What were you thinking???

What exactly were you thinking??? –My asthma doc

And just like that I am toss squarely on my ass.  Ah, yes, life as an asthmatic.  Last week (prior to the Spartan Super) I started experiencing some burning in my lungs. No big deal, I thought, I’ll just take my sick protocol.  All asthmatics have one.  I started taking my Dulera twice per day.  I went about my business on Thursday. By Thursday night I was really wheezy.  No big deal, I thought, there is a huge fire in Shenandoah and the smoke is drifting this way.  By Friday morning, I was coughing up what I affectionally call ‘lung biscuits’.  Again, no big deal, I thought.  I’m going to Texas I’ll get away from the smoke and the yuck and all will be good in the land.

First flaw in my logic, I had to fly to get there.  Flying is notoriously awful for people let alone people (cough) like myself who have compromised immune systems.  Then, I get to Texas and my brother dropped the little bomb that he would like for us to mow the lawn “if we could, please.” Of course I’m going to do what my baby brother wants when he is in Korea.  Myself and Cindy (the SIL) took care of the grass.  Yeah, probably not a good idea on my part.  We’ll call that flaw two and three and most likely four. I’m really really allergic to grass and weeds.  Then, I didn’t bring my allergy pillow cover with me (I almost always travel with it).  Friday and Saturday nights were hard sleeping for me as one of my MAJOR allergies is dust mites.  Flaw five(ish).

Saturday rolls around and I’m still coughing up lung biscuits, but now I’m face first in grass (doing all the burpees) and surrounded by trees that were spewing pollen.  Did I mention the running?  Or the inhaling of all the air? Or the fact that I managed to give myself HIVES, yes, HIVES last year from doing a race and inhaling too much pollen.   Post race sitting in the car I start coughing up bright technicolored lung biscuits. Oops. Flaw six, ok, seven and eight.

Sunday. I get up at 0300 to get to the airport and my face feels like it’s going to explode.  My lungs ache.  I now have a cough that racks through my entire body.  Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have  gotten on an airplane.  I had to get home, though.  Flaw nine.

By the time I got home on Sunday I wanted to die.  I couldn’t breathe.  My lips and fingers were numb.  I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  Now, I’ve done enough races to know the difference between the dump truck of love that visits post workout and the dump truck of awful that comes when you can’t getting enough oxygen.  I knew which one this was.  I crawled into bed and proceeded to sleep for the next 12 hours.

When I woke up this morning my wheezing was so bad I couldn’t even get my Dulera in.  Crap.  That isn’t good.  I knew I was going to need to get an appointment with my asthma doc.  After nearly falling over from coughing during my spirometry test I got put back into the exam room.  Now, I’ve been seeing the same asthma doc for over a decade.  She’s been very tolerant/encouraging (within limits) of my escapades.  However, today as she walked in the door and she was pissed.  The very first words out of her mouth here, “What were you thinking??!”  Second words out of her mouth, “You’ve become one of those people.”

“But I had a plane ticket,” I sputtered back.

“I write notes all the time.” She retorted

“But I thought Texas would be better.”

As the words were leaving my mouth I knew that there was nothing I could say that was going to justify all of the stupid choices that I made.  As she peered into my ears with the mom I told you so tone in her voice, “Yep, blood on your ear drums/canal you did some damage flying yesterday.  See, I TOLD you.”

Sigh.

IMG_9059You know you’re not doing well when they break out the nebulizer machine in the office.   You really REALLY know you aren’t doing good when they drop not one but two meds into the machine.  I sat there breathing in the medicine. A couple of minutes into my treatment my face started to tingle and my fingers started to tingle. Yay! Oxygen returning to my extremities.  By the time I was done with my treatment I felt oh so much better.  She came back into the room looked me square in the face and with a no nonsense tone in her voice, “Are you running today?”

“No ma’am.” I replied meekly.

“Are you SURE?”

“Yes ma’am. I’m sure.”

Satisfied that I wasn’t going to go running today she set about figuring out what cocktail of IMG_9060meds to put me on.  We settled on a new nebulizer medicine (the same one I just took) and an antibiotic.

“I don’t think you need steroids.”

PHEW! At least I have that going for me.  Steroids make me want to pull a chair up to the fridge with a fork in my hand and devour the contents.

“Look, you need rest.  Your body needs rest.  You are not normal. Taking your albuterol during the day other than for exercise is NOT ok. If you do, you aren’t well enough to race. Period end of discussion.  You need to remember, that despite your high functioning you are still an asthmatic.”

Now, trust me when I say, I know I’m an asthmatic.  That being said, I can be an asthmatic who sits on my ass and feels like crap OR  I can go out and live my life and feel like crap.  At least with the latter I have some awesome memories.

I’m going to be the good asthmatic.  I’m going to take my medicine.  I’m going to take it easy, but I will say this I’m not about to let any of this stop me from achieving anything I set my mind to.  I will just have to remember that my lungs, much like a Latin American dictator are propped up by drugs, and need to be given a little extra love.

 

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I must really love my brother

Approximately 8 months ago when my brother got moved out of Alaska and got orders to Texas I declared that the only way I’d come back is for him. I hate Texas. I love my brother. I’m currently sitting in Texas. That must mean I REALLY love my brother. 

Why exactly did I come to Texas? To run a Spartan Super on my baby brothers birthday of course. Duh. 

When I decided I was going to get my trifecta this year I started looking at options. When I saw the Austin race which happened to be by his new house AND it was going to be on his birthday it became a must do. I called him up; 

“Let’s do the Austin Spartan together.” 

“You and Cindy can. I’ll be in Korea.” 

Fuck…..

I asked Cindy, his amazing and beautiful wife, if she was game. 

“Yes. Wait. What’s a Spartan?”

Snicker. 

  
Oh the poor girl has no idea the suck fest that was in front of her. 

We drove the hour from their house to the race site. The closer to the race venue we got the more wild flowers we saw. Dammit Texas it’s hard to hate you when you look like this. 

  
 After we parked, I slathered myself with sunscreen before we got our crap together and headed towards the shuttle buses. If I didn’t apply early and often I was going to fry like an egg. The heat was already starting to ratchet up. Cindy now understood why I said, register for the earliest wave possible. 

By the time we got our packets (hey we both have 23 as our last 2 numbers) and checked our bag there was only ~20 minutes until our wave left. Perfect timing. Can’t get too keyed up that way. We looked at the map one more time and it was like suddenly it hit her. 

“Wait?! There are how many obstacles?!”

I told her. 

“That’s like an obstacle almost every quarter mile?!”

“Yes. Yes it is. Did you not read or watch anything I’ve sent you? WOMAN!” 

  
I had to laugh. This was going to be even more fun than I thought. 

As we stared at the wall before we jumped into our start corral she looked at me and said, 

“Why am I suddenly so nervous.” 

Snicker. 

We stood listening to Dustin be his amazing self (as always) until he said, “…and there are rattlesnakes out there…” Cindy turned wide eyed at me. I shrugged. It’s Texas. He released us out into the wilds and we started down the trail. She started off at a break neck pace. I had to remind her to pace herself. Spartans are long slow grinds not sprints. (This lesson will be important later.) Plus the goal is to finish in one piece. (This will also become important later.) 

The first hill and obstacle came up fairly quickly. I helped hoist Cindy over the wall and then I asked for a boost. Hey I’m only 5’2″ and even jumping I couldn’t manage.  This is the thing I love about Spartan; everyone is out to help everyone. 

“Low bridge” (Watch your head) 

“Feet!” (Root, rock, etc) 

My personal favorite yesterday; “CACTUS!!”

Somewhere during one of the first obstacles as I was helping Cindy over I tweaked my knee. Crap. Onward I pressed.  Every single hill I felt and could hear the grinding. Oh this isn’t good. Nothing I could do about it. 

When we hit the 7′ wall I warned Cindy;  DO NOT drop hang as long as you can to decrease the drop. Yeah…..about that. She cleared the top of the wall and dropped. And pomptly landed on the side of her foot, straining her ankle, and landing on her ass. If I broke her my brother is going to have my ass, I thought.  She got up and managed to limp along. 

We continued to push through the course succeeding on some obstacles and failing on others. Some I may always fail (like the monkey bars) just because my wing span is not wide enough to swing bar to bar. I helped folks I could help and requested a boost when I needed it.  Every time I broke out the sunscreen I offered it to others. I had lots of takers. 

Passing mile 6 we were still running along. Granted not a fast run but a run/fast shuffle nonetheless. Those folks that had gone streaking past us earlier? Yeah they were walking. See, pace yourself kids it’s a long slog. 

We crossed the finish line in 3 hours 14 minutes and some change. Along the way we did an ass ton of burpees. All that said, we finished.  For that I couldn’t be prouder. The best part? I didn’t get sun burnt! That in and of itself is a major win! 

  

Flying Pirate: Double Dare Challenge

This past weekend was the Flying Pirate Half Marathon. Of course, me being me, I signed up to do the Double Dare Challenge which is comprised of the Flight Flight 5k on Saturday followed up the half marathon on Sunday.  I mean, if you are  going to travel over 5 hours to go to an event you might as well participate in the whole event.

Wednesday, prior to the race, I was speaking with Bourbon’s Mom.  I was musing how it was going to be nice to get some sun and beach time.  She looked at me and said wryly; “Have you looked at the weather today?”  Um, no.  She pulled it up on her computer screen.  What was sunny and 80 on Monday was now 50 and 40mph winds.  Are you fu*%& KIDDING me?  I’m sure the look that crossed my face was priceless.  Sigh, oh well.  Fiduciary incentivized exercise.  I paid for it, therefore I shall run it.  I guess I’ll just pack a few extra clothes.

IMG_8878Bourbon’s Mom and I drove down to Richmond where we picked up Luddite Runner.  Then we all proceeded to the Outer Banks.  When we finally arrived on Friday the weather guessers had gotten it right; it was WINDY.  Not just any wind, but take your breath away kind of wind.  The ocean was very angry.  The waves were pounding something fierce.  So much for a nice sunny, relaxing, beach weekend.  It could have been worse, there was a poor couple who had their wedding scheduled….outdoors…..

Saturday was the First Flight 5k.  There is a very good reason why those Wright boys picked that particular spot.  It’s windy as all get out.  We got to the start line and were freezing out behinds off.  I was acting like a complete fool just to get my muscles warm.  Hey, everyone is someone else’s weirdo.

We were all were doing the challenge, so the plan was to go out slow and just cruise around IMG_8920the 5k course.  That was the plan anyway.  We had elected Bourbon’s Mom to set the pace,  we were just following her.  Perhaps that was a bad idea.  Her competitive streak came out.  Luddite Runner and I knew the “easy peasy” day went right out the window.  We cruised across the finish in under 35 minutes.  Oops.

We spent the rest of the day playing mini golf, seeing the sights, and trying (as best we could) to minimize the amount of extra time we spent in the wind. It was gorgeous, right up until you got out of the nice sunny (protected) car and had to be out in it.  We still managed to have a great time, even if it wasn’t sticking our toes in the sand and enjoying some sun.  Again, at least we weren’t the poor couple who had planned a wedding.

Sunday morning; half marathon day.  The three of us have done events together before.  The plan was the same as it always was.  Bourbon’s Mom and Luddite Runner would stay together running intervals.  I was going to run on my own.  The morning was practically a walking disaster.  First, we got on the shuttle bus and Bourbon’s Mom sat on her hydration pack hose soaking her rear. When she jumped out of her seat and into Luddite Runner’s seat she smacked the cup of coffee thereby soaking Luddite Runner’s thighs.  If that weren’t enough, we got all the way to the start line and I realized that I left my lucky tutu in the car.  Crap….

IMG_8954.JPGWe stood shivering together at the start line huddling between a truck and the tree line. It was in the low 40s and the wind was whipping already.  A local had told us on Saturday that we would be shielded from the wind most of the course.  We were all praying that was going to be the case.

We loaded into our corrals and I saw the 2:30 pacer.  Mentally all I wanted to do was finish. I wasn’t expecting much with the wicked winds (and the cold).  I had finished my last half in 2:28 so as long as I kept slightly ahead of the 2:30 pacer I would be ok.  As our wave was released I was having some issues getting Coconut to get a signal.  Apparently she didn’t like being that cold either. I wound up having to play catch up with the 2:30 pacer after convincing Coconut to get a GPS signal.  At least it helped warm me up a bit.  Now, I’m normally a warm runner.  Even in the dead of winter I will wind up taking my gloves off because my hands get super hot.  I didn’t actually warm up enough to take off my long sleeve shirt until after mile four.

I settled into a nice pace.  Running with my Spirit Human has done wonders for me.  She is so metronomic in her running.  My goal was to try to stay on that cadence as long as I could.  That being said, every runner has to have their own way of keeping pace.  Mine just happened to be this very cute pack of boys running with 30 pound weight vests about a quarter of a mile in front of me.  For six miles I kept up with them.  Then starting at mile 7 I began to reel them in.  As we rounded the corner for the Wright Memorial I passed them. I teased them a bit when I was running with them that they needed to run faster because I was using them as my carrot.  They laughed.  They were good humored about it.

IMG_8957The last few miles of the half are on dirt road and trail. Oh happy day!  This is where I picked up a runner named Jenny. She had been shadowing me.  As I stopped on one of the hills to mentally pull myself together she came up beside me and said, “Look you can’t quit I’m using you to pull me along.”  I laughed only because hmmm, I wonder where I heard that before.  For the next three miles Jenny and I stayed together(ish), pushing and pulling each other along.  Don’t know where she came from, but man she was exactly what I needed.

As I rolled down the hill towards the finish line I was stunned at the clock.  Wait, wha? I was so stunned that I didn’t even sprint through the finish after gaining the momentum from rolling down that hill.  2:21??? Seriously??? That’s nearly 7 minutes better than my LAST half.  How is that even possible?  I guess running with Spirit Animal and working my ass off at the gym (quite literally with all the glute and hip exercises I’ve been doing) really are doing me some good.

I gathered my medals and my hat I walked around to the finish to wait for my two amigas to come rolling through.  I huddled together with a couple of other runners waiting for their respective friends.  We were sharing mylar blanks in an attempt to stay warm.  April in the Outer Banks and we were freezing, who would have thought.

FinIMG_8961ally, the ladies came over the hill.  I started shouting.  I doubt they heard me but I was whooping and hollering and encouraging.  I saw the clock.  They shaved nearly 15 MINUTES off of their time from Disney.   I was SO damn proud of them.

The post race party was right next door to the finish.  They managed to grab some food (yet another race with no food options for me), and we all managed to snag a cider (yay! something I could consume).

We stood there shivering talking about the course (the IMG_8966supportive locals, the mimosas at mile 5.5, the cute pack of boys, etc) when out of the corner of my eye there they were.  The cute pack of boys. I sheepishly asked them if I could get my picture with them.  Hey, incentive is incentive.   We stood there for a moment talking about Spartan races, which courses we liked which ones to avoid.  It’s always nice to find common ground with strangers.

 

Overall, I’m exceptionally pleased with my results.  I learned some valuable lessons between my last half and this one.  I put Tailwind into my hydration pack (made a HUGE difference.)  I packed a Picky Bar; you know, because otherwise I would miss second breakfast.  I also learned some valuable lessons on course this time, but the most valuable lesson of all was just how much I really truly do love dirt.  This is my second to last road race I am registered for.  I don’t think I will be registering for any more.  I run happiest both mentally and physically on dirt.

I am exceptionally pleased with my time.  I’m exceptionally please with my pacing. I’m still slow, but I’m making progress every race.

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Wait, Dads are suppose to know everything

Please bear with me for a brief pause in our usual running/fitness programming;

For years, my Dad and I have used medicine, science, and world events to connect; MERS, SARS, MSRA, West Nile, Ebola, Zika all have been near constants in our conversations and in email.  Having grown up in the ER watching him (long before HIPPA) it is something I’m not only interested in, but it is a way for us to connect.  We can talk about agro-terrorism or pandemics in ways that most families discuss football.  Strange, I know, but it’s ours.

Already possessing two Master’s degrees going back to school wasn’t even on my radar.  Then an opportunity presented itself where work, if selected, would allow me to go to school full-time for a year paying my salary and up to $25k in education costs.  On paper there were a thousand reasons why this was a good idea; not just professionally, after working Latin America and Africa issues for over 15 years, but personally as well. I applied for the program and given that my particular area of focus is not a traditional area for my employer I didn’t give it a second thought.  Meh, they’ll probably give it to someone else, I thought.  Simultaneously, I had to apply to schools.  Meh, I’ll never get it in, I thought.  Then the unthinkable happened.  Not only did I get into both schools I applied to, but I was selected for the program as well.

IMG_8815This is where celebrations should be happening.  I should be THRILLED I have this amazing opportunity. Instead, I’m filled with doubt.  Which was only compounded by attending Graduate Orientation.  Is it anxiety just due to change? Is it because I am old enough to practically be their mother?  Is it because it is not the right path?  Of course, I called Dad, my trail guide/Yoda/guru/center of my universe, to ask for his advice.

I know can have these conversations with my Dad and he won’t pull any punches.  Yet, today, he didn’t know what to tell me either.  Huh.  I didn’t know Dad’s could play the “I don’t know, kid” card.  Instead, he asked me why I wanted to go for this program.

We started talking about emplaced nefarious biologics into and moving across agriculture devastating our food supply.  We spoke of weaponized diseases.  On and on for almost 45 minutes this conversation went.  At the end of the conversation he said to me, go to school over the summer see what your gut says.  If at the end of the summer you decide that this is not the path for you, then don’t walk down it. He went on to say, “You and I both know what sometimes doubt is the Lord’s way of keeping you from a bad path, but it is also the Devil’s work from keeping you from going down the right path.”  But, but, but, I wanted an answer today……..

So, here I stand, wondering.  Is this the right thing?  Is this the right path? Is this the right time? Or is there something else I am suppose to be doing.  I guess I will have to wait for an answer.  Crap…….I hate waiting…….

Favorite runs

When I started CrossFit several months ago I was introduced to a woman and my first thought when I met her was, “Whoa, she’s intense, is that how people feel when they meet me?”  I felt like I met my spirit human.  She’s a fantastic human being that, over the course of time, I consider my friend.

 

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Lately, we’ve been managing to carve out time for a run during the week.  Sometimes it is post WOD.  Sometimes it’s just a dedicated run day.  She calls them her slow run days.  I call them speed work.  They are probably one of my favorite workout days; even when they are post WOD.

The reason that they are my favorite isn’t because I am running.  It isn’t because I’m pushing my speed.  It isn’t because of where we are running.  It’s our conversations.  They wander all over the place and they are fantastic.  It’s one of those conversations that if you tried to trace any kind of linear thought process of how you got to where you did you’d have absolutely no clue.  Which, in my opinion, is what makes them amazing.

What’s even more stunning to me is that I am able to talk during our runs.  This may not sound like a big deal, but for this little asthmatic it’s a really big deal.  I guess that means I’m making progress.