Living by the Numbers

Two huge numerical digits came to inhabit our backyard yesterday.  I planted them there, surreptitiously.  And when night fell, the timer clicked on and they proclaimed in giant illumination my husband’s new age.  60.  The big 6-0.  A turning point I have already passed.60-Birthday-Bash-Molly-RichWrangling those numbers into place drove home the numerical realities of life.  Of growing older (I refuse to say old).  Of how I have come to measure life by different standards.  Of the milestones I have reached.  Of the impact on my active lifestyle.  Admitting to my mathematical background, I can’t help but ponder my new life status from a numerical perspective.

My passion for endurance sports has not waned with my age.  But its key indicators are clearly suffering.  I’m embarrassed to find I am pleased to complete a long run squeaking in just under 10 minute miles.  Admittedly 7s are ancient history, but whatever happened to 8 or 9?  I’m learning to let go of the single digits when it comes to pace, as long as I can still rack up the mileage numbers. Thankfully marathons are still within my reach, they just take longer.  PRs have fallen by the wayside.  And forget finishing under 4 hours.  Just crossing the finish line is rewarding enough.

If I’m getting slower, so is my competition.  And here’s a case where the numbers are declining.  As I move up the age categories, the field keeps narrowing.  Moving into a new classification is exciting, as it signals yet another drop in participation.  I actually placed 3rd in my age group in a marathon ski race this winter, and won a coveted Dala horse prize.  I just choose to ignore the fact that I was 3rd out of 3.

Having taken up distance cycling just 4 years ago, I don’t have the same competitive baggage.  And rather than focus on speed and racing, Rich and I have taken up cycle touring.  Our mantra is “You see a lot more of the world when traveling at only 12 miles an hour.”  Here it’s more about the distance figures.  Our annual tours have typically taken us over 1,400 miles.  And to date our longest trip has covered 2,350 miles.  It took us nearly two months to get there, yet by the end we still wanted to keep going.  That’s a measure of success.  I’d still love to top that number.

Not all cycle rides have to be that long.  100 has a nice ring to it.  A friend talked me into a Century Ride a few years ago, and it has now become an annual tradition.  Time is not a consideration, as long as we finish cycling before dark.  Thanks to the long summer days here Up North, we have yet to fail.  We may just need to start earlier each year.

Anniversaries are another good life measure.  For 24 straight years I have shared a cross-country ski weekend with a fellow mom/career woman/friend.  We do a lot of skiing and yes, I track the kilometers.  Our range may have narrowed over the years, but our support for one another and ability to come home recharged have been a constant.  All the more reason to look forward to our 25th trip. And to hope that number will continue to grow.

No matter how I look at it, I count myself very fortunate.  A little slippage here, a bit of stagnation there isn’t bad.  I’m still out there plying the pavement, spinning my wheels and gliding over the snow.  Good health and energy are gifts whose value can’t be calculated.  Not even for those of us who live by the numbers.

The Runner’s Low

I’ve been sidelined. And I don’t even know how it happened. What seems to be a groin pull has definitely knocked me out of the running game. I have no idea when I will be back in play.

Anyone who knows me will instantly recognize that this is not going down well. My whole being yearns to be out exercising. When I awake in the morning, it’s a crushing blow to know I can’t lace up my running shoes and put in 10 miles. The world as I know it has shifted.

Walking in Dubrovnik

The fact that I am traveling through Europe for the month is my saving grace. I’m already outside my normal routine, and there are so many other great things to do that I reconcile filling the void with exploring, sightseeing and visiting. I pretend that all the walking I do around each city I visit is enough exercise for a day. At times I even I admit that it is liberating. No need to agonize over when I will get in my run. It just isn’t a factor. And I have extra time for being a tourist.

Cycling with Mary

Before I mislead anyone into thinking that I may even be letting go, I’d better set the record straight. While I can’t run, cycling seems to be okay. So I appreciated the afternoons that Mary and I went for bike rides together in England. Even if they were leisurely jaunts to a tea shop to splurge on rich cakes. I also spent many a morning in the cruise ship’s fitness center spinning my way into port. I took it easy, though, and limited my workout to a fraction of the distance I would normally do. It’s a real challenge, but I really am trying to be good. Honest.

Sunrise in Rothley

Some days I get my fix of pre-breakfast fresh air by going for a brisk walk. That has its compensations, as I can bring a camera. I captured this nice sunrise one morning in England.

While in the Czech Republic, Rich and I have spent many an hour walking together while our “Czech daughter” Pavla is at work. I well remember running this same path in Ostrava on a previous visits, and each time a runner strides past us my heart twists with envy. But I stay the course, gently putting one foot in front of the other. Taking in the fall colors.

Fall leaves in Ostrava

It’s not easy being good. But I’m doing my best to keep a positive attitude. I can’t stay in Europe forever. So soon I will have to face mornings at home without a run on the Lakewalk. That’s a real runner’s low.

 

Just a friendly bet

It was a given that Rich would ignore the doctor’s orders.  We knew he would start skiing again before the prescribed recovery period was over following his surgery last Friday.  The only question was when?  He’s much too active to sit around and rest.  And going for long walks soon lost its appeal.  I just knew he was itching to be out on the ski trails, especially given the new snow.

So I went behind his back.  Early in the week I surreptitiously sent our kids an email titled “Taking Bets.”  I suggested we have a betting pool on precisely when Dad would head out to ski, and asked each to reply just to me with the day they expected him to break bail.  The only information we had to go on was the doctor’s suggestion that he take the week off work, not work out for a couple of weeks, and not lift more than 5 pounds.  I registered my vote for Thursday then waited for the other bets to come in.

Final tally:

  • Karen – Wednesday
  • Carl and me – Thursday
  • Erik and Matt – Friday

Clearly none of us thought he’d make it longer than a week.

The email responses had barely arrived when Rich started making his move.  “Where are my knickers?”  he asked Wednesday morning.  Uh oh, I was in trouble.  Sure enough, by 2pm he was outfitted in his ski clothes and waxing his skis.  Shortly thereafter, he was out the door.  So much for doctor’s orders.

Upon his triumphant return, Rich wasn’t exactly apologetic for his actions.  Far from it, the first thing he did was post his Garmin GPS data for the ski on Facebook.  I rather doubt that 10k at 5 min/k was what the doctor would consider an “easy ski.”  Rich ski 1 Rich ski 2

I decided it was time to break it to him.  So I commented on his Facebook post, informing him of our bet.  And about Karen being the winner.  As I expected, he was quite tickled that his audacious behavior was the center of family speculation.  And that he exceeded our expectations for the most part.

I’m just glad he’s feeling so good.  There’s a lot to being in good health to fuel a speedy recovery.  But I still hope he doesn’t overdo it.  I’d like to bet on a full recovery soon.

Documenting your health care

Since our recent Emergency Room experience, we have indeed gotten our health care documentation in order. That episode taught us that we were vulnerable, and Rich’s subsequent surgery was all the incentive we needed to make sure we were prepared with the information and rights we needed to protect each other’s health.  In short order, we accomplished the following:

  • Exchanged information on health care providers – we documented all our doctors, dentists, clinics and their contact information and shared them with each other.  I happen to use LastPass to securely store all my passwords and other critical data, so I added records for this information as well.  I can then access it from my smartphone, iPad, or any PC.

1) assign a primary and secondary health care agent and define their rights
2) outline your wishes for life-sustaining medical treatment and end of life care

Forms for Health Care Directives are easily found on the internet, but they are specific to the state in which you live, so it is important to select the correct one.  They also need to be signed by two witnesses or a notary public.

It wasn’t clear to us what rights a spouse has, so we each filled out a Health Care Directive assigning each other as our primary health care agent.  We also asked our unmarried sons to complete one as well.  Parents do not automatically have rights to information or to make decisions on behalf of their adult children.

At our age, one doesn’t often think about end of life care (really, we’re not that old!).  But in completing the forms, we discovered personal wishes that were important to share with one another.  And since these documents can be replaced at any time, we know we can update them if our desires or circumstances change.

Rich provided copies of his Health Care Directive to his doctors and the hospital for his surgery. We are also keeping scanned copies on our smartphones as well as home computers, and sent copies to our children. You never know when or where you will need it.

One is rarely prepared for a health emergency.  We certainly weren’t.  I think we are now in a better situation going forward.  And hopefully we won’t be needing these measures soon.  But I feel better for having taken these steps.

Have you documented your health care yet?

 

Home Again

It was only 27 1/2 hours.  But it seemed a lot longer.  From the time we walked in the front doors of the hospital to the time we walked out again, it felt as though the world had stopped.  Hospitals are like that.  Nothing seems to matter except what’s going on inside.

Even the short periods of time I spent at home were surreal.  Things just seemed, well, different.  Even the dog knew.  She is devoted to Rich, and kept looking around for him.  I wasn’t good enough for her.  She wanted Rich.  And she let me know it by whining incessantly at bedtime.  And beyond.

We were both very grateful that they decided to keep Rich in the hospital overnight.  Going home the same day as his surgery sounded like a great thing.  Sleeping in his own bed, a quiet, familiar environment and no hospital stay.  But seeing him hooked up to fluids with the nursing staff constantly checking his vitals, and professionals doling out advice or reassurance was a blessing.  The extra care and attention before we were on our own gave us an extra measure of confidence as Rich walked out the door.

It feels good to have all that behind us now.  Rich is thrilled to be showered and dressed.  He’s relaxing on the couch, not a hospital bed.  And he even sneaked a Diet Coke.

We’re glad Rich is home again.  And the dog is happy too.

 

On to Recovery

The waiting got long. I forced myself to wait at least 15 minutes between checking Rich's status, as it continued to hover on “OR.” I invented logical reasons why he was still in there. I pushed alternatives from my mind. In the scheme of things it really was not all that long. But it seemed like it.

Then suddenly Rich's doctor came out the door and was at my feet. He delivered the words I longed to hear, “All went well.” It did take longer than normal, and there was some additional work that needed to be done, but all still within the confines of the laser surgery. No incision needed. Blockage successfully removed. Yea! On his next fleeting visit he told me he'd just talked to Rich. That was major news. Being raised in a doctor's family, Rich has a healthy apprehension about anesthesia, so coming out of that was a big step. While it was still a long time before I was permitted to see him, I could at least relax.

Now it's all about recovery. Due to the additional work done, the doctor is keeping him in the hospital overnight. At this stage, it seems a small penalty. Rich has already gone from groggy to napping to tapping away on his tablet. Feeling better can't be too far away if he is already engaging with his beloved Internet. Soon Rich will be relocated to his own hospital room. Another first for him.

It will seem strange not to have him home in bed with me tonight. It's not like we haven't spent time apart, it's just that this feels different. But once again we have a lot to be thankful for. This hospital stay is just for good measure. It's not a long, dragged out affair. And I know his recovery is already starting.

The Waiting Room

True to its name, this is where I sit and wait. I just left Rich’s bedside so they could administer the anesthesia and wheel him into the operating room. Fortunately, he is able to benefit from the medical and technological advances that allow his enlarged prostate to be treated with lasers. So as opposed to full blown surgery, with big incisions and a long recovery process, his less invasive procedure should allow him to go home later today, and return to normal life much more rapidly.

We have been truly blessed and fortunate that in almost 30 years of marriage (not to mention our 20-something individual years before that) and raising our children to adults, we have never experienced surgery before. By the same token, we are both very healthy adults – marathoners, cyclists and long distance skiers. I’m sure the two are related. A friend of mine who is a nurse in a surgical recovery room told Rich that the doctors and nurses are going to love him for his overall good health. It’s a treat, she said, to work with people devoid of other risks and complications – unfortunately something that is all too rare these days.

Being newbies to all this, there are so many unknowns. It’s still surgery, after all. How will Rich feel later today? How long before he can resume his workouts? On the way to the hospital this morning, Rich remarked that if he was feeling nervous, how must someone feel going into a major operation? We couldn’t imagine what it must be like to face something like open heart surgery.

Technology has moved into the waiting room too. I have a restaurant-style pager that will light up when the doctor wants to talk to me. That will let me wander around in the hospital. There is also a monitor in the corner that reports the status of all the patients behind that door. Checking Rich’s patient number, I can see that he is in “OR.” More time to wait. But that’s okay – it’s where I need to be for the day, and I brought plenty to keep me occupied. And I was even able to get a good latte at the coffee bar.

I can wait.