Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Change from the 380lb life..

It has become almost a tradition on Saturdays  during the summer…I get up at the unholy hour of 400 or 500AM … grab my bike and my gear…and off I go…to the hills of Clermont.

And in those hills, I struggle.  I sweat, and I peddle. I have laughed and I have cried. I strive to be stronger.  I spend hours there.  I can tell you that last year, I had some of the most supportive people in the world helping me up those hills that terrified me so and I will never forget the fun and the pain that we share in those months.  Melissa, Marie, Bonnie, Muki, Jennifer and Maritza never left me behind and helped build my confidence as the miles got longer along with the hours of those workouts.  There was always a high five from my teammates and Coach Sway with a hug somewhere along the line…and to say I am grateful for what they did for me on their journey to a half or a full Ironman (Bonnie is on her way to a full this year) an understatement.

Im happy to say that I do that for people that most of you don't know…a few I've never met face to face.  They are those who are considering gastric bypass surgery…and their desire to be stronger … to be healthier and to be better is not much different than my struggle to be a better triathlete.

When I first had my gastric bypass, it wasn't on the cover of magazines.  People had never heard of the procedure and those considering it needed someone to talk to about the experience.  I became one of several hundred "mentors" as one by one, hundreds…then tens of thousands of people considered and completed weight loss surgery.

A month ago,  one of the first people I helped consider and complete her surgery passed away.  Her experience with weight loss surgery and weight in general was not a good one.  She was over 450lbs at the time of surgery and survived the procedure.  She went on to lose over 200 pounds but as the years went on, so did her weight and before she was 10 years post op, she had gained more than 75% of her weight back.

Late on a Sunday night, her heart simply stopped.  She was 45.

When I look back upon my life, I realize the blessings I have…so many blessings.  Her death reminded me that you have to DECIDE to succeed.  You have to DECIDE to take control of your life.  It doesn't mean that the man upstairs expects perfection…but you can not continue to blame your shortcomings on anyone except the person you see in the mirror every morning.

I got up this morning and groaned at the thought that I would have to hit the treadmill today…but then I realized that it is indeed a blessing that I CAN do that..That I am blessed with a very special running coach in Hector Torres who pushes me to run the longest I have ever run without walking and…Writing in the blog helps me keep me in focus…and to keep my eating in check..

Thanks for listening…

38 days until Ironman Augusta…and the rest of the season…Ill keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Over the hump...

It's a difficult feeling to express unless you have been there.  You spend a year of your life getting ready for your "A" race…you train…and train…and train…to the point where you think your life is nothing BUT training. The race comes and goes with a myriad of possible outcomes…and then .. finally…off season.  The holidays bring food…and friends..and drink…and a few pounds…and finally…some much deserved rest.

The bad part about that is when you return to training…it's…it's…well there is no other way to describe it…'s AWFUL. It hurts.  I affectionately use a hockey term that you have to "knock off the rust"…but this season of triathlon has been especially different.

I was burned out…I was frustrated….I was angry and I was hurt.  My Ironman dream…just 6 miles short.  I put on a smiling face but inside I was a mess…heartbroken and pissed.  Why can the rest of the world accomplish this goal…and me…I just can't seems to get it done no matter how hard I work.

There were people that told me to give up the dream….and I listened.  I thought about quitting triathlon completely.  I considered selling my bikes (yes..that's plural…I have a bike problem) and just sit on the couch and get fat.  I felt sorry for myself and I was just going to sit and pout.

Then I realized that Triathlon was a part of me.  It had become a part of my lifestyle…of who I am … and it was the main reason that I have kept over 90% of my initial weight loss off completely for 15 years.  I needed those race goals.   I realized that as much as I enjoy being at the gym to strength train…Im not a "gym rat"…I needed to be outside…on the bike…on the run..and in the water.

So after racing a sprint at St. Anthony's, I just DECIDED…I was jumping back in the game.  Those first two months were BRUTAL…AWFUL.  Every pedal stroke..every step was difficult.  I hurt A LOT…but it wasn't to last forever.

As I emerged into the first week of July, suddenly, I was back…the triathlete.  The bike workouts felt a bit easier.  The run workouts, although still difficult as a plus size athlete, were a bit more comfortable.  The swims were longer..and I looked forward to them…

And that's when you know…you're over the hump and back in the game.  Am I ready for an Ironman?? Absolutely not…but Im back…getting stronger…my head is in the right place..and more importantly…Im  happy…

Because if you're not racing for money (and lord knows that will never happen for me) you BETTER be having fun…

12 weeks until Ironman Augusta 70.3…and the rest of my season…Ill keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Sag...

Picture if you will…the pool deck of your favorite local swimming establishment.  It's summer which means along with the lap lanes set up for those of us who need a good workout, the little ones are splashing about in the shallow end and the teenagers are soaking up the rays poolside.  It's your typical day by the water.

For me, it is a routine of sorts: Ironman 70.3 backpack over my shoulder full of pool torture devices that my coach LOVES to write into my workout…swim paddles for the hands that make the shoulders and muscles stronger, a pull buoy that makes your legs float (like mine don't float well enough already) and goggles and a swim cap from the latest triathlon I completed.  I grab a slot in the slow lane and proceed to get in the pool.

Have you ever just KNOWN someone is watching your ever move? Today was no exception as I put my things down and took off my warm up pants with my swimsuit underneath.  I looked up and saw this beautiful 6 year old girl…blonde curly hair and big blue eyes…staring at me..and watching ever little thing I did.  She splash around nearby but she never stopped looking at me.

Goggles on and Garmin started, I did my warm up as the gentleman in my lane left the pool.  55 minutes later, I exited the pool a bit tired but excited that I had completed my entire workout on a day that was gloomy.  It  energizes you especially if you struggled to GET to your workout…but once it's're always so happy.

My little blonde friend was now out of the pool.  She walked towards me and immediately said "Hello"
I said hello as well…and she stood there with a interesting look on her face. I could tell she was contemplating something … but she just didn't seem to have the words…or so I thought.

And out of her mouth was this "Why are you legs so saggy and ugly?" Suddenly, I knew who her mom was because from behind the magazine, a look of horror raced across this woman's face. She was mortified…

I leaned down..and asked the little one her name.  She told me her name was Madeline.  I told her mine was Melissa and it was nice to meet her.  I then proceeded to treat Madeline like a person much older than her 6 years as I explained to her that I use to be much heavier than I am now and that I lost a lot of weight.  I explained that when all the fat went away (ok…I WISH all the fat had gone away but you get the idea)…that the skin was empty and it sags. I then told her that I knew that it was not very pretty but because I lost that weight, I can swim a long way and I am much healthier and much happier.

She seemed satisfied with the explanation …and went back to her floating barbie in the shallow end of the pool.  Meanwhile, Mom is out of her chair looking for apologetic words to make amends for her child's question…but I calmed her down…and smiled and explained that this wasn't the first time someone had asked me about my legs..and it certainly wouldn't be the last.  She stammered a bit…and stuttered an apology but I hoped that I made her feel it was ok.

I gathered my stuff and headed to my car.  I got in my seat…and for some reason…I just cried.  Not because of what the little girl said but because sometimes it's hard to explain to the world why you are who you are.  I know my legs will never look beautiful in a pair of heels but one thing is for sure…they look great attached to my bike…or finishing 70.3 miles of a half ironman.  They look a whole lot better under me than in a wheelchair..or better yet…six feet under.

God sends us challenges like this sometimes to make us appreciate what we DO have …instead of focusing on what we don't.  I am so blessed because I have watched many a challenged athlete with no legs accomplish so much…and I have the ability to make mine do whatever I want.  I may not be an Ironman but who would have thought I would be where I am now. I thanked the big guy upstairs for the lesson of the day…and continued forward with my stormy day...

Out of the mouths of babes...