Tag Archives: trigger

Thank you once again, Triathlon

Thank you once again, Triathlon.  You are my favorite sport; my true outlet; provider of peace and comfort; my strength trainer; and my special connection to my beautiful son.

This week triathlon was there for me…once again.  Even in the off-season, this sport provided a high point in what otherwise has been a super challenging week – the first week of December.

On Sunday while running on a treadmill at my gym, I was blindsided with a seemingly innocent image on TV.  I don’t usually look at the monitors when working out at my gym.  I usually focus on my music, my zone and the workout at hand.  However, every now and then my eyes will wander up and catch a glimpse of a reality show, cooking demo, sports game or some random commercial.  Well, this time, my eyes caught a fraction of a baby commercial:  new parents walking through the front door of their home for the first time with their baby.  BAM!  We never brought Noah home.  As this joyous – for the majority of viewers –  event registered in my head tears started streaming down.  Thankfully all of my sweat from the run camouflaged my tears so any onlooker wouldn’t notice me crying.  What a trigger.  Instead of getting completely to the other side of it,  I think it ignited something in the rest of my body.  Up until that moment I was trying to prepare for this month but I think it was on more of an intellectual level.  It’s the 12th month of the year.  It has the most popular holiday of the year.  It’s the month that puts an exceptional amount of attention on children and families.  This is my second December without Noah which means my second Christmas without him; my second Christmas as an incomplete family.  And it’s the month Noah was born.  As December approached I’ve been thinking about this more and more of course.  But until last Sunday, that’s what I’ve been mainly doing – thinking.  My brain was processing this month.  After that run though I’m now feeling the presence of December in my heart and throughout the rest of my body.  Even as I type this post I can feel it in my hands, belly, feet…almost everywhere inside.

So far this week has been touch and go.  The rest of Sunday and Monday were brutal.  On Tuesday morning I did not want to get out of bed at all.  I had a lot of meetings scheduled and planned to attend a book signing event with a friend in the evening.  I had my swim session first thing that morning.  I could cancel my meetings.  I don’t have to go swimming.  My friend had to bail on joining me in the evening so I’m not obligated to attend the event.  I could have easily stayed in bed which I seriously thought about doing for a while.  But I thought back to those early days after Noah passed away when I didn’t feel like training, not because I didn’t like training but because I did not want to leave home.  I thought about how I took baby steps to get through those workouts.  Just change into workout clothes.  Just pack the gym bag.  Now put on the running shoes.  Don’t think.  Try not to feel.  Just go through the motions.  I applied this same tactic on Tuesday.  Just get out of bed.  Just take a shower.  Just collect the necessary material for my meetings.  Just get in the car.  Just get on the highway.  And that’s how Tuesday went.   During the hour between my last meeting and when I needed to leave for the book signing, I went back and forth in my head about going or not so many times that I started to give myself a headache.  Once again, just take little steps.

The book to be signed was As the Crow Flies:  My Journey to Ironman World Champion by Craig (Crowie) Alexander.  A local bike shop in Santa Cruz hosted the event.  The place was packed.  This Ironman World Champion signed books and answered questions.  It was great.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this truly amazing triathlete talk about training for and racing triathlons.  As much as I tried to avoid it, a few guests chatted with me.  Like other tri-related events my conversations were about coaches, transporting bikes, training, Nationals, Worlds and other races.  I left the store with a couple of autographed books (one for my friend, who couldn’t join me, and his wife) and even a photo with Craig.  I left the event feeling a bit lighter than when I arrived.

I still feel Sunday’s trigger but it’s not as piercing.  I have my favorite sport to thank for this.  Thank you, once again, Triathlon.

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What a Difference a Week Makes!

With my six mile run today I completed my first training week using Pete’s online coaching plan.  It may sound a little funny but already I feel very different.  I’ll go ahead and acknowledge the placebo effect is probably at play.   Something along the lines of “oh wow I’m now doing something different so I must experience a change.”  Placebo effect or not, I’m not sure it matters.  The fact that I feel different is good enough for me.

I wrote in my last post that I rarely did a full cardio segment and a complete strength training session back-to-back.  Well a few days after writing that post I pulled out my training plan for Nation’s (which I created myself).  I have a correction to make:  I did in fact do such workouts (also known as two-a-days) early in my training and quite often. I can blame bad memory for thinking two-a-days are new to me but I think there’s something more to it.  For some reason I felt my two-a-days this past week were…well different.  They were much longer and more intense than what I did for Nation’s.  Also, I’m sure since Pete planned them they’re better structured than what I put together.  And there’s the placebo effect.

During this past week’s training sessions I felt solid.  I did struggle some on the bike, specifically with keeping my RPMs and heart rate at the desired levels.  Also the last five miles of my 30 mile ride yesterday was by no means easy.  (And as mentioned before I did have to push it a bit with the weights.)  However I felt pretty good right to the end.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely worked hard this week but I never felt like I couldn’t finish.  I do realize Pete’s current focus is on base building so I anticipate my workouts becoming much more difficult very soon.

Anyway back to this difference – or really differences.  What are these differences, you ask?  I feel like I’ve taken my training up a level already and I feel more confident.  I think I was a little anxious about not being able to follow Pete’s plan.  Well I did and while I experienced some challenging moments, I completed each session strongly.   I feel more focused.  A lot of this has to do with the need to keep track of my drills during each workout.  But also I’m zeroing in on my very specific goals which are to successfully complete Hawaii 70.3 and improve my splits at Nationals.  With each successful workout my body moves closer to being ready to compete.

I do feel one other major difference but I don’t think Pete’s plan has anything to do with it; I think it’s just a coincidence…or perhaps not.

Over the past week my connection with Noah became much deeper and different.  Outside of training, I think of Noah a lot. Sometimes he’s in-and-out of my mind very quickly and other times I spend quite a bit of time thinking and recalling vivid images of him in my head.  When I train though I believe how I think of him is different from this.

Last May I began feeling a very deep connection with Noah as I became much more aware and grateful that my heart could easily handle my endurance training and I could process the oxygen needed during these workouts.   When I feel or see (on my heart rate monitor) my heart rate climbing and hitting 60-85% effort, it’s almost as if I’m raising it for him.  When I feel my breathing becoming labored, I think of the ventilators he was on and I feel as though I’m breathing extra hard for him.  And it’s the stark and unfair contrast between what I and any other healthy body can do seamlessly with what Noah struggled with all of the time.  It’s this appreciation combined with sadness and a little bit of bitterness (yes still) that helps me dig deeper to find that determination and power to push myself harder, faster and longer.

During my workouts this past week though I’ve started feeling a different kind of deep connection to my son.  I now feel his presence almost constantly and this feeling is definitely different than my “non-training day-to-day” thoughts of him.  During my training, talking to or thinking of Noah is like second nature now.  It’s like at some other level I’m having a constant dialog with him as I swim, run and bike.  I’d like to think he and I’ve gotten used to training together, and our routine has him with me all of the time.  I’ve been thinking about how best to describe this and I’ve come up with “endurance consciousness.”

I continue to push myself to achieve 60-85% of my maximum heart rate (depending on the drill) and reach that labored breathing because there’s that connection I still have with him.  But now I have another one.  I’m so grateful for both.

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On a somewhat separate note, please pause for a moment to pray for or send positive thoughts to the parents of a little Heterotaxy boy named William.  After fighting super hard, he became an angel last Thursday.

It’s probably no surprise to you that I spent my first mile on my run today thinking of William and his parents.  I found myself welling up a bit when I thought about what his parents are experiencing right now.  Nobody should have to deal with losing a child.

Noah now has another friend in heaven.  God bless you, William.

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Thinking of Noah’s Fellow Angels for 7 Miles

On the weekends MLH and I usually workout first thing in the morning.  Yesterday morning when the alarm on my iPhone went off I grabbed the phone to turn it off.  Then without thinking I immediately  switched applications to check email and BAM!  Even before I got out of bed I encountered a trigger.  I came across a message that presented an in-your-face reminder that my son, my only child, is no longer alive.  What a crappy start to the day.  After getting through the initial reaction of being overcome with sadness and shedding some tears, MLH and I agreed that there’s really nothing else to do but go to the gym as planned.  I was scheduled to run seven miles yesterday, and man, I was so looking forward this.

As we drove to the gym and during my warmup I tried to get to the other side of this trigger by thinking about what I could focus on during my run.  I’ll think of Noah as I always do, and l’ll focus on my heart rate and breathing which is one of the ways I deepen my connection to Noah.  But this morning I also thought about dedicating the bulk of my run to other children who have passed away.  From my bereaved parent support group and learning about other parents who lost their Heterotaxy children, I know of quite a few children who left this world way too soon.

As I began to run I thought of beautiful Ava first.  Ava just might be familiar with my running because at one point during the 22 hours she lived, I went for a run and thought of her.  On that run I felt a great deal of love and hope for her and her family.  Like Noah, she passed away from Heterotaxy-related issues.  I’ve been blessed because about a month and a half after Ava passed away I connected with her mother who has become a wonderful friend.

Then I thought of another Heterotaxy Angel, Chloe.  I thought about how beautiful she is; I’ve had the opportunity to see a few pictures of her.  I’ve gotten to know Chloe’s mommy too.  Like Ava’s mommy, she’s a beautiful soul.  I thought of the love she has for her sweet Chloe.

There are other Heterotaxy children who have also passed away.  Although I don’t personally know about each of them, I did think about how there’s quite a few children who are now with Noah, Ava & Chloe.  I thought about how much their parents and families miss them.

Then I thought about the children of my bereaved parent support group.  They’re all significantly older than Noah.  I thought about each one by name, the lives they lived and how much love their parents have for them.  I feel this love every time MLH and I meet with our group.

I gently moved on to Ben Breedlove.  I thought about him meeting Noah in heaven.  I thought about how he was so kind to share his experiences of cheating death before he finally passed away.  I also thanked him again for the comfort he provided me.  I thought about his family and friends and how they too are trying to heal now.

And I can’t forget about those children in Norway.  Last July as the world learned of this horrendous act I cried for them and their parents.  I thought of them around mile 5.  Then I thought of all of the young military soldiers who died; and I thought of their parents, spouses and children.  Since Noah’s death I think of war very differently.  Before last year, I thought of war in more of an intellectual way.  Now I actually feel pain and love for the lives lost and the families they left behind.

As I continued my run I spent some time thinking about just Noah.  I prayed he’ll meet all of the angels who joined him over the past year.

Then my mind shifted to gratitude.  (A few friends last December helped me create intentions.  Gratitude was the first one I focused on.  I returned to it on this run.)  I thought about how grateful I am for Noah & MLH.  I’m grateful for those around me who provide comfort and support.  I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to meet other bereaved parents.

My last mile was pretty challenging.  Seven miles is the longest distance I’ve run in a while.  Like I’ve done in the past when I start to feel tired, some pain or even complacency, I thought about Noah and how much he went through while he was alive; how much his tiny, fragile body dealt with; all of the poking, prodding, discomfort and medications he had to put up with; and all of those cardiac arrests.  Once again I reminded myself that my discomfort is absolutely nothing compared to what Noah went through and he didn’t have a choice.  I chose to go on this run.  With Noah’s help once again, I ran my seven miles successfully.  Because of Noah, I felt strong right to the end.

I did come back to the trigger every now and then while I ran.  And I wasn’t completely over it after my run but at least for most of the seven miles, my mind and heart focused on something else.  Thank you, Noah, Ava, Chloe, the rest of the children who are with Noah and all of their parents for helping me on my run.

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The Coach

Now that I’m racing a Half Ironman and Nationals I need to take my training up several levels. I’ve never raced 70.3 miles which is the distance of a Half Ironman, and for Nationals I need to focus on speed which is a new type of goal for me. Also, I need to create a more comprehensive nutrition plan. I’m comfortable consuming the right number of calories and mix of nutrients for sprint or olympic distances. Racing 70.3 miles over several hours is a different story. To address all of these new aspects I’ve decided to work with a coach.

I’m relatively new to the world of coaching. So far I’ve had only one coach, Lori, who coached me in a group setting when I lived in LA. She specializes in helping women train for their first triathlons. She makes women comfortable with each discipline and each transition. She’s very good.

I’ve also had a few trainers through my gym. After completing Lori’s newbie program, I moved on to Sara-the-Triathlete to focus on strength training and help with my running and swimming. Although I stopped racing once I learned I was pregnant, I continued to work with Sara-the-Triathlete to maintain a solid level of fitness. And when we learned about Noah’s diagnosis, I felt an even stronger desire to be in top shape. I believed — and still do — Noah was healthiest while in utero because for the most part he didn’t need to rely on his own body to live. He needed what my body gave him. While always adhering to my OB’s guidelines of course and even checking in with her about specific yoga positions and whatnot I exercised religiously so my body was strong enough and healthy enough to give Noah everything he required; so it could protect Noah as much as possible.

Around the beginning of my third trimester we moved to D.C. I worked with my last two trainers here. They weren’t very good. I’m sure part of the problem was me. I was probably not enjoyable to be around during the last few months before Noah’s birth and after Noah passed away. I was not in the mood to be social and share with these strangers the ongoings of my life which were mainly focused on Noah and preparing for his birth and medical care. After Noah died I didn’t want to talk to anybody really. Trainers are kind of like hair stylists in the sense that they want to engage in conversation with you; they want to get to know you. They must have been frustrated with me since I really didn’t talk during our sessions. I won’t take all of the blame, though. They weren’t professional, and it was pretty obvious they made up my workouts on the fly. So I stopped working with trainers last May.

Three weeks ago I started looking for a tri coach. In my research I found online coaching to be pretty popular. I don’t know if it’s popular everywhere, a recent phenomenon or more of a regional trend. Perhaps I’m just ignorant about all of this because I never really had to search for a coach before. It was pure luck that I came across Lori and even Sara-the-Triathlete. I learned about Lori through a clinic at a local tri store on the Westside of LA, and Sara-the-Triathlete was introduced to me by another trainer who knew about my interest in triathlons.

I still don’t like socializing with strangers. I dread meeting new people or talking to folks who don’t already know about Noah. I fear they, unintentionally of course, may say something that’s a trigger. Or even worse, they may ask if I have children. I hate that question. I still don’t know how to answer it. Do I say “yes?” What if they want to learn more about Noah? Do I say “he passed away” which creates an awkward moment when usually one of two things happens: 1. the person asking fumbles around to try say something comforting but ends up saying something that makes me feel worse, again unintentionally of course, or 2. the awkward silence puts the burden on me to immediately shift gears and say something to make the other person feel better. (How twisted is that? I’m the one who lost her child but I have to make the other person comfortable with this fact.) Or do I say “I don’t have children” to keep it simple? I HATE that answer because it’s a lie. The two times I’ve tried this response I literally felt a raw pain in my stomach. I know it’s guilt from not acknowledging Noah. I do have a child and although he is no longer alive, he is still my son and I am still very much his mother.

So online coaching may just work for me. I don’t have to talk to someone during my training sessions. My communication with the coach will be via email or phone which most likely will force the discussions to be brief and very focused. Because s/he won’t be with me I can focus on the assigned workout and my connection with Noah. My only concern is not getting help with form and technique. In person coaching is better for this. I have to prioritize my needs though. After all I know all too well that I can’t have it all.

I obtained a few coach recommendations from my tri club online forum, and a couple of friends gave me some names as well. I used the following general criteria to determine which one I’d use: extremely supportive and encouraging; highly professional; possesses a proven track record; in tune with his/her clients; and very responsive. After contacting most of them I decided to go with Pete who is based in the San Francisco Bay area. I’ll use his online program. What’s great about him is he also holds weekly group workouts. These additional services may sound odd given my current location. I already know, though, I’m going to be the Bay area a few times this year which will allow me to take advantage of these training opportunities. I think what really won me over is the fact that Pete and his team raced Hawaii 70.3 before.

I start training with Pete on January 23.

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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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