Kamay posted such great news yesterday, it was really inspiring to read! I hope that our readers were as inspired as I was! That being said, I was slightly dreading today. Today was Week 5, Day 3 of the C25k training program. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, it was the first day of the 5 minute warm up/run for 20 minutes/5 minute cool down routine.
I was dreading it for a very specific reason. For our readers to understand that reason, I need to tell you a story, and take you back to 2009.
In 2009, I’d already run three or four 5ks with my sister (and even once with my dad!). I’d already walked 50 miles TWICE for the National MS Society (again, with Stephanie) and was generally feeling pretty awesome, for having multiple sclerosis. I’d had a few relapses in the years since I was diagnosed in 2005, but they weren’t really that bad and I had recovered from them all well enough.
But then, in 2009, I learned a very special lesson: I learned what my relapse triggers were. Mere DAYS before I was slated to get on a plane to fly to Germany to visit my boyfriend and attend a martial arts seminar, I relapsed. Hard.
If you don’t know what an MS relapse looks like or feels like, I’ll explain it to you. Every person with MS has a different type of relapse, since the disease is found on differing spots on our brains or spinal cords, which react and effect different parts of our bodies when they are ‘activated’. Not all of the parts are activated at once, it could be one side or another, hand or foot, you never know. My relapses tend to choose a side and then that whole side of my body is out. Just out. Like it’s not even there, in that weird existence between conscious and asleep. Slightly tingling, feels really heavy, and you have no control over it.
The relapse was so bad that I had to stay home from work (they were not pleased; it really looked like a ploy to just get more vacation days… I hate that you can’t ‘see’ my disease!!) for the final two days before my trip. I could only lay on the couch. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t hold a glass of water. It was easiest to crawl when I had to get to the bathroom, although it was hard to wipe myself. Showering was definitely not happening. In fact, two of my best friends came to my rescue and bathed me in that week before I left for Germany. They washed my hair, shaved my legs, dried me off and dressed me afterwards.
You have no idea what ‘helpless’ means until you can’t sit up in a bath tub.
You have no idea who your real friends are until you need help shaving your legs and wiping your ass.
These are all amazingly humbling things to go through when you’re 27.
My friends packed my suitcase for me, dressed me, and got me on that plane. I relapsed for the entire two weeks of my visit. It was only on the last day that I was able to actually walk without assistance, and even to kind of ‘run’. It was more like hopping, since I was just getting control of my legs again. René proved to me then that he was the man I was meant to be with: he went so far as to not only buy a hair dryer and curling iron for my visit, but he stood me up in the shower, washed me, my hair, shaved my legs, and then dried and styled my hair for me. All of this from a guy I’d only spent maybe a month of my life with up until this point.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to train in that martial arts seminar. I toured the cities we were in, but at a snail’s pace. René made sure to drive me or help me everywhere, and hold onto me as we took stairs. When I wanted to try on clothes, he was in the fitting room with me, zipping me up.
To recover from a relapse takes a lot of time. And to make all of the things that happened worse, I happened to get home, get slightly back to ok, and then I pushed myself too hard on a hot day and threw myself BACK into a relapse, one month after the last one had started to subside.
Talk about a disaster. And this one was JUST as bad as the last one. It lasted almost a month; I was out of work for another 3 weeks thanks to having an office that was only accessible via stairs.
The back-to-back relapses really messed me up. I lost my near-perfect balance. Yoga became challenging, once I finally was able to get back to it the following spring. I had to re-learn almost all of my martial arts techniques, since my body was still in a state of ‘not fully cooperating’. I didn’t run, because I wasn’t able to. I’d trip over my own feet because I couldn’t feel them enough to lift them when I walked. I couldn’t stand for long periods of time and my handwriting was pretty terrible for a few months. All of the steroids and IV drips couldn’t get me ‘back to normal’. When I moved to Germany in October of that year, I was feeling at something like 80% of my former self.
I’ve lived in Germany now for 2.5 years. I haven’t had a relapse since I moved here, although I’ve come close. Now that I know my triggers, I know when to stop or to not bother. I know what to look out for. And I know what I don’t want: I don’t want that to happen again. I can’t let my body overheat, I have to get enough sleep, I can’t get stressed out. I can’t ‘keep pushing’ the way we’ve been taught to push.
So here in Germany, I’ve gone running a few times, but not for long, because my legs couldn’t handle it. I’ve only ever really run for maybe 10 minutes at a time before having to stop again because my legs were tingling. I’ve ridden my bike a lot, but that’s much easier on your body than running. I can walk all day, but running has continued to be hard for me, thanks to all of the residual crap left over from the relapses. I didn’t realize that I was actually still recovering the past two years, until today.
Today was the first time in the C25k challenge that required me to run continuously for 20 minutes without stopping.
I went into the run today expecting to walk at some point. I told myself BEFORE the run that if I didn’t make it the whole 20 minutes, it was ok. That I’d do the week over again. That it was ok to not make it. I procrastinated. I talked on Skype. But then there was nothing left to do, and I had to do the run before I lost daylight.
I went for the run.
This being week 5, I have a pretty good idea of where my minute markers are: I know when I’m about 5 minutes into the run, and 8 minutes as well. I’ve been using the same path for most days, and although I have gotten better, the intervals change enough for me to not be sure if I’m making better distance. But I know which clump of trees equals 8 minutes, and which bend in the road equals 5.
I made it past them with no problem. I was shocked when I head the ‘halfway’ notice in my headphones.
When I got to the 15-minute marker, I just about started crying. Not because I needed to stop, but because I DIDN’T need to stop. Because I felt great, and because I only had another 5 minutes to go.
Today was the first day in the entire five weeks that I’ve had NO muscle or joint pain while running.
Today was the first day that it just felt easy.
Today was the first day that I’ve run for 20 consecutive minutes in almost three years. Today was the first day that I was able to.
My distance today was only 3.9 kilometers. It’s only .2 kilometers better than my last week. It’s not a 5k yet. But it’s getting there. This is progress. It’s not a lot to the rest of the world, but it’s my progress and it’s amazing. I was so pumped that I came home and did my push ups training, and it felt easy. After that run, I felt like I could do anything. Four hours later, I still feel that way.
I was talking to an old friend the other day on Skype, and mentioned that I had to run later. He asked how long, and I said ‘about 30 minutes’. He asked how far I was going in that amount of time, and when I said about 1.5 miles, he started to give me shit, saying things like ‘oh come on, with 30 minutes you should at least be doing a 5k’. I tried to explain to him that I’m doing a training program to get back to being able to run a 5k, and he still gave me shit.
If he’d known anything about my last 3 years, he wouldn’t have said the things he said. I know he was just trying to push me to do better.
But I mention what he said because I think it’s important for all of us to remember that MY progress might not be the same as YOUR progress, or the next guy’s, or my boyfriend’s progress. Right now, my progress is being able to run for 20 minutes. Another person’s progress might JUST be getting off of the couch and going out to do that run.
Don’t let other people’s expectations of themselves cloud the insanely awesome that is YOUR progress. There’s always going to be someone out there who’s better, faster, stronger than you. There’s always going to be someone out there who wants it more than you. Let them have it. Your only competition is yourself, and the condition you were in last time. Nothing more, nothing less.
Cheers to YOUR progress. Keep going.