We just got back from the pool. You can find Lisa and me there almost every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I’m still not a very accomplished swimmer, but I’ve come a long way since that first time a couple months ago when I had my ass handed to me by the pool. Last week I was feeling very energetic and swam a full half-mile; but usually (like today) I swim a bit less (about 750 meters).
My first time to the pool swimming, I was slow but not surprised. Starting back in March, when I did a bit of running to get ready for my Utah backpacking tip, I discovered that I had squandered all of the conditioning I had built up over the years. I was slow. I wasn’t just slow; I couldn’t run a full mile, which really did surprise me. Endurance activities had always been easy for me, and this was quite humbling.
Months later I was still struggling. Running wasn’t going anywhere — literally — so I took a chance and bought a bike so that I could at least feel like I was going somewhere. I loved it, even though the hills were killing me and my head still felt like it was going to pop. And on top of it all, the world was a bit bright and sparkly after my long weekend rides.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. That diagnosis in August explained a lot: the weakness, the head-popping, the post-ride wooziness, the inability to run. Daily mega-doses of B12 seem to have fixed me . . . although we still don’t know for sure, since my doctor has been really blasé about getting my follow test results back to me . . . grrr.
But all of those months exercising with anemia, combined with my diabetes, provided me some real perspective. I don’t need to be as fast as those other riders I see on Sunday mornings. I’m never going to be as fast as my coworker who ran a 2:28:44 marathon last month. I may never even be as fast as I was six or seven years ago when I ran a sub-48 minute 10K. And Lisa may always be faster than me at swimming, doing five laps for every three of mine.
And I’m alright with those things.
One day earlier in the summer when I was out riding, a guy not much faster than I was passed me. He never got too far ahead of me, and over the next five minutes, he kept looking back to ensure that I wasn’t gaining on him. I couldn’t stop smirking. My internal monologue went something like this: “Dude, I’m just a guy with diabetes on a bike out for a forty mile ride.” He eventually got the distance he needed when I stopped in the center of Dover to check my blood sugar.
And that’s where I am now. I’m just an anemic guy with diabetes who loves to run and ride. (I don’t love to swim, but I do it because I want to be able to do it well when we go to Australia. And on the rare occasions when my form and breathing are working for me, it’s almost fun.)
Despite just wanting to have fun, I do have a few goals, which I’ll mostly keep to myself. But I’ll let you in on a couple of them: I’m working on my endurance and learning to manage my diabetes well enough to run a half-marathon in the spring. (Tomorrow is long run day, by the way). And on Sunday I plan to drag my diabetic self over Mount Greylock on a 40-mile loop before going to a museum or two in Williamstown and North Adams. And I wouldn’t mind setting out on another backpacking trip, preferably free of the near-disasters of the last one. Stay tuned!