Monday, May 31, 2010

Mile Marker: Week 1 Done!

Somehow, that eighteen-week training plan I so tediously described a while back in another post has taken on a less intimidating character. Oh, it still glares at me from the refrigerator door, but I have taken control. I considered using a wide-tipped Sharpie to cross out each accomplished task, but then decided I wanted to be able to see the progress.

So, I've opted for slashing Samurai-style through each block with a green highlighter while proclaiming, "Take that, Monday!" or "Hey, Thursday, you want some a' this?!" (Never mind that we're only talking a total of five minutes of jogging on each running day.)

But, Week 1 is done! Last week's lessons of perseverance and hope definitely bolstered my motivation. I am grateful to Emily Jean Thorn and Linda Ramsey Beam for that.

During Week 2, the running intervals increase to two minutes each session, while the walking intervals decrease. And, I'm going to be inspired by the stories of several courageous patients and survivors of breast cancer, whose tributes will appear here. As always, it will be my privilege to borrow their shoes.

As for my own shoes, they are officially broken in, so here's to the next mile!

* * *

Don't forget to leave a comment about a breast cancer patient or survivor you know, and describe the positive influence this person has had in your life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Lesson in Hope -- Linda Ramsey Beam

Webster's dictionary explains that "hope" is "to desire with expectation of obtainment." Linda Ramsey Beam, like other breast cancer patients, is a living lesson of hope as she fights to be cured of her illness. Her desire to be well, and her expectation of obtaining that goal, is profoundly infectious. In fact, her friend, Heidi W., expresses she has become a "better person" as a result of Linda's influence. Linda has taught Heidi that "no matter what life throws at you," unwaivering hope is the path to overcoming adversity.

To Linda Ramsey Beam of West Virginia, who is a member of my growing list of heroes: today, I will borrow your shoes, though I cannot fill them. They will go with me as I plod, reminding me of your strength. For me, the expectation will be only to obtain footsteps; my challenge pales when I consider that for you, Linda, the expectation is about obtaining a life free from breast cancer.

So, here's to the next mile, where each stride will be fueled by Linda's Hope.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Perseverance -- The Legacy of Emily Jean Thorn

Most of us are very limited in terms of the number of people we might impact in a day's time. Unlike famous celebrities or powerful politicians whose comings and goings generate media coverage that is available to millions of people, regular folks might influence a few family members and a friend or two each day.

There is a bit of mystery that accompanies the seeds of influence each of us dispenses. Over the course of our lifetimes, we meander through our days, rarely ever knowing where those seeds have landed, if they have taken root, or if they have produced something useful.

It is doubtful that Emily Jean Thorn of West Virginia ever imagined, as she fought her breast cancer diagnosis through "thick and thin," that many years later her young granddaughter, Heidi, would recount her grandmother's strength of character. The legacy that Emily left to Heidi was to "never give up on anything even if the odds are totally against you."

To Emily Jean Thorn, whose seeds of influence have landed quite some distance from where they were first sown: today I will borrow the shoes you left behind. Though I cannot ever hope to fill them, I will take them with me, persevering through the next mile in honor of your legacy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

These Shoes Are Pink

Pink is the universally recognized color that signifies femininity. And, in more contemporary times, a color also used to increase awareness of the need for the prevention and cure of breast cancer.

After reviewing a calendar of 5K events occuring close to the time my training schedule will be completed, I've decided to draw attention to a very worthy cause -- the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on October 16 in Virginia Beach. And this time, I'm going across that finish line one way or another, be it on my feet, on my knees, or on my belly!

Over the course of the next few months, I'll continue to describe my training progress here. But, I'll be looking for inspiration. If you know someone who is a breast cancer patient, please leave a comment telling me her first name and last initial (full name is fine if she is comfortable with that), a description of her experience, and how her courage has affected you! All the names of breast cancer patients and survivors listed on this blog will be printed on my race-day Tshirt. It will be my privilege to take every one of these courageous women with me across the finish line.

Finally, once the race has concluded, I'll make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of the women whose names are entered in this blog.

Though I may wish for the level of courage demonstrated by these brave women, I'll never be able to fill their shoes. But, I'm hoping to borrow a lot of them over the next few ones!

Graphic courtesy of

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Running in My Own Shoes

Before I begin again to try on the shoes of courageous and admirable people, it's going to be necessary to use some time to get comfortable in my own. So, I've spent about a week researching training plans, experimenting with how much running is realistic after such a long break, and determining how and when to use those newly-prescribed muscle relaxers to get the best results for training without affecting my ability to function otherwise.

It turns out, much as I'd feared, that it will be necessary to start from the beginning. In a previous post, I'd described the scenario that runners dread after a long lay off, and this is it. But, the benefit of such a conservative training plan is that it should help to prevent any further injury.

The internet is packed with free resources for runners, including everything from videos of the science of foot strikes to marathon training plans for advanced runners. One of the many plans I reviewed is found on, and it has been modified to fit my own circumstances. Others can be located on websites such as Cool Running, the Mayo Clinic, and Runner's World. Click on the schedule to see a clearer version, if you like.

This two-phase, eighteen-week plan to reach the goal distance of 3.1 miles takes into consideration my age and current physical challenges (always check with your doctor when beginning a fitness plan). It also incorporates strength training and cross training. It is posted on the refrigerator, glaring back at me with every pass I make through the kitchen. I'm looking forward to drawing a big "X" over each block as the tasks are accomplished.

The idea behind this plan is to begin by ignoring distance, and to strive instead for sustained running through small and repeated time increments -- a "connect the dots" approach. For example, during the first week, the plan is to walk for six minutes, jog for one minute, and repeat both increments five times. A one minute sprint is included in the last repetition. Each week, the duration of walking time decreases slightly, and the duration of jogging time increases slightly. Over the course of eight or nine weeks, the dots connect, translating into a jog time of thirty consecutive minutes. At that point, distance is achieved automatically. At my slow pace, which averages about 3.7 mph, I should be covering around 1.8 miles in thirty minutes.

The 1.8 mile distance is a perfect beginning point for the second training phase during week 10 -- the training plan for a 5K. If all goes well, that should allow for participating in a charitable 5K event during mid-October.

There's only one thing missing from this plan. That is, what cause is going to get my race registration fee, my attempt to cross the finish line wearing a T-shirt filled with the names of courageous individuals who've traveled a difficult path, and a $100.00 donation honoring them?

Help me decide whose shoes to borrow! Leave a comment about your favorite cause!

Meanwhile, here's to the next mile....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Own New Play Shoes

As a child, one of the events I eagerly anticipated was the end-of-the-school-year shopping trip for "sneakers." I recall happily disposing of the year's worn school shoes in favor of a new pair of gleaming white canvas play shoes. By the end of the summer, of course, they were dirty and tattered, but each pair represented three months of summer adventures.

Likewise, today I have a new pair of play shoes for the summer, and I'm very excited about them! After completing a video gait analysis, and discovering for the first time that my gait is largely normal, this was one of several recommended neutral-type running shoes. These are the Nike Air Max Moto + 7. The name alone conjures up images of dust trails behind my feet! (Click here to see reviews of this model.)

Although all three of the brands I tested were comfortable, these shoes felt as if they had been made for my feet the moment I slipped them on.

We shall see. Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m., we will plod down the road. As I trudge along the next mile, I will ponder whose shoes to borrow next. They won't be as comfortable as my new ones, and I certainly will not be able to fill them.

So, leave a comment below about a group of courageous people you'd like to see honored!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conquering The Monster In My Basement

When we were children, my sister believed that a monster lived in the basement, behind a concrete block wall. She sought to placate it, religiously tossing bits of pb&j sandwiches into the deep, black hole formed by one removed block. Eventually, a portion of the wall next to that missing block was removed to expand the basement, and there lay the stash, petrified evidence of multiple feedings. It is one of those family tales that still is repeated today.

Now, I have a monster in my basement. It sits there, blinking and beeping at me, spewing little dots as red as fire from the mouth of a dragon. I stand in front of it, transfixed and immobile. It waits to be fed.

Have you ever been stuck in one place in your life, and somehow, that sense of being stuck creeps into the rest of your life? It has become that way with my running project. I've been stuck in one place for some weeks now, and the immobilization is beginning to slither into other aspects of my life. So, it's time to force myself out of this place, and move forward in all directions.

For the most part, I've tried to describe this running experience without spending a lot of time on tedious details about my physical problems. I wanted the focus to remain on the sacrifices our military service men and women have made. But, in order to get back into the program, a little lamenting of my own challenges is necessary.

The very conservative training program I'd mapped out seemed to move along quite well for several months. I had gradually increased my running distance, and even figured that if I couldn't quite get the whole 3.1 miles in on the day of the race, I'd give myself a rare break and just walk a few hundred feet to finish, if necessary. Then, I'd keep training to reach the goal.

That was before the return of those familiar calf cramps at the end of February, only a few weeks before the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K. But, these were not the long-standing, ordinary little calf cramps that plagued me prior to corrective surgery for compartment syndrome. Nor did they occur while running. No, these were relentlessly-knotting, writhing-on-the-floor, screaming-for-help calf cramps. My legs would draw up so tightly during these episodes that I couldn't even touch my feet to the ground. And, the aftermath -- suffice it to say that simply walking around was very uncomfortable for weeks.

Since I have to be able to walk to earn a living, I had to make a painful decision to forego the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K and take time to heal. Disappointment. Frustration. Embarrassment. Multiply those by 1,000. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I've pursued several possible solutions during the break. My cardiologist performed vascular studies on both legs. No circulatory problems there, and that was very good news. So, I went to my family doctor in a great deal of fear and trepidation, and asked for drugs. Seriously. This problem has gone on about thirty years too long. He was very sympathetic to my complaints, and provided me with just enough muscle relaxer to get the job done.

And, now, to start over. Someone stated to me recently that although folks make off-handed remarks about a runner's addiction, anyone who loves to run knows the real bottom line: runners dare not stop -- not because they can't, but because if they do, it will take forever to return to the previous distance and condition. Just thinking about spending another four months getting back to the 2.5 mile marker is discouraging.

But, I've had some time to heal and develop a plan for recovery.

  • Get a gait analysis and a new pair of shoes.
  • Supplement specific nutrients, the lack of which contributes to cramping, and which are excessively depleted by some medications taken by cardiac patients.
  • Dramatically increase water consumption to avoid symptoms of dehydration, which can contribute to cramping.
  • Adopt a program of concentrated stretching in order to counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time, as required by work.
  • Focus on cross training. For me, it will be bicycling.
  • Conservatively use muscle relaxers before each training run.

Today, I go to feed the monster.

(Note: A contribution has been made to the Wounded Warrior Project in honor of those courageous individuals whose names appear to the right of this blog.)