You Have To Dream…

dreams

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a blog post. I was gone for five days to Canada, for a little mini-vacation with some friends.

I’ve been biking like crazy, mostly stationary, to keep my cardio up while my fallen arch foot heals.  I’ve been fully optimistic and confident that my foot would be healed in time for me to get back on track for the marathon in November.

I did a lot of walking in Canada.  The day after I got home, my legs were in a lot of pain. I could barely walk. I think I compensated so much, to not have the arch pain while walking, it just strained my other leg muscles.

Like a sunset setting on the horizon, as it is in the picture, I was beginning to see my dream of the marathon slipping away on the horizon- for now.

It’s one thing to be optimistic and not to give up.  But it’s another thing when you can barely walk, and know you have to push your body way beyond what it can do with a significant injury.  I needed to be running serious mileage right now. Instead, I could barely walk without some type of pain.  The reality is for now, my foot is not healing at the pace I need it to be to run 26+ miles in less than 2 months.

I just couldn’t give up on it though completely. I was still holding out hope, that maybe I would find a way. I’m determined, if nothing else.  Yet, I know- you can’t run a marathon with a foot injury.  I could risk much greater injury and a much longer recovery time.

A few days after I got back from Canada, I woke up, with a weird itchy spot on my forehead- above my left eyebrow.  It felt like an intense mosquito bite, but itched way more. I looked at it closely, and I saw two little puncture marks- like fangs marks there. I concluded I got bit by a spider.  It was itchy the entire day.

The next day I woke up and my forehead was swollen.  The area had turned into a rash, and was turning black.  The entire left side of my face had serious pain- like I had been hit with a baseball bat.  But just on that side of my face. My right side was fine.  There was a “pins and needles” sensation now at the rash site.  My neck lymph nodes (what are left from my cancer neck dissection) were swollen like golf balls.

I Googled home remedies for spider bites, and the only thing that relived the intense itching was a baking soda and water paste.  I was glad it was a Sunday, and I had no place to be, because I left that paste on the rash site the entire day.

I went to work on Monday, but I could tell, this was not getting better. It was getting worse, and I was starting feel like I had the flu.

I called my doctor and got in.  She examined the rash thoroughly and concluded I likely had an infected insect bite, and prescribed antibiotics.  She recommended Zyrtec for the itching.

Within a few hours of taking the first dose of antibiotics, I felt somewhat better.  I noticed my lymph nodes were going down. Then I got a call from my doctor. She said as she was thinking about it, she was concerned  I could have a mild case of shingles.  She said many of the symptoms I had, were like shingles, but not all of them.  I told her the antibiotics were making me feel better for now. She said that was good, but if any rash appeared on my eyelid, or in my eye, go the ER.  I may need antibiotics via IV, or it could be shingles.

I was really surprised. I thought only really old people got shingles.  I have learned since, that isn’t the case.  I Googled it when I got home, and I didn’t feel like I had shingles.  I had some symptoms like she said, but not all of them.

Two days later I woke up, with my left eye entirely swollen shut. I felt like I had a light case of the flu, but no fever.  I had two new tiny patches of the rash on the left side.  The pain in my face was very intense.  I guess at that point, I realized I probably did have shingles. I debated just going to the ER, like my doctor said, but other than my eye being swollen, there was nothing on my eye itself. The new rashes were much higher on my forehead.

I called my doctor’s office and they said to come in, with the understanding my doctor may send me to the ER for the IV antibiotics.  I came in and this time my doctor felt I definitely had a “mild” case of shingles.  However, she said the rash still didn’t look like a typical shingles rash.  She tried to get fluid from the rash, which is common in shingles, so she could send it in for a culture, but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t get any fluid to sample. She said that was really odd.  But she prescribed me an antiviral medicine used to treat shingles and said she didn’t know for sure.  She was confident I had the bacterial infection and either a mild case of shingles, or a viral infection too. She said I could have had a viral infection starting, got bit by something, bacteria entered, so that is how I ended up with both.  Either way, she said she didn’t feel I needed to go to the ER.

Walking out of her office, hobbling back to my car, I just had to laugh. Or cry. I chose to laugh, and shed a few tears, so I guess I did both.  What are the chances, I’d get a foot injury and this weird infection / shingles? I knew then, and accepted it.  My immunity was down now too, and it was just not going to be a wise decision to try to heal my foot, get over shingles / weird infection, and then start immediately running or keeping up with biking and training.  My body was speaking loud and clear to me.  I’ve learned to listen.  It is a “No” to the marathon for now.

A week later, I feel 100% again. I have the original rash, lingering, and the scabs are black. It’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but a band-aid covers it, and no one even sees the band-aid. I joke with my family and friends, I’m a hot mess.  🙂

My foot is starting to feel better using Superfeet Orthotics.  I can wear them in my daily shoes and have no arch pain. I’m still trying to figure them out for running.  The other day I took the boys to a football field, and was able to run about 1/4 mile in my normal shoes, with no pain.  So I know my arch is healing. Long term, I will be fine and 100% again.

But it was hard for me to not feel disappointed, I have to put my dream of running a marathon, on the back burner- yet again.  I know was I on track and on pace to have this be my ultimate race. I was striving to finish in the top 10 for women. I was on pace for that.  I feel in my heart, had I not gotten hurt and some weird mysterious rash, or shingles, I would have achieved that too.

Vanessa, my sister, has been so helpful.  She helped me realize I did all I could. It wasn’t like I had just stopped training and was vegging on the couch every night, expecting to run a marathon.  It kind of put it in perspective for me.  I did the best I could.  In the end, that is all I could ask for. I know at the time my foot injury happened, I was the best runner I could be.  I was on course to accomplish what I set out to do.

My other sister, Mara, pointed out sometimes life doesn’t care about our plans- it gives us what we need.  That helped me see, it just was not in the cards right now for me. I do need to get my foot healed and strong.  I do need to get better from, what I think was a mild case of shingles.  I have had cancer. I’ve had radiation infused into my body. I’ve had 68 lymph nodes removed from my neck. I have a generally weaker immune system than most people.  I don’t normally think this way, but it is clear I need to give my body some extra TLC right now to recover.  Not pushing it to extremes, when it is already stressed.

This week, I cancelled my reservations in Las Vegas, and started the process through the marathon insurance I bought, to get my race fee refunded.

I’m not giving up though.  I’ve realized making peace with all this, to even have this dream and try to go for it, no matter how many times it takes me…it is so much more than I ever thought I’d be physically able to do again.  In my training, these past 8 weeks (before I got hurt),  I’ve run further, stronger, longer, and faster than I ever have before.  To realize I got closer than I ever have- well, that is something.  I can run, and am working on my dream.  There was a time I didn’t know if I’d even be able to walk up a few stairs again.  Even though I couldn’t go all the way with it this time, it’s there.  The desire is there.  There is no way I would have been given this desire and dream without a way to accomplish it at some point.

So for me now, I get healthy. I get back to 100%.  I figure out running in shoes that aren’t minimalist, with orthotics and learn running this way. I start from the beginning again.  I start one mile at time. If one mile feels good, I go another mile.  And another. And I’ll do this all fall, winter, spring, until I’m ready. When I am, I’ll be attempting the marathon again.

I’ve realized this about dreams and goals. You have to have a dream to even get going.  If you have a dream, it’s worth all you can give to it.  Even if you have to try many times, it will make it that much more worthwhile in the end.

I have to postpone my dream for now- but that is what it is- it’s a postponement.  I’m not quitting and I’m not going to stop dreaming. I’m going to cross a marathon finish line. When I’m healthy I’m going to take my dream and run with it.  I am going to make it come true.

Maybe that is the lesson in all this.  Without dreams and goals, what is there? Without trying to improve yourself, you never grow. Without disappointments and setbacks, you never see what you really are determined to do. Without dreams, the journey never begins.  After it is all said and done, the journey is the means to arrive to the destination of your dream.

To me now, having an unexpected detour in the journey, well that is what keeps the dream alive. There’s nothing to feel “bad” about, when we fall short of a goal and a dream. Sometimes dreams come easy, sometimes they don’t.  But giving up and stopping- that’s like snuffing out your ambition, hopes, and dreams. I don’t think that is good for anyone. It’s locking a part of yourself away, and not allowing yourself to live up to your true potential.

This definitely has been a learning experience for me.  Sometimes, we just can’t physically, or for other reasons, achieve what we want, when we want.  This has taught me, I still really want it. It’s taught me, I have the potential and the talent.  It’s taught me, sometimes I have no control, and when I don’t, I just have to allow and keep moving forward. Not as a failure, but as a triumph. This is me. This is who I am.  This is what I can do. This is what I am trying for. I may not always succeed, or have it turn out like I thought, but I’m living. I’m trying, I’m not locking anything away. I’m not holding back. Even if I don’t have the success I think I should have, in the way I think it should be, I am still successful.  I just have to see it.

That is so much more than crossing a finish line. It’s living.  It’s living up to your full potential, and having zero regrets.  I don’t need an official marathon to teach me that.  I’ve learned it.  On the journey- on the path to my dream.

Marathon Training Week 9- Do You Really Want It?

arch-pain1

“There will come a point… when you alone will need to decide. You will need to make a choice. Do you really want it? You will need to decide.” – Rolf Arands

As I wrote in my last post, I was doing well, ditching my “official marathon training plan,” and going with what felt right to my body.

I had built back up to 10 miles, after my Achilles tendon injury. On the last Saturday in August, (almost 2 weeks ago), I set out for a 10 mile run, not at pace, but just for distance. I felt great.  It was hot- I was running hills.  My favorite training.  It was hard, but I knew this was all making me stronger for my goal for finishing strong in Las Vegas, at my first marathon.

I was in mile 8, when I got the worse cramp in my left foot.  I literally could not run.  I stopped and tried to stretch it out. The pain was seething.  I knew then it wasn’t a cramp, but more serious.  I fought back tears, as I did the only thing I could do.  Started walking home.  I was 1.6 miles away from my house. I don’t run with my cell phone- I don’t like the weight. I have an emergency tag from Road ID on my shoe, in case something really serious happens, but I was struggling to just walk.  I run in my subdivision community, with trails. I’ve often just been resting after a run, and have had residents stop and ask me if I was OK- did I need I ride? I’ve never said yes.  But I knew this day I was not OK. I was hurt.  If someone stopped and asked me, I’d tell them I was hurt and needed a ride home.

But no one did.  I really don’t know how I did it. I hobbled and limped almost two miles home, in agonizing pain.  Every step the pain was worse than the last.

When I got home, I massaged my foot. There was no swelling.  No bruising.  I could stand on my heel, no pain. I could stand on my tipsie toes, no pain.  Yet, when I would bend my foot in a walking position, seething, hot, pain, to the left side of my foot.  I soaked it in Epsom salt.  I iced it.

Sunday morning, I could not walk. I had to crawl to my living room.  Any pressure I put my foot was torture.  More pain than I could bear.

I got more ice, ibuprofen, and called my health insurance’s nurse hotline.

The nurse told me it probably wasn’t an ER situation, but not good I could not stand on it, and had so much pain. She made me an appointment for the next day, Monday.

I Googled all the symptoms and was convinced, based on my pain and symptoms, I had a stress fracture.

I went to the doctor on Monday. I was happy to find out my doctor was also a runner. She asked me a lot questions and told me it was indeed possible I had a stress fracture, and she ordered multiple X-rays. They took X-rays of both feet too, so they could compare.

When that was all done and read by the radiologist, she told me I did not have a stress fracture, but my arch was falling. The minimalist shoes I was using were not enough to support my arches, and as the arch collapses, the side of the foot, takes the strain and brunt, causing the pain I was having.

She told me I absolutely could run again when the pain in my foot goes away, but I HAVE to get running shoes with more arch support, or orthotic inserts.

I was glad to hear I didn’t have a fracture, but I love my minimalist shoes.  I’ve been running in them for a year now, and never had any issues.  But I also have not been training for a marathon in them.

Ironically, running in minimalist shoes has allowed me to keep running injury free.  Until now.

The pain I’ve had the last few days- I can barely walk.  I know there is no way I can run like this.

But I’ve been struggling.  Do I even want to continue? Why put myself through this? I’m not an Olympic athlete.  I could run for myself on weekends. I could run 5K’s.  I could run the best I can at the distances I can tolerate and probably place in races if I decided I wanted to.

I came across the quote at the beginning for this post, years ago, and used it for motivation in many 5K’s, even though I found it a bit corny.  But for me it’s true. Do I really want this? Do I really want to see if I have what it takes to run a marathon?

I’ve been thinking.  I do want this? How much?  I don’t know all the details. I don’t know how my training looks, but I want to know for me, I ran a marathon. Different people and situations inspire me, but deep down, I want this for ME.  This is my passion.  This is what makes me feel alive.  It became my goal 7 years ago when I ran after cancer, the first steps I took were absolute freedom and knowledge, I would be okay, and my body could recover from cancer. I promised myself then, “someday” I would run a marathon.  For me, “someday” is now.  It’s my everything. It’s my dream.  It’s my goal.  It’s me proving to myself that I am stronger than my struggles, seasoned more than my obstacles, and my will- it doesn’t matter- my will to succeed is stronger than my will to fail.

So, I’m going for it.  I have to figure out new shoes. I have to figure out orthotic inserts.  I have to figure out how to run again this way, but most of all, I have to heal my arch.  I have to start over yet again- 9 weeks away from the marathon. But I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. I realize my foot has to heal, and that is the most important thing, but unless I have to absolutely make that call to not run, I’m planning and training to run that marathon.  I’m not quitting.  I can’t imagine anything more painful than the almost 2 miles I had to hobble home from the other day.  And yet, I still want this.

Running mimics life.  Sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes the most worthy things come with a lot of struggle, pain, and growth.  But these things make you stronger.  I see it like I have a choice. Quit and wonder “what if?”  Or tap into my inner strength, the desire that was placed there for a reason and find a way to excel.  I chose to excel and find a way.  I have decided.

Trusting Yourself

Trust

“Trust Yourself. You Know More Than You Think You Do”
~Benjamin Spock

The last blog post I wrote about running, it was going great!  I had been following my marathon training plan to the T, and had been able to run 5 miles fast, a hard run, below marathon pacing.  After I wrote that blog post, what has always happened before, happened. I got hurt.

It was my right Achilles tendon.  I have never had a problem with my Achilles.  But a few days after that intense run, it ached to where it hurt to walk, let alone run.

I was going to Seattle in a few days on vacation, and decided to just let it rest and heal.  But my mind was turning.

Every time I get hurt running, it’s because I push it too much.  I even kind of know when I’m pushing it too much.  This time, I wanted it to be different.

I felt up to this point, I needed an “official marathon training plan.” It’s a long distance to run. It’s hard. If you are not conditioned right, and haven’t trained right, it’s likely you won’t be able to finish. I have high goals.  I don’t want to just finish- I want to excel.  So I have felt like I needed to get “serious” about an official plan.

It was going so well- up until it wasn’t.

I felt like my Achilles would heal up with some rest, but in the mean time, I’m losing time running, I really don’t have.  Or I don’t have if I follow the “official marathon training plan.” I started to allow myself to think, “what happens if I don’t follow it?”

My first thought: Fear. Scared I won’t finish. I’ll get so close, but won’t be trained properly, tire out, and not be able to finish the marathon.

After I analyzed that, I asked myself if I really thought that would happen.

Knowing me, I’d walk fast, just to finish it, if I was really too tired to keep running.  I thought about when I finished my first half marathon, just two days earlier I had been cleared by the doctor, coming off my broken elbow and surgery, to run. I thought surely I was going to have to walk some in that, and I never did, and finished 30 minutes faster than I had thought I would, barely even being able to run for months leading up to it.

That gave me some confidence.  As I started thinking about it, I narrowed it down to this:

Do I trust myself? Can I take the leap of faith, and ditch an “official marathon training plan” that is hurting me, is not optimal for me, and train myself for the marathon, trusting myself, who I am as a runner, my body, my strengths, and my limits?

I honestly couldn’t answer that for a few days.  I struggled.  It’s easy to follow a script on what you “are supposed to do.” If it doesn’t work, it was because the plan was flawed.

If I go on my own and fail, that is on me. No excuses, no out’s- it’s because I didn’t train enough and thought I knew enough but really didn’t.

On the other hand, I realized what good is it going to do if I can run according to an “official marathon training plan,” but am injured and can’t run because I’m too battered up? An Achilles today, a knee tomorrow, a hip next month.

One thing I could conclude is I do know me. I do know what my body tolerates. I know how to find a way to excel during races.  I don’t have to plummet my body in the weeks and months before.  I have given every race I’ve ever ran, all I have.  I don’t doubt that in me at all.  I am confident I can find a way to excel and push myself when I need to.

When I placed in the only race I’ve ever placed in, it was so hot and humid. It had rained right before the race. It was mid July, at 6 PM. And then the sun came out. This was in a competitive division too. I had trained in 100 degree heat, up hill for months to train for this race.  I had run in every condition known to man- except the one Colorado, rarely has, severe humidity.  This was the first time I was running where the air was so heavy, I could not breathe.

Half way through the race, I really could not breathe.  I had to stop and walk a few paces to catch my breath.  I thought, no way was I going to be “fast,” no one stops in an elite division race to walk.  I’m sure this was never in an  “official elite division race plan.”  Yet, I knew I had to, or else I would not finish. I trusted myself in that moment, in that race, to do what I needed to do.

Turns out I placed 2nd!  Even with walking a few paces. There were runners right behind me at the end- I sped up, because I could breathe.  I am sure I would not have finished as strong as I did, had I not walked a few paces. My instincts had been right on. I trusted myself, my body, and what I needed to do in that race. It is still something I’m still most proud of in my running- placing in an elite division.

I’ve thought about this for over a week, and as I was leaving Seattle, I had made my decision.

I’m trusting me.  I’m trusting after 7 years running, I know what kind of runner I am.  I need to train and run yes- but I can do that without hurting myself, sticking to a plan that my body isn’t tolerating.  I’m ditching the “official marathon training plan” and training myself.

I put some ideas together on how I can train smarter, and harder without risking injury.

First off, is to heal my Achilles.  I focused the majority of my training last week, doing what I did when I had a broken elbow. Riding stationary bike at the almost highest inclines for 5 and 10 miles. It keeps building my endurance without risking further Achilles injury.

Two weeks ago, when my Achilles was feeling better, I put it to the test and ran 3 miles.  It felt better, not perfect, but enough I knew I was on the right track.

A few days later, I ran 5 miles.  I had some calf pain associated with the tight Achilles.  I stopped for a few moments, and massaged my calves, easing out some tightness, and finished the run.

I was less than 2 minutes off from pace- less than two minutes slower than the run that had hurt me. I wasn’t even trying for time- I was just trying to see how my Achilles would hold up with some distance.  It was fine after the run, and feels better every day.

So I feel like I’m on track. I feel like I’ll be right where I need to be, when I need to be there.

I’m realizing the marathon training- it is more rigorous than just running.  But it’s teaching me what  I need to learn and to be prepared for.

I never imagined I’d have to learn at this point, it’s about trusting myself.  I couldn’t even post this post for a week, while I figured out what I needed to do.  I decided I can do this, and I believe in me.

*********************************

UPDATE:

Since I wrote this post, I was up to running 10 miles again, feeling like I was back on track, and not only was I going to make my goal in Las Vegas, but exceed it.  And then, this past Saturday, the unthinkable happened. It’s been very discouraging to me.   I am still processing and will write about this next week.

I’m fine long term- short term- I don’t know. I’m asking myself every day, “how much do I want this?”

Greatest Of These Is Spirit

“The five S’s of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill, and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit”  Ken Doherty

Mt. Rainier Meteor

Mt. Rainier & Meteors,- August 12, 2016  Photo credit: Tim Burke Photography

I’ve been on vacation with my boys in Seattle.  I decided take them to Seattle for a week vacation to show them the sights, and to visit my youngest sister Vanessa, who lives there.  But it wasn’t just a vacation, it was to support Vanessa in her two-year training quest to climb and summit Mt. Rainier.

By most estimates, only 185,000 people have summited Mt. Rainier.  At 14,416 feet, starting at sea level, it is an extremely difficult climb.  More than 10,000 people try every year to summit, but only about 4,000 make it.  It takes two days, if you decide to continue past the half way point.

Vanessa has never been what you would call athletic.  She has asthma.  She’s a “delicate flower” by her own admission.  She’s the “baby” in my family with our siblings.  Vanessa is very healthy and trim, but had never climbed a mountain before.  Vanessa has allowed me to be a part of her journey for the past two years.

It’s not been easy for Vanessa. She’s battled injuries, asthma, and like every athlete, self-doubt.  Vanessa wanted to climb last year, with her best friend, Charity. After much thinking, she decided to wait a year to be fully prepared, while Charity successfully summited last year.

Just two weeks to go before her climb, Vanessa had a freak thing happen at the store, where someone’s grocery cart turned over on her foot, severely bruising it.  Vanessa couldn’t even put a shoe on, it was too swollen.

Vanessa didn’t panic.  She saw her doctor, and massage therapist.  They worked out some of the bruising. I talked to her on the phone days after this happened, and she said no matter what, she was going to put on her boots and climb.  That is courage- that is strength-that is spirit.

Vanessa’s cell phone didn’t work on Mt. Rainier, but Charity’s phone worked!  Charity texted me Thursday afternoon saying they had  both made it to Camp Muir, the halfway point, and Vanessa was doing great!

I was so excited.  Here my little sister, was halfway to her goal. I knew though, Camp Muir, was where you had to decide, if you could commit to the summit.  I had no way of knowing on Thursday, how hard that decision would be for Vanessa, and how deep she had to go to be able to commit.

She felt like she was the having the hardest time climbing- like she was the weakest link. That is not a fun place to be.  She felt like it was so much harder than she had thought.   Five members of their group decided at Camp Muir, not to continue.  Vanessa considered not continuing.  The guides told her she could do this.  I feel like they evaluated her and saw in her, her spirit.  They knew she had this, but needed the encouragement to continue on.

Vanessa committed to the summit.  But as they left at 1 AM to summit by sunrise, Vanessa was realizing this was much more difficult than she had ever imagined. Her rented boots, didn’t fit properly, they were hurting her feet and causing blisters.  Her helmet wasn’t a good fit- it was causing a lot of pressure on her head. She felt nauseous from the increasing altitude.  She was having a major asthma attack, due to her being exposed to down.  She couldn’t breathe and that was causing her to have a panic attack.  She told me she seriously considered telling the guides she was done- they needed to take her back- even though it would have been dangerous for the rest of the team.

One of her guides told her she was in control, and to keep breathing.    Vanessa said it helped her to keep going.  That is who my sister is, she doesn’t give up and she finds a way.

I don’t think I could have been any more excited had I climbed Mt. Rainier myself, when I received Charity’s text early Friday morning that her and Vanessa were standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier!  I teared up for Vanessa and Charity, because I know.

Mt. Rainier

Vanessa (in the red coat) & Charity at the summit of Mt. Rainier, August 12, 2016

I have never climbed a mountain. I have no idea what it takes to summit one of the world’s most difficult mountains. But I know what it is, to have a goal. I know what it is like to devote everything to achieving that goal. I know what it is like to sacrifice, and have blood, sweat, and tears, to achieve something you’ve worked so hard for.  I know what it is like to give up extra activities, times with your family and friends, and your free time, to train for your goal.   And I know, no matter what, Vanessa will have this for the rest of her life- she achieved what she set out to do.

That is incredibly inspiring for me.  Because Vanessa’s Mt. Rainier climb is my marathon.  It inspires me like nothing to this point, to know that my baby sister achieved her goal and that makes me want to achieve and excel at mine, that much more.

We are alive when we accomplish our goals.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always fun.  It’s easy to sit on the couch,  watch TV, and not do anything.  But when you get a taste of greatness, of excelling to your personal best- that is the moment you start living.

I am so proud of Vanessa and Charity.  Their spirit of never quitting and keeping on, is my new inspiration.  Strength, stamina, speed, and skill, are crucial, but spirit- it is the soul of training.  It’s the backbone of every great achievement.  It enabled my sister to be in the minority of Mt. Rainier summiters.

I’ve often said it doesn’t matter what you goal is- it’s being committed to achieving it.  Accepting no excuses.  I saw that from my baby sister this week.  I plan to utilize her success to the best of my ability for my goals.  I hope I can run my marathon, in the same spirit my sister and Charity climbed Mt. Rainier.

Congratulations on your summit to Mt. Rainier, Vanessa and Charity.  You are inspirational!

Rainier 2

Near the summit – Mt. Rainier