Friday, October 28, 2011

My Favorite Place in the Whole World

Wendell, Idaho
More specifically, the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school.

Yesterday I visited Wendell. It's been almost exactly one year since I resigned as the elementary and middle school counselor there. I've missed the people of Wendell every day since then.

I started out at the middle school, standing in my circle. Yes, I can call it "my circle" because it says "Mr. M's Circle of Character" right on the floor; it's permanent-ish. Seeing the reaction of people walking, watching their faces when they first spotted me - it was a huge ego builder. So many of them said they were happy to see me, but truth is, I was much happier to see them. I got more hugs yesterday than I've gotten in the previous year. Don't get me wrong: I love hugging my family. But no matter how much I love them, I'm not going to give/get 500 hugs a day from my family.

One of the reasons I left Wendell was that my repressed immune system couldn't handle the constant onslaught of germs. Of course I could have avoided much of the problem by never hugging any of the students, or holding their hands, or comforting crying kids. But that simply was not an option for me. I love those kids.

In two months I was in school last year (September and October 2010), I used all my sick days. In the year since I've been gone, I haven't been sick once. Of course there's the no voice thing and the arthritis, but I haven't had a single cold or the flu. That seems like a pretty good indication that leaving has been good for my health.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

I made it back to the Rec Center this morning, with a plan to add some time to my workout. Since there wasn't a group cycling class this morning, I rode one of the stationary bikes overlooking the pool area. My plan was to ride 2 hours, but apparently the bike only lets riders go for 99:59. After it stopped, I lost the momentum and decided that was long enough. During that time I covered about 24 miles of virtual road - not too bad.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I work on my lower body in the weight room. It's not a huge workout: leg press, leg extension, leg curl. After the weights, I hit the pool. Most days I keep track of how many laps I swim. Today I decided to just swim. I was in the pool for an hour. During that time I also worked on snorkeling. I'm getting more comfortable having my face in the water. With 6 years to train for an Ironman Triathlon, I think I have enough time to become a competent swimmer

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ironman, Leg 2

When I'm floating in the pool, doing my version of a backstroke (which hardly creates a ripple), I have a lot of time to think. Only twice have I gotten so distracted that I ran into the wall because I wasn't watching where I was. I only hoped nobody noticed.

Today, during my ceiling-staring time, I made a decision, and a goal: I'm going to finish an Ironman Triathlon. Obviously I'm a long way from being able to complete a course that long, but it seems that long-term goals have become more prevalent in my life.

My heath goals all seem to be really long term.

  • Weight loss - long term. My goal is to lose 50 pounds. I'd love to lose it all in the next week, but it seems like a year is more reasonable. Losing one pound per week is probably a healthy way to lose weight. And by losing it that slowly, I'll know that I'm creating long-term habits of healthier eating and more exercise.
  • Getting my arthritis under control - long term. The rheumatologist has some ideas, but nobody really knows what will be the most effective treatment.
  • Getting my voice back - long term. I'm on antibiotics - another round - which always brings my voice back. But as soon as I go off them, the voice leaves again. Remember I said I have a lot of thinking time in the pool? Well I came to another decision this morning. When I call my ENT in SLC, regardless of the outcome of this latest round of antibiotics, regardless of what my voice is doing at that time, I'm done trying to solve it. I've lived without a voice for nearly 2 years. I'm tired of trying this and trying that, having this test and that test, and 127 other tests. Either my voice will come back, or it won't. Either way, I'm just going to live with what I have. Now it's entirely possible I'll change my mind, but if I'm deciding today: no more experimenting.
  • Employment - long term. I wish I knew now what I'm supposed to be doing, where I'm supposed to be going, but I don't. God hasn't given me a flash of inspiration, so for the time being I'm just living day-to-day, which is the opposite of long-term living. My direction may be long-term, but my life is being lived short-term.
Back to the Ironman Triathlon ...

It's a lot longer than the mini triathlon I finished this month. Plus, I'll have to improve a lot just to be able to compete and make the time cut-offs.
  • 2.4 mile swim ... 2 hour 20 minute limit
  • 112 mile bike ... 8 hour 10 minute limit (10:30 after the official start)
  • 26.2 mile run ... 6 hour 30 minute limit (17 hours after the official start, midnight)
I think I could do all those distances today, but slowly.
  • The 2.4 mile swim would take me about 5 hours. I've been swimming 1/2 mile in the mornings, which takes me about an hour. It's not non-stop; I do take breaks.
  • The 112 mile bike ride would take me 9 to 10 hours.
  • The marathon would take about 9 hours. I can walk 3 mph, and I can do that a long time.
Total time for me would be: 24 hours, 7 hours over the time limit. Plus, there's no nap time scheduled in that day.

So I have a lot of work to do. The thing is though, I think I can do it. I'm sure I'll be one of the last finishers, but I'm hopeful. I feel like a goal this big helps tie my long term goals together with my short term living. I can't complete this in a year, so my time frame is to finish an Ironman in 2017. To accomplish that, I need to keep going to the gym one day at a time. All I can do is workout today, eat healthy today, get plenty of rest today, focus on my health today. Add up enough days and I'll be ready. Between now and then I'll need to find some other, shorter triathlons to participate in. The first one will be in February 2012. It'll be interesting to see the improvement (I'm taking for granted there will be improvement) between now and then.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Next Step

I can't say I'm hooked, but after competing in my first triathlon, I definitely want to do another. Although I'm not sure I'd call what I did "competing." Participating is probably more accurate, especially since I finished 3rd to last. Not that I'm discounting my performance. For the shape I'm in, and this being my first event, I was just happy to finish.

The Rec Center is hosting a longer event in February: 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile bike, 4 mile run. So now I'm training for that event. Today I walked to the Rec Center (a little over a mile), biked 10 miles, lifted weights, swam 1/2 mile (first time I've done that), then walked home. I did the swim in about 40 minutes, the bike in about 40 minutes, and I'm guessing I can do the 4 mile walk in about 90 minutes.

On the water front, I'm trying to become a better swimmer. I don't know why, but it freaks me out to put my face in the water. I wouldn't call it panic, but it's definitely an issue. So I'm taking baby steps (or baby splashes). I bought a snorkel, and today was able to keep my face in the water for about a minute, long enough for my breathing to go from near-hyperventilating to merely panting. My goal? I'm not sure. I just want to get over this irrational fear and be able to swim like a real person.

I'm not sure how much faster I'll be able to do any of these events. My RA limits how quickly I can move. But, by February I should be 30 pounds lighter, and my cardiovascular fitness should be significantly better by then.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

♫ The Long and Winding Road ♪

Monday I had an appointment with my ENT doctor in Salt Lake City. Not much new - he gave me a stronger prescription for acid reflux, and another round of antibiotics. I'll call him in six weeks with any progress, and we'll discuss what to do from then.

Normally I take I-84 - it's about a 6 hour trip. On the way down I stopped for lunch with the Nebeker family and had such a good time. This trip, instead of coming back the same way, I decided to go through Nevada. After my appointment I headed west on I-80 with a plan to spend the night in Elko and finish the trip home on Tuesday. I came this way so I could stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats, a place I've never visited before. Before I got there, I passed by The Tree of Utah.

My next stop was the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Had I come through 2 days later, it would have been much more exciting. The World Finals are being held there this week. I talked with one of the owner/drivers about his car. He's made some modifications from last year (bigger engine) and he's hoping to hit 220mph this week ... so so fast.

After some good picture taking time, it was time to hit the road again. If you haven't been on I-80 west of SLC, let me tell you the scenery is beautiful, the radio station choices are minimal. I hate listening to static or country music, so I turned off the radio, leaving me alone with my thoughts. Being alone with my thoughts is a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand I get a lot done when I have time to think. On the other hand, I tend to get lost in my thoughts, and sometimes don't pay attention to things which I should be paying attention.

Don't misunderstand, I pay attention to the important things: I stay in my lane, I follow the speed limit, and I'm still a safe driver. After leaving Wendover, I was thinking about changing my original plan of staying in Elko then driving home. I was considering staying in Wells, then heading north so I could go back through Wendell and visit the schools.

For whatever reason, when I got to Wells I decided to keep driving. I'm not sure when I decided for sure to come all the way home, but it was somewhere in Nevada. One night away was enough for me. Remember that I tend to get lost in my thoughts when the radio is off. I should have turned north in Elko on Highway 225. Lost in my thoughts, I drove straight through, staying on I-80. I didn't realize my mistake until I was in Winnemucca. Had I headed north from Elko, it would have taken me about 4 hours to get home. From Winnemucca, it's about 4 hours to Nampa. The two hours between Elko and Winnemucca was just wasted time.

So I filled up in Winnemucca: fuel, pop (which I haven't had in a very long time), and candy (which I've been staying away from so I can lose weight). I figured with all that sugar and caffeine I'd be able to stay awake. I finally pulled into my driveway about 12:30, so tired.

Maybe someday I'll make that trip from Winnemucca to Nampa in the daylight so I can see where I was driving.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


By any standards, I'm out of shape, partly because of the RA, mostly because I've been a lazy couch potato. But I'm making changes. I've been working out at the Nampa Rec Center on a regular basis, including:

  • Spinning Classes (although they're not actually Spinning, which is a trademark name, but just group cycling), 
  • lifting weights (upper body Monday, Wednesday and Friday; lower body Tuesday, Thursday, and sometimes Saturday), and
  • Swimming
Today, I competed in my first Triathlon. It was not Ironman length - they called it a Beginner's Triathlon. I swam the 1/8 mile in 7:38, which was impressive to me. In my training, the 1/8 mile swim has always taken about 10 minutes. I have no idea how I was able to take off that much time. Next was a 4 mile stationary bike ride, which I completed in 16:21, about what I expected. Last came the 1.5 mile run, which I walked. I did jog part of it, but my jog is slower than the fast walk of many/most people.

My goal was to complete the event in under an hour. My final time: 54:04. It felt really good ... tired, but good.

During my training I met Janie, who is using the same Rec Center trainer I am. This was also her first triathlon. We had so much fun talking about our training, the progress we were making, how nervous we were, and our goals. The day of the event I got to meet her husband, son and niece, who had come to support her. Great family.

Janie is a faster swimmer than me, by about 1:00. She did the bike portion two minutes faster, so she had a lead on me when I started the run. I expected her to catch up to me. I must have been walking fast, because on the last lap, I could see her in front of me. My mind said, "Go! You can catch up if you just run." My body said, "Whatever. Just keep walking." I didn't catch up, but I finished less than a minute behind her.

I heard that the Rec Center hosts another, longer triathlon in February. I'm going to compete in that one. The only way I'll be able to improve the bike and run legs is to improve my fitness. By February I should be 30 pounds lighter, which will definitely help. And if I keep working out, I'll be stronger and have better cardio capacity. I think I can make real improvement in the swim. 

I talked with a guy today (the Rec Center photographer, and a triathlon veteran) who mentioned a swim system called Total Immersion. They have a website and a youtube channel. I'm what they refer to as an "adult onset swimmer." I took swimming lessons when I was little, but I hated every minute and didn't pass, especially the swim with my face in the water skill. I still struggle with that. After watching some of the videos, I have hope that I can learn to swim, the right way.

So keep watching - I will make progress.