Fitness · Health · Perspective

Triathlon

Swim. Run. Bike.

A couple of weeks ago, I completed my second indoor sprint triathlon.

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300m lap swim- this is actually only 6 down and backs in our local Wellness Center’s pool. 78 laps done in the previous weeks before I completely fried my hair with the chlorine and purchased a swim cap. Pink swim goggles and my navy one-piece- I felt pretty official! I managed to cut 1.5 minutes off my previous race time in swimming.

2mile run- Running is my jam. I like to get into a rhythm and just go for miles. However… sprinting is NOT my jam. Nerve pain and numbness in my leg plagued me most of the winter. My mileage was dialed way back. I didn’t expect the time to be good. Vomit was close to erupting, but I beat my previous two mile triathlon sprint by about 20seconds.

12mile bike- After the fall sprint tri, the organizer decided to add 4 miles to the challenge. My spinning seat wasn’t set correctly… my fault. Shredded legs and a little rub discomfort. About 2:10/mile.

Overall, I took 3rd female. I thought I would feel proud of my physical accomplishment.

Upon reflection, all I felt was humbled. Two days before this, I laid in the tube for two and a half hours. My annual MRI: brain and thoracic spine, with and without contrast- a yearly peek into my neurological system.

All stable. Nothing new. I’d have loved to hear that my lesions miraculously healed themselves. Same white dots in the same spots.

Randomly, I’ll have weird nerve and muscle symptoms. For years, I thought everybody did. Apparently not. MS does odd things.

Have you ever considered how fortunate you are to have working legs, fingers that feel, and a spine that doesn’t “buzz?” This isn’t for sympathy. These truly were not situations that I’d considered prior to about four years ago.

Humbled to be able to swim. Amazed at running. Grateful for biking.

 

Faith · Family · Fitness · Health · Perspective

I am thankful for MS because _____

“I am thankful for MS because ___________.”

This was a prompt on a MS focused social media feed I follow. It took me a moment to hone in my feelings on this open ended statement.

Before answering, I scrolled down through the many responses. They ranged from angry and bitter to grateful and inspiring. To each his/ her own on personal feelings, this chronic condition is as unique to the individual as freckles on a face.

My post was short. It has given me “perspective.” On both good days and rough, foggy brained and clear, fatigued and energetic, this condition has given me a different perspective on how to approach life in general.

Three years ago, I was going strong (albeit with a numbed right arm). I was training for my first half marathon, signing up before my diagnosis. I was pushing hard. Full of determination and pride for what I was working towards. Pride is so hollow.

The diagnosis was devastating to my family. Honestly, after researching my odd-ball symptoms, I was pretty sure that was what we were going to hear.

Fast forward three and a half years…. we’ve juggled and jumped the paperwork and financial hoops (doctors, insurance, medications). Adjusting accordingly to temperatures and fatigue levels is a daily occurrence. I’ve ran three half marathons and approximately 1300 miles. Some days are easy. Some days drag.

Perspective: My husband and kids get my energy and effort first. It’s ok to say no. My Best Yes might be to say no to outside activities, social gatherings, or work projects. What I choose to say “yes” to is done with more thought.

Perspective: It is more important than ever to make sweet lemonade from life’s lemons. Anger and bitterness multiply if I let it in. And  let’s be honest, it doesn’t fix anything.

Perspective: Compassion, a listening ear, and empathy are three of the greatest tools. I don’t know what’s going on with other people, but I can guarantee that listening without preconceived  judgement goes a long way. Not assuming that I know how someone feels or what they are capable of has been a humbling lesson to learn with MS.

Perspective: mobility- can you run? Can you walk? Can you use both hands? Can you feel with all your fingers? Don’t take it for granted.

Perspective: Humility. I am breakable. I am broken. I thank God for what I’ve learned, who I am, and what He is using me for.

Perspective: the gift of time.

I’m thankful for each and every day- good, bad, apathetic or productive.

MS is not a gift I’d wish for anyone, but the perspective it’s given me is.

Much love this Christmas season– Jen

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Faith · Fitness · Perspective

Psalm 19 with a Sprinkle of Science

Do you ever feel like you are just missing the point? Like with the current excitement over fanny packs and high-waisted jeans (which I experienced the first time a few decades ago), some things just leave me clueless.

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Yep, that’s me! The last few weeks have been a quest to “get it.” Once you realize you are missing something, you want to find it.

With my husband gone for a trip and then the transition time back into normal rhythm, I slipped out of my habits. I stopped running because where was the time? I stopped doing my devotional in the morning because I wasn’t getting more than a few hours of sleep. My stress level was thru the roof. My kids were fighting constantly. Sugar and bread cravings were all I could think about at meal times.

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Appreciate what’s around me? Struggling to…

Pay attention to the people and places I went? Just enough to keep us all alive…

In the words of Nemo, I was trying to “just keep swimming.”

That is not what this life is about! Sometimes, well… most of the time, God puts something in front of me like that rumble strip on the sides of the highway. The one that signals “CAUTION” and to make a correction. (side note- it is also good at distracting screaming babies on long car trips – not sure how we would have ever made it to Austin, TX with a very angry 5 month old without that rumble strip)

The first day of May, I set a goal of 90 miles of running this month (max 10/90 on bike). I’ve run basically every day. Running is part of my worship. It is impossible to not appreciate nature and all of Creation when running outdoors. It is extremely hard to demean yourself on the treadmill if you are aware how all the intricate cells in your body are working together to make that happen.

Monday, I picked my devotion time back up as well. Psalm 18. Psalm 19 Tuesday. Talk about a swift swoop into my world!

Psalm 19 (NIV).

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. 

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 
8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. 
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Verses 1-6 refer to the beauty of creation, created by God in intricate interwoven detail. “Verse 3 – they have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.” It doesn’t have to be! Beauty and majesty speaks for itself. There are no words in any human language that does it justice. “Yet their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…”

How sad that I was so wrapped up in man-made chaos, that I completely missed all the miraculous things going on around me!

As a lover of science, I understand the desire to know all the inner workings. I want to know too! But much like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, I have to pick which part I’m sure of to make calculations. I choose God and will leave the other part to be less certain. In doing so, I’m able to enjoy and appreciate life around me with both my faith and my questioning, scientific mind.

In doing the study commentary on verses 7-13 this morning, I realized that I had completely misunderstood much of the intent of the Bible!

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In my naivety, I’ve thought that many of the teachings were extremely limiting and harsh. What about my self-expression? my self-interests? my hopes, wishes and dreams?

Notice a trend here? Consider MY ears opened this morning.

Back to basic science – Newton – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Why do I think MY actions, hopes, dreams, expressions, and interests won’t have a ripple effect on others? #selfish

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The harder I push against God’s guidance, the harder or more awry life goes for me and those around me. Our world is doing its darndest to muddle things up. Again *raises hand*, guilty… Those guiding principles are not there to punish us, but to walk us towards a deeper joy, the kind only possible when you’ve made humble peace in your soul. Consider this me working towards being wise.

Verses 11 to 13. Who hasn’t told a child “Don’t touch that! It’ll burn your hand!” Then the seeking fingers touch it, burn, and tears ensue. *raises hand* Who has been that child thinking that he/she knew what was best? *raises hand*

These lines illustrate how God is trying, so so hard, to guide us away from troubles. It is frequently MY choice which path I choose – walking away without blemish or needing a salve and a bandage.

Hidden faults. We all have them. A very difficult step in maturing is recognizing those faults and rectifying them. I’m feeling fairly confident that I’ll never master all of mine. Thank goodness for the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of my husband, family, friends, and the One who made it all possible with His sacrifice!

Willful sins? I think by this, my study means vices and things we do on purpose. What is your vice? Put simply, I like my pants to fit, so fitness is probably one of mine. Pride seeps into fitness like sweat into a t-shirt after a good workout.

About a month ago, I ran a little over 10K for a team half marathon event that benefitted local scholarships. I struggled physically and thus was not happy with my time. I completely missed a chance to be thankful that my body will move how I want it to. With MS, this is not something to overlook! Alas, my pride got in the way. To exercise with the desire to only be proud of myself or for the attention of others is willful.

After this eye and heart-opening study, I can honestly say I’ve hit the rumble strip. This is my modern day application of Psalm 19. I appreciate the wake up.

Health

Road Trip

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Sunday- Monday was our biannual road trip to see my neurologist. We left after church on Sunday. Kissed the kids, installed the car seat in grandpa’s vehicle, threw the bags in the backseat of our truck and headed west. 

I love getting to spend that time with my husband — and by time I mean about 7 hours one way and then about 7 hours back. We cover a lot of topics that we don’t normally get to talk about. 

I sing in the car to pretty much anything that comes on. I tried to introduce him to a different genre of music, not so successfully. I listened to his talk radio shows for awhile. We tried to get excited about the Super Bowl, but meh. Not so entertaining on the radio.

We arrived at our friends’ apartment in time for the 2nd half of the Super Bowl and then continued to visit late into the night — 11pm is late for us. Don’t judge. We changed time zones and have two young kids. They were very gracious to put us up for the night. In the midst of our visit, they are closing on a new house and moving out of their apartment in 2 weeks!

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Denver is a big city. We spent most of the morning in traffic trying to get somewhere to eat breakfast. We finally settled on a clean, suburban IHOP where 3 guys were sharing a joint outside. Oh Colorado… How different you are…

Of course, IHOP isn’t known for its dairy free options so it isn’t EVER my first choice. However, the map on my phone had taken us to two options that were not open, so I settled for a California scramble minus the cheese and butter and added some hot sauce. 

After that we trekked back north towards a shopping center where I completely struck out on the two things I needed: jeans and a swimsuit. There are no swimsuits for sale in or around Denver in February. #Ihateshopping

Fortunately, there was a good coffee shop at this shopping center. I settled for a coffee and read my book while he continued to browse. (Present over Perfect – a gift from a friend for Christmas – check it out for a new read.)

As usual, my actual appointment and reason for the road trip was short and sweet. We reviewed my MRI – stable, did blood work – all in normal ranges, and ran thru my physical assessment – no loss of sensation this time! All good things.

She was very interested in my bout of GI virus about a month ago as it apparently caused a psuedo-relapse and threw my nervous systems for a loop before I even had the actual GI symptoms. The crazy pain it caused was likely a “MS Hug.” All things that are new to my experience with this disease. See my blog Tingles about this.

Two interesting developments:
1) We didn’t do contrast on my annual MRI. There is research that the gadolinium can eventually build up in the body and isn’t good for the kidneys, so the group of specialists where I doctor have decided not to order contrast unless they believe something is new or active. I have neither indicators, so no contrast.
2) There is a new treatment being approved by the FDA this spring. It is only twice a year infusions and thus far after 3 clinical trials, has no risk of PML. I’m doing well with almost non-existent side effects with the Tecfidera. I’m not looking to change right now, but this would be a good option in the future according to my neuro – pending getting it thru all the insurance hoops.

Home again home again…

We were happy to make it home late last night and the kids were excited to see us this morning. It’s a big sigh of relief when that trip is over and done.

Health · Perspective

A Running Update About Running

I haven’t updated much lately about my runs. There’s a good reason for that… I haven’t been running.

I came down with a nasty, nasty, nasty virus the day I finished my 40 mile December. That’s right, just one nasty wasn’t enough emphasis. After fighting it at home for a few days, it landed me in the hospital on fluids and zofran for 2 days. Bless the person who invented IV fluids. I received about 6 bags before they unhooked me and sent me home.

That virus knocked me back hard. It fired up my immune system, therefore making my nervous system angry too. I tingled on my arms, legs, and back for two weeks. I was fatigued. I was drinking broth and struggling with solids. And now, I’m finally back at it. I’m working on gaining back some of the weight I lost. I couldn’t keep my running pants up at the sick weight. Not cool.

I went for my first run in almost three weeks yesterday. I parked the car by the grade school so I could cover my day of carpool and ran from there. I ran up the street to the track and knocked out a mile. Then I turned around and hustled back to get my crew of 1st graders. I seriously felt like this: 

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Did I pull that move out once or twice as I chugged it down the street? Maybe. I’ve been caught dancing on a treadmill. It happens.

Running that 1.6mi route sparked my mind to start thinking again of spring running goals. Do I try to train for another half or do I stick to 10K’s and work for a half this fall? I’m just not sure. 

My running thoughts on running…

1) Start easy with pace andl2sqc3popzkj5r8sq distance.
2) Visit with Neurologist about touchy immune and nervous system.
3) Set Spring running goals.
4) Refresh music playlist.
5) Go do it.

 

Much love — Jen

Family · Fitness · Health · Perspective

Tingles

Did I Push Too Hard?

That is the question I was asking myself as I laid with my 4yr old at bedtime last night. We finished prayers. She talked about Lola the dog and Aspen her daycare friend. She answered my daily request of “what was the best part of your day?” And then we laid there and held hands while her favorite lullabies played softly.

I cherish this time of night with my littles. My husband and I trade-off nights with each child. Sometimes it is a quick 5 minute tuck-in with prayers, but tonight was 45 minutes of laying still and cuddling. And there is nothing wrong with that for so many personal reasons. Those reasons I’ll discuss in another entry.

While I laid there patiently waiting for her to settle down and fall asleep, I thought over the past two days. I am pushing for a 40-mile December. To some, that might not seem like much. Only running 40 miles in a month. Many in my online running group have big, amazing goals like 100+ miles or are headed for a 3000 mile year. To others like my non-running husband that seems like a ridiculously large amount.

To me: Attainable but it would require finding time whenever possible to squeeze in a few miles. Time would be a much bigger challenge than distance.

So I did. Sometimes in only 10-15 minute increments. Running into the Wellness Center or down the road for however long I could snip a quick moment out of the day (with childcare). Looking at the calendar, it’s easy to see when school was still in session: homework, carpool, work, meetings, appointments, feeding my crew… and not much running.

I’m sitting today at 37.2/40. I’m feeling confident I can get the last 2.8miles today.

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However, it may be slower than the past few days. Just speculating, but I think I made my neck lesion mad.

Wednesday I knocked out a pace that I haven’t managed before. I ran my 5K in approximately 24 minutes. As I finished up mile 3, my legs started to get wonky and did not want to stride correctly. It was a strange phenomenon I’ve never experienced before.

Thursday, I ran intervals for mile 1. I warmed up from 6.0-6.5. I revved the treadmill up to 8.2. I needed a quick trip to the bathroom following mile 1 so I jogged to the locker room. 

I’ve had the “tingles” in my legs before when running, but never quite like this. It wasn’t painful, but tingles on the outside of my thighs, and on the inside and outside of my knees when I sat down. When I stood up they were gone.

My spine felt good – no L’hermitte’s. Hips good. No issues in my legs upon washing my hands and walking back to the treadmill. I ran another mile at 7.0 revving up to 9.2.

But in the quiet of my daughter’s bedtime, I have to ask myself – Did I push too hard? Is this normal for anyone else?

For years, I assumed that the strange things that my body did were just normal quirks. No pain, so not a big deal. Just an occasional muscle jerk here or a double clutch on my left foot when doing Zumba. It wasn’t until the numbness of my actual “event” (which I thought was exercise induced by bad form with a kettlebell) that my medical professional and I were led to say “what is going on in this otherwise healthy person?”

Pretty sure my neuro (who I’ll see in February for a 6m check) would say “Hmmm… Jen, use some common sense here.”

Common sense – Looking at, working out with, or having a conversation with me would lead a person with common sense to say ‘she’s perfectly healthy!’ But looks are deceiving, which I was reminded about by the presence of my tingles.

Looks like I’ll be finishing up my last 2.8 a little slower than I’d planned. I can’t express how thankful I am to be able to run or even hop or walk those last miles toward my goal. Those tingles gave me something to think deeply about and brought about a whole new depth of gratitude for simple mobility.

Don’t take anything in life for granted.


Much love to you as we close out 2016! — Jen

 

Fitness · Health

Socks for Christmas

What is the big deal about asking for practical things for Christmas? My list this year included foaming hand soap for the kitchen, a new knife set to replace our 11yr old dull, well used wedding gift set, and socks. I get poopoo’d for asking for simple things like this, but usually end up with what I ask for. Apparently, it isn’t ‘fun’ to buy practical items?!

I’ve asked for socks for Christmas for the last 3 years. Not just any socks though, running socks. If you run distance and haven’t tried a specialized running sock, I highly recommend you invest in a pair or ask for a pair for Christmas or your birthday!

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Crazy Compression Socks that I purchased.

Brands: I like Balega (made in South Africa) and Crazy Compression (pictured here -made in NC, USA). I’ve also heard positive reviews of Feetures and Bombas, but I’ve never tried them. Upon researching the companies (because that is something that I do), I found that Feetures is a family owned company in North Carolina. Owning a small business with my husband, I try to support businesses like this. Bombas are made in China, but do a 1 to 1 donation in the USA with homeless shelters. For each pair of socks sold, they donate a pair to a homeless shelter. This gets snaps in my book.

Cost: They run $10-30 a pair depending on the brand and what sale codes you can find. Thus, they usually go in my “gift” category instead of in the “necessity” category. I did splurge on two pairs of compression socks this year. I didn’t own any, but thought it would help with muscle recovery after long runs. Good news! Crazy Compression has a 30% off sale right now with code: “fun30”

Why Invest in Running Socks?  My philosophy on investing in good running socks lies in keeping the condition of my feet at a tip-top level for running. I’ll never be a foot model. My husband swears I have “hippie feet” from spending my summers barefoot. My feet aren’t pretty, but are completely functional for distance running. Dedicated runners get blisters, lose toenails, and can sometimes have gnarly looking feet. Running socks help with the hot spots and blisters. Getting fitted for the right running shoe for your feet plays a large part with the black and missing toenails.

My Next Run:  I tend to call the 5K, 10K, and half marathons “runs” instead of races. The word race implies that I’m trying to medal. Most half marathons do present you with a medal at the end for completion, but I’m talking about placing in the top 1-2-3. I’ll likely not be able to do that and honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t run for accolades or public praise.

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I’m toying with the idea of signing up for 1 of 3 local half marathons. I haven’t chosen one yet. One is in March – Rural Route 13.1, the next in April- Wicked Half, and the final option is in May- Bill Snyder Half. Every year, I think I’ll sign up for the run in March, but then I don’t. Last year it rained for that whole event. The run in April is a good option, but I’ve heard it is a fast course. I’m not sure that even with the addition of interval training for speed that I would be happy doing a “fast course.” The final run is in May. That is as late in the spring/ early summer as I will run due to the heat in the Midwest and my body. Heat and MS do not mix. Depending on which I choose, I’ll have to start a training plan. Hmmm….

Any way around it, I’ll be needing some Christmas socks!

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