I have to admit that before I turned 56 yesterday I was feeling a little bit Debbie Downer about the whole day. It wasn’t a number I was particularly excited about and I hadn’t yet picked out any special gift for myself so I had nothing to really look forward to.
But then I told myself to get my freaking head back into the right place. It was and is a privilege to be able to celebrate another year on Planet Earth. I love this place and I love my life so what is there not to be totally amped up and excited about? My new plan was to just go on with my day as usual and enjoy the simple moments as much as I could.
First up was my morning swim…
I’ve switched all my sport activities to the morning (more on that soon!) and yesterday when I arrived at 8AM. for my swim session there was an empty 50 metre lane. I had it all to myself for the full 2000 metres and considered this a very special birthday gift from the swimming Gods.
On with my day of regular work, phone calls and meal prep and then it was time to train my women’s running group.
A new woman showed up for the training so I gave the core group instructions on their workout and then started working with our new member. She’d never run before though she swims and walks for her general everyday errands. We did some fast walking inserting some running here and there and then I had her walk for one kilometre and then free style run for one kilometre. Her walking time was 9:30 and her Free Style run was 7:32.
Oh, by the way, she’s sixty-five years old.
She said she’d always wanted to try running since it looked like fun. “Better late than never…”
Indeed. I considered her my special birthday gift from the running Gods to remind me that I am still very young and to get moving on all those sports goals I have swimming in my head.
The evening was spent with my family, birthday cake-less. Our oven is on the blink so I told them I was happy to dive into my favorite ice cream store and let loose. Lots of ice cream and lots of laughing. It was the perfect 56th birthday party <3
After living so many months with the Mysterious Fever I’m feeling like myself again and let me tell you, it’s nothing short of a miracle. In addition to wonderful things like waking up rested in the morning and being able to think straight, I’m back to a normal training schedule. Sort of.
My sister invited me to stay at her house for the summer. She lives in Kaua’i. I don’t visit often because the trek to the other side of the planet is not easy to organize but with a few months to absorb the twelve hour time difference I decided to take the plunge.
Running here is not easy! If you run along the shoreline it can (sometimes) be pretty flat. Any other road you find besides the beach is either up or down at a 10% grade. But I make it work because I’m so happy just to be able to be out there! I power walk up the hills, I sprint down them… then do the reverse. I’ve added hiking trails to the mix which has really toned up my legs.
Last week I was still feeling a little off centre, like something was still missing and then I figured it out: I needed a training programme. So I sat like a complete idiot thinking for a good ten minutes before the thought popped into my head. “Why don’t you just sign up for your own 10k programme? It’s a freakin’ no brainer!”
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll start the 10K Course next Thursday July 21st with Warm up Weekend and then begin training on Monday July 25th.
As with all of our courses I’ll be keeping an online diary in our Forum. If you’ve ever thought about taking our 10k self paced course this could be a great time to do it. The more runners the merrier… I’d love to have some company!
You can sign up here for Up & Running’s 10k course to virtually train alongside Julia for your next 10k!
The symptoms that something was wrong had been a long time. For almost a year I didn’t quite feel like myself. My thinking was foggy, I was chronically tired, I couldn’t get a lot of enthusiasm going to run or train hard because… I was chronically tired and my thinking was foggy.
I blamed it on my broken arm accident.
I blamed it on my hypothyroid condition.
I blamed it on my advancing years.
Then I got a fever in February. “Here we go, it’s flu season!” Except I never catch the flu. But I convinced myself this year I had a compromised immune system, so it was only natural.
I woke up with another fever ten days later. I felt horrible and achy and as soon as the fever passed I tried to muster some energy to get myself out the door. It took a lot of effort and I promise you there was no joy in it.
When I came back from the States in April after a family funeral I had a fever again.
“You’re just stressed,” my husband said. But when a week later I had another fever that lasted twelve hours I knew something was wrong.
My doctor sent me to a special clinic where I was given blood tests and asked a lot of questions about my health habits. The tests didn’t show anything suspicious. Then they gave me a urine test and bingo, there it was.
An E.Coli bacterial infection with a million load count. Not thousands, millions.
I hadn’t taken an antibiotic in eighteen years so the minute that pill hit my system I felt instantly better. After a week I was back to normal.
I couldn’t believe that this year-long ordeal had been a bacterial infection because, I swear, I never felt a thing. But thinking back I remembered when it had started: the same week I broke my arm.
That first week in August the temperatures hovered around 100°F and when I got out of the hospital after my operation I could feel a slight cystitis coming on. I increased my water consumption and bought some concentrated cranberry to flush it out. I think the main problem was that compared to how bad my arm was hurting anything else paled in comparison.
But I never had lower abdomen aching or that cystitis feeling (most ladies know what I’m talking about…) so I didn’t give it another thought. I didn’t even suspect anything was wrong until the third fever six months later.
After a little research I now know that Urinary Tract Infections are more common in menopausal women due to the lowered estrogen levels in the vaginal area. I’ve also been told by various doctors and nurses that older women often don’t feel the symptoms of a UTI until a fever hits.
So, where do I go from here? I’m going to stay on top of the situation by getting a urine test every few months. Here in Italy you can go to a pharmacy to have it done for just $5 and that should give me some peace of mind. I am concentrating on keeping hydrated year round, a habit that seems to slip every once in awhile. I’ve started to take probiotics which should help keep my gut happy and fighting off overgrowing bacteria. Also, I’ll be eating more polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) which binds iron in urine and helps control bacterial growth. Since polyphenols can be found in black tea, coffee, chocolate, cranberry and blueberry juice I’ll totally be with that programme!
Most of all I look forward to running and training again throughout the summer. I’ll literally be starting from ground zero. It’s not the easiest place to start from but then again, it’s a great place to be as long as I’m feeling healthy again.
Hey team, it’s Julia here. Today I’ve got a conversation for you that I had with a coaching client of mine who is on a mission to run a marathon on each of the seven continents in one year. Meet Stephanie Madsen, an American living in Treviso, Italy!
What inspired you to run the seven continents?
The idea came to me during some Sunday long runs. I’d heard about the seven continents club and thought it would be pretty cool to run on every continent. Then I thought it would be an amazing adventure to do it all in a year.
One of my life goals had been to run a marathon before turning forty and I thought all seven continents would be a good goal for my 44th year. Both my children would be in college and I’d be free to run.
Tell me a little about how you got into running…
Six summers ago I was in Lincoln Park with my Mom and children when we ran into my grammar school principal. He told us that I still held the 1600 meter record for our school district. It hadn’t been beat since 1985! I think he was just being nice, but my mom insisted it must be true.
In my freshman year I ran cross country. We had a great team and it was lots of fun. In the spring I ran track. 3200 meters was my race but Coach Hopkins made me run relay as well as the 400 meters and 800 meters. In one race I ran seven laps on the right side of my adversary. I just couldn’t pass her until we got to the last 200 meter stretch and I remember thinking “I’m faster than you!”. I kicked it up to win.
My coach was furious. “If you had all that energy left you should’ve used it to pass her from halfway!” I think I finished 4th in the City championships and went on to Illinois state finals that year. To this day I cannot run on the right side of anyone.
As an adult I ran periodically, nothing serious, a couple miles here and there. That continued until I added the marathon to my “Before 40” plan. My father bought me The Marathon Method, a 16 week marathon training book by Tom Holland and my mom gave me a Garmin and that was the beginning of my marathon dream. During my training I’d get so excited every time the runs got a little longer. I was amazed that my feet could get me from one point to another and then back home again!
What prompted you to find a running coach?
I knew that running seven marathons in one year was a challenging goal, but by then I’d also heard of some crazier people who participated in Ironmans! I knew I’d outgrown the book and needed a personalised program. My nephew suggested we meet – I guess he thought we’d have lots in common: tall, blonde, American female runners!
Which has been the most interesting marathon/continent so far?
Each race has been special for different reasons. My mother grew up in San Francisco so that race was challenging and very emotional. She had passed the year before and it was the first time I’d been back to the city. I had my brother and son as my support team and it was an unforgettable weekend. Although, I have to say I saw some runners with shirts from the year before and I remember thinking, “Why would they do this twice?!” The downhill was rough.
My second marathon was Venice, right in my back yard. The Thursday before I hosted a pasta party to raise funds for AIRC (about 3000€!) and on Sunday I had the support of numerous friends. As I ran over the Grand Canal I thought “how lucky am I?”. Actually, that runs through my mind at the beginning of every race.
Next was Queenstown, New Zealand. Whilst in San Francisco I met up with my aunt and uncle who told me that their oldest daughter, Andrea, had moved to Christchurch a few years ago to raise goats. I was able to spend time with her and her family before and after the race. With a degree from Stanford she must be the most educated goat farmer on the South Island.
I drove all over the island and fell in love with the rugged beauty of the land. I’d never seen such changing landscape and met such friendly people.
The marathon was tough; the course was mostly trail running and one hill was positively massive. It gave me a moment to catch my breath and admire the beauty of the sailboats on the lake below me. As I crossed the finish line, the speaker called out my name and thanked me for choosing Queenstown as my Oceania destination in my quest to run the seven continents. I celebrated with my usual: beer and a Big Mac. Sorry, it’s in my DNA.
A week later at 4:30am I was on the bus with my friends Martina and Rossana bound for the starting line of the Bagan Temple marathon.
Watching the sun rising as we ran next to the remains of over 2200 temples from the 11th to 13th century was awesome in itself. Hot air balloons floatied overhead. Once again I thought, “how lucky am I?”.
At 21K I congratulated myself with being halfway to completing my goal. Happiness. I had more happiness as I reached the last 500m – I was the third female runner! I floated to the finish line. Three marathons in thirty-three days….
On January 31 in Marrakech I reached another goal: I finished a marathon in under four hours (3:55:41). I’ve always believed that the time doesn’t matter, participating and finishing are what is really important. Each race is a challenge and my first goal is to finish. In Marrakech I had the help of my own personal pacer, a friend who ran the last kilometres with me so I wouldn’t slow down. He kept me right on schedule, encouraging me every stride.
You didn’t give me much time to revel in my success,. The Antarctic marathon was less than six weeks away and it was time to start training. Antarctica was definitely the most adventurous marathon. Traveling over a thousand kilometres on a Russian ice breaker, passing through the Drake Passage with huge waves was already an adventure.
Then there was the gearing up with waterproof jacket, pants and wellingtons to venture out for a twenty minute zodiac ride to reach the starting line. We had Antarctic weather conditions for sure, ever changing! It had snowed the night before so there was snow on the ground, and a light drizzle had started at breakfast which turned into rain at the starting line.
At about the six mile mark the sun came out for about five minutes. But that was followed by a dark blue sky and the start of wind here and there. By about 30km the wind was up to 50 knots and the icy sleet slicing into our eyes made vision near impossible. I ran through mud and icy puddles with soaking wet and frozen feet. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get back to the ship. I finished in second place in 4:19:00, thirty-eight minutes behind the Australian champion and Sydney marathon winner. I felt great!
How have you found the training load and exercises?
I love it! The hardest part was understanding the different speeds required during training. In the beginning I also had to remember how many minutes at this pace and how many kilometres at that pace. Let’s just say that my brain got a mini workout too!
I really enjoy looking at my schedule for the week. I like the variations you give me for each workout. Having a personalised training program has helped me become a stronger, more confident runner. We’ve also discussed nutrition, pre and during race, which was a game changer. I like running with a fuel belt and the gels and amounts you suggested was fantastic.
After you conquer South America at the Lima Marathon in Perù and complete your huge endeavour, what do you see as your next adventure?
Wow! Well, eventually I’d like to start ultras, but I feel as though I can get faster so my immediate goal is to shave off those 41 seconds from my time to qualify for Boston. Then who knows, every European country? I’m not sure, but I know I’ll think of something!
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