Re-learning and New Learning

Going from a high-activity lifestyle (running about 30 miles/week and Saturday jungle runs) to being stuck in a wheelchair was definitely a challenge for me. It drove me nuts…and in turn I drove my parents nuts. (My parents have so much patience with me!) Up until the accident I had been living on my own since I was 19. Of course, there were the occasional transitional periods when my parents graciously let me stay at home again. But for the most part I was used to being on my own schedule. This period before I received my first set of prosthetics was a learning period for all of us.

Being an active person I started working out at home with weights. That was okay. I’ve never really been a gym person. Even as a runner I hated running on the treadmill. That was so boring. I much preferred running outside. On Guam you can really feel a sense of the distance you just ran because the villages are relatively close to one another. I would start from my little studio in Tamuning, run up Marine Drive to Dededo, turn back down San Vitores Road in a fun downhill sprint to the Westin, continue thru Tumon, around the Archbishop Circle, and finally arrive back home. It was about a 12k run that could take me 45 minutes on a good day. That was one of the longer runs. Most of the time I kept my runs between 7-10k. I would mix it up by running it either way or taking various shortcuts thru different side streets. Running courseI could make that run even more challenging by running on Tumon beach, with its near-white sand. That waves were usually calm at night and I’d have fun by running as close to the edge of the water as possible without getting wet. That was a great calf workout; it taught you agility and fancy footwork. It’s near-impossible to stay dry running so close to the water. Add to that task the fact that your feet sank from every step you took. Running that course at night on the relatively empty Guam beaches was the most satisfying, near-magical run that one can have. It allowed for a lot of introspection. I did most of my running after 8 P.M. because I’m just more active at night. Running was mind-clearing for me. I’d start out the run with all the stresses and anxieties of the day and by the end of the run the only thing on my mind was my running.

Running was an activity that I had found later in life. I ran in my early 20’s, but it was nothing serious. In my late 20’s I started to run longer and train for speed. I watched videos, read articles, switched from basic casual runner’s shoes to racing flats. On racing flats your gait had to be near perfect to avoid injury. It was something that was constantly on my mind. Were my feet landing properly? Were they not resting too long on the ground? Was I raising them high enough? Were my arms swinging in harmony with my gait? I was running intervals, tempo runs, long runs, and the occasional hill repeat. It paid off when I started to enter 5ks and was able to keep up with the young kids. I didn’t enter many, though, because of the insanely early start times! I ran small 5k’s that didn’t have many participants and didn’t have any record keeping. I remember a 5k I ran for UOG and my time there being around 18 minutes. I wished I had signed up for more.

I coworker asked me to join a perimeter relay around the southern portion of Guam which I gladly did. It was a lot of fun running with other running enthusiasts. I don’t remember what we placed, but we did it for fun. It was nice to run those areas on such a pristine island and make new friends.Perimeter Relay 2011 (3)Yikes! It would appear that I’ve gotten off track. I didn’t mean to write so much about running, but by now you can tell how much I loved it. I forgot if I mentioned it earlier in this blog, but a few months before that accident I ran a half-marathon and came in at 1:39–not bad for a first. I was training to come in under 1:30 for the next one at the Ko’Ko’ Bird race in October.

To continue, I tried to pick up swimming about a month after returning to Guam from the Philippines. I wanted to learn since you don’t need any prosthetics. My dad took me a few times in my wheelchair, but it was a little difficult as far as logistics go. I wasn’t yet strong enough to leave the wheelchair on my own and getting back into the chair would be even harder. My quest to learn how to swim would have to come later.