Looking ahead

This year has marked a major return to running for me. In January, I completed my first marathon in three years. It was actually my slowest time ever — the heat and humidity definitely got to me — but my run at the Houston Marathon this year wasn’t about time. Instead, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do another marathon. Will I do another? Most likely. But hopefully, the weather will be much cooler in 2018!

Last month, I had the privilege of running the Texas Independence Relay. The 200-mile event — in which teams of runners pay homage to Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico — stretches from the small town of Gonzales, Texas, and ends at the San Jacinto monument. Relays are a blast, but bring their own unique challenges, such as running through the night, trying not to stiffen up between legs, and attempting to sleep in a van. I ran once again on Team #2222 — Too Slow to Win, Too Dumb to Quit. The team and its name are a good fit for me. I’m definitely not fast enough to win, but refuse to give up.

I’m continuing to strengthen myself, not only with running, but with a boot camp a friend got me involved in. I’ve also done some trail running this spring — it’s fun going off-road, even if you’re not in a jeep. Despite the setbacks I’ve suffered, I’m determined to keep going. I’m not as fast as I would like to be, but hopefully, that will come in time.

I’m also grappling with a setback in my professional life — a layoff in January. It’s not how I would have preferred to start 2017. So I’m starting over with my career, scanning job ads and looking ahead to new possibilities. Just like my running, I’m having to reinvent myself. It is both exciting and frightening, trying to see what’s on the horizon. But whatever obstacles may come my way on the running trails or the job search trail, I’m not quitting.

 

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March Madness

I was driving home from work last week, and I was suddenly struck by how green and full the trees were that line Barker-Cypress. It seemed like they were still bare just a week before. And after so many gray days, the sun is finally showing its face again.

It’s March 29, it’s suddenly glorious spring, and I couldn’t even tell you where the month went! This month, work and work-related travel dominated my thoughts and time. While I did continue to work out with my trainer as much as I could — and I even ran a couple of days this week — I feel like I regressed in my journey to getting back in shape and assessing my overall life. I didn’t go to yoga at all, I didn’t make any progress on cleaning up my diet. I even got sidetracked with my reading list for the book challenge! I suddenly decided I wanted to read the Divergent series (I’d watched the first on cable and liked it and was planning to see the second move in the theater). I also blew my Christmas gift card money on books for a new book club I’m participating in, plus the latest book in a favorite series.

March has always been a hectic month at work, since we have extra projects to tackle in preparation for a major industry conference in Houston in early May. I had trouble with some of the projects. I did get a couple of new work experiences under my belt, but overall, I felt a lot of frustration in this area due to delays and time out of the office.

I don’t follow college basketball closely, but it’s March Madness now, when college teams face off on the courts. It definitely felt like March Madness off the basketball court and in my life! I thought it was a combination of work stress and pollen (which unfortunately accompanies all the greenery and flowers that I love). I also thought it was just me, but I learned recently that March is typically a very tumultuous time for people. This is how it was explained to me: We get by through the fall and winter because of non-stop holidays, and we’re okay in the early part of the new year because of it’s still so fresh, and we’re riding the good feelings from the holidays still. But reality slams us in March –there’s no major holidays to distract us, many of us have broken our new year’s resolutions, and the winter weather and the emerging spring and pollen it stirs means we’re lacking in the Vitamin D department, plus battling allergies, in some cases. I even learned recently that the level of suicides peaks in March, for these reasons (don’t worry, I’m fine and coping well).

I’ve been bad about blogging lately, but after realizing how crazy the month is making me, I decided I wanted to get back on track with keeping back in shape. I also realized that I want this blog to be a part of that journey.

Right now, my goal is to continue strength training and building up my running miles. My plan is to sign up for the 2016 Houston Marathon and start training in July. As part of this goal, I plan to get back into yoga to help with stretching and flexibility.

I also have been looking at new sources to aid in my ongoing recovery. I tried out a new massage therapist, and plan to start getting deep tissue massages once a month. I also tried out a cryopsa, where you stand in a deep freeze for two minutes. It’s supposed to be good for recovery. I need to do a little more research into it and decide if the time and money would be worth paying some more visits for deep freeze.

In short, I’m feeling sniffly from pollen, chunky from a lack of major running, and in serious withdrawal from training for an event. I’m definitely itching for new hardware! But after a crazy month, I’m hoping to get back on track to meet my goal!

Regaining Balance

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my husband and family (and definitely ate more than I should). But it’s back to reality tomorrow, which includes a lunchtime session with my trainer.

Since I’m coming back from major surgery, I thought it might be a good idea to work out with a trainer for a while. My hope is to regain strength and correct some of the issues that I’ve been dealing with. That way, I’m in a better starting place as I slowly work my way back into running.

It’s definitely been a great challenge! I’ve enjoyed working with my trainer, Maria (who also is a former co-worker who works full-time now as a trainer). In the beginning, we focused on corrective exercises. This past week was the first full week of strength training.

I can tell definitely I need it. It’s not just about working out one set of muscles at a time — it’s about focusing on core and glutes, and keeping my knees from going inward, as they are prone to do, as well as keeping my shoulder back and maintaining good posture. All the exercises incorporate multiple things, so it’s actually a mental workout too. The lunchtime workouts also are a great way to break up the day. It’s better than eating in the breakroom or walking around Target!

In the past, I did core and some strength training, but if I was running short on time, the core and strength work would usually be cut short, if I got to it at all. I feel the training is definitely taking it to a new level, one that surely will pay off in the long run.

By the time the sessions are done, my legs are burning, my pulse is racing, and my arms aching. But it’s a good kind of tired. At times, when I’m stepping up and down or doing lunges, my legs feel wobbly. The image that comes to mind at those times is that of a newborn foal, who’s just taking their first few steps on their own. The foal is unstable at first, but as it gains strength and balance, it’s soon able to walk and then gallop on its own.

That image is appropriate — I feel like I’m reentering again the world of running of physical activity, and regaining the balance I need to go the distance. I’m learning to work out all over again, and I’m hoping for a smooth path to achieving my goal of running and training for races again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing much better, and I’m aware and grateful of all the blessings I have. One of those blessings has been to run marathons, and I’m hoping to be blessed again and able to train for the Houston Marathon in 2016.

Now, I just need to work on the food part!

A New Season

I returned to my home and to work this past week after being out for over two weeks for my surgery, most of which I spent at my parents. While I definitely needed the time to recover (and got some quality reading and family time), it felt good to get back to my life. And though I definitely enjoyed the time at my parents, the invalid’s life is definitely not for me – I’m much too independent! I was starting to chafe at the restrictions — like the kid who’s sick of being stuck at home sick, and who’s bored with TV and their crayons and wants to be out playing with their friends again.

My parents did a great job of taking care of me, but towards the end, I was definitely ready to start taking care of myself again. That realization came when my mother insisted on shaving my legs for me (so I wouldn’t have to bend) before we ventured out to walk around the local mall. I didn’t have any jeans with me, and I didn’t want to walk around with legs looking like bristly pipe cleaners. But that moment made me appreciate having the ability to do basic things for myself — things that I had taken for granted before.

I also was glad to get back to work — I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. It felt great to be welcomed back with hugs from several co-workers! I’m glad I went back at mid-week though, so I can ease back into my routine and sort through enormous pile of emails awaiting me in Outlook. It took me most of one day just on the email alone!

Returning to my daily life felt like emerging from a warm cocoon and walking on wobbly legs. I’ve actually been dealing with some calf cramping as a start walking more and going up and down stairs. I can tell it will take time to get my old stamina back even for work, not to mention any running or intense physical activity.

I got the all-clear from my surgeon to start increasing my activity level again, including physical therapy exercises. I can’t run yet, but I can walk, swim and do the elliptical. I will definitely be starting from scratch, which is bad and good. I miss being in the great shape I was in earlier this year, but starting from scratch does have it’s advantages, including the chance to rebuild myself in the best way possible and lay a firm foundation for the journey ahead.

I admit, seeing friends’ posts on Facebook are posting about their long runs is making me itch to run. The cooler temperatures this week — a sweet preview of fall weather that can’t come soon enough — also make me long to hit the running trail near my house again. But I keep reminding myself that slow and steady will ultimately win the race, and that I need to thoroughly heal.

It just struck me as appropriate that fall officially kicks off this coming weekend. Rebuilding myself will mark a new season in itself, and as the weather and leaves transform, I’m hopeful that I’ll start to see a transformation in myself as well.

You Can Go Home Again

I’m midway through my second week of recovery, and each day, I’ve noticed I’m feeling better and better. I’m definitely not ready to go out and do a triathlon — in fact, I won’t be able to run again for another month to six weeks following my back surgery. I still face a long road to recovery, but I feel like I’ve gotten the race towards good health off to a good start.

I have made significant progress over the past week and a half. I was very stiff and in a lot of pain during the drive home from the hospital to my parents’ house. Right after the surgery, I shuffled around the house in agony as the morphine I was given through IV at the hospital wore off and I waited for the prescription pain medication and muscle relaxer to take effect. I was not terribly coherent either. My mother offered me hot tea before realizing I was too out of it to hold the cup, so she sent me to bed instead.

A big factor in my recovery has been my parents, who have opened their home to me and have acted as nursemaids.  I think I underestimated how much time I would need off from work and how much help I would need after the surgery. I ended up taking all of this past week off in addition to the previous week (I had originally planned to go back this past Thursday – what was I thinking?). The doctor also said I could not bend over or lift anything heavy during the initial two week recovery period. I never realized how much bending I do on a daily basis, even to pick up a pencil dropped on the floor, or reaching down to pick up something from a low shelf.  I’ve been grateful for my parents’ presence in helping me walk around, handing me things so I wouldn’t have to bend or stoop. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the home-cooked meals (which have included plenty of protein per the doctor’s orders). I’ve enjoyed home spaghetti, steak, meat loaf, mounds of fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon and plenty of veggies. I finally got to try kale (which is supposed to be a very good food for runners) for the first time. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it yet or not!

The best part of my recovery has been the time I’ve gotten to spend with my parents. My typical life is usually so busy with work, spending time with my husband and friends, and catching up with household chores,  it can be difficult sometimes to break away and drive up to my parents’ neck of the woods for a visit. We do talk on the phone during the week, but it’s never the same as spending one on one time with them.  As part of my recovery, I’ve been forced to slow down my pace and spend time at the pace at which my parents, who are both retired, live their lives. This pace has a less frantic rhythm than my typical life. During my time with them, I’ve played endless rounds of Yahtzee with my mother, and have discussed current affairs with my dad. My mother has introduced me to some new TV shows, and my dad has given me some books that he enjoys. They’ve also guided me through some bouts of post-operative depression. My father experienced this when he had both knees replaced. Immediately following his surgery, he was scared at times that he would never walk again without pain. But he mowed the lawn this afternoon and even climbed on the roof to blow pine needles off the top of their house! So obviously, his fear was wrong. I’m hopeful that my own doubts about being able to run long miles will turn out to be just doubts and not reality.

Just by being around each other all the time, we get to talk about things we might miss during our phone calls. It’s just like with my good running buddies — the more miles we run together (or more time we spend cross training together when unable to run), the deeper and more substantial the conversations get.

I’m writing this blog on the computer in my old bedroom, which is now my parents’ office. For a long time, it felt strange to come in here, knowing that the wallpaper I’ve had in here since high school is hidden by paint, and that the closet once filled with my clothes is now a huge filing cabinet.  Despite the cosmetic changes to the room, I’ve come to realize that I can go home again.

Let the Healing Begin (Hopefully)

This week’s blog post will be short. I just wanted to let everyone know that I made it through the surgery okay.  The surgeon said it was a success, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will fix things and this blog will really be about running in the future! All I’ve written about are injuries; one of my friends joked that I should have replaced the pictures of medals on my website with photos of bandages or crutches.

I’m more than ready to go, but I suspect the surgery is just a step (although a major step) on the road to recovery. I do admit, I have been thinking about what races I might like to run in 2015 (knock on wood that this will happen)!  I’ve been trying to stay positive, and have been feeling relatively good except for today. I’ve been walking around the house, and I’ve used the time to catch up on my list for the reading challenge I’m participating in, but I think I still need to be careful not to do too much. It’s hard when I used to being so busy!

I thought I might have to stay two nights, but was discharged on Thursday, thanks goodness. I don’t think I could have spent another night sleeping in that uncomfortable hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of monitor and drips. I also had compression socks on, and then plastic cases around my calves that would squeeze them every so often to keep circulation going. I even had to call the nurse in the middle of the night to come unhook me so I could go to the bathroom. It was a big change from being able to move around freely by myself. (I did get the nurse to take the calf clamps off, and I pulled off the socks and blood pressure monitor when she left. I was then finally able to sleep!).

As you can imagine, it’s a big relief to be recuperating at my parents house, enjoying good food, reading, playing Yahtzee with mom, pampering from my parents, coloring with crayons (which has been really fun) and enjoying pain medications. I also had a couple of good friends come visit me in the hospital and at home — one is a friend from high school with whom I reconnected with on Facebook, the other is a good running buddy. My office also sent flowers to the hospital. I was really touched to receive the flowers flowers, gifts and good wishes.

I am moving around more easily, but the incision area is still sore and I’m still having some aches. I guess it will take some time. My follow up with the doctor is next month, and I’ll move forward from there.  I’m signing off for now, but will be posting again next Sunday as usual. Hope everyone is having a Happy Labor Day!

Oh Captain, You Will Be Missed

I was shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Robin Williams earlier this week. From Mork and Mindy in the late 70s and early 80s to his decades of filmwork and stand-up comedy, Robin Williams touched so many lives (including mine) with his strong comedic and dramatic abilities. I loved him as Mork, and so many of his movies were classics and favorites of mine, from The World According to Garp to Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting.

I couldn’t help but feel deflated this week after hearing about his suicide and his recent struggle with depression that caused him to take his life. Truly, a bright light that illuminated the world with such positive rays has been extinguished. Having struggled with depression in the past, I felt for him, and it makes me ache to know that he was in so much pain. One of the many tributes posted to him on Facebook sums it up – Be kind to everyone, because you don’t know what kind of journey they’re going through. In the marathon called life, some people are faced with enormous challenges and struggles, and sometimes, the ones who don’t seem to be struggling are the ones having the toughest go of it. The black dog – as Winston Churchill described depression – can plague even those who seem like they have everything.

Of all his movies, the one film that made the biggest impression on me was his turn as Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society. I was 16 and a junior in high school when the movie came out, and it made such a huge impression on me. We watched it in English class – I think I even wrote a paper on it – and I really took to heart the movie and Mr. Keating’s call for his students to seize the day and to make their lives extraordinary. Maybe it was because I was 16, with my life still stretched out before me, and the fact that I truly wanted to make my life extraordinary – maybe that was why the movie resonated so strongly with me. Carpe diem was a motto I wanted to try and live each day, not just some motivation saying on a coffee cup. I could relate to the students’ struggles to achieve what they wanted, whether it was a dream career, a dream date or just to enjoy some good rock and roll music. I also was young, felt invincible (and probably a little hormonal too) and was just ready for the warm-up act called high school to end and for real life to begin.

I also was excited to see a recent commercial campaign that had a clip from the movie, where Mr. Keating is asking the students what their verse would be. Some might argue that it’s just another example of a great 80s movie being cheapened to sell something, but I really liked how they did the commercial. And how could anyone measure poetry like you would a figure from geometry? J Evans Pritchard should have been shot, or at the very least, forced to do geometry problems for the rest of his life.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about the movie, hearing the music in my head and thinking about the movie’s classic scenes. The ending scene is my favorite movie scene of all time and one of the best scenes ever: Todd and some of the other students standing on their desk as Mr. Keating makes his final exit, and instead of saying good-bye, they salute him with Oh Captain My Captain. Not all of the students stood, but the ones who did definitely got what Mr. Keating was trying to teach them. It made me wonder if Todd became a poet, or if Knox married Chris. And whatever happened to Nuwanda? Probably sent to military school, and probably still a rabble-rouser.

In a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m working on my verse. So far, I like what I’ve written, but there are more adventures to be had, more avenues to be explored, and more poetry to taste and let drip like honey from my lips. I’m still looking for the right words, and hoping that someday, I’ll be able to write a conclusion to my verse that would make a dead poet proud.

I’d read about some folks posting to social media pictures of themselves standing on their desks. I had debated doing this, but wasn’t sure what my boss would say, or whether my desks at work and home could take the weight. I had thought about throwing a desk set from somewhere, but couldn’t get access to the roof at work. So I thought I would post my tribute here. So good-bye, Oh Captain, My Captain. You are gone too soon, and will be sorely missed.

 

 

Wine and Cheese and Frogs, Oh My!

In addition to addressing work-life balance issues in my life, I’m also trying to think outside the box more in terms of gifts. This is especially true for my husband, who is picky and difficult to buy for. Usually, if there’s something he wants or needs, he buys it for himself! For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me because I had so much trouble picking out gifts for him (and especially since he gives such lavish gifts – one year, I got a baby grand piano!) But his mother told me that she’s always had a hard time buying gifts for him, which is why she mostly gifts him cash for birthdays and Christmas.

Other people I know – married couples who have been together for a long time – also have told me how difficult it gets each year to think of the perfect gift for Christmas or a birthday. And the longer you’re together, the more stuff you have, to the point where many, like my parents, are trying to get rid of stuff. Every time I’m at my parents’ house, my mother’s asking me if I want to take home a lamp or ceramic duck or something she’s trying to get rid of.

For Brad’s birthday, I decided it might be more fun for us to do something together versus buying him more gifts (and he’s got gift cards I’ve given him that he’s never used – he just gave me a gift card that I had given him several Christmases ago! He cancelled him gym membership, so he can’t use it). We receive catalogs from the Houston Arboretum for classes. I had attended a class there before on making chocolate desserts, of all things, and thought the wine and cheese and frogs event they held on a Saturday evening in late June might be something fun and educational. Something different from sitting on the couch, watching the same movies we’ve seen before on cable.

I was worried that Brad wouldn’t enjoy the event, or that we might be the only people there. But I was wrong – Brad did enjoy it, and there was a good turnout. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine and cheese (one lady enjoyed the wine a bit too much – I’m surprised she didn’t fall in the pond when we later went to look for critters). They also had cookies and chocolate, which I couldn’t resist.

The presentation kicked off after everyone had had some food and drink. There was a good overview of the Houston Arboretum’s founding and its mission before our speaker launched into the frogs portion of his talk. I found it quite educational – to be honest, a frog has just always looked like a frog to me, but there’s quite a variety of them, even on the Gulf Coast. Besides the American Bullfrog, there’s the Common Gray, the Bronze Frog, the Green Treefrog, and the Southern Leopard Frog. The speaker was funny – it definitely was a lively conversation, with people asking questions and laughing.

I also learned that the American bullfrog can grow to be quite large (think cat-size) and doesn’t just sit on a lily pond, munching on flies. Bullfrogs eat spiders, scorpions, birds – and even other frogs! I found out all this in the National Geographic video that was played during the presentation. It was eye opening! (and frogs can also regenerate not only their eyes, but other body parts – something I wish humans could do). I am aware that varieties of poisonous frogs do exist, but I had always assumed that the deadly versions of these creatures existed in places I will never likely visit, like the outer reaches of the Amazon rain forest. If I were really paranoid, it would be something else to worry over.

After the presentation, we were split into two groups and marched out onto the grounds to the first pond we would visit. Our guide played different frog calls, and we did hear some frogs respond back. Some people said they also saw a snake, but I couldn’t see much. Ambient light from Houston’s downtown skyline can be seen in the arboretum, but it was quite dark at the first pond, and being unfamiliar with the grounds, I felt completely disoriented. It got a little frustrating, trying to listen for frogs and see things. Our guide would shine light on trees, saying that a spider or some creature was there – I couldn’t see anything! Everyone else could (or said they could), and it made me wonder if my vision is even worse that I think it is.

I realize then that the National Geographic video (and nature shows on TV and Michael Bay movies) have spoiled me for actually experiencing nature. The nature shows present nature as very dramatic and savage – lions taking down zebras, great white sharks launching into the air off South Africa — and action movies in general seemed to have evolved into films that are thin on story lines but big on deafening explosions and death-defying stunts. It’s not enough to educate people anymore — you have to wow them with action.

After the National Geographic video – like I am after watching Air Jaws for the umpteenth time or Die Hard — I was revved up for action! I wanted to see drama! I wanted to see some of these dreaded bullfrogs leap out of nowhere and try to take out some of the snakes and spiders that we were supposedly seeing (or take out the person who kept bumping into the back of me).

Instead, there was no action (and no Bruce Willis chasing killer bullfrogs). Just a humid, surprisingly quiet Houston evening (it’s amazing how close the arboretum is to downtown and how quiet it is), with frogs chirping every now and then and creatures supposedly lurking around. I didn’t seem much of anything – I guess the arboretum’s creatures weren’t ready for their closeups. It felt very anti-climactic after the presentation and video. I was bummed (partly a letdown from the wine, maybe). I didn’t get to see nature in action. Granted, it was just an evening about frogs, but dammit, I wanted some action!

We had to wait back at the nature center to see the second pond (the second group didn’t follow instructions and charged on ahead.) People began disappearing as the evening came towards its end – some decided they’d had enough of stumbling around in the dark, or went elsewhere to drink more wine. I think one person got lost (or maybe a bullfrog got them). We stuck it out until the third pond. Our guide did show us a photo of a crayfish he’d snapped in what looked more like marsh versus pond. By then, it was almost 10:30, and we were tuckered out.

Someone recently told me that I have an adventurous side that I need to indulge every so often to break up the routine of work, gym and mundane chores. It’s true that I do have an adventurous side – a friend commented once that I was always up for trying new things – but the evening of walking through the dark, looking for frogs, sounded cooler than it actually was. Granted, my husband did have a good time (and wants to go back, but during the day), but I’m starting to wonder if the explorer side of me is mellowing. I still want to have adventures (I’ve got a long bucket list of countries I want to visit) but I find myself wanting to do things I didn’t use to do, like be in be at a reasonable hour or actually taking the time to prepare for trips into the woods.

I’ve always loved watching nature shows and travel shows, and have always said I would go out and visit exotic places. But given finances, geopolitics, and my increasing need for a certain level of comfort, I wonder if my grand tour of the pyramids or the rainforests will end up being from a LazyBoy in my living room.

 

 

 

 

 

The Long and Winding Road Back to Running

I set a personal record at the Chevron Houston Marathon in January, but in recent months, I haven’t run much due to ongoing issues with my left lower back, IT, or illiotical band and hip flexor. A recent MRI uncovered two bulging discs in my lower left back, the lowest of which may be pinching on a nerve on my left side. My doctor speculated that this might be causing all the issues on my left side. She referred me to a spinal specialist, who referred me for a physical therapy program that would help straight my back and pelvis, gave me a prescription for pain cream and a steroid shot in my lower left back.

Not being able to run has been particularly difficult for me, given that work has been hectic this spring. I haven’t had much energy to read for fun or socialize either, but the loss of running has hit me particularly hard. Like many runners, running is not just about the cardiovascular workout, but running is a way to relieve mental stress. That stress has been building up in other ways, including more frequent snacking in the work break room and just an overall feeling of edginess at times. I find myself getting more impatient with people around me, from drivers to pedestrians. (I swear, it seems like everyone at the mall the other day was deliberately walking in front of me!)

I never knew I had an IT band until I started running over a decade ago (running offers great lessons in human anatomy). For non-runners, the IT band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. IT band syndrome is when the IT band becomes tight or inflamed. I’ve dealt with it at different points of time in my running career, usually when I haven’t been diligent about strengthening the glutes and other muscles. Stretching the IT band is difficult. In this latest round, I’ve been dealing with a sore hip flexor on the same side and tightness in my lower left back. If one thing isn’t acting up, it’s another, which made me wonder if there was a tear.

I’ve always found that running helped me stay balanced mentally and physically, but given my issues, I’ve had to cross train more and find new outlets for stress. Now that work has slowed down a bit, my mind isn’t so weighted towards my to do list, so I feel like I can now tackle my IT band again. I’ve got even more incentive to run the Houston Marathon in 2015. This time, I’ll be running as a veteran, a status that a runner achieves after completing 10 Houston marathons.

The prep and wait for the shot was longer than the procedure itself. More paperwork to sign, vitals to be taken, IV inserted and discussions with the doctor and the anesthesiologist. I was given something to help me relax, but I was awake during the procedure and aware of everything – I had been warned to expect the ‘twilight’ experience. The atmosphere in the operating room was very casual, with country music playing in the background and people talking about upcoming plans for the Fourth of July. I was given time and cranberry juice to recover, then rolled out in a wheelchair to my husband’s truck. I spent the rest of the day recuperating and catching up on recordings in our DVR.

I think I was expecting to instantly feel better. My back is sore at the injection site (and will still be for a while). My back does feel somewhat better, but I was awoken early this morning with hunger pangs (I think my body was still catching up from not being able to eat after midnight the night before the procedure) and by a tight and painful IT band on my left. My hip flexor on the left side also was bothering, so I know there’s going to be more stretching and rehabbing before I’m completely out of the woods yet.

Just like balancing work, relationships and personal pursuits, I’m finding that it’s difficult to get my body back into balance. The ongoing weakness on my left side (my right side is stronger, not surprising since I’m right-handed, my physical therapist told me) is definitely a concern. The human body can do amazing things, but like any instrument with many working parts, there are lots of things that can go wrong. I don’t know if it’s age (or because I’m a runner) but I can see that strength training – and keeping both sides of my body strong – will be critical if I’m to have a future as a runner.

Welcome to Karen on the Field!

I’ve wanted to start a blog for some time to chronicle my journey with running – including injuries and the successes and setbacks I’ve had in my attempts to run faster marathons – as well as my current journey to better balance my life in terms of work, personal relationships, and other goals I hope to achieve. Additionally, I may also write about things I come across on balancing life that I find interesting.

A work goal has finally prompted me to set up my first blog, Karen on the Field. A former co-worker suggested the name of the blog, partly for all the track workouts I was doing at one point to train for the Houston Marathon. She also had suggested the name because she thought that the events of our life could be seen as taking place on a big field. I liked the analogy and the imagery that it brought to mind, so I took the idea for my blog’s name.

First, a little about me. I’m Karen, a 41-year old Texas native who lives in the Houston area. I graduated in 1995 with a degree in journalism from Texas A&M University, and have covered the oil and gas industry for 15 years. I’m a longtime runner who’s run over 15 marathons (I’ve lost count!) and who enjoys cycling, reading, writing, music, movies and hanging out with friends and family. I’ve been married for almost 10 years (no kids, but lots of teddy bears hang around our house).

The idea behind this blog is to chronicle my efforts to balance my life, with the idea that living life is like running a marathon, a feat that requires proper training, hydration, good nutrition (not only for the body, but the mind and the soul), injury prevention and proper pacing are key to running a successful race.

In my years of racing, I’ve found that, even with all the right preparations, things can go wrong (such as warm, humid temperatures on race day, unexpected illness). Work and home life also can make training a juggling act. In recent years, work in particular seems to enjoy throwing me curveballs, which at times makes the commute to the track for a workout a workout for my car!

The ups and downs of training, life and work in the past few years have made my life seem like a stormy sea at times. The attitude I’ve developed for all this can be summed up in a sign I received when I ran the Texas Half Marathon (an event held in the Houston area on New Year’s Day). That particular year, signs with all the names of the race entrants were posted on the trees that lined the trail route. The signs had encouraging messages for the runners. I’d never seen that at a race before, and I thought it was a nice touch (sadly, they didn’t have it at the race the next year due to rain).

My sign is short and sweet: Keep going! Karen Boman

I have this bright pink sign posted above my desk, and it’s my motto for day to day life. Even on the days when I’m feeling fed up with work or other things, I just remember the sign – to keep going, no matter what. It’s a strategy that I’ve used on race day (particularly the last six miles of the marathon), and it’s a good strategy for life – to pick up and keep going.