Monthly Archives: January 2016

Week 6 Training Update

“If there were no January, we might just take July for granted. Weather is a metaphor for life. Pain and suffering aren’t optional. Power through the storms and bitter setbacks – there’s always another warm front up ahead.” -Paul Douglas, January 17, 2016, Star Tribune weather page

Exactly. And as I prepare for each run in bitterly cold weather, I think about the struggles that so many people face every day. And then I start taking steps. One foot after another.

About 20 years ago I was a consultant in Chicago with KPMG Peat Marwick. I flew up to work at a client site 40 minutes north of Minneapolis, in Anoka. It was cold. Brutally cold. Below-zero-all-week cold. The hotel had an agreement with a fitness center down the road and would drive you there in a shuttle. I wanted to workout so I asked for the shuttle. How cold was it? So cold that the hotel staff gave ME the keys to the hotel shuttle and said I should drive myself. Yep. True story. Lucky for this hotel, the one guy from Chicago they chose to give keys to their shuttle was me. That’s when you know it is cold in Minnesota.

Week 6 of training. 120 miles behind me. Almost 90 days until the Boston Marathon. I’ve incredibly received over $8,000 in donations towards saving lives, preventing suicide, and fighting stigma. I’m touched every day by the generosity of so many. WE are saving lives. I can’t thank you all enough, and I hope that you continue to share my story and blog posts with those you care about.

This is what I wear for JUST ONE winter run. Crazy! I’m spending as much time doing laundry as I am running :)

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Do you have 4 minutes right now? Here’s a great, short video: What is depression?. A few, quick takeaways that are so important for all of us to understand:

  • “Depression has physical manifestations inside the brain”
  • “It takes the average person suffering with a mental illness over ten years to ask for help
  • “Depression is a medical condition, just like asthma or diabetes”
  • Open conversations about mental illness help erode stigma

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In the little weather picture can you feel the giant comic sun and beautiful hot air balloon warming you up? Yah, me neither. Squint and look at the scenery in the background of the photo just above the hot air balloon. See them? Look again and scroll down for a zoomed in view.

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Here’s the zoomed in view. It was a cold day, and I decided to jog through a nature preserve area that I’d never gone through before. As I rounded the corner I saw four deer. I watched them for a minute and took about fifty selfies (before my hand froze) trying to get both them and me in focus. Oh well, this was the best I could do.

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And a picture with a bit more focus…(once we take steps, even on bitterly cold days, we will be amazed by the wonder and surprises in life, especially as we go down new paths)…

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Long runs on weekends with the weather lately has kept things interesting. Sunday is my “long run” day (14 miles this week for my long run). Seriously, HIGH of -7F (not factoring in the wind yet)??? Brrrr!

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I ran part way across a frozen lake past a few ice houses, on my jog. But when I took out my phone it froze (literally), so I couldn’t take pictures. MapMyRun froze & stopped working then – so it showed a straight-shot home, which made it kind of fun, because it did show me running across the lake, but it also showed me running completely through yards and houses too! :)

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Thanks again for all of the support. I couldn’t do this without you. Click here to make a donation and support this great cause.

Thanks for reading. Have an amazing week.

Week 4 Training Update

Exactly one month ago I started my suicide and mental health awareness campaign as I train for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Today I passed $7,000!!! Wow! Incredible. Powerful. Touching. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support in your messages, donations, and helping share this message, as we ALL save lives.

Speaking of all the help I’ve been getting. My parents were just in town and this was my dad’s idea of how he could help me train harder.
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And here’s how I improved on his idea…
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Week 4 is done! Only 14 weeks of training to go! My back started hurting the week before Christmas (in a way that it never has before). I took it easy a few days, but I wasn’t sure if running was helping or hurting it, so…I went for an 8-mile run. Not a good idea. After that I couldn’t reach to touch my toes for days (with my legs bent even!). Nothing was helping so I decided to really rest. Tough decision when I’m supposed to be running 6 days a week. Tough decision for anyone who knows how rarely I sit still. Here were my sad stats for that week (one very slow run in seven days – yikes):

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I learned last year that the mental aspects of training for a marathon can be even more challenging than the physical demands on your body. Cutting an 18-week training plan to 17-weeks, plus not knowing when/if my back will heal, was driving me crazy. Doubts creep in. How long do I rest? Do I push it? What if I can’t do any long runs? Will I be ready for Boston? And it goes on and on. But I trust the journey. I listen to my body. While I was stretching/rolling more I started meditating each day to calm my mind. I eased back into training and slowed down my runs. I decided to only run 5 days a week going forward (back to Hal Higdon Novice 2 again). Doubts, struggles, stories we tell ourselves…they all can start downward spirals like I mentioned in my holiday letter this year. Here’s an excerpt from what I mailed out, listing some things I learned this year:

If you learn just one thing while reading this letter then I have succeeded. Neuroscience continues to advance, and many great books show that small daily changes can rewire your brain (e.g., The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, PhD and Uncovering Happiness, by Elisha Goldstein). The simplest thing you can do is listen. Listening shows that you care, and can give someone a greater sense of connection and control (especially to someone who doesn’t see other options). Small steps to create positive upward spirals include: mindfulness (practicing “nonjudgmental awareness”; making any decision reduces anxiety); exercise; sleep; long hugs (give someone a lingering hug right now!); breathing (breathe in through your nose while counting to six,  and let it out just as slowly); support networks (downward spirals are more likely when you’re alone; even movies together are a step for someone who doesn’t seem ready to talk); and gratitude (e.g., think of one thing you’re looking forward to each day when you wake up – even if that is just breakfast!).

What else have I learned? Strong support networks from family and friends are critical to get through tough times. Stigma around suicide and mental illness exists everywhere, causing people not to get help, and to feel isolated, judged, and alone. Suicide happens to “normal” families. People who commit suicide don’t want to die, but they don’t see any other way out of their current feeling of hopelessness. Mental illness is a disease like many other diseases. Depression creates physical changes in the brain, but people can get better. We’ll never get the answers we want, and we can’t fix the past, so we must move forward and honor our loved ones by living for today and helping others along the way. If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or exhibiting suicidal tendencies, get appropriate help right away. The Samaritans’ website is a great source for information.

Believe it. Share it.

My oldest daughter, Colleen, joined me on my first day back to running. We had a great 4-mile run, slipping and sliding a bit as we dodged patches of ice under the fresh snow on a beautiful winter day.
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Cool how many different tracks can be found after a new dusting of snow. Not long after this I saw four deer while on my run. I continue to add to my collection of pictures of blurry brown deer-like blobs.
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Thankfully this has still been a relatively mild Minnesota winter so far. Not a lot of snow and not any really cold temps. My new gear is making a huge difference!
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I’m so thankful for the support from those closest to me. It was great to see my parents for several days before they headed back to New Hampshire. We have all been through so much in the past four years, and we get through it all, good & bad, together. The Boston Marathon is a powerful journey for all of this year and helps us feel like we can channel energy and emotion into a great organization that touches so many lives.
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And finally, pictures from my long run in Week 4. It was supposed to be 11 miles, but I realized at mile 10 that I was missing my hood (crazy that I overdressed on a 20F day and ended up having to remove gloves and the hood). I ended up jogging back to find it and then taking a shortcut home, for 12 miles total. Funny how things work out, the last two miles after I lost my hood were the best part of my run. I ran through a wooded area around a lake, got to run through some unplowed paths, and ended up talking to a fellow runner. Plus I got the satisfaction of finding what I lost! :)
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Peace and happiness in the year ahead. Here’s to a great 2016. Happy New Year, and thanks again for all of the support!

If you missed it…I was one of three runners featured in the Samaritan’s December newsletter (scroll down in this article).