My Daughter’s Healing and My Regret

 

I started this blog about working out, but it’s also about healing, mentally. As I reading Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, which is like a Harry Potter fan fiction based on reason, I came across a passage the punched me in a stomach. It was about how Harry always thought the worst would happen, and Professor MacGonagall asked him if he was abused.

That’s my daughter, my teenager now. When she was ten, she started thinking the worst would happen and came to accept it. That was her world for three years–to expect the worst. When it did happen, she would be mentally prepared.  Yes, she was mentally abused by a coach, and it’s taken her time to heal. She was diagnosed with PTSS, and she worked through it.  She’s in a good place now–after four years. I am very proud of how she has worked through her issues: anxiety and low self-esteem.

I was so scared raising a daughter because I didn’t want her to experience confidence issues because it stays with you, but I threw her into a pit and let a coach mentally abuse her. I thought it was making her tough. There’s not a day that goes by that I live with the regret. If I could go back in time, if I could go back, I could change it.

I messed up. I messed her up, and I will forever be paying for it. However, she is healing and forgiving. I do not know how. She is so much stronger than I am. If she can heal, then perhaps I can. It will be a longer journey for me to find forgiveness.

 

A Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness

If I have harmed any one in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through my own confusions,
I ask their forgiveness.
If any one has harmed me in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through their own confusions,
I forgive them.
And if there is a situation
I am not yet ready to forgive,
I forgive myself for that.
For all the ways that I harm myself,
negate, doubt, belittle myself,
judge or be unkind to myself,
through my own confusions,
I forgive myself.

 

 

 

Strength Training

I’ve started strength training again and have learned the lesson to not drop it during my triathlon training, and I’ve turned to my favorite tool, TRX. When I was a personal trainer, I would use TRX on clients from their 20s to their 80s. It’s a great tool to hit the muscle groups and core.

Here’s a list that I’m using on various days. I’ll use these workouts on certain days, and I’ll also pick and choose the workouts and combine with free weights and planks and push-ups. There are so many options that you cannot get bored. Here are the workouts:

 

 

TRX for Swimmers:https://www.trxtraining.com/train/four-trx-exercises-for-swimmers

TRX for Cyclists: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/trx-workout-for-cycling

TRX for Runners: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/for-the-love-of-the-run-leg-strength-and-core-stability-for-runners

TRX for Triathletes: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/trx-exercises-for-triathletes

Enjoy, and be sure to start out slow and build up.

My Story for the Holocaust Remembrance/April 2017

Obviously, this post is not about training or healthy recipes, but I wanted to share my story that will be read at a Holocaust Remembrance at the end of April. It’s haunting story about survival, and I wrote it after my first child was born almost 20 years ago. The story, edited down for the reading, still possesses the same power of raw emotion that appears in my fiction writing. I wrote this story after reading a specific sentence from Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz. When I read that sentence, I knew that the horrors which he saw were not exaggerated, and it changed my life.

“Survival in Screams”

My reality changed when I heard my child scream for his first breath of life one week before deportation to the camp. I should have aborted him, but I brought life into a world full of death. I have committed a grave sin. In the dark woods of my life, I found myself stranded in guilt and looked for guidance, but all I could hear were screams from my child. Screams of life, screams of survival.

I held the child for the first time: his warm, naked body, still bloody from the entrance into the world. He screamed and screamed because he was cold and hungry. I wrapped him in a blanket and held him to my full breast, where he sucked down the warm, life-giving milk.

What could I have done with the child? My first thought as he lay suckling at my breast was to give him to someone, anyone to sneak him out of the ghetto. I did not care about my life, but his–he was my child. What plans I devised in my head. Many times, I thought of plans to sneak him out–baskets, coats, etc. But there were guards everywhere, and I had no outside connections. When the guards came to take us away, it was like preparing for the ride to Hell. I tried to hide as much food as I could because I knew that I had to eat to maintain my milk for the child. I had to survive, so the child could live through my milk: my life-giving nourishment, the key to his survival.

I already hated myself and the child. All I could think of was Charon’s raft in Inferno, and how we were like the sinners that Charon transported across the river Styx. However, we would not be going to some Elysian Fields but Hell and, literally, fire. Of course, I was right. Charon’s boat in the guise of black trains lay ahead of us. Were we all going to fit in the boxcars? Boxcars. Those were for animals. Surely, we were not . . .

We were crowded in the boxcars like animals. God, my child’s screams were so loud. I tried to stifle them, but I could not. I was scared that someone would beat him to get him to stop; lord knows I wanted to. The rage filled my heart when he screamed, but the sorrow overshadowed it. The child screamed and screamed for the life-giving milk, but his screams soon died into a whimper. He was getting weak, as all of us were. How much more could he take? I didn’t care about myself, but he was so strong–you must hold on, little one. But for what? I supposed for life, for survival. His voice haunted my ears, but what terrified me even more was when the screams fell silent.

Finally, the boxcar stopped; it was the end of Charon’s ride. We had crossed the waters of Styx and had come to the other side. We were about to enter the City of Dis and await for Minos to decide our fate. Here, the name was Auschwitz, another name for Dis. But I knew we had arrived in Hell. My guilt grew even stronger.

The child was dead. He slowly starved to death. I held his limp, skinny body to my breast. He would drink no more, no more of my life-giving milk. I looked at my child: his eyes, dark brown, with no light; his mouth, open for no milk. I ran my hand down his face to close his eyes, to shut his mouth. What terror he must have felt, more than I would ever know.

The doors of our cart were flung wide open and artificial lights almost blinded us; the shouts in some unknown tongue ordered us to get out. But among the shouts, I heard the ringing in my ears of the child’s screams. The cart was emptying. Do I leave my child in the car and possibly have a chance for survival or do I stay with him and die? His screams were in my ears. I looked at him and he was dead. I placed the swaddled bundle in the corner next to a dead man that I knew. I emptied with the living but glanced back into the yawning darkness of the boxcar.

“Rest in peace, my son.” I hated myself.

I had death in my eyes, and so did the man with the baton. He was Minos, that mythical creature who used his tail to draw circles in the dust that placed sinners in Dante’s circles of sins, but this Minos decided our fate with a swing of his baton to the left or right. I looked at him, not really caring which way to go. I stepped to the left and somehow was chosen to stay alive. What irony. I did not deserve to live; I left my dead baby in the boxcar.

I remembered reading that Dante climbed out of Hell on Satan’s back and was left with some redemptive qualities that made him a better man, and he crossed the river of Lethe to wash him of sins. There was no climbing out of Hell for me, no river of Lethe, no redemption. I did survive, but I was not Dante. I did not come out a better person, having seen death and walked through Hell. I did not come back as a prophet with the need to tell the tale. What I came back with was the insanity that I had to live a normal life without family, without anything, except memories.

I knew that I was not an animal yet because I could feel. Every hour of my day was filled with the thought of the child and his struggle to live. When I worked, I thought of his body: weak, fighting to survive. When I ate, I thought of his mouth: open, sucking the life-giving milk. When I dreamed, I saw his eyes: dark brown, pleading for more milk, for more life.

I suppose my son was the one that kept me alive; his screams reminded me of my guilt for bringing him into this world, a world where I starved him to death. Such a small one gave me the strength to live. It was in his screams that I survived.

Race Report: Galveston 70.3 Half Ironman

Pre-Race

I felt trained thanks to Tri Now, and I had a plan in place. Of course, I was terrified because of the swim. If I can get through the swim, then I am good on the bike and can survive the run. My goal was to finish before the course closed, and I knew I was going to cut my time very close with that time cut-off.

The Swim

The swim was a wave start, and it did not bother me at all even when the next wave swam over us, but lots of people were freaking out in the water. I had a hard time calming down and putting my head in the water due to anxiety. It wasn’t until more than half way through the course that I calmed down and found my stroke. I was also stung by a jelly fish on my left arm and thought my watch was shocking me. I figured out it was a jelly fish and decided that I better find my stroke. I was able to focus on the large ferry ship, but I had to change my breathing to the other side because of the waves. Every time I switched to the other side, I was pulled farther away from the buoys. I kept having to zig zag to get back to the markers and find some feet to draft. I checked my stats, and I swam 1.5 miles. I can go faster. I just have to work on finding my stroke and relaxing in the water.

T1

T1 is where I lost most my time because I had to park my bike and run to the damn porta potty. Yes, I have to learn to pee in the water. I was told to just hang on to the canoe. No wonder so many people were hanging on the boards and canoes.

 

The Bike

The bike was great, but I need to improve on speed. I averaged 14.9 mph., which is slow. I stopped briefly at each rest stop for nutrition, which could have been done on the bike. I just need to learn how to play with the water bottles and practice tearing off the gels on the bike. I felt I could have gone faster on the bike, but I was not sure because of the run. The wind was not an issue, and I saw many groups drafting each other.  Um, I didn’t know I could draft. Also, the ride was very boring without drafting anyone or talking to anyone. I ended up singing Christmas songs. Out loud. So bored. At the end of the ride, my left foot and right hamstring started cramping, so I need to watch that salt intake.

T2

I lost time here running to the medical stop that was right next to my transition area. I was concerned about the cramping, so I grabbed some salt. Yes, I had salt in my fuel belt, but I completely forgot about it because I was focused on the run and knew I had to get my butt on the course.

 

The Run

That’s me, realizing that I have to run 13.1 miles. I felt a lot better when I saw the Tri-Now tent and people cheering. My nutrition fell apart on the run. After drinking 2.5 bottles of Skratch/Ucan on the bike, plus water, I did not want to drink the mixture on the run. The salt I took from the Aid station made me sick, and I had to use the porta potty again. Too much liquid. So much time was lost on the first loop. After I had some Coke, I felt much better. On the second loop, I started drinking Red Bull at every two aid stations. It was enough to keep me going. I also drank water at the aid stations and poured ice down my back. I kept a ratio of 2:1 on the run, but I felt that I just needed to run more and did not need that walk break, especially since I lost time on the first loop.

The last lap was a killer. I was freaked out when Coach Frank said I had to get to a rest stop by a certain time. I had no idea what rest stop it was. I knew I had plenty of time before the course closed, but now I was totally freaked out because I wanted to finish. I knew that my porta potty breaks had lost time, and I started to panic. That probably was a good thing because it made me push harder for that last lap in total fear. It was on this last lap that I felt like a member of the Tri-Now Family.

Nicole and Nestor ran with me for part of the loop because they saw I was totally scared about finishing. I had to run because I didn’t want to take any walk breaks with them. I’m not sure what I was doing was running. Nestor broke off and Nicole stayed with me. When she broke off, Anya ran with me. When I rounded a corner with about 1.5 to go, I thought I could take a walk break. But there was that damn beach cruiser and Coach Frank. I just kept running with Coach staying on me—thank you!!! Now, I know that I do not have to rely on those walk breaks that have been ingrained in me since Galloway. I can run, but I need to get faster.

 

The Finish Line

All that training was worth it. It was incredible to cross that line. I was so grateful for my family and my Tri Now family for all their support. The best part was Anya taking my hand and helping me walk to the transition area. She said she loved me and was proud of me. This is huge in a mother/daughter relationship because we butt heads all the time. She also ran 6 miles on Sunday, so maybe she wants to start getting into triathlons. I love it that Gabe volunteered to lead the lead runners on the course. He really had fun, but it showed me that he felt left out of my training. It’s a good thing that triathlons have relays.

Overall, I accomplished my goal. Running  a Half Ironman is just beyond anything I ever thought I could accomplish. Will I do another one? Yes. However, relays are in my future with Gabe. He can cycle, and I can continue to conquer my open water swim nerves and get faster with the run. Now, I just have to figure out how to get my college son, Michael, involved and Anya, my teenager.

 

 

 

Race Anxiety–Part of the Journey

Two weeks. I have two weeks until the Half Ironman. What the hell am I doing, and why am I doing it? Geez.

I thought it would be fun. I am being totally serious. I thought the training would keep me on my toes and in shape. Instead, I am a raving lunatic with absolutely no ego.  At this point, I want to throw in the towel and be done with the whole bit. Well, yes, this freak out is totally real. So many excuses: I have not trained enough; I am not fast enough; I am injured; I cannot do it.

Well, actually, I think I have trained just fine, including a double brick, which I doubled the time because I did not read the schedule right. I am not fast, and that is fine as long as I can finish the race in the cut off time. I am injured, but I am healing just fine and being cautious. I know I can complete the race, but it will not be easy at all.

Bottom line:  It’s my race, and something that I have wanted to do since I’ve started cycling. I’ve done the training, and now it’s the mental training that has me tied up in a ball. It’s the mental part that always gets me, and that is why I do it. If I don’t challenge myself with big goals, like writing books, getting my PhD, running marathons, then I crawl into a ball of depression. I have to have that clear goal, and the journey to the end is my own lesson in healing my flaws. That’s pretty twisted.

Right now, I’m experiencing the journey in waves of anxiety. That’s all right. I have to figure out how to relax, which is the hardest lesson of all for me to learn.

Did I mention I was tapering now? Tapering does indeed suck and bring out the craziness. Obviously.

 

Open Water Swims

Open Water Swims

I am not sure why I fear open water swims. I am not going to drown. I know how to swim, to tread water, and to float on my back. If I get tired, I can swim breaststroke and backstroke. So what is it? Why the major anxiety before and during an open water swim?

It’s the panic attacks. I’ve had two. The first one was during my first triathlon a long time ago, and it was my first time in open water. I was swimming in a pond. It was no big deal, but it was: no lines at the bottom of the lake, no clue how to spot, and people hitting me.  The second one was last year, and I swallowed water from a wave, and I started to choke. On both occasions, I calmed down,  but the panic attacks with the inability to take a breath while treading water in a large body of water were very scary for the 15 seconds they lasted.

It’s  the lack of control that leads to my anxiety.  I don’t know when the panic attacks will hit. I have to force myself to calm down at the beginning of each swim and be present the whole time. That’s a hard one–to be present. When I swim in a pool, I can think all I want because I’m in a rhythm and swimming from one end to the other. I think about the book I’m writing or my race plan or whatever pops into my mind.

For open water swims, my rhythm and thoughts go something like this:  “One, two, and one, two, and  sight. One, two, and OMG. Where is the freakin’ bouy? One, two, and Am I really that slow?  One, two, and What if I have another panic attack? One, two,  and OMG. The buoys are so far away. I can’t do it.”

It’s no wonder with all that anxiety that I don’t have a panic attack each time. Eventually, I calm down and find a rhythm,. When I do find a rhythm, then my thoughts are present and calm and filled with gratitude. Sounds pretty good?  It takes half of my swim to get to that place.

My goal this year is to enjoy open water swimming without the anxiety or crazy thoughts. I will have to take it in steps or buoy by buoy.

One, two, and one, two, and I got this swim.

 

Training for My First Half Ironman

I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to train for a Half Ironman. I’ve been training since November, and I have let the training consume my life. It has been crazy with good sides and bad sides. I’ve learned a great deal about my ego; well, I don’t think I have an ego at this point. For the next two weeks, I will be up and down with anxiety about the race, April 3rd. Whatever happens, I survived the training and have come out of, let’s say, the dark forest. I’m ready. Um, I think I’m ready.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve learned:

Nutrition: Eating lots of carbs for this race does not work for me. I started putting on weight, lots of weight, until I got a nutritionist to place me in keto. You know, ketosis, like Atkins. It works. You can workout and stay in keto, but you have to give your body time to convert.

Workout Plan: It’s time consuming. I cannot imagine training for a Full Ironman. Training for a Half left me drained and tired, and it’s all I thought about. Um, it’s all I am still thinking about.

Find a Coach: Make sure this coach is not your friend because you will hate him. Sorry, Coach Frank. Find a coach that will push you even when you think you can’t do it.

Find a Group: Working out in a group is motivating sometimes. If you know have to run because your group is meeting at a certain time, you show up and complain with everyone else for the first ten minutes, and then you start laughing. But sometimes, it works to train on your own because you will be on your own during your race. I’ve shown up to meet my group for a training run, and then I’ve run my own pace on my own. Sometimes, it just helps to meet a group to get you out the door.

Ego: I thought I was a pretty good cyclist until I bought a Tri bike and realized that it’s not a road bike, and there is no way to draft someone’s wheel safely. That’s all right. You cannot draft in a race. I also thought I was pretty good until I started climbing some bad hills and ended in tears many times. Good-bye, ego.  Swimming and running? Yep. Still working on those skills.

Trust the Training Plan: I didn’t follow my training plan for a run and strained a muscle. I was out for 2.5 weeks and am still nursing the injury. Trust the coach’s training plan and do not let other people push you into going faster or going off your plan. Trust the plan and yourself.

Breaks: It is all right to take a break. Listen to you body and take a break if you need it because if you don’t, your body will take a break for you with sickness or injury. I’ve experienced both.

Relieving the Anxiety: My anxiety reliever involved making brownies. Not anymore. No sugar. I bought some motivational tattoos because there is no way I am getting a real one, and I’m listening to my hypnosis downloads. I just have to get the anxiety down before the race. I guess writing this blog helps, too.

As I begin to taper and the race approaches, one thought keeps entering my mind: What the hell am I doing?

 

 

The Whistle Blower

Being a whistle blower absolutely sucks. It really does. The majority of people normally do not want to make waves, throw someone under a bus, or create problems. However, at some point, you have to take a stand when you see something is wrong or when you see someone is getting hurt.

Hindsight is bitter. How many times have I wished I’d taken a stand against injustices that I saw, like racism, and injustices done to me, like sexual harassment. Would it have done any good?  I don’t know.

I had to take a stand, and it was a tough call. I have no idea if anything was done to stop the situation because I have not seen any changes, but at least I said something. In doing so, in being the “bad guy,” I gained respect from my family and from myself.

If you see those red flags, don’t ignore them.  I had red flags flying right in my face, and I looked the other way out of fear. I made a huge mistake, but I corrected it . . . finally. However, there was damage, and I finally had to say something.

It’s not fun to take a stand. It’s uncomfortable. Many times I questioned whether I was making something big out of something that wasn’t a very big deal? When the red flags almost blinded me, I shut my eyes. To stand up against an organization or a person and point out that something or someone is hurting other people is just an awful feeling, but I had to say something before something else happened.

I still don’t know if my efforts paid off because I had to give control to those that promised to take care of those red flags. I have to trust them. That’s hard. I wish I had said something earlier–that bitter hindsight again. I said something now, and I hope a good will come out of it.

Like I said, being a whistle blower absolutely sucks. However, knowing I did the right thing finally is a huge weight off my shoulders and lesson learned. Next time, and I hope there is not a next time, I’ll acknowledge those red flags. They’ll have to hit me in the face, but I’ll look at them .

 

Taking A Risk/Dallas Morning News Photo and Video Shoot

Whoever thought that I would have a chance to be filmed in a fitness video and have pictures taken for a spread in the Dallas Morning News?  Well, I won’t lie. Not me. Those videos are for those famous fitness people. Right? I’m a personal trainer and an academic and a writer. How in the world did this happen?

It’s all about that risk. It’s about switching careers mid-life and challenging myself. It’s about self-discovery. Really, I don’t think I’ve been this nervous since my dissertation defense. Could I pull it off? Am I really a trainer? How will I look in the video?

Silly. I love personal training almost as much as I love Dante’s Inferno and watching my college students design their own inferno/hell. Yes. I know what I’m doing. As far as what I would look like? I just had to let my enthusiasm show, and I did.

It’s all about taking that risk. It’s about putting your insecurities aside and doing what you love and enjoying it. Oh my. That could be called “confidence.”

What an incredibly opportunity. A huge shout out to Vernon, who took my pictures and made me feel at ease, and to Tommy, who hooked up my microphone and filmed while making me feel like he wasn’t even there. And a huge shout out to Leslie Barker Garcia, who not only interviewed me and allowed this wonderful opportunity to happen, but also endured those burpees.

The article will be out next week, and I’ll let everyone know when it comes and provide the links. Lesson learned and still learning: do not be scared to take a risk.

 

Bad Mother Runner