GUTS, Writing

The Next Big Thing: GUTS

Big thanks to Stephanie Barbe Hammer, author of THE PUPPET TURNERS OF NARROW INTERIOR: A NOVEL IN STORIES, for tagging me in the Good Reads project, THE NEXT BIG THING.  Below is a first for me; a self-interview about my memoir.

What is the title or working title of your book?
GUTS

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I used to be a teen services librarian, and, while in that job, I served on a committee that put together themed booklists for teens.  One year we did a themed list about illness, so I read a lot of books about illness, including memoirs.  It was a lot like when I was in high school, and got obsessed with books about the Vietnam War.  Only this time, I could do something other than get depressed.  I could write my own illness memoir, about my health problems related to a tumor I had on the outside of my intestine.  So that’s how the book started out.

And then one of my closest friends, Beth, died of cancer.  We had talked about writing a book together about our experiences of tumors, surgeries, trading roles of patient and caregiver.  But it was one of the many experiences I didn’t get to share with her.  Instead, I wrote about my experience of having her die, about her illness, my illness.

I started doing triathlons as a way to celebrate my health, and then as a way to honor Beth.  So it all came together: illness, health, loss, strength, friendship.  Swimming, biking, running.  Though illness is still a big part of the story, I don’t think the book belongs in the category of “illness memoir” anymore.

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Triathalon

Tapering

Less than three weeks to go until Race Day!! This means that we soon get to the “tapering” phase of training, where workouts are short and there are even rest days built into the schedule (as opposed to the rest days I take all the time when I can’t fit in a workout). I like the tapering phase, not just because I still get to eat a lot (I’m race-fueling, after all), but because it means that I’ve nearly completed my goal. There’s always a point in the training season when I get tired of it – tired of showering at the gym more than at my house, tired of getting up early every Saturday morning, tired of bike rides in the rain. Last week, that’s how I felt. But then we had a great bike/run workout on Saturday. Matt followed the rules: bike, then run, repeat 2-4 times (he did 3 bike loops, including a big hill each time, 4 runs. That’s 31 miles of biking, 8 miles of running. Holy smokes). I’m still getting over my foot issues (plantar fasciitis, or something like it, so I did my own variation on the workout: 3 bikes on the flat route, 1 run. 27 miles of biking, 2 miles of running. Biking 20-30 miles is starting to feel like a good-sized ride rather than an huge one, which is a big deal for me.

In some ways I feel totally prepared for Lavaman, others not as much (see below). But one change I’m noticing from previous race day lead-ups is something I hope I can sustain past the finish line. With my abdominal surgeries, recovery was slow and painful. Each time, moving myself from place to place required a lot of effort. And then, gradually, it wouldn’t. I remember doing activities like hiking and swimming for the first time post-surgery and feeling a rush of gratitude that I was well enough to do anything at all. The human body is amazing in its capacity to repair, and I felt in awe that I could run, ever, after being cut open.  Continue reading