My New Job, 10K Run , Commitment and Passion

If someone told me that within a span of two months, my husband and I would sell the house our family has lived in for 17 years, I would change careers (after 23 years) and leave the job I have had for over eight years- I would have said- YOU ARE CRAZY!

But yes, that is all happening right now. I am pleased and excited to report that I am now working at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. I am working with the Development team on Annual Giving and Events.  For those of you who do not know about the Hebrew Home, it is a remarkable place filled with passionate, bright, dedicated people. It is a non-profit geriatric care organization dedicated to providing a full range of senior care services- from independent living to the most intense level of nursing care.


My job is in fundraising, with marketing, public relations, and writing mixed in. If you are fortunate enough to work for an organization that you are passionate about, you are a lucky person. I am working with a group of hard working, intelligent, compassionate people and I can’t say enough wonderful things about my immediate boss. I feel pretty lucky these days.

In the hopes of bonding with my co-workers and to get a rigorous workout, I entered a 10k run with people from my new work place.  What better way to get to know my fellow co-workers and bosses than to run alongside each other? Unfortunately, before I committed to the 10k run, I failed to review the race map which indicated “challenging, steep hills” peppered along the race course. I could have backed out and ran the 5k instead but I already told my new co-worker triathlete friend that I would run the 10k with her. How would that look if I backed out of the 10k? Like a lack of commitment on my part. Not good at all.


The morning of the race, I left my house at 6:30 a.m., armed with mapquest directions as to how to get from point A (the parking area at the nearby high school) to point B (the race start). Even with GPS and mapquest, I am woefully navigationally challenged. So I did what I usually do when I am alone and concerned about finding the right place to be- I glommed onto the first non-threatening race participant that I saw and chatted it up as I followed her to the registration table. Thank you Hillary from Riverdale.

I eventually met up with my new friend Jessica and with seasoned runners David and George.  Together we stood at the starting line, waiting with bated breath for the fog horn to signal the start of the race. We all hoped to pace ourselves for the challenging run and were unsure if we would wind up running the course together. However, after only a few minutes of running with David and Jessica, my adrenalin kicked in and I started running too fast. I ran a bit ahead of the others until my labored breathing on the steep hills forced me to slow down. The rolling inclines came at such a steady pace that I wondered if the race course was up hill in both directions.


As I struggled to catch my breath, I willed myself not to walk up the hills. During one particularly steep incline, I almost did not make it up without stopping. I felt like I was going to be sick. Foolishly, I did not eat breakfast or drink anything before the race. SInce I usually run or work out on an empty stomach, I figured that I would be fine. Rookie mistake. It won’t happen again.

Another mistake I made was that I did not program my running app to calculate mileage as I ran. I was constantly asking the water volunteers, other runners and strangers along the race route, “How many miles are left? or “What mile is this?” Obviously this was annoying for everyone involved. Another mistake I made was that I wore brand new running sneakers. I know, I know. Big mistake. But my old running sneakers were literally ripped down the sides. I ran in these new sneakers the day before the race for a flat two and a half mile run. Needless to say, I really felt the sting of the bulbous blister on my instep by mile five. It felt absolutely ripe and ready to burst. If only. Instead, I felt the pain and tenderness for two more days. I actually went to work, to a formal meeting, in stretchy wedges- it was that or Birkenstocks with my business suit.


Shout out to Sharon, the 35 year-old mother of three, former Riverdale resident, now New York City transplant, who ran with me the last three and a half miles.  Sharon put up with my incessant questions; “how many more hills until the finish line?”; “are they very steep hills or just a little steep?”; “slow rising steep or holy crap, my neck hurts to look up steep?” Yes, I was THAT runner. By the end of the race, Sharon actually thanked me for talking to her and helping to take her mind off the incredibly difficult hills. I’m just sorry I didn’t get to run more with Jessica since her promise to sing while she ran would probably have helped me to forget my bulging blister and the lack of oxygen in my lungs.


But what really weighed on my mind was the realization that in a few short months, as I run six miles towards the finish line, I will have already swam one mile in the Hudson River and biked 40 miles through Central Park. At least it will be six flat miles.

I am a fast learner. The morning of the New York City Triathlon in August, I will have eaten a healthy breakfast and drank the appropriate amount of fluids, I will be wearing my shiny, new triathlon watch to track my mileage- a birthday present from my husband, which by August I will definitely know how to use- and I will remember to NOT wear new running sneakers.


In the next few months, I look forward to training with Jessica and her triathlete friends as I prepare to ride with The Bicycle Planet cycling group. Shout out to David- see you in August. And if we are running alongside each other- I will shamelessly attempt to engage you in nervous banter. Please humor me.


Endurance Athletes and Older Athletes- Impressive, Crazy Or Both?

Endurance is defined as “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions; stamina.” This post was supposed to be about how we endure as athletes. Unfortunately from when I started writing this post to the time it was published- just a few days- my family was rocked with devastating news. A man who has been like a father to my husband and a wonderful person in my life for almost 30 years- has been suddenly diagnosed with what looks to be a significant tumor. We continue to be hopeful for better news. My friend at work just buried her 19 year-old son who died in a car accident on his birthday. Each of these families must dig deep to find the strength to go on, to endure, despite the insurmountable pain in their lives.


How do athletes endure the physical and mental pain as they push themselves to the brink? Ultra marathons are distance events which are longer than the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Were these ultra marathons created out of necessity? Maybe after a particularly grueling marathon, a group of athletes were standing around asking, “Is that it?” “Shouldn’t there be more?” – to the disbelief of the rest of the runners who were collapsed on the ground gasping for air like fish out of water and wiping up the crime scene cut-out of sweat imbedded in the pavement.

Typically, ultra marathons are 50 miles and 100 miles. Seriously? Training for these races can be a grueling process. Yet the number of new participants to this sport is increasing rapidly each year. Why are competitors being drawn to these events? One of the reasons is for bragging rights. The most common appeal of ultra marathons is a desire to complete an event which so few competitors even attempt and even fewer accomplish. That is the main reason why I am considering training for an Ironman. I think it would be very cool to say to myself that I finished an Ironman race. Most athletes are constantly challenging themselves. A typical distance runner may grow bored of their usual running regimen and will look to train for an ultra marathon to shake things up.


Endurance athletes, like all athletes, must be both mentally and physically tough. Athletes must be tough not just to endure the many races they run or the length of the races, but their goal is usually to triumph. They must be tenacious, patient, persistent and effective problem solvers.

Recently, my 17-year-old son who plays ice hockey at an elite level, woke up in the morning of a play-off game with a stomach virus. In the car ride to the rink, my husband told him about Michael Jordan’s “fever game.” It was 1997 and the Bulls/ Jazz series was tied 2-2. The day before game 5, Jordan, suffering from 104 degrees fever, stayed in bed with the medical team watching over him, doubting that he would be in any condition to play game 5. Suffering from fatigue, dehydration, nausea and dizzy spells, Jordan missed two team practices as the doctors pumped him with fluids hoping to flush out the intestinal bug.

During the first quarter of the game, Jordan was essentially useless, but in the second quarter, something clicked for him, mentally, physically and emotionally. He scored 17 points in the second quarter. Later, he told the media, “It was all about desire…somehow I found the energy to stay strong.” At halftime, Jordan was given fluids and cold towels. In the third quarter, nausea and fatigue returned and he was useless. In the fourth quarter, Jordan somehow found the strength to turn it on again. Jordan scored the winning basket with a total of 38 points for the game. The Bulls won 88-85. After the game, Jordan said, “that was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” It was an epic performance by Michael Jordan, just one of the many reasons why he is referred to as the greatest basketball player of all time. It’s about dealing with adversity and finding the strength to persevere when we think that we can no longer go on. That day, my son managed to have a spectacular game and afterwards when my husband asked him how he did it, he said, “I just tried to put the pain out of my mind and I thought about how the team was counting on me, I just dug deep.”


The power of the human spirit can be very strong.  What about those athletes who choose to compete at an age well beyond when the rest of society calls it quits. Why would a 94-year-old woman still want to run track? Because she can. Olga Kotelko is a 94-year-old track star from West Vancouver. She took up running at 77-years-old. Almost 20 years later, she still does aqua training three times a week, bowls, gardens, lifts weights at the gym and trains for track-and-field competitions- including 100- meter races, javelin and shot put. She is the center of a study focusing on exercise and gerontology at the Montreal Chest Institute at McGill University.

What drives 83-year-old Australian Ray Moon to be the oldest competing body builder in the world? Moon has won four Victorian and Australian body building competitions and is considered by Guinness World Records to be the oldest bodybuilder in the world. Moon has had polio, open-heart surgery, suffered cardiac arrest, two minor strokes and was once declared clinically dead. He has had a pacemaker and a hernia, but instead of giving up, he found the gym. “Giving up never won a race,” he said. He began bodybuilding only eight years ago and does five strength and cardio sessions a week, including approximately 4 miles on the treadmill and 45 minutes of weight training.  After taking two years off to battle bladder cancer, Moon has returned to competition. “I’m nowhere nearly as good as these fellows who are 50 or 60. But age is no barrier. Life is what you make it.” A strong message- “Life is what you make it.” Take control of your life.


“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”- Eleanor Roosevelt