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In Bleak Midwinter

January is coming to a close and we are approaching the dreaded February.  I have to be honest, I’m struggling.  This winter has been a lot harsher than winters in the past.  In fact, Michigan is currently having the coldest winter on record.  I’m seriously struggling.

Snowy MichiganI realize that pretty much the whole United States is a whole lot colder than normal right now so I have little to lament about but as you can see from the satellite photo, Michigan is a little frozen.  So far in January, Mini Me has gone to school a total of eight days.  The end of her semester was in a couple weeks ago so they had a couple half days and a couple days off with that but so far school has been cancelled seven days this years due to huge snowstorms or the cold.  She has been off the last two days because wind chills around here have been between -25 and – 30 F (-32 to -34 C).  Yesterday when I woke up the actual temperature was -9 F (-23 C).

With it being so cold we are pretty much stuck inside.  The kids can’t go out and play in the snow, we can’t take the dog for walks and I certainly can’t run.  Its just dangerous to be outside for very long.  Monday afternoon when I went to pick Mini Me up from school, my cheeks were exposed and they were wind burnt just from standing outside for a few minutes waiting for her to be dismissed.  She’s bored and tired of having school cancelled.  When she is in school everything is rushed because they are now so far behind from having missed so much time.  Monday she had four times the normal amount of homework sent home with her.

I guess winter is just really taking its toll on me.  I can’t get outside to run.  I’ve been using the treadmill a couple times a week but its not the same.  It doesn’t give me the same release as pounding the pavement does.  We aren’t seeing much sunshine and in the house we are having to keep the blinds and curtains closed to help keep the drafts out.  The end result is I’m tired and cold all the time.  We aren’t even to February yet and I’m already fed up with winter.  February is a crazy time of year for us usually so maybe it will distract me from the cold and snow.

Winter Running

I’ve been trying to work in more outdoor runs this winter because let’s face it, if I have to do every workout during the winter months on a treadmill, I’m just not going to do it.  I get far too bored running on the treadmill.  I have discovered that I can go farther and longer if I do some Fartlek work.  It makes things a bit more interesting than straight running.

It is essential for me to have something over my mouth and nose while I run when temperatures start dropping.  The cold air does a number on my damaged lungs if I breathe it straight for too long.  It has been a big hindrance to my winter training because, as I said, I just can’t stand the treadmill for long periods of time.  However, I discovered a wonderful little item that has made running outside possible for me.

balaclavaIt is this balaclava from Smartwool.  I was skeptical about it at first because I typically don’t like anything covering my mouth and nose while I run.  Even without the limited lung capacity it felt like I was suffocating and afterwards well, I’m not entirely sure I wasn’t when I had something blocking my mouth and nose.  I bought this right before running the Turkey Trot with Mini Me on Thanksgiving.  It was a cold day, only around 20 degrees F (-6 C) so it was a good time to try it out.

I was quite impressed.  It was lightweight enough that I could breathe easily through it but warmed the air enough that my lungs weren’t seizing up and could function somewhat normally.  It also does a nice job of keeping the wind off my neck.  I’m very happy with it and have used it quite a bit.  I do have a rule for myself and I don’t go outside running if the temperatures are 20 degrees or lower.  This has resulted in a lot of missed runs and treadmill work for me so far this winter.

I’m not the only one who has to keep warm now.  My new running partner needs some help too.  Flint_004Ridgebacks have no undercoat and get cold very easily.  So, the same friend who made the hobbit costumes for Halloween made Flint a nice sweater to wear outside.  It gets used for walks and runs when the temps are cold.  I have had a couple of days where it was warm enough that he didn’t need a coat but this has been getting a lot of use.  Flint also has a set of boots that go on his paws to protect them from the ice and snow.

Winter running can definitely be an adventure and I am very grateful and appreciative for those people in my town who clear their sidewalks.  Running shoes are most definitely NOT designed to keep out water and snow.  My winter runs have been pretty short so far but I’m hoping that as winter starts to slow down, the days get longer and the temperatures start to creep upward runs with Flint will be more frequent because we both love them!

Wrapping Up 2013

I had every intention of posting this on New Year’s Day.  However, a week has gone by and we are freezing around here and buried in snow and well, I got distracted.  photo (10)I had resolved to resume blogging in 2014, I realize I’m not off to the best of starts.  However, it’s only been a week so there is still time to turn that around.  I figure there isn’t much better to do on a day where the temperature is -10 degrees F, a wind chill of -30 and about 18 inches of snow on the ground than get that resolution going.

A lot has happened since I last posted and I’m sure gradually I’ll get it all filled in but for now, I’ll talk about recent events.  I’m sure this post will turn out to be a bit rambly and disjointed but I’ll get there eventually.

First things first.  We added a new member to our family about two weeks before Christmas.

Flint

This is Flint.  He is a two year old Rhodesian Ridgeback.  The story of how we came by Flint is quite cool and shows me that that he was definitely meant to be.

It all started before Thanksgiving.  We had been talking about getting a dog since the summer but for whatever reason I had been slow to contact the breeder I had gotten Riley from all those years ago.  I think on some level I was feeling wishy-washy about adding a puppy on top of our already hectic schedule.  I knew that I’d be the one doing most of the training and it felt a bit daunting, so as much as I wanted another dog and as much as I wanted a puppy, I was dragging my feet.  We’d talked about rescuing a Ridgeback but nothing worked out.

In school, Mini Me had to write a letter to someone telling them why they were thankful for them.  This was her letter:

Dear Riley,
You’ve been with me my whole life. You’ve supported me and loved me my whole life. You are the best dog ever.

You supported me when mommy was in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs. I really missed her. We sat on the couch and snuggled together. I will never forget that time. The only good thing about mommy having blood clots is snuggling with you on the couch. I loved that time.

I remembered when mom told me about you. Riley snuggled mom’s stomach when I was in her. You could not stop licking me when I came home. I first called you ‘puppy’ and then Riley. I love you a lot.

Love,
Abby

It had both the Geek and I in tears and we looked at each other said, “It’s time to get a puppy.”

So, the next day I sat down and I emailed the breeder.  They had moved to Florida last year but they were so great and I loved their dogs so much that I was willing to take a road trip to Florida for a puppy when one was available.  So, I sent off the email asking what their breeding schedule was looking like and if we could get on the list for a puppy.

I didn’t expect to hear anything back right away.  It was the day before Thanksgiving after all.  But to my surprise, I did.  She told me that they were taking a break from breeding for awhile and had no litters planned for 2014.  My heart sank.  But I kept reading.  She told me the name of a breeder her in Michigan that she knew and trusted and mentioned that they had a two-year old male they were looking to place.  She said he had a great temperament but he wasn’t as good as his brother for a show/breeding perspective.  She gave me this breeder’s contact information and passed my information along to her.  I replied right away saying we were definitely interested in the older dog and would love to meet him.  But it was Thanksgiving and I knew we’d have to wait.

Thanksgiving Day I managed to get distracted by doing a Turkey Trot with Mini Me that morning.

Turkey Trot

It was so cold and we couldn’t feel our feet through most of it but we did it and it was distracting from wanting to hear back about potentially meeting a new dog.

It just so happened that Thanksgiving weekend there was a dog show nearby.  Since we had all the kids we decided we’d go to the dog show and maybe this breeder would be there.  It turned out she was.  Another breeder was talking my ear off, trying to sell me one of their puppies, and happened to mention Marie’s name.  Now, I knew who I had to talk to.  So I approached her and introduced myself.  She talked to all of us and we all really liked her and decided to set up a time to go and meet Flint.

I think we all agreed that the time could not pass fast enough.  Fortunately, having the recommendation of our previous breeder meant that a lot of the screening process legitimate breeders go through was eliminated.  Riley’s breeder was a mentor to Marie so she felt confident that if we had one of their dogs, we would be a great home.  That was a relief.  We went down and met Flint and loved him and he took to us really well and we brought him home that same day.

I’m extremely excited for a new running partner.  We’ve been able to go out on a couple of runs but shortly after Flint came home we got hit by a huge ice storm, which while beautiful,

Beauty in Ice

was also pretty destructive.

Damage

So far, Flint has been the perfect fit for our family.  He is calm, yet playful.  Quite, sweet and everything we could ever have asked for.  He handled Christmas really well and even tolerated being a part of a family photo.

Christmas

The addition of Flint to the family was the perfect way to wrap up a less than wonderful 2013.  I’m definitely looking forward to 2014 with a great dog and a great family.

A Hobbit Halloween

I am back posting these posts to fill in on the stuff that I missed.  Current posts will be coming soon.

Ever since The Geek brought home the Blu-Ray of the first of the three new Hobbit movies both Mini Me and Baby Geek have been obsessed.  Baby Geek has wanted the song the dwarves sing in the hobbit-hole, “Misty Mountains Cold,” for bedtime most nights along with wielding his sword from last year’s Renaissance Festival and proclaiming he is Thorin Oakenshield.  So, when Mini Me’s best friend’s mom suggest that the two of them be hobbits for Halloween, how could I say no?

She loves to sew and set about collecting the materials and sewing their costumes.  I could not let Baby Geek be out done so we decided that who else would be but Thorin Oakenshield?  So we visited thrift stores and managed to collect everything they needed for their costumes.

The girls’ costumes were fantastic!  She even made them hobbit feet!  They were a bit creepy looking but really pulled all the costume together.

Hobbits

I made Baby Geek’s Thorin costume.  I confess, I am not a seamstress.  Sewing is most definitely not my cup of tea.  It was a lot of work done at a very crazy time with all the wedding preparations for Suzie but, I pulled it off and I must say, Baby Geek looked pretty darn good too.

Thorin Oakenshield

Despite the fact that it was raining this evening, we took the three of them out together.

Going on an adventure!

I have not had so much fun with my kids on Halloween.  There was something great about making the costumes and seeing how awesome they turned out.  I don’t know if this will become a yearly thing (Baby Geek might just have to be Thorin again next year,  haha!) but it definitely made this year more enjoyable than previous years.

Still Riding the High

A week has now passed since last weekend’s half marathon and I’m still riding the high associated with it.  My medal is still sitting next to me on my desk and I still pick it up and look at it and smile.  It all still feels really damn good!

I did take a few days off from running and just did some yoga and stretching.  I was sore and stiff Monday but I stretched a lot and Tuesday felt a lot better.  By Wednesday I felt great again and was ready to get out and run again.  I think the half just fueled that running addiction in me because I can’t wait to go do it again!

Seriously?  Raining?I did run a 5K Saturday.  Our little town has a fall festival every year and they always have a 5K with it.  I had never done it before because we’ve always had something else going on.  But this year I decided that I would do it.  Of course when I woke up Saturday morning and saw the gray skies I was questioning that decision a bit, haha!

The nice thing was the start and finish were only two blocks from my house so my warm up was a nice light jog to the start.  Of course about 5 minutes before the race was about to start it started to rain, hard.  It was in the low 50s and raining.  Not my ideal race conditions.  This was also the time that the Geek decides he needs to take a pre-race picture.  Of course he and Baby Geek didn’t stick around for the finish.  They turned around and went right back home.

FinishThe course itself was pretty simple.  We live in a small town, there are not too many options for where to run.  We did a couple laps in the park around the corner by my house and the cruel course designer decided to make us run up this sledding hill in the park not once but TWICE!  Even with the cold, the ran and twice up and down the giant sledding hill I did post a personal record of 26:58.  It pretty much floored me because I never, never expected to be able to move that fast since those clots.  I guess the cold and the rain made me get my butt moving a bit faster.

The next race I have on my schedule isn’t until the end of October.  It’s the nighttime Halloween run I did last year and Mini Me would really like to run it with me so we are working out things so that she can join me.  Now that my half training is done and I can do more shorter runs I think she’ll be joining me.  At least until the weather turns too cold for me to run outside or until I start my training for the full marathon.

Victory

I did it.  I DID IT!!!  My first half marathon was a success.  It is very hard to put into words exactly how I feel.

Running a half marathon period is quite an accomplishment.  But after everything I have been through in the past two years with the pulmonary emboli, nearly dying, the lung problems running a half marathon to me was victory.

When the PEs were so bad and breathing was so hard and so painful we didn’t know if I would leave the hospital alive let alone leave it to run again.  Then, once my lungs had recovered enough to try to run again it was so hard.  It hurt, I couldn’t move enough air and I slid back downhill again.  But I refused to give up and I made them start working again.  There were plenty of people who didn’t think I could do it.  My doctors were skeptical but I would prove them wrong.  I would run again.  When I finished the 5K last year and watched the half marathon runners finish I said to myself, “Next year.  Next year I’m doing it.”  And I did.Finishing!

Oh God, did it feel good.  I had pre-race jitters going on yesterday for sure.  I had been having nightmares about being late and not making it to the starting line in time.  We made it with plenty of time and I was excited when I lined up to start the race.

I lined up with the 10:30 minutes per mile pacer because all my training runs had been between a pace of 10:30 and 11:00 per mile.  I figured I could speed up as the race went on if I needed.  I was a little nervous because my foot was hurting.  It had been hurting all week and was so bad on Monday that I actually went to urgent care and had an x-ray done.  Fortunately there was no stress fracture and it did start to feel better as the week went on.  But, it was starting to hurt a little bit as I was walking to the starting line but I was bound and determined to do this.  It was a little sore as the race started but eventually it went numb and now it is just a bit sore.  Some actual rest for it and I think all will be well.

I was really pleased with how good I felt overall during the race.  I felt great actually.  My pacing was good.  My fueling was just right.  It was overall so fantastic.  Around mile 10 I did start to feel a bit of fatigue in my legs but I told myself, You just have a 5K left.  You can totally do a 5K!

When I got to mile 12 the emotions started to come but I wouldn’t let myself cry because I knew that would just make things that much harder.

But when I saw the final bridge in the distance to cross the river to the finish line I felt so alive and so good.  When I crossed the bridge I could feel that last push and so I pushed.

It may sound strange but it almost felt as if I finished the last stretch on angel’s wings.  I felt so light and so fast in that last bit.  I could hear my dad cheering for me, GO SHOES! (an old childhood nickname).  I could hear my mom yelling and I crossed the finish line.

Sweeter than GoldTaking that finisher medal in my hand was the most victorious and sweetest sensation.  I honestly never expected it to feel so good.  My family rushed to me after I got across the line and I could see the pride shining out of my mom’s eyes.  They were amazed that I had done it.  I was amazed that I had done it.  I was tired, my legs felt like jelly but I felt so fantastic.  I was proud of myself.  I achieved this goal.  My goal was to finish in under 2:30:00.  My chip time was 2:14:25.  I crushed my goal.  I can’t wait to tell my hematologist and I may send a letter and a picture to the pulmonologist who didn’t want me to have the procedure that made this possible.

Next up, a full.  I’m aiming for the Detroit Marathon in October of 2014.

The tears did come and as we walked back to the car I couldn’t help but think that for me, the medal hanging around my neck was just as sweet as winning Olympic gold.

The Solo Game

One of the unfortunate side effects that seems to have come from the troubles with my marriage is the loss of my best friend.  Two Small HobbitsTo be perfectly honest with you, I’m not even sure what happened.

We have been best friends for eight years.  She was the person I knew I could count on no matter what even though she lived twelve hours away.  She was there for me through my divorce, the lowest moments in my life and likewise, I was there for her through similar sorts of events.

She was the one who orchestrated my relationship with the Geek.  She had become friends with him and while I knew him and was acquainted with him, she knew him better.  She thought she saw how the broken pieces of our two lives fit together.  I thought those pieces fit together at the time too.  But as time went on, it became clear that maybe those pieces didn’t fit quite so well as we thought.  We both saw it.

Her marriage ended about a year ago.  It had been on the way out for quite some time but it all came to a head then.  She was my best friend and I went through all of it with her.  I waited patiently when she suffered through her own personal torment over things and let her know I was there when she needed me.  She had always been there for me too.

I’m not sure if it is the new man that entered her life or if it is the falling out of things with the Geek and I but she withdrew from me.  When I’d try to talk to her about what was going on between us, I got the sense of withdrawal.  So I stopped talking to her about him.  Then gradually, we just kind of stopped talking altogether.  This was a person I did not go a day with out messaging or a week without talking to on the phone.  We could finish each other’s thoughts.  So to just lose that has been very devastating to me.

Worst of all, I really felt like she chose him over me because he still talks to her.  I don’t know what the talk about but I do know that she doesn’t talk to me.  This has all been hard enough to deal with but to feel completely alone and without anyone to talk to has made it that much harder.  I don’t really know what happened but I miss my friend.

I’m running my half on Sunday and through everything I went through with the PEs and the recovery she was a part of that so now to have the race coming up and feeling like she isn’t included gives it all a little bit of a bittersweet taste.  I wish she was there to see it or at the very least for me to talk to after I’m done.  I think it’s time to send her an email.

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