Running: A Little Perspective (And Thank You @Oatmeal!)

I did this on purposeI got frustrated with myself tonight. I was planning on running a full 5K. I figured I’d already run 2 miles straight, and rather than move to 3, I’d just go to 3.1 and get an official 5K. But I failed, and didn’t run a full 5K.

Then I realized: I just ran 2.1 miles. Two days ago I ran 2 miles, and that was the farthest I’d ever run in my entire life. EVER. So this evening I can either focus on failing to run 5K, or going BAT CRAP CRAZY over beating my lifetime record TWO DAYS after setting it! Heck, after walking for 5 minutes, I ran ANOTHER QUARTER MILE before my cool down. I know, that’s a lot of caps, but dog-gonnit I should be proud of myself, not frustrated for the lack-of-5K-ness.

Someday I’ll run a 5K straight. And then a 10K. I even plan to delve into the half and full marathon distance someday. Based on everything I’ve read, however, it will never be as hard as it is RIGHT NOW. Seriously. So self? YOU ARE AMAZING. You just ran 2.1 miles nonstop. You pushed through that spot at a mile and a half when you thought you were going to pass out. You managed to find the “zone” at about 1.75 miles. And it was only one short week ago you managed to run a single mile. That’s incredible progress. And not being able to run a 5K means you haven’t even gotten to the point when running is fun!

Oh, and the “Oatmeal” thing in the subject line? Go buy his book. It’s funny, awesome, inspirational, and more encouraging that he can possibly imagine.

Dropping Chocolate

This evening, Donna and I were driving home from dinner out with friends. It was snowing pretty hard, and we were at the intersection of a wide, busy road. Donna warned me of car coming from her side, and then after it passed I gunned the gas pedal to get out on the road quickly. (My new truck is the first 4 wheel drive vehicle I’ve ever owned, so I was admittedly playing a bit)

As I’m turning left across the 4 lanes very quickly, Donna says in a frustrated tone, “Oh man, you made me drop chocolate!”

There was an awkward silence.

I responded, “You mean, like, you pooped?”

I assumed my rapid turn scared her, and she was creatively claiming I scared the crap out of her. I didn’t really think she pooped herself, but I’d never heard someone say they “dropped chocolate” before. It turns out I was very wrong.

“What?!?! No. I was eating a piece of delicious dark chocolate, and you took off so fast I dropped it!”

If you listen close, you can probably still hear me laughing. :)

Health Update: 5 Months Later

I’ve posted on Twitter & Facebook as I’ve progressed over the past few months, but I haven’t really put all the information together in a “greater than 140 character” post. So here’s the update for all those folks who are curious.

My Kidneys Are No Better
This is depressing. I ate as healthy as a human being can eat, never cheated, and lost 40+ pounds. I also drank enough water to support several small lakes. Unfortunately, when my blood was rechecked after 4 months, it hadn’t improved even slightly. BUT. My kidneys also didn’t get any worse, which made the doctor quite happy. It made me happy too, but I was hoping for some drastic, never before seen improvement.

I Still Have 20 Pounds To Lose
I’m to the point where everyone says, “Oh, you look amazing, you don’t need to lose any more weight!” That’s really kind, but I’m still a tad into the “overweight” section of the BMI scale, and I’d like to be in the middle of the “healthy” area. So 20 more pounds.

My Cholesterol Is Oddly High
Mind you, I ate broccoli, beans, and fruit for 4 months. My cholesterol should be comically low. But it’s actually high. I’m guessing that before I lost the weight, my cholesterol was freakishly high and I just didn’t know it. So along with the 20 pounds to lose, I need to exercise daily in order to get my cholesterol numbers down. Due to my diligence concerning my health, the doctor didn’t put me on cholesterol medicine — just assigned me daily exercise. I plan to “take my medicine” so to speak. (I actually need to raise HDL or something like that, cholesterol confuses me)

I Have To Monitor My Blood Pressure Like A Crazy Man
Keeping my blood pressure low is one of the biggest keys to staying alive for a long time. I’ve had my medicine adjusted a couple times already, and as I continue to lose weight and exercise, it will probably have to be adjusted more in the future. My part in the equation is to monitor my blood pressure VERY closely. Because I know myself, and know that I’d be bad at recording such things — I just ordered a Withings blood pressure cuff. It automatically uploads the readings and keeps a record of times/pressure/pulse that I can send off to the doctor in an email. Pretty slick actually. It’s also a cool technology toy, so I look forward to the monitoring more than I did before. :)

My Diet Isn’t Crazy. Just Reasonable.
I’m no longer on a super strict, low sodium, low protein, low grain, low carb, vegan diet. Due to kidney problems, I have to try for low protein and low sodium, but I can once again eat human food. This is a nice change, but will likely slow down the weight loss. :)

I. Can. Have. Caffeine. Again.
I asked the doctor on a whim, because winter is coming, and I can’t imagine the winter season without tea. Decaf coffee is bad enough, in that it doesn’t really taste bad, it’s just that the best decaf pales in comparison with really good coffee. If you think I’m wrong, you’ve never had really good coffee. Just sayin. Decaf tea, on the other hand, is vile. The only tolerable decaf tea I’ve ever had is PG Tips Decaf. But it gets old quick, and is just plain grocery store tea — not something to depend on for the long, cold winter. I’m allowed a moderate amount of caffeine (2-3 cups), and I immediately asked about drinking more than that. My only stipulation for consuming more is that I drink lots of water too. I’m TOTALLY OK with that arrangement. So, the caffeine fast is over!!!

All in all, I’m doing pretty well. I think this health crisis has been good in that it has forced me to be more aware of my general health. I’ll be thinner, healthier, and most likely happier thanks to the forced lifestyle that is keeping me alive. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Breville One Touch Tea Maker just beeped…

In Which I Make a Fool of Myself for a Good Cause

Tomorrow is it. With all my crazy health problems of late, I haven’t done anywhere close to the fundraising I hoped to do, but regardless — tomorrow I’ll be golfing 50 holes. Again due to the health stuff, I haven’t been to a driving range, so my first golf swing attempt will be on the course tomorrow. Yikes. :)

What am I golfing for exactly? I’m glad you asked, even if you really didn’t. Hehehhe.

  • Harbor Light Christian Schools is an independent, non-denominational school. It shares a name and building with a church, but is not actually a church ministry. It’s completely separate.
  • I’ve seen HLCS transform my kids. In a good way. Yes, it provides a Christian education as one would expect, but it does so much more that I honestly never expected:
    • It’s given my kids a safe place to learn who they are. No bullying. No ostracizing for being “weird”. No judgement based on background.
    • Even with a district size of under 100 students (K-12!), my girls have all played multiple sports, competing successfully with schools 10 times their size. Heck, Lizzie (a 7th grader) made a double play the other day on the varsity softball team against a school at LEAST 10 times their size.
    • The student/teacher ratio is such that teachers form a personal, sincere, and direct relationship with the kids. This means students can’t get away with fluffing off, because the teacher will follow through with contacting parents and arranging extra help if needed.
    • It’s also shocking for me to see families of drastically different Christian denominations not only exist together, but excel in making each other better Christians, and better people. In fact, the differences at Harbor Light are one of the biggest strengths. When we learn to get along and agree on commonalities, it helps everyone relate to the rest of the world better. Getting rid of the “us/them” mindset is so healthy, and it happens every day.

 

But tuition is so, so expensive for a private school. Even in our economically depressed area of northern Michigan, it’s not uncommon for tuition prices for Christian schools to hover around the $10,000 per year range. While in other parts of the country that is a paltry amount to pay for tuition at a private school, up here, it makes it unreachable for the majority of families.

And so, golf.

Harbor Light does an incredible amount of fundraising. So much so, that for a top notch, parochial education, the base tuition is reduced to around $5,600 per student. PLUS, there are incentives (half off for the first year, things like that), scholarships, and tuition forgiveness that takes place every year. No one gets rich educating students at Harbor Light Christian School, but student’s lives are enriched beyond measure.

I could go on and on about the specific things HLCS does to benefit the community and world, but I’ll save that for another day. Giving families the ability to provide their children with a top notch academic education, while at the same time teaching them to exist peacefully and productively around others of differing world views is priceless. So, I agreed to participate in this golf marathon. My goal is/was to raise $1,500 to offset tuition prices next year. Again, due to my recent health concerns, I haven’t been able to beat the bushes for support, which is very unfortunate. If you’d like to contribute, even a small amount, I would be grateful. If you’re unable to contribute financially, please either pray for HLCS, or at the very least ponder how amazing it is to raise a generation of young Christians who understand how to get along with people of varying faith systems.

Here’s a link to my contribution page if you’re interested in donating. Thanks for reading. :)

A Fairly Scary Health Update

I’m not famous, but my jobs past and present have given the opportunity to have a large number of online friends who genuinely care about my wellbeing. I pour my heart into the things I do (which sounds odd for someone in a technical field), and countless people support me, defend me, and protect me from the big bad wolves of the Internet.

So when something significant happens in my life, people often want to know. It’s not a creepy invasion of privacy, or a juicy tidbit for gossip around the watercooler, but rather real people genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. That’s incredibly humbling, just so you all know. And so I want to give an update, because I think it’s better than leaving people wondering. Plus, I truly appreciate the wellwishes, prayers, and encouragement. ANYWAY:

This week I went to the doctor because I have a pain in my abdomen in about the spot my gallbladder lives. I’m about the right age, the right (over)weight, and the right skin-tone to be a likely candidate for a faulty gallbladder. So I had a blood test, a urine test, and an ultrasound. When the tests came back, my gallbladder looks OK. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t appear to be full of stones or anything.

My liver and kidneys, on the other hand, appear to have issues. That’s fairly shocking, as I haven’t had any symptoms related to kidney or liver, but the tests came back with issues. My liver is fatty, and is stressed, but is still functioning well. So for that, I need to lose weight, and things should improve. My kidneys, however, appear to be in really bad shape. I don’t have the specific numbers, but the numbers that are supposed to be low are very high, and the number that is supposed to be high is very low. In fact, the test were so unsettling, that the doctor referral slip had “Acute Renal Failure” written on it. I didn’t realize the severity of things until I saw that. Scary sounding, no?

So far I’ve consulted with 3 doctors, and the next step is to get an ultrasound of my kidneys to check blood flow. Then I need to hydrate REALLY well for a few days, and get my blood/urine retested. My close friends have been urging me to go immediately to a specialist, and I understand that mentality — but this short-term plan makes sense to me. The initial tests may have been skewed, partially because:

  • I have no symptoms of renal failure.
  • I have been hitting the Couch-2-5K program HARD, doing a new run every day, instead of 3/week.
  • It’s possible I was dehydrated and didn’t realize it.
  • Only my blood test showed issues, my urine test (on the next day) was fine.

 

One of the doctors consulted specializes in sports medicine, and he’s seen an intense workout regimen combined with insufficient hydration cause test results similar to mine. (so, a false positive) If my next tests still show problems with kidney function, I will do what it takes to get the best treatment I can. I know kidneys are nothing to mess with, and I’m not ignoring the issue. I promise. :)

I’ll update everyone as I learn more.

Sucking Sucks, A Runners Tale

Be thankful it's not smell-o-vision...

Today is the 7th run on my path to running a 5K. It’s my 4th day straight, which is pretty cool. I hope to continue with my daily runs, even if they’re small runs. Building up that habit is something I’ll be really proud of. But…

I really suck at running.

No really, that’s not a false humility sorta thing. I’m not fishing for compliments. But today was the first time I had to jog 3 minutes straight. Oh. My. Word. It’s unbelievable how difficult it was to stay trudging along at 5MPH for 3 consecutive minutes.

I have friends who are “runners”, and I often see them talk about the “short 5 mile run” they took that morning. Or, “it was rough between miles 6-8, but the last 7 were smooth.” I’m really happy for them, and it’s cool they can run like that. The problem is, if I look at the math, at my current rate of improvement, it will take approximately 6 millennia for me to get to that level of ability.

I know, I’m just whining now, but I’m not even running! I almost died from jogging for 3 minutes. It’s difficult to imagine jogging an entire 5K, much less running that far. And taking a “short 5 mile run” any time in the foreseeable future? Ugh.

Anyone else have a difficult time imagining themselves as real “runners”? I sure do…

Where I’m From…

While the neighborhood is pretty rough, and half the houses in the area are burned and gone, the house I grew up in is still standing. Google Maps is a pretty cool thing. :)

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood

Asthma: The Secret I Didn’t Know

I’ve had asthma most of my life. When I was younger, the doctor never diagnosed it, so unfortunately my lungs are full of scar tissue from a childhood full of wheezing and gasping. (My mom feels really bad about this, BTW, but it’s not even a little bit her fault — the doctor should have figured it out. My mom has since become a nurse, I suspect partially due to that feeling of helplessness regarding my childhood, but who knows.)

Anyway, the doctors measure my lung capacity at 70-80% what it should be, plus I still have exercise induced asthma attacks. Thus, running has always, ALWAYS sucked. And I mean sucked. If you’re a runner, I urge you to try running while wearing a snorkel filled with cotton. Your body is tired and your muscles ache due to lack of oxygen. And your lungs? Oh God your lungs. “Burn” doesn’t really describe the feeling, it’s more like trying to breathe honey through a straw which is filled with angry, stinging bees.

Running sucked.

It’s important to note the past tense in that last sentence, however. About a year ago I was at the doctor for something routine, and asked for a refill on my Albuterol inhaler. He asked me how well the inhaler was working, and I told him that I was still alive, so I called it a win. He recommended I use my inhaler 20-30 minutes BEFORE exercising, rather than as a reaction to an asthma attack, to see if it might prevent the attack from starting in the first place. Oh. My. Word. He changed my life. Seriously. So I said all that to say this:

If you have asthma, and you never knew to use your inhaler before exercising, DO IT!

I can run now. I’m slow, I’m fat, my joints ache, and I get short of breath — but that’s like a walk in a meadow of flowers compared to how it used to be. Now, the more I run, the better I get. It has NEVER been like that before. I wish I could tell my old self to do that simple preemptive couple of puffs. But if even one person reads this and learns that thing I never knew, it will be totally worth it.

Breathing is awesome. :)

Valentine’s Day 2014

A Conversation With My Wife

Me and my sweetyWhile driving, my audiobook is interrupted by a phone call from my wife. (All hands free, for those concerned)

————-

Donna: Twitter doesn’t give me enough characters to write the school’s entire name in the “Full Name” field when I try to create an account.

Me: How close is it?

Donna: “Harbor Light Christi”

Me: Hmm… How about “Harbor Light HLCS?”

Donna: That fits, cool! Thanks!

Me: No problem. What’s the username?

Donna: @harborlight3

Me: What? That’s a horrible username…

Donna: That’s what it suggested.

Me: But… It’s horrible! Make it something like @HLCS or if that’s take @HLCS_Swordsmen

Donna: Oh that’s much better, and it’s not taken, cool!

Donna: “sword3f86gg55e”

Me: That’s worse than “harborlight3″, what’s wrong with @HLCS_Swordsmen?

Donna: No, that’s the password I used.

Me: YOU SAID IT OUT LOUD?!??!?!

Donna: Well yes, but only to you on the phone.

Me: But, what if someone overheard you?

Donna: How would they know what I was talking about? You didn’t even know, and I was talking to you!

Me: Still, doesn’t it cause you pain to say a password OUT LOUD?

Donna: Um, no…

Me: Wait… Wait… Did you say it out loud while you were WRITING IT ON PAPER?

Donna: Of course! I have to write it down so I can read it when I need to log in!

Me: You know I’m a system administrator and trainer, and that I deal with computer security every day, right?

Donna: So you’re gonna hack me?

Me: I don’t think I can talk to you anymore.