Tuesday, August 28, 2012

King of Pain

Recently, I went to see my massage terrorist, Ron.  I’d scheduled my appointment a few weeks prior figuring that I’d need a tune up after the half-marathon that I ran at the beginning of August, which was, incidentally, only three weeks after Racine 70.3. (Yes, I’m still working on that race report!)  Thankfully, my legs were feeling pretty good after my last tune-up just a week before the marathon.

I’d been having some on again, off again pain on the left side of my back near the bottom of my shoulder blade.  It’s been going on for several months, but it’s gotten worse since my fall in Ohio.  I know, I know.  I need to get that race report done!  Long story short – Joe and I were cycling in Ohio and I lost my balance while stopped at a stop sign and fell, still clipped onto my bike.  I had a few cuts and bruises; my biggest injury was a gouge in my hand from landing on a sharp rock.  Or, so I thought.

I attributed the back/shoulder pain to swimming.  I cut back on my swimming to no avail.  I stretched and stretched some more.  Nada.  I was more focused on rehabbing my legs than my shoulders and back so I didn’t mention it to Ron before the race.  Besides, being an athlete, I’m used to little nagging aches and pains.

The half-marathon was great.  I was a bit leery of doing it for several reasons.  Number one reason being why would anyone want to run a half-marathon in the Georgia August heat?  Number two – Joe was TDY and the kids would be by themselves for several hours on a Saturday morning.  Big whoop for them – can you say television?  They could have cared less if I was home or not, but I’m not a big fan of them sitting in front of the television for hours on end watching the likes of Jessie, Pok√©mon and Phineas and Ferb!  Aha, though!  One of the Girl Scout leaders was running a water station at the race and offered to have the kids help man it.  Perfect – the kids will love me!  I softened the blow by offering to buy them donuts at the local “specialty” donut shop if they were good.

My cheering squad!
Reason number three was only a minor one since this was to be a “C” race for me, meaning I was just going out and running it like a training run.  “A” races are, you guessed it, the important ones.  Despite it being a “C” race, I was running it in memory of Joe’s teammate’s wife, Sandra, who had just passed away earlier that week.  This race was touted as a “partial trail run”.  I had never done a trail run.  I am very leery of running on uneven terrain since I sprained my ankle pretty badly several years ago.  Since it was a “C” race, I figured I could take it slow.  I wasn’t going to win anyway.

The race went well.  The kids were well behaved and cheered like mad when they saw me.  I had to take water from all three of the kids and begged off from several more kids who knew me.  The heat wasn’t bad since the race started at seven and over half of the course was shaded.  The trail part wasn’t bad at all and we even had a canine escort for a couple of miles when a sweet, but unruly black lab left her campsite as we passed, eager to join in the human fun.  I ended up getting a cramp in my leg about a mile out from the finish, but I pushed through and ended up getting third for my age group – my first ever running trophy.  Yay, me!  As promised, the kids got donuts.  Overall, it was a win-win for everyone.

This is NOT what my massages feel like.
So there I was two weeks later – curled up in a fetal position while Ron worked over my ribs and back like a semi-truck rolling over cookie dough.  He pushed, prodded, stretched and who knows what else.  He said he thought that I pulled my inter-costal muscles.

This is what they feel like!
Ladies, you know that point in your labor when you start shaking because the pain is so intense?  Yeah, that’s what I felt like.  I could barely breathe, much less talk to ask Ron to stop.  Whatever he was doing, it made even my chest hurt.  And to think that I thought it hurt when he worked on my hip.  Ha!  Silly me.  Like the song “Dynamite” – it went on and on and on…

Most of you are asking yourselves, “Why in the heck does she put herself through this kind of pain and suffering?”  Well, it’s obvious isn’t it?  So I can run further and with less pain.  Seriously.  Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Within a couple of days, everywhere but that one stubborn spot was back to status quo.  I don’t have any more races scheduled for a while so I guess I really need to address this.  Ron’s a great guy and really knows his stuff, but I’m just don’t think I’m ready for another session with the King of Pain.

My first running trophy and in a "C" race at that!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Out of My Comfort Zone

Out of My Comfort Zone

Twice this week, I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone.   One happened at home.  One happened out on a ride.  One was a matter of life.  One was a matter of death.  Both involved animals.

I am a huge animal lover.  I love most animals, but I’m not a big fan of gerbils, mice and rats and I am afraid of birds.  Don’t ask why; I have no idea.  One of my grandmothers was also afraid of birds.  The other one was the entire opposite; she had a huge Audubon Society Book of Birds and everything!  I do, however, think birds are beautiful creatures and love observing them in the wild and at a distance.  Rats and gerbils, and mice?  Not so much.  My mom had a pet rat named Peppy growing up and she loved that rat.  Eww.

Last week we had been having a lot of rain so our pool was very full.  I was sitting at the kitchen table and happened to glance out and saw something moving in the water.  “Crap!”  I thought,  “A bird is in the pool.”  I watched it for a second, thinking that a little birdie was taking a birdie bath in my nice big pool.  Nope.  It didn’t move like a bird.  Double crap.  “It’s a mouse.”  Okay.  I had two choices.  I could let the little mousie swim until it drowned itself or try to fish it out.  The problem with trying to fish it out – the net of our skimmer was half gone.

“Alrighty”, I thought, “The cousins are arriving today and all the kids will want to swim.”  I couldn’t bear the thought of dead mouse germs being in the pool with these children that I hold so dear.  I was trying not to think about the fact that the darn thing had probably pooped and peed in my pool the moment it fell in.

I steeled myself and marched outside to face the enemy.  As I rounded the pool to get a closer look at him, I noticed one of his wild animal brethren in the pool as well.  A little frog was happily swimming along in the shallow end of the pool by the steps.  He was not nearly as intimidating as the not mouse, but RAT swimming along in the deep end! 

The frog was much easier to catch and remove from the pool area.  It only took me a couple of tries with the “ratty” skimmer that I had.  The rat, was much more wily.  It took me many more attempts to get the rat onto the portion of the net that was still attached to the skimmer and then keep him there long enough for me to fling him out of the pool.  The dumb, or should I say smart nasty rodent would jump off of the net every time I brought it up underneath him back into the pool where he would sink a few feet before rising and recommencing his paddling.  Each time he sank I would hope that he wouldn’t bob to the surface.  Alas, each time he would, beady little eyes shining and whiskers twitching.

Finally, I managed to corner the critter and, after several more attempts, flung him once and for all out of the pool.  He lay on the rocks for a few moments and then trundled off under the fence.  Good riddance, I thought.  Perhaps he’s become a nice feast for one of the gorgeous red-tailed hawks that frequently watch me running by from the telephone wires near our house.

A couple of days ago, I went out cycling to do hill repeats.  I was initially planning to go with a couple friends, but they both had to back out, so I went solo.  It was a quiet time of the morning so I figured I wouldn’t see too many cars and was hoping to not see too many dogs.  As I was cruising along, I happened to glance into the tall grass by the side of the road.  I could see something lying in the grass.  As I got closer, I could see the fresh blood stain on the asphalt.  The shape was a dog and, unfortunately it was dead.  My heart sank, especially when I saw that he had on a bright orange collar. 

Confession time: as odd as this sounds, I am afraid of dead animals.  I think it stems from watching too many horror movies as a kid.  Logically, I know that they can’t “spring back to life”, but that doesn’t make any difference to me.  When are our fears really logical? 

I kept riding, but my thoughts kept returning to that poor pup.  He’d had a collar so he must have been someone’s pet.  Maybe he really wasn’t dead, only stunned and would have wandered back towards home by the time I got back.  Maybe his owners would have already found him.  But then again, what if they hadn’t?  What if he was far from home?  Would his owners ever find him?  What if the family had kids?  How would they ever know what happened to their boy?  Or, what if they lived in one of the houses close by and came upon him after several days in the hot August heat?  I knew I should go back and at least see if his collar had an ID tag.  But I really don’t like dead animals...

Again, I steeled myself.  As I turned around to head back from my first hill repeat, I looked for the dog.  I didn’t see him, but then, I wasn’t paying close attention as to where it was the first time.  On the way back out though, I looked more closely.  Sadly, there was his little body just past the four-way stop.  I guess I missed it being on the other side of the road.  I remembered that I had some surgical gloves in my repair kit.  I stopped just beyond him, donned a glove, and walked slowly towards the grass where he lay. 

He was a cute little guy, about thirty-to-forty pounds with markings like a German shepherd.  He had floppy ears and looked well cared for.  I turned the collar on his neck and my heart sank even further as I saw the brass ID tag.  It still had a drop of fresh blood on it.  If only I’d been a few minutes sooner.  Perhaps I could have done something for him. 

There was one thing that I still could do.  I called his owner and left a message.  I hated to leave that message, but I had to let his owner know.  I would have wanted someone to do the same if it had been Sneakers or any of my furry babies.

I continued on my ride, slower than before and with a heavy heart, thinking about animal lovers versus the non-animal lovers.  I saved that stupid rat’s life; I would have felt horrible if I’d let it die knowing that I could have saved it.  Some motorist hit a dog that was obviously someone’s pet and left it to die.  Joe tried to rationalize it for me – maybe the person didn’t know they’d hit the dog, maybe they didn’t have time to react, etc.  It was the middle of a sunny morning and the sun was in the other direction.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t wrap my head around that.  

No one likes to go out of his or her own comfort zone, but to truly grow as a person, I think we need to from time to time.  Life is about choices and about change.  We’ve got to roll with the punches, regardless of what life throws at us.  I know by doing so, it helps me be a better mom, a better person, and a better athlete.  I guess I just wish more people felt the same way.

Friday, August 3, 2012

R.I.P., Sandra

This past February, I posted about the wife of one of Joe's Endurance Nation's teammates on my Caring Bridge site.  She had a rare liver tumor called Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma (EHE).  The only cure  was a liver transplant.  Sandra battled hard for over six months, but today her husband, Matt, made the agonizing decision to withdraw life support.  Sandra passed away peacefully and without pain this afternoon.  She had rallied hard and Matt was a champion, fighting tooth and nail to get her the best medical care and answers that he could.  Unfortunately, her heart, liver, kidneys and the rest of her body just couldn't bounce back from all the damage and infections it endured during the past six months.  

I only met Sandra once at Ironman Louisville last year, but she impressed me with her kindness.  Sandra had a wide warm smile.  She was an award-winning photographer.  You can see some of her work on her Caring Bridge site:

When Joe raced IM LOU, my hair was just starting to grow back and I had just started the reconstruction process.  I was still going through treatments and my arm was still swelling pretty badly.  Sandra snapped a picture of Joe stopping to give me a kiss during the run.  I cried when she showed it to me.  A little less than a year before, I had gotten my diagnosis of breast cancer.  We had been through a lot; to get to that point was precious to us both.

My heart aches for Matt and Sandra's family, but particularly for Matt.  I can't imagine having to make the choice he did.  It was so apparent that he loved Sandra with all his heart and soul.  I would hope that, put in a similar situation, I could be as strong, level-headed and steadfast as Matt was.

To honor Sandra's memory or that of someone you loved, please consider becoming an organ donor.  There are living and non-living donations.  You can choose what you donate and what you don't.  Remember, even by donating a pint of blood, you are helping give someone else the precious gift of life.

Here are some links to check out: