Thursday, June 28, 2012

Self-soothing and disability

Self-portrait on my phone. Picture shows me, wtih dark red hair, green glasses, black shirt. Background is a white wall with framed picture of a campus building.
Self-portrait on my phone- newly dyed hair!
Folks, it's been a really rough couple weeks pain-wise.  I've had a couple bad workouts at the pool, I've had trouble walking due to numbness in my legs, and I've been just trying to cope with life as it is right now.  I've given myself a chance to just attempts at going to the pool and swimming for 500 yards if I'm having too many issues.  I'm allowing myself to find movement wherever I find joy, and this sometimes means I play Rock Band on my Xbox for a while (I prefer the drums, but when I can't feel my feet very well, the pedal is hard), sometimes this means I play with the cats with a feather toy or laser pointer.  Sometimes this means I give myself a chance to just rest and meditate.

It's hard, this not-doing physical activity thing.  Even when I'm doing things I'm not particularly good at (for example, this used to be running, back when I could run), I'm still happy in the movement.  I like to be dancing, wandering, wiggling, expressing....just moving.  My body isn't cooperating and it's hard to cope.

So I've been coping through traditionally feminine venues, which for me is pretty unusual.  For example, I've been dyeing my hair since I was fifteen, but didn't start having a salon do it until this year.  My initial motivation for getting it professionally done was that I couldn't stand long enough or bend over the sink for the time needed to dye my hair at home.  I would also miss sections of my hair either due to pain-related attention issues or medication-related cognitive issues.  Since I love having red hair (versus my natural color that I call "rodent" and other people call "mousy brown"), I've decided to wiggle the room in my budget to get it done.

It's become a time for me to have someone pay attention to my body for reasons other than health problems or pain.  It's become a time where I have someone there to help accentuate the beauty in my round cheeks, my full lips, and my penchant for funky glasses.  No one at the salon pressures me to buy makeup (something that I'm pretty bad at doing, partially because of being blind in one eye).  No one pressures me to get my hair cut in a way that would take a lot of maintenance (something that I warned my stylist about...I'm not good at doing my hair, and with my pain, work, & school schedule, it's just not I just don't like doing it).  They make me feel good as I am.

Maybe that money would be better placed in something else (maybe a housekeeper or a PCA?), but being able to do this helps keep me in the mental space where I can keep working and can keep pursuing my PhD.  Sometimes it's the little things that keep us going.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A really fantastic Kickstarter: Flying Pig Apparel

Due to a pretty severe pain spike, I'm having trouble writing...but I wanted to let folks know about a Kickstarter that I'm backing called Flying Pig Apparel.  These folks have recognized the lack of affordable options in plus size exercise clothing and are trying to fill that gap.  Shaunta Grimes of Live Once, Juicy interviewed them recently, and I think it's really neat reading how they decided to start this company!

If you want to support this Kickstarter, click here to support them.  Every dollar counts, and some of the higher donations come with pieces of apparel.  They have nine days left to fund their project, so if you can support this great starting company please do!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Failing a workout isn't really failing

Post-swim self-photo in my swimsuit, cap, & goggles flexing my bicep
Post-swim self-photo in my swimsuit, cap, & goggles*
On Monday I was having a pretty bad pain flare, but I wanted to swim...kinda.  I told myself that all I needed to do was 500 yardss, then I could get out of the pool if I wanted to.  Even a little bit of exercise can make a huge difference in health-related biomarkers (if you don't believe me, Google Dr. Stephen Blair from South Carolina).  I could do any stroke, go as slow or as fast as I wanted, but 500 yardss was the benchmark.  In truth, if my pain would have spiked severely while swimming those 500 yardss, I would belittling my workout, no beating myself up over not hitting my benchmark.  Judgement-free workout.

So I get to the competition pool and can't find a lane that's either being used for a swim team practice or has teenagers playing in the lane (which the lifeguard isn't supposed to allow in that pool, but my back was bad enough.  I didn't bother talking to the lifeguard because I had a limited distance that I could walk, and getting to him and back to the lane would have eaten up the spoons I had allotted for the workout.  Instead, I noticed that the therapy/recreation pool had an open lane.  I don't like swimming laps in warm water (the therapy pool usually is around 85°F), but I just kept telling myself that I could stop at 500 yards.

It was a hard ten laps, my back was angry, I was cranky from getting splashed by kids playing nearby (and playing on the stairs and ramp...things the lifeguard is supposed to deal with, but didn't).  I finished by 500, spine still angry, still cranky, and got out.  I hit my baseline goal, but I had to keep reminding myself that I didn't fail the workout because I got in the pool and did it.  It's ok that it didn't feel good today.  I did it and that's what matters.

So yesterday after work, I went to the pool again.  This time I got a lane in the competition pool (still on the long course 50 yard setup).  I did 100 yards of breast stroke and realized that my back was really not happy with doing that any more.  I then started to do some freestyle, fully intending to switch strokes as I usually do every 100-200 yards.  Something clicked in my mind that just let me keep going without stopping to catch my breath.  100 yards became 200, 200 became 400, 400 became 800, and then 1000.  I stopped at 1000 yards of freestyle mainly because my right shoulder has been a bit sore lately and I didn't want to aggravate it.

I then realized that my short swim on Monday may have given me the opportunity to push my body further than it's gone since I was doing triathlons in 2007.  I haven't done more than 400 yards continuously.  By trusting my body (much like Anna at Curvy Yoga did), I did something that I hadn't done for a long time.  I did most of those laps without kicking as my spine protested every time I had a meaningful flutter kick, but I still did it.

It made me think of Ragen Chastain's blog post about how fat isn't the opposite of fit, and how disability isn't the opposite of fit either.  Bodies can be a lot of different sizes, shapes, configurations, and abilities, and still can do a lot of amazing things.  Fitness can also mean different things to different people in different circumstances.  It's also something that shouldn't be a mandate nor should it be something that creates a moral divide.  Fitness does not make me a "good person" nor does it make me any better than anyone else.  Ideal fitness to one person may be to be able to complete a marathon.  For another person it would be to be able to walk around the block.  Another person it could mean to be able to bench press 200 pounds, another to be able to play airplane with their toddler.  It's personal, and it's up to you to decide.

For me, it's also deciding that I need a day off to rest my shoulders instead of going to the pool three days in a row, even though the aquatic center is going to have the competition pool closed from Thursday afternoon until Sunday....because I need to let my muscles rest and repair themselves so I don't get injured.  It's not the easiest thing to do for me as I really enjoy being active, but it also gives me a chance to reconnect with my body (something I have trouble doing with chronic pain).

Onward and rest-ward!

*This self-photo with the camera on my phone was hard to post here, but I think it's important to have more images of fat folks that are doing physical things (or having done physical things, in the case of this photo).  I find it fascinating how I was worried to show my fat arms, or the places where the suit doesn't contain my flesh as well.  Maybe someone else will see the beauty in this photo even when I'm having trouble looking at it.  Also, I've decided that everyone looks a bit silly with a swim cap on, and I'm no exception! :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm an exercise junkie

It's probably not a surprise that I'm an exercise junkie by just looking at some of the posts on my blog.  Even some of the non-exercise related posts either have something to do with my PhD (kinesiology...the study of movement) or talk about how my lifestyle relates to my movement-based hobbies.  I've been a bit frustrated with what my body is letting me do lately (upper body strength training), what it will grudgingly do (swimming laps), and what it will not allow (walking for any real distance, Crossfit, mixed martial arts, belly dance).

After wheeling the 5k, I know that I want to get back into endurance sports as it looks like the adaptive versions will be doable.  The problem is really the cost.  Adaptive sports equipment is really expensive, for example, this racing wheelchair from Top End (the company that made my rigid chair) retails for easily over $3,000 USD.  How can most disabled wannabe athletes supposed to afford this?  There are grants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (a great organization that helps out a lot of folks be able to be active & have fun), but I'm worried that the position required in a racing chair will cause spine issues...and that's a huge financial risk for something that might or might not work for me.

There's also the issue with fit.  I'm not a paraplegic, so my legs are rounder than they would be if I didn't have use of them.  This limits the style of racing chair I can use, and it may mean that I'm too round for the racing frames that exist.  Another concern is that if my body shape changes due to training and racing, I may no longer fit properly in this very expensive piece of equipment, and ill-fitting sports equipment (whether it's a bicycle, running shoes, hockey pads, ski boots, or a wheelchair) can cause either biomechanical issues or increase risk of injury.  What happens if this very expensive piece of equipment no longer works for me?

I'm also a little worried about applying for a grant through CAF or a similar organization.  I think part of my emotional mind clings to the hope that somehow my deteriorating spine will somehow fix itself.  Or that maybe I'm not disabled enough.  Or that maybe the organization will judge me based on my body size and consider me a poor candidate for funding.  I'm not saying that any of these thoughts are rational, but they're still valid.  Fatphobia exists...and fatphobia can live insidiously with ableism when fat folks use adaptive equipment.  We're seen as lazy, we're seen as causing our disability by being fat (and even if we did, people should keep their mind on their own underpants, thank you very much).

So, I'm thinking about ways I can raise money to fund this racing chair, or maybe a way to see if I can get professionally fitted and see what my options are.  We'll see what the future holds on this front...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cartesian dualism and chronic pain

A picture from the local aquatic center's webpage, the lap pool with the starting blocks shown
The pool & blocks at the local pool
I went to the pool yesterday after work to swim some laps.  I was excited because the local aquatic center is set up in 50 yard lanes for the summer, versus their usual 25 yard lanes, and I've never had the chance to swim in an Olympic length lane.  Nothing like a little change to make me excited for a workout.

I ran into my friend Katie (who has a fantastic blog called Poems, Prayers, Promises & Politics*) that I met at graduate school orientation for our masters program, which was great because I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like.  She was meeting up with her master's swim team for a practice and I was just going to swim a few laps, so we didn't get to chat for very long.

We parted ways and I got in the pool.  I found out pretty quickly that I love swimming in the 50 yard lane.  It was also easier on my spine because I wasn't stopping to change direction as often.  In the 25 yard setup, I've been hitting my pain limit at about 600-700 meters (my brain and the rest of my body wanting to keep going, but literally hitting my spine pain threshold between 500-600 yards). 

Because the swimming wasn't aggravating my spine too badly, my mind wandered.  I was thinking about how chronic pain influences how I see my body, how I sometimes own my pain and how I sometimes separate myself from my body in order to be able to cope with it.  I thought about a paper I wrote for a class last semester in which I called my body an "ill-constructed flesh mecha" because of the combination of my congenital birth defects and my spine fracture.  Some days, in order to cope with what my body is doing, I need to deliberately divorce my body from my mind...hence the reference to Cartesian dualism.

This gets sticky when I'm trying to do active things.  Separating the mind and body is something that many endurance athletes do in order to be better, faster, stronger....but it tends to come at a price.  When you "transcend" your body's signals (many times marathon runners that ignore tendonitis or a gymnast that ignores a sprained ankle to compete a la Kerry Strug in the 1996 Olympics).  While ignoring your body's pain signals can make for an awesome accomplishment, repeatedly removing yourself from your body like this can make for some wicked injuries or exacerbate current issues (like my wonky L5/S1 joint).

So I tried to stay mindful of what my body was telling me because I was having a pretty bad pain day (and this was the first time I've swum laps while on pain medication).  Probably because of the long-course lap setup, I managed to get 1000 yards in.  I would have gone another 200 or more yards (1 lap equals 100 yards), but some kids jumped in my lane and started horsing around when I was at 950 yards, and I couldn't find the lifeguard to get them out (the competition pool is lap swimming only, but there is a "therapy" pool that they let kids play in).

So my swim was cut a bit shorter than I was hoping for, but I think that swimming too many more laps would have been a stretch and possibly would have lead to injury or exacerbating an already icky pain day.  I'm taking a rest day today to make sure that I didn't overdo it...I use my shoulders a lot, so get out of chairs, to limp with my cane, to wheel around, so I need to be careful with them.  Mind and body connected :-)

*Katie's blog is's about her "thoughts (political and otherwise) surrounding [her] upcoming lesbian wedding."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shoe shopping on wheels

A picture of my knee-high Renaissance boots, black with green trim and silver buttons
A blurry pic of my Renaissance boots
I really didn't think it would be an unusual trip shopping.  Hit up Michaels for some photo boxes (as I found out they work really well for storing comic books), hit up Ross just to wander around and see if they had any summer weight shirts that are office appropriate (meaning that they cover up my tattoos), zip through Target for assorted things, and hit up the shoe store for some new slip-ons as my other plain colored ones died.

Zoom through Michaels, find nothing of interest in Ross, then to the shoe store.  The cashier opened the door for me and I rolled on in.  I wandered up and down the aisles, just looking at the pretty shoes but with a specific style in mind.  I wanted some pretty casual shoes in a solid color that were slip-on...something that I can get on easily when I'm having a bad spine day (meaning that I don't need to bend over to put on or tie), but something that will stay on my foot unassisted (so no mules or slides) and don't slide around making walking or transferring dangerous.  I ogled and fondled some pretty outrageous heels, but settled myself in the casual-but-not-athletic shoe aisle.

I'm slowly rolling down the aisle, grabbing shoes, poking at them for padding, sole texture, and fabric, trying some of them on, and a teenager gives me this look of "WTF" as if someone who uses a chair wouldn't go shoe shopping.  I give her an equally incredulous look and go back to fondling a pair of shoes that end up fitting horribly on me (and have "toe cleavage," which is something I really do not like as a look).  I get another couple odd looks from customers, which just baffles me.

I have feet, and I want to wear shoes on my feet, so I'm shoe shopping.  What's so weird about this?  Is it because I'm not dressed "femininely" in my grey jeans and black zip-up sweatshirt?  If I was more easily pegged as femme, would it make my shoe shopping more "normal" and less queer?  Or maybe I would still get those looks because displaying as femme is considered equally queer when visibly disabled?

I left with some comfy shoes in a dark grey that fit my requirements...I was hoping for black, but I'm happy.  Maybe I'll stop getting weird looks at work for my ratty pink floral slip-ons or my running shoes :-)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Memories of being in special education gym class

Me on my bike, text reads "I STAND for fun physical activity for all, weight =/= health. Stop weight bigotry, Health At Every Size"
My STANDard poster, me on my bike
I've been thinking a lot lately about how physical education experiences can impact adult physical activity (I know, I'm a nerd...but I'm working on my PhD in sociohistorical studies of kinesiology, so what do you expect?).  I came across a blog post at Anytime Yoga about the author's experience with hating volleyball, and started really wondering what the is the actual purpose of physical education classes.  I've been chewing on this for a while, especially for folks with disabilities that experienced special education gym classes.

Growing up, my "primary" physical disability was my congenital optic nerve hypoplasia in my right eye, which means I've been legally blind in my right eye since birth.  I also had lazy eye (strabismus).  The school district decided that I needed to be put in special education gym classes along with mainstream PE.  I was pulled out of my elementary school classroom at fairly random intervals to attend the special gym classes....and I do mean randomly.  I'm not sure if the school district didn't have enough funding for regular classes, if there was only one "special needs" PE teacher that the district shared, or if my regular classroom teacher didn't feel the need to pull me out of her classroom to have these "special" gym classes.

I do remember more joy in these classes.  I didn't have "normal" classmates teasing me for having trouble with depth perception related activities (hitting, catching, kicking).  My classmates in these classes were a pretty good mix of ages, between first and fifth grades, and we only had about five of us at any one time.  It was more about learning and moving our bodies for fun than any obviously directed sport.  We were all the kids that were picked last because our bodies were different in some way, and each of our bodies were different in different ways.  We learned that our bodies had both strengths and weaknesses, and that was ok.

This wasn't a lesson I initially got from these classes though.  Because of the sporadic nature of these classes, I never knew what subject I was going to miss.  Sometimes it was something I wasn't as fond of (like math), sometimes it was something I really enjoyed (like music or art).  It never replaced the regular gym classes, so some weeks I had gym 4 times a week when other kids had it twice a week.

When I was in fourth grade, the special ed gym teacher came at more regular intervals, and I remember that the person came every time I had German.  I was frustrated that something I wasn't as keen on was keeping me from something I really enjoyed....and I was also frustrated that my perceived impairment was not only creating a deficit in my scholastic work (learning German) but really wasn't making me more able to kick, catch, hit, or do anything physical.  I looked more at the social disadvantages of those special ed gym classes because as a kid, I didn't see the point of gym classes.  As a precocious kid, I explained to my parents that I didn't feel that the classes were doing anything for me and that I felt like I was constantly behind in my German schoolwork because I was consistently missing it.  With this information, my parents had the school pull me out of special ed gym.

When I look back at the rest of my (mainstream) gym class experience, I keep wondering what the point of it all is.  If school is supposed to prepare a person for adulthood, shouldn't gym class be about trying a bunch of different sports and activities in hopes that a person finds something that they can keep doing for the rest of their life?  I've met so many folks that were traumatized by PE is this helpful to maintaining a healthy adulthood?  Couldn't this be related to our current social issue of sedentary behavior?

I still sometimes wonder how I became an adult athlete with the torment and frustrations I had with PE as an older kid.  I rarely found activities that I was any good at or that I found fun (being skillful can definitely help make something fun).  I think growing up with parents with an adventurous spirit was what got me to the point where I wanted to be physical in a variety of ways, and I thank them for that spirit.  It's led me to some interesting activities from a polar bear plunge to the MS 150 bike ride (that's where my bike photo comes from) to belly dance to wheeling a 5k...and more physical endeavors in the future, body-willing.

What do you think?  How does your physical education history impact your current physical activity?  What complicates your experience?  If you could sit down and talk to your PE teacher, what would you say to her/him?  What would you tell your younger self about moving your body?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Preparing to fly with an atypical body

Picture of clouds taken from an airplane, image from Wikipedia Commons
Picture of clouds from an airplane, from Wikipedia Commons
I have two trips coming up this summer, one being my annual trip to visit my family and friends in Minnesota in July and the other to go to a major gaming convention in August.  I've been flying several times a year since I fractured my vertebra and have been using either a cane or forearm crutches in that time, but this will be the first time that I'm flying with wheels.  I have to admit that I'm a little nervous, particularly with the uproar about whether or not fat people flying should pay for more than one seat, and in what circumstances, and how one ticket for one person is a human rights issue.

This will be one of those times where I will get to see the interactions between ableism and fatphobia mingle.  Which will matter more to the airline employee, my size, my use of adaptive aids, or will it be one big mess of both?  Will I be seen as being disabled because I'm fat, or fat because I'm disabled, or will that even matter?  Would I be treated differently if I wasn't a young-appearing white cis-appearing woman?  Should I dress up for my flight to appear more upper class in hopes of better treatment?  Which part of my identities will be validated or invalidated as a part of my desire to travel across the country?  Will I have to milk the privileges I have in order to be treated with dignity and respect....and how crappy will that make me feel?

I have a month before my first flight to wonder about this.  My Expedia itineraries have the designation "special assistance, wheelchair needed (can climb/descend stairs)," so hopefully I won't have too much trouble.  I'm also gathering information from season wheelchair users to see what I can do to make my trips less of a headache.  Thankfully it seems like the airlines are starting to understand the various needs of their disabled passengers, so hopefully I'll be able to fly with my rigid chair without too much hassle (hopefully!).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mission accomplished...5k on wheels!

Somehow, despite the nervousness, I managed to sleep last night.  I even managed to get right out of bed when my alarm went off (6am isn't too much of a stretch for me as I'm getting used to getting up for deep water aerobics).  I get everything gathered, get on the road, and get to the airport (where the race is being held).  I get parked, which was a little worrisome as I try to make sure that I have enough room to set up the chair.  I find the shuttles and breathe a sigh of relief as I see they're using the area transit buses for shuttles...which have to have wheelchair lifts or ramps in them (thank you Americans with Disabilities Act).  I'm also pretty darn early because I wanted to make sure I could handle any access snafus that might happen.

So I roll along looking for the sidewalk to get to the bus...and there's gravel, grass, and dirt.  I start popping a series of wheelies to try to maneuver (as I haven't mastered rolling while wheelied), and a fellow racer comes up and asks me if I want help.  I take it as I had the rest of the grass and gravel to contend with, plus the curb...I really didn't want to fall just getting to the race shuttle.  One of the drivers pulls away from the curb so I can actually use the ramp (hooray), and after a false start up the ramp because my handrim was on the lip of the ramp.

Ridged tarmac at the 5k
Tarmac has ridges! Ack!
A short bus ride later and we get to the tarmac.  My first hurdle was getting off the bus, as I didn't realize that I would need to wheelie the last part because of how low my footplate is....roll, catch, & fall out of the chair.  Thankfully, pain level was still a bit low and I got my feet back under me without too much issue (although some embarrassment).  After I get situated, I look down the runway, getting a little nervous.  Maybe I should have brought my iPod for music, even though I've never raced with an mp3 player before (it's against most racing organizations, like US Track & Field and USA Triathlon to race with headphones).  I roll along, and notice that the tarmac has ridges...ALL the way down the runway.  They're going to be perpendicular to my wheels...for 3.1 miles.  So this "flat & fast" 5k has now turned into something even scarier, and I start worrying about being able to finish.  I've also determined that I'm the only wheelchair user, so I'm getting concerned that I'm going to be some sort of spectacle (combined with a few dirty looks I got from women with more "traditional" running bodies).

I'm wearing a ballcap that says "Iron Girl," a black shirt that says "Challenged Athletes Foundation," sports pants, running shoes, race number, sitting in my wheelchair
I'm flexing the arms that will get me 3.1 miles!
Thankfully, the coworker that told me about this race finds me at about this time, so we start chatting.  Some of it about our respective racing histories, then about using the chair.  I told her I was worried, but worst case scenario was that I wouldn't finish the race...and since I've never actually DNF (did not finish) a race, I was ok with that as the outcome.  Right before we were lining up at the starting line (which we didn't find until about 2 minutes before it was supposed to start), I got her to take a picture of me, wearing my race number, clad in an Iron Girl hat (from the duathlon I did in 2007), and a Challenged Athletes Foundation tech shirt.

So the race begins and I'm finding myself being passed up pretty quickly by everyone, including some folks walking with strollers.  I keep cursing the ridges in the tarmac, and praying that my arms hold up.  I keep pushing.  At about the one mile point, the elite runners are now coming back to almost finish.  I eventually find my "sweet spot"....I'd push, the chair would reward me with a "whir," push, whir, push whir.  Ok, my body can handle this, so now it's just mental.  Endurance events are mental challenges, and I can do this.

The water station was about at the 1.25 mile point, and this was when some of the less elite but still swift runners were on the way back.  Folks were cheering for me "you go girl," "keep it going,"  "you're an inspiration!" (this one made me uncomfortable, but that's because of some discussions of "inspiration porn" in disability activist circles), and the like.  Push, whir, push, whir....and the turnaround cone.

Sometimes in a down-and-back race, that cone is either a savior (it's halfway done) or a buzzkill (I've only done half of this damn thing??).  Well, today it was a savior because it showed me something I hadn't realized about the's on a slight hill.  I had so many problems getting to that point because I was going UPHILL.  No wonder my forearms were burning...I was pushing against the ridges AND a hill!  Push, whir, push, whir...I start zooming down (well, wasn't that much of an incline).  Since I'm able to coast more, I'm noticing that either the tarmac is sloped a little side-to-side or I'm not sitting quite squarely in the chair, which is making me curve.  I try to not grab the left handrim to straighten out, but start doing more of an alternating push with my arms, right push, whir, both push, whir, right push, whir...

At about the 2.5 mile point, a police officer on a bicycle comes up to me and asks how I'm doing.  Amazingly, I'm really not all that winded even though I'm working pretty hard.  He asks if this is my first race (I explain the yes & no situation), and end up telling him how there are specialized chairs for racing in.  He essentially tells me that I'm awesome, and leaves for a bit.  I notice my watch and see that I'm really not that far off my old running PR for the 5k distance, which gives me an added boost of energy.  The officer comes back and asks if he can have the honor of crossing the finish line with me.  I tell him sure, partially because at this point I notice that I've ripped open part of my hand from the wheel (I must have been scraping against the tire, but was so "in the zone" that I didn't notice).  We exchange names, and when the finish line is in better view, I dig in. 

the finish line
The finish line, photo taken pre-race
Forget whir...push push push push.  I actually think I lost the officer in my mad pushing, but he's on a bike and can catch up, so I stop paying attention.  I get within view of the announcer, who makes a comment about me doing the race in a standard wheelchair.  I didn't hear all of it, but I'm pretty sure that he said that phrase a couple times, trying to impress upon the onlookers that this was hard, and this is not the ideal way to race in a wheelchair.  That made me beam...the announcer knew that this was the hard way to wheel a race, and wanted everyone else to know how badass this was!

My coworker met me at the finish line with water (thank you thank you!) while I kept talking to the police officer (who got his partner to come with a bandaid for the ripped skin).  People kept coming up to me, saying "good job" and the like.  Thankfully, getting back on the shuttle was less traumatic, although getting to my car was a bit frustrating.  The driver parks so the ramp goes in the grass, which beats trying to wheelie a curb.  When a couple guys ask me if I want help, I tell them to let me get to the fence for support to hobble, and let them get the chair to the pavement, which worked pretty darn well.

I'm happy I did it.  So happy.  I'm even pretty proud of my blisters and rip (I have a picture, but I'll spare the closeup of my filthy traumatized hand.  I think my desire for racing wheels has just increased though, and unless I get a grant from Challenged Athletes Foundation, Project Athena, or some other awesome adaptive sports agency, my racing will continue to be really sporadic in a standard chair.

Zoom :-)

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'm doing a 5k tomorrow...on wheels!

my race number, 3104
My race number (3104) for the 5k at the airport
One indisputable fact about me is that I'm pretty impulsive, which is sometimes a pretty neat thing.  So when a coworker of mine posted about a 5k walk/run on Facebook with "who wants to do it with me?" I decided to jump head first into it.  First of all, the fact that the race advertises both running and walking as an option makes me hopeful that there will be a variety of abilities on the course.  Secondly, the race is at the local international airport on the tarmac, so it's going to be about as flat as a race course can possibly be (meaning this shouldn't be too bad on my shoulders since I've not actually trained for this distance).  Lastly, the event said explicitly that it's wheelchair accessible and stroller-friendly.  They went out of their way to say that wheels were ok.

So tomorrow morning, I'm rolling a 5k.

It's not my first 5k.  I've done a good number of them, along with sprint distance triathlons, which involve a 5k after swimming & biking.  I've even done some wickedly impulsive races, with the knowledge that I can just walk the rest of the race and be DFL (dead frickin' last, in race lingo).  My last 5k was with a friend of mine, done at a slow walk with a walking stick as my spine wasn't behaving, but we finished nonetheless.

I really don't know why I'm so nervous.  Maybe I'm not convinced that the shuttles to the tarmac are wheelchair accessible?  Yeah, that's part of it.  Maybe I'm worried about how other people will treat me as a fat woman rolling along?  Eh, somewhat, but I've been the fat chick racing before (and even racing in spandex, due to my triathlon days).  Maybe I'm concerned that my shoulders don't have the endurance?  That's definitely part of it...while I swim laps, do water aerobics, and continue to lift weights (upper body with weights, lower body is bodyweight and balance work), this is a different challenge.  This isn't just doing casual laps through the's 3.1 miles.  In a regular, non-racing wheelchair.

I have a feeling that once I'm there, once I manage to navigate the shuttle, pin my number to my shirt, and get rolling that I won't be worrying about whether or not I can finish.  I'll have the racing buzz that I always get, the one that settles into the thrum of my heart and the rhythm of my body and just lets me go on and on and on until I see the finish line.

You know what?  Maybe this isn't nervousness, but just the anticipation of feeling like an athlete again.  It's been a while, and I think I'm just craving my endorphin rush.