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.

20161116_165858_30950911042_o

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.

20161218_124639_31797182622_o

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.

Hoping Cycling is Helping

I am REALLY struggling with running right now.  Not the running itself, but getting running.

I ride my bike to and from work, taking the long route whenever possible.  I ride 6-15 miles a day, and I’m making great progress on my Ride to Hogwarts, but I have three 10k races this fall – the first is this Saturday, and until yesterday, I hadn’t run in over two weeks. 

My work schedule has been crazy.  I worked 7:30pm to 3:30am last night, then 1:30px to 10:1pm today (yes, i’m at work… BAD GIRL)  I’m usually able to schedule a little extra time at the beginning and end of the day for my commute, but finding time and energy to run on top of everything is nearly impossible.  My legs are feeling so much better, and my breathing is getting stronger when I ride.  Hills are getting easier, and I’m getting more adventurous – but running is supposed to be my passion, and I’m not dedicating the time to it that it deserves – that I deserve.

Yesterday, my partner told me they’re going to train for a half-marathon with me.  This is awesome!!!  We went for a run together last night before I had to start work, and my motivation is back!!!

We did find out yesterday that the conference we’re going to Philadelphia next year for has been moved to September, so I won’t be there in June for the ODDyssey half-marathon.  Instead, we’ll just take a weekend trip in June to cottage country and do the Band On The Run half-marathon instead.

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.

Mea Culpa

Sorry, I know I’ve been MIA for a few days – it’s been a crazy week.  

I’ve still been getting workouts in for the most part.  Monday was a holiday, so my partner and i took the dog for a nice long walk along the waterfront,  then went and heled my parents clear some trees up at their property.  

Tuesday I rode 12.8 miles on my bike, and even checked out a mountain biking trail I found online – I had forgotten how much fun technical mountain biking is! 

I missed Wednesday because of several appointments and a tight work schedule,  so when yesterday rolled around and I wasn’t feeling up to working out (really upset stomach) I did a yoga session instead just to stay active – after all,  I can’t miss 2 in a row!

Today I did 11.8 miles on the bike, 3x plowed some further trails, and even got “lost”(I knew where I was in proximit to the highway and could have followed the same path back, but I didn’t really know where I was in general) – resulting in me having to carry my bike up a steep embankment to get back to civilization – lol.

I’m doing not too badly at getting my cycling miles in, but I need to work on my “Run/Walk to Mordor” challenge – we’ve decided that my reward for that will be a road bike, and I have my eye on one already 🙂  I’m hoping to run tomorrow morning early, then bike to work the long way.  My first 10k of the year – a fundraiser for the local humane society where we got our beautiful dog – is next Saturday! 

New Shoes, Crazy Exercise Day and Cycling Loot

I tried to make my “new” Salomon shoes work, I really did.  I stretched them multiple times in the freezer, and tried to break them in gradually, but nothing worked, and so Thursday night, my partner and I headed out to Sport Chek to get new shoes.  It’s not easy for me to find good shoes with my size 11.5 feet, and almost every pair I tried was too small (the biggest any of the brands had was an 11, which fits sometimes,  but not always).  I tried several beautiful pairs of Asics, but they were just snug enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to run in them.  Then I tried on a pair of New Balance and oh my god.  Damn.  Okay, those are comfy.  Not as flashy or pretty as some of the others, but not ugly, either, and so comfy!   I got a pair, and we got a good pair of Asics for my partner, both of which were on sale.  Then we had enough Scene points for $50 off, and I had a coupon for 10% off the entire purchase.  All in all, a pretty good score.

I decided to start breaking in the new shoes as soon as possible, with  three 10k races coming up – so I ran 3 miles yesterday morning with them, and it was amazing!  Beautiful weather for running, although it started to get hot towards the end, so I dumped some of my water over my head to cool off.

We had guys digging up our yard Thursday and Friday, so I was trying to spend as little time at home as possible.  I got home, cooled down for a bit, then headed back out on my bike.  I did 9 miles.

I saw this in the water under a bridge. It might be one of the creepiest, saddest things I have ever seen. (Don’t worry, I looked around, I didn’t see any children in the water. Thank God.)

One of the challenges that Nerd Fitness suggests is Walking to Mordor – a journey of 1779 miles.  There have been many articles written on this task – even websites and apps dedicated to it.  In fact, my partner is currently walking to Mordor to earn going back to school (another story) – it’s win-win-win, because it’s a good way for them to work on leveling up fitness while working towards leveling up career at the same time, it forms healthy habits, and it buys some time to save the money we need.  

I want to get a SmartHalo for my bike, and decided that I would have to cycle a certain distance to earn it – rather than just saving up stones for it, which would take far too long.  I decided Mordor was too far – if it’s worth a full education for my partner, it seems a little excessive for a bike accessory – even though it’s faster to ride than to walk.  I decided to see how far the Hogwarts Express would have travelled in the Harry Potter stories.  Using this article, and then this map,

I figured out that the ride from King’s Cross Station to the estimated location of the mythical school would be a distance of 612 miles by bicycle.  Perfect.  I want to get the SmartHalo before its official release in December,  because I can save a bunch of money by preordering. I picked November 25th as a deadline, and I officially started tracking on September 1st, which means 86 days for 612 miles.  That amounts to an average of 7.11 miles per day.  Now: I have three 10k race days in there, and 2 “away” weekends, so I know there are going to be missed days.  To make up for those, I plan on averaging 10 miles a day when I do ride, and hopefully that will give me enough of a buffer to hit my goal in time.

Now I just have to figure out a goal reward for my own walk to Mordor.  Maybe I should run instead…

Who Says You Can’t Run from Your Problems?

I finally got back out for a run today after more than a week “off” (I’ve done a lot of cycling over the past week, but no running).  I covered 6k today in walk/run intervals, but went back to a 2 minute running/1 minute walking schedule.  I actually realized just yesterday that the walk/run program I’m doing right now never has me doing more than 3 minutes running at a time, it just increases the number of intervals, so I figured that a few more days of 2 minute intervals would probably be worth it after my break from running.  

Once again, I didn’t want to go.  Today was a rough day financially and mental-health-wise, we got some very bad news, which I will not get into, but it upset me, and I didn’t feel like getting off my butt.  All I wanted to do was sit and eat junk food, but my brain wouldn’t let me.  I put it off until 5pm, then finally got up and headed out the door – grumbling the whole way.  I hated every second, and it felt amazing.  When I got home, I wasn’t stressed any more.  Que sera, sera.  Everything will work itself out, and there  isn’t much I can do, so why make myself sick?  

What it with that?  I’m not actually a masochist, why do I love running so much when it hurts so badly?  Why does it make my head so much clearer?  How is it better at reducing stress and anxiety than all my meds combined? 

Apparently,  the cycling has been paying off.  My legs and lungs are stronger, and tonight felt easier.

I made a decision yesterday too – I have a fun run coming up on September 18th, and it has a 5k option and a 10k.  I was going to do the 5, but I decided on the 10 instead – despite the fact that I have a 10k run 6 days later in Toronto.  I’ll just do some easy runs and rides in between, and I’ll be fine.

I met my first goal reward too – the new Warcraft expansion pack comes out tomorrow morning and I preordered it, because I have stayed away from the vending machine at work this month.  Now if only I was going to have time tomorrow to play it. 

Best Laid Plans

Welp.  Camping did not go quite as I had planned.

By the time we got there Thursday night it was nearly 10pm.

On Friday, we did a short hike, then spent some time at the dog beach.

Our dog, Miley, is a coonhound/lab/husky/akbash mix (whose behaviour is almost 100% hound).  She has webbed feet like a lab, but is apparently terrified of water.  We’ve been trying to help her over her fear, and finally managed to get her in the water – all the way to her ankles.

Miley and my partner going for a “swim”

I was a little more enthusiastic about the water, and decided to do my distance swim.  I set out for deeper water, and walked, and walked… at nearly 1/3 of the way across the lake, the water wasn’t yet waist-deep and the weeds were getting bad.  Finally I dropped and swam back towards shore until I physically couldn’t  (as in, “ran aground”).  I did learn that my swimming is desperately rusty, and i have decided to start swimming at the local fitness centre.  My partner and I will be getting YMCA memberships next month so that we can use the pool, track, etc. all year.

On our hike back from the beach, we had an incredible experience that I can only describe as a “gift“. (My basic acount won’t let me post videos, so I’ve uploaded it to YouTube and included a link)

It’s hard to tell from the video, but the fawn’s white spots were so clear they looked as though they were painted on.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to adjust the settings on my camera – turned out I had plenty of time.  It was an amazing encounter, and we were so lucky to share in that moment.  After I stopped filming, we thanked the deer and then walked away as gently as possible.   

 We had a campfire Friday night, then first thing Saturday morning I went for my trail run.  The trail had chosen was within the park, but a 25 minute drive from our campsite.  I got to the head of the trail, and read the sign. “Caution: This is a back country trail… NEVER hike alone.”  Ohhh crap.  Back I drove to the main part of the park, found another trail, and set out.  I reached the end of the trail just as my five minute warm up ended.  Okay.  Short trail.  I ran part of the way back, then found another short but busy trail.  So I walked.  My partner and I went for another hike later that day.   Well,  better walking than nothing.  Another beautiful campfire Saturday night and we settled in for the night to read.  

When we woke up Sunday morning, it was raining.  No… maybe that’s not the word for it.  Remember our dog and her feelings towards water? In all fairness, our site was ankle deep.

Big brave hound dog

It was a rough trip home, all of us wet and dirty from packing up in that weather, but we made it!