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July Updates from Jan!

Posted by Jan Guenther on Jul 14th 2021

July Updates from Jan!

Told myself I would update my little blog because some folks actually read it!

A new month creates tiny new challenges to support the bigger goals set earlier in the year. Like they say, “the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine”. I have certainly spread myself thin this summer with… too many goals? Leadville (and all its necessary training rides/races), plus the never-ending Ironman Wisconsin (rolled over 2x due to accident and Covid). Lastly, organizing a Gear West Olympic + Half Ironman Triathlon is taking LOTS of time and adds to my worry bucket. Therefore, July’s focus includes making the GW triathlon save and special and training with a body that says, “remember, I am now more fragile, treat me with respect for all the things I once carried you through!”

Yes, my body has challenged me lately. Thankfully, I have the time this summer for a couple of necessary health appointments due to great GW staff who seem to know more than I and function just fine w/o me around. (!!) The eye appointment was yesterday. I had to investigate why my eyesight started fading during the Lutson 99’er mountain bike race (last week) starting at mile 50 to almost zero sight by mile 94. No real answer other than older = dryer eyes. I must blink more often, apply eyedrops prior to the next DUSTY race I do and change-up my sunglasses. But then the doctor brought to my attention the cataracts developing in one eye, plus some sort of retinal upheaval I have going on… yikes!

All racers can relate to the mind games that play incessantly in our heads when something (not good) is happening. Lutsen 99’er was a must do for Leadville. I am not a very talented mountain biker to begin with and the event was a first for me (a super FUN event, btw) and the DUST was fierce. At the 42-mile aid station my eyes felt gritty and I tried to wipe them (unsuccessfully) with one of those alcohol filled cloths. Ten miles later with no improvement my first mind game was, “they had to be cheap wipes and maybe had some weird alcohol in them that partially paralyzed my eyeballs?” I could not figure out what was happening.

As my sight worsened and my mtn bike wheels and tires blended into the gravel road, my new mental story became ‘I was being punished from ABOVE for not better understanding all that my husband Brian has gone through.” For those that do not know, Brian now has only 30% vision left in one eye due to an undiagnosed Pituitary tumor which slowly but consistently destroyed his Optic nerves and his pituitary gland. That Lutsen day I seriously gained a glimpse into Brian’s life of restricted vision. Guilt dropped heavily on my shoulders from mile 65-80.

After mile 80 there was no mental room for guilt, I had to stay upright and keep going. The plan was to latch on to any body in front of me assuming they would avoid all the bumps and dips I could not see. I focused on pedaling straight (I won’t go into the story of dropping my phone from my pack and sticking my face into the weeds trying to locate it) and entertained a new worry from mile 80 to 90. “What will happen to Gear West if both owners cannot see? NO work will be done! (as if I do it all). I will have to liquidate!

Thankfully I could still peddle pretty fast down the middle of the gravel roads, which were the terrain until… the last 6-8 miles.

With the return to single track to the finish, my progress was doomed. Both eyes were now bad and no matter how hard I squinted, only blurry shapes appeared. I seriously could not concentrate on anything but staying upright. I tried so hard not look too stupid among the other riders as my wheels bounced off both sides of the track, while I tried to avoid tipping over. Eventually my only solution was to dismount and jog / walk with my bike. Every ounce of my will went into my body to make me physically complete the event. Yet the competitors were so nice, giving me wide berth as I stumbled thru the last 2k and pushed my bike into the finish.

My eyes eventually cleared up, just like the medic predicted they would if my diagnosis was correct, just dust clouding the vision. Three plus hours later, I could once again see friends’ faces and most importantly, I could pile a bunch of fix’ns onto a burger and eat it.

Now we move onto my knee! Today am biting the financial bullet of an MRI to find out why it constantly hurts! I am fighting a constant dull pain on the medial side. My explanation as to why is too dull to dive into details. Suffice to say a poodle ski joring event + a broken leg on the opposite side, has now caused my ‘good’ knee to decide that training like the ol days ain’t going to happen.

Aging is a process of letting go in a graceful manner and readjusting to the new activities which tax the body less. Most of us have been fortunate enough to do many things that bring us satisfaction, happiness, and confidence. Yet at some juncture we must change course and introduce a new direction when life goes stale, or we plain can’t physically do what we once did.

This summer I am caught a bit unprepared as I learn I cannot just direct my body to complete a race without more forethought and support. Eventually I must adjust to new goals which better reflect my transitioning life.

But not this summer! The Leadville 100 mtn bike event is a huge unknown to me yet I will be armed with eye drops! The following month I may have to walk portions of the IM run in Madison but maybe I can steal a drink on State Street and catch a few fun conversations. Most likely it’s time for new adventures like….. riding little mail ponies across Mongolia! (Watch the Amazon film, “All the Wild Horses”).

But for July 1st daily challenges are 30 push-ups (50 would be a bonus) and sugar reduction. Baking cookies will take a backstage to making pesto. I will follow my Ironman – Leadville training plan carefully, yet insert yoga so I can remain on the bikes w/o to much back ache. (Sorry Coach Anthony, for asking you to build up an IM training plan and simultaneously taper for Leadville.!)

And for today’s goals? The MRI results will soon take the guess work out of wondering whether my knee is saying, “Stop doing this shit now, or I will give you one more challenging summer before I ask for a vacation”. Life can be so colorful if we open its many doors. 

-Posted by Jan Guenther on Jul 14th 2021

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