Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Acceptance

Those of you who have been reading my blog a while know that this whole deal with my heart drives me nuts. And you know that I had great hopes that it was actually the gall bladder causing problems rather than my heart. Well, I was wrong. I am reluctantly admitting it is actually heart related. Of course, I've been thinking about this since I pulled out of leg 1 in the race, and I've formed a new thesis. I've got to analyze it and come up with something that satisfies me in order to move on, and yep, these conclusions come straight out of my little head. On the other hand, they are built on information from the doctors, from my own research and my own experience, so maybe they have a little validity - but hey! Isn't that what a thesis is - an unproven premise? So, you ask, what is this new thesis? Pretty simple.

Hello, my name is Michelle and I have a defective aortic valve. I also have a passion for running. I do pretty well until something upsets the apple cart - and those are things like stress, heat and over-exertion. I knew all that, and have known it for a good three years. But then, I got my gall bladder taken out and my running life became wonderful - filled with ease and speed and endurance. So I thought, hey Michelle, it wasn't your heart after all, it was that stinkin' gall bladder. And I ran and ran and ran. I live in the beautiful and mild Pacific Northwest. Things were good through late spring and early summer - just typical pretty days with an occasional high of around 90. I kept running, increasing miles and for a little bonus, got faster. But the idyllic summer was soon to come to a screeching halt. Relay day arrived and the temperature soared. Our heroine (that'd be me) discovered that her heart still reacts to heat. Turns out those dreams weren't quite real. How could that be? How could things have gone so well, then so poorly? My heart reacts to stress. My gall bladder apparently started shutting down about three years ago, coinciding with the dramatic rise in heart problems. The new thesis is that the sick gall bladder put all my systems under stress. Then I'd go out and run and add more stress - ta da! Heart problems. I'd back off and recover, then repeat the cycle. If it got too hot I'd go through it again. If I ran too hard, or much longer than an hour, then the cycle would restart. Once the gall bladder came out, it relieved the extra stress on my systems and let me run well. That is till the hottest day ever fell on relay day.

In the end, it is a good thing I found out. And as many of you mentioned, it was good to find out when I had a van full of friends following me, and Rob running by my side. Now I know, and I can plan for it. It won't sandbag me again and I'll make smarter decisions. Rob asked me if I really thought I was going to cruise all the way to Portland without any problems and my answer was yes! Yes! I was feeling so good and things were going so well, I pretty much thought I was invincible. But now I've had a scary little reminder to keep me in check.

My next task is to figure out what to do about Haulin Aspen. It's at elevation and it's supposed to be hot. Eric, Rob and Steve (all experienced ultra runners) have been giving me lots of needed advice. I've emailed the race director to ask about an early start (it would be cooler). I'm still thinking about it, and I've given myself the option to pull out if it feels too hot when I walk up to that starting line, or at any point during the race. It makes me feel like a quitter, but I know I have to be smart about this. I'm not worried about Portland, or really, any fall, winter or spring races, because the days are so much cooler then.

That's it, that's where I'm at. I'm faster and stronger and can go longer, but I'm not quite as tough as I thought. But you know what? It's still way better than where I've been in the last three years, so I'll take it.

21 comments:

Robb said...

Michelle, you are a true heroine...a trooper! I've been following your journey and, like you, I've been hoping that the gall bladder surgery was the cure. I'm sad that it's been your heart all along (providing your theory holds water) but I don't think you want any of us to be sad for you. You've come to terms with it - you understand your body and its limitations and you are willing to adapt. You love running too much to let it go. I'm proud of you. I respect you. Carry on girl!

D said...

Oh Michelle - I am so sorry. These things need to quit interfering with running!

JustRun said...

You have a very admirable attitude. It's inspirational to those with injuries or other ailments.
Way to keep on keeping on!

Sarah Elaine said...

My heart is goes out to you as I read this. I want to cry and give you a big hug at the same time. Don't give up! Don't ever, ever give up! (Promise, OK?) Modify all you want... Just remember that there's a difference between acceptance and resignation. Accept - yes. Resign yourself to defeat - never! You're a heroine to many of us - and always will be.

Donald said...

Yikes - I missed this whole story last week. What a bummer. Way to keep a positive outlook on the situation. Good luck with everything.

Anne said...

I'm kind of on the same path with finally coming to terms with my own physical limitations. Stay positive, as I know you will.

matt said...

i think you are very tough, michelle and i know that you will find a way to adapt and reach your goals. i believe you have it inside of you and you also have a great support network to take pride in each step you take along the way.

susie said...

Michelle, have the docs weighed in on this? Is there anything else you can be doing? I know you must have checked it all out, but just to be sure.....
You have a wonderful attitude, and I'm sure you will do whatever is right for you AND your body. Hang in there...

robtherunner said...

Let's just call this a little smack in the face to remind you of your limitations. You can still be Pollyanna with a bit of enlightenment.

Rose said...

When I was a much younger runner, I pretty much took my fitness for granted. Having returned to running at "my age," I am now reveling in every step I run. Your story is a great inspiration and reminder that nothing is promised and there is much to be grateful for.

TriSaraTops said...

A very inspiring story! Looking forward to hearing how it goes. Hang in there--it must be frustrating but it sounds like you have a great attitude about the whole thing and a good support system!

Jack said...

Sometimes we are reminded at inopportune times about our limitations. But this is where life’s journey gets really exciting, finding ways to me our goals despite our limitations. You’re tough and I’m sure you will either find a way over, through or around this mountain or just take off in an exciting new direction. In any case we will all be here with a kind word, a soft shoulder, or a kick in the butt when you feel like you’re wavering.

TryAthlete said...

People like you inspire me.

Sarah said...

I love your attitude! I'm sure you'll find the right balance.

And you asked in a comment on my blog if my 50k on Sat. is my first. It is!

Jessica Deline said...

Wow. I'd love to hear more about your heart valve. My brother had a hole is his aoritc (had it replace), and I had a very leaky Mitral vavlue which I had repaired in 2002.

Nicole said...

You are such an inspiration and have such a big heart.
Be smart on race on when you can.
Best wishes.

Jennifer said...

I agree with all the comments- You have a great attitude about it all! Thanks for sharing :)

Lana said...

You are so brave - you trully inspire me. I am sure you will take this in stride (no pun intended!!)as you do everything else!

Annette said...

I think you ARE as tough as you thought! I'm impressed that you aren't giving up. Be careful - but keep running!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

"It's still way better than where I've been in the last three years, so I'll take it."

AMEN!

Dori said...

You're faster, stronger, and can go longer. I think you're pretty tough!