So Fortunate

I’m sitting in my favourite chair in my very comfortable house. Calvin the cat is chilling out in a sun puddle. I’m healthy. Marc is healthy.

And I’m finally appreciating how fortunate we are.

This morning and last night I was all levels of angry.

I neglected to realize the good that has happened since January 1, 2017:

  • Calvin was saved by an amazing team of veterinarians. He is going to be just fine. In fact right now, he’s chilled out purring in a sun puddle.
  • Marc and I are not injured. We are okay. We could have been terribly injured last night when our car was hit-from-behind.

Yes, it sucks that we had to go through the stress over the weekend with Calvin and not knowing if he’d be okay.

Yes, it is terribly rotten that our car is likely a write-off and that we won’t get much money for it from the insurance.

But Calvin is healthy. Marc is healthy. I’m healthy.

We have a nice house. We have jobs. We can buy a new car. We have a strong network of friends and supportive family. We are not alone.

This wasn’t bad luck. It was good luck. Good luck saved Calvin and protected us from serious injury.

Thanks 2017, this is going to be a good year. I can feel it.

 

Some Days Are Hard

Last week I had a hard day. A day and an appointment that I had been anticipating for three months had finally arrived… Never have I so looked forward to a medical appointment.

I left the appointment feeling devastated, down, sad and angry at the world. I was angry, upset, disappointed and feeling a bit beaten up. In an instant I saw all my hopes and plans for 2017 disappearing with one simple sentence “No, more like months, we think maybe you can have surgery between April and June. Not between February and April.”.

The only word that stuck in my brain was June. June. June is too late. Eight weeks of recovery before I can ride again. Eight weeks of nothing but walking. I would never be ready for cyclocross season. There go the 2017 goals. Again another season of goals being wiped out by illness and recovery.

Fuck I was angry.

I wanted to give up. To roll over. To stop training. I couldn’t see the point. I didn’t believe I had it in me to do this all over again. So I felt sad, angry, hurt and disappointed.

I wallowed in this for the entire evening. I ate a lot of dark chocolate. I drank the best hot cocoa I’ve ever made. I had All Bran Choco for supper.

Then the next day, I woke up and realized that life does indeed go on. Okay, time to pull on my big girl panties and get on with it. I realized that I’ve beat big odds before and this is just another challenge. And well, I just might be able to have the surgery in April or May.

And then this week, those of us in the Canadian and American cycling community got some very devastating news about a wonderful young woman. News that is so sad and fucking frustrating that it makes me sit in silence. When I learned of what happened to young Ellen, I found myself questioning everything. How can this happen? Where is the God that is supposed to look out for the good? Why are we so caught up in work and getting ahead when what truly matters is finding joy and doing what you love?

Yeah, it’s pretty hard for me to feel angry about a delay in my surgery date now.

Oh, and about those new year resolutions. Please don’t. You’re good the way you are. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you want to make a resolution, how about something like:

  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Help out for no reason other than to help.
  • Resolve to truly listen when someone finds the courage to speak up.

Some days are hard. Some days are downright rotten. Some people are going through really hard times. Resolve to think of this when you’re frustrated because you can’t lose five pounds or fit into those skinny jeans.

More Rebuilding

I’m still on a bit of a Belgian high. I have to say my trip to Belgium was just what I needed. It was super special to spend time with Marc and get to see him with his friends. It really does help to know that Marc has such a strong network of friends in Belgium. We went to two races and it seemed to me that Marc knew everyone.

The trip went by very quickly but I chalk this up to having so many great experiences. Lots of great rides, good times with close friends, excellent meals, a top-notch birthday celebration for Marc (just missed the chocolate mousse cake), one day of race cheering, and one day of racing for me.

Yes, I raced. Marc and Patty K. are to blame for this! Both were planning to race in Zingem (Marc’s “home” town) and suggested I race as well. It took about thirty seconds of convincing and I was in. Wow, am I ever happy I raced. In fact, I’m still thinking about that race… It really has rekindled my zest for racing and training.

The course in Zingem was a typical Belgian course with two primary sections: one in a lumpy bumpy field that was featured very slippery corners and the second was a tight single track section that had an ideally placed tree that I had a hard time missing – these two sections were connected with  some short straight sections and more greasy corners. We had a good sized women’s field and it was competitive from the gun. The race was short – 35 minutes or so. So much fun and an amazing vibe at this LRC series race. Thanks Marc and Patty for twisting my rubber arm.

To continue with my rebuilding, I met with Beth Mansfield of Peak Performance today for some much need nutrition advice. We had an excellent session and I’m super motivated to get things on track and make the adjustments I need to to rebuild my lost muscle mass.

I had a couple of key doctor’s appointments last week… One with the surgeon who did my first surgery and the other with my gastro doctor. As bad luck would have it, the ulcerative colitis is back… This new flare started on my second day in Belgium… (enter sigh here) But I didn’t let it ruin my trip and was able to manage just fine with it. You might be wondering how I can have a flare when I’ve had my colon removed. Well, I still have a small part of my colon and my rectum. My ulcerative colitis was initially only located in my rectum and eventually traversed my entire colon. Now without a colon, the disease has returned to my rectum. (Damn it!) But the good news is I’m on some medication that is working its magic. Please, don’t worry, this is completely under control and I’m doing just fine.

In a couple of days I’m hoping to know when my second surgery will be. I’m really hoping for February since this will give me the spring and summer to get ready for cyclocross season. But, this date is out of my hands. Fingers crossed.

I’m going to keep moving full steam ahead right up to my second surgery. Back to regular training and getting focused on my nutrition. I want to be as strong and healthy as I can leading up to the second surgery so that I can recover quickly and get back to the good life.

Often we overlook life changing moments or experiences. I’ve been fortunate to have had a few such moments: competing at the Taekwon-Do World Championships in Thessaloniki, Greece, racing my road and cyclocross bikes in Belgium and Europe, racing at the World Cyclocross Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, seeing Marc succeed in all aspects of his life while having an ill spouse, and most recently having my colon removed.

Definitely living the good and fortunate life.

 

Rebuilding

Ah, the rebuilding phase. This is a training phase that I’ve become very familiar with. It seems like I’ve been in a constant rebuild phase since 2011.

This time around, it feel very different. I suppose partly because I feel like the worst of the ulcerative colitis is behind me. I’m comfortable living, training and racing with my ileostomy now.

Because of this I believe that there really aren’t any obstacles or unknowns in my way. Yes, I do need to have another surgery (I should have a better idea of this date before Christmas). But until the day before the surgery, it’s full steam ahead on rebuilding.

This full steam ahead sensation is something I haven’t experienced before. Previously, I always had some lingering doubt. I couldn’t really trust my body, the medication, or my cranky colon to play along and let me get back to full-on living.

But now I truly believe that the only thing that can hold me back is me. And the wonderful gift of this is that I’m in complete control of me. I can control whether I do get up at 5 a.m. to get my ride in before work. I’m in control of how hard I push myself. I’m my own motivator and cheerleader. I’m the one who puts the expectations on to get the core, yoga and TRX workouts done.

Finally, I’m truly responsible and in control of what I can achieve. The faulty organ is gone. Sure I still have extra intestinal ramifications of ulcerative colitis (because ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease, even though my colon has been removed, I’m not actually cured. I still get unexplained fatigue, joint pain, intestinal problems, light headedness, etc) – but these are easier to manage than a full-blown flare.

So yeah, I’m happy, actually I’m thrilled to be rebuilding. The one thing I’ve really been gifted thanks to ulcerative colitis is perspective. For this, I count myself lucky. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just a bike and I do this for fun.

 

Cyclocross Nationals

I didn’t race in Sherbrooke last weekend at the Canadian Cyclocross National Championships. I had planned to race. I had big goals for the race. I realized in the summer that my goals would have to be put on hold. This is life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

Instead of racing, I was in Sherbrooke cheering, supporting, encouraging and hanging out. While it’s not quite the same as lining up and giving it my all for 40 minutes, the weekend was still special.

Watching Marc and my friends race was as good as being on the start line myself. I saw them push through uncertainty and fear. I watched them test their limits and discover how far they can go. I got to see the light in their eyes after having an amazing race. I got to hear about how they rode the muddy corners, attacked the sand, approached the off-cambers, and drilled it up the climbs. We talked about next year and how to get faster and smoother.

This for me was just as good as racing.

It inspired me. It reminded me how much I love racing my bike. It forced me to remember how good it feels to get through the tough stuff and come out on the other side. It brought me back to why I got hooked on racing my bike.

Next year in 2017 I want to be there on the start line. There is no other goal. Just lining up is enough now. This is not complacency. It’s finally understanding that the racing is about so much more than the result on the sheet.

It’s about how you race and how you feel about yourself afterwards.

 

 

One Special Sunday in October

Last Sunday, I posted this on Instagram:

And so, I raced. And it was awesome. I had so much fun. It was truly epic with the mid-race downpour that changed all the lines and corners. The people out cheering were top-notch. Marc riding around the course encouraging me was worth a couple thousand watts.

It was so special to be out racing in the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series. This series sparked my love for cyclocross and bikes a very long time ago and it felt so good to be back racing with a superb community of folks.

After the race, Marc and I were in the car driving home and I started reading to him what I wrote on Instagram that morning. And something unexpected happened… my voice cracked, my eyes welled up and I started crying. I had no idea this would happen.

Turns out that race in Cornwall, Ontario at Lamoureux Park on October 16, 2016 might have been the most special one yet.

Fighting the Guilt

I didn’t ride today.

I had planned to ride. My plan for the day was 1.5 hours on the road bike.

It didn’t happen.

I was ready – organized my clothes last night, went into work early so I could leave early, and I still didn’t ride.

My legs felt drained and empty all day. I felt tired. A slight something at the back of my throat. I still left early so I could ride.

When I got home I didn’t ride. I decided it made sense to rest.

But I feel guilty about this. All evening I’ve been harassing myself over this decision.

Logically, I know it makes sense. I’m riding Friday and Saturday and then racing on Sunday. So it makes complete sense to not ride today if I’m not feeling 100%.

I guess the thing is, I’ve gotten so used to riding when I haven’t been feeling 100% that to not ride just feels wrong. Yeah, I know it’s a bit messed up.

Emotionally, I find it hard not to ride whenever I can or whenever my Training Peaks plan tells me to. I’ve missed so much riding this summer and over the years that to not ride when I’m able just feels wrong.

I almost feel programmed after so many years of training and racing to always be riding. To make the decision not to ride feels like I’m not motivated.

But, now that I think about it and put this down in black and white, I realize that it is this motivation that kept me off the bike today. I want to and plan to be flying with full colours for 2017. This means a solid winter and spring season of riding, weights, core, and yoga is ahead of me (I can’t wait). But to do this properly, I need to be ready for it. This means taking small careful steps now so I can be ready when it’s time to push the go button.

Motivation is what has got me here and motivation is what will get me through days like today.