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

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!

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

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?

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.