The Time My Boobs Scared Me

10400783_23189174818_6016_nIt was almost 25 years ago that I realized that my boobs had tremendous power.  My portrayal of Hippolyta in my high school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was nothing if not lackluster but the deep v of my black body suit meant that all I really had to do was stand there.  My boobs had the stage presence of an Amazonian Queen (albeit one with a possibly historically inaccurate complete set of knockers.)

My boobs and I went to college and found employment behind the bar.  My smart mouth and my perky young boobs made pretty stellar money for about a decade.  When my older daughter was born and I retired from tending bar I am betting my boobs thought they’d get a break.  Nope.  I put those boobs to work overtime.  I realized that these magical orbs were not only mama’s moneymakers but they were baby’s favorite, too.  200717_4339414818_6821_n

In breastfeeding I found my maternal confidence.  And when I had questions about how to feed my baby my boobs led me to finding my tribe.  Breastfeeding helped me stumble into attachment parenting and co-sleeping and a million labels that helped me to know that I absolutely knew how to be a mother to my baby.  I learned everything I could so that I could tell other new moms to just trust themselves.  Funny that we all need facts to tell us to trust our guts, such is the first of many things that make no sense about parenting.

As my hell-raising and breastfeeding days were behind me and my life settled into that of a newly single mother my boobs took a little hiatus.  I celebrated them both (both boobs as well as the hell-raising and the baby feeding) with this tattoo!10399078_14608134818_1575_n

When my youngest was born my boobs got back on board and played their part.  I imagine that they heaved a heavy sigh and got ready as they knew this time around that it was likely a long road.  Four years and three months later… Lucy has started sleeping through the night. Sometimes she even falls asleep without me.  And without “boobie.”  I can see the end of the road and it is bittersweet.  Nursing babies has been part of my life for nine of my almost eleven years as a mother. It has led me to yet another tribe of women.  Volunteering with Best for Babes has been a meaningful part of my life for several years.12985375_10154095684209819_2276035083554733050_n

As my 40th birthday approached I decided to go ahead and get a mammogram. I did my hair for the occasion.  Like you do.  No big deal, right?  mammoWhen the technician apologized for any discomfort I laughed and explained that my boobs barely belonged to me anymore. These “long boobs” can reach a kid in a car seat in the backseat while I am driving! I kid, I kid.  Sort of.   Think a few glass plates are going to bother me?  Pfft.

“Now most women will receive a call back since this is your baseline mammogram.  Don’t worry if we call you back in.”

Ok.

So then they called.  And I worried.  And worried some more. Because everything is so…. ok. This last decade has been a bumpy ride, y’all.  But I am looking down the barrel of 40 and thinking that this is going to be my decade!  I was ready to coast into 40 with my smile bright, a husband that is crazy about me (most of the time,) two healthy kids, a ridiculous addiction to triathlon that keeps me healthy, my boobs in retirement and sleeping through the night!  Life was looking good.

“Well, I don’t really like what I am seeing on these images so we are going to need to do an ultrasound.”

And my stomach dropped.  I had that moment when your life is a Lifetime movie and suddenly you are Valerie Bertinelli and you are wearing so much mascara and you’re crying and there is shitty music playing and you know that absolutely nothing good is going to come of you wearing this unusually soft cape dress that opens in the front.sad

And so the ultrasound technician does that thing where they bite the inside of their mouth and go back and forth over the same place again and again and I tried to make jokes and she just kept taking pictures and typing illegible things on a screen I could not quite read.  “Now you just relax here and I will take these down to Radiology and be back in a few.”

“Sure,” I said, “I will just kick back and play on my phone and contemplate my imminent death. None of us get our of here alive anyway, right?”  I laughed.  And she closed the door and I let myself cry.

Five minutes later the radiologist came in (that can’t be a good sign, right?) and says “Everything is fine.  But I am going to show you what I am looking at so you don’t have to take my word for it.” She adjusted her dials and smiled at me with her warm face and said “When I was your age and my kids were small we didn’t have all of these fancy machines so we just had to wait and worry.  Since you’re still nursing I am guessing that what we saw before was maybe a milk duct that was full?”

And I started to laugh and cry and wipe snot on my arm since I had no sleeves.  Breastfeeding for longer than  a year can actually lower your risk of cancer.  But evidently it can increase your chances of being certain that you most definitely have it for the five minutes it takes for a radiologist to look at your pictures.

At the end of it all… Everything’s ok.  I will go back in six months when my milk ducts are dried up and my last baby has hopefully weaned and I will get another round of pictures.  And I will surely get called back in because we still don’t have a baseline of images to look at, really.

The other day in swim practice we got to dive off the block and do 25 yard sprints.  I have not dived off a swim block since I was 10 years old and I was petrified.  I told my coach “When something scares the snot out of me and my first instinct is to say No Way – that’s when I know I have to do it.” That has been my Life Plan these last few years.  So far, so good. I considered putting off my baseline mammogram because I wasn’t sure I was in a headspace that could stomach the potential worry.  But I was scared.  So I went all in.

In the last month I have had one of those roller coaster rides of the mind when you imagine that thing, the thing you fear the most.  And I am not saying that I fear breast cancer more than anything else, not at all.  In fact, in the five minutes I waited for the doctor this morning I let my mind go all the way there.  I would fight hard and I would be ok.  And I would get some brand new boobs as a present when it was all said and done and twenty-five years from now I would write another blog post about the twenty-five years I had spent embracing these new boobs.  Because I am in my heart of hearts an optimist.  I am a Lemonade maker.

The thing I fear the most is feeling Stupid.  I have been making lemonade from lemons for much of my adult life.  But in the last couple of years things have started to slow down and I have relaxed into a groove that feels so incredibly … ok.  And deep down I am scared that Life will start handing out something even worse than lemons… Sucker Punches? And I will feel stupid for relaxing and believing that maybe, just maybe, it was all going to turn out alright.

But for today…. I am relieved.  And I am grateful.  And I am bawling and sweaty in a co-op grocery store in a town that I adore while my kids are in schools that I am pleased with and my husband is at a job that he mostly likes after a run that I cut short because I kept crying.  And I am ok.  sweat

I hope you’re ok, too.  And I hope you do things that scare you.  Big ones and small ones.  Because this life is made up of choices, millions of choices. The moments that I have chosen to be brave I have never regretted.  

 

 

 

 

Dearly Beloved….

In the spring of 1997 I thought it would be a super idea to fill every single square in the entertainment center with an aquarium.  Much like the day that I decided to paint my entire living room including the molding and the windows dark green this decision went from thought to execution in about 45 minutes.  I was a lady of ACTION.  I made DECISIONS.  Not always good ones but my enthusiasm made up for my brilliance on occasion.

Operation Fill All of the Squares with Pets worked out pretty well.  At that time in my life my living room was headquarters to a half a dozen ne’er-do-wells and we would while away the wee hours of the morning watching surf videos.  I had a mouse.  And an angel fish.  And a big tree frog.  And a couple of tetras. And a teeny pair of frogs named Jack and Jill.  It is possible that there were a few other little creatures that didn’t hang around long but that was my gang over at 1362B Mt Vernon for a good long while.

And then on one spectacularly sad night we realized that Jack and Jill had passed away. So my roommate and I did the only thing that made any sense at all.  He put on the tightest black pants he owned and I teased my hair and pinned a black slip to my head like a veil and we grabbed a radio and we had a funeral.

We walked into the kitchen where we both worked with these two tiny frogs in a ziploc bag and we blared Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Like you do.

“Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here 2 tell u
There’s something else
The afterworld…..”

The glares from everyone in the kitchen made it clear that maybe it was not the best time to “go crazy” so we scooted on out of there and headed to “the Leafe” for a wake.  The Green Leafe was my Cheers.  It was my spot.  I turned 21 there after a few good years of partying.  It used to be that if you were in the restaurant business silly things like IDs and “being of age” didn’t seem to matter so much.

This last week I found out that my beloved college bar had closed its doors.  With my 40th birthday looming ahead I took a moment to look back. I spent some of my finest moments in college at the Leafe. I loved and laughed and cried and drank and smoked (good God, remember when you could chain smoke inside?  How crazy was that?) and then I guess somewhere along the way it had been almost ten years since I had been there.  How did that happen exactly? I guess I am getting older, huh?

‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own”

But I haven’t been on my own and things are pretty a-ok and growing up hasn’t been awful.  Not awful at all, actually.

“And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor!

If you don’t like the world you’re living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends”

I was going to sit down this afternoon and write a funny little something about how my mammogram was a breeze, y’all…. But I opened my laptop and all of a sudden…. Prince.  Everywhere.  Prince.

A lifetime ago “Let’s Go Crazy” was a funeral song for a pair of teeny, tiny fish and today I see it spreading across social media to mourn and celebrate the death of the one and only Prince.

I learned to roller skate backwards to “Darling Nikki.” I was trying so hard not to fall down I guess I never really thought too much about that funky time. Well, not until Tipper Gore told me it was filthy and then you can bet your ass I paid attention.

I imagined my life as a glamorous adult as I sang “Little Red Corvette” in my room in 1983.  I was seven years old and that album, 1999…. it blew my mind. Years later I would (along with the rest of the world) listen to “1999” during what was my absolute most terrible New Year’s Eve.  Ever.

His songs… I could tell you what I think about as I listen to each and every single of his tunes.  But I don’t want to.  I want you to go and listen.  Remember where you were.  Share them with your kids.  Because Prince represents some fabulously synthesized moments of all of our pasts, sure… but he can also play the shit out of the guitar, y’all.

Prince.  You were so, so cool.

prince003

16 days until…

I haven’t written about running skirts in years.  Or crotch sweat. All things have a season, I suppose.  Apparently running skirts are on their way out and short shorts are coming back with a vengeance. Who knew? Lucky for you crotch sweat never goes out of style.

Observations from the morning. Sixteen days until my 40th birthday….

legsThese legs and these comically large feet just ran a 5K in less time than I have in a few years. Possibly ever.

I’ve been busting my ass lately and decided to see if my favorite running skirt would let me run without lighting my thighs on fire. Applying BodyGlide to the thighs this morning (because they still touch y’all, even down 30 pounds) and Lucy asks “is that for when your vagina sweats?”

Umm. Something like that.

Today has already been amazing.  My vagina sweat was totally under control.  My legs carried me 3.1 miles with the swiftness.  I am totally over my stomach virus.  And in less than an hour I get to have my first mammogram.

What’s your Thursday look like?  May your vagina sweat be light, your legs fast and your mammogram technician gentle.

Driver of that Giant Truck, I salute you!

I am more than a tiny bit scared of riding my bike.  This wasn’t a huge problem as a kid.  But as a triathlete – it sort of sucks.  How do you conquer a fear?  Head on, friends.  So, I ride.  I ride in my living room on a bike trainer so that I can feel I have a mastery of my bike’s gears and my stupid (albeit useful) clipped in bike shoes.  I ride in groups so that I can learn more about how to ride safely on the road.  I ride with friends so that I can remember that going for a bike ride used to be something I did for fun.  And I ride in spin classes so that I can build muscles that will help me drag my ass up hills.

But until today I have not ridden alone.  There are a million reasons not to ride alone.  It’s not crazy to not ride by yourself.  But as a mostly stay at home mom I really want to train as much as I can during the week when the kids are in school.  Unfortunately that is when my bike riding sidekicks are at work.ICE  A friend that is sidelined with an injury mentioned that instead of joining me for our Thursday morning ride she’d be happy to have my back if I wanted to just go ahead and ride.  Mid morning on our almost empty country roads seemed like a perfect time to give it a go solo.

I wrote her phone number on an index card, put it in my shirt pocket and sent her a quick note that I was leaving before I chickened out.

The first mile is uphill.  I wasn’t particularly creeped out.  I was still so close to my house and going back and forth between being freezing and exhausted.  I hadn’t any time to freak out.  A few miles later I found my groove.  I stopped obsessing over every single noise that my bike made and started thinking that maybe I could stay over 16 mph on average in spite of the three fairly decent hills on my route.  I might even do a second loop.  By the fifth mile I passed the turn to Emily’s school and giggled at a bit at our plans to stop and eat lunch with the kids.  Nothing is more absurd than a person in head to toe spandex and bike shoes.  We just need to wait until it is warm enough to wear our matching tri-kits to go for maximum ridiculousness.

By the time I was just about two miles from home I had decided to stick with the single loop and call it a win.  Why tempt fate?  I was content.  I was warm.  I could run when I got home and go out and do this again soon.  I was a person that could ride her bike alone if need be.  I didn’t die!

As I was headed up the last big hill about a mile from my house a car slowed behind me.  There is no shoulder on this road (only a steep ditch) and I was riding the white line.  I couldn’t very well move over and I appreciated the driver behind me just taking his time.  I assume that the honking by the truck marked with a local HVAC company (that I shall not name only because it may very well have been an employee of this small company and not the owner so I am hard pressed to put you on blast) was to alert other drivers of my presence.  Surely you didn’t mean that the car that was giving me a little space should speed around me on this hill where they can’t see oncoming traffic.  Right?  I did check out your website when I got home, local HVAC company… all those stock photo images of happy families – yep.  You surely value the life of a mother of two so very much!  Thanks for honking as if to say “Hey, Drivers!  Take care near this cyclist!!” Jerk.

I shook it off.  I pulled over at the soonest available moment and let the truck pass by me. With less than half a mile before I was home I was determined to end this maiden voyage with a smile on my face.  There’s a killer downhill just before I turn into my neighborhood. I enjoyed it.  I was warm (finally) and I was unafraid.  I was a person that rides her bike!

I slowed down before I turned onto my street (because I am still not a person that is unafraid of the slightest bit of gravel) when a huge Dodge Ram sped around me, window rolled down, gave me the one finger salute and yelled “Get off the road, Bitch!!”

My eyes stung like I had been slapped.  I have been scared of falling. I have read race reports where experienced cyclists get injured.  I am always fearful of cars.  Recovery after an accident with a car could take months.   But it never dawned on me to be afraid of being yelled at by some asshole in a giant truck  (and yes, I realize that name calling is juvenile and two wrongs don’t make a right but this guy was an asshole!!) I could see my house from where I was located.

kellyBut I kept riding.  I rode right past my street with tears in my eyes and made one more single mile loop in the neighborhood next to mine.  Because I won’t let you ruin my good time Mister Big Truck.  I am only sorry that you momentarily knocked the wind out of me and I was unable to return your salute!

So.  You haven’t convinced me to get off the road, Mr Big Truck.  Nor have you really even made me think that I am a bitch. I assure you that I have done far more egregious things than ride my bike on the same stretch of road that you were enjoying.  As I rode that last mile I started to wonder.  Would you have yelled in my face if I stopped my cart in the middle of the aisle at Costco?  Because I do that sometimes.  What if I walked in front of you at a softball game to chase my four year old?  I am so super sorry I was in your space for a second, man.  I guess that never happens to you, huh?

I like to give each bike ride an anthem.  Riding without tunes is so weird to me so I sing in my head.  Today’s quick ten mile ride goes out to Matthew Wilder – Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride…

I will be back soon  with a race recap for Belews Lake Olympic Triathlon   that was a duathlon (click for last year’s race recap if you like!).  Quick summary: I nearly froze to death.  The runs were fast and awesome and the bike was cold and lonely.  Belews Lake theme song was an obvious choice! Love me some Eric Carmen: All By Myseeeelf…….

Roll With It

On the back of his chef coat was a design – black octagons in a line down the center of his spine.  He was laughing and smiling and everyone around him was smiling, too.  The first time I saw the design on his coat I had no idea what it was but I was still pretty green.  It was my first bartending gig and I was barely 21 years old.

By the time I saw the octagons on the back of his jacket a second time I had already gotten a few of my own on the knee of the jeans that I wore to work.  Dura_Chef_7_8_Action_Shot_2_LargeKneel down on a kitchen mat to get something off of a shelf and you, too, will have a greasy octagon on your pants.   That explained what they were.  But it didn’t tell me how they got there. Who in the hell would lie down on the floor in a kitchen?

I was working in a restaurant with an open kitchen.  From behind the bar I could see the boys in the kitchen and I would admire their fast hands and their furrowed brows as they made delicious magic happen on dinner plates.

I would look into the kitchen window often for a whole bunch of different reasons.  It was wise to take a peek into the window before you sent in a Sunday brunch ticket with a bazillion “Hold Food” special orders.  You were a fool to not check and see if the boys were busy before you ordered your favorite sandwich for your employee lunch (turkey club with boursin mayonnaise.) Eventually I would marry one of those boys on the line so I suppose I was frequently just trying to sneak a peek at that guy I had just met.

On a busy night in the middle of a dinner rush if you watched carefully you would see one of the most extraordinary things I have ever witnessed in a kitchen.  (Now you know if you have worked in the restaurant business that kitchens are like another planet and a lot of insane things go down back there.) But there is only one boy I have ever seen do a somersault on the line.  Perhaps more astounding than the somersault was that nobody ever looked irritated by this ridiculous display of bravery (stupidity?) in the midst of hot pans and high tempers.  And knives.

Nobody could roll with it like Skillet.  “My name is Skillet and I rooooolllll with it.” He would pop up from the floor with a fresh line of octagons down his chef coat and that smirk would spread across his face and no matter how slammed you were and no matter how much you hated every single person in your station or how outrageously hungover you were all of a sudden you were smiling.  And you were rolling with it, too.

In the last fifteen years I have seen Skillet less than a handful of times.  Some of those times were a little hazy and some of them were a lot hazy (I am looking at you, Urbanna Oyster Festival.) But each and every time I was laughing.

I might not have seen Skillet in ages… but I think of him when I take a deep breath and smile.  Sometimes the choice to remain calm and smiling in the midst of chaos is all it takes to make the people around you  just chill the fuck out.   So very many times I have thought to myself “My name is Skillet and I rooollll with it.”

There are times in your life when you must fight.  You must not back down and you must be willing to give every last shred of your being to a cause.  But sometimes, lots of times, you need to take a deep breath and roll with it.  Because it’s really not that bad.  And everyone around you is just way too serious.  And it will be over before you know it and you need to put a smile on your face and roll on.

Today I learned that that boy who so many of my old friends will remember is no longer with us.  To be honest, it hit me a little harder than I was expecting.  A lot harder.  But I am going to put a crooked smile on my face and roll with it, Skillet.

My deepest condolences to the Atwood family.

Signs

Sometimes when I run the Signs are so obvious that I can’t NOT see them. Today’s signs made so much sense I have to share them.

I have gazillions of pictures on my phone that I snap while I am running.  I see something that is such an obvious metaphor for Life.  I grab a quick pic and keep trucking.  I write a blog post in my mind while my feet hit the ground and then by the time I get back home I am at peace with my Thoughts and writing it all down seems like it is no longer necessary.   To that end much of the time you are spared these brilliant epiphanies.

But not today! It’s your lucky day!

You may or may not know that I have been jamming in direct sales for over a year.  I am not a Sales Person.  Putting yourself out there is hard and scary and you’re not supposed to say “fuck” when you’re Being Professional so it is absolutely astounding to me that I have been at it this long and am experiencing even a moderate level of success.  The last few months I have really been trying to dig deep and figure out why I am doing this, how long I will continue, where I see this business going and what my Plan really is.  In every direction I just felt like I could see a few months into the future but I really couldn’t see myself further down that path.  Or I couldn’t see the path to get to where I did see myself.

So. I am thinking about all of this and slowly running uphill and I turn. I turned down a street I have run down a bazillion times but that I never, ever go down on my way up the hill.  I always detour when I am coming down (to break up the glorious downhill because I am a masochist.)

hills

HILL BLOCKS VIEW.

Yep.  It does.  It absolutely does.  So, you gotta just Go. Go up over the hill and look.  You don’t have to go down it.  You don’t have to keep headed in that direction but you won’t ever, ever know what is on the other side of that hill if you don’t keep your feet in motion and get up over it.  There are hills in every direction that I look lately and I have been paralyzed with indecision because of them.  Not anymore.  The hills might be blocking the view but there is not a damn thing preventing me from sludging up them.

Onward and upward, friends.

Feeling pretty darn full of myself and content with the world I kept running.

flashing

STOP HERE WHEN FLASHING.

Even when I am at my most wise I max out at about twelve years old.  This sign made me laugh.  Why?  Why would you want to stop here when you’re flashing?  Why would you not want to flash elsewhere?  Or simply flash on the run (although technically then I suppose you would be streaking.)

What did I take away from this sign?  Life throws you a bone and gives you a little direction? Just do what you’re told.  Maybe it will be worth it.

So. That’s what a mile and a half of swimming and six miles of running will do to me.  Life.  All figured out.  Just like that with the help of some Signs.

 

Heart & Soul

Emily has a dance today after school.  You will have to believe me when I say she looks adorable. There are no pictures.

We were sitting at the kitchen counter finishing her hair and laughing.  “You look so cute, Em.  Messy bun was a good choice.”

And then there was the bus.  Honking.

“I can drive you to school,” I said.  I might have yelled.  In retrospect I feel like I was pleading already, as if I knew what would happen next.

“It’s okay! I can catch it, I love you!!!!” She had her backpack on her shoulder and she was out the door and down the driveway and all of a sudden I was standing on the porch with a cup of coffee I hadn’t even yet sipped and I was crying.

She’s not leaving for college. She’s going to school and then she is going to the gym to stand around and eat a heart-shaped cookie and do the Whip and Nae Nae with 87 girls and 12 boys.  She is wearing cowboy boots and a leopard print dress and black leggings and silver hoop earrings and a messy bun.  She is wearing the tiniest bit of eye shadow and a bit of lip gloss.

And I love her.  She is my Valentine.  She is the one that healed my heart so long ago. And I will stand far away from her and say “I love you, baby girl, have fun!” while the tears roll down my face so many more times.

Slow down, Time.  Slow down.

Picture shamelessly stolen from her private Instagram account.

Picture shamelessly stolen from her private Instagram account.

 

Hilarious

Let me share with you a fantastic idea.  Get yourself comfortable.  Find your groove. Rarely meet new people.  Get to a place where you almost never have that awkward “first day of school” feeling.  The next step is important.  Eat everything, everything in sight for about a month. And then…. sign up for something.  Make sure it is something that makes you a little bit nervous.  And make sure you have to take off all of your clothes as soon as you arrive.  And put on a swim cap.  Perfect.

How comfortable do you feel now? That’s how I was feeling on Monday morning.  Masters Swimming.  Day 1. Masters (if you are not familiar) is code for old people, club sport, not to be confused with the US Masters Golf Tournament. Masters Swimming is a come as you are and let’s get in the pool, competitive swim team for people over 25. All lumped together, we are the retired runner with blown out knees that has never run a day in his or her life, the former collegiate swimmer,  the triathletes that hate the swim.  And the 39-year-old former swim teacher that thinks she is a decent swimmer but has cripplingly low self-esteem and is afraid of finding out that she doesn’t actually know a damn thing about swimming.  Wait.  That was me.

So.  I was feeling like I might pee my pants.  And I didn’t have on pants.

And a beautiful thing happened.  A friendly face!  She said “Hello!” and we chatted for a second and she said, “I read a blog post of yours. I think someone forwarded it to me and said “You gotta read this, it’s hilarious.”

She didn’t pet me on the head and say “You’re so pretttyyyy…” and to be quite honest I can not understand how she failed to see what a raving beauty I am.  But I will take it. Hilarious.

swim cap

So I jumped in the pool.  And I asked questions when I didn’t understand.  And I admitted what I do not know.  And I learned something. I swam a long ass way and I felt great.

I am apparently still six years old underneath my swim cap and my forehead wrinkles.  When the coach noted that we had the same watch I took it as a sign.  He thinks I am a stellar student, obviously.  I resisted yelling out “YES!  It is a VivoActive!  Same same!!  Twins!!”

So, that’s what’s up over here.  Swim swim swim.

 

 

Crash & Burn

Heeeey.  It’s been a hot minute, huh? So much has happened.  My sweet, funny big girl turned TEN.  Lucy started preschool. MQD started a new job.   I ran a marathon.  I finally bought light fixtures for the kitchen.

And so much has stayed so very much the same.  I am still nursing and co-sleeping with Lucy.  I am falling in love with my adorable husband more every day.  I am still a mostly stay at home mom and grateful for it almost all of the time.  I am still treading water in a strange place where I am proud of my physical accomplishments and hating the body that makes them happen.

But the big Sameness… the Thing that I thought was gone and has come back and hit me in the face like a long-forgotten boomerang… Depression.  I thought for a while I was “better.”  Or maybe I thought it was seasonal. Or maybe I thought it was just Post Race Blues.  But it was still warm outside when it hit me this time.  The kids were just starting school.  MQD had just started a new job.  Life was rich and exciting and joyous and I was… numb.  Again.  And when I saw it coming like a wave and I knew that there was no chance in hell that I would be able to jump over it – well, I did the only thing I knew to do –   I held my nose and went under.  Marathon training was a nice little band-aid.  A mid-November marathon meant I had miles to run, things to do, very little time to mope.

But still the late summer wasn’t good to me.  I spoke up.  I reached out. I said it out loud. “I struggle with Depression and sometimes it drags me under.”  But I never wrote it here.  Why?  There’s no shame in my game, that’s for sure.  I just didn’t have the oomph to get it all down and play catch up.  By the time I started to feel decent enough to sit and write it seemed like “old news.”  And then I started to feel better again, normal even.  So, I was busy living.

What’s the point of all of this?  Here?  I don’t know.  I miss writing.  I miss getting it all down, the moments that slip away unless we share them.  Our minds are in a constant state of sloughing off the old memories and replacing them with new and I am afraid that if I stop writing them down that they will disappear.  But I fear even more this weird space where what I have shared here is not representative of the Time that has passed.

Because here’s the thing – Depression is terribly boring.  Mind-numbingly dull, really.  Imagine the entry I would write.  “So.  Today sucked.  Why? Mostly because of Nothing.  Everything is Fine, really, but today was super bad.  But it doesn’t matter.  Nobody is probably reading this anyway because I am so terrible and everyone hates me.”  A few of those in a row and then a Good Day just to mix things up.  “Woke up today and felt awesome.  Cleaned the entire house, mowed the grass, ran 871 miles, hugged my people and had a great dinner!  Everything is Awesome!  I did All The Things!!”

I despise this week.  The week after Thanksgiving is the worst.  Christmas season is closing in and I just want to climb into bed and stay there.  I love the holidays, I do.  But they exhaust me.  I want them to be “Perfect.”  Perfect holidays?  Ha! Are this week’s Blues a product of being overwhelmed by a To-Do list a mile long or is this the boomerang of Depression that never really leaves me but just takes temporary leave? The truth is, I am not sure.

I am tremendously sad that the marathon is behind me. It gave me a focus.  A wise friend once shouted to some runners “You can’t run from your problems!” but I beg to differ.  When your problems are just chemicals in your brain you can certainly do a decent job of waging war against them with some exercise endorphins.  A new training plan and a fitness goal for 2016 will help to keep the Sad at bay, I am sure.

I reached out to another wise friend (I am surrounded by smart, good people, another reason why being Depressed is so Stupid!) just to mention that it was an uphill battle to stay out of bed this week.  I pointed out that being a stay at home mother and a Depressive is like trying to get sober in a bar.  When all I want out of a day is to get dressed and stay out of my bed – the stay at home part of this gig is tough.  But I am going to keep on keeping on.

I miss you guys.  The last six months have been terrible and wonderful all at once.  There has been so much more wonderful than terrible and for that I am grateful.  I am going to try to write again soon. I think that my heart needs it.  But for today I just wanted to say hello.  And I wanted to remind you that if you suffer from Depression or know someone who does – the holidays are hard.  Reach out.  Get help.  You’re worth it.  And you’re not alone. 11219421_10153755947064819_9141546464765793859_n

 

Raleigh 70.3 Race Recap: Still too tired for a clever title

Where do you start a race recap that is made up of 70.3 miles and required months and months of training?  When you’re still deliriously tired you just jump in and start at 3:30 in the morning the day of… or we would all be here all day.

I woke up the day of the Raleigh Half IronMan at 1:15.  I had already had five hours of uninterrupted sleep and I was feeling pretty good.  Nervous.  But rested.  I slept a little here and there between then and 3:30 am and I hopped out of bed at 3:30 ready to go.  I drank three cups of coffee, braided my hair, tried (in vain) to get Lucy to go back to sleep, thanked Mike and Emily for their support (and for watching Care Bears with Lu in the middle of the night) and I headed out to meet my friend Tori, the only friend I have crazy enough to be doing this race (for her second time!)

The play-by-play of a thirteen hour day would bore you to tears, I fear.  Let me just make sure I give you the highlights….. did I poop before I left the hotel? Nope.  Not pleased about that.  But who wants to be a middle of the night pooper? (Unless you are a sophomore in college and you move in with your boyfriend and you pretend that you don’t really do that.  Ahem.)

There was a mile stroll to  catch the shuttle to Jordan Lake where I had left my bike the day before.  I dropped off my running gear in transition in downtown Raleigh and marveled at the number of people that were milling about in the middle of the night.  I tried to convince myself that it was actually very early in the morning but the drunk girl sleeping in the lobby of the hotel and the chain smoking,  loud talking, laughing kids still lingering in front of recently closed closed bars told a different story.

The ride out to the lake was pretty chill.  Lots of chatty, nervous athletes.  When we arrived at T1 (the transition area between the swim and the bike) Tori said “Have a good race if I don’t see you again this morning!” and that is when it dawned on me that I would largely inside my own head for the rest of the day.

The moment we got off of the shuttle bus it was confirmed that the water temperature was above 76.1 and we would not be wearing wetsuits.  The day before I had gotten in the water a bit and felt pretty good about skipping the wetsuit.  I am a confident swimmer, if not a particularly fast swimmer, so I was happy to skip out on the added complications of getting in and out of my wetsuit.

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I found my bike and was pleased to also find a bike pump to borrow in short order. Upon the recommendation of more seasoned triathletes I let the air out of my tires the day before.  Evidently sitting on hot asphalt for 24 hours can cause your tires to pop from the heat if they are inflated.  Bike was ready, water bottles were full.

Back to the portapotties.  Watched the sun come up and enjoyed the fact that whomever was choosing the pre-race music had a soft spot for Def Leppard.  Fruitless visit to the portapotty and some sweet text messages to Emily and it was time to drop off my morning bag of stuff.  Without a phone, wearing only my trisuit, goggles around my neck, swim cap stuffed in my bra I returned to the portapotty line one last time.  Had the good fortune of finding Tori again so I was able to skip out on the mindless, friendly pre-race chatter with a stranger that can take my head somewhere it doesn’t need to be.

Before I knew it the Pros were in the water and the swim waves were lining up.  Fell into a good groove with some nice women in my swim wave.  A delightfully nervous lady had me rolling with laughter before our feet were even wet.  I took my place on the far left outside of the pack (all the better not to get the shit kicked out of you, my dear) and off we went.

swimThe swim felt good.  I hit a nice, mellow stroke, breathing and sighting and doing my thing for the first third.  We turned at the first buoy and the water got a little colder and a little choppier and I let myself check my watch. I had an overall goal of finishing the race within the allotted eight hours and thirty minutes.  My pie in the sky dream was to finish in under eight hours: one hour for the swim, four on the bike, three on the run.  All of these were well within the realm of possibility barring any surprises. The first third of the swim was just under fourteen minutes so I was stoked!  Either I moved ahead and into the pack of men swimming in the wave before mine as we rounded the buoy or the younger guys that started after me were catching up but the choppy water was suddenly the least of my concerns.  I slid back out to the left hand side and stayed out of the way. In spite of the swim being my strongest sport I wasn’t trying to spend the rest of the day with a black eye.  Reading other race reports indicates that the water was giving people a hard time but I didn’t find it too awful.  As we rounded the second buoy I was at about thirty minutes and decided to try and give it another go in the middle of the pack.  I got knocked around a bit but kept trucking.

I finished the swim in the top third of my age group (and that would be the last time I enjoyed that feeling!)  With my swim time closer to 45 minutes I knew I would get out of transition and onto my bike in well under an hour so I took my time in transition.  I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and got ready to ride.  A generous slathering of sunscreen from a volunteer and I was off!

The bike course had a strange little out and back jog around Jordan Lake involving a turnaround on a tiny two line road.  Everyone slowed way down and I successfully unclipped a foot in case I needed it! That tiny bit of confidence had me smiling within the first ten minutes of the bike.  As we head out of Jordan Lake I spotted the Instagram famous Alan and I spent a few minutes thinking about how many people worked so hard to be here and how lucky I was to be among them.

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My goal time of four hours on the bike was doable if I maintained a speed of 14 miles per hour.  Not fast if you are a seasoned cyclist but not easy if you ride your brakes going downhill and planned to stop at each aid station.  My big fear of the bike involves crashing into others.  I was petrified that I would reach for a water bottle and wiggle just enough to bump into a man on a zillion dollar bike.  I would be fine and he would have a shattered collarbone because I was going slow and he was whizzing along.  I focused on staying my course, keeping to the left and listening for other cyclists.  Women shout out “On your left!” almost always but many of the fast men seem to appear out of nowhere. I did manage to get an ear for these fellows, though, by the end of the day. You can actually hear expensive wheels and their fancy whirring sound if you listen for it. Just as I was starting to think that I might actually meet my 14/mph goals (averaging 15.2 mph in the first twentyish miles) a guy road up right next to me, slapped me on the bike and said “heeeyyyy, Kelly!”   Instead of shitting my pants (thanks, Immodium!) I just said “Hello!”  My bike tech and all around super cycling support system was out for a ride to see if he could catch up with anyone he knew.  He rode with me for a few miles and I felt 800% better by the time he broke away.  Just remembering that not everyone that was good at this was likely trying to kill me was a bonus.

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I had a successful water bottle hand off at the first aid station and decided to pull over anyway  just after the aid station to pop into the portapotty and apply some Hoo-Ha Glide! I wasn’t having any issue but hadn’t used any before the swim thinking that it would all wash away anyway.  I hopped back on my bike all smiles! Shout out to the lady that said “You’re all smiles!” I replied “New Hoo-Ha Glide!” and she quickly said “Gotta love the menthol, sister!” before she took off.

Mile per hour average dropped to 14.1 including my stop but I figured I could make up some time.  The rolling hills in the middle of the course were great.  I learned a lot about my cycling skills on the ride.  I LOVE to climb! I got passed by a handful of women on the flats but within a few miles I would find that I passed them on the climbs.  My fear of riding on the road means that I do 80% of my riding on a trainer.  I guess this means I am always pushing my butt and my legs so climbing is where I am comfortable. Who knew?!

I was prepared for the last third of the ride mentally.  I knew that as we neared downtown Raleigh the roads would change and I would need to be more mindful of other riders.  I was not prepared to stop while going uphill FOR A TRAIN! I had some laughs with the group of folks that were hanging out at the train tracks.  I said “This is the Half IronMan version of a fishing story.  I would have WON my age group but we waited at those train tracks for almost an HOUR!” It was nice to have some laughs before we hit the stretch of the ride I had been fearing.

At some point on the ride I was behind a woman with Team Hope on the back of her tri shorts.  I spent a solid thirty minutes thinking about all of the things in my life that make me hopeful.  I think I got a little weepy as I thought about all of the hours that had gone into making this one day happen and all of the people that had supported me.

My average mile per hour was sitting pretty at just above 14.5 so I was stoked!  I tried to be fearless.  When there was nobody near me I leaned into a few turns, I went aero on the downhills and repeatedly said out loud “God dammit, you can do this.”  An unbelievably helpful woman that I met in a Facebook group, Mandy of Fierce & Focused Coaching, told me that I needed to find my own mantra.  Nothing had come to me until midway through the bike when I realized that I muttered that to myself every time I got scared.  I guess sometimes a personal mantra finds you, huh?

Coming into T2 (the transition area between the bike and the run)  I noticed one thing – it was hot, Africa hot.  I had a successful dismount (huzzah! I hate seeing people fall while getting unclipped at the Dismount line!) and found my rack. Got my bike racked and sat down on the curb.  I had planned to apply some Body Glide and hadn’t counted on it being liquid after a full day in the sun.  I slapped it all over me and swapped out my shoes. I paused and focused on the gratitude I had for the swim and the bike.  I had no fear of the run, checked my watch and realized I had over 3:30 hours to do my 13.1. My goal, finishing within the eight and a half hours was totally possible.   It was the first time in the day I got goosebumps.

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I went out on my run feeling good. My pace was all over the place and way too fast but I was excited.  I told myself I would give it one mile to level out and then if I didn’t slow down naturally I would walk for a minute and get a game plan together in my head.  As I slowed to walk after my first mile I realized that in about 200 yards I would see my family.  MQD and the kids were at a hotel on the run course and I would be able to see them three times on the run course as it was an out and back, assuming that they met me at the finish line.  (Out and back – we ran down the street and then back again along the same street in a loop and did this twice.)

I always sweat like crazy when I slow down.  I started to walk and looked at my watch.  Goosebumps.  Not excited, holy shit, I might actually finish this thing goosebumps, but I am freezing and nauseous goosebumps. I watched my pace getting slower and I never started sweating.  I was cold.  And possibly dehydrated.  And definitely starting to cry.  I had to pull my shit together.  I had to be running when I saw my family.  There was an aid station in front of our hotel.  I could get cold water and see my kids.  I was just excited and nervous, I told myself.  I got hugs from the girls, big smiles and a thumbs up from my dad and a “You look hot!!!” from MQD.  I tried to run out as I left the first aid station, I had to.  The kids were watching.

I think I made it less than a quarter of a mile.  Hills were coming up fast and I already had told myself I would walk uphill.  I wasn’t tired, my legs felt good.  But I felt bad, super bad.  And weird.  And…. tears.

In front of me was a woman about my size, she was in my Age Group or so said the back of her calf.  I told myself I would just not lose sight of her.  I passed her and she passed me for a couple of miles.  Eventually after the first turn I settled into a decent pace on the long downhill and I just kept my eyes on her back.  At some point I caught up to her and said (because the mid-race crazies had taken hold of me) “Not to sound like a total creep but…I think I could pick your ass out of a line up with my eyes closed at this point.  I have been trying to catch you for the last three miles.”

Instead of giving me the “Get away from me” eyes, she laughed.  You guys know that laughing just encourages my bad behavior. I don’t know that we ever decided to finish the next ten miles together.  It just happened.  One of us would start to feel good and say “We run to the next three stop lights and we walk through the aid station?” and off we would go. We talked triathlon and kids and labor and laughed and drank Gatorade and squeezed ice water on ourselves for the next two hours. She’d missed setting a new PR and decided not to kill herself.  I was feeling dangerously dehydrated and just avoiding getting spotted by a medic so we made a good pair.

As we closed in on the tenth mile we realized we had an hour to finish the last 3.1.  On the last pass by the hotel I noted that Lucy was passed out in MQD’s arms (and later in a flower bed) and hollered to them to stay at the hotel and not come down to the finish line.  I love that I had been able to see so much of them during the race and that they’d not had to hang out on the sidewalk all day.

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As much as I wanted to get to the finish line – I also felt like a summer romance was coming to a close.  This delightful human being that the Universe delivered was going to disappear at the finish line.  Angie, I am glad I could find you on the Facebooks! We laughed as we talked about how one of us had to drop back and one of us had to hurry up so that we could get our own finisher’s pics. I told her to Go, go, go!

We started picking up speed as we made the turn towards the finisher’s chute.  I fell about twenty paces behind her and figured I would just run in behind her.  I had been fighting a gross feeling for almost three hours, what’s another hundred yards?  And then I felt the urp feeling.

And then it was like the scene in Stand By Me only instead of a pie eating contest it was Gatorade and I was the only one competing.  With one hand on my knee and one hand on a planter I let it rip.  “Oh shit” gag, “oh shit.” I wiped my mouth and looked apologetically at a woman with two school aged kids “Oh man, sorry about the swearing… and well, the puking.”

“You’re almost there!” she said!  I knew that.  But I couldn’t stop hurling and I really wanted good race pics.  I hadn’t lost all vanity in the preceding eight hours. I leaned into the puking and gave it everything I had. More than seventy miles of Gatorade and ice water came pouring out of me.  A fantastic woman stopped next to me and said “better out than in and better now that at the finish line.”  I smiled.  She got me.  “Do you want some salt?” she asked.

Licking crushed salt tabs from a stranger’s hand is not the weirdest thing I have ever done.  I don’t think.  But it certainly ranks up there.  I felt better instantly.

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Eyes on the prize.  And before I knew it, it was over.

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Finished in 8:01:27. Between the puking and the train, I am calling it a win.   A medal and a hat and some pictures and some more smiling and some water and a Gatorade.  I went down to pick up my morning bag and get my cell phone. I called MQD when I got to my bike.  “I knew you could do it,” he said. “Stay where you are, I will send a Raleigh Rickshaw to get you.”

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And the tears started and they wouldn’t stop. “I can’t just stand here, I can’t.  I will just walk back now.  I need to be where you are… I did it.  Fuck.  I did it….”

And I piled up three big plastic bags on my handlebars and I walked another mile.  What’s one more in the greater scheme of things?

I am still riding high.  I still can’t bend my fingers on my right hand all the way. Dehydration?  Pinched nerve?  It’s better today than yesterday.  The rest of me feels great.   After what felt like a three hour labor, I finally pooped.  My 70.3 sticker is on my car.  My eyes still well up when I try and talk about Sunday.  I have all of my toenails. I have a new necklace that says Tri and an Ironman backpack. I am tired. And starving. And so very, very proud of myself.

What did I learn from this experience? More than I can adequately sum up just yet.  But I can share with you two things today.  One – make friends with the person that crosses the finish line before you.  This way when you throw up they will tag you in their finishing chute picture because you can be seen emptying your stomach on the sidewalk in the background.  Really, thank you.  Words can not express how happy I am to have this picture. It kills me.

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Two.  If there is an option to check an occupation in a race registration – pick something hilarious.  If you skip to about 5:46 in this video you can see me cross the finish line and hear the announcer say “Kelly Doherty, a homemaker.”  WTF?  I have never said that in my life and it cracks me up.  I wish I had picked Astronaut.  Or Fortune Teller.  Ahh, next time.

This won’t be the last you hear about Sunday.  It was a big day for me emotionally.  We don’t do things that scare the shit out of us often enough as adults.  And this was terrifying.  And awesome.

Set goals.  Big, crazy impossible goals.  And go get ’em.  Really.  You’ll be glad that you did.

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