Merrily we run along! And longer and longest!

I promise I’ve not forgot about you.
I didn’t forget my password.
I didn’t lose my laptop.
I’ve just been . . . well . . . running.
And working and other things, but what I mostly think (and I’m sure my non-runner friends will say talk) about is running.
And eating.  There’s a lot of eating and thinking about eating and talking about eating going on too.  My appetite has been taken over by an adolescent boy and that kid can put away some groceries.

We’re 73 days from Race Day and the training miles are starting to ramp up.
Last Saturday we ran fifteen miles. All at once. On purpose.
This week we’ll do the same thing for sixteen miles.

Twelve Miles seems to be my personal Waterloo Distance.
Last year when I ran twelve training for my first Half it was torturous and involved far more walking than I’d have preferred. I don’t recall all of what contributed to that, likely the fact that it was the first time I’d ever run that distance. But it was awful and had me going into that Half with more fear and angst than was necessary. Fortunately I paired up with another first-time Halfer who was as nervous as I was and enough younger than me that my Inner Mommy sprang into action, my own fears were set aside, and the race itself was a blast!
I know exactly what loosened the lug nuts on the wheels of this year’s twelve miles: lack of rest and insufficient fueling. Those lug nuts started dropping around mile nine when I actually considered stopping. As in sitting down right where I was and calling someone to come get me. Quitting.  And crying. There might actually have been a few tears mixed in with the sweat dripping down my face during that mile. I did not; however sit down, quit, or phone-a-friend.  But with the wheels falling off we walked nearly all of the last two miles.
It was ugly.
It was awful.
It was demoralizing.
It was a Lesson Learned.
You must rest.  You must fuel.

Fourteen Miles was looming the week after The Worst Twelve Miles Ever which began with me really, truly, not caring if I ever ran another step.  After consultation with one of my Running Mentors, I blew off Monday’s short run. I just wasn’t feeling it (not good when you’re coming up on The Longest Distance You’ve Ever Run at the end of that week).  But, according to the wisdom of my Mentor (which turned out to be wise wisdom indeed) sometimes you just need to step back from something, even something you love.
As it turned out what I was feeling was a combination of defeat and sinus infection.  I went to the doctor who put me on one of those antibiotics that upholds the adage “the cure is worse than the cause”. The combination of illness and side effects of the ‘cure’ had me walking more of those last two miles than I ran as well.  I spent a fair amount of the next couple days beating myself up over those last two miles until I finally accepted that being sick (and medication side effects) were a factor and it wasn’t (entirely) a huge personal failure.

Sidebar:
Before we get to Fifteen Miles, Let’s talk about running on flat courses versus running hilly courses, shall we?
Conventional Wisdom would dictate that running flats is easier, therefore it is better. Right?
Wrong!
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong!
Remember that fourteen mile run? We ran that one out of town.  We were in St. Louis for HCRP’s 30 year reunion and rather than running the ridiculously hilly (and sidewalk deficient/not very safe) course he’d mapped out (not knowing about the no sidewalks/shoulders thing) we opted for one of their Rails-To-Trails courses: Grant’s Trail.
Beautiful trail!
Very well maintained trail!
Essentially flat trail.
I say “essentially flat” because the way we ran it it was seven miles of a ½% – 1% ‘downhill’ grade followed by that same percent ‘uphill’ grade on the way back. Essentially flat.
Our first run back home we ran on Memphis’ own R-T-T which is flat, then the Friday night we ran a race whose course was also essentially flat. For those of you playing at home that comes to twenty-four miles of . . . Flats!
And buddy boy did my quads let me hear about it on that ‘just’ nine miles!
Yet another Lesson Learned: Hills are our friends!
End Sidebar

The next week (after Fourteen) was a ‘drop back’ week – nine miles.
The night before our nine mile run was one of the best and most popular races in Memphis and since we’d missed it last year we were determined to run it this year. This meant switching up our training schedule, skipping Thursday and running Friday, but since it was ‘just nine miles’ (cracks me up every time I hear myself say that) I wasn’t worried about it.
And I PR’ed the four miles!
I mean, it was a ‘given’ PR since it was my first four mile race. But I PR’ed the first mile (11:03), ran the entire first 1.45 miles with no walk intervals, and finished the race with an overall pace of 11:41 min/mile. Official Finish Time: 47:48.  Booyah baybee!
For someone who sticks to those regular run/walk intervals like they are oxygen and maintains a consistent 12:00 – 12:30 min/mile pace that was pretty cool! 
We stayed up way past our bedtime enjoying the race’s after party and the company of our BRFF Couple so Saturday’s nine started well after our accustomed 6am start time and we ran that nine in our (very hilly) subdivision.
Running Friday night then getting up and running our long run Saturday was good experience for running on ‘tired legs’.

In the wake of my recent ‘disastrous’ twelve and fourteen mile runs, I went into this past Saturday’s FIFTEEN MILE run with a fair amount of ‘fear and loathing’.
Lots of fear and loathing.
I had visions of not just thinking about quitting and sitting crying on a curb waiting on someone to come get me, I had visions of that actually happening.
Not because I wanted to quit, but because I had to.
Because I failed.
Because I had bit off more than I could chew with this whole “Hey everybody! I’m gonna run a marathon!” delusion and was simply not capable of it.
To say I started Saturday’s run with ‘butterflies in my stomach’ would be an understatement of hyperbolic proportions.  I started Saturday’s fifteen miles nearly nauseous with butterflies stomping around in combat boots in my stomach. Combat boots made of fear and laced with loathing.
My mantras (mantri?) for the entire fourteen miles were:
This isn’t harder than chemo for a kid.
and
I can do anything for five minutes.
And at the end of that fifteen miles? I did it! We did it! Because HCRP was there with me every step of the way.
When we came to a completely unexpected overpass where I nearly stopped dead and turned back around.
When we ran (TWICE!) past one of Memphis’ best breakfast joints and did not stop in for either biscuits & gravy (first pass) or bacon (second pass).
When we knew we were absolutely, positively Dead Last by a good distance.
We were doing it.
And we did it!

At about mile thirteen when I knew we still had two more miles to go, and the specters of the ‘walked more than run’ last two miles of Twelve and Fourteen playing at the back of my brain, I had an epiphany: I felt really good!
Not “That was a great massage” good.
Not “Mimosas and Omelettes at Noon” good.
But definitely good for thirteen miles in and two more to go good.
We finished those last two miles running more than walking. In fact, with one brief ‘walk off a cramp’ exception we ran every run interval and only walked the walk intervals and hit the ‘finish line’ marveling at just how Fifteen of Fifteen Miles Good we both felt.
And for the first time in all this running, and running longer, and Running Longer Than I’ve Ever Run Before I began to see The Finish Line of This Marathon (My Marathon) as truly doable and not just some pipe dream made of other people’s marathons and finish lines.
Now I’m excited!

One last ‘shout out’ before I put this one to bed…
Our local Running Store that sponsors our training program/runs are some of the most incredibly supportive people I could ever imagine having behind us on this journey.  And these are some serious, experienced, fast runners I’m talking about!

Saturday’s fifteen consisted of a 7.5 mile loop through neighborhood streets, a greenline trail, and trails through a large urban park that we ran twice.
There were five points along the trail where store employees (and the owner) were set up to provide us with water, make sure we didn’t miss turns, and make sure we were okay (by which I mean vertical and moving). When we got to the first aid station on our second loop we told the guy standing there that we had ample water in our CamelBaks and to call ahead and let everyone know they could go on about their days since we were Dead Last by a good distance and knew it. He asked if we were sure, and we assured him we were.
As we got to the second aid station, there sat Michael. Encouraging, offering water, and just there.
We got to the next place where we knew someone was ‘supposed to be’ and sure enough: There sat BR (the owner) with water and encouragement and shrugging off our “We told him you didn’t have to wait for us!”, because that’s just not how they roll. They’re not done supporting until there are no more runners out there.
You don’t get that just everywhere. But here in Memphis, and especially with Breakaway, it’s pretty much the norm.
For which we are grateful beyond words!
And because of which we’re really gonna do this thing!

On running and being a runner

Unlike other times when I’ve gone days/weeks without writing, I actually have been running. 

Friday night we were part of a group run put on by my favorite running store to honor the victims, victors, participants, and what Mr. Rogers called The Helpers (be they spectators and runners who ran towards the danger or the First Responders).  We honored them with our run and we celebrated the Strength of Boston afterwards.

Saturday morning we ran in a 5K that supports a local “children’s home” (for lack of a better term) that provides intensive in-home treatment, residential treatment, foster care, adoption, transitional living, and crisis services for local area families and youth.  It’s a great race (on a hilly course) for an even better cause.
For me it marked a PR of special significance: It is the slowest time I have ever logged in a 5K.  Some race has to be the Slowest Race.  This one had damn well better be mine!

Sunday we volunteered with our local running club to work the big Earth Day 5K in our area.  Based on my assignment as ‘Chute Monitor’ I would like to go on record with the following request:
If you – like me – run with earbuds in and music playing, please keep the volume at a level that allows you to hear the instructions from the people (in our case Volunteers) working the Finish Line and Finish Chute.
Okay?
Thanks!

Monday the ‘Nother Running Store dedicated their regular Monday Night Running Group’s Run to a community-wide run to honor those in and impacted by The Boston Marathon bombing.
We were due to get in a few miles, so there was no reason not to join in that show of support.  Besides, we wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for anything.

So most of our weekend was dedicated to running.
And doing that thing that runners do best: Running for others.
Yet another reason I love running and being a runner.

Note To Readers: Both events were largely put on to raise funds on a local level to go to The One Fund to assist victims of the bombing.
You, too, can click on that link and make a donation.
Thanks!

Before and The Beginning of After

So my surgery was a week ago Thursday.
Yes,THAT Surgery.
The Reduction Mammoplasty.
The Reverse Boob Job.
My great, courageous (so a couple people have told me it was) act of “Getting Proportional”.  (Kudos to a dear friend for that reference.)

Before I go any further and really start rambling, here are the obligatory Before and After Images.  (Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a true “Before” picture in something I am willing to share here on Ye Olde Worlde Wide Webe.  I mean, I like you and all, but no you don’t get to see pictures of me in my bra.  Or less.  So this is what you get.)

IMG_0404

Before: September 2012

December 9, 2012All buttons.  No safety pins.

December 9, 2012
All buttons. No safety pins.

Yeah. Tell me about it.

I’m still in the healing phase, and healing nicely.
This is not only my opinion but my surgeon’s opinion at my post-op visit.
There hasn’t been any horridly excruciating pain.  Of course the first couple days when there might have been I was doped up on Demerol and probably wouldn’t have felt it if someone had come in and lopped off one of my other appendages.  I mostly feel, and have mostly only felt, really bruised.

So far the worst parts have been: A) Having to sleep on my back; and B) The itching where the stitches are healing.  Fortunately both these issues are resolved by the same solution: Benadryl!  Oh sweet little hot pink elixirs of relief and rest!

The weirdest part was the first week when – for the first time in my life at forty-seven – I had to line my bra with maxi-pads (to protect the incisions and absorb any ‘drainage’). I actually found that quite hilarious on Friday morning when my mom and my BFF helped me change from the padding I’d left the surgery center with to the first set of maxi-pads. I am reasonably certain the Demerol weighed in on the hilarity factor of that experience.

The waterproof surgical tape he put back over the stitched up incisions (which will dissolve rather than having to be removed) comes off a week from Monday.  Christmas Eve morning. (The jokes on that one really do write themselves.  I’ll not insult your intelligence or sense of humor by overstating the obvious . . . )

In the couple weeks leading to the “Procedjah” people kept asking me “Aren’t you nervous?!” and I would pause, do one of those mental ‘system checks’, and answer (in all honesty) “No.  I’m really not.”  By the day before the Procedjah my answer had become “At this point I feel like I’m ten months pregnant and I’m just ready to have this baby!”  (Having gone 1/3 of the way to ten months pregnant twenty-four years ago, that’s an analogy I was quite comfortable making.) During the pre-op prep they checked my blood pressure.  111/74 (before they had given me any ‘calming agents’ via IV).  Seriously.  So it would appear that “nervous” was the last thing I was.  Which I think was pretty cool!

Friday morning I woke up and could already feel a difference in my shoulders.  The constant muscle tension and ‘pull’ I was used to was just GONE!  Saturday morning once I was showered and wearing something other than pajamas my first thought was “I can’t wait to take these puppies out for a run!”  Really.  I called them “puppies” in my head.

All told the doctor removed three pounds of excess ’tissue’.  Not fat.  Actual whatever-it-is tissue that boobs are made of.  The Mammogram Lady told me I had “dense tissue, not fat”.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to clarify that, but I do.  I digress . . .

So at this point I’m in something of a ‘holding pattern’ while the incisions heal, the bruising abates (there’s actually quite a rainbow of bruise coloration going on), and the stitches dissolve. I can’t run.  I can’t lift anything heavier than a pound.  I can’t run. Bending over causes discomfort. I can’t run.  Yet.  The doctor’s (somewhat flip) answer when I asked “How long after surgery until I can run?”  was “Around 30 days.  Basically it’s up to your pain levels.”  I was expecting to hear something more along the lines of “Eight to twelve weeks” so this was a relief!  A shocking relief, but a relief nonetheless.

Right now I’m still adjusting to what really is a whole new body.
Seriously there are days when I see myself in the mirror and am overwhelmed with not just the change, but the realization of the number of years I was identified – in my mind and other people’s – by one (okay technically two) disproportionate body part(s).
I can wear button front blouses without buying them two sizes bigger than necessary and still having to safety pin between the buttons.
I can wear pretty much any kind of v-neck t-shirt, sweater, or whatever else without worrying if the cleavage is going to be inappropriate or offensive.
I will – once the healing is complete and I no longer have to wear a bra 24/7 – be able to throw on a t-shirt or tank top sans brassiere and run to the store without worrying about scarring the psyches of small children or fast-tracking some unsuspecting male tween through puberty!
And.  And!  AND!  I will be able to not only wear cute running bras (and cute little strappy running tops), but I will be able to wear those cute running bras without additional padding on the straps or moleskin applied under the band to prevent wearing holes in my hide!

If you want to get a sense of the “Before” and “After” effect of this surgery, pick up a three pound bag of potatoes, divide them into two mostly equal amounts, wear them around your neck. (I suggest a king size pillow case. You’ll have to sew the open end up somehow.)  Pick your favorite shirt and wear it over them – have fun with those buttons on those blouses.  Do this all day, every day for a week or two.  Now multiply that by a good couple (or three) decades.  Have fun with that math!  I know I always did.
[I say “or three” parenthetically because I have it on good authority from one of my lifelong best friends that my ‘disproportionate proportions’ were there in high school even though it didn’t seem like it to me at the time.  But I trust her judgment.]

Monday HCRP and I are going to get back in the gym.
He can do whatever he wants.  I’ll be limited to a recumbent bike for cardio *rolls eyes* and lower body strength training.  But it’s better than nothing at all.  While we’re at my in-laws for Christmas I’m going to do Yoga as much as I can without pain.  Once we get back home we’re changing gyms to one that has a pool and both an indoor and lighted outdoor track.
We both realize the absolute requirement of cross training – strength training in particular.  The lighted outdoor track is a huge plus because of shorter winter days combined with the fact that our regular running trails close at sunset and our subdivision lacks streetlights  (like at all) and consistent sidewalks.

So that’s where things are in my middle-aged, post-op, currently not running life.

In Running News I’m weighing the pros and cons of Jeff Galloway’s and Hal Higdon’s respective Marathon Training programs and starting to plan next year’s running goals.
Running. Goals.
No more of this just running willy nilly for the sake of it for me!  I have G-O-A-L-S.
I’m notsomuch looking to break any particular times.  Okay that’s kind of a lie.
I would like to get my 5K finish time down to 30 minutes.  Less would be good too, but I’ll be good with a consistent 30 minute finish time.  Which will of course make for a nice, clean, well-rounded 60 minute 10K finish time.
I’m good with a 3 hour half-marathon time.  That allows for enjoying the venue as well as the run itself.
My first Full will be next year’s St. Jude Marathon in December.  I could be ready to do one sooner, but I don’t intend to make marathons a regular ‘thing’ so I’m reserving them for St. Jude and Ronald McDonald House supporting events.

So that’s how things are and where I’ve been.
How’s things with you?

We are what we say we are

A couple weeks ago I was looking for something to watch on Netflix during my Sunday afternoon ‘Kitchen Therapy’. I’ve not ever watched Lost and figured with six seasons of episodes it ought to keep me entertained for quite awhile. And I am hooked – just like people kept telling me I would be back in 2004.

HCRP and I carpool to work which means I get dropped off about an hour early most mornings which gives me a little bit of time to entertain myself. Yesterday on my lunch hour I’d got almost through an episode titled The 23rd Psalm that focuses on the character of Mr. Eko.

I’m not going to even attempt to go through a season and a half’s worth of episodes, let alone several years of the character’s backstory, to explain every little detail because . . . well . . . this is a blog, not Homer’s Odyssey. But there is a scene in the episode where another character asks Mr. Eko “So, are you a priest or aren’t you?” and the camera focuses in on Eko’s face and you see this Moment, this instant of choice, and he answers the question simply “Yes. I am.” And in watching that Moment of his I had one of my own when I had the realization expressed in this post’s title: We are what we say we are.

As if that Moment in that episode of a television show wasn’t enough for me, my Inbox decided to hammer the point home with emails from two completely unrelated sources.

The first was a quote from a daily email newsletter I’ve subscribed to for a couple years now called The Daily Love. This morning’s missive contained the following quote: “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
As I shared on Facebook that event was lacing up a pair of Asics and running 1 minute, walking 1 minute over and over for 20 minutes then doing that two more times that week. And the ‘stranger’ I met that day was Julianne The Runner.

It took me a long time to really, fully embrace the concept of myself as A Runner (capital R). I mean, I ran. Well, I ran/walked. The chances of me ever full-bore running even so much as an entire 5K are pretty slim. For one thing, I don’t necessarily feel the need. For another, that’s not how I train and as every runner knows – you race the way you train. So I will be a run/walk girl no matter the distance!
I’m not going to win, place, or likely even ever ‘show’ from a winning a medal standpoint. At least not until I’m in that 70+ age division and even then I sure won’t if Tonia or Terri Lee are running the same race! And I’m okay with that. I run to finish.

But back to Mr. Eko up there.
In his seminal moment of self-definition I realized the truth that we really are what we say we are!
Runner.
Writer.
Trainer.
Coach.
Motivator.
Even The Good Book tells us “What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.”
Well I’m ready to stand in that shining light and say I am A Runner and going forward I will be a Trainer and a Coach and a Motivator for others so that they, too, can lace up their running shoes and meet that stranger lurking deep down inside who is their Runner or Writer or Trainer or whoever it is they say they are!

Oh, and that second quote I mentioned hitting my Inbox this morning?
That one came from the blog of none other than Jeff Galloway, the Patron Saint of Run/Walkers everywhere.
Question: My friends think that walking is “less important” and that if you don’t run the entire way, you didn’t do it right. How do you deal with it?
Jeff: In every area of life there are individuals who will tell you that the only way to do something is the way that they do it. According to an original source, all of the marathoners in the first marathon race in Athens (1896 Olympics) walked significant portions of the race. By nature, running is a self empowering activity and each of us can choose how fast, how far and how many walk breaks we use on each run. If anyone says that run/walk/run is not doing it right, ask for the rule book that excludes walk breaks. They cannot, because each of us makes our own rule book.
Thank you Mr. Galloway wherever you are!

It’s still a PR! Right?!

We ran a 10K this morning, HCRP and I.  Well technically it was HCRP, me, and about 600 other people.  This was a first time 5K/10K for a local organization I have a world of respect and gratitude for.  In the early years of my life here in Memphis CHC was my Primary Care Physician.  I worked for either small businesses that couldn’t afford to offer health insurance; or for wages that didn’t allow for my portion of the premium.  So when either my son or I were sick that was where we went.
The first affordable health insurance coverage I was ever offered was their MEMPHIS Plan which I believe is a model for other communities and their medical communities!
/Steps off Soapbox . . .

My first 10K was back in June and I beat my stated goal time of 1:15:00 by 29 seconds.
My stated goal time for today’s race was 1:10:00 and I missed it by 54 seconds.

But I still beat my last time so that makes it a PR and I’ll take it!
It is still a PR even if it’s only your second race of a particular distance.  Right?  Of course right!

We’ve been running, building up miles towards December’s St. Jude Half Marathon.
Last Sunday we ran one of our local greenway trails.  “Greenway” translates to “There are probably snakes out here!” and there were.  Right around a mile into our seven mile (utterly craptabulous from Step One) run there was one of THESE right smack dab in the middle of the trail.  (WARNING: It’s a wikipedia page about the Nerodia Rhombifer.)
And of course Samuel L. Jackson was nowhere to be found with his mighty powers of snake defying profanity.  (WARNING: There’s a lot of Samuel L. cursing at that link.  Mom, I warned you.)  Thanks Sam.  I’ll keep this in mind the next time you need running advice or a home-cooked meal or pretty much anything else.  This is twice man.  Twice.  Not.  Cool.
Given Samuel L’s betrayal . . . err . . . absence HCRP came to my rescue by going around the snake first, creating a distraction so that I could pass unnoticed by the legless beast.
(I am not a fan of snakes.  In case you haven’t picked up on that particular vibe.)

Update on Project AwesomeBoobs
(Name suggested by one of my uber-cool online friends)
Got home from work yesterday to find a letter from my insurance provider informing me that they have APPROVED my “Reduction Mammography”.  I am approved for 0 (as in zero) Visits and 2 Procedures.  I’m guessing that’s one for each side or something.  It struck me as funny anyway.

So this afternoon following my PR setting 10K I could think of no better way to celebrate than to switch out my Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter wardrobes.  And since I was pulling every stitch of clothing out of the closet I figured I’d go ahead and divest myself of the things that no longer fit.  Which is most of my Spring/Summer shorts, skirts, and everything from the waist down.
I started last summer in a size 16 and am now wearing a 10 in jeans and a 12 in slimmer cut skirts, etc.  That’s from the waist down.  Waist up I’m still a 16.
Anyway, as I was going through Le Wardrobe I started looking at my Spring/Summer tops and blouses and realized that next year I will be swimming in them!

This really is going to be a substantial change in every area of my life.
Last weekend HCRP and I were strolling through Macy’s and it hit me that for the first time in . . . well . . . ever I am going to be able to wear button-up blouses without using dress tape or safety pins.  I very nearly cried standing there looking at a really cute, size 10 blouse.

A friend – a couple of them actually – had suggested that I see a therapist between now and when I have this done next February.

Oh.  And yeah.  My target date is Tuesday, February 26th.  I’ll be calling Dr. Awesome Boobs’ office on Monday to get that on his schedule.

And speaking of “between now and then” I’ve also been advised by other women who’ve had this done that if I have any more weight I want to lose I need to try and do that before the surgery.  I happen to have a few pounds I’d like to go forward without, so I’ll be beginning that effort next week.
Several months ago I came across the documentary Fat Sick & Nearly Dead on Netflix and I was absolutely riveted by it.  I watched it three times in as many days then made HCRP watch it with me one afternoon.  I’ve decided to kick off my efforts by following Joe’s Reboot Your Life program.
Before you jump me about ‘extreme diets’ and ‘boomerang effect’ and ‘fads’ go the the Reboot Your Life link up there and click the link to watch the film free on Hulu.  THAT – if nothing else – is how I know this guy is for real.  He has put his entire film (that he otherwise sells on DVD) out there For Free to get the message out.  AND the plans and a ton of recipes are available For Free on that site as well.
I’ve researched and considered this for several weeks and I think the two week reboot is going to be good for me.

So now my Running Blog has become a Running and Breast Reduction Blog and Pre-Breast Reduction Weight Loss.
Who saw that coming?!

When I said “Running changed my life” I really had very little idea exactly what all that was going to entail.