My New Finish Line

The schools my kids attend closed on March 13th. I don’t remember exactly when the shelter in place order was given because it didn’t change much for us since everything at that point had been cancelled. That order expired yesterday. 48 days. We’re currently out of quarantine, but I don’t feel like we’re truly safe yet. I feel a little like I’m holding my breath still.

The first two weeks were hard. I had no motivation to move much less homeschool my kids or take care of myself. I gained some mental clarity and energy as April rolled in, but all that’s gone now. I’m tired. I’m scared (my husband is in healthcare and high risk), and I’m trying to hold it all together.

Running has been my outlet. I ran 100 miles in April, my biggest total for a month in about 4 years. Physically, I feel fantastic. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I’m struggling. I am trying to look forward to putting it all together again and feeling physically, mentally and emotionally whole. Without an actual finish line to cross, that has become my new goal, my new finish line. If only it were a fixed one with a predetermined distance like the marathon I had planned to run in July. Without a better option, that finish line tape lies across the threshold of my front door when I can re-enter the world feeling whole and safe. Happy training to me.

And, happy training to you. I hope you’re able to set a goal and reach it during the difficult times we’re facing right now, even if that goal is to get out of bed, put on fresh clothes, eat a decent breakfast, or to call a friend and ask for help. I hope you can set the goal, crush the goal, and then set a new one all the way to the end of this crisis. I’m routing for you. Go grab that finish line!

Restart

I got sick. Like really, really sick.

I don’t sit much, usually. Always moving. Always doing. I mean, my favorite way to relax is to run, and I love working out. My to do list grows faster than I can check it off, but I keep plugging away in the hopes that one day, it will all get crossed off. My kids are super active in all kinds of things. I’m always going. Always doing.

Over Christmas break, though, I crashed. I could not move. I slept all day for days. I then laid down all day for more days. Before I knew it, I had spent a whole month hardly able to function and eating whatever was available. Just when I thought I was feeling better, it would hit again. I had the usual flu symptoms but also had weird issues with my heart fluttering and my neck and shoulders aching constantly. They would fail me in easy every day activities like pushing myself up from a laying position to sit up. Seriously, they would hurt and then buckle. My heart would suddenly start beating so fast I could feel it in my chest, and I would get light headed and dizzy. I started thinking I had some weird disease or some kind of system failure that was slowly killing me. My husband is a doctor, though, and he wasn’t overly concerned. Whatever. I felt like my whole world was ending. I think he could have been more sympathetic, but that’s a post for another day.

I gained weight. I lost fitness. I started letting go of any hope of keeping resolutions. I felt like a busted can of biscuits every time I tried to wear workout clothes. I hated it, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was February before I felt like I could breathe well enough to work out.

When I finally got back to the gym, I was emotionally happy to be getting back at it, but my body was in shock. I was wobbly after the workout. When I woke up the next day, I was struggling to climb the stairs or walk my dog. It would be a couple more weeks before I would try again with similar results.

I got back at it for a challenge in April, but I’m still struggling to be consistent. I know much of it has to do with my crazy life and schedule, but why is it so hard to get back to fit after a break? I had to quit working out because I felt like I was dying, and then trying to workout again made me feel like I was dying. It’s always seems to be a lose lose situation.

I decided to do the Runner’s World Summer streak. So, I’ll be running at least a mile every day from now (Memorial Day) until July 4th. I started the streak off with the Murph challenge (full run, half the pushups and pull-ups because I have t-Rex arms), and I’ll finish it with the Peachtree Roadrace. I’m hoping this will jump start more consistency both in my fitness and in life. Who knows, maybe I’ll get back to writing every day. Here’s hoping.

Have you ever had a rough patch that seemed to never end? What did you do to restart?

5am

Our current schedule is so tight I have two options for getting my workouts in:

1. Don’t

2. 5am

Both kinda suck, but the second one sucks less solely on the basis that the workout is still happening. And, it has happened. For a month now, I’ve been hitting all my workouts AND juggling our insane schedule. Big high five for me!

I am no longer struggling to finish. I am not hobbling around for days after. My body has adjusted to the new schedule, and I’m no longer tired all. the. time. Dare I say, I actually like it. There’s still that moment when the alarm goes off and I question just how important that workout is, but conquering that thought and pulling myself out of bed has been life changing. Action conquers more than just fear. It conquers that ‘meh’ voice in your head.

I haven’t quite managed to get my nutrition back on track just yet, though. Getting the workout in has been hard enough. Just thinking about planning + shopping + prepping + cooking + cleaning  x  infinity, it makes me more tired than the workout. That’s next, though. Now that I’ve figured out what I have to do to get the workouts in, i.e. wake up before the rooster is even dreaming about crowing, I’m attempting to formulate a plan to get my nutrition on track for September. If I can get both of these things going at the same time, I feel like I’ll be able to hit my goal of a year end marathon.

Nailing down the nutrition, I think will help me with all the early mornings, too. Caffeine tolerance is a real thing, and I think I’m reaching a point where it will no longer get me through. I think I would be frightened if I added up all the mg of caffeine I consume each day.

Less junk. More real food. Less sugar. More veggies. Less caffeine. More water. Less snoozing. More running.

Hopefully, by October, I’ll be up in the double digits for my runs, and I’ll have my diet dialed in to support the increase in mileage.

5am. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, really tried it. It can work.

Runner Implosion

I was registered for my first Ultra in June. I developed tendinitis in my knee in May. The Ultra didn’t happen. What did happen was a lot of time wasting, moping and struggling because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I always kind of implode when I get injured before a race. If it’s short, I do it anyway. Like the Peachtree Roadrace, I can run/walk/hobble 6 miles, then complain about the pain while feeling satisfied that I still did the race. I can not hobble along on an injured knee for 30 miles.

I spent a lot of time frustrated that I couldn’t figure out a good work around. Running wasn’t the only banned activity. I couldn’t cycle, row, squat, lunge, jump. Even aqua jogging aggravated my knee. Anything that required repeated bending and/or pushing off. Swimming was my only real option for cardio, and my weight lifting was limited to upper body only. My shoulder started acting up (old injury) after a couple weeks of this new upper body focus, and I had to back off of both of those things, too.

I usually eat really well when I’m training because I can feel it in my performance when I don’t. Very often, the difference between a good run and a bad run is how I choose to fuel my body. When I’m not training, there is no rhyme or reason to my eating habits. It’s all mostly based on convenience, and the fact that I don’t care because I’m unhappy I can’t run.

Unspent energy, bad eating habits, gained weight and a horrible attitude combine to create an implosion that would rival the death of a star. I kind of suck everything and everyone into my black hole. I don’t write. I don’t read. I don’t talk (unless I absolutely have to). I don’t really interact with people. I just binge watch Netflix until I’m needed for something I can’t pass off, like laundry or meals (although, there has been a lot more takeout than I want to admit this summer), driving my kids to all the camps and activities they are doing, or walking my dog.

I like walking my dog. She doesn’t care that I’m injured. She still needs her exercise, and since my husband rarely walks her and my kids aren’t capable of handling her if a rabbit or a squirrel crosses their path, it’s on me. We’ve been walking 3-5 miles a day (two separate walks) throughout the summer. I’m waking up at 6am to get her out before the pavement heats up, and then taking her back out right around sunset after the pavement has had a chance to cool off. Some mornings I mumble and tumble out of bed regretting getting a dog with so much energy, or I grumble and whine, exhausted from the day wishing she would just sleep through our walk time. I’m usually a nicer person when I come back, though, and obviously, she’s a happier dog when she’s getting her exercise. That makes for a nice Netflix snuggle buddy in between walks and crazy teen/preteen boy fights.

I’ve recently started running again. Nothing fast or long, just little bits here and there, and my knee is holding up, with a brace. I wear the brace for walking, too. I’m optimistic about returning to training, and I’ve been looking for an end of the year marathon to shoot for. I can see the end of the black hole, and I’m looking forward to getting back to my level, easy going runner personality.

I keep thinking, there has to be a way to get through an injury without an implosion. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’m just hoping I can get through a few races before the next injury hits. Fingers crossed.

Action Conquers Fear

It’s been months since I last swam for exercise, for lots of reasons, mostly just time. I told the desk worker that it had been a while. She was encouraging, “Oh, but it will feel so good to get back in the water.” I laughed and told her I was nervous, as if it’s possible to forget how to swim.

I really was nervous, butterflies and everything. I like that they don’t have real mirrors in the locker room, just polished stainless steel plates on the wall. That way I didn’t have to think about how the cap or goggles looked strange, or the suit didn’t fit the same way it did months ago.

Walked past the lifeguards contemplating turning around. I was there with a water aerobics class, but besides them, I was the only person in the pool. I hate that. I can handle being on stage with a spotlight on me, but something about being in a more intimate setting like a room or a class, I get nervous and self conscious. Add to that already being nervous, being in a swim suit in water, being slow and awkward and the only moving object in the pool, I felt like every move was magnified.

It didn’t help that getting into the pool and getting warmed up I felt like a drowning duck. I kinda did forget how to swim.

The girl at the desk was right, though. It did feel good to be back in the water. Well, after the initial shock of the cold enveloping my body when I jumped in. I struggled to get into a rhythm. I felt awkward. I worried it had been too long and I was going to run out of energy way before I had planned to, but I made it through my workout and on with my day feeling fantastic.

I like conquering the voice in my head that tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something I want or need to do. I like how I feel when I push through with my plan and ignore all the reasons my mind compiles to dissuade me. I like feeling like I am stronger than my fears and excuses. I feel like training my mind and my heart is as important if not more important than training my body. I feel strongest when I conquer and rule myself. Sometimes, you really do have to just do it.

I’ll spend lots more time in the pool while I can’t run, and it will get much less awkward. I’ll get the hang of it again. Then I’ll have to conquer that same negative voice that says I can’t get back in the gym or on the trail. It’s a never ending cycle, but I won’t give in to “I can’t” until I actually physically can’t. Then I’ll just have to find something else to conquer.

My Hero

I wanna tell you a little of this man’s story, and why this last Peachtree Road Race was so very special to me. He doesn’t like it when we make a big deal out of his physical issues, but since this was a physical feat, I just have to. (Just one time, Dad. Because I’m so proud of you.)

He was born significantly premature in the 50’s with a brain injury resulting in limited mobility and other issues on the left side of his body. He endured braces on his legs, dozens of procedures and an extremely painful surgery on his foot and ankle to improve his mobility. His left leg is shorter and responds differently than his right causing a limp. His left arm and hand are twisted to a certain degree causing limited use. He now suffers with arthritis most severe in the joints affected by the surgery. He fractured his hip from a fall requiring surgery. He’s in his 60’s, and has always thought running wasn’t a healthy option for him.

He has always been active and health conscious, though. I remember watching him do push-ups with his good arm growing up not realizing how difficult that actually is. He has always had a “if you don’t use it you lose it” mentality, and with his condition, carrying extra bodyweight meant less mobility for him. So, I don’t ever remember him being much overweight, if any, my whole life. (I remember him talking about being overweight and having to do something about it, but I don’t actually remember that.) He walks miles and miles on the job site (he’s an engineer), and nowadays he’s keeping up with men half his age.

He has always been very supportive and interested in my running adventures. When no one else wants to hear about another race or training program, he would listen with enthusiasm. One of the races he loved to hear about the most was the Peachtree Road Race. A 10k in his hometown of Atlanta. He grew up not too far from the start line of this race, and since it started, he has always wanted to run it. But, given his mobility issues, he didn’t think he could.

Last year, when I was giving him a run down of my race, I told him he should run it. Seriously, there are people who walk it for the tshirt and the beer. He could totally do it. I offered to gift him a membership into the Atlanta Track Club and a guaranteed entry into the PRR as his Father’s Day present. All he had to do was train for it and run a qualifying race so we got a decent coral. No X coral with a 9:30am start time in the Georgia summer heat.

He could have listened to all the voices he’s heard throughout the course of his life telling him he would never be an athlete, that he would never run. He could have listened to the aches and pains he faces on a daily basis. He could have been self conscious about the way he (thinks he) looks when he runs. He has real legitimate excuses, but when it would have made all the sense in the world to say no, he said yes. He committed to the training. He pushed through the uncomfortable starting period. He read some books I gave him, and found that he loved running. He also figured out that all those voices telling him he couldn’t do it were wrong.

This man has long been my hero for so many reasons, but watching him overcome so much to accomplish this goal and run the Peachtree with me, it warranted sharing.

He is now a runner. My dad is a runner, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to say that. Now when we talk about running, it goes both ways. We can both talk about our training and our races and our plans… and our injuries.

Thank you, Dad, for your example and your support. You really are my hero.

Forget Diamonds, my Dog is my Best Friend

I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she’s fantastic! Growing up, we rescued every dog we had except the second one. She was a pure bred Beagle named Princess, and someone stole her from us. Very sad. Our first dog was some kind of Aussie mix, but he had an unhealthy need to chase cars. He lived with three legs for a while because of his obsession, and eventually got around our defenses to meet his demise under the wheels of a car. After that, we had all kinds of dogs. One my dad spent a few weeks coaxing out of hiding. She finally gave in and let him follow her after having puppies in an old barn in the woods. We found homes for all her puppies, and she lived with us for about 8 years after that. Her name was Bear because that’s what my toddler brother thought she was when he saw her for the first time. We had another fantastic dog we rescued after someone threw her out of a moving truck. Just tossed her out going about 45-50 miles an hour. People are stupid. Anyway, she lived with my parents longer than I did, about 20 years (Chihuahua/Boston Terrier mix). We named her Cherry. We rescued a Collie trying to get into the trash behind a grocery store, scooped a little Lab mix puppy right off the interstate, and took in a Golden Retriever after her owner died. I kinda thought that’s just how you found the best dogs, really they found you.

My husband isn’t really an animal person. We didn’t have any pets until well after our kids were out of diapers. Mostly because we lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, then the babies came before we moved to our own house. I knew all the puppy stuff would be on me, and I wasn’t wiping human butts and cleaning up doggie poop at the same time. When we decided it was time to get a dog, he was super hesitant to rescue one. So, we talked to breeders, and found a Ridgeback puppy that was the cutest thing. She had been rejected by her original buyers because there was something wrong with her toe (ended up needing an amputation), and we got her at a discount. I called her my discount puppy until the amputation cost hit. She is now the most expensive animal I have ever owned, and I had horses growing up. 😉

Every dollar was worth it, though. I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s fantastic. She doesn’t chew furniture. She doesn’t have accidents in the house. She’s pretty chill unless you’re visiting for the first time or you’re the FedEx guy. Her only vices are food and trimming toe nails. The food thing is mostly the breed. We were warned. And, I can’t really blame her for her issues with her feet. She went through a lot with her toe. She’s my shadow most days, following me around, laying at my feet. I could not imagine our lives without her. She’s my favorite child. 😉

I really need to get one of those nanny cams to watch her when we’re not home because she does the craziest things. She can open a bottle — soda, chocolate milk, anything personal size that she’s not supposed to have — without destroying it, hold it with her paws and lick the contents out with her super long anteater tongue. We had to change the door knobs on our closets and pantry from oblong to sphere because she figured out how to open them. She can crawl into and wrap herself in a blanket like a taco. Cutest thing ever. She can jump higher than my head. She likes to close doors. She will walk into a room, turn around and close the door. We have to make sure we close the doors of rooms we don’t want her to get trapped in before we leave because this is such a problem. I think this is partially due to her love to make music with door stops. We have removed or replaced the springy annoying things because of her obsession. And, there are days I swear she knows exactly what I’m saying, like she speaks English.

One day recently, she faked an injury. I guess she decided she had been stuck in the house and neighborhood for too long and wanted to take a ride. I woke up, got the kids up, and was going about my morning routine. When I went to feed her, she limped to her bowl with her head down. After she ate, I asked her to come to me. She limped over and sat down. She limped when my husband called her. She limped when my daughter called her. It was her foot with the amputation. I was concerned, but couldn’t figure out what she could have done to it over night. She sleeps by my bed, and as far as I know, she was there all night. I took the kids to school, and when I came back, it was worse. She wouldn’t get up off the couch to greet me. She wasn’t following me around. It was SO weird. I called the vet and took her in. The very second we entered the clinic, the limp was gone. She was jumping and twisting, something she does when she greets people. It’s a little like her tail and her face want to reach you at the same time, and she moves toward you in a twisty sideways motion. I decided to leave her with them to see if after she calmed down from all the excitement, the limp would return and they could examine her better. It never came back. Because she was weight bearing and showed no distress in her excitement, they decided it couldn’t be serious like a break or anything and I should just watch her to see if it continued at home. I decided she was a little stinker who faked an injury to get out of the house.

Some days I’m not sure who is smarter, her or me, but I know she probably loves me more than I could ever love her. That’s just how dogs are. That does’t mean I won’t be giving her a run for her money, though, even when she faked injuries for a very expensive ride to the vet.