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…