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.