Monday, April 9, 2012

Why I'm here

As I was running yesterday, I was listening to my iPod and reflected on this past week. It was a rough one. As usual, it was busy with the kids' activities and daily responsibilities. But unusual and quite shocking was finding out about two untimely deaths of parents of young children.

Last Monday, I heard about a runner who had started the Brew to Brew race, not sure if he was doing it solo or as a relay, and was taken to the hospital after suffering a stroke on the road. I followed his Caring Bridge site that was posted on Facebook and saw the decline of his health over several days. Doctors couldn't control the swelling in his brain and he did not make it. He was only 35 and left behind a wife and young daughter. I was saddened to hear about their loss. Although I never knew him, I've done Brew to Brew many times and can't imagine facing such tragedy from doing something I love.

On Tuesday, I learned about my college Scholarship Hall Director (like a RA for my small dorm) who died when a train hit her car on Monday at 2:30 a.m. My college roommate called to deliver the news. I was in shock. The news reports didn't give many details, but they said it appeared the crossing arms were down and she went around them. I couldn't figure out what to think about her death.

I didn't keep up with my SHD much after graduating, but reconnected through Facebook a couple years ago. We had an initial greeting and after that I would see her occasional posts. I saw a recent picture of her where she had the same pretty smile and kind eyes I remember from college. I saw that she had pursued her career in counseling and was a high school guidance counselor. She seemed like a grown up version of the caring, fun woman I knew many years ago and I was happy to see she had gotten married and had three beautiful children. I wrestled with trying to understand how someone who had always seemed so full of life and had so much going for her could take her own life.

I went to the funeral on Thursday and it was there that I learned that Aimee was suffering from postpartum depression (she has a four month old). That explains why she did what she did, a little, but it doesn't make her death any easier. I feel for her husband and for her boys who will have to carry on without their mother. I feel for her students who she counseled and coached and looked up to her. How are they going to understand?

In some ways, I can understand what drove Aimee to her death. I, too, had postpartum depression with both kids. Actually, I've suffered from depression most of my life and especially the times right after having my kids, it would just sometimes take over. I didn't want to hurt myself or the kids, but I would fly into a rage and then it would end with me feeling badly for what I had done and thinking that everyone would be better off without me. That latter feeling would stay with me for days, and I fear even longer if I hadn't sought help. Because of my history with depression, I got on medication right away which helped settle my crazy thoughts, controlled my raging hormones, and got me through the sleep deprivation and babies' crying spells.

Even after the postpartum time frame, I would slip into periods of depression that got me thinking about my purpose here and if the world would be better off without me. I never got so far as to create a real plan for leaving, but I could see how someone could get to that point if they didn't have some intervention. I'm so thankful I've been given many opportunities to step off the ledge. My greatest intervention has been my God who keeps coming back to save me. At just the right moment, God has provided me with just the right person, words, songs, or medical assistance to help me think clearly and face reality again. I know it's His Grace, His Love, His Purpose for me that has kept me here and kept me from going too far. I've done nothing special and don't feel deserving of all He has given me, but I'm so thankful He has. God has given me my faith that allows me to trust in Him completely. It's this faith, it's God's great love and provision, that gets me through the storms of life.

I'm so sad for Aimee and her family. I don't claim to know her whole situation. I don't know if she reached out to loved ones or if she sought medical treatment. Even in this modern day, I think depression is still viewed as a shameful illness and is something people try to hide and get through on their own. I want to help bring depression to light as a problem that many of us face and that true healing requires more than just a pill. For those afflicted, we need unlimited patience, understanding, and unconditional love. We don't always find this in our families and friends, but we can find this in Jesus, Our Savior and Friend. I pray that more people will turn to Him, will stop hiding in shame and reach out to family and friends. It could save your life.

I love this song and video! Such a beautiful message...

"Remind me who I am" by Jason Gray

Friday, February 24, 2012

Down, but not out

For the past two days, I've been laid up in bed, sick with a fever, cough, and sinus congestion. I'm 99% sure it's the flu. My daughter had it for 6 days, my sister and nieces all had it, so I think it's safe to say that having the exact same symptoms and feeling like death qualifies me to say, it's the flu! No fun! But, during this time, I've started a mission to attain great health. I know I've talked about it before, but I'm dead serious about it this time.

This means staying on track with my supplements and eating better. What do i take? Here's the low down on my supplements and "nutrition" plan:

I take these daily:
1. Probiotics
2. Vitamin D3
3. Ubiquinol
4. Omega 3 - EPA/DHA
5. B-12

Along with these supplements, I'm trying to drink more green tea and tulsi tea, cut out almost all refined sugar (still a struggle with grains), eat more green veggies, fish, and less red meat.

I've decided that I'm tired of feeling like crap, having little to no energy most days, living for my morning coffee to get me going (still love the taste with creamer - ugh!), and feeling frustrated by constant illness and injury to my body.

It's time to take control of my health! No one else is going to do it for me. I know it's going to be hard to make lots of these changes, but I also know they are necessary for me to live a drug free (I'm talking over the counter NSAID's, as well as anti-depressants), healthy, energetic, purposeful life.

When I am no longer running a fever or coughing up a lung, I also plan to implement more strength training into my exercise. I've nearly abandoned the idea of doing a Half-Ironman this summer, unless I can really see some great changes in energy and can manage training along with my busy life as a mother, wife, and servant of God. I still would like to do some triathlons, continue biking and swimming, and of course, complete the half marathons I've already signed up for this spring. The main difference is that I will be doing these things in light of overall health for my body versus performance goals.

I want to live a healthy, active lifestyle for all of my days and for me, that means slowing the pace down to last longer. Life's a marathon, not a sprint!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning as I go

Had some random thoughts of lessons learned over the years of running...

Why is it we can't really appreciate what we have when we have it? No crystal ball to foretell the future, I guess. :-) I so wish I would have appreciated and taken more advantage of my youth when I had more free time and was able to run injury free. Busy life with kids and constant injuries puts a big damper on my running goals.

The longer I run, the more I have to cross train to stay healthy and be able to run. I'm feeling the effects of 13 years of racing and running through various injuries.

I also have to modify my diet, cut out more bad stuff, if I don't want to be as big as a house. This is an area though where I do think I took full advantage of eating whatever I wanted when I was younger. Just wish I hadn't developed so many bad habits and cravings for unhealthy foods.

With every injury, I learn more about my body and it's disfunction. A recent X-ray confirmed that I have a curve in my lower spine which results in one hip being higher and more internally rotated than the other. This is the source of my leg length discrepancy, lower back problems, hip pain, and probably also contributed to my foot problems. Some call it mild scoliosis. The good news it's possible to work on evening it out by doing strengthening exercises. I may never be able to change the internal rotation, but am hopeful that exercises will also help. I consider myself a pretty tough mental runner and can push through some bad pain, but when my body breaks down to the point of not working properly, I'm forced to change things. That means backing off of intensity and distance, and sometimes taking a break from running. Hence, the damper on my racing goals.

I've been a "competitive" runner almost since I started. Signing up for races was my main motivation in the beginning. It's how I stayed consistent with training and pushed my body to its limits. I've won, or even placed, very little in my age group, but that doesn't take away from the fact that I've enjoyed pursuing personal goals.

Injuries, kids, church activities, and changing priorities have all been game changers for me. I'm now trying to learn, to accept, how to run for fun, even just for recreation. Ouch, did I just say that? I still sign up for races, but I have to keep fighting against the urge to set specific time goals. Seems like when I do, I push too hard, get injured and frustrated and have to repeat this cycle all over again.

It's sometimes very hard to be around my still "competitive" running friends when that doesn't feel like it can be my focus anymore. I  still enjoy running with them, but our goals are so different now.

Just trying to navigate through these changes. Bear with me. Going to be a slow process.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seeking balance

Once again, I find myself tipping the scale over and needing to come back to the center. Recently, I got it in my head to start sorta semi-training for a Half Ironman. Like my level of commitment? I joined a gym for a couple of months so I could have access to a pool and spinning classes. For the past three weeks, I've been trying to get on some sort of regular schedule where I can do all three sports in one week. It's not working out so well. I've been battling a sinus infection and now my 3rd or 4th cold (I'm losing track) this winter! Combine the illnesses with lack of sleep and I'm a big mess. Last week was my most productive in terms of training (if you can call it that). I ran three times, biked (went to spin class) twice, and swam twice. I had a short reprieve from illnesses last week so I was able to get it all in, but let me tell ya, I was dog tired by the end of the week. hip started hurting all the time. Before, it had just been hurting right after my runs, but would loosen up after a few hours and with mild stretching. Now, it was constant pain and tightness.

I know this just sounds like a rant and a bunch of complaining. I promise, this isn't just to gripe about all my problems. What I'm trying to figure out is if this is all worth it. I now have a decent road bike and could actually do better in the bike portion of a triathlon. I've taken that as somehow needing to push myself to do something harder than an Olympic distance tri, hence the Half Ironman.

I'm not giving up at this point, but I am backing off. I need to remember that I'm still new at all of this and I can't expect to jump right into training without a base. I'm not built for that. My hip pain reminds me that I have inherent imbalances which I'm working on, but they may never be resolved. My body (and mind) can only tolerate so much stress in a week before it starts wearing down.

So, I'm figuring out that if I'm going to continue working towards a Half Ironman this summer, I'm going to have to take it slower in the beginning, give my body time to rest and heal before adding another layer of training. For now, I think that means I have to limit my harder workouts to every other day and not worry about getting in two a days just yet.

On a positive note, I had a great long swim yesterday. I went almost a mile and my muscles aren't even sore today! And my hip is feeling better!

For the first time in over 13 years of running, I'm keeping a training log on I'll track my workouts there, but will blog about the process here. More to come if I can find my true balance in this journey as a semi-sorta-wannabe triathlete. ;-)