So I’ve Been “Running”

When I began Racing Alzheimer’s, my intent was to share the latest research on how to be healthy so that you and I could hopefully avoid or delay dementia down the road.

I haven’t been very good at this.

With my mother moving into late stage dementia, this blog became more about racing her Alzheimer’s by helping her and being with her as much as I could.  Still, as I focused on my mom, I didn’t lose sight of the need to be healthy.  My “prevention intention” was never far away as I watched the progression of this disease in my mom.  Talk about motivation.

While there are no guarantees or proven ways to prevent dementia, there is nothing to lose and so much to gain for trying.  There are a number of ways to keep our brains healthy that are supported by solid research — and exercise is one.

So I’ve been “running.”

If you’ve followed my running posts you’ll know I am not a runner.  Uh, because running is hard?  Truth is, all exercise is hard for me — I just don’t like it.  But of everything I’ve tried, I enjoy running the most which is to say I hardly enjoy it at all.  It’s tolerable.  I’m not very good at it which is why I’ve been running so slowly it can hardly be called “running.”  Oxygen deprived lumbering is a better description.

So why do it?  Because study after study suggests exercise as an important way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  One Mayo Clinic study found:

Older adults who regularly engaged in moderate exercise five or six times a week reduced their risk of mild cognitive impairment by 32 percent compared with more sedentary people. Those who began exercising at midlife saw a 39 percent reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment.

Mayo Clinic goes on to say, “It’s not clear how exercise protects the brain from Alzheimer’s, but research indicates several possibilities, including:”  1) increased brain volume, 2) improvement in brain connections, and 3) improved blood vessel health.   In addition, Harvard Professor John Ratey, M.D. says exercise is “Miracle-Gro for the brain” and the “single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.”

It’s kind of hard to say no to that.

I’ve been lumbering and training for a 10 mile race in October.  The Twin Cities 10 Mile is something I’ve wanted to do since I started lumbering in 2011.  It’s by lottery and I wasn’t selected last year.  So you can imagine my surprise when, barely able to run 2 miles, I found out I got in this year!   Yay!!?   After I settled down and let go of my fear, determination set in — and I started training.

I’m up to 8 miles now and my knees would like me to stop.

As grueling as the training has been, I’m thrilled to be running this race in my hometown, in my 50th year — the year my mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.  I’ll run for my mom, and for me and for all my aging brain cells.   My son will be running the Twin Cities Marathon at the same time — 16.2 miles farther than me, and I’d like to think I can finish before him.

I’ll share other ways I’m Racing Alzheimer’s down the road, but for now, it’s all about the lumbering, and my knees, and my brain cells, while b r e a t h i n g, and taking one step at a time.

With Abundant Gratitude,

     ~  Joanne

You Are Not Alone

There are more than 15 million dementia caregivers in this country and every single one can benefit from support of some kind.  Meals, errands, respite, support groups, and hugs to name a few.

Alzheimer’s support groups can help a person feel like they’re not alone.   When I was in a group and heard a participant share frustrations of caring for her loved one and her secret hope for a swift end, I knew I was in the right place.  I also knew that I’d one day want to give back by leading a group of my own — and that time has come.

But first, let me tell you what happened.

I began the application process last year with the local Alzheimer’s Chapter.  After many calls, a fair amount of paperwork, an interview and a background check, I was thrilled to be “hired” for this volunteer position!  And then it went nowhere.  I heard this chapter was “restructuring” which was fine.  I could wait.  But I imagined my eager and ready application languishing in a drawer and becoming a forgotten file.

Then a few months later out of the blue, a friend contacted me to ask if I was interested in taking over a local Alzheimer’s Support Group that was in need of a new facilitator.  This friend and I had not been in touch in awhile, she had no idea I was pursuing this, and said she just “thought of me” when the spot became available.

Amazing how things work out.  Of course I said yes.

I co-facilitated my first Group in June, my mother vanished on July 6th, and ten days later I was leading my second Group.  Reealy bad timing.  I had nothing to give, but what was I to do?  I committed and wanted to follow through.  So I went, and shared, and cried.  People cried with me, probably because they could see their lives in my story — they have lost or are losing their loved one with dementia too and it’s okay to be sad.  It’s okay to cry.

Support goes both ways.

My little group meets at the Winchester Medical Center, on the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7:30 — 9:00pm.  We talk about everything related to having a loved one with dementia.  We laugh, we cry, we listen and support.  All are welcome.

Be a Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator — CHECK!

There is most likely some type of support for whatever you are going through.  Whether it be a group, a counselor, pastor, or a friend — I encourage you to reach out and find support.

CLICK HERE to locate an Alzheimer’s Support Group near you.  Or go to ElderCare.gov for additional resources and to find your local Area Agency on Aging which can direct you to a support group for your specific needs.

Together we are strong,

   ~ Joanne

Run a 10K . . . CHECK!

The 10K almost took me out this morning, but I persevered and came down the stretch under my goal time with a 1:08:45 finish. I have never been more grateful for a finish line. Things were humming along pretty smoothly until I hit mile 5 and the thought of walking started creeping in on me. But I decided before I started, that stopping was NOT an option. So I hung on, and even managed to pick up my pace on the last mile when I saw how close I was getting to my 1:10 goal.

Here are some photos of our morning from my generous and beautiful friend Laurie Orr who graciously agreed to get up early on a Saturday morning to capture this event.  Thank you!

I was a little nervous and accidentally put my number on upside down.
The Leonardis Girls have arrived and have made their first appearance at the Apple Blossom 10K! WooHoo!
My awesome brother-in-law Tony, me, my amazing daughter Jordan, and my always supportive husband Vince.
I love this picture! Family is everything. I am mentally inserting my son Jake into this picture. He couldn't join us, but he was still with us.
Right before mile 3.
The last brutal push to the finish.
Done. Finished. Check.
HAPPY!!!

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival 10K
May 5th, 2012 Winchester, VA
Time:  1:08:45
Pace:  11:04

Dear 10K Course,

I’ll admit it.  You intimidated me after my practice run and I was a little nervous when I arrived at your gates this morning.  But I tried to keep calm by reminding myself that I was in charge, not you.  I had my run in my head, and I wasn’t going to falter.  Oh sure, I know things got a little shaky around mile 5 — but you never had the upper hand.  Because what you don’t know is the level of determination that resides in this 49 year old body — and I was determined that you would not win this one.  So thank you 10K Course, you did your best today, but you helped me learn that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Sincerely,

The One In Purple, Racing Alzheimer’s

PS.  My brain thanks you too!

On your mark, get set . . . . .

GO!  The Shenandoah Apple Blossom 10K is less than 24 hours away!  I know I’m going on about this.  Forgive me.  I can’t help myself.  It’s just that I’m obsessed with running right now, and to me, this little 10K may as well be the Boston Marathon.  I never thought I’d be able to run 3 miles let alone 6.2 miles.  Okay.  I’ll stop.  Please don’t roll your eyes.

Here are a couple 10K photos from a few years ago.

Jake and Uncle Tony 2006
The Leonardis Clan 2008

The girls are missing from these photos, but they’ll be in ’em tomorrow!

 

10K Preview – A Lesson In Humility

Soccer player down on field and in agony
This is exactly how I felt during my practice run.

I’ve been training for a 10K. I’m going into my 7th week of serious training which includes running 3 days a week and strength training on the off days. I’ve been gradually working up my distance and can run 5 miles fairly well even though it’s still pretty tough.

So I figure how much harder can one more mile be? I even started saying things like, “I’ll finish the 10K, it’s just a matter of what my time will be.” I started fantasizing about finishing under an hour or at least 65 minutes. No problem.

Well, I ran the actual 10K course in a practice run today — 2 weeks out — just to see what I’m up against.

I am up against a BEAST.

It’s hard. VERY HARD. It chewed me up and spit me out.

I stopped.
I felt like puking.
I didn’t finish.

It could have been the mostly up hill first mile or the many brutal hills that followed. Or it could have been that I ate almost nothing the day before and then had a big bowl of popcorn before bed. Maybe it was my previous days workout which included a lot of leg work — I did wake up a tad sore. Or maybe it was my over zealous first two miles that I ran waaay tooo fast.

Whatever the reason, (all of which WILL be addressed for the official run), I now bow to the course.

Dear 10K course,

I bow to you. I no longer have a time in mind for finishing. My new goal is to just FINISH. And, I will be ecstatic if I can finish you without stopping. I will take it easy and honor your many deceitful ascents knowing that if I barrel up them, I will die later. I will honor your distance — I swear you are longer than 6.2 miles. But know this, I will be prepared and I will be ready. I will be stronger and healthier when we meet again. I bow to you 10K course, but prepare to be trampled!

Sincerely,

The One In Purple, Racing Alzheimer’s

*Note — this post was written 2 weeks ago while my website was under construction.  The 10K is on May 5th, 2 days away from this posting!  Yeah, I’m ready.  BRING IT!!!

Also, check out the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival!  It features the longest parade east of the MississippiFour. Hours. Long.

“Someday” At My Door!

Joanne stretching her quads while leaning on a treeI’ve done the impossible by running (and finishing without puking) my first 5K in August 2011. I’ve run a handful of organized 5Ks since then and a “5 miler” in January. But I’ll be honest, I’ve been running just enough to keep my momentum, but not enough to improve. Until lately.

I’m training for a 10K in May!

Running the annual 10K where I live has been a whisper of an idea for about 10 years. I’ve watched family and friends run it while having that “someday” mentality for myself.

Well darlin’ — (knock knock) SOMEDAY IS HERE!

Hello SOMEDAY. Say hello to my little friend, Hal Higdon.

For those of you who don’t know, Hal Higdon is the go-to guy when training for your run. My son turned me on to him a few months ago and Hal has been with me everyday since I’ve been training. I selected the 10K Training Guide – Novice Program since I’m clearly not ready for the Intermediate Program and the Advanced training looks like it’s meant for someone who wants to win the darn thing.

The Novice Program is six days a week of cardio and strength training for 8-weeks. I’m in my 6th week, and at 49, I have never worked out this hard or often in my life. I finally understand what a runners high is as well as needing to get my workout in and I FEEL GREAT!

Thank you Hal Higdon.

Hello SOMEDAY!

*Note — this post was written 2 weeks ago while my website was under construction.  The 10K is on May 5th, 3 days away from this posting!

Running from my past to my future: My First 5K!

Three months ago I couldn’t run a mile, and I recently ran my first 5K!

I ran it on the perfect day and in the perfect place: August 6th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Why perfect? Because I haven’t lived in Minneapolis for about 25 years, but it’s where my heart calls home. And, August 6th is the day my high school boyfriend lost his life to a drunk driver 32 years ago. It was a long time ago, but this tragic event impacted my life in numerous ways and “my first love” has been in my heart ever since. As I tend to add emotional sentiment to things, this little 5K was a sort of “coming full circle” event for me. I found it very poetic and even cathartic.

Huffing and puffing for 3.1 miles, my playlist steeped in the classic rock that my boyfriend and I loved, Van Halen, Zepplin and Rush (to honor the 1979 concert we saw together), was a nod to where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. From broken, lost and running from pain. To whole, present and running towards life and health.

Running. From enemy to friend. Hello new friend!
Jake and I standing under the 5K Start banner
Early morning, pre-race. One of us will win it and the other will be happy to finish!

Urban Wildland Half Marathon & 5K
Aug. 6th, 2011 Mpls. MN
Time:  33:34
Pace:  10:48

5K (Half Ass) Training cont’d

exhausted male runner with his head in a large bucket of waterYou would think going from 2 miles to 3 miles would be easy enough. It’s not. It’s almost like starting over. It’s how I felt going from 0 to 1 mile. The wall is hit, my body is done. Even as I write this, I’m feeling a little embarrassed because I’m still talking about RUNNING ONLY 3 MILES!

Sheesh! How hard can it be?!

I used to think that everyone could run 3 miles, except me. Kind of like the way I think everyone knows their times tables through the twelves except me. I mean, I know them, but I need extra time with the middle 8’s and 9’s because I was probably daydreaming about Shaun Cassidy that week in 4th grade, and I’ve struggled with them ever since.  I’ve come to find out that not everyone can run 3 miles. Why? Because it friggin far! Don’t believe me? Set your odometer the next time you’re in the car. Find a landmark, and start counting.

Now imagine running that!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m cutting myself a break lately. The idea that I “should” be able to run 3 miles has changed to, “Holy shit this is hard! If I can do this, I can do just about anything!”

So yeah, I’m doing my half ass training and 2.5 miles feels like my first mile.
3.1 is in sight, the only question is will I finish ugly or strong?