Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who Knew?

This week I have a renewed determination to do this thing right. Overall, I had a pretty good week last week and only had a couple of times where I slipped up and fell off the low sodium diet wagon. So I reported it to a running group (Coach Jenny Hadfield's Challenge Group). I'm trying to build circles of accountability so that I am not so likely to do stupid stuff -- or at least not repeat them over and over... lol.

I got chewed out for eating one little can of ravioli last week. At first I was like "If that's all  I did I'm doing so much better!" But they didn't let it go - in a good sort of way. A whole conversation opened up about sodium and how much is in our foods. There are some types of foods that have sodium naturally. And there is added salt. Somehow I thought that "table" salt wasn't as bad as the sodium found in prepackaged foods. So I've been shakin' that shaker all over my foods. I was also making some other mistakes.

The "ravioli infraction" led to a lengthy conversation and lots of useful information. I was politely challenged by a friend (True friends always tell you the truth btw.) to count every mg of sodium for a day just to see how much I was consuming. Honestly, I was shocked. I really believe I have been going way over the 1500-2000 mg allowed in a day. Who knew?  I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about food and nutrition but I was shocked!

What am I going to do with this new information? Make even more changes! 

I'm actually feeling a lot better overall and it seems that I have more stamina when I do exercise. Nutrition has to be under control before I venture much further into marathon training. However, armed with this new knowledge I am more comfortable moving forward with training. I've added more cross training lately and so far have an exercise streak going. I've done something everyday for over a week so far. I really think the exercising is helping a lot - and I'm being careful to keep doing but not overdo.

There's so much to balance out and keep together. I'm working hard to not feel overwhelmed and as I get each area together, it seems I am feeling stronger and better. My biggest challenge right now seems to be slowing down when I don't feel good. It's still hard for me to admit I can't do something; or that I don't feel  like doing something. I am sure that eventually I will get it all sorted out. How can I be so sure?

I want to do another marathon -- I will do another marathon. It might take me all day - but I'm going to do it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Takes a Village

Is it a sin that I want to just throw on my running shoes, tie them up and go out for a run? It sure seems like my body is fighting that this week. I've "been good" in that I have taken it easy and I've eaten right (mostly). I learned early on that there is a lot more mental work needed to be a runner than I ever imagined. But complicate that process with a chronic condition and boy do I have to think a lot!

Right now one of the most difficult mental challenges I'm facing is trying to schedule my workouts and runs. Since I never know how cooperative my body is going to be on any given day, it's hard to say that I'm going to do my "long run" today. Yesterday I figured I still wanted to get 20 miles this week and I had two days to do it. I needed 6 miles to get to 20.  I headed out for a run thinking I'd try for 4 which would leave just 2 to finish off on Saturday. My butt was dragging the whole way so I only got 3. And for now, I just have to be okay with that and with the fact that at least I can run. No doctor has told me that I shouldn't run - they have told me to take it easy and that I can't run like I did before - whatever that means!

There's so much to think about running in general but especially since I want to start full marathon training. Plus I really want to do some obstacle courses too. Why not? It's not like there isn't a lot of serious planning that any runner has to do to complete a marathon, but I have all of the regular things to think about plus dealing with congestive heart failure. Tons of questions accompany that like:

  • What if I don't feel well on a day a long run is scheduled?
  • Will I be able to keep up with the mileage demands?
  • Is my heart really okay with all this?
  • How am I going to fuel this adventure?
And the list goes on...and on.

In general, I am a very independent person and I rarely ask for help. However, I am trying to learn to ask for help. I'm finding that it is really taking a village to keep this runner running. I'm a member of Coach Jenny Hadfield's challenge group on Facebook and my friends there have been instrumental in keeping me on track. They encourage me when I'm down, and yell at me when I overdo it - or when I cheat on my diet. I've also been reprimanded for despising walking! lol... seriously! Overall my friends there really help me stay focused and balanced - which helps a lot. 

I'm talking to a dietitian who is going to help me sort out my dietary needs. I want to fuel my runs and workouts plus lose a little bit of weight. Plus, I want to eat right so I feel better. I still have to talk to my cardiologist about all this next month. I'm also considering counseling to help deal with emotional eating. So I am talking everything over with lots of people who are willing to help. Even though I feel alone sometimes - I'm no where near all alone. I'm surrounded by tons of people who are going to help me reach my goals. I'll call it my personal village.  The important thing for me is to remember that I have to keep open communication with those who are helping me - and I have to listen. 

So I guess you could say that I am in the middle of making tons of changes in the way that I do basically everything. I'm trying not to change too much all at once but make them more gradual. Probably the worst part is how frustrated I get especially when my body just says "no." But I will get there - and I'm not going alone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Learning to Listen

One of the most important things I have learned over the last few months is to listen to my body. I have found this very difficult since I got so used to "Push! Push! Push!" But when I began to feel ill when I ran I learned that my body did not always respond to the pushing. Last year when I started having chest pains and retaining water my body started dragging behind. Almost every run was more like dragging a huge, heavy bag of wet tators behind me. It took everything I had to just pick one foot up one at a time and keep my body moving forward.

I can't say I have adjusted well to the changes I had to make and I didn't start out really listening to my body very well. But over the last few weeks my running has improved and my stamina has increased. I really have to say some of that is due to making the necessary adjustments and really tuning in to what my body is saying. I find this very frustrating!

Why do I find it frustrating? Because I want to just go run or workout and not have to think so much. I had a great half marathon on Sunday and felt horrible ever since. That makes it hard on the attitude. However, I'm determined to keep a good attitude and to remain positive. I actually felt bad a couple of days before the race and was totally stressed out which really complicates things. Then Monday and today I had a really rough time. That's frustrating if I let it be - but I decided to think back about how well the race went Sunday and rejoice in that rather than let the blues get hold of me.

So yesterday and today I listened to my body and did almost nothing. I tried to ride a little on the stationary bike but was too winded last night. Today I started feeling better and this so I got out for about a 2 mile walk through the park behind my apartments. I'm feeling a lot better and plan on getting back to running tomorrow. It's tough having to listen to my body instead of pushing it on out the door.

I am learning to eat smarter and workout smarter. I have talked to a lot of different people as I feel some major changes are necessary since I am going to train for another full marathon. I've already made some changes to my diet and I'm slowly bumping up my exercise program. I'm also learning to be "okay" on the days I just don't have it. I don't plan on letting those down days hinder me, but I'll make the necessary adjustments to make it work.

Even though I haven't officially started my marathon training - my mind has already geared toward it and I've starting making lots of mental and physical changes. I think slow, determined changes are likely to be more permanent. So I find myself in an endless state of transition. I'm uncomfortable. But I'm okay with it because I think the changes are good. I have to adjust more on days when I don't feel good - and I struggle with lots of questions about my future and running. But I refuse to give up...I will not quit. Adjust - yes; quit - no! On good days I wonder if the cardiologist even knew what he was talking about - on the bad days I get frustrated because the symptoms shout that he was right.

It's a delicate balance and I am in the process of learning how to maximize the good days without overdoing it. And I have to learn how to not let the bad days get me down. I will do this - I am just not sure exactly how.

Thanks for listening. Every step a victory!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Every Step a Victory

Yesterday I ran my 15th half marathon. But it was only my second one since the congestive heart failure diagnosis. I reached the start line with tons of questions and super nervous about the race. I just never know on any given day what my body is going to give me. I'm learning to listen to my body and it is making a huge difference in my running and training.

The race went surprisingly well - actually I'm just as surprised today! I just felt so good. Now I will admit I had some chest discomfort along the way. But I slowed down and let my body get a feel for what was going on each time. I never felt like I couldn't catch my breath, any more than normal for beating down 13.1 miles. But my head went a hundred miles an hour all along the course.

I didn't push it from the start and tried to find a comfortable pace that felt like I wasn't trying to do too much. The first couple of miles I forced myself to take walk breaks since that's how I've been training and I know if you do too much too soon you'll run out of steam at the end. So I kept reminding myself to take it easy but I kept feeling really good. Before I knew it I had knocked out 5 miles. Even though I didn't sprint them and I wasn't going super fast - they felt like they passed really fast. Then I looked up and was to the halfway mark. That's always a good place to be emotionally because after that each step leaves more behind you than before you. Halfway seems to boost me mentally like I can actually "get ahead" from there.

Next thing I knew I hit mile 8. It felt like I was going fast - they miles were not dragging by and I wasn't feeling the need to walk although I continued to walk periodically. Mile 8 is significant for a couple of reasons. One was I met the 3 hour pacers at the first part of mile 8. But I chose not to try and pass them. I thought, "great, if I hold up maybe I can stay with them and finish in 3 hours." But I was okay even if that didn't happen. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the bottom to fall out somewhere along the way. But soon - I passed the 3 hour pacers and never looked back.

Mile 8 also brought a horrible hunger with it. I was nervous because I was afraid I'd hit the wall and have to crawl the last 5 miles. So the next officer I saw, I jokingly asked if he had a candy bar. He laughed and said he didn't. He didn't have pretzels or beer either! lol  So I come up on another officer and asked him jokingly if he had a candy bar. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a Snickers! I asked if I could have it as I was taking it out of his hand. I heard the runners behind me yell, "Score!". It's honestly what got me through the rest of the race. Although I would not suggest this kind of race nutrition, hey, it worked this time!

I was still running (for me) at mile 10. That simply amazed me because I'm usually really dragging by then. I was hurting some but I was still going and feeling pretty good overall. Then 11 and 12 came. By the time I saw the mile 12 marker I got really excited because I was still running, and still feeling good other than general muscle fatigue that is easy to deal with. Then I started laughing. Not out loud - just to myself. And I imagined that I was saying "ha!" with each step. I had overcome this thing for the day and I was winning. Every step of this half was a victory - every step of every race I am able to do is a victory. Every step of every training run/walk is now a victory. Victorious steps I may need to recall on the rougher days that might come.

By the time I saw the finish line I was overcome with emotion. I had beat CHF one more time.It didn't control me. It didn't make me stop - I ran with it - not from it. I looked up at the clock and saw it was 2:53 something... I had beat 3 hours. That was my original goal when I ran my first half and my PR is 2:42. Once I fell ill last year I couldn't get back under 3 hours and I was okay with that. I really am okay with just finishing - but this was sweet! I took that huge, heavy medal and exited the area and promptly fell over on the fence and cried like a baby. What a rush of emotions.. At least for this half - I won.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Keeping my Head in the Game

When I first started running I really thought it was all physical. As I continued training and increasing my mileage I learned that there is a lot of mental activity that keeps you in the running game. As I turn my thoughts to training for another full marathon (something I never thought I'd even say again) I'm finding there's a lot involved. My life has so many more complicated issues than it had 3 years ago!

One thing I'm already learning is that I have a tendency to just jump - and think later. But this is different - and pretty hard on me. I have to make a lot of purposeful preparations just to get ready to train. I have to get okays from multiple doctors - specifically the cardiologist. I have to work on getting my diet right and my body ready. You'd think I've been running for 6 years and should be in shape, huh? No - I have let so many things go; I'm ashamed.

One of my goals for right now is to get some form of exercise in every day. I'd like to do an hour a day - but I also have to be careful to not overdo. That could mean major setbacks especially with CHF. It's not worth the risk. I'm learning to take everything my body gives me on a given day and maximize it - without going too crazy with it. Balance is a key word.

Today I ran errands - but rode my bike. So I got in a good 4 mile ride today. I also did my knee exercises - I have to get my whole body ready for this journey - I'm determined to do it. But I have to do it right.

This weekend  I have my second half marathon since the congestive heart failure diagnosis. I take that as a challenge really. Every step is a victory. I plan on taking 13.1 miles worth of victorious steps. It may be slow - sluggish or ugly - but I plan on doing it right! I have an extra challenge for this race though. My cell phone died late last night (a whole new set of challenges and stress right there!). The company shipped it out tonight but there's no way I'll get it before next week. That means I've got to do this race with no technology. I won't have a phone on me if I get in a bind. One friend told me that means I have to be really good on the course; something I intend on doing anyway.

It's really hard mentally to think about what it means to have trouble on the course. I ran all last year with chest discomfort not realizing there was really something going on that needed attention. I pushed it sometimes when I shouldn't have. Now I have slowed down and am more purposeful in my training, running and walking. Stress is rough on my body - I'm totally stressed out - there's always that what if in the back of my mind now.

What if I don't sleep well before the race?
What if I have an episode before the race?
What if my chest starts hurting on the course?
What if I can't finish this one?

You get the idea - my mind goes crazy! Today I don't have to worry about all that (I tell myself). Today I have to handle the stress as good as I possibly can and get my head back into the game. It's a game I plan on winning.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Doctor Down

Part of getting ready to start training for a full marathon is getting all my proverbial ducks in a row. A lot still rests on seeing the cardiologist and getting his approval of course. But today I went to have me knee checked about. It's been bothering me for some time. Fortunately it's not anything serious, I just have to baby it for awhile. Mostly, he said it's wear and tear translated means I'm old! But my kneecap is a little too tight - it's not moving correctly. Basically - it's runner's knee.

So, treatment means doing some strengthening exercises, icing after workouts, wearing a light brace and taking anti-inflammatory meds. He offered a couple different types of shots - I was like "No!" I don't do shots in a joint! According to the exercises I have to do them until certain criteria is met.

I'm a member of a great Facebook running group and they are helping to keep me in line. I've promised them that I'll do the exercises, icing and meds from now until the OKC Memorial Half next month. So- I started tonight.

I'm not so good at being "good." However, this group has been instrumental in helping me learn a few life lessons here. It is worth it to take care of my body - and I am worth it too. To be honest - I never thought of it quite like that. But I'm determined to do this thing right. I've made a lot of major changes lately to ensure the congestive heart failure (CHF) doesn't become more of a problem. I have to if I want to run; and I want to run.

And before I begin training for a full I have to make even more changes. I'm not really good with change. I'm a very scheduled and methodical person. Change can be rough - I can eventually adjust, but initially I typically fight and fuss a lot. But I am determined to not just deal with CHF and other issues that present themselves particularly as I age, I'm going to live with CHF. I will continue to do as much as I can for as long as I can - but that means I have to be good, and take care of myself.

As far as training I did cross training tonight in taekwondo. It's been great cross training for me and I actually feel my stamina getting better as well as my body getting stronger. I had to learn to warm-up properly and since I did that - I feel really good when class is over.

The key to getting to start training is really listening to my body. I have to be so careful to not overdo. I have a lot of people cheering me on and helping me in many different ways. I'm really used to being alone - so this is going to be different from the last full I did. Really - everything is different from here. My body is different - but I believe if I listen to it this time and train careful and smart - I can do this thing. And this time - I won't be doing it alone. I think I like that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting Over

That's it! I've decided to train for another full marathon and I'm inviting you along on the journey. For a while I thought I'd be happy just saying I'd done one. But I'm itching to try another now. This week I'll be completing my 15th half marathon and there's just something in me that makes me want to do another full. Maybe it's because so many think I can't.

Just recently I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Yep - you read that right. So far I have been okayed to run. My cardiologist said I can run as long as I have my blood pressure under control. My primary care told me I can run carefully- as long as I don't over-do it and as long as I walk if I am having any issues. So using great wisdom - I push forward.

I have a half this weekend and then another in April. I'm becoming "okay" with doing them even if I have to walk a lot for my health's sake. It still gripes me a lot though. Since I've always been a go-getter and an overachiever having to slow down is very difficult. It's much easier on me to push, push, push! I'm actually learning a lot on this journey though as I learn to slow down in order to "pick it up" some.

It's really more about just staying in the game. There's no quit in my mind - it's more about learning how to get it done and doing it right so I can continue getting it done. One foot in front of another.

Let me say this - I will be listening to my doc and cardiologist on this journey. But I intend to finish any way I can. One of the lessons I've learned in the last few months is to actually listen to my body. It is important after all. I can't do a marathon without it, now can I?

I'm learning that I need to focus and refocus a lot. I'm not "officially" starting marathon training until after the OKC half next month. So we'll just have to be patient 'til then.

I really think I can do this - even with such a terrible diagnosis. I just have to be smart - and do what I know to do. Isn't that the case with any area of life? We can accomplish anything as long as we do what is right - and what we know we should be doing in the first place.

I hope you choose to join me on this crazy adventure - I'm going to be totally open with how I feel physically and emotionally. You'll know when I have a really easy, enjoyable run and I'll let you in on it when I have one that is gut-wrenchingly endured. I'll tell you what I do right - and where I mess up. Hope you'll join me on this journey as I continue to train my body - and train my mind.