Thursday, September 9, 2010


Love and loss -- I didn't know the pain of grief would unfurl petals of love in me. I have opened -- time means nothing -- I pick Toby up and carry her up the steps once her back legs are too weak to function. I help brace her foot against me so she can lick herself clean....anything that I can do to make myself feel like I am helping in some way.

There is a strength deep, deep within this much pain and sadness. It is right in the very centre of the unfurling flower....a strength coupled with a profound sense of joy. These feelings are so powerful and yet at the far reaches of rational, logical explanation that I can hardly describe them. They are truly from the realm of the heart....

Where letting go and surrendering confer an exquisite beauty on death. When your world shrinks to the celebration of watching your pet eat a tiny bit of chicken breast -- when this same small world of such deceptively simple triumphs opens up an entire other world of immense love. Unconditional love -- the kind of love that left my hands filthy with poop and infection, and I didn't care for a moment. The kind of patience that I never knew I could possess -- the kind that could confer dignity on the most terrible of illnesses. The kind of joy that co-exists with a heavy heart -- like a weight consistently pressing in the middle of my chest that leaves me exhausted...but at the same time I could pet Toby and look into her eyes and smile and feel so much love.

Control is an illusion -- the only thing we can give is ourselves. That is the only reality -- the only thing I am certain of. Loss is teaching me to be a kinder, more accepting person. Life is so short -- too short for judgments and gossip -- you never know what a person's story is. I see other people as extensions of myself -- I thought at first that what I am learning is tolerance -- but that is the wrong word. It is acceptance.

I read somewhere a long time ago (I have an inkling that it may have been in a Joseph Campbell book....) about the Wheel of Life. And that the further away from the hub you are, the more ups and downs you experience. The closer you are to the centre of the hub -- the less movement there is. At the very centre of the hub there is stillness.

Compassion is borne from the sorrow -- A deep calm. Depth.

Strength -- not selfishness. Strength is not about me - it is about what I can give. Putting myself aside; not focusing on myself, turning my ego aside and looking outward --- away. Letting go of myself -- what I think of as myself. Opening up to the outside -- staying open and not closing around a particular interpretation of reality that suits my own narrow point of view. Let go completely.

In the very centre of myself all these emotions co-exist together -- Stillness does not mean emptiness -- I think it means a release of some sorts...At least the glimpses I've had of this place makes me think so.

Am I stronger? I don't know. Am I more prepared? Maybe. I know that love is a very powerful force -- powerful enough to overcome disgust at the ravages of cancer and replace it with patience, gentleness, kindness. There is a liberation as well. A freedom -- like a long deep sigh -- leaving myself behind. Grief is changing me.

My vet came over to my house at 4:45pm this afternoon.

My Mom, Dad, Mike and I were all with Toby at the end.

It was the most terrible thing. It doesn't matter that it was the right thing to do -- I cried so hard I almost puked with the effort -- the tears have stopped for now. I know they'll come again. Mike followed through to the very end and carried her little body to our vet's vehicle. It was at this point I had to turn away. When her spirit was gone -- she was gone. There was no mistaking it. I couldn't bear to look at her little body.

It is now only a few hours later and her absence is tangible. It is a complete emptiness -- she is gone! I've been worrying about her for these past weeks -- and the worry is now gone.

I can only move forward. One small step at a time. That is all I know I can do!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Race of the Pink Eye or Ironman Canada 2010 Race Report!

I'm one of those people who use all sorts of tricks/sayings/etc to remember things. The first one I am aware of learning was the colours of the rainbow...Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. It was Grade 3.

And while I don't need help remembering the colours of the rainbow anymore, I still use some *cheat sheets*... like when I need to know how many days are in a month, I'll recite under my breath, "30 days has September, April, June, and November, all the rest have 31, etc." You know that one?

So.....the day after the race, I kept counting on my fingers (by year) the number of Ironman races I've done. But every time I got to the end, I couldn't believe it and would count again. Where has the time gone? I've actually done SEVEN of these things?!?!?!?!?! WHOA!!

My goal was to do an Ironman triathlon by the time I was 30 -- I never thought I would do another one!!!

Okay, onto the race itself....

The couple of weeks before Ironman is a really sketchy, dangerous time for my immune system. For some reason, the decreased training (taper) that allows the body to rest also invites germs in. Wholeheartedly. With embossed invitations even.

I've been lucky insofar as the crap I get before an Ironman is relatively benign -- just a minor annoyance. Two years ago it was crotchal area problems from riding so much and washing too vigorously. Yes -- you can wash too much....

Last year, it was Swimmer's Ear. I remember I was joking to my coach that this was proof I was a "swimmer."

This was the year of the Pink Eye. It sounds so gross and it sounds so, well, INFECTIOUS. It's like if you tell someone "I have pink eye," everyone takes a few steps backward away from you. I felt like the plague.

I'd been gargling twice a day with Listerine (just like Coach Clint told us to at camp last year!) to ward off any colds, but the ole stink-eye-pink-eye crept up on me anyways.

For the days leading up to the race, I walked around with one contact in -- trying not to go cross-eyed. I realized that I can actually ride a bike with one contact in -- not too bad, eh? LOL!!

OK - enough blather about the eyeball.

The down and dirty was that I took one minute and 17 seconds off last year's time. I crossed the line at 12:01:00 exactly. I was sort of hoping to blast WAY UNDER 12:00:00 but a PB is a PB. My swim was faster, my run was way faster, my bike was slower. BUGGAH. Like my good friend Cath pointed out, at least it was a minute and 17 seconds in the right direction! Good point!! :)

But, you gotta deal with the cards you are dealt on race day. I was delighted (whilst at the same time mortified) that my decision to take off my race wheels and use my training wheels proved to be the best decision. The winds were BRUTAL. For the last few weeks, I had trained on my race wheels in the winds of the Pass. I am not a competent enough rider (yet) to handle them when the cross winds blow me around. So, right before I left for Penticton, I made the call.

Let's see -- for the first time, my stomach felt REALLY full when I started the marathon. Too full. Like I was running on a bellyful of spaghetti. It took me until mile 15 until I let out a mighty FART at which point I felt like a new woman. Note to self -- I am taking Gas-X with me next year. Do you know how far 15 miles is with a tummy full of gas? It is TOO DAMN FAR!!!!!

It occurred to me that the most interesting part of an Ironman race isn't the swim, bike, or run. It isn't what you ate that morning, or how fast or slow you moved through transition. The REAL GOOD STUFF happens AFTER the race. Allow me to elaborate....

1. The Finisher Shirt. Ironman Canada has sunk to an ALL - TIME LOW in finisher shirt ugliness. OH MY GOD. Everything I have ever said about ugly race shirts must be retracted because this year's shirt truly takes the cake. It is a light yellow-beige colour. A colour that makes everyone look like death warmed over. EVERYONE. A colour that is so ugly and rejected it was like there was a huge cargo load of them brought over from China and the receiver said, "OH MY GOD these are so ugly I refuse this shipment!"

Oh yes -- This a BOAT LOAD of light-yellowy T-Shirts coming
to an Ironman near YOU!! LMAO!!

So then, someone at Ironman Canada got a smokin' deal on these rejected T-Shirts and used them to put the logo on and made off with a profit. That's what popped into my mind as soon as I saw that shirt. It fell down out of the UGLY tree and got beaten by every ugly stick on the way down. And I have my very own in size medium thank you very much. LMAO!!!!

2. The Pee Bag. This is one of the transition bags that I put my race kit in (after the race) -- my running shoes, cycling shoes, socks, everything. Because I have no problem peeing on the bike or the run, everything is covered in pee. This still horrifies Mike. The Pee Bag stinks. Bad. One year, I had the pee bag (closed up tight) in the back seat and the smell that came out of it was so strong I had to pull over and put it in the trunk.

This year, my Mom took The Pee Bag to the laundromat and washed everything for me. (Yes, I throw in running shoes and cycling shoes -- EVERYTHING. It works!) I was passed out on the motel bed with compression tights on, watching my feet swell like watermelons.

3. The Ultimate Transition Bag. This is extrememly important and I hope even one reader saves himself/herself the $199.99 expense of a triathlon transition bag. DON'T BUY ONE! DON'T DRINK THE KOOL AID!!! I did, and I will regret it for the rest of my life. Here is why:

Race morning, (and after the race for that matter) you have to carry your Swim-to-Bike bag, your Bike-to-Run bag, and your Morning Clothes bag AND your bike. Watch people as they try to do this. They have the bags looped over the handlebars, the bags are falling off their shoulders, banging into their bike. In short -- it is a big pain in the @$$!

Nobody uses a fancy schmancy tri bag because then you would have to take out all the stuff out of the bags, to fit in the fancy bag, THEN put all the different items back into your race bags once you get to the race site.

Here is what you use and they only cost $0.99 at your local hardware store:

The simple canvas bag. Fellow triathletes take note!!

Yes. A large canvas shopping bag holds ALL race day bags with plenty of room to spare for ugly finisher shirt, medal, finisher hat, water, etc. Wish I had figured this out last year before I spent that $200. Sigh.

4. Body, Heal Thyself. This is a very neat, yet odd experience. Symptoms (errr, side effects or consequences maybe -- LOL!) of doing an Ironman start to show up in various parts of the body. This happens over a succession of days too -- every day there is a new surprise. For example. after Ironman Coeur D'Alene this year, (two days afterward, to be precise) I sprouted all these zits on my chin.

So far, this year after IMC, I've had one SUPER swollen foot -- the other one not so bad. So swollen it made my friend, Tessa, laugh at me! The skin around my nose is all dry and peeling off now too. Nice.

In all seriousness, I need to thank Coach Sara profusely for empowering me with the fitness and mental strength to do this race. I went in thinking positively -- dedicating the race to my little dog, and keeping the negative, sad, and painful emotions at bay. I had two moments where I almost broke down....

One was on the bike when a guy passed me and I saw his name was Toby.

The other, was during the run, when I saw my teammate, John. He had sent me a wonderful email the night before the race -- a coping strategy I could use during the race. In the moment I saw John, he looked at me, and I looked at him, and he gave a little wave/point and it was like time stood still. I choked up and just about lost it - then got myself together again.

When I crossed the finish line however, I let it all out. I've been pretty much the same since then too. Life, eh?

Well, I am excited about next year -- yes I am doing IMC 2011 -- I know I said I would never do it again, but after talking with Coach Sara I changed my mind. I can be stubborn, but when Sara tells me to do something, I always do it. I trust her completely! And, I am excited about the plan for next year too.....