Thursday, August 17, 2017

Do or do not. There is no try.

So I have a second super sprint triathlon this coming weekend. If you don't know what that is, triathlons come in different lengths and a super sprint is the shortest they come. So this one is a 200 meter swim, 8 mile bike, 2 mile run. I've been training for it, probably more than completely necessary but really mostly for the fitness level. I could probably do a sprint pretty easily at this point (1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3.11 mile run) but I think I'm going to hold off on that length until next year. Something to strive for and give me a reason to get back to triathlon next year. I'm thinking next year and maybe the year after for sprints and then if I'm still up for it I can go for an Olympic.

When I first started running I did the Couch to 5k thing so the first race I ran was, naturally, a 5k. After that I decided to work my way up the ladder, so to speak. So I got a 10k plan and worked through that and then a 15k plan and worked through that. And what ended up happening was I ran a lot of 2 mile runs. I got a really good at running 2 miles without stopping and honestly I think having that base has helped me in so many ways. Because I know 100% that 2 miles is that not that far. And the 3 miles is just one more beyond that. And I break down a 10k and half marathon the same way. So I'm approaching triathlon in a similar way. I can do a super sprint fairly easily and once I'm good at that then I can move up my distances but with having a decent base to start, it makes it easier for  my mind set.

Once this tri is over, then my triathlon season for the year is over. I had initially planned on doing a sprint in October but the timing is wrong and I'd like to have a bigger goal for next year anyway.  I'm going back to running as my main sport but with at least one bike and one swim a week for cross training and conditioning. Now my goal is to train for speed and endurance for a 10k, the longest race I plan on having for the rest of the year. I'd like to run the 10k without stopping and run it faster than I have been able to go lately. So we'll see. I'm going to pick out a plan and get started on that as soon as this triathlon is over. I'm anxious for some reason to get started on that and get running more.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The art of giving up (and then not)

I have a few people tell me lately that I'm an inspiration. I don't especially feel like an inspiration. I'm just doing what I do. Most of the time lately I just feel tired. Mentally I have a lot going on and I'm on a break with most things right now trying to figure myself out. It can be a lot and I'll complain sometimes about the ALS and what it's doing but I try not to. People tell me I have every right but I don't think I do. It's not happening directly to me though I do have a one-on-one relationship with it. I likened it to when you are driving and you see an storm coming up and you just know that you are about to get slammed. I can see the storm. I can't avoid it. I just don't know how far away it is or how fast I am going towards it. And, yes, it is directly happening to my husband but once we really get in the thick of it, so much will be up to me. Just how the morning routine will change alone is enough for me to know how much will be up to me. I'm not good with change. I tend to be slow to accept it. I try to make the same as it always was but that's not healthy. That's not how life works.

So I'm on autopilot a lot. This is how the morning goes, this is how the day goes, the evening, etc and very often lately I'm not reacting well to any changes in those routines. I'm making it harder than it needs to be but I just keep wishing everything was the same. And it's not and never will be.

I did a second half marathon a few weeks ago. I beat my first time by 5 minutes and felt really good about the whole race. My goal one day is to do a half without any walking. I did 12:1 ratios and then mini stops at the water stations. Next time I'm going to try just stopping at the water stations and see how that goes. I have a thankfully shorter 10k in April that I'm racing for Team Gleason and then no real race plans for a while. I know of a few in the fall I want to do but no distances decided yet. Well except there is a run-paddle duathlon that I desperately want to do. Anyway, I took a week off of running because I was trying to avoid burnout and did other workouts instead. I got a new bike that I love but I hadn't had time for and then there was swimming. I also thought it would be fun to do a spin class. And that fucked me up. I'm not sure what happened but when I tried to go out on Sunday that run turned painful about half way through the 3 miles. I finished it out but it was rough and now I'm scared. Tuesday I started to have a mini nervous breakdown about life frankly. It was pretty bad. And one of the things I keep saying is that I'm just going to give it all up. Forget running or triathlons or swimming or any of that. I won't do it anymore. I just wanted to quit. So much for being someone's inspiration. But I stayed home on Wednesday for a mental health day and somewhere in the morning decided to take my bike out. When I got home, I told BT that I really like exercising. I like the accomplishment and how I feel and I look. And he rolled his eyes and said he already knew that and that he wasn't surprised. I'm still scared to run. I'm planning on trying with a 2 mile when I get home. I haven't been to swim all week but I'll go tomorrow. But I did ride my bike a few times this week and keep it fairly easy actually. I skipped all strength training and have been just laid back. I pile things on things and sometimes I have to just stop. I'm pretty sure Ferris Bueller says it best. I have to readjust how I feel about things and about how I take them in. And though I feel selfish, I have to do things for me. That's how life works.

Friday, February 3, 2017


I can't stop getting sick it seems. I honestly can't remember the last time this happened but January came at me hard and it's continued into February. As I'm typing this I feel so horrible. I had a viral infection that turned into a sinus infection and then I got better. Or so I thought. Because I'm back down with a monster cold and I've pretty much stopped any hard core cardio. The internet tells me I can run with a cold but my body says no, don't do it. And frankly since I'm not an elite athlete, I think I can take the time off. I'm probably going to skip my long run on Sunday which makes me feel super guilty but I have got to get well. I'm a little worried about the half marathon I have in March but I'll manage and probably only train up to 11 miles but it's fine. I have so many other responsibilities beyond running that I need to be well for those things over anything else.

Somewhere I decided that this was going to be year of bravery, a year of learning and trying new things. I think I hold myself back and I don't want that anymore. A lesson that has come from my husband's terminal illness is that I don't want either of us to die saying "I should have." I want us to have lived our best life. And some of that is together and some of that is apart. I have a bucket list of things I want to do with him. I want to look back and say we made the most of our time together. I want to have no regrets that I didn't try to maximize our time together. I told a few people the other week that I feel sorry for anyone who has to say at his funeral that they wish they had come visited more or that they wished they had done X,Y, or Z. Because the opportunity is here and now and there is no reason to not take advantage. I won't be one of those people. I know that 100%.

But beyond my husband is me. I feel like this need to try new things is my way of maximizing the time I have where I don't have to be his caregiver all of the time. One day I know things will be harder. He will need more care and time. The things he does now like cooking dinner every night he won't be able to do anymore. So in a way I'm taking advantage of the stage he is in now to fulfill my own personal bucket list. Swimming was a start and I'm so happy I started that even if it is part of the reason I am sick now. I've added kayaking and spinning and baking to my list. There may be a run-kayak duathlon at the end of the year I'd like to do. I'm taking a spin class next week and one day I'd like to sign up for a cake decorating class. It seems this year's mantra is Why not? All the excuses have gone away. Here and now because the future is so unpredictable.

But this newfound bravery does leave me with the feeling of being selfish. A part of me feels like I should dedicate all my time to my family and to my husband. I'm mean he's sick, like really sick and I don't know how long I'll have him like he is now or just how long I'll have him. Am I really maximizing our time when I go off to swim for a couple of hours a week? Shouldn't I be with him watching the kids and making sure everyone is okay? Everything I've read on caregiving says that the caregiver has to take care of themselves first. Because it is a hard thing to do and also very easy to get lost in the process and I don't want that. But I don't want to be negligent either. Running is easier in a way. I can just lace up and go run outside. I don't have to do races or anything that would pull too much time though I'd like to continue and I don't think it will be a problem. Anything I have to drive to seems like I'm asking a lot. I don't know why. But there has to be a balance somewhere, right? I wonder how other spouses or caregivers handle these types of things. BT doesn't mind me going. He understands my reasons why. It's all an internal struggle that makes me feel like choosing myself is somehow not choosing him or them. And that's not the case at all. I just don't want to come to the end of my life and say "I wish I had." I want to say "I'm glad I did."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Just keep swimming

So I went to swim class. I've been twice at this point now. The first time, last Wednesday, I was super nervous but I drove over there anyway. The pool they are using in the winter is pretty far from my house. The coach is extremely nice and I think if I set a goal she will get me there. So far she's taught me how to breath plus the rhythm of swimming and the correct form. I think I'm going to like it. Swimming feels nice and it's fun learning something new. Although as I'm crawling along last night trying to piece it all together, I thought man, if my (former) swimmer brother-in-law and triathlete sister-in-law could see me, they would just laugh. After practice yesterday I had a little conversation with a few of the other ladies and one asked how I liked it. I told her swimming is hard but I think I'm going to like it. Another one replied that Coach is good and she'll push you to your goals which is exactly what I need although I don't really have a goal right now with swimming. Mostly I just want to learn something new. Mostly I want to do a low impact cross training. And I want to be fit and in shape. But you never know one day I may have a swimming goal. Never say never anymore.

I have had this thought for a while. When I started all of this, my son has just turned 9 and my daughter was about to be 4. Now in his lifetime he's seen me exercise on and off but never with the dedication I've shown in the past year. I was never a runner, never a swimmer. I did 30 minutes 3 times a week of workout videos and that was it. And there was nothing wrong with that. But it didn't bring much satisfaction and it didn't last long. But this is different somehow. Somehow the running flipped a switch I didn't know I had and the results of that make me keep going back. It's nice in a way that my daughter won't remember the old me. When she grows up she'll just remember that her mom ran in races, that her mom is an athlete and she won't know that I wasn't for a very long time. But honestly I don't do these things for anyone else. I'm not trying to be an example or teach them any kind of lesson. I think the minute I tried I would fail. Because this is for me. It has to be. I need something that is just mine, especially now with everything that is going on. But if the end result is that my kids see me doing something new, being brave and learning. If my daughter thinks I've always been athletic. If they feel inspired to do the same. Then I count that as a good by-product of all of this. I know I am an example whether I intend to be or not. I'm happy that I'm a good example just not to them but to myself.

Monday, January 23, 2017


At the end of every year a friend of mine asks on Facebook what your word for the year is going to be? In the past I've chosen words at the beginning of the year only to find at the end of the year there is a theme but maybe not based on the word I've chosen. I don't know what I would have chosen in January 2016 but I think the word I walked away with in December was "grateful." Because I learned the hard way about taking things for granted and for not appreciating the simple motion of life.

So do I pick a word for 2017? I don't have any real goals or resolutions. The health goal that everyone inevitably picks is pretty much taken care of for me. I run 3 or 4 times a week and do cross training exercises at least 3 days. We eat healthy and have significantly cut out processed foods. We could cut down on electronics but I'm not worried about that. I think I learned last year that you can't predict what can happen in a year and I'm not comfortable making a long-term goal. Sure there's a race I'd like to do at the end of the year and a vacation to go on this summer but mentally I'm not going to deal with those things until I need to. I think because I don't know how BT will be in a month, much less 6 months, I don't feel like I can go too far into the future. I'm very much in a "here and now" state of mind. Do what needs to be done now.

That being said, I would like to learn new things this year. Last year I hurt my foot and spent 3 weeks not being able to run. I did other work outs, usually taking BT's trail bike out or doing workouts from the Nike Training Club app. I like cycling but I hate that trail bike. It's heavy and not fitted for me. I wanted to buy myself a proper bike with Christmas money but I needed new running shoes and then a new phone so that was the majority of the money I got. So the dream of a new bike is on hold for now. Anyway, one of the things that I wanted to do when I couldn't run was take swim lessons. I can swim in the sense that I had 5 years of swim lessons as a kid and can keep myself afloat and alive. But I'm not a good swimmer or a strong swimmer and I'd like to learn how. I looked into it at the time but BT was still working and it was about the time things started to fall apart so I never went. But now I want to. Swimming is excellent cross training for runners. It's low impact and would, I think, help me with the last 25 pounds I want to lose. Yes, I know #strongnotskinny and the scale doesn't matter blah blah blah. But still I have extra weight that needs to go and swimming is excellent for achieving a leaner body.

The problem is all mental. I am painfully shy and introverted. I hate new situations and doing new things in front of people who know what they are doing. I am very afraid of embarrassing myself. I know the truth is that no one cares. That everyone started somewhere. My first 5k took me 38:36 with a pace of 12'23" and now my personal best is 33:37 with a pace of 10'49". Still "slow" but I'm getting stronger and faster and honestly my only goal is to run a 10 minute miles someday. You improve as you go. That's how these things work. So I know intellectually that my fears are unfounded. I'm not going to be judged on not being good at something that I am admittedly not good at. That's why I need lessons and why I want to learn. I was thinking the other day that I will be 39 in a few months and how do I want to spend my last year in my 30's? I want to learn new things. I want to try new things. I can't take anything for granted anymore so I want to do it all. I want to help BT live his best life now and live mine too. We have a finite amount of time together and I want us to enjoy as many moments as we can.

So Bravery is the word I would pick. It's going to be a year of hard things. Hell, it's going to be a life of really hard things from here on out. And I want to brave for all that is to come. And it's a tiny thing in the face of an overwhelming illness like ALS but I want to take a step forward and do something new just for me just right now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Grateful and thankful

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down

No, I think that sets the wrong tone. But really this is the story of how I learned to be grateful, why I am feeling particularly blessed, and how I figured out that even in the face of tragedy, especially in the face of personal tragedy, you can find a special kind of happiness.

It's a longer story of how he ended up there but the short version is that summer 2016 BT ended up a neurologist who sent him for extensive MRIs for a series of symptoms he had been presenting: uncontrollable muscle twitchings (fasciculations), balance issues, progressive muscle weakness. If you google these things together, ALS is one of the worst case scenario diseases that come up. But it's never the worst case scenario which is what I told him when he would bring it up. Parkinson's, maybe MS but ALS is terminal and it's never the worst case scenario anyway. But it was. Because of course it was. I didn't go to the doctor with him to hear the results. But when he called me to tell me I assure you, I did not comprehend everything he was saying. One of my friends knew that the results were coming in that day because I had been jumpy all afternoon and he happened to call right when I got off the phone with BT. I remember just sobbing into the phone and him telling me to get it together because I could not do that in front of the kids and I said "This moment, right here, this is when I get to fall apart. Because when I walk into that house I know I cannot do this. But I can right now. This is my moment to do this." And I did. I will forever to be grateful that I had someone who calmly listened to me fall apart and talk me through one of the worst moments of my life.  But then I lost it completely when I told my mom in the garage. The simple act of telling people this kind of news becomes easy but it also chips away at you. I don't know how much I've lost of myself in relaying the news over and over.

He was sent to Baylor for a second opinion. In between, we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary bringing our total number of years together to 18 thus far. Between the two appointments I was working the reference desk and a student came to ask me for help. Noticing my wedding ring he asked how long  I had been married.
Me: It's funny you ask. It will be 12 years next week.
Student: Wow, 12 years that is so long. You never hear that anymore.
Me: Yes, 18 years all in all.
Student: That is so amazing.
Me; Yes, I have been very blessed.
 Something in that conversation was a revelation to me. I had spent the better part of the two weeks since the initial diagnosis crying and bemoaning the circumstances but this brought home the fact that I had been very lucky. I don't believe in soulmates but I would say that BT was made for me. We're just a match. And it hasn't always been easy and we haven't always gotten along but I think we were just meant to be together. And to be maudlin, if we only have 20 years together, then there is no better way I would spend those 20 years.

So the diagnosis was confirmed thus ending everyone's hope that it was maybe something else. He couldn't go to work anymore and had to learn how to stay home which was not easy for the hard worker that he is. There was more falling, more muscle weakness, physical therapy, and foot brace. It felt like something new and something worse everyday. I had a moment when I thought maybe he was at a plateau and maybe it wouldn't get any worse and we could deal with this and then something happened, a fall or his left leg started to feel weaker or something and I knew I could not believe in a miracle. That it would crush me and I'd never recover if I believed and that miracle never came. Acceptance is not resignation though. I just know that I have to do what needs to be done and I want to make sure he lives his best life. And the miracle will come whether I believe or not. Because that's what makes them miracles. But I know for a fact that I am extremely lucky and so very blessed. And what gets weighed down in everyday life and gets taken for grant is so crystal clear to me right now. I could write a million words on how horrible this is and why everything sucks and why why why. On the future that has been lost and replaced with the likelihood and terribleness of being a young widow with two kids. I don't look into the future so much anymore. I couldn't even begin to plan it and it doesn't look like I want it to so I try to stay right where I am. To do what needs to be done now. To enjoy every moment. To be grateful and thankful for everything I have. That is the best place to be right now.