Friday, December 16, 2011

Oh hello, blog!

Without making excuses for myself, I know I should be updating this more frequently.  Life, however, sometimes gets in the way, and the past two weeks have just been jam-packed with running, working, working some more, running a little bit more, and a decent amount of socializing.  Hooray!  Life.  If you find yourself jonesing for that Caroline-fix though, you can always follow me on twitter: @cc_bridges.  How's that for a shameless plug?

So I haven't actually been running as much as I would like.  Without grossing anyone out too much, I have been having some gnarly intestinal/digestion issues, and they are seriously detracting from my desire to pound out the miles.  I am struggling with what to eat that won't give me crazy stomach cramps, especially what to eat before I go for a run.  For my mid-week runs, which aren't that long and typically in the morning, I seem to be okay with water and an energy gel right before I head out.  The difficulties lie with the long runs, for which I need more energy (calories...).  When and what should I eat to be properly fueled without having to run to a bathroom after 40 minutes?  This weekend should be an interesting test: I am supposed to run 8 miles, my longest run yet in this training regime.  I didn't think I could run six miles straight a few weeks ago, but I somehow did.  I don't know if I'll get eight miles straight, but we'll see what happens.  I've read a bit about visualization and the idea that if you picture your run and picture yourself killing it, it will go well.  So I am trying to visualize eight miles, picturing pushing past that six-mile limit I have so far reached.  Again, we'll see how it all ends up.

What defines a "runner?"  Is it your speed, the distance you can run, your body fat percentage?  Or is it something more fundamental than that, a less quantifiable knowledge or belief in this certain activity?  Possibly it is different for everyone and so not fairly definable.  I have always sort of considered myself a runner, even when I was sick or in the ensuing years when I wasn't running regularly.  It seems to be a key factor in my happiness, in my general acceptance of the daily trials that naturally arise in our lives.  Yesterday, I went in to work having slept over nine hours and eaten a healthy, satisfying breakfast.  Yet, something was noticeably off, and one of my coworkers asked if I was okay.  I thought about it and realized that, actually, I felt like a slug, sort of merely pushing through the air, going through the motions.  I wasn't fully present.  And I realized that it was most likely because I hadn't run earlier in the morning.  My body hadn't been jump-started into life with a run in sub-freezing temperatures, greeted by the sunrise.  My endorphins remained dormant and my energy levels just weren't what they normally are.

Even this morning, I struggled to push myself out the door knowing how warm my apartment was.  I actually cut my run short by about half a mile because I had reached my coffee shop and was pretty cold.  But I still chugged out those four miles in 20-degrees and unlimited early-morning sunshine, and I feel so different this morning, so much more alert and functional.  So, I guess that's what makes me a runner: on the days I don't run, I just don't feel like myself.  In fact, I feel terrible.  I may not be the most hardcore (just look at my diet...), but my heart is fully in it.  If you define yourself as a runner, why and how?  I'd like to know!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy weekend to all!  Thinking less, running more...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Putting the miles between myself and I

I am a survivor.  I am a force to be reckoned with.  I have been broken in so many different places and every one of them has healed stronger than before.  I understand what it means to be truly happy, and I will do whatever it takes to share that understanding with others.  I also understand that those moments of happiness are the exception rather than the rule and must be held onto as gifts distributed sparingly.  I am a runner.  I have spent the past five years not running away but running towards a future full of promise.  I have run so many miles towards this life I now live.

Five years ago today, I was ushered into a cab by two incredulous doctors at the Boston University health center with the directive to go straight to the ER.  They had never before come across a student with such low blood counts.  "What do you mean, you 'walked here'?"  Apparently, I should have passed out weeks earlier.  Thus began my relationship with medical professionals wherein they do a poor job covering their shock at the crazy, awesome anomaly that is my body and my dogged persistence at living.  The second such exchange came a few hours later when an hematologist examined me and exclaimed, "Even your tongue is pale!"  Who knew.  Two days later, on December 8, a wizened and certainly well-meaning older oncologist asked me if I would rather wait for my mother before he told me what was wrong with me.  Thus began my continued frustration with medical professionals and their (mostly) unwittingly treating me like a child.  Anyway, he told me I had leukemia.  So much, then, for life.

Except that absolutely not: I was going to take this cancer thing and deal with it using whatever means necessary.  I had to get back to school; I had so many things to do.  As cliche as it really is, giving up was never an option.  That was five years ago.  Technically, I have been cancer-free for most of those five years.  The chemo worked quickly and thoroughly on my leukemia, though there have been latent side-effects and residual issues as a result of the powerful drugs.  So, still dealing with that nonsense.  At this point though, it is just one more thing; my weekly and monthly doctor's visits are just something I have to do on Tuesdays.  Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind if I am honest and looking straight at it, I am still sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to hear that this time it actually is cancerous.  But there is absolutely no point in thinking or living that way.  That thought-box is locked and under a pile of essays I wrote in college about Thomas Hardy.  Not something I frequently examine.  (Though I do love Hardy.)

I went for a run today, my first since last Wednesday.  (It's been snowing and super-cold in Denver and I haven't quite psyched myself up to run in those conditions.  Yet.)  But today I ran, and I ran six awesome miles.  It was 15 degrees when I headed out my door, and Denver being the strange weather-freak it is, I was over-heated in about 20 minutes.  Seriously, wearing a Nike cold-gear shirt and a fleece sweater, I was so warm.  I had to take off my gloves.  Anyway, the point of All of this, including my extended build-up, is that I cannot believe the path my life has taken since its abrupt detour five years ago.  I am a barista in Denver, training for a marathon, living with a craigslist-found roommate who has turned out to be a really awesome person and a pretty positive influence in my life here.  I smile Every Time I see the mountains.  Yesterday, walking to work at sunrise, they were snow-capped and glowing salmon-colored.  They remind me that there are things in this world larger and stronger than myself.  I am literally surrounded by mountains in my life and while they are imposing, they are beautiful.  You have to appreciate the beauty while respecting their power.

I ran six miles today like it was nothing.  Myself five years ago couldn't have done that.  Myself five years ago was a naive, young and totally uncertain version of this person I have grown into.  It has taken me So Long to get to this point, and not just chronologically speaking.  The doctors and nurses whose names I'll never remember; the liters of blood drawn and infused; the emotional blocks to healing I had to find a way around and over and through.  The friends who believed in me when I really didn't have any confidence in my own ability to succeed.  Finally, I have reached a point where I feel truly healthy.  Finally, I have reached a place where I am giddy every time I look around, whether in my apartment, in the city or in the mountains.  This life is not without its challenges; cancer is still a large part of my life, but it is so different, so much better.

I have come so far and yet this is all only just beginning.  I cannot wait to see what the new year brings.  In a sense, I am five years old and the whole wide world is open and full of wonder.  Have you ever watched a five year-old?  Their expressions are suffused with excitement and awe at Everything.  Why can't we be like that now?  Why can't we be 25 or 45 or 75 and wondering at the beauty of the world every single day?  I'm pretty sure we can.  So on this, the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and the day I've run six miles and hung out with amazing people and baked a squash and listened to great jazz, I can only entreat you to look around and smile at what you see.  Five years later, and I can do nothing but smile at where I am and everything I have survived.

Thanks for bearing with me yet again.  Cheers and happy Tuesday...

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Bacon!  Surprisingly or not, turkey bacon just isn't as good as regular bacon.  Oh well; I have both in my fridge.  Things could be worse.  November 24 and I am sitting on my veranda in a tank top.  Listening to classical music and eating barbecue chicken pizza, I can't help but marvel at where I am and how I got here.  Most importantly, I am alive.  This time of year, late November/early December, is typically a strange and introspective time for me.  Five years ago at this time, I was pretty much dying, and then two weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer.  I was a sophomore in college, and I was so deluded.  Depressed and sick, I honestly thought I was living the good life because I was working 40 hours a week and going to school.  Independent!  It still bothers me a little when I consider just how naive I was.

People grow and change over the course of five years; it is normal.  I just can't believe how much my life has changed since I was 20.  Honestly, how much my life has changed over the past year.  It is the strangest thing, too: I have a public record of my feelings and thoughts each year for the past five years.  I kept a cancer-blog pretty much from my date of diagnosis until earlier this year, and my posts from around Thanksgiving are eerie to reread.  Last year, my writings reflect a serious discontent with my life.  I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing; I was still so lost and so uncertain about everything.  Yet, somehow I powered through that depression and even more strangely, somehow I ended up in Denver, Colorado.  One year ago, I had no idea I would be here right now, sitting outside wearing a tank top on Thanksgiving, watching people come home from a day skiing or snowboarding in the mountains.  Literally: A lady just walked into my apartment building carrying her snowboard and a six pack of Fat Tire.  I love Colorado.

True gratitude: this moment, right now.  I am beyond thankful for this, for where my life has magically delivered me.  Certainly, everything is still difficult; I'm still not working in a job I want to be, and it would be nice to be with my family today.  But there are glimpses!  Last night, I photographed my first concert in Denver for HeyReverb, the Denver Post's music website.  I wasn't paid for it, but shoot, I am published and on the contributor's list for a Denver Post affiliate!  My heart was a bit broken a week ago, but even since then, I can feel it healing, and I am grateful for what will one day be a solid friendship.  Grateful to my family who, even if they didn't quite believe I'd be able to make it out here on my own working as a barista, have never stopped supporting me.  I have lived here nearly seven months, and I am not going anywhere.  Five years after my cancer diagnosis, I can say honestly and with no delusions that I am Healthy, capital "H."  The cancer nonsense still isn't over; in fact, it's going to be a part of my life for a few more years than I expected (thanks, FaceTumor!).  But it is no longer holding me back health-wise.  I actually did Two pull-ups yesterday in addition to some halfhearted intervals.  Thankfully, today is a rest day.

A strange thought occurred to me the other night as I was lying in bed, contemplating my next steps and whether or not anyone will ever actually want to date me...  I realized that this is life: this is what it feels like to grow up and have experiences that normal people have, unrelated to cancer and fast-forwarded maturity.  Having a cold and then it going completely away after a week; dating someone then it not working out; struggling to figure out how to pay all my bills without completely giving up delicious cheese.  I hope I never grow up, but I am starting to feel more "adult," and I am okay with that.  I have entered into the second half of my twenties, and I am pretty sure they are going to be a lot better than the first half.  I am grateful and amazed to be alive to see and experience everything that comes my way.  I am probably still pretty naive.  There are a lot of things I know nothing about and many different types of pain I have yet to work through.  But just because I look young (am young...) doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two about life, and it certainly doesn't mean I don't have a different perspective and my own survival techniques.  I am grateful for that perspective.  I am grateful for what the past five years have brought me, where they have led me to, where my life continues to go.  In particular, the people who have come into my life and brought me more joy than I could have imagined.  Friends are the best thing.  Laughing, smiling, enjoying This Moment, Right Now.  Thank you all for spending some time reading this, if you have.  Thank you for humoring my ramblings.  I hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving, or finding something to enjoy about your Thanksgiving, even if it's only that tomorrow, it will be finished.  Thank you, thank you thank you!!  Fill your hearts with gratitude for what you've been given today.  Mine is practically bursting with everything I've been given, filled with the knowledge that life is difficult and will always be in some way or another, but I am Alive to greet it all and continue to grow and most of all, continue to love.

Love from me, today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"You look like a runner."

Hubba, wha??  Yet so said my nurse this morning as she was setting up the IV in my left arm-crook, prepping me for the maintenance drugs I receive once a month to keep the cancer-beasties at bay.  She had asked me if I was an athlete, and when I replied, "Yes, I run," she nodded knowingly and told me I look like a runner.  I am taking this as a tremendous compliment, especially the 'athlete' part.  I live in Denver.  There are Real athletes out here.  I don't consider it fair to count myself among their ranks.  Yes, I am a tiny bit more than a recreational runner, but I am certainly no "athlete."  Apparently, though, I look the part, and I am starting to feel the part. 

Yesterday, with only a small amount of trepidation, I went for a run in the morning.  I ran all four of the miles that my training plan called for.  That makes twice in three days I've run over four miles, the first time I've done that since August.  After August's Colorado Relay, I burned out pretty hard.  I was dealing with the facetumor and a tremendous amount of stress at work and a vague but persistent Sickness.  Running regularly was not high on my to-do list, although I still biked everywhere and walked quite a lot.  I managed to maintain something of a level of fitness so that when I finally started feeling Amazing about a month ago, that whole running thing wasn't such an epic battle to begin again.

So I look like a runner for the first time maybe ever.  Surely that's a good first step on the road to being a marathoner, rocking Boston in less than five months.  As long as you Look the part, right?  But in truth, I can't believe how strong I feel.  I've said this before and I will probably say it many more times, but it never ceases to amaze me the things we can do, particularly in terms of physical feats.  I was sick for so long - for five long years, I have struggled with feeling unwell.  Now, here I am, almost exactly five years after my diagnosis with acute leukemia, training for a marathon, biking everywhere, eating so healthily, and feeling like I can take over the world.  And apparently, looking like a runner.  Five years.  But that's a post for another day (probably Thursday, actually).

I really hope everyone is having a Spectacular week.  Do you have your turkey thawed out yet?  Did you find something to look forward to today?  Tomorrow?  I'm looking forward to a concert I'll be photographing tomorrow night.  Keep on keeping on, and happy Thanksgivings a wee bit early.  Peace.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This is only the beginning

Yesterday I had the run I had hoped for on Friday.  4.2 miles after work on a brisk November afternoon with clouds scudding across the sky and the wind cutting over the mountains but not into my new cold-weather running shirt.  My breathing was easy and my legs weren't hurting at all.  My muscles were a tad sore later in the afternoon, but after a dinner of sockeye salmon and roasted vegetables, I felt good to go all over again.  Today was my so-called rest day, which involved work in the morning and football and beer in the afternoon.  I'd say it was a successful rest day, although I certainly could have eaten better.  Soon enough, I'll be heading to bed for hopefully some good sleeps.

Tomorrow, the week starts all over again.  Here is my question to myself: will I be able to get out of bed and run again in the morning?  The only way to get better is to keep trying, keep pushing myself.  Historically, though, I have had a hard time pushing myself into and through difficult situations.  No, really!  With few exceptions, notably ones involving poetry analyses and photo opportunities, I have tended towards the easy road.  Even with the Chicago Marathon, I could have trained harder, tried harder and maybe finished in less pain.  I want this so badly, but it is going to be So Hard.  Everything is important - staying healthy; stretching properly; the amount of sleep I get; properly fueling myself; maintaining a level of confidence in myself; believing this is possible.

Believe in the possibility that this will all work out the way it is supposed to...  I can't afford to doubt myself, but there are many weeks ahead and many early mornings and long slogs through possibly not-so-sunny afternoons.  I am full of uncertainty and candied pecans (thanks to my roommate...) and life may still amaze me every day but it isn't great right now.  Tomorrow brings with it so much potential.  Basically, this post is just to throw it all out there that I am so terribly human, and this is one hell of a difficult task I've given myself.  But it will all be worth it, in the end, if I can make it happen.

Best of luck with your tomorrows.  Hopefully you can find something to look forward to...  I work at a coffee shop and like to ask my customers while they're waiting for me to finish their delicious beverage: What are you looking forward to today?  Most people don't consider that question on their own; I truly like to know and to get people thinking about something awesome in their lives.  Everyone has something awesome to look forward to, even if it's only sitting for 10 minutes with a chai and some good music.  So.  Figure out what you've got to look forward to tomorrow or today or whenever.  Good luck.  We all need it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The thing about pain

There are so many different types of it.  A friend of mine has been in an absurd amount of pain this week because her wisdom teeth are giving her too much grief.  She is on some heavy duty painkillers that are causing their own difficulties, particularly the side effects.  Sadly, there isn't much she can do about it until she has the teeth pulled, in two weeks.  Yesterday, I went for a run for the first time in 13 days, and I felt great.  I ran 3.5 miles at a moderate pace, and I was amazed that my body could do such a thing after so valiantly battling the Sickness.  Yet today when I tried to run, there was the pain; there, the fatigue.  And later today, I realized my legs were super sore because I had asked them to pick right up where we left off two weeks ago.  My body may be mostly recovered from the cold, but I can't ignore that I was pretty much inactive for a decent period of time.  So much for easing back into it.

Physical pain: we feel it, acknowledge it, then do what we can to push past it.  We take the Advils and Tylenols and whatever else to reduce the inflammation and the discomfort.  We recognize that our bodies are hurting from lack of use, but we stretch it out and walk it off.  We run again tomorrow.  That stuff is easy.  There are other types of pain, less obvious, more sinister for their sneakiness.  The pain of loss; the pain of heartbreak.  I've been dealing with that pain today.  I thought I could run it away, or run away from it, but 20 minutes into my run this morning, the fact that I'm "out of shape," and hardly slept last night caught up with me.  My legs were hurting, but that discomfort did nothing to take away the numb tightness in my chest that had nothing to do with my heart rate.  What do you do with that pain?  Drugs don't do a thing for it, really.  Running may abate it for 20 or 40 or 70 minutes, but then it comes slouching back in, snuggling up where that warm fuzzy feeling used to live.

I have heard that Time helps.  Eventually, feeling returns and the little pieces of yourself that you'd given away gradually heal over.  In high school, I started running as a means of avoiding my personal demons.  Those specific demons are long gone.  I run now for myself and for my health, and if I can, I run to inspire and do something for others.  Right now, it would be so easy and so much more comfortable to crawl in bed and stay there, nursing these stupid emotional wounds, filling the tiny holes in my heart with hot chocolate and refined carbohydrates.  But that would be counterproductive and beneficial to nobody, least of all First Descents and the people I have supporting my running endeavors.

The thing about pain is that you can only give in to it so much before you have to take a step back, reassess the situation, and figure out what else you can do.  If it's physical pain that you know won't go away for a while, you grin (if you can) and bear it.  You still have a life to live.  If the pain is much deeper than that and emanates from somewhere dark and private inside you, you still have a life to live.  I still have this crazy life to live and a race to run and the more I train, the stronger I become, in general.

Last night, still in shock over the sadness wrench that had just been thrown in my previously extraordinarily happy life, I asked a very good friend what on earth I am supposed to do now.  She, in her fantastic, straightforward NorCal way, replied, "No one ever knows what they are doing, and it's a miracle that any of us survive any of this kind of shit at all."  Who knows why any of us are still here, with all the small tragedies that happen every single day.  I believe everything balances out, and I have to hope that things happen for a reason.  Although I still have no idea what I'm doing, really.  I know tomorrow I'm going for a run; I know I'll still be writing about running and life and so many other things.  I know it's going to be sunny in Denver tomorrow, and I have a lovely little sockeye fillet waiting for me when I get home from work.  I know for sure that most every pain comes and goes, and this is no different.  It will just take time.  Meanwhile, the road is beckoning, calling louder than my bed and self-pity.  Although I don't know how right now, I know this, too, shall pass.

Thanks much.  Happy weekend, Please!! enjoy it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Things you should maybe read!

While perhaps only touching the surface of so many young-adult survivorship issues, there was a pretty good column by Ali Ansary in the Huffington Post earlier today discussing the idea of establishing "A New Field of Medicine: Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine."  What saddens me is that this is a relatively new way of thinking, but it makes so much sense.  We, the AYAs, are neither children nor "old people," and we don't deserve to be treated as such.  Cancer survival rates for my demographic haven't dramatically improved since the 70s, but hopefully that will soon be changing.  We are growing more vocal as a whole; we are beginning to realize we can demand proper care.  And the children who were treated for cancer in the 70s and 80s and survived are now young adults themselves and are finding latent side effects of the crazy chemo and radiation they received.  It never really stops, but hopefully, soon, we can reduce the reach of cancer into the lives of young adults.  It starts with Awareness!!  It continues with you being your own best advocate.  And it keeps on going with the support of physicians across the country.  Change is unquestionable.  This ball has already started rolling, and I cannot wait to see where it goes.

So that's my PSA for the day.  No run this happy hump day...  I'm saying it here though: tomorrow, I'm running.  Right.  Also!  In case you haven't seen it, the link to my First Descents Boston Marathon fundraising page is below.  I'm also putting it up on the side of this blog, to your right!  Look to your right!!  Check it out; share it; love you all so much!  Enjoy your weeks and many thanks from here.  More running; less coughing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What limits?

Are you a cancer survivor?  A trauma survivor?  Have you gone through something in your life that has inherently changed who you are and how you view the world?  Sadly, I know too many people who can say "Yes" to any of those questions.  Yet the thing about (some) traumas, it is possible to come out on the other side and be thankful for the experience.  It is possible to survive something that literally breaks you down until you can feel nothing, that strips away your essence and the person you had spent years assembling.  It is possible to experience that and somehow, find a way to rebuild yourself.  You won't be the same person you were before; I am nowhere near the person I was five years ago.  If you are lucky, though, you might actually like this new person better.

When I was back in school and only receiving maintenance therapy, I spent months trying to deny the fact that I had cancer, that I was no longer just like every other student on my college campus.  I cracked multiple times in my attempts to act like nothing had ever happened to me.  Finally and fortunately, I recognized that I was not taking care of myself and my lifestyle was not sustainable.  I started seeing a psychologist who helped me work through some old issues and a lot of new issues brought on by the cancer.  A "breakthrough," for me, came in the fall of 2008, right smack in the middle of my first battle with the facetumor.  Basically, I had an assignment due for a class that I hadn't finished.  Between barely being able to speak, not eating, and all the uncertainty surrounding whatever mass was growing in my sinuses, I was completely out of my league.  My academics weren't quite suffering, but I was struggling just to get everything done.  The deadline for this paper - I don't even remember what it was about - was growing ever-closer, and I had few ideas and fewer words on paper.  There was a constant weight in my stomach and a pressure on my chest as my stress increased because I had to finish this thing!  I didn't want to admit to my professor, much less myself, that I was sick and needed time to finish the stupid essay.  And yet...  I had spent the past few months working with a therapist, listening to her tell me that it is OK to accept that you are sick.  It is OK to ask for help.  People will understand, and you need to take care of yourself First.

This professor, this stalwart of the communications department, terrified me.  Yet I knew I wasn't going to have the essay finished on time.  So maybe a few days before the deadline, I visited him during office hours.  I walked in and said, "Hey, do you by any chance have a minute?"  I proceeded to tell him in as few words as possible that I had been in the hospital pretty much once a week for the past month and a half, and I was actually quite sick and basically, I am so sorry, but I hadn't finished his essay and there was pretty much no way I was going to have it in on time.

Of course.  Of course, he was Completely Fine with it.  He told me to "take as long as you need; don't worry about it; I hope you feel better soon!"  And that was it.  I thanked him profusely, probably saying too many times that this is highly unusual for me, and I really appreciate his understanding.  I walked into the hall, up the stairs, out the door and promptly started crying.  Pretty much hyperventilating.  It was not a big deal to anyone but myself, but to me, it was a huge deal.  I was taking care of myself first, and others were helping.  Long story shortened: I did finish the essay.  It wasn't my best work, but I got an A- on it...  And I am certainly not asking any questions about that grade.  My face tumor melted away; I graduated on time with my friends and a solid GPA.  I came out on the other side of cancer-based college stronger for having gone through it and much more willing to take care of myself, to occasionally ask for help.

Life is funny, sometimes.  You go through all these little experiences every day, and you have no idea if or how any of them will affect you.  The big, life-changing events you can't know in the present tense how they will affect you down the road.  That's for self-reflection and retrospection months and years later after you've hit the bottom and slowly, haltingly and painfully allowed yourself to regrow and discover who you are meant to be.

Long post, I know.  Basically, I've been sick this past week, and it's lame, but I have worked hard not to overdo it.  It is still a relatively new concept for me, that whole "take care of yourself" thing.  People will understand, and the marathon is still 152 long days away.  Allowing myself to fully heal, to embrace myself and drink as many liquids as possible, will only benefit me in the long run.  Only good things can come from acknowledging your temporary limitations and working with them to come out stronger, healthier and ready to go.  Thank you for reading and bearing with me.  Happy Tuesday, sad toad.  Life will necessarily get better, and if it's great, I hope it stays that way long enough for you to enjoy it.  Here we go.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Funday

Which, for me, entails sitting in front of a fire with coffee and chocolate (and Emergen-C).  Even better, today's SundayFunday is taking place in the middle of a snowstorm in the mountains.  I am toasty and so happy with life.  A friend and I drove to the mountains last night - he is skiing today, and I am relaxing.  But really, there is no better way or place to chill out and try and keep pushing this sickness as far away from me as possible.

I have not run in one week, and apparently (according to Dr. Mom), colds last 7-10 days.  Hopefully this is only a small setback and I'll start feeling normal soon.  I need to start training hardcorz!  Because......  On April 16, I will be running in the 116th Boston Marathon!

It's official: First Descents received a handful of charity spots for the marathon, and I was lucky enough to be given one of the spots.  In April of 2006, I was a freshman at Boston University and a sometime runner, though never running much longer than 30 minutes or so.  I did not understand what "Marathon Monday" meant to the people of Boston and Massachusetts in general.  Yet on that Patriot's Day, when I was walking down Comm Ave and Boylston Street on my way to work, I was swept up in the energy of the crowd, the mass of runners making their way down the avenues I walked every day.  My friends and most of the college students in the city were all drinking and cheering on the streets; people had beer pong tables set up in front of their brownstones.  Children held out orange slices and were overjoyed when a runner took one.  It was a huge party for 26.2 miles through Massachusetts, with everyone turning out to support a bunch of crazy runners.  When I ran Chicago, I got some of that energy from the city, but I don't know if anything can come close to Boston.

I certainly wanted to, but I never believed I would ever actually get the chance to run the Boston Marathon.  I run, but not quickly - the chances of my qualifying get smaller every year as the times keep getting more difficult.  But this!  This is an opportunity to take part in one of the most famous marathons in the world and to do it with an organization that has facilitated so much of my acceptance of survivorship.

I am attempting to raise $7000 for First Descents.  I have a new Fundraising Page! that, if you feel kind enough to donate, you should use instead of my former FD one.  Share the page, share the good news.  This is going to be so difficult.  Honestly, I am freaking out already even just thinking about the months ahead.  7K is a Lot of money, and 26.2 are a LOT of miles to not only run all at once but to also train for.  Yet, something in me is telling me that I can do this.  We shall see...  I hope you'll follow along with my progress and updates on here and on the Twitters (@cc_bridges).  So much excitement ahead.

Thank you so much for your support, and here we go!

Fundraising link:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Cold

Both the external and the internal cold...  The first means I wore a toque; the second that I didn't run today.  I did, however, brave both colds and go for a walk...  It was 9 a.m., 30 degrees and crisp despite a warming sun.  The highest of the mountains to the west were covered in snow and stood out in stark relief against the brightest blue sky.  I tried to run, really, I did, but after literally two minutes, I felt like my chest was going to explode and the coughing was not far behind.  I suppose it is okay though.  I would rather allow my body to heal than push myself too hard and not be able to get over this thing quickly.  Which is actually a rather novel way of thinking for me.  Historically, I have been known to ignore any and all warning signs my body issues, which has led to excessive fatigue, stress, and even cancer.  (I couldn't have stopped the cancer, necessarily, but we probably could have caught it a lot earlier.)

Last year while training for Chicago, I went for a moderately long run, 90 minutes I think, and I bonked Hard after maybe only 30.  Turns out I really hadn't been consuming enough calories for pretty much the first half of my training.  Or, if I was eating enough, they weren't the right kinds of foods.  My body finally just stopped and basically said, "I have no energy.  I cannot run nine miles, much less three.  Eat better!!"  So, I started eating more protein and more whole grains, and my energy levels changed dramatically, as did my ability to run the longer distances.  Anyway, the moral of this is that I don't feel great right now.  It's the beginning of my training; I haven't started running serious distances yet.  I am allowing myself the time to mellow, to drink tea and eat oranges and turkey chili and sleep 10 hours per night.  Soon enough, I'll be out pounding that pavement and putting the miles behind me.  Take care of yourself and you'll be amazed at what you can, in turn, ask of your body.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Woah, life updates are in order

Sitting in a coffee shop, sipping chai and munching on a chocolate chip cookie, I am neither running nor cross-training at the moment.  In fact, my body decided it would be a great idea to go and find a cold and hold on to it for a few days, so I am taking it as easy as possible to expedite the recovery process.  Because, I have embarked on yet another crazy adventure....

In FIVE MONTHS!!, I am going to run a marathon.  Run, finish, and rock a marathon.  I began training last week, which, for me, means getting in the mindset of running more regularly and running with a purpose.  No excuses, no injuries, no turning back now.  I am doing this for First Descents, a non-profit based here in Denver.  Their mission, as taken directly from the website: "First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors (ages 18 to 39) a free week-long outdoor adventure experience designed to enable them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same."  A succinct way of saying, basically, we do awesome things for awesome people.  FD changes lives and perspectives and gives YA survivors the opportunity to push themselves past boundaries they didn't even know they'd established.

My first experience with FD was at a rock climbing camp in Jackson, Wyoming.  Climbing and rappelling from cliffs in the Tetons, my world expanded far beyond the limits I had unintentionally set for myself as a young adult survivor.  I met other young survivors who believed in me even when I didn't have much faith left in myself.  From there, my entire perspective changed.  Two years later, and I am living in Denver, CO.  I never imagined I'd be living here, and honestly, five years ago when I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, I don't know if I fully believed I'd still be alive today.  Yet here we are: I've rock climbed in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, all with FD; I packed up my life and moved to a brand new city with only a handful of contacts; I finished the Chicago Marathon; I ran an 18-mile road race in Canada!  Shoot, who does that?  Actually, I know a lot of people who have done similar things, and most of them I know through FD.  An FD camp gives survivors confidence; it instills in them the belief that they can do anything.  Camp also establishes a network of friends who are there to bolster that belief whenever it starts to lag.  A friend I met through camp in Utah was actually waiting for me at mile 25 of the Chicago Marathon, and she gave me a cinnamon roll when I stumbled across the finish line.  It was amazing (both her support and the cinnamon roll).

I want to give back to this group, want to do whatever I possibly can to help other survivors have the same experiences I've had.  So, the opportunity has arisen for me to fundraise for FD with the goal of ultimately running (and rocking!) a marathon this coming April.  I'm not exactly sure which one yet, but I'll be sure to update as soon as I know which one.  I haven't been posting regularly on this thing, but all that is about to change.  Writing about my running gives me a little bit more accountability.  So, follow along as I train through a Denver winter!  Please, please, if you can donate to my cause, do!  If you're unable to donate monetarily right now, I'd love some positive vibes.  Tell your friends about my quest!  Tell your friends about FD!  And definitely check out some cool events I'm planning for the near future.  Thank you so much, and I'll see you at the finish line.  Keep on plugging away!

My FD Fundraising Page:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rocky Mountain runner's high

Oh, hello July.  Hello, 12 weeks into my new life in Denver.  I think things here are finally starting to take.  Amazingly, the immunoglobulin infusions are working!  I have received three infusions so far, and my intestinal issues are entirely resolved.  No more dehydration and malabsorption concerns, no more debilitating cramps all the time.  It is amazing.  My sinus infections are getting better, and although I still have a lot of gunk in my sinuses, I can breathe (almost) easily, and the headaches are gone. 

All of this means, of course, that I have been running more.  I also only have a bike here, so I have been biking and walking everywhere.  Most Coloradans consider Denver to be pretty flat, and it is, but compared to Chicago, Denver has some pretty epic hills scattered about.  I still struggle every time I have to climb the hill that I now live on, huffing and puffing on my mountain bike.  The upside of this is that I am the slimmest I've been in maybe 8 years, and I'm in great shape.

The first two months I was living here, I was having a pretty difficult time adjusting to living on my own.  I didn't question my decision to move, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do with myself.  My living situation was not ideal for enjoying the city; my work situation was nowhere near what I wanted; and I was eating terribly so I had very little energy.  I was also sick for those entire 8 weeks, so very little running and a whole lot of coughing.  My poor roommate must have been so upset he ended up with the sick girl. 

July 1, I moved out of my old, temporary apartment and into this beautiful, sunny and huge place right in downtown.  My new roommate is fantastic for a number of different reasons, and while I still have the same, lame job, my life has gotten significantly better.  I just feel more comfortable with where I am, although I am also still working out what on earth I'm supposed to be doing.

So I met this guy two nights ago, and he's awesome.  Without sharing details, I basically put on my stupid-face and now I'm pretty certain I won't be hearing from him, ever.  I spent yesterday in a foul mood because I had convinced myself that my actions had driven away this smart, funny, outdoor-oriented man.  I went to work, and my apologies if I served you a latte yesterday; my head wasn't in the game.  Then, this morning, the strangest thing happened.  I went for a run, running a bit faster and a little farther than my prior runs.  I zoned out, focused on trying to breathe and keeping my upper body loose.  After the run, while enjoying a chai and endorphin rush, I realized that, whatever.  So what if this guy never calls me back.  It's his loss, and honestly, this is Denver.  There are smart mountain bikers Every Where.  Yes, I'm still a little angry at myself for my actions, but I walked back to my apartment (post-run) with my iced chai and a huge grin on my face because I am living and surviving on my own in Denver.  I can run a speedy little 5K and feel great.  Yeah, my job still sucks, but I am meeting some seriously cool people, and there is just too much awesome all around to spend any time worrying about a social setback.

I had dinner with a friend in Boulder the other night, and I told her that even if I am completely dissatisfied with my current work situation, and I'm struggling with the whole "go be social" thing, I find happiness in so many of the little things throughout my day.  Frozen yogurt after climbing with people I've just met.  A sparklingly clear day that shows off the snow still capping the highest of the mountains in the distance.  A house I passed on my run that seriously looked like a tree house.  Iced chai and a blueberry oat muffin after a run that three months ago, I couldn't finish.

Life is hard as hell.  People will break your heart; situations will seemingly conspire against you for interminable periods of time.  But time keeps moving forward.  A good friend of mine is going through a really tough time right now, and I don't know if I helped at all or not, but I told him last night that my mantra for the past two years was that for better or worse, things will change.  Whatever situation you currently find yourself in, it will eventually change.  It's how I survived living at home with my parents for two years after college.  I told myself: this is temporary.  And it was.  Here I am, living in Denver, trying to figure out survival as an adult as opposed to survival after cancer.  Every day brings something amazing with it.  You just have to look for the details and learn to appreciate them.  As for you, guy who I doubt will become one of the people in my life, you seriously are very cool.  But you are so not worth my stressing over.

Anyway.  Ruminations resulting from my post-run clarity.  Thanks for your indulging them (me).  Running more, thinking less, loving life so much.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Maybe I should just call it a day....

And yet,  "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, despair, not feast on thee."  Gerard Manly Hopkins' "Carrion Comfort."  In some of my lowest times, this poem pops into my head.  I won't post the entire thing here, but it is a Petrarchan sonnet about a world-weary man, downtrodden and questioning the reason behind his misfortunes.  It begins with his adamant refusal to give in, to "not choose not to be," but it isn't exactly a positive poem.  There is no happy, shiny ending where he allows that life is kick-ass and wonderful and all is well.  He ends wondering why he has so long refused to give in to despair.  Is it because of or in spite of his "God?"

Anyway, even if I don't understand the whole thing, and every time I read it I get something new from it, I still find this poem can offer me solace when my life is all kinds of crazy.  I have officially been living in Denver for four weeks.  I have run three times; I have biked about as much; and I have been some degree of ill these entire four weeks.  My job is bringing me down, although I have already found some pretty cool people in my coworkers.  And I only have one shaky job prospect I'm waiting to hear about.  Hey life, you aren't what I was expecting right now...

Of course, though, there is a huge BUT.  But I'm pretty sure I'm mostly acclimated to the altitude: my RHR is back down to about 50.  I have some color (and new freckles) on my face and a sock tan on my ankles because it is Sunny!! here.  A new friend invited me to a concert last night, a group called The Future Jazz Project, and they were awesome.  Music can and will and does make everything better.  Who knew Denver has a pretty awesome underground eclectic jazz scene?  Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will start volunteering with a very cool non-profit based in Boulder, Outdoor Mindset.  I met with one of the group's founders last week, and it was really inspiring: I am looking forward to being able to give back something after having experienced my own crazy life-dramas.  Finally, I am At Last going to get the immuno-therapy I desperately need.  This whole "lack of infection-fighting cells" thing is getting too ridiculous, so this Tuesday I'll be sitting in some outpatient clinic, heavily Benadryl'd and receiving a six-hour infusion of someone else's immunoglobulins.  Hopefully this will be the start of reclaiming some internal equilibrium. 

Once I'm no longer coughing all the time, I'll be able to get serious about running again.  Life may be
all scattered and uncertain right now, but I am still here, still kicking and screaming and wishing I was running and biking and mountain climbing carelessly.  All things in time, and so I'm not giving in to despair.  There are too many good things just ahead of me; it's just a matter of straightening everything out and reaching for all the possibilities.  Right.  So, four weeks in, and here I am.  It's crazy, and I still can't believe I just up and moved, but I have no regrets.  I am loving it - loving living.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today was brought to you by the letter "F!"

as in, "fail."  I swear I never meant for it to happen.  I swear, when I ventured into the REI flagship store in downtown Denver, I was merely curious about the behemoth as a whole.  No funny business.  Maybe, perhaps, I would have been interested had someone wanted to talk to me about climbing harnesses, but that was It, and no one did anyway.  Before I even walked through the massive double doors with ice axes for handles, my mind exploded: they have a bouldering boulder out front.  For actual bouldering!  I walked in and right in front of me, there was a climbing wall!  I'm sure I looked like a total idiot, standing behind the guardrail staring open-mouthed at the hulking mass of fake rock looming in the middle of the store.  Then I looked right, and there was all the climbing gear.  That's when the drool started.  So many different sticky shoes; So many harnesses; So much dynamic rope; So, so many pieces of shiny, metal gear!  Carabineers; ATCs; grigris; spring-loaded camming devices from very small to larger than my hand.  Honestly, I'm not a gear head.  I own a mediocre pair of climbing shoes, and that is all, but seeing all this stuff just reminded me of the possibilities, the potential.  I have a whole, huge life ahead of me, and I intend to spend at least some of it climbing rocks.

Not knowing anything about what to buy, though, I tore myself away from the climbing department and wandered through the rest of the store.  I happened into the daypack/hydration department, where my brain went, oh hey Caroline, you should totally get some sort of hydrating apparatus for when you're running long distances and you start to get thirsty!  And it is so hard to tell your brain "no."  Sigh.  That was, perhaps, my first mistake.  After too much deliberation, I opted for a 22 oz. hand-held bottle with a little pocket that my cell phone and a gel could fit in.  Surely this was a good investment...  A girl's gotta stay hydrated out on the trails, and not all of my running shorts have pockets for running-related miscellany.  I should have left it at that.  Should have taken my water bottle and gotten out of that den of lust and athleticism.

Too bad I kept walking around; too bad I ended up in the footwear department.  Too bad a store associate started talking to me while I was gazing longingly at the running shoes, but again, not knowing where to start, I honestly wasn't thinking about getting anything.  Yet here comes "Chris," 25-year running veteran, apparently a formerly competitive runner, and he tells me, oh yeah, sure, I'd recommend this trail running shoe for you.  Here, just try it on....  That was it; game over.

I walked out of REI with a brand new pair of trail running shoes and a water bottle.  Never mind my apprehension about being able to pay my rent.  Never mind needing to eat.  And certainly never mind getting a lamp for my bedroom.  I've got new, bright lime green trail running shoes!!  At least I didn't buy an $800 road bike...?  I also used whatever will power was left and stayed out of the sock department.  Socks being my Achilles heel, for serious.  I guess I am already embracing a certain Coloradan tenet: spend any money you have on awesome gear for your crazy outdoor lifestyle.  Anything left over goes to the rest of that "stuff" people supposedly need to pay for (rent, insurance, electric bills, clif bars).  I might say their priorities are a little skewed, but, no, I don't think so.

So I made it back to my apartment and promptly took my new kicks out for a little run.  Again, key word being Little.  I wish so much I could just pick up where I left off running, six weeks ago, but life and fitness don't quite work like that.  It is going to take time to acclimate to Denver, and it is going to take time for me to get back in good running shape.  But hey, at least I've started.  And now, if someone asks me to go for a run up a mountain, I have the right shoes for it.  So that's something.  Now, too, I know not to just wander into the REI store on a whim.  Nothing good will come of it...  well, nothing good to my bank account.  I personally am pretty freaking excited about these shoes. 

Running more.  In lime green shoes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Guess I'll just skip April altogether and call it a day then.  Here's the takeaway from the past five (plus) weeks: somehow and against all expectations, I ran and actually Finished the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, Ontario, on March 27.  It was a blistering 18 degrees at the start, but it was also completely sunny.  Surrounded by nearly 7000 other runners, I barely felt the cold once I got moving.  All told, I finished very near the end of the pack, but considering I (really) hadn't adequately trained, I did a lot better than I could have hoped.  So, hooray!  18 miles, done and done.

Unfortunately, the following week, I developed an epic cold and have only run once since March 27th, a measly 2.5 miles.  Even that was a struggle.  One of the things I realized is that I can be sick and work, or I can be sick and run, but I cannot be sick and do both things.  Income trumped cardio.

Raging sinus infection or no, life goes on, and I find myself, five weeks following my crazy Canadian race, living in Denver, Colorado.  Wait, what??  Yes, yes, I moved to Denver.  Four Days Ago.  No car, which means I have been walking all over the place these past few days trying to find groceries, toilet paper, a lamp for my bedroom (still looking for that last one...).  Two things are worth noting for context's sake: One is that I walked Everywhere when I went to school in Boston.  I was a walking machine because it was easy and necessary to walk around Boston.  The second thing is that once I moved back to Chicago following my graduation, I no longer had to walk, much less walk miles and miles at a time.  Sure, I ran lots, but walking is definitely different.  Living in the suburbs with nowhere to walk to, I became complacent and comfortable driving my parents' car if I needed to get somewhere.  Four days ago, all of that changed.  I was once more thrown into a situation where I don't have a car, and there are limited means of getting myself around.  Some weird leg muscles are currently crazy sore, but walking it is!

Now, this blog is sort of supposedly about running.  I haven't run much lately, hence the lack of writing about my running.  What was I supposed to say, "Yep, another day where I couldn't really breathe, just sat around feeling guilty and eating."?  No, because that's lame.  Also, while the sinus infection was my main deterrent, I think I was also kind of burnt out after all the pressure I had been putting on myself about the 30K and not training enough for it.  I just needed to chill out and not feel like I had to go outside in the rain/snow/greyness and train for some race.

But now I live in Denver...  Now I live within sight of the Rocky Mountains and right beside one of the major trail systems that runs through and around the city.  Now there is actual sunshine - already, my schnoz is sunburned.  Now I am Finally on antibiotics and I can actually breathe through my nose again; my sinuses aren't out of control painful!  It is very exciting.  So today, after spending the past three days just walking around, today I laced up my sneakers (sort of new Nikes that I don't really like) and headed to the Cherry Creek Trail directly behind my apartment.  I jacked up the volume on my ipod and took off.  And I ran for a whole entire 15 minutes (gee whiz.) before doubling over gasping for air and desperately needing a walk break.  All told, I ran about 3 miles, with a few intermittent walks.

My God, am I out of shape.  Actually, it's more my lungs that are weak, I think.  Between being sick and now living 5,280 miles about sea level, I was struggling for sure.  It is too late for me to turn back now, and actually, I am already registered for another race, the Colorado Relay.  Terrifying, I know, but hey, why not.  Anyway, I have over three months to train for it, so I should be good...  I hope.

There's only one way to find out, I suppose.  I ran today; I am going to run tomorrow.  I will probably be walking much more as the weeks progress, and I am fairly sure that my mountain bike (!!) is on its way as well.  Ugh, there is so much to look forward to out here.  Life is pretty damn exciting right now, even if I am also scared out of my mind that I am going to run out of money and not be able to pay my rent and my bills and then I guess I'll end up one of the friendly homeless people scattered throughout downtown Denver.  But not tomorrow, anyway.

This life of mine is all about having crazy and absurdly amazing goals (the Colorado Relay!?) while still living day to day and not letting my anxiety overwhelm me.  I am not sure I had ever really thought about moving to Denver before maybe three months ago, but here I am, alive and breathing and starting to run again.  Who knows what this life will bring?  I pray that the bad will occasionally be tempered by some good, and I pray I will be able to conquer the bad that occurs anyway.  Running helps.  Friends help a lot.  Looking at the Rocky Mountains is pretty awesome as well.  And one day (soon, I hope), I will be running with friends up and through those mountains.  Crazy stuff, but hey, it's life, and it is all mine.

Running more.  At altitude!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Health issues

Not just a class some of us took in high school, this is also a topic very near and dear to my heart.  For the past year and a half, I have been suffering from some chronic and pretty weird lower intestinal issues.  I have seen Eight different doctors to try and figure this thing out, to no avail.  I went gluten-free for about three weeks, which only made my running self hungry and cranky.  Dropped sugar-free gum from my diet; periodically went caffeine-free; could never quite cut out dairy.  At this point, I am fairly certain the problem isn't dietary.

Today I met with a new doctor, a gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago Hospitals.  Her initial thoughts are that my intestinal problems are a manifestation of a severely low number of a certain type of infection-fighting cell in my bloodstream.  My intestinal flora are all awry!  A few years ago I was administered a drug (another story for another time) that targets a certain type of B-cell and destroys it.  While tremendously necessary and exciting for me at the time, this doctor thinks that one of the long-term side effects of this drug is a lowered immune response.  Fewer B-cells floating around in me means fewer immunoglobulins to battle infections and maintain the happy little gut bacteria who keep me regular...  (I'm over bodily functions, so you know.)  So she's doing more tests, checking my blood, trying to figure out what exactly we are looking at and where to go from here.

The point of this is that she mentioned there is a strong possibility I am deficient in some very necessary vitamins and minerals.  If my intestines aren't working properly, then it is likely I haven't been absorbing nutrients well, which is not great news.  I probably should, but I do not take a multivitamin, although I recently started taking a probiotic.  I am curious though: if my blood work shows a significant deficiency in some vital nutrient and I start taking a supplement, will I feel better overall?  Will my mood improve or my general feelings of exhaustion diminish?  Will caffeine no longer be the crutch on which I lean heavily to get me through my mornings?  Will my running be stronger and faster and less injured because, finally, my bones are strong and my blood is healthy?

I don't know.  Perhaps I'll find out.  At the very least, I hope my gut one day stops grumbling at me and returns to its delicate balance of proper digestion.  Come on, good bacteria!

Oh yeah, and my race is in 60 hours.  Woah...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game: on.

For now...  It is supposed to be around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny in Hamilton, Ontario this coming Sunday.  I can work with that.  My nerves are currently in a hotly contested race with my IT band for my attention.  This past Saturday I went for a 9.5 mile run, and I forgot to wear my IT band band.  I finished the run solidly and without limping, but the band is still sore to the point of notice-ability.  So there's that...

This all being so new to me, I am torn between wanting to run this week and wanting to not run so as to not further aggravate my leg/knee/tendon thang.  Does this sort of thing get easier with experience?  Perhaps I really and truly am not meant to run long distances, but that is not something I can accept yet.  So, on we go to Ontario!  Can't wait.  I also can NOT WAIT until I move to Colorado and can start trail running.  As much fun as trotting all along suburban sidewalks and streets is...  I am anxious to be able to literally run up a mountain.  After acclimatization, naturally.  But that is a post for another day.  Right on.  Running more; thinking less!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

...oh well.

No run, just a lot of chocolate, a lot of reading, and one indie film from 2005.  Oh yeah, and a face full of sinus congestion.  So much sinus congestion....  That whole "not being able to breathe" thing will really do you in.  So I am heading to bed very soon, and hopefully this will all be over shortly.  Hooray late-winter colds! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An impulse trip to Whole Foods

A slightly-more-than-casual runner's Whole Foods impulsive purchases on a Wednesday night:

2 lb. tub of beautiful strawberries (ugh, so good)
carton of Horizon organic chocolate milk
Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Caramel Fudge ice cream
small chevre log
2 clif shots (strawberry and mocha)

No idea what this says about me, but I like it, whatever it is.  Can't wait for those strawberries all chopped up in my steel-cut oatmeal tomorrow morning.  If the weather is as warm as the weathermen are promising, I am going to try and do a "long" run tomorrow, something like 9.5 miles.  We'll see.  My 18-miler is in 11 days!  And I've pretty much resigned myself to the mentality that whatever happens on March 27, happens.  At least I signed up for the race; at least I'll be there.  The countdown is on! 

Friday, March 4, 2011


Right now, I am plopped in front of the window in the front room of my house, looking at the yellowed grass and blearily uniform gray sky.  It is close to 50 degrees outside, but it is also terribly damp and weirdly chilly.  Instead of lacing up my new Nikes and pulling on some short running pants or long running shorts (depending), I am nursing four shots of espresso laced with nonfat milk and cinnamon-y sugar.

It is finally the first week of March and I have not blogged as much as I would like, and I have run even less.  My 30 kilometre road race is in 23 days.  Only recently have I accepted that I probably shouldn't have signed up for it, that I do not have the mental fortitude to train through the winter.  I just can. not. get. off. my. ass.  I both am and am not making excuses for being unprepared for this run.  Clearly, mine are lame excuses, but they are also explanations.  It is a fact that I get severely down during the winter.  And this winter, we have had so little sunlight, so few truly beautiful days.  I know and admire and am (truthfully) a little jealous of my friends who remain functional all 12 months of the year.  The key for me, then, is to accept that I am not one of those people and not let myself feel too guilty about it.  It isn't like I stopped running altogether; I just ran less and at later times in the day.  There was no chance of finding me awake and eager to run 12 miles at 6 a.m.  Perhaps it is SADness; maybe it is just the lack of intellectual stimuli in most aspects of my life these past few months.

But it is finally March.  I can actually hear some birds outside right now who had been wintering down south.

And I do still have a race to run in 23 days; I am not going to bail.  I am going to do what I can between now and then, and then I am just going to enjoy myself on March 27.  (Unless it is 35 degrees and raining, then, yes, I will be bailing.)  There are very, very few constants in this world.  People, beliefs, seasons, everything changes.  This time in my life, too, will pass.  This winter, these suburbs, this unmotivated blob I have become...  I am changing everything.

In two months, I am moving to Denver.  No idea what I will do with myself once there, but it is a change.  It is a giant leap into the unknown world of self-reliance and growing up.  I think I am even going to sign up for the Denver Marathon (October 9...!) because I want to keep growing, and I need to have established goals.  May 1: move.  October 9: run.  In between: Live Fully.  (and if anyone knows of any job openings in and/or around Denver, please let me know!  Hooray!)  Plus it will give me something fun to blog about.

So.  Running.  Thinking.  Making it happen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Funny Story

You know, or not.  On Monday I ran over 6 miles, and I felt great.  Ready to go and run a few more miles on Tuesday.  And then on Tuesday, I was rejected from a job I had applied for some weeks earlier.  I had interviewed for this job, and I thought I had a pretty good chance of at least getting a second interview, if not the job itself.  Sadly, the organization thought otherwise, and they decided to go another direction (or something).

I'd like to think I take disappointments well, but truthfully, I don't.  Not at first anyway.  This particular rejection was a huge blow to my confidence, and it hurt to receive the news.  Anyway, the long and short of this is that right after I got their e-mail, I went and, in a blind fury, kicked my car.  Full on with my left big toe.  Needless to say, I wrecked my toe.  Haha, there really is such a thing as karma.  I deserve the pain and inability to put any weight on my left toe.  Probably shouldn't have reacted so physically to my job rejection.  But life is hard sometimes, and sometimes you just need to kick an immovable steel object.  Unfortunately, said kick, while briefly satisfying, has left me with a bruised big toe and no chance of running for a few days.

The toe seems to be getting better, although it is still comically swollen and multicolored.  It's still just one more stupid thing heaped on top of this year of not-so-much-awesome.  I know most of my gripes are petty and comparatively lame.  Even if I don't like it, at least I have a job; food to eat; running shoes.  The world is chaotic; our country is slouching towards a Congressional throw-down; people in my own town are a lot worse off than myself.  I know all this, and still I bitch and moan about a bruised toe, a job rejection, a life that isn't what I want it to be.  But forgive me this.  For being only 24, I've paid some of my dues already.  I'm allowed to get upset at some things because I know life is difficult; I've put up with a whole hell of a lot of its difficulties already.  I have a job; I have my (relative) health.  And yet when it rains, it pours.  Haha, and then, hopefully, the sun comes out.

Probably, I'm just battling some serious February cabin-fever.  I'm going to try and get in some sort of running tomorrow, otherwise, I don't know, my head might explode.  My gut is expanding too, another fun side effect of the winter doldrums.  Phew.  Alright, now that I've had my verbal-vomit session, I'm going to try and do some work.  Happy almost-Friday...  Think Less.  Run More!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cost-Benefit analysis

The benefit of taking a few days off vs. the cost of taking a few days off.  While probably not advisable all the time, I didn't run the past four days.  Blame it on mild injuries or hormones or just plain laziness, but there it is.  The cost - I ate too much and felt guilty every day that I didn't run.  Today, however, I was mentally and physically ready to go out and run.  It helped that it was sunny and something like 40 degrees outside.  So I stepped out my door and plugged through 6.5 miles.  (!)  That's the farthest I've run since before Christmas.  The benefit - Having been given a bit of a break, my body was healed and ready to go for a longer run, even though I haven't logged a long run in quite a few weeks.  In this instance, the benefit of my lassitude outweighed the cost.  I don't feel broken or winded or that I overdid it today either.

There is a couple in our little town who runs every day.  Or 6 days a week, at the least.  I'm not sure if they are any more, but I know they used to be relatively competitive, running Boston a few times.  I have nearly limitless admiration for these two, partly because of their dedication, but also because they're really nice people.  Nothing gets in the way of their morning runs.  Even last week, when the morning's temperatures were somewhere around 0 degrees (yes, Zero), they were out.  Although, on Thursday she qualified, "We only did about four miles this morning."  Right.  No big deal.

Perhaps their bodies are so finely tuned that they don't need to take any stretches of time off or only rarely.  Their morning runs are just a thing like any other thing they do during their day.  Wake up, run, breakfast, work, etc.  It is their routine.  So what am I missing that I can't incorporate running into my daily routine?  I suppose part of my problem is that my days are not routine.  My work schedule changes almost weekly, and I work funky hours: 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 1-9:30 p.m.  Certainly no 9-5, certainly not "routine" in the traditional sense of the word.

At least I do run.  The weather is slowly turning around; I will be running more and soon.  Today's run was heartening because it means that I'm not as much of a slouch as I feared.  I've shaken off my January sinus infection, and I'm beating my IT band pain.  Let's see if I can squeeze in another bit of a run tomorrow...  Thinking less, running more.  Loving it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Two days in a row!  Today was a treadmill day though.  Comically, I have spent the past four hours cradling my distended stomach in considerable agony following an overdose of Chicago-style hot dogs and fries.  There are trends at play in my life...

Gym tomorrow but probably no running.  Need to give my knees a break.

A wonderful friend of mine posted online earlier today that she propelled through "8.5 fantastic miles this morning."  She is amazing and has pushed her way through a lot of life's unfair realities over the past few years.  Every day I am awed by her persistence at Living, at moving on and literally running past her demons.  Yesterday I mentioned our predisposition towards comfort and safety.  Yet we are also remarkably resilient.  We can take our bodies, willingly or not, to the edge of death, wear them down to their physical breaking points, and then turn around and, with some recovery, run 8.5 or 13.1 or 26.2 miles.  We can thrive despite life's conspiring to bring us down.  A few of us push our bodies and our minds just a little bit farther because we Can, because we are still around to be able to run and bike and climb and ski.

I run and my friend runs and gradually we see our bodies heal and grow stronger.  We have visible, measurable proof of our returned health.  We cannot be stopped.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Made it happen today.

Today's temperature reached a whopping 28 degrees Fahrenheit, more than warm enough for a jog through my idyllic snow-covered and slick suburban streets.  Or something...  I didn't get an hour in, more like 45 minutes, but still, I'm pleased with my 4.6 miles.  It was a pretty glaring reminder, though, that I am very far behind in my training for this upcoming race.  And whatever progress I made today I am currently eating away at with my Starbucks' milk chocolate graham cookies.  Mmm, so good.

But the run wasn't great.  For some fun reason, when I run in the cold, my nasal passages constrict and I cannot breathe through my nose at All.  I dunno; it's just unpleasant.  Maybe I'm a "fair-weather" runner, but I really do not like running outside in winter.  My self-preservation instinct is considerably stronger than my desire to run.  I read some article once explaining that our bodies are programmed to seek the easiest, safest route to the longest life.  Running, especially distance running, places a tremendous amount of stress on our bodies.  It isn't fun, and in the 21st century, it is no longer a necessity for survival.  We impose powerful mental blocks against running, and when faced with the prospect of venturing outside into below-freezing temperatures wearing naught but a few thin layers of wicking fabric, it is almost physically impossible to get out the door.  At least, this is what I've found.  And getting out the door really is the hardest part.  Once you've over come that block, once you've started to move and warm up and regain feeling in your toes, the endorphins kick in and it really isn't that bad.

Supposedly it takes three weeks to form a habit.  Today was a good start.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be snowing, but I've got a back up.  I am taking my workout clothes with me to work, and I am going straight to the gym from work.  That is the plan.  The goal.  To get to the gym.  Once there, we'll see how long I can run for.  Shooting for 35 minutes.  Right.  Less thinking; more running.  Go.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sometimes I run

I am not very fast, and I struggle with motivation. Yet I consider myself a "runner." It is part of who I am, part of the person I am growing into. Running clears my mind. It is physical proof that I am healthy, that whatever struggles my body has gone through, I have overcome them. Am overcoming them.

After months of training and in the midst of a failing romantic relationship, I finished the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Key word is Finished. Stumbling, dehydrated, hurting and disappointed, I crossed that FINISH line, was given my finisher's medal and collapsed on some grass across from Buckingham Fountain. My finishing time was an embarrassing 5:55:54 (really). My hazy goal had been a 4:30 finish, but my body mechanics won the fight against my mental fortitude. Basically, my IT band decided it would be a blast to go and get royally screwed up one month before the marathon. So I finished the race, but I could barely bend my knee after and for the next two days.

Yet somehow, I still finished. Then 4 weeks later, I ran a 15k race (~9.3 miles). IT band be damned; I am going to keep running. I am registered for a 30k race (~18 miles) at the end of March. I would like to run at least one more marathon this year, perhaps a few halfs.

I am a runner and my biggest problem is I am struggling to get out the door this winter. How in the hell am I going to get through 18 miles in less than 8 weeks when I haven't run more than four or five miles at a time for the past two months? Is it even possible? I am full of doubt and chocolate covered pretzels, neither of which are terribly conducive to a successful run. So if you've happened across this blog, welcome to my newest forum for my thoughts. Maybe, if I try to write something worthwhile every day, I will hold myself more accountable for my training. Perhaps it will just be an outlet for my guilt. All of those things. Who knows. Maybe I'll see if I can't go for a long run tomorrow... Shooting for an hour.

So, welcome to my weird, inconsistent, generally self-deprecating world. More running, less thinking.