Luke’s visit, part 5

I don’t understand why he did the things he did. I don’t like to think about it, much less write about it. It makes me feel incredibly sad to tell you all of these things.

We didn’t travel much as kids. The only place we ever went to was the family cabin up north. I can’t even remember one family meal at a restaurant. Matt’s violent and disruptive behaviors made it nearly impossible to be welcomed anywhere.

I didn’t like the weeds in the water at the lake. Oftentimes, we would walk to our neighbor’s cabin nearby to swim. They raked by their dock giving them a sandy beach. They knew my parents and were okay with it, although I never remembered asking and they always glared at us.

There was that one time that my brothers and I thought it would be a great idea to throw the neighbor’s decorative rocks off the end of their dock. They were so angry. We were too little to get them out of the water at the end of the dock, the water was over our heads. My mom didn’t swim.

After that unfortunate incident when my brother almost drowned, we were always watched more closely in the water. It was my dad’s idea for my mom to put me in charge as a 6 year old of my 3 younger brothers in the water. They thought I would holler if something went wrong, but instead I froze when Luke went under.

After that, my mom would sit on the neighbor’s dock in her lawn chair to watch us swim. Sometimes if my mom wasn’t able to be there, she would send my dad. He was never really happy about that.

We didn’t have fun playing in the water with dad. He would grab our ankles while we swam under water and yank us back making us choke, sputter, and gasp water. It was all a game, like tag, you see. He seemed to think it was fun.

He thought it was terribly humorous that I was afraid of weeds. He grabbed my little body and planted my feet far away from the sand into the weeds. The few minutes he forced me to stand there seemed like hours. I was so terrified feeling the slimy weeds and what I imagined slithered underneath. Even to this day, I rarely like my feet to be uncovered.

I cried in terror and when he finally let go, I ran as fast as I could through the weeds to shore. All the while, he called me names and threw mucky weeds, a dead fish, and sticks at me. Then he swam back to our cabin through the weeds. He said that I was such a baby for being afraid.

But I still loved the water. I wanted to learn how to swim really good. My mom gave us basic swim lessons so we didn’t drown but said I couldn’t take the advanced class because they had doctor bills to pay for Matt.

Last summer I swam across the lake up north. I swam right through the weeds even though I was scared. I even competed in a Half Ironman. But I always remained a beginner swimmer.

My brother Luke’s daughters are really good swimmers and are on the swim team. My oldest niece, who is just 10, competed in her first triathlon this year. Luke set up a mock triathlon course for his girls up north. At least I am glad that he is the father that our dad never was. They have been given so many opportunities. They don’t have to grow up being afraid.

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #12

Fearless courage is the foundation of victory.

I have a lot of fears.

It would probably be easier making a list of things I am not afraid of.

Ironically, I am not afraid of confronting my fears.

But I think that has more to do with my fear of letting fear control me.

Does that make me courageous?

There was a time when driving on the highway would fill me with extreme anxiety. I was fine one minute, then the next I was filled with panic. The tunnel vision would start. Blackness slowly enveloped me until I couldn’t see the cars around me. I started sweating profusely. I had to open the car windows even if it was in the dead of winter. The noise from the radio became really loud. I needed silence. I had to slow down. I had to get off the highway or I was going to die. I muttered frightened prayers. I had to keep breathing..

For years, I dealt with this…the panic attacks out of the blue while driving. For a long time, I could only drive from one entrance ramp to the next exit. I felt like a complete failure every time I had to get off the highway as my body shook and trembled uncontrollably with fear.

I kept at it though. It was a very long process of celebrating small victories. At first, it was driving on the highway and making it past two exits. I’m not sure how the fear started in the first place. I was never in an accident. I think it had to do more with feeling tired. I suffered a bit from highway hypnosis. I was afraid that I would fall asleep and kill someone. I had fallen asleep while driving before. Coffee only made things worse. Instead of being awake and focused, it made me jittery and nervous.

I am the type of person that has a hard time sitting down and not being preoccupied without falling asleep. I can fall asleep during the best movies, but sometimes have trouble staying asleep at night. Why??

When I started feeling groggy while driving, I would go into hyper alert mode and start feeling anxiety. After awhile I paired driving with anxiety and boy was that hard to break. I pretty much conquered that fear now. But I am still afraid of long distance highway driving. I’m afraid that it wouldn’t take much to unravel everything I did.

How can I follow my dreams of traveling the world if I am terrified by almost every mode of travel?? I had to keep doing it even if I was afraid. I have to keep driving. I have to keep flying. Nothing conquers the fear of flying more than booking a flight half way around the world. Trust me! I was terrified more about the prospect of a 20 hour flight than I actually was doing it. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be.

Last summer I was utterly terrified to complete my first Half Iron. It seemed insurmountable as I watched the huge waves pound the shore. My legs felt like rubber on the bike. But after I finished, I felt unbelievably victorious. It was such an accomplishment for me.

This summer I signed up for my first trail marathon through the bluffs. I will be sleeping the weekend of the race in a tent. I have no doubt that this is going to be very challenging. Running a marathon over hilly terrain after a sleepless night in a tent will not be a piece of cake. I am afraid.

I will be doing this for my birthday. Why I can’t just get drunk and feel like crap the normal Wisconsin way is beyond me…

I know that if I can do this, it will take the cake as the best birthday ever!

I have a lot of fears, but I am willing to fight them.

If fearless courage is the foundation of victory…I don’t think you can have courage without being afraid of something first. The trick is not letting fear win.

 

Spring in my steps

I can’t believe that it will be May tomorrow.

We will be moving in one month. My cousin decided that she didn’t want to buy our house. Now we are working on the little repairs to get it ready to put on the market.

I have been very busy. I’m not sure how much time I will have to blog over the next couple of weeks. So not to worry if my patterns seem to change a little.

The snow has finally melted! Spring has finally arrived. I am hoping to run outside from here on out. I haven’t been able to get in a long run at all lately. The weekends have been busy with kid stuff and I can’t take off of work to do a long run during the week. I’ve been feeling so sluggish and slow when I do get the chance to run just short distances lately (5 or 6 miles).

I’m running my first trail marathon in two and a half months. I haven’t been out on the trails yet. I am hoping that they will be open within the next week or so. I’ve only been able to run outside 5 or 6 times this year. Wisconsin is a harsh climate for exercising. That and all the beer we drink and cheese we eat, it’s no wonder why we lead the nation in obesity.

I have a 4 month window for running outside in ideal conditions, with about 5 months where it is nearly impossible to run outside at all. Not to mention that a lot of people suffer from seasonal depression. I try to curb it by taking copious amounts of Vitamin D. It’s hard to stay active here without a gym membership and even harder to keep motivated to run to the gym.

The window for swimming is probably closer to 2 months. I’m thinking that we still have some patchy ice out on the lakes. I don’t think I feel comfortable doing a full Ironman without several months of swimming in open water. Swimming indoors and even outdoors did not come close to preparing me for the massive waves during the Half Ironman.

So, with marathon training, moving, and fixing up our house plus working and everything else going on…my time is going to be very limited over the next couple of weeks.

I’m planning on starting a new series though…I have a huge collection of fortune cookie wisdom to share and recycle before we move.

 

What lies behind closed doors

What lies behind the door for us? Do we ever truly know? I thought about these things while going with my son today on his first college tour.

I think that as we near the completion of high school, we are faced with a lot of choices…paths…doors perhaps..Some of the doors seem obvious to open..They might have our name written all over it. Other doors are there, but we think some of those doors are locked because we have been told that they are so we never try to open them.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the best college level vocalists in our state. A few were so talented they almost brought ME to tears. As I was watching my daughter and other singers perform, I could no longer tell what the judges of the competition were looking for. I couldn’t find any fault with the performers…maybe a few little mistakes were made that I noticed from some of the freshman.

At college level, they are so far beyond the middle school and high school solo and ensemble level. In high school, and middle school especially, I could hear every missed beat and note that was slightly off. Back in those days, my daughter asked me for singing advice. I have had no professional singing training, just raw talent. Now I ask my daughter for singing advice. I can no longer tell when she makes a mistake. It was like listening to a language that I no longer recognize as my own.

Then I realized with regret that the singing path door was always there for me to choose. I was just told that the door was locked, so I never tried opening it.

When I was a child, I always loved water. I begged to take swimming lessons beyond the few months of basic lessons. But I got piano lessons instead and hated it because I didn’t have a passion for it. This year I competed in my first Half Ironman. I really struggled with the swimming because of my basic skill level. It was frustrating for me to try hard but not be able to compete against someone who has been swimming 30 years longer than I have at a proficient or experienced level.

Maybe if I was allowed to take lessons when I was young…I have this strong desire to be the first person to cross the finish line. I wanted to be the person that qualified for the Boston marathon on my first marathon. I long for it, but it will never be. I wish I was satisfied being the small percentage of the population that completed a marathon. I have to fight against the urge to berate myself for not being that great. Perhaps I opened the door too late.

Some doors are there all along, but we never open them. Some doors remain hidden in plain sight. Some doors we open and squeeze into before they are locked. Some doors simply no matter how hard we try to open them will remain locked.

Then there was a beautiful ornate door that once was hidden behind the roses and thorns. It was the writing door. I should have seen it all along…there were many years of scribbles in journals. There was a book written in grade school about a house full of troubled girls that were saved, torn up and thrown away.. There was this girl that wanted to share the story of her life..

That door has been opened and can no longer be kept shut.

 

Out running

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Change is inevitable. It happens each season. This week a cold wind came into Wisconsin and blew the warm falls days and sunshine away. Sadly, I started going to the gym and running on the dreadmill again. I really can’t complain. It has been a warm fall with hotter temperatures than this summer.

Usually we get our first few flurries by this time of year. It makes me remember my grandma. For the first little snowfall she would write the word flurries or put a F on her empty calendar like it was a huge event. I have a F on my calendar too. It reminds me when I need to give my pets their flea medicine. Seriously, what did you think it stands for??

The last time I ran outdoors, I took a few photos to show you how beautiful my running route is. It was probably a good time for a change anyway. People were getting to know my routine which can be a little disconcerting. It was always the same cars that almost hit me. People were starting to actually honk when I wore my ‘honk if you’re going to hit me’ shirt.

I had a great season with huge goals…My first 18 mile trail run weekend, my first Olympic triathlon, and my first Half Ironman. Plus I ran another marathon. I am thinking of cutting back though. I’m not going to decide for sure until January.

Three out of four races, I had to travel far enough from home to need a hotel room. Plus adding in all of the gear and race fees, it can be a pricey hobby. I will probably still race, but will cut back on the amount of races and the longer distances. I also might want to try other things like doing a Tough Mudder. Plus next summer, the local theater is planning on doing the show Cabaret which is heavy on dancing.

Running has a special place in my heart. I spoke to my trainer at the gym this week. I told him that my races went well but I was thinking of cutting back. I told him that I want to run for the long run. Running gives me time to process my life in a healthy way. I don’t want to over train, hate it, or get hurt. I want to enjoy this hobby as long as possible. Plus I want to do other things I enjoy like dancing, cross country skiing, or kickboxing without being locked in an always training box.

I just love to run. Who knows? I might be able to get outside a few more times this year before it snows. Wisconsin is a very beautiful place to run.

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Outrunning my fear of biking..

This past weekend I participated in a 20 mile bike ride to help raise money for our church. I was the only person that signed up for 20 miles this year.

The lady that rode with me last year ended up having knee surgery, lost her mother, and had her husband leave her for another woman all in the last couple of months. It really wasn’t a good year for her so I can’t really complain about a little fear of biking.

I realize that I haven’t spoken about running or racing at all since I competed in the Half Iron a couple of months back. Completing the Half Ironman was one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. I wish I could capture that feeling and put it in a bottle. Its scent is more enchanting than the world’s sweetest perfume.

After the Half Iron, I took 3 weeks off from exercising. I typically take 1 week off after a large race to re-cooperate. Then we went for our week 20th anniversary sailing trip, so we were on vacation..Between these two events, it was one of the best summers ever!

Anyway, that first run was difficult. It always is. I don’t get too hard on myself if I need to walk a little that first time out after a grueling race.

However, I noticed now that I feel very anxious on my bike. I feel kind of embarrassed about it. I think part of it is feeling a lack of control over the clip on shoes. My right foot has been hard to unclip and I feel nervous since I fell. I sprayed my pedals with Pam before I left home.

The main roads were very busy on the bike ride. I was afraid that I was going to fall in the church parking lot and make a fool of myself in front of all the people. I had to maneuver around a lot of cars and a tractor on the road. Yes, a tractor! It was challenging.

After about 10 miles, I started to relax once I got on the back roads. I stopped a couple minutes to re-hydrate. A couple passing in a car stopped to ask if I was okay. There are still some good people left in the world..

As I was biking past tall reeds and weeds, I heard a loud crashing noise. I scared two deer out of their hiding place in the tall grass and boy did they scare me!

I hesitate to ride my bike in the center of the lane because of cars. I hesitate to hug the ditch because of animals. I almost hit a skunk last year on my bike. I scared up deer, many rodents, and wild turkeys. Sometimes animals that are afraid are unpredictable. At first, the wild turkeys came towards me as I was riding by them.

The busier road I took on this ride was under construction. There were bump signs and I had to dismount my bike. I also walked it through a busy intersection. It took awhile to get back on my bike because there were so many cars. There was a semi that passed me up a hill in a no passing zone which always scares the crap out of me. I’ve had a few close calls with cars as you can imagine if you are an outdoor runner or biker.

Sometimes I also feel lightheaded. That scares me. Seriously, what doesn’t??!

As I was pulling up to a stop sign near the bike ride rest stop, I was able to unclip my shoes but I couldn’t reach ground. I hit the brakes and almost flew off my bike. I tried to put my feet on the pedals, but they slipped off. I almost fell. Great way to make an entrance to the snack and hydration area! Look at me! The only biker that went 20 miles and crashed into the snack table! Well, it wasn’t that bad but I had them lower my bike seat so I could touch the ground easier. I think that is going to help me a lot!

Last year was the first time I biked 20 miles…since then I did an Olympic tri that was all hills and completed the Half Iron.

I hate to say this but I don’t think I enjoy biking as much now as I did when I was a kid. But I did accomplish much over this past year and think I can conquer this newfound fear.

I am still not sure what is on my racing menu for next season…but I am still biking and out running!!

What’s next?

Someone asked my mother the other day what I was planning to do next…

If your daughter is doing a Half Iron, what will she do next? Skydive??

I admit, I did have very lofty goals for this racing season..

I started off in April with an 18 mile trail running weekend.

In May, I did my third marathon.

In June, I completed my first Olympic triathlon.

This July, I completed my first Half Ironman.

A majority of the events I did for the first time.

What’s next??

I think I am done running marathons. I think this is my last Half Iron.

I think I’ve taken it as far as I want to go.

I realize that I say this every time after a big race. I am never going to do _____ again. I think I mean it this time.

I am taking a break to reflect on what I want to do next.

I am not planning on quitting and will still race next season.

I feel that in order to go to the next level, I am going to have to train day and night.

I feel very satisfied that I achieved my goals for this season.

I wish I could take the feeling of accomplishment and bottle it for the times I am discouraged.

I also feel a great sense of freedom. If I can do that, what can stop me?

My mom said that I am finally starting to bloom (in my 40’s) since I could never spread my wings in childhood. I am finding myself.

The truth is that there are so many more things I want to do and try…Maybe I will learn another sport. I want to be free from training to be able to do more. Maybe I will try out for another musical.

But frankly right now I just want to sit on the beach, not swim across the lake and back as fast as I possibly can.

Racing will be in my future…but there are so many things I want to do…there are so many worlds I want to see.

Today I booked a flight to Asia.

Time to work on my other bucket lists..

I am excited to see what’s next..

My first Half Ironman

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I finished my first Half Ironman and ordered my 70.3 bumper sticker..I really wasn’t sure I would make it.

When I woke up the morning of the race, the water looked a little like this:

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Well, not exactly…the race was held at this park, however I took this picture in November. In this picture, there was a strong west wind. During the race, there was a strong north wind which meant that the waves would start pounding us at the end of the pier. Then if we could make it past the pier, we had to swim against the waves to the first buoy. If we could make it to the first buoy, we could let the waves rock us back to shore.

Due to a small craft warning, upon arrival I received the news that the swim would be shortened due to treacherous conditions. The swim went from 1.2 miles to 0.25 miles. I cried tears of joy and cancelled the mental list of loved ones whom I would give all of my running medals my prized earthly possessions to. Nevertheless, even with the shortened swim, about 5% of competitors got pulled.

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Here is my wave waiting in the calmer waters on the left of the pier. I tried not to watch the waves before us getting hit by huge wave surges after the pier. Lifeguards on jet skis were pulling people out of the water. I think the lady next to me was about ready to have a panic attack. She was muttering anxiously to herself. I felt like we were cattle waiting for the slaughter house truck.

The horn sounded. We swam together in a clump towards the end of the pier. People kicked and clawed their way through only to be hit by a huge wave surge at the end of the pier. There was a collective roller coaster ride scream as we were hit by a giant wave. I gulped down several mouthfuls of water and choked.

My husband’s words right before the race became my mantra…water is my friend…I love water..

I reached out to the lifeguard in the water that had a flotation device. She said calming words. I stayed until I stopped choking. The lady next to me had a full blown panic attack and had to be pulled out of the water.

I felt like I was in a wave pool except I couldn’t quite see where I was and I couldn’t touch the ground.

Thankfully I made it past the first race buoy and let the 4 foot waves push me back to shore. It was rather nauseating being raised to great heights then dropped.

SWIM!

I was so happy to make it through the swim alive.

I was still shaking as I was riding my bike 15 miles later. I could’ve drowned kept splashing through my mind. I was finally able to calm down a little but still felt shaken. I decided to make one stop halfway through the bike route to hydrate. I didn’t feel like I could keep my balance if I grabbed water while biking.

The bike route was very scenic and pleasant despite the rolling hills at the end. We went through small towns along the bay of Lake Michigan. I saw deer in fields and sailboats in marinas.

It wasn’t until the last 10 miles that things got to be grueling. The end of the route was uphill against the strong north winds. I tried to say comforting words as I saw a My Team Triumph team struggle up a big hill. I felt like quitting then.

Plus I never biked over 45 miles before. There’s that.

I passed the last water stop, regretfully not stopping. With a few miles left, I got a bad side cramp and my knee started to hurt. I felt a little lightheaded, but kept going.

How was I going to run 13.1 miles? Maybe I should stop, but I pressed on.

Near the end, I prematurely unclipped my bike shoes. I was told to keep going until I was ready to pass the race mat. I accidentally clipped my shoe back in when I was supposed to dismount and almost fell.

Thankfully, somehow, I managed to avoid drowning and a bike crash all in one day.

The first few miles of the run I focused on hydrating myself. Thankfully the cramps were gone, but I started feeling a little sick… I found myself having to run several times to the bathroom. That really motivated me to get running! I didn’t take any Gu because I felt like I was going to throw up. I spent the rest of the run doing a walk/run combo.

There was an area of the race where there were runners on both sides of the road running in opposite directions. The road wasn’t closed to traffic, so it was very busy. Most of the motorists honked, waved, or cheered out the windows to racers.

Every single volunteer was eager to please with a smile on their face. No one looked bored or like they were waiting for it to be over so they could go home. They asked if I was okay and if I needed something every single time. Did they recruit Walmart greeters??

This was the best run race I have ever been in.

As I was reaching the end, my friend Cori was waiting for me. She hugged and kissed me through her falling tears. Then she told me how proud of me she was and how much she loved me.

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I didn’t know how emotional this race could be. I found my friends, my husband, and myself in tears unexpectedly. People who rarely cried were struck with emotion. I felt like it was one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. I overcame my obstacles. I struggled and prevailed.

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I crossed the finish line!

Just one more day….

It’s been a rough week for me. I have been struggling with insomnia. My mind has been tormented with fits of anger, deep lows, and crippling anxiety. I found myself making mistakes at work although known for my accuracy. I feel sick to my stomach with nervousness. 

Tomorrow is the Half Ironman. 

I have been having nightmares more nights than not when I do sleep. I dreamt  that my legs weren’t working to peddle my bike. I dreamt that I was running straight up and when I got to the top I couldn’t get over the edge. I asked for help but no one would help me. I even had my first nightmare about blogging. I dreamt that there was someone who knew me so well that he left little notes to stalk me. What am I doing? I am a private person. 

Everything in me tells me to stop…stop racing..stop writing..But a few days without it and I am a basket case. 

I am terrified about tomorrow although everyone has been very encouraging about my endurance and ability to finish. I feel exhausted and run down. 

I have to get my mind in the game but it just doesn’t seem to be working right. I hope it is worth all of this. I think it will be after I get through my first Half Iron. I will keep you posted….

Competing against the clock

My birthday is coming up in a few days. To celebrate, I am going to do my first Half Ironman. It just sounds so wrong. Maybe what people say about me is true…overachiever…workaholic..

Would I have more fun sitting on the couch watching a Netflix marathon instead of doing an actual marathon? Probably not!

I really don’t like the taper week. When you are used to working out an hour or three at a time it is physically hard to take it easy. I have to push myself to sit still. My mind is restless and my body is antsy. I want to run off the nervousness inside.

Last night I had my first pre-race nightmare that something was wrong with my bike. The seat was too low and I couldn’t adjust it. I had to bike through crowds of people, but couldn’t seem to make the pedals work right.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified of doing the Half Iron. More terrified than turning another year older. I feel like I am racing against time. I am not competing against you, nor me. I am competing against the clock.

I talked to some others over the past few weeks…I used to run marathons when I was young like you..That implies that someday this will all end.

The sands of time slip through my fingers… I never thought that I would be old. I never thought my kids would grow up. I always pictured us stuck in time at the perfect age. The age when we first met and fell in love. The age when our kids were little and had full confidence that we had all the answers.

It is horrifying to let go. My son got his motorcycle license yesterday. My daughter left for college last year and said that this is her last summer she plans on coming home. They are doing adult things like holding down a job.

When the terror sets in about what I am about to do…a Half Iron…I think back on all that I have already accomplished…3 marathons…WOW. If I fail miserably, I still have accomplished more than most people I know.

When I start feeling the horror of my lack of control as a parent, I have to remind myself that I have teens that are growing up to be wonderful responsible young adults.

As I turn another year older, I think about how much I’ve learned and how much more life is in front of me. If I look back to where I came from, it is pretty amazing that I got this far.