Monthly Archives: September 2014

A New Town Adventure, starring Jen and Lindsey (aka, the Blind and the Blond)

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I know I’ve said it before, but some days just Do. Not. Go. According. To. Plan.

Today was one of them. Wow.  It was spectacularly amazing how much today did not go according to plan.  The good news is, I’m in need of a lighthearted post since my last one was pretty heavy.  So this came at just the right time.

The plan was…I would pick up Jen at 6:30 (much to my chagrin) and drive to New Town. We would do a little open water swim practice.  Then the rest of the crew (Justin, Kris, Tony, Steve and another Jen) would show up around 8 and we’d go for a 30ish mile bike, followed by a run.  Kris was suggesting only a couple miles, I was feeling ambitious, so I figured at least 4.  Then I would come home, shower, relax and feel incredibly accomplished for the rest of the day.

Here’s what really happened…

As planned, or relatively close to it, I arrived, coffee in hand, to pick up Jen. She was outside with her gear ready to go, so we put her bike on the rack with mine and away we went.  She was cheery, I was trying not to be grumpy.  The sky was a stunning array of pinks and purples as the orange ball of light rose over 40/64. We were a few minutes behind schedule as we drove north on 270 but everything was going roughly according to plan, until I forgot where I was going for a second and we ended up on Main Street Old St. Charles.  Ummm, oops.

We had been having such a lovely time chatting that I just completely flaked. So, back to 70 and over to 370 and almost there.  My blond moment had set us back some, but Jen took it in stride.  We finally pulled into New Town around 7:40 and made our way towards the lake in the center.  I looked at the other side of the lake and said, “Oh, there’s Tony’s car.”  Yep, all of our friends who were supposed to be waiting for us after the swim, had beaten us there.  Super.  But in all honesty, the time in the car with Jen had been good therapy.  Ya know how sometimes, you feel like you just click with someone?  Jen is one of those people.  The funny thing is we’ve both had this same circle of friends for well over a year, but we just officially met a couple weeks ago.  Today was confirmation that we are supposed to be friends.

After saying hi to the crew, Jen and I began the process of wetsuiting. You thought wetsuit was a noun, didn’t you? I have decided it can be a verb too, because I assure you the act of putting on a wetsuit deserves its own word.  Other than the 4 letter words I associate with it.

The nice lady whose house we happened to be in front of, came to the door to let us know that her sprinklers were headed our way. We appreciated the warning, not that it would have made much difference.  But we were happy she wasn’t yelling at us or turning us into the authorities for trespassing.

Anyway, back to wetsuiting. Lather on Body glide, one foot in, the other foot in, slowly work it up and over the booty.   Somehow Jen managed to get into hers before I was anywhere even close.  Gerry had joined us at New Town this morning, simply to be our stripper.  Wet suit stripper, that is.  He volunteered for the task of helping us remove the wetsuits.  However, his presence proved much more valuable for assistance with the opposite task.  Eventually Jen and Gerry each took a leg and as they worked the neoprene over my knees they lifted me completely off the ground.  Laughing, I grabbed onto their shoulders so I didn’t fall on my head.  I’m sure the two guys in the truck behind us thought the whole scene was hilarious.  Who could blame them?  We were ridiculous.  It was fantastic.

Finally, wetsuits, swim caps and goggles on. We walked over to the water and in we went.  The cycling crew was long gone, but Gerry sat and watched as we sputtered through our first strokes.  We all laughed as I was immediately tangled in seaweed.  Ok, try again, a few strokes in…anxiety attack.  Can’t breathe.  Remain calm and begin again.  We both started to find a rhythm.  Every 100 meters or so, we’d check in to make sure the other was ok and catch our breath.  Then, right back to it.  Somehow we managed to stretch a .6 mile swim into over a mile.  We were a magnificent display of criss-crossing each other’s wake.  We did a virtual high-five from about 10 feet away as we arrived back at our starting point.  And the even better news was that the cyclists weren’t back yet, so at least we didn’t take THAT long. We climbed out of the lake, walked back to the car and removed our wetsuits, which took considerably less time than putting mine on.

We had stashed my car key in Jen’s saddle bag so I unzipped it and unlocked the car. We weren’t practicing a fast transition so we took our time changing into dry cycling gear, pumping tires, putting on cycling shoes/gloves/helmets and having a quick snack.  Jen had stashed a bag of gummy bears in her car yesterday so her boys wouldn’t find them and when she showed me the blob they had melted into, we laughed about the inappropriate form it had taken.

We debated waiting for the group’s return, but ultimately we decided to take off. And I really had to pee.  So we rode over to the little market and Jen stayed with the bikes while I went in and used the ladies room.  It was a miracle I didn’t get lost, because it was about the only time I made it to my destination without an unplanned detour during the entire morning.

When I returned to Jen waiting outside, we mounted the bikes and slowly began making our way out of the neighborhood. I said, “I’m not really sure where I’m going out here.”  Jen responded, “Me neither.  I usually just follow Tony.”  Yeah, that’s what I usually do.  We joked about the blind leading the blind.  Maybe it should have been the blond leading the blind?  Sadly, we got lost several more times just getting out of the neighborhood.  But sometimes getting lost is the best way to figure out where you want to go.  (Take a second and ponder that)

We eventually found our way out onto one of the main roads and in the middle of Jen’s response to my question about her job, I glanced forward and saw that her saddle bag was open.

“Uh, Jen, I don’t want to interrupt but your saddle bag is open and we need to make sure the car key is still in there.”

She came to a screeching stop and we both grabbed for the bag. It’s not there.  She pulled the spare tube out, looked through everything.  Nope.  Not there.

And so began a slow retracing of our route, eyes glued to the other side of the road, scanning for the only key I have to my car.

You want to know what happens to Lindsey in that much stress? I go silent.  A girl who never, ever stops talking when there is someone to talk to, suddenly has no voice at all.  I began praying silently in my head, Please let us find the key…over and over and over.  They were the only words I knew.  About 2 minutes later we ran into the rest of the group.  Oh good, more eyes means a better shot at finding it! Unless…oh no, please don’t let that key have rattled free as we crossed one of the bridges over the lake…

We all rode slowly back into the neighborhood. Jen and Steve (or Justin?  Or both?) rode one way to cover one of our little accidental detours.  I headed back toward the market with Tony and Kris.  I think “other Jen” went a different way.  I wasn’t entirely sure who was where since I was so focused on starring at the ground.

Jen pulled over a couple of guys in a maintenance vehicle and asked if they might have seen a key on the ground. They said to check the market.

We rode back to the corner, back over the cobblestone section of road where I was desperately hoping it would be due to the jarring as we rode over the bumps. Nothing.  Solemnly, we headed down the last stretch toward the cars.  “Please let it be by the car…”

As we arrived at the car and leaned the bikes, Justin had me retrace exactly how we’d done things. Tony and Jen looked through the leaves by the curb, Justin and I started walking back the way we had gone.

Justin and Kris decided to put on running shoes and look for it that way. Great idea!  Too bad my running shoes are locked in the car.

As a last resort, Jen and I rode back over to the market to see if it was there. There was a guy setting up chairs for a wedding.  And just as Jen asked him if he had seen a key, he said, “Yeah, I was trying to yell to you guys, cause I thought you were looking for it.  I took it into the market.”

Oh Thank you Lord!

We affirmed the wedding setter-upper with “Thank you!”, “You are my favorite person EVER!” and “You’re awesome!”

I practically flew off my bike, handed it to Jen and ran into the market, my cycling shoes clicking on the tile floor. I saw the cashier and searched his face as I simply asked, “Car key?”  He said, “Right here” as he reached into a drawer behind the counter.  That market was my beacon in the night today.

As I returned to Jen outside, a wave of relief washed over both of us. We pedaled back to the cars and as soon as everyone was within earshot I let out a loud “Woohoo!”  We heard their return cheer echo in the distance.

I looked at Jen and said, “Should we quit while we’re ahead?” She said emphatically, “Yes!”

Most lame training ride ever. We covered about 6 miles in an hour.

Justin and Kris were headed out for a run, so we traded our cycling shoes for running shoes, ditched our helmets and locked the bikes back to the car.

I firmly clutched the car key in my hand as we began running, trying to catch up with them. Again, we weren’t entirely sure where they were or where we were going.  They said a loop around the lake, right? Sure.  A mile or so later, we were back at the cars having gone around the lake, and never finding them.  Hmmm…

And then we saw them coming toward us. They were shooting for 2 miles so we joined them for a little back and forth on the road where we were parked .  Well, at least this way we can’t get lost.  Or if we lose the key again, we won’t have much ground to cover to look for it.  In the future, Tony has been assigned the task of marking the bike course with chalk.  And I am accepting applications for a “Key Master”.

Jen and I finished the day at just over a mile swim, about 6.5 on the bike and just under a 2 mile run. Not even 10 miles in total. But we had done a mini-tri, practiced transitions (sort of), held a scavenger hunt and had quite an adventure.  Most importantly, we had gotten in a practice swim in the wetsuit.  And we bonded.

As we drove out of New Town, I yelled out the window to our friends, “Maybe you should follow us out of here so we don’t get lost again.” They all laughed.  And then Jen said, “It’s funny but it’s true.”  And we laughed again.  We did beat them out of New Town.  It was the only thing we won at today.

As we drove home, we resumed our continual chatter. During the run, Jen had continued the story I cut short upon noticing the open saddle bag.  And our conversation went into deeper topics.  I still can’t believe I haven’t known this girl my entire life.  As I turned into her neighborhood, and onto our street, I was a little sad that our morning was over.  We hadn’t really done what we set out to do, but I know I got so much more out of it than I ever could have imagined.

Then I drove the mile back to my house, sat my nasty self on the couch and ate a bag of goldfish crackers. I don’t mean a handful.  I mean I opened a brand new bag and ate every last morsel of that flavor blasted goodness.  Hey, better to drown my frustrations in goldfish than calling up Gerry to see if he has any more of the Tequila left that I kept refusing last night.

While our workout today left me feeling like a huge embarrassing failure, the time I had with Jen was priceless. And I can’t thank that group of people enough for sticking it out today until everything was under control.  I have my second 70.3 next weekend to prove myself as an athlete.  And I’m so glad that most of the folks from this morning will be out on that course with me.  Justin, Kris, Steve and Jen are all after their A race for 2014.  Other Jen is on a relay team.  Hopefully, Tony will come out and take some stellar pictures of us since he isn’t registered.  For me, it’ll just be another day at the office as I use it as a big training day in prep for Arizona.  I can’t think of a better way to spend next Sunday than having a “do-over” of today.  But even if I had known what was in store for today when my alarm went off at 5:45 this morning, I wouldn’t do this “Triathlon of emotions” any differently.

PS-Justin, I think I’ll head over to the Hyundai dealership right now to have a second key made.

 

Jen and RRG, aka the Blind and the Blond

Jen and RRG, aka the Blind and the Blond

 

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Finding a Way In

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Preface: I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but it’s a tough story to tell, so I’ve had it hiding away in my lap top for a while.  I wrote this just after the news that a friend’s brother had taken his life, the next day it was Robin Williams, and the next day the events of Ferguson.  Our world is a mess.  This week several other friends lost someone to the battle of depression and I know it’s time to tell this part of the story. So, without further adieu…

Can I just take a second to state the obvious? Life is hard.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I count my blessings multiple times a day. But we live in a broken world and sometimes life just seems overwhelmingly difficult.  I’m not even talking about how difficult the past couple weeks have been for me personally with doing a refi on the house, finally getting my AC fixed after 6 weeks in the Midwest summer, a biopsy (it was negative…YAY!) and having to miss my baby’s birthday party.  I’m talking about the fact that sometimes we deal with the turmoil of senseless tragedies, and people acting out in violence simply because they feel entitled, and then there is the tragic devastation that sometimes people reach a place of hopelessness that leads them to believe they just cannot go on in this world.

Life is hard. For all of us.  Everywhere.  No one is exempt.  That is reality.  But sometimes it becomes more than that.  Sometimes that hardness seems overwhelming, oppressive, suffocating.

Think about it, no matter what the situation, almost everyone has some kind of escape, don’t they? Alcohol, drugs, shopping, relationships, food, our kids, travel, endorphins?  Yes, endorphins.  Just take your pick. We use all kinds of things to numb the pain of the real world and all the heart aches that come with it.  Sometimes we use all of these things.  But eventually, the buzz wears off, the relationship gets rocky, the race is over, the hunger returns.  And what are we left with?  A feeling of emptiness.  So we get high again.  Or move on to someone who we have a better connection with.  Or sign up for another race.  Or rack up more credit card debt. Or grab a fork. But no matter what our chosen method of “self-medicating” might be, it will never cure anything if we don’t acknowledge what the real issue is hiding behind those go to obsessions.

And for some, it goes beyond that. That’s where the oppressive and suffocating kick in. I’ve heard a lot of opinions about Depression recently, so I wanted to throw in my 2 cents.  Depression is real.  Anxiety is real.  PTSD is real.  But until we have stood in another person’s shoes, we have absolutely no idea what they are thinking or feeling.  And until one has felt so trapped and stared complete hopelessness in the face, they cannot possibly know what that is like.

When I started this blog a year and a half ago, I had no idea of the journey before me. As I have dared to tell my story, so many have come forward to share their stories with me.  Here is a little more of my story…

You might be wondering how I could possibly know what that hopelessness looks like? People have told me all my life that my smile can light up a room.  But sometimes it’s the people with the biggest smiles, or the ones who make you laugh the loudest, who are hiding the most pain.  Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, I know it all.  I have been to the brink of that hopeless despair, I have looked it in the eye and somehow I backed away from the edge.  But I have been to that place where I felt so trapped that I couldn’t possibly imagine how I would go on and I can tell you that when you get to that place it feels impossible to string these 2 simple words together: “Help…me.”  And I have felt so stuck that it seems there is no other way out.  I have felt suffocated.

Not everyone is called off the ledge like I was. Why was I called back?  I don’t entirely know for sure.  But I do know that I won’t let it be for naught.  I have been called to a higher purpose and I hope that I am able to rise to the occasion.

Today when I was at work, I was encouraging a woman to come and run with one of our social groups. She kept insisting she wasn’t good enough.  Bah!  We love to have all levels at our events, it’s totally ok.  Later, as I went off to swim by myself, rather than join a group swim that was meeting just a couple hours later, it occurred to me, I was doing the same thing.  Any time we don’t feel up to par, we try to go it alone.  And isn’t it the times that we feel like we don’t measure up that we need people more than ever?  So why is it so hard to say, I’m struggling, I feel like I’m not enough.  But if I ask for help, I feel like I’m asking too much.  And so, I’ll just stay over here and try to suffer through this on my own.

Right now I’m reading a book titled Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is the story of a woman in her mid 20’s who had never even been hiking before the day she arrived in the Mojave Desert to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail alone.  Simply to prove to herself that she could.  Last week as I was reading, this part struck me and I’d like to share it with you…

“I stopped in my tracks when that thought came into my mind, that hiking the PCT was the hardest thing I’d ever done.  Immediately, I amended the thought.  Watching my mother die and having to live without her, that was the hardest thing I’d ever done.  Leaving Paul and destroying our marriage and life as I knew it for the simple and inexplicable reason that I felt I had to—that had been hard as well.  But hiking the PCT was hard in a different way.  In a way that made the other hardest things the tiniest bit less hard.”

Yep. That is exactly why I do what I do.  Saying Good-bye to my dad and living without him is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  Making the choice to leave my marriage and take on all the challenges that came with that, that was equally as hard.  Telling the story of the abuse I faced as a young girl, the hardest part of that was actually dragging it out of the dark after 25 years. But doing the hardest thing I could think of, an Ironman, makes all the daily ins and outs of general life, and the traumas of my own, seem a tiny bit less hard.

Come November, when I embark upon a course of the hardest race I’ve ever done, I will seek the finish line to hear my name, followed by the words, “You are an Ironman.” I will be seeking the acknowledgement for all of the hard things.  The race will come and go, and whatever will happen will happen.  But the thing about that day is I won’t be out there alone.  I have friends that will be on the course with me, friends that will be volunteering, friends who are going to AZ specifically to cheer us on.  If there is one thing I have learned on this journey of life it’s that I don’t have to do it alone.  None of us do.

This week I received an unsolicited text from my friend Kristen that read: “Just wanted to tell you that you are so damn strong and beautiful. That hits me every time I see you…I know life can be a struggle but you always seem to come out with a smile on your face.  Nice work.  Nice work indeed.”

Kristen sees my smiles. She has also seen my tears.  And this is a reminder that when I am smiling, or crying, or in the times I can’t seem to find the tears that need to escape, it’s ok to say “I can’t do it alone today.  Help me.”  There is so much courage in vulnerability.  When I am weak, then I am strong.

When life feels hard and overwhelming, as it inevitably will, remember that “falling down is part of life, getting back up is living”. There will likely be those who will try to kick you when  you’re down, but there is always someone with an outstretched hand to help you back up.  And the most courageous thing you can say in that moment is “Help me.”  Even if you don’t say it with words, just accept it.  And eventually you will see the strength in that.  And you will go forth and offer that hope to others.

Epilogue: This week I finished the book that I referenced in this post. And I was reminded that with every story’s end, a new story begins.  This part of my story couldn’t end until I’d told it.  It’s time for me to go forward and tell another story.

Near the end of the book Cheryl writes: “…I’d spend hours imagining how it would feel to be back in the world where food and music, wine and coffee could be had.  Of course, heroine could be had there too, I thought.  But the thing was, I didn’t want it.  Maybe I never really had.  I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in.”

Instead of an escape, instead of a way out, it’s time to tell the story of finding a way IN.

“Every time I fall there’ll be those who will call me a mistake, but that’s ok…’Cause I hear a voice and he calls me redeemed, when others say I’ll never be enough” ~Mercy Me

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Waiting For the Sun

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The storms of life come in all varieties, don’t they?

The other night my neighborhood got hit with an actual storm.  Heavy rain, massive lightning and a possible tornado.  I was oblivious.  I had seen the radar before bed and it looked like the worst part was supposed to go north of me, so I didn’t give it a second thought.  I never even heard the sirens.

But in the morning, I found the grill cover totally blown off (fortunately it didn’t blow away, just off) and several neighbors lost a partial tree.  My house appeared relatively unscathed, with the exception of a new water stain in the ceiling of the boys’ bedroom.  Ugh.  Roof damage?  Add that to the list of “Stuff to deal with”.  It’s always something.  But Allstate is living up to thier motto.  As I picked up the phone to call my agent the other day, the phone rang.  It was Allstate.  Whoa, talk about being “in good hands”.  Granted they were calling about something totally unrelated, but still, how weird is that?

Other times, we have more figurative “storms” and we don’t escape the stress of the experience.  Like last week when I went out to my car to head to work and found it with a dead battery.  Not just once, but TWO days in a row.  Ok, obviously it was time to take my car in.  I was so thankful for helpful, understanding neighbors, co-workers and friends who offered assistance through that.  On Friday morning, I sat in my car at the Hyundai dealership in tears because the woman had said to me, “Well, can you just leave it here?”

“For how long?” I asked.

“Ummm, we can probably get to it on Tuesday.”

Are you freaking kidding me?!  No, I can’t leave my car til Tuesday.  I have places to be that I can’t run to since it’s 100 degrees out and I need to show up non-sweaty and melted.  Additionally, how am I supposed to pick my kids up from school?  I do have a new bike, but I’m pretty sure the 4 of us won’t all fit.  UGH.

“Don’t you have any family to pick you up?” she asked.

The only family I have here are my kids and given their ages, they don’t have cars of their own.  Thanks for the reminder that I am doing this totally on my own, Miss Hyundai.

So, off I went to Auto Zone for a new battery.  And it was as simple as that.  I was back in business.  The tears had really been unnecessary.  I was making the situation worse than it actually was.

And still other times, there are the storms that come in waves.  Sometimes they seem not so bad, I’ve escaped the worst part, the eye has passed.  And then, I’m faced with another round.

I don’t want to harp on this, but let me just say again, being a single parent is hard.  I always had a tremendous amount of respect for parents who do it alone, but now that I’m living it, it’s a whole new ballgame.  Dealing with the roof, and the car battery, and all the other storms…alone.  Then you throw in the emotional turmoil of the innocent bystanders who show up in the aftermath.

Yesterday morning, my kids were getting ready for school.  I was in the kitchen making lunches when Silas came in wearing just his underwear having a total meltdown.  He wanted the belt that Ethan was wearing.  Finally I got the whole story.  There is a rule at school regarding uniforms, if a child has belt loops, he needs a belt.  (A couple years ago, I went as far as cutting all the belt loops off of the boys’ shorts in order to avoid this.  Yeah, I know, I’m a terrible parent for teaching my kids to rebel against the rules.  Don’t judge me, it was about survival.  And I just may do it again.)  So, Silas was freaking out because if he didn’t wear a belt he would get an “Oopsie” note and have to go to Mr. Keller’s office.

Ultimately, for most, not a huge deal right? You just find the belt.  Well, what do you say to your kid at 7:45 in the morning when his belt is across town at his dad’s house?  This was a reminder that my kids have to deal with the effects of a storm they had no control over.  They have two houses.  Stuff gets left at one house or the other.  It gets lost. And we do the best we can to remember everything or make due with what we’ve got.  But sometimes we just need a little grace because the reality is nobody wins in this arrangement.

Eventually, Ethan offered the belt to his brother.  And I drove the kids to school feeling a little more sad than other days.

After drop off I didn’t have lots of time, but I knew I needed a clear my head run.  I went over to Al Foster trail, waved to Marxkors as I drove past her graceful stride in the Fleet Feet singlet that mirrored the one I was wearing, and laced up my shoes.

When I started running the fog was thick.  I couldn’t even see the Meremac from the trail.  The lush greenery surrounding me made the trail seem dark even though the sun had been up for a couple hours already.  I started running.  Heart pounding, lungs burning and the satisfying sound of gravel and leaves crunching beneath my feet.  Immediately I began to feel better.  I only had time to go a couple miles out so when my Garmin beeped at 2 miles, I turned around and headed back.  As I was within about a mile of the parking lot, I realized that the fog had started to burn off, the sun was coming through and there was the river.  On my return, I never did see those two huge spiders on their gigantic webs that were impossible to miss on the way out.  (Yikes, I did a hair check, just in case)  And as I rounded the trail away from the river and back to my car, the sky was blue and the sun was high.

How in the world did the sky change that quickly?  In a half an hour the scenery looked completely different.  And my mood was lighter.

We really don’t have control over any of the storms in life.  I guess that’s what makes them storms.  I know I’m dealing with a storm that will come and go for the rest of my time on this earth.  But, as I ran yesterday, I was reminded that no matter what small storms come in the aftermath as a result of the devastation from the storm that lead to my new life, the sun will shine again.  Sometimes I have to wait for the rain to stop and the fog to burn off, and sometimes I may feel like the wind is whipping me to pieces, but I’ll wait it out, cry it out and hold on for dear life until the sun comes out again.  Because if there is one thing I know, somehow it always does.

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