December 30, 2010

The week between Christmas and New Year's has always been one of contemplation, reflection, and usually depression. Have I grown in the past year? Have I accomplished anything? I gave up New Year's resolutions several years ago, but never gave up the end of year scrutiny. That scrutiny was always harsh, and ultimately unproductive. This year has that same sorrow, but I think I'm a bit more realistic in the review. It's been a very hard year in a lot of ways, but there is good mixed in there, making the pain worthwhile.

Both my boys are now moved out and moved on. One is in Germany, one on the other side of town. I'm still adjusting to the joys and sorrows of an empty nest. That nest also happens to be completely and utterly underwater. I read somewhere that the housing crisis did not hit my area, but it certainly hit my neighborhood. I paid almost $50K for a little 2-bedroom condo in 2001. When I tried to refinance my mortgage earlier this year, it was appraised at >$20K. I heard someone sold theirs for $1,200 a few months back. This isn't a huge issue right this minute (other than paying interest over 2x the current rate). It does, however, push out plans to move in with Superman once we get both our houses sold and find one we both like (he doesn't like mine, I don't like his). It may be another 5 years before we can both get our houses in shape and sold, so we can move on with our personal plans.

This year I was fired from a company that at one time liked me enough to hire me back, after I left in 2002. I haven't been fired since I was 16 and lied about being on break at Corn Dog on a Stick. This time, I found myself on the wrong side of a person who had no problem blaming me for her mistakes, in an effort to look perfect for the decision makers. I understand, had she been held to the same measure she held me, she would also be out of a job. I understand the person I replaced was in the same position, and only avoided being fired by finding another job first. I understand the person who replaced me is also having issues. This has been a difficult adjustment, but in the end I believe it's actually for the best. I no longer have the stress of working with an unreasonable person who expects perfection, without knowing what results equal said perfection until I'd somehow managed to come close.

I was already working on a degree that would allow me to change careers. Jobless, I can now focus more fully on that degree. As this is an on-line degree with no real-life experience to show on my resume, I'm also working toward a certification I hope will open the doors I need. I will have to do some fast talking. I will have to start near the bottom. It's worth it though, as this is the field I've wanted to be in since I started working for corporate America. Both degree and certificate will be complete in 2011.

Jobless, I can help my parents fix their house, which has severe water damage and is in varying stages of repair. They've put on a new roof and windows, but my father is not as strong as he once was, and the interior job is daunting. So far we have completely remodeled the 3rd floor. He had the walls stripped and replaced several years ago, but with declining health and depression over the market never finished the job. I helped scrape, mud, paint, and replace the flooring. We've moved on the 2nd floor bathroom, which was left as unfinished drywall something like 6 years ago. Again, the job was too big for my father alone. I spent 2 weeks sanding and mudding, sanding and mudding to get everything smooth. I sanded and stained the woodwork. This past week we papered. We still have to level the floor and lay tile. We will then move on to bedrooms, all of which need ceiling and plaster work before paint. If I were working right now, I would not be able to spend this time with my parents, and I'm not sure how they would get the work done.

This year also started my running career. I'd run off and on, a month here and there, over the past few years. It wasn't until I signed up for a race that something clicked and I started running regularly. I've been sidelined for the past 2 months with hip and knee issues, but I still have races to run. I've given up on the February trail race, but am signing up for the Y so I can work out in the pool until my hip and knee can support running again. I have races on the calendar for April and May, and fully expect to toe those lines.

This year I also started blogging again, and found a world of insight and encouragement I hadn't found in all my previous attempts. This is officially the longest I've ever blogged continuously, and I fully intend to continue into the new year.

I don't have resolutions for 2011, but I do have goals. Yes, I'd like to eat healthier. Yes, I'd like to lose weight. These are not on the top of my list, and I know if I achieve other goals, these too will come. This year, my goals are to finish my degree and certification, and to get a job in the field of my choice. To help my parents finish remodeling their house. To race several months out of the year, and hopefully to PR. They are modest and achievable goals, built on plans already in progress. Come this time next year, I will have concrete accomplishments to list. That's the plan.

Happy New Year everyone. Welcome to 2011.

December 17, 2010

Making plans

Ibuprofen is my friend. With it, I was able to walk 2 miles today. I had twinges in the knee early on, where it felt I would hyperextend it, so adjusted to a shorter stride. After warming up, I had only mild discomfort. I believe even more now that moving is helpful, as it was with my back. Oh, and I found a penny. 8-)

I spent some time thinking while out walking. I was thrilled to realize how far I could go, and how my knee felt. I wondered what else I can do, to keep moving. I screwed my knee up once with aerobics, so that's out until I heal. I can walk regularly, but that's not working as hard as I'd like. I started thinking about Beth at Shut Up And Run. She has a stress fracture in her hip, but is still training for Boston by water running. I have a pool right near my house, at the YMCA.


The original Village People video doesn't allow embedding, so you get this one.
This isn't how I learned the dance, but I may have to change that!

I've had memberships at the Y off and on for as long as I've lived here, but had some issues with management the last time I was there. I'm also on unemployment, so can't really afford a membership. I ended up walking over to pick up the literature anyway. I'm glad I did.

Turns out they are waiving the joiner fee in January. The last time they offered a program like this, they told me I didn't qualify because I'd had a membership at some time in the past. I asked about this specifically, and they said anyone without a current membership qualifies. They are under new management! They also suggested I apply for a scholarship, which could pay all or part of my membership (and possibly get Ninja a membership as well). I will have to reapply every 3 months, and if I start working I no longer qualify (which makes perfect sense).

This will allow me to participate in their aquajogging classes, which they hold 3x a week. I will be able to take a Yoga class 2x a week. I will also have access to a treadmill, when my knee and hip are better. I was concerned about running in my Vibrams on ice and snow. I know Barefoot Neil is doing it, but I can just see myself slipping and sliding, and ruining my knee for good. It seems there may be hope for February's race after all!

It means I will have to adjust my schedule at my parent's, as the aquajogging doesn't end until 10:30. We are making progress on the 2nd floor bathroom, and have started mudding the bedroom with all the staple holes in the walls. There is still a lot of work to be done. I'm sure they will understand if I start showing up closer to noon.

I've also recently taken on another class. In addition to the Masters of Information Systems program through University of Phoenix, I'm now participating in a program that will result in my A+ certification. Both programs end at approximately the same time, and with both pieces of paper in hand I should be able to get a fairly good job in the field I prefer. 

All of this means I'll be a busy little beaver in the new year. Come January 2, you know where I'll be!

December 16, 2010

Penny-Picker-Upper

I want my bathroom tiled this way!
I am a penny-picker-upper. You know the person who, while out walking, makes you stop and wait as they stoop down to pick up 1/100 of a $1? That's me. People dismiss the penny as worthless, but as far as I'm concerned free money is free money. It's not always pennies, either. I make more in penny-picking-upping than I do interest on my bank account. In fact, it's painful to see a penny while out on a run, and not stop to pick it up. Stopping is not allowed on a run.

Superman believes pennies found tails up have drained all their luck, like an upside-down horseshoe. I believe I'm lucky to find a penny, regardless which side is up. It can be standing on it's edge for all I care. Leaving free money on the ground just wastes the luck I had in finding it, and I can't simply waste luck! That's like laughing in the face of the Gods. The joke in my household is that my penny-picking-upping burns my lottery luck. I'm lucky to find a penny, ergo that luck cannot then be used to win $356 Million and retire to a life of luxury on a my own personal, small island somewhere.

Well, I haven't been out walking in a while, with this bum knee of mine. I guess that's why I had enough luck built up to win Beth's Ultimate Stocking Stuffer Contest over at Shut Up and Run! I'm so excited, in part because of the super schwag, but also because she actually commented on my blog and emailed with me. Beth's was the first running blog I found, she has 1032 followers, and she's run with Dean. I feel as if I've touched a celebrity. I may not ever wash my keyboard again!

I'm joking of course, but it's still pretty neat. Buku Gu. Road ID socks, hat (I've been needing a hat), and gift card. I also got 2 new pairs of Ryders sunglasses out of the deal. Now I can be a Cool Kid like Barefoot Neil! My eyes are super light sensitive, so I make sure to have a pair of sunglasses, as well as an emergency backup pair of sunglasses, wherever I am. I'm already being teased about adding 2 pair to my collection.

I'm still hoping for that $356 Million, but I certainly can't complain about the way my luck went today!

December 15, 2010

This is getting old

I had friends over Saturday for game night, which was great fun. We played Apples to Apples for hours, ate good food, drank a few Brandy Alexanders, and basically had a blast. As my friends were leaving, I turned to give one of them a hug and my knee complained. A lot. I'm back to square one with my knee swollen, and I can't walk any real distance.

It's difficult not to get frustrated or depressed, when body parts hurt all the time and refuse to work right. I have to say I am a LOT better than I was 10 years ago. Back then I had unexplained back pain, which had me bedridden when I wasn't working. It hurt to move, but it turned out moving is what made it better. I'm working on the same premise now, albeit carefully. With the knee swollen, I have to be careful how I stretch, but I continue to stretch. Stretching is better than not stretching, even if it doesn't make the root cause of the problem go away.

I believe this is all due to the arthritis in my S1 and my hip. Things get inflamed, they press on tendons, tendons get inflamed and start pulling things out of wack. At least that fits what I know about my body, and what I've been feeling. I can't exactly afford all the tests involved in finding out for certain. Honestly, considering my experience 10 years ago, I'm not at all confident paying for all those tests would give me an answer. It didn't back then.

I've about given up on February's race. I can't imagine I'll be healthy enough to get back up to 15K in time. I'm still hopeful for April's 10-miler, as well as May's half marathon. I just find out Wonder Woman, who inspired me to start racing, is also racing the half. It would be great if we could pace each other to new PRs!

December 10, 2010

Goals and Challenges

This is for EMZ...
I just signed up for the Cleveland Half Marathon, which is the race that started all these fun and games, this past January 3. Well, it was the 10K then. Wonder Woman had signed up for a couch-to-half program, and this was the race she picked. She inspired me. I KNEW there was no way I'd get from couch to 13.1 miles in four and a half months, so opted for the 10K. Running a 10K had always been on my bucket list, anyway.

Superman and I had tried running before. We both enjoy our food just a little too much, and he ran in junior high. He suggested it as a way to control the waistline creep. His father is an ultra marathoner, so running is definitely in his genes. Not so much, mine. Most of my siblings are active (Big Bro races cyclocross, Dr. J runs but doesn't race, and Princess used to play soccer). We were all on the swim team at the local pool. Myself, The Energizer Bunny, and Dr. J all swam in high school. I only found out after I started racing that The Energizer Bunny has been running since college, or that she even ran in college. I remember distance swimming, not running.

So I was unfamiliar with running. The most I think I ever ran as an adult was around the bases, and that was never a non-stop trip. Superman and I did a lot of walking, which we converted to walk-run-walks. He was very patient with me, as I bitched my way through every run. I actually ran a full mile once. Everyone was astounded, including me. I don't think those attempts ever lasted more than a month or so.

After I signed up for the Cleveland 10K, I had a goal. I had a distance. I made up a random couch to 10K plan, nothing proscribed or written down. I mapped out a 10K route, and walk/ran it a couple times a week. I would run one block, walk one block. Somewhere along the way I determined I would have to actually run the distance, so tried that. I didn't make it that day, but eventually I did. I signed up for more races.
LOVE. THIS. SHIRT! (http://www.zazzle.com)
I was sidelined for several weeks by plantar fasciitis, early in the year. In my bullheaded style, I ran through the pain, figuring with no baseline in fact that it would go away. I thought it came from stomping on the ice and snow, to keep from slipping. It wasn't until I started reading that I learned the probable culprit. I've had knee problems sideline me for a week or two, here and there, as well. I have arthritis in my S1. All of this - any of this would have finished my running career, before this year.

At some point, I decided a half marathon would be more of a challenge, so signed up for one of them. Then another. Along the way, I realized I wasn't experiencing as many symptoms from my thyroid disease. Running appears to help burn off the excess chemical my thyroid produces, reducing my blood pressure and the need for the medication I'm supposed to take. When I stopped running because of knee or back pain, the symptoms would come back. I like not having to take medication.
I decided 2012 is my marathon year, and that I would like to run an ultra. I believe having a goal, a date by which I have to be able to cover a certain distance, is what keeps me going. That's why I continue signing up for races, even though I know I'll never win one. They are the carrot that keeps me running. The health thing is all well and good, but for some reason it doesn't get me out the door the way a goal and a challenge do.

I'm dreading when I can start running again, because I know it's going to suck. I'm going to have to start slow, with short distances, and it will be very uncomfortable. It will always be uncomfortable. Even so, I know I'll feel better, because I'll be accomplishing something difficult. I'll be pushing my comfort zone, and learning things about myself along the way. That feeling is also a goal and a challenge.

December 9, 2010

Huh...

I have an aversion to calling myself a runner. I think about it, and something in me says "Oh, no no no no no!" I don't know if this is because, like Iris over at Stet That Run, I believe I will have accomplished something by adding that title, and therefore stop. I don't know if it's just an inferiority complex because my runs suck so bad. I don't know if I believe calling myself a runner means I have to stick to the diet, or run 5-6 miles every day (with a long run on the weekend). It's probably a combination of them all. That's why it's so funny to me my mother dubbed me "Runner Girl" in her blog, and that mine has become a running blog.

I didn't start this as a running blog, but it turned into one rather quickly. I think that's because when I run I feel more confident, and I feel accomplished. I feel I have something to write about. When I'm not running, nothing I am doing seems worthy of a post. I post several days of activities instead of my single 3 mile run. Even though I know not everyone who reads this is a runner, I think "my audience" won't be interested in anything but my runs. Even when all I do is bitch about my runs.

The funny thing is, now I can't run I spend a lot of time thinking about when I'll be back to running. How I can start slow and not injure myself again, in snowy Northeast Ohio. How I can get myself back on track to run the Run With Your Heart 15K Trail Challenge in February. I read avidly about how to treat plantar fasciitis, ITB band issues, and piriformis syndrome, all of which match issues I've had or am having. I stretch. I roll. All with the goal of getting back to something I really don't enjoy doing, but which somehow has a hold on me.
Yes, I've jumped in with both feet
My latest treatment is to sit on a ball, slightly larger than a tennis ball and filled with sand. I move it around to press against the different areas that bother me. Since twisting my knee the other day doing dance aerobics, I can't do Pigeon Pose, but I just found a similar stretch I can do standing or sitting.
Pigeon Pose courtesy of elsiesyogakula.com
Modified Tree Post courtesy of elsiesyogakula.com
The ball and stretches seem to be working, as my knee is not nearly as painful today as it was 2 days ago. I still have hot spots that are bothersome, but I can move much more comfortably.

As many of you know, I have no concept of moderation, but I'm trying very hard to not push until I'm healed. Low impact aerobics with minimal range of motion. NOT walking on icy sidewalks, even though I want to get out and see how far I can go. I'm concerned about February's race, but pushing only gets me more injured, which keeps me sidelined longer.

Funny how running involves not only physical improvement, but mental as well. Even when I'm not running.

December 4, 2010

Dance like no one's watching

I was able to walk 1.5 miles today, normal pace, normal stride, with only a few twinges from my knee. It doesn't sound like much, but it is a mile and a quarter farther than I could walk last week. I call that progress!

Unfortunately, the twinges tell me I shouldn't rung yet. I'm a little worried I won't be back up to distance, not to mention speed, by mid February. That's when I'm signed up to do the Center for Families and Children 15K Trail Run. I guess I'll just do the best I can, and walk it if I have to.


Running has been my main form of exercise for the past year. I did a bit of riding over the summer, but haven't had the bike out since September. There's talk of getting me a stand so I can ride over the winter, but that hasn't happened yet. I'm not sure the knee would hold up, at this point, anyway.

What I have been doing is DVD yoga, which I have to be careful with. The last time I took yoga classes I ended up in the emergency room with a migraine. I thought it was an allergy from the candles, but it turns out it was from being inverted, and likely high blood pressure from my thyroid. I can only stay in down dog for so long before it becomes a problem. I also have to be careful of my back. I've a blown disc, which I was reminded of this past week. My new yoga DVD has me rolling back and forth on my back, and I ended up feeling queasy. Overall, it's good to dedicate to stretching again, though. I'd gotten away from that, and forgotten how good it feels.

I've also been playing with dance aerobics. Hip Hop. Burlesque. Latin. Again, I have to be careful. The first day I twisted my knee, which may be why I'm still feeling twinges when I walk. It's all low impact, and it's fun learning new moves. I can't wait until I learn the routines enough to really let go. It makes me think of how I used to dance with abandon in my living room, back when the boys were young and I wasn't so crippled with image issues. Maybe it's time to just break out the iPod and crank some dance tunes...