Home stretch

In approximately 56 hours, I’ll be flying home. Home sweet home. I can’t wait.

It’s feeling a little like the last few kilometres of a race: I am so ready to be done, and I can’t really remember too much about the start.

At home, one of my favourite things to do with the kids is to play “apples and oranges” over dinner. Or highlights and lowlights. We try to do this daily, when we remember. It’s applicable to my time here, I think.

So, herewith, are my apples and oranges from my time in Baku. In no particular order, some small, some big. I won’t assign a high or low, I’ll let you infer.

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The weather. One day it’s humid, hot and sundress weather. The next I’m in 3 layers + a down jacket.

And the wind. Oh lord, the wind.

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Our soviet-era dwelling, complete with faint smell of sewage and a stairwell that can only be compared so something from the set of “Lost”.

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The constant, never ending, for no apparent reason, fucking honking.

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Runs through narrow backstreets, dodging cars and stares, laundry, stray cats, random holes in the sidewalks, aiming to get lost, zigzagging my way through the old architecture mixed with new construction.

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Re-connecting with some wonderful people. Meeting new ones who will remain friends. This month would have been vastly different without them.

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Working through a language barrier that, at times, felt insurmountable. Never in my life have I used more hand gestures, scribbles and Google translate to muddle through both my day to day and my job.

My unique brand of Canadian humour didn’t always fly here.

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I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of sick of walking. I rarely get in vehicles here, walking just seems less complicated.

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I want: fresh vegetables. Fruit that isn’t mealy. A giant salad. A grocery store I can make sense of. My regular, happy little comfy staples. I’m kind of done with rice cakes.

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Why does construction have to go on all night here?

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I’m quite surprised I haven’t taken up smoking. Or spitting on streets, for that matter.

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Oh, to be in my bed, my glorious bed. In which I do not feel springs.

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I miss nature. And green space that isn’t man-made. That I’m allowed to walk on.

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Pantyhose. Nylons. Tights. Whatever you want to call them, it’s a wardrobe staple here, no matter the footwear. For that reason alone, I could never live here.

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Constant noise. The quietest place I’ve found has been underwater.

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I’m amazed that I’ve only witnessed 1 car accident. The drivers here are terrifying, and those are the good ones. I look back and can’t believe I considered bringing a bike #nochance

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It’s been an experience here, no question. But it’s time for this homesick Canadian return to her people, and plan the next adventure. Maybe somewhere I speak the language.

On my team and in my corner.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I suppose life is alway a little windy, but the last 30 days have vanished in a flash. Mixing training, work, racing away from home, jumping straight into a fairly big event, hiding/denying a cold and trying to find some quality time with my people  has led me to a big giant exhale…

… sitting on an airport floor, waiting to board an oversold flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

This is totally one of those “it seemed like a great idea at the time” situations. I didn’t give much thought to the quick turnaround this adventure would require, but hey, here we are.

I kissed the kiddos goodbye as they left for school, and reminded them that I’d see them in 4 weeks or so. I was surprised and a little relieved that it was without a sense of dread and trepidation. There were no tears, no drama.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss them already with an ache that is physical. It’s hard to explain. I know from experience that it will fade a little but then come back with a vengeance just before I get home to them.

It was easier this time because, ironically, we feel like a little team and my little teammates totally have my back. When I’m in the thick of it, distracted by deadlines, obligations and work stuff, it makes me realize what a bunch of independent little humans we have raised, and how grateful I am for it. They don’t put up a fuss, it seems they know that they need to cut me some slack just when I need it most.

They get it. This is the life they know, and while it certainly isn’t perfect, it works for all of us.

The next few weeks will be filled with ridiculous text messages from Will, FaceTime homework sessions, rambling calls with Anja, breathless messages from Rory telling of his latest feat followed by I Love Yous and I Miss Yous and I’ll see You Soons.

This my team, they are totally in my corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Snippets.

I did a cross country ski race last weekend. Can we talk about how refreshing it is to be a complete rookie at something? My goals were simple: enjoy myself and not get speared by a fellow competitors’ ski pole. I succeeded on both fronts.

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I came home from work a little late on Tuesday to find 3 children eating dinner. Dinner that they made themselves. Granted, they were leftovers, but still. Milestone.

I now, officially, drive a mini van. I fought it for years. And now? I lurve it. Why didn’t I just embrace it when the troops were toddlers? Gawd. Dummy.

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I skied with 5 boys on Sunday, while Anja had ski school. Despite the fact that I spent the day frozen, there was no part of the day that wasn’t awesome. I made no decisions, simply followed the pack and paid for lunch.

We came home and I collapsed onto the couch to do one of my favourite things: nap in long underwear. Those 5 boys? And that sister? Well, they played outside for another 2.5 hours till I called them in for dinner.

Spring afternoons rule.

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Spring?

oh hahahahahhhahahaha. Not so fast there, sister. You can blame the wet/cold forecast on my wishful thinking; I put new fenders on my road bike last week.

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Have y’all heard of Giraffe-cam? We’re a little obsessed over here. You got this, April!

And finally, I’m going on a new adventure to a land far, far away soon.

That’s what we call a cliff-hanger, right?

What keeps me rolling.

“So, are you training for something right now?”

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I get this question a lot. Seems a given that you’d be training for something when free time is taken up by staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool or sweating in my garage on a Friday night. I mean, who just does that for fun?

Oh yeah. I do.

Yes, I’m training for something. Again. And always. fullsizerender-6

I promise I’m not totally nuts. I mean, I’m a little nuts, obviously. But not completely.

The truth is, I really enjoy training. I love the racing aspect of sport, I love the fact that I’ve met some of the greatest people through sport but training is part of the package and I legit enjoy sweating my ass off to bad 80s tunes in the garage. I’d rather talk about boys with my friends deep into the forest during a trail run than over coffee at Starbucks. Training is a perfect angst and energy outlet for this introverted extrovert.fullsizerender-10

Endurance sport tends to keep me focused, happy and energized. It makes me a better parent. It keeps my inner narcissist (don’t lie – you have one, too) in check. It keeps me honest.

If my mum were still around, I know she’s roll her eyes, keep watch from a distance and ask me when I’m going to pack it in and “grow up; take up a more recreational pastime (gardening? Reading?) And I have the answer for that: fullsizerender-12

When the fear of getting slower surpasses the fun of trying to go faster.

Does that even make sense?

Even though I’m in my forties, I know that I’m still capable of going faster.

Sidebar: my kids are so confused about my age. Is she 24? 44? Why does it keep changing? Let’s keep them guessing, ok?

fullsizerender-11 I truly believe that every time I set foot on a start line, I’m going to go faster than the last time. And why shouldn’t I? Older doesn’t have to mean slower. I’m smarter (thank the good lord) than I was 15 years ago. I don’t eat like an asshole anymore (most days), and I use the tools and resources I have (like my smarty pants coach) to my advantage as much as possible. Not to mention, I thrive on the challenge of trying to beat myself. fullsizerender-8

So I keep at it, notching little success stories where I can. Thinking of races and challenges I can take on, plotting and scheming how to get there, and get there in one piece.

Let’s face it, Mum. I’ll probably keep doing this even when I start to slow down.

Eventually, I want my kids to get the call from the nursing home that “She’s at it again, racing her walker through the hallways and taunting Mr. Jones in room 204 again. Can you please talk to her?”

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Off to the garage I go!

Blizzard of blahs

What do you know… something like 65 centimetres (25 inches) of snow has fallen in the last 48 hours. Granted, I was in a conference room in Florida when this all happened, but still. Winter is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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It’s cruel when you can see it but you can’t actually touch it…

Is there anything redeeming about the month of February? I mean, besides the fact that it has 28 days instead of 31? Nope. January is all full of post-Christmas attitude and goals. March has hints of spring and noticeably longer days.

February? It’s got Valentines Day, and we all can guess how I feel about that.fullsizerender-1Somewhere between the end of January and now, I got sick again and have misplaced my mojo. My desire to stay under the blankets and daydreaming about warm sun and green grass is kind of overwhelming. I’d like to let my shoes and bike gather dust… but then I’m quickly reminded that I have a race to look forward to in about 7 weeks.

Maybe I’ll ski some neck deep powder this weekend and all will be right in the world again.

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Let’s talk.

I will never forget the day that I knew I needed to ask for help.

My life, as I knew it, was crumbling around me. My mother was dying. My marriage was falling apart. I didn’t know which way was up and was barely going through the motions. I was faking it in almost every aspect of my life. I was pretending I was fine.

I so clearly wasn’t fine. I was down to 100 pounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I was barely present, I couldn’t focus and was operating in a fog, seized by anxiety.

I was scared, sad, and I felt almost paralyzed. Of course, I had a few close friends in whom I confided (to a degree), but those nights, alone at 3:00am, when my mind was spinning, it was a dark and ugly place to be.

My whole life, I’d always tried to power through the emotional stuff, driven by the motto of “this too shall pass.” Stiff upper lip, and all that, right?

But that day, as I sat at my desk unable to type because my hands were shaking so hard, operating on 3 hours sleep, I knew then that this had to stop. I called my doctor, and walked through her door 15 minutes later.

She knew immediately upon seeing me that I needed help. She was gentle but firm. She asked me what I felt were prying but necessary questions. She drew me out, listened to my halting speech, and by doing so gave me that tiny little bit of confidence, that little push I needed to take those first steps towards getting help and getting well. I needed someone to take control, to give me a plan, to confirm that no, I wasn’t losing it completely.

‘Cause it sure as hell felt like I was.

Fast forward to today.

I am healthy, mentally AND physically. I am SO much better.

I’ve learned to read the signs of when things are starting to slide. I know when to ask for help, and from whom. My treatment is, and will always be, ongoing. I don’t feel shame in this; rather, there’s a sense of power that comes with knowing that I was brave enough to take this on.

Today, in Canada, it’s #Bellletstalk day. The goal of this campaign is to invite others to join the conversation and end the stigma around mental health.

By sharing my story, I hope that in some way, you know it’s ok to share yours.

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The Squad asked, and I answered

This week, on a very special episode of the Blog Squad…

Just kidding!

We thought we’d change it up a little. If you’ve been reading these past few weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been tackling the same topics. This week we are doing a round robin of questions for each other, challenging ourselves to get outside the box a little.

So, Caitlin asked me:

When did you first start to think of yourself as an athlete, and why?

I read this question a few days ago and have had ample time to write and think of the answer. And yet it took me a long time to organize these thoughts into a somewhat cohesive post.

The truth is, I really don’t know. In fact, I don’t even know that I do!

I’m not that introspective and have spent little to no time self-identifying as anything, really. It’s not something I have considered. I’m more someone who is governed by tangibles and measurable objectives, and this felt like something that I couldn’t quite define. And honestly, no one has ever asked me this question.

If I were to identify as anything, it would be as a mother above all else. This is the role I assume 100% of the time, whether I am physically with my children or not. Everything else, love it or hate it, must be secondary.

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As I pondered this further over the last few days (ironically, whilst at a training camp), I really had to wonder if I did consider myself an athlete. I looked up the definition:

ath·lete
ˈaTHˌlēt/
noun
 
  1. a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
    synonyms: sportsman, sportswoman, sportsperson; More

     
    1. BRITISH
      a person who is skilled in competitive track and field events (athletics).

      (To confirm: the British definition definitely does not apply to me!)

    I don’t know. It doesn’t really seem to fit. I’m pretty proficient, I guess? But does that make an athlete, specifically? I mean, I love junk food! I am lazy! But then again, I own so much active wear

    Isn't this a benefit of being an "athlete"?
    Isn’t this a benefit of being an “athlete”?

    I thought about it some more. I’m sporty, yes. But I don’t like team sports. I can’t catch a ball to save my life. I’m outdoorsy, but I hate being cold and I’m scared of bears. I’m athletIC, but does this make me an athleTE?

    I turned it around – as I often do – to the kids. How do they identify me as, besides Mom (obviously)?

    I called them via FaceTime from the airport on my way home from training camp (hello?! Athletes go to training camps!!) I asked: if you were to call me something, besides Mum and “event worker person”, what would it be?

    The answers were, in order: “biker” “runner” “Ironman person.”

    (Please note, swimmer never comes up. They know me well).

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    Huh. Maybe I am an athlete after all. Maybe?

    Why I am so sceptical about this? What is it that’s stopping me from calling myself an athlete? This is going to require a little more thought. Maybe I should should own it, go with it, try it on for size.

    So Caitlin, to answer your question: Today, I will start identifying as an athlete. Because as it turns out, all signs point in that direction.

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    Because athletes run in sideways rain, right?

    The rest of our round robin team can be found here. The Squad, as we call ourselves, are Erin, Jen, Liz, Caitlin, Elizabeth Laurel and Hailey.

    Enjoy!