Recovering from my September concussion has had quite a few phases. One of the more unpleasant side effects was not being able to concentrate on things for very long, and a general lack of desire or energy to do anything other than what absolutely had to be done or what was immediately in front of me. Writing definitely took a back seat to getting the kids where they wanted to go, work, home, a puppy, and the holidays. It has been so challenging getting back to my previously organized and efficient self, and when everything in my life seems permanently backlogged, it felt like a selfish luxury to do anything else but just get through “it” – whatever it was at the moment.

Things are better now, though my short-term memory is still not great. When I try to think hard about details or remember schedules, it feels like I’m trying to cut through a thick fog. I still have conversations I can’t recall details from a few days later, and if I don’t write dates and notes down about everything, I’m likely to forget a doctor’s appointment or a meeting of some kind.

I will freely admit that training this year has not been awesome, but I have adopted an “act as if” attitude. This attitude has worked for me in the past and in many situations. Some people call it positive thinking, but this is more my belief that everything changes, for better or worse, and I try to act as if things are getting better/different soon, just as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Preseason is an odd beast. This is my second year, so I went into the season assuming it would be easier. I am not sure why I thought this, because it is patently untrue. I guess the only thing easier about training is that I now know training is not easy. The stronger you get, the more the training adjusts itself to make it feel like you’ve learned nothing, FOOL! Last year, everything glimmered with exciting newness, and I was meeting my teammates for the first time, and I loved 99.9% of what I was doing.

Unfortunately a number of my teammates aren’t around, for different reasons. Two of them moved out-of-state. One of my closest friends on the team is taking a break after completing an Ironman last year, but still runs with me occasionally. I’ve spent much of preseason feeling disconnected from everyone. I have met some new people and have made some new friends, but not having my regular training partners makes runs more difficult, I’m less motivated to get in the pool if I’m always swimming alone, and even though I don’t go any less, cycling indoors is hard AND boring. It’s already one of my least favorite things to do, and it’s even more un-fun when you feel isolated. Much of this is of my own making, as I’ve noticed my disconnection from people in general. I also think that’s a combination of things, not the least of which is general exhaustion with trying to keep on top of the crazy life I lead with my family.

However, I’ve continued to show up and do my workouts and gut out the things that I struggle with. I complete most of my runs, but I’d say for every 10 I do, I enjoy about 1.5 of them. Indoor cycling remains one of the hardest classes I have ever done, and I do it a lot. I notice progress there when I compare the things I was able to do last year with the things I can this year, so I know I’m stronger, and that makes the pain worth it. I’m hoping that when I come out of the room and into the wild on my bike, I’ll really feel like I did something this year by staying committed to my training program.

And remember when I said I was only going to sign up for two races this year – my comeback Half distance and IM Chattanooga? So much for that theory. Right now I’m in the process of signing up for a master’s swim meet in March, the Rumpus in Bumpass Oly on April 21, Raleigh 70.3 on June 3, The Culpeper Gran Fondo 100 miler on August 4, the Hammerhead Full distance Aquabike on September 9 and of course Chattanooga September 30. How did this happen???

Obviously it’s important for me to keep training and working hard, since I have quite a season ahead of me, and I’m just pushing forward knowing that soon I will be back out of the pool and into open water, back on the hills in Goochland instead of on my trainer, and running in 100+ degree heat (oh wait, that’s the one thing I’m dreading).

Although I feel very fortunate to have only suffered a concussion and some bumps and bruises, the accident really broke my self-confidence. I find myself struggling with irrational thoughts and fears, like not wanting anyone to come to Raleigh with me because I am so afraid something’s going to happen again and once again I won’t complete the Half. I don’t want anyone to see me fail again.

Some of my irrational fears look like this:


Who gets knocked off their bike by a moose? These dudes. 

Or this:


All those squirrels on the Cap Trail have a death wish and they are gonna take me out with them. 

Or even this:


We have rams in Virginia, right?

I wonder if I am capable of finishing any race at this point. I realize this is completely ridiculous, but ending the season like I did made it all feel like a sentence that ended halfway through, instead of ending my season with an exclamation point. Hell, I’d have even taken a period – any type of punctuation that finished my season’s sentence with finality.

I’ve had a number of people say to me that I’m lucky I can’t remember anything. Well, maybe. The flip side is that by not remembering, I am left with my open questions and fears about why it happened and if it will happen again. If I knew for certainty it was because I wobbled on my bike, okay then. Was I distracted and looked back and ran off the road? Did I hit something in the road, or see something that made me veer off course? Did another cycling come close to me and scare me so that I wobbled? Who knows. I spend a lot of those irrational moments trying to sort through the rubble in my brain to figure out what I know can never be figured out, and telling myself to let go of the fear.

One of the races this season has me totally freaked out, primarily because it is on roads that will not be closed and roads that are very busy and not in the greatest condition. I told myself recently that I will have 112 miles of those roads to work out my anxiety, for better or worse, and continue to redirect my thoughts into a positive space when I start to panic.

Some days, I wonder why I’m doing this at all.

Other days, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I think this is all pretty normal in my sport.

So that’s where I am today – mentally preparing to go back outside very soon, wishing running was easier, and spending a lot of time swimming back and forth like an insane dolphin trying to get some exercise in my watery playpen.  I’m looking forward to the Rumpus and reaffirming that yes, I can do this again – yes, I can finish something. Even with an exclamation point.


Bring it on – gently.

I so badly wanted to go see my teammates at Ironman Florida this past weekend, but I am still having eye issues and am also still sensitive to noise and light. So, I made what I considered a mature decision to not go down in person, but instead spend Saturday glued to my phone, Ironman tracker, and the live feed instead.

There is nothing like watching an Ironman event to make you feel inspired, especially as the day drags on toward the midnight cutoff and you see so many athletes pushing through 16 hours of grueling effort. Some of my closest training buddies completed their first IM on Saturday, and seeing them cross the finish line – albeit on my computer monitor – was a true high point for me. One of my teammates was robbed of her first IM attempt when she tripped and messed herself up pretty badly a week before the race. She had major vindication Saturday when she completed it! I couldn’t help thinking – or consoling myself – that when one attempt is foiled, the second must be that much sweeter.

I’ve approached workouts cautiously over the past couple of weeks. I’ve gotten two longish swims in (considering I wasn’t swimming at all, a 1600M swim is a long way for me at this point). I had a bad experience when I first tried to swim again, so I get out of the pool every 300-400M and test my balance. I look like I’m getting a impaired driver test at the side of the pool, but whatever. If I feel okay, I jump back in, and if I don’t, I stop immediately. Running has been going well other than feeling sloth-like. I managed to eek out 5 miles Saturday on a dreadmill. Since I couldn’t be outside, I did some speedwork on the treadmill to make up for it. I am still sore today (!!!). Riding has been more challenging in that I don’t feel confident riding outdoors by myself, so it’s been difficult getting any mileage in. I can only do so many loops in the neighborhood before I feel like driving off the road on purpose this time. Yesterday I ventured out of the neighboorhood into two of the neighborhoods that are close by, and still only got to 8 miles before I was bored out of my mind. That boredom may be beneficial – if it gets strong enough, it may overcome my fear of riding alone and get me back out on my normal 20 mile loop around Hanover and Goochland.

I am far enough out from the injury that I can safely say the worst part of recovery has been losing my self-confidence in terms of cycling. I still love it, but everything feels hard and scary. I wanted to adjust my aerobars so that I have better visibility. We did that, but a screw came loose during a ride and everything dropped down. I took it back in to have it fixed, but wasn’t sure where it was set, so I guessed. I probably guessed wrong because now my back hurts again when I ride, an old problem I thought I had fixed. This means going back yet again to the bike fitter who most likely hates me by now. Not being 100% comfortable on the bike makes me even more freaked out when riding. I don’t feel completely stable and every time I adjust my position, my bike wobbles (which is normal, but still terrifying). I find it hard to stay down in aero because I am petrified of potholes, squirrels, imaginary gargoyles – you name it, so I am constantly forcing myself into that position, then popping back up again after a few minutes or seconds because I am not comfortable (mentally).

When I rode with Clair a week and a half ago, she talked to me a lot, distracting me, and I forgot I was scared. For a few lovely minutes, I rode like I used to. I liken it to childhood innocence, when you were scared of nothing because you had no concept of consequences. I am mourning the loss of my cycling innocence!


I am also trying desperately to get the motivation to eat well. Knocking my head on the ground also seems to have knocked my ability to eat properly out as well. With this in mind, and knowing I’m going to be asking a lot of my body, I’m going back to the nutritionist at the end of this month. I got a little bit cranky last year – if I KNOW how to eat, why do I need to keep seeing someone? Apparently I need a reminder and a little help right now.

There is a common misconception that when training for any type of longer distance event, like a marathon or longer triathlon, one can eat whatever they want. It’s hard not to fall into the trap of eating 2000 calories you just burned on that brick and then some. Last year, I was hungry ALL the time. And reintroducing carbs to my menu was like giving an alcoholic some good whiskey. Down the carb rabbit hole I went. I’m surprised I’m not munching on a cinnamon roll while I write this . . .

So my current situation is:

  1. Desiring normal eye tracking and the ability to be in larger noisy groups of people without feeling like there is an ice pick in my brain
  2. Exciting to ride, terrified to ride
  3. Jabba the Hutt
  4. Slow running but still moving forward
  5. Reading all the race reports on Raleigh 70.3 and IMCHOO
  6. Anxiously awaiting the start of the season on November 18th!






What I learned last year.

Around this time last year, I’d already signed up for Monticelloman Olympic in May, Robious Landing Sprint in June, Rev3 Olympic in July, Pink Power Sprint (with Lily and Jane) in August, and the Half in the Outer Banks in September.

All that racing was a bit much. It worked last year because none of my races were overly long, and I had plenty of time to train for the Half. But this year, knowing Chattanooga is breathing down my neck – well, I’m dialing it WAY back.

I had wanted to do an early season Half even though I know my fitness leuntitledvel won’t be quite where I want it by June. However, I need vindication, and I need it as early as I can manage it. I asked Cyndi which of the team Half races most closely mimicked IMCHOO, and she told me Raleigh 70.3. Today, I signed up for it, after reading as many race reports as I could get my hands on. I’m terrible at reading elevation charts and comparing them to each other, but it looks hilly on both the run and the ride. This should build my confidence going into IMCHOO (in theory at least!).

Before OBX Half, it never entered my mind that I wouldn’t finish a race due to injury. I’d had lots of nightmares and negative thoughts about mechanical issues or just a failure to push through whatever challenge the day handed me. I had already visualized positive outcomes for any of these imaginary problems – what I would say to myself, how I would respond, how I’d handle them. By the time I got to race day, I felt great. My body felt ready and my mind felt strong. Obviously, we all know what happened, but my point is – I was PREPARED.

Now I find three things bothering me, every time I think about racing. The first is worrying about how I will perform on the bike. I rode 20 miles on Saturday and about mile 10, I started to feel that old sense of joy and comfort that I had come to rely on while on my bike. I pushed a little harder, tested out my aero position, dealt with riders riding 2 abreast on the Cap Trail without punching anyone (but I really wanted to), and didn’t fall down (at least while riding – I did drop my bike twice just standing near it). The majority of the time, especially while Derek and Andrea talked to me, I forgot I was supposed to be nervous and scared and it just felt like the good ol’ times to me. I discovered that I have a new fear – looking down at my Garmin. It is terrifying, probably because that is the last thing I remember before the accident. I will need to deal with that at some point but it doesn’t have to be right now. However, I still wonder if I will ever truly be back to my old self. Will I be able to push myself harder and train better to increase my speed? Will this setback make me overly cautious (or more cautious than I already was)? I am hoping no.

The second concern is my running. Based on last year’s experiences, and having gone through the process once, I KNOW in my head that I can train my body to do whatever distance I set my mind to. But right now, when I go out for a short 2-4 mile run, I feel pretty rough. Everything hurts, my aerobic capacity is diminished, and it feels HARD. I’ve had one really good run mixed in with 3 not-so-fun runs, but my friend Jennifer reminded me that all of this is really good progress. I know she’s right. I miss the old me, though – in so many ways.

(interesting to note that by the time I reached the third point, I’d already forgotten what it was – I’m still struggling with short term memory problems and have to write lists of just about everything)

Oh, right. The third one is – I don’t want to get hurt again. I know that increasing mileage means more exposure to opportunities for injury, and the idea of not training is worse than the idea of injury. This could be either bravery or complete stupidity; it depends on the day you ask me. I am overly paranoid about hitting my head because I cannot imagine what it would be like to reinjure myself before I’ve fully and completely healed. Considering it can take up to 2 years for a brain injury to truly heal, well . . . you can see why I’m nervous. I really don’t like starting and stopping on the bike. I’ve never been one of those graceful riders who make it look like no big deal. I usually look like a drunk grandmother either mounting or dismounting. Now I’m even more petrified, which has only made my cycling fumblings more noticeable. I’ve also become a helmet nazi. If you are on a bike without a helmet, you can be guaranteed a commentary from me, even as you whiz by me at 25 mph. If you are a friend and your helmet straps are too loose, you will also get a well-intentioned lecture. If you are riding any type of distance by yourself, without a Road ID, you will receive a lecture, free of charge. I cannot help it. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Edwin is uptight about me getting injured, and I understand it completely, considering what I put him through. Sometimes his litany of all the things that can happen to me gets to be a bit much, and I have to tune him out. My brain is already making those lists, and I guarantee you, they are much longer than his.

With all of these in mind, I’ve just adopted an “act as if” mentality. I am acting as if none of the bad stuff happened. I’ve even tried to trick my brain into thinking I finished OBX, and imagine what my mental status would be if I had. We go indoors soon and I won’t have to “worry” about riding outdoors for quite a while, and I’ll get a chance to start my training program over again with those glorious, short bricks – ride for an hour, run for 20 minutes  . . . ahhhh, paradise.

They-see-me-roooin-they-hatinBike-MemeActing as if has gotten me through a lot of sticky situations, and I’m hopeful it will get me through this one. Thursday, I go back to my bike fitter to talk about moving me into a much less aggressive position on the bike. I don’t care about anything other than feeling good on it and not having neck pain. If there was a passive aggressive fit for the bike, I’d totally sign up for that setting.  I am going to pick and tweak and adjust until I am 100% satisfied – as satisfied as one can be sitting on a very hard bike seat for many many miles.

Then, I’m going to visualize myself overcoming all these obstacles – shouting “I AM A CHAMPION”. . . or “PLEASE GOD DON’T FALL” . . . or “SINGLE FILE, IDIOTS” . . . and all of this irrational fear will drip away along with my sweat.


1185647_415401705232346_558211498_nMy mama always told me “When you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” I’ve been practicing this a lot. When people ask me how I am, I know I am supposed to say “Great!” When they ask how recovery is going, I am supposed to say “Wonderful!” The truth is, most people really don’t want you to answer the question of “How’s your day going?” unless the answer is a straight up “Awesome, and you?” There are plenty of people in my life who will tolerate the blah blah blahs of the truth, and who don’t want me to sugar coat anything. However, I am tired of telling the truth, which is: I don’t feel like me anymore.

I read an article on concussions today (and you can too, if you feel like it). A couple of things the author wrote really struck close to my heart. Let’s discuss.

A loss of balance is a classic symptom of concussion. That’s because the parts of your brain that help orient your body in space are spread throughout the Jell-O; your eyes, ears, muscles and joints all contribute signals, which are processed through the cerebellum, cerebral cortex, and brainstem. Vision is similarly vulnerable, since the control of the eye is spread throughout the brain as well. “Those are the physical signs on examination that I look for in everybody who I see with a concussion,” Leddy says. “How their eyes are working and what their balance’s like.”

Another common symptom of any brain injury, including concussion, is impaired memory. I experienced two kinds. The first was for events that occurred before my brain injury, called retrograde amnesia. I remember realizing I would crash, but don’t remember the impact. The other kind, anterograde amnesia, is for events after the brain injury. This form is probably due to the chaos that was taking place inside my skull.

It is weird to read an article that so accurately describes all of the things that have happened to me. I still exist in this weird limbo where I am either terrified by how significant this accident was and telling myself that it is really no big deal. I look okay on the outside; how is it that I am not okay on the inside? Why is this so hard? And when from minute-to-minute, I vacillate between feeling like I am semi-coherent again, the efficient little German multitasker, followed immediately by a general confused and blank expression, well…it’s hard to be okay with the two sides. Which is real? Which is fake? How is it that I can be stuck in both realities depending on the minute?

Instead of my memory surrounding the days leading up to the race and right after it becoming clearer, it’s gotten worse. Details I wrote about in my post-race blog post are gone for me now, so I’m really glad I wrote it down when I did. It is hard to reconcile facts like Craig telling me, “Don’t you remember talking to me on the side of the road?” and knowing that it obviously happened despite this complete blank space in my brain. I wonder if people even believe me, because the whole thing is kind of unbelievable to begin with. I am still so very disconcerted about the fact that something traumatic happened to make me veer off the road, and I will never know what it was, how it happened, or any significant details from right before or right after I took a header off the side of the road.

The brain lives pretty close in our imaginations to the self. It’s one of the reasons some people locate the self specifically as the brain, which is probably why people cryogenically freeze their heads. It’s there in the hopes of a “brain transplant” from that preposterous Italian surgeon. This belief is probably why brain injuries scare people.

And so we have come to a scary phrase: “personality change.” I had one. They’re common with brain injuries, including concussion.

Personality is a major part of how we understand ourselves; in fact, we use it as a reference for famous people, like a television personalityTo have your personality altered by brain trauma seems to upset people more than having it altered by, for instance, emotional trauma. I don’t know why this is! But everyone’s personality changes over the course of a lifetimeusually gradually — and that’s not just true of Americans, either. Perhaps it’s the suddenness of the personality change that frightens people, or perhaps it raises scary questions about identity.

Man, do I feel the author on this one. I struggled previously with some depression and anxiety, but it’s like banging my head on the ground made all of my demons and devils get 1,000 times stronger, and they are definitely in a war to take over control of this bucket of bones. How is it that I felt one way before the accident, and now feel completely different?

Last night, during my first post-head-hulk-smash swim, I felt like myself again. Although I was using my training snorkel to avoid a lot of head turning, I felt strong, albeit slower than I used to be. My form is still intact, I thought. I’m still holding my body right in the water, and I am swimming this 950 meters without much of an issue. All of my self-confidence started to rush back. For a few moments, I no longer felt like Jabba the Hutt. I felt like the strong athlete I wanted to be.

Then I got out of the pool. Enter reality, where only after doing too much do I realize I’ve done too much, and there is hell to pay.


I MISS the me of before, and I am hopeful she will return. Very soon.  I miss the me that laughed loudly and fully, the one who could be fully present and engaged with my friends and my family, the one who made bad jokes, burped at inappropriate times, and tripped over my own feet regularly. The one who could spend long periods of time listening to inane teenage chatter with a perfectly composed, interested-looking face. Now I usually get irritated and excuse myself early on. I find it hard to socialize. Noises are all so damn LOUD. Lights are so damn bright (as I type, I’m sitting in a mostly dark room). People are so ANNOYING. And DEMANDING. Why is anyone asking me to do ANYTHING??

The mood change did make memory lapses easier to endure, though. I had always been bad with names, but I was noticeably worse: no new names stuck. I often experienced “tip-of-the-tongue syndrome,” where I’d know there was a word I specifically wanted but couldn’t remember what it was. “Boat farm” meant marina, “salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil” got me caprese, and “circular reasoning where you say the same thing twice” is tautological. It was like a game of Catchphrase where even I didn’t know the word people were trying to guess, and I played with whoever was around me until I found the word I was looking for. Viewing it as a game made it less frustrating and a little more fun, so I chose to do that.

Yesterday, I was trying to come up for a word that encompassed these items: bike, bike helmet, cycling shoes, tri kit. You know, those “things” you need that have to be repaired or replaced occasionally.  Andrea said, “You mean, EQUIPMENT?” YES DAMMIT! THAT IS THE WORD! EQUIPMENT! I am an English major, creative writing major, lover of language and words. Words Iz Hard now. I don’t have the author’s sense of humor about this – yet – but I do like her suggestion that I make this a kind of game. Perhaps we can play Charades the next time I can’t remember my own daughter’s name.

What’s more common, and what tends to be listed in the literature on concussion, are two things: anxiety and depression. But the brain-body connection is relevant here, too. Most concussion patients have difficulty with light and noise; they often isolate themselves in dark, quiet rooms in response. In people without concussion, this kind of behavior creates depression and anxiety. So, did the depression and anxiety come from the brain injury, or the self-imposed isolation afterward?

I don’t know, but I sure wish I did. I do know that I have been grappling with the deepest and darkest depression I’ve felt since the divorce, and that is saying A LOT. I find myself unmotivated to an extreme. I force myself up, I force myself to mother and parent, do laundry and shop, show up at work, complete my tasks, answer the phone, pay bills. But it is so very hard to do these things that used to be menial and boring, but easy. I feel isolated very often. I also feel frustrated, defeated, sad, angry, fed up. I also feel really, really fat.

The other reality is, the more I don’t work out, the less I want to. The more I don’t work out, the less I care about the food I put in my body. I ate a donut today. I DO NOT EAT DONUTS except on special occasions. I just said, “Eff it, I’m eating this thing. ” And I did. And I’ve felt bad about it all day. It’s not like I can go crank out a 4 mile run tonight to even the score with me and Mr. Donut. It’s just going to hang with me, and that’s the truth.


So, what does one do when they don’t accomplish a big major goal on the first try?? What does one do when making big decisions is hard? What do you do when you have a head injury? Sure, yes, you attempt your goal again. Or, you just blow that off and attempt something twice as big. That’s right, I signed up for #IMCHOO – Ironman Chattanooga, September 2018.

It’s about the only thing I’ve done that reflects the positive, can-do, MexiCAN-not-MexiCANT thinking I want to portray to the world at large. Deep down in the depths my old self is struggling to break free of this demonic possession that smacking my head against the dirt brought on. Plus – the race is sponsored by Little Debbie. Snack cakes for everyone!



Week 1

I went out to Saturday morning brick today just to drop off a team gift I’ve been working on. I thought it would help me to see everyone, and it mostly did. I would be lying to say that seeing the people I care a lot about kicking ass on their bikes and running didn’t make me feel like curling up in a ball. It is a bittersweet lollipop – I am genuinely happy that so many of them are still working diligently toward their Ironman goals, and I am genuinely jealous/sad that I am not one of them anymore.

This week has been one of the most sucktastic weeks I can remember. Without Netflix, my phone, my computer to distract me, I’ve had way too much time to sit and think. My doctor warned me that depression can be a side effect of a concussion, and for those of us with depression already, it can be a lot worse.

I honestly can’t remember a time within the past 5 years where I have felt this low. I have tried very, very hard to counteract the negative thoughts with positive ones. A lot of my mental conversations go like this:

Me: “I cannot believe this happened to me. This is SO NOT FAIR.”

The other me: “Well, at least you are okay. You’ll heal and this is totally not the worst thing that ever happened to you.”

Me: “It sure feels like I’ve lost everything,”

The other me: “Good lord, come on. It’s no big deal. So you missed your goal race. There’s another one or four hundred next year. Get a grip.”

Me: “If you tell me this is just another race, I’m going to throat punch you.”

The other me: “Other people have real problems. Shut up.”

And so on.

Because I’ve had a lot of time to think, I’ve been able to figure out why my depression is so intense right now. I’ve gone through some hard times, but as I was telling a friend yesterday, this is a kind of shit sandwich of epic proportions.

First, I am devastated over the “failure” to reach my goal. I am proud of my performance up until the moment I crashed, and I know that all of the hours and sweat and dedication I poured into getting ready for the OBX half resulted in the kind of race day I was having. For those of you who train and race – I know you understand that it isn’t really about the race day itself. It’s about overcoming all the negative inner-speak and convincing yourself, minute by minute, that you can accomplish that which you seek. I know that had I not crashed, I would have finished the race. There isn’t a doubt in my mind. But . . . there is a period missing from the end of a sentence, an open door where one should have been closed. I grabbed a t-shirt from my drawer to go to PT yesterday. It happened to be the shirt from the race that says “half” on the back. I wore it for about 5 minutes before I started to feel so badly, I had to take it off. Simply put, I spent all of this time and energy working on something that I mostly completed, and it feels really, really bad. 54.2 miles of 70.3 . . . ugh.

Second, my routine is completely different. I went from working out 6 days a week, much of it with people I really care about, to do nothing. My body is in some state of shock. Every time I cross over the James River, I start to tear up because I want to be in it so badly. I see a cyclist on the road, and I feel genuine despair. I pretty much hate to run these days, but even runners are making me mad. Why do they get to do it when I can’t? It is a whirlpool of self-pity and anger.

Related to #2, I miss my second family. A lot. Cyndi told me that I could come on Tuesdays and help out with class, and run SAG for the team on Saturdays, and I still am planning to go to Florida in November to cheer on my teammates doing IMFL. I am going to do all of those things when I am sure that I won’t be doing any more public crying because that’s just not fair to anyone else. I ran into Jackie today. She’s been plagued by injuries all year, and she was out riding. I saw her and talked to her for a few minutes about what she’s been through, and promptly started crying – AGAIN. She told me that during one of her injuries, she cried off and on for four days straight. I can relate. Seeing the people who have helped define one of the most successful years of my life felt really good, because it feels like a giant void in my life has opened up. It also reminded me of what I can’t do right now.

Fourth, I am mourning the loss of my self-confidence. I figure by the time I crashed, I’d ridden over 2,000 miles this season. I started to feel like I was no longer a beginner cyclist. I understood a lot about my bike. It felt like an extension of my body. I felt the kind of joy riding that I had seen in my other teammates’ eyes. I couldn’t wait to get on the bike 99% of the time, and I’d usually spend the last few miles of every ride pep-talking myself into how great the run was going to be after. When I went more than a few days without my bike, I would miss it badly. I admit that sometimes I’d just go into the garage and look at it, or ride it around in circles in my driveway. I liked my bike *that* much. There are more selfies of the bike than of me or friends over the past 10 months. It’s not like it’s some super expensive, ultra-serious tri bike, but it’s mine, and I’ve made a lot of progress on it.

It has been sobering thinking about it since the crash. It feels like a kind of sore in your mouth, where you poke at it with your tongue, seeing how much it hurts. You can’t help but mess with it, even though it doesn’t feel good. I compare my thoughts about cycling now with what they used to feel like, and I’m scared. Since I don’t know what happened, I am left with a general sense of terror about it. Will it happen again? Did I really not learn enough over the course of 2,000 miles to not be wobbly and careless? When I finally let go of my fear and really started to push my speed, look what happened. Even writing about it makes my heart race. I don’t know if some of my memory has returned or if I’m recreating what I think happened, but I do have one small moment where I am seeing my aerobars and feeling absolute dread and fear. This memory is sandwiched between the last thoughts I can remember having, and waking up seeing Renee.

I want to love my bike again, and the positive and determined person inside me is saying that I will. Many of my team have experienced crashes, some of them serious. They are still out there riding. I don’t plan to cave in to the fear, but I am so sad that I am afraid, at least right now.

Finally, I feel a loss of purpose. Cyndi mentioned that it would have happened to some extent if I had finished the half. It’s like post-partum depression. I spent some of my energy thinking about and planning my triumphant return. I allowed myself a few minutes every day to look at race reports and descriptions, and I am thinking about doing Steelhead 70.3 in my home state of Michigan or maybe an early spring half followed by a full.  It helps channel my emotions into something more positive.

The training self inside me is a generally positive person. I don’t whine or complain a lot about training. It has been one of the most fun and satisfying things I have ever done, so it feels alien to have such negative and defeated feelings about it. I have resisted talking about it to the majority of people who have reached out. I don’t want to be seen as a negative person, and truthfully, I don’t want to hear another person tell me it was “just a race” or that I’ll be fine or how grateful I should be that it wasn’t worse. I know all of these things and I know that crossing the finish line whenever I can will be extra sweet. Right now, I need to just be allowed to get through all of these emotions and sort them out without feeling another layer of guilt for having them in the first place. To those of you who have just hugged me or asked me how I am honestly feeling, I am so appreciative of you. Even though I haven’t been able to talk extensively to more than a handful of people, knowing that I could tell you that I wasn’t doing great FELT great. Putting on a brave face and acting like everything is a-okay is kind of exhausting in and of itself.

d11f730c149492349a29ce176ad30f98That being said, I am looking forward to getting back to my normally jovial self. Pre-season is right around the corner, and I want to be back in the saddle, literally and figuratively, by November. In the meantime, I’m biding my time during my house arrest, repeating the mantra that “this too shall pass”. Also, I’m looking forward to riding Kermit style.


When you have to write what you don’t wanna write.

This is not a post I am supposed to write.

And honestly, I kind of don’t know where to begin. When I am sad, or upset, or seeking answers, writing has always been the place I have turned. I am hopeful that the process of writing all this down will help guide me into some better frame of mind where decisions can be made. I’ll also try to find the humor and grace that this experience has provided, mixed in with the truth, which at times is not overly positive, funny, or graceful.

After being paralyzed by an overwhelming amount of packing, I finally got it together Thursday night and had everything put into suitcases and bags and my bike strung from one side to the other in the van, lest anything rub up against it or hurt it. Friday morning we picked up Nicole and Craig and headed to Manteo.


Preswim day – Friday September 15

I was oddly calm going into the weekend. I know everyone likes to say “You’ve trained  well, all that’s left is to enjoy the day” – but I’ve never been able to really embrace that. This time, I did.

We got to Manteo early and checked into our rental, then I headed over to packet pick up to grab our stuff and do a quick pre-swim of the course. The water was beautiful, calm, and the perfect temperature – even if it wasn’t wetsuit legal.

Getting the in water and swimming for a bit calmed all of my nerves surrounding a swim in the Sound. I was worried the water would be completely different than any of my OWS practices, but the brackishness of the water felt exactly the same as swimming in the Rappahannock had – thanks to Olivia and Steve for all the access to the river they provided!

The swag was great at this race – they even had arm warmers for participants, and I was thrilled that my t-shirt said “Half” on it. I wanted something to commemorate my 70.3!

The pre-race meeting and coordination of everyone took longer than expected, so I decided to silence my need for social interaction in favor of a quiet dinner at the rental house. It was the right decision for me, and allowed me plenty of time to get my gear together for the early morning. The house was full by that time – Jennie and Renee doing the half, Juanita doing the half Aqua Bike, and Michelle doing the Oly Aqua Bike. A ton of the team did this race, but the rest weren’t staying with us.

I lay awake most of the night wishing I was sleeping, and annoyed that I wasn’t. I wasn’t even worried about the race, and couldn’t figure out why I was having so much trouble sleeping. For the first time in my triathlon life, I felt 100% ready for a race, even if I was a little apprehensive about how it would feel.


My amazing team!

Race morning came early, and we headed over to the Dare County Airport where much of the action was taking place. Transition set up went smoothly, and I was able to help another woman doing her first Half when she realized she had forgotten her goggles. I had an extra pair, so I loaned them to her.

My teammates and I gave each other hugs and high fives and got some water updates from Derek, who also was extremely helpful in that he could see the buoys (I am so short, I couldn’t see over the people), and confirmed that they were, indeed, drifting and that I should not, indeed, follow the sight buoys unless they fixed them.  I also had an emotional moment when I realized that one of my favorite team members, Rhonda, would probably never race with me again as she is moving. I hugged her and cried and told her I loved her. She has been a huge part of my journey, and I have been honored to train with her and grow to call her a friend.

Then I spent a moment just looking at the water and realizing that all the work I’ve put in over the last 11 months was for this moment, and I allowed myself to just be grateful I had the opportunity and the health to do it. We watched the men’s wave go off and all of a sudden it was time for us!

From the beach, the water looked deceptively calm. The course was shaped like a triangle, so we swam at an angle to the shore to the first turn buoy, then out at an angle to the next, then back in again. The first leg was great. I found my rhythm, had plenty of space, and had the presence of mind to just quiet myself and enjoy every moment. The water felt great, the scenery was beautiful, and everything was quiet. Oh right, it was also quiet because I took Cyndi’s suggestion and decided to use ear plugs. I’ve been getting really dizzy after swims and she thought it might help with that. She was right, as usual.

After the first turn buoy, things started to get a little harder. The chop had really picked up along with the wind, and I was having trouble staying in a straight line due to the current. Normally OWS swims during a race don’t feel like they take a long time, but this one sure did. The yellow buoys seemed like mirages to me, moving farther away with every stroke instead of closer. Someone’s boat or jet ski was spewing out gasoline fumes, so every time I came up for air, I was sucking in smoke. I was feeling nauseous and tired. I kept telling myself that it would get better when I rounded the final buoy.

Somewhere in the midst of my muddled brain, I forgot that I didn’t have to keep the sight buoys on my left, so I was fighting what felt like a strong diagonal current to keep them there. It was exhausting.  One of our teammates who came out to cheer said it looked like waves of swimmers were getting blown into the middle of the triangle. At once point, I redirected myself to swim way to the far right of the swim exit in the hopes I could counteract the current. I also noticed I was passing quite a few green caps – the men from the first wave – so I felt like I must be making progress.


You can see how much I was fighting to stay in line on the final leg – that is NOT a straight line.

At the swim exit, I saw Graham’s face, and I was so relieved to be there. Unfortunately I stepped on my timing ankle bracelet and almost pulled it off, so I had the usual flailing and falling I do at a swim exit every. single. time.

Swim time: 47:50 (2,248 yards = more than 1.2 miles. Thanks a lot, current).

This was a slower time for me than I expected, but I wasn’t upset because everyone was complaining loudly about their slow swims. The water conditions were definitely in the top 5 most challenging swims I’ve had.

I ran to transition, which felt like a long way, and took my time getting all the grass and dirt off my feet. I was feeling strong and excited, and couldn’t wait to get on my bike.

T1: 2:48! Pretty happy about that considering transition was .15 miles away from the swim exit and I had a lot of dirt on me.

Heading out on the bike, I again realized how lucky I was to be out on a day like this. The sun was shining, there was a breeze, and I was surrounded by smiling faces (and only a handful of douchebag cyclists). I loved the course – lots of loops, so I was able to see everyone on the team multiple times. I shouted out to them as they passed, and they gave me lots of encouragement too. I also played leapfrog with another woman and got to know her over the few hours we rode together. She kept me going and I encouraged her as well.

IMG_4531The course was mostly flat, but it was WINDY. And I mean WINDY. I felt like I was riding uphill for many miles of that course, because the wind was pushing so hard at me. During some of the marshy areas, the crosswind was brutal and I found myself leaning into it. I tried to stay in aero position as much as possible, but around mile 23 my neck started to really bother me and I wasn’t able to stay down without taking breaks every 2-3 minutes. My nutrition was spot on and I was going through about a bottle an hour, which was my plan. My goal for speed was to stay at a minimum of 16 mph, so I monitored my Garmin every 10 minutes or so to make sure I was staying above my goal.

When I started the second loop, I saw Nicole and Craig riding in the van right along the course, so it was great to talk to them for a minute and tell them how awesome I was feeling.  And I was. Despite some tough wind conditions and a particularly humbling moment where I was literally going 5.4 mph on the bridge, I felt like I could go on forever.

By the time I’d crossed the bridge the second time, I knew I had nailed my goals and exceeded my expectations for the ride. The road after the bridge to the airport had recently been paved, and it was beautiful, smooth blacktop. I looked at my Garmin – 53 miles in, speed 19.2 mph. I got down very low into aero position and told myself to push as hard as I could for the last three miles of my cycling portion. I remember thinking, “Your training has paid off. You had a great ride. Enjoy every second left of it, because the shitty run part is coming next.”

As you can see from my Garmin stats above, my ride ended at 53.06 miles. Somteime after I finished that thought, my bike veered off the road.

I don’t remember anything between that last thought and opening my eyes. I was completely confused. Why was I sitting on the ground? Why did my head and body feel so heavy? Why was someone forcing me to get up? And why was Renee, my intrepid teammate and running partner and friend, staring at me, crying? Slowly it dawned on me that I had come off my bike. I could see it about 20 yards away from me, lying cassette down (that’s a new cassette!!! GET IT OUT OF THE DIRT!!!). I started trying to tell Renee to move, get on with her race, why is she standing there??? Words weren’t coming so I waved my arms at her. I felt like I was dreaming.

Later, I would be told by multiple people the following details. Some of them are probably incorrect. I don’t remember anything about the accident until seeing Renee’s face. I am very grateful that her face is the first one I remember seeing, because I felt immediate comfort knowing someone who cared about me was with me.

  • Teammate Angela came up on me shortly after the accident happened.  She said she hugged me and saw that I was being attended to by two people in an ambulance, so she continued on with her race.
  • Teammate Craig also saw me.
  • Renee saw me, and stayed for awhile until I was able to convey that she should move on or I would kill her – as soon as I was able to walk.
  • A race official standing on the road was looking the other way when I crashed near him. He heard a woman yell, “She’s down!” and he turned to face me. I was lying face down on the ground to the side of the road, not moving. It took him about 1 minute to react and get over to me, and another 3-5 to get me to open my eyes. The woman who yelled apparently stopped and helped him to sit me up, and the only person who saw me go down.
  • Someone told the race official, or the race official assumed, that I had passed out on my bike. I do not believe this to be true, but that is what the ambulance crew was told, so they assumed I was dehydrated and hooked me up to an IV right away.
  • Lab results from the hospital showed no dehydration or any issues with potassium, electrolytes, or anything else for that matter.

It took a long time for Edwin to be notified. One of the EMTs kept trying to call him, but her phone wasn’t working. I wasn’t really able to communicate at that time, and ended up just pointing to my Road ID (note to anyone who doesn’t have one – get one, and get it now). She was able to read his name and number and kept trying.

I am going to be honest here about a couple of things. Renee said that as they were trying to get me into the ambulance, I deadpanned “Does this mean I can’t finish?” Another teammate told me that I was crying on the ground, begging them to let me get back on my bike. They gently refused. I do remember looking at my bike on the ground and thinking, if I can just get myself over to it, I can totally get back on that thing and finish. I am so close . . . just let me get on it.

I also cried. A lot. I could not stop crying. I was scared, confused, and my head felt like it was being split in two. I couldn’t feel the rest of my body, but the base of my skull was throbbing and the front of my forehead was in agony. I told them I was in extreme pain and the EMT put some morphine in my drip. It was the nicest thing anyone did for me on the medical side the rest of the day.

They took me to a hospital, but it took a long time to get there. Edwin had heard from a teammate that I was “down”, but was confused about what that meant. Had I fallen and gotten back up? Was it serious or just my usual “fall at the dismount line” craziness? Unfortunately, he heard a marshall talking on his radio about a cyclist who had crashed. Edwin asked the guy for the bib number. It was mine. Edwin took off for the hospital with Nicole and Craig, followed closely by Michelle and Brian. My ride in the ambulance was pure misery. I was in a C-collar and going over bumpy roads.

I got a CT scan and a cursory look-over at the hospital. The road rash on my right leg remained full of dirt and gravel. No one ever cleaned it. I was starting to regain feeling in my body, and noticed my shoulder was hurting. I had some weird bruise/gash on my chin, and a long, painful line extending from the inside of my right wrist up toward my elbow. I had a large goose egg forming at an angle, extending from the middle of my forward down toward my eye. My head was exploding. I am not a person who likes taking medication, especially pain meds, so it is a testament to the level of head pain that I begged for a Demerol drip at one point. They handed me two Tylenols instead, after waiting a couple of hours for the CT scan results (which showed nothing terrible).

In one of my more stupid moves, I decided to ignore the fact that I had to pee from mile 24 on. I figured I could make it back to transition and go there. Unfortunately, this had unforeseen consequences – mainly that I would crash and end up in an ambulance without the ability to pee for another two hours. The hospital kept asking me to wait, wouldn’t let me get up (rightfully so), and finally relented, bringing a chair next to the bed and letting me relieve myself there. If I race again, I solemnly swear never to hold it that long again.

They diagnosed me with syncope and a concussion and told me to follow up with my doctor at home.

Thankfully, various members of my team had gathered up my belongs at the race and they somehow got home to me, including my bike. The lady I had played leapfrog with saw me on the side of the road and told one of my teammates how much I had helped her get through the bike portion and described me as the “nicest person”. I relay this only because it’s important to note that a few kind words on the course, here and there, can really make a difference to someone. I know it has for me. I spend a lot of time trying to give back good mojo whenever I race. I felt good knowing that I had helped someone.

Here is where I also get real. I cried most of the time in the hospital. I cried on Michelle, I cried on Edwin, I cried on the nurse. Part of it was pain. The other part was crushing devastation that the goal I had worked so hard for this year was gone. I had made it 54.26 out of 70.3 miles. And I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to get the chance to do another half this year – for physical, mental and time reasons. My season was over, and I had failed.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. I didn’t fail. But it sure felt that way, and it continues to creep in. Looking back, my race performance was beyond my expectations. I know I would have finished it. All of my hard work and dedication: I was rewarded tenfold for it. I am a better person for it. And no one can take any of what I accomplished away from me. But it is a flat-out lie to tell you that seeing others walking around with medals – unpacking my “Half” shirt from my suitcase – and seeing the words DNF next to my name – didn’t break my heart. It all did.

I made a dumb decision to go to the team celebration dinner I had put together. Even though I was hurting inside and out, I wanted to go see everyone and congratulate them in person. As time went on, I felt worse and worse. My head was still killing me and I kept breaking down and crying. I was embarrassed and done for the day. I ate my food quickly and bailed early.

I took some meds and finally slept.

When I woke up this morning, everything felt worse, and I decided to call it and leave the Outer Banks early so I can hopefully get in to see a doctor first thing tomorrow. I also wanted to go back to the course to see if I could figure out where I fell, and why. I needed to turn in my timing chip, and I wanted to talk to the race director to see if she could put me in touch with the course marshall who saw the accident happen. I wanted to prove that I hadn’t passed out on my bike, because if that was the case, there is a health issue I would need to deal with. I didn’t believe that could be the case based on how good I felt during the ride. I’ve had many other experiences where I haven’t had proper nutrition and I know what that feels like. This was not anything like that.

I talked to the volunteer who had told Edwin the news about me being hurt. I talked to the USAT referee who had heard what happened and was very relieved I was up and walking. I told her how much I had enjoyed the race, and then I started crying again. I talked to Jenny Ash, the race director, who was also relieved and promised to put me in touch with anyone who saw what had happened. And finally, I got to talk to the course communications officer, who in turn put me in touch, over the phone, with the course marshall who found me. He confirmed that the initial report was untrue. He didn’t see it happen, and he didn’t see me pass out, then crash. He only saw the immediate aftermath.

After seeing the area where I landed, I am convinced that when I dropped down low into aero, I was fatigued in my arms and wobbled a little bit. The part of the road where the wobble happened drops off drastically, about 4 inches. If I caught an edge of my front tire, I would have gone down, and gone down hard. The last reading on my Garmin shows me going about 19.5 mph. The marks on my bike make it appear that I went head over heels with it. Dirt is jammed into the aerobar shifters, meaning that part of my bike was upside down at one point. Part of my right cycling shoe is sheared off (dammit, I love those shoes). My helmet has a gouge out of the back of it (and this would explain the pain in the base of my skull).

Standing on the side of the road where it happened, I stood with Edwin and looked at the tracks the ambulance left. I felt an overwhelming mixture of sadness, amazement that I was walking around, and bitter disappointment at being so close to the finish line. For the first time, I also felt fear. Cycling, something I had grown to love so much, scared me. Looking at my bike scared me. The thought of getting back on it, clipping in, and ever getting into aero position again, was, and is, terrifying right now. Honestly, I don’t want to do it.

Then I began to mourn the loss of my confidence, and that is where I am right now.

Triathlon, and my training team, has given me a lot this year. New friends, the joy of finding out I can do so much more than I ever thought possible, the challenge of trying something new, the newfound love I have of a this sport. But I set a goal back in summer of 2016, and right now, I feel a profound sense of loss that I spent all of this time working toward this goal – one I did not complete.

I have a lot of decisions to make, and I’m not going to make any of them right now until I am healed up and not emotional. In the meantime, I am where I am. I’m not going to try to talk myself out of anything, good or bad.

Like I said, this is not the race report I wanted to write, but I also think it’s important to discuss what happens when things don’t go as planned.



Ready Set Go

I’m 4 full days out from the Half, and I’ve been spending my time alternating between excitement that it’s finally here and a sort of nausea-fueled dread that I actually am doing this thing. I’ve spent some time trying to figure out the “dread” part of it, and I’m fairly certain it’s not dread, but a little bit of fear of something going drastically wrong and me not finishing, or being so miserable I want to quit the entire day I’m racing. I don’t think either of those things are going to happen.

Someone asked me how well I had trained for this race. My response was, “I did 98% of everything that was asked of me.” I rarely missed a team workout or class, I followed my training calendar obsessively, and with the exception of the 6 weeks I took off to heal my running injury, I kept at it with a sort of idiot’s obsession. A teammate commented about how inspiring my dedication was – I told her, “It’s not really dedication, it’s fear-based training. Meaning if I don’t train my ass off, I won’t complete this thing.”

When I’m not making fun of myself, I can admit that I was truly dedicated, and it wasn’t just fear-based after all. I wanted to do this, and I wanted to do it right. The work going into the race prep was actually more important to me than race day. All of that training would finally answer the question I’d been asking for a few years: Could I do something really, really hard, and enjoy it – excel at it – love it?

While I am now officially in taper, I can say that yes, I did something very hard, and I enjoyed it, and I got better in all three disciplines. More importantly, I made some awesome new friends and realized that my body and my mind can do WAY more than I ever thought it could. I spent the first 36 years of my life not doing much in the way of physical activity. It took a separation and subsequent divorce to get me serious about running, and the rest of this is all downhill, so to speak. Once I started running, I never stopped. Running is now the sort of red-headed stepchild to me because it hurts a lot of the time, I’m still pretty slow, and I get frustrated with my inability to get “good” at it. I’ll also admit that when I finish a run, nothing else makes me feel the same way. It does something to me mentally that I crave.

So with the help of my trusty Garmin, I figured out the approximate amounts of my training. This will also explain why I’ve been a little AWOL this year, as I started training in earnest in November.

Miles Run: 378.40
Pool Meters Swum: 128,200
Open Water Meters Swum: 35,189
Miles Biked: 1,961.05

Putting that down on electronic paper made me feel better. I’ve definitely put in the training. I missed a lot of stuff this year to do so, like picking up my kids from their activities at times (Edwin helped out a bunch and so did Nicole), watching practices, helping with homework, housework over the weekends, and spending time, in general, with my family and friends. I appreciate all of those who have been patient with me. One thing you don’t really think about when embarking on a training plan like this one: being a slow runner stinks; it stinks even worse when it takes FOREVER to get in your long Saturday runs because you are hammering down an 11:30/12 min mile pace.

I’m going to mentally check out from as many things as possible until race day; I am trying to go into it with a “just another training session” mentality and also, oh yeah, have fun while I’m doing it. Riding in the Outer Banks – running with like-minded people – plus a beautiful (I hope) swim in the sound? There’s nothing better.