Thursday, March 23, 2017

Just keep swimming... Anvil training week 8

T minus 197 Days 19 Hours 50 Minutes

Maybe it gets easier.  I keep thinking.  Maybe this shuffle and shimmy of minutes and details and priorities smooths itself out.  I keep thinking.  Maybe.  Maybe the bacon will cook itself.  Maybe I won't lose focus the first time I get sleepy, or hungry or ... wait was that a panda?

These are lies of course.  I've run 'long' enough times to know - it doesn't get easier; it gets done.

Still the lies comfort me in the wee hours of morning when I could be sleeping.  I could be snuggled right there, warm beside my BBF dreaming of the sunrise and all things coffee infused.  I dare not however, I know Catherine is on route to run with me.  And lets face it.... I'm more than slightly afraid of her.

Still my typical Wednesday hill running guide had the nerve recently to go climb mountains in Colorado, giving her an out for two weeks of of my company.  They were interesting weeks.  Getting up stupid early on a Wednesday and running, then going to work and trying to motivate myself to get in the pool for an hour or more at 8 or 9pm.  Can you say yawn?  Who stole my nap? Seriously?

It's then that the painful truth of this Anvil truth seeps in.  36 hours of race time available.  How will you use it Batgirl?

Sadly I'll likely be using every second actually racing.  Hello, slow moving bus over here.

The first 6 weeks of this plan now feel like a warm up.  Like the teaser days of those month long fitness challenges I always get roped into.  Ohhh a 15 sec plank!  Easy!! yeah wait for the end of the month when it's freaking 9 minutes long batman.  And I'm all shaking and hovering there on my forearms cursing the ones who threw my name into the challenge to begin with.  Speaking of which I have burpees to do today...

So the first six weeks I bitched and moaned and tossed and turned about details and frantic minutes here or there.  And now?  Now I'm having nightmares about getting out of the pool and finding the door to the ladies locker room to use the loo, then finding my spot in the pool again to swim the second half of my 3hour laps.  As if seeing it once wasn't hard enough.

I'm lucky to know enough long distance runners that there always seems to be a guide somewhere willing to travel a distance or two.  Training is supposed to be fun right?   It occurred to me last week I've done everything in my power to avoid running alone, even in the dark, since they took down my tree out front of the house.  I'm so concerned I'd not be able to make my way back home that I keep chickening out of the solo run.  It's a dangerous, dependent ground to stand on.  Sometimes you need to know you can alone.  In the shuffle of all the details, I've been allowing this to slip.  Could it be my own delicate fear of "dis"ability?

But then fear drives us right?  Pushes us, just past the place we used to sit comfortably?  It wakes us up with brilliantly insane ideas.

Possibility

Hope

Dreams

I've survived 8 weeks of the 'Anvil Plan'.  11 weeks total of this routine.  I'm certain it gets trickier.  Especially now that my Vermont 100 plan is overlapping the Anvil plan.  My alarm clock wakes me at times matching my step sons bedtime.  I nap before dinner when no one notices my absence.  I still fold laundry between sets of squats.  I do dishes between planks and packing lunch.  I eat lunch in bites between quad stretches held ever so carefully in the hallway just before my client comes out of the treatment room.  And blogging?  While  my head and heart spin out of control with thoughts of self doubt, progress graphs and omg did I turn the dryer off before leaving the house; the actual act of calming down the world long enough to write the words?

Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't trade it.  To chase your passion?  To breath in wisps of intangible dream?  It helps when my BBF whispers this is who we are baby, it's what we do.  Plus, there's always a faint smell of trail bacon, bone broth, and tada muffins lingering around here, around home.

I got to see it again last Sunday.  I got to feel it.  We were climbing a hill on the far side of the tenth farmers field we'd crossed. A group of six of us, all sharing space on the northern end of the Grand Valley Trail.  Clambering up, sun just poking out.  Chill fading, frost melting, mud forming.  Wait, pause there just long enough.  Turn around among the snagging raspberry bushes, the baby would be briars. Turn around and catch it before it fleets away again.  Sunrise cresting the opposite hill.  Rows of snowy sleeping corn and bean stalks.  The blazes we'd followed poking out along the edges.

Breathe in.

This is why.

Move me as slow as you wish good karma.  But this is why I'm here.  This is me, being a part of being here.  To see where I've come. To see where I'm going.  To feel, where exactly, I am.



Monday, February 27, 2017

Houston... We have a problem... Week Three

T minus 222 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes

Oh week three.  You sucked.  You really truly did.

Our entire house was in various stages of the plague.  The plague that had no name.  The one that came with nearly no symptoms; minus of course the need to find alternative ways to breathe and the compulsion for endless sleep.  Endless sleep, like the one you crave at the end of a hundred miles.

Week three you made me look back on week two with a knowing glare; so that was coming.  No wonder I craved the end of every workout, the extra minutes of slumber.  No wonder I felt like molasses creeping out of bed in the morning.

Week three had two rest days.  One of which was entirely that.  I think I got up three times to make tea.  Holy cow you know you're sick when you don't even turn on Netflix?  Of course the loss of time created the internal debate; how much do you try and make up for?  How many miles, minutes, effort, do you back track over?

This debate has such colourful sides.  There's the side of caution, get better, rest, heal.  There's the side of reality, time stops for no one, 48 hours is a lot to lose, your body will ultimately decide.  There's the side of fear, but I have to train, I have to get better, I have to swim, I have to bike, I HAVE TO ....  Then there's the side of family, who remarkably haven't disowned me yet and still wish to spend time in the same proximity as me, who have also lost 48 hours with me.

Week Three I still managed to fit in 5 days of training; 127 min of swimming, 143 min of biking, 449 min of running, 85 min of strength training, 48 min of core, 112 min of stretching.  

My favourite day?  On the Bruce again.  Trying not to fall off the river bank.  Trying not to slid off the edge of the icy trail.  Trying to see the google app on my phone to read the reroutes for the trail we've lost.  Getting lost on a map.  Trudging miles towards earning a badge. Giggling in my head at the thought of losing myself in the woods right beside a city suburb I can't even see. 

My least favourite day?  The last swim.  OMG the pool was busy, open swim at the same time as the lane swim.  Which is fine.  I understand on some fundamental level that weird people like to just get wet, or just puddle around or like even go so far as to play in the water.  Man did it make for turbulence, and noise.  And every new nearly pubescent youth that joined the swim had to be tested as pool safe, had to pass the dreaded lane swim to ensure they'd in fact survive their fun swim. 
Oh joy, oh bliss… Guess in who's lane they tested each of these fearful flailing invisible children?  Well, if you guessed mine, you'd be right, but likely you wouldn’t be quite as surprised as me to learn it.  Apparently there was a sign.  Stupid signs, saying stuff.  Ugh.  Oh and here’s a thing.  Just a thing.  A small thing; but a thing nonetheless.  I was joined in my lane by an avid, obvious triathlete, master swimmer about half an hour in.  I hadn’t be swimming in circles.  I hadn’t been following the rules.  In my defence those rules were made to follow an organizational plan that isn't hugely accessible.  Swimming in circles suggests I might know how to draw, and follow, said circles… all while not drowning.  So after our near collision, which came within minutes of my thrashing child near collision, we met at in the swallow end and exchanged a few words. 

I started with apologies.  They weren’t well received.  I think he felt I’d been selfish, lane hogging.  A serious offence in a lane swim.  Here’s the thing, my small nit picky thing.  The moment I explained I hadn’t seen him, hadn't been following the “rules” was due to my restricted vision, because I am legally blind and was following the rope up and down; he faltered.  He perhaps even blushed.  We agreed to stay on our own sides of the remainder of the swim.  (This would prove difficult as the kids were progressively tested in our lane)  Something about the change of attitude and level of understanding from this swimmer nagged at me. In Disability theory, and throughout history, the only way in which a disabled person was accepted as part of the society was if they had ‘over come’ their disability and proved themselves stronger than the average person.  Why was this person so ready to meet the situation with anger before learning of my vision; and then so ready to tell me after that it was “incredible you are even here”?  Unsettled.  I was unsettled.  

Too much movement underwater, too many people, too much noise, disoriented, confused, just recovering from whatever flu I’d had the days before… Heart rate too high, breathing felt like I was gasping.  I know this feeling.  Panic.  I fought it off.  I struggled to convince myself it wouldn’t be calm during the Anvil race itself.  Told myself you can’t control the things outside of your control, just swim.  Isn’t that what you love about swimming?  That you can “just” swim.  Stroke stroke breathe… It abated, the panic, but it never truly left.  And when I left the pool I felt outdone by my goals.  And scared I’d not be able to pull this off.  

Week four was better.  Better in the sense that I had this major talk with myself.  Self, I said, self we have to remember a plan is just that.  A plan.  And life outside of that plan, carries on.  It doesn’t wait.  It can be forgiving, it can bend and flux.  But it will not wait.  And if it’s pushed too far in any direction, it will snap, it will break, and it will bite back with a force that will wake you from the deepest slumber. We must be flexible, self.

Of course I hated this.  I wanted to punch this side of myself in the face.  We can do anything self.  We can we can!  Struggle is all we know.  Struggle is all we ever have known.  Be like the salmon, fight for space, fight for…. But my other, calmer, craving peace self won.  And the week moved along smoother. 

Week four I took the time to stretch.  Admittedly not all the minutes I had scheduled myself to set aside for stretching, but I did stretch.  Self care stepped up.  I had a wonderful massage therapy session.  Figured out what was holding, what was tight. I focused stretches on the places that called out.  I made time to prep lunches, eat dinners, hydrate.  Oh my goodness the hydration is never easy.  I ran over 5.5 hours, I swam 2.5 hours, biked 2.5 hours, but my strength training was poor.  Part of me wants to grant allowance for this, recovering and all.  The other part is just as angry to not be invincible.  Whatever bug attacked our home left this lingering fatigue and chronic sense of grumpiness behind. 

At the end of the week I got to share a run with my BatCub3. My 9 year old son wasn’t about to wait for me to get over my selfish need for a rest day though.  The day before the two of us ran, he did a fast paced road run with my BBF.  Of course when the two of us took off I had to remind him we’d be pacing at Batmom speed.  He started walking.  This made me giggle.  Thanks buddy.  Snow had fallen, in this tease of a winter we’d lost too soon.  We took to the forest and broke trail along the single track.  We laughed loudly as we slid attempting to clamber up the hill I like to call the Baby Barkley hill.  Directly beside the sewage treatment plant, this hill is rather off the beaten path and offers a sense of OH MY GOD that no other trail hill around here can share.  We followed blazes along the Grand Valley Trail and my soul ached when BatCub asked if I’d take him to the Bruce someday.  “We’re really lucky to live so close to this forest Batmom”.  Yes we are pumpkin.  Yes we are.  How lucky am I to have found this love of the trail?  Luckier still to have found people willing to share in that affection with me?  To humour me with slow paced guiding?

The last bit of training I did for week four was, again, eye opening in this world disability and sport.  Back to the pool I went.  Again a rerun of the open/lane swim combo.  The near panic attack I’d had last swim during this type of pool time left me feeling rather less than.  I hate having fear.  I loath waking up in a cold sweat wondering how to “conquer” that.  I despise feeling owned by that feeling of specific avoidance of an activity.  I cannot imagine living under the thumb of any fear.  

In the pool this time there were the same two lanes on the right side for training.  The rest of the pool was full of boisterous hooligans.  (Yes I’m completely aware this is merely how my fear heard them, they were in fact likely quite nice youth)  Beachballs flying every which way and where; defiantly not just within the boundaries of the open swim side.  Man how I love invisible flying beachballs. Especially while my head is under water.  Anyway, I made sure the guard knew I was there, knew I had a vision impairment.  I made certain my lane mate (at the time only one other lady) and I had discussed and understood we’d stay on our own sides.  All went fantastically until a third and much slower swimmer joined our lane.  He didn’t seem to wish to have any communication about not swimming in circles.  I nearly ran him over the first time I found him.  I was hugely apologetic.  After the frustration of obvious lack of interest in conversation, I went to the guard to ask for direction.  I was again in the lane they use to test all the hopeful deep end swimmers, and now there were three of us.  The guard seemed confused.  I tried to make it light.  I find general public take disability easier when it’s light.  If only they knew the depths and heaviness it could carry.  The guard was still confused.  He did nothing wrong.  He didn’t react poorly.  He just didn’t understand my needs.  

If I had a penny for every time someone didn’t understand my needs…. 

Disability is like that.  Confusing.  Flux.  Flow.  Ever changing in an ever evolving world.  But surely we all have a place?  Surely we can all fit?  By god I hope we can. 

Like a frustrated and upset toddler this inner dialogue, here, interspersed in the loud obviously abled world of the OPEN/LANE swim combo, nearly brought me to tears.  Thank goodness for goggles.  Deep breathing.  I started again with the guard.  Explained how I didn’t “fit” into the way they’d organized the swim.  Explained that I have 8% vision and could not see people coming or going under water.  Explained I hadn’t brought a swim guide.  (Not that there are many of those floating around).  Explained that he'd need to let me know every time they tested a swimmer in the lane I was in.  Explained that I’d be happy to “get out of the way” and let everyone swim; but surely there was a place for me too?  And surely the only answer to this jenga puzzle wasn’t that I would have to leave and abandon my place in the pool?  Abandon my training for theirs?  Simply because the model wasn’t ‘inclusive’? 

The end result was of course some shuffling and better communication.  The end result was a conquering of my internal fear to put others out for the sake of allowing me ‘space’.  I have trouble taking up space.  My friends are laughing now, reading that, I’m sure.  They think I’m rather excellent at being loud and needy and demanding.  Self advocacy is not a pretty graceful thing for me.  My inner child dies a bit every time I have to use my voice for that. 

The dirty little truth about creating an inclusive world for disability, both inside and outside of sport, is that no one really knows what this looks like.  No one really knows the right non-offensive steps to take to get there.  And worse?  Very few people have even thought that this might be a thing, that this might be a need, that this might be necessary as a part of our societal evolution. 

In the meantime, at least I know why I’m here…


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Oh Anvil.... Week Two - Don't Forget Your Towel

The Double Anvil (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run.. 8% vision)

T-Minus 232 days: 20 hours: 33 minutes: 43 seconds...

I'm glad no one can see me at 4am.  Nix that.  I'm glad no one can hear me at 4am.  Usually singing under my breath, usually daring to fart outloud, usually cursing on my foam roller when I hit the edge of that tight hamstring, usually.... emotionally naked.  Definitely celebrating space and time with every ounce of the best lack of grace I possess.  Walk into a wall, yep I knew that was there.  Tripped on a teenagers shoe, OH MY GOD HE HAS BIG FEET.  Spill coffee while pouring it and cry a little.  Ponder licking it up off the counter. Wonder if cooking bacon now would wake up my house.

Let them sleep.  I have stuff to do.

Week 2 Day 1

4:25am before I find myself self caring on the same over tight right hip flexor that annoyed me last week.  And mmmmm cheerios.  Be the Cheerio.  Then it starts. All the 1980's TV commercials that plague my head... The unsinkable taste of cheerios.  I'd like to be unsinkable.  or something.  Week 2.  Be unsinkable.  But I've looked ahead, I know this week will be tough.  Clients every day, and two outside appointments, a specialist visit and a Birthday, plus transit.  The thing about "appointments" that seems so normal when you read that sentence the first time; it takes orchestration.  Not driving myself, not that 'moveable' in this big city life.  Public transit, favours from friends, makes a one hour appointment that you might fit in a lunch break, an entire half day or more for me. 

Aw well.  Be the Cheerio.  

Today - Bike 30 min, stretch 20 min, strength 35 min, core 11 min

Week 2 Day 2

4am and there's no freezing rain.  A runners bane.  Well yeah.  Black ice everywhere.  Every step a trust and faith balance of tangled hope and a toss up of bravery and cautious adventure.  Close your eyes and run that.  Wait, don't.  You'll likely fall.  And then blame me.  I have convinced friends in the past to run blindfolded.  I'm not certain it frightened them.  I think they got this taste of "wow" that's different.  Mostly I wish they'd stop the minute after the relief of removing the blind fold and think... man it's nice to have the choice to see again.  Disability is a funny thing.  I do not begrudge living in it.  It makes me who I am.  But there are times I begrudge living with a disability in an ablest world that cares very little.  There is no choice, no removal of the blindfold.  It's on.  Etching it's permanence into my milliseconds of this life. 

4:27am and out the door to brave this thankfully not frozen ground.  An hour alone on the roads.  An hour alone interpreting the landscape, the obstacles, the ... wait, is that a third grader?  sending on the corner?  At 5am?  Should I wave?  Debating... logic says a kid that age wouldn't be out here alone now.  But what if?  So I wave.  Just as a car goes by; it's lights illuminating the truth.  It's a paper box.  Well perhaps the paper box was just as lonely as a third grader might have been?  That's okay... I haven't said hello to any firehydrants recently.

Wow this is harder than it should be.  I haven't been running enough. Is that ice?  I haven't run enough. CAR. I hate running batman.... we must be on a hill.  Wait, I must be on a hill.  Stop talking to yourself.  Okay.  Up and up and up and up.  Running.  I feel like a hippo.  Those deadlifts, those lunges, those squats.  Sure I can lift a bit now, just not my arse up this hill!  I love running... we must be on a downhill.  Ugh stop talking to yourself.  As oppose to singing?  Right...  

When I got home I dawdled.  Stayed in the wet cold clothes too long.  Ever done that?  Oh man, it's hard to bounce back from that.  The shiver down to your toes.  The bottoms of my feet blanched white from standing on the chilled tile floor barefoot.  I had a list.  I had a list of things to do.  The stretching, the core, the ... dammit..  teeth a chatter I clambered into the hot shower.  Think I'll pay for this.

The freezing rain came later that afternoon.  It started as rain.  On run number two, thankfully guided, we zigged and zagged and jigged and jogged... on the road to avoid the icy sidewalks.  And there were people.  People everywhere.  People and no darkness to hid in.  I'm so much better at the hiding, at the slipping out into the world unexpected and unseen... There I go, putting myself on the edge again.  Catherine kept talking.  I love that about her.  I don't have to think.  The sound of her voice when it rises ever so slightly as a hazard arises.  I feel it creeping up her spine, what should I call that?  How should I word that?  What if she dies on my watch?  But yet, her story never stops, if anything it quickens.  It rises in tone and pace.  Next are the arms; hands flailing.  That direction over there, and the movement of her body either further or closer to me.  It's kinda scary.  But highly entertaining.  Road guiding offers me more time to interpret.  Once the danger has passed, she congratulates herself by creating the circumstances in which I survived, under her watch.  I love this.  The only real life use of my linguistic anthropology studies.  How articulate the syllables become when blood pressure is raised.  How big of a jump does that pothole require?  These details are intimately intertwined.  

Don't ask me how to guide.  I'd love to learn how to follow you though.  Teach me your language.  Show me how you see the world.

Today: 124 min of running.  And sheets of ice everywhere.

Week 2 Day 3 - 

Disheartened.  Yesterday all I managed to fit in was the running.  Not that I ran out of time, that I couldn't have done better.  Appointments, company, chaos, weather and family.  Today though... I am very aware, the settling stiffness reminds me, that I should not have skipped the stretching.  After all it's in the spreadsheet.  Never doubt the spread sheet.  

The wind is howling outside, across ice patches that formed over my neglected driveway.  Howling like the ghosts of stretches left undone.  I hear it creeping up the fireplace.  Day three is always hill repeats.  I'm no physicist, as my grade 12 math teacher was kind enough to point out, but the wind is always worse on top of them there hills.  

Hills and then a swim. (and when no one is looking, a nap please?)  We run typically up and down the trash heap hills.  I wonder if after yesterdays freezing rain it will be ice?  I know it will be.  I wonder if we will need to change our venue to fireman hills.  These hills are so named after the fire station at the bottom of the hill.  One time I actually saw a fireman running up and down it.  Or perhaps just some random guy with big bold printed letters FIRE on the back of his shirt.  It's a mile around the fireman hill block. One simple mile.  Easy enough right?

Todays swim should be interesting as well, since day one's weight lifting DOMS have kicked in.  Thank you bicep curls.  I don't mind drinking coffee with a straw.  No big deal ... unless you need your arms to, I don't know, stay above the water?  However, I am still pretty excited to have found a pool with a swim time an hour earlier. 

But back to the present, in search of balance in this hip stretch I should have done yesterday.  Why yes, yes I do know exactly what regret feels like.

The run; Round and round the block we go.  Round and round they run me.  Firehall then up and up and up and round and round.  It must be Wednesday Deb?  Feels like fucking ground hog day.  Firehall.  Round and round. Water there, on top of the ice, by the bus stop.  Don't forget that batgirl.  Round and round.  Ice on the right, the crunchy kind, four steps.  Up and up.  The trash heap was complete ice so we retreated to the fireman hill.  One mile loop round and round.  Up and up.  Ice and up and water and bus stop and school kids escaping every which way and where.   Make them stop.  Dodging pompomed hats and stringed mittens. Bags swinging.  They seem so unaware I can't see them.  Unaware we are even there, invading their little walk home from school world.  Not moving, unshifting, rhythm of what they know.  Escaping, stampeding little booger faced munchkins.  Round and round.  The girls keep talking. They keep asking me questions.  I can't talk, are you crazy?  I manage to spit out 'gonna die no talking'.  Ice there, four steps.  round and round, bus stop, firehall. up and up.  

Of course this day I feared boredom in the loop before we even started.  Told them as we topped out on loop two we needed to do ladders, to you know, keep things fresh. What was I thinking?  They're beasts.  Two hills for loop two. Three hills loop three.  Four hills for ... fuck me... loop four.  Because heaven forbid we have a normal boring run.  I can do this.. think about something else.  Ground hogs.  Hedgehogs. Pompoms.  I walked the last maybe 15 meters of the second last hill.  The girls were mad.  Mad mad mad.  Kindly friendly mad.  Accountability can bite me.  It wasn't lost on me I was then put in front of Catherine and beside Debbie on the last lap up.  

I'm certain Catherine knows I'm very afraid of her.  Oh look.  Firehall.  Grin.  Last loop?

We came home and I ate everything.  Popcorn, pepperettes, gluten free pasta with cheese and salt.  Salt.  You know, to stop toe cramps in the pool.  There is a swim to do after all.

What was I thinking?

Today - stretching 30 min, swimming 70 min, running 85 min

Week 2 Day 4 - 

Swollen Ass Syndrome

That's what I said.  Sorry mom.  Blog about redirecting your life around a passion has to be real right?  Oh it will likely get worse. 

Anyway, the SAS; I'm convinced that's what I have.  I self diagnosed this a few days ago.  The signs became obvious.  My underoos are .. ahem... snugger?  my yoga pants don't... ahem, move with the breeze as much.  My stair climbing is easier with stronger legs (I assume).  My deadlifts don't make me as dizzy.  I'm adding pounds to my squats weekly.  But what really gave it away?  Well, truth be told, the law of averages.  

Now wait, don't jump to conclusions.  I'm not getting "math happy" here.  But some things I make use of in my everyday life and stuff.  Not like measuring baking ingredients, but the law of averages.  Like for example, the percentile growth of the amount of times my BBF grabs a handful while walking through the room... Yup, self diagnoses, founded in scientific studies.  That's my statistical analysis; ass-grab-squat-ratio.  Take that Statistics 101... 

In the meantime, I swear this is important.  I took my swollen ass to the pool last night.  I was dreading the cramps.  They seem so unavoidable. I've been waiting to readjust to the whole swimming thing before starting to swim "drills" and practicing different strokes etc.  The cramps have been winning.  Off to the pool I went last night.  BBF set to run loops outside while I swam.  Love is... love is... postponing a run until your batgirlfriend (BGF) is ready to plunge into the chlorine for 70 mins.  Oh and can we drive to a different town?  They happen to have an hour earlier swim... I am a pain in the ass.  The good news is, I have one of those amazing BBF's who's crazy enough to run loops for endless hours (and I mean endless)... just about anywhere.  Love is being fully aware his love of running is way bigger than me?

So I'm swimming. I have to tell you the swimming in open water is so different.  In open water I get to tie myself to you.  I get to shut off completely and just be there.  I get to lose myself to the boyancy and forgiving nature of the water.  I get to trust you'll steer us.  I get to, just, swim.  And man I love that.  I love that feeling of the push back the water gives against my fingertips.  I love knowing that it's a relationship between me and oxygen and effort that keeps me afloat.  I love knowing I can.  For hours I can just... push back and glide through.  Have you ever swam so long the water feels as heavy and thick as jello?  Have you ever swam so far you can't remember how to make your legs work walking under gravity after returning to land?  Have you ever just, meditatited with each stroke?  It's a magical feeling.  Anyway, I'm swimming.  In the pool.  I'm swimming.  And not even 1000m in my feet and calves start to pull and twist.  I'm more than angry.  I even took a salt pill before getting in the water to try and prevent this.  

Pay attention batgirl.  Your body is talking here.  Pay attention.  The water is not your enemy.  Think think think.  Oh man I've been working so hard at building strength.  I even brought my SAS to the swim with me, you'd think... wait a minute.  Wait a minute!  That's it!  What's the point of having glute strength if you aren't going to use it?  Coach's voices in my head... they whisper: If your kick isn't coming from the glute, stop swimming, plank more on land so you float higher in the water.  This is the problem.  This is my issue.  Epiphany.  I was so excited I nearly choked on the water, giggling to myself.

I have been swimming - like a runner.  

Worse.

I have been swimming, like a bloody ultra runner!

Once I corrected the kick, once I started floating my tush higher in the water, my cramps went away.  My swim times were faster by the 100 meter measure and I was actually moving!  Nearly out of breath by the end of my swim, but so so happy to have "solved" this issue.  

Today - bike 70 min... yep that's it.  no stretching AGAIN... this week is just too busy.

Week 2 day 5 - 

The mat under me is laughing.  I hear it laughing. Try to pull this off without stretching.  Try.  You're not 20 you know.  I'm aware. It's my batcub2's 15th birthday today.  Trust me, I'm aware.  Stupid bendy stuff left me.   Oh dear god what was I thinking... Muscle fibres screaming.  They scream while the mat laughs.  Surely this is worse than talking to myself? Shut up mat. Shut up mat, or I'll get my BBF to kick your ass.  Shut up muscle spindles.  

I gotta get out more. 

Or lift stuff.  Maybe I should lift stuff.  Yeah.  That will help.

Note to self; when lifting a snatch, double check ceiling height before starting.

today - stretching 30 min, strength 30 min, run 62 min.

Week 2 Day 6 - 

I've been looking forward to this day.  I've been craving it.  A chance to take my batcub3, so eager eyed and hungry, out for a run.  A chance for him to realize he's a superstar.  9 year old and 5k together.  I hope he remembers this stuff.  I hope he looks back and thinks wow... life skills... I did that.  We did that. Maybe life gets hard, maybe it gets carried away, maybe it takes your breath away sometimes.  But we can use that energy for something.  All my cubs were with me in Boston in the bad year.  They all have to deal with a different side of the coin we shared that day.  I hope they don't forever associate running with "running away", with terror and fear.  I hope they can join others and run together like this often.  Or at least participate.  Volunteer.  Build community.  

Inclusive community.

Today - 90 min of running.  But more importantly watching my batcub3 smile and feel proud.

Week 2 day 7 -

family focus regroup day... unplanned rest day.  It appears we're under attack by some plague... And man I shoulda stretched more.

End of week thoughts?  Training is tough.  Not the training part, the fitting it in part, the deciding if you're sick or just lazy and tired.  The inner voice struggles are so present on a down week.  Why did I pick such a crazy goal?  What was I thinking?  Listening to your body is key.  Knowing that sometimes you need to push through and other times not.  My biggest concern... learning is not as important these days as 'unlearning'.  Unpacking old beliefs and baggage is going to be a big big issue for the next few months me thinks.  

Do you have things to let go of? 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Let The Anvil Fall.... Week One: I WAS IN THE POOL!

The Double Anvil (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run.. 8% vision)

T-Minus 242 days 11 hours 31 minutes and 50 seconds...

Well sometimes I think this training blind stuff is 'normal'.  I guess that's true, since it is MY normal.  Sometimes I think it's annoying.  Organizing the run based on availability of guide, or in the cover of darkness.  Speaking to the life guard and other lane occupants to explain why I may unknowingly swim directly into them.  Or why I may walk into the mens change room from time to time.  Sometimes I think it's entertaining.

Once in a while I remember I'm doing it for reasons outside of myself; to work towards creating change in this highly ablest world of disability and sport.  

They call this "training"; I'm not so sure?  One week and I'm cringing at the thought of setting tomorrow's alarm. I'm dreading the calculations of minutes, seconds, distance, and calories.  Dreading may not the right word.  I'm desperately attempting to out-source my math.  I'm texting my son in class time to ask conversion on units.  I'm emailing pictures of my bike pedometer (sorry maybe that's a cadence monitor?) of before and after my ride, to my BBF  (batboyfriend) to read and subtract because not only can I not see it, I have no clue how to reset it.

And then there's the spreadsheet.  Don't get me started. Suffice to say glitter glue and coloured pencils don't help me with averages and percentiles.  The ceiling on this is too high.  I out-sourced the creation of my spreadsheet too.

And now, on a Sunday night I sit with my Batgirl journal, all its lines etched in ink and minutes averaged out, and the calendar, and the appointment book, and the work schedule and yes... even the days I need an extra three minutes in the shower to shampoo my hair.  I guess, making the plan, is a bit like making my own map.  How to get there - this place where I am that person who can swim 4.8 miles tethered to a near stranger, tandem bike 224 miles with the same near stranger and then run a double marathon guided by what I can only assume will be a tired not so strange stranger, in 36 hours - from here.  Here. Where the heck is that anyway?

Either way, I decided the plan is 35 weeks long and if I don't write about the chaos in my head as the journey goes... Well then I might actually explode, or at the very least drive my family nuts. So how did week one go?  Oh boy.. let me open a door for you, paint a picture for you...

Jan 30 2017, week 1, day 1 -

When I was little, I never wrote the year on anything.  It was as if I didn't expect life to be quite that big that it took up so much space; that one calendar seemed enough.  Twelve entire pages.  Isn't that long enough?  Don't they know how long that is?  I can hardly wait until dinner, let alone 11 move pages.

When I was a teenager I never wrote the year.  It was an absolute defiance that one day I might forget I'm here now, living this.  Isn't once bloody well enough?  I remembered everything dammit.  How could you forget such things?  I'll not grow old anyway.  Too many pages for me.

.... too many pages for me.

Oh but how I love the blank page.  Its offerings, its peace, its pure potential in time and space.  Imagine all the possibilities in the world, all the worlds you could write about, create, invent... the stories you might spin. Yet I always land exactly here.  In my head just here.  Rehashing the obvious lack of dates over too many pages.  Forever counting down, or up, to ... something.  Usually with cold tea perched close by, wondering if any of it means something at all.

Today - swim 53 min, strength 39 min, core 15 min, run 61 min

Jan 31 2017, week 1, day 2 -

Yesterday I ventured to the gym.  This is a big deal.  New spaces, unmemorized steps, corners, couches, tables, weight plates, and people.  UGH I don't like people.  I don't trust people.  They keep moving.  They keep changing their clothes.  They smell different.  They are very nearly unmemorable.  I don't like feeling "different" in a group of people.  Can you tell I'm disabled?  I mean, if I wasn't bumping into that squat rack, or swinging my white cane around.. if I just acted like you... sigh.  I am not you.

I don't like being obvious.  But man, if I don't open up my cane to walk the pool deck then you might not know.  And that, might be deadly.

The weight room was busy.  Older men doing, and redoing the bicep curl, the tricep extension and the chest fly machine.  Closed chain exercises.  Twenty times through eight reps, and I could hear the swing and plink of the weights from the bike.  Why?  It's a circuit.  CIRCUIT... not circus.  Those muscles aren't going to change staring at them.  Swing and plink. I'll just pedal.  Counting minutes. Thinking to myself, that's okay, I'll see you in my massage therapy treatment room in a few weeks complaining of an overuse injury.  I sat on the edge of a spin bike, on the edge. Always on the edge.

That a good sun. Good?  Evil.  Windowed room.  I'm forever on the edge of normal, this cusp setting.  Stupid three sided windowed room is so scary.  Moving parts.  I like my edge.  I'm aware I keep myself here more than they keep me here.  On the edge of the room in the relative safety.

Then it happened.  A public plank.  I can't think think about this in hindsight.  When I"m in my basement shaking, quivering, holding on like a shipwrecked pirate ; I'm pretty dam sure I seem as a drowning alligator must.  A fury under the shake to simply just hold on one second longer. ONE SECOND LONGER.  My life in seconds. My hatred for this world, its expectations of my expectations in one more bloody second.  A war in my soul.  The quiet corner so picked to hold this plank was bursting over the room with a silent scream for ONE MORE SECOND.

Three planks total 5:45, 2:30, 1:30.

... but that was yesterday.  This is today.

It's 4:19am; the laundry is half washed.  Yesterdays aches are filling my head as I stretch, as I convince my muscles... stretch.  I fit stuff in. I squish and twist until 39.43 seconds counts.  If I love you, my greatest gift is time.  Never forget that.  It's so hard to invent time.

From the planks to the pool yesterday, my 2000m swim took me nearly 53 mins.  Disgraceful I tell you.  I'm ashamed.  Dam you world for expecting my expectations.  And the toe cramps?  Fucking awful. Just awful.

Following the bike, the planks, the swim, there was a fitness test yesterday.  This makes me giggle.  The assessor, the would be coach, with his terrible boredom and uninterested tone.  Darling, should you not be inspiring?  Things I found out during my fitness assessment; My squat form is just fine, the lunges illustrate my balance is not good.  The medicine balls are stored in the corner fifteen paces before the stack of mats.  More and more ... he could actually nap.  I feel it oozing from him.  "What are your fitness goals?" me... not dying reinventing myself (in my head though? Getting away from you, I fear it's contagious)  Lets time your plank now.  Egads batman, where were you 90 minutes ago?  He counted up by uninterested 5's.  At 1:45 he actually paid attention.  At 2:00 minutes he walked all the way around to check my form.  At 2:10 when I couldn't hold on any longer  he actually saw me.  Too funny... where were you before I swam and biked and planked already?

Yesterday ended with an hour run.  I'm tired. The kinds of tired that soaks you up and calls you for snuggles.  The perfect time for an insomniac attack right?

And today?  I'm hoping to survive.  Glad I've stretched, although man it makes my handwriting such a squibble.  And the laundry calls.

...

Lifting weights seems so odd to me.  Lift things that are fine where they are.  Pick them up - put them down.  Why?  So I can hurt the next day apparently.  My arms feel like they're dragging on the ground, like I'm an Ape doing a post ultra shuffle ... Great, now I'm stuck on the letter "A", obviously... alligator, apes... oh and I'm craving popcorn.  Do Apes eat popcorn? Can they lift their arms to do so?  Oh and I could nap.  Is napping part of this "plan"? Let me check the spreadsheet.

today - bike 30 min, strength 40 min, core 10 min, stretch 20 min

Feb 1 2017, week 1 day 3 -

My body hates me.  Or this is how I feel.  The urge to pee lifted me from sleep around 1:30am.  But the first movement, that first wiggle hurt down to my toes and back. I don''t know why they call it DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).  There not much delayed about it.  You move, it fucking hurts.  My arms hate me for yesterdays 7:15 min plank, for the french presses.  I was hovered there on the yoga ball, a 15 lb dumbbell overhead descending behind ... thinking, well this is dumb.  What doesn't kill you, gives you DOMS? how do you stop this?

Of course the only way to avoid DOMS is to lift more regularly.  Yeah.  Try telling yourself that while falling ungracefully onto the toilet seat because yesterdays deadlifts have rendered you incompetent mid squat to eloquently lower yourself.  Oh my god... I'm going down!  You know you could avoid this in future by adding weight or reps to those deadlifts right?  THUNK.... really? Helpful thanks.  Or , or, heres a thought, I could instal hand rails beside the toilet, they'd be useful after 100 mile races anyway.  This was my thinking as I fell at 1:32am.  Please please let the boys have put the seat down?

But up now to stretch again at 5sm.  And they all sleep.  I'm blown away at how far away my toes are this morning.  Look up... wayyyyy up...

In other news, I survived yesterday without a nap.  There should be some award for that shit.  Today's pool time doesn't start until 9pm.  Should be interesting. Bring on the Alligators.

today - swim 52 min, stretch 20 min, run hills 80 min

Feb 2 2017 week 1 day 4

Busy busy bee... biked, core, stretched and lifted.  Night shift day.  night shift days are tough.  I like to be in bed at 9pm typically.  There an odd karma in watching people sleep when you're tired.  Yesterdays swim was crazy.  New to me pool.  More unmemorized steps.  Hell if I know where the ladies locker room is.  I'm fully aware I came out of that door.  But man if only I knew which one it was again.  I went swimming at 8pm (instead of 9).  The life guard explained the lay out of the pool to me; the end two lanes were currently the lane swim lanes.  The middle two lanes were for the life saving youth, (great I'd get to hear a chorus of "HELP" as I swam... try ignoring that with your eyes closed!) Okay and I was assigned the lane rope right between them both.  Excellent, increased risk of being kicked in the head by a 10 year old.  Gotta love adventure.

The thing about me and swimming, once I'm in the water, there's no white cane buffer to explain to others that I'm legally blind.  They honestly have no idea (and by rights neither do I) that I'm going to rudely blast head on into them if they come my way.  Oops sorry, oops pardon me. Just stick to the lane rope batgirl.  Todays self talk. Stay on the edge, again. Surely the guard will tell them.  Surely the guard will let them know.  There's no possible way they've changed shifts and this guard has no clue.  One two three breathe.  Please don't die.  Stick to the lane rope.  Maybe I should actually try paying attention? Like actually try and look up? Ugh I hate looking.  It's exhausting.  And I always... get... dam...

water in my ears.

Man this tri stuff must be incredibly hard when you can see.  Oh no... Oh no... TOE CRAMPS!!!!

I'm sinking.  I'm gonna die.  Worse no one will hear my "help" over the life saving 10 year olds.  Oh no... this is it... I'll never kick again!  Oh who am I kidding?  I'm a runner, we never kick anyway.

Out of the pool, find the change room door.  Is it this one?  Yes, the distant squeals of hair drying little girls.  This one.  Why, why do I always run 90 mins of hill repeats before coming to the pool?

today - bike 30 min, strength 30 min, core 20 min, stretch 20 min

Feb 3 2017 week 1 day 5

today REST DAY  Just shut up

Feb 4 2017 week 1 day 6 -

Oh I've been waiting for this day.  Today we go to a snowshoe race.  6km of floundering in the woods on invisible white ground in this insanity they call winter.  Where every little hill is buried in the back drop of nothingness.  Wait my friends are all here.  I get to just have fun today.  I don't hear your feet? Did you cut them off? What do you mean root middle?  I can't jump in these shoes? oh oh oh I get to step ON the root.  Whoa.  Weird.

These people have no idea how much I love them, how brave I think they are, how tolerant of me they've become, how insanely grateful I am... How bearable they make  'sport' for me.

Guides.  Otherwise known as my family.

today - 60 min of snowshoeing

Feb 5 2017, week 1 day 7,

Sleep escapes me.  This is not unusual for me, I suppose.  This plan, this week of this plan, had so little run time I worry.  I worry and I miss it.  My body remembers how I'm certain.  But still.  There's an ache.

I'm ending this week with a group run.  Today we ran the Waterloo half marathon route.  This is a race (42.2km) I'm booked to run at the end of April, the day after running 50km at Pick Your Poison. It's a winter wonderland out there.  Blowing snow and mismatched run clothes.  Layers upon layers to hide in.  Thirteen people came to run, several more to volunteer.  Again, I am blown away a the community.  It amazes me how many people need sport in their lives.  Plan a run and they come.

We jumped snowbanks and dodged snowplows.  We spread out along the 21kms of road by our comfortable speed.  And yet, we ran together.

Sport is like that; sometimes apart and quiet, but always collective, always together.  At the end of my week one, here I am... hoping beyond hope that this "togetherness" in some way includes disability too...

today - 160min running, 25 min of stretching

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Missing

"I hate you!"
"No you don't!"
"Oh yes I do, I absolutely do!"
"Fine!  Just Fine!"
"Fine!"
"... I hated you first!  I hated you for so so long, I'm sure you knew!'

    Then it happened, just like that.  I don't know how we got here.

We were having it.  We were having it and didn't care if the world witnessed our graceless decent.

    Hallway sex.

"Oh F@%K YOU!'
"No baby, no... F@%K YOU!"

And that was it.  Doors slammed.  Caution thrown to the wind. Feelings set on fire, unforgivable hurt.  Edges of daggers everywhere you look.  Not the kind of moment you 'get over'.  Not the kind of fight you 'forget'. We were, and have since been, officially broken up.

   Do you know that feeling?  When the ground shakes and all you believed in loses its meaning?  When you aren't sure which way to look at the world to avoid breaking out in random senseless tears...

I still have the shirt I wore the last time we were together, it hangs in my laundry room under the pretences of 'not quite fitting in that load'.  I'm afraid to lose that smell, the last of us together.  The last time we held each other close.

  I used to feel so safe there, all wrapped up in that sweaty embrace.  Safe but simultaneously thrilled, as if on the edge of some dangerous life changing epic adventure.  Oh how being together could change my world view.  How it could move mountains for me.  Or maybe how we moved mountains together?

Now I'm stuck in this hurtful bubble.  This place of unknowing.  People whisper, that's okay, there are other fish in the sea.  They tell me the memories will fade, that soon I'll find happiness again.  But I don't think they understand.  I don't think they get it.

Maybe they've not known a love like this before?  Maybe that pull, that tug, that unstoppable longing to be together has never taken ahold of their souls like mine.  I feel sad for them.  Or I would, if I were feeling.  I've given up feeling, since we've been apart, since I've been abandoned here, to my misery.

Bricks and mortar.  Bricks and mortar.  You can't see me.  I'm hiding.  Rebuilding my armour.  Collecting my pieces of self from the ashes left on the ground.  Oh look there's some more.  I wouldn't dare let on how deeply this loss has hurt me, how much my insides are out.  I'm hiding from everyone.  Admittedly sharing your vulnerability is as graceful as sharing your strength.  But my wounded heart will have none of it.

Mostly I'm hiding from myself.

Yes that's right.

From myself.

I have banned all self talk until future notice.  You know that saying, if you have nothing nice to say? Nice?  Nice... What fucking planet are you on anyway?  Nice.  Here I had thought I'd found someone I could just be myself with... forever.  Someone I could trust.  Someone who accepted my strengths and weaknesses.  And oh how there were weaknesses.  So so many weaknesses.  Cracks in the foundations of my everything.  But together made me whole.  I was unstoppable.  I could put on a brave face each and every day and step out into the light.

And holy hell, do I hate the light.

But I would face it together. And all the dark, gnarly bits too. It filled me to the brim with such belief and hope.

We keep bumping into each other, every day, in such unavoidable ways.  I see everyone else's smile.  Brightening up everyone else's life, with such bliss and joy.  Throwing compliments out like they're going out of style.  I see all the photobombing in all their pictures, making them glow, making them giggle, doing everything to make me jealous, envious, angry... more compounded hurt.

But you can't see me.  Bricks and mortar.  I build this wall.  My new safe place.  Tucked away.  Dreading the day I have to come out again.

Friends say, just think of the fun you'll have, starting again.  Fun?  Oh my goodness I hate the tentative flirting, the hopeful tippy toe steps, the careful breathing, the kind words, the appraisal, the dancing around schedules, the playing who's turn is it, the sharing of intimate details that I swore I never would again.

The daring to trust again.

The very thought makes me nauseous.

Bricks and mortar.  I don't want someone new.  I want my familiar, my known, my comfortable, my safe, my knows me well enough to finish my sentence.  But my inner compass is still spinning hurtfully.  Bricks and mortar.  We can't fix this, neither of us willing to sit down and dialogue.  Neither of us willing to bend the rules, change up the game, lower expectations.

I won't do this again.  I won't put myself out there.  I won't allow for the potential of hurt again.  I won't... We used to talk for hours.  We used to carelessly stay up all night and watch the stars shine, and the moon fade, and the sun come up.  We used to be present.  We used to share.  We used to...

 I am full of guilt. I never said how I felt, how I adored.  I never said the words 'I love you.  I love you more than my breath.  You make my world make sense.  You take my stresses, my frustrations, my fears and break them down into manageable bits.  You are what makes me sleep well at night, what I jump up in the morning with excitement for.  I love you.  I love you and I hardly even know you.  We've only just begun to know each other.  Why are you leaving? What have I done to deserve being left behind?'

And yet.... no self talk.  Not yet.  The hurt is still too new, too raw, too fragmented, too sharp.  With every whispered 'come back' I'm flinging around assaults like 'never accepted me on my terms' and 'always felt like a struggle to be with you, like I had to prove myself every second, like I couldn't just be, that I had to constantly be better'  I'm sick of trying to fit into a mold you've created for me.  I think I'm enough right here.

But that's a big lie.  I do not think I am enough.  Never ever have I thought that.  Not for one second.

So wait....

How does this work?

   Chissel out the grout around a single brick... stream of sunlight sneaks in.  How can you expect someone to love you, to accept you, to take you for what you have, and offer, and expect nothing else from you; if you don't accept yourself on your own terms?

How frustrating. How endlessly aggravating.

I have lost my best friend.  I have lost my best lover.  I have lost my favourite soul mate.

But maybe that's a good thing?

... a good thing?  How can a good thing hurt so dam much?  How can a good thing make me gasp for breath in silent sobs I'll never admit under the cover of the warm shower water?  How can a good thing make food lose it's taste, make the moon lose it's allure, make my will to move evaporate quite so?

I might throw bricks.  I might shove things.  I might have my toddler tantrum.  I might cry unconsolably and make a scene.  I might fuss.  I might swear.  I might... I might.  I might...

"We should talk"
"I'd like that"
"I don't want to hurt anymore"
"I miss you too"
"We can't be the way we were.  I can't go back to that"
"We weren't all bad? We had some awesome times..."
"On your terms.  It must be on mine this time.  Or we can't ever be again"
"I see. Let's talk about your terms.  Let's see what they are.  I'm thinking we could compromise?"
"I can't keep up.  We have to slow down.  I don't like the rush.  I like the journey.  I love getting lost with you, not knowing where I am, but feeling safe all the same.  I can't do this with guilt anymore"
"You can't blame me for everything.  You can't look for excuses.  We both have to work at this.  Fast or slow, we have to be in this together.... that's the only way it works"
"I don't like the jealousy you create.  I have to spend time with others, doing other things.  I have to smile more and stress less"
"Okay... one more thing..."
"Yes?"
"Have you washed that shirt yet?"

I'm not sure what it all means.  We haven't actually met again yet. I haven't dared reaching out yet. But we're talking.  Talking is a step right?

We're talking.  And my friends and I are planning to rent a bulldozer to knock down a few bricks in the wall...

Friends are how you get through these awful breakups I think.

Especially when your breakup was with your third Run Streak on what would have been day 480.

Next time baby... next time... on my terms.

And oh how I miss you... and oh how missing you hurts...


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Foundations Of Self

Self designated, self designed, self imposed, self conscious, self transposed...

Selfish

But there's therapy there too, I think.

Today I'm denying question marks; let them be the forget-me-nots of another worry.

Self denial.  Oh I've lived there.  Self potential.  Self advocated.  That's a scary place to visit.

Self talk. It haunts me.  Especially when I run, when I plan a run, when I meet someone for a run, when I'm thinking about a run I had, a run I should have had, a race I could have run better, faster, more graceful.

In the dark, on the road, in the quiet, before you wake... I'm out there.  Running.  Jogging.  Shuffling. Moving.  Praying.  Don't let the dogs out.  Don't let the skunks wake up.  Don't let there be black ice blending into the shadows.  Don't let there be a lot of cars and their shiny lights.  Don't let the streets be empty either.  Don't let there be strangers, strange noises, strange sounds.

Don't give me another reason to stay home.

I don't need one.

Head lamp a-lit along the sidewalk I will stumble on hours later to take the bus to work.  Reflective vest, reflective bands, stand out, shout out, look here, watch out.  Such a contrast to the soul I tend to hide the rest of my day.  Hoping not to be noticed making mistakes while crossing the road, while squinting at price tags in the grocery store, while cutting the grass into crooked rows.  Memorized steps.

I know this route.  Self talk invades; it may have changed.  I know this way.  But it's rained since you've come.  I know this curb, that step, those garden gnomes, garbage cans (not people - don't say hi).  I missed that guard rail.  Over dodged that construction pylon.  Tripped up on the shadow following me.  My shadow.  Calm down.  It's just running.

Breath escapes me here.  Never have I uttered such a lie.

Who am I kidding?  Who is there to fool?  Stop unbalancing the only piece that makes any sense at all.  Finally helpful self talk.  Finally productive self judgment.

Finally, a sense of some kind of self.

It's never "just" a run.  Ever.

It can set you free, can make you step out of the everything holding you back.  It can make the world shine, it can set it aglow.  It can be the 'hard' thing to get you through all the other hard things.  It can be self defining. Yes...  It can be the reason to get up, the reason to go to bed, the reason to reach, to try, to train, to focus, to create that sense of... of... of..

selfishness....

Doesn't there have to be, by default, some selfishness to your sense of self..  Maybe...

I don't need another reason to stay home.  I have a million already.  No guide, no time, no dark hours, no good weather, no energy, no hope, no breath, no self belief, no sense of safety, no sense of my-self.

No; it's never "just" a run.  Do not take it for granted.  A step you take is a step from where you are, a step into who you are, who you want to be, who you trust you might be.

Today no question.  Today no doubt worth breeding.  Today, a run.

Tomorrow, a run.

Foundations of a self I might like to meet someday.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

They say the gate is yellow

Flecks of paint along the metal rail, the gate I would not touch until it was time to cross it.  They say the gate is yellow.  Yellow like the colour of the feeling in my toes.  My intention was bigger than my strength.  They say the gate is yellow.  I’m not so sure.  When i finally did reach out to it, all I felt were flecks of paint clinging to a history I could not know.  A history hidden in the road beyond, embedded in the flesh and blood of many who charged bravely, willingly beyond, into the 'out there'.  

All I can do is follow.  All I can do is beg to be led.  All i can do is fight off the darkness that grips my heart and anchors me to the 'impossibilities' I’ve been forced to accept for what seems like ever.

I’ll stop. 
Full stop.  
Before we get too far, before you lose yourself in the park along the mountain ridge on the opposite side of the summit and off the map you’ve attempted to trace.  
I’ll stop.

I'll grant you the safety net to retreat back to camp, back to the waiting arms of the ones who love you, support you, and all your sense of adventure... the ones who pray the hardest when you set out. 

This is not your typical race recap.  And if that's your pleasure, please stop reading.  I can't give you Barkley secrets, I can't tell you how to enter, what a complete loop entails, or even what the famous chicken tastes like.  But here, in what follows, I can give you a little piece of my experience.  Eyes closed, here we go...

This race, this euphoric culmination of insane improbability, has called to me since the finishing of my very first trail race.  One of my new found cohorts in the ultra world posted their condolences.  Early 2013.  Condolences.  My constant reminder when I stand at any start line ... I chose this.  Condolences fit so well.  Being legally blind means a number of things.  Most typically, in the ultra trail genre, it means accepting that things will suck until a path is made to make a space for what disabled participation looks like.  The thing about ultra running.... it is the challenge that most people love; to reach beyond what we accept as possible.  

I can't count the number of emails I have sent to race directors asking to be allowed to participate in events.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Coming from a world where I have lost job interviews when my disability is disclosed, my experience with acceptance in the ultra world is optimistic.  There have been some that will not flex any rule.  Not the pacer times, or the cut off times or what have you.  For the most part, I am most accepted on the trail.  Road racing tends to be the most difficult to navigate.  That's really okay with me.  My heart is lost there on the hillside, on some mystical single track, some blazed ridge off in the sunset.  My soul loves to tangle near the escarpments edge, where all disability buffers have fallen off and guard rails are as invisible as my next steps.

Why Barkley?  

Do you have a minute?  Can you take a minute?  This is difficult to explain.  With disability, comes expected failure.  Disability is the 'other', the lacking, the 'almost' but not quite normal.  It comes with expected failure.  It also comes with celebration of small success.  So here is this race, where everyone is expected to give until their guts bleed and still will most likely fail.  I can't honestly think of a place I fit in more.  

Can you imagine living your entire life under an expected failure umbrella? 

Barkley.  Because I can fail in good company.  
Barkley.  Because I am just stubborn enough to gather strength from that.
Barkley.  Because, dammit, it is the least likely place you'd ever expect to find disability.

Graciously, courageously, and under not illusion of grandeur, Race director Laz returned my email, saying yes I could have a guide and make an attempt.  But when the time came, I had no such willing party.  It seemed no one wanted to be responsible for the real potential of death of a blind girl.  Which I found funny.  They trust me to cross roads, navigate city transit, raise children, go to work, find the edge of the pool at the gym, chop and prepare dinner... all on my own.  But not climb mountains. Unwavering in my faith that the world will eventually come around to knowing that disability is more than just the space holder for the edges of your normal, I emailed Laz back to say I could not find a willing soul this year.  But most certainly he'd hear from me again.  

I went running with my Steven one Sunday afternoon.  He stopped mid stride, dove into the ditch and emerged with an abandoned license plate.  "You're going to need this"  he said.  It doesn't appear that way... was all I could think.  But Steven insisted I not give up direction on following my dream just because of hurdle. "It's not what you do" he said.  He packed the plate away in his pack and we carried on.  

By email I was introduced to a fellow who agreed to try guiding the Barkley.  If you stood at the yellow gate and counted this year, you'd have found there were 41 of us.  This gift, this chance, this space, completely unreal.  I owe so much to Laz for searching for a guide for me.  I owe so much more to the brave Christian who took on the challenge of guiding.

Imagine taking on something so dark and scary you know you'll come apart.  Knowing and still accepting that challenge as a gift, a chance, a place to stand your ground and, well, just simply, TRY.  Now back step.  Imagine taking that on and taking someone else's life in your hands at the same time.  This is exactly what Christian did.  The Barkley is no trail run.  It is no single track.  No mountain race.  It is struggle.  It is survival.  It is your worst possible fears served sweetly with a side of arsenic.  Neither Christian or I entered this challenge without that knowledge.  But truth be told, you just simply don't know the things you don't know.

Standing at the start line behind that supposed yellow gate, in such good company, my thoughts were simply "Well dam, open mouth, insert foot"  Now the world was watching.  This is my life's purpose; cause a stir, create awareness, make space.  This is the hardest thing I do... raised within the boundaries of the backdrop of "I can't" every breath is a dog fight of turning off that soundtrack and beating a new drum.  The thing is, here I was, like always, surrounded by 'real' runners.  Those who have actual athletic reasons to stand there.  I'm not the least bit fast, not the least bit strong, can't climb worth a dam.  My only strength is stubbornness.  I talk my way into these things and then find myself tangled in the actual issues of pulling them off.  

Not sure Christian believed me when I said I'd never been on a mountain before.  That set the tone for the next while.

So we climbed.  And climbed.  And climbed.  Go get yourself some tea.  I'll be here, stuck in the memory of that endless climb, watching the bobbing heads ahead disappear.  Ok that didn't take too long, I could only see them for about ten clear feet.  But I did get to hear them go.  They seemed to dissipate.  Like they were overtaking the mountain.  Gone gone gone ahead.  And me, one foot then the other.  Slow, painfully slow ascent.  The easiest one on the loop to start us off.  Up and up and up, to see the world from outside my lens. Up and up and up and voices in my head; shouldn't, couldn't, wouldn't.  Up and up and up... touch the sky, touch the clouds.  Up to where the wind cares not what you see, what you feel, what you think.  Where the wind on one side of the mountain kisses your cheek and on the other slaps your ass so hard you fall over. Up where your echo dances away the thoughts of all your edges.  

I couldn't read a compass to save my life.  If I have any wisdom to depart in this mishmash of madness, it is this.  They should have tactile compasses.  Have you seen a braille watch?  Lift the glass that covers the watch face, and feel the arms?  Yes well, they should make a compass version.  I was cursing engineers everywhere for not inventing this for the entire race.

The thing about Barkley, one of the things about Barkley, you're bound to get lost.  And that's okay, expected actually.  I do not know any pair who did this quite as well as Christian and I did.  Let me jump ahead... At the end of the day; no that's wrong, at the end of the next day, we'd covered maybe 8 actual miles on the loop, and about 50 extra miles just to ensure how lost we were.  Don't kid yourself, I didn't go to do anything but stir the pot.  So in that right, I think it was a successful venture.

On the first off trail down the mountain, my trekking pole strap broke.  I love my poles. They make me feel safe, invincible, sturdy.  So here, some 2 hours in, was my first reminder that I am none of those things.  Repaired and down again.  Down and down again.  We reached a bench.  Now wait.  I'm new to all this.  Not a park bench.  A flatfish three foot wide grassy bit of the mountain.  An old mining bench?  Our instructions were to look for book one on this bench.  I was so happy.  Hell I'd just come off a mountain.  Two feet, level ground, knew exactly where I stood.  Neither here nor there,  Truth be told only half way down the mountain.  But two feet firmly planted.  Christian wasn't certain which direction the rock under which the book would be.  "You go left, I'll go right" and I strode off.  Pretty sure he was concerned.  Can you do that?  Your Steven might kill me if he knew.  "It's a bench. I promise to stop if my feet don't line up"  And besides... my Steven would have expected me to take off like that.  Looking under rocks was my next 30 minutes.  Rocks on the grassy bench, half way down (up?) a mountain.  Quick mom... turn off netflixs.  I'm certain this is the easy part. 

More diving into the unknown. Down and down and compass bearings.  Down and down and streams coming together.  Down and down and do you hear that?  More streams.  Instructions... if you've come down too far south, you'll see nothing.  No shit.  That, at least was a familiar feeling.  Somewhere along that stream edge I knew we were stuck.  If Jared and Gary hadn't lapped us coming to book two, we not have found it.  So then what do you do when you're at the bottom of the mountain?  Well if you're Laz sitting comfortably around a fire, chewing chicken... you'd plot a course up the yuckiest part of the next mountain.  

Headlamps on and climbing up and up.  In my pack, on my back, exactly enough supplies for 15-18 hours.  More than I'd ever carried.  It's just a mountain, or ten.  It's just stuff.  Up and up and up.  Can you hear the wind?  Less kissing now that the sun is gone, she is fierce and vindictive and all the voices of those who challenge my right to be here.  That wind, so cruel, so heartless, trying so hard to tear me apart.  To a high wall... I'm not a squirrel it turns out.  Around and up and up and up.  

wait...

I can't breathe.

wait...

Christian stopped. Waited and wondered what had changed.  I had no footing.  I had no grip.  I had nothing but fear and wind in my ears.  No sound of his feet.  The mountain was older than anything I'd ever dug my finger into.  It's history swelling up like a wrath I was not prepared for.  This forest, this place, this mountain edge... voices of past wanderers.  I am not hallucinating.  I'm not tired.  I am fearful.  They do not want company. Not here.  Wait.  Let me breathe.  Let me sink my feet into the ground with hope and lightness.  But no.  The wind would not relent.  And the climb continued.  

Book three in hand.  And down the other side of the mountain. Gratefully out of the wind.

Down and down and down again.  Round and round.  Not a soul breathing.  But water ahead. Water that washed my feet of every ache and tenderness.  Water through the mountain, like a gift from the heavens.  But cold feet get colder though the night.  Later we'd return to this ditch and tuck ourselves in that crevasse to stay warm and reread the map for the hundredth time.  Later I'd curse my were feet and shaking hands.  Later, so much later I would beg the skies to swallow me up, and take me whole.  Later I would think that heaven must be a warm place... because this hell, this hell I asked for was colder than death.  Unforgiving wind and lost on a map.  No tactile compass.  And poor Christian listening to me whine about being cold, while he shivered in a t-shirt.

I called it.  I said I quit.  Here, somewhere after book four, I knew there was a road.  It was supposed to take us back to camp.  We followed a 'road' for two hours of down.  Down and down the mountain.  The sun came up.  We warmed enough to speak again.  And knew we weren't going back to camp on this road.  So lost we couldn't even quit.  Laughing we turned around and climbed two more hours up and up.  Back to book four.  Back in a race no one knew we'd quit.  

May as well look for book 5 right?

The Mountains laughed at this.  They taunted and teased and dared our descent down the wrong summit.  Over here... this way... try this way... Hours ticked by.  Packs grew lighter.  That's okay though, the space the food took up was being recycled with more doubt.  Doubt... Again the Doubt... And then...

And then...

Army helicopters.  Two of them.  Circling above.  We'd been gone hours.  More than a day.  Our foggy brains took on the mob mentality that we were being searched for.  Perhaps my crew back at camp was too distraught with the knowledge that I couldn't have carried enough food to survive.  Perhaps Laz himself didn't want the blood of a blind girl on his yellow gate.  Peeling bits of blood and guts of those I do not know, splattered on that gate.  Quitters road is long indeed.

We went back to the water drop, the place where the riddled instructions told us there was a road out to camp.  The "RIGHT" road.  Again we failed to find this road.  We found ourselves at a fork where a jeep road intersected a gravel road.  Standing, compass reading, deciding; we heard a noise.  I turned to my guide, my companion, my new life long friend...

"Ready to be rescued?" 

A beat up old pick up truck came rumbling down the mountain we'd just been on.  After some discussion about how to return to camp, they asked if the choppers were for us.  "We think they might be"... They offered to drive us to the fire tower trail.  So in the back of the truck we hopped.  I did not hop... Clambered.  Heaved.  Heavy with the knowledge that now, there was no turning back.  We had officially DQ'd.  

We got comfortable.

That's not right.

I think Christian may have had a nap.  I, on the other hand, was nearly paralyzed.  Winding, turning, speeding gravel down the side of a mountain.  The one that had seemed so angry by foot, now seemed to growl as we retreated.  It yelled in my ears... Dammit Batgirl... you weren't supposed to give up.  Where are you going?  This is Barkley!  This is the test!  This is the end of all things and you quit?

... seriously.... you quit?

There was a can in the back of the truck. or a bucket.  With every turn I grasped on the edge of the bed and the bucket would slam a bit into my shins.  Quitter, it teased.  Quitter... it taunted.  QUITTER!!!  it bruised... down and down and around we drove.  All the things they say you can't do, batgirl... all of them... and this.  

Steadfast in my decision, even in heartbreak.  I knew we were hopelessly lost.  I knew I did not have enough food to carry on.  I knew... that in my effort, some now 29 hours of effort, there was still some message. 

The truck dropped us off at the highway pull off for the tower trail.  They said there were three trails.  One to the prison, one to the tower, one to the camp.  Somehow we took the one to the prison.  We stopped at the end and found ourselves half way on rat jaw climb.  I looked up.  I talked to my legs. I considered trying it.  But my race was done.  Officially done.  We retreated (again) and went to the tower.  Here, after what seemed like an endless climb, we found book 9; the braille book. Helicopters were still flying around.  In attempts to let them know we had been here and were alive I began searching for the page number that matched my bib.  This book, perfectly fitting to my situation, had no page numbers.  The pages were still attached from the braille printer. Little did I know, Laz's last minute instructions at the yellow gate, some 28 hours earlier, were to tear out a page... any page.  There was no point in my taking a page that didn't match my bib.  No one would know we'd been here.  I left some of my personals on the water table, thinking that one of my crew could place me having been there that way.  We sat on the grass, soaked up the sun.  I felt the warmth of hope and promise in the sky, it wasn't to be my day, but it was to be our saving grace.  Food nearly gone, water nearly empty and both of us too foggy to even refill while we sat there by the second water drop.  Almost as if dropping made us less deserving of it. 

Out of the game.

But, not out of the forest.  

This tower, marked the half way point on this years course.  Half way back to camp and still rather lost.  Breathing in and out, 28 hours later, and still just as confused. 

We decided to go back to the highway.  Hitchhike our way back to the camp. Before we rounded the corner there was a trail that led to the camp.  Some unknown distance along that candy ass trail were our people, sitting around a campfire, eating chicken, counting seconds.  Heart full of the knowledge that we'd have to face them... head full of the awareness that we were down to one working headlamp and still not clear on distance between here and there... we continued back to the highway. 

Running.

Running... 29 hours later.  Running.  And listening to Christian talk about pregnant trees and faces in the rocks.  Running and knowing that finding another well rested human being was the only way out.  Down and down. and down.. 

We ran into a couple on their way up.  Dam if they weren't hiking up the mountain faster than we were running down it.  Humbling to know just how slow the ultra shuffle is.  Please if you see anyone from this race, tell them bib 81 is alive?  Tell them we are headed back along the highway?  And in my head... tell my Steven I am sorry to have failed at this quest.

one step 

another

one step

misstep

another

walking again... and now along the highway.  No shoulders, white lines, crazy fast cars, movement, noise, chaos.

my nemesis.  This... this... this... culture, so developed for the abled, so focused around the things I cannot do, or not well anyway.  White lines, traffic, guard rails... shifting focus... maybe I'm sleeping.  Sloped roads.. shuffling feet.  Single goal...

be found

Then a car pulled over and asked if we needed a lift to camp.  Wait I know that voice.  I've heard that voice. But to be honest, I"d have taken a ride from Santa Claus if he'd pulled his sleigh up.  Yes... please.  A ride home.

Home.  I dread that.  Love that mountain side and all it's potential.  All it made clear.  All the hope it carried to allow other'abled participants to show up, take part, be accounted for.

The drive took 15 minutes.  I can't imagine having had to walk that.  The couple in the front tweeted out our picture of us to tell the world once and for all that we were in fact alive.  

When we reached camp, they weren't expecting us.  Oddly I felt they weren't looking for us either.  Once they saw us, everyone started yelling 'RUNNER'... no no I thought, we aren't running.  We drove here.  'RUNNER'... shhh...no no no...

they say the gate is yellow... of course, yellow in the sun is as invisible as your uncaught dreams.  

they say the gate is yellow... but all I felt were peeling bits of paint, history etched into the metal as much as the rock under my feet.  History or effort.  Bits and pieces of me all over the ground, fallen like last years foliage, trodden on by overstepping awareness for a race who's prestige was in it's unknowing.

they say the gate is yellow.... perhaps it is, but i remain skeptical and hopefully ever-present enough to always question that which 'they' say is true.

Thank you Barkley Family; for accepting this rather black sheep to your fire pit.  I am forever grateful.

much love,
rm