Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflection: 2011

Wow, here I am, 7 years have passed since the day I began this blog. I don’t know if I ever thought this blog would be alive after all of this time. There have been points in time when it has laid low, when it has licked its wounds; there have been points when it has been flying high, with the world by it’s tail.

That’s life in a nutshell, isn’t it.

2011 has been  a year like none I have had since I began posting here.  I went into 2011 wondering if I had ovarian cancer.  A complete, radical hysterectomy in January showed that I didn’t thank goodness. I slammed into menopause. I began 7 weeks of recovery, began to run again, half marathons, marathons, 50Ks and then the dreaded herniated discs arrived and yet another recovery.

The hysterectomy recovery turned out to be uneventful. Seven weeks of laying low, walking, flat on my back most of the time. I later learned that the time on my back with my chin pointed toward my chest as I was watching TV or iPhoning probably herniated two of my discs.  My gynecologic surgeon and neurosurgeon both came to this conclusion. As I look back it now makes sense.

I’ve received many questions via email, FB, etc. relating to the herniated discs and the recovery process. It was horrible. I’ll go into detail here to answer many of the questions.

When I came back to work in March, after 7 weeks of medical leave, I noticed that I felt pain in my left elbow when answering the phone. I hadn’t yet started to run or lift at this point.  I rearranged my work desk so that I would be answering my telephone with my right arm.  A few days later I commented that my left index finger felt numb and my hand tingly. I couldn’t figure this out.

I began to run and noticed that when I did I had a ‘falling asleep’ feeling from my elbow down to my fingers .. this continued for weeks.  I didn’t know why and didn’t make any medical appointments. I think I was ‘all doctored out’. 

I remember running the Minneapolis Marathon in May, so happy that I was again running, so thrilled that the hysterectomy hadn’t taken me down and hadn’t shown cancer. I also remember having to pass my water bottle hand to hand because the left one kept falling asleep. I kept trying to shake it out, it wouldn’t shake out.

In July I ran the Afton 50K and felt the same symptoms of the herniated discs but didn’t know what it was. I was beginning to worry I had MS or something.  I took the race slow, but finished the crazy Afton Alps course, I was happy to have made it but the pain in my arm worried me.

Finally by the end of July I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too badly. The bouncing motion made my rhomboid area scream in pain. I thought maybe I strained my rhomboid. The pain at this point was horrific.

The first Dr. I saw was a General Practitioner. It was he who thought I could have herniated discs. I was stunned. I was scheduled for physical therapy in two weeks. He gave me some exercises to complete daily, a prescription for muscle relaxants and suggested an MRI.

The MRI confirmed herniated discs and the doctor I saw this time spoke of surgery. I was resistant to this option. I decided to get an appointment at Mayo with a neurosurgeon. Why wouldn’t one go to the best of the best, you know?  I had my hysterectomy at Mayo and had as good of an experience as one could under the circumstances.

In the meantime I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I heard Topaz stuck under my bed. Now I realize I was dreaming. He can’t even fit under my bed. I have a Select Comfort and there isn’t room for him under there. 

I popped out of bed (OUCH!) began to pull on Topaz as he was sleeping on the floor next to my bed. As I pulled him I felt intense pain. I couldn’t move.

Eventually I made my way to the kitchen and just stood there. I couldn’t cry, I would scare Troy, I couldn’t scream, what good would that do? I stood there wondering if I should get on the floor in fetal position. It didn’t help. I hurt so badly and  I didn’t know what to do. I was going to go out of my mind. I had all of the Oxycodone left from my hysterectomy. I hadn’t taken any. I wondered if I should now?

I had Steve take me to the ER at Princeton.  The Dr. there told me I had probably suffered a muscle strain. Ah, no, I had an MRI and have herniated discs. Oh, well, I don’t think so, I think you have a muscle strain. I see you have on a race shirt, you run, well, take some Percocet, some of the Oxycodone some Aleve and you can run. Are you for real?  I don’t need to run, I need to be able to get through this hour without pain.  We left. I wasn’t feeling much better but the Percocet he gave me as I walked through the door was taking the edge off.

I decided to try a chiropractor. Bad idea. I saw one in Big Lake and he was a joke. I could barely walk into his office. He told me I had sprained my neck and asked me to take my shirt off, then to flex my biceps as he stood there watching me. Are you kidding me?  I left and didn’t go back. I should probably report him to the Better Business Bureau or something.  What the fuck?

My appointment at Mayo finally arrived. I saw a wonderful neurosurgeon who told me that only 10% of his patients who have herniated discs are candidates for surgery. He showed me how to take care of my spine, how to get through my day, what exercises to complete. He told me I would run again. He told me my pain would lessen. It could be 3 months, it could be 6 months, it could be a year.  He told me to keep my appointments with the physical therapist and that he would contact me each week. He did. He was awesome.

The physical therapy went well. Traction was my new best friend and the healing began.  It was slow. Here I am, 9 months since this all began, and finally feeling good.

That was a long report on the whole herniated disc saga, I hope it answered some of the questions. It has had a big impact on 2011 and what I want to do in 2012.

Now, when I run, I remember the pain. I remember how I didn’t know if I would be able to run again. I remember how I told myself I was OK with that. I just wanted the pain to be gone. If I was able to run again, that would be icing on the cake.

I am enjoying the icing on the cake!

I am running and I have missed it so very much. I am humbled and I am so very grateful for every step I am now taking out in the woods.

This week Topaz and I ran our longest run since I ran Afton 50K.  We ran 20 miles!  I had no pain, no numbness. I was laughing, crying, yahooing the whole time. It was fabulous. It is fabulous.

As I turn 47 years old tomorrow I am thankful that I am looking at 2012 as a healthy person. I am not going into the New Year as I did last year: a hysterectomy scheduled and hoping to hear I am cancer free.  I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for  my family, for my health. 

I won't be running my birthday years in miles as I normally do each birthday, but hey, at least I can run..right?  I will reach my highest mileage this week in a long time. It will be 47 miles. Tomorrow we are celebrating my birthday at Pittsburgh Blue. I'm looking forward to it.

I have many plans to reach my goals for 2012. I’ll keep most of my goals private except for my running plans. That is where this blog began.

For so many years my daily calendar has been Tyler and Troy. I gave up the plush corporate office to stay at home for years and then began to work at the public school so that I could have the same hours as my boys. The daily calendar is letting me lose. With Tyler out of the nest and doing so well at college, with Troy not far behind, I find that I am craving more structure for myself. I find that I am having difficulty filling my day. My routine for so long has been my children, my purpose has been their care, their nurturing. I’ve done well. They have wings with which to fly. They soar.

For 2012 I’m ready to go big running wise.   I have had plenty of time to think about what I want to accomplish while running in 2012.  I have a final goal and am creating the detailed plans to get to the outcome I desire. I am pulling out my calendar and putting together my plan.  Once I have it set in stone, I’ll let you in.

Training began a few weeks ago. I love training, and oh, how I have missed it!  The only difference between running and training is a written plan. I have written the plan, I am putting in the miles. With training comes discipline, scheduling, a sense of achievement, where I find joy.  I find that while I am training everything else falls into place.

Cheers to 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Sourdough Starter Bread

 Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

I began to bake bread quite frequently after I purchased The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. It's a fabulous bread baking book. I use it every month, at least, but have never used sourdough starters. They kind of grossed me out. I mean, really, flour and water fermenting for days..or get a rise out of bread? Kind of ishy, I thought.

To get a sourdough to ferment I needed a warm space, which is difficult in December in Minnesota. 86F is ideal. My house is never 86F, even in August.  I mixed up 1/3 cup of rye flour and 3 T of water to begin this science project and placed the tupperware container in Troy's bathroom, near the vent. Troy's bathroom doesn't have any window, no drafts so it is about the warmest place in the house during the winter months.

Each morning I added 1/3 c of rye flour + 3T of water and mixed, watching for life. Eventually I did find a few bubbles and my mixture smelled yeasty.  Tyler arrived home for the Christmas Holiday and asked what in the world was that bubbly smelly stuff in his bathroom? I knew it was finally ready!

It just seemed so strange to me that I wasn't using yeast in this bread. The sourdough starter creates it's own yeast from the bacteria floating around my house, apparently.  Interesting.

I wasn't completely into this experiment until I watched my bread rise in the oven today. Yeah, the bakers are correct, sourdough does create it's own yeast. What a concept, hu? I didn't use all of the starter so now the remainder just hangs out until I decide to make another sourdough bread, which will probably be next week!

Here is my creation! Not too bad for a first time, if I do say so myself. Doesn't it look light, for a rye flour?  I thought it would be a dark bread, like a pumpernickel. I was wrong.  I really do love to bake breads. Thank you to Jessica to giving me the nudge I needed to try a sourdough. I no longer this of it as a gross science project :)

Be sure to visit Jessica for the complete recipe and details.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Listen. Do You Hear That?

Yes, two posts in one week. Woohoo! Something must be happening  with me, right? 

Yes. Something is. It is improvement. Improvement that I am able to see, to feel, to celebrate!

For the first time since July I have been able to string together FIVE, yes FIVE running days in a row. That is BIG in this world of mine. I don't feel any pain!!  Just a tiny bit of numbness in my index finger.

Yesterday after work Topaz and I headed off to my old running grounds. I wanted to try running on gravel road, just to see how I would hold up.  In the past I have run miles upon miles on this gravel road as there are many dirt trails that are offshoots and easy to access.  I ran hundreds of miles here while training for Lean Horse where I ran my 100 mile PR of 21 hours.
Yesterday’s run was awesome!  I was able to run fartleks for the first time in a long time! I ran a full 90 minutes upon the gravel without any pain. 

At every trail intersection where Topaz and I have turned onto in the past he stopped and looked at me, waiting for the direction.  He remembered.

As we finished up our run, walking a cool down,  I said “Topaz. Do you hear that? It is my soul. It is singing. “

Monday, December 12, 2011


No, I don't have a cold, I am blowing the dust off of my blog.  It's been far too long since I've visited you, dear blog, so sorry. I have been updating via FaceBook, the new kid in town.

I've received numerous email and messages from my dear blog readers, and I thank you for each and every one!  I began this blog 8 years ago as a tool to share with others the awesome fact I had uncovered:  Yes, you CAN run if you WANT to!  Yes, you can run a marathon, a 100 miles, a 5K IF you want to!  It was news to me, really! I wanted to spread the word.

Well, with all of the recovery going on this past year I didn't have all that much running going on in my life and didn't want to bore with the other details of my life.

I can not believe how this year took me right off of the trail. Wow. The hysterectomy wasn't so bad as I made the choice to have the surgery and would do so again in a minute. It was a good decision. I was able to plan for my recovery, knowing full well that I was going to lay low for 6 weeks and would slowly ramp my running back up over time. I entered the Team Ortho series and that kept me on track.

I'm very happy that I was able to run a few halfs, marathons, 50Ks and even tried my first few tri's. Awesome!

Then the dreaded occured. The herniated discs. Ugh. The unknown recovery, pain and turmoil that took place within me was something I have never experienced before.  The numerous Dr's, quacks, chiros, PTs are too numerous to count.. but I am now on the other side.  Thankfully.

As I look upon this past year it is with mixed emotions. I feel pain and sadness but I also feel gratitude and joy. Gratitude and Joy win!

On the bright side, I am not dying from an illness, I am otherwise healthy. My discs are healing!  Last Sunday I caught a glimpse of my former self. I ran 10 miles with Dear Topaz, I lifted weights, working shoulders for 45 minutes AND I headed off to CorePower Yoga and was able to complete the full 90 minute heated beginner class. JOY.  I drove home with tears rolling down my cheeks and a smile upon my face, telling Steve and Troy all about it. Gratitude.

I am slowly building my running miles. Today is the 4th day in a row that I have been able to run. Small victories!  I'm stringing together the good days just as when I first began to run 12 years ago. I'm thankful for each day.

Of course I'm disappointed that I won't be pulling a sled for Tuscobia 75 this next weekend but I am planning out my 2012 season. I mailed off an entry for a race in January. I am taking the calendar out and making my list.  I've missed the planning, the anticipation and oh how I have missed the training. Training. What a sweet word. It brings such great memories, feelings of strength, power, agony. Love Training.

Yesterday I suffered my first BONK in ages. While I've been recovering I've cut my calories so I wouldn't have weight to lose on top of everything else. Yesterday was a big huge reminder as to how important nutrition is. As if I didn't know this. My body isn't the same as it was before this past year. I can no longer run 20  miles on water. Nor can I run 20 miles (soon!). My body needs to learn to use fat again for energy.  I had a cup of coffee and headed out, knowing I was going to run 11 miles. I made it 6 miles before that carb crash feeling reared its ugly head. I was stunned. Seriously? 6 miles. Yes, 6 miles, this is an untrained body, remember, give yourself a break was the talk going through my head.  OK, I brought along 1 gel and was bummed that it was a Montana Huckleberry and not an Espresso. I didn't look, I just grabbed it from the glove box where a full box has resided for the past 6 months. I was lucky I had the 1.  I was still bonky but at least my legs were doing their thing, even if my brain wasn't. I suppose I used most of my glucose for my brain in my legs. Oops.

Today Topaz and I headed out for another long (in this world of mine) run. Today I had berries and cream, coffee prior to running. I carried water and Vespa with a few gels. I was good to my body and it rewarded me with a great run. Nice.

I'm getting better..and I'm liking this. Training. Training!