Greater than the Sum

Aristotle_bust

Aristotle taught us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  My classmate Luvy argues further, explaining that “the whole can never be fully comprehended by only looking at its components, even when you have all of them in front of you.” 

Boxes for Team Poppy Fest

With all of these boxes in front of me, I watch in equal parts excitement and gratitude as the prizes for Team Poppy Fest accumulate in the corner of my bedroom. These are parts of the whole. These are components of what is to be an evening as fun as it is fund-raising.

Banner for Team Poppy Fest

From the First Annual Fest

The parts that are not pictured here are the donors who put these boxes in motion. (Jake at Zoot, Jeff at SmartWool, Eric at Nalgene, Tim at QT2 Systems, to name a few studs) and the hundreds of people (also studs!) who have already donated to and/or will join us this April 10th on the main floor of Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill (just across the river from Washington, DC).

Huge thanks to Kate and Blaine at Tri360, our title sponsor, for donating a fancy bike (retail $4500!!!) as the grand prize. This was the part we needed to start to build the whole.

Orbea

Click here to be as in awe of our prize list as I am. Or to reserve your tickets for the evening. Don’t worry if you live across the state or country or world–need not be present to win!

Take part – in person or in spirit – to see how great the sum of parts can truly be!

Contact me (kendra.goffredo @ gmail) if you wish to donate a good or service.

And just for fun, a few more pictures of prizes.

Zoot Team Poppy

EIGHT winners each get their choice of Zoot shoes–plus backpack, visor, swim cap, race belt, and bottle

Studio Suite Affinia Manhattan

A weekend stay in the Affinia Manhattan (retail $600)

GU

More GU than you know what to do with (retail $400)

Nalgene

Nalgene bottles for sixteen trips around the world

Full prize list here. And some Perfect Fuel Chocolate too!

Perfect Fuel Chocolate

Tips for Cold Tips #10: Toughen Up

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips. These tips will save us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment over the winter. 

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“Toughen up, Kendra,” my dad would say to the miserable six-year-old me.

I had graduated from hands-on-knees beelines down the bunny slope to poles-in-hands turns down intermediate terrain. Only I couldn’t grip those poles. Even in the finest windproof-waterproof mittens, my paws would go numb. Oh, the hours I spent huddled in front of the lodge’s fireplace, hands in armpits, willing the color and feeling to return to my fingers.

Luckily for my fingers, I grew up in warm and sunny San Diego where I could lose myself in running without losing my fingers along the way.

But then I left the land of eternal sunshine and moved to the four-seasoned city of Washington, DC. Those numb little fingers that frustrated my dad and forced friendship with the fireplace accompanied me on every run from November to February.

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That is, until I slipped my hands into the masterpiece of a mitten known as the Manzella Run Pro-30.  Applying the skin-on-skin principle that this blog has endorsed in the past, these mittens are ideal for temperatures below 35F.

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I’m feeling pretty tough these days in my Manzella Run Pro-30s.  In fact, I even ran straight into the polar vortex with these gems. When I returned home, my fingers were as toasty as they would have been on an afternoon jog back in San Diego.

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Enjoy these other Tips for Cold Tips:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

#9: Out of the Closet

Fighter’s Stance: IRONMAN Arizona 2013 Race Report

Zoot shoes

I assume a wide stance, like a fighter. But like a fighter who was just punched in the stomach. 

Knees wide, capped by the palms of my hands, my fighter’s stance supports a violently heaving upper half.

I know how this story ends, I think to myself.

And then, somewhere in the 19th mile of IRONMAN Arizona run course, I throw up for the 5th time.

Yes, I know how this story ends.

Kathmandu Hospital

I recall the last time I threw up with such force and frequency. That story ended in a Nepalese hospital with IVs pumping life into a body succumbed to amoebic dysentery.  Then, halfway across the world, living in a dusty little village, contaminated water was likely to blame.

But now, hunched over in the land of plenty, I struggle to make sense of what is causing this to happen. The nausea, the dizziness, the disorientation.

Going to Cry

This was not at all how things were supposed to be. Not at all what I imagined each morning I beat the sun up to crush wattage on my trainer. Not at all what I dreamed those nights I trained in the dark, skipped the dessert, and put myself to bed early.

No, this was not a part of the plan.

I wonder if my father had a similar thought when the doctor diagnosed a cancer he had never heard of. I wonder if he questioned where myeloma, then with a 5-year-average survival rate, fit into his plan.  And I wonder after the myeloma forced him to trade his 40-year running ritual for a walk, how deeply painful those first walking steps must have been.

I take my first walking steps. Not just of IRONMAN. Not just of a triathlon. But the first walking steps I have ever taken in a race. I had never walked in the Turkey Trot at my elementary school.  Never in my high school cross country meets.  Never in a 5k or a 10k or a marathon.  No, in 27-years of running, I have never walked.

Don't Walk Sign

But today I take my first walking steps. Because I know this story would otherwise end before the finish line.

I take my first walking steps because today, more than in any other trot or meet or race in which walking was not an option,  I need to get myself to that finish line.

With each walking step, I understand that there is no PR or Kona slot or course record waiting for me there.

But I also understand that each walking step takes me closer to the man who taught me the fighter’s stance, the man who assumes that fighter’s stance even from the chair in which he sits each week as the chemotherapy pumps into his veins.

Boxer Triathlete

Right about now, as I am slumped over on the side of the road, tasting a horrifically acidic version of everything I have swallowed in the last hour, I know that my mom is sharing my surprise with my dad. Telling him that the MMRF and the IRONMAN foundation have arranged VIP passes into the finisher’s chute so that he can medal me.

IMAZ Finish Line with Dad

Walking hurts. Walking humbles.

But I need not explain that to my dad. Like so many other feelings I have never spoken, he knows.

So he squeezes me extra tight when I walk across the finish line and into his arms.

IMAZ Finish

The details needed to make this an actual race report:

Swim: 1:08

A bit violent, a little choppy, but pleased with my swimming improvement.

Bike: 5:12

Started to feel nauseous about a quarter into the bike. Did this bike by feel, as my heart rate monitor would not pick up the beat. Erred on the side of a conservative effort, backed off even more because of the nausea, but it never subsided until long after I crossed the finish line. As a result, my legs felt daisy fresh when I finished the bike

Run: 4:13

The best of that story is told above.  The worst has hopefully evaporated in the Arizona sun.

Total: 10:42

Second only to Hurricane St. George in time needed to complete. My sixth IRONMAN, but of course not my last.

IMAZ Run v2

Huge thanks to:

–Dave Deschenes of IRONMAN and Alicia of the MMRF for arranging our finish line father-daughter hugs.

–My parents, Uncle J, Aunt Stevie, Jeffrey, Maja, and Nate for being my support crew!

Zoot Sports: It’s hard to look good while throwing up on the side of the course, but that Zoot kit made it possible.

SmartWool: Though I faced many challenges during this race, blisters were not one of them.

Nalgene: Thankfully, proper pre-race hydration got me across the finish line when my body rejected all during-race hydration.

–Coach Tim of QT2, boy do we have a lot of work left to do.

IMAZ Plan

There are Only Patterns

chillin' with the boys

My grandmother was a seamstress.

I loved our trips to the fabric store. There, we bought cloth by the yard and browsed books of blueprints. Blueprints for a dress, for a jumper, for a blouse. My grandma had a name for these blueprints. She called them patterns.

Pattern Dress

Upon choosing a pattern for a new dress or jumper or blouse, she went to work on the large dining room table upon which she never dined, unless one counts the consumption of patterns.

My father-the-runner was also a consumer of patterns.

He didn’t select his design, however, from hundreds of books at the fabric store. Instead, he chose from hundreds of streets in our hometown and with them stitched together an 8-mile running route.

escondido

Each morning my grandmother selected her day’s pattern from the handful of handmade dresses hanging in her closet. Sometimes bright floral, sometimes quiet shapes, sometimes solid blue.

But my father chose the same pattern every day.

Go Awol

“Can’t we try a new route?” I asked my father the summer of my 16th year. That was the summer I fell in love with running. Every morning, side by side, father and daughter took to the streets before the dog walkers, or the trash collectors, or the gas station attendants did. Sometimes before the sun. 

But always the same pattern.

Robert-Kaufman_green trees

“A change of scenery would be, um, nice,” I commented to my dad on perhaps the 50th consecutive day I had traced his pattern. But for him, that was just one morning in 20 consecutive years of other mornings in which he ran that route.

To my request for an alternate route he answered only with his feet. And his feet moved fast. So I shut up to keep up.

The Best Place to Be is Somewhere Else v2

It’s no wonder, then, that I left my state after high school. And my country after college. And again and again and again. I moved to new countries and new cities and new streets. 

I ran to. I ran from. I ran to keep the pattern changing.

But over the past few years, as growing up become less of an aspiration and more of a fear, I wanted to stop the patterns from changing. Stop the goodbyes, the cancer diagnoses, the hard conversations.

Slow Down Sweet Life

While everything around me changed, I ached to sit with my grandmother as she stitched comfort from her patterns. I missed the rhythm of my feet echoing my father’s feet down streets we both knew by heart. But now outside of memory, those patterns are irretrievable.

Hains Point

This past weekend, in the autumn of my 33rd year, I rolled down my street to begin my final long bike ride of the triathlon season. I rode from my home in Virginia, through the outskirts of our capital and into rural Maryland. It was the same loop I had ridden every weekend for the past 18 months. Out there, where I stitch my own pattern, I understand why my father never changed his.

In July, I declined my Kona slot in lieu of a patternTwo years ago at IRONMAN Arizona, I discovered how it feels to move my body 140.6 miles through water and across land. I learned how it feels to high five my dad and smile for my mom’s camera along the way.

Dad and Mom

Most importantly, I learned how it feels to hug them when it’s all over.

To the MMRF and all of Team Poppy Tony’s supporters, I give thanks for the opportunity to repeat that pattern this year. 

IMAZ with Poppy Smiles Cropped

FOMO

 Clemens Fantur Patiently Waiting

Wherever you are in this moment, in whatever chair or couch or passenger seat you occupy, you cannot be somewhere else. And just as certain as the sun rises in Kathmandu before Kona, things are happening without you in all of those infinite places where you are not.

The Best Place to Be is Somewhere Else

This has always been the case; things have always been happening in all of the places where our parents and their parents their parents’ parents were not. But in the last few years, thanks to social media (yes, this blog included) and phenomena like “Facebook image crafting,” longing to be where we are not has slowly eclipsed our attraction to the very things that are happening around us, right where we already are. For some of us, a seemingly innocuous interest in the reality someone else is occupying develops into an affliction known as FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. FOMO is the ultimate manifestation of a bright green lawn on your neighbor’s side of the fence.

Dear FOMO I think of You Constantly

When I secured the IRONMAN World Championship (a.k.a. Kona) qualification in July, I had a big decision to make. For me, my wallet, and my vacation days, I could only choose one final race to end the season: Kona in October or IRONMAN Arizona in November.  Knowing that Hawaii would be too far for my parents to travel, and that Arizona was both driveable and chemo-friendly for my dad, I traded 1st class Kona for runner-up Arizona.  (More on that.)

But before officially declining the slot, I shared with my confidant and fellow Kona qualifier my intention to do so. He questioned whether I might regret my decision once October arrived and pictures of crystal-clear water, fancy tri swag, and pro triathlete cameos overtook my friends’ Facebook feeds. As I weighed my options, FOMO fluttered in my stomach. I started to fear all that I would miss if I passed up the opportunity to race on triathlon’s greatest stage.

Hawaiian Punch

I’ve written at length on this blog about the ways in which my Peace Corps service in rural Nepal and Ecuador continues to enrich my life today.  In July, as the final hour approached to claim my Kona slot, a certain Peace Corps story cured my FOMO, and left me at peace with my decision to let the slot roll.

Nepali Friends

That story goes something like this: Upon finishing my Peace Corps service, I had a conversation with a young graduate hesitating to submit his application to the Peace Corps. (The Peace Corps is a two-year, voluntary service commitment that sends volunteers to work in rural villages still undiscovered by cartographers.) Like a product of his generation, this young man was afflicted with FOMO. “But two years is soooo long,” he worried. “Imagine what I’ll miss!” I smiled and thought of my villages and my work and all that I experienced in Ecuador and Nepal. “It’s true,” I replied, “but imagine all the things you’ll miss if you stay right here.”

I don't mind being frightened

Each of us has the choice to cure our own FOMO–the choice to embrace, to own, to partake in the things happening all around us, in the exact location where our successes and failures, our priorities and obligations have led us. Instead of fearing all of the things we are missing out on where we are not, we have the choice to enrich all that is happening right where we are. 

Big Party

Best wishes to everyone racing on the Big Island this weekend! I’ll be cheering for you from across the ocean and across a continent, from my little green(ish) lawn.

Sunset El Altar Refugio Ecuador

More than the Entire

Foot Fracture

“In considering what Tess was not, he overlooked what she was, and forgot that the defective can be more than the entire.” –Tess of the d’Urbervilles

You have probably heard it said that a broken bone, upon healing, is stronger than the bone prior to the break. I thought about this each night for the past two months, visualizing the fracture in my foot evolving into something of an impenetrable fortress that would never–could never–break again.

Ellie by Nicholas Claridge

Credit: Nicholas Claridge

But then I read this article, and discovered that bone science did not support this belief, and that my formerly fractured foot is no stronger than it was before.

But bone science cannot measure my personal growth, my heightened mental toughness, my increased capacity to endure as a result of not being able to do for two months what I love more than anything else to do: run. Science can’t measure the extent to which my defective self has surpassed my former entire. 

Progress in Water_Philippe Karrer

Credit: Philippe Karrer

See, I learned something in the past two months that only the ache of experience can teach, a lesson that reaches far beyond a triathlon finish line, to the loneliest corners of injury, failure, and heartache:

When we can no longer do what we love to do, we have the choice to fall in love anew.

Skip into the Water

More on weathering the storm of injury:

1. Fractured Opportunities, Or Opportunities Born of Fractures

2. Notes on an Identity Crisis

Thank you, Sarita, for my sweet little necklace!

Swim When you Can't Run_Sarita

Fractured Opportunity, Or Opportunity Born of Fractures

Mission Bay Marathon Tony Goffredo

My dad at the Mission Bay Marathon, mid-1970s

Heat, snow, the flu. Even confinement to a Disney cruise ship couldn’t keep my father from his morning ritual. Sixty laps around the ship deck, he estimated, earned him eight miles.

Every morning since he was 20, he ran. Before anyone else in my family awoke, he ran. To nothing but the rhythm of his breath, he ran.

After his blood cancer diagnosis, he still ran.

Marathon with Poppy

He had read the myeloma literature. He knew that his brand of blood cancer would cause his bones to weaken. He understood that eventually his bones would fracture under the stress of what had long been his stress relief.

And so it was, six years after his diagnosis, the oncologist discovered a stress fracture was the source of my father’s back pain.

I wonder if the doctor understood the weight of her words when she told him he could no longer run, that he must abandon his faithful ally of forty years.  I wonder if she tried to pad the punch with words of empathy or a voice of compassion.

Run Stop

But I don’t know because he never said a word about it.

He never complained or pouted or whined or lamented the injustice.

He simply woke up the next morning and went to the golf course, like he’s done every morning since.

With the same diet of dedication and sweat that earned him a 2:32 marathon PR (!!!), he whittles away at his handicap. In the years since he traded his running shoes for golf cleats, he has become king of the fairways, a formidable–and nearly unbeatable–opponent on the links.

Poppy Tony Golfing at Sierra Star

A month ago, just days after IRONMAN Lake Placid, I slouched in a darkened doctor’s office, staring at an x-ray that outlined the hasty end to my otherwise triumphant triathlon season: a fractured metatarsal.

Bummerland

I could have cried.

I could have said it wasn’t fair.

I could have lamented my season’s denouement before its climax. 

Head in Breakfast Bowl_Csilla Klenyanszki

But I have had the great fortune of being my father’s daughter, of learning from the example he quietly sets, the attitude with which he has faced his cancer diagnosis and everything that comes along with it.

No Running

I can’t run for awhile, this is true. But like my father who now spends countless hours on the golf course,  I can swim like I have never swam before.

Swim With a Foursome

Instead of pity parties, I can throw pool parties and try to keep up with faster fish. I can swim 100 x 100 with some fantastic friends, even if it takes me four hours to finish.

One Hundred by One Hundred

I can turn the disappointment of a fractured foot into an opportunity to focus on my weakness, to become a better swimmer, to minimize the gap I have to run down in every triathlon I’ve ever raced.

I can turn a fracture into an opportunity.

Because that’s what my father taught me to do.

IMAZ with Poppy Smiles Cropped

–For more on life and fairness, check out “It’s not Fair.”

–For more on doing the best you can with what you’ve got, check out:  “Workin’ with What You’ve Got” and “Lessons From the Landfill.”

–Huge thanks to my swim friends for keeping me company as I fall in love with laps

Swim Crew