Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in Review

What a way to end the year!! I started the Runner's World Run Streak on Thanksgiving Day and did the last run of the year tonight. Tomorrow's 5K will be the last official day of the Run Streak - but I've already crossed over 100 miles just during the streak... I honestly can't believe I'm still in it - I figured I'd overdo it at some point and not be able to run. I did certainly learn the power of the easy run though! I'm very happy with that.

At the first of this year I was struggling so much physically and even emotionally. I was so unsure of what the year would bring and how much running I would be able to do. I've had several times when it was really tough-and-go and I've had a few forced vacations. But I'm finishing the year on a strong (and happy) note.

The challenges I faced this year have taught me a lot - really about myself; and they make this moment of victory just that much sweeter.

Let me start with what I have learned. I've learned my body can do a lot more if I treat it right; and that I'm worth it. This is my "race" and I'm the only one who can run my steps - easy or difficult - they are all mine. If you stick with it - you can do anything - maybe not the way you thought - or planned - or even wanted to do it - but you can still do it. Hope is still alive - even in the midst of pain - and sometimes you just have to stop. Stopping doesn't mean it's over. It means you look around and find another way - a different way - but a way! And when the struggles are harder than you imagined and complicated by multiple facets--- victory brings tears of joy. They just remind you that every step is a victory!

I think on this last day of the year I can honestly say this year - I won. It might not have been pretty or fast and maybe I didn't PR (on any race this year) but I won. I finished. I'm still going. I win.
This year I did only 22 races (low number for me) that was 10-5Ks, 2-8Ks, 5-10Ks, 4-Half marathons and one 11K. I placed in my age group in 4 of the 5 10Ks I did... this was the year of the 10K for sure! The picture of my 2015 medals says it all - Hello, my name is Jeanie and I'm a bling whore! lol

I'm actually looking forward to next year and I'm lining up my races. I'm starting with a NYD 5K and then adding a first ever trail race in January. I can't wait to see what I learn about running and myself in the year ahead! But no matter what - as long as I'm stepping -

Every Step's A Victory

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Race of the Year - And a Great Lesson to Boot!

I finished my last race ( not my last run) of the year today. It was a nice 8K up at Lake Hefner in OKC and boy was it windy! I think they said there were gusts up to 45 mph - I can attest to that! This one may go down as one of my favorite lesson teaching runs.

First off - let me say I'm still doing the #RWRunStreak where we are challenged to run at least one mile per day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Today was day 25 and it was appropriate to do a 5-miler I thought. Overall I have thoroughly surprised myself with this run streak. It's the longest I've ever stayed with it first of all, and second of all up until a couple days ago I have felt great.

Even though I am barely in the CHF category (meaning it's still very mild thankfully) overdoing it can really knock me on my butt. It's one of my two main goals. One is to refrain from overdoing it - ever; and the second is to manage symptoms. The trouble with overdoing it is that you don't know you've overdone it a lot of times until after the fact. There have been times I've felt fine during a race or a hard run but then woke up the next morning wiped out and end up having a major episode - which is what I want to avoid. Well I'm happy to report that so far there's been no overdo and I'm still streaking (run streak that is!).

The last couple of days I've had a few signs that I could have an episode. I've learned to watch carefully for these. My bp is still "safe" but has been slightly elevated over the last couple of days and my resting heart rate is inching up. I also gained some water weight. So with those in mind I know I may need to stop the streak and rest up a few days. That's frustrating when I'm doing so well - but necessary since I am wanting to win this battle - and do it the right way.

So this morning when my bp was slightly elevated and I had some chest pains I really gave some thought to not doing the race. Instead, I took it as a challenge of another kind. I decided to do the race (using the HR monitor of course) and hold myself back. I knew it would be difficult once I got to the race site because I just get so pumped just to be out and able to run. But I was determined.

My HR did bounce around a bit at the first of the race but I made myself go out slow and held back until the first mile was done. By then my HR was stable but about 15 beats higher than normal. Still in a safe range, but higher than usual. I stayed with the 3 R/1W intervals I've been doing in training and just held myself back even though I was worried about coming in last. That fear was alleviated at the turnaround when there were plenty of people behind me.

I kept my eye on my HR for the whole run and consciously held back to a very comfortable pace. About mile 3-4 I could tell I was pushing it - mostly because I was running into the 45 mph wind and it was making me mad. I purposefully made myself walk more during that part of the course just to make sure I wasn't pushing too much.

So I finish the race - feeling great about accomplishing my very strange goal. I visit with other runners and friends that I see at races. Then on my way out I decide to check the screens for the live results. Typed in my bib number and came up I was 2nd in my age group! -- Turns out the first in my AG was way too fast - I'd have never caught her if I'd tried. The girl behind me was about a minute back with the fourth right behind her. I was so happy with that. There were 6 in all with the slower 5 of us all within minutes.

But get this - I ran at what I thought was an easy - not even pushing it pace - and had a 12:10 min mile avg. That's really good for where I've been this year. It's slow I know - but considering - I'm a happy camper. I had one mile in the 11's and one (the fourth) at about a 13 min. mile.

So I guess I learned a valuable lesson today - I can actually be very happy with myself and reach reasonable goals without hurting myself (I hope - we'll see in the morning). And I beat last year's "same race" time by over 7 minutes. And placed in my AG.... I'm a happy camper.

I have also learned something off the course. That is that I really HAVE to stay on my eating plan and treat salt as a poison. I've been off of it some this week and I think my elevated BP and HR is because of that. Today -I'm back to being very good. Hoping I didn't mess up my streak - but very willing to stop at this point if I don't feel well tomorrow.

I will do an end of the year post here soon as I reflect on this year - and set new goals for next. I am pretty sure a marathon is in the mix.... yup. I just need to do another one - really thought I was one and done - but I have the itch. I already have a walker friendly race picked out too! See you on the course where

Every Step's A Victory

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hills are My Best Friends

Things are rocking along real well for me right now. I have all my symptoms under control and I just finished day 20 of the Runner's World Run Streak that stretches from Thanksgiving Day to New Year's Day. I did a 10K a couple weekends back - and placed first out of six in my age group. I admit I pushed it in that race. I really did. But I was feeling so good and going at a really good pace for me - I honestly thought the race experience would be worth it even if it meant I had to take a week to recuperate! But I was pleasantly surprised to realize I didn't overdo it at all. What's up with that? I've now been running for 20 days in a row and logged more than 50 miles - with absolutely no overdos. I'm happy with that.

I think I'm learning how to listen to my body better - but I'm also sticking to some changes I've made. I've lost 30 pounds this year and have been able to keep it off. I think that's a big factor, really. I treat salt like poison because for me - it is. Now to get off sugar! lol I'm eating fresh and almost no processed foods and I'd like to think for now my body is thanking me by letting me run.

Each day I take it as I get it. Every run I have in the back of my mind that it could be the last run of this streak. My commitment to my self is if my blood pressure goes up, ankles swell and don't go back down or I start feeling fatigued, the streak is over. And for this reason I am learning to take it easy on runs - lots easier than I want, but it can mean the difference between running or not running. I tell my body every day that I am listening and will respond to the messages it sends. I'm off bp meds right now - so many challenges there - but I do return to the cardiologist next week. Hoping that he's okay with continued running. We shall see.

So today I ventured out to one of my old routes. It's an out-and-back route that's right at 5 miles (unless you have to double back to get your timer that keeps you on a steady 3R/1W interval then it's about 5.2) When I started having trouble especially chest pains and shortness of breath when running I not only slowed way down - I also stayed in the park behind my apartment, or stayed on a 2.2 mile loop that made sure I was never more than about a mile from my house. Today is my second run out past that safety net. It felt good - but there were hills that really kicked my butt. However, today I appreciated those hills. Here's why...

Hills are a challenge and for me they represent challenges we face in life. Now I have always loved the challenge of hills - just like I like a good challenge because it makes me stronger. Today's hills helped remind me of the journey I've been on for the last two years. It helped me realize that I'm not back to where I was before all this started, but also that I've made a lot of progress. I used to tuck my head push harder and nearly kill myself going up steep inclines. But today - I walked when needed, ran carefully when I could - but I didn't push it. This is so not my nature.

I normally push those boundaries - or rules! Keeps me in trouble a lot - so to learn that I can still enjoy a run without pushing myself to the limit was enlightening to say the least. It's also in the back of my mind that if I blow it by pushing too hard today - I may not get to run tomorrow. So what I'm learning is to take the hills of life - the challenges - adjust and proceed.

Having to deal with CHF (although I got the doc to admit it's really low level finally! - now to convince the cardiologist!) - is a huge challenge or hill in my life. At first I wanted to barrel through it and charge as hard as I could against it. If I had continued doing that - it would have cost me...a lot. Instead I've adjusted - adapted my plan, schedule and goals - and continued to proceed. Challenges don't mean we stop. They may however, mean I have to do things differently.

Hills reveal what we are made of and the speed in which we take them is irrelevant. It's the fact that we don't stop that is relevant. Hills make us stronger runners - dealing with challenges appropriately and responsibly makes us stronger in character. Now to keep applying this knowledge so I can proceed to outrun CHF!

So for now - I am training for my spring half marathons - and hopefully will get to do the Cowtown in February. At that point - if I am able to continue doing well - and being good - I'm going to move on up toward a full again - looking at the OKC for my next full. Always moving forward - can't give up - no need to - every step's a victory...