Profile #3: Sole salvation with Jandy Rosenhahn

Jandy Rosenhahn knows a lot about how therapeutic running can be, especially as an anger management tool. That’s what drove Rosenhahn to qualify for the Boston Marathon earlier this year.

A single mother of two children, Rosenhahn went through a divorce recently and is a survivor of domestic violence and abuse.

Rosenhahn, 43, a native of Colorado, has always loved running but her passion took on new meaning when her marriage disintegrated a few years ago. 

Back then Rosenhahn said she felt like her problems followed her 24/7, and she needed an escape to cope with the stress. Her early morning runs became her salvation. 

“I called those my ‘angry runs.’ I would start out feeling mad about everything that was happening to me, and to my family, and what we were going through. By the time I was finished I’d feel better and have sorted through the problems in my head.”

Divorce by itself is a heavy loss. Then Rosenhahn also lost her job while she was in the middle of dealing with her divorce. She was unemployed for about five months. 

Amidst the chaos Rosenhahn found the drive to run harder. That’s when she set a goal for herself to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“Running has always been the one thing I’m good at it and it’s something I’ve been able to call my own. It’s a true love for me,” she said.

In January 2010 she accomplished her Boston goal at the Arizona Rock N Roll Marathon with a qualifying time of 3:49:02.

“Running has been my stress relief and I look forward to it,” Rosenhahn explained, “It frees me up and it’s such an amazing rush.”

Rosenhahn is employed again, too. She works at a company where she monitors clinical studies on hearing aid implants and she still runs about 45 miles a week in addition to juggling time with her children — ages 9 and 5.

Rosenhahn said she’s been able to put in the miles thanks to the help of friends and her mother, who lives nearby. 

Rosenhahn will run the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon in two weeks and the Boston Marathon in April 2011.

“This has been good for me and my children,” she said of her marathon goals. She has shown them a positive role model despite the upheaval in their lives over the past few years.

“My kids are excited and proud of my running,” she said. 

Running also gives Rosenhahn something to look forward to in her future. “When I run I feel I can get through anything. It’s a very positive and rewarding feeling.”

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 9; Denver to Boston miles logged: 660; Miles left to go: 1110.

Headless Weirdo

One of Jane’s favorite toys is a Ken doll with its head broken off that she calls “Headless Weirdo.”

Jane has dozens of lovely, intact dolls she can play with, especially Barbies and even another Ken doll, yet for some reason she refuses to part with him.  

I’ve asked her why and she tells me it’s because she still likes him and hopes we can fix him some day.  Sweet Jane can be like me — sentimental, compassionate and a bit kooky at the same time. (I’ve tried to reattach Headless Weirdo’s melon, but that sucker just won’t go back on.)

Poor Headless Weirdo looks just how I feel when I need to go running but for some reason can’t — half functional and mentally decapitated. 

The worst was the postpartum depression I endured after Tarzan was born, before I got the doctor’s approval to start running again.

Those first few months were some of the darkest in my life.  Within six months I suffered two bouts of mastitis (breast  infections) while I nursed; went on two different depression medications, one of which jacked me up so much I could not sleep at all; developed eczema on my breasts from a nursing bra; and got strep throat four times, back-to-back.

Looking back on it I’m not sure how my family and I made it through. I only know this for certain, running saved my life and sanity.  Endorphins made a dent where Prozac couldn’t help.  I am not saying this is for everyone.  Medications do work for others and save lives; they just weren’t the thing I needed to reattach my head.

I still go through ups and downs, but luckily running still works for me and keeps my head in place.

Now if only I could find something to help poor Headless Weirdo, too.  …

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 8;  Denver to Boston miles logged: 651;  Miles left to go: 1,119.

Heroes: The “marvel of Maine”

News and wire services reported today that Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medal winner of the first women’s Olympic Marathon in 1984, will run the Chicago Marathon in two weeks.  She is hoping at age 53 to run under 2:50 and even qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials with a time of under 2:47. (She ran a 2:49:08 at the last marathon trials in 2008.)

Whatever happens at Chicago I will be cheering on the “marvel of Maine.”  When I was a reporter at The (Santa Fe) New Mexican in 2003 I got to meet her.  She was giving a talk at an Indian runners’ coaching clinic and I covered the story for the paper.  She was every bit as down to earth as the champion who waved her white cap to the Olympic stadium crowds in Los Angeles.

To those of us who run to be the best we can be, wherever we are in life now, and are part of the marathon legacy she created, Joan Benoit Samuelson is truly an inspiration. Go Joanie!!!!

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 3;  Denver to Boston miles logged 643;  Miles left to go: 1,127.

Confessions of an e-runner

Last weekend The Wall Street Journal ran an article on the new culture of “e-readers,” how Kindles, web sites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook have shaped how we are reading today.

I can’t tell you exactly what kind of e-reader I am yet (I’m still learning some of those technologies) but I’m definitely an “e-runner” and not alone. 

Show up at the start of any race around the country these days you’ll find us banded with plastic electronic timing chips on our shoes like a flock of e-pigeons ready to e-fly. 

Most of us also wear Garmins with GPS so we can properly track our e-distance and e-pace via satellite. Some of us also sport heart rate monitors so we don’t  e-croak along the course.

For those us who don’t want to e-think too hard as we e-stride our way to the e-finish we have iPods with iTunes to e-blast our way.

Last but not least, for those of us who aspire to return to barefoot running we have Vibram FiveFingers, which encase our individual tootsies in factory-molded, DayGlo green-and-blue neoprene shoes because that’s the only way to e-run naturally, right?

We wear technical, moisture-wicking clothing.  The only thing missing from the e-quation I can tell is e-footgear to propel and transform us all into e-Kenyans. Then we wouldn’t have to do any footwork at all.  (Don’t worry.  I’m sure Nike is all over it as you e-read this.)

All this technology sometimes makes me long for the old days. Perhaps I should start a new trend and grab some retread tires like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico in Born to Run fame and fashion some thong sandals in which to run?  While I’m at it I’ll make myself a buckskin two-piece to traipse in for my six-miler, ala Raquel Welch of One Million Years, B.C. That surely will fly in my suburban neighborhood.

Actually if I looked as darn good as Raquel doing it, I’d be tempted.  However, given that I’d look like Fred Flintstone’s deranged mother-in-law and create an e-flood of emails and e-complaints to my home owners’ association I guess I better face e-reality. 

Instead I’ll find my Brooks tech T-shirt and shorts, cushy Sauconys and handy Garmin before I head out the door.

I think you get the e-picture of what I mean.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Today’s e-mileage: 6;  Denver to Boston miles logged 640; Miles left to go: 1130.

Endurance IV: Surrender

Levity is a welcome distraction when you’re pushing your threshold for 26.2 miles.  A marathon is a long time on your feet, but even longer when paved with self doubt and that’s when it does feel like hell and back. 

After I finished the Portland Marathon last year, boy, had I been there and done that.

I was now in limbo with two BQ (Boston qualifying) flops — well trained physically but still off my goal by more than 20 minutes.

Yes, I could finish a marathon but not without it finishing me first.  That’s when I started reading sports psychology books and asking friends who raced well for more mental tips and strategies. 

The more I learned about marathon racing, the clearer is its intense juxtapositions came to me:  using each mile to conquer the whole; staying completely relaxed yet intensely focused;  being present in the moment yet looking ahead;  knowing your weaknesses to employ your strengths, and transcending pain in order to embrace joy.

To beat back the 26-mile monster in my head I started to divide my runs into chunks. the first 10K, the half-marathon point, the 20-mile mark, the last 10K, and I gave myself an “Atta girl” with each segue.

I also developed two mantras — “Break out now” and “Go Super Girl” — and used them to push me into my performance “zone.”

The biggest change, however, as I headed to the California International Marathon was I surrendered.   It’s not that I didn’t care about the outcome; I simply realized part of it was out of my control.  I would do my part and trust.  What other choice did I have? 

And I set myself up with new goals — good (under 4 hours 10 minutes), better (under 4 hours), and best (3:50 for a BQ).  No matter what happened I was determined to use the experience to my uplift.  If it took chipping away at it to get to Boston, so be it.

The shifts were liberating, and apparently what I needed all along. 

When I crossed the finish line in front of the Sacramento capitol, not only had I shattered the four-hour mark for the first time I was headed to Boston; my chip time: 3:50:07. I was no longer in limbo — hallelujah! 

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Weekend long run:  20 miles (Now tapering for Denver Rock N Roll Marathon);  Denver to Boston mileage logged: 634;  Miles left to go: 1,134.

Endurance, part III: Breakdown to break through

Last year when I began my marathon madness a guardian angel, Amy, appeared along my training path.  For several lucky months she was my training partner.

I met Amy at my daughter’s school.  Her son and my daughter were in the same kindergarten class.  I spotted her wearing an Austin Marathon T-shirt one day.  We chatted about marathon training and surmised we were probably a similar pace  She was training for the Colfax Marathon and could use a partner, too.  We met at the school the following Saturday and began to pound out the miles.

It was such a relief to not run long alone.  Amy was good company and has a wonderful disposition.  God bless her, she even put up with my brooding Eastern European tendencies during our long conversations and miles.  She once joked that we talked to each other more than our own spouses.  It was probably true.

Amy, who had several marathons under belt, including Boston, definitely pushed me.  She also shifted the way I looked at the marathons.  I didn’t know it back then but this was necessary for my success.

We finished up a 16-miler one morning when she said this is where a marathon really begins, at 16 miles.  I felt the ground drop beneath me.  I was just trying to survive 16 and not thinking about the big picture.  That’s when I realized I had to wrap my head around the whole race.

From that point forward I began to visualize the finish and last several miles where it’s not just about your legs but digging deep.  This has always been hard for me as a racer, even in shorter distances.

I confessed to Amy one morning that I just didn’t see myself as a marathon runner.  Her response was incredulous. “Are you kidding me, after all these miles we have run together? You’re a marathoner now.” 

So I kept telling myself this each night, especially before the California International Marathon.  Sometimes you simply have to fake it until you make it.  I kept seeing success, the clock with my BQ time, in my head each night before I went to sleep and at the end of my runs.

It took three races, but with Amy’s sage words and speedy legs to push me, the mileage make over finally took.

In my last segment on endurance, I’ll focus on the final push.  I’ll also do a separate post in the future on marathon fueling.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 8;  Denver to Boston miles logged: 614;  Miles left to go: 1,156.

Endurance, part II: Mileage make over

Recently my friend Pam, whom I mentioned yesterday, moved across the country.  She and her family are remodeling the house they just bought.  Talking to her about her frustrations when dealing with construction reminds of the mileage make over I faced once I began marathon training last year.

Whether it’s gutting one’s porch, or losing that extra 10 pounds, or ramping up one’s mileage, making a life change is grueling work that requires constant, gradual steps.  Try rushing the process and you could sacrifice form over function and face long-term repercussions. 

The general rule with running, for example, is to not increase your mileage more than 10 percent each week to lessen the risks of injury.

I remember I didn’t want to hear that back then or put in more long, slow miles.  Who does?  I had been a runner for years and thought my current base was plenty.  I was determined to qualify for Boston the first try.  Pam warned me I needed a plan B, a backup race, but I didn’t want to listen.

I was using the FIRST training marathon plan from Runner’s World, which has runners do less mileage but at a faster pace.  You run hard three days a week and cross train hard two others.  My head wanted speed and endurance now, not later. 

My body, however, had other plans.  I ended up in the medical tent with an IV in my arm, severely dehydrated after my first race. the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins.

OK, so plan B it was.

Being stubborn though I tried the FIRST method a second time at the Portland Marathon.  I crashed again

Looking back on it  I think the FIRST method can work for some people but simply wasn’t a fit for me.  I’m a natural sprinter and going long is my pitfall so I needed more miles.  Finally I succumbed to traditional base-building.  I doubled what I was running regularly the year before, going from about 25 miles a week, to 45 miles, sometimes even 50.

And guess what? I got stronger and faster at the same time.  It happened over the course of several months, not overnight.  Only then did I seem ready to combine the pace I needed to keep to qualify for Boston with distance. 

At last it all worked  — sort of.

I needed one more tool in my belt to complete my mileage make over, which I will share in the next post.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 7;  Denver to Boston miles logged: 606;  Miles left to go: 1,164.

Endurance, part I: The tune-up

Next month I’ll run the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon and come full circle to the race that launched a thousand miles (and more) on my way to Boston  — the Denver Half Marathon.  The half and full marathon races take place on the same day. 

At age 41, I nearly set a PR (personal record) at the Denver Half Marathon two years.  I was only a minute off my best time for a half finish, which I set in my 20s.  That’s when the “marathon bug” bit me, despite what happened to me at Grandma’s Marathon, Duluth, 1998.

Grandma’s should have been a great marathon for me.  It wasn’t, but if nothing else, Grandma’s taught me two important lessons:

  1. Never agree to stay with friends who have cats before a marathon when you are allergic to them and all hotels are sold out;
  2. Never tell your soon-to-be ex-husband you want a divorce two weeks before a big race.  He showed up and expedited the wheeze factor tenfold.

I barely finished Grandma’s, convinced I was done with my ex-husband, cat dander and 26.2 miles forever.   I’ve kept my word on the first two.  Marathons, however, are much like child birth.  In the crux of pain we swear them off but eat our words by the time we can’t see or feel our own feet anymore.

I called my friend Pam, who recently achieved her own BQ (Boston qualifier), after my exciting Denver Half finish.  In the weeks that followed I mentioned to her I wanted to train for another marathon and go for broke — Boston.

I felt like a child with my nose pressed against the window of a candy store.  I’d never given Boston serious thought before, but now that it was borderline possible, it tasted irresistible.

Plus, I was going through a midlife crisis since I’d left my job at The Rocky Mountain News to stay home with my second child. I needed something to anchor my identity again.  If nothing else, 26 miles will do that.

Still, I needed convincing, and that’s where Pam came in.  The longest I’d run in the past 10 years was 15 miles, and just once.  Most of my long runs had been in the 10-12 mile range, and the difference between 26 miles and 12 miles, isn’t just 14.  It’s expediential without a base, aka tune-up.

Pam believed in me when I wasn’t ready yet to believe in myself. 

If you are reading this now and are on the fence — want to qualify for Boston or run your first marathon or simply run vicariously, allow me to be “your Pam” now.  In the next few blogs I’ll share more about endurance and how I built mine.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage yesterday: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 599; Miles left to go: 1,171. 

The fun zone

First of all, my apologies to anyone who read the “Strong like a tractor post” already and got the jumbled graph at the beginning before clicking into the rest of the read. That was a programming glitch and Friday I literally had a half hour to write before attending a two-day-long RRCA running coach certification class. I have fixed the post since then.

I may tell you more about the coaching class at a future date but for now let’s just say it’s hard to spend 16 hours talking about running when I would rather be running. …

Instead, today’s topic is … (drum roll, please) hormones!!  Since I turned 40 a few years ago I swear dealing with mine is like facing off with an angry meter maid in an apparent no-parking, no-fun zone.  I never know what to put in or what’s coming back out at me without feeling penalized. 

I eat well (mostly); run a whole lot, lift weights not as often as I should (my doctor says I need to do more of that), and yet I am prone to insomnia, moodiness and as of lately irregular cycles and really having to work hard at weight maintenance and/or loss. 

There’s also been changes to my skin (Yippee!! Ain’t being a girl great?!) and getting more hair where you don’t want it and less where you do. (Men have it worse on that front.)

My doc says it’s all part of perimenopause, the time frame BEFORE menopause. I think I am like most women in that I thought all the crazy stuff happened AT menopause, not before — wrong.  It’s actually in the years leading up to when the factory shuts down that you have things such as the fire sale (more cycles, not less, like I’m having) and the rest of the wacky stuff.
The good new is:  if you are a runner or exercise regularly, it does help counteract some yucky stuff like bone density loss.  And if you don’t lift weights, you should to boost the aging metabolism.  Keeping one’s nutrition in check is also recommended.

OK, enough said on the fun zone today.  After being in a classroom for two days I am going for a run to avoid getting yet another  “parking ticket.”

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice.  Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 7: Denver to Boston miles logged: 593; Miles left to go: 1,177.

Strong like a tractor

Baba Tonka, my maternal grandmother, gave birth to 10 children, all by the time she was my age.  Eight of them lived until adulthood, and my mother was child number seven in the succession. 

Yes, by marrying at 15 Baba certainly got a jump start over me, but I have no illusions.  I chose to do marathons,  Baba’s life, and my mother’s, too, were marathons, and not because they wanted it that way.

Baba had all those babies without doctors or a hospital.  I’m not even certain how close the nearest midwife was.  Family lore has it that she’d worked the fields along side my grandfather close to the birth of each child and returned to the farm, new babe strapped to her, quickly thereafter. 

On good days when I run well, like I did on my tempo run yesterday, I am a testament to my mother and Baba.  In eastern Europe, during the time period in which they were both born and for the generations before them, women survived by being bearing the intolerable — from losing their babies, to abusive husbands, to marauding invaders, to working as hard or harder than their men in their lives.

They survived by being as strong as tractors, which was a good thing because there weren’t any tractors back then. Neither was there modern plumbing nor electricity.  When my mother left her village at 18  she did what she had to escape abject poverty and her bad luck.  She married my father as a mail-order bride.

She will tell you to this day, in her broken English, ‘I am a survivor.”  Unlike the women of my suburbanista neighborhood who get pedicures or pay others to clean their homes, my mother’s never had such niceties nor would she bother with them now.  Maybe it’s because when life denies you any niceties or you are the person hired to do the dirty work to survive it never leaves your psyche.

My grandmother is now gone, and my mother, if she chose to, has plenty of reason to be bitter.  That’s where she’s my hero.  Mama, like her own mother before her, is the salt of earth and one who bears her life with dignity, grace and compassion for others.  Being part of their lineage makes me want to be a better runner and better person, and like them, strong like a tractor every day of my life.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice,   Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.