The moment I realized I’m really an athlete…and my first 10k

I completed my first 10k last weekend (Sept 23, 2017). It was an amazing experience and much easier than I expected. But oddly, that wasn’t the moment I realized I was an athlete. Nope.

Wednesday was a perfectly gorgeous day. Jon and I were driving home from work and passed a guy out for a run. I found that I was ENVIOUS. But I had women coming over for a book study that evening and did not have time to squeeze in a run AND prepare for them. Or at least not enough time to do both and shower. My goal was to be welcoming and that would have been the opposite. But anyway. Still not the moment.

Yesterday was a perfectly gorgeous day. Jon was heading to a concert with friends and I had promised the youngest we would go out for dinner before tackling school work. At dinner I checked the time for sunset and found that it was still an hour and half away. Back home, I got Lilbit started on his paper, changed and finally got outside for a run. My activity tracker was running but there was no Garmin on my wrist, largely displaying my pace. There were no split times coming through my headphones. There was no timer telling me when to run and when to walk. I did not have a time or a distance goal. It was just the road, how I felt, and music. I returned home feeling much lighter. At least emotionally. And that’s when I realized. I don’t have to qualify my label as an athlete with additions like “slow” or “clumsy” or …whatever. I just went for a run. Not because it was on a training schedule or because I have an event. I unplugged and went simply for the joy of it. And that alone makes me a runner. I already do that with swimming but for some reason that did not impact me like that run did.

The 10k. Ah. I was a little tight and sore last night after two miles so maybe I’m not completely recovered. But the race was a wonderful experience. I really had no idea what to expect. My longest training run had been four miles and that was painful. Of course it was also 90 degrees. The temperature at race start time was forecasted to be 38 degrees. And I don’t really do cold. Eventually I decided that if it was raining, I wasn’t going but if not, I would brave the chill knowing I should warm up within a few miles.

Prepping for the race the night before was odd. I’ve only set up for triathlons lately so only having to set out stuff for one sport, and the one that requires the least amount of equipment, was a bit disconcerting. I kept walking back over to my clothes and saying “Clothes, shoes, race number….that’s really it huh?” It was actually even easier than packing to go the gym before work! I went to bed at a decent hour and proceeded to have nightmares all night. I couldn’t tie my shoes. My shoes were too big. I was wearing flip flops or sandals. There were like 20 laces in each shoe….so I couldn’t tie them. Again. I missed the race start. All. Night. Long. My brain can be weird.

Race morning was pretty non-eventful. It was cold but once we were all in start corrals it wasn’t too bad. I sat with a girl on the shuttle to the start and chatted with her. Somehow out of the thousands of people, I ended up standing next to her in the start corral (I ended up in the 15+ min pace corral. That was a <very minor> mistake on my part). She started to take a selfie and I leaned in over her shoulder and smiled. She turned so I wouldn’t be in the shot. Guess we didn’t bond as much as I thought.

The race actually started on time. Everyone I talked to said they were notorious for starting late so I was glad to realize we would get started when expected. It took about a minute and a half to actually cross the start line but then the crowd spread out pretty quickly. I decided not to use my timer app since but since headphones were allowed, I turned on some music, put in one ear bud and decided to run a song/walk a song. That worked out really well. At one point I frantically thought “I am NOT WARMING UP!” then realized only about ten minutes had passed. I spent most of the first mile weaving around and passing people. My first mile pace was 12 mins. And let me tell you, that is fast for me. I’ve seen that pace only a couple of other times, when I was only out for a mile or two and was pushing pretty hard. I knew I needed to pull it back but I didn’t feel like I was putting out that much effort. And I still wasn’t warm.

By mile 2 I had unzipped my jacket about halfway and had settled in with the people I would stay with through most of the race. At the mile 3 aid station I stopped briefly to take off my jacket and tie it around my waist. And then realized I felt really good and was excited to keep going. Normally at mile 3 I’m hating life and glad that I only signed up for a 5k. Between mile 4 & 5 (or somewhere in there) starts an uphill climb. I did not do ANY hill training so I had already planned to walk that. I did. And I was perfectly fine with that. Approaching mile 5 I started running again. A woman I had been leap-frogging with the whole time was passing me again and I happened to actually look directly at her at the same time she looked over at me. We recognized each other from triathlon training and she asked how I was feeling. I shrugged and said “I feel good….REALLY good actually!” I was shocked to realize we were approaching the last, literal downhill, stretch. And I felt amazing. About a quarter mile later my hips started to complain a bit but nothing that hindered me. Just a noticeable little complaint. And then suddenly, I was down the hill and entering the finishing chute….and my left calf cramped up. My first thought was “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!?” My second was a mental comment directly to my leg. “Well. You are just going to have to work this out on your own because I am NOT stopping for you. We are almost done and we are running this in so deal with it.”

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And….obviously my leg and I were still having that battle to the bitter end. But when I crossed the line I still thought “That was easy!” immediately followed by “Whose thought was that? Why would I think something so disgusting?!!? But maybe I could do a half in the spring….”

I have since ordered a race fuel belt that will hold my race numbers (great for tri) but I don’t have to carry a water bottle in my hand (awkward). So I guess I’m serious about doing more of these crazy things.

Total time 1:20:44, average pace was approximately 13 mins/mile. What?!!? I have no idea how I maintained that pace over 6.2 miles. And still felt GOOD.

Emmett 2017 Bike and Run Report

Bike – 13 miles – 52:15

This course is not flat. But. You’re coming DOWN from the canyon into town so that’s nice. And while there are a couple of hills, there are no extended climbs. After the Y Not Tri, I focused on a lot of hill training. No MAJOR hills; I didn’t attempt Bogus Road or anything crazy like that. But I felt well prepared for this course. Based on my training numbers, I expected it to take me just over an hour to complete. I did not take into account that I wouldn’t have to wait on traffic. Or how FAST coming down could be.

This. Was. Fun.

The course is pretty. The downhills are fun. For the first time ever, I did not touch my brakes. Not once, not even a little. I only used my easiest gear once, on the steepest portion. Coming up on that hill threw me off mentally a little. I glanced up and thought “Huh, I haven’t trained on anything that steep.” But I purposely had trained in harder gears so I would be able to hold the easiest gear in reserve. I wanted to know I had somewhere to go if I REALLY needed it. I’m not sure I ACTUALLY needed it on that hill but knowing I still had to run prompted me not to blow out my legs when I had an easier option.

Somewhere around 2 or 3 miles in, I dropped my water bottle. I had taken a few good drinks by that point. My mouth had been really dry but my breathing was finally under control and I wasn’t in bad shape. I went to place it back in the holder and, I don’t know, it went rolling across the road and into a ditch. I briefly considered turning around to retrieve it. Had it been on the road still, I might have. It was the only bottle I’ve ever used on the bike. It fit really nicely (and it was free). But I chose to keep going. I figured it was only 13 miles and not terribly hot. And I was fine although I was really happy to pick up my water bottle at the run transition.

After the second turn to head back towards down, I had a few miles where it was pretty flat, no one was passing me and no one was on the horizon. That was probably the slowest part of the ride. I had gotten spoiled by some zippy downhills and having other riders around me but at the same time, it was peaceful.

Overall I loved this leg of the race. If I had still had water, I probably would not have wanted it to end.

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T2 – 1:00

I couldn’t find my water bottle and hat. Someone had racked their bike right on top of them and dropped bike shoes right next to them. I had to find a place to put my bike and then dig my stuff from under someone else’s bike. No big deal but I thought it took a lot longer than one minute from dismount to running out.

Run – 5k/3.1 miles – 42:18

I told some people the run would take me anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour so I’m not disappointed with this time. In the week leading up to the race, I had to decide how much I really wanted to suffer on the run. I had to decide if I wanted to leave every ounce I had on the course and spend all weekend (and possibly longer) recovering or if I just wanted to see where a slightly challenging but not brutal pace would put me. Obviously I opted for the second. I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of my weekend and be ready to start 10k training the next week. I’m really glad I did. It was hot out there but with my walk/run routine, I never felt overwhelmed by it. One guy doing the longer distance (two laps instead of one) took himself out of the race at his turn around and they sent him straight to medical. My friend said they watched one woman come over the finish line and promptly throw up. I am just not that competitive.

We ran through a neighborhood and a woman was sitting on the curb with her little boy. He was probably two years old and totally cute. He stood on the side of the road with his little hand held up and every runner that passed, he would hopefully say “high five?!!?” I watched four or five Very Serious Triathletes in front of me pass without a glance and his little face fall each time. And yeah, I know. Once you’re in a rhythm, it’s really hard to get it back if you break it. And I’ve been so focused or so deep in my “pain cave” that nothing was really registering on my brain except the next step. (Not often but it’s happened) But I was NOT in a unbreakable rhythm. I was NOT terribly focused. And I did NOT care about a few extra seconds costing me a spot in the rankings. So I got to high five the most adorable little kid and watch him try to jump up and down. That alone reinforced my certainty that I had made the right choice in my run strategy. There may come a day when I’m so focused on a goal that I become a Very Serious Triathlete. I’ve learned to never say never. But I hope if that happens that it’s very temporary. I don’t want this to stop being fun. Not every moment is, of course. But I hope I never stop appreciating little moments like high fiving the smallest cheerleaders or noticing the pretty wildflowers growing along a fence or laughing like a maniac as I fly down a hill at scary fun speeds.

I felt good when I crossed the finish line. I felt good the rest of the day in fact although some stiffness set in the next day. My friends that I swam with the Monday before? Well the women took first and second overall in the Aquabike event. I am so incredibly proud of them. I came in 10th out of 11 in my age group. So now I know where I stand. And what to work on for next year.

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Emmett Triathlon 2017 – Swim Report

Emmett’s Excellent Triathlon was definitely a big step outside my comfort zone. It’s a full sprint distance (500 meter swim, 13 mile bike, 5k/3.1 mi run). And while that’s the shortest of all the “official” triathlon distances, it’s the longest I’ve ever done. Also, this is not a race designed for beginners. Most people out there are experienced, and fast, athletes. Many of them are using it as a training race for much bigger races and longer distances. So while I might be reaching the point where I can possibly be competitive in my little local beginner friendly race, I had no such illusions at Emmett. My goal was to simply complete the course, and see where I stood.

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Swim – 500 meters – 19:24

The swim posed my biggest mental challenge. This was my first time racing with in a wet suit. I had only swam two practice swims in it and neither had gone particularly well. The wind was brisk and the water was choppy. I’ve been nervous before swims but Saturday morning I understood, I felt, the concept of “quaking with fear”. My friend Michele was out there to support me and commented that she could she me shaking. I had been relatively calm before but watching the first wave took off sent me over the edge to jittery. I moved into the water a few minutes before the start and took a few strokes to make sure my goggles were seated and sealed well. Then they counted us down and we took off.

I started out well. I felt good, was breathing good. And then…I don’t know what happened. I didn’t get kicked or swamped. But suddenly I couldn’t get a good breath. I started FEELING the color red. My entire perception was like looking at the world through a fire alarm. I’ve had panic attacks before (years ago) (on dry land) but nothing compared to this. Everything in me clanged “danger”. I couldn’t see well. We weren’t even to the first buoy yet but I had switched to the side stroke and was trying to focus on a kayaker to tell them to take me back to shore. This whole race was a mistake. I couldn’t do this.

And then, I heard someone behind me gasp out “I need help. I can’t do this.”

Please understand, I don’t know her circumstances. There are innumerable elements to the day that no one can predict and no one else can make a judgement call on what’s going on except the athlete affected (except perhaps medical personnel). But hearing my thoughts vocalized snapped something for me. I was able to clarify a thought. I was fine and the tiniest part of my brain knew that. If I could get to my bike, I would be okay. And a little seed of anger sprouted…anger that I would give up so easily when I had swam this distance before. Anger that I would let an emotional state overtake my physical state. I decided I was going to get to the first buoy. And once I was there, the second. And then I could see better and knew I was going to finish before the 25 minute cut off.

I did the entire 500 meters on my side. The. Entire. Thing. I think I tried to do a weird breast stroke/front crawl/doggie paddle thing at one point but my face WAS NOT going in the water. Why? I have no idea. Physically I had the capability. But I never did totally silence that panic. Nineteen minutes of alarm bells and shallow breathing. But I finished that damn swim.

T1 – 3:27

Ironically this is not a bad time for me, especially considering I was trying to peel the wet suit off my legs and feet (the feet are especially challenging). I took more than a few seconds to clip my race belt. I had one side twisted the wrong way. At the Y Not Tri I watched an elite racer just step into his pre-clasped belt and pull it up like a waistband. I considered that technique. I even practiced it a few times in the comfort of my own home. And I realized I had a very good chance of tripping over the darn thing. I opted to take the few extra seconds to figure out to just buckle it around me. I also realized I had dropped my sunglasses into the backpack that my friend was holding instead of putting them in my helmet. She was standing just outside of transition so I told her and she was able to pull them out and hand them to me as I was leaving T1.

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And that’s a wrap

Last year I went and watched some friends race in the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I was kinda kicking around the idea of doing it but wanted to see the set up first. The whole thing was exciting so I decided then to do it this year. At the time, I expected to be out on the course with my several different friends and training partners and my husband to be my cheering section (and sherpa). As it turns out, one friend was injured and couldn’t train or race this season. A local trail race changed the weekend it was held and conflicted with Emmett and all of my regular training partners had already signed up for that one before they realized the conflict. And then my husband had to travel for work. Triathlon is essentially a single person sport. You can race it as a relay team but even then, you are on your own for whatever piece you’re doing. You are responsible for your own performance. You are ultimately responsible for your training. But. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that you’re never alone. And that community is a big part of what keeps me coming back.

Earlier this week I put out a plea on Facebook for someone to do one last open water swim with me. A woman I met a few years ago through the Pulse training group not only agreed to go out with me, she put together a whole group, complete with kayak support. And then she stuck with me the whole time even though she could have easily left me in her wake and swam twice as far as me. That same group of people were at the race today and offered up support, encouragement and cheers throughout the day.

This morning I got to the parking lot to load my bike on the transports up to T1. I had ridden briefly last night to check my tires and felt fine with them then. But Jon always airs them up for me and I’m notorious for thinking they’re fine when they’re a bit mushy. As I pulled my bike out this morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that HE WASN’T THERE. A friend was coming to meet and support me but at that moment, I just wanted my husband to reassure me that the bike was fine. I stood staring at my tires for a moment, second guessing if they were really okay and trying to talk myself out of crying. An older couple were unpacking next to me. He glanced over and then asked if he could check and air up my tires for me. I nearly burst into those tears and instead word vomited all over them. “Yes! My husband usually takes care of this but had to fly out of the country and I’m suddenly freaking out a little not having him here and I’ll know I’ll be fine but I don’t know if my bike is or not and I really want him here…” The husband calmly took my bike and then wife proceeded to talk me down. We turned out to have quite a bit of common interests and friends. It was a big “small world” moment and incredibly reassuring to me. I felt like God put them specifically in my path to remind me that He’s still caring for me, even in these relatively trivial moments. And then the wife touched base with me several times throughout the morning until she saw I had other people around me.

I was setting up my bike transition and a woman near me started up a conversation. We stood and talked about 15 minutes, like we had known each other for years. She cheered for me, by name, when she passed me on the course later. And we talked afterwards, when we saw each other at our cars.

I had numerous mini conversations and encouraging words from random athletes on the course. I may have not had my usual training partners and friends to chase down but I was surrounded by people who bond over this crazy sport and who, inevitably, make sure no one is alone. It’s an incredible community.

But. Can I tell you the REAL heroes? They’re the friends and family that don’t bond over this crazy sport. They find it only mildly interesting and only because they love me. And yet they listen patiently as I discuss times and training sessions and various other triathlon related minutia. They forgive me missing events and social outings and conversations because I’m training or sleeping. They show up early on Saturday mornings and stand for several hours in the heat just to yell my name for a few seconds (and hold my stuff). My husband supports me taking hours away from our weekends for bike rides and swims. He endures weeks of sub-par, quick dinners because I have to get in a run after work and pauses his schedule to do bike maintenance on MY schedule. These dear people. They did not choose triathlon but they patiently endure it.

I stood in cold water at 9:35 this morning and crossed the finish line one hour and fifty eight minutes later, finishing out my 2017 triathlon season. No one else swam that course for me. No one else pedaled my bike or took even one of the steps away from me for 3.1 miles. No one else put in the training for me. But when I crossed the line today, it was to wrap up a season that was ONLY made possible due to the people around me.

Y Not Tri 2017 Bike and Run

Bike – 6 miles/3 laps (27:42)

This is the part I improved the most on. I was significantly faster this year. Apparently training works! Whoa! Bob blew past me towards the start of lap two and I whoo-hooed and then didn’t see him again until he was starting to head back in on loop 3 and I was about to make the turn around.

I don’t have much else to say about the bike actually. It was pretty fun…definitely more so than last year. Being able to drink on the bike is a game changer. But on lap three I thought “I’ll never do the double sprint cause I don’t think I could handle another three of these laps.” I really like the location overall. It’s convenient and easy for spectators. I like swimming at Quinn’s and running on the Greenbelt. There’s plenty of the room on the bike course, it’s flat and it’s not totally ugly. I like riding through where we start because the spectators are there. But otherwise I do get a bit bored with it. Maybe if I get faster…

T2 (unknown)

I dismounted my bike and was running into transition when I saw another friend. We met at the first little tri I did and hanging with her helped calm my nerves a lot. I was very excited and gave her a high five,vtripping over my bike a bit in the process (also on video). Otherwise T2 was uneventful. Racked my bike, switched my helmet for my hat and ran out. My race bib ripped when I tried to  move it from the back to the front so I just held it with my water bottle. I high fived Lynette and ran on out.

Run – 2 miles (28:08)

I realized real quick that the run was going to be difficult. I had pushed harder on the bike than usual and I think I started too fast on the run. I couldn’t calm my heart rate or breathing down. I did a walk/run thing the whole way and it got better. I saw another woman I met training. She was doing the longer course and on her way back in. She cheered and that was a help. I wasn’t expecting to see her so that was a fun surprise. Then I saw Stephanie finishing up her run and that was a big boost for me. I couldn’t run Bob down though. I saw him at the turn around. He was probably only 200 yards ahead of me at that point but I waved and shook my head and said “I’m not going to catch you today.” And I didn’t. But I was just done. I still ran some but I walked more. With about half a mile to go, I started leap frogging with a girl. She got ahead of me and I could tell she had more to give but within sight of the finish line, she started walking. A guy came running up and told her they were running in. I yelled “Are you really going to let me run you down NOW? Really?” She started laughing, took off and finished strong.

I ran in as well but I didn’t feel like I finished as strong. But The Hubby has video and I look much better than I felt. I was even smiling so even though part of me was trying to say I was never racing again, I obviously had fun.

I met up with my friends but we left quickly after that. LilBit was out there too and he was, as The Hubby said, “having attitude issues”. We woke him up early to go outside, without a screen in sight and surrounded by people being active. I’m pretty sure it was his Worst. Morning. Ever. (Also, he’s 14 years old now and hates being called LilBit but I haven’t come up with a new blog name for him yet.) I checked results on the way home (yay technology!) and found that I was fourth in my age group. By THREE SECONDS. Three. Freakin. Seconds. I thought at first that those three seconds were the girl I encouraged in ahead of me but then realized it wasn’t. In The Hubby’s video, a man and woman fly past me right at the finish line. I didn’t even see or hear them at the time. I had put my head down and was just finishing. But it had to have been her. Stephanie and Bob both podium-ed in their age groups/fields. We could have made it three for three. I keep thinking “I had four seconds in me somewhere.” And physically I probably did. I just have to learn to “suffer” a little more, embrace the discomfort. It’s not worth dwelling on though.

My goal was to beat my time from last year and I did that by 9 minutes and 51 seconds. There will always be things to work on and improve. I know what to focus on next. I had fun and made new friends that I can continue to train with. I was reminded just how fortunate I am to have The Hubby’s love and support and the wonderful friends I am surrounded by. I can’t really ask for a better race than that.

YNotTri2017 Run

Y Not Tri 2017 – Prelim and Swim

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My training partners and I pre-race. (I’m in the middle)

I felt like I didn’t have much to say about this race. And then I started typing and I do. Of course I do. I always have a lot to say.

I really only had one goal and that was to do better than last year. In 2016 I finished third from the bottom in my entire field. But I can’t control how OTHER people perform. I could have a good day but if everyone else has a stellar day I could STILL finish at the bottom. All I could focus on was my own time so that’s what I tried to do.

But let’s get straight to it. Here’s the overview/comparison if you don’t want to wade through the minutiae of my thoughts and details of each part of the race.

  • Overall place 61/78 (2016 was 99/101)
  • Overall female place 29/45 (2016 was 49/51)
  • Age Group place 4/7 (by THREE SECONDS…we’ll get to that next post) (2016 was 15/17) (Also, I aged into a new age group this year…)
  • Time – I beat my overall 2016 time by 9:51.

I’ve mentioned this before but I actually trained this year. I hit most of my scheduled work outs and when I had to switch things up, I made sure to prioritize my bike/run. I’m not strong on any of the three disciplines but if I’m more comfortable anywhere, it’s in the water. My hubby made sure my bike was always in good working order and supported the time away from home. Pulse Running and Fitness Shop hosted their fantastic training group again this year and their coaching, encouragement and support were invaluable. And the people training with me…fantastic.

Stephanie (the other woman in the above picture) did the longer course so she started an hour before us. I had so much fun spectating and cheering for her while we could. I was with my coaches and Bob (the guy in the picture) and we sang and danced and cheered and stalked a random woman to try and read the tattoo on her back (okay only one of us did that…and it wasn’t me this time!) All in all, it was the most fun I’ve ever had pre-race…probably because I wasn’t a bundle of nerves this time. They say to “trust your training”. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have training to trust!

Right before we started I saw my friend Lynette. She’s a beast of a triathlete but is having surgery soon so she’s out for the season. But she showed up for support and my heart just leapt when I saw her then and every time I saw her on the course. I don’t know if spectators understand what a difference it makes for a racer (or at least this one) to see friendly faces and hear beloved voices out on the course. It’s nice when anyone cheers for you but when it’s a friend, family or your spouse, it just gives you that much more of a boost. I was privileged to have multiple friends/coaches/training partners AND my husband out there. And that was probably the best part.

YNotTri2017 Lynette and I

Lynette and I. We’re adorable. Sadly I didn’t get a pic with The Hubby.

I only had one goal but my plan for the day was a little more involved than “beat my time”. I’m usually a stronger swimmer than Bob but he’s a much stronger biker than me (we’re pretty similar on the run). So my plan was to get out of the water far enough ahead of him that he wouldn’t blow past me immediately on the bike and then I could catch him on the run. Oh…and he knew about that plan. I might have lamented that I should have painted the bottom of my feet for him to chase….

On to the swim…

400 yard swim (12:11)

Here’s the thing. We’ve done multiple open water swims this year. And almost every one was longer than 400 yards. I’m comfortable in the water. I’m not fast but I KNEW that I could handle this distance. But having unfamiliar people around totally changes my mentality. It’s happened every time. And several people around me were flipping to their backs and gasping which I let distract me. I never panicked but I did find myself switching to my side when physically I didn’t actually need to. In fact, I think I tired myself MORE by doing that instead of just finding my rhythm and focusing on it.  I beat my time from last year but barely. I know I could shave that time down, even without additional physical training, by just controlling the whole mental part better. Ultimately, I didn’t drown. And I did beat Bob out of the water (although I would have cheered SO HARD if that was reversed). So I have a few observations to prepare better but I’m not upset. Oh! You had to step up to get out of the water. I could see it but couldn’t tell how high it was. And I totally biffed it. I was fine. The Hubby has it on video and I’m totally cracking up as I’m running up the ramp.

YNotTri2017 Post Swim

T1 (unknown)

My transition times weren’t recorded. I was here a few minutes. I actually sat down and wiped off my feet and put my socks/shoes on. I didn’t rush but I wasn’t leisurely. Bob came in as I was un-racking my bike and I yelled “DAMMIT! Take your time!” but honestly, I’m SO proud of how well he did! And then I was off to get on the bike…

Missing Her

Last week was the four years since my mother-in-love passed away from cancer. Four. It seems like last week. It seems like a lifetime ago. And of course I always think about her that week, just like I also think about her on Mother’s Day and her birthday and my husband’s birthday. Just like I think about her on a weekly basis. It’s been four years and I don’t remember when it happened but I finally quit reaching for my phone to text her but I’ve never stopped remembering her. But I don’t usually GRIEVE her on those “big days” though. In fact last week, even while remembering the last 12 hours, I felt buoyant. I found myself smiling. In part, that’s because even in her last hours, hard as they were, she gave us reasons to smile through our tears. We can celebrate that she’s not suffering anymore, that we will see her again. So I’m not surprised necessarily when those milestone days don’t cause tears. But a couple of weeks ago, my supervisor’s father died after a long and difficult struggle with cancer. And when he sent our team the email with an ADORABLE picture attached, I found myself sobbing at my desk. Not just crying. Quietly sobbing. Once I gathered myself, I went to my husband’s office to let him know (we work at the same organization) and I found tears leaking down my cheeks again. Thankfully I was still clutching a tissue. I cried off and on all day. I had worked there for a month. I don’t know my supervisor that well and I had never met his parents. But I realized, I missed my mother-in-love. Grief rolled over me like a freak storm.

That’s the most recent example. Four years and while it doesn’t happen as often (or as dramatically), the most mundane moments will send me into a tailspin of missing her. It might last a few seconds or a few minutes. It might result in tears or just a tightness in my chest. But it’s never something I can prepare for. Grief is a strange thing isn’t it?