I had a moment the other day. Well I had a few but whats new? I have these profound moments often. I think everyone does. Lately I take notice.
The first one was a good one. My mouth was wide open, my lungs burning, and my legs were on FIRE. I was watching my Garmin as I climbed a section of steep dirt road debauchery in the Southern California Sun on my sexy flat black Tuner Czar. My Garmin was lit up and beeping at me hysterically “25 seconds behind”, “15 seconds behind”, (about here is when I almost convinced myself to stop and vomit) and then it happened “10 seconds ahead”, “15 seconds ahead”, “45 seconds ahead”!!! What was happening? Was I truly accelerating on a climb on a 6-8.5% grade. Why yes sweet voice in my head “I AM!!!”
I have these amazing women in my life that inspire me more than they likely realize. As I was making a decision whether to hammer or to give up I had a vision. I clearly envisioned two of my girlfriends deep in the pain cave last weekend in the Fontana Pro/Expert XC race. I was there to race Enduro later in the day so my daughter and I stood at a very painful section and revelled at these ladies power. Nikki Peterson was deep in the Zone accelerating at every painful loop and Christina Turner was doing what she does best, hammering. They were both deep in their heads and completely killing it. I was girl crushing hard! The effort they were putting out was completely divine.
So as I stood on my pedals. I was 10 miles from home. I made the decision to keep my head up and focused on the summit above. Mind you the pain was heavy for me and I could see, thanks to my Garmin, I was still over 3/4 of a mile out from the segments end. I’m telling you when your heart rate is red lining, 3/4 of a mile might as well be 100 miles. I was not on an island sucking down margaritas. I was up to my eye balls in pain and nausea. So I had to make a choice. It was mind-set time!! I reminded myself the pain in Christina’s and Nikki’s eyes.
I felt the switch, thus begins my She-ra, Princess of Power moment. My buddy He-MAN and the “Power of Greyskull” was in full effect cheering on his lady friend. I was a mother effing super hero. Sure I may be chubby AF and 4 people’s mom, but today I was a sexy she-beast and this shit was going down! Today I would smash my goal!
I visualized Nikki’s mouth wide open and inhaling every bit of oxygen she could pull in. I saw Christina’s legs smashing the pedals with every rotation. Then I looked down on me. I could see me standing in my pedals looking fierce and strong. Tears were filling in my eyes as I felt the breakthrough happen and what it meant to me. I was strong. The 2400 painful, demeaning, frustrating miles put in last year paid off. It was no longer me surviving. It was now me Hammering! I earned it and it was time to revel in my fitness. I reached the summit almost 40 seconds ahead of my previous attempts. VICTORY!
You see there was a day I could barely spin in my easiest gear and get up this grade. I was fresh out of two babies back to back. 1 beautiful natural delivery and a horrific C-section. I had gained 80 pounds and I was miserable. I was stuck in my body and I wanted out. I was wearing my husbands t-shirts since none of my work out wear fit me. I was fighting for every minute on the bike. I was sick, fat, worn out, on a breastfeeding timer (you don’t know gross until you roll in from a nasty hot ride dehydrated and overheated to your screaming newborn that needs a boob, NOW) and had lost every bit of who I was. Inside and out I no longer recognized myself. I had sacrificed so much for my kids but was this the answer? I was A fat pissed off Mother of 4 nearing 40? Uhm no, and I had it. I wanted Holly back. I knew she was in there. Somewhere……sigh.
I embarked on a journey of Dr’s who were unable to help me. I am a cancer survivor and had been diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. These two later diseases had stopped me in my tracks. Worse than cancer if you can believe it. I would try to be the athlete I knew I used to be (marathon, 1/2 Ironman, surf and rock climbing adventures racked up) for a day or two and land myself in bed for a week.
Autoimmune diseases are incredibly frustrating. I just couldn’t get a handle on it. I saw so many dr.’s and tried so many therapies to no avail. I knew if I continued on the path I was on I would either be dead or worse, I would be dead inside. My fire was pretty much out. The scariest part is it had gone out so slowly I barely noticed it. Next thing I know I was a wet and burned out fire pit in an ugly Riverside County Alley. You know that smell of bum pee and an old fire? Yep that was my fire. Bum pee fire.
Final straw was when my kidneys continued to show a pre-failure path. My own immune system was attacking my organs. My kidneys were getting the brunt of the abuse. The fatigue I dealt with on a daily was something I could hardly see through anymore. The brain fog was off the hook and the pain and over all feeling of illness was a lot to muster through on a daily basis.
One day by a streak of luck someone referred me to a Dr in Temecula. He had a PHD in nutrition and practiced eastern medicine along with western disciplines. I had already gone gluten-free, dairy free, everything free, but SHIT I WOULD POKE MY EYES OUT IF IT WOULD HELP AT THIS POINT.
I went to see him. First visit I cried. I cried to the point where snot was coming out of my nose. I had a complete meltdown in front of this stranger. He set in place a clear plan that would eventually change my life. He told me he was 100% confident he could help me, med free! Mind you my body was beat. The inflammation I had was so severe I had multiple joints that were so badly swollen I couldn’t wear normal shoes anymore. I had gotten used to limping for years. My quality of life was a 1. One of my ankles looked broken. It was blue and swollen 24-7. Had been that way for years. The pain was hard to deal with on a daily. I was crabby and over it.
I will write more about my journey later and some of the break through moments I had, but in an effort to keep this blog within a short read lets just say his plan worked. It worked fairly quickly to! One of my main prescriptions was to do what I love. We talked about mountain biking and how I felt on the bike. My goal of one ride a week at an easy pace was slowly increased. He knew he had to treat my spirit. Without it all the body work in the world wasn’t going to help. And this girl needed time in nature. This was a year ago. I now ride 5 days a week, I race, and my immune system is in check. Sure I have to follow guidelines that most people don’t, but I’m riding and I’m riding hard, happy and healthy!
Just like my Dr I don’t know if Christina and Nikki know the impact they have on the women around them watching. I’m not sure if any of us know until someone tells us. We all are living our own pain cave. For all of us that means different things. Be it just to be able to fit in a kit again, or to break into a “sport” , “expert” , or even “pro” level at races. Maybe its to be self-employed or to HAVE babies! I hope all the women reading this find their pain cave and revel in it.
Life is a series of seasons and we have to find our way through each one. Another season will be on the horizon. I guess it’s what we do with them while we are in them that matter.
Moment number 2. I was on the decent. I had a choice to make. squeeze the brakes or squeeze my grips instead.
So last weekend, also at Fontana, as my girlfriend Ashley and I prepped for our Super D Event she told me a story about a ride she had earlier this month. She had met two top-level female riders at a local highly technical area. Kindly the ladies invited her to ride with them. Ashley being a complete badass had no problem keeping them in sight. On the decent she said she almost pissed herself trying to keep up. She asked one of the girls what was the secret to being so fast? She told her “get off the brakes”. LOL Seems so simple right? She told Ashley instead of squeezing her brakes, “Just squeeze your grips!”
SQUEEZE YOUR GRIPS!! COMPLETELY GENIUS…….
Was this just the most obvious advice ever? Maybe for some but I found it quite profound. So as I was still high as a kite from my record shattering climb I stood on my pedals and readied for 8 miles of fast downhill adrenaline amazingness.
The dirt that day was full-blown hero dirt on every level. We had just come off a rain week. RAIN WEEKS are rare in southern California. The dirt even had a noise it made as my tires ran against it. Much like the sound perfectly groomed snow makes the morning after a good storm. With Red Jumpsuit Apparatus blaring in my ears I started my decent. So many times I almost went for my brakes. If nothing more than for the nervous habit of it! After every turn I was up in my pedals and turning my hardest gear. I would get nervous and almost pull them and instead SQUEEZE my grips as tight as I could. Next thing I knew I was on the last leg of the decent. There was a weird feature on the side of the road and before I even knew what I was doing I jumped it. YAS!!!!
I felt like a complete rock star. It was a great day of riding. I was elated well into the evening and honestly, I am still a little buzzed. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be doing 30 and 50 mile rides (got on the podium as a beginner at my first 50) , riding wth some of Southern California’s most accomplished female riders, racing enduro or even being capable of a decent training schedule I would say, ” NO FUCKING WAY!”
When I reached the main road to pedal home I pulled over and had a complete cry. A cry of complete gratitude. I was thankful that my body was allowing me to live, that I had found Dr Cassone, and that my husband and family had stuck with me through a very tough ten years. Being married to a sick person is hard. My William had my back, held my hand and never judged me. There were a lot of tears over my frustration. I was so happy to have my friend Holly back. I really have always loved her. I just lost my way.
We all have seasons in our life. Our marriages get weird, our health, our families, our careers………. I believe it’s the fight that makes these seasons so inspiring and so profound. They just wouldn’t mean as much if it were so simple. The challenge comes from recognizing them as “just a season” and pushing on to find your breakthrough. It also happens from pulling from the inspirational people around you. Don’t assume that people are too busy to be your friend, inspire you and hold you up. Maybe its part of their season as well, and maybe, just maybe you have something that will help them through. Life has a funny way of providing exactly what we need, right when we need it. Life and the seasons along with it are just plain RAD! So squeeze the grips to the brakes, hit that jump and redline your heart rate just a little longer.