Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sarah's Urban Dictionary (or idioisms)

Last week, I talked about the fulfillment of the athlete; well, today I am going to talk about the delirious state of an athlete. I have been told by at least two people this week that I have been burning the candle at both ends for quite awhile now. My response? No kidding??? Thing is, I wouldn't change a bit about it! I love my bike riding time, I love my job and I love helping my friend. So, yesterday, we were heading south for a bike ride. We were doing a sixty, turned seventy mile ride. Again, we did extra miles for food. I mean, what else would motivate you in the middle of a tremendously long bike ride?

Anyway, we have ridden over 750 miles this summer, and I can honestly say that I am somewhat delirious, this weekend especially. Not sure why, but it is what it is, and so I just need to accept it. I guess that also means I have to accept what comes out of my mouth, whether it makes sense or not.

So, here is a collection of the gems that have come out of my mouth this weekend.

Duster - I'm not even certain why this word came out of my mouth this weekend. I'm pretty sure we were talking about old people or something; I'm guessing I talked about being old and sitting on my front porch with my duster on. Apparently not every person on the planet has heard this term, because it got a hearty laugh. So you know, a duster is a light weight robe with metal buttons that grandma's wear around the house.

Humidity precipitating on the windshield - There was a threat of rain all day yesterday, in fact it did rain. at about 40 miles for about 5 minutes. On our drive to Spring Valley, these little drops were falling on the windshield, some would call it rain, but I instead stated that the humidity is precipitating on the windshield and insisted it was NOT rain.

Directional - While we were driving, I started telling Sue about my drive with my friend Jen, earlier in the week. I was explaining to her, that Jen laughed her butt off when I told her I turned on my directional. Again, I had no idea that this is not a layman's term. So, Sue explained to me that the proper term is 'blinker'. What the heck is a blinker? All I know is this, if I'm driving down the road and someone cuts me off without their directional on, it is much more satisfying to say that the person didn't turn on their effing directional. Saying effing blinker makes me think of that Muppet character Beaker.

Idioisms - Well this term just came out while writing this blog. I was going to try and use the word idioms, but I honestly thought it was idioisms. I still think I am right, and spell check is simply wrong. However, I still would have used the word wrong, now that I looked up the definition. But we will still call all of my terms today idioisms.

Pissededoffedness - Something really annoyed me on our drive. I have no recollection what it was that annoyed me, but I do know that I said something about how it impacted my pissededoffedness. No clue where that came from, but it sounded good at the time!

Look at that bird - While we were lunching in Loveland, Ohio, we were sitting in the outdoor seating area at which point I noticed the birds sitting on the perch. I thought they were so interesting I exclaimed excitedly that Sue needed to check out the birds. The minute the words came out of my mouth, I realized the were fake. Sue took a picture of the lovely bird so that there was proof that I thought a concrete statue was a real bird.

Basically, what I am saying is this, if you are spending a lot of time working out, it is best to spend that time with people who really like you, otherwise they might just think you are an idiot, or not so smart, when really you are just delirious. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fulfillment of an Endurance Athlete

Me and my siblings
What is the first thing you think about when you get out of bed in the morning? Me? I'm pretty sure I just jump out of bed, and immediately look at my phone to see how many alarms I slept through!!! I am one of those. I was on the phone with one of my many nurses about a week and a half ago and she was telling me about her husband. Apparently, her husband sets his alarm for 3 am and SHE hits the snooze alarm for him for three hours, until she forces him to get out of bed. Enabling? I'd say so. She told me she didn't know how to fix the situation, and I immediately said, why don't you sleep on the couch, or in another room until he figures out how to get himself out of bed. Makes sense, right? When I said this, it was as if she had never considered that she might be enabling him... And then I started wondering, who was really the patient in this relationship anyway, but I digress...

Being goofy
I believe that what we think about first thing in the morning is important. For instance when you are starting to date someone new, often times that is the first thing you think about when you wake up, or a break up, or your new ailment... The thing is, what I think about in the morning changes very drastically from day to day, but it is important to pay close attention! An example, for those of you who prescribe to heart rate training, there are some rules about how you should work out based on your resting heart rate when you wake up. That is way to scientific for me, so I just stick with working out for working outs sake. If I were a speed demon, or trying to become one, perhaps my heart rate would be much more important to me, but for now I'm just going to stick with what I am doing.

Helping a friend
Why am I pontificating about all of this stuff? Well, because I wrote a post some time ago about loving what you love, and not worrying about what everyone else loves around you. I also have posted about how we should all strive to be happy, in some random posts about trees being happy while equating myself to the Giving Tree story. I seriously wonder about myself sometimes. Anyway, the one thing I am learning a lot about lately is that this whole athletic thing is NOT meant to be easy. Afterall, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. When I wake up on a Sunday morning and the first thing I think about is that I am 100% exhausted from all the activities leading up to my long Sunday ride, I have to remind myself that when I do this big 175 mile ride in August, I might feel exactly like I did today. The true nature of an endurance athlete is not giving up even in tough times, and so I don't...

Niagara Falls
Here is the problem with being an endurance athlete though, life gets put on hold for all the fun and exhaustion of training. If you don't believe me, come and look at my kitchen floor and take a wild guess when I last washed or swept the floor. I have always promised myself that my athleticism wouldn't take over my entire life, and this summer, I have started feeling like it has taken over a bit especially when Sue talked about her need to go to the grocery story (she has been saying this for several weeks), and I talked about my need to clean my house, clean my car, relax, etc. And then I looked around and thought hard about what is MOST important to me, and the list is the same as always... my friends and spending time with them, growing some vegetables, cooking, being goofy, spending time with my family, baking pies, preserving food, hiking, entertaining, helping my friends, crossing finish lines, enjoying nature... I haven't seen my family in awhile, but I'm going to see them in a couple of weeks, I went to Niagara Falls a couple weeks ago, I made pies two weeks ago, tried making jam last night, walked to see a baby bison today, cooked dinner on Friday night, planted my garden (oh and Sue came over and weeded it last week), my workout buddy is my closest friend so I am spending time with her and I see other friends when they are available, I have a BBQ scheduled for later next month, Sue and I have been working on her house this weekend. So you want to know what has been missing from the MOST important list? Let me tell you... NOTHING!!!

The happy race crew
Sure, I haven't cleaned my house in awhile, my laundry is stacked up on my futon (I think that means my mom needs to come and visit), I haven't watched TV in several weeks, but the core things that make me fulfilled in life are all still present, if not at the forefront of my life. This life is NOT easy and is not for everyone, but I have my best friend by my side, my families support, and I get to enjoy the things I love squeezed in between workouts. I would say I am fulfilled as an endurance athlete. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The OH SHIT Moment

It is father's day, and I have to say my dad is one of the kindest, most caring guys I know. He has a loud bark, but very little bite. I can tell you stories about my dad's kindness that would have you going wild, and his ability to forgive people, especially me, is quite impressive. So, let me tell you a little story about forgiveness.

Race season is in full swing, and I am hearing more and more about my friends' races. It is a very exciting time for a runner as we all LOVE to tell our race stories in very vivid detail. You literally get to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. The good might include PRs, awesome scenery, new friends, new distances, you name it. The bad might include the start and finish line being backwards, long bathroom lines, not meeting race goals, etc. The ugly... well that can take any form from bloody nipples, stomach problems or not enough water on a course.

It is funny, a recent weekend, while I was participating in my race in Canada, a million of my running friends (OK, so a lot) were participating in a half marathon near Columbus. It was a hot weekend everywhere! Hot in Columbus, hot in Canada, hot in Chicago, EVERYWHERE. Any person who runs distance races has expectations for the course and the support on the course, but you honestly never know what you are going to get. 

While I was running my half marathon in Canada, I vaguely recall stating that I would have preferred more water on the course. I made the choice to NOT carry water. I also recall having lost 6 minutes to bathroom lines. Here is the thing, My friends were there, they supported me, I had a successful race. I have not focused on the negative, and decided it is my responsibility to take control of my hydration in the future. The race directors sent out a survey and I likely mentioned the bathroom and water situation, but I certainly talked more about the esprit de corps that I felt that day.   

Anyway, the particular race company that put on the race near Columbus had a BAD day, that extremely hot weekend several weeks ago. I know there is debate on how they handled the comments on their Facebook page, and how they responded to the event, but I want to tell you this... I have participated in several races hosted by that race company, and they have been some of the most organized races. On top of the company supporting some of my favorite and organized races, they are also family friendly and supportive of EVERY athlete on the course, regardless of ability. Additionally, the one time I did have an issue with this race company, the owner responded to my concerns. I saw the public apology sent by the race company about the issues they experienced, and my guess is they really learned a lot because they had, what I would call, and Oh SHIT moment. They screwed up, admitted in, and are going to try to move on.

I have participated in several events over the years that have included the dreaded Oh SHIT moment. Let me tell you what an Oh SHIT moment is to me. It is a moment where I recognize a huge mistake, I own  that mistake, acknowledge that I had a part in said mistake and then I apply my discoveries to my next event. Perfect example? Several years ago, I had a terrible sprint triathlon. Now I could have blamed that on any number of things, like eating bad food, not having hydration on the course, not fueling properly. Now I'm sure all of those things had an impact, but you know what had a greater impact? The fact that I didn't train. I promised myself that I would train properly from that point forward, and so far so good. I messed up, owned it, applied my lessons and have completed 10 half marathons, one full marathon, a couple bike rides and triathlons.

Taking this back to the dreaded half marathon that happened several weeks ago near Cbus? Some of my closest friends plan to give up on the race company that put on that race, and that is their prerogative. I won't argue with them, but I would challenge them to think about a major professional screw up that they have had, and ask them to consider whether they are thankful that someone gave them a second chance, because I know that I am thankful for my second and third chances. Also, I know one of the points of contention with people is how the race company responded to Facebook posts that were left by participants. I do want to point out that if someone posts on your Facebook wall that you are a total jerk and you are the worst person in the world, you would likely delete that post from your wall, I know I would!!!

All I am really saying is this; I know it is hard to remember, in the midst of a bad experience, but there are people behind those race companies and based on this companies response, I would say they have learned something. I'm so glad my dad taught me to give people second and third chances, because those mistakes (if people are willing to admit they made them) are what molds us as individuals in the future, and I certainly am honored when I get to be part of a person's growth, and love the people who stick by me during my growing moments!!! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Information

Warning, this is neither couch nor athlete related, but instead Sarah related.

I promised myself that this blog would NOT be MS related at all. The reason? As I have mentioned before, my MS is only a sliver of my life that will change shapes and sizes throughout my life, but it isn't my entire life, however right now that sliver is a little bigger than I would like.  Also, I'm only an expert on my body and my MS. I don't have anything to offer other people regarding their MS because I am not inside their bodies, and you really wouldn't understand this statement unless you have a chronic disease that is mostly invisible to other people. When you say you are fatigued, tired, numb, feel like energy is pulsating throughout your hands/feet/back, people tend to not understand. When they see you walking around with your cane after a run, or stumbling into a wall, then they kind of get it, but also wonder why you weren't doing those things the last time they saw you.

Well folks, that is Multiple Sclerosis for you; 100% unpredictable, yet totally predictable.

I have been obsessing lately, and so I need to let it all out so that I can quit it! It is never a good thing to obsess over anything, and reside within your own head; at least for the shy extrovert in me. So here goes nothing.

One year ago, last week, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. What the heck does that mean? Yeah, I still really don't know, because as Sue pointed out to me, the only difference between today and yesterday is that I have more information. That is still true... And so much more!

So last year, I was freaked out because I understood that my body was attacking itself and no one knew why. You know what has changed? I'm not freaked out. I still understand that my body is attacking itself, and I still know that no one knows why.

Last year I learned that I had to give myself a daily shot, and I was petrified and did not have any interest in sticking a needle in my body. Interestingly enough, I also thought that there was NO way in the world any person could forget a shot!!! This weekend, I was pointing out to my friend that, last year, I used to get so worried about bringing my medicine everywhere on the weekends, I traveled around with a cooler in my car to keep it safe, and I would never leave home without my injector and the proper resources to give myself my shot (ie. alcohol pads). You know what has changed? Giving myself a shot is now not a chore, except for the fact that I need every resource around to remind me to take it, and I'll often be found walking out of my house with a lone syringe in hand and none of the 'necessary' accompaniments because I give myself my shot freehand, and I always think I have extra supplies in my car/desk at work/shoulder bag.

Last summer, I cried almost every day and wondered if anyone would ever want to be my friend again because all they would see is this girl who was going to slowly deteriorate to a wheelchair bound person. You know what has changed? My true friends are still around, some even closer friends now. I still know how to make new friends, which I recently learned, and they approach me with curiosity and interest. My newest friend has really been a blessing because it is like she didn't even hear me when I mentioned my MS in random passing. I actually made a bigger deal about it than she did. On top of it, my closest friend, Sue, ignores my MS so much so, she doesn't even let me blame anything on it, and reminds me that I can do whatever I want! Oh and she challenges me to do it better every time!

If you recall, one of the most infuriating symptoms I was experiencing when I first started doctoring for my mystery problem was the face spasm-ing. If you have never had something spasming in your body, you wouldn't necessarily understand the frustration that goes along with a twitching finger, or twitching face. Let me try to explain though. Ever have a fly buzzing in your ear, and you try to swat it away, only for it to come back. Oh and imagine this fly NEVER leaves and you can't catch it, but every once in a while it stops buzzing for a few minutes, just to come back minutes later. Yep, that is spasming. You know what has changed? I have treated that symptom, and I will never again take for granted a calm face.

Last year, my family was concerned about my well being. Well that wasn't just last year, that has been my entire life, but last year I really understood what having an amazing family like mine really meant. You know what has changed? Nothing at all. They are still the most amazingly supportive family. They love me and pick me up, day after day... Sure they get mad at me, but offer me the exact same support that I have been lucky enough to have had since birth.

Last year, I thought my life was over as I knew it. You know what has changed? I learned that statement is true. Afterall, every day we wake up, our life is over as we knew it yesterday, because today is a new day with new adventures. How cool is that. I can hit the reset button every morning and make different choices today, if yesterdays choices didn't work for me.

I could probably write entire chapters on each of these topics and many more. I'm not going to. What I am going to say instead is this... This has been one hell of a year. I have watched people lose friends/family, have babies, I lost my dog, got a cat, celebrated crossing the finish line of a half marathon and half iron man. You know what has changed in the past year? Nothing truly significant, I just have new information...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Where the Heck is My Cup?

I woke up this morning and I literally wanted to continue laying in bed, so much so, I hit my snooze alarm for an hour. Quite frankly, the thought of going for a 50 mile bike ride was annoying to me. I was living in a glass half empty kind of world; no, actually, I couldn't even find my cup...

Sue just got pooped on...
I'm quite confident everyone can relate to this. It is kind of like being pooped on by a bird... Waking up, not knowing whether you should laugh, cry, stay in bed, get up and face the world. You are simply at a loss and the bird is in a tree laughing at you...

When I'm having moments like these, there is only one way I know how to deal with it. That is by getting out of bed and dealing with it. I literally haven't sat on my couch since before I went on vacation. I know this, because there are mountains of items on each of my couch sitting spots in both my living room and family room (basement). Believe it or not, this is not a normal condition of my house... To be quite honest, I can remember the last time I sat on my couch because it included copious amounts of TV, a TV binge if you will... But I honestly can't remember when that happened. It has been at least two and a half weeks, because I haven't flipped on my TV since I took my no TV challenge almost two weeks ago.

On top of all of this, I have found myself fatigued lately. I have plenty of things I could blame my fatigue on, but what good does that do, unless it is the REAL reason for the fatigue. If I blame it on the wrong thing, I literally won't be treating the problem that is causing the symptom.

So today, I got up, took a quick shower and found my way to my friend's house by way of McDonald's for a Diet Coke. We sat down at the kitchen table to eat our breakfast while talking about the bike ride we were about to go on. We were also checking the weather and recognizing that it was going to rain any minute. 50 miles were on the agenda, and neither of us really wanted to go. I do believe Sue obliged only because of me... Sue knows me so well, that when she said something to me, and I started obsessing, she immediately asked me what was wrong because I WAS obsessing. Apparently I obsess over things when something is wrong. Something even I didn't know about myself. I didn't know how to answer her question. It literally took me all of 1.93 miles to figure it out... I didn't want to ride today either. I don't even know at what point I admitted my disinterest in riding, but regardless, in true Sarah fashion, we charged on.

While on this ride, we talked about everything, yet nothing. True friends can do that... But one of our more meaningful conversations led me to the true reason for my fatigue. What might that be? Very little rest, when I should be recovering from a race. Sure, the half marathon wasn't even close to my fastest, as a matter of fact, it was my slowest. It was also one of my most enjoyable races, but rest is an important component of accomplishing any endurance event. Instead of resting, Sue and I rode our bikes in Canada on Monday, walked and hiked several miles on Monday and Tuesday, drove home on Wednesday and met for a bike ride on Thursday and Friday. I visited very dear friends all day on Saturday, which included a 4 hour car ride, and here we were trying to ride 50 miles. Not my smartest week on record.

Sue getting over the poop...
Sometimes when I do to much, it is very hard for me to determine whether my cup is half empty, or half full. It took comments from two different people, over the last week, for me to realize I have not been my typical self. As a matter of fact, I was living, not only in a glass half empty world, but in a world in which my cup was tipped over on its side, with the water drying up because I didn't even realize it had spilled. OK, so this may sound dramatic, but the reality is, I need to pay attention. If my mind and body are speaking to me, listening is the only option. After all, burnout can come quickly for an aging lady like myself, and I want to be able to laugh about my misgivings, rather than not know that I am even having them... So, what is on the schedule for me this week? My regular workouts, but also a healthy dose of rest, so I can laugh about my cup tomorrow.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon

How did I end up running a half marathon in Canada? Especially since I swore I would never travel far for a race? Well, let me remind you. My friend Amy called me up and told me she was going to run a half marathon as one of her 'signature' events for the year. You see, she tries to do events that challenge her every year, just for fun, and to get the most out of this life as possible. When she called and asked me if I wanted to do it with her, I quickly called up Sue to see if she was on board (Sue and I train together for most races), and she said yes!
Photo bombed by Katherine Switzer

And so the story begins...

Sue and I have been diligently training for the half marathon in Columbus, while Amy and her friends were training for the half in Dayton, Kent, Cleveland and Ottawa, with the plans of all meeting in Niagara falls, this month, to run a half marathon. We trudged through the snow, the heat, the spring like weather, the cold, the rough days, the awesome days, all with the same intention of crossing the finish line of our half marathon. The journey to get here was different for all of us, but probably just as empowering for each of us.

So let's talk about my first international race. We all met up for dinner on Saturday night and talked race plans. My plan was simple, run the half marathon. Others had more specific plans; under 3 hours, first one to cross the finish line from our group, start out slow, finish on two feet. You name it, it was in our plan... On Sunday morning, we all crammed into my car and headed to the start line. Excitedly, we stood around, watching all of the women swirling around us, getting excited for the race. We all hit up the bathrooms, some of us one time too few, and then we were off. 

I was a little worried about the fact that this was an international race, and the route was marked with kilometer markings, rather than mile markings. Why? Because that meant we were going to pass a marker every kilometer, and there were 21 of those, rather than 13 miles. Our group split into 2, with me, Amy and Sue hanging out in the back. We quickly descended the first hill on what was supposed to be a very flat course. We passed the falls once, ran into the best little cheerleaders in the world, and then headed past the falls again. It was awesome to have one of the 7 natural wonders of the world there, greeting us and spraying us with it's water filled glory during the race. Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the kilometers over the miles. They seemed to tick off a lot quicker than a mile marker.

Me, Sue and Amy post race
Anyway, I had to hit up a bathroom about 10k into the race (total bummer by the way), Amy and Sue waited for me at the next water stop, because they are amazing like that, and off we went to finish this thing. Like any typical race for me, I ran with conviction, until I fell apart; tears and all... Sue only let this last for a very short period of time, and made me kick it back into gear and get over myself. Amy flicked me off at some point, because of my enthusiasm, and Sue was the rockstar that held us all together.

Amy after her first half
We crossed the finish line to a hug from Katherine Switzer, and we all collapsed (well I did, but it sounds better if I say we all did). We celebrated a first half marathon for two, and another race for the rest of us. We ate food, saw a little bit of Canada, and ate some more food.

What I don't think this post highlights enough is the awesome fellowship we all felt, having a group of six new and old friends with one common goal, and a race bringing us together. Although I only knew Sue and Amy, coming into this weekend... I feel like the race has given me three more friends, who have enhanced my life in some way, from this one significant shared experience.

Will I ever travel to do another race? Absolutely, if Terese, Erika, Marina, Amy and Sue are all involved. No egos in this crowd, just women who were all here to push each other, and celebrate each other along the way. 

Now to see more of Canada!
Our race crew