Sunday, November 25, 2012

Take Thanksgiving Back!


Lately I have really been feeling sorry for poor old decrepit Thanksgiving. 

It’s not really a spend LOADS of money holiday except for the whole Black Friday extravaganza it’s more of an eat LOADS of food kind of holiday and as a nation we are supposed to be frowning on that behavior…so what should we do with Thanksgiving?

I have an amazing idea (of course I will probably be the only to think so):
Why don’t we put all of the sales circulars down, close all of the stores, and spend time with our family to give thanks for all that we have rather than buying a bunch of junk that we don’t even need.

Oh, yeah…that is what the holiday IS about.
I am Thankful for Cartwheels at mile 26 :-)

This year on Thanksgiving morning I went for a 15.5 mile run and listened to Avalon, Andy Griffith (uh huh….hymns baby), and even to Wee Sing Bible Songs.  Do you know what????  I have a lot to be thankful for.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  By the way, this is so NOT going to be a sermon, just a little reminder.

People say to me all the time that they have no idea how I do it, how I keep on keeping on after everything.  Comments are made about how they would have lost faith and jumped off of a bridge eons ago, so why is it that I am the one talking continuously about counting my blessings?  It’s because no matter how you look at my life or my circumstances, it’s true, I am blessed and reminded of those blessings…in big ways and small, sometimes through sheer agony and others through sheer joy.

If Grace had been born with the ability to see, to me she would always be Amazing Grace…but to everyone else she would be that sweet little Gracie Hammett.  Through God’s Grace I got to travel a journey with my child that few mothers will ever experience, I was able to watch my blind child learn to see.   I was there for her when she could not see and I was there the exact moment she was touched, that God put the gift of vision into her and enabled her to see.  Are you counting yet?

How it feels to count your blessings!
When baby Sarah was born asleep I honestly thought I would never recover.  After 50 hours of labor with every conceivable complication known to mankind I thought I had seen the worst, but less than 7 weeks later I very accidentally (and excitedly) found myself pregnant with one of the most amazing gifts I will ever know, my sweet and perfect Ella Jordan.  With Grace being blind, my pregnancy with Sarah was an experience in hope…I hoped and prayed for a child with sight, God chose to give Grace the ability to see and helped me to learn that all children are a blessing born or unborn.  Sarah helped me to learn that life is precious; sight, sound, touch and smell are just added bonuses.

After an 18 week miscarriage, postpartum hemorrhage/hysterectomy and breast cancer am I am still counting my blessings…heck yes!
I will pick these guys over a TV everytime!
They probably want the TV though.

Cancer gave me running and without Clara there would have been no Postpartum Hemorrhage or TRUE appreciation for blood donors.  On some base level I would have known donors were awesome…but now I now know exactly why.  They take an hour out of their day doing what they think is right not knowing who they are going to help.  In my case they helped a woman who had just delivered her fifth child, her third living child and who REALLY needed to stay alive to enjoy the fruits of her labor.  Now I am even blessed by strangers. 

As I look around on a daily basis life has really turned out OK.  It’s an entirely a different life than I had ever planned on living.  I never thought that I would live in an area that I do not like for so long but my husband is happy at his job and there are a lot of nice places to run.  So I have to look at living here, far from my family in that light, there is always a positive spin if we choose to find it. 

Black Friday Shopping is FUN!!!!!!!
So, let’s take Thanksgiving back.  Let’s not even start shopping until the Monday after (yeah, Scrooge I hear you)!  Is just amazes me that everyone yaks around the Thanksgiving table expounding upon their blessings, hops up from the table while scraping the last of the dessert off their plate, to wait in line to save $200 on a 60 inch television that they do not need (sorry folks, no one needs one). 

Seriously, take a few days and think about it.  Maybe even make a list.

Do you know that I ran A LOT (and for me to say a lot, be very scared of what my Garmin mileage reads) over this break and even with all of my running I did not have enough time to truly realize all of the gifts I already have?  That’s correct; lying in bed last night I was still rolling them out…

What are you thankful for?

Did you brave the crowds and save loads of money?

What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K....2012

Outfit selected, Wizbang Hat all set.
Go Time!!!!

There are a few things I have figured out about myself over the past several years and one of them is that I do not have the ability to not *race* a race. 

2010—One of my favorite race experiences was my first 50K, the 2010 Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K mainly because at about mile two I hooked up with two other runners and we had the whole discuss your life story over the course of a 30 mile run chat, it took us about 6 ½ hours to finish and we had a blast.

2012—the course was the same but it was run by a different runner with a different attitude, at least I still had the same name.  (I am also glad they had a lot of the same volunteers and runners, the Annapolis Striders are sincerely a kind and supportive group.)

My last race before my surgeries was the summer version of the Rosaryville 50K in late July, it was hot and humid and although I was the second female overall, outside of the awesome company I had (plus someone to push me to finish, thank you) it was horrible…muscle cramps, oh my!

So why after having two major surgeries (one August 3rd and another September 17th) did I decide to have a 50K be my first race back…less than two months after a major surgery?  Oh, this is not a rhetorical question; I honestly wish someone could answer it for me without using any form of the word CRAZY.

When I signed up I was very clear with myself and everyone else, I am not going to race this one I am just going to go and have a great time.  My thought process went along the lines of, I know the course extremely well, every five miles you have a super easy opportunity to drop out and I was just in it to finish it and was not going to worry about getting a DNF. 

I really planned on NOT RACING...but my nose knows best!
As many know since my September 17th surgery I have had severe respiratory problems and have been struggling horribly with my running.  I had a pulmonology appointment get cancelled due to Frankenstorm and was told I could not be seen until after the race, but something magical happened…a cancellation.  I went in early Thursday for what would be an almost all day appointment.  My lung function tests put me in the 40-50% range and my wheezing was “impressive for an athlete”.  Needless to say I walked away with the motherload of breathing treatments and antibiotics and was far more optimistic for Saturday’s race.

The weather report promised and delivered a perfect 50°-60° day.  As the race began I was happy to see some friends from my running club and several runners that I am perpetually running into at races.  I knew I was pacing too fast as the director yelled go but I could not seem to slow down…I was racing, it felt good, I felt “normal”.  When you get onto the trail it is single file and you really feel obligated to keep up with the person in front of you so you don’t slow others down for at least the first 3 or 4 miles, later things start to spread out.  Fortunately I was pacing with a group that was slightly too fast but not so fast that I was tanking, at the first aide station I made sure to let another group of faster runners pass me and was able to settle into my stride. 

As the race continued I was surprised to find myself alone on the course, for the most part it was like I had the whole park to myself, I LOVED it.  As much as I enjoy a great run with a friend, sometimes I need to hear just my footfalls and be completely in tune with my body, especially for this race.  This was first time I had run without wheezing and coughing up huge amounts of mucous in months but I did not want to push too hard. 
As I ran I pictured what my
evening would look like...

At the aide station at mile 15 or so they let me know I was the 3rd female…information I just did not need (it made me start to feel competitive).  However, one of the volunteers from the 2010 race recognized me and wanted to know if I was the one who does cartwheels, so I cracked a few out and was on my way with a smile.  My next loop was certainly slower but I felt strong and steady I had short conversations with a few of the male runners but eventually I passed them and continued on my way (let me clearly state that during the first 15 miles I got passed by many male runners so this is not a bragging thing, it is just the way it went down). 

It has been a long time since I have given myself a chance to think through what has happened to me over the past ten years.  As I paced, ran, and planned my final 15 miles I realized that my life was similar to an ultra-marathon.  I have had to approach each obstacle and make a plan, stick to it and look to myself to find the mental, physical, and emotional endurance to stay strong and steady, for me and for my awesome family.

This was the first time that I was able to look back and really see our struggles as triumphs, as each trauma occurred we had no choice but to face it…I feel like the choices begin as you start to move forward from tragedy.  We may have moved forward more slowly than others thought we should, but in the end, as a family we have shown power and endurance in our faith and in our love for one another. 
Our relationship has evolved and changed in ways we never could have imagined, my husband has had to take on a far more active role in parenting and he has also had to help as my caregiver through far too many surgeries and hospital admissions…something you do not plan to do for your spouse before they turn 40.  We have each risen to the occasion and shown our children that love can be infinite if you are willing to work for it.  ENDURANCE.

Now, back at the race…

As I stopped at the 25 mile aide station I was passed by two young women (I checked to make sure they were younger than 40, yes, I am rude enough to ask) I wished them luck and slowly made my way to the last 6 miles.  I was getting very stumbly at this point and just worked to maintain a happy comfortable pace (no muscle cramps, whoop).  Before I knew it the final aide station was upon me, I gave them one of my “thank you volunteers” cartwheels and was told it was just 0.7 miles to the finish (uphill).  I kicked it in and finished with probably my fastest pace of the day.  I crossed the finish line, got my medal and threw in my final cartwheel for good measure.

OH YES! This GIF was running through my
head for the final 6 miles...thank you Jennifer Myers for
posting it on Facebook!
(Check out her blog about food and community)
My body still awes and amazes me.  After all that it has gone through it still had the physical power to push me to a 50K PR of 5:07:46 more than 20 minutes faster than the last time I ran Rosaryville.  This was also fast enough to earn me a first in my age group award…SCORE!

So, if you ever hear me say that I’m not going to *race* a race I am telling you what I believe is the truth.  Sadly, it is a complete lie…when someone says go, I go (kind of fast as it turns out).

I am grateful for this race and this comeback to running.  The quiet and serene beauty of the day allowed me to recharge and realize that there are endless possibilities…as I crested the final hill and crossed the finish line I smiled as I looked over my shoulder and saw how far I’d climbed.  I will enjoy my runs on a flat road for a little while.

Thank you Annapolis Striders.

Have you ever promised yourself you were not going to do something and did it anyway?

Am I correct in assuming that I ended up racing this race?

What would you have done?

Ball cap matches my winter coat..I knew
it was good sign.  I love my ceramic
age group award!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When does it get better?

My mom and I spent a long time on the phone this morning because I think we are all slightly flummoxed by the less than favorable outcomes of my last two surgeries.  The goal at the beginning of this summer was to get my bowels taken care of so that I would not constantly be in the hospital with bowel obstructions and then one additional surgery to take care of one of my reconstructed breasts that is oh so pitifully painful.  As you can tell, things NEVER go according to my plan.

Yes, this is actually what I do!
After I had the bowel resection/lysis of adhesions I finally felt great but had to IMMEDIATELY address the issue of the “big ugly ovary”, it has been removed.  Since the second surgery I have been miserable with a lung infection that will not go away and the issues with my stomach continue to be a nuisance.  I had not planned on being back on a soft food diet so soon, but here I am…unable to eat regular food again.

So, after two major surgeries that happened and two minor surgeries that got cancelled (one for my bladder and one for my boob) I am officially unable to keep up with the following daily activities in my life: eating solid food, peeing, pooping, breathing, and having a pain free chest.  HMMMM….this is probably not great.

My pulmonology appointment got changed due to Frankenstorm Sandy and I cannot get back in to see him until late next week.  I kept explaining to his scheduling secretary that I needed to see him this week to get a better nebulizer or inhaler as I had a 50 Kilometer race this weekend.  She kept trying to tell me not to run…let’s repeat that for the folks in the back row, SHE kept TRYING to tell ME, NOT to RUN???!!!???

There will be lots of running, which is basically the same thing!

Needless to say my response did not win me any star patient points nor did it get my appointment moved up to this week.

So THIS is the crux of my rant…

Why is it that if I were to lay down on the sofa and say “I can’t breathe fix me” I would get seen in under a week but when I run everyday while coughing up handfuls of bloody mucous I cannot get an appointment?  If I really wanted to see the pulmonologist it seems the perfect plan would be to take up smoking again and do a lot of not moving to get my lungs good and goopy.

Or the lady at Aetna who continuously explains that they will not cover orthotics for my shoes unless I have a diagnosis of diabetes, I’m sorry Aetna lady but my healthy diet and continuous exercise are specifically designed to combat my hereditary predisposition to diabetes and heart disease (FREAK), obviously my badass healthy diet and exercise did not work on the myriad of other genetic health issues I have but I do what I can where I can.

When the Aetna lady won't stop talking...
My abdominal surgeon is another funny one, after my surgery he was AMAZED by my ability to heal so quickly (practice makes perfect sir), but also by how much of a BEAST I am.  He said I had six internal hernias that would have sent any one of his patients crying to the emergency room but I only showed up when I had an out and out bowel obstruction (there were no false alarms or maybes when I finally would get to the ER, I was always MESSED UP).  He kept asking me what I was doing for pain control that whole time since I refused to take pain meds (honestly I don’t take them because I cannot run when I’m on them…I’ve tried, they make me run slow and stumbly), I was all an a$$hat… “I don’t know Dr. I guess I’d just go for a run or something when I was in pain.”  Given his reaction to that statement, I think he is still kind of laughing about it a little bit.

My general concern is that as a community and a nation we preach exercise and nutrition but our healthcare industry does not cater to those who follow this ideology.  (Life insurance companies certainly do, so we know that it IS in fact possible to identify and monetarily quantify risk factors and behaviors.) 
Given the state of healthcare today, we may as well. 
It's actually the only way we'll get an appointment.

So, any bets as to what I get dealt next?  I’m kind of afraid and might just sleep with two eyes open…

Have you ever been put down for exercising too much?

Eating too healthy?

Do you feel like we cater to those who lead an unhealthy lifestyle and just expect the exercisers to stay healthy?


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Eastern Divide Ultra--50K Race Report

June 23, 2012
Start:               Cascades National Recreation Trail, Pembroke, VA
Finish:             Mountain Lake Resort, Giles County, VA

When I first saw this race advertised I knew I was going to do it.  It was minutes from my parent’s home in Wytheville, VA and “on our way” to the beach.  Additionally it met a lot of things on my favorites list for races: mostly trail, a point to point race, a small field (200 runners), 50K, and it was its first year.  I know a lot of runners do not care for first year races because there are always a few kinks to work out, but since I am still new to the sport I can find the humor in them and just enjoy the run (I am aware I will most likely join the ranks of the wildly furious at some point in my running career, but for now it’s about the adventure).

I read through the course description many times and at some point I really should have become concerned about my limited ability and some of the arduous sounding adjectives used to describe the course, but I just thought they were trying to tout the race as really challenging.  Looking at the pictures on the website you saw images of flat beautiful trails through the shady trees, rambling creeks and a peaceful waterfall, nirvana.  The description however used phrases like “two mile climb”, “if your legs are still your friend”, “this section will just rest your legs for what’s to come”, and more….I should have gotten nervous but thought, ‘oh it’s just being dramatic’, I mean you should see the really pretty waterfall picture (which they failed to mention is about ½ way to the top of a really tall MOUNTAIN).
Pretty waterfall...what a freaking climb.

Most of the runners stayed at the Mountain Lake Conservancy in Pembroke, VA where many scenes from Dirty Dancing were filmed….although this an iconic movie for my generation I was just excited to have a date night with my husband and a fun race to look forward to in the morning.  There was a complimentary spaghetti dinner the night before where we got to meet some of the runners but the food was beyond BLAH.  Plan ahead if you want something more palatable.

In the morning the busses began departing for the starting line at 6:00 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. start time, it was about 20 + minutes away but it gave everyone a chance to adjust their equipment and get a chance to mentally prepare for the race.  We started our FIRST mountain climb which lasted over 2 ½ miles.  It was INSANE, by the time I got to the top I was certain my Achilles was going to pop (by that I really do mean both), after a ¼ mile flat we basically began climbing slate steps for another 2 ¼ miles before reaching Aide Station one. At the top I checked my Garmin (and I do not think there were any solar bursts) and I had already ascended about 4000 feet.  WOW. 

Nice little climb after the water fall...yummy on
your hamstrings.

 The race continued along fire roads and some packed gravel areas but there were also just a lot of nice trails to run along.  Everyone, especially the volunteers and many ambulance crews were so incredibly nice and the other runners seemed to be just like me, they obviously loved the sport wand were out for a great run.  My quads began to mildly forgive me during miles 6-17 where although the ascent clearly topped the descent there were some fairly flat areas and even a few down hills, WHOOP! 

Although not the longest, one of the very steepest climbs went from miles 18 to 20.  The cheering crowd at the aide station made sure to point out to me that I was the FIRST one to still be actually running at this point (I have should have probably tattooed the word “energy” across my forehead).  After a few cartwheels and a sampling (read pocketful) of my new FAVORITE electrolyte replacement, Electro Delytes (these are easier on the belly than water and I am TOTALLY going to endorse them, I even kind of credit my awesome hand carved award to them), I rolled out of Aide Station 4 with a smile on my face.

The trails look nice and flat...
turn left ahead and climb a mountain suckers.
For some reason we were STILL CLIMBING, descending occasionally but at least the climbing portions were calm compared to what we had been through thus far.  At aide station 5 they had the motherload of snacks and happy runner food.  I loaded up….and again cartwheeled out because I am that kind of energetic (in my hot pink socks and matching running skirt for those of you who have not seen my running attire…it has flair if nothing else) and continued on my merry little way…with a smile of course. 

Luckily I had found a runner about my speed and we were pacing each other on and off for about eight miles, unfortunately we paced ourselves right off the course for a solid ½ mile, which naturally took another ¾ - 1 mile to find our way back.  Back on track shortly before the last Aide Station we were officially tired!  We had ascended more than 12,220 feet during this race and only descended slightly more than 8,000 feet (the joy of the point to point race). The course description did not do the technical aspects of the final 2 ½ miles of this race justice, in fact it was the second most technical portion (outside of the slate steps after the waterfall).  It was rocky, narrow, and extremely hard to navigate.  I somehow escaped without falling, but I do believe I was one of the few…runners dripping lots of “red stuff” crossed the finish line that afternoon but few would tell you that it was not worth it.
Nothing like going off course during a race...

When finished, I was completely exhausted, invigorated, and ready to go again!  My time was 5:35:37 (including my extra 1 ½ mile detour) and I won Overall Female Master.  The four women who finished ahead of me were in their 20’s…so at least I can blame age (and navigational issues) on my slow finish….honestly, this is one of the few times where I sincerely believe that finishing on this type of terrain, in and of itself deserves a medal. 

I love my hand carved award...
totally worth it!
I highly recommend this as a destination race to all of you who enjoy a hearty challenge and a great trail run.  It was a lot of fun and hopefully you will not be taken aback by the amount of climbing like I was.  You WILL climb, but the scenery and the people are amazing.  If you like southwest Virginia it is certainly worth it!  Plus the hotel is family friendly and if your spouse and children join you there are a lot of fun games to play and family activities (Alice in Wonderland sized (when she is big) chess and checkers and even a heated pool.  Not to mention plenty of hiking and biking trails.  They even have a scene by scene walking tour of the Dirty Dancing movie scene shot areas.
Life sized chess.   Cool =)

If you’re looking for a destination race, a new challenge and a small running field this may be your happy place.  Go for it!

Are you going to run the Eastern Divide Ultra 2013?

Any questions for me?

Have you started practicing your hill (mountain work) yet? BWAHAHAHAHAHA....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mean Girls

Mean Girls….

Living in a small town has a lot of plusses and a lot of minuses; the fact that everyone knows everyone happens to fall into both categories.  What amuses me is the way that so many people forget this simple truth.  My theory is that if someone has a home and education similar to mine we know ALL the same people, therefore I engage politeness and the ZERO disclosure policy 100% of the time (think, “The Real Housewives of St. Mary’s”). 

So, let’s get dirty and tell a few mean girl stories…

When confronted with their transgression...
(actually, not kidding, seriously irritated)
My personal favorite is about my “friend”, let’s call her ‘dip$hidiot’ for fun.  She thought it would be clever to continuously speak “unkindly” of me behind my back as though it would not get back to me.  To be clear, by unkind I really do mean vicious.
For those of you who knew me in high school and college you know that I looked at smoking as a favorite hobby and perfect snack food.  However, when I would get pregnant I was always very clear, I am still a smoker, just on sabbatical (not smoking) for the next 40 weeks.  Well, stillbirth #1 was due to the fact that my baby Sarah had the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck and once around her ankle.  A clot formed between the two from the pressure and she either died from strangulation or a lack of circulation due to the clot, we are not sure.

Dip$hidiot thought it would be super cute to tell everyone that I had clearly smoked through my pregnancy and had essentially killed my child all on my own…after all there was a clot in the cord.  Never mind the pathology report (you know, the authority on this...not dip$hidiot) which declared me nicotine free, or the 50+ (yes FIFTY) hours of labor I had just gone through, she was morally OK with informing the world that I murdered my sweet baby girl. 

Classy lady.

Is anyone on board with my mean girl theory?  (Or her ignorance that I would not hear her words echoed back to me by maybe 30 of the 300 people she told her theory to?)  You do this in a small town and think I won’t find out, the poor thing may be full of herself but is probably not too bright. 
Mean girl judging, brutal huh?

The reason I bring this up is because as we age and continue on our life journey mean girls never change. 

When I explain mean girls to my children for some reason I try to let them off easy.  “Oh, they are going through a rough time (divorce, moving, changing schools, blah, blah, blah), they will settle down and be a good friend again soon.”  I think I am doing my children a terrible disservice.  Overtime I think you can change but some people are just inherently mean.  My children are not  perfect, but they are sweet and kind.  I am certain that if they were mean I would be able to explain it away in a heartbeat, “their mom is always in the hospital.” Simple.

I am aware that we cannot always be 100% sweet and kind and we shouldn’t be.  After everything I have been through I have a lot less patience with people and seperate myself from those who create any chaos in my life.  I am not sure if this means I am mean or that my life is too hard and unpredictable to let anyone in my inner circle who adds any “swirl” or ruckus to my day.

How you can spot a mean girl:
Mean girls often travel in packs...

Mean girls always tell you how nice they are.  They never actually do anything or say anything kind, they just keep reminding you of their sweetness and constantly replay the one or two good deeds they have completed in their lifetime.

Mean girls tell tales and name names.  Dip$hidiot was always telling me horrible things about other women, even her fairly close friends.  At first I thought I was simply a trusted ally, WRONG.  When someone is constantly putting others down, rest assured, they are not leaving you out.
I just realised that I have to wake up in a couple of hours.
That moment you realize you told all of your secrets to a mean girl.

Another way to spot them is the ½ compliment for you and ½ compliment for them.  “I love your new shoes, they are almost exactly like mine…you have such great taste.”  My advice, take your cute shoes and start running.

If anything even remotely dramatic happens they are intimately in the center of it (no matter how peripheral they are to the actual event).  They love to place themselves in the apex of all dramatic swirls.  I learned this after having Clara, my circle of friends expanded exponentially, it very happily went back to include just my real friends when things settled down.

What should happen when mean girls
put themselves in the middle of the chaos.
NICE girls will continually tell you all of the mean things they think they have done because they are consumed with guilt over the tiniest social faux pas and cannot seem to recover from it.

In the end true friends are not petty, cruel or divisive.  They love you for you and do not accuse you or ANYONE in your family of being inappropriate.  I will never say who was unkind to me or what I truly think of them (my mother erased that vocabulary from my brain with a mixture of soap and water), but suffice it to say I am better off without them in my life.

Do you have mean girls in your life?

Are you the mean girl or the nice girl?

Would love to hear your stories.