Time flies when you are having fun…

I cannot believe how time flies.  A sure sign of the passage of time is the passing of summer.  The sun is no longer up when I go outside to throw my supper on the bbq.  And it is no longer waking me up at 5 in the morning, making it harder for me to get going, with morning exercise harder for me to do.Monday morning I had my 16 week check at the National Hospital for Neurology in London.  I am a participant in an exercise physiology research experiment, where the researchers are testing how certain muscle group strengthening impacts gait and speed in people with my nerve condition (Charcot Marie Tooth).  The visit hammered home just how quickly time has passed.When I saw Gita (the lead researcher) she asked me how my triathlon went.  She had not seen me since I asked for the ok to begin to run again – in May!  She didn’t know that since then I had completed two sprint triathlons, ran almost an entire 5k, and enjoyed jogging 2/3 of a 6k.  Time has flown.With the passage of time have come lessons.  Lessons far too numerous to regurgitate in full, but some of them I want to capture here on my blog.  I also had the chance to share these with my coach this morning, and they are shaping my approach for 2010…  I love the cycle of reflection, feedback, adjusting and learning – it is going to be a huge part of my journey as I up my triathlon distance in 2010.  And I figured that as the end of the triathlon season draws near, why wait to reflect?  So here goes – a potted summary of 2009 lessons and some short 2010 goals.  What is the saying?  If you write it you will be accountable?  Well here goes…Learning 1.  Twitter is an awesome motivational toolI joined Twitter in 2008, but I really started using it when I began training for the 2009 triathlon season.  I’ve been using Twitter as a tool to connect with other athletes, and as a source of inspiration.  Through Twitter I have found blogs on food, fitness, and by people who just enjoy living like I do.  I have linked with people who love running, biking, swimming, being outdoors, and living life – and who tweet about it.  The fact that I can post what I am doing, how I am feeling, what I am thinking – it keeps me honest.  And by reading what others write and think, it keeps me inspired and motivated.Learning 2.  Always listen to your body – rest when you need to!Sometimes my body gives me clues that are loud and clear (see Learning 4 below).  But most of the time it has been by listening to subtle clues that has benefitted me the most.  You know, those not so loud signals from your body?  Like cravings for certain foods.  Isn’t it interesting that although ice cream makes me sick, I get cravings for it when I am tired?  It is like my body knows that for me to get the message (Stop! Rest!) it needs to get sick to tell me to take the day off training!  And when I am tired, like after I have done a hard workout, I tend to get rather aggressive and react sharply to even small things…  Snapping over nothing means I need to stop, put things into perspective, and get an early night.And I’m learning that even though my training schedule may say that I should be doing X or Y in my morning or evening, that when it comes to being tired I need to listen to my body first.  Otherwise I get that horrible “someone unplugged me and the spare battery is dead” feeling – the feeling that I can no longer function.  And that is not a good.Learning to recognise the signs of when I am tired and when I need a rest, has been so important for me.  Looking at my training over the last 5 months, I think that when I have 2 rest days a week I function better.  I have tried 1 rest day a week and it just has not been enough.  With 3 days I start to feel like I am missing something.  I am going to work with my coach to fine tune my schedule to get two clear days a week.  And I am going to continue to make sure that I have the time on the weekend to have afternoon naps post training.  Boy, do I like sneaking off for a cheeky Saturday afternoon nap!Learning 3:  Having a goal has kept me going I loved my schedule this summer.  I have done the London triathlon since 2007, but this was the first year when after London was done, I decided to add more to my schedule, and to approach the things I had already signed up for as “training events”.  A constant stream of events has kept me on my toes – quite literally – and has been a great source of motivation.  I also learned something from each race and find myself wanting to go back, practice more, and try to improve in another race setting.  It is the first time I think I can say that I have been race motivated – and that has been a great feeling.I guess my challenge will be finding ways to keep motivated in the off months.  When I discussed this today with my coach, he told me that I had two homework assignments.  First, to join a tri club (I had been looking at one for a while, but today, I finally took the plunge).  I think having a club with training sessions will help me to keep going.  At least it will ensure that I am out for a long rides (once my bicycle of choice gets back in stock that is!).  My second assignment was to find monthly runs to do throughout the autumn and winter.  I have to take some time off for my foot irritation to subside, but after that, I look forward to hopefully doing some weekend run events starting at the end of October.  And I also know that I will be joining an old friend in January in Holland for a beach front 10k.  I can’t wait for that one!Learning 4:  Alcohol is not good for meOk.  For those of you I have known forever, you probably think “she finally has figured that out?!” but yes, I think I have finally learned that alcohol is not good for me.  I was getting leg cramps – the type that made me put my feet on the floor at 2 in the morning in an effort to end the shortening and tightening of my muscles.  It stank to wake up to this.  There are many theories about why cramps happen – and the theory in the world of those with my nerve condition is that they are a sign of muscles dying.  I don’t believe this – especially since training has clearly strengthened my muscles.  But what does cause cramps?  Doctors say that they can be nerve related.  But in August, following a visit to Vicki Edgson for my nutrition advice, I did a few things that perhaps a traditional doctor would not “prescribe”.  The advice came from a thorough review of a very detailed food and activity log which I kept for about 8 weeks.  I scaled back dramatically on my alcohol intake; upped my protein consumption, and added magnesium supplements to my diet.  With Vicki, I decided to do these things for a few reasons.  Alcohol is not good for people with nerve issues, and also can throw mineral balance in the body out of whack.  And alcohol can cause leg cramps.  So scaling back my drinking would have multiple benefits.  Protein is needed for muscle rebuilding with lots of exercise.  I always thought my protein was adequate, but I have been trying to add in protein at breakfast, to ensure I have a bit at every meal.  It has not been easy, but I am learning.  And finally, the magnesium was also added as a way to look at my leg cramping.Now, I am not sure which of the above is helping, or if it is all a placebo effect, but my leg cramps have subsided.  And I feel in general better.  And the only minor leg cramping incident I have had since August was this past weekend, when I overindulged in some great Bordeaux wines when in France.  Putting two and two together, I think that although the magnesium has helped, cutting back on my alcohol consumption has had the biggest most positive impact on my health.  So as much as it pains me,
I am going to try hard to stick with my no more than a glass of wine at a meal approach.  Indeed, to stick to my “wine only on weekends if I can” plan – but this is a struggle with work commitments and dinners (I work for a French company and have Asian suppliers and customers – alcohol is a big part of doing business!).  And I am going to continue with 300mg a day of magnesium.  And hopefully this combo will mean that my leg cramps stay away.Learning 5:  I am not scared to admit that my nerve issues can be disablingWhen I started off on this crazy road to become fit and walk a half marathon for charity in 2003, I had not a clue that I had anything wrong with my nerves.  All I knew was that my left foot hurt when I was done and that I wanted to sort it out.  By the end of 2004, I had received a confirmed diagnosis of a long-term degenerative illness.  Getting this type of diagnosis is a bit like getting any bad news.  You know, the typical denial stage followed by a long period of time before acceptance.  It is especially hard to accept a condition which impacts me minimally at the moment, but one in which the future is one big question mark.This year I decided to just accept the question mark.  To inform my employer officially of my condition (and accept the consequences this might have on my career).  To accept that I need to stay as fit as possible, and as active as possible, for as long as possible.  To stop treating the advice of my physio in a half assed way and to commit to training and triathlon as a way to stave off muscle atrophy.  To stop making excuses and put on my ankle supports and get out there and learn to run again.  Accepting that I have CMT has meant that I have to be painfully open with people.  I am in general a very open person, but it is hard having conversations about yourself and whether or not you are a “disabled person” just because you have a diagnosis.  I have not shied away from the hard discussions.  I have tried to be me in each and every exchange I have on the subject – but it has been hard.  Criticism comes from the most unexpected places.  And I have responded with inappropriate emotional outbursts I am sure (especially when I had a horrible confrontation with my company’s HR director following my submission of my medical diagnosis).  But I have tried to stay true to myself.Am I disabled?  Am I allowing myself to be defined by this one aspect of me?  Are my struggles any different than those of a person without CMT?  Honestly I don’t know the answers to those questions.  But that is part of what this journey is about.So, what does the next year hold?Well, I know that I am committed to doing an Olympic distance triathlon.  The journey will be tough, I will learn a lot I am sure… And I know that this may sound like a long time to a lot of you – but my aim is to go sub 4 hours, and as close to 3:30 as possible for me. Hard, but do-able.I am going to do a 10k in January.  Even if I have to walk a lot of it, I am going to do one.  What better way to start the new year?While on my journey, I have decided to fundraise for CMT.  I think I haven’t done so before because I just hadn’t really come to terms with my diagnosis.  But this past year I have grown a lot – and I am ready to help in the efforts to raise awareness and find a cure.And I have found huge satisfaction in keeping my blog while training, and by adding new components to it (charity spotlights on Wednesdays and food on Fridays).  So I am going to keep doing all of that – and hopefully add more content as time goes on.And above all, I want to stay POSITIVE.  Come what might, I will try to keep a smile on my face, laugh as much as possible, and to be thankful.

4 responses to “Time flies when you are having fun…”

  1. I definitely have the determination to do the Oly distance – and the support…  Now to find the energy reserves and the time to make sure I train and get strong!  It is going to be a fun off season!

  2. Hi Kim, thanks so much for the support! I think the best part of this is the fun that I am having. Yes it is hard,  yes I have a lot to learn, but when I am out there, I feel free and happy. As long as triathlon makes me feel like that, I will keep going.

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