I’ve dedicated the past year to reading only books that I believed would inspire and motivate me to be the best version of myself. A few of these books pushed me to take a chance on my dreams and enroll in a Winemaking Certificate Program. Some of the other books have motivated me to run harder and faster and embrace my body as an aging athlete. I even set a goal to qualify for Boston this year! I have learned I have the potential for so much more from this past year’s reading list. If you are stuck at home and in need of motivation check out my list below!
Our family has spent the last four weeks on the beautiful island of O’ahu. I wish I could tell you it was for a much needed vacation and family time (in a lot of ways it was), but in reality it was because we had to be medically evacuated to the hospital here. I could write several blog posts about the inadequacy of the current healthcare provided to military families stationed overseas, but I’d rather focus on the amazing treatment I finally received and the amazing ohana I found on the island.
As Claire mentioned in her last post, we are both leaders in a running club called Stroller Warriors and lucky for me there are 48 chapters all over the world, including 3 on O’ahu! Before even arriving I had several wonderful ladies reach out to me to see what they could do to help. Traveling 4,000 miles away from home for surgery with two toddlers felt a little bit less daunting knowing I had a group of like-minded, supportive military moms to lean on if needed.
I had several pre-op appointments the week before my surgery and after dragging our kids through a full day of appointments, my husband and I decided it would be easiest if he dropped me off and spent the day with the kids back at the hotel instead of waiting at the hospital the day of my surgery. However, to make things a little tricky, we only have Japanese cell phone numbers (which actually work in Hawaii thanks to Sprint) and even though the hospital assured us they could call our number they proved several times that week that none of their staff actually knew the right number to dial. So I reached out to one of the awesome ladies from Stroller Warriors, Arlene. I just wanted to get her number so the hospital could call her and she could message Josh to come get me when it was all over. In my head, the surgery was going to go easy peasy and I was going to walk out as easily as I walked in.
Well, I was completely blown away when Arlene not only offered her phone number, but also told me she’d come sit with me at the hospital. I’d like to remind you right now that Arlene and I have never met. She is absolutely amazing for doing this! She showed up right after I’d changed into the super flattering hospital gown and no-skid socks. We instantly became good friends and every time a doctor or nurse came to talk to me they were shocked to learn my non-medical attendant/new best bud was a stranger to me 10 minutes prior. I cannot thank Arlene enough for not only keeping me company before surgery, but also for spending the entire day waiting for me to get out of surgery, talking to the doctor and relaying detailed messages back to my husband all day long. She even gave me a ride back to the hotel so my husband didn’t have to load the kids up to come get me. She is a saint!
I guess now is a good time to fill you in on why I had surgery and how I am doing. I was medically evacuated to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii to see an ENT specialist and have a cholesteatoma surgically removed from behind my middle ear area. For reference, the cholesteatoma was found on a CT scan taken 10 months earlier. This is how long it took me to get proper medical care all because I am stationed overseas. Fast forward to my surgery, the amazing Dr. Chen was able to skillfully remove the non cancerous cholesteatoma, but unfortunately had to do an ossicular chain reconstruction, removing one of my three middle ear bones because the mass had caused deterioration from not being removed sooner. (See brief explanation below on how ears hear, thanks to Netflix’s Ask the Storybots Season 2, Episode 4, I am basically an Otolaryngologist as well.) I will have to have another surgery in 9 months to complete the reconstruction once I have recovered and we confirm the cholesteatoma is gone for good. So for now I have even more profound hearing loss than I had before surgery (-60 decibels, almost deafness) in my left hear, but have been reassured my hearing will be as good as new after my next surgery. When you see me, please talk loudly and forgive me if I miss what you are saying, I promise I am not ignoring you…or am I?
The three parts of the ear all help you hear. The outer ear funnels sound to the ear drum. This makes the eardrum vibrate. The three tiny bones in the middle ear (the malleus, incus, and stapes) pass the vibrations to the inner ear. There, the vibrations become electrical signals. These signals travel along the auditory (hearing) nerve to the brain.
Having your ear sliced open and your temporal bone drilled into is a little bit harder to recover from than I thought…I actually thought I’d be operated on through my ear canal and back to normal hearing and activities within a few days….because that is what I was originally told. Luckily I was given a “sick note” or extended stay in Hawaii for an extra 3 weeks. My family let me rest as much as two toddlers could, but in all seriousness we were itching to get out and explore so I popped the recommended dosage of Tylenol and we crammed as much as we could into our recovery/vacation.
I could not ask for a more beautiful place to be on sick leave. The weather was absolutely fantastic, it did not disappoint. We basically drove all over the island, went to a handful of beaches, did all the kid friendly activities, hiked several different trails and ate ALL THE FOOD. And I’m talking ALL of the food. I actually think I’ve gained 10 pounds from all of the American food I’ve stuffed into my body. I don’t even feel a little bit bad about it because it was so delicious and I won’t have any for a long time.
Coincidentally, one of my cousins was working in Hawaii while we were here and we were able to have lunch several times and catch up with him and his wife. They got to meet my son for the first time, something only a few of my family members have had the opportunity to do considering he was born in Japan.
This trip was the best “family” vacation I have ever been on in terms of getting to spend quality time with family: blood family and ohana. In Hawaii an ohana, meaning family, is special. The people within it are bound together by genuine compassion, culture, support, loyalty, and love for each other. The experiences I had here were exactly that. I already told you about one of my new found sole sisters, Arlene, from my Stroller Warriors ohana, but I was also able to meet a few other amazing SW ladies as we spectated one weekend at the HURT100.
The feeling of ohana didn’t stop there. I also met another social media friend and fellow contributor for Military Moms Blog, Rachel. We connected over dinner and chatted through a beautiful sunset.
Once I was cleared to resume exercise I joined up with the local Saturday wear blue run group. There I met some loyal wear blue runners and enjoyed a meaningful run with them. (Embarrassingly I did not pack a single blue item, but I showed up anyways)
To become a part of someone’s ohana is a great honor and I am beyond honored to be a part of these groups. This military life can be rough sometimes, especially when you undergo something like a medical evacuation to the other side of the world, but the people you meet along the way who become a part of your family or ohana make this life worth doing. I’m feeling very lucky to have been in Hawaii and am already dreading the long flight back to Japan.
Stay tuned for my next post about traveling with two toddlers, one of which screams the entire time, and the wonderful things we did in O’ahu.
One of my main goals since moving to Japan is to get back into ultra running. The landscape is beautiful here and I have a lot of time to train. Let me take that back. I have a lot of time to train on the roads while pushing my double stroller. Having two small children makes it difficult to duck off into the woods every morning for a trail run. Nonetheless, I have spent the last six months preparing for my first Japanese trail ultra marathon. I ran a lot of miles to prepare for this day and felt confident I would do well. A DNF (Did Not Finish) was definitely not in my plans.
I’m loving this “Fall-like” weather we’ve had recently in San Diego. It has made running in the morning a lot more enjoyable. Last week while my husband and I are were out at one of our favorite running spots, we encountered one of the local high school cross country teams. I think just seeing the kids out practicing put a pep in both of our steps. We both ran cross country in high school and college and just seeing the young runners float by made me miss those glory days. I remember when I liked running so hard it made me want to vomit. I ran through illnesses and injuries and pushed myself further than I probably should. If you told me it would be difficult or even impossible to accomplish, I’d be sure to prove you wrong. These days I run as fast as a snail and the slightest ache or pain has me making excuses. Having a running group to lean on has been so helpful and motivating, but more on that in a bit.
Running is a great time to reflect on your day, your week, or even your life. During this particular run I was thinking back on how fit and fast I used to be. I remember all the cute running shorts I used to have. Now I wouldn’t dare try to run in a pair of “booty” shorts. My poor thunder thighs would be so chaffed. After the third time the high school girls sprinted by me in their short shorts and sports bras, I stopped feeling bad about my current abilities and rather started feeling proud as I looked back on all that I’ve accomplished and all that I plan to do. I was out there on the same path, in the early morning, pushing a stroller and battling morning sickness with every stride. “These girls got nothing on me!” It has been amazing to watch my body change over the years through age, pregnancy, and child birth. I thought having a baby would slow me down and keep me from running, but it has really done the opposite. Since my baby was born 9 months ago I have completed a 10K, several 5Ks, a 4 Miler over a bridge, and a Half Marathon.
I feel like I’ve been comparing myself to younger girls my whole life and it really needs to stop. I will never forget my high school cross country coach, Mr. Reynolds, telling me the two reasons I would not make “All-State” my Senior year: 1) I was not one of the fastest high school runners in the state and 2) they were allowing middle schoolers to compete and from an anatomy stand point these girls were at an advantage because they hadn’t fully gone through puberty and their hips weren’t as wide as mine. I was shocked! I never expected him to actually tell me I did not have a chance, much less use my body shape to make his point. I realize now, after a few Google searches, that Mr. Reynolds wasn’t as full of bologna as I had believed. It’s known as the “obstetrics dilemma”: humans give birth to ginormous babies (compared to other species) and childbirth is easier for woman with much wider hips, but Anthropologists have believed for some time now that wide enough hips for childbirth is bad for bipedalism. However, a recent study by Kristi Lewton and her team at Boston University found no connection at all between hip width and efficiency: wide-hipped runners moved just as well as their narrow-hipped peers (you can find the full article here). I found this out for myself in 2004 when I shocked the hell out of Mr. Reynolds by beating the narrow-hipped middle schoolers, making the “All-State” team, and running my fastest 5K time ever, wide hips and all!
I’ve long since worried about my speed while running. I mostly focus now on my endurance and running long distances. I love seeing how far I can actually run. I have completed a few ultramarathons and would love to do more in the future. When I lived in Maryland I ran with an ultra trail group called the Frederick Steeplechasers. I’ve never met a group that loved running as much as they do. My husband and I were half the age of most of the runners and they could kick our butts on any given day. Some of these folks are running faster and farther in their 50s and 60s than they ever did in their 20s. It is amazing and encouraging to see such endurance and passion in other runners who are more senior. I can’t wait to see what I’m capable of at their age.
Claire and I are now a part of Stroller Warriors running club (like I mentioned in a previous post). We are a group of women with all abilities, shapes, and sizes. Some of the ladies are working on their first 5K while others are training for their first 50K! These women are so inspiring and I love that we keep each other accountable. Claire will be interviewing two ladies from the group who just ran the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. I’m excited to hear about their experience. Women are really taking over when it comes to marathons and longer distances. It turns out our bodies were made for it. Here are some fun facts about why women are good distance runners:
1. Women generally have a larger surface area to mass ratio, which enables heat to dissipate more easily, meaning women are generally better at coping with heat. (From ultrarunner, registered dietician and sports nutritionist, and Training Food author Renee McGregor)
2. Shorter legs (compared to men) are seen as advantage as they are more suited for a quicker turnover, and a faster cadence will ensure efficient use of the elastic energy created during our running stride. (From Running Reborn by Shane Benzie)
3. Women use about 75% more fat than men while running, this means consistent and almost limitless energy release. (From The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik)
I guess my point to all this rambling is this: I sure do miss running the way I did in high school, but when it comes to running, my glory days are not behind me. I plan on running many, many more miles with my wide hips, thunder thighs, and babies in tow. Running is just one of those things you can do at any point in your life and with a little bit of training you might not be too bad at it.