Monday, April 16, 2012

My Book About Marathon Training

As most of my faithful friends know, I am training for my first full marathon. It's very exciting for me because it's something I have wanted to do for several years, and I also never really thought I could actually run such long distances. But I am deep in training, in the middle of week 15 of a 19-week training program. We are in our toughest month, and I want to write down some thoughts about all of this while I am up to my neck in marathon training. (This is such a long and wordy post! I realize I have been doing a lot of that lately, and I promise to come up with something short and sweet soon.)

1. I am training with awesome people, and I know without a doubt that I would not be able to achieve this goal during Spiff's Intern Year without the help of so many beloved people. My neighbor, Kalie, is my dedicated partner. As previously mentioned, we run together throughout the week, pushing our kids in stollers. She is my rock. She is dedicated, committed, and Fast! She is positive, strong, and such an inspiration to me. She has also been kind enough to offer her treadmill for interval and tempo runs when the need has come. And she has watched my children so that I can run. I don't think I will ever be able to train for another marathon again without her by my side.

I am also training with my sisters. One is running her first marathon, like me. The other is a marathon vet. This will be her fourth marathon, and I am leaning completely on her experience as we have traversed distances I have never done before. I am also dependent on the help of her family, who have graciously offered to help tend my children while we run 2, 3, or 4-hour Saturday long runs together. More often than not, Spiff is working on Saturday mornings, and the boys and I have been spending Friday nights at my sister's house so that I can run with the group while her husband and kids have helped with my boys. It's so generous of them that I feel I will never be able to repay them. Because of their help, I am able to achieve my goal when my husband is unavailable, and enjoy time with my sisters and dear friend in the short time I am living near them.

2. I am marveling at how the process of marathon training works. After my first 17-mile run, a good friend, with whom I have run 3 half-marathons, asked me, "What does it feel like to run that distance?!" My response was that it doesn't feel all that different from running 13 miles because of the process. The program builds us up to the distances, and so our bodies and minds are ready for whatever distance we are scheduled to run that day. None of them are ever easy, but some of the longer runs (say 15 miles) actually feel easier to me than a 3-mile run because of the tricks my mind plays on me. I expect a three-mile run to feel easy and be over quickly, but it is still a 30-minute run, which is not an insignificant amount of time. But when I'm all geared up to stick it out for the long-haul, my mind takes it in stride and it almost feels like it's over before it starts. I can't wrap my head around it, and I really don't understand why it is that way.

3. I love being in really good shape! For several of our interval training runs, I went up to a local high school and ran on their track. I haven't done any serious running on a track since I was in high school. I was a fast runner as a kid, but I was never in very good shape. I always wanted to run long distances, but I never thought I could run anything over two miles. So I was a sprinter. I liked the 100 and 200m distances. The 400m sprint killed me. I remember feeling like every muscle in my body had been drained of energy by the time I hit the last straightaway (always in front of the crowd sitting in the bleachers) and that I might literally die (or pee my pants, whatever came first) running the last 100m. I just didn't have a base level of fitness that could get me through that long of a sprint.

Our program included 8 weeks of 400m intervals, starting with 6 reps and working our way up to 16 reps! It was intense, and definitely a battle of wills and endurance for me. But the thing that got me while I ran on the track is that I am strong! I could easily run a 400 lap (and by easy I mean that I didn't have that feeling like my muscles were all suddenly deflated like a balloon), recover quickly, and then do it again and again and again. I am in such better shape as a 32-year-old woman than I ever was as a teenage girl, or anytime in my 20s for that matter. It was an exhilarating realization.

On the flip side of that, I was caught running on the track a few times with some of the high school students doing their track workouts. (I stayed in the outside lane and tried to be as invisible as possible.) I tell you, there is nothing that can make me feel more like a slow old woman than running next to the varsity cross-country team. Their easy run was faster than my all-out sprint!

4. We have endured all kinds of weather throughout this training. The program started in January, so we have run in cold, wind, snow, rain, and everything in between. I don't think I did a track workout when it wasn't so windy that I didn't have to fight a serious headwind on the straightaway. I also got caught in a bonafide blizzard during a track workout. I watched the storm come in, and it started snowing when I was only done with 6 of 16 laps. So I ran the remaining 10 in a snowy, windy blizzard. That's when I realized my dedication to this sport.

5. I have become acquainted with various new ways of taking care of my tired and achy body. My post-long run ritual includes a piping hot chocolate while I sit in an ice bath (gasp!), then a good long time stretching and rolling out my legs on my rolling pin (since I don't have a foam roller). All of this, added to the time it takes to get ready for a long run, travel to where we're meeting, and run means that I am sometimes committed to the Saturday long run for 5-6 hours. And then I'm toasted for the rest of the day, so I can't go too fast or too far during our Saturday activities, and I usually need a nap, too. I have to give kudos to my family for supporting me. They are awesome!

6. And finally, I just have to say how much I love this sport. I love to run. I love being in training and having a set schedule to adhere to. I love long runs. I love being in tune with the elements. I love exploring the city on foot and seeing things I wouldn't see if I'm driving in my car. I love spending time with such good people. I love working hard for this goal, through every painful step.

We ran our first 20-mile run last Saturday. It went well, for the most part, although I was battling sore feet, knees and hips starting at mile 5. As I muddled through mile 19 1/2, I thought to myself, "I'm so tired and sore, I don't know if I could run another 6 miles!" It sort of seems impossible at this point. But my sister reminded me that Mile 20 is "The Wall." It is the point at which so many people think they cannot go on, and then they make it through and finish. I just need to trust the process and have faith that I will be ready on Marathon Day.

Here's hoping that I will be.

***And just for the record, here is what my other little training partners look like while we run! All snuggled up in their coats, hoods, gloves, blankets, heated rice bags, and rain cover. They are my little champs! Gunner will even occasionally cheer me on, "Go, Mama, Go!" He has started asking me when we get up in the morning, "Is it running day?" And, "Are you running with or without kids?" I love my little running buddies!

Sunday, April 01, 2012


I want to share something with all of you. This is a long post, but I promise it's worth the read.

I moved to Eugene, OR almost ten years ago to attend graduate school. I didn't know anyone when I got there, and I was very lucky to make some amazing friends who will always be some of the most special of my life. One of them from that year was David, a sophomore at the time who was a convert to the LDS church and who was preparing for a mission. He had the most amazing testimony of anyone I knew, and he was really a wonderful friend to me that year. Although we have kept in touch, I haven't seen him since he left for his mission nine years ago and afterwards moved back home to San Diego where he got married and started his family. I have been so sad this week to hear the news that his wife passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. My heart breaks all over again every time I think of him living without the love of his life, and of his two beautiful little children who will never know their Mama.

I never met Carla, but I know she made David very happy. This is the Christmas Letter she sent out in December. I cried when I read it four months ago, and I just cannot stop thinking about their journey now that she is gone, so I'm sharing this letter with you. They are amazing people. I am impressed by their ability to stay positive and to recognize blessings from Heavenly Father when going through such adversity. I doubt I would handle it so well, and at the very least, I'm grateful for such an example to look towards when I face adversity of my own.

Hello again dear family and friends this wonderful Christmas season.

2011 has been another adventurous year for us and we thank each of you for all of your prayers, support and love. One of the side effects to my chemo is losing my fingernails, so it’s a bit tough to type this, but it really makes me grateful for the simple things.

To begin the new year, David started his last semester of law school and had an internship where he protected immigrant workers from sweat shop conditions. In February, I got a PET CT Scan of my whole body and found that my cancer had returned, but this time it was in my lungs, breast and bones, (my left femur, pelvis, ribs, spine, and tail bone). It was a bit overwhelming to hear that I had stage 4 cancer; I felt like it was spreading everywhere and so, so quickly! Last year was crazy being pregnant and going through surgery. I didn’t know what was in store, but I felt that in the end, everything would be ok. My doctor recommended I transfer to City of Hope in Duarte, CA (about 25 minutes away from our house) which specializes in cancer treatment.

By April, I was able to transfer to City of Hope and had my first appointment with my new doctor. The plan of attack: chemo. On May 5th I had my first round and I was surprised at how sick I got. It was pretty horrible. Every three weeks I would sit for a 10 hour infusion of chemotherapy and every week I would do a treatment called Eurbitux which would help direct the chemo to attack my specific cancer. So every Thursday became infusion day.

On May 18th, David graduated from Loyola Law School! It was such a proud moment when his name was read and he walked across the platform to receive his diploma. Everett, Elsa, and I know how hard he worked and cheered extra loud. Soon after, the dreaded study sessions for the bar began; and they felt like they never ended.

In June we headed to the Fontana Half Marathon. David ran the half marathon with my sisters Cathy and Cassia and some of our friends. Cathy and Cassia carried my shoes the whole race and I got to cross the finish line with them, getting a finisher’s medal! I was sad before because I was unable to run it, but going across any finish line just is amazing.Next year I want to be able to run again.

The California Bar Exam showed its ugly face at the end of July. After 18 hours, in three consecutive days, David was just glad it was finally over. By August we needed a break, so we took the kids to Disneyworld! We felt that if we were going to be in Florida, we had to see David’s mission, so we visited two of his areas, Jacksonville and Crescent City.David’s mission really changed his life and he talks about it so much. I was so grateful to finally be able to meet some of the people he taught and grew to love. Afterwards, we had so much fun at Disneyworld! My mom came to help with the kids and I got an electric scooter so I wouldn’t have to walk. It was so nice to celebrate David’s completion of the bar! And I got a week off from chemo. The kids loved it and so did we!

When we got back to Los Angeles, I went to surgery to get a portacath placed in my chest for my infusions. While I was under, my doctor informed my dad that the tumor in my left lung was growing even during chemo and there wasn’t much else to do for me. So my amazing dad got on the phone with as many people he knew to get a second opinion. We also found out that my tumor was close to my heart making it difficult for “normal” radiation to happen, so my dad found a doctor in Florida who specializes in high beam proton radiation which could pinpoint my tumor and focus there. So we left the kids in San Diego and flew back to Florida for this treatment at Shands Medical Center in Gainesville.We stayed at “Hope Lodge” for the week long treatment and what an experience that was.It was such a blessing to be in a communal living amongst other cancer patients. We met so many wonderful people who are going through similar battles and they were all so inspiring. I responded well to the treatment and so many people made it possible! Thank you all for your donations!!! It was amazing!

In September, David started his new job, a public interest fellowship at CARECEN.He practices immigration law, with a focus on representing asylees and victims of violent crimes, and absolutely loves it. It is always nice to have him come home happy.

In October, our baby Elsa turned the big 01. We still can’t believe it has been a year since she was born. I am always amazed at how smart she is. Last year they told me the risks of having surgery when pregnant, and they were very concerned about her brain development. She has no brain problems whatsoever, and is so amazing to watch! She is chasing her brother around and being very independent. She loves to play with her baby dolls. She was a very cute witch for Halloween and Everett loved being Captain Hook and going trick or treating with his friends.

On November 10th I had my last chemo round. 9 rounds of chemo (8 months) made my body tired and some of the side effects have been pretty debilitating. So they said I would have to stop so my body could recover. I will continue with my Eurbitux treatments for "maintenance.”

Nov. 18, David found out that he PASSED the California Bar Exam!!!! He was so ecstatic! It was a great moment when he looked up the results on-line. I am so proud of all his hard work and ability to stay focused. He was sworn in on December 1st and is officially official now as a licensed attorney.

December 5th, Everett turned 3 years old! What a big man he is—he was so excited.We went to Disneyland to celebrate. He is now beginning potty training (thanks mom). He loves to pretend and insists on being called Captain Hook or Buzz Lightyear. He loves being a big brother. He started Joy School this year and has been thriving.

I had a CT scan done November 28th and was waiting for the results to write this letter, but they were inconclusive. I still have something in my left lung but it could be scar tissue or it could be cancer. On December 20th I have a PET CT to determine what it is, and of course we’re hoping for that Christmas miracle. If you want to get the news of the results, check us out on facebook (“Caring for Carla”).

This year has been humbling at times and triumphant at others and we pray that Heavenly Father helps us see more clearly the miracles that he pours onto us each and every day. We wish you all the merriest of Christmases and the happiest New Year!