The Five Stages of Grief for Your Ironman DNF

Denial:

[on the bike course]
Of course blood sugars oscillating from 336 to 65 to 224 is acceptable!
How can I be dehydrated, it’s only 65 degrees right now!
I can’t stand the thought of taking in my fuel, but surely that feeling will pass!
Hills are soooooo easy!
I can DEFINITELY go the same pace in the second loop as I did in the first loop….with barely any calories in me….
This headwind is no problem! No problem at all!
I refuse to believe that I’m going to barf if I keep eating or drinking my sports drink!
Wait…is that the sweeper van? Nope, can’t be. Lalalala.
I’M TOTALLY GONNA FINISH BEFORE THE BIKE CUTOFF wait there’s my family YUP I CAN GO FASTER THAN I EVER HAVE ON MY TRAINING RIDES they have a car AND THEN I’M GONNA RUN A MARATHON ON AN EMPTY STOMACH nope it’s mile 85 and I’m cooked

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I’M NOT FINISHING THE RACE?

Anger:

[dismounting, informing the volunteers I’m dropping out, shuffling to the car to drive to the nearest restaurant]
I wanted to finish, dammit! I worked so hard for this! Now I can’t tell people that I have diabetes AND I’m an Ironman triathlete. I can’t brag to my running teammates or coworkers. I can’t get an M-dot tattoo now! And I never even WANTED an M-dot tattoo!

I fantasized for months about crossing the finish line and Mike Reilly telling me I am an Ironman. In fact, he said on Friday at the athlete’s dinner, “You will be an Ironman!” LIES, MIKE, NOW IT IS ALL LIES.

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Bargaining:

[At restaurant, spending 90 minutes trying to choke down one glass of water and a plate of tortilla chips]
Are there spots left in, like, Florida? Chattanooga? Cozumel? Something soon that has an easier bike course?

No??

IF I FINISH I’LL GET THE STUPID M-DOT TATTOO! ON MY FACE!

Depression:

[Coming back to the finish line, that night, the day after the race, the day after the day after the race….]
I killed approximately 3% of the Amazon rainforest with all the tissues I used from crying. It would have been 4% but my bike jersey served as de facto handkerchief on the first round or two.

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Acceptance:

[past, present, future]
Packing up to go back to New York was arduous. I kept stopping for crying jags when unpacking my transition bags, or realizing that a special homemade shirt I had in the run special needs bag was now in the trash because Ironman doesn’t save your shit. I found a new respect for divorcees because I realized that this is probably what a divorce feels like, but that moment every day for several months on end.

Then “Better Days” by Springsteen came on shuffle, and he sang, “Every fool’s got a reason for feeling sorry for himself…” and I told myself to put my big girl panties on and deal with it.

Then a U2 song came up that reminded me of a mortifying moment in high school, and I told myself that the whole world probably wouldn’t care about this in 10 years…..just like high school.

But forget the world, because I knew no one but jerks would judge me for dropping out. I cared.

My first attempt at Ironman and I DNF’ed. I felt lucky to start, lucky to even be healthy and able to train at that level. And I was simultaneously crushed that the months of time, effort, and sacrifice I had put in to this goal….came up short.

I had a lot of little things pile up– often against my plan or previous race experience– that resulted in a bad day. Couldn’t have predicted things like going low during the swim or getting so queasy that I couldn’t handle the fuel that I typically loved to stuff in my face. September 13th, 2015 was not my day to become an Ironman and there’s nothing I can do to go back and change that.

So I sucked it up and packed my stuff, throwing away as much Ironman-brand crap as I could. I flew home to Brooklyn and went that night to hang out with my Team in Training athlete friends, who were universally supportive and encouraging. Hell, everyone’s been supportive and encouraging. My wonderful, badass friend and teammate Aimee, who DNF’ed her first Ironman last year, remarked that only by having a bad race and dropping out did she realize how blessed she was. It’s easy to support someone in the good times…..but when people show up for you in the bad times, you know it comes from the heart.

I’ve complained (stage 2) and bawled (stage 4) some more since then. But I’ve also taken many, many deep breaths while re-reading everyone’s emails, texts, Facebook messages, buttons (yup, homemade buttons) and more. The crushing disappointment will pass, but I hope to have such amazing friends and family in my life forever.

I read Meb Keflezighi’s biography, “Run to Overcome,” cover-to-cover on the plane to and from Madison. After discussing a series of back-to-back triumphs and failures in his running career, he wrote this:

Winning in life doesn’t happen when you overcome one thing– do or die. It’s persevering, knowing that difficulties are bumps in the road, not the end of the world. It’s continuing to do the right things, knowing your time will come. After all, you have to conduct yourself like a champion before you can ever win a championship.

Whatever you do, then, give it your best. Persevere in overcoming obstacles. When you do, you’ll be running to win.

He signed my book with the same trademark phrase– “To Caroline: best wishes and run to win, Meb.” So I’m going to follow his advice and give my best to my next challenge, whatever that is.

Well, I know what it’s going to be. I’m doing the Brooklyn Marathon, because there’s NO WAY that I’m letting all this endurance go to waste. I guess that’s a blend of stage 3 and 5?

They say it’s your birthday (doo doo de doo)

Sunday was my birthday and it was a lovely day! For the first time in a few years, I didn’t have external woes on my mind. (2012-14 featured, respectively, my boyfriend’s kidney stones, a terrorist manhunt, and my grandmother dying. Who said life was orderly?)

I went to church and we were graced with the presence of former soloist and friend, Bertilla. Our anthem, “Jesus Will,” was a ton of fun and you can see the Spirit moving us all in this video. By the 5:10 mark, the whole congregation was on its feet!

That’s me towards the back. Thanks to Mark for taking video.

Afterwards, I hit the bar and spent the afternoon drinking with my sister and a few friends.

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In the midst of all those birthday shots, my man’s mom called and asked what he was up to. When he told her it was my birthday, she invited us out to dinner. I sobered up and we had a terrific dinner at Burger and Barrel.

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Even my coworkers surprised me the next day with tiramisu and more off-key renditions of “Happy Birthday.” I couldn’t stop laughing because I was COMPLETELY oblivious to their whispers and plotting (apparently, the candle broke!).

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I feel enormously grateful to all the people in my life who made it such a fun weekend (or week, if you count Lord of the Rings as the beginning of birthday festivities. Wheee!). I’m young enough to realize I’ve got a lot of life and wisdom to gain still……but old enough to recognize that this is my only shot at it. Soon my twenties will be over, and that’s a decade I’ll never get back. (Would I WANT to get it back, though? There’s a lot of quarter-life angst that I’ll be happy to never revisit, thankyouverymuch.)

Here’s to the next year– may it be filled with growth and pleasure for all of us!

The X-Files: Season 1 Review

I recently started working through the X-Files archive on Netflix. Did you watch X-Files when it originally aired? Did you watch it more recently and point and laugh at the hokey 90s technology? (Speaking of technology, I’ve had even more time to watch X-Files recently after spilling wine on my laptop, killing it, having to buy a new one, and thus being computer-less for a few weeks…..)

I watched bits of seasons 1-4 when it was originally on TV. My older sister was into it and I think I started sitting on the couch with her out of curiosity. Trouble is, curiosity and a desire to emulate her older, adolescent coolness did not get me very far. Every night I was either scared out of my wits or peppering my mother with so many questions about the plot that my sister Meg would roll her eyes in older, adolescent disgust and say, “Ugh, Caroline, BE QUIET!”

The epic eyerolls did not stop me from a fit of nostalgia when my man and I were sitting down with a pile of takeout and Netflix on browse. “Can we watch X-Files?” I begged him. Lucky me, my favorite nerd did not require extra guacamole as a bribe to say yes.

And so it began…..

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Obviously a lot is different now as an adult in the 10’s vs. a kid in the 90’s. The computers and clunky cellular phones are charmingly antiquated. I am able to grasp the ambiguity and plot twists involved in chasing unexplained phenomena. And I have a better appreciation for the FBI bureaucracy and obstruction now that I am a mature human with work experience. But I confess: this stuff still scares me. I keep having to take a deep breath and tell myself, “It’s okay! Mulder and Scully have to survive until the next episodes….” (The random side characters, on the other hand, you learn not to get attached to. At least 50% of them are surely toast by the end of the episode.)

Since I love taking to the internet and reading reviews after each episode of TV I watch, here’s a recap. Season 1 of [however many we’ll get through]! Obviously, spoilers follow.

The Gist: Mulder and Scully are thrown together by the FBI. Shadowy government forces being all passive aggressive, wanting to destroy them but kindasorta keeping them around too. So many ghosts and reincarnations of dead people! And of course, aliens.

Things I Learned: Doug Hutchinson was creepy before he married a porn star 35 years his junior. Alien spacecraft can fly really fast. From his ex-girlfriends to former perps to his fear of fire to his (of course) sister’s abduction, Mulder’s past sure does come back to haunt him a lot. And cute little girls are often not to be trusted.

The Mythology: Just getting set up, obviously. I forgot that Deep Throat got offed so I screamed when he was shot. The alien conspiracies are gripping and intriguing, though I know it’s going to get real messy in later seasons.

The Best: My favorite episodes were “Beyond the Sea” and “Eve.” Both featured magnificent acting. (Question: is Brad Dourif more or less creepy than Doug Hutchinson?) Both played my heartstrings as well: “Beyond the Sea” featuring the loss of Scully’s father, and “Eve” featuring the delicious creepiness of both the child and adult clones. Honorable mention goes to “Ice” for the suspense factor. (No, I have never seen “The Thing.”)

The Worst: “Space.” Space ghosts? Huh? Low on scares and high on boredom.

Episodes I’ve Already Forgotten About: “The Jersey Devil,” “Miracle Man”

Most WTF: “Genderbender.” Seductive murderers, okay. Seductive murderers…who morph gender presentation….okay. Seductive murderers….who morph gender presentation….who are Amish…..who are actually bizarrely sexy morphing Amish alien cultists?

Overall: I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a little older when this came out. I would have eaten this stuff up as a sixteen-year-old. Oh, but wait….I already spent my Friday nights online reading fanfic as a teenager. Maybe not much was different.

Call this a listicle of the things I have done in the past month

Hello blog friends! I took a nice little hiatus that started with the holidays and went straight through until the next year. What happened in that time?

  • Drinking
  • Snowy bus rides
  • Christmas with family in Pennsylvania
  • More drinking
  • My sister, dad, and I went on or first run together….ever
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  • And drank to celebrate
  • Seeing my extended family in Virginia
  • Drinking there too
  • Going to Chicago for the Alpha Phi Omega National Convention 2014
  • SO much drinking
  • Presenting workshops, seeing old friends, going to the Bean and eating deep dish for the first time
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  • And definitely not drinking for the first time
  • NYE in Chicago…..guess what that entailed
  • Returning to New York and soothing my liver
  • Wait, marathon training? In 8-degree weather?
  • Taking my pants off in the No Pants Subway Ride…..in much warmer (22 degree) temperatures
  • Returning to baseline liver abuse….I mean drinking

 

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