I’m so excited to learn about Lora Erickson’s post/site and how she uses exercise to cope with loss. The fact that she’s a triathlete is a bonus of course. She’s an inspiration!
Yesterday my gym held a private event so I couldn’t workout there. I had to run outside. I was a bit nervous because the last time I ran outside was on December 25th when I sprained my ankle. Interestingly for the December 25th run, MLH and I planned to run eight miles. Yesterday’s plan called for an eight mile run as well.
Washington, D.C. has been experiencing actual winter weather over the past few days. And yesterday felt like a true winter with a low during the day of something like 24 degrees and a high of 34 (excluding the wind chill factor). And it was quite windy. I decided to run around 2 pm which is not my ideal time to workout. I prefer to train in the morning but I wasn’t about to spend 75 minutes or so in 24 degree weather. From 2-4 pm the temperature was as warm as it would get. MLH planned to run as well but he had to run 12 miles yesterday. So we started out together and then I turned around at mile four.
During the first half of my run, I was a little cautious. I constantly looked behind me for cyclists and other runners who may pass me. The volume on my iPod was just loud enough for me to recognize the song. I didn’t want to miss any sounds or warnings. And I didn’t run as fast as I should have because I picked a pace that would ensure stability with each step. Also, since running outside is different from running in a climate controlled room on a steady treadmill, I wasn’t sure how difficult this run would be. So I didn’t really push myself for a bit.
After my initial warm up I was still a little cold, especially where I wasn’t able to fully cover up such as parts of my neck and slivers of my ankles, (the gap between my running pants and socks). Also, although I wore gloves, my fingers never felt truly warm. At one point for a couple of minutes I thought about the differences among body temperature, climate controlled rooms and outdoor temperature. I thought about Noah and all of the temperature variables with which he dealt. During surgery and other procedures his body temperature was lowered. During the first few days of his life the nurses kept him warm with a heating device which was positioned above him. Most of the time he wore a hat to keep his head warm. These unexpected thoughts were a pleasant surprise. I’m still amazed at and grateful for how much Noah has and continues to impact my life.
At my halfway point I turned around while MLH continued for another two miles before his turn-around. At this point I felt really good. By the end of the first four miles, I became less concerned about having another accident and more interested in pushing myself. I felt very strong both on the cardio front and physically. I began picking up my pace and focusing on widening my gait. During the last 1.5 miles my left leg started to tighten a little. Once again I pushed through the discomfort. (I did spend a good deal of time stretching, using the foam roller and stick and icing both legs last night.) I completed my run and felt great afterwards. There’s something satisfying about training outside during the winter. You push yourself and feel as though the sweat and warmth from your body are signaling to the cold that you can take the brutal weather and then some.
With my six mile run today I completed my first training week using Pete’s online coaching plan. It may sound a little funny but already I feel very different. I’ll go ahead and acknowledge the placebo effect is probably at play. Something along the lines of “oh wow I’m now doing something different so I must experience a change.” Placebo effect or not, I’m not sure it matters. The fact that I feel different is good enough for me.
I wrote in my last post that I rarely did a full cardio segment and a complete strength training session back-to-back. Well a few days after writing that post I pulled out my training plan for Nation’s (which I created myself). I have a correction to make: I did in fact do such workouts (also known as two-a-days) early in my training and quite often. I can blame bad memory for thinking two-a-days are new to me but I think there’s something more to it. For some reason I felt my two-a-days this past week were…well different. They were much longer and more intense than what I did for Nation’s. Also, I’m sure since Pete planned them they’re better structured than what I put together. And there’s the placebo effect.
During this past week’s training sessions I felt solid. I did struggle some on the bike, specifically with keeping my RPMs and heart rate at the desired levels. Also the last five miles of my 30 mile ride yesterday was by no means easy. (And as mentioned before I did have to push it a bit with the weights.) However I felt pretty good right to the end. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely worked hard this week but I never felt like I couldn’t finish. I do realize Pete’s current focus is on base building so I anticipate my workouts becoming much more difficult very soon.
Anyway back to this difference – or really differences. What are these differences, you ask? I feel like I’ve taken my training up a level already and I feel more confident. I think I was a little anxious about not being able to follow Pete’s plan. Well I did and while I experienced some challenging moments, I completed each session strongly. I feel more focused. A lot of this has to do with the need to keep track of my drills during each workout. But also I’m zeroing in on my very specific goals which are to successfully complete Hawaii 70.3 and improve my splits at Nationals. With each successful workout my body moves closer to being ready to compete.
I do feel one other major difference but I don’t think Pete’s plan has anything to do with it; I think it’s just a coincidence…or perhaps not.
Over the past week my connection with Noah became much deeper and different. Outside of training, I think of Noah a lot. Sometimes he’s in-and-out of my mind very quickly and other times I spend quite a bit of time thinking and recalling vivid images of him in my head. When I train though I believe how I think of him is different from this.
Last May I began feeling a very deep connection with Noah as I became much more aware and grateful that my heart could easily handle my endurance training and I could process the oxygen needed during these workouts. When I feel or see (on my heart rate monitor) my heart rate climbing and hitting 60-85% effort, it’s almost as if I’m raising it for him. When I feel my breathing becoming labored, I think of the ventilators he was on and I feel as though I’m breathing extra hard for him. And it’s the stark and unfair contrast between what I and any other healthy body can do seamlessly with what Noah struggled with all of the time. It’s this appreciation combined with sadness and a little bit of bitterness (yes still) that helps me dig deeper to find that determination and power to push myself harder, faster and longer.
During my workouts this past week though I’ve started feeling a different kind of deep connection to my son. I now feel his presence almost constantly and this feeling is definitely different than my “non-training day-to-day” thoughts of him. During my training, talking to or thinking of Noah is like second nature now. It’s like at some other level I’m having a constant dialog with him as I swim, run and bike. I’d like to think he and I’ve gotten used to training together, and our routine has him with me all of the time. I’ve been thinking about how best to describe this and I’ve come up with “endurance consciousness.”
I continue to push myself to achieve 60-85% of my maximum heart rate (depending on the drill) and reach that labored breathing because there’s that connection I still have with him. But now I have another one. I’m so grateful for both.
On a somewhat separate note, please pause for a moment to pray for or send positive thoughts to the parents of a little Heterotaxy boy named William. After fighting super hard, he became an angel last Thursday.
It’s probably no surprise to you that I spent my first mile on my run today thinking of William and his parents. I found myself welling up a bit when I thought about what his parents are experiencing right now. Nobody should have to deal with losing a child.
Noah now has another friend in heaven. God bless you, William.
My workout this morning was the first one using my online coach’s plan. (No official training on Mondays since Pete uses them for rest days.) With the exception of a couple of drills, the workout wasn’t very challenging because Pete is focused on building a strong base for now.
I biked for an hour, ran two miles and then lifted weights. Pete gave me specific drills to complete during the cardio segments. This was a bit different from what I’m used to because I usually don’t focus on drills – bad, I know. And I rarely combine a major cardio effort with an entirely separate strength training segment. I was tired after biking and running so I had to really push myself with the weights. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed today’s session.
On the weekends MLH and I usually workout first thing in the morning. Yesterday morning when the alarm on my iPhone went off I grabbed the phone to turn it off. Then without thinking I immediately switched applications to check email and BAM! Even before I got out of bed I encountered a trigger. I came across a message that presented an in-your-face reminder that my son, my only child, is no longer alive. What a crappy start to the day. After getting through the initial reaction of being overcome with sadness and shedding some tears, MLH and I agreed that there’s really nothing else to do but go to the gym as planned. I was scheduled to run seven miles yesterday, and man, I was so looking forward this.
As we drove to the gym and during my warmup I tried to get to the other side of this trigger by thinking about what I could focus on during my run. I’ll think of Noah as I always do, and l’ll focus on my heart rate and breathing which is one of the ways I deepen my connection to Noah. But this morning I also thought about dedicating the bulk of my run to other children who have passed away. From my bereaved parent support group and learning about other parents who lost their Heterotaxy children, I know of quite a few children who left this world way too soon.
As I began to run I thought of beautiful Ava first. Ava just might be familiar with my running because at one point during the 22 hours she lived, I went for a run and thought of her. On that run I felt a great deal of love and hope for her and her family. Like Noah, she passed away from Heterotaxy-related issues. I’ve been blessed because about a month and a half after Ava passed away I connected with her mother who has become a wonderful friend.
Then I thought of another Heterotaxy Angel, Chloe. I thought about how beautiful she is; I’ve had the opportunity to see a few pictures of her. I’ve gotten to know Chloe’s mommy too. Like Ava’s mommy, she’s a beautiful soul. I thought of the love she has for her sweet Chloe.
There are other Heterotaxy children who have also passed away. Although I don’t personally know about each of them, I did think about how there’s quite a few children who are now with Noah, Ava & Chloe. I thought about how much their parents and families miss them.
Then I thought about the children of my bereaved parent support group. They’re all significantly older than Noah. I thought about each one by name, the lives they lived and how much love their parents have for them. I feel this love every time MLH and I meet with our group.
I gently moved on to Ben Breedlove. I thought about him meeting Noah in heaven. I thought about how he was so kind to share his experiences of cheating death before he finally passed away. I also thanked him again for the comfort he provided me. I thought about his family and friends and how they too are trying to heal now.
And I can’t forget about those children in Norway. Last July as the world learned of this horrendous act I cried for them and their parents. I thought of them around mile 5. Then I thought of all of the young military soldiers who died; and I thought of their parents, spouses and children. Since Noah’s death I think of war very differently. Before last year, I thought of war in more of an intellectual way. Now I actually feel pain and love for the lives lost and the families they left behind.
As I continued my run I spent some time thinking about just Noah. I prayed he’ll meet all of the angels who joined him over the past year.
Then my mind shifted to gratitude. (A few friends last December helped me create intentions. Gratitude was the first one I focused on. I returned to it on this run.) I thought about how grateful I am for Noah & MLH. I’m grateful for those around me who provide comfort and support. I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to meet other bereaved parents.
My last mile was pretty challenging. Seven miles is the longest distance I’ve run in a while. Like I’ve done in the past when I start to feel tired, some pain or even complacency, I thought about Noah and how much he went through while he was alive; how much his tiny, fragile body dealt with; all of the poking, prodding, discomfort and medications he had to put up with; and all of those cardiac arrests. Once again I reminded myself that my discomfort is absolutely nothing compared to what Noah went through and he didn’t have a choice. I chose to go on this run. With Noah’s help once again, I ran my seven miles successfully. Because of Noah, I felt strong right to the end.
I did come back to the trigger every now and then while I ran. And I wasn’t completely over it after my run but at least for most of the seven miles, my mind and heart focused on something else. Thank you, Noah, Ava, Chloe, the rest of the children who are with Noah and all of their parents for helping me on my run.