Victory dance!!! Iron Girl is less than a month away and we’re still kicking (and sometimes screaming…). In final preparation for the big event, I had a detailed schedule of how the last 4 weeks were going to go, with regards to my workouts. Well, somewhere in the middle of victory dance on Monday night, I realized I had a migraine that was affecting my right eye. All right fine, obviously my body was over the whole “dancing” thing and just wanted a nice dose of Advil and some good old-fashioned sleep. I went to bed confident in my battle plan and excited for the weeks to come. (Go ahead and insert your own ominous theme music here…)
The next morning, I put in my contacts and noticed my eyes felt a bit dry and irritated, but I figured that probably meant I had allergies (for the first time in my life….some of my “conclusions” are more based in reality than others). I hopped in the car and headed over to visit my chiropractor because I have a rib (or 3) that likes to slip out of place and he’s in charge of putting them back and telling them to stay there (they don’t listen…which maybe isn’t surprising, considering a rib was foundational in the construction of the first woman). About 10 minutes into this drive, I came over a hill and the sunlight reflected off of a nearby car and just about blinded me. My eyes reacted like they had been stuck with a fiery poker. I literally could not keep them open against the pain and tearing. Blindness and driving are really not the best combination, so I pulled over and waited for everything to calm down. “Wow”, I thought, “I had no idea allergies are so horrible. No wonder everybody’s always complaining about them!” It made sense at the time…
I was just around the corner from the doctor’s so I came up with the brilliant (and fashionable) solution of wearing 2 pairs of sunglasses at the same time (go ahead, be jealous) and that seemed to keep the sun reasonably at bay. Upon reaching his office, the doctor asked me how I was doing.
“Pretty good.” I replied.
He hesitated a moment and then said, “Really? Because you look awful!”
Oh … yeah, about that… I calmly explained that I was pretty sure I was having allergies.
“Do you get allergies very often?” (He can be so unreasonable sometimes).
Um…no. But to help my case, I explained the recent car/blinding light experience.
He narrowed his eyes at me in the way doctors seem to have been specially trained to do. Without a word, he got up and closed the blinds on the window. “Does that make you feel better?”
You know, it totally does!
“Mmm-hmmm….how about this?” and he turned off the overhead light.
That’s way better! Thanks, doc.
He paused for effect (hoping I would come to the obvious conclusion on my own and spare him from calling me an idiot), “You know allergies don’t really act like that, right?”
Sigh….yes. I do.
“I think you’re still having migraines. It would explain the light sensitivity a lot better than…allergies would.”
All right fine, 5-points for the chiropractor. The whole migraine theory is, admittedly, slightly better than my allergy one. So I went home (rockin’ the 2 shades solution), took out my contacts, popped some more drugs and, begrudgingly, decided to skip the last open-swim night at Jamesville Beach with the Fleet Feet Tri class. Something about water reflecting the sun into my eyes while I tried to survive swimming seemed like a less than ideal situation. It’s okay though because sometimes we have to take a night off and listen to our bodies – one night isn’t going to undo months of hard work and preparation. It’s just one night. (Remember the ominous music you heard earlier? Yeah, you’re gonna want to turn the volume up now…)
The next day I still didn’t feel up to wearing contacts but I had the brilliant idea of driving into work at 6:30 to avoid the sun. By around 11, I was starting to think that maybe the whole “migraine” theory was still not sufficiently explaining the situation. I put in a call to my eye doctor and figured this was one of those times where you bite the bullet and hope it’s not pinkeye. I explained what was happening to the nurse and she said she’d talk to the doctor and call me back with an appointment time. At around 1, I got a call from her…
“So I spoke with the doctor and she would like to see you today.”
Oh, great. Okay, when?
“Preferably within the next 30 minutes.”
Why within the next 30 minutes? Is she taking a late lunch or something?
“Um…no. She’s concerned that your corneas have ulcers on them.”
Oh for the love of…Okay fine. I’m on my way.
I went to go explain the situation to my boss (who’s used to these kind of theatrics from me). He looked at me, slightly confused. “What are the odds that you’ve ulcerated BOTH corneas at the same time??” I shrugged, “Not good, I’m guessing. They’re probably just overreacting.” If my life was a sitcom, this moment would be a freeze-frame that dramatically fades to black.
Sure enough, the doc looked at my eyes and confirmed that I essentially had “blisters” under both corneas that, if left untreated, would have surfaced and ruptured. Like ulcers. So, what are the odds that I could’ve ulcerated BOTH corneas at the same time? Pretty good, actually. Who knew? I asked her how exactly I could have managed this and she explained that it probably came from swimming with contacts in. But I always wear goggles! Doesn’t that mean that I’m protected?? Apparently not (judging solely from the blisters under my corneas…). She explained that there are viruses and bacteria, in swimming pools especially, that LOVE contacts. They actually burrow through the lens so deeply that your cleaning solution cannot reach them. When you put your contacts in the next day, the happy little buggers then proceed to burrow through your corneas, creating air-pocket-like blisters. Turns out, swimmers who must wear contacts should always wear one-day disposables. Again, after 17 years of wearing contacts, who knew?!?! “The good news is,” the doctor continued, “You didn’t get the kind that leaves corneal scarring, so your vision won’t be permanently impaired. But you easily could have had that one, so again, wear one-day disposables and toss them at the end of a swim.” Lesson learned. Consider this blog my public service announcement to contact-wearing swimmers everywhere (or at least the 5 who actually read this).
Okay, fine, when can I wear contacts and go back to my usual training routine? The doc did that narrow-eye thing and said flatly, “You will NOT wear contacts until I tell you that you can. We’ll recheck you in a week and see how you’re progressing.” Hmm….okay, how long does it usually take to clear up? She hesitated, “Well, I could lie to you but I’m not going to. Most patients clear up in a week to a week and a half but with this, I’ve seen some take a month to a month and a half.” Let’s go back to the part where Iron Girl is in 25 days….
I went home a little stunned. In fact, I bought jellybeans in preparation for a night spent wallowing in self-pity while Leona Lewis and I did a heart-wrenching duet of “Bleeding Love”. I called one of my training buddies and explained that I couldn’t participate in the mini-Tri out at Gillie Lake that night because life was against me. Without missing a beat, she responded “Oh, that sucks! Do you want to come run at Longbranch with me? My daughter has Kids-In-Motion there tonight and I was going to get my 45 minutes in.” We can run in the shade even!”
See? This is why I so desperately need, and love, having a training group. Yup, I want to drag my self-pitying and blistered-cornea loving self out to the park to go for an endorphin-boosting, thought-clearing run. So we did.
Turns out it was the night No Boundaries runs out there too. They were running counter clockwise around the park, so we decided to run clockwise to avoid the coaches thinking we were lost members of their group. On our second loop, we saw Alan Pack, who had been our group leader a year ago when we took No Boundaries, fast approaching with his new group of runners. He started waving wildly and I smiled as I realized what a source of inspiration to this new class it must be to see 2 NoBo graduates like us out running. And then I promptly tripped over an exposed tree root and darn near face planted. Doggone it! Laughing, I ran past the rest of his group as quickly, and carefully, as possible.
On our next loop, when I saw Alan round a bend towards us, I heard him yell out to his group, “Okay, everybody move over to the left and give her a LOT of room, just in case!” I laughed and yelled back, “I don’t trip EVERY time!!” No sooner had the words left my mouth than my running partner promptly miss-stepped and stumbled into a rut. I laughed so hard I almost fell over. Again.
I told her we’d simply decided to upgrade ourselves from inspiration to comic relief.
On my drive home, I thought about how grateful I was that I’d gone running instead of staying home and pouting. Our group has a long-standing history of repeating, “I love hills, I love pain” all the way up a hill. If you say it enough times, you start to believe it. Now, we say it about all kinds of things. “I love hills, I love open water swims.” “I love hills, I love burpees” “I love hills, I love corneal blisters”. Admittedly, the last one’s a bit of a stretch for me right now. Truthfully though, they’re all a bit of a stretch. That’s kind of the point. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t need to talk ourselves into it. If this really takes me a month to heal from, how am I going to manage my training? Can I even do Iron Girl? I am ridiculously blind, so even wearing glasses means I lose a big chunk of my peripheral vision (making cycling an unwise choice), and who knows when I can wear goggles again. It’s easy to buy into the “if I can’t do it the way I’ve been doing it, then it can’t be done”. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There are aqua joggers and bike trainers, prescription goggles (and if you see me wearing those on the bike, I expect NO comments!) and all sorts of solutions, once you start looking for them.
I was watching stage 10 of the Tour de France last night. It’s the first stage in the high mountains and the commentator said, “These hills are where you really start to see the character of these men. It’s not just about preparation anymore, now it’s about determination. What are they fighting for and how badly do they want it?”
That’s why we love hills. Hills are our chance to actually exercise our character. Truth is, I have no idea whether or not this eye thing just killed my chance of competing in Iron Girl (ooooooh, cliffhanger!!). It probably didn’t, but it might have. At the end of the day though, I got bad news, went running, and had a very good/entertaining/slightly humiliating night. I also went home, put in my eye drops and then cried over how hard and painful the past couple of days had been. I then had to put in more drops to replace the ones I just cried out. My life is complicated like that… But after my emotional release, I fell asleep thinking about how it’s these little detours, or hills, in life that really remind me to make sure I know what I’m fighting for and we will all get to see just how badly I want it.
So in the words of MercyMe’s song “Move”
When life won't play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can't seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won't let it drag me down
Oh, I'll keep dancing anyway