Sunday, September 17, 2017

Calm Frog

In mid-May I signed up for Frantic Frog. It's a sprint tri (400m swim, 25K bike, 5K run). I was feeling very hopeful about training and feeling like it would be a good goal race for me.

The race was yesterday....

The last time I logged a swim workout was May 31st. The last time I was on my bike (not the Spin bike) was June 11th. Combine that with being about 25 pounds heavier. You might think it would have been a miserable experience. But I had a GLORIOUS TIME!!!

I had to borrow a tri kit since none of mine fit. The race was wetsuit legal. Ordinarily I wouldn't even consider wearing a wetsuit but I'm going to be doing the swim portion of IM70.3 Augusta next weekend. It's a wetsuit legal, point to point, downstream swim. I have to borrow a wetsuit for that one since mine doesn't fit so I figured I would try out a borrowed one for this swim but instead I wore some "lava pants" I bought for training. They are wetsuit shorts and they are AWESOME!!

Getting ready for this race on Friday was pretty comical. All of my triathlon stuff was spread out all over the place since I haven't done a sprint in 3 (4?) years and haven't done a triathlon since IMChoo in 2015. I couldn't even find my cycling glasses. I almost forgot my goggles. It was like I was doing it for the first time!!

My birthday was Thursday. Usually we celebrate by going to dinner but I decided I really wanted to have a non-food related thing so we went to the Escape Pod Friday night (SO MUCH FUN-I HIGHLY recommend that place!). On the way there a friend of mine sent me a text wishing me well for the race Saturday and she sent this video:

Let me tell you I SOBBED and SOBBED just before we got to the Escape Pod for my birthday celebration! But it was a really good, cleansing sob. It was just what I needed to let go of all the anxiety that was building up as I was getting my stuff ready.

When I signed up for this race I put a link on my FaceBook page. This race registration site (runsignup) has a thing where if someone signs up using your link you get money off your registration. Well a couple of people signed up from my link. One of these friends was going to be doing her first open water swim triathlon! As race day was getting closer I was starting to think maybe I had made a mistake signing up for it. I even contemplated not going. But then my friend asked me if I wanted to ride over with her. She has a vehicle big enough for 2 bikes and gear, and my house was close to being on her way from her house to the race site. I said yes knowing that would mean I couldn't back out.
classic pre-race pose

She showed up at 5:15am and we headed off. I'm sure I was just as nervous as she was but we kept telling each other it was going to be a lot of fun.

My new "race day/workout" hair.
This race used to be run by a local guy and it was a good sized event. That guy announced he was going to be stepping away from directing it so a race management company took it over. They changed transition, the bike course and the run course. They changed post race food. The feel of the race was completely different. Not bad but different. I think that actually helped me a good was like doing a new race instead of one I'd done a couple of times before.

We got checked in and set up and then I walked through transition a few times. Dwayne showed up to spectate which really helped to calm my nerves. I got to tell SEVERAL first timers to just stay relaxed...which was really me saying that to myself.

An athlete I coach was there to do this race. She has come so far and is really doing well. It felt very weird to know she was going to SMOKE me on the course...sad and happy all at the same time. In the past when I would race I would pick competitors who I knew were right about my ability level (usually a little better) who I would "target" to race. I remember the last time I did this race I was less than a minute away from winning a frog in a box. I was really torn up about how close I was and how little things that happened through the day kept me from being on the podium. I knew there was NO CHANCE of even coming close this year and I had been telling myself leading up to race day to let go of competing completely.

Letting of of picking a person to race doesn't mean letting go of trying to do my best. It's part of who I am. But my goal was to honor my body and to give all I had the ability to give for this race on this day.

white swim cap is me
As we lined up for the swim I was battling nerves and taking my own advice by telling myself to "just relax"...and just like that it was time for me to jump in. As soon as I hit the water I got a nose full of water and a foot cramp! I was able to start swimming and very quickly realized I was swimming way too fast. I took a couple of breaths and then mostly settled in to a nice rhythm. I have a horrible habit of only breathing right when I am nervous/tense so I forced myself to breath left a few times and tried to get into a bilateral breathing pattern but I kept reverting to right-only. At least it gave me something to focus on! It seemed to take forever to get to that first turn buoy. What's funny is that when I look at the times and distances, that first section was the fastest and shortest. When I made the second turn I was headed back. That's when things began to click. Probably about 1/3 of the way on that last stretch I was able to relax and just swim. I found myself wishing it was a longer swim! (I'll get that next weekend at Augusta!)

When I got out of the water Dwayne was there taking pictures. I instantly starting thinking about the bike and all the nerves I had just finally let go of on the swim came rushing back.

*huh, I was "jogging" back to T1!
Before the swim Dwayne asked me about my lava pants. They are hard to get on just like a wetsuit so he was asking if I was going to be able to get them off easily. I told him they are VERY easy to peel off. I was walking (yes, walking, not running(*) into transition, I realized the tie was stuck. I wasn't knotted but it just wouldn't come lose. I had a mini panic because there was no way I could pull them down. As I came into transition Dwayne was there and I told him it was his fault it was stuck because he had asked me about it! I took a nice deep breath and relaxed and it untied!! I started telling myself "I love this, I love this, I love this"....I got my shoes and helmet on, grabbed my bike, walked out of transition and got on my bike.

For the first few minutes on the bike I wondered why I was there but then I reminded myself--I LOVE triathlon!! And then I saw my friend on the side of the road. I asked if she was okay. When she said she didn't know I stopped to help. She had dropped a chain. I got it back on for her, made sure she was back on and going and then I headed out. I guess if I was a REALLY good friend I would have stayed with her, but I didn't. I had planned on making a video of the whole bike portion of the race. I had my GoPro attached to my bike and had planned on turning it on when I was in T1. I forgot until about 2 miles in. The bike was fairly uneventful. I got passed early on by several people and I passed a few people. I went slow at times and fast at times. (My fast times were riding down hill with a tailwind, but whatever!) Coming back into the park I saw a guy who was running with his bike. I asked if he was okay and he said he had popped a tire! He had to run about 3/4 of a mile with his bike in socked feet! In the final stretch of the bike I found myself wishing I could ride longer. My legs were tired and I had concerns about the run, but I really wanted to spend more time on the bike.

Coming up to the dismount line I started reminding myself how to clip out and telling myself which way to lean so I didn't fall over! When I got off the bike my pelvic area was ON FIRE!!! I felt like I could barely walk and all of the nerves I had let go of on the bike came rushing back as I starting thinking about the run.

Side note....back in 2014 when I was doing the Grand Slam, during/after Dizzy 50 I started having on-again/off-again pain in my pubic area. I can't fully describe it except that it HURTS. It doesn't seem to be muscular. My daughter researched and thinks it might be pudendal neuralgia which really seems to fit. I went to the doctor last week about it (before she looked it up) because it was flaring back up. He referred me to a spinal doctor but I haven't gone yet. The pain mercifully went away leading up to the race but when I got off the bike it was the worst I've ever experienced. And yet, I was happy. I was about to get to go "run" and I only had one more thing to do to finish my triathlon!!

I had one of the longest transitions I've ever had (okay...maybe not, it was 1:50...I'm thinking I've taken longer than that before...). I couldn't find my speed laces so I actually had to TIE my shoes!! GASP! When I got them on and grabbed up my race belt and turned to run out of transition I COULD not run. It hurt so bad to just walk I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish.

And then I remembered my own words...JUST RELAX. Breathe. Walk. When I got outside of transition I stopped and tried to stretch. But stretching never seems to help at all (increasing the chance it's that nerve). So I just starting walking (VERY SLOWLY). I told myself I certainly wasn't going to quit, so I needed to MOVE toward the finish. After about 3 minutes I tried to jog but that made it hurt worse so I walked some more. The more I walked the less it hurt so I was able to finally start jogging a little bit. My heart rate and breathing never really got too far out of hand (especially for a race) but my pelvic area and my legs were my limiters. That made me INCREDIBLY happy!! I saw a lot of people I know and got to tell a ton of people "GREAT JOB"!! My athlete was running VERY strong and looking exceptionally good!

There was a guy who had passed me in the final mile of the bike who I played leap frog with on the run. (Not literal leap frog, but he'd pass me and then I'd pass him.) He was a fun guy. He was high-fiving people and cracking jokes. Super nice guy. When we finally made it to the turn around we both cheered!! On the way back I saw my friend and was so relieved to find out she didn't have any more bike troubles. I told her I knew she was going to catch me and pass me but I wasn't going to make it easy for her! (I can't not compete...) The nice guy was ahead of me and I was losing ground to him.

I passed a guy at some point and he told me he was going to try to stay with me as we jogged along. We came to a little down hill so I told him, "I'm going to stretch out my legs a little on this downhill -controlled fall and then I'm going to walk at that turn up ahead". He said okay and stayed right with me. We walked a bit and then jogged a bit. And then I said "Okay, we are going to run to the aide station and then we can walk again for a bit"...and it hit me...I didn't know this person. He's not my athlete. I'm not coaching him!! I apologized profusely and told him I just can't help myself! He laughed and said it was more than fine that it gave him goals. So we ran, then we walked and then we caught the other guy. I told him he should join us. We started running again and passed a guy walking so I told him to join the band of brothers, which he did!!

at the finish
When I got to about mile 2.5 I finally hit a good zone. There was an Ironman up ahead of me (he had a tattoo) who was running my speed and I just disconnected from everything except the back of his head. It was GLORIOUS!! I found myself wishing I could just keep running all day long. I felt myself speeding up but I just couldn't hold on. I realized we had lost fun guy and walking guy, but the other guy was still there. I told him "I'm going to walk to the next little sign and then I'm going to start running again..." He asked me if we were going to run at the NEXT sign, or the one after that...I said "I think the one AFTER the next one!" It was fun, we were in this together. We were going to finish strong together. I told him I usually have a good finish link kick but I didn't know if I could bring it out or not. I said if he wanted to beat me across the finish line he needed to leave me early. He told me where he was going to start running harder and I told him I was going to chase him.

my run/finish line buddy
I never caught him but he didn't leave me either so I was THRILLED!!! When I crossed I knew I had given all I had to give while honoring where I am right now. That is SUCH A GREAT FEELING!! I was very sad it was over, and relieved it was finished.

My finish line friend came up and gave me a big hug. I found out his name is Kendall and we got a picture together.

It turned out my athlete won second in her age group but I missed the award ceremony when she got her frog :(.

My pelvic area feels better today so that's REALLY VERY GOOD. I'll be going to the spine doctor next week. I'm not sore anywhere and I feel exceptionally good today!!

I think the video was right...HERE COMES THE COMEBACK!!!!

Thanks for stopping and sticking around!!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I Am Determined to Be Okay

...even if my health is not what I might want it to be.

A while back a friend told me I needed to get really mad. I need to rage against this thing. I needed to beat a punching bag and scream. But I've done a lot of that in my life. (Okay, I kind of did that very thing this morning...ask Dwayne.) But it doesn't do anything except cause pain. Getting mad doesn't make anything change. Being angry just keeps the hurt in and the change away. Raging against something doesn't make it different.

I really don't have to be mad to be determined.

I have waffled in my determination in this last year and a half. I have had many times that I have just been tired of trying. I have had times when I have just given in.

Those times don't last. They don't last because that is not who I am. I'm not a quitter. I have quit a lot of things in my life, but I am not a quitter. I don't give up. I don't give in. I don't back down. (At least not for long.)

Part of the issue for me is that when I renew my strong will, I can end up taking on too much at one time. I don't just vow to make small changes and build my way into strength. I don't just take small bites of the whale, I try to stuff that whole thing in my mouth at one time!!

That's not a bad thing unless I get choked and spit it all out.

Here's the thing...I can only do so much. I can only "control" so much. I can only work so hard. I realize everything is not up to me, but some things are. Many things are.

I'm at my heaviest weight. I've been here before, a few times actually. This is my "line in the sand", my "wake up call" weight. My "what are you doing" weight. My "things have to change" weight.

I want to be clear. It's not the number that really matters. It's what's behind that number FOR ME. For me this number means I have not been taking care of myself in the best way I know how. This number means I've stopped chewing the whale and spit it out. It means I've stopped trying. It's a symptom. It's a sign.

But it's not over until it's over.

I've been sort of waiting until I was done with steroids to get serious about trying to lose this extra weight. I didn't gain it all from the steroids, but about 15 pounds of the 20 I'm going to blame on steroids. Well, I'm done now. It's time to get back to eating that whale.

Again, the number on the scale is not the critical thing. The most important thing is what I'm doing to take care of myself: eating healthy food that fuels my body, moving my body, feeding my mind and my soul...and doing those things because I am worthy of health not because I'm wanting that number to change. Not even because I think doing those things will change what's happening in my brain/body. It's about doing those things because that's what I KNOW is the best for me. It's certainly NOT best for me to eat the amount of sugar I've eaten in the last week. It's not best for me to be sedentary. It's not best for me to wallow. It's not best for me to quit being determined.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

"Melinda Mae" by Shel Silverstein

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I'm Not Okay I am 34,500 mg of solu-medrol later and I'm really not okay.

I'm better than I was. I have had some exceptional days in the last 15 months. I've had days I thought this whole thing was going to be a bad memory I would never have to remember again. I've had days I thought I was back to my own version of normal. It hasn't all been good, but I have had a general upward trajectory that had me convinced I wouldn't be in the pit again. At least not with this same thing.


I'm not okay.

Something is very wrong.

I am not have the same thought problems that I was before and that's a REALLY GOOD THING. I am not having the same level of word finding problems that I was before and that's a REALLY GOOD THING. You know I LOVE words. Not finding words is torture. :D  But I'm having really strange symptoms that come and go like ocean waves.

Nausea (that seems new, I don't remember feel that before)
Right ear pain
Head bobbing thing
Emotional craziness*
Not being able to "get things done"
Memory issues (but this isn't nearly as bad as it was)
Tingling/numbness in my hands and feet (and down my arms)
Extreme fatigue
Sleep issues (this is in no way correlated to the fatigue)
These weird electrical type pains that shoot down a limb at strange times
Electrical sensation in my tongue (this happened once-SO STRANGE)
Random swelling in my hands, knees, and feet (this doesn't seem related to food at all but who knows)
Pressure in my head (feels like my head is very full but it doesn't seem like sinus stuff)
Low back pain or neck/base of skull pain (not related to physical activity)
Intermittent blurry vision (this might be completely normal from what the eye dr told me but it feels very related and random)
Random I will be walking and all of the sudden a pain shocks me to the point I almost stumble, or I'll be sitting at my desk and a random pain makes me double over or suck in a deep breath.
It hasn't happened in a while (like a month) but there's a strange thing that happens where I feel like things are backward. A couple of examples: I was driving and really felt STRONGLY that I was on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road. Last year it showed up when I would type-I felt like my hands were on the keyboard wrong. In both cases I would sit there and look, trying to figure out how it could possibly be different (there isn't a steering wheel on the other side of the car, there's no other way to have your hands on the keyboard).
My brain feels "hot" or like it's burning sometimes. Not like a fever, but like there's a fire inside of my head. I used to think this was psychosomatic because there's a book called "Brain on Fire" but it's not there all the time and it shocks me when it's there.


Let me be clear....the type of antibody that was attacking Susannah Cahalan's brain is NOT attacking my brain. Her condition progressed very rapidly and was severe. There are numerous types of autoantibodies and they attack in different ways. They didn't identify the autoantibody that is causing my trouble. (My spinal fluid wasn't sent to Mayo Clinic and HH doesn't run the same battery of tests. By the time I got to Mayo I had already had 7500mg of solu-medrol so the doctor said doing another spinal tap wasn't worth it because we already knew steroids were working and it might not even show up.)

My hope is to find out the CAUSE of this thing that is happening to me, not just to find a drug that will slow/stop the symptoms. A lot of doctors say it's impossible to find a cause but not all of them say that.

I have an appointment with a doctor in Chicago a week from Monday. Well, I have an appointment at the clinic and most likely I'll see both doctors! They do EXTENSIVE biochemistry testing. I don't know if this is the answer (or part of the answer) but I feel confident that this is a good direction for me right now. After the appointment I get the labs drawn and then it takes about 5-6 weeks to get results and analysis. So...we shall see.

All I can do right now is keep moving forward. It's like Ironman. It doesn't always feel good, but sometimes it does.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

*So I feel like I should clarify what I mean by "emotional craziness" since if you know me, you know I'm a highly emotional being. I mean that sometimes my emotions don't seem to fit with what's going on. Specifically I am crying a lot. Randomly. Unrelated to what's happening or how I'm really feeling. This is different that my normal "cry at the simplest things" way of life. So far I haven't laughed inappropriately so that's encouraging I guess.