Sunday, November 27, 2011

Running Again

This weather is crazy! Eight days ago, I was huddled in a heavy sleeping bag camped out in the mountains at 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, I ran and walked laps around Echo Lake near my home in shorts and a tee-shirt. I covered 4.25 miles in my six+ laps around the lake on such a nice day, taking me about 48 minutes. I set my Ironman Timex to do 65 second run intervals and 90 second walk intervals.

It felt good at times to run this afternoon. Other times, it felt crummy. I started thinking about how little I have run in 2011 or even since the Seattle half-marathon in June 2010. I had the foot surgery for a neuroma last January, and that laid me up for weeks. I got in just enough running to be able to run and walk the Monument Avenue 10K the beginning of April. Then, two things happened, almost at the same time. First, I made the decision to walk about 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure instead of doing a marathon for Team in Training. Second, I developed really bad plantar fasciitis a few weeks later. As a result, I did not run a step between April and September. I did run part of the Livestrong 10K the first weekend of October, and a tiny bit of the Traverse City Zombie 5K just before Halloween. And that has been about it for running in 2011.

What's next? I think I will try to run a few times a week, and every couple of weeks, I will add five or 10 seconds to my run interval. I'll have an initial goal of getting up to about a 10K distance in the next month, then gradually increasing to a half marathon with a goal of running the Shamrock half in March. That will depend on (1) finishing healing my plantar fasciitis and (2) getting a race entry. With all the people dropping dead in long races, some of them far younger and in far better shape than moi, I may also look into a really comprehensive physical to make sure my aging body will handle this without dropping dead mid-stride somewhere.

It is almost like starting running over again, it has been so long. But it feels good to know I've made a start. And also, I burned off at least one of the pieces of pumpkin pie I consumed over the last four days. Maybe.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And Yet Another Cancer Comrade

Man, is there something in the water? I talked about Amy and breast cancer last time. This past week, I got a punch in the gut when I learned that my friend Bill not only has colon cancer, but that it has metastasized to his liver. And he was doing everything he should, including regular colonoscopies - in fact, he got his latest one, the one that showed he had a problem and needed surgery, a year early!

Early stage colon cancer - cancer that has not left the intestinal wall - is highly curable. Late stage colon cancer - in the liver or lungs for example - has a really bad prognosis, like as low as a 5% or 10% five year survival rate. I know that Bill is in shock right now, especially since his wife (and our friend) Judy died from multiple myeloma not even 11 months ago. He is weak from the surgery to remove the 10 inches of his colon, confused by all the tests, and scared about what the future holds for him. He really hadn't even finished grieving for his deceased wife yet, and now he has to face this. We all really feel for him. And we are worried about what the future holds for him. As he said the other day to me, "I was just getting to the point where I hoped I could have a few years to relax and rebuild my life."

I sent Bill this photo I had taken in June 2006 at the Cancer Survivors' Park in San Diego, California. I was there to walk the San Diego Marathon with Team in Training, just a couple of days after my four year anniversary of starting chemotherapy. So it meant a lot to me to visit this park, funded by a cancer survivor and dedicated to cancer survivors everywhere. The words on the plaque are words of wisdom for anyone diagnosed with cancer.We just finished Thanksgiving, a reminder to count our blessings. All of us whine and complain about silly things now and then, some more than others. But I tell you, if you are healthy or even relatively so, there is no greater gift than you can ask for. If I could have five million dollars, but have to face what Bill is going to have to go through, I'd tell you to keep your money. It is a terrible thing.

In less than a year, I've lost a friend and my sister to cancer. My sister's death this past year hit me really hard, even though I could see it coming. My friend's death was totally unexpected - she was diagnosed with myeloma in December and was dead four weeks later. Then I heard Amy's news, but was relieved about a great prognosis for her. Now, Bill's news - with a much more uncertain prognosis. Three friends diagnosed with cancer in less than a year. One of the dead. My sister dead. What's next? Amy, Bill, ... I hope we are not going to start working our way through the alphabet. Man, I hate cancer, I really do. We've made so much progress, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One More Cancer Comrade

I've been meaning to write about this for some time. Just after I got back from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I learned about one more person I know who just found out that she has cancer. In this case, it is breast cancer. Amy is a TNT alumni, a mentor, a runner and triathlete. In fact, she just completed her first Ironman in August. Then, a month later, she learns that she has breast cancer. She is perhaps late 40's - I hate guessing people's ages, especially those of women. Her prognosis is very good. The cancer is in one breast, and the tumor was surgically removed in a lumpectomy. But even so, it makes me sick to know that one more person has to go through this crap.

I woke up early this morning - too early - and I am not sure why. But as I lay in bed, trying in vain to fall asleep again, I started thinking about Amy. And while she was on my mind, I decided to write a little about her. Maybe someone reading this will give Amy a little prayer or some good vibrations, or a positive thought. I think she is going to be fine. She told me she was determined to survive, something I remember from myself nine years ago. But even so, a kind thought about her or a prayer for her can't hurt.

So here I sit, early morning, writing my blog. I have a mug of Earl Gray with honey. I have Beethoven on my CD player - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the piece of music that was so important to me nine years ago as I battled lymphoma. One of my cats is keeping me company. Still, I feel tired and I am thinking of my TNT buddy Amy, hoping she is doing well, saying a little prayer for her. One more good person with cancer. One more name to go on my next race shirt. The list never gets smaller.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Thing I Wasn't in That Field!

For the first time in six years, I was in the area for the Richmond Marathon, a race that I have never done. If I didn't have the lingering heel pain, I think I might have signed up for the half marathon and done a run / walk combination, starting after the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure ended in late September. But looking at the results, I am glad I didn't! I think I would have been humiliated! It was a really fast field.

Let's look at the marathon first. My best time in a marathon was 5:57, walking most of it. That is a great walking pace, but would be far behind any runner. So that we are comparing apples with apples, let's assume that if I trained for and ran a marathon, I could at least do it at double my best half-marathon time of about 2:28 as I recall. Let's add 13 minutes for a half minute per mile slower pace, a bathroom break, and so on. That would give me hypothetical time of about 5:09. Where would that have put me in the Richmond Marathon?

Well, in my age group of 60-64, I would have finished 45th out of 66 people - not so good. If I lied about my age and went up to the 65-69 age cohort, I would have finished in the middle - 13th out of 26. By the way, my neighbor John is in that age cohort, and finished in 3:45:29 - and he was undergoing horrific treatment for prostate cancer less than a year ago! And he would have finished in the top third of men 20 years younger!

What if I lied about my gender? Well, in my age group, I would have beaten 9 women and finished behind 10. Keep in mind, I have never run a marathon in anywhere near that time, so it is hypothetical.

What if I had indeed run the half marathon? Well, it would have been worse. Not only would my best half marathon time - I've only run two - have put me dead last in my age group, I would have finished over 30 minutes behind the guy who actually did finish last among 60-64 year olds. The last guy to finish ahead of me would have gotten his medal, had a snack, stretched out, and probably read a book by the time I came dottering in! And I would have finished dead last in the 65-69 age group as well, 15 minutes behind the last place man. Holy crap! I would have finished in the bottom half of 70-74 year old men. I would have beaten all five of the 75 and older men, though. Small consolation!

I feel I will eventually get over my heel injury and want to run again. In fact, I want to run a marathon next year, my ten year anniversary of surviving cancer. But clearly I am going to have to step up my game if I don't wish to see my name in last place among like-aged men.

But on the other hand, as Teddy Roosevelt once said: "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." So the true last place is the guy or gal who doesn't have the guts to lace up those running shoes and cross the starting line.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Can't My Bank Account Behave Like Beer Does?

I went to my favorite microbrewery the other night, Legend Brewing Company, to quaff a brown ale and catch up with my friend, Ed. He has been having an incredibly rough time the last two years battling melanoma. At age 42, this is the fourth time he has had cancer, and this go around has been really rough. He somehow keeps smiling. I could write a couple of dozen post just about what he has experienced over the past couple of years.

Since I was driving afterwards, I limited myself to one brown ale of about 18 ounces. Really! After drinking it, I had to visit the mens' room, and made a quick trip. Ed and I talked for another hour after I finished my beer, and during that time, I had to make two more trips. Ed laughed pretty hard at the third one. "Wait till you get to me my age," I said. "The old prostate!" I stopped at the grocery store on the drive home, and had to pee a fourth time! From one beer! Seems like had to have peed a quart at least! Now, that is a lot of output from one 18 oz. beer!

It got me thinking - why can't my bank account behave like a beer does? Put in $100 and a couple of hours later, I get to take out $150 - $200? That would be pretty sweet, eh? If you find a (legal) bank like that, let me know.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michigan Zombies

A week ago today, I was in Traverse City, Michigan to run / walk the Zombie 5K with my granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Over 1,000 people participated. It was my second timed 5K ever, but I did it for fun, not for timing. I ran the first 3/4 of a mile, then waited for my two family members to show up. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, there they were, in last place, walking on the sidewalk. I think my nearly five-year-old granddaughter had had enough of racing. So since I was waiting near her house, we grabbed a stroller and pushed her for most of the rest of the 5K. By that time, we were dead last! We caught some of the folks, then stopped for a potty break, and were dead last again! I was determined not to be last, so we ran and walked until we passed at least a hundred or so people. My granddaughter did get out of the stroller and and walk a little of it. My final time was something like 59 minutes! But at least I didn't finish last. Ironically, because they started several minutes after me but we finished at the same time, my granddaughter actually had a faster time than I did! Here are some photos.

My zombie granddaughter and I before walking up to the starting point.
My daughter-in-law is very talented, and did her zombie makeup for the race, along with that of her daughter. No, she is not a giant - I am scooched down a bit.
My daughter-in-law and granddaughter a few minutes before the start.
Zombies prior to the start of the race.
Straggler zombies on 10th Street, nearly last but still several minutes ahead of my grandaughter.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Slow Heeling"

Folks have told me for some time how painful and slow to heal plantar fasciitis is. Like anything else in life, until you experience it yourself, you don't really know for sure. Now I know. After just over six months, I continue to have significant heel pain. I have a slow healing heel, or "slow heeling," I guess. Combined with my foot surgery in late January, most of 2011 has involved a pretty sore foot. No real complaints, because at least I was able to get past it enough to walk the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. I can't imagine not being able to walk that.

I am not sure how to totally heal my foot at this point. I want to do some long distant events in 2012 for sure, and need to get past this in order to do that. I need to get back to more consistency with my exercises and stretches. The plantar fascia itself is so much more flexible than it was six months ago. But I still have this painful area on the inside left heel. When I roll my foot on a frozen bottle or foot log, I can feel this little "popping" feeling as I roll over one part of it. So there is still damage in there to heal. For now, I guess I will walk some, hike some, avoid running and extreme long distances, and stretch as much as I can. It is so much better than it was, just not good enough yet.