Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fighting Fears of Failing

I am not sure why I am second guessing myself, I've actually felt really good on my last two runs. Last night I did a couple miles and then tonight I got in 4 miles. I could have gone longer both nights but time constraints and responsibilities kept tugging me off the treadmill.

My first full marathon was horrible and I really don't want a repeat of it at this year's marathon (or two -- yup, pretty sure I'm doing two of 'em this fall). I just dread the long run. Especially right now since I am limited to just the treadmill. And then of course this week I only ended up with 15 miles in all. And next week's schedule looks crammed full already. But- I have to get at least a 10 miler in on Tuesday or Wednesday since I have a half coming up on July 14.

I'm determined to do that 10-12 miles one of those days even if I have to break it up and do 3 4-milers or whatever. I've even thought about just jumping on and off the treadmill and seeing how many miles I could get in a day - just for fun! I still might do that; but whatever I do I have to get some miles in or my head is really going to throw doubts at me. I'll have to taper off a little the next week to rest up for the half, I'm okay with that. One thing I have learned is that rest is highly underrated (but don't tell anyone I told you that - I'll deny it!)

Four weeks into full marathon training and I've already ditched the plan. I never was good at sticking with too many rules to begin with. It's really OCD that I have to blame that on - it sounds funny to you maybe but when my plan says to run an hour - or assigns me 4 or 5 miles and I can't do it that day for whatever reason - it drives me crazy. I know it's not like it's flexible and I could adjust the plan to fit better inside the other responsibilities I have to fulfill...but it just makes me on edge and goofy. So I have ditched it and am just pressing forward into the fifth week of marathon training.

On another note - I'm feeling pretty good these days. I haven't been real good, but I haven't been real bad either. Just been taking in a little more salt than I should have; but I did another toss everything out again today and I'm back on track. My blood pressure has been inching up so I want to get it right back down. It's not high - just higher than it was running. That's one thing that has to be kept under control.

I've also decided to write an eBook about my journey - running with a chronic condition. The outline is together and that's the first hard part. The second hard part is getting started. Once you get started it falls into place....maybe this week.

So I'm back on the wagon again and ready to rock this thing! I'm pressing onward and taking one step at a time because every step is a victory and I'm still moving!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week 4 - Here I Come!

So last week was a total wash-out - and I partly mean that as a pun because it's been flooding in my region. (smile) I started out okay but just kind of had one of my "bottom out" weeks. I did get in two back-to-back sessions of taekwondo on Thursday night and got a few miles in. I have no excuses except I just didn't feel well - and I am laying that "excuse" aside this week and planning on kicking butt.

I think what is difficult is finding that fine between pushing myself to achieve my goals and overdoing it and getting myself in a bind. It's just plain frustrating. I'm doing things right but my body doesn't act like it wants to cooperate. It's like I do real good for a couple of weeks and then the bottom falls out. I'm actually not sure if it's something I need to just push through - or if that will be a major overdo -- I don't like those at all. They knock me out of the game for several days. So today I was cooking along real good on a nice and easy 3 miles on the TM and decided to just pull back a little bit I think that I may just be getting excited that I feel decent sometimes and push it a little too much. This week - I'm going to shoot for more miles but I'm going to set my goal to cover them all slowly. It's just about finding the limits -- I will do this!

I've been doing okay with the food thing too. I'm learning to look everything up if I don't know what the sodium content is. That helps at get togethers I've found. I also take my own snacks and that helps too. I will say I'm not watching it as close as I was and I need to pull that back in a little bit; but I am still being careful and trying not to overdo it on salt. I will say I've lost about 12 pounds since this all started. Once I axed the salt I lost 8 pounds immediately. Then I slowly lost 2 more and now I'm down a couple more... long ways to go but progress is progress.

So here we go with an effort to get more miles but get them easier period. That is very difficult for me but I am determined to do this and do it right. Every once in awhile I just get plain tired and I think maybe I should just quit - maybe it's not best. The thoughts run rampant and I question myself. But it's just not in me to give up - I'm all about pushing the limits. I think that's what so frustrating about having to think about a chronic condition like CHF and train. I'm trying to learn my limits - but not so I can push them so much - but so I can use them to my advantage. That's taking quite a different mental game than before. But I will figure it out....*sigh*

So here we go- another week of training starting and another week of making the necessary changes and adaptations to make it work. That's okay - because every step is a victory!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gettin' Back on the Straight and Narrow

Okay - so I haven't messed up real bad but I haven't been as careful in my eating as I should. I'm thinking the combination of slipping slightly on my diet and an overload of stress is messing with me a little bit. Since I have the adrenal gland issues (which is what is believed to be behind the congestive heart failure) stress wears me out more than anything. So tonight's run was blah!

On my dieting - I've actually had a couple of big victories and my changes have stuck. I turned down BBQ from a local restaurant this week - and opted for a plain baked potato. Then today I was starving on my way home from picking my accessible van up from the mechanic but refused to take the chance at eating out. I had a couple of things in the fridge to eat and ate them once I got home and unloaded. That was hard but because of the lack of episodes and feeling way better I just didn't want to take the chance.

The negative side - I've been eating way too much cheese; and I'm back to guessing on my salt intake. But as of tonight I'll be back on the straight and narrow. I had a really bad run I want to blame on stress.....but I have to be honest with myself. I've learned if I don't have integrity with myself I don't have it with anyone. This is true in running and every other aspect of life. If you fudge on your running log- you're really lying to yourself and will pay in the long run. (pun intended!) So I have to say I have been a little lax which is definitely a contributor to my horrible run tonight.

Actually, this is the first tough run I've had in awhile. I wanted 6 today but crazy things like picking up my van, buying groceries and trying to catch up on my freelance writing from yesterday sucked up a bunch of my time. We had no electricity yesterday due to storms in the area. That means I can't work or run. So I finally got on the TM tonight and sluggishly got the first mile and felt a little better so picked it up a little on the second mile. But then I started with chest pains - haven't dealt with them in a long time! I almost forgot what that was like. So I decided not to push at all and hopped off after just a measly 2.2 miles. It's so frustrating!!!

I haven't had an episode in some time and I'm praying I don't have one now. They take too long to recover from. So -- my body has my attention again and I won't ignore the signs. I was so happy to feel like I was building back up some stamina and actually working on speed a little - not a lot yet, but a little. And wham! This just decked me. I hate it - but the only thing I can do about it is to get myself back on a solid eating plan. I know I need more green veggies (bought some today at the store), and I need to get back to watching my salt. I also sat at my desk to work today instead of with my feet up. But that's because I go to sleep when I sit with my feet up and that makes me mad too.

So my little mess-up is over. I'm converted once again. As much as I hate it - I'm back on the right track. I know it's just not worth it to mess up - and even though I didn't go over the edge this time and do something massively stupid, I have messed up and the small stuff adds up to a big one. I'm good now.

I will beat this thing. And I will run my marathon - and every step is a victory.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Ain't Gonna Lose

Today I ran my 75th 5K. I didn't check to see how many races I've done overall, just 5Ks. I actually did pretty good. I had the best chip time of any 5k since my CHF diagnosis. I'm still really slow in comparison but I'm very happy to be under 40 minutes again. That just puts me closer to the 30 minute mark and my old PR which I honestly hope to reach one day.

This week I did a total of 20 miles and completed my second week of marathon training. I'm very happy with that, but it sure got me to thinking a lot about the journey I've been on. Last year I remember doing this race, the Oklahoma Strong 5K and just not feeling good. I felt like I was very sluggish and it was actually cold last year. This year it was 72 at the beginning of the race - which is really hot for me anymore. Even though I slowed down each mile, I still had all 3 under 13 minute miles. I'll take that for today. I can't get where I want to be without starting where I am. Oh, I would love to be back working on a 10 minutes mile but I can't get there unless I start rebuilding from right here.

All last year I felt horrible, and every race was so difficult. My ankles were swollen, I couldn't breathe, my chest was hurting and I worried myself through all of them and cancelled a lot of my "normal" ones. I didn't do any fall halfs and that's really unusual for me. I know - I should have gone to the doc earlier but I can should on myself all day and not change a thing.

But this week, even though I'm still horribly slow - I am feeling so much better. Every step is truly a victory for me. I feel better, my blood pressure is under control, I rarely have chest pains during a run anymore (usually they start just after though! lol), my ankles are not swollen and I can breathe! Over the last few months I have made lots of changes, many of them uncomfortable like having to take medication and watching my salt intake diligently. But when I cross each finish line I have more assurance that I can do this thing! I will run a marathon (I use the term "run" loosely, lol) with CHF!

This week is the first week in a long time I have made my goals for running and cross training and I am just a little bit excited! Very tired right now - but super excited. One of the songs on my playlist is Queen's We are the Champions. And one phrase that always gets me going is the one that says :

It's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise,
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
and I ain't gonna lose.....

That's how I feel. There are days I just don't have the energy to do anything much and I am learning to deal with it; not always too gracefully or patiently, but learning to take it for what it is and move ahead. I have to space out my runs and work my cross training in between with caution; but I'm determined to beat this thing and I'm gaining ground one small step at a time.  

Every Step a Victory!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pushing the Limits?

I'm pretty sure this is not an accurate blood pressure reading - but then I didn't believe the little machine when it was 212/110 either. Maybe it is at least close to accurate since I was exhausted when I got up this morning. But I had errands to run so I pushed my son in his wheelchair to the corner stores to pick up a few items. While I was in the store I passed by the BP machine and decided to see. I don't buy it, but at least it didn't err on the high side. So I treated myself to a cheese enchilada for lunch!

I'm in an in-between spot emotionally right now. On one hand I feel like I am doing real well. I have my bp under control - I'm mastering my diet a little at a time and I'm feeling better. I actually feel like I have more stamina. Today I put in 5 miles on the TM and felt really good. The problem I'm having is that I have learned that feeling good is not a license to push too hard. It messes with my mind. I'm feeling good why can't I go ahead and push to run harder, longer and faster? Because I have learned I will pay later if I do. So to keep from overdoing it and paying the toll tomorrow I held back....some.

It was a good 5-miler really. I started slow and once I got warmed up I found my speed for the day. That is the maximum that I feel I can go and not feel like I'm pushing to take every step. Then after 2 to 3 miles I really started feeling lots better. So I picked it up a little bit more. I am learning so much right now - like how to handle my limits and still be able to push. It seems like my stamina is getting a lot better. For instance last night at taekwondo everyone else was all out of breath and I was doing fine during our drills. It's probably a combination of two things. One I've learned how to manage my exercise in a way that I'm not killing myself to keep up with everyone else. And two - I feel better and I think I'm in better shape. My problem is holding myself inside those limits especially when I feel good. I'm just so darn competitive!

One thing that really bothers me is that I feel forced to take more days off. Like yesterday I had to rest from running to be ready to do a solid run today. I did some weights yesterday morning - I'm actually pretty sore from that. And then had taekwondo last night. But I was feeling really good so it was frustrating because I knew if I ran yesterday I took a chance at not having it in me today.

The good thing is I suppose that I am learning how to balance it out. Actually, I'm learning how to balance a lot of things out in life right now. Everyday I do some sort of cardio - not necessarily pushing too hard - just getting it in. That might be the bike, taekwondo or a walk through the park. When I skip it I actually feel worse the next day - that's just something I'm sorting out so I try to make sure no matter what I get in 30 minutes of at least light cardio daily.

It seems like the changes I've made to my exercise plan, marathon training and eating right are working. I've always been such a push-the-limits kind of person playing by all these rules is killing me. Well, I guess it's more accurate to say it's keeping me alive - and healthy. But inside I need to find some rules somewhere to break - just to feel normal again. lol I really am having to train my mind as much as I'm training my body. It's quite challenging but I'm up for it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Who's the Real MVP?

Chris and I with Mom at Church.
While I was driving to my mom's today I was working through how I would handle lunch. I had packed my bag with an extra bottle of water and a snack bag of nuts and raisins. I was thinking about how much effort it takes to keep this old body in shape and running efficiently. I looked at my wrist which is looking better but I'm on tight restrictions per the doc until the bruise and pain are completely gone. I was starting to get frustrated because while it doesn't limit my running at all (thankfully!!!) it does hamper my efforts in taekwondo. If I follow the doc's orders correctly I can't punch "anything but air" until it is healed. I need to break boards, and punch pads! And I need to spar to prepare for an upcoming tournament. I figured I have to decide how well I want to take care of myself - no one can do that for me.

I started thinking about my online running community and how they gripe at me when I mess up and really do help me stay accountable in many ways. I've written before about it taking a whole village to keep me honest, and I'm not kidding much. That led my thoughts to the last year (yes - I was driving so I had plenty of time to sort this all out.) and the struggles I had physically. I thought about how I've gone to the doc more in the last 6-8 months than I have in the previous 10 years all put together.

I took some time thinking back over my running journey and how I'm beginning to feel better overall. I thought about all the "village people" it's taking to raise me (at 54 years old!). My primary care NP, the cardiologist, my running group, my friends and my daughter all play a role. But then I thought that none of these can really "help" me if I make stupid choices. Kind of like no one can run a race for you. They can encourage, coach, advise and run alongside but there is no one who can run it for you- just with you. That makes you the MVP. You are the most valuable player in the game of life. I am the MVP of my own life.

Right now I have tons of help and had even more when I was in a tight spot a few months back. But now that I am feeling and doing better it can be tempting to lighten up. But an MVP can't let up - not in any game.

So how did I handle lunch? I asked everyone to every ingredient they put in their dishes. And you know what I ended up eating? Nada. Nothing. I had already eaten my nuts and raisins. Everything was loaded with salt so I just sat and visited with everyone and let them eat. It didn't even bother me because the risk just isn't worth it to me. But it didn't seem to bother anyone at all. I guess that's what I was worried about - having to justify my actions. But no one gave me a difficult time at all. Maybe they are starting to understand.

Now I'm home - had a great homemade chicken fajita (my first try - and it was delicious!). And I'm getting ready to get on the treadmill to start this second week of full marathon training off right. I have a lot on my shoulders right now but I won't bore you with the details - just hang around to see how this life MVP makes the necessary changes to beat congestive heart failure one victorious step at a time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Learning to Like It

Ended up with an "okay" week as far as training goes. First week of full marathon training done!! And I stuck to my schedule too. I'm happy with that even though I did have two days of nothing - hope to fix that next week. I have the my calendar filled out with what's supposed to happen, now to make it happen. I'm trying to do some gentle 2-a-days. We'll see. I'm actually starting to feel like I've been working out. I really can't explain it but I'm feeling better overall and I feel more "fit" even though I still look like a walrus. (That's going to change!)

This week I played with my diet a little bit. I have been very careful to not overindulge in high sodium foods, but I did allow some small cheats. Here's what I've learned. I can tell a huge difference between allowing more salt from packaged foods versus having more salt added to my foods. I weigh in every single morning and I've been able to maintain real close to my 10 pounds loss. I know if I gain 2 or more pounds I overdid salt the day before and I'm retaining water - that's a really bad thing and I have to learn to avoid it. But when I eat all fresh, cook-it-myself, not pre-prepared at all foods I lose or stay the same and don't gain at all. I haven't gone over the 2000 mg limit - but I can tell the difference in the types of salt I allow. So....

I'm game for some more changes. One thing is that I ran out of cheese. I love cheese! However, it has a lot of salt in it, and I have little self control. It's just so handy to grab a chunk or a slice! ....sigh... but it's gone. So this morning I was making my scrambled eggs - with onion and jalapenos and was missing the cheese. I thought about how good they would be with just a little bit of sharp cheddar! Then I thought of the health risk I take by eating too much. My thought was - then I'll have to learn to like my foods without it. That's a big step for me - but necessary at this point. You know what? I added a little oregano and my breakfast burrito was perfect! I enjoyed it. I'll learn to like it without cheese.

There are some other things I don't really like either. (Like taking meds - but that's nonnegotiable. I'm taking them! lol) I don't like it that I can feel wiped out so easily some times and that I feel like my body forces me into walk breaks. But this is where I am - and it's better than sitting on the couch. So I'll have to learn to like the fact that I can take walk breaks and continue racing.  I may be slow - but I am where I am. I didn't get in this spot overnight. I got here because I ignored my body's first signals. Ignored them for nearly a year until they got so bad I couldn't run at all for a short time. If I'd gone to the doc early on - it would have never gotten this bad. But I am where I am today. I can change my future by doing what I have to do today.

I'm determined to learn to like doing things differently so that I can continue to do the things I really like. I ran over 5 miles today and enjoyed it. I pushed as much as I felt like I could without overdoing - I have learned that I don't like the after effects of doing that. So I will learn to like run/walk intervals while I crawl out of this hole I got myself into. I'm learning to rest when I need to; but I'm also learning that I really do feel better if I do some sort of cardio every day. When I skip days I get very sluggish. So I guess I'll learn to like riding my stationary bike too!

Dedicated to this journey - where every step is a victory!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What the Doctor Don't Know!

My son's case manager for his home health was here yesterday and took a picture of my nice little collection of medals. Why? We share a cardiologist and she took it so she could show him what I mean by running just so he's clear on the matter. She thinks our definitions of running might be a little different. There may or may not have been some bribery in there somewhere. lol

I don't think she's really going to do that - but even if she does - I really don't care. I'm feeling so good and learning so much that I think I've got this!


I haven't been perfect on my diet but I've been doing lots better at managing my sodium intake. For awhile I really felt cheated in a way because I can't have all the "fun" stuff. I do still crave pizza by the way! No more call outs for Chinese or Mazzio's pizza and salad for me! (I had noted the salad from Mazzio's made my ankles swell the next day every single time.) I don't eat out of a can or a box anymore either. I do use some canned tomatoes that have "no salt added."

I looked at something the other day when I was in my munchies mood and it had 750 mg of sodium. My whole thought process has changed. I was like, "that's half what I want to take in over a day and  it's really just not worth it. This is changing my whole perspective on junk foods! I allowed myself a few chips this week - because they don't have much sodium in them, if you don't eat the whole bag. And I made my own salsa (chips-n-salsa my second favorite weakness right behind chocolate).

Since my diet has been so clean it has been a lot easier to tell what my body actually reacts to and what works best. I'm really liking what I'm seeing. I'm down around 12 pounds without even trying and it's finally starting to drop and stay down. I don't see near the fluctuations I did before. My weight is one of the main ways to find out what's going on with your body. With CHF you retain water - in the latter stages it can be super detrimental and actually cause pneumonia and death. I'm not planning on getting to that stage. And one prevention I am pro-active about is checking my weight every single morning. If I gain 2 or more pounds I retained basically that much water. That's bad. I actually haven't seen that over the last few days, my weight has steadily (and slowly) been dropping.

Exercising is going well too and I'm learning my new limits and the cost of pushing them. When I mind my manners (lol) I can do more but if I push it I pay for it. I'm learning where those cutoff points are. I'm also learning that even though I am on a run and feeling really  good - it's not a license to push at all. That's a delicate balance somewhere between pushing to grow and improve without overdoing it. But I really do not like the cost of overdoing it so I'm being super good even when no one's watching. lol

When I am exercising - I am using a lot of caution. I can do cardio class if I'm having a decent day - but I have to do it about half speed of all the teens in the class. Why does that bother me at 54? Shoot, I'm in my 50s - going to be a real senior in August and I still want to compete? Yes I do. But I am coming to peace with the fact that if I want to continue to do activities like taekwondo and cardio sessions (yes they are back to back on Thursday nights) I have to do it right for me.

All my life I have pushed the limits (you didn't expect that did you? lol). And now I'm learning that they are not all that bad and can actually allow you to do what you want if you respect them. As a life long rebel I feel like I'm losing here, lol - but I'm really winning this one. Actually, I'm way ahead this week. It's my first full week of full marathon training and I've worked out every day for several days in a row. I do have Friday planned as a full rest day because I'm running a 10K on Saturday. Right before I go to a special Mother-Daughter exercise class with my daughter.

Dedicated to the journey where every step is a victory!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Let's Get this Party Started!

So I delayed marathon training by one week so it's time to get started. Tomorrow is my official starting date for full marathon training. I am using a 4:1 run/walk interval plan. It's Coach Jenny Hadfield's marathon training plan. It includes 4 running days and 2 cross training days each week with one total rest day. That's going to be my foundation. My 2 cross training days are of course taekwondo nights. Part of my plan includes NOT running on those days. Even when I am having a great day it can be too much too easily.

This week I used as sort of a trial week. I set my goal miles (20) and tried to achieve them without overdoing it. You know what? I did it! I spread out my workouts and threw in cross training and even an additional 30 minute cardio class one night. The cardio class is after my taekwondo class and I was playing it by ear. If I felt okay and did well in taekwondo - then I could stay for cardio. I did fine so I stayed. I did not push it as hard as the other participants. I'm learning to pace myself without pushing my limits in a way that overdoes. That's been tricky - but I am determined!

I seem to have my diet under control and yesterday (but certainly NOT today) my ankles were not swollen at all. They actually looked normal all day yesterday. That really is a big deal because they stay enlarged almost all the time. (sorry for the ugly visual - but hey - I gotta live with it! lol) I've learned a lot about sodium consumption and allow myself some "cheats" but not bombs. I allow myself some stuff that has more sodium in it but allows me to stay under my 2000mg limit for the day. I have to admit - I do and feel lots better when I keep it down closer to 1500mg. Sometimes now I just look at stuff and think how it's so not worth it to be out for a day or two to recover just for a salty snack. I think I'm winning on that end. I'm certainly not perfect and still have a long way to go, but making progress.

Probably the most difficult thing that I faced this week was feeling better. I know that sounds kind of funny, but my best day this week was Thursday and I wanted to head out for a nice run. But since I had taekwondo that night I just couldn't do it. I knew if I went out and felt good running I'd keep going. It was too big of a risk to take. I am determined to not overdo it. I am liking feeling good a little too much.

So here we go. Tomorrow is my first scheduled run for full marathon training. I have lots of mixed feelings. On one hand I'm very excited; but on the other I'm very worried. There's what I would call an action plan in place for now to make sure I don't overdo it. At least I'm going to try my best to get in as many solid workouts, strength training, taekwondo, yoga, biking, etc that I can without overdoing it. But I really do not have a plan for those days that are sure to occur when I just don't feel well. It's inevitable I'm sure no matter how "good" I am. My goal is to keep from crashing emotionally when I have those down times. I'll work it out you can be sure of that.  Until then:

I'm dedicated to the journey where every step is a victory!