Did I Say Rowing?

I was ready to row. I had set my April goal – sign up for classes, get on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake? the Colorado river? that watery spot south of the Capitol?), and row my little heart out. I had looked at the class times – twice a week, two hours each class, and for three weeks. In my mind, I had already joined my new crew where we bonded over our individual learning hurdles, and then in that last hour we finally got “it,” and really came together as a team. We would probably meet-up afterwards to celebrate – likely somewhere mid-town, where we’d a little too loud over a breakfast taco or two. Beer might be involved. We’d exchange numbers. Then we’d plan to meet-up the following week. We’d joke about competitions – old ladies like us, and then Amanda (my imaginary mascot of our gang) would start to make us actually believe we could. We’d find each other on Facebook, and start sharing our lives.

I love this imaginary gang of people – so supportive. Amanda is really the best.

On the rowing website it said, “watch the safety video before signing-up,” and like any good lazy soul, I immediately saw the 45 minute run time and scoffed. I mean 45 minutes of safety? Couldn’t they just nutshell that into: “Don’t hit each other with oars,” “Watch where you step,” “Try not to drown”?? I’ve blown that video off for weeks, but the day I was about to sign up, I finally forced myself to comply.

Ten minutes in, and something became clear, I was a hazard to my future crew besties, and myself because I can’t swim.

Let me clarify that a bit. I can air-quote “swim.” I can get from point A to point B if we’re talking the standard width of a kiddie pool. I can swim underwater, dog paddle, and even float on my back a bit for short distances. What I cannot do is be dropped into the middle of the ocean, or let’s say a lake (be it Town, Lady Bird or otherwise), and expect to survive more than seven minutes. Add to that the stress surrounding how I’d likely end up in said water: the boat tipped, me upside down, my feet locked in place, have to release my feet, get out from under the boat, tread, right the craft, then hopefully pull myself into it while remaining relatively calm. In other words, I can’t swim.

The video promised a swim test, and that I would likely need to tread water for about 15 minutes. Treading water is something I’ve never mastered. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the only kid at my elementary school who never passed the Red Cross Level 1 class. I’ve also nearly drowned three times. When I say that, I mean it literally. I had to be fished out of the water once by an adult who happened to see me go under, a friend grabbed me as I was being swept away by a current, and well, there was the other time where I’d slipped out of a float, couldn’t get my face above the water to get air, did a 3-2-1 countdown (universal sign of drowning, or so I thought) as I’d seen on Bugs Bunny, thankfully found the pool ladder, and then sat on the edge of the pool coughing water out of my lungs. Granted all of this happened before I even turned 10, and truthfully most it happened before I had turned 6, but where some would see this as a rallying cry of, “I need to learn to swim!” I saw it more as a, “I should always avoid deep water! Maybe I’m a hot-tub girl!”

Anyway, those two thoughts were clearly at odds. I want to row! I can’t swim. Something had to give.

So, today I went to my first beginning adult swim class. It was FANTASTIC! (And a bit exhausting – and Jenn, I janked my shoulder a bit, but I’m watching foam-rolling videos right now, so go me?? It’s like actual rolling, but with my eyes. Like you’re probably doing now.)

The teacher was absolutely wonderful and exceptionally patient. Mid-class she stopped another coach and introduced us, “Beth, this is Sam. At some point, I’ll be sending you with her to work on what to do if you ever find yourself in the middle of a lake. You’ll learn to tread as well as other survival techniques.” I’d clearly made my “I’ll die in open water” and “I’m currently a danger to myself and others” points quite well. Go me!

So, my new thing in April? Swimming, and I’m pretty excited about it. Good thing since it’s probably my May, June, July, and every month thereafter thing. BUT, glass half-full, the weather might be cool again by the time I actually get to start rowing, and maybe my future crew will have some fun stories from their summer to share. I just hope they don’t mind me holding the team back like this. Save a taco and a story for me, ladies. I’m doing my part to keep us safe.

A Year Ago: A Cruise Story

On March 4th, 2017, sometime after noon, I completely ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and my medial collateral ligament (MCL) after slipping in some mud on the Warrior Dash. For my efforts, I was rewarded with an annoying physical therapist who called me “Miss Beth” constantly, a metal cane, and a disabled parking permit. I got to chant things like “heaven up, hell down” to remember which leg to use when approaching a step, and I got to wince and practice not crying out whenever my leg bent beyond 90 degrees. I also got to practice not crying out over the injustices of the world, or crying out when a relative decided to tear into me, because I was clearly too stupid to have figured out I shouldn’t have been at the Warrior Dash to begin with. Super helpful! Great conversation!

When you can’t use your legs at the gym, you’re left with doing a lot of things with your arms, but forget about how much I despise the hand bike – you’ve all heard about that. Let’s talk about the fresh humiliation that came when I fell off the weight bench  into a pile on the floor… when I couldn’t bend my knee, and I had to figure out how to roll onto my stomach and use my hands to walk towards my body so I could stand again, and try  to get back on the weight bench again. You all know the rest. I cried when I was first able to row, and then I successfully rowed my little half marathon on Christmas Eve. Basically, I got stronger, and my knee became more stable until I now where I’m up to 260 lb. on the leg press. Granted, that’s not huge, but considering where I was last year, it’s huge for me, and another small win – I can dead lift again.

I met with my orthopedic guy a few weeks prior to discuss where I was at, and what I could do. We determined I should brace my knee up whenever I was in a crowd, and on uneven ground – things I’d definitely encounter on the cruise, which meant I approached this trip with a great deal of trepidation. Only 3% of the participants on the Warrior Dash are ever injured, and I had been among the 3%. I wondered what small percent I’d manage to cover while cruising. I smiled on the outside, but I kept stuffing down the feeling that I was going to get hurt, and I was going to get hurt badly. I bought my traveler’s medical insurance, and talked myself through what would happen when they had to fly me back to the States, reminding myself it would be ok. To say I was traumatized by the ACL/MCL tear would be a huge understatement. Keep in mind the day before the cruise, I had already had a bad reaction to something – either the overwhelming Scentsy smell or the food (or both), and I saw it as an omen. (The ravens and banshees really tipped the scales. I mean, given those, who wouldn’t pause and say, “hrmm… that can’t be good, right?” Did I not mention those? Never mind. Nothing to see here.)

For all of day one, I kept my brace on, and was mindful of how I felt walking around the ship, being around people, judging how the stable the ship felt, etc. By day two, the brace was off, and it remained off while I was on the ship.

On Day 2 called “A Fun Day at Sea” I rowed 12,000 meters while watching the sun come up over the bow of the boat. (An advantage to always getting up early). Nothing centers me more, nor clears my head better than going to the gym, and there Heather took one of my favorite pictures of me on this trip. (While there are better photos of me, this makes me happy – me heading to my zone.)

Rowing the Ship to Cozumel

On Day 4 we went to a Mayan ruin called Xuantunich, 70 miles to the west of Belize City near the border of Guatemala. There I climbed the structure known as El Castillo (along with climbing a few shorter structures that don’t count for the purposes of this blog, but do count to their mother and father structures, because though they’re smaller in stature, those little guys are equally loved).

At first I was struck by how people who, at their tallest would have easily been about 7″ shorter (or more) than I, were able to scramble up the gigantic stairs.

Stairs MUCH bigger in person! The camera takes off 10″. Fact.

And then I took another moment to marvel at how, nearly a year after my injury, I was standing on this amazing structure – knee stable – looking out on the beauty that was this archaeological site, that was Belize, and how lucky I was to experience this with these people I absolutely love and adore. (Also, equally super glad to get back on the ground safely without having the helicopter evac for which I had mentally prepared.)

Xuantunich, Belize (El Castillo in Background – Where I climbed to the top, and stood between those five prongs.)

PS – This brought to you by Indiana Johnny who, by dropping today’s ball, guaranteed you’d get a gym-esque story instead of a “funny story from the cruise”. Proceed to cast blame.

Next Up: That time on the ship I got to talk to the cruise police. (Ok, I’m kidding. Oh, not about talking to the cruise police. I totally got a talking to. I’m just not sharing that story on my blog. I think someone should buy me a drink to celebrate my silence. Just sayin’.)

A Half Marathon

Rehab after I ruptured my ACL and MCL just sucked. I tried to think of a nicer adjective, but truthfully “sucked” is the best, and it goes straight downhill from there. I couldn’t bend my knee. I couldn’t sit on the ground (if I expected to get up). I couldn’t get easily into most cars without wincing.  The couldn’ts were just icing on the “never” cake. I can never run again. I can never play basketball. I can never play tennis. That’s what the doctor told me, because I guess that’s what people want to do. He forgot to say: I can never roller skate. I can never horse around in a bouncy house, and the worst… I can probably never dance… not really.

At the gym I was limited to the hand bike. That awful thing I used to joke that I wanted to try – well here I was, and it was all I could do. It seemed like gym life was a sea of that and lateral pull downs, and every day I started off by rocking my leg back and forth on the recumbent bike – unable to make a complete turn. And I needed Jay; I just needed him to be home.

When I think about the gym, there are only a handful of things I love: strength training, dead lifts, and rowing. Ok fine, I also love anything that involves a med ball or a slam ball. Ok, I may have a pet name for one med ball, “Fat Dyna.” Ok, I may be almost embarrassed to admit that. Rowing and dead lifts were out of the question, and I couldn’t get near Fat Dyna. So, I did what I could do, and I got gradually stronger, but the victories were small.

I’d stare at the rower while trying to complete a circle with the pedal on the bike – back and forth and back and forth – day after day, week after week…

I remember asking if I could use the rower. No, your knee isn’t strong enough, yet.

Then one day I didn’t ask. I got on the rower, and I rowed, and then I cried. Such a simple thing. Such a small thing.

Today, on Christmas Eve, I rowed a half marathon – 21,120 meters in under two hours.

How do I feel? Let me tell you without mincing words.

I am a bad ass mother fucker. I am strong. I am a force of nature. I am unstoppable. I am the storm. And hands down, I have the world’s best trainer with whom I couldn’t have done this without.

Half Marathon 2017
Half Marathon 2017