Saturday, September 22, 2012

Peak2Peak - Another Way to Appreciate San Francisco...and my Health

Last weekend I participated in what I would call a "endurance adventure walk."  The WalkSF organization ( hosted an event called Peak2Peak, which is a 14-mile walk around and through the city's 10 peaks (e.g. Twin Peaks, Mt. Sutro, the Legion of Honor), starting from the Mission, ending at the Golden Gate Park.  I had never walked 14 miles straight before.  Sounded interesting, with the risk of being quite boring (bc it is 14 miles of walking!).  10 Peaks?  I know of 4, What are the other 6?  I was curious, and it kinda felt like an endurance event that I could enjoy and not stress about (and not have to train for, yey), so I signed up.  It was awesome!!!

The whole thing must have taken about 6 hours, including stops and lunch break, etc.  There was plenty of climbing, stairs, backstreet navigating, and even muddy trails!  Right in the heart of SF!!  And they were all walkable somehow...fascinating learning experience of the nooks and crannies of this already awesome city.  Towards mile 10, I was definitely sore, although I only walked, didn't run at all.  I must have walked so fast in the last two miles just to end the pain sooner, because somehow me and my friends ended up being three of the first six people to finish the walk.  

Throughout the course, I got to chat with other people that participated in the event (something you can't do during races), and I learned that there were more people that had health issues (arthritis, chronic pain, back pain, you name it) than those that did not - how awesome!  I mean, not that they were in pain was awesome, but those people who didn't have the perfect health were there - to stay active and healthy and to really appreciate the ability to be walking around, despite their limitations.  Now I could certainly relate to them and was so grateful to be around such inspiring people!  It was funny to see actually, that the healthier people were the ones that were bigger complainers or just weren't enjoying it as much.  Hmmm, I wonder why?  Man, we so take for granted the the good things we got going in life, let me tell you.  To those who can walk and run all the time, those are just another activity.  To those that have frequent days of the lack of ability and strength to even take a few steps, a long walk day thru nature and culture is a blessing and a gift!  

Maybe pain breeds joy....quite indirectly and in a roundabout way.  But there is meaning behind every pain.  Perhaps I can make it count.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another 6 months passed...

Ok, ok, I'm back. 

I really don't know what exactly happened before I had to take a break from running again, but I did.  I think my heart just grew far from it all, and I just wanted to enjoy being active instead of always being the mode of "training".  I went on more hikes, commuted 95% of the time on foot, taking brisk walks, and did a lot of stair workouts to strengthen my glutes.  Living in San Francisco definitely provided me with a lot of great stairs and hill climbing opportunities - and I love it!  This city is filled with fun walks and great views.  I am thoroughly enjoying my life here.

It's been just over a year since I moved to San Francisco.  I moved again though just recently, to a different neighborhood, where I have more exposure to the northern beach area, with great rides and runs.  Just recently I started running a bit again, only because I am so close to the run to the Marina, through Fort Mason.  It is just too beautiful not to run around here.  

Until recently, so much of my exercises were performance-based.  I think more and more my exercises are becoming joy-based.  I definitely feel the pressures of having to stay fit and active to be healthy, but nowadays I think I do it more because I truly love being outside and seeing the beauty this city has to offer.  After a nice run around the city on Saturday mornings, I would often stop by the farmer's market at the Ferry Building and bring home fresh fruits.  All my errands nowadays are done on foot, as I'm only a few blocks away from Trader Joe's and the pharmacy!  Walking is such a blessing, and with a lot of walking on your legs, I think I started developing a natural fondness towards running - while before, running was that really hard workout that needed to be done because it was the finishing leg of a triathlon!  :)

There is a public pool very close to my new place too - and with my injuries behind me and a renewed appreciation for my life, I'm thinking of training again for triathlons - but this time with joy and a fresh new mission.  I worked so hard over the past years to prove MYSELF, that I could do it against the general belief that people with chronic pain could not participate in endurance races.  But I have proven enough.  Now it is time for me to just...enjoy and share my joyful experiences with others.  I'm still not sure how I'm going to manage my time, but I do miss racing and I do find it in my heart to train again.  

For a while I told myself, well, maybe I'm done with the crazy training and racing.  Life's too busy anyway, and I have so many other new adventures in my life to pursue - however, I was reminded recently (while I was listening to Nick Vujicic's Life Without Limits audiobook - I definitely recommend!) that my passion for training and completing triathlons is still burning inside my heart.  Injuries discouraged me and my fatigue from all the clock-work discipline had me mentally shut down from training, but today, I felt like God reminded me that my passion was not dead, and that I can start the next stage.  

What is the next stage?  I have no idea!  All I know is that I'm going to do things a bit differently - to take the focus off of myself, but to do all this to serve others by sharing my joy and gratitude.  I will start slowly, of course, and go about this with a humble heart, but continue to dream big.  I did once dream of finishing an Ironman, didn't I?  Will I pursue that?  Maybe, maybe not.  One thing is for sure - I'm looking forward to where this would take me.

I'm going to go look for races to sign up for now.  :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Uninspiring Update

Interesting.  A few days ago, an old friend reminded me that I should update my blog.  I replied to his suggestion by saying "when I start training again."

Today it hit me - ok, what a lame answer.  

Training or not, I'm still living with fibro and living darn well.  The problem is, that my ankle has still been in severe pain. 

The update since my last entry in November is that...basically, as I increased my minutes running, after 14 minutes run/1-2 walk intervals, my ankles started burning up again.  I could not sleep all night at times.  I thought my ankles caught on fire.  I massaged them, did strengthening workouts as prescribed, I rested them, I did gradual exercise buildup, I did and tried everything... but I was in such excruciating pain that I couldn't stay lying down or sitting for more than 20 minutes' time.  So it was concluded that it can't be just some exercise-related injury.  Something else is going on.  

So I haven't ran since...early January.  I went on the eliptical.  That has been ok.  Still some pain, but a lot less - and I have prescription strength ibuprofen for my bad days.  

The lack of training and the absence of any future racing plans made me feel like I shouldn't exist as the writer of this blog.  I stopped writing.  I felt rather ashamed.  

But as the owner of this blog, I realized today that I had to continue writing.  And today, I am writing about not having been able to train and therefore not even daring to be able to plan on a race.  However, I do not feel so ashamed - anymore.  I feel rather at peace, because I am starting to think that this is part of the process.  Ups and downs, good days and bad days - a season to race, a season to rest.  I titled this as Uninspiring, but I was being sarcastic - I hope that my lack of inspiration is somewhat inspiring - because I have accepted my present reality of just...waiting for the tides to come back.  Every day, I am just thankful that it hurts less than before.  I get on the eliptical and hit the hill profile for 30 minutes.  I do some strengthening exercises and walk to and from work.  I do what I can.  I hope and pray that I can race one day.  I still dream, but I'm praying harder.  I do what I can.  

What I am most thankful about this process is that through my pain and limitations I am learning about some of you that are not able to be as active as you'd like right now, and how you might be feeling.  I can understand the frustration a little better, and I can empathize when you feel like giving up, because it's just been so darn long.  But please, let's not give up.  We do what we can now, and I know that soon we will be ready to move again when our hearts are really ready in the midst of peace, with more gratitude, more excitement and yet with more humility.  

This ankle issue started February of last year - this kind of strong, persistent pain is a first in my life. But i know for some of you, this kind of debilitating and persistent pain is what you're familiar with.  I was starting to get really tired of it.  I was starting to just get cranky about it - then finally today, I was able to think about those I couldn't understand before because I had never experienced it.  Now I do.  And that makes me grateful, because I only pray that I can start writing on behalf of those who are still struggling to overcome the pain.  So I plan on overcoming the pain together, with you.  I have a higher focus.  And I am grateful for it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let's look at some Data

Just wanted to share with you my running progress so far - as you can see, I started on 9/20, and it's been going on semi-regularly (I've had a few weeks when I couldn't run, either because I was focusing on strength and recovery work or because I had too much work)... but as you can see, I'm adding minutes to my run and my speed is steadily improving.  There are ups and downs within weeks, but if you look at the overall average minute/mile, I'm moving in the right direction.  Also, as my run intervals got longer, I had to slow down on the run, but the fastest run intervals have been finding its steady pace.  I'm very happy with this!

Also to note, my distances are still at sub-3 mile levels.  With my ankles and feet still feeling challenged from time to time, I know that it is not time for me yet to add mileage.  I'm being faithful to the little I can do now, and will add gradually as my running intervals and interval frequencies get higher.  If I can get my running pace at 10:30-11:00 min/mile without huge effort, I'd be stoked.  I can feel the improvements, though, because today, for instance, although the fastest run interval was at 11:16 min/mile (slower than previous weeks), I felt like I was going super easy, especially coming back from a near 2 week break.  I was surprised to see that it was sub 12 min/mile, to be honest.  I'm curious to see where my pace would end up in the next couple of weeks, provided that I do not skip any of my runs.

Slow and steady is the name of the game.  I'm not flinching even a bit to rush into something - if I take a week or two break, I don't jump ahead or rush to get caught up, I just keep continuing from where I left off.  When I can't run, I do strength exercises and I make sure I stretch my ankles and feet.  I have a long-term view on this, so it just doesn't make sense to rush to really go nowhere.  But as I look at this simple table, it shows that I made progress and I'm healing!  Very very happy and grateful.

I started from 1 minute run, and now I can run 7 minutes non-stop at a time!  Hurray!

My run, my program, my pace.  I hope you build your own too and be faithful to the daily progress you can make for yourselves, no matter how big or small.  And smile :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lots have Happened over the past 4 months!

It has been a very long time since my last entry - over past 4 months, my life drastically changed, and of course, for the BETTER.  I'm so grateful and excited to have completed my move to San Francisco in August, after living in Los Angeles for over 10 years. 

Life was insane July and August, as I was moving out of my place in LA and moving into a new place in SF, while starting a new job.  As exciting as it all was, as you can all imagine, moving was seriously physically and mentally challenging - which is something I completely underestimated, having moved very often across continents (no joke!) when I was in my 20's.  I didn't think it was a big deal, but I suppose after having accumulated a lot more things over the years, moving definitely became a bigger deal, quite literally.  

Looking back, all went well.  Without establishing a healthy base I wouldn't have been able to do it all alone.  I'm so grateful that I was able to move everything, including myself, in one piece.  :)

On the other hand, training had to be temporarily put on the sidelines.  I lost about 8 pounds just from moving - which was not the favorable way to lose weight (poor eating, not sleeping, running around non-stop).  It was good, however, because I forced myself to take a break from running and cycling, from which I've suffered more than enough foot and ankle injuries during the Spring and Summer seasons.

Starting in September, I started back from ground zero.  Literally, from the absolute basics.  

I read the book "Run Your Butt Off," which is actually a step by step running guide for beginner runners.  I wouldn't call myself a beginner runner, but because of my recurring injuries I felt compelled to act like one and use the methodology the book was suggesting.  

Basically, it starts with 4 min walk/1 min run intervals of 5 times.  Actually, the very start is to do 30 min walks for a week, but I skipped that step, thanks to my daily walks between work and home (1.5 mile one way - it's a nice little walk, which I LOVE).  I think the daily walks actually made my ankles and feet stronger and help me establish a stronger base for my running program.  Anyway, after my first week of the rather boring 4/1 walk/run intervals, every week or two I progressed onto longer runs...for example, 4 walk/2 run x 4-5 times, then 3 walk/3 run x 4-5 times..and now I'm at 2.5 walk/5 run x 4 times~!   

Believe it or not, the 3 walk/3 run week was tough on my ankles -  i had to take a week break because my feet and ankles were killing me again.  I did ankle strengthening exercises and got on the foam roller instead.  I continued my walks to and from work, though, and they definitely kept my lower body movements consistent.  I so love walking to work now, something I was not able to do at all living in LA.  

Anyway, I have another week of the 2.5 walk/5 run x 4, then moving on to 2 walk/7 run x 3 after that!  I'm excited - because although i had to start from scratch, I'm very happy with the progress - I am actually becoming a more efficient runner, as my time has improved over the weeks as well.  I think this was the way I should have always started, really gradually, step by step, day by day, minute by minute.  I'm going to keep going at this rate, and by mid-January, I will be able to do my first 30-minute full-on run.  Sounds like a long time til then, but really, by then I would have really built up my fundamentals so the run-only session will seem like just a natural progression, not a burdensome challenge.  My body will appreciate the super-slow gradual buildup.
My first 5k since the new training regime is set for 12/2, which I will just run as if I'm training, with a few walks mixed in.  I think in mid-February, I will do a full-run 5k, with some speed added to it.  That i'm really excited about.  

I haven't let go of my goal to do a will just be in 2012.  I deferred my NYC Marathon entry to 2012, so I have that to work towards.  Effectively, I'm training for over a year for my marathon - this may be the wisest decision I've ever made to date.  

As you can see, I have lots of starting over's.... some attempts of mine did not work, some did.  Those that didn't, I learn my lesson from them and just start again.  I know I have these desires to do long distance races for a reason, but they are not going to come easily.  I'm learning to be patient, to be persistent and to NEVER GIVE UP!  This time it will work, I'm really taking my time, advancing little by little.  Hey, a small advance is still an advance!  :)

However, I still have to wonder, what is up with this ankle pain?  In my earlier days, ankle and feet were the last things I needed to worry about during my training... oh well, it is what it is, and I'm learning to deal...  I'm just praying it's just a part of getting old ;)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I'm Not Like Them...and That is the Point

No wonder my heart has been so burdened.  No wonder I've been fatigued, dreaded and heavy in my spirit.  I wasn't being myself, but I have been relentlessly trying to be like others.

Around me, there are some seriously strong riders.  They can do super hilly and long distance rides whenever they decide to, and even do so two days in a row, and suffer no consequences other than the expected soreness.  I, know from experience, that I have to go by the gradual progression of adding mileage and hills in order to get to a certain point.  If not, the consequences would be (and have been) dire.  

When I was training for the Gran Fondo LA (6/26), I had that sudden right foot injury after my first 65 mile/hilly ride.  Since then my foot (actually both feet at this point) have never been the same.  Some of my friends were able to go on another long and even hillier ride the next day.  And they boasted that the post-ride soreness was actually minimal.  Wow - envy.  

Last weekend while I was still trying to ramp back up from the injury, another friend of mine did 80 miles and thought even that wasn't enough for the Vineman Aquabike race (Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles) coming up, so wanted to 90 miles this morning.  I couldn't even do 40 miles last week because of my foot.  I knew I had no choice and I was ok with it, until I compared myself to my friends.  Discouragement.  Feeling kinda like a loser.

So, with my ego bruised, I told my friend that I'd do the 90 mile ride with her, as a pathetic attempt to redeem myself.  And the ride is today.  I have been up since 445am, getting geared up and ready.  It's 607am right now.  What am I doing writing this?

I crumbled.  I had to admit, after all the pondering, wondering and getting frustrated - that my heart is not in the right place.  That is the reason for all the internal fighting.  Usually, rides like this excite me, and I'm all pumped up for it.  Today, my heart is just NOT in it - not because I don't like riding anymore, not because I want to quit, but because for a while now I have been driven by my ego and envy, but not my heart.  Where is my hope?  Why am I doing this?  Didn't I say I'd do 90 miles because I wanted to feel better about myself?  Because I wanted to feel less like a loser compared to my friends who have been ramping up faster than I have?  

Comparing myself to others... is a dangerous motivator.  In fact, it is not a motivator - it is a source of discouragement and self degradation, ending up in both mental and physical fatigue.  I'm not rationally thinking about my physical status and what I can do given the reality, which actually results in going beyond my perceived limits.  Instead, I'm looking at others, wanting to be like others, then discovering how I am NOT like others, then just shutting myself away from achieving any untapped potential whatsoever - because then I am no longer driven by my heart, but my ego.  Such a tremendous attempt at one's best can never come from ego or envy.  It really is the heart that comes from the bigger purpose of the action itself, which, to me, is to share with YOU that we can do things, and that we are not victims.  I didn't think of YOU, but I thought of ME, comparing myself with people who are not me, and definitely not like you and me.  

As a result, I have fallen victim to my own ego that just kept feeling bad for not being like others.  Is there a worse kind of failure than this?

Such is the fight against our pain.  This fight, has to be a positive, heart-driven fight.  In every step we make, we must rather feel the JOY of improvement and excitement for new experiences, not the feeling of not being good enough because some are doing better than others.  I hope that I did not discourage some of you via my recent efforts.  I only say this because I have been so focusing on my achievements, not the process.  So if you're walking around the block and you read about me bragging about my 65 miles ride without the context behind it, then how would that make you feel?  I apologize for that!

It's 630am.  I am going to go on my own ride, at the pace I want and to the length of time I feel comfortable with.  Then maybe I will go for a run - at my pace, up to my desired distance.  And be grateful for what I can do, and who I am.  By comparing myself to others over the past couple of months, I have rejected myself.  No wonder I wasn't enjoying this process - I wasn't even enjoying my own body!  

Let's just accept myself, and remember that only I can be me, and that I am unique, and I have everything I need to be who I am...and just keep improving from where I am.   That is gratitude, and when you are at peace with that, God pours us with more blessings to our open and available hearts going forward.  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Definitely Not the Ideal...but Doing What I Can

I'm seriously thinking about the recent ramp-up on my training and its effect on my body.

I have been experiencing pretty strong flare-ups and stiffness every day after a workout, even when it is not a long/hard workout day.  On top of that, my ankles and calves have gotten extremely tight, despite my continuous bodywork and strengthening moves.  

Since the right foot freak injury I'm slowly catching back up to longer rides...but will not get there until the end of this week, if all goes as planned.  So far, nothing has really gone as planned.

Don't get me wrong - I've reached a few milestones.  My first 65 mile ride, my first 4,000 meter swim...they are all great.  I slowly started to get back into running as well.  On the flip side, my body's responses to them have been so severe that I feel like every week I'm starting over again.

While I will continue to go by my training plans (albeit modified several times already), I will also be very cautious about my body's reactions.  Perhaps there is some kind of distance and intensity threshold that I need to learn of.  Perhaps not.  I'm in guinea pig mode.

I'm trying not to get greedy - if I am doing all this for my health, I cannot take this to a point where my health is actually deteriorating.  However, I don't want to give up prematurely either.  So I'm closely monitoring my body.  It's been a challenge, and it's frustrating and stressful, but I still enjoy the moments of reaching my milestones, and for that I am grateful.

The future is unknown, so I focus on the present.  

Happy 4th of July everyone!