Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gravel Grovel Rocks

Normally this time of year on the bike for me is 100% cyclocross. That being said, 100% doesn't leave much room for all the cool little events that round out the season of mountain biking in the fall. Obviously, my life has changed a bit this year and I've had an opportunity to mix in some events I've always wanted to do, but just couldn't fit in. Top on that list is the SRAM Gravel Grovel. 62 some miles post holiday on gravel roads with some dirt mixed in seems like a great time to me (except for the 3,000 ft of climbing involved). I had the time off work, so I was excited to go down and ride the race and try to survive the mileage. I say survive because I hadn't rode my bike that far since the day before surgery way back in June and I had no idea how the newly diagnosed myesthenia gravis issue would manage me riding at said distance with some hills mixed in there. So I headed down with some Men of Steel teammates to cruise through a fun "ride" to get some miles in for the remainder of the fractured cross season I've had.

The day of the "ride" I headed to registration and there I got a glimpse of the trophies (see above) that the winners would be given. I've won a tons of trophies over the years... so many that sometimes they become garbage shortly after I get home. But for some reason, I fell in love with the sweet limestone rock for this event. I totally wanted one! I knew it would never happen though so I decided to snap a picture of one while I was in line. While doing so, Singlespeed bad ass Bushong made the comment to me: "can't you just take a picture of it after you take it home?" Yeah right, I had NO chance at that... or did I? Should I change my approach to the "ride" and give it a good racing try?

You bet I should! I got my number and headed over to my friend/ domestique for the day, Aaron, and told him I saw the trophy and that I really wanted it. Change of plans... and the rest is history. I did my best to stay near the front with the guys at the start in all hopes to catch as many groups to draft as I could stay with as best I could. Aaron buried himself for me to stay stuck to his draft for 25 miles straight. I felt pretty good at that point, saw I had about 1 minute over Angie Sexton at that time, and knew I had to crush it on every off road, downhill, and flat section I could. That's what I did. I was in disbelief at how well my body was doing, and I felt so blessed every time I made a climb I saw other guys walking. Flashbacks for motivation of hospital days when the physical therapist had a safety belt and a walker to help me get out of bed raced though my head and kept me going. Maybe it's a bit of an unfair advantage to have that sort of motivation in my head.

At the 50ish mile turn around in Story. I saw I had gained at least a 10 minute advantage, but I wanted to keep the heat on in case I needed any buffer if I had a bike break down or crash. That never happened thankfully and at 59 miles I was really starting to feel the pain. I found one last small group to gather with and after suffering for about 3 miles I pulled out of my dark cave with the help of some encouraging guys (thanks Dean Peterson) who were struggling a bit as well, turned over a quick recovery and brought it to the finish line at around 4 hours and 25 minutes. I rode a rock solid race and couldn't wait to get that rock! Coming into the race finish chute I got a little choked up emotionally. I felt like a bit of a dork and giggled to myself a little bit. I wandered how many times it would take for me to come across the line and not get emotional about what I've been through and the amazement of how far I've come.
Then I decided that feeling that way is okay and I kinda really hope I never lose those emotions, never take it for granted, to always be forever thankful for my life and what I am able to do.
Like a rock, I stand firm in that belief and I won't budge on what I know God has given me.

The Grovel was a sweet event. Nicely put on by Sub 9 and everyone who came had a great attitude during the race. Sram was amazing in their support and gave away so much swag that a lot of racers came away with some cool stuff. I think I will add this to one of my favorite races all around, winning always helps with that, but the atmosphere and facilities add to that decision, plus they had Yatz gumbo for a post-race dinner! Yum.

So here's a picture of the trophy at home (thanks to Jeff Bushong). I decide I would put it on the fireplace next to one of my pottery pieces from a local Brown County potter. Fitting after all. I don't think I will throw this one away anytime soon!

Thanks to Todd and Kent for driving me down and all around good guy Aaron Hawkins for all his help, along with every other dude I met on the gravel roads that worked with me groveling along the way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saint Doug

It’s interesting that it’s almost 5 months to the day that I had my ankle surgery: 6/14/11. It’s 4 am and I’ve just been startled awake by a nightmare that have become a common thing for me since I was fighting for my life 2 days after the above date. When I first came back to my own home after living with my parents after getting out of the hospital I had the terrors every night. Every. Single. Night. I hated the night time. I would feel the fear rise in me as the sun set. Now, they come less frequently and I actually haven’t had one for a few weeks until this morning. I won’t lie, after I have a terror I dread going to sleep for several nights after them in fear I will have one again, but I know someday they will be a thing of the past I won’t have to dread it. Thankfully, they are not as bad as they once were.

So here’s a personal insight and I share because it only strengthens how awesome it is to be surrounded by such amazing people (biking world or not), and that I hope each day we all take a moment to realize that amazing people touch our lives so much when you least expect it. You can plan life all you want, but life makes it’s plans regardless.

In my terror, which is the same every time, I feel a tremendous pain in my right lung, the burning with each breath is like a huge fire in my right bronchus. Every breath I take feels like I am trying to hold in that last breath you take when you’re underwater trying to stay there until the very last minute before coming up. It’s takes the most strength I’ve ever used. Each and every breath, and I’m breathing about 60 times a minute I figure.

I’m drowning.


Only this time in my nightmare. I recall the phrase I told myself in the hospital “I’m having a PE, I know I am going to die” In my terror, I feel immediate fear, then calm. I FEEL God. I see the image of my anesthesia colleague, Doug Pruitt standing by my side, holding my hand, saying everything I needed to hear. I was locked onto his eyes, fearing and fighting every single breath. I knew where I was heading, I just couldn’t take a break from struggling to breath to tell Doug, to tell him I was going to die and I needed him to intubate me, but for a guy who has been in medicine as long as I’ve lived, he knew without me saying it. I saw the look on his face. Then I remember thinking again, “Well dying just isn’t a good option.” And I set my mind to it. Set my mind to moving on. That image of Doug is seared forever. I know I could paint a perfect picture Doug’s pupils by memory. Now I call him Saint Doug... even though he chuckles when I say it, he’s MY saint. And I’m not even Catholic!

Then I wake up from the night terror... calm. Then return to immediate fear. Someone is in my bedroom. A large figure staring at me from the foot of my bed. I can’t make it out clearly but he is just standing there. What are they doing here, what are they going to do to me? I’m scared half to death, it’s worse than the nightmare! And then the figure is gone. I’m safe again. Calm.

For the first month after I was home, I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. I lie awake until daylight in fear that the person may come back. Then I realized the figure was always there watching over me, I was fearing something that wasn’t meant to be feared. Something was in my room with me... but not in the perspective I had at first thought. I’m not pushing any assumptions on you here, but I know without a doubt that there is a presence in my room, I feel it, I know it. Take from that whatever you want and believe whatever you want. I’m just saying what I experience. I KNOW what I experience.

It’s interesting that despite it being 5 months ago, my mind still fires those memories and these terrors. In medicine, major life trauma and injury are something that is common place on a daily basis to us. We see and understand (somewhat) how the physical body heals and how we expect it to recover, but no one ever really tells you what to expect from your mind after you have such an experience. I know I still struggle with that, I get frustrated with it, but I must embrace it to learn and grow from it. The good part is that even though I still have nightmares, I only dread the nightmare part. The part where I drown. Feeling calm and having faith in Saint Doug (real heros of this world) and the presence that is watching over me in my bedroom? I welcome that.

I’m thankful to have witnessed amazing people here on earth and an amazing presence from...

Dare I say heaven?

Yes, I do.

Every single moment.

Every single time.

Every single breath.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Epic defined by urban dictionary:
A word that used to be used to describe a book, a movie or other work as timeless, great, and meaningful. Is now used by douchebags who combine it with "win" or "fail" to describe everyday things.

True definition of epic:
Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.

Epic: is highly overused in cycling. That's a fact.

Today I broke out the word epic: I said to myself I must be having the most epic string of bad luck ever. I was having a pity party sort of day. I try really hard to not have these moments, try to keep my chin up, ALWAYS trust in the plan that God has. His epic plan. Today I was a bit tired of "keeping my chin up." I had just had enough! I allowed myself to be bummed out with my situation for the 1st time in a while. As most may not know of me, I was an incredibly shy child, I don't think I even spoke 2 sentences at school to until the 3rd grade. I used to tell my Mom how nervous I was and she would say then and even today; "honey, just walk in there like you own the place. Never lose sight of who you ARE and the rest will fall into place." Well, I haven't lost sight of that, but it doesn't mean I understand why things happen to me, but I felt I had every right to admit that the last couple years have been a bit epic in the bad luck department concerning my health.

I've just been released from a 4 day stay in the ICU. This coming almost 5 months from the day that I had spent 11 days there fighting for my life. I was just getting back to feeling somewhat normal. I did a fun cx race in Yorktown last weekend, woke up Monday with a small bite behind my right knee. I went about my business and by Wed I had a draining wound, by Thursday I had fever and a full blown case of cellulitis and a swollen leg. Friday afternoon I was laying back in a hospital bed getting strong antibiotics and medicine to help with severe dizziness and nausea along with IV fluid to help with dehydration. Compared to my last stay this was a minor speed bump on my way to recovery. Minor to me, but I was still feeling pretty crummy, I didn't want to be there, and I was bummed out about yet another health problem. How can this be possible?

(This is the healed version of the infection. Prior to the antibiotics it was very swollen and draining all sorts of bad stuff).

I mean seriously! As some say: I'm the healthiest sick person they know. Yep, that's me. But the truth is, I don't really view myself as a sick person. Just a gal who is on a epic journey. I feel that deep down I'm a kid at heart living the dream. Here's how that goes:

Every time I have ever used epic to describe a ride it has been a ride I have chosen to go on. I take off, usually get lost, have no idea where I am, run out of food and water, bonk, get saved somehow, regroup, ride tons more miles than planned, enjoy the most wonderful scenery, then make it home. From guess what? That's right... an epic ride.

Well, this is somehow the same. Except I didn't chose to have these things happen to me. They just happened. I don't understand why they happened. I've felt very bad physically at times, my friends, family, and God saved me. Matter of fact, I can maybe only remember about 3 months in the last 2 years where I ever felt "good." I carry on and each time I am thankful even more to be where I am. It's epic.

Here's a low down of the past couple years:

July 2010 emergency appendectomy. October '10 Broken ribs at UCI3. Nov '10 Viral Meningitis. Dec '10 Ankle surgery to repair fracture. June '11 Tarsal Tunnel Release- 2 days later- The NDE PE. Live and 2 weeks later develop myopathy/ myasthenia gravis. Nov '11 Severe leg infection... and this is all not mentioning of the 5 operations I had in the previous 4 years before this.
Enough already!

(Normally I get these from cyclocross battles... but this season they came from having many iv's and blood draws)

Yet, I keep my chin up. Heaven only knows why. As quickly as I had the pity party day, it passed on just as quickly. I've got things to do, places to see, and life to experience!

I can either fight like hell or lay down and die...
I had the chance to lay down and die and I passed on that option once already so I guess I'll fight like hell!

Life is going to be EPIC...
I just pray in a different way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Other Choice Do I Have?

(First race in a elite women's field. Felt great to take off on the start line again!
Thanks to all photos here from Cycle Exposure

(It had been a long time since I stepped up on a real podium. Snuck in a 3rd place at Yorktown ICX)

We all know life full of ups and downs. The risks of failure is never a reason to not attempt to win in my mind. Life goes so up sometimes because of the work you made digging out of the holes you are in because you go out on a limb and fall way down. That's why just being "okay" in life isn't "okay" with me. I like to live life with a full on chance of all out high or all out low.
Right now, I'm feel like a born again cyclist. Everything is a monumental accomplishment. My first 3 hour ride, my first time making it up that hill, the first time racing cross again... whatever it is, I feel like I am doing it all from scratch. I know all the cycling culture, rules, and history, but the physical part is a work from the ground up.

So what other choice do I have? 4 months ago when I needed someone help me do simple things like brush my teeth for me, or when I had to live with my parents after coming home from the hospital for weeks, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't get better some day to take care of myself. I just focused on each day get better. I was in a big valley with the peaks far away. I didn't like where I was at, but appreciated everything and every moment for what I did have knowing I would get better.

Fast forward about 5 months... and I did my first sanctioned cycling race in an elite women's field. I was so excited to even get to line up that I was like a newbie. The race was near Marion College in Indy and there were a handful of young college gals I was racing against. After going through everything I've went through in the last year... I felt a million years older around them.
I was super excited to be out there at the races again and I was curious to see where I would fair against a women's field. Well, turns out I was still in the valley. I didn't come in last, just next to it, and it was a very humble experience to be beat by people I used to easily beat. BUT my mind wasn't in the valley, I was looking towards the peaks. It takes some hard mental strength to go from being on top of the podium to the back of the pack. Very hard in fact, but I know these are all just steps I must take in order to feel that high high again, and that these struggles now will make getting back there even better. What other choice do I have? I am just happy (for now) to be out there doing something most "normal" people couldn't even do.

(Planet Adventure and ICX put together a fun course. Complete with run up to test out the running flex of the new D2 Fang shoes!)

I also did another race this past weekend in Yorktown with the newly beefed up Indiana Cyclocross Cup series. After a tough week recovering from the MTV race and also trying to fight a sinus and ear infection, plus a full week of passing gas (anesthesia), I decided to give it a go. Once race day arrived I actually felt pretty decent for me and I was happy to roll around the course and put in a solid, steady effort compared to previous weeks. I felt I was getting the hang of attacking the course a little better. I know I still am being smart and not taking too many risks since I'm on blood thinners... but I'll get my groove back once I know it's safer.

(I've still got to wait a bit to get my "groove" back, but week by week I try to relearn what I once did so easily).

Soooo, even though it's been frustrating and humbling to ride and compete in a different respect right now, I'm still happy to be out there and thankful to write a race report! I'm not saying I'm content with staying in the position I'm in right now... but I'm taking it all in and learning to appreciate, love, and be thankful for the blessing I HAVE been given to be out there so I'm enjoying everything and every moment around me.

What other choice do I have?