What Kind of Name is That?

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for almost a year now. It came to me on a run when I jokingly thought to myself “I should have a t-shirt made that says “Racing Alzheimer’s” on the back, because that’s what I’m doing out here.

Light Bulb. Racing Alzheimer’s?  Hmmmm . . . let me see.

I’m out running for my brain, I’ve completely changed my diet, I’m taking enough supplements to strangle a horse. I’m doing all this and more to stay healthy and (hopefully) protect myself from Alzheimer’s. The disease caught my great-grandmother, my grandmother and now it has my mom. I am quite literally racing Alzheimer’s.  I WILL write about it.

I’ll write about it because, who knows? Maybe I’m not alone in this.

Maybe I’m not the only one making a conscious effort to prevent Alzheimer’s. I know I’m not alone in having a parent with the disease. And there must be other baby boomers out there thinking the same thing — I COULD BE NEXT.

Maybe I can help you. Maybe you can help me. Or maybe we can simply support each other along the way.

What I know for sure is this: I AM racing Alzheimer’s disease. And while I’m doing everything I can to prevent it from catching me, I don’t plan on having any regrets if it does. There will be lots to write about.

PS. I DID have t-shirts made! What do you think?

Purple t-shirt with RacingAlzheimer's.com on the back

The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention

Corinthian columns standing tall on a sunny day.

Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is neither a normal nor natural process of aging. But, if you want to maintain the strength and vitality of your brain as you age, you must take a proactive role. Just as your body needs strength-building exercise to keep your muscles fit, so does your brain.

There is so much information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention, that it’s hard to keep track of it all.   “The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention” from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation helps to keep it simple.
The 4 Pillars are:

1. Diet and Supplements
2. Stress Management
3. Exercise (and Brain Gymnastics)
4. Medicines

The first 3 pillars are more preventive while the last one is more of an attempt to slow down progression after diagnosis.

Go to The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention to learn more.

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?

Bucket List

Purple clock face on a watch

What would you do if you knew you had twenty years to live? How would you
live the rest of your life?

I recently realized twenty years could be all the time I have left to live with a sound mind. Both my mother and grandmother were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they were about 70. My mom was 68. I am 50 —  you do the math.

If the Alzheimer’s clock is ticking in my brain and the timer goes off in 20 years or so, I’ll still be alive but . . . . what kind of life will I have? I’m not saying I will get Alzheimer’s in 20 years, I’m saying the odds are not in my favor.

What would you do if Alzheimer’s was staring you down through the barrel of a gun?

Would you wait for the trigger to be pulled? Or would you start running?

After being dazed for a bit by my realization — I started running — figuratively and literally. I began Racing Alzheimer’s by learning everything I could about healthy living and Alzheimer’s prevention and then I started doing one of the best things I could do for my brain — I began exercising. And yes, running.

I learned that it might be possible to prevent Alzheimer’s disease — or at least delay it until I’m 90 when I won’t care so much.   But while I’m focused on prevention I also want to talk about intention — as in living with intention, and being present and grateful for every minute I have, whether the gun goes off or not. I want my eyes and my heart to be wide open and I want to say YES more and NO when I should. I want to be mindful and present in my life because twenty years can go by quickly and I don’t want to miss a thing. I mean, I thought I was paying attention during the last twenty years, and they still went by in about 20 seconds.

“How will you live the rest of your life?”

It sounds a bit cliche, but the “Bucket List” is an invaluable tool for living with intention. I didn’t have one before, but I do now because it’s an effective way to laser in on those things I’ve always thought about doing but sort of shrugged off. It’s kind of like my 20 year plan. I’ve included some things I’ve already done because they were awesome and they would have been on my list anyway. (Plus, I like having some things crossed off already.)  The most important item is at the top of my list and everything else is random.

Here’s to PREVENTION and INTENTION. And to crossing things off.

What’s on YOUR Bucket List?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Play with my grandchildren
Plan/Attend family reunion
See the Grand Canyon
Become a Master Gardener
Be a Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator
Volunteer at a wild life refuge
Volunteer at a local Hospice
Meet Jane Goodall
Research Ancestors
Go on a Scandinavian cruise
Attend Tom Petty Concert
Climb Machu Picchu
Traverse the Rain Forest canopy
Hike in Nepal
Go to New York City
See Broadway Show
Go to major concert with children
Help build a home or school
Write a Book and/or Blog
Create a website
Learn to speak Spanish
Take a photography class
Hold a “Free Hugs” sign in a crowd
See “A Prairie Home Companion”
Go to Italy
Attend Marriage Retreat with husband
Write “Letters to my Children”
Run a 5K
Attend U2 Concert
Create art to display
Participate in Alzheimer’s Research
Participate in the D.C. “Walk to end Alzheimer’s”
See Saturday Night LIVE!
Run a 10K
Meet Oprah
Run Twin Cities 10 Miler
Do 5 (real) push-ups
Take a writing class
Attend Van Halen Concert
(Really) learn yoga
Go Snorkeling
Ice Skate in Central Park
Drive across America
Run around Lakes Nokomis, Harriet, Calhoun
Go to MN State Fair
Attend Meditation Retreat
Participate in Protest or March
Bike Minneapolis “Grand Round”
Sky Dive
Fire Walk

5K (Half Ass) Training

HandshakeI agreed, on a handshake, to run a 5K; and I have less than 3 months to do it.

I know.  Three months is a long time to train to run 3.1 miles.  I get it.  But I am new to this running thing, and for someone who can barely run 1 mile, 3 miles may as well be across the country.   I am weak and out of shape and have almost no muscle tone to speak of.  Can you say FLABBY?  Oh sure, I  exercise here and there — take walks, ride my bike, lift groceries, lug laundry; the basics.  But to exercise to exhaustion?  No.  Not really.

I used to think that I didn’t sweat when I exercised.  The truth is, I never worked hard enough.  Oh sure, I’d break a sweat.  But it never got in my eyes and rolled down my body like the Mississippi River.

I can sweat!  And. I. Get. Soaked.    Who knew?

This running (and sweating) thing is new territory.  It’s exhilarating and satisfying and hard work.  I don’t have a training plan and am winging it instead.  Why?  Because I don’t like following rules.  And because I figured I could run every other day and gradually extend my distance until I hit 3.2.  Simple enough, right?

I’m up to two miles now.

I feel like an Olympian.

A soaking wet Olympian.

Blog Launch: I Am Not A Runner

My son loves to run.

Jake fell in love with running a few years ago, and hasn’t stopped since. He can run 40 or 50 miles a week with his eyes closed.  Well, not really.  But HE CAN RUN.  Me on the other hand, I enjoy WATCHING him run.  And feeding him when he’s done.

I am not a runner.

Then one day almost a year ago, upon returning from yet another run, my son asked, “so what are you doing mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, for exercise.”

“Nothing…?” (Said in a guilty, I know I should be doing something voice.)

He asked, “Why not?”

My stupid answer, “I don’t know.”

Then my son asked, “Why don’t you start running?”

“Me run?? I don’t know.”  Then something came over me.  I don’t know if it was a need to impress my runner son, or that it felt like a dare, but he was right, and he called me out. I was a flabby weak thing and I needed to do something.   So without thinking it through, I said “Okay.”

I started “running” (if you can call it that) in May 2011.  It was brutal.  Pure torture.  Running was so uncomfortable for me that I was honestly nervous about having a heart attack.  I couldn’t run a mile and barely half a mile.  During one of these grueling, huffing and puffing one mile crawls with my (by now) son the coach, I somehow agreed to run a 5K by the end of summer.  I don’t recall how this happened, but I remember we shook hands on it.  And there it was.  I just agreed to run 3.1 miles in a few months.  I must have been oxygen deprived.  I don’t go back on handshakes, so backing out or giving up was not an option.  I will do this even if it kills me!

Dear God, please don’t let me die running.  Thank you.
Boston Marathon 2011
Jake found me just before the finish of the 2011 Boston Marathon. A photographer captured this very proud and emotional moment.