Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two Years Ago, My Turning Point

This blog post has been a few months coming. I meant to write it in January at the anniversary of my near demise, but honestly, I have burnt out on writing. I have been back at K-State since January (will cover that in a later blog post) and had to take a fast track English course requiring me to write five multi-page papers in an eight week time span. Needless to say, I was burnt out on writing. I feel that this is important to write about at it has been the one event that has changed everything, not just the way I go about racing. Like the title suggests, it has been my turning point.

As I have mentioned, January 11th, 2014, I ran my first 50k and unbeknownst to me I ruptured my intestine. My body let me know on January 17th, 2014, it was the most agonizing pain I have ever felt. Joel is the only one who knows this because he was there, but while in the exam room waiting for a diagnosis I was screaming out that I wanted to die. The pain was that intense. The pain was so excruciating and it took so long to get a diagnosis, at that moment in time I felt that death was the only escape. After the diagnosis I was rushed into surgery, which was a success. Waking up I knew I had a long road to recovery.

After a few boring days in the hospital, being visited by the girls and some of my friends, it was time to go home. Joel had been at my side since I woke up in the middle of the night screaming days prior. As I was standing at the bathroom mirror in my hospital room getting ready to leave, Joel handed me my wedding ring. I had given it to him right before I went into surgery. I was in the hospital for four days, Loraine would come sit with me for a few hours so Joel could go home and shower and change clothes. We never knew when I was going to be able to leave, so Joel must have carried my ring with him every day. I couldn't wear it while I was there as I had an I.V. attached to me bloating up my arm and fingers. On the day I was discharged and he handed me my ring, I put it on my finger and smiled at him. Neither one of us said a word, and have never talked about it. It just felt like a moment where no words were needed.

Being in the hospital, the pure shock of what had happened sort of consumed my thoughts. Going home, having to take it easy for two weeks, is where I really had to think of everything and let it sink in. I had to come to terms with the fact that running almost killed me. Triathlon, running, had become my identity, I had allowed my hobby to completely consume me. Because of running, my girls were close to using the answer "I don't know, she died when I was really young" when asked about there mom when they get older.

This experience was truly the toughest life lesson I have ever had to learn. Thanks to Facebook's "on this day" I see how everything I did before this was never enough. I was never fast enough, I was never happy with my race, after every race I would beat myself up for not running faster, getting dropped in the swim, not surging the hills on the bike. I had set absolutely impossible standards for myself that were unreachable for someone of my athletic ability, and since I always fell short I couldn't even be happy with "I tried my best and gave it my all".

Looking back, I see that 2013, and everything that happened that year, led up to the disaster. Coming off a great 2012, I had high hopes for 2013. Joe was deployed to Afghanistan, and even though we stay close even with distance between us, he is my rock and not having him home was demoralizing. In February of that year I got a half marathon PR of 1:44 (which I haven't come close to ever since) so I started off with a false sense of encouragement for the race year. After that February race everything went downhill, fast. A few decent sprint tri finishes, and then Florida 70.3. My worst day at a 70.3 ever, my only time going over 6 hours. Many people had a bad day at that race so even though I wasn't happy with it, I managed to move on because Ironman Louisville, my second Ironman, was in August. Joel came home in late June, just in time for my really long bike rides for Ironman training.

2013's Ironman Louisville was sort of a prologue to the disaster. I had the worst race day ever, and I went home feeling broken and defeated. I trained so hard for that race. I finished my Associate's degree in late 2012 and put off starting my Bachelor's to train for Ironman, I missed out on time with my kids to train for Ironman. All for what? I let it affect my everyday life for about 3 months after the race. I was angry and frustrated, all because of a race. I couldn't shake it. It was about this time I had a falling out with my team, Team RWB, a team I cared about and dedicated a lot of time to. In my anger I vowed to absolutely crush 2014, I would train harder, put in more hours, I was a woman obsessed. I was heading toward a path of athletic self destruction. The universe had other plans for me. The universe was about to show me the errors of my way.

Although it was painful, very painful, I am thankful for what happened. Last year I had my best Ironman ever. I PRed by almost an hour, and I didn't train nearly as hard as I did for the first 2 Ironmans, and I raced 16 pounds heavier. I made it a point to not train in the evenings and to take Saturdays off occasionally to spend time with my family. Throughout the whole training cycle, I felt so much better physically and mentally, and didn't get the feeling that I was living to train. I finally found a good balance between my hobby and the rest of my life, and my family didn't feel like they came second to triathlon.

2015 Ironman Louisville, I still can't believe I did so well with so little training
Up until 2014, I had raced long course every year since I started triathlon. Because triathlon had become my identity, I felt obligated to race long course. In 2014 I had so much fun racing only short course I decided to do it again this year. I will not being doing an Ironman next year as I have a good chance of graduating from Kansas State University in the fall of next year if I stay focused.

I love triathlon, that will never change. For the past six years it has been my passion, and it still is my passion. I vow to allow it to continue to be my passion, but never again will I let it become my obsession. I will continue to train hard, but sensibly, not self destructive. This life lesson taught me that, and for that I will forever be thankful. I learned how to be kind to myself, to cut myself some slack and not expect perfection, and to be happy to live to race another day, no matter the race results of that day. I learned to listen to my body and not take risks in training and racing. My family is so precious, and I always want them to know that they are my whole world and to show it I must always give them the love and priority they deserve.

On Monday I turned 33. Writing this has me thinking about my girls when they are my age, and what they will remember of their childhood. The girl aren't going to remember all my podium finishes, or my 13:26 Ironman, or my 1:44 half marathon, but they will remember that I ran and I raced triathlons. What the girls will remember, standing next to me in Bramlage Coliseum cheering on the Kansas State Lady Wildcats basketball team hoping for another win, sharing a big bucket of popcorn, jumping up and down as they score a last-minute basket. They will remember I bought them memberships to the Junior Wildcats Club, and getting the chance to line up in the tunnel to cheer on the team as they run out to the court. They will remember Friday night pizza and candy movie night as a family. They will remember doing the kid's fun run at my races, and taking home a really cool medal. Laci will remember me taking her to swim team practice 5 nights a week without a groan or complaint, and always telling her I'm proud of her. She will remember me being her biggest cheerleader at her swim meets. They will remember Christmas morning and the tasty breakfast after presents, and the ham dinner later that night. They will remember me taking them to Starbucks and then to Varsity Donuts for the best donuts in the world. They will remember trips to the lake and family bike rides.

Cheering on the Lady WIldcats
There is so much more to life than training and racing, I just had to nearly lose it to realize it. My turning point. Thanks for reading

Breakfast out with my family on one of my Saturdays off from training

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