The (Running) Addict

Hi, my name is Karen. And I am a runner.

Well, technically right now I am a recovering runner.....it's been close to three weeks. Three weeks since I took a run that was of any significance. Three weeks since I finished my marathon. Two weeks since I did that short 4 miles that would significantly alter my reality.

You see, two weeks ago, after resting from my marathon for almost 5 whole days (I know, crazy right?!), I jumped back on my treadmill and started running again. The first run was a gentle 3 miles. It felt tired and sluggish so I took the next day off. At a week post marathon I got back on the horse and did a 4 mile run that seemed fantastic: good pace, energetic, almost perfect. I only stopped because I knew, from all my reading and perhaps a little experience, that you had to ease your way back into post-race running.

The next morning something was off. It was as if I had partaken just a bit too much. My left knee was tight and painful. It felt like the tips of my quads were singed, like the quadriceps tendon had been stretched past its snapping point. I did not panic. I simply stretched and iced and took another day off.

And then another. And another. And then it became apparent that something was wrong. Every time I tried to run, I was fine for about a quarter mile and then the tightness, the pain, the burning arrived like that time of evening when out of nowhere the mosquitoes appear and there's simply nothing that can stop them from tearing into you.

What's a runner to do if they can't run? What meaning does this life have if the very reason for breathing no longer exists? (Ok, maybe that's a little dramatic but really, that's sort of how it felt.) What am I if not a runner? (That's a rhetorical question y'all! Be nice!)

So, I did what any good Dory would do: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, whatcha gonna do, you're gonna swim, swim, swim....

And when I realized that my knee hurt to even kick softly in the water, and I was using a pool buoy to hold up my legs, I realized it was time to see the doctor. (Ok, and to be honest, my brother had to scare me into it.)

A friend of mine works at one of the Orthopedic clinics here and got me in quickly with a doctor who is an Ironman Triathlete. In other words, I could trust her. She's been there and done that (times like a million). She checked me over, felt around, felt nothing. She told me that basically I had what was called IRS (my term, not hers): The dreaded Impatient Runners Syndrome. I needed more rest, more time. Just keep swimming, she said. And call back in a week if it isn't improving.

Ok. So, two days ago I set the goal of swimming a mile straight. (Something had to keep my fitness level up.) After nine laps (50-yards each), Kurt interrupted me to tell me he was leaving. What did I do? I started over. 42 laps later, I had done over a mile of freestyle, got out of the pool limping and started thinking maybe I needed to set loftier goals. Maybe instead of doing a triathlon one day (a goal that I only just recently took to)  I should set out to do an Ironman. (Who does that? Crazies, that's who.)

One problem, I can't run. I did everything the doctor said, including cross-training, grass running trials, and loading up on anti-inflammatories (kinda wishing I had thought of that one myself, duh!). It's been a week. I am going nuts, just ask Kurt. I am shaky, jittery, restless.....I can't sit still long enough to write and sleeping is becoming increasingly more difficult. Withdraw stinks.

So, today is the day; the day I call and say, "Okay, I give up. Let's scan this baby and see what I am up against." I am praying it is only more IRS accompanied by a little WQS (Wimpy Quad Syndrome) compounded by my nuttiness.

I will surely keep you posted......and no, I don't know how you got so lucky. Just savor it. :)


Speaking With Wolves

(It's like Dancing With Wolves only you are less likely to embarrass yourself.....or get eaten.)

Here are some of the latest quips and conversations noted in our family (and by latest, I am talking in the last month or so as I have been taking mental notes but writing next to nothing!):

While out in CA, Kurt decided we should drive the kids into Stanford by way of University Boulevard which is lined with the most gorgeous Palm trees imaginable. As we were driving through, pointing out the pretty trees, Kurt started telling the kids:

"This is the campus your mom and I lived on when we were first married and where I went to business school...."

Lily: "You mean, you and mom camped here?"

Madeline: "SQUIRREL!" 

And that was the end of that conversation as apparently they are neglected and have never seen squirrels before.....


One night in the middle of my marathon training, Solomon awoke screaming (it turns out his eardrum had perforated but we wouldn't discover that until the next morning). Somehow, I managed to sleep through the noise until Kurt nudged me awake and in his mostly asleep state said: "Could you please go turn off the screaming?!" 


We were on the way to church one Sunday when Lily started trying to spell a word. 


"Lily, what are you trying to spell?' Kurt asked. 

"That's," she replied. 

"You mean like, 'That's my mom?'" Kurt questioned.

"No, no!" she said adamantly. "I mean like, 'That's a rock.'"  


For father's day, I had the kids make a list of why they loved their daddy. After Aidan, Madeline and Lily had all written their sentences, I asked Liam: "Liam, why do you love daddy?"

He gave me a look like I was some Neanderthal who was asking what a car was used for, but without skipping a beat he said: "Uh, because I like EVERYONE!" (The duh was implied I think.)


Enjoy your day!


Running Review: Part Two

Then I considered all my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. -- Ecclesiastes 2:11 

Running a marathon is a silly endeavor. Really. While thinking about the race the night before, I started realizing that there was no good reason to ever run 26.2 miles, short of being chased by something that could eat you. (If only I had realized that 6 months ago!)

Think about it: what good is there in running a marathon? Really and truly, other than bragging rights, there is no reason for it. (And that one surely falls short of the values I try to live by!) Come to think of it, there are probably more reasons NOT to run a marathon than there are TO run it. It certainly isn't the best thing for your body. That kind of pounding and stress over such a long period of time is as likely to cause chronic overuse injuries (and the need for early knee or hip replacements) as it is longterm fitness and health. I have heard it said that people who run marathons have as many free radicals floating around their body as those who smoke a pack of cigarettes every day. (While that might very well be a contrived statement by someone who scoffs at the notion of running long distance, there are certainly countless articles floating around that point to the health risks associated with marathon running.) And for those looking to drop a few pounds, marathon running is certainly not the way to go. (If anything, this last marathon added several pounds to my scale, leaving me 5-7 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. Yeah, yeah, I know: "It's just added muscle or water weight"....good luck convincing my ego of that.)

So then why do it?

As I stared at the ceiling the night before, that is precisely the question with which I wrestled.

What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This is also vanity. --Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

I like a good physical challenge. I will claim that. I like to exert myself and push beyond what I thought was possible. I like to look into the mirror and see someone who is working toward something, even if that something isn't at all significant or meaningful to anyone else. I like to rationalize that it is good for my kids to see me working toward and achieving goals; or at least learning from the process. Would I prefer to be able to save lives, secure clean drinking water for all people and stamp out disease and pestilence across the entire universe and beyond while doing so? Of course I would! (Don't think I didn't get all sorts of grandiose ideas running behind the World Vision sponsored ironman guy for so many miles!)

But the truth is, this marathon was about completing a selfish and self serving goal. Yes, I tried to maintain a sense of the holy: reading my bible while training on the treadmill for instance and trying to count my blessings at every mile marker during the race (somehow with the lack of blood flow to the brain, I only came up with about 3 different things that circulated whenever the going got tough....I fell far short of counting blessings every mile!) but does any of that matter in the grand scheme of things? I suppose I can hope.

I will spare you the details of the 26.2 miles. YEAH RIGHT!

So, where was I? The gun exploded and off we went, a giant wave of 889 runners, eager to spend the next few hours doing what we came to do. At first, I wasn't sure about whether to stick with the 3:30 pace group or not. You see, everyone I had spoken to, with the exception of my five-time-Boston-Marathon-running-friend-with-four-kids, had told me to go out slow, 20 to 30 seconds slower than pace for a good three to four miles, easing into the race before hitting my goal pace. Well, apparently that wasn't in my cards. Instead, I simply tried not to run FASTER than pace in the beginning. I kept the World Vision guy in sight because I knew his pace was going to be slightly faster than mine and at first, I hung right behind the pace group.

Kurt was there to cheer me on within the first few miles, telling me the kids were wondering if I was done yet (met with a slightly disgruntled laugh). I ran on.

Around mile 6, I noticed my right calf was tightening and my plantar fasciitis was flaring up a bit. I knew I would have to stop to stretch at least once. After hesitating to do so, I fully caught up to the pace group before pulling off to the side to stretch my calves. After only a few seconds, I jumped back on the road and again caught up to the pacer. That would be my only stop.

About that time, I started getting the itch to pull ahead and go a wee bit faster. Still wary of going too fast, too soon, I jogged ahead and by the time Kurt saw me for the second time, I was well ahead of the pace group. He gave me some water and ran next to me for about half a minute, maybe less.

Along the course, I met several great ladies who wanted to chat but each time I had to explain that if I wanted to stay on pace, I wouldn't be able to talk much. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and went on our separate ways. (No, we did not do that but seriously, you almost feel like you should sometimes....)

Suffice it to say, with the exception of running on river rock for a couple of miles around miles 15-16 and then heading straight uphill, plateauing and then straight up again around miles 17-20, it was a fantastic course. And all the training paid off. I never hit a wall and I ran faster than I had intended (in part because when my pace slowed off a tad and the pace group caught me at the hills, the new pacer for the second half was so annoying that I had to get farther ahead of her so that I couldn't hear her constant chatter anymore!) And even though I did have to apply counter pressure ever so often to the IT band insertion near my right hip, I was still able to do what I enjoy best and start picking people off at the end....first the guy in the minimalist shoes (who said they were great up until we got to the rocks, ouch!) and a handful of women, one who was wearing a running skirt (a personal pet peeve).  Four Gu's and one massive yet painless blood blister later (I'll spare y'all the picture I was going to post....ewww), I finished in a personal best of 3:26:18! (My last marathon, ten years or so ago was a 4:23.) Better yet, my fastest mile was the very last one which I ran in under 7 minutes ending with an all out sprint in the last 200 meters or so. There was brief ecstasy.

And then, like every obsessed runner I know, I left the race feeling like I should have done better. (Yes, seriously.) Certainly I could have run it faster given the amount of energy I had left at the end. Don't get me wrong, I was on cloud nine: partly because of runner's high and lack of oxygen to the brain, partly because I was so wobbly the wind nearly knocked me over several times which I thought was absolutely hysterical (again, because of the runner's high), but mostly because I had reached my goal and qualified for Boston! Yippee!

Yet, within hours, I was plotting out my next course of running action. I mean, surely I can do better than that! While eighth overall female finisher isn't too shabby (uh, did someone mention something about bragging?), there were still SEVEN MORE TO BEAT! (No, that is not really my goal.....at least two of those women ran close to 3 hours flat which is not likely attainable for this gal. Oh well.)

Hopefully next time, I will train even better, learning how to keep life in balance as I go....hopefully I can find a way to add more meaning beyond just self-accomplishment and pride, thus completing my joy just a little more. (Could I, too, somehow wear a charity-sponsored racing shirt or is that only for elite athletes? Could I fundraise while I ran? Why do people give money to charities just because people run anyway? Perhaps I am destined to lead a running group, helping others achieve their fitness goals? Should I become a pacer and be that annoying person that pushes others to do better? Suggestions anyone?) I have to admit, I get shaky just thinking about running Boston....what if I don't succeed? What if it is scorching hot like this year and my time stinks? What if during my next taper I get taken out by an unexpected Ebola outbreak that makes it all the way here to MN from some high security CDC research lab on the east coast? What if......

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given for everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. --Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

***Next up in the race series: an August Duathlon relay. I will be the running half of team Mieux a Deux during a 5k-run/18-mile bike/5k-run race.....hopefully I can actually run again soon because right now I am still barely making it up and down the stairs!*** 

For now though, it's time to get back to the neglected family I left behind a few months back....I think in the course of my training, Aidan joined a rock band, Madeline played Carnegie, Lily took up roller derby, Liam learned three languages so that he could better greet people in his world travels and Solomon became a highly renowned Jazz Singer after he became the youngest person to ever climb Mt. Everest....

Or something like that.....


Running Review: Part One

You may recall last fall when I went crazy and signed up for a running race series which included five different races this year put on by the non-profit Team Ortho. I thought I was nuts but figured it would be a great challenge. (And perhaps get me back into shape after a decade of having babies!)

So, there was the Polar Dash 10k on January 1st where I learned I could actually run faster than I thought. (She says, shamelessly patting self on back.) I had not trained for speed and so I set out to run an 8:30 min/mile pace but much to my surprise I ended up running a 7:18 pace. Who knew?!

In March, there was the Get Lucky Half Marathon where I learned that I could run fairly fast for even longer than I thought. I set a goal of running a 7:40 pace and ended up running a 7:29 pace, finishing in an hour and thirty-eight minutes. After that race, I decided that perhaps I needed to set tougher goals and so after playing around with various online pace calculators and reading numerous articles, I realized that it was within my reach to at least aim for a Boston qualifying time.

At first, I did not speak this idea to anyone. I kept it inside, letting it brew until a crazed excitement boiled over from this ridiculous idea swirling in my head. Twenty years ago, if someone had told me I would crazily think I could run a marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston I would have thought them insane (or perhaps I would have said, Boston? Boston what?) But there were a few select people with whom I shared this ridiculous notion....and to whom I am ever so thankful for their ongoing support: some who ran with me on my lighter days and rode bikes with me on my long runs and others who simply listened to all my neurotic rants and worries in the process!

At any rate, for the last few months, I have trained: sometimes running 20 miles on a treadmill and other times trying to keep at Marathon Goal Pace while pushing a jogging stroller with a sleeping/crying/eating baby inside. I have spent time fretting over the most recent overuse injuries, IT band syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, icing, stretching; on form, gait, running shoes and other running paraphernalia, while working towards being able to run ten 800-meter repeats each at three and a half minutes (like Bart Yasso, world class running coach, would have told me to do.) My goal: to run a 3:30 marathon, or as I told most people, to get within the window of 3:30 and 3:36. (A qualifying time in my age group must be under a 3:40:00....I figured I should leave myself a little wiggle room, just in case....)  

Like so many competitive runners, I was completely obsessed. I ran hard and fast, slow(er) and long, endured countless protein shakes and endless hours cross training in the pool while fitting in physical therapy exercises for core strength and stabilization. I gave up my yoga practice, slowed down my music studio until it stopped almost entirely, often left the house in shambles (sorry Kurt), nearly gave up playing violin and piano altogether, let homework slide until some kids were perched precariously on the edge of failure (really not proud of that one!), and failed to write anything on this blog for weeks on end in order to stay the course.

Looking back, I have to believe there is a more balanced and sane way of training well.

Needless-to-say, by the week before the Minneapolis Marathon, neurosis had set in. (Yes, it gets worse!) I had finished all my hard training runs and was at the end of the taper period when a flood of doubt took over, looming heavy in my heart. I struggled to fight off droves of negative thoughts and images while obsessing about every ache and pain that crept up while my body tried to recover from the training in preparation for the race.

Kurt had given me a gift card to a local spa to get a pre-race massage and while it was an incredibly helpful gift, the day after the massage, I started getting chills and began to feel downright lousy. I tried to tell myself that it was just the effects of the massage which worked out all those toxins and sent them floating through my body. I raced to the store, picked up Airbourne and Emergen-C vitamin drinks, zinc and echinacea lozenges and then sat at home, drowning myself in herbal tea, chicken noodle soup, hot epsom salt baths and anything else I could think of that might help me ward off the impending cold or flu OR MENINGITIS I was convinced my body was fighting. (Seriously, I had lost it!)

This was a very low point. I had worked so hard, sacrificed so much time and energy and now I wasn't sure I would even be well enough to run the race. I began to read articles online and browse through forums where other runners told similar stories and by Friday night, I tried one last thing: a glass of wine.

Lo and behold, I started feeling better. Relaxed, I went to bed with more positive thoughts taking hold. Realizing I was probably just dealing with allergies, I started pushing out the demon of doubt and instead rehearsed my pace and running strategies. By Saturday morning, I was sure I would be able to run the next day and prayed that I would not have to stop and use the bathroom during the race (a more relevant concern than meningitis!)

I awoke around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning needing to use the bathroom. Half an hour later, Solomon was up screaming and while I tried to get back to sleep after that, I was so nervous that I was actually shaking. By 4:30 a.m. I figured I should just get up and get going.

After getting the babysitter settled in and then a quick drive, listening to Rush's song Marathon for extra inspiration, Kurt and I arrived at The Depot Hotel in the Mill District of Minneapolis. He dropped me off so that I could check my bag and get to the start with enough time to use the port-a-potty before the race. The slight chill in the air was a welcome relief even as it sent shivers down my spine and left me covered in goose bumps.

And within a very short time, the gun sounded and the race had begun......

Combo Disaster: Part 3

Solomon and _________________. (Insert anything there and it is pretty much going to be a disastrous combination.)

I figure this one is well suited for some simple pics describing why Solomon with anything other than perhaps a locked, padded, empty room, is a disaster.

The blotch next to his eye is where he met with an unexpected hard corner in the airport....a few days of recovery time and he looks pretty good. 

Solomon is relentless in his pursuits on the playground.

Hey, look, I found a gallon of Milk just sitting around.....

Notice, it is not empty.....

Here he is moving the furniture....FYI, that belongs under the mirror. 

I think he might be trying to take it back here.....

Solomon running away from us....he does not look back, just runs forward. 

Here is a video of Solomon climbing Mt. Highchair.....so glad he learned THAT one. 

What happens when Sister gives Baby a chocolate chip pancake.....

The big smile is due to the entire box of golden raisins Solly dumped out on the floor.....so much for me practicing piano!

No biggie Mom. We can just eat them off the floor.