Training week 9: race and rain

I’m getting behind on blogging again, but not as badly as during the NYC training when I did four weeks in one post, so I’ll keep them separate for now – this was posted 9/4 and backdated, so “only” 2 weeks behind and still fairly vivid in my memory. The main event from this week was the Frozen Yogurt 5K. Alas, I just realized that I didn’t post my results in time to be on RaceWire, which is very annoying. I did order a shirt so I hope I’ll still get all the swag. This is the fourth time for this race, the second time by myself. I run the actual course and really do my best to treat it like a race, and the conditions were good, so to be 50 seconds slower than last year is a little sobering. Oh well – comparison chart below. I treated myself to real GoBerry because it’s so so so much better than the Yasso coupon I may get (if my delay doesn’t screw it up).

Frozen Yogurt 5K2017 (8/27)2019 (8/25) – in person2020 (8/16) – virtual2021 (8/17) – virtual
Stats over 4 years of results

Other highlight of the week included running 7 miles in the leftovers of Tropical Storm Fred – looks like 2 inches of rain fell while I was out. It’s fun to run in a downpour once in a while. I had been out on the Connecticut River the day before, enjoying the water patterns made by the kayak paddle and thinking I should take that opportunity more; I got it in spades! For the second short run Jonathan walked very fast while I ran slowly for the first three miles; he can walk up to a 13.5 minute mile without looking like he’s race-walking, which is quite amazing.

The long run was my first 16-miler, the morning that Tropical Storm Henri was coming through. The plan to get out early worked perfectly; it rained a bit off and on but the real storm held off until I got home. I moved to 4th place in Easthampton at 58.38%! I continue to tweak hydration, settling on 5 gulps of water per mile plus a salt cap every 5 miles (at 4 I feel too salted-up).

Pictures that weren’t interesting enough to post: whale and dog weathervanes; over-the-top year-round Halloween yard with creepy dolls in an office chair, and a gnome with a T-rex head growing out of its red cap

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 8/17 (64°F/95%)~4.1510:46/10:01 (5K)33:18 (5K) + ~12154/181Frozen Yogurt 5K plus a mile
Thu 8/19 (71°F/100%)7.0413:09/12:251:32:37139/172rain!
Fri 8/20 (72°F/96%)4.1415:02/13:451:02:10121/167J walk/I run for 3 miles
Sun 8/22 (72°F/89%)16.1713:23/12:143:36:28149/169
Totals 31.5 miles6.9 hoursWeight avg 115.2, resting heart 55

Training week 1

I decided to work on Easthampton as my next City Strides project. I forgot to check where I started – about 2%? – but after one long run I’m at 5.78%, 22nd place (and that’s having lost at least 5 streets I’ll have to redo because Runkeeper crashed and I didn’t catch it right away). I’ll get up as early as I can on Sundays, ride Valley Bike over, and pick up bagels from Tandem on the way home! The electric bike will keep my legs fresher, I hope, and Sunday bagels are an Elwitt family tradition that it’s fun to pick up again. Tandem opens at 7am so at least for the first few months I hope to be done with my run by then and have lots of day left. Riding to Easthampton adds almost an hour to the whole expedition, but the motivation of exploring new streets is worth it. I considered tackling Hatfield next, because it has fewer streets, I’m already at 15%, and the leader is only at 74%, but it’s uphill to the nearest access point and I’d have to ride my regular bike. The Easthampton exploration is off to a great start – I enjoyed parts of the Williston Northampton campus, spotted Bigfoot, and got some great views of Mount Tom.

A copy of Jeff Galloway’s Marathon! jumped out at me from a giveaway box and I’m making my way through it. I love his focus on enjoyment and his recommendations for runners as they age, so I’m trying out his “walk for a minute periodically” technique on long runs – experimenting with a walk break every half mile, which is about every 6 or 7 minutes.

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 6/22 (71°F/74%)3.3112:10/11:4240:17139/164
Wed 6/23 (62°F/63%)311:44/11:20~ 35147/176forgot to stop the timer
Thu 6/24 (54°F/81%)2.8612:25/11:3035:28129/162Intervals
Sun 6/27 (72°F/92%)~ 6.7514:19/13:05~1:30:00126/153Runkeeper crashed
Totals~16 miles~3.3 hoursWeight avg 116.1, resting heart 57

New numbers, new gear, & kidney reunion

New numbers

My six-month labs are in. It was such a busy week that I forgot to hydrate more carefully before the tests, which I meant to do, so perhaps the numbers would have been even better – but they’re fine and stable!

Pre-surgeryDay after6 weeks6 months
Creatinine (mg/dl)
EGFR (ml/min/[height^2)96505654
Protein, urine (mg/dl)1616

I tried to do another timed mile. This go-round I remembered to use the Fitbit running activity instead of the stopwatch, so I have the exact numbers, but what I am now very uncertain about is the actual distance. I knew I had to adjust somewhat for running in lane 8 but figured I was close enough and it wouldn’t make a big difference. So wrong! Track markings are way more complicated than I realized. It reminds me of when, as a beginner, I was asked by another kayaker “Are you using that rock?” I understood each word but couldn’t parse the sentence (he meant, “Are you resting from paddling by taking advantage of the weaker flow of shallow water over that rock?”) I thought I knew how to use a track! Since I’ve learned to distrust any race distances that aren’t USATF-certified, it makes any attempt to benchmark or compare like-to-like somewhat futile…

1.1-ish miles?2021/03/092021/04/212021/06/03
Resting HR585958
Temp/humidity36 F/62%?59 F/58% ?61 F/85%

New gear

KDA shirt

It took ages until KDA swag was available again, and then more ages for the shirt to actually get printed and arrive, but I finally can represent Kidney Donor Athletes! It’s a really nice shirt – incredibly light and ventilated – so I’ll want to save it for races and not get it all rubbed up with frequent use.

Xero HFS shoes

And I got a pair of new shoes. After giving up on FiveFingers because of the difficulty of getting the right fit, I’ve cycled through a bunch of minimal shoes with a more traditional shape. I got a pair of Xero Prios three or four years ago and loved them – the sole lasted as promised (they’re guaranteed for 5000 miles) but the uppers fell apart eventually. I hiked in them a lot so they got hard wear (including lots of mud). Then I tried a no-name cheapo shoe that was comfortable and nice, but the soles wore through very quickly. So I’m back to Xero, this time the pricier but even-better-for-running HFS. I absolutely love the way these look and they are light as a feather. The wide toe box is super-comfortable. I’m going to try not to get them muddy…

Xero keeps emailing me and asking me to promote their shoes, but their vibe is a little over-enthusiastically salesy – for a while I couldn’t get away from their Youtube commercials and got heartily sick of them. So points off for the marketing, but the product is great.

Best of all: kidney reunion!

Yes, I finally met Chris in person, right after the 6-month mark of our donation, and it was absolutely wonderful! She’s an amazing person and I am so fortunate to get to know her – I would have been delighted about the experience anyway, but this is the icing on the cake.

“Captain” (my kidney) and “Tenille” (Chris’ new kidney) reunited

Training plan

I’ve run three marathons with the same plan, so why break the streak? This is the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer schedule, which is probably about the minimum mileage possible. Because I’m such a slow runner, that helps keep the time commitment reasonable. And I’m not aiming for a PR… I don’t think I’ll ever break 5 hours again, but if I could at least beat my New York Marathon time (5:19), that would be fantastic.

I would love to fit some races into the training schedule. Bridge of Flowers, normally in August, hasn’t announced a date yet. Update 8/5: cancelled, may never happen again! The Frozen Yogurt 5K is only tentatively set for 8/27, so I didn’t put that in yet. Update 8/5: Frozen Yogurt is virtual again, which I’m not thrilled about, and is giving out a coupon for the brand Yasso instead of local Go-Berry, which I hate, but since I ran it virtually before I will again. I see that Impact Racing is currently holding some of their annual events but at different times. Also the registration fees have gone way up, which shouldn’t be a surprise I suppose. I went ahead and signed up for the Black Birch 10-miler (only the second time it’s been held and will be new to me) and the Fort Hill 5K (ran once in 2019).

My current mileage is only about 8-10/week so I’ll start ramping up soon (targets 10 miles week of 5/24, 11 week of 5/31, 12 week of 6/7, 13 week of 6/14, 14 week of 6/21).

 date (Mon)Weekday 1Weekday 2Weekday 3SunTotal
week 1Jun 21333615
week 2Jun 28343616
week 3Jul 5343717
week 4Jul 12353819
week 5Jul 193531021
week 6Jul 264541124
week 7Aug 24641226
week 8Aug 94641428
week 9Aug 161 + Frozen Yogurt 5K741631
week 10Aug 235851634
week 11Aug 305851634
week 12Sep 65185Black Birch 1038
week 13Sep 135851836
week 14Sep 20582 + Meadows Run 5K927
week 15Sep 27358Fort Hill 5K19
week 16Oct 43walk 326.229.2

Getting faster again?

I ran a timed mile at the Smith College track at the 3-month mark (March 9th) and again a few days ago, but alas I just used the Fitbit stopwatch, forgetting that it doesn’t save to the dashboard. I’m sure both were under 11 minutes and pretty sure the most recent one was 10:48 or so, which is better than January’s speed. More time since the surgery may be helping, but also I’ve been rigorous about doing the 7-minute workout every day since late January, followed by pull-ups. I’ve done strength workouts off and on before but never kept it up for very long. It’s even more important as I age, and now that I have a long streak going in the phone app it’s much easier to want to continue that investment. Apps creating external accountability really work for me!

I’m half-vaxxed (second Pfizer next Wednesday) and looking forward to May when I’ll be fully vaccinated and will start ramping up to marathon training. I’ll stick to my same Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer schedule; it’s worked so well in the past, why mess with a good thing?

Hartford, a dream, and videochat with my recipient!

  • It’s official – I registered for the Hartford Marathon, to be held Saturday, October 9, 2021! They’re very thoughtfully giving the option to get a full refund if you change your mind before June 1, and there will be capacity limits and other safety adaptations. I hope the finish won’t change – it’s under the Memorial Arch with hundreds of mums lining the final approach, and it’s been described as one of the most beautiful marathon finishes.
  • Like many people’s, my anxiety dreams evolve to include new aspects of my life – the common “exam I forgot to study for” was joined by “class I forgot to prep” when I briefly taught adult ed, “role I forgot to learn” when doing theater, etc. But I was not expecting a “need to go back and finish kidney donation” dream! In it there was a second surgery I had forgotten about, so I was late and unprepared. I had driven myself to the hospital, neglecting to coordinate with Jonathan and not realizing I’d be in overnight and he wouldn’t be able to pick me up because the car was in Springfield. I got lost trying to get back to my room. But the funniest part was that I went ahead and started the surgery on my own (!) and my wonderful (real life) surgeon, Dr. Kurbanov, was angry at me. I sheepishly told him “I don’t know what I was thinking.” It was such a relief to wake up!
  • Best of all, super-duper exciting and wonderful: I was able to videochat yesterday with my recipient and her husband. Valentine’s day is also National Donor Day so it was extra-appropriate. We have a lot in common, especially our love of reading, and it’s so cool that she lives not that far away. We’ll all get together for dinner someday when the pandemic permits. She looks wonderful – she says her color is back! I was already so happy about having donated, but being in touch with her is the lovely extra cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the bonus I didn’t count on. There’s something about seeing her that feels like tying a bow on the whole experience – visual confirmation that my previous kidney is working and doing its job in its new home. It’s like a halo of joy around the contentment I was already feeling.

New one-bean baselines

On Tuesday I had my six-week post-nephrectomy follow-up – a quick meeting with the coordinator and the surgeon, and a blood draw to establish my new one-kidney creatinine levels. I’ve felt 100% back to normal since about week 4! These are good numbers so I’m pleased.

Pre-surgeryDay after surgery6 weeks out
Creatinine (mg/dl)
EGFR (ml/min/[height^2)965056

Important side-note: you will often see two EGFR (estimated glomular filtration rate) values, “African-American” and “non-African-American.” This “race correction” is bad science and is one of the many ways the health care system disadvantages people of color, especially black patients, who spend longer on the waitlist if it is used in the algorithm. The Institute for Healing and Justice in Medicine has a helpful toolkit for learning more and helping to end this bias.

To accompany this bloodwork baseline, I timed a one-mile run on the nearby Smith College track. I’ve done this several times over the years but I haven’t properly kept track (pun not intended!) The last time would have been within the past couple of years and I’m certain it was over 10 minutes; a decade or two ago it was under. Normally I use annual races as my benchmarks. I miss them very much; I did run a virtual 5K in August, but it’s hard to keep the pace of a real race. I was over 50 for my fastest 5K ever, where my mile time would have been around 9 1/2 minutes, but that’s race conditions and downhill.

1/20/2020, 10:40am11:14 mile
Resting HR58
Temperature/humidity36 F/62%

I was a little surprised not to break 11 minutes, especially because I’m at the low range of my normal weight. I’m definitely slowing down with age, which is to be expected, but maybe even though I’m feeling totally healed, my running has room to come back? This Runner’s World article indicates that from 40 to 70, most runners slow down by about 1% per year. I’ll try to do this timed run on a monthly basis.

I mostly don’t mind aging at all. I keep growing as a person and getting better at dealing with life; each decade I’ve become happier and more fulfilled. But it’s an adjustment to acknowledge that I’m no longer competing with myself, expecting to get faster and stronger over time; now I’m racing the aging process, which will always catch up. My goals have to change to flattening the downward curves – appropriate for the pandemic world.

The really exciting news from this week is that I am now in touch with my recipient via email! Needless to say I won’t share any details in public, but I am so delighted to have a direct connection now. I hope we get to meet in person some day!

Marathon part 1: getting to the start

Part 1 published 11/24/2018. Marathon, post-marathon, and reflection to follow – 2019?

My Goodwill sweats to donate back. I chose a Circus Smirkus hoodie to not be completely generic!

I hadn’t slept very well Friday night, but Saturday night was actually good, defying common wisdom. We had a nice early dinner at Uva. We overheard that the guy in the couple next to us was also running, and J encouraged me to tell him, but I got a weird vibe and declined. We went to bed super-early even before accounting for the extra hour, so I woke up at 5:30 without much trouble but could tell I had walked too far. I didn’t stress about it, though; the advantage of it being my 3rd go-round was the calm conviction that I would be fine, and that served me well throughout the day. I thought I might have time to work on a blog post—of course not!—but I made coffee, burbled around on the Internet, took a quick cold shower to get myself more awake, and started getting my stuff together. Luckily everything fit in my new fabric waistband (FlipBelt knockoff which Jonathan brilliantly named the “runnerbund”) and I didn’t have to bring my old fanny-pack style waist bag that has been annoying me. I was looking forward to exploring the start villages—I was assigned to green but they told us at the Expo that we were welcome in any—especially petting the therapy dogs and trying to snag one of the Dunkin Donuts fleece beanies.

1. Subway

I was aiming to be out the door around 7 for an 8:30 ferry (they told us to get to the ferry terminal half an hour before departure), and it was only a little later when Jonathan walked me to the subway station at 77th St and Lex. We speculated about seeing other runners but I didn’t see any until I was actually on the train. Two women holding the recognizable plastic bags got off at 14th St, telling each other “That’s right, we have to switch trains.” I belatedly realized/remembered that I needed to catch a 4 train and I was on a 6, but luckily there was still the Brooklyn Bridge stop where I could just cross the platform. An older man got off the 6 with me and said “We’ll still make it, won’t we?” He ran for the first time last year and told me his time would be around six hours. He was scheduled for the 8:00 ferry and it was already close to that time when the 4 finally arrived; a little bunch of us were socializing by then. I remembered the 4 only runs every 15 or 20 minutes on Sunday and it would have behooved me to catch the earlier one; oh well, I thought, still plenty of time!

2. Ferry

Many people have identical backlit photos – we all took them of ourselves and each other

The Staten Island Ferry station was much bigger than I remembered it, and absolutely jammed with people in multiple massive lines that bled together. It was just a few minutes past 8 so I was right on time. At about ten past, the doors to the ferry opened and the crowd surged ahead. I asked the people next to me if this was the 8am ferry, thinking I should maybe hang back to get on the one I was assigned to, but they said “it’s a cattle call at this point” and you just catch whichever you can. So I followed the crowds and the injunction “there are four levels, please fill them,” finding a spot at the rail on the top deck, looking across to the New Jersey side. It was a chilly but beautiful ride. We all tried to take selfies and photos of each other with the Statue of Liberty in the background, but we were backlit. My favorite part of the trip was watching gulls close up as they hovered on the wind around the boat; you could see their feet dangling and their contour feathers fluffing. Despite my hoodie I got somewhat chilled and went indoors for a bit to warm up. As we docked a bunch of us were sent to the back of the boat to join the end of the disembarkation line, and I went out on the stern to get a good view of the Verrazano Bridge. Amazing to think we’d be running across it! Now I know I should have attempted to get off the boat sooner, even though it was only about 8:45, but no regrets.

3. Bus

Half an hour into the interminable bus line (boarding is still nowhere in sight here, line is probably 20 people wide)

The giant blob of ferry passengers emerged onto a concrete taxi/bus stand and slowed to a crawl. We couldn’t see where we were going and it was cold and windy (would have been worse if not for the huddle). I chatted with several people—one woman was supposed to be in the 10am wave and eventually broke ranks to try to get further ahead. (I saw her again at about mile 21 so she must have ended up in the last wave). Passengers for the return ferry filtered by, gawking at the giant mass of people—one woman marveled aloud “Look at that!” and took photos. We must have been in line for at least 45 minutes. Eventually we could see the stream of buses pulling up, and finally we turned onto the sidewalk where the boarding happened, four buses at a time. The barriers were loaded with last-minute discards.

Trash on bus barriers
Bus barriers covered in discards – saw more of this all the way through the marathon! Cleanup must be a bear.

The line I was in appeared to be for a bus that was so full that someone said “I don’t want to stand!” and backed off, and I said “I’ll stand!” But there was still plenty of room, so I did get a seat (and the ride ended up being long enough that standing would not have been much fun). My seatmate ran last year for a charity and said they were bussed to the village, got there at 7, and waiting that long in the cold was awful. We drove very slowly, with lots of stops for traffic lights or jams. Across the way, a woman got a text from a friend who’d taken the direct bus to the start, but their bus driver took a wrong turn and missed the window to get over the Verrazano before it closed, so they had to take the ferry after all and were behind us. I wonder if they made it! The warmth of the bus was a relief, but I was starting to worry about the time as it was well past 10am. I knew I’d make it to the start line but wasn’t sure I’d have time to explore the start villages. I had noticed how everyone was carrying beverages and food, and wondered why they didn’t just rely on the stuff at the start, but now it all made sense. I hoped I’d at least get some coffee as I hadn’t had much at home.

4. Finally: the start village!

We disembarked from the bus at around 10:30. After another round of security I followed the crowds along New York Avenue. We passed the orange village and I saw a Dunkin Donuts truck. No beanies in sight, but I got coffee and a lousy bagel (no taste, bland texture—as I suspected it would be, but as Jonathan pointed out, what a shame in the city of the great bagel!) and started wolfing it down. The therapy dogs were gone. Everyone was loading up and we were already being instructed to go to our start corrals. I barely had time to get to a porta-potty (no line by then, everyone was clearing out) when I heard a cannon and “New York, New York”—that was Wave 3 starting. I made my way to the B corral just a minute before it closed. Despite straw laid down on the grass, it was a sea of mud and I was extra-glad I’d worn regular shoes instead of my Five Fingers. To be continued!