Saturday, April 28, 2012

Somebody That I Used to Know

The past six weeks have been a whirlwind, but I’m FINALLY starting to feel like somebody that I used to know. :-) I decided last week, upon the encouraging doctor visit, to run the Cleveland Half Marathon in May. I have definitely cut back on my training significantly (only around 25ish miles a week) and I’ve been focusing on cross-training. I’ve been putting in a few miles (4-5) and following it up with either the elliptical or bike 4 days a week, dedicating 1 day to just cross-training with no running, and running long on the weekend. My latest long run was an 11 miler last Saturday. Since I’ve been running very casually over the past few weeks, I decided to step this one up a little bit without over-doing it. I managed a cozy 7:20ish pace and felt great at the finish. I am feeling super motivated to potentially run a decent half marathon in a few weeks despite all I’ve been through!

Although I definitely feel like I’m in good shape, the only way to really tell is by putting it to the test. No matter what, I always run my best when it’s in a race. The forecast for Saturday was cold and rainy, but sunny and in the 50s on Sunday.  I was thinking a 5k rainy race on Saturday followed by a sunny, comfortable 12 miler on Sunday was my best bet. Fortunately, there was a 5K in Avon at the Crusher’s stadium on Saturday so I decided if I felt up to it that morning, I would do it!

I was at work until late Friday night supervising a charity Cornhole Tournament I put together with my students, and didn’t get home until around 11. I was pretty wound up, and woke up multiple times throughout the night. I beat my alarm clock and was up around 6am, with butterflies in my stomach about the 5k I was to run that day. It felt like it’s been a lifetime since I’ve raced, although it’s hardly been 2 months! The weather looked favorable, relatively speaking of course, and so I got geared up and was out the door.

I got out to Avon a bit early, and therefore spent some time sitting in my car relaxing before the race. I got in a quick mile warm up 20 minutes before the race, was feeling confident, and ready to see what I could put out. I had serious butterflies and felt pretty nervous lining up at the start. My training has been pretty limited, I have done some but not much speed work, and I wasn’t sure if my confidence came from the excitement of the moment or if it was in line with what I could really do that day. I REALLY wanted this race to be the confidence booster I needed to get me back to where I was, and put behind what has been holding my back for the past few weeks. I was feeling ready to get back to me. J

There was a tiny delay before the start, but then the horn went off and so off we went! I started out ahead of pace as usual, and was immediately the front runner with a few close behind me. I kept waiting for one of the dudes to zoom past me….and waiting…and waiting…until I came to the first turn around and realized I was kicking some major butt! I crossed the first mile marker at 6:04, and was feeling a tad bit nervous that I could potentially crash and burn. The last thing I wanted to happen at that point was to get passed by a smart runner who saved it until the end, so I kept my head in the game and kept pushing but dropped my pace a bit. It was a double loop course, and upon the first loop realized that I had a good chance of being thee TOP overall finisher out of both the males and the females. Although this was clearly not the Boston Marathon, it was really exciting to be able to accomplish this lofty goal I’ve had for a while that I never thought was really attainable. AND, that’s just what I was on track to do. As I was coming into the 2nd mile, I knew I had it but wanted a strong finish. I ran my own race from that point on, and kept pushing and pushing. The course was about .12 miles longer than it should have been (HATE when that happens), my Garmin BEEPED at 19:33, but I crossed the finish line at 19:51. Regardless, I was STOKED that I was under 20 minutes AND THE TOP OVERALL FINISHER!  

My goal going in was to be competitive and to at least run a 20:00ish pace. Not only did I accomplish my goal, but I CRUSHED IT! I was interview by a few local newspapers, got a nice trophy, and was praised with lots of kind words by the other runners (mainly for kicking all of the boys’ butts!!---Who runs the world? GIRLS!! ). However, the most important thing I got out of the race was my confidence back. With all of the uncertainty with my health issues, I haven’t felt fully comfortable running like ME. To be completely honest, it embarrasses the crap out of me that I’m on a beta-blocker. I hate saying it outloud, I hate telling people the story, and I hate the constant reminder taking it every day. It makes me feel weak and that I'm less than an athlete. However, cardiac issue or not, neurological issue or not, today proved that I am most certainly far from weak! I'm still kicking butt, and there is plenty of butt still out there to kick. HA!

I must mention the best compliment at the race that came from some random dude volunteer that said to me in passing, “WOW. I loved watching you race because you never quit. Even when you were ahead you just wouldn’t quit! You really wanted to be number 1, huh?” I'm sure he has no idea how much that meant to me. I choked up a little bit, and said “Yep, can’t accept anything but number 1!” Evidently, that random guy gets me, LOL. No matter what, I can't quit---it's just not who I am. More over, the truth is, it’s not so much about being number 1 in comparison to anyone else. It’s about being number 1 in comparison to ME. At that moment, I felt for ME I was number 1. I haven’t felt that way in what seems to be a long time. It was an amazing feeling. MP's back! :-D
I have 12 miles tomorrow on what’s forecasted to be a sunny 50 degree weather day. I’m looking forward to it, and will be brainstorming my plans for the Cleveland Half Marathon which is in a few short weeks. As I said in my last post, my primary focus is to HAVE fun and enjoy the experience---any other goal will just have to add to that!!
I'm starting to feel like sombody that I used to know...:-)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Matters of the Heart

 “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s the real glory. That’s the essence of it.” ~Vince Lombardi

MP, moved by a quote from some football coach??? ;-)  It doesn’t matter what sport you dedicate your heart to. I think when it comes down to it, we’re all out for the same thing…to make something better of our lives. Or, better yet, to give us an incentive to step out of the ordinary.  In relation to how I’m feeling at this very moment, this quote certainly hits close to home for me. The most difficult notion to hold on to, but most essential, is HOPE. :-D

 Time flies, and a month has passed since my tumble. I came into this week with some good health news, which helped lessen the salt on the womb of my heart as I warmed the bench of the Boston Marathon on Monday. I was super busy at work as always, but the race I should have been running in couldn’t escape the back of my mind. I maintained a positive outlook, but it kept scratching around. Fortunately for me, the kindness of my amazing family, friends, and students (current and former) helped get me through the day with their cards, messages, and flowers of encouragement and consolation. It really touched my beta-blocked heart in ways I can’t adequately express in words. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You all will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. <3 However, crazy as it may seem, it turned out to be a good marathon to take the bench on. It ended up being one of the hottest Boston Marathons of all time as the temps pushed into the upper 80s! I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I suppose everything really does happen for a reason!
Flowers from my amazing kiddos <yes, I use beakers as vases haaaaa>

The good news that brought me into the week came from a phenomenal neurologist I saw last Friday.  She is a former tri-athlete, and simply put—she got me! There was no questioning my motives with running, in fact she was very encouraging about it. After a thorough visit that lasted over an hour, she came to the conclusion that what I have been experiencing are NOT seizures (WOOOO HOOOOO!).  Apparently my brain does not suck as much as the first neurologist suggested! She explained to me exactly what a seizure is, and although my symptom are “seizure-like,” they are missing some of the key characteristics.  Instead, she believes I’ve been having what are called confusional migraines. Confusional migraines are characterized by an initial impairment of vision, or the presences of what they call an “aura.” This precedes a feeling of lethargy, disorientation, and a sense of fading in or out. In the worst case scenarios, an individual may lose consciousness. Following the loss of consciousness, an individual can experience prolonged confusion, with trouble speaking or remembering. Nausea, exhaustion, headache, difficulty concentrating, and feeling just run down can last for days post a confusional migraine. THIS makes sense to me, and completely matches up with what I experienced! After dealing with uncertainty for over a year now, this is the first time I’ve felt confident with a diagnosis. I was so appreciative of her thorough examination and detailed explanation, and also respect of my sport, that I started to cry!  It’s just a major relief. She prescribed medication to help reverse my migraines when the “aura” appears. The funny thing is, I’ve experienced this “aura” with migraines since my childhood and never knew that’s what the official terminology was, LOL. However, whether or not I take the meds, if I’m seeing an aura, that means NO RUNNING for the day. That is the one wall my marathon body can’t push through---it is what it is and I accept that. She also recommended that I increase my salt intake. She said I should be adding salt to just about everything.  At this point, I can't count how many doctors have told me I need more salt, haaaa!? Lastly, she encouraged my running and respects my dedication and love for the sport. But, strongly recommended keeping balance in my life. She told me she was very similar to me when she was my age as she was preparing for her tri-athalons, but learned balance through maturity. I’m working on it!

I recognize that there is a possibility that perhaps there could be another explanation, and maybe this isn’t an issue of confusional migraines. Only time will tell. But for now, I feel a sense of certainty and relief, which is something I haven't felt in quite a while! It's helping me relax, reflect, and move on from this experience. However, I still have my cardiac issue. I do not believe that it is what necessarily caused my running black outs. I do understand that this matter of my heart is an issue, as indicated by the Tilt Table Test. So I’m still continuing to take the beta blocker, and am following up with my cardiologist in a few weeks. ***SIGH***
In the meantime, I’m keeping in great shape! I’m working out 6 days a week, and running at least 5 of those days. I ran 10 miles last week at a 7:50ish pace, and have started a little bit of speed work again to stay fit. I do cross-training 4 days a week, some lifting, and am working on getting toned! J I’m keeping my overall mileage low, and enjoying my break. However, I did decide to run the Cleveland Half Marathon in May…J My sister, bestie Jeness, and a few other friends are running it. My heart is in Cleveland, I would feel left out not partaking in it, and I already paid for the Full. I was able to switch down to the half for $20, so I figured I should just do it!  My goal will be---HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE!J J J

Oh, just one more problem—when it comes to “real” matters of the heart, beta blockers have their ironic limitations. Attractive, nice males have a way of working around it. Scientific explanations are welcome, because I don’t have one. ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dear Boston...

Dear Boston,

In light of your upcoming race on Monday, I want to take this opportunity to thank you. Although circumstances haven’t quite gone my way this time around and I won’t be gracing your presence on Monday as intended, I still hold in my heart a great deal of gratitude. Your international prestige, qualifying standards, vicious hills, and beauty make people from all of the world work hard to put their talents to the test to take part in your event. Words cannot express what you have done for me, but here’s my best attempt to do so.

Before running my first marathon, the Cleveland Marathon in 2009, I was walking to my car after work.  A coworker stopped me in the parking lot and said, “Hey MP! I heard you were trying to qualify for Boston! Good luck!!!”  I immediately chuckled at the possibility, and said “UM NO I’m FINISHING the marathon and that’s about it!” I had no idea where she came up with that!  It was very difficult for me to get to where I was prior to the marathon. I had a bad fall in the snow early in on my training and had been running with a bummed knee (which turned into both knees and ankles---I was always icing SOMETHING), had a severe migraine post my first 20 miler, I gained a TON of weight (yes, training for a marathon bumped me up to almost 130 lbs!!! No clue how that happened), and I was adjusting to a busy marathon runner life schedule. Boston, you were never in the realm of possibility for me EVER as far as I was concerned.
With the fam after the CLE Marathon in 2009!

Upon accomplishing my goal and finishing the Cleveland Marathon in 4:29, I decided I was going to break 4 hours at the Chicago Marathon that fall of 2009. I trained with no Garmin, did no speed training, but felt something shift with in me as I was training throughout the summer.  In my preparation for Chi-Town, I ran the River Run ½ Marathon. I finished in 1:42, which was a significant P.R. for me in my pre-Garmin days. I had no idea how I did it, but decided on a new goal: I WAS GOING TO QUALIFY FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON IN MY SECOND MARATHON, THE CHICAGO MARATHON. It was only a month a way. I knew I was way under-prepared, really  had no clue what the heck I was doing, and had no one to give me any guidance or strategies on how to make this happen. But, I didn’t care. I wanted you, BOSTON. And, I’m a girl who gets what she wants. J
River Run 2009 turning point!
Morning of the ChicagoMarathon 2009!

Being the amateur I was, I had no clue how to run a “smart” marathon. I was over-ambitious, started out too fast, and BLEW it the last 6.2 to the finish line. My legs had nothing left, and I was focusing on putting one foot in front of the either. I had to pee the entire time, but wouldn’t let myself risk letting you go, Boston. But, skipping Port-A-Potty’s wasn’t enough—I finished 3:42:26. That left me 1 minute and 27 seconds shy of qualifying. AHHHH!
Overly ambitious MP :-)

 But believe it or not, I didn’t finish feeling discouraged. A fire was lit in me and I’ve never felt more determined to reach a goal in my entire life. I knew that if I trained appropriately I could make it happen. SO, I did my research. I started doing speed training, got a Garmin for my birthday, and read every book possible on how to become  a better runner.  And, that’s just what happened…

Initially, I planned on using my first marathon course, the Cleveland Marathon to qualify for you. But, I didn’t want to take the risk. I decided to run the Glass City Marathon in April of 2010 first, and then if I didn’t make it then attempt Cleveland. My training was flawless. I didn’t miss a workout, I ate SUPER healthy, I stop drinking all alcohol, and made little time for anything beyond teaching and running.  I ended up dropping over 20 pounds, and was under 110 pounds (not a particularly attractive look on me; I had some more lessons to learn from that!). I paced to run the Glass City Marathon at 3:30 to give myself some cushion to ensure I qualified for you. But, I couldn’t hold back. I started out around a 8:00min/mi, and slowly picked it up throughout the flat-fast course. Then, when I hit mile 20 I knew I had it! I was in tears, cheering and dancing the whole way, and FLEW to the finish line. I ended up finishing 3:19! Not only did I qualify for you, but I WAY surpassed my goal and ended up being one of the top female finishers. I had no idea I was capable of running such a fast marathon, and was so overcome with a feeling of triumph. I’ve never felt better about accomplishing a goal in my entire life. I DID IT! J Then, I ended up running Cleveland a month later in 3:18. I was unstoppable!
Glass City Marathon 2010 determination!
Cleveland Marathon 2010- unstoppable!

With my bro-in-law and sis after CLE!

I continued training through the summer and fall, and realized that shorter distance races were fun, too! I ended up running many, figured out how to break 20 minutes in a 5K, and came to realize I was no longer a “jogger.” I was a runner! And, not just a runner. A marathon runner. And, not just a marathon runner. A BOSTON QUALIFIER! I ended up qualifying again at the Marine Corps Marathon.

When it came time to begin training, I wanted the entire world to know I was preparing for you. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on apparel, and wore it everywhere I went. I was posting about you on Facebook like crazy, and getting the passive aggressive remarks from those inevitable running skeptics. But, I didn’t care what anyone had to say. I had so much pride in reaching my goal. Training through one of the worst winters in Cleveland lacked many perks, and I spent more time on the treadmill than I would have liked. As spring approached, I ended up having my first of what has turned into a series of “black outs” while I was running. But, I still continued through with my plan and met you on that beautiful day on April 17, 2011.
Made it to Boston, without luggage, but was SO happy to be there!

I didn’t want to take a minute for granted, although feeling so overwhelmed by the opportunity. I remember lining up in Hopkinton prior to the start, and feeling such a wide array of emotions. I was excited, scared, anxious, hopeful…to name a few! When I crossed the start line, I broke down crying.  I could not believe that I, the girl who never ran cross country or track, who merely wanted to finish a marathon two years prior, was about to run thee Boston Marathon. Really? Me? I got it together, and got moving! I ran the race to enjoy the experience as planned, and didn’t worry about my time. I was dancing in the streets of Boston and had the time of my life. Crossing your finish line was one of the most painful yet exhilarating experiences of my life, and NO ONE will ever be able to take that accomplishment away from me.

But, crossing the finish line isn’t the only accomplishment I got out of the experience. The goal of you, thee Boston Marathon, has taught me more about myself, and life in general than I ever would have expected. I learned that there is NO goal not worth reaching for. Regardless of how silly or overambitious it may seem, why not give it a shot?  With that in mind, it’s important to recognize that goals require PATIENCE. You cannot expect to reach them overnight. And, you may fail a few times in attempt to reaching that goal. But, I think what distinguishes an “average” person from an “incredible” person is their response to failure. A person who fails and turns off the lights on their goal can expect an average, or perhaps less than average, life. A person who fails and turns on the lights, faces their situation and responds accordingly, can expect an INCREDIBLE life and beyond! I learned through the Boston Marathon, how to make my life INCREDIBLE and how to continue working to make it EVEN more incredible!  In having an incredible life, I’ve also learned the significance of BALANCE. All aspects of your life need attention and neglecting one completely to enhance another isn’t healthy and doesn't lead to happiness.


That being said, Boston, You won’t be seeing me on Monday. I’ve qualified for your now in 6 out of the 8 marathons I’ve run, and appreciate the woman your challenge has molded me into as a result . However, my unfortunate health issues <which are appearing to get resolved!!!> have put me on an offical break, but I will be back.  A break is just what I need right now. But, please know it’s not you, IT’S ME!

See you in 2013,

MP <3

(P.S. Your forecast for Monday is INSANE- 87 degrees—YIKES!!! Please cool down for all of my running friends!!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy :-D

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. As said by psycho (but sexy) Brad Pitt in Fight Club, that quote has certainly found its way to apply to my current situation. I recognize that things could be much worse, and I certainly haven’t lost everything. But, things sure have changed a great deal for me. A little more than two weeks ago, I was coffee-obsessed and in full swing marathon training mode as I’ve been for the past three years. Now, I have followed the doctor’s orders and have completely stopped drinking coffee and am in "run as I please mode." Who would have thought, but believe or not, I’m LOVING it. Yes, that’s correct. I feel relaxed, healthy, in great shape, and open to opportunity. Apparently, I don’t need coffee and speed training so badly after all! Right now, what I am is HAPPY. J But, happiness is never something easily achieved. It’s taken some work…and will be something I will have to continue to work towards…

In fact, I have shocked myself throughout these past few weeks. Most people close to me have been worried I’d be devastated, and beating myself up for crashing and burning. And, are they on to something? Should I be locked in my room in a corner in the fetal position feeling sorry for myself? Gosh, that’d be a waste of time. J But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I do have frustrations. It's not fair- I’m in great shape, and have only been progressing as a better and better runner. My improvements have come in a short period of time and with no real guidance or coaching beyond myself. I have talent, I am young, and the sky is the limit. It stinks that I won’t be able to put all of this to the test this spring.

However, my crazy and dangerous black out experience, along with the subsequent diagnoses that have come as a result, have been a tremendous wake up call for me. The truth is, I am going to go nowhere FAST if I don’t follow through with what I have been saying since the incident. I NEED A BREAK.

So, my official plan is as follows: no racing AT ALL for the rest of 2012. Not even so much as a 5K. I need a break from pushing myself, because for years now I have failed to do so. Yes, I have failed. With all of my success in running, rest is where I have failed miserably. Why am I cold turkey cutting out all racing? I am too much of a perfectionist to run a race anything less than 110% of what I have, so I just need to remove myself completely for now. Then, come 2013, with full rest and recovery, I will be kicking some SERIOUS booty. I know it. Watch out 30-34 age group…MP is coming! J

In the meantime, I will NOT be discontinuing running. I will just be toning it down. I have achieved more than I ever could have imagined with running, and would not take back a thing. But, now is the time to reflect on those achievements and be proud.  I love running so much, and am so grateful for the woman I have become because of it.  As difficult as it may be for some to comprehend, it’s truly who I am. Maybe that’s odd, but it is! I’m pretty sure “runner” is one of the first words people mention when describing me. In toning it down, I will be taking it back to where I started. Before my first race EVER, the Cleveland Half Marathon in 2008, I ran ALL the time. I didn’t think much about it, I enjoyed it, and liked being in good shape. That’s what I will be sticking to for the rest of the year.  I will be running the distance that I want, the pace that I want, when I want, and with who I want. I will have time to doing more cross-training, and will hopefully get a bike for this summer. I will have more time do ANYTHING. :-)

I feel that the door for opportunity is wide open right now, and I’m excited for what I may accomplish and who I may meet. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am optimistic. I’m still on a mission to solve my black out problems, and am seeing doctors and waiting for more answers. I chose to not be devastated by the situation, but instead continue to work towards happiness. Life is much better lived happy. J

Running romance...

SOOOOOO CUTE. And she has red hair. :-D Can't blame the guy for trying!!! HAHAHAAA :-) Check it out: