Standing Taller

My personal trainer did an assessment on Friday, and my hard work in the gym is paying off! My left hip only drops slightly now when I do one legged squats, my core strength is improving and my upper body is getting stronger as well.

When I first started the training sessions, my posture was not what should it be. Slowly over time, my lifestyle of sitting in the car, sitting at a desk and sitting at home had become more rounded and my back muscles had become weaker. I already had read about how too much sitting can cause your hip flexors and hamstrings to tighten and glute muscles to weaken  (and I’ve had issues with these as well). In fact, sitting has been described as the new smoking in terms of negative health effects, even for runners.

My sessions with the trainer have really opened my eyes not only to my body’s weaknesses, but my lack of balance and coordination. We’re not just doing crunches or squats — everything has an extra twist or complexity to make it difficult. I’m not only training my muscles, but my brain and its communications with different muscles. I’m amazed now that I ran all the marathons I did. I’m amazed sometimes that I’m even able to walk at all, let alone stand! Somewhere along the way, the communication between my brain and certain muscles has broken down, for various reasons. I can see parallels now to how communication can breakdown partnerships, including marriages and friendships, or companies, causing the people or entities involved to stop functioning as they did.

I see the strength training now as a means of rebuilding connections, not just building muscles. My posture when I’m walking around is MUCH better. I feel taller now — when I’m sitting and walking. My posture is even better when I’m doing lunges. I still have work to do, but I feel that I am on the right course.

I’m sure you’re going to ask — are you running yet? Well, I’m planning another test run this afternoon or tomorrow. I did a test run last Saturday, and was still dealing with some tightness in my right calf. I got some work done on it and have been foam rolling and stretching, which is helping. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news to report from my next run.

Overall, the recovery has taken longer than I planned. But I realize now that, mentally, I also wasn’t ready to run. I think I was a little bit afraid — I didn’t feel like I could trust my body to do what I used to. And I wanted to first try and correct some of the issues that might have caused all the problems I’ve had before I jumped back in. I have put a race on the calendar, however — a local 5K later this spring. It’s a short race, but I thought it might help to have something to work towards.

I’ve also been enjoying yoga much more than I thought I would. On Friday, I stopped at Target on the way home from work and bought an actual yoga mat. I’ve been using a generic exercise mat, but noticed my hands and feet would slip at times. I decided to invest in a yoga mat before I tear the other one up. I went to a fantastic yoga class last Thursday, where I do some moves I didn’t even know existed, and wouldn’t have thought I could accomplish. I don’t think I’ll ever be limber enough to tie myself in a knot (or put my ankles behind my shoulders), but I am feeling better. It wasn’t running, but for the first time in a while, I felt that same sense of achievement that I had after completing a tough track workout or a 20-mile run. It felt good to be confident in my body’s abilities again.

So, I can say I have been busy exercising, but not running yet. But between the strength training and yoga, I’ve been busy! But I’ve been thinking about the trails in George Bush park, and about friends who are training for spring races (I was envious of one friend who’s signed up for a spring marathon, but since it’s right before a major industry conference for work, I couldn’t go anyway). I’m looking forward to hopefully joining them soon.

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Down But Not Out

I don’t know if it was the weather, or withdrawal from being off work between Christmas and New Year’s but I was feeling low. In addition to the weakness in my left IT band and right calf, the lack of sunshine made me extremely cranky. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep. It’s too bad we can’t hibernate (or less to do so we can sleep more) in the winter, like bears do. My stomach has been strange (probably from all the chocolate and sugar plums dancing around the work breakroom), and I had a huge megazit on my chin. On Friday, my nose was so stuffy I almost couldn’t breathe. I took a rest day from training and managed to avoid getting a full-blown cold. But I may not be so lucky next time if the cold, damp weather continues.

I also made the mistake of weighing myself one day last week — I thought I heard the
scale gasp! I spent most of that Thursday in a cloud of depression because of that. Being out for the surgery and the usual holiday goodies have caught up with me. So it’s back to watching the calories. I’m going to try out an app to track them, and see how it compares with Weight Watchers.

I went back to my doctor today to discuss some concerns I had about why my calf and IT are still giving me issues. I did get a shot in my left hip, which hopefully should help the IT band. It turns out that I should have been icing — for some reason, I just haven’t been doing it. The doctor also suggested trying some other stretches for the calf.

She did remind me that what I’ve been going through is normal following the type of surgery I’ve had. I am getting stronger thanks to the personal training, but I’m still weaker on my left side due to the left nerve that was giving me grief. It was comforting to talk with her — she has been through back surgery and abdominal surgery, and could sympathize with my frustrations over wanting to heal faster.

Luckily, I’m able to continue with the training, but will need to stay off the bosu ball for a while. My trainer has had me stand on the curved side of it while doing upper body weight exercises.

I decided to take the advice of friends on Facebook, and enrolled in unlimited yoga at a local studio this month. I’m going to try it out and see if it can help. I plan to make the most of my time there while I decide if I want to continue with it through 2015.

I know I said last time that I hadn’t blogged much because of work and the holidays. It was true that I was busy. But I also think I was in a funk. I was scared that I would never get back to normal, that I would never get in the shape I want to be in. I worried that maybe I was being foolish (and that maybe everyone out there thought I was crazy). I was pretty down for a while. But after realizing that I need to make some adjustments to my recovery regime, I’m feeling down, but I’m thinking that I’m not out of the race either.

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Out of Hibernation (and into the New Year)

It’s been some time since my last blog. I came back from my trip to Amsterdam to a busy November and December. Between end-of-year deadlines at work, Christmas shopping and my sessions with my trainer (among other things), my schedule seemed practically non-stop. This blog ended up being a casualty of my limited time.

I have been making some great progress with my personal training sessions. I’m being pushed in ways I hadn’t been pushed physically before, and while it’s been a challenge, I feel like it is starting to pay off. I feel stronger, and I’ve noticed that my posture is better. I’ve been doing planks as part of my strength training regime, and I noticed today that I can hold the planks longer. Getting in cardio has been somewhat of a challenge due to time and energy. I’m still not quite where I want to be with running — in fact, I’ve been dealing with some Achilles and plantars fascitis, plus trying to tame an IT band that has a mind of its own. I’m doing what I can, though.

Given that it’s a new year, I’ve been thinking over the goals I want to achieve this year — the priority goal, obviously, is to get back in shape and be ready to train for the Houston Marathon when the new season of Katy Fit starts this July. This weekend, I’ve been examining other personal goals for 2015 that I would like to tackle, such as saving more money, making time to write and play music for fun and to read (I’m doing another book challenge that started New Year’s Day, so this should help with the latter goal).

I did get to take some time off between Christmas and New Year’s, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like an animal in hibernation! I did need it, though it felt strange to be doing so little after being so busy. Even though the sun was actually out today, I slept late and was slow to wake up this Sunday. But I’m ready to come back out of hibernation and tackle the new challenges of a new year, including new opportunities at work and my ongoing efforts to regain my physical strength.

To achieve my goals, I’m stealing an idea from a friend. She wrote down her goals for last year in a notebook, which she would revisit periodically to see whether she was on track with those goals. I’m planning to do this — hopefully, I can stay on track as well.

Whatever your goals are in 2015, I wish you the best of luck in achieving them!

Back to Basics

Sorry for my absence! I left last weekend for a work trip to Amsterdam. From the time I arrived early Sunday morning in Amsterdam to when I reached my driveway Thursday evening, I was busy, and ended up not having time to blog. I did take pictures, which I will share along with some my experiences on the trip. I have been sluggish all weekend — I think I’m still not over the jet lag, but hopefully, I’ll be feeling back to normal when I go to work tomorrow.

But the biggest news is that I had a successful test run on Saturday. Granted, I only ran two very slow miles, but it was the best two miles ever. The weather was perfect for it — temperatures in the 40s, low humidity, sunny with no clouds. It felt great to be out on the trails again! I can definitely tell that I’m out of shape, and it will take time to get back to the shape I was in at Houston. I know I’ll have to be patient, but it can’t come soon enough!

My plan is to slowly ramp up the miles. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make the Houston half-marathon in January, but I will find another race this spring if Houston doesn’t work out. I’ve been reading about friends and people I know who have run the Marine Corps Marathon, the New York Marathon and other races in the past few weeks, and it’s making me itch to train for something. Maybe I’ll look at doing a triathlon this spring, I’m not sure. But I’m excited at the prospect of being able to sign up for a race and to actually do the race.

As part of my back to basics approach, I’m also going to start working out with a trainer tomorrow. We’ll meet three times a week for the next two and a half months. I’m also going to start watching what I eat, which might be tricky, given that we’re entering the holiday season when even more candy and sweets are available than usual. But if not now, then when?

Knowing I’ve been feeling down about not being able to train, my husband emailed me this article this morning. I thought the article not only gave some great advice, but had some great travel photos (I would definitely love to run in some of these spots). He always knows how to cheer me up.

Life in the Slow Lane

There’s not much new to report today. I go for my second follow up with the surgeon tomorrow, and I’ve got a busy week ahead as I get ready for my trip to Amsterdam (and I plan to take lots of photos, which I will share here). That quote from the Austin Powers movie (I think it was Goldmember) keeps running through my head about two things Austin’s father can’t stand — people who are insensitive to other cultures and the Dutch! I’m eager to see Amsterdam and what it has to offer, and maybe a few windmills. Maybe I’ll bring back some wooden shoes.

I got a letter from my insurance company about the astronomical bill I received last week. Apparently, the provider appealed their decision not to pay. I’m just hoping it doesn’t fall on me!

Since I haven’t been able to run, I’ve been going for walks in the evenings. There’s a walking path on our side of the townhome complex, and the evenings have actually been nice enough to spend outdoors. I never realized how many lizards we have! I haven’t talked much with the neighbors, but have noticed the same folks walking in the evenings, some with their dogs. A friend said I needed a dog to walk, and the idea appeals to me. But we really don’t have the room, and are not home enough. I would probably need to hire a dogsitter if I went that route.

Anyway, I’m eager to see what the surgeon has to say tomorrow, and to find out how much longer I’ll be doing the physical therapy exercises. I do need to ask him for a referral for some further treatment — my left IT band and hip flexor are bothering me, and I think I may have plantar’s. I think they are related to the back — I may have been compensating in other areas. So there will be more physical therapy exercises at home, and likely some more waiting. Just hopefully not too much more waiting! I’m ready to get out of the slow lane.

Stormy Weather

The stormy afternoon weather matches my mood perfectly today.

Before my surgery, I was told that I had met my deductible for the year, that all I would have to pay was a $300 deposit fee with the surgeon. After that, I didn’t hear anything else about any other bills. Since the surgery, I haven’t had a co-pay for other medical-related visits. I even got a nice refund back from the center that did my shot and through which I was doing a different round of physical therapy from the one now. I thought I was in the clear.

Yesterday, I received a letter that dispelled that notion. Apparently, the bill is from the anethesiologist (I’m guessing that’s it — it doesn’t really come out and say it). When I saw the amount, I did a double take, almost stopped breathing, and nearly dropped the letter. It’s not like we have sacks of money laying around (and who does, except Scrooge McDuck). The amount is way more than what’s in my savings account.

I enclosed a letter with the receipt in the return envelope, saying that there must be a mistake and referring them to my insurance company. My husband told me I shouldn’t worry about it, but I can’t help it! My fear is that it’s not a mistake, and of course, how on earth would I get the money? By robbing Scrooge McDuck?

I think the real reason it’s bothering me so much is that I’ve been wondering if the surgery was worth it. When will I be able to run again? Am I hoping for something that’s not to be? I’ve been stretching and doing my physical therapy exercises, and biding my time, waiting for that moment that I’ll feel fabulous again. I know that I’ve always tried to put on a brave face, especially for this blog. I want it to be about running and the positive steps I’m making to get back to running, not a never-ending pity party! But it’s hard to be brave all the time. And I’m thinking that the improvements will come gradually, not in one shining moment, like clouds suddenly parting in the sky. The changes may occur so subtly, they may not fully register.

Saturday mornings are still strange to me, with no long runs. I’ve been missing my running group, and missing out on a habit that has become a lifestyle to me. I find myself floundering at times. I have attempted to distract myself with things, but I’m still feeling the void left by not running. Yet it would be too easy to let myself get mired in the muck. So I persevere on, still stretching, still doing my exercises on the ball, and still waiting.

I’m also keyed up today because I’m doing the opening and closing remarks for a work event Tuesday morning. Now, I did volunteer for this, and I think it will be something that will benefit my career at my company. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I spent Saturday at my parents, rehearsing my speech, and going over YouTube videos to gather tips for public speaking. I feel like I’m prepared, though I do plan to run through it a few more times before Tuesday.

So I’ve got a lot on my mind, which has created for my stormy mood on a stormy day. But hopefully, the clouds will disappear soon.

 

 

 

Building a Better Core

I’m in California this weekend, catching up with my dear friend and college roommate (and I’ll have pictures to post the next time I blog, I promise!). But I did meet with my physical therapist this past week and have started on the program of prescribed home exercises.

The routine includes stretches and exercises to strengthen my core and left hip. As part of this routine, I get to dust off the exercise ball in my home office for back and core work. I went through all the exercises on Wednesday night for the first time, and was sore today! But that’s to be expected.

In the past, I haven’t always been faithful with doing core work and other dreaded exercises (especially burpees). Why can’t I just run, I ask myself? And I should know the answer by now — it’s the core exercises and dreaded stuff like burpees that will keep me running. It’s easy sometimes to cut corners, especially during fall marathon training season. Some days, it’s a rush to get to the track, and by the time the track workout is done, I’m cold or starving and just want to get home. And I’ll tell myself that I’ll do core when I get home. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes not.

As part of this healing process, I’ve made up my mind to do things right. That includes making sure everything is healed and strengthened, especially the core. I definitely don’t want to be sidelined this long again!

Now, you’re probably asking, how is she doing all this while she’s in California? Well, the answer is that I’m doing some of the exercises, but not everything. I tried to pack light (since I have to be careful still with bending and lifting), and decided I wouldn’t have the space for the exercise ball in my bag. But I plan to hit the ball again once I return from my trip.

You may not think of visiting an old college friend as a core strengthening exercise, but it just dawned on me that it does count as core work, in its own way. I’ve gone to visit my friend every year for the past several years. By doing so, I’m maintaining the strength of our friendship, which will hopefully endure for the rest of our lives. It’s the same with going to church, spending time with friends and loved ones, taking the time for doctor’s visits or to prepare a healthy meal. Sleep is another way of building core (and it also allows the body to heal itself, according to my reading). It’s all about building a better core within ourselves, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

During my hiatus from running, I’ve been looking at ways to build my core in other areas of my life. This includes working on my marriage, spending time with family and friends, and devoting time to things such as reading for pleasure. I love running, but it’s amazing how much time it can take, especially marathon training. And while I miss running, it’s nice that I can use this time to build a better core — in more ways than one.

The Big Day

The monthlong wait for my surgery will end early tomorrow morning. I’ve already filled out my paperwork (and even got my patient ID tag when I went for my pre-op appointment last week). I’m off all this week so I can take care of errands, pack for my extended stay with my parents (who are looking after me after the surgery) and see my eye doctor for my annual appointment.

I’m looking forward to hopefully feeling better, but not wanting to get my hopes up too much like I did when I had the shot. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than suffer another disappointment.

Going for pre-op last week definitely made the surgery more real for me. On Friday, they took a blood sample so they could cross-type it against their blood supplies to make sure they had mine in stock (hopefully, I’ll finally find out what type I am – for some reason, nobody ever told me!) They said it was unlikely that anything would happen, and the procedure itself is one done routinely, but that .9 in the 99.9 percent odds gave me a momentary pause. And for some reason, I keep seeing the Operation board game and the patient’s red nose lighting up.

I knew they would be drawing blood at the appointment, but I started feeling weak when they tied the plastic tube around my upper left arm and told me to make a fist. The nurse commented that I was trembling, and afterwards, gave me some juice because she was afraid I would pass out. I’ve never been good with needles, but the thought of having blood drawn again, not having a doctor tinker with my spine, is making me nauseous!

I haven’t been outwardly nervous in the month leading up to the surgery – I’ve deliberately not thought about the details too much. When my mother and mother-in-law were asking me about the surgery this past weekend, I found myself forced to think about the details of the procedure. And then the anxiety began to kick in a little.

My husband has been trying to cheer me up the past few days, joking with me that I should make the surgeon play the Operation game before the surgery – if he made the red light go off one too many times, he couldn’t operate on me! My husband will stay with me overnight at the hospital Wednesday, and hopefully, I’ll be able to go home with my parents Thursday and not Friday. My plan is to stay with them a few days. My husband has to work, and I thought it would be easier to let my parents play nursemaid. If I need something, they can get it for me, and though I’ll probably spend a lot of time reading, it will be nice to visit with my parents and play endless rounds of Yahtzee with my mom.

All month, I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster that’s slowly been climbing a hill of death-defying height before plunging back down to earth. My stomach is churning with anxiety, I know my heart will feel like it wants to push past my lungs on the way down, but I’m making myself yell and smile and wave my hands over my head and try enjoy the ride.

I will give an update of how things go on Wednesday. See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

My Real Masterpiece

A friend posted this Huffington Post blog article on Facebook this past week, and it really struck a chord with me. I turned it over in my mind as I finished up the workweek and while I lounged on the couch Saturday morning, enjoying coffee and bingewatching the finals of American Ninja Warrior (I had no idea it would be so addictive!)

The blog, Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece, urges women to stop obsessing over perfecting their bodies, and that our bodies are not projects, but paintbrushes we use to create real art, whether it be through our spirituality, our relationships or our work.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with accepting my body for what it is. I’ve gone through periods of being chunky (like when I first went away to college and didn’t have mom’s cooking or her watchful eye against junk food) and out of shape (like recently). Around ages seven to nine, I also went through a chubby phase, and I think that my mother worried that I would grow up to be fat. She enrolled me one summer in aerobics, which I hated. I felt humiliated to have to leave my friends and playtime to go sweat it out with a bunch of middle age ladies (who seemed ancient to me at the time). I also remember how hurt I was when the girl down the street called me fat and told me I needed to lose weight. I remember not being able to wear the designer jeans that other kids wore, or not being able to have certain foods that my friends could eat (most types of cereal were off the menu, except for Cheerios – when I saw the cereal bar at the college cafeteria, it was like dying and going to heaven!)

Once I turned 10, I grew out of my chubbiness. Today, I look at pictures of me in junior and senior high school, and I see what looks like a normal, healthy, sometimes pretty girl. But in the back of my mind, I saw myself as not thin enough, and therefore not good enough. Problems with acne, haircuts and clothes that I deemed not cool enough compared with others, and self-esteem issues due to the cruelty and indifference of so-called friends just exacerbated my negative feelings towards myself.

I’m not saying this to hurt my mother — like all of us, she did the best she could, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. And I know that I’m not the only woman who feels this way (given the dozens of diet programs and pills advertised on TV that promise to deliver amazing results, the plethora of exercise programs out there, as well as plastic surgery and other beauty enhancements available.) Combine these with the magazines that feature models with figures the majority of women will never have (and the airbrushing of photos to make these women even more perfect), and clothes in a number of stores that seem to be made for women with no curves at all, and it’s no surprise that women today have body issues. Even when I’m shape, I never feel like my thighs are thin enough (and trust me, running doesn’t make cellulite go away. I’ve tried!).

For a long time, running and exercising were a way for me not only to mold my body, but a way of addressing the insecurities I felt about myself. Like I’ve mentioned before, being sidelined with an injury has given me time to examine other areas of my life, and I realized that I was so focused on running, I had neglected other areas of my life, such as a deeper relationship with my husband and friends, as well as nurturing other areas of interest. The idea that I should stop obsessing over the shape of my paintbrush (my body), but what I paint (the relationships I build, the work I do, my spiritual life and other interests), really hit home with me. I also realized that I’ve spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME obsessing over what my body should be, and not what it is, and learning to love what I have.

It’s ironic that I was thinking about all this while watching American Ninja Warrior, a show about people who push their bodies to the limit to do incredible things – run, climb, jump, and crawl up tower walls like a spider. They’ve made the bodies and their athletic abilities projects — one contestant even quit his job to focus on training for the American Nina Warrior finals in Las Vegas! I found myself really getting into the show, cheering, yelling, knee bouncing with anxiety as I watched people struggle on the course. I don’t see myself actually competing on the show, but would love to be in the shape that some of the contestants are. But the article made me realize that my body is not the ultimate project, nor my hopeful future marathon times, but what I give to others and to the world in other areas of my life. And that is the real masterpiece that I can contribute.

 

A Bucket List of Bucket Lists

This week is my last full week in the office before I take time off for my back surgery. I have my pre-op appointment early Monday morning, and then I get to go into the office and try and cram in some of the assignments I have to turn in before I leave. I suspect I won’t finish them all, and will likely have to haul my laptop home so I can finish things up for this month.

Not running has been frustrating, particularly when I receive my weekly newsletter with the group training schedule. It’s strange not to be rushing to the track after stopping at home to change and have a quick snack or preparing my fuel belt and laying my clothes out Friday night before the long run Saturday morning. I have found ways to occupy my time during this forced break (including the book challenge I wrote about last week and my return to piano lessons, which I’ll blog about in the future), but I’m still finding I don’t have time to do everything I want, like start outlining the novel I want to write during National Novel Writing Month this November, and should want to do. For example, I should spend more time cleaning house, but frankly, I’m not that good at cleaning, and the house just keeps getting dirty, so why bother? I do the basic necessities, such as laundry and running dishes through the dishwasher. I actually swept the downstairs floor today, but didn’t feel like I made much of a difference!

I am riding the exercise bike and doing some swimming, but as any devoted runner will tell you, it’s not the same, not by a long shot. This is the first time in my life that I have been so sidelined with an injury (and I suspect it won’t be the last, given that I’m getting older!) It’s given me a newfound appreciation for not only being able to run (even if it’s a crappy long run or track workout) but made me appreciate just having good health, something I think I have taken for granted.

It’s also gotten me thinking about bucket lists. I’ve kicked around different ideas about places I want to travel, marathons I want to run, and other things I want to accomplish during my life. A friend I had lunch with this weekend told me that I’m too young for a bucket list, but given that the first 41 years of my life went by in a blink, I’m thinking I should actually type up the list.

My desire to be super-organized (which I don’t always live up to in real life), is to have a bucket list of bucket lists – top travel destinations, top marathons, and a list with miscellaneous items, such as my goal of appearing on the game show Jeopardy before I die. I think I may start working on it now, and perhaps post the lists on my blog in the future. Maybe I might actually achieve some of these goals if I make myself accountable to my audience! (I’m also thinking of just starting a Bucket List savings fund so I can actually pay for these goals). After all, this blog is intended as a chronicle of my hopeful comeback to running marathons (and running pain-free is definitely high on the bucket list!)

I’ve also decided to use the blog as a way of examining my life – what is actually going to make me happy, and what goals do I really want to achieve. There are a few things I’d previously wanted to do that I’m more than happy to leave behind, such as sewing (that damned bobbin thwarted me every time), knitting (I really think I have four thumbs instead of two) and skydiving (I’ve had friends rave about it and say I should jump, but I just keep seeing myself panicking at the last minute, and someone having to push me out). Renewing my scuba diving certification and writing a book are still high on the must-do list.

I realized the other day that I’m finally making progress on something that hasn’t really been a bucket list item, but something I needed to learn for my own well-being: Making peace with imperfection. I’d read about it in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (mom gave it to me, hoping I’d finally get the message). I’ve always been hard on myself in terms of my achievements and shortcoming – someone told me it stems from being an only child, which may be true. To be honest, I think I’ve used running in the past as a way to escape, not just from problems in my life, but from my imperfections. There’s nothing wrong with using a run to blow off steam from a bad day, but I think I sometimes used it as a way to block things out. Not running has forced me to look at myself and my life, and I’ve come to a realization: I can beat myself up for gaining weight and not being in the shape I was in January, for not saying the right thing at a social function, for fumbling something at work, for this or that so-called shortcoming, or I can let it go. I’m also not going to get down on myself for not getting everything accomplished that I hope to in a weekend, or for watching mindless reality TV on a Friday night (like I did after another LONG week).

In short, there’s always going to be deadlines or something that needs tending around the house. Even when things are going well, not everything will go according to plan. I don’t think I’ve yet had a good race day where I got everything exactly right; perfection, I’ve realized, is a never-ending pursuit. And while I still hope to keep pursuing more great race days, I’m learning to be more accepting of myself and the challenges I’ve been facing.