Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Role Models – Martha

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of taking care of a patient who was in for a procedure. She had the face and body of a 70 year old and I was completely blown away when she told me she was going to be 91 next month! (Her beauty secret is Oil of Olay, by the way). During the course of our conversation, she told me she had taken her 17-year-old car in for its yearly inspection and was very worried about getting a rejection sticker. The inspector suggested to her she should warm it up a bit first. (Shouldn't he have just handed her a sticker on the house for God's sake?). Anyway, she finished the story by telling me she said a billion prayers, headed onto Route 128 and (her quote), “gunned it for 10 miles, wheeled around back and passed with flying colors.” She was so thrilled she gave the guy a buck for the suggestion! I just love some of these patients!

This got me thinking about what motivates me to keep up with this silly idea of torturing myself doing this race (considering my birthday didn't kill me). I have to honestly say it's people like my little patient yesterday who fight the daily battles of life's chores and bad breaks with humor and class. I think of what my patient goes through on a daily basis (lives by herself, comes into the Hospital alone, volunteers in her town to keep in touch with people) and my efforts in living life pale in comparison to hers. I have a wonderful colleague who is currently undergoing chemo and has had to take a leave of absence. He is handling his illness with dignity and a quiet strength that I know I'd never have. My youngest daughter, Mary, saw a little boy on the front page of the Globe today crying over his cousin's casket and I told her he had died in the war… there are so many stories out there of brave people running their own private marathons – they make my race look easy. I salute and admire them all!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Thrill of Victory/The Agony of De Calf - Heidi

We did it. Martha and I completed our last long run on Saturday. She had already run one 20-mile run, but this was my first and only. Up until now when asked how my training has been going, I have honestly been able to say positive things. Well, most of the run yesterday hurt like #$%&. This time Martha’s husband got the honor/chore of dropping the two of us off on Ash Street in Hopkinton. The morning was beautiful – sunny but cool. Martha had all sorts of great stories from her vacation and birthday celebration to distract me from the scheduled distance. But before we’d gone more than a few miles, I stopped for a few minutes to rub and stretch my right calf, which felt like it had a knot in it. Other than our fluid/food pauses, neither of us has ever had to “pull over.” Well, nothing made it significantly better and 20 miles served to tighten it further as opposed to loosen it up. There were two tables in Wellesley serving Gatorade and pretzels for runners training for Boston so we had a good excuse to stop briefly at those and refuel. Thank you Dana Farber/Team in Training for letting us crash your station. We both let out a cheer of relief when we hit the intersection of Temple Street on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton and got to turn around to go back to Wellesley. I’ve never been so happy to see my house. My legs and thighs felt like barrels by the time I got home. I actually took an ice bath, which was more like several quick dips. People who know me well know that I love fires, comforters and fleece so to get in a tub with ice floating in it was a truly desperate act. In retrospect, I think I only have myself to blame for my calf. Thursday evening was beautiful so I decided to run for 45 to 50 minutes up and down the hills of Comm. Ave. I’d had a vigorous track work out the day before with the Suburban Striders. I had a busy Friday at the Hospital with deliveries and surgeries. Now that I’m 24 hours out from the 20 miler, I feel pretty good with the exception of that one spot on my right calf. Granted, I smell like menthol from the China Gel I’ve been rubbing into it and I’ve taken more Motrin in the last 24 hours than I have in the last month. Having received my packet of information from the BAA on Friday, however, I’m determined to carry on. Quoting one of my patients this week, I’m hoping that the Marathon “will be a celebration of our training.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Just a Number, Right? - Martha

So my question for all you bloggers out there is this: why must I enter my age every time I climb on that stupid treadmill at the gym? Shouldn't I be getting some kind of nice reward for hauling myself on instead of an instant reminder staring back at me from the screen of HOW OLD I AM?! Like maybe a little piece of chocolate should drop out at the end of the workout! Thanks to our surprise Nor’easter last Friday, I found myself at the gym for the first time in ages trying to make up for lost time outdoors. And my annoyance at always having to put in my age is especially poignant this week because in less than 72 hours, I will no longer be able to enter a digit beginning with a 4! I know this may sound trivial in the big scheme of things, but I am really sensitive to turning 50. Maybe it was the AARP envelope that arrived yesterday. Maybe it was the story in Newsweek today that said EVEN if you start exercising at the age of 50, SOME positive effect on maintaining cognitive functions could be found. Is 50 the end of the line for trying to keep my brain intact?

So I'm going to do something really defiant the next time I go to the gym. I'm not going to enter my age. That will show them! I hope it makes smoke pour out the bottom of the treadmill. Actually, I hope that doesn't happen because then they'll just raise my membership fee. But seriously, we're on a need-to-know basis and unless joules are calculated differently than when I was in school, I really think the machine doesn't need to know.

Instead, I'm going to focus on running my race. After all, striving for this goal instead of filling out my AARP card was the reason I wanted to run the marathon this year in the first place. This week I was browsing in a college bookstore while taking my daughter to visit colleges and I found some great thoughts on the shelves. Being a refrigerator magnet junkie, I can never have enough of those short but powerful statements staring back at me. I will leave you with the two I purchased yesterday in “honor” of this special week of mine:

young. old.
just words.
(george burns)
How old would you be
if you didn't know
how old you are ?

Hmmmmmmmmm, perhaps I’ll try surfing for 60?!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Road Rage - Heidi

It really has been a great winter to train for Boston. But after the temperature was up to 74 on Wednesday, it seemed a bit cruel to have to deal with ice and snow again this weekend. Martha and I strapped on our crampons again (little metal spikes to give us traction) and headed onto the road a little after 9:00 am Sunday morning. We typically run on Saturday, but nature wasn’t in favor of that plan. I must confess it felt heavenly to sleep in until 8:30 am Saturday morning – haven’t done that in a million years. I got some cross training done in the form of shoveling ice, snow and slush at our home and then rode an exercise bike for forty minutes later that day.

Sunday morning dawned bright and crisp and we had another beautiful run. We chose 9ish in hopes that some of the overnight ice would have melted and that the traffic would still be light. We picked back roads in Needham and Dover to minimize the traffic we’d run into. We stuck to the far left side of the road in bright clothing and ran toward traffic so that we’d be safe and visible. This plan worked for 99.9 percent of our ten-mile course. Most cars gave us a wide berth or the two of us would slow to a single-file walk. We were doing all of this to be safe given the fact that we were sharing the roads with cars (as we had no sidewalks or other places to call our own). I was therefore shocked and horrified when a driver in a white van/SUV lay into his horn while passing us. This person had two lanes all to himself as no other cars were anywhere in sight but obviously felt that we were in the road just to annoy him. (Martha, you can see that I still haven’t gotten over this!) While driving back from Martha’s house after we completed our run, I made sure to give as much room as possible to the runners and bikers that I saw. Thank you to all the drivers who do the same!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Restorative Powers of Food and a Nap - Heidi

Despite the loss of an hour with daylight savings time and an 18.5-mile run on Saturday, I woke up feeling well and full of energy on Sunday. The bright sun and 50-degree temperature certainly helps. Saturday was my longest run yet. Martha and I ran with a small group that we know through our running club, The Suburban Striders. Carol navigated our group through the streets of Wellesley, Dover, Sherborn and Natick. It was a beautiful morning and a gorgeous route that took us by Farm Pond and Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. It was great to be on the back roads as many sidewalks are still coated in thick sheets of ice. The roads closer to Wellesley were tough as it grew later and we were competing for space with ice, slush and oncoming cars. At this point in our training, it would be tragic to get injured by slipping or falling on a slick spot, which almost happened to Carol. Her skidding shoes made a horrible scratching sound as she slid upright on a benign appearing patch of black ice-covered asphalt at about 11:00 am. Once she came to a halt, we all decided to walk the rest of that street and make it a drink/snack break to avoid any further danger.

In terms of fuel on the run, I have developed a liking for Gatorade, which has never appealed to me in the past. I went to Running Strong: A Runner’s Summit last month at the Hospital and one of the speakers showed slides promoting the use of this type of drink as opposed to water for long-distance runs. Given Martha’s strong dislike for Gu, I brought along two new things to try. One was a jellybean for runners and the other was a fruit block or chew. I don’t know whether there is data to support either of these, but it was great to have a little sweet snack in the midst of 18-plus miles and they were both easy to fit in a pocket and neither made Martha grimace. Diane in our group had brought along Gu, but somehow it exploded and dripped all down the front of her jacket and tights. Thank goodness for her, there were a few not too muddy puddles in the road to use for clean up. I think I’ll be sticking with the more solid snacks!

About two hours after my run, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open and I took the second of my “training naps.” A few hours later, my husband and I went out to dinner with our neighbors while our boys were at a teen center event. I had no difficulty polishing the plates of the three courses I had and everything tasted especially delicious! It was great to catch up with my neighbor Susan, who has been my primary running partner for the last five or more years. While we haven’t done much running together the past two months, I would never have been able to begin this training program if it hadn’t been for the “base” of runs with her these past years.

A quick thank you for the blog comments from Nancy and Rose. A belated thank you to Dot (a friend from college) for her comment a few weeks ago and my cousin Kathy (from California) for her concern about things other than Gatorade freezing on these winter runs!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Getting Past the "What Ifs" - Martha

Five weeks to go and I find myself wondering WHY THIS #@%* ICE ISN'T MELTING?! I am still battling the cars on Route 16 (I always lose) and I am hoping to get in at least ONE long run where I don't have to worry about twisting my ankle sliding on a patch of black ice. At least I think I have figured out a few things – like how much to drink (a lot) and what (Gatorade Lemonade), what to do about my queasy stomach after a run (Pepto Bismol), where to put anti-chafing cream (everywhere) and how much padding to put over my crooked toes (as much as I can cram in my shoes).

But, there are many unknowns that won't be known until shortly before, or on, race day that may greatly impact whether I can do this or not. And that idea humbles me… that for all this training and preparation things could still get messed up. Like the weather – what if it's 90 degrees that day? My training has been in frigid cold. Will I keel over if it's hot? Or, what if a flu bug sneaks into my house a few days before the race? What if my spinach gets tainted with salmonella again?

But then that's life, isn't it? You could (and some people do) go crazy thinking about all the “what ifs” life may throw at you. I choose not to go down that path right now. I think it could really snowball into something very self-defeating. So, for now I'm just going to be thankful my knee is still holding (although it makes a little crackle sound when I use the stairs) and I can still pig out on dessert without seeing it appear on me later. Maybe running in place in a steaming shower and arming myself with Purell and Tamiflu would be wise ways to prepare, but I'll think about those some other day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I Don't Want to Run Today - Heidi

Today was the first day of my training program that I REALLY didn't want to run. My calendar said that I needed to run for an hour, which shouldn't seem like much after some of these three-hour weekend runs. I got out of work with just enough time to fit in the run before getting my son to his saxophone lesson. The devil in my brain started coming up with all sorts of great ideas as to why I shouldn't run such as: it's too cold and windy; it's snowing; there's still ice and snow on the roads and sidewalks; work was hard; I need to go to the grocery store; my body is probably due for a little extra break. It would have been easy to give in to this train of thinking, but then I started to think about all the encouragement I've been getting from people at the Hospital and friends and family. I knew that I just needed to get my orthotic-filled running shoes on and hit the road. It wasn't my favorite run ever but it was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating it would be. The highlight was having a pedestrian, who must have been in his eighties, waving me ahead while saying “ladies before gentlemen” on an ice-narrowed piece of sidewalk. I told myself that if he was walking to and from the grocery store I couldn't complain about my “recreational” run. He certainly looked fit and I hope to be so healthy as to walk to and from the supermarket when I'm his age.

It is a little freaky to flip the page of the calendar and see April 16 staring me in the face. I continue to get lots of great advice from other runners as the date draws near. Carol and Stephanie from the Suburban Striders were quick to tell me that I should absolutely NOT cut my toenails the day before the Marathon. They are both marathon veterans and said that this could lead to far worse than bloody socks. Apparently, the toe bed is extra sensitive after a trimming and I could put myself more at risk for loss of a toenail if I stick with the plan I had blogged about. They thought a trimming the week before would be more advisable. Sharon from the club (who I think has run eight or more marathons) filled me in on what goodies she pins to her shirt the day of the race such as hand wipes, tissue and table salt. Mary, who is the founder of the Suburban Striders, sent a group email advising Sole Sisters as an inspirational read. I just ordered a copy from Amazon. For now, I will pass on Carol's recommendation of an ice bath but maybe I will even try that as I still have 18, 10 and 20-mile runs planned in the upcoming weekends.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Back in the Shoes Again - Martha

It was with some trepidation and self doubt that I found myself driving over to Heidi's house yesterday for our weekly Saturday run. Since my knee had “behaved” for two, four-mile runs on Wednesday and Thursday, I decided it was time to test it further. I brought along my cell phone in case I had to bail on Heidi and we decided to try a 14-mile run for me and 16 for her. Fortunately, it was a day totally opposite weather-wise from the previous week. I would venture to say that at one point while running I could have sworn it was June if not for the occasional pile of dirty snow on the sidewalk. And, as has been the case throughout this training, I am happy to say that running was once again fun! I have to believe that having Heidi as a partner played a huge role in me having a successful run yesterday.

I was sitting on the couch this afternoon going over Newton's First Law of Motion with my daughter (no, I'm not that geeky; it was for school!) and it reminded me of my run. In case you forgot (not that that could even be conceivable), the law states that an object at rest (i.e., me) will stay at rest unless acted upon by a force (Heidi). I think if Heidi had not asked me to run, I would still be sitting on the couch babying my knee. Not to say that rest isn't always appropriate therapy, but there comes a time when an outside force is sometimes what is required to get back on track. I think one of the things I find so interesting about preparing for this (or any big challenge for that matter) is how valuable and supportive it is to be going through it with another person. For the most part I tend to approach most challenges in a private manner and have never been a big fan of committees or group thinking to get the work done. However, running with Heidi has revealed to me how helpful it can be to share the burden. So hat's off to Heidi and I'm happy to say I'm off to the store to buy more callous protectors!