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)

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Happy Birthday “R”!

balloon treeI’m breaking away from the “super proud mom” theme of the past few days, but I can’t quite let go of it completely.  I’m just going to mix it up a little bit, because I’m not done being super proud.   Today’s post will from the perspective of a “super proud wife”.  This won’t become a series though, because the last I checked, I only have one husband to brag on and he deserves to be bragged on!  We’ll stay with the letter theme and name him “R”.  It’s his birthday today, so this post is perfect timing.

I’ve already told you how we met in “My Knight in Shining Armor Story”.  After two previously, really screwed up marriages, I finally got one right.  Some of us just need a bigger learning curve.

“R” met me as a single mom with two kids already.   Having the courage to take on an instant family makes him “point worthy” right off the bat.  The night of our first date was as the Christmas season was approaching and my kids and I were decorating the tree when the doorbell rang.  “R” got to put the angel on the top of the tree before we left for dinner, which has been a tradition ever since.  My kids seemed to be really comfortable around him, too, and he was good with them, so that raised his score.  Yes, after twoscoreboard to many screwed up relationships, I was definitely keeping score.

Not only did “R” inherit a prepackaged deal, he also won the rights to my bill drawer.  I must tell you that this bill drawer had its own organizational system.  I didn’t have to do anything but put the unopened bills in the drawer and they organized themselves with the oldest being on the bottom and the newest on top.  It was a system especially developed to ease my mind and cut down the financial stress of being a single mom.  Whatever was in that drawer became out of sight, therefore, out of mind.   As hard as it is to admit how horrible that system was, imagine the courage it took “R” to accept that drawer when he accepted me.  Yes, give that guy some more points, maybe a high five even!

In the early days of our fast moving courtship, my soon to be husband did everything right.  He always had the right answer, he was super intelligent and seemed to have wisdom beyond his years, he had a good job and he was incredibly talented musically.  As a matter of fact, it was a song that he wrote for me that broke down the high walls around my heart and gained him access.  The fact that he shared the song as we shared a container of ice cream may have helped a little, too.  Ice cream was a staple in my family.

Sad-love-quotes-Trust-it-takes-yearsSpeaking of high walls around my heart, previous abuse and rape meant a lot of emotional baggage was traveling with me on our new journey together.  Trust was difficult for me.  Letting someone get close and really know me was difficult.  “R” would constantly tell me he loved me, but I would just let the words roll off.  If I really believed him, it meant I was opening myself up to be hurt.  He constantly paid me compliments, I mean many times throughout the day even.  My response was always to either ignore what he said or deflect them somehow.  He would stand in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me I was beautiful.  I would look away, never saying thank you, never receiving it.  He never gave up though.  Year after year, he patiently kept doing it all right.  I don’t know how many years it took before I started to listen and believe him, but it was many.  Yeah, more points here!  Big time points!Hugs heal

Our premade family of four grew to become a family of six.  There were some wonderful years in the last 25 and some really horrible, even hellish years.  I’ve talked about some of those times in previous posts, but I’ve just shared what it was like for me, as if I was alone in it all.  “R” was there, too.  He hurt, too, but of course, no one saw that.  Those years didn’t seem to scare “R”.  He didn’t run like others surely would have done.  He stood fast and he held tight.  He remained strong and focused with an amazing ability to keep things under control.

I’m remembering the health crisis I had two years ago.  Not that I remember a lot about the days in ICU, but I do remember when I icuwould wake up occasionally and he would jump up from the spot where he kept vigil.  He would do all he could to make me comfortable or offer help in any way.  How difficult it must have been for him, not just to see his wife in that condition, but still having to carry the responsibility of his job and everything at home during that time.  He didn’t seem to miss a beat in any of it.  I vaguely remember seeing his mom walking into the room once.  I heard her ask him how he was doing.  He said, “I’m just taking care of my wife”.  He certainly has taken care of me.  He’s taken very good care of me!  And the score board numbers keep adding up.

“R” works a very demanding job that doesn’t sleep.  Even if it did sleep, since it’s an international company, it’s always 8:00 to 5:00 somewhere.  They keep him around, they’ve promoted him over the years and the pay checks keep coming in.  All the people that I know that he works with really like him, so I think he must be really good at what he does.  I can’t forget to mention that I’ve been sleeping with a college student for the past few years.  “R” takes classes, too and I’m proud to say he’s a straight A student.

cyclist_superhero_by_night_oval_decalWe’ve had lots of highlights in the past couple years, thanks to “R” getting us involved in this running thing he loves so much.  He’s my marathon man!  We’ve been doing races every couple months and most of them we’ve gotten to travel for.  It’s been so much fun!    He is also big into cycling now and he’s become a mad man clipped on pedals.  I slow him way down when we ride together, but he doesn’t mind because he says he loves when he gets to ride with me.

There is so much more I could say, but I think you get the idea.   He may not be perfect, but he’s still my Mr. album coverRight.  This past summer we were cruising on the Mediterranean.  We had many beautiful nights, but one in particular stands out in my mind.   Picture it with me.  Sitting on our balcony with good wine in hand, sailing over smooth seas, warm air, gentle breeze, full moon reflecting on the water, sound of the water lapping the sides of the ship and “R” is singing to me.  “You’re once, twice, three times a lady…”  Yep, he melted my heart.

Let me tell you this “R”.  While you’ve racked up more points than I could ever count, I’m the one who scored the most when I married you.  You’re once, twice and always my man!  I’m proud of you “R” and I love you with all of my heart!

#NaBlaPoMo

I’m a Triathlete!

As promised, from yesterday’s #NaBloPoMo post, here is a little recap of my 1st Triathlon.  I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already since I crossed that finish line!

Back in August, I took my husband’s challenge to put the cross training in biking and swimming to good use and I completed my first Sprint Triathlon.  He told me that I could do it and I believed him.  It was hard, but I did it!  It was especially hard as a brand newbie swimmer, but it was an awesome experience.  I can’t wait to do another one, after I learn how to swim better, much better!

photo 1With my husband serving as my personal one man pit crew, paparazzi, chief encourager and nerve soother, we arrived at the race location.  I could tell that he knew I was on edge, as he seemed to be extra cautious with his words and actions that morning.  I tried to be extra sweet, but don’t think I was very good with that.  I had gotten myself worked into a bundle of nerves over this thing.  It was the swim portion of the race that I knew I wasn’t ready for.   I just wanted that swim to be over with!

The bike racks were already full by the time we arrived, so I had to find a place along the fence to set up my transition area.  I liked it that way though, as I knew it would be easy to find my bike after the swim.

Six weeks from the time of starting beginner swimming lessons to doing your first triathlon is not enough time!  I’m serious when I say beginner.  My first lesson was how to blow bubbles in the water!  The morning of the race, it was 55 degrees, which isn’t bad compared to some of the temperatures we’ve experienced at the start lines of our half marathons.  But this race involved getting in a pool at 55 degrees, then jumping on a bike and riding in the wind while wet.  Ask my husband and he’ll tell you.  I don’t do cold.  It didn’t help that I waited for photo 2over an hour to even start the swim, standing barefooted on cold concrete.  So yes, I was a bit chilled that morning.

It was finally my turn to jump in the water.  I panicked a little right off the bat.  The water depth was at 7 feet which is well over my head.  I was supposed to jump in and swim from there and I hadn’t trained that way.   I was used to starting from a standing position at the end of the pool lane.  Glitch one!

“They”, meaning people who do races, tell you not to do anything new on a race day.  I wanted everything to be perfect.  Everything matched, because I knew that should make me at least 10% faster, right!  My goggles were looking a little foggy and I wanted them to look shiny and new.  I read online that if you use baby shampoo on your goggles, they won’t fog up, so I tried it the day before the race.  The goggles were nice and shiny and they matched!  The problem was, they didn’t seal around my left eye.   Maybe it was the lavender baby shampoo that made a difference.  I don’t know, but have you ever tried swimming with one eye shut?  Glitch two!

photo 3I did make it to the end of those incredibly long lanes!  I had to rest often, but I wasn’t alone at those rest stops, so that made me feel a little better.  Waiting until the end of the pack to start the race had some definite advantages.  I didn’t get kicked in the face and no one swam over top of me.  I had to pick up my pace to break away from one guy who was doing the backstroke over the top of my legs, but that wasn’t so bad compared to the horror stories I had read about.  I was so glad when I came to the end of that last lane and I even had enough strength to pull myself up on the side, barely, which was almost glitch three.  I was out of the pool and that dreaded swim was over.  I thought it would be a piece of cake from there and it pretty much was.

I felt really good once I got going on the bike.  I started passing people and was surprised that I really wasn’t cold at all.  I knew I was making good time on that portion.  The only glitch on that leg was coming back to my transition area and finding that someone photo 4else had stolen my spot along the fence, so I had to go find a spot on the rack for my bike.  I didn’t like having my bike separated from my transition area, but I did what I had to do and stayed focused.

I was especially surprised at how hard it was to go into the run after biking and swimming.  I had done some “brick workouts” in my training to help me be prepared for this, but apparently not enough.  Plus, I’m sure that the fact that I had just been easing back into running after being off for four weeks, didn’t help.  I announced myself as I came up behind people to pass.  “Heavy breather passing on your left.”

Finally, it was over.  I crossed that finish line more winded than I have ever crossed a finish line before, but I think more thrilled than I ever photo (14)have been before.  I was a Triathlete!

I was lousy at the swimming, but made good time with the bike and transitions.  My total time was 1:34:35.  I finished 2nd in my 55+ age group, which I was very happy about, even though there were only three people in my age group.  My overall ranking with the women though was 71 out of 131, so not too bad for a newbie at my age with almost all of the women being younger.  Ok, it was a big deal for me, so I just had to tell you about it.  #NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo???

Doctor. patientI was sitting in the doctor’s office today.  I read the email.  I read the post explaining the email.  I read the words, “challenge” and “exercise”.  Both words caught my attention.  While I’m not one to viciously grasp hold of every challenge I’m faced with, I’ve discovered a bit of a competitive edge in me that likes a challenge.  And exercise!  If you know me, you know exercise is definitely an important part of my life.  Once again, these two words are having an influence on my day.

The email said it was “Nablopomo” Month.  It’s short for “National Blog Posting Month”.  How have I been blogging for a few years now and I’ve never heard of this before?  The challenge is to write a blog post every day for the month.  I’m not assuming that you want to read one of my posts every day for the month, but the challenge is just for me to get it out there.  This challenge is one I can choose to do.  The post explaining it said it was an “exercise” in writing.  It’s an exercise I can choose to do to help me build that writing muscle, so why not mix challenge and exercise in this arena that I love so much!

he_crosstrained_square_sticker_3_x_3I’ve been a runner for the past two and a half years.  My husband and I have a coach, which means a daily workout schedule, so yes, I’m getting my exercise.  I’ve had a long string of back to back injuries which have caused me to have to do a lot of cross training during my recovery periods.  I took up biking a year ago and have had to do a lot of pool running, but I’ve just recently started swimming, too.  Just three weeks ago, I took my husband’s challenge to put the added training in biking and swimming to good use and I completed my first Sprint Triathlon.  I think I’ll write about that tomorrow.

photo (5)My husband and I ran in the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon at the beginning of September.  I had been experiencing some hip and hamstring soreness that week before the race, but thought I would be okay to run if I kept an easy pace.  I was good until about mile ten, but the tightness I felt was bad enough that I was afraid if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to run again.  I even passed up the ten mile wine stop!  Somewhere in that next mile though, I had to start taking some walk breaks until I crossed the finish line.  I took four weeks off of running after that and concentrated on beginning swimming lessons and biking.  I was easing back into running two weeks before the Triathlon.  I thought I should be fine for that since the run was only a 5k.  My hip and hamstring was sore, but didn’t seem any worse than it had been, so I continued to ramp up the training.  After all, I didn’t have much time to be ready for our next race in November, the Big Sur Half Marathon.

Last week while swimming, something in my hip or leg snapped and shot pain across the top and down the back of it.  I was instantly frozen in the water.  As you know, not kicking and stroking while in a pool lead to sinking.  Verbalizing my discomfort while under water didn’t work out so well either!  After sucking in a huge gulp of pool water, I managed to get the good leg under me and very calmly hop to the side of the pool.  Controlling my reaction so as not to show the fact that I was gagging on lungs full of H2o and in great pain, I just stood at the end of my lane, smiling at the other swimmers.  I managed to choke out the water from my lungs while the other swimmers had their heads under the water, so no one knew I was having a problem.  I’m sure I helped them improve their workout sessions that day, as they assumed I was just standing there watching them, sizing up the competition, as athletes are so inclined to do.   I’m shaking my head at that right now.  Why are we like that?  Why am I so afraid to show anyone my weakness or flaws?  Maybe that’s a post for another day in this challenge.  Anyway, that’s how we’re back at the doctor’s office, once again.

I need to say for the benefit of my caring friends, which I do appreciate, that I have been under the care of my doctor and physical therapist through all of this.  All of my activity up to this point has been with their approval.  I haven’t been mistreating my body!  🙂

swim bike runThe doctor did his exam and ordered an MRI to see what kind of damage I’ve done now and then he said those words that I hated to hear.  No running.  No biking.  No swimming.  Nothing!  I’ve already been off of all training, everything, for a week now.  If you’re an athlete with a workout and race schedule, I know you understand.  This is torture!  This is not the challenge that I would choose to take.  This is a challenge I have to accept by default.  No exercise!  It’s so much more fun when we can choose to do something rather than be forced into it.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

writer signThere is a choice I can make today, and not by default.  I can choose to make the most of this!  As I find myself with more time on my hands right now, why don’t I go ahead and write.  That writing muscle could use a good workout, so let’s have at it.  Since we’re going into the busy holiday season, I might not get a post in every day, but it sure won’t hurt to try, so here goes!  #NaBloPoMo

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” 
― Roger Crawford

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.

My Story For Ellen

Ellen PhotoI got an email the other day from Ellen DeGeneres.  That in itself is amazing, right!  She said she wanted to send me to Australia!

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 12:20 AM

from The Ellen DeGeneres Show to you

Ellen is sending you to Australia! Enter to win the trip of a lifetime!

 

Ellen AustraliaI couldn’t believe it!  I’ve always wanted to go to Australia!  It wasn’t just a cut and dry, done deal yet though.  I would have to fill out an entry form and actually “win” the trip.  I had nothing to lose, so I filled in the blanks and came to a box where I was to answer the question, “Why do you deserve to win?”  Hmmmm…

I love an opportunity to write and I did have a story to tell, so I opened up a blank Word document and began to write.  I misread the requirement though and thought it said 2000 words.  It did seem like a lot and I wondered who would possibly have time to read all these 2000 word entries.  Oh was I ever surprised as I copied and pasted my story into that box.  My exactly, 2000 words didn’t fit!  What?  Then I saw it.  2000 characters…  I had just wasted all this time writing my story and now I have to say it all over again, but in only 2000 characters!   So since I took the time to do it, I thought I may as well share it with someone.  So here you go:

My 2000 Word Story For Ellen

With obesity at epidemic proportions in our country, my husband and I saw the importance of being part of the solution instead of the problem.  We took up the sport of running as a way to lose weight and get physically fit.  We started this at an age that people wouldn’t normally consider running as a fun hobby to pursue.  Let’s just say we qualify for an AARP discount.  Actually, my husband started running before I did.  He was having so much fun with it, I had to join him, plus it seemed like it would be something great that we could do together.

That was just over a year and a half ago.  Oh how well I remember those first few runs.  It was so hard!  I hated it, yet there was something about it that grabbed me by the feet and kept me going.  Before I knew it, we were running five miles and I was amazed when I could run that far without stopping.  In spite of my hate for doing it, I really enjoyed those early morning times with my husband, not the running part, but the fact that I was doing it with him.

Finish Line Gunbunfunrun2In July of 2011, we ran our first race together in Napa.  It was a 5k, the Gunbun Fun Run.  It was the first time that I think I experienced the runner’s high.  Yes, it was an effort, but interacting with other runners along the way, seeing the determination of people of all ages and body types, having people cheer you on; it was awesome!  And I was doing it with my husband.  We crossed the finish line holding hands, together.  I was completely hooked after that race!

We were serious about this.  Both my husband and I had experienced a transformation in our bodies.  We lost weight and felt better than ever.  We got a coach and signed up for our next race which was to be in New York City over Labor Day weekend that year.  It was the 9/11 Run to Remember, just a week before the 10 year anniversary of that horrific terrorist attack.

What an honor it was to run in memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11.  Running alongside the families of victims, firefighters andRun to Rememberpolice officers who were involved in the aftermath was so much more than just a privilege.  I will never forget the moment as I watched two other runners on the course whose lives were apparently connected somehow.  They saw each other and immediately stopped in the middle of the course, fell into an embrace and were weeping on each other’s shoulders.  I was moved to tears myself.  Another totally different, but totally amazing running experience!

This was getting fun now!  We came home and signed up for our next race which was to be in November.  We were doubling the distance now.  This was going to be our first 10k.  We even took it a step farther and signed up for our first half marathon which would be January of 2012.  Our coach knew our goals, gave us our schedules and training was seriously under way.

Just a few weeks after the 9/11 Run to Remember, though, I had a little set back.  Actually, it wasn’t so little.  It was a big deal!  I started having symptoms that were familiar to something I had experienced before.  It was stomach pain that had landed me in the hospital already, twice.  Because of to many previous surgeries and being septic from a ruptured appendix, my body grows a lot of scar tissue.  That scar tissue causes obstructions and I woke up this particular September morning, knowing I was headed back to the hospital.  I had been told before that walking might be helpful when I started to feel the discomfort.  This morning, there was an eight mile run on my training schedule.  I thought if walking might be helpful, running might be even better, so I did my very painful eight miles before I went home and got ready to go to the ER.  My trip to the ER resulted in emergency surgery for a perforated bowel, which left me septic, in kidney failure and a sentence of the next ten days in the hospital, five of them in ICU.

I’ve been able to bounce back quickly following my seven previous, major abdominal surgeries, but I have to say, this one was really difficult.  I really believe that had I not been as fit as I was from running going into this trauma, I really think the outcome would have been so much harder than it was, maybe even different.

Even though I was out of the hospital, I still had much recovery and many follow appointments ahead, as other organs were affected.  I had fluid in my lungs when I was released from the hospital.  I resisted having another procedure done to drain the fluid, so I was told that I needed to do a lot of walking.  And of course, I still had this training schedule with the next 10K just six weeks away.  I wanted to run!

I wasn’t stupid about it.  I did follow the doctors’ orders and walked every day.  As soon as I was given the go ahead to run, I did and with my coach’s help, was able to gain back the fitness I had lost.  I was even able to run that 10K, not really fast, but I ran!

Training continued and in spite of a couple, ongoing issues with my health, I was able to run my very first half marathon in January of 2012 with a time of 2:20:32.  Not too shabby for an old lady who just recently started this running thing, in spite of the setbacks!

When my husband does something, he goes all out.  We not only had a coach and a training schedule.  We now had a race schedule, with races for March, May, July, September and November of 2012.  It just made sense that since we had trained and run a half marathon, the natural progression would be to run a full marathon, right!  We were registered for a full marathon in Cleveland, for May of 2012.  Thus, training for 26.2 miles was in full swing.

All was going well with training until March.  I was still having some kind of issue with my liver that the doctors weren’t sure about, so I had a series of CT scans and MRI’s to watch that.  The surgeon didn’t want to be quick with another surgery.   I also developed a large bump on my belly which turned out to be an incisional hernia.  I would need to have surgery again, but it was safe to wait until after the May marathon.

Early in March during one of my speed workouts, my hip seized up and brought me to an immediate halt.  I was barely able to limp the three miles home that day.  I started physical therapy right away, as I couldn’t afford to lose time in my marathon training.  I was sidelined and became just a race shirt collector for the March race.  It was bittersweet to watch my husband cross the finish line without me, but I would never want to hold him back.

Over the next few weeks it became evident the marathon in May was not going to be an option for me either, so I went ahead and scheduled the hernia repair in April.  This would give my hip the time it needed to heal, while I was recovering from surgery, as now my focus shifted to the next race.  The next half marathon was in July.

The surgery ended up more involved than it was expected to be.  Not only did I have one hernia to repair, the surgeon said my belly had so many holes it looked like swiss cheese.  This made surgery number nine, the biggest and most painful one yet!

We did go to Cleveland in May.  Again, I added a really cool race shirt to my collection.  This was supposed to be my husband and I’s first marathon.   He still ran and I waited.  I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!  I posted the picture of him wearing his medal afterward with the caption, “I’m married to a marathoner!  Now that’s hot!”

photo (5)I was able to start training again around the middle of June, but was only able to walk the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  That was certainly better than having to sit on the sidelines and watch.   You can’t beat a birthday celebration in Napa either!  We had friends with us who had the idea to celebrate my 55th birthday by trying 55 different wines!  Challenge accepted, done and documented!

Eyes now focused on the next race in September, the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon.   Training once again was progressing well.  I felt good and my body was cooperating.  I still had to walk a good bit of the Oregon race, but I got to run part of it, too!

To make a long story a little shorter, the next setback to cut into my training was a knee injury.  That affected my November race, and I had to walk half of that one, too.

My knee was recovering and I was back in training.  Then I started having problems with my neck, which turned out to be bulging disks.  That’s where I’m at now.

Yesterday was the PF Chang’s Rock N Roll Half Marathon and Marathon, here in Phoenix.  This was supposed to be my rescheduled, RocknRollHalffirst marathon.  I was only able to walk the half because of my neck issue.  My official time was 3:04:35, which is a pretty swift pace for a 13.1 mile walk!

My husband finished his second marathon yesterday.  He is amazing!  He has been so supportive of me through all of this.  I stopped working a few months after the big surgery and in spite of all the medical bills and co-pays that continue, he wants me to be healthy and happy and hasn’t asked me to go back to work.  I have been able to stay home and recover.  I’m now beginning to pursue things I love, one of them being something that’s dear to your own heart, which is loving people through kindness.  I’ve been taking steps to do volunteer work.  I’ve also started writing a blog, which is both therapeutic and enjoyable for me.  More importantly, I hope it can help and encourage others.

My husband loves his job, but he’s not only working, going to school and getting A’s, he’s running!  He’s running a lot!  Yes, once again we have a year of races already scheduled.  I hope to be able to start training, very soon now.  It will be another “start over”, but I’m determined.  I won’t give up!

So this pretty new hobby has not only made us fit, but it’s taken us to new places.  We learned that we can physically do much more than we ever thought we could!  We’ve been challenged and learned that we are mentally and emotionally stronger than we ever thought.  Our friends have been inspired to become more fit as they’ve watched us through this journey.

So why do I deserve to go to Australia?  I don’t feel I “deserve” anything, but I am grateful for everything.  I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and so has my husband.  How awesome would it be to be able to surprise my husband with a trip to Australia!  Not only would I want to go there.  I want to run there, together!  So, like the little donkey jumping up and down on Shrek, picture me.  I’m jumping up and down saying, “Pick me, Ellen!  Pick me!”

P.S.  Talk about inspiring, I’m inspired every time I watch your show!  I love the things you do for others!  It’s totally amazing and you’re awesome!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

I have a little update to the story since I wrote it.  I did see the Physical Therapist the same day I wrote that story.  He said that my neck feels much better and he gave the ok to start running again!  I have to be patient and take it slow and easy, but I hit the road for the first time yesterday and it was great!  I felt like a giddy little kid when I got home!  Coach gave me a new schedule.  He’d rather play it safe than be sorry, but he said he’s going to make me a machine.  This old lady, “a machine”!  Awesome!

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!