2 years after kidney donation – completely back to normal!

I just had my final post-donation check-up at Baystate. It was nostalgic to make the drive and see the offices one last time – I spent so much time there in 2020! My numbers are even better, so it’s really like I never donated, and I forget about it for weeks at a time. Joyce, the donor coordinator who guided me through the whole process, has retired, but she happened to be in the office working per-diem so I gave her another farewell hug. Nancy, the current coordinator, is another sweetheart, and she emphasized that I can reach out at any time if I have any questions or complications. But I doubt I will. Best of all, the donated kidney is still working well, and Chris says she’s only taking one anti-rejection drug, which is great!

Reference rangePre-surgeryDay after6 weeks6 months1 year2 years
Creatinine (mg/dl)0.5-
EGFR (ml/min/[height^2)> 60965056546173
Protein, urine (mg/dl)0-121616129
Micro-albumin< 2012.6< 12< 12<12
Urine creatinine (mg/dl)20-275183.5164.4144.2100.2

I had thought Hartford would be my last marathon because I was getting so slow. But when I resumed regular blood donation, I got deferred for low iron a few times in a row, and it turns out I was anemic! I’ve been vegetarian forever, but probably between age and dietary changes (no more breakfast cereal) it tipped over into a deficiency. I’ve been taking supplemental iron and B12 and my levels are normal now. I can donate blood again (maybe not as frequently – playing that by ear!), but also my running speed is back up.

I’m still a little slower than I was 5 or 10 years ago, but I won’t shut the door on another marathon. I might want to do New York again… But until then, this blog goes back into mothballs!

Training week 13: last 18 miler

I swapped distances on the weekday runs because I got overheated and overtired on what was supposed to be 8 miles through the Meadows – nice to be able to cut it short. I did get to see an airplane landing.

I finally moved into second place in Easthampton with my last very long run, but I neglected to note the exact percentage (I completed a record 48 streets in one go, so it would be over 90%) . It was an extra-exciting one because friends who live on one of the downtown streets I’d saved for last came out to greet me. I gave them the window when I expected to be there, and they had to be up early anyway. What a lift to see friendly faces and hear encouraging cheers! I ran through a lot of older neighborhoods, more interesting than the cookie-cutter developments.

On the hydration/fuel front, I think I’m finally at the point where I notice my body’s responses well enough to play it by ear. That’s one of the reasons to keep chasing big physical goals like this; it fine-tunes my sense of where my limits are and what’s changing with age. I ended up with usually 5-6 gulps of water every 2 miles, a Medjool date every 3 to 5, and a salt cap every 8 to 10. I’ll bring enough for the marathon so I can up the frequency if necessary, but I’m confident I’ll recognize the signs and won’t have to rely so much on a schedule.

Finished 10/4 and backposted – I hope to catch up before the marathon!!!

Weekday runs – Northampton

Long run – Easthampton

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 9/14 (58°F/91%)5.2412:21/11:391:04:42160/177
Wed 9/15 (75°F/95%)5.5713:39/12:321:15:58152/171 Bad run – supposed to be 8 but cut it short and swapped days
Thu 9/16 (63°F/100%)8.0013:09/12:181:45:14145/171 (intervals only)
Sat 9/18 (64°F/100%)18.0714:17/13:104:18:07144/167
Totals36.9 miles8.4 hoursWeight avg 112.8, resting heart rate 57

Training week 11: dates for fuel

I’m behind on this again – posting 9/30/2021 for the week ending 9/5 – hey, at least it’s the same month! I am discovering that as I age, I lose not only physical stamina but also attentional stamina. There’s been a bunch of work stuff going on that’s soaked up way more of my energy than I’d ideally let it. Always learning, always trying to grow…

On the medium (8-mile) run through the Meadows in Northampton, I spotted an old apple tree, on a semi-abandoned verge, with an abundance of very large windfalls. My sample tasted much juicier and sweeter than typical wild-reverted apples, so one of these years I’ll fetch some to make a pie. Then near the airfield I think I saw maturing chestnuts. So much to forage if one pays attention!

The long run took me to 70.52% of Easthampton – stuck at #3 – but I dipped into Southampton to complete part of the western edge and I SAW A BEAR! Always super-exciting. Just over the city line on Glendale Road, I heard crashing in the brush and it emerged onto the road. Before I could get to the camera on my phone it noticed me, did almost a cartoon double-take, and rushed across the road.

The other notable aspect of the long run was adding in fuel – specifically Deglet Noor dates to try something different taste-wise from the Medjool I’d used the last time. They don’t have as many calories and I was aiming for 100-120/hour, but reaching that would have meant pretty much bringing the whole container. Instead I just stuffed a bunch into a baggie and ate 2 every two miles, cutting down to one at a time near the end. I’m not sure it made much difference. My body is well-accustomed to burning whatever’s on hand, glycogen or no glycogen. Thank you, fat-adapted metabolism (if that’s what’s going on)!

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 8/31 (66°F/93%)5.3112:41/11:561:07:25146/166
Wed 9/1 (64°F/92%)8.1713:08/11:521:47:15140/164 (intervals only)
Fri 9/3 (56°F/86%)5.6612:16/11:501:10:19153/168
Sun 9/5 (57°F/93%)16.7813:40/12:553:49:24143/174
Totals35.9 miles7.9 hoursWeight avg 114.2, resting heart 57

Weekday photos (Northampton)

Long run (Easthampton)

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!