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Archive for August, 2012

feet in training

I never thought I’d ever be in a place where I’d be telling my readers that I am doing something of this magnitude, especially considering that it involves running. Yet, here I am sharing with you that I have decided to run a half marathon and scratch another milestone off my list.

Can I do this?

Mentally… yes, I can do anything with passion and determination! Plus, I have some terrific and supportive people in my life to help me when I have those moments where I forget how strong I am.

Physically… The most I’ve run, to-date, in a single run is close to 8 km and the biggest distance in a day was 8.4 km of steep hills at the TREAD relay but this consisted of two laps with a break in-between. I have a long road ahead, literally. I’ll need to train and train hard. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and I have the go-ahead from a medical standpoint. I’ll need to wrap my head around dealing with blood glucose fluctuations given that I am unable to carb-load prior to a long distance run like many other athletes do.

Am I scared?

Most definitely! Someone once said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” To say that this one is big enough that it has me a wee bit freaked out would be an understatement. Thankfully my want to run this half-marathon is more powerful than my fears. Honestly, I’m going to have to put on my big-girl running shorts and get over it.

Will I do this?

Try and stop me. I dare you. I am determined to run my first half and it will take everything I have in order to balance family, work, and training. I’m making the commitment and anyone that knows me understands how determined I am when I have a goal on the horizon. Luckily, I have my darling husband who told me this morning that he will happily pick up the slack at home so I can train and not feel guilty about it. My cardiologist has given me the all-clear as has my family doctor. There are no excuses.

When will I do this?

I’m working towards the Mississauga Half-Marathon in May 2013. I’m hoping that will give me adequate time to train and learn more about how my body will react on longer runs under a variety of conditions.

Oh man…

I’m going to need a longer playlist!!!

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As Bryan and I approach our 20th wedding anniversary we find ourselves reflecting on our marriage and thinking about what we want to do in the future. Lately, there have been many wonderful conversations surrounding that. We are both simply amazed at how fast the time has gone, how much we’ve overcome and how our outlook has changed on so many levels. One of the topics we’ve recently chatted about is what we consider wealth to be.

There was a time where wealth would have meant having so much money that we could buy whatever we wanted without having to think about whether we could afford to or not. We wanted it all but that “all” was based on materialism. Bryan was working a great deal of overtime and I was putting in eighteen hour days with my own business. The money was fabulous but we were too tired to enjoy our lives and we weren’t all that happy about the long hours. We didn’t have time for children and had agreed that we wouldn’t become parents because kids were just too expensive. Then we decided to spend a great deal of money on some high-end backpacking gear. We were in a position that we could buy whatever top-of-the-line item struck our fancy and we did. Funny enough, that is when our materialistic outlook started to change for the better.

Going out into the wilds was a big part of the shift in mental focus. Backpacking and wilderness canoeing put us into a much more simplified existence if only for a few weeks at a time. The distractions of the technological world were removed and we got back to basics while on those trips. Then, the next spring we lost pretty much everything we owned, including the business and car, in a house fire. We were homeless in a sense, staying in a small 10’ x 12’ room that friends graciously provided, for seven months. Sure, it was rough but we pulled together and muddled through. Losing everything brought us something unexpected—the freedom to recreate our lives in the way we wanted. We were alive and that in itself was a great gift. With that came so many other changes.

Experiences, both good and bad, bring great personal growth. We discovered just how strong our relationship really is and what good friends we are. Bryan and I talked with each other about who we were as a couple and individually. We shared our dreams and visions for the future just as we had done when we were dating. We had been given a blunt reminder about how fragile life is and with that started to embrace living. The realization that we shouldn’t measure wealth by looking at what material items we have or how much money is accumulated in the bank was a most important lesson. The richness we were seeking wasn’t something that could be bought in a store. And with that, and a series of other events, we decided to change things up… we became parents.

Our recent conversation illustrated to me that Bryan and I are still on the same page about many things. We both define wealth as being content with what we have and truly appreciating how full our lives really are.

For me the wealth is in the simple day-to-day activities like watching Tobias and Kaia play at the park together and the way she looks up to her big brother as he shows her how to climb are at the heart of it. The mere act of sitting on the couch, reading her a bedtime story is precious. Especially when looking over to see that Tobias is listening and remembering the way I used to read it to him. Sometimes he even narrates from memory. For Bryan it is the way the kids rush to greet him when he comes home from a business trip.

Family dinners on the patio, camping excursions with dear friends, sitting on the deck to watch the fireflies in the backyard, bicycle rides with our children, and hugs before bed are all things that make Bryan and I feel rich beyond measure. Sure, we could both pursue other more lucrative avenues with our careers but the cost would be the time we spend with each other, the children, and the other people we care about. That’s too high of a price for us to pay.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dolly Parton, because she puts it perfectly… “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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Ah, I bet you were thinking that this might be a post about love and romance. It’s not. This is about my family history of heart disease, how freaking much that scares the panties off of me, and about the consult with my cardiologist yesterday.

I’ll give you a little background in case you didn’t read from the heart back in February. Dr. J., my cardiologist, wrote a letter to my family doctor, Dr. R., on February 3rd after a second ECG and an Echocardiogram at his office. I had requested the first ECG from my family doctor back in December and on the same day she prescribed a blood pressure medication (an ACE inhibitor called Coversyl) because of high readings. Now back to that letter. Dr. J. wrote to Dr. R. “Needless to say she is quite alarmed over this horrendous family history of premature coronary disease. She has made up her mind to be very proactive in her cardiovascular health.” His letter of assessment indicated that I had LVH, a very mild aortic stenosis, and evidence for pulmonary hypertension. He went on to recommend further testing and confirmed that I should be on a low-dose statin for familial hypercholesterolemia. So I had the testing on the 9th of February and the next morning I was given the all-clear to resume training for races.

Fast forward 6 months to my follow-up consultation yesterday afternoon.

Dr. J.’s nurse said my blood pressure was a little high. I brought my monitor from home and tested myself. This wasn’t because I didn’t trust the nurse but moreso because I wanted to ensure that my equipment was still giving accurate readings. It was. I was upset because I was hoping he’d take me off the Coversyl and here I was with the highest reading I’d had in 6 months. I’ve dropped from 8 mg to 2 mg a day and my readings are still considerably lower than they should be when I test at home. I was stressing about the readings in the office and I couldn’t help myself. Another reason I wanted to discontinue the medication is that I can’t take ibuprofen or electrolyte replacements that contain potassium because of possible interactions.

By the time Dr. J. came to speak with Bryan and me, I was finally calming down, albeit only a little bit. He walked into the room and said “Hi Skinny!” I took that as a huge compliment because, well, he’s not the kind of guy to flatter. Dr. J. is much like my husband in that aspect. He asked how I was feeling. I bluntly told him “I’m completely stressed out here because, frankly, you freak the hell out of me. Even being here scares me half to death”. I explained that he shouldn’t take it personally; that it is just my family history devastates me and in turn that makes seeing him a nightmare for me. I mentioned that my endocrinologist was concerned that I was given the go-ahead to resume running when I was having a diabetes follow-up at the end of May. That too, stressed me out and I’ve been worrying about it for months. Dr. J. and I had a chat about how many types of heart disease, especially the kinds which are prevalent in my family, are very much behaviorally driven and therefore quite preventable. He stated that some people live with their heads in the sand and that he was happy to see that I’m proactive about things.

Then we discussed some updates to my medical history like my 56-year old brother passing away, from heart disease, a week after I saw Dr. J. last. We chatted about the race and I told him about hill relay, TREAD. I hadn’t cleared that type of training with him so I was a little concerned. Dr. J. thought it was great. He listened to my heart and lungs and said they sound “beautiful”. He did say that the slight murmur is still there and that it is caused by the mild aortic stenosis. He mentioned that he had no concerns about my lower heart rate and that he felt it was because of the training. Whew!

I asked him about going off the Coversyl and he said that he wanted to keep me on it despite my clear documentation that my blood pressure readings are pretty low on a day-to-day basis. I like him because he doesn’t treat me like an idiot and gives me the full story. “Laurie, I want you to stay on it for a reason not related to your blood pressure. As far as I am concerned, from reviewing your blood work, you are no longer presenting as diabetic but Coversyl provides great benefit when it comes to kidney protection. Because of that, I think it is worth continuing even though diabetes isn’t an issue for you at this point.” I explained my feelings about the electrolyte replacement for longer races and not being able to take ibuprofen during recovery if I need to. His response was that I could simply go off the Coversyl 5 days prior to a race and go back on it once I’ve recovered and go back to my normal routine of day-to-day fitness. He also mentioned that I should increase the sodium in my diet a little because of the running. This would help with the blood pressure, which is a little low, and with the losses from sweating. That works for me and I totally see his reasoning when it comes to taking the medication for the other benefits as a preventative measure.

I went on to ask about the mild aortic stenosis. Dr. J. remarked that it is nothing to be overly concerned about at this point and to just keep doing what I am doing. He encouraged me to train for the half-marathon that I’ve been considering and was totally positive about my health. He told me that my take-charge attitude with my lifestyle is refreshing to see. He also shared a bit about his wife, who runs marathons. It was inspiring.

Then Dr. J. and Bryan chatted for a few minutes about how I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes until I had lost a substantial amount of weight and how that diagnosis has helped all four of us in that we have become a more health conscious family. Dr. J. agreed that the timing of my diagnosis was very unusual. He then asked me how much I had lost to date. I told him that I could only guesstimate. My heaviest was over 375 pounds but our scale at the time didn’t go that high. I told him that I figure I will have lost over 200 pounds when all is said and done. Bryan then reached into my purse and pulled out the “before” photos that I carry to keep me motivated. My doctor asked how I did it and I told him that it was merely healthy eating and exercise. In our last appointment I felt like he didn’t really believe me when I said I had already lost a lot of weight. I’m sure he hears that kind of thing all the time. Seeing those photos and that I had lost almost 17 pounds since he saw me last really cemented just how serious I am about my health.

I have to tell you that I was on the verge of tears coming into this appointment. I was afraid that he was going to tell me to stop running and that I needed more tests or even worse, valve surgery. I had a very negative picture painted in my mind when usually I am more positive. All this health business has been wearing me down. In fact, I was so worked up about going for this consultation that Bryan had to talk me down more than once. You have to understand that heart disease is one of my greatest fears. It isn’t any wonder with what I’ve seen happen in my own family. I couldn’t have been more wrong about how this visit was going to play out.  Dr. J., doesn’t want to see me for another year and other than the aortic stenosis, which is very mild, he says I’m extremely healthy. Good news!

So there you have it, I’m okay. In fact, I’m better than okay.

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