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.

Long, Strange Trip

I missed my ride yesterday, so I needed minimum 15 miles today to make up for it.  I started by riding to work this morning, which took care of 3.5 miles – only 11.5 to go after work.  Ooh boy.

We have some beautiful bike routes in town, but they’re short, and I’ve seen a lot of them these past weeks, so I decided to ride across the causeway into the neighbouring county.  I discovered while I was out, however, that there is no bike path, and possibly no sidewalk, on the causeway.  This posed a challenge for me, and I finally had to admit to myself that I’m not confident enough in my cycling ability yet to tackle the causeway.  So, I did a couple of laps around the park, then headed home the long way.  I got my extra 11.5 miles in!   I may never be able to walk again, but I got my ride in – lol.

This year’s cygnets (the gray ones) – not much smaller than Mom and Dad now, they’ll be off on their own soon enough.  Such an incredible sight to see!

 

My “Epic Quest”

Because Nerd Fitness is structured like a video game, there are experience points (XP) associated with quests.  While the program has a huge number of pre-set quests to choose from, one of the first activities is to encourage people to create their own “Epic Quests” – what would the best version of themselves do?  What would their ultimate goals be (No matter how crazy they seem now) and what are the steps needed to get there?  Each quest is assigned XP between 1 and 100, based on importance and difficulty. 

 I have started to add mine, this is what I have so far:

Work Quests

  • Sell a design (my partner and I are starting a side screen-printing business)     15 XP
  • Get a full time job working with animals     35 XP
  • Sell a novel     50 XP
  • Volunteer at a vet clinic     15 XP
  • Write a 50,000 word novel    30 XP

Freedom Quests

  • Pay off debts    50 XP 
  • Save up enough money to cover 2 semesters of university courses   25 XP
  • Own my own home    50 XP
  • Work from home    40 XP
  • Bring in $2500/month from blogs and websites    25 XP

Physical Quests

  • Work out/run 3x a week for 1 year     40 XP
  • Work out/run 3x a week for 6 months    20 XP
  • Work out/run 3x a week for 3 months   10 XP
  • Run a Marathon    60 XP
  • Run a Half-Marathon    40 XP
  • Run Dopey   75 XP
  • Run the Boston Marathon    75 XP

Master Quests

  • Have or adopt a child  100 XP
  • Design and build my dream home on the beach   90 XP
  • Complete an Ironman   100 XP
  • Make a living as a writer  100 XP
  • Become a veterinarian    90 XP

Adventure Quests

  • Complete a tree walking excursion    25 XP
  • See the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba    25 XP
  • Stay in a haunted castle in Scotland    50 XP
  • Climb an ancient temple (Aztec/Mayan)     50 XP
  • Explore an Egyptian pyramid    40 XP
  • Photograph a Galapagos tortoise in its natural habitat   50 XP
  • Scuba dive the Great Blue Hole in Belize    50 XP
  • Climb Mt. Killimanjaro    75 XP
  • Swim in a natural pool at the foot of a waterfall    25 XP
  • Snorkel the Mossman River in Qld. Australia    50 XP

Legacy Quests

  • Buy old cars for my kids and help them fix them   65 XP
  • Run a Marathon with my grandchildren    85 XP
  • Have a photograph in an art gallery    65 XP
  • Completely pay for my children’s educations  70 XP
  • Write a New York Times bestselling book    100 XP

Courage Quests

  • Get my nipples pierced    5 XP
  • Do a new boudoir photo shoot  15 XP
  • Sing at an open mic night    20 XP
  • Wear a bikini on a public beach    20 XP
  • Teach a competitive swimming class    45 XP

Gratitude Quests

  • Pay off my parents’ house    55 XP
  • Participate in and raise $1000 for the Ride to Conquer Cancer    15 XP
  • Volunteer at a camp for kids with illnesses    40 XP
  • Foster a child    35 XP
  • Volunteer 1,000 hours at Foster Forest    30 XP
  • Volunteer 100 hours at Foster Forest    15 XP
  • Build a Habitat for Humanity house    30 XP
  • Donate $100,000 to animal rescues    75 XP

Mental Quests

  • Get my scuba diving certification    20 XP
  • Go to veterinary school    70 XP
  • Get my degree in biology, natural resources, or environmental studies    40 XP
  • Take a trip to France, speak only French to the native-speakers   40 XP
  • Take six months of weekly guitar lessons    15 XP

Fun Quests

  • Have a swimming pool    20 XP
  • Go to Disney    20 XP
  • Travel to Ireland    25 XP
  • Visit Platform 9 3/4    25 XP
  • Camp at Kakabeka Falls provincial park    10 XP

I’ll add to the list as I go, I know there are a lot more things that belong on it, but this is a start.  It’s a great tool for visualizing where my priorities lie and where I’m going. 

Setting My Goals

My next Nerd Fitness quest is to set my goals, and to outline how I’m going to reach them.

  • I am someone who runs marathons, and I will run at least three days a week to train for them.
  • I am a triathlete.  I will cycle or swim at least twice a week.
  • I eat healthy meals. I will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables at least five days a week.
  • I am hydrated.  I will drink three litres of water every day.
  • I am relaxed.  I will do yoga, meditate, or take a relaxing bath at least three times a week.
  • I am not addicted to sugar.  I will purchase and eat candy no more than once a week.

I am determined to reach my goals, and I have a conscious plan on how to get there this time.  I’m going to do this!

10k Training, Week 4, Day 2

I did my week 4, day 2 10k training today, and it was tough.  I completed all of the 2-minute runs this time, but had two pauses that were longer than the prescribed minute in between.

I’m still calling it a win.

We have both a heat warning and an air quality advisory at the moment, and my quads were still hurting from the other day, and quite frankly, I wanted to go back to sleep this morning – not go out and go for a run – but I did it anyway.  So far I’m on track this week.  If I run Saturday morning and swim or cycle on Sunday, I should be good.  In line with my goals, I need one more cross training day, so I’m going to either go for a bike ride or swim tomorrow night as well.

I’ve got this!

I even did a yoga session when I got home to stretch my muscles and loosen my quads.  It’s weird.  Running has always been hard on my shins and calves, but all of a sudden it’s my quads that are feeling it.  I’m making a conscious effort to land on my midsole rather than my heels, so I don’t know if it’s that or if I’m just tackling more hills than I used to. Either way, it’s a good excuse to get the yoga in 🙂

10k Training Week 4, Day 1

Despite having some lasting discomfort from yesterday’s procedure, I went out today for a run for the first time in a week.  I didn’t get to bed early enough last night, and I wound up not getting up in time to run this morning before work, so I went at about 8 tonight, when it was starting to cool off just a little.

I was supposed to start week 4 of my 10k walk/run training plan today, but I only did day 1 of week 3 last week, and I didn’t think I’d be able to move on to week 4.  Looking at my 10k races coming up though – I didn’t have time to re-do any weeks in the plan. I decided that at worst, I wouldn’t be able to do it, and then I should at least be able to get as much as a week 3 workout.

Week 1:
Day 1: 1/1 x 10 (1 minute run, 1 minute walk x 10, for a total of 20 minutes)
Day 2: 1/1 x 10
Day 3: 1/1 x 10
Day 4: 40-45 minutes cross-training

Week 2:
Day 1: 1/1 x 11
Day 2: 1/1 x 12
Day 3: 1/1 x 13
Day 4: 40-45 minutes cross-training

Week 3:
Day 1: 1/1 x 15
Day 2: 1/1 x 15
Day 3: 1/1 x 15
Day 4: 45 min cross-training

Week 4:
Day 1: 2/1 x 10
Day 2: 2/1 x 10
Day 3: 2/1 x 10
Day 4: 45 min cross-training

Week 5:
Day 1: 2/1 x 10
Day 2: 3/1 x 10
Day 3: 2/1 x 14
Day 4: 45 min cross-training
Day 5: 30 min cross-training

Week 6:
Day 1: 3/1 x 10
Day 2: 3/1 x 8
Day 3: 3/1 x 11
Day 4: 45 min cross-training
Day 5: 30 min cross-training

Week 7:
Day 1: 3/1 x 10
Day 2: 3/1 x 8
Day 3: 3/1 x 13
Day 4: 45 min cross-training
Day 5: 30 min cross-training

Week 8:
Day 1: 3/1 x 10
Day 2: 3/1 x 10
Day 3: 3/1 x 15
Day 4: 45 min cross-training
Day 5: 30 min cross-training

Week 9:
Day 1: 3/1 x 10
Day 2: 3/1 x 10
Day 3: 3/1 x 17
Day 4: 45 min cross-training
Day 5: 30 min cross-training

Week 10:
Your 10K is this week! You’re going to take it a little easier this week, so that you’re well-rested for your big race. Good luck! Day 1: 2/1 x 10
Day 2: 30 min cross-training
Day 3: 3/1 x 5

 

-Very Well.com

I was almost successful!  I ran intervals 1-8, missed number 9 (it was during a steep uphill, and I wasn’t ready), and missed a few seconds at the beginning of interval 10.  Other than that, I did it!  It was almost dark by the time I got home, but still hot.  It felt really good to get it done though, and the fact that I was able to do week 4 made me really happy.  Chalk one up for sheer stubbornness!

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.