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The Art of the Setback

I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday with stomach pains again.  The girl child has been sick, so I went downstairs to get her some medicine and a giant wave of nausea swept over me.

I called out to the Expert, “Ummmm… you’re gonna need to come get this Benedryl for Stella, ’cause I’m about to pass out.”


Fun fact about me! Whenever I have severe pain (unrelated to triathlon 🙂 ), I usually pass out.  I go out for about 10 seconds, then I come to, and I am okay.  My body says, “This hurts. Time out!”  And then, “Okay, I’m back.”

The Expert and I have been together long enough that, now, when we are in public if something happens, and I say, “I’m gonna pass out,” he just says, “Lean into me.”  And then we have the episode and I am done.  Bizarre.


Now, this isn’t that often.  I can count the number of times on my hands. [But I am out of hands now, actually.]  The last time was when I broke my foot.  We had gone out to eat, and I stood up and accidentally put weight on it.  Ow.  We go outside and I say, “I have to sit down.” The Expert goes, “Lean into me.”  And I was out.  Then I was back. And we went home.

So anyway, when I thought I was going to pass out on Monday due to the stomach pain, I promptly put my butt in a chair and waited for the Expert.  #SheLearns

Turns out I’m in the middle of another diverticulits flare-up.  Which sucks, because the doctor said, “As long as we can keep your flare-ups to 2-3 a year, then I won’t be concerned and you won’t need surgery.” This is two in one month.  Not great.  Still, I’m hoping the culprit was some food choices, and I can manage it that way.

But it is yet another setback in my training.


I was finally out of the rut and post-140.6 blues.  I had strung together several workouts, and then BAM! this.

I don’t know much, but this woman knows alllll about setbacks.  I am literally the epitome of one step forward, two steps back most of the time. Actually, it’s more like three steps forward, two steps back, one step forward, two steps back.  In that, I do make progress in all things. Just at the speed of turtle.


For those of you who haven’t been with Swim Bike Mom long… here’s a medley of highlights with my major setbacks.  Just to name a few. Seriously.

The broken foot

The sprained foot

Broken ribs

The broken ass

Hip dysplasia

Heart attack – not really

The terror down the stairs

So those people who train an entire season, injury-free with perfect races?  That’s not me. (And really, I don’t think it’s everyone.  Anyone that has had a perfect season? Well, if I was them, I’d be holding my breath, because… okay, well, I’m a bit of a pessimist too, which doesn’t help things. ) Carry on.

So, I am a klutz and a mess and I carry my story of “I’m a klutz, perfection is not in the cards for me” around like a sign. I think that I am meant to have a catastrophe and rise above it, just as hot of a mess as before.  It’s my Sisyphean task to travel through life this way.

I have decided that 2015 is going to be the year that I break a few cycles— my “I’m a disaster” cycle being one of them.  I’m not sure HOW,  mind you… but the first step to doing anything is making a decision.  At least that’s the line I put forth in my book and it seems to have served us well, eh?  Yes. Yes.


From the Tri-Fecta group on Facebook, I have learned that lots of us are experiencing all sorts of setbacks lately.  So seeing as how I am the Princess of Setbacks  (I use the term “the Queen” ever so carefully now)… I thought I would write a few words on set-backs.

Tips for Dealing with a Setback

1.  Recognize the setback for exactly what it is.  

A setback is just a step back.  A broken bone or injury is not the end of the world.  At the time of the injury, the sky is certainly falling.  But, after a bit, you learn that this too shall pass.

2. Be patient.

Even when the storm has passed, there’s the damage from it.  The storm may be gone, but the terror may remain. Be patient and trust that the damage will, too, be healed.


3. Find a way around it.

During the setback, do what you can… with what you have.  When I broke my foot, I swam with a pull buoy.  I did lots of shoulder presses.  I did core work.  Once I could put pressure on the boot, I went to spin class.  You do the best with what you have, and wait on the healing.  No matter what kind of healing it may be.

4. Stay positive.

Sometimes the setback isn’t injury, but a major life crisis like job loss or death or illness.  When the setback is something that impacts your ability to get out of bed in the morning, take the time to breathe and grieve and emotionally deal with the situation.  Then, in the darkest of moments, try to peek out of the covers and see the light of day.  Just take a peek and lean towards a positive thought.  The more of these you can string together—the more real the positivity becomes.

When a$$holes who don't know how to ride make u-turns right in front of you in crosswalks... And you t-bone them... Maybe you get away with only grease, road rash and scar chain bites from two bikes... But maybe you get a cracked rib, bruised hip, and worse. #learntoride #bitter #imcda #hopingforthebest #yesIwillblogaboutyouandthefactyoushouldhaveyourbikecardrevoked #justkeepmovingforward?

5. Be an example.

When others see you overcome obstacles, they are inspired to do the same.  Pull up those bootstraps and make others say, “If she can overcome ____, then I can overcome ___.”  That’s called community, and that’s how we help each other.  There is no shame in admitting your setbacks, making them public.  Success is lovely.  But when someone does nothing but brag about their successes with an “I am awesome and I earned this” attitude… well, that is alienating to about 99% of the world.

Of course, take great joy in your successes… but be humble.  Realize that you are always one nice fall down the stairs from being crowned a Swim Bike Klutz.

And I always loved this one:


Heh heh.

Well, if I don’t talk to y’all before tomorrow…  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I am THANKFUL for all of you.


  • Tania

    November 26, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Hi there, I feel your pain. I am reading your post lying in a hospital bed having seen 4 specialists and countless proding and probing. Looks like I finally have been diagnosed with epilepsy which means the ironman is out of the windows and the half is looking suspect. The tragedy is that it is training that is bringing it on!!! Oh well it may just mean a shift of focus and looks like … For now at least…. Olympic distance will be the furthest I can go. There are really worse things in life…. There are children starving in the Sudan while I stuff my face with salty chips. Take care and stay focused reassess whenever you need to!

  • Linda Kingsbury

    November 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    You are always so real and true to yourself by nature…I have seen diverticulitis wreck havoc on some patients and after resting, antibiotics and eating a special diet, I see vast improvement. I hope you get through this bout and keep encouraging us all along the way! Thank you for sharing!

  • Heather

    November 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I am grateful to have discovered you and your blog as I started my triathlon adventures in 2014. Take care of yourself!

  • Stacey

    November 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I do the same thing with passing out! Sometimes even if I THINK I have hurt myself (like the time I thought I cut my thumb with a butcher knife, only to find out that I really just nicked my thumbnail), down I go! Glad it’s not just me.

    Sending you positive thoughts and wishing you a wonderful, healthy 2015.

  • Emily

    November 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Healthy vibes to you, missus – I hope it settles down quickly for you. Thanks for sharing what is helpful to you in getting through setbacks. Your generosity in talking about your struggles as well as your successes is so very appreciated

  • Beth

    November 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I don’t pass out when I’m in pain, but when other people are. My husband had a screw taken out of his heal and was screaming so bad, that I went down. My dad used to get really bad muscle cramps, boom out. Big help I am! Good luck with everything. Wishing you the very best.

  • Joan Bennett

    November 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Hi, Happy thanksgiving.
    I loved reading your story. I am about to do my first half Ironman on Sunday in western Sydney, i was thinking I was gong to have to pull out due to a very bad attack of Gastro as I thought,!! It went on for 3 weeks, had all the tests, negative, (good result) lost 4 kg in weight, (good result) I was so scared that I was loosing all my nutrition down the toilet, and my strength,
    Anyway I saw a naturalist who thinks its anxiety due to the race, So has prescribed all these pills and potions, so far so good, Looking forward to the race now. I think these little set backs make us more determined, to reach our goals.
    Also i was that person who as you say 99.9% of people dislike, at first,
    I didn’t realize at the time though, I was so caught up in the fact that i could do this thing called Triathlon, at 53 years old. And i could win races in my age group. I was jumping of mountains in my head, but did let it go to my head to for a short while, got very competitive.
    but now after 3 years, I have quietened down some what, and gone on to bigger races, encouraging more people, to find there inner, athlete.
    cheers Joan

  • cherylann

    November 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    So sorry to hear about your setback. I have had many- finally got my meds right for my Grave’s disease-which is a lifetime thing too. That along with my asthma keeps me “guessing” with my workouts/races. Some are good some are bad. Some I don’t even do. There will be races-many more for you! Hang in there!

  • Lesley

    December 2, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Just when we think we got things under control, everything changes. I have often depressed myself the past couple years with thoughts of what my potential could be if I wasn’t dealing with health issues. The mental part is way worse than the physical in my opinion. I have troubles physically, I get mad and usually that keeps me working hard. Troubles mentally and shut down quickly follows. I’ve learned that life will always have challenges for me. Ya some people have no injuries or health issues and I am jealous but this is the body I am given and the life I have is too precious to bemoan what I CAN’T do. I will do everything to the best of my abilities. In a world where success is defined as the one with the best time, the winners, I am setting my own definition of success. I refuse to play the comparison game and be ungrateful. Anyone want to join?


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