I turned 50 years old in 2013. That, in itself, is an exciting milestone. To celebrate this milestone year, I started planning for it in 2012. I decided for my 50th birthday, I would run a 50 mile ultra marathon. To do that, I knew it would take a lot of planning and racing to be ready.
I started my year by running the Disney Goofy Challenge in January. You run a half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. I had a great time, met some wonderful people and felt my journey was on track toward the 50 miler.
The months leading up to the 50 miler in April were filled with long runs. I was running 50-60 miles per week and 40 of those miles were on the weekends. The back to back long runs were the best way to prepare my body for the 50 miles I would run in Nevada. While there was no way to prepare myself for the high elevation of the course, I knew practicing proper fueling and hydration would be critical. I did that for several months. Then, race day arrived. As I wrote about in a previous blog, this race was perfect…the only perfect race I have ever run. It was perfect in the sense that there was nothing that went wrong, nothing I felt I could have done better or differently. I packed my drop bags with everything I needed (and a whole lot of things I didn’t need, but you never know), I fueled and paced well and because of that, my last three miles were my fastest miles of the entire race. I went to the hotel and took an ice bath so I could run the 10k the next morning and walk and run with my friends I’d met on the course the previous day that were completing the 100 mile race. It was an amazing milestone and milestone birthday.
A couple weeks later, I ran the 10k and the 5k back to back at the Flying Pig with the women I have been volunteering for the last three years. These women are a great joy and blessing in my life. They are all recovering addicts. Teaching them the importance of a healthy living lifestyle and watching them on their journey to sobriety and independence is inspiring. Over the last several years, I have spent every Tuesday training these women at the Y to help them improve their fitness. One Thursday each month I teach them about how to live a healthier life through nutrition and exercise and then I cook them a healthy lunch and healthy dinner so that they have healthy left overs for the weekend. I often say that Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week because these women mean more to me than words can adequately express.
In July, I launched the healthy cooking division of my fitness firm. As a public relations and marketing professional, I realized that marketing the cooking and the fitness sides of Abel Fitness Training separately was the best strategy for success. So, Abel Fitness Training http://www.abelfitness.com focuses purely on healthy and safe exercise education and training. The cooking division, Abel to Cook http://www.abeltocook.com, focuses solely on teaching people how to cook healthy meals that are fast, easy and figure-friendly.
In the summer, I ran a half marathon in Cincinnati as I prepared to run the Marine Corp Marathon in October. The Marine Corp Marathon (I wrote a blog about it too) was one of the most moving and meaningful races I have run to date. I was honored to run it.
In October I hit another major milestone. My public relations firm, Abel Associates Public Relations http://www.abelpr.com, celebrated its 20th anniversary. One of the most joyous parts of this milestone is that most of the clients who were with me in the early years are still with me today. I’m truly grateful for their loyalty and friendship over the last two decades.
People often ask me which of my two companies is my favorite. I tell them having two companies is like having two children. You love them both equally, but differently. Both of my corporate children bring me great joy and I’m grateful for both of them.
By the time 2013 came to an end, I ran a 5k, two 10ks, two half marathons, two marathons and a 50 mile ultra marathon. I ran a total of 1200 miles (ran, jogged and walked to be completely accurate) and spent more than 230 hours on my feet. That doesn’t include the more than 30 hours of cross training with swimming, yoga and weight training I did last year. I also celebrated 20 years in business with my PR firm and launched a new division of my fitness firm. That was the short version of the joy!
While the joys were exhilarating, the pain was poignant. Now, you may be thinking to yourself that pain is inevitable when you run 1200 miles in a year. This is true. But the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain of 2013. Some of it ended well by year’s end…some didn’t.
In May, my father had a very serious heart scare. My dad eats healthy, walks three to five miles each day and works full time at 82 years of age. He does everything right. So as a fitness trainer to hear him say that one of his heart valves was only pumping at 30% was terrifying. While my mother is my cheerleader, my father is my rock. He’s my go-to person for advice on anything from business to life. The thought of losing him was one of the most frightening times of my entire life. Thank God, by July the doctors were able to treat the problem and get the value pumping at 50%. While that may sound very low, and it is low, you have to realize that valve had been operating at 40% for years and he was doing well. The goal was to get the value back to where it had been operating. To get it higher than that was truly a blessing we are grateful for and hopeful that the treatment will continue to sustain him at that level or continue to improve his condition.
In early August I lost one of the great loves of my life…my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra. Cleo was my warrior…a true fighter until the very end. Cleo had been diagnosed with kidney failure the previous year but she was holding her own, for the most part. In January, Cleo had this freakish situation that the vets still have no clue what it was. One very cold January morning, I was getting ready to head out for a run. As I was lacing up my shoes, I heard and saw Cleo hacking…getting ready to cough up a hair ball. I thought about leaving and cleaning up whatever she might heave up when I got back, but fortunately I decided to wait. Thank God I did! As she began coughing harder and harder, she collapsed. I was frantic. I called the vet. They told me to bring her in immediately. They spent quite a bit of time with us and couldn’t diagnose the problem. They wanted to put her to sleep, but I refused. I was so shocked since she’d been doing so well prior to that day, I couldn’t get my head around losing her. I told the vet that I wanted one more night with her at home and I’d call the next day to tell them how she was and what I was going to do. The short version of this story is that after that violent coughing incident, Cleo felt better that night. She began eating and drinking again. The next day she seemed much better. It was truly miraculous, but was bloated. Her body would fill up with air and she’d puff up like a balloon after this incident. I had to take her to the vet each day to get her “tapped.” The vet would inject a needle into her body and extract the air. Over a period of weeks, the tapping became less frequent and eventually whatever it was that was leaking inside of her, healed itself. Did I mention she was my warrior? After this incident, things went back to being normal…normal for her, which meant daily pills and IVs, but she felt like herself and for a 19 year old cat, my vets were amazed by her spirit and her determination. During 2013 there were several times where her kidneys crashed and the vets thought she wouldn’t survive it, but she did. She was tough, determined, a fighter. My vets learned never to underestimate my girl.
In early August, I went to the farmer’s market with my dear friend and running partner. We had a great morning. Cleo was fine when I left, her usual self. When I came home, she was a bit wobbly. This wasn’t unusual. She had bad arthritis, and she hadn’t had any treatments for that in about 6 weeks, so I watched her and just assumed I’d call the vet on Monday to get her scheduled for another series of laser treatments that helped improve her mobility. It wasn’t her arthritis. By 5pm, I was on the phone to my vet, calling him at home saying I need to know where to take Cleo now! She was in crisis and needed help immediately. My vet and his wife were heading to dinner with friends when I called, but they told their friends they had an emergency and would be late. They met me at the clinic. He ran some tests. We hoped it was something structural, like a bone fracture or that her arthritis was just getting much worse. It wasn’t that. It was full kidney failure. My vet looked at me and said, “We need to change her IV formula. We can keep her here on a slow IV all weekend or you can take her home and give her the IV twice a day. Either way, I don’t think the outcome will be any different.” Of course, I chose to bring her home and give her the IVs myself. Unlike in the past, where I was confident she would overcome her medical crisis, I wasn’t this time. I knew this was the end. I slept on the floor with her all weekend because she couldn’t get on and off the bed. Sheba, my 15 year old cat, slept with us part of the weekend and slept alone other times during the weekend, probably coping with what she already knew…we were going to lose Cleo. The hardest part of this was that Cleo was still trying to fight. Her eyes were bright, her spirit was strong…she wanted to live. But her body had given up and given out. Monday morning, August 5, I called the vet. I asked to have their last appointment of the day. I wanted just a little longer with my brave warrior. Putting Cleopatra to sleep was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My last two pets, both ferrets, passed away in their sleep. One of the most comforting posts on Facebook was from my friend who said, “I am so sorry, we have had to do that twice and it’s heartbreaking. Be at peace. It’s the last great act you can do for your pet. I’m thinking of you.” He was right. It was the last great and most loving act I could have done for her. And while my heart is still broken and I’m in tears typing this, I know I did the best thing for her. She was surrounded by love in her final moments…my vet and one of the many vet technicians that treated her over her 19 years on this earth were there and in tears, like I was. The last voice Cleo heard and the last face she saw was mine. That is the way it should be. She’s with God now. She’s at peace and in no pain.
In August, the triumphant trio became the dynamic duo. It was just Sheba and me. During Cleo’s illness, Sheba developed a new habit…she was expressing her distress over Cleo by acting out. The vet thought it was a medical issue. It wasn’t. It was behavioral, emotional. I knew that, but wanted to run the necessary medical tests to be sure. The behavior stopped after we lost Cleo. In the month after losing Cleo, Sheba was a bit lost without her friend who had been with her for her entire life. But I did everything I could to make her loss less traumatic. While I’d see Sheba lying in places Cleo used to lay, I felt she was adjusting to the loss of her life-long companion fairly well…much better than I was adjusting. That’s what I thought.
In October, when I left town to run the Marine Corp Marathon, I had a house sitter/pet sitter for Sheba. Every day, she would text me about how Sheba was doing. It wasn’t good. She was under the bed and wouldn’t come out. She wasn’t eating or drinking much and that’s not like Sheba. She’s my big eater! I got home from the race and she was eating a little better, but not much. A few weeks after I got home from the race, I headed to Kansas City to visit my parents. Sheba’s eating was much worse. She wasn’t eating at all the first couple of days. It got better by the third day and I was home a couple days later. I, of course, took her to the vet to make sure she wasn’t sick. I said to my vet with tears in my eyes, “I can’t lose them both this year!” The vet looked at me and said, “That wouldn’t be fair. We will do everything we can to make Sheba better.” I knew I had to have faith. Sheba’s blood tests came back and all were normal. Again, I had to assume her not eating was behavioral. It was, fortunately. Sheba had never been alone when I was away. Sure, I had the house sitter, but that’s not the same as her constant companion. Sheba was in mourning…just like I was. Once I was done traveling, Sheba started acting like her usual loving self and eating and drinking normally. That was the best Christmas gift I could imagine.
In November, I lost another love in my life, but this one wasn’t a complete loss. Joe, who I’d been seeing since June of 2012, and I had grown apart over the last eight months. I had hoped our trip to DC to run the Marine Corp Marathon would help us reconnect. It didn’t. While we had a great time together, I knew we didn’t have what it took to go the distance and spend the rest of our lives together. It was a tough decision, but the right one. I knew I had to walk away. But this story has a happy ending. We’re still great friends and I’m grateful for that. Many of my friends are in awe of how I’m able to maintain a friendship with my former husband and former boyfriends. My feeling is that if I cared enough about them to spend long periods of my life with them, I should care enough about them to maintain a friendship with them. While partner love is different from friendship love, it’s love. I’ve always felt that friendship love shouldn’t die when the relationship love does as long as there hasn’t been a betrayal of trust or respect. Trust and respect are the foundations of any good relationship, whether it’s between partners or friends.
The holidays got me back to a more joyful place. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with Greg (someone I dated for 5 years prior to meeting Joe) and his family. While people who don’t know me might think that sounds weird, it wasn’t. Greg and his family have always treated me like one of their family. His family knows we’re good friends and I’m also very close to Greg’s oldest sister. The three of us go to dinner every month or so, and it’s always a good time. Friends and family are what the holidays should be about, and I spent my holidays with my extended family and friends.
Last year was an amazing journey. I know 2014 will be equally incredible. I’ve set my goals for the new year and have them posted in my office and around my house.
The new year is when many people set fitness goals. As a personal fitness trainer, sports nutrition specialist and lifestyle fitness coach, I encourage you to start by setting small, achievable goals. Small changes lead to big success. For example, if you don’t eat breakfast (shame on you!), commit to eating breakfast every day. Studies show people who eat breakfast lose more weight, maintain their weight better and feel healthier than those who skip breakfast. If your doctor says you need to lose 30 pounds, set a goal of losing 10 pounds in three months. Losing one to two pounds per week is safe and sustainable weight loss. Losing 30 pounds might feel overwhelming, but if you break it down into increments of ten, it will seem less daunting. Get moving! Walk the dog 20 minutes each day. Park your car farthest from the entry door at your office, the mall, etc. Being more active will not only give you a mental boost, it will improve your health.
If you need help achieving your fitness goals, I’m here to help. Wishing you great health, happiness and joy in 2014!