A few weeks ago, I picked up cards to send to donors with the words: “I Thank You For Your Awesomeness.” This card captures how I feel about the friends, family members, and people I’ve never met who’ve supported while training for the Big Sur Marathon and raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
The road to Big Sur hasn’t been easy. Like the race course, it’s been full of monster hills. But, your support and the cause itself make it more than worth it.
I’ve raised more than $4,000 for the MMRF, thanks to YOU! How cool is that! More than 90 percent of your dollars will fund research for better treatment for multiple myeloma patients. My hope is that one day we can put the MMRF out of business because a cure will have been found. My dad’s life was cut short by this disease. I’m playing my small part so future myeloma patients have a better outcome. That’s why I’m running Big Sur for the MMRF and will continue to run on behalf of this organization.
With the race on Sunday, I want to share my gratitude face to face for supporting a cause close to my heart. I thank you for your awesomeness.
If you would still like to help support me as I continue fighting against the disease that took my dad and has claimed thousands of other lives, please consider donating here. Every dollar counts in the fight against multiple myeloma.
*A shoutout to friend and runner Katherine Magy who showed great patience and humor while recording each unrehearsed take.
If you’ve been following this blog or me via Facebook and Twitter, then you probably know my story already. I’m running the Big Sur International Marathon on April 29 in memory of my dad, Gene, who died from multiple myeloma 17 years ago today (April 4). This is the second time I’ve run a marathon to honor his memory. The first was the Chicago Marathon in 2010.
Like in 2010, I’m raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I’m within $2,000 of my goal. The awesome thing about every dollar I raise is that it goes toward funding research for better treatment and, hopefully, a cure. Not one cent goes toward my race or travel expenses. Which is good. Because I want every penny spent on eliminating multiple myeloma and reducing the number of families who have stories similar to mine.
Since I originally signed up to run for the MMRF two years ago, you’ve heard me talk a lot about my dad, my memories of him, why I run for him. Today on the anniversary of his death, you get to hear a different voice — my mom’s. I run as much for my dad as I run for my mom and her loss.
This past weekend, she shared our family’s story. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.
Several months back, someone snapped a photo of a Nike running T-shirt with the phrase “Running Sucks” and sent it to me as a joke. I didn’t think it was funny at the time. As if I’d ever be seen wearing a shirt like that.
But today that’s exactly how I feel about running. It sucks. A lot.
Okay, I really do love to run. But my latest setback — this time, it’s anemia — makes it hard to love it. It’s like being in a bad relationship. I try to love it, but I get hurt in return. When I run, it’s almost like being at altitude. It’s harder to breathe. Sometimes I’m tired before, during and after workouts. I get winded. Ten miles feels closer to 20.
I saw the doctor about this fatigue two weeks ago. Leading up to my appointment, I had felt tired, weak and easily annoyed for about three weeks. I had headaches daily, and my body ached. Wiped out by the end of the week, I would go home on Friday to sleep for 12 or 13 hours, run the next morning and then nap — and I still lacked energy.
Running suffered. Every run, and I do mean every run, challenged me. I skipped a hill workout one Saturday because I didn’t think my body could endure a long run the following day, too. The day before I saw doc, I set out to run 17 miles. By mile 2, I was ready to turn home — and I doubted I’d make it without walking or having to call someone to drive me. I made it — but barely. The day after my appointment — and before I learned I was anemic — I showed up to my group’s three-mile time trial. I had napped for two hours before the run, and I wanted to go back to bed. But my husband encouraged me to go to the trial. So I did. After every lap (there were 8), I wanted to quit. My body was screaming at me to quit. But I pushed through. I finished the trial dead last. My time was three minutes slower than when I had run the trial about six weeks earlier. I sobbed in the bathroom afterward. Shit that sucked, I thought.
My doctor ran a series of blood tests, and she was convinced something would show up. And it did. My ferritin level was 4. Normal is 10 to 120. Ferritin stores iron for when the body needs it. My hemoglobin was 9.5. Normal is 11.7 to 15.7.
Endurance athletes — especially women — suffer from low iron. Pete Pfitzinger has a good post on “Running and Rusting.” Here’s why runners need iron, according to the report:
Iron is necessary for production of hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. If your hemoglobin level is low, less oxygen reaches your muscles, and your VO2 max and racing performances suffer. In addition, iron is a component of many other substances in the body, such as enzymes in your muscle cells for aerobic energy production.
With iron deficiency anemia, your iron stores are gone, and your hemoglobin level is reduced. With iron depletion, on the other hand, your iron stores are low but not gone, and your hemoglobin is still normal.
After getting my results, my doctor ordered me to take a three-week break from running and to start taking iron supplements three times a day. I asked my doctor to reconsider her temporary ban last week. She said I could give running a try. So after eight days off, I went out Sunday for my first double-digit run in three weeks. Not because I love it. Though I do. And not because I’m addicted. Though I am.
I ran and will continue training over the next six weeks — no matter how awful I might feel somedays – because I made a commitment to raise money and run the Big Sur Marathon for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I made a commitment to honor my dad’s memory. And I made a commitment to myself to start and finish this race. I will honor these commitments, but I can’t do that sidelined.
So you’re going to see me on the trail again. I’m going to train the best I can. And I’m going to smile while I do it. Even if running sucks, I still love it.
Fundraising update: Since 2010, I’ve raised about $8,200 for the MMRF. During this latest campaign, I’ve raised $2,800. My goal is to raise $5,000 before Big Sur. Every dollar counts. My dad didn’t beat multiple myeloma, but with your help, others can.
The Big Sur Marathon is more than two months away, and I already fear it.
I fear overtraining, getting injured and not making it to the start line, essentially letting down every donor who believed in me and my cause. I fear hurting and coming up short. And I really fear the hills.
I’m training hard with Minnesota RED, and we do weekly speed and hill sessions. “Will it be enough?” I asked my coach. I drive to and from work every day under what’s known as the High Bridge, a half-mile grueling climb over the Mississippi River. I did eight repeats on the bridge last Saturday with my club. I wondered if I should be running repeats on the High Bridge every week. “You’ll get plenty of hills,” he assured me.
The fear has been building for days. This morning I came out.
I don’t get nervous for a marathon until shortly before the race. I’m two months away from the Big Sur Marathon, and I. Am. Scared.
— Brady(@bgervais) February 23, 2012
I believe fear can be good when channeled properly. It can motivate. It certainly has kept me from doing pretty foolish things. But hours after posting my feelings about the marathon on Twitter, it hit me: I am lame.
My colleague Ruben, for whom I’m running the marathon, underwent a stem cell transplant today. While he fights to live a longer life, I’m worried about a few hills. I’m blessed if a 500-foot incline over two miles is my biggest concern leading up to and on race day. It does not compare to the hurdles others have to climb every day.
The king of the road, Bart Yasso, recently asked runners on Twitter what their goals were for 2012. Mine was simple. I replied that I wanted to run injury-free. He said train smartly.
If it were so easy.
During the past 23 months, I’ve battled two significant injuries, which I’ve detailed here on this blog and used to chronicle at Loving the Run. I was sidelined for more than four months — spread out over almost two years. I’ve gone to physical therapy for about eight months and continue to log more appointments. I’ve spent thousands of dollars. And as my husband reminds me too often, I’ve suffered mentally, physically and financially from those injuries.
My mom has suggested I quit running more than once. At least give it up for a year, she says. She worries about me and the toll running takes on my body, all for the love of the sport.
I won’t quit. But I began wondering last month whether running had lost its charm. It’s not fun to run hurt. It’s not fun to run when you’re worried about getting hurt. And for 23 months, I’ve run hurt or worried about getting injured.
My body survived running without injury for almost six years. Can I be injury-free this year? I hope so. I want to reach the start line of a marathon after not making it to three of the last four marathons.
Nine days into the new year, I’m nervous. I’m running the Big Sur International Marathon in April for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I will be crushed if I get hurt. I won’t feel badly for myself. I’m getting used to the disappointment of logging a “Did Not Start.” I’ll feel like a major letdown to those who donated to my cause and supported me with their kindness and positive words. I don’t want to fail them, or my charity.
What am I doing to prevent injury?
A lot of things. I continue going to physical therapy. My therapist is as determined as I am to get to the bottom of my injuries. I won’t be released from his care until we eradicate the root problem.
In November 2009, I developed severe out-of-the-blue pain in my left hip. At first, I didn’t think it was a running injury because it only hurt when I sit. Still, I made an appointment with a sports medicine physician. Three months later — the same week I had an appointment for my hip — I fractured my heel. My therapist blames my injuries on that weak hip. He’s also addressing my weak, tight back, which has never been addressed. After being a hunch all my life, I’m focusing on my posture. Starting today, I sit at work with lumbar support.
When I saw my therapist today, I confessed my tibia was sensitive after yesterday’s 10-miler — my longest run since getting hurt while training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I wasn’t very worried. My heel still hurts two years later, especially during the winter. Don’t all bone injuries hurt forever?
He won’t accept a sore tibia, just like he won’t accept continued hip pain. So this week, my long run won’t be as long. And, my therapist plans to consult with a sports medicine physician who specializes in treating female athletes. Seeing a nutritionist might be in my future, he says.
I also joined a running club called Minnesota RED (running, eating, drinking). I have a coach. He acts more like a babysitter, at least for now. His mission is to make sure I get a finisher’s medal on April 29. I hope it’s not Mission Impossible.
And then there’s hot yoga. It’s my cross-training. It’s the only thing besides running that brings me peace.
Finally, there’s you. Be my injury prevention. Hold me accountable. If you see my @dailymile posts and I seem to be running too hard, tell me to slow my ass down, that I can go “balls to the wall” when I’m good and strong. Remind me of the big picture. Even now, I’m tempted to push it in training — despite what I know. Consider donating to my charity. The higher the stakes, the less prone I am to do something stupid on the road. (Also, it’s for a good cause. I’m running in memory of my dad, and in honor of my Pioneer Press colleague — both affected by multiple myeloma.)
Will I be injury-free in 2012? Time will tell.
I ran the most mileage in a month, in a week, in a single day.
I also missed two marathons, one 20-mile race and a half marathon. There were six weeks in which I logged zero miles. There were several weeks when I failed to make it into the double digits.
I learned my body has limits. That I can’t run 56 hard miles in a week without taking a few easy days. That going “balls to the wall” is okay but only in moderation. That backing off is acceptable and that I have nothing to prove by getting hurt, except that I’m stubborn.
A new year is a few weeks away. I’m determined to run smarter. For me. For my friends and family who hate to see me injured. For the Multiple Myleoma Research Foundation. For my dad, my colleague Ruben and others who suffered from or still fight multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. (I learned this evening a second coworker has multiple myeloma.)
Becoming a stronger, faster runner is important to me. Accomplishing good while running means even more. I hope I can do both. That’s why I plan to formally join Minnesota RED, a running club, next month.
The club is my secret weapon to being injury-free in 2012. And I have proof the group is exactly the rope I need, to pull me in when I push too far. I went out with the group Monday evening. After a fast (for me, all things considered) loop around Lake Harriet, I was ready for a few more miles with the group. But the members, who hardly know me, reminded me of my battles and frustrations this past year. That recovering and making it to the Big Sur Marathon, which I’m running for the MMRF in April in an effort to raise $5,000 for multiple myeloma research, are more important than one feel-good run. I stopped after one loop.
In 2012, I’m ready to respect my limits because I’m determined to do more than log a lot of miles.
My parents would have been married 39 years today. My dad hasn’t been around for the past 17. Cancer made sure of that. This day is always tough, and I feel for my mom more than she knows.
My sister Brooke and I usually send flowers. We want our mom to know we’re thinking of her, and that we’ll never forget the importance of this day. Tonight we’ll celebrate by taking our mom out to dinner. It’s the least we can do.
I recall one year — my sister and I were probably around 7 and 8 — when we planned a “surprise” wedding anniversary party for our parents at our home. My memory is a little fuzzy, but this is basically how it went.
We asked all our aunts and uncles to come to Tracy, Minn., and to take our parents out to the bar. Neither my sister nor I could keep a secret very well. We were excited about the party and worried at the same time our parents wouldn’t leave the house so we could decorate. So, a few days or weeks before the shindig, I remember telling my mom about it in our kitchen. I ruined any element of surprise, but she and my dad put on a good show when they came home from the bar the day of their party.
Brooke and I had sparkling juice and music playing. Our parents awarded us with a dance to country music, with our aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins looking on. My dad tucked his Wrangler jeans into his Justin cowboy boots, put on his cowboy hat and wore his aviator sunglasses for the dance.
I wish the four of us could have shared so many more memories like that. We wanted to. We always talked about traveling to Hawaii for our parents’ 25th or 30th wedding anniversary. At least we have that day.
Anniversaries, birthdays and important milestones in our lives are hard. Even on the happiest occasions, my heart hurts. All of our hearts hurt. I’m not alone in that. My dad’s sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and friends feel pain, too.
If you want to help us honor their anniversary, please consider making a donation to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I will be running the Big Sur International Marathon in April on behalf of the MMRF in memory of my dad. Initially I planned to raise $1,700. After a few weeks, I had reached 75 percent of that goal. Cancer took away too many memories, and I want to go big. I’ve increased my goal to $5,000. Every dollar raised helps give cancer the boot. Let’s kick its ass together.
*Please note that 100 percent of your donation will go to the MMRF. The organization doesn’t cover any of my race or travel expenses. Also, your donation is tax deductible.
In August, I regularly ran about 55 miles a week. This week, I was allowed to run two miles…across two days. I feel blessed, frustrated, grateful, annoyed. Mostly, I feel happy that I’m running again. Every minute running, even if it’s just one, is a minute more than I was able to run at this time last week.
I’m in this place because of me. I went balls to the wall training for the Twin Cities Marathon when I was hurt. I pushed to the point of almost fracturing another bone. (This isn’t my first time to this rodeo, as I’ve joked with my latest doctors and physical therapists.)
After I finished my first run back from injury Friday and walked back to my car, I didn’t have a pity party over the short run. I hardly thought about the mile I had just run. Instead, I thought about my colleague Ruben, who’s fighting multiple myeloma, the same cancer that claimed my dad. And, I thought about my dad.
It was about 6:15 a.m., so it was still mostly dark. Most of the light came from the Minneapolis skyline, which was like glitter on Lake Harriet. It hadn’t hit 40 degrees yet.
So, in the cold, calm dark, I thought about these two men — one who’s still fighting cancer and one who lost. I thought about how Ruben works throughout his chemo treatments as he prepares for a transplant. I thought about my dad, whom I feel closest to when my feet are moving or when I’m behind the wheel of a car.
My return to running is going to be slow, which is out of character for me. I accept that. The alternative sucks. Not running sucks. Cancer sucks even more.
I need to run. Not just for me. For the next several months, running is about those men. It’s about honoring my dad’s memory. It’s about honoring Ruben and his battle that’s underway. It’s about reaching the start line of the Big Sur International Marathon healthy, so I can honor everyone who supported me and donated to my cause.
I can’t run if I’m injured, as my sister-in-law pointed out today. More importantly, I can’t run for Dad and Ruben.
***Warm thanks to Wayne Horsman, a fellow runner and a Tracy, Minn., native, whose donation put me over the $1,000-mark this evening. I’m grateful for his generous contribution and his kind words.
I had my first flat tire this morning.
I was a few blocks away from a colleague’s house heading home around 1:30 a.m. when I hit a mancover. I knew right away I should have been more careful. The road was bad and under construction. A few blocks down the road, I pulled over under a street light. The left front tire was flat. The tire pressure light came on.
My husband Ben is out of town for a marathon. I couldn’t call him, so I went back to my coworker’s party. Two of my colleagues and one of their friends tried to repair the tire. But, it’s a new vehicle. Instead of a spare, it came with a repair kit, which didn’t work.
I called a cab for the 35-minute drive home. But, a third colleague rescued me from a huge cab bill and took me home — even though I live in Minneapolis and he lives in St. Paul, where the party was.
Later today, I went back to my colleague’s house. He took my tire off and put a new one on for me, in the rain.
It’s the little things like replacing a tire that make me miss my dad like crazy. During the short drive between my colleague’s house and the tire shop, I cried and cried about not being able to call on my dad for help. I had the kind of hard cry when you need a Kleenex, or a shirt sleeve, to clean up. He would have sent a tow truck as soon as he heard the words, “I have a flat tire.”
In case this is your first time reading, my dad died at 46 from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. My sister and I were 10 and 11.
My dad didn’t see me go to my first prom, watch me graduate from college or walk me down the aisle. He didn’t help me pick out my first car (a ’98 Pontiac Grand Am) or give me advice when Ben and I bought our first home (we closed on Aug. 5). He didn’t watch me run my first marathon.
When I walked down the aisle, my mom and sister flanked me. The father-daughter dance became a godfather-goddaughter dance.
I’m grateful for what I have — friends, relatives and a husband who step in because my dad can’t. The kind of friends who must know the little stuff gets to me, because they pat me on the back and tell me everything will be okay. I’m blessed to have friends who spend part of their Sunday fixing my car, call to make sure the car and I are fine, and sacrifice sleep so I don’t have to spend money on a cab.
But on days like this, I think about what I don’t have, too.
So, I run. And on April 29, I’ll run the Big Sur International Marathon on behalf of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in memory of my dad and in honor of my colleague Ruben, who’s now fighting multiple myeloma.
I run because I hate the idea of girls not being able to call their dads when they get a flat tire. I run because the little things matter.
If you want to help support a mission close to my heart, please visit my fundraising page here. My goal is to raise at least $1,700 — $100 for each year my dad has been gone. As of Oct. 23, I’ve raised $701.
As some of you already know, I’m running the Big Sur Marathon this April. Once again, I’ve decided to run on behalf of and raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) in memory of my dad, who, at 46, died from multiple myeloma.
His fight was painfully brief. A year and a half after his diagnosis, he passed away from this blood cancer. This April marks 17 years since he’s been gone, so I will run for him. In some way, I always run for him.
This race will be different. I will be running for someone else, too.
A few days ago, my colleague Ruben Rosario received the news hero award at the Pioneer Press. The award goes to a staffer who goes above and beyond, who’s a real bulldog. After he got his award and the ceremony was over, I walked over to my desk and cried.
Ruben has multiple myeloma — the same cancer that took my dad. He was diagnosed this past spring. Bulldog that he is, he fights. Ruben, who’s a dad and husband, works from his hospital bed while he undergoes chemo therapy. When I see him, it’s easy to be inspired by him and want to do everything I can to help the MMRF combat this disease.
Ruben’s case hits home. So when I run the Big Sur Marathon in California, I will not only run in memory of my dad. I will be running to honor Ruben, too.
I hope you will consider supporting me by checking out my fundraising website and learning a little bit more about the MMRF.