April 29th, 2018 is now behind us.
On that day my team and I hosted the 10th annual Autism Awareness Run. Due to the impeding rain forecast (and the incredibly long and arduous winter) attendance was down to a mere 650 participants. We prepare for this event as though the queen of England is attending – we give a 110% to every detail. After all this is S.Au.S.’ main fundraising event. It is what keeps our little organization afloat. The Autism Awareness Run is my pride and joy: S.Au.S. and the Run are often referred to as my 3rd child. That is how much it all means to me.
Photo by Lyne Fontaine
From left to right: Maire Normand Dyotte, MNA Lucie Charlebois, Me and Richard Merlini
After the run I usually take a small break to recharge my batteries. I need a little down time to motivate myself to move forward; in my personal life, professional life and to pursue my athletic endeavors. This year I took on the challenge of training for the Ironman 70.3 taking place in Mont-Tremblant on June 24th, 2018. I like to throw myself into athletic endeavors because it keeps me focused, organized and healthy. I had a dream to run the Boston marathon when I hit 40 and I said to highlight my 45thI would compete in an Ironman 70.3. That is what I am doing – it will be interesting to see what 50 brings. Less than a month away I can honestly say I have enjoyed the process. I am not saying every minute was incredible because that would be a lie. I have discovered new things about myself and those who support me on this journey. I crave personal growth and this journey has brought me just that.
I started my training in January, some would say that is too early and others think it’s never too early to start. I wanted to awaken the muscles that had been dormant for some time. Since my move last August I had gained 10lbs. I am not sure if it was the stress of selling our old home then packing up our lives or my decision to go vegetarian that packed on the pounds. Regardless, I needed to get moving to shed pounds, awaken my muscles and start training for my new endeavor. From January to April I was definitely juggling a lot at once. My husband was on board and helped me find new ways to keep it all together. When I decided to eat meat again he encouraged us to buy into “Good Foods” a delivery service that provides the recipes and all the ingredients required to make a meal for the whole family. That help me save time grocery shopping and preparing meals…it was done for me. Kunal was also on board to be my cycling partner. Like I have said several times “couples who cycle together stay together” (in essence whenever we make the conscious decision to do something together it definitely helps the marriage).
The last few years I have participated in a handful of short distance triathlons. Almost always being one of the last out of the water. I was so discouraged that I knew I needed help. I hired Pierre Svartman of Club Orange (on the South Shore of Montreal) to help. I did a few private sessions with him. He invited me to join his early morning swim groups; 6-7am or 7-8am. Too much to ask of my husband since he leaves at 7am everyday for work, the times didn’t work. Because I am slow I was also intimidated of swimming with a triathlon group. I wanted to focus more on my technic and pace rather than worry about what others think of me. I spent 3 months swimming on my own; practicing technic and learning to fall back in love with swimming. Mission accomplished. With the spring session just around the corner I was ready to join the group once a week. I asked my mama bear if she would help Keyan get off to school. She agreed. With my family’s support and a mere 6-week commitment I was ready to join the real triathlete’s. This time my head was in the right place because I wasn’t comparing myself to fellow triathlete’s instead I was focusing on what I needed to accomplish. After all, when I hit the course in Mont-Tremblant it’s going to be me versus me.
As I sit here, writing this blog entry, I am 29 days out from competition. I have scaled back on work at the office to allow myself the proper time to train. In essence I have gifted myself with a little more time. It doesn’t mean I don’t work it simply means that I am delegating more to my team. I have been blessed to have met some incredible people on this journey some who have been triathletes for years and they have been kind enough to offer up support and great advice. I have the option to train with others but the problem is our schedules do not always coincide. There are times I swim, bike and run alone but there are other times I get to share in the experience.
All of this seems like the perfect training scenario and I thought it was too BUT, there is a but! I have a teenage boy with severe autism. For all those who complain that their teenagers are so moody due to hormonal swings you have no idea what that looks like on someone who is non-verbal. Lately Keyan’s mood swings, hormonal surges and possible growth spurt have been impossible to manage. One minute my boy is happy and laughing and the next he is falling apart. At school his afternoons are unmanageable. We are at the point now that if the teacher feels they cannot bring him back from his negative mindset I have to pick him up from school early. It’s is as though he is fed up of school and can’t manage the last few weeks. I don’t know for sure what Keyan is going through but it breaks my heart to see him anxious, mad, stressed out and unhappy. I wished there was a magic pill to fix everything. At home we do everything we can to help. Keyan eats well, spends time outside, cycles on his tandem bike, eats ice-cream takes walks with his service dog, swings on his swing and plays on his iPad but still he is not his usual self.
My good friend Chantal invited me to her cottage an hour out of town to do some training. I had worked hard to align the family so that I could go away for 1 night and 2 days of training. She invited me for longer but I had to explain in detail how my unconventional home life worked. That meant the luxury of time away from my family was something I could not afford. Training with Chantal, a seasoned triathlete, I knew it was a great opportunity to learn from her. I even brought my wet-suit, booties and neoprene bathing cap in hopes to swim in the frigid waters of lake Orford. On Wednesday morning, once I managed to get Keyan on the bus, Chantal came by to get me and we were on our way. She gave me a quick tour of her waterside cottage and then we set out to cycle. Totally out of my comfort zone I trusted that being with her would bring me to the next level in my training. We cycled uphill, downhill and all around the ville. In total we covered 52 kilometers on the hardest circuit I had cycled to date. I was so proud of myself for stepping it up. I have to admit I still need a lot of work on the downhill. I don’t trust myself to go faster than 50/kmh. I had a brick workout planned so off the bike and into our running shoes we went. The mid-afternoon sun beating down on us I envisioned it being Mont-Tremblant on race day; feeling hot, tired but triumphant. We spent the rest of the day catching up and telling stories. Off to bed early as we set plans for another big training day the following morning.
Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, waking up to delicious coffee and good company. We continued our conversation from the day before and simply took things slowly rather than rush out the door. I love the slow pace of cottage country. That morning I decide to check my emails and stumble upon an email Kunal sent to Keyan’s teacher saying he was in crisis mode and didn’t want to get on the bus. People with autism are rigid and the fact that Kunal was home and mama bear wasn’t must have added to Keyan’s already sensitive state that he’d been in the last few weeks. Kunal makes an attempt to drive him to school but Keyan won’t have it and they both turn back home. Upon seeing the email, I immediately call Kunal’s cell to check that he successfully dropped Keyan off at school but the answer was “no”. Without hesitation I say to Chantal I am so sorry but I have to go home. She doesn’t hesitate for a moment. Like a ninja she packs up her things to head home. I am heartbroken that my son isn’t well but honestly frustrated that I can’t even have one night away without incident. That is what living with Autism is – a constant state of worry wherever I go. There is a huge lack of “freedom” we are parents to special needs children endure. Even when physically away from our child can never truly disconnect.
I was embarrassed in the first place when I had to explain to Chantal that 3 nights away was too many but then to not fulfill our 1 night (2 day) training plan was beyond. Chantal didn’t make me feel any other way than supported. She was so amazing. It’s just me and the burdens I carry. When I am in that pool, I am not the fastest swimmer, when I am on the bike I brake going downhill and when I lace up I am merely surviving; but no wonder I carry an invisible burden that no one sees. In the back of my mind I tell myself be safe because I have to live to be 100 years old in order to take care of my son. When I am surrounded by triathlete’s I often feel like less because I can’t do more than what I am already doing. I pray that what I am doing is enough to get me across the finish line of the 70.3. Luckily I have proven that I can train and run marathons and I pray that experience helps when in the triathlon too.
This past Thursday, Keyan was not nice on the bus ride home and grabbed his bus mate by the arm. The bus company suspended him from bus service on Friday. Fearful of a repeat of dad trying to bring son to school I decide to keep Keyan home for the day. Keyan being home derails what was to be one of my biggest training bricks; 2h45m bike followed by 12km run. I have learned that I can’t be rigid like Keyan otherwise I will live in a constant state of disappointment. I decide that I can do my brick the following week. Friday Keyan and I spend the day getting supplies for our new vegetable garden. He wants nothing to do with the planting after all he is in a state where I can hardly less look at him or much less talk to him. I pray this is merely a phase and once school is over Keyan settles down. Until then I will continue to be the #wannabetriathlete struggling with the burden of autism in tandem with adolescence. #autismmamabear