Sunday, July 17, 2011

Running, Where We Actually Get A's for Effort

"Life doesn't require that we be the best, only that we try our best."

**H. Jackson Brown, Jr. **
       When non-runners look at the running world, they see the leaders like Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher eating up the roads at magnificent speeds and appreciate the skill, determination, and work that has gone into those hard won miles. Runners see the same things, but it extends much further. Anyone that has been part of the larger running community, like participating in local 5K charity races either as runners or volunteers, knows the blood sweat and tears that can go into the finishing chute with the average Joe long after the Ryan’s and Kara’s are gone.

       Watching the finishers cross the line for a local 5K you see many different stories. You see the guy that has run all his life and breezes over the line in 22 minutes. He didn’t try his hardest that day, he has a more important race coming up, but he wanted to run with his friends or support a particular charity. Everyone cheers for his great time, gives him high fives, and he may even walk away with a shiny age group award. I appreciate his hard work and achievements, but there are more touching stories to come.

      The real inspiration comes in later. You see the 80 year old man that struggles to cross the line before the chute is packed up and taken away. You see the woman that has recently lost 70 pounds and is over the moon because she ran all 3 miles and 180 yards without walking. You see the 40 year old that decided to get serious about his health and giving it all to bread 30 minutes. You also see the survivors of cancer, heart disease, abuse, and an endless list of other challenges straining to do their best. What time these people finish or what place they received for their age group is totally immaterial. They are out there giving their very best effort for no one but themselves. They are there to prove they are stronger than their struggles and the crowd cheers for them like they did the ones that crossed the line early on. Sure, Olympians are inspiring, but I know I will never run like that. It is the rest of the people that inspire me more. To be strong like them, to have that heart and determination, that is what I strive for. I hope I am still crossing finish lines when I’m 80! I hope that if I ever have to face cancer, I can do it with that kind of courage.

       A dear running friend of mine is more than half way through cancer treatment. He has battled through Chemo therapy while working full time at a physically demanding job. Now he has a few more weeks of radiation to go, but he is back on the treadmill and just knocked out his first mile. In comparison to his achievements of qualifying for the Boston Marathon 3 times, running one single mile in a day may seem like nothing, but it is everything. It is the WIN over cancer. It was the hardest mile he has ever run, and it is the most inspiring mile he has ever run. THIS is the thought that gets me out the door when I don’t feel like running. This is the thought that keeps me setting goals and pushing forward. If Bruce, with a feeding tube in his stomach and a body ravaged by deadly chemicals and radiation, can step up and run, I can put my excuses on the shelf and get out the door. (For more of Bruce’s story, please see his blog )

       So what was my week like? Well, I’m still pretty cruddy from last week’s bug so my times were much slower than I like, but I got the miles in and hope in the next week or two to be back up to pace.

Mon: 3 easy miles

Tues: 7 stronger miles

Wed: 3 easy miles

Fri: 11 mile long run.

Sat: extra recovery day

      I choose to skip the hash run this Saturday to try and kick the last of the crud with back to back rest days. I had a nice mile+ walk just to shake the lead out, but otherwise give my body time to heal. I’m primed and ready to begin week 5 tomorrow!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Marathon training: Quick Update

Quick update:

       Runner’s World has been interesting the last couple of months. July was about the relationship between cancer and running, which is very strong. They talked about how distance running gives people back control over their lives. I agree with that 100%! Running gave me control over my body despite RA and I’ve seen it give people control when they felt they had lost it over illness, abuse, or just a bad run of luck. In the August issue there is an article about pain that asked at the end if people with chronic pain would react differently if they were feeling the same pain while crossing the finish line of a marathon with a cheering crowd. Well, DUH, of course, but there is no cheering section for chronic pain sufferers. We didn’t ask to be there, we didn’t work to be there, there is no gain from chronic pain.

       People often wonder at why I would train for and run a marathon. Why would I want to put my body through that kind of pain? It is very simple. I have resigned myself to the fact that pain is part of my life. When I don’t run, I have RA pain, when I do run I have all the aches and pains that go with pushing your body to its limits. Obviously on the running side one has better health, a better figure, and a more positive outlook, but there is one other factor and that is CHOICE. If I’m hurting at the end of a speed work out or pushing the last mile of a race, I’m hurting because I choose to and I can make it stop any time. By choosing that pain and pushing the envelope, I am exempting myself (for the most part) from the uncontrollable, unchosen, unending pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I did not choose to have RA so when it takes over my life and rides roughshod over my decisions, it makes me bitter and angry. I choose to run and when I am sore and aching I know it means I am getting stronger. When months of my life were spent surviving and never getting on top of all the things I needed to do, let alone get around to something I wanted to do, it plunged me into the depths of despair for months at a time. When months of exhaustive efforts see me successfully crossing the finish line, I am elated and on a high that lasts far longer. To me that makes marathon training a no-brainer.

       I ran 3 miles this morning. They were slow, but good. I didn’t start feeling wiped out until the last mile and considering I haven’t taken my Enbrel in over a week that is very good. My chest has cleared up, but my head has not, which means I’m still coughing from the gunk in my head, but no more of the deep chested stuff. I am better, but not yet well and it is okay. I ran today.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Marathon Training week 3/18

       Training plans are a wonderful tool. They take the knowledge of great coach and make it available to the masses. The down side is that people often feel they have to follow the plans to the letter, and if they can’t, they are sure they are doomed to failure. It is rare that someone embarks on a 16 or 18 weeks plan and sees it through without a hiccup. The reality is that life usually butts in at some point, throwing off the schedule, making us miss runs, and consequently undermining our confidence.

       This has been one of those weeks for me. I was feeling run down from a weekend of too much fun, with late nights and a bit more drinking than usual, but I wasn’t too worried. Usually a nice easy 3 miler will clear away the sluggish overwrought feelings and clear up minor head colds, but not always, it can also bring things to an ugly head. I had started with a bit of a cough on Thursday evening, but wrote it off an typical allergies and post nasal drip. Unfortunately, following my 3 mile run, I was coughing up some scary stuff and through the course of the day I felt worse and worse with each passing hour. By Tuesday morning I was feeling horrible and went to the clinic. Sadly, doctors that do not know us do not always have confidence in our personal assessments so my knowing I had an infection fell on deaf ears. I was given the usual gamut of over the counter medications and sent home with instructions to come back if I was still sick the next week.

       Chest colds are dangerous for people on Enbrel. One of the side effects of this RA drug is that it predisposes us to a deadly form of pneumonia so, needless to say, I was very concerned that this bronchitis would turn into pneumonia and knock me flat for weeks or months. Marathon training aside, this would put a serious crimp in my life and that of my family. If I were hospitalized and the doctors here decided they could not meet my medical needs, my daughter and I would be sent back to the States and my husband would have to finish out the rest of his 3 year commitment in Korea alone. My motivation to stay as healthy as possible is very high indeed! In addition to treating my illness I also have to stop taking Enbrel to allow my immune system to be as strong as possible; this sets me up for a whopper of an RA flare.

       By Thursday, I was running a fever and far more sick so I went back to the clinic. This time I was listened too and given antibiotics, along with more decongestants. I appear to slowly be getting better, but it will be a week or two before I’m back on track. If this antibiotic isn’t strong enough, it will mean more weeks out, more time off my RA meds, and more time lost from marathon training.

       At the moment I am still optimistic. Having just started training, I’m still within distances that I am very comfortable with so a week or two off won’t matter much. A month off would be a problem. If this illness had hit after week 10 or 12, it could possibly have meant canceling. I know that marathon training is not really important compared to pneumonia and all the complications that would go with it, but for a runner, losing that which keeps us positive and on track is frustrating and disabling. Only another athlete can understand that. The race itself is merely frosting, it is what I gain mentally and physically from the training that holds my life together. I’m going buggy laying around watching movies and sleeping between coughing fits.

       As of Sunday morning, I’m nearly finished with my 5 day course of antibiotics and feeling somewhat more human. If this trend continues I will try going for a short run tomorrow and see how it goes. I’m a big believer in sweating out crud and breathing deeply to clear out the lungs so hopefully a nice easy run, followed by a good nap will do a world of good.

Week 3: one pitiful 3 mile run

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Marathon training week 2/18

       Things are still going well and I’m feeling good. The niggling issues of my piriformis is at least not getting worse, and may be getting better. In September, when my favorite massage therapist gets back from vacation, I’ll start getting regular deep tissue massages (every other week) and see how that works for improving things. I’m doing everything I can so maybe adding the massages will finally kick the issue.

       The big running tragedy this week is that my beloved Garmin gave up the ghost. Yes, I’ve tried everything, all the resets, all the tricks, it is truly dead. I believe the battery is shot and the mode button no longer works right so I ordered a new one and am anxiously awaiting its arrival! In the meantime, I’m using Map My Run and past experience to gauge my distances. I have a pretty good idea where each mile mark is around the flight line to keep a bead on my time and where to turn around, so it hasn’t been a total disaster. Also, if I haven’t received my new Garmin by Tuesday (which is pretty likely since the whole base stands down for 5 days to celebrate the 4th of July) I can borrow a heart rate monitor from the gym to help me stay in the right zone for my pace run.

So, for this week….

Mon: 3 easy miles. It was a touch colder and more windy following the tropical storm that blew by so not as comfortable running in the rain as I would have liked, but not totally miserable either.

Tuesday: 5 easy miles, which I turned into 6 because it is easier to just finish the circle around the flight line. I got a late start because hubby went in to work a little later so it was steaming hot. Also, without the Garmin, I pushed too hard and finished with an average pace of 9:30 mpm.

Wed: 3 easy miles again, but so humid! It was 75F with 100% humidity at 6:30 in the morning, like trying to run with a pillow over your face! Again, I ran it way too fast trying to get it over with. 9:20 mpm pace.

Thur: rest day! Which would have been great if I had taken it more seriously, but social obligations had me out way past my bed time and I had 2 drinks, which is more than usual for me so I was feeling pretty tired the next morning.

Fri: Long run, 9 miles. Tired and dehydrated from being out the night before made my 9 mile long run exhausting. I also need to work on my calorie consumption. I had my usual coffee with milk and banana, plus a handful of nuts, but after 30 minutes when I decided to have a gel, I realized I had left it in the car, UGH! By 5 miles I was starving and miserable, but I knew the only way to fix it was to get back to the car and the protein shake waiting for me. With a couple of walking breaks thrown in I finished in just under 1:30 so spot on for my 10 mpm planned pace. In the past I have had my long runs on the weekend and had time to rest afterwards, but on Fridays I don’t have that luxury. I was busy non-stop the rest of the day, ending with hanging out with friends for hours, drinking wine and staying out past midnight. This wouldn’t be so bad if I could sleep in Saturday morning, but I wake up at 5:30 no matter what I do. After once again exceeding my one glass norm, (by 3 glasses), Saturday morning was not pretty.

Sat: Hash run! I really debated this one. I was so tired from being out two nights in a row and it was so hot out! However, I really enjoy running with this group and as I’m the official blogger for it, I feel somewhat obligated to go. Fortunately, everyone was tired and dying of the heat so it wasn’t a heavy duty run. The one problem with this group is the tendency to share bottles. When someone stops and buys an ice cold bottle of water or beer and offers you a sip, it is hard to pass up. Unfortunately, I must knock this off because I am catching everyone’s colds and have spent more time sick in the last 2 months than I have in the previous 2 years. By Saturday morning I was coughing and am now miserable with another cold. It is very unusual for me to have so much going on in one weekend, so I’m sure this won’t be often repeated. Even so, I need to stay more focused on my health, make sure I get enough rest, and stop pushing so hard with everything else in my life. As much as I would like to deny it, I am neither 20 years old nor healthy; I cannot get away with burning the candle at both ends and expect to finish a marathon.
My Saturday running group, the Osan Bulgogi Hash House Harriers