Thursday, August 1, 2013

If they ain't been through the dark... How you show 'em the light. "Care" by Kid Rock featuring T.I.

I know it's been a while...about a year or so to be more precise. I guess I should have looked back at the last post and see where I had left off...seems like the thing I should have done, but it's me and and I am finally coming to believe that just maybe...rarely do I do the things that make sense or chose the path which would be easier, but I do have my reasons and that is what I am going to try and explain with this post..

A year ago I remember the summer coming to a close, throwing a one year post heart issue party,inviting my friends over, having some beers, and just wondering what I was going to do next?? I had just started a new coaching venture at a brand new high school and had been running pretty regularly at a pretty easy pace for about a month or so. I remember thinking that maybe I could give my hometown race another was only a few weeks away. At that point there were just too many uncertainties I guess. Bottom line is I decided not to do it...for whatever reason I backed out. I didn't regret it because that's the decision I made.

Let's move forward a year, well the Socorro Chile Harvest Triathlon is two days away and this morning I called my buddy (race director), told him to seed me with a 5:50 swim (400 meters), put me in the 40-44 age group, and I'll see him there. No promises how I will do overall because to tell the truth I don't even know. I do know that over the past year my fitness has returned enough to still go pretty darn hard on the bike and bring my swim time down to about where it was when I won the race a few times, and I know that I can run a 5k at 10,200 feet elevation (21:00). I also know that I have yet to put all three together in row...I don't really know how I will react if and when I get passed on the bike, if I run short of breath, if I get any weird pains in my chest area (although those have all but subsided), I guess I just don't know how fast I will be or how comfortable I'll be about letting myself hurt the way it "should". I feel I have done enough to race the race, but being out for two years and only training somewhat correctly for the past two months probably is not enough to do what I used to...and I am ok with that. This will be triathlon number 202 for me, but that number doesn't really matter's like numero uno and I have no real way of calming my nerves before this one. Let me explain, come into my mind before a race...before a normal one that is...see, its very normal to be nervous before a race and I was a little scared, but I liked the fear because it kept me sharp and fast and ready. To calm myself I would just remind myself that I was an All American, I was ranked in the top 3% in the nation, that I am the Bad Ass, that it was the other 97% that would gladly trade places with me...that's how it was and that's how I made it work...period. It never let me down thinking like that, but now, all that is out the window...and I am HAPPY about that. Brand new, one last time, savor the moment, build a new me out of it...That's how much it means it me!

As for why?? I mean I've heard it all and I guess it comes down to being comfortable with my actions, being able to live without regret, having the ability to still take a bit of life and dictate for yourself the outcome. Being able to look an athlete in the eyes, tell them to give me all they have, to help someone fight their fight and expect they will because they believe and trust in me...and all the while knowing that I DAMN sure practice the words that come out of my mouth! See, I feel that the kids I coach, The people in the SCAD survivors group I belong to, my beautiful friends fighting their afflictions, my family, and all my wonderful friends in and out of the triathlon community deserve the best Mike I can possibly be. Don't get me wrong now, let me expland (explain/expand) It's something deep within me, something that does not let me rest (like normal folk), something that burns...and although now it has been a nice warm glow it still likes to be fed every now and again. The one thing it does not like is the life of living in anger or regret over never giving it a shot when I truly know I can or the depression of not being able to...If I am to be my very best then I hopefully, with the grace of God, become a true inspiration to many and this is best way I know about being just more no less. I mean how you gonna listen whole heartily to someone who's preaching about picking yourself back up, dusting yourself off, starting over, making a better, starting a new...if they never themselves have had the misfortune of being struck down. The way I see it, you're the lucky ones, you get to pick yourself up and make shit better based on solid experience. In a weird way I am a glad all this landed on my plate because I will have an even deeper respect for those who struggle and try to do right, those who refuse to let an ailment/injury/affliction define who they are and their capabilities, and yes...sorry to say, those middle of the pack age group triathletes...My hats off to man, all of you.. I just ask one thing... Accept me back, if I shut it down early due to whatever then know that my biggest victory in all this came just getting to the starting line, please know how long the road was getting me back to your community, and please know how much I have at stake... Just welcome me with a big hug and let's get it on. Know this, I would NOT be at the start line if I didn't think I could pull this off without there being a glimmer of my former racing self... I just wouldn't, but yes I am still scared of the unknown....but that's what life is about :)

      This was a gift from my cross country team this morning... I love those kids!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One year ago today..Forcast, Optimism!

Exactly one was year ago today I remember thinking to myself WTF next?! I was being rushed back to the cath lab for the second time with the doctors scratching their heads and me signing stupid paperwork stating it was alright for them to crack my chest open if they thought that was the right thing to do (95% chance). Yeah, I was scared and wanted the entire situation to be what it was weeks before when I was racing and chasing pr's, but that was not the case. The reality was I was really in lots of trouble and nobody really knew why at the time...especially me and my family. OK OK enough of that...been there done that, and thank God, got through that! Let's fast forward to the here and now.....1 year later and 1 year way better off than what I was at this time last year, WAY BETTER OFF!! See, for the last 20+ years I have kept a journal of all my workouts, races, notes, pr's, who I trained with, and who I raced against. These have been valuable pieces of information when it comes time for me to evaluate my year to year performance standards (I do my homework). When all this first happened I remember thinking, okay I will miss the Damit Man Tri this weekend, but try to do Socorro, if not then Austin is still a few months away....Was I ever wrong, but I was constantly readjusting in order to stay positive in my way of thinking, I need goals and data collection in my athletic life (no matter if it starts from the beginning again). When it was all said and done, I accessed what I could do at the time, set out to try to keep what fitness I had left, and try to make any gains possible...even if it meant taking little baby steps. I used the previous mentioned logs to see where I was from year to year, I would race exact races for these purposes, and for the majority I was pleased with the way my tri career had progressed. I am happy to say I have accomplished everything I set out to in this sport...and then some. My point here is that I should/could be alright with riding off into the sunset, being put out to pasture, I have nothing else to prove and I knew my day in the sun would come to an end at some point, but I am not positive that point is just yet (I prefer editing the final chapters of the book on my terms based on the data I collect myself).

For the last year I knew that there was no way I could measure up to where my fitness level was or what workout I did the prior year, it just wasn't happening (on a regular basis) and I was too scared to push it enough to make it happen. I've never been the one to take the easy road out, but even if I sit here on the couch, type, watch The British Open, and do nothing else..I am still ahead of the game at this point a year ago!!! When something big happens that could tend to tilt your world to the negative it is very important to hunt any positive way of thought available, this is it for me. At first I would say if it never gets better than this, well, I can deal with that. Two weeks later I test, it gets a little better, I say the same thing. Another few weeks pass it got better, etc. etc. In May I ran the same time in a 7.5 mile time trial as I did a year ago! The other day I swam a 100 free in a pool with no lane lines in 1 minute and 2 seconds (I took it less than 100%), my bike feels really good and I have been riding a heavier thick tired mountain bike on the majority of my rides, I am running every morning with the XC kids, and bottom line...I feel good. What a year it has been and I am extremely excited to close the books on last year, but I will carry with me forever the life lessons learned, the new friends I've made, the memory of what it has taken for me to get to this point, and the optimism of what the future has in store!

Some time ago I sat down and mapped out a plan to get back to racing again. I figured, at the time, in a year I would be able to get at it again in some capacity. This weekend was a little bitter sweet for me because I really wanted to do the Damit Man Tri. It would have been cool to pick up exactly where I left off a year ago to the date, but it just didn't happen...I probably could have have done pretty well today, but I feel I just need more time to be sure that when I get into it, I will be alright coming out the other side of it... know what I mean). I guess it's a two way street for me to collect positive data, see, if I was way far away from where I used to be then I would have been more likely to go and have fun, wave to my friends on the course, stop smell the roses, and other cliche bullshit like that, but that's just not me. When I decide to race again I want to be as competitive as possible and I do know it takes a year to a year and a half for the heart to heal on a cellular level, so I will take solace in that fact. I am happy with where I am now, I know, based on my own research, that with the right type of training I will get faster, and most positively I am responding better to the right type of training with each passing week! Two prong?? Well, I am liking the way my life is right now. We have had a really good summer, gone fishing, taken the kids to amusement parks, gone to the movies, and have some pretty kick ass friends and family that keep me pretty busy most of the time. Once again I feel very lucky to be where I am right or not....but I do miss it dearly..The way I raced was always straight from the heart and that's the reason I loved it so much. I'll put it this way, there were races where I had no business placing where I did, trying to ride away from people who were more talented, or try to run better than much more talented runners, but I made it happen. Not with my legs my lungs or my head, but rather I would do it the one way I do everything (teach, coach, write, etc.)...with my heart! Honestly I felt all the power come directly from there then I would channel it where ever it needed to go, I loved it, I tested it regularly, and it always felt sooo good in the end :) This is the sole reason I think it would be better to wait a little more longer...more testing needed ;) Not the type that the Dr's tell me me because they are all over the place with their thoughts, ie.. One says no limitations so that evening I run the exact time trial I did a year ago, then I go see another one and he says I am higher risk of of cardiac arrest what the hell?? I felt fine running fast and it turned out ok, but that crap lurks in the back of my mind.

Bottom line is I am happy to have been able to accomplish all I have in the sport, lucky enough to be a part of the Elite Racing Team (special thanks to them for sticking by side and providing me motivation to get better), being a part of the Power Bar Team Elite back in the late 90's, all the friends and memories I've made along the way,  the sprint finishes (win or lose), and of course all the road trips...above all the time spent in Hawaii! I couldn't begin to explain the feelings and expectations which accompany being a member of an "Elite" team... I am a blessed man for sure. Next season I think I'll opt for the Champions team because I love their company, what they stand for, the owners, and the people who work there..(especially the little sponsorship coordinator). I will end this post back with the reference to optimism. Optimism for me, can lay in any direction I choose to look. If it's the upcomming tennis matches against Levi, the optimism Leticia will medal in the Paraolympics (a grown man will cry), the optimism that I will race hard again, or perhaps and best of all; the optimism that just maybe I find a perfect balance and blend of all of the above.....

Here's to this coming year! Life is good!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paraolympics....Here she comes!!! June 21, 2012

Planting the seed, this is what the Padre was talking about last Sunday. Ironically it was just earlier that day that I got word a certain little girl had made the Paraolympic swimming team. Earlier that week I had taken my mountain bike out on the roads for a little ride. Where was I going?? Who knows, I just wanted to pedal a while, listen to music and remember what it was like to feel the hot wind in my face. A short time later I was under the cover of the pecan orchard and in La Mesa. A left turn and a few miles of dirt road lead me to another seed I had planted many years ago. The seed I am referring to is the one that followed me all over Las Cruces on my long runs (on a mountain bike), went with me to Hawaii in 2001 for the Ironman (helped Peter Reid limp back to his condo...DNF) then followed me on the run via a rented mountain bike, and lived with my family for months at a time. Yeah I finally had enough courage to make it out to Jr's grave site. I stood there for a while and tried my best to remember all the time we shared together, the memories made, and just hoped that for at least a little while he knew people believed in him...I'm sure he did. I kissed his tombstone and rode back home, the long way. I took every ditch bank I could find and a feeling of peace came over me, but it's not very many days that go by when I don't miss an old friend...I mean it really made my day when I would be doing my do around LC and someone would honk or yell and it would be him...good warm feelings! Now back to last Sunday at church...yes mo fo's I go to church most Sundays, let's put it this way I go enough to know that on Saturday evening service at Newman center we can be in and out in less than 45 minutes;) So on our way, I get this text that says SHE MADE THE TEAM! I thought for a minute and then knew it was Leticia, I sat in the parking lot and texted her mom for a little while then went inside just beaming. The sermon was about planting a seed, doing the hard work, all the necessities which will yield the desired outcome, and staying dedicated to the cause. Wow, I thought, how does he do that? How does it fit so well? Dang, here's a 20 for the collection just because... Here is the deal, I figured just about 14 years ago I tried to plant this seed to help a kid by showing him there should be a better way to live and to expect more out of his life (many of my buddies helped out) but in the end I guess we are held subject to the outcome by forces of nature. It takes me a long while to get over hardships, but I like to take my time and replace them with something much better (feeling..not person wise). Yeah, you guessed it, a few days later I was reminded of another young person who took my challenge that there might just be more out there then being the class president, horseback riding, and being loved by everyone she had ever met... It's called track and field, it's called long jump, it's called swimming (competitively), and ultimately it's called a triathlon. Just like many kids before and since, she thought I was crazy, took me up on it anyway, and saw the journey through...Thank God!! My life would not be the same if she hadn't..pretty sure hers either. I look back now and laugh about how we "ghettoed" the long jump, how she would purposely leave her shoes tied loosely so they would conveniently come untied during a run, and how every time I looked back at her feet on the tandem..they were always coasting. Our ghetto long jump method to keep her on the straight path to the jump zone was to have a kid standing in the long jump pit yelling straight straight straight...the lady from the vis. imp. school came out and just shook her head, I guess there was actually a noise machine for that?? My hats off to Leticia for doing all she did, all she does, and never letting a disability (blindness) be a hindrance to her fulfillment. My hats off to those coaches who have worked with her since then, I am sure she has come a long way in the water to be ranked in the world the way she is now! Funny thing is that one of my first swims back from my own little setback I ran into my little buddy..what did I do? Hopped right in the same lane and swam with her of course. She had gotten faster, but I still needed to show her who the coach was..partly because I wanted to put her mind at ease and partly because I wanted to test it out for myself. I remember she asked me how I was doing and she was worried I wouldn't be the same. That's all it took for the payment to come back around to me.. a little girl telling me, in essence, go ahead Montoya test it out, I'm in your corner...once again...What A Journey my friends, and it's not over yet! On the home front, I am starting to hear that little voice talking again and you know whats it's saying...No, not you should jump back in head first and go 100% at the next triathlon, but rather...You know Mike, racing again at a pretty fast pace may just be in the cards?? Interesting thing about it is that racing on LOVE and racing on RAGE are opposite of the spectrum...Let's see which will yield the better outcome :) The journey not only continues, it continuously gets better, and now it has even made its way to LONDON!!

                                                           Always in my Heart Brother 
                                                   My little seedling and total inspiration

                                                                    It Is What It Is

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Pilgrimage to say, "Thank You" 4-08-12

Ok so it's been quite a while since I have updated the blog. To say there has been a lot that has happened since my last post would be a giant understatement! To say that I totally know which road my life will travel from this point forward would be a total shot in the dark. To sit here and write about how at ease I am that a new triathlon season is on the horizon and I am fine without knowing if I will race or not would be a total lie. I started this blog some time ago to give insight on what it takes to be a 40+ year old triathlete trying to live the dream... still... I admit I was on top of the world for the better part of 20 years in the sport and I also admit that when it came to a halt last July, I was pretty much dumbfounded with where to go from here thoughts??? I mean for years, 20 to be exact, I would show up for my teaching job, print out the years schedule and begin making my racing plans by writing in all the races I would be participating in for the year. Everything else would be fit in around the penciled in races...everything. Right or wrong that's just how it was. Imagine how I felt when this past August I showed up at work, 15 lbs under weight, yellow looking, dizzy as shit whenever I stood up too fast, and absolutely no race to plan for...ever, I thought. Yeah, if you guessed like crap, well you're right. It was then and there that I decided to go on a quest to gain back back every ounce of strength that i could, emotionally and physically. I decided not to use the pity card, not to take any time off work (even if it meant having to listen to 20 people a day ask me if I was feeling alright). The time I would take was to see my buddy Trent at cardiac rehab. The place made me feel good and honestly it felt like the only place I belonged. I did my best to make an appearance at a triathlon in September, but it was like trying to beat a square peg in a round opening, it hurt so much not being able to compete! That night I decided to try and run again, with the help of Marlene and my bro's Steven and Danny who kept the fire going on the beach and the beers on ice, Mar and I were able to make 6 miles in an hour....that night the quest took a turn for the better! I guess the point to be made here is that for the better part of the past 8 months I have been fortunate enough to reevaluate my progress on my terms based on the feedback my body tells me. The biggest point I would like to make, on a personal note, is how important it was for me to try and look for the positive in any and every aspect of this event. The one and only positive I could draw on many times was the fact that I was still here, still able to love and hold my wife and kids, still able to enjoy a cold beer, and still had the ability to help others.

For the better part of the past three and a half months I have been trying to figure out for myself just how much fitness I was able to hold onto, regain, and how my heart will respond to increased work load. Sometimes I am pleased with the way I feel and other times I am left wondering if there was damage which will never allow me to get a whole lot faster again?? At least with this approach, I feel I am relying on the one person who knows how I feel, who knows how my body is reacting to the work outs, and the recovery...ME! I am tired of going to all these different doctors who would all tell me different things. Three different cardiologists, two different blood doctors, and a few other doctors that I've lost touch with all seemed to have a different view and different advice...scary, upsetting, and demoralizing, are a few words which come to mind. As I look back I guess the one emotion usually present, anger, was mysteriously missing (for the most part) and that's the positive I can take away from this. As far as the doctors go: I have changed to a different cardiologist, a triathlete, someone who could actually relate to the way I feel. I do need to back up just a few years here: I had a prior cardiologist named Dr. Meltzer, who was also a personal friend, a runner/triathlete, and racing companion. In 2007 he died of a heart attack. The last time I payed him a visit (I have a heart murmur), he told me my aorta was a bit dilated..just like the rest of my heart arteries, but not to worry and come back in 5 years. Yeah it would have been 5 years in 2011...So, back to the new triathlete/Dr. The first thing I talked him into, was letting me take a stress test, which I did my best to practice for, and which I passed with flying colors! All the way to 21 minutes, which took the treadmill all the way to 6 mph at 22% incline for minutes 18-21. The stage before that one was 5.5 mph at 20% incline for minutes 15-18. It was freakinPVC's (preventricular contractions) that sort of stopped all the positive reactions and ended up with me having to see an arrhythmic specialist for endurance athletes in El Paso..yes, another doctor..There were both positives and negatives associated with the stress test. On the positive, I went much further then anyone had ever seen (including non incident and athletic people). My heart looked much better in the echo, my ejection fraction has come up, and I know it will still be healing for the next 9-10 months..which means to me it will only get better on a cellular level for many more months. Racing?? Not just yet and I am very ok with that, I mean even if I don't get the chance to ever race again I still have a whole hell of a lot to be positive about! I know I am healing more and more with the passing weeks and months, I mean I remember waking up in the intensive care, looking down to the end of the bed and seeing these ugly ass RED socks. RED socks?? Can not walk socks, RED socks meant, extreme fall risk, do not get of bed, not healthy enough to get out of bed and walk on my own! From there, before I was able to go to the main floor (5 days later) I was able to walk one time around the nurses station...with a lot of help. I remember the nurse asking me, "how do you feel" I totally lied and replied "good". Holy Shit! This is what it's gonna be like from here on out, I thought, WTF!!

Now to what I can do: Perhaps the biggest and most rewarding accomplishment so far was this past Friday.. Good Friday, many months ago I set my mind to be able to run the pilgrimage route from San Miguel Church in Socorro to San Lorenzo Church in Polvedera (about 11 miles). As the day drew closer, my aspirations grew as well. In 2001, together with Steven and Jr, we ran both ways. I wanted to do it again this year, but better minds prevailed...It's sorta funny how the "old Mike" still comes out every now and again, besides how much fun would this new journey be if I was able to jump right back to where I was?? This time I plan on taking my time, enjoying the scenery, letting the experiences permeate deeper, and bringing more loved ones with me. Friday morning together with Marlene, Lindsey, and Steven, we set out for San Lorenzo, we ran the entire way. Yes, it was difficult, but then again a pilgrimage is meant to be. What kind of journey with significant moral and spiritual value would be worth undertaking without hard work, a strong belief, and beautiful people to share it all with?...sorta like a triathlon huh? Truth be told, I might be able to don my race suit again, but then again I might not?? Either way my only choice in the matter is to remain positive and share the love along the I can. I will end by wishing everyone, Happy Easter. Whatever your beliefs are I wish you a deeper devotion, weather it be to training, chasing those personal bests, reconnecting with family/friends..whatever...Good Luck and be a hero to somebody today!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It has been a while since I have sat down to update my blog. I have been quite busy getting better Y'LL! The semester ended and we are well on our way to Christmas and readily looking forward to 2012. Since July, my world has been turned inside out to say the least and there were many times when I really needed a positive word, a friend, or someone just to tell me that things were going to work out and be okay. I know many people, myself included read online all about the whole spontaneous dissection and were, well, scared. From day one (it's been 150 days) I have tried my very best to keep an extremely positive attitude. At times I will admitt it was very difficult, but more times then not I would find a reason to be thankful, someone would make a nice comment, I would receive a smile, or something else would just come up and distract my attention, which by the way is not a hard thing to do. My point here is that I can look back and see just how far I've come. Sit here in the present and honestly say I feel even better then before (more patients, love, and empathy). I peek ahead and I get totally excited for what adventures await! I started this blog roughly a year ago and titled it my journey, boy what a journey it has been. Today we were watching one of those sappy Christmas movies (which actually made me shed a tear) and one of the lines was "it's not a bad thing to lose everything you have and start over, at least you know you are starting from the bottom and it can only get better". That's how it was for me, the one thing I had worked so hard on and for so many years was gone, I didn't know how much if any would return, racing again was totally on the opposite end of the universe, and I kept waiting for this huge depression which, thankfully, never really came. Instead anytime it seemed I started feeling blue, I would realize just how much life means to me, how many friends I have made in the journey, and how much my priorities were a little off. So, a big thank you to all of you who I have talked to about my situation, all of you who have made me feel better (my students have played a humongous role), especially to everyone who has stuck by me throughout (my one Dr. Friend who has maintained the communication and was right all along), and to my family...I Love You guys so much I can't even begin to explain.

Now for the fun part, last week was eye opening to say the least. I had two different Dr's appointments which would change the way I can look at things now. The first was a from a new blood doctor. The old one dismissed me as all the tests he ran came out negative (he treated me as if I was wasting his precious time). The second one ordered a batch of blood work and found that I indeed have a condition known as c677t mutations(two) it meant that I am hyper-coagulable and also that I produce a higher amount of red blood cells. With this condition, plaque is more prone to build in the arteries. At least I have some answers now as to what happened. Neither myself nor my dr friend, Dr. Liz, had agreed with the whole spontaneous dissection. Every time I brought it up with my former cardiologist, he would shoot down anything different, telling me he didn't know why I clotted so bad and just kept me on a double dose of blood thinners. Enter the next night and an appointment with the doctor who actually did the intervention on me. Contrary to what I had heard, the doctor was actually pretty easy to talk to, listened to me, agreed with me, and took what I had to tell him pretty well. See one of the things that actually upset me through all this was the fact that I was able to go swimming again (a few days after I got out of the hospital) I ran into an acquaintance who proceeded to tell me how he was looking at a ghost, I was one in a million to have survived, blah blah blah. I was just like WTF, yeah I guess he had dinner with the cardiologist who had done the surgery and he felt it was cool to inform him...don't get me wrong I am extremely pleased to be here right now, happy as all hell that it was fixed with a stent and not open heart surgery, but really? Even I know it's not cool to talk openly about the medically fragile kids I work with, not too cool at all. With that being said, you can get a little insight on why I had mixed emotions before I even met the guy. The reason I am finally getting the chance to meet this cardiologist? The one who was working with him, the one who I have been seeing for the past 5 or so months, the one that had me on a double dose of effient, the one who maintained the diagnosis of SCAD, and who would rarely listen to me...I guess was fired.. I get to meet with my new cardiologist now and it went very well. I talked frankly with him and how disappointed I was in the fact that he talked about me to someone I didn't authorize, I asked him about the dissection, I asked about my future in racing again....bottom line, I liked what he had to say about everything I asked him about. See I sent out my video of the cath lab and it became evident that it looked more like a plaque rupture, a lead wire dissection, which clotted again overnight, and later sucked out with medication. He confirmed this, my wife and I sat there in awe because everything the other one told us was entirely different and everything Dr. Liz had been telling me the entire time was correct! So, folic acid and vitamin B-12 for the mutation, stay well hydrated, no staying too long in Colorado training and racing, a single dose of Effient (10 mg), and more recovery time...I am good with all that ;) but as you can imagine my head was truely spinning as three different drs are telling me three different things...two of which are cardiologists the third being my new blood dr. (more on that in a bit). For example, I was ok with knowing I have a weird mutation, maybe if my dad had known, he would still be here. I was even ok with him telling me not to race anymore and that I am extremely lucky to be where I am right now (....DUH) he said things like if you go anywhere above 5500 feet just walk and fish and don't stay long. That he has seen this condition go undiagnosed and after a few more clotting episodes I could be crippled with damage. The cardiologist says that there is no real reason I can't get back to where I was before (racing). It wouldn't happen overnight, but it didn't take overnight to get to where I was in the first place. Wow! Totally different advice...I think my wife was happier with the first :) Although the cardiologist did tell us racing in places like Hawaii would be optimal ;)

So now enter my mindset about all this.... See, I know where I was on July 11th in Boulder and I know where and how I was on July 24th when they let me walk again and I also know where i am and how i feel riht now... Honestly, this is the best I have felt in a very very long time. I think all those blood thinners were a bit much for me (dizzy spells) so naturally I am happy to be on a single dose now. My red cells are up to normal range again so I have more energy and I am fairly confident that I won't be bleeding out if I should take a spill on the bike, thanks to the basketball bunch at school. Last week we played twice with really good (young) players, I did fine (a little out of b-ball shape), but fine non the less. During the Tues game, I took a bad elbow to my big nose, it bled then stopped. Thurs..bam! Again!..and again it bled a bit then stopped and I kept playing..Awesome I thought, and they of course thought I was crazy to have taken two good shots to the face (nose) and be happy about it:) I guess what I will end up doing is taking both the Dr's advice, listening to my body and finding a happy place somewhere in between. The way I look at is that the worst part is behind me, the part where walking around the block would make me tired and dizzy and tingly. From those days every few weeks things have gotten extremely better. Look, I tell myself you just played two hard games of basketball with good players, scored a few times, hustled a few times, got a few rebounds, then ran 10 suicides, and ran around the school hallways for another 15 minutes...shit is getting better bro!! Yeah I talk to myself quite a bit, you should try it too, its kept me very positive and sometimes it's the best conversation you will have all day:) Anyway, my point is that things have gotten better on so many fronts. I know I can run 3 miles in @22 minutes, swim a 2000 in 30 minutes (pushing to about 80% on each) and bike...well that was always my best so it probably still will be a little better then the other two...The other thing I know now is how valuable my family, friends, students, and life in general is, so even if I am tapping out on the abilities now (probably not) but if I was, it's cool! Smart money says that if it has gotten better every few weeks then it should continue getting better so long as I listen to my body, and the ones who have stuck by my side and believed in me since the beginning of this journey. Special thanks to my little brother and his wife Lindsey who stuck around Las Cruces a bit longer to escort me on walks and make sure I was headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Road to Recovery

First of all Thanks to Kori and Scott who were able to get me started on my latest journey....Recovery... It was them who invited me down to the Butte a few weeks back to help out at one of my all time favorite races! It was there that I encountered and surpassed yet another stepping stone, actually going to a tri..knowing I couldn't participate. I did my best in the weeks leading up to the race to be in the right frame of mind and it seemed to work pretty darn well. The evening before was the kids race, my bro Danny and I were in the transition area helping tie shoes, buckle helmets, direct traffic, and my favorite...encourage the kiddos! It was extra special because my God daughter Emma raced, with a big smile the entire time! I must admit, it was as enjoyable as it was exhausting, but the beer on the shore was just as delicious as I remembered!

After hanging out all night and laughing with the kids from Socorro High Cross Country Team, I was woken up to the sound of  Kori's voice over the loud speaker... It couldn't already be time for the race to start, Shit! I overslept...wait, I am not racing today :) ahh, relief, and ahh my legs are a little sore?? Oh yeah I almost forgot, Mar is already signed up for her 3rd half marathon (Las Vegas Rock and Roll) and last night she was bumming around the camp fire about how she really needed to do her long run, but ran out of time...Hmmm, how far, I hint, 6 miles, she says...Hmmmm, well you know I think I can go an easy 6 and I promise that if I get too tired I will just stop and walk (cross my fingers and hope she goes for it). Hook, line, and thing I knew we were making our way up the sandy hill towards the the ranger station. Finally up to the top of the hill and the road flattens out, all the way to the last gas station, turned around and headed back. On the way back Mar decided she was feeling good and accidentally picked up the felt so good to run a little quicker, but right away she shut it down...I guess she got a little scared for me:) I didn't mind, either way I was running/jogging again! What a beautiful run it was..the lake, night, beers on ice, my bro's Steven and Danny waiting at camp...couldn't get much better than that!! So, "happy little soreness" brought a big smile to my face, I jumped out of bed and watched the inaugural NM half ironman start. My job, wet suit stripper (along with the Socorro CC Team) fun times!! We stripped wet suits, made victory tunnels for the athletes to run through, and of course joked and laughed the entire time! There were a few emotional moments for me during the race, but not really because I wasn't racing (as you might think), rather it was the moments when people come up to me and tell me they liked my blog, or that I was looking great, or that they prayed so hard for me, basically every time someone told me something nice. It sure was nice to volunteer at local race with athletes who range in ability to the best in the nation (Clay Mosely) all the way way to the beginner (Patricia Miller) and the ones in between like Jeffery Oxford...who, by the way, borrowed (and  wrecked) the bike I let him borrow for his first triathlon a few years back! My point here is that my last race was the 5150 event in Boulder, you know the place where even the one year veterans are riding a10k tri bike and think they are God's gift to the triathlon world... yeah you get my drift:) I would gladly help out my homies over them other types..The folks in T or C who help with the Elephant Man Triathlon truly ROCK and it felt like a homecoming of sorts.....Thanks A Bunch Gang!!!

Now for the recovery...It is going pretty well, all things considered. I have been told I am surpassing the wildest expectations of one of the most optimistic cardiac rehab doctors who I have kept in contact with since day one (that's a good thing). My current nurse in cardiac rehab never knew the treadmill maxed out at 7.0 mph (more on that coming later), last weekend I was able to run 9 miles (8:55 pace) with Mar, my workout hours are hovering around 9 hrs/wk,  ran a mile in 7:30 (got a little dizzy), and it seems like I am able to handle more as each week passes. Everything is different now, but I keep telling myself it will get better with time. I will get into better shape again, be able to run a little quicker again, be able to ride my bike outside again, and find a reason to get back in the pool again. I count my blessings every single day (multiple times) and do think it is the medication that is holding me back, but I can deal with that for a's kinds like training with a parachute and when I take it off in about a year, well, you know where I am going with that! Did I mention everything is different now? True things: I seem to be happier now both at work and at home, I look at life a little different now, words like patience, compassion, and love now have understanding and purpose behind them. It's weird working on trying to get my athleticism back (daily), while at the same time trying to embrace a new way of life. The hardest part are the mixed emotions, it's like I started living again on July 21st. I will take all the good that came along with it, continue to work hard to get back what was lost, and try not to let the gap between get the better of me...again. Interesting huh? That's how I feel, you know, I get a chance to start all over, wipe the slate clean so to speak...think about it, if you had a chance to start over don't you feel it's only fair you lose all the aspects you thought made up your very being, made you, well, you; the biggest part of yourself that you feel made people like you...only to be gifted something that was there all along (just grossly overlooked). Would you do it? Well, this is the reason I am OK with all this. It is what it is, there are two completely different ways to look at it and I am sticking with the "embrace" option...on all fronts (with the help from family and friends new and old). I would like to end this on the funny.. back to the 7.0 on the treadmill. See, I use cardiac rehab to my full advantage. I have a workout in mind most of the time and I like to see if I am improving from week to week. I am hooked up to a heart monitor the entire time which I use as valuable information as I workout. Example, a few weeks back I  ran for about 20 minutes and ended at about 7.5 mph that was enough to have PVC's, but this past week I was able to run for :40 min and reach 8.0 mph with less PVC's (both frequency and in general)! Getting better! Anyway, it takes me pushing just a little to discover the new and improving limits. I started my workout (on the treadmill they put me on) began upping the speed, got to 7.0 and it went no further..Dammit I was on a treadmill that had a speed governor! I got a little glimpse (as did they) of that old competitive Mike, I may have said a cuss word, jumped off the treadmill, jumped on the new one, and began the workout again...I really wanted to see how fast I could run I did...and it turned out fine;) That whole scenario reminded me of the time my dad brought home this mini bike (50cc) when I was 9, it too had a speed governor, I immediately followed the throttle cable, knocked off the little screw that limited the throttle, went from 15 to 25mph and was never happier. I guess you could say we are just happiest when allowed to set our own limits (within reason)...By the way big thanks to my Nurses at cardiac rehab they have been very understanding with me :) 

Monday, September 19, 2011

It wasn't until later, maybe even as late as now and probably a bit longer to get a real grasp on what happened. I would be lying if I were to say that I don't miss the way it used to be, that I don't want to ride my bike for 4 hours anymore, that I don't mind not running (full speed) on a single track trail or down the basketball court for that matter, but from where it was two months ago....I will not complain!

Let me try to put some comprehension to all this, both for myself and you:) Last week, on Thursday/ Friday, it was 8 weeks...that's it 8 weeks. I have to say it twice because of the need to remind myself! I feel so good right now that I would not only like to, but also feel it's possible to (on a slightly lower level) resume my old schedule. Although due to the obvious, some scared issues, and the fact that I am enjoying the heck out of "daddy and husband" time, it is is safe to say I will stay with the "Lazy Larry" version of my former self for a while longer.

I left off in the last post right about the point where there were these angels in my room with me, and they made me feel really comforted at a time when I really needed them most! Now I don't rightfully know who they were exactly, but I have my suspicions...Someday my wish will be to hover just over those nights and get a glimpse of who all was in that room with me (it's not like I haven't already asked to dream about it anyway). The suspicions all come from leading this other life that is not really surrounded with racing, competing, and triathlons so much. See, I've always known that there will come a day when I wasn't  fulfilled by triathlon, wasn't as fast anymore, or just didn't want to work as hard at it anymore. Never would it have been because I didn't love the sport, think it was a healthy alternative for being your average middle age dude, nor the time constraints involved with training (my wife and kids can attest to all the late night rides and runs). I never really gave much thought to an injury, especially one of the nature as mine being the stealer of life as I knew it....yeah I said it! There has been exactly 2 out of the 60 days that I have felt that way...the second being a few days ago.

I remember when I started doing this crazy/fun as hell sport some 20 years ago. There was a guy named Bobby Gonzales and he was so super fast! He was in his mid 30's when I began at age 20 something. I can remember saying to myself, "I wanna be that fast someday"! I would train endlessly and do countless extra laps or extra times up Aggie Mountain because I wanted to win races just like him when I was older. There were races when I would out split him on the bike, then there came a time when I would not only catch him, but also pass and put time into him before the run....only to get run down by this freak who could run a damn low 16 minute 5k off the bike! What I remember most is that when Bobby was around 42, he was practically unbeatable (around here anyway). He was the first semi local person (El Paso) to win a Tucson series race, everyone in the tri community knew his name, and at races he was the MAN to beat! My point is I am about to be 42 and as fast as I had ever been. The plan was in place and the puzzle only lacked a few pieces, which were in my reach. God had other plans for me. Plans for me to be a better Mike then I feel I was. See, for me anyway, there was something which went hand in hand with winning a few races and the ability to compete in some awesome locations. This thing I talk about?? ATTITUDE, you know the racers edge, the chip on your shoulder that whispers in your ear, "You're the man - Don't back down from anyone - You're here to win, give it your absolute all, or die trying...slowing down is not in the cards". I both hate to admit it yet I take ownership for the way I was (at times)...what am I talking about? Being in shape, being granted love for competition, and doing well in our sport gave me a self imposed and skewed vision of myself. I, at times, and mostly during competitions, would let this other dude out of the bag...Want confirmation, This past year at Trifest, "The Boss Man" and long time friend Seton Claggett  told the story of the time I went off course, he went and picked me up, tried to get me back in the race (xterra), only to have me say cuss words as I zig zagged my mtn. bike through the forest with a full head of steam. Lucky for me a few years ago I took a look in the mirror and I wasn't too comfortable (to say the least) so I made a little change. Mostly in the way I acted at races and I couldn't be happier that I did! See, when I was "all jacked up" in the hospital, a few weeks when I got home, and even now, I received my confirmation in the form of e-mails, phone calls and hospital visits! I can never even begin to explain how much it means to me to hear how people I race against look up to me or that a prominent coach tells his athletes to emulate my attitude. YES, I did it right, left a little footprint in the southwest tri community, and reaffirms that the last 20 years have gone to wonderful cause, THANK YOU!

When I got home, I tried my best to remain positive and hold on to the reflections made in the ICU. Three of the hardest things for me were: 1. Seeing my training diary on the table where I left it. 2. My pre-race play list on my i-pod. 3. Going into the garage and seeing all my bikes hanging there.....It didn't take too long for things to get better, ie, 1. My diary went from hour run, 3 hr bike ride, etc. to 20 min walk and an actual diary. 2.Really cool thing happened with my play list-I played it over the system at cardiac rehab and the older ladies (70-80) digged it! They were bobbing their heads, riding the stationary bikes, and walking on the treadmill with rhythm :) big time! As for number 3, well for the most part the bikes are still in the same place I left them two months ago, but they are spotless. The one bike I have gotten on is my old Rock hopper with the tag along attached. Levi and I will sneak out on the roads and ride for an hour. Trying to put a positive spin on hardships can take a person places they never thought possible... it's a good thing. I am getting a grasp on triathlon from every angle and I am here to say that I am excited to look at it through the eyes of a beginner again...Talk about full circle :)

Now for the warning signs...which I rationalized, but might help someone else out in a similar situation. After some flashbacks, research, and phone calls from unlikely places; I am able to draw some conclusions...for myself anyways. Back in 2009 I noticed there was just something not right during the swim portion at Deuces Wild, I had a panic attack in the water and thought I was going to have to drop out. It got better and I finished the swim and the tri, but I after that I went to the Dr. and he gave me an inhaler. Exercise induced asthma...that would explain why it was was getting harder to start my runs and why my feet would get numb during some runs, and why my swim was falling off the charts lately, and why my hand and feet were getting numb and cold when I was swimming.....right? As athletes there are always answers for issues like these....too little body fat to stay warm in the 79* water, just need another pair of shoes that are a bit softer, and it's normal for my left arm to get tingly while riding because being in the aero position could cut off some blood flow.....shake the arm out get back down and ride even harder right?? No, Dumb Ass! These were your warning signs, but please understand, every time I would feel a little off, my legs just didn't have it....there would be a really good race result and I would decide that would serve as my check up. No need to go back to my cardiologist when I just sprinted in 105* weather and was fine right?? Yeah, I have known about a heart condition since I was about three years old, it's known as aortic stenosis (murmur). My aorta is bi cuspid and there is really no stenosis of the actual artery, but it needs a name. I had always gone to see my cardiologist every 5 years to get checked out, but my good friend, heart doc, and fellow triathlete,  Dr. Richard Meltzer, passed away back in 2006 (may he rest in peace) just after my last visit....I bet he would have known all the signs! I think that the straw that broke the camel's back was crazy wk out I did. I thought my swimming needed a little revamping so I got a sledge hammer from the pawn shop and proceeded to beat the crap out of a humongous tractor tire.....for the next two nights as I slept, I remember my feet being really cold. Again, I should have known better. With all this what I believe happened is that I had a clog or plaque or something already there blocking flow and when I hit the tire for like a half hour in the mid day sun... well, it ripped all that stuff out. I felt it! It was like something (worm like) on the bottom of my heart expanded then contracted...then, well that part pretty much SUCKED!

Hopefully this post can help another athlete or anyone for that matter be more vigilant of the warning signs. I have always wanted to be a person that people look up to and respect. Never did I think I was going to turn into someone who thought they were better then anyone else, but that's just the nature of the beast sometimes in competition...thin line between cocky and confidence I guess. I know both sides of the pendulum now and I will say with all honestly that if it meant going through what I did to get to the place I am right now....well, I am okay with it and if you really want to know the truth, I am at peace with myself more now then ever before.   

Monique took this picture last about foreshadowing or someone trying to tell me something??  Either way it's how I feel now.....a great big shiny new way of looking at things that comes from deep inside my heart :)