Thursday, August 28, 2008

Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon Post Post Mortem

Now here comes the more suprising part - the morning after.

I go into each race prepared for a day long of pain that comes the next morning. There was never a time i didn't have a full day spent in bed after a long race.

Within 2 hrs after the race, I got a massage, which enabled me to walk again. I simply walked into the door limping and walked out skipping. I was still quite tired, so I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking a lot of water, eating a lot of vegetables and proteins and took a nice long nap late in the afternoon. At dinner, I had a big steak to treat myself (i was thinking to myself protein, iron and fat recovery).

Around 5am the next morning I woke up with some disturbing pain in my usual right hip and upper thigh, so I got up and got some ice to strap around the inflammed areas. After stretching a little more I fell asleep again for another couple of hours. I was sore all over, but it wasn't as bad - it just felt like I had a good work out. I was tired, but my friend who raced with me who doesn't have fibromyalgia was also tired. I was *naturally* tired.

When I finally got up around 8am to start the day, I paused. I paused to check if this was for real - this meaning any other day! My shoulders weren't burning, my ankles were sore from the race but not burning as if they were being ground by sandpaper as in my usual flare-ups. My head was clear, I was smiling. My friend Shirley was amazed too. I felt like a whole new chapter of my life was opening up. I was still in disbelief, but I wanted to make sure I sustained that feeling so I kept drinking a lot of water and drinking my protein drinks and made sure I took my vitamins.

That afternoon, we left Santa Barbara and went to the Camarillo outlet mall and spent about an hour and a half there. I even drove and I was feeling fine. Amazing!

Since then, I worked late many nights (including Sunday night when I returned from Santa Barbara), managing to sleep maybe about 5 hours a day for 3 days. I was worried that my body would breakdown. But besides being really tired yesterday, I actually did VERY well. I just lived through a miracle, i think. I cannot believe to this day how well i have been feeling since the race. But i'm LOVING it.

I thought about what could have brought about this change. Here are my thoughts:
1. I have been eating healthy consistently over the past 7-8 months.

2. I have been taking vitamins, antioxidant and omega-3 supplements religiously.

3. Before a workout (and before the race) I drank FRS to help my body recover faster post-workout.

4. After a workout (and after the race) I took extra protein in my body through shakes or bars (ProEnergy protein powder, Think Thin bars) throughout the day, to give my muscles better ability to recover.

5. I stretched religiously before and after workouts (and the race).

6. I rested as much as I could when I had the time, even it cost me my social life.

These six principles, coupled with my efforts to remain stress-free and positive no matter WHAT happens, I believe have truly helped me build the endurance and strength to recover FASTER and BETTER compared to even a year ago. It is unbelievable still, but I really do believe that consistency paid off. One day at a time...240 days later, my body turned around. If there is such a thing as *remission* in fibromyalgia, I would like to say that I am in it.

Of course all of these milestones don't come without help from others. I would like to thank the following people in my life that got me through the tough times and helped me improve my mind and body (in no specific order):

- Dr. Chyung at 3 Angels Health: my acupuncturist who cared with her heart, not just her needles. You sure are an Angel!

- Edwin at Phase IV/Forster Physical Therapy: physical therapist and trainer who got me through both physical therapy and strength training (and more training to come), who understood my passion and mission to get back into training.

- Dianna Linden, my genius, compassionate and AMAZING sports massage therapist and friend: she was instrumental in enabling my muscles to get looser and therefore stronger. it is because of her that my muscles were able to recover as fast as it did after a quick little massage post-race. It was because of her i became more aware of my body, my muscles and also my mindset.

- Shirley, my dear friend: thank you for encouraging me through every single race. Thank you for being there for me at the finish line. Thank you for being the energetic force in my life.

- Frank, my good friend: thank you for listening to my dreams and encouraging me to pursue them. I must have tired you out with all my ranting about doing this and doing that and achieving this and achieving that, etc etc...but you never got tired of it (at least you didn't show). Somehow you understood, and continue to understand. So THANK YOU.

I guess the point of it all is that... there is hope. If we try hard enough, if we keep thinking of ways to improve our days, if we just don't give up, before we know it we will find ourselves where we have always wanted to be. Please, please, if you are suffering now, please look, SEE ahead, where you are running, happy, smiling and much less in pain much less frequently...and just keep doing the right thing. Our body reacts to what we give it, so just keep giving the good things. It will thank you back, in due time.

My heart is full of joy and my eyes are full of tears as I'm writing this, as I keep replaying the past...4-5 years of change. I just finished watching Obama's speech about his dream and the change that is in our own hands. I think about my dream and the change in my life that was hiding inside my own two hands (and for so many years I thought it was in everybody else's hands but mine!!!!). I am overwhelmed a bit at times, but thankful, and I am determined to move forward to keep proving to those who are still doubtful, to go out there and go for your first walk around the block, to sit up and stretch your arms and legs way out to loosen up those tight muscles, and to believe that your life can be better. It just HAS to be.

p.s. Ms. Anonymous who left me a beautiful note last night, THANK YOU, and keep running your race! Your races are by no means short and you know it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon Post Mortem

I don't know where to start.

Last Saturday, 8/23, I crossed the finish line of my longest triathlon race to date. 1 mile swim, 34 mile bike and 10 mile run. All I can remember really was the pain and the recurring temptation to quit during the run. And the moment of crossing the finish line - as I was greeted by several friends of mine - that made all the pain so worthwhile. The minute I hugged my friend Shirley as she welcomed me, I couldn't stop the tears from gushing out of my eyes. But i finished something i've been preparing for a long, long time. During the preparation, I faced injuries, fatigue, long work hours that kept me from training, poor training rides, poor training runs and awful training swim days... Even to the last minute leading up to the race, I had to fight my own doubts about being able to do this race.

I knew that I had to keep going. I knew that i had to commit to this race. If i didn't, everything I have been sharing with you through this blog would go in vain. I thought of those who couldn't do what I do, who suffer the pain over which they have no control, I thought of how it would make me feel to be able to finish, and the hope I may be able to share as a result.

The swim was tough. it was cold, it was murky, and my wetsuit was suffocating me (i must have grown out of it, from the muscle mass i've gained from strength training), but the moments from it have already been forgotten....the bike was hard, on a fairly hilly course (about 80% of Wildflower), but it was manageable and rather fun to tackle those hills one after another. But the run, the run....was a true test of my endurance and mental strength. I had never run 10 miles after biking 34 miles. I never ran more than 7 miles (without a preceding bike ride!) during my training run. I had no idea what to expect. The minute i started running, my back was already pinching (I had a back spasm 5 days before the race, just to add a little background story) which made me cringe every time i landed on my right foot. Miraculously, the back pain disappeared maybe 2 miles in, then the pain started to move towards the hips...usually during training it would start around mile 4. Worried that my upper quads may tighten up as they usually do during training, I ran in intervals of 8-10 mins between 1.5-2 minute walks.

I approached this run in intervals - one interval at a time. The more i thought about the entire 10 miles, I only got frustrated and even more tired. I distracted myself by saying hi to fellow runners, cheering on others, cracking jokes and just smiling. By doing so I managed to get through 7 miles. At that point, i thought, hey i can do the next 3 miles, easy. Yes, i mean, it's only 3 miles, right? Wrong. My hips started fatiguing FAST, and they were tightening up more and more every minute. At that point, my right upper thigh and hip flexor were too weak to enable my legs to move up and down/front and back. I was practically at walking pace, and my legs my hip were sinking. The sun was hot and the course was nearly emptying out. I was getting passed by many people, I was lagging even more. I nearly stopped twice wondering if i should or could continue. All i could think was quitting. But i kept going...and as the pain increased i wanted to get to that finish line so badly, and i started thinking..."why am i doing this? what in my life has driven me to be here right now?" and then i started tearing up a little. I was very frustrated and i wished that i didn't have fibromyalgia. But i also knew that it was my mission to complete this race, keep going, and cross that finish line. I wiped my tears and dragged my legs forward....then all of a sudden i heard a man shout to me "Keep those legs moving, you can do it!" His voice and words of encouragement lifted me up, firmed up my determination and kept me going. I started running again, biting my lips. I started singing, i started saying the daily prayer, repeat and repeat and repeat.....until the finish line became visible from about quarter of a mile away. I kept going, trying to go as fast as I could.

The final few sprints to the finish line...I was dizzy, I couldn't really see or hear anything. I could vaguely hear my friends shouting my name, and right before i crossed the finish line I finally saw them waving at me (they told me they were shouting and waving for a while, but i didn't even notice) i looked up at the clock that read 6 hours 15 minutes and 26 seconds (i think!) I was crossing the finish line. FINALLY. My first long course pathway to a half ironman next year!

I was in so much pain, but I was so overwhelmed with a sense of surprise and gratitude. I couldn't believe it. I'm done! I finished! I battled with my thoughts of doubt and fear, and at the end I was standing as a finisher.

Immediately I promised myself that I would train for a half ironman distance next year. I am going to do it. **