Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mile 11

I've run several half marathons.  Some I went out too quickly, some I went out too slowly, a couple were just right, and one was for pure fun.  I've overtrained, I've undertrained, I've followed training plans to the mile.  A few were in the rain, one was in blistering 90 degree heat, most were cool, one was a perfect 70 degree fall day with no humidity.  It's my favorite distance.

The one thing that all of them had in common was that freaking mile 11.  Ten miles in the bag, 3.1 to go.  Running on tired legs, but the end is in sight.  For some reason the 11th mile is always the hardest for me, but after all these years, that's probably 98% mental at this point.

Because I like to read a lot, and because I was an English major in college, and because I'm pretty cerebral (in my own trumped up opinion of myself), I tend to build constructs of metaphors for life circumstances, both the good ones and the bad ones.  So, I wasn't really surprised to recently catch myself thinking symbolically about my current situation.

Irrelevant aside: Last spring my oldest son and I had quite a discussion regarding the author's use of the color orange and it's significance in Life of Pi.  One of my happiest parenting moments ever. My non-reader husband was in the car and I think a piece of his science-oriented soul died a little. 

I restarted Enbrel back in July-ish, after an experimental hiatus gone bad.  I made a ton of progress on it the first round, and I expected nothing less the second time.  And it has helped, tremendously, in some ways. My knees are generally pain-free, and the only lower body issue I have is morning stiffness.  I can live with that, no problem.  I can run and I can bike, both outdoors and in my beloved spin classes.  Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for all that I am still able to do.  I am very aware that I am one of the lucky ones, and I am equally aware that luck can change in an instant.  I exercise just about every single day, for two main reasons: 1. I love it, and it helps me feel normal and fit and, 2. I worry that the level of activity I'm able to enjoy may be fleeting, and will vanish without notice.  All in all, I feel like I can honestly say I'm doing relatively well (emphasis on relatively...as in, compared to many patients with RA).  And I'm generally a healthy person, and that counts for an awful lot.

If I'm going to be truthful, however, it hasn't exactly been autoimmunity utopia either.  My hands suck.  There, I admitted it.  In fact, not only do they suck, if I was cornered for a blunt assessment, I would have to say that they are actually getting worse.  And my damn wrists, the problem joints that started this mess, continue to give me issues, despite two surgeries.  My elbows still have that irritating stinging and burning, not enough to inhibit any activity, but just enough to remind me that there's crap going on within my body that is out of my control.  I've also lost a ton of muscle this past year, and I get uncomfortable when well-meaning people notice and remark on the obvious change from the strong athlete I used to be. So while every day I praise the running gods with gratitude that my legs have been spared, I also curse the RA demons when the fear of the unknown creeps into my thoughts and plants feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty.  Those moments are pretty miserable, and ignoring them only works for so long.

The fact that I can't stand going to doctors is something I've mentioned before, but when I went to my last rheum appointment in October I was a pretty big girl.  Meaning, no hyperventilating or heart palpitations in the waiting room.  Seriously, I have real anxiety over going, and a white coat hypertension reading of 147/90 to prove it.  But that day I was the pragmatic patient, and I felt like I had a decently candid conversation.  My rheum summed up my current state of affairs by saying (paraphrasing), "Lori, you're doing a lot better and moving closer to remission.  But you're not quite there yet."  In other words, I had come a long way (10 miles), but I still have a fair amount of ground to cover (the last 5K)  before qualifying for clinical remission and getting off the meds (the finish line).  Essentially, I'm at mile 11.  And like that last water stop that holds you over until the food tent is earned, I've been told that a change in biologics may be what is needed to get past these few stubborn symptoms that aren't resolving.  It will be discussed at my next appointment in January.  Considering I spend every day hoping I can get off the Enbrel, I'm not thrilled about the idea of starting something new.  I just remind myself that there was a time that this diagnosis often meant a wheelchair and permanently deformed and damaged joints, and I try to be thankful that I am doing so well and that I have access to great treatment.

And what better way to celebrate wellness than by running with family and friends for a cause that's close to my heart?  A few weeks ago, a bunch of us ran in the Arthritis Foundation's local Jingle Bell Run.  Our team name was The Grand Slammers, courtesy of Wes.  We had so much fun!  Grown ups were outnumbered by kids, and everyone did great.  It was a first 5K for several of the kids, and a few PRs for some of the others.  Lots of reasons to smile and celebrate!

Here's a pic of all the kids before the race.  The Grinch doesn't belong to our group, but my youngest loves him, so I was glad he jumped in the pic:


I ran with Gwen and my niece.  We weren't exactly tearing up the roads, so I was able to get a pic of her mid-race...and text it to my husband while running...and reply to him....  But hey, it all counts!

Strong finish for Gwenny, after she stopped cold at mile 3 because I had neglected to tell her about the final 1/10.  Meltdown of epic nature happened with the finish line right around the corner.  It took some negotiation to get her to finish the race.  Like all good runners, she pushed through it! My niece is in front of her, I'm behind her because I thought it would look ridiculous for a 38 year old woman to sprint.  And I would probably trip.


Max wasn't ready for 3 miles, so he did the kids' race and hung out with my mom while cheering on his brother and sister.


I don't have a picture of Wes because he ditched me at the starting line to run with his friends.  Also like a good runner, he went straight for the snacks after the race, and it took me ten minutes to find him.  But I did get this pic of the sibling bliss shared by my lower middle and upper middle children.  They were proud to have finished their first 5Ks, and I was so proud to be there with them.  Wes ran the whole way and finished in about 34 minutes, and Gwen walked through the water stops and up a big hill and finished in 40 minutes (I think).

I have to give a nod to my oldest son, Rhys, who really wanted to be there but had a gymnastics meet, and to Sean, who also really wanted to be there, but had to drive the gymnast to New York.  Slacker kid only finished 3rd AA.  Just kidding.  I'm super proud of him too, and was sad I missed his first meet in the optional levels.  I'm posting his pic too, because that's just the type of obnoxious mom I am:

Next up for me is the local Superbowl 10K on February 2nd.  I'm looking forward to it.  I feel grateful to be able to run that far, although I'm not sure what my time will be because I don't handle the cold very well and the first couple of miles are always a little rough for me, even in ideal conditions.  I'm just so happy to be running, though, so I can truly say I don't even really care that much how I do.  If it goes well, my long term plan is to run The St. Luke's Half Marathon this spring.

Thanks to all who have read and followed me since the inception of this experiment in April.  Looking forward to 2014!  Be well!

~Lori



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