Friday, January 20, 2017

Invisible

This post has been simmering for a couple of days, a recap of the race weekend.  I didn't want to rush it and this past week has been a little bit of hustling to catch up and finding time for recovery.

The first race was on Saturday, so my alarm went off around 3:00 AM, we were supposed to be in the corrals at about 4:00, and it takes me a bit of time to get moving in the morning.  After Ashley and Adam got dressed, we headed downstairs to grab me a steamed milk and to make our way to the race area.  It was pretty chilly and thankfully Ashley had bought a blanket for us to sit on in the corral and to wrap ourselves up in.  The official start time was at 5:30, but since I was in the last corral we wouldn't start until a bit later.   Ashley and I spent the time chatting and Adam practiced different breathing to stay warm.  

We made it to the start line, heard a little banter and we started.  It took time to find a place in the crowds we were comfortable, and watched people run around us.  The race felt a bit rushed a claustrophobic to me, I didn't feel like there was much time to take in the sights.  My focus was really on finishing the race, on getting to that finish line, so my experience for the start of the race was a little biased.  

At one point in the middle of Disneyland, a bit of a panic started as someone shouted we were two minutes behind pace.  So our group started running, I wanted to get away from the crowd and the anxiety, I wanted to finish.  I was also confused because the last mile marker we passed, stated we were two minutes ahead of pace. So I ran, I ran without thinking about my breathing, or paying attention to my body until we hit the next mile marker that said we were ahead of pace.  The crowd calmed down around us, and we started walking again completely confused about the miscommunication.  Shortly after exiting Disneyland I started feeling bladder spasms.

Then the moment came when we got passed by the Pacers and I told Ashley to go on without me, I couldn't keep pace anymore.  Adam and I started walking slower and slower through the back lots.  Finally a little after mile 5, I stopped, I stopped right in front of a group of people cheering us on.  The tears started, tears for the pain, tears of gratitude because I made it, tears for pushing my body in a not gentle way and tears for the multitude of emotions I felt during the race.  As Adam and I stood there waiting for a medic, I was keenly aware of how invisible my illness is.  I kept hearing the crowd cheering us on, not to give up, to keep pushing and finishing wasn't worth the cost.  

There was nothing visibly going on with me and the tears quickly stopped.  I have gotten amazing at smiling through pain, I have learned to breathe through the pain and I have learned when it is time to stop.  Standing there I wanted to shout at the people, that even if they couldn't see I had a reason for stopping.  I wanted to tell them how hurtful it can be to tell someone to "keep pushing."  I wanted to tell them there was nothing wrong with not finishing a race, that it is okay to honor my pace.  So Adam and I talked about our favorite things about the race, we talked about the fact that each mile is an accomplishment and he thanked me for stopping, for playing with my limits and for listening to those edges.  

Sunday was a new day.  The beauty of my illness is that I never know what a new day will hold.  So I woke up again at 3:00AM and got ready for the half-marathon!  Ashley was in a different corral then me and so we spent the time waiting for the race individually.  I crossed the start line at 6:30 and with a giant smile I started walking and looking for that first bathroom stop.  (LOL, it had been a long wait in the corral tha morning).  I stopped to take a few photos, I got super excited when I saw Darth Vader and shot a brief video for my friend.  Looking at the race photos, I have a giant smile on face, just taking in the music, the sights and my breath.   

I had to stop at almost every bathroom and there was usually a line, so I sent Adam some photos.   I couldn't believe as I left Disneyland that I was still feeling great and had more in me to keep going.  Then, I saw Adam waiting outside to cheer me on, drinking his coffee, and I had to run up to him!!  I was so touched and excited to see him, that he went to the effort to look at the race map and try to estimate when I would be there.  I had a few tears in my eyes as I left Disney property and entered the streets of Annehiem.  

I crossed the 10K marker and was so overjoyed.  I knew my body could do it!  A little before mile 7, I started having some discomfort in my joints and took some time to stretch and adjust my gait.  Then I was passed by the pacers and let out a sigh of relief, surely they would be picking us up soon.  I was limping by that point and was ready to be off the course.  However I wouldn't get picked up until mile 9.   I walked 9 miles!  I walked 9 miles!  I honestly couldn't believe it, I earned that medal.  I pushed my body farther then I ever expected, no bladder spasms, a bit of muscle soreness and a lot of pain in my hip and knee.  

The person that helped me on the bus, told me he had never seen someone so happy to be "swept."  I smiled and told him, you have no idea what I accomplished today, the finish line didn't matter.  

Ashley finished, despite face planting at mile 11 with a new personal record.  We had a lot to celebrate a lot to be be grateful for!!!

The beauty of these races is the state of joy they can put you in, as long as you take deep breaths and look around you from time to time.  There are people cheering, epic music and characters everywhere, it is Disney Magic!

Question of the day:  What are you proud of today?  Take a moment to share it and don't keep it in that invisible space.  

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