Hagg Lake Tri – I’m Coming For You…

FullSizeRender (35)When my husband told me to look at several race choices and pick one, as a way to celebrate my birthday weekend, there was one important piece of criteria the race had to have. It had to be an easy, relatively flat, bike course. I also didn’t feel ready for an ocean swim, so, no ocean, therefore, no sharks to worry about, was number two on my list. Weather was a lesser determining factor. Being from Arizona, cooler temperatures sounded a lot more inviting, than heat and humidity. Races in mosquito infested areas didn’t make the cut, either. Other than that, a beautiful course, nice downtown, shopping areas, good food and wine, hiking or other outdoor activities, all of those would be pluses. After looking at several races in many states and checking all of the bike courses, I settled on the Hagg Lake Triathlon. It appeared to have a few rolling hills with minimal elevation, a lake swim, cool temperatures, a beautiful race venue and it was in Oregon, one of our favorite states to visit. Portland has so many fantastic restaurants, and with wine country close by, it would be a perfect way to celebrate a birthday weekend!

We had our bikes shipped ahead of time so they would be ready for us. Race week, the weather was looking pretty rough from an Arizonan’s perspective, low 50’s and a steady rain. That’s winter in AZ. To the locals in Oregon, our gear bag contents probably looked ridiculous. We had enough layers, we might have been warm enough for snow. Race day, actually ended up being pretty near perfect though. It was in the low 60’s with cloudy skies. It looked like it would rain, but never did, and the sun actually peeked out a few times.

All of our pre-race activity went smoothly. We arrived early. Our bikes were there waiting and ready for us. Athlete’s Lounge was the sponsoring bike shop. They did a wonderful job taking care of our bikes.

IMG_6397Next was body marking. For my non-triathlete friends, body marking is when they write your race numbers on your arms and also your age on your leg. Race day was the actual day of my birthday, so for the first time this year, they wrote my true age on my leg. I remember how appalled I was when I did my first triathlon and they wrote my age on my leg! I soon realized it wasn’t so bad though, when during the race you pass people who are younger than you. It’s no big deal anymore. As they say, “Age is just a number, THEY WRITE ON YOUR LEG.”

My husband and I got our gear all set up in transition. We both noticed a lot of really nice bikes and that the field of athletes looked to be pretty experienced. Not that it was intimidating at all…  🙂

The only thing I didn’t get to do, which may have made a big difference in my race, was a FullSizeRender (37)warm up run. I have asthma and being able to run first really helps me with the breathing when I swim. Since we had to be out of the transition area early, that wasn’t going to work. Everyone was already putting on their wetsuits for the swim. We got our wetsuits on and headed down to the lake for the start of the race. We were unaware that we were allowed to do a warm up swim, but we weren’t by the lake early enough for that. At least we got a couple minutes to get in the water, which gave me a chance to be sure my goggles weren’t leaking.

Here’s where the story starts. That swim. I’ll never forget that swim. That swim made me think about not doing triathlon ever again. That swim made me think about never wanting to swim again, period! I had a triangle of three buoys to swim around. I was to do two loops. It started out ok. I choked a little, which I do from time to time. I ran into a couple people. That happens. I swallowed water. That happens, too. But by the time I was around the second buoy, the wind had kicked up the water and there were waves like none I’ve ever had to swim in before. The water was choppy. I’m used to swimming in a lake with high canyon walls, protected from wind, really. There are no boat waves, just kayaks and a few paddleboards. I’m a wuss, is what I’m saying! No matter how I turned my head to breathe, I got a mouthful of water instead of air. I choked several times. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to swim with my head up. I still couldn’t breathe. I stopped to catch my breath. I sat in the water watching  swim capped heads pass by, all seemingly unaffected by the turbulence that was causing me to lose hope that I could finish one loop, let alone, two. I rested a few times, and then tried to propel myself forward. Every time I put my face in the water, within not so many strokes, I was choking and out of breath again. I finally reached the second buoy. A boat was there and the man was yelling for me to turn, which is what I was going to do as soon as I got around the buoy. I wasn’t understanding that the wind had blown the buoy off course and I had swam farther than I needed to and he was trying to tell me I didn’t have to swim around the buoy, but could turn in toward shore sooner. Blame the slowness of understanding on lack of oxygen, maybe… There was another boat guy after the buoy. Winded to the point I felt my wetsuit choking me, I asked if I could hold on for a few minutes. I’m not sure how long I did hold on, but I did a lot of talking. I apologized for having to burp, because burping is what one has to do much of when they drink half a lake. He said he had seen worse. Poor guy. He was a good listener. I talked about quitting, about how I thought I was going to be last and how I had never quit and I didn’t want to quit, but I couldn’t breathe, and I still had another loop to swim. My stomach hurt from swallowing so much water. My wetsuit felt like it was choking me. I wanted that medal! I didn’t want to be last… Finally, he acted like it was time for me to get going. He didn’t try to influence me. He just listened and said he would be there if I needed him. So off I went toward that last buoy. It was so close to shore. I could go in and this whole horrible mess would be over with or I could go back out into the waves one more time…

IMG_0920It’s amazing how much thinking you can do under duress. I have a mug that says, “The Mind is the Athlete.” It’s so true. I had so many reasons not to finish the race. They sounded good to me at the time. Hey, breathing is a big deal! I really wanted that medal, though. When you train hard, you should get something to show for it, right!  How many people wish they had what someone else has, but they aren’t willing to do what it takes to get it? I thought about that in the water. I did NOT want to finish that swim! The only way I was going to get that medal was to stay the course, finish the race and cross that line at the end.

There was another very powerful thought that went through my mind. As I said, it was my birthday. Thanks to Facebook, my friends and family knew we we’re doing the race, so I was getting a lot of support from that. I had briefly scanned some of the posts as we were driving to the event. My mom had posted. In her post she said I was an example of courage and perseverance. Wow, the power of the words we speak! My mom’s words were power that day. No I didn’t feel courage at that moment and finishing that swim was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was going to be what my mom said I was. I rounded the third buoy and I kept swimming. If you think you’re hearing Dory singing, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming…” It’s me! I sing it all the time now.

The rest of the race, I just had to make the best I could of it. By the time I got back to transition, my bike was the last one, meaning I was the last one to get out on the bike course. The thing I feared the most, being last… I thought it would be like it has been in other races, I’d be able to make up time and pass people, but not so. The bike course that I initially chose for it’s easy rolling hills, well, I must have gotten mixed up with all the courses I had looked at. This one did not have easy rolling hills. I train on mostly flat routes because of issues with my knees, so not only was I not prepared for the hills, my knees were very unhappy with me. I also hadn’t had to use the gearing on my tri bike much, since I ride flat routes. That further complicated my race. We had to do two loops around the lake. The first loop, riders that were finishing their second loop passed me, but once I started my second loop, I was on my own on the course. It felt really lonely after a while out there in the woods. Then there was the stupid fall. It was just stupid! Of course, the support motorcycles show up out of nowhere and catch me on the ground. I did one of those things where you jump up, bush off, say I’m ok, and take off, too embarrassed to acknowledge the blood running down your leg. I was so glad when I finished that bike ride and got back to transition again. SO glad!

Many people had finished the whole race and were walking around with their medals on and packing up their gear to go home. Here I was just getting ready to start my run. I couldn’t believe it. I was really going to be LAST! I had never even come close to doing this badly in a race. Even in my first couple triathlons, at my age, I still came out around the middle of the pack for all ages on my time. Now I knew how it felt for those who do come in last, those who still have to push themselves to keep going to get across that finish line, even when they know they’ll be last. It was a horrible feeling! But I wanted that medal. I still had worked hard. I still had done the best I could with the circumstances at the time. I still had to fight to get to the finish. It was very humbling. The whole thing was, but I think I needed humbling, so that’s ok.

As it turned out, I did catch up to one other lady on the run. I wouldn’t have had to be last, if I didn’t want to be, but it sure didn’t seem worth it to pass one person and make her feel the way I knew I would have felt, so I stuck with her. We enjoyed the rest of the race and crossed the finish line together. We’re all better together, right! I do have to say, even though it was my worst race ever, the race director, the volunteers and the spectators that were left, made the finish line awesome. My husband had mentioned to one of the volunteers that it was my birthday. He told the announcer, who had called everyone back to the finish line as I was coming in. Everyone sang happy birthday to me at the finish line. Yes, I was a little embarrassed, but at the same time, it took some of the sting out of being last. And I got my medal! IMG_6415

I learned a lot from this race. I hope it’s the bad race experience that’s behind me and I’ll never live through again, but no guarantees on that. I’m glad it’s over, but at the same time. I’m glad I did it. It didn’t kill me. It did make me stronger. And Hagg Lake, I hope you can hear me. I’m coming back for you!

Thank you to Sherri McMillan and staff of Why Racing Events and all of the wonderful volunteers of the Hagg Lake Tri and Du. This is a beautiful race venue, a challenging course, and a very well run race! Everyone was awesome!

Thank you, to Don and Russell from VeloZoom, who took care of the AZ end of the bike shipping process and then Christine and Gary from Athlete’s Lounge who took care of our bike’s in Oregon!

#whyracing #whyracingevents #hagglaketri

My Why – This Triathlon Thing…

JQN_0586-(ZF-5809-28111-1-001)I realize that’s it’s been a really long time since my last post. I have lots of reasons, or should I call them excuses, maybe. Busy… yes, just like everyone else, only I’m “retired”. All of those things that I thought I would have time for – well, I’m not quite sure what happened there.  I will say, what I am doing, I do love. No it’s not all fun and games, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunities that I do have. Thank you to my hard working husband for allowing me this freedom earlier in my years than most get to have it!

About this triathlon stuff, it’s not really the fun part of my retirement. While I’m trying to keep the positive thoughts going, I have to admit that it’s not easy for me.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that injury has been a huge part of my journey in this stuff. I’m embarrassed to say that after all of this time, injury is still a part of my journey. I posted a photo journal awhile back if you want to check it out. “Coping with Injury…” I haven’t had a break from physical therapy in over a year and a half now. It’s only been about six weeks since I graduated to bi-weekly rather than weekly visits. Even with insurance though, this stuff gets expensive! Let’s not forget to mention all the appointments with the specialists that keep sending me to physical therapy!

For those who might need the nutshell scoop to catch up, here you go. Just skip this paragraph if you’ve been along for the ride. Since my husband inspired me to start this athlete type activity about four years ago now, I’ve had just about every piece and part of this body from the neck down worked on. The list includes feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, upper and lower spine, shoulders, arms, hand… The biggies that forced the cycles of extended time off followed by having to start all over again were: a stress fracture in the hip, two major abdominal surgeries, herniated disks with nerve impingement in the upper and lower spine, sciatica, a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone and bone contusions from a bike crash. Things that remain on going and cause flare ups along the kinetic chain include arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, bursitis, and tendonitis, as well as nerve pain from multiple cysts in the spine.

So really, who does this? Shouldn’t I be a poster child for something?

And then there is this thing you have to do at the very beginning of a triathlon called swimming. It’s been almost as The sky is not y limit
challenging for me as the injuries, or so it feels like it is anyway. I started taking lessons a year and a half ago and I am just now feeling like I’m starting to get it. Even still though, I feel anxiety every time I get in the pool. In the last couple months I had to start swimming in open water. That’s a whole new challenge I’m having to overcome in.

You might be thinking, “Give it up already, lady!” I admit, I do ask myself why I don’t give up. I ask it pretty often, too. So for both of us today, I’m putting it down in writing, so I can remind myself whenever I need to, why I do this.  Here goes.

  • Exercise is healthy for my body. It’s going to hurt regardless of what I do or don’t do, so why not let it hurt for my good.
  • It makes me stronger. My bumper sticker: “Strong is what’s left when you’ve used up all your weak.”WIN_20150601_130942
  • I’m happier with my appearance. Not too bad for a retired lady. My husband is happy, too!
  • It’s a way I can be good to myself.
  • I get multiple rewards from it, as you can see.
  • I get metals. I think I’ve become a metal junkie.WIN_20150601_132408
  • It gives me a goal to work toward. My first half Ironman, 70.3 miles, is in October this year.
  • It makes me mentally stronger. I have to get past the tough workouts in my mind before I can physically accomplish them. When my body says “no”, my mind says “go”.
  • I found an awesome coach who says she will never give up on me. If you’re looking for a coach, check out this bio!
  • I’ve learned I can do far more than my mind or anyone else thought I could. This is a huge reward for me.
  • I love the freedom I feel when I run and bike.
  • I get to watch the moon set and the sun rise when I’m out on my workouts.Sunrise
  • When I’m doing a workout I can meditate, refocus and regroup from whatever life is throwing my way.
  • I can sing, talk to myself and even throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Of course, I’m more apt to do these things when I’m in a deserted area.
  • It’s great stress relief. Yes, retired people still have stress.
  • I’ve made lots of new friends and they’re awesome!
  • I get lots of support and encouragement from these new friends. We’re all in this together.
  • It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • It keep me disciplined.
  • It causes me to eat healthier as I know my body needs fuel to function properly.
  • It causes me to be more sensitive about being sure to get proper sleep each night.
  • I sleep better!
  • I can reward myself with desserts on occasion and the calories don’t stick to my thighs!
  • It makes me feel younger.
  • It’s empowering.
  • My husband is proud of me. He likes the results, too.
  • It enables me to participate in a sport with my husband, giving us more time together.
  • We’ve been able to take several trips together for races. We’ve run in some beautiful places. Kona Tri Start LineSmith Rock Half MarathonMountains 2 BeachBarcelona

I’m sure there are more reasons that aren’t coming to mind right now, but you get the idea. I have many good reasons to keep doing this triathlon thing! So for now, the plan is to continue. I have days when I can’t do what I want or what’s on the schedule, but I do what I can, when I can. I am smarter about my training and recovery. I listen to my body and I do recovery in “beast mode”. I do my physical therapy exercises and stretches. I use my recovery tools – foam roller, rumble roller, PVC pipe and the stick. I ice and heat the different pieces and parts daily, sometimes multiple times. I’ve done injections, dry needling and nerve blocks. I even have a home traction unit and I use it!

My why? Because it’s worth it! I’m worth it!

I’ve been told from time to time, that I’m an inspiration. I’ve been inspired by others at times, but it’s usually an emotional reaction, not inspiration that moves me. I might be mentally stimulated to “feel, but the best kind of inspiration for me is inspiration that moves me to do, to act. My husband inspired me to start running. The joy and enthusiasm he had moved me to action.

Maybe you read my list and saw things that you would like for yourself. How often do we see what someone else has and we want it, but never take the steps necessary to get there. We have reasons, or are they excuses, as to why we can’t do the same. This can apply to many things in our lives.

Running 1There is nothing amazing or inspiring about me. I’m just like you. I have bad days, I have disappointments, issues, and times I don’t want to work out or don’t feel like working out. So how did I get here? One day at a time, one workout at a time. I overcame each negative thought, one at a time. I overcame each injury, each setback, one at a time. Each step in the right direction gets me closer to where I want to be. Progress is often slow, but slow progress is still progress.

What’s your goal? What’s that big thing you want for yourself, that change you need to make? What’s stopping you? If I can do it, you can do it, too. Anybody can do it! So why not take that first step? Take it now before you change your mind!Do it NowJust do it

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!

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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!

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!

Patience Makes Perfect

christmas-cactus“Tis the season!”  That’s been my response to people who wear “impatience” on their face this holiday season.  You’ve all seen it and I think all of us would freely admit that we’ve felt more than a little impatient already this season.  We have multiple opportunities to practice patience as we maneuver the obstacles in grocery store aisles, stand in the department store lines and practically risk our lives to find a parking spot.

I’ve got more than the holiday season to be impatient about right now.  If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that I’ve been trying to train to run a marathon for over a year now.  I’m frustrated and impatient about that, too.  It seems that as soon as I start to recover from one injury or issue with my body, a new one emerges.  I’ve had physical therapy for just about every body part from the waist down now over the last year and a half.  I’m beginning to wonder if I should ask for my name to be inscribed on one of the bricks in the wall at the physical therapy office.  Certainly, my Therapist must be tired of seeing me walk in that door, too, in spite of my financial contribution to his lively hood!

PHX HalfJust this past weekend, I was finally able to run six miles for the first time in a couple months because I’ve been recovering from a knee injury.  This morning I went out to run and within the first five minutes I had hip pain that felt similar to pain I experienced last spring.  That was a stress fracture that put me out of commission for a couple months.  I didn’t want to risk another couple months off, so I decided to give myself today off from running.  My coach schedules my workouts each day and he is trying to do all he can to keep me injury free.  I’m afraid to tell him about yet another pain.  Certainly, my Coach must be getting tired of all of this!  Could he be secretly wishing I would just give up???

I texted my husband and told him why I had to skip the run this morning.  No response…  I just picture him shaking his head and imagine him thinking, “Not again”!  If he isn’t getting tired of the injuries, he certainly had got to be getting tired of all the co-pays!  I know I am!

Maybe even you, my readers are getting impatient with me, thinking the same things that the rest might be…

Maybe you can’t relate to my reasons for feeling impatient, but you know what I’m talking about.  We get impatient over many things, most often; they’re situations beyond our control.  Things as trivial as another’s bad driving habits or waiting in rush hour traffic might make your blood boil.  Waiting on hold for customer service or to speak to a real person about your need can be terribly frustrating.  Worse yet, situations involving waiting for others to change or to act on something that will have an impact on your life, seem to drag on forever!  Have you noticed a pattern here?  These are all situations that we have no control over, but they require us to practice patience.

Frankly, I hate the fact that I have to practice patience!  How many times have our parents said the phrase to us, “practice makes perfect”.   I’ve had to be patient all my life and that represents years’ worth of practice!  Really now, how long should “perfect” take!  And besides, why should I have to be patient because something else or someone else is not doing whatever it is that they are supposed to be doing?  Why should I have to be affected by another’s action or inactions?  It just doesn’t seem fair!

The reality is that all my ranting, raving and rebelling will do nothing to change the fact that I will have many more opportunities ahead where my patience will be required.  My stress, frustration and anger will only be heightened by allowing my emotions to be involved in these situations that are beyond my control.  The fact is, the best way I know how to face these things is to roll through and keep smiling as I do it.   It’s not easy, that’s why it’s something we have to practice over and over and over…  It’s like a snowball that frostystarts out small.  As it rolls along, it gets bigger and bigger.  The more you practice patience, the bigger it gets.  Before you know it, you’ve made yourself a friend from your snow and you’ve named it Frosty.  Of course, me living in Arizona, we don’t have snow in our forecast, so the best I can do is make dust bunnies.  We have plenty of dust here!

No, you won’t ever reach perfect by practicing patience in this life, but you will arrive at the end of your run, a lot less stressed and you will be the bigger, better person because of it.  This life is much like a marathon.  It’s not easy and involves much training, many setbacks, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  It requires patient endurance, persistence and a “never give up” attitude to make it through.  I may not be running on the road today, which makes me sad, but the ultimate goal is to complete the marathon.  The only way I can do that is by being patient.  I need to let my body heal.  I have to trust that patience makes perfect and that I will be when I cross that big finish line!