Sunday, April 29, 2012

To the Starting Line!

My next post for the ACHA blog talks some more about my introduction to running. It will be published tomorrow.

Although I have not yet started the official training program for the half marathon, I’ve been going out for a few brief runs over the past couple weeks to start getting myself into the habit and routine of running. Truth be told: my pace is slow, my endurance is limited, and I don’t really love it—not yet, anyway.

To kick off my very first running season, I signed up for my first 5K race on May 12: Move for the Kids, which benefits the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, where I had my one open heart surgery when I was eight months old). As exciting as this is for me personally, I didn’t even really plan it. I’m on the staff Wellness Committee at work; and completely by random luck, the run/walk charity event that the committee decided to create a team for this year happened to be this one. (I actually missed the committee meeting where it was discussed.) The hospital is moving from its original home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood to an expanded downtown location; the 5K race actually starts at the hospital’s original location and ends at its new site, with tours of the new facility being given immediately after the run.

Unlike many of those who will be running that day, I’m not trying to complete this race within a specific amount of time. I’ve run the same distance (albeit slowly) in my early training runs, and I know that I can do it. Personally, I’m using this event as a starting point—an initial benchmark—for my own half marathon training. The fact that this run—my first official race—benefits the hospital where I had the surgery that has allowed me to live a healthy and active live for over 31 years (so far) is just a very cool coincidence.

After talking with a couple friends who are avid runners, I’m not too worried about my slow start to the sport. One of them told me that just the fact that I’ve stuck with it for more than one or two training runs is a good sign. Another said that for a lot of runners, regardless of how conditioned they are, the first mile or so of any run isn’t all that fun. She said that the best part of running comes after you’ve gotten into it a bit and your body gets adjusted to the physical activity. You reach a point where you’ve built up your endurance and it’s almost as if you’re on automatic pilot. You’re still working hard; but you get into the “zone” and can just keep going much more easily.

I’ve definitely experienced the same thing with cycling; and there have been times on long-distance rides that—despite working hard—I have felt relaxed, focused, and able to endure much more than I thought I could. In those times, I have most certainly been in the “zone.” So while I don’t love running just yet, I’m looking forward to getting much more acquainted with the sport this year as I prepare for the half marathon in September.

On your mark… Get set… Go!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Own Personal Lobby Day

Today I had the exciting opportunity to meet with my Congressman one-on-one as a follow-up to the CHD Lobby Day in Washington, DC at the beginning of March. Since Representative Mike Quigley was not available to meet with me personally while I was in DC, his staff offered this meeting while he was in the district. As expected, the meeting was brief (all of about 15 minutes), as the Congressman was going from one meeting to another. But I did get to tell my story, explain why I was there, and ask for his participation in the Congenital Heart Caucus. Rep. Quigley was pleased to hear about my overall health and my love of cycling. (We joked briefly about the challenges of biking in Chicago.) He even congratulated me for taking on the Chicago Half Marathon this summer.

As our meeting came to a close, he mentioned that Robyn, his staff member I met with in DC, had talked to him in advance about my visit and that she spoke highly of me. (Thank you, Robyn!) He also told me that he would be looking into joining the Congenital Heart Caucus and that one of his staff members would be following up with me about this. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) Just before I left his office, he thanked me for coming and for my persistence on this issue, and he wished me continued good health. While I suppose it's possible that he was just being politically cordial, I can't help but feel like I made a real difference this morning. I look forward to seeing what happens!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Because Just Cycling Sometimes Isn’t Enough

My next post for the ACHA blog talks about my upcoming plan to take on the Chicago Half Marathon, my first-ever running endurance event. It will be published tomorrow.

As someone who has always loved cycling and never really thought too much about running, I didn’t expect that I would one day write a posting like this … until now!

For cyclists, runners, and all-around outdoor enthusiasts, this time of year is especially exciting, as it marks the beginning of spring and the promise of warmer weather just around the corner. In the coming weeks, Chicago’s lakefront path and other outdoor trails will see a noticeable increase in the number of walkers, runners, rollerbladers, and cyclists. Even though I’ve already gotten in a couple brief bicycle rides in mid-March thanks to some unusually warm weather we got here in the Windy City, we’re coming up on the days when we can expect warmer weather with more consistency. To some hardcore cyclists who insist on riding their two wheels year-round, I may not be considered a serious rider. While I do love riding, I apparently don’t love it enough to subject myself to riding through the infamous Chicago winters. This most recent winter was actually relatively mild; yet I still didn’t have the desire to bundle up and pedal head first into the biting wind chill or falling snow.

For me personally, the unofficial riding and running season is even more exciting this year. In addition to being able to get back on my bike as I’ve done in the past, I’ll be adding a new challenge in 2012: the Chicago Half Marathon, my first-ever running endurance event. After successfully getting through the roller coaster ride of health decisions and cardiology procedures this past fall and winter, I decided I needed to do something more. I needed to take on a new challenge to prove to myself that there’s no stopping me! I’ve been working closely with the staff at ACHA to create a team—Captain Cardio’s Pace Makers—to run this race in order to increase awareness of congenital heart disease and to raise funds for ACHA. I invite you to join me, whether on the route or by donating to the cause.

While I’ve slowly started getting into running over the past few weeks, I still have a long way to go before the race in September. But I am determined to do it! I realize that for a lot of athletes, a half marathon is not that big of a deal. But for many people, whether they are CHD survivors or not, it is a huge accomplishment. When I decided to register for the Chicago Half Marathon, I knew that I wanted to connect my personal endurance challenge to a cause greater than myself. The staff and volunteers at ACHA were there for me when it felt like I ran face first into a brick wall this past September and learned that I wasn’t entirely out of the water with my own CHD. Running this race to benefit ACHA seemed like an obvious decision.

When I cross the finish line on September 9th, I will certainly be celebrating the fact that I just completed my very first half marathon. (Who wouldn’t?) But I will also celebrate the one-year anniversary (almost to the day) of getting that recommendation for another open heart surgery from an ACHD cardiologist following my bike accident last summer. Fortunately, ACHA gave me the guidance I needed and connections to additional ACHD cardiologists for second and third opinions, who helped me realize that surgery wasn’t necessary at this point. The cardiologists that I decided to stay with for my ongoing care have given me the green light to start training for this race and are looking forward to hearing about my progress when I go for my next follow up appointment in July.

Yes, I will be hitting them up for a donation, too!