Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear Michigan:

Please stop.  I'm begging you.  I can't take anymore rain.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Race for the Cure

This was my third Race for the Cure since being diagnosed 2 years ago (on 4/20/09).  The first year I was only 6 days post-diagnosis and I was a mental wreck.  Last year, a few days past my one-year anniversary, I went out with the intention of running a PR and winning the Survivor division.  I met one of the goals – to win the division – and ran about 50 seconds off my PR. Not bad really, for just being a few months back into running, and running in such an emotional race.

This year, for a while, I had hoped to maybe finally get that new PR.  My current one is from 11/08 and has been begging for a shellacking for a while now.  I did great training all summer – 400m repeats at <6:30 pace, regular daily runs around 8 min...

And then life hit.  Comprehensive exams, teaching two classes a semester (and taking my own), trying to write a dissertation.  Running all but came to a screeching halt – now I’m doing well if I run a 20-mile week.  So, my PR goal went out the window.

Until last week when I ran 3.3 at a 7:45 pace (a few seconds/mile faster than my PR).

So then, this little voice in the back of my head started saying I could do it. I finally registered for the darn thing on Tuesday but spent the whole week waffling between having and not having a time goal.  Somewhere in there I even considered running slowly on purpose.  By the end of the week I had decided to just try my best and see what happened.  If my Zen approach didn’t work, I figured I’d recruit one of my sports psych friends to do an intervention.

Fast forward to this morning.  I woke up, looked up through the blinds, and saw that the sun was actually out!  Then I heard the wind howling.  When I took Kona out, I found it was snowing.  The wind gusts were strong enough to push my skinny butt all over the sidewalk.  Kona wobbled when she squatted to pee.  That couldn’t be a good sign.

The race was at 2:00 so I tried to spend the morning doing schoolwork. Yeah, right.  Finally it was time to get ready and Doug and I headed downtown, all bundled up.  We got to the race a few minutes before the survivor stroll, but then at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to do it – it’s just too emotional.  I warmed up a bit on my own then ran into a friend and warmed up some with her.  Finally I made my way back to Doug, took off all my warm-ups (which made me feel very serious), and got in line.  Once in line I found one of the coaches from my running club, who is also an oncology nurse, and she gave me a hug and a little pep talk.  Then finally, we were off.

As with any big fundraising event, this was a crowded race.   It felt like it took forever to cross the line but according to the official results it was only 15 seconds or so.  For the first three blocks it was windy, but not bad.  Then we turned right. 

A huge gust kicked up and I actually saw everyone around me shift to the left.  This continued for the whole race and even though it’s run downtown, most of the race is not between tall buildings so a lot of the time there wasn’t any shelter at all.  I’d be following along behind someone, a big gust would come up, and one or both of us would get blown so we’d run into each other.

Mile 1: 7:52

At one point during the second mile I was feeling particularly bad for myself when a strong headwind came along and I decided to stop and walk.  It was so much harder to walk that I only lasted a couple seconds before deciding anything was better than being out in that and the sooner I finished, the sooner I could put clothes back on.  Shortly after that I considered quitting (we were only about a block from the start at that point) but decided I would really feel bad about myself if I dropped out of a 5k – especially THAT 5k.  So I continued on.

Mile 2: 8:17

Please, someone, for the love of all that is holy, TURN OFF THE WIND!

Mile 3.1: 9:14 (8:23 pace)
Final time: 25:24

The first mile felt awesome – I could have kept up that pace forever if it hadn’t been for the wind.  My current 5k PR was at a 7:52 pace.  I have it.  I freaking HAD it.  Michigan in spring…


After the race I found Doug, put my warm-ups back on again (initially putting my pants on backwards), and got water and a banana.  We wandered over to where the results were being posted and found that I’d gotten third in the survivor division.  I decided that was good enough – esp. since the winner got me by about 3 min.  Just then, another woman who had been standing there turned around and exclaimed, “You were here last year!”  It was A, my once-a-year friend. She was diagnosed about 6 months before me and we chatted some before the race last year.  Then she wound up coming in second, about a minute behind me, so we chatted some more.  This year she was right behind me again and bummed that she’d just missed placing.

Shortly before they were going to do the awards ceremony, the announcer called out the name of the person who had placed second in our division. Announcer-man said they needed to verify information about one of the finishers (that person) and would have to delay the awards for a few minutes.  Great because you know, it wasn’t cold at all.  Fortunately A heard that announcement and decided to stick around a little while longer to see if she would get bumped up. Eventually they were ready, and called out the first place woman. I got bumped to second, and A got bumped to third! 

I’ll be two years out on Wednesday and I’d like to say I feel fortunate to be here and able to run and all that, but honestly I’m still grumpy about the whole thing.  It’s not that I think I’m NOT fortunate, I know I am…but I’m not grateful for cancer.  One of my best friends says that she is, now.  She’s a year ahead of me…maybe I’ll get there. But I’m not there yet.

Even so, it’s nice to kick its ass a little now and then.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Absolute Torture


A hazard inherent in my work is that I know far too much about my body, have been tested far too many times in far too many ways, and am never happy with the results.

A few weeks ago I underwent yet another treadmill VO2max test - I think this was probably my 10th. The last time I did this, I fell above the 95th percentile for age and sex and was (mostly) happy with those results. More than the max, I was happy with the fact that my ventilatory threshold occurred at more than 80% of my VO2max. It's important to remember that the last time I was tested was two years ago, before the cancer diagnosis and beating my body into the ground with chemo. Even so...I was hugely disappointed to see that my max had dropped about 6 points compared to last time and with it, my ventilatory threshold.

None of this REALLY matters, mind you, because I'm running faster over long distances than I was back before chemo. Whether my short distance speed is still around remains to be seen (possibly next weekend), but at least in some ways I'm performing better than I used to. And apparently I'm quite the economical runner, which helps in putting more of that oxygen to good use.

Exhibit B is in progress right now. The current project for the (one!) class I'm taking this semester concerns measurement of physical activity. Easy - we're all wearing pedometers for about a week and completing 24-hour physical activity recalls every morning, for the previous day.

Now, I knew I spent a lot of time sitting. I mean, I'm a PhD student. My fingers may as well be glued to my keyboard and my rear to my desk chair. I work a full day on campus, followed often by an equivalent number of hours at home in the evening. But to actually quantify it - ugh. The torture. A sampling (the numbers in columns B-G are daily totals of time spent in each intensity, in hours):

Interesting how all the step counts end in 504, huh?

All I can say is, thank heavens I run.  Friday I didn't, clearly.  Today I ran 10 miles and I'm sitting around 20,000 steps right now.  If you estimate 2,000 steps per mile, can see how much I did the rest of the day.

There's a new area of research that has been getting a lot of attention lately - sedentary time.  Turns out that it looks like sedentary time is an independent risk factor for all the diseases we usually associate with physical activity - cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.  Previously it was thought that if we could just increase the amount of time people spend being active in the moderate- to vigorous- intensity ranges, we'd reduce the prevalence of those diseases.  That does work.  However, now it looks like it's not enough to meet physical activity recommendations - we also need to sit less.  So even though I meet the recommendations for weekly physical activity (far exceed, in fact), I may still be at relatively high risk of a whole host of chronic diseases precisely because I spend upwards of 10 hours a day, sitting at a desk, studying the development of these diseases.

Oh the cruel, cruel irony.