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Archive for the ‘being positive’ Category

A week ago I completed my Cardiolite Exercise Test at the cardiology lab. My heart rate was a little elevated so I reached the 85% of max a little sooner than I usually do. No worries… it stands to reason after having two interventions in as many months, not to mention running on a 14% incline is nothing to sneeze at.

On the weekend things took an interesting turn. On Halloween I was taken to the ER at Hamilton General with similar symptoms as before when I had a 90% blockage. Let me say that the ER is a very strange and unusual place on Halloween especially when there is a full moon and a time change causing the nurses to have to work 13-hour shifts amidst the craziness. On Sunday I was transferred to the cardiac ward and scheduled for an angiogram to see what was causing symptoms that the doctors believed to be unstable angina. At first I shrugged off the discomfort and figured it was from running so soon after coronary intervention.

This brings us to Monday evening post-angio. There was nothing wrong from a cardiac perspective and anxiety had also been ruled out as well. The two places where I have stents are “widely patent” which in layman’s terms means that they are clear and blood flow is really good. The one bit of scarring that has caused a blockage they can’t do anything about is “well collateralized” which means I have new arteries handling the blood flow. That’s a good thing. So what was causing this pain? It turns out, or so we suspect, that I was experiencing a well-known side-effect to a blood thinning medication called Brilinta (ticagrelor) although there was some differences of opinion between my doctors. I started on this medication three weeks prior by the same doctor who I ended up reporting because he didn’t take my heart condition seriously. This certainly didn’t help my confidence levels that the medicine was the right one for me. On Tuesday morning I discontinued the Brilinta against the wishes of the doctor on the cardiac floor at Hamilton General. Instead I took a loading dose of the blood thinner that I was on up until early October. With that, the pain has completely vanished and I feel better than I have in months.

Once again there were issues with having to be aware of my condition and voice concerns to a doctor from the cardiac ward. He was going to prescribe a medication to help with the symptoms rather than remove the medication that was triggering the issue. The thing is what he wanted me to take lowers heart rate considerably. As a runner, my resting HR already sits around 50 bpm and if it were to be lowered further that could be actually a bit dangerous. When I spoke up the doctor realized his mistake and agreed. This puts me back at the realization that so many people would have just done what the doctor said without question. Being educated about my disease and advocating for myself has proven to be such a vital thing.

I came home after that, on Tuesday, and called my cardiologist, Dr. J.’s office. His assistant spoke to him about my refusal to take the Brilinta, my return to the other blood thinner, as well as the results of my Cardiolite Exercise Test. Yesterday morning when I was having tea with a dear friend I got that call that he felt going off the Brilinta was a wise choice. She also relayed that I had done very well on the treadmill, my heart is stable and I can resume running, cycling and most things at the gym in a few weeks. The only reason I can’t return immediately is that they did the angio on Monday via my femoral artery and I need a bit of time to heal. I can also resume weight training in late November or early December.

I have a few tidbits of running news.

I’ve signed up for the 5K distance at the Mercedes 10K race in Oakville on April 24, 2016. My husband Bryan will be running the 10K and it we will so some of our weekday runs together.

The other bit of running news is wonderful and it involves another Spring race… but I can’t share the details just yet. As soon as I am able to make things public I’ll post my news. What I can say is that a tremendous and exciting opportunity to make a difference has sprung out of the heart health hurdles I’ve had to jump these past months. I’m going to take this wee bit of down time to make a realistic training plan with the mind and there may be some shoe shopping… oh and my running playlist could use an update.

It’s all part of moving forward with strength, courage, and strong spirit… i mua.

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There is a Hawaiian saying that I love… i mua (pronouced ee mooh-ah). It means to go forward with strength, courage, and strong spirit.

I wish that for all of you.

Today is about moving forward for me as well.

I finally have a plan of action from my cardiologist. Dr. J.’s patient coordinator, K., and I have worked out a plan after several calls and emails back and forth. He doesn’t want to see me before I do another Cardiolite Exercise Test which will happen two weeks from now. It means I have to get up at the crack of stupid but what runner doesn’t do that—I’ll be running and even if it is only for a test, I’ll embrace every wonderful moment!

This time around, Dr. J. doesn’t want to consult with me after and instead he’ll let K. know if I can start running and going to the gym again. She said she’ll just wait for my call after the test but to give her 24 hours—apparently I have a bit of a reputation as the exuberant runner who calls the very next morning for results. Even though we both feel that I can be back to regular activities by early November Dr. J. just wants to be thorough given my history of surprises. The treadmill test with the cardiolite scans will show what is going on under the duress of exercise. It uses something called the Bruce Protocol which increases speed and elevation in timed increments. Generally it reaches an intensity that is above my norm. Think of a really steep hill that never ends and then, as you go higher, a grizzly bear starts to chase you so you have to run all out. It’s difficult but wonderful because it means I get to run even if it is for about ten to twelve minutes. From this testing the technicians and doctor can see many aspects of my heart function before, during and after the exertion.

I already have a follow-up echocardiogram and consult booked for December because of what transpired in August and we decided that I should continue with that appointment. I’m not at all surprised that Dr. J. doesn’t need to see me before then. I suspect this is because he knows that I am a very proactive patient that will do what’s best for my health by taking the necessary steps if an issue arises.

The best part is that if everything goes well I will be back to running in the next two to three weeks!

Yes… i mua seems to be the most fitting of sayings—moving forward with grace. 

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Yes, this is a race report. It has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the keyboard… grab your beverage of choice (I’m having Hibiscus tea) and get comfortable because this is going to be a bit of a read. Before I get into the summation of the event I will give a bit of a preamble for those who haven’t followed this journey of mine.

Where to start? Well, I suppose the last races are as good a place as any.

In October 2013 I participated in three events. The first two were on the first weekend of the month. Run for the Toad was a 12.5K leg of a trail relay on a very hilly course at Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area. The next day I completed a 5K Colour Run on the trails in Christie Lake Conservation Area. I felt unwell that weekend. The third race, later in October, was my first and only one that started but didn’t finish. I panicked halfway through the course. I was consciously worried about breaking my ankle but there was also a deeper level of anxiety. Ironically a few weeks later I broke my toes. The deeper anxiety, in hindsight, was that I was a running time bomb with an artery that was almost 80% blocked.

the hospital stay

the hospital stay

As you may have read, I had a procedure to fix that in March of 2014. Luckily I didn’t have a heart attack nor did I cause heart damage. Running had saved my life and I was determined to pick up where I left off in late 2013.

Recovery was tough. I ran but not the way I used to. Physically there was nothing holding me back. I had the all-clear from the doctors to run, train on hills, weight lift and whatever else I wanted to tackle. To be honest, I was terrified. I signed up for races and bailed over and over again. A full marathon, half marathons, 5Ks, 10Ks, all came and went. Race day would arrive and I would lose my nerve. Training suffered over the year and anxiety became the norm. I’d hop off the treadmill every 10 minutes during a run to check my blood pressure. I’d run a handful of times each month but training had gone to the wayside. I could bike 10 to 20K at an all-out pace at the gym but to run for even a few kilometers was stressful. Sure there were a thousand reasons why it was so hard, after all I had lost my base, but the bottom line is that I was scared. It takes a lot for me to admit that the thought of running at a race was so crippling to me. Fear and anxiety took over.

There was a breaking point. A month ago I dropped out of the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. I wasn’t trained but I had agreed to run part of it. My friend Carla had signed up just after I had and I wanted to be there to support her like she has done for me over and over. A family issue arose and I had to cancel. In doing so, I felt that I had really let my friend down and I felt horrible about it. That said, I was relieved that I wasn’t running despite what was going on here. Fear had reared its’ ugly head yet again and regret crept into the mix. Letting myself down is one thing but letting a close friend down was really upsetting. I don’t have words for how bad I felt.

About a week before the Niagara event I signed up for Long Point Eco-Adventures’ Smugglers Run Trail Race near Turkey Point, Ontario. There were three distances but because it was trail run and my running base was shot, I chose the smallest of the three which was 6K. For weeks before the event I wrestled with whether I should run it. What if I had more heart problems? I could injure myself, after all I hadn’t worked on a solid running base. What if I was last? What would people think? What if the cardiologist was wrong and I had a heart attack on the course? What if something happened with the kids while I was out running? What if? What if? I was overthinking everything and being a little dramatic.

I resolved that I was not going to back out of this race. I was going to brave the start line and that even if I had to walk the entire race, I would cross the finish line. It had been 21 months since I had completed an event. 21 months! Time to suck it up and move forward. With the support of a great circle of friends I prepared for race day.

And… finally the race report.

pre-race selfie

pre-race selfie

I arose at 5:20 am and groggily got ready to leave. Bryan and I had an hour drive and wanted to meet our friend Mandi, around 7:30. The morning was gorgeous and the drive out was a little foggy but nice. We drove through the countryside and made our way to Turkey Point arriving at Long Point Eco-Adventures around the time that we had planned. Long Point Eco-Adventures is a wonderful facility. There was an observation tower, zip lining and all sorts of other things. The property was directly across from the Burning Kiln Winery.

We explored for a bit and had a snack. I was in capris but at the last moment decided to change into my running shorts because it was warming up considerably. Mandi was kind enough to share some homemade bug repellant that she had created and then we headed to the start line so we could cheer the 18K and 12K runners as they took off on the trails. In all there was about a hundred runners. I was mentally prepared that the worst case scenario would be a lovely walk in the woods. My mantra was that “forward is a pace”.

the cool race bib

the cool race bib

The race officials sent us out 10 minutes early which was great because I was raring to go. The course wound around and down a bit of an incline. So far so good. Then we got to a boardwalk and there was a right turn in the middle of it. No big deal, right? Well, it was quite a step down into eroded and uneven ground and it faced the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. Yes, steeper and longer than Skeleton Hill at Run for the Toad. Goodness gracious. Mandi and Bryan had run ahead so I was quite happily running on my own. I was dead last but I had the second and third last people in my sights. As I crested the hill and came around the corner into the fields, there was Bryan. He was waiting to run with me and he had picked a wild Brown-eyed Susan which he handed to me when I ran to him. I tucked it into my Bondi Band and off we ran.

© Wilson Photography

© Wilson Photography

He was determined to run the rest of the course with me. We spent quite a bit of time walking as the hills were brutal. Did I mention it was really hilly? Parts of the course had two-way traffic and it was quite narrow so there were pauses to let the runners doing the 18K pass by. Every once in a while he’d swat a mosquito on my back. I suppose I should have worn a light coloured shirt and used bug repellant on my torso. Oops.

Just around the 5K mark Bryan had an epic wipeout. He tripped on a root and his shoe went flying down a steep embankment and his iPod went in the other direction. Bryan landed right in the damp dirt. We were only a few meters from the paramedics when they heard me yell to see if he was all right. Bryan was a bit embarrassed and his toe is very badly bruised. We lost a few minutes while he retrieved his gear but this race wasn’t about time for us and the wee break gave me a little umph for a stronger finish. I was determined to finish even if I was dead last, but my chivalrous husband made me go ahead of him. I crossed the finish line with the flower still in my headband.

The best way I can describe this course is that if you were to take a 12.5K loop from Run for the Toad and condense the elevations there into 6K, you have the Smugglers Run. Holy technical and hilly—the kind of hills that chew you up and spit you out. My lack of training was evident and I had to walk more than I wanted to. The time on my Garmin time read 01:10:34 and my official chip time was 01:12:19.

the casks

the casks

After we crossed the finish line we collected our commemorative glass mugs that were given instead of finishers medals and headed over to Burning Kiln Winery for our complimentary glass of wine. I enjoyed a most delicious Cab-Franc as the awards were given out.

Would I run this again?

You bet, but I’d actually train for it next time. Long Point Eco-Adventures hosted a fabulous event. There was great volunteer support on the trail with water stations every few kilometers. The route was stunningly beautiful.

I am so happy that I went out and braved the start line. Of course, I had the typical post-race high and during that booked to run the same distance in another trail race named Chase the Coyote in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. The race is at the end of September and that gives me time to get some decent hill training in. I’m running the Oasis ZooRun 10K in Toronto a few weeks before and that course isn’t exactly flat either.

I sure do things the hard way as this wasn’t exactly a moderate course for my first race after such a long sabbatical, but adversity met perseverance on Sunday and it feels great to be back! The crippling fear has been conquered and laid to rest.

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One thing I have noticed with finally discovering a positive self-esteem is that my tolerance for BS is much lower than it used to be. I’ve had a few relationships that I have moved on from in the past year or so. There are four to be exact. One person suggested that this handful of “failed relationships” is because there is something inherently wrong with me. Although she meant it to be snarky she is correct in that there was something wrong with me…

You see, for years I settled for less than I deserve because, I suppose, at the time I felt it was all I did deserve. I’d overlook hurtful things for the sake of not rocking the boat. I’d pretend that digs and rude comments didn’t bother me. I’d hide my opinion for fear of being judged. If you told me the sky was yellow and I knew it was blue I would agree just so that I wouldn’t risk losing a friend. And… I hated myself for it. I would hide from being myself and it was stressful. On top of that I would give and give to the point where I’d wonder if I was being used and often times that was the case.

As I started to feel worthy of love and true friendship I embraced the fact that we’d be pretty boring if we all thought the same way. I started to share my feelings, opinions and ideas. Some friends were on board but there was that small handful who, for whatever reason, felt that I had changed and not for the better. The fact that I suddenly had my own voice was too much for some, I suppose. Sadly, those were also the people in my life who I would drop everything for when they needed me, yet when tables were turned they were suddenly distant.

This started to become evident when my Mom passed away at the very beginning of 2013. Oddly enough it was also after I’d been running for about a year. Running was one of the things that really brought me out of my shell and taught me about how I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Last March, when I was in the hospital dealing with my heart issues, I started to be aware that a few of the people I had considered close “friends” weren’t really people I should have in my life. There is a saying about not crossing oceans for people that wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. This was certainly the case and I was enlightened.

I also saw who really valued my friendship and lent support throughout the anxious months that followed. I had a very rough year that took its toll. It was quite the eye-opener and by the end of August I realized who had my back and who was apt to twist a knife in it. I decided that if being friends didn’t bring value to my life and constantly left me feeling negative then that wasn’t a relationship I wanted to continue. I faced the fact that if I had to think twice about answering the phone or visiting because the conversation would be draining or drama ridden then it was time to unsubscribe myself from that. After all, it isn’t fair to either party.

It’s amazing what has come from this change. I’ve strengthened relationships with people that treat me with mutual respect. I’ve learned that I want to surround myself with the type of friend where if we disagree with one another that we can at least understand the other point of view. After all, that is the way it should be. I should never have to walk on eggshells because I have different perspective.

I’ve always said that there are times where you have to treat your circle of support like a garden. If you pull the weeds then you make room for the flowers… and that is exactly what I did. .

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I’ve been very quiet on twitter, dailymile, and my blog lately because I needed a break to get some perspective.

Over the last year life has interfered with my plans. Broken toes. Health issues. PTCA. Bronchitis. After a while this started to take its toll on me emotionally and I haven’t been feeling very exuberant about running. Yes, as über-positive as I am, I’ve had to face the fact that I’ve been in a good old funk.

It’s not the wallowing kind of funk. I’m not one to feel sorry for myself—I am content and happy for the most part. It’s more frustration that this past year wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. What happened with my heart coupled with not meeting my running goals for 2014 came down on me like a ton of bricks. I haven’t managed a single race since the day I kicked the dumbbell and broke my toes back in November 2013. It has been a roller coaster since then and there are times I find myself struggling.

I was still battling bronchitis for several weeks after announcing that I wasn’t going to run the 42.2K at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). As the incessant coughing started to wane, our family went on vacation. During this time away I began look at things from a different perspective.  Although I took my running gear with me, I didn’t run because I still wasn’t feeling great and I wanted to spend time with my family. Eight hours each way in the Jeep gave Bryan and I plenty of time for some great heart-to-heart chats. This helped me to resolve some of what I had been feeling. Despite this, when I returned home life got busy with the kids and other obligations so running got pushed into the background even further. Admittedly, I settled into that quite willingly.

This past weekend I started to reassess where I want to go with running and where I truly stand from a cardiovascular standpoint. My intent, when I decided I wouldn’t be able to run the full at STWM, was to run the half marathon and I changed my registration to reflect that. Now I am second guessing the decision to run at all. With a mere nine weeks left to train and taper for the event, squeezing training into that short of a time span is not exactly realistic given the challenges that I face, but part of me still wants to try. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. While I haven’t lost all of my fitness, I’m not where I need to be in regards to running longer distances. Plus, I need to rediscover my love of the run. I seem to have lost sight of that recently. Perhaps it is simply because I’ve put too much pressure on myself. I thought about my situation, talked with Bryan, and we decided that it would be to my benefit to dig out my early training plans and pick a more appropriate starting point.

As you can read, I’ve accepted some difficult actualities and am beginning to come to terms with the simple fact that the big gaps in my training have affected my base adversely. These were circumstances that were not within my control and what will be, will be. That’s just life. Reality. It’s not easy embracing where I am at but there are positives. Despite what I have lost, I am by no means the same runner I was when I first started. Running has given me courage in so many other areas of my life and it has given me the wisdom to know that getting back to basics is essential. It has taught me to keep trying.

Taking a few steps back is often the best course of action when it comes to looking at the grand scheme of things. After all, life is like a dance and the past year mine has been a bit of a Cha Cha. It does keep things interesting, that’s for sure. For me, giving up is not an option and so I continue to work towards a fitter, healthier me. In the end, an approach to build a better foundation will make me stronger in body, mind, and spirit.

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Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. – Michael J. Fox

Thursday morning…

After a two week bout of bronchitis, which I am still not 100% rid of, I sit at my desk while writing a note to Canada Running Series. As the tears roll down my cheeks I request that my registration be transferred from a full marathon to a half marathon. These aren’t tears of sadness, but of relief. I’ve been struggling with this decision for quite some time. I put a lot of pressure on myself not to let anyone down. I was going to run this marathon even if it took me seven hours. I made promises to Canada Running Series and myself.

So, if I wanted to run a marathon so badly, why the change?

The crux of the matter is that I have lost a lot of my running base because of being off with broken toes and the problems with my heart. Two weeks after the heart procedure my cardiologist said to hang on to the dream of running the full at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this October and a few weeks after that, I was running again. I got carried away with the excitement of making it through such an ordeal that I accepted the opportunity to run the full as one of the Digital Champions for STWM.  I was alive and felt great. My speed workouts were more effective. I felt energized and ready to tackle the marathon.

feet in training

moving forward

When I brought those Saturday morning long runs back in the mix it was a struggle. I could no longer run the distances I had become accustomed to the year before. The high heat and humidity were definitely factors that made the runs exceedingly more difficult. I convinced myself that maybe it was a mental block because I couldn’t seem to get past where I was before I had the heart problems. But if I am being honest with myself, that’s not all it was—what I had to accept is that my base has suffered. I was off for a few months with the toes and then a few more with the heart blockage, so it is my reality. Not to mention, my body has been through some trauma and I’m dealing with the side effects of being on a blood thinner (things like anemia and bruising).

Bronchitis meant more time away from building that base but it also gave me pause to really think about what I want to do… what I need to do. Time has become a factor. There are a mere 13 weeks until race day. This means I would only get one 32K training run in. For most first-timers that wouldn’t be a problem however being diabetic throws a wrench into things for me. I would like to have a few more of those long runs in a training plan so that I can learn how my body reacts to fueling. Not having a good handle on that can result in not being able to finish. The bottom line is that I could run the 42.2K but training without the solid base would open me up to injury or disappointment.

It just isn’t training time. It is also time with family. I’m a Mom first. My partner, Bryan, will be away on business for much of August and September. In August, he’ll be home on weekends but in September he’ll be at a huge tradeshow in another country. We won’t have a lot of time to spend together and training for the full will reduce that even further. This happens every other year and, in hindsight, I should have considered it when deciding to run a full.

Don’t mistake these reasons for excuses because they are not. I’m still going to be running and training. The only change will be the length of time I am putting in on those weekend long distance runs. This is acceptance of where I am at with body, mind, and spirit. It is the realization that this has been a really rough year and that I need to be gentle with my spirit while moving forward. I am at peace with the path I have chosen.

The goal remains the same—the timeline has merely shifted. I still consider myself as being in training for a marathon… I’m just taking a more scenic route to get there. I plan to become a stronger runner, build my core strength and flexibility, and listen to my body. I will run a few half marathons and perhaps Around the Bay 30K, then revisit the idea of a full marathon sometime in 2015.

When I shared the news of my transfer with my friend Kim, a marathon runner, her words summed it up perfectly…

Everybody seems to want to rush through the entire running bucket list. The marathon isn’t going anywhere—it will still be there when you’re ready.

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A few nights ago, I was having a chat with a lady named Daphne who is considering becoming a runner. She’s a fellow diabetic who I connected with recently and we ended up on the subject of running. I’m a bit exuberant about running so it was bound to happen. She asked me if runners are the type to be cliquey. We talked about acceptance and how there is a culture in certain fitness circles where judgments happen frequently. With running, as I told Daphne, the only judgment I ever found was self-inflicted and stemmed from my own insecurities. It is as simple as John Bingham says,  “if you run, you are a runner”.

I related to her concern. When I first started running I only ran at home on the treadmill where no one could see me. I was over conscious about how I would be perceived and I felt embarrassed. I expected runners to look down their noses at me and act as if I had no business out there. It took a couple of months before I summoned enough courage to head to the indoor track and run in public. A few weeks later I ran outside. That was liberating but my confidence still waned at times. Then I ran my first race. After that my perspective changed considerably. Running brought me to the realization that I ought to be more accepting of myself and runners proved to be some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

I have experienced this kindness time and time again. I’ve had a runner stay by my side when I was having issues. She walked across the finish line with me, sacrificing her own time. I’ve had runners who finished long before me, cheer at the finish line. At the Toronto ZooRun a stranger gave me a high-five as he passed me in the other direction. It got me through what was a pretty wet and miserable run. Other runners have sponsored me by donating to the causes I run for. I try to do the same for them. Another runner, I had only recently met, decided to run my first half with me so I wouldn’t have to run alone. She ran at my pace which for the half was considerably slower than what she is used to. She even sprinted ahead near the end to take my photo as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of speed, one of the other conversations I was part of quite recently was with my fellow members of the Digital Champions (DC) team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This chat really illustrated what I was explaining to Daphne about how welcoming the running community is.

Prasheel Gopal, posted about the respect and admiration he has for those of us who are slow runners. He went on to mention how our efforts are not to be considered any less than folks who run faster. Prashell also went on to say that slow runners shouldn’t feel discouraged and how much he is inspired by us. His words showed me another perspective—it was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. He said that slow runners have to run for longer periods of time at events and in training thus enduring more extended periods of discomfort than those who are faster. For the longest time I berated myself for being slow but the reality is that I do spend a lot of time on my feet to cover the same distance. I’m sure that has to have an impact both physically and mentally. Other DCs chimed in and it was interesting to hear a similar point of view from other runners too.

Someone once said that the tortoise and the hare cross the same finish line. So, don’t fret if you are a slow runner because other runners know that you have the same commitment to this as they do. Be proud of every step you take towards being the best running version of yourself you can be. Embrace the fact that you are out there, day after day, giving it all you’ve got.

Daphne (and any of you who may be tossing around the idea of becoming a runner), I hope that you will give running a try and, in doing so, come to know the same camaraderie, growth, and joy that I have experienced through a sport that welcomes all.

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