Monthly Archives: June 2012

I’m a match!

On Wednesday evening, I got an email.  It began with a short sentence that almost stopped my heart cold.  I know that I stopped breathing for a few seconds while I read it.

Dear Anne,

You are a match for a specific patient with leukemia who is in urgent need of a marrow transplant. 

When you registered on 6/26/2011, you did so knowing that one day you could help save a life.  Now someone is waiting for your response, and time is of the essence.  Less than 1% of donors are matched with patients.

My first thought?  This might be spam.

Then I realized the exact same email had been sent to both my home and work accounts.  “Wow.  This is real,” I thought.  The email had a phone number for me to contact Amy, the donor coordinator.  I immediately wanted to call her.  But, the email had been sent at 4:49 pm, and their offices had closed at 5.

I spent the next hour and a half in a kind of daze.  I was at my son’s baseball game.  I had only been able to briefly scan the message while getting the kids all loaded into the van and heading out to the game.  Now, my iPhone was in my pocket, and I felt the weight of it against my hip.  It felt like a lead brick.  It was almost all I could do not to pull the phone out and read the email line by line, word by word, letter by letter.  I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sit still.  In fact, I stood the whole time.

My parents also came to the game, and I told my dad quickly about the email I had gotten.  He looked at me in a sort of disbelief for a second.  He’s been on the bone marrow registry for years and has never gotten a call.  Both of my parents seemed to assume that this was just an initial match, that there would be much more testing involved to determine if I was really a match.

When I got home and got the kids in bed, I posted a short note on my personal Facebook page.  I had to tell someone.  I spent the rest of the evening alternating between tears and anxiety.  I am not good at waiting, I wanted to know what was going on RIGHT NOW.  It wasn’t that I was questioning whether I would do this.  That was decided the second I saw that sentence in the email.  It was waiting to get started that was killing me.

Finally, Thursday rolled around, and then finally, after what seemed like the longest hour and a half ever,  it was after 8:00.  The offices were open, I could call them back!

I called Amy, and she talked to me about the donor process, what the next steps would be.  She explained how the next step in the process was to fill out a health questionnaire, then have a blood sample drawn for additional testing.  I asked her how likely it was that I was not going to be a match after the blood testing.  She told me that unless there had been a problem with my sample, that it was likely that I was an excellent match.  The blood sample validates the match that they did against the cheek swab I sent in last summer, as well as checks for any infections or other diseases that might make it unsafe for the patient to receive my donation.

After the blood sample is checked, within a week we’ll know if I’m still a good donor.  Then, the patient’s doctor will review the results and determine how to proceed.  I could be donating bone marrow as early as the end of July, or perhaps not until September.  They’ll give me 3-4 weeks notice so I have time to prepare.

So, I went back to my desk, filled out the health questionnaire, and sent it in.  I think she probably had it within 10 minutes of our conversation.

A few hours later, she called me again, and we scheduled a blood draw for next Thursday.  I wanted to do it as soon as possible, (like the next day), but unfortunately that isn’t possible.  They have to ship a kit to the lab that will do the blood draw, and with the 4th of July holiday coming up, they need to make sure that when the samples and results are shipped, they can be received  the next day.  A mid-week holiday causes issues with that.

So on Thursday I will go in for my blood draw.  I wish it was going to be today, or Monday.  There’s a cancer patient out there that needs me.  I would donate my bone marrow tomorrow if I could.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m a pretty down to earth person.  I’m not super religious, I don’t honestly believe much in luck, I think that life is what you make of it.  I like to believe that I’m in control of my own destiny.  I tend to think that things happen by coincidence.  I’m an engineer, and I find it hard to accept things on faith alone.  I need proof.   But, then, there are times, like Wednesday, that make me question just how much I think I know.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months you may have figured out that my best friend Bean died from leukemia.  His short life has impacted mine in ways I can’t even understand.  I wouldn’t be on the bone marrow registry if it weren’t for him. I probably wouldn’t be a runner if it wasn’t for him.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the connection between Pink Floyd and my relationship with Bean.  

About a week ago I was having a low point and I started talking to Bean.  Some people pray, I talk to Bean.  I asked him for a sign that there was more to life than just living day to day.  Some kind of sign that everything is okay, and that there is some sort of higher power, some life after death, or something like that.  

On Wednesday, a new XM Radio channel started to broadcast.  I’d been looking forward to this since Memorial Day weekend, when they had announced that the Pink Floyd Channel was coming up.  I had to run to the grocery store over lunch Wednesday to pick up snacks and drinks for the baseball game.  I got into the car just minutes after the station went on the air.  I was so excited, that drive to the store was electrifying (I really do love Pink Floyd).  They were airing a live interview with Roger Waters, one of the band’s founders. After my short run to the grocery store, I got back in the car for the short (2 minute) drive back.  They were taking calls from listeners.  

A man called in to the station.  He started to tell the story of his son, who loved Pink Floyd.  While they were in the hospital, he and his son would listen to Pink Floyd together to get through his leukemia treatments.  I don’t remember, or maybe he didn’t say, if his son had survived cancer.  He went on to ask some questions about how Waters’ childhood had influenced his music, and whether playing with his son now had brought everything full circle.

Is it chance that I happened to listen to the station exactly when this man called in?  Perhaps.  Or maybe it was some unseen force trying to tell me that something big was going to happen to me later that day.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  I just know that Wednesday was a good day.

If you’ve gotten this far then you can take one more step.  Click on the image above.  Go now and register. It’s easy, and it might just save a life.


My ongoing shoe journey…

I mentioned in my last blog post that I’m a bit of a shoe hoarder.

If only…

In fact, just last week I took about 10 pairs to Goodwill…some I had only worn once or twice.

In my defense, I buy almost all my shoes on clearance or on sale, or on eBay.  So I can fund this minor obsession with minimal expenses.  I probably get 3-4 pairs for the price of one new pair, because I am so cheap frugal good at finding a deal.

Except for my running shoes.  I am perfectly willing to spend money on good running shoes, because I know the value that I get out of them.  And I know how important it is to have the right shoes for my running style, and my body.  Of course, I am still not afraid to search for the best deal I can find on the shoes I want, but I won’t buy a pair of running shoes just because they are cheap.  Make those a cute pair of flats or sandals, and all bets are off.

I’ve also made a shoe evolution of sorts through the last 5 years of running.

I started out with a pair of Saucony stability shoes (the ProGrid Guide).  I went through two pairs of these when I was first starting out in my running career.  And they worked out pretty well.

Then I started with Team in Training, and I finally got professionally fitted (at my favorite running store in the world, Running Wild).  They fitted me in the Adidas Supernova Sequence.  Again, I wore two pairs of these.  These are the shoes I wore for my first two half marathons, back in 2009.

I then made another transition (notice a pattern here?  I can’t really stick with one thing for very long…).  I had recently read Born to Run, and I had also recently had my third child, so I had been forced to slow down my running and was in the process of building back up.  I had experimented with running in the Vibram Five Finger shoes, and they just didn’t work for my feet.  (I have weird toes and the toe pockets just don’t work for me, they hurt!).  But I had felt the freedom of running with less on my feet, and I wanted to feel that again.

I went back to Running Wild and told them I really wanted to try running in less shoe.  They recommended that I gradually work down to a minimal shoe (although I had been running in the Vibrams already), so they fitted me in the Asics Gel-DS Trainer.

Again, I wore this shoe for a few half marathons.  Then, last fall, on a trip where I had forgotten to pack shoes, I was forced to go shopping (yeah, it was really tough).  I tried on a pair of the New Balance Minimus shoes and was in love.  They felt like slippers on my feet, they were light, and I just felt so good wearing them.  And, they were on clearance at a great price!  I figured I would wear them casually, but I didn’t know if I’d like to run in them.

It may not be the sexiest shoe in the world…but I love it.

I have been wearing these shoes since last fall, and I have been running in them. Once I tried running in them, I was hooked.  I could run faster, lighter, and more easily.  My form was better, and my legs were stronger.  And these aren’t really “minimal” shoes – they are just less shoe than I had been wearing.  There’s still quite a substantial sole, and padding.  But it’s much less than anything I had run in before, and I felt amazing.

These are now my go-to 5k racing shoes, and I wear them for everything up to and including 6 miles runs.  In fact, I was running exclusively in them up until I hit the 10 mile run in my marathon training.  I started to have a bit of pain in my ankle, and thought, perhaps, that these weren’t the best shoe to run a marathon in.  I went back to Running Wild and found the Saucony Cortana.  They felt light, yet cushioned, and I thought, “This is what I need for long distances!”  And I bought them (at $150, it was definitely NOT a bargain shoe!)

And yes, I did all my long runs, and the marathon, in this shoe.  But even now, when I put it on, I want my New Balances on instead.  So I’m back to trying to figure out exactly what I want to run in for the future.  Should I stick with the New Balance WR10’s?  Should I try the WR00 (the zero drop shoe)?  Should I run in the Merrell Pace Gloves (my current go-to casual shoe for summer)?

I do love this shoe.

So, I have some more research to do, and some more testing.  It’s going to be a fun ride, although it could get a bit expensive.  Based on my history with shoe purchases, however, I bet not.  I’m more likely to pass on a shoe “experiment” unless I really need one.  More than likely I will run in what I have until they need to be replaced (probably later this summer or fall).

Unless some very benevolent running company out there wants to start to send me free shoes…hint, hint?  (hey, it’s a very, very long shot!)

Another product reviewer? Really?

Although I’m not a “product reviewer” per se (I don’t have companies contacting me and sending me free stuff to review…at least not yet!), I love to try new things, as long as they are relatively reasonable in price 🙂  What can I say, I’m cheap!  When I walk into the running store, I head right to the clearance racks.  This doesn’t help me try out the “latest and greatest” products.   But, it has given me an opportunity to try lots of things, since I don’t spend much on them 🙂

I would like to start documenting my attempts at finding the “right” shoes, gear, and other things in this running journey of mine.

I also am excited that I may actually have a real product to review soon…but I’m not going to spill the beans just yet.  In the meantime I am going to start to blog about some of the things I have tried (whether I love or hate them).

Yes, I do *heart* shoes…

Goodness knows I have tried a lot of shoes in the last few years…documenting my shoe search alone will keep me busy…

This is not me at all…

Not again…

I’d like to spend time writing about this, but right now I’m tired and blogging from my phone. And SUAR says it better than I could anyway.

Please, go and read this post:
Another Running Tragedy

I don’t want anyone else’s family to have to go through this.

random brain dump

I realize it’s been a long time since I posted.  I probably should have posted a recap of the Race for the Cure last weekend.  I probably should have posted something about my first post-marathon run.  But the truth is, I was busy.  And right now, I don’t have time for “probably should have”s.

In fact, I think I need to stop beating myself up for not being “as good as” everyone.

So what if I don’t post a blog post every day?  Or after every run?  Or on a “regular schedule so that your readers know when to expect a post,” as WordPress so nicely informed me I should…

So, here’s my recap of the Race for the Cure.

1.  It was hot
2.  I was almost late enough to miss the start.
3.  I think I ran my second fastest 5k ever. (around 25:30)
4.  I learned my lesson.  If you don’t get a cookie right away, they are gone within 20 minutes.
5.  The LiveUncommon race shirts were sweet.  Sadly I didn’t get to race in mine because of (2).  But I wore it all day after the race and got lots of comments.

I’m feeling a bit irritated tonight, if you couldn’t tell.  I’m frustrated at something that has absolutely nothing to do with running.  I need to run it out, but I was waiting for my husband to get home.

He’s just walked in the door, so off I go, because if I don’t I’m going to stew on this all night.

the nitty gritty details

So, now for the details (at least as many as I can remember).  This is probably going to be long, so I’ll apologize in advance.  If you want the quick synopsis, look at this post.

On Sunday, I ran a marathon.  It all seems so surreal.  Almost like I dreamed it.  Today, two days later, I feel…normal.  There is a tiny bit of tightness in my muscles, but really, I feel fine.  Tonight I ran up the stairs and into the hall before I realized just what I was doing.  “Shouldn’t that have hurt?” I thought.

But I’m jumping way ahead of myself, aren’t I?

We drove up to Minneapolis on Saturday, taking our time getting there.  My husband was dying to visit the Toppling Goliath brewery in Decorah, Iowa.  I am so glad we stopped.  The people there were so incredibly nice, and we enjoyed spending a few hours just sitting there talking beer.  I think my husband is already trying to figure out when he can get back.  Luckily for us, we were there right when they tapped Pseudo Sue, so we got to taste it fresh – minutes from being kegged…it was, in a word, amazing.  Definitely worth the visit.  However, it made us a bit later getting into Minneapolis than we originally planned, so we had to go to packet pickup first before checking into the hotel.  No worries, packet pickup was a breeze, and I got to say a quick hi to fellow RMM Leia who was working at the shirt handout tables.

One thing that I have always wanted to do is to own a marathon finisher’s jacket.  I always told myself I would get one for my first marathon.  So I keyed in on those in the “expo” (more on that later) and went to check them out.  I thought they were a bargain at $30, and my husband nodded, so I quickly purchased one.  I figured this was more incentive to finish the race, because there was no way I would wear the jacket without actually finishing.  That would be like lying!

Overall, I was disappointed in the expo.  Packet pickup was great and super convenient, but the expo consisted of a few marathon shirts and the aforementioned jackets, and one display of running gear.  Hardly anything for the “last minute” shopper – my husband was thinking of getting some new headphones, and I always like to see the latest running gear, but what little they had there I could get at the local sporting goods store.  So we were in and out of there in about 15 minutes.

We went to the hotel, checked in, and headed out to get some dinner.  My husband figured I should eat pasta, so he took me to an Italian place.  We ordered, and when our food arrived, I ate two bites and, suddenly, couldn’t eat any more.  My stomach was in a huge knot, and I had no appetite.  I struggled to swallow a few more bites, then decided force-feeding myself wasn’t a good idea either.  Luckily we had shared a salad and I had eaten a few slices of bread before the entrees arrived, so it wasn’t like I was starving myself.

We headed back to the hotel, and I laid out my race gear, got my fuel belt and bib number set up, my timing chip on my shoelaces, and I was in bed by 9.  Crazy people, we are.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 5:15.  (The race started at 6:30.)  I had slept pretty soundly, only waking once at 3:15, and I had been able to go back to sleep.  I was calm, not very nervous, which is weird for me.  I’m usually a nervous wreck before a race.  I got dressed and ate a banana, while my husband got his running gear on (he ran the half).  We headed out to walk to the race, and halfway there I realized I hadn’t eaten the cereal I packed.  We looked for a coffee shop to buy a bagel, but none were open, so my husband offered me the gel he was going to take on his race.  So I had a gel about 6:15.

A nice guy offered to take our picture if we’d buy him running shoes…

I lined up with the 10 minute/mile group, and soon it was time to go.  I never heard a starting gun, or the national anthem, actually I never heard anything.  There were about 800-900 runners in the full marathon (the half started an hour later, at 7:30), so it wasn’t like it was a huge crowd, but I couldn’t hear the PA system at all.  So when everyone started to crowd up to the front, I followed along (we are really just lemmings, aren’t we) and started running when I hit the pace mats.

And we’re off!  Can you find me?

I wonder what I was looking at?

The first six miles of the race pretty much flew by.  There were plenty of people around, I really enjoyed talking with one fellow runner for a few miles until we hit a water stop and I lost her.  The highlight of the first few miles had to be talking for a while with a guy wearing a full hockey uniform (pads and all).  The only thing he wasn’t wearing were the skates – luckily he had running shoes on instead.  He was running with a relay team and they were raising money for charity.  Each of them had on the full uniform.  With the heat, the added weight (he said it was something like 30 pounds of gear), and the helmet, I am so impressed by these guys.

At mile 6 I stopped at a porta potty (actually this was at the finish line – what torture to have us run by the finish line at mile 6?), then kept going.  I was going along at a comfortable pace, but in hindsight it might have been faster than I should have been going.  But it felt good and the air was cool, so I went with it.  It wasn’t that far off my normal pace, but knowing now what was coming, I probably could have slowed down.

I followed my original race plan to run with a bottle of nuun, sipping throughout the run, and take a gel every 5-6 miles.  With the breakfast snafu and the lack of a full dinner the night before, I opted to fuel more often, knowing that the guidance is usually “fuel before you think you need it” – so I aimed to take a gel every 5 miles or less.  It worked for me in training, I wasn’t going to change now.  And I sipped on the nuun the whole time I ran, refilling the water bottle when it was getting low and dropping in a new tablet.  I drank almost four whole bottles of water during the race – three were nuun, and the last was water.  For someone who typically drinks one during a long run, this was a lot more – but I needed it.

Everything went great until mile 14, when it started to get hard.  Miles 12-14 had been on a nice wooded trail, shady and cool.  Then we hit mile 14, and bam! back into the sun.  I decided I could use some music, so I turned on some Radiohead.  Then at mile 15, we hit a gravel road for a mile out-and-back.  The course had been rerouted due to flooding, so I know this wasn’t the original plan, but the gravel, honestly, was not a good running surface.  Some of the rocks were over an inch in diameter, and often I found myself with one poking up into my shoe, or my ankle twisting as I landed roughly on one.  I tried to find the path of least rocks, but this was a hard job.  Kudos to the guy who ran this barefoot.  He should get two medals.

Side note – at this point we were also running in the runway approach for the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport.  An airplane flew about 200 yards over my head.  It was kind of cool.

Just before mile 18, the 4:30 pacer passed me.  4:30 had been my “stretch goal” – the “if everything is going perfect, then I might have a shot at it” goal.  Just after that, this happened (see red circle).

I am not kidding. This was climbing a mountain.

Everyone walked that hill.  I don’t think it was physically possible to run up it.

By the time I hit mile 19, we were running right next to the interstate.  Cars were honking, the sun was beating down, and I was getting tired.  I told myself, “You knew this was going to be hard.  Now you have to finish.”

I looked up, and saw the most amazing sight.  I saw an eagle fly overhead, just above the treetops.  (maybe 50 feet over my head).  Nobody else was close to me on the path.  I think I was the only one who saw it.  I watched to see the eagle come out of the other side of the tree, and it never did.  I couldn’t find it again.  It was like it had vanished.  If you’ve followed this blog you know about me and eagles.  To me, this was a sign – right when things got hard, I see an eagle?  It couldn’t have been a coincidence.  And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  I dug down and started running again.

I kept a steady pace, just walked more at the end.

The next 6 miles were tough, yes, but I never, ever thought I wouldn’t make it.  I looked at my watch and saw that I had finished 20 miles in about 3:30.  The question wasn’t whether I would finish, the question was how long it would take.  So I allowed myself to walk when it was hard, when I was tired, and each time I would start running again.

Eventually around mile 22-23, I realized that it hurt more to walk than to run, so I started to try and run more often, and make the walk breaks shorter.  By this time it was pretty warm, so I tried to stay in what little shade was left.  Everyone around me was walking too.  I guess all the “runners” were up ahead…that or it was the heat.  There was a small group of us that were all together, we’d pass one another, then one would walk and the others would pass, and so on.  It was like a giant slow-motion game of leapfrog.  But way less fun.

In the end, I did finish, and I was even able to pick up the pace a bit at the end.  I heard the announcer struggle to pronounce my name, as always.  At least this race I was not “Annie” – that was a definite plus!

Right after the race I found my husband, and we headed off to the beer tent.  The beer wasn’t very good, so we stayed to talk with Leia for a little while then headed back to the hotel.  I was disappointed in the post-race party, but this post is already too long, and there’s no need to complain here.  I will just fill out my post-race survey as requested and give them my feedback directly.  Let’s just say I didn’t get any water except for a small cup right at the finish line, and nobody told me where I could get my finisher’s photo taken, so I didn’t get one.

I’m pretty sure I told my husband several times I didn’t need to ever do this again.  But at the same time in my head I was already analyzing what went wrong and trying to figure out if any of it could be fixed.  I’m an engineer, that’s what I do.  After getting back to the hotel, we both wanted to collapse – so we took quick showers and laid down.  I’ll admit I felt pretty awful – tired and exhausted, sore, achy, and nauseous.

But a few hours later, we got up, went for a walk to get something to eat, and besides having a hard time getting up and out of chairs, I wasn’t feeling too bad.  At dinner, we sat down at the restaurant, and “Learning to Fly” came on.  If you don’t know why this is important, reference the eagle post above.  This isn’t a song I usually hear on the radio, and less often at restaurants.  It also was totally in contrast with the rest of the music at this restaurant.  It was definitely strange that it came on, but appropriate given the day.  To me, it was just another confirmation that sometimes, our instincts are spot on.   Of course I believe in coincidences, but this time, no.  This was a sign.

So that was my race story.  And now, two days later, with no leg pain and feeling pretty much recovered, I have to ask myself, do I want to do this again?

Honestly?  I think I do.  I can’t believe I just said that.  But maybe not this year, because if I do this again I want to be able to put 100% into the training, so that I go into the race knowing that I have done the best I can do.  So although I have some thinking to do, I’ve already got three half marathons this fall, so I think I’ll probably focus on those.  It will be easier to do the training through our busy summer, and I can still get in some pretty long runs with the LU crew.

For those who are into numbers…

I am a marathon finisher.

I will post a full recap when I get home. But today, I became a marathoner.


%d bloggers like this: