Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back On The Trail Finally! - Hike #10

After a 3 week abstinence from hiking due to travel to the NIH, resting up for the big climb, and a week with a chest and head cold, I have FINALLY had the opportunity to return to the trail! By the way, it has also been pouring alot here too which has attempted to hamper me from my half marathon training I started this week.

So Saturday the sun came out and it was simply too lovely to pass up even though I had some minor remnants of chest and nasal congestion (still lingering). My gluteus and outer thigh muscles were sore from my thursday night session with my trainer which was an hour this time. Therefore, I sort of took it a little easier and reached the summit in an hour and 6 minutes as opposed to an hour.

Although it was warm down at sea level, when we reached the top there was a wind and it became cloudy making it quite a bit nippy out. We did not stay long and as soon as we cleared the first half mile from the summit (actually for the first time in 7 years I took a shortcut down the steep and rocky cable line WITHOUT POLES), we jogged/ran the rest of the way down for 2 and a half more miles.

I would love to write more but right now I gotta go and get out there - It is not pouring out there and sun breaks combined with light rain. I am behind by 2 hikes for the year (my goal is at least 1 a week).

Catch ya later!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

5 months post surgery - Hitting the Wall

I have actually had a remarkable recovery, in the best shape of my life probably, and was looking forward to my best performance yet at the big climb this year (where I would race up 69 flights of 1,311 stairs with an elevation gain of 788 feet).

The first 2 years I chose to be in the untimed climbing division because I feared I might get knocked down or have a more difficult time with my poorer balance. However, it proved to be pretty safe and I felt incredibly great after my 2007 and 2008 climbs where I timed myself with a watch. Further, I had a great run and felt strong on the climb just 5 and a half months following my 2007 surgery. I seemed to just keep getting better and on a roll. Therefore, I figured it was time to step it up and join the ranks of the more serious climbers racing and timed.

That worked great and I felt I did even better last year but I goofed up on using the timing chip and crossed back over the finish line before turning in my chip to wait at the top of the stairs for my husband. Of course that messed up the results of my time exponentially! So this year I was all set with how to properly use the chip.

I trained on the stairmaster for a certain pace with the goal to finish in 11-12 minutes. In practice, the stairmaster is easier with no elevation gain so I was able to finish 69 floors in under 10 minutes. To get my lungs adjusted to the elevation gain I had been doing some hikes of a local mountain since January.

Then the unthinkable happened......I got sick 2 days before the event. :( The week prior, my mother-in-law and I had been out to the National Institutes of Health where she picked up some bug which she thought at the time was allergies. She left last Monday and at home she got worse coming down with laringitis. So she seemed to catch something going around which was more than allergies.

I thought I lucked out but then friday afternoon I became exhausted which later developed into a sore throat and body aches that evening. I started pumping zipfizz, airborne, and theraflu cold and sore throat combined with rest to try to be well enough for Sunday afternoon.

I awoke Sunday dizzy but felt ok on the ride over. Yet I just walking the block up the hill to get into the building embarassingly left me a little out of breath. LOl I was wondering if our team member David had noticed and if he was thinking "My God! This lady is already pooped out hiking up a city block. How in the heck does she think she is going to run up 69 flights of stairs?"

Anyhow, when it was time to line up to go to the start, I grabbed a couple swigs of water. By the time we took the escalator down to the first floor, I already had cotton mouth with no water nearby to relieve it until I reached the 10th or 20th floor.

I was the first person on the team to start and within the 1st 10 floors all 3 trainers had passed me. Team members David (the top finisher on our team with a time of 12:05) and Brett had passed me by but I cannot recall exactly where. At floor 10 I was reminding myself to settle down and just keep in the pace that I practiced - easier said than done. I just did not feel right at all. It was kind of like when you take off on a 20 mile journey before you see the next gas station and you realize the needle is below empty. So you just hope that the gas in your reserve tank is enough you to the next station.

No matter how hard I tried, I just felt slower and not as strong as I had in previous events - did not feel on top of my game. I was already pretty depleted by the time I reached 35 floors. My lungs burned and my muscles felt like lead. I had to grab water at 3 of the stops and my body taunted me to stop and rest. At that point I seemed to not care anymore about my time but just wanted to finish. I did not stop but only slowed enough to grab a dixie cup of water and toss is in the trash a few steps up.

In previous climbs I would be hooting and hollaring to pump people up as we reached the half way point, 20 floors, 10 floors, and then the last flight. Not this time! I needed to conserve every ounce of energy to just breathe and move my legs. There were a couple ladies I was with in the end. I believe one passed me and I honestly cannot remember if I passed the other on the very last flight. There was no last dash of energy for a sprint to the finish. I was spent! I had already hit the wall by the 49th floor and tried desperately to hang in there for 22-23 more floors. It was a relief when I saw the sign posted 10 more floors, 5 more floors, and then last flight.

Exhausted and gasping when I crossed the finish line pad, I haunched over trying to catch my breath. It was probably about a minute that I remained like that until I recovered enough to pull myself back up to standing, got a bottle of water, and then pulled out my camera to catch the rest of the team.

My time was disappointingly much slower than what I anticipated (14:54) but it was fun nonetheless. I had a great time on a fantastic team with a wonderful bunch of people and a very meaningful cause. Further, I think this experience was really good for me to go through as I am preparing to climb Kilimanjaro this year. That total feeling of hitting the wall I could not exactly emulate when going for a run. It is hard to explain. I know from watching movies of climbing and reading stories of climbing expeditions and even talking to climbing friends that they reach that hitting the wall feeling where it becomes very mental to keep yourself going. I wanted to know what it is like to reach that threshold and have an idea of what it will take to get past it. Now of course this is a very poor simulation where a few minutes in a hot stairwell cannot even compare to hours out in the cold and probable wind at altitudes the human body was just not meant for. But at least I got a tiny taste of what I will need to condition my lungs and muscles to push past.

All in all, I suppose that is not too bad of an accomplishment exactly 5 months to the day post a major brain surgery on 4 tumors. Now my next event to tackle is to run the Seattle half marathon in June. I am a little discouraged and antsy to delay training as the bug blossomed into a full borne head/chest cold. Yesterday and today were incredibly beautiful days. I took the dogs for a 5 and a half mile walk last night. But today I woke up with a sore throat, sore back nasal passage, chest congestion, leaking eye, runny nose, and I am just wiped out! I will even have to miss water aerobics and another strength training session at the gym. :( So I am taking the day off to hopefully heal fast. I would love to be recovered and back on the trail this weekend.

Be Golden

Gold's Gym Big Climb team "Be Golden" at the Big Climb event of the Columbia tower in Seattle, WA. Sunday in partnership with Gold's Gym eastside (Bothell, Redmond, and Issaquah), I led a team of gym employees, members, family, and friends up 69 flights of stairs in the tallest tower in the city to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Our team theme, "Be Golden", was inspired by the memory of my dear friend Skip Sand who passed away from a long struggle with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in October, just a week before my brain surgery.

Visit our team website Be Golden With Gold's Gym to read the wonderful summary my sister wrote describing our team theme and tribute to the life of Skip and our grandfather taken by the blood cancer Myeloma in 2006.

Congratulations to everyone who made it to the top and thank you for helping us to improve the lives of those affected by this disease!

Click Be Golden at Big Climb 2010 to see more photos of our team at the event!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back to the NIH

To catch any new readers up to speed, I am a participant in a natural history study of NF2 at the Nation Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland (United States). I will be closely watched and followed medically to monitor/observe the growth of my numerous brain and spinal tumors to study their growth rate and possible triggers. Knowledge of such information can help reseachers to problem solve a solution to slowing down or stopping tumor growth.

The study will last 5 years where I and several othr NF2 patients in the country will be followed up every 6 months with MRIs, blood samples, eye exams, swallowing tests, gait analysis, and other possible tests related to symtoms and side effects of the tumors or treatments.

My first visit was last August and so now I am back again. We flew all day yesterday (leaving Seattle at 8:30 am and arriving WADC at about 4:30 pm). Then we waited for the NIH shuttle ro take us into Maryland - and had to sift thu tush hour traffic.

This morning bright and early was mt first appoiuntment at phlebotomy/ TY`It was the absolute fastest and best blood draw I have ever had which includes 17 years of constant pokes due to the cancer and then NF2 diagnosis. No numbing of my hand, heating of my arms, nor anesthesiologist was neededec.

I am at the eye clinic now waiting for my eyes to dialate so the doctor cn look at my cataracts. So I apologize for any typows and spelling errors as I cannot see right now. I can just barely read the lettters on the keys. I definitelt am unable to read what I am typing. Therefore, I am going to sign off before this is just a post of unreadabler garble gook.