Who’s Running for Who?

I applied to be a runner for I Run for Michael (IR4) back in the early summer of 2013. With IR4, runners are paired with people who have difficulty running due to physical challenges. By July I was matched with Gareth, a young man in Pennsylvania. The reason Gareth’s family had applied for a runner is because he has a mitochondrial disorder which makes it difficult for him to expend energy in a way that is equivalent to other boys his age.

Once you are matched, it doesn’t take long before you start dreaming of meeting your match. You share so much, on the private I Run for Michael page, in messages, cards, letters, and other types of communication. But nothing is the same as looking someone you have come to care about in the eyes.

When I started making plans to do the 2015 New York City Marathon on March 15, 2015, as part of Team in Training/Team SOAR, I started googling around for 5Ks in the area where Gareth lives, since it was within driving distance of NYC. Lo and behold, there was a 5K in his town on the Saturday before the Sunday half marathon! The event was the Warm Hearts 5K benefiting the Sam Vlasics Foundation for Heart Defect Awareness

On Friday, March 13, 2015 (yes, Friday the 13th!), I flew to Newark, and took one of the trip’s many buses into NYC. I dropped my luggage at a hotel room of a helpful friend, visited the race expo to pick up my number for Sunday’s half marathon, returned to the hotel room to consolidate my stuff into a small bag for the 5K with Gareth, and headed out to a bus for his town.

I should note that all throughout this traveling, and for days leading up to it, and until the moment my head hit the pillow that evening, I prayed that the 100% chance of rain for Saturday would be wrong (it wasn’t).

Saturday morning, Gareth, his mom Kim and his dad Nick picked me up and we headed to the race venue! Although I have done the race morning/packet pickup drill countless times, it was exciting to share it with Gareth. He wanted to take a “light jog” around the building and I was all to happy to oblige (because moving = warmth and it was quite chilly!!).

We snapped a few pictures before the race (unbelievably throughout the whole day we never managed to get a picture with Gareth’s parents in it — which is a disappointment but I suppose that gives us an excuse to get together again in the future!).

We did a bit of strategizing. Because Gareth’s mitochondrial disorder (MCAD) makes it difficult to use energy for an extended period of time, we decided he would run the first half mile with me, then wait for me to do the loop around an industrial park that followed the first half mile. We would meet up to run in together. Poor Gareth (and his dad, Nick) had the worst part of the deal … standing around in the cold rain FREEZING while I ran (and, sigh, walked some as I was dealing with the heart rate issues that have been cropping up lately).

Finally I made it around to the spot where Gareth was waiting for me. We had a little under a half mile to go. Having seen several pictures and videos of other IR4 children and runners sharing races together, I have to admit I had in my mind’s eye a picture perfect scene of Gareth and me crossing the finish line together, hands raised victoriously (NOTE: the picture perfect scene fantasy did NOT include freezing rain!).

Gareth and I started toward the finish line. He had lots of pent up spirit, having frozen to the bone while waiting for me. As we approached the finish line, my HR zoomed up (the preliminary diagnosis is Atrial Fibrillation but that is still getting resolved) and I had to stop and walk at what was supposed to be the big big moment!!! Given the choice of passing out (not picture perfect) and staying upright but walking, I chose to walk. It was awesome watching Gareth sprint through the finish line. He waited for me, came back to me, and we did cross the finish line together (chivalrous kid, this one!).

Gareth’s family took me out to breakfast at a local diner after the race. We were all happy to be out of the wet/cold weather and to share a meal together. (And yes, this southerner did have to ask what pork roll is!). As we finished up our breakfast, I checked the bus schedule and we came to the conclusion that we should try to get me to the 1:15 bus (which as it turns out is a Sunday bus (read schedules much, Paula?)). Good thing we arrived at the depot in time for me to catch the 12:45 at the last minute (hence the hasty goodbyes and lack of pictures with Gareth’s parents!). I was able to make it back to the city in time for a lovely warm shower and to get ready for a team dinner prior to my NYC Half Sunday morning.

TAKEAWAYS:

CHD

I loved the fact that the 5K I happened on to was a benefit for a Congenital Heart Defect cause. My friend Karen here in Tallahassee has taught me a lot about CHD (and she sent an awesome goodie bag from Broken Hearts of Florida for me to give Dana, Sam’s mom and head of the Sam Vlasics Foundation). Since our family has a history of Long QT Syndrome, we feel an affinity for all causes heart related. I liked helping a cause close to my heart (yes, I had to say it that way!).

It Takes a Village

I started emailing Dana quite some time ago when it appeared I may be able to do the 5K. I explained the situation with IR4, and the fact that we would possibly need to make some accommodations due to Gareth’s MCAD. Long story short: she said “whatever you need, we’ll make it work.” And she did. I am so grateful.

In addition, I am a person who tends to do things by myself first and ask for help second. I made a plan to stay at a hotel Friday night (because frankly, as wonderful as IR4 meetings seem to almost always be, that’s a lot of pressure on two sets of people who don’t know each other yet), and I planned to take a cab from the bus depot to the hotel. It wasn’t a long distance but not really walkable at night. Yelp reviews such as this one left me feeling a little leery. When Kim offered to pick me up at the bus depot, I agreed. We had such a nice visit, and a quick sandwich (no, I hadn’t thought ahead to plan dinner (ongoing joke of the weekend — you’re a veteran traveler??)). It was really nice to visit briefly prior to race morning and get in our first “getting to know you” moments without the race adrenaline playing a part. I know Gareth and family had to wait around for the bus (which was later than planned), leave early on Saturday morning to pick me up, and make other accommodations to make my visit so pleasant. They were awesome.

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You Gotta Have Heart

I was SO disappointed to have an AFib (if that’s what it is!) attack right before the “big finish.” At the times prior to meeting back up with Gareth that I had to talk to keep my HR down, and the times I had to stop and walk right before the “big finish,” all of the negative self talk I have struggled with as I have gotten slower and slower was swirling through my head. BUT of all the people around whom to accept the fact that I had to make accommodations for my health, this was the place to do it. That is Gareth’s life … making adjustments moment to moment to balance enjoyment and the thrill of using energy with the fact that the physical challenges necessitate doing things that don’t necessarily look “active” to unknowing onlookers. (And honestly…the scene of him running through the finish line by himself was priceless to me!).

I Get It A Little Better Now

You can read about mitochondrial disorder. You can tweet about it, try to understand, listen to people’s explanations. I still am no expert, but what I did “get” by being in Gareth’s presence is that like any boy he likes to go places fast. Even a trip to get a napkin involved a sprint or skip. When he and I were starting the race, I explained that I am running slower than usual due to trying to figure out this heart thing and appealed to him to pace me. But of course he wanted to run. Who wouldn’t? The challenge is the pain he may face later if he doesn’t parcel out the way in which his energy is used.

Love Love Love

I am struck, in ways I find difficult to express, with  how much these two parents love their child. Not that they wouldn’t love their child but seeing that love in action, on a day called “warm hearts,” warmed mine. I am sure they think they are just doing what any parent would do, but they do it well and clearly this kid is their heart.

Why is Paula Wearing a Skunk Hat?

This day coincided with the Idiots Running Club Skunk Run. That called for a skunk hat (and skunk shirt, of course). I was a little worried about that until I “got” Gareth’s sense of humor. It all worked out!

Lastly, more pictures:

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Race start (Gareth in blue jacket/shorts, me in pink)

 

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Gareth's Finish

Gareth’s Finish

 

Finishing together!

Finishing together!

Note: The I Run for Michael organization has many more runners waiting for children to run for! For more information, visit the site by clicking this link. (Or ask me! I am happy to answer questions!).

Fred’s Drive-By Shooting

When Mama Kat proposed the following writing prompt a few weeks ago:

Write a 26-line poem using all the letters of the alphabet, where the first line starts with the letter “A,” the second “B,” the third “C,” etc., culminating with the final line starting with “Z.”

I knew I had to give it a go! We are at the starting line of my effort — see you at the finish!

Flash 2015 12K Race Shirt

Flash 2015 Race Shirt

At the 7.2 mile mark of my 7.46 mile race yesterday, I was sad that my heart was

Beating SO fast that I had to stop to

Collect data via my patient assistant, after which I

Decided to walk the last portion of the race

Except the

Finish line.

Grouped around the finish line were the volunteers and

Huddled clumps of finishers and supporters braving the cold to see the last runners

Ignite their muscles for their last victorious sprints.

Just after putting the patient assistant away, my mind

Kept grappling with the fact that I had not taken

Lots of pictures before the race like I usually do; no flat

Mama for my Moms Run This Town Facebook Page or Instagram,

Nothing. So many missed

Opportunities to share my excitement with friends and raise awareness for the

People for whom I am running the NYC Half Marathon on a date that is

Quickly approaching! Our

Running

Stories, though, are much deeper than pictures can tell. Even so, imagine how

Tickled and1585 Paula Kiger

Utterly surprised I was when race photographer Fred Deckert pulled up in his

Vehicle as he was leaving and did a “drive-by” shooting

Which resulted in a picture from day

XXI in February 2015 that has a bit of a “drive by blur” effect

Yet allows me to share my

Zeal for making every finish line count!

Finish Line Count

Why I Agreed to the “Human Microchip”

I have been doing heart rate-based (HRT) training since April 2012. HRT focuses on the athlete training to certain heart rate zones rather than focusing on pace, speed, distance, or perceived effort. Read this post from RunRunLive for a great basic explanation.

Setting your heart rate zones involves a max HR test and threshold testing (at least the way I have done it). Mine have been revised since I started, but they currently are:

HR Zones

Signs of an Issue

From April 2012 through February 2013, my HRT was going just fine. The first sign of any issue was the Flash 12K on February 16, 2013, when my Max HR was 229, well above my aerobic capacity of 186. I sort of wrote that incident off as a fluke.

I became less able to call my HR issues a fluke during the Summer Trail series of 2014. Granted, running in Tallahassee in the middle of the summer is an invite to strenuous running, but it did not feel right. I had to stop and walk several times to allow my HR to come down when it climbed above 200.

As I wrote in my Turkey Trot 2014 Race Report, the HR issues became more pronounced and more frequent, especially at the Boston Mini Marathon and the Turkey Trot (then at the Swamp Forest Race on January 3, 2015).

The Process of Finding an Answer

Right before the Boston Mini Marathon, I had been cleared by a cardiologist after a ten-minute stress test and a cardiac echocardiogram. After the Boston Mini Marathon, I called him back and asked to reassess. That is when he referred me to an electrophysiologist.

Twice (at least) the first cardiologist said “at some point you may have to get a loop recorder.” Twice (at least) I said “oh if it comes to that I won’t go as far as to have something implanted under my skin.”

When I met with the Dr. Silberman, the electrophysiologist, he reminded me that “you can still stay fit without running.” (I know, all you runners out there ……. I hear you laughing at the screen!). To his credit, he also recognized that running is quite possibly saving my sanity. (Also, I contend that as a runner I avoid so many health problems that would make me costly to CHP: diabetes, blood pressure issues, problems brought on by unhealthy BMI, etc.)

He explained that the implantable loop recorder really is the best option to help him gather information. One likely diagnosis is Atrial Fibrillation (which is described here).

Since the incidents occur sporadically, some diagnostic procedures will not yield the data he needs. Therefore, I agreed to what my teammates and I have come to fondly refer to as “my human microchip.” It looks like this:

LINQ

 

(And if you want to see exactly where it is, click this link. I am not a fan of subjecting people to “wounds” or other TMI pictures on social media but by the same token if it helps with education, I don’t mind. (This picture was taken the day after implantation; it is a tiny little scar now.)

So Much Waiting

And now I wait. I wait while my microchip records (and transmits data to my electrophysiologist’s office nightly). I wait for an incident to happen so I can use my handheld “patient assistant” to mark the incident.

 

Next Steps

After sufficient data is collected to give the Dr. Silberman the data he needs, I have a couple of choices:

  • An ablation, in which the short-circuit is corrected via radiofrequency energy
  • Plan B (ps – I don’t know what Plan B is…)

Medication is not an option because my blood pressure is already on the low side, and most medications would exacerbate that. I assume Plan B would involve life style changes, such as less caffeine and less racing. I really don’t know right now.

Putting It All Together

This title may be mislabeled because this situation does not feel “together” yet. I can tell you the questions/concerns swirling through my mind:

  • It is strange when people describe the various heart rhythm disturbances by saying “one kills you instantly and one only heightens your stroke risk.” I simply don’t see the value of that “only” before “heightens your stroke risk.”
  • I have stopped drinking caffeine prior to my runs. In 2005, during a previous set of cardiac evaluations, Dr. Batchelor advised me to stop drinking caffeine. About a thousand gallons of Diet Coke (before I stopped in January 2013) and coffee later, I have to admit that he may not have been making a passing suggestion.
  • I am so grateful for the people who look out for me and who share their stories. For Shannon Sullivan, who was basically going to put me under house arrest until I asked the cardiologist who had just cleared me to refer me on to Dr. Silberman, for Mary Jean Yon, who has been so  helpful by sharing her story (and telling me to not be so conservative that I don’t get data!), and to David Yon who is the best, most supportive researcher you could possibly want on your side. All of them have encouraged me to a) stay healthy and b) not throw the towel in on running.
  • All of the technology involved in this process is simultaneously reassuring and question-raising. When I had my loop recorder implanted, the Medtronic representative was present. When I had my first in-office visit, he was present. What happens if Medtronic changes hands? (I know there will be contingency plans but I have seen a few awkward situations among my relatives who have pacemaker/defibrillators and can’t resist questioning.)
  • I miss running free of worry. I know I am fortunate compared to the challenges many runners face. It is simply not a relaxing or release-filled time for me in my running life.
  • I have to “let go” of so many concerns about what others think. Dr. Silberman advised if I am having an episode to lie down and get in a sit-up position to break the cycle of whatever is going on electrically for me. That just sounds like an attention-getter (but if it saves my life, who cares?). I feel self-conscious about the fact that I represent my incredible team, KR Endurance, but with the fact that my times are getting slower, not faster, what kind of example am I of the incredible work our coaches do?

I love running and the running community. Now that I have shared my situation with runner friends, people are coming out of the woodwork to discuss their own experiences. I am not alone in having a health challenge, and I know wherever this process takes me, I am fortunate to have the support of many people.

Now that I have a microchip, anyone want to put a leash on me and take me for a run?

The Finish Line of 2014

This is my last post of 2014. This weekend’s experience participating in the Biggest Loser Run Walk Half Marathon in Panama City Beach encapsulated so much of my year.

2014 Review

I Got To Travel

I love traveling so much. Getting to take a quick road-trip to Panama City Beach in order to participate in this race fed a bite-sized morsel to the voracious travel lover in me. Packet pick-up was at the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, home of several memorable gymnastics experiences back in my Gym Mom days. Wow did that make me nostalgic.

2014 Review

Packet Pickup at The Edgewater Beach Resort and Meeting Danni Allen, Winner of Biggest Loser Season 14

I Got To Run

Running is so central to who I am. A trip that does not involve running is very likely not a trip I am on! It was so nice to enjoy the sound of the ocean waves as we traversed Front Beach Road throughout the half marathon course, to share my friend Tabitha’s first ever half marathon (yay!), and to experience just a little bit of relief from the stress that has hung over my races and runs since the Turkey Trot. (Note for anyone following the health part of the Turkey Trot post, I have an appointment with an electrophysiologist on January 6 and will hopefully get closer to having some answers.)

2014 Review

Tabitha (white visor), Robin (pink visor), Minnie Pinnie (pink and blue harness) and I mid-race!

I Got To Cuddle With A Dog

Okay, cuddling with a dog doesn’t represent a component of my year, but spending a half marathon with Minnie Pinnie was a SURPRISE! Oh how I love this 5-month-old, 4 pound bundle of awesomeness who did the entire 13.1 miles (carried for much of it) in a tutu that matched her mom’s. She made every single person who passed her smile (even the ones who mistook her for a chihuahua). She spent the ride back to Tallahassee curled up in my lap, fast asleep (admittedly, I did a little snoozing too). Takeaway for the year? Be open to new surprises. This “not a dog person” was won over in short order.

2014 Review

I Got To Support My Friends and Be Supported By Them

Ostensibly I was doing this race to support Tabitha as she ran her first half, but making the arrangements reminded me that it is okay to ask for help sometimes. Neither of our cars is really up to a long trip, and I was hoping to make it cost effective by sharing a hotel room, so I asked for help. All of that worked out, and moments along the way, such as this exchange with my dear friend Arlene, said “support” without saying a word:

2014 Review

I Got To Be Myself

As I wrote about in this post and this post, some of my struggles this year have been related to insecurity and lack of feeling accepted, with a dash of the feeling that I am more “myself,” and less inhibited on social media than I am with the people I spend time with in real life. The camaraderie, jokes, and shared moments of this weekend built rather than eroded; that was a plus.

2014 Review

Race eve dinner!

I Got To Write About It

This should be self-explanatory. The finish line of the last race of 2014 behind me, now I write. Although it’s true I will write about anything, but deeper truth is that I am inclined to write regarding just about everything. Look for that to continue in 2015.

Lastly, I Am Looking Ahead to Making The Finish Line Count

In thinking back through this weekend’s half marathon, I have noted how it captured many of the parts of 2014 I loved, including travel, running, friends, and writing. One of my main projects for 2015 will be participating in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon as part of Team SOAR which is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. What do you know? I get to travel to it, get to run at it, will be with friends old and new, and will inevitably write about it! It’ll have everything except the miniature pinscher! (I do have a commitment to fulfill in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in order to participate, though. Here’s my link if you feel inclined to donate — no amount is too small!). I just received my training shirt today, and it seems perfect as I start 2015:

2014 Review

 See you next year!

Turkey Trot Race Report 2014

I love the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I mean, love, bolded, in RED, italicizedunderlined love the Turkey Trot. I love the Turkey Trot so much that when my husband suggested I go to New York for my 50th birthday (which fell the day after the Turkey Trot this year), I refused to even think about it (and trust me, me turning down any hint of going to New York is big!).

"Tuning Up" with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

“Tuning Up” with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

Before talking about Thursday’s 10K race, I have to add a caveat. I wrote this post about finding “ands” instead of “buts” in your running and am the most ardent of believers in the fact that every runner matters, and that the joy of running can be found at the front of the pack, the back of the back, and everywhere in between.

Post-Turkey Trot Questions

But Thursday was a day that shook me up a little bit, and it will most likely be a milestone in my running journey. Around the 5.5 mile mark, and right at the moment a runner came up to me and said, “your pace has been great; I have been trying to catch up to you to tell you that,” my pace immediately became a walk as this happened:

Turkey Trot HR Chart

“This” is my heart rate going a little bit wildly off the charts of what is normal for me. (My normal is 143-186 (with 143 being where I could converse with you while running and 186 being my “sprinting as if my life depended on it” pace). There’s a good basic explanation of heart rate training from Chris Russell of Run Run Live here.

I have been training by heart rate (under a coach’s supervision) since April 2012. As far back as February 2013, when I ran the Flash 12K race, I have had odd HR spikes. I remember the “angel” runner who ran through the finish line with me saying, “we’ll do this together.” The issue started cropping up again this summer, at the Pot Luck Bash and each of the summer trail series runs. I sort of chalked that up to the heat and race adrenaline. I had a racing HR issue during one training run this summer but again … Florida is hot in the summer (mild understatement).

I finally decided to discuss this (and a few other “small” issues) with my primary care physician. He did an in office EKG (fine) but decided to go ahead and refer me to our health plan’s staff cardiologist (props to the health plan for having a staff cardiologist). He had me do a stress test (thanks for the mile, doc!) (fine) and went ahead and had me to a cardiac echocardiogram (fine).

Feeling relieved, I thought “I can put all of this cardiac worry behind me since I checked out okay.”

When My Gut Said “WALK”

I arrived at the Boston Mini Marathon on October 25, my second half-marathon, feeling great. Although it was cold outside, the weather was perfect for running. I felt so good about my weight loss, my improved nutrition, and the cause I was running for (Miles 2 End Prostate Cancer). I felt confident that I would shatter my previous half marathon time and at least finish in less than three hours. I was well on target to do that until around mile 5 when my heart rate started going a little nuts. I kept running, thinking I could run through it. When it refused to settle down, I started walking. I kept moving forward, and turned around at the half way point of the out and back race. I decided to try running again, remembering the cardiologist asking me “does it just feel like your heart is racing or do you feel loss of power, like you’re going to pass out, etc.?” Since it had “just” felt like my heart was racing, I decided to run again. That’s when it felt “not right” (I know, not a medical term but ….). I spent the last six miles of the race run-walking. The good news about the run/walk approach is that my HR stayed down. The bad news it took longer to finish the Boston Mini-Marathon than it had taken to finish the Boston 13.1 in September 2012, when I was definitely in relatively inferior shape.

Between the Boston Mini Marathon and Thursday’s Turkey Trot, my training runs have been solid (no HR issues) and I had one of my best 5K times ever (sub 34:00) at the Vet Fest on November 11.

The Turkey Trot day dawned perfect from a weather perspective. I felt great (again). Well trained, nutrition dialed in, happy to be running the last race of my 40s with 6000+ of my favorite people.

When my HR spiked at around that 5.5 mile mark, I didn’t bargain with myself as long as I had at the Boston Mini. I stopped to walk (very disappointed but knowing intuitively that it was the best decision). Again, this was more than “feeling a racing sensation.” It wasn’t right.

When I saw my friend Gabrielle close to the finish line, she was so encouraging. I don’t know why I felt compelled to explain (except that I am me, and that is what I do), so I told her I was having HR issues. I did run through over the actual finish mat, and since my friend Adrea was finishing the 15K at the same time, had a chance to hug a friend and celebrate a bit.

THEN I texted my coach, and eventually I just called her because I couldn’t drive home to all the people dying to move on to Thanksgiving dinner and explain my complex feelings via text.

It was during that talk that I first floated the “maybe I need to move to a run-walk for the longer distances idea.”

The important point here is that although I have zero, none, nada issues with run walking, I have always said “it is not for me” (which is why my friends who saw me walking at Boston knew there was an issue). I love the feeling of continuous motion; I love the feeling of speed (even though I know I am a slow runner). Once I move to run/walk there’s one more piece of technology getting between me and my mental bliss.

(I am also hesitant to limit myself to running only when I can find others with whom to run. I love running with others but also love running alone; it’s the most peaceful part of my day.)

The morning I ran the Run for Andy Nichols 5K in Blountstown, October 11, I went into my DailyMile and revised my goal of running a sub 30 5K to something less specific:

dailymile

I know the likelihood of meeting the sub 30 goal is unlikely at this point. I also want to preserve my ability to run longer distances. Since these HR issues don’t seem to occur (yet) at the 5K distance, perhaps there is a middle ground for me in racing 5Ks and participating in 10s and halfs by run walking.

I have chidlren to raise and a second half century of life that just started; I don’t want to jeopardize it all just by being stubborn.

The Medical Part

It bears mentioning that I have done this drill before (in 2005). I was not actively running at the time, and after several EKGs and a nuclear stress test, I was told to drink less caffeine and given a clean bill of health. This time, the cardiologist has given me the same mini-cardiac lecture both times I visited him. He describes the heart’s anatomy and the little electrical bundle that coordinates the entire process. Ultimately, after three EKGs and an echocardiogram all were normal, he said I could wear a holter monitor for 24 hours but it’s really hard to wear a holter monitor and run (because the leads would get sweaty and fail to adhere). The other option is implanting a device that can track HR, and that invasiveness seems illogical in my situation. To his credit, he did refrain from suggesting I stop running until the very end of each conversation, and the gist of that part was, “if it only happens when you are running, you need to consider modifying your activity choices.”

I have asked myself if I am fretting for all the wrong reasons. With a congenital heart arrhythmia on Wayne’s side of the family that has led to the death of one member and life-changing modifications for many members, there’s been more than the usual chit chat about heart issues over the years and I always had the “luxury” of worrying about my kids but not myself (since they shared genetics with the affected person and I didn’t). My friend Lisa, one of the best athletes I know, had a massive heart attack while on a run and was saved because an RN was there. Another friend of a friend collapsed and died in the middle of a day on a regular training run.

I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be. I am going to focus on these four things and pray I’ve chosen the right four:

1) Continuing to work with Coach Kristie of KR Endurance to be the best (and healthiest) runner I can be

2) Knowing that each race is “mine” and no one else’s; I have only myself with whom to compete

3) Supporting causes I love through my activity, especially Charity Miles

4) Being grateful for all that running (and, ahem/sigh/okay I will say it) and run-walking has brought to my life and will continue to bring to my life.

Those four things deserve a big thumbs-up, in my opinion!

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

 

The Cancer Color of October Is …

The Cancer Color of October is … not always PINK.

SONY DSC

It is October, and pink predominates pretty much everything because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because I am the daughter of a survivor and have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and fellow humans (women and men) be diagnosed with this disease. Some are (blessedly) still alive and thriving; others have passed away. As a woman, I face a 1:8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life. Therefore, for selfish reasons research should be supported. However not all “pink” is effective “pink,” and there are many other causes out there of which we need to be aware and for which we need to take action.

When Pink Makes Me See Red

I am wearing a lot of pink this month, and having been a multiple-year captain at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I am in full support of many efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer and fundraise toward support and research. Here in Tallahassee, October 2014 is fully in pink bloom, with many of our city’s leaders and brightest lights leading the way. However, it is important to know that not every product robed in pink does much good and to make well-educated purchasing decisions.

When Pink Has Gray Areas

It is also important to respect the connotations all that pink carries for people currently dealing with breast cancer, either for themselves or a relative. Sarah Thebarge writes eloquently of the evolution of her feelings about pink as a color representing breast cancer here.  She also wrote a superbly useful list of 31 Ways to Help a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer (visit it here) which goes beyond wearing pink.

But Paula You Said This Post Wasn’t Just About Breast Cancer!

It’s not. I want to encourage you to add some “blue” to your October observances (I know, now it’s feeling baby shower-ish up in here, isn’t it?). My friend and former coach, Jeff Kline, has stage 4 prostate cancer.

jeff running

Jeff Kline of PRS Fit

Jeff has devoted October to running across the United States with a goal of motivating men to get screened (his point is that if he had done a simple screening a few years ago, his cancer would have been caught at a time when treatment would have been simpler and the prognosis would have been much more hopeful). One of Jeff’s initial blogs about his diagnosis and decision to run cross country is here. Jeff and a team of supporters are running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014, to raise funds for ZERO (an organization dedicated to ending prostate cancer).

M2EPC

In support, I will be participating in a virtual half marathon on Saturday, October 25, 2014. It occurred to me one day that the drive from my house to my favorite traffic light, The Optimism Light, is roughly half of a half marathon, so my route will either begin or end at the O.L. to symbolize optimism that men will commit to getting themselves screened so they can be around for their families and friends for a long, long time. (Early detection can involve a simple blood test. Read more about detection options here or visit this site to donate.)

Got it: PINK, BLUE, and … GRAY?

I have had this “pink and blue” post planned for weeks. One individual’s story presented itself to me via friends, though, and it is important (and time sensitive) to add it here. Andy Nichols is the brother-in-law of a friend (as she puts it “the brother of my heart.”). Andy has an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, which is in the same family of brain tumors as the one my friend Dustin had. When I learned that Poplar Head Baptist Church is holding a 5K race in Blountstown on October 11 in Andy’s honor (to help with expenses not covered by insurance as well as raise awareness), and that his friends wanted help getting the word out and generating as much participation as possible, I knew in a heartbeat that I would be heading west that day. If you are here in North Florida, please consider coming over to Blountstown and participating in the race. You can register via this link.

Andy and his family chose the "I have hope" phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

Andy and his family chose the “I have hope” phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

If you are not able to participate in the 5K or mile Fun Run, but would like to show your support by purchasing a t-shirt, sponsoring the event, or making a donation, you can contact Tiffany Nichols at run4andy@gmail.com or Clint White at 850-643-8584.

So Many Causes … Where Do I Go From Here?

I wish I knew! I have only scratched the surface, with a bias toward the fact that it’s October, that my mom (pictured in this post with a pink bird of hope) is a breast cancer survivor, that Jeff is running across the country to encourage men to get screened for prostate cancer, and that Andy and his family need our support on October 11. My friend Mary Jane, a multiple myeloma survivor, is organizing a team for the NYC Half Marathon in March via Team in Training so you’ll be hearing about that, for sure. As to “where do I go from here?”

cancer colors

This graphic is from www.crochetforcancer.org.

In a sea of choices, the best recommendation I can make is the same one I would make if you were drowning in a literal sea: clear your head, get your bearings, look for the surface, orient yourself toward the shore, and take action. Your action may be donating funds, running in a race, running for a cause (hello, Charity Miles and Stand Up 2 Cancer!), or simply telling someone who has cancer “I am here for you” or asking their family what you can do to help.

Whatever you choose, don’t for a minute let yourself believe that your contribution is too small or won’t matter.

My mom, Jeff, and Andy would surely feel differently …

Saving Green On The Color Run 2014

Baby, The Color Run is Fun!

Baby, The Color Run is Fun!

You’re never too young to strike out on a beautiful fall morning to indulge yourself in fresh air, fun, and friendship. The Color Run is coming to Tallahassee again this year (on September 13 at 9 a.m.).

I participated in Team WTF (Where’s The Finish — what else would we have meant?!) last year and had a blast.
Team Where's The Finish September 2013

Team Where’s The Finish
September 2013

Here it is a whole year later and time for more colorrific fun! The race has all-new goodies this year:
color run race kit
The goodies are new but the distance (5 kilometers/3.1 miles) is the same. So is the goal behind each Color Run: to give runners one of their Happiest 5Ks ever.
The Color Run Kaleidoscope tour has given me a discount code to help you save a little “green” on the entry fees:  COLOR5OFF (please read the legalese stuff at the bottom of this post!).  
color run discount
To register, click this link.
color run magic
**This code is valid on any The Color Run 2014 race. This code will give $5 off a registration to ANY city. The code must be be entered at time of registration and cannot be retro-applied (not my rules, I’m just a humble blogger!). Also please type the code in, do not copy/paste. This code is not valid with other discounts or promotions. 

But I’m A Runner … Why Do I Need Barre?

The barre below is far from the roads, trails, or track. It can, however, bring you closer to being a better, less injury-prone runner. Read on …

2014-08-02 11.59.10

In April 2012, I had an open spot on my training schedule (because I had just started being coached and a few particulars had not been firmed up yet). I used that open spot to go to a pilates session with Laura Ring of Laura Ring Pilates (now CORE Aspirations). At the time, I was impressed by the session and the benefits I believed pilates could bring to my running. Although I did participate in a few other workouts after that first session (such as Core at Journeys in Yoga) which incorporated some pilates principles, I did not pursue the pilates route with any consistency.

I was finally able to reconnect with Laura on a recent Saturday when I took her “Pilates Total Barre” class. Before I even talk about the benefits of barre work for running, I must first mention how much I loved the Beatles playlist. So fun to work out to something a little different.

As I see them, the benefits of barre work for runners include:

Strengthening The Core

We are chronically guilty of overworking the obvious running-related muscle groups (hello, quads) without making sure the complementary muscle groups are equally strong. When there is an imbalance between the two muscle groups, we are more prone to injury.

Feeling Dance-y

I know this isn’t something everyone is looking for but just sharing what it does for me. My daughter is a dancer, so for about 15 years I have watched beautiful, gifted, acrobatically proficient women (and men) fly through the air and make their bodies their instruments. I will never be able to do that, but I love the feeling I get once in a while of being a bit balletic in my movements.

Balance

You may ask what balance has to do with a sport that involves propelling ourselves forward relentlessly, but so much of a runner’s form can hinge on where their center of gravity settles. Having to balance in pilates barre helps us be more familiar with our bodies and more able to adjust them to be more efficient on the roads and trails (and treadmills).

Focus

This concept is always making itself apparent to me in yoga, and similarly in pilates. They say a runner should focus ahead of them on where they want to be (as opposed to down at the road in front of them). Pilates forces the participant to learn to focus their gaze at a spot that helps them retain balance and have an intent to move forward.

Targeting.gif [animated]

I really encourage you to consider making barre a part of your training plan. For information on the options available at CORE Aspirations, please use the contact information below:

Phone:        850-228-8545
Email:          laura.n.ring@gmail.com
Web:           www.CoreAspirations.com

Facebook:   Click here.

Here are some additional pictures of the studio. Other offerings include TRX and Pilates Reformer……
2014-08-02 11.59.24 2014-08-02 11.59.38 2014-08-02 12.01.10

Bringing “Trailahassee” Alive: Summer Trail Series 2014

This summer, I participated in the Gulf Winds Track Club’s Summer Trail Race Series 2014. The series was first held in 2013, and I did not participate. I spent much of that summer seeing other runners’ posts about the trail races, a combination of victorious and “wow can’t believe I survived in that heat” sentiments and wishing I had been part of it. Since the series sells out early (like, in April) I made sure and secure my spot when the opportunity presented itself this year.

One of my regrets about the trail races is that it was utterly impossible to take pictures of the trails since I was so focused on survival. That’s why you’re getting pictures of me instead of nature’s beauty. But I do have this one on the Cadillac Trail that I took one day while on a training run:

Summer Trail Series

Cadillac Trail

Before I recap my memories of the trail series, a quick look at each race:

redbug

The first race, on June 21, was a 4.5 miler on Tallahassee’s RedBug Trail. It began at 6 p.m. I ran my Charity Miles that day for the Alzheimers Association in conjunction with the date of the annual Summer Solstice “the longest day.” (The connection with Alzheimer’s is also why I wore purple.) Finished 113/114 in 1:26:45.

swamp forest two

The second race, on July 12, was at the Swamp Forest Trail. It was a morning race, which meant cooler (relatively) weather. I was excited that this race included me crossing the 750 mile mark in my running for Gareth through I Run for Michael (my green shirt represents awareness of mitochondrial disorders (what Gareth has)). I ran for Feeding America via Charity Miles. Finished 108/109 in 1:04:42.

magnolia

The third race, on July 26, was at the Magnolia Trail. One of the challenges of this race was the time (6 p.m. and HOT), the fact that I had been in New York City for the week prior, and my trip earlier that morning to my family reunion (and all that good southern family reunion chow!) I ran for Team RWB via Charity Miles in honor of Anna Runs America (Anna was running cross country in support of Team RWB as well as the Wounded Warrior Project). The “train” is my favorite memory of this race (the “train” is the small group of us who remained together for a significant portion of the race … toward the end I stepped aside and the others went ahead … but I loved the comments from everyone behind me about us being a train and “in this together.”). Finished 107/108 in 59:03.cadillac

The final race, on August 9, was on the Cadillac Trail (5.5 miles). I was so happy to be debuting my Idiots Running Club singlet. I was running for Team RWB (and Anna) again, also in memory of Murphy, one of our I Run for Michael children who had passed away (and for Gareth, as always…). Finished 86/88 in 1:40:31.

Takeaways:

Choo Choo. As I mentioned in my recap of the Magnolia race, the little “train” of runners we created during the Magnolia race (and replicated to some extent during the Cadillac race) was so meaningful to me. The positive vibes from the runners behind me who liked the pace and were counting on me to keep it consistent made me feel so great. I have so often been last or next to last (which is fine!) but once in a while to feel like I am helping another runner hang in there is the best feeling.

HR Issues. During the two evening races, I came to a point in the race where I was struggling mightily with a very elevated heart rate. Far above my Zone 5 (and I rarely run at Zone 5 on purpose). After the RedBug race, I deactivated the beep that tells me I am above my max HR because it was disturbing to hear and I figured the other people on the trail with me didn’t want to hear the constant beeping either. I know (from conversations with other runners) that I am not the only one who struggled with HR issues during these races, but I found it frustrating (and worrisome).

Trail Beauty. I lost count of the times I thought “I wish I could take a picture of this to share” (mostly this was about beauty but other times I wanted people to see how darn technical and difficult some of these trails are because [wait for it…..] I AM NOT ACTUALLY A MOUNTAIN BIKE! (The races were on Mountain Bike trails.)) Pretty beats hard but these trails had plenty of both.

Trail Etiquette. One aspect of this race series that I loved (and that perplexed me at times) was the emphasis on trail etiquette.  I can’t find the original email, but the parts I remember were: no earbuds, respect the trail, don’t leave anything you don’t take out, and pass on the left. There were other etiquette tips, but those are the ones I recall. I appreciate how much care was taken to respect the natural balance of the trails (including capping the series at 150 participants so as not to overestress it). I must admit I was frustrated to see a runner with earbuds (maybe (s)he had missed the instruction). It was a different set of rules than I was used to and I appreciated the way it made me think about running in this environment.

Popsicles and MoonPies Rock. You won’t see me complaining about the post-race spread (and there were healthy options too). I didn’t miss an opportunity to wolf down a post race Moon Pie. Yum.

Working Harder Than Ever. With the exception of a few ill-advised mid-summer runs I took without adequate (i.e., ANY) hydration before I got a hydration belt, this series was the single hardest running endeavor I have ever undertaken. Of course, the fact that it was the hardest makes it the most valued!

Sponsors. We were so fortunate to have the support of some generous sponsors (and props to the Race Director Bobby York for securing all of these donations). Salomon Running came out to all of the races, and at several of them let runners use their shoes for the race. Other sponsors included: Gulf Winds Track Club, Trail & Ski, Trail Runner Magazine, Earth Fare, Power Bar, Smart Wool, Buff Headwear, CamelBak, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Road ID, MoonPie, Damn Good Bikes, and Reflekt.

Volunteers. We had the best volunteers for this series! It takes some dedicated people to work through the sweat and keep us a) from getting lost b) hydrated c) encouraged and d) happy. These volunteers did all of that and more. They were incredible! The diligence taken to make sure the course was well marked is much appreciated. Don’t think I will ever forget “flags on the right”! Those who planted the flags are much valued!

FRIENDS. Many of our Moms Run This Town Tallahassee members participated in this series. There’s nothing like sharing this experience with friends. Thanks, ladies!

mrtt cadillac

Moms Run This Town Tallahassee Cadillac Trail, August 9, 2014

FINALLY. To close things out, I have a few thoughts on the trail series that elude any type of categorization. I am so glad I did this (I think that shows in my words and pictures). The experience made me explore how I really feel about my perennial back of the pack status. The trail environment put me even farther back than a road race would. As much as I jokingly say to people (frequently!), “oh I can’t tell you the number of races I have finished last in, with the law enforcement saying into their walkie talkies ‘hey do you think she’s the last one?'” I don’t take finishing last lightly. I work hard at my running and there is a competitive fire beneath this relatively calm exterior. Am I glad I never finished last? YES. Would I still be happy if I had? YES. Do I find it amusing that the race director said as I headed out for the final race, “My mountain biker isn’t here so when you pass the aid station, let them know you’re it?” YES (And in fairness I had sent him a message the night before imploring him to proceed with the end-of-race awards even though I would probably still be slogging my way through the 5.5 miles (as long as someone noted my time because Lord knows I wanted it noted!)). There were so many times I asked the people behind me “do you want to pass?” Why did I ask them instead of waiting for them to tell me they needed to pass? It was like a microcosm of my southern-bred polite girl life. I think the trail isn’t the place for that! I am also pleased as punch that I never fell down! These trails were tremendously technical (remember, we were runners not mountain bikes!) and I came close to falling many many times. I am grateful I didn’t (but of course I would have gotten back up and persevered!).

Our Gulf Winds Track Club singlets have the word “Trailahassee” on them in small print.

That small print got magnified in the prism of my own sweat this summer.

I am glad we spent the summer together, TRAILAHASSEE.

trailahassee

“Pronouns Matter” and Other Favorite Quotes

Since I was undecided regarding what to blog about today, I checked my “drafts” folder and decided to tackle one of the 23 “posts-to-be” that had never seen the light of day. The oldest one is the list of Mama Kat prompts for the week of April 11, 2013. One of the prompts is “list 6 of your favorite quotes.” Seems like a timeless one to me, so here goes.

 Six Favorite Quotes

Pronouns Matter. ~ Me

I have been a user of the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, signifying my strong belief that the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls should be returned immediately to their families. What I am having trouble reconciling, though, is the thought in my head that if the reaction (of some) to the current influx of Central American children across our borders were to have its own hashtag, it would be #sendbacktheirgirls. I know these are two very different situations. Each one is complex and presents components that are extremely difficult for outside governments to intervene in. As I said in Cindy Levin’s post:

“Although I like the hashtag #bringbackourgirls (and use it daily), I have to honestly ask if we would consider these girls “our” girls when it was the basic matter of helping them get access to education (and health care, and parity, among other things) were it not for this crisis? We can all do better, not just when there is an immediate crisis but when there is a long term smoldering one as well. And for every girl, everywhere.” 

It seems that with these Central American children we have found ourselves dealing with the effects of a long term smoldering crisis. I suspect part of the difference is that the Nigerian girls are an ocean away and the Central American girls (and boys…) are on our territory. I just don’t understand how the Nigerian girls can be “ours” while the Central American girls are “theirs.”

2014-07-02 09.44.19

A day I ran for “Saraya,” one of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” ~ Epictetus

So many inspiring quotes flow through my social media stream every day. Many of them give me a momentary spark of “yeah!” “so true!” “you only get one shot!” I have struggled, however, with the truth of those sentiments in the face of the reality of my obligations and choices I made decades ago which made it harder to truly “follow my bliss.” I guess the part of this that sticks the most is “say to yourself what you would be.” Without clarity about the eventual goal (what you would be), it’s possible you’ll waste a lot of time along the way expending your energies for things that don’t matter.

Only 3% of people have written goals; the other 97% work for them (paraphrase) ~ Brian Tracy

Hmm…. the value of including this favorite quote was being honest with myself about the fact that I have not listed my goals for this year. Problem solved. The “sub 30 5K” goal is a perennial. I am not giving up.

2014 goals

2014 Goals

The map is not the territory. ~ Alfred Korzybski

I love this one, and it is in the same family of concepts (to me) as the Epictetus quote. This quote seemed relevant to my work as an administrator at a program subject to many different agency rule sets, some state, some federal. You may have a single-spaced 40-page technical guidance document holding you to what font size to use, what match rate to apply, what literacy level to write your materials to, but are you doing the task you set out to do? (which in our case was insuring uninsured children). It also applies in a more broad context to life; are we so busy ticking off mile markers that we don’t realize that the town we originally set out to visit is now deserted?

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. ~ Rumi

A wise therapist gave me an assignment once to “check out whatever instantly appeals to you at the library and go away for a weekend and immerse yourself.” The only books I remember checking out were a childbirth book and a family relationships book. I wonder what I would check out on a similar assignment now, decades later. I know I love social media, and I know people I trust in the industry have advised me not to do it for a living. The appeal of social media (and the beauty of it) is the ability to write and communicate visually, along with “connecting the dots” of people who would not otherwise come into each others’ lives.

“Every problem has a solution.”

This quote is from the movie Philadelphia. Besides the obvious truth of the quote (even though solutions often seem elusive), the movie holds special meaning for me. Wayne and I saw it shortly after his sister Ann died, and it seemed to tap into some deep emotional crevasse that had already been pried open.

Ultimately, “every problem has a solution” ties into my #1 (“pronouns matter”). Some problems in our world seem to only have solutions riddle with imperfections that take those solutions out of contention. I think, however, we must not give up trying, for “our” girls, “their” girls …. for all girls.

What is one of your favorite quotes?