Sunday, August 30, 2009

Places to go, things to do

My plate was full this weekend. So full that I managed to accomplish only a teensy portion of the things that needed to be done. There was so much I wanted to do that I felt like I was spinning in circles standing still. Whatever that means.

I left work early on Friday to have some scheduled maintenance performed on my car. It was the only chance I'd get for about the next 1000 miles and I was overdue. The best part was that I got to sit in their waiting room with my headphones on, music playing, while I knit for over an hour. I miss knitting and at this rate I'll never finish the 3 4 several WIPs. For some reason, probably because it was over 100 degrees out, they didn't wash my car (one of the nice things that Saturn has always done). Or maybe it was because Saturn is bankrupt and the car industry is in the toilet and the dealership couldn't afford their water bill. Whatever the reason, I drove out of there disgruntled and with a filthy car.

Saturday was scheduled for a 18 mile run and although it was going to be hot as blazes we went ahead and did it. We started our run at 6:00 am, just as the sun was rising, and it was already about 70 degrees. No wind, not even a little breeze. I saw on the weather channel that the wind was calm at calm miles per hour in the direction of calm. I don't like wind in my face so I had high hopes.

Until I started running. There are days when my legs feel flat, like I'm dragging cement posts along instead of flesh, bone and muscle. Sometimes that's only until I warm up and after a couple of miles I feel better. Not this time. The entire distance was hard and the heat didn't help.

We were running on the Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont and headed first toward the Bay. Mostly we stuck with the plan of a 4:1 run:walk and we ran about 7 miles round-trip. I say "about" since, in the dark, I hit the wrong button on Mr. Garmin and it didn't start until I noticed about a mile later. Whoops. We switched out our bottles and headed in the other direction. Since there are a couple of fountains we figured we could refill along the way and back.

It got hotter and hotter and we got slower and slower. We kept to the 4:1-ish plan until we reached the end at 5 miles, but both the run and the walk were slower. We refilled, soaked our hats in cool water and headed back the other direction. It got hotter and we got even slower and walked more.

The 4:1 became 3:2 became 2:3. The sun was blazing, there was still no breeze and it was getting hotter. We amused ourselves by looking at the huge fish in the creek, by wishing we could stick our feet in the water like the egrets were doing, by watching other hot runners and walkers and cyclists. We detoured across the creek to refill our bottles at Isherwood and from there ended up walking. We had a good pace going, mostly because of forward motion, but it was still walking.

I was hot, tired and dizzy but there was no choice except to continue forward. We made it back to the parking lot with our mileage a little short and Anita made me continue on for the last quarter mile so we'd have the full 18. Ow. Dehydrated, overheated, exhausted. But 18 miles! No matter how we got there, it was still 18 miles, slow as molasses but still fast enough to make the time cutoff at Chicago.

I zoomed home, showered and managed to lie down for about a half hour before having to leave for a party. Each year my boss has a pool party for all the employees and this year we were happy for the pool. I would have been even happier if I had bothered to look for my swimsuit before I left. As it was, I sat on the edge of the pool and soaked my legs in cool water.

Several hours later I headed over to my mom's house to check her mail, cool it down for a while, then finally left for home. As I walked to my front door I noticed that the pipe that has my hose spigot and shutoff valve was dripping. Crap. It was dripping enough that I knew I'd have to do something.

After a mostly sleepless night (what else is new) I started cleaning my house, setting up the exercise room as a guest room, paying bills, backing up my computer and oh yeah, called a plumber. I was told he'd be there between 1 and 2, and he called at about 12:45 and said he'd be there just about 2pm. I did a little bit of everything around home, finishing nothing, and waited.

Plumberman showed up about 2:15. He was a chatty fellow and he slowly inspected the 4 dripping problems I have (the new leak was just the camel's straw). He very carefully and clearly explained what should be done and why, explained lesser alternatives, talked a LOT and after more than 2 hours gave me an eye popping estimate. Yep, didn't get anything done, just got an estimate. Ouch. I'm not pleased to pay that much (and it's going to involve getting a new toilet) (no, the leak in my garden didn't cause that) but I've put this off for so long I'll have to just suck it up. I'll have to make an appointment for the work to be done this week, but meanwhile the dripping will continue.

After he left I ran my errands and when I got home I realized I hadn't done the laundry, hadn't finished cleaning the house, hadn't visited my mom and hadn't finished setting up the guest room. I also hadn't eaten anything and I was tired, hungry and getting very cranky. So I ate a salad and decided nothing else was going to get done this weekend.

Tomorrow's another day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's getting easier

Last year was a mostly non-running year for me. Yes, I managed to run 10k during the triathlon, but that was it. The next race I attempted was a dismal failure because I hadn't been running enough. I started the year with a knee injury, had a back injury in the middle of the year and was just discouraged at the end of the year. I never had a decent run that was longer than about 7 miles and even those never felt comfortable.

This year started with long cycling miles and again no running. After the century in March I started running again. Nothing hurt, but it was hard because I hadn't been running regularly for so long. I was starting from zero and it was discouraging.

When I made up our training schedule for the Chicago Marathon I decided that we needed to have lots and lots of runs in the 13-16 mile range. After about a half dozen of those, it no longer feels unnatural to run for hours at a time. Sure, for several reasons there's a lot of walking involved but I'm doing the miles and they're not killing me.

Saturday, Anita and I ran almost 16 miles. We met in Danville way too damn early, 6:15 am. The plan was to run the 8 mile street route that included a couple of hills, then do out-and-backs on the Iron Horse. Unbelievably, it seemed if not easy, then at least not hard. The air was the clearest it's been for ages and for the first couple of hours my breathing was smooth enough for me to blab nonstop. When we finished I was tired, exhausted even, but nothing hurt.

Today I don't even feel like I ran long miles. My lungs don't hurt, my legs don't hurt and even after yet another sleepless night I'm not tired. Yay!

Yesterday afternoon I spent several hours with my mom. She's in an assisted living facility in Oakland that's for dementia patients. Mentally she's the sharpest she's been since all this started, but I think she's still a good 20% less competent than she was two months ago. Physically she's very weak, both in strength and coordination. She's probably very close to her new baseline and seemingly stable.

We've got appointments this week with her two new doctors and we'll know more afterward, including what type of living situation she'll need. I don't think that at this point she needs the very intense scrutiny and care she's receiving now but I also don't think she can live on her own. It's also unclear whether she is indeed stable, and whether any change in situation would set her back. But for now, at least I was able to talk with her. I didn't think I'd have that again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Training continues

On Saturday we ran 18 miles on the Alameda Creek Trail. Bree, Anita and I showed up to run at 6:30 am, hoping to beat the heat. We did that, but we couldn't beat the smoke from the fires blazing in the Bay Area. We were surrounded by fires to the south and fires to the east. My hopes that running near the bay would let us experience clearer air weren't realized.

The weather would have been perfect for running if not for the smoke. Even bright and early we could see the heavy haze. The sunrise was eerie red/orange and obscured. Anyway, we started slow, continued slower, and ended up walking almost the entire last mile. By then we were not only tired, we were all having breathing problems (especially me). But we got the miles in, had some great conversations and enjoyed being able to get out there and spend more than 4 hours on our feet. We are indeed fortunate to be able to do that.

Today was the annual Oakland A's Stitch 'n' Pitch game. Our large crowd from past years dwindled down to ... me. Luckily my bro and his family decided to take a break too and they joined me. It was "Turn Back the Clock Day" with a whole 80 year nostalgia theme (including the uniforms) and they gave away pretty cool jerseys. The SnP premium was a strange little drawstring backpack shaped like a shirt, with the A's logo and the SnP logo. We weren't going to stay for the entire game since we had other things that had to get done.

I'm a very unlucky sports fan. I won't watch my favorite teams on television since they always, always lose when I do. When I show up in person my average is still pretty low, although I've seen one or two winning games. So when it began to look like the A's were falling apart, we left. I was quite gratified to see they ended up winning, all because we left.

The latest mom news is that on Friday she was discharged from the hospital and taken to what might be, may be, could be her final home. It's an assisted living facility near Lake Merritt in Oakland which specializes in dementia residents. It's also one of only two such facilities in the area with a vacancy, that we thought would accept my mom. It would be much worse if it doesn't work out. It's been very hard for me to accept that she isn't going home, that she'll spend the rest of her life in a dingy little room that won't fit any of her treasures that she's spent her life collecting. I cry every time I think of it. In fact, I'm crying now. I can't believe it's come to this.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More of the same again

Somehow last week slipped away without my noticing it. Another week of not enough exercise, not enough sleep and mom still in the hospital. My Saturday planned run of 17-18 miles became a slow run:walk of 11 miles. Since that was 7 miles longer than I wanted, I was satisfied. It doesn't hurt the training schedule because I've built so many long runs into it that it doesn't matter if we backtrack one week.

The best part of the week was Sunday. I couldn't sleep Saturday night so I got up and did my paperwork, bills and filing until about 3 am. I went to bed for about 4 hours and got up and cleaned house. I haven't done any housework since the whole mom-in-the-hospital thing started over a month ago so it's wonderful having a clean, relatively dust-free environment for living. I cleaned, did laundry, ran errands and felt like I had accomplished more than I have in ages.

My mom isn't progressing at all. While she has some times when she isn't aggressive or violent she hasn't had any times where she's living in the present and knows what is going on. She's confused, paranoid and angry. She finally managed to lose one of her very expensive hearing aids, so I removed the other one since she can't remember to use them correctly anyway. Along with her mind she's lost lots of weight (which would thrill her if she realized it), muscle and balance. The doctor keeps trying different meds but my mom doesn't always agree to take them since she thinks she's being poisoned. She calls me and with slurred words talks nonsense about things that happened 30 years ago. It's heartbreaking. I can't see an end to this or any happy solution.

Monday, August 3, 2009

More of the same

Things with mom aren't improving at all. She's still in County, still being tied to the bed at times, still being drugged senseless medicated, still delusional and confused and confrontational and violent. Let's not forget pitiful, which she is in large measure. Many of you have had the bad fortune to have to walk through a nursing home, hearing the old folks babbling incoherently, seeing them tied to wheelchairs or left in bed. You might have been lucky that your reason for being there didn't involve one of those sad elders, or maybe you just weren't emotionally vested in their well-being. Let me tell you, it's a whole lot of different when it's someone you love. Someone you know very well, someone who depends upon you to see that they're ok, to make sure they're treated right, to soothe them and console them if they're frightened or confused. You have to tell your loved one that no, you can't take them home. No, they have to stay there. It hurts, and their violent reaction can hurt worse.

Anyway, her doctor is trying a(nother) new medication. Hopefully this will be the one that calms her down. The doctor has said that it's ok if she's hallucinating and delusional, as long as she isn't violent. Great.

I was able to take a break this weekend. Since my mom currently hates me and the sight of me just agitates her worse, I stayed away from the hospital. Instead, I went for a run.

Saturday morning I met up with Anita and Bree for a planned 14-15 miler. I wanted to run at least 14 miles and since we haven't met our mileage goals yet, we decided to set the goal higher and then when we wanted to stop early, we'd still have our miles complete. Circuitous thinking, but if it works then who cares. We met in Danville with the plan of running the old street route of 8 miles and finishing on the Iron Horse. We took off on time (since all of us have this being-on-time thing and tend to arrive early). The air was cool, the sun was rising, the wind was light and fresh.

We ran the route with mostly a 4:1 run:walk pattern. There were two hills that we each took at our own pace; Bree and I walked a goodly portion and Anita blasted away. We did a little detour at the end because I didn't want to get back to start without a full 8 miles. We refueled, watered up (and down) and were on our way. We headed south along the trail, meaning to get the sunnier part done first. Bree decided to let us go on ahead and so we did.

I don't even remember what the plan was for the mileage there, but we kept on running. The wind was in our face on the way out and I knew it would be better going the other way. There was a lot of walking involved, probably more along the lines of 3:2. It helped with breathing and energy. When we got back we discovered that we had completed about another 6 miles, leaving only a short out and back to finish.

We met up with Bree, ran:walked a bit with her and then without her. The trail was crowded at that point, lots of runners, cyclists, families, dogs. We ended up with a lot of dodging and excuse me's and hi's and coming throughs and on your lefts and good mornings and cute dog! And we went slower and slower. At about the 1 mile mark we turned around and staggered back. It was literally "let's run to the next street. No, let's run to that tree. Ok, we can make it to the bench. Keep going until the garbage can. Well, let's run until the dogs. Oh, we might as well run to the corner." Walk walk run run. We ran in the last couple of tenths, I looked at Mr. Garmin and realized that to get a nice round number we'd have to keep going. I knew that we had been in a couple of places without reception and we had more than likely already run the full amount but we ran on, me staring at my wrist until the numbers changed to 16 miles.

Holy schmoley, we were tired. We had done more walking than makes me happy but if it had been a race we would have been well within the cut-off times. My legs had that strange tingley blood-moving feeling from my bruised toes to my hips, but they didn't hurt. I was a little overheated, a little dehydrated and a lot nauseous. We hung out for a while to cool down and chat, congratulated ourselves on getting it done and scattered on our ways.

Sunday I had another break when I met with Claudia for mani/pedi's and dinner. I hadn't cut my nails since the pedi in Vegas and I was way overdue. It was restful and soothing and my toes are nice and pretty (even the one where the nail will probably fall off within the next week - ew). Afterward we had a little champagne tasting with appetizers and then Mexican food (a huge chicken burrito), the best meal I've had for weeks. We caught up on everything in our lives and then Claudia let me babble on (and on) (and on) about my mom and it helped enormously to get it out of my system. I drove away feeling relaxed and, dare I say it, happy. Thank you Ms. C!

Then it was time to get back into the real world with doctors and nurses and banks and bills and no checks yet and assisted living places and -- oh yeah -- my job. The break was much needed, much appreciated and will allow me to retain a bit of hope for normalcy for a while longer.