Monday, August 12, 2019

What is Enough?

We all know exercise is good for us, and necessary, but doing it is another story. As I stated just a couple of weeks ago, I want it... I want it so bad!!! If that is the case, why is it so damn hard? Well a wise woman once told me, several years ago when I was struggling so hard, "you must not want it bad enough." Oh, and the truth hurt... I mean, how could she be so flippant with my feelings of despair? Well, I decided to show her how wrong she was; I signed up and did half ironman number two.

So, was she right? Well she was right about one thing, I wanted to prove her wrong bad enough, and I did...

However, her point was not lost on me. You have to want something bad enough to choose to do it, change it, manage it.

  • I'm unhealthy and I want health bad enough...
  • I'm not exercising much and I want that next half ironman bad enough... 
  • I can't bend and tie my shoes as easily as I used to and I want to take care of myself bad enough...
  • I get fatigued quickly, and can't walk as much as I want to, and I want to stay ambulatory bad enough...
I guess no one has ticked me off bad enough to prove them wrong. That must means it is time to do it for me, and only me. I need to prove myself wrong? Yeah, that sounds right, right? Well, I also recognize that wanting something bad enough, really isn't enough. If you don't have the tools, you might not achieve your goals. 

A couple of sayings that drive me nuts:
  • Pull yourself up by your boot straps...
  • Teach a man to fish...
So what happens if you don't have boots, or straps? What if you don't have a fishing net, line or a pole? Well, in that case you might not be able to catch fish or pull yourself up.

If you don't have the resources, the knowledge might not be enough! In my case, I have all of the resources. Check out my garage and you will find five bicycles, closet has new pairs of running shoes, drawers are full of running shorts and shirts, key chain has my gym access tag, swimming suits in another drawer, not to mention the foam rollers, yoga mat, resistance bands, kettle ball, dumbbells, need I say more? So with the tools and knowledge, why is it still so hard? 

I must need a new enough... And damn it, I will sift through every grain of sand to find it!!!

Next time I will tell you about a research study for which I am a subject, and how I hope it will connect the resources and knowledge to help me find my enough.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Iron Cowboy

I just watched Iron Cowboy...

Not that you need my life story, but to impress on you the importance of what this story just did for me, I must start with mine!

On June 12, 2013, three days before my first half ironman distance race I received a dreaded phone call from my doctor. The staff member on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted to wait until my doctor's appointment in two weeks for the results of my testing or get my results over the phone. I asked to receive them over the phone. She spent time confirming my identity and then told me what I had suspected from my first appointment with the neurologist... She said, I'm really sorry I have to tell you this, but you do have Multiple Sclerosis.

That was the first day of my new life and I had a choice... Show up for 70.3 miles on Sunday, or wallow in this new information. You see, many years before this, in 2003 to be exact, I did my first sprint distance triathlon. I was grossly over weight, barely trained for the run, and miraculously finished the race. This cycle continued for several years, and for some reason in 2009 I decided to change my narrative by getting healthy. I took losing weight off the table, although I joined weight watchers to learn how to eat better, and focused on getting healthy. I wanted to spend the next three years working on improving each sport in triathlon. I was a strong swimmer so I didn't worry about that too much and focused my first year on cycling. I rode my bike, and rode it a little more, and then a little more. I threw in a sprint distance triathlon, but primarily rode my way through life that year. 

2010 had to be my year for running, so I did just that. I signed up for a half marathon and found this insane love of running. I do want to say that elitists of the sport scoff when I called my 13 minute miles running, but this is where my empathy kicks in. Much like the Iron Cowboy's experience with people devaluing his 505050 because he used the elliptical for one of his marathons, people cringed at my delight over finishing my first half marathon. I couldn't stop with a half, so I went on to run a full in 2011. 

You see, all of this focus on a specific sport was leading up to the ultimate goal of one day doing an Olympic distance triathlon (or whatever the current term is). In 2012 I signed up and was so excited for this race that I over trained and ended up with a stress fracture. I thought I was done, but with a little determination, and an elliptical trainer, I got myself healthy enough to be released to start running and participate in the triathlon CAREFULLY. That was my doctor's word. I was lucky that my doctor was an avid runner himself and his first love was sports medicine. He would always encourage me to keep running, and in fact told me after I was diagnosed with MS that I could become an ultra runner for all he cared, as long as I kept moving. 

So, he and I were both surprised when I walked in his office in 2013 complaining of a numb tongue, electric back, twitching eyelid (and I mean never stopped for 2 years), lack of coordination, tingling in my hands and feet, loss of words when trying to speak and memory loss, oh the memory loss. I told him I was scared to talk about all of these symptoms because I didn't want him to think I was crazy... So what was his first reaction? He chalked the eyelid up to stress until I told him it had been doing that for two years. He talked about the memory loss and word loss as stress as well. When I started talking about tingling, falling, tripping, loss of balance, etc. He decided it was time for a neurologist, who I affectionately call my brain doctor.

Ironically, when all of this doctoring started I was in the best shape of my life. I mean, I was training for a half ironman for goodness sake, so I couldn't understand why the endorphins and serotonin and all that science stuff wasn't making my memory 'sharper'. Must have just been crazy!

After a few month process I had a name for my crazy. My crazy was MS and at first I actually wished my diagnosis was 'crazy' rather than MS because my vision of the disease was wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and depends. (Let's not talk about which of those tools I have used from time to time since diagnosis.)

So you may be asking at this point, where is all of this going? Well, as I mentioned earlier, I got the dreaded phone call from my doctor's office just three days before my first half ironman. I had to do it. My sister, one of my biggest cheerleaders, was doing it, too. It was both of our first. She knew I could do it, but I wasn't sure that I could emotionally do it. I made the 9 hour drive, jumped in the frigid lake and swam. I found my medicine in that race. I swam, I rode, and then I did some sort of moving two legs across the earth to get me to the finish line. I'm not sure what I was doing, but I did it. 8 hours and 20 minutes later I emerged from the woods as the last standing athlete of the day. My brother in law and his friends, who all finished several hours before me, were there. They waited. The minute I saw these people who I knew for one day, running toward me to cheer me on, I knew I had just done something spectacular. My hard!!!

Over the next several months I learned more about MS, some of my symptoms worsened, my sister told me not to settle for the sideline, and I didn't. I kept moving, until one day I didn't...

My last big accomplishment was in 2017. That same sister who has always encouraged my athletic pursuits sent me a simple text: I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. My immediate response was: I'm in. What I didn't realize at the time is she didn't just sign up, she signed up as a charity runner for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I found my way to the website, filled out the registration form and then told another one of my friend's about the race and I believe she was signed up about 20 minutes later. We had a team. A team of three individuals who lived in different locations, ran different paces, but were all going to support eachother and get to the finish line of this marathon. We did! Some more painfully than others (heat and I are not friends). We celebrated, and that was it...

And I mean it... That was it! That was my last significant athletic pursuit, except for the MS 150 that turned into an MS 60 due to my limited training, and weather cancellation of the second day.

Other then that this is what I have accomplished since my marathon:
  • I moved from Ohio to Wisconsin for a fabulous job
  • I had my gallbladder removed and found myself on the wrong side of the statistics related to complications
  • I learned that the very job I moved for was going to be eliminated (but so was my old job)
  • And I gained 60 pounds
That list could go on, but then it would simply sound like 'whoa is me'. I'm not going to say that because I know, and have always known, that I can take control of my life if I choose to, but deciding to face THE HARD is a real thing. Knowing what is right for you doesn't make that first step easier, so here I sit, about to lose my job, 60 pounds heavier, salivating at every runner and cyclist who pass my house wanting to become that again, but my God, the work it is going to take to get me there. I haven't been able to find it in me to take that first step. I've tried several times, but it hasn't stuck. I have to make the choice and seek out the stuck...

Many years ago, when I found my love for running, I found a book that propelled me forward. The book is Run the Edge by Tim Catalano and Adam Goucher. I'm not sure if I liked it and them because they went to my alma mater or because they were cute, but the one thing I know now is that their one major tag line could resonate with anyone... Make someday today... Think about how many times a person says someday, and if we say it for life, well that someday will never come.

And then I watched this movie...

That which I am pushing off is seemingly impossible, but that is because it is hard. Because of this story, I find myself knowing that I need to "redefine impossible", face what is hard, and "make someday today."

This is what this story has done for me. Typically I would be saying to myself, I'll get my stuff pulled together tomorrow so I can start on Sunday. Screw that!!! I'm going to pull my stuff together today so I can start today!!!

Despite MS, despite it seeming impossible, I will rise again!!!

Iron Cowboy, thank you for that!


PS. Check out the movie on Netflix. It was a random find, was not recommended, and I have never met this dude... But if I did, I would say thank you!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

From Thinking to Doing

A Cloudy Day in Wisconsin

Last you heard from me on this blog I lived in Ohio. In the last year I left my people in Ohio to start a new adventure in Wisconsin. I love Wisconsin, I love my job, I love my life but I desperately miss my Ohio people.

So where to start? Well, I think it important to reflect on the last 9 months so you can understand my journey back to the blog. Last year I was training for the Chicago Marathon and I was travelling a ton leading up to the Marathon. I was fortunate to be in DC because my sister was willing to do a lot of my training with me. The week before the marathon I had very significant symptoms of a gallbladder attack and my doctor told me I was alright to go for it, run the marathon. As I was walking out the door to drive to Chicago for the marathon I received a phone call offering me this job in Wisconsin. Let's just say it was an interesting drive that started out with me saying there was NO way I was going to take the job, to half way through the drive calling my new supervisor to accept the position. I am not going to unpack all of that story here, but I do have to say I'm glad I came, but am sorry for some of the missteps I made along the way to get here.

Anyway, in regards to the marathon, I crossed the finish line to some of the best supporters. Unfortunately, it was a hot day, and although I got a medal and crossed the finish line before they shut it down, my time was still too slow to be an official finisher.

Then came Thanksgiving, about 9 day prior to starting my new job in Wisconsin gallbladder pain struck again, so bad that I went to the emergency room. They admitted me, kept me overnight and then sent me home to pack my house and head to Wisconsin. I got to Wisconsin, started my job, loved everything about where I was living, went to the emergency room TWICE for my pain and eventually found a doctor who advised me to have the darn thing removed. That is just what I did...

I felt great, until I didn't. Again, I don't want to unpack this whole story here, but let's just say I had a nice ambulance ride to the hospital, was admitted, and made myself at home with IVs and heart monitors all around. My godmother stayed with me until my sister showed up. My sister stayed in the hospital with me and then finally took me home. We decided to go house hunting with my realtor the day after I got out of the hospital and I was suddenly in contract for my charming little house.

So many little stories to tell along the way, but I basically spent four full months on the couch because I wasn't allowed to do any major activity. Many pounds gained, registered for an MS ride, and scared to do anything physical. I have had to fight with myself to exercise...

I remember when I was first getting involved in working out and how hard that was. It was like pulling teeth to get myself to do anything. I would think about everything... Who is watching, how far do I have to run, am I physically able to do this, is it safe, etc. And then suddenly I was just doing it. I wasn't thinking about it, but instead getting home, putting on my clothes and walking out the door because it felt so good.

I also remember when I was first diagnosed with MS and I wrote something about enjoying the sidelines. My sister called or texted to tell me she was concerned about me and that I needed to remember I could still run and do other physical activities. I remember this call and have stored it in my memory knowing I would recall the conversation when I needed it.

Here I am, needing it...
Over the past nine months I have shifted from a doer to a thinker...

I have unpacked that memory with my sister and realized that I have a choice, and I choose to return to my life as a doer. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On Traveling and Training

It's hard... The end...

No seriously, traveling and training equals extremely tough combination, but somehow I'm managing. You know what else is tough? One hundred plus degree heat index is tough as well, but managing that is somehow easier for me. It simply means accept 20 minute per mile trots with random ultra-marathoners on the trail. So what is in this traveling thing that makes it so difficult? Work, unfamiliar trails, exhaustion, unfamiliar territory and then navigating it all.

I have found myself going back to my hotel, laying across my bed for a little bit and then strapping on my shoes to escape from technology for awhile.

I think what I am learning though is that when traveling, motivation is harder to find and self discipline is so much more important.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Please, Do NOT Call an Ambulance...

I have decided it has been too long. Now that I am several weeks into marathon training it is time to come back to the blog. I love being able to go back to my last marathon training cycle and read about the ups and downs, and quite honestly, I'm looking forward to being able to come back to this training cycle when I train for another marathon.

I have to say that this cycle has been trying for me as my abilities have changed over the years. It isn't better or worse, as I'm fairly certain the last marathon I trained for had trying times as well. I will say this is different because of how my participation in events and running clubs impact other people.

I am constantly saying to people who join new programs or try new things that regardless of their journey to that 'event', they belong there. I live by this and believe it is true. If you joining a new club, or trying something new, or trying something again, regardless of your abilities and skills you DO belong and should feel welcome. Here is the thing, the feeling welcome part is difficult because it is 50% your responsibility to feel welcome, and 50% other people's responsibility to help you feel welcome. This is where I am struggling these days...

My participation in races has been fairly sparse this year. I did the Pi day 5k, the Soldier Field 10 miler, the Pride 5k, and the Clintonville 4 on the 4th. Each of these races have special meaning for me:

  • Pi day 5k was done side by side with the two most important ladies in my life...
  • Soldier Field 10 miler was once again completed with the unwavering support and 'catch' from my big sister, who I greatly admire...
  • Pride 5k which I did with a friend I haven't raced with in YEARS...
  • Clintonville 4 on the 4th which is the first race I was willing to toe the line of alone, since I have been diagnosed with MS...

Although I am blessed to have had these four experiences, I find myself struggling with the sense of belonging at these events, and even at my running club, and I'm in the process of exploring where the responsibility lies. I also want to acknowledge that I will absolutely accept the responsibility if I find it is my own, but if I'm being honest with myself, I do believe it is a shared responsibility. You see, fellow runners, everyone should feel like they are welcome and belong. I know some people disagree, but I promise that I will embrace every person who wants to experience the thrill of a race, regardless of their ability.

Reflecting on my job during high school, it is hugely ironic that I spent a lot of time helping people with physical and developmental disabilities with recreational, and sporting activities. I spent time teaching swim lessons, coaching softball, coaching track, and simply hanging out on Navy Pier on a Friday night, bowling, gardening, you name it, we did it!!! The true irony though is that many of the people I worked with during recreational swimming or on Friday nights had Multiple Sclerosis. I've come full circle perhaps? What I learned from all of the amazing people I worked with during those days is that everyone should have the ability to participate in anything regardless of ability.

This is where my sense of belonging has been challenged in the running community. If you have ever seen me post run, you may have been worried about me... One notable moment that still grates at me was after the Pride 5k. The brilliance of this event is that it was designed to be one of acceptance of all individuals. I guess that some people forgot that at the end of the race. The day was 93 degrees, the race was at 6:00 in the evening and I was hot as hell. Like many people on the course I struggled the whole way, running down the hills and feeling like the only way up the hills was by way of crawling. I managed to finish the race, and was thankful that my friend was there for me at the finish line. She helped me stumble to a comfy place in the grass and went into 'find Sarah something cold mode'... And that she did...

Where the night gets frustrating for me was when I landed not so graciously in the grass and one of the women behind me started asking me if I was OK. I knew that I would be just fine in a little bit, and rather than tell my life story in the moment I simply said to the woman that this was typical and I just needed to cool off and I'd be fine. She scoffed... Another woman was kind and offered up her towel so I could cool down. The original woman said, 'this is typical? kind of dramatic don't you think?' At this point I was pissed... Seriously??? What happened to acceptance and decency. I didn't know how to respond and so I made some flippant comment about how I have MS, and I wish I didn't have it so that I wouldn't have dramatic conclusions to runs.

Since then I have been gun shy. It took everything in me to sign up for the 4 miler, knowing I would be doing the race alone... At my run club, which I typically love, I find myself feeling apologetic about my being there. And I sometimes feel as though my presence is bothersome to other people. Is this perceived? I truly hope so...

I honestly would rather this be my issue, but the only way I can figure that out is by continuing to show up and show people that I too belong. By doing that, I think I will begin to believe it again.

I just ask one thing folks... If you see me stumbling after a run, feel free to treat me like you would any other runner, but please do NOT call an ambulance...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Great Return

Picture from my first marathon!
It has been quite some time since I have opened up my computer to write a post, and it is officially time to get back to it. What I have learned during my three month hiatus is that I am much more consistent with my exercise routine when I am actively blogging. Now is the time to become more accountable again, accountable to myself!

So, where did we leave off back in November?

I just had the most fantastic Auntie Sarah Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k. This event was fantastic, with just over 33 people participating or cheering on the crowd. It was so phenomenal that I have already set up the Facebook event for the 3rd annual event to be held Thanksgiving morning in 2017.

In addition, I have been working on becoming consistent with my Chicago Marathon training. Some would say the weather has been perfect for said training, and I can't dispute that fact. What I will say is that my attitude has waned a bit. My bestie and running buddy always has significant obligations that make it difficult for her to run the first few months of the year. My other running buddy has kiddos, which make her schedule fluctuate a bit.

Where am I now?

Well, what you likely read above is that I have been a slacker, and I'm trying to push the blame to my people, however, that shouldn't mean anything. What should really motivate me is showing up for myself, and myself alone. Of course, because I use the word should, that means I haven't been doing it as consistently as I would like.

Where the heck am I going then?

I'm at some crossroads, and I know for certain that I am going to take the journey down the road that leads to the Chicago marathon... Rather than running three days a week, whatever distance feels good, I'm headed straight to my pal Hal Higdon's training schedules to guide my efforts.

I have to say, some motivation for me has been watching my good friend Solitare train for her first 5k. It is so fun watching someone work toward achieving their new goal. With that said, Sue and I will be running Solitare's first 5k with her in March!!!

What all of this means is I will intentionally work towards the Chicago Marathon by setting weekly goals every Sunday night. The goals are intended to make me accountable and define what is to come. I will return to my weekly stories of my marathon journey, and invite you to come along for the ride!

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Second Annual - Auntie Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k

The Runners
For a second year in a row, my friends and family toed the line of our own personal turkey trot. The reason I started this 5k, one year ago, was to give everyone the ability to go to the same spot and get their exercise on Thanksgiving morning. It used to be that many of us participated in various 5ks around the Chicago area, but in large masses of people we didn't know, and were lucky if we actually ran into people we knew at the end. It also used to be that we all paid approximately fifty bucks a piece to participate in said races. I finally said NO MORE! Let's do something fun that wouldn't require huge entry fees, and would be all inclusive.

Last year there were approximately 15 of us who came out to walk, run or spectate. I thought that was hugely successful. What happened this year? We doubled in size and 34 of my family and friends came out to have fun on Thanksgiving morning.

Also, new this year, we had a food drive. It just so happens that all of us participating in our friend and family 5k are very fortunate. None of us need for anything, and so I asked folks to donate food, if they were willing. I collected a small lot of food, and have delivered it to a food pantry for distribution. Albeit a small donation, it was a much appreciated donation.

So, what did this race net participants? Hugs galore, friendly faces, donuts, muffins, coffee, water (on course), and the best homemade 'medals' a person could ask for (I'm biased, I made them all).

So, if you find yourself in the Chicago land area in 2017, please consider the third annual Aunti Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k.

Here are some pictures from the hugely successful day!
The Medals

Some Little People Finishing

Finish Line


Some Family!!!
The Turkey
The other Turkey