Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Snow Day Dilemma

A crazy March snow/ice storm has me sitting at home, trying to take advantage of an unexpected day home from work to tackle my overwhelming to-do list. I'm a person who likes to be busy most of the time, and generally thrive on a packed schedule. Lately, though, I'm even busier than I like to be, and there's no quick fix. I just keep trudging along, trying not to fall too far behind on the most urgent tasks, and desperately wishing I had time to build toward a better future.

Meanwhile, I have also been experiencing a bit of a midlife crisis! That term has a pretty negative connotation though, and my experience has been mostly positive, so I prefer to call it a midlife crossroads. The past year of my life has been beyond difficult, leading me to spend a lot of time wondering how I got where I am. Recently, though, I decided to look at things a little differently, and evaluate literally everything I do with my time and WHY I do it, and whether I want to KEEP doing it in the future. It was quite an eye-opening exercise!

Now I'm sort of in phase 2 of the process -- I'm at this crossroads and I know where I want to go, but I have to figure out which road will get me there. Like I said, there is no quick fix, no easy way to magically change my life into what I want it to be. Most of my goals will take quite a while to achieve, especially because I am so low on free time (not to mention money!). I have to prioritize the goals, and try chipping away at them little by little. I'm not a very patient person, so this process is frustrating, and I constantly have to give myself little pep talks about what I'm working towards and why it will all be worth it in the end.

Unfortunately, my triathlon goals are not among the highest priorities, which makes me sad. This time last year, I was getting back on the bike and in the pool to start preparing for another season. I was hoping to attempt an Olympic-distance race last year, but that dream was put on hold when I lost my job in May. I was left with only the Iron Girl sprint to complete again, but I tried to channel my disappointment into hoping for a better year in 2017! Well, now it's the third month of 2017, and I am still broke, and I have two unresolved injuries I can't afford to get treatment for, and pretty much zero time to train. At the same time, amidst my midlife crossroads soul-searching, I concluded that triathlon truly is something I love to do and I want to keep doing it as long as I possibly can! So this is one area of conflict between what is desired and what is currently feasible.

That brings us to this snowy day. I know I'm lucky to have a little extra time to get things done today (even though the trade off is losing a day's pay at my temp job!), and that should be my focus. But an email appeared in my inbox today letting me know there is a snow day discount on registration for this year's Iron Girl. Oh, how I love a discount, especially on my limited budget! And I do want to race Iron Girl again -- it would be my fourth year in a row! What a powerful temptation it is just to click "Register" and figure out how to make it happen later. I can't determine whether that would be crazy and irresponsible, or brave and ambitious. I want to be a person who has the courage to chase my dreams, but I also want -- and need -- to be a responsible adult who makes wise decisions in the best interests of the family that depends on me.

The thing about a crossroads is you have to pick a path and GO, or else you'll never get anywhere at all.

This isn't my only chance to choose the road to Iron Girl, but it's a significant moment of decision regardless.

The discount is good until noon tomorrow. What will I choose?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Who Am I Anyway?

What do you call a triathlete who doesn't swim, bike, or run?


If you were hoping for a funny punchline, I apologize -- that's the best I've got right now. I promise I do mean it as a joke, though! The last thing I want is for this post to end up sounding whiny or obnoxious. I've been through a lot in the past year, and truly one thing that helps me cope is laughter. I'm trying not to take life -- or myself -- too seriously. And thus, I am the butt of my own joke.

So, I haven't been on a bike since Iron Girl, haven't run since....well, I'd say sometime in July, but there was this one time when I ran a little bit along with one of my kids during his cross country practice....yeah, that was a mistake. And I haven't darkened the doorway, much less the actual water, of my beloved pool since the summer.

To say I miss it all is an understatement. Not working out, not training for any races -- it feels like something is missing from my life! At the same time, my life is so FULL of other things that I don't have much time to dwell on what is absent.

I hardly even know how to describe my status right now. I guess I'm (officially? unofficially?) taking a break from triathlon and its elements, but it's a poorly defined break because it is not due to a single cause. I'm in the midst of a perfect storm of ridiculous life circumstances that make triathlon an unfeasible priority. Notice I didn't say "impossible" -- I'm sure with the right amount of sheer grit and determination, I could overcome my many obstacles in order to get back into training and racing. But that decision would come at a cost, and wouldn't be consistent with my current values.

Wait -- that makes it sound like I think training is morally wrong or something. That's not what I mean!! I'm talking more about how I prioritize my time. I know at times my health has suffered because I put myself last and didn't realize that taking care of myself is not selfish and in fact makes it easier to take care of everyone else. So right now I'm not talking about making myself the lowest priority again. I am trying to take care of myself, but given all of the circumstances of my life, the self-care is leaning more towards the mental/emotional/psychological/spiritual. There are a few physical aspects I'm working on too -- trying to go to bed earlier, keeping up adequate water intake, and working at recovering from past injuries.

The unfortunate irony is that working out actually helps with all the mental/emotional stuff, and I really do miss that aspect. But I have physical obstacles complicating matters, and not nearly enough hours in the day to do everything I need to be doing on a regular basis. I'm finally working again, but my commute is over an hour each way, and my volunteer responsibilities have recently increased. Since I returned to work, I've been struggling to manage my time better and I have not yet found my way.

My big picture plan right now it just to take it slow. I haven't given up on any of my fitness goals or dreams; I'm just looking at the road to achieving them as being very long. Like I mentioned above, I'm working on getting more sleep, and that is a huge underpinning for the rest of the physical stuff. When I'm exhausted all the time, I can't get anything done. And when I oversleep and start each day already running behind, not only is my productivity hindered, but my mental health suffers as well. So I'm focusing on very small goals right now and I won't move beyond them until I have them under control. The keys right now are sleep, rehabbing my formerly broken finger (which might ultimately need medical attention if I can't get it back to normal through stretches and exercises), continuing to fight the plantar fasciitis (which also might someday need medical attention for a proper diagnosis and then maybe something like physical therapy), and very gradually shifting my diet back to a little more healthy and a little less junky.

So that's where I'm at. I'm not sure if I am still entitled to call myself a triathlete, but in my mind I still am because I'm not done with this sport yet. I have a lot of race distances still to conquer, and "miles to go before I sleep." :)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Du, or Du Not....

...there is no Tri.

Alas, I could not resist the opportunity it make a pun out of the immortal words of Yoda.

So, the swim leg of Iron Girl Columbia has been cancelled due to issues with the water since last week's storm that led to the disastrous flooding in Ellicott City.

Now I am left trying to decide whether to participate at all.

My plan for today was to write an introspective piece about what triathlon means to me and why I do it. The joy has really been taken out of it this summer by all the struggles in my life: being unemployed and unable to find a new job, losing my beloved cat to a sudden serious illness, and of course this nagging heel pain. I forced myself to keep training though I felt lost, no longer understanding what the point of any of it was. My final conclusion, before the news came out about the swim, was that my whole purpose in racing this weekend would be to figure out what it all means to me and whether I could still love it even when the rest of my life is in shambles.

And then they scrapped the swim.

I agree with the decision -- it's the safe thing to do. But it sucks. I'm not sure how much running I'll be able to do, so now this whole thing is just a lot of hassle for a bike ride that I could literally do on my own (in fact HAVE done on my own twice before). I'm not sure if it's worth getting up before dawn for all that.

I'm really just sort of dumbfounded here. How am I supposed to figure out why I tri, if I can't even tri? The swim was the leg I was looking forward to the most this time around! How can my experience be anything but negative now? Is this all some giant sign that triathlon is really not for me? I mean, I'm pretty terrible at all three disciplines, and it's an expensive sport that I really couldn't afford even when I had a stable income. And when everything else in my life is falling apart, triathlon just seems silly and pointless.

I don't know. I don't know anything anymore.

When things first started to unravel back in the spring, I had hoped that swimming, biking, and running could be my means to cope with the stress and remain focused and sane and positive. It just hasn't worked out that way. Right now I don't know what I'm going to do on Sunday. I guess I will write an update when I decide.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Heel Update: Uncle!!!

I just can't do it anymore. I give up. I can't run.

When I go a few days without running, my heel responds to the various treatments I've been trying and it starts to feel better. Then as soon as I finish a run -- even a short one -- the excruciating pain returns and I'm barely able to walk for a couple of days!! It's becoming a huge problem in my life: I'm skipping out on household chores and fun activities with my kids because it hurts too much to walk.

I've actually been toying with the idea of dropping out of Iron Girl entirely and getting my money back. I bought the insurance when I registered, and I possibly could qualify for the refund based on the PF or on the fact that I was laid off from my job. It's so tempting...and the refunded money would sure come in handy right now.

As of this moment, I'm not sure what I'll do. I worry that skipping the race will be damaging psychologically, as the evil voice inside my head will label me a quitter and a failure, as it loves to do. And it also seems like a shame to make all my swimming and biking training go to waste. I have not been perfect at following my training plan, but I've made some good progress this summer! I really ought to be able to complete the race, because I can always walk the run leg and still get to the finish line. So I should do it, right?

On the other hand, if I'm not running, then I have no shot at a PR, which takes some of the joy out of racing. I'm not sure what my goals will be instead -- perhaps a PR in each of the other two legs and the transitions?

I'm going to try to complete 6 workouts this week, just alternating between swim and bike, and see how I feel. Meanwhile, I am officially on a running hiatus until such time as the heal pain goes away completely, which might not happen until I seek medical treatment.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Achilles Heel, Literally

I have let too much time go by without writing here, because I've been overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to summarize everything I've been doing the past few months (to say nothing of pretty much all of last year...). Finally I realized there would be no way to write a thorough summary all at once, so I decided just to jump in where I'm at now, and I'll fill in pieces from the past as they become relevant, in this post and others.

Right now, what I urgently need to get off my chest is that I'm thinking of quitting running.

Maybe "quit" is the wrong term to use for this situation, as I don't intend for the break to be permanent. I just might need to take some time off in order to let my plantar fasciitis heal completely.

It first started flaring up about a year ago, when I was focusing on changing my running stride in order to end and prevent further knee pain. I moved from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike, and that along with hip strengthening exercises made my knee feel as good as new! Unfortunately, heel pain quickly cropped up in its place.

The pain wasn't too bad at first, and usually only bothered me for a while after a run. In fact, it was so mild that I didn't even associate it with running right away -- I just thought I was having this weird, random heel pain some days! Finally I hit up Dr. Google for a little self-diagnosis, and the answer was pretty obvious based on every description I read.

Luckily the internet is a treasure trove of useful tips for combatting this particular annoyance, and I have tried nearly every one: foam rolling, extra stretching of calves and Achilles, never going barefoot/mostly wearing shoes with adequate arch support, stretching/massaging feet and legs before getting out of bed in the morning, custom orthotics, rolling feet on a lacrosse ball, rolling feet on a frozen water bottle, KT tape, and most recently the famed Strassburg sock. Each method has brought some measure of temporary relief, but the problem has not gone away.

Now, the pain was still manageable last year and I wasn't really worried about it. I was able to run a solid Army 10 Miler in October, and then my first half marathon in November! The PF did not get in the way at all. Then I took a few months off running due to illness, the holidays, and then my tonsillectomy. By February, I was able to walk barefoot around the house again without pain. I thought the problem was gone.

When I started running again, everything was fine. Then when my spring 10K plans fell through and I decided to run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler instead, I had to rapidly step up my weekly mileage, and the pain started creeping back in. It has been a huge problem ever since.

After Cherry Blossom, I eased up on the running in order to help the PF go away, and to focus on my swimming and biking to prepare for this tri season. But I do have to do some running, and so despite my best efforts, I'm still hurting a lot. I don't want to resort to cortisone shots or surgery, but I'm running out of other options!!

My situation right now is unique. I've been laid off from my job and haven't been able to find a new one yet, so my finances are limited. I can't afford a fancy sports massage that might loosen up my calves and fix the root of the problem. I might see a doctor and hope they will prescribe physical therapy that would be covered by my insurance. Other than that, all I can think to do is get through Iron Girl as best I can, and then take an extended break from running.

It breaks my heart a little to be thinking of this. I haven't registered for any fall races yet because I can't justify spending the money when I'm unemployed, but missing those races will make me sad. Fall is my favorite time of the year to run!! And I don't look forward to starting from scratch with running all over again for the billionth time. So part of me still hopes that one of these days, all the PF therapies I've been doing will finally work! On the other hand, if I use all that time I would have been running to get much much stronger at swimming and biking, then I could be setting myself up for a fantastic tri season next year. So maybe it will be worth it in more ways than one?

I haven't made a decision yet, and I don't think I really need to right away. As long as I don't have any income, I won't be tempted to register for fall races, so basically I can wait until after Iron Girl to decide whether to take a break from running or not. I just wanted to get my thoughts out right now in order to start processing them all. If you have any helpful insights, feel free to share!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tonsillectomy Recovery Wrap Up & A Look Ahead

Weight: 216
Total Amount Lost: 9 lbs.

Diet: Almost entirely back to normal with the exception of really spicy food, or really hard/crunchy/crispy food (like chips).

Things I'm Still Dealing With: Dry throat/pain during the night and first thing in the morning and still needing to sleep propped up to minimize this, pain upon yawning/sneezing/coughing, small patch of numbness on my tongue, and sounding weird when I talk. All of these could take a few more weeks or even a couple of months to completely resolve.

I got a clean bill of health at my post-op follow-up appointment with the ENT doctor yesterday, and I'm cleared to return to all pre-surgery activities! Hooray!

For the benefit of anyone reading this who might be considering or preparing to have this surgery, I'll summarize what the experience was like for me.

The Worst Parts: Vomiting, ear/jaw pain, headaches, boredom

Things That Helped Me: Eating before pain meds, sipping water constantly, running a humidifier next to my bed, ice packs on my neck, using a travel neck pillow to sleep with my head propped up. I also suspect that taking Carafate helped keep my pain under control and speed my healing. Overall my pain didn't seem quite as bad as many of the horror stories I'd read. That could be due to luck, or it could be the Carafate. It's certainly worth asking your doctor about if you're facing this surgery.

Foods I Found Especially Helpful: Obviously there are the usual suspects such as popsicles and jello, but I also really liked eating cold applesauce, lukewarm Ramen noodle soup, and instant mashed potatoes made with chicken or beef broth (you can control how thick you make them based on what you can tolerate).

Biggest Tip: BE PREPARED! Once again, I may have just lucked out with a less-bad recovery than many experience, but I also think I helped myself along by being prepared for all of the possibilities. I read countless recovery stories and tips online, so there wasn't much that caught me off guard. This surgery is no joke -- the recovery process is slow and rough. But if you go into it knowing that, it might make all of the misery easier to bear. I think the people who struggle the most are the ones who are told they'll feel better in a few days, or aren't warned about the ear pain, etc.

So now I am closing the book on this chapter of my life. As of right now, I am very glad I finally had this surgery. I wish I'd done it many years ago -- but at the same time, I'm not sure I would have weathered the recovery as well if I hadn't suffered so much from strep/tonsillitis over the years and endured the horror of the peritonsillar abscess. Perhaps it happened when it was meant to happen. All I know for certain is that I'm looking forward to a healthier future now!

And now this blog can return to its focus on running and triathlon and races and training and all that good stuff. Over the next few days I will sketch out a training plan. I'm a little nervous to get back into my workouts, because I haven't done anything active since Thanksgiving!

I had hoped to have a race plan worked out for the year, but unfortunately we are not in a good place financially. I can't afford to register for anything right now (which stinks because I'll be missing out on some of the early bird specials when prices start to go up in February), and I almost certainly won't be able to make the trip to Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run this spring. The timing is perfect with the kids' spring breaks this year and I was looking forward not just to meeting this big scary goal but also to spending some time in my hometown. However, trips cost money...money we don't currently have to spare. I am hoping that we will find a way out of our money woes in time for me to stay on track with the rest of my goals for the season, especially with my plan to do 2 sprint triathlons and then my first Olympic-distance tri.

While I'm still working out plans for the 2016 season, I might also go back and write race reports for last year's Iron Girl, Army 10-Miler, and Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon! Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tonsillectomy Recovery: Day 12

Totally forgot to weigh myself today. Oops.

I no longer have much to update. My diet is almost entirely back to normal. My throat pain lessens a little more each day. I still need to sleep propped up at night and still wake up with pain each morning, but it subsides quickly as I drink water to moisten my throat. At night I'm still taking Tylenol PM to help me sleep, but I no longer need any paid meds at all, even OTC, during the day. I actually got brave and took a look at my throat this evening, and it's really healing! I did not see many scabs left at all. Lots of redness and some swelling still though.

The biggest thing I have left to conquer is getting all my energy back. I went out and shoveled some snow today and at first it felt great! Then after awhile, all of a sudden I did not feel great anymore. I think I overexerted a little. Not only was I exhausted, but the entire back of my mouth and throat area ached in a strange way. I know I'm past the most dangerous period when bleeding is likely to occur, but I don't want to take any chances, so I'll go back to taking it easy for a few more days at least.

Thanks to Snowzilla, my office is closed tomorrow. I imagine it will be open on Tuesday but I think I might start back by working a half day from home and ease myself back into my routines. I'm not sure if I'll go back to the office late this week or wait until Monday.

My post-op follow up appointment with the ENT is Thursday. After that I will write a final recovery wrap up, and then hopefully shift gears back into training mode!!

Tonsillectomy Recovery: Day 11

Weight: 218
Change from yesterday: +1
Change overall: -7

Today was great! I ate lots of normal food (french toast for breakfast! tortellini with marinara sauce and a piece of garlic bread for dinner! CAKE!!!), and was up and out of my bed for more than half the day!

I wore myself out in the morning doing some household tasks, and it made me very frustrated that I needed to rest for a while midday. But I rallied later on, and went for a short walk outside in the snow (my first time outside the house since the surgery!!), played a board game with my family, and watched a movie on the couch. I did have to take some tylenol with codeine after talking too much made my throat hurt, but otherwise I felt pretty good.

I'm still frustrated at not being back to normal yet, but I'm trying to be patient. I really ought to just be grateful that I'm doing as well as I am at this point, because I know some recoveries don't go this well. Mine certainly wasn't perfect, but it was not nearly as awful as I'd feared, and it's wrapping up just in time for me to enjoy this beautiful snowstorm. I can't wait to get outside tomorrow! I know I will still get tired and need to rest, but hopefully tomorrow will be a little better than today was.