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.