Friday, March 21, 2014

Back to the land of the living

My blogging has been at a stand still.  On October 26th, my mother became ill and many lives were changed, including mine.  My mother was diagnosed, for lack of a better word, with Guillian Barre' Syndrome.  It is rare.  It is basically an auto immune issue where your body starts to attack your nerves in your spinal cord.  My mother went from a healthy fairly active person to being paralyzed from the neck down...within 24 hours.  It has turned our world upside down. It has been a chain reaction.

My mother is struck ill---->New homes have to be found for her two siblings that she cared for  -----> Family begins to bicker about who needs to share in responsibility ----> my brother and I are small business owners so when we don't work, we don't get paid----> budgets are created----> hobbies and vacations are put on hold-----> our world evolves around caring for my mom and her home -----> and I have to drop of training for marathon.

That is right.  I would not see the fruits of my labor.   My mother was in the hospital until mid January and my brother and I shared the duty of seeing her and helping her.  She had become quadriplegic and needed our help and support.  In mid January she moved in with me and I no longer had the freedom to go run when I wanted to run.  If I thought taking time out of my week to drive to see my mom for  a few hours was hard...try being her caretaker 24/7.  The first few weeks were very hard.  I rarely slept and it took its toll on me.

But I am back.  We have a caretaker that comes in a few hours a couple of days a week. This allows me time to work and start enjoying life again.  My first run was Monday and I loved it. So what if  my pace was not the same as it was before or that I felt really sore the next day.  What a great feeling that was...soreness. I missed it. I know it sounds crazy but I did.

So here is to my first run and my first attempt at a normal life again, to be among the living.  Over the next few weeks I'll share my experiences on running and the balancing act I must do in order to be a full time care take for my mother and a full time me.

Be ready because here I come.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I ran because she couldn't

We have all seen the  t shirts..."Cheaper than therapy".  Well guess what?  It is.  My world was turned upside down a few weeks ago when my mother went from a fairly active independent person to being paralyzed from the neck down.  As a matter of fact, today is her first full day out of ICU.  The good thing is that her condition will be temporary.  The bad news is that it will take months of rehab and therapy to get her back to somewhat normal.  With all this going on, I had to reorganize my priorities and well running was put low on the list.

But the other day I decided to put everything to the side and just take off for a run.  It was the best decision I had made in a while.  This may sound selfish but it felt good to think only about myself. It felt good to breathe in fresh air and feel the earth below  my feet as I pushed forward on the trails.  It felt good to see the birds flying above and the cranes just standing in the water.  It was as if all was normal in the rest of the world and I was once again living a normal life.  

During my run, my thoughts ran as free as my feet.  As I ran I thought about my mom and her inability to even move her toes.  My mother was healthy but she didn't exercise.  I thought about how often we talked about her just walking around the block and she said it was too much and she was too busy.  And now she begs to just be able to move her foot across the bed.  I realized how much I take my ability to move for granted.  I thought about all the things I am physically capable of doing and choose not to do them.

And then I thought about all the times I was disappointed in myself because my time was not as great as I wanted it to be.  That I had to take an extra minute of walking during my intervals.  Have you ever done that?  Have you ever focused on what you thought was a failure without realizing all that you really accomplished?   Don't do it. Don't go there. It's a waste of energy. Focus on all you have accomplished.

Life is too short too short to waste time on the negative.  Be thankful that you got out there.  Seriously, be thankful.  My mother struggles to raise one finger on either hand and considers it a victory when she can move two.  She doesn't have time to dwell on the things she can't do but focus on the things she can and the small improvements she makes each day. So until she can run, I will run for her.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's not about how slow you finished but that you FINISHED!

Ok, today I am jumping straight to the point..for all you newbies out there...slow should not be in your vocabulary.  Slow implies that somewhere there is a fast. And when it comes to being a new runner, fast doesn't exist.  You are just getting your running feet and taking them for a test drive.  What does that mean? It means that you are learning or dare I say training.  I know some newbies can't seem to grasp the fact that the moment they lace up their running shoes. step outside or on the treadmill with a plan to do so many seconds or minutes of running etc...they are actually training.  The most common training for new runners is Couch to 5K, so I will use it as a reference.

As a newbie doing the Couch to 5K plan, each run is a long run. Why?  Because each run is expected to last longer than the last one.  By definition, that is a long run and even for seasoned runners, long runs are done with less emphasises on pace and more on endurance.  So do you know what the seasoned runner does? You guessed it, they do it at a pace that is slower than their race pace.  

As a newbie, you don't have a race pace. You only have a long run training pace and since you have no race pace, you don't have a slow pace. You can't have one without the other.  So stop using that four letter word: SLOW.  I have a better one for you : TRAINING pace.  That four letter word is negative and there is nothing negative about what you are doing.  You dared to believe you could run.  Most people don't even try because they are too scared.  You had the courage to believe you could.

I spend sometime on a running forum at  A word I seem to see from many newbies is the word "slow".  And here is the funny part, most of them are faster than me!  So what does that say about me and my pace?  Not a darn thing!  My pace is my pace.  I am in a race against no one except myself.  My first goal in any race:  to finish.  My second goal:  finish at a better or same time that I did previously.  And I must admit, that second goal doesn't happen all the time and I am okay with that.  

I am extremely proud of my run yesterday.  I finished and I felt good...okay I was dying because I didn't realize when I started sprinting to the finish line that what I thought was the finish line was actually just another corner to turn and I had about 100 yards still to go.  But when I caught my breadth, I felt great.  So you want to see how I did?

That's right!  I was fourth from the last in my age group!!!  Who freaking cares? I finished the Galveston Toughest 10K, which is my second Toughest 10K of the running season.  And yes, I am feeling a little bad ass about it.  As the elite runners were running back over the bridge in their mile 5 while I was hitting my mile 2, I yelled, "looking good!  Looking great!" and gave them thumbs up.  And you know what?  A lot of them did the same thing to me. And when I ran that last stretch, with my headphones blaring in my ears, I could still hear all the people cheering as I sprinted at a 13:38 minute pace. That's right! typo here!  My sprint at the end was 13:38 minute pace.  

So don't tell me about how slow you are or you can't even run a minute.  You probably can't run that minute because you are starting out too fast.  I know, I did that for a long time and repeated week 1 of Couch to 5K several times because I wouldn't slow down.  But you know what? Once I got over my need for speed and slowed down, I could run a minute then two, then 5, then 20 then I ran a 5K and now 10Ks.  But it would have never ran my first 5K if I had not put my ego to the side and trained at my training pace.

So be proud of your pace. Be proud of your desire to run. Be proud for each week that you add another 60 seconds to your run.  You see that last name on my picture?  They announced the last runner was about to come around that corner and run to the finish line  You would have thought a celebrity was coming down the road.  Hundreds of people ran to the finish line to cheer her on.  People were running behind her, like crazy fans.  And she ran across with all the pomp and circumstance that she deserved.  If this had been an endurance sport...she would have been in first place.  And you want to know something?  She shaved 11 minutes off of her Kemah Toughest 10K time!  She is hardcore and I admire her.  Can you imagine if she finished the Kemah one and said, "Gee, I am too slow and not sure if I want to do this anymore?"  Don't be that person. Be the person that sees their race finish as an accomplishment regardless of their time.  You're only competitor is you and most of the time our thoughts are our biggest competitor.

 Remember, you got this!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Livestrong: Helping Survivors live strong

It 1998 I became a member of an excusive club.  It is so exclusive that you can't volunteer to join it.  You have to be invited and the invitations are sent randomly to people all around the world.  They are sent to the young, the old, the rich and the poor.  No country, race or gender is left out.  But unlike most invitations, this one is met with fear.  Think Katniss from the Hunger Games and the lottery.  

By no means do you want to receive this invitation but when you do, you are willing to fight to the death.  In 1998 I was handed that invitation.  It said, "You are cordially invited to attend 8 rounds of chemo, 6 weeks of radiaton, double mastectomy and reconstruction.  You have been selected in a fight to the death against Stage III breast cancer.  Should you win this fight, you will win the honor and title of Survivor."

It has been over 15 years since I received that invitation and each day I thank God for His strength as I went through that battle and became a member of this club.  I don't wish it on anyone but the view of life that I have after it, makes me feel blessed that I did receive the invitation  Can't explain it but when you meet another survivor they understand.  There is this secret "knowing" that you  feel when you meet another survivor.  There is this experience that has altered you for the rest of your life that only another survivor can understand.  I consider it a privieldge when I meet another survivor.

That is why I am so grateful to the Livestrong foundation and the YMCA.  They teamed up to offer a free 12 week training course to any cancer survivor.  It is done in a group environment to promote  support among the survivors while helping them begin or maintain a healty lifestyle and minimize the side effects of treatment.  During these 12 weeks, the survivors, as well as members of the family that reside in the same household, receive free membership to the YMCA and free group training.  

We have met for three weeks so far and I must say that I am really enjoying it and learning so much.  There are 8 survivors in our inaugural Livestrong group.  We have 6 breast cancer survivors, one melanoma survivor and one rectal cancer survivor.  The youngest is 25 and the oldest is probably in her 60s.  We meet twice a week as a group but are encouraged to come more often.  We will be exposed to all forms of exercise.  We use the treadmills, ellipticals, crossfit trainers and weight machines.  This week we will take a yoga class and a spinning class.  If you are a subscriber to my blog you know how I feel about spinning and my last experience with spinning.  But I will try it again. Here's to second chances.

So if you have a family member or friend that is a survivor and you think they may be interested in a program like this one, contact your local YMCA and see if they have started one in their center.  It is a wonderful program.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Big Fat Run

I forgot to mention one very important aspect to the race last Saturday: fellow runners.  Oh how I love runners. 

Because we had to loop around the bridge twice,  there was a portion of the race that faster runners had to pass us up.   That became one of my favorite parts.  Many of the "fit"  runners ran by saying,  "good job"  or "you are doing great"  "looking good" or just simply giving us a thumbs up as they went by. 

If you are one of those fit runners,  thank you.  It means the world to us.   Some how the bridge was made more bearable because of it. 

However,  if you still feel unsure about signing up for a 5K because you don't feel like you fit in or you feel you are to slow (by the way,  I was third from the last in my age group),  then I have the race for you.

It's the Big Fat Run hosted by The Fat Girl's Guide to Running.  It's a virtual 5K and is free so you have no excuses.  The next one is on September 29th. (I know it looks like it is on the 13th but the Brits write their dates backwards.  JK She hosts one each month.  All you have to do is sign up and run it at home,  in the gym,  on the trails,  on a track,  in your neighborhood,  on the beach,  well you get the picture.

So hop on over and sign up.  No excuses,  just do it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kemah Toughest 10K: Rocked it!

1:42:59 That is my official time. Not counting the virtual 10K I did in 2009, this is the first officially timed 10K that  I have completed. If you are not familiar with the Kemah Toughest 10K, then you may not know why it is called the toughest.  Almost three quarters of the course is up a steep, high bridge.  I have to admit, the idea that my first 10K would consist of lots of hill work from a gal that lives on the flattest place on earth, pretty much terrified me.

It is worth repeating:  If you don't have a running group that you regularly run with, get one. It makes all the difference in the world.  If it had not been for them, I would not have been as prepared as I was for this race. OK, I call it a race but for me...really not a race.  I don't expect to win.  My only two goals are to finish and not be last.  Mission accomplished but not without obstacles.

Weather:  You know it is going to be a bad rain when the news spends most of it's newscast discussing all the flooding they are expecting.  At the time that I fell asleep, they predicted the worst part of the storms and flash flooding to happen about 30 minutes after start time or as I thought of first part of my run.  Luckily, the weatherman was more into drama than accuracy because it didn't start to rain until mile 3. And it was pouring.  The rain felt like small pellets hitting my face. Beyond that  discomfort, I loved the rain falling down on me.  I was worried about getting blisters but it didn't happen.

However the wind was with us from the beginning.  It was a stiff head wind that really made that first cross of the bridge almost impossible.  Well, not impossible, but as I was climbing the bridge, all I could think was, "Oh my, I still have three of these to do and the first one is really tough."

Time Management:    I have no idea what happened but I didn't hear my alarm go off and I overslept.  This race was less than two miles from my house so I didn't really prepare my belongings the night before. I expected to get up at a decent time, get dressed and pack up.  However, I woke up an hour later than expected and had to be at the race in 13 minutes.  So I rushed to get my clothes on and pack my belongings. So I forgot my wireless headset (if you remember, I forgot my phone holder for my last race), my trashbag to wear in case it rains, my bottle of race fuel and my extra bottle of water. Not to mention I wasn't able to properly eat before the race. I shoved a piece of bread with peanut butter on it in my mouth.  But I survived.

Wardrobe malfunctions:   As it started to rain, I noticed my left bubby was jiggling more than usual.  I looked down and noticed that my bra strap was undone and my bra was falling down.  (Remember, at this point, I have a very wet clingy shirt).  So I tried my best to lock and load my rogue bubby, while I ran.  After two failed attempts of strapping it correctly, I finally just pulled to the side and did it correctly.  A bit further down, my running buddy, Heidi, was having problems with her pancho and we stopped to try to put it on her.  It just tore so we decided to continue.

Potty break:  There is something about running water that makes me need a potty break.  So as it started to pour we pulled off for a potty break.  You try pulling off wet running capris. Better yet, you try pulling up wet running capris...not an easy task.

Crowd management:  When you are one of the last ones to come in, you can expect some of the early finishers to leave before your during your run.  However, the only exit out of the race area was on the exact streets that we were running. So when we made our way off the bridge and back onto the streets that lead back to the Kemah Boardwalk, we found ourselves weaving in and out of traffic or watching for cars that were trying to reverse.  The course is still closed to traffic but the cross roads aren't so people would block the runner's path.  BOOOOO!

But with all these distractions we did an amazing job.  It felt amazing.  When we turned the corner and weaved pass the last set of cars blocking our way, all I could see was the finish line.  I hoped to finish under 2 hours. I wasn't sure if I could with all the bridge work and weather but we did it.  1:42:59 is my official time and that's not too shabby.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I have three messages for you...

I received an alert on my Galaxy S4 a few days ago "Diana Nyad completes Cuba to Florida swim".  And like many alerts I received, I just hit clear and moved on with my day.  Thank goodness there were other people out there who didn't.  Thank goodness I saw her interview with Robin on GMA.  It was a segment less than five minutes but I have been thinking about it for days.

If you don't know who Diana Nyad is, you are not alone.  Until a few days ago, neither did I.  In 1975 she swam around Manhattan Island. No that is not a typo...1975.  So how old is she?  She is 64 years old.  Her first attempt to do this was in 1978 and has tried three other times.  That's right, she failed four times and it took 36 years for her to accomplish this goal.  A-MAZ-ing.

That alone speaks volumes about this woman.  It speaks to her dedication, her spirit and her focus. How many times have I had a goal in mind and either blew it off after a failed attempt  or never believed I could do it and proved myself right or just forgot about the goal?  I did it too many times to count.

But she didn't.  And at 64, tired and sore, she walked out of that water and had a three messages for us

  1. We should never, ever give up.
  2. You never are too old to chase your dreams.
  3. It looks like a solitary sport but it's a team.
I have to write that somewhere and hang it up.  I have to remember.  What had me thinking about her for days is what she said to Robin. Robin asked her what she did during the tough moments and she responded that this year she adopted a mantra, "Find a way."  No matter how difficult or impossible something seems, you have to find a way, if it is that important to you.  

We all can make excuses.  We all can blame it on a situation or a person. But the truth is, if you want it bad enough, you can find a way. It may not be easy and it may be tougher than expected but in the end, it will be worth it.  It will be worth it because you are worth it.

Find a way people!  Do what it takes and be willing to do more if needed!  I can do it, you can do it, we can do it!