Respawning Again

Well, my life completely derailed yet again, but I’m back on it.

Our legal, financial, and family issues came to a head – let’s just say we no longer own any property.  I can live with that.  For a while though, I wasn’t taking care of myself, meals were down to what we could afford – not the healthiest – and despite needing it and knowing I would feel better, I stopped running after my 10k zoo run in the fall – I just couldn’t find the motivation.

We went away at the end of October for my partner’s birthday, and left our beautiful Miley at a kennel we had used many times and trusted thoroughly.  Our trip started out wonderful, but on our second night there, the phone rang after we had gone to bed.  I saw the number – the same town our kennel was in, and I just knew.  I answered, my stomach churning.  I heard her words just as I expected.  “Steph, it’s ______.  Something terrible has happened.”  She had been walking Miley and another dog, and for some reason they got spooked or saw something – to be honest, I still don’t understand – and pulled their leashes out of her hand.  I think the other dog came back, but Miley ran straight up the laneway onto the highway, and was hit and killed instantly by a car.  The driver didn’t stop, and just like that, Miley was gone.  My sweet dog – my running buddy, my best friend, my secret-keeper, my baby girl – gone.  The owner of the kennel did everything she could for us to make it easier, but there was nothing she could really do.  Our world stopped.  We drove home two days later – I couldn’t drive the next day – and ten minutes from town, I panicked.  I told my partner we had to stop and buy new bedding.  I couldn’t go in the house and face sleeping on the bed my baby had slept on with us every night since she was a year old.  We stopped, went home, stripped the bed, and bagged all of her toys and blankets.  We tried to go back to normal, but couldn’t.  I couldn’t go for a run without my buddy.  I didn’t even want to go for a walk.  We stopped caring about what we ate – it just had to be easy.  My partner didn’t eat at all for days, and I couldn’t stop eating – and not good stuff.  We had her cremated, and her ashes sit on a shelf in our living room with her picture and her pawprint.

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It’s taken a while, but I finally feel like I can breathe again.  I will never stop missing her, just as I have never stopped missing my first heart dog, McDuff.  Miley’s loss hit hard for so many reasons – the suddenness, and the sheer helplessness factor were terrible.  We always knew bad things could happen – that she could run away, and we thought we were prepared.  We had pet insurance – if she’d made it to a vet, we could have paid for any treatment she needed, but she didn’t, so it was useless.  She was microchipped, and wore tags – my partner and I both belonged to all of the local lost dog networks – but she never even had a chance to get lost, she was gone so fast.

After weeks of not doing much of anything, and with a very expensive, already paid for, 10k race coming up, I had a decision to make.  The race was on a Sunday, and up until Saturday morning, I figured I wasn’t running.  It was to be by myself, and I hadn’t run since my last 10k – in September.  In addition, I had run this trail race in 2011, and it kicked my ass then.  On Saturday, I decided I would try to run, and maybe drop down to the 4k distance if I needed to.  Sunday morning, I drove out to the ski resort where the race was scheduled, and I sat in my car.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t do this.  It wasn’t possible.  Then I thought about driving home and telling my partner I hadn’t done it.  I thought about logging onto Facebook and telling my human running buddy through IR4 that I hadn’t done it.  Yeah, not happening.  I posted on my Facebook that I was about to do the race but was devastated to be doing it without my Miley.  The responses started coming in, people telling me I could do it, and that Miley would be beside me the whole way.  I got out of the car, got my race kit, and got warmed up.  When they called for people to gather at the starting lines for their distances, I headed for the 10k start line.  Part of my brain was still screaming at me to be reasonable, but I didn’t listen to it.  I took off at the sound of the gun, and ran the first portion of the run straight – probably the longest, fastest no-walking start to a race I’ve done yet.  The funny part was that I was able to picture Miley running beside me the whole way – which she wouldn’t have been allowed to do if she’d still been alive.  I wish I could say I ran the whole 10k – but that would have been more of a miracle than I could have – but I did finish it.  There were 25k-ers finishing at the same time as me – but it didn’t matter.  I crossed the finish line and went in to grab my free chili and hot chocolate.  I sat down, feeling sore, and noticed a pain in my chest that had started at about the halfway point, but that I had been ignoring.  I was confused.  I had thought it might be emotion causing the pain, but somehow that didn’t make sense.  Then I heard the whistling.  Rhythmic squeaking that seemed to coincide with my own breathing.  Oh.  Uh oh.  I have had asthma since elementary school, but it usually results in rapid breathing and trouble catching my breath – in this case, it was a full-blown, breathing-through-a-drinking-straw, attack.  Thankfully, I had my inhaler with me – a miracle in itself, because I never need it, so I never have it with me.  I took it, and the asthma eased up.  After my race, I again lapsed into a habit of not running.

Almost a month after my race, my partner and I went to look at a puppy at a humane society in the next city over.  She had some behavioural issues, and was considered a special case requiring placement with experienced dog owners.  We decided to give her a chance.  We named our new 8-month-old border collie mix Bellatrix – Bella, for short.  Bella isn’t quite ready to be my running buddy yet, she’s still tough to control on a walk, let alone a run, but she is going to be amazing with a little training.

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Over the last few months, my health began to spiral out of control.  My weight going up, my blood sugar going up, chest pains, etc.  Then we had a family scare – my father, who had a heart attack in May, may have Parkinson’s Disease – like his mother and brother before him.  I seem to get everything that runs on that side of the family, and I’m terrified for my dad and for me.  I watched Parkinson’s take my grandmother’s body first, then her mind.  My uncle is doing alright, but his movements are stiff, slow, and shaky.  I needed to get serious about my own life if I wanted to be around for my own family.  I decided to follow the Nerd Fitness tradition, and respawn.  At the same time, Nerd Fitness made an announcement that they were starting a new program, and my partner and I made the decision to follow it.  We’ve already found a wonderful support group in the new program, and it’s given us hope for our lives in more aspects than just health and fitness.

Some of the goals that I’ve set for myself are to write daily – 800 words a day between my two blogs and my novel, which I started during National Novel Writing Month in 2015 and abandoned; to learn the guitar, which I’ve owned since I was in high school but never learned to play; and to get my home in order.  My partner is also writing, and learning to play the keyboard.  We’re going to try to improve every aspect of our lives, and we’re going to do it together.

We have these friends who have also gone through hell lately, and when we talk to them, they echo the same sentiment we feel – if we didn’t have each other, we would be sunk.  I couldn’t do this without my partner, we’re a team in everything.  When one of us falls, the other picks them up, and when one succeeds, we both do.  Our relationship strengthens with every joy and challenge we face together, and we know now we can get through anything one way or another.

On to a better life – me, my partner, our fur-babies, and if need be, a cardboard box.

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Unplanned Planned Rest Day

I’m trying to take at least one (preferably only one) rest day per week, usually on the weekend.   This week, I was thinking it would be tomorrow,  but my body let me know this morning that it would be today.

I got up to pee this morning, and when I went to sit down, it felt like someone shot me right through the tops of both kneecaps.  Crap.  Okay.  Finish up in the bathroom,  try a few knee bends.  Nope.  Dammit.  Google says it’s a common overuse injury in cyclists, and I don’t like where it’s headed. With my goals, and my races coming up, I can’t afford a lot of rest days, but I sure as hell can’t afford to blow out my knees.

So today is a rest day, although I am on my feet at work all day, so it’s more an active rest day.  Tomorrow I will run, and cut the grass, and Monday I will go back to cycling.
I found out last night that I have a decision to make at work, too.  Right now, I am working 2 part-time jobs, and barely clearing 20 hours a week.   

One is at a pet store.  I make minimum wage there, get a shift once every few weeks, and there are no benefits – BUT I get a 15% discount on pet supplies, which is a huge help when you have as many babies as I do.

My other job is at a home improvement store.  No discount there, but it pays a little more, has benefits, bonuses, and they treat us well.  During the summer, I was working 30-40 hours a week there as a cashier.  Now I’m getting 15-20.  If I go below an average of 20 hours a week for too long, I will lose my benefits.  

Last night, I was offered a job within the home improvement store that would mean significantly more hours at a higher pay rate, no more dealing with customers, and Saturday nights guaranteed off.  All shifts would be full shifts, no more 4-5 hours at a time, and I would get free licensing on all kinds of cool equipment.  

Sounds like a no-brainer,  right?

There’s a catch, of course.

It’s night shift.  I don’t know what impact this might have on my running/cycling/swimming/racing programs.  And I live in a town where nothing is open at night, so if I want to keep my sleep schedule fairly consistent on my days off, I’ll be pretty much stuck at home.  I won’t be working with the people I’ve come to love, and when my dad comes back from sick leave (we work at the same place) we won’t see each other.  I also MIGHT lose my job at the pet store because I won’t be available during the day for cashier shifts.

HOWEVER: Starting work late in the evening means dinners at home with my partner, and most of the evening together.  It means most of the weekend together after my Saturday morning sleep.  It means I’ll be able to predict my life better.  Finally, and most importantly,  it means getting to our financial goals quicker.

And it won’t be forever.

I think I have to take it.

10k Training, Week 5, Day 2

I knew I couldn’t do today.  

I knew it.

I was wrong.

My run, according to today’s entry on the training plan, was to do ten repetitions of “run 3 minutes, walk one.”

Yeah.  Right.  I can barely manage 2 minutes running.

I somehow survived the first rep, but thought “there is no way in Hell I can do 9 more of those”.  

But I did.

It hurt.  But I pushed through, and got to see a gorgeous sunrise.

THAT is a look of triumph.

Then, because I am apparently a glutton for punishment, I put in 5.5 miles on my bike.  My legs were blasted, and I barely made it up some of the hills – but again, I did it.

My only real issue is that it feels like running isn’t actually getting any easier.  I push through, and I out-stubborn it, but every breath still hurts, every step is still agony.  I love it, but I hate it.  It’s not that I’m expecting it to be easy, but others run past me and I can’t hear them wheezing.  Their mouths are closed.  They don’t look like it is killing them.  I know I’m carrying a lot of weight, and I have asthma, but at some point it has to get easier, right?

We’re going camping tonight for the weekend, so I’ll be out of range from after work today until Sunday, but I’ll take lots of pictures, and get lots of activity in.  Tomorrow I’m planning a distance swim – not entirely sure how far yet – and Saturday will be a trail run.  Saturday’s schedule calls for a run with 14 intervals of 2 minutes running, one minute walking. I figure if I could handle this morning, I can handle that. I wish I could take my bike, too, but until I get a bike rack for the car, I’m stuck.  There’s no way to pack our little car well enough to handle all of our camping gear, plus 2 people, plus our 80lb dog, plus my bike.  

I will likely be blogging offline for the weekend, and posting when I get home, so I will have lots to say.

Confession

Time for me to ‘fess up: I missed a workout.  I didn’t run yesterday.  

I got home last night from work just after 9:00, with the intention of running,  and then cleaning the birds’ cage (we have 5 adorable tiny zebra finches) but by the time I got in the door I barely had the energy to microwave the plate my partner had put in the fridge for me.  I ate, crawled into bed, and passed out cold. 

I got up at 5 this morning, cleaned the bird cage, and went back to lay on the bed for a second before getting ready to go and make up yesterday’s run – and my back went into spasm. Wonderful.  I couldn’t move, and actually had to call my doctor’s office and cancel my appointment for today because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive the 3-hour round trip to her office with my back the way it was. 

Now I had a problem.  By not running yesterday or making up the run today, I would have officially missed a workout.   According to my goal rewards, I can’t miss 2 in a row between now and the end of September – and if I didn’t do today’s scheduled workout or my run I would be two behind.  But what to do when you have a legitimate reason not to work out?  By later this morning I was doing better, but still not in running shape, so I decided to ride my bike to work.   It was perfect!  Great weather, and my back held up okay.

For a little bit of back story (see what I did there?) – my back has always been sensitive. The extra weight I carry – and the fact that it’s largely in my – uh – upper body  – puts a strain on it.  Then, in 2007, the car I was driving was rear-ended by a drunk driver while I was stopped at an intersection.  I was the first car at the intersection,  and I was so terrified of being pushed into oncoming traffic that I had my feet pushed on the brakes hard as I possibly could (yes, logically I know that wouldn’t really help,  but I didn’t have much time to consider my options at the time).  I  was braced so hard that with my back, I managed to twist the driver’s seat out of shape.  The glasses I was wearing were thrown from my face and found by the body shop under the back windshield, beside the brake light.  I went home that night after the accident,  but went to the hospital the next day (and stayed for two days) with abdominal pain that we later discovered was due to bruised internal organs.  My back has given me a lot more trouble since then.

I’m going to cut my losses on yesterday’s run, and move on.  One workout missed, back on track, and all is right with the world.  I usually get hung up on trying to make up missed workouts,  but I am really trying to get past it.

Bonus!  I discovered that where I work actually has bike racks!

Not Dying of Embarrassment 

I know this is way too much information, but it’s an important topic, so I’m going to share anyway.

Five years ago, I went to a gastroenterologist because I was having alternating diarrhea and constipation,  and was almost always suffering from abdominal pain or discomfort of some sort.  In addition, I was experiencing quite a bit of bleeding.  

The doctor I went to see decided that I was probably fine – after all, I was 28 years old – but agreed to send me for a colonoscopy anyway, more or less just to humour me, because I kept insisting that something wasn’t right.  He was also retiring, and sent me to another specialist to do the procedure.  The new specialist took me a little more seriously, although he also seemed to think there was probably nothing to worry about.
I had a sedative for the procedure, but was still conscious through the whole thing, and watched it on the screen in front of me (bizarre, but interesting).  There was an intern being trained at the time, and I heard the nurse behind me say “Oh, see that?  That could be cancer.”  I kept quiet, but I heard what was being said.  After the procedure,  the doctor came back in and told me about the polyp.  He told me not to worry, that it was being sent for biopsy but would be completely benign.  Two weeks later he called me back into his office.  What had been removed was not cancer, but it was pre-cancerous.  I was going to have to go back in every 5 years to make sure that nothing came back, but there was a good chance it was a one-time thing.

Today was my 5 year colonoscopy.  They put me right out this time (I like to think they started doing that after one too many big-mouthed comments in the OR), and the specialist came to see me while I was recovering.  

Two more.  

Bigger than the last one.  

They’ve been sent for biopsy, but he is 99.9% sure they’re the same as the last one – and probably not cancer yet.  I now have to go back every 3 years, assuming these were only pre-cancerous.

If you know there’s something wrong, please go get it looked at.  And if a doctor suggests a colonoscopy,  get it.  It may not be pleasant (actually, the only real issue was the prep – the day before is pretty miserable), but the alternative is a lot worse.

Also, talk to your family.  Find out the medical histories.  I know people often don’t like to discuss certain things, but for 5 years I have been telling doctors that I have no family history – and I found out tonight that my dad has them too.  He just never mentioned it.

I’m terrified – I could have cancer.  But the good news? If I do, it’s very early stages.  If I hadn’t advocated for myself 5 years ago, I would almost definitely have cancer now – and it wouldn’t be early.

Listen to your body.  Sometimes it’s telling you something very important.

Okay, sorry guys – that’s my PSA for today.