31 December 2014

2014 Recap and 2015 Plans

2014 Recap

  • I ran 12 5ks! 
  • I didn't run sub-24 except for one race that was way short.
  • After 10 years with MS, it started affecting my ability to run.
  • I started working with a coach and I love her!
  • I focused a lot on running, but didn't spend enough time doing fun things with Maple.
  • I got a new job. I love it!

2015 Plans

I find it overwhelming to plan for a whole year so I'm just making goals for January. The theme for this month is "Be Healthy," which for me means eating way better, helping my family eat better, and going to see various health professionals that I've been avoiding. Here are the (boring) details:
  • 50/50 (half of every meal should be produce)
  • No refined sugar or processed/packaged foods (except Larabars and Go Macro bars which I eat all the time)
  • Drink only water (I did this for a while last year and it was awesome)
  • Meditate every day (probably the hardest thing on this list)
  • Bake with new (to me) healthy ingredients, like coconut sugar. It's in my pantry but I haven't used it. Lame. 
  • No eating out for dinner (will also save money!)
  • Cook simple healthy food that doesn't take too long to make
  • Help Maple pack healthier lunches
  • Protein every night (beans/lentils/tofu)
  • Go to the doctor / neurologist 
  • Start PT for glute issue (my ass is broken)
This might seem like an ambitious list, but I think it's mostly doable, at least for a month. After January, I still want to eat healthy but I'll make some exceptions for pizza.

Here are some other themes I'm toying with for 2015:

Get inspired

Do you ever go to a museum or read a good book and feel amazing and inspired and realize with a sinking feeling that you've kind of lost yourself in the drudgery of everyday life? Recently I started to think maybe I could manufacture that feeling. I want to focus on that for some of the year.

Have adventures (in Seattle or elsewhere)

After the first year of living in a new city, I tend to settle in to my patterns and neighborhoods and don't really venture out of them unless I have to. But I love Seattle and I want to see more of it. Also we have two trips planned in the first part of the year so we get to have adventures outside Seattle too.

Spend more time with Maple

Maple still likes to hang out with me, and I want to enjoy that while I can. We are going to brainstorm a list of things to do together.

Use up (or give away) all my yarn

I've been lugging a box of yarn around since I went on a yarn-buying binge a few years ago, and I haven't used much of it. I want to use what I have and start fresh in 2016.

Read Shakespeare

For someone with a name like Portia, I've read very little Shakespeare. I have started Hamlet about 50 times and never finished it. File under helpful: I live with a redneck Shakespeare scholar.

Be interesting

Have you ever felt like you are getting boring? This year I felt like that. I have no idea how one becomes more interesting but it seems like it will be fun to try.

Be graceful

I'm not talking about physical grace here, but I've been told that I'm not exactly graceful about accepting things, especially the bad stuff. This is going to be hard, but it seems like a really worthwhile goal. I have no idea where to start.

Be a designer

I am already a designer, at least my job title says so. But I still feel more like an engineer. I've never had any formal design education. I have some ideas about how to be more "designery" and it will be fun to work on this.

Be crafty

This is related to the theme about spending more time with Maple. She wants to be more crafty and I am basically phobic about glue and markers getting the house dirty. I need to get over my mild OCD and let my kid have some fun.

Deal with your anger

Sometimes I am really angry for no apparent reason. What's up with that?

Do nothing

I am completely unable to do nothing. Even when I am relaxing, I'm being productive by knitting or reading or writing or what-have-you. On the rare occasion that I just sit around watching TV (which is still doing something in a way), I feel like such a jerk. Doesn't seem healthy!

Strangely, there is nothing on this list about running. I'm still thinking about my running goals for 2015, but I want to break 24 in the 5k. Yup, a carryover goal! I tried hard this year but it just didn't happen... yet! I also want to have more balance in my life, which probably means a little less running. More on this later.

What about you? What are you going to do differently (or keep doing) in 2015?

01 December 2014

No Excuses

It's almost the end of 2014 and I still have not run an official sub-24 5k. (I can't count my last 5k, since it was only like two miles long.) Yesterday I ran another 5k and finished 2nd in my small age group, but I did not run sub-24. In my defense, it was snowy and hilly. Well, the snow technically melted before the race, but it was hilly. Excuses, excuses. I felt good and ran hard, just not hard enough.

Do you ever make excuses? I do. A lot. I make excuses for not running hard enough (see above), for being negative, for not being nice to my family. The excuses I use most often are related to having MS. I feel tired or dizzy, so I act bitchy. I am overcome with worries about my health, so I am scared to try as hard as I could or run as fast as I could. Most people probably would say that having MS is a pretty good excuse. But it's still an excuse, and it holds me back.

An excuse isn't just a thing you tell yourself after the fact, to explain your lame behavior. It's also a thing you have in your mind when you decide to be lame. You think, "It's raining really hard, no one would fault me for cutting this run short," or, "They know I am sick, so they'll understand why I don't show up." An excuse is how you let yourself off the hook. My husband Sean says people "cut deals" with themselves to act a certain way. After 12 years I am starting to understand what he means.

This isn't to say that there are never legitimate reasons for things turning out differently than you'd planned. Shit happens. Only you know if you made an excuse.

What if, instead of using MS as the reason I act like a turd, I tried to be my best self despite having it? If I feel crappy, I can still try my hardest. I can still smile and be pleasant. I can still run my ass off.

Do you have excuses that are holding you back? What would happen if you stopped using them?

09 November 2014

November Update

Yesterday I ran under 24:00 in a 5k! 2014 Goal = Met! Lifetime PR! Faster as a master!

The good: 
  • I've worked pretty hard for the past two months since I started working with Coach Badass.
  • Coach Badass has been truly amazing at giving me challenging workouts and listening to all my whining. This woman is just phenomenal and it would take a whole post to tell you why. 
  • I left it all out there on race day.
  • My amazing teammate Jess ran beside me the whole way! It's so much easier to run a certain pace when someone is beside you the whole time. Also it's really helpful when they tell you to run faster when you start to fall apart. I am incredibly lucky that Jess was with me yesterday.
  • I only fell apart form-wise during the last half mile but was still able to (sort of) maintain.
  • Even with the course being mis-measured, I still ran a sub-24 effort. 
  • My whole pod (husband, daughter, dog) were there to cheer me on!
  • There were Honey Buckets! My favorite of all portable sanitation ever.
The annoying:
  • The course was 0.1 short, which, for people who care about their race times, is SOMEWHAT annoying. The 23:04 I ran is an amazing time, but sadly not very accurate. Why is it so difficult to measure the course accurately? It's only 3.1 miles! There are GPS watches! We have the technology! I will never understand this.
I still need to run two more 5k races in 2014 to make my goal of 12 this year. That will give me two more chances to run another sub-24 5k, this time on a USATF certified course that's actually 3.1 miles. It also has to be pancake flat, timed by a reputable company, have Honey Buckets at the start, and ideally give out vegan pizza and kombucha at the finish. If anyone knows of a local (Seattle) race that fits this description, let me know! I'll just be here holding my breath...

How are your races going? Anyone else chasing the 5k train? 

20 September 2014

What It's Like to Have MS, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Incurable Degenerative Brain Disease

Soon after I was diagnosed with MS, I realized that people freak out when you tell them you have an incurable degenerative brain disease. People are afraid or tentative around me when they find out I have MS, and I get it. It's weird and scary and not sexy. I think maybe I could do a better job of describing what MS is and what it's like to live with it.

MS is completely different for everyone who has it, so my experience with MS isn't the same as anyone else's. But I'll tell you what I know anyway.

Maybe you wondering what the heck MS is. MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis, which means "many scars," which refers to the scars left behind in your brain or spinal cord after an MS relapse. MS is generally accepted to be an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your own tissue; specifically a tissue in your nervous system (which includes your brain) called myelin. Myelin is a fatty substance that coats your neurons. You can think of it like the plastic around electrical wires. The plastic prevents the wires from shorting out, and so the plastic makes the electrical stuff work right. But if the plastic gets eaten away (by your own immune system, how stupid is that), things stop working right. Depending on where the myelin is/was, you can have different kinds of symptoms.

My particular incarnation of MS is pretty mild. Obviously - I'm a runner so it can't be that bad, right? This isn't to say that I haven't had some fucking scary and horrible times with MS, just that I get to live a pretty normal life right now. I don't know if my MS is mild because of the way I eat/don't drink alcohol/exercise/meditate/think/whatever, or if I'm just lucky. Oh wait, I have an incurable degenerative brain disease. I'm not lucky.

There are four different types of MS. I have relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). The other three types are primary progressive, secondary progressive, and progressive relapsing. If you're going to have MS, RRMS is the best kind because you have relapses (boo) and then remissions (yay!). During a relapse, shit goes wrong. During remission you might experience no symptoms, or you might have some that linger. You might fully recover from a relapse or maybe you mostly recover but not all the way. I usually recover to like 97.36% of my previous remission state. This means I still have some remnants of the relapses I've had, but they aren't too noticeable.

If you met me on the street, you wouldn't know I have MS. I don't look or move or talk differently than anyone else. This isn't the case for everyone with MS, and it might not always be the case for me.

I've had maybe 4 or 5 significant relapses in 10 years, and lots of smaller ones. Twice I was in the hospital for about a week; the rest of the relapses were manageable at home.

Here are some of the symptoms I've had. I'll tell you about the relapse part, which is when the symptom first appeared, and then I'll talk about any related symptoms I still have.

One morning in the fall of 2011... Well okay, it was not just any morning, it was the morning of Sean's first ultra. The Vermont 50. I woke up and felt weird, in a way that I still can't explain. I just knew something was wrong. It was also way too early, like 3:30am. I had been eating terribly and just being generally stupid about self-care. I was just waking up, sitting in bed, when all of a sudden, I lost half the vision in my right eye. Right before I was supposed to drive Sean to the start of the race, in the dark, on unfamiliar mountain roads. Fortunately it didn't get any worse and I was able to be a semi-normal person that day.

Vision loss in MS is usually due to Optic Neuritis, which is a fancy way to say that your optic nerve swells up. You know, cause your immune system attacked it. Optic Neuritis is very common in MS. In fact it's often the "presenting sign" of MS, which means it's the first thing you notice or the thing that causes you to be diagnosed with MS.

After Maple was born, I had a couple of terrible relapses. It was a really scary time. I had this new baby and I was working full time and then all of a sudden I was completely unable to care for myself. At one point I could not walk, talk, count to ten, or stop throwing up. Fortunately I am better now. I had issues with speaking clearly as well as with word-finding and stuttering, and I still have some of that. It annoys me because sometimes I have to concentrate more than I think is fair to make myself understood.

Let me tell you about the time I was drunk in Vegas. I was walking around with my newborn baby strapped to my chest. My balance was way off and my right arm didn't work at all. I was trying to talk to Sean but the words were totally incomprehensible and I sounded super inebriated. This nice (not) saleslady at the Lucky store made some disparaging remarks about me and mentioned calling Child Protective Services. The thing is, I wasn't drunk. I was relapsing! That was unfortunate. I felt bad.

Balance, Dizziness, and Vertigo
Once I had a relapse where I could not gain any sense of balance. If I tried to stand up, I fell against a wall. My eyes rolled back and forth in my head and I was so dizzy that I couldn't stop throwing up. Even with a newborn baby and an awesome husband, I kind of wanted to die. That was the worst. My balance isn't great now - sometimes I come close to veering into something if I'm trying to walk through a narrow space, and I can't stand on one leg with my eyes closed. Can you?

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I had unexplainable weakness in my right leg. That went away and never came back. Nowadays I don't notice much in terms of movement problems. When it's really cold, my fingers and toes get kind of slow, but doesn't that happen to everyone? Sometimes at the end of a 5k or long run I get what I affectionately refer to as "jelly legs." When it's really bad I look like one of the poor saps in those end-of-Ironman bonk videos. It just started happened a few months ago, but I think it's going away. Fingers crossed.

During one relapse I couldn't remember how to count to ten, and when I tried to say the alphabet I would get to H and say "H, I, JAI." I couldn't remember how to say J, and I couldn't get beyond that letter. That was weird. I could still sort of have a conversation and I seemed sort of normal but there were these weird holes in my memory.

There's something called emotional lability, also known as emotional incontinence, which I like better. It basically means you cry all the time or laugh at inappropriate moments. I totally have this. Who knows if it's MS related, but I like to blame MS for everything.

When I'm in a relapse, I am excruciatingly tired. I sleep most of the time. And sometimes I have fatigue when I'm in remission. Fatigue isn't just being tired, it's more like I have to take a break from chewing my food because it's too hard. I can't lift my arms above my head. Fortunately this is not too common.

It's hard as I get older to discern between normal aging and MS symptoms. My vision is getting worse, but it's probably not MS related. I get tired when I'm training hard, but don't we all? I figure if I'm sitting around thinking about whether something is or isn't MS-related, I'm probably okay.

One of the worst things about having MS is the uncertainty of it. I never know what's going to happen or when, and how long a symptom is going to last. I don't know if I'll get to live the rest of my life with pretty mild MS, or if my MS will turn to Secondary Progressive like it does for lots of people with MS, maybe most. I am not on MS medication right now and of course I wonder if that's the stupidest thing ever. But being on those meds was no fun, and I seem to be doing fine.

But uncertainty is also one of the best things about MS. It encourages you to take care of yourself, to prioritize, to not put things off. I work full time, but most of the time I leave work at work. My family and my health come first, my running comes second, everything else comes after that. If I really want to do something, like PR in the 5k or go to Africa, I don't wait. I do it. No one knows what is going to happen in life, but uncertainty looms large in mine, and it's actually a good thing. I can't kid myself that nothing will ever change. I know better.

Sometimes I wonder why I got this disease. No one else in my family has it. Maybe I got too many Hep-B vaccinations, maybe it was those two rounds of Accutane, maybe it's because I never ate fish growing up or I lived in a cloudy place. I don't think I'll ever know for sure.

Autoimmune diseases suck, but they are also pretty fascinating. I mean, your body gets confused and decides to attack itself. Why does this happen? Is it related to environment? Genetics? Negative thoughts? Toxic window cleaning products? I could go into great depth about my new agey thoughts on this topic, about how autoimmune disease is related to capitalism and environmental destruction, but I'll spare you. See how nice I am? So nice.

Do you have any questions about MS? If you've read this far, probably not! But I'm happy to tell you anything. Ask away!

07 September 2014

ANUSTART, Geek Love, and Monotonically Decreasing Functions

Apologies if you are not a die hard Arrested Development fan. In Season 4, Tobias gets a vanity plate to commemorate his "new start," but in typical Tobias fashion, the end result is a little, well, unexpected.

At any rate, I'm making all kinds of new starts.

My last day at my old job was this past Tuesday. I'm starting my new job tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited. No really, I couldn't be. I'm pretty unexcitable. But I am actually borderline effusive about this opportunity. I'm going back to ux design for geeks, which is my passion, professionally speaking. For the past year I experimented with doing ux design for a retail website. It was not for me. Making it easier for people to buy shit? Not my thing. Enabling nerds to blow shit up -- or cure cancer? Better.

But forget the boring work talk. Let's have some boring running talk!

I was in a bit of a running rut before Bird Camp. My goal of earning monotonically decreasing 5k times in 2014 was out the window as of May, when I ran a hillier race and failed to better my April time. Maybe the hills weren't to blame; I was also just tired. My half marathon in July was a bit of a nightmare because I struggled to control my legs after mile 7 or so. I wondered if my MS was taking me downhill. I was scared.

To combat MS-related fear, I like to pour tons of energy into self care. It takes my mind off being scared, and it's probably good for me. So I started eating better. A lot better. We're talking no caffeine or dairy, very low sugar and gluten, and a lot more fruits and vegetables. I felt more in control of things, and maybe a little less tired. Then Bird Camp happened I started feeling even better. I started playing guitar again and I kept eating well. I decided there was still time to run a 5k PR in 2014 if I focused.

Then I did something that was way out of my comfort zone. I asked for help. Specifically, I asked someone I respect and trust to coach me. It was definitely a reach -- she is in high demand in all sorts of ways, and she typically works with much faster people. But she said yes! Hanging out on a limb never felt so right.

Remember this if nothing else - if you want something, ask for it! Go after it! Crazy awesome things can happen if you put yourself out there.

I've just finished my first week of training with New Coach. I'm wearing a heart rate monitor for the first time, and I'm working harder than ever. I did two tough workouts this week: a tempo interval run, and 12x400 on the track. They were brutal but I've learned so much already. On Tempo Tuesday I underfueled and ran out of steam during my last segment. New Coach schooled me on how much I should be eating before a workout (way more), so on Thursday I was calorically ready for the track and I nailed it. I've never done 12x400 before and certainly not at that pace. My confidence soared.

My goals - to break 24:00 in the 5k this year and 23:00 in 2015 - are crystal clear. I'm focused and I feel great. Even better, I'm more excited about running and training than I have been all year.

My legs are still not 100%; they still get kind of jellylike towards the end of a 6+ mile run. But I am taking really good care of myself and working hard. I trust myself, I trust my coach, and I trust that these symptoms, like so many I've had before, will go away eventually.

27 August 2014

How Birdcamp Changed My Life

Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography
I got home from Oiselle Birdcamp a week ago, but it feels like months ago already. It was five days of blissful running, inspiring speakers and athletes, and gorgeous landscapes.

At Smith Rock
As amazing as all the talks, yoga classes, and runs were, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. Birdcamp, for me, was life-changing. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to these women:

With Sally, Oiselle's Founder and CEO

With Lesko, Camp Director and Sisterhero
For the first time in my life, I experienced a sisterhood, and I was completely surrounded by positivity and encouragement. This experience fundamentally changed the way I think. Where before I saw problems, now I see possibilities.

Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography
The past few months have been tough for me. I've experienced new challenges as a runner with MS. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the "real runners" at camp. But sometime during birdcamp, I stopped thinking of myself as a potential patient. I became an athlete, a sister, a runner.

Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography
I met so many amazing women.

These two are going to be lifelong friends.

With my roommates @kimmiepearlman and @musingfootfalls
This righteous woman reignited my passion for music.

With @laurenfleshman

She lent me her guitar and made me promise to play for her the following night. I hadn't played in years and I guess I needed some encouragement. It wasn't my best performance, but it was the beginning of something. I've played my guitar every day since. Thank you Lauren - this was such a gift.

I felt almost invincible for five days, and I am carrying that feeling into my "normal" life back home.

On the Oiselle Team, we go fast. We take chances.

Kate Grace and her amazing stride
Thanks to +Sarah Lesko+Lauren Fleshman+Sally Bergesen, and everyone else who made Birdcamp happen. See you next year!

22 July 2014

Time to refocus. Let's go!

Phew! The half marathon is over! I'm glad I did it but I'm not sure I want to do another long-ish race anytime soon. The first half of the race was great, but the second half got progressively worse until I could hardly pick up my feet. The stupidest MS symptom ever is foot drop. On the plus side, I burst into tears right before the finish which made for some really unforgettable race pictures. Joking. I will not be purchasing those. Or showing you an illegal watermarked preview.

I also ran a 5k last Saturday, and in case you're wondering, that's just 6 days after the half. I know, I am your hero. I went to the race alone and had a great time. For some reason, going solo to a 5k is my idea of paradise. Here's a photo of what might be my least offensive race face ever, but still embarrassing. This was right before the finish line, which was up a little surprise hill. This was not on the course map. What is wrong with people?

I'm back on the 5k train and really excited to stay on till the end of the line. Or the end of 2014 at least. My next race is at Oiselle Bird Camp in about three weeks. I wrote up a short training plan which includes copious hill repeats instead of speedwork. The track is my absolute favorite but I think I need hill work way more. And since my endurance has not been great lately, I'm planning to keep up with a longish run once a week, maybe 6-10 miles. However long I can run without encountering the dreaded foot drop.

I'm still on track to run 1000 miles this year; this will be the third year in a row that I've run at least 1000 miles. As of today I've done about 583.

MS has been a pain in my butt for a couple of months now. I've had more fatigue than usual, and this foot drop thing stinks. But with a little planning I am still able to do everything I want to do. Eat better and more regularly, rest more often - you know, the things everyone is supposed to do anyway. I've had this disease long enough to know that it's cyclical; that I can have a few months with a new symptom and then it vanishes. In the past I've had The Gremlin, which was a weird sensation in my calf that felt like I was dragging a little rodent around, and also that thing I can never remember the name of, where you feel a shock when you put your chin down close to your chest. But they went away, so hopefully this foot dragging shit will go away too!

Let me pause here and reassure you that although I might seem like a complete downer, part of coping with MS (for me) is having a wry sense of humor about it. As I write this I'm in a very upbeat mood. I just like to make fun of everything. And oh my god I'm turning into my husband.

I mentioned I'm trying to take better care of myself. Well, sometimes I cope with MS by eating copious pop tarts, but that's just the first line of defense. If I'm having new symptoms and they aren't going away quickly, I get all panicky and vow to never eat sugar again (or some similar drastic measure). Right now my drastic measures are:
  • Cleaning up my diet by significantly reducing sugar, caffeine, dairy, and processed foods. This is good for everyone, so it seems like a no brainer for someone with an incurable degenerative brain disease. (Wry sense of humor people, keep up.)
  • Practicing mindful breathing. Being all meditative and shit seems likely to calm the nervous system. Studies show it or something.
  • Considering eating some fish (or at least fish oil). Omega-3s, blah blah blah.
  • Getting back to core and strength exercises. For the last month or so I fell off the wagon (See also: half marathon training, laziness). I do 10-15 minutes of simple things like situps and pushups a few times a week - nothing crazy but it helps me feel more controlled when moving around. Sometimes I feel like I'm flinging myself around willy nilly - it works but I occasionally walk into something. Surprise!
  • Doing balance exercises. Single leg deadlifts help my brain talk to my limbs about where they are. So much more efficient than writing letters. 
So that's what's up in my world. And now I will let you in on a little secret. I really want to break 24 minutes in the 5k this year. Okay fine, I've told you this about seven times already, but maybe you weren't paying attention! Anyway, If I focus obsessively on that one thing and forget about half marathons and trail races and knitting sweaters and getting a PhD in Folklore, I just might be able to do it. I'm pumped! Let's go!

08 July 2014

3 Things I've Learned in the Past 3 Months

It's July already! I had planned to do six 5k races by this time, but you know what they say about plans. I did not run a 5k in June. I probably won't run one in July either. But! I've learned (at least) 3 valuable things in the past 3 months, and I'm going to tell you all about them cause duh, this is a blog. Here's the short list:
  1. Dogs are a lot of work.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time.
  3. It's okay to lower your expectations!

1. Dogs are a lot of work.

Yes, this is a running blog, but there's more to life than running. Occasionally. At any rate, my dogventures over the past three months have had quite an effect on my running.

In April, our beloved Phoenix died. She was an amazing part of our family and I still cry every time I think about her. She was the sweetest, smartest, lowest maintenance dog that ever lived. Seriously, this girl had an iron tank for a bladder, and she would wait patiently for anything.

Phoenix (1999-2014)
Three days later, after swearing I didn't want another dog for a year, we rebounded with Bailey the Foster Dog, who quickly became Bailey the New Dog.

Bailey the Rabbit is most decidedly NOT the lowest maintenance dog ever. In fact she's in the running for highest. She is the perfect dog in almost every way. She's sweet, quiet, and she doesn't chew our shoes. She's a great running buddy and she loves her pack (us).

But, BUT, when we got her, she could not be left alone, at all. She tried to scratch her way out of our house that first night, with somewhat disastrous consequences. Since Sean and I both work full time, we put her in day care, but she kept getting expelled for her wily escape attempts. She enjoys jumping over 8-10' fences! Not kidding. Our lives became one big stressball as we tried to figure out how on earth we could keep this dog when we both work full time and she couldn't be alone.

I was about to give up on her (and hate myself forever) when we found Unleashed, an amazing outdoor dog heaven / boarding place. Laurie, the owner and best dog person in the world, was willing to let Bailey back inside 15 times a day after she jumped over the fence. To be fair, she only tried to run away once; the rest of the escapes were of the "I just want you to know I can leave anytime, but I don't really want to go anywhere" variety.

We also worked really hard to get her to be happy alone at home. Almost three months after we got her, we can now leave her in her crate for an hour. Stop for a minute and think about your life. Do you typically leave home for longer than an hour? Yeah, I thought so. We used to do that too! And I know we will again someday.

Despite the rough start, I am so happy we didn't give up on her. Bailey the Rabbit has become my best friend. She runs with me, she is always happy to see me no matter what a shitheel I am, and she cracks me up on a regular basis. Although it takes more patience than anything else in my life ever has, it's worth it.

Anyway, that was a long ass way of saying that I was pretty stressed out for a few months, and running definitely took a back seat to dog training, dog worrying, and dog maintenance. The stress also ignited some MS fatigue, so I've been a leetle bit tired. Sometimes this means falling asleep on the couch in the evening; other times (drama alert) it means I'm too tired to chew my food or raise my arms above my head. And of course, this impacts running too. More on that below.

Bonus: I also stumbled on an amazing diet during Dog Gate. If you want to lose 10 pounds really fast, adopt a high maintenance dog! I was so stressed out, I didn't eat for a month.

2. Focus on one thing at a time.

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal to run one 5k each month, and to better my time each race. For some ridiculous reason, I decided I could train for a half marathon without affecting my 5k goal. To be fair, I planned this before Dog Gate, but it was still the work of a dumbass. I have MS, I work full time, I'm a mom, blah blah. If I want to do something well, like improve my 5k time, I should stick to training for 5ks. Jeez. In hindsight I am like psychic.

At the beginning, my half marathon training plan was full of tempo runs, speedwork, and a gradual build up of long run mileage. But as the weeks went by, it became clear to me that my brain had another training plan in mind. Instead of hill repeats, my brain said "NAP REPEATS!" I was really fucking tired. At first it was just a small adjustment here or there, but soon my tempo runs became fartleks, then easy runs. My long runs got shorter, and slower, then I started walking part of every mile.

I decided not to run a June 5k, because if I ran a hard effort on Saturday, the Sunday long run was impossible. It was quite a struggle (mentally) to let June go by without a race, but I had to admit that life was taking me somewhere else. 

And guess what? The whole universe is still here. Which brings me to #3.

3. It's okay to lower your expectations!

While training for the half, I started losing control of my feet during the latter miles of my long runs. At about mile 8 of every long run, I looked like that marathon bonk video. (Go watch it, it's awesome, I'll wait.) After the fourth time I tripped and fell over a 1/8" crack in the sidewalk, I had to admit that shit has changed. I'm not the same runner I used to be, at least not right now. Annoying. 

I know, I know, when you have MS, tripping over things after running 8 miles is not really a reason to feel sorry for yourself. Bear with me. I'm kind of a jerk.

A couple of weeks ago, during my longest run of this training cycle, while walking and crying and feeling generally sorry for myself, I realized that I am still in charge of my life, and "my life" includes "my expectations." Instead of beating myself up because I probably won't run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours, I can choose to be proud of myself for finishing the race. Finishing is an accomplishment too. Especially when you have an incurable degenerative brain disease. Am I right? And then I started feeling pretty brave, because I know I have a lot of reasons to give up, but I will not.

Maybe I'm going to recover from this bout of fatigue, or maybe this is "the new normal." One of the annoying things about MS is that you can't predict what life will look like tomorrow. You don't get to be in control of everything. But really, who does? Here's what I can control. I'm going to run this half marathon, and then I'm getting back on the 5k train. I can still do 12 5k races in 2014, I just might have to skip a month or two and double up later. Maybe I won't keep getting PRs every month, but I can still run. And it's okay to be happy with that. (If that seems extremely obvious, then congratulations, you are more well-adjusted than I am!)

I know no one wants to think about lowering their expectations, but sometimes it makes more sense to do what you can do and be proud of it. Especially when you have health issues. But even healthy people can and should change their expectations sometimes. It might make you healthier! I'm not saying you shouldn't strive for constant improvement and set big goals. But giving yourself a break sometimes is okay too.

02 March 2014

2014 Q1 Race Recap and Life Review

Oh, the pressure of writing a post when you hardly write posts anymore! Fuck it, here goes.

My running plan for 2014 is to run one 5k a month. Yesterday I ran my third one, so it seems like an appropriate moment to do some recapping. I have some other goals related to this one: first, run every 5k faster than the last, and second, break 24:00 this year.

Getting to 23:xx will be tough, but I think running each race faster than the last might be tougher. For example, April's 5k is much hillier than the first three, which were all around Green Lake and flat as a pancake. So I'll really have to Bring It if I want to break my time from yesterdays' effort (24:45).

My January race was a very small race called the Inclement Sprint. Before the race they took a group picture of all the runners - I think there were about 50 of us. There was some confusion about the course. The Race Director, a very sweet guy, announced before the race, "Since a 5k race is actually 3.2 miles, you'll have to run this short out and back section." I figured he misspoke and that the course was actually 3.1 as expected, but when I got to the finish, my Garmin read 3.2 on the dot. My time was 25:37, which I supposed was a good January sandbagger of sorts.

My February race was the Love 'Em or Leave 'Em 5k. This was a fun one because a whole slew of Oiselle ladies were there. The race was huge and legit, with tons of speedy runners. I came in dead last among our team at 25:01, but since I'd registered as a "couple" with our fastest lady Stacy who ran a zippy 17:41, I had the distinct pleasure of coming in first in our division of "couples with summed ages from 60-79."

For my third race of the year, I decided to run March Forth, which was oddly on March first, at the urging of my teammate Lauren. I'm so glad I did! It was a smallish race and very relaxed. There was no specific lineup procedure for the start, but for some reason I didn't mind dodging the strollers and dogs. It was also mostly on the gravel path on the outside of Green Lake, and I typically hate gravel, but this didn't bother me either. I ran the race with Lauren and Andrea, and we also saw Sarah and Jen afterwards. It's pretty amazing to be part of this group of gals on the Oiselle Team. I love seeing familiar faces at all the local races. It's starting to feel like I have sisters! As someone who has no actual sisters, I can't tell you how awesome this is.

For 2014 I had some non-running-related goals too. The big one? Be less negative. Maybe I should start with rephrasing this one: Be more positive. This is going very well, with a few annoying exceptions. Most of my indulgence in "nagativity" was directed to (or at least witnessed by) my husband, who has been sweetly cajoling me for years to look on the bright side. Apparently this is my year, because despite the fact that life isn't that much different than it was last year, I'm loving it all. Initially I used the "fake it till you make it" strategy and just acted more positive than I actually felt, and guess what? That shit works.

I also wanted to spend less time on the internet and more time with paper. That's going well too. I've been doing a fair bit of writing offline; a lot in January, less in February, so I need to pick it back up. As for less internet, I'm focusing mostly on Instagram these days, and catching up on Twitter and blogs only when I'm on the toilet. That's a great rule, you should try it. Although it may increase your time spent in the bathroom.

I even reactivated my Facebook account recently for work, because I needed to keep up with my company's FB posts. It was fun for five minutes to see what people were up to, but I mostly I fucking hate FB. Although now that it's become a place for old people to hang out, it seems a little cooler to me. Old people, Unite! I am one of you now!

So what else is going on in my life? In late January, I visited some old friends who were in San Diego for a work trip, and it was nice to take a solo trip in a new place. I even got to run with my favorite running partner Lynne, who now lives 3000 miles away in snow-encrusted New England. We're cooking up a plan to run a half marathon on the same day this summer, and virtually train together. In February my mom came for a visit during Maple's winter break. We had a great time eating and museuming and downtowning. She also helped us with some much needed furniture shopping. I'm grateful to her for coming out for an extended stay, and also to my dad for holding down the fort (and walking the crazy dog seven times a day) while she was gone.

In two weeks, Sean is running the Chuckanut 50k in Fairhaven, WA. This was one of the first ultras I knew about, and I'm beyond excited to spectate this race and to cheer for Sean. He took some time off after being injured during last year's Zion 100, fully embracing his rehab and doing a shitload of cross-training. Even though he hasn't had a lot of time on his feet this winter because they were all kinds of broken last fall, he has a better mental game for racing than anyone I know. Dude is a survivor, with almost 10 years clean and sober, and that mental toughness gets him through anything he puts his mind to. I believe he will finish this race smart and healthy and be ready to run longer ultras later this year.

Maple is enjoying school, reading voraciously, and is all about her Rainbow Loom. We have so many tiny rubber bands around the house, and although this used to drive me insane, now I smile when I see those errant little rubber bands because I know she is focused on her craft. I love to see her focused, as she has a bit of an attention deficit. Not enough to be disorderly, just enough to worry me.

On February 2, I "celebrated" ten years with multiple sclerosis. Maybe it's weird to celebrate such a wrenching diagnosis, but I can definitely celebrate the fact that I'm still living life on my terms. Here's to another ten years of that!