Saturday, April 23, 2011

Self Transcendence 6 and 10 day races

Enzo at his first mult-day race

Just after Start/Finish, Runner have units in a two long tents that line the course.

Enzo, Dave L.and I went to visit Ray at about 10 hours into his 6 day race.  He had logged about 46 miles by the time I left and was working on 47.   We were allowed to hang on the course and Enzo logged 4 miles at his first mult-day.  Not a bad start for my crazy little dog.

Ray's is prepping for another lap back in his unit.

This race is incredible. Runners from all over the world are here in Queens to run a 1 mile loop for 6-10 days straight.  They eat, sleep, walk, and run as desired.  The winner is the one who logs the most miles.  Runners in the 10 day were up to 255 miles by the time I left.   10 hours into the 6 day had the leader at 54.

Ray, me and Enzo.  I just LOVE this photo. 

I will be back tonight to cheer on Ray, one of the most inspiring amazing people in my life.   Go Ray, you are awesome!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Race Report: Virginia 24 Hour Ultra Run and Relay for Cancer - Team Awesome!

The Event: Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer:  Ultra Run and Relay for Cancer in Hampton Va. 4/16 - 4/17.     

Video by Peter Wolf  Please check out this video of the race.  

Team AwesomeJonathan Savage, Sabrina Moran, Tom Gabell, Cheryl Lager, Ray Krolewicz, Jessi Kennedy, David Lettieri, Jim Plant, Amy Perris-Schimmel, Alanna Garrison-Kast, Frank Lilley, and myself. 

OCD Shoe tying before the gun 
With a lot of help from Jim, I put together a 12-person team of really great people.  I had one secret criteria for the team selection process:  The capacity to endure endless hours of me once I became a cranky, whiny, starving, suffering, sleep-deprived zombie.

The Crew: Charles West, Todd Kast, Sidney Dos Santos and Cheryl's family.  They did an amazing job handling us while dealing with the impending Armageddon predicted to hit late in the day.
Sid, Me, Sabrina, Ray, Jessi, Charles, Dave, Jim, etc.
The Point: To work together to log high mileage drawing attention to our effort and this race in order to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Please consider making a donation to help all those who truly endure a much more difficult struggle than anything we could have faced running around the woods at night in a tornado.  Please direct donations at any time to this link:

Pre-RaceI had a great start.  Sid rented a Cessna and the weather cooperated.  While Sid did his pre-flight check, I got cross-examined by the woman at the desk who was baffled by the amount of stuff I had packed for a 2-day rental.

Her: "What are you doing, moving to Virginia!?" 
Me:  "Uh, no. I have a race."
Her: "Hmm? A race?" (confused look)
Me:  "Well, it's kinda like camping.  It's a camping-race!"
Her:  "Oh! That makes perfect sense now!" (walks away.... seeming less confused)
Me:  (What? That makes no sense at all... a camping-race??)

Thanks to Sid, my trip took 1.5 hours instead of 7 hours of driving. 

My Goal:  I have not put in the work for high mileage and you really can't fake a 24 hour.  I just started a harsh medication, so I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  My goal was to run at least 75 miles and ideally to continue on for 100.  I figured 12 minute paced for the first 12 hours would get me to 60 miles and then getting 40 more in next 12 hours seems almost too easy. Ha!    

The Weather: Torrential rains with thunder, lightning, and tornadoes were predicted starting at 4 pm lasting a few hours.  At 4 pm the weather began to change, but nothing significant happened.  At our aid station, people were battening down the hatches.  I took some time from my running to sort out my essential gear. I gave Sid everything I was not wearing to put in the car to keep it dry. (Remember this!)

At 12 hours in I had ended up behind my pace plan by about 3 miles.  But nothing hurt and I had plenty of time. I was still hoping the rain would sneak by and miss us. I grabbed Sid and together we headed out into the dark.

Sid and I before the storm
At 8 p.m. we were less than 1 mile into the 3.75 loop when the sky just opened up. The WORST of the weather was upon us.  Water was falling in a sheet that was broken up only by the branches above our head.  Cracks of lightning lit up the woodsI was convinced I was hit with hail.  Runners were running in the opposite direction as fast as they could just to get out of the weather.  But together Sid and I moved onward commenting on how awesome our rain jackets were. :)

Within minutes the trail became ankle deep rivers.  I was in shock at how fast inches of water accumulated.  At first, the cold water felt good like a refreshing  mid-race ice-bath.  But over the course of the next 2.75 miles, my body temperature lowered too much and I was freezing cold.   

* * * * *
Links to weather related news:  News reports indicated that a storm had split forming two tornadoes. One had touched down miles north of us.  We caught the mess between those spiraling cones of destruction. We were very lucky.  See Video: Destruction from the tornado hitting just several miles north of our location.
* * * * *

Once safely out of the woods, I was shivering uncontrollably.  Jonathan had concerns of hypothermia and suggested I move inside. Together, Tom, Amy, Charles, Sid, Jonathan, Jim and I set up a little justified pitty-party in the one warm building we had access too.   My fingernails were blue and I couldn't formulate clear sentences.  I was not in a good mental place.  Sid ran to the car about half a dozen times to retrieve me some warm clothes. Charles ran to get Amy and me some coffee.  Thank you so much guys! 

The rain was a Mojo Killer!  Many had dropped out, packed up, and left once it arrived.  But I had  only 3 more laps for 75 miles.  I sent Sid back to the hotel to sleep so he could fly us home safely.  Jonathan was worried for us and schooled us on the signs of serious hypothermia before sending us off into the darkness, encouraging the buddy system.  I was so cold that I could not keep up with Amy and JimFrank hung back with me. Thank goodness for Frank!  His company during one of the hardest laps of the day distracted me from my misery.  

Still pre-storm - Jim, Alanna, and Dave
The beginning of my turn around:  On our way in, we saw Jim and Amy.  I asked about the female leader's mileage.  Sabrina had logged 82.5, gaining a commanding lead  before the storm rolled in and she went home.  Since the rain hit, most people either left, were trying to get back on their feet, or were moving slowly through the mud.  Some lucky ones had missed the it completely and were fresh and happy to run, but their mileage goals were lower, which allowed them to be safe and dry during the worst of the weather.

"Wow, I can still win this," I said.  I am sure the only person who believed that was me.  "My competitive drive is kicking in! I really think I can do it."  And then off I hobbled with Frank who handed me off to Alanna who immediately triaged my situation and took care of me.  My feet were soaked.  It was only now that I remembered I had sent Sid to the hotel with all my clothes, my extra socks, and my second pair of shoes (everything I asked him to keep dry in the car earlier).    

Jim, Alanna, and Amy
I saw Cheryl who was still ahead of me.  She decided she was done for the day.  I tried to convince her to stay out letting her know that all she needed was 2 more loops and a mile for the win.  She humored me by pretending to think about it, but for whatever reason Cheryl (who just got back from the toughest ultra ever invented, the Barkley) decided she was happy to call it a night at 75.  She gave me a hug, telling me the win "is yours if you want it, so go get it." I told her that is my plan and I will try. 
Cheryl and Tom
My teammates took great care of meJonathan covered me with his giant down coat.  Alanna had her husband Todd find me his hooded fleece. Some one grabbed my towel from inside to cover my legs. Someone propped my feet up.  Someone else grabbed me some more mashed potatoes.  I ate, sat, then decided to dip my chin to my chest, close my eyes and take a 25 minute power nap.
I then headed off and did two loops alone.

When I had only two loops left, Ray was just coming through the start/finish area as I was getting ready to head out again.  I had not spent any time with Ray, so I was happy to see him now.  I told him I could win it, but my feet are in a lot of pain.  As we assessed my risk of getting passed by any women, we caught up to my closest competitor who declared she was calling it a night.  I had the win if I wanted it, but by then my feet were a hot mess.  My painful fibromas have returned making every step increasingly painful.

Planning to use all the time I had so as to not unnecessary tear up my feet any further, I timed it so that at 6:00 a.m. I would be tied for the lead.  With no reason to rush, I sat down to take my shoes off and rub my feet. Oh wow that felt good!  I waited for sun to rise before I put my wet racing flats back on and finished this off.  

By 6:10, glimmers of sunlight began to peak through the trees and I headed out to the blue cone turn around (which was really the .625 mile mark.  The double orange cones were .5 mile mark, oops). This gave  me technically 83.75 miles for the day.  George told me I had time for 1 more and to not quit early! Ha! 

I found Sid at the finish with a huge smile and I knew he knew I won.  He had left me when I was just recovering from my worst low of the day and I am sure he doubted I would even finish the 3 laps for 75.  I was thrilled to be able to tell him I did almost 10 more miles in wet gear since I last saw him!  I was happy he was present to see me win something.

Keeping Things in Perspective:  This is not the highest mileage I have ever run in a 24 hours.  This is low mileage for an overall women's win on a flat course.  I believe that I was unlikely to go much more than 83 miles at this race.  I am not yet trained for a good 24 hour run and my foot pain would have come whether or not the rains did.  Regardless of whether I should have won or not, I somehow managed to endure longer than any other woman on the course (and there was some amazing talent out there!). 

The second half of the race was not as easy as it should have been.  After all I only covered 27 miles in those 12 hours.  However,  I was caught for almost an entire loop in potentially dangerous horrid weather.  I have never been outside for so long in worse.  I had to stay focused while taking time to recover from mild hypothermia (and thanks to my teammates I did).  I had to keep moving slowly when my feet were in excruciating pain.  I was fighting sleep deprivation and hunger-related mental and physical fatigue by the last hours of the race (but that is the name of the game).  Finally my shoes and socks, sports bra, and shorts were all soaked with sweat or water.  I desperately needed to change them but I had sent off ALL my gear to a hotel for the night!  83 miles may not seem like a lot for a win, but I am very proud that I was able to get it done.  Thank you to my teammates and crew for helping me secure this victory.
As a cancer survivor it means a lot for me to take home the winner's award since this a fund-raiser for the ACS.  I am also sure Team Awesome won the Team race, since we unofficially accumulated 813 miles in the day.  
Sid and Me

Sunday, April 10, 2011

RR: Ship Bottom 5k and Cherry Blossom 10k

This was a nice weekend of racing.

Ship Bottom Sprint for Life 5k. April 9, 2011
I started off by participating in the Ship Bottom Sprint for Life 5k on LBI in New Jersey.  It was a very well organized event. Although I haven't feel very speedy or strong lately (since starting that new medicine I have felt terrible), I was compelled race it since it is a fund-raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I can't resist lining up towards the front.  I was right behind a row of teeny-tiny teenage girls who I hoped would race like most kids, by sprinting as fast as possible once the gun is fired until they realize they are really tired by a .25 miles.  This did not happen.  I was securely boxed in for the first quarter mile until I found a hole.  I took my line and dropped the pace, somewhat too aggressively... oops.

The course zig-zagged through a little neighborhood for just about half the race.  We hit a turn-around and then made our way out to the final mile long straight-away, down two-lane very head-windy highway.   This was a nice flat course, but the wind made it a bit tiring at the end.

I was pacing off a guy ahead of me with a really fantastic T-shirt. It said "Run Tall, Run Easy".  I kept trying to get tall, but at 5' 1 3/4's nature is not on my side.   I decided to focus on the Run Easy part.  I can honestly say that I felt like I was running "smoothly", but not necessarily "easy".  I felt great.  I hit mile 1 in 6:32.

However, it was at that point I regretted forgetting, for the first time ever, my inhaler in my car.  From there onward, my pace slowed and my chest felt tight.  With each mile, I felt more discouraged.  No PR today as I watched my watch read 7:12, 7:28 for the last two miles.

I finished the race in 21:40.  Because I wore my TNT shirt and this was a fund-raiser for LLS, there was a lot of cheering "Go Team!" as I tried to not die of oxygen debt on the way in.  Although it hurt, I was happy to have secured 4th place overall female finish.  I am eternally grateful for the guy who finished slightly before me who turned to ask if I take Albueterol for my asthma and he gave me his inhaler to help me regain my lung capacity.   Normally I dont take drugs from people on the street, but in this case it was so appreciated!

Cherry Blossom 10k, April 10, 2011
Today I was admittedly a little nervous about this morning's 10k.  800 runners lined up in Branch Brook Park for the Cherry Blossom Festival race.  I took a spot 3 rows back with inhaler in hand.

I felt so much pain at the end of yesterday's 5k, finishing with a 7:28 3rd mile that I had low expectations for what would happen at miles 4,5, and 6.2 of today's 10k.  Ideally a 6:59 paced 5k should predict a 7:15 paced 10k, but this race was hillier than the 5k and I was more tired today than yesterday.   A 7:15 pace would be a great accomplishment right now for me.

I decided to make this event an exercise in self-control and do what I could to stay at 7:15 pace.  First mile: 7:14 (excellent)...  I was so thrilled to run a perfectly paced first mile, that I let the second one get away from me... 7:03.  This just wrecked me on mile 3, where the final uphill section took up most of the second half of that mile.  7:40! Oh man.

Here I caught up to Ross, who I met exactly this race at this same place, as he caught me and dubbed me with my new nickname "Asthma", since I was suffering then badly.  Today saw me approach, said "Hey! It's Asthma! You sound good!"  (Apparently that inhaler does do something!).

Because I knew we had some downhills after the uphill mile 3, I decided to challenge myself to a negative split by slowly creeping my pace back down...
7:23 for mile 4 beats mile 3 so that's a good start.
7:17 for mile 5 got me close enough to my mile 1 (7:14), so all I needed was a strong finish.

I hitched a ride on the mojo of two dudes who were cruising well and got a burst of inspiration when a woman called out "10th female".  Awesome!  At this point, I broke a rule and glanced back to see if I was at risk of losing my 10th place finish.

Ha! I was surprised to see a chick I met at this very race two year ago, as well, running with Ross.  I heard him say some words of encouragement to her.  I met here at the end of this race, when I was able to drop a speedy kick and pass her just before the finish.   All I could think was, "Man! She is going to pay me back and steal my 10th place finish right out from under me."   So I drop the pace to add some distance.

Mile 6 was 7:07, slower than my 7:03 mile 2.   I was hauling anyway, b/c now getting passed was my most pressing concern.  Last .2 was 1:23, which is a sub-7 pace and the fastest running of the race.  I finished in 45:09 and secured 10th place female overall, 4th in my 10 year AG.

Now off to get some mileage with Enzo, and prepare for my new interview with the pediatric oncology unit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Price of Altruism is 9 months of Isoniazid.

About a year ago, I heard an interview with Oren Harman, the author of The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness.   George Price was a scientist who eventually took his own life after joining the ranks of the homeless he was trying to save. 

I debated whether or not I wanted to share the following details about my daily life, but after my 29 mile "run" yesterday I decided I do want to write about my newest annoyance, Isoniazid.

When I first decided to enter the field of therapy, I volunteered to provide free art therapy at a supportive services center for HIV positive homeless, drug addicted, mentally ill clients. With almost 100% certainty, I can remember the exact moment that impacts me today.  A client came in and seemed very very sick.  He was coughing terribly but wanted to come to an art therapy session.  Sessions took place in the back room, with no windows and poor ventilation.  Rules of confidentiality require that we shut the door.  I distinctly remember thinking, "Man, he sounds terrible. It can't be good to be back here." The whites of his eyes were looking a bit yellowed and he looked so very ill.  I was concerned about him, but I did not know what was making him so sick... his HIV?  Possible alcoholism? Something else?

When you work with homeless clients, many are sick. All of our clients were HIV positive. I was in my early 20's and invincible back then.  After a few weeks, I had gotten over my fear of catching HIV by just standing in the same room.  However, I just didn't think I would get sick from someone's cough.  Catching the flu was not my first concern when faced with a very ill man who came in off the street with a bed-roll (likely his only possession) under his arm asking if he would be able to make some art today.

It was about a year later, during a physical exam required to work at the prison that I discovered that I have been exposed to TB.  In hindsight, I am pretty sure that TB was causing his jaundiced appearance as well as his cough.  I inhaled a germ and was exposed.  I am not sure how much longer he lived.  This doesn't mean that I have active TB.  I am not sick.  I can't give anyone else TB.

Apparently, the protocol should have been to offer me TB medication once my exposure was discovered.  Instead, I was simply cleared to work after my chest x-ray came back "unremarkable"   I recall some brief discussion about some harsh medication, but was I advised that I may be too old for it.  I was counseled that it was not necessary since my body had built up anti-bodies that would keep this germ suppressed , similar to how chicken pox is a one-time disease.

Apparently this is not entirely accurate.  Yes my body has built up a defense to this disease, but if I ever find my immune system compromised, the latent TB can become active TB.  In fact, I am extremely lucky to not have had to fight TB during my chemotherapy.

I had a new physical recently, to be cleared to work in an inpatient psychiatric unit in a hospital.  I was advised that I have been exposed to TB. "No kidding." This is old news.  However, this time I was counseled more accurately and adamantly advised to take Isoniazid to rid my body of the TB germ. 

From what I understand, Isoniazid is a rough medication.  It is highly toxic to the liver and requires me to avoid things, like alcohol and Tylenol.  In addition, I understand that fermented food (e. g. cheese, yogurt, soy, tofu, etc) need to be avoided because they could cause some type of reaction.  There are other foods with stimulants in them (chocolate, coffee, tea) should be avoided b/c they can raise my blood pressure, cause migraines and other symptoms. Other side effects are things like irritability, anxiety, and fatigue.

I have been hoping that I could just take this stuff and not have any issues.  After all, I continued to tough out workouts (albeit light workouts and eventually just walks) during cancer treatment, so I shouldn't even feel this medication, right?

Well unfortunately, about 20 miles into my run yesterday, I felt my heartbeat throbbing in my ears and noticed a little blood smudged on my hand.  I was confused until I realized I had a little nose bleed.  I was not sure what was going on.  Once I blew my nose and saw blood was coming from both nostrils, I realized this was a high-blood pressure thing.  It was really just a minor nose bleed, yet I continued to feel "not right", light headed, tingly, and a little dizzy.  Walking helped and thanks to the company of Will, Alanna, and Lindsay, I was confident that I would be fine.  I was saddened to walk when I wanted to run and just before this happened I felt so good I was planning on completing 40 miles before going home.

So now, in order to ensure that in the rare event I have a cancer recurrence that I don't find myself at risk of dying from TB I will need to take this medication for 9 months. Nine months is not forever.  I just hope my running doesn't suffer too much.  I finally have been feeling strong again and would hate to lose almost another year to fatigue.

So now, each night this week when I stopped everything to take my Isoniazid, I am also reminded that I need to find that book by Harman.  I wonder if my local library has The Price of Altruism on CD for me.