Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bariatric Betty's races vs. the Boston Marathon


Well, everything I wanted to write about pales in comparison to Boston.  I was going to write about ending up winning my age group in the triathlon because I was the ONLY woman in my age group.  To remind us all to try, because you are a winner just for trying - sometimes literally.  I was going to write about feeling proud doing a 5k Sunday where I shaved 3 minutes off my first 5k time, and loving that some of my WLS support group came and did the fun walk, too.  Enough about that.

Instead I would like to talk about inspiration.  Goodness.  Humanity.  Faith.

..."So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear, or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think "the good outnumber you, and we always will." - Patton Oswalt

I had no idea who Patton Oswalt was before yesterday, but right now his thinking about this is right up there to me with Fred Roger's quote:

 "When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

In every horrible accident, or natural disaster, or act of terrorism you can look and see the good.  The people who run to help, who give of what they have to help others.  Who risk their lives.  Who make sacrifices, small and large.  These acts of bravery and humanity inspire me and others.  I love hearing about them and would like to use my blog today to talk about some of the ones I have heard about since the explosions in Boston. 

First - I have heard numerous complements of the first responders: the police, paramedics, and fire fighters. Numerous witnesses have said how quickly and smoothly they seemed to respond.  The policies, drills, and procedures that they and area hospitals have prepared for seem to have paid off. Bravo, and thank you to all first responders.  We are so thankful for your selflessness.

Second - All of the everyday people who ran to help others.  Carlos Arredondo, the father of a fallen soldier who was there to pass out flags ended up pinching an artery of a victim closed while she was evacuated.  The husband who ran into a clothing store and helped make tourniquets for two victims, only one of whom was his wife.  And yet another named "Matt" who did the same for a 17 year old girl.  Another person only known as "Sgt. Tyler" helped move and calm down another victim, showing her his own shrapnel scars to reassure her she could heal.  The little girl who decorated bags that her mom filled with food and toiletries with hopeful messages of love to hand out to people in need.  All the other un-named heroes who picked up and carried the wounded. The restaurant owners who opened their doors, grill, and refrigerators to the runners - not to mention making chargers and phones available so that they could contact their loved ones.  The neighbors along the route who took in runners and people from out of town, providing dry/ warm clothes and other necessities.  The runner and his wife, who upon seeing another racer sobbing on the ground in relief after locating her loved one by phone, asked "Did you finish?" and when she shook her head no, gave her his medal and said "You're a finisher to me".  The runners who continued running to get to the hospital and donate blood.  The Yankee fans who sang for Boston during the game last night. 

We are waiting to hear who is a suspect.  Are they American?  Why did they do this, what could their justification possibly be?  Did they act alone, or was this an attack planned by an organized group?

These are of course, important questions.  But where he or they come from is not as important as knowing that there are far more good people on earth, ready to help a stranger in need, than there are people who want to harm a stranger for whatever demented reason they can imagine. 

Three people have died, and that is a great tragedy.  So is the car bomb in Iraq yesterday that led to five people dying.  What is the difference?  Here in the United States we like to assume that we are safe from random acts of violence.  We have learned the phrase "see something - say something", so we assume that bombs will not explode next to us.  If we have drills, caring staff, and locked doors at our children's schools, we assume that school violence won't happen there.  The reality is that our society can never be 100% safe, no matter how many laws or how many guns there are.  And the bombs in Boston (like the murders in Newtown) shatter the illusion of safety, and require us to face that fact. Something that people in Iraq, Libya, Israel, and countless other countries around the world accepted long ago.  Does that make our tragedy in Boston worse than one in Iraq?  No, but it explains why one dominates our consciousness.

When tragedy occurs, I cling to two things.  One is a concept my husband taught me from computer/ IT security.  No system is impermeable, unhackable, or safe for all eternity.  As soon as you might declare something safe, it issues a challenge to anyone who wants to prove you wrong.  However, you can put up enough protection to block random pings, frustrate amateur hackers by making them jump through hoops and run into dead ends, and alert you to real threats - and that's probably the best thing.  The same thing applies to safety in the real world. 

The other is my faith.  My faith in humanity and kindness.  That people are naturally caring, helpful and responsible.  That for every evil committed there are hundreds if not thousands of kindnesses.  My faith in God means that I accept that I can't understand a reason why a sweet eight year old boy died along with two other innocent women in Boston; to me it doesn't mean that God wanted them to die.  It means that humans are intelligent (and sometimes crazy) beings with free will, which can include the will to commit murder.  But my faith in a higher power leads me to believe that something good will come out of this tragedy, which I may never personally know.  Maybe someone who did survive that horror will contribute to discovering the cure for cancer, or someone who watched the coverage will be inspired and find a way to restart the middle east peace process, or maybe someone will remember Martin Richard when they're driving and keep a close eye out for the kid who darts into the street so they can stop in time.  To me the goodness of humanity and God work together, helping us become better.  Not always good enough, but better.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bariatric Betty's Try-it-athlon

My 1st Triathlon "ink"

Wow.  Triathlons are EXHAUSTING.  I know, big shock, right?  I went into this with my eyes open, and with some helpful advice from my husband (a former triathlete).  Paraphrasing here: "Be prepared that when you go from the swimming to the biking you legs feel awful, because your arms have been getting most of the blood flow.  Then when you go from the bike to the run it's even worse, because your legs feel all floppy."  OK, so why did you enjoy doing triathlons again?  No seriously, I was lucky to have his advice, because otherwise I could imagine I might have thought I was having serious neurological issues.  This was a mini-triathlon - I ended up swimming about 1/2 mile in the 15 minute swim, rode 7.75 miles in the 20 minute bike, and ran 2 miles in the 20 minute run.  The run I'm very proud of, because I usually jog an 11 minute mile, so I was really pushing myself to run that fast after the bike and swim!  Even more tiring at times, however, was the mental exercise. 

Backing up - I have not done a lot of athletic competitions in my life, mostly because I've never been very good at them.  Since I had bariatric surgery this has changed - I have a lot more confidence to compete and enjoy it, even if I'm not going to win.  As an overweight child I was on a swimming team, a diving team, and a community league soccer team (no tournaments or chances for ribbons/ medals trophies).  The swim team practice was fun for a while, until we start having our meets.  I loved swimming and getting faster/ better. 

Then came our first big meet.  I was a good distance swimmer, but not particularly fast.  Definitely not one of the superstars of our team.  Still, I hoped to place third or second at some meets that year, and maybe the next year I would be even faster.  I really enjoyed swimming with my friends, and I loved the fact that we got to eat candy Ring Pops in between our races to keep our energy up.  I was supposed to compete in freestyle (the 400 I think) and breaststroke (probably the 200).  I might have been in some team medly races as well, doing free, breast, or backstroke.  The one thing I couldn't master for the life of me was the butterfly.  I understood the principal, but couldn't get the timing/ coordination down. 

So, the meet is about to start and my coach pulls me over.  He wants me to swim the 100 butterfly.  "But Coach, I can't swim butterfly."  "Yes," explained the coach "but one of our guys who was going to swim this race isn't here, and I don't want to leave an empty lane.  And I don't want to tire out my best swimmers by adding another race to their meet."  In other words, because he didn't want to have an empty lane, he was perfectly happy to put me in a race I couldn't even do and not mind tiring me out before the races I had a slim chance of placing in.  Yeah, that worked out well.  I felt humiliated as I fumbled through two lengths of quasi-butterfly, finishing far after everyone else.  And then I was exhausted and came in last for my original races (granted, that might have happened regardless).  Needless to say, swim team was no longer fun.  I had learned how much value the coach placed on me (a negligible place holder) and found going to meets embarrassing and humiliating. 

Fast forward to yesterday when I was swimming in the triathlon.  My first thought as I was starting was actually for the woman sharing the lane with me - she had mentioned she "wasn't much of a swimmer" before we started and seeing her start I realized she was not being falsely modest.  I was worried about her making it through the swim, but luckily we were in a shallow enough lane that she could stand up at any point and be ok.  All of the sudden, I realize that I'm in my first swimming race since that swim team year.  Whoa.  My life is totally different now.  I'm a grown woman, healthy weight, and strong.  Nobody is making me do anything.  I realize I don't have to be competing against anyone in the pool with me - I can compete with myself, trying to do the best I can, which might just be finishing the race.  Then, I realize that I actually am swimming faster than at least a couple of people in the race.  My lane partner, for one.  She has stopped several times and stood up to catch her breath.  And a guy a couple people over.  Huh.  Still, I keep swimming and just try to focus on myself.  My breathing, my stroke, hit the flip turn, glide and kick, my breathing...etc.  And after a minute or two everything settles down.  I'm just swimming laps, like I always do.  And 15 minutes isn't a long swim for me.  I realize that if I take it easy (I don't want to push to hard at swimming since I have two other events to come) I will finish the swim and feel good, this doesn't have to feel stressful.  And suddenly, it's not. 

I finished the swim feeling good.  Got changed quickly and went into the gym where the spinning bikes had been preset to our personalized settings.  Everything felt good.  I haven't been biking or spinning in the last year or so, so this was going to be my weakest event.  Again, I didn't want to wear myself out before the run, so I wasn't going to push myself too hard.  Great news - they had music (140 bpm, good for spinning) and I just got into it.  I was singing along a little, definitely keeping loose while I was riding.  My legs didn't feel bad, so my husband's warning seemed to have been for naught.  I was able to drink 24 ounces while I was biking, so hydration wasn't a problem. You know how I've got no padding left around my tailbone?  Well, that's true for everywhere a spinning bike seat hits, too. ;)  Of course, even when I was morbidly obese those things were still uncomfortable!   Anyway, I held my speed at around 105 rpm, and felt great.  Just started to break a sweat at the end of the 20 minutes.  Then they blew the whistle and I hopped off the bike, looking forward to the run and being able to push myself more.  I took one step, and....

Ohhhhhh boy!  Have you ever been on a boat for hours or days and then stepped on to dry land, only to feel like you're off balance/ the land is moving?  That's the best way I can explain trying to walk after the bike.  My legs felt rubbery, and my hips were all kinds-of-whacked-out.  I only had 5 minutes to get up to the track and I knew I NEEDED to stretch out.

Climbing the stairs to the track, I felt my hamstrings tighten up to the point it hurt.  Yup, gonna be doing stretches until it starts, just hope it loosens up... and it did.  I won't say stretching felt good, it hurt, but I was able to run without pain when the whistle blew.  Now my family started cheering me on - that felt fantastic!  "Go, Mom!"  "You're doing great, honey!" "We're so proud of you!".   My assigned lap-counter even started cheering me on; "You've got this, Becky!".  It's the last event, I don't have to hold anything in reserve, so while I paced myself for the first 18 minutes, for the last 2 minutes I ran as fast as I could.  When the whistle blew I had gone a half of a lap further than I had imagined I could in that amount of time!  Yay, me :) 

It took a minute to catch my breath, and I was sweating!  It's been a while since jogging two miles made me sweat (barring beastly hot weather).  I ate a bite of a banana to make sure I had a little carb boost until lunch time, went home, showered, made lunch and the rested.  My whole body was exhausted for the rest of the day.  My body was still a little sore Monday, but not bad.  I can't wait to find out my overall score/ placement.  Next year, I want to beat it!

This weekend I'm doing the Cleveland Clinic Healthy Solon 5k.  A bunch of the members of my local support group are going to do the 1 mile walk.  I'm so excited that so many of us will be there.  We've even got someone coming in from one of my facebook WLS groups that I've never met in person before.  Eileen, can't wait to meet you!  Pictures to follow (like you didn't guess that, right?)!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bariatric Betty's belts, boop oop a doops, and pics from Spring Break

I have returned from an epic Spring Break with my family in Orlando.  We had a wonderful time with less than wonderful weather, and of course - took TONS of pictures.  :)

The first one to show you was on the plane.  I was fortunate that even with a BMI of 43 (morbidly obese) I never had to ask for a seat belt extender on an airplane.  I did, however, probably spill over on to my seatmates, and always needed to use the arm rests.  This was the first time I have flown since surgery and when I sat down I was ASTOUNDED at the room I had in my economy seat.  I expected it to feel less cramped, I didn't imagine it would feel this different.  Being able to put the tray table all the way down without it pressing against my chest, belly, or legs!  When morbidly obese I would have to cross my ankles to keep my legs from spreading out into my seat mate's personal space, and I would wedge my arms against my body to make sure my torso didn't do the same.  Now my only issue is sitting down (with pressure on my tailbone) for the duration of the flight.  I rolled up my coat into a horseshoe shape to sit on, but still had to get up and shift my body several times during the flight from tailbone pain.  So minor an inconvenience!   I tried to think of how to show you how bizarre it felt in a picture and decided on showing you all of the EXCESS belt I didn't need after I fastened the seat belt across my hips....

It's almost as long as my whole arm!

Our first full day was supposed to have scattered thunderstorms and a threat of severe weather, so we chose to go to Universal Islands of Adventure instead of Sea World which had less places to stay dry.  The first couple hours were OK.  We waited in line for 90 minutes to go on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter's "Forbidden Journey" - if you have a family that adores Harry Potter, it's a blast.  Mine think it is OK, but aren't crazy about it, so 90 minutes was a bit much for them.  During your wait you get warned multiple times not to go on the ride if you have a bad back, are pregnant, get motions sickness, etc.  Umm - that motion sickness part?  They mean it.  I do get motion sick, but I figured I HAD to try it.  I mean, it was HARRY POTTER.  And maybe my motion sickness wasn't as bad as it used to be... maybe my surgery might have had a bonus effect..  NOT.  At the end of the ride my kids were scared from the dragon who breathed "hot steam" (water vapor) on them and I had a mouth full of spit and was holding back gagging until I got to the trash can.  Well, I really enjoyed walking through the castle in line, at least! 

During our stroll though Comic Cartoon world, I happened to see Betty Boop, and HAD to get my picture with her.  I always felt that at my lowest weight (starving myself in high school) I was proportioned like her cartoon - freakishly large in the chest and tiny everywhere else.  The funny thing is, now that I'm at a healthy weight, I don't feel like that at all.  And except for the wig, she looked normal, too.  Of course, that is partly because she was a cast member playing a part - not a drawn comic strip - but still I couldn't help thinking 1) "Hey, look at both of us looking kinda normal" and 2) "Is my rack bigger than Betty Boop's?"  OK, the second one wasn't fair - they couldn't put an over-endowed cast member into that tiny outfit at a family park... but it WAS funny.

We actually enjoyed the tame family-oriented rollercoaster "Flight of the Hippogriff" and that was the last ride we went on.  Rain started coming down while we were walking, and while we were debating whether to head back to the hotel or just duck under an overhang to wait it out.  Then the storm started in earnest, with 80 mph winds, thunder and lightening on top of us, and a tornado warning!  We spent the next 1 1/2 hours huddled on the floor of the Dr. Seuss gift shop trying to distract our kids. 

Meet my Thing 1 and Thing 2. 
I guess severe weather is good for forcing your family to participate in photo ops!

Back to the hotel we went, and collapsed for the rest of the day.  The next day - and for the rest of the trip - we enjoyed Sea World.  The shows, the underwater viewing areas where you could watch the animals play, the Turtle Trek 360 where you could meet a bunch of rescued animals like Belle - the sea turtle with only half of a shell after a boat hit her and paralyzed her lower half, and the Happy Harbor (aka Captain Kid's World if you're old like me).  It was WONDERFUL.

We still didn't see everything - and we spent 3 1/2 days there!  My now-10 year old son's favorite part was definitely feeding sting rays fish and shrimp.  He spent a good chunk of his birthday money on trays of ray food, and loved how they would come over and "hug" on his arm without even taking the food sometimes.  My favorite part?  OK, get your tissues ready...

When I was 6 or 7 there was a Sea World in the Cleveland area.  My family would go at least once a year, and I loved it.  My favorite part was the Pearl Divers - cute college age girls who would dress up in "traditional pearl diver costumes" and "dive" down in a tank where cultured oysters waited for them.  You could purchase the oyster of your choice and they would open it right there to show you your pearl (which of course, they would be happy to mount on the jewelry of your choice - also available for purchase).  At that age, my dream was to grow up and be a Sea World pearl diver!  How cool were they?!?  I told my boys the story on our first day there and took them to see the pearl divers.  They thought it was cool and encouraged me to buy an oyster.  "Nah.  It's too much money, and then it costs money to get the jewelry, and I would probably want two to get earrings, so that's more money..."  On our third day there, we told the boys that we wanted to treat each of them to a souvenir.  They were responsible for our meal and souvenir budget, and hadn't spent a dime unnecessarily yet (they got to keep the surplus at the end of the trip).  So we told them "We would like to get you each a little something to remember from Sea World, not from the budget - a snow globe, t-shirt, stuffed animal, etc."  They got excited, and then my 12 year old son said "Mom, could we get an oyster with a pearl?"  "Ummm, yeah.  If you want to have a pearl, OK."  I didn't know why they would want a pearl, but whatever floated their boats... "So, Mom, could we each get an oyster with a pearl, and then give you the pearls and then you could get them put into earrings for you?" 

Wow.  Yeah, my boys did that for me.  They used their "free" gift to get me the most amazing/ valuable earrings I will ever own.  I bawled when they said that, bawled when they gave me the pearls, bawled when I put the earrings on... get the picture?  One of the pearls was white, and the other black, so I have a set of earrings that are different colors, which looks very cool.  Here's a close up showing one...

Eating on vacation worked out pretty well.  The Embassy Suites we stayed at had a made-to-order breakfast for free every morning, so I started every day with an egg white omelet.  The rest of my meals consisted of Quest bars, Veggie Burgers (without the bun) that were available at Universal and Sea World, and eating the cheese/ sauce toppings off of pizza.  I actually didn't have a single pouch problem with my food - no throwing up or food getting stuck.  My only problem happened when I drank some crystal light too fast in a taxi.  I got a surface tension bubble in my stoma - the liquid couldn't drain, which caused some pain for a couple minutes.  But, as soon as I could get out of the cab and walked around, the bubbles popped (I belched about 10 times) and I felt all better.  I was a pound lighter than the day we left when I got back.  It probably helped that we were walking all day at the parks!

Some blog-specific news!  I got my first check from AdSense when we got back, and am donating $50 (1/2 of the total) to Caring Bridge - a wonderful organization that has helped several of my friends who have fought cancer and other serious illnesses (all survivors, too!).  Thank you to everyone who has clicked on my AdSense links.

Next up - my first mini-triathalon is this weekend.  Sunday morning at our Community Rec Center, I will join others in a reverse triathalon.  Instead of seeing how fast I can complete a course, they track how far you swim, bike and run/ walk in 15, 20 and 20 minutes.  The people who go the farthest win.  It should be really fun - and exhausting.  I haven't been training for it, so I imagine that whatever my total is this year I can plan on beating it next year :)  I'll make sure to have my hubby take pics to share on the next blog.  Happy Spring to everyone!