Friday, October 7, 2016

The Non-Ironman Year Of...Cancer

"When it becomes uncomfortable, take a deep breath and find the comfort in the discomfort"

Why do unforeseen hardships disrupt our lives?  One of the certainties in life, it seems, is that there is uncertainty.  Unfortunate events happen to us all.  It's how we deal with those events that determines our character and shape of our lives.

2016 was the year of my diagnosis and my treatment...breast cancer...The phone call happened the day before my 48th birthday..ironically while at lunch with a friend celebrating that birthday.  Shocking..I was young in "cancer years" and an endurance athlete who had plans to compete in two more IRONMAN triathlons in 2016.  That type of lifestyle was my passion, where most of my friendships were formed.  I have to smile when I read articles about the research and studies that have been completed on how exercise and fitness reduces one's risk of the most common cancers...lung, breast, and colon.  Sigh..not necessarily applicable to all of us.

My face before the MRI procedure after my diagnosis

I will spare all the details of the cancer treatment.  Cancer doesn't deserve more than a single blog entry...seriously.  In summary, between May and November I went through a lumpectomy, 3 months of chemo treatments and 4 weeks of 5 days/week radiation.  Exercise was my therapy.  My friends who exercised were my therapy.  Seeing improvements in my fitness after the chemo was my therapy.  Exercise was the one of the most important things that helped me keep my sanity. Are you seeing a pattern here? Ha Ha. I swam when they told me not to swim.  I exercised on all but a few days during the chemo treatments. 

I've started the rebuild process, not knowing how long it will take but setting my sights on goals for 2017.  It's those goals that keep us positive, our chins up, our hope strong.  It's also the blessing of finding those special doctors and nurses (there are just a few) that understand you and what drives you that gives you hope.

I think the average person's view of cancer has cancer patients resting much more than what really happens. My year of racing after the diagnosis was more than my doctors knew...helping keep my sanity and my fitness.

Post Diagnosis
Starved Rock Half Marathon - overall female winner 1:34:22 - 7:12 min/mile avg (ARE YOU SURE I HAVE CANCER??)
Half IRONMAN Raleigh 70.3 - 5:30:06 - 6th 45-49 AG
Post Surgery
Lake Zurich Olympic Triathlon - 1st 45-49 AG
During Chemo
IronGirl Sprint Triathlon - 2nd 45-49 AG 

Cancer survivors like to use cliche phrases to describe their circumstances.  I'm annoyed by some of those phrases. My least favorite is "YOU NEED TO GET USE TO THE NEW NORMAL".  No...I don't..you see I'm not going to accept that...it's a mindset.  No one should have to get use to a new normal.  I believe that cancer opens up new doors...new opportunities..not only for us but for others.

This awesome friend that's been though this whole experience with me blasted this song on the radio on the eve of IRONMAN Wisconsin on our way to dinner.  I might have been a little sad that I wasn't racing but she always knows what to do to keep me positive.  It can be applied to anyone that is going through a hard time in their life.  Stay positive...and say "Yes, I'm a overcomer..watch me."

OVERCOMER - By Mandisa

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He's not gonna let it get the best of you
You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight 'til the final round
You're not going under
Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds you
That you're an overcomer

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Lifestyle

I believe training for an Ironman is more of a lifestyle rather than a hobby.  It touches everyone and everything in your life.  You try your best to plan your training around all of life's other commitments and responsibilities.  About 6 weeks out from your race (where I am now), you remember how hard your training is, how exhausting it is, and how much time it requires.  I always find motivation in things I read.  Why do we do what we do?  What keeps us moving forward? Whether your training involves 20 hour weeks or your just trying to find the time to get fit for your first 5K...read on.

Kristin Armstrong is an author of several motivational books and has written articles in Runner's World.  I love her perspective and insight into running and friendships and what motivates us.  Below is an excerpt from her book "Mile Markers:  The 26.2 Reasons Most Important Reasons Why Women Run"
---------

"People keep asking me about my next marathon like I must have a next marathon.  It's valid, though, to wonder why someone would go on a 2 hour plus run on weekends without a plan or goal in mind.  "Why?" one might ask. "What's the point?"  I know I always feel better after my run, even if I'm depleted in my body - my soul is full.  One morning this week I read a devotional before my run by an author by the name of Bertha Munro.  It began by saying "Bless me and make me a blessing"  Then it went on to explain that the biggest way we can help those we love is by having already helped ourselves.  We are suppose to work at our fitness in all capacities (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical).  If we are fit, in every sense of that word, then when someone we love needs us, we can make a difference.  Fitness has a purpose far beyond vanity, beyond even good health, when a person is trained to think of it in these terms."

"The other part of the devotional read "You cannot always do something to help your friends, but you can always be something to help them..."  Okay that's it.  That's why I train, right there. I don't train because I want to be able to do things (run a faster 5K, make someone eat my dust on a trail, though those things aren't bad).  I train because I want to be someone better than I would be if I didn't train.  If someone I love is faltering, I want to be the kind of person who can haul some ass.  I want to be first on the scene.  I want to be strong enough to carry some of his or her burden along with my own.  I want to have a clear head and a clear heart so if I'm asked for advice, I can offer wisdom.  If my big opportunity arises to serve, I want to be ready.  If it takes more out of me than I anticipated, I want to know something about endurance.  If someone I love looks at me with eyes full of fear, terrified that she won't be able to finish whatever happens to lie ahead, I want to look at her, wordless, with unblinking eyes that assure her that there is no way that she won't.  That right there is why I run."

--------

"The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting.  For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.  Use your natural powers - of persistence, concentration, and insight - to do the work you love and work that matters"  - Susan Cain

Monday, February 10, 2014

Belief

I've vowed this year to take more time to write some of my thoughts down.  I hate writing blogs about race reports because let's face it sometimes they can be BORING (unless I had a spectacular crash going downhill at 40mph and lived to tell about it!).  For many people that know me well, I read a lot and much of that reading has to do with triathlons and running.  I find so much inspiration in people's stories that I thought I'd use this blog as a way of sharing what motivates me.

Last year I completed IRONMAN Lake Placid and IRONMAN Wisconsin and I really had an exciting year.  Up this year are a few half IRONMANs (New Orleans, Kansas) and IRONMAN Boulder.  I have a number of goals for this year as I did for last year.  I don't usually share these with anyone but myself and my coach.  Coach's have a way of walking that fine line...being supportive and realistic all at the same time.  In a discussion this morning about goals for New Orleans, my coach at the end of the "supportive but realistic" email simply said, "And ask yourself, "WHY NOT, me?"" I love that quote.  A powerful statement that we don't often think about or say to others that can be applied to really anything in life.  Our ability to meet our goals not only has to do with our hard work and consistency but also our belief in ourselves.  That belief has to stay strong in your training and also in life when others are doing things differently than you are.  That belief has to stay strong when others doubt you.

In the January issue of Lava Magazine there was an inspiring editor's note written by Brad Culp.  He had been on a flight home from Kona for the World Championships and sat next to an elderly couple who had just experience watching an IRONMAN for the first time.  Now it seems just about everyone I know that heads to Kona sits next to an elderly couple on the plane and is inspired one way or another.  Maybe God puts them there for a purpose??!!?  Anyways...here's an excerpt from his editorial.
------------
It was clear from the moment I sat down that they had not competed.  While everyone else on the plane was wearing some form of compression garment and had a body fat percentage in the single digits, this couple was styled out in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts, and let's just say they weren't exactly race weight.

I asked if they had come to Kona to watch a friend or family member compete and they explained that it was merely coincidence they were in Hawaii at the same time as the race.  They had come to the Big Island from Minneapolis to celebrate their wedding anniversary in the very same place where they had honeymooned in 1967.  I apologized on behalf of everyone on the plane, assuming the chaos of the race had put a damper on what should have been a relaxing trip.

"There's no need to apologize", the woman said.  "We loved it- so inspiring to watch all these people."  I was shocked, "What did you enjoy most?" I asked.

"The man at the front desk of our hotel told us to go to the finish line just before midnight, if we were still awake," she said. "We got down there at about 10:30 and found a spot on the benches by the finish.  I brought my book so I could read but I didn't read a word.  Seeing the joy on those faces - some of them were even older than us - it was unlike anything I've ever seen.  You really have to believe in yourself to do something like that at our age."
 ------------

Belief...ask yourself "WHY NOT, me?" in anything you set out to do.
Thanks Jen :)
 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Did I Get Here??

"What we have is based upon moment-to-moment choices of what we do. In each of those moments, we choose. We either take a risk and move toward what we want, or we play it safe and choose comfort. Most of the people, most of the time, choose comfort. In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or brilliance.They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."           ~ Anonymous
 
I think it's amazing how people's lives evolve and change.  We have the ability to change our careers, become healthier, make a difference in our communities, or influence others to change or try something they thought wasn't possible. I'm amazed at some of the stories I read about IRONMAN athletes that were once overweight or overcame insurmountable obstacles to get where they are today.  Or the 70+ year old athletes that come back to Kona year after year and inspire us with their dedication and passion for the sport.  Maybe that's why I love training and racing in triathlons. This year I was selected as one of the 40 athletes that are part of the IRONMAN Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team for the 2013 race season.  Through this team I will be engaged in serving others through community service projects, fundraising and raising awareness of the goals and mission of the IRONMAN foundation.

My story isn't inspirational.  I'm just an average age group athlete trying to set higher goals and be a more competitive athlete but I thought I'd share a little bit about myself so others on the Ironman Foundation Newton  Ambassador Triathlon Team could understand a little more about me.  I considered myself athletic in high school, playing softball and tennis but I quickly went into the field of engineering and had a full career as a director at a healthcare company until I decided at the age of 39 to stay home and enjoy my kids before they grew up.  I had two friends that had completed multiple marathons and enjoyed telling me all about their races and adventures in training. That was enough to plant the seed in my head that I wanted to sign up and train for a marathon.  I finished my first marathon in Chicago that year and qualified for Boston (I had no idea I was a fast runner!).  The same friend that introduced me to marathons also influenced me to buy my first road bike and sign up for a sprint triathlon.  There were so many things that I learned from her as well as having an amazing friend that continues to support and cheer for me through all my crazy races! Within 2 years of completing my first marathon, I managed to influence my friend to complete both a half and full distance IRONMAN with me.  I do fully believe that we don't realize how much we have an influence on others, not only our friends but also the example we set for our children.

In 2011, I signed up for the Kona lottery and also signed up my friend...like who wouldn't want to go to Kona after completing their first IRONMAN???  It was a surprise gift for Christmas.  Nothing like a nice Christmas card with a Kona lottery entry enclosed inside!  I think we both thought there wasn't a chance that either of us would get in.  But come April 2012, her name was listed on the lottery selection announcement.  Initially, I thought she might burn my house down but she went on to remain my friend (lucky me) and complete Kona last year.  Through that process, we started fundraising for the IRONMAN Foundation's "Your Journey, Your Cause" program and together raised over $9,000 for Renew Hope, Inc.  After starting this 5 years ago, I've completed 14 marathons, 3 IRONMAN 70.3 races along with 2 full IRONMANs.  I continue to learn new things about myself and the sport every day.  For me, this is my motivation and passion for life. 

"We don't stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing".  I really feel that the sport of triathlon will continue to be part of my life for a very long time.