Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Racing for a Cure - and Perspective

There are the every day 5ks, and then there are the Susan G. Komen events. When more than 5,000 participants crowd Capital Avenue in downtown Lansing, it gets real. Yesterday my friend Erin and I decided to brave the rain and run the Race for the Cure. Downtown Lansing was dreary and wet, but the energy from the crowd was palpable and there were people dressed in pink everywhere. It's hard to be discouraged by rain when you're surrounded by that kind of positivity.

Have I had a rough few weeks with my Crohn's? Absolutely. Have I been complaining more than normal? For sure. But there's nothing like joining all of these amazing women who are breast cancer survivors to give me real perspective about what's happening in my life and with my health.  These women have been through it, and yet here they are, in the rain, decked out in pink and ready to get their 5k on. It's awesome, it's inspiring, and it's a bit of perspective smacking me right in the face.

The race starts in downtown Lansing right in front of the State Capital. There were tents set up everywhere, and everything was well organized. There was also a stage for the MC (a local deejay) with lots of music and energy. Before the race, as we crammed tightly together on Capital Avenue, there were women leading the crowd in Zumba. I've never done Zumba, but nobody told me it's pretty much just like high impact aerobics in the 1980s. Fascinating. 

Regardless of the weird pre-race cardio workout, it was a fun pre-race experience. We started heading south on Capital, and the course was tightly packed with runners. It took us probably about  a quarter mile to get a little breathing room. It's an interesting course that takes us back and forth through various streets downtown, but it was quiet for the first few miles. I blame the rain.

After we got to around mile two the course energy picked up. There were high school cheerleaders and, my favorite, an acapella group singing. Very fun. We turned it on when we got onto Ottawa Street, and the music and energy from the finish brought us in. Our time was an awesome  27:04. I was so proud of Erin for her PR. We rocked it out! 

After the race
Running for a social cause is one of the best motivators to keep running.  If these amazing women can go through everything they've gone through, I can bust it out for three miles. It was a great event, and it was just the perspective I needed.     

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Barium: It's What's for Dinner

This title describes my Crohn's drama-filled week perfectly. Last night I literally had barium for dinner (three bottles to be exact) which really does nothing to help an already unpleasant situation.  For those of you who have had abdominal CT scans (I've had more than my lifetime's share of radiation in the last 15 years) you know how gross it is to drink barium. I've done this dozens of times, but last night seemed worse. Maybe I am just in more of a complaining mood this week.

But I'll stop complaining because I had my first consult with a nutritionist, and it was awesome. After 15 years of reacting to what my body throws at me, it's exciting to be looking at a more proactive take on my health. As someone who does not enjoy cooking I'm not really looking forward to having to do more of it, but I'm up for the challenge. At this point I'm willing to try anything. I'm going to be on an aggressive program, and that will be interesting. I do want to be dedicated to it without being one of those annoying food zealot people. So if at any time I am being an annoying food zealot, slap me. Those people suck.

She also wants me to work on being less stressed and anal...I wish her luck in that goal. I do know that she's right - stress and other factors can affect my Crohn's. So I'm going to eat better, be less stressed and as a result run more miles. She didn't suggest that last part - that's all me.

These last few weeks have put running these towns on hold...or at least in slow motion. I've only run six miles this week, and even those were a struggle. I'm excited to be doing the Race for the Cure this weekend. It's one of my favorite events - these women are incredibly inspiring. Then it's off to Pittsburgh next week where I'm going to tackle a half marathon for which I'm wholly unprepared. I haven't run more than six miles since the Cherry Blossom 10-miler a few weeks ago...so this should be interesting. Let's be honest - it's not the first time I've hopped into a half marathon with less preparation than it deserved.

It's nearly May, and that means winter is finally starting to pass us by here in Michigan. It's beautiful running weather, and with any luck I'll be back to fully enjoying running with some serious life/diet changes over the next few months. There are so many races to be run - who has time to be sick?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Crohn's Russian Roulette

I stole the phrase "Russian Roulette" in terms of my diet from my BFF, but it's perfectly accurate to describe how I've dealt with my nutritional needs for the last 15 years. A few years ago I decided it was time to stop messing around, and I made an appointment with a nutritionist recommended by my GI doctor. I went to the local hospital to meet with this woman in a what amounted to a closet next to the hospital cafeteria. When I arrived she had printed off the USDA food pyramid guidelines and generic information on Crohn's Disease. True story. I could've done that at home and saved myself a lot of time.

Last fall I decided I'd try to get a new nutritionist from my new GI doctor at the University of Michigan, and ended up not even asking for the referral.  I can figure this out right?  After a rough few Crohn's months, I've decided it's time to get serious.

When we were in DC a few weeks ago two of my friends mentioned they are seeing nutritionists. Interestingly these nutritionists aren't local - they do phone and email consultations. I'm fascinated by this. I've now contacted both of these nutritionists to get an idea of how to actually handle this disease I've been dealing with for 15 years.

Not having a colon means there are lots of things I can't eat. Well things I shouldn't eat. Ask those who eat lunch with my regularly (my co-workers) and I will say, "Oh I can't eat ______" and I proceed to eat it anyway. It's a challenge to be in a profession where I eat out a lot. I also hate to cook, so it's challenging to figure out the right things to eat.

Tomorrow is my first consultation with the nutritionist. I'm excited to finally start to figure this out. I've been running now for seven years, and I want to maximize my health so that I feel well enough to keep running until I'm in my 90's. (Hey - it happens! These people are amazing.) So even if I have to give up caffeine and other favorites I think it's time I finally figure it out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


This month's Runner's World features Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher - Olympians, training partners, friends, and rivals. It got me thinking about rivalries in general. I'm a competitive person, and throughout my life I've had rivalries with different people. Whether it was on the cheerleading squad in high school, the debate team in college or in work after I graduated law school, there seems to always be some sort of rivalry. Some are friendlier than others.

Kara and Shalane after the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London
As a runner I'm always competing. That being said I'm not a fast runner, so I'm generally just competing against myself - my own PRs and goals. Are there people that I see regularly at races and want to beat? Absolutely. But there are good days and bad days, and I try to enjoy the run rather than focus on beating anyone but myself.

I'm also an avid West Virginia Mountaineer fan. As a result I bleed old gold and blue. When it comes to our Mountaineer rivalries, there's no compromising. I live in a town with a lot of Michigan State fans, and during this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament a number of Spartans were rooting for Michigan. Unacceptable! Not for the conference, not for the state. It's a RIVALRY. Would I root for Pitt ever? Not a chance. Would I root for Virginia Tech? I did once. When they were playing Michigan. That's when I realized how much of my husband's Spartan green had rubbed off on me.

In a few weeks I'm running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I saw a picture from a previous year's race with the University of Pittsburgh cheerleaders, and I realized what I have to do. I'll be wearing old gold and blue from head to toe. My family will be there watching, and they may not yet be aware that they are required to wear Mountaineer gear. And when I see them on the course I'll be yelling out, "Let's Go!" and expecting "Mountaineers!" in response. Obnoxious? Absolutely. But that's what rivalries are.

I'm looking forward to running the Pittsburgh race. I love the city despite its being home to my least favorite collegiate institution. And if you happen to be in Pittsburgh on the 5th, I'll be the girl in the Mountaineer gold and blue. Shout out a "Let's Go!" You'll know it's me when you get the right response.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


There is nothing like the finish of a race. Whether it's a 5k or a marathon, the finish line is magical.  Every time I run around that last turn to see the crowd of people cheering on runners, it helps kick me into a gear that I didn't know I had left.  Even when I've been my most exhausted at the end of a race, the energy of the finish spurs me on.

As I watched the terrible footage from yesterday's Boston Marathon, you can see runners go from elated to horrified as they approach the finish.  I honestly cannot imagine how the runners and spectators felt as they realized what was happening. Last year I was running in the Green Bay Marathon when it was called for the heat. We had to borrow a volunteer's phone and get my friend's sister to come pick us up. It was frustrating and confusing, and it is nothing compared to yesterday's events. I can't imagine the confusion of the runners who hadn't finished yet and the panic of the families and spectators. And those people who were killed and injured...it makes me feel sick to think of what they're going through.

Being a runner means you're part of a community. Whether you run with friends or alone, you run a lot of races, or you're an elite runner there is a camaraderie among runners that is palpable. For example it was chilly before the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, and another runner linked her arm with mine so we could keep warm. We chatted until the race started. I'll likely never see her again, but she's part of my community.

I'm heartbroken because of yesterday's events. What a horrible way to mar one of the greatest running events in the world. But there are thousands of runners who will run this weekend, and we will all be reflecting on Boston.  This is the type of atrocity that tests the American spirit, and despite the horror we will come together and overcome.  People who commit these acts of violence want us to be afraid. They want us to cower. But I and countless others will continue to lace up our running shoes and push toward the finish. You can try to scare us, but we will keep running.


Friday, April 12, 2013

It's spring in our nation's capitol!

Last weekend we headed to one my favorite cities, Washington, DC, so I could run one of my bucket list races, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. I'm not entirely sure why this was a bucket list race, but it's one I really wanted to do. Last year I didn't get into the race (there is a lottery entry), so I was thrilled that I got to run it this year.

We got to DC late Friday morning and headed to our hotel in Arlington. I've been staying on Courthouse Road in Arlington for about a decade for a few reasons. It's a more quiet neighborhood, it's near the metro, and it's next to Ragtime, a West Virginia bar. After dropping our bags at the hotel we headed to my favorite area establishment for lunch - Bayou Bakery. We discovered Bayou Bakery on a trip to DC last year, and I am a touch obsessed. I love everything about it - the atmosphere, the sassy music and the food is to die for. Seriously- the food is amazing. 

After lunch we thought it would be fun to do something touristy, so we headed to Arlington National Cemetery where neither of us had been for years. It was a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in the 60s, and we had gorgeous views of the city from the Robert E. Lee house at the top of the hill. Arlington is such a poignant place, and it was a nice, quiet way to spend the afternoon.
Gorgeous view from Arlington - I would run across this bridge later in the weekend.
Enjoying a gorgeous sunny day
We followed Arlington with a little shopping in Dupont Circle (which will always remind me of one of my favorite movies - The American President). We then walked to Adams Morgan to a great Peruvian Place, Las Canteras, where we had dinner. This is what I love most about DC - the variety of neighborhoods. In just our first afternoon we walked through a half dozen distinct and vibrant neighborhoods. As a cityphile I find it inspiring.

Saturday morning started with tacos from a District Taco food truck (Bayou Bakery was super crowded, and I needed food stat).  One of the cool things about the Courthouse neighborhood is the farmers' market and bazaar set up outside the courthouse on Saturday mornings. It's a great addition to the community.  We headed out then to another of my favorite DC places - the National Gallery. It was another gorgeous, sunny day, and we walked through the sculpture garden and then to the museum. My favorite painting, Renoir's Girl with a Watering Can, is in the French Impressionist collection. We have a reproduction at home, but there is nothing like seeing the original.

We met a friend and headed to Old Town Alexandria, one of the best areas in metro DC. We did a lot of walking around, and I got to visit Pacers Running Store where I purchased a "we run these towns" shirt. It seemed fitting. I had also forgotten my Jelly Belly sports beans, so I was able to stock up for the race the next morning. Following our Old Town stroll we had frozen custard at The Dairy Godmother (super clever and delicious) in Del-Ray, another vibrant metro DC neighborhood. Dinner followed a few hours later at Faccia Luna in Clarendon. We seriously did have a great DC neighborhood tour.

The race began at 7:30 on Sunday morning, so we were up extremely early and Metro'd over near the Washington Monument where the race was starting. I had my packet mailed to me beforehand which was an extremely convenient option. The race was extremely well organized. The waves for different timed starts were well marked, and there was lots of energy pre-race with music and a fun MC. I was psyched at the start. 

Wearing my husband's jacket to try to stay warm before the race.
It was truly a great experience to run this race in the nation's capitol. As the sun was peaking up behind the U.S. Capitol Building and casting its golden glow on the Washington Monument, it was the perfect time for the National Anthem. I'm often emotional before/during/after races, but I was particularly choked up to be part of it. 

An amazing sunrise over the US Capitol Building

I somehow missed in pre-race communications that this was also the US Women's 10-mile championship as well. The race field was abuzz as the elite women started the race and we all began moving forward slowly waiting for our wave to start.
The Elite Women beginning the US Track and Field 10-mile Championship
I started strong and headed out onto the course. It was a really crowded course, and it took a while for everyone to jockey through and settle into position. While it was busy, it didn't feel like there were too many people. The course headed onto Memorial Bridge toward Arlington, and I got to take in the gorgeous view we'd seen the day before at the Cemetery.

All smiles at the start
The race course was extremely energetic. There were thousands of spectators cheering for runners with signs and cow bells. It never felt boring or lonely. I found myself smiling the entire time. Around the five mile mark there was a thick crowd of spectators because it was relatively near the start/finish. My husband ended up stuck on the right side (I am strictly a left side runner), but he managed to find me and get some great photos around the halfway point.

Excited when I spotted my husband across the street

I didn't realize until later my husband had followed me and took more photos.
While many of the cherry blossom trees had not popped, the course was still beautiful. As in many races the last 3-4 miles were the toughest, and there were fewer spectators on the back end. I am, however, extremely grateful for the cute little guy who set up a deejay station around mile 8 and was rocking some fun. for the runners.

Check out this rock star that carried a flag. Awesome.
I picked up the pace in the last mile. I loved that there were signs indicating the 1200, 800 and 400 meter marks. I always have a hard time judging when I should really turn it on at the end, and that was so helpful. I saw my husband and our friends at the finish and it helped me sprint to the end.

So excited when I saw my cheering section!

Finishing strong.
I loved this race. I beat my goal time, and I felt fantastic. The only real criticism I have is that there were not water/Gatorade stations on both sides of the course. With the extraordinary number of people running it became very difficult to get from one side to the other. Most of the water stations were on the right, and the one time I made my way to the right it was on the left. I had to dodge my way back to the other side. Otherwise I loved it.

Rocking my medal after the race
After the race I grabbed my medal and we walked to Clyde's in Chinatown for brunch. I was once again struck by another vibrant neighborhood with lots of restaurants, shops and things to do. After brunch (and more importantly a bloody mary) we headed back to the hotel for a nap and then later dinner with more friends at their house.

This is what runners do - stretch IT bands in elevators.
This weekend getaway was exactly what we needed after a stressful few months. I loved exploring so many diverse and exciting neighborhoods. We got to spend time with our fabulous friends, and I got to run a race that was fun, well organized and everything my bucket list thought it would be. We also had gorgeous, sunny weather for the entire trip. Now if spring had just followed us back here to Michigan...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Washington, DC keeps bringing me back. A great city will captivate you like that.

In my very first post on this blog I talked about my experience of going to Washington, DC for the first time at the age of 16 and falling in love with cities. I will never forget riding up one of those long escalators and starring up at the buildings. It was a sweltering July day, and despite that I loved every single minute of being there. I loved the metro; I loved the density; I loved being able to walk everywhere; I loved street vendors; I loved the cultural destinations, and I loved the green space weaved in between the buildings and the concrete.  

When you grow up in a town of 400 people, nobody expects you to feel like you're a city girl at heart. But even from the time I was quite young I wanted to be someplace busier. I have a busy personality by nature, and the sleepiness of a small West Virginia town just wasn't going to do it for me. I needed something faster; something louder; something bigger - both in sheer size and ambition.

Lansing, Michigan certainly isn't the world's biggest metropolis. I've lived places that are bigger, and who knows - maybe someday I will again. But getting to advocate for communities gets to me - it drives me and communities are part of who I am.  I try to let go of work when I'm not in the office, and yet it creeps into my psyche at the strangest moments - while driving through a roundabout, seeing a bike lane, seeing new development projects in a downtown and trying a new chic restaurant. I'm drawn to communities, and it's not just who I do but rather who I am.

Being a runner and choosing to run in new cities is just icing on the cake. I've discovered things while running that I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. I've discovered new restaurants to try and new shops in which to browse. I've gotten to have cities all to myself early in the morning while I'm running and taking it all in.  Running in new cities has become more than a passion - it's become part what I need to do. We craft vacations and trips around races. If we take a trip without me doing a race, I feel like it's missing something.

I've visited Washington, DC dozens of times in my life, yet I have never been there during the peak Cherry Blossom bloom. I can't wait to run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler this weekend with thousands of other runners. Despite the many visits to DC in the 18 years since my first trip,it captivates me each time. That's what a great city does.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Running for Irondogs

It's no secret that I love animals. I have two dogs and a cat, and I can't see a cat or dog without stopping to pet it. I can't imagine my life without animals. Nothing else can love so unconditionally, and they make our life so much fuller.

I was looking for my first 5k of the year, and I ran across the Irondog 5k in East Lansing. The Irondog fund was created to support surgeries for animals at Michigan State's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Not only do I love animals, but last month we had to take our 15-year-old cat Daisy to MSU's emergency vet hospital when she was disoriented and not moving well. We had excellent care although we did end up having to put her down as she deteriorated quickly. It was such a sad and shocking experience, but I knew she was in good hands at MSU. I wanted to run this race and donate to the Irondog cause for all of those animals who give such joy to their humans.
My Daisy - best pet ever.
I really enjoyed everything about this race. First off the shirt is adorable - a red tech shirt that says "Irondog" on the front. This is one I'll definitely wear again. When we got to East Lansing before the race to pick up my packet there were dogs everywhere. Again, I can't resist the urge to pet animals, and I got my petting fix for sure. While picking up my packet I noticed one of the volunteers was the woman who was working the front desk the night we brought Daisy in to MSU. I thanked her and found myself choking up. I was once again grateful for her excellent care and the compassion of the ER veterinarian who got to deal with me being a hot mess as we were putting Daisy down.

The race ran through MSU's campus along the river. It was a great course, and there were tons of volunteers everywhere. Everything was well marked and it was a really fun race. There were over 700 participants, and even though the course was narrow at times it was never too crowded. After the race I grabbed a bottle of water and loved that there were bowls of water there for all of the pups who were running and walking.

At the start
Check out this handsome guy!
Focus at the finish
Water break for pups - I love it.
I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the race, and I always love running on Michigan State's beautiful campus. I would encourage my pet loving friends to do this race each year and/or to contribute to Irondog.  It's an excellent cause!