Friday, February 28, 2014

Getting Back in the Game

My friend and fellow blog-writer for Cajun Titanium Jenny and I had done some serious talking this week. Well, we always do, but this one was a little more profound than usual. It was about using our blogs not to be just about all the fun and glory, but also about being honest with our struggles. You can read her take on it here: Fundamental truths...and talking to strangers....

Jenny went back in the hospital last night, be thinking about her!

The problem for me with being honest is that while some people take it for what it is, and acknowledge my struggles, other people out of being very kind-hearted and nice start feeling sorry for me. This is not my intent. The truth is, whether you like it or not, feeling sorry for someone takes their power away from them. It is one thing to lend kind words or a helping hand, but quite another to think that person cannot accomplish things, that you need to do it for them. That's controlling. Don't do that.

SO how do I get my power back when I'm feeling so down? I've been looking at past experiences and seeing what they have in common. For example:
1. When I finally got out of an abusive relationship, I started FaithPets, a project with the local women's shelter that allows abuse survivors to bring their pets with them to safety, providing food and minor veterinary care.
2. Hit by an unlicensed driver on my bike - I became involved with bike advocacy through BikeLafayette and as part of the LCG MPO bicycling subcommittee.
3. A friend lost his wife and child to somebody else's road rage - my son and I are now sponsoring a child in Mexico (where his wife was from) so that this kid can benefit from the thoughts of somebody else. This has dual purpose, as it also gives my son a chance to see how other people live.

What do these things have in common? Well, obviously helping society and humanity. Honestly though, I do a lot of donating my time for free and I'm kind of burnt - if I didn't need to work that may be a different thing, but I feel like I have to do something else.
What else...all these things are where I used my skills to create something that solved a problem. Not just creating, but having a hand in controlling the outcome for something I see as useful.
When did I feel the most on top of my game? Working as a vet. I was good at it. I loved it. I even developed a highly sought-after skill (in research, it's proprietary so I can't tell you) that I had traveled around the country for to teach to other people. Racing. I liked winning - I had just started but I had quickly become addicted. It's the competition of being in comparable physical shape with those I was up against, but having the mindset to pull it off. Hard work, attention to detail, and mental toughness against good competition. It was also the only thing I did for only me, and kept balance in my life.

I probably don't know as much as I should know about power. Looking at this list, what I wrote, it is about control. Real power for me is creative - working together - not destructive, like crushing other people's souls. Though there is something to being better than someone else that hasn't tried as hard. It's about focus, and using skills that I've worked hard to develop on solving a problem.

So what to do...
1. Back to being a vet - I have amazing friends that have agreed to start letting me hang out at their clinic and start feeling out what I can and can't do. This is my first step at getting back in the game (I may still do the behavior thing, it's just different - more on that later!) I was hoping to go this week but I ran out of time,  you'll have to hear about it next week!
2. Racing - Hilary, a colleague that was with me for the R'n'R half, has offered to relay a triathlon with me. Since then I have also gotten a team to relay the CajunMan at the end of the summer. I can swim - not too fast but I can! - and I love the idea of being competitive again. I wasn't going to say anything until after I did it, but this way you can hold me to it!
3. Continue healing - this one is easy, but the hard part is not being too Type A and making multiple smaller goals for myself that I can palpably attain. My therapist has worked with me on this. I may not be able to do surgery yet, but I can extend my fingers all the way now... it's the little things that I need to keep track of. I've said  it before but it's something I have to keep reminding myself of.
4. Stay surrounded by people that work as hard as me. - This one is important. Luckily I already had this group built up and it continues to grow. Wulf my therapist worked on his balance for skiing while I worked on mine for walking, all the while listening to Alice In Chains and discussing scientific findings in running. Alyce my Pilates instructor is the best for really keeping balance in my life. Next weekend I'm the guest-of-honor for Q50 Ultras USA 2014, a trail run with distances of a half marathon, a full marathon, and a 50 FREAKING MILE ultramarathon. The fabulous crazy Cesar Torres is the Race Director and is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. With things like this in my life, staying around moving motivated people is covered and is key to my path of recovery.
5. Making money - I hate this is one of the things that I feel I need, but what do you do? Another person quickly becoming one of my faves is Anna Purdy - freelance writer extraordinaire - has given me some guidance on writing for profit, as a vet. I've already gotten a couple of leads, I'll keep you updated.

NO, I\m not 100% on my game yet. But just having direction that makes me excited has done wonders for me. I'm starting to feel beautiful and strong again - I know this sounds shallow but it's something that I lost when I was hit, and it feels so so good to get it back. That's the kind of thing you need to feel on your own, other people can help, but only you can be in charge of your happiness and confidence. Do whatever it takes to get it, it's worth everything.

Another way to stay around awesome people, hang out at a boxing gym. Holy Cow, Laffy, how do you NOT know about Dierdre Goagrty?? I've already started writing next week's blog, I'll tell you all about her then. Go ahead and Google her now though! And read her freaking book!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sunrises and Acronyms

It's been an up-and-down week. I got to see some old friends last weekend. I got sick. I can totally shake hands on a regular basis now. I was told to by my therapist to consider skiing because I can still compete and I have a better chance at doing that than run again. My hand's strong enough that I'm moving to the "next level" (does not mean it's strong) which takes a lot of focusing on my wrist not flexing as I do things. Even though I don't have a brain injury my muscles have to relearn how to work again, and this takes a lot of concentration. So hold me to that handshake because this new step is going to make it harder for me to do.

So a draw up until now, but good triumphs over bad this week as a few positive things got done. Tuesday I talked to the UL KPA (UL Kinesiology Professionals Association) which was fun. Wulf finally broke down and gave me a Helping Hands shirt to wear when I give talks, etc, ha! Also this week was another productive meeting of the LCG MPO Bicycling Subcommittee, and I turned in Lafayette's LAB BFC application. It's been a good week for bikes. And for me.

Well, actually, that's a lie.
It's been a hard week for me. I started writing this last night, but this morning I'm bringing myself back to the fact I promised to be honest in this blog to be fair to other people with spinal cord injuries, and to be fair to myself. I've been really sad this week. Being told by the person I trust most that I really may not be able to run again hurts. I dream about running every night now. Just that moment when I just get it...but it's not just about running. It's really about ever being able to feel my body move properly again. I'm MUCH better, I can feel temperature and wind and things can feel good again, but I miss fluidity of movement. I miss that quiet time when you're still but alert, poised and ready, about to spring into action and everything is smooth. I miss Shotokan and cycling so fast and the even rhythms of life. Everything is always pulling, my body is never completely relaxed. To me, being told I may never run again really means that my body will never relax again. I hate it. I don't want to live this way.

But yeah, persistence. Like I described in the post a while back Friday Update, and Mr. Percy (I can't read it again right now, it's not far enough in my past yet) sometimes I really hate it, but I can't stop moving forward. Whether I like it or not, I have this little nagging drive, this little bit of a thought that keeps repeating that things will get better, they have to, there's no other way. I don't know what's the big deal about it or where I'm headed to. I have a friend that is just starting a life again after successfully navigating a ridiculous amount of struggle, trust me it was a ton, and yesterday when I asked him how he was, he answered - I'm making it. The usual profound battle against all odds that somewhat lacks aim. That small statement had me thinking all night. Maybe not in the same context but yeah I get it. I don't know what I'll be able to do with my life, where my relationship is going, how I'm finally going to manage to be stable and happy again. I don't know what the point is of walking races if I won't be able to run them again. What do you do, give up? I don't even know how to do that - I'm not kidding, I don't know what that entails.

I had Snakebyte take a picture of the sunrise whilst driving today. I'm a total sucker for beautiful mornings.

The sunrise got me thinking. The thing about it is, the sun, Sol, is a massive amount of power and energy. More than we can consciously comprehend. But at the dawn of every new day there's still darkness and shadows everywhere and you can't necessarily see all that is around you. Still, the sun doesn't care, it continues to rise and grow in strength in the sky, it's persistent, there's no other way - there WILL be a morning. As it progresses the world becomes clearer, and all that power and light that is you has such a profound effect on life in ways you can't even guess at.

So, ever onward. I'm going to run again. I'm scared. I'm scared that telling you I'm going to do this makes me a target for failure, and I'm more likely to turn out as a sad story of someone who tried so hard and never did it, instead of the "inspiration" the world seems to want me to be. So fucking scared. I have no idea how to accomplish it. But I promised to always be honest and that's where I am.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Random People Keep Enabling My Decaf Addiction

I had a minor caffeine addiction when I was hit, but I kicked it in the hospital. I figured I didn't need it and what the hell? BUT coffee is so awesome and warm in the I started drinking decaf thinking I would be safe. WRONG! Come to find out, decaf has a small amount of caffeine in it so if I go for a period of 36 hours or so without drinking it I get a ferocious headache. Sheesh!

New Year's Day I was having a grumpy morning. I was headed to Anytime Fitness to do my long "run" on the conveyor belt, and I didn't want to go because it takes me so damn long to walk that far and even though it's the only place I have access to cable TV, treadmills are so Boring (but better for my gait because I can hold on to both sides). So I decided to get my usual at Starbucks - tall decaf skinny vanilla latte (basically, everything but coffee). I'm a little fond of one particular location on Johnston in front of the Barnes and Noble because they're quite friendly. But there was a big truck blocking my way, and I had to go around again to the red light, and then a car pulled in in front of me making me later to the date I had with the monotonous thing to walk on, UGH. I decided to give up on the day and go back home. THEN, that lady in front of me gave me a wave and when she drove off come to find out she paid for me! Yay! Happy day, I did the whole 3 hours! :)
Last week if you noticed, they wrote on my coffee cup since they saw me in the paper. I told them the story about the lady, and how I wanted to hang a newspaper clipping of me on their window, thanking her for encouraging me that day to train. TODAY, the same thing happened again! Another pay-it-forward from another (I guess another) awesome random stranger. This is seriously not helping with my decaf addiction. BUT THANK YOU RANDOM PEOPLE!!!!

So many awesome things happening the rest of the week! I'm gearing up for the Zydeco Half Marathon now. My goal of course is to go faster, but I don't know if that's possible since it's still slow to build my knee. I hope to do it without nearly collapsing at the end like for the NOLA R'n'R. I don't have to start early because it's a 2 loop course for the full marathoners. KATC has done what I'm sure is an amazing story on my journey to do Zydeco (Elizabeth Hill is a wonderful reporter) but I haven't watched it because no matter how much filming and how awesome photojournalist Justin Terro is, I cannot imagine that I look all that great working out so hard! Here it is in case YOU want to watch it: Local triathlete recovering from serious injuries continues to reach goals, set new ones Let me know if my trainer Damian smiles in it. He smiles a lot talking, but maybe not so much on camera!

The KATC video I'm hesitant to watch. There have been better pictures of me...

Elsewise, ever better this week. Making my triathlon club work hard - I want to make sure they're in a good place if I ever have to leave or anything! - getting stronger and my balance is rockin, better than the average person on my left leg. Meeting with some of my college peeps, and a friend I hadn't seen in over 20 years this weekend. Thinking about relays. Kid's doing awesome, boyfriend's doing awesome, ya'll have a great weekend!

Link to Rob and Leslie Mornings (an awesome radio show I was briefly on)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2014 Rock'n'Roll New Orleans 1/2 Marathon Race Report

It has been quite the week! Firstly, I must mention my awesome triathlon club that I'm now head of with Marcus Dudoit, the Tri-Cajuns Triathlon Club since we had our first meeting of the year on the Thursday before the race, and the first since administration changed hands. I have to give another shout out to John Hebert, who just stepped down as club administrator, he is an incredible person that continues to do great things for our community.Our guest speaker was 6x Ironman Champ and pro triathlete Chris "Big Sexy" McDonald and he gave a wonderful presentation, very down to earth, and answered so many questions. Overweight couch potato to world champion! Marcus actually races for him and I was very impressed with the guy. And I was also impressed with my club! So many great people willing to help and fabulous energy. It's going to be a great year for triathletes here!

Eating a banana talking to the press - no good pics really of the Tri-Cajuns kit. Hey I was hungry!
Photo credit to Peter G. Forest - nice man, hope I wasn't too hard on him!

Okay, okay moving on! First, Liam ran the ING Kids Rock "Last Mile of the Marathon" on Saturday, with Nic's accompaniment. Love that we got to cross the same finish line!

Saturday night we met at New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company, sharing stories and catching up with old friends and colleagues. Look at this group. Amazing! It includes so much awesomeness! Someone from the top 5 fastest women (Laura Zaunbrecher) and the bottom 5 (me ;) in the 1/2 are represented here. Let me stress that Laura Loo was in the TOP 5 WOMEN, over 10000 runners, and this is with a strained Achilles! Nic planned on racing then threw his back out and thought he couldn't do it. At the last minute he went ahead and did it anyway, in under 2 hours! Charles made the best support group - he's the fastest of everyone here but is content just to help everyone else. I'm just now noticing he's giving Loo bunny ears in this pic. Hilary and her friend Jennifer, both vets in South Carolina, flew down just for this race. Stephanie is another colleague of mine, lost over 10 pounds and trained for an entire year Just for this race - this was her first ever! How man people do you know make a 1/2 their first  race? It was also James and Jane's first half. Alanna, vet tech extraordinaire, lost over 100# and has races scheduled at least every month through the summer. Charlotte ran more miles than she ever had before. Val flew down here not knowing anyone, melded right in, and did it! Her awesome husband with her. Dan made this his 15th 1/2 marathon. So YEAH, I'm awesome, but damn look at what I'm surrounded by!

SO: it was a dark and stormy night. Er, morning. 5AM was dark and so foggy it was rainy. The great amazing Pilates master Alyce bought trekking sticks (made for hiking) specifically so she could loan them to me so that I wouldn't have to lean just to one side with my cane the whole time. Malain was there to give me a proper start. Dan "Tidy Bowl" Man of the Voodoo Hash House Harriers was there with me luckily, because I couldn't see anything and the course wasn't entirely closed off yet, and there were cars - I was planning on following the map on the app but Malain and Tidy discussed where to go, he kept me on track, fended the cars off for me... saved me at least 30 minutes from not having to dodge cars or keep getting the phone out to check my course (New Orleans can be so confusing!) which means I would have had to stop, put down my trekking sticks, dodge a car, wait for wifi signal...anyway you get the idea. The first 3 miles are the hardest for me, my muscles don't work together and it takes them a while to get in groove. It was on St. Charles when it finally started getting light, and it was the perfect place to be to watch the runners start from the other side! The racing wheelchairs - so fast! - the elites, everyone everyone. Sooo many people calling out or thumbs up, but I really have to stay focused to keep my groove so Dan's job was now not only protecting me and everyone else from me, but answering back for me. I started making better time then, but slowed down about mile 10 or so. I was worried this would happen because my longest training had only been 9 miles due to the crazy ice from the cold front we recently had (My NOLA RnR 2014 Training Log). Mile 10ish on I was zombified - so tired and hard to walk! But it was part of what I bargained for. The red dress crew hashers were there manning a water (and beer) station. Cesar Torres of Q50 Ultras was incredibly encouraging. Gatorade around this time saved my life - it is Amazing what your body does when it goes hypoglycemic! I knew I could get up to a 20 min/mi pace, but  as slow as a 33 or slower min/mi depending on weather - I'm a reptile; the colder the slower I am! So I estimated a 30 min/mi pace. Luckily it was warmer that day! I guess because of how early we started and all I'll never know Exactly how long it took me, but it looks like it was about a 27 min/mi pace. In all truth, I may never get to be faster than that. The injury is leaving residual co-contraction of my right knee, and I simply can't force it to bend it faster than I do now. I'm determined of course to find a way...just telling you what I'm up against. I loved watching my friends pass, and some stayed to talk and went on again. At the very end most caught up or came back for me and we went in together. Awesomeness.

Credit to James Brown

At the finish line there were of course cameras and reporters but every time I stopped I almost fell down. Liam ran out and met me. I was supposed to meet my people at the "M" but I had to go straight to the VIP tent to just sit. Then literally swamped with reporters, it just didn't work out that I could get over there. Dang. Never enough time. BUT it was fun! Good to know I can still be sarcastic and joke with strangers even that tired! ;) R'n'R was so so great, drove me to my ride even, had nothing but good to say. SO great. This is my race ya'll, now and forevermore.

The best part of all this press is that This is the story that Nic and I wanted you to get. We could be ourselves, have our own accomplishments, act silly and say what we want. Be who we are. It got reported that I'm a vet and I want to work again, and that we're normal, and I'm scared sometimes that I won't get everything back still...everything I wanted and that's really really me. (It's funny, I can walk but I still can't drive that far - it's sitting still that kills me!) But this was an accomplishment, not just a silly picture like last year's where we didn't really DO anything.
But maybe you already knew that from last year's picture. Maybe that foreshadowed something that I wasn't sure I could pull off, but you got it. It is entirely possible I was too hard on myself...
So okay, okay, it's cool if you use me as inspiration. I get it. I understand now. If me doing this is that extra UMPH that gets you to realize the things you want to do are worth it then Awesome! Go do things because it feeels good; whether you know it or not just reaching to the sky feels good and I wish I could do it. Feeling your body work naturally feels good. Go do it. Run a lot, or tri, or climb a huge mountain, or whatever floats your boat. Just promise me that you'll sometime down the line remember that YOU did it, yourself. Realize how awesome YOU are. WE are.

Even the Starbucks baristas are awesome. I'm surrounded by awesomeness.
As an aside, I only drink decaf, I have too much energy already, ha!

Credits - and I am sure I forgot some - Malain McCormick and the Competitor Group for letting me start 2 hours early and making this happen. Nic for being so awesome, along with his family. National triathlete Charles Garabedian, sponsored by Gatorade, provided the entry to last year's race and paved the way for this year to happen as well as helping this year work so smoothly. If you don't know anything else about them know that Gatorade sponsors incredible people that get great pleasure in going out of their way to help people succeed. Mari and Connie and Wulf and Simonne and all my therapists and docs and nurses - I was so incredibly fortunate to have so many good people. BikeLafayette for giving me focus. Alyce Wise Morgan and everyone at Camelia House. Damian and everyone at Anytime Fitness. Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and Mizzou and all vets - I love my profession and my colleagues and they are always going to be a major part of my life. ALL of my friends, I would NOT have wanted to do this if it weren't for your support. ALL of the people racing with me - countless runners and their shouts of encouragement, thumbs up, amazing stories of their own, their own will and determination. Incredible. Everyone in and around and the city of New Orleans itself - you are always a big part of who I am. South Louisiana is incredible, it is This community that got me this far.

Up next? Corner Bar Youngsville with the hash kennel I co-started. I'm the guest of honor for Q50 Ultras USA 2014, for ultra marathoner trail races. In other words, crazy people ;) Love it. Also Lafayette's first marathon and half, Zydeco Marathon. Stoked. I want to do tris again, just maybe not quite fast enough on the run yet. We'll see. Have a fabulous week!

Press so far:
Rock'n'Roll Competitor
Times Picayune
Huffington Post
Times Picayune
The Advocate

My awesome family