Marathon & Beyond Monday: Bun in the Oven

June 20, 2011
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On this episode, we feature the editor’s pick from the popular running magazine, Marathon & Beyond. This week’s story is about a mom’s love for running and her daughters; it’s titled “Bun in the Oven” by Elizabeth Thompson. Click here for a PDF file of the story with pictures, free compliments of M&B magazine. And don’t miss out: Marathon & Beyond Magazine is offering a special gift to EP listeners who subscribe to the magazine. Enter code “EndurancePlanetVIP” in the coupon code at checkout when subscribing and get a free, deluxe rain poncho. Click here to subscribe.

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Full text of story:

Bun in the Oven

Why I love to run with and for my daughters.

by Elizabeth Thompson

I always considered my running a little indulgent. This self-imposed guilt trip began long before I had children. In medical school I ran around Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Each minute away from my Gray’s Anatomy could be justified only because I was working on my own anatomy.

 

Quadriceps tendon attaches to the patella, hamstring to the pelvis, my iliotibial band hurt on the left; must be inflammation. My own lab experiment, I taught myself firsthand the physiological effects of hypoglycemia and hyponatremia. After my first marathon in 1990 in New York, I hurried to the train, Guyton’s Physiology in my overnight bag. Test the next morning, I needed to cram on the way home from the race. Within about 15 minutes of departure, tachycardia and diaphoresis—bounding heartbeat, sweats, and clamminess—overcame me. I grabbed the can of Coke from the passenger next to me. Gross, right? Guzzling the can of sugary soda replaced the IV bag I had seen hung in the emergency room. I came back to life immediately. A slice of pepperoni pizza immediately reversed my hyponatremia as well. Although I could barely make it down the stairs the next morning, I aced the test.

As an ob-gyn intern, I discovered that I could run up and down the 20-some flights of stairs in the tower at the UCSD Medical Center while technically fulfilling my duties of remaining “in house.” Postcall and delirious, I irritated my boyfriend to no end when I insisted on “getting in a run.” The soft path along the La Jolla and Del Mar coast erased my memory of 36 hours awake on Labor and Delivery. My boyfriend, however, held a grudge. He soon hit the road as well and never really understood my biological need to run. I soon moved East for a new residency (both medically and geographically) and found running in Boston to be as heavenly as I had anticipated. Even in subzero temperatures, I would trudge along the Charles River wearing so many layers it was impossible to tell if I was actually moving. Single and unencumbered, I ran whenever and wherever I wanted. Unfortunately, I never could manage to swing the day off on marathon Monday. But living on Commonwealth Avenue, I came home from work in the early afternoon to witness the runners streaming by my doorstep on the way to the finish line. I have never been so jealous!

 

The start of something big

 

One Monday morning, while sitting at my desk in the basement of the Deaconess Hospital, I checked my voicemail. On the tape, my future husband had left a brief message: “How about a second date?” I chuckled, as our first date had been more than three years earlier. A bridal shower for a medical school classmate gave me an easy excuse to visit New York City—and Dave. We met at the “Moo Bar” late Saturday night, and after a few mudslides, we decided to meet up Sunday morning for a run in Central Park. My kind of guy! At 6 feet, 6 inches and 240 pounds, this running stuff was no easy task for Dave, but as he recalls, it was more a “labor of love.” He knew running was the key to my heart. The only snag in the plan came when I tried to find his apartment. I had written the address on my hand the night before and somehow it had rubbed off. Vaguely, I remembered “57 West,” but I could not recall the street—was it 59th or 69th? I sprinted around the Upper West Side of Manhattan only to be told by several doormen,

“There is no 69 West 57th or 59th.” Terribly late and worried that Dave would set out without me, I turned the corner on 69th Street and saw him standing on the stoop waiting for me. Throughout our courtship, I ran all over the United States and Europe. Dave’s work took us on trips to Paris, London, the Grand Canyon, Chicago, and California.

Six months after we started dating this second time, Dave proposed to me. He had planned the proposal to be the night before the New York City Marathon. I had trained diligently for the marathon and wanted to break four hours. The Saturday night before the race, Dave dropped to one knee outside 69 West 69th Street and asked me to marry him. I immediately replied, “What took you so long?” And then he laid out the conditions. I could keep the gorgeous, sparkling diamond on my ring finger, “If and only if you can break four hours.” Otherwise, I would be sporting a four-fingered “LOVE” ring that rappers would covet years later. I set off on Sunday morning wearing both rings and resolved that I would cross the line in less than four hours, on my hands and knees if necessary. The clock made it to 3:24 by the time I crossed it, and Dave was ecstatic. (He obviously did not want to return the diamond. He sold the knuckle ring for its weight in gold. I wish I still had the ring as a memento.)

 

Bring on the family, after my shift is over

 

We were married a little less than a year later. I ran on my wedding day with my brand-spanking-new husband and his best friend. It wasn’t long afterward that I was running with a “bun in the oven.” I ran throughout my pregnancy and on the warm, humid morning of May 29, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. not feeling quite right. Living in Boston while finishing up my residency, I stayed with my parents for the last few months of my pregnancy. I took our faithful dogs, Eli and Lily, for a slow jog in the early morning and upon my return changed into my scrubs for an OR case that morning. At 9:45 the surgeon sharing the case asked me if I felt OK. “Your respiratory rate is about 40, and there is sweat pouring down your face. That would be OK if you were doing more than holding a retractor. By the way, it’s 59 degrees in here. Maybe you’d better get yourself up to Labor and Delivery for a quick check.” My OB examined me and smiled, telling me it was only a matter of hours before the baby would come. I called Dave, who was in New York at work, then my parents, who arrived within the hour. Dave took the first Delta shuttle he could get and arrived at the hospital, breathless and hungry. He sneaked off to the cafeteria, where he devoured an entire pizza. My mother attributed his hunger to nerves. I would soon know better. Dave would get unusually hungry immediately before I delivered each of our four kids. Our first daughter was born eight months and two weeks after our wedding. A robust 7 pounds and 21 inches long, she was four weeks early. She was obviously conceived two weeks after the wedding, but our friends couldn’t help but give us the business by doing the simple math that said otherwise. Bebe was a natural-born Baby Jogger baby. We logged many a mile around Central Park—until Sol was born. Sol was a crier—or should I say a wailer? I graduated to a double Baby Jogger, as Sol found solace only in a moving vehicle with Mom.

 

Graduating from the Baby Jogger to a wheelchair

 

From all the Baby Jogger pushing, my arms were getting as strong as my legs. But I hadn’t made the cut for the upcoming New York City Marathon, although I probably could have helped by bench-pressing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to compensate for all the running bodies crossing it. So I instead called the Achilles Track Club and volunteered to assist a regular wheelchair competitor. This involved running behind the wheelchair participant, pushing only when asked, and stabilizing the chair on the downhills. They assigned me to “Bill,” who I soon realized did not want my help, except on the uphills and at the bottom of the steep downhill at mile 16, where we would be required to take a hairpin turn off the Queensborough Bridge. I don’t think I have ever had a workout like that marathon. After pushing a 180-pound man in a regular, hospital-issue wheelchair up the inclines, I would then sprint downhill to try to catch up to him.

On First Avenue, he told me to “get lost up ahead.” So I charged up the street only to be caught by the elite women, who all whizzed past me with a look of “Where did she come from?” After the race I swore off volunteering for a while, feeling that my own body was heavy enough to lug around. Then, of course, I got pregnant yet again. Gus arrived six weeks ahead of schedule and made his home in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for a few weeks. At 6 pounds, 7 ounces, he looked like another life form compared with the NICU preemies, but Gus needed help. His lungs required Surfactant to open up. I worried about him nonstop. I ran very little after Gus came home because I had no time and I was too tired. But guilt crept up behind me and accosted me for letting myself go to pot. One Sunday night Dave and I watched 60 Minutes, which profiled Pam Reed. She is an ultrarunner who had once run 200 miles without stopping or sleeping; she ran—and won—the Badwater Ultramarathon; she ran from Boston to the start of the marathon in Hopkinton then turned around and ran the race back into Boston. Faced with such accomplishment, how could I just give up my running because of having three kids? Dave told me to put on my shoes and get training. I signed up for the next marathon I could find, Disney, which offered the Goofy Challenge: a half-marathon on Saturday and then a full marathon Sunday. Dave egged me on! My father-in-law, who came along to Disney, thought I was insane. When the photos came back from the marathon, one of them in particular made me jack up my mileage. It was a shot from the ground up, capturing my thighs on the rebound. I looked like I had elephant legs: cankles, extra skin, and cellulite, the trifecta that can drive women to buy Dexatrim or have liposuction. Dave hardly consoled me by putting the photo on the refrigerator and saying, “Is this my wife?” My father-in-law did not recognize me—“who is that in the running photo?”—and I used this as motivation to chase Pam Reed.

 

Once momentum kicks in, look out

 

Miles in the early a.m., miles during nursery school, miles during nap time. I shed

20 pounds of baby fat, ran a 3:19 marathon, and won my first ultra: a 50K at the Long Island Greenbelt Trail. I could not stop. That summer I ran all over Nantucket and set my goal to run the Nantucket Rock Run. An unofficial 50-mile endurance race, the Rock Run sent two or three solo runners and 10 teams of five runners around the perimeter of the island, on soft sand. Three nights before the race my family staged an intervention. My parents thought that I had a running disorder, my husband worried that I would hurt

my precious now-uncankled ankles, and my children worried that my ice cream intake would go down if I did not run the race. The kids eagerly volunteered to accompany me on my daily runs in exchange for postrun trips to the Juice Bar (a misnomer for the best ice cream shop on the island). Dave promised me that he would clock an alternate route on pavement totaling 50 miles and then crew for me. My college friend Harrison agreed to pace me for 20 miles. I caved and accepted their alternative plan.

I set out at 5:30 a.m. and knocked off 17 miles before I met Harrison at the Sconset Market. I quickly polished off a bag of potato chips and two coffees. With Harrison, the next 17 miles, another “tour de loop,” passed easily. When Harrison left me for brunch at the Sconset Café, I figured that the last 16 miles would be tough but sloggable. Just past the Lighthouse, I started to feel pains in every joint, a stabbing knife- like pain in my knee, electric shock in my back, twinges in my neck. The pain just moved around. Ten miles later, I started to see things, mirages (‘mir-a’jiz’ as my son Sol would misspeak). When I saw Bebe hanging out of a green truck, I thought I was hallucinating, but it was her! She ran to me with Gatorade and then refused to hug me. Salt covered me from head to toe. I started to cry, she started to cry, and Dave gave me the order, “Get in the car, now, 47 miles, enough.” Little did he understand that the last three miles meant all the world to a runner! They deposited me at home and sped off to the demolition derby. By the time they came home that afternoon, I had repleted myself and argued that now I needed to do a real 50-miler. Dave would hear nothing of it. “Take a few weeks off.”

 

When I sent my father-in-law photos from the summer at the beach, he asked me, “Who is the brunette with the children—a new nanny?” He really could not believe that the woman with the elephant cankles had actually slimmed down. That fall, I ran a lot. I came in second in the Six-Hour Birthday Run, logging only 38 miles in six hours. I felt defeated, as though I would never make 50 miles. Once winter set in, I could no longer bear hours in the cold and retreated indoors to my treadmill to put in the miles before Boston.

 

April arrived and the weather for Boston 2003 was in the 90s. My close friend, Antonia, a hearty Australian with three young children, decided to run Boston with me. At mile 20, she said she felt ill; so did I, but who feels good at the base of Heartbreak Hill? My children met me there and cheered me on. I ran with stiff legs, past my favorite spot, Boston College, where the coeds went crazy for a woman with “Noonie” plastered across her chest. I crossed the finish line in a respectable 3:45-ish time. The next few weeks I could not hold much down. I felt lousy all the time. I had no desire to run and had the hardest time recovering from any of my races. Antonia called me. “I have a confession to make. I ran that marathon pregnant. I am due in early December.” “Hold on,” I told her, and I ran to the bathroom and peed on a Clearblue Easy. (I kept a stash of them in the bathroom at that point in my life.) “I guess I did, too.” Louisa (mine) and Scarlett (hers) were born two days apart. Antonia went on to have a fifth. I went back to work as a doctor. Only now, six years later, am I truly getting back into long ultraraces. My oldest daughter confessed that she was ashamed of me when I slept in on a 10-degree

Sunday morning and missed the Boston Buildup race. She even went so far as to come along to the Caumsett 50K to make sure that I actually ran the race. “I can hand out Gatorade and cheer you on.” She did all that she promised and more. She ran one of the loops with me, crewed for me, and sprinted me in at the end. I never expected to feel such pride and happiness crossing the finish line with one of my daughters. My youngest daughter wants to watch Boston this year. She is a natural runner. She will take over for me on the marathon circuit, I am sure. Tough as nails and determined to win at everything, she will make good at 50 miles when she puts her head to it. So now, I feel a little less guilt when I go out for a run. The kids are all in school. My races are fun for them, and they all want the medals and trophies that lure so many runners to keep on racing. And I sometimes think they actually understand their slightly demented mother.