Saturday I raced.
This race was very important to me. I call it the “BOOYAH!” race because it is the first triathlon I finished post-cansuh, post-surgery and told the Cansuh, “BOOYAH!”
It’s one thing to meet milestones for running and biking and swimming during training but a race somehow formalizes everything and makes it real. It is a concrete, solid, “YES I CAN.”
And I don’t think I can explain to you how much I needed and “I can” at this particular moment.
See, you don’t know this because I haven’t written about it (well I have but I didn’t post any of it), but a couple of weeks ago I was in a very dark place about one particular “can’t.” I was (secretly) crying every day. I was feeling good physically but emotionally I was a wreck. I couldn’t stop crying. It went on for about a week and I am by myself a lot so it was easy to hide. I stopped answering the phone because I knew there were certain people who would detect something wrong in one note, and I didn’t want to talk about it.
It actually started in the security line at the airport on the way home from Fitbloggin. I was riding the Fitbloggin high until it was like I was in the pregnancy/tiny baby security line. Literally, it felt like everywhere I looked, there was a baby or a pregnant woman and I tried to ignore it until this little girl who was hiding in her daddy’s legs peeked out from around them and smiled up at me. She had dirty blonde hair and looked just like I did when I was a little girl and she was playing with me and I smiled and waved! And then I burst into tears.
I became a crying mess standing there in security.
It’s no secret that I wasn’t ready to close up shop, get fixed and ready to party. In fact, we were trying (unsuccessfully obviously) earlier this year for a third child. Now some people might think I am sort of selfish for being angry that I wanted a third child, like perhaps I’m not grateful for what I have (and believe me, it’s hard to hash out that guilt myself too because I do feel selfish for feeling that way) but after a while I realized it’s not about the numbers, I love my boys more than anything. It’s more than that. I was (and still am a little) angry that something that captured my femininity, something that was so personal and packaged in with my identity as a mother and a woman was taken from me. The ability to have children. Telling me I can’t.
I still feel empty. I still feel like I’m a little less than I once was.
I think to myself that it has been 6 months and my physical wounds are healing, so therefore I should be grateful for the outcome I had and for what I have and move on already!
Which makes me feel even guiltier. And then I go further into the dark place.
On the surface, I was posting about happy things. But I missed a couple posts I think that week and didn’t care much.
I was beginning to wallow.
It’s amazing how easy it is to keep wallowing once you’re wallowing, too.
It’s easy to write about wallowing while you’re crying and wallowing and I didn’t want anyone to see me wallowing and so I never pressed publish on those wallowing posts.
I think the wallowing was a turning point because I felt it becoming an actual problem. I didn’t want to shower or get dressed. My eyes were puffy from crying myself to sleep and waking up and crying some more. I was eating whatever. I was gaining weight. I was slipping into a depression.
After a little more than a week of this, I knew it was becoming a very dangerous path for me and if I continued down that path, I was choosing darkness. It’s hard to get control of that enough to think clearly because it feels like a flat spin, the more you try to control it the more it takes hold of you and the same with trying to ignore it.
I knew it was decision time.
I was either going to start living or keep wallowing and WHICH PERSON WAS I GOING TO BE?
A little voice inside my head told me to stop this WOE IS ME crap and start doing something. That I could sit and cry all day every day and it wasn’t going to change a damn thing. I started getting mad at myself. Telling myself that I was doing no one any favors by being stuck in this way.
I told myself that somehow in time I’ll get past this sadness but in the meantime I can’t dwell inside of it.
So I began to pick myself up a little and pour myself into my workouts. (You might have noticed about now there were a few more check-ins at the gym on Facebook).
I played some Angry Birds (which relaxes me.) I picked up Chrissie Wellington’s book, “A Life Without Limits.”
I stopped stressing about little things and started making time for me and my boys. Getting busy.
So you see, this race came at a perfect time.
It was the day I took an “I can’t” and turned it into an “I can.” It was the day I realized I was competing against myself and the prize was my life.
So Saturday morning, I felt the familiar nervous pangs about a race day but as I toed the line at the water’s edge, I thought about how much I love the ocean, and this one in particular. How I am in one of my favorite places in the world with one of my favorite people in the world, the same person I went to the day I was told I had The Cansuh, I was with my mom. Just the two of us. There was nothing more fitting.
I thought about how the last race I did, it was the week before the surgery and I still had that tiny hitchhiker along for the ride (who knows how many races he was hitchhiking for? It was probably an entire season’s worth!) and how this time I was racing cancer-free.
I thought about how my doctor told me it might be a little too soon to try a triathlon but his reason was that it was hot to train in the summer (???) and I didn’t really understand that so I didn’t really listen and I proceeded as usual.
I thought about how the best way to move forward is to ACTUALLY BE MOVING FORWARD.
I thought about how important it is to get back up on the horse as soon as humanly possible no matter how hard it is to drag yourself off the ground. (And it is hard.)
I thought about the fact I am able-bodied! I am about to do a triathlon with perfect confidence that I CAN!
I decided at that line that this was my body and all of its remaining parts, and that with or without certain parts, I am still very much a STRONG WOMAN. (Perhaps stubborn?) And nothing can take that from me. NOTHING.
This year there were times that I have just felt so broken, times where parts of me hurt so bad physically, times where patience to get back to “the old me” was running out, times where even when I was smiling and really I was crying, where I felt different, or less, times where it was like it was the bottom of the 9th with two outs and the bases loaded.
But this, THIS was the time where I would dig in my cleats and swing for the fences.
I don’t have much in terms of an actual race report except that I can tell you with absolute certainty that I gave every swim stroke, every step and every pedal my absolute everything.
That even though I still sort of have to swing my leg around to run and doing that doesn’t carry me very fast, I never once stopped moving forward, not once. As frustration about my leg would creep in, I’d pull a Chrissie Wellington and plaster that smile on my face and just enjoy the sun. It’s not about my leg, it’s about moving forward.
Because I am the sum of all my (remaining) parts.
Crossing the finish line made me feel like a weight’s been lifted. Perhaps because there was a day where I knew there was a conscious choice to make about the path I’d travel and this finish line was my choice.
I chose BOOYAH.
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