The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

Coping with Injury – A photo Journal

Keeping it short today, because we all know I’ve talked to much this week.  So today’s story will be in pictures, mostly.  I got the MRI results for my hip and hamstring yesterday, the injury I’ve been dealing with for the past two months already.  Short story is moderate to severe Tendinitis in the hamstring and a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone, mixed with some osteoarthritis, bone marrow edema and bone contusion.  Sad story is a long recovery and NO running, biking or swimming for four to six weeks and then we’ll reevaluate.  How will I cope with this?  Well, as you can see, I’m writing more.  While I’m sad, I’ll be just fine.  The bigger question is, how will all of my gear cope with this???

No one wants to see the things they love go through something like this.  Imagine the heartbreak of being shoved into a closet and ignored!  Who wants to be left on a rack to collect dust?  Yes, anything left laying around my house will collect dust.  It’s just a rule I made up.  My husband always said, “When you pass fifty, you are allowed to make up crap”, therefore, I make the rules and abide by them.  Today though,  I decided I needed to take swift action to make the things I love feel better.

Here are my bathing suit, swim cap and goggles.   Of course, the obvious way to keep them happy is to let them be in the pool.  I’m letting them float around on the raft for a bit.  They say if you love something set it free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours and if it doesn’t, it never was.  So today, I set them free to float.  I have a feeling they will come back to me.

Swimming Suit

Here is my bike.   Its happiest place is on the streets.  I could take it out for a walk, but a bike on a leash would look silly, so, I will let it stay on its rack at home.  You may wonder how this is therapy at all.  Well, you see, it’s beside my husband’s bike, so that is the next best place to be.

Bike

Here are my running shoes.  Don’t judge.  This is not excessive.  You know how it is for a girl and her shoes!  My shoe’s happy place is outside, even running in puddles at times.  So I put them outside by the pool to get a little sun and turned on the waterfall.  They brightened up, so I could tell this made them feel better.

Running Shoes

And that my friends, is how we’re coping with injury.

#NaBloPoMo

I’m a Runner! I’ve got Proof!

I’m about to make my case to the fact that I’m a runner, as well as present the evidence to back that up!

Here are a couple pictures of me actually running in a race.  No, these are not photo shopped!  I was there, really!

Exhibit A: Running the 3TV Half Marathon last November.

PHX Half

Exhibit B: Walking the P.F. Chang’s Rock N Roll Half Marathon this past January.  I had to walk this one because of three herniated disks in my neck, but I finished.

RocknRollHalf

I am a runner; therefore I have a race schedule.  I don’t expect to be winning races at my age, but I do expect to be the best I can be.  Here is my race schedule for 2013.

Exhibit C: 2013 Race Schedule.

January 20th – PF Chang’s Rock N Roll ½ Marathon

March 24th – Arizona Distance Classic ½ Marathon

May 19th – Cleveland Rite Aid ½ Marathon or Surfer’s Path ½ Marathon in Santa Cruz (Undecided)

July 21st – Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon

September 1st – Oregon Wine Country ½ Marathon

November – Yet to be decided, but there will be a race!

I have a coach to help me be the best I can be.  His name is Jeff Gaudette and here is his website.  Just ask him.  He knows who I am.  He’s had to put up with all of my injuries and he hasn’t given up on me, not just yet!  J  Actually, I don’t think he will give up on me as long as I don’t either.  And I’m not giving up!

Exhibit D:  My coach’s website:  http://runnersconnect.net

I am a runner and therefore I train to be the best I can be.  I have a training schedule from my coach.  Here’s what he assigned for this week.  I’ve been doing more cross training the last few months due to an injury, I’m still recovering from.  It used to be more impressive, but it’s been awhile…

Exhibit E: Training Schedule

Monday, March 25 – Off / Rest Day

Tuesday, March 26– 60 min. elliptical = Achilles Routine

Wednesday, March 27 – 4 miles easy w/3×20 sec. strides + Core Routine

Thursday, March 28 – 45 min. elliptical easy / 45 min. bike hard

Friday, March 29 – 5 miles easy + Core Routine

Saturday, March 30 – 6 miles easy + Core Routine

Sunday, March 31 – Circuit Training Routine

 

I have ugly toenails!  It’s a runner thing.  The jury is still out as to why this happens to runners.  Some say it’s just the result of shoes that don’t fit properly.  Some say, it just goes with the territory, but I’ve been told by several runners that these identify you as a runner!  So here are my ugly toenails.

Exhibit G: Runner’s Toenails.  Just kidding!  I couldn’t bring myself to post such an ugly picture.  Take my word for it on this one!  One big toe nail is half off.  It’s in the process of growing back, but you can see underneath what’s left.  The other big toenail is all black underneath and about to come off and one of my littlest piggies looks like it’s in danger of following suit.  I try to make them look better with polish, but I don’t think it helps much.  They’re just downright ugly!

 

I’ve made a huge investment in this body!  Almost all runners have to deal with injuries, some of us, more often than others, as is evidenced here.  Here are my running related medical receipts for this year, so far.  All I can say is, it’s a good thing my husband loves me!  Oh, and if you need a good physical therapist, ask for Nate.  He treats many athletes, so they can keep hitting the streets.

Exhibit H:  Physical Therapy Receipts.

photo (12)

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that a girl likes her shoes, but there is a difference with runners.  It’s not just the girls who like their shoes!  It’s the same for the boys and the girls.  We love our shoes!  This picture is of mine and my husband’s shoes outside by the pool, because that’s where running shoes are the happiest; outside in the fresh air, in beautiful places!  Oh, and we can tell you exactly how many miles we’ve put on each pair.

Exhibit H: “Our” Running Shoes.  

Running Shoes

 

 

 

Here are the workout clothes, minus the ones in the laundry.  I took a picture of the jackets and vest too, but that was really boring, so you just get to see the clothes, minus the under armor.  Yeah, this is still pretty boring.

Exhibit I: Workout Clothes. 

Workout Clothes

 

 

 

 

I’m not airing my dirty laundry here, so you will just have to take my word for this one, too.  We have more workout clothes in our hamper, than we do regular clothes.  OK, that is partly because my husband sends some of his work clothes to the dry cleaner, but still, workout clothes are a big part of our laundry!

Exhibit J:  Laundry.  Couldn’t bring myself to post this one either, so imagine the odors.  OK, maybe not!

Here are the bibs from the races that I’ve done.  I am missing three of them, but they are around here somewhere.  That’s just one more thing that attests to the fact that I’ve left the Type A lifestyle behind.  My husband on the other hand, he can show you every one of his bibs! There are some awesome memories with the story behind each of these bibs.  I’ve written about some of the races in previous posts.  I think the most memorable one is the 911 Run to Remember in NYC.  The name on the white bib, Sanae Mori, is one of the victims of the 911 attacks.  She was a 27 yr. old woman from Japan who was attending a business meeting on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center that day.  It was a very moving experience to run with some of the first responders and victims family members.  I will never forget it.

Exhibit K: Race Bibs.

Bibs

 

 

 

 

These are my finisher medals from the races I’ve run.  We’re not even two years into this running thing, so not too shabby for a start!  One of these days, there’s going to be a full marathon finisher medal in this group.  I just know it!

Exhibit L: Race Finisher Medals.

Medals

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing you will see among runners is weird tan lines.  I guess this applies more to the ladies.   You’ve heard about the “farmer’s tan”.  I think the “runner’s tan” tops that.  You might notice the Road ID and Garmin tan lines on the wrists, the phone arm band tan line, the t-back top tan line, the tan line around your ankle from your running shoes, the really odd tan lines from the tape the physical therapist applies, and the tan line from the running shorts in various lengths.  All of these tan lines are not so appealing when you put on a bathing suit.  I try to blend them with spray tan in a can, but I know they’re there.

Exhibit M:  Weird Tan Lines. 

Ok, you really didn’t think I would post that picture, did you?

This should count as proof, too.  We’ve spent good money on gear.  These are all the miscellaneous tools of the trade.  This is the gear.  Some of these items are for injury and recovery.  In case you aren’t familiar, the taller cylindrical items are foam rollers.  The smallest ones are for travel.  There is also a PVC pipe and what’s called “The Stick”.  These are items that are used for sore muscles.  We roll on or over the sore spots to help them heal.  This is where the term, “hurts so good”, originated from.  The tennis ball and la cross balls are used for healing, as well.  Placing these balls right into the joint socket in the hips and pressure points in the legs, back, shoulders and neck brings almost instantaneous pain or relief, whichever applies for the given area.  The rest of the gear doesn’t really require any explanation.

Exhibit N: The Gear.

Misc. Running Gear

 

 

 

 

Lastly, may I present to you an expert, eye witness?  He’s a Marathoner, (That’s hot!) and he’s been with me at every race.  He’s my husband.  He said it himself that I’m a runner.  I say that counts!

Exhibit O: My Husband.

Run to Remember

 

 

 

 

Why do I need to validate myself as a runner?  Well, today I guess I feel the need because of the race we attended this past weekend.  My husband and I were in the Arizona Distance Classic, in Tucson, AZ.  It’s a beautiful course that winds through the foothills of Oro Valley.  It was enjoyable, because of the surroundings and because my husband was with me.

Let me put in another plug for Mr. Spargo before I go on.  He’s trained hard and trained far beyond me this past year.  Every race for him now just gets better, as he puts his training to the test.  For this race though, he sacrificed what could have been another personal record and stayed with me, the whole race!   He’s awesome!

The sad and frustrating part was that it was yet another race that I ended up having to walk most of the course.  I have been recovering well now from my injuries and finally got workouts on my schedule that had miles of running without walk breaks.  Because of what’s become a long and frustrating string of injuries this past year, I’ve been forced to do a lot of walking in these races.  I wasn’t expecting to have to do hardly any walking on this one, but my knee didn’t hold out well on the hills, so we walked most of the way after mile four.  Walking doesn’t make me feel much like a runner!

I do know that my “who” is separate from my “do”.  In other words, my identity isn’t in what I do, but it’s in who I am as a person.  My “who” isn’t what my profile says I am.  I do domestic activities, but that doesn’t make me a Domestic Diva.  I run, but my identity isn’t in running.

Having all of these setbacks has caused me to do a lot of thinking on this running thing.  Why do I run?  Why do I want to be a runner?  I know the answer to those questions now.  I love how running has influenced my “who”.  Running has changed who I am.  It’s made me stronger in many ways.  I’m mentally tougher.  In order to reach a goal, you have to do things that are unpleasant, things you probably don’t feel like doing.  I don’t wake up every morning and look forward to my run.  I actually, put it off.  I like to take my time to relax in the mornings, drink my coffee, read, and get caught up with my Facebook friends.  I almost never get that “runner’s high” you hear about, so most of my runs are more of a chore than fun.  But I love the sense of accomplishment when a workout is done!  When that runner’s high does happens, it’s just an added bonus.

Running has increased my tenacity.  It’s helped grow that “never give up” spirit.  It’s helped me learn to push through obstacles.  It’s taught me the importance of taking care of this body, so it can be healthy enough to last many more years.  It helps me to be a better me!

So yes, I’ve had to walk more than I’ve wanted to.  I’ve had setbacks I didn’t want to have.  I’ve not been able to complete my goal of doing a marathon yet, but I’m not giving it up.  Actually, my body mechanics aren’t really built well for running and if you throw in the age factor, it’s going to take a “God thing” for me to finish a marathon.  I have to put in a plug for my friend, God, here.  I don’t do anything without his help!  He takes my “do” and makes me a better “who”.

So, the moral of my story today: No matter who you are, let your “do” make you a better “who”.  If you need a little help sorting out your who and your do, my friend is always ready to help.  Just ask.

“The Hip Bones Connected to the…”

chain link fenceI never wanted to be one to grow older and complain about all my aches and pains, so I swear, I’m not complaining here!  There is a moral to this story, I promise!

You probably have someone in your life that seems to thrive on relating their latest illness to the world.  I remember a neighbor years ago who lived on the other side of a chain link fence from me.  I loved spending time outside, either soaking up the sun or working in my garden.  Because of this one neighbor, I felt I had to operate in stealth mode to enjoy my backyard.  Venturing out the back door involved preplanning.   I avoided times that my neighbor was sure to be outside.  I’d peer out the windows for any sign of movement around her house and if the coast was clear, I would venture out.  I cautiously remained on the alert for any sound from across the fence, watching from the corner of my eye with one foot pointed in the direction of my door.  I was ready to make a mad dash for the house if needed.  If my neighbor managed to catch me off guard, I’d be stuck listening to all her health issues until I could think of an excuse to break away.  It was the same dreary conversation, over and over again.  You know what I’m talking about, right!

I’m not going to be that neighbor!  This blog is about being real, right where I’m at today.  So for those who care and have read any of my previous posts on this aging body, here goes.

First, I’ll give a little update on the abdominal issues.  If you need to know the back story on this one, you can catch up here with: “I’m Not Average”Apparently, I’m not average at all.  I’m an overachiever!  In this case, it’s not a good thing.

I got to spend a day in the ER last week because of my midsection.   The issue is that I build up large amounts of scar tissue from to many surgeries and being septic twice now.  The scar tissue causes obstructions.   The doctor said that the average person with my scar tissue issues, has to have surgery every two years.  I’m two months away from the one year mark of the last surgery and I’ve experienced symptoms of a partial obstruction twice now since the beginning of this year.  In previous events related to this, that’s been the pattern prior to the hospitalizations.  I’m updating you on this one, not because I’m looking for sympathy.  But, if you’re the praying type, maybe you could swing some prayers this way.  Another surgery would not be a good thing for me!  As a matter of fact, one doctor said it would be a mess.  OK, enough on that!

Here is what I want to focus on today.  It’s my “pain in the neck”!  It was in December when I found out what the problem was.  I have three bulging disks in my neck and two more disks with bone protruding into the nerve.   Thankfully, there is not so much pain in the neck anymore.  Most of the pain runs down my arm and my hand feels like it’s been asleep much of the time.

I’ve been in physical therapy now for a couple months and I put myself in traction at home every day.  Things are improving!  Initially, I had to give up running, but I’m happy to say that I’ve slowly been able to work my way into “minutes” of running on my schedule.  I finally have a couple days this week where my coach was able to assign “miles”, instead of “minutes”!  If you’re a runner, you can understand how this makes me want to do a happy dance!

Being in physical therapy for different parts of my body since I took up this running hobby has increased my awareness of how kinetic changeamazing our bodies were created to be.  You might remember the song we sang as kids, “The hip bones, connected to the leg bone.  The leg bones connected to the knee bone.  The knee bones connected to the …” and on it goes.  It’s all part of the Kinetic Chain.  Each joint is connected by bone, muscle and tissue to the next joint and the next and the next.  When the movement of one part of our body is hindered or a part is injured it affects the other parts in the chain.  You might not even have symptoms of a problem right away.  Injuries can build up over time and all of a sudden, your body is screaming at you.  The pain you feel might not even be where the root of your problem is.  The problem can originate somewhere up or down the chain.

I love the analogy of the different parts of the body being like us, who we were created to be with the gifts and talents we each possess.  One person may be like the mouth.  They are just naturally a very vocal person with a gift of eloquent speech.  They are able to be a voice on behalf of those who have no voice.

shoulder for cryingOne person may be like a shoulder.  They are built to be strong.  They’re the burden bearer or a shoulder to cry on.  They’re not only able to carry their own heavy loads, but also the loads of others.

Even the unseen, seemingly insignificant parts of our bodies; all have a specific function that is necessary to our existence.   Each part is connected in the Kinetic Chain.   If one part is hurt and neglected, the other parts of the body will be affected.  What good is a mouth if it’s wired shut?  A mouth without the tongue to taste, teeth to chew and a throat to swallow is useless.   A mouth without a head and a face to hold it in place would just look weird.  It needs the other parts to fulfill the purpose it was created for.

This is really what’s on my mind today.  Sorry it took me so long to get here.  It boils down to the simple fact that we need each other!  Why do we isolate ourselves from others?  How can we be so proud and arrogant to judge another person to be of lesser value than ourselves?  Why is it that so many try to operate on their own, without the help of others?  Remember Herby, the dentist from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, as he declared, “I’m independent”?  Even Herby found out he needed others, but almost at the cost of his life.

I’m guilty of all of the above at one point or another, so I’m not just talking to you.  That neighbor across the fence needed me.  I listened and tried to be kind, but I really didn’t care that much.  I avoided her in every way I could.  I really couldn’t help her with her medical needs, but I could have offered encouraging words or maybe a smile to brighten her day.  Maybe even I could have enjoyed the outside I loved, by helping in her yard.

It’s true, when one part hurts, the others will hurt.  Turning a blind eye to the needs of others will eventually affect you.  Devaluing those who work under you in the workplace will eventually affect you.  Neglecting the people that are a pain in the neck, butt or whatever, will eventually affect you.

No, we can’t be all things to all people.  We weren’t meant to be.  But we can be the best at being who we were created to be and using the gifts and talents we were given for the betterment of humanity.  When we refuse to function and fulfill our purpose, when we become intolerant, unfairly judge, criticize or belittle another human, we hurt a part of ourselves that is valuable and necessary to our existence.

So here’s the moral of our little story today.  We, as a member of the human race need to start focusing on our overall health and well being.  We need to start thinking long term, for the sake of our existence.  Let’s begin to take better care of ourselves, which means taking care of each other.  I need you and whether you like it or not, you need me. You’ve heard it said, “It takes a village…”  All of humanity is a part of our village, our Kinetic Chain.   So let’s, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.   Just do it!

change

Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes!!!

runningI got the MRI results of my Cervical Spine and now know the reason for my latest round of aches and pains.  This one happens to be a literal pain in the neck!  I have three bulging disks and two more disks that have bone pressing against the nerve root.  Doctor reviews regarding the impact of this on my running are mixed.  I’ve heard everything from, “no more running”, “try cycling instead” and “no running for 6 to 8 weeks”, to “maybe after another week you can run a little”.  So, the co-pays continue to mount and it seems I go from appointment to appointment.   It’s a daily struggle against the disappointment that would try to bring me down.

If you think you’re getting weary of hearing my about my woe’s, I think I’ve got you beat.  I would much rather be writing about exciting events and joyous occasions!  I was greatly anticipating being able to put my first full marathon experience on paper.  That was supposed to have been next weekend, but I guess that’s on hold, once again.

Until this week, I had never watched a whole episode of “The Biggest Loser”.   I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show when the loser logocontestants weigh in, but I’ve never seen all the work that was involved to achieve these dramatic and impressive weight losses.  This particular episode happened to be the start of the new season.  As contestants were chosen and placed on teams, those who were on Jillian Michael’s team, seemed to express more emotion, both positive and negative.  I soon found out why!

These poor contestants weren’t given the opportunity to “ease” into their training.  They knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but they had no clue as to how difficult it would be until they were passing out and rolling off the tread mill into a heap on the floor.  Most of them were throwing up in buckets that were readily at hand, as if the need Jillian Michaelsfor the buckets had been anticipated.   On top of the complete misery and high level of emotion that the contestants felt, there was Jillian Michaels, screaming in their faces.  And I mean screaming!

I can think back to some of the workouts my coach assigned that I thought were tough.  I only remember once when I thought I might throw up.  It was on mile 16 of my farthest run yet, just before the stress fracture in my hip.  I think the heat just got the best of me that day.  One other time I was doing a hard speed workout and as the pavement ran out on a dead end road leading into the dessert, I was afraid I might pass out.  I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me out there, but those experiences seem like nothing compared to what these show contestants were facing.

I have to say that I’m thankful for a coach who doesn’t scream in my face, telling me that I’m wasting his time!  I’m not sure that I would respond so well to that.  However, a couple phrases that Jillian said, or rather screamed on the show, did make me think.  The phrases, “How bad do you want it?” and “Dig deep”, have been rolling over in my mind all week.

Of course, I can apply these phrases to running.  I really do want to run a marathon, at least one at some point.  I’ve been working pretty hard to try to accomplish that, in spite of the string of injuries, but certainly not as hard as these contestants.

But more importantly, I’ve got bigger goals in mind than running a marathon.  More than half of my life is probably already over.  Jillian 2Those years are gone and I can’t get them back.  My biggest goal is that my life would count for something.

The problem of obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country and the producers and coaches on “The Biggest Loser” want to bring change and make a difference.  Obesity isn’t the only thing that is rampant in our society.  There are plenty of other social issues that need to be addressed.  It’s going to take many people who want to make a difference and bring change.  I think the reality is that it will take every single one of us!  And I believe that every single one of us would say that we want to make our life count for something.  But how bad do we want it?

I’m not here on this swirling planet, just to exist, please myself and have a good time.  I want to make a contribution somehow.  I’ve got ideas that I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much with.  Years ago, I put some things on paper, but that’s about as far as I went.  They aren’t things that I can achieve on my own.  On my own, I don’t have what it takes to make it happen.  It’s bigger than me.  As a result, these things are left undone, unaccomplished and myself, unfulfilled.

I can hear Jillian screaming at me now.  “What are you afraid of?”  I think my answer is much the same as the contestants on the show.  “I’m scared of failing”, “afraid of the pain of the workouts” and “not being able to eat bear claws again”.  Yes, you heard that right. A contestant seriously said she didn’t want to give up bear claws.  In case you don’t know, “bear claws” are a sweet, flakey and delicately, delicious pastry!  I’m afraid I am not quite ready to give up sweets either; however eating sweets isn’t what’s holding me back from my goal in this case.

How bad do I really want it?  Am I willing to dig deep and probably endure pain, as the contestants on the show had to?  Am I willing to do whatever it takes?  I mean really do WHATEVER it takes?  Inconvenience myself, make sacrifices, take criticism, overcome obstacles, throw up and expose my ugliness in public?  Do I REALLY want it???  Or will I just keep on existing, pleasing and taking care of myself, sitting on the couch all day eating bonbons or bear claws?

It’s true!  Change starts with a choice.  It’s got to be more than a resolution we make for the New Year.  It has to be a thought out, purposeful decision to take action if you want to bring change.  As Jillian Michaels described the exercise that one contestant was supposed to be doing, she said, “It’s as simple as hand, foot, hand, foot”.   The exercise was called the “bear crawl”.  Jillian broke it down into tiny movements, one after another.  You just have to move one hand, then one foot, then one hand and one foot.

Jillian’s instruction to do one movement at a time was simple, just like I try to live my life, one day at a time.  If I look at the whole big picture all at once, I can be overwhelmed and terrified.  Well if that’s the way I live, what am I missing?  Why haven’t I achieved my goal to make my life count for something and to make a difference in this world already?  I mean, I’ve already lived half my life.  I’ve wasted my own time!

attack dog Jillian told me what I was lacking.  She said, “I want attack dogs, pit bulls, fire breathing dragons, on my team. “  I’ve lacked the “attack dog” spirit.  I’ve been more like a tiny, playful, furry, cuddle up, lap dog.  I’ve liked my creature comforts, but I’ve lounged around long enough.  It’s time to dig deep! It’s time to do whatever it takes!  Who’s with me?

Thanks Jillian!

Chapter 2013, Page 1 of 365

2013It’s 9:00 a.m. on the first day of 2013 and I am sitting here at my kitchen counter, in pain and seriously considering going back to bed.  That’s not how I planned for this year to begin!  But, one of the lessons that life has taught me is that I can’t control everything.  I’ve been especially taught that in regard to my health these last couple years.  No matter how hard I work to stay healthy, there are just some things that are out of my hands.  Right now it appears that whatever is going on has to do with my spine.  I had x-rays last week and an MRI just yesterday, so I don’t have the results yet.  If you see me out in public, moving my appendages around in strange ways, it’s because I’m trying to bring relief to the pain going down my arm and my legs.

It’s the New Year, a time when we focus on changes we want to make in our lives.  Often, our New Year’s resolution has to do with weight loss and our health.  One of my goals in 2012 was to run a full marathon.  My body didn’t cooperate, so I wasn’t able to do that, but my mind was completely ready.  My first marathon from last May had to be rescheduled for January 20, 2013.  Last November, it became evident that I wasn’t even going to be able to do that, so I switched to the ½.  Now it’s even questionable as to whether I will be able to even walk that one.  Running is definitely out.

It’s so frustrating, so discouraging, to find myself having to take weeks off of training, yet again!  To feel like you have to almost start over, yet again…  I’ve taken up cycling for cross training in the meantime and I am having a blast with that, but I so want to run!

I have to admit, today I find myself in a weakened place.  T hey, (whoever “they” are) say to never admit to weakness, but we get real here.  We all have our weak moments.  We all have times when we need to be encouraged.  Today I will encourage myself with my own words.  Maybe they can encourage you, too!  Here is a blog post I wrote this last year: “Life Lessons from an Athlete”.  I’ve applied these principles to running, however, they can be applied to whatever it is you want to do in 2013.

I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

Life Lessons From an Athlete

PHX HalfI wrote a blog post this past February entitled, “I Wanna Be an Athlete”.  Little did I know that within a couple weeks of that post, well into training for my first marathon, I would be taken out of the game.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I took up running.  We saw the value of being healthy and making healthier life style changes and running was a way to move us in that direction.  As you know, running isn’t a sport that those qualifying for an AARP Card usually jump into.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a serious jump and we’ve gotten several races under our belts now, the longest for me being a ½ marathon.  My first full marathon was to be the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon this past May, but that didn’t happen.

In March, while doing an intense speed workout, I had a hamstring and hip injury that brought me to an abrupt halt.   I was barely able to limp the three miles home.  I hate not being able to complete a workout the coach gives me!  Feeling desperate not to miss any training so close to my 1st marathon, I tried everything to speed up the healing.  Loads of stretching, physical therapy, ice, rest, nothing was working.  Along with the hamstring issue, the Sports Orthopedic Doctor found that I also had a lot of arthritis in my spine that was contributing to my pain and probably a stress fracture.  It became evident as the weeks passed by that I would not be running my first marathon in May.  I was intensely disappointed!

At the same time in March, I learned that I had developed an incisional hernia from a surgery that I had last September.   (That’s a whole other drama that I wrote about in “I’m Not Average”.)  The lump on my belly was huge!  I called it my belly boob except the problem was that it was bigger than the original two.  This would require surgery, so I went ahead and scheduled that, hoping to heal the hip at the same time I was recovering from the surgery. It turned out that the surgeon not only had to repair the hernia we knew of, but found that I had many holes to repair.  The surgeon described it as looking like swiss cheese.  The eight previous abdominal surgeries had done a number on my midsection.  Thus the surgery and the recovery time turned out to be a bigger ordeal than was originally planned.

I’ve not been able to run for over three months now!  If you are a runner, you certainly understand how painful this is.  Sadness wells th_aging_gracefully_exercise_painup when you see other runners on the road or when you drive down roads you usually run on or your spouse suits up to hit the road.  You even begin to crave those nasty GU packets!  What was really painful was being sidelined for three races that I was already signed up to run.  Reduced to being a race T-shirt collector, I still attended and cheered on my husband as he ran those races, including the race that was to be “our” first marathon.  Bittersweet as it was, I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!

All that said, I’ve had lots of time to re-think this “wanna be an athlete” thing.  I think there is much to be learned from athletes that can be applied in other areas of our lives.  Here is what I’ve learned.

  • Being an athlete changes the way you eat.  I’m an athlete.  I need to eat healthy food.  What I put into my body matters.
  • Being an athlete changes your daily activities.  Workouts “must” fit into your day.
  • Seeing yourself as an athlete changes the way you think about a workout.  I am an athlete; therefore hard work is what I do.
  • On a substandard, humorous level, it changes the way you see yourself.  It makes it a little more okay to be smaller on the top side if you’re a woman.
  • An athlete needs to have a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.  You need to be strong in all three areas.

Athlete Sign

  • Athletes see themselves as WINNERS before they have even run the race or played the game.
  • Athletes push harder; they go above the norm, above the expected.  They push the limits, if there are limits.
  • Athletes go through periods of strict training.  They beat their bodies into shape to be able to accomplish their goal.
  • Athletes endure setbacks and injuries as being a part of the game.  They don’t give up but use it as time to gain strength or endurance in another area.
  • Once an athlete recovers from an injury or setback and is able to get back in the game, they forget what’s past and strain for what’s ahead.  They can’t afford to allow fear of the past to slow them down.
  • Athletes are persistent and determined.  They know what patient endurance means – “steady, active persistence”.
  • Athletes strip off everything that would hold them back, even the tiniest thing that would weigh them down.  They wear appropriate clothing and gear, specifically designed for their sport.
  • Athletes don’t allow themselves to be distracted.  They stay focused.  Their goal, the prize is always set before them.
  • Athletes work together with their team.  They help each other win the game.
  • Athletes find motivation and encouragement in those who have already endured through the agonizing pain that comes with training.  They look to those who have pushed through hardships and setbacks, those who have already attained high goals and already succeeded at winning.
  • They run hard or play the game as a fight to the finish and they get the prize.  And the rewards don’t suck!Running 1

I’m sure there is more that I will learn in this journey.  I’m at six weeks post surgery now and had my first physical therapy appointment this week.  I was hoping to hear that I was good to hit the road, but it looks like I’m going to need another two to four weeks to rebuild my core strength before I can run again.  The next scheduled race is the Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon which is just over a month away.  I will probably have to walk most of this, but at least I won’t be sidelined.  My husband who will be running will just have more time at the finish line to enjoy the fruits of Napa while he waits for me.  🙂

th_AthleteEverydayHaving re-thought this athlete thing, I can tell you that I haven’t changed my mind.  The difference now is, I’m seeing myself as an athlete, because I am!  Life is an amazing race.  Let’s run it well, together!