moving forward…despite challenges

It’s been a while ya’ll.  A good while.  It has been a bit crazy around here lately, but we keep moving forward!  I mentioned briefly in my Grosse Ile Duathlon post that I was having some health issues.  So today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you (I) move forward when life deals you a sucker punch that totally derails your plans and goals…particularly your fitness goals.

Six months ago today (May 4th to be exact)…I started having some intense chest pain.  Like some one was stabbing me in the chest repeatedly.  Out of the blue.  That evening marked the beginning of a long roller-coaster ride that I’m not sure I’m off yet.  Over the past six months I have had varying degrees and types of chest pain…back pain…left arm pain.  I have had numerous doctor appointments, and I’ll spare you the laundry list of tests that caused me to rack up some pricey bills (that thankfully we’ve been able to pay!).  Through a few months of visiting different doctors and specialists, they found…well…nothing.  I don’t know if ya’ll have had any similar experiences, but it kind of makes you feel like you are going crazy.   I was having pain that would drop me to the floor and leave me in tears, but they couldn’t find anything.  Really?

I began to wish that a test would show something – isn’t that horrible to hope they find something wrong with you instead of praising God that they didn’t?  I’ve reformed my ways.  About 8 weeks ago I caved and went to see a chiropractor – I’ve been a bit skeptical, but figured I didn’t have anything else to lose!  The complete verdict is still out, but I think it might be helping.  I still get pain, but the last couple of months it hasn’t been as intense.  I’m praying I can hop off this coaster soon!

BUT…

In the middle of it all I have been skittish to do any high-intensity workouts…not knowing how my body will respond.  I did the duathlon in May, but outside of that I haven’t done a whole lot until recently.  It is more than a little frustrating.  I had planned on at least 3 triathlons/duathlons this summer plus road races…those went out the window.  Working out as normal…out the window.  I even gained five pounds.  Super frustrating.

So what is a person to do?  You keep moving forward.

My identity is not tied to my athletic or fitness abilities.  I am so much more than my race time or my accomplishments.  I get that is hard for many to grasp…it took me a long time to get there.  My identity used to be so tied and intertwined with my running abilities that it was hard to see who I was without it…but I am so much more and so are you.  Forward progress.

You find out what you can do.  For a month we went rock climbing at Planet Rock one to three times a week.  It was therapeutic for me and put my mind at ease more than any doctor appointment.  We used to climb.  A lot.  Back when we could climb free.  It can get really expensive to climb – we don’t have a grand to cough up for a year climbing gym membership, but Groupon helps us out sometimes!  So we bought month long groupon passes and climbed like crazy.  It was helpful to see I didn’t completely lose all my climbing skills – in fact I was climbing almost better than I ever have and I felt good about myself and my body.  It didn’t make the pain disappear. but it made some anxiety disappear (early on in the ordeal I had legit panic attacks every day for about a week – another story, another day).  Climbing helped.  It wasn’t on my list of goals for the year, but it was what I could do, and it helped.  Significantly.  Forward progress.

From climbing I tried cycling – I did some shorter easy to moderate rides.  I occasionally lifted weights.  It felt good.  Forward progress.

I can’t say that those things were always easy – and outside of the month of climbing, nothing was consistent.  I still had days where I felt like I was going to die any moment, and days where I felt completely normal.  I went on a weekend backpacking trip. It wasn’t anything extreme and I convinced myself something was wrong the last day when every hill we climbed gave me a headache, but I was okay.

The single thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was run.

Running…the one thing I was, at one point, rather good at…and the one thing I could still count on to boost my self esteem.  If I was feeling totally out of shape…I’d go for a run.  I was still better than the average person, so I couldn’t hate on myself too much.  But now, running terrified me.  It was the one thing that still made me feel like if I did it I would have a heart attack and die on the trail…so I avoided it like the plague.

There happened to be one week in the middle of August that I was feeling good and a friend asked me to run a race with her in November – a 15K in Chicago that we had run the year before.  I thought – I’m feeling good, I’ll be through all this by then, let’s go for it.  So I paid $60 to register.  We’ve already established the fact that I don’t throw away $60 on a race and I will run unless I absolutely can’t.  Well…the good feeling I had only lasted a week and back on the coaster I went.  Running = still a big scary monster.  I’m not going to give a whole race report in this post, but let’s just say I did run that race this morning and I did finish, but I did not do any training before hand.

I survived the 9.3 miles. Without training.

I don’t think I’m scared of running anymore.  It is just hard.  Was my time awesome?  No.  Was it good enough?  Yes.  I’m content, because I’m more than that time.  I’m a fighter that conquers fears.  I press forward to regain fitness, to regain health and to thrive.  I will probably have more not-so-awesome days…but I’m not going to let them hold me back.  I’m making forward progress.

I won’t complete 12 races including 3 tri’s/du’s this year.  I won’t run as fast as I did last year…and I could beat myself up over it.  But I won’t.  Because it doesn’t define me and I am moving forward despite the challenges.  That’s more important than hitting specific numbers.  I’m not giving up; I’m simply readjusting and moving forward in the ways that I am able.

I pray that wherever you are at, with whatever is holding you back or derailing you, that you can still make small steps today.  Celebrate the small victories and keep pressing forward!

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