One Run For Boston Relay Recap

About a week and a half ago I took part in a cross-country relay (the longest continuous running relay in the world!) called the One Run for Boston. The effort was organized by three Brits who, like most of us, were completely horrified by the bombings in Boston and decided to take action and raise money in a country-wide collaborative effort. The relay started in Los Angeles almost three weeks ago, and a baton (named Miles) is slowly making its way to Boston, carried with the sweaty hands of runners from across the States (I think Miles is currently braving the Ohio humidity).

Jamie, one of the Brits, contacted me via the blog and asked if I would be interested in running a stage in New Mexico. I enthusiastically signed up despite some initial apprehensions.  I convinced Aaron and my dad to sign up for the other stages surrounding mine in the rural (and wow, was it rural) Northeastern part of New Mexico.

IMG_0888The One Run for Boston Mobile

Considering the heat and the location, the New Mexico stages were difficult to fill even though places like Death Valley and shady Indianapolis neighborhoods filled pretty fast. One night I was browsing the facebook group,  and I noticed a post from a Mainer stating that if someone could help transport him to rural New Mexico, he’d buy a plane ticket to Albuquerque and run 45 relay miles for the cause. After doing a little bit of facebook stalking, I decided that Mainer (his actual name is Ty) was a legitimate running person (no apparent signs of an ax murderer), so I volunteered to drive him from Albuquerque to our stages. (I should note that I probably wouldn’t have volunteered to pick up a complete stranger had Aaron not been driving up with us.  I am far more trusting of distance runners than any other group of people, but I also have a personal goal of living a kidnap free life).

After some back and forth, Will, a runner from Fort Collins, CO was actually more available than we were to pick Ty up from the airport, so Aaron and I met them for lunch once Ty landed in Albuquerque.   They drove up to Las Vegas, NM after lunch, and Aaron and I followed after work.  My dad drove up separately, and camped out in Mills Canyon so he could be close to his start.

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Will’s 15 mile stage was scheduled to start at 3:00 am, and we were planning on supporting him through his later miles and then continue to support my dad who would take the baton from Will.  When we went to bed at 9:30 pm the relay was right about on schedule, so we figured our 4:00 am departure time from Las Vegas into the land of Middle of Nowhere (about an hour and a half drive) was pretty solid.  But I woke up at 3 am to a text message Ty had sent at 1:00 am letting us know that the night runners had sped through and Will was starting over an hour ahead of schedule. Oops.

We met Ty at 3:45 am in the hotel lobby, and started down the long road to Mills, NM where my dad was taking over Baton duties from Will.

IMG_0848Up to see the sunrise!

After a slightly nerve-wreaking drive that included possibly 20 various deer/antelope run-ins, we made it to the transfer point where Danny and Kate, aka the evil British masterminds behind the relay, were waiting with my dad. We spotted a blinking light in the background, and since there was nothing else on this road at 5:15 am, we knew it was Will, triumphantly completing his bout with Miles.

In a very non-ceremonial move, Will, quite tired from his 15 mile stretch, handed the baton to my dad who wasted no time in starting down the road.  Aaron joined him about 8 miles in.

IMG_0851Aaron and my dad running into Roy, NM

Throughout the day, Kate, Danny, Will, my dad, Ty, Aaron and I switched off running, supporting (aka stopping every couple of miles to provide water/food/loud music, and general encouragement to the current runner), peeing in compromising situations, and in general keeping Miles moving through New Mexico at a respectable pace.

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IMG_0893Supporting Mainer Ty

We dealt with 100 degree temperatures, snakes (both dead and alive), tarantulas, cows, horses, llamas, curious cowboys in pick-up trucks, actually just curious people in general, and some itty bitty towns called Roy (where nothing was open), Solano (home of a post office), and Mosquero (with the best building murals around).

We also got to explore cultural differences.  The Southwest is different from Maine (we talked a lot about the lack of rain and lack of trees and general vegetation).  We explained to the Brits what a “baby mama” is, and the difference between dry heat and humidity.  They explained to us what an “Essex Girl” is (sounds like the British version of Jersey Shore), and told us all about bog snorkeling…Danny is the world record holder!

IMG_0886Mosquero, NM.  Check out those murals!

IMG_0901The road was actually melting!

I will be the first to say that I’m not a very “Kumbaya” type of person in general, but participating in this event made me come pretty close.  It was amazing to meet Kate and Danny who are literally living out of a rental car for a month in an effort to support runners without overhead costs, Will who donated frequent flier miles so runners could travel and took a week off of work to run empty stages and provide support, Ty who put his general safety in our hands so he could run stages, and the amount of cheers and support we got from our fellow relayers.

During our stages, we really took a “no runner left behind” mentality, and I was happy to see that no egos got in the way.  Our goal was to get that baton across New Mexico, and we took that to heart instead of worrying about pace times or total mileage or completing stages on our own.  This wasn’t about us and our running talents.  It was about being part of a movement to support the running community and give back to the people of Boston who support us during the marathon.

IMG_0890Aaron and our new friend Ty

And, despite those initial apprehensions, it turned out to be quiet peaceful running along the open road.  We were even surprised with some amazing views that we might have never know about if we didn’t make the trip.

IMG_0894This much looks better in real life

IMG_0884I was bored and playing with the iPhone camera

IMG_0865So artistic!

I was truthfully sad to hand Miles over at the end of my run.  Those 10 miles were the longest I’ve run since Boston, and the quietness of the rural New Mexico morning gave me the opportunity to reflect on life and discover a renewed gratefulness for my ability to run and take part in such a widespread movement.

I know each group of people will claim that theirs is the coolest.  I’m sure Trekkies, photographers, bird watchers, etc. all find inspiration and companionship within their communities.  But in my biased opinion, an event like this really shows how strong of a kinship runners have not only with each other, but also with the people who support us and cheer us on, and I am honored to have been a small part of it.

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I shared more (better) pictures of the New Mexico stages on my facebook page here.

It is also my understanding that a live feed will be airing this weekend when the Baton hits the last stage from Wellesley to the Boylston St. Finish Line (which has something like 1000 runners!) on the One Run website.

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Staying Active with Arthritis

A few weeks ago, Tali asked if she could please take over the blog to talk about  something very personal to her and something I thought was incredibly inspiring and interesting.

Tali is in her 20’s, and she has arthritis, BUT that hasn’t deterred her from staying active which is AWESOME. I absolutely love stories about people who don’t let medical issues get in the way of fitness.  Her guest post is below, but also make sure to check out her blog, Wee Picket Fences (her last name is Wee!).  

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Bike Ride

Tips to Staying Active with Arthritis

The human body is designed for physical activity and has evolved to perform impressive feats such as long distance running.  Getting regular exercise improves fitness, sleep, body weight, energy level, brain function, immune systems, moods and overall health to prevent disease.  However, approximately 21 million adults in the U.S. have limited activity levels due to the restrictions of their arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis causes inflammation, fatigue, stiffness, pain and joint damage and does not have a cure.  These symptoms often flare with physical activity but worsen without it.  Exercise is a catch 22 for those living with arthritis.

Experiencing Arthritis:

Of the 50 million Americans living with arthritis, few cases are alike (CDCP). Some arthritis patients have just one joint affected with painful symptoms where others might suffer throughout their entire bodies.  We’ve all seen the commercials for Enbrel or Humira where patients can’t open a jar or comfortably travel up and down stairs prior to being medicated.  Medication to suppress the immune system decreases inflammation which typically relieves the pain, allowing patients to live fairly normal lives.

I’m one of the 9 percent of U.S. adults who are physically limited by arthritis.  By the time I found a doctor who could properly diagnose and treat my disease, she was shocked to find that I’d maintained a fairly healthy body weight and attitude without medication.  The doctor mentioned most patients suffering from severe cases become ‘couch potatoes’ after years of untreated symptoms.

Think about a time when you worked out so hard that you awoke the next day barely able to move.  The pain is a nice reminder that you’re building muscles, and it’s sometimes laughable when trying to accomplish daily activities.  Maybe you need a day to rest your fatigued muscles, or perhaps you just hit the gym and work through that sensitivity.  Living with my arthritis is similar to waking up with a sore body.  Only I have to monitor carefully if exercising through the discomfort will be pushing my body into a state of inflammation and increased pain, or if it’ll loosen my joints and alleviate the stiffness.

Pacing Exercise:

Originally, arthritic patients were instructed to lay low and not add pressure to their joints.  Now, experts suggest getting consistent, low-impact, aerobic exercise.  When my entire body feels too heavy, stiff and throbbing to get up and exercise, I try to focus on small goals.  My theory is some activity is better than none.

My Manageable Exercise Goals Are:

  • Just 15 minutes of stretching.
  • Take the dog for a brief, casual walk.
  • Make it to the gym for 20 minutes of Elliptical exercise.
  • Swim laps for 30 minutes.
  • Complete an at-home yoga video.
  • Attend a hot yoga class.
  • Attempt a P90 video and complete only what’s reasonable.

I simply try to do what I can that day without pushing it.  The trick is to not take it too far on the good days.  When I feel amped to get a quality workout in, I have to tone it down and do what I know my body is prepared to handle.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to workout at all for the next three days.  This took many years to master.  Exercise as an arthritic person can be a serious test of self-control.  It’s important to monitor how my body responds, not just how energetic and competitive I feel.  Some days I’m internally motivated but my body refuses.  Those become my rest days.

Poster Style Biking

Staying Motivated:

Arthritic exercisers are like anyone else trying to stay motived to keep fit, despite their slow ramp-up period.  It’s helpful to have a schedule of how many days of the week should include exercise.  Try to block the time off in the calendar to be sure not to skip exercising.  Purchase a gym membership to feel slightly more obligated to attend.  Get involved in activities that feel refreshing such as walking, yoga, bicycling, dancing, gardening and Pilates or Tai-Chi.  Pair up with a friend to make mellow activates more enjoyable.  When energy is lacking, try setting a minimum time for an activity; just a 20 minute bike ride is mentally manageable on fatigued days.  Those with arthritis often suffer from fatigue.  Inactivity actually lends to further fatigue.  Getting out in the fresh air on a short walk can be enough to shift energy toward a healthier lifestyle.

What I’ve found from personal experience is the slow, steady increase of activity is the ticket to health.  With arthritis, there is no way to quickly jump back into exercise, we have to work ourselves back in.  It sounds lame in the beginning; try a 10 minute walk every day coupled with a few stretches.  This leads to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and then the eventual transition to solid a 45 minutes of aerobic exercise.  Truthfully, I go through weeks of feeling discouraged, uncomfortable and lazy.  But I can get inspired by the ultimate challenge of running.

For years, running was my goal.  That goal for an arthritic person can take months to work up to.  I used to be an athlete and know there is nothing quite like running with determination, winning and feeling exhausted from the triumph.  I’ve worked my way back up to running a couple of times over the years.  Between balancing medication, diet, weight and the slow fitness acceleration, running is a truly challenging goal to keep up with.

Takeaway:

Remember that exercise is healing for people living with arthritis.  Monitor your pace and take it slow.  Set weekly goals for the amount and type of exercises you’ll attempt.  Pay attention to your body’s resistance and think about how it’ll feel tomorrow.  Stay hopeful that tomorrow is one workout closer to running, jumping or whatever fitness goal you may hold.

Bio: Tali Wee currently blogs about life in the northwest and handles the community outreach for Zillow.  She owns Wee Picket Fences where she writes about being a foodie, new homeowner, bargain hunter and activity enthusiast.  Tali enjoys family, food, travel, writing and spending time on projects around the house.

Yay! Something For Me to Talk About!

(FIRST: This has been written over the course of 3 weeks, so there will be parts that are a bit outdated.  So sorry).

If the internet was an accurate representation of activity, then it appears that I have almost completely ceased to exist over the last month and a half. Luckily, there are pictures to prove that I haven’t been completely void of activity.

We have gone kayaking.

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We liked kayaking so much, we bought our own kayaks.

We have run along Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX (which is really an amazing running trail).

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We quacked on a Duck Tour of Austin, Tx.

We went hiking.

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We saw some ancient ruins.

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And I got called up to Jury Duty.

(We also saw MUMFORD, but I respect them enough to give them their own post…one of these days…).

But this is a running blog, and I haven’t been doing very much running which creates a bit of an existential crisis for this little piece of the internet.

Ever since I started training for my first half marathon two years ago, there hasn’t been a time where I wasn’t signed up for a race or training for something, so my life as I have come to know it has felt pretty off for the last month and a half.

The Garmin has been left uncharged, sitting dead now for probably 4 weeks on my dresser (UPDATE: The Garmin has been recharged).  Runs have been sporadic and short, and untimed.  And the laundry situation.  I never realized how much less laundry I have when I’m not running all the time.  And the hamper smells much better for it.

After the Boston Marathon, my main goal has been to completely heal and get myself back to those pre-marathon days where nothing ever hurt. As a result, I’ve run once, maybe twice a week  (last week 3 times!) since Mid-April. It has been interesting.  I haven’t run so little in more than two years, and I’ve realized how much I rely on running for so many aspects of life.  I’ve gained weight (thank you, marathon training for making my body so dang efficient with the whole fuel storage thing), I’ve felt sluggish, and I really think that my overall disposition isn’t as happy as it was.

But my amount of free time has grown exponentially! (and sleeping in on Saturday is pretty cool).

But, even stranger was not having a single race to look forward to.  Despite our best wishing and hoping efforts (and maybe some attempts at “eliminating” other lottery pool members…), neither Aaron or I were drawn for the New York City Marathon (curses upon all of you lucky people who stole our spots), so that possibility has been thrown out the window.

So, we went in a different direction and signed up for The Imogene Pass Run.  This race is a 17.1 mile run starting in Ouray, Colorado that ascends up a 13,000+ mountain and goes almost all the way back down to end in Telluride.

This race has really become popular in recent years.  Registration opened at 6:00 am on June 1st and was full less than 2.5 hours later (I think they accept 1500 participants).  While I’m definitely excited to be running in what looks to be a beautiful and challenging race, I’m scared.  I hate hills (I don’t know if I’ve emphasized that enough on this blog during my dramatic laments over Heartbreak Hill!), and the whole purpose of this race is to get up a really big one.

We haven’t quite started our training yet (Coach Aaron is making me a bit nervous with his timeline…), so I don’t know what it will look like exactly.  There will be some long runs to get our endurance back up to the 17 mile range.  There will be hill repeats because there will be lots and lots of uphill.  We will hopefully get up to Colorado a few times this summer to train at elevation (and put our kayaks to use!).  And Aaron said there will be “step-mill” sessions which makes me sad because I typically poke jokes at those people and their inability to walk up stairs without leaning all the way over onto the handle bars.

Suddenly, this is making my 10 baton-carrying miles through the middle of nowhere New Mexico on Saturday look easy.  Luckily, so much has happened since I last discussed the One Run for Boston relay.  We’ll now have a support crew, I’m picking up someone from Maine at the airport and driving him up with us so he can contribute FORTY FIVE miles to the relay, and our measly 90+ forecast is looking mighty cool compared the 114 that some runners faced in the  Death Valley desert of California. Currently, the baton is somewhere near the Arizona/ New Mexico border, so our time is coming up soon! (I am hoping to post more about this on Friday, but considering my recent history, who knows!).

So, that is where we currently stand both in non-internet life and running. As you can see, you haven’t missed much!

So, now please tell me (because my blog reading has matched my blog writing), what has been your favorite life (or running) experience in the last month and a half?