Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Turning 40

In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
**Edith Wharton**

Wow, 40, what a concept! I'm still a young pup to those older than me, and an old lady to those younger. The population around me seems to be split evenly between the two.

My 30's were such a shocking decade to me. I have watched my two daughters grow from babies to young women. I have faced RA and overcome it as an obstacle in my life, and finished my Bachelorette. I've lost my grandparents and been abandoned by a sister and a father, but I have deepened the relationship with the family in my life. I've grown up and grown stronger. I feel ready for the next decade and whatever it brings, but I'm a little scared too. Now I know about the great curveballs that life can toss out and that it is not easy to knock them out of the ball park. I've lost much of the bravado of youth, that false confidence that you can often fool the world with, and sometimes yourself. It has been replaced with true confidence, the kind that comes from real success and not just the belief that I can succeed.

I listened to a book recently, (I love books on MP3,) called 5 Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die. What struck me about the book was not the secrets, because they are pretty obvious, but that they found they needed to pose their interview questions to people over 60. It seemed that before one reaches 60, time is rarely taken to reflect on life. I think that is where runners have an advantage. There are probably other fitness activities that provide time alone to reflect, but running is generally slow, (compared to biking,) and more often than not, solitary. For me it is hard to dwell on negatives when I run. If I do, I tend to run too fast and wear myself out, and then the endorphins kick in and I get over my negative mood. RA gave me the incentive to reflect, running gives me the time to reflect. I think most people reflect after 60 because they find themselves retired with time on their hands. The kids are grown and pressing needs just don't seem so pressing anymore. To achieve this earlier in life takes some sort of jarring event like an illness or accident, either to yourself or someone close to you. This is why I can never look on RA as a disaster; it has inspired me to do so much and enabled me to become so strong, much sooner than I would have otherwise. I would never wish bad events on the people, but I think we need them sometimes to remind us of the important points in life. Family, friends, love, and fun, need to be on our minds far more often than rivals, obstacles, and irritations.

I used to hate the timing of my birthday, but now I see the value in cracking open a fresh new calendar and having it also signal a new age too. I'm rolling into 2009 with a whole new decade ahead of me! There are a few things I know will probably happen in the next decade. I'll wave good bye to my daughters as they go off to college and enter the world as grown ups, we will retire from the military, and we will change houses again and again. What will I learn, what will I accomplish, where will I go? It is all ahead of me and how much joy I find is all up to me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happiness is Being Grateful to be Alive

"I would have been afraid, except that I was so grateful to be alive." **Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum**

We often see great people on television, or read about them in news papers and magazines, and we can't help but ask, "What made that person so great?" It is the ultimate question. What is it that holds one person back and gives another one wings?
Last night I met a woman I consider a hero. If I hadn't known who she was, I would never have guessed. She is thin and somewhat plain, in that she wore no make-up and had her long straight hair up in a clip, and she wore a neat blazer with a lapel pin that said, "Army," in crystals. Despite her unassuming appearance, there was an unmistakable intensity about her; she does nothing lightly. Most people have dogs, but she breeds Gordon Setters. Most people in the military run, but she has run half and full marathons. There are many women in the military, but few have attained the rank of Brigadier General, or been prisoners of war. Of course, over small talk at a Christmas party, one can hardly delve into someones psyche to learn what drives and motivates them, but you can get an impression of their personality, and the impression I got from General Cornum was this: Excuses are not in her vocabulary.
We talked about running and she admitted that she never considered it until she joined the Army. However, once she started running, the migraine headaches that had plagued her for years vanished. That was enough reason for her to keep running as long as her feet would carry her. Now when she runs she plans surgeries, speeches, reports, whatever is occupying her mind that needs sorting. This is the real duality of exercise. To someone that does not exercise, there isn't time. They are quite sure they could never come up with a free hour each day to devote to physical training. To someone that does exercise, it is an invaluable stretch of time in which they plan, dream, and reenergize themselves to conquer the conundrums of the day.
Everyone can come up with excuses for why they can't exercise: "I don't have time," "I have an injury, an illness, responsibilities..." Excuses are like blades of grass, all we have to do reach down and pluck one, or two, or a handful, as many as we need to keep from doing something we don't really want to do, or we can look up instead, and step on them all. We can stroll across them with our feet bare, feeling their presence and knowing we have risen above and moved on. Rhonda Cornum could have given in to excuses and no one would have faulted her. She could have turned down the mission that brought her into the public eye, (she herself wrote the mission plan that placed her in harm's way,) she could have given up when her helicopter crashed and her friends died around her. She could have given up when she was being brutalized by Iraqi soldiers, pulled to her feet by her broken arms, abused, and terrified. She could have retired years ago, with a successful career behind her and rested, but she hasn't. Instead she pushes forward, on to each new assignment with a strength gained through adversity and tenacity. She could have given up running. After all, she had suffered serious injuries including torn knee ligaments and a bullet in her back, but the pain of rehab was temporary and she knows the benefits of moving forward last a life time. As a Brigadier General she is surely busier than the average person, yet she makes time for her physical well being and hits the ground running.
Scary things happen to people. Car crashes, cancer, disasters, chronic illnesses, and endless other dangers threaten to steal our lives, but when they don't and we survive to see the sun rise on a new day, we must rejoice in the opportunity to live. We must be so focused on the gifts of life that it overcomes the fear of failure, pain, and the weariness of starting over yet again, and let them push us forward to our own version of success. We all have adversity in our lives. It is what we do with that adversity that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.
When I first felt the effects of a full blown RA flare, I was terrified. Now that I know I have survived it, that it is treatable and I can still do all the things I most want in life, I no longer have time to be afraid of the scary things the future might hold. I could be afraid, (what if my medication stops working, what if it causes cancer, what if...), but I'm too grateful to be alive!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

At the foot of the hill, looking up.

I've started Hal Higdon's novice half marathon training plan and am trying to start off slow. I need to NOT run so hard and fast that I wipe myself out too much for the next day's training. So today, I ran 4 very very very slow miles. It took almost 55 minutes to cover the 4 miles, but I did it running the whole way. It aggravates me that keeping my heart rate at 65% max means over 13 minutes per mile, but I know if I keep at it, that time will decrease. I know from my race a week ago that I can run for 30 minutes with my heart in the red zone, but that it will take me days to recover and probably isn't the healthiest thing to do on a regular basis.

Hal's novice half is a 12 week training plan, but I've started 15 weeks out so I can repeat weeks if necessary, and not feel too guilty about taking a week off for vacation in a couple of months. My longest training run will be 10 miles and I'm actually looking forward to it. I've covered 10 miles before, but always with mostly walking so I didn't count it as a run. Really, if you count miles mostly walked, I'm pretty sure I've done sight seeing marathons with the only running being what was needed to catch a subway train :-)

I dream of running a marathon one day, but first I need to conquer the half, and maybe another length in between. Patience is not my strong point. The real highlight for today was, as I was running, nearing the half way mark, a startling flash of bright lapis blue streaked past my eyes. I watched it until it stopped and the vision of a bright blue bird lit on a near by branch. I thought, this is the real reason to run outside on a cold day, to see wonderful things I would never catch site of if I stayed inside.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

If we all did the things we were capable of, we would astound ourselves.

"If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves."
**Thomas Edison**

I DID IT!!!! I ran the 5K in less than 30 minutes!!

The weather was gorgeous, but cool, and I got there way too early so I sat in my car for a while, picked up everyone's packets and walked around. Of the three people that were going to run with me, 2 bailed out sick, but I still had hopes for one running buddy.

I headed for the start line with the crowd. Thankfully the walkers had a start 15 minutes later so I wasn't worried about dodging people. 30 seconds before the countdown clock hit 0:00 my buddy called to say she was still about 5 minutes away and could I leave her chip and number with someone. EEEKKKK! I told her it was too late for me to get out of line and with 2 seconds left I said, "Catch up with me," and hung up.

I took off WAY too fast. There was a bigger crowd than I had expected so I was too far forward and didn't want to slow people down so I just ran with the crowd until I got to a place where I could get out of the way and let people pass.
By the first mile mark I was more tired than I wanted to be, but still keeping a good pace and finally warmed up. About a half mile later, my buddy appeared. I have no idea how she spotted me from behind in a hat and new t-shirt!

At the 2 mile mark and was really getting tired and starting to doubt myself. I'd eaten to heavy of a diner the night before and was so worried about maintaining my energy for an afternoon race that I had probably eaten too much breakfast too. I took a short walking break and started running again. 2.5 miles was when my friend dropped back. By then I was way too close to meeting my goal so I picked up the pace and took off on my own. As I rounded the second to last corner I was running on sheer will power.

The water station at the 3 mile mark was a welcome site. My throat was dry and I wasn't carrying anything so I grabbed a cup from an outstretched hand, threw some water in the direction of my mouth and managed to get some in, enough to unstick my throat, tossed the cup, and picked up the pace one last time.

My official finishing time was 29:20! I was 7th out of 19 in my age group and 4:23 faster than last years 5K, but I'm more proud to have been part of the event than I am of my finishing time. Overall the Foundation raised over $70,000 with this event! The star speakers at the after party were the Snow Flake Princess, a darling little 7 year old that was diagnosed with JRA at the age of 2, and the mother and best friend of a young woman that died this past June during childbirth, due to complications of RA, (they lost both mother and child.) It was the most emotional after party I have been to.

Friday, December 5, 2008

If Oysters Had Legs

I admit it, I love symbolism, little things that remind us of more profound truths and keep us going when our mind tries to slow us down with negatives.

Everyone that has run a race has seen someone that didn't seem to take it seriously. You know the ones, the women with their hair and make-up done perfectly, nails manicured, donning a running outfit fresh off the rack and fully coordinated, standing at the starting line ready to run. I don't know how well they do, since by the time I cross the finish line they are long gone, but if they enjoy it, more power to them. I'm not one of them though; I roll out of bed, put my hair in a pony tail under my hat and am lucky if I have a little left-over eyeliner from last night. However, I do have one odd little idiosyncrasy that may make me look like I want to be one of them. I wear pearls when I race. Not a big gaudy strand or anything hugely special, just a little pearl in each ear and one on a pendant around my neck, (that I got from a $5 oyster at Sea World when I was 15.)

What does that mean to me? At some point, the poor oyster had a problem. A piece of sand, or a starter seed, was rammed into its mantle and caused an irritation. The oyster didn't whine, it didn't complain, it couldn't expel it, it had to deal with it. Over time the oyster covered the irritation, layer by layer, turning it into something so beautiful that it became valuable. The oyster took something bad and made it wonderful.

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with a disease that terrified me, but I believe I have taken this bad thing, this irritation that is always there, and made it into something beautiful. Because of RA, I have thrown away the unnecessary things in my life and focused on what really matters. I've taken control of my health and brought my body to a level that is better than it would have been had I not been challenged. I'm quite sure that without RA I would still be dabbling at aerobics DVD's, wishing I could shed a few pounds, and getting winded by a flight of stairs.

The oyster took a grain of sand and made a pearl; I took RA and made a runner.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One week to Jingle Bell Run!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Ours was hilarious thanks to the turkey catching on fire, but it was tender and juicy on the inside so the meal was complete and delicious :-)

My 5K Jingle Bell run is sneaking up on me fast! Thanks to an infection and nasty antibiotics, I haven't run much lately, but I did get out for a good 5K run today and finished in 35 minutes so I'm hoping race day adrenaline will kick in and give me a new PR. I just hope the weather is good, I'm not keen on running in a freezing rain, but I will if that is what we get.

Other than running, I've been good about cardio and I'm also finally lifting weights again. It is pretty pitiful though, I can only bench press 45lbs. for 3 sets of 6, LOL. My upper body needs a lot of work and I really want to increase, or at least hold on to, my bone density. I'm also fighting my toes lately. They seem to want to take off in different directions and are waking me up 2 or 3 times a night. At least they don't bother me while I'm running! I'm thinking poor circulation may be the culprit as I've tried every dietary change I can think of, bananas, V-8, calcium, magnesium.......I'll find something eventually.

So my Jingle Bell goal is still 30 minutes and I'm determined to do it!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Excuses give you nothing but more excuses

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.

**Thomas Edison**

Doubt and fear of failure, isn't that the biggest obstacle we all face? Learning to ignore the doubts and fears is probably the biggest single factor in becoming a runner. "I'll look like an idiot running, it is too hard for me, I wouldn't ever win a race, I might get hurt, I might get attacked, I can't run another mile, I could never run for an hour, 2 hours, 3 hours...." Learning to turn that voice around and make it nag you in the opposite direction is the key, "No one cares what I look like running, It will get easier, winning isn't the point, I can protect myself in many ways, I can run one more mile, I can run for an hour, 2 hours, 3 hours..." My friend Jeri, who started running in her late 40's after over 2 decades of battling RA, keeps this quote on her web page, "She woke up one morning and threw away all her excuses" We are all capable of SO much, we just have to stop limiting ourselves by listening to the negative voices in our heads, and the naysayers in our lives.

I've been tagged!
7 random facts about me:

- I'm a 4th generation Californian.

- My favorite food is coffee, but I can only drink one cup a day.

- I was a Navy Corpsman for 8 years.

- My husband and I were engaged after 2 1/2 weeks of dating, (I turned him down for dates for 2 months because I knew if I went out with him, I'd marry him. March 19th will be our 20th anniversary, and I'd do it all over again.)

- I was a Boy Scout for 4 years.

- I've crossed the Catalina Channel from Long Beach to Catalina Island in a 12 foot inflatable Zodiac, and lived to tell about it.

- I met my best and dearest friend walking to kindergarten, 34 years ago.
...."Any homie who is interested, consider yourselves tagged."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving life by living life

Every day that I get out and run, or otherwise work out, sends a message to my children. When I don't want to workout, feel lazy, or am busy, it sends and even stronger message about what kind of things should take priority in life. It is a weighty responsibility. So much of their future depends on the example I set with what I DO not just what I SAY. Becuase of this, I'm honest with my kids. Some days I whine all the way out the door about not wanting to run or exercise, because we all have days when we do what we should instead of what we want, but I make sure they know why I go anyway and how much better I feel for having gone.
For this same reason, I know I have to reach and take chances. Soon I will register for my next race. I haven't decided yet if it will be a half marathon, or a three race series, (6k, 7K, 8K,) but either way I will be showing my kids that it is worth taking chances to push yourself to new limits. Maybe I won't be able to meet the challenge, maybe something else will happen to keep me from training or running the race, maybe I should just give up. Then I think about the message that would send to my kids, and to my own psyche, and I push forward again.
This is what I want my kids see when they look at me; a fighter, someone that doesn't give up, somone that may have to take a step back from time to time, but who will raise to the challenge again as soon as she can fight her way back to the starting point. I've asked them about what they remember as kids, specifically if they remember when Mommy was so sick. Amazingly, they have no recolection. My little one does not remember me falling asleep while she played Barbies next to me in bed because I was too sick to get up. My older one does not remember having to help me get dressed it the morning before dressing herself for school, or having to give up her favored ponytail for a while because mom couldn't manage a rubber band. So many things broke my heart at the time because I thought they were missing out on a whole mommy, and that it would leave them feeling deprived forever. I was so wrong. They don't remember it, but it gave them compassion and independance that I'm sure they would not have learned as well if I hadn't been through such a rough patch.
Many children have parents with dissabilities or challenges, but it isn't what you actually do each day that matters, it is your attitude as you go about your day. If you live life as fully as possible, they will learn to live life too. If you give up and let life pass you by, the first time they hit a bump in the road, they will follow your example.

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. **Carl Gustav Jung**

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Are you willing to crawl?

"It is not whether you're willing to take the next step in life to achieve your goals, but rather, are you willing to crawl?" **Brian Aanestad**

I want to take a moment to thank everyone that reads and comments on my blog. It means the world to me! When I'm feeling defeated, or lazy, you lift my spirits and remind me that life is better when you push the envelope. The people that support and feed your successes, and celebrate with you, are the best ones to surround yourself with!

I have to admit that I over did it with the 5 mile trail run . It is okay though, over did it still means DID IT! No injuries, just over tired, so I've taken it easy this week and hung out on the cardio eqpt. and will be ready to run tomorrow when the weather clears. I'm really looking forward to it! I have 4 weeks left before my 5K. 4 weeks to increase speed, build strength, and hopefully pull down a nice new PR!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New Direction

Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. - Jamie Paolinetti

So much of running is in your head. You have to believe you can meet your goal, get out there and do it, and not let doubt hold you back. The first time I ran a 5K, I had been running for about 3 months and had only worked up to running about 1 1/2 miles before needing to walk. I knew I needed a race to get me going so I signed up to run 5 kilometers in the August heat of Virginia, one week after getting off the plane moving home from Germany. Obviously I had lost my mind! My running stunk the week before the race, jet lag, sleeplessness, oppressive heat, and house hunting, were all conspiring against me. Fortunately, the morning of the run was shockingly cool and we were running through trees in the early morning. As I started the run I was immediately left in the dust by about 99% of the other runners, I thought, "Okay, I'll run for 1.5 miles and then take a walking break." As I approached that mark, I thought, "Well, I'm feeling good, not out of breath, I'll keep going to 2 miles." Every half mile I had the same conversation with myself until I suddenly realized 5K was within reach. I started thinking about how cool it would be to tell my family, who was waiting at the finish line, that I had run the whole thing, and that thought kept me going. I crossed the finish line in 33:43 , I was over the moon and hooked on racing. After that I knew I could run for 3 miles and no longer had an excuse to quit after 1.5 or 2 or 2.5. From then on adding miles was easier and I did, working all the way up to 7.5 before I had surgery.
Now I'm focused on getting back to that 7.5 miles. Again, the first few miles have been killer. I started October struggling to knock out 2 miles, stretched it to 3, took it back to 2 with extra speed, then back to 3, but I couldn't seem to break out. I guess I just needed a new month because I've celebrated November with a 5.3 mile trail run on my favorite route, the Nolan Trail. My Garmin beeped 5 miles well under an hour and I finished the 5.3 in 1 hour, 1 minute, and 42 seconds! Next time it will be faster! I have 2 more months until my birthday and I'm determined my gift to me will be to match that 7.5 mile run from nearly a year ago. I will, because I know I can!
Dealing with RA is no different. If you give in to the pain, it will take over and drain away all you will to move. It will convince you that you may be able to get through the required motions of the day, but that you can't possibly do more. The most important and hardest step is to decide to make moving and exercise, however basic, a top priority in life. You have to make it the first thing you do, and amazingly, the other things will still get done. Learning to overcome RA is what taught me to overcome many of my doubts, fears, and self-imposed limitations. Since being diagnosed with RA, I've finished my BA, home schooled, moved 3 times, traveled, camped, learned to run, discovered new hobbies, and held down the fort while my husband went off to fight a war. Despite the pain and endless shots, I truly believe RA has given me more than it has taken away. Someone said to me recently, "I pray God heals you." It is a nice thought, and I would surely be grateful, but I don't consider it a curse, merely a redirection.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Look for the sparkly moments

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.
**Benjamin Franklin**

It is a strange thing to feel strength returning, to realize and effort that made you sick last week is only leaving you a bit tired this week. It wakes you up with the bright prospect that next week this effort will leave you invigorate and then you can raise the bar.

Everyone gets sick once in a while, colds, flu, etc. so everyone knows what if feels like to think you are over something and then go for a run or workout and suddenly realize you really aren't back up to full speed. Consequently, everyone knows what if feels like to finally have a good workout which signals a full return to health, but I believe most people take it for granted because they knew they would get over whatever bug had them down. For some of us, there are long periods of struggling with that middle ground, so that when it gives way and we move on to feeling healthy, or even almost healthy, it is cause for celebration. The euphoria of feeling good for longer stretches of the day endeavors to lift the last vestiges of the depression that comes with being caught in your own body's battle against itself, not knowing which side will win, or if the war will ever end.

Right now, good health is taking the high ground and I can't waste a moment of it. Yesterday I ran hard. It was a short run, but each miles was a full minute faster than it has been for months. Unfortunately, looking at my watch also let in the knowledge that I still have a minute and a half more to shave off to be back to where I was in December of '07, but I'm not letting that get to me. I'm focused on the fact that I ran hard and still had a full day of other accomplishments, however mundane. Working out hard didn't put me in bed, or send me fumbling for pain killers that numb the brain and mute all cognizance of life's sparkly moments. I was able to run, and finish my tasks for the day, and still stop to smell the roses. Truly, I would be less of a person if I let even one moment of feeling good slip by unnoticed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

People living deeply have no fear of death. **Anais Nin**

I ran today: Life is good

It felt SOOOO good to get out and run today! I got on the bike yesterday to do a little cardio and make sure I was really over all the crud, and today I put on my Brooks and hit the road.

It was a slow 2 miles, nothing to get all that excited over, but the sun was out, the air was cool, the leaves are turning, and I loved every minute of losing myself in thought as my feet hit the pavement. When I start running over 3 miles again, I'll dust off the MP3 player, but for now the birds and the rustling leaves are enough.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No running today

I hate being a whiner and giving in to being sick, but sometimes I just have to admit that I'm too sick to keep pushing myself. Often, it takes running myself completely into the ground to wake up and realize I'm up against powers stronger than I am able to overcome by sheer will. This is why I'm often reluctant to register for a race. Once I have paid money, I get so focused on my goal, that I stop listening to my body and just keep pushing.

Last year I registered for my first half marathon. I was already up to running 7 miles and had 6 months to add 6 more to my long run. However, one month after I registered I found out I needed 2 surgeries, which meant months off of my RA medication, which meant months of steroids and illness. I pushed hard even after my surgery, determined to at least walk the course, but it quickly became apparent that that wasn't going to be a possibility either. The day that 4,999 people ran that race without me was a real low point in my life.

Recently I registered for the Jingle Bell run and will be running it with lots of people I know, so I really was set on my goal of running it sub 30. Not at all fast by most people's reckoning, but a significant improvement over my previous times. The speed bump in my training is not quite as dramatic this time; simply, the crud hit. It started as an RA flare up, but a bug has taken advantage of my distracted immune system so now I have a head cold too.

Now comes the hard part; deciding when to return to exercising. If I start back too soon, I will end up worse off with an even longer delay. If I wait too long, I start to really loose the progress I have made with strength and endurance. I walk a very fine line with one side being not enough exercise to make progress and the other side being pushing myself beyond my physical limits. Once I loose my grip on that line, it is very hard to regain my footing.

Running seems to be the only shining point in my life right now, when that is taken away, it messes with my head.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Das ist against da rulz!

Last night, lying awake thanks to an overly large margarita, (WHEN WILL I LEARN,) I made a definite decision NOT to run today. I didn't feel good from all the sugar, I didn't get a wink of sleep, I ached all over and am at a low point with my medication [*], so I really had lots of good excuses.
As my morning got rolling I saw it was a gorgeous day, and of course the dog needed to get out, so I suited up and went for a 2 mile run. Funny how when you are out of the habit, you have to push yourself to run, when you are in the habit, you have to push yourself not to. Well, it was a mistake!
My body is like that annoying playground monitor from 3rd grade. She looked like she was a million years old compared to our 8 or 9, and had a heavy German accent, (an irony totally lost on 3rd graders.) As soon as we were really having fun we would hear, "Das ist against da rulz!" Just when we were hitting new distances jumping off the swings, doing daring new balancing acts on the jungle gym, or finding new and inventive ways to play with a tether ball, she would show up wagging her finger at us. WE thought the rules were silly, WE thought she was being overly cautious, but the day Buffy Ballou, (I swear I'm not making that up,) broke her arm jumping off the swings, we kind of paused and thought maybe the old krout knew what she was talking about.
My body has become that old krout. When I push the limits and start flirting with injury and over training, it wags its finger at me and says, "No, no, no! Das ist against da rulz!" Then there is my Garmin. It is the loud whistle that can get my attention through a focused attempt to ignore my body. Today it was shrieking at me after only a few minutes when my heart rate went over 95%. I was sure it was wrong and immideately took my pulse, but it was accurate, darn it! If my heart was fluttering away at that rate before even reaching ½ mile, I definitely had no business running 2. So I walked a little, then get bored and try running again. "BEEP BEEP BEEP Das ist against da rulz!" ARG!!!
So I walked most of the rest of the way, stopped to visit with a neighbor, and generally diddled along. Patience is not one of my strong points!!! I know I'll have a better run in few days, but not if I persist in ignoring the old krout.

[*] My current medication, Humira, consists of a shot every two weeks. So far it is working, but weakens as I approach the next dose.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Not So Lonesome Road

Wouldn't it be eye-opening to run a race where everyone had their biggest challenge printed on their shirt?

Life is a journey. We all start at the same place, we all end up the same place. This is not a new idea, but I see it as a path with three parts, (a thought that occupied my mind on my last run.)
One side of the path is a dark, slow moving, muddy stream where the couch potatoes bob along. The view stinks, it is hard to move ahead of the current, easy to fall into, and hard to get out of. Although it looks tranquil enough, below the surface lurk many unseen hazards. Branches, shopping carts, alligators, and rusted bear traps, all wait to snag someone and end their journey. However, it is full of company so people fool themselves into thinking it is a great place to travel. Heck, there are loads of friends and family in the stream and they will all share a chuckle with you when someone up on the road stumbles. They don't really want anyone to leave the stream either, so they pat each other on the back and continue on in ignorant bliss, believing they are in the safe zone. After all, you don't fall out of a stream!
Then there is the road. To those coasting along in the stream, it can seem like staying on the road is hard, but those up on the smooth surface know that once you get there, traveling is actually much easier, and the the view is fantastic. Up on the road, you see more of the world, enjoy more of the scenery, and share in the excitement of others on the road. Your speed picks up so that for the same amount of time, you cover much more ground and gain many more experiences.
The folks in the ditch point and say, "But you will step in a pothole!" not realizing they are stuck in one long, never ending pothole.
On the other side there is a ditch. It is more clear, but the sides can be steep; it is called injury. You fall into this ditch from pushing too hard or too fast, not paying attention to your body or your surroundings, and not following the instructions for how to stay on the road. Bad luck can also land you there with no fault of your own, but that isn't the way it usually happens.
People often leap out of the stream on one side, and careen wildly into the injury ditch on the other, and then back again. They never spend enough time on the road to know the joys of it. These people usually say, "There really isn't a road up there, you just end up right back here," and then proceed to prove it to those around them by showing their scars and damage to a willing audience.
Thankfully, for most people, the road is wide and forgiving. It gets narrower as we age, and serious injuries or illnesses can reduce it to a narrow tight rope, but tight rope walkers exist. Some times it is easy to spot a tightrope walker, they wear braces or prosthetics, have age weathered skin and the sense to wear a hat, or may be limping and swearing, but they refuse to let go and slide into the stream. Many tightrope walkers are harder to spot because they look like everyone else; cheerful, determined, slow or fast, but making their way down the road. They are the survivors of cancer, heart disease, depression, car wrecks, chronic illness, and more. They have overcome obstacles most will never know about but will eventually face. Th es potholes derail many, but not all.

So wouldn't it be interesting to run a race where everyone had their biggest challenge printed on their shirt? Wouldn't the people in the ditch be shocked to find out that those on the road aren't endowed with special superpowers, that they are pretty much like everyone else, with ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, good days and bad. The only thing that really separates those in the muddy stream from those on the the road is... something you have to find within yourself.

3 mile LSD run Thursday, average 70% MHR
Friday off
Saturday, all day at a festival
1 hour stationary bike Sunday, high RPM level 1
2 miles, 80% MHR Monday
1 hour stationary bike, level 4, Tuesday

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What I give, I get back ten fold

One hour on the bike today with half of it over %60 MHR. My goal is to be back to pedaling for an hour with at least half at %75, and the rest over %60!

When I was first diagnosed with RA I was terrified. Thankfully, I found a wonderful support forum where I got tons of information, lots of encouragement from people who really understood first hand what I was going through, and most importantly, HOPE.

I don't spend the time there that I used to, I'm busy with life and have a pretty good handle on RA, but I make an effort to go back from time to time and post to the the new people that are scared and lost. The forum gave so much to me that I want to give back and pass on the hope I found there.

On the days when the last thing I want to do is put on running shoes and get out the door, or do some cardio, I think about all the people it gives hope to for one of us to be doing these things. From time to time someone thanks me for giving them hope, but what they don't know is that they give me so much more. They give me the energy to go on, the will to fight when I feel beaten, and a whole world of people to stand up for and say, "RA does not control us!"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Took the leap!

I did NOT want to run today. This phrase if going through my head much too often lately! Fortunately, I knew once I got going I would get over it so I hitched up the dog and off we went. My Garmin died again, (maybe time for a new battery,) so I don't have good stats, but I know I went a touch over 2 miles based on a familiar route.

As soon as I got home, (and out of the shower,) I signed up for the Jingle Bell Run.

I'm so nervous! I took a big leap and started a team for the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Run! It looks like tons of fun and I hope I can get a good team going. Most of the people I'm hitting up to be runners are the military in my husband's office, hehehehe. They can't tell me they aren't up to a 5K!

I've put a link on my blog page and hope to reach my donation goal. I have no idea if it will be easy or if I will fall way short, but I have to start somewhere! I will follow the progress of the group here on my blog. I hope it goes well!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

bike day

The shins splints from Saturday's hike told me it was a bike day! I didn't bike hard, but I did stay on over an hour so I'm happy. Tomorrow I hit the pavement no matter how tired I am. I never get to bed at a decent hour on Orchestra night, but I have to stop letting it get in my way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nolan stroll

Yesterday we went out to my favorite running trail. I'm nowhere near ready for a 5 mile trail run so we took the puppy and walked. I really look forward to running this trail again, it is definitely the run I look forward to the most. There are many runners, walkers and dogs no matter what time of year it is.
Since last night was a late one at the symphony, I decided to take a rest day today, (well, other than giving the dog a bath :-) Friday I got in a good 2 miles, so depending on how I feel in the morning, I will either put in an hour on the bike, or go to 2 1/2 miles with my run.
2 miles sounds so pitiful as a run. I want my 7 mile runs back, but I know if I push too fast, I'll never get there! I'm keeping it in perspective though. Thanks to Clare's blog, http://musclesandra.blogspot.com/ , I know 2 miles is still enough to make me a runner :-) Thanks Clare!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Go get your inspiration!

"You can't wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club."
Jack London

To me, the greatest compliment someone can pay me is to say I inspired them.

When I started getting serious about running, I got involved in the About.com running forum. Everyone there has these cool race shots for their avatars and I didn't want to be left out so after my first 5K, I proudly put up my running avatar. However, I was a little worried about having this picture when I visited my more regular haunt, the About.com arthritis, forum because I didn't want to rub how well I was doing in the faces of those that were in a bad patch. The fact that I also wanted to let people know that there is life after RA won out. I really felt called to tell people that despite a frightening diagnosis like RA, you can still be healthier, and stronger than ever before.

Recently, I got one of those rare and wonderful compliments. One of the ladies on my arthritis forum told me that my avatar had inspired her to take up running. After many years of battling RA, including being wheel chair bound for a time, she had decided to take control of her health. Through better nutrition, exercise, and determination, she started loosing weight and getting fit, and good health began to return. She told me she would have never thought of running if it hadn't been for my race picture. Wow, what a great feeling! But I know I can't take any credit for her achievements, she went after her inspiration, with the club of determination, to improve her life. She has quickly become and much fast runner than me, despite being a decade older, (you would never know it to look at her,) and 2 decades more experienced with RA, pulling a sub 30 5K that I have only dreamt of!! She has become MY hero!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Macbeth does murder sleep.....

"...Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast." Macbeth Act II, Scene II

This has always been one of my favorite quotes. I love to sleep, it is one of my favorite past times. To curl up in comfortable warmth and drift off into lovely dreams while forgetting about the troubles of the day; it is an escape as much as it is rejuvenating. It powers us, allows our muscles to rebuild and wake up stronger, and it washes away the hurts of yesterday.

When you can't sleep, it becomes a nightmare, robbing you of logical though, emotional control, and good health. For several days I was missing this important ingredient in life. I hadn't slept well in nearly a week and it was intensifying my RA. Fortunately, I finally broke the cycle last night and got a great night's sleep. I woke up early, refreshed and ready to take on the day. I ran 2 miles, did all my stretches and sit-ups, and got a long list of to-do's crossed off!

It is absolutely amazing what one night of sound sleep can do for you, mentally and physically!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One more day

What a yucky day. I had to be at the body shop for an estimate for the damage done in last week's car accident, then we had Viola this afternoon, and I'm still not caught up on sleep since we got home late from Orchestra last night. However, I did mange to force myself onto the bike for about 40 minutes. I wanted to run today, but I woke up with a lot of pain in my hips and decided a non-weight bearing day was in order.

The new medication is beginning to work, but it didn't quite last 2 whole weeks so I'm really looking forward to giving myself my shot tomorrow. I got over giving myself shots a lot time ago when I was giving myself 3 a week, (2 Enbrel, 1 methotrexate,) and it is way easier than driving an hour each way to spend 4 hours in a cancer treatment center getting an I.V. infusion like I did for 5 months this year. I'm really hoping I feel good in the morning and can get in a run, but until I get the next shot I will probably need to be satisfied with easier workouts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Running tired

I don't know how people travel and compete running. We went for a short camping trip this weekend and I didn't sleep well at all. This is what I'm blaming my lousy run on. I think I ran over 2 miles, but I'm not really sure because I forgot to charge my Garmin and it died on me 1/2 mile into the run. Fortunately I had made note of my start time and based my run on that.

I love running in camp grounds. Everyone waves hello and I get to look at all the amazing motor homes and trailers. They are so high tech with all the pop out parts! This camp ground was on the small side though so each time I passed my husband, (who was fishing,) I'd ask him the time and groan because it had only been about 3 minutes since the last time I passed him. I did eventually run for over 30 minutes, but I was so tired it felt like an hour.

Eventually I settled down with my fishing pole and caught one tiny fish, who was less surprised than I was. I like to fly fish and when I went for the back cast, a fish came flying out of the water, LOL. I'm not sure if I hooked him or snagged him, but it was my best catch all weekend so I'm counting it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2 for 2

Although I love to run when it is overcast, I can't ignore the beauty of a picture perfect day. Today was definitely one of those days!!

For the first 2 miles we walked with friends and an older dog that was teaching Lucy how to behave and follow Mom off leash. Then we bid good-bye, sent the puppy inside to rest, and I took off for my run.
The walk had been a leisurely social pace so I went ahead and ran a full 2 miles. The first mile felt great, but at about the one mile mark my feet started feeling like they had weights hanging off of them. I considered cutting the run short, but decided to go just a bit farther.
I'm so glad I did because the heavy feeling lifted and I comfortably ran the second mile. Not until the last tenth did my heart rate finally go up, signaling I had hit the end of my stamina, but I went ahead and pushed for the last bit and then walked a cool down back to the house.

As I struggle to get back to last year's fitness level, I'm constantly reminding myself of how far I have come, even with only today's level of progress. Walking and running reminded me of when my RA first blazed from my head to my toes. I had a 3 year old at the time, an age where they still take many tumbles, so it helps to be quick on your feet.
I had taken a few quick steps to catch a falling toddler many times, but suddenly, taking three quick steps sent pain up both legs like electric shocks. I was stunned! I eventually learned to work around it, but it was about 2 years before making the same quick movements ceased to catch my attention. I did a lot of walking during those years, but I didn't run unless it was a dire emergency, and even then I only ran until I realized what I was doing.

To follow a 2 mile walk with a 2 mile run is a precious gift.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Health is wasted on the healthy

I managed to get on the bike for over 1/2 hour, woo-hoo 300 calories down!

The biggest couch potatoes I know are marvelously healthy people in their 30's and 40's. Nothing is wrong with them, so why exercise, right? The most fit people I know have the health problems. And there you have it, the healthy people look at the fit people and say, "see all the things wrong with them, that is because they, fill in the blank" with run, ski, play sports, rock climb, bike, whatever.

When I was in my teens and 20's I was a complete flake about exercise. Sure, I would have loved to be in better shape, thinner, stronger, but I just didn't have time. Then the other shoe dropped. At the age of 32, following 18 months of symptoms, I was told I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. O M G !!!!! So I promptly hit the Internet and learned everything I could. Guess what, at the end of every lesson about RA was the admonishment to exercise.

"Exercise?!? You have to be kidding!" That is what went though my head every day. The thought of exercising, when you can't lift your arms over your head or make it though the day without naps, seems utterly ludicrous. You start with range of motion exercises. Simple movements designed to preserve what little ability to move you have left, and if you are lucky and get on good drugs, you might even increase it in small increments. Many days my husband or kids had to help me. I couldn't raise my arm above my head, but if I relaxed, someone else could without causing me pain. Eventually I was able to do it on my own again.

That began my journey. You see, people who are healthy can go right on ignoring their bodies, but people who have faced their own mortality have to get moving or die. I know runners who have had injuries, heart attacks, cancer, you name it. Of course, the fastest runners are those fortunate enough to have embraced good health and taken it too the limits, but the most dedicated runners are the ones limping around the track and talking to themselves, "come on body, just a few more steps............................................."

We will all meet again in 20 years and guess what, those couch potatoes will no long be the healthy ones!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One foot in front of the other.....

It was a perfect day for running, about 75 degrees, overcast and slightly raining with a slight breeze, LOVE IT!!!

I hadn't slept worth a darn from all yesterday's adrenaline and I stayed up WAY too late, so the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. Not being in a good running mood is probably why I tried to run with my only hydration being two cups of coffee, heavy on the skim, or why when my van wasn't actually unlocked, like I thought, I failed to go back in the house to get the keys so I could get a water bottle. So my run was lousy and it was all my own fault.

I took the puppy with me for the first mile. Yes I know, you aren't supposed to run with a puppy, but she was either frolicking next to me or towing me down the street so I'm sure I didn't over tire her. When I passed the house and handed her leash off to my daughter, it was all she could do to hang on to the now energized puppy that was not happy I was continuing on without her!

I managed to keep running for another half mile, but then had to take a break. I did get a few more minute of running in the last almost mile home, (I covered 2.4 in all,) but it was only half hearted.

Tomorrow is back on the bike...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some days are better than others

On the bike again today. I'm getting stronger, pedaling faster, keeping my heart rate up longer, all that is good.

Rest of the day sucked though. A bank teller tried to rip off my teenager. She deposited cash on Thursday and today the teller was saying she transposed numbers and my teen deposited $90 less than the statement, WHA?? Thank goodness for security tapes! I hope the bank teller gets major Karma whiplash for trying to rip off a kid! I'm pretty sure she will at least loose her job.
Then we got rear ended this evening. Not real bad, not major damage, but enough to make us late to orchestra and spoil the evening. The dude was looking at an accident and not the traffic in front of him, darn rubberneckers (wow, spell check says it is a real word!) So now I get to play with insurance tomorrow, fun.

Tomorrow I hit the pavement, even if I mostly walk I'm getting out there. The weather should be good, the dog needs the exercise, my running shoes are getting impatient...............

To Blog or Not to Blog

Originally posted yesterday on a different blog spot:

Okay, so I'm getting some pestering to start a blog. I figure no one could possibly be interested in my lame story. I mean really, who am I? A house wife with an incurable disease that thinks she is a runner, LOL.

Diseased runner, I guess that is the one I'm supposed to talk about, but then I would have to confess to the days that I skip my workout, feel too unmotivated to get off my duff, or just don't work towards my goal for no reason at all.

The disease if Rheumatoid Arthritis, go ahead, Google it if I haven't already told you more than you wanted to know :-) I can handle pain, a lot of pain, that is why I was able to take up running at 38. I started last year only able to run about 100 yards before wanting to puke. I worked,

then I worked harder,

and after 7 months I could run 7 miles!! I was over the moon!

Then the bad stuff hit. Major surgery, insurance changes, medication changes, instability, and finally canceling my scheduled half marathon. I had paid and everything. I was going to run, walk, or crawl the length of the Marine Corps Historic Half, but I never made it to the start line.
I ran last month after a steroid shot suppressed my RA for 3 glorious weeks and got back to 3 miles. Then I crashed again. Now I'm back to an hour on the stationary bike, thanks to more steroids, and hoping to have the energy to run this week.

So that is what this blog is about. Struggling, fighting, and hopefully winning. No, I don't expect to actually win a race, but my goal is to run a half marathon...13.1 miles.... If I can do that, I win, RA looses.