Grant asked me a couple weeks ago what I wanted to do for my birthday. My usual answer to that question has been to shrug and say “I don’t know: maybe have some sauteed shrimp for dinner”. But I had been thinking for a while that 53 times around the sun deserved something a little more bad-ass than a nice dinner and a shit ton of candles to blow all the way out in order for my wish to be granted. So here’s how the brief conversation went down:
Me: WELL. What I really want to do is run on my treadmill for 53 minutes, then run on the stationary bike for 53 minutes and then swim in the pool for 53 minutes. Besides that, I’d maybe like sauteed shrimp for dinner.
Me, trying to raise one eyebrow in a sexy, poker face manner but probably failing because my eyebrows are blonde: Whadya think?
Grant: Well that doesn’t sound very fun to ME, but it’s YOUR birthday. Whatever floats your boat weirdo wife. (He didn’t actually say that last sentence. But he had a look on his face that told me he was thinking that, which strangely motivated me.)
I had actually started to put this little plan into action on May 6 after a conversation with my bestie who inspired me to make the decision to get off my ass and do a little more than just walking the dog every day. I committed that day to doing something physically hard every day at least 5 times a week and ran my first three mile run in a very long while. A few days later, I realized that day was exactly 53 days before my 53rd birthday.
Don’t you think that’s just a little crazy? Numbers are just so cool and rarely coincidental so it made perfect and logical sense to do a special Heather Triathlon to seal the commitment to myself.
I’m writing this blog post a couple hours after the completion of my little quest. Here is a synopsis:
Starting at 8 am I completed the run first, which is completely backwards from a normal triathlon order of swim, bike THEN run. But it’s MY birthday so I decided to say ‘screw normal’ and get the run done first. I dedicated the run portion to myself and the physical challenges I have experienced running. It’s been a little over four years since I had surgery on all the ligaments in my left ankle. I had done a couple of marathons, the last one with a pretty serious ankle issue that I tried to ignore, causing further injury and a very nasty final sprain. I learned the hard way to understand the difference between injury and pain and fell into a foggy, four year long, french fry laced, forty pound depression. This morning, with music blasting in my headphones, I actually started to cry a little with euphoria during the first few minutes. I knew my bestie was doing the run and bike with me in her home city and that Grant was on alert for any kind of Heather drama. I thanked my body for being once again able to run. When my nerve damaged toes started their stabbing needle protest at about 43 minutes into the run I ran the last ten minutes for people who couldn’t run (or what I often take for granted: WALK).
7 minute intermission: hum Rocky Song, enjoy the runner high, shoe change, pee, water refill,
I have never liked biking. It’s so much more complicated than running and swimming with all those gears, silly tires that can go flat and a seat that hurts your butt. I also never fully recovered mentally from a near death experience when I was twelve and went head over bike several times down a very steep, dirt hill in an area I was not allowed to ride. Obviously I survived, but the very idea of biking (even on a stationary bike where I am supposedly safe) makes me anxiety ridden and mentally tired so I dedicated my 53 minute bike ride to my family and friends who continue to elevate the meaning of my life with laughter, love and support. I also plugged into my current stationary bike iPad show “Fleabag” to pass the time while going nowhere slowly. Grant probably thought I’d fallen off my seat when I yelled “NO!!!!!” The main character in Fleabag did something really awful: something even I would NEVER do, which is pretty bad. I wont say what it is because I don’t want to be a show spoiler. Though I actually almost DID fall off when I had to flick my shoes off my feet because of my needle toes. They prefer socks only while biking.
7 minute intermission: complain to Grant about how awful biking is and my terrible needle toes, clothes off, pee, swim suit on, banana, wax plugs in ears, goggles on eyes
Swimming is my God sport. I used to despise swimming. My parents made me take swim lessons all the way to the lifeguard class where I had to tread water with my air filled jeans for an hour and then swim a mile in order to pass the class. I became a pretty strong swimmer but still always felt like I was going to drown. That is until I discovered good goggles and wax ear plugs. When you don’t get water in your ears or eyes you can concentrate better on not getting water up your nose through steady meditative breathwork. It is my fearless place now where I feel light, sleek and free. It’s the only time where my head doesn’t chat AT God. Instead my mind just goes silent, while the presence of Him tells me all is well, all the time no matter what might be happening in the world or my life. Today’s swim was no different except I heard Grant yell at the dogs a few times to be quiet. They were howling and pissed off because they couldn’t swim with me.
So I got it done.
The goal was not about distance. It was not about speed. It was not about getting thin. It was about doing the time with fearless joy and confident gratitude that my body would do what I asked it to do, which it did. That’s the best way I can think of to celebrate having lived another year.
Except maybe sauteed shrimp. With extra butter.