Monday, April 27, 2015

Glass City Half Marathon

Well, it has been about a year since I have run a half marathon. I have made a decision to do a half marathon every year because running long distances in the heat is just not fun right now...

So, this weekend I went out and took on the promised 'flat' course in Toledo. We will get to the flat
situation in a few minutes, but what I will say is that this race was fantastic on so many levels! First, and most importantly, I got to spend another weekend with my closest friend prepping for another race that we would again start and finish together. Her with patience of steel as I bought and lost items within minutes of each other, and me crying for no reason minutes before the race even started... But what else made this race great? Another very close friend of mine came up to take on Toledo!!! The awesome thing about Chris doing the race is that she ran my very first half marathon, ten half marathons ago. Those are just the starters!!!

This race started out with dogs on the course, an enthusiastic runner dancing through the crowd, and a complete stranger taking a picture of me and Sue at the start of the race, on her cell phone with the intent of texting me the picture. Apparently I gave this stranger the wrong phone number, so some other stranger is walking around with a picture of us, likely wondering who we are.

After the starting tears, pictures and dancers, we quickly learned that Toledo falsely advertised the 'flat' aspect of the course, because the first mile was all up hill, and then there was a Mount Everest sized hill right around mile eleven. This might be a slight exaggeration, but as you have heard me say before, never argue with a distance runner about their experience with a hill. Those weren't the only hills, as mile seven had a hill in the park, and there were other hills that felt like mountains, but we managed them perfectly throughout the race.

My friend and I have a strategy during these things. We like to play association games during the race to keep our minds off running. This half marathon included games that had us identifying things we love, hate, movies, songs, you name it, and we associated it! It also included a fair amount of crowd participation. Imagine this, trying to figure out a name of a food that starts with the letter x while you are running a distance race. Seeing as I can't add one and one while running, I certainly can NOT think of a food that starts with the letter A, let alone the letter X. This is when we would ask the volunteers for words a water stops. They amazingly could come up with words that we would have never considered!!! Anyway, these games distracted us, made us laugh and likely kept me from crying, when I would otherwise have been face planting into the proverbial brick wall during the race; playing them with my closest friend made it that much better.

But what propelled this race from good to great besides my friends, the games, our spectators, and my personal motivation? The medical staff. It is no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I have Multiple Sclerosis, but it might be a secret that I can struggle walking after a run, especially when I get over heated. About two weeks ago I emailed the race director, who then copied the medical director, about my need for an assistive device after a run. I explained that gear check is painfully far from the finish line at most races, and it would be helpful to ditch my cane with the medical staff during the race. They both immediately responded with accomodating emails.

At the expo, I stopped at the help desk to see if I could leave my cane the day before. They called the medical director who responded immediately and came to meet me to collect my cane. He told me it would be there for me at the end of the race. Now, what I expected was this: I was going to finish the race, plop down shortly after the finish line and then make my way over to the medical tent after several minutes to collect my cane. I didn't expect any other special accomodations, but what I got was the best greeting a person who was falling over could dream up.

Sue and I crossed the finish line with smiles, high fives and congratulations. Then came the stumbles... Before I could even get full hold of my friend's arm, the medical staff was grabbing my other arm. And then another staff member appeared with the cane, and right there at the finish line, they plopped me in a wheel chair. All the medical staff congratulated me and Sue on our finish, rolled me through the area where we collected our medals and water, and brought me to an open area to lay down for a bit. They then brought me water and ice packs to cool down. While this was all going on, I was talking to the medical staff member, if I knew her name I would write an email to thank her personally, and she explained to me that they knew I was coming in and were waiting there for me. To say I was shocked is an understatement, and here I thought I would hobble to the medical tent to get the cane, not have my cane delivered and assisted immediately! I am honestly still overwhelmed by that moment.

Anyway, the bottom line is this... I love my friends who are always there for me!!! I love the people who came out to cheer for us!!! I love that I get to run these races!!! I love the Glass City Marathon Staff!!! And I love the Glass City Marathon (minus the hills)!!!

Thanks to all of you who were part of this journey as my running buddy, friend, spectator, food deliverer, bed provider, etc. You all made this weekend very special to me!

PS. I totally forgot to get a picture of me, Sue and Chris, so you only get the silly thumbs up pic from above. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tribulations of the Heat

The heat hit Columbus today... This is a big deal to the runner who has Multiple Sclerosis.

First, I have to admit that had a video been taken during this run, that video could have been placed next to the word whiny in the dictionary to demonstrate the meaning of the word. I tried wearing cooling bands on my wrists to keep me cold, but they were warm within the first two miles. I also announced two miles into the run that I was only going to run five miles instead of the intended six... To say I was a pleasant running buddy is an understatement!

Here are a couple of interesting facts about heat and multiple sclerosis:

1) In the early days, people were diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis by taking a bath. I'm not kidding either!!! The idea was, submerge a person in a hot bath and track their neurological symptoms, and if they worsen, the person probably has MS. This explains a lot!!! When I take baths, the chapters of the book I was reading often have to be re-read after the fact, because I can't remember a darn thing that happened during bath time. Yes I read during bath time because I do use it to procrastinate. So, unless I'm going to dump 40 lbs of ice in my bathtub, baths are now off limits. Oh, and I do know that the 40 lbs of ice in a bath tub is a bad idea... I've tried it!!!

2) Symptoms of heat are only temporary! Ask my best buddy and she will tell you the first 30 minutes after a run are the worst. I look like a drunkard, and do the airplane move (I still don't know what this looks like, but I hear it is funny) to maintain my balance. None of my efforts are all the successful, but I try!!! Once I have cooled down a bit via air conditioning in my car, or ice, or whatever, my symptoms subside and I can move bags of dirt, build garden boxes, take walks, and generally function at my normal, which is still very clumsy... Basically, if you need housework done and you have some dollars hanging around, I am out for hire... Just know I will likely fall into your freshly painted walls while I'm at it. Yes, I also know this from experience!

3) Heat does NOT worsen Multiple Sclerosis, meaning it does NOT cause more damage... It just makes you look like a drunken fool for a little while. See point two. So, one piece of advise, or recommendation I would NEVER offer to a person with Multiple Sclerosis, is to quit the activity that is making them clumsy, because chances are if they are willing to embarrass themselves for a little while just to do an activity, it must mean they like it and really don't plan to quit, unless their trusted medical professional told them they have to... This advice stems from an experience in which a person told me that eating only lettuce for the rest of my life would cure my MS (slight exaggeration but illustrated the point); my response  to said person was, 'I didn't realize you were cured from MS by using that treatment method.' I realize people give advice out of concern and I truly appreciate honesty, even when it doesn't feel good, but advice from undocumented sources really isn't all that helpful.

So, today, I went out and persevered!!! I made it through six miles, yes I lost the battle of the miles... And although I whined through 5 of the 6 miles, I walked away knowing more about varieties of food and with a very close friend still in tact (xylitol is a food, by the way). How lucky am I!!!

I'll make sure to take a picture of a sweat angel to share in the future!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Renewal

While everyone celebrates Easter, I am sitting here reflecting on some of my goals. Easter has a way of getting me to think about renewal. Perhaps it is the nice weather, that is allowing me to sit on my back patio while I type this, but I feel fresh, I feel excited for what is next!

I spent last week in Colorado, and boy was it a blast... from skiing with my cousins and sister-in-law, biking with my brother and company, hanging out with my brother!!! I couldn't have asked for a better vacation!

The thing is, I always end up thinking about what I want for my athletic self when I spend weekends so physically active, as I was in Colorado. I had a conversation with my friend about it just yesterday morning, and the honest truth is I simply want to enjoy every athletic pursuit I embark on. I love my bike, I love running, I love swimming... I love putting my hands in the dirt, I love my cat, I love spending time with my friends, I love house projects, and I love rest. Can I have it all? The answer to this question is, of course I can! It is all about balance.

With that being said, my weight has forever been a struggle of mine. Quite honestly it is the biggest barrier to me 'having it all'. Since I was little I struggled to lose just ten more pounds. A few years ago, I was looking at losing 160 pounds... Yep, that is right, I got to the point in which some think there is no return. I am an example of what return can begin to look like! I lost over 100 pounds, but have been yo-yoing for the last year and a half, and am very thankful I have not yo'd back up to 100 lbs heavier!!! That would stink... So, I would like to think that it is my medicine causing the yo's, but two of my medications cause weight loss. Figure that one out! The reality is, I can't blame it on any one thing... I'm sure there are several factors that impact my weight, but the bottom line is I'm the biggest factor!

I will not be the person who goes on some weird sugar free, gluten free, carbohydrate free, meat free, only eat salad diets, because that is not sustainable for me, probably anyone. I will however make sure I pay attention and order eggs during my favorite meal of the week, Saturday morning breakfast, instead of the delicious pancakes that taste like cake!

In the spirit of renewal I'm going to focus my efforts on weight loss again, I also have renewed my efforts on gardening by building a garden bed behind my house, and will continue those efforts next week at my friend's house (if she lets me)!!!

The bottom line is this... We all have the opportunity to do some work that could improve our abilities to 'have it all'. The fact of the matter is it all has to start within, because if we aren't focusing on ourselves, in the long term, we are no help to others.

Here's to a day of renewal. Enjoy your Easter, and next week I'll be back, probably talking about my longest run of the season.