5 Things to Remember at the Start Line

For those of you headed to Sweet Home Chicago this weekend, I wish you all the very best of luck (and sunshine!) on your 26.2 mile journey. (Go LeticiaBernadetteAliKrissy, & Jess!)

Do yourself a favor while you're in Chi-town, go to Portillo's and get a hot dog and a milkshake. Just do it and thank me later.

Do yourself a favor while you’re in Chi-town, go to Portillo’s and get a hot dog and a milkshake. Just do it and thank me later.

Quickly following Chicago are Marine Corps, New York, Philly, and California with dozens of smaller marathons sandwiched in and around the upcoming weekends. Translation: all my friends are getting into race mode!

Training for any race, especially a marathon, is an accomplishment in itself. And when you get to that start line, just remember just 5 things:

  1. You survived training (aka the hardest part!) & made it to the start line, ENJOY THE RACE!
  2. Today’s run is just a really, really long run, like any other weekend long run.
  3. It doesn’t matter what your time is, be proud of your accomplishment (I’m proud of you!).
  4. It’s going to hurt. Get over that and you’ll be ok.
  5. You are ready for this, trust your training and stick to your plan.

Good luck! Have a great race and be proud of yourself!

I'm cheering for all of you and I totally think you're all awesome!

I’m cheering for all of you and I totally think you’re all awesome!

Now go out and run.

What Are You Waiting For?

I won’t be so bold as to say, “I’m back!” because I am most definitely not back. Not by any stretch. But I am inching my way, day by day, towards some semblance of being “back”, whatever that will come to mean for me.

I’m not running. I don’t know when I will be and I’m trying (totally failing, btw) not to think about it. I miss being able to release stress with physical activity. Because this surgery wasn’t as invasive and the recovery is shorter, I feel ready to go out and run…

…if only it weren’t for that silly hole in my belly that just won’t close fast enough.

*sigh*

I was in the hospital for 4 days and it was about 2 days longer than I really needed to be there. Luckily, my awesome sister-in-law sent tons of pictures and videos of my sweet baby niece.

Being back on 14N gave me some time to think. I read everyone’s tweets about their long runs, marathons, and fabulous spin/bootcamp classes and wished with all my might that I could be with them.

Hospitals aren’t as glamorous as they look. For example, I had to get my own blowout the night before because they don’t have a salon on site. Hello? This is New York City.

Mostly, though, I wished I could just go home. And then I wished I could run.

When I hear young people say things like, “I’m not a runner” or “I could never run that far” in response to my favorite activity, I want to strangle them.

Yeah, yeah, to each his own and all that but really? You could never? Have you tried?! I want to shake them and tell them to try everything. Every. Single. Thing. Because they have the luxury of being both young and healthy and not taking advantage of that is a crime.

“Youth is wasted on the young.”-George Bernard Shaw

And health is wasted on the healthy.

Let me be your wakeup call. I seem healthy, right? Even after surgery and four days in the hospital.

This was in celebration of peeing, a prerequisite to going home. It’s the little things.

No one in the world would guess that I’m sick, that I can’t do every little thing I want to, that I am missing an entire organ. But I am, and I can’t, and oh boy am I ever.

Don’t waste time being scared that you might fail or not be the best at something. Try. Fight. Fall. RUN. If you don’t crack 4 hours in this year’s marathon, so what? You still RAN A MARATHON. You ran the same number of miles as Meb and Kara, not matter how long it took you.

And you can try again.

Get out there and see the sunrise from a running trail, not a hospital bed.

It’s a nice view and all but I prefer sunrise in my sneakers on the East River running path.

And take me with you. Hear me in your head. You can do this.

Now go out and run.

Untitled (and really long)

I have thought long and hard about whether or not I would actually write this post. Then I hemmed and hawed about how much detail I would get into if I did decide to write it. In short, I have spent way too much time thinking about one blog post over the past two months.

Well, I’ve decided to share the part of my own journey that I feel is pertinent to this blog. It is, in fact, called Run Stronger Every Day and I am starting from Square One on the way to running again at all. Here goes: this is my journey from surgery to marathon.

Marathon #9…when will marathon #10 happen?

One month ago, I had a planned surgical event that was medically necessary and landed me in the hospital for five days (= FOR-EV-ER). I have never had a serious surgery or any other type of major medical event in my entire life. I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled, which produced very adorable chipmunk cheeks and my very first case of hives, and I broke my pinky toe right before I left to be a camp counselor for the summer back in college. But that’s it.

The longest I’ve been away from running is one month back in 2009 because of my stupid left gluteus medius. But I could still bike and lift and swim and, you know, WALK. This surgery was major. No, really. It’s classified as “major surgery”. Walking would be a challenge, I was told. Weird.

I like spinning, I do. But running is my 1st love.

Funny aside: I knew I was ok with my decision to go ahead with the surgery when, after my Physics final three days prior, I only felt relief as I headed into the weekend. No anxiety about the surgery. No stress about the what-ifs. Just relief that Physics was finally over. Priorities, I suppose.

Drinks. There were a lot of drinks when I found out I passed Physics.

The morning of my surgery, I tried making jokes as the nurses and doctors hooked me up and stabbed me with needles of all sizes. My Mom, angel that she is, flew in to be with me and JB during my hospitalization. I was nervous, but not as scared as I thought I’d be. Probably because when I asked about a possible complication I’d read about my surgeon responded, ” That doesn’t happen in my hands.” Exactly what I want to hear!

Off I went to the operating room (which was a lot smaller than I expected) where I met my surgical team and briefly reminded my surgeon that I am a vain woman and small, neat scars would be greatly appreciated. He assured me he’d do his best and out I went.

I “woke” up to JB and Mrs. Obi-wan by my side once again in recovery, in the most immense pain I have ever felt in my life. Thankfully, now that I was awake, they could give me the good drugs. I definitely didn’t do any recovering in the “recovery room”. I kept hearing rumors the my room was “almost ready” but, not having any concept of time due to the wonderful narcotics, I was seriously perturbed that everything seemed to be taking so long.

The view from my room. Rainy New York days were just fine by me.

Shortly after I got to my room, my nurse told I was going to walk soon. I told her she was dreaming. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Turns out, my pain treatment had briefly gone awry and OHMYGODWHYDOESTHISHURTSOMUCH?!?!?!!!! was basically what I said to her.  She fixed the problem, God bless her, and made sure I got several boosters so I could sleep.

These bruises were the result of my least favorite daily interruption: shots. Ouch. Maybe next time we choose a different place to torture? They lasted for nearly 3 weeks!

Early Tuesday morning, she woke me and said we were going for sure taking a walk before her shift ended. Still, the idea of heaving myself out of bed and walking was akin to climbing Everest. Me, a 9-time marathoner, often 2-a-day workout girl, thought that getting out of bed and walking seemed impossible. I was attached to an IV and several drainage apparatus but with the aid of the most wonderful nurse in the entire world, I walked. It was approximately 30 yards, round-trip.

They were the hardest steps I have ever taken in my entire life.

You know how you feel exhausted after a marathon? That’s how I felt. I hadn’t had food in three days, my surgery was four hours long, I was on serious pain management drugs and was terrified I wouldn’t make it.

I did. I made it. I made it to Day 2 and was getting a handle on my new body, new gear, and new surroundings.

The morning after surgery. See, Dad? I’m ok!

Day 2 was crazy. Between flower deliveries (my favorite!), emptying my various drains, an endless stream of checking my vitals, my surgical team making the rounds, figuring out how everything worked, social workers (yes, social workers…don’t know why), and the very awesome Dr. Boz and PAK stopping by to check up on me (how awesome are they?!), it was a whirlwind of activity in my room. I dozed on and off but woke up whenever I got a flower delivery :)

Pretty view from my room. The flowers everyone sent brightened every moment of my stay in the hospital.

With the help of the very awesome Mrs. Obi-wan, I walked even more on Day 2. I think we went to the entryway of my wing and back twice. Mom kept chatting about this beautiful mural as you walk onto my floor that I never got to see since I was only semi-conscious when I was brought to my floor. On day 3, I finally got to see it.

The very cool “Chalk Mural” depicting the World’s Fair in Queens, NY on my floor. It wasn’t actually chalk, but we never could figure out what it was.

But in order to get that far, they had to let me EAT REAL FOOD!

French toast never tasted so good.

French toast, turkey sausage and orange juice. Food, I missed you. I was so happy that I took a picture and sent it to my family. Being allowed to eat real food is a big marker post-surgery. I blasted by the “soft foods” order that my resident prescribed in less than 24 hours and was onto “normal diet” so quickly the food delivery lady couldn’t keep up with his orders.

My recovery went about as well as you could expect. I walked more and more, further and further. And while it was never really “easy” to get out of bed, once I was up I was able to make multiple laps on my floor several times a day. I was out of the hospital by Friday afternoon and home sleeping on my couch Friday night.

My pillow fort.

In all the fuss over my surgery, I had forgotten that my birthday was just days later. By then, I was showering and getting dressed all by myself, walking the streets of New York (with a bodyguard), and eating delicious takeout.

My birthday this year was a very laid-back celebration of survival, the gift of life, modern medicine and Sprinkles Cupcakes. I have never been so happy to have a birthday come as I was this year. Not only did it mark the end of a reeeeeeally trying year for me, but it was the kickoff to a year of entirely new adventures, new body and better health.

Happy birthday!
Love,
Doggie Howser

I am still not running. I am walking lots and hoping to maybe jump on a bike sometime this week, but I’m in no rush. I am respecting the healing process and allowing my body time to recover. When I do get back to running, it will be entirely different than it was before–and that’s ok. Things will feel different. I might move differently. God knows I’ll be slow as molasses. But I’ll be back and I will learn what it is to Run Stronger Every Day as the new me.

So, here I go. Starting from Square One, I am working toward running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall in Washington, D.C. for Team Fisher House. That’s right, a marathon. Will I make it? Don’t care. I will at least show up and run a few miles at my favorite race. If I have to drop out at some point, I don’t care. I will be there. I will run (a little or a lot). I will celebrate my life and do what I love: run.

I will run…and then we will celebrate!

So far, my journey back has taught me two things.

  1. The body is the most perfect instrument every created.
  2. I can do anything if I set my mind to it.

It’s not always easy. I get frustrated sometimes and the fatigue is more annoying than anything else. The days are not always sunshine and butterflies, though there have been an awful lot of double rainbows in the city lately.

RAINBOWS!! (picture shamelessly stolen from Erica Sara, who makes really beautiful jewelry)

The thing is, it had to be done so there’s no use being all upset about it. I’m going to be healthier for it. I’m already able to do more than I could before. And one day soon, I will Run Stronger because of this surgery. And for that reason, it will always have been worth it.

Now go out and run!

It’s Been A While…

…I know. But I’m back, sort of. Physics final in less than two weeks. Things are getting REAL. In exactly two weeks…ch-ch-ch-changes!

Cryptic, I know.

What have you all been up to? Slogging it out in the heat at the Nashville Marathon/Half-Marathon? Setting PRs at Big Sur and Eugene? Catch me up! And get ready for more from Run Stronger Every Day.

Now go out and run.

Philly

Philadelphia is a cool town. I like the little streets and the architecture is truly beautiful. It was even cooler at daybreak as me and 25,000 of my closest running buddies headed to the start line of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon.

I ran. I finished.

But first, I met Bart Yasso, Editor-at-large for Runner’s World Magazine and creator of my favorite marathon workout, Yasso 800s. Yes, THAT Bart Yasso.

Hey, Bart!

He’s only the most friendly guy in the world. He’s also very gracious. He signed my book, took a picture with me and chatted with me about our mutual love for lululemon run apparel. His favorites are the Run: Response shorts. He also promised to join us for a Wednesday night run club next time he’s in the city. We’ll be ready for you, Bart!

I spent Saturday afternoon napping at our hotel before we hit up our dinner reservation for some good ‘ol fashioned pasta. Thanks, Maggiano’s Little Italy for making a special dish just for me and my stupid colitis tummy.

Success #1. Drugs. On that note, I was completely hopped up on the ‘roids on race day. Whatever. Thanks to my fabulous drugs, the quick thinking of my awesome PA and last-minute freak-out emails with Ali when I fully should have been listening in Physics class, I was basically bathroom problem-free on Sunday morning. Basically.

Success #2. Corral starts were staggered and awesome. I was put in the perfect corral pace for me and enjoyed a fairly spread-out start. I was also dressed perfectly, thanks to  my favorite lululemon apparel: Energy BraCool Racerback Tank TopRun: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve (which I ditched at mile 5), Run: Mind Over Matter Pullover (from Spring ’11 line), Run: For Your Life Crops (from Summer/Fall ’11 line) and Run: Brisk Gloves at the start.

Ready to run!

Oh, but I totally bit it in the middle of the road at mile 5.5. Me and two other people all fell in the exact same spot, which made me feel a little better that I wasn’t he only klutz on the course. Super-cool part of it all is that I was fine and hardly spent any time on the pavement, as I was almost immediately drawn to my feet by three rather large male runners, each of whom grabbed my arms and promptly put me back on my feet. Thanks, guys!

I held myself back in the first 10 miles, which kept me at an 8:11-8:30 pace. I wanted to maintain an 8:30 as long as I could, knowing I’d probably end up slowing down in the last 6 miles even if I pushed harder. It felt slow to begin with and maybe I’ll tinker with going out a little faster on training run in the future, but I was really very ok with it yesterday. Saw JB at mile 7 (he looked pretty content with a coffee in one hand, waving at me with the other) and kept on truckin’.

Success #3. Only one POJ stop at mile 13.1. I’ll take it. I am sad that I missed seeing JB jumping up and down, waving his arms looking for me but I was probably too distracted and looking for the nearest POJ to notice a 6’2” Marine-looking dude jumping up and down, which he swears he was doing (for the record, I have NEVER seen him do this in my life so if anyone caught this on film/camera, pleeeeease email it to me so that I might see my husband cheering like a wild animal).

The scenery was really beautiful past mile 13. I know a lot of people hate an out and back and I’m normally with ya’ll on that, but this out and back was gorgeous! It was a beautiful run along the cliff-lined river on our way to Manayunk. Once in Manayunk, we were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans and a DJ nearly every mile. There was that point where they had beer shots out for runners and I almost gagged on the smell of stale beer being heated up on the pavement, but other than that it was lovely!

Success #4. Seeing my friends. I almost cried several times during this marathon. I blame my hormones. And my family. And my friends who came all the way from New York just to cheer for me at mile 24.5. And they made me my very own sign that was “3D”. They were cheering “Ab-by! Ab-by! Ab-by!” as I blew kisses and shuffled on by them and then met me at the finish with JB. I mean, seriously.

Best gals in the world. You shall remain nameless, but not faceless because you're too pretty for that. I hope ya'll don't mind.

Success #5. I did not lose it and cry. Phew. I damn near broke down when I heard several songs: “My Life Would Suck Without You” at mile 16 (weird, but there’s a reason), “Born To Run” at mile 18, “Gonna Fly Now” at mile 24, “Learning To Fly” at mile 25. When I got to mile 22, I knew I was going to finish and be just fine. This also made me want to cry, but I didn’t. No crying = success!

And then I was almost done. Since my name was written on my number as “Abigail” and not Abby, if I ever heard anyone yell “Go Abby!” I knew that they actually knew me! This was the case at the finish when I saw a friendly face from the city who had run the half marathon and stuck around to cheer us marathoners on. Thanks, AH!

I wish my Garmin hadn’t died at mile 24.7 so that I knew where I was in the last few miles, but whatever. Apparently, my computer has to be on in order for the silly gadget to charge. Whatever. It did it’s job for most of the race so I guess it’s ok. The finish line was around a corner and I didn’t see it until I was on top of it. This is a good mental note for the next time I do Philly: Finish line is around that big corner.

Success #6. I did it. Official finish time-3:56. Yippeee!

See? Told you I'd have this photo to show ya'll! Wow, JB, I really DO turn blue when I finish a race.

JB was there at the finish line (he tells me I looked great when I was finishing. Isn’t he kind? I know I probably had “the face” happening) where he helped me break the law and hop the corrals and whisked me back to the hotel where he promptly dropped my very cold body into a very warm tub. I know, I know, COLD water bath. Well, I was turning blue so hypothermia > muscular edema. Warm bath wins.

Success #7. We made our train and were home by 3:30 that afternoon. I was asleep on the couch by 8pm with a tummy full of (cheeseless) pizza and breadsticks. Mmmmmm…

All in all, a really great weekend. Thank you all who have cheered me on both near and far for the past few weeks, months and years as I truck along on this crazy journey we call life. I appreciate all the Tweets and Facebook comments of encouragement more than you will probably ever realize. I’m looking forward to lots of great races in the near future and maybe even a Spring marathon (any takers?).

Congratulations to everyone who ran the inaugural Brooklyn Marathon in Prospect Park on Sunday. I do not envy you on that course. Ouch.

Stay classy, Philly. And thanks for the memories.

Now go out and run!