[Na] : Sodium Diaries

Some things I just can’t shake and the salt shaker is one of them. I have severe hypertension (severe High Blood Pressure). When I was initially diagnosed with HBP I was 13. I had developed mono during middle school and despite my efforts to not miss school I had to go to the doctor. The doc discovered that my blood pressure was elevated to 170 / 120. I was told that from that day forward I would be on medication to regulate my blood pressure for the remainder of my life. No one looked further into why a teenager would have HBP they simply defaulted to it just being “genetic”. During my mid-20′s, quite possibly from a “quarter life crisis”, I decided that I will no longer settle for the “default”. A few years later after losing weight and reducing my sodium intake “a little too drastically” I was finally able to try a complete reduction of medication. I was no longer on medication.

I had been keeping a journal of my small victories of conquering my blood pressure. Every visit back to the doctor reflected a lower dosage and one step closer to not being medicine dependent. After several visits here is the entry that I wrote:

7/2/2010: Friday, I went to the doctor to have my blood pressure evaluated. It was decided that I would come off my blood pressure medicine and be reevaluated in August to check the rest of my progress. I have been on high blood pressure medication for 14 years! I have been on it since I was 13! Only this year I have gotten serious about my health and well being. I must say that it has been one of my proudest moments I’ve ever had. Being able to do that has given me such a sense of accomplishment. I don’t think I fully understand or can yet comprehend the importance of what I’ve done. I’ve given myself a feeling of “I can do ANYTHING” attitude. The doctor didn’t seem 100% confident but I’m going for it. I’ve gone so far and I’m going to keep going.”

But, this is real life. I can not tell you that I have continued to be successful over the past two years. What I can tell you is that I failed. That little seed of negativity from my doctor brought my optimism down. I’m not ashamed to admit it. The reason why I am not ashamed is because life happens. Stress happens. Food happens. Lack of focus, preparation, and motivation most certainly happens. Two weeks after I got off my medication all of those things happened. It was one of those instances where you get to a goal and you suddenly think that you no longer have to put in the same level of dedication that you did before to sustain the same level of success.

Flash forward to a few weeks later:

7/14/2010: Things are not going the way I planned with my blood pressure. Tomorrow makes two weeks that I’ve been off the meds and yesterday it skyrocketed to 154/91 after a very stressful day at work. I had to take today off because of the migraine I got yesterday that lasted until this morning. I have to be able to lay my head down at night and have peace. I need peace. My heart, apparently, can not take anything stressful. I have to get the negative out of my mind but how do I do that? I am such a dreading person.

7/21/2010: The fluid retention I’ve been having lately is driving me up the wall! I’m sinking. I’ve reached the place I’ve reached in the past where I find myself backsliding, falling short. This always happens when I’ve reached a great feat.

You may ask why I gave up. I didn’t give up….I gave out.My Garden

To tell you how I gave out I’ll need to tell you how I managed to be successful, initially. I was overweight, ate fast food for nearly every meal, and my activity had become minimal because of spinal issues. The fix was dropping the first 25 pounds by turning my walking into jogging and my processed nightmare of a diet into my own garden based meals. My miles started adding up and my sodium was being deduced at significant rates. I went from having 3,000mg of sodium a day to 500-750 a day. I had constructed a perfect plan that worked flawlessly, except for when I was stressed, full of anxiety and looked for comfort foods.

Now, here’s why I gave out. I could not maintain the level of consistency every single day. My habits became monotonous. I was eating the same foods day in and day out. As far as nutrition went it was decent but boring. Chicken six days out seven gets old and then my appetite gets restless. Now, I have a greater reason to fine tune my nutrition and more specifically my sodium intake. Whenever I do have children, I want to be able to not be scared to be a high risk pregnancy. I, currently, am classified as a high risk pregnancy if I do choose to have a baby. It wasn’t a surprise to hear when I was speaking candidly with my obgyn about the future at a recent routine check-up. When I was first put on the BP meds the doctor told me that I, under NO circumstances, could get pregnant while on the medication I was taking. The side effects, risks, defects, and abnormalities that “would” not “might” occur was not worth the risk. At 13, you don’t think about having children. Now that I’m almost 30 I realize the severity that the hypertension plays in my wanting to start a family.

Needless to say I have started seeking out new medications that would be less harmful. Personally, I’m more determined than ever to get off the meds again, permanently. It’s going to take time but I know it can happen I just need to trust that I don’t have to cut back so drastically and have faith that if I do the best I can that all will turn out for the best as well.

No more settling for the “default” not unless the default is….determined.

Bright Night 5k

This was the hardest race for me to run physically. I had been sick for over a week and I was just finished with boot camp. My body was fatigued and fighting hard just to breathe. I ran with tissues clutched in my hands and a cough drop in my mouth. It was windy and a little chillier than what it had been the previous couple of nights. I had often wondered if your body truly has to work harder when you’re sick and now I know for certain, at least my heart does. Generally, when I run a race my heart rate is within the 85 – 90% target rate “zone”. For this race it steadily inclined and passed 101%. I obviously was overworking my poor body since it was already straining to get well. Regardless of the sickness and fatigue I was still able to pull out a 33:34 time with an avg. 10:43 pace. I’ll take it. It was my second best race. I honestly feel as though boot camp did help me to strengthen my muscles even though I wasn’t running nearly as much. I think I will start incorporating more CrossFit drills into my running regimen so I don’t have to hit the pavement as much. It also helped to have to friends that I could keep pace with during the race, shout out to YaLana and Teresa! It was my first twilight run and I’m sure to not make it my last.

Can’t See The Road For The Mailboxes

My husband and I were driving home late from a friend’s house one night and as we were coming down our road I ended up passing our house. At first, I played it up that I was sleepy but when we turned around we realized that someone had driven right over our mailbox. The mailbox was flat and the perfect impression of a tire track was still fresh on the side. How could they have gone so far off the road? Was it dark, was an animal passing, were they texting? Whatever it was, they had to have been pretty distracted.

Sometimes when you’re pursuing a goal you’ll have bumps, potholes and, even on rare occasions, mailboxes that will manage to find a way into the direct line of your path. Occasionally, you get distracted, lose focus, and drift straight towards these “obstacles”. The absence of being aware of where you’re going can have you on the shoulder of the road wondering what exactly just happened.

Your best approach would be to access what caused the distraction. What could you have done differently to avoid the misjudgment. Don’t just run it over and not give it a second glance back. Half of progressing from our downfalls is knowing what caused them in the first place.

You are responsible for the detour and destruction that your being distracted caused. The wreckage will still be there the next time you travel down this same path if you don’t stop and take the time to clear the debris out of the way the first time around.

Some would bolt over those pot holes and hit and run the mailboxes without a second thought. If they had only stopped to repair the gravel, pick up the debris, claim that they plowed down someone’s property then the next time you traveled down the same road there would be less wreckage to slow you and your progress. You would have one less thing getting in the way of where you’d like to go.

Things that could hinder your progression may consist of negative thoughts, peer pressure, battling a cold or stress. The great thing about acknowledging these obstacles is that you have the ability to recognize that they exist and try your best to set-up cones, flashing lights and detour signs so the next you are well aware of what’s straight ahead of you.

A Duel With Oneself or One’s Own Limitations

“True sport is always a duel: a duel with nature, with one’s own fear, with one’s own fatigue, a duel in which body and mind are strengthened.” Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Russian poet

Tuesday I began boot camp at my gym and today I’m thinking it would be faster to list what doesn’t hurt on me. The drills were filled with running, plank high fives, sit-ups, jogging log lifts, resistance band running, tire pushing, and obstacle course intervals over three waves. I realized during the tire pushing exercise across an acre of ground filled with fire ants, grass clots, hills and dips that when you get stuck you can either get low, dig deep and power through or stand back for a moment, access that you can’t force it over a particular area and adjust your approach. You may very well have to flip it a few times and then dig deep again to keep up the momentum. If you are working with a partner (shout out to Renee and Mary Elizabeth my boot camp buddies!) you might have to reassess your collective approach.

The same goes for moving nature. As my partner and I were pushing the tire we noticed a black widow spider sitting on her egg rocking and riding as we were pushing with our faces a few feet away. Instantly, my mind went from getting to the final cone to making sure the widow was staying put. Just as we noticed her presence we hit an area in the ground that we could not dig down deep enough to push through. We were not going to flip the tire because she could have flown somewhere and with my luck on the way back she would have hitched a ride on my leg. In that moment there were several duels going on at once. There was a duel with one’s own fear of being bitten by nature and the duel of overcoming the fatigue of the last wave. To keep focus on the environment and to gather the last reserves to push over the hump was a duel in which my own body and mind were strengthened. Thanks to help of a great workout partner I didn’t have to duel alone.

Now, five days later I am fighting another duel. A duel of mind vs. body. After the assessment on Monday and the training that began on Tuesday the pain from the fracture and defects in my spine started to make my sciatica flair up. Not only does the nerve radiate this pain down my leg but it also causes my right leg to go numb and lose the ability to listen to me when I tell it to move. In a later post I’ll explain how this is not the initial occurrence of this kind of pain. It’s been over two years since I’ve had an issue with my leg misbehaving. The duel comes from the fact that it is something that is beyond my control and I never know for certain what will cause the nerve to be impinged to the point that my leg refuses to function correctly. I started boot camp in order to wrap up those last 10 or so pounds, and/or gain strength, and I knew the regimen was going to be challenging. I wasn’t afraid of the challenge because I had been working towards making my core solid and my overall fitness was at a personal peak. I knew there was a possibility that something may cause a set-back but I never thought it would be this. Now, I need to focus on resting and healing while not thinking that I’ve failed myself because I need to miss a few of the classes. Just like my husband told me earlier today, “know your limitations so you can safely exceed them later”.



5th Annual Pirate Alumni Road Race 5k

I can not tell you how nervous I was starting this race. My mind was loaded with negativity with whether or not I would push too hard and re-tear my abdominal wall again. It’s my 7th 5k so there should be absolutely no need for nerves, just motion. I was anxious that I wouldn’t sub the 35:00 that I had been working so hard towards the last several months. I just squeaked by having my cycle so I didn’t have to worry about that sneaking up on me during a race, like it has done in the past. The back of my knee-cap was pulling most of the night and gave me the feeling of restless leg syndrome. Some of the “rituals” I go through were not available but this didn’t stress me out as much except for the butterfly swarm in my stomach that I calm down with TUMS first thing. I was out of those so swarm they did. I was running without my running partner and without my Nano (which had an unfortunate bout with the washing machine a few weeks back).

But, I must tell you that despite all of the potential set-backs I came out of that race strong. I didn’t stop, I enjoyed those first two miles of just taking in the sun and instead of dragging my feet on the last mile I was dragging the air. I pulled out a PR of 33:16 by the clock with a pace of 10:45. It was the first race where not only did I beat my last time of 35:47 but also my avg pace subbed 10:45 for all 3+miles. Despite the set backs of not being able to race in 5 months I came back with authority and it gave me the mental boost I needed to want to go the distance, a further distance, a 13.1 kind of distance. I will need to start massaging my iliotibial band because it is flaring up because of the uneven surface from the race. I’m use to running flat park paths. I think I have officially collected enough broken parts to be considered an athlete. I’ll go into further detail about my iliotibial band in my next post and the babying it will need. Until then, may the run be with you.

Superstition Vs. Habit

Friday the 13th seemed fitting for the topic of superstitions. Superstition by one definition is a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief. You may have read about some athletes that have a “superstition” about either a lucky item they need to have in their possession while they compete or a ritual they go through before an event. When those items are not present and rituals aren’t performed the mental attachment might place the player in a negative mindset causing a greater upset in their performance. But how many of us confuse superstition with habit? Habit by one definition is a tendency or disposition to act in a particular way or a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.

When I was younger there were sayings such as: Step on a crack, break your mother’s back, make a cross when a black cat crosses your path, don’t open an umbrella inside, don’t walk underneath a ladder, and break a mirror and you’ll have seven years bad luck. I will say that even though, now, I’m not exactly superstitious I have developed habits that have followed me into adulthood. I know for a fact stepping on cracks would not break my mom’s back, I have owned more black cats than you can count on two hands and I’m responsible for at least three broken mirror incidences. Now that I think back, maybe the broken mirror thing IS legit. However, the “habit” of being careful of superstitious actions is still engrained today. I’ll think about the cracks when I step over them and I don’t open umbrellas inside because, really, is there a need for that? But, I am a creature of habit, as most of us are.

Before each race I have a ritual that has been formed mostly because of habit, not superstition. I have a spaghetti dinner before I go to bed relatively early. I get up in the middle of the night to hydrate and I eat ½ of a peanut butter sandwich in the morning before I head out the door. I know that if this sequence of events doesn’t occur I will still race and I will still pour my heart and “sole’s” out on the pavement. Try not to get so caught up in rituals and sentiments to the point that you lose faith in yourself and that you can not continue. Remember that the most important physical thing you need to have in anything that you do, is YOU. Everything outside of you should compliment and not be a replacement for own greatness. You are great all by yourself. Please DO get in the habit of seeing the significance in your own self.

Now, that I’ve had my spaghetti dinner I will be getting to bed early so I can race tomorrow morning. What can I say, I told you I was a creature of habit. What kind of habits or superstitions support and compliment your active lifestyle?

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Why a blog? Why a blog about running, nutrition and emotional hurtles? Why me? …. Why not?

Growing up I needed a creative outlet to absorb my thoughts and redirect my focus from my surroundings. I was the kid with imaginary friends, the one that created these elaborate worlds and I would illustrate and write every moment I had free, outside of school work of course. You might say that’s any typical child with normal creativity. My creative outlets, however, always served a purpose other than personal entertainment. I utilized these outlets as an escape from an environment that wasn’t exactly kid friendly. I have continued to develop different means of expression as I’ve gotten older and you’ll be at ease to hear that my imaginary friends no longer come out to play…well, not that often.

What does that have to do with this particular blog? This blog serves as a different kind of creative outlet. Every person goes through trials, tribulations and triumphs. Sometimes those individuals go through those struggles alone. They would benefit from someone turning on “a flashlight” to show them that they are not in total darkness, hopelessly feeling to find a way out. I want to be able to share the life lessons I’ve had to learn and hope to share most of them in a somewhat comical fashion.

I hope that if I can touch just one life by baring my soul then this will be well worth the “why?”. I want to tell my story in such a way that encourages others to be able to tell their own. One person’s strength to overcome may very well be attributed from someone else’s “flashlight” being shown. Sometimes it takes believing in others to believe fully in yourself. I believe in you. If I can manage a way through then there’s no reason why you can’t as well.

You’ll discover how running has helped me to rediscover “me” again and how I regained a strength I thought I had lost forever. The past two years I have concentrated on clearing the mental clutter in my mind, lifting the burdens from my heart, and revitalizing my soul. Running may not be your flashlight, outlet or your muse but maybe you’ll find something that will be just as enlightening to you.

I am still learning, as you’ll see, but I hope that you’ll come along and learn with me. My continuing journey will be littered with information on running as I take on the task of training for my first half marathon, nutritional information that concentrates in hypertension reduction and relevancy to emotional hurdles past, present and onward.