Progress

My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.

I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?

My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.

That’s how my first run in over three months started.

A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running.ย 

And running is f*cking amazing. ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธโค๏ธ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.

While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.

New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.

The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost homeย when returning from a long run was indistinct.

What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.

In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.

But this is what progress is: change.

I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.

These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress.ย ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿผ

Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. ๐Ÿ˜€

Onward. But first, I need a nap.


Learn the lesson

The last six weeks have been frustrating, insightful, educational, and inspiring – a rollercoaster of highs and lows.ย I went from a skeptic feeling deprived of my favorite – and socially acceptable – foods to a grateful member of the plant-based family.

Besides my leg, my body has never felt better. I no longer have mid-afternoon lulls. I thought it was “natural” to have a 2pm tired spell, but it’s not. Or at least it’s not for me. I have a lot of energy throughout the day. Cuts and scrapes heal quickly and my clumsy spell is over.

My leg pain is still a bit of mystery, but I’ve learned a lot. Last week, I meditated daily and asked for guidance on healing. I asked to see old or existing patterns in my thinking where I could be subconsciously causing myself pain or a perceived injury.

As I mentioned in my blog postย last week, the documentary HEAL resonated with me. I put into action all the tactics they outlined. The work helped, but didn’t fully heal me – at least not in the last week or so.ย Tick tock, let’s go, self.ย โฐย ๐Ÿ˜‡

But I’m continuing down that path and feel good about it. I reread The Purpose-Driven Life. It offered an interesting take on life from a Christian perspective. I took away the lessons that resonated with me, like “you were made for a mission” and left anything that didn’t on the page.

I also went to a reiki healer, named Bella, who, without knowing a thing about my journey or me personally, said, “your brain is telling me you are severely anemic.”

She went on to tell me that because of the lack of iron in my blood, there are kind of like varicose veins being created on the inside of my left leg. (Left leg!) She said it wasn’t a clot or anything dangerous, just that it causes pain. And damn is she right about that. She said a high quality iron supplement, which I need to take every day for the next three to six months without skipping or forgetting, will fix it.

She also said she saw calcification above and below my knee, which is where I feel throbbing. I was blown away at her accuracy and the confidence in which she delivered her messages.

So it looks like this journey has gone full circle. When I embarked on this plant-based experiment, I talked about being anemic even after eating meat for a few years. Seems I’m still working on that.

Bella said my body needs more iron than most. So a low iron reading on a “normal” western medicine blood test is anemic for me. I should look to be on the high side or slightly above normal.

As far as the calcification above and below my knee, she recommended essential oils, which I’ll take a look into. Lots more to learn.

I f*cking love this about life. When you go search for something, it reveals itself. It might not be on my time schedule, which was yesterday, but it will happen. And I am grateful for that.ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Three years ago, I traveled to Everest Base Camp to heal my hip. Hmmmm, sound familiar, does it? I had a very similar problem with pain moving up and down my left side and settling into my hip. In Nepal, I hardly felt the pain. It seemingly went on vacation too.

In 2013, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, I injured my left foot weeks before the race. It was the same deal – I had to pull back training and missed my longest run. I finished the race, just like in Antarctica, but not without a lot of pain, just like in Antarctica.

So what the eff is going on? Every three years am I going to have to deal with this shizzle?

Seems I’ve got a nasty pattern on my hands – mind, body, heart, soul – that I need to solve for or I’ll be doing this again in a couple of years.

Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Maybe it’s simply iron. Maybe. But maybe it’s something else. Or maybe it’s both.

If I can identify whatever is going on with me and conquer the “injury pattern” – do what I was supposed to do or learn what I was supposed to learn in 2013 and then again in 2016, I can solve this and stay healthy.

I’m on a journey to learn the lesson. This stops in 2019. More to come.ย โค๏ธ


A vegan in the woods

It’s only been a week, and I’m so over this vegan diet. Finding acceptable food has been difficult and time-consuming and annoying. I’ve also seemed to forget how to operate my hands, feet, head, and body to my own detriment. It’s been a miserable and bloody week.

We camped in Big Sur last weekend. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to find something non-animal-based to eat over a campfire. Even friggin marshmallows have animal products in them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and like marshmallows, don’t look it up. Gelatin is pure nastiness.

๐Ÿก๐Ÿท๐Ÿ”ฅ

While my friends enjoyed copious amounts of processed meats and a delectable selection of artisan cheeses for happy hour, I reluctantly chomped on sugar snap peas and hummus. For dinner, they indulged in sausages, feta cheese, chicken, pizza (with cheese and sausage), and more sausages. I ate an ear of corn and sweet potato. I mean, shit.

To be clear, I take full responsibility of the crappy planning. I’d been on a plant-based diet for only a couple of days and had absolutely no business trying to camp on said diet. But life happens. It’s too easy to put something off because it’s inconvenient to begin. If I did that, I’d never start. Life is inconvenient most of the time.

Camping was happening. So was going plant-based. It was unfortunate that they coincided, but it gave me the chance to see what it would be like camping newly vegan-style. And it sucked.

Not only was I not able to have s’mores over the campfire every night, my adjusted vegan meal usually consisted of simply removing the meat and cheese from the meal, so I was left with a couple of warm vegetables and some pasta. Never again will I go camping so unprepared. No – never again will I go camping on a vegan diet.

Switching gears to a meal I really enjoyed: breakfast. I stumbled on these single-serve instant hot cereal cups, and on a whim picked up a couple of them. Angels must have been with me because they were delicious!ย ๐Ÿ‘ผ๐Ÿผ

They’re organic and contain multigrain oats, chia and dried berries. All I needed to do was add hot water and bam! instant breakfast goodness. They’re also reasonably priced at a dollar and some change per cup at Whole Foods. I added nuts, seeds, and dried cranberries (vegan trail mix), and it was a perfect camping meal.

I also enjoyed the snacks I brought – dried mangos, dates, walnuts, and homemade granola. Side note about going vegan, the amount of fiber that is added to your diet overnight will clean a body out. Go easy on the dried fruits, girl.

My first week on a plant-based diet has also been the clumsiest week of my life. And that’s saying something for someone who has had two hundred stitches put in and taken out of her body, excluding the hernia stitches. (They just kept those in.)

Last week, I burned, cut (thrice), scraped, banged, gnashed, stubbed, knocked, hit, twisted, and poked various different parts of my body. Half of it included bloodshed. I have new scars, bruises and swelling throughout my body from injuries I’ve sustained while on this diet. Can someone tell me why? What’s happening to me?

Not only has my own body taken a hit, I’ve done really clumsy things. Before leaving for camping, I spilled almost an entire bag of popcorn seed while transferring them from one container to another. What felt like hundreds of thousands of them poured on to the counter, floor, sink, stovetop, and God knows where else. It sounded like I hit the jackpot on the slot machine. Ring, ting, ting, tingle, dingle, ling. When all the chaos was over and the last kernel it the floor, it looked like my kitchen got the chickenpox. Oy vey.

The lack of food options while camping, the injuries I’ve sustained, the injuries I’ve caused (mostly to my kitchen and myself), and my bad attitude have all contributed to an awful week one on the plant-based diet. Plus, my face broke out for no apparent reason. Finally, my achilles is exactly the same, if not more achy and sore than it was last week.ย ๐Ÿ˜•

Five more weeks to go.

๐Ÿฅฌ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿฅ’๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿ“๐ŸŒย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ


Can diet heal tendonitis?

Shows a rainbow of vegetables

Happy June!

It’s been a couple of months since returning from Antarctica and almost four months since the injury to my achilles happened.

The pain has moved around, from my achilles to my arch to my hamstring and back to my achilles again. It’s like playing whack a mole with the pain.

On Monday, the PT told me she is going to start treating the achilles problem like a chronic issue instead of an acute injury. My heart sank. I don’t want to be labeled chronically anything, except happy, rich, or spiritual.

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”ย And I say, hell yeah to that. If rest, icing, taping, massaging, and physical therapy aren’t working, could it be something in my diet?

It’s been five years since I started eating meat again. I’d been vegetarian for the previous seven years. In 2014, I was diagnosed with severe anemia and when iron supplements didn’t remedy the problem, doctors encouraged me to eat meat.

Looking back, I’m not sure that was the best thing for my health, but doctors strongly recommended it and I didn’t want to stay anemic and tired.

After learning more about iron intake and requirements, I feel like I could have found another path to health, but I chose the easiest, fastest, and most convenient. And, in a few months, the blood tests indicated that it worked.

So imagine my surprise in 2018, after four years of eating meat, a routine blood test showed I was anemic. Again.

Instead of reexamining my diet at that time, I added an iron supplement and forgot about it. Maybe eating animals and animal products had become too convenient and ingrained my life for me to think there was another option. Going back to vegetarianism didn’t even cross my mind.

Fast-forward to Feb 2019 when my injury happened. I’ve not thought of changing my diet as a way to heal myself, but after four months of nursing a lagging injury, it came like a rocket during a meditation session in the form of a question. What are you eating?

The answer to the question was a little embarrassing. In February, I had just come off the bulletproof diet and was recovering from a terrible reaction to the flu shot. I had been back running only for a week or two when I was injured.ย (The bulletproof diet encourages copious amounts of grass-fed cow butter in your coffee along with meats and veggies, oils, and proteins.)

When I look back at my food log, I’d been eating various forms of meat, including processed (but paleo) bacon, sausage and lunchmeat, butter, yogurt, and cheese two or three times a day. I’m not saying this is what caused the injury, but the correlation is interesting.

Previous to bulletproof, I did the Whole30 diet time and time again, which focused exclusively on consuming copious amounts of meat, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.

I lost weight, and after two weeks of suffering through terrible grumpiness and sugar cravings, settled into it. But could it have been hurting me?

I don’t know, but I’m going to run my own little experiment. For six weeks, I’m going on a plant-based diet.

My goal is to see if this diet will help heal my chronicย achilles/foot/leg injury. I’d also love a little more energy (and happiness) throughout the day, but I’m not going to get pushy.

Let’s see what happens next.

๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿฅฆ๐ŸŒถ๐Ÿฅ‘๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‰


An Ode to Montana

IMG_2985

Montana is an incredibly beautiful, not to mention enormous, state. From east to west it’s about the equivalent of driving from Chicago to New Jersey. Crazy big.

About a decade ago, I had the opportunity to do some backpacking inside Glacier National Park. It was one of the most memorable backpacking trips, from seeing a massive and somehow majestic moose standing only a few meters away to crossing a waist-high, ice-cold mountain river hoisting my camera and the rest of my pack above my head in an attempt to keep it dry. We also came across a mama bear with her two nine-month-old cubs. Luckily, no mauling ensued.

When I arrived in Bozeman earlier this month, the little airport felt welcoming and cozy. It was built like a mountain lodge with raised wooden beams supporting a roof that takes on an average of seventy-two inches of snow each year. Outside, the Montana that I recalled entering many years ago, with it’s clean air, grand mountains nestled on an eternal horizon, and impossibly large clouds somehow not blocking the warm sun that fell on my face, greeted me kindly. Although many years ago, I had landed in Kalispell almost three hundred miles away, this was the same big sky country. It felt like an embrace from an old friend.

We stayed at a newly built dwelling called the Sage Lodge in Pray, MT. They were still putting the finishing touches on the rooms. When we checked in, we were missing oddities like lightbulbs and the sliding screen door handle. Strange, but the staff were mostly friendly and you couldn’t beat the location, which was almost on top of the Yellowstone River and a thirty-five minute drive straight across the Wyoming boarder into Yellowstone National Park.

Since taking on the minimalist way of life, there wasn’t much packed in my suitcase. It was light as a feather. Two t-shirts, an athletic long sleeve pullover, a SmartWool shirt, hiking pants, jeans, socks, hiking shoes, sandals, pjs, undergarments, a hat, sunglasses, and a toiletry bag. (Minimalism aside, I was glad the lodge we stayed in had laundry because by the third day, I needed them all cleaned.)

I’ve heard fishing is good for the mind, body, and soul, and we were in the best fly fishing spot in the world, so I figured why not. And it did not disappoint. On the Yellowstone River, there are rules about which fish you can keep, which you must release, and others you must keep or kill. According to the law, we released all our catches.

Every time I’d get a bite, I’d “set” my pole, which basically means pull it up as hard and fast as you can, and hope there’s a fish on the other end of it. I missed most times, but managed to net two beautiful rainbow trout. The experience of pulling them in, feeling their weight on the other side of the pole, and then guiding them gently into the net was invigorating. I’d wet my hands, hold them for a quick picture, and then they went back into the water hopefully a little wiser for the wear.

IMG_2926

We also spent a day in Yellowstone. Did a six-mile hike out and back to the Imperial Geyser, saw a few bison, a bighorn sheep, and watched good ole Ole Faithful do its thing too. Impressive.

IMG_3058

When the four days were over, I was sad to leave Montana. There is a rugged wildness, a real wilderness, about the state. And yet, I felt safe and supported by the mountains, the rivers and streams, the vast earth. Maybe it was just nice to get out of the city and see the stars. Whatever it was, I want to go back.

People say Montana winters are a “dry cold,” which I guess is supposed to be less cold somehow. I don’t know about that, but I might go back this winter just to test out the theory. I’m thinking snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Anything to get outside, even in the freezing temperatures, to be with those mountains and rivers, and under that big sky again.


Less stuff, more meaning

motorcycle on narrow road

It’s been almost six months and yes, I’ve lost a little steam, but no, I haven’t given up.

I’ve continued to whittle down my wardrobe to just five button-down shirts, two jackets, three pairs of jeans, four Smartwool shirts, and a handful of t-shirts. I went from almost a dozen pairs of Chuck Taylors down to three. I’ve still got a lot of work to do on my socks. I don’t know why, but I just can’t bring myself to go there, as if I might – or they might – run out on me.

I haven’t bought anything new since – no strike that. I haven’t bought any new clothing or shoes or socks or undergarments or hats or things to wear since January. But I did buy a new bike.

In my attempt to cut down on gasoline consumption coupled with my desire to ride a motorbike, after much debating, I finally purchased a little Honda Ruckus. However, I did sell all of of my other so called transportations possessions, with the exception of my little GTI, before I bought it, including two road long boards, a beautiful Specialized road bike, a skateboard, and did I mention all those shoes?

With the purchase of the scooter came a few other possessions, mainly a helmet, faux leather jacket and gloves, all for safety. Because my closet was cleaner and more austere than ever, it was easy to find a spot for each. The helmet looks badass on the shelf where once upon a time too many pairs of mom-jeans sat folded and unused.

On the whole, I feel good about the new possessions because every time I get on that bike, I smile. I feel alive and happy. I have fun. Most people who ride a motorbike will tell you there is something wonderfully therapeutic about the experience. It’s inexplainable but palpable and real. One day we might want to swap Xanax or Zoloft or Prozac or Percocet for a an hour or just thirty minutes on a bike to see the results. Imagine the possibilities.

But back to the acquisition of the bike. It’s made my commute so much more fun and in some ways meaningful. It’s a strange paradox. By getting rid of so much clutter, so many other possessions, I had space to think and feel and figure out that I truly wanted a bike. Then take the action to go get one.

I wanted to reduce my petrol consumption and usage and increase fun and meaningful life experiences. Now, I get to do all of it while doing something that was once mundane, like commuting to and from work. My commute is mundane no more. It’s an adventure.

As the summer progresses, I’ll continue to reduce my possessions as promised in my New Years resolution. Those socks – at least thirty or forty pairs – need a little thinning out to start with. And while I’m doing that, who knows what other epiphanies or grand adventures await.