Sunday, November 25, 2007

Recipe for Thankfulness

First of all, happy American Thanksgiving from my family to yours! If you want to feel truly thankful on Thanksgiving, try getting really really really sick the week before. It puts all else into blinding perspective. You come to appreciate the little things - walking up a flight of steps without feeling so weak you're afraid you're going to totter right over, eating food and having it stay in your stomach, being able to keep up with your kids, let alone do simple things like prepare them a meal. This Thanksiving, I was grateful just to be able to eat a tiny bit of the lovely food and sit there with my family talking about the things we are most thankful for.

In general, I think I am a pretty grateful person. Many times as I go about my day, I smile and feel thankful for the life I am incredibly lucky to lead - for the beauty that surrounds me, my loving husband and healthy happy kids, my strong and fit body. But this little brush with incapacitation taught me about all the small things that go unnoticed, how I take my body and its capabilities largely for granted. I'm not talking about the ability to run fifteen miles either, that's easy to be thankful for because it really does seem like a miracle to someone who can still remember not being able to run one. But on a daily basis, my body performs a thousand small and seemingly inconsequential miracles, things like moving me from the chair to the counter to pour a cup of tea, or swallowing that tea and digesting it around in my stomach instead of staging a mini-revolution and sending it back where it came from, things like breathing easily and moving without pain. This week I've had cause to examine all of those privileges and realize how easily they can disappear. How quickly you can go from vibrant good health to can't get out of bed.

I've been reading a book called The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World , which is really a fascinating book if you have any interest in epidemiology, cartography, the history of cities, and many other related subjects. But it wasn't the best book to finish shortly before being struck down with a mystery virus. The book is all about a dreadful cholera epidemic that literally took 1 out of every 10 people in the 1800's London neighborhoods it visited. As I suffered through my little bout of stomach flu, I thought of those people who went to bed one night healthy and woke up the next morning knowing that they'd be the next corpse tossed on the loaded carts that made their rounds through the streets. We go through our lives thinking the next day will be just like this one, that all the things we can do today we will be able to do tomorrow, and some days this just isn't true at all.

I'm still nowhere near 100% after this illness took my feet out from under me this week. I'm reduced to eating the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) and even my usual mug of mate' sits uneasily on me these days. I've lost about 6 pounds, but sadly my high tech scale says my body fat has gone up (now that is just blatantly unfair, isn't it!!) I went thrift-store shopping with my good friend the week before taking ill, and all of my new cute jeans that I bought now hang a bit baggily in all the wrong places. Still, I did get in the pool this weekend and tagged behind my lane of guys for aboue half the usual workout. I know it will come back quickly and for that I am grateful, as well as for everything else I am vowing not to take for granted anymore.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From Good to Bad, Bad to Worse

First the good - my son and I competed in our first ever karate competition this weekend. We had a fun time, he took a second place in his category in sword sparring (with foam swords, thank heavens!) and I am especially proud of myself for entering the sparring competition (which scares the bejeezus out of me, but I did it!) and taking 3rd in my division. I actually beat someone sparring, which is impressive given that I have a hard time not closing my eyes when someone is throwing punches and kicks at me.

Entering this competition reminded me of how much I have learned in sports over the years. I watch my son, who is such a perfectionist and so very hard on himself fret and fuss over how he thought he was doing and I remember being exactly like that as a kid. I hated to lose. In fact, I was much worse than he is, because while he does tend to get down on himself he takes full responsibility for his performance. I used to invent reasons that I hadn't performed as well as I thought I should - I hurt my leg or I was getting a cold, or whatever I could come up with to soothe my ego. I am so impressed by his ability to be comfortable with himself. He said something very profound afterwards: "Even if I was the only one there and I got a first place ribbon, I'd be proud because after all I showed up and lots of people don't!" It only took me about twenty years in sports to learn what he knows already - you're a winner if you show up and do your best.

Unfortunately, my good mood at having faced my fears and entered this competition evaporated yesterday as I began to feel sicker and sicker and sicker. At first, I thought I was just sore from the karate competition. But then it became more than just muscle soreness and descended into that horrible achey feeling that precedes an ugly illness. I hardly ever get sick, so it really blindsides me when I do, and I begin to wonder if I'm dying or something because I'm so unused to feeling this way (and yes, I do feel grateful that I don't have to face this more often!). I haven't thrown up in about a decade, but spent last night hanging out in the bathroom and losing my lunch, then my dinner, then anything else. So I'm about to head back to bed and re-bury myself under the covers, vowing to not take for granted my good health, vitality, and the wonderful thing that is being healthy most of the time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Good News!

It looks like I will be the new triathlon coach for Team in Training for our area. This will be a pretty big commitment for me, and I think my summer race schedule next year till be pretty light, but I am really excited!

I've been running in my toe shoes a lot, as running on the street was still giving me nausea and headaches. But the other day on the trail, I came across this amazing sight and ran a mile or so back to the car for my camera then lugged it back to the lake to snap this photo of the spiderweb covered in sparkles and the fall colors. Definitely worth it!

In other news I'm close to being able to run on the street again. A couple of trail runs in my toe shoes that were really pleasant and it looks like I've mostly got the strange physical running aversion licked. I had a nice run home from our volleyball game last night and am hopeful that this will last!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I was out riding with the kids today and overheard this argument..

"You're tailgating!"
"No, I'm drafting"
"You're tailgating!"
"Drafter, like the Tour de France guys!"

And so it goes, LOL. But, what a nice day to go out and run through some leaf piles!

Going For the Holy Grail

My swim coach has been talking lately about "The Holy Grail of Swimming" aka the catch phase of the stroke and getting your shoulder rotated so that you can start your stroke keeping your elbow high and your hand and forearm lower. It feels a bit strange and different, and I can tell that if I do it too long at one time right now I will end up with very sore muscles. But I can also tell that it's a powerful move that communicates more force to the water than my previous stroke, in which I wasn't rotating my shoulder so that when my elbow bent, my hand came further underneath my body than it does with the new catch. So the other night at the pool when I was swimming by myself, I tried to throw in one 25 of this new stroke into every 200 yards. It was immediately noticeable when I went back to my old stroke how much power I'm losing with my old way of catching the water. That leaves me hopeful that if I can train up my muscles to adapt to this new stroke, I might be able to get some speed back into my swim (largely I've been going for distance over the last few years of HIM and Ironman training and have lost some of my snap in the sprints.)

If you want to see the catch I'm talking about, check out this video of Ian Thorpe from the front. You can actually see the shoulder rotation in play in the slow motion: