Category Archives: Friends

Gazelle Girl 10k 2019

I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure where to start with this post. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head throughout the race and these couple days following.

I’ll start by setting the stage for this 10k race. It was cold and rainy, and by the end, snowy. Michigan weather at its finest. We had been watching the forecast so we knew what we were getting into, and none of us were swayed. We were committed to completing this race, no matter the weather.

I should back up. By “we” I mean myself, a friend from church, and two other friends of hers. So you could say this was kind of out of my comfort zone. I had asked Chris, my church friend, if I could tag along because it was an all female race, and it looked like a lot of fun. It was out of town and they already had plans to stay at a hotel the previous night and they welcomed me with open arms. The comradery among runners is incredible. I’m fairly new to running compared to a lot of others, but throughout this whole experience I was never tempted to feel like an outsider.

The race itself started out pretty smoothly. I was feeling strong and confident for the first few miles. However, about halfway through I was noticing my left foot dragging quite a bit. This “foot drop” is one of the symptoms of my MS. Running doesn’t cause new symptoms, but it can aggravate old nerve damage. I have been training for my half marathon this coming fall, and have done plenty of long runs with almost no foot drop, so the fact that it was happening so soon was disheartening. Maybe I was just being more affected because of the excitement and nerves for the race, I don’t know.

My friend Chris had agreed to run with me for the entire race, to be sure I was safe. She did a fabulous job pointing out all the potholes and manhole covers, and steering me away from other obstacles. Throughout the race I did not trip even one time! However, I would not have finished this race without her assistance.

I think it was around the end of mile 4 I was having serious trouble keeping my foot from dragging. I was also experiencing some side and shoulder pain, but I was afraid to slow down and walk. My balance is better when I’m running. Something about the motion, I guess. I have another friend with MS who says the same thing about running. Walking requires a different movement and different nerves, I suppose. I told Chris what I was experiencing and she urged me to walk to give my body a rest, and use her arm for balance. At this point I was pretty discouraged and frustrated with what was going on with my body. I had not expected this to happen so soon. When Chris explained to me that my pace at the beginning of the race was much faster than I had been training at, it all made sense. I had been training between a 14 and 15 minute mile, but I had been running closer to 12! So clearly I had made a mistake, and I was paying the consequences.

I tell myself I don’t care about times and personal records, but that’s a big fat lie. I do care. I am always competing with myself, and I feel a great sense of pride when I am able to see my pace improve. The problem is, I want it to happen sooner than is realistic. So now thanks to my prideful denial of my physical abilities, I hobbled the last two miles of the race mostly hanging for dear life on Chris’ arm. I felt ashamed, defeated. My ugly pride had taken a hit. I started off too fast and it hurt me in the end. This felt a lot like failure, because I feel like I should have known better.

But listen – this was NOT failure. I finished the race! And with a PR to boot! So I made it more challenging for myself by starting too fast, and I had to lean on a friend to accomplish my goal of finishing. So what? Can we all agree there’s nothing wrong with that? We all have challenges in our lives, and very often we have to lean on our friends for help. Friendships enrich our lives, make us stronger, make us better. This is good!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

There was a point in the race that I was feeling particularly angry. Not angry at myself, but angry at the multiple sclerosis that makes things so difficult. On most days I am able to function like a normal person and can almost forget I have this affliction. But then you run 6.2 miles and you are reminded. And that sucks, Big Time. So yes, I was angry. But then I was reminded that I hated running for most of my life. I didn’t start running until 2015, six years after I was diagnosed with MS. I run because I have MS. To show myself and others that it’s possible. MS doesn’t have to mean life in a wheelchair. This is what I believed when they first diagnosed me, and I know now that’s not the case.

I watched the following day as Worknesh Degefa dominated the Women’s Elite Race in the Boston Marathon. She ran the last 20 miles alone. Way ahead of the pack. Yes, it was cool that she was in the lead, but what was even cooler was that she was doing her thing. It didn’t seem to bother her one bit that she was surrounded by absolutely no one. The mental fortitude that must have taken is something I aspire to. If I can run these races and just zone out Degefa-style, then perhaps I can keep a steady pace and finish strong.

So I learned a few lessons with this race. I learned that you can’t rush the process. You have to pace yourself, and that requires patience and humility. There may be people zooming by you, but pay no attention. As Chris encouraged me I think during mile six – “you do you”. Forget about the other runners. Just keep moving toward the finish line. You’ll get there. Lesson #2: You want to change your pace? Do it in training. Don’t switch that up during a race. Sorry, I don’t know how that applies to life. It might pretty much just be applicable to running 😉 And lesson #3 was that friendships are invaluable gifts and not to be taken lightly.

My dad was able to join us to spectate this race, and it meant a lot to have family there rooting me on. He called me the following day and asked how I was feeling. He specifically asked if I was still planning on running a half marathon and I answered without hesitation – YES. No question. At this point in time I have no idea how I’ll physically manage it, but I’m choosing to trust in the training process. Four years ago I was barely walking, three years ago I ran my first 5k, and just 6 months ago I ran my first 10k. This body just keeps getting stronger. The more I push, little by little, the farther I can go. I don’t know how far MS will let me go with this running stuff, but I’m gonna keep pushing the line until she forces me to stop. And with God’s grace, I have hope that day will never come.



Advertisements

Hack hack, ahem ahem, cough cough

You guys. I’ve been sick for all of two and a half days and I’m trying sooo hard not to be a baby about it, but geesh. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I just want to snuggle up in a cozy blanket and let people wait on me. The first part works alright but the second one, not so much. Because folks, I’m the mom. And mom doesn’t take sick days. Which is only kind of true. My family is really great about helping out and giving me my space. No one’s even complained that the laundry is piling up while I’m downstairs nursing myself back to health.  It’ll get done, eventually.

Anyhoo. Since I’ve been out of commission all I can do is sit around thinking about how little I’ve blogged lately. Not cuz my life is boring (though it is a little) but because I just haven’t been in the mood for blogging. It happens every now and then. Whatevs.

What’s going on lately, you ask? Well, the son has been busy wrestling, both for the local club and the middle school. This is exciting stuff folks. Now that he’s on the middle school team he practices every day right after school. He does not seem to be tired out by this, thankfully, and it’s been a huge load off for our resident chauffeur, my hubby. Now he doesn’t have to drop him off, then go back and pick him up. Just one trip per day, and he’s home by dinnertime. Which means we all get to eat as a family again. Every day!

The daughter is not in sports. Has no interest really, at least for now. That could change down the road but I don’t think that’s likely. Her two loves right now are art and animals. Since it’s -38 degrees outside these days, she did not want to go for more horseback riding lessons, so we found her an outlet for her art. A gentleman from our church is willing to give her weekly lessons and teach her whatever she wants to know. Right now she’s on a big Bob Ross nature scene kick, and it’s friggin’ amazing what she is able to create just after watching a few YouTube videos. I know I’m a tad biased because I’m her mother, but there’s no denying that she has some serious talent that will only get better with more training and practice.

It’s kind of weird but I’ve had zero motivation to write that book I had been talking about. I still want to tell my stories, just maybe not in that format. Maybe we’ll just keep them here on the blog for now. I could do some kind of kooky flashback series where I tell short stories about what happened to me five years ago. Or maybe I’ll get the hankering again to write the book. Who knows?

I’m just really happy doing the things I’m doing now that I don’t really feel like going back to that time. It feels too heavy. Right now good things are happening. My kids are growing and changing, and I’m able to be a part of that. I’m slowing down and trying to be more focused on the most important things. Spending time with God, family, friends. It’s been a good change.

And speaking of slow, I set myself a new goal: to run a half marathon in the fall (it’s speaking of slow cuz I’m a slow runner, get it?). I have a race picked out and a friend to run it with me. I have a training plan picked out on my Runkeeper app, and it doesn’t start until March 5th. So I have time to warm up to running regularly again. I’ve not been running since before the holidays so my legs are a little rusty.

I even spoke to my neurologist about how to train safely, and was reassured that this was not too big a goal for someone with MS. If I take it slow and am careful, it’s totally possible. In fact, she said regular exercise is just as crucial to my health as is my disease-modifying therapy. So as far as priorities, I need to bump it way back up to the top. She said that running will not cause me to relapse, but will only help to keep me from relapsing. When I run, certain symptoms flare up, like foot drop and difficulty seeing, but she said that’s because those are nerves that are already damaged. As long as I’m being safe about it, I should be fine. Which is why I always run these races with friends who can be a good set of eyes and ears for me and keep me safe. So that’s on the docket. 13.1 miles. In a row!

And that folks, is all I have for an update right now. I had a funny thought earlier and I was going to post it, but now I can’t remember it. So I apologize for my foggy memory keeping me from leaving you on a humorous note. Oh wait! I can leave you with a pun… this one I choose because we bought new winter gloves for my son today…

“I got a new pair of gloves today, but they’re both ‘lefts’ which, on the one hand, is great, but on the other, it’s just not right.”

Victories over anxiety

I’ve struggled with extreme anxiety for the last several years but I had a breakthrough and I thought I would share it here. Yesterday was Halloween, so we had a couple families from church joining us for trick-or-treating. They live out in the country just a few miles west of us, and we are in your typical neighborhood with lots of kids and plenty of free candy to be grabbed. So around 5:30, a half hour before go-time, I was putting out snacks for our guests and grilling cheese sandwiches for the family. Our friends and their kids started showing up while I was cooking, and here’s where I noticed the difference. In hindsight, of course. After it was all over, I realized that through all that noise and chaos I remained calm, without even having to tell myself to. And not just calm, but actually enjoying having everyone there! The kids had a fantastic time, the weather was perfect, and the night felt like a true success all around.

Those who know me best know this is a huge thing for me. I’ve had some pretty big struggles with chaotic situations, leading to crying fits and panic attacks. But for the past year I’ve been on a low dose of medication and I’ve been practicing breathing techniques and really evaluating my thought processes every time anxiety rears its ugly head. And last night showed me that all of this has been working!

So that has me a little bit on cloud nine. The downside – cuz sometimes there has to be a downside – is that I must have overdone it yesterday, because I’m in a lot of pain today. It started last night with my left calf and foot, and today it has spread all the way up my leg and jumped up to my left arm. It’s a dull throbbing deep in the muscle tissue that I can only assume is nerve pain, so I’m praying a good night’s rest will make it go away. If not, I’m hoping a quick morning run will help get all those muscles stretched out and warmed up.

I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. All day I kept thinking it was Friday. Because I’m done with this week. Done, I tell ya. Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

Sweet dreams

I went back to bed at 8:30 this morning for a nap. I woke up about an hour after and still felt like I didn’t want to move. Mostly my legs didn’t want to move, but really all of me. The bed is so warm and cozy. So I went back to sleep for another hour and a half. I was having a really vivid dream where I was sitting in a living room, talking to my friend Heather about how I had been feeling. That a friend from church’s mom died recently and I was thinking about how I would die someday. That I was afraid I would die young and my kids would be left without me. And as I was saying this last part I started sobbing, and she reached over and hugged me tight. Then I woke up, with tears in my eyes and it still felt like her arms were around me. And I stood up, wiped the tears from my eyes, shook off the sadness, and got dressed.

I think I need to keep going to therapy.

My first 10k and my 40th winter

I logged on here to share my struggles with the coming of winter and cold weather and then remembered I hadn’t blogged about my 10k race last weekend. So we’ll take care of both here, if you don’t mind.

Yes. The cold weather. I don’t hate it. I love winter. I grew up in Michigan and I love all the seasons, but winter is a favorite. However, my body does not love it. It really resists the change. So as we are crossing over into colder temperatures, my body is screaming at me in protest. My joints ache, my muscles spasm, I have random throbbing nerve pain, and I’m just plain ol’ tired. All I want to do is curl up in a couple warm blankets and hibernate the days away. Which I could totally do, if it weren’t for all the things that need to be done. I’m behind on the laundry, dishes are constantly needing to be washed, children and the hubby like to eat once in awhile. Oh and I have doctor appointments to set and bills to pay. So now that I’ve pushed all of those tasks to Friday, it’s a pile threatening to overwhelm me. Argh. One day at a time, Mindy. One day at a time.

And then there’s the race! I actually ran the 10k I had set out to do, and I ran it in just under 90 minutes. An hour and 26 minutes, to be exact. I keep saying to people though, it was so much harder than I had expected it to be. But I don’t give up. My dad took a video of me finishing and I look incredibly hit up and worn down, as if I might possibly be actually dying, but then a minute after the finish I was smiling and laughing. Because I had finished. On my own two feet.

What was really extra special about this race is that I had my dear friend, Staci, running right by my side the whole way. She was my eyes and ears, to make sure I stayed on the course. It was wonderful to have her there next to me. Also, my brother Brett and sister Kari ran it as well, though they are faster so they ran ahead and met me at the finish line. My dad and younger brother, Josh, were there to spectate, so it was really a sort of family affair, and they were all celebrating with me. I think they all understand how far I’ve come and can truly appreciate what a victory it is for me. I could not have done any of this without their support and encouragement along the way. It was an extremely memorable day.

In the aftermath of that difficult race I was saying I would probably not be running a half marathon any time soon, as I had previously hoped. It just seemed too daunting. But then I was chatting with a friend on Wednesday and somehow we both decided we would train together to run a half marathon in the spring. So we will see how this goes! Training through the winter will be more of a challenge, but having a friend doing the training with me to hold me accountable should help.

I saw my neuro-ophthalmologist this week and shared with him my running victories and plans, and he cautioned me about training too hard. He suggested I talk to my primary neurologist for advice because she’s a runner and could give me some sound advice for training with multiple sclerosis. It’s a tricky thing, to find a balance so that I’m training enough to be prepared, but not so hard that I throw myself into a relapse.

I can’t think how to properly wrap up today’s post so I will just wish you all a Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!

Drop me in the river

My daughter and I went camping last weekend. We left on Wednesday and came back Sunday so it was a little more than a weekend. My kids (and sometimes me too) have camped with the church my dad was pastoring for the past four or five years. He is no longer pastoring the church because he is retired, but the people really bonded with us and invited us back this year. I’m so glad we went, and I hope to join them in future years, but the whole time I was there I was dreaming that we could do similar trips with our own church family back home. Someday. We’re still growing. Right now we do a camp thing but it’s just one night and it’s held on one of the family’s properties. Also, my family has not yet been able to go. Conflicting schedules and all that.

Anyhoo. The camping trip for me consisted of a lot of relaxing on the porch of our cabin, crocheting and reading. The occasional walk around the campground to chat with people. I did not see much of my daughter because she was off riding her bike and playing with the other girls. One of the girls had brought about a dozen headbands with mermaid sequin cat ears, so they each wore a headband for the duration of camp. They dubbed themselves the “kitty cat club” and I can’t even tell you how that warms my heart. That all these young girls so quickly bonded. All of the mothers and grandmothers were touched to see their bond and we hope to keep them all in touch by good old fashioned snail mail. Perhaps they can remain friends throughout school, and make appearances at each other’s graduation parties. The last night of camp they all sat around and cried because they were sad that camp was ending and they wouldn’t see each other again for a very long time, if ever.

The first full day we were there we went for a canoe ride on the river. It was so wonderful and peaceful. Until the very end. Just at the end where everyone docks we hit a large rock or log and the current of the river yanked us over. Y’all, I was so freaking scared. I saw Natalie and her friend floating away towards the dock, and then I saw my AquaMic, my waterproof case for my cochlear implant, floating away. It had come off my head and life vest in the fall, and I was struggling to catch it before it was lost forever. It took a couple grabs but I was able to secure it and get back to shore. That’s when I saw my shoe floating away. Gah! Just a shoe, I know, but still. One of the older boys at the shore, or the gentleman who had been steering our canoe, I’m not sure, was able to get to where the shoe was and grab it for me. I did not want to have to walk around camp the rest of the weekend in flip flops. But really, I was mainly happy to be on dry land and could see that Natalie and her friend had made it safely to shore as well. When I walked over to her, she was almost in tears. She said she thought she was going to lose me. That’s when I realized that I must have put on quite a spectacle of fear when I was trying not to lose my precious cochlear implant. I felt really bad but she got over it pretty quickly once we went and got ice cream, so it was fine.

20180809_142739.jpg

Oh, I almost forgot about my phone. I was wearing my running belt to hold money for ice cream and my phone in a Ziploc bag. I took it out at the ice cream shop to check it and realized right away that it was not doing well. Those Ziploc bags are not airtight, I guess. Or I hadn’t closed it tight enough. I freaked out a ton because my phone is my connection to the world, as I’m sure it is for most people, but my nextdoor cabin neighbor had rice that I was able to leave the phone in for the remainder of camp. It didn’t fix it completely, as I still can’t use my “back” button unless I use the phone’s stylus, but it’s otherwise fine. Answers calls, sends texts, my books are all still there. It even charges normally. So it’s only minorly disabled. Kinda like me, you could say.

The day after that canoe event we had a tug of war between the guys and gals. The tricky thing is that they do tug of war in the river. It’s shallow at the shore but it’s quite rocky and the rocks are sharp and slippery. I tripped/slipped on a fairly large rock and bruised my shin pretty well, and then went on to assist the girls in winning a match. When they made us switch sides it was a different story because that’s where all the rocks were so it was almost impossible to gain a good footing. They tried to get me to join them the following day for a rematch but I told them no. That river and me were broke up and I had no interest in going back for more abuse.

I was pretty wrecked by Saturday afternoon, and kind of ready to go home. My legs weren’t moving right, I had bruises and pulled muscles all over the place, and I missed my shower. So I’m very happy to be home, but my body is telling me it’s still not recovered from all the activity, so I’ve dubbed this entire week a Week of Recovery. I’ll be resting as much as possible, with the hope that I’ll be back to working conditions by Monday.

 

2018 Squirt Gun 5k Fun Run

I ran a 5k last night with my friend and neighbor, Theresa. We had talked awhile ago about running a Color Run together, but it didn’t look like they had one coming back to our town. So I found us another fun run, on what I thought would be an easy course. It was set on a local high school’s cross country course, so I suppose I should have known. It was fine, really, just an added challenge. Everyone got their own squirt gun, and there were stations along the course where you could fill up, or get shot at, or both. I was all about squirting the little kids at first, but after the first half mile or so I just wanted to focus on running.

This was a different run for me because it wasn’t on pavement, and I wasn’t wearing my cochlear implants (they aren’t waterproof). So running deaf and on uneven terrain (that I couldn’t always see) proved to be quite the challenge. However, it was great having Theresa running right next to me, to alert me to upcoming obstacles and steer me in the right direction. Towards the end, as my legs were growing rather tired and we were making our way through the woods, I tripped on a fairly large root (or something) and Theresa caught me just before my face hit the ground. It was a very impressive catch! It was kind of scary for me though, not because of the falling, but because of the way my right leg responded to the falling. In the past I’ve been able to catch my balance, but this time my right leg – my “good” leg – completely gave out on me. Theresa had to lift me up to standing and then help me move my right leg to a stable standing position, and then after a minute or so I felt ready enough to get back into the motion of running. Of course I was still unsure of my footing and really not trusting either one of my legs, so Theresa kept a good hold on me as we continued the race.

I’m still sort of replaying the whole experience in my head in slow motion. I have been working really hard to be able to run this 10k in October and I don’t want this experience to keep me from that. I want to use this as a learning experience and maybe a reminder of how important it is to get my legs as strong as possible. I can’t know for sure if this body will allow me to run 6.2 miles in a row but I’m gonna keep pushing the boundaries and let it tell me when it can’t go any further.

Sidenote: On the way home, Theresa suggested stopping for a beer, so we ended the night with a cold glass of Guinness each! I think I’ve found another kindred spirit 🙂