taking the plunge

i’ve decided that i want to try to stop taking my antidepressant, cymbalta. i’ve been on it now for more years that i can remember, and to be honest i’m not sure if it is even having much effect anymore. not that i’m feeling bad – i’m actually feeling great! – but i would like to see if i can feel great without having to take a pill every night. i still have ups and downs while taking the cymbalta, so i might as well give this a shot. it will be a very long, slow process. i am currently at a 60mg daily dose. i will begin to wean myself off 10mg at a time, staying at each new dose for a minimum of 2 weeks. instead of my usual 60mg pill, my doc has prescribed me a 20mg dose so that i can split the capsules into the appropriate dose.

so we’ll see what happens, i guess. from all that i’ve read, as well as from mine own experience when i’ve missed an occasional dose, the withdrawal symptoms are pretty miserable – dizziness, sweating, and all the other things that one associates with withdrawing from any kind of drug that alters the brain. i’m hopeful, however, that if i progress slowly (my doc said to expect this to take no less than 8-10 weeks), exercise an obscene amount, and drink lots of Tazo “calm” tea (love that stuff), that things will turn out okay.

having said all this, please be patient with me if i seem unusually teary, cranky, lethargic, or just “not all there” for the next few months. just know that i’m trying my best to become a better, nonmedicated me 🙂

coming full circle

sometimes life has a funny way of bringing things around in a circle. events that happened in the past suddenly have a profound influence on the future. i’m sure it’s been this way for ages, but it’s the first time i can remember it affecting me so deeply. you see, julius caesar may have the ides of march, but i have march 18.

march 18, 1994 started out as the day i was going to take my sats, but turned into a day that brought me face to face with my first truly recognizable bout of depression. a girl in my high school class was killed by a drunk driver late the night before. she wasn’t a close friend, but in a class of 40 kids it’s impossible not to be more than acquaintances. when you’re 17, everything seems more dramatic, but especially those events that make you question your own mortality.

don’t get me wrong – the darkness had already reared it’s ugly head in my world, but i just didn’t have a name for it. after amy died, the face of depression became much more recognizable to me. desperate words penned as poetry, hours spent in the dark, the sensation of being enveloped in quicksand… and though i have learned to deal with these things better now as i’ve gotten older, those moments still exist in my life 18 years later.

march 18, 2012 began with a starting line and a journey of 26.2 miles. it began with fear that i wouldn’t make it, that i would suffer and want to stop, that i couldn’t handle the mental challenges. it ended with a finish line being crossed, eyes full of tears, and a feeling that i can conquer anything that is thrown at me. i didn’t outrun my demons – that was never the goal – i ran with them. i brought them along so that they could see for themselves that they weren’t going to beat me. for better or worse, the demon of depression is a part of my world, but dealing with it has given me the mental toughness to overcome obstacles that i once thought were impossible.

so life comes full circle, and then it carries on to the next event. can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

*sigh*

read a frustratingly true quote yesterday that brought itself to fruition today – you can’t “out-exercise” a bad diet. you can work as hard as you want in the gym, but if you aren’t putting quality fuel into your body, you are still going to lose the war.

while i’m frustrated with my weight because the scale never moves, i am even more frustrated by my most recent fasting cholesterol numbers, which actually went up from six months ago. i know there is a genetic component to it, and i’m okay with that, but i also know that my diet is a contributing factor. i’ve improved it in some areas, but there are lots of times that i still eat nothing but empty calories – soda, ice cream, french fries are all huge weaknesses for me.

so my goal for the next 6 months, in addition to continuing to exercise, is to work on improving those dietary weaknesses. it would be nice to say that i can eliminate those things completely, but i know that is setting myself up for failure, so i’m going to concentrate on increasing the good things – fresh fruits and vegetables and more water – along with significantly decreasing the bad things. i had lowered my soda consumption to one 8oz can a day, but in the past few months i’ve gotten away from that.

so anyway, i started my new strength training program yesterday – a three day a week, full body program with exercises that change daily – and my marathon training program will begin on monday. looks like i’ll have lots of things to keep me busy for the winter – just in time for the holidays!

taper week

tapering is driving me nuts. after 12 weeks of running 3 to 4 times a week in preparation for the half marathon, this week is to be spent doing a lot of resting, hydrating, and a teeny tiny bit of exercise – a 2 mile run and a 3 mile run. it’s hard to believe that i’m missing the longer runs and the more intense activities, but i definitely am. i suppose what i’m really missing is the endorphin rush that comes with those activities. instead i’m just irritable and anxious. i feel like i’m losing fitness every day that i rest, even though i know in my head that it’s not true. research and my own personal experience have shown that an individual can take up to five days off with no activity and not have a significant decrease in their endurance. so if that’s true – and i know it is – i should be savoring this time of rest and getting myself mentally prepared for the event. so why am i going out of my mind! arghhhh….. only 2 more days of this nonsense (and then i’ll be begging for some rest).

never fear though, training for the virginia beach marathon begins november 15!

san francisco

as you probably already know, the boys and i spent most of last week in san francisco as a combo vacation/business trip. chuck attended the american college of surgeons yearly meeting in the mornings, and in the afternoons we did fun stuff.

friday evening we drove to charlotte and spent the night so that we could take a direct flight to san fran the next morning. we ate at a great restaurant called “halcyon” on tryon street, near the panthers stadium. all the food that they serve is locally grown, and their menu changes on a seasonal basis to accommodate the farmers in the area. it hasn’t been open very long, but apparently this type of restaurant is becoming pretty popular these days. it was tasty!

we arrived in san francisco saturday morning and spent most of the day doing “touristy things”. jackson had never visited california so it was all pretty new to him. we walked down to fisherman’s wharf, had some chowder in a bread bowl surrounded by homeless schizophrenics, saw the sea lions, and did some shopping. we discussed going to the stanford-washington football game that evening but decided that would be pushing it a little on the first day.

sunday was another day spent just checking out the town. did some more shopping – no trip is complete without a visit to niketown – did a lot of walking to the different districts, and finished up the evening at bobo’s steakhouse. the name is a shortened version of the italian word for “jester” (i should look that up and put the actual word in here, but i ran 10 miles a little bit ago and i’m kind of tired. you’ll just have to trust me). i didn’t know that little detail until after we were seated, so initially the decorating of the place was a bit off-putting. however, after reading that on the menu, the old school carnival-like atmosphere made a lot more sense. once again, another tasty meal of steak, mussels, and crab legs.

monday was chuck’s first day of the meeting, so he spent the first portion of the day at the moscone center. jackson had quite a bit of homework to do to make up for missing a week of school, so i left him in the room to work on that while i went for my run. trying to figure out where to run in san francisco took a little work because i really didn’t want to deal with the massive hills. i finally settled on the embarcadero, which runs from pier one near the oakland bay bridge all the way down through fisherman’s wharf to the golden gate bridge. other than dealing with the large amounts of humanity in the more popular areas, it was an awesome place to run. i’m not sure how you could live in a place like that and not participate in some kind of outdoor activity on a daily basis.

tuesday was another meeting day, so i dragged jackson out that morning to visit the MOMA and get a bit of culture. he wasn’t too excited about the idea, but he tolerated it okay. we saw some amazing pieces of art and sculptures, but then there were also a few things that make you think “didn’t i draw something like that when i was five?”. there was an entire floor devoted to richard sera, who i had never heard of before, that was made up of large, ceiling high, black squares. sometimes the squares would be in the front of the room, sometimes on the side, and sometimes randomly positioned to cover two walls. i have to admit that i wasn’t totally impressed with his stuff. there was another exhibit (unfortunately they wouldn’t let you take pictures in this particular room) of these sort of creepy porcelain and ceramic type heads and figures. each of the sculptures had haunting black eyes with faint smudges of black underneath them that could have been interpreted as tears. the base portion of the bodies (if they had a body) seemed to be melting away into a puddle beneath them. not sure what the artist was trying to accomplish, but i definitely found them a bit disturbing.

at any rate, we spent tuesday afternoon on rental bikes crossing the golden gate bridge and riding into sausalito. riding across the bridge was incredible. the strong gusts of wind and the view of the pacific coastline are the two things that stood out the most to me. sausalito is a cute little town that is a biker’s paradise. hills and smooth asphalt and breath taking views. i would love to spend a few days cycling there. it was getting very chilly so we chose to take the ferry back across the bay instead of riding back. probably a good choice as it was almost dark by the time we finally made it to the pier.

on wednesday we rented a car and drove to palo alto to visit the stanford campus and apple headquarters. we weren’t really allowed to do anything at apple – the security was pretty intimidating – but it was pretty neat to see how large the facilities are. stanford has to have one of the most beautiful campuses i’ve ever seen. it’s a massive place. i liked the fact that they’ve left a lot of the areas in a natural state – there were several areas that we walked by with gigantic trees and benches for people to sit and relax. the architecture of the various buildings on campus was pretty phenomenal as well.

after leaving palo alto, we drove north to spend a little time in the muir woods. i remember seeing the giant redwoods as a kid, but it still is awe-inspiring to look up into the sky and see these massive trees towering over you. we took a lot of pictures but it’s hard to really get perspective with the camera. we had fun trying to figure out ways to get ourselves in pictures with the trees.

that night we had an intriguing restaurant experience at opaque. the restaurant is located in a basement, the windows are covered with thick curtains, and there are no lights. cell phones, watch faces, and anything else that may emit even the smallest amount of light are forbidden. the waiters are all legally blind, and they invite you to step into the world that they experience on a daily basis. you place your order in the light when you first arrive, and in addition to that, they bring you a few “surprises” during the meal. you can either choose to guess what these items are based on taste and smell, or the waiter will tell you ahead of time. we, of course, chose to guess. i have never been in a place that dark. eating involved attempting to use your utensils (cutting steak has never been more of a challenge) and feeling around on your plate using your fingers to figure out where things are and if there’s anything left to eat. the food was great, and our server was also quite good. i think it’s one of those things that you can probably only experience once – it just wouldn’t have the same effect the second time around – but i’m really glad we did it. and more importantly, i’m even more thankful for the gift of sight that i so often take for granted.

thursday was a long day. we checked out the hotel in the early afternoon and had many hours to kill until our flight left at 10 that evening. we ended up going to the movies, walking around a bit, eating way too much, and then went to the airport for dinner. we found a bar that was showing the sixth game of the world series – a classic that ended in extra innings with my cardinals on their way to another championship – so that helped to pass the time. eventually we boarded the plane and made the long trek home.

overall it was a great trip. san francisco is one of my favorite cities, and i was happy to get a few more days in california!

finding level ground

on saturday i did my longest triathlon to date, and finished it in a time that was pretty much what i anticipated. not fast – well, pretty slow to be honest – but i finished, which was my ultimate goal. although i was tired at the end, i felt good about myself for having conquered another goal. i continued to feel good about things for most of sunday – a little sore in places, aware of several things that i could have done better to improve my performance, but not dissatisfied.

sadly, the endorphin rush that often accompanies accomplishments does not last forever. by sunday night the clouds were looming darkly overhead, and i don’t just mean outside. call it fatigue, or post-race blues, or whatever you like, but i was definitely on the edge of a full blown funk. prying myself out of bed on monday was difficult. covers made of quicksand, encouraging me to bury myself beneath them. rain and dreariness outside only served to complicate matters. i tried to go for a run that afternoon, but pain in my right leg (leftover from the weekend) stopped me after only a mile. tuesday was even worse. i went to spin class tuesday morning looking forward to breaking a sweat and hopefully dislodging myself from my blues. no luck in that endeavor either, sadly. an unfamiliar instructor and changing to three different bikes due to various mechanical problems (broken pedal, a seat that wouldn’t stay up, and a monitor that didn’t work) resulted in my leaving the class in tears without about 10 minutes to go. and to top that off, chick fil a was out of bagels. yes, more tears. it was a rotten day.

i’ve improved since then, but am still not up to full speed. a run yesterday was once again halted by leg pain, and it continues to rain outside, which tends to bring me down. i managed an hour workout on the stationary bike today, so maybe that’s a positive sign for things to come.

i suppose i should have anticipated a bit of a letdown following the race, as i had a bit of it after the triathlon in wilmington a month ago. it took me a couple days to get refocused on the next goal and back into the swing of things. my focus now is on the richmond half marathon in november, and the shamrock marathon in the spring, as well as some offseason cross training on the bike and in the pool. it’s a shame that accomplishment can bring such rapid swings from high to low. wish i could just ride the endorphin wave from one goal to the next, but i suppose that without the low spots the highs wouldn’t be so awesome.

RIP Steve Jobs

sad to hear that steve jobs died today. found a few quotes from him that i thought were quite impressive. reminders to live each day as though it’s your last…

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Steve Jobs
1955-2011

self entertainment

i’ve learned a lot since i started running without my ipod. i can judge my effort by listening to the sound of my breathing, hear the rustle of the hundreds of squirrels in the park, and most importantly, i’ve learned that my head is way too full of song lyrics.

the first two miles of my run are typically filled with trying to convince myself that this is supposed to be healthy for me, and that if i can just get past the “warm up miles” (whoever thought i’d consider 2 miles to be the warm up?) then i won’t feel quite so badly. miles 2-6 require quite a bit of self entertainment. running is not exactly the most exciting thing in the world. i do random things like count my footsteps, make random mantras from the rhythm of my breathing (i hate the tush push is a popular one), and have a little sing-a-long in my head. if i were listening to my ipod, i would probably have a mix of things playing ranging from the steady beat of a rap song to the fast pace of some rock, but when i’m singing to myself things tend to be a little more mellow. yesterday i had quite the medley of Bible songs going (father abraham has a great running beat), followed by a few tunes by garth brooks and some other folks of the country genre. why i can’t remember what i had for breakfast but can recall all the lyrics to “friends in low places” is a mystery to me. but at any rate, it passes the time and that’s the important part.

anything after mile 6 (and mind you, i’ve only gotten up to 8 miles) is just a matter of not stopping. i’m not really thinking about much, and fortunately my legs seem to have a mind of their own – swinging along at their own pace without any input from my brain. and that works pretty well until i stop for some reason – the water fountain, a bee in my sock (yes, somehow i managed to get a bee in my shoe at mile 7 yesterday), or just the need to take a break. it’s nearly impossible to convince myself to get moving again and to find my pace. hopefully this will improve with time. i’ve got several more long runs coming up before the richmond half marathon – another 8 and a few 10s – so i should be good to go by then.

so if you hear something that sounds a bit like a freight train warbling a tone deaf rendition of “i’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”, just know that some poor runner is out there trying to make it through their daily mileage.

*gag*

so i’ve felt a little off the past couple days – had to abandon a run about halfway through, lacking motivation, etc – but this morning i woke up with a fever of 101 and nice big white patches on my tonsils. fabulous. so off to the doctor we go to be told what i already know – that somewhere i’ve picked up a case of strep throat. it seems to me that i should be illegal for them to cram a q-tip down your throat when it already feels like it’s been scrubbed with sandpaper, but that’s protocol i guess. a prescription for amoxicillin and orders for rest and fluid, and they sent me on my way.

kind of sucks because this weekend is the women’s only 5k run to raise money for breast cancer research in greensboro. i still plan on doing it, but i wish i felt better in the interim. it’s a great event and the place where i did my very first ever 5k a few years ago, so i’ve got a special place for it in my heart. thousands of people running around dressed in more pink than you’ve ever seen in your life!

so anyway, i guess this is just a little setback along the path. in the meantime i’ll try to take advantage of the opportunity to rest and relax a bit. after all, i’ve got a mile high stack of faye kellerman books to occupy my time!

hellllloooooo out there!!!!

well, triathlon #2 for the season is finished and i’d consider it a success. wasn’t the fastest one out there, but there was definitely an improvement over my last event. i guess training really does work!

the swim was a totally different experience that last time. there was no sense of panic or feeling like i was going to have to stop at any moment. i really didn’t think i had done enough training in this area, but with a little help from the current it turned out okay. i did end up with this weird looking brown stuff all over my face, which was kind of disturbing. i got a big mouthful of what tasted like a combo of salt water and diesel fuel, so i’m thinking maybe it was just residue from that. whatever it was, it looked foul!

still need to improve my speed on the bike, but that’s just a matter of spending more time in the saddle. i didn’t get enough time in on my actual bike before the race and it showed. i did a few long rides of 30 and 40 miles, which were awesome, but i didn’t do a lot of high intensity work. so that’s my goal between now and my next event on october 8 is more high intensity work on the road. hopefully the weather will stay nice for just a little bit longer so that i can work on that. i love the workout i get in spin class, but it’s just not quite the same as being on the road and dealing with the wind and the resistance of the different types of asphalt. i had no idea that simple changes in the “freshness” of the asphalt could make such a big difference! there was one section of the ride in wilmington that was like riding on the bike with a small child repeatedly kicking me in the crotch! it was really bumpy! the things you don’t notice when you’re in the car!

the run – while still pretty slow – is the part that i am the most proud of for this event. i took almost 5 minutes off my time and that’s a big chunk. i also completed it in a much faster time than i have been able to in my training runs, so i was proud of that too. i haven’t done much high intensity work with my run training either, but i’m okay with that. i’m focused on increasing my distances on the run without injuring myself, so being a little slow is tolerable for now. over the winter i’ll add in some intervals, but for now i’m just happy completing the distances comfortably.

next up is the myrtle beach international in october. the swim is actually shorter – only about a half mile distance – but the bike is over twice the distance (28 miles) and the run is twice the distance (6.2 miles). i have no idea what to expect for this race. i’ve been slowly increasing my run distances over the past month or so and will have completed multiple runs at that distance and greater by the event date, but they’re all solo runs – not in combination with the bike and swim. i’ve also been working on getting my nutritional needs straightened out, so that i’ll be properly fueled while i’m racing. who knew there were so many semi-solid, gummy type nutritional options available! i went to REI the other day and came out with a selection of about 10 different brands and flavors to try. i want to make sure i’ve done at least one test run with whatever i choose to use at the race. so far, they’ve all settled in my belly pretty well, and i’ve actually noticed a big difference in my performance when i use them. basically they’re just high powered gummy blocks of carbs, but they give me a boost in activities that last longer than an hour. taking something in at about the 45 minute mark seems to keep me from bonking during the run, and i’m able to go farther. i’ve also mastered the ability to eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich out of a plastic bag while riding my bike, so that’s helpful too!

so we’ll see how it goes. lots more training up ahead, but i’m enjoying it. it’s still hard to get out the door some days, but i feel so much better when i do some form of exercise. even the running has gotten to the point where it’s not torture anymore. someone once told me that it’s the first 2 miles that are the hardest – if you can ever get that part out of the way, the rest isn’t so bad. i’m finding that statement is actually true, although i never would have believed it in the past.