“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” ~Satchel Paige
A couple weeks after doing Ironman 70.3 Florida (which I have yet to blog about) I got injured playing kickball. Kickball… Not one of the bagillion asinine other things that I do on a daily basis, I got hurt playing an elementary school sport. I went to the orthopedic clinic the next day and the diagnosis sucked just as bad as the pain in my foot. “It’s most likely a stress fracture but no way to tell for sure without an MRI.” This was quickly followed up with, “you’ll have to wear walking boot which means no swimming, cycling, or running for a while.”
Excuse me. No what?
To say the time in the boot sucked would be the understatement of the year… I had to pass my bike in the living room every day, multiple times a day, and it looked so sad just sitting there. I tried to follow the doctor’s plan as much as I could but I did throw in a ride, just to see if I could.
When I went back to the doctor, just shy of a month later, he cleared me to wean out of the boot, start riding/swimming again, and slowly start running again as well. ‘Wean out of the boot,’ to me, meant the boot was completely done. I went right back into riding with no issue but running was a different story…
When I finally started running again, I could tell that I had lost a lot of the run endurance that I had built up through my Ironman 70.3 training. Not only had I lost the endurance but my foot would burn while I ran making it that much harder to go faster and further. After several runs, I decided that this was probably going to be my ‘new normal.’ My age was catching up to me. I was starting to feel old. I felt like my body was starting to betray me. I hate getting old. When I turned 21, I was ready to stop counting. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works.
Friends and family kept asking me what I was training for next, what races were on my calendar… I had no answer for that question because I had no clue. My body felt off and weak but I knew I needed something… I needed something to push towards. I needed something to make me believe again. I needed something to help me stop feeling broken.
Injuries steal something from you; not just endurance, muscle mass, or other physical stuff. Injuries emotionally rob you too. Injuries make you begin to doubt your body’s ability to be pushed to the brink because injuries are a stark reminder that there actually is a limit to what your body can take. They remind you that, even if you make it through training for crazy events injury-free, it is something small and unexpected that can sweep the rug from under your feet and knock you down.
On Thursday, June 16 I decided to go to a 4 mile group run with some friends that starts from a local beer/wine shop called Tipples Brews. It was the third Thursday so they bring out the race clock, which means I would inevitably be pushing harder than normal because I always want to ‘beat’ the clock. And pushing myself to the brink is exactly what I did… I took off near the front of the pack right behind a friend that I know likes to push her pace which makes me push right behind her. My foot started to burn around mile 2 but I wasn’t ready to back off so I kept pushing. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 she got further and further away as she pushed her pace more but I kept steady to mine. Mile 3 was brutal but I dug deep and ended up finishing the 4 miles in 34:08 (8:32min/mile). I was on an emotional high from a great pace coupled with having had a couple ciders when I decided to give myself a seemingly impossible challenge to achieve…
I was going to ride 370 miles in 7 days.
Why 370 miles and why in 7 days? You see, a couple hours before the group run I realized that it was my last Thursday of being 36 years old. I knew the way the rest of the week was going to go already… Every day I was going to wake up and have the same conversation with myself, “Oh my God, it’s the last Friday… Saturday… Sunday… Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday…”
I didn’t want to do it; I needed to change the story in my mind. My M.O. tends to be that whenever I need to change the story in my mind, I dream up some outrageous thing to strive towards, something that will take up my time and distract me from whatever negativity needs to be avoided. I knew there was no way that I was going to run 37 miles on my birthday and riding 37 miles would be nothing big. I needed something bigger, something crazy. So that’s what I did… I gave myself a crazy challenge to pull my focus away from feeling weak, away from thinking about the upcoming change of my age number…
I had no plan and definitely no clue on how exactly I was going to achieve this goal but I knew that I needed to feel as if someone was going to hold me accountable towards completing it. I went to social media and shouted from the rooftops that this was my goal. I knew that, if I put it out into the universe, there was no room for failure. Then all I had to do was start riding…
And ride I did… Rolling into the weekend, I knew I had to ride big miles because I still had to work full time and take care of a pair of kids while trying to achieve this monstrous goal. I was reminded of a question someone once asked me while we were facing a seemingly impossible task at work, “Do you know the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I didn’t think about the bigger goal, I broke it down and focused on smaller goals and each individual ride I was doing. I stayed in the present and quit worrying about everything on the peripheral.
The days went something like this:
Day 1: 100 miles total for the day. 6 rides: 33.5 miles, 10.06 miles, 10.55 miles, 26.23 miles, 4.17 miles, 16.11 miles
Day 2: 70 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 56.14 miles, 14.22 miles
Day 3: 72 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 52.18 miles, 20.18 miles
Day 4: 48 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 28.12 miles, 20.34 miles
Day 5: 43 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 23.26 miles, 20.20 miles
Day 6: Rest day, yay!
Day 7: MY BIRTHDAY!! 1 Ride, 37 miles in honor of turning 37!! Plus I threw in a brick run with my boys just because J
Total riding time: 23:00:34 at an average pace of 16.1mph
Deep down, I knew this goal was about more than just getting it done… It was about reflecting on the current state of my life and the past 37 years. I have consistently written about the peace that I feel when I am riding, even on the especially tough days. Riding is my happy place. Riding is the place where I hash out my life and these 370 miles were no different. I learned new lessons and was reminded of old lessons while out of the road over these 7 days.
- Anything is possible. Not only is this the motto for Ironman but it is the damn truth. Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you work hard to get to where you want to be. Life really is mind over matter; as long as you believe, you can achieve. There are so many more clichés that I could throw in right here because they are all so very true. There were moments where I doubted myself but those were far outweighed by the moments where I knew I would not allow myself to fail. I don’t like failing and I certainly wasn’t going to fail at my own self-imposed birthday goal.
- This year had more gains than losses. This past year had been one of growth and learning, it brought with it a lot of losses but even more gains. I needed the time out there on the open road to put that into perspective. While the losses were significant, the gains were exponentially larger.Training for Ironman 70.3 brought with it an entire new foundation of friends; I gained a new support network. Whether my new friends were runners, cyclists, or triathletes, they accepted me with open arms. The amazing thing about these wonderful humans? Once you met one, you were instantly linked to 10 more. It was truly as if I had known them for years. They were ready to push and challenge me around every corner, never allowing me to give up. The time and effort that all these wonderful people put into themselves and everyone around them is a thing of beauty, everyone wants to help everyone and everyone is a family. Thank you to each and every one of them for entering into my life at the most opportune moment.
A special thanks to Caroline, one of my newest pals, who came through to help me suffer on two of my fifteen rides on this journey. I won’t even begin to talk about all the texts she sent me pushing me to roll out of bed and keep moving towards my goal. Thank you. Thank you from the depths of my soul. You were my champion this week and will forever be a true friend. Things like this are what make people who were once strangers become friends and eventually even family.
This past year also brought with it a change of employment. It was not a change that I was ready for but it was definitely a change that, in hindsight, was much needed. I had been at my previous job for 6 years and the stress levels were crazy high there. My new job is much more relaxed and is a semi-vaca from clinical work which is a very welcome change. I have great coworkers that constantly have me laughing and have brought another layer of wonderfulness to my already charmed life.
- Even a glorious failure can be an immense success. I won’t get deep into this because it will be delved into much deeper in a later post (hopefully). The gist of this is that sometimes what one person calls a failure is actually a success. And, sometimes you need some “failures” to propel you towards an even bigger success. I am so proud of everything I have accomplished this year, whether it be a glorious failure or a resounding success, I am proud of it all. I think this Robert Louis Stevenson quote about sums it up, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.”
- I am such a lucky girl. Anytime that I feel myself slip into sadness all I have to do is take a step back and look around me. I am surrounded by so much love, friendship, and family. I have so many friends in my life that have been there for years upon years. It has to say something about a person if they can rattle out the names of so many friends they have had for 10+ years, not to mention the two best friends that have been in my life for 29+ years each!! I may not have a “partner” to walk through life with yet but I have so many wonderful friends that are there precisely at the moments when I need them most, some before I even realize that I need them at all.I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever take my wonderful friends for granted but I do believe that, sometimes when we allow ourselves to wallow in whatever pain has overcome us, we forget the things/people we have directly in front of us. Sometimes we let the pain take over and steal our joy. I am trying to do a better job with moving myself through pain by reminding myself of all the goodness in my life. Sometimes this works and sometimes I fail at it but, like I said earlier, even failure at something can be a grand success in the long run. Sometimes we need to just feel the pain before we can move through. Continuing to focus on the positive of all the things I DO have is definitely a goal for my next year.
- Being single ain’t so bad. I love love. I love being in love. I love having a person. But, I have been loving being single and immersing myself in training. I have learned that I don’t need to have someone in my life; I don’t need to be in a relationship with anyone but myself. This has been an interesting lesson for me since I have been so used to being in relationships. I am such a social person that being alone in itself used to be painful. Through my few years of cycling, I learned how to be alone. I learned how to be alone and ok with my thoughts and myself. This year was different because I wasn’t only alone out on the road; I was alone when I came home too. These 370 miles were a reminder of what I already knew… Being alone is ok. Furthermore, being alone isn’t just ok, it’s wonderful. I get to do what I choose to do, train when I want to train, I get to dictate my own life (when my kids aren’t doing that, obviously). I get to be the master of my own peace, something which I didn’t even realize until this year. I am open to the idea of someone coming into my life but, until that happens, I am happy and ok being alone.
- I am NOT broken. Age is just a number. Everything happens for a reason. I am pretty sure this speaks for itself given the ridiculous goal I achieved. Getting injured wasn’t the end of the road for me, I got to heal and keep going. I may not understand the reason behind why I got hurt, no one ever wants to get hurt, but it happened for a reason. Maybe the reason was to propel me to set this goal and smash it so that I could see that getting old doesn’t mean that I will be worth any less than the younger person at the start line next to me. I have to push harder to fight the aging process but that’s a challenge that I am totally willing to accept. Bring it on life!
I believe there are probably tons of lessons that I am forgetting at this precise moment but these six were by far the most important of this experience. I am sure that they will come to me later on and then I will get to mold them into their very own blog post. For now, though, these are enough.
Life is going to keep coming and there is nothing that I or anybody else can do to slow it down. I might have to live life on life’s terms but you better believe that I will be trying to control those terms as much as is humanly possible. I truly can’t wait to see what the next 37 years brings with it! Who knows… maybe there will even be a RAAM ride in there somewhere (Ride Across America, check it out!)