Hello City!

Like begets like and sitting in my chair on a beautiful day today would have meant more of the same in the near future. No run was scheduled for today, but I had the camera and workout clothes, so I changed out (to keep my work clothes from getting icky) and decided to talk a walking photo tour of my current favorite short run route in Downtown Richmond. Sadly, as soon as I got to the top of the floodwall, the most scenic spot on the whole route, the batteries in the camera died. Go figure.
14th and Cary Streets
14th and Cary Streets. The former home of These Four Walls and 10,000 Villages. This section of Cary Street and 14th have been hit very hard recently by closing businesses.
The Turning Basin
The Turning Basin at 14th and Dock Streets. One day I am going to take one of the Canal Boat rides they offer in the Spring and Summer here.
14th Street Flood Wall
This is the gate for the Flood Wall at 14th Street. It is kind of hard to imagine that they can close that gate and keep the James River at bay if necessary. I hope we never see the need to do so.
Mayo
Crossing the Mayo Bridge. The Bridge passes over Mayo Island in the middle, so this is the first half, the northern side of Mayo Bridge. Lots of birds use that sandbar in the river for shelter.
Looking West
Still on the northern side of the Mayo Bridge and I am looking west on the James River, towards Belle Isle and way off in the distance, directly behind the train bridge, is the Lee Bridge.
SouthSide
This is the southern side of Mayo Bridge, south of Mayo Island. You can see the rapids and the southern flood wall in the distance.
Looking Back
This is how the City looks as you approach it from the south on the Mayo Bridge. It was such a beautiful day.
End of the Bridge
This is the end of the Bridge and my destination. The paved switchback-like path is my goal. It takes you off the bridge and inside the flood wall to a paved path along the River.
Photobucket
This is a great spot to put in a canoe or kayak or just to walk along if you want to explore the southern bank of the River.
Under the Bridge
Peering under the bridge just to make sure no trolls are lurking under there. The Mayo Bridge is one of the oldest in Virginia; you can tell. No one decorates a bridge like this anymore. The concrete details are beautiful.
Bridge
You can see more of the bridge and its details, including the concrete obelisks in this shot, as well as the City looming up over the River to the north.
Looming
The flood wall looms large over you on this route. It is both comforting and slightly disconcerting. In the distance, you can see the top of the Southern States grain elevator behind the wall. I cut through the Southern States parking lot on the loop back to the office. The grain dust is a definite downside of this route.
Lonely
One of the reasons I love this route is it is very quiet. As you go along the paved path in the cool shade of the flood wall, you are sheltered from wind and noise. The sound of the rapids have died away. The cars that seem so loud along the bridge are hushed. The only noise I heard today was the chirping of birds and the hushed sound of large vehicles off to the east on I-95.
Train Gate
Trains have gates in the flood wall as well. Just beyond the train tracks, the solid concrete wall comes to an end and the flood wall becomes a massive hill of rocks and earth, leading east towards I-95.
Steep
I am not kidding when I say the flood wall gets steep. This is looking up at the top of the rock/earthen flood wall from the lowest point on the paved path.
JRB
This is the I-95 James River Bridge that I cross twice a day, every day. Since I started running this particular route, I watch it keenly when we head home and can see it as we drive south. The bridge looks smaller from my perspective on my runs, and the path I run on looks miniscule from way up there on the bridge on the ride home.
Flood Wall Hill Part 1
Now it is time to go from River Level to the top of the flood wall. The hill is climbed in two parts. This is the easier part.
Road to the Sun
I call the second half of the climb the “Road to the Sun.” I have yet to run up this hill without having to stop to walk.
Hello City
This was the last photo I got before the camera died on me. I am almost on the same elevation as the James River Bridge, and it was a nice view of Richmond on a particularly beautiful day.

While the route is a lonely one, it is not too isolated. I see a couple of people along the way every time I go; tourists, runners, and today, people out fishing and canoeing. Two weeks ago, a bald eagle soared above me as I closed in on the Southern States grain facility. Today, one of the peregrine falcons tailed along behind me for much of the distance. Almost impossible to see in the view screen, I took several desperation shots to see if I could score just one decent photo. Here are the only two that you can even tell are the bird.
Falcon Falcon
Days like today make me particularly appreciative of my city and its surroundings.

The Adventure Continues

I left off yesterday with being rolled down the hall to the Libbie Avenue exit at St. Mary’s and put into the van to begin the ride home to my new life. This second half of my story is longer and I am going to cover the intervening two years, but this is already familiar to anyone who has been following along with my blog all along. If you stumbled across this by accident, I apologize for the length. There is a lot to cover.

*~*

The ride home from the hospital was surprisingly unmemorable. I had the pillow everyone recommended to hold against my midsection, but I don’t recall it being particularly miserable or anything. That is pretty much all I remember of the day; I came home, slept, took a walk, and slept. And so began the pattern that would go on for the next few weeks.

The next day, Sunday, Grace came home from her extended visit to Ama and Grandpa’s house, where she stayed while I was in the hospital, and I began breaking the physical restrictions I was under. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds for 2 weeks. Grace was over 20 pounds and there was no way I wasn’t going to pick her up and hug her when I first saw her (never mind putting her in bed, changing her, and bathing her). So began my policy of bending and outright breaking limitations I had been given.

My whole world for the first few days cycled around sleeping, waking up, giving myself a shot of Lovenox (a blood thinner to prevent blood clots), trying to down a protein shake in under 20 minutes, putting Grace in a stroller and going for a walk through the neighborhood, occasionally grabbing a shower, taking a Percocet and then back to sleep. Shower time was interesting. I had six total incisions, including one in my belly button. They were glued shut. Let’s just say I had a pretty severe lack of faith in that surgical glue, especially when it came to my belly button incision. I would wash in the shower, very gingerly going over the other five incisions, but my belly button needed more intensive cleaning and I was positively terrified that I would open that incision up. Even the thought of it today gives me the heebie-jeebies.

The next distinct memory I have of those first two weeks was going to InterBaronial Twelfth Night the next Saturday, 9 days post op, 7 days out of the hospital, and working in the kitchen. I wanted to go out and be social since I had been pretty closeted for a while and I remember feeling pretty good by that point.

Remember that whole 10 pound weight limit? Yeah. I like working as the scullery maid in SCA feast kitchens. I spent the day hanging out with Moe and Lyle and Byram and assorted friends, lifting huge pots, washing them, shifting things around, and such. I drank my protein shakes, I took my Percocet as needed, and by the end of the day, I wasn’t any worse for wear aside from being positively exhausted. Looking back, all that activity I did was pretty stupid and I was really lucky I didn’t reopen anything, tear anything, or damage myself in some way or another. I don’t recommend my policy of ignoring those rules and limitations they give you. Just sayin’.

Another week passed, and I saw my nurse practioner, Maya, on the 2 week mark post surgery. I had lost a good deal of weight but I don’t remember how much by that point. Going over what I was taking in, it was clear I wasn’t hitting my goal of 60 grams of protein per day at that point. She told me that was normal; that swelling in the area around my pouch made it very hard to fit in enough of anything to reach either my 64 ounces of water per day or my 60 grams of protein per day, but to keep working on it. I think it was at this point that I was allowed to have food like cottage cheese and yogurts. By that point, it had been 5 days since I had taken a Percocet and I was cleared to drive again, and most importantly, go back to work the following Monday.

Yes. I went back to work 17 days after my surgery. Most people take 4 to 6 weeks off to recover. A few weeks before my surgery, I was asked by the highest up in the office if there was any possible way for me to delay my surgery until after the General Assembly had adjourned, which, in a good year would have been March, and in a bad year, if they couldn’t get a budget together, could have been June. I talked with my supervisor and we convinced him that even though GA season is a very busy time for the attorneys in the office, it is not at all a busy time in my section, and this was the best possible time for me to be out. I got the “Well, okay, if you must, but be back as soon as possible” response; right or wrong, I felt pressured to be back as soon as humanly possible.

Monday, February 1, 2010, I was back to work. Life started feeling more normal at that point, even though I was still limited to protein shakes and only semi-solid foods, and I came home from work every day and went to bed, completely exhausted. I walked during my lunch hours, and drank my shakes morning, noon, and night. But every day for that first week, I came home and crashed straight into bed.

When you get ready for weight loss surgery, you read about all the potential risks, all the potential outcomes, good and bad, you read about all the required supplements, vitamins, protein, walking, exercise, and so many other things. The thing I was completely unprepared for was how exhausted I would be and just how long that would last. Thinking about it, though, it makes perfect sense.

For the first week or two, you have the lingering effects of several hours of anesthesia and then the pain killers; and of course, your body must sleep to do its best effort to heal. But the thing I never factored in was that I went from a daily caloric intake somewhere around 2000 or more calories a day to an average for the first 6 weeks or so, of about 500 calories a day. My body was literally starving. I wasn’t hungry at all, but my body just couldn’t function at a high level.

At the six week point, I had my next check up with Maya. My incisions were fully healed and I think at that point, I had dropped somewhere around 30 pounds. All lifting and physical restrictions (that I had been ignoring since day 3 or so) were removed. I was allowed to start trying soft solid foods like mashed potatoes, refried beans, and macaroni and cheese. My blood work came back okay at that point, but low on Vitamin D, just like always. Other than that, she was very happy with my progress.

The introduction of soft, solid foods actually made my protein situation worse. At that point, I could eat maybe two tablespoons of semi-solid food and I was at maximum capacity for a while. Well, there isn’t huge quantities of protein in foods like mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and such. Some, but not a lot compared to my 20 grams of protein per serving shakes, and when you are trying to hit 60 grams of protein per day, it was really difficult to get a good balance. After a while, I decided to quit being so stressed about it and do what my body was okay with. There were days I got more than my 60 grams, days where I got maybe 48 grams, and lots somewhere in between. Stressing about it made me a bit crazy and once I relaxed and just accepted that not every day would see me hit 64 ounces of water or 60 grams of protein, I started to really enjoy my new life.

Even better, I was beginning to enjoy the changes I was seeing in my body. I remember when I was able to get back into the size 18 pants I wore after Grace was born, when I was at my smallest I had been in a decade (morning sickness for more than half a year was a GREAT diet, but I don’t recommend it). I was thrilled to get out of pant sizes that started with a “2″. I was getting more mobile, too. By March, I was up to walking a mile at lunch every day, even on the snowy, slushy days we had that year.

By April, I had gotten down to 225 pounds, which was almost a 50 pound loss, and it was a magic number I had gotten into my head. That was the number I decided I would start trying to run at. April was also the month that my hair started falling out. As best as I can tell, it happens to pretty much every gastric bypass patient. There is no definitive answer as to why, but theories range from depleted protein stores to hormonal changes. I never lost all or even most of my hair, but I had a lot of hair and I lost a lot of it. The good news is that it did stop falling out by around October, or 10 months post-op, and now, over two years later, I have a secondary “coat” of hair, new growth that is now about 6 inches long. Yes, hair falls out, but it is only temporary and it does grow back. My crazy 6″ hair “halo” is proof of that.

Anyway, so back to April. My first few runs that April were…let’s just call them humbling. I went with the very popular (and worthy) Couch to 5K training program (“C25K”) to get me started, but at the beginning, I couldn’t run a full 60 seconds like the first week required. I was that out of shape. I now am able to factor in that my energy stores were fully depleted, so that surely contributed. Still, who can’t run for 60 seconds?

Well, lots of people, it turns out. But it doesn’t stay that way if you keep at it. I started out by running in my parking deck so that no one would see me, and even then only running on the downhill ramps. Within a couple of weeks, I would walk to the bottom floor of the parking deck and then do a one lap run around the bottom floor of the deck, then walk two laps. Then it was walk a lap and run a lap.

Eventually, I began to work my way up to multiple minutes of running at a time. By mid-May, I announced to everyone that I had started running, even though I had been at it about 6 weeks by that point, and since I could go for more than a single minute at a time, I felt confident enough to leave the dark and musty parking deck behind and head outdoors.

Why in the world did I want to run? I blew up my right knee back in 2002 and still suffered from patellar tendonitis, and my left knee had major joint degeneration already in the early ’00s, as seen by x-ray and MRI. Running just sounds like it would be a bad plan for someone who had knee issues and chose gastric bypass because her feet and ankles hurt too much to even walk short distances anymore, right?

As a kid I liked to run. I was in the “joggers club” at various times in my K-3rd Grade elementary school; a program that allowed those kids out doors an extra 30 minutes a few days each week to run a couple of laps around the school yard. I ran around like a crazy person as a kid. I rode my bike everywhere. I was a great swimmer too while I was near the beach. I was very active as a child.

My obesity prevented me from enjoying activities like I used too, and then eventually prevented me from being active at all. As I shed the pounds, I began to rediscover the pure enjoyment I take just from moving around.

So all summer during 2010, I worked on the C25K program, and it was very slow work; much, MUCH longer than 6 weeks. It was a hot summer and I was very fearful of dehydration; something that can hit very quickly in a recent gastric bypass patient, and something that could land me in the hospital in no time flat, so I took my time.

It was when I went to Pennsic that year that just how far I had come really sank in. By Pennsic, I was just short of 100 pounds down (I lost 7 pounds at Pennsic, pushing me over that mark) but the difference one year made was so remarkable that my camp mates must have been sick of hearing me say “I am just so thankful…” And I was. I was able to work all weekend long at Land Grab, putting up tents and digging our sump in a record time for me. The previous year, I had stayed mostly in camp because I couldn’t get back up the hill to our camp without needing to stop and rest. In 2010, I came and went as I pleased. Pennsic was a little nerve wracking, too, because it is easy to get dehydrated even with a normal stomach, but I did okay with my water. I ate almost nothing but protein shakes because Pennsic meals at that time didn’t work very well with my still relatively new pouch. I drank liquid protein “bullets” (absolutely disgusting inventions, but useful) mixed into my crystal-lite flavored water.

And like I said, when I got home, I was officially down over 100 pounds in just 8 months time.

I saw Maya in October for another check up and blood work; I was down to about 160 pounds at that point (from my original 271) and she was absolutely thrilled with my diet, exercise regimen, and water. That day, the fire alarm sounded in the middle of my check up and we all had to trundle down 6 flights of stairs and wait until the building was cleared to re-enter. I was able to take the stairs back up to the medical office after we were allowed to go back in; something, as I told Maya right then, that would NEVER have happened before my surgery.

I went through my first holiday season post-gastric bypass. It was a little tricky because there are foods related to the holidays that I had a real attachment to, but I did okay. As I approached my 1 year anniversary, I realized people no longer recognized me by my directory photo at work, so I had a new work picture taken right at the beginning of the new year.

It was in January 2011 that I began to see Warrior Dash advertisements running on Facebook. Warrior Dash was something I had heard about long before my surgery and something that always sounded like a ton of fun, but was far out of my reach of doing. In honor of my 1 year “surgiversary,” I decided to pay the $45 entrance fee and sign up for the October 1st race scheduled for the first time in Virginia. At the time, 3.5 miles plus obstacles sounded so far out of my ability that I figured it would take the whole intervening 9 months to be able to do it, so I started training right away.

Then in March, we discovered a local 5K race called the SuperHero Run benefiting Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused and neglected children. Being a superhero-friendly family, we decided to sign up for it, just 3 weeks before the race. I had never run a full 3 miles before but I committed to it with only a few weeks to get ready.

Together, my family raised almost $500 for CASA and I ran my first 5k race ever, in just under 32 minutes.

It was official by that point: I was hooked on running. I decided almost instantly that I wanted to try for a 13.1 mile distance and wanted to run the Richmond Half Marathon in November 2011. Unfortunately, between catching Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in May (from one or more of the 6 different tick bites I suffered that spring) and getting hit with a lot of expensive car repair bills at the same time, I had neither the money nor the energy to devote to training for the half marathon. My training for the Warrior Dash also suffered because of the illness and lack of energy I had all summer.

By September, I was pretty much back to normal and achieved my goal of running the Warrior Dash.

Almost immediately, post-race blues set in and I knew I needed a new goal to work towards or I would crash to a halt. I signed up immediately for a 5K in December to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, but I still had it in my heart that I wanted to run a 13 mile distance.

I discovered the brand new Instant Classic Half Marathon trail race being run on March 17, 2012, and after mulling it over in my head for a couple of weeks, I decided to sign up.

Today is March 1st. I am sixteen days from the race now. I have been training for it since December 3rd (I will count the Jingle Bell race from December as my first day of training, why not?).

This race is more than just a new distance for me. It is the culmination of over 2 years of working, dreaming, training, hoping, growing, shrinking, changing, and praying to be more than I was. It is more than just a long run. It is more than just a race. It is proof positive to me that I have achieved what I set out to do when I was rolled down that hallway on a gurney into a bright white operating room on a cold January morning.

I wanted to be fit, healthy, and able. I never actually dreamed that this was what I would end up doing. A half marathon was never on my list of things I expected to do post-surgery. It just sort of grew up organically from my efforts over the past two years; a natural progression from the fat girl I once was, full of excuses and complaints, to a new person, still full of excuses and complaints, but stronger and more able to overcome those excuses.

I will go see Maya again on April 18th for my next 6 month check-up, a month after my half marathon. I will take my race medal to her to show her and say “Look what I did. I couldn’t have done it without you and Dr. Bautista.” I would give it to her to keep, but I also acknowledge that while I couldn’t have gotten to this point without their care and help, I also wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t put in the time, money, work, and sacrifice of my own, too.

So this is where I came from, and for now, this is where I am going. I don’t know what will come next. I am signed up for the Richmond Half in November, the one I couldn’t do last year. But after that, what will be next? I don’t know. I am entertaining the idea of a triathlon, and last night I took my first real swim in years. That was as humbling as that first, tremulous run I took in April of 2010. I know with enough time, training, and learning, just like the half marathon distance, nothing could stop me from a triathlon, if that is what I want to do. Or maybe the next thing I want to do is full 26.2 mile distance. Or maybe it will be something completely different. Maybe it will be long-distance hiking or biking. I don’t know, yet, but the only limits are the ones I choose to set on myself.

The one thing I have learned and come to fully accept is that weight loss surgery is not a means to an end. You never “arrive” anywhere. You might hit your goal weight or achieve a physical goal (as I am about to), but it doesn’t end with those things. On March 18th, I will wake up and have achieved a major goal, but my weight loss surgery journey will still continue. Just like anyone else, I have to keep working, stay vigilant about my diet and how much exercise I take. I have a severely addictive personality and I have to work to keep away from unhealthy addictions, and if I must be addicted to something (or things), make them positive things; things that make me healthy and let me be with my family and friends, as opposed to isolated, secretive, and alone.

This is the road I have chosen and the journey doesn’t end until my road reaches its final destination.

Thanks for sharing in my journey. I hope all these words reach someone who needs to hear them.

How I Got To Where I Am Going

Because it is what has helped me get to this point in my life, I think I want to talk about my surgery and the experience leading up to and immediately following it.

How does one just decide one day “I am going to undergo a major, life altering operation?” Well, for me, I didn’t just up and decide. I started exploring the idea in the summer of 2009 when it became clear that my body was so heavy I could no longer exercise without risking injuring myself. After coming home from Sapphire Joust, a 4 day camping event, with massive sores on my inner thighs from where they had rubbed together all weekend (even with bike shorts on), I could barely walk for a week.

My shame allowed for almost 2 months to pass before I could bring it up with Byram. I figured he would be radically against it, but I was very wrong. He had reservations (and anyone considering this should have some reservations and concerns), but he supported my efforts to go forward.

I went to a required informational “class” in late August 2009 and confirmed that I was eligible and my insurance was in good order to take the next step, which was a visit to the surgeon’s office to meet the surgeon and answer a whole lot of questions, ask my own, and then some testing. Here is the photo they took of me that day in the doctor’s office, September 1, 2009 (it’s really bad because it is scanned from a plain paper copy I have, made into a PDF, then made into a JPEG; I seriously lack in photo wizardry skills, sorry).

Yes, I really am almost as wide as the door in that photo.

That was September of 2009 and I had a lot of things I had to do before I could even hope for a surgery date. I had to spend time with a behavioral therapist, a nutritionist, visit a cardiologist, and my general practitioner. I also was not supposed to gain any weight in the intervening months. They said they would disqualify me if I gained substantial weight as it would disprove my commitment to my long term health.

On November 3rd, within an hour of getting word that a co-worker (who had also undergone RnY gastric bypass) had committed suicide, the phone call came in offering me January 14, 2010, for my surgery date. In a haze of emotion, I accepted the date and the countdown was on.

The 10 weeks that followed are a bit of a blur. I DID commit the “Last Supper” sin, a lot, eating anything I wanted, worrying about nothing. I had actually lost about 10 pounds between September and November, but I put them all back on, and on the morning I began the two week long liver shrinking diet (January 1, appropriately enough), I was 271 pounds.

The morning of January 14, exactly a week after my 28th birthday, Byram and I arrived at St. Mary’s hospital in the very cold, pre-dawn hours. Most of this is a blur as well; my heart was racing and my head was pounding for much of the time. I went to Inpatient Registration first where I was braceleted, and soon thereafter, we were taken to the pre-op waiting room. I was deeply comforted by having Byram so close to that point, but it was abruptly over when after less than 10 minutes of waiting, I was called into the pre-op prep center. I gave my last hug and kiss to my husband before walking down the hall with the nurse. That was a very hard moment.

I was taken to a large room full of other surgical patients, each of us with our own curtained quarters. I given warm socks and a surgical gown to wear, and the poking and prodding began. My veins were nearly impossible to find and it took 4 or 5 sticks to get my two i.v.s in place, but fortunately, the nurse had a standing prescription for novacaine injections, so I got a little numbing dose before each hit or miss with the i.v.

Things were going along okay at that point. I was being introduced to my surgical team, everyone was asking me my full name and date of birth and what procedure I was undergoing. After being asked a half a hundred times, it got a little old, but that was preferable to coming out with a hip replacement by accident or something. Dr. Bautista, my surgeon arrived, and everyone got down to their jobs; papers were being filled in, my vitals were being checked constantly, and everyone was going about their business, very professionally and at the same time, very casually.

This is where I got off track. I felt very insignificant, very small, and horribly alone right at that moment. My hands started shaking. My eyes started blurring. It sank in that this was really going to happen and I was scared to death. Now, all the shaking and tears were very silent; I wasn’t sobbing or gasping, and therefore, it was a few minutes into what was probably a full on panic attack before anyone noticed I was upset (I was trying to avoid anyone noticing, too. I was very ashamed of the tears and terror).

Eventually, the anesthesiologist’s nurse noticed. She was so very sweet and gentle with me. She asked, “Are you okay?” and I shook my head and whispered “No.” She said “Okay. Do you want to continue? We can stop here and you do not have to go through with the surgery. That is okay.” I got myself together a little and said “No, no, I really want to. I am just scared.” And I really was. She said “Okay, then hold on and I will put a little something in your i.v. to make this easier.”

I don’t know what I was given; some sort of valium type drug, I am sure, but whatever it was, I was grateful for it. Within minutes, the shaking stopped. My heart rate dropped back from the 120s down into the 90s. I was able to detach myself from my fear, look at it with some distance, acknowledge that I had good reason to be scared, but no good reason to let that overwhelm me.

Much calmer, and of course, slightly high, time began speeding up. The team left to get the operating room ready, dimming my lights, which allowed me to drowse off. I looked at the clock at one point and saw that the scheduled time for my surgery had passed. Dr. Bautista came in and said the room had to be decontaminated and it would be a little longer. No problem; I just dozed off again.

Right around 8am, they came and got me. It was go time. They gave me more of the calming drug and I remember being moved, but I have no idea what direction I went or how long it took to get from the pre-op prep area to the operating room. I do distinctly remember the operating room. It was smaller than I expected and looked NOTHING like they do on t.v. I remember seeing the daVinci machine they would be using to do my surgery and thinking it was much bigger than I thought it would be.

I helped the surgical nurses get me shifted from the gurney to the operating table and I remember that I was surprised at just how narrow the table was. This was the point where I was very glad they had given me all that happy medicine. I remember them strapping my arms down; I even remember thinking “Man am I glad I am high as a kite because I would be freaking the *bleep* out right now.”

The anesthesiologist was the last person I saw. He put a mask over my face and told me to take some deep breaths. The last thing I said before the lights went out was “I trust you guys.”

*~*

Fast forward about 4 hours. I woke up in recovery and the very first sensation I became conscious of was the feeling that my midsection had been perhaps run over by a dump truck; possibly two dump trucks. Immediately following that sensation was “Oh my god, I am going to puke” and in full terror, I started dry heaving (who wants to be dry heaving with a brand new right down to the new car smell pouch for a stomach???). A nurse quickly saw my distress and immediately put something in my i.v. for the nausea and showed me where to find the morphine delivery button.

I clicked that button. A minute later, I clicked it again. And again. And again. And then the lights went back out and I was gone again. And so began several maddening hours of waking up, checking the time on the clock, hitting the morphine button over and over again, and back to sleep. The only things I was conscious of were that much more time was passing than should have (I had been told I would only spend two hours in recovery), that Byram was probably flipping out not having seen me yet (he wasn’t), and that waking up meant hurting and clicking the button meant not hurting, but not being awake either. My five or so hours in recovery bordered on hellish.

Eventually, I learned that they were waiting for a bed to open for me, Byram had been updated about my surgery long ago and had left to get out and get lunch, and that I was doing just fine. I think it was about 4:30 that they finally got me a bed in the bariatric ward and I finally, at long last, got to lay eyes on my husband again. He stayed with me for a long time. He brought me my knitting project I had chosen for the hospital stay and even took a photo of me attempting a few, morphine assisted stitches. I was incredibly weak and constantly slipping into and out of awareness. He stayed until my drill sergeant, I mean, nurse came and made me take my first required walk around the ward.

That was the most exhausting and painful walk I have ever taken. It was maybe a couple hundred feet total, just down the hall and back, but once I was back in bed, I kissed Byram good night and I hit that happy little morphine button and went straight to sleepy town.

The first night was a bad one because I had roommates and I had to get up and walk every 4 hours and had vitals taken even more frequently than that, same as they did, and none of us were on the same schedule, meaning there was no rest for anyone. Around 6am, I got my own private room and finally started getting real rest.

I passed my barium swallow test and was given water to start sipping. Eventually, I was given broth and apple juice to sip for my very first post-op “meal.” That was Friday, the day after surgery, and it is a blur of walking the corridors and talking to various nurses. The morphine button was taken away and I was switched over to Percocet. Percocet was F.U.N.! I am a friendly little lady on Percocet. It turned out for all that I thought I was hitting that morphine button like crazy, I only got 7 doses in the space of 24 hours. There was a 6 minute delay between each dose and apparently it would send me to sleep long before that delay was up.

I was taught how to give myself a Lovenox injection. The catheter was taken out and I was allowed to get up and use the bathroom myself. Slowly but surely, the number of tubes I had attached were decreasing and as I gained more mobility, the discomfort eased.

The most stark moment I remember was meeting a man in the hall who had had his RnY bypass the same day as me, and also with Dr. Bautista, just later in the day. He was coming back from his barium swallow test and he was upset. I asked him what was wrong and he said “I have a goddamn leak, and I am going back into emergency surgery in a couple of hours.”

Whoa. There but by the grace of God went I. Dr. Bautista had done two surgeries in the same day and mine was the one that went flawlessly, not his. I felt scared, horrified, relieved, and guilty all at the same time. I talked to Dr. Bautista shortly before he headed back into surgery. He told me how great I was doing and that my procedure had in fact gone off without a hitch. I acknowledged where he was headed and wished him luck. We shook hands and I thanked him.

That was the last time I ever saw him.

Soon thereafter, I was very unceremoniously packed up and shipped out the door to head home and begin my new lease on life.

Mapped

Half Marathon

4 more training team runs, 32 more sleeps, uncounted miles still to go. The map is up and the date is closing in. I am getting very excited.

Miles To Go

Knitting content has slowed to a halt, which means this blog has gone pretty quiet. My full focus has been on getting ready for the Instant Classic Half Marathon that is just about 6 weeks away now. Lunch hours are dedicated to either runs or cross training in the weight room. One or more evenings per week will find me doing more of the same at the gym. Saturday mornings are reserved for long runs with a team that is training for another half marathon on the same weekend as the Instant Classic. This Saturday will see me run my first double digit mileage ever.

The cool thing is now I am 100% confident that I will have no trouble finishing the race, short of catastrophic injury or illness (please knock on any wood you have handy for me), but for me, this was never about just finishing the race. I have a goal time I want to finish in, (2 hours 30 minutes; I fantasize about finishing in even less time than that, but I am trying to be realistic) and it is not an unreasonable time, but it requires not just a large quantity of training miles but some quality runs in my training for speed, efficient use of oxygen and glycogen, and mental stamina.

It is my brain that is my weakest point and to help overcome that lizard brain that complains when it’s too tough or hurts too much or makes excuses, I spend a lot of time visualizing my race, my training runs, and think silly-sounding thoughts like “I am so lucky I am able to run 6 miles” or “How fortunate am I that I choose to do this and enjoy it enough to keep doing it.” Sounds silly to type it out, but for few weeks, the cycle in my brain sounded like “This hurts. You are a sissy because you had to walk before 5 miles. If you had to take a walk break at 5 miles, why would you even think you could tackle 13?” And so forth, without end. Enough of that, thank you very much.

When I am not training, thinking of training, eating, or spending time with Grace, I prefer to be sleeping. These days, I am bushed by 8pm and often will be sound asleep before 10pm. Twice in the past week I have stayed up really late (midnight or later) and I have paid the price. My whole body, but especially my legs are tired all the time and I really have found that I need my sleep to recover. I haven’t been to an SCA event since early December and I don’t see my friends as much, either. Even when I do, I don’t have much interesting news to share. I can talk all day about lactic thresholds, VO2 max, speed intervals, what my preferred fuel gels are, and what types of cross training I like (weightlifting and yoga), but other than that stuff…I am incredibly dull company these days and prone to dozing off unexpectedly on Saturday afternoons, I am afraid.

This is my whole focus right now and I suspect it will only get worse as we close in on March 17th, but it is also February and the edges of winter are beginning to look frayed around here. You know what February and March bring every year?

Garden planning. Now that is something to definitely look forward too. I can’t wait.

Unapologetic

I was going to go to the Y for another murderous upper body weight lifting workout when I opened my bag and realized I had not swapped out yesterday’s cold weather running gear for clean, not soaking wet, short-sleeved, indoor appropriate anything to wear.

Rather than wear soaking wet, long-sleeved, outdoor, dirty clothes to lug around heavy weights, I bagged on my workout and decided to go for a walk. I headed east on Main Street and decided since I had my camera with me that today was as good as any day for another round of Photos Around Richmond. I think I only do this in January, when the city itself is not especially pretty, and when the weather is not especially fabulous, but then I am unlikely to waste a perfectly beautiful lunch hour trundling around with the camera.

As I headed east, I decided the top of the hill on Main Street where Rte. 5 and Main St. intersect would be my destination. Being a non-native Richmonder, I am not sure whether this is actually Church Hill or it is one of the other hills (I have also seen it labeled Union Hill on a map). Either way, this is where I was going. This is the hill I run up on my hill training days.


And this is how it looks from the runner’s perspective as you are just getting started going up.

Fortunately, today I was not running up the hill, just doing the aforementioned trundling (in 3 inch high wedge boots…my feet are very unhappy with this poor planning on my part). From almost the top, looking east, you can watch the James River drift lazily by.
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Looking back west, I could visually measure the almost exactly one mile between my current spot I was standing and the building I had walked from to get there.
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This gentleman is looking out over the City from atop his very tall pedestal.
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Everything below seems very tiny from my vantage point. I feel both insignificant and very large at the same time from up here. Cars look like Matchbox toys from up here and I can see all the way to the Chesterfield Power Station that is south of my house along the James River.
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And then I took this.

It is the first picture of myself since I turned 30. Unadulterated. Unaltered.
I got to the top of the hill feeling distinctly and intensely unapologetic about who I am. I did something silly today and wore some silly peacock feather earrings I bought for $2 last week. I like peacock feathers and I liked the earrings, and I didn’t care if they were fashionable enough to wear to work. I was feeling a bit rebellious and wore them.

Even more rebellious are the little stud earrings in my upper ear cartilage. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings in those holes at home, much less to my rather conservative workplace.

I wear glasses. I have crows feet (too many years of playing outdoors in the sun without sunscreen). I have never intentionally plucked a hair out of my eyebrows. I don’t frequently wear makeup. The smile lines around my mouth have gotten very deep since I lost 120 pounds. My eyes can’t decide if they are blue or green, or gray. I do all kinds of unfashionable things, like wear my hair almost to my backside and only bother to color it once a year or so anymore. Or wear peacock feather earrings (actually, I think that is fashionable for the 13-17 year old age group right now…). I keep my toenails painted 100% of the time, but I have worn polish on my fingernails maybe 4 or 5 times in the past decade.

I run. I knit. I cook things my family likes to eat (we are having grilled Bessie Cow tonight!). I sing badly, but sometimes I do it out loud anyway. I sew poorly, but have enough basics to keep Byram and I at least somewhat decently garbbed in the SCA. I excel at washing dishes. I can plunge a toilet like no one’s business. I am either a horribly conservative democrat or a ridiculously liberal republican, depending on what day of the week it is when you ask me. Or maybe more accurately, I am a libertarian who appreciates some law and order, but really just wants to be left alone.

And you know what? I love all of those facts about me. I even like that self-portrait, taken at an odd angle with an odd, Mona Lisa-like look on my face. I love who I am and I don’t want to apologize for that.

Speaking of love…meet Melpomene.
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I am right at the half way mark with it and my progress has slowed (so typical of me). I came up a little short on yarn because I used larger needles than the pattern called for, but it worked out just fine. The first ball ran out just as I finished the last repeat of Chart B, so I just began the decreasing charts (Chart D) next and skipped over the middle point (Chart C). There should be no change in the effect on the shape of the scarf, just shortening its overall number of repeats.
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I adore the soft, solid texture the stitches create. I love the simplicity of the garter stitch short row sections, and enjoy the not too challenging, but not mindless twisted stitch patterns as well. I find the whole thing to be very soothing on my frayed nerves these days. The rich hue of the blue helps too. It’s a shame, but I couldn’t get a good true-to-color shot of the blue. Yesterday’s late afternoon sun threw off the color, and today’s lack of sun washes it out to gray when it really is an unapologetic sapphire blue.

12 in 2012

I have a goal to knit 12 projects in 2012 from my queue on Ravelry and from yarn in my current stash (which, I confess, was recently expanded between Christmas and Birthday gifts).

This month, I am knitting a recent addition to my queue, on yarn not so recently purchased, and if I had remembered the stupid camera (this is day 3 in which I have forgotten it again), I could show you some progress. Even if I had the camera, I have no decent light with which to take a photo anyway. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, I will show you a photo from the designer.
Copyright - Romi Hill
(Copyright- Romi Hill)

This is Melpomene by Romi Hill, from her 7 Small Shawls E-book that I got for my birthday last week. I am using Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn, in colorway Sapphire Heather and knitting on 4mm needles (US6).

It was the perfect birthday gift because it will keep giving. Only 2 of the 7 patterns are out, and the remaining 5 will post sometime between now and July if she is able to meet her challenge.

I almost cast on Kleio first because it has been on my list longer and I have the perfect yarns for it, but something about the description for Melpomene appealed to me.

Also in current progress is a pair of socks for my mother in law’s upcoming birthday. One is done and I have a toe done on the second, but it was hard to carry on a plain vanilla sock with the beautiful texture of Melpomene calling to me. When I get weary of twisted stitches and garter, I will go back to the Mother In Law Socks.

I haven’t yet decided what February’s project of the month will be. Rather than pre-schedule myself a monthly project like I did last year, and then ran into the problem of being uninspired by the project when it came time to knit it, I am going to go with the flow and pick up what I feel like doing each month. I had planned to knit a cowl this month and that changed when I got my Muses subscription.

Next month might be Percy which has been in my queue forever and looks challenging but fun, or it might be Saroyan, which I just ordered and received the intended yarn for last week if I happen to be in the mood for yet another crescent shaped blue scarf (in other words, doubtful, but when I get on a roll, sometimes it carries me for a while). Or, maybe I will get the gumption up to learn intarsia and knit these peacock themed armwarmers. I should have sufficient colors and yarn left over from the Corrie vest to tackle them.

Who can say what will wind up on the needles?

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