moving forward…despite challenges

It’s been a while ya’ll.  A good while.  It has been a bit crazy around here lately, but we keep moving forward!  I mentioned briefly in my Grosse Ile Duathlon post that I was having some health issues.  So today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you (I) move forward when life deals you a sucker punch that totally derails your plans and goals…particularly your fitness goals.

Six months ago today (May 4th to be exact)…I started having some intense chest pain.  Like some one was stabbing me in the chest repeatedly.  Out of the blue.  That evening marked the beginning of a long roller-coaster ride that I’m not sure I’m off yet.  Over the past six months I have had varying degrees and types of chest pain…back pain…left arm pain.  I have had numerous doctor appointments, and I’ll spare you the laundry list of tests that caused me to rack up some pricey bills (that thankfully we’ve been able to pay!).  Through a few months of visiting different doctors and specialists, they found…well…nothing.  I don’t know if ya’ll have had any similar experiences, but it kind of makes you feel like you are going crazy.   I was having pain that would drop me to the floor and leave me in tears, but they couldn’t find anything.  Really?

I began to wish that a test would show something – isn’t that horrible to hope they find something wrong with you instead of praising God that they didn’t?  I’ve reformed my ways.  About 8 weeks ago I caved and went to see a chiropractor – I’ve been a bit skeptical, but figured I didn’t have anything else to lose!  The complete verdict is still out, but I think it might be helping.  I still get pain, but the last couple of months it hasn’t been as intense.  I’m praying I can hop off this coaster soon!

BUT…

In the middle of it all I have been skittish to do any high-intensity workouts…not knowing how my body will respond.  I did the duathlon in May, but outside of that I haven’t done a whole lot until recently.  It is more than a little frustrating.  I had planned on at least 3 triathlons/duathlons this summer plus road races…those went out the window.  Working out as normal…out the window.  I even gained five pounds.  Super frustrating.

So what is a person to do?  You keep moving forward.

My identity is not tied to my athletic or fitness abilities.  I am so much more than my race time or my accomplishments.  I get that is hard for many to grasp…it took me a long time to get there.  My identity used to be so tied and intertwined with my running abilities that it was hard to see who I was without it…but I am so much more and so are you.  Forward progress.

You find out what you can do.  For a month we went rock climbing at Planet Rock one to three times a week.  It was therapeutic for me and put my mind at ease more than any doctor appointment.  We used to climb.  A lot.  Back when we could climb free.  It can get really expensive to climb – we don’t have a grand to cough up for a year climbing gym membership, but Groupon helps us out sometimes!  So we bought month long groupon passes and climbed like crazy.  It was helpful to see I didn’t completely lose all my climbing skills – in fact I was climbing almost better than I ever have and I felt good about myself and my body.  It didn’t make the pain disappear. but it made some anxiety disappear (early on in the ordeal I had legit panic attacks every day for about a week – another story, another day).  Climbing helped.  It wasn’t on my list of goals for the year, but it was what I could do, and it helped.  Significantly.  Forward progress.

From climbing I tried cycling – I did some shorter easy to moderate rides.  I occasionally lifted weights.  It felt good.  Forward progress.

I can’t say that those things were always easy – and outside of the month of climbing, nothing was consistent.  I still had days where I felt like I was going to die any moment, and days where I felt completely normal.  I went on a weekend backpacking trip. It wasn’t anything extreme and I convinced myself something was wrong the last day when every hill we climbed gave me a headache, but I was okay.

The single thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was run.

Running…the one thing I was, at one point, rather good at…and the one thing I could still count on to boost my self esteem.  If I was feeling totally out of shape…I’d go for a run.  I was still better than the average person, so I couldn’t hate on myself too much.  But now, running terrified me.  It was the one thing that still made me feel like if I did it I would have a heart attack and die on the trail…so I avoided it like the plague.

There happened to be one week in the middle of August that I was feeling good and a friend asked me to run a race with her in November – a 15K in Chicago that we had run the year before.  I thought – I’m feeling good, I’ll be through all this by then, let’s go for it.  So I paid $60 to register.  We’ve already established the fact that I don’t throw away $60 on a race and I will run unless I absolutely can’t.  Well…the good feeling I had only lasted a week and back on the coaster I went.  Running = still a big scary monster.  I’m not going to give a whole race report in this post, but let’s just say I did run that race this morning and I did finish, but I did not do any training before hand.

I survived the 9.3 miles. Without training.

I don’t think I’m scared of running anymore.  It is just hard.  Was my time awesome?  No.  Was it good enough?  Yes.  I’m content, because I’m more than that time.  I’m a fighter that conquers fears.  I press forward to regain fitness, to regain health and to thrive.  I will probably have more not-so-awesome days…but I’m not going to let them hold me back.  I’m making forward progress.

I won’t complete 12 races including 3 tri’s/du’s this year.  I won’t run as fast as I did last year…and I could beat myself up over it.  But I won’t.  Because it doesn’t define me and I am moving forward despite the challenges.  That’s more important than hitting specific numbers.  I’m not giving up; I’m simply readjusting and moving forward in the ways that I am able.

I pray that wherever you are at, with whatever is holding you back or derailing you, that you can still make small steps today.  Celebrate the small victories and keep pressing forward!

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Race Roundup: Grosse Ile Duathlon

I realize I have been pretty lax on writing.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I recently bought a house and everything that goes on with it.  Perhaps because I have been traveling quite a bit for my job with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship over the past month and a half (I have spent most of a week outside of San Diego, two weeks in northern Michigan and the better part of a week in Pittsburgh…all fabulous, but they’ve kept me busy!).  Or perhaps at other times it’s because I just plain forget to when I have the time (but you know we always remember when we are running around and don’t have a spare second!).

My fitness movement (aka…exercise, working out, running, etc) has been pretty limited as of late.  The past five or six weeks I’ve been having some health issues (aka chest pain) that we haven’t figure out yet…maybe more on that later!  I see a specialist tomorrow so hopefully we can figure this out and I can get back to doing what I like to do.

In the meantime I did do a duathlon – early on in the whole health fiasco.  I almost didn’t do it, but my rational was this: 1. I paid $60 for it and I’m too cheap to let it go 2. I’ve been talking smack with a workout partner for a good 6 months and we’ve been running the numbers to see who would win…to not compete would mean a forfeit and an automatic win for him and 3. I knew there would be EMS on site and if I dropped (as morbid as that sounds) at least they would be there to revive me!  So down to Grosse Ile I went.

This I know for sure, I like duathlons MUCH more than triathlons.  If you’ve read my triathlon post you’d know that I’m not a huge fan of the water.  Not. At. All.  The duathlon is much more my speed, AND I can be competitive in it…not saying I’m throwing in the towel on tri’s at all…I simply like du’s more and might stick to them this season due to my lack of time in the water.  I don’t know that I’ve been in the water (outside of dipping into a lake on a HOT Memorial Day) since last June.

So a duathlon (for those of you reading this and thinking a duath…what??) consists of a run, then a bike, then a run.  This particular duathlon happened to consist of a 5k (3.1 mile) run a 20k (12.4 mile) bike and another 5k run.  I hadn’t done much in the three weeks leading up to the duathlon because of my traveling, but outside of the chest problems was feeling alright approaching it.

3 Disciplines, an organization that runs triathlons and duathlons around my neck of the woods, puts on well organized events…I’d recommend any of their events to anyone.  And they always have good post-race food!

First 5k: I felt pretty strong for the kind of training I put it (which was pathetically too little) and came through about 8 minute pace.  The course, although it was supposed to be a certified 5k was .1 miles to long…we were all pretty sure of that – after all, I’m not that bad a pacing myself and dropping from an 8ish minute mile to a 9ish minute mile the last mile was just not possible. I appreciated that most of the run was gravel/dirt.

Bike: I felt good on the bike – I wished I could have put in a little extra time in the saddle leading up to the race, but did fine all things considering.  I knew that if my training partner didn’t catch me before the 6th mile I had this race in the bag.  Mile number 6 came and went, then 7, then 8 and so on until I hit the transition area once again.  He never caught me.  I was a bit worried, maybe he crashed, maybe he got a flat, but off on the run I went.

Second 5k: I felt a bit funky on the last run.  Maybe I was being hyper sensitive, but I ran it much more conservatively, running a bit slower than 9 minute pace.  I finished the race feeling like I needed to throw up, not a normal feeling for me since I didn’t tap out my energy sources…but I headed to the food table to get something in my stomach.  After eating something I felt better and began looking for my training partner.

About seventeen minutes after me he crossed the finish line.  No flat tires, no crashes.  His run just wasn’t strong enough to put him in a position to catch me on the bike.  I think he was slightly surprised.  I can’t say that I was. 😉  I ended up winning my age group – there were five of us.  I felt pretty good about that.

And now I have a heavy glass that says first place to put in my cupboard to remind me that I love duathlons!

Race number 4?  I’m behind.  I’ll work on that.

Race Roundup: Martian Half Marathon

Ready to run the race!!

I signed up for the Martian half marathon about six weeks before the race (race number 3 of 12 for the year!!).  I had every intention of training well for it.  Too bad good intentions don’t get you anywhere.  Confession #1: my last run that came remotely close to 13.1 miles was the 9.3 mile hot chocolate race back in November.  I knew I could run 13.1 miles.  Been there.  Done that.  But I never got the t-shirt for all those long runs on Sundays during my cross country days.  This one was for the t-shirt.

I headed down to the race the morning of Saturday, April 14th to meet up with the lovely people above.  I don’t think they’ll mind me using the picture since it is already posted on facebook 😉  Four ran the 10k and two of us the half.  It was slightly chilly and damp and every once in a while it was misty.  The 10k went off first and forty-five minutes later the half marathoners took off.  I loved that the course was clearly marked with a blow up martian and the mile number.  When we ran past the 10k turn around there was a guy dancing and shaking a clapper – it was entertaining.  Confession #2: I wished I was turning around there.  I had run pathetically few runs since November and nothing more than 6 miles…but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I wasn’t really tired, I just mentally wasn’t in the game.

As we approached the turn around for the half – or maybe a little before the turn around – I saw a tent advertising chocolate milk, with a sign that said there would be chocolate milk at the end of the race.  Score.  Big time.  Confession #3: I couldn’t stop thinking about getting chocolate milk at the end of the race.  It is probably what helped me finish.

I think mile 8-9 was probably the best mile.  I got a good song in my head and rocked to it (Psalm 73 (My God’s Enough) by Barlow Girl – you should check it out)…but the song ran out after a few minutes!  It was about mile 9 that my hip flexors really started to ache…well ache might not be the right word – they were rather painful actually.  They had begun to slightly ache before then, but about mile nine…

At about mile 11.5 I told my running buddy to go on ahead, I could tell she was anxious to go and my hips were screaming.  The last mile and a half my motto was, “don’t walk and finish the race.”  Yep, they hurt that much.  Cardiovascularly I was doing just fine and breathing easy, but my hips weren’t moving easily!  My time tanked for the last mile and a half, but I think the chocolate milk helped keep me going 😉  After the finish I probably looked I belonged with people more than three times my age by the way I was walking.  Oh those hips.

All in all a great race.  Next time I might prep better.  The next day my hips were totally fine – but they weren’t fine for the 2 mile nature walk the hubby and went on the afternoon after the race, yikes!  All in all a well run race on a mostly flat course and a great time with friends!

And I have the t-shirt.

Race Round-Up: Sweetheart Run

What a gorgeous day it is this morning – it has me looking at the race calendar for 3 Disciplines – an organization that organizes and hosts over 30 triathlons each year in my region – and praying that I can make it out of the water faster this year than previous years!  This weather has made me want to get out into the water too!  But water aside, speaking of races, I didn’t post a race round-up for the Sweetheart Run last month.

I conned Dan into running this race with me on February 11th – after all it was called the sweetheart run!  They offered 5k, 10k and team competition events.  Dan and I entered in the team competition which meant we both ran a 5k and they combined our 5k times for out total team time and combined our ages for our total team age.

The night before the race it decides to snow….for almost the first time all winter in our area!  We had a slow drive about 40 miles north of us to the race.  Upon exiting the freeway we discovered the town it was in hadn’t plowed a single road…and it was cold.  The race went out on the roads so it was slow going.  Did I mention it was cold?  Dan wanted me to run the race with him “for at least the first twenty minutes,” so pretty much most of the race.  I conceded and said I would run the whole thing with him.  We took off and there were a few people that wiped out in the slippery snow while going around corners and such.  Oh yeah, it was cold.

The run was pretty good except one stretch of road was really windy and cold!  What frustrated me the most happened in the last 200 meters.  Dan and I were running together – remember instead of running faster I ranwith Dan (which I decided isn’t that fun…he doesn’t run in a straight line too well) but in the last 200 meters he decides to pick up the pace.  No problem I can match that – well in the last, probably 75 meters, he decides to all out sprint.  Have I mentioned that he can sprint faster than me?  Distance I’ve got him but he is a boy and naturally a faster sprinter.  So he decides to all out sprint, which I can’t match, and beats me by a second.  I was angry…he can testify to that.  I ran the whole thing with him and he decides to be a jerk and outsprint me at the end.  Not cool.  Then he gloats that he beat me.  Really?  He asserts that if he didn’t do that I would have tried to beat him at the very end…if I wanted to beat him I would have beat him a mile back.  Thanks sweetheart.

I guess I had to get over it.  No use staying mad at him forever…but I don’t think I’m running the sweetheart race with him next year!  Haha!  At the end of the race we were hanging out inside the school we started at, out of the cold, and someone comes in yelling for medic or something.  A guy who did the race was behind her with half of his hand frostbitten.  It was cold.  He didn’t wear gloves.  Brilliant.  I hope his hand was okay, they found a nurse.  I ended up winning a drawing for a little heart shaped dish and we landed in the middle of the pack for our team age and time.  I would have finished higher individually, but no worries.  We had fun and the roads were much clearer going home…although we did see a woman spin out in the middle of an intersection on the way back.  I’m glad I wasn’t next to her.  All in all a good start to the morning!  Next race: Martian Half Marathon next month!

2 races down 10 to go to complete 12 in 2012!

Race Roundup – Kahtoola Mountain Run

“4K is good enough – I mean I did get up early this morning to run this crazy race while most normal people are still sleeping all cozy in their beds.”

“There is a chance I might not make it to church on time if I do the full 8K…I should probably stop at the 4K – I don’t want to cheat Jesus of my time this morning.”

“My breathing is rough and I have crud stuck in my throat…if I keep going I wouldn’t be being nice to my throat.”

Those were my thoughts as I completed the first loop of the 8K Kahtoola Mountain Run held at Pine Knob, a local ski resort, this morning.  I had the option of running a one loop 4K or a 2 loop 8K.  I’ve skied PK plenty of times, I know the terrain, I’ve been all over that place.  Just never on foot.  I didn’t think it would be that bad.  I mean…its just a hill – a converted trash dump.  I’ve raced cross country at Michigan Tech in the UP where there are REAL hills – so Pine Knob…let me see what you’ve got – was my thought going into it.

Pine Knob gave it to me.  I think outside of the top three finishers there wasn’t another runner out there that completed the whole race without walking.  Dan asked me in the morning how far he thought we (me and the other runners…not him, he was the camera and support team!) would make it up the quarter mile run before walking.  Inwardly I was thinking…I’ll make it, it will be tough, but it can’t be that bad…I’ve gutted through long hills before.  Well, I walked.  And not only did I walk on the quarter mile I pretty much walked most of the uphill portions (there were three on each loop)…but so did everyone else, so I didn’t feel that bad.  But as I reached the top of the quarter mile run – the longest uphill portion – where my hubby was waiting to take pictures I told him I was going to bail at the 4K…because we needed to make it to church.

On my way downhill toward the finish line I began to think, “that wasn’t so bad and really Teresa, all your excuses are crap…you know you’ll make it to church, your breathing is just like everyone else, and you are just being a punk if you think you will be happy later today with yourself after stopping at the 4K…suck it up and do the 8.”  Then to top it off I even asked the guy standing near the finish line where the 4K’ers end and the 8K’ers repeat, “how much suffering do I want to put my body through – should I be nice and stop now or do another loop?”  To which he replied, “It’s a nice day, you have to go for it!”  So I bypassed the finish line and began another loop.

I knew I wouldn’t be content or happy with myself if I bailed and did only half of what I set out to do.  I think deep down, even when I told my hubby that I was going to bail that I wouldn’t.  I can’t.  I’m a competitor – not necessarily with the field of runners, but with myself.  Was I going to complete the challenge or was I going to throw in the towel just because it was hard?  If I expect my clients to give more than they thought they could give, how can I not expect the same from myself…especially when I know I am perfectly capable of completing the last loop.

I did finish, just fine, even passing a few people on the second loop as I had a better idea of how to run it.  I think it shows just how much of our physical fitness is mental.  Every time you complete that last weight set that you knew was going to be tough, complete those last few miles you set out to run even when it began to pour, or pull yourself out of bed before work to do a 20 minute workout DVD it is a mental victory and brings you one step closer to your goals, toward setting a good example for your family, toward feeling strong and confident all week. Find a way to talk yourself mentally over those barriers and move forward…because you know deep down that you can do it!

Waiting for the start of the Kahtoola Mountain Run
Coming in to the finish!