Friday, December 1, 2017

Running with the Turkey

Back in 2010, while visiting my husband's family for Christmas, I decided to register for a local inaugural 5K, the Turkey Chase in Bluffton, South Carolina. My dear sweet husband HIJACKED my race by deciding to run with me. He TRICKED me into running with him by breathing so heavily I thought he might die of a heart attack only to totally destroy me at the finish line with a Usain Bolt like sprint! (You can read the full recap here.)

The following year, I went back and snagged my 5K PR (that still stands...but I really think the course was a little short). I remember that day well...and with the experience I have now, I KNOW I could have run harder on that day. I didn't understand what it meant to be hyper-focused and I didn't understand what it meant to truly be uncomfortable. Oh how I wish I was in that kind of shape again.

In 2012 we didn't travel to my in-law's for Thanksgiving. In 2013 I was 2 months out from IMLT and 2 months away from having shoulder surgery so I didn't race it. In 2014 I was dealing with a weird "injury/not injury" in my leg as well as working toward a "Grand Slam" finish, so I didn't race it that year either. (Grand Slam is a local challenge where you run 3 50Ks and a marathon within a few months of each other.)  In 2015 I was two month out from IMChoo and, I didn't know it then but, I was starting to have symptoms of what I would be diagnosed with about four months later-Autoimmune Encephalopathy, so I didn't race it that year either. Last year I was very out of shape and Dwayne was in very good shape since he had just finished his own IMChoo so I watched him race it.

When we made the decision to go to my in-law's for Thanksgiving I told Dwayne I wanted to run the race but I wanted him to run with me. He is training for Rocket City (marathon) and he was told my his coach (NOT ME!) to run a VERY easy 6 miles that day. His brother had decided to run the race (as his FIRST 5K in like 25 years!!!). I knew if Dwayne didn't run with me, he and his brother would try to kill each other by racing. My running (which is 100% walk/running) has been very up and down so I knew it was just going to be a "fun run" and I can think of nothing more fun than running with my husband. He (reluctantly) agreed.

The weather is a little iffy that morning, colder than usual and a little rainy. I knew when I woke up I wasn't feeling 100% but I was really looking forward to the race. I love the course, well, the whole town! The race has grown A LOT from just over 100 people that first year to almost 700 registrants this year (655 finishers)! We got there and got signed up and then waited in the car to keep warm. A little bit before the race, naturally, I had to get in the port-o-potty line which was taking FOREVER. I had JUST enough time to take care of pre-race business and get over to the start line before the scheduled start time.

I'm guessing there were some pre-race announcements that we couldn't hear because the race was not actually starting on time but we had no idea why. As we were standing around (near the back since I knew I was going to run slowly), I looked around and was very saddened to see about 75% of the people around me had earbuds in. I won't get up on that soapbox right now, but I will say I wish they were strictly prohibited in races for many reasons and leave it at that.

As we were just about to get annoyed, the race started and we were off to a nice jog while Cedric (Dwayne's brother) quickly pulled ahead. We passed the road the course used to turn right on and Dwayne remarked that they must have changed the course since it's always just a little short. Two blocks later we were met with a VERY LARGE group running back toward us!! My first thought was that a big group had decided to quit the race!! My second thought was an overwhelming irritation that a race director thought it was a good idea to have an out and back in the first 1/2 mile of a 5K with over 600 people on the course!!

And then we found out that somehow we were ALL going the wrong way and that turn we thought we were supposed to make early on was STILL the course!! ((We found out after the race that JUST as the lead vehicle took off a truck pulled in between that vehicle and the runners, completely blocking off the runners so the leaders went straight until they were stopped and turned back around!!! I think it was in that very moment that Dwayne decided it was okay to be running "for fun" with me! Unfortunately, that decision wouldn't remain strong. About a minute later Cedric passed us again. He was MUCH further ahead when the race got turned back around. I know Dwayne really wanted to race him but he stayed back with me like he said he would.

I have been starting every "run" off with a warm up walk, but on this day I just took off at a slow trot thinking I would be perfectly fine. I was for about SIX whole minutes! That's one of the longest run intervals I've had in a long while so I was dismayed when I felt like I needed to walk because my shins were KILLING me. From then until about the last 1/2 mile I battled my stupid shins. I knew they were really fine because when I would walk they would loosen up and not hurt. But I wasn't "able" to run more than about a minute at a time and my walk breaks were sometimes 3 minutes long!! My poor husband was smiling on the outside, but I'm sure he was seriously regretting his decision to run with me on the inside.

I have to say running a race "for fun" when you are hurting isn't fun no matter who you're with. As we got closer to the end of the course I finally started warming and loosening up so I was able to "push" just a little at the very end. My sweet husband held back and let me cross the finish line before him. We came in 525th and 526th out of 655 runners. Because of the mishap at the start though, they didn't have actual awards. Some people, like Cedric (who came in 83rd by the way) ran almost 4 miles for the 5K! Dwayne and I we just slightly over at 3.26 miles.

My goal for next year, that Dwayne has NOT agreed to (and says he will NOT agree to), is to do either IMChoo or IMLou with Dwayne. Training for the race and completing the race, prepared and feeling good, is a DREAM to me. He did 99% of my training runs for IMChoo with me and I loved (almost) every minute of it. (I didn't love it when he would run up nasty hills like it was nothing, taunting me every step of the way...but I sure loved every other minute of those runs!) That is my idea of a most excellent way to spend a day!!

He says we have to wait and see what happens. I'm registered for the LR marathon in March and we are both registered for IMChoo 70.3 in is Cedric!!!! Dwayne knows I'm not doing as well as I need to be to even think about starting to train for an Ironman. But I think the real reason he won't agree is that he knows he can't keep up with (trained and ready) me. He needs to do this race with me because Cedric is planning to sign up for one in 2019. We'll be the cheering team for his first one, but after that, the race between the DeBardelabens will be ON in 2020.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Floaty Pants

I was part of a relay for August 70.3 over the weekend. I have so very much to say about this race....

A year ago when Dwayne was doing his IM, my brother-in-law (Dwayne's brother) decided he would start training for an IM. He had already been strength training for well over a year (EVERY DAY!). He had been getting on the spin bike as part of his workouts but didn't own a bike. He also wasn't running. He was* a Marine but he basically doesn't have cartilage in one (both?) of his knees. I cautioned him but did I mention he was* a Marine...and he's a DeBardelaben. He started shopping for a bike and started running. He felt great at first but quickly realized that you really do need cartilage to run comfortably. Luckily that realization came about the time he found a bike he loved so he shifted his focus and started riding. A lot.

Sometime in the spring he had the idea for the three of us to do a 70.3 relay. The idea was that we were going to do it for FUN. Obviously Dwayne would run and he would bike which left the swim for me. 1.2 miles...not really a problem. I'm not sure how we arrived at the decision to do Augusta, but I had heard that race has a fast swim so I was happy. I put together a training plan that would have me well-prepared. Long story (full of ridiculous excuses that really don't matter anyway) short, I didn't train for this swim.

At all.

Like really didn't train.

Some people will say "Oh I didn't train for this triathlon" but they really have been swimming/biking/running all along. Maybe they didn't do any speed work or they didn't put in all the time they thought the should have, but it's not like they didn't do any running/biking/swimming.

I checked my Training Peaks account and see that in the last YEAR I have logged about 7 miles of swimming...and at least 90% of that was with fins and was drills not actual swimming. Before Frantic Frog (AKA Calm Frog), the last time I swam at all was June 7th. When I say I didn't train for the swim, I really mean I didn't train.

I meant to. I planned to. I thought about it. But I just didn't. I had heard that race "ALWAYS" has a wetsuit legal swim and it's downstream, point-to-point, with a STRONG current. ( wasn't ws legal last year,  but that was just a freakishly hot day that was completely out of the ordinary...) Everyone said I would be able to FLOAT and make the cut off in time. And this was supposed to be for FUN!! I told myself I didn't have to train to have FUN so I just didn't. After all, I'd have the security of my wetsuit.

Well...the week of the race the weather turned hot. Talk on the Augusta 70.3 Facebook page revolved around water temps. The rules are that wetsuits can be worn "legally" if the water temp is below 76.1....between 76.1 and some hot water temp that I can't remember a wetsuit is optional but you aren't eligible for awards. But I figured since we were going to do this race for fun, I could just wear my "floaty pants" and we just wouldn't be eligible for awards. (Floaty pants are wetsuit shorts, they are considered a wetsuit for the rules but they aren't as hot.)

Let's circle back to the "he's a DeBardelaben" comment I made earlier. Short and sweet...I don't know if you've noticed that with my husband or not (cough cough, laugh) but DeBardelaben men are COMPETITIVE. Like REALLY competitive. (Maybe the women are too, but all of the DB men I know are.) When I told my husband I wanted to wear my floaty pants he just about came out of his skin. He said he would just do the swim instead.

Really?? This man that made post after post about his near-drowning experiences? This man who swam about 1% of what I did in the last year? This man who HATES the swim? All because me wearing floaty pants would mean we had NO chance of making the podium? When we were supposed to be doing this race for FUN??!!  He even told his brother that me wearing floaty pants would DQ us from the race. (No, that's not true; in case you were wondering.)

I explained that we had NO CHANCE at the podium with me as a swimmer so floaty pants or not we were NOT going to win. I had every bit of faith in the men's abilities but I had NOT trained for this FUN thing we were about to do. I told them if they really wanted a shot then Dwayne needed to swim because at least he's fit. He's been running A LOT so cardiovascularly he's in much better shape and (at least in theory) he should be able to swim a faster time than I could. The boys decided they's rather have me do the swim (without floaty pants) than for Dwayne to swim. They said it was like buying a lottery ticket. If you don't buy one you truly have NO CHANCE of winning...if you buy one at least there's a chance. (

They didn't want to truly have NO CHANCE but they really didn't care if I didn't have a "fast" swim as long as I finished under the cut off.

That was very freeing. I didn't feel like I NEEDED the floaty pants and I was confident I would be able to finish the swim in less than an hour and 10 minutes. I figured I'd finish in about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the current.

I'll have to make another post about the other interesting things about this race...but because of the way it's organized my wave (relays) didn't start until 9:27!! That is so stinking late to start a race!

It's supposed to be an in-water start. They have everyone get in the water, holding on to the dock, then they blow an air horn to start that wave, sending waves off every 4 minutes. I knew I was going to be slow and I wanted to be closest to the middle of the river to get the most current assist. So I ended up waiting to jump in after they blew the horn. Turns out I was just a little faster than a few people so there was some contact with other swimmers at first until we all spread out and found our own paths.

I was worried the water would feel really cold (it was 77*). But it was just about as perfect as it could have been. It was river water but it didn't taste muddy like some rivers do. After maybe 200 yards or so I found myself behind a guy who was side stroking and in front of a woman who was on her back. I swam a little and then breast stroked a little, every now and then flipping over on my back to take a breath. Nothing hurt I am just NOT in shape. I told myself it's very much like walk/running. I feel good when I'm running, but I can't do it for very long. And it really doesn't matter how slow I go, I still can't go for long.

Every time I would stop swimming a kayaker was right there asking me if I was okay. I never worried that I wouldn't make it. I never felt like I needed assistance, but it was nice to know they were there.

I kept side stroke guy and back stroke girl in sight. It was funny to me that we were all swimming close to the same speed. At one point I saw the wetsuit swimmers coming up. (They started after the relayers, one at a time.) I tried to draft off some of them, but I just didn't have it in me to stay with any of them. At the halfway point I looked at my watch...20 minutes! I was very pleased. I didn't really know if I could hold the same "speed" (using that word to mean pace here since there was nothing fast about what I was doing) but I figured my estimation of 45 minutes was going to hold true.

At one point I stopped and looked to see how much father I had to go and I couldn't really see buoys up ahead. I looked around a little and realized I was very close to the FINISH!! I wasn't really tired and would've really liked to just keep going but since that wasn't an option I told myself to try to swim harder.

It didn't work.

You can't give more than you have to give and you have to train to have it to give!

But when there was about 200m to go I put my head down and forced myself to not stop again. I had to slow WAY down, but I didn't breast stroke anymore and was able to pass side stroke guy and at least one wet suit swimmer who had passed me earlier. As I neared the exit I kept expecting my hand to hit the bottom. (I always swim as far as I possibly can.) But when I saw someone stand next to me and saw how shallow it looked, I popped up. I'm SO GLAD I did because I think if I had taken one more stroke I'd have scraped my hand on the cement ramp! (The water was opaque, I had no idea it was a cement ramp, and no idea it was so shallow were I was.) When I stood my watch showed 40 minutes! I heard later the current was A LOT less than it usually is, but it was a really nice push given how many breaks I had taken.

I had seen the exit earlier and knew it was up a good little hill. I had planned to walk up that hill and then run around the transition to get to the relay area but race mode kicked in and I ran up that little hill (okay, I jogged) and then never stopped running all the way to the transition area!! I'm going to guess it was only about 1/5 of a mile but I was very proud to be able to keep running the whole time.

It was strange to be coming into transition and not be getting my shoes on to get on the bike. I found myself sad that it was all over and I remembered, again, just how much I dearly LOVE triathlon.

Yes, those are house shoes. And, yes, that's Dwayne's brother, Yes, the same parents.
I made a vow then and there to never do another planned event without preparing/training. I ENJOY racing. Doing an event for fun is fine, but I have A LOT more fun when I'm prepared and ready. It would be like going to Disney World without doing any research at all. There are like 5 parks, and I don't know maybe 500 rides and shows to choose from. It's fine if you have unlimited time, but that's not realistic. I would have knocked at least 10 minutes off my swim (if not more) with training. I wouldn't have gotten to laugh with the kayakers, or see the people on the bridge, or the clouds in the sky. I would have had a different kind of fun.

For me it would have been more fun.

We came in 14th out of like 92 relays. It wasn't all because of me. We might have been able to move up to 11th if I had trained...but still not close to the podium.

In the end, I'm really glad I didn't wear my floaty pants.

I might have married the name, but I'm a DeBardelaben too.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

*For the record, once a Marine, always a Marine. is relative. Some people think it's fun to do those crazy Spartan races where you crawl under barbed wire and scale big walls. I do NOT think that sounds fun AT ALL. Some people would have had a blast in the floaty pants just relaxing to the finish. But my brand of fun involves training and being as prepared as I can be.

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017


THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED: the number of milligrams of methylprednisolone sodium succinate (Solu-medrol) I have received over the course of the last 442 days!!

And, today was my LAST TREATMENT!!!!

To say I'm happy about this is an understatement.

The big question of "did it work" is really yet to be determined. All-in-all I'm doing MUCH BETTER than I was. In that regard (symptom treatment) I have responded to the steroids very well. I can't say right now if the put this condition completely in remission. It would be a while before I would know that.

I'm saying "would" because I am being proactive and have made an appointment with a functional medicine doctor for mid-July. I've had some strange "symptoms"* that certainly seem to correlate to steroid dosage tapering. (*Because they aren't as bad as they were I hesitate to really call the things that I've experienced as symptoms, but if I'm being completely honest, I'm pretty sure they are symptoms.)

Sure, it's pretty when it's in bloom...
...Let me tell you a story. The third house I owned had two very large green "bushes", one by the front porch and one out in the backyard. I didn't know what they were but they looked like giant weeds so I set about digging up the one in the front, GIANT root ball and all. My grandmother came to visit me not long after that and asked me about the beautiful hydrangea bush in my back yard! Turns out that weed was a very well established (and hard to grow) hydrangea bush that would have bloomed with beautiful flowers if I had just been patient enough to leave it alone!

...but so is this one!
In that same yard (after this experience) I saw what I thought was a lovely looking, berried, plant growing heartily. I decided to just let it grow so I could see what wonderful flowers would emerge.  ...until I found out it was (poisonous) "Polk Salad" when my neighbor asked why on earth I had not pulled it up.

Here's another story for you.  An athlete of mine a while back was training for a half marathon. One day she texted me to say she had been having some pain in her shin and she was going to the doctor. I asked how long this pain had been going on....weeks!! She just thought it was normal "working out"/"getting fit" pain but found out it was actually a stress reaction/fracture.

We don't know what we don't know. I don't know what I don't know. Functional/integrative doctors take a big step back from the "symptoms" and look at the person as a system of systems.  They strive to answer my all-time favorite question...WHY??!! Why did my immune system decide to attack my brain? Why does it attack my thyroid? If I'm simply treating the end result without knowing why I haven't solved the real problem. I get that sometimes you can't/won't know why things happen, but there really are answers. And if that "upstream" issue isn't solved my immune system might decided to attack something else next.  And...if it is perfectly in line now, having been beating down with the steroid treatments, then the functional doctor won't find anything to treat.

For now, I'm going to take a nap and then I aim to CELEBRATE!!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cotton Row...What Do YOU Want? What Do I Want?

Race morning...(written race morning before I left)

Well, let me back up (pun intended, that will make sense after this paragraph). Last night my gut was FULL. I had not really pooped all day long. I am a fairly regular pooper so I was not feeling the best. When I went to bed I looked about 7 months pregnant. I actually prayed that I would poop well in the morning.

I should have prayed for sleep.

I woke up at 1. I don't know if I actually went back to sleep or not but I looked at the clock again at 2 and then at 3. I got up about 4. My head was pounding and my stomach didn't feel great. But when I went to the bathroom, I had MAJOR success!!!!

I'm sure my non-runner friends are grossed out about right now, but my runner friends know exactly what I'm talking about!

This morning I'm planning on starting the race with at least 2 friends, maybe 3. We are going to have a conversation before we start about expectations, needs and goals. My goal for that conversation is to be honest. I want to run well more than I want to run with friends. I really enjoy running with friends, in training. I don't really enjoy running with friends in a race. To me it's a race. I honestly believe all three of them are running better/faster than I am right now. What I'm really hoping is that they are running just faster than I am and that they can and will spit my words back at me and pull me through rough patches. And maybe I can pull them through rough patches. But some people don't want to be pulled through. I was completely willing to not race if either of them told me they really wanted company on this run, but I wasn't willing to give up my race if they didn't really care one way or another. In order to know, I need to have a conversation, an honest conversation about what I need and want and what each of them needs and wants. So that will be the first order of business.


(Written today, Thursday after the race.) As soon as we got to the race, Dwayne left to do his own thing and I went off to say hello to the bathrooms! I swear, I have to pee like 20 times on race morning. I think it's just adrenaline, but it never fails!

About 15 minutes before race start I connected with my friends. Two of the three were there, and one extra, I found out later the original number three had overslept.

Let me back up and tell you how this running with friends thing all started...

Remember Bilbo? She was one of the friends. She had been running with a man she has adopted as her dad in several races leading up to this one. He ended up being hurt so she told me a few weeks ago she was probably not even going to do it. He runs much slower and she had not really trained to do this race. I told her she should just run with me. She in turn encouraged another friend who said she wasn't going to do the race to do the race after all. Then that friend talked to another friend on race morning. The night before the race yet another friend (the original number 3) posted her goal. I "KNEW" I couldn't make that goal but I told her she was welcome to at least start with us.

Back to race morning. I found out Bilbo and Number 2 had been training with run 1/walk 1. (Number 3 had no intention of staying with us, she was going to take off pretty much right after the start.). I have been playing this little game when I run. It's a little too complicated to explain, but basically it means I am running by feel. I might run several minutes before I walk, or I might run 1 and walk 3. It's erratic and not really the best thing for someone who has trained her body to walk/run to a set time. I asked them how important it was to them that we stay together. Friend 2 said she did not expect to stay with us. Although she had been running about the same pace as I had been running, it's stressful to try to stay with other people. She said not to worry about her at all.

Bilbo told me it was her NUMBER ONE priority that she not hold me back. Second to that she didn't want to cross the finish line alone. I pushed and pushed her because I really thought that deep down she really wanted me to stay with her the whole time and she was just unwilling to say that. I even told her that's exactly what I would do if she said that's what she wanted most. But she kept telling me that wasn't the case. What she wanted most was to not hold me back. I finally decided to listen to her. We played leap frog until about mile 2. I played my little game, running a couple of minutes and then walking a little. She stayed true to her training-1/1.

Fairly early on we met up with my brother. He's not my real brother, but I've adopted him as my brother. He's a race walker, and darn fast. The three of us leap frogged around each other. I think it was about mile 2 brother and I pulled a little in front of Bilbo. Brother was just ahead of me, until we got to Mountainwood. AKA "the hill". Brother said he was going to run up it, and I was NOT. So he pulled way ahead of me at that point.

Because of my little game I ended up running the foot of the hill to the Mile 3 sign and then walked the rest of the way. When I made the right turn I just kept walking, running maybe 1 minute until the turn onto Bankhead. I started running and saw Brother waiting.

He has had issues with his knees and should NOT run but he does every now and then. He came out to run the last 3 miles of a 50K I did back on New Year's Eve 2014. And he ran again with me Monday. We chatted going down Bankhead. I was talking about CPR and he was admonishing me that CPR wasn't an appropriate topic in the middle of a race. When we got to the bottom of Bankhead I remembered that I really wanted to run my best race so I told him I wasn't going to talk anymore so I could focus on running a little faster. He picked up the conversational slack and started talking more. About bacon and steak and pulled pork and bologna (yuck). He is a meat lover in case you couldn't tell. My mouth was watering and I started planning what I might want to eat after the race. Then he said "PIE". He makes the best pecan pie every year. One year he gave me one to give to Daisy. I wouldn't have given it to her except he TOLD HER it was coming!! PIE. That made me pick up the pace just a bit more. I started thinking "run faster and you can have a piece of PIE"!!

Of course I wasn't saying any of what I was thinking because I really couldn't talk at that point. I wasn't completely spent. But I was struggling and I really couldn't/didn't want to talk.

We turned the corner onto Clinton and I was sad not to see Daisy out there shaking her tambourine like she did last year. (I found out later that she overslept.) I started expecting to see Dwayne any second coming back to find me. We were getting close to mile 5 and he still wasn't there. I began to worry just a bit. But then I looked at the time. It was right at 54 minutes.

My A goal was 1:20. I realized I had right at a mile and a half to go. 16 minutes. My average pace at the moment was right at 11 minutes/mile. I thought I was going to be darn close to that A goal if I could keep running at this pace, or maybe speed it up just a hair. But I wasn't sure I could hold it. I was very fatigued and I was really struggling.

About that time we saw Brother's daughter. We passed her and Brother held back, but then I had to take a walk break at an aid station. They passed me and he told me to stay with them. I said I needed to walk a little more (my game requires me to change only on the top of a's silly, but it's helpful in a strange way). When I started running again, I caught up with Brother but his daughter was just ahead of us. She wanted to stay in front of us. And at that point all I wanted to do was catch her.

But I was on the STRUGGLE BUS.

We turned at the square and then back onto Clinton and I really worried about Dwayne but I pushed that out of my mind and focused in on my target who was still JUST ahead. I started planning my move and shared my goal with Brother who started planning with me. 

And then she did the unthinkable. She started pulling ahead. Like it was easy. Like it was effortless. Like it was nothing. Like she was out for a Sunday jog. 

I knew right then I wouldn't catch her. I was giving all I really had to give. I mean, I could give a little kick-let at the finish (maybe) but she was really pulling ahead and we had not gotten to the mile 6 flag yet. Brother told me if I wanted her I needed to pull the trigger and go for it. I told him I just didn't have it but told him he should go after her, which he did. 

Seeing them running together almost took my mind off the effort I was pouring out. And then I saw the row of flags and pictures of fallen soldiers. About that time I heard someone cheer for me. When I saw who it was, I threw the water bottle I had been carrying over to her and tried in vain to catch Brother and daughter. It was no used. They had pulled too far ahead, and I was running on fumes. 

I felt like I did that very first year coming in to that final stretch. I thought I just might pass out. I'm sure my finish line picture shows my eyes as slits. But I gave it all I had and crossed the line completely empty.

I was so thankful to see a good friend at the finish line. She congratulated me but I couldn't talk for a little bit. THAT is such a great way to finish a race!!!!! I grabbed a bottle of water and turned to go back out on the course to find Bilbo. Although I was really worried about Dwayne I had not gotten a text so I was sure he was okay. I ran down Clinton until I saw Bilbo running toward me. She didn't seem very happy to see me, but she told me she was on the same bus I had been on. She walks SO DANG FAST I had to job beside her to keep up. When we got to the finish chute, I ran to the outside of the fencing and ran in "beside" her. 

I was so very proud of her. As I said, she has been running races with her "dad" and hasn't done one by herself in a very long time. She finished STRONG and she looked really good. She didn't feel good and she wasn't happy with her time, but she had just finished a 10K, that she ran mostly alone. I was so very proud. 

I almost went back out to find friend 3 but I figured she wasn't far behind Bilbo, and at that point I really wanted to find out what happened to Dwayne. And, I had a swim lesson to get to. I found out that Dwayne had finished and went back out to find me but he made a mistake. He thought he could take a shortcut and get to me quicker. I was running a bit faster than he expected. By the time he realized it, I was way too far ahead for him to catch me. 

I'm pretty sure this was my slowest Cotton Row ever. I JUST missed my A goal (by a handful of seconds), but I never expected to make even that so I was THRILLED. I had an honest conversation with a friend about wants and needs and I listed to what she said instead of trying to figure out what might make her happy. I was honest about what I wanted and I didn't sacrifice what I wanted just to try to make someone else happy. It was a VERY GOOD RACE DAY!!!!

This is truly one of my favorite races. I am already looking forward to next year!! I'm hoping to be back in better running shape, but even if I'm not, I know I will learn another life lesson. :D

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Number 8

Tomorrow I'll run my eighth Cotton Row 10K in a row. That's shocking to me. I've been a "real runner" for EIGHT YEARS!! What's funny is that right now I'm not running a lot, but I'm still a real runner.

Well...let me be clear. When I say I'm not running a lot, I mean straight running. I walk run now and it's slow but last Saturday I ran 7.5 miles. The Saturday before that I ran 7 miles. I've run about 40 miles in the last month. On top of that, I'm teaching Spin twice a week and I've been swimming a couple of times. It's not like I'm on the couch. But it's interesting that I do certainly still feel like an athlete who has had to be sidelined a bit. All things considered, I'm really very happy with where I am physically.

I'm right at 20 pounds overweight, I'm slow as cold honey, and I'm very weak compared to my trained self...but I'm still moving.

I'm really looking forward to doing this race tomorrow. But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't also say I'm looking more forward to next year's race!! :D

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

PS: Steroid update--I get my LAST TREATMENT three weeks from the day before yesterday (two weeks from this Friday). I'll be so very glad to have these OVER. I still really don't know if they have worked or not. I don't always thing they have, but I am thinking so much better than I was a year ago I can't help but think they have. I'm taking big steps to try to clean up my diet and to get my gut health on track, and I'm regaining fitness, so I'm cautiously optimistic about what's to come.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Truth

People will ask me "How are you doing?" And usually I say something like "I'm going okay" or "I'm getting better all the time." And, that's true, but it's not really the truth, at least some of the time.

The truth is, I'm not doing well. I'm struggling right now. I don't actually think the steroid treatments are working like they should. I walked into the locker room at the Y the other day and I didn't know where I was. My head feels like it's going to explode a good bit of the time now. I'm struggling to find words more than I would like. I'm having to check my calendar a hundred times a day to make sure I'm where I'm supposed to be.

But...I AM better than I was a year ago.

For as long as I can remember I have been a person who tried very hard to focus on the positive. If things were going poorly I would tell myself they could still be worse. Things can always be worse.

But the truth is that things could be A LOT better right now. And the truth is I don't know how to make them better. My MO has always been to simply focus on the positive and not let the negative pull me down. But my MO has also always been to focus on making things better.

I don't think those things REALLY go together.

Let me give an example. Say I take a test and I get a 98%. Focusing on the positive would be celebrating the 98%!! YAY! But I wouldn't do that. I'd look for the reason(s) I didn't make a 100%. To spend time focusing on that 2% is NOT focusing on the positive, especially if that 2% can't be made up or changed.

I think the truth is that I would be upset over the 2% FAILURE but I would put on a happy face and tell myself (and other people) that things could be much worse, I could be a 3% FAILURE!

There's something very disingenuous about that. To feel like a failure internally and to put on a happy face about that feeling of failure. But I don't think the answer is to proclaim failure. I am learning the answer is to maybe say "I feel sad that I didn't make 100% but it's okay"...if that's the truth. If that's not the truth then maybe spending some time working on making that the truth is a better use of time as opposed to working on ways to correct that 2%??

I'm sure you can tell I'm struggling here....and it's not the brain disease causing the struggle.

I think for me when I say "I'm doing great", I want that to be true. I recognize the truth of the statement. My situation could be SO MUCH worse that I really am doing great when compared to a lot of worse things that could be happening. But there is another very equal truth I (usually) don't say.... I'm not doing okay right now.

I don't want how I'm "doing" (my state of being) to be dependent on how I'm feeling. I want to be the master of my feelings, the master of my perspective. And, I've always held the belief that my perspective determines my feelings.

Feelings are fickle. Feelings are dependent on the circumstance. Feelings don't care that things could be worse, they just feel how they feel. Like unruly children.

That feels very chaotic and random. If my feelings determine my state of being (how I'm doing) then I can't be positive. I can't make it a great day. I can't embrace the idea that things could be worse because sometimes I feel pretty darn bad.

But what happens when a child is trying to express something and they aren't heard? They get louder and more unruly. Adults who don't understand this can work to suppress the child even more and you end up with a downward spiral that doesn't serve any good purpose at all.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think I go around trying to suppress my feelings. I just try to get them to line up with my beliefs about life. Things could be worse. I don't accept negative. I work toward being better, always. Feeling sad or hurt (or grieving over how things are not the way I want them to be) is just like that's something to correct.

It's like there's this battle. I feel ashamed for grieving over the state of my health because I have friends who have much bigger health struggles going on right now. I feel like I have NO RIGHT to be upset over the little things I'm dealing with. At the same time I want to make those little things better and I simply do NOT know how. (Depending on who you ask there isn't a way to make them better--I do NOT accept that answer!) That causes a feeling of helplessness that I refuse to tolerate. Helpless is vulnerable.

Maybe the key is just feeling the grief I have over the state of my health and being honest that things are really not good without the judgement that I have no right to feel that way. Or maybe the key is to accept that 98% is really good and to completely celebrate how good it really is without trying to make up the 2% difference??

...The problem is that I don't really have a good perspective of what percentage of failure I'm at right now. I'm not dead so I'm better than 0%. But I'm certainly NOT close to 100%.

To not work to correct the percentage of "failure" I'm living in right now feels like giving up. To not grieve over the loss feels dishonest. I think I'm being stretched to allow both to be true at the same time. Grieve and work, but at the same time celebrate where I am and rest from all the work and grief.

A goal I've had for a very long time is to bring myself fully to life. The truth is that's complicated and messy and really very hard.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around. I realized I didn't write about the RACE I ran in February!! I'll post a recap soon. It will be nice for this running blog to actually have some posts about running!! :D

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Let's Ride a ROLLER COASTER!! (Part 4 of 4)

I can assure you this is not going where you might have thought it would...bear with me here... I'm going to take you on a roller coaster ride.

From the time my kids were probably about 7 and 5 we got annual passes to an amusement park that was a couple of hours from our house (Silver Dollar City).

There was a ride at that park called "Fire in the Hole". It wasn't a roller coaster as much as it was "just" a fun ride. (The link takes you to a youtube video of the whole thing!) Spoiler alert, I'm about to tell you all the "thrilling" parts of the ride.... There's a part where it looks like you are going to be hit by a train, but the tracks have burned out so you plummet down, you get "shot" at, and then they yell "FIRE IN THE HOLE" and you zoom down and around the tracks in the dark! Toward the end a Hillbilly up above you says "Here's a barrel of laughs for ya!" and it looks like you are going to get doused with water. It makes you look up so your picture could be taken with a look of surprise on your face (they don't do that anymore, the ride has lost the element of surprise for most people). This ride was the family favorite for quite a while. It was the first one we'd get on when we got there and it was always the last ride we'd go on before heading home.

But then one summer thy advertised the new new roller coaster that would be ready the next year (Wildfire). All three of us were very excited to ride it. We waited all winter and showed up on opening day going straight to THAT RIDE. There was one problem. My daughter was about 2 (maybe 3) inches too short. Being the excellent parent I was at the time, I let her wear my shoes which gave her the extra height she needed. I didn't want her to miss out. But, the safety police saw through the plan and wouldn't let her ride. Being the stellar parent I was, we let her wait while we rode it!! Poor kid. The following year she was big enough and a new family favorite was born. We loved that ride. But the starter and ender of our day at the park stayed Fire in the Hole.

Until a few years ago, I LOVED roller coasters. I loved waiting in line-anticipating the ride is a BIG part of the fun. I loved getting in the very front or the very back (the middle was only if the lines were WAY too long for the front or back, but it was a last resort type option). I loved the feeling of being strapped in. And then every part of the ride had things to love. The clickty-clack of going up, up, up...slowly building the tension to be released at lightning speed. I loved the coasters that have sudden changes in direction with loopty-loops and high speed. I especially loved the ones where your legs are dangling down.

Until I didn't.

I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe it was just a matter of getting older-my body can't take those things like it used to. Maybe it was the sudden realization that they really are scary to be on.

When we are little we are taught what is scary. When I was in my final year of college I was pregnant with my daughter (my youngest). I had intended to go on to get a Masters in Social Work. I did a lot of research into studies of working mothers and the impact on kids. One study talked about how much influence a mother's feelings have on their children. They had a crawling baby on one side of a glass bridge and the mother on the other. When the baby would start to crawl across the mother would either smile and look happy or she would look scared. The babies who were given encouraging looks had NO FEAR of crawling across. The other babies had fear. This fear would transfer and generalize out to other tasks. (There is a reason they don't allow these kinds of studies anymore!)

Funny, as I was looking for videos for this post I found this little gem

I love the kid at the end..."do you want to go again?" "No."

These parents are teaching their children-there's nothing to be afraid of here. ("Put your hands in the air!!") ...for the record I almost couldn't watch this video. The one baby looks like he's going to fall out of the seat-that bar is not even remotely holding him in!!!

Remember the pressure cooker? When kids are subjected to high stress when they are little, they are pretty much growing up in a pressure cooker. (This stress can be any number of things from benign types of things such as moving several times all the way to more traumatic things such as physical, mental or sexual abuse. The body becomes MUCH more adept at triggering the stress reaction in the body. It's the opposite of what happens on the outside, or what you might think. You might think that high stress in youth would create a resilience to it. Or would desensitize the child so that it would take much higher levels of stress to create a reaction. But from all I've been reading, that is not in fact the case. (Google it if you are interested, there are WAY too many resources to link even a fraction of them.)

My kids and I could recite every line and knew every move of Fire in the Hole. Just writing this has triggered the feelings I had on that ride with my kids year after year. You might say the ride imprinted reflexive emotions and reactions that are deep within my body.

There are numerous theories on why some people get autoimmune diseases and some don't. Childhood illnesses, gut permeability and dysbiosis, being born via C-section, frequent and repeated use of antibiotics, toxins...the list is long. I think this is why most medical doctors simply treat the symptoms (called "downstream treatment"). There are pills that can solve almost any symptom out there. But the disease is still there (upstream from the symptoms). One theory is the early introduction and "inoculation" of stress causes an imbalance in the immune system. I don't want to get too technical here (and I can't, I'm not a doctor) but suffice it to say the system needs to be in balance to work properly.

The biggest two parts of a roller coaster are the tracks and the cart, or whatever attaches the person to the track. Well, I guess there's really a third...the operator. Some (most) roller coasters are automated. It's not like a train where there's a conductor that has control. The operator just starts and stops the ride. If everyone isn't strapped in properly, the operator won't push the magic green button.

I could take this in any number of directions at this point. This is one reason I love analogies. You can use them in so many different ways.

Are you strapped in??

Clickty-clack, clickty-clack....

When I was little I went to church with my step sister. I remember being there one Sunday night hearing about how I was going to hell if I didn't go up right then and get dunked in the saving baptismal water. I knew I didn't want any part of this place called hell. I knew how bad things were at home and I had every reason to believe hell would be like falling out of the frying pan into the fire (pun intended). So I jumped up and walked down the aisle. I was promptly dunked and sent home. I remember thinking the whole way back how excited I was to be protected by my new Father. I had been washed white as snow and was a child of the King. I could walk through fire and not be burned.

But when I got home, all hell broke lose. It's a long story but suffice it to say things did not change for me. I remember going to school the next morning and thinking "everything looks EXACTLY THE SAME".

Remember the oven? Well, this is when the bathtub would have been a better visual, so I'm going to switch back now. I trust you get the idea well enough to stay with me here.

Being washed by the blood of Christ has nothing to do with externals. It has to do with the heart. There is no part of that washing that we have any control over and no part that requires WORK on our part. We can clean and clean the outside, but it's the heart that really matters.

When we are on a roller coaster, we have no control over where that thing is going to go. We have no control over the speed. The cart is going to (hopefully) go where the tracks take it. The operator is just pushing a button but he's really not in control.

Who's in control?? The designer. The one who built the coaster. That person made decisions YEARS before you got on this ride. That person engineered the ride to do certain things in certain ways. When we get on that ride, our trust is not on the tracks, or the cart or the operator. Our trust is in the DESIGNER and the BUILDER.

My life has been a roller coaster. Lately it's been a lot more scary. I think it's been particularly difficult for Dwayne. He never knows what wife he's waking up to or coming home to at the end of the day. That man knows my every mood by the way I BREATHE. He has had whiplash almost daily the last 18 months. I may have grown up in a pressure cooker. My outside may not be as clean as I'd like. But I (we) trust the designer of this ride. I (we) have faith in the engineer. So we'll throw our hands up and enjoy every minute.

...I warned you this was not going where you thought, I gave you plenty of hints it would take many twists and turns and change directions abruptly, but you hopped on this ride anyway...

Thank you for stopping by and sticking around. The usual running commentary will resume as soon as everyone steps off the ride. :D

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Is This Clean Enough (Part 3 of 4)

I know I talked about cleaning a bathtub in part one, but I have some decent pictures of my oven that work too well not to use so I'll just make the switch right now from bathtubs to ovens. More people can probably relate to ovens anyway.

Let me start by saying I don't cook a lot. I'm not a cook. I know I said that in part two, but it needs to be said again.

I realized a few days ago that my oven was in desperate need of cleaning. ...Let me pause here for a minute. If you regularly clean your oven, can you explain to me how that works? I mean, I use my oven to cook food I'm going to eat. It's usually still hot when I'm done eating so I can't clean it then. When do you actually clean it? I had a self cleaning oven one time but I burned up the element in it by using it; the repair man told me to NEVER use that option because the element wasn't made to get that hot. That makes no sense to me...why have it as an option if it's just going to fry your oven? But I digress....

The other day I bought some no fume cleaner (that's another lie-don't believe it). When I went to spray it, I realized JUST how disgusting my oven had become. The directions said spray in a cold oven and let it sit for two hours then wipe clean. Thankfully it had another option because I knew that was not going to really work. For tougher jobs, you let it sit overnight. Well...I decided to let it sit about four hours. Shockingly, a lot of the gunk really did come up with paper towels! But clearly I had missed some places so after I wiped it all out, I sprayed more on and let it sit over night.

When I got up this morning I was pleased to see it had worked ...pretty well. But there were still some places that weren't really clean. Okay...the oven door actually looks like it has never been cleaned, ever. (I sprayed a THICK layer of this cleaner on there last night...I think it just doesn't really work on the door.) And the top of the door had what I thought were burned marks on it but as it turns out, that's just cooking funk.

Remember what I said about the filthy bathtub...well, I think you can see how this relates.

As I did with the bathtub, I scrubbed and scrubbed. I even got out a little brillo pad for the top of the door. I don't think I can use it on the door "glass" but even though I took a Pampered Chef scraper to that burned on nastiness...I could not get it all the way clean. I decided I would just keep working at it each day.

Remember the chart of diminishing returns?? Well...I really am in that yellow section right now. A LOT of work will only lead to a little progress, but it's still PROGRESS. And having a clean oven is worth it to me. Because now that I have recognized how disgusting it really is, I can't ignore it.

Before I looked in that oven, I was perfectly happy to just cook my food and not care what awful things were on the bottom, sides and door. It's not like any of my food touched those parts.

But, I looked. I noticed. And now I've read this whole article on why you SHOULD keep your oven clean. I won't be able to ignore it anymore. (How did I get to be 47 and not know all this already? I'll say it again...I'm not a cook!)

If you read Part Two, you probably know this has nothing to do with cookign and everything to do with training.

Okay...not really (but it could if that's where I was willing to stop). More than one do-gooder in my life has kindly shown me that I'm not quite "sorted out". And, frankly it pisses me off. My "inner oven" started getting dirty very early in my life. In a perfect world, ovens don't get as nasty as mine became.  In a perfect world, kids play and they learn and they grow. In a safe environment. And when hurts happen, they are "cleaned up" and "sorted out" at the time, in a healthy manner.

If you read part one, you know I decided that bathtub was probably never white to begin with. But I know what this oven is supposed to look like. I can't pretend I don't.

I have a feeling the stuff on the door will NEVER be truly clean. There was just too much grime built up. In the same way, the hurts of my childhood were deep and wide, and they were added to frequently. Even after all the therapy I've had, there are still some remnants that have yet to be completely taken care of. And, if I'm being honest, they probably will never be all the way gone.

The bad part about not keeping an oven clean? That baked on yuck attracts grime MORE than a clean surface would.

Let's go back to the pressure cooker for a second. When you have a dysfunctional pressure cooker...the pressure either builds, but not quite enough to actually cook the food well, or it doesn't build at all.

I'm not really happy about my grimy oven. I'm really not happy about my dysfunctional "pressure cooker". I don't want to "do therapy" again. I want to clean my oven and cook my food...and ride roller coasters. That sounds FUN, right??

Three posts in one day might be enough....or maybe I'll stick with it and see this all the way through.

Thanks for stopping by and sticking around.

**I know I said I had pictures of my oven...but really, no one needs to see that!

Life in a Pressure Cooker (Part 2 of 4)

Like I said in the last post, I really don't know anything about pressure cookers. I know what I think they do, and I like the visual, but the analogy might break down if you are a cook and you really know how they work/what they do. So, I'll just ask you to bear with me here...

Without going into too much detail, I didn't have a Brady Bunch/Leave it to Beaver childhood. My parents separated/divorced when I was in the 1st grade. We moved from Texas to Arkansas. (If you know anything about their football rivalry in the mid 70s, then you know why this is included in my "I didn't have a good childhood" story.) My mother remarried a couple of years later to the man I called Daddy. (He wasn't my biological father, but he married my "Mommy" so I reasoned I needed to call him "Daddy".) He was a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde kind of man. He was not a nice man. He passed away many years ago; I'll leave it at that. I know my mother is reading this, so I'll say I know she did the best she could, and I'll leave it at that. 

When I was fresh out of high school I found a therapist to see. At my first visit the good doctor was getting some history from me (thank God) and we discovered he had gone to school with my Daddy, like 30 years before then, in a TINY town about 3 hours away. What are the chances of that??!!  He tried to assure me I could talk to him about anything, but I couldn't get out of that office fast enough! Determined as I was, I quickly found another therapist. As I was telling her my story, she remarked that I seemed very well "adjusted" and asked what I hoped to get out of therapy. I remember telling her "well, I feel confident that I can't be as adjusted as I think I am...I'm hoping you can help sort that out." I don't remember how long I saw her, but she was the first of MANY "sorters" I have seen over the course of my life. 

((To be perfectly clear, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm still not sorted out.))

Since then I have spent more on therapy than some wealthy people in third world countries MAKE in a lifetime! And don't even get me started on all of the TIME involved. When you "do therapy" it's so much more than the time spent on the couch and the travel time back and forth to the office. But even more than the time I've spent "doing therapy", I want to focus a bit on the time I've spent FIGHTING against it.

....Let's talk about the pressure cooker now. (Again...if you are cook, just roll with me here...)

You put raw food in the cooker, lock up the lid and then turn on the heat. Pressure builds and builds, cooking the food. If the pressure gets too high there's this little stopper thing on the lid of the pot that will pop up and let some steam out. This keeps the pot from exploding while the food continues to cook. The lid doesn't let all the pressure off or the food won't get done. 

Think about how we train our bodies. We over reach and push beyond our comfort zone and then we take time to recover. Then we push again. In an ideal setting, we'd push just enough (we'd let the pressure build just enough in the pot), and then we'd back off just enough (the lid would let just enough steam out) in order to make our goal (cook our food). The goal is not actually BALANCE. The goal in training is to be faster/stronger than we started; the goal in cooking is to have perfectly cooked food! If you have "perfect" balance in training you are not actually "training"...that's called maintaining. If that cooker has perfectly balanced pressure, it would be called a bowl. :D

In "therapy" the idea isn't to stay in the same state you started. That's called small talk. :D

When you go into therapy, there's something that has probably been out of balance for a while. A lot of people (myself included) will take the pressure cooker approach. The "problem" builds and builds until it's unbearable and you go to therapy to let off some steam. Once you've vented off just a little you FEEL better. In training, when done right, you feel better after a recover day/week. But you don't usually meet your goal by the first recovery day/week now do you? In the pressure cooker analogy, when the steam is let off, the food may smell really good, but it's not ready to eat yet.

I have never liked pushing myself in training. I have never been a good cook. And, I've never liked therapy. Therapy is hard. Small talk is easy. Venting is easy. Therapy hurts. 

You can't take all the pressure off until the food is cooked, and you can't halt the stress of training until you've reached your goal/peaked for your race. With therapy, a little "venting" might feel good, but if it's not getting you (me) to the goal of being "sorted out" then you (I) have to keep "pushing" and "cooking".

Are you still with me?? Thanks for stopping by and sticking around. Part 3 of 4 is coming up...