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Friday, May 8, 2015

Back at It - The Frederick Running Festival

Hyner View scared me. A lot. I wasn't able to train at all in between Hyner and Frederick because of the concussion. Technically, if you ask my doctor, I shouldn't have run Frederick at all....but let's not talk about that. Frederick was a big deal and even more so coming off a DNF. I planned to run my first challenge; back to back races with extra sweet bling as a reward.

The Frederick Nut Job Challenge is a 5K and half marathon about 12 hours apart. Not exactly the Dopey Challenge, but cut a girl some slack. I needed to drive down there to get my race packet on Saturday anyway, so why not run the 5K while I was at it. Spoken like a true, crazy runner.

Packet pick up was quick and the race shirts are soft and comfortable. These are some of my favorite race things. They're right up there with the spectators that hold out tissue boxes during cold weather races. On point.

The 5K was pretty uneventful, which is fine with me. The sun was pretty brutal, especially on the loop back, and my lack of sunglasses made me seriously regret that decision. Despite a wicked (probably sun and concussion related....ugh) headache that crept up in the last mile, I finished in 34:00 exactly. I'll take it.

The next morning, Jeff and I left the house at 5AM to pick up Nicole and head down to the race. We were slightly panicked about making it in time, but were pleasantly surprised with how easy parking was when we got there. We parked in a field and walked about 200 yards to the starting line. What is easier than that?! Corrals were not predetermined, but instead broken up by pace time and marked by signs and pace teams. This is what I love about this running festival - small town feeling, but all the perks and ease of a "big" race! Plus, who starts a race with a hot air balloon launch?! Amazing.

Knowing the potential for some hot weather, I decided to break out my Camelbak again to stay hydrated. I also brought sunglasses this time! With a 7AM start time, there was still a lot of sun to come up.

The race course itself was easy, scenic, and lined with neighborhoods of excited spectators. Again, small race, big feel. The first few miles of any race are pretty awful for me, but after the first 5K or so, I'm warmed up and ready to roll. This time, the thing that got me over the hump and into smooth sailing? Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. Seriously. Mile three water station gave out freaking chocolate munchkins. I didn't care what else happened - those little things hit the spot.

The rest of the race was comfortable and fun. I wasn't staring at the clock the whole time (goodness knows I wasn't looking down at my feet...) and I could just watch the other runners, check out the spectator signs, and take food from strangers. No, really - there were families handing out fruit, candy, and drinks along the course that ran through neighborhoods. Gummy bears at mile 8? Yes, please!

I got a little ache in my right ankle towards the end, which slowed me down a bit, but nothing to get upset over. I headed up the last hill to the fair grounds and still had a smile on my face. Besides, this "hill" had nothing on Hyner! I finished with a respectable 2:34:22. Not bad for running against doctor's orders.

By the time I finished, Jeff and Nicole had already gotten their medals and were waiting for me. We got our beer, then sat down and enjoyed some of the live music before heading home.

I absolutely loved running Frederick and hope to come back next year. I can't emphasize enough how simple, friendly, and organized this race was. You could really enjoy running because you weren't worried about all the logistics. There were no parking issues, shuttles to catch, crazy bag check lines, port o potty wars....none of it. You came, you ran, you partied. The way it should be. Thanks Frederick for a great race!

Friday, May 1, 2015

I'm Not Qualified for This Job...

Have you ever been thrown into a job that you were completely unqualified to do, but had to do anyway? I know that can describe parenting in general, but it's been extra obvious to me as of late as we continue to navigate Charlie's diagnosis and what that means for him.

The thing about Autism that I never realized before now is that there is no "Autism doctor." There is no one specialist that you go to for your Autism appointment to address your Autism at regular check up intervals. In reality, there is an unending list of therapists with varying specialties, a thousand theories and methods to address, treat, and even "cure" the disorder, and don't even get me started on getting all of this covered by insurance. There is literally everything from dieticians, to physicians, teachers, therapists, to heck...swim instructors, camp directors, and horseback riding programs, all toting their methodology as being best for children on the spectrum.

Where do you even start? What is right for your child? I'll be the first to admit - right now, I have no idea what is best for my child. I don't know what he needs; I don't know how he's feeling and he won't/can't tell me.

While we are waiting on his medical assistance paperwork to be approved (commence breath holding...) all we can do is try to support his anxiety and behaviors at home. The struggle never seems to end though; is this because he's four and four year olds are unruly at times? Or "is this the Autism..." Which just feels awkward and dehumanizing to think of in that way. Essentially wondering, is this normal? Should we challenge him on xyz because it'll help him grown and learn? Or will challenging him on this particular thing hurdle him into a panic attack?

Might as well flip a coin, because your guess is as good as mine.

The truth, a truth I can't seem to get through my head, is that it doesn't matter what typical development looks like anymore. Typical is not necessarily typical for Charlie. Sure, he'll adhere to some trajectories, but for the most part, he is going to be on his own path through his own forest. Maybe my frustration isn't frustration at all; maybe it's fear that we will lose him in that forest.

As the past several months have gone by, Charlie has started to shut out activities he once enjoyed like puzzles, Legos, and coloring (not writing, just coloring). He spends an obsessive about of time each day focused on letters; spelling, saying, writing, pointing out letters. 

Most attempts to leave the house have turned from resistance to sobbing meltdowns. Over the past few weeks, he's developed a few new stim/tic type behaviors that friends have suggested, coupled with the shutting down behavior, could be anxiety from moving and/or Ginny's surgery. It breaks my heart to know he's hurting or confused, but doesn't know how to process or communicate it.

This is where I feel unqualified for this job. I don't know how to help him right now. I want to think that getting medical assistance and starting some kind of therapy or getting a TSS will be the magic bullet, but I know it won't be. It's only part of the equation.

They say that a bumblebee, when considering the laws of aerodynamics, shouldn't be able to fly, but being unaware of those laws, it flies anyway. So much of this has to do with us, Jeff and me, realizing and accepting that to Charlie, his world is completely normal and any insinuation contrary to that comes from us and others around him. Even if I can't do anything else right now, I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hyner View Challenge: My 1st DNF

It happens to everyone at some point, I suppose. That awful moment when they rip the tracker off your bib and mark down that you Did Not Finish. The reasons are all different, but the sinking feeling of failure is the same...

The Hyner View Challenge is not for the faint of heart. It's a 25K trail race through the mountains of the Bald Eagle mountain range. Even in the best of weather, it's a brutal, wet, uphill struggle to the end. Comprised of three mountains (Humble Hill, Psycho-Path, and SOB) - a total 4,200 feet of elevation gain. With over 20 stream crossings and sections steep enough to have you on hands and knees, grabbing at trees and roots for stability, it isn't like any other race I'd done before.

I'm not necessarily new to running, but from the moment I got to the starting line and looked around, I realized that trail running and road running were two very different worlds. There were no costumes or tutus on these runners, no - there were only gear packs, hiking boots, and lots of preparation for God knows what they'd find over the next several hours.

The first mile was on road - crossing a bridge to get to the trail head. Once we hit the start of the trail, everything stopped. All 1,200 runners bottle necking to a single file line as we entered the route. Not what I was expecting. Once we got through, another mile or two were spent along a cliff side, still in single file. What kind of race is this again? My Garmin was practically crying, clocking 25-30 minute miles as we trotted along the thin trail. got hard. I would take 25K along the cliffside to avoid the nightmare that was Humble Hill. Every few hundred feet, you thought you were getting to the top; only to turn a slight curve and see another several hundred feet straight up the path. I have never been in so much pain - climbing a mile straight up a hill is no joke. Thankfully, I was with a friend - Emmy. She had not only done Hyner the year before, but had been training on these hills since she lived in the area. Whether she will admit it or not, she got my ass up that hill.

"Slow down if you have to, but don't stop. You can't stop. Just keep going." she said, over and over. I stopped several times and she was right - it was hard to get started again. At the top of Hyner View, we'd hit only about 4 miles, meaning there was two mountains and about 12 miles more to go. Insane, right? But really, check out this view.

The aid station at the top was amazing. Water, every flavor of gatorade, sandwiches, pretzels, candy, name it. They were filling water bottles and Camelbaks, giving out bandaids, and checking on runners. The volunteers were wonderful and so encouraging. I had to stop for a selfie before hitting the road again...

Jen was here.
The way down was actually kind of fun. Some were so steep I swore my toes would burst through the front of my shoes, others were flat enough to have a run at it. The next two sections, The Hollow and Johnson's Run, were the most beautiful and enjoyable, but unfortunately for me, the most dangerous.

The Hollow was the valley between the two mountains. It was gorgeous; tremendous trees gave off much needed shade and cool streams jetting in all directions across the basin floor. The Hollow is also where you get wet. Emmy told me it would happen. She said, "I don't have time to stay dry. You're going to get wet, so just get wet" as she barreled through a stream, around a few runners trying to balance their way across on fallen logs. Truthfully, the cold water felt wonderful on my already sore feet, so I didn't mind sloshing through the shin deep water.....over and over again.

After The Hollow, we started up hill again. Johnson's Run and Psycho-Path are a fairly horrible combination of climbing over, under, and around trees and rocks. It also means climbing straight up a hill made of river rocks, mud, and wild branches. This was also, unfortunately, when the temperature began to skyrocket past the anticipated high of 70* to a sweltering mid-80's nightmare. Fifteen degrees doesn't sound like much, but when you're exerting this much energy, it can wreck your plans to have a good time.

When I run, I look up. I learned early on to not look at my feet; it's just road - it'll be there. This, was different though. Anytime I tried to focus on what was in front of me, I found myself slipping and tripping on what was directly under me; the terrain was too unpredictable. Walking at full speed ahead, I was looking down as I navigated across a patch of mud and sticks. With my hat on, I never saw it coming. A full size tree, laying horizontally about three feet off the ground, was an easy obstacle to duck under, but instead, I ran right into it head first.

The impact rang down my neck and into my shoulders, knocking me on my back. I stood up, what felt like instantly, and stood there for a second. People ran to me asking if I was okay, which surprised me because it didn't seem like a big deal. I remember walking, I remember hitting my head, I remember falling. Somewhere in there, I must have blacked out for a second because apparently it was a pretty loud, hard thunk.

I kept going; I wasn't in pain and felt fine, so why not? It was only mile 7 and there was plenty of race left. This is where things went down hill, fast. The ascent to the peak of the second mountain was grueling. Climbing over rocks and having to grab trees to keep moving forward. I found a walking stick at one point to give me leverage. About a mile out from the mile 9 aid station, things got fuzzy. I suddenly felt like I was hit by a truck - my head, neck, and shoulders ached and I was dizzy and nauseous. I hadn't even considered the head thunk and thought I was dehydrated.

As I climbed the last few hundred feet, I could no longer move my head or open my mouth; everything was stiff. I got to the top and found Emmy. I could hardly speak and the look on my face must have told her something was not right. She pointed to the aid station and I walked over. I told them something was wrong and they sat me down. I told Emmy to go ahead, I'd catch up. She was in it for time, I just wanted to finish. No reason to hold her up while I got myself together.

My temp was 101, my O2 saturation was in the 80's, and my blood pressure was the rock bottom of normal. After talking to me for a few minutes, the EMS volunteer in charge told me that she wasn't comfortable letting me continue, especially with another 7 miles to go. A race volunteer came over and took my bib tracker - I was done. I wanted to cry, but the truth was that I was so out of it and scared with how I felt that I was relieved to be getting help.

I wish I had more pictures to share of this beautiful race course. Unfortunately, I spent the rest of the day in the hospital getting fluids and being monitored for what ended up being a concussion. I know better than to run with my head down, but this terrain tripped me up (literally and figuratively). After some time in the hospital and a few days of rest, I felt better, but apparently healing from a concussion can take several weeks.

In related news, concussions suck. Headaches, confusion, forgetfulness - all things that I do not need in my life, especially this time of year at work. Now, a few weeks later, the headaches are gone and the forgetfulness/confusion is going away as well.

Honestly, I don't think I'll attempt Hyner again. Having gone up two of those three mountains was enough for me to gain a huge amount of respect for the people who complete it, year after year. I think I'll stick to road races; fewer trees to hit. I'll leave the trail races to the crazy awesome trail runners who make it look easy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cleaning Up the Drafts

When I logged back in this past weekend, I created a new post, typed it up, and submitted it. Once you submit a post, you get a view of your overall post dashboard. There were a lot of drafts; ideas in various states of fulfillment. Some were a paragraph, some just titles with a few bullet points I wanted to cover. There are posts about crafts, kids, DIY, running....the whole nine. I'll delete a few, write a few, and create more I'm sure.

I guess my question is, what do you want to read? What do you want to know? Help me get out of this writing funk!

For your contribution, here is a cute kid picture. Enjoy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Three Months

Wow, worst post and run ever. I didn't mean to go missing for over three months, but here we are. The truth is, I just didn't feel like writing. I started this post over and over, but had no motivation to actually write. Call it a blogging depression. Wait, I think that's called writer's block? I don't know. With so much going on around here, I guess I've done a lot more thinking than writing, but I think it was for the best.

So where have I been?

Since Charlie's diagnosis in December, we've had his IEP meeting and gotten services started at daycare. He receives speech once a week and specialized instruction and occupational therapy each twice a month on alternating weeks. While helpful, these services focus on school goals, not home/life goals, so it's a little...spotty. Because of this, we feel like we are floating in an awkward purgatory of knowing there is more we can do for him, but being completely unequipped to do anything about it. As educated and well meaning parents, this has made Jeff and me feel really crappy.

Thankfully, in this awful settling stage, we've made connections with other parents who find themselves in a similar situation and though we obviously wish this club on no one, it's comforting to know we're not alone.

Once Charlie is set up with medical assistance, we'll be able to get him additional services and maybe even a TSS to help get us on track at home. Otherwise, he's doing wonderfully. He has been healthy all winter, has developed a slight obsession with Legos and space, and starts soccer in a few weeks.

Ginny is doing well, just turned two! I'll recap her birthday soon (seen as I never did a post for Charlie's last October). She is talking up a storm and has been developing such a fun imagination, mostly surrounding her love of baby dolls and taking care of them. Unfortunately, she's scheduled for surgery in a few weeks, but more on that in another post after her pre-op appointments.

Jeff and I are doing great. In January, Jeff got a job managing a new sporting goods store in the area and we've both been doing a lot more running - even ran a race together! We're planning another Disney trip for the fall, working on some heavy spring cleaning, and finding time to be together amongst the madness. The less great news is that I haven't had much time to do any kind of craft or project, which has me feeling pretty blah. Hopefully, with summer coming, I will find time to make something.

So that is the brief update. I'm hoping to fill in the gaps and catch up over the next...however long. This time without three months radio silence. I promise.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A New Shamrockin' PR

Despite it being an amazing race, my screwed up footwear at the Annapolis Running Classic put me in a boot through most of the winter. It's easy to make excuses to not run in the ice and snow, but I spent most of the time aching (literally) to get outside. I am one of those weirdos who LOVES running in the ice cold. Subfreezing? Bring it on. I'd much rather shiver than sweat! The boot, however, dictated my laziness.

The boot finally came off sometime in January and it was time to get back at it. A 5K here and there and some training runs were pretty unmotivated. I needed a race to train for. Sarah suggested the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach - a tremendous, organized, and super flat half with a killer expo. Sounded like the perfect race to get me back into things.

The Yuengling Shamrock race series has been going on for quite a number of years, but was more recently acquired by J&A Racing and turned into the behemoth running extravaganza that it is today. Approximately 20,000 runners descend upon an otherwise sleepy, off season Virginia Beach for three days of running, shopping, and of course, delicious Pennsylvania beer.

I chose to run the half, while Sarah ran the Dolphin Challenge (8K + half). Since Sarah was running the 8K on Saturday, I volunteered to give out medals at the finish line. Coolest. job. ever. Let me tell you, these medals weigh a TON when you have 40 of them on your arm.

After the morning run, there was more beach and expo to see. That night, Sarah, her brother Adam, and I loaded up on the carbs at the hotel's pasta buffet dinner, laid out our gear for the morning, and headed to bed early - 4AM was coming quickly. I decided to wear my Under Armour Infrared hoodie and tights like I did in Annapolis. Paired with my sparkly green skirt and rainbow leg warmers, I was ready to sham...rock.

The thing I consistently noticed about Shamrock was that J&A were incredibly, unwaveringly organized. From signage to bag check to race set up, I always felt like I knew what was going on and things went smoothly. We took the hotel's transportation to the race and then walked to the starting line. We got there pretty early, so we hunted down a bathroom and found a hotel lobby to stay warm in. The weather was mild, but still felt chilly that early in the morning.

Being Adam's first half, he and Sarah had planned to stick together and keep a good study pace, but not rush it. Me, on the other hand, was poised and ready to haul ass to the finish line. We started, and off I went. I felt good, really good. I looked at my first mile time and had a slight panic attack - a 10:40 mi/mi. Eeeek! Too fast, too fast. At least I thought so. Mile two: 10:44. Mile three: 10:51. Mile after mile I was staying around 10:40-50.

Coming down Atlantic Avenue, with about a mile left, my legs turned to lead. The cramps were horrible. I knew I had such little left to go and no one walks on the boardwalk! Maybe it was the friendly neighborhoods handing out candy, fruit, and mimosas, maybe it was the beach air, maybe it was the ridiculously flat course, but somehow, I was able to maintain an average of 10:55 mi/mi throughout the race and finished with a PR crushing 2:23:55 - nearly 6 minutes off my previous record at Hershey.

I wanted to cry. I flew over the finish line, grabbed my medal and goodies, and hobbled my way to the beach with a much deserved beer. I miss the beach so much; it'd been years since I sat on the sand. This was the perfect end to a race that I was truly proud of.

And thank goodness they give you a beach towel at the end because the minute you stop running, you freeze your buns off. After regaining some of the feeling in my legs, there was one last thing I needed to do before leaving the finish line area...


What an amazing weekend. Shamrock is going to be a pretty tough time to beat, but it's just a new challenge to tackle. Thank you J&A for a fabulous race! See you next year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nothing Has Changed, Yet Everything Has Changed

Emily Pearl Kingsly wrote a short story that became a beacon for a group of parents around the world. She asked the reader to imagine planning a fabulous trip to a place they've always wanted to go. You read the guide books, make lists of what you want to see and do, and learn the language. Imagine that you pack your bags and set off on your trip, but when you arrive, you're not in the place you'd been planning for; you're in a different place and can't leave. It's not a bad place, but it's not at all the place you'd expected to end up.

Kingsly's story, "Welcome to Holland" illustrates the shock, confusion, and grief of finding out that your child has special needs.

On Thursday, Charlie was diagnosed with Autism.

Whether we'd openly admit it or not, Jeff and I have always known in our hearts that something was different about Charlie. As our first child, it's always been an internal battle of wondering and worrying what was normal, what was concerning. Were we expecting too much? Were we making excuses for concerning behaviors?

When the evaluation process began a few weeks ago, I posted about his upcoming appointment, but never follow up about it. I was waiting to hear the whole story before attempting to retell it and even now, it's still a jumbled mess in my head. That day, he met with a psychologist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. They played, they talked, did puzzles, and colored while I met with a case worker who asked me questions for about 2 hours. Coupled with his preschool teacher's evaluation and the therapists' experience that day, they concluded that Charlie has developmental delays surrounding cognition, language, and sensory self regulation and that he qualified for several types of therapy and special education instruction.

Charlie doesn't converse with us like a 4 year old should because he doesn't fully understand what we're saying. He's very intelligent, but without being able to process and communicate, it's all trapped in his head. Covered with a thick layer of anxiety, the psychologist said that the world is a pretty overwhelming and confusing place for Charlie. She said that he has many skills, but that without therapy, he won't have access to them. She also said that their interactions that day concerned her and that she wanted to conduct the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule); the "gold standard" in testing for Autsim spectrum disorders.

Last Thursday, December 18th, we returned for the ADOS. Charlie met with the same group as before and gave them all hugs when he saw them again. "Mommy's friends" he called them. I sat in a little room connected to the assessment room and could hear them talk and play through the two way glass. At first, all I could hope was that he passed everything with flying colors, but as the test went on and I heard them having the same one-sided, confusing conversations with Charlie as we do at home, my heart settled. They were seeing exactly what we were seeing; we weren't asking the wrong questions or talking to him in the wrong way.

At one point, they tried to get him to play with a doll house. "Do you want to be the Mommy or the Daddy?" they asked, holding up little plastic figures. He ignored them, arranging and rearranging the furniture. When he finally took a figure, he mimicked the motions and sounds of "play," but was obviously confused as to what they wanted him to do. Again and again through the little interactions and conversations, he came up quiet, confused, or focused on arranging/counting/spelling instead.

After about 90 minutes, they went to discuss and came back in with their findings. This is the part where I remember bits and pieces, but most of it is a blur. The psychologist said that Charlie has a really, really hard time interacting with others. He isn't sure how to read people or situations, doesn't take part in conversations, and has a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. Socially and cognitively, he is on par with a much younger child. She said that she was diagnosing him with Autism. She said that based on the language and skills that he does have, therapy will help tremendously, but that this would be a long road of keeping him on the right track developmentally.

We talked about services, went through a huge stack of resource materials, and they answered whatever questions I could cobble together in my spinning head. The psychologist could tell I was overwhelmed; anyone would be.

"Go home," she said, "Enjoy the holiday and we'll talk about the details in the new year. Oh, and Mom," she added, "You get wine with dinner tonight."

So here we are in Holland. It's not where we'd planned to be, but where we feared we'd end up. We are heartbroken and anxious, but getting the diagnosis also gave an odd sense of relief. We could finally stop worrying and wondering and start doing and helping. Nothing has really changed, he's still Charlie, he's still the same exact person he was before. The only thing that has changed is our level of understanding and information about him and what he needs.

As confident as that sounds, I go back and forth between grieving the loss of the future we thought Charlie would have and being at peace that we can do this and he will be successful in his own right. And back and forth and back and forth. I'm scared and I'm already exhausted just thinking of the road ahead filled with therapy, special schooling, routine changes....and not letting it all absorb so much of our lives that we forget we have a second child.

Today, I'm having an "at peace" day. This morning, at least. I found this quote yesterday and it almost put me in tears. I find it appropriate that it's by Joseph Campbell, as I feel like Charlie's diagnosis is my call to adventure. I don't claim to be an epic hero by any means, but we are certainly embarking on a life changing journey.