Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Running with the Olympians

One of the reasons I especially love being a marathoner is knowing that I am PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME EVENT as that sport's greatest athletes in the world. Not even golf's U.S. Open can give that kind of opportunity. Anyone can do this, even if it means raising funds for charity and a guaranteed entry, as long as you have the means to get to Fort Wadsworth for the start line on Nov. 3. I don't mind that the elite runners are finishing far ahead of me; it's the same event, the same shared start, the same fluid stations, crowds and bands, the same finish line and clocks, the same medals.

Today's news reaffirms that feeling. New York Road Runners just announced that Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher will be among the pro field in the ING New York City Marathon. I look forward to being at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island with them and then following their lead. Finishing is what matters most! Here's the @nyrrnews story:

NEW YORK -- Three of the nation’s most accomplished and admired long-distance runners—Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, and Kara Goucher—will run the 2013 ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 3, it was announced today by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg. The talented trio will lead a group of highly competitive U.S. athletes who are the first official entrants into this year’s professional athlete field. Keflezighi, Hall, and Goucher are among the total of six Olympic athletes confirmed thus far, along with 2012 U.S. Olympians Julie Culley (5000 meters), Amy Hastings (10,000 meters), and Janet Bawcom (10,000 meters).
Additional top American men announced for the race include two-time fourth-place Boston Marathon finisher Jason Hartmann, last year’s eighth-ranked U.S. marathoner Ryan Vail, and 2013 World Championships team member Jeffrey Eggleston. Other top American women include 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000-meter fifth-place finisher Alisha Williams, 2013 USA Half-Marathon Champion Adriana Nelson, and Mattie Suver, the top American finisher at the 2013 Oakley New York Mini 10K.
Athlete Backgrounds and Notable Performances
·       Keflezighi, 38, of San Diego, CA, was the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon silver medalist and finished fourth in the 2012 London Olympic Marathon. In 2009, he became the first American since Alberto Salazar in 1982 to win the ING New York City Marathon. Keflezighi has finished in the top 10 in the ING New York City Marathon six times, most recently with a sixth-place finish in 2011.
·       Hall, 30, of Redding, CA, will be running the ING New York City Marathon for the second time after finishing fourth in 2009 in 2:10:36. He finished 10th in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon, but was forced to drop out of the 2012 London race with a hamstring injury. At the 2011 Boston Marathon, Hall took fourth place in a time of 2:04:58—the fastest all-conditions performance ever run by an American. He holds the American half-marathon record at 59:43.
·       Goucher, 35, of Portland, OR, ran the fastest-ever-marathon-debut by an American woman when she finished third at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon in a time of 2:25:33, also the fastest time ever by an American woman in New York. It was the first time in 14 years that an American woman had placed in the top three at the race. At the Boston Marathon, Goucher has finished third in 2009, fifth in 2011 (in a personal-best 2:24:52), and sixth this year. She finished 11th in the 2012 London Olympic Marathon in a time of 2:26:07. She was the 2007 World Championships bronze medalist at 10,000 meters.
Ryan Hall
“I have one goal in mind for this year’s ING New York City Marathon: redemption—restore what has been lost.  I have had my fair share of struggles since qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Marathon; however, those struggles are now behind me and the lessons learned are paving the path to what I hope is a very redemptive ING New York City Marathon. I am expecting this year’s race to be the most inspirational race in recent memory.”
Meb Keflezighi
“Running the ING New York City Marathon is always a great pleasure and honor for me. This year's race will be extra- special because of the cancellation last year. As always, I will train and ‘run to win.’”
Kara Goucher
“I am so excited to be returning to the ING New York City Marathon. So much in my life has changed during the five years since I last ran this race, but my love for NYC remains the same; it feels like a full-circle moment to return to NYC, where my marathon career began and to return with my son. NYRR has been such an incredible and supportive part of my marathon career. I have been eager to return to NYC when the timing was right, and the time is now.  I look forward to testing myself in the most prestigious marathon in the world.”
Mary Wittenberg
“Meb, Ryan, and Kara are examples of what is so great about our sport—competitors who overcome obstacles, keep going, and help lift the running community. On Marathon Day we’ll run for our City, for Boston, and for runners everywhere. In this year of added meaning, it is an honor to welcome back so many of our City’s and our nation’s favorite American runners and to have these three great athletes lead us as the spirit and excitement of this great race returns to New York.”

Elite Men
Marathon Personal Best
Ryan Hall
Meb Keflezighi
Jason Hartmann
Ryan Vail
Jeff Eggleston
Elite Women
Marathon Personal Best
Twitter Handle
Kara Goucher
Amy Hastings
Adriana Nelson
Janet Bawcom
Alisha Williams
Mattie Suver
    Julie Culley          

Also follow me on Twitter @marathoner

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Running Invention: Blister Instafix

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I proved that yesterday during my first run in a New York City Marathon 16-week training program. Hopefully I will be able to show you on Katie Couric's TV show!

My Mizuno running shoes recently developed a bare patch in the right heel area. I wore them yesterday on a trail run from Piermont to Nyack, up the Hudson River just north of the city. About 2 miles in, I began to feel blistering in that area, as my heel rubbed against that unpadded surface of the shoe. A very common blister.

I toughed it out for another mile and I knew that if I went any further I was going to ruin my chances for good 10K races this weekend, as I am in Saturday's Boomer Esiason Run To Breathe 10K at Central Park and also the Queens 10K in Flushing. So I stopped and took off my shoe. Then I took off my Balega sock.

I examined the blister, and lacking any bandage means at the time, I did something new: I doubled the Balega sock over and pushed it against the back of my shoe. Then I slipped my foot into the shoe. The sock gave double the padding between my heel and the shoe, and I was unaffected in finishing my 5 miler.

As for Katie Couric's TV show: She just tweeted that she is looking for #MothersOfInvention -- people who have come up with products others can't live without.

Mine is a process rather than a product, but it's my invention and I submitted my entry in hopes of being on the show. Hopefully they'll pick me! Either way, I now have something to pass along to my running friends here -- feel free to copy the Blister Instafix!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Can Breathe!

I've been quiet here lately because I have spent the last couple of months trying to breathe.

Never have I been so happy to start a marathon training program as I am right now. Yesterday I returned to work and also began my 16-week New York City Marathon training program. This after I was finally diagnosed and treated for an "irritated larynx" probably caused by a reflux disease that has required me to change my diet, which I needed to do anyway as a runner. So far so good.

It all started when I was in St. Louis in mid-May for my son's law-school graduation. My sinuses began draining and after a 5-hour delay at STL's airport I came home to NY with an upper-respiratory infection. That began a string of doctor visits -- urgent cares, 2 hospital ER visits, family doctor, one pulmonologist who ran out of ideas and then another pulmonologist at Columbia Presbyterian who finally came through.

Bottom line, I was having trouble getting a full breath. Gradually I realized that it was especially problematic whenever I talked. For someone who interviews people for a living, that's not great. Tests included:

-CT scan of chest with contrast
-CT scan of neck without contrast
-Echocardiogram of heart
-2 EKGs
-Ultrasound of abdomen
-Respiratory stress test
-X-rays, breathing in and breathing out
-4 bloodwork sessions

Weeks went by, six, seven...still shortness of breath. It can be very scary, and the worst thing was gradually getting used to breathing that way, almost forgetting what it felt like to be normal.

My current pulmonologist had me take a VO2 test. I have always wanted to do that anyway, seeing elite athletes all hooked up and running. I was put on a stationary bike, sensors hooked up to me, and then a tube running to my mouth where I bit down on a mouthpiece. I was asked to ride for 10 minutes as they gradually increased resistance, and I was asked each minute to point at a chart that showed 0 to 10 in terms of difficulty, with 0 being easiest. I constantly pointed to 0 for legs and 0.5 for breathing. They were beyond impressed. One of the two doctors who administered the VO2 told me that I am "interesting to the medical community." I finished above average for the test. That only made it more mysterious, but the good news was that my heart and lungs were fine. Yet another "rule out" test completed.

Then my pulmonologist referred me to a head and neck surgeon (ENT) at Columbia Presbyterian. She tested me on a machine (pictured here), where I held a sensor against my neck and made vocal sounds per her instruction. She was able to look into my throat, at my vocal chords. When she was finished, she let me look at the video of my larynx area and gave me a printout of images she took.

It showed that my larynx was bright red and a bit inflamed -- irritated, she said. That was clearly the reason that talking was making me cough, and the dry hacking cough was making it worse. I am on meds as a result, Nexium in the morning (antacid help for reflux) and amitriptilene at bedtime (neuropathic med to help regulate breathing), and at this point am ready to be taken off of them. But what was the cause?

a) It was either Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR), a disease that requires change in diet and habits, such as eliminating or using in moderation caffeine, sodas, alcohol, citrus, chocolate...basically whatever I really like. I am emphasizing the "moderation" part.  ;)

b) Or it was a result of the courses of Prednisone I had been prescribed early in this quest, a prescription that had done absolutely nothing to help.

c) My next step is to see a top Allergist in NYC on July 23. Bloodwork had showed that an antibody level in one's immune system, which is 30 to 40 in normal cases, was a soaring 5,000 in my test. That meant something was "revving up my immune system." What that something was, I have no idea. But I am pretty sure I am super-allergic to a lot of things, and maybe this time it caused or exacerbated my condition.

In any case, whatever the cause and cure, on this day I am finally writing on my blog about a return to RUNNING! I went two months without my favorite activity, except for one ill-advised participation in the Wall Street 3M Run a week into my problem. I was pretty normal, except for having lost much of my fitness base. I'll be combining running and strength training and swimming in my backyard pool (right), and I will be ready for the NYC Marathon, my 12th race of at least 26.2 miles.

First up is Saturday's Boomer Esiason's Cystic Fibrosis "Run To Breathe" 10K at Central Park. It could not be more appropriate. His son Gunnar has lived with cystic fibrosis, and the pulmonologist I am seeing is based in an office dedicated to Gunnar. "Run to Breathe" -- perfect words for how I feel right now. This will be my seventh New York Road Runners race of 2013, moving me closer to the 9+1 guaranteed placement in the 2014 New York City Marathon as well. It's time to train!

I have been blessed to have so many family and friends keep me in their thoughts and prayers, and to work for a company that looks after its own and was able to get me into the office of top physicians. That has meant a lot. Never take for granted every breath you take, for it is a miracle inside of you that makes you run.