Tag Archives: CICU

Honu 70.3: Thoughts & Feelings

It’s been almost two weeks since Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.  And I’ve been struggling with writing down my feelings and thoughts about racing Honu 70.3.  I feel overwhelmed and intimidated.  I question whether I’m capable of appropriately articulating what I experienced during and right after this race.  Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to write down as much as possible.  Doing so is therapeutic as well as a way to record this.  So here it goes…

A wedding determined the location of my first Half Ironman race.  (A couple of good friends married on Oahu the following week.)  Nevertheless Noah inspired me to compete in a Half Ironman.  While in Hawaii during race week I found a great deal of comfort from this.  I had a lot of time to think and just be.  With the beauty of the Big Island and many opportunities to be surrounded by calm and quiet except for the sounds of waves, birds and far away muffled voices, transitioning into a peaceful state was relatively seamless.

As mentioned before, race week is also taper week so by the time I arrived in Hawaii my training was over.  In addition to resting and completing lighter workouts, I shifted my focus to preparing mentally and emotionally for race day.  I still had some anxiety (about possible flats, GI issues, etc.) going into the race but I also had some confidence, more than I thought I’d have.  I had confidence in my coach, his training plan and support.  I had confidence that I would push myself extremely hard during the race.  I had confidence that whatever happened on the course I’d somehow get through it.  I had confidence in my support system, most notably MLH.  I had confidence that the reason I was racing was the best reason I will ever have.  And I had confidence that Noah would be with me.

During the swim I didn’t really think about Noah because I was so focused on making sure I was swimming the actual course.  However, during the bike, I spent a lot of time thinking of Noah and in fact I found myself talking to him.  I had a couple of moments when I thought about stopping because the crosswinds were so bad; I was scared. But I managed to move past these moments by thinking back to Noah in the CICU.  I felt silly, a little pathetic and then immediately emboldened.  “So what if I’m blown off the road,” I thought.  “I’ll probably get some scratches and maybe a bruise or two and even more severely injured but that all can heal.  It doesn’t compare at all to having a congenital heart defect, struggling to breathe, constantly dealing with throwing up or pangs of hunger because having food in the stomach before surgery or a test isn’t allowed.”  Yep, once again I was greatly humbled.

I had moments when I knew I needed to push harder.  It’s almost as if I trained for this because digging deeper and deeper came very naturally; I seem to have developed a switch.  By flipping it “on” my mind, heart and spirit knew exactly what to do.  And I dug down.  Riding hills were actually fun; I embraced such opportunities.  (I’m not saying I’m really good on hills; I just like them!)  I remember passing many folks as I climbed.  My attitude was: “bring it on – the steeper the better!”

With the race taking place along the Kohala Coast, I had the ocean on one side of me for a good chunk of the ride.  I made a point to look out and take in the ocean view as much I could anyway.  During these moments I talked to Noah.  I found myself talking out loud to him.  Who knows if others heard me; I really didn’t care.  I wanted to enjoy the amazing setting with him and I did.  The notion that water brings peace was reinforced.  Even as I fought heavy winds, climbed hills, navigated amongst other cyclists and managed my body and nutrition, my moments when I enjoyed the view with my son were moments of peace and comfort.

The run course was not as beautiful as the bike or swim.  The ocean was not in sight until around the last quarter-mile.  While the wind, heat and humidity were very challenging, I felt like my entire body knew what it needed to do and it did it.  Once again I connected with my son to help me dig way down.

After the race I felt a major high.  I still can’t believe I actually raced 70.3 miles!  And it boggles my mind that I did this for a little over six hours.  It’s not that it took about six hours but that I actually lasted this long!  I felt proud.  I felt proud to finish.  I felt proud to race for my son.

Looking back on my race week I now sense something shifted ever so slightly in me then.  And almost two weeks later I still feel this shift.  Perhaps it’s permanent.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it.  All I can say at this time is when I think back to Honu 70.3, I feel good.

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Training Playlist: 11

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) – Very special song because I played it a lot for Noah in the CICU
  • Auwe (Ray Kane)
  • Deep In An Ancient Hawaiian Forest (Makana)
  • Hapuna Sunset (Charles Michael Brotman)
  • Hawaiian Skies (Jeff Peterson)
  • He’eia (Gabby Pahinui & Sons of Hawaii)
  • Hi’ilawe (Gabby Pahinui)
  • Hi’ilawe (Sony Chillingworth)
  • ‘Imi Au la ‘Oe (Keola Beamer)
  • Ka Loke (Makaha Sons & Dennis Pavao)
  • Ka Makani Ka’ili Aloha (Gabby Pahinui)
  • Ka Mele Oku’u Puuwai (Sol Hoopii’s Novelty Trio)
  • Kalena Kai (Keola Beamer & George Winston)
  • Kaua’i Beauty (Gabby Pahinui)
  • Leahi (Gabby Pahinui)
  • Mom (Lena Machado)
  • Paka Ua (Ozzie Kotani & Daniel Ho)
  • ‘Ulili E (with David Kamakahi) (Dennis Kamakahi)
  • Wai O Ke Aniani (Gabby Pahinui)

Duration: 1.1 hours


  • This playlist has a theme:  Hawaii.  With the exception of the 1st song, this list is “The Descendants” soundtrack.
  • Full Disclosure: Unfortunately I have not seen “The Descendants” yet.  Based on what I’ve heard about it, I suspect it has a few triggers.
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is not part of the movie soundtrack.  I think it fits well with the theme though. And I love the idea of including it on this playlist because it’s so special to me and Noah.
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Food 4 Thought: 2

Noah and I have been seen by doctors at three different children’s hospitals.  Two of the three have a McDonald’s located on their premises.  (Genius marketing on McDonald’s part.  And yes a bit disturbing as well.)  Where Noah was ultimately cared for after he was born is one of those hospitals.  During our time in the CICU, MLH and I usually were good with eating on the healthier end of the spectrum.  We became very familiar with the hospital cafeteria.  But we did go to McDonald’s several times.  During those times we had a rough day in the CICU and were looking for comfort food.  Unfortunately comfort doesn’t equal healthy. McDonald’s offers several comforting options: Big Macs, filet-o-fishes, chocolate shakes, apple pies, etc.  Of course McDonald’s doesn’t have a monopoly on comfort food.  There’s mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, warm chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken and so on.  While consuming it, comfort food tastes good and provides…well comfort.  It seems to satisfy or suspend those feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, stress or other feelings which most likely are the culprits for wanting comfort food in the first place.  Afterwards, for me, the comfort goes away.  Most of the time some guilt and an upset stomach combined with a sugar crash take over.  Oh but comfort food does taste good, and our bodies do crave it.

I’d love to claim, with all of my training, I no longer crave comfort food but I can’t.  I still do.  A couple of days ago, I dealt with a couple of very tough topics related to Noah.  I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and found myself feeling lost again.  (Grief isn’t linear.  Also after taking two or three steps forward, it’s not uncommon to take a step or two back.)  So, instead of eating a healthy soup and salad for lunch I ate a Little Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of Cajun Fries from Five Guys.  For better or worse I did find comfort from my greasy meal.  Interestingly afterwards I didn’t feel as guilty as I thought would.  Partly because I knew I’d burn this meal off during my next workout.  Also I began looking forward to my healthy dinner which was already planned out.  MLH and I had a chicken breast with a big, leafy green salad full of lots of raw vegetables that night.  AFTER dinner I felt some comfort also.  I felt comfort from the fact that I ate a healthy meal.  I felt comfort knowing all of those nutrients will help me the next day, especially during my workout.

Given my love for delicious food, I’m not one who believes athletes need to eat healthy all of the time.  But I am becoming more sensitive to what healthy food and not-so-healthy food do to my body and how it impacts training.

I think I have two types of comfort food now.  There’s the good ol’ burger/McDonald’s/mac ‘n cheese type.  I’m certain I’ll continue to have moments when I  crave this food and will indeed indulge.  And now there’s the type which involves fresh veggies, lean poultry, whole grains and nuts.  I’ll call this “delayed” comfort food.  I’ll feel the comfort after I eat, during my workout and beyond.

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Time = Training

The concept of time bewilders me.  Before Noah my sense of time was pretty simple:  60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. I used specific times and dates to structure my days and help plan for the future.  I was intrigued with much more sophisticated concepts of time from shows like Lost or Star Trek (2009 version).  (I’m not a sci-fi fan nor even close to calling myself a physicist, so apologies to those who know more about the concept of time than I do.  I’m sure what I’m writing here is very rudimentary.)

On December 9, 2010 my simplistic view of time changed.  My world no longer consisted of 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours or even weekdays versus weekends.  Time consisted of pumping breast milk, hospital rounds, nurse shift changes, medical team meetings, Noah’s procedures and surgeries, feeding Abigail and Madeleine (my cats), Noah and me video chatting with MLH, and some sleep.  I had moments when time flew by.  I’d return to Noah’s bed after pumping and then after what seemed like just a few minutes, the next thing I knew it’s time to pump again!  Then there were moments when the world moved in slow motion such as when Noah went into cardiac arrest.

Then on January 10, 2011 my paradigm completely turned on its head.  The night MLH and I left Noah at the hospital for the last time, the schedule I lived by for the past 32 days no longer existed.   My world came to halt; I felt like time stopped.  It was taken over by the need to process — I should say try to process — the fact that after almost five months of planning, advocating, caring, loving, and praying for Noah, I lost him.  It was overwhelmed with all of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual reactions forcing themselves on me.  This was not the case for everybody else, though.  The world everybody else lived in continued to follow the Gregorian calendar.  Their lives continued to move along.  They celebrated birthdays, weddings, promotions and other milestones.  They recognized holidays.  Their children ended the school year, began summer and then started a new school year.  And they had babies.

I don’t know exactly when my world began to move again.  I do know that once I began training for Nation’s, I returned to a more familiar concept of time to instill some structure in my life.  I created a training plan which had me focused on specific workouts for a certain number of minutes or hours each day of the week and building mileage, strength and endurance over 12 weeks.  I was more cognizant of days passing, and I could feel myself becoming stronger.

I also know that after completing Nation’s my world lost some of the stability it gained from the previous few months.

When I actually pause to think about the fact that it’s been just over a year since Noah passed away and 17 months since we learned of his diagnosis (Heterotaxy Syndrome), I’m dumbfounded.  My sense of time seems to have three conflicting dimensions:  1. MLH and I’ve been through so — dare I say “really too?” — much during this period, 2. in some ways it feels like Noah’s birth, our time in the CICU and his passing away happened just last month and 3.  I feel as though my world is still on hold.

Ever since I was given the green light to workout again, I’ve been exercising to build a solid base and strengthen my injured ankle.  And although I’ve not officially begun training for my upcoming races yet, my focus on completing a solid daily workout has helped.  Training gives me a sense of order which I desperately need.  It helps me stay in touch with the concept of time by which the rest of the world lives.

My time paradigm now consists of 5.5 months or 19 weeks and two days to prepare to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles.  With each day, each workout session,  my world moves closer to Hawaii.

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Need to Workout

I planned to be productive today.  I have a lot to accomplish and had true intentions of checking everything off my list by the end of the day.  Within an hour of sitting at my desk it didn’t look like that was going to happen.

This past weekend was a bit rough.  I encountered a trigger on Saturday night.  Over the past six months or so I’ve gotten better with seeing babies and young families.  However there still are times when I struggle quite a bit during an actual encounter and that night I think I saw a couple kids too many. I ended up crying myself to sleep.  Then yesterday I had a bad swim and managed to get only four hours of sleep last night.

This morning I had a hard time focusing.  Instead I found myself tired and thinking about tomorrow, the first anniversary of Noah’s passing.  In a matter of minutes, I began recounting events leading up to his death.  I have vivid images of his last day back in my head.  Everything was so traumatic.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I have post-traumatic stress disorder from being in the CICU.  Tears began to well up, and I started crying.  I decided I need to get my mind elsewhwere.  I immediately thought of doing something physical. I originally planned to train later in the day but at that moment I didn’t think twice about switching my schedule around.  (Besides I threw my schedule out the window already anyway.)  So in almost a robotic fashion, I stood up, grabbled my bag and walked to the gym.

Working out today didn’t put me in a good mood but it helped me get through a low point for now.

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