

I finished the race and immediately knew I wanted to try another full. I felt fantastic after the race - and even my massage therapist noted today that nothing felt injured or strained. I took my time on the marathon, especially the second half, because I knew I had plenty of time. I didn't want to injure myself. I never pushed on the bike because I've made the mistake of killing my legs on the bike course and never finding them again. If I had been wearing my HR monitor, I would guess my heart-rate probably averaged around 135-140, and probably closer to 115-120 the second half of the marathon.

I am extremely happy about all of that. Very grateful and thankful.

_______________________________________________________________________

Thank YOU to Erin for this picture of me starting my second loop on the run :-)

Thank You!


Thank you to my husband and children for their amazing support during training.

Thank you to Team Drea - especially Erin Leventhal (and Brian and the kids!), Christine Stalvey, Robin Fowler and all the members who trained with me and offered supportive words of encouragement and congratulations. It meant so much to see many of you on the course!!

Thank you to my training partners. Jennifer Liptrot - for the runs and never leaving me behind (and for SO much!). Preston Mitchell - for all of the rides, the phone calls and the words of encouragement. Sara Scheck, Kathleen Pelczynski, Gayle Banic, Nici, Tanner, IOSTC friends - everyone who has gone out on rides with me! They were all my "hay," and I enjoyed the time with all of you so much.

Thank you to Rebecca for the swims! Great advice and supportive words helped me finish that swim faster than I ever expected. AND enjoyed it.

Brooks Doughtie - I didn't train for this race with you, but the months of training with you the previous year built a foundation that taught me to respect the process and to know what consistent and smart training can do for athletes.

BASE - a GREAT product and great team, so much support.

Tri-Life - Jon helped patch up my bike and patched up my mental state going into this race.

My massage therapist and chiro - helping put "Humpty Dumpty" back together again. And again.

To my parents - for believing in me throughout my life. And teaching me to believe in myself, because that's what really matters when we set out to do anything challenging.

To the Ironman North Carolina volunteers and race staff - thank you for your time and helping make the experience memorable and safe.

Thanks to all of my friends and family who've encouraged me on this journey. Everything from a "like" to a "comment," phone calls and texts -  I have appreciated (and needed, many times) the encouragement. Thanks to Chandra (my IM70.3 teammate next year!) for being at the race, too!

To Jon Blais and his parents Mary Ann and Robert - "freedom!" We WILL find a cure.

Thank you to Andrea Peet and Dave Peet for your support. I know it isn't the journey you would have EVER chosen, but your steadfast love for each other, your support for finding a cure for ALS, and the way you support your friends - old and new - has taught me so much about appreciating life and the gift of love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P3)

Part Three: The Run

After I handed off my bike to the volunteer, I picked up my run bag and hobbled into the changing tent. Again, I realized my naked butt was going to be visible to the world. Also, this changing tent seemed even smaller than the T1 tent. Ohhhhh well. I was pretty disappointed that I took thirty minutes longer than expected on the bike, but reminded myself I was 30 minutes faster on the swim - so it had evened out.

I immediately asked if they had any Advil or painkiller and the woman responded they only had Tylenol. I accepted it and she wrote a "T" on my bib. I honestly didn't care - I needed something to ease the pain in my shoulders and neck. I was able to quickly change into my running clothes - a pair of Tyr compression shorts (but not SUPER compression-y like 2XU) and my Team Drea shirt. I wore my sports bra throughout the swim, bike and run - careful to apply a gob of vaseline under the base of it because it chafes me after 15 miles or so when I run. I changed socks and stepped into my running shoes, remembering the advice of Swim Bike Mom in either her book (or a blog) about taking the time to make sure everything feels good. Saving two minutes in transition by skipping a sock change might cost you an hour on the run course if you can barely walk later on.

I added water to my handheld water bottle - which already had my custom Infinit "Run" blend in it. Pulled on my belt/pouch where I had extra Infinit bags, grabbed my race number belt and pulled on my hat. I had forgotten to pack sunglasses for the run. *trombone downslide* Oh well. I stopped at the porta-jons (FINALLY! HALLELUJAH THANK YOU JESUS) and then began the .5 mile exit out of T2. I saw the babies and Derek again as I started to run.

The first part of the run didn't hurt and my energy was great. I saw Andrea and Dave at the beginning of the run course and ran over to give them a hug. The run through downtown was nice, although I was seriously jealous of the people drinking beer and cheering on the racers! Then we turned toward the lake where the run traces along the edge, with an out-and-back.

I was able to maintain my intervals for quite some time on the first half (3 minutes running, 1 minute walking). I drank sips of water at the aid stations and refilled my bottle with nutrition every hour. I do have to say it meant the world to me to see the BASE signs that my kiddos made. It was a little windy coming back into town, and people were really cheering loudly as I made my way to the turnaround point. I saw the Leventhals and the Peets again. Unfortunately, I missed Derek and the kids because my time was a lot faster than he expected!

After the strange twisting and turning at the beginning of the second loop, I stopped at run special needs to change my socks. Now - it was perfect running weather and I wasn't super sweaty, but I decided to change my socks anyway. It actually felt GREAT to take off my socks. I had also packed "Wet Ones" and used one to wash the salty sweat off my face - that was very refreshing. After that, I sort of just stared into my special needs bag until a volunteer asked me if I was ok. LOL. Yes, I am just thinking about running another half marathon. It was around 4:10PM or so and I knew I would finish before the temperature dropped substantially, but I decided to grab my freebie arm warmers from an FS Series race, just in case. I also took my remaining bags of run nutrition and shoved them into my belt (that I wore underneath my shirt).

When you come out of town on the run course, you gradually climb up, then you gradually go down to the lake. Then back up again, and then down to the finish line. Needless to say, I walked most of the uphill grades. I started eating real food - pretzels - around mile 16. I drank a few sips of flat coke to get some caffeine around mile 17. Mile 20, near the BASE tent, is a park with real restrooms and I decided to stop and potty. I didn't *have* to go, but I felt like I should just flush my system. I washed my hands in a real sink, and chatted with a woman in the bathroom.

Now - obviously I was "running" slowly. And I don't care. It's my pace and it's my race. It was my first marathon and I kept waiting for a wall or a bonk to hit, so I was afraid to push myself very hard - especially after mile 18 because I had never, not ever, "ran" or "walked" that distance in my entire life. But, I felt good. My feet were sore, but not in excruciating pain. I walked a lot coming back up from the lake and ran/jogged nearly continuously when we finally turned onto Front street, except for one spot. And let me tell you about that.

So, it's after 7PM at this point and I was alone on the course. The people on Front Street had probably been drinking all day. I ran a little fast to cross an intersection because a car was waiting on me, then I walked for a minute, and I heard some young guy say, "hey - you're walking. Oh, is that a run-walk? That's not even really running" and he scoffed.

I had swam 2.4 miles. I rode my bike for 56 miles. I had "run-walked/that's-not-even-really-running" for 25.5 miles at that point.

I was beyond pissed off.

And let me tell you, it took every ounce of strength remaining in my body to not turn around and punch that guy in that crotch. I wanted to shout, "then you effing do this, a$$hat." The only thing that kept me from doing that was the realization that...

He probably does do this. He probably does run, or maybe he was one of the full finishers who had finished hours before me. There were a group of people who decided to ride their trainers after the race so they could get their "140.6" miles all in a row. I thought that was a great idea, but you know what eventually turned me off of it (other than having two little kids who were exhausted)? When a woman in the expo said, "some of us actually are going to get our 140.6 miles tomorrow." In this middle-school, "I'm the cool girl and you aren't" sort of voice. 

But you know? Those people are everywhere. They're everywhere - just waiting to one-up you, or tell you how you have it easier, or you aren't good enough for their cool kids club. And to paraphrase my husband:

"If you're dealing with someone insecure enough that completing an Ironman doesn't legitimize their achievements for themselves - you're never going to win with them. Because it's always going to be about filling their own void, and nothing to do with you."

And that's all I have to say about that.

So, by the time I got to the twisty (AND DARK) docks, I had let it go. And then someone walking their dog with a retractable leash nearly gave me a heart attack. I came running around the DARK corner and scared the dog so it lunged at me, barking and growling. "JESUS CHRIST," I shouted. The dog owner apologized and said the standard, "he's a very sweet dog," that every dog owner says after their dog has tried to kill you. I could hear the music from the finish line and I was so excited!


I ran my first marathon!
I just did a FREAKING MARATHON!

I saw Andrea and Dave and waved to them! I kissed the babies and Derek (who had been waiting a loooooong time because he was afraid of missing me again). I heard Mike Reilly saying stuff and I rolled across the finish line. I pulled myself up, accepted my medal and clothes - and that was it. I can't describe the gratitude I felt.

Heather Scott, You are an Ironman.

Nutrition: 6 non-concentrated servings of custom-blend Infinit "Run", handful of pretzels, bit of a cookie, sips of chicken broth
T2 (UGH): 15:40
Run: 6:27:38 14:47/mi pace

Total Time: 11:58:46

Next: Part Four - Final Reflections and Thank-You's (I have a lot)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P2)

Part 2: The Bike

Due to the devastating and lasting flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the full-distance 112-mile bike course was changed twice. Five days before the race, it was initially promoted as an "approximate 50-mile" bike course. When I checked-in on Thursday, I inquired the possibility of racing as a "half-distance" athlete, because I wasn't interested in running a marathon if I couldn't call myself an Ironman. Because of the training interruptions and injury concerns, it seemed to be a wise choice. WTC officials unfortunately told me I could not transfer, so I made the decision to race the "full" course anyway. The bike course was ultimately changed again into an entirely different 56-mile course.

I was so happy about my swim time when I exited the water. The wetsuit strippers were fast! "Can I take you to all of my open water swims?" I not-so-cleverely asked. I stood underneath the fresh water shower for a minute, taking the time to rinse the salt water off my skin and face. Then began the long run to the transition area. I saw my friend Chandra, with whom I will be relaying IM70.3 Raleigh next year, and my friends Erin and Brian Leventhal. It was so amazing to see people I knew and it gave me an even bigger boost to keep on going!

The changing tent. First of all - there was nowhere to sit where people couldn't see into the tent. All of those seats were taken, and I knew people outside were just going to have to see my naked butt. Oh well! (Also, seriously Ironman? You can't put up a screen or something by the entryway?) After the bike course changes, I debated whether or not to even change into bike shorts. Obviously I need a new bike fit, but as it stands right now - I can wear tri shorts easily for 56-60 miles, but anything beyond that I need my Pearl Izumi chamois. However, my nice and tight bike shorts that give me lots of compression are a wonderful choice on any given day - except when I am trying to pull them up over cold and slightly damp jiggly stomach skin. I could not pull them up. Not one bit! I tugged and tugged, finally got them somewhat over my gut and then the chamois was twisted. A volunteer helped me, and then helped me get into my arm sleeves (also difficult to put on).

Lesson learned? I should have never changed into bike shorts for 56 miles, and when I do another full, I will either purchase a larger size than normal bike short, and/or practice ways of getting them on to damp skin (vaseline? powder?). I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I wasn't expecting it to be nearly impossible. I was finally changed and even though I had to pee, I decided to just get on the bike.

While on the bike I immediately took two giant swigs of nutrition. I love BASE Performance products, but I had been working with a custom Infinit blend for this race. I navigated around the turns and *gulp* decided to slowly ride over the first bridge with metal grates. Now, when I did this two years ago - I fishtailed like CRAZY over the bridge. I nearly wiped out. I told myself I was going to walk across the bridge this year, but at the last minute I decided to just try. S-l-o-w-l-y. I softly screamed the entire time. "AhhhhhhhhHhHHhHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh - I'm sorry, I am just trying not to fall - Ahhhhhhh - sorry!" And I was across! WHEW. I carefully pulled out my chapstick and slathered it on, and it was time to really ride my bike!

The first road was relatively easy, and then we ride a stretch on I-140. Bikers stay in the left lane, and there are giant divots (sleeper lines) in the shoulder.

That.
Wind.

The average wind speed in Wilmington that day was 21mph with gusts up to 28mph, coming from the WNW. So, for the west-bound stretch on I-140, there were horrible crosswinds, and sometimes headwinds. It was difficult to remain in aero and control the bike. I was actually thankful for my weight gain at this point, because I probably would have been tossed into the ditch otherwise - or at the very least, blown toward the left shoulder and then crashed my bike after hitting the rumble strips.

When we exited onto US-421, I realized I should have paid better attention to the course changes, because we were going the wrong way! We turned south, then made a u-turn, then back up 421, where we would eventually u-turn again and head back into Wilmington.

The entire section of northbound US-421 was into headwind. When I raced the full course in 2014, there was actually very little wind until the end of the course - and then it was WSW and only 10 mph. So, it made the last section of the bike unpleasant, but it wasn't that difficult. This was horrific. Everything on me hurt - my "parts," my shoulders, my neck, my hands, my back. I refused to look at my watch and rode solely by effort. I didn't care that I was being passed by pace lines - though I longed to grab that back wheel and cruise along with people, I just raced my own race.

I took one water bottle from the first aid station and topped off my Speedfil bottle. I should add that this set-up was amazing for me. A lot of times during races I don't want to take my hands off the bike, so I don't fuel or hydrate properly. It isn't a fear thing, it's just that I am usually hauling butt and don't feel like taking a moment to carefully grab a bottle, etc. For this race, I had my liquid nutrition (two hours - concentrated) in my aero bottle, and 2+ hours of water in my Speedfil bottle (which goes onto my frame and uses a long hose that I placed near my aero bottle straw). I don't want to use this all of the time - but it was PERFECT for a long race. I had another two hours of nutrition on my saddle bottle cage.

Riding into the wind was seriously the only time I considered quitting the entire day. My body just hurt so badly. "Where the "F---" do we turn around?!?! Why did I forget Advil?!?!" I took deep breaths, and just continued my moderate effort cadence and power. I remembered my "why."

Finally we turned around, and I got the push from the wind I was waiting for. My dear friend Preston rode by and said, "hey - you're doing great!" and that gave me another boost. I reached up to adjust my helmet because it had started to slide forward and *DOINK* my magnetic visor popped off my helmet, flew into the air off to the left and crashed on the ground behind me.

Are you serious?

I made a split-second decision to just leave it. At this point, I would have been a major safety hazard to stop and ride/walk AGAINST traffic to retrieve it. And of course, a course marshal rode by a moment later, but I was never penalized or DQ'd for littering. Thank goodness.

The wind at my back was a welcome push, and I kept the same moderate-paced effort, knowing that I still had about six to seven hours of work ahead of me. Unfortunately, the rest of the ride was also very bright and my eyes were watering from the lack of wind protection. I also decided to s-l-o-w-l-y ride across the second bridge, and did my same "ahhhhhhhhhhhhh" quiet scream across the entire section of metal grates. I made it! A few minutes later I saw my husband and kids before the dismount - man, that feels nice to see your family.

Unfortunately, when I started to run down the hill with my bike, my left groin muscle locked up and I couldn't run. So I walked the long walk to the bike handlers and held up a bunch of people. Sorry 'bout that. But the walking eased the cramp and then it was time to get ready for my very first marathon.

T1 (ugh): 16:46
Bike: 3:31:45 15.87mph

Nutrition: Three and a half hours custom-blend Infinit "Bike" blend, ~16-20 ounces of additional water

Next up: The Marathon

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P1)


Part One, The Swim


I want to post a few different blogs about Ironman North Carolina. The first is going to be a race report(ish) in three parts, and I will also have a thank-you reflection post.

Saturday, October 22, 3:30AM

I woke up with a happy heart, but a terrified mind. The winds were very strong - there was a small craft advisory in effect for the open water, but I wasn't sure what to expect in the channel. I knew there would be chop and perhaps waves - but I also swam 1.2 miles in Jordan Lake during a tropical storm last year, so I reminded myself I was strong. Stronger than I give myself credit.

I ate three gluten-free waffles and had a cup of coffee. Washed my face, put on deodorant, got dressed and kissed Derek goodbye. Somehow both kids slept through me getting ready.

I had my run special needs bag, my bike nutrition and bottles, water bottles, wetsuit, additional food to eat before swimming, and goggles/cap. Timing chip on.

The bus to T1 was literally a two-minute walk from our hotel (the Riverview Suites - we made a last-minute change to this hotel and it was so WORTH it. Huge thanks to Lisa Arnold for letting us take the extra room she had booked.).

Someone I know from Raleigh actually sat next to me and we chatted for a bit on the way to T1. I was weirdly calm. I had my tires filled, set-up my bike, double checked my bike gear bag, dropped off run special needs and had my body marked. Then it was time to board the trolley to the swim start. For some reason, they dropped us off about 1/2 mile or so from the actual swim start, so it was a long walk to the end of the road where the beach starts. This was one of the low moments of the race. As I walked with all of these tall and fit-looking people, I have never felt so out of place in my life. Never. I told myself I didn't belong and shouldn't be there. When I finally made it to the end, I chit-chatted with a few people, put on my wetsuit and it was time to drop off my morning clothes on the truck.

OK, ok - this is a RACE report. Fast forwarding! It's a looooong walk to the actual swim start, and I was freezing. The solution to standing around in 45-degree weather is to stand in 73-degree water! It felt like a bath compared to the air temperature. It was time to line up, and I heard Mike Reilly talking and he mentioned the cannon. The cannon! OMG - I am about to swim 2.4 miles! I am doing an Ironman(ish). Star-Spangled Banner, then... *thump*. People started filing through the swim start entrance and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" started playing. Hell yeah. I put my goggles on, walked through, remembered my "why" and stepped into the water.

It felt GREAT. I was pretty far to the left of the buoys, but I made sure I swam around the red turn buoys. A little bit of chop coming from the left, not bad. When the sun came over the houses, though, it was impossible to see to the right. I just kept following the green and pink caps in front of me. At one point I glanced at my watch, which I never do, and it said 37:00 and 1600 yards. Hmm.. I am bad at math, but this told me I was going to be alright in terms of time.

The course makes a sharp left turn and as soon we started swimming to the northwest/west - the chop. It was so strong it nearly tore my goggles off my face when I sighted. I am not kidding. The swim at Jordan Lake was like swimming in washing machine, but this was something else. Stroke-stroke-breathe, stroke-stroke-sight-BAM-spit out water-breathe. Repeat. I finally saw the dock and ladders, and it took a while to get to them. But I was PLEASED as ever to see 1:25ish on my watch! How did this happen?!? Did I take a short cut? Holy cow! THANKS, TIDES! THANKS, MOON! THANKS, GRAVITY!

Official Time: 1:26:27 (2:15/100m pace)

Nutrition Before: Three GF waffles, half of a Cliff bar, one cup of coffee, one 10oz water)

------

Next blog: The Bike. :-/

Friday, October 7, 2016

Core Values

Everyone who knows me is aware I have diastasis recti - a condition where my abdominal muscles have separated from my pregnancies. I also have an umbilical hernia, so the area where my belly button should be is actually a large hole, and sometimes organs stick out of it. I just push them back in. I just don't have a functioning core. If I try to do a sit-up, crunch, plank, or even lean back (think: pulling up a bathing suit or tight pants) my entire stomach poofs out like in Alien. I can't bend over and reach into the van (or a crib, or a kids bed) without falling over unless I brace myself on something. BUT...

I've noticed that my other muscles step in and help out. Since my stomach can't hold my butt up while I swim, my shoulder muscles and neck muscles are much stronger than they ever have been. My obliques are pretty solid (although presently covered with a layer of french fries, beer and chocolate).

I'm thankful and lucky that other parts of my body have said, "hey - we'll help out!"

I've been thinking about Ironman training, my tri-friends and triclub teammates.

After I had my awful respiratory infection this summer, my first few long runs were painful and slow. But my running partner would run ahead at her own pace, then circle back for me and walk for a bit. It certainly added on her to her mileage, but she made sure I wasn't left behind. When I was having trouble finding the motivation to get out and run during the week because of the kiddos this summer, another mom friend invited us to all run together. Kids on bikes, and she pushed Mads in her stroller. When I knew I needed to get back on the open road to ride again because I was struggling to keep a steady pace on the greenway, multiple friends offered to ride with me on the weekends and during the week. Friends called to offer nutrition advice or to just make sure I wasn't worrying about something. And last - but CERTAINLY not least - another friend messaged me out of the blue in August and asked how training was going. When I mentioned being nervous about the swim, she immediately made plans for us to swim in the lake. I am much slower than nearly everyone who swims in the group, so she swam in front of me, stopping every so often to tread water and let me catch up. It's been an enormous help. And the funny thing - I don't think any of these friends knew I was mentally struggling to stay motivated and positive. They just stepped in and helped.

Core values. People stepping up, stepping in, helping, offering advice, sharing their experiences, riding along side of me, waiting for me at the top of a hill. Just like the other muscles do for my broken abs - the core people in my life knew to help, somehow (*peers up at the clouds*).

Unfortunately, after my 18-mile run this past Monday, I am afraid I have mild plantar fasciitis, and am quite certain what I thought was a tight muscle is actually shin splints. I also crashed my bike again over the weekend, so I haven't been able to swim - the scrapes on my arm are missing quite a few layers of skin, probably because the previous fall left it a little thin!

I don't know what any of that means for race day quite yet. Two weeks is a very short time, but it's also a long time. But, you know? When I think about this journey - from my first triathlon three years ago to this moment right now - ice on my shin, sipping coffee, thinking about the wonderful people in my life, the renewed purpose that I have found, the appreciation I have for my body and ALL of the gifts in my life - I am lucky. I am happy. I am proud. I am humbled.

And I certainly appreciate my core - my family, my friends, and all the other people who step in to help and support.

Core Values

While on a training ride a few weeks ago, a friend was talking about the different physical limitations she has - in a partially-joking and partially-serious sort of way. She is a fabulous athlete, but was struggling to keep up with the group only because she hadn't been out on her bike since last year (other than commuting). Funnily enough, she went on to place 3rd OA Female in a triathlon the next week! Anyway, I tried to be funny, and failed, by saying, "my abs are totally ripped apart, but I am still doing the things!"

*crickets*

(I promise this isn't going to be a blog where I whine about this condition. Promise.)

Everyone who knows me is aware I have diastasis recti - a condition where my abdominal muscles have separated from my pregnancies. I also have an umbilical hernia, so the area where my belly button should be is actually a large hole, and sometimes organs stick out of it. I just push them back in. I just don't have a functioning core. If I try to do a sit-up, crunch, plank, or even lean back (think: pulling up a bathing suit or tight pants) my entire stomach poofs out like in Alien. I can't bend over and reach into the van (or a crib, or a kids bed) without falling over unless I brace myself on something. BUT...

I've noticed that my other muscles step in and help out. Since my stomach can't hold my butt up while I swim, my shoulder muscles and neck muscles are much stronger than they ever have been. My obliques are pretty solid (although presently covered with a layer of french fries, beer and chocolate).

I'm thankful and lucky that other parts of my body have said, "hey - we'll help out!"

I've been thinking about Ironman training, my tri-friends and triclub teammates.

After I had my awful respiratory infection this summer, my first few long runs were painful and slow. But my running partner would run ahead at her own pace, then circle back for me and walk for a bit. It certainly added on her to her mileage, but she made sure I wasn't left behind. When I was having trouble finding the motivation to get out and run during the week because of the kiddos this summer, another mom friend invited us to all run together. Kids on bikes, and she pushed Mads in her stroller. When I knew I needed to get back on the open road to ride again because I was struggling to keep a steady pace on the greenway, multiple friends offered to ride with me on the weekends and during the week. Friends called to offer nutrition advice or to just make sure I wasn't worrying about something. And last - but CERTAINLY not least - another friend messaged me out of the blue in August and asked how training was going. When I mentioned being nervous about the swim, she immediately made plans for us to swim in the lake. I am much slower than nearly everyone who swims in the group, so she swam in front of me, stopping every so often to tread water and let me catch up. It's been an enormous help. And the funny thing - I don't think any of these friends knew I was mentally struggling to stay motivated and positive. They just stepped in and helped.

Core values. People stepping up, stepping in, helping, offering advice, sharing their experiences, riding along side of me, waiting for me at the top of a hill. Just like the other muscles do for my broken abs - the core people in my life knew to help, somehow (*peers up at the clouds*).

Unfortunately, after my 18-mile run this past Monday, I am afraid I have mild plantar fasciitis, and am quite certain what I thought was a tight muscle is actually shin splints. I also crashed my bike again over the weekend, so I haven't been able to swim - the scrapes on my arm are missing quite a few layers of skin, probably because the previous fall left it a little thin!

I don't know what any of that means for race day quite yet. Two weeks is a very short time, but it's also a long time. But, you know? When I think about this journey - from my first triathlon three years ago to this moment right now - ice on my shin, sipping coffee, thinking about the wonderful people in my life, the renewed purpose that I have found, the appreciation I have for my body and ALL of the gifts in my life - I am lucky. I am happy. I am proud. I am humbled.

And I certainly appreciate my core - my family, my friends, and all the other people who step in to help and support.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Do the Do

Today Derek called to ask me about signing up for Cub Scout family camping. We knew we would not be camping overnight this year, but wanted to go for some of the activities. Unfortunately this is the same weekend that I am traveling for a friend's wedding, and my friend's birthday party. Oh, and I also need to swim, bike and run because of my upcoming race.

I think Derek was expecting me to reply something like, "sure - Saturday afternoon would be great and I can even stop by." Needless to say, when I burst into tears and lost my mind for a moment - he was a little shocked.

I am very excited about my friend's wedding, and I can't wait for my other friend's birthday party. I am happy my son has been enjoying Cub Scouts so far. While Derek tried to calm me down about not worrying about the camping, I blurted out, "It's not that! It's because I am wasting precious time training for a race I probably won't even finish."

There. I said it out loud. I said what most people are thinking.

I probably won't even finish this race. I'm in great shape for a 70.3 right now, but unfortunately I signed up for twice that distance.

I even unplugged from Strava for a while because I didn't want people dissecting my every workout and analyzing my speed and whatnot. Dissect this: I RUN A LOT SLOWER THAN PEOPLE WHO FINISH IRONMAN RACES. I DON'T SWIM AS OFTEN OR AS LONG AS I SHOULD. YES, I TOOK A REST DAY WHEN I SHOULD HAVE BEEN RUNNING A SPEED WORKOUT.

When I think about the likelihood of not finishing and answer my question, "so what?" the answer is of course a very logical, "that's alright, it's not how I make a living, I just want to start the race and do my best, and appreciate the gift of moving my body. I am trying to raise awareness for ALS, and that's why I race."

But then I think about the time I am missing with my family. Two kids who are struggling in different  and similar ways. I had a talk with my daughter's preschool teachers today because apparently she was miserable and cried often, was defiant (!), etc. I also spoke with my son's assistant principal about an incident that happened on the bus, and received an email from the principal and it all left a very bad taste in my mouth.

I said on my Facebook page that the correspondence went something like this, from an episode of 30 Rock:

Jack Donaghy (me): The ceiling is leaking.
Cooter Burger (other person): No, it's not. I can show you the study.
Ceiling (the situation): *drip* *drip*

I feel like I have abandoned my family. And yet the training I have been doing... is probably not enough for this race. So, whee - I suck at it all. At least I am good at something: sucking. /self-deprecation

In spite of all that ^^, I made a bit of a breakthrough with how my son's anxiety is wired and his meltdowns when he is frustrated. I remarked to "just do the do, and try not to get caught up in the worry." Working on redirecting on solving the problem and not getting side-tracked by the emotions. It seems to help when I am there to redirect, hopefully he can make a habit of this himself.

But here I am, unable to "do the do." Any of the "do's." Getting caught up in my own head and crawling into my little hole of never being enough... and feeling myself spiral down into that abyss of depression. I was glancing at pictures in my phone, and other than ones where I am smiling after a run because I was planning on posting it on social media, I am not smiling. Not a single one.

And I get - and appreciate - all of the good in my life, the wonderful people, and I hate that my mild depression appears as though I am unappreciative.

But, tomorrow is a new day, and we are all lucky when we get another tomorrow. A day to "do the do."

I am going to try.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Are You Afraid Of?

Two weeks ago, I attended the funeral mass for the mother of one of my best training friends. Her mother's death was very sudden and unexpected. I did not know her personally, but listening to the stories and reflections - and the strong, successful woman my friend is - I realized the potential we all have to make a lasting impact in this world. Even if you don't know someone, you can still have a positive influence in their life - but you'll probably never be aware of it. I do know I am incredibly thankful for my friend - and I cannot find the words to express my gratitude for her mother's influence on this world. I hope her family is healing from the pain of losing such a wonderful person, and finding comfort in the lasting memories of her love for them.

----

The truth is we are never guaranteed our next moment. No one is - not a single person. You have a choice - you can be afraid of that fact, or you can live this moment as fiercely as possible. With purpose, with confidence. And with gratitude.

At my last appointment with my therapist, I mentioned my hypochondria issues to him. How a cough is never just a cold - it's lung cancer. When my wrist hurt after 75 miles on the bike, it wasn't just being sore from a long bike ride - it was because I was developing some sort of permanent nerve damage. Ahh... life with anxiety. Then he asked me, "what are you afraid of?"

After a quick talk about the fear of death - something we can't avoid and something I honestly don't think about very often - I realized irrational fear was behind every single hesitation. Fear. I had been thinking of anxiety in terms of worrying, but I never really considered it "fear." For me - that's exactly what it is. Fear.

While I am not a great runner in triathlons (or running races), I am quite talented at running away from "things." That needs to change.

  • I am afraid of not being very good at something, and everyone calling me out on it.This is a tough one, because people do call you out. Most of the time it's behind your back, which makes it all the more difficult to swallow. But, no one is perfect. People are going to talk crap - everyone - and you have to make the decision to keep that person in your life or walk away.
  • I am afraid of being really sick and/or having cancer.Another tough one because I have had cancer, but it was treated both times and didn't require additional procedures. But the thing - if I think I am sick, just go to the doctor. Period. The end. If you get the worst news - live as much as you can for as long as you can. Just like you should be doing, regardless.
  • I am afraid my kids will get/actually are really sick. Or grow up and not be happy/successful/healthy.You take them to the doctor. You don't freak out. You keep on doing your best. And you let them be who they are going to be, because it's ultimately *their* journey. They'll figure it out, or they won't. Nurture and love.
     
What are you afraid of?
I've been answering that question a lot lately. And I keep answering it until that feeling in my stomach goes away. Sometimes I have to say a lot, but ultimately it always ends in:

*This* moment. I am doing my best in *this* moment.

And that's nothing to be afraid of.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

If You Dare Wear Short Shorts

Today was supposed to be my longest run to date. 14 miles. My runs really took a hit when I got sick - not to mention the brutal, relentless heat this summer. Long runs had been skipped, and then they were very, very slow.

I decided to run at the American Tobacco Trail because it is crushed gravel, fairly flat and quite shaded. I also decided to wear a new pair of shorts I just purchased because I am an idiot. I ran around in my kitchen this morning and they seemed fine - supported my gut, supported my butt.

Anyway, when the alarm went off at 5AM this morning, I was still feeling the heat from yesterday's ride. While we took it easy on the pace and stopped to hydrate/fuel a few times, DANG. It was just so hot and muggy, and 70 miles + a 10-minute "run" took its toll on me. I felt gross the rest of the day - not deathy, but not good. Anyway, my body protested greatly when I rolled out of bed, "are you INSANE? You need sleep. SLEEP. Go back to bed and run on the treadmill later." Nope. I need to do this.

Then I remembered I needed to submit my time and nightly report from working yesterday (I'm a working mama now, and I have weekend hours on a project). Quickly did that, then read something on the internet and ...

Blergh. Got mad. Upset. Felt sorry for myself. The usual. (Why do we use Facebook?)

I finally headed out the door around 7:40AM, realized I forgot my purse and called Derek to see if he'd bring it toward the end of my run, then we could all get lunch. The kids could run on the trail, too. Of course, I missed my turn and then took a 15-minute detour.

FINALLY, around 8:25 I start out on my run.

At around 8:27, I realize these shorts are not good.

Around 8:30, I realize I am totally screwed. I text Derek and say, "nevermind the lunch, I need you to come now and please bring my tri shorts that I use for running." He replied alright. I ran a bit more, trying desperately to make it work, (run-run-run, walk-tug-walk-tug, run-run-run, tug, curse, tug) but headed back to the car and arrived there around 8:50.

Derek made great time and I changed into my glorious tri shorts. The kids ran a little with me on the trail, I told Derek where he could turn around, I blew kisses and continued on my run.

The shorts felt SO good compared to the shorties. I've never been able to wear short shorts. Never. Not ever. Even when I was a bean pole, short-shorts always ride up my inner thighs. This is why I don't try to wear running skirts - the shorts underneath will inevitably ride up. Then I look like someone with a reverse wedgie, which is fun for no one. Not for me, not for spectators.

I ran. I kept running, and running, and I just felt great! Nothing hurt, no wedgies anywhere. I ran for thirty minutes and came upon the New Hope (?) trailhead where I topped off my water bottle. Saw a friend and offered a delayed greeting (I was in a "must-not-walk" headspace at the time, heh.). Headed back to my trailhead, where I refilled water from my cooler and replenished gels, made a quick potty stop. Headed back out again to finish off the run. One more out and back to New Hope.

"Sweet-smelling toilets" they say...


I ask someone how far it is to New Hope (I wasn't totally sure) and he replied, "about one mile." Hmm. I thought it was farther, but I knew there was water there and I could always go past that trailhead and come back. I was at 8.78 miles and trying to figure out my turn-around point.

I saw someone I knew from Inside Out Tri Club and considered saying hello (we don't really know each other) when my sock was pinching my calf for some reason. "Well, sh1t, this really hurts. How'd that happen? I haven't pulled my socks down-"

I glance at my calf to see a FREAKING HORSE FLY EATING ME. Ugh. I swipe it away and it promptly lands on my other calf and bites. DAMN IT. I swipe it off that leg. It's circling around me, and I finally squirt it with my water bottle. THERE! TAKE THAT, YOU JERK FLY! *SQUIRT* It finally flies away.

My Mensa application should come soon, don't you think?

Because it's a great idea to EMPTY YOUR WATER BOTTLE ON THE MIDDLE OF A TRAIL ON A HOT DAY INTO SOMETHING OTHER THAN YOUR MOUTH.

Sigh. But since it was just "about one mile" to the water station, I knew I would be ok.

"About one mile" later, I see people heading in the opposite direction and I ask them how far is the trailhead. Their reply? You guessed it. "About one mile." (Except these folks were right, at least).

I make it to the trailhead, refill my water bottle, listen to someone humblebrag about their workout from yesterday (it was a deserved brag, actually - they rode something like 108 miles and ran 6). I did an out and back until I reached 12 miles on my watch. Topped off water and it was time for the last two miles.

I started to feel a little woozy as the temperature climbed, so I just walked a little. I feel like I had great nutrition on this run. Plain water, Base salt and Huma gels. No belly upset. I will definitely experiment with this again. I love Rocket Fuel, but for some reason - the longer I workout, I can't seem to tolerate it. But it was perfect for shorter workouts, so it's something I will keep using.

Now, I realize that I took basically 30 minutes off at the beginning of the run, and I also made as-fast-as-possible pit stops to refill water and use the bathroom a few times - but I cannot stress how GOOD I felt during this run. I ran a lot. And even with the first two miles being closer to a 16:00/mi pace because of the short mishap, I finished with a 13:33/mi pace.


That's not getting me into the Olympics or Kona - but that's pretty good for me. Period.

After I finished and took a picture of my "record" on my watch, I burst into happy, thankful tears. I texted my friend, "I did it!" (she'd been texting me throughout the run and checking on me).

And I did do it. A few Facebook friends said some really sweet things this morning, and their words stuck with me. I need to remember those friends, their words, and kindness. I need to remember that there really are people who want me to finish this race. There really are people who believe in me, and aren't just saying, "you can do it" to my face, and turning around behind my back and saying ... things.

The truth is - I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, or five minutes from now, or October 22. But I know I have been working hard - as hard as I am capable of right now - and today felt good. I am thankful for that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Allergic to the Peanut Gallery

I read something on the internet yesterday and it upset me.

(I know).

But seriously - I did.

Nothing political, just someone's opinion.

But it upset me.

Now, no one should give a flying fart that I was upset (not even you, Mom), no one should give a flying fart what the original words were that specifically upset me. I won't even repeat them (plus, I don't want to get sued for sharing intellectual property without permission). So, I'll simply share how it made me feel.

It made me feel that I, technically, suck at triathlon.

  • I have never podiumed.
  • I don't workout 24 hours a week (yet). In fact, my new plan only has me working at that intensity for a few weeks. I don't ever plan on working out 30+ hours a week. 
  • I am not "good" at swimming. In fact, today was such a slow swim I fully expected to start sinking at one point.
  • I am not "good" at biking. I just bought a tri-bike so I could be faster, and I'm much slower than I was on my road bike.
  • I am not "good" at running. 13:05/mi pace on my ten miles. That's twice as slow as people I actually know, not just professionals.
  • My coach and I broke up because I did not/could not put in the time he expected of me.

ALL those thoughts lived in my head last year. All season long and into the winter. Which is precisely why I decided to try for a different type of PR at the Asheville Half-Marathon: to enjoy and be thankful during a 13.1 mile run.

And I did just that.

My last two blog posts mentioned how happy I've been during my training - how GOOD it feels. FINALLY. I am thankful. I am pleased as punch to have a body that does the reasonable things I ask of it (it has yet to respond when I say, "run a 7:00/mi mile!"). I like swimming and biking and running. Even if I... "suck" at them.

But after I read something on the internet...

I could not shake it. Because my take-away was that it wasn't as noble of me to enjoy triathlon if I am not very good. My take-away was that there are probably people judging what I do (even though I do realize most people probably don't really care what Heather S. is doing at any given moment).

Scowl.

There it was again - the peanut gallery. Some parts real, some parts in my head - but there was the peanut gallery.




There I was, miserable. Angry. Hurt. Pissed.

I had a tempo bike ride this morning, 30 minutes normal pace, the last 20 minutes comfortably hard. Every pedal stroke, I scowled. Every breath out was a release of hot, angry air. Angry. Bitter.



Mostly, honestly - I was angry at myself for once again letting myself worry what other people think about me. After working so very hard to find my happy place again.

That anger would not shake. I scowled during my swim today. I am still scowling now.

But then the remarkable words from my husband... I'll try to paraphrase.

"Christ, Heather. Lots of people golf and they aren't very 'good' at it. They spend money on expensive clubs, they pay good money at different courses, tournament fees, club dues - and they are pretty lousy at golf. But they still really enjoy golfing because they just do.

"You know what determines how you evaluate your effort in triathlon? It isn't your times or Strava segments.  It isn't what a coach tells you. It isn't in the medals, it isn't even whether or not you made the finish line. It's you. YOU get to evaluate YOUR OWN efforts, and whether or not you are meeting YOUR goals. No one else gets to determine that for you."

So right. And so exactly what I had been doing until my derailment yesterday.

*I* get to evaluate my own effort. And what have I determined right now?

I am working out. I am checking off boxes on a training plan. I am trying to raise awareness for ALS and ALS research foundations. I am enjoying this journey. I am doing my best. I am balancing all of this with two busy children, a part-time job, and all things mom. I get to hang out with some pretty cool people. I am thankful for my body. I am thankful for it all.

I've been in a pretty delicate state of mind the last few months as I recover from depression. It's self-preservation, and I just can't deal with the peanut gallery right now (real or imagined).

Glad my husband, the human epi-pen, saved me this time around.




Thursday, June 30, 2016

Aisles of Smiles - Smile Train Triathlon Race Report... And More! (and more... and... more)


Smile Train Triathlon Race Report

Total Time: 01:24:58

OA 184/304
F 60/140
AG 10/24


This past weekend I participated in the Smile Train Triathlon in Wake Forest, NC. It is a sprint triathlon with a shorter pool swim, and my second year to race the event. I was incredibly excited that this was my friend Robin's first triathlon "with boys," and was also happy to race along a few friends - both old and new.

The race day started out like any other, in that I did not sleep very well the night before. It's never going to happen - a good night's sleep before a race. But, I woke up ready to go - mostly because I prepared everything the night before!

I'm going to be pretty honest here. I had been really excited about the race until I tried on my tri top and shorts. As stupid as this sounds, I no longer wanted to race after I saw myself in the mirror. I felt... nonathletic. Not helping the situation, Aunt Flo decided to pay me a visit, and I was particularly bloated. But mostly, I was just soft from lack of "#work."

I also knew that my former coach was going to be there with nearly his entire team of athletes, and that made me feel... like a fake. They are real athletes who actually put in "work," and I was just this lady who kind of worked out now and then. And that's why I was no longer with them. No fakes allowed.

I looked at myself in the mirror again.

"Fake."

"You're not a real triathlete."

I shook my head, told myself to shut up, remembered my goal of wanting to "choose joy," and got into the car. (And promptly forgot my water bottles, turned around for them, and then headed back to the race - which is only about 12 minutes from my house. WHEW.). You know what?

I wasn't out there to look good in a tri-suit. I had other things on my mind.

Joy. And choosing it.


-----

There are lots of different things I could talk about for the set-up, but let's summarize it quickly by saying, worms on my feet (!!!), and seeing friends new and old. :-)

-----

The Swim:

00:05:51 (250 yards) 200/304 OA, 74/140 F, 12/24 AG

I started out steady and confident. I knew I seeded myself correctly (I said 5:30 total time, but I hadn't considered running to transition). After about four laps, I felt someone tapping my foot. Ok, just pass me. The nice thing about the swim at Smile Train is it's in a large pool - each lane swims in one direction. People can pass others easily. I decided there was no way in hell I was going to stop in the pool so someone could pass me, so I hugged the lane divider on the right to give them room, and continued swimming. Three people passed me all at once - two men and one woman. Of course, they ended up causing a hold-up at the end. So, I caution you - don't lose your momentum in a swim. Just go with the flow and keep a steady pace. You can make up thirty seconds on the run course, but it's WAY harder to make up time nearly killing yourself while swimming if you push too hard the first 100 yards.

Anyhoo - I felt really strong during my entire swim, and I will have you know my watch said 5:30 when I climbed out of that pool - so there, speedy pants swimmers! 

T1 - 00:01:10

The Bike:

00:41:42 (12 miles) 120/304 OA, 24/140 F, 6/24 AG

This is a non-flat, but non-hilly bike course. It does have head winds, speed bumps, and head winds for the first half. And a steady grade here and there. In other words, it's irritating!

But the bike is what I love. I had one woman pass me on the bike, and two men on tri bikes. I never let the one woman get out of my sight for some reason. I guess because no one had passed me during the Ramblin Rose bike course, so I was now feeling competitive. I couldn't quite catch up to her, but I did back-and-forth pass a man - and the second time I went to pass him, I turned and smiled really big. He smiled and laughed, and said, "Well, go on! Better pass me before traffic gets busy!" We both laughed.

The second half of the bike was very fast - wind at my back and downhill. Felt GREAT, and I tried to remember to take it easy (and spin at a higher cadence) through the neighborhood before T2 so I could actually run.

T2 - 00:01:12 

The Run:

00:35:02 (3.1 miles) 246/304 OA, 101/140 F, 15/24 AG

It's a bit of a hilly course. This past Sunday, it was very sunny, and the weather was NOT as cool as last year. My goal was to run as much as possible, and try not to stare at my watch. Right from the start of the run, I saw the woman who passed me on the bike, and I immediately passed her on the run. It was very clear to me she had pushed too hard on the bike, because I've done that nearly every race!! For some weird reason, it felt nice to pass her, and I decided at that point I wanted to stay ahead of her. Actually, it isn't weird at all - I never pass people on the run, and I really wanted to!

I ran as much as I could until I hit the very. long. hill. Where I eventually started walking and basically didn't stop walking until I came to the top of it, which has an immediate downhill, then the turn around. The run is an out and back, and when I turned around...

I saw her.

I saw the woman who passed me on the bike course, who I then passed at the start of the run... and she was coming for me.

Ugh.

So, I ran as much as I could. Definitely took the time to say hello to friends, encourage a few kiddos who were racing ("you can run up this hill, sweetpea!! Don't you let your Daddy beat you up that hill!" And she did run up the hill. :D 11-years-old, and beat me!).

Then I hit the final part of the run. It's a short uphill run through the Heritage neighborhood near the pool. Suddenly, I heard this huffing and puffing in my ear. A woman was breathing really hard right behind me. Was it her? Someone else? I didn't know, I didn't turn to look - I just kicked it up and ran as hard as I could!

No one did pass me during that last part, but I then I saw and remembered how narrow the finish line chute was, so I couldn't do the Blazeman Roll. That bummed me out.


Result:


01:24:58 184/304 OA, 60/140 F, 10/24 AG


Side notes:


I will continue to work hard, and I will happily accept each and every race result - from DNF to DNS to DFL. I am doing this to have fun, to take care of my body, to show my children to work hard and do YOUR best.

I am doing this to raise awareness for ALS.

I AM THANKFUL TO DO THIS AT ALL.

It definitely messed with my head on Sunday - to be at a race with my former coach and a lot of his athletes. Especially when every single one had a podium finish. I was genuinely happy for him, and very happy for all of them, especially my friends who podiumed. But I also knew, in my heart of hearts - it would have been extremely unlikely for me to podium-finish that race this year. That's not me being down, that's me being real when I look at stats.

And you know what?

That's ok.

I don't want that right now. Does that mean I am giving up on trying? HELL no.

It means I am putting my effort somewhere else. And that elsewhere is finding the joy. The joy for me isn't in trying to podium. For me, that joy is being a little competitive, it's putting forth effort and it's being thankful for this sport, the people, and appreciating what my body can do.


Do you really laugh?
Do you really care?
Do you really smile
When you smile?
You criticize and you flatter
You imitate the best
And the rest you memorize
You know the times you impress me most
Are the times when you don't try
When you don't even try

-Joni Mitchell "Woman of Heart and Mind"

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I Know

Two weeks ago, my family volunteered for the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 race. It wasn't the plan for the whole family to help, but I sure didn't mind when this happened. :-)


I had wondered how I would feel being at this race, although I had never really intended to race it this year, but still - would I feel "jealous" that I wasn't racing? Would I miss being one of the athletes?

I won't beat around the bush. Two words. Heck. No.
I helped out at the Base Salt tent for a bit on Saturday, was able to see my friends Laura and Erin, and I bought new socks and a helmet at the expo. Ooooooops. ;-) Anyway - I loved talking to athletes about Base Performance products, hearing the pros talk a bit, and just taking in all the energy. I also talked to a few people who are training for IMNC, or B2B, also known as "the full I transferred into when I changed my mind about the original full but then eventually decided not to it, either."

One of the women was using the 20-week training plan, written by Dave Scott - the same plan many other people are also using for their full Iron training.

Funny thing. I was about to start it, too.

Except then the woman at the expo told me, no - you should have already finished Week 1, and then I already felt like a failure... again .... but I took a deep breath, reminded myself it didn't matter. I would just make it work. Somehow. Because I'm not done.

So, you've probably been thinking for a few seconds, "wait. Wait. Wait, what? So you ARE doing this, John Kerry? You ARE going to try to do this race after all, Le'go my Egg'o?"

I am. I am going to try, and I don't know that I will finish, but I am going to start. No matter what. No matter if I don't make the swim cut-off, or the bike, or I miraculously make it through both of those and DNF on the run - I am going to start. I'm smart enough to know when to *really* stop. But my heart knows that I need to start.

And here's why: I signed up for it. I paid money for the entry fee. When I signed up for the full, I will be honest. 98% of the reasoning behind it was because I had something to prove to the world.

"You think Heather Scott is some out-of-shape woman who can't do things like this? Well, watch me!"

That's why I signed up for Ironman Raleigh 70.3. When I hit the "register" button for IM70.3 Raleigh, back in July of 2014, I still couldn't really swim 25 yards very well. I could run 13.1 miles, and I definitely could ride 56. But I couldn't really swim. Not like, I couldn't swim fast - I. COULD. NOT. SWIM.

I had something to prove to myself, to the world. I had a chest to puff out. I had fur to stand on end. Muscles to flex. Then Team Drea came along and completely rocked my world, and changed my life.

So, while signing up for the full, I didn't have the exact same motivations as my first half, but it was kind of close. I still had to prove something.

Meanwhile, my family was falling apart before my eyes. Both of my children were struggling in ways I had never imagined, I'd been spiraling into a depression since August, worries about family, then skin cancer, then more serious issues with my one of my kids, and the proverbial poo hit the fan. I scratched and clawed my way back out of the depression (or so I thought), only to find myself on my bike one day in mid-April. Crying.

Just riding along the Neuse River greenway on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, missing my family. Seeing families and missing mine. I cried and cried and blamed myself for every single thing that was happening to us. "If I hadn't....started doing outdoor exercises - I wouldn't have skin cancer. The kids would be well-adjusted and well-behaved. My marriage would be sunshine and rainbows. My house would be clean" (well, that one is true. :D ).

A few days later, I told my coach I didn't want to do Ironman North Carolina and we had a conversation that didn't go remarkably well, but we parted ways in our professional relationship and that was that.

So. How did I end up at the IM70.3 Raleigh expo, discussing my new training plan with a fellow racer?

This. (Just actually watch it. It's less than one minute.)



I will never, not ever, forget this. (You can read more about Sarah here.) I watched the video several weeks after my coach and I split, and this was just a punch to the gut.

I sobbed on my couch after watching it.

I sobbed into my husband's chest and said, "I have to do this. I have to do that race."

He wiped my tears and said, "I know."

I reached out to my friend Erin, "Erin, I can't not try. I can't not try this race."

She forwarded me the plan. I looked at it and said, I can do these things. I can manage this with my life, with my kids. I can do this. I kept my plan a secret, though - perhaps, even to myself.

Of course, we are two three weeks in and I've already missed two runs - one because of chest pains /anxiety gone awry and the other because Mads spiked a fever today of 103.7, and I ended up at the doctor's office for nearly three hours with her, during the one window I had to run.

But you know what? Oh well. Is an Ironman something you blow off? No. Not at all. This isn't an "oh, I think I'll try that Pilates class at the gym tomorrow" sort of thing. It's one of the toughest athletic competitions in the world.

But "I'm not done."

Shortly after officially announcing that I had quit Ironman training, and believing I had, I decided to change my focus for the year on enjoying myself. Having a good time. Being thankful. Those are actually really important goals in our crazy world today. And we DO live in a crazy world, one where people seem to spend so much time being angry, being paranoid, filled with hate, pointing fingers. By GOD, we NEED to remember to enjoy. Enjoy the tiniest thing - but please, do find the joy. "Choose Joy" - Erin L.

I found a lot of joy while racing Raleigh Ramblin' Rose with Andrea and many Team Drea ladies - including Erin's daughter, who raced her first "big girl" tri that day.

But Sarah's words... they would not stop echoing in my ears.

So, I am in week 2/3-ish right now, and other than the two missed workouts - I am LOVING it all. I truly love them. I can do this. Well, I can at least start. There isn't a guarantee that I will finish. I suppose there never was... But this training? I can do it. Starting the race? I can do that.

Andrea? I'M. NOT. DONE.

I made a promise to never give up on finding a cure for ALS, and while quitting was never an option - more than ever, right now, I need to at least start this race. For the pALS. Their families. Their friends. For a cure.

One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
Indeed.
#WarOnALS

Friday, April 29, 2016

Looking Back

I was looking back at emails I sent to my son's teacher.

I am angry.

I am angry at how much I was reaching out to address the problems.

I am angry at how little was helped.

I am angry that the other day she said, "He was in the cafeteria and I was trying to get his attention and he was chewing on a plastic bag from his lunch, just chewing and chewing on it."

It's April. I've been describing SPD to her all year long - WHAT it is, WHY it happens, WHAT triggers it.

But you also don't want to be this:






So, instead of contacting the principal, we really tried to A.) Figure out what was causing the behavior. B.) Help him find coping strategies to control his own behavior when being bombarded with sensory overload C.) Not be those parents

But he kept coming home - every day - with a "2" on his chart. Never earning a treasure box toy. Having "bad" behavior pointed out nearly every day. I am not kidding you - nearly every single day. Mostly "making noises," "being silly," or "being distracting." The time she told me he had chewed the end of a pencil so much - and rather than be concerned about WHY he did it, she simply mentioned it was "very dangerous - look how sharp the end of that is now."

And now we have a little boy who is clearly hurting. I feel like I've neglected him all year by NOT being "those parents."

Anyway. I had forgotten about October 7.

September 3:

I was very disappointed with Alex for the note in his folder today. I would like to better understand what's been going on with him - has this been every day? (He received "3's" the other days, but the note mentioned he "has been" having difficulty listening.) 

Could you please elaborate a bit on time of day, and perhaps the type of assignments? 

I am so sorry that he was disrespectful in your classroom. This is very out of character for him in a school setting. I am really concerned about this sudden change in behavior and want to make sure we address it right away.

My reply to her reply:

Thank you for that information. I would like to schedule a conference to discuss his behavior at your convenience. I appreciate your willingness to meet. It's really important to me that he start out on the right foot and build good learning skills at the beginning. I am a teacher as well (although staying home for now).

He does have mild sensory processing disorder, but last year was a good year for him. I've noticed his sensory-seeking behaviors creeping up again, and have been addressing them at home with activities and strategies. Meeting with you would definitely help me better understand what's happening and if I need to seek out occupational therapy again.

September 14:

I spoke with Alex about his "2" yesterday - as you can imagine he was very disappointed with himself because he will miss out on the treasure chest and he will also not be allowed a special gift at home this weekend. As a parent, I am disappointed because I want my child to make the right choices. I wanted to let you know what he and I discussed.
Screaming: He said he screamed "shush" at the end of school because it was very loud in the classroom. I told him it's unacceptable to do this, that it is the teacher's job - not his - to quiet a classroom, if it in fact needs to be quieted. Alex does get bothered by very loud sounds sometimes, so I advised him to cover his ears with his hands if the noise gets very loud. If this is a problem (for him to cover his ears), please let me know.
If he was screaming at other times, he did not mention it to me - but I did stress to him to not scream inside of a classroom, not ever.
Story Time: He mentioned he has problems concentrating during stories. He said he feels "silly sitting up in the chair." I know why he was moved to sit in a chair, but perhaps that can be revisited and he could hold a bean bag or small weighted pillow instead? I really am puzzled by this. Alex has been read to, multiple times per day, since he was born. We even read chapter books without pictures some times. He can read several Bob books on his own. After my background check has been approved - perhaps I could observe him, if this behavior doesn't improve?
I also asked Alex to please ask for permission to use the restroom *before* story time - as sometimes his behavior becomes animated when he needs to use the bathroom.
Last - he mentioned having problems in science. He had no explanation for why - other than "the teacher said a lot of kids were having problems today." Science is one of his favorite subjects, he loves experiments, discussing clouds and weather, astronomy, etc.. Again - I mentioned setting a good example, a positive example and not being silly simply because other people were being silly or because he "thought he could get away with it."
I really want Alex to be successful in school. I don't want for him to start off his school career developing bad habits in behavior. If there is more I can do at home to help with this, please let me know.

September 18:

Thank you for the note explaining Alex's behaviors.  We will continue to monitor and reinforce at home.  Is he still sitting in the chair - I was curious if he could try sitting on the floor again but holding the busy object? He's expressed he doesn't like sitting in the chair and "feels silly." I understand (as he does) if he moves around too much he will not be able to sit on the floor, but could this be revisited?

It's frustrating and frankly heartbreaking as a mother to see him struggling this much. It is very upsetting to see his education "career" starting out like this.

Thank you for keeping me informed about his classroom behavior.

My reply to her reply:
Thank you so much for your reply and the feedback regarding Alex. I understand about the chair/pillow situation and the potential for distracting other children. Thank you for letting me know about the chewing - this sensory-seeking behavior happened often when he was three. I found that offering him crunchy snacks and foods with meals helps (I'll be sure to pack snacks and lunches that assist with this). Can you please tell me what the necklace is,exactly? Would it be possible for him to bring in his own chew-necklace so that I can wash it each night? I understand if this would be a distraction.
I am thinking that Alex is a bit overwhelmed, sensory-wise. I have decided to call our occupational therapist so that we can learn new coping strategies for Alex. I suspect a lot of this is from the schedule that kindergarten has - there isn't a lot of time for free movement throughout the day (rolling, running, etc.) and unfortunately that can send some sensory kids into a bad spot (as described to me by his occupational therapist - why it's important for them to learn coping strategies when this happens). I don't want him to be a distraction to others, and of course want him to figure all of this out so he can focus on learning and developing friendships.
I was a little sad this morning - he saw the bag of items I purchased to donate to the treasure chest and said, "at my old school the treasure chest was just for birthdays. Now it's just for kids who are good." I asked him, "don't you think you can be good in school and earn a treasure, like you did once already?" He replied, "I try to." And looked sad. That could very well be 50% him "milking it," but I am certain it was, at the very least, quite honest.
Please know we are trying very hard with him, and I think he is trying, too. It's hard when you feel like you don't fit in - and sensory kids *know* they are different from others, sometimes that's why they can be the class clown. Alex is a pretty intuitive child. Regardless, hopefully a handful (or more) of OT sessions will help with all of this and get him on the right path to success.

October 7:

Thank you very much for the note and homework information for Alex. I appreciate you taking the time at the last minute to share this information.
Regarding his behavior in lunch today and the last few days - he isn't being very forthcoming with me about what happened in lunch (rare, because he usually tells me what happens). I know he hasn't been feeling well lately, and unfortunately in sensory kids, when they have even minor sinus or allergy issues - their behavior suffers as a result. This isn't an excuse and we are trying incredibly hard at home with Alex for his behavior to be consistently positive at school.

He did tell me that Ms. *** told him today on the way to lunch: "Good thing you're going out of town this week." While I can appreciate my child is not the most well-behaved child in the classroom, to hear that an adult said such a statement to him greatly concerns me. Quite frankly, it upsets me very much and has made me lose trust. I hope such frustrations, while an understandable human response, can perhaps be directly said to me, and not my five-year-old child. I am concerned her statement made him feel unwelcome, and I do not want that for him - he's a very literal child. And as we've previously discussed, you know how important it is to me that Alex have a positive school experience this first year to set the foundation for his educational career.

December 4:

I am curious if we require another conference with you to address Alex's behavior, which was consistently poor this week according to your chart. Looking at many of the behaviors, I am seeing quite a bit of sensory seeking (falling out of chair, making noises, poking self in stomach, being loud while coming in from recess) and these behaviors - as we have discussed - often happen when sensory children are not able to move around enough, are over-stimulated (a lot of noise) or under-stimulated (being bored and sitting in one place for extended periods of time), or don't feel well (he has also had a minor sinus infection again).
We are taking Alex to occupational therapy with our own money and time. I feed him gluten-free foods and his diet in general is specifically to help his sensory problems. We have high expectations of BOTH of our children's behavior at home and are as consistent as possible with expectations and consequences. I feel like he is being labeled a bad child. Or maybe he is a bad child at school, I don't know. I am extremely frustrated and 100% heartbroken that kindergarten is like this for him and that he is struggling so much.
And I realize that he has to figure out how to control his sensory problems at school. If he's bored academically, it's not an excuse to be silly or distract anyone. But he's also five, and I feel like we should work together on helping him figure this out - and to me, sending him home everyday feeling like he is a bad kid just isn't working. It's just making him feel bad, and he still can't seem to fix the problems - even though we are working very hard at home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Thankful for Choices

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, or even if you've read my blog, you know it's been a difficult year for my kindergartner.

We decided to seek other options for the 2016-2017 school year - our district has several magnet schools, there are state-funded charter schools, and of course there are a collection of private schools. We applied for one - singular - magnet school that is very hard to get into (frankly, in my opinion, it's one of the best public schools in Wake County). Our neighbor's daughter attends this school and they have loved it.

The lottery result e-mail arrived in early February. Our assignment for next year was...

Our same school. Sigh. They mentioned they would redraw again in a few weeks. Whatev's, I thought. I know my lottery luck.

In the mean time, I had wondered if my son might do better in a Montessori environment. I could list all the reasons why, but I won't - if you know what those schools are like, I think he'd do really well in one. The end. We toured and really enjoyed a school that another neighbor's child attends.

I started to seek a part-time job to help with tuition costs should we go the private route.

Then last month, I received an email from Wake County Public School System telling me our assignment for the next year:

WE GOT INTO THE MAGNET SCHOOL!

DING DING DING!

Shortly after that, I was hired for a part-time steady job where I can work from home. Then... our son was accepted into the Montessori school. We found out yesterday.

Derek and I fussed at each other all day yesterday. I just wanted him to say, "let's send him to the private school because MONTESSORI."

But he didn't. He didn't focus on the money. (But, for the record - the Montessori school has a $15,000+ year price tag for the elementary school. Each year. Each kid.)

We sat there looking at each other, scowling, and sighing. I emailed and messaged nearly everyone I know last night and this morning. I ate all of the food in our house. I talked to a friend this morning.

And then I did some deep soul-searching.


The front of the magnet school




When we toured the magnet school, our guide (the enrichment teacher) pulled a few parents and random students aside as they walked down the hall. I noticed the following:

1.) They all seemed happy to go the school
2.) They described being happy in class and with their peers
3.) The parents liked the school and all of them mentioned what a different world it was compared to their previous school (in a good way)
4.) The AIG kids were - I mean this lovingly and admiringly - a teensy bit quirky. Like band kids. Like theatre kids.

Like I was. Like Derek was.

Like we still are.

I think Alex will make friends here. 

It was one of my first thoughts.

It was ultimately one of the most important thoughts.

The school has an extremely diverse population. I don't just mean racially and culturally - but socioeconomically. I think it's important for children to experience this, especially when we spend most of our days in our pleasant little cookie-cutter house and neighborhood, going to swim practices at Ravenscroft, lounging by the pool at freaking Lifetime Fitness where you can get a towel for each body part, if you so desire.

I want our children to know that everyone has a different reality. It would be difficult to expose a child to that when they are in a private school with children who are either in a similar socioeconomic situation, same faith, etc. I am NOT saying it cannot be done - it would be difficult.

The last thing I also considered was from a teacher at a wealthy private school a few months ago (he teaches at a private school, but sends his child to WCPSS. Happily.):

"There are families who save every dime, take out a third mortgage on their home, and send their kid here. They can't afford anything else. Then you get a Dad who waltzes in on the first day of school, writes a check for $125,000 for all of his kids' tuition, without breaking a sweat, and laughs about his golf game. They're going on African safaris for spring break. The non-rich kid? Might be perfectly ok with that. But some of the kids carry a chip on their shoulder for the rest of their life."

Right or wrong, that was a very important consideration.

I am also not ready to give up on public education just yet. One bad year has not completely wrecked my opinion. I believe in public education - and I believe there are teachers out there who can balance this:



with happy students who need to explore, run and laugh.

I believe that a 504 plan might benefit a child like Alex. We can and will utilize this in the future.

To be sure, I saw nice kids at the Montessori school. I saw a beautiful style of learning and a peaceful campus where I wish I could spend all day. I saw independent and happy children - happy teachers.

But I didn't see band kids. I didn't see theatre kids.

Ultimately, I guess I didn't see us.

Wish us luck next year. At a magnet school. A public education magnet school.