If I’m honest about it, it’s been the year of my discontent in some aspects of life.
Warning: It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Please return your tray tables to their upright positions, and buckle your safety belts. But leave on electronic devices or you won’t be able to read the rest of this.
Snap, crackle, pop
Last November, I injured my left leg. Unaware at the time that it was a stress reaction (partial fracture) of the femoral neck. Finally discovered in February, the need for seven weeks of crutches meant I had to scrap my plans for Ironman Melbourne for March. Without much thought I signed up for Ironman Busselton.
After shedding crutches, pain still persisted in my leg, which led to additional MRIs, which confirmed a tear in the labrum in my left hip. After consults with an orthopedic surgeon, I was cleared to resume “being an idiot” and train for Busselton.
I’ve got bacteria in low places
About the same time I received the green light (June), a trip to San Francisco left me with what I thought was simple food poisoning, which turned out to be bacterial infection that I then carried and fought with for the next three months. After the first 72 hours I seemed to get better, but just two days later the illness returned in force. Training wasn’t the same – I would be in severe pain after some workouts. An aclasta injection designed to help improve my bone density resulted in three days of agony. And each time I would push myself, my body would reject the training, and start the cycle of pain and digestive chaos.
All this during a time where I was juggling too many responsibilities at work – and I’ve never been able to be satisfied with “covering the bases” so I felt I was just half-assing everything and simply surviving, even while putting in more time than was healthy. Things were looking up in mid July but my immune system decided to make things interesting again and send me a sinus infection, accompanied by three days of agony and an unhappy digestive system.
Finally, my GP ordered blood and other tests (yep, the dreaded poop tests – though in Australia they just say “poo.”) Side note: the doctors in Australia instruct you to deliver a deuce into ‘an ice cream bucket.’ I can’t think of any worse idea to ruin ice cream for the rest of your life. Regardless, the tests came back positive for yersenia, a bacterial infection that can linger in immune suppressed folks like myself. The results and the tests he ordered confused the nephrologists so they ordered a whole other battery of tests, which came back with yet another type of bacterial infection.
Nothing heals like stress and frustration
This news arrived 24 hours before I was supposed to leave for the states, for my company’s annual customer conference. I didn’t want to head to the states to restart the entire process of diagnosis, so my nephrologist gave me antibiotics for the two bacterial infections and the sinus infection. I started two of the drugs within 24 hours of my flight, and when I landed in SF, I was so dopey I could hardly say my own name. I’m sure dehydration and jet lag didn’t help, but I arrived in the office with three days to finish my presentation, and no ability to concentrate.
I’m a planner. I plan. I live to plan. The pre-chaos of our annual customer conference is easily my least favorite time at work, where things are changing at the last-minute, and I’m simultaneously trying to wrap things up while being generally disgruntled with the state of my presentation. I just want to disappear and become one with the content. Yet I am not finished with the content, and my time is being pulled in all directions.
One glimmer of hope
I began to feel more human for the first time on Friday afternoon, and even joined Audra, Joe, Tash, and Wendell for dinner. Saturday I ventured down to Stanford to watch the Cardinal put on a clinic on how to dominate a game except when you cross the 35 yard line. While the contest on the field annoyed me, the USC alumni did a remarkable job proving every stereotype about their institution.
Sunday morning I had decided to ride. The first real exercise in almost a week, after I had nearly coughed up a lung during my last run. The first 30 minutes, I emptied what seemed to be a gallon of clear mucus from my head, with my heart rate skyrocketing. It did not bode well for my goal of a four-hour ride. But once I hit the Golden Gate bridge, my head was clear, and I could breathe, and my legs had warmed up. I attacked the bridge, managed to top Camino Alto without too much of a struggle, and then handled the downhills with my usual lack of skill, lack of balance, and surplus of fear. The remainder of the ride felt great – I could push myself at times, and I could relax and cruise at a decent speed.
The rest of the week was a blur. Normally the pre-chaos of our conference is balanced by the magic of those two days. And despite this year being an even more amazing event than last year, I was dead inside. Numb. I didn’t take any of the normal joy or happiness that I get from presenting, from meeting customers, from talking with partners. This wasn’t anyone’s fault by my own. Something inside of me was broken.
Even with simplifying my life quite a bit, I’m still conflicted. Ironman Busselton will be the result of two years of hard work, sacrifice, battling injuries and infections, waking up at 4:30 AM, working out when I’m tired, swimming outdoors in cold rain, and having no free time except to train. And everything else in my life was threatening my goal. The week of our conference, I didn’t get in a single hour of training. I couldn’t lower my standards for my presentation, but I lost a critical week of training.
I spent the following week with my mom and sister’s family in Northern Virginia. My family was amazing: letting me sleep, run, swim, ride, and just relax. I’ve rode for 2 hours with my nephew Braden, swam and ran with my niece Bekah, and even played some tennis with Ben. All three are superior to their Uncle in their respective strengths. I took two naps a day when I needed it. And I truly disconnected – from everything. While disconnecting may be irresponsible to some, one of our execs, Tom, challenged me to truly escape and leave everything behind. And it gave me a ton of clarity. This post would have been brain soup otherwise.
While I’ve had a smile on my face, I’ve lost the happiness of the previous year. I was in love with Australia, with work, with the ocean, with life. Five weeks ago I was grinding my teeth, despite really having all the same if not better things around me. There’s really only one person who can make you happy, and of course that’s Tracy Morgan. But if he’s not available, then you need to find your own happiness.
10 weeks to go
I will not let the last two years go away in a whimper. I am still slightly injured, I am undercooked (“not in the shape I need to be”). I cannot accelerate my training any more or risk injury. From here on, I must be perfect. No missed workouts. No mistakes on nutrition. Nothing else can be more important. No more skipping core. Maniacal focus is what it’s going to require.
I feel healthy for the first time in a very, very, very long time.
Right now, I’m in Melbourne for the Australian Transplant Games (I’m doing the 200m and 400m freestyle, as well as 2 cycling events). November 9th is Challenge Forester, a half-Iron distance race. And then December 7th, about an hour South of Perth, I’ll line up for my second Ironman. Despite having lofty time goals when I began this journey two years ago, the start line is my only goal for now. Since I like how odd I am, I also like my odds.