Friday, October 28, 2011

I can't run for HOW long?!?

Last week I had surgery to remove two abdominal masses. It was supposed to be a pretty minor surgery, and then my surgeon discovered two hernias beneath the masses. I am a problem patient - it's kind of my thing. I realized as I am recovering slowly that the Hot Chocolate 15k is unlikely to happen. Not a problem as I decided I could just switch to the 5k.

I just had my post-op appointment with my surgeon, and he says no running for 3 MORE WEEKS! What?!? I complained immediately and said that wouldn't work. I have a race in a week and a half. At that point he laughed and said I could potentially do "light jogging" toward the end of next week, but he wouldn't recommend any sort of race. 

That means I'll be back in action in time for the Turkey Trot in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. I was hoping to do the 10k, but that seems unlikely at this point. It's interesting that after running for 6 years, I can't even think of what other exercise I want to do. Nothing else is as fun or challenging to me as a good, hard run. Plus my husband, friends and co-workers like me better when I'm running and not grouchy. Trust me.

So fine, I'll take it easy. But for the record I'm NOT happy about it. The 15k won't happen, but the girls' weekend in Chicago will. And perhaps I'll do some "light jogging" in Iowa City when I head there in a few weeks. I think jogging these towns counts too. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Running is Pure Michigan

Michiganders are familiar with the Pure Michigan campaign - Tim Allen's smooth voice narrating snapshots of the best this state has to offer. I'd like to propose the latest Pure Michigan ad: that running is Pure Michigan.

I have a goal to run a race in all 50 states, and with only 5 states down (6 once I do the Hot Chocolate 15k in Chicago in a few weeks!) I've got a lot of work to do. As I search for races in other states I realize something about Michigan - this state is for runners. That should be the slogan: Michigan is for runners. Seriously, can I market this stuff? It's gold! I'm thinking t-shirts, bumper stickers, the whole nine yards. But I digress.

As I look for races in other states, I find that my options are limited in a number of places. I grew up in West Virginia and absolutely love it there, but I have a hard time finding races there. They are few and far between. Here in the Lansing area particularly in the spring and fall, I have my pick of 5k races to do on the weekends. It's a smorgasbord of running options.

I will admit that I complain about Michigan's weather in the winter. I complain a lot. From a runner's perspective, however, Michigan's weather is awesome. We have cool spring and fall mornings and evenings, and rarely is it too hot on a summer morning to get in a long run.  It really is flawless running weather.

Michigan is also home to some of the country's most elite runners including Rockford, MIchigan's Dathan Ritzenhein (winner of three national cross country titles) and Rochester Hills, Michigan's Desiree Davila (the U.S.'s 4th fastest female marathoner). The editor of Runner's World, David Willey, is even from Michigan.

I don't know how to make cute videos, but I think I should find out in order to submit my idea to the Pure Michigan campaign. Running IS Pure Michigan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Grand Rapids

One of the best things about my job is getting to travel around the State of Michigan to various communities. I've been all over the state from Detroit to Grand Haven on Lake Michigan to the very tip of the Keeweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Despite being merely an hour from Grand Rapids, I haven't spent a lot of time there. Last week we had our convention in downtown Grand Rapids, so naturally the first thing I did upon arriving was to change and go for a run.

Downtown Grand Rapids
We were fortunate enough to visit Grand Rapids during Art Prize. Art Prize is a public international art competition displayed throughout Grand Rapids. The event, in its third year, draws thousands to Grand Rapids to view amazing public art and vote on the winner. As I ran on a gorgeous, unseasonably warm October afternoon, the streets were packed with people viewing Art Prize. Downtown Grand Rapids was hopping on a Tuesday afternoon.

LOVE this Art Prize piece with the monkeys on the bridge
While visiting we had dinner at Tre Cugini, a local Italian restaurant. If anything the crowds grew throughout the evenings.  Another night we visited Hopcat, a great bar with about a million beers on tap. I exaggerate, but seriously, it was a lot of beer.

Grand Rapids has utilized its river front beautifully with accessible trails and pedestrian walkways crossing the river. On my final morning in the city I woke up early to run at sunrise along the river. It was a warm fall morning, and though the city was sleeping, I felt extremely safe. It was like having my own private viewing of Art Prize.

Running along the river at sunrise
Grand Rapids checks many of the boxes of what a great city needs - a vibrant, walkable downtown, green initiatives (GR has been recognized nationally as a leader in pursuing renewable energy), cultural economic development (hello Art Prize!) and entrepreneurship, to name a few. 

As someone who immigrated to Michigan, I'm often intrigued by Michigan's east side/west side divide. My husband grew up in Metro Detroit, and we always head to Detroit for entertainment, dinner, etc.  It's interesting that many people here migrate towards where they're from - either GR or Detroit. We've been to Grand Rapids a few times for concerts, and we've always enjoyed being in town. I know we'll continue to go to Detroit regularly, but I think it would be fun to add a little GR into our lives as well. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What are we running for?

I've heard runners say that if you have to ask why we run then you don't get it. It sounds very arrogant, but it's true. That being said, nobody loves running when they start. Trust me. It's not like you lace up yours shoes for the first time, start out, run 5 miles and it's glorious. It hurts, you're out of breath after half a mile, and it's hard. It's always hard, but when you start it's brutal.  That begs the question what keeps us going?

I run to feel normal. Normal is relative to everyone, but for me I get in that running zone and it's when I feel the best every single time. I ran track in high school and lived at the gym in college, but I only started running 5½ years ago. I always loved the idea of running, but made lots of excuses. Then I got sick, and that was the best excuse of all.

When I was 19 I started having some health issues. Mainly stomach problems. I went to a specialist, and they couldn't figure out what was wrong. When I was 21 years old I had three major surgeries and was subsequently diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. I went from being healthy and muscular to losing about 30 pounds in a few months. Who needed to go to the gym? Who needed to run?

I spent several years doing yoga sporadically and walking, but exercising was not my focus.  Getting through each day was my focus. There was no way I could run - it upset my stomach. Runners are notorious for having stomach issues. It's the focus of many Runner's World articles. Having Crohn's makes that worse. Seriously - running just wasn't for me.

When I signed up for a marathon on a whim over 5 years ago, I knew it would be hard. What I didn't expect was that once I built up mileage and got into my running groove, I felt normal. Normal for me means I forget that my stomach is upset or whatever other unpleasant Crohn's symptom is bugging me that day. For those 3 miles or 5 miles or 13.1 miles it's just me and running. Sure my knees hurt, my feet hurt, and I'm tired. But that's normal. I'm a runner.

I used to be the kind of person who never ran on vacation. Vacation was just that - a break. Training for a race changed all of that. I'll never forget the first time I ran on a trip - on a hotel treadmill in Alexandria, Virginia. I did 8 miles on the treadmill. It was 95 degrees and humid out, so the treadmill seemed like the best option. After that running (now more frequently outside) became a highlight of every trip. Now I can't wait to hit the road in another town. Running shoes are a required packing item. They aren't always the easiest to fit in a suitcase, but they're a necessity.

There are days when I just don't feel like running. And as perfectionist with a Type A personality, it's hard for me sometimes to realize that it's okay to take those days off.  But sometimes fighting through that doubt and hitting the road is the best cure for any ailment.  I'm often asked how I deal with having Crohn's and doing all that I do. There are two ways I can live my life: I can either be sick or I can push through it and live the best life that I can. I only get one shot at it.

I'm heading to my work's convention this week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and my suitcase is bulging with my running shoes in the front.  So...what are you running for? 

(As an aside, I now have Pat Benatar's "Invincible" in my head. It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible!)