What running does not feel like.

I have shared what running often feels like to me: meditative, refreshing, calming, frustrating and rewarding.  What it shouldn't feel like is having a 2 ton elephant taking a nap on your chest.  There was a time in my life though when this is exactly what running felt like for me.  If this is what running feels like to you, maybe I can help shove off  that elephant!

I knew I had some allergies.  In my 20's I had the whole back-scratch testing done, and it showed I had outdoor allergies, like grass and some trees, mold and dust.  As long as I took an over-the-counter antihistamine, things remained pretty much in control.  Then I went through a body altering experience and everything changed.  Pregnancy:  not only did I lose a bunch of awesome shoes due to a full size increase in my foot, I gained some never-there-before-waves to my hair. In addition, I apparently gained some allergies to dogs and cats.  So it makes perfect sense why I live with 4 cats and a dog now, right??

When I began to run in 2008, my chest was always tight.  When it was windy, it was worse. I just thought this was what running felt like.  Even as I became more conditioned and trained, it just always felt hard to breathe.  I just muscled through it, and thought I was pretty tough for doing this sport that felt so horrible.  Those that could push through and ignore the inability to breathe where those mystical creatures called "runners."  I was feeling pretty badass about being one of those people.

It wasn't until an overnight stay in a home which housed several dogs that I finally started connecting the dots.  My animal allergy had always been an annoyance when I wasn't diligent in taking my antihistamines.  My eyes would itch and my nose would run, but it was annoying, not frightening.  That night as I laid in bed with the Good Doctor, I was mentally talking myself out of an ER visit.  I literally could.not.breathe.  My breaths sounded like a combination of a dying goose and a squeaking mouse.  There was an elephant on my chest who had no interest in removing itself.  I had to sit upright in bed to get any air in. The Good Doctor, never having witnessed this before, said I sounded asthmatic.   The episode eventually subsided, but it was with great clarity that we realized I must have excercise/allergy induced asthma.

As I mourned the loss of my perceived badassery, I was overjoyed that maybe running could feel something other than difficult.  After moving to Valley City, I decided to be officially tested for asthma.  Asthma testing requires a lot of deep breath taking, and then measuring those breaths.  Then they give you a little puff of stuff to breath in.  There is like 9 increasing doses. If you react to any of those increasing doses, you have a diagnosis of asthma.  Within about 45 seconds of the first dose of the magical irritant, the elephant, and about 3 of his friends were planted firmly on my chest.  The Respiratory Therapist bluntly said, "You look like crap" and I fully agreed.   He gave me inhalers to reverse the attack, and I left there with the knowledge that I had in fact been reacting to allergens and my sport.

Nowadays, 2 little puffs on my inhaler prior to a run has made a night and day difference in what running feels like.  It is enjoyable, restorative and not nearly as suffocating as it once was.  If exercise feels like elephants camping out on your chest, maybe you also have exercise induced asthma.  Keep track of when you find it difficult to breath, and if it coincides with allergies and/or exercise, it may be worth investigating with your physician.  While running isn't the exertion level of shuffleboard, and it does take some cardiovascular training, it should not feel horrible and asphyxiating. Happy Running!

The Women of ChAos

ChAoS in MOtiOn

The Women of ChAoS

            About a year ago, while running with my friend Jamie, I said out of the blue, “That’s it! I’m going to do it!!” She looked at me a little confused and asked “Do what?” I explained that during my last few runs I had this growing idea of starting an “online support group” for women runners I knew. From that point, Chaos in Motion, a Facebook support group for the running inflicted was created. 
            The women of Chaos are a very diverse group. Some of us are mothers, but not all.  There exists brand new runners, runners in training, runners that used to run in high school or college and are now just getting back into it and we even have our token IronWoman.  They are friends, and friends of friends.  My goal of this group was to share ideas, support, advice, knowledge and encouragement.  A year ago I never realized how important these women would be in this marathon journey!
            A while back, a friend posted a picture to the site that read, “Girls compete with each other, Women empower one another.” Our group completely embodies this statement.  We all bring different reasons and different stories to why we each run. However, no matter the reason, the unconditional love and support that these women bring is endless. Many have struggled this year with injuries with some severe enough to require them to give up running for many weeks.  Through the MRIs , X-rays, diagnoses and prognoses, we were there for each other. We celebrated the “Clear to runs” and grieved the “6 more weeks of no running.”  We piled on the well wishes and “Go get ems!!” to each of the women who prepared for their 5ks or halves or IronMan races.  We celebrated the finishes, and the accomplishments along the way, whether it was finally running nonstop for 30 minutes, or exercising for 15 hours straight.
            One of these women, Rebecca, probably doesn’t realize I would not be running a marathon without her in my life.  I met Rebecca in June of ’06 at a function welcoming the incoming Medical Residents.  She looked tired, a bit irritated, and I decided that night we would be friends.  Her exhaustion was completely understandable since she had given birth about 6 days before her husband was to start residency, where he would be working no less than 80 hours a week.   Probably one of those plans that looked better in theory… In our first year of residency she ran Dam to Dam, a 20k in Des Moines and I thought that was a pretty amazing feat.  She was a runner, one of those people who mystified and intrigued me.
            She was my lifeline during these 3 years.  Both of our husbands were spending more time at the hospital than at home, and thankfully we had each other, just a couple blocks away.  Many mornings started with a text: “Coffee and bagel?” and then we would decide who would run for bagels and who would watch the children. The children that started in the beginning as 2, and would climb to 4 by the time we left residency.   Our friendship was the kind that we could sit in silence, watching our kids destroy the living room, and feel safe and understood.  She is the kind of friend that tells you what you need to hear, though sometimes you may not want to hear it.  She is the Type A, all-about- the- process of training personality to my Type B, can’t find the process, lets just race personality.    
The end of residency would take her to southern Minnesota, and me to North Dakota.  In the years since residency the four kids have grown to six and our husbands are still busy, and there are still mornings we virtually have coffee and a bagel, via picture text.  She has gone on to do Dam to Dam several more times and I became one of those mystifying runners as well.
In the last year we had thrown around the marathon idea. “Some day we’ll have to do that.” Someday when the kids are older, someday when our hubby’s schedules slow down… Then Boston happened.  Instead of being scared off by the Boston Marathon bombings, Rebecca let the ridiculous act of bombing people who run 26 miles for fun empower her to sign up for her first marathon.  I shortly followed her lead.  We have trained for this race together. She marking off each run on her training calendar, me asking her what we needed to run because I can’t find my training calendar. 
The week of our 18 mile long run, Rebecca had done her miles on Friday. Saturday morning I set out to do mine. Things were fine until mile 6. I had run 3 away from my house and 3 back. About the time I hit my driveway something went horribly screwy in my right knee. It HURT. I mean worse than Pitocin induced contractions hurt.  I hobbled to my house and tried to stretch while I bawled. There was something about this run, because my training had been so hit and miss and shoddy, it was crucial in my mind to complete. I reasoned if I completed this run, I would be able to do the marathon, if I didn’t I would withdraw.  All I kept thinking was Rebecca did it. Rebecca did it yesterday. She had never raced more than 12.4 miles and she did it, I can do it.  She had no idea that her run the previous day allowed me to muscle through the pain, though it wasn’t pretty or fast, and complete the 18 miles. 
Sunday I will gather at the start line with Rebecca and Tracy, another Chaos Woman, who has kept me laughing throughout this process.  I am positive we will not be the fastest group, but we will probably be the one laughing and dancing the most.  We each bring our individual reasons for doing this marathon with the common goal to just cross the finish line. So to all you Women of Chaos, and you know who you are, my most heartfelt thanks for your love, wisdom and encouragement through this journey! Mile 26 is for you all!

Welcome to ChAos in MOtiOn

Welcome to ChAos in MOtiOn


“You’re a glutton for punishment.” That was a lady’s response when I mentioned that I was exhausted from an 18 mile run that morning.  This response, along with “You are crazy!”,  “Are you crazy?” and “I don’t run unless someone is chasing me!” are all common in regards to me mentioning miles or running. In the past, the comments bothered me, but now I just consider them a backhanded compliment.  You see, I used to be one of those people.
            I have always been athletic. I was disciplined in my youth, skating six days a week, sometimes twice a day. My fellow rink rats and I would have 2 hours of practice in before our classmates were awake.  In my twenties I exercised and did gym workouts, pilates classes and aerobics. But run? No way. Running “the mile” for the Presidential Fitness Test in school was anticipated as much as a colonoscopy. Running was punishment for not listening in basketball. Running was, well, for Runners.
            In my mind, the line is blurred on how I started to run. I know it was January of 2008. I know that in May 2007, all three of my older brothers and my sister-in-law ran the half marathon in Fargo. I know I spit pop out my nose when the middle of my three brothers told me in March of that previous year that he was going to run the half marathon in May, saying, “You realize that is running, right? 13.1 miles of running?”  Where the memory becomes fuzzy is whether my 3 older brothers utilized their sibling status and pressured me to participate or face the ridicule of not trying, or whether I was driven by the typical youngest child mentality of “Anything you can do, I can do too!” The real instigation shall forever be muddled, but regardless of the push, I signed up in January 2008 for a 13.1 mile race in May, not having ran a mile in about 10 years.
            At this point in my life, I was 33, I had just had my second baby via c-section 6 months earlier, my husband was in his second, busiest year of Residency and I had a very busy, inquisitive, tornadic 3.5  year old son.  I was, and still am, the typical American overextended, overtired, overworked, over-everything stay-at-home Mom.  What was one more commitment, right? 
            I’ll spare all the details of that training. It started very slow, but it started. The longest run I ever did prior to that half marathon was somewhere around 8 miles. When I passed mile marker 9 at the race, shortly after I learned, thanks to Scheels that a giraffe can lick its own eyeballs, I thought, “9 miles!! I have never ran 9 miles before!!” Then came the next few miles and eventually I ran into the (in my mind thundering) Fargodome, seeing myself on the Gigantron finishing. It was nothing amazing by pace or finish times, but it was beyond glorious in my mind and heart.  The high of that finish, the elation from the completion of something that never seemed possible lasted at least a couple weeks.  The satisfaction of proving wrong that voice in my head that said, “You can’t do this” was more satisfying than seeing a balding ex-boyfriend.
            Seven half-marathons, some 10ks, a handful of 5ks and an in progress marathon training schedule later, I get it. I get why people run.  I guess I am, well, a runner.  Join me in my journey, my Chaos In Motion.  Let me reveal to you what running means to me. It is running (well, yeah!) but so much more than that. It is therapy, prayer in movement, it is decompression and coping, it is my muse. Join me in these observations of health, life, running, parenting and whatever else creeps in from the recesses during those miles, when my feet fall into a cadence and allow my mind to open and flood with ideas. Welcome to Chaos in Motion.