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!"