Monthly Archives: October 2012

10/26/12 In Memorium

Friday.  I really didn’t think I’d be making a post this soon.  But it’s been a long (LONG) week and I find myself with a quiet moment and I’m sorry to say that my Mother passed away last Saturday in the wee hours. A bitter Irony as my father has been in hospice care for ten months and it is my mother who was taken from us so unexpectedly.  If you are reading this you already know that but just in case…

I’m writing this from the perspective of my Journey of Fitness because my mother was a fitness fanatic.  One of my favorite stories about my mother was last summer at my niece’s wedding I had an adjoining room with my folks.  I went to wake them up in the morning and found my father still fast asleep and my 91 (at the time) year old mother doing jumping jacks in front of the window.  Every morning of her life she woke up and did sit ups in bed, toe touches, stretches and apparently jumping jacks were in the regime.  I remember laughing because she was deaf as a doorknob and didn’t hear me come in and I stood there for a while and watched her.  When she finished and turned around to see me she smiled and said “Oh I didn’t hear you come in, are you finished with your exercises already?”

For the last couple of years (since I started all of this triathlon/marathon stuff) that’s how my mother would greet me.  “Did you run today?”  or “What time are you going running?”  As I was getting more and more out of shape I started to resent her bugging me about it, but somehow it did help me get out the door.  I couldn’t bring myself to say two days in a row that I wasn’t doing any kind of workout.

My sporting life started with my mother the summer before first grade when she took me and my little brother for our first tennis lessons. (I think the racquet was bigger than my little brother).  I wasn’t quite six years old yet but I still remember it so clearly.  My mother wouldn’t teach me tennis because she didn’t want me to learn any of her bad habits.  She was a self-taught player.  She grew up in Yonkers (on Van Cortland Park)  and I remember her telling me there were public courts down by the river and that’s where she and her friends would play.  She played a lot and got quite good and continued to play her entire life, winning tons of local and regional tournaments.  Singles and doubles.

From that year on, I never stopped playing tennis (except for the black period of 18 years).  My mother found a willing victim in me.  In the winter when I was little she set me up in the garage.  She had my father clear out everything so I had a wall to hit the ball against and I remember being out there for at least an hour before dinner and I can almost still see her coming to the garage door smiling asking me how many times in a row I hit the ball and to come into dinner. I stand in that same garage right now wondering how I was ever small enough to take a full swing in there.

I think I was 10 or so when I played in my first tournament.   In seventh grade I remember I played on two kids winter teams — one for my local club in Canton and one for Bristol club of all places.  My mother didn’t think our club played enough and she thought if one team was good two teams were better. She drove me every day to a practice somewhere. When I was 15 my present was a private coach. I met with him every day for an entire summer. (He was a starving college student and I think my mother paid him in peanut butter sandwiches or something.) But that was the summer I got better.  I still have the racquet hanging in my apartment from my first tournament win.  She was so happy, I remember that clearly.

It wasn’t just tennis that my mother had me playing. She was the one who taught me to ride a bike.  I remember that as well.  She ran up and down the driveway a million times holding onto the seat of that bike (training wheels? what are those?)  She was my first bike coach.  She gave me bubble gum when I rode the driveway all by myself.  How do I remember such things?

Swimming lessons, canoeing lessons, cross-country skiing, were just some of my extracurricular activities.  (She entered me in a cross-country skiing race when I was 14, I think I came in last.  Two years later I was not so bad).  At school I played a tiny bit of field hockey (hated it), I played two years of basketball (not because I was any good, they just wanted me to be center because I was tall).  Those were the only sports girls in our school played.  Finally Title IX came around when I was 13 and our school started a girls tennis team and from then on I devoted my time to that.  (Of course now I wish I had joined the track team but I thought I would never run so why bother?)  My Mom was there at all the games.  Driving me back and forth to all the practices.  All of them.  I never remember going home with anyone else but I remember my Mom always dropping off one kid or another.

And by the way, my Mother played tennis every single morning of her life (until her 80’s).  When we were kids, she would be on the courts at 5 or 6 a.m.   She would play tennis, get home, wake us up, cook and serve us breakfast and put us on the bus to school.  Every single day of our childhood.  Every single day.

There were two lines I must have heard five thousand times from my mother.  “Clean your room” and “Go Play outside.”  We were never in the house.  Huge games of softball in the backyard.  My mother delivering lemonade to all the kids.  Sledding for hours in the woods.  Mom taking us all ice-skating every week (and my feet hurt so badly she switched my dainty figured skates for the more supportive hockey skates and raced me across the pond.  I never beat her.)

We lived at the town pond (so gross) in the summer.  She made sure we had every swimming lesson ever offered.  Then there was that lame summer she thought water ballet would be nice for me.  Yeah, not so much.  And then there was the big pool at the Pye’s house with the huge slide.  We were there twice a week every summer of my life with my Mom swimming laps across the big round pool.  I could never make it across so she showed me how to swim ladder to ladder until I made it around the pool.

My Mother and I had a lot of arguments.  Hard to believe but I was not a very obedient child and some might even call me rebellious.  She would say go left and I would go right just to be a pain.   But no matter what we had the tennis court.  We would go the courts mad at one another and not speaking.  Sometime during the session we would end up at the net talking about something and there it was, we were friends again.

I love to tell the story of one summer in Nantucket.  It was me, my Mom, Mrs. Young (one of her tennis buds).  I had been bugging my mother for a long-sleeved sweatshirt that said “Nantucket” down the sleeve.  She wouldn’t buy it for me.  Too expensive.  We walked back to the house one morning after playing tennis and passed a pool made from an inlet of water from the ocean.  She looked at me and said “If you jump in with all your clothes on, I’ll get you the sweatshirt.”  I could see she wasn’t kidding so I jumped into the pool.  Then she said to Mrs. Young “If you jump in I’ll get you….” (I can’t remember what she promised Mrs. Young.)  And Mrs. Young jumped in too.  It was early in the morning as we always played tennis early.  We were laughing so hard and splashing around.  And then my mother, fully dressed, jumped into the pool too.  It was one of the best moments. We walked back to the cottage in our soaked tennis clothes laughing the entire way.

In the 80’s my mother and father became snow birds and lived half the year at Amelia Island.  My mother took up golf and decided I needed to learn to play too.  We both stunk but I had a great long game and she had a great short game.  So we would play best ball or some variation of it.  My mother had no problem breaking the rules.  She carried a bunch of extra balls “gator bait” in her pocket.  If she didn’t like her shot, she would just drop another ball and hit it again.  She’d smile and say “I like to get my money’s worth.”  If I was putting on the green and missed she’d call out “Mulligan!”  Some golfers would take a Mulligan (do over) off the tee.  My Mother and I would take Mulligan’s for any stroke for 18 holes!  As long as nobody was behind us, who cared?  “Let them play through so we can have our own fun.”  She would say.  “Never hold anyone up, play ready golf.”  She would say. “Nobody will care what the heck you do as long as you don’t hold them up from playing.”  “Oh, and never, ever, walk across someone’s line.”   Whenever we would show up at a  golf course they would offer my mother a cart.  She would always scoff “We walk the course, it’s golf, not go-carts.”  We only played 9  holes but we played into her 80’s and she pulled her own golf bag.  (The last couple of years we played she made me pull both of them claiming it was “good training” for me, lol.)

And the one thing I really want to comment on is what an amazingly good sport my mother was.  She was extremely competitive.  She loved to play and keep score but she never ever complained about losing.  And if someone made a good shot in a match or a game of golf she ALWAYS complimented them. Yelling “Great Shot” or clapping with her racquet.  It’s one thing I’m actually proud of when I play.  Even if I’m getting creamed, to acknowledge someone else’s good shot, always makes an image of my mom pop into my head.  And if someone hits a winner, to this day I yell out “You BUM!” With a laugh.  That’s what my mother would always say.  But you knew it was a compliment.

Stories of my mom could go on and on but I just wanted to start to focus on all of the good things she taught me and the fun, fun, fun we used to have.  Yes, we had many arguments but underneath it all there was a lot of love and nothing a good hitting session couldn’t cure.  She was the human backboard.  No matter how hard, fast or out of reach you hit the ball it would always come sailing back.  Most of the points I lost were because I underestimated how fast and  determined she could be.  And at the net, there was no discussion.  Every shot was just a put away. Sharp angles off to the side, nobody did that better.

Although it was painful to be with my Mom for ten days in the hospital.  There was a blessing there as well.  We had time together and we had a chance to come together at the net one last time.

Namaste

Notice in the Hartford Courant

This is a video I put together of my Mom for her 90’th birthday.

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10/18/12 A Recurring Theme

Thursday.  Yes I know my blog is way behind.  I took a break after Ironman and decided to rest until I didn’t feel like resting anymore.  I’ll let you know when that happens.  My Dad remains at home in hospice with full-time care nursing aides.  My Mom just went into the hospital and made it through 3 operations in 3 days.  She spent a week in ICU and now is in Step Down Unit (one level below ICU but not yet regular hospital bed).  I believe she will stay in Step Down until they release her to rehab.  Regardless of what happens it will be a long journey for her and for the family.  In the meantime I will be living in CT.  One of the requirements of home hospice is that there is someone here to be able to give my father end of life medications and the aides can’t do it, so that will be me.  (Though between you me and a tree, it doesn’t look like my father is going anywhere for awhile.)

So my recurring theme is I get knocked down and I get up again.   My motto is, when life gives you lemons, sign up for a ridiculous ultra event to take your mind of it.  I don’t look back at any of my failed races with any kind of regret.  They served their purpose.  They gave me something to train for and even if I didn’t get the medals, I got the trips I got the adventure and I got to see some different parts of the world.  My intention is to finish but the reality is I can only do what I can do.

I definitely want to hang up my triathlon shorts for the year because training for 3 sports gets hard when you are travelling back and forth between CT and NYC.   I definitely didn’t get the quality biking time I would have preferred and I know my swimming sufferred.  But there is one thing you can always do no matter what the weather and no matter where you are and that is running (or walking or jogging or crawling or whatever the day brings).

A couple of my Marathon des Sables friends who are seasoned ultra runners put on the first ultra marathon stage race in America this year called the Grand to Grand.  I knew I wasn’t ready to try it but boy did it have my name written all over it.  Beautiful views, unexplored territory, adventure (but with my friend Tess’s touch of porto-sans and tents that atually have walls). 167 miles self-supported on foot  from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase.  I saw the website and all I could think was “Me! Me! Me!”  http://www.g2gultra.com/  I applied for early acceptance so I could get the early-bird discount (these races are expensive).  I decided to leave it to fate, if I got the early acceptance and the discount I would, gulp, do it.  Full price, no way.  I got a lovely email saying they would love to have me and run with me across the desert again.   Only downside is they think I am in the condition I was in 2009 when I did Marathon des Sables (which by the way I thought then I wasn’t in good enough shape, now I REALLY know what out of shape means.) I knew I had better get cracking.  Vacation over.  Time to start training.

My dilema was how to train?  I wasn’t ready to quit my Tri2B team but I was pretty sure in my heart that I did not want to do any triathlons next year.  I still want to swim and bike as cross-training but I’m getting tired of the schlepping required for the sport.  I can’t just up and go.  I have to pack so much stuff and it was getting exhausting having two of everything everywhere (and I STILL don’t have an inhaler with me in CT).  I didn’t want to give up on the team and my coach who had been so supportive.  I knew they would give me the flexibility to train whereever, but what’s the point if you are not training for the same races or even the same sport?

No sooner did I get my acceptance letter for grand 2 grand then I got the call my Mom was in the hospital.  Drop everything head to CT.   This is serious.  Out of the blue life changing stuff.  Who will take care of Dad if something happens to Mom?  Am I ready to really live in CT?  Do I have to give up my apartment?  I simply was not remotely prepared for the idea of something happening to my Mother.  Sure she is 92 but she is more active than many people my age.  She still does sit ups and jumping jacks every morning.  She cooks, cleans, drives, shops, goes to book club and takes care of my 94 year old father.  She has 100% of her mental faculties.  I thought she wasn’t going anywhere.  Wrong.

The very first night back from the hospital my decision was made.  I would contact LIsa Smith-Batchen who coached me for Marathon des Sables, I would tell her everything, how I couln’t run anymore and I was just walking 4 miles and I really don’t know if 11 months is enough time to take me from couch-potato-wanna-be all the way to ultra marathoner.  She would tell me the truth about whether it was doable.  She wrote back with my first workout.  Let’s get to work.

So this is my first week of training with Lisa and I wanted to get the blog going again so once again I could document my journey, my path to who knows where.  The very first workout I was sure I couldn’t do it but I’m now on day 4 and I’ve done almost everything. Not necessarily with any grace or dignity but I finished.   (Okay I missed a few pushups one day and I’m going to do my missing situps today I swear).  The training is flexible, modified specifically for me and I she already has modified my workouts for CT vs NYC.  I’ve run for 3 days (Mon, Tuesday and Wednesday) and today I get to try underwater spinning class.  Never tried that before I’ll report back on how it goes.  My swim center has both underwater spin bikes AND underwater treadmills. Tomorrow is a gym workout and Saturday I’m going hiking.  And the scary part is I actually am less stiff and achy today than I was on Sunday when my back had been hurting me…  Go figure this exercise stuff actually works!

So that’s where I am.  Mentally fried.  Spending days at the hospital with my Mom.  Nights at home with my Dad (with help, I’m not a prisoner or anything).  I have a desk set up in my mother’s hospital room where I have been working.  I have an office at home in CT.  I have been getting outside for my runs.  And this will be it for awhile.  Just keep getting back up.  No matter how many times you fall.

Begin Again.

Namaste

I have a few pictures from my nightly run around reservoir no. 6 in West Hartford.   It’s really pretty but it’s all trail and I find some of it hard to run on because I’m so out of shape.  I’m shocked at how long it takes me to get around the reservoir compared to how long it used to take me.  Running really is faster…

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