Nike+ Human Race

I remember posting jovially a few years ago, about how I figured out how to prevent black toenails: stop running. At the little gym that I joined when I first moved back to Wisconsin in 2005, I ran just about every single day. I am a routine-oriented person, and I remember waiting outside the doors in the crisp morning air waiting for them to unlock the doors. I would claim two pieces of cardio equipment because usually I was the only one there and I had that power. A half hour on the elliptical trainer, and at least a half hour on the treadmill afterward.

Cardiovascular exercise has always been a sort of a love/hate entity in my eyes. I read a book once that spelled out the two main types of exercise (cardio and strength training), and how people usually have a preference for one and hate the other. The book went on to say that the type of exercise one hates is typically the exercise that person needs to change his or her body (which makes perfect sense because a person is more likely to do the perceived “enjoyable” exercises and avoid the other…duh!).

I have loved strength training for as long as I can remember, and I suppose that one of the reasons I love it is because my muscles respond quickly with very little work. I forced myself into cardio every day at that gym because I knew that I needed it, that my body had become too efficient at power walking and kickboxing as my forms of cardiovascular exercise.

I hated the mile run every single year at school…loathed it, really. I know that I couldn’t finish it without walking, and I know that I was always toward the last to finish. Granted, I was extremely overweight and out of shape, but those early perceptions stick with you. After several months of running three or more miles a day, I woke up one morning excited to hit the treadmill. Was I an accomplished runner at the time? Not at all…but I had proven to myself that I was capable of finishing just about any distance goal I put in front of myself. It just takes a little determination.

I stopped becoming a daily runner after an emergency surgery in 2006 kept me from regular exercise for six months. I just never got the bug back after that, and the voice of chronic pain took the place of the old childhood defeatist in me, telling me that I just couldn’t run, not anymore.

This year, Nick went and signed me up for the Nike+ Human Race (much to my chagrin). I was not happy about this at all. He still saw the girl he met who loved how running made her feel. Didn’t he know that I had learned the vocabulary of “I can’t”? If he knew, he certainly didn’t care. the Nike+ Human Race was a chance for runners across the world to participate in a 10K race all on the same day, October 24, 2009.

Resigned to the fact that I was signed up, I started running regularly: at the very least, I wanted to finish the run. The first two weeks were ridiculously painful, but I had a calendar printed for myself to follow, and I was committed to that schedule. By week three, I was feeling markedly better, and I started appreciating the strength of my legs rather than cursing their bulky existence. By week four, I was addicted.

The Nike+ Human Race was last Saturday. Where I struggled to finish 5Ks just three months ago, I finished a 10K with energy to spare. Am I an accomplished runner now? Nope, not even close. But at least I know that I can do it, and that’s a lot more special.

So much for my black toenail remedy.

Hard Choices

I think that it’s only natural that people feel a need to biologically reproduce. Speaking for myself, I had such a close and meaningful relationship with my own mother that I would have loved to have the opportunity to find it again. I think Nick and I would have made a beautiful child. The hard reality is that that chances of this are physically unlikely.

I had one doctor a few years ago who mapped out the steps that would be taken for pregnancy to have any sort of a chance, which included bed rest from day one with the expectation of scary-early delivery. She seemed to be missing the bigger picture of it all, that as a result of autosomal dominant disease I will have chronic pain for the rest of my life. Autosomal dominant—even if I went through the expenses (time, money, physical) of trying to override nature, how can I in good ethics pass this on to an innocent child?

It’s not like all my problems started when I was 24. I’ve had quirky things wrong with me all my life, and it wasn’t until I was 24 that they linked them all together. When I switched HMOs at the beginning of the year, I not only had access to excellent secondary care (plus a university hospital that has published papers about Currarino Triad based on my mother and myself) and a new doctor to help me understand my reproductive malformations.

My first appointment with her, she came into the room with a notebook, telling me that usually she prints out the files of new patients, but my file was too large so she took notes for the initial visit. She talked to me. She didn’t give me the spiel that she thought I wanted to hear. She was interested in Currarino Triad (this is one big difference that I have noticed between the providers in these two HMOs: one set of doctors wants to learn about my disorder while the other prefers to ignore it and proceed as if I were normal) and how if affects me in my day-to-day life.

After three years of a lot of pain, I know that my genetics should not be passed on, and I accept that my body was not meant to bear children. Atop that, I am sick of feeling drugged. Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, narcotics, and hormone therapy—I’m telling you, it gets old. The decision for sterilization sounds simple, but there is a certain finality to it that makes this a very emotional choice. I had my pre-op appointment on Thursday, and I wanted to back out. Even though I see one choice as ethical and the other as selfish, that “selfish”, instinctive hold is strong.

Even though Nick, who has already been through so much with me (bless him), has been working long hours at work, he showed up at the clinic when the time for my appointment came. Again, my doctor did not try to talk me into or out of anything, understanding that we have thought this through from every angle and that there is no easy answer.

From the time I started becoming a regular at hospitals and clinics, all of the nurses who knew Mom kept saying, “Thank God your mother didn’t live to see this happen to you. She would have blamed herself.” I kept thinking, “That’s silly. She didn’t know she had anything genetic wrong with her when she started her family!” But with me…I would know.

It was a comfort having Nick there, Nick who has agonized with me through the past 3+ years. There is no rationalizing why things happen the way that they do, why one life seems easy while another seems hard. For the longest time, I just thought that I had been lucky for too long and several years of bad luck was my penance. Now I think everyone has something hard in their lives. Maybe they are trying to figure out who they are or where they are going. Maybe they don’t have confidence in their own abilities or their ability to learn. Maybe they struggle to show their emotions or allow themselves to feel.

No one is better or worse off, and everyone has difficult decisions. I am fortunate to be pretty okay with me, open with expression, and supported by my loved ones. I am also fortunate to finally have doctors who I trust and who treat me as an individual rather than an average of the patient population. So yes, this is an incredibly hard choice, but I have to remember that I have a lot going for me, and that things have a way of working out for the best.

Slam

On one of our first dates, Nick gave me hell for the way I shut the car door. I remember feeling irked and thinking that the relationship wouldn’t last more than a week. Nearly four years later…well, I’ve decided that I have my quirks and he has his. That, and I am really good at blocking out Nick’s voice when sanity requires (I know he does the same). I have never considered myself a “slammer”. I like to think that I close doors and drawers with intention. I have always been this way and up until that one cold January night in 2006, I’ve never been called out on my door-shutting abilities.

We had my dad over for supper last night. (I won’t even go into the debate on whether one calls it supper or dinner right now.) The Green Bay Packers were scheduled for Monday Night Football, and Dad really appreciates watching games in high-definition television. He left during halftime, the windows rattling behind him as he left. I thought nothing of it, but Nick looked over at me and said, “You come by your door slamming naturally.”

Be that as it may, I am pretty sure that neither Dad nor I have discovered our car battery dead because the dome light never turned off, and I certainly haven’t let the harsh February temperatures gather in the living room because the door to the garage was left ajar. I am rather proud that when I decide to do something, I do it all the way—if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and all that.

Leaving Minocqua

I really love something about this picture. Our hotel room overlooked lake Minocqua, and I viewed morning from above. Trees look so big and sturdy from the ground, but I like the silhouette of the delicate leaves and berries captured in this shot.

As the old adage goes, “Pink sky at morning, sailor take warning.” A few hours later, storms rolled through. The moments before the end, when you know the end is coming, always seem to be the most beautiful. Maybe it’s just that I appreciate them more knowing my time is limited, I don’t know. Spending the weekend in a place where I have so many family memories was bittersweet for me in 2007. Two years later, the memories were only sweet.

Coming to the realization Saturday morning, irony set in as one of my mother’s friends approached me at Belle Isle later that day. What are the odds that two non-local parties should meet in a little city on the same weekend, at the same sports bar? I did not recognize her at first because I was not expecting to see anyone that I know, but I can only believe that it meant something more.

Simply, my mother was absolutely likeable. I remember being nervous that her visitation would not be long enough for everyone to pay their respects in that little church. She touched a lot of lives, and to this day, sneaking up on four years since she passed a way, people that she knew still come up to me to say hi. I guess nice begets nice, and just thinking about all of them makes me smile.

She’s left her mark. Even now, looking at this picture of the sunrise, I hear her saying (as she always did), “God paints us some pretty pictures!” Thanks, Mom.

A Break from Crazy

Last weekend, Nick and I went to Minocqua. We spent Friday biking on Bearskin trail, participated in the Rump Roast Run on Saturday, and then got in one long run on Sunday before coming home. We traveled to Minocqua on this same weekend back in 2007, but I felt like I needed it more this year.

Also, this small-scale getaway of ours marked a milestone in our life together: for the first time ever, I did not come down with an awful cold hours before the weekend began! I kept waiting for it, too…but damn if this running thing hasn’t given me a stronger immune system! The wonder! When we went to Chicago back in May, I honestly thought I was going to die. Thankfully I was okay for the Elton John/Billy Joel concert…but by the time Saturday rolled around, the day we went to see Jersey Boys, I had finished the box of tissue in the hotel room and was stuffing squares of toilet paper and rough napkins from a wine bar into the folds of my little black dress as I strolled into the theatre.

The colors were just beginning to turn in Minocqua, and for a weekend that was supposed to be shrouded in rain, we actually got to see quite a bit of sun and managed not to get rained on. After a harrowing experience on the B.A.T.S. trail system in 2007 (during which I had what appeared to be a life-threatening head cold), I requested that we bike Bearskin this year. B.A.T.S. is nice and paved and starts in quaint little Boulder Junction (as a child, I spent a week out of every summer in this portion of Wisconsin, making the memories of the area sweet and innocent). Unfortunately, the path forces you to bike up steep hills with invisible crests and then speed down them at a nearly 90&deg angle. Add a whole lot of sinus drainage to that, and you can see why I do not have a fondness for B.A.T.S.

Also, I’m not so much a thrill-seeker. Some people really get off on roller coasters and death-defying experiences. From my point of view, I’d rather hold off the near-death experiences until, well, I am near death. That’s just me trying to be all logical again. So, naturally, I applied the brakes on my bike while going down those insane hills which killed the momentum I need to go right back up the next one. The Bearskin Trail may not be paved, but it follows an old railroad bed (i.e. fairly level), is much quieter (does not follow a highway like B.A.T.S.), and offers a tree-lined corridor. What a majestic escape:

I would not be accurate in the telling of the story if I left out the bit about our water. We buy state biking trail passes every year. We both have nice bikes and enjoy being active with whatever free time we can eek out…and Wisconsin has some of the most beautiful state trails of all. I suppose the views are compensation for the Hell that many people refer to as “Winter”. So, after every excursion, all of the equipment is stored and the water bottles are cleaned. Friday morning before leaving home, Nick filled our two insulated water bottles with tap water.

I have absolutely no doubt that the bottles were cleaned after last time. I have no doubt because the water tasted like dish soap. I don’t know how it is that I know how dish soap tastes, I just do. I was thirsty though, and chugged. I replayed the images of the Dawn commercial where they are cleaning the ducks caught in an oil spill, and I wondered what has happening to my digestive tract as the soap-ish water flowed through. Don’t worry. We stopped at a wine and beer bar after we finished and introduced toxins back into our systems.