Category Archives: Running

Small Steps

One of the things I’ve learned on my fitness journey is: you can’t change everything all at once and hope to be successful. You can try, but usually all the changes are so overwhelming that you’re left with frustration and disappointment when you can’t meet all your goals. And when that happens you just give up. Instead, deciding to change one thing or committing to add one thing at a time to your routine until it is a habit yields far better and lasting results.  Struggle with making poor food choices? Take it a meal at a time. Want to exercise more? Add one thing at a time with small goals that increase over time. Never worked out before? Just start moving more and then try a lot of different things until you find what you like to do.

Personally, I love looking back at where I’ve been and where I am now and seeing a huge difference. My own journey was more of an evolution than a radical change in my daily activities. Remember three years ago when I decided I liked running and then I had run a half marathon and three Ragnar relays within the span of two years? It all started with getting off the couch and walking until I could run and then systematically increasing how much running I did until I was capable of whatever I wanted. The same has been true of yoga. A year ago I “liked” yoga but didn’t practice more than once or twice a year. Sure I loved it when I did it but it wasn’t a weekly or even monthly habit. Now I practice four times a week – sometimes more – and am capable of so many things that I thought I would never be able to do like back bends, splits, arm balances and (almost) a headstand.

As much as I have loved my journey, until now I have not had the best of both worlds. I started my weekly yoga practice only a few months before I had to completely give up running because of my health issues. Yoga kept me sane and grounded (and active) while I couldn’t run and in the process I realized I loved yoga more than I ever had loved running. Or so I thought. Now my health is pretty much back to normal and I have been talking about adding running back in purely for the cardiovascular benefits. After a year of not running, I’ve completely gotten out of the habit; not to mention lost all my cardio capacity I had developed. Plus I have two kids with dance schedules now so juggling WHEN to run has gotten harder. I let that hard part stop me for a few weeks and finally decided that I just needed to do it. After all, the longer I waited the harder it was going to be to get back to where I was before I had to quit.

Yesterday, I went for a 3-mile walk/run (which was way more walking than anything) like I used to do every Sunday. I took my trusty running companion with me – my beloved elkhound – and picked a familiar route I used to run regularly. It starts with a challenging uphill and finishes with a rewarding downhill. It was amazing to be outside in the sunshine in my favorite running temperature (between 36-40 degrees). But what I didn’t expect was the emotional response when I rounded the bend to start the downhill. The vista of the Salt Lake valley and the Rocky Mountains rising in the distance hit me – almost physically. I have trained with that view of my mountains for every long-distance race I’ve ever run. I was home again whether I was running or walking. Most surprisingly, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed it until I was back. Not going to lie, I cried most of the way down the hill – almost a mile – but they were truly tears of joy.

Whether I can fit more than a Sunday run into my fitness routine right now doesn’t matter. Sundays are again run days. And once that has become a habit, I’ll tackle finding another established time for an additional run. Will it be the gym, at work, during the evenings or early mornings? I don’t know yet. I just know that small steps will eventually get me to my goal like every other time before. Maybe someday soon my personal label of “Writer, Runner, Overachiever” will be completely true once again.

Celebrating non scale victories

I’ve talked before about how the number on the scale is just that – a number. And my favorite proof of how my fitness level and body are improving is in how my pants fit. I follow a fitness blogger on Facebook who calls these things ‘non scale victories’ and talks about how important they are to celebrate.

I feel like my head was removed from my ass a fog has lifted now that my attitude about my health is back to a normal and healthy one. I’ve returned from the brink where I wallowed in crap I can’t change and am focused again on being fit and healthy; measuring my successes rather than just surviving every day. My routine for years has been to track scale weight as well as measurements so I can go back and compare progress and where I was at each different point in my weight loss and fitness journey. Probably no surprise that I haven’t done measurements in well over a year. I struggled with massive water retention and swelling in the beginning of all my kidney issues and didn’t really want to see the stark numbers of how all my efforts had been negated. I could feel it in the pants and knew how bad it was.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to suck it up and do measurements. If nothing else they could serve as a brand new starting point where I couldn’t go anywhere except up from. Interestingly enough, I’m actually the same size I was right before I ran my last Ragnar over a year and a half ago. Really?! Another reason I love yoga! Without even realizing it I’ve lost all that extra nasty swelling and water weight and kept it off even without running for a year.

Already feeling pretty good about myself, a few days ago I was enjoying the crispness of a fall afternoon and needed a hoodie. I hadn’t done laundry and there weren’t many options available in the closet. Then I noticed this adorable, maroon, lightweight hoodie hanging there, beckoning me. I’d forgotten all about this beauty. I bought it to commemorate my last Ragnar – me and the rest of the thousands since they were out of my size. At the time I was determined not to need the bigger size ever again so I bought the smaller size and told myself it would be great motivation. Because I had so recently been surprised, I pulled it out on a whim and put it on.

Holy shit, it fits!!!

I danced around in my closet jumping in joy and excitement for a good minute – then looked in the mirror to survey just how well it fit. That little bitchy voice in the back of my head was saying ‘just because you can zip it up doesn’t mean it is worthy of leaving this closet’. But it looked great and I wore that thing for two days loving every minute of knowing it was a victory just to feel confident enough to leave the closet.

I’ve decided these non scale victories are even sweeter than the number on the scale getting smaller. After all, no one but me gets to know or see that number but everyone can see how cute I look in my hoodie! Here’s to more victories in the near future. And if you aren’t looking for ways to celebrate progress, start noticing. It is far easier to stay motivated to do the hard work of being healthy when you are seeing positive results no matter how small.

Today in other news

I just had the best weekend! I’m not sure if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy I’m living through or just a random coincidence but I’m feeling so great. Like I-almost-forgot-how-normal-life-feels great. Being present in every moment is a big theme for me now both because my brush with death put a different value on each moment there is and because there is so much about being present in the moment when practicing yoga. When a pose gets hard, you focus on just your breathing and let everything go while your muscles scream and that little voice in your head tells you it is time to be done with this pose thank you very much. Because of my awareness I find it easy to see trends within my own experience especially when they start to shift.

My amazing weekend started Friday night. I’m not sure if it was partly due to the large quantities of coffee I consumed Friday or just how good I felt but we watched two movies late in the evening and I only fell asleep halfway through the last one because it sucked and it was after one in the morning. I had to get up early for a blood draw Saturday so why force it for a lame movie?

Saturday I had some alone time while Hubby took the girls on a little Daddy-Daughter adventure and I filled it with shopping for groceries which morphed into deep cleaning my refrigerator before I could put things away. This was one of those chores that easily has fallen for the last year under the category of ‘beyond the daily necessity’ and therefore largely and very effectively ignored. As a result, I had all these random things that had accumulated on the rear half of most of the shelves with no room for the basics that come and go on a weekly rotation. How many open and half-used taco sauce bottles or jars of jam does one person need? And why can’t they sell plum sauce in single-use size jars since that’s the only size I am ever going to need? It felt so good to do something I know I wouldn’t have had the energy for just a week ago and still feel like I could keep going.

All of these little things were nice but still kind of UN-noteworthy until Sunday morning rolled around. Even though I’d worked hard all day and was up late Saturday night to pick Big Sister up from a late birthday party, I woke up early. The first thought in my head was about going for a run walk and wondering if it was raining or if I had time to squeeze it in with everything planned for the day. I haven’t awoken with thoughts about running in any form since probably January! Unfortunately it was pouring rain so I decided coffee was a better choice. But the fact that the thought was there was noteworthy.

Sunday’s to-do list included two things and two things only: 1) Clean the house; and 2) Big Sister’s Birthday Party. What this translates to is do all the dishes not just the ones that fit into the dishwasher, clear off all the crap that accumulates on the kitchen table over the course of the days and weeks of comings and goings and vacuum the floors if I have the energy so that my family and friends don’t know how truly slacker I am when it comes to housework lately. What actually transpired was iconic. I ended up deep cleaning the kitchen including the dreaded top of the refrigerator and moving, cleaning and de-cluttering half of the place. Things that hadn’t been touched let alone cleaned in months were discarded and others found new homes since they are no longer used regularly. But I didn’t stop there. I had so much energy and felt like I was still on such a roll that I not only vacuumed, I MOPPED the floors. And not just the high traffic areas! I moved all the furniture and rugs and everything out. Something I haven’t done full on in more months than I care to admit in public. When the party started I looked back on the fact that I had gotten up early, hadn’t sat down for more than twenty minutes for that one cup of coffee first thing and still felt like hanging out and chatting with all our family and friends well into the night.

It wasn’t just a fluke either… Today, I got up for my six AM yoga class like normal and then decided to do some upper body work with dumb bells while I was multi-tasking on a conference call this afternoon. That’s two work-outs today before working hours were done. I haven’t felt ambitious or energetic enough for that since before the Las Vegas Ragnar  in 2011 when I was running and lifting weights six days a week!

One could argue that none of these things by themselves are earth-shattering or even truly significant. But for me they add up to proof I’m feeling better and headed back to the land of living, fit people. What kind of things do you do everyday that give you the same sense of being alive and well or do you even notice these kinds of things? If you don’t find yourself present in every moment of your day, you really should try it. You’d be amazed at what you can see when you’re looking…

Being Healthy

First, an update on my pity party pit stop. It is over… so don’t worry that I’m spiraling slowly downward into the depths of despair which my melodramatic last post might have indicated. The lesson I’m choosing to take away from the past two weeks of roller coaster is that I should never never never blog when I start a new drug and am still trying to adjust and find the correct dose. I’m happy to report that this new medication is actually not that bad once my body got adjusted to it and it is already working since my protein loss is down again. We all know I’m not a patient woman – as if anyone needed more proof of it.

My joint pain is basically gone. Yippee! (I even found myself running up the stairs today!)
My headaches are a thing of the past. *knock on wood*
My stomach isn’t upset anymore. Hurray!
And because of all of the above, I’m in super spirits. But that is not enough…

I had a very powerful conversation the other night that got me thinking – ironically the same night I posted about my pity party. For almost a year I’ve focused on entirely the wrong things. I say “at least I didn’t die” as if my life is a bobbie prize to all of my experiences of late. I have been so hung up on all the things that have changed within my current reality instead of embracing all the amazing things I now have the opportunity to experience and accomplish. So I can’t run anymore, who cares! Keep reading, you’ll understand what I mean.

First reality check: I love yoga probably more than I ever loved running and if I were still running I wouldn’t have the yoga practice (or the friends) that I have because I would still be trying to do both. Do I want to add some cardio back into my fitness routine? Sure. But will my life be incomplete if I’m not a full-blown runner anymore? No! Sure I have to start all over with walking before running but I already know exactly how to do that. Bonus!

Second reality check: It was pointed out to me by a niece who I rarely see but interact with on Facebook that all my photos of the last year show me far more glowing and happy than I was before all my current health experiences started. Despite how I feel day to day, my life IS better because I’m focusing on the people and things that matter the most to me rather than doing all the things that I “should” be doing instead. I gained a very healthy way of prioritizing things in my life and embracing spontaneity because I did almost die, I just haven’t been thinking about things in the same way as I’ve been living. Instead I’ve been all up in my head dwelling on all the stuff I want to change which translates into exactly what I’m talking about here. Thoughts becoming actions and actions becoming habits as they say.

Nothing hit me in the face harder than when I ran into an old friend yesterday who I haven’t seen or had contact with for over a year. We hugged and she asked me how I’ve been. The first words out of my mouth were: “I’ve been better. I’ve got kidney disease.” Seriously, Terra? That’s how you want to sum up your life and boil your existence down into one sentence? It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked away and thought about how saying that changed the entire exchange. You can’t tell by looking at me that I have any issues going on. I have yet to miss work other than for doctor visits and the like. I’ve never been hospitalized except for one weekend afternoon I spent in the ER. And I could have said ‘I’m great!’ and still be telling the truth of my life right now. Why didn’t I? Words are powerful as they say. Especially true when they are the words that little voice is constantly saying inside your own head undermining everything.

So, with my body healing and marching down the road toward remission in the next two months, I’m going to get back to BE-ing. Being present in every moment and every thought rather than dwelling on the past or how things could have been different for me. The only thing constant in the Universe is Change after all. I’ve always lived with no regrets so why start now regretting things way beyond my control? Being healthy by living everyday as a fit person who does yoga all the time and who feels amazing because there are no more excuses to be the vegetarian I always wanted to be yet never had the courage to commit to. Life is a journey full of lessons to learn and experiences to have. No one gets to pick all the things that come along on their path. It is what we make of those experiences and the meaning we attach to everything that defines how life goes for us.

Another friend shared a quote on Facebook this morning: “People wait all week for Friday; all year for summer; all life for happiness.” I don’t know who said it but I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been waiting all year for health instead of celebrating how healthy I already am. I declare NO MORE and am living in the moment committed to loving my life to the fullest, being healthy and happy above all.

Operation: Back to Fit

The last couple of weeks have been sort of an emotional roller coaster. I’m feeling back to normal day to day other than being tired and ready for bed by early evening yet now I am feeling the effects of my out of shape body and hating where I am currently with my fitness.

This morning I stepped on my Wii Fit. Although I haven’t been on it in almost two years, that little bastard hadn’t forgotten how much I used to weigh and took great pleasure in proclaiming that I now weigh thirty three more pounds than I did the last time I checked in. Thirty three. That’s a tough number to swallow for anyone I’m guessing. Because of my water retention side effect and it’s accompanying “diuretic dance” as I like to call it, I’ve been tracking my weight daily and have stabilized here for the last couple of weeks. Now that I can eat all the veggies and salad I want, it’s time to get back to my normal healthy eating which I know is one of the biggest pieces of my fitness that will be easy to see results with.

And then there is my exercise. I’ve been struggling to run again – or rather to find the will to run again. So much so that I kind of decided that maybe I wasn’t really going to be a runner anymore or at least for a little while until I can drop some of this extra weight. Running while you’re packing around an extra forty or fifty pounds is pretty painful and discouraging. But that left the question of what to do instead. I already know that whatever I’m doing I have to enjoy or else I won’t stick with it. Running and yoga are the only things I’ve ever tried that I loved and stuck with long term. After lots of brainstorming, I decided on swimming and cycling. I hear tons of people all around me touting the low-impact yet extreme cardio benefits of cycling but have never tried it and I have always loved to swim but never went to the gym to actually swim laps. It was worth a try…

I thought the Universe and the stars were aligning to point me in a solid direction toward cycling. I’ve got a friend who is selling a road bike who is the same height as me – apparently that determines the size of the bike that’s right for you. And, I’ve got another friend who is recommitting to fitness after a year of injury setbacks who is a cyclist. Knowing everything is better with a buddy, I thought it was a perfect fit to team up with her.

Last week was a fabulous week of torture and July 17th marked the inception of my current mindset which I like to think of as “Operation: Back to Fit”. Workout Buddy and I sat down Tuesday night and discussed our schedule and options and I mapped out a plan for the week:

     Monday: Yoga
     Tuesday: spin class/walking
     Wednesday: walking
     Thursday: Yoga
     Friday: lap swimming/spin class
     Saturday: cycling
     Sunday: rest

It all looks great on paper until I plug in the reality of when all of these activities were going to occur. Mornings. Now granted I’ve been getting up early for yoga at six o’clock in the morning every Monday since December and willingly agreed to add another class on Thursday morning at six thirty when summer started, but I always have several days of “sleeping late” in between to recover. The plan now is to get up early to do all of my exercise during the week. I know how amazing I feel when I start my day with physical activity but it still isn’t easy for me to drag myself out of my comfy bed when it is still dark outside. Now I’m deciding to do that every day of the week? Good lord I hope I can do it and survive the rest of my life without turning into yelling sleep-deprived mommy with my girls after work. One thing I’ve had to admit to myself is that my life is far different than it was even a year ago and fitting in my daily workouts has becoming more and more difficult. Getting up early and claiming the time before everyone else wakes up and starts demanding my time is the only way. Sigh.

Wednesday morning hadn’t yet dawned when Workout Buddy and I set out for a very brisk morning walk. Walking seemed like the easiest part of my plan before that morning and then the reality of exactly how out of shape I am became disturbingly clear. Three miles in an hour and I could barely carry on a conversation the entire way. Then there was how sore my hips and back were the rest of the day and most of the next. It was then that I really accepted that I was starting over at square one. No wonder I had been so frustrated with my efforts at running the past couple of months. It’s like starting in the middle instead of at the beginning and then wondering why you can’t finish. DUH. I guess another example of how far my head has been in the sand. But, it also motivated me to work hard so I can see the results I know will come with starting at the beginning and building my cardio endurance.

Alas, Woman cannot run on yoga alone…

I was so exhausted by Friday that when Hubby called to tell me plans were changing and he was not staying at the gym with the kids until I could get there after work to swim my laps, I was more than happy to just go home and rest up. Don’t judge. It’s my first week… (I’ll have to thank Baby Sister for her full-fledged whiny-butt show with Daddy somehow.)

Saturday morning was my first cycling adventure. I have a mountain bike that I’ve had for twenty years and probably ridden a total of under three hundred miles so it isn’t like I don’t know how to ride a bike but I’m also far from experienced. I have no gear – not even a bike helmet. And when Hubby got the bike down out of the rafters of the garage we found the shifter was broken and I had only one gear. Luckily Workout Buddy had an extra mountain bike and an extra helmet so the plan wasn’t completely derailed. I strapped on my gloves for lifting weights, dressed in my yoga gear and strapped on a pair of running shoes wondering if there were special shoes for cycling and what else I was going to need if I decided I was going to like cycling and headed out.

A quarter of a mile into the ride I was fighting the urge to throw up after struggling up a horrific hill. I knew about this hill going out, had indeed psyched myself up for it knowing it was the hardest part of the planned course. But oh my god it was worse than I ever dreamed it could be. Thinking, naively, that since that was the worst part and the rest of the course was “flat”, I pictured the next six and a half miles to be easy to moderate exertion. I was quickly disappointed in the rolling hills with very little down slopping which translated meant I had to actually pedal the whole way. I was unable to keep up with my friend’s road bike and her ten times as many gears OR catch my breath. Hard core cardio is an understatement when it comes to cycling. Overall the ride was enjoyable but only because the last half was downhill or truly flat as advertised. The chauffeured ride home after we arrived at our pickup for Bountiful Baskets helped immensely I’m sure. Workout Buddy’s husband took me and all the fruits and veggies and jam-making ingredients home while she headed out for the rest of her twenty mile planned ride.

That ride was both more fun and harder than I had ever anticipated and served to bring my thinking full circle when it comes to my fitness plans. I realized that I truly love running and have all the gear and then some to be a runner. What I don’t love is being where I am now feeling like I’m back where I first started. However, I’m not really and truly back at the beginning when I know I’m still able to run for more than thirty seconds at a time because when I did start that’s all I could do. Plus, if had lost all my cardio base I wouldn’t have had so much fun after the hill or been able to pedal for an hour without stopping. If I switch to cycling, I would be starting at the very beginning on a road I’ve never traveled before. With running, it is a road I’ve traveled successfully to three Ragnar Relays and a half marathon with countless other 5Ks and 10Ks along the way. I just need to put on my big girl panties and get going already!

This week will be even easier knowing I survived last week and have a solid plan of attack. I’ll add in swimming to see if I like it and go from there. Every journey has a beginning but that beginning isn’t a neon sign flashing in the middle of the road, it lives in our commitment to start living the way we say we want to live and celebrating the triumphs and setbacks along the way. It is a journey so here’s to the beginning of this one. Again.

My own little challenge

I’ve been looking back on my blog entries and feeling like a broken record. Could I talk about anything besides my health the last few months? Unfortunately I haven’t been writing, or running, or over achieving in any way besides staying on top of my laundry and dishes while dealing with my new crazy reality – even at work. So I decided to challenge myself to find things to blog about that had nothing to do with my health. Instead of coming up with lots of fun and entertaining things to talk about, I didn’t blog for weeks. *Sigh*

So, here’s some random thoughts and things I’m grappling with this week.

1. My lack of motivation to run again. I need a fairy godmother of running to appear and smack me upside the head with her magic wand so I can get my running mojo back. It is apparently really hard to get back into a daily workout regiment mindset after almost a year has gone by. I ran a couple of weeks ago and my calves were super crampy and my lungs have lost a few steps which had me kind of dejected. It’s one thing to assume you are basically starting from ground zero and quite another to actually see proof that you’ve lost basically everything you once had and fought so hard to develop. I’ve committed to a relay race in late August, a 5K in September and a half marathon in October with my running buddy but have yet to start whole-heartedly training. What the hell is my problem? I think part of it is emotional since my bought and paid for half marathon that was supposed to be my triumphant return to running after my pulmonary embolism came and went without me there. I cried that morning which is kind of unlike me and maybe I haven’t completely gotten over the loss. There’s nothing I hate more than admitting I can’t do something and it really got to me. Time to grab the boot straps and get my shit in gear before it’s too late.

2. Yoga. On the flip side, my yoga practice has morphed into amazing levels and makes me so happy. I was on call last night, didn’t get to bed until almost one in the morning and got paged at two, three and four (almost on the hour) but still got up in time to make my six AM class. It’s been seven months of regular practice and I can feel measurable results both in how my body feels and the things I can do. I have a very solid core that I am aware of all day long for the first time in my life. And I can do a back bend, a hand stand (against the wall, but still) and all sorts of poses I never thought possible. The best part is that I now am confident enough to do my own practice instead of having to have someone lead and tell me what to do. It was amazing to wake up in the morning of our book club overnight retreat and bust out a half hour session of yoga by the pool with two of my fellow yogini.

3. Book club pressure. It’s my turn to pick the book for my book club. The last six months flew past and where I usually voraciously read a grip of books in an attempt to find the perfect one, I find myself under the gun with not enough time to pick the way I want. I read forty five books last year and have already read almost half that many this year but when I put together my short list yesterday it was a struggle to find even nine that are remotely worthy of consideration. Of those nine, I’ve narrowed it down to only three that I feel would yield a great discussion. One I eliminated as too long to read in a month because even I balk at a mammoth of eight hundred pages when there’s a deadline to finish. Two were angst ridden young adult novels with little to discuss when I tried to make a list of topics for the group. A couple were science fiction and had great premise but again, not a lot to discuss. One was beautifully written but ultimately just a short story about a very depressing subject with nothing much to discuss beyond the big reveal at the end. What I’m left with is a beach-read romance with a twist that I fear is ultimately filled with cliche that people won’t find enjoyable enough to discuss, a post-apocalypse tale that overall is grim but gives a ton of discussion, and a Pulitzer prize winner that I fear is far too controversial for my group as a whole. This last one I have wanted to pick for several years and still finds its way onto my short list. Going into this year I just KNEW it was going to be the year. And then we’ve read several very controversial books that pushed the envelope of the group already and do I really want to pile on yet another book that people will either hate dragging themselves through or will simply choose not to read because they really want something light and happy? Oh the pressure of picking the book for discussion! No one is arguing that I might put a tad too much thought and analysis into picking but that is kind of the norm for my amazing book club.

Wow, it can be done! Here’s to much more to talk about in the coming months other than my health.

Race Archive 2012

Another aspect of my life summed up and recapped for another year.  This aspect did not live up to my overachiever, make-each-year-better expectations for myself but it is what it is.  This was a regroup and recover from injury year for me that was unfortunately cut short due to that pesky pulmonary embolism but I still accomplished almost everything I set out to do.

Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back
June 15-16, 2012
200 miles Logan to Park City
personal mileage: 13 miles
*worst Ragnar ever in record heat and first one without Hubby due to his injury – I hate running in summer heat!

Salt Lake Half Marathon & Relay
Sept 1, 2012
3-woman relay team
personal mileage: 6 miles

Big Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon
Sept 22, 2012
*sold out before I could register 😦

SoJo 5K
Oct 20, 2012
*ran this one WITH a pulmonary embolism – and still won my division! Worst three miles I’ve ever run in my entire life.

According to Nike+ which is still my favorite way to track my running, I ran one hundred and fifty miles this year.  And I know that many of those miles are actually walking at work since after Ragnar I didn’t do much running to train for the races that I did.  Plus, I chalked up basically zero running in November and December when I was recovering from the “glad you didn’t die” episode.  Compared to five hundred miles last year and three hundred the year before that, maybe I know what I gave up in order to read more in 2012 and more importantly why I went into 2012 barely able to run again after injuring myself.  I still love to run and don’t need to do races or rack up the most mileage to know just how much.  As I grow older and more introspective, I have come to realize that I run for me and the way it makes me feel and not for what other people think of me when I do it.

I’ve also learned this year that after the hype is over and I’ve done a race once (or more) that I need different goals to keep myself motivated.  Hubby and I are skipping Ragnars entirely in 2013 and I’m biting off a little more achievable goals for myself.  The only goal on the horizon is a half marathon six months from now with plenty of time to prepare slowly so no more injuries!  2013 will be a year of improving my overall health and doing as much running as I can.  It won’t be hard to improve after the crazy year 2012 was, that’s for certain.

Two weeks later

Let me start by stating that unprovoked clots in your lungs – meaning there is no cause that can explain their presence – is truly a shitty deal.  I am the girl who wants answers to everything.  The girl who disassembled my curling iron in high school because I wanted to know how it worked.  The girl who needs to know everything about everything so I can project plan the shit out of it then make appropriate entries into my calendar like marching orders to follow precisely.  How else can I accomplish everything I ever want to in life? Not knowing where we go from here is truly fucking with my brain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Immediately following my diagnosis I was focused on getting from day to day.  The shock of almost dying was surreal and I still don’t really know how I feel about how close I could have been.  My first goal was getting my anti-coagulation established.  Those super expensive injections I had to give myself twice a day hurt like hell and my first personal aspiration was to quit having to take them.  Which meant my INR test had to be above a 2.0.  Three times a week I stop in at my doctors for a finger prick to test this.  The day after diagnosis, I was .9.  A week and a half later I was above two after once having to increase my daily dose of Coumadin.  Finally no more shots!  That same week and a half had me feeling better with a bit more spring in my step every day.  Two days post diagnosis I couldn’t walk through Scheels without needing a bench to rest.  But, two weeks later, I went for my first run.  I could only run a couple of minutes at a time with stretches of walking in between but it felt like I was running my first race and accomplishing a personal record.  The smile on my face was ear to ear.  This was irrefutable evidence that the clots in my lungs are disappearing and I’m almost all better.

Now let’s talk about Coumadin and what it means to be anti-coagulated.  It sucks hairy-ass monkey balls.  I’m a bleeder now who bruises easily.  That hangnail I absently picked at during a meeting?  Oh, don’t mind me with blood dripping off my finger.  No, officer, my husband doesn’t beat me, I just ran into the bar stool someone left pulled halfway out and I’m anti-coagulated.  All those other bruises?  Yeah, I have no idea how they got there but I swear no one is beating me. Worse than all that is the dietary restrictions.  I can’t eat leafy green vegetables?  No spinach?  No lettuce?  No broccoli? No asparagus?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Do you know how hard it is to take a brain that is wired for nutrition and real food and then suddenly you can’t eat it?  At least three times in the last week I’ve gone to bite into a delicious meal only to realize it had something in it I can’t eat.  Thank god I didn’t have to alter anything about my coffee habits.  Had that happened on top of everything else I might be murderous rather than just bitchy.

Which brings us to the shitty deal I’m facing now that I’m out of the woods and getting back to my normal activity levels:  There is no end in sight for the Coumadin.  When I tried to nail down my doctor with a time frame to expect this to continue he said “at least six months but more likely longer.”  So now I’ll be a runner who can’t eat her veggies and who might bleed out if she doesn’t check her clotting factor twice a week and gets a bruise.  Ain’t that just grand.  And why?  Because no one knows exactly what caused my blood clots in the first place.  Even though I was taking birth control after the age of 35 which actually states it can increase the risk for exactly this to happen.  On the bright side, I can run again.  Oh, and I hit my deductible on my high deductible healthcare plan so now I can get that IUD that I couldn’t afford to pay for out of pocket and which started this whole fucking mess for free.  At least I can still run…

It’s like riding a bike – only you need to practice

I finished my second race of the year yesterday.  I have a great friend who is a brand new runner and needed a 5K for her first race this weekend to coincide with her chosen training plan.  The only race she could find was a half marathon relay.  So she recruited her daughter and I to run the other two legs leaving her with the final 5K leg into the finish.  It worked out perfectly for me.  We called the team “Two Old Ladies and a Ringer”.  Her daughter – being the ringer at 21 and a serious athlete – ran the first 4 miles all up a canyon.  I ran the next 6 miles down the other side of the canyon.  It was a great run even though I hadn’t trained hard.  Sometimes just getting out there is all that matters.  It was all downhill and a distance I know I am capable of running so I wasn’t stressed that the two weeks before had been a whirlwind and I hadn’t been able to stick completely to my weekly workout schedule.

I was all alone with my thoughts and the tunes on my iPhone, surrounded by the changing leaves of fall in northern Utah and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.  Did I wish I had more time to devote to running so I could have gone faster? Yes.  Did I revel in the fact that I was still capable of ‘riding’ this particular bike because I had been doing what I can whenever I can to keep in shape?  Yes.  Did I find an analogy to make in order to compare this to my writing?  Of course!

Hubby and I took our girls camping a couple of weeks ago and I persuaded him to trek into the woods alone with the kids and the dog so I could have at least an hour of uninterrupted writing time. He fell for it – further proof that he loves me – and I sat down and dusted off my manuscript that I still haven’t finished from NaNoWriMo last year.  I read the last chapter so I could remember exactly where I’d left my characters and started writing.  Amazingly enough, I was still writing when the hikers returned two hours later.  I’d taken myself from the end of the middle to the climax of the ending.  And there are only a couple of ‘holes’ in the middle where its still a little muddy with placeholder statements of “this is what happens here” left to fill in.  Perhaps I’ll get this draft complete and pick up the editing process where I got mired down before November yet! 

The current lesson here: writing is an ongoing process of getting on the bike but you have to keep getting on it to get any better at it.  It’s not a new lesson, just a different way of looking at it for me.  I’ve also learned that in my own writing process I have to finish getting the story down before I can start editing.  And, much like my exercise plan, I have to squeeze writing into my insanely busy life wherever I can in order to keep myself progressing forward.  Someday when both of my kids are in school (and perhaps Big Sister is driving herself to dance) I’ll still be writing and be better at it than I am now.  And I’ll look back on this part and know how much it was all worth it to stick with it.

The Olympics through new eyes

The Olympic Games happen every four years.  And every four years, since I was a small child sitting on the couch next to my mom cheering for gymnastics and following the swimming with my dad who was a swimmer in high school, nothing much has changed for me whenever they roll around.  Until this year.

I still watch – with my own children sitting next to me now – cheering on the women’s gymnastics team and hoping they win gold; cheering and appreciating amazing performances from top gymnasts from all over the world; cheering on our swimming team; watching the diving; watching volleyball in all its forms; and being fascinated with glimpses of other not-so-popular sports when there is prime time coverage.  But this year something has changed.

This year, I’m also watching track and field events.

Four years ago, I was not a runner.  Four years ago, I was overweight and unhappy with my life.  Four years ago the only thing I didn’t watch in the summer Games was the track and field.  I even remember being irritated with Hubby who ran track in high school wanting to watch.

Now, I’m a runner. And I can’t get enough of watching the amazing athletes.  And I’m answering questions and correcting the misconceptions from my daughter about ‘why they are running so slow’ because it’s fifteen hundred meters instead of one hundred.  I’m appreciating the difference between a sprint, a middle distance and a long distance and am inspired and awed by those who do multiple events.

I guess one could extrapolate from this that it only takes four years to fundamentally change your life.  Thank god I have the Olympics to measure the distance I’ve come from that other girl who ran the corners and walked the straights hoping just to pass the required mile in P.E. class in junior high.  The one who took dance the next year so I wouldn’t have to run.  Who drove aimlessly through parking lots as an adult looking for the closest spot so I wouldn’t have to walk so far.  I like my new life and how I feel and appreciate how much effort it has taken me to get here from there.  I’m strong.  I’m fit.  And that makes me powerful.  And although my body isn’t perfectly chiseled, and there are always setbacks along the way that constantly test my will, I’m still active and I’m still a runner.  That fact alone means I will live longer and feel better than that old girl I used to be.  More Olympics to watch that way, too!

Go with the flow, bitch!

I am a control freak.  It’s no secret nor is it some earth-shattering revelation.  But I’m learning to recognize situations where I can’t control losing control.  Like this week, for example.  I’ve just started a protracted training schedule for a half marathon that I only have ten weeks to prepare for and can’t afford to slack on.  AT ALL.  I’ve finally found a cross-training cardio workout that I enjoy enough that I want to get out of bed for in the morning – on the weekend even.  And what happens?  I come down with a stomach bug. 

It started Monday afternoon and instead of getting to go to my Monday night gym class, I writhed in pain on the couch all night.  I suffered all day Tuesday.  Even more horrid because Tuesday was the Utah Pioneer Day holiday and I had the entire day off to fit my run into at leisure.  I was so sick that I laid around all morning so I could muster the strength to smiled through the pain long enough to hang out with the neighbors for a few hours.  No run for me that day.  I had a full day of meetings in the office on Wednesday and powered through them all, visually suffering enough that my co-workers told me repeatedly that I should go home.  Thank god for work from home Thursdays that I spent on the couch.   I’m almost feeling back to normal today with only a few minor abdominal pains remaining.  I woke up with high hopes that I could run.  Packed my gym back and dragged it with me to work this morning and everything.  But, alas, did not feel up for it still this afternoon. 

The control freak in me is seriously freaking out that I cannot afford to lose an entire week of training. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND – AN ENTIRE WEEK!  The zen girl who is starting to emerge at random times has her by the throat shouting “suck it up, bitch and go with the flow.  It is what it is!”  I like to call that zen girl, my inner runner.  The one who exists now only because I run.  What an oxymoron.  My inner runner telling my inner control freak to quick freaking out that I can’t run…  Wrap your brain around that one!

A pause to reset

What’s the best thing when you’re in a funk with a broken give-a-damn?  A ten-day vacation where most of the time you are off the grid and completely unplugged from everyday life.  Hubby and I took the girls to Montana for the Fourth of July holiday.  It was exactly what I needed and started the process of returning to my old new self.  After four days of river rafting, a day of boating and a whole lot of relaxing I was almost back to feeling normal again.

When we got back, I committed myself to training for a half-marathon in the fall.  My thought process is that if I don’t have anything looming that could kill me without training, I won’t force myself to train.  There are a couple in the Sept/October time frame that look like I could do them fun so I counted the weeks between now and then.  (So I’d know the last possible minute I could hold off training and still have enough time.)  The first one is only 10 weeks away.  That is not a lot of time considering most half-marathon training plans are 12 weeks.  YIKES!  So, I started looking at training programs and getting my mind focused on regular running again.  Since I haven’t run a step – unless you count that sprint in the rain from the store to the car – since Ragnar a month ago.

Meanwhile, I have a good friend who recently joined the same gym I go to.  She has a completely different schedule as me so she goes during the day and I’m an evenings and weekend girl – when I have time to go.  We were talking and comparing gym stories.  She’s a group fitness girl, I’m a loner.  She has a favorite class and I love yoga – which is the only group fitness I do – which both occur on Saturday mornings.  That’s the one day a week we could both go.  I told her I’d try out hydro training if she’d go with me to yoga and try it.  Our schedules finally lined up yesterday to allow a 4-hour trip to the gym so we did it.  I got up at 7:00 – that’s AM! – and was at the gym in the pool by  8:00.  Guess what?  I LOVE Hydro Training.  It is basically hard core aerobic circuit training in the pool.  And according to the instructor will never make me have sore muscles because the lactic acid doesn’t have a chance to build up since the movement of the water massages it away.  Amazing.  I have found my favorite cross-training activity!  After class, we warmed up in the hot tub then dried off in the sauna and changed into regular workout clothes for 75 minutes of yoga.  It was heated yoga, which I’ve never done before, and it was the hardest yoga I’ve ever done.  Nor have I ever sweat that much before.  You know it’s a workout when you have a little puddle of sweat on the floor in front of your mat AND you are sliding around in sweat where your feet go.  I should have paid attention to everyone with towels on the top and bottom of their mats…  Three hours of hard-core exercise later, I had magically started to feel back to myself.

Today I have deliciously sore muscles – I’m sure from the yoga – where every movement comes with a twinge of soreness reminding me of all my hard work.  I basked in the glow of that feeling while mapping out my new workout schedule which hopefully will mesh better with Big Sister’s new dance schedule we got yesterday after try-outs.  Four days of running, two days of cross training hydro style and a day of rest.  Only one day will be a bitch to try and fit this all into but even if one run a week doesn’t happen and the rest does I’ll be ready in twelve weeks for another half.  I do believe my give-a-damn is officially fixed!

It was wonderful and it was horrible

I survived – and finished – Ragnar Wasatch Back relay 2012.  It was amazing and wonderful on one hand, and on the other it was terrible and horrible.

The amazing and wonderful came from all the things that weren’t running – with the exception of the first half of my run in the middle of the night.  Hubby and I hand-picked our van-mates after having experienced the difference between a Ragnar with new friends you get to know better and a van full of old friends.  Hubby got hurt in late January and could not train so he bowed out a couple of months before race day.  His substitution – who we met on our Vegas team last year – luckily was as cool as he is and fit in perfectly with the vibe in the van.  It was a weekend full of laughing until our abs hurt – and laughing even more when we wondered why our abs hurt so badly.  A weekend full of my favorite word (you know, the one that starts with F and ends in uck!) spoken freely from everyone and thus no need to filter from my own mouth.  A weekend full of judging.  And whores.  I could tell you more, but what happens on Ragnar stays on Ragnar.

The terrible and horrible part sums up having to run in extreme heat when I hadn’t trained properly at all.  I’m still a hormonally imbalanced mental and emotional wreck who is carrying around an extra 10-15 pounds thanks to my injury last fall and the cursed birth control I’m still stuck on.  (Seriously, what’s the deal with men getting all freaked about letting a doctor cut open their junk and sterilize them?)  My broken give-a-damn had me down to barely running the couple of weeks before race day and it all combined with the extreme heat for a perfect storm of horrible.  We had an injury in the other van and trades happening in our van to make sure we were better positioned for the right runner on the right legs.  It was hard not to be discouraged about being one of the two non-ultra runners in our van but I was in that category with one of my best friends.  We kept each others spirits up while the other four of our van-mates ran circles around us.  I like to think it was just sheer brilliance on my part that I stacked the van with the best runners I know who could get us up and over the most narly hill Ragnar has to offer anywhere but comparing yourself to others is so innate…  The fact that there was someone capable of running the last three miles of my last run rather than make me suffer in the heat and push the entire team even further behind our scheduled finish was sheer genius on my part, right?

Looking back on the whole experience I am once again amazed at what I did when, in the moment, I didn’t think I could do any of it.  I finished with my first daytime/heat/miserable run and thought ‘I’m done, let’s just go home’.  Then my night run was in a canyon where I had spotty GPS signal so I used my UN-calibrated Nike+ iPod sensor which I luckily just always have on my running shoes.  Brilliant – or so I thought until I figured out it was feeding me such inaccurate data that I’d pushed myself too hard and too fast in the beginning to have enough left to finish strong.  The first five miles were blissful – middle of the night, cold enough I could see my breath puffing out in the light of my headlamp, DOWNHILL on a canyon road, the moon rising over the mountains.  The last two miles of that run were so hard and ended with me limping into the exchange cursing with every step – literally.  I’m pretty sure I completely ruined the innocence of that volunteer I ran past.  After that, I knew there was no way I could run again and started to worry and fret about how I was going to have to walk my entire third run – the hardest of my three because it was all uphill.  But guess what, when it was time to run again after having caught maybe two hours of sleep in little cat-nap snippets, I ran!  If it hadn’t been so hot, I would have run that whole leg.  That fact still amazes me.  Maybe that’s what Ragnar is really about – pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and finding that you’re capable of so much more than you thought you were.

Registration for next year’s race is already open and I promised Hubby we would not register a team for next year – which freaks me out whenever I think about it.  But never fear, we are still going to be Ragnarians.  Hubby and I decided to compromise.  We will do Wasatch Back every other year and do another somewhere else on the off-years.  Next year we’re planning on Northwest Passage in the Seattle area.  It might be my favorite race since the average temp for the area on race weekend is low 70’s – at sea level even.  Still hot but not hell-hot.  Why can’t they do a Ragnar somewhere when it’s only 50-60 degrees?   Now THAT would rock!!

Next up: fixing my give-a-damn so I can talk myself into another half marathon in the next year.  After all if you don’t have something to train for, it’s harder to keep pushing yourself past your comfort zone.