Monday, October 12, 2020


 I think it is fair to say, and that most will agree, that 2020 has been a rough, rough year.


Civil unrest

The election

Did I mention Covid?

It seems every time I thought we were ready to round a corner, BAM.  Another sumthin', sumthin' cropped up as if to say "HA!  You ain't seen nothing yet!".

I know we all have our own setbacks and disappointments from this year.  My story is not to take away from any of yours -- rather, it is just an extension of how this whole, strange year has unfolded and a preview of my next set of "fun".

I fell on the ice on January 20th.  Did an alleooop right outside a Fresh Thyme grocery store and landed square on my shoulder and knee.  The second it happened, I knew I was in big trouble, as I could barely move.  

Two MRIs and several xrays later, I learned that the fall caused a massive rotator cuff tear to my right shoulder and two tiny hairline fractures to my right knee.   Yea.

The unusual aspect to my rotator cuff tear was that I had much more range of motion than I should have.  So much in fact, that I was able to play in a golf tournament in San Diego in February.  The same week the first case of Covid was detected in San Diego.

Fast forward past everyone starting to work from home in March; the initial "fun" of working from home and doing things like Zoom calls with friends and family; participating in quarantine sing alongs via Facebook groups; the utter bullshit controversy around mask wearing (just wear one, dammit) to the never-ending cycle of "every day feels like the same and when, oh WHEN will this finally be over?"

I got my rotator cuff fixed on June 4.  About a week in to recovery, my back and legs started to hurt like the dickens.  I initially thought this was due to sleeping funny since I had to have my arm in a sling 24/7 for the six weeks of recovery.  A couple more weeks went by and it got worse and worse and worse.

Finally went in to the doctor and yet ANOTHER MRI confirmed that the stenosis in my back had worsened, cutting off some nerves in my L4/L5 vertebrae AND that I had somehow ended up with 


This is when a vertebrae slips out of alignment and stacks differently than the others.  Yea.

So, since mid-June, I've been hobbling around with a stiff back, sciatica, nerve pain and hip pain.  But, you ask, "Can you hit a golf ball?"  You bet!  So, at least I had that for a break from 2020 monotony.

The fix for this is, unfortunately, yet another surgery.  And this one will not be a fun one.  Tomorrow, I go in to have decompression surgery (to add more space around the channel to let the nerves "breathe" and thus get rid of the sciatica and all of that nonsense.  I will also have to have fusion on L4/L5.  THAT, is the part that is no bueno.

Not because I am doomed to never ride a bike again (which I've only done a handful of times this year); or ever be able to swim again (which I've only done four times this year) or speedwalk (which has been a big "NO GO" since hobbling).  

Fusion requires a looooooong recovery and a loooooong period of no "BLT"(Bending, Lifting, Twisting"), so I'm, again, regulated to just walking for exercise for several weeks/months.   Yea.

BUT on the bright side, I don't have Covid, and neither does Warren.  I still have a job and insurance and have the ability to take the time to have the surgery and to recover.  AND, I will have something in common with Tiger Woods and Gloria Estefan.   So how bad can that be?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Where did 2018 go?

I have not blogged in a long, long, LONG time.  (Like over a year - long - long time).

Not that nothing was going on during 2018.  There was... is... a lot happening. 

Time just....went.  Gone, bye.  

Now, I find myself here, at the last week of the year, looking back and eager to move on.

So much to be grateful for this year:

  • Health (hip is fine; amputated toe (another L O N G story) not an issue.  Still can bike, swim, golf and speedwalk.
  • Love (still with my hubby, my Warren, my Choppy.  Couldn't imagine life without him)
  • Work (left super  stressful job to move on to a much, much, much less stressful job.  People are great; should be a nice way to wind down the work part of my life)
  • New Adventures (joined the Golf Channel AmTour and played competitive golf with "the boys".  Got to Nationals (by sheer luck, not by talent); improved my game; had a blast.  Did my second IM 70.3 relay with Warren (Team Choppy).  We did IM 70.3 Indian Wells/LaQuinta.  Swam in 57 degree water.  Next year, Team Choppy becomes Team 19 Toes as we return to IM 70.3 North Carolina in October)
  • We finally got an AIRSTREAM!  (The Nest -- the smaller, fiberglass version, but we finally got it.  Already have a bunch of camping trips on the calendar for 2019)
  • Letting Go (most painful aspect was letting go of friends who, surprisingly, weren't really friends in the first place.  Still stinging a bit from that one....)
There is so, so much more.

This week, I'm planning out my race schedule; getting my calendar in order and cleaning out/touching up.  It is time to update some pictures and to recommit to blogging.  2019 is sure to be a banner year and I want to make sure to capture some great notes.

Merry, Happy, Healthy 2019 everyone!

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Tale of Two (indoor) Triathlons

Hard to believe that my new hip is already 5 months old.  Even harder to believe, with the new hip, that I ever had a problem in the first place.

Funny how time can alter what you remember about "what was".  Meaning, I just reread my last blog entry, written right before Ironman Wisconsin last September and about three weeks before my surgery.  I had "forgotten" how bad my limp was; how I had to calculate my every step and move; how hard I had to think about walking around the lake or down the block or from my car to the office.

Now?  Try to stop me.

I was very fortunate to have a pretty easy recovery.  I was in and out of the hospital within three days; off pain meds by the 5th day; walking around the block using a walker, then a cane, and finally by my big girl self unaided within a couple of weeks.  Riding a stationary bike was a very welcome part of my physical therapy, as was strength training.  I got back on the golf course in December, playing the course at Arizona State University with Warren.  It was the first time all year that I could walk the whole course again.  Joy.  Swimming started at the 12 week post-surgery mark.  Getting back in the water felt fantastic.

All these milestones:  golfing, strength training, spinning, swimming, WALKING were critical to me in that they each represented a move back to things being "normal".   Hallelujah for normal.

Which brings us (me) back to triathlon.  For years now, normal has meant that I participate in triathlons.  Hip replacement doesn't mean the end to this.  Instead, it just means some adjustments.  Speed walking instead of running (maybe moving to a run/walk rhythm by the end of this year...); shorter distances rather than Ironman distance (unless its a relay, or maybe by performing some other magic trick...).  But I'm still at 'em, starting with two of my favorite indoor venues:  Tri U Mah and the YWCA Indoor Tri

For newbies out there, indoor tris are a very easy and non-threatening way to "tri" our sport.  No scary lake to swim in; no potholes on the road; no hills on the run.  The only real equipment you need is a swim cap (unless the race provides it); a pair of goggles, your race outfit and shoes.  No fancy (or not-so-fancy) bike required; no "one day USAT membership" fee to pay.  Basically, you swim in a pool; ride a spin bike and run on a treadmill or a track.  That's it.  And after you're done, you are a triathlete (and can eat pretty much whatever you want for the rest of the day. BONUS).

I started my triathlon love affair in 2005 by doing Tri U Mah.  I've done it every year since then. If I could do it then, as a middle aged, chubby, triathlete wannabe, and if I can do it now, an ever more middle aged, less chubby "hipster", so can you.

Tri U Mah is held at the University of Minnesota Rec Center in February and consists of 30 minutes each of swim/bike and run.  Everyone gets 10 minutes of transition between the swim and the bike and then 5 minute of transition between bike and run. Winners are determined by the total distance covered during the race.  Swag for the event is usually pretty nice, although the tee shirt this year was cotton, not technical.

I was a bit nervous going in to the race, as it would be the first time stringing the three disciplines together since surgery.  I did just fine.  The swim went well; the water feeling smooth and velvety around me.  I played with my paces a bit on the bike, pushing it just enough but not killing myself.  The run for me was really a speed walk, with me trying to just concentrate on doing the best I could, without feeling too jealous of my friends who could actually run the run.

I ended up with my fourth best distance covered for the race since I started doing it.  Not so bad for a girl who is part titanium.

The Y tri was yesterday. There are actually four indoor tris scheduled during the winter months, just enough to keep you interested and to measure your improvements over the offseason.  The last one for 2017 is slated for April.

 The Y tri distance works similarly to outdoor tris.  You select the distance you want to race.  I picked the sprint:  500 yards in the pool, sharing a lane; 10 miles on a spin bike and then a 2 mile run on a track.  They also offer "long" distance (600 s/12 b/ 3 r) or "mini" (400 s/ 8 b/ 1 r).

The volunteers are always GREAT, the swag is always nice, and if you race more than one event in the series, you get different swag for each event. I only could schedule one event this year, but got a very nice technical shirt.  Best of all,  among the food they offer racers, volunteers and spectators, there is a nice, warm party-sized thermos filled with coffee.  (Always thinking, those Organizers....)

I shared  my swim lane with a man named Ken, who was doing the mini distance.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries before the race started.

Took me a very average time to get through my 500 yards, but was very pleased to see that only two other women were out of the water before me.  Struggled (as per usual) to get my socks on and my bike shoes (HATE not wearing socks, even though it S L O W S my T1 time down in a big way).  But got on the bike fairly quickly.  Happily pedaled along listening to loud, upbeat music and watching the runners from the heat before mine run the track.   Eventually, hit the 10 mile mark, made a fast transition out of the bike shoes and in to my running shoes and started my fast-cadence, arm-swingin', hope-I-don't-look-too-much-like-an-idiot speed walk around the track.

At one point my buddy, Ken, caught around me along the track.  We had been cheering each other along on the bike and could now chat a bit.   He was slowly jogging as I walked as fast as I could.  I told him that I had just had my hip replaced and he said "ME TOO, four years ago".   I said "And you're still doing triathlon! That is cool!"

Here is how I knew we were kindred spirits:  he replied, "Yea, I am, because it makes me feel normal".  Rock on, Ken.  

He finished; I finished.  And just like that, my 2017 season began.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, Imoo

Funny how things work out.  Or, don't.

Ironman Wisconsin, affectionately known as Imoo, is next week Sunday. One short year ago, I volunteered at Imoo so I could sign up to race it this year.  I also volunteered at Ironman Arizona last November and then signed up to do a second Ironman in 2016.

Even though I had finished Imoo in 2012 and 2014, Ironman became something I loved and found it very hard to give up.  It's not just the race or the training.  I've met wonderful people, spent some time training in beautiful places and really grew to enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally.

I also really love the Wisconsin course.  The bike course, while difficult because of many, many, and I mean MANY hills, takes you though some breathtaking beautiful areas.  I may hate those hills while I'm riding them, they do just prove that Dane County really is God's Country.  The run is all through the University of Wisconsin old stomping ground.  The course runs past many of my old (dumpy) college apartments and my old dorm, up State Street and along the lake shore path.  I really love it.

Although I had been diagnosed with hip arthritis in my right hip while I was training for Imoo in 2014, I was able to cross the finish line that year.  I moved to shorter distance races in 2015 and still able to swim, bike and run without a lot of trouble.
Still, the call of Ironman was beckoning....

I knew my window for Ironman was closing rapidly and figured if I was going to really have to pull back from long course racing, I might as well go big (do two) in 2016 and then go home (and stick to shorter distances).  

At least that was the plan.

Enter 2016.  I was fine for my first tri of the year (TriUMah, the indoor tri at the University of Minnesota held every February.)  I was training and running in the spring when, boom:  everything seemed to come to screaming halt last March, when I went on that last, fateful 5 mile run.

Happy finish 2014
As I blogged about earlier, after that run, I developed really bad knee and shin pain.  I saw a hip doc at Tria, who, after looking at scans I had done in October of 2015, told me my hip was destroyed and that I should use it till I can't.

He said that once it started to interfere with my daily life, it would be time to get it replaced.  (As a side note, the knee/shin pain was related to my hip in that my gait has been really compromised.  This put pressure on my back, which triggered the knee/shin nerve.  Fortunately, a shot of cortisone fixed that problem...)

The doc and I talked then about my training for Ironman.  Could I do it?  Should I do it?  He said that my hip wasn't going to get any better but if this was something I wanted to do, and could do it without much trouble, that I should.
Imoo 2014

And so training went on.  What I didn't count on is how quickly things would go south.  While I can swim without pain and bike pretty easily (once the hip warms up), running, and now walking, is a sad, sad struggle. I have days that are okay (where I just limp through my activities) and other days where moving from the couch to the kitchen is a painful slog.

So my grand plans for the 2016 race season had to be adjusted big time.  I went from doing the 1/2 marathon at Fargo to eking out the 10k.  I had a good swim and bike at Buffalo only to shuffle through the run.  I had to skip Grandma's 1/2 entirely.  By July, at Lifetime Mpls, I moved from the Oly to the Sprint distance and then walked the entire 5k.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.

I did have some bright spots over the summer.  My swimming has gotten better and it was fun to do two new swim races:  Shoreline Swim in Madison and the Chain of Lakes swim at Lake Calhoun.

I was able to swing a golf club just fine.  Walking over the uneven fairways takes a toll, though.  Thank heavens for golf carts.

Greg, my coach for Ironman, was working a plan for me that would have hopefully had me strong enough to get through the swim and bike at Wisconsin so I'd have enough time to walk the marathon course.  It became very obvious after Lifetime that even that was really not a possibility.   I've lost a lot of strength and power on my right side (muscles not really firing the way they should because everything is trying to protect what is left of the joint.).  So, while biking doesn't hurt, I am sure not as fast as I've been.

I did a training weekend in Madison every month throughout the summer and, although I could still manage to get up all those hills on the bike course, my overall times were not impressive at all, and, trying to walk off the bike was very tough.

Slowly but surely over the summer, I began to face the fact that things were worse. My ability to participate in activities I love has become harder and harder.  Just walking from my car to my office is now a chore. Sleeping is more and more uncomfortable.  People -- friends AND strangers -- ask me if I'm okay, or if I need to sit down.  People make beelines to get out of my way when I am walking toward them in a hallway or on the street.  Air cabbies ask me if I need a lift when I am walking though airports trying to catch a flight. There ain't no hiding from this any more.
Hip Spring 2016.  Ouch

So, Warren and I met the hip doc again last July.  We took new images. The evidence was glaring.  No more cartilage in my hip.  All gone.
Bone on bone.

It's time.

I'm scheduled for replacement on October 3rd.

Although I am very sad/mad/disappointed about this, I have also come to realize that it really is what it is.  I can't wish this or want this away.  Replacement will provide relief and really doesn't mean the game is over. But, the game will definitely change.

I'll still be able swim and bike and golf and hike.  Tennis (double) is okay; some yoga will be okay.  There are plenty of adventures yet to come.  I'm thinking of doing the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike, a day or two on the Ragbrai ride,  swim Point to LaPointe again and more.  I should be able to continue with sprint tris and maybe longer distances, as long as I don't care if I have to walk the run portion.

Lots of running medals....
It was a tough conversation when we talked about distance running.  Those days are done.  The doc says I should be able to do a few miles, but nothing more than 4 or 5, if I do a walk run.)  I shed plenty of tears during that part of our talk.

So where does leave Imoo?  Well, I really had hoped I'd be able to squeak out a finish this year.  But realistically, that is not in the cards.  However, I have my game plan ready for the weekend and race day.  I'm going in to this with the attitude of having as much fun as I can and to create as many memories as I can.

Its been a wonderful, wonderful ride, this Ironman adventure.  I'm going to miss it a lot.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I am not Mary Lou Carlson.....

I "ran" my very first 5k when I was 40.  It was 1999.  Warren, who was just my boyfriend at the time, had done a 5k on Father's Day that year.  I went to the race to cheer him on.  I was so proud of him when he crossed the finish line.  I thought he had done the coolest thing ever by running that race.

When we were driving home, I casually mentioned to him that I would love to run a 5k one day, but that I really wasn't a "runner".  Wasn't built like one; couldn't imagine running to catch a bus, much less run 3.1 miles.  "One day", I said.

Well, Warren took it upon himself to sign me up for 5k later that summer -- The Wayside Run, which was sponsored by The Wayside House.

I trained for that race by running Lake Calhoun.  I could only do sections at a time.  I remember feeling so accomplished when I ran the section from 36th Street to William Berry Parkway without stopping.  This was a VERY BIG DEAL.  

Race day came, and I was so nervous....I still didn't feel like a "real runner".  I was heavier than I am today; I knew I was slow, and I thought I was going to get left in the dust once the race started.

We got to the race site and it was buzzing with other racers.  Mostly women racers.  I was absolutely gob-smacked by the number of older women runners that were there.

Remember, I was 40. Some might say that THAT is old (trust me, it isn't).  But at the race there were a lot, and I mean A LOT, of women in their 50s, 60s and above.

One woman really caught my attention.  She had a bit of a bird-body (roundish middle supported by thin-ish legs), silver hair and a wide-genuine smile.  She seemed to know everyone at that race, and everyone seemed know her.

BOOM.  The race started and, although I didn't get totally dusted, I sure did end up at the very back of the pack pretty quickly.  Still and all, I was doing it.  There were lots of spectators cheering us on with the usual cheers ("Looking Good!" (I wasn't.)  "Way to go, Runner" (said to me, even when I was walking.) And, my favorite:  "You're almost there. (A total lie.))

At some point, that popular lady with the silver hair passed me.  She said "Nice Job." to me as she blazed past me.

I finished the race and my love affair with running started.  Even though I sucked, even though I didn't look like those "real runners", I loved it.  I fell hard and fast and never looked back.

After that race was done, I found out her name:  Mary Lou Carlson.

I (obviously) signed up for (lots) of other races.  For many years after that first race, I'd see Mary Lou racing too.   I gathered up some courage one day at a  race and actually introduced myself to her.  I told her that she was an inspiration to me and that I loved seeing her out on race courses.  She was gracious and kind and then she just trotted off.

Then, in 2001, when I was lining up to start at the Twin Cities Marathon, the announcer called out that Mary Lou Carlson, then age 74, would be allowed to start the race a little earlier than the rest of us.  It was her 20th -- and last -- Twin Cities Marathon.  She was running fine, but the race cut off time loomed large now. So, the officials bent the rules a bit for her, let her start before everyone else and enabled her to have her last marathon swan song.

So why do I bring this up?

Well, my hip continues to be my arthritic hip and, although I am continuing to train for Ironmans Wisconsin and Arizona, I am not entirely certain that I'm going to make it to either of those start lines.

I find I have some good days, where I think I'll be fine and will be able to finish (at least one of them).  I also have some really, really bad days, where I am not sure I can get down the stairs to the basement to put a load of laundry in.

Swimming and biking are fine -- no pain.  It's running that's betraying me.  I plod and shuffle.  It sometimes produces some shin/knee pain that is no fun.  It is clunky and un-glamorous and painfully, painfully slow.

And, the thing is, with Ironman, the cutoffs loom large.  The 2:20 cut off for the swim will not be a problem. I should also be able come in off the bike well before the 5:30 pm cutoff.  The run cutoffs are the ones that scare me.

I have the heart to finish;  If I had the luxury of no time limits, I know that I have the endurance to go 140.6.
The question is can I do it, one more time, in less than 17 hours?

Well, I'm willing to keep moving forward toward the goal and I also have to be realistic along the way.  Because, as much as I love the sport, as much as I want to have my swan song this year, Mike Reilly, is not going to announce that I will be allowed to start the race early (or have help from a scooter during the run).

Why?  Because I am not Mary Lou Carlson.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Verdict: Orchestra may be warming up, but that lady ain't singing....yet.

A short update with the verdict from today's visit with the orthopedist.

First, I liked him.  Straight shooter; dry sense of humor; understands athletes.  My kind of guy.

We talked through all my symptoms and issues;  he looked at the last couple of scans.  He did some manipulation maneuvers on my knee and shin.    Then he broke it down for me ever so gently:

"Your hip is destroyed; use it till you can't".  


"Meaning it is what it is.  But until it really interferes with your normal daily activities, it is not time to replace it. You'll know."

(Love that he believes that swimming, biking, running, trying to get in 10,000 steps per day, etc are my "normal" daily activities.)

"What about Ironman this year?"

"Go for it".


So what about the knee/shin pain?  He doesn't think there is any thing wrong with my knee (based on what he did to check it).  He doubts it is a stress fracture, but we are looking in to that.

He thinks it might be a pinched nerve in my back.


"You'd be surprised."

So he set me up for an MRI to rule out or in a stress fracture.  (He said if it was a stress fracture, IM was out.), but he really doesn't think that is the problem.

The pinched nerve is a new potential diagnosis.  Don't really have back pain; some nagging now and then, but my back is not something I generally complain about.

The MRI took about 30 minutes; I'll have the results of that soon.  Assuming it is not a stress fracture, I'll go to see a back guy and we'll go from there.

So, while that fat lady might be itchy to sing her song, this fit lady is itching to get to the bottom of this and then back to training.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Will the Fat Lady Sing?

Over the last week or so, a whole bunch of our appliances have shown signs of age.

First, the handle on our microwave ripped off.  Sheared the screws that held the handle in place right in half.  We did a little investigative work and discovered the microwave was built (and installed above the stove) in 1997.   More investigation revealed that they no longer make the model OR the replacement handle.  Until we have the time to go shopping for a new one, we are left with plying open the door with a screwdriver in order to nuke our food.

The "full power" button on hairdryer we've had for more than 15 years no longer holds.  We are left with either holding the button on in order to get the big blast of air, or settling for "style" mode, which means spending an extra chunk of time trying to get "the look".

I dropped my protein shake shaker bottle on the floor and it cracked.  I'm a big fan of my protein shakes and liked that bottle a lot.  Perfect size; shaker-blender thingie worked perfectly; even liked the color.  For now, until I can get a replacement one, I'm stuck using one that is bigger, clunkier and the shaker-blender thingie is a piece of c*#&.

The final blow came two days ago.  I opened the doors to our refrigerator and smelled the distinct smell of burning plastic.


The unit at the top of the fridge that houses the light bulbs and controls the temp within the fridge and freezer looked strange. I could actually see part of the light bulbs.  I gentle pulled on the unit and it came off in my hand. I could see obvious burn marks near the light sockets.   I pulled the plug on the fridge and called the repair guy.

Seems this happens a lot with the particular model we have, said the repair guy.  He ordered parts, which will be here in a couple days.  We threw out boatloads of food (which I hate doing), packed up some stuff in coolers and are waiting it out.

With all these age related-failures, I find it hard to not think that this is an omen of what's to come tomorrow.  After all I, too, am just an aging machine.

Tomorrow, I finally, finally, FINALLY get back in to see an orthopedist to get the word on what is happening with my hip and more recently, my knee and shin.

I know that I have hip arthritis.  That was diagnosed in 2014.  I also know it is worse (had an xray which confirmed this last October.).  What is new is the knee/shin thing, which I think is result of my gait changing.

I have been mostly ignoring all of this.  My rationalization?  Better to have my head in the sand than a scar on my hip.

I really am just looking for one more year of long distance triathlon.  I've been bargaining with the Ironman Gods to let me get through IM WI and IM AZ this year and then I'll be okay with stopping.  I promise.  (I sound like a crack addict.  "Just one more ride on the loop, baby...")

I've been doing some rehab with a physical therapist, who finally got me to agree to get an official evaluation.  Tomorrow is the big day.

While I don't think the doc will tell me I can't do these races this year, I am pretty sure he will tell me that this is the last song of the Ironman opera.  It will be very hard to hear that fat lady sing the final aria.

I am guessing there may be some more rehab in my future, maybe some cortisone, probably a lot of duct tape.

One way or another, I'll be at the start line of those races this year.  And, Ironman Gods willing, I'll be crossing those finish lines with moments to spare.

I just need the fat lady to be silent tomorrow.