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April 2010

Third Time Is A Charm

Thanks again for the notes and support for us as we settle back into the Lounge.  I have had some notes about why I was away so here is a quick overview of what kept me away.  A least one of the reasons....

Over the last few months, my husband Jim has been waging a battle against Crohn's disease, an intestinal disorder.  It isn't a new battle, he has been fighting it for over 20 years now.   And he has used just about every tool and weapon know to man.   And for a while, he was ahead.  Of course it took a few surgeries and a wickedly strict diet to get a point ahead of the disease, but at least he was winning for a while.

And then late in 2009, his luck changed and his Crohn's was fully active again and he is back on the defensive trying to manage the pain and all the other issues that come with it.  I won't overload you with details, but it wasn't pretty.   He didn't eat or drink for many, many days.  A few months ago he started on a treatment of Remicade, a biological infusion which suppresses a very specific part of the immune system, as a way to manage the inflammation of his intestines.  It is like a low level chemo treatment.  It's a treatment toward the end of good options for Crohn's patients.

Tomorrow is infusion #3.  Which will probably bring round 3 of the 2+ weeks of side effects.   We are crossing our fingers that third time is the charm.  And hope this is the trick that will make the difference for him.  Cause he is really not feeling good again.

When I am tired and achy and don't feel like running, I can't help but think about those who can't run right now or at all.   Our health is one of the most important things we have and can make choices everyday to make it the best we can be.   I hope you have the chance today to get out there and run just because you can.

The Ultimate Runner Is Born

About a year ago Tom and I started on a quest to package up a bunch of the great stories we heard around the Lounge and put them in a book for runners to enjoy.   We were only a few months into the adventure when we were lucky enough to have the chance to partner with HCI Publications Book coverwho were on a parallel track to compile stories and advice of runners.   And "The Ultimate Runner" book started.

In the midst of all the craziness of our own lives, we continued to move forward on the book.   Many of you submitted stories and photos.  And we reached out to some great running experts for tips.   And a few weeks ago our friends at HCI pulled together the final version and the book was born!

It's hard to describe how awesome it is to see the real life stories and achievements of runners captured in a book.  To steal a phrase from Tom, the book truly "gives voice to runners".

The official release date for the book is May 3rd!  And you can find it now online on the major resellers like Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and Borders.

We can't wait to introduce to some of the great contributors and their running story!

Could it be....

This week is Drake Relays!  Woo hoo!

I can't wait to take in all the events I can fit into my schedule.  There is nothing more inspiring to my running than watching these awesome athletes compete.   And I know I will be caught up in the spirit so I will plan to hobble along in the 8K and enjoy the company of local runners.

But new for this year is the Grand Blue Mile.  A 1 mile run on Tuesday evening.  There are of course the elite fields, but there is a wave for ordinary runners like me.  I mentioned this event to Tucker, my 10 year old son a few weeks back and he gave it some thought and decided he wanted to try it. 

This surprised me because he likes to do 5K's, but prefers to walk.  And after the last two years events of 2 surgeries and 13 casts to reconstruct his feet he still isn't the prettiest runner out there.  But nonetheless, we have hit the trail working on getting his mile below the magic 15 minute cutoff.  Some moms dream of their kids to go on to break out a 5 minute mile at his age.  Not me, I just want us to finish before they shoo us off the course at the 15 minute cutoff.  He tells me that he just wants to see if he can do it.

So tonight he comes to me and says, "I don't know if I want to do it after all."  When I asked him what he was thinking he says, "Well I want to do it but I don't want to do it all at the same time."   So I asked him what he was looking forward to - his answer, "Finishing".  So I asked him what he was NOT looking forward to - his answer, "How hard it is."  

Much to his displeasure, I started laughing.  

"Why are you laughing?" he asks. 

"Because now I know you are a runner!  You are thinking like one!"

What he didn't realize is most runners at one time or another have had the same thought, on a continuous loop, which doesn't stop until we finish.   Only a runner would keep moving forward to try it when all of the rational side of their brain is telling them not to start.

So what did we do about his thoughts?  We hit the trail to try the mile again and see how it felt.   Time wise - it wasn't so hot.  Sag wagon city for us if it had been the real thing.   But I wasn't disappointed, we had a ball doing it.  And its hard to run fast when you are laughing hard.

Ahhhh...The Long Run

A 10 mile long run is still one of my most favorite things in the whole, entire world.  (stealing the last part of that phrase from my 6 year old).   If at any time a complete stranger walked up to me and said, "good news, you get to go on a 10 mile run, let's go" - it would be equivalent to walking up to me and saying, "here - take all these extra $100 bills I had laying around and not using".   I love a 10 mile run!

And when I try to explain this to a nonrunner, they look at me with this pitiful look like I have an undiagnosed mental condition and I am the only one who doesn't know.   They don't ask me (as much) why I run, but usually they ask, "what do you do for 10 miles - 2 hours - of running?".

The sarcastic idiot in my always wants to answer, "I run, dummy. What else do you do while running."  But the more socially gracious side of me usually responds, "It gives me a lot of time to think."   To which the other person usually grunts and walks away muttering something like that's a lot of time to think.

Which got me wondering - how do nonrunners clean up their mental clutter each week.   I don't know about you, but by Friday, I have all kinds of messy mental to do lists, problems left unsolved, issues for the following week that haven't even been considered as well as a severe lack of time spent devoted to "veging out".   Is it that nonrunners have such highly evolved mental capacities that they don't require a few extra minutes or hours each week to be along with their thoughts to work through the dangling loose ends from their week?  

I gave that thought some time during my long run.  I always see the "brain time" during a run like renting out CPU's of a supercomputer - very limited use so assign the topics carefully.  I always intend to use my mental running time efficiently and effectively, but quite honestly I always seem to have the attention span of a cat or small child through the course of my run.

For fun, I kept a tally of what I thought about during my long run.  I wanted to see if there was another way or time I could clear off my mental shelf without running.   Here is the tally of things I thought about over the course of 10 miles: 

1.  Should still be at work instead of out here running.   Work tasks left undone.  Work tasks to be done magically by Monday.  Created mental list of what problems need solutions by end of run.  Yes, I will use my running time well to be a highly efficient employee and solve the world's companies problem over the next 9 miles.   This sure beats sitting at my desk or little rooms with no windows.  Why do I work inside again?  I really need to find a job that takes me outside all day.  Speaking of being outside all day, what are we doing this weekend?

2. Whirlwind of weekend activities.   Let's see if I can recreate the family calendar in my head.  ugh.  To painfully busy to think through.  How will I get kids to different places at the same time?  And what's that on Saturday night....boy scout cake auction.....crap....I must evolve into Ace of Cakes by the end of the run.....think...think...think....cake decoration....must call upon cake decorating spirits.....

3.  Quickly!  How to bring Tucker's cake design to life - with the talents of a 4th grade baker/decorator.  Bringing up crayon drawn picture of the cake he wants to build on iphone.  (what did moms do without the ability to take pictures of anything and bring them along in their phone).   First thought, there is no way we can pull this off.  Second thought, must talk him into something less grand.  Third thought, ah, come on we built a Candyland cake and sports balls cake, how hard can this cake be.  Break it down, it is a big box of popcorn and a drink (movie theme - movies are better with popcorn).  .....  what ingredients would he need...come back to this later....makes me think about grocery list....

4.  Groceries, menus, ick.  Take a quarter mile just to remind myself how much I hate grocery shopping.  Pull up the school lunch menu for next week to see what they are eating.  If I don't, I will bet you a million dollars that all my dinner choices will match exactly as the school lunch menu.  Wonder why God gave moms the ability to uncanningly recreate the school lunch menus without knowing it but didn't give us the ability to recreate the weekly lottery numbers.   Wonder if they will ever outlaw texting/surfing while running?  They probably should because I am swerving all over the trail.   See the lunch menu online - crap - back to the drawing board on the week's dinner menu.   To hard to think about, how about I switch to something easier like conceptual business models.....

5.  Almost half way through my run and I still haven't tackled work issues.  Ok, focus, work issues.  Must map conceptual models of the business while running.   I have to pee.  Really.  Stop thinking before I start to calculate the distance to the next bathroom.   And I am thirsty.  Wish our bodies had gauges so we could see how much more liquid they could hold before they are required to dump some.   Snap back, models, processes.  Nope, gotta pee.   No thinking until find a bathroom.

6.  Pray.   Think about others.  Damn lucky to be out here running.   Speaking of feeling lucky, its Friday which means.....

7.  Pizza.   Friday night is pizza night for us.  And beer for me.  And usually a cookie.   Begin sending mental message to husband of type of pizza I hope the kids and him choose.   Realize that is foolish and go with more surefire method of texting.  Wonder if when they will hook up our phones right to our heads so we can text without touching key pad.   Think about that some more.   That would be a bad idea.  Realize that my fingers are the filter between thoughts and actual messages.   Reality bites.  And so does ....

8.  Calories.  Calculate how many beers, cookies and pizza slices I can have to use up the 1000 calories spent.  Realize that 1000 calories isn't enough to cover all those food categories in the quantities I would like.  Wish that our bodies would have "specials" where when you expend 1000 calories of effort you get another 250 calories at no charge.  Or even a "BOGO" sale occassionally.  Wouldn't that be grand?   Wish I wouldn't of borrowed ahead on the 1000 calories and consumed a long awaited Snickers bar for lunch.   280 calories - wow.   But damn it was good.  That now leaves room for only 1 beer and 2 pieces of pizza.  Start slipping into the "who cares, I earned it mind set" which only causes me to gain weight while training for longer distances.

9.  Catch up on email.  Always behind.  Read some notes from friends.  Get some news that is hard to believe.   Stop in my tracks to process and ....

10.  Pray a lot.  Realize how lucky I am.  Realize how fortunate our family is.  Ask God to help my friends who are struggling and don't deserve to have such a hard road.  Never seems like enough prayer to cover all that is going on. 

11.  Break out into a solo sing along to my favorite songs.  Why is it that I become such a better singer (louder and prouder) after 8 or so miles.  The longer the run, the louder I sing.  With millions of runners, I bet there is a market for "Running Idol".  Could you see that competition - start the singing about 1/2 way into a long run and see who can give the best performance?  That would be so cool.  Not because we would find the next recording artist, but because all us other runners would be laughing and cheering on these runners.  We so understand the need to sing on long runs.   And dance....little gig.  Bikers passing laugh.  Runners wouldn't laugh.  Brain power is fading....

12.  Admonish myself to refocus on work.  Yeah right.  It's after 5 already on a Friday.  Quitting time.  Deal with it later.  Talk myself into letting the issues "simmer" in the back of my head and will magically pop out, completely resolved, by Monday morning.   But do think through some conversations of the last week and try to process how to deal with those issues on Monday.  Realize there is a lot to do before Monday...

13.  Knock out my to-do list for the weekend.  Thank you little notepad app on the phone.  Tasks are all listed in a tidy little note.  Now if it was that neat and pretty how they would actually get done.   Speaking of done....

14. Nearing the end.  Really glad almost to be done.  There are things that hurt on my body that I never realized could hurt this bad.   Wonder how something I love so much can hurt so bad.   Just not right. But I love it.

So...that was an interesting experiment.  I am a complete hair brain while running.   This list of 14 things was only the highlights.  There were so many little topics and repeat topics that I realize it is like my mind is on random shuffle while running.  But nonetheless, when I was done, my mind felt more orderly.  I felt like I could keep moving forward to do what needed to be done until the next long run.   So are runners better thinkers or more afflicted with undiagnosed mental conditions that require running time to keep us sane?

Am I alone in my randomness of thought while running?  What do you think about?

Six Months of Running - In a Nutshell

Thank you for your notes and reaching out to connect to us again!

It is so good to hear from running friends!

I had a few people inquiry about my running over the last few months.  Now I know I am among "true" running friends when someone asks me to talk about running.   My family learned to avoid that topic long ago in order to avoid lengthy conversations on topics they really don't want to know that many details.  :}

Here is my running experiences in a nutshell:

September:  Still trying to come back from knee surgery at end of July.  What the heck?!?  How can it take so long to rehab from a simple knee scope.

October:  Walking my regular half marathon training schedule.  Wow - new appreciation for walkers! 

Lined up at the Des Moines Half Marathon to walk the course.  Gun went off and couldn't help myself - ran the course until knee locked up at mile 11 1/2.  Learned a valuable lesson about getting carried away.

November:  Walked a lot.  Wondered if I would ever run again.

December:  Still walking.  Decided I might be a "walker" from here on out.

January:  Still walking.  But dabbling in running short distances on the treadmill.  Convinced that the snow and ice will never go away and I will be punished for some evil in a former life by being forced to do every mile on a  treadmill for the rest of my life.

February:  Officially, the longest damn winter in history.  Running more on the treadmill but it is nothing to write home about.  Have officially become the most talented multitasking treadmill walker.  If they could build a stove, bathroom and laundry facility into the control panel of the treadmill, I might never need to get off.

March:  Ok, time to get serious.  Calendar provides wake up call to get a plan and stick to it.  Favorite races are around the corner.  Hit the trails outside and start running.

April:  Back up to 10 mile long runs and 20 miles a week.  Who knew that running was the best way to become a runner again?  Damn knee still hurts and swells.  Decided to ignore.  Good ole runner stubborness streak has returned in full force. 

And you - drop off a comment with your running in a nutshell....

Updated:  thanks for all the great updates!  It's like hanging out with you and getting caught up over beers!

And the answer is......

Although I really enjoyed writing the options of where we might have been, alas (sigh) none of those could capture the real reason for our silence and time away from the Lounge.    I was especially hoping I was on the 6 month running tour of all the continents.  But it continues to be a dream versus a reality. 

The real answer?

.... f) None of the above.

The only real force that could keep us away from our running family is our own families.  We have such passion to hear and share running stories and connecting runners it is as much a part of our life as our own "real lives" with our friends and family.   But even our passion for runners found a second place to the need to help our families through some challenging times.

Tom and I are both married, but to different people.  And we each have families.  And in both sets of families we experienced family members with significant health and personal issues which required us to focus our time and energies to helping them.   Over the last few years, there have been many challenging times, but we found a way to work through it and still find time to devout to runners.   But this fall and winter, we found that we couldn't juggle our schedules and the needs of our loved ones and the needs of the Lounge.

And while we were struggling with the decision to take a few months leave the Lounge, a good friend offered the simple advice of "There is a season for everything".  That great advice helped us realize that it was ok to step away for a while, focus on my families needs and then return to the Lounge.

I appreciate the emails, nudges and check in over the last few months as well as the notes of encouragement.  I have missed the connection to my virtual running friends and look forward to connecting all over again.

So we are on the path to returning to one of our favorite places in the world - the Lounge and virtual running world.  I wish I could report that everyone is back to normal, healthy and happy in both our worlds.  Not quite - but we have both settled into a new "normal" and continue to support our families however they need. 

Tom and I weren't complete nonrunning zombie's in our time off.  As we get back in the swing of things, we are looking forward to connecting you to some of the running friends we met over the last few months. 

Let us know what you have been up to the last few months and what is going on in the virtual running world.   And we will find a way to give you a cliff notes version of the last few months.

Oh where, oh where did Tom and Amy go....

.... oh where, oh where could they be?

We have been away for a while.  Too long by blog and community standards as well as our own. 

So what could take us away from the running family we love so much?

Could it be:

a) That we were recruited by an elite running team and have been too busy training for world class events across the globe?

b) Too busy being cover models for all our favorite running magazines?  (It takes a lot of time to look that good in skimpy running outfits).

c) We have been on a long dreamed, intricately planned 6 month running vacation which has taken us to all 7 continents?

d)  You can't even remember who Tom and Amy are

e) All of the above

f)  None of the above.

Hum....

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