Isolation Log: Covid Date 4.a.20

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Medal # 18 from the Shamrock Run.

My spring race was canceled in the middle of all this mess. My entire 2020 race season has been canceled. With my spring race gone, I ended up doing it virtually.

I was about a minute slow for a 5K, but I did get it done and received medal # 18 for my efforts. This medal is anti-climatic. It lacked the excitement of being awarded right after the race. I typically wear the medal for a week after the race for everyone to see. This medal came in the mail after I posted my results from the Garmin for the 5K.

My cats have seen the medal, so everyone has seen it. They are not impressed.

I am pretty much sticking to 3 miles a few times per week while we are being isolated. Every day I am on the road and able to run is a good day.

I am very happy to be home and am doing well in isolation. In fact, this experience has me seriously re-thinking my routines in everyday life. I am enjoying not having to go out a whole lot. I am pretty sure that when this is all over, I am going to continue many of the things I am doing now and limit my social interactions with other people. 

My greatest challenge is when I do have to go out. After the discussion the primary doctor had with me a few weeks ago about not going to the grocery or pharmacy, I am terrified to go any place where there are other people. 

Jolene had an appointment this past Saturday to have her mouth looked at again from her January dental surgery. She has healed from the surgery. The challenge is that when the shelter did the surgery in January, they did not do the best job. There are roots and bone left in her mouth that should not be there and have caused infection.

Jolene had an antibiotic shot on Saturday to help and will be going in for another dental surgery tomorrow to correct the surgery from January. This one I will have to pay for. Hopefully when it is done tomorrow, her mouth will be fine from here on out. We have been with this vet office for about 15 years now and they are excellent. 

The staff at the vet clinic was great. Only one pet owner is allowed inside the clinic at a time. We all wore masks. They came out and took her in her carrier for her appointment. I spoke with the technicians and the vet on the phone. They had Jolene in there for the exam and I stayed in the car. Then they brought her back out to me. I did not even go outside. My only “interaction” with a human was transferring her carrier. 

Tomorrow Jolene will be at the vet office for the day for her dental surgery. I drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the late afternoon. I just hope that everything goes well so that her mouth is no longer in pain for her. She is the sweetest cat. Everyone loved her Saturday. They said she was so playful for her appointment. Honestly, this dental surgery is the last thing I need right now with everything else going on, but I have to keep her safe. She needs to have her mouth fixed.

The biggest take-away I am getting from isolation right now is a change in routine. I do have a daily routine. How is my routine going to change when we are no longer isolated? Will I go back to the way things were? I doubt it. What aspects of my isolation routine will I keep? I am thinking a lot of them. Time will tell.

The best news is that isolation is great for my food allergies. All of my allergy spots from skin reactions I have from coming into contact with allergens in the environment, like almond oil, are healing. If all of these allergy spots heal, it will be the first time in almost a decade that I am not having an active allergic reaction. Nut oils are the bane of my existence.  

People have said they are worried about me right now and I do not understand why. I am fine in my house with my cats. This is where I want to be. My greatest challenge right now is when I have to leave the house to do something like taking the cat to the vet. That is a necessity and I have to do it. If my cats need medical care, I have to take them.

The county in which I live does not have the ability to test people for the coronavirus. Therefore, our numbers are really low. The numbers are deceiving. In order to get tested, people have to go to one of two neighboring counties, which is about an hour drive away. Transportation is non-existent in my rural county. There are many people here who have coronavirus and it is not reflected in the numbers because there is no testing in my county.

Only those who are very fortunate and have access to a vehicle and the ability to drive an hour away can be tested. People in this area have a false sense of security when the reported numbers are so low.

This is one of the challenges of living in a rural area that lacks transportation. I just hope they will figure this out and test in our county before they lift the stay at home ban. Otherwise, we are going to have a very large outbreak here. However, I do not think that people in my area are taking this virus seriously.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. We have not yet seen the worst of it.

Stay strong out there. #NYTough

 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 2.a.20

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Jolene playing in the empty laundry basket

Welcome to Upstate New York where we have coronavirus in a snowstorm!

That’s right, folks. We are under a winter weather advisory for 6 inches of snow with sleet and freezing rain. I bet all the kids were hoping for a snow day … oh, that’s right, they already get to stay home. Except they still have to go to school – online! 

Muahahaha.

I have been working from home today. I work in my kitchen, where I have the best lighting and electrical outlets. I also have the best windows to sit here and watch the snow while the cats like to bird watch. The snow is coming down fast. 

Today it was announced that New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. New York State has 20x more cases than any other state in the country.

New York is Ground Zero. Again. That’s ok, we are used to being Ground Zero. Our Governor is doing a stellar job right now. 

In positive news …

I am feeling okay. I have decided that it is in the best interest of my mental health to stop listening to the radio. My sources of news are primarily radio and newspaper. For now, I am reading my newspaper and watching the Governor’s daily briefing. Watching the Governor makes me feel better in this scary time. I like that he gives daily updates. He makes me feel safe. No matter your politics, you have to agree that our Governor has really stepped up to the plate in dealing with this crisis.

I am using my CD player more since I am no longer listening to the radio. I cannot stand for the house to be silent. I have to have music. I am having a great time revisiting some CDs that I have not had the chance to listen to in awhile. Music makes me happy.

The cats are completely oblivious to what is going on. I’m sure they think I am just on a 3-day weekend or Christmas break or something. I am so thankful for every single day I get to be home with them. I’m glad they are oblivious. It’s my job as mom to take care of them. I don’t want them to know what is going on or how bad it is. 

I had a great 3 mile run outdoors yesterday. I am holding steady at 3 miles. I am pretty sure that my entire 2020 running season is going to be forfeited to the coronavirus. Right now it’s all about survival. I need those 3 miles to keep my sanity.

I am hoping that it will warm up and rain or something in the next few days here so that I can continue running outside. I went to the mailbox today, and not only was there quite a few inches of snow, but it is very slippery. I can’t run in this. 

If worst come to worst, I may start running laps around the first floor of my home with my Garmin. Any guesses on how many laps will make a mile? I’m guessing 1,378 laps. I’ll let you know if I get desperate and do that. 

I do have a daily schedule so that I still have a routine. I have a designated time each day for outside time. Sunshine is good for the soul.

This weekend, I may be working on some of my minimalist home projects. I am still trying to empty a room upstairs. While I am not physically able to remove items from my home right now, I can at least box items that are ready to leave when I can get rid of them.

In my Bible, I am currently reading the book of Psalms and the book of Revelation. They make me feel better.

Last fall, my book club read a novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. One of the characters talked about how they had to burn books for warmth during WWII. She said that she left her Bible for last, and that when she did have to burn the Bible for warmth, the two books that she decided to burn were Job and Revelation.

I do not think that we are going to be that desperate where we have to burn books for warmth. We may have to use them for toilet paper … come on people, SHARE! 

I doubt we will have to use books for toilet paper, but if it does get to that point and my Bible is the “last book standing,” I can tell you right now, that I will not be using the book of Revelation. I will be using the book of Numbers. I still don’t get that one.

Be warm, safe and well. 

 

Goals of Life and Good Death

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With everything that has happened the past few years, I am a little behind on goals. I finally completed a New Year’s resolution that I had back in 2016. I have read the Bible in it’s entirety this year. It had been awhile since I have read the Bible completely.

Following the Our Daily Bread plan, I read a passage from the Old Testament and from the New Testament each day. Breaking it up into chunks with passages from both Old and New made it much more manageable, especially when going through books such as Numbers. Numbers basically consists of long lists of incomprehensible names. 

I have yet to meet a person whose favorite book of the Bible is Numbers. However, if your favorite book is Numbers, let me know. I would like to know why and to hear your viewpoint so that I can learn something. 

Reading through the Bible in its entirety again was calming yet challenging. We all have our favorite books to which we gravitate and return to again and again. Some books like Numbers were more challenging. 

For the record, I would say that Nehemiah is my favorite book of the Bible. Although, my favorite verses, that are my life verses and will be read at my funeral,  are 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT). 

In 2020, I am hoping to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself last year and did not yet achieve. Since buying the house and turning 40, I decided I need to be a responsible adult and plan my funeral. Well, I should at least have a Will. I now have a significant asset, so decisions should be made. Yes, I know it sounds morbid, but hear me out. 

First, I have no family. This means that when I die, my body and possessions would become a ward of the state. Since I spent about half of my childhood as a ward of the state, I have no desire for my dead body to become one as well. I know someone else who died with no family and saw what that looks like. It is the most undignified and disrespectful way to die. I am appalled at what happens to dead bodies that are wards of the state in New York State. 

Given that I have no family, there is no one to carry the burden to make arrangements and decisions when I am gone. There are no friends close enough that I would ask to bear the burden that should be carried by a spouse or child. If I pre-plan everything, then the only thing that would need to be asked of a friend would be final signing of paperwork to carry out my pre-planned wishes.

Second, I have discovered that a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral is exempt from both asset calculations and from all legal proceedings that may take something from you. As an example, if I end up in need of Medicaid in the future, a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would not be considered an asset for Medicaid determination purposes. Also, when I die, all my assets would currently be seized by the federal government to be put towards my student loan debt. Nothing would be able to be sold or saved to put towards my funeral; it would all go to student loans. A pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would be exempt from seizure to satisfy my student loan debt.

This is in marked contrast to a life insurance policy. One of my friends suggested just getting a life insurance policy that would pay for everything. Well, a life insurance policy is considered an asset and would disqualify me from receiving Medicaid if I should need that in the future. A life insurance policy would also be seized to fulfill my student loan requirement in the event of my death, with none of the money going to my funeral or anything else. My house would be seized for student loans also.

You know, I keep saying student loans in America are a form of indentured servitude. Student loans are a rant for another day. Or, you can check out my slam poetry piece from #Occupy to jog your memory on student loans. I digress.

It is my goal in 2020 to pre-plan and pre-pay my funeral, so that when I die, I just need a person to sign off on all my arrangements. For example, I want to be cremated. You cannot sign the paperwork to be cremated until you have a dead body. If you are dead, you cannot sign for yourself, so someone will have to sign for me.

As gloom and doom as this may sound, the planning I have started has actually been quite fun and exciting. For some reason, I attended a few funerals in 2019, and while each was beautiful in its own way and befitting the deceased, none of them are what I want. 

In the words of Monty Python, I want “one mother of a blowout.”

I am planning a 2 hour celebration of life party. Instead of everyone singing church hymns and sitting through a service that may have meaning to me, but not to them, I am designing a play list. I have chosen 26.2 songs that have multiple meanings in my life. 26.2 is the length of a marathon. There are 26 songs, one by a different artist. The point 2 portion are my two favorite Christmas songs. 

It has been so much fun working on my funeral play list. I am going through songs and very carefully choosing ones that have had significant meaning for my life for decades. 

There is the play list of songs in the key of life, then there is the annotated play list. The annotated play list is basically the Celebration of Life program. In the annotation, I have 2-3 sentences that explain why the chosen song was so significant in my life. 

This way, people can listen to the play list and maybe learn things about me in death that they did not know in life. They can also listen to songs from the play list whenever they miss me and want to remember me after I’m gone (if there is anyone who misses me like that). 

Some people have asked what is the purpose in pre-planning one’s funeral ? You will be dead, who cares? For me, the purpose in pre-planning my own funeral is so that hopefully I can have in death what I never got in life.

And that there is another story entirely.

But I think even without giving you the back story, simply stating that I want to pre-plan my funeral so that I can have in death what I do not have in life to be impactful and meaningful enough. 

Given that I am now a home owner, creating a Will, doing legal paperwork and all of this pre-planning is the “responsible adult” thing to do. With my disability, I want to be sure that I put these provisions in place now while I am of sound mind and body. No one knows the course this disability takes. I have good days and bad days. I may be with it today, and completely gone tomorrow. I want to make my own choices while I have the ability to make them.

With 2020 coming, the year is going to be about life and the good death. On a less morbid note, I am in the process of planning my 2020 running season and am looking forward to my next race and to achieving medal #18 in 2020. Every step I run is a celebration of the beauty of life and makes me so grateful to be on the planet. Running = Life. 

 

Magic Wands

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There are times in life when we all just wish we could wave a magic wand and make something better. Times when we all want a fairy godmother a la Cinderella to bippity boppity boo something to smithereens. I’ve had the magic wand moment this whole week.

My neurological condition is still pending an official diagnosis. I am being referred to a MS clinic in a nearby larger city. In the meantime, my doctor this week gave me a MS medication to help alleviate some of my symptoms as a trial. If I have MS, this drug will help me. If I don’t then it won’t do anything.

I have not felt this good in years and I am insanely happy. I feel like I want to do as much as I possibly can this week. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt this good, and when I finish the medication, I’m sure that I will never feel this good again.

Once the medication is out of my system, I’ll go back to how I was. But for right now, my symptoms are reduced and manageable. The symptoms are not gone. Their severity is lessened.

I didn’t realize how impaired my functioning has become until I entered this period of respite that the medication has afforded me.

It’s like someone has waived a magic wand and made me almost normal again for a week. How many people ever get a chance to say they have had a magic wand moment in life?

I still don’t have an official diagnosis. However, three different doctors all think the same thing. I’m pretty sure if the MS drug is acting like a magic wand … it might be MS. I’m no doctor, but …

I’m going to enjoy my magic wand moment for as long as I can. I want to cram as much life and living into these moments as possible.

I’m just hoping that when my magic wand moment is over that I do not completely crash down into reality.

For right now, I’m just going to say thank you for giving me my life back. Even if it’s only temporary.

Unfortunately, the drug trial I am on is not something that can be sustained long term. But I’ll take the week of respite. It’s the best week I’ve had in years. Sure, the cooling vest gives me moments of normalcy too, but those typically only last minutes or hours. This is an entire week of my life in which I feel amazing.

The weather outside is indeed frightful. We have a few inches of snow and a layer of ice. I wish I could take advantage of this situation and do something fun like surfing. I have been running, of course. Running is awesome. 

I have mostly been spending this week getting everything done that I have been behind on. In a way, I feel like it’s kind of a waste. I really want to do something fun, but other life circumstances are not cooperating right now no matter how good I feel. At least I can check a bunch of things off from the never ending to-do list so I can have a moment to say “it’s done” before everything in life becomes so much harder to do again. 

Now if only this magic wand thing could also result in the entire house being clean without me cleaning it …even for Cinderella, midnight has to strike eventually. 

Medal # 17

Last weekend, I participated in my first 5k in about a decade. I started out running 5ks back in the early 2000s, and when it got to the point that I was running over 30 races per year, I figured that I needed to run longer. I have been running half and full marathons for the past 12 years.

The 5k last weekend was a fundraiser for a program very near and dear to me, given my educational and professional background. The 5k raised funds for our local community policing initiative. Having completed the Run to Remember half marathon a few times, and numerous other races that support our emergency responders, I was totally on board to do a 5k for community policing after a 10-year hiatus from the shorter distances. Plus, this one supports our local community police officer, who is an all-around amazing person.

I just ran the 1812 Challenge half marathon a few weeks ago, and signed up for this race totally in support of the cause. I did my Canadian 10:1 run:walk method that I instituted this year. This meant I had two walk breaks for a 5k. I also had an unanticipated third walk break in this race, as there was a hill on one of the streets. I don’t do well with hills, so I walked up it. In total, I had 3 walk breaks over a 3.1 mile run.

The weather was perfect. It was 55 degrees at the start, which is my favorite temperature in all of life, and also optimal race weather. Given my hiatus from the 5k distance, I was just treating this as another 3 mile run. I was not expecting any certain time or accolades. The only expectation I had for myself was to finish in under 30 minutes. Based on my race pace a few weeks ago in my half marathon, I was hoping for about 27 minutes, but I figured under 30 minutes was a reasonable expectation.

My fastest 5k time back in my 20s was 25:10. Now at age 40, I knew I would not get near that. I just wanted to run a decent 3 miles. 

I crossed the finish line in 26:17, far exceeding even my wildest expectation of 27 minutes. 

When checking the boards for race times, which were marked “unofficial,” I was surprised to notice that I had placed 2nd in my age group!

I was surprised and elated! While I consistently perform in the top 10% of runners in half marathons, this was the first time I have ever placed in my age group in any race ever. Well, not in the top 10 anyway. 

At age 40, a 5k time of 26:17 is a new PR (personal record) race for me. Placing in my age group was the icing on the cake. When I turned 40 this year, I have now entered the Masters category of running, and I finally feel like I am coming into my own. I may not be as fast as I was in my 20s, but I am a well-seasoned, experienced runner, and to place in my age group felt amazing. I was so excited. I could not wait to tell everyone.

Running awards were announced at the end of the race. The first place finisher in each category received a prize. As second in my age group, I knew I was not going to receive anything, and I was totally okay with that. I was so happy to place second and have bragging rights. I ran a good 5k and then stayed near the finish line to cheer for everyone who came in after me. It was a great race and just a happy day to be part of the running community.

Imagine my surprise, when the female age 40-49 age group first place finisher was announced and it was me! Apparently, the other woman in my age group was the first overall female finisher, which bumped me up in the standings to be the first finisher in my age group. When I looked online later this week, I also noted that I was the third overall female finisher for the race! 

Welcome to medal # 17! This is my first 5k medal and the only medal that is for a distance shorter than a half marathon. However, I am so honored to have placed first in my age group! I am so proud of this 5k! I had a great time and a great run on an awesome course with amazing people! 

I will now officially say that my 2019 running season is over and I am in the off-season. Medal # 17 was a complete surprise, but definitely one of my most favorite medals. I am so looking forward to planning the 2020 race season over this winter and to resume “recreational running” for the duration of the off-season.

Thank you so much to all the volunteers, the spectators, and every one who has supported me in the 2019 race season. This is the best race season I have had in 5 years and I am so grateful to be able to continue to compete in this sport. I truly consider my ability to run to be a gift from God and every step I take is a blessing. I love all my medals and consider it an honor and a privilege to have earned each one. I’m so happy! Medal # 17 rocks!

Five Reasons the 1812 Challenge Rocks!

So if you haven’t heard, I ran the 1812 Challenge half marathon on September 1, 2019. It was my comeback race. It was amazing. This race is so awesome, I decided it needs its own “Rocks!” post similar to the Garmin one. In random order, here are the five reasons why the 1812 Challenge is my new favorite race. 

  1. Volunteers

Any runner from 1 mile to a full marathon will tell you that every race is about volunteers. We cannot run without them. No volunteers, no race. Kind of like mornings – no coffee, no workee. Yeah, yeah, we hear it all the time. 

Seriously, this race has the best volunteers. It has an army of volunteers. The race field was 1,200 runners. There were 200 volunteers. Our every need was taken care of in every way possible. Not only were the volunteers plentiful, but they were insanely happy. You could tell they genuinely wanted to be there and cared that we had a great race. 

These volunteers did not need coaching to smile, cheer, or encourage us on our way. They just did it and it was genuine. They wanted to be there and the runners were the center of the universe. I have never before gotten that vibe from race volunteers before. 

By the way, have you ever volunteered for a race? If you haven’t, then you should. Don’t be that runner that just races all the time without giving back by volunteering for someone else’s race. We’re the ones that know all the little tricks like how the person with the box of kleenex is an angel because when your legs run, your nose does too. If you are racing, you should be volunteering too. Give back. Pay it forward.

  1. Spectators

This course has the best spectators. It was the first time I ever had people say “good morning” to me on a race course. There were people outside in their yards with a mug of coffee (as in the ceramic 12 oz mug from your kitchen, not a travel mug) enjoying watching us go by. People turned up their stereos for us. 

One person was playing violin on course. Another person played the bag pipes. None of these people needed to be outside. But they were. They were cheering us on. They were awesome. I especially enjoyed all the Disney characters at mile 12. There were people of all ages from children to adult, and everyone was happy to be there. It wasn’t like in the big cities when you get the feeling that the spectators are just there to party. These people were spectating the 1812 race for us. Now, its possible some of those coffee mugs held vodka, but I don’t think so. 

This course was pretty rural. If it wasn’t for the spectators, it would have been lonely and boring. Thank you to everyone who came out to sit in their yard and watch us. You’re awesome. 

  1. Organization

The 1812 Challenge has flawless organization. From the expo to the finish line, everything went off without a hitch. I’m sure there was a lot going on behind the scenes, but from the runner’s perspective, this was a perfect race. 

First, the Expo was held on Saturday at the same location as the start/finish for the race. I’m so glad this was the case. I probably would have gotten lost on race morning if I had not been to the Expo the day before. The Expo had plenty of things to do and was not boring like some other expos. There was swag, music, and running gear sales. 

Parking was surprisingly easy, free, and did I say easy? For both race start and also for leaving the race location afterwards. One of the most stressful moments of race weekend is getting to the starting line on time. It can also be stressful trying to leave a race to get back to shower, rest, and have a full meal. The parking for this race was amazing. It was easy in, easy out. A big part of why race day went so well was that I was not stressed and frustrated trying to get to the start line. Finding the start line was easy, so I could relax and focus on my race.

Another impeccable part of organization with this race was directions. You would not believe how many marathons I have been in and the runners are frustrated because we get confused on turns and where we should go. This course was very well marked and very well staffed. There was no question at any point in time regarding where we should be. We knew at all times that we were on course and were well aware of turns. 

Especially for a race with multiple distances where the 13.1 runners sometimes diverged from the 18.12 runners, there was no question about who was supposed to be where. This is in marked contrast to large races I have ran where we get confused on where the full marathon splits from the half marathon. If it’s not organized well, that’s a horrible mistake to make. Luckily, the 1812 Challenge is organized with precision at every aspect.

Another thing that was impressive was porta potties. Porta potties were plentiful and had short to no lines. I used a porta potty at mile 5 and really appreciated it. This was one of the very few races where I did not just run behind a tree somewhere and squat. I am super impressed with the porta potty situation for this race. 

  1. The Course

When they say this course is flat and fast, they mean the course is flat and fast. I have ran races listed as “flat and fast” only to have the huge hill from miles 10-13 completely slow me down and cramp up my legs. The course map was also posted well in advance of the race. I often use course maps when considering a race to decide if it is something I can do based on elevation. 

The course was also well laid out. I was not bored. I had plenty to look at. I enjoyed having multiple turns. I tend to get bored if I’m just running a straight-away for 4 or 5 miles. We were able to see the beauty of Lake Ontario, the tranquility of cows on a farm, and the gorgeously quaint main street of Sackets Harbor. One of my favorite activities is learning about a new place by running their race. This course definitely allows you to see the sights.

  1. Timing

Apparently, this race used to be at the end of August and was moved to Labor Day weekend this year. Some people have complained about the change, but personally. I love it. Even though the change is only one week, pushing it a little into the fall brings me hopes of lower temperatures. My optimal race temperature is about 55 degrees. If it is 70 degrees or above, then I need to use my MS cooling vest and we may be looking at physical problems/symptoms.

The weather was perfect for this race with 56 degrees at the start and a high of about 72 for the day. I liked having it Labor Day weekend because the end of August tends to be feast or famine – everyone is either running around trying to get ready for back to school or every one is on vacation. For me, Labor Day weekend was perfect because I had the time to enjoy the race without needing to worry about idiots around me. 

I was really happy with the 7:30 am race start time. Again, this is for temperature reasons related to my functioning. Some half marathons start later in the morning and it is too damn hot! The 1812 Challenge has nailed the timing aspect. 

I was also impressed with the on the course race timing. When finished, I was able to punch my bib number into a little machine, and it printed me a slip of paper with all my race stats. This is one of the most incredible pieces of technology I have seen in the course of my running career. I love it! No more standing in front of boards and saying excuse me to the group of people around you trying to find your bib number and times. Then try to find a pen to write it down because who carries a pen to a marathon? I love the new timing technology. That race stat slip is my favorite piece of paper.

Bonus Reason why the 1812 Challenge Rocks! Because I could not stop at just 5 …

Bonus = Theme/Swag

I love how this race commemorates the 1812 theme. From the medals to the race swag, the theme is just awesome. The visuals are great. I love the artistry of a patriot from that time period. 

This race also ties in with the 1812 beer and has pint glasses and other swag that goes with the theme. Not to mention, an 1812 beer is included with the race. The beer ticket is attached to the bib. 

The challenge theme is awesome because 18.12 is an unusual distance. It’s more than a half marathon, but less than a full marathon. It’s the perfect way to challenge yourself for those scared to make the jump between distances. While everyone else has stickers that say 26.2 or 13.1, you can have one that says 18.12. Just so that people are like what? And it will be cool. Do the 1812 Challenge. Put the 18.12 sticker on your car. You will start a thing. You’ll see. 

I am so looking forward to returning to the 1812 Challenge in 2020. I can’t wait to figure out which challenge is in store for me next year – 13.1 or 18.12! 

The Comeback Kid Runs Again

A half marathon is just a 5k with a 10 mile warm up. 2008 was a rough year. In February of that year, I broke both arms at the same time in 4 places. I spent the winter training for a spring race in casts. In May, they sawed my casts off on a Tuesday, and I ran a half marathon that Sunday. Little did I know at the time, but my race in Ottawa qualified me for Boston. When I finally figured that out, I did indeed run Boston – in 2010.

In the fall of 2008, I ran my first full marathon in Philly. It was my third medal. The day of the race, it was 23 degrees for the entire event. It was so cold, the air horn would not work to start the race. At every water stop, as soon as liquid hit the pavement, it was instantly ice. Shortly after I crossed the finish line in Philly, my running coach passed away from cancer. Since then, I have trained myself.

When I ran Toronto in 2009, I was stoked. Toronto had perfect weather and I had a great training season. Even though PRs (personal records) are technically only good for two years, my time in the Toronto Marathon is the PR of my entire running career. It was my best race ever for the full marathon distance.

While in Toronto, I was fortunate enough to meet and have deeply personal conversations with some of my running heroes. I had the privilege of spending quality time with Roger Robinson, Kathrine Switzer, and “Boston Billy” – Bill Rodgers. Kathrine Switzer was the woman in the iconic Boston Marathon photos that the race director was trying to pull off the course because there “wasn’t supposed to be women in the marathon.” Bill Rodgers won the Boston Marathon four times. He also won the New York City Marathon four times.

In my conversations with Bill, I learned a little about running and a lot about life. I told him of the challenges I had in the 2008 running season and how I was so happy and excited to be running in Toronto. The race was bittersweet, as it would be my first full marathon without my running coach. Bill gave me great advice, words of encouragement, and called me “The Comeback Kid.” I definitely came back. Toronto was my best race ever.

Fast forward a few years.

My 2015 running season was okay. I did a half marathon in the spring. Everything went normal. I ran the half marathon in under 2 hours (typical for me). I ran a full marathon in the fall of 2015. It was my worst marathon ever. It was my slowest time and I was starting to have physical issues.

Those physical issues would persist into 2016. I ended up in the hospital. The 2016 running season was completely lost. They thought I had a stroke.

I struggled through 2017. I did a small, local half marathon with about 100 runners. I was happy to get a medal, as it was unexpected for such a small race. My time was well over the 2 hour mark. It was one of my slowest half marathons, but I did it.

In 2018, I had more set-backs. My 2018 running season was completely lost. Between 2016 and 2018, that is now two years where my running season was just plain gone and I was not liking the pattern. I changed doctors and have been pushing them for answers. Why is my body betraying me? I have 15 medals – 10 half marathons and 5 full marathons. Something is definitely wrong here. 

In 2019, I have found out that the stroke diagnosis was wrong. I have a neurological disability. They are looking at MS. I am still technically “pending diagnosis,” but after having three different doctors tell me they all suspect MS and “failing” all the MS tests, getting confirmation from the neurologist is almost just a technicality at this point.

With MS in mind, I got a cooling vest to help with my symptoms – which was actually prescribed by one of the doctors who thinks I have MS. It helped with my physical symptoms enough for me to train. Previously, it would take me 9 weeks to train for a half marathon. With my new neurological problems, it has taken me 4 months to train for a half marathon. I also changed my training plan for the first time in my career. I now use Canadian John Stanton’s 10:1 method for both training and racing. 

On September 1, 2019, the Comeback Kid Runs Again. 

Given that my neurological condition (lets just go with the MS thing, since I see the neuro in October, mmkay?) affects my vision and my driving, I took a short trip north to the Watertown, NY area. I needed a “big” race that was close and easy for me to get to. I also needed one with a medal, because we all know, it’s all about the bling. 

I ran the 1812 Challenge Half Marathon, which was my biggest race in four years, and my first “official race” back on the race circuit. In the words of Neil Diamond, it felt “so good, so good.” I love being an athlete. I love being a runner. Most importantly, I love being a marathon runner. I do not remember the last time I was as happy as I was during 1812 race weekend. It has literally been years since I have been this happy.

First off, the people are amazing. I even met the race director. The 1812 Challenge is only in its 8th year, but it is run with a level of organization, thoughtfulness, and love, that I am sure this is a race we will see going for 40 or 50 years like the big ones in the cities. As a comparison, the 1812 Challenge allows 1,200 runners. Philly allows 40,000 runners the last time I ran it. I am used to big races. Not only does the 1812 Challenge rival the big cities, but it has a lot of extras that big races don’t have. I never would have guessed a smaller race could be so beautifully done. 

Hands down, the 1812 Challenge is the friendliest race I have ever completed. Keep in mind, this was medal # 16, so this is saying a lot. There was so much support and everyone was happy to be there. Even the NYS Trooper who was stopping traffic for us at one of the intersections was in a great mood. There was a violin and bag pipes on course. 

I even saw Cinderella and a bunch of other Disney characters at about mile 12. They completely rival the Scream Tunnel at the Boston Marathon. Sorry, Wellesley, Sacket’s Harbor has you beat on this one now. 

There were people standing in the front yards of their homes cheering us on. This was the first time I have ever ran a race and had people say “good morning” to me as I ran past them.

Not only are all the staff, volunteers, and spectators friendly, but somehow this race draws the best of the running community. I don’t understand how that is possible, since runners are a pretty great bunch of people to begin with, but the people who ran the race with me exceptional. I had conversations with other runners while we were on the course. It was awesome.

Even though this race is in a rural area, I did not miss the crowds of spectators in the cities. There was so much hometown pride in the people who were spectating from their front yards. I did not go a single mile without seeing someone. The water stops were plentiful and well staffed. 

Yes, I did run by a barn full of cows and it was awesome. I would much rather run past cows then spend 3 miles running on a lonely bridge in a city with no spectators. I was a little worried at the start about not running with music, as I usually use the city crowds to “carry” me through the race. Races are so exciting that I never run them with headphones because I do not want to miss a single moment. I have had times at larger races when I wanted my headphones because there would be stretches that were so lonely. 

I had no need and no desire for headphones in this race. I always had either something to look at, someone to talk to, or people cheering for me. It was amazing. I ran my race. I ran a good race.

This is the first race I have completed in a long time that reminds me why I love to run. I know I love to run. Sometimes I get caught up in the competition, trying to beat the clock and get the PR. This race I just ran for the love of running and what made it better was that you could tell that everything about this race was designed with love. The staff, volunteers, and spectators were all there because they loved being there. This was not just another race or a notch in the running belt. 

My goal next year is to return to run the 18.12 portion. It will depend on how my doctor appointments go and how I’m feeling through the winter on whether I do the 13.1 or the 18.12. I had some troubles in the morning with the shaking (I have tremors came up in my last doctor appointment) and my right side was having troubles about mile 11 (my right side overcompensates for the left side that is being attacked by the MS). One thing is for sure, I am definitely running this race again.

The weather was perfect. The finish line was beautiful. I love the theme and the medal is one of my personal favorites. I feel so honored I get to wear my medal this week. I can’t wait to show it to everyone. 

The Comeback Kid ran again. I cannot wait to do it again next year. The 1812 Challenge is my new favorite race, and you will see me again at their race in 2020. I’m not sure if I will be in the 13.1 or the 18.12, but I will be up for A challenge and toeing the line. 

Pumpkin Time

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Cinderella has a midnight curfew when the illusion ends. The carriage turns back into a pumpkin, the gown back into rags. I have pumpkin time too. Right now it seems to be about 3 hours. Three hours is the amount of time I can be out in my cooling vest before I become absolutely exhausted.

Yesterday, I pushed it. I did my long run in the morning (without cooling vest because it was only 60 out). Then, I was outside in the heat for about 2 hours doing yard work. Thankfully, I have a really awesome person who helps me with yard work, otherwise it would take me an entire day. 

After my two hours of yard work, I was inside resting and having lunch. Yesterday afternoon, it was in the 80s, and I used my cooling vest to spend 3 hours at an outdoor birthday party. It was great, but I got tired fast. I felt like a pumpkin because I kept to my 3 hour time limit, afraid if I pushed it longer, I would not be okay to drive home. Just like Cinderella, the illusion would end at the appointed time. In my case, the illusion is “normal human being.”

I really appreciate the cooling vest so I was able to be there for the 3 hours like normal person. Without it, my body would have had the “drunk” symptoms and I definitely would not have been able to drive home. I told someone this week that I am a cheap date. There is no alcohol required for me to feel drunk – all I have to do is hang out in the heat for awhile with no cooling vest and my body will have all the symptoms. I do not understand how I was able to cope the past few years before I got the cooling vest.

Earlier this summer, I had posted about wanting to say “yes” more. The cooling vest gave me the ability to say “yes” to going to a birthday party without having to worry about my symptoms. Without the cooling vest, I would have been less likely to go because I cannot handle the heat. 

I should be thankful for my pumpkin time. I have not had a summer this good when I have been this functional in a really long time. But it’s hard. I know how good I used to be, and I don’t think I will ever be at that level again. I have brief – maybe 5 minute – moments of normality when I think I can do it all, only to realize I can’t. My 5 minutes of normality usually comes when the cooling vest clears my brain fog. Those moments are fleeting.

This morning, while listening to another of my favorite radio programs, the Sounds of Sinatra, I heard a commercial for little red and yellow pills for a male dysfunction disorder. It got me thinking about the red and blue pill dilemma in The Matrix. 

We have a similar scenario in the running community. In the online running forums, one of the games we like to play is discussing this red/blue pill scenario. In running, we usually say that the red pill will allow you 5 amazing running years of reaching PRs and breaking records, followed by 10 years of not being able to run anymore. The blue pill would allow you 15 years of being able to run continuously at an average level. 

I have always responded to this that I would take the blue pill. I would want the 15 years of running, even if it was only at an average level. I cannot imagine not being able to run. I would take the illusion to be happy.

However, now that I am experiencing this situation in real life, I’m not quite sure. It currently appears I have been handed the blue pill. I am functioning at an okay level. I’m not as good as I was, but not horrible either. I know there are people who “have it worse,” but that doesn’t help me  at all when I am the one trying to live THIS life in THIS body. 

Mainly, I’m just tired. I wish pumpkin time could last for an entire day, not just 3 hours. Maybe in time, I will get there. It would be no problem to continually recharge and change the phase change packs in the cooling vest so I could wear it all day. The problem is that my body physically gives out to exhaustion after about the 3 hour mark. 

My goal over the next two years is to hopefully be able to extend pumpkin time to 5 hours. I want to be able to run a full marathon again. Right now, I am pretty sure I am okay to run my half marathon this fall. The big question is that I want to be able to run another full marathon, and I don’t think my body will cooperate for it. My body betrays me. 

While most people this summer are popping a top proclaiming “miller time,” “molson time,” or “whatever your poison time,” for me, it is putting on a cooling vest for pumpkin time. I have about 3 hours a day to be normal before exhaustion claims my body – what will we say “yes” to today? 

 

4 years, 1 month, 28 days

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Normal (noun): The usual, average, or typical state or condition – as defined by google.

I’ve had this un-diagnosed neurological condition since at least 2016, but probably longer. 2016 was the year I was in the hospital and my symptoms not only worsened, but whatever disease I have decided to ramp itself up to the Next Level like a video game on steroids.

First, I was told it was a stroke. Now, they are looking for multiple sclerosis. I’m having problems getting medical care, which does not make life any easier.

Going with the idea that I might have MS, pending neurology confirmation, I ordered some MS cooling vests to see if they would help at all with some of the “imaginary” symptoms I get when it is hot out. Imaginary is according to the primary doctor, who does not seem to take me seriously (even though she was the one who referred me to neurology).

I took great care to measure myself for the MS cooling vests and I am glad I did. When I put one on, I discovered that the phase change packs were situated so that there are two on either side of my spine. I say phase change packs because that is what they actually are – these are not ice packs, but some other technology. The placement of the phase change packs is key to their efficacy, which we will get to in a moment.

I wore the cooling vest for my run tonight. I had this idea that it would just keep my body cool similar to air conditioning. Boy, was I wrong.

But I was wrong in the best possible way.

Those phase change packs are situated on both sides of your spine not to cool your body, but to cool your central nervous system. Apparently, in people with MS, if that is what I have, heat causes your nerves to misfire. By cooling the central nervous system, your nerves are less likely to misfire, and you are less likely to have heat-induced symptoms.

My central nervous system was definitely cooled by the cooling vest. My spine was cool. My brain inside my head was cool. It was the weirdest but also the best feeling. It felt similar to an ice cream headache, only without the ice cream and without the headache. I did not have a headache. Nothing hurt. Yet my brain inside my head physically felt cool while the outside of my body was sweating buckets.

It was 86 degrees out when I went for my run. Not the best running conditions, even if you do not have a neurological problem.

It was the best run I have had in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days.

It’s been a long time since I have been this happy to be that miserable.

I was sweating buckets. I was uncomfortable. But it was a “normal” uncomfortable. It was the type of uncomfortable that you get when you run 4 miles in 86 degree weather like a crazy person. It was the best feeling.

What made it so great was that it was the first run I have done in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days where I did not experience any of these neurological symptoms while running. I was not dizzy, I did not feel like passing out, my vision was not blurry, my vision was not black, I did not trip, I did not fall. I had no brain fog. I was able to think clearly for the first time in a long time.

I felt normal.

I felt like any other idiot running 4 miles in 86 degree weather, because, really, you shouldn’t do that.

I basically wanted to see if this cooling vest would work. It does. It doesn’t work in the way I thought it would work. It works even better than that.

I thought that the cooling vest would cool my whole body down and kind of give me a competitive edge to run in that heat. The vest did no such thing. The vest cooled down my central nervous system so that I could run normally. I had no neurological symptoms. I was just a crazy runner sweating buckets on the outside. Only my spine and my brain inside my head were cool.

The cooling vest makes me normal per the definition at the beginning of this post. The cooling vest puts me back on level playing field again. It was just me and my body pounding the pavement on the road minus all neurological symptoms.

Now granted, running in 86 degree weather is completely stupid.

The point is that if the cooling vest lets me run normally again, what else can I do like a normal person that I have not been able to do for the past four years?

I’m excited to find out.

I want to surf. I want to drive further than 8 miles. I want to be able to go back to the beaches. I want to go to a baseball game without getting all these neuro symptoms where my body feels like it’s drunk when the only thing I have had to drink all day is water with lime slices in it.

I want to feel like a normal person and not have my body betray me every time I try to do something.

Tonight, I had my first normal run in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days. I cannot say how grateful I am to have this cooling vest. I feel like I might be able to actually get my life back.

With the doctors around here being absolutely stupid, I may never find out whether or not I have MS. Whatever it is that I have, this MS cooling vest is looking like it is alleviating all my heat-induced symptoms.

I can’t wait to use the cooling vest more and see what else I can do like a normal person again. Summer is one of my favorite seasons and I have not been able to enjoy it for years.

Bring on summer. With my MS cooling vests, I’m ready.

Update:

So, I’ve had some people ask me about which cooling vests I chose. I went with these really great vests called Under Cool from Therm Apparel in Rochester, NY. Many people have asked me recently if I’m wearing my vest because they don’t see it. Yes, I am wearing it! The fact you can’t see it is the whole point!

The Under Cool vest goes under my shirt. As a runner, I chose this vest because it weighs just under 2 pounds. Other cooling vests I researched were about 6-8 pounds. When I run 26.2 miles, I don’t want to feel like I’m in Marine boot camp lugging around a bunch of extra dead weight.

Sizing was a huge selling point for me. I weigh about 96 pounds. Most cooling vests I researched were bulky and only available in S,M,L sizes. Under Cool was available in XS (which I have), as well as youth sizes. Some of my baseball shirts are actually youth sizes, so having a wide range of sizes was key. Measure carefully, and your vest will fit well. XS is doing it for me.

Please note, I do not usually push specific items, but since you guys have asked, it is definitely Therm Apparel. I have not received any sort of compensation for giving them a plug, but if you need a cooling vest for neuro issues and run marathons like I do, then this is the vest for you! I also got the “adventure bundle” so I have one vest for running and one vest for “every day use.” I have two sets of phase change packs that allow me to be out longer. So far, I have only been out in my cooling vest for a maximum of 3 hours, but that is only because I get so tired.

I will be sure to post another blog on my vests!

Master of Two

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The kids (indoor only cats) safely enjoying fresh air outside on the porch in a borrowed dog crate.

Jack of all trades; master of none. This was my mantra for a good many years. Spending almost two decades working 2-3 jobs at a time while completing 4 degrees means that I have a breadth of experience.

It was significant and exciting when I completed my master’s degree a few years ago. I was so proud to finally be able to shout: “Jack of all trades and master of ONE!” I am very proud of my forensic psychology degree. It would be even better if I could use it. I digress.

I am now a master of TWO!

Apparently, once you turn age 40, you automatically enter the “Masters” category of running. There are other categories beyond Masters for higher age groups. For now, I am a master of running.

After 12 years and 15 medals, it’s about damn time. Masters runner? I’ll take it!

I am currently in training for a half marathon this year, which will only be my second distance event since getting out of the hospital a few years ago. I’m super pumped. I am also using the Canadian method of training this year to hopefully contribute to the longevity of my running career. Instead of taking 9 weeks to train for a half marathon, I am now taking 17 weeks to train for a half marathon. I’m going with a slower build.

A slower build will allow me more time for rest and hopefully decrease my chances of injury.

Another factor in this choice is that I am now training solely on paved roads, as opposed to a packed trail bed. Paved roads are a pounding for joints, so I’m trying to be gentle. It would be quite a drive for me to get to the packed trail bed now.

Last year it was a huge deal because I finally broke down and bought a Garmin, which I chronicled in 5 Reasons why Garmin Rocks!

This year, I am proud to report, that I have completed my longest run since obtaining the Garmin. When I did my long run last week, the watch cheered as I reached a new goal – longest run with the Garmin. It was only 5 miles. The fact that it’s taken me over a year since I have done a 5 mile long run … well, I’m not happy about that. I am happy that I am now back to doing 5 mile runs. I am completely fine with them.

This week’s “long run” is another 5-miler. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying the slow build with this new Canadian style training plan. If I truly plan on being a master of running, then I need to be sure to preserve my body for the long run.

I may be considered a masters runner at age 40, but I want to be sure that I am still doing this at age 70. I may be running a little bit slower now than I was 10 years ago, but I’m running smarter. I’m riding this masters thing for as long as I can.

I am always stoked when I enter a new decade and get to change age groups in running. Entering the masters category is one of the best privileges I’ve had in years. I am really looking forward to being able to race in the masters runners category this year.

Respect, people! Respect!

Jack of all trades, master of TWO!