Friday, April 30, 2010

This is what I do...

At still awake..lying in bed...KNOWING that I have to be at boot camp to work with a new client at 5am. After finally getting 3 hours sleep, I was in hand and out the door..

The 5am class of Boot Camp was happy to see me after a 2 week absence from doing fitness assessments . I don't teach a specific class of boot camp, but work with the people that are entering the program. We do a three part fitness evaluation, sign some paperwork and talk about their goals.

One of our boot campers came up to me and asked, "So .. I guess this is the end of the road with your triathlon career. No more Ironman dreams, huh." I smiled...and then I laughed...."Are you kidding." I said

I made one simple statement: No...this is what I do.

Triathlon is what I do. Its hard for me to envision going to the gym and working out just for my health. I need a GOAL...and racing is just that. By the way .. there are approximately 180 days until Ironman Miami 70.3. Without a goal to reach towards, I find it hard to motivate myself.

Right short term goal is simple....GET WELL. I know that, as my surgeon Dr. Ott told me, I need to pick my battles. I know my race seasons that include 18 races are probably over but to give up triathlon all together...NO WAY!!

Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. The ultimate goal is that date I have with Mike Rielly at the finish line of Ironman Florida. I have done poor Mr. Rielly a disservice by standing him up twice, I don't plan on not making it the third time!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First Physical Therapy Session

Let me tell you how much fun Physical Therapy is...

I think I would rather ride my bike for 6 hours....seriously!!

YIKES...that hurts like hell....but I know that I am in the capable hands of the Florida Hospital Therapy Team at the RDV Sports Complex. For now, I am working with a general therapist but next week , I am hoping work with a woman by the name of Laura. She came highly recommended by not one but two friends who are marathon runners. I think she will understand my need to get back on the road and back to being me again.

Its been 12 days since my surgery. I am walking without crutches or a cane. I can ALMOST bend my knee as normal but there is the tightness in it that still smarts!! Every once in awhile, it wants to give out on me...but those times are rare. I am now capable of climbing stairs without taking them one at a time.

I did my first swim workout on Monday and covered just 1000 yards. Yesterdays was 2000 and I am hoping today will be 2500. I will swim the 1.2 mile swim portion of a relay team at the Gulf Coast Triathlon on May 8th so I want to make sure I can cover the distance under time!!

It's slowly coming together...but as usual...Im not very patient!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You don't put regular gas in your Ferrari

I love cars. I am addicted to new car smell. The color of a car (mostly reds, greens, blues, or a special glossy black) can increase my blood pressure. If you slide into the leather seats and go "hmmmm..." it melts my butter. I got this addiction from my father...he changes cars like most people change socks.

I recently bought a new Lexus SUV...just the small one...but it's red...its new... its shiny and it carries all my triathlon gear. I use to drive a large expensive SUV that I bought from the above mentioned car addict of a father...but it was too expensive to maintain and it was gray in color ... and it wasn't me. may not surprise you that the above quote that titles this blog struck a cord with me. If I owned a Ferrari...I would NEVER put regular gas in it...But when this quote was made, it had nothing to do with a car..but everything do to with a talented triathlete.

I was speaking to Chris,a talented triathlete and the lifeguard that helps at the pool where my Team Tri Hard triathlete work out every Thursday night. It was getting late in the evening and his boss came out to make sure he had gotten dinner. He told them that he would eat when he got home because..."he doesn't put regular gas in the Ferrari.."

How profound. I have thought about this comment for days. Isn't it interesting how some athletes view food as fuel. For someone with an eating disorder, we view food as recreation or as comfort...but rarely do we view it as fuel.

It is interesting, however, that when I get on the bike and do multiple hours, those workouts will require additional nutrition. I often use Fig Newtons on these rides because they work with my system. It is only in those moments that I don't view the Fig Newtons as cookies...but as fuel.

If I could just starting viewing food as fuel instead of using it as a numbing mechanism, I could seriously have this weight problem licked but, as we all know, it is never that easy. People who do not have an eating disorder will say that simple phrase "Well..just stop eating so much." For those of you with any sort of know..if it were that easy, we would have done it a long time ago.

I got a picture off the web of a Ferrari and stuck it to my remind me...that just as my love of cars should my love of me. My body is worthy of being treated like that fine italian racing machine. I deserve the "good fuel" instead of the junk.

Doesn't it amaze you where you can find inspiration for your life???

My 25th College Reunion

A few months ago, I headed to the mailbox and found that invitation. Its the one that reminds you just how old you really are. My 25th college reunion. REALLY?? I don't FEEL that old. As I stared at the date, my mind immediately compared it to the triathlon calendar and...I was the same weekend as St. Anthony's.

I got it figured out that I would fly back to St. Pete and compete in the race on Sunday and enjoy part of the festivities of my reunion on Friday and Saturday. That was BEFORE my knee surgery occurred and took me out of racing for awhile. I guess God has a plan as it required me to slow down, enjoy this special moment and share with women I had not seen in ages.

I attended a small women's college in Spartanburg SC known as Converse College. After a year of looking at large colleges around the south and even being accepted to some prestigious northern schools, Converse offered a scholarship and touched my heart. It was small, friendly, beautiful and the faculty really seemed to care about the education they were providing. I had already sent my acceptance to Auburn Univetsity by the time I went to Converse...but with just weeks prior to the deadline, I switched...and forever became a Converse "Connie" they use to call us.

A Florida girl at a Southern Belle college took some getting use to and there were times I simply didn't fit in ...but there were several people that became lifelong friends including my roommate of 2 of my 4 years, Tammy Foster. We all converged on the Converse campus for two days of reliving old memories and seeing the campus.

I made it around campus, limping along, but I am so glad that I attended this event. I keep in touch with many of these women on Facebook but others were a sight for sore eyes. They remember me as the partying slacker that barely graduated..hard to believe how much I have changed since my days of showing up to class half awake and hung over. My husband attended some of the events with me because, well, he is one of the things that HASN'T changed since college...we met 3 weeks into my freshman year..and married 6 months after graduation.

My husband and I also visited the spot on campus where we had our first kiss. So many wonderful memories. It was worth missing St. Anthony's .....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why do I do some of the things I do...really...

Ugh!! Frustration!! It's hard working for a charity in the midst of a recession. Times are tough are the words I hear over and over again every time I ask for a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or ask for a silent auction item.

Yep! Times are Tough....but I got another fact you might wanna consider...

Cancer doesn't really care if times are tough. It's still out there and we still don't have a clue how to beat it.

There are moments I sit back, like I did today, and wonder..."why in the hell do I put myself through working for a charity!!??" Im not getting paid for my time. I'm doing this when I could be doing something shopping or having lunch with friends. Instead of sleeping in on a Saturday morning, I choose to go work out with a group of people helping to raise awareness about blood cancers.

And today....I got my answer in plain form. All it took was some copy paper, some Team in Training Purple Jerseys...and a few willing souls.

An entry a few days ago discussed my friend Doug who is battling CML and is undergoing a bone marrow transplant. He is in the process of receiving chemo that is killing off his immune system so his body is ready for the new bone marrow. He is in isolation because of visitors.

But we found a way. A group of Team in Training participants and some coaches gathered on the sidewalk outside Doug's hospital room. Dressed in our Purple Team in Training Jerseys, we held up letters to spell a simple message to Doug that he could see from his window. We called the nurse's station near his room and had one of the nurses go and ask Doug to look out the window....

When he did, we held up our letters that spelled out: We Love You. We then wrote letters on the back of the cards that spelled out Doug's nickname : Billygoat!

I could barely hold back the tears. The thought of being in isolation for so long, the fear of losing your life to cancer and the knowledge that you have little children that might be left without a father just all seemed overwhelming. So much is weighing on my friend's mind...but we hoped this small little sign would help lift his spirits and know he is not alone in his quest for survival.

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of the human spirit to rise up against illness and injury and heal the body. I believe God has a hand in all of this.

It made my day to know that maybe we made his day.

Why do I do what I do?? Why do I dress in purple, raise money for cancer research and swim, bike and run hundreds of miles with a team of people that have mostly never done events like this before??

Its simple: because Cancer Sucks...and my heartfelt goal is to make cancer disappear in our lifetime.

I hope you will join me in whatever way you chose to help find a cure for the disease. Whether you support the Leukemia Society, Livestrong, the American Cancer Society, St. Judes or others...I hope you will join me in the army of people who will not let this disease continue to take lives....they are too precious...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the mend....

Just like any sports Friday had its highs..its lows...its base hits...its outs and its grand slams as I headed in for my knee surgery. Just like at the beginning of any major race...I had butterflies fluttering in my stomach...

To GET to my surgery was a bit of a challenge. Dr. Ott performs surgeries on Fridays in Brandon...about 75 minutes from my house. My surgery was at 700am so I decided to go over the night before. My parents were out of town, my brothers busy with work, my husband flying and not getting off work until the late afternoon and Rick was teaching boot camp. The only way I could figure out to get over there in time was to rent a car, spend the night in a hotel near the surgery center, drop the car at the rental car place then take a cab to the surgery center. My plan was a bit complicated but it all went without a hitch and I arrived at the Surgery Center at 550am.

They handed me a piece of paper to tell them who would be taking me home and they were all a bit shocked when I wrote "Dr. Susan Ott". "The DOCTOR is taking you home" the nurse asked. "Yes..until my business partner or husband can make their way here and pick me up." With a bit of a stunned look on her face, she made some notes, I signed some consent papers then it was off to the pre op area...

I got changed into a gown and put my hair back in a surgical "shower cap" and laid back on the gurney. That when I realized I was truly doing this alone. Was I crazy?? No one to hold my one to calm my fears. And then my phone buzzed and I knew I wasn't alone. My husband started sending text messages...and then so did my friend, Rick ... and before I knew was time to turn off the phone, talk to the anesthesiologist and Dr. Ott and get wheeled into the operating room.

If you have ever been awake staring at the ceiling of an operating room, it can be a bit unnerving. For me, it brought back serious memories. As they wheeled me in, I remembered that moment on Dec. 1, 1998 when my life changed forever. On that day, I endured 6 hours of a full open gastric bypass and those memories came flooding back. I felt my body stiffen as they put my arms out to the side. The anesthesiologist placed the mask near my face and, for a moment I almost jumped off the table. He looked at me and said "Where is your favorite place to vacation??" I was just about to answer and then....

The next thing I remember...Im in recovery. The nurse is waking me up telling me it was over and I had done well. Groggy and in a bit of pain, I reach for my knee (like somehow it would be missing). It had a huge bandage on it...and bending it was not an option. The nurse brought me a Diet Coke which has to be the second best Diet Coke I have ever tasted (I think the first was at the end of my first half ironman). I asked the nurse for my phone...and made the first phone call I knew I needed to make.

While this was going on, my parents were in the Bahamas sitting by the phone...and most parents do when their child is under the knife. I dialed the number, the phone rang and my father picked it up on the first ring. I went to speak..and realized...they just removed a tube from my throat and I was unable to make a sound. I could hear the fear in my Dad's voice as I tried to make a sound. Finally..the words "Im ok..." came out of my mouth and my mother got on the other phone.

Missey...honey..what is to me. I was trying but nothing was happening. I was so worried about them being worried about me that I didn't think I wouldn't be able to talk right away. After a few more sips of Diet Coke, I was able to talk to them and let them know all was well.

I must have been feeling pretty good on the drugs they had given me because I proceeded to text several of my friends and ask them if they wanted to go for a run. I then got on facebook and misspelled my status update but got my message across that I was alive and well. As I became more and more awake, the messages got a little clearer...

Dr. Ott came in and showed me my pictures. The cartilage chip that she removed was 12mm x 4mm. She also cleaned up a small tear in my meniscus. The chip had been floating around causing some considerable pain and I can tell you now, I already feel better.

Dr. Ott returned to the rest of her case load for the day as I slept in the recovery room. About two hours later, she was ready to go home. Just as I was getting in her car, Steve texted me that he had arrived in Orlando and was on his way to pick me up. Pretty good timing.

Dr. Ott was amazing. She helped me to the couch in her living room and made me comfortable. She brought me another Diet Coke and even offered to make me some food. I was almost embarassed that someone would be so gracious to someone who was taking up their time and their home.

About two hours later, Steve arrived and helped me to the car. I was trying very hard to hide it but it was clear, I was in A LOT of pain. The meds that I had received at the surgery center had worn off and we had not yet filled my prescription of pain meds for home. We had to make a choice we stop and get the meds filled or do we just head home. I decided to stop, get some Motrin and head on home.

The ride was a long one. It was very difficult to get comfortable and I even cried by the time we got to the outskirts of Orlando. Upon our arrival at the house, I had some pain medication that I had left over from a previous surgery. I took one of the pills and finally relaxed...and slept...

It's now a little more than 24 hours from my surgery and I can already put weight on my leg and walk without the crutches. I already feel better and I know it will only get better from here. It will be several weeks before I start running again but I feel so very positive about the future. The knee is we need to focus again on the weight loss....

My thanks to the amazing staff in Dr. Ott's office, Dr. Ott herself and the incredibly talented and professional staff of the Brandon Ambulatory Surgery Center. Each and every one of these people are a blessing to me...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Viewing the big picture...

So...tomorrow is the day. I have been rushing around trying to get those things done (like the ever dreaded grocery shopping) that I know I will not be able to accomplish with a bum knee. Even with the running around, I did stop to take in the beautiful day...and go for one last bike and walk before tomorrow.

Sometimes we take the beautiful days and views for granted. Today I did not. Not because I face a 20 to 40 minute procedure tomorrow but because a friend of mine faces a bigger challenge today.

His name is Doug and he has been battling CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukemia) for several years. He has fought and gained remission for a period of time but now the drugs that have kept him in remission are no longer working and he will require a bone marrow transplant. He starts his 100 days in isolation today as he fights for his life.

And this is why I raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It is my life do what I can to help find a cure for all cancer...especially blood cancer.

Cancer is a coward. It picks on little kids. It picks on people that it believes are not going to fight. Cancer screwed up when it decided to pick on Doug. He is a warrior with a wife and children and he isn't going down. This is a serious battle.

So my little knee surgery is small potatoes. I am so very lucky to have had the opportunity to do Tri MIami 2009 with Doug. I know that we will both be racing again before you know it!!

If you have a moment, say a prayer for my friend. He is a helluva man!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ironman Athlete to the Rescue

You might understand the feeling I am about to describe. It's the feeling of needing more information than you have but no way to really get to it. It's the feeling of desperation that you MUST make the right decision for fear of screwing up your future plans. These were my feelings as I sat on my couch yesterday afternoon contemplating my next move to get me well. What do I do next?

I had called the doctor that operated on my business partner-Rick Stafford but he does not accept my that lead was quickly out the window.

I contacted a referral from a good friend who has had this problem in both knees. Her physician's first appointment was almost a month away. I don't mind waiting but there is a serious scheduling issue with a family cruise that is coming at the end of May. If I wait too long to have this procedure done, I won't be able to walk well while on the cruise...and honestly that just sounded miserable to me.

And then, my phone rang. I had asked an Ironman friend named Susan Ott to call me. She is an Orthopedic Surgeon in Plant City (a little more than an hour from Orlando) and I knew she could help me with perspective about my injury AND my racing. She was wonderful...taking time out of her evening to answer the rambling questions of a freaked out triathlete. If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you might remember me writing about Susan last year during my training (see July 12, 2009 ). She came out to a local trail and rode with me giving me advice that I needed at the time.

And then she offered something I didn't expect. "you know Melissa...I could take care of this surgery on Friday for you." WHAT?? in THIS Friday?? She offered to see me in her office the next day, look at my xrays, MRI's and reports and
give me an honest assessment and, if surgery was needed, schedule me for Friday.

I was speechless. I was so lost with the idea of picking a surgeon that I trusted...and I swear....the big guy upstairs helped make the decision for me.

So at 215PM today, I met with Susan. She did a couple extra X-rays and determined I did need surgery. She made time for me on Friday and I will have this procedure over and done by the end of this week. I know my full recovery where I will be back to running will probably take two to three months but ... for now...I feel so calm and relaxed. I have to tell you, I cried tears of relief all the way home today.

Don't you find it amazing that in this world there are still people who work in the business of healing others that REALLY WANT TO HEAL. These people love what they do and want so much to see people get better. To me, they are angels with wings. I have seen these types of physicians in several forms from those who treat pediatric cancer to , now, orthopedic surgery. What a blessing they are to the world.

My problem is a minor one...but when it's your skin they are cutting...any surgery becomes a big deal. I am just so glad that I have a friend in Dr. Susan Ott....

As always...Ill keep you posted....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

Find the problem, I kept saying. Tell me what the heck is wrong with me!! WELL, I got my wish today...but it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

My dear P.A. from the Ortho clinic called to let me know the results of my MRI (hows that for service..less than 1 day after the test) and he had a laundry list

1. I have a "joint mouse"! This is a bone or cartilage fragment floating around the joint causing symptomatic pain.

2. I have abnormalities in the joint bone itself from years of morbid obesity and the constant pressure on the bone has worn them to a "peak" instead of being smooth and rounded. The P.A. recommended that these be smoothed out for less pressure and pain using surgery via arthroscope.

3. A minor tear of the meniscus that, if left alone, would probably heal, but since they are going in to do this other work, will repair this tear.

I think I had the typical thoughts most athletes or competitors have when the word "surgery" is used in a sentence. How long will it take for me to recover? Will I be able to race again?? Will I ever be able to go long distance for an Ironman?? Will this change me from an athlete to a person standing on the sidelines and cheer others on.

So many questions...not many answers...but I will learn more soon. The appointment with my doctor is for Friday at 215PM. The funny part....I went to high school with the surgeon. Maybe that will help me...maybe it won't!!

As always...Ill keep you posted!! Your comments are always appreciated!!

Monday, April 12, 2010


There are events in your life that we sometimes turn to and remember as the pivotal moment that a decision was made, a turn towards a new path or a goal was firmly set in our lives.

I had that kinda moment this morning.

The saga continues with my left knee so this morning, my MRI was scheduled at the Ortho Clinic just a few minutes from my house. I arrived on time. The staff was wonderfully friendly and I didn't have to wait long at all to get the appointment started. They had me remove my watch, lock my belongings in a locker and then step into the room with the machine I show above.
Cool looking isn't it?? I's not that frightening looking monster MRI machine that we all envision in our mind. It's small and you just stick you leg in it. It still bangs and makes LOTS of noise...but its small....its not as scary...

Did I mention it was small....yeah... really small....

Too small...well at least for my leg. The tech was so incredibly nice. She tried the first leg support for my knee and went to slide my leg in only to find that it would not go all the way up. Not a problem, the nice lady told me. She switch sleeves and my leg fit in the sleeve fine. My leg, however, would not fit all the way in the machine

The tech told me she could probably get the shots she needed...but it just wouldn't work. She was embarrassed and so was I. Not since my inability to fit in an airline seat did I feel the embarrassment I felt this morning. The Tech called the other MRI office and they were able to get me into a normal size machine that took pics of my knee with no trouble...but man was I mortified!!

After 200lbs lost, the only part of my body where I haven't had skin removed is my thigh area. They are BIG. Not only are we dealing with skin...I still carry a lot of weight there that needs to be lost. I got in my car with tears streaming. If there was ever a moment of motivation, this was it. I have got to get to my goal weight. I can NOT have these things happening to me anymore. I have come too far to not reach that finish line. This is a race I refuse to quit....

F-ing Body Parts

Ok...consider this my Monday morning to VENT..and I mean VENT A LOT!! If you are not ready for a blog full of twisted humor and full of expletives, you may wish to move on....oh heck stay...this is going to be good.

Sunday...4am...Walt Disney World. While the happiest place on earth sleeps, my happy behind is up, and out the door to make sure I get home and get my gear together to do a bike workout with my Team Tri Hard Triathletes. I also like a little morning quiet time with my coffee...and to do some writing.

730AM arrives...and so do my athletes...on time!! They are quite awesome. Have I mentioned that...ohh probably a million times in the last couple of weeks. I do a short nutritional seminar with them then its off to cover 15 miles on the bike. I send them down the trail and jump on my bike.

As I clip in and bend my left knee, it felt like someone hit me with a 2 x 4. Yikes...that hurts like hell!!! Another push and it still hurts but its not as bad...and I head on down the trail.

15 miles later...all my athletes are in and I am off my bike and trying desperately not to show that walking at this point HURTS. I rack the bike and head back to Disney where my husband and friends are waiting to go horseback riding. I get the "grease" working in my joints enough to hoist myself aboard my sweet horse named Trace and off we went on a 1 hour trail ride. When we finish, I dismount...and once again....I look like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies making my way down the sidewalk limping as I go.

Stupid Body Parts. My left knee is really becoming an issue. My MRI is scheduled for this morning but I have decided that the world should come up with an easier way to replace the parts.

If you can slap new rubber on your car or rip out the transmission in your Chevy in a matter of hours...why not do that in people!!!

REALLY!! We have the technology!!! There is gotta be a faster way to fix BODY PARTS!!! (insert frustrated snort here)

Im a triathlete...not a hobbling old woman (ok...maybe I am an old woman...comfortably in denial ) ...I got races to do, medals to grab and podiums to stand on (ok...Im still back in my dream with me here).

Just frustrated!!! UTTERLY FRUSTRATED!! Find the problem and fix it Doc before I pull out my toolbox and do it myself!!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Giving get back up...

Risk a change, overcome fear and win.....Unknown

What can I tell you...Im a planner. My Franklin Covey old style written planner is my compass. I know if I need information,
there is a good chance it is there. My races, plane reservations, phone numbers, birthdays, events...everything is right there.

I own several computers. I have a beautiful MONSTER SIZE Mac on which I write this blog. I have a highly functional laptop that goes on the road with me. All these computers have planning software (Outlook, ICal...etc).

I still am addicted to my paper planner....but SLOWLY...Im starting to move things to this century and my computer.

But just like that paper planner, there are times when you have to look at your old habits and ways and decide to make a change. I think that is the theme of my life this year: it's full of change. For years, my world revolved around my race goals and focused very little on other parts of my life. I have a wonderful husband who would smile and nod as I waxed poetic about the next triathlon. He understands. He is that way about flying. Now that he owns a fully restored Cessna 172, he is so happy!!

So as I deal with injury, scheduling conflicts and intermediate goals that will lead to that big goal of completing my first Ironman, there are things that had to take center stage and some things that just had to fall away...

Last December, I was lucky enough to get into the USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coaching Certification program. After my certification, I put together a Sprint Distance Triathlon Program with my Boot Camp called "Team Tri Hard". My team of 12 triathletes has been working since the beginning of May to complete, for most of them, their first sprint distance race. I couldn't be more proud. They are conquering their fears, learning about nutrition and equipment and pushing themselves beyond the limits they had set in their heads before they began this journey.

I remember that feeling. I remember not sleeping the night before my first race. I remember thinking that 3 miles of running would simply be impossible. Although the distances have changed dramatically, those same mental barriers exist. Instead of worrying about 3 miles..I worry about 26.2.

I might have postpone my Ironman goal for a year, but in exchange, I have gotten the most gratifying feeling...seeing others move forward in their fitness goals...I think I am more excited about their race than they are.

I have also had to evaluate what is more important in my life than just racing. I had the opportunity to be the assistant coach of the Central Florida Chapter of Team in Training's Triathlon Team going to the Nation's Triathlon in September. I was so excited when I found this out earlier in the year that I have been counting the days until that season started, however, my goals and desires for myself and my wellness have changed...and this coaching opportunity does not fit into that new schedule of goals..

So I had to let it go..I had to call Team in Training and let them know I would be a participant in the Nation's Tri and NOT a coach.

It was painful. I love helping people but there are times when you KNOW that you must get yourself WELL so that you can be more useful down the road. As I battle my compulsive overeating and try desperately to get down to my goal weight, some things have had to wait. Like Ironman, coaching for me has been the process of baby steps. I pray there will be other opportunities in the years ahead, but for now, the focus has to be on my body, my mind, my health...

What I give up now will hopefully pay off in the end.