Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We've had a tough emotional week this week, with Mommy being away to train and Alex's next MRI (next week) hanging over our heads, and at times I loose sight of my goals, my reasons for racing and training, and even the things that I love most in the world turn to chores. I picked up a book for my trip last week and highly recommend it to anyone needing some end of season inspiration.

The book, Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks & Adventures, The Best Stories from Runner's World has some awesome stories in it. There are two passages that were so beautifully written, I am adding them here.

From Benjamin Cheever (son of my dad's favorite author, John Cheever), about training and completing his first marathon:

"Joy changes the landscape. My old life began to loosen around me like somebody else's shell. I felt naked, exposed. I had flashes of ecstasy, but pain was also more available to me. Not just physical pain either. I was swept with waves of remorse. And, alarmingly, I also felt the stirrings of ambition. I'd stumbled into an arena where I could go all-out, holding nothing back, and nobody--nobody--could be injured or even threatened...Life is a miraculous undertaking if you're paying attention."

And then a quote from Olympic marathoner Don Kardong on running his first 50 miler, Le Grizz. He is about to start the race (which he will win in under 6 hours, incredibly) and he looks around at the other lean bodies around him, shivering in the cold, dark morning. "Above them, the eye of the moon blasted its icy light across the wilderness, promising nothing but indifference of Nature to human dreams."

And then another quote, somewhere around mile 45 as he remembers the advice of a friend, "It never always gets worse. Eventually something will get better."

"Perhaps the attraction of ultrarunning lies in the simple distillation of this: the ability to envision a distant goal--another time and place when things will be better--and to survive the worst until then. This vision embraces both the survival instinct that unites us to other creatures and the imagination and willpower that catapults us above them. 'I will make it,' says the determined mind, and the body grows convinced."

We will get through Alex's MRI. Last year, the annual MRI revealed to us that he had to have another major brain surgery. This year, we hope for better news. But no matter what, we will get through it all. I envision a distant time where things will be better. After the Louisville Ironman (and Hawaii? one can only hope...), there will be a 50k and then a 50 miler...there will be lots of time to ponder upon Nature's indifference to human dreams, and to fulfill those dreams regardless.

Inside the 5 Week Window

With less than 5 weeks to go until race day, my training has been in full swing. Last week I spent a day riding and running the race course, and found that it is both hilly (who told me it was flat???) and extremely hot (heat index 105 degrees). In this heat the first thing to go is nutrition. It is hard to balance nutrition on race day in any Ironman, but when you add an extreme condition, or extremely difficult course, everything gets turned upside down.

Last week, by the time I hit the run, I was completely unable to consumer solids. In fact, on the bike, I ate only one powerbar, some cookies, some salty peanuts, and began drinking coke at mile 80 (I usually don't start on coke until mid way through the marathon). I drank an entire 2 liters of coke and lots of other fluids. It is going to be a very challenging race.

The great thing about training on the race course is that you mentally prepare for the actual race, rather than the race you thought you would be racing (where did those hills come from???) and you recognize your weakness. My great weakness (here's a gift to the competition...) is going to be the run in this race, which will most likely take place after a hilly hot ride, under a still unrelenting sun. So, I am altering my training to prep for this. I also found that walking through the aide station does give you a little time to get yourself together for the next mile. I may have to incorporate that into the race, which I don't usually do.

If any of this blog's followers are racing in Louisville, you still have a couple more weeks to condition yourself for the heat. I have heard from other racers and it seems the greatest problem this year in these long races has been the heat, and the resulting poor hydration and nutrition that accompanies it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Casting Alex's Arm--Contraint Induced Therapy

Last week, Alex had his right arm casted. Since his right arm is strong and very capable, it does all the work for the left side, disabled by cerebral palsy. Despite therapy and all the work we do to every day to work that left side, we have reached a plateau. Erik and I knew it was time to take more drastic measures, and we researched constraint-induced therapy. The idea is that constraint is placed on the part of the body that is capable, therefore requiring the disabled area to work.

From the moment Alex sat in the doctor's office getting his cast, his left arm started to work. The doctor handed him object to hold to help entertain him during the casting, and "lefty" took them willingly. In the past, "righty" would have jumped in and not allowed lefty to play. After one week, we see tremendous progress. The hardest thing for Alex right now is eating with a spoon or fork, because lefty turns outward and has a very hard time grabbing anything as small as a utensil stem. But, with work, he is making great progress. He is also eating with his left fingers and reaching in all directions for his toys. The cast is removable, so we take it off during bath time, in the pool, etc. Everyone we know is signing the cast and although he occasionally complains that he wants to take it off, he is proud of his cool cast that has gotten him lost of attention.

I understand many parents would fear their child might completely reject the idea of wearing a cast, but children really do get used to things, even when they are uncomfortable. Seeing the progress Alex is making is all the encouragement we need to work with this therapy until we feel he can stop wearing it. I expect he will have it for many weeks. We had hoped to also use another form of treatment using botox injection in the muscles of the disabled arm, which deadens the nerve endings for about 3 months, to allow Alex to better use that left arm, but have read FDA warnings against using it. We will speak in depth with his doctor about this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking it to the Track

If you have lost your motivation to exercise, spend a few minutes watching someone's kids (they don't have to be your own) run. Children run for the pure, unadulterated joy of the feeling of movement. Alex and Izzy run constantly. They only stop when hungry, thirsty or distracted by something they need to bend down, pick up and analyze. With hot summer nights lasting well beyond usual bedtimes, we often take our kids to the track to run. They need an after dinner activity that will wear them down before bed, and the track, fenced and wide open, is safe, it's open expanse inviting to all to just start moving.

At their first track meet of the season, Alex and Izzy ran their 60 meter races (Izzy in the 2 and unders, Alex in the 2-3's) and then ran some more. Alex jumped into the 6 and under 400 meter race and finished the entire 400 meters on his own! The more they run, the better their balance becomes, and the more they seem to love running. Not only are they feeding their brains with BDNF and other cell and synapse stimulating chemicals, they are forming good exercise habits that should follow them into adulthood. They also inspire their parents, and anyone who watches them run on a hot track with huge smiles on their faces.

I had a miserable high school track experience. I was kicked off my track team twice (the first for running the Boston Marathon during our spring break, which angered my coach, and the second for not showing up for a state qualifying race which I blew off during a moment of bad adolescent judgment when I justified my actions that I had already qualified for the state meet, which I never ran after being removed from the team). I also broke our school records for the mile and two mile during our first track meet. My coach was a complete jerk. Not surprisingly, he still coaches my high school team and continues to make otherwise promising athletes miserable.

If you had a similar high school experience, or simply looked at the track as a hot, painful place to run, you might try returning to it as an adult. Life's painful lessons may have knocked the track into its rightful place, as your friend and no longer a fearful beast. And if you need any extra motivation to get to the track, bring a toddler with you. The pure happiness they exhibit, running freely within the immense, open space of a track and football field might just get you jogging. And if you "forgot" your running shoes, go at it in bare feet, your aging aches will ache less.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Hot!

You either love training and racing in the heat, or you don't. I am convinced we can improve our tolerance for the heat, but we are born programed either to perform well or not in the heat. In Arizona last month, running trails in 95 degree dry heat, Erik overheated and I barely broke a sweat. This week, with the heat index above 108 degrees yesterday, even my heat tolerant body faced a challenge. Training for my Ironman in this weather is challenging but hopefully good prep for the actual race which will take place in the hot and humid heat of Kentucky in late August.

Alex and Izzy, like all children, do not do well in the heat. They have their first track meet of the year this week and the temps will be in the 90's, even at 6pm. We will go from the track immediately into the pool to cool off. Lots and lots of fluids all day and frequent dips into their blowup pool will help prep them for the race itself. It will be fun to see how far Alex has progressed from last year, when he was just barely able to walk without assistance, but had to run holding my hand. We raced together. This year, with both kids old enough to participate in the 2 and under category, and neither needing my hand, it will be fun to see how they perform, side by side, running down the 60 meters of track.