Monday, June 29, 2015

I've Never Done that Before

My weights and other exercise equipment (yes, there's more in my room!) are going to be my new best friend and running buddy. How do I know? I'm dedicated to the journey.

Change is not the easiest thing for me because in general I am a very structured person. Most of my life I could organize things like I like them and then leave them there for...well, forever. After my doc visits last week I have been put in a position to really do some soul searching once again and determine what I want as a runner, an athlete and just as a person in general. I have found some major change is necessary. What sounds simple is very difficult for a Type A like me.

So far my blood pressure has been good - a little on the high side of normal but not bad. And my pulse has been good too. It now runs in the mid 50s. My diet has been totally inside the zone (except for some cake and ice cream yesterday at my sister and mother's birthday party- but those are still low sodium, right?) Seriously I have my diet under control and am not even tempted to cheat when it comes to watching the salt. I am maintaining my weight right now with literally no water weight gain in about 3 days so that's all good. I think I am more determined and I'm so close to being off these meds I want to do all that I can to stay off. But - I also have to be content to go back on a lower dose should that be necessary. Which means I have to pay more attention than ever to my body. I've never done that before. 

This morning when I was working out I was aware of other changes in my thinking taking place. I'm kind of high strung in case  you hadn't noticed and my brain goes a hundred miles an hour - I wake up thinking about lots of things all at the same time. But I think I am learning to slow myself down. For example, I set the timer for 10 minutes - that's all the strength training I'm letting myself do right now. My goal is to go forward very gently and easily. I caught myself pushing to see how many times I could make the rounds in my little weight circuit. My breathing was crazy because I was so out of breath. My heart was beating out of my chest, lol. I stopped to catch my breath. Then I realized I had automatically started slowing myself down inside and out. I took the pressure to perform off myself and became content with just doing whatever was reasonable for me to do in 10 minutes. I've never done that before.

As I've made the dietary changes and attitude changes as well - I actually feel like I have more energy. Which is challenging because I want to go and push those limits. But I contain myself. I'm seeing my whole way of thinking change. I'm changing. And I'm actually okay with it.

When I was on a missions trip to Jamaica years ago one of our mottoes was change is my friend. While I am usually and naturally resistant to change, I think I am liking the changes I'm seeing in myself. I think I have myself together once again to move forward with my training. Onward toward the next challenge, slowly of course. But no matter how fast or how slow every step is a victory.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Had to Call this One

Tonight I was supposed to run the first 5K of one summer series I wanted to do. Well I had to opt out and to say I'm frustrated is a huge understatement. I had to go with what I felt was the wisest decision - the one that would be more likely to keep me running for a long time to come. It certainly hasn't been easy but at least I'm still vertical and no one's told me not to run.

Here's how it all came down. As you know I've been struggling with running and just kept pushing forward unwilling to accept my diagnosis but trying to make adjustments to allow for it at the same time. Crazy right? Well - this week my charade caught up with me.

I decided to go to the doc and tell her that I was trying to deny I had CHF. Basically, I went in and came clean with her and aired out my frustrations with the cardiologist who didn't call me back. Well, I certainly got busted. But it's going to work out for the best if I'm good. And I plan on being good!

My pulse when I first sat down was 47! The nurse was not happy and took it again. Even though I came clean and told her I was hoping she'd argue with the cardiologist about the diagnosis and tell me that it wasn't that bad (to which she shook her head), she was really not happy about the low pulse. My ankles were swollen too - even though they were WAY down from last week. We argued a little about that but I let her win! lol - She did add that stipulation to my running; if I am retaining water and swollen I can't run.

I told her about the "episode" I had last week where I gained 8 pounds overnight. We discussed it at length and I agreed to call the cardiologist back as part of the new treatment plan, which I did. They were really upset that my pulse was running in the low 50s and upper 40s all the time. I told them it was rarely over 52. Then his nurse went nuts. She said I am not allowed to take my meds if my pulse is not at least 55. Now that's a turn, scary but good I think. So I'm to monitor my blood pressure and pulse for 2 weeks and then get back to them. I promise not to ignore these orders like I did last time.

So I'm two days out and my pulse has yet to be high enough for me to take my meds. My blood pressure is very good, I've lost even more weight and I'm not retaining water. Of course I got lectures from both doc's offices about my diet - which I am adhering too from here on out. (I have to admit I can already tell the difference.) And about keeping my feet up. I can't live in the recliner! I won't live in the recliner!

So my goal is to be so good that I don't have to start taking the meds again. I think I can beat this- but my biggest chore is to be honest with myself and admit I have to deal with a chronic condition. I may hate it - but I can't ignore it. So in light of all this I chose to sit out tonight's race. I just didn't want to take a chance with the medication changes. I will try out the ole treadmill later today and wear my Pear heart monitor so I can see what it is doing and how it reacts without the meds.

I know it's a wise decision but it feels like I'm losing. If I can get off the meds or even reduce them I will be better off. I certainly intend to do all I can. But it starts with admitting I have a condition I must deal with and not ignore. To be honest I'm still fluctuating between I can handle this  and I don't have this. Hopefully I will actually find some resolve soon so I can adjust and move forward.

There is no reason to not continue going forward with every step a victory. But I have to be honest in order to address issues. This is going to turn out good....if I pay attention! I plan on it.

thanks for reading....

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Adjust, Adapt and Advance

Whew! It's been a crazy few days but I think I'm over another major hurdle. I shared last week about my episode and now that's it is behind me and I can think more clearly I think I have come to some conclusions.

First, my last 3 runs have been awesome! And I had a great time last night at taekwondo. No chest pains, no dizziness and even though I took it easy I had no difficulties at all. Well, except the fact that this fat old lady got her big toe caught in the pant leg of her uniform and jerked a toe out. Why can't I have normal injuries or at least noble ones? lol

I've been spreading out my runs and it seems to be helping. I only run two days in a row. Overall my new strategies seem to be working but it's all new. I'm committed to the journey at this point and determined to be fit in the midst of personal struggles and physical roadblocks.

I'm a thinker and a problem solver. Of course this leads to overthinking most of the time. But over the last few days I've been thinking and sorting through my situation to come to some realistic conclusions. Where I started was with the things I feel that are common to pretty much all runners. Here's some things all runners can feel or have shared that I deal with as well:

first miles are a real struggle
there are runs where you are just going to struggle
there are runs that are better than others
some days you feel like you're flying
some days you feel like you're running through peanut butter

I feel the same things other runners feel and sometimes I try to imagine that I don't have a heart condition. But there's always a wake-up call. It's usually just enough to keep me from ignoring it. When I can't get the swelling to go away in my ankles, am totally out of breath just from walking to the kitchen or I'm totally fatigued for no reason I just can't ignore it. But I can make changes and adjustments. That's what I'm doing going forward. 

First of all, I'm going to go to my doc for a consult to get an expert opinion. I'm a little afraid of that because I worry they will make me cut back some. I don't want my miles to be "illegal" because I have not intentions of stopping. Secondly, I am going to tighten up my eating once again. I just can't keep my nose clean it seems. But I will. I can't allow the little stuff to sneak past me anymore. From now on I'll be watching and counting sodium intake I just can't let it slide any more.

Commitment is about keeping moving toward your goals. It means not quitting even when you have to make adjustments to keep going forward. My problem is it seems like I've been making adjustments like crazy and not making enough progress to keep myself happy. But I'm determined to adjust what needs to be changed, adapt  my attitude and actions to ensure success and advance toward my goal of completing another marathon.

I must remind myself that no matter how slow - how fast how difficult or how frustrated I get every step is a victory.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Who Said "Hindsight's Always 20/20"?

What a week this has been! My take-away from the last 7 days is that hindsight is not  20/20. My experiences have fostered more questions than answers this week. First - on a good note- I did pass my testing and am now a purple belt in taekwondo. One more testing period (8-10 weeks) and I'll be an advanced belt! Who thought this fat senior would ever get this far? lol

I will have to admit that I had a rough time this week in taekwondo - just didn't feel good. My instructor babysat me though. She kept an eye out for me and kept reminding me to sit out if I didn't feel well. Like I'm going to sit out. I made it.

So I have been doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm taking my medications exactly as prescribed, I don't like that but I'm doing it. I'm taking my blood pressure almost every day and it's been within the right range - a little at the top of the "okay" range - and I'd like it down a bit more - but not high by any means. (side note- that's the one time I'm told I cannot run is when it is high - so I'm watching it closely) I'm watching my salt intake pretty close - okay so I'm hitting about an 80% on that area - My goal going forward is to be in the 90% range - gotta tighten that up just a little bit. But overall I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

This week outta what seemed like nowhere comes this horrible episode. I've had worse, I will admit - but I haven't had any in awhile. Well, actually I haven't felt at the top of my game for the last couple of weeks. Stress, little sleep and life have disrupted my plans. That all adds up to higher bp and physical problems. Some of that I can fix, some I can't.

I was actually pretty surprised that I did so well after the half on Sunday - since it didn't go too well itself. By Tuesday I was ready for a run and grabbed an easy 3 out in the heat. Then that evening I pushed my son in his wheelchair through the park and evidently that was the "too much" I needed to avoid. It was a struggle from there on out.

Wednesday morning I woke up with an 8 pound weight gain. That's right - overnight - BAM!  I was short of breath, fatigued, had chest pains, was dizzy and my ankles were swollen all day. I sat with my feet elevated for a lot of the day and nothing helped. It was so frustrating. I did't dare try to run. By last night I was better and ran 2 very easy miles. I was happy with that. Today I had lost the 8 pounds plus an extra pound which made me happy (but is very dangerous). Then tonight I grabbed 4 easy miles again - and really enjoyed it! That was really cool AND it put me over 20 miles at 22.5 for the week. That's the first time I've been able to get over 20 miles in a week in a very long time. So take that CHF!

So looking back, I still don't know what caused this episode. I think that is the scary part. I already feel like I run with this dark cloud over my head. Trying to plan races without knowing how I am going to feel any particular day is frustrating for the Type A personality! Even not being able to make a solid training schedule is frustrating - but I'm getting there. I really want to build stamina, especially for the marathon. So the only way to do it - is to do it! As I go forward with a little bit darker cloud over my head - always nagging that I'm not going to be able to do this - I really don't know what to change.

I can tighten my eating up a little more and get more fresh with it. And even though I don't eat much of what others call "processed" foods - there is still room for improvement in that area. I really don't want to go talk to either my doc or the cardiologist (who didn't call me back this week btw - so he blew that trust - I quit - He's out.) because I'm afraid they will tell me something I don't want to hear.

For today - I won again. That's all I can do is keep doing. I'll keep moving forward as much and as fast as my body will let me. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other - and I'll let my body be the judge on how fast we do that each day. But we will do this thing! Because every step is a victory  and this week - I got 22.5 miles of steps. I like winning in the long run.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Now that I have settled Down...

So I had a rough race, who doesn't now and then, right? Not really any big deal in the long run. (pun intended!) But running with a CHF diagnosis hanging over your head can really weight you down. It just makes a rough run more difficult to sort through - especially emotionally. But I'm done whining and griping and kicking myself. It's time to find and fix my mistakes, suck it up and move forward.

My emotions have been all over the place and my thoughts went with them. I vacillated from one end of the spectrum to the other. If I couldn't even finish a half in a decent fashion what made me think I had any business training for a full? All the way to But I just did half a marathon - I'm already half way there - pretty or not. Finally I decided to settle in the middle. I may not be ready for a full today, but I won't let that limit my tomorrow.

I got out today for a three mile run and totally enjoyed it except for getting a little hot. There was a day I didn't run for a week after I finished a half. I took that to be a demonstration that I am in better shape and I am more "fit" going forward. With that in mind though, I really need to make some major changes.

My first change is in my eating. I've been eating a lot cleaner overall but I'm leaning back toward my old vegetarian ways. I will likely include chicken and fish occasionally but will be eating totally clean, fresh and whole as much as I can. Speaking of that - I'm down another 2 pounds this week! It's holding good, and not fluctuating much at all which means I'm not retaining a lot of water. That makes me feel really good even though that's not really my primary goal. My goal is to feel better doing what I do. And my other goal is to get off my meds and reverse CHF...I'm gonna do it too - you watch!

The other major change is in my training plan. Right now I am planning on running 3 times a week - one long, one medium and one short run. Along with that I have Taekwondo workouts twice a week. And I'll probably mix in a little weights and other workouts too here and there. I also want to do more yoga ( please suggest a new program or app - I am bored with the one I have - there's no flexibility in the lessons -- pun intended again! lol)

I also did some research on heat and congestive heart failure - mostly because I've been having a lot more chest pains when I run - at least at first. I may start wearing my heart monitor so I can keep a better eye on my heartrate at least while I'm warming up on a run. Ends up CHF and heat really do not mix. Heat is probably enemy number 2 - right behind salt. I will be doing most of my training inside on the treadmill this summer anyway as I don't have the opportunity to run outside much right now - so that should work out okay anyway.

OH! And the really good thing about this week? I feel great - actually had too much energy today - thinking that the bad race was not an "overdo" or I'd still be feeling it. When I overdo it I can't function hardly at all for a week. I definitely don't feel that - so it was more just a bad race like everyone has now and then.

Now that it's all sorted out - I feel good about training, and even about myself. I can move forward and push it a little...not a lot. I have to be ever mindful of this stupid diagnosis - but still work around it without hurting myself. I'm a problem solver - I used to teach middle school math - I'll figure it out eventually. And until then - every step will be a victory.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Difficult Races Make for the Sweetest Finish Lines

Well all I can say is half marathon #17 is in the books. It was by far the hardest race I've done and it was a fight between my body and my mind most of the way.

The good part about that is that is made this the sweetest half finish line I've ever crossed!

My mind is still trying to sort it all out but I feel like there are some things I did wrong and some things I had no control over. The last two weeks have been super stressful for me and even last night was stressful - just can't get a break on that and I guess I gotta figure out a way to handle life's stuff better. I'll work on that. I haven't slept much and kept waking up every hour last night to see what time it was - lol - I will probably never stop doing that.

On one hand I feel like I didn't train enough between my last two half marathons. I literally had no long runs, I think I did one 8 miler. I've got to figure out how to make the right adjustments so I can train right, smarter and more effectively without overdoing it. I just haven't found that delicate balance..... oh well, about this race.

I started out okay, not great, but okay. About mile 3 I felt okay but I made myself walk some early on thinking it would help me later on. Boy, was I wrong about that. The further I went the worse I felt. By mile 5 I was nauseous, a little dizzy and was having some mild chest pains. I haven't had those in a long time when running. I figured it was because it was hot out. By mile 8 I resigned to walking lots more because I was just totally fatigued. From there on I walked a lot and only pushed it the last couple of miles.

My mind was going nuts on me. My thoughts went something like this: If I overdo it the doc is going to restrict me. But if I push a little bit, I can get done sooner. If I pass out, no one's going to drag me across the finish and that'll mean no medal. Is the medal really worth feeling like this? What if I am just not going to be able to do longer distances anymore, will I be happy with shorter runs? Damn this congestive heart failure stuff... ugh! I think I'm okay - it's not really that bad.  I've never gone this slow. But I'm still moving - every step is a victory! I don't think I can take one more step. It's just not in me to quit - I cannot do it. 

It was truly a battle to finish this one. I really wondered if this would be the one I didn't finish. But that made me mad and would keep me going a little further. Right before I got to the 12 mile marker some total stranger yells out "Every step is a victory!" I looked at her to see if I knew her but I didn't - and I smiled and carried on. Hearing my own mantra helped carry me on to the finish line.

What can I do different going forward? I really am not sure. I vacillate between taking this week off and pushing it harder to "teach my body a lesson!" lol We'll see - if it shuts down on me I guess I'll lose the fight! lol Surely there are some things I can change. I know I can eat better than I have been. I am in control of that. And I'm always the captain of my soul which to me means I am always in charge of my attitude no matter what life throws at me. And the last two weeks it feels like life's been chunking bricks at me!

I guess those are the two things I will concentrate on going forward from here: eating right and getting my attitude right because right now I'm just mad! And then I'll still have to figure out the running side of things as I go. I can only work with what my body gives me to work with...frustrating as that is. I need to find a way to build stamina, endurance and strength without overdoing it....a delicate balance that is. And I've never been accused of being delicate, ha!

#17 done - and every step is a victory still holds true...every stressful, painful step still leads across the finish line.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Getting Ready for my 17th Half

This weekend I'll be lining up for my 17th half marathon. I'm enjoying that thought because it's not long until I celebrate 20 of these little 13.1 mile runs! You'd think experience would help me settle down to enjoy the journey - but once again I am as nervous as I was my first one.

It's only been 6 weeks since I did a half but it feels like forever ago and I haven't had any good long runs since the last half I did but I have run. My lack of running is what is chipping away at my mind and heart.

When I first started running 6 years ago I was surprised at how much of it was mental. I really thought you'd just put your shoes on and go for a run. I was shocked when I started having to fight for each race mentally before ever running it physically. I've run enough now to have plenty of ammunition. But the diagnosis of CHF and feeling lousy this week really works against my mind.

Last weekend's trip left me exhausted and I have not run since Saturday. Instead of the taper it's been just a sharp drop-off week.This makes me really nervous when thinking about staring down another start line. But you know me - there's no way in any hot place that I'm not going to have my toes on that line come Sunday morning! It's just not in me to quit...that's the one thing I have to admit I cannot do.

I've been eating real good and did pretty well with it on the road last weekend. This week I've participated in a "clean eating" challenge and I've been very surprised at how full I've felt. My Bp has been good (not great- but good) but I feel wiped out. Well today I'm going to get a run in. It will be a short one but I will run. And tonight - I test up a belt in taekwondo. It's my last "middle" belt. That means in just about 8 to 10 weeks I'll be moving up to the advanced belts. sheesh! I just made myself nervous!

I'm going to beat this thing. I'm going to keep running - I may go out slower and take longer but I will cross finish lines. You can call me a bling whore if you want but I gotta go get another medal. It's not about the medals for me though - it's about the journey. This month is my raceversary. June 27, 2009 I ran my first ever 5K and it has been in my blood ever since. I never dreamed back then I'd do one half marathon - let alone 17 of them! And I'd have laughed if you mentioned a full marathon (after I'd have asked how many miles that was!). Now I'll be lining up for my 17th half and continue training for my second full. I like the way that sounds.

I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. No matter how slow - how fast- or how many steps I take: every step is a victory. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Winning Better

This weekend I got a sitter for my son and my daughter and I went to Indianapolis to attend the wedding of a good friend. There were many significant things that happened during this trip. First of all my daughter has just been diagnosed with fatty liver disease and is hoping to reverse it through diet and exercise. We knew we would have to go in and have sit-down meals to get the freshest and healthiest foods possible while on a road trip. We also took a small ice chest with some fresh fruits and veggies. I'm proud to say we did pretty good overall with almost no "cheat" foods whatsoever. We even went grocery shopping the night we got there so we could have a nice stock and not be tempted to eat out.

I bought humus and fresh veggies, but I have to give her credit for keeping me on track. The first container was a small one and came with pretzels. She suggested swapping it out for a larger container of humus and buying some fresh veggies to go with it. I did and we were both much happier! It was nice to both be on similar food journeys as it made making choices about where to eat a lot easier. There was no temptation whatsoever to drive through anything quick. We are both very serious about keeping our eating clean and that was great for a road trip. I have to say - it can be done! This pic is grilled fish, carrots and a fresh salad with no dressing. I googled the sodium content and these were the best options on the menu - I really don't like cooked carrots but they had no added salt.

Anyway - it can be done if your mind is set on doing it. I will say it's a fight and you'll have to eat a lot of salads. Now that I am back home - I'll be tightening it all back up and getting right back on track. But it helps a lot mentally to know that I didn't throw everything I've worked so hard for away for a few days. Sticking to the plan no matter what is definitely a victory in my book - and quite different for me!

Speaking of "victory" we found a race to run while we were there. The wedding wasn't until the afternoon - so we were able to get up early and grab a quick 5K Saturday morning. It started and ended at Victory Field! It was my daughter's first ever actual 5K and she rocked it! That made me so proud. I did pretty good too. I felt good which is always a plus, but I kept a decent pace. I'm no where near back to where I was pre-diagnosis but I'm getting a little better all along and I'm feeling better. Actually, the first mile wasn't bad at all. A lot of times the first 1.5 miles or so is really rough and I have to stop a lot to catch my breath. I actually stopped to walk because I knew I should - but not so much because I needed to. That felt great!

This week my focus will be to get back on my clean eating plan. I also have to get prepared mentally for a half marathon I'm doing this coming Sunday. You'd think I wouldn't get nervous -this will be my 17th half I should be used to it by now. But I'm nervous - I feel very undertrained and since the congestive heart failure diagnosis I get so worried that I will have a bad day. I actually haven't had an episode in awhile - but I still get nervous. All I can do is be good and keep the things I can under control - which I am dedicated to.

Overall right now I feel like I am winning better. I'm staying in control and working hard to do things right. (In case you didn't know that is very difficult for me! lol) It was significant for me to run this 5K at "Victory Field" and continue my journey with CHF on to victory. A journey of steps where I'm learning every step is a victory.