Sunday, April 18, 2021

Swim Out Past the Breakers

 I guess I never really intended to have a hiatus from my blog since the middle of January, yet here we are.  If I am being perfectly honest, life issues have gotten in the way in terms of transitioning from one role to another at work, and some personal struggles.  So, here I am emerging with new transcript just in time to usher in Spring, in what I hope to soon be a post COVID world.  Last  year with the world shut down, my annual spring trip to Florida was cancelled just like everything else.  No trips to the Gulf of Mexico like I had grown accustomed to on an annual basis for the 21 years that preceded.  So, admittedly last week could not have come fast enough.  It was time to go back.  For the weeks leading in I dreamt of warm breezes and sun on my face and salt in the air.  The ocean is where I always find my center and hit reset to come back to a life that generally is a bit too crazy most of the time.

Yes, I had all the breezes and sun, but what I was not prepared for after a two year absence from here, was the grief.  The grief of visiting a place I last saw my mom alive.  I would look at the bench where we had one of our last talks, or the section of beach where she told me all about her latest whacked out political theories, oh yes, she was chock full of those, which was always amusing.  I even sat at the restaurant where we had one of our last meals together.  What was meant to be comforting wasn't in that her death had been sudden, the circumstances unkind and this trip the grief turned itself into an almost unbearable fire of a  monster with it's own fury.  Maybe not being in the ocean last year wasn't so bad.  

Add this to the little matter of my running as of late.  This has been quite lack luster.  Paces are slow which was a mystery to me when I can tear it up on the stepper with 8 minute miles for 9 miles.  What the actual hell?  Why can't I run any faster?  Clearly my body can.  What's wrong with my head?  I came to understand it's simple really.  It's years of gym class bullying during the dreaded mile runs towards my former morbidly obese childhood self.  Running precipitates heavy breathing, which precipitates anxiety, because as a child I would wheeze for days after.  Slowing down meant name calling and heckling as I was always the last one done. So a mild elevation in heartrate during a jog shuts my body down. Well, that's super annoying. Seven years into my fitness journey, fourteen Spartan Races and two Savages later, this still exists.  

As an overthinker from way back, I have been ruminating on all of this for some time.  Then, a simple children's movie would provide the answers.  Friday night, in a rare turn of events, I had opportunity to have movie night with my 10 and 11 year old.  They piled in my bed and we watched,"Soul."  A line in that movie has stuck with me for days.

"One fish says to another,'I'm looking for the ocean.'

The other responds,'you're in it.'

'No, this is the water. I'm looking for the OCEAN.'"

Looking back, that's pretty spot on looking at my past running.  I have always treaded along the proverbial feeder river hoping to one day be launched into the glorious running ocean where the times are fast and the high is amazing.  Yet somehow, it always just seemed like plain old water.  Today, armed with new mental sports psychology techniques to overcome previous demons, I set out on a beautiful trail.  The sun was bright, the temps cool and my running more comfortable with my new technique. As I finished, in usual fashion, the musical timing of my play list would hit just right:

"We can live beside the ocean,

Leave the fire behind,

Swim out past the breakers,

Watch the world die."

                                                                                - Everclear,"Santa Monica"

In that moment I was running beside the fresh waters of the Mohawk tasting the salt in my mouth from the sweat of a great run.  I began to realize I truly was not in the feeder rivers, but in the ocean and probably always have been.  Nope, my times were not any faster,  nope I wasn't winning any medals, but I was 51 years old running nearly six miles without a ton of anxiety, thanks to some effective sports psychology, possibly for the first time in my life, and calling it "Sunday."  That's no measly river, that's full on great white infested badass ocean territory.  Oh yes, Everclear, I was way out past the breakers drowning my childhood bullies and extinguishing the grief fire all on a simple Sunday afternoon.  

This whole experience has me wondering how often we let the trials of life keep us within the imaginary confines of small waters, not realizing we were never in the small waters at all.  We have always had the opportunity to swim with the sharks in the badass ocean.  We forget that no matter where we came from, what we have been through, there is always opportunity to leave the fire behind and be the best versions of ourselves.  All it really takes is the right tools, being surrounded by the right people and the notion that we are always more wildly capable than we give ourselves credit for.  I can pretty much guarantee I will never set any land speed records, and that doesn't matter because I now know I can run better and happier.  As for the actual ocean vacation I took last week?  It's time to pull out the photos, enjoy the happier memories of my mom in that spot and remember that as always, the best is yet to come.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Under Pressure, Navigating the Mystery

 Like so many others, I have spent the first two weeks of this year reflecting on the events of 2020.  The COVID, the unrest, a world like we have never seen.  It all seemed so unreal at times.  I clung to what I could do.  Trust what I had learned in the last five years before the pandemic to create my own training and do my best to move forward .  I held on to my 20 years in clinical practice as a nurse practitioner to shape the way I attacked this thing called COVID.  It was difficult, sure, but I found ways to pull off small wins to propel me forward, maybe not shining as brightly as I did pre-COVID, but forward.  That is until December 9th.  It was what should have been a typical Wednesday.  I was off with a laundry list of things to do, the first of which was my annual physical.

Let me define,"annual".  If I am being perfectly honest, I have not had an "annual" physical in 2.5 years.  Why?  As a healthcare provider, I too am victim of "Do as I say, not as I do."  Life had gotten in the way.  Busy with work and kids and life at 100 mph, had this simple act of a check-up lost in the sea of busy.  I wasn't worried.  I trained.  I ate well.  I drink water.  I attempt to sleep well...ok I'm a miserable failure at sleep but it is not for lack of trying.  Ah, a story for another day.  Nonetheless, what did I need a physical for anyway?  Yet, in the corner of my mind was the small reminder my mom had breast cancer and I was overdue for my mammogram.  That should not be blown off.  I have training to do, a job to work and a foundation to run.  I certainly do not have time for breast cancer.  So, I guess I went if for no other reason than to get a  mammogram order. 

My previous doctor has moved on and I was met by a new one.  A woman I quickly came to like.  She was my age, worked as a provider, had kids and consequently knew what my life was about so I didn't have to explain it to her.  Through the course of the visit she said a phrase that I hear in my head all the time now,"your blood pressure is high."

I was quick to dismiss her and blame the coffee and allergy meds I had taken earlier that  morning.  I told her not to worry, I would check it at home, I was sure it was fine, because even when I was morbidly obese all that time, I never had high blood pressure.  I left there with my mammogram scheduled and a referral for the dreaded turning 50 colonoscopy.  There.  Mission accomplished.  As a precaution, I did begin checking, and I would discover not only was the blood pressure not fine, it was stroke level not fine, 185/104at times.   

I quickly learned what I have passed off as heartburn and sinus pressure in recent months was actually extremely high blood pressure with chest pain. In the couple weeks that followed my physical, I had an emergent work up with cardiology.  No, it was not safe for me to train.  So much for my time with my heavy lifting tribe I have grown to love.  The meds were not working very well and lets be fair, I was rip shit pissed.  You mean to tell me I have spent six freaking years changing my life.  Six years of blood sweat and tears to reach this level of fitness, only to wind up in the cardiologist's office with a blood pressure of 200/100 during that visit?  I found  myself begging the cardiologist to understand,"I have done two full marathons, six half marathons, fifteen spartan races and two Savage races in the last three years alone.  I run.  I should not be here.  I was morbidly obese most of my life and NEVER had high blood pressure.  This should not be the case."  There was something completely unfair about all of this.

He knows me personally and what I have done in recent years and absolutely agreed, yet it absolutely was the case.  Test after test, the EKG, the renal artery ultrasound, the CT angiogram of my heart following a blood test showing some evidence of heart strain, a blood test for my adrenal glands, only to get the phone call,"Your coronaries are clean. Calcium score is zero. Ultrasound is normal.  There's a lot of good news here."  Was it good news?  I suppose it was on the one hand, but it wasn't the three things I really wanted.  An answer, a quick fix and the chance to move on.  I had shit to do, a tribe waiting and goals that were appearing to be further and further sidelined by a medical picture that made no sense at all. By that point, I was frustrated and was done being the patient.  However, I did not have a choice, a stroke truly awaited if I gave up at that point and I really don't have time for that either.  

In the couple weeks since that time, I have done some  yoga and  worked my way into a blood pressure regimen that involves four drugs totaling five pills a day, which is not doing the job totally, but keeps me out of stroke range so that I was cleared to start training again.  I have had a chance reevaluate everything the end of 2020 has brought.  Yes, scary high blood pressure and a bit of a forced time out, but I had missed something important with that "good news" phone call.  Clean coronaries.  I come from a lifetime of morbid obesity, a smoker in my 20's, yet here I sit at age 51, fit, with zero heart disease.  I took a moment to think about how differently that call may have gone had I not done all I have in the last six years.  Would I have raging heart disease?  Would I be on the fast track to other badness associated with my selfish unhealthy ways?  Surely there would have been.  I could be diabetic, have breathing issues, degenerating joints....  the list is endless.  I suppose my wise cardiologist had it right in the first place.  There WAS a lot of good news here.  None of my goals were truly sidelined as my previous pity party would suggest.  I am training better now with a tribe that pulled me right back up and to this day continue to push me to be my best.   The only catch is, I have to take five pills a day and stop being a dumbass about going to the doctor.  I guess I can do that. 

This experience has me wondering how many times we get bogged down with the immediate seemingly paralyzing crisis, drowning in a sea of bad news, and not taking the time to realize no matter what we face, there is always good news.  There is the realization that this proverbial sea could always be deeper, the waters could always be rougher.  However, if we look hard enough we will see our efforts are not for nothing.  If we are lucky enough we will see in the middle of the struggle exists our tribe tossing out the life raft, pulling us to safety and pushing us to climb up the bank on the other side, stronger and better, and patiently waiting so we can take on the next high peak as a collective mighty force.  I don't really have an answer to my medical mystery, and I have more appointments in the near future, that I will take on one at a time, but I do know that with whatever life brings, I have the opportunity to look forward and see that the best is yet to come.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Let's Not Talk About the Weight

 In the last couple of months I have had to find ways to reorient myself in a COVID riddled world.  As a nurse practitioner for 20 years, I thought I knew how to navigate medicine as a provider.  Yet, here we are.  Ever changing rules, guidance that becomes outdated almost immediately after it comes out, testing strategies, quarantine, on and on it goes until at times I find my head spinning just to negotiate it all.  My personal world was turned inside out as well as the kids are trying to adjust to remote learning and trying to understand what exactly has happened in the world and why we can't have a birthday party.  Personally, I had races cancelled, my gym was shut down for months and all of the events I trained for vanished one after another.  It's all just a bit heavy.  

As of late, I have tried a reboot of sorts.  I set big 2021 goals that honestly, seem a bit crazy, but in my mind, if it seems crazy it probably means I should do it.  That being said, I am learning to adapt to a whole new training strategy.  Said strategy is the transition from a solely group fitness type HIIT training to adding in targeted strength training with a trainer and some new training partners.  See, there was always something about group fitness.  My peeps at the usual 8:45, singing along to our favorite songs, teasing our trainers and just having a good time as we busted it out day after day.  However, as fun as that was, it didn't get me where I needed to be on the race course.  Nonetheless, I still go, but outside of there, in a gym across town, there's a guy with a clipboard counting every rep, correcting every miniscule break in form.  He even watches me breathe for God's sake.  Yet, I had to put my fitness in his hands if I am going to get anywhere in 2021. 

In one of our first sessions he pulled out these iron bars.  Apparently that day I was graduating from a kettle bell carry to whatever this thing was. I was pleased with my initial kettle bell carry the week before.  I easily carried 94 pounds 80 feet, not bad at all.  However, with this contraption, he instructed me to put ten pounds on every corner.  As he talked to me about gripping the handles, breathing, bracing, short steps, shoulders engaged, I found myself wanting him to cut to the chase.  How heavy was this?  What was I about to do?

"Let's not talk about weight.  Now, here's what you need to do....."

Ok, well he's the expert.  I did as I was told.  Pick it up, short quick steps to haul ass 40 feet, set down, deep breath, brace and haul ass back.  It was a challenge, but I got it done.  Only then he asked me,"How heavy do you think that was?"  I suspected somewhere where I had been last week.  It was heavy but I was able to do it.  Must be the same.  Right?  OK no.  It was 144, a full 50 pounds heavier.  He explained to me that in talking about weight we automatically put a limit on our capabilities as our preconceived notion of our own ability is always far below what we can actually do.  

Let's face it, COVID is heavy, life is heavy.  I wonder how often we focus on the weight of it all claiming defeat before we even get started, convinced we cannot handle that caliber of heavy lifting.  Maybe the better thing to do is to look for the proverbial guy with the clipboard who can help us grab hold of life's challenges, breathe, brace, stand tall and haul ass forward no matter what the weight is.  

Since that 144 pound day two weeks ago, I have progressed to 170 pound carries, and have come to learn that there is power in taking on the heavy and coming out the other side.  I have also located a tribe of like minded bad ass heavy lifting women who refuse to talk about weight and instead push me to be my best.  It is in this space I am reminded, no matter how heavy life is, the best is yet to come.  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

True North

Over the weekend, I saw a news story about a Mount Rainier hiker who set out on a hike with a friend.  Near the end of the hike, this particular hiker planned to finish the rest on snowshoe, while his partner finished on skis and they were to meet up at the end.  As he set out on snowshoe, he would find himself caught in a sudden squall.  A blinding snowstorm would cause him to be less sure footed to where he took only baby steps as he was not entirely sure where he was headed.  He would be found a full day later, in the Nisqually River drainage, unconscious, hypothermic, covered in bruises, and ultimately would go into cardiac arrest for 45 minutes at the hospital.  Finally when nothing seemed to be working, as a Hail Mary, he was placed on a heart lung machine.  A week had passed by the time the story aired and here was this man, a little on the thin side, miraculously sitting on the side of his bed offering thanks to his rescuers, who spent 24 hours locating him, and his medical team that refused to give up on him. When asked what he thought he did wrong to get in the situation he replied,"I made a rookie mistake.  I failed to check the weather."

I suppose if I am really thinking about it, lost in an unexpected snow squall is a decent description of 2020.  Starting in March, I think I can truly say watching my fitness goals vanish one at a time with race cancellations, gym closures, and losing the time I had come to treasure with my tribe. I too had lost my way, to where at some point in August, I found myself at the bottom of my own proverbial Nisqually River drainage, completely lacking direction with no end to COVID in site.

Since that time, I started grasping at some attempt at normalcy.  I signed up for races that were actually available.  Therefore, to date I have done two socially distant Savage Races.  The first was in September.  That race was particularly challenging, as despite training at home and some in my regular gym after it reopened, I was still making up ground from months of lacking the formal training I had become accustomed to and it showed.  As my performance on the obstacles was a bit lack luster, I allowed fear of everything dictate the entire race.  I wasn't as strong as I had been.  Was I going to fall off the cargo net?  How was I going to get off the wall and not plunge 8 feet?  I had never been submerged into chest high mud, and the sudden confining feeling only fueled my fear to where, if I am being real here, ended up being six full miles of terror.  Even to look at that September medal reminded me of something I said out loud on the course,"I just hate being afraid.  I hate being like this." 

Left feeling like my racing life was on life support, plus a little encouragement from my team, pushed me to register for another Savage Race.  I was hoping this would give me a prayer of not leaving fear as my legacy of 2020.  I had 9 weeks.  Nine weeks to mentally and physically prepare for the race that took place this past weekend with my 1DOS Foundation leadership team.  My very own 2020 do over.  Out of the gate,  I began to dial in and train.  I started working with an actual OCR coach and amped up my upper body training at home with the addition of battle ropes and slam balls.  An entirely new training style than I was used to even in pre COVID times.  I'll even go out on a limb and share I did the mental work with guided imagery to start to put fear behind me on the course.  There were the regular check ins with my accountability partner as well as my son, both of whom constantly reminded me I am much more capable than I give myself credit for.  When I emerged Sunday with my son and partner by my side, my efforts showed.  I conquered obstacles I failed nine weeks prior and even came over the cargo net without the fear I had in September.  That may or may not have involved me saying out loud when I approached the obstacle and got a little nervous,"oh no.  I'm not fucking doing this today.  No way."  Head up keep climbing, over the A frame and back down.

We would cross the line and I knew damn well this time, I earned that medal fair and square. Even though this medal is exactly the same as the one from September, somehow it shines a little brighter as I know digging deep, putting the work in and discovering my own true north in the last nine weeks has put me right back in the game.  None of us could have checked the proverbial weather for 2020, and most of us have become lost in our own way from the pandemic.  However, as I celebrated my 51st birthday on race weekend, I find myself with a simple new piece of jewelry.  A sterling silver compass that I have no plans to take off any time soon.  A simple reminder that no matter how lost we are, true north can always be found when you take the chance to face the fear, identify new goals, not be afraid to let loose of old methods and work hard.  Probably even more important than those things is to surround yourself with the people willing to walk along side your journey, pushing you and believing in you even in the moments you are not so sure.  Those are the people who will always show us the best is yet to come.

Friday, November 6, 2020

From Finisher to Crusher

 Wow.  September 21.  Yep that's the date of my last blog post, more than a full month ago.  I guess you could say life got in the way.  Working in a leadership role in a rapidly growing urgent care that offers COVID testing during a pandemic has proven for long days, and lots of hours.  I suppose the sheer amount of work to be done has also put a damper on my creative juices to a degree as well, so there you have it. A month blog free.  However, tonight I find myself finally at my desk with a few hours off.  Admittedly, the craziness of the last month has left my desk in shambles.  There are scraps of papers left over from me working on schedules, lists of things for Foundation related activity  and in the far right corner a medal.  A Mileage Monsters 5K medal from last Saturday.  It was our second annual 5k fundraiser for my 1DOS Foundation.  All things considered, we had a good turn out of 110 socially distanced runners.  Everyone played by the rules, masks on, no gathering before or after, and courteous running.  In all, a fun time for all in one of the first live events of 2020.

But this medal....  my partner and I had a love/hate relationship with this medal.  Last year we set out to be creative.  Who needed another 5k medal anyway?  Oh no.  We had kick ass swag bags and awesome shirts.  Oh weren't we cool?  Apparently not.  The feedback we got from one runner in particular was she would never have run the race without earning a medal.  Several others were on the same page.  So, this year we had medals.  We had $300 worth of medals.  Granted they were pretty cool, but I have spent a long time trying to understand what it was about it that was so important about a medal coming from a small time inaugural 5k.  In fact, as I sit here, all of my medals hang to my right.  Spartans, marathons, half marathons, Disney medals.... now those were medals.  

Suddenly it dawned on me who it was last year that was so disappointed by her swag bag.  It was our last finisher.  She did not appear to be an athlete and our photographer explained she was part of a bigger 5k series where runners were to complete 20 5k's in a season.  This particular participant always managed to finish, albeit usually last. She appeared to be an unlikely candidate to finish 20 5k's and would guess maybe she had not done that before.  Gaining 19 medals instead of 20 perhaps destroyed the visual representation of the accomplishment of a bigger goal she set for herself.  

As I scan through my own medals now I see my very first Spartan medal.  The Fenway Sprint of 2016.  I was terrified at the start line.  I was surrounded by badass racers and here I was 46 years old, fresh off a lifetime of obesity, not totally sure I belonged there or that I could even finish.  The gun went off and we took off through the park.  People were faster than me.  Some did the obstacles better than I did.  My son had to constantly say,"just run your own race."  He was right.  In the end, I would finish and burst into tears on the infield. I had done it.  A year of training reflected in one hunk of medal on a colorful ribbon.   I'm quite certain if I looked at the medal closer there may in fact, be salt stains on said ribbon.  There was my first Spartan Beast ribbon from summer of 2017, where five of us took on my longest race at the time.  Twenty miles on the side of a mountain.  Physically and mentally taxing.  Yes, that medal meant a lot to me.  Still other medals reminded me of fun times spent with a race team I would describe as second to none.  There were Ragnars, half marathons, 10k's, and even two full sets of Dopey medals reminding me further what normal years look like for me.

However, this year, as we all know, racing is largely cancelled.  From my girls' weekend half marathon in the Hamptons, to the Boilermaker in Utica, to a Spartan Super in Denver, to what was to be the pinnacle race of the year for me, the Spartan Beast in Tahoe, all cancelled.  A veritable racing silence.  For as much as I miss racing the various events, in their absence I came to realize something.  I over commit.  I sign up for everything I can with my tribe, which is awesome, but I effectively have become the proverbial athletic Jack of all trades, master of none.  I'm not fast, I'm not the talented obstacle racer like you see on Ninja Warrior, I have stayed where I was planted after that first race.  I am a finisher.  I earned that first Spartan medal fair and square.  A year and a half of training, a lifetime of obesity and an epic finish.  Hell, I even earned that first trifecta medal fair and square, but what has happened since?

I have remained a finisher.  I have trained the same with an amazing gym family and have gone on to finish 15 other obstacle races, two Dopey Challenges, umpteen half marathons and a smattering of 5k's and 10k's, and have the medals to prove it, but here's the question.  What have I CRUSHED?  Crushing a race and completing a race are two different things, and as long as I am asking, what would it take to crush a course?  As I talked it all over with my accountability partner it became obvious.  Finishing a race for the first time was awesome, but by the 15th time I find myself now asking,"shouldn't I be better at this by now?" and better yet,"Do I want to be better at this?" 

As anyone with a good accountability partner will tell you, they always say the thing you think you don't want to hear, but is the best for you anyway.  Yes.  I should be better, but despite training hard, my training has not changed.  Stuck in my proverbial comfort zone maxing out my abilities within those confines.  As far as did I want to be better?  of course.  Who doesn't?  It's the bigger hurdle of what that is going to take.  That is something I am learning.  It's going to take dialing back the commitments, and changing what I normally do because,"if nothing changes, nothing changes."  So, today I took the plunge.  Stepped away from my usual workout for my first private session with an awesome tactical OCR coach.  I learned about breathing, bracing, grip strength and that I was way stronger than I gave myself credit for.  A little glimpse that with the right type of help, hard work and second to none training partners I will continue to take newbies to races as watching someone else find their own success is a passion of mine, but personally? It’s time to work my way past finisher and right into obstacle race CRUSHER next year, and no.  There better not be a bag of swag.  I will save a space for a kick ass medal that will remind me there is always something bigger to reach for and in doing so I will always see the best is yet to come.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Soul Sucking Swamp Ass

 I guess you could say in 2017, the Chicago Spartan Super became the iconic race for my race team.  We trained hard and reached our goal and crossed that finish.  The following year we attacked the same course only this time it was totally different.  We had not anticipated what was a dry hunting ground the year before, would now see rain for all the days leading into the race.  It was nine grueling miles in ankle deep thick mud. Oh we exited that race masters of the mud pit, or so we thought.  In fact, "remember all the mud in Chicago?" became a thing among us.  We'd laugh about losing shoes, or the spectacle we made of ourselves walking into the Marriott afterwards.  Oh yeah I knew all about mud.....only now I know I didn't.

Last week, I finally did what I thought was impossible.  I raced in 2020.  Spartan may have cancelled their season, but Savage did not.  I always considered myself a Spartan racer by trade, the iconic obstacle race after all.  I have done 14 of them with three trifectas under my belt, but with COVID I was now to a place where any race is better than no race.  So, I took off for Maryland for a new race with new obstacles, knowing I wasn't as prepared as I could have been.  The race was essentially late notice as we were not entirely sure it would go off as planned.  I had been training but even my own gym has not been open all that long.  The summer had been very hot, and I had broken my finger with a bulky splint which just made running rough.  Nonetheless, we were doing it.  As we arrived at the race, the sun was high, the air was cool, the racers socially distant and the music on point.  Ah yes.... race vibe.  Oh, how I have missed you.

The front part of the race went as expected, I panicked at the top of the cargo net, which is what I always do, but still managed to make it down.  I struggled with the hanging obstacles, because lets face it, grip strength training sucks and with no races to look forward to, it just may have fallen to the bottom of the training list this summer.  However, it was in the last mile and a half it happened.  The mud pit.  At the bottom of the embankment I saw it.  Racers stuck in the mud.  No, this was not the ankle deep mud in Chicago that was annoying and shoe sucking, this was hands and knees to the chest crawling because walking appeared to be impossible.  The racers in the pit needed bystanders with long tree branches to be helped out.  The scene was so difficult to see that  I feared we would not be able to get out of it.  We chalked it up to being late in the day and maybe this mud had evolved and become more difficult with time.  We made the decision to veer to the left where it was much shallower and honestly, a bit out of bounds.  It seemed to be the safer choice.  

As we entered the final mile, down another embankment there it was.  A sign that said,"Swamp Ass."  This mud pit was a clearly marked obstacle, with no way around, and the only way to finish was to go through.  This was not a late in the day change in mud, this was like this by design.  I would fearfully wade in and end up chest deep.  The mud pulled at my shoes, walking was next to impossible.  I was slugging away with my legs that didn't want to move, I was starting to panic that I would drown in mud.  I got to the place I was essentially paralyzed.  I couldn't move.  I don't recall all of my mutterings at the time but I'm pretty sure,"I can't get out!" was screamed irrationally over and over plus a tangled web of profanity that probably still hangs over that very mud pit in Maryland.  In the end, my race partner pushed me along on my left, a fellow racer helped on my right and a guy with a cool Australian accent pulled me mostly out by my arms from the other side.  I would crawl out physically taxed, coated in an inch of mud, emotionally drained and face to face with a race photographer who captured it all on film.  Nonetheless, we had to keep moving, as well you know, there's a medal at the end and I sure as hell was getting a medal for this.  

Less than a mile later, I would find myself at the top of the 24 foot obstacle named Collosus.  As always, the height got to me but the mud cleansing plunge down the backside, which was a water slide, was the most glorious rush I have had in a long time. A short time later, we would cross the finish, medals in hand, tired from a hard fought race and happy to finally have some straight up non COVID normalcy this year.

This whole experience has taught me something.  Sometimes you are faced with hard challenges to where it's easier to rationalize a short walk out of bounds, rather than get stuck, but those challenges will always be ahead, sometimes unavoidable and much more difficult than you thought.  The trick is to stay in bounds, jump into the proverbial mud, start slugging, and if you get stuck look for the people willing to push you along when you are not so sure you can do it by yourself.  As it's really only on the other side will you earn the glory of truly conquering the hard things.

I'd love to tell you I can retreat to my Spartan career for next year and get back into my wheelhouse, but I cannot.  I had a terrifying experience with Savage in the mud I thought I knew oh so well, but really had no clue.  Nonetheless, the motto of my race team has always been, if it excites you and scares the crap out of you, it probably means you should do it.  So, yep another Savage is in the books and a whole new training is underway.  Only this time it includes grip strength, because apparently the Grip Strength Fairy skipped me on her deliveries this year.  Otherwise, I am still working on my fear of heights, but I have committed to no more out of bounds so that I can jump in feet first for a fear busting soul sucking slug through the mud better known as Swamp Ass.  I am quite certain that in truly conquering that course to the best of my ability, I will be able to see the best is yet to come.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

It's Not Whatcha Got, It's Whatcha Give

After three years and 140 blog posts, I suppose I owe my loyal audience a bit of an apology. Yes. I am aware I have put nothing new out in four weeks, when I am usually a faithful every two week poster.   Here’s the problem. Writer’s block. It’s a thing. To be honest, I have had many a night recently staring at my bloggers blank entry page for a time, ultimately giving up and ending up on Amazon. The problem may run a bit deeper than I imagined as my daughter commented today,"Boy Mom you sure get a lot of packages lately."  Trust me I truly needed a new dishwasher spray arm, but new shoes for every person under my roof may have been a bit over the top.

Oh I had a million different ideas, but none were fresh and new.  It all felt like ground I had covered before.  Overcoming this or that, but somehow none of it seemed to want to flow out of me in any reasonable manner.  To be honest, writer's block didn't make sense to me.  For months, all I wanted was a sense of normalcy.  In large part I had gotten it.  Back to my gym, back to my gym family, workouts every day with trainers who knew me best and even an obstacle race this coming Saturday, something I didn't think I would see this year.  All in, I should be excited and tap into my inner inspiration and share that with my loyal readers.  "Should" is the magic word here.  

As I rolled through the last few weeks, I can honestly say the return to normal was certainly welcome and a vast improvement over the last six months, but something was missing.  I was doing like I normally did, yet somehow it all felt a bit lack luster.  I suppose I accepted a thousand different excuses, like working out in a mask was not ideal or I have made a wee bit of backward process in my strength as my weights as home were not as heavy as the ones at the gym, but the reality is I simply did not know what was missing.

That is until a simple text from a friend came through proposing the most outlandish physical challenge that would take place a year from now.  It almost seemed ludicrous to consider.  I have done a lot of stuff, but this is much bigger than anything I have done before. I talked it over with my accountability partner and my favorite training partner, my son.  I would bargain with myself.  Was it ludicrous?  Yes.  It's crazy.  But... what if we did it?  This is going to require the hardest physical training I have ever done, and will take a year to prepare for.  

In the time that followed this simple proposal, my head spun with "what if's," and it even kept me up at night.  This week I put all that aside and committed to said challenge as did my son and my partner. Our quintessential 1DOS leadership team building activity.  Admittedly, I'm a little bit afraid, and a little bit excited, but mostly curious to see what version of myself  lives on the other side of this event's successful completion.  Today, I would go to the gym with my son, this notion fueled everything I did.  Suddenly, this event had taken hold of my psyche and told me I have 12 months and I damn well better get my ass in gear.  I pushed as hard as I could, and left the gym drenched, out of breath, sore and exhilarated.  What had started as a simple text between friends has now given me the fuel I didn't even know I was lacking with my prior return to "normal." 


                                                 It's not whatcha got, it's what you give,                                                                                                     It ain't the life you choose, its's the life you live                                                                                                                                         - Tesla

As I sat in the car cooling off listening to Tesla, it dawned on me.  My return to "normal" was a return to my normal day to day stuff.  No, there is nothing wrong with daily workouts, or mid range obstacle races like I will do on Saturday.  Those, in fact, are good albeit, great things, and I am stoked to crawl through the mud and jump off a 15 foot wall, well stoked about heights may not be quite accurate....  Anyway, for now It's what I got, but It's also what I have had for several years.  In fact, I would go so far as to say there is a certain level of complacency in this particular "normal."  This new goal has reminded me that I actually am always capable of giving myself so much more so I can take this thing called life for a ride. With this, it dawns on me, maybe the thing to do is to not shoot for a prepandemic return to normal.  Maybe the better thing to do is to locate that little voice, that friend who can push us just a bit to remind us that sometimes "normal," no matter how good it appears, can be code for complacency and we are actually always able to do more in order to lead our best lives. I have a feeling this is going to be quite a year, and in that amount of time I am sure I will learn as always, the best is yet to come.