Running with heart


Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart – Mike Fanelli

“Running with your heart” has taken on a new meaning for me over the past couple of weeks.  I have unfortunately been spending lots of my spare time (or so it feels like “lots”) at my cardiologists office.  Yes, i said cardiologist.  While i have really debated sharing all of this with the outside world, I’ve just decided that’s it’s more “me” to be open and positive rather than feel like i’m keeping some secret.  Being private about all of this makes it seem like a bigger deal than I would like to allow it to be!

Where to begin?  Well, it actually begins about a year ago.  I had been off from running for about 7 weeks because of an injury and on one of my first solo runs back, I had pretty significant chest pain.  It freaked me out because it came out of nowhere but it went away as quickly as it came so I chalked it up to being cold and my lungs not being warmed up.  I  told Keith about the pain but we didn’t think much of it.  I eventually told my running partner because it would randomly happen so I felt like she should know (you know, “just in case” 😉 ) – but i still really thought it had some correlation to our cold runs.  (this is another reason i’ve decided to share now; seems a little irresponsible for me to keep this from my running buddies)

Well, anyway, the pain was never consistent and never as bad as the first time so I quit worrying about it and, from what i remember, I quit having the pains.  I, once again, was out all Spring with an injury so it never crossed my mind again.  No running meant no chest pains.  So, fast forward to marathon training this summer.  I hadn’t had a single pain until about 4-6 weeks before the race and on a training run, it hit me again, out of the blue.  It felt fairly significant but the weather was on the cooler side and i was also working fairly hard.  It didn’t really make sense to me so this is when i decided that it must have something to do with my asthma.

I made sure to have my inhaler with me on the following weeks of runs as well as on race day but it seemed that the pains were happening a little more frequently than what i was used to or comfortable with.  It’s not the kind of pain that will take you to your knees.  It’s just the kind that causes you to clench your teeth and breathe a little deeper until it’s gone.  I’ve always been able to run through it and within a minute or three, I’m usually fine again.

Race day came and went and was pretty uneventful.  I remember having a little tightness around mile 16 but didn’t think much of it.  I made myself a promise that i would make an appointment to see my doctor for another pulmonary test to make sure my inhaler is working correctly.  Of course, i didn’t think about making that appointment the following week but on my first, second, and third run after the race, the pain was significant enough to warrant a doctors appt.

(Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t freak out!  I’ll be fine!!)

I went to see my internist and promptly told them (nurse practitioner / avid runner and my doctor) that i needed a pulmonary test because i was having asthma issues.  Well, within about 20 minutes, I was being rushed out the door and directed straight to Stern Cardiovascular Center.

Apparently it has nothing to do with my asthma and everything to do with my heart.  Who knew?!  Within the past 2 weeks I’ve had 3 appointments, 2 EKG’s, 1 stress-echo, and have been diagnosed with a heart murmur and leaking in both the mitral and tricuspid valves.  The kicker is that the heart doc doesn’t think these things have anything to do with the chest pains.  I guess it’s just bonus knowledge that i now have.  I’m told not to worry about these new tidbits of information.  I must say, i was thrown for a serious loop to hear that something is wrong with my heart but I’m constantly reminded that the fact that i am a runner, a non-smoker, and in good general health, I have a lot of factors on my side. (PSA: to all of my smoking family and friends, please stop.  your heart wants you to stop!)

I have another test coming up to check for blockages and whatever else they’ll be checking for.  It’s a test he’s somewhat hesitant to give me because of the radiation dosage and the fact that i don’t have kids (yes, just another reminder that i am unlike most 38 year olds…geez!) but we’ve agreed that it’s a test I need to have so we can move on to the next step.  We could possibly get some answers about the chest pains from this test.  (good news is that i haven’t had a single chest pain in the past 2 weeks!  woo hoo!)

We’re hoping for good results from the next test.  I have a good feeling about it and my cardiologist has challenged me to run an ultra if my results are A-ok.  What kind of freak is he?!  😉  I’m currently allowed to run but just to “proceed with caution.”  He doesn’t want me to have to always proceed with caution (apparently he’s into reckless abandon) so he is anxious for some good results from the upcoming test.  We’ll see…

Thinking back, i feel kind of silly at how i reacted in my doctor’s office.  As they were rushing me to Stern, i was fairly unconsolable and although I was freaked out at the idea that something is wrong with my heart, I was completely unconsolable when he said, “absolutely NO running!”  I just kept telling him that running is what i do.  Running is what i love.  Running is what i share.  The thought of no running was more than i could handle.

Fortunately my cardiologist is a bit of a physic and he knows that I NEED to run.  Running helps my heart and no matter what issues i’m having, they would be so much worse if I weren’t a runner.  I have an exceptionally low heart rate (this is a good thing, by the way!) thanks to running.  I have a strong heart thanks to running.  I have new knowledge about myself thanks to running.  I can possibly get less radiation than the average 38 year old thanks to running.  I am staying sane thanks to running.

Running has and is helping me, both mentally and physically.  This has been a pretty surreal experience; there’s nothing quite like going from thinking I needed a new inhaler to using the term “my cardiologist”….and being the youngest person by about 50 years every time i go to the doctor now…but I’m just grateful that I’m still running!

Now when i run, i’m REALLY running with heart.



You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man

For all you runners, you’ll think this is hilarious (thank, Thomas, for sharing)

Of Gingerbread Men, Running, and Hubris

by Mark Remy (posted on

Note: In honor of the holiday baking season, today’s post is a retelling of a classic children’s tale, edited for a running audience…

Once upon a time a little old woman and a little old man lived in a cottage. One day the little old woman made a gingerbread man. She gave him currants for eyes and cherries for buttons. She put him in the oven to bake.

The little old woman and little old man were very hungry and wanted to eat the gingerbread man. As soon as he was cooked, the little old woman opened the oven door. The gingerbread man jumped out and ran out of the open window shouting, “Don’t eat me! I’m high in trans fats!”

The little old woman and little old man changed into shorts and technical shirts and frantically rummaged around for their running shoes and then ran after the gingerbread man, who as a barefoot runner had a clear advantage in such situations.

“Stop! Stop!” they yelled. “You’re supposed to run AGAINST traffic!” The gingerbread man did not look back. He ran on saying, “Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man! And there are no age-group prizes in THIS race! Ha ha!”

Down the lane he sped when he came to a pig. “Stop! Stop! I would like to eat you!” shouted the pig. The gingerbread man, who had been doing Yasso 800’s,was too fast. He ran on saying, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”

A little further on he met a cow. “Stop! Stop! little man,” called the hungry cow, “I want to eat you.” Again the gingerbread man was too fast. He sped on down the road saying, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.”

The cow began to chase the gingerbread man along with the pig, and the little old woman, who were running three abreast and annoying all of the other people using the path. But the gingerbread man was too fast for them.

It was not long before the gingerbread man came to a horse. “Stop! Stop!” shouted the horse. “I want to eat you, little man.” But the gingerbread man did not stop. He said, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man. And my little size is actually an asset, horse. You would kill for my running economy.”

The horse joined in the chase. The gingerbread man laughed and laughed, as if he’d just read Mary Remy’s newest running book, until he came to a river. “Oh no!” he cried, “They will catch me. Worse, my plan calls for 12 miles today, and I’m only at 7. How can I cross the river?”

A sly fox came out from behind a tree. “I can help you cross the river,” said the fox. “Jump on to my tail and I will swim across.”

“You won’t eat me, will you?” said the gingerbread man, who was an excellent runner and a decent cyclist but a horrible swimmer, which was the only thing keeping him from trying a triathlon.

“Of course not,” said the fox. “I just want to help.”

The gingerbread man climbed on the fox’s tail. Soon the gingerbread man began to get wet, which freaked him out, since he had an old Garmin that didn’t like moisture. “Climb onto my back,” said the fox. So the gingerbread man did. As he swam the fox said, “You are too heavy. I am tired. Jump onto my nose.” So the gingerbread man did as he was told, although the “too heavy” remark stung, and he made a mental note to cut back on the ice cream and beer for a while.

No sooner had they reached the other side, than the fox tossed the gingerbread man up in the air. He opened his mouth and “Snap!” that was the end of the gingerbread man.

And the moral of this story is: It’s great to be fast, but don’t get all cocky about it, or you might be devoured by a fox.

The End

What if? Marathon recap


I don’t even know where to begin.  I love doing race recaps so that i can look back many months down the road, when i have forgotten what it was really like, and read all about it.  The only problem with doing race recaps so soon after the race is that you haven’t yet forgotten the pain!  🙂

It’s still amazing to me how the same distance can have a completely different outcome.  This is what makes running so damn addictive.  I think we’re always looking for the perfect race but rarely is a race going to be perfect.  I don’t know very many people who complete a race and never have a “what if” moment.

Well, this 26.2 took quite an unexpected turn for me.  I’m going to warn you, before i get started, that this is a lot more information than this modest girl would care to share but it’s part of my race experience so here goes.

I went into this race with expectations i wasn’t sure i could live up to but i was certainly willing to give it a shot.  After a disappointing race last year, i knew that i needed to forget about that race.  I kept telling myself i couldn’t compare the two.  Last year, i missed the bulk of training due to an injury and came back in quickly and with only a couple of long runs, i ran anyway.   I was thrilled to have completed the race but struggled more than i ever thought imaginable.

This year i wasn’t able to run from January to May (due to the lingering issues from the injury last fall) so i was really concerned about jumping right in to marathon training.  I was careful and determined though.  I cross trained as much as my body would allow and ran as much as i felt safe doing.  I was able to get most runs in, although i skipped all speed work, and felt like i had a really good overall training for the race this time around.

So, going into the race, i felt that i was as ready as i could be for this particular race.  I’ve been lucky over the past 6 months and have done almost every long run with my training group and many of us have found a nice rhythm.  i battled the idea of possibly running on my own…..not for any other reason than to do it….but we had a lot of great training runs as a group so i decided against this.

Eleven of us from the group started together and started with a pacer so we would be sure not to start too fast.  This worked perfectly!  We kept reminding ourselves that this was nothing different than any other training run.  Everything was going really well except for a little bit of knee pain.  As we ran down North Parkway (the first time!), i worried a bit about my knee since it was so early in the race but it felt like it was going to stay at a baseline pain so i was trying to not let it get the best of me mentally.

We were having a lot of fun and i just kept thinking how cool it was that 11 of us were together.  I remember saying at one point, “it will be amazing if we can all cross the finish line together, although i’ll be shocked.”  At mile 9, all eleven of us were still together!  This is pretty hard to believe considering how crowded it was and how we had to weave around people.  We were anxiously awaiting the split so that we could spread out a little and get into our groove.

As we were headed down Poplar, my knee was starting to hurt pretty badly but i knew that if i could just make it a few more miles (8 to be exact!), i could run into Inbalance and use the foam roller for a minute.  I kept telling myself that if i could spend a minute rolling my quad and IT band, it would probably save me several minutes in the long run.  Keep in mind, this wasn’t the kind of knee pain that worried me as far as injury was concerned.  I have had some trouble with this knee for a while and sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t.  It actually has nothing to do with the knee- it’s a tight quad and IT band – so, even with the irritation i was feeling, i still felt a lot stronger than i did a year ago or 6 months ago.

Around mile 11, our group of eleven started to drift apart.  Two pulled up a bit and 3 pulled back a bit and 6 of us remained together.  We laughed as we saw a couple of melt-downs around mile 12.5 with some half marathoners.  Not laughing at them!  Just funny because they were nearing their end, their melt-down, exhaustion point.  We knew that was likely to happen to us, only in a few hours.  We got to the split, got some great high fives and surprised looks from the volunteers (i think most people are surprised that anyone would make a conscious decision to continue on when the finish line is within sight), and went on our way.  I started having to walk the hills, which is weird because it’s not usually the uphills that hurt my knee, but this didn’t concern me either.  I can walk pretty fast and was able to catch my group as soon as we reached the top.

We were really having a good run at this point.  Everyone was feeling pretty good, with the exception of some typical aches and pains, and we were nearing the downhill slide.  Around mile 17, i felt like my knee was starting to loosen up a little bit so i was really debating whether or not i was going to hop on the foam roller for a bit.  We were exactly on pace for our A goal at this time so i was having a constant battle in my head.  I was literally trying to figure out how many seconds i would get behind if i ran in and grabbed the roller- i think i figured out that i could easily be in and out in 90 seconds.

Then came the completely unexpected turn of events.  As we were headed down Peabody, nearing Cooper, i started to have some stomach cramps- completely out of the blue.  I can’t remember now if i had recently eaten a gel or if i was due soon but i remember being nervous that i might throw up.  As an aside, i don’t like to throw up, i don’t throw up well, i would rather have any kind of sickness than one that involves me throwing up.  I started to walk to see if i could get the feeling to pass.  Unfortunately it wasn’t passing but i knew i was within minutes of being at Inbalance so that eased my panic a little bit.

So, while i no longer felt like i needed the roller, i knew i had no choice but to make a pit stop.  This was a really sad moment because i knew by making the decision to go in, i was going to spend the next 8 miles without the group and i was most likely saying “bye” to my goal.  Boy, am i glad i went in though!  (this may be where you’re about to get entirely too much information)  I was quite sick and emptied my stomach of everything in it.  I think this is where it works against me being a running coach because all i could think of was that i was now going to be depleted of all my electrolytes and calories.  While trying to settle my stomach and calm down, i went ahead and got the roller out and spent some time on there.

I can’t even explain the thoughts going through my head at this point …pretty much it went like this “oh my god, you’re in the middle of a marathon and you are INSIDE a building, across the street from the race course, on a roller…….what the f***”.  I must say, it was hard walking out that door and continuing on the course knowing that i had lost so much time and based on how i was feeling.  Fortunately, i have an incredible group and thought of each and every one of them and that helped to get me back on course.

For whatever reason, i was never really able to combat the nausea.  I have no explanation for this.  I’ve never had this problem in a run, much less a race.  I’ve had the typical “gotta make a quick pit stop” moments but never this where i was just sick.  I knew that i had to make sure i was still eating and drinking, especially since i was kind of starting over, but it wasn’t easy.  The next time you feel quite certain you might throw up, go get a gu, and suck it down.  Mmmmm.

I saw some family around mile 19 and told them what was going on.  One response was, “you should just quit.”  Oh, hell no!!  They laughed, wished me well, and i was on my way again.  I was having a hard time running because this seemed to make me feel more sick but i was still trying!  Fortunately as i was nearing East Parkway, i saw Susan (fellow runner and friend) who just started running with me (she had pulled up beside me a little earlier and i told her what was going on).  She ran the East Parkway stretch with me trying everything in her power to keep me from getting sick or thinking about getting sick!  I was having to walk a lot more than i would have liked but this was the only time i didn’t feel like i was certain to throw up.  I had to laugh at myself at one point because i just kept thinking that people were probably driving by thinking “look at that girl trying to race walk.”  It seemed like as long as i kept both feet on the ground, i could keep from getting sick but as soon as i started to run, it was all over again!  As we turned onto North Parkway, Keith rode up on his bike and Susan disappeared -she was letting us have our moment 🙂

I told Keith i was sick and worried that i couldn’t really get any fuel in and i started going through all the emotions….you know how you do when you see your support person.  I think i was trying to stay somewhat positive for Susan but as soon as i saw Keith, all of those emotions i was battling just overcame me.  I was pissed because i felt stronger physically than last time but i was dealing with something unexpected and something i had no control over.  I was sad that my goal was out the window.  I was devastated when the one pacer that i didn’t want to pass me passed me.  In all this though, i was still trying to remind myself that i am strong, i’m not a quitter, and i was still going to get that damn medal.

So, on i went down North Parkway.  Keith bounced back and forth from me to some of the group who was up ahead.  Katie rolled up on her bike and did everything to keep me going.  I cannot explain how great it was to have some support out on the course.  I know i was completely unable to express my gratitude while i was in the moment but i am so extremely appreciative.

Keith was filling me in on how everyone from the Half Marathon group did and this was a lot of fun to hear.  It really helped me to think about everyone and how hard everyone else worked and was still working.  Keith and Katie had also run the Half that morning and were out on their bikes cheering people on.  This was great!

I could see some of our group ahead of me and tried to will myself to catch them but just couldn’t run.  I can’t remember now if i ever felt like i hit the dreaded wall.  I don’t know that i did.  This is where it’s fascinating to me.  In San Antonio, i hit the wall as if a literal wall had been placed on the course at mile 20 with no warning.  This came out of nowhere but wasn’t as physical (meaning legs, knees, back…) as San Antonio.  I was never able to regroup but when i could run in my spurts, i actually felt better physically than i ever did during those same miles in San Antonio.

Then, out of nowhere, i saw my angel.  No, not really, but there was a lady serving Coke around mile 24 so i stopped to get some and this seemed to help a little bit.  I ended up being able to run off and on for the next 2 miles and was able to run into the finish.

So, once again, i’m face to face with a very bittersweet moment.  I was devastated that i hadn’t met either of my goals but i was also proud to have, once again, completed a marathon.  I can’t help but think, “what if i hadn’t had stomach issues?  what if i had just tried to fight through the urge?  what if??”  So, this is how it ends up being addictive.  This is what makes the marathon the marathon.  It’s a race unlike most others.  It’s long enough that you’re bound to have some sort of issue whether it’s physical or mental and the key is, “are you able to overcome it?”

I can proudly say that all of our runners who stood at the start line on race day gearing up for their first marathon, finished the marathon!  I am proud to be amongst such a strong group of people.  My hats off to all of you for a job well done!!