Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Running, and running, and running

I'm in my final week of long miles and hard runs. I'll probably end up with a bit over 50 miles again this week, including a 20-miler on Sunday. I'm doing well. My right Achilles tendon continues to be a bit sore, but I'm trying to be smart, and cautious, and yet get my miles run. I'm encouraged I've been able to keep the tendon from getting more sore. I actually think it's improved over the course of this week. That's a relief.

I'm feeling encouraged about the Twin Cities Marathon as well. I ran a hard, 10-mile, marathon pace run today, and I was able to hit my pace for 7 miles. (Used the other 3 miles for warming up and cooling down.) It hurt, but I was able to bear the discomfort, mentally and physically, and I was satisfied with the result. I'm cramming in a speed workout tomorrow, as I have to work Saturday, which generally exhausts me, so I'll take a rest day on Saturday before my 20-miler on Sunday. Things are going well.

I'm looking forward to beginning my 3 week taper next week. I'll probably feel slow and fat in the week prior to the race, but I've done this enough to know to expect that. I'll try not to panic. I just got my participant information e-mail today, so I'm really getting excited. Finally, my brother just informed me he's coming to watch the race, and maybe run a couple of miles with me, which will be wonderful! I'm used to doing everything associated with my marathons solo, including the training, the expo, the travel and the running. It will be really nice to share part of the experience for a change.

Other than running and working, I have little else going on right now. Sorry I don't have more to report, but as I've said in the past, sometimes having little to report is nice. My mood is good. I'm doing what I want to do. My furniture is still dusty (see last post), but my mood is good. That's way more important than dust!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Little sore, little lazy

After a good 20-miler last Sunday, I am now officially signed up to run the Twin Cities Marathon on October 6th. Unfortunately my right Achilles tendon did get a bit sore from approximately miles 18-20, so I've taken a few extra running days off this week.

Instead of running as scheduled I attended a killer spin class on Tuesday and rode my ElliptiGo on Wednesday. I ran pain free Thursday and today. I'm looking forward to a 15K race I have scheduled for tomorrow. Next week I'll be back into high mileage, 50+ for the week including another 20-miler, prior to beginning my taper for the marathon.

I can tell I'm in the meat of my training cycle, as I've been very lazy around my house. I have little motivation to do just about anything around here. I'm doing fine at work. Running is going well. But when I'm home, it's been a chore to do any, well, chores.

My house is fairly neat. That's pretty easy when you're a household of one, but "dust" and "clean bathroom" have been on my to-do list for at least two weeks! Prompts to vacuum and mow the lawn also spent more time than necessary on that list, but at this point they're done. It took herculean effort to cross them off, though. I've just been lazy.

I've experienced this before when training for other marathons, but it seems more pronounced this time. Maybe it's just because I'm older. Maybe training is taking more out of me than I think. Or maybe I'm just lazy. I suspect it's a little of both.

Of course feeling lazy and unmotivated always makes me concerned about my mood. These feelings, after all, are incredibly familiar. So I'm keeping a watchful eye on my mood. Fortunately, at this point other symptoms, which typically accompany a drop in my mood, have not presented themselves. That's somewhat reassuring. Nevertheless, I'll keep paying attention.

I'll also keep running. And eventually I'll probably clean the bathroom, too. Or not...

Saturday, August 31, 2019

32.5 + 20

It's funny. As I sit here today, thinking about tomorrow, I feel butterflies in my stomach. No, I'm not running another race tomorrow. That's next Sunday. I've got butterflies because tomorrow I'm scheduled to run my first 20-mile training run since 2016. The long, long road between 20-milers is about to come to an end. I'm excited, and anxious, and ready. I think.

Twenty miles. I've already run 32.5 miles this week, so not only will this be my longest run, it will also be my highest weekly mileage total in well over 2 years. I haven't yet signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon, which is the first Sunday in October. I wanted to wait until I had at least one healthy 20-miler under my belt prior to registering. Hopefully I'll be an official registrant by tomorrow afternoon.

I'm excited the Twin Cities Marathon is in sight. I'm ecstatic to be relatively healthy this far along in my training. Of course my legs are tired and my feet are calloused, but that's all normal. I've got some soreness in both Achilles, but I'm taking care of them, babying them, actually. I'm able to run pain free, and that's huge. As I've said in just about every recent post (sorry about that), I'm extremely grateful to be running and training again.

I'll have several hours to reflect on the last several years while I'm out there running tomorrow. Twenty miles. It's going to be difficult, mentally and physically. Twenty miles always is. But I'm certain I will also experience satisfaction, gratitude and perhaps even joy intermingled with the pain. That's the beauty of marathon training, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't wait!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Unexpected Rewards

I ran a 1/2 Marathon yesterday. It started and finished only 1/2 mile from my house, and I had a 13 mile training run scheduled, so how could I not participate? I had no idea what to expect, but at the same time I was anxious to see what I could do. There was no tapering. In fact I ran 18 miles just 6 days before the race, but I thought it was worth it to test myself, nevertheless.

The Healthy Human Race was a medium sized race. Unbeknownst to me, it was also a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) regional championship race. The RRCA is a nationwide organization which sponsors yearly state, regional, and national championship races in a variety of distances. Yesterday's race was the Central Region 1/2 Marathon Championship. Whatever... I paid no attention to that. I was there to see if my marathon training was on track and to test myself in a race.

The race went surprisingly well. I started too fast, or so I thought, at around 8:10 pace. I felt okay so I decided to roll with it as long as I could. I'm a slow to warm-up runner so the first several miles never feel great. As a result (and as usual), I struggled with worry thoughts for the first 5-6 miles yesterday. I pushed through and was pleasantly surprised to discover I felt pretty damn good going into mile seven. Hmmm...

I did a quick body scan. My legs were tired. I could tell I was working hard, but I finally felt like I could maintain my pace. In fact, I thought I might be able to improve it. I found myself surging and ran miles 8 and 9 under 7:55 per mile. My fastest mile of the day was mile 13 at 7:46. I sprinted the last 800 meters and was a bit frustrated to be passed in the finishing chute by a young chick who came out of nowhere. My goal is to never get passed in the closing miles. It's just a little challenge I set for myself on race days.

When I crossed the finish line I knew I had run faster than I expected. I was right. I finished in 1:45:49, which is an average of 8:05 per mile. For reference, I ran 1:59 (9:05/mile) in late May and 1:52 (8:34/mile) in mid June. Running 8:05 per mile for 13.1 miles was surprising. And I wasn't totally wasted at the end, which made the effort even more satisfying. I was very happy! My training, it appears, is working. I'm getting back to being a runner again!

It was while basking in my satisfaction when things got really strange and fun. I was chatting with some friends about 45 minutes after the finish when the awards presentation began. I happened to be chatting with a very fast 61-year-old woman, so we expected her name to be announced. Her name was announced. She won the Senior Grand Master (age 60+) Regional Championship with a time around 1:38 or 1:39. Fast! However, before her name was announced, our conversation was interrupted when my name was announced! What???

I believe the presenter announced my name twice before I registered it. Totally dumbfounded, I approached the presenter with skepticism and asked, "What did you say?" Apparently all the other 50 year old women stayed home yesterday. I won the 50-59 year old age group, and therefore I am the new Central Region Female Grand Master 1/2 Marathon Champion. My extremely large, shiny gold medal is pictured below. Absolutely crazy! I still can't believe it.

The big, shiny gold medal was icing on the cake yesterday. I'm really happy with how I ran. I'm relieved to know I can still improve when I put in the work. I'm glad the work is paying off despite my advanced years. And now I have new goals, realistic goals which wouldn't have felt realistic prior to yesterday, which I will work to attain. How cool is that?

The big shiny medal was a nice surprise, but the thrill for me is in what I just described. Challenging myself, working toward a goal, meeting and exceeding the goal, and now beginning to work toward even bigger challenges; that's what drives me. Running gives me direction and brings me joy. It keeps me healthy, mentally, physically and spiritually. That's why I love running. I'm so grateful to be able to train and race again. I can't wait for the next challenge!

The big, shiny gold medal.
This is what a faster-than-expected 1/2 marathon looks like in the final sprint to the finish line. Not pretty, but very satisfying.
The Regional Champions
Me with my finisher medal and regional champ medal, still not quite believing it...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Going home

Meadowlands, Minnesota, only occupies 1/3 of a square mile. It is located in the middle of nowhere on Hwy 133 in northeastern Minnesota.When we moved in 1981 the population was 128. The population fell below 100 people in the 1990's but rebounded over the last several years and is currently listed as a robust 130 residents. When I left I was one of 24 students in my class. Five years later my class, the class of 1986, graduated just 14 students. The K-12 Toivola Meadowlands School closed after graduation in 1990. 

My two younger brothers, their families, and I returned together for the first time since we moved 38 years ago. We ran a 5K race together, laughed with long lost classmates, toured our old school, and told animated stories about what happened at every corner, on every vacant lot, and in the various wooded areas within and surrounding our old town. It was a blast! I'm so glad we went and so grateful to have shared such quality time with my brothers. 

We've arrived.
Our old house, now surrounded by a fence and in a state of disrepair. That's my old bedroom window on the second floor.
My younger brother, Brendon, and my older brother's best friend, John, who still lives in the area.
Toivola Meadowlands School (Toivola is a spot on the road about 10 miles from Meadowlands). The elementary school, on the right, was built in 1923. The high school and gymnasium were added later.
My two "little" brothers and I in front of the school, which hasn't changed one bit! It is now owned by a gentleman who lives and works out of it, and he was kind enough to allow us inside to explore. So thankful for his trust and generosity.
Younger brother, Patrick, checking out the old concession stand near the gymnasium. We were the T-M Rockets.
The girls locker room, exactly as I remembered it! I even remembered which locker was mine. 
A chalkboard sign in the boys locker room, which I discovered was 4 times the size and smelled a lot worse than the girls locker room, in case the boys forgot the score, I guess. 
The secretary to the principal's office. That's my niece's husband and my nephew discovering that the PA system still works!
The library. The neatly stacked magazines were from 2008, so not sure how or why they were there. Perhaps the town used the space for a community library for awhile?
Row of lockers upstairs in the old part of the building. The open door enters into my 7th grade social studies classroom. It's where I was when we heard President Ronald Reagan was shot.
My brothers and I in the high school hallway. Lots of dust and some water damage, but otherwise unchanged.
A surprise on the chalkboard in the science classroom. Apparently somebody from my graduating class had been inside in years past.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Meadowlands

Maybe the timing isn't the best, but my mom gave me the okay from her hospital bed, so I'm on a planned vacation in northern Minnesota. I've been looking forward to this time away for the entire summer because my brothers, at least 2 of the 3, their families, and I are traveling to our teeny tiny "hometown" to run a 5K race and reminisce. The tiny community of Meadowlands (population 128 when we left) hasn't seen this many of us since we moved in 1981! 

In actuality, Meadowlands is as close as we come to a hometown, as my two younger brothers and I moved at least twice more (not necessarily together) before we each left for college. But the time we spent in Meadowlands was crucial growing up time. We moved there when I entered first grade. We moved away after I finished 7th grade. Moving away was traumatic. I didn't want to leave.

In such a tiny town, in long ago days, our parents rarely knew where we were, and that was okay. During the long days of summer we left in the morning, maybe came home for lunch, returned for dinner, and then went back out, often until after dark. There were very few other kids to play with, so we spent a lot of time playing with each other; sports, hide and seek, burning things, biking, building things, sneaking onto the roof of the school, climbing around inside the old, burned-out theater, collecting frogs from the ponds, and generally exploring every inch of that community. It was, we all realize now, quite ideal. We were never bored. And we had a lot less to worry about then.

I'm really looking forward to returning with my brothers. I've taken a couple of trips back with a couple of different people over the years, but never with anyone who shared time with me there. I can't wait to hear their memories, especially of the experiences I may have forgotten. Sharing our little town with my nieces and nephews will be fun, too. I anticipate a lot of sarcasm, a fair amount of teasing, possibly some re-enactments, and a ton of laughter.

Look out Meadowlands, here we come!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Family Drama

I grew up with drama in a dysfunctional family. Until I got sober, my life was frequently filled with drama. Having a chronic illness sometimes creates drama. I despise drama. I strive these days to live a drama-free life. I'm usually pretty successful in this quest. I have to be. Drama isn't good for my mental health.

To stay away from drama, I fill my life with healthy people and disassociate from unhealthy relationships. I work hard to maintain healthy relationships with friends, family, and coworkers by being honest, compassionate, and forthright. Oh, and I'm pretty funny, too. That never hurts. Life isn't nearly as serious as most people think.

Unfortunately, as I'm sure you all know, sometimes drama is thrust upon us. That's where I find myself today. The drama is really my mom's, but being a daughter, it's difficult not to get sucked in. Here's the story...

My mom had major back surgery on Friday. The scheduled 7 hour surgery to fuse her lower thoracic and entire lumbar spine, in order to correct severe and debilitating scoliosis, took 10 and 1/2 hours. There were unforeseen complications which had to be addressed and which will delay her recovery. As a result, she has to remain flat for 72 hours. She's in a fair amount of pain, has unexpected weakness in one leg, and is generally as vulnerable as any of my brothers or I have ever seen her. And her husband disappeared. Drama.

Apparently my stepfather couldn't handle staying in a big city by himself. He couldn't figure out how to get around without my mom's hand holding, couldn't enter an address into a GPS device they use everyday, and oh, didn't even bother to get the name or address of my mom's hospital before he left it to find his rented room. He didn't even eat for the entire day she was in surgery.

After trying to assist the lost puppy via repeated phone calls (including reminding him to eat, advice which he ignored) I finally got my brother, who was awaiting my mom's arrival in the recovery room, to rescue him. My brother and BB, my mom's husband, stuck around until they were able to briefly talk to my mom in ICU late Friday evening. Then my brother escorted BB back to his place of lodging so he wouldn't get lost.

Well, BB apparently didn't like the looks of the parking lot and feared his car would get broken into (his explanation), so instead of staying in Minneapolis with my mom, he drove himself back to their home (3 hours away) in the middle of the night! Oh, and he had my mom's phone and all of her belongings with him, because of course, he was supposed to bring those things to the hospital!

He was supposed to stay in Minneapolis the entire week to support his wife, my mom. He left because of some fantastical fear that their car might be burglarized. Apparently the vehicle was more important than my mother. By the way, he didn't tell anyone he left.

Yesterday, my mom was concerned because it was late morning and BB still hadn't shown up or called. She asked my brother to text BB (because she didn't have her phone) and ask him where he was. They sent texts back and forth several times, with my brother even suggesting that BB take a cab rather than drive the few miles to the hospital. Not once did BB ever let on that he wasn't, in fact, in town! It wasn't until I dialed his number and gave my mom my phone that she discovered he was in Duluth, 3 hours away!

To say I'm angry is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year. I'm angry, disappointed, appalled, and disgusted. My mom has made excuses for his barely supportive behavior for years, and for the most part I've given him the benefit of the doubt, but he went way too far this time! My mom was in tears as she realized he chose improbable car vandalism over her and her very real need for support.

My mom has lived with his BS for 20 years, and even she was stunned by this glaringly selfish, inexcusable act. Let me tell you, it's hard to see your mom lying flat on her back, basically immobile, in pain, and in tears--not because of the pain--but because of the selfish callousness of the man who supposedly loves her.

My mom has taken care of this man's every need for years. He apparently can barely function outside their home without her direction. That became glaringly clear when I tried to assist him from afar while my mom was in surgery. He's had multiple medical issues and surgeries, and she has, of course, hardly left his side each time. I knew he could be a jerk, but I always thought he really loved and cared for my mom, or at least would, when the chips were down. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And I want to kill him (though I'd have to fight back my 3 brothers to get to him first)!

Attacking him, unfortunately, won't help my mom heal. My brothers and I know we need to bite our tongues, especially when he's in the room, in order to keep my mom's stress as low as possible. This is her issue to deal with right now. I'm hoping when she heals she'll be able to make a decision to get out of this relationship, as hard as I know that would be for her. She deserves better. And he has clearly proven he doesn't deserve her.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A satisfying 16

I ran 16 miles yesterday. I haven't run that far or for that long, over 2.5 hours, in well over 2 years. It's great to be training again, but I think I forgot just how tough marathon training is. The fact that it's been over 2 years since I last trained doesn't help. I'm working hard, and I'm tired.

I'm on track with my training for Twin Cities Marathon in early October, and the fatigue is setting in. My legs are tired, my back is tired, my feet are tired, even my brain is tired. But I'm not complaining. I'm running. I'm training. Of course I'm tired.

My brain, especially, is tired because I'm worried about getting injured. Every little twinge and ache scares the crap out of me. As a result, I'm babying my body like never before. It's a bit silly. So far, so good, but I am certainly feeling my age, or my long layoff from training, or both. Most likely both.

Perhaps age, lack of training, and all those injuries have taken their toll. I'm not as strong as I used to be. Unfortunately, the middle of a training cycle is not the best time to attempt to build muscle. At best, I should be able to maintain what I have, but I'm finding doing that has also been difficult. On my non-running days, like today, I have such a long list of other things to accomplish, I often don't get to the strength training I'd like to be doing. I guess I have to accept I'm a normal, aging person, with a job and other responsibilities, who can't focus all of my energy on running.

But I'm not complaining. The fact that I get to focus any of my energy on running is extremely gratifying. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be training again. Yesterday's long run was tough, but I was so pleased to finish it! As usual running proved to me I am tougher than I think.

I had to fight through the desire to cut my run short around mile 12 yesterday. I knew the immediate fatigue and discomfort might pass. I knew I'd pushed through feeling worse in the past. Running gave me that knowledge. Running taught me I can do more that I think. I can reach higher and push harder than what, in the moment, seems possible. And that's exactly what happened yesterday.

So I'm not complaining about my fatigue. I'll never complain about the number of miles I choose to run. I have been gifted another opportunity to do something I love; to strive toward goals which motivate and empower me. I'm praying my body allows me to continue running as long as running continues to challenge me, satisfy me, and bring me joy. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Feeling accomplished

I have to admit, it doesn't take too much for me to feel like I've accomplished something. Having lived with depression for 18+ years, I've learned there is no accomplishment too small to celebrate. When I feel like crap, getting out of bed is an accomplishment. But I'm feeling well now, and I'm feeling accomplished tonight.

It's a bit silly, actually. And for most people my accomplishment could be looked at as more of a failure. But not to me. It may have taken 7 years, but now it's done, so rather than flog myself for 7 years of procrastination, I choose to celebrate. And it's not artificial celebration, I truly am feeling accomplished tonight.

So what's the big accomplishment? I finished painting my lower level bathroom.Yup.That's it. Not a very big deal, and certainly something I could have been finished 7 years ago, but I finished it today instead. And I'm not talking about bare walls, either. Literally, I finished painting walls which have been half painted for seven years!

Of course there's a back story, and here it is. My basement flooded 12 years ago. At the time I had a partially finished basement, which included a 3/4 bathroom. I had to tear it all out. Every single piece of stinky, moldy drywall, lumber, carpet, flooring, and fixtures, I took a sledge hammer to it all. I heaved each piece out a small open window into my driveway. When that pile got too big I borrowed a truck, loaded it, and unloaded it all at the local dump. It was a ton of hot, dirty work.

At that time I had just enough money to have my basement waterproofed. That's all I could do for several years. Then I got a loan from the county, a loan for people who had property damage and planned to stay in their homes for at least 10 more years. I didn't think I was going anywhere for 10 years, and the terms were favorable. So I took it. That was about 11 years ago. I'm still here.

I'm still here, and my basement is still unfinished. Being a single woman in a community with a non-stop housing boom, I was wary of hiring somebody off the street to remodel my basement. I figured I'd get overcharged for questionable work. So I waited. Eight years ago I discovered the husband of one of my best friends used to be a contractor. He came and looked. And while he decided it was too much for him, he suggested his father-in-law, my friend's dad. Though he was officially retired, he and "his crew" still did projects like mine occasionally.

With my friend's eye for project design, we designed a remodel which included a large family room, a larger-than-before 3/4 bathroom, a utility room, a laundry room, and storage space. It took Dan and his crew over 6 months to do the work, and I eventually ran out of money. That was seven years ago.

All of the rooms had insulation and walls. The ceilings were finished, the doors were roughed in, and I had new plumbing and electrical throughout the basement. To finish it off, I needed a floor, trim, doors, and bathroom fixtures. I didn't have the expertise for any of that, but I did what I could in the meantime.

After I painted the large room and all of the ceilings, which took a very long time, I started on the bathroom walls. Those walls have had one coat of paint, which stopped just short of the ceiling, for seven years. It's silly. I'm not sure why I never finished them. I didn't have money to finish the remodel, but I have no reason as to why I didn't finish painting the bathroom walls!

Well, they're painted now, two coats all the way to the top. I finally have some extra cash to (hopefully) finish what began over 7 years ago. I found another retired, honest handyman who comes highly recommended. He quoted me a price I can afford, and I'm hoping to have a fully functional, beautiful finished basement within the next few months. That will be weird. Imagine how accomplished I'll feel then!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The beauty of boring

It's been awhile since I wrote a post on my phone, not since I was in the Himalayas, in fact, but I'm waiting for a hair cut so thought I might as well make good use of my time. The good news is I have very little news. I'm doing well.

My mood is great. In fact, my PHQ-9 score, the depression inventory test my doctor makes me take every time I see her, is the lowest it's been in years. Low is good! I'm really pleased about that.

Running is also going well. I ran 14 miles with Jet a couple of days ago. That was the end of a successful week. I survived despite the oppressive heat and humidity! That 14-miler was the first cooler, drier run of the entire week. In total, I ran 4 days and covered 35.2 miles. Nice.

I'm pleased I ran so many miles and lived to tell about it. I'm feeling the added miles a bit in my joints and Achilles tendons, but nothing major. Each run takes me a little longer to get going. I long for the days I used to be able to just bound out the door and down the street without a care! But that's no longer reality.

I've been taking care of my legs like the precious commodities I now know they are. I've been using ice as needed, compression, elevation, Glucosamine Chondroitin (figured it was worth a try), turmeric, strengthening and massage. In fact, I have my own massage tool, and I've been burning up the battery! It all appears to be helping, as I'm still running, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Work is also going well. I've been busy, and that's okay. I usually have one shorter day per week, which is nice. I get a lot more done during the day than I do in the evening. Once I get home from a full day of work, I have a difficult time doing much more than eating and preparing for the next day. It's nice to be able to cross things off my to-do list when I have shorter days, like today.

I apologize for the rather boring post. But as I've always said, sometimes boring is good. No depression symptoms (except for that sleep problem I wrote about in my last post), and no drama is a satisfying place to reside. I'll stay here as long as I'm allowed.



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