Monday, March 25, 2013

EN OS, Week 11 (Another week, another injury)

Three more weeks.  That’s it.  The workouts are getting tough, but this chick is tougher!  Well, tougher than the Beginner OS Training Plan anyway.  I’m still thankful to all the ENers that convinced Joe to NOT get me the intermediate plan.  Instead of collapsing into bed each night before ten, I’d probably be falling asleep at the dinner table!  So, whoever you are, thanks! 

That being said, here’s a synopsis of week 11:

At the beginning of last week, I was feeling better.  My hamstring pull was healing well and I was beginning to be hopeful that I could start adding in my intervals during my runs again.  Tuesday’s transition run went without a hitch, and then came Wednesday…

My post-injury regime
I felt fine for the first ten minutes and, right as I was ramping up for my first sprint interval of my warm-up, WHAM!  Same pain as the week before, just in the opposite hamstring.  WHAT!?  How could this happen again?  If I hadn’t given up swearing for Lent, there would have been some other choice words, but I restrained myself, got off of the treadmill and immediately started the regime of stretching, icing, KT-tape, and ibuprofening the heck out of my hamstring.  And this week, I also promptly called my trusty massage terrorist, Ron.  Perhaps, I reasoned, some of the root cause of my recurring injury was because of my back.  I’ve been sitting for hours on end in front of my sewing machine, working on costumes for Jamie’s school’s spring production of The Little Mermaid Jr.  Yes, I stupidly and blithely volunteered to help with costuming.  Yes, I know, I’m a sucker.

While I couldn’t get in to see Ron that day, I did manage to get an appointment the following day.  I guess I sounded desperate as it’s really really hard to get an appointment that quickly with Ron.  Sure enough, L1, L5 and my sacrum were out – again.  :0/ Guess that means more core work is in order.  Ron sent me on my way with my back and my hamstring feeling slightly better and with instructions to do more targeted stretching than I already do.  Ugh.  Perhaps I should also adjust my pace numbers a bit as well?  Maybe I’m doing too much, too fast…

Bike rides were fine – I even got out and rode on Wednesday with the gang, holding a decent pace for me and not pushing myself, despite the wicked wind again.  I even went up one of the hills without having to drop down into my small chain ring.  Whoo-hoo!  No go on Saturday’s transition run – OW!  Okay, I told myself, just rest

I ignored my 0430 Sunday morning wake-up and laid in bed cramming in as much extra sleep as I could between bands of strong wind, rain and thunder.  I need to rest my hamstring, I reasoned.  Uh-huh, another part of my brain retorted, you need to try to get a run in.  And so, while I really don’t like to exercise after church, I came home, changed and hopped onto the treadmill, determined to get some semblance of a run in after almost no running this week.  Coach Joe gave me his blessing with the EN mantra of; Your injury is your coach

I’m just gonna run a comfortable pace, no intervals, I told myself.  Z1 felt okay - just a little niggling ache in the hamstring.  (Why oh why is there such a significant jump between Z1 and Z2 paces, I ask you?)  I didn’t want to push too much, but, with each passing mile, I crept closer to my Z2 pace from the first eight weeks, which is now in the no-man’s land between my current Z1 and Z2. 

In the end, I ran eight miles with only mild discomfort.  I am continuing to stretch, ice, tape, ibuprofen, repeat…  I’m hopeful that this upcoming week, I can get back to doing some intervals and my long run.  As long as I can remain new-injury free, it seems doable, but then, consider the source.

Louie channeling Elton John
Last week I posted a picture on Facebook of Louie keeping me company while I did my Thursday trainer ride.  He had me in stitches; who knew a kitten could amuse someone for two hours!  As usual, after I moved one of his favorite stools from the sunroom where it had been stationed next to my treadmill to next to my bike trainer, he hopped up and settled in.  I, of course, baby talked to him between intervals when I could actually breathe.  After a time, he hopped down and wandered towards the kids’ rooms.  Suddenly, he came bounding out of the hallway dragging a lilac feather boa, commandeered from the depths of the girls’ closet.  He proceeded to wrap himself up in it and drag it around the living room, like an Elton John wanna-be.  Next, he decided to rip it into submission.  The feathers and tinsel (it was an extra-fancy boa) soon littered the floor.  Tiring of that, he got his feather stick and spent the next hour chasing the feathers on one end around in circles while holding the stick end of it in his mouth.  He would only stop when he ran into something.  Honestly, he’s as entertaining as having a dog, except for when he expects to get fed at 0500 and again at 1730 each day! 

Louie is a very social kitty and likes to be where the action is… unless, of course, he wants to nap.  He can most often be found hanging out on one of the stools in the kitchen or curled up nearby wherever we are.  Remember, three of the five of us was rooting for a dog, so his antics and adoration of us is well received.

Joe has, for as long as I’ve known him, tried to make each and every one of our cats a lap cat.  My oldest girl Tasha was, but since then, no dice.  Tessa was a lap cat with only me, he can’t stand Murphy (and the feeling is mutual), and Sneakers was only a lap cat with me at the very end of his life when I was on my little cancer adventure. 

Enter Louie – a kitten, easy-going and malleable to Joe’s wishes.  Alas, Louie is not going to acquiesce so easily to Joe’s wishes.  Joe tries, the kids try, I try.  Louie tolerates being picked up and held in all sorts of positions, but Louie is not a lap cat.  Louie, Joe and I have decided is a “nearcat”.  He wants to be close to you, but not entirely on you.  How close, you ask?  Case in point -- last night, I was doing something in the kitchen.   Louie wandered in, looked up at me with that contented squint that cats do and then proceeded to flop down with his back resting on my foot.  Had I immediately sat down, there would have been no way he would have climbed into my lap.  Instead, he would have just nestled himself in the crook of my knees or up against my hip like he does to Joe each night.  Louie is not a lap cat.  Nope.  Louie is a nearcat. 
My bike workout essentials - bike, fan, computer, iPod, cat.
And so, as I do almost everyday, I move his favorite stool back and forth between rooms so that we can keep each other company during my increasingly long and difficult workouts.  I think he finds me as entertaining as I find him.  Maybe Joe will get lucky with the next cat, or maybe we will get a Labrador who wants to be a lapdog.  Until then, I'll just keep watching Louie's antics...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

EN OS Week 10, aka, the old workout “switcharoo”

Due to last week’s unexplained albeit painful hamstring strain, I got creative with my workout schedule this week.  This was a bit challenging for me as my EN workout routine is now firmly engrained in my brain – rest Monday, bike on Tuesday with a transition run, etc.

Instead of taking a rest day on Monday, I decided to take it on Tuesday for two reasons: 1.) My coworker needed me to work on Tuesday instead of Monday and that meant if I worked out on Tuesday, I’d have to get up at my usual Sunday time of O’dark-thirty to get on my bike.  No thanks!  One day a week is enough.  2.) I wanted to give my hamstring as much of a rest as I could before Wednesday’s interval run, if I even attempted it. 

I continued to ice, ibuprofen, stretch and Biofreeze my hamstring into submission throughout the week.  (I think my butt has finally thawed out from all the icing I was doing.)  I attempted to do a little transition run on Monday after my bike workout, however I hadn’t even made it up to Zone 1 (easy pace) before I started whimpering. Instead, I called it a day.  Coach Joe applauded me for my uncharacteristic weakness.  I just wanted the pain to go away.  **Coach Joe says that it wasn’t weakness it was prudence.**

Surprisingly, by late Tuesday afternoon, my hamstring was feeling remarkably better.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still sore, but not that stabbing pain that stopped me in my tracks on Sunday morning.  I found a somewhat comfortable pace that I thought I could maintain and then ran three miles with the fast kids from the elementary school’s running club.  I didn’t even balk when they ran a little ahead of me to which several kept turning around to see if I was going to bark at them to slow down.  Those kiddos will tell you that I am a FREAK about safety!

My darned hamstring continued to plague me throughout the week, but I soldiered on with my workouts.  On Wednesday, the local bike store started their evening rides back up.  Of course I went, cold and windy as it was.  Wednesday rides this early in the year are really more social rides than anything else.  I was not planning on doing my run intervals to give my hamstring even more rest, but my legs were feeling somewhat numb after getting off of the bike so I decided to give it a whirl.  If my hamstring started to hurt, I would stop.  Yeah, right.  Seriously, I was.  I needed to be as pain-free as possible for Saturday so I wasn’t gonna monkey around.  The running club kiddos were running their first 5K and I had promised them that I would pace whoever wanted me to, hamstring strain or not.  I couldn’t let my kiddos down!

Saturday was duathlon day for this chica.  I got up before the crack of dawn to get my bike intervals in and then headed out for the race.  Many of the kids from the running club were there.  It was a treat to see Jamie hanging out with his buddies at the start line before the race.  (Apparently, running club is one of the cool clubs for 5th grade boys at school.)  All three of our kids had their iPods and handheld water bottles and were ready to roll.  Yes, we are secretly trying to raise a new breed of endurance athletes.  Surprisingly, Mic wasn’t pitching her usual fit about being made to run.  Perhaps Joe read her the riot act before they arrived…

The family that races together
stays together. :-)
Jamie planned to run with his friends; he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about winning.  I guess we need to work on his killer instincts – just kidding!  Our friend Cori graciously offered to run with Mic.  Cori was just getting back to running after recovering a month-long deployment and a pinched nerve in her shoulder so she wasn’t planning on breaking any land speed records.  I was pacing Josie like I always do, figuring that I could also pace some of my running club kiddos, as they needed me. 

My buddy C
We headed out and Josie was holding a pretty good pace for her.  She was jamming to her tunes, singing out loud with reckless abandon as she ran.  We were about ¾ of a mile in when we came upon my first running club kiddo that was struggling.  C is one of my fastest kids, if not the fastest, and I fully expected him to win his age group.  To see him limping along in tears stopped me in my tracks.  I sent Josie on ahead knowing that she’d never get far enough ahead that I’d lose sight of her, put my arm around C’s shoulder and started walking with him.  He was complaining of being dizzy and an upset stomach.  It was a beautifully cool morning for a run, so no worries about heat stroke.  I kept him walking and talking.  He told me he’d had an upset stomach on and off the day before as well, but no fever.  Hmm.  I asked him if he thought maybe, just maybe was it nerves?  He grinned at me sheepishly and agreed.   

After walking a bit and with a little bit of Momesque TLC, he felt good enough to run again.  So, we ran.  And then, we walked.  And that was how C finished the race.  As we got to the last half-mile and I knew he’d finish, I told him about how Crowie (Alexander Craig) continued to run and then finished the marathon at Kona last year even after he knew that there was no possible way that he would podium.  I shared with C the importance that it’s not always winning, but how sometimes just finishing and doing so with grace is one of the most important parts of sport.  I think he got it. 

Josie crossing the finish line 
As we came to the last corner, C looked up at me, smiled weakly and told me that he was gonna run the rest of the way.  I smiled back, and told him, “Let’s go then.”  I upped my pace and off we went.  C crossed right before me – time: 30:37.  I immediately enveloped him a hug; the poor kid looked like he could use one.  Neither of his parents was able to be there, so I took on the role of proud parent.  And, I truly was!  This kiddo is a swimmer and he went out of his comfort zone to try something new.  It didn’t turn out how he had planned, but he persevered and I think the next time he runs a 5K he’ll be all right. 

Mic crossing in front of her pacer, our friend Corin
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that my own babies did well.  Jamie finished a minute or so before we did and was chillin’ with his buddies as we crossed the finish line, cheering on other racers.  Joe ended up pacing Josie who came in shortly after C and I did.  Mic and Cori came in several minutes after that, earning Mic (my non-running child) her very first 2nd place age group finish.  Perhaps I should have gotten them iPods and handheld water bottles a long time ago…

My boy and his wonderful teacher
After my early morning bike intervals and a 5K, three friends and I went on a windy 26-mile bike ride.  How windy was it?  So windy that two of us almost got swept off of our bikes at one point.  I felt like Piglet when he gets swept up into the sky on the very blustery day and Pooh holds onto his scarf to keep Piglet from being blown away.  Forget the intervals - that was great resistance work.

Sunday’s long run was, thankfully, just that – long.  While the hamstring was achy, I didn’t let it stop me.  I knocked out the intervals and then some.  Around mile 10, I even started got a runner’s high.  I get runner’s highs when I run outside, but I’ve never gotten one on the treadmill.  It was a very weird sensation, pleasant, but weird. 

Joe says that he doesn’t get runner’s highs.  I’ve tried to describe it to him – that feeling of floating along, that you could run for miles and miles, that you are invincible.  Nope.  He’s never had it.  Wow.  That’s a pity.  Curious, I have also asked him if, when he’s running, he’s ever felt his muscles moving in synchrony or marveled at how they all work individually and together.  Again, nope.  Now, I know I’m really in tune with my body, but perhaps I’m just a little too in tune… 

Monday, March 11, 2013

EN OS Wk 9 (Injury)

The week began normally enough.  Monday was a work/rest day other than that Joe was out of town for a job interview in Colorado.  He hasn’t gone out of town since before Christmas, so I had to get my mojo back.  Thankfully, it came back quickly since we’re all well versed in Dad being out of town.  Despite the never-ending fatigue from the EN workouts, my body didn’t want to shut down for the night until much later than it’s been used to lately.  That’s definitely a hold over from Joe’s earlier TDY days.  Tuesday I did my bike workout in the morning and saved my run for the afternoon so that I could run w/my son’s running club at school.  I was the rabbit for the kids to chase around our makeshift “track”.

My favorite little runners
I really enjoy this time with the kids.  They range in ages from 3rd – 5th grade and are of all skill levels, from the My parents said that I had to join running club kids to the I have soccer/swim practice right after this.  They are all so sweet, many of them full of energy and confidence.  The others are appreciative of the attention, even when it’s just to tell them to hustle up or tie their shoes.  None of them has ever held a grudge against me for holding them back or making them hurry up.  They all greet my enthusiastically by name when they see me at school.  I know their faces, but I wish I could remember all of their names. 

I always have one or two boys who are faster than me to start out, but they eventually fade, even with me pacing them.  I typically try to keep them between a 8:30 and 9:00 min/mile.  Reigning in a bunch of mostly 5th grade boys is like herding cats!  And, dodging the buses and cars at dismissal time just adds to the fun.  Despite that the kids listen to me pretty well and are mindful of the traffic, I think I’ve given one of the assistant principals heart palpitations a time or two.  My fast boys think that they can smoke this old mom, but in the end, it is usually I who is having to encourage them, cajole them, go mom on them to finish strong.  I love sharing something with my son that I used to do with my own dad.

My Boy Scout
Tuesday night, I took Jamie to his first Boy Scout meeting.  Gosh.  He’s growing up too.  Last week he moved from Cub Scouts to full-fledged Boy Scouts.  I felt very wistful as I drove away, like the first day we dropped him off at Montessori school.  He, of course, didn’t notice when I left.

Wednesday was another busy day; which translates to an early wake up call for me to get my workout in.  I am definitely a morning workout person.  Morning workouts, while sometimes very tough to get started, energize me.  I much prefer to start the day with a workout under my belt than going about my day knowing that I will have to get it done later.  My life is so hectic and sometimes so fluid, it’s just easier to get up early and knock it out.  Besides, I am one of those people who has trouble falling asleep if I work out too late in the day. 

Thursday was one of those days that I dread – chock full of appointment after appointment.  My agenda looked like that of a minor CEO.  If I could squeeze it all in, I’d be happy.  Surprisingly, I charged through my morning appointments and suddenly had a break.  A break?  What to do?  What to do?  And, suddenly, I had the compulsion to head to the gym and get in a quick swim.

I know that the EN Outseason Training Plan does not have any swim workouts; that there is such a small return on your investment with swimming, but I wanted to go for a swim.  I hadn’t swam in over three months at least.  I found that I was missing my bi-weekly swims. 

After a quick trip home to gather the necessary gear, it was off to the gym.  Soon enough, I was slipping into the cool, well cold, water and pushing off.  Much to Joe’s dismay, I don’t warm up or do drills when I swim; I just swim.  I do focus on my form, but I’ve found that if I do intervals, I tend to get short of breath and my legs or feet cramp up faster than normal.  Again, this is pretty much a direct result of the chemo/cancer/asthma.  I always swim next to the wall, even if I have to share a lane, in case I get a leg/foot cramp that I have to work out. 

My personal trainer/cheerleader
for Saturday's bike workout
The first two laps were hard; my arms were burning and I wanted to stop.  I didn’t and the next twenty-eight laps felt pretty good.  I really enjoyed slipping smoothly through the water.  By the last two laps however, my form was breaking down, my arms were tired again, and my feet were threatening to cramp up.  Focus on your form, I told myself.  In the end, I swam 1600 yards and felt pretty good about my time.  I was centered enough to finish the rest of my crazy-busy day.

The weekend was as weekends always are - busy.  The weather was finally going to cooperate again and I planned to go out for a fun ride on Sunday afternoon.  Saturday’s bike was intense, but I had a great little cheerleader – Louie and a great book on my Shuffle. 

Sunday, because of Daylight Savings, I got up at what my body thought was 0330, but was, according to the clock, my usual Sunday wakeup time of 0430.  At my appointed time, I hopped onto the treadmill and started my warm-up.  Joe got on his bike next to me and stared pedaling.  Suddenly, I had an intense pain in my left hamstring.  I tried to do a couple of quick warm-up intervals.  No dice.  I got off, stretched and tried again.  I found a pace that it wasn’t too uncomfortable to run at and pressed on.   Joe regarded me dubiously, cautioned me to not hurt myself. 

Cooking with the youngest
I got nine of my planned on twelve miles in and NONE of my intervals.  I felt terrible, but knew that I had somehow injured myself and wouldn’t be doing myself any favors if I pushed it.  I was actually kind of looking forward to those intervals too. Darn.  I stretched, showered, put KT Tape on my hamstring, popped some Motrin, iced my leg, and hoped for the best. 

After church, I slowly got on my bike, church clothes and all, and did a couple of exploratory laps around the cul-de-sac to see how my leg felt.  It wasn’t too bad, so I decided to try the group ride w/my friends.  Three miles in, I wanted to turn around and head home.  My leg hurt, I had a rumbly in my tummy and I was so stinkin’ tired from losing that precious hour of sleep.  Instead, I kept going.  Lo and behold, I started to feel better.  I actually ended up out in front several times.  Those EN workouts do seem to be working. =) 

Today, the leg is still sore, too sore to even do a small transition run.  We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.  For now, I’m going to do Motrin, rest, ice and repeat.

EN OS Week 8, aka Test Week

Test week.  Gulp.  I’d been worried about this week for a while.  What if I hadn’t made improvements?  What then?  Was I going to be deemed a total slacker?  Yes, I know I worry a lot about silly things - zero to overkill as Joe says…

Having a rest day on a Sunday was quite bizarre.  My body is so used to getting up at 4:30am each Sunday now to do my long run, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  It was nice to actually sleep in a bit, but Monday and my bike test were now looming in front of me.

Let me just say that after eight weeks, I still HATE the bike test!  Biking is not my strong suit and, while I didn’t want to vomit too much, I felt like my lungs were made of cellophane and that someone had torched them.  It was like those little animated creatures in the Mucinex commercials were roasting marshmallows in my lungs with a flame-thrower!  And, I hadn’t even ridden outside!  If I had, I think I would have just laid down with my bike in the grass, still clipped in, and waited for someone to come and steal my bike. 

Since I’ve recently switched my workday to Monday, I had to do the bike test and then head into work.  Ugh!  Can you say compression sox?!  I was short of breath all day, despite my puffs off of my inhaler.  I think I actually took the elevator instead of the stairs several times – a huge concession for me as my coworkers will tell you, and then snigger behind my back.  No, on second thought, they’d actually snigger in front of me, and I thank them for that.

Wednesday was the Run Test.  Yay, I got to run, but I must confess: I always feel like I’m cheating when I run on my treadmill, particularly when I have to go really fast for an extended period of time because I have to hold on.  I liken it to those ladies on the elliptical machines who hold on and barely break a sweat during their workouts.  Unlike them, however, I sweat enough to fill a kiddie pool when I run on my treadmill! 

So what gives, you ask?  Surely I can run at some pace on the treadmill and not hold on!  The truth is, I have poor balance.  I have since I broke my leg when I was twenty-one.  Chemo, and the number that it did on my overall body, made it even worse.  Seriously, I have to hold on even when I’m walking on the treadmill.  Ask Joe.  I sway and stumble and look like I’ve hit the post-race liquid refreshments a little too hard even at a 15 min/mile pace.  Since I do most of my runs in wee hours of the morning and because I’m trying to protect my knees and hips to keep running, I run on the treadmill, holding on so that I don’t end up in the emergency room explaining how I had fallen off of my treadmill and sustained a broken arm, clavicle, leg....

While the run test was better than the bike test, it wasn’t fun.  I knew I would do better than I did on the bike test, but it wasn’t until Joe was crunching the numbers told me, “You’re not gonna like these paces” that it was confirmed.  I knew, holding on or not, I was gonna get my run on for the next six weeks and it was gonna be fast and fun.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been having some circulation issues.  Dr. C told me last year that I had Reynaud’s syndrome, which is why my hands and feet get so cold so easily. For a while now, I’ve also noticed that if I don’t jump in the shower right away after a workout, I start to shiver and shake uncontrollably.  Saturday, I noticed that my fingertips were turning purple as I stood talking to Joe after my workout.  Of course, he immediately hustled me into a hot shower, but that got me wondering if there was anything I could do about it.  Usually, they just got cold, blue, or white.  Or, perhaps I’d never noticed the purple phase.  Hmm.  Joe thought I was cyanotic; that my body was pulling all of the blood from my extremities to keep my vital organs going.  I think he was afraid I was gonna start doing the chicken-bob next (for all of you aviators out there that have ever been in the centrifuge). 

I felt compelled to delve further into this new symptom.  Again, I turned to my friend Google.  One site Google led me to was the LiveStrong website. (** No matter what your feelings are about Lance, you can’t deny that his organization has done quite a bit for cancer.)  

Anywhoo, while there, I stumbled across an article about asthma.  It talked about exercise-induced asthma and how people with asthma should not do endurance sports, but that moderate exercise like walking as good for them.  Walking?  That’s all they had for me?  I walked when I was nine-months pregnant with my first baby – by the 2nd one I was doing aerobics the day before he was born, and I did yoga w/#3 when I was three days overdue! 

What about those of us that were endurance athletes before being diagnosed with asthma?  Never mind being an endurance athlete and cancer survivor whose chemo triggered the asthma.  I wonder what the “experts” would recommend for me?  Speed knitting?  Nope.  Couldn’t do that either – my fine motor skills are significantly reduced from the neurological damage secondary to chemo and the Reynaud’s syndrome.  I’m stuck either way.  I guess I will have to just get an assistance dog to carry my rescue inhaler, and take up sedate walking.  Whoo-hoo!  Or, I could just soldier on, gasping for breath as I go.  Isn’t that why they have medical tents at races - for foolish endurance athletes-asthmatic-cancer survivors like me? 

Surely the experts have dealt with someone like me before!  Don’t you always read those feel-good stories about so-and-so who was undergoing chemo for xyz cancer and just completed an Ironman in less than ten hours?  I, like everyone else, is impressed and humbled as all get out, but secretly I think they make the rest of us look badly.  Where are their doctors?  I want one that doesn’t just shake his head at me and look at me like I’m intentionally poking a pencil in my eye after I’ve been told not to.

Oh yeah, and I forgot: I have lymphedema.  I need to add that to my title.  I’ve had lymphedema since my mastectomies, which is exacerbated by strenuous exercise.  Apparently, this week’s workouts were particularly taxing to my lymphatic system as my left arm swelled up not quite to sausage-casing proportions, but enough so that Josie pointed it out with alarm.  Perhaps that was why my whole arm was aching and tender to the touch, I thought to myself.  Well, duh!  And, it was so hard you could bounce quarters off of it.  Ooooh!  Maybe I will get invited to my kids’ college parties after all… 

Normally, I only wear my compression sleeves on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I actually had to wear the compression sleeve for five days in a row for the swelling and pain to subside.  That adds another wrinkle in the Gen as an endurance athlete puzzle. 

Endurance athlete + asthmatic + cancer survivor + neurological damage the extremities (and cerebral cortex) + lymphedema = one hot mess. 

What’s a gal like me to do?

Well, if you were to ask me –
Hold on and enjoy the ride, one roasted marshmallow at a time.

EN OS, Week 7 (It's working!)

Sunday, I ran my twelfth stand alone half-marathon.  Wow.  A dozen.  I remember when Joe ran his first and I thought he was absolutely nuts to do so!  If you were to average it out, I’ve run a year for almost every year that my oldest child has been on this earth.  Next Sunday, my baby will turn thirteen.  She’ll be a teenager.  Already. 

35 wks preggers -- post-workout
I think I was still jogging at this point.
How did that happen so fast?  Then again, a lot’s happened in the past thirteen years - moves, new jobs, two more babies, and triathlon.  Sometimes it all seems like a blur.  Some days I lived moment by moment.  I know that thirteen years ago, I would have never dreamed I’d achieve the fitness accomplishments that I have just in the past six years.  Thirteen years ago, just the thought of walking around the block made my joints ache.  I still made myself do it because I knew it was good for me and for her (at the time, gender unknown).  I’ve always been active, just not as active as I am now.

Sunday’s race was a repeat race – the National Breast Cancer Marathon/Half-Marathon.  All of the proceeds from the race go to benefit breast cancer research at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville where Herceptin – the targeted therapy drug that I took to help reduce my risk of recurrence was developed.  I like to doing repeat races if the course is fun because I, being the creature of habit that I am, like to know what’s coming.  Lynn and Joe could never understand how I could run the same routes over and over again or run on the treadmill while training for both marathons but it worked for me.

We were freezing before we even got off of the buses!
Anyway, last year, Lynn and I ran this race together and had a great little girls’ get away, despite the freezing cold and wind.  (It was 18-degrees at the start of the race and not much warmer at the end.)  This year, I was running by myself.  My friend Tracy from work was initially planning on running the full, but then broke her back and ended up having to settle with walking the half.  Still, I wasn’t planning on seeing her out on the course, just beforehand and afterwards. 

At the very last minute, Joe decided that he would run the race as well.  He hadn’t been training like I had been, but Joe is decidedly more fit than I am, so it probably wouldn’t do him much harm.  We decided that the kids would be fine in the hotel room with Michelle in charge until we got back.  Besides, we reasoned, they would probably all still be asleep when we got back or glued to the television.  Ah… the best laid plans…

We arrived for packet pick-up mid-afternoon.  Apparently, that was too late.  Well, too late anyway to get a “Survivor” shirt that fit.  The next size up was HUGE.  I could have worn it loose thirteen years ago to the day!  Unfortunately, the volunteer was not overly helpful and actually a bit snotty when I politely expressed my disappointment.  That was just the beginning of what would become our mantra for this race, “Well, this the last time we do this race.”
Waiting in the warming tents.  It was COLD outside!

 The next morning was cold, clear and windy, really cold and really windy.  It was 23 – degrees without the wind chill.  It was a trash bag kind of day – another clue that this would be our last time w/this race.

The race organizers  changed the start of the race this year to help alleviate the parking woes of years previous.  (Lynn and I waited forty-five minutes in the freezing cold after the race for a shuttle bus to take us back to our car.)  All the race info warned everyone to arrive early.  We arrived moderately early, but still with plenty of time to spare.  So did Tracy.  After we located each other, the three of us headed to the warming tents to wait until the last possible second to head to the corrals. 

Joe and I were in the first corral, based on estimated finish times (you know the drill).  It was very empty, despite the start time being less than twenty minutes away.  And then the announcement was made that, because of so many people not being at the race yet, they were delaying the race for fifteen minutes.  What to do?  What to do?  Stand there in the freezing cold or head to the warming tents.  We’d already been to the potty one last time and eaten our pre-race nutrition.  Fifteen minutes ticked by as we all instinctively huddled closer to one another.  And then the next ridiculously cheerful announcement came – another fifteen-minute delay.  Yet another clue.  At this point, I could barely feel my fingers and my toes weren’t much further behind.  This race was chipped time, we all grumbled.  Why can’t we just start and let the parking procrastinators start when they get here?!   

Once we finally got started, I never saw Joe or Tracy on the course.  I ran at a comfortable pace, trying to be mindful of my cadence.  The course was as I remembered it - just a little congested at certain turns, then the lovely windy stretch on the beach, the great crowd support as we ran through the little beach communities, the doggies wearing pink bows and tutus in support of the race and then that last long, windy, cold push on the overpass to the finish. 

I was monitoring my time somewhat and knew with each passing mile that I was going to earn a PR for this race.  My nutrition, despite the delay, and my clothing choices were dialed in.  I stayed in my box, but looked out to enjoy the scenery every once and a while and to offer up words of encouragement to others.  I actually let myself walk about a tenth of a mile up part of the overpass since we were running into the wind at mile twelve-thirteen. 

Joe is always so proud of me,
and I am of him.
In my mind, I could hear Joe’s excited and proud yells as I crossed the finish line.  He would probably be more excited than I was about the PR.  As I came down the chute, I looked and listened for him.  No Joe.  I got my medal, Mylar blankie and water.  No Joe.  I walked to the picture spot.  Nada.  Crap!  He missed it.  Then, Uh-oh!  I hope he’s alright!  No zero to overkill.  Just call him.  He was right behind me, walking back to the finish line after a massage surprised and disappointed that he missed me because he thought he had plenty of time before I came in.  Oh well.  He missed my last PR as well.

Thanks to the delayed start.  We needed to get back to the hotel asap to get the kids breakfast before the hotel’s breakfast service stopped for the day, showers and food for us.  After a quick cup of warm soup and Griswalding the finishers’ village, we got in line for the, new and improved shuttle service.  A bus quickly pulled up.

            Random runner to the bus driver: Where are you going?
            Bus driver: I don’t know. They <dispatch> haven’t told me yet.
            (Collective GROAN from the freezing cold, sweaty and tired runners.)
Another older and wiser random runner: If we all just pile onto the bus and tell her that she’s going to the start line parking lot, she’ll go there.

And that, my friends, is how it went down but, this race being this race, the drive took forever!  We, thankfully had already called the kids and the hotel.  The kids were just finishing up when we got there and the hotel staff was cleaning up the remnants of breakfast.  We looked at each other and laughed ruefully.  This is the last time we do this race.

After Blue Man Group - What a great show!
We spent the next three days in Orlando at Universal Studios for Mic’s birthday.  The kids had a few days off from school and Jamie and Josie were finally tall enough to ride most of the rides, so going a week before her actual birthday aligned nicely with the race.  We had a great time, riding rides, exploring “Harry Potter World” and getting to visit with old friends and cousins.  We also went to see Blue Man Group – fourteen years after Joe and I had seen them in Chicago.  Jamie grumbled about it, until the show started.  Then, he loved it as did the girls!  WE knew they would.

Enjoying Butterbeers in front of Howarts
No workouts were to be part of our agendas, but I couldn’t resist getting up early on Wednesday morning to do the scheduled interval run.  The rest of the week’s workouts were completed as scheduled, but I could definitely feel the effects of the race and getting bounced around on roller coasters for three days.  Ah, well.  It was worth it to spend some good quality fun time with Joe and the kids and for a couple  of Butterbeers!

In the end, Joe finished 50th out of 1150 men and 5th for his age group of 126 men and 62nd overall.  I was the 2nd survivor to cross the finish line for the half-marathon, 109th out of 3100 women and 19th for my age group of 470 women.  There were a total of 4250 runners for the half marathon.  I’m still pretty amazed when I look at those numbers.  I keep looking for errors; I can’t be that fast compared to other runners.  I have plenty of friends that are so much faster than I am.  Granted, they’re all triathletes and generally a whole lot taller than me, but they’re still faster.  Sometimes it is nice to be a big fish in a little pond.   And, having shaved four minutes off of my previous PR in November, I guess those EN OS workouts are working. ;0)  Now, if only parenting was as cut and dried…
Michelle and I on Dueling Dragons at WWHP -
Good times w/my almost-teen!

Like most parents, I’m heading into the teenage years with trepidation.  Michelle has always been wonderful and obedient at school, saving her less adorable self for those she loves best.  Her moods change as often as she changes her underwear.  Most days and like most parents, we manage to keep our cool, but there are days when she gives us both a run for our money.  Seriously though, she really is a loving, thoughtful and caring kid.  She’s bright and inquisitive and actually expresses herself pretty well.  She’s a work in progress, but then, aren’t we all?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

EN OS, Week 5

EN OS, Week 5

Not much to report.  Tons of stuff to do this past week, above and beyond workouts.  Got those done, and then some.   Got to babysit a friend’s toddler.  Forgot how easily distracted they are and how little their legs are.  Still, it was fun to hang out with her for a couple of hours.  Did another time trial on Sunday after my 12-mile run.  This one was a 10-miler and uphill for the first half.  I got inside my box and kept repeating my mantra word of the day.  I wasn’t as fast as I was for the 4-mile time trial, but I felt better going up the hills. 

Saturday was a reverse duathlon – rode on the trainer for my OS ride, did my transition run on the treadmill and then headed outside to catch a quick ride w/friends.  It was very windy and a bit chilly.  No matter; I was very warmed up by then.  Usually, I’m the one bundled up, but on Saturday, I was in the minority wearing only long-sleeved shirt and shorts.  Almost everyone else had on long bibs and a wind breaker.  I paid for it when I got home.  I’ve been typically getting so cold I shiver uncontrollably if I don’t get in the shower very shortly after I’m done with my workouts.  Not sure why.  Saturday, after I got home, I got in the shower pretty quickly, but my foot suddenly turned white and went numb.  Seriously! 

By Sunday night, I was soooo ready for the rest on Monday.  Yeah, right.  So much for my rest day.  We got up early to take our son to get dropped off for his field trip to Space Camp and then took the littlest out to breakfast.  Too bad for the oldest as she was already at school.  Monday was Girl Scout cookie pick up and then a regularly scheduled oncology appointment.  Dr. B says I’m doing fine.  He had no words of advice regarding my weird chills and numb foot.  I was a little put out.  All he did was check my pulses in my arms and feet.  He told me they were all “strong”.  Joe says he just doesn’t know what to make of me – endurance athlete-cancer survivor. 

That’s it.  Like I said, nothing much to report.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

RIP, Tessa Noel Matchette

If you were a casual visitor to our home during the past fifteen years, you might not realize that we actually had three cats.  Well, we did, until yesterday.

Our pretty little old soul
Shortly before Christmas, a little more than fifteen years ago and right after Joe and I were engaged, I was walking to my portable classroom and saw a tiny little face peeping out of the drainpipe in front of it.  The kitten that was watching my approach must have realized that I was an animal-lover.  After very little coaxing she came out, a bedraggled diluted calico (grey, apricot and white) baby. 

Her family was a familiar sight around school so her coloring didn’t surprise me.  She was cute in a kittenish sense, but I didn’t think that she was “pretty” in the conventional cat sense.  I had two gorgeous longhaired babies of my own at the time.  She reminded me a bit of an Ewok from Star Wars, but she seemed to also, upon closer inspection, be a kind, old soul.  It wasn’t until years later that I truly came to appreciate just how striking and, indeed, pretty Tessa truly was.

Tessa and Sneakers in the beginning
Being Dr. Doolittle, as Joe calls me, I took her into my classroom, fed her and then, after work, took her to see Joe’s dad to make sure she was healthy.  I, of course, was going to bring her home.  Joe needed his own kitty I had decided.  Joe’s dad opened the box that Tessa was in and pleasantly exclaimed, “Oh.  A calico.”  After a quick check, shots, and eardrops to take care of the horrible ear mites, we were on our way.  When I got home, I put a big red bow around her neck and then promptly presented her to Joe when he arrived home.  Already having two kitties, Joe was bit leery of yet another cat until Tessa somersaulted on the bed and looked up at him while laying on her back.  Tasha did the same thing and he loved it!  Joe was sold.

Tessa easily settled into our family.  Sneakers and Tasha tolerated her well, and Joe and I enjoyed having a kitten in the house.  She was our first pet as a couple.  Tessa was friendly and enjoyed cuddling with us, but was skittish with other people.  I discovered early on that our Tessa Boo loved to be brushed!  She would even “brush” herself if the brush was laying about. 

Our teeny tiny baby
Due to a really bad case of ear mites, Tessa needed daily eardrops, and it somehow became Joe’s job to do it.  Our baby tolerated it well, but she developed a life-long hatred of getting picked up and held.  She was fine on a lap, but try to pick her up and cuddle her – forget it!

Because she was so skittish with others, Tessa rarely came out when people other than immediate family were in the house.  If she did come out, you knew that you were part of her small inner circle.  My mom, both Beckys, Carolyn and Lynn were all part of that very select group.

Several years ago, Joe noticed a swelling on her left front leg and that she was limping.  Being a good kitty mom, off to the vet we went.  For some unknown reason, Tessa’s elbow joint was filling up with joint fluid.  The vet drained it and it continued to fill up.  All of the vets at the clinic each in turn tried a variety of things, but to no avail. 

Tessa's x-ray from her visit to Auburn
After several months, our vet clinic recommended taking Tessa to either Auburn or UGA to see if either veterinary clinic could figure out what kept making her elbow swell up.  So, my twelve-year-old kitty went to Auburn for some study and research.  Her dorm was tiny with metal bars on the door.  Exams were painful and the full of radiation and needles.  Auburn couldn’t figure her out either.  She came home shaved, bandaged, stitched and with some cool x-rays.  We came home with a lot lighter pockets and no answers.  So much for study and research. :0/

We thought it was cool that her skin matched her fur. 
For the next three years, we took her to the vet every six to eight weeks so they could drain her elbow.  Some pets go for grooming or a manicure.  Our girl went to get shaved and a needle jabbed multiple times into her elbow.  Each time we went, they drained a little more. 

The vet techs, and even the kids & I, loved to play with the joint fluid.  It was the consistency thick honey and we would draw and write with it in the sink.  Josie even took a syringe of it in for show and tell once.  Michelle tried to take a syringe of it to show her honor science class however it was promptly confiscated and I got a call from the assistant principal telling me that students couldn’t bring biohazards to school.  Ooops.  :0)

An early attempt to stop the elbow swelling.
The result - muffin paw.
Through all of the poking and prodding, Tessa was a gem.  She would grumble a bit, but never ever barred her teeth or showed any signs of aggression or agitation towards the vet or any of the techs that treated her.  No one would believe us that she was so docile on the exam table.  Anytime there was a new tech at the hospital, he/she would come in ready to manhandle Tessa, despite what we (the vets, other techs and I) said.  It was almost like Tessa knew that they were trying to help her feel better.  At times when they were draining her elbow, she would close her eyes, relief easing the tension in her little round face.  Afterwards, the new tech would express incredulity at what we all already knew -- Tessa was one in a million!

Carolyn once told me that a human elbow only contains about 11mL of joint fluid.  In the beginning, the vets were able to drain about 20mL each time.  In the end, they were draining over 70mL!  Almost immediately after they would drain her elbow, it would start filling up again.  Her elbow caused her to hold her leg at an unusual angle, thereby causing her to have a permanently deformed leg and a limp.  She didn’t let it slow her down too much.  In hindsight, we all wish we had opted for an amputation of her leg, but we had no idea how long or how much trouble her elbow was going to cost her. 

Sleeping in her favorite spot, on her favorite blankie
Last year, Tessa started to start showing signs of kitty dementia.  Her hearing started going and she would come out and yowl at us during dinner.  She even begged for food from the dinner table, something she’d never done in the past.  Unlike Sneakers or Tasha at the same age, her kidneys seemed to be holding out tolerably well.  She became more social, kind of like a dotty old lady – kindly and friendly.  She’d always been tolerant of our kids, but she soon let other kids approach and pet her.  She was still skittish, and would promptly hop off of my lap if I happened to cough or sneeze while she was sitting with me, but then she’d climb right back on and settle in.  She slept more and more and she slept deeply.  In the last six months, she started getting nippy with us if we intruded upon her personal space too much, only to promptly have a look of guilt and horror cross her face after she’d done so. 

Watching over some her beloved family
Joe and I knew that our Boo was on a downward spiral.  We knew our time with our sweet little girl was limited.  A couple of months ago she stopped eating dry cat food, so we switched her to canned, something that was a huge temptation to Murphy and Louie.  She got a horrible ear infection last month that caused her eardrum to perforate.  We boarded her at the vet clinic when we went to Florida because she was getting her antibiotic twice a day.  And then last weekend, she stopped eating.  She’d always been a dainty eater unless Doritos were involved, but this was drastic.  Each day, she ate less and less until Thursday when the only thing we could coax her to eat was a few kitty treats.  She didn’t seem in excessive amounts of distress, but Joe and I knew that our time with our sweet girl had come to an end.

We sat the kids down and had a family meeting, explaining that Tessa was at the end of her very good life and that we must do one final and loving act to help end her pain and suffering.  The kids, while incredibly sad, understood.  Josie took the news the hardest as she was the closest to Tessa, just as Jamie had been to Sneakers. 

The pain of Sneakers’ loss was still fresh in all of our minds.  When we euthanized Sneakers, it was just Joe and I with him.  I didn’t want to worry about dealing with the kids while dealing with the incredible pain of letting him go.  He was in so much pain in the end, going downhill as fast as he did.  I wanted to devote myself solely to him.  And, there really was no time to get the kids.  The kids saw it differently.  They wanted to be there with him and told us unceremoniously that they wanted to be there with Tessa when it was her turn.
Sneakers and Tessa, thirteen years later.

Tessa’s situation was different.  The timing had not gotten to the critical point yet and the kids were all more than a year older.  They unanimously agreed that they wanted to be with Tessa in the end.  We explained each step of the process and how Tessa would probably react.  We wanted no surprises for them.   It was good to grieve as a family, as crummy as it was.  We all loved her so much for her quiet, constant, sweet demeanor.

Making the call to the clinic in the morning was one of the hardest phone calls I think I’ve ever made.  It wasn’t like with Sneakers’ last vet visit.  With him, a small part of me “thought” there might be a chance he would come through it.  Tessa was down to skin and bones, not eating and barely drinking.  This was a conscious decision we were making. 

Dr. S had a special relationship w/Tessa.
Notice how tightly they're NOT holding her,
despite the large needle in her elbow.
I think that everyone that had worked with Tessa at the vet clinic had a bit of a soft spot for her.  She truly was such a good and easy patient, despite her puzzling elbow issues.  One of our vets also had had diluted calicos like Tessa and had a particularly large soft spot for her because of it.  The staff were all so incredibly kind to us when we arrived after school for our appointment, each going out of his/her way to offer words of comfort and sympathy. 

It happened very much like we told the kids it would.  I had Tessa on my lap and we all stroked her tiny body as the vet slipped the needle into her leg and pushed the plunger.  Tessa raised her head a little and then relaxed.  I, with my hand on her chest, felt her take her last breath and felt her heart beat for the last time. 

We stayed with her for quite a while, each taking a turn holding her.  We all cried and held each other.  Jamie and Joe tried to remain stoic, but failed.  The girls cried freely and, in a rare moment of solidarity, clung on to each other.  I, through my unceasing tears, tried to say all the right things, despite that nagging guilt in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t quite time. 

I didn’t want the kids to fear death and the body of a dead animal as I had always done for some unknown reason.  I tried to tell them that her body was just now a shell where her soul (Yes, I believe that animals have souls.) had used to reside, and that she was now done with it.   She’d gone on to be with Sneakers and Tasha and Buddy and all of the other animals she’d known in her long and happy life. 

My other nursecat - ever vigilant in her duties.
Our Tessa was a sweet, little, gentle and old soul.  She, like Sneakers, was a devoted nursecat when I was going through chemo, keeping silent vigil at the end of my bed when she wasn’t on my lap.  Despite her skittish nature, she was friendly and very loving with those she loved best.  She was playful if a piece of string was involved, right up until almost the very end.  I think she recognized and appreciated the goodness in people.  She was tolerant of little kids and of other animals.  Louie recognized that about her immediately and theirs was a very easy relationship, despite the difference in age.  While she wasn’t as charismatic as Sneakers was or Louie is, I knew she loved me so very very much. 

Like my boy Sneakers, she will be missed terribly.  I think she was a good embodiment of our marriage, this darling first pet of ours together.  I do know that Tessa’s in a better place and that she’s not in pain anymore, and I’m thankful for that, but I will truly miss her quiet dainty presence dreadfully.

This is how we spent the last day of Tessa's life -
Tessa in her favorite spot with a friend by her side.
As I’ve said before, I’m a firm believer that animals choose their people and that they come into our lives for when they do for a reason.  Tasha, Buddy, Sneakers, Tessa, Louie – they all came at pivotal times in my life.  We currently have another cat, Murphy, but Murphy has always been and always will be Michelle’s cat, and Michelle’s only.  She somewhat tolerates the rest of us because we feed her and clean her litter box.

Thank goodness for Louie!  I think that Louie truly came to us when he did and how he did to help us get through Tessa’s death.  His youth and exuberance and love of us are just what we need to help us mourn our sweet little girl.  He’s spent the better part of the day glued to my side, purring his big booming purr, periodically leaning back to look at me with that half-closed eye look that cats have when they are utterly content. 

Tessa never went near my treadmill, steering clear of the room it was in until yesterday.  I’d spent almost the entire day with her on my lap, enjoying those last precious hours with her.  A couple of hours before we took her in, she wandered into the sunroom and gingerly sat down on the treadmill.  I have no idea why she did so, but I like to think that she found comfort in that it smelled like me and that she was leaving a bit of her scent on something that gave me so much enjoyment.  Cats are funny creatures and I honestly think they sense things that we couldn’t even imagine.  

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

The passing of the torch from one beloved kitty to the other
Tessa Noel Matchette
September 1997 – March 1, 2013