Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Breaking Free

“Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer.”  Dorothy Rowe

Wow, it’s been 7 months since my last blog post.  So much has happened since then.  I have gone back and forth in my mind about writing this post since it’s so personal, but I believe in my heart that someone needs to read this post.  That by reading this post someone may take that step to get help for themselves.

My name is Sabrina Adams and periodically I suffer from bouts of depression.  There, I have put it out there.  I feel free and terrified all at the same time.  My bouts of depression are usually caused by a traumatic event, but sometimes I become depressed for no apparent reason.  Throughout my adult life I have sought help from therapists and in recent years I have been placed on a low dosage antidepressant. 

When my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on New Year’s Eve 2012, I spiraled into depressive state.  I couldn't believe that my beloved mother would have such a cruel and fatal disease.  I knew this was not one of those instances in which I would be down for about a week and then be back to normal.  I knew I needed help.  I contacted my employer’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and received a referral for a therapist who lived in my area.  I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association and found a support group that met monthly.  Lastly, I met with my then medical doctor and explained to him what was going on with me, and how I thought I needed some sort of antidepressant to help me cope.  He agreed and with some trial and error we found a medication that was suitable for me.

Following my treatment plan and my mom still being able to live on her own, I was able to have a very solid race season in 2013.  Things were good, but things changed in 2014.  The disease began to progress and the changes in my mom became more significant.  To me as the disease progresses, a piece of my mom fades away.  I don’t know when, but a time will come when my mom will completely vanish.

As the Alzheimer’s progressed my depression started to rear its ugly head once again.  I did my best to stay on top of it, but I struggled.  I would only go to the support group every so often because I felt my situation was nowhere as bad as others in my group.  I had allowed my antidepressant medication to run out and my medical doctor had relocated to another state.  I was not in a good place emotionally and here I was trying to train for my first Ironman.  Long story short my training and racing suffered.  I did make the podium a couple of times in the aquabike division, but I did not have a race season as solid as the year before. 

As stated in a previous post I DNF’d at Ironman Mont Tremblant.  Even though I had trained, I should have not attempted that race.  I was not in the right frame of mind to tackle 140.6.  My coach had advised me not to do the race, but I thought I would be able to pull it off.  As soon as I got home from Mont Tremblant, I signed-up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon and the Richmond Marathon.  I completed Patrick Henry and was looking forward to doing the Richmond Marathon in November.

Three weeks before Richmond I fell during a group run and badly sprained my left ankle.  I couldn’t run or bike.  If I swam I had to use a pull buoy.  My longest run had been 18 miles, but I felt that would be enough to get me across the finish line if I had a very conservative run/walk ratio.  The week of the marathon my life turned upside down.  I had to take my mom out of her home and temporarily move her in with my husband, So-So and I. 

Prior to moving my mom, I was already searching for a suitable community to place her.  I had become so frustrated because assisted living with a memory care unit is extremely expensive.  Most of the communities are private pay and do not accept Medicaid.  Medicare does not cover assisted living.  The monthly costs can average from $2,500 to over $6,000+ per month.  I needed to find a safe place for my mom, but time was not on my side. 

It was an eye-opener having my mother live with my family and me.  I really got to see what the Alzheimer’s did to her when she began to sundown.  She would refer to family members that had been deceased for decades.  She would wake up in the middle of the night fully dressed thinking it was time for her to get up and go to work.  She would forget that my husband was my husband, even though she knew his name. 

In spite of not getting a lot of sleep and having a bum ankle, I decided to proceed with doing the marathon.  My coach and I decided I would run a 1:1 and I would just enjoy the experience of completing a marathon.  My awesome friend, Juanita, agreed to run the race with me as she had done for Patrick Henry.  Even though I didn't speak with her much, it was a blessing to have her run with me.  The crowd support at Richmond is great and the route is beautiful!  I finished the race in 6:13:10.  Far from being blazing fast, but I am proud of my accomplishment.  I had fun and the race was a great distraction for me.  I even shared a few tears as I reached the finish line. 

Juanita and I

My mom lived with my family and me for about a month.  At times it was challenging, but it was also a blessing to be able to spend so much time with her.  During the day I took my mom to my mother-in-law’s house.  I am so grateful that my mother-in-law is retired and was so willing to help out.  So-So even did her part.  My mom was an early riser - a 4:30 am early riser.  At night I would set out her clothes and toiletries, leave the TV on and leave a blanket for her in the living room.  When she would get up and go to the living room, So-So would jump on her lap and sit with her until Mr. Adams and got up to get ready for work.  So-So was so kind and patient with my mom.  I love that cat! 


I finally found a suitable place for my mom that was only 10 minutes away from me.  I figured moving her would put me in a better mental space, but it did not.  I felt so guilty for placing her in an assisted living community.  I felt as if I had failed her as a daughter.  I was not taking care of her like she had taken care of my grandfather who had dementia.  The guilt ate at me.    It also broke my heart to see how some of the residents were just empty shells of themselves, and how that would probably be my mom’s destiny. 

I found it harder and harder to get out of bed to go to work or to train.  I would break down crying for no apparent reason.  All I wanted to do was sleep and eat.  I knew I needed help, but I felt so overwhelmed.  I had allowed things to just build up over the past year.  I had not taken care of myself.  My job was suffering, my training was suffering and most importantly my marriage was suffering.  I was not being the wife my husband needed me to be.  Even though at times I could turn the switch on to function somewhat normal, I was a mess.

Thankfully Mr. Adams took a stand and told me that I was going to get help for myself and get back on track with my mental wellness.  So I did what I knew worked for me.  I got in contact with my therapist and made an appointment with a new medical doctor.  I started seeing my therapist weekly and my new medical doctor agreed that I needed to get back on an antidepressant.

During this time my training was nowhere at the level that it needed to be, but it wasn't non-existent either.  Back in November I had signed-up to take part in the USAT Club Challenge as a member of the Black Triathlete Association.  I love being part of a team and competing against others.  I also continued to meet with the run group that I lead on Saturday mornings.  Lastly I invested in myself as an athlete.  I purchased a used power meter and the new Garmin 920xt.  I knew I wouldn't be in this dark hole forever. 

It’s now May 2015 and I am in such a better place!  I see my therapist as needed and the antidepressant is working.  I will follow-up with my doctor this summer to see if I need to continue with my antidepressant or not.  I have accepted the fact that I did the right thing by placing my mom in an assisted living community where she can receive 24-hour care and is safe.  I relish the moments I spend with my mom because even though she has Alzheimer’s, she is still very high functioning, even though her filter is non-existent.  Ha!  My training is going well and I already have a few road races and triathlons under my belt.  I have also partnered with some great companies (Hammer NutritionDe Soto SportSaris CycleOpsPowerTapRichmond Multisports and Lucky Foot) for this year’s race season.  Lastly, I am back being the competent and supportive wife that Mr. Adams needs.

If you are dealing with depression or any sort of mental illness, please do not be ashamed or embarrassed to get the help you need.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Do not let the stigma of mental illness keep you from being mentally whole.  There is nothing with going to therapy or taking medication.  Many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program in which you can receive a referral for a therapist and several appointments with that therapist at no charge to you.  Life is too short to go through it unhappy and in emotional pain.  Take charge of your mental health…you matter.              

Friday, October 17, 2014

Moving Forward

“There is no better than adversity.  Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
Malcom X

I have been putting off this blog post for a while.  It has taken longer than I anticipated to process my emotions and quite frankly I just didn’t want to write about my experience at IMMT.  I DNF’d.  Before I go into detail as to what happened, let me just state that Mont Tremblant is a beautiful place.  It is very picturesque and the people are very friendly. 

Mr. Adams and I arrived in Mont Tremblant on Thursday and about 15 minutes before athlete check-in closed for the day.  I quickly ran and waited in line.  The look of fear on my face must have been quite obvious because several people asked me if I was ok.  I signed all the necessary documents, received my race essentials and schwag, and headed to my hotel with the hubs that was located a few miles outside of Mont Tremblant. 

Friday I started my day with a practice swim that went ok, in spite of the dreary weather.  I was amazed at how clear Lake Tremblant was and how one could see the lake floor for several feet.  After the swim I spent the day hanging with friends and meeting folks that I had initially met on Facebook.  The more I walked around Mont Tremblant and Ironman Village, the more I could not believe I was getting ready to do my first IM that Sunday. It seemed surreal.  

Coolest chair ever!

Friday evening I attended the IM athlete dinner.  The Canadians know how to put on a show!  

The Zebra Lady was so cool looking

The food tasted as good as it looked

Saturday I did a short bike ride and then all of my focused was making sure I had my gear bags packed properly and getting my bike and bags checked in.  I really liked the fact that the gear bags were going to be kept inside under a tent, and there would be no concerns of my stuff getting wet. 

Bright ribbons to make sure I could easily spot my bags

I know there was over $1M worth of bikes in transition

Bags, bags everywhere

Saturday evening the hubs and I had an early dinner with my friend and her in-laws who were staying in the village.  My friend staying in the village would prove to be crucial to Mr. Adams and I the following day.  That night I went to bed a little later than I had wanted, but I slept like a baby that night.

Sunday morning Mr. Adams and I were at transition before 4:30.  It had been advised that those that were not staying in the village to get to the race site by 4:30 since several key roads would be closed.  I met some friends at a coffee shop since transition was not yet open.  Once transition opened I had my body marking done and made my way to my bike to set up my nutrition and pump my tires.  Some folks were like me, full of nervous energy.  Others seemed as if it was just another training day.  Once I felt my bike was properly prepared, I found Mr. Adams and headed to the swim start.

It had been raining off and on since we had arrived at Mont Tremblant.  It wasn’t raining, but it was cloudy.  I tried not to think about the possibility of rain since that was not something I could control.  After getting into my wetsuit, the hubs and I did our usual ritual of him praying over me and the other athletes.  Once we finished praying, I decided to find my wave and take advantage of the preswim.  Once I had a really good view of Lake Tremblant, I started to have a panic attack.  It was so obvious that other athletes asked if I was ok.

As I walked into the water I became more overwhelmed.  Even though I had done a preswim the day before, the lake looked so much bigger to me.  The buoys seemed to go on forever!  The air temp was in the mid 50’s and the water temp was in the mid 60’s – chilly, but doable.  I took a few strokes to try to calm myself down.  It wasn’t working.  I took a few more strokes and decided just to wade in the water for a bit.  As I was wading I saw my dear friend, Beth.  She could see the fear in my face.  She came towards me and took my hand.  She and her friends were in the same wave as me, the last wave, so she told me to get in line with them.

Beth and her friends are stronger swimmers than me, so when it was time for our wave to get in the water, I made sure I was in the back.  When the horn went off I got it together and began my day on becoming an Ironman.  At first the water was fine.  I had finally calm down and moving pretty good through the water.  I had been warned that since the water at Lake Tremblant is so clear, you can see the divers that are underneath the water.  Well while I was moving along, I swam across one of those divers and scared the crap out of myself.  It almost brought on another panic attack. 

I was keeping an ok pace for me when the water started to get very choppy.  The wind had picked up and was causing swells.  Some of the swells were so significant that I felt like I was body surfing.  At times I could feel my body lift up and get pushed back.  The swaying of the water caused me to become nauseous.  The only thing that seemed to help was to close my eyes.  Fortunately for me my coach makes me practice sighting in the pool by swimming with my eyes closed, and only opening them to sight.  This drill also helps me to swim in a straight line.  So when my face was in the water, I closed my eyes.  When it was time for me to sight, I opened them.

I knew I had to be careful about how much energy I exerted on the swim.  I had a long day ahead of me, and the choppy water was not helping.  After not making the swim cut-off at the Monticelloman Olympic two years ago, I had promised myself if I ever DNF’d again, it would not be because of the swim.  So I kept pushing and made it around the first buoy. Halfway through the first and second turn buoys, I took glance at my watch – time was not on my side.  By me trying to conserve energy, I had gone a little too slow, so I had pick up the pace for the second part of the swim.

The swells that initially worked against me, were now working in my favor.  I also had my own guardian swim angel.  He was an older gentleman that was part of the water safety crew.  He was in a canoe and stayed within a few feet of me as I made my way to the swim finish.  Periodically he would encourage me and let me know if he thought I was getting too close to a sighting buoy.  His presence brought me comfort.  When I reached the swim finish he gave me a thumbs up.  My swim time was 2:12.  Definitely a lot slower than what I had wanted, but at least I had made the cut-off.

Thank you Lord, I made it before the cut-off! 

As I stood up to run to transition, something didn’t feel right.  I felt as if my body, especially my stomach, had emptied out.  I had never felt this before after a swim.  To make matters worse, I felt lightheaded and nauseous and I was beginning to have stomach cramps.  I had no idea what was going on with my body, but I decided to push through.  Getting from the swim finish to the transition area seemed to take forever.  As I headed into the changing area, I noticed a bunch of athletes circled around a heat lamp with metallic blankets on them.  Once inside the changing area I noticed I was a little chilly myself.  A volunteered offered me a blanket, I took it, and kept it around me as I got dressed.  Before leaving the dressing area I made sure I ate a Hammer Peanut Butter gel.    

Since I was one of the last people to come out of the water, I had no issues finding my bike.  Prior to reaching my bike, I turned on my 15 minute interval notification on my trusty Ironman Timex.  I wanted to make sure that I took in nutrition every 15 minutes.  

It's not fancy, but it does what I need it to do

My nutrition consisted of a very thick mixture of Hammer Unflavored Sustained Energy and Heed in one of my water bottles, a bottle of water in which I would exchange out at every aid station and multiple packets of Hammer gel.  I also take a couple of supplements when I raced.  Inside my bento box with my gels I had one tube filled with Hammer Endurance Amino and another filled with Hammer Endurolytes.  I had trained with this nutritional and supplemental combo, so I knew it would work for me.

Even though I felt like crap, I got on my bike and started on the course.  As I am riding I notice I am not feeling any better.  I still have a long day ahead of me, and I have no idea how I would make it before the 17 hour, midnight cut-off.  My heart becomes heavy and I begin contemplating the unthinkable (the unthinkable for me) – dropping out of the race.  I am not a quitter, but I am also a realist.  My body was not feeling like herself and I needed her at her best to complete the challenging bike and run courses.  I knew I had to decide if I was going to DNF on my own terms or be pulled from the course for not making the cut-off.

Right before the second aid station, I decided I was going to call it a day.  My body was feeling in such a way that I did not know how to handle.  I was following my nutritional protocol, but I was not feeling any better.  I stopped at the aid station, told a volunteer that I did not feel well and I was done, and handed over my bike.  Once the words came out of my mouth, I had a complete meltdown.  The volunteer told me to let it out and held me up as I cried my eyes out.  I have never felt such a sense of failure in my life.  All I wanted to do was disappear.

As my meltdown continued, I was walked over to the med tent where I was given a blanket and my vitals were taken.  My vitals were fine, but I still felt like crap.  I had to wait for a while for a van to come pick me up and take me back to transition.  As I sat there, I watched all these fantastic athletes fly pass me.  I was in awe of them, but also jealous.  I wanted that to be me.  I did notice that there were a lot of athletes stopping to use the porta potties.  I know many triathletes that do long course pee on their bikes, so I couldn’t understand why so many athletes were utilizing the porta potties (Later on I would learn on one of the IMMT Facebook pages that many athletes were having stomach issues).

Finally my chariot arrived and my bike and I were loaded on the van.  The driver was very friendly and compassionate.  He told me not to feel bad about dropping out of the race because I was not the only one.  There were many athletes that had dropped out because of hypothermia.  I appreciated his kind words, but I was wallowing in my own abyss of self-pity.  The driver could not take me back to the transition area, so we met with another driver.  He was also kind and mentioned numerous athletes had dropped out because of hypothermia.

Back at transition I gathered my gear bags and tried to figure out what to do next.  I did not have my phone and I had no idea where Mr. Adams was.  I walked around the transition area for a while, but I could not find Mr. Adams.  I decided to go to my friend’s condo.  Her husband was racing and I knew her kids had a nap schedule.  So I hoped someone would be there and I could use their phone to call my hubs.  As I walked through the village, I felt as if I was doing the walk of shame.  So many people were looking at me. I had tears streaming down my face.  I was so embarrassed.  Part of the run course goes through the village, so there was a lot of excitement since there were folks already on the run course.

By God’s grace I remembered where my friend’s condo was located.  The main door was locked, so I had to call the operator.  Thankfully she buzzed me in.  When I knocked on the door my friend asked what was the password (she thought it was her sister-in-law).  I could barely talk, but I told her it was me.  As soon as she opened the door I broke down again.  She quickly pulled me inside and held me.  I cannot put into words how thankful I was she was there.  My friend called my hubs and he soon made it to my friend’s condo.  He was relieved to see me because he had had his own issues trying to figure out what had happened to me.

My friend had made my husband a sheet that gave estimates when I would pass key points on the bike course.  His plan was to be at those key points to cheer me on.  When I didn’t show up at the first key point, Mr. Adams knew something was wrong.  He immediately went to the medical tent by the transition area.  He was told I had dropped out of the race, but it was unknown where I was.  My husband was beside himself.  He didn’t know where to look for me or if I was ok or not.  Thank God for my friend!  I don’t know how we would have connected without her.

Mr. Adams and I stayed at my friend’s condo for a bit.  I felt like I was in a protective cocoon.   Unfortunately I had to leave that cocoon to get to my vehicle and back to the hotel.  So began my second walk of shame, and this was worse than the first because now people were finishing and had on their shiny gold medals.  I felt so inadequate.  Back at the hotel while I was taking a shower, I fell and hit my hip on the side of the tub.  I even knocked the shower curtain down.  Falling in the tub just added insult to injury.  I just wanted the day to be over.

Monday morning Mr. Adams and I packed up our things and left Mont Tremblant a day early.  I wanted to get back home as soon as possible.  I was so upset about my DNF that I left ALL of my IMMT stuff in the hotel room. I didn’t want any reminders of my ultimate failure.  While we drove out of Mont Tremblant, one of the hotel owners called me to let me know I had left my IMMT items in my room.  I explained to him that I had done it on purpose and he could throw all of those items away.

As we made it back to the states I was overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support I was receiving on my Facebook page.  But I also felt unworthy.  In my mind I had failed and I had let down so many people, especially my hubs and my coach (of course I hadn’t, but that was my twisted thinking at the time).  I didn’t want to face anyone.  I was ashamed and embarrassed.  I wanted to come back home an Ironman, not a failure.  Plus I needed the extra boost of accomplishing something so epic because I had some heavy stuff to deal with when I got back home.

Prior to leaving for IMMT, my mother had been showing a few signs that the Alzheimer’s was progressing.  It was progressing to the point that I thought it was time for me to move her out of her home and put her into assisted living.  With Alzheimer’s it’s important to keep the person with Alzheimer’s in their home as long as possible because it is familiar to them.  Significant changes to an Alzheimer’s patient surroundings can cause the person to become worse.  While at IMMT I did my best to push what I had waiting at home for me in the back of my mind.  Fortunately while I was gone my mom did ok.

Coming home defeated and having to possibly move my mom out of her home started to send me to a dark place.  I knew if I didn’t sign up for some kind of race soon, the darkness was going to overtake me.  So I signed up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon, which was the following Saturday after IMMT.  I ran this race with one of my dear friends that was training for Ironman Chattanooga.  I enjoyed running with my friend, but I did not enjoy having to run in 96 percent humidity.  When I ran across the finish line and received my medal, I started to cry.  Coming across the finish line helped chip away some of the failure I was feeling. 

Crying like a baby (Photo by Competition Imaging)
Next I competed in the Richmond Rox Triathlon and snagged 2nd in the Olympic aquabike division.  Now boy did that feel good!  It was my second podium of the season.

Grinning from ear to ear (Photo by Lenora Mariner)

Then I did the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon with my girlfriends during my wedding anniversary weekend.  Kudos to Mr. Adams for being so cool with us traveling down the day before the race to celebrate our anniversary and supporting me to do the race with my girls.  The Crabby, as I like to call it, is now my favorite half marathon.  The race is the perfect size, the energy on the course by the volunteers and even the police is contagious, and the post race party is top notch.  I had a great time. 

Up, up and away! (Photo by Marathon Photo)

Currently I am training for my first full marathon – the Anthem Richmond Marathon.  I didn’t run a marathon to prepare for IMMT because I was concerned of getting injured and honestly I didn’t have the time.  I missed over a month of consistent training near the beginning of the year due to illness and having to wear a boot for a month.  I had to rebuild very slowly.  My chiropractor had me to use the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method to get me back to running.  As my mileage increased I continued the Galloway method and my coached divided my long runs into 2 runs.  I would run in the morning and then run in the evening.  I am continuing this method as I prepare for Richmond. 

The medal that I will receive once I finish the Anthem Richmond Marathon (Photo by Sports Backers)
Now that significant time has passed since IMMT, I find myself in a better place.  The sting of the DNF is still there, but I no longer feel like a complete failure.  First and foremost I made it to the starting line healthy.  Yes I was a little undertrained for the run, but I made it.  I completed the swim before the cut-off!  That is huge for someone like me who only learned how to swim a few years ago and has learned how to manage swimming-induced panic attacks.  I raised over $5K for the Alzheimer’s Association.  Those funds that I raised will help families like mine and be used to find a cure.  The training for IMMT helped me to cope with the stress of being the primary care giver for my mom.  I also made some new friends and strengthened some old friendships along the way.  I didn’t have the result that I wanted, but all was not in vain either.

I am so grateful for all the folks that helped me along away and my sponsors Hammer Nutrition and Saris Cycling (PowerTap and CycleOps).  I have grown so much during this journey.  I have discovered that I am much stronger than I think I am and my body is capable of so much more.  DNF’ing at IMMT has made me hungry for the 2015 season.  I have already planned my season with my coach and putting things into place for the off season.  I am going to do big things in 2015…stay tuned.

Coming hard in 2015

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Never Ending Roller Coaster

“Life is definitely a roller coaster, it’s only when you begin to appreciate the ups and downs that the ride becomes more fulfilling.”  Edgar Papa Bear
The past month and a half have been an emotional roller coaster for me.  It started on June 1st when I did the Half Rev Aquabike at Rev3 Quassy.  I knew the bike course for this race was going to be tough, but I was not physically or emotionally prepared for the onslaught of hills that awaited me.  As soon as I would crest one hill, there was another waiting for me to conquer. I have never wanted a bike leg to be over as much as I did for this race. 

During one of the few flat sections I saw a turtle crossing the road.  When I am racing I really don’t stop for anything, but I used the turtle as an excuse to get off my bike.  I helped the turtle get across the road and decided to walk my bike for a couple of minutes.  In hindsight I find it rather amusing that I chose to take a break during one of the few flat sections.

Once I finally made it back to transition, a volunteer took my timing chip and told me to go to the finish line to pick-up my medal and finisher’s visor.  I was excited because I figured I had barely made the time cut-off.  Later on that evening I checked for my official time, but it was incomplete.  A few days later I checked my time again and saw that I was listed as a DNF.  I was so upset.  I couldn’t understand why they would allow me to finish the race if I wasn’t going to make the cut-off.  I felt so defeated and inadequate. 

The more I looked at the medal and finisher’s visor, the worse I felt.  My head was such a mess that I reached out to a friend of mine who is an accomplished runner and triathlete.  She really helped me to see that the DNF did not define me as an athlete or person and to put everything in perspective.  When I got home I threw the medal and visor away.  I did keep the athlete bracelet and will continue to wear it until race day.  It’s a reminder to me to give my all as I train because I do not want a repeat of Quassy.

I couldn’t sulk too long because I had the Jamestown Grand Fondo Century the following weekend.  I needed the ride to be a redemption ride for me since Quassy had been such of a disaster.  The ride was a charity ride for Team in Training.  I hooked up with a team of ladies from Northern Virginia and had a solid ride.  My time was almost an hour faster than my century I had ridden a month before.  Thanks to Hammer Nutrition my nutrition and hydration were spot on.  Over the next couple of weeks I built upon my success at the Jamestown Grand Fondo and prepared myself to compete at the Tavern Triathlon in the aquabike division.

The Tavern is one of my favorite races that is put on by Richmond Multisports, a locally owned company.  The aquabike consisted of a 650 meter open water swim down the Mighty James River and an 18.8 mile bike.  The bike includes one hill that is a beast to ascend, but you are greatly rewarded for the awesome descent.  I went into this race a little fatigued because I had done a long ride the day before.  I paced myself and had a solid race.  I placed second, my first podium.  I was so happy about making the podium that I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

Photo by Lilo Navales

In regards to my mom, the Alzheimer’s is progressing.  I recently had to take her to see her neurologist for her semi-annual check-up.  He tested her cognitive skills and my mom didn’t do so well.  During the test my mom asked me for help several times.  It shattered me into a million pieces watching my mom struggle and not being able to help her.  I was so glad when the testing was over. 

Fortunately my mom can still stay at home alone because even though the disease is progressing it is not disabling her.  She does not wander off and she is able to take care of herself.  I am researching memory care facilities because I am not sure how much longer my mom will be able to stay at home.  I am also in the process of getting her enrolled in a senior citizen day program.  In spite of her Alzheimer’s, my mom is a social butterfly.  She loves meeting and talking to new people.  I will use the senior’s program as a way to transition her to a memory care facility.  Alzheimer’s sucks!

For the past few weekends I have been traveling to Wintergreen and Skyline Drive to get in some serious hill work.  Riding on Skyline Drive is so beautiful, but it can also break your spirit if you let it.  Some of the inclines seem to go on forever.  You really have to be mentally and physically tough to handle them. 

  Photo by Lilo Navales

Last weekend I had a complete meltdown on the side of road on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The stress of my mom combined with the relentless climbs, heat, and humidity just did me in.  I poured my heart out on that mountain and I am better athlete and person because of it.  There is just something about being in the mountains.    

So as each day passes and race day comes near, I am determined to appreciate the highs and the lows of this journey.  The lows help me to appreciate the highs, and the highs help me to get through the lows.        

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Turning Point

“In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one's been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows without the merest hint of a shadow of a doubt that one's life will never be the same.”
Julia Quinn, When He Was Wicked

My race season has begun and as I anticipated I had my behind handed to me.  My first race was the Richmond Tri Club Sprint on April 26.  This is an amazing event that is put on by my tri club.  The swim portion of the race is held in an Olympic-size pool and it is treated as an open water swim.  Buoys are placed in the pool and participants must swim around the buoys and cannot push off of the walls.  The swim is down in waves of 10.  The swim goes by so fast!  It is my favorite pool swim triathlon.

Since I am still rehabbing my foot, I chose not do the run portion of the race.  The race did not offer an aquabike division, so I asked one of my teammates to do the run for me.  Our team name was Salt-n-Pepa.  We are both old school hip-hop heads.  

The swim went fairly well considering I had a panic attack for the entire swim.  I felt as if my heart was going to burst out of my chest.  I swam my fastest 400 meter to date during a race.  My time would have been faster if I had not gotten caught behind a couple of people and had to literally fight my way through a pack near the end.  When I came out of the pool I was a little light-headed, but I was able to make it to transition.  I made it through the bike, but my legs were toast when I was done.  Fortunately my teammate is super fast and ran the 5k in 20:21!  My teammate and I didn’t place, but we did not come in last.  I considered that a small victory since most of the other teams had 3 members.

On May 4 I participated in the Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon in beautiful Charlottesville, VA.  This race is very sentimental to me because it is the first open water swim race I ever attempted and it’s where I DNF’d in 2012.  As I set-up my transition area, my heart was heavy.  Last year my friend and I had chosen to do this race together to prepare for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh.  Furthermore, my husband was not in attendance.  He was doing mom duty for me so I could race.  Before my open water races, my husband calms me by saying a prayer over me and the other racers.  Even though many of teammates and friends were there, I felt a little lost.

Thank goodness for my friend Lenora!  She is a deaconess at her church and a mutual friend of my friend that passed away recently.  Lenora and I stood on the beach and prayed.  

She stood in the gap for me which helped me to settle down.  I surprised myself during the swim.  Usually I wait a little bit to jump in the water so that I can avoid all of the kicking and hitting, but this time I decided to get in the mix.  I didn’t get bumped too many times and found myself in the middle of the faster swimmers and the slower swimmers.  I was in a good place because I was able to find my groove and swim on my terms.  There was a lot of debris in the water since it has been raining so much in Virginia.  A few times I had sticks and stuff come across my face.  Fortunately I did not have a panic attack and was able to complete the swim under the 50 minute time cut-off.

When I came out of the water I had a very bad case of vertigo.  I was zig-zagging across the beach like I was drunk.  I do not know how I made it to the transition area.  I later learned that when extremely cold water gets into your inner ear (the water temperature was about 65 degrees) it can cause vertigo.  For now on I am going to wear earplugs.  I do not want to have to deal with that again.  I actually had to sit down for a few moments before I could put on my cycling gear.

The first half of the bike course is a beast!  It is very hilly.  The hills were bad enough, but the wind made it worse.  There were headwinds and crosswinds.  My legs were not ready and I struggled to finish.  In spite of my less than stellar performance, I learned a very important lesson about my race nutrition.  I do not need to eat a lot before my race.  My breakfast prior to the race consisted of a piece of banana bread and a half of a banana.  Fifteen minutes before my wave I ate a Hammer peanut butter gel.  On the course I had water and Heed by Hammer.  I was so concerned that I was going to bonk, but that wasn’t the case.  I decided to test out my nutrition on my first ever century ride, the Cap to Cap.

Prior to completing the Cap to Cap, my longest bike ride EVER was 60 miles.  My longest ride this year was 46 miles.  My coach wanted the Cap to Cap to be my first century since it is well supported and there were plenty of SAG stations.  My plan was to be conservative for the first half of the ride and stop at all the SAG stations.  I wasn’t too sure if I would be able to complete the ride, but I was willing to give it a try since my coach told me to do it.

For breakfast I had 2 appetizer chicken biscuits and 1 banana.  On my bike I had a bottle of Heed, a bottle of Sustained Energy, and Endurance Amino and Endurolyte tablets.   All of these items are Hammer products.   I also had a bottle of water that I refilled at each SAG station.  As I started my journey I came across a man named George.  George was from Maryland and he believed it was meant for him to ride with me to make sure I finish my first century ride.  George meant well, but at times I wanted to knock him out!  He kept trying to persuade me to deviate from my plan.

Once he determined I was going to stick to my plan, he left well enough alone and started to tell me about himself.  He’s married with 2 adult children.  His mother has Alzheimer’s, but unlike mine, she is in a facility and she no longer knows who he is.  As the miles passed by I thought about how fortunate I was that even on my mom’s worst day, she knows who I am.

At the SAG stations I alternated between eating a Hammer peanut butter gel and ¼ of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  At one SAG station I ate a few pickles to ensure my legs did not cramp.  I was not fast by any means, but I was feeling pretty good on my bike.  The only issues I had were some tightness in my shoulders and numbness in my hands.  My hands had become numb because the gel in my gloves had broken down. 

The last 15 miles really challenged me.  I knew I was pushing my body pass its limits.  I had to give myself a pep talk several times, at times out loud.  Around this time George had fallen off a bit.  He admitted to me that his longest ride was 62 miles and he was having a hard time hanging with me.  So with less than 5 miles ago he fell back.  I kept going.  I noticed I was being drafted by an older gentleman on a recumbent bike.  He boldly told me how much easier it was for him to ride since he was drafting off of me.  Fortunately he returned the favor.  Drafting off of him became a blessing in disguise when a storm hit.  There was lightening, high winds, and strong rain.  I could barely see anything.  My recumbent friend had a very bright, flashing light on the back of his bike.  That light was my beacon.  I know during those types of weather conditions you are supposed to seek shelter.  I was not trying to get under a tree nor did I want to stop at someone’s house.  People are not as friendly as they used to be, and I was not trying to end up on the back of a milk carton.  So I rode on.

When the rain finally subsided I could see the Richmond skyline.  I became very emotional.  I could not believe that I had biked a 100 miles!  I thanked God for his protection and for the guardian angels that he had sent to ride with me.  I was not the last person to finish and there was still food available when I arrived at the finish.  A few moments later George showed up.  He and I grabbed some food and discussed our overall thoughts about the ride.

Completing my first century ride has had a significant impact on my confidence and has completely changed my perspective about Ironman Mont Tremblant.  Ever since completing Cap to Cap, I feel so much stronger as an athlete.  And even though I am much heavier than I want to be, my body is performing way beyond my expectations.  I am finally enjoying this crazy Ironman journey.  It’s rewarding to see significant growth, but what is even more remarkable is how my goals for IMMT have dramatically changed.

Initially I had set several time-related goals for myself.  Goals that were starting to stress me out because my training was not where it needed to be.  I have enough stress on my plate in regards to my mom and just the everyday challenges of life, why place unnecessary stress on myself?  I have never done a race truly for fun.  I am very competitive.  Competing in races is very exhilarating to me.  I always have some sort of time goal(s), but IMMT is going to be different.  My only time-related goals are to make the cut-offs and finish under 17 hours.  My new goals are to do my best, have fun, and enjoy the experience.

This is such a major shift for me, but I feel as if a ton of bricks have been lifted off of my shoulders.  I am finally getting excited about IMMT.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Want My Mom Back

“There is something about losing your mother that is permanent and inexpressible – a wound that will never quite heal.”  Susan Wiggs

My mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing.  It’s not anything alarming such as her not knowing who I am or wandering off, it’s the little things.  She becomes confused more easily, sometimes it is difficult for her to follow a conversation, and she is repeating herself more often.  It is heartbreaking to watch my mom slowly drift away.  Even at 40 years old, I need my mom.

I need her to help me deal with the recent passing of a friend and fellow competitor.  I am having a difficult time accepting that my friend is gone.  Prior to her becoming ill, she was the epitome of total wellness.  She had a radiant, infectious smile that would make her stand out in a crowd.  She was an accomplished runner and triathlete, a personal trainer, and a coach.  She set the example on how one could live a healthy and active lifestyle in spite of having diabetes.  She encouraged others to pursue a life of health and fitness by stepping out of their comfort zones.  She and I competed in several races together; I will miss seeing her at races.

Initially I didn't tell my mom about my friend’s passing, but she knew something was wrong with me.  When I told her, she tried her best to console me, but she had to keep asking me the same questions repeatedly to fully grasp our conversation.  It hurts to see my once strong, independent mother become more and more childlike.  She is completely dependent on me.  I didn't think our lives would be like this. 

My mom and I have been best friends ever since I moved out after my junior year in college.  We both lived very independent lives, but we stayed connected by talking on the phone almost every day, sometimes several times a day.  I could call her day or night, and she would be there to listen, to offer a word of wisdom, and pray over me if needed.  And if I was in the wrong, she would tell me.  My mom had no problem showing me tough love! 

I thought she and I would go through life in our traditional mother/daughter roles, but that is not the case.  I am now the mother and she is the daughter.  It is my responsibility to protect her, keep her safe, and enhance her happiness.  I have no issues taking care of my mom, but I would be lying if I said I was not reluctant taking on the mother role. 

Early in my marriage I decided that I did not want to have children unless my husband wanted them.  Fortunately for me, my husband did not want children either.  Please understand, I love kids, but I never really had that desire to be a mom.  Furthermore, children are a huge responsibility and they are completely dependent on you for who knows how long.  I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of being married without children.  Now that my mom has Alzheimer’s, things have changed.  I can no longer get up and go.  I have to make sure things are in place so that my mom is ok while I am gone.  She is completely dependent on me.

I manage her finances, medications, doctor appointments and pretty much any other aspect of her life.  I have to know her medical history, allergic reactions, and what medications she is taking.  I practically have to think for 2 people.  Usually I can handle the responsibility, but some days it’s just overwhelming.  And I don’t know how I am going to handle if and when things get worse.  One thing I know for sure, I do not want my mom to die of Alzheimer’s.  I pray God will transition her before she becomes a complete non-functioning shell of herself.

Until that time comes I will do the best I can to look after my mom and enjoy those glimpses of her that appear more often than not.  I know I can’t turn back time nor is there a cure for Alzheimer’s, but I wish I could have my mom back.  I need her.