Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Goes Up....

Today was bad.

Pain in belly and back.

Limb swelling.


Laid in bed most of day, except to pee, poop and shower.

No office, no gym.

I am very sensitive today – I am crying easily.

I know tomorrow will be better – it always is.

I just liked being on that fast track to health.

A bright moment was that Triathlete Magazine emailed me about possibly doing an article about the last few weeks.

Sadly, though, after talking to me, they decided not to.

Maybe it was my dull personality.

Or maybe they got hold of one of my "old people" rants.


Just kidding –my pain is making me snappy right now.

Truth is, they just thought my blog told my story good enough, so they are linking on their website.

And my blog is good enough – lots of great things have come from it.

And the best part is that it’s my voice and my words.

I feel like crying again.

I’m so sorry I am not myself right now.

I promise some humor tomorrow.

There might be some scabs or poop involved.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Same Old and a Little Blogger Love

It's me!! I am back to regular life today, even managed to get into the actual office. I also went from 15 minutes of walking on the treadmill yesterday to 30 minutes (!!!!!) today. Needless to say, I am making slow but steady progress back! This pic is me right after the gym, back home in my apartment (tonight is my first night alone).
Before I left, I received "I Love You Don't Die" flowers from Cheese. I promised to send him a pic but got sort of busy the night before, what with all the laxative drinking....
And THEN!!!!!
A certain blogger dropped a hint yesterday, which prompted me to sneak out of the house and drive myself back to my apartment to check the mail. And look what I found!!!!

Oh Happy Deliciousness!!!!!! Now, if that doesn't spell sweet sugary recovery, I don't know waht does. This coma-inducing care package (which, by the way, consisted of EVERY candy I have ever talked about my blog) came by way of Momo and Stronger. But the best part was an enclosed letter filled with encouraging words and topped with a picture.
Oh, and make no mistake - those cookies were homemade, and frosted with the most amazing sugar frosting one could imagine. I was later told that, while making these cookies with her children, Stronger was trying to explain what was happening with me, and ended up telling her son that I "gave her brother some of her guts." I would say that was accurate assessement, in a lot of ways.

My bite marks. Lemme try to explain this - There are two top cuts, then my belly button and a cut next to it. Just below my belly is what I now refer to as "The Pucker" - not quite sure why its there, but it's like this pouch of skin that just hang over, with a nice bruise forming just below it. There's a fourth incision to the left side of it. The final, and most painful cut, goes from hip-to-hip and sits just below the bikini line, which I have spared you from seeing (just below that blue bruise). It still hurts. Bad.
So that's where I am at. Sorry if that scar picture is gross, but it's now what I look at every time I look down, and they itch like mad.
Okay, I have Megan'd myself out, so I can only imagine how you all feel. I need to go to bed - 'cause it a long day tomorrow.

Thoughts During a Work Day at Home

Quick note: Just to show how brutally slow and tired I am these days, this post was actually written yesterday - it just wore me out enough that I didn't have the energy to post it. That, and I am lazy.

My hairdresser was right – I go long enough with not brushing my hair, and I give myself dreadlocks.

I sooooo wish I was kidding on this one.

But it’s weird, because my hair was literally tied up into a bun on the top of my head from Thursday morning until last night, so I don’t know quite how it managed to tangle so bad. I will say this though – it’s a good thing I was so battered down in pain that I didn’t have the energy to care about my lack of showering or teeth brushing, both of which were severely neglected during the four day stay.

How bad was it? Let me put it this way – I took a 30 minute shower yesterday, washed and conditioned my hair THREE TIMES EACH, and washed my actual body no fewer than four times. But still when I took a shower this morning, the dirt balled up and rolled off my skin. And also – I managed to make it through all those months of IM training without so much as a legitimate blemish from the sweat or dirt. But yet today, the only things bigger than my hellacious scars are my skins rashes from the scum.

Holy gross, I am not even kidding.

My 15-month old nephew has a new set of walking legs and he knows how to use them. He and my sister Ellen came by to visit today, and what a trip he is. He babbles, and it looks like he is actually trying to tell you something, and like he knows what he saying. Riot!

And the best part of his visit? I was getting water in the kitchen, he was standing at my feet and I kneeled down to give him a kiss, in response to which he voluntarily extended his arms around my neck, and put his head on my shoulder in a hug. And he didn’t let go.

For like, a long time.

15 months old and this kid knows how to give all the love in the world, at just the right moment.

His mom is teaching him right.

Since we started dating, Cheese has introduced me to a lot of things I never knew existed: eyebrow-burning flatulence, chili cheese fries, the Rescue Me series, lime-aid from Sonic, free Internet porn – you get the idea. In fact, he prides himself on sticking things in my face and saying, “Stop being so stubborn, just try it….why do you have to be such a brat, just try it.” But one of his greatest contributions to my fund of knowledge was “30 Rock.”

I didn’t watch this when it first came out, but, like all things television, he bought the DVD disc set and I caught up on the whole first season. Just now, I watch the recorded episode from Thursday (I was in too much of a sleep/pain haze to remember it even being on) and almost split a stitch. Genius.

I never got why people loved to pick at their scabs. Until now. I mean, it’s like a little sense of accomplishment to get a good chunk off without causing any major bleed. Moreover, the look of crusted skin and blood is really kinda, well, cool. I literally have to sit on my hands to keep them off my stitches.

And I am sure my sister will enjoy cleaning up the pile of crusty scabs I left on the floor about as much as I enjoy sweeping up Cheese’s toenails after one of his visits.

Of all the things it hurts most to do because of the cesarean scar (as I like to call it), laughing is one of them. Who knew you used so many lower abdominal muscles to laugh? But I guess that means if you can find enough people to make you laugh nonstop, or discover enough things in your day to bring up a good solid belly laugh, you’ll have a six-pack in no time.

So by my calculations, considering all the comments given to me these last few days, my six-pack should be progressing nicely. It makes me want to never frown again.

Oh my gosh – so after my sister and nephew left today, I checked in at work, resigned myself to putting off the walk outside due to the rain, sat on the couch and turned on the tv.

And I’ll be a son-of-a-gun if the tv station wasn’t set to VH1’s Classics, “Totally 80s.” Why is this funny? Because my 37-year-old brother-in-law was the last one home this morning, which means he was sitting/standing/dancing in front of the t.v this morning to all things 80s. I can see it now – me dozing in the back room, and 6’3 Patrick – coffee cup in one hand, remote control in the other being used as a microphone, wearing his green bath robe (known as the “Hef Robe”), hair all askew, and kicking his legs all about a la Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club-style to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” The mere imagery is enough to bust a stitch on.

When I turned it on, I found myself entranced with Gladys Knight singing to me about “Love Overboard.” Now how on earth did I miss this nugget of art – a jewel amongst coal – during that time? I must have been all wrapped up in Thriller or Wham or Billy Ocean. But good gosh, this video was truly stunning – please YouTube it – you won’t be disappointed.

Oh wait, I gotta go now – Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck” just came on and it’s time to get my bounce on.

Man, this day gets better and better.

I sincerely hope I didn’t come off as complaining about my recovery in that last post. I mean, yeah the pain sucks - blah blah - but I was really just trying to explain. With all that has happened, I could not have asked for a better comeback. I mean, for crying out loud, I went back to work today, I went to the gym to walk the treadmill, and am eating, and peeing and passing gas (weee!) and pooping (woooo!!). People lay up for weeks after this, and not only do I not want to, I don’t feel like I need to.

And as silly as this might sound, I feel like I am being pushed forward by all the support and well wishes and encouragement of others. It's kinda hard to lay around and bitch about feeling pain or sick or nauseated when you have all these people checking in, giving hugs, reminding me I was an Ironman, telling me I am strong and they love me. Let me say this – if you have ever wondered if sick people take to heart your kind words or wishes - they do. At least I do, and it is making all the difference in my recovery.

Hang on…..

Is that….?

Holy crap!

I hear Whitesnake from the t.v. in the other room!

It’s the video where the girl is crawling on that car!

Now I really gotta go!

Peace out!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Life in Slow Motion

Two days, my ass.

There was a lot of misinformation given to me prior to this little adventure, one of which was that I would only spend two days in the hospital.

I came home yesterday– four days later.

Now, I suppose it’s not so much of a complaint – after all, I could have never arrived back home and that would have sucked, so four days versus two days – eh, I can deal.

And besides, I was in NO shape to come home after two days.

Because even more egregious than the misinformation of my stay length was the reported amount of pain that I would be experiencing. For example, they told me, “Shortly after waking up, you may have some mild discomfort around the stitched area which we can treat with a mild painkiller. And the stitched area will include three small holes in your belly and then one two-inch cut just below the belly button, from which we will take out the kidney.”

What they should have said was, “Shortly after waking up, confused and delirious from the anesthesia, you will notice that you will be paralyzed from pain, and for the next two days, you will not be able to sleep, sit, or stand up straight because of the trauma to your muscles, from which you will never recover.”

“Oh, and by the way – sorry about that ‘two inch’ cut – turns out it’s the same size as the five-inch job your sister had WHEN WE PULLED OUT A TEN POUND BABY FROM HER STOMACH. Oh, and there are four slashes, not three dots, like we thought. But we tried - So have fun in a bikini, bitch.”

I was also told, "And sometimes patient will have some mild discomfort from the gas that builds up when the organs are moved, but it’s not that bad for everyone.”

What they should have said is, “Now, you will feel like a three-hundred pound man is standing on your chest, and punching on your abdomen at the same time, you won’t be able to laugh for three weeks, and have fun trying to take a shit – ‘cause it ain’t gonna happen.”

Short story long – the pain has been unimaginable – like nothing I can ever put into words.

On the positive side - the night before the surgery, my sister Ellen joked that I was one kidney transplant away from my goal weight.

We laughed– but the reality is that I haven’t weighed this little since I was ten. No shit on that. It’s a good thing the pain is pretty limiting on my physical abilities, otherwise I’d be off to Gap Kids to get myself a new wardrobe, and calling up Nicole Ritchie for some maintenance tips.

Ahh, I know - it will come back on sooner than I can say Dunkin Donuts. Lemme just enjoy my "Save the Babies Campaign" look for its fleeting exisitance.

Also on the positive side is that I approached the recovery like training – every time they came in for meals or vitals, (noon, 4pm, and 4am), I used that as my cue to get my walking socks on and went out to do my laps up and down the halls. But after each round, I needed a nap. And just like training, there were times when it hurt like hell to do another lap, but I kept telling myself, "Don't go back to bed, don't got back to that room without doing another lap."

But everything right now takes twice, if not three times as long to do as normal. I am slowwwwww.....

I think the most emotional part of the whole weekend was when my mom, my brother and I were shuffling down the hall pushing our IV poles. We passed a young woman from housekeeping, who was clearly starting at us, but in a curious way. As we passed, my mother looked over and said, “Yup, they’re both mine.”

It kind a broke my heart a little.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my mother to get her own exercise walking from unit to unit for the last four days, or sitting in the waiting room post-surgery wondering of either or both of her kids would emerge safe.

My sister drove my mom home last night after they brought me home, and she said that she had never seen my mom look so tired.

Just writing makes me teary. Man, that must have sucked.

What’s craziest is that exactly two weeks ago this morning, I had just crossed the finish line at Ironman Arizona. I was at the peak of physical fitness, had dedicated months and years to caring for and building up my body. I toed that start line in the best condition I could have imagined for myself. And when I crossed that finish line two weeks ago, I was at the top of my world – my energy was limitless.

And when I got home yesterday, I went out for two trips around the block – my new training program. During that short trip, I had to practice my breathing (which is horribly difficult, labored and shallow), forcing myself to inhale despite the pain. And when I arrived home, I needed a nap. I slept for two hours, woke up, and needed another one. I then proceeded to sleep almost 10 hours during the night.

There’s a lot more to report on those days – the nursing follies (the first night was so bad, my surgeon filed a formal complaint), the pain-riddled silent sobs and back rubs from my mom sitting on the side of my bed, the balloon feet/cankles and feet-rubs from Ellen, the Mike ‘n Ike’s and Wheat Thins my mom snuck in Saturday, the way I would fake-sleep mid-sentence when I thought my estranged and deranged cousins came to visit (long story, but dang if it didn't have me and my mom in laughing tears), the kidney shaped pillow my brother's wife made me.

There's just a lot, and I won't bore you.

I am just glad to be home right now.

I am glad to be doing well enough to go back to work today.

I am glad that, even if I decided not to go back today, the State of Illinois did one thing right and covers four weeks paid leave for donors.

I am glad I had a Blackberry in the hospital to read the comments left on Cheese's updates.

I am glad that people won't hold any responses I attempted to send back against me, given my morphine state.

I am glad to have my family and bloggers.

I am glad when I pass gas, because it means I am getting better.

I am even more glad when I poop - Jackpot!

I am glad to be alive.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Update II

I just spoke with her. She is in great spirits but sore. The surgery went without a hitch. Her brother is going great. She explained that she misses me, that I am the best looking man she has ever laid eyes on, and I have a huge weewee. Oh, she is also on morphine



I just spoke with Meg's Mom. She said Megan is out of surgery and doing great.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who I Am

I am a blogger.

I am a friend.

I am strong.
I am a BadAss.
And an Ironman.
I am a girlfriend. I am loved.
I am an aunt to Baby Nolan.

And an aunt to Baby Terry. I am a sister.
And a daughter.

I am blessed and grateful.

I am them.

I am a sum of all my parts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Fallout and the Decision

Okay, here goes.

It’s been a long two days. I have had many thoughts over the last 48 hours, and read all the comments, talked with Cheese and my friends, and here is my final say about this.

I agree that it would be best if the surgery could be delayed to see if my brother gets his act together, but honestly, if he hasn’t yet, waiting another two months isn’t going to make a difference. Also, it has already been delayed two months so I could do my race. My brother is steps away from dialysis, as I understand it, which would cause his pancreas to fail, and then, well, he dies. There’s really is not a ton of time at this point.

So I am going to do this. Tonight I packed my hospital bag, did a 75-minute brick, cleaned the apartment, sent my list of personal info/accounts/passwords to my sister (just in case) - all the prep is done.

And I did this knowing that this decision is my responsibility, my choice. I have no one to blame for the decision I am making, because it is mine and mine alone. Yes, it is not made under the best of circumstances, and yes, I wonder if my brother will ever change his life as a result, but at the end of the day – I can’t control any of that.

The only thing I can control is my own perspective on this. I can’t go into that operating room with resentment or animosity. I can’t go in with the anger I have harbored these last few days. I can’t go in wondering all the “what ifs” or pointing the finger at him and the life he led to get him here. What’s done is done. And after yesterday, I finally feel at peace with this.

I believe in the connection between the body and mind – if my mind is not at peace, then my body will not be either. And I want to recover as fast as possible, and as well as possible. I can’t do that with so much negativity flowing through me.

Having said that, I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed about the post yesterday. I woke up this morning as thought I should take it down because I hate that I had those feelings, and hate that people see me crack. But I did crack, and it was raw and ugly and nasty. But it was me in that moment – all that build up just poured out. And like I said, I really thought this was a good thing in the beginning, and I really felt good that I could help. And I guess I have to go back to those feelings – that I am still helping, even if he choose to doo-doo all over it.

I appreciate that no one shamed me for this – rather, the feedback and hugs and support was tremendous. I felt unbelievably loved during the whole Ironman thing, but this took things to a whole new level. The comments and emails and thoughts and prayers – again, I simply cannot believe it. Please, please know that I appreciated every single one. And some people said things like, “well I have nothing profound…” but the simple act of clicking on this blog, of thinking about me, and even wanting to comment – that’s profound enough. That’s means everything to me.

I fully intend on returning to the life I have now – maybe even stronger. I am not going to give up what I love – training and racing – even if the doctors told me I had to. Because really, what do they know? Doctors told Lance Armstrong he would die or never be able to do the things he did. Now, I’m no Lance, but the point is: if you believe hard enough, and you commit hard enough, you can do what you want.

I honestly, with all my heart, believe this and live this.

On the back of the shirts that my family wore for the Ironman, there was a quote. My sister Ellen wrote it on a piece of a paper and stuck it in my areobars, and then I carried that piece of paper with me until about Mile 18, when the sweat literally wore it away. And while it was so applicable to that day, it has stuck with me since:

“Always remember in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where the HELL did THAT come from?

Holy bad day, Batman.

Somewhat unexpected, but dang if it didn't reach out, slap my ass and call me Sally.

Uh...yeah...I don't even know what that means...I am just so effing tired right now.

Let me prewarn you right now - the following post is NASTY. If you're looking for a feel-good-post-Ironman-Megan-in-serenity post, you might have to wait another 24 hours until I chill the eff out.

'Cause this bitch CRACKED today.

So if you can tolerate some tell-it-like-it-is ranting filled with crazy typos, proceed.

In summary, I am a ball of emotions right now - frustrated, angry, sad, worried, WORRIED - you name it, I am feeling it.

And I appreciate the kidney comments. I took them to heart, and surprise-visited my brother yesterday. I don't know who was more surprised through - him or me.

First off, let me explain to you that my brother is the least responsible person I know. He acts like a child, and apparently lives like one too. Upon walking up to the run-down house, I had to double take the address to make sure that it was right. I ventured up the death trap stairs, rang the doorbell, and he answered it, REEKING of cigarette smoke (of course, he told me he quit when I ripped him a new a-hole right before Arizona - guess he relapsed).

After following him up the stairs, I was STUNNED at the condition of his home. It looked like a squatters house - no shit. Garbage literally piled up, filth everywhere - he literally had to put a towel on the couch so I could sit down. The stench of dirt and smoke and...well just crap, stuck on me and even a can of Fabreeze couldn't fix (I know - I tried when I got back in my car).

Now, I know people get sick and sometimes stuff falls by the wayside, but his wife is healthy. For crying out loud, my brother has two functioning legs and arms. But the state of his home was appalling. The best I can describe it is to say that, if they had children, my child welfare office would have been called and those kids would be taken.

It was that bad.

So if that's how he treats his home, you can only imagine how he treats his body.

Yup, sitting up there on his couch, smoking, hating life, watching t.v. On a 65 degree day nonetheless. No thought to maybe taking a walk, getting some air. Naw, that might be to healthy.

And so I figured, I am going to lay it out - and I did.

I told him that I have concerns that he treats his life like shit, and that he is going to waste what I am giving him. I told him that he is the most negative person in the world, and that while being diagnosed with diabetes was a shitty hand to be dealt, he destroyed his life and blamed everyone else. I told him that his life will only get better with my kidney, but mine could get worse -that I will possibly have to give up parts of my livelihood to give him a life that he is INSISTENT on destroying.

I laid out my expectations - he goes to therapy, sees a nutritionist, stops smoking - all things I can't monitor and have to take his word for...being that his word is oh-so-trustworthy (have I mentioned that he is a pathological liar? Who used to beat the shit out of me and my siblings?)

I told him that he will never EVER have a relationship with me or his siblings if even one of these conditions if violated. If cigarettes mean losing his family, then by all means, smoke on, smoker.

I told him that I was the healthiest person I know, and that he was the most unhealthy, and that I needed him to give me a reason to do this. That I was about to be laid up in bed, letting all my muscles I worked so hard to build, just atrophy over the next several months of inactivity, and let yet another summer pass without racing or training. That I may never do another Ironman on one kidney, or hell, even die?!?!?! For what? I needed a reason from him.

I got a bunch of lip service, things like he's going to do this and that - all stuff that I know will never happen. He told me this was his second chance - I stopped him and told him he already ruined his second chance after the pancreas and that I was, in fact, his third chance.

He owned up to destroying his life, using his disease as a crutch. He started to veer down the path of blame-someone-else for a second, but then stopped.

Short story long - decision made. I don't feel there is much other choice. I know I can't control what he does with his life after this (I have no high hopes) but I also know myself, and that I wouldn't be able to manage the guilt or whatever if I didn't.

What makes me most sad is that I went into this whole thing really feeling like I was doing a good thing. I thought it was helping, I thought he wanted this, I thought he was finally manning up and taking ownership of his life. I felt like, regardless of our past and his abusive and anger and negativity, that maybe this could actually change his life.

Now I feel just angry and sad. And I hate that. I hate that I even have these feelings - that this can't just be a good thing and then let's move it on.

On on a seperate but related note - I had my final testing for the surgery today - I found out about these appointments, by the way, Friday at 430 in the afternoon. My appointment with the surgeon was for 130pm. That a-hole came into the room at 245.


And yes, I was SOBBING by the time he got there - already enraged with the whole ordeal, and horribly late for work. I asked him where I needed to sign and to get me out of there. He tried to go throught he procedure again, I said I already knew, and that I had a million questions that could have been asked if my appointment started on time, but now won't be so please let me sign my consents, thank-you-not-so-much.

Cheese had the misfortune of calling at the tail-end of this crisis, as I was speeding down the freeway and trying to get to my work appointments that were in 45 minutes, but were over an hour away. I sobbed, sobbed some more, and then finally pulled it together by the time I arrived at my destination.

And finally, on a completely seperate and un-related note, I need to reiterate a past ranting: I hate liars. I hate people that get caught up in lies, and then pass over it like I didn't notice. Note to yourself - I am not an idiot. I don't have the time or emotional energy to call you out on this one, but know that I know.

Insert bad f-cuss word here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Well, I'll Be a Monkey's Uncle

Stolen from the website.

"Temperatures in the mid-90s and enervating winds on the outbound leg of the three-loop bike course conspired to plant this season's opening event firmly into the record books as having the third highest dropout rate in Ironman history. Nearly 18% of the field failed to make it to the finish line. Some were SAG'd in, having discovered that there were some times when, no matter far how down you reach, there's just nothing there. Others made it back to T2 on their own power and, in a striking demonstration of how much of a mental game Ironman is, simply decided to let Mother Nature win this one, and packed it in."


Third highest?!?!

Well, I guess if you saw my pictures, you know where all that heat and salt went....

Oh, and I know I didn't really do a whole long race report, but Iron Benny did a stellar job at describing the bike leg. Hit it dead-on. I'm still having post-traumatic nightmares since reading it.

Friday, April 18, 2008


The surgery for the kidney transplant has been scheduled.

It’s Thursday.

Like, in six days.

It was originally scheduled for the following Monday, but I have missed so much work from the race, that I thought it would be better to do it before the weekend, recover over the weekend, and get back to work on Monday. I will probably stay with one of my sisters that weekend, just in case.

My body is now completely recovered from the race – I had some muscles soreness in my calves for the last few days, and my appetite was slow to return, but I am 100% today, so that’s good.

I go in for some testing on Monday, and then into the hospital either Wednesday night or Thursday morning (not sure of all the details at this point).

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any ambivalence about this.

The reason is that it took my brother, the recipient, two months to call me, or even acknowledge that this was happening. I even spent a weekend with him in Tennessee in March for the wedding, and there was not a single word about it. He only called me (two days before I left for Arizona) because my mother prompted him, worried that I would pull out because he hadn’t so much as called me.

She was right – I considered it.

I was angry, frustrated, confused. I submitted to the match testing because I really thought it would help, I really thought my brother would want to live. And I was his sister, after all, regardless of how estranged our relationship had become over the last several years.

When I was going through my initial testing way-back-when, I was sitting in the clinic office waiting for my CAT scan, and I was listening to two men - one a donor and the other the recipient. The recipient was talking about how his donor was also there for testing, and how he couldn’t believe his friend would do this, how he was getting a second chance at life.

I sat there alone, wondering if my brother would ever call me.

He never did.

And I didn't need to hear any multitude of "thanks" or "you're great!" or anything like that. In fact, I don't want to hear that -it just makes me uncomfortable because I am a family member, so donating is what should happen. I just wanted to know it was what he wanted. I started to wonder if my brother even wanted this – if he has just become so accustomed to being a “patient” that he didn’t want to give up that role, or if he was just so sick of being sick that he just didn’t want to go through anything else.

In addition to this, my brother hasn’t really done anything to improve his life since his initial pancreas transplant back in November. He has continued to smoke, hasn’t done a whole lot to care for himself, or to start to live again.

When he finally did call, we talked briefly, and had planned to meet sometime this weekend to discuss things.

At this point, I feel mostly committed to it. I think about the alternative – if I don’t and he dies, can I live with that? That answer is simple – no. Because he will die – that has been made very clear to me.

On other note – I have been anxious to get back in the pool (did I just say that out loud? Man, I guess IM has changed me), and am picking up my bike this weekend. Guess my hope for getting back in to the swing of all things physical might have to wait another week.

So I guess I move from one journey to the next.

Hopefully this one is just as rewarding.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Best Day

So here are my final thoughts about Ironman Arizona.

I am 31 years old. I have never been married. I have no kids. Perhaps in the future this may happen, and if they do, I am sure they will be great.

But right now, as I sit in bed, three days removed from the event, I can say that Sunday was undoubtedly the best day of my life.

I had my family, my friends, the blogger community - so many people screaming for me, helping me, pouring salt in my hands, giving me gatorade snow cones – my sister Devin even ran to the nearest health food store to buy electrolytes tablets to keep me going, and my other sister Ellen ran in flip flops next to me for almost a mile, giving me encouraging words all the way. I thrived off that energy – I literally lived for the next friendly face in the crowd, or the next stranger to stick a cup of chicken broth in my sweaty hands.

Even as I sit here now, I can say with 100% certainty that I loved every minute of that day. Even the pain of the run seems minimal to my overall euphoria of the day – so many times on the bike I said out loud to myself (of course, after looking over my shoulder to make sure no one could hear me), “I can’t believe I am here, I can’t believe I am doing Ironman, I can’t believe this is happening.” The smiles on my face in my pictures were there all day, even under the grimaces of pain on the run.

As I have mentioned, I was blessed to have no major medical problems. At one point, I told my sister Devin, as she walked next to me at Mile Am-I-the-Hell-Done-Yet?, that things felt like they were shutting down – I needed salt, my muscles were spasming, my belly ached from bloat, my head throbbed from the heat, and the blister on the back of my heel made it difficult to run uphill.

But in hindsight, I wasn’t shutting down. I was whole -albeit hurting - but I was fine.

I could not have asked for anything else out of the day.

I just watched a recap video of that day, and the tears started flowing again – there was so much I remember, yet so much I overlooked. There was just SO MUCH to take in, to absorb. Weird how the longest day of my life was also the shortest and fastest.

I guess what kept me sane was that I had no expectation for the day. I wanted to finish, and that was all. Sure, I had some idea of what times I should be completing each discipline in, but I refused to look at my watch, refused to let me mind get in the way of just loving the day and being grateful for the moment.

I approached each day leading up the race with awe – I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with anticipation, but refused to get anxious, nervous, worried. I was just excited. I mean, I teared up when I got my bracelet and my numbers, but I was just so overwhelmed with excitement.

The ease at which I approached those few days was a stark contrast to my anxiety over the last few months. At times, I didn’t even feel like the same person. I didn’t let anything annoy me, I didn’t get irritable, I didn’t bitch and moan about anything (oh, except for that whole US Triathlon membership nonsense – that pissed me off ). Even when the weather reports poured in about the heat, or the bike pump guy told me I had slow leaks in my tired 30 minutes before the race started (I didn’t), I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh well, what can I do about it now?”

Who was this girl?!?!

And how can I get her to stick around?

If I worried at all, it was about my family being in the sun all day, about them not getting enough to eat, or getting burned or overheated, or even bored. When I saw them at one of the intersection on the bike, I rode as fast as I could to see them again, and then kept riding as fast so I could to finish the bike leg and let them go back to town and get out of the oppressive sun. Worrying about them kept me from worrying about myself, and oddly, that seemed to help.

Since this was my first, I definitely learned some lessons – the salt issue being one of them (boy was I unprepared for that – hydration is one thing I did well, but that salt was not) and the blister being the other. I got it at about 1.5 mile on the run, and should have stopped to care for it, but I kept going, and it got worse. It definitely slowed me down on the hills, making it excruciating to run up them.

The only other thing I would have done differently is slowed down at the finish to take in those final moments. But that last mile, I was very aware of who was around me, because I was intent on crossing that line alone – I didn’t want to get in the way of another racer breaking their tape, and I didn’t want anyone sprinting in front of me and ruining my moment either. But there was a guy right behind me (you can even see him in the finish picture), dead set on making this happen, so I sprinted that last stretch. I was going so fast I didn’t hear my name, but I was able to see my family almost falling over the barricades screaming, and then see my sister Devin (who snuck into the finish chute) taking my pictures and giving me my first hug as an Ironman.

Even as I write this, I still cry when I think about those seconds – Devin with tears streaming down her face, me leaping into the air and screaming at the top of my exhausted lungs, both of us leaning into each other in relieved hysteria. Ellen and my mom with ear-to-ear smiles and tears in their eyes, the bear hug and whispers of “I Love You” from Cheese, the obvious pride of Nolan in his Forest Gump outfit, the look of awe from my friend Adrienne.

I did that - I made them proud.

The days since the event, things have been up and down. Working for something so intensely for two years, and the completing it left me with a deafening silence, compounded by my family leaving the next day. Going from the highest highs to the normal life was like a massive slap in the face. The PIBs (Post Ironman Blues) crept up faster than I anticipated, and it left me in sobs for most of Monday.

I arrived back in Chicago yesterday to the realization that my life is still the same. Maybe not as structured and organized around daily workouts, but mostly my life is the same. I came home to the same job, the same stress, the same bills, and sadly, the same studio apartment.

I, however, am not the same.

I don’t feel like that insecure girl that has posted about her weight, or her looks, or her abilities. I don’t feel the self-doubt that I felt just a few weeks back.

Instead, I feel strong. I feel happy. I feel confident. I feel like I showed up to the race with all I had, and that was “good enough.” I was finally good enough. I feel like all that mental muscle I developed over the last two years finally emerged to say, “Hey, you are better than what you have given yourself credit for, you are better than the pettiness of the conflicts around you, you are better than accepting the mediocre.” The fact that quitting never entered my mind throughout the entire 14-plus hours alone was the greatest testament to some internal change.

People have said that once you do Ironman, you can do anything.

Yeah, I feel like that.

I still haven’t managed to take off my IM identification bracelet – I feel like when I do, it will finally be over, and I am not yet ready for that to happen.

And while I feel like I have a million more words and tears still left in me about this experience, for right now, this is all I will say about Ironman.

Until the next one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

14:47 in Pictures

" Always know in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you." Arizona 4.13.08
Day before the race at bike/bag drop off - Ellie and Cheese
Lost in the sea of machines - but note to self- even though those bikes may cost thousands, they still have to be pedalled. No intimidation....

Last chance to get everything packed

My Iron Crew - Ellie, Dev, me, Cheese, Mom, and Adrienne

And the morning starts with Nolan - AKA Scuba Steve

"When you get hurt and all your sacrifice adds up to nothing...are you willing to put it all on the line again?" - Conrad Stoltz

Absolutely. - Megan

The Crew again (click to enlarge) - and some random guys that apparently didn't feel the need to step out of the picture.

Me in the middle

Me in the middle again - tight squeeze

The look on my face says it all (click to enlarge).

Happy as can be, on the way out to Loop #2.
Still having fun....

Wait - you say I have one more loop? Huh. Well, there goes my Kona qualifying time. Geesh.

Off again.

And finally back home. All smiles after 7.5 hours on the bike.

"One more mile" - IM Able

"Success is my only mother f-- option/Failure's not/So here I go is my shot/Feet fail me not/This may be the only opportunity that I got." - Eminem

"And the people they were singing, I could hear 'em from the street/And my feelings they were stinging/I was submerged in my deffeat/But I smiled for a second, and for that second, I felt fine/PAIN IS A WALL I MUST CLIMB." -Michael McDermott

Euphoria. So much so that I didn't even hear the words I waited two years for: "Megan, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" They literally had to pry that banner from my hands (click to enlarge - the look on my face is priceless).

"I win." - Megan

This post was long enough.
My final brief thoughts on this whole crazy ride tomorrow.