Since graduating from university, I have maintained a very active lifestyle. My favourite activities include hiking, aerobics, and those BeachBody home exercise videos ūüėõ Exercise has become such a large part of my life over the last three years that I was completely distraught that I couldn’t continue that for a very long time until my neck fully healed. No matter how much I longed to go on difficult¬†hikes, long bike rides, or workouts at the gym, I was allowed¬†only to walk and that was it. Nonetheless my fitness experiences pre-accident¬†continued to make a difference in my life when things got really rough for me.

Another mega-active person is my sister-in-law, MM.

Bros with their hoes at the company Christmas party (December 2012)

Engaged in sports all her life, MM played basketball in high school and started training for triathlons in university. She has competed in many races in the last couple of years.

Last year she signed up to complete an Ironman in Mont-Tremblant, Québec.
Ironman is considered as one of the most-difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Elite athletes compete to complete a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. There is a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race. This would be her first Ironman.

She was having some set-backs in her training a¬†few weeks before her race. She got¬†injured, for example, and could not train for some time. She was getting extremely nervous¬†about the race, but I had no doubt that she would finish it with flying colours. She always kept telling me, “You’re so strong physically and mentally¬†with all that you’ve been through.¬†To me you’re already an IRONLADY.” In one of our e-mails, she also said:

During the next weeks, when I feel like whining because I don’t want to train and go for a 130 km bike ride or a 15 km run, I’ll think about you and how glad you would be to be able do that right now… it will really push me to think about that in a completely other perspective!!!

I was so touched. I gave her further encouragement by telling her all the ways exercise has helped me get through some tough times after our accident. I hoped she would become more inspired to crush that Ironman! This is what I replied:
Doing Insanity early in the morning in my hotel room (October 2014)

1. Exercise gave me a higher tolerance for pain. Mind over matter!

Luckily I don’t remember much of the accident that I didn’t feel any pain when it happened. However, pain became¬†a constant¬†part of my days in the hospital. For more than a week I tolerated an intense stabbing pain in my right shoulder which surgeons later found was due to bone fragments lying on my nerves. My left arm was in so much pain immediately after surgery when surgeons installed some metal plates and screws to stabilize my fractures. Finally¬†almost every time I got up from bed, I would feel a stabbing and/or throbbing pain at the back of my neck where surgeons had operated.¬†I did cry like a wimp a few times but I¬†think I fared better than most people would.

Backpacking to the summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (November 2013)

2. Exercise developed my focus and willpower to get through something difficult.

For example, one afternoon I had to get a CT scan where I needed to lie down flat for three minutes inside the machine. I hadn’t laid down flat during my entire hospital stay as I slept mostly sitting reclined, but I figured I would be fine. But that afternoon, I started burping intermittently for hours and hours. It wasn’t fun and¬†it was actually a symptom of a colon infection, as I later found out.¬†I was told¬†to not lie down flat in case I would throw up and aspirate (vomit filling up my lungs – awesome). I was extremely nervous with that in mind but I just focused SUPER HARD while inside the machine that I would be fine. I actually tried to remember the times I was doing Shaun T T25 videos when it would be really¬†intense and I wouldn’t give up. Or the last few minutes of a hard run and the focus it took to finish strong. And before I knew it, the CT scan was over!

On a 5 km training run
On a 5 km training run

3. Exercise instilled discipline in me.

I had a long way to go in rehabilitating my left arm. It was immobile for so long in a splint that it barely moved when the splint was taken off. Although doing the wrist and hand exercises was extremely boring, I knew it would pay off. With the discipline I developed through my daily workouts and training, I performed my exercises religiously multiple times a day. In a few months I gained at least 80% of the functionality and mobility back in my left arm.

My first 10km race (September 2014)
My first 10km race (September 2014)
Snowshoeing to the summit of Deer Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (April 2015)
Snowshoeing to the summit of Deer Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (April 2015)

4. Exercise taught me to be patient and to pace myself.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” my husband¬†told me a few times. I’ve never done a marathon before but I know I have a long way ahead. At first, it took me a while to realize that, since we’re always so used to getting things we want RIGHT NOW, living in the moment RIGHT NOW. But I learned to accept that things can’t be like that all the time. I’m spending seven¬†months of my life in a neck brace of some sort and YES, that sucks – but what’s seven¬†months in a lifetime? I have two¬†months to go so that’s even a lot less significant ¬†in a lifetime. I thought I was missing out on “living life”, but what do most people do within seven¬†months, anyway? Most are just in a routine, trudging along life. The most comforting thought I have is that there will come a day when I will get back to normal (or at least brace-free and have full mobility in my neck) and get to do the OTHER things I love again. In the meantime, I’m still doing the things I love – reading, cooking, watching TV and movies, walking, sleeping (great for my eyebags)! The end of this whole ordeal is in sight and I’m just pacing myself to get through it with a positive attitude!

This is a video of when I crossed the finish line at my first 10 km race in September 2014 (watch me die at the end starting at 0:17 LOL). Like a 10 km run, this whole experience has been long and trying, but I know I can handle it.

With that, I bid MM good luck with her race. I even told her I may join her in her next Ironman (I need to practice swimming though!). MM claimed that she was most nervous about the marathon part so she dedicated every kilometer of the 42 she would run to someone special in her life to help her get through it.

Alors ma liste est compl√©t√©e… j’ai d√©di√©s chacun des kilom√®tres de mon marathon, derni√®re √©tape de mon IRONMAN dimanche, et certainement le plus difficile.

Je les aient d√©di√©s √† des gens que j’aime, des amis, des gens que j’appr√©cie et/ou des gens qui m’ont aid√© √† travers ce que j’ai d√Ľ affronter au cours de ma pr√©paration. Des gens qui m’ont encourag√©s et soutenue. La plupart d’entre-vous ont choisi leur kilom√®tre, d’autre pas. Certains ont une signification, d’autres pas vraiment, mais c’est pas √ßa l’important. L’important c’est que je vais penser √† vous durant ce kilom√®tre l√†, que √ßa va occuper mon esprit et que penser √† des choses positives √† propos de vous va grandement m’aider √† continuer m√™me si mes jambes et mon esprit me supplie d’arr√™ter. Je me suis engag√©e √† courir chacun de ces kilom√®tres l√† pour vous, donc je vais le faire!

29 – DPL,¬†you are so strong and because an Ironman is nothing compared to what you’ve been through since April…

MM finished the race successfully last month, with a great time, too! I was the least bit surprised.

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Félicitations, ma belle-soeur! Tu es un IRONMAN!