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The Hardest Thing I have Ever Done

It is quiet.  The air is still. I hear a soft pounding in my chest and my feet on the asphalt.  My heart reminds me of the task at hand: kee...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Think First Before You Speak

Here are some things that people should think about before saying them to someone with MS:

  • You don't look sick.
  • Do you think that has to do with your "condition?"
  • Can I catch it (or how did you catch it?)
  • Do you need to sit down?  You look tired. (Actually, I don't mind that one so much)
  • I have this great diet you should try.
  • You should exercise more.
  • It must be hard to tell if it's the MS or just your busy life.
  • Why would you take a medicine that makes you feel like that?
  • My uncle/sister/cousin-twice-removed died of MS.
  • The heat/cold doesn't seem to bother me.  Just get a fan/space heater.
  • Seriously, if you're not on this exercise program, you could get worse.
  • Cut out the gluten.
  • Take this vitamin/meditation program/drug.
  • Yoga cures MS.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Time To Hit The Trail

Hello Bees, Runners, MSers.

Sorry for the delay in post.  I have been baking and working and helping start the theater group at my kids' school.  Oh, and I finished a work of fiction.  Stay tuned.  It will be out within a month (maybe two).  It's called Ignorance Is and it is about a woman with prosthetic wings!  A little spooky.  A little feminist.  A lot of cinema potential.

So, let me first tell you about some recent runs.  Tonight I ran a solo three miles without music.  It was good to be out on the street with my only the sound of my breathing and feet to move me along.  I don't do that often enough.  Next, I had a great run with my husband this week.  He is not a super avid runner, but he does make it a point to run in the Turkey Stuffer each year at Thanksgiving so that he can justify his binge later that day.  I enjoy his company during his training runs.  And finally, Stephanie Gray and I ran the Happy Girl Trail Half Marathon.  Here's where it gets interesting.

The run took place in Sisters, Oregon, a beautiful place just east of home here, and up in the Cascades.  In fairness to the geography, you actually cross the Cascades at the Santiam Pass and then descend into a plain on the east side.  I point that out because if we had been only 1,000 feet higher, we might have been running in falling snow.  But, at 2,500 to 3,000 feet up, we didn't experience snow during the run (note the "during the run" part at the end of that statement).  We did, however, have our fair share of weather.  Make no mistake about it. After all, it is November in the Pacific Northwest. 

Stephanie and I were escorted to the event by our husbands.  In fact, we had the rare kidless dinner together where we talked about all sorts of grown up things (like our kids).  It was a fun evening and the perfect way to start the mental preparations for thirteen miles on a trail with variable weather.  We plotted time of departure, schemed clothing options, attacked the pace schedule verbally.  A very productive dinner, indeed.  I gave Stephanie a plastic poncho.  I think I called it a "plastic parka."  Oh, thank God for malapropisms.  But I digress (because it is a blog and not a novel, and so I can).

The next morning, as we made our way up to Peterson's Ridge, a volcanic precipice that flanks the western valley, we enjoyed the lovely scenery and relatively gradual climb.  The boys left us off at the start where we met up with 500 of our closest girlfriends.  The race had arranged to have hot coffee at the start which seemed to contribute to the number of racers in line at the port-o-lets.   Steph and I moved around a bit, stretching and psyching ourselves into the run.  I donned my plastic parka, even though it wasn't quite raining.  Steph not wearing hers and being braver than me about getting wet.  Soon enough, they lined us up in the chute and set us on our way.

One of the first things that I noticed was how amazingly blue the sky had become.  In fact, it looked like a summer day.  After about half a mile in to the race, I took off my gloves.  I had pitched the plastic parka at the start line hoping some race angel would take it to a recycling facility.  Hemmm.

Anyway, the blue increased.  No clouds blotted out the increasingly warming sun.  I marveled at how only a few minutes ago I was hopping in place, my breath visible in white puffs before me.  Off came the jacket, tied up around my waist as we continued to run (a skill I pride myself on).  As we turned from the eastbound route, switch-backing to the northwestbound route, a gal just ahead of us twisted her ankle.  She limped to the side of the train of women, clutching her leg.  We made a note of the mile-marker so that we could let the first aid at the next water stop know where she was, and we pressed on. All around us, gals were tripping up on roots and rocks.  Some of them even fell with a cathartic thud, skittering in the needle litter and dirt.  I went next, my toe clipping a rock.  Down I fell into a pile of fir branches softened by their decomposition.  Steph helped me up and I was okay so on we pressed.  We reached the first aid station and alerted them about the twisted ankle at mile-marker three.  The water stops along this run were different from the water stops of other runs.  Instead of grabbing and going, we lingered, taking in small sips if icy water, grateful for a resting place free from trail hazards and exertion.  As we were prepraing to continue on, the gal with the sprain from mile three came along, running pretty steady.  We'd see her again pass us, her ankle bandaged and spirits high.

On we went, gathering gusto with the slow descent of our new position along the ridge.  Out across the valley, dark clouds had gathered.  But just before them, a beautiful rainbow curved across the sky seeming to beckon us to the finish some nine miles away.  A pair of black tail deer bounced along the brush just outside the path.  Their effortless motion brought new inspiration.  And as we rounded the bend and the valley's view was brought fully into our sights once again, my toe clipped a root and I went down once more.  This time, other women stopped.  I was fine, I told them, including "go, go, go!" I got to my feet with Stephanie insisting that we walk.  I wanted to run because I was embarrassed about this fall.  I commented on my MS, telling her that I am used to falling, that it happens all the time.  I even went so far as to cite a few incidences when more memorable falls had occurred.  I once fell with Veronica in a baby backpack on my back, my father-in-law caught me preventing us from going all the way over.  Another time, I fell down my stairs with a laundry basket in my arms.  I explained to Stephanie that I have a good technique for falling, that I am able to tuck in and take it on my arm.  She wasn't buying it.

And then, once off the ridge, I fell for a third time.  This time. . . this time hurt.  Not only had I reinjurred the first scrape and contusion on my right shin, I had hit a rock with my left knee, the pain already smarting.  Stephanie told me that if I fell again, she was throwing in the towel.  I knew what she meant by that.  We had committed to doing this run together, in it to win it (which meant finishing).  I didn't want to walk.  I know that she didn't want to walk.  But she said that she couldn't watch me take another fall.  I joked and said that she should run in the front then.  She didn't seem amused.

And then as we started to run again, I thought about it.  What must it be like for other people knowing that I have MS, whether they believe I should be able to do the things I do or not?  What is that like?  What is it like for my kids, my husband, my friends?  I have commented in these posts before about how I am quick to assume that a common cold is an attack, that fatigue is an exacerbation, tripping my central nervous system short circuiting.  Still, I don't often stop to think about what it must be like for those around me.

The first time I heard anything in depth about MS was before my diagnosis.  We were driving on a road-trip to Southern California and we had been listening to NPR.  A program came on where they were interviewing a woman with MS.  Her primary caretaker was her young daughter.   Her daughter helped her out when she had mobility issues.  She gave her mom the injections of interferon and helped her through the side effects of those drugs (the worst part, I can assure you).  I though a lot about that woman and her daughter--her caretaker-- as I ran those last few miles with Steph.  I didn't want to fall again for many reasons.

As we neared the last mile, I flagged.  Steph pulled slightly ahead and I focused on her shoes and the ground where her footfalls struck.  My periphery was punctuated by protruding rocks and roots, alerting me to stay light and pick up my soles.  We had half a mile to go when we heard cheering.  Hooray, I thought in echo to the jubilant sounds we heard.  Then, around the bend came some very enthusiastic cheerleaders looking for a very specific runner.  My fleeting hope that the finish line would great us instead tore my ambition away.  My knee ached.  My pride flailed.

I had been counting my steps off and on, my distraction, my mantra.  As we continued, I started counting backwards.  We're almost there, I thought.  I kept my focus on Steph.  She would be my tractor beam, my chi motivation.  Then we heard a woman clapping and cheering. She was standing next to a building.  I recognized the building as the place where we picked up our race packets the night before.  We were almost there!

We turned the corner of that building.  Now concrete met out footfalls, now familiar faces and cheering came into focus.  My husband called out my name as I passed.  I waved, not as a greeting but to acknowledge that I had heard the sound of his voice.  Then we cranked it out to the finish.  Steph, just a few strides ahead, crossed the line as I slowed my pace, breathing hard but listening for my name as I came in.  Once there, I hugged Steph.  She was weepy.  So was I.  We had done it.  We made it.  Thirteen miles on the trail (which I did not hit again).  And that's the way it ended.

The next day, when Dave and I awoke at our hotel, we peered out the window at white snow blanketing the scenery.  It was a good thing we ran a day earlier.  Everything happened, as it always does, exactly they way it should have.  Happy girls, indeed!

Happy Girls

Friday, October 11, 2013

Run To Stay Warm

I am starting training (again) for my second favorite half marathon: The Run To Stay Warm (RTSW), hosted by the Eugene Water and Electric Board.  All proceeds go to help disadvantaged families afford to heat their homes this winter.  Once again I am training with Joe's group, and once again Randy Hampton will be joining us from San Diego for the run.  This will be a fantastic time for all!

Now, let me explain in a little more detail why I love this run so much.  First, the charity aspect of it is simply amazing!  The fact that my registration fee goes to help people directly is awesome!  Next, I love that Randy comes to visit.  Last year we ran Pre's Trail, visited the Pre Memorial, and feasted on VooDoo Doughnuts! This year will be no different (maybe with the PR exception: last year this ended up being Randy's second fastest half!)  But really, the real reason why I love this race so much has everything to do with the time of the year.  The cooler temperatures of November, coupled with the cooler training days leading up to the run, make for a very enjoyable experience for me.

Temperature and MS--these two issues collide with each other regularly in my life.  Seems the hotter it is, the more lethargic I am (see 80% of my past blogs).  The RTSW is great when it comes to this collision.  Cooler temps, less flare up.  Less flare ups, better runs.  Its a physiological win-win!

So, this year, when you are out running in the chilly autumn air and the wind is stinging your nose and your ears ache and your eyes are watering, please think of me and how this is the best time of the year for running and training and being out enjoying life.  I try to make the most of it.  You can too, MS or not.



Saturday, September 28, 2013

Total Pain In The Neck!

What would you classify as a total pain in the neck?  Itemizing deductions on your taxes?  Cleaning out rain gutters?  Finding the perfect gift for your Secret Santa pal at work?

How about Occipital Neuralgia?

Yesterday, I woke up with a pain in my neck.  Not a constant, aching headache-type of pain.  No.  This pain seemed more sinister.  It started coming in sharp waves-- feeling totally fine one minute and the next wincing from a searing and sudden pain radiating from my spinal column up to my left ear.  This continued throughout the day and on into the evening.  I was functioning normally, interacting with friends at a potluck, when suddenly I would be hit by a jab of pain so severe I would need to stop talking and even sit down.

Could I have an ear infection?  There's a chance, sure.  Could I have a vertebrae out of alignment and need a chiropractic adjustment?  Also possible.  But the thing that makes me dismiss these benign ailments and move directly into a self-diagnoses of Occipital Neuralgia is because I have M.S.

Was I always a hypochondriac?  Maybe.  But these days when anything comes up in terms of my health I seem to move automatically to worst case scenarios.  I do this for two reasons:

1) My age.
When I was initially diagnosed with M.S. (nearly nine years ago now) my doctors had little information about my form of M.S.  As the years have gone by, I have been told by my neurologist that I am at the end of the bell curve for people with M.S. and the age during the progression of the disease.  He tells me this to give me hope.  If, by the magical age of -say- 43 I am not experiencing advanced exacerbations I likely wont and can go about my life as if the M.S. is a ghost disease, present as a thin wraith within me but nothing more.

2) I worry. 
Inherent within me is my general predisposition to create large amounts of drama from empty vats of nothingness.  My ancestors have all excelled at this sort of behavior (just ask them).  We have a knack for rubbing the dry sticks of pre-fire creation and producing bonfires of narcissism.  Perhaps I am exaggerating (also a component of worry).  Couple worry with a chronic illness and there is a perfectly set stage for self-diagnoses in the form of Occipital Neuralgia.

But what is Occipital Neuralgia?  And could you also have it? 

Occipital Neuralgia is a pain that is experienced usually on one side of the back of the neck and typically radiates up to the ear.  Usual characteristics include sharp and searing pain that comes in flashes or waves.  It involves the occipital nerves and can be triggered by neck injury or lesions in the spinal column. 

Exhibit A: My largest lesion is in my spinal column, very near the base of my neck.

Exhibit B: I may be a hypochondriac.

(I hope by now you are not too alarmed.  I should note that I have written this blog entry with a slight flare of the dramatic.  See section 2 from above: I worry.)

Listen; I'm pretty sure that any ache or pain that comes across my diseased body for the next 40 years or so will cause me to panic and consult WEB MD (or whatever is current in 40 years) so that I can exercise my inherent right to dramatic flare, my penchant for all things over the top.  Or, I can make an appointment with my doc.  Rule out the severe and inflicting and maybe discover the ear ache that this thing will turn out to be.  Either way, there's never a dull moment.  Nope.  Not too many anyway.

So, I don't intend this to be negative.  Let me be clear about that.  It's more that I find wonder at myself in my ability to go to the worst case scenario.  I wonder if this is because I have M.S.  Can't I just have a pain in the neck without it being a major ailment?

Hmmm.  I wonder.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's Okay To Inspire

Me: I guess I inspire some people.
Dave: That's good.
Me: It's weird.
Dave: It's not weird.  It's wonderful.  You are keeping yourself healthy and fighting back.
Me: Well, I guess the thing is, I would rather just go out there and be any other runner and not have M.S., than be an inspiration.
Dave: But that's not the case.

This morning I ran the Ridgeline Trail with my good friend Stephanie.  She and I are training to run a trail half in November called The Happy Girl Trail Run, in Sisters, Oregon.  It is mostly downhill and so we are back in the woods, gathering our miles.

As we ran this morning, I was telling Stephanie about Joe's group last Sunday.  I had started about 15 minutes before everyone else because I didn't want the water volunteers to have to wait at the end for my slow finish.  One of the coolest things about being on a team is the camaraderie and support.  Many of my teammates know that I have M.S.  They are very encouraging and supportive. And this was certainly the case last Sunday during my 10 mile run with them.  Lots of high-fives and "Way to go, Rhonda"s.  It really lifted me up.

Another thing that has lifted me up lately is the newest stem cell research for M.S. treatment.  It seems that they are now able to extract stem cells from ones own bone marrow and use it to encourage regrowth of mylin.  Crazy, right??!?!  Here's a brief article that explains it to the laymen:


See, I feel like it has been a long time since we have cured anything.  Am I the only one who notices this. 

Then, just yesterday I received a call from my Dad who has been fighting his own battles with chronic disease.  Guess what?!  He is cured.  Cured.  Not just extending treatment and trying new things and ...blah, blah, blah.  Cured.  No sign of disease.  I was so happy and so awestruck and so...well, grateful!  My dad has inspired me, so why not let people be inspired by what I am trying to accomplish.  I mean, if I have to have M.S., at least there is hope on the horizon.  At least I have the luxury of training for another run, and another.

Yes, please bring on the high-fives and "Way to go, Rhonda"s.  See, I believe we are beating this thing together.  And I do believe we are beating it.

By the way, I ran about 7.3 miles this morning, and as Stephanie says, that puts us in a slim percentage group for our overall population (M.S., or not!)

Here is a picture of me before I was diagnosed with M.S., fall of 2004.  I had just ran my first 5K with the help of my dear friend, Johnny (now gone to the big trail run in the sky).  Johnny told me that the first and the last miles are always the hardest--not the best thing to contemplate on your first 3 mile distance.  He really pulled me in that day, as he has done in my spirit many times since.  He has been my inspiration on many occasions.  See; it's okay to inspire.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Let's Not Forget Why I Do This

As promised, I am back to talk about that person I kept in mind while I ran my leisurely 13.1 miles last weekend.  I have to say that for the most part, I was preoccupied by the running companionship of Carla Deshaw and, therefore, did not spend the entire race contemplating my muse de jour.  Carla has become a good friend of mine over these past 18 months or so.  But I digress.  This isn't about Carla.  Other blog entries will permit me more time to discuss her.  No, this one is about my sister.

I have two sisters.  Both strong and amazing women, good friends, bold mothers, ethical to their cores.  My sister Kim and I have shared a very special bond over the years.  We were the middle children in a family with four kids.  We grew up together, just one year apart.  We shared a bedroom and secrets and wishes.  She told me about changes and boys and all the things my mom's catholic upbringing avoided.  Among other firsts, I smoked my first cigarette with Kim.  In fact, it was in quitting smoking years later that I found my love for running.  Ironically, I know now there is also research that links MS and smoking.  I have not smoked now for nearly 9 years.  Kim quits smoking from time to time too, but never for anything longer than a few years.  She is ashamed of it, beats herself up about, hides her habit from the rest of us.  I don't like that she smokes, but I feel like the shame she experiences about it actually prevents her from quitting.  So, I try to act like I'm cool with it.  Secretly, I run my next run for her, as if my efforts might somehow bank some credit into the universe for strength for her to quit, or at least to let go of her shame. 

When she was in middle school, Kim ran track and cross country.  She was small and light and fast.  She could run long distances without seeming to tire.  I envied her, being big and clumsy myself.  Sometimes, I would actually try to run.  I had heard that running brought a unique feeling of freedom and autonomy, something I surely longed for in my youth.  I could never achieve those feelings then.  In fact, on the longer distances in my 8th grade year I often snuck off to hide in the bushes and light up a cigarette, instead of making the effort to complete the distance with any consistency.  Then, when I was 17 years old, my sister and I were in a very bad car accident.  Not wearing a seat belt, she had been thrown against the windshield, smashing her ribs on the steering column and puncturing a lung.  Over the next several weeks, she was in and out of various hospitals.  It was a frightening time for our family.  But all she wanted to do each time she was released from a hospital was smoke.  Insidious addictions seem to run rampant in my family.

Fast forward some 25 years, and there I was at mile eleven.  My friend Carla, who had told me around mile nine to keep up on my pace and not worry about her, had suddenly had her own second wind and went flying by me.  I cheered for her, knowing I could not catch up with her.  I envied her.  I watched her get farther and farther ahead of me.  Then I settled into this thought about how I learn so much from the women in my life, those with me briefly--a mere 18 months so far-- and those who had been there from the moment of my birth waiting to help me unlock the secrets of the world.  And I remembered my last blog and how I had been thinking about Kim. 

Yes, she is hard on herself just like I am.  Maybe even more so.  Actually, yes, more.  And so I brought her into my last two miles to have her along for the ride, transmitting my hope into the universe for her.  She saved my life almost 14 years ago (which is another story as well) and so I owe her everything.  If I would not have survived, my daughters would not be on this planet, my husband would have completely different circumstances in his life, and surely much, much more would have not come to be.  She has had a profound influence on my being.  If I could magically give her those last two miles, make her see the beautiful, wonderful, strong person that I see in her, then maybe she could lighten up no herself just a tiny bit.

My daughters met me at the finish line and ran across with me.  We held hands and smiled and carried with us hope and love.  And this race was for my sister, for their aunt, for the strong and amazing woman I have looked up to my entire life.  Of course it was.

Thank you Kim.  I couldn't have done any of it without you.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Eugene Women's Half

I always do this.  I always think about who this next big run is for.  In the past, I have ran for my husband, my children, the group of MS supporters in my home town who continue to host a team in my name there each year during the annual MS walk.  Heck, I have even dedicated one of these long thing-a-ma-bops to myself.  Why not?

This year, though, I have a different feeling on the eve of another big run.  This year, I am met with the same gratitude that I usually am, to be this far along in training and feeling semi-okay about the day tomorrow.  The usual trepidation is here, sure, but there is also something else.  My MRI last year showed a new lesion, and I panicked.  This year, I learned in the most recent MRI that the lesion they saw last year could have been there as long as eight years ago. Back, forth, back forth...etc.  My stress did not affect the outcome. 

So, I got back on the horse, so to speak.  But I have done things differently.  I have given myself the ability to go slower, not pushing myself like I once did.  I have taken the liberty of going easy, enjoying the process, rather than chiding myself for not being faster/thinner/more elite (ha!)  And in this, I have arrived at this moment in better mental shape than I have for past runs.

So, if I were going to say that tomorrow is "for" someone, I guess I want to pick someone who I think could also use a little lenience on herself/himself.  Yes, I would think that if I need a little push tomorrow when I think of who is along for the ride, or inspiration, I might keep someone like this in mind. 

And I have someone in mind, too.  But let's see how the run goes.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 MS Walk in San Deigo

I just want to shout out to all the friends and family who came out for the walk in SD.  We raised a ton of money and it was super fun!  The name of our team was BEE-Cause.

I left the finger in the shot as an homage to the man who volunteered to take it for us.

From left to right: Mike, Kim, Simon, Alan!, Emily, Terry, Dave, me, Dad, Annie, Brian, Sue (Annie's mom and the Patron Saint of Smiles), Aunt Joey, Samantha, Josh
Down in front: Olivia, Ryan, Morgan (#42), Gabriella, Veronica and Ziggy (front and center)

I learned a lot that day, too:  there are so many new medications that I might never have to give myself an injection again! That Starbucks is on that route.   And I learned that 5K seems like a much shorter distance in San Diego.

Love this team!  So glad to have them in my corner and in my life!!

Up, Up and AWAY!

Looking at the schedule for the fall, I decided I would only complete two Half Marathons this year.  I was not prepared for the Coburg Half, due to my lack of training while in Arizona.  But after I started back up with my group, and with a little encouragement from long-time running companion Stephanie Grey, (not to mention my recent MS prognosis) I started looking at Half Runs on the trail circuit. 

Our goal was to get in on the ever-gaining-in-popularity Silver Falls Marathon and Half.  That sucker sold out in 10 minutes this morning!  So, we started looking at other options and found a great one!  The Sister's Happy Girl Half.  The race is also on November 2, so it's KISMET!  After registering, I looked at the course (I know, I know...not the other way around).  Their website boasts the trail is "express."  By that they mean [the] "... half marathon is an express race, meaning that participants enjoy a mostly downhill course and speedy running times."  Also, it's all girls, which I find super empowering! 

Here's the logo:
So, here we go!!  Women's Half in Eugene August 25th, Sisters Happy Girl Trail Half Marathon on November 2, and EWEB's Run To Stay Warm on November 24.  By the way, registration is open for all of these runs so get on it!

Now, about that prognosis that goes without mention, I think I'll mention something of it.  As my readers know, my MS was (mostly) the inspiring factor in my distance running.  The prognosis from Doc. L. is only good.  In fact, there is a chance that the new lesions that showed up in last year's scan might only be the result of a better scan, and that they may have been there from the first scan.  This year I want back to the old-school MRI (in the tube not the pancake) and they showed evidence of scarring in my brain that looked very similar to scarring that showed up 8 years ago, also in the old-school style MRI machine.  Doc. L. said this could likely mean that the lesions that showed up last year have actually been there all along and we just seemed to catch them at a visible angle.  Weird, hu?  Well, considering that I have been very fortunate in my exacerbation history, I think that this is SUPER good news.  In fact, it is such good news that I celebrated with a run!

More good news on the physical front, I ran a nice 4.15 mile run with Carla DeShaw the other day.  We chatted and paced moderate to slow.  When I finished the run, I felt like I could do it all over again.  In fact, I ran another 3 miles with Stephanie that same evening (not as strong but mostly because it was HOT!)

My point is, I'm back!  Not just in Oregon and not just in my running shoes.  I'm back in the mind set that I can do this!  And I can, too.  This is what you have all been telling me.

Okay, now I gotta run.

I'm on my way to Eugene Running Company for a new pair of Asics.  My old pair has too many miles on them and the new one is about to...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

To Run Me In

Today I ran my longest run since last December when I completed the Run To Stay Warm Half Marathon, my third Half of the season.  It has really taken a long time to get back to where I once ran carefree at long distances.  I blame some of this on Arizona; so many difficulties running in heat and bright sunshine for me.  It's odd to think about how much fear I felt prior to my last brain scan, that it was the MS and not the desert heat that kept me at or under three miles for so many months.

Today, I ran 9 miles.

I know one of the defects in my running is that I often start fast and then peter out toward the end.  I do this on short runs and long runs alike.  I did this at the Eugene Marathon in 2012 and I blogged about that experience: click here to remember.

Today, I intentionally committed to running slow.  My Coach, Joe Henderson, has a wonderful book out called: Long Slow Distance.  I often screw up the book title because there is another great book out there about Joe called Slow Joe, by another writer.  At any rate, Long Slow Distance outlines a method that works, or has for me. The proof is that when I first started running with Joe's group, I was encouraged to go slow, increasing my long distance runs each weekend, but not overdoing it during the week.  As a result, I started the Portland Marathon slow and I finished slow, but I finished!  I also finished happy, smiling (some ugly-crying), and breathing strong.  I was not over-fatigued, dehydrated or exhausted.  I felt good.  Seriously.  26 miles later and I felt good.  Slow, steady, increasing mileage just so, week after week.  I am grateful for this wisdom from Joe.  I only wish that it was always in the forefront of my mind when I start my runs.  I thought about it a lot during the Portland Marathon and again today.

Today, I let the group go on.  I watched as they slowly gained distance ahead of me.  I felt okay with that, too.  I didn't feel the need to be something that I am not.  Usually when I am trying to stay up with the faster runners, it is not a competitive thing, nor am I trying to prove anything.  Nope.  My typical motivation is camaraderie, conversation, company.  I enjoy visiting when I run.  It helps keep my mind off of the task.  This morning, as I watched the pack move farther away with each half mile, I felt okay.  I didn't question whether nor not I was on the team.  I let them have their pace and I let me have mine.  It was just perfect...

...until about mile 7.

At mile 7, I had just come off the Autzen Bridge and set my resolve to finish, rather than to finish without walking.  I had started an inner dialog with myself as to whether or not I would walk.  Usually when this happens, I give in to the loudest voice justifying a good, slow walk.  But there was another voice in there, too; a quieter voice,  This one told me to keep going, reminding me that I had started slow on purpose, that my work was carefully measured this morning, that I felt fine and could easily continue.  Then the louder voice picked a bench up ahead and told me "when I get to that bench, I will walk." Still, the much more calm voice reminded me that I still felt good, that I still had energy and strength in me.  I passed the bench.

I thought back to a time during another training run--I think it had been 13 miles for the Eugene Marathon Training in 2012.  Jeff McKay, one of our teammates, had ran back along the route to run me in.  I wished he was there now, if for nothing else than the camaraderie, conversation, company that I mentioned I needed earlier.  I thought about Stephanie, too, and how much I love to run with her and visit, but then my loud voice scolded me that I am now too slow to run with Stephanie and that I should just walk and stop this foolishness of wearing myself down.  I thought about the team and how they were kept waiting on me because I am slow.  I had a few more negative thoughts that crept in there, but I continued to run.

Then, just like a wish, Jeff McKay appeared on the trail in the distance.  He was headed in my direction, smiling.  I waved and said "fancy meeting you out here."  He told me that he had come to run me in.  Thank God!!  And he did.  He let me go slow, too.  He offered encouraging thoughts including a story about a gal on the team a few years back who had struggled with the last few miles of the Newport Marathon (a race on my bucket list).  And before I knew it, we were back at Oakway Center.

I don't know if I will ever be one of those people who gets to run others in, but I am so grateful that they are out there.  I am also grateful that they show up just when I need them, and not only during running. 

Today, I learned something about myself that I think I have suspected for a bit and that is that I am okay just the way I am.  Slow is okay.  I learned something about our team too: I am a part of it.  As we rounded the bend back to the meeting place, many of our teammates were still there cheering me in.  What a rush!  If you have an opportunity in your life to be a part of a team for any purpose, check it out.  I am grateful to my team and to Jeff for the extra effort today.  And I am grateful to Joe Henderson for giving us the team and the method, and also his wisdom and words. Joe writes in Long Slow Distance, "...pleasure is our most important single experience in running."  And today was a pleasure, for certain. 

I was able to run 9 miles.  Able. 

Each step purposeful and measured and slow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hot Blog and a Shake

Hello MS'ians, Runners and Bees!

I have a few things to share.

One)  Portland Marathon has a fund raising effort for survivors of the Boston bombings, Speak With Your Feet.  This could be a great way to participate in their "closed for months already" half.
For more info go to: Portland Marathon Speak With Your Feet
p.s.  Best Schwag!

Two)  Eugene's Marathon is this coming weekend and I want to give a shout out of good luck to all my friends there!!  Can't believe it's been one year since the PNW heat crippled my last three miles.  I'll be back.  FYI, Eugene will also honor Boston and they encourage all finishers to place their hands over their hearts, as they did in London, when you cross the finish.  Pass the word.
Check out: Eugene Marathon

Three) The MS Walk in San Diego is this weekend.  Our team is called Bee-Cause.  You know why we are called that?  Not to brag, but I have MS and I have finished two marathons myself, and quite a few halfs by now.  To me, this is the equivalent of bees flying with wings that are too tiny for their bulky bodies.  Darn round bodies!  Anyway, the bees overcome impossible odds each time they fly.  I do the same when I run.  Some of my friends with MS do this miraculous feat when they mountain bike or snowboard or just get out of bed in the morning.  We are fighting this battle each day and every triumph --no matter the size or effort-- is us MS'ians over coming impossible odds.

That said, if you want to walk with us this weekend, we'd love to have you on the team: Bee-Cause!  Here's the link for more info.  You don't have donate to walk.  Of course you also don't have to walk to donate or to be a part of the team.
Click here to find out more: Bee Cause

I want to add that this is the first year that I am able to participate with my family and friends in San Diego and I couldn't be more thrilled.  Naturally I miss my Oregon team, Ticky's Team, but I will be back with them and with Ticky next year to battle the elements and walk the river arm-in-arm.  This year, it's all about home.

And finally, Four)  Columbia Sport Wear has unveiled their newest line in cooling fabrics.  It is the Omni-Freeze Zero.  I had the opportunity to check out a few shirts yesterday at a the largest sporting goods store I have ever been to in my life.  I did not make the purchase yet because I am a researcher.  Once I do, I will write up a full blog.  Still, I wanted to mention it because if this fabric does what Columbia claims it does, this could be a big help to MS heat sufferers like me.
Here's more info:  Columbia

Well, that's it for now.  I leave you with this epic picture of Sedona's Cathedral Rock.

Keep flying, little bees!  The world is still ours.  Promise.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston on my Mind

I am finding it difficult to put into words what I am experiencing about the tragedy from yesterday.  I was wrapping up a project at home when I received a text from a friend asking if I was okay, if I was in Boston.  I was listening to the hype from the Boston Marathon earlier in the morning.  I have never really had a lot of runner's envy for those who "get to go," knowing what it takes to qualify to be there.  Still, I do pay attention as I have several friends who run in such places and I love to live vicariously.  So as I was responding to the text to let my friend know that I was not in Boston, I thought I'd better turn on the news.  I flipped on the TV and --

Stunned.  I kept the remote pointed at the screen, my cell phone dangling from my other hand.  I remained standing for the length of the broadcast.  I'm not sure I breathed.

Images of falling runners, spectators being pushed into the course by traumatic force, fire flowing sideways from the front of a building and international flags hurling outward.  I kept my eyes on an older man in orange, running slowly then crumpling to the ground as the blast came.  The station repeated the scene.  I watched the man fall again.  He turned as he fell.  I had no clear thoughts.  The man lay on the ground, old and frail, unmoving.

I noticed the clock said 4:09 and I had my first clear thought.  Thank God it wasn't at the 3:00 mark, but still.  And "still" would later turn into 3 dead and nearly 200 wounded.  This first thought was echoed later by others saying "It could have been much worse."  And though they are correct, and even I thought it and think it still, it turns my stomach that I am so accustomed to such tragedies that I immediately think of how it could have been worse.

It is not my intent to now reflect on this incident with negativity.  This would be disrespectful to those immediately affected and also short sighted on my part.  I would, however, like to capture just a little of what I am feeling today.  I am not sure how to do so, and so I thought to put it here.

The Eugene Marathon today issued a statement that they would still go ahead with their race scheduled for April.  Likewise, the MS Society commented on the their many, many walks, runs and rides scheduled throughout the country stating that they understand that everyone will make their own decision about participation.  Still, I am going to take the upcoming MS Walk in San Diego as an opportunity to not be afraid, to not back down, to not cower at the threat of some unseen and cowardice foe. I'll be walking on 4/27 with my team and I know the crowd will be loud and mighty, regardless of our numbers. 

Courage is not the absence of fear; it is having fear and moving forward anyway. This, too, cannot stop us from moving!  Prayers to Boston and to all who are fearful over this tragedy. May you keep moving.  All of you.

As I said at the beginning, I have never had the desire to run to Boston.  I have even had fellow runners encourage me to take my fund raising efforts to Boston.  I had a fund raising friend there yesterday (he and his family are fine).  And up until I saw the MS Society's statement, I had no desire to go myself.  But then, the thought occurred to me that it would mean so much more than just going to run for MS or for Boston or for me.  If I went, I would be joining the countless others who will also go in the future, who will also stand up to the invisible bully and say I refuse to let you stop me. And then it occurred to me that I will be doing that now each time I run in any organized race or walk, and every time I join a crowd for a cause.  We all are...

Only, now the spark has sparked for me.  Boston is on my mind.  We'll see.  Still not sure what to think.

I do think about this:  My first marathon was in Portland, Oregon.  I was feeling pretty good as I re-entered the city, closing in on mile 25.  My family was there.  They ran with me up until the 26 mile marker where they were turned away by officials (bibs only).  During that time, I saw people helping others along, letting fatigued runners lean on them, some were crying--hell, I cried. The crowd was boisterous and supportive.  Some nursed cramps but pushed on.  At the Eugene Marathon, I was one of those needing help.  I would not have made it the last few miles if not for a good friend doubling back to see me home.  That last little bit, just before the finish is a magical and exhausting time.  Only those who run it can understand. I cannot imagine anything more devastating than what those in Boston experienced.  I just can not.  I have no more words here.  They will not describe the sadness I feel.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chi Running

Clear your mind. Breath in and out. Feel your feet on the ground. Align your spine and tilt your pelvis slightly so that it is level to the ground. Lean your upper body forward so your head is just barely over your toes. Breath in and out. Relax your shoulders and bring your arms to your sides bent at 45 degree angles with your forearms parallel to the ground. Lean slightly further so that you start to fall but instead you catch yourself and start to run. Continue running. Leaning. Breathing. Breath in and out. Feel your feet on the ground. Clear your mind.
When I run, I remind myself of what I learned when I trained to run with Chi Running.  It is effortless and easy.  I try to think of gliding.  I picture sailboats, soaring birds, children in carefree sprints toward destinationless dreams.
Lately, my running has been anything but carefree.  I struggle with pace, tempo, rhythm...distance.  I battle fatigue and gravity.  The Earth itself seems to pull me down.  Here is where I long for the calm of Chi--to bring me back to the center of my universe and situate me on the head of this pin.  Perfectly poised and ready for the next beat, step, stride, distance.  But, no.  It has been a very long time since I felt the whoosh of a destination rush up to greet me; I have a hard time admitting that it has.
The most wonderful thing about Chi Running is that it is not for speed, distance or destination; it is for joy.  Today I will run for joy. 
Clear my mind.  Breath in and out...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pictures and Anti-Angst for March

Hi All!

I am now sick for the 4th time since the move to Arizona.  Yea, I know, right?  This time, I have strep.  I got it because I took my daughter to the pediatricians.  Thank god that I have a depleted immune system because I am really getting this illness thing dialed in (a little sarcastic). 

Well, being as this has really hampered my running, I thought I would plug the MS Walk in April. There's still lots of time to join the team and/or make a contribution.  I have also included some funny MS pictures and let you know why I think they're funny or something like that.

This first one is super hokey but I love it!  It's a little geeky, for those in the know.It also reminds me that March is Orange Month for MS awareness.  There is actually one week where we really focus on this (this year, March 11 - 17).  Last year, they lit up Niagra Falls orange during that week and Time Square went orange.  It was awesome.  But I digress.  Funny picture...

 This next one is my one of my favorites, especially because I do not drink.  I am, however, prone to stumbling and tripping and even often have a hard time running in a straight line when I am fatigued.
I love Ninjas and naturally ALL Ninjas will be wearing orange for March, the MS Awareness month.  Don't believe me?  Just try spotting one.  I'll warn you, though.  They are usually too fast to see!

I dont think this one needs any introduction.  I let my daily walk do my talking.

And finally, I love this so much because it is true.  Wait, what was I blogging about?  I have to scroll to the top here to find out why I started this page...

Oh yea!  I was going to plug the MS Walk team in April.  Here's the link if you want to join us.  Basically, we are going to be like one big mobile party (hopefully including some type of silly costume) making noise and celebrating life and mobility.  If you can be there for the walk, awesome.  If you cant, but you still want to contribute, we would love to have your dollars.  Did you know that even a few dollars helps to fund medicine for people who cant afford it or to advance medical research for the newest drugs, the ones that hopefully wont make us sick like the old drugs (the ones that suck so bad and even kill people with MS--I'm not naming any names, Tysabri!)  Anyway, here is the link to our team.  I will be back to runnining (hopefully) next week and will have lots of info for those of you who are running with MS.  Promise.

Never give up!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Short and Sweet ...and Slow

I am really starting to like the short route through the ASU Polytechnic Campus.  There is a certain charm about the modest 2.5 mile loop from South Desert Village following Innovative Drive around the main buildings and malls.  It's short enough to leave me wanting more, but easy to get to.  However, if I cut up through campus, I'm treated to shaded pathways, towering cacti, and arching Palo Verde, not to mention a little distance extension, depending on how I take it.  Another find within the oasis of campus are the cooled water fountains.  Cha ching! These are within shaded alcoves and offer refreshing (tastes like filtered) water for the parched and weary.  Look for the vending machines, as these drinking fountains are not out in plain view.

Today was a warm run through the dry, desert air.  I saw mocking birds and quail as I ran.  I suspect it was already too hot for the lizards to be out and about because they were absent.  I ran slower than normal, pacing a staggering (literally) 12 minute pace.  I did this for 2 reasons: 1) I am no friend to heat so if I am to survive as a runner here in the desert, I'd better take it easy, and 2) I am still recovering from my terrible cold.  I was still congested, even.  In fact, I was concerned that I might get cited for spitting on the sidewalk today (honestly, I could not wait).

There is no shame in taking it easy.  Today, I take great pride in my ability to slow down and give myself a break.  If there is one thing that I have learned from Coach Joe Henderson (and there is much, much more than just one thing) it's that running slow can be an amazing tool to successful running. So often I find myself caught up in thoughts of PRs and time improvements.  This is silly, if I really think about it.  I mean, the fact that I can run at all is nothing short of amazing.  So, do I hesitate to blog about pacing 12 minutes today?  Sure.  Did I see birds and find drinking fountains and appreciate trees along my run?  You bet! And am I a healthier runner because I set my ego aside and took it easy?  I'm pretty sure I am.

Early Morning on ASU Polytechnic Campus

Don't get me wrong; I still intend to challenge myself.  I just know a little bit more about me and how I recover from working too hard.  I also know how I can actually make myself sick or sicker if I push it.  I don't need to do that today.  No, today, what I need is to feel the sun on my legs and shoulders and the feel my breath working with my heart, easy. Short and sweet and slow.  

I can sprint tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Running through ... Kleenex?

I have been sick three times since we left Oregon (warning: pity rant coming).  The first time, we were in San Diego for the holidays.  I spent New Years at urgent care with a bad sinus infection.  Then, once we got to Arizona, I thought I would settle in to a routine with running.  However, I got sick here...twice!  I am just now getting over it and still dizzy and weak.  The thought of running is nowhere in me.  I am tired.

Okay, that said, I would like to now count a few blessings.  Last night my 7 year old twin daughters pitted me to a little competition.  I was facing one in mǎbù (Kung Fu horse stance) vying for the title of "not giving up before you" when the other girl climbed up on one of my bent knees and hung herself from me, adding her weight to mine while trying to help her sister win.  I held it, yes I did.  For several more seconds I held it and we were all laughing.  I did give up first and my legs felt like rubber afterward.  Still, I was grateful for the moment with my daughters and my ability to be upright and strong, laughing and happy.

My daughters give me great strength.  They remind me that it is okay to be awkward and clumsy sometimes, or even tired.  They love me regardless.  This is something that I think about often.  When I ask them if they know how much I love them, they do not hesitate to answer with a resounding "yes!"  They often follow up their answer by saying "you tell us all the time."  And this is another reason to be truly grateful.

Another thing I am grateful for are the friendships in my life.  My dear friends who have taught me so much about being a woman and being okay with me, no matter what.  I often think about my friends Michelle, Toviana, Ellie ...and Emily.  Emily is a special cat.  She has a mission in life to bring joy to children through creativity.  This overflows to everyone around her.  It is wonderful to see.  I am charged up by her, re-energized!

Emily gives me great strength as well, though I am not sure she knows how much I love her.  I should tell her more often.  I should show her.

More about Emily, she and I have been friends for many years now.  We met under pretty interesting circumstance during which she was asking me for a certain kind of help.  Little did either of us know that she would end up helping me SO much over the years and in SO many ways.  In fact, Emily has organized this years' MS team to walk in my honor.  She has done so in past years as well (though last year my precious niece took the reigns).  This year is special though because I am walking with the group in San Diego, with my family and with Emily.  Usually they host the group in San Diego and I walk in Eugene or run the marathon or something like that.  But this year I GET TO be with them!

The name of the team this year is "Bee Cause."  This has everything to do with overcoming impossible odds.  You know, certain bee species are not supposed to fly according to the laws of physics, yet they fly, over coming impossible odds.  I may have mentioned this in previous blogs.  It is something that I believe in to the core of my being.  I believe that I too can overcome impossible odds.  And really, anymore, MS sufferers have more and more reasons to be optimistic.  We have new meds, we have less incidents of relapse, we have better care and more knowledge.  That's why we walk.  We also have hope.  That's also why we walk.  But there's this thing about bees that keeps coming back up for me. 

Bees are very social creatures.  They are highly organized into their social structures and they work as a complete unit, all together, all helping each other.  That's how they do what they do: bring flowers back to life each season, provide us with fruit and grain, and remind us of warm days on their way when we see the first bee of Spring.  Perhaps this is what makes them fly.  Perhaps I am able to do so many of the things that I can do because of the people in my life.  Yes, I bet that's it!  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have remained symptom free because of the support and love of my family and friends.  Emily has been a big part of that.

For not giving up on me ever and for being the type of person to share creativity with the world, I am so grateful for Emily Huntoon.  She is an amazing miracle in my life and I thank God that our paths crossed so many years ago.  My life is richer because of her kindness, more colorful because of her creativity and also lighter because of her humor.  She is amazing!  In fact, thinking about her has my Kleenex out...and I am pretty much over the snuffly part of my latest cold by now.  Go figure!  I just love her so much.

Here is the link for our MS team.  If you want to sign up to be walk with us, GREAT!  If you want to contribute to the team's fundraising, that is great too, but you can walk with us just to show your support.


Lesson learned today?  I'm glad you asked.   Count your blessings!  If you happen to find yourself counting one of those blessings over and over again, give it a little more thought.  Think about why that blessing is special.  Emily is special to me because of her giving heart and wonderful friendship over the years.  I just cannot say enough about this lady.  She is terrific.  I hope everyone has an Emily.  And if you do, make sure to tell her how much you appreciate her.  Maybe write a blog about her and post an old picture that will make you both wonder where the time has gone...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Love you Em!  Thanks for letting me into your hive and being a huge part of mine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Running in the Desert

I realize that it has been a very long time since my last blog.  There is good reason for that.  My family has --temporarily-- relocated to Mesa, Arizona.  There were some logistics involved in that feat and the blog took the back burner.  During that time, I continued to run.  I continued to have MS.  In fact, I ran another half marathon (the Run To Stay Warm, November 2012) while continuing to have MS, just like all of my runs.  Then, in December, we loaded up the kids, cat and canine and headed south for sunshine and sabbatical.

Since our arrival, I have attempted a few short runs in the early morning.  My husband has been along for most of these and I would like to add what a pleasure it is to run with him.  In fact, it has been a great joy to spend this wonderful time with him, getting to know our desert and community, showing our children around the grand Sonoran, and experiencing and new home together.

Today Dave and I went for a quick run after dropping the girls off at school.  It was brisk but not too cold and we went along at a leisurely pace.  We began at Freestone Park and soon found the canal path.  How like a child Dave was when he spooked the fat carp in the dark water as we moved along.  I chuckled to myself as he commented each time one "swarped."  Later he would talk about getting Arizona fishing licenses so we could practice fly casting in the canal.  So silly!  But he was serious.  I was winded.  We walked a stretch admiring the scenery.  Even there in town, it was nice.

Truth be told, I have been romanced by this nice weather.  In Eugene, Oregon today they had freezing rain.  I do not miss freezing rain.  I do not miss running in rain so cold it feels freezing.  Nope.  Instead, I plodded along next to my husband enjoying the blue sky above and the strange desert birds fluttering around.  I felt peaceful and wonderful.

After the run, as we stretched, I thought a lot about why I felt wonderful.  Here's what I came up with:

This man that I chose to share my life with has made all the difference.  Sure, I don't always feel that way.  I become petty and impatient and down-right angry.  Who wouldn't when you spend the amount of time with the same person that Dave and I do.  Strong matter can be the most abrasive.  But I am also overjoyed, grateful and totally and completely awe-stricken by this man that is my husband.  He has been the best father for our children, the best friend to me, an amazing coach and sideline fan for my running and my biggest advocate during my times of illness with the MS and other issues.  I never told him he had to hold me at night when the shaking wouldn't stop, get up and get the tylenol so the side effects from the interferon would subside, sit next to me all night at the ER when he had to get on a plane the next day for his job interview at UO.  Still, he did those things.  He didn't balk or hesitate. Imagine that.

Dave said once that all he wanted was "to be a good man."  Honestly, who says that?  He didn't say it as a result of being caught doing something terrible or ill conceived.  It wasn't a desperate act to win my attention or affection by offering something insincere.  No.  He was simply stating what he wanted, what he prayed for, something that he hoped he could someday become.  What amazed me- amazes me still is that by wanting to be that type of person, he was already well on his way.

And today, and I am the luckiest gal in the whole wide world that I get to run in the desert with him. And I was lucky to run with him in the freezing rain.  And I will still be lucky to be with him wherever we might end up.  I go where he goes ...and here we are now, running in the desert, grateful for our surroundings, our family and each other.   You ARE a good man, Dave.  I love you.