Monday, May 31, 2010

Promising Research for Breast Cancer Vaccine

News headlines today report that there is a promising study showing a potential vaccine for breast cancer! Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute report that they have seen "overwhelmingly favorable results" in their clinical trials on animals.


It's a bit premature to celebrate, I suppose, given that the research has only been conducted so far on mice - and jumping from mice to humans is a big leap. There is still work to be done to turn this research into clinical treatments. And that means there is still money needed to fund this and other critical research.

But this is pretty darned good news. Won't it be great when we can vaccinate against breast cancer, removing it from our modern medicine landscape forever?

This is why I'm walking 60 miles over 3 days. So that I can contribute crucial funding to the fight against breast cancer, taking the form of research for vaccines, new treatments, therapy, and support.

Won't you please donate today?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I once was lost, but now am found

I thought I'd take a walk this morning, venturing a little further afield by trekking through a nearby park and over to the grocery store and bagel shop. I figured I'd make a trip of it, stopping for a tasty bagel at the 3-mile mark, then returning home the same way. I made plans for my kids to meet me over there (3 miles is too much to ask of them on a lazy Sunday morning).

So I started out, headed one street over in my neighborhood, and then went into the woods and into the park via new bridge over the stream that has separated our neighborhood from the park until this spring. After I got into the woods, I was loving the walk - enjoying nature, spotting birds and squirrels and enjoying the trickling stream. I got to the point in the trail where I had planned to pop out into the parking lot and follow the road around to the other side of the park, and I thought "why not continue on the trail a little more? I think it cuts off a corner and will save me some time." I was enjoying the coolness of the greenery around me, and the road would be out in the strong hot sun.

Lesson learned - do not try to find your way through the maze of trails in the woods if you have never looked at the trail map!

I ended up wandering around an extra mile, lost in the trail system. I happened to find a nice man and his four year old son, who were out playing Frisbee Golf in the park. I asked them for direction, then I wandered some more tryign to follow what they had told me. Then I called my son and asked for directions, and he tried to help by looking at Google Earth for me. Then I saw the man and his son again and asked again for directions. The father took pity on me and walked with me out to the main road of the park. Thank you kind sir!

I eventually did make it to the bagel shop - and I did meet my kids there for breakfast. My son had in the meantime looked online and had better instructions for my return trip. My walk home was very uneventful and actually pretty short, all things considered.

The trip out: 1hour 25 minutes, and 3.3 miles according to Map My Walk:

The trip home: 48 minutes, and 2.3 miles according to Map My walk:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Five Mile Mark

Finished my first day of 5 miles of training. I split it into two sessions - 3 miles then 2 miles, separated by a brief pit stop for laundry chores at home.

So ... yeah. That fifth mile. It was a lot longer than the first four! I really noticed it!

I've gotta get into the 5 mile habit now as the basic every day walk, because the training plan calls for more and more miles every weekend. And so I guess that means really looking at the time scheduling, and just making it happen. No more excuses!

Here we go!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting past the "same old, same old"

So I've been "training" (yes, I think it counts, even if it's sporadic!) for a couple of months now, with the first few weeks just getting used to the habit and the last few weeks trying to following the 3-day training recommendations. I've not been entirely successful in sticking to the training plan - I've missed quite a few days, and some days I just haven't been able to do the recommended mileage either because of time limitations, or more often, energy limitations. But I've been kinda, sorta on track.

About this time in the training plan, the recommended mileage starts to really pick up. Starting soon, I'll be expected to do 5 miles every Thursday, with more than that on Saturday and Sunday.

Unfortunately, my neighborhood around my home is somewhat isolated, separated from other neighborhoods by two-lane roads with no sidewalks. So if I walk within my neighborhood only, I can only really cover about 2.8 miles without repeat. And THAT means that if I want to get some decent mileage with my home as home base (start and stop), then I MUST repeat. You know, laps.

And THAT gets boring. Really fast. I mean, REALLY fast!

So I've been experimenting with ways to make the same neighborhood streets seem different from walk to walk. To get past the "same old walk" feeling (which for me is very demotivational) and into an eager, motivated frame of mind.

Trick #1: Vary the time of day.
The neighborhood has a completely different vibe when I walk in the early morning before work. And again a different vibe at sunset/dusk. In the morning, the birds are singing, the sun is coming up, the grass is dew-covered and glistening. Sometimes you can hear through people's open windows that they are showering and drying their hair, getting ready for the day. Sometimes you can even smell coffee brewing. In the evening, you can feel that people are settling in, mothers call their kids in from the back yard, charcoal grills are finishing up and burning low. The neighborhood turns grey as dusk settles, and the crickets come out. Mid-day on a Saturday, the streets are very busy with the weekend chores - lawn mowers, hoses, cars, skateboards, swimming pools, bicycles - these all add motion and sound, and give me something to look at and people to talk to.

Trick #2: Add or delete legs of the route
In my development, we have one main street that is 1/2 mile long with a dead end. The other streets come off this main street like branches on a tree - all dead ends too. So my walking route consists of going up the main street, down the branches one at a time, back out to the main street, down the next branch, etc. There are five branches of varying lengths. So sometimes I it them all, sometimes I only do the longest ones, sometimes I do them all going out and all coming back, hitting htem twice, etc. I use different combinatinos of them to get different lengths of walks. The shortest feasible walk is about one mile. The longest, if I hit each branch once, is 2.8 miles. If i hit each branch twice, I can get about 4.6 miles. And so on. Ok, so now that I think about it, this doesn't really make the walks less boring, but it does give me options in my isolate neighborhood.

Trick #3: Vary the music on my iPod
First, for safety I walk with only one ear-bud so that I can hear the traffic and people around me, and i keep the volume low. Safety first!

Some days, I walk with just any music that strikes my mood, and some days I walk with a playlist that I selected specifically for walking. Some days I walk with no music at all.

For my walking playlist, I did some online research to see what tempo (steps per minute) I should be walking for optimum fitness conditioning. I learned that you should warm up slow, then pick up the pace to about 128 beats per minute. You can then do "sprints" at about 140 beats per minute, and then slow down for recovery at 120, etc. Once I knew this, I went through my iTunes collection of music, and I found songs that match the various tempos that I wanted in my walk. I selected songs that have upbeat, positive, even motivational lyrics.

I find that when I use this walking playlist, I get a better workout due to the commitment to the tempo. But when I don't use the playlist, I'm often more relaxed. So there are pros and cons.

Trick #4: Walk with a friend
Whether my husband, kids, quartet mates, or neighborhood friends, I find that the boring route doesn't matter at all if I have someone to walk with. This is a no-brainer!

Trick #5: Spy on my neighbors
OK, I'm kind of only kidding. I don't actually spy on them. But I do enjoy looking at everyone's lawns and gardens, and I do like to see what I can see inside at night when their curtains are open - sometimes you can get good ideas for decorating. That's not spying, is it????

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Affirmation

Some days, I feel overwhelmed, don't you? Like it's just too hard to do everything I want to do. Like the world is against me and what I'm trying to accomplish. Some days it's tough to give myself the pep-talk I need to get past the roadblock-du-jour.

But this little girl has found a way to feel good about herself. Maybe we can all take a lesson from her? :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm walking to make a difference

Do you ever wonder what you're doing in life? Why you bother? Who even notices?

Do you ever feel like you're just treading water in your life? Like every day is the same as the one that came before? Like you're using up more than you're creating? That you're not making any progress?

I feel that way a lot. That's one big reason why I'm doing this 3-day, 60-mile walk. I want to make a difference. I want to contribute. I want to help. I want to be part of something important.

Breast cancer sucks. It sneaks into our lives, uninvited and unwelcomed. It ravages our bodies, and all too often it takes away our precious loved ones. It really sucks.

But I am going to make a difference. I am going to raise critical funding that will go directly toward finding a cure. I will provide money that will improve treatment options for women and men affected by this disease. I will make it possible for vulnerable and hurting women to find comfort and care.

By taking part in this awesome event, I will be contributing. I will be helping. I will be part of something really important. I will be saying "I was here." And the world will be better for it.

Would you like to join me? Please donate.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers out there, I hope you enjoy a fantastic Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I'm walking for Donna H.

Donna H. is a very special person. She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend. She is kind, smart, funny, giving, caring, and supportive. She is a great cook, gardener, home decorator, and crafter. She is sharp-witted and has a great mind for business. She's great with people, and makes everyone feel comfortable and at home.

Donna grew up in small town Oklahoma in the 1940's and 50's. She was the oldest girl in a family of nine children, and lived on a farm. This meant that she very quickly became her mother's helper, taking care of the younger children, and helping with household chores at a very early age. She learned early to be caring and kind, and to take wonderful care of her family.

Donna married her high school sweetheart and raised three sons. She and her husband started out with not much to call their own, but over time, they built a home and a life togther that was full of love.

In the mid 1970's, when Donna was only in her mid-30's, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, the treatments for breast cancer were not very advanced, and the prognosis was not as good then as it can be now. It must have been a very scary, uncertain time for Donna and her family. To make matters worse, breast cancer was not something that people talked about back then. It was pretty hush-hush, and women with this diagnosis didn't have the openly supportive environment that we can find today. What could it possibly have been like for her to go through that?

Donna had a mastectomy to treat her cancer, but other than that, I don't know much about it. I've known Donna for 28 years, but she has never discussed her cancer with me. She's not one to talk about herself in the first place - she's pretty unassuming and she deflects attention. And especially for health-related issues, she's a pretty private person. I've learned about her cancer only through her son - my husband.

Yep, Donna is my mother in law. And I love her very much.

I wonder what life would have been like had the cancer taken her away. How could my husband, just a young boy, possibly have lived without her? How could my father in law, my brothers in law, my extended family, have possibly gone on? What must it be like for families to lose their mothers to this disease? What must it be like to face this harsh reality, to fight through it, to emerge victorious?

I'm walking for Donna. I'm walking to honor her victory over cancer. I'm walking to pay back the medical community a debt that can never truly be repaid. I'm walking so that none of Donna's granddaughters will have to face the same diagnosis that she did. I'm walking to show her that I love her and I'm so thankful to have her in my life. Happy Mother's Day, Donna!

Friday, May 7, 2010

At the Track

Last weekend I tried out a new locale for training walks - the track at the local high school. Dave and I went over together on Sunday morning, he was planning to run, and I was looking for an easy, flat walk.

I did notice a few things that are different (in a not-so-good way) than walking in the neighborhood:
  • the track is ever-so-slightly banked on the curves. This means that one foot steps slightly lower than the other, putting a strange and uncomfortable stress on one shin, knee and hip. To accomodate this, I walked counter-clock-wise for half the time, and clock-wise the other half of the time.
  • there are other folks using the track for their morning runs too. And because you're just walking in circles, you sometimes either pass them or they pass you. If you're not careful, you can end up feeling like you're competing against them, and that can become a stressor or a motivator, depending on your outlook.
  • The sun beats down on the track and the bleachers block the wind - making the track feel much hotter than the neighborhood
  • There is not much to look at, and the laps can blur from one to the next. Keeping count of your laps can be tricky if you're not paying attention.
On the other hand, there are other kinds of differences (in a kind of good way):
  • It's easy to challenge yourself to improve. Every second or third lap you can pick a faster pace, and treat it as a sprint. By repeating this pattern, you can really boost your heart rate, and if you do this often, you can boost your fitness levels.
  • It's easy to zone out and really just let your mind empty of all your worries and your stress. You can get into a groove and just walk. Without any curbs, obstacles, or traffic you can focus on just your movements and your breathing. It can be very relaxing and zen-like.
  • You certainly don't have to worry about whether you've accurately counted your mileage!
All in all, things worked out great. I will definitely be back to the track. As you go through your training for your 3-day, I really recommend that you find a local track and use it as part of your training regimine. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back in the Saddle!

I'm really happy to report that whatever was plaguing me last night has passed. After last night's discouraging training walk, I was eager to get back out there and try again. I'm so glad I did! I walked this morning out in the neighborhood and had a glorious time. The weather is beautiful - clear blue sky, low humidity, slight breeze, and temps in the mid 70's. I called in to work and got the day off, and have been enjoying myself to no end!

I walked for an hour, and ventured just a tiny bit into the state park that is near my neighborhood. Those 15 minutes in the woods on this picture-perfect day were just enough to bring me a sense of calm that was just what I needed. After I got home, I mapped the route and was happy to discover that it was 2.85 miles long - about a half mile longer than I expected. This gives me another easy, local option for a quick route, with the added benefit of an easy nature walk as part of it.

I know that this journey toward the 3-day event is going to be filled with starts and stops, highs and lows, ups and downs. Anytime you embark on an aggressive plan, you have to expect bumps along the way. Knowing that I've never been a "fit" person, training for a 60 mile walk is setting a high expectation, to say the least. Those of you reading this blog who exercise regularly might wonder "what's the big deal?" But to me, this is definitely a big deal! Just getting up out of a chair is a feat in itself for me some days!

So this morning I'm so happy to know that I've made it through a low moment and have regained momentum. I feel able. I feel eager. I feel motivated. I'm ready to keep going.

This feeling is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From High to Low

Darn it.

I was doing so well.

I walked all of my first week's worth of training walks with energy to spare. I got my first walk in last Tuesday despite the day getting away from me. I walked on Thursday last week after work, enjoying the great neighborhood and cool evening air. I walked on Saturday morning bright and early with my team friends. I walked Sunday morning with my husband despite the hot and humid morning. It was going so well, everything as planned.

But then today came. And the day was busy. And I was tired. And I was not focused. So by 9:15pm when I finally made it downstairs to the treadmill, things did not go as I wanted. I started off ok, at a steady 3.0mph pace. But for some reason, for the first time, I got shin splints. I don't know why - I never have had that problem before, especially at such an regular and easy pace. But after only 15 minutes, my legs were really, really hurting.

I decided to stop and stretch for a few minutes. I had stretched before starting, but I guess it was not enough. So I stretched some more. Then I walked again. But still my left leg kept cramping up, on my shins and on my hip. My knees were also screaming at me. That was a first too.

I pushed through it for a little while longer. I tried to motivate myself with thoughts of others who are fighting much harder battles than a few leg cramps. But then I gave up.

I hate that.

I hate that feeling.

Darn it.

I know, I know -- this is not the end of the world by any means. I'll come back at it next time and give it another go. And again. And again.

What motivates you go keep going when you feel like giving up?