Hamden Hills 5K 2024 Race Report

Being a runner can lead to some complicated emotions. After 15 years of running (!), 16 marathons, and four years of coaching others, I know a lot about running. You’d think that intellectual knowledge would offer some protection against the emotional highs and lows of this sport, but that’s not always the case.

I’m aiming to keep these posts shorter and hopefully write more frequently so here’s a quick overview. My plan this summer, post-London, is to train for a fast-for-me 5K (and a swimrun – more on that later). I am planning to run three 5Ks, all on flat courses, and see if I can improve. Having run 24:32 and 24:35 at races in December 2023 and February 2024, I’d like to see if I can get under 24 minutes. That’s a far cry from my PR of 22:18, but that time was pre-pandemic and pre-surgery. So sub-24 is the goal.

On May 25, I ran the first 5K, Hamden Hills, in 25:43. Ouch. I had been imagining 25 minutes flat as a “worse case scenario” so this result was pretty disappointing. As I texted ChrisNewCoach, “Welp, I left myself a lot of room for improvement.”

Hamden Hills is a small race on a mostly flat section of the rail trail, a straightforward out and back with a slight decline on the way out. It’s not an exciting race, but it’s a flat course and professionally done so it seemed like a good start as a benchmark.

In the week leading up to the race, I wasn’t feeling great. I was tired and sad for reasons I don’t completely understand. I did a track workout on Tuesday. The splits looked totally fine on paper, but I had expected to feel great and instead, the workout felt hard. Expectations matter and that track workout kicked off a downward spiral.

I had some other negative emotions going into the race as well. May 27th was the two year anniversary of the thyroid surgery that left me with a complicated and obscure endocrine disorder. Anniversaries can be hard – the body remembers. There’s surely also some post-London let down going on. It’s a big switch to go from a World Majors Marathon with over 54,000 runners to a local 5K with fewer than 100. I didn’t have any friends going with me to the race. My family did not want to get up early to come cheer. My personal enthusiasm for Hamden Hills was pretty damn low.

I got to the race about an hour ahead of the start. I got my bib and my t-shirt. I saw a friend from MRC and said hi (friends after all!). I warmed up running away from the race course and found a cool-looking brewpub I’d like to go back to. As we lined up, the announcer said to be sure to check at the awards desk after the race. With 5 year age group awards and a small field the chances to win something were very good! They fired the gun and off we went.

My plan had been to start at an 8 minute pace and hopefully speed up. I ran the two 5Ks last winter at around 7:52 pace and I thought I might not be too far off from that. But I didn’t feel great, just like at the track workout. Sometimes watch data on the rail trail is terrible and my watch was saying 14:xx pace. That seemed wrong! I ran what felt like the appropriate 5K effort and the first mile was 8:02. Ok. That’s right on target but I knew I wasn’t going to be speeding up.

The best thing about this race was spotting someone wearing a Some Work, All Play (SWAP) singlet. SWAP is a podcast and a coaching company founded by David and Megan Roche in Boulder. I love the podcast so much that I also bought a singlet but this was the first time I had seen someone else wearing one! I yelled “Huzzah!” as he flew by me on the out-and-back. That guy ended up coming in second!

My own race was not going that well. Sometimes the best you can do is to not give up. I could tell I was slowing down but I kept fighting. There was a guy in front of me and I was at least closing on him, but my splits were 8:02, 8:05, 8:30, which is pretty much death-by-5K. Final time: 25:43. One minute and 8 seconds slower than my 5K in February. Ugh.

What happened?

It’s not that complicated to figure out why this race did not go well.

Since London, I have done only two workouts, and only one of them was at 5K pace. One workout of 6 x 800m is not adequate training for a 5K race.

Nearly all runners in New England struggled with the weather this week. We have swung warmer and more humid. Race day was not awful, but 65 degrees is not 45 degrees, the temperature at my February 5K.

My mindset was not good going into this race. Dark thoughts lead to dark results most of the time.

Despite knowing all of this, I still beat myself up for a few days after the race. I kept telling myself “You’re better than this,” but that turned out to be completely unhelpful. The clock says what it says and clearly on that day, I was not better than this. Then, I beat myself up about beating myself up, an even less helpful thought pattern. Sure, this is just a benchmark, but I wanted a better benchmark. I’m no elite but I can tell why the elites sometimes avoid racing when they are not in shape. It feels horrible.

What to do next? I considered giving up, but I seem incapable of doing that. Instead, I reached out for help. A friend gave me a couple of great essays he had written on persisting even when the cause is hopeless. If you’re not going to quit, but you feel like you can never improve, then finding beauty in a hopeless pursuit might be the way to go.

I gave Coach Mick a call. He reminded me that Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympics when she got the “twisties” but also told me that she’s back competing at world-class level. His point was not that I should take up gymnastics, but that mental wobbles are part of being an athlete. Even the very best athletes in the world are not mentally perfect so I should not demand that of myself either.

Then I read a little post by Tommy Rivs. Tommy Rivs has inspired a lot of runners, including me, with his ability to keep going in the face of a devastating health challenge. Except – he doesn’t seem devastated, at least not his public-facing persona. In this post Rivs wrote that progress is “about direction not location.” Maybe the time on the clock at the race doesn’t matter as much as the training I plan to do in the next two months. In fact, I am almost certain that is true, even as I am completely struggling to believe it.

I asked my online running group, the Sub-30 Club, what to do and they basically gave me a collective hug and told me to grant myself some grace. Good solid advice from a lot of good sources. Slowly it sank in and I started to feel better. I ran some more workouts, got a bit used to the warmer weather, decided to forgive myself for being human.

My kids didn’t come to the race, but they were happy to go to brunch afterwards. This might be just an excuse to share a picture of my kids – so, here they are!


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London Marathon Race Report 2024

I can only loosely remember the decision to enter the London Marathon lottery. But I clearly remember what happened when I got the nearly inevitable rejection. The rejection email asks if you’d like to apply for a place as a charity runner. I have never run for charity, but one group listed was the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). Rose was recently diagnosed as autistic and I have friends who have run for OAR. Suddenly, I didn’t just want to run London. I very much wanted to run London for OAR. I sent in the application and got accepted!

After the Wineglass marathon last fall, I asked ChrisNewCoach if he was down for another marathon together. To my delight he said he was! I trained through a fairly mild Connecticut winter. More miles, faster paces, gradually feeling more like my old running self.

That’s a really big deal. Running (mostly) without fear, without anger, without cramping or pain. Running because I love to run. I didn’t know if I would get this back. I am getting this back.

Training went well and ChrisNewCoach and I agreed I should aim for a 9 minute per mile pace. That’s a 3:56 marathon, a solid BQ, and sub-4 hours. It was the fastest I could get my head around.

If you want the TL;DR version of London 2024, I overachieved on fundraising, and underachieved on racing. I raised more than $6600 for OAR. It was much less difficult and tremendously more fun than I expected. I had no idea that raising money for an organization I care about could be so satisfying. I ran 4:08:02. No sub-4, no BQ, and slower than my time at Wineglass, though according to my Garmin, I ran quite a bit further. I am content with this outcome.

Now, for some more details! For those who prefer the REALLY long version!

We arrived in London on the Thursday before the race, dropped our bags at our AirBnB, and went straight to the expo. We picked up my bib, met the folks from OAR in person, bought some merch, including the awesome jacket, and took a few pictures.

We stayed at an AirBnB in a part of London called Fulham. Fulham was pretty far west, but it was a lovely neighborhood and traveling by tube made it easy to get around. We did a LOT of sightseeing on Thursday and Friday: The London Eye, the British Museum, some general walking around. We took advantage of every opportunity to eat cake.

On Saturday, I did my first parkrun at Fulham Palace. We toured the Bishop’s Garden and took a lot of pictures for Rose’s Agricultural Science project. We saw a phenomenal show in the West End called Standing At The Sky’s Edge. If this show makes it to the US, go see it!

Saturday night, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at a Fulham restaurant called Gola. Mocktails and pizza and pasta, yes please!

The Brits call it a “Flat Lay” – ready to go!

On race morning, I had about an hour’s ride. I was chatting with other runners on the train and met Ari Wolf, Wesleyan class of ’03! Just like me, Ari was in the red start, wave 4! We became pre-race buddies, which was much better than being alone. We hung out at the start, did a double round of porta-potty visits, dropped our bags on the lorries, chatting the whole time about Wesleyan and running. Perfect pre-race company! I did my pre-run dynamics and we headed off to the starting line. We started right on time at 10:36!

The start of the race looked exactly like all the videos I watched ahead of time and that was comforting and familiar. The first few miles are residential with plenty of families out cheering. At some point, Ari passed me, tapped me on the shoulder and called out “Hey stranger! How’s it going?” Such a nice guy!

I was planning a conservative start, maybe as slow as 9:20, but the first five miles came in at 9:07, 9:04, 9:03, 8:50, 9:04. So far, so good. Steady even pacing.

Mile 5 was assessment time. I had been planning on 9:00, not 9:05. That seems like a small difference, but those seconds add up over the course of 26 miles. More than that, 9:05 was clicking along but was feeling a little too hard for this early in the race. Speeding up to 8:55-9:00 felt foolhardy. I even considered backing off to 9:10. But a sub-4 marathon is a 9:09 average and I *really* wanted to break 4 hours. I had run 8:40 pace for 13.1 miles at New Bedford. It shouldn’t feel hard yet. Sometimes things get easier. The marathon is a long race. I decided to just hold at 9:05. I grabbed my first gel at 30 minutes as planned, a caffeinated Maurten. Maybe a little caffeine would help.

Miles 6-8 were 9:03, 9:00, 8:59. I can be a freaking metronome. Then, one of my favorite moments of the race, the Cutty Sark! The Cutty Sark is a big sailing ship and it’s a major party zone on the course. ChrisNewCoach would be waking up about this time and we had agreed I would imagine him spectating here. He would have had a blast! It was SO LOUD. I felt pretty good. Maybe I’d be able to hold onto that 9:00-9:05 pace, which would be a fantastic race.

After the Cutty Sark, it was non-stop crowds for almost the entire race. London is definitely the loudest race I’ve ever run. We went through a neighborhood called Rotherhithe and those folks were having a party! Loads of people, so much yelling, and pretty sure a good deal of drinking. From this point onward, it was wall-to-wall people and wall-to-wall sound. I hadn’t been able to get my music set up at the start. I tried again now, but I couldn’t hear the Aftershokz voice lady and couldn’t get the music going. I use music in different ways during a race and here, I was looking for a little protection. Like sunglasses (which I wore the whole race), music helps create a bubble around me, a defense against too much stimulus. This race was a LOT.

I had Geneva write her initials on my arm before the race. She added the heart.

Miles 9-13: 9:05, 9:04, 9:17, 9:00, 9:18. First miles slower than 9:09. I knew by now this was going to be much more of a fight than I had been hoping for. When a marathon feels hard this early, you know it’s going to be a long day. I kept my mind in a good place. Sometimes I chanted the spelling of Geneva’s name: G-E-N-E-V-A-G-E-N-E-V-A because this race was for her, more than anything. Sometimes I just chanted Blank-Mind-Blank-Mind-Blank-Mind. I was able to keep my mind quiet, but I had to work harder and earlier to do it.

Our old friend Howie showed up very early. “Howie” is the name Coach Mick and I came up for the voice in your head that offers you a deal and wants you to quit. Howie is super sneaky. He suggested I hop in with someone racing in a wheelchair. I do eventually want to run with Achilles International so this idea had particular appeal. Howie always loves the idea of just turning the race into a party, high five everyone, maybe have some beer from spectators. Howie very much wanted me to walk. I said no, again and again. This is really early in a marathon to be having to do this kind of mental work though.

The next landmark was Tower Bridge, but where the hell was it? Finally we turned right and there it was! You could hear a collective gasp from the runners even over the massive din of the spectators. Running over Tower Bridge is a major highlight of the race and everyone knew it. A surprising number of people stopped to take selfies. I remembered to run in the middle of the road for the best picture. Running over Tower Bridge actually IS all it’s cracked up to be. It’s iconic and beautiful and the spectators and runners are all kind of losing their minds!

The next and most important check point was coming up: Seeing Mervus and Rose! They were stationed between miles 13 and 14 on my right, hopefully with the staff from OAR. The runners heading east and west run alongside each other here, so the plan was that they could see me around 13.5 and then again around 22 miles. They had the banner to help me spot them, but I still ran right by. I heard them though, turned around, and got a quick kiss from each of them. SO HAPPY to see them! Having my family at a race is THE BEST. Seriously. They wait for literally hours to see me for a few seconds. But those seconds mean the world to me. Mile 14: 9:38. That’s the kisses. Worth every second.

Now came the section of the race that I had expected to be the most challenging: the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. As reported in the course previews, the Isle of Dogs was a little quieter, but honestly, I didn’t mind. It had been such a roar for most of the race until now that I was fine with a break. My memory here doesn’t quite match up with what was apparently actually happening on the course. I expected Canary Wharf to be large modern skyscrapers, which I barely perceived, but I have photographic evidence. The Isle of Dogs was a quieter neighborhood – I saw that, check. But what I remember most from this section is running through a neighborhood of older brick buildings, about 3 stories tall. The streets were narrow and the crowds were over-the-top insane. It was bonkers loud, but also cool. People were spilling into the street more than anywhere else. It was so narrow that it was impossible to keep pace, but the excitement was amazing. Miles 15-18: 9:00, 9:10, 9:21, 9:21.

So, two 9:21 splits in a row. I was losing steam for sure. This was a LOT of work already. ChrisNewCoach had said to run this part of the race for me, to remember the many solo workouts, sometimes in the cold, how I got it all done. That helped. I drew on those memories and how strong I am. Getting past the halfway mark was a big relief. Getting to 16 miles was good, finally, “just” 10 miles to go. But I knew it was going to be a very long and very hard 10 miles. As much as possible, I fed off the energy of the crowds and the other runners. I remembered being disappointed in myself when I gave up at the Berlin marathon in 2021. I vowed not to give up.

The charity runners are one of the best parts of the London marathon. The 2024 edition of London raised more then 67 million pounds, the highest amount ever for a single-day fundraising event! I felt this spirit on the course. We were a wave of runners, seething through the streets of London, most of us wearing our designated charity’s logo on our singlets. Sometimes I could tap into this energy and I especially tried to use it at the end. It was so crowded that there was no room to speed up, even if my legs had been ready to go. On the other hand, it also wasn’t going to be easy to slow down. The ultimate “go with the flow” experience.

Mile 19 says 8:45. I have no explanation for that other than I suspect it was GPS error? Supposedly the tall buildings mess up the GPS signal. A big push to mile 20 for 9:05 pace, but I knew the last 10K was going to be ugly.

Miles 21-23: 9:38, 10:03, 9:47. Ouch. My lungs were doing ok but my legs were just done. I knew I had about an hour to go. I knew my watch was off because of not hitting the tangents. I knew it was going to be a long haul. Mile 21 was a slog. Mile 22 is the “Rainbow Mile” where London’s LGBTQ community comes out to cheer. It looked awesome but I was pretty deep in the pain cave by that point. I spent mile 23 hunting for Mervus and Rose. I saw the OAR folks this time through but did not see my family. It turns out they couldn’t get to the right side of the street where I was looking for them, but they saw me from their spot on the left side. Maybe I got some of their good energy! I just wanted to be done so badly.

For a lot of this section of the course, I felt simultaneously blocked by and dragged along by the other runners. I stopped looking at splits around mile 20. There were too many people for me to have run any faster and my legs had nothing left anyway. I thought about the nice dinner we had planned and how happy I would be to stop running. I recommitted again to not walking. I had two very small walk breaks, less than 5 seconds each, during the entire race. I am really happy about that. SO much better than my race in Berlin in 2021.

We ran by the London Eye. We ran through a tunnel. Finally I spotted Big Ben. Holy shit – it was still SO far away. This was a slog. I counted a lot. I passed a lot of people walking but some people also zoomed by me. I knew the race would be over soon and I really wanted it to end. It was just counting and running.

Mile 24-25: 9:37, 9:29. I was still fighting, which is what I wanted. Fight to the end, even on a day when you are going to miss your goal. Fight the losing battle, not just the winning one. This is the lesson of the marathon. Fight the losing battle for the cause you care about, every time. This is running but this is also life. Do not give up, even on a losing battle, especially on a losing battle.

Mile 26: 9:41. I knew my watch was quite off so I would actually have to run further than 26.2 miles. My Garmin measured 26.76. I was just looking for the red tarmac near the finish. Where the hell was Buckingham Palace? I was counting and running and knowing that my 3:56 is long gone, my sub-4 is gone, my sub 4:05 is gone and I will not even beat my time at Wineglass. But it doesn’t matter because soon I will be able to stop running and right now that is all I want. Finally the 365 yards to go sign but I know that’s close to a 400m and that still feels pretty dang far. Then 200m to go, just get it done. FINALLY THE FINISH! Thank God. 4:08:02. On an incredibly tough day. I can live with that.

I was a little dizzy at the finish line and gave myself a short excursion to the medical tent. Quite charmingly, I was cared for by a young volunteer only 17 years old, under supervision of an actual doctor. As per usual, I only needed to sit for a few minutes while my body got itself regulated. It was an extraordinarily slow walk to Mervus and Rose but I found them eventually. We made our way back to the AirBnB where I was able to get showered. We did indeed have an exceptional meal at a local pub called the Mitre.

London Marathon done!




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New Bedford Half Marathon 2024 Race Report

Finally a race I am really happy about!! A post-surgery half marathon PR! (Five seconds, but I will take it) but more than that, a race where I felt really good!

Let me back up a minute.

New Bedford Half attracts a fast field. It’s a great tune-up race for Boston and it’s the USATF-New England half marathon championship race. I’ve run it once before in 2022. I had three main thoughts about that 2022 edition. First, I ran 1:52 and was disappointed. Little did I know – that was my last half marathon before thyroid surgery and I should have been celebrating! Never take a healthy starting line for granted. Second, I was having a lot of struggles with running at the time, but on a foggy day, I ironically found some mental clarity staring at the yellow lines and the cones in the loop out near the shore. That was a breakthrough to better racing subsequently. Third, Mervus and Rose came along with me and we all really enjoyed New Bedford.

This time around, I was using New Bedford as a prep race for London. My family was willing to come along and I was so grateful for their company!

Training for London had been going pretty well. Then a few days after the Colchester Half, I started feeling icky. Sore throat, congestion, watery eyes. We have a drawer full of Covid tests and boom, positive. Ugh. I’ve heard so many stories of runners who struggled to come back from Covid. But, I got lucky. A few days off, a few days of easy running, and eight days after the positive test, I started to feel more like myself. Twelve days after the positive test, I ran 18 miles and felt really good. Ok, game back on again!

I was more targeted with my pre-race mental prep for New Bedford than I had been for other races this spring and it paid off. I did a quick session with the sports psychologist I’ve worked with before. We talked about running fast while feeling sad. The idea of “being where your feet are.”  But I suspect more than anything, I just needed dump my feelings out for an hour because I felt a lot better after our session.

ChrisNewCoach and I had a really great talk and he had excellent advice, some practical and some inspirational. From a practical perspective, we agreed on 8:45 as a goal pace. He recommended that I get splits rather than run by feel. I wrote down protocols for arrival, warm up and fueling. He said not to worry about the hill at mile 12 – the race is almost over by that point. He noted that if I ran the last 200 meters of the race in 50 seconds, which we know I can do, that I could shave 10-15 seconds off my time. It’s worth it to kick!

That was all great advice, but it was something else he said that really stuck with me: “I want you to hold yourself accountable out there.” Oof. Yeah. Different versions of this might be “Don’t take the deal” and “Define yourself” but this time around, “Hold yourself accountable” became the phrase of the race.

Race morning, I woke up at 5:45am, aiming for a 7:15am departure. Here’s what I did for fueling:

6:15am: Oatmeal (1/2 cup dry) plus chia seeds plus maple syrup plus ½ apple plus very small banana for breakfast. Threw in banana because it was on its last legs. [Do bananas have legs?] Regular meds (.25 calcitriol, 1000 Vit D, 600mg Citracal) plus Zipfizz electrolyte drink.

8:30am [in the car]: ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

9:30am [arrival]: ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 1500mg sodium drink from Precision Fuel and Hydration. I FORGOT to bring calcium!! Luckily I have back-up packets in my running bag so also: 1000mg powdered calcium.

Mile 4: Maurten gel plus 1 Tums.

Mile 8: Maurten gel plus 1 Tums.

Finish line: 1 Tums and 250mg sodium tab. I had planned to take sodium tabs during the race but couldn’t figure out how to swallow them while running. Something to practice!

For London, I’ll add a 360 Maurten drink so I will have to practice timing of that. I’m back to using Tums mid-race because I was choking on the calcium chews. I’m planning to tape a Tums and a sodium tab to every gel, but then alternate which I take. If you’re an athlete with hypoparathyrodism and you want to chat, please send me a DM. Happy to talk.

We had planned to leave at 7:15am, but actually left at 7:30am and then had to stop for gas. We arrived at 9:40am. Better than last time, but even earlier would be better. There’s a lot of traffic! We scooted over to the YMCA for bib and shirt pick-up. I found Badass Boomer and left a bag in the locker room.

I was doing my dynamic warm up by 10:30am. I had time for a short jog, dynamic stretches and strides before heading to the corral. I found Mervus and Rose. I was only in the corral about 8 minutes before they fired the gun and off we went.

One of my process goals was to not start too fast, but wow is that hard to do! Even feeling incredibly easy, when I looked at my watch, it said 8:10. Yikes. 8:45 is goal pace and I was hoping for no faster than 8:50 for this first mile! I tried to slow down, but next time I checked, I was still around 8:10. Finally settled into 8:45 and first mile beeped at 8:35. Second mile just rolled along, still feeling really easy: 8:37.

I’ve been working on my running form. This has been a FOREVER project. I know my form is janky. I know I have almost no knee drive. I know my heel doesn’t come up and therefore the pendulum of my leg is longer than would be efficient. I’ve known all of this for years, but I haven’t figured out how to fix it. Eight days before the race, I discovered a website called The Balanced Runner and I’ve been practicing their form cues ever since. The form check became a kind of consistent background noise: Check arm swing, elbows bent enough, swing like the pirate boat ride, relax shoulder blades, form of a relaxed C, knee-to-elbow, knee-to-elbow-knee-to-elbow [this is the big one!], breathe from the belly. Repeat. A lot. Over and over.

Mile 3 and especially mile 4 are climbing miles. I’m running London as a fundraiser for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). Autistic people go through life kind of running up hill metaphorically. The world is just a little bit harder for them, or sometimes a lot harder. All the time. Not just on this puny little hill. I can get up this hill. Near the top, someone yelled “Go Autism!” I almost teared up!

I knew my family would be here somewhere and I found them around mile 5. I was SO happy to see them. Now I did tear up. I smiled and waved and gave them the hands-as-heart sign. I wanted to say hey, this is going well! But I didn’t want to stop. Mervus called out “Elbows!!” and he said later that I looked totally different from how I usually look. By now, I knew I was having myself a day. I was working for sure, but every time I glanced down at my watch, it said 8:40 or 8:45. Or sometimes 8:30 or 8:35. The first mile felt good. You expect that. The second mile felt good, also normal. But I was up and over the biggest hill now, looking at a long descent and feeling good.

Often in a race we run around the same people, maybe for quite a while. There was a guy with red-white-and-blue zigzag shorts at this race. Someone was running barefoot in flowy brown pants, carrying a pair of boots. Someone else had a green shirt with a big zero on the back.

But then there was the woman I’m calling Joanie. Short grey hair and a cap, like Joan Benoit Samuelson, wearing lilac and blue and singlet that said Liberty down the back. She was not just in my vicinity. We were often quite close together and after mile 4 or so, frequently side-by-side. Anyone watching might have assumed we were friends, running mile after mile, stride for stride. We didn’t exchange a single word. When I checked my watch, I worried the pace was too fast, but I really wanted to stay with Joanie. My breathing felt fine and the miles ticked off. Occasionally I’d try to dial it back but then I’d end up next to her again. It was pretty damn awesome.

By mile 7 we were on flat ground, along the shore, and the wind really kicked up. In 2022 it had been so foggy that we couldn’t see the water. This year we had beautiful views! But, So. Much. Wind. I’d had a gel and a Tums at mile 4 as planned. As we rolled into the water stop just before mile 8, I pulled out another gel. I figured I would lose Joanie at this point – I was working and she looked so strong! But she also slowed at the water stop, took a gel, and got a good drink. Miles 8 and 9 were the toughest of the race. Splits here were 8:49 and 8:50.

With four miles to go, we turned and the wind abruptly dropped. ChrisNewCoach had said he wouldn’t be surprised if I got here and discovered I had more to give. After two straight miles of fighting that wind, I had expected to be exhausted. Instead I discovered he was right. I could pick it up! So I did! Hold yourself accountable!

Swing the arms. Relax the shoulders. Elbow-knee, elbow-knee. Breathe. Repeat. “God of the Impossible” came on my playlist and I thought, oh, this is a very good day. I started counting, up to 100 and back down. Mile 10 done. 8:23! And feeling good! I was passing people now. Quite a lot of people! More counting. Mile 11 done! 8:30! I couldn’t wait to get to the last hill because then we would be almost done. One more flat mile, mile 12, 8:37. Hold yourself accountable. Arms. Relax. Elbow-knee. Breathe. Count. I thought I had lost Joanie, but she showed up and passed me near the bottom of the hill. God, she’s tough. Then, go with her. Chase her up the hill. You have nothing to lose at this point!

I didn’t catch her but I stayed close. I knew there was a downhill and I’m quick on downhills, but so was she! Still didn’t catch her. Now I was confused because the course map said the hill was the end, but we were not running the right direction to hit the finish line. I wondered, did they move the finish line mid-race? Even to my hazy end-of-the-race brain, that seemed not very likely. Bottom of the hill, right turn, oof, still a stretch to go.

But then, remember what ChrisNewCoach said. Treat the last 200 meters like it’s the track. You can gain up to 15 seconds at the end. Those end-of-workout 200s I’ve been doing feel sooo terrible, but I called on that feeling now and kicked as hard as I could. Last .18 miles at 7:29 pace! My watch said 1:54:10!! Boom!

As per usual, I grabbed the first available fence post-finish line and just hung there for a few minutes. Then I made my way down the chute and found Mervus and Rose and pretty much started crying. Then I found Joanie! It turns out she is also a professor! I hope we can run together again some day!

This race meant so much to me. It’s obviously been a really long road. The pandemic. All my anger and confusion. Surgery. Calcium weirdness. Atrial fibrillation. A little basal cell carcinoma on the side. But today was glorious. A beautiful hard run in the sun and the wind, feeling strong, discovering what this body can do. The one I have right now.

Mervus had baked goods for me at the finish line. Seriously best husband ever. We found Badass Boomer and had some post-run snacks before heading out. Celebration dinner at the Blackbird, as usual, followed by lovely Irish music at home for a cozy ending to a fantastic day.

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Colchester Half Race Report 2024

This is going to be a different kind of race report. I could write (again) about how the Colchester half marathon is one of my favorite races. I could remind readers (again) that this is a hilly race in late February in Connecticut, which means the weather is likely to be dodgy. I could mention (again) the amazing, hilarious, brilliant race director, who is somehow everywhere on the course and who promises a refund if you don’t get your money’s worth. I could note (again) that the first time I ran this race, back in 2014, it was a massive breakthrough for me with a nice PR, but more importantly, an experience of flow state and joy in racing that has been a guiding star ever since.

Rick Konon, race director extraordinaire

Instead, I want to talk about layers and impressions. Layers are what I’m calling it when you run the same race over and over again. If you don’t care about the time on the clock, layers can be just stories. I’ve run the Manchester Road Race 14 years in a row. I remember re-pinning Aidan’s bib on the big hill, running in a leprechaun costume, running with my dad, running the virtual race, running fast, running in the cold, running with Rose. Each year adds a new layer, a new story, and all stories are good. The pile of stories is so high that I can no longer re-tell them all each year. They threaten to teeter over on top of me, but I love each one so much. Each memory is like a treasure, a Christmas ornament to be appreciated each year before we hang it on the tree, which is generally what we do the day after the Manchester Road Race.

Races where I care about performance are not like that. I’ve now run the Colchester half six times. I’ve run both one of my most joyful and one of my most miserable half marathons at this race. The layers here are more complex. I share these thoughts because I can’t believe I am the only one wrestling with them. Please do not expect a tidy bow at the end.

Some impressions then, or layers, from Colchester 2024, the good and the bad.

I found some joy at the start!

I told ChrisNewCoach that my main goal for the race was to “find joy” on the course. I was chasing a feeling. I did not find joy. Life is heavy right now and at best, it was a little lighter for a couple of hours.

I ran 1:58:09 about 20 seconds faster than last year. At first, I was really happy because I executed well, balancing my effort across the course. Later I was quite sad because I am working hard at my running and I’d like to see more than a 20 second improvement in time. This “holding steady” result brings up a lot of existential questions. Is faster running still possible? Is something about the hypoparathyroidism slowing me down? Am I just getting old? I don’t know the answer to those questions.

When I ran Colchester in 2014, I imagined myself to be Kara Goucher. I knew she had a big brown ponytail, she had been to the Olympics, and she used her sunglasses as a shield from spectators. I considered her pretty close to perfect and I could manage the ponytail and the sunglasses thing. Ten years later, I know a lot more about Kara. Her experience with running has been far from perfect. She is so much more complicated than I understood in 2014 and she knows better than most that not every run is filled with joy. Kara’s still managing to run even with runner’s dystonia. Would I do that? I would probably try. Because running, racing, life – it’s about doing the best you can with the cards you currently hold. Sometimes it’s hard to resist cursing those cards, but that is not in any way productive.

In 2021, I ran Colchester full of rage about the pandemic. On one long descent, my anger focused on Donald Trump’s poor management of the crisis. When I got to that stretch of road this year, I thought of him again. Layers.  But then I thought, I do NOT want Donald Trump in my head during this race. Who is the anti-Trump to drive him out? I came up with our new pastor, Will Tanner. Will is kind and smart and compassionate and funny and inspirational. He’s also complicated, a real person with a complicated life. I chose Pastor Will over President Trump. When I run that stretch of road next year, I imagine they will both be there, but I am proud to have consciously constructed this new layer.

I finished the race, including the last two miles, which are mostly uphill. I had not looked at my watch since the first mile, but I have a good sense of pace and I wasn’t surprised by the 1:58 and change on the clock and at first, I was really happy about it! More than the time, I was happy with *how* I raced. Later, I let the disappointment creep in, which is a bummer.

As I made my way down to the school for the post-race “carb re-load,” I saw two men leaving. The younger man had his hand on the older man’s shoulder. The young man’s shirt said “Blind” and the older man’s shirt said “Guide”. You don’t see a lot of Achilles athletes at Colchester. I’ve wanted to run for Achilles International for a long time, but I’ve always said I would wait until I was no longer focused on my own performance. I’m not ready to give up on my own performance, but I can’t help but feel like God is sending me a message here.

Back in the school, I got changed and found my friends. We engaged in serious carb re-loading. It’s wonderful! The post-race feast at Colchester is amazing! Friends and food. This layer is surely the most important one.


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Run for Refugees 2024 Race Report

Kara Goucher says running will break your heart. If you love a race hard enough and run it often enough, that’s going to happen. That’s what happened to me at the 2024 edition of the IRIS 5K in New Haven. But with some time to reflect, I’m feeling better about it.

Short version: I ran about 30 seconds slower than I wanted to, but I still had a lot of fun and I’m moving on.

For the long version, read on:

I’ve written before about why I love this race. It’s a fundraiser for IRIS [Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services https://irisct.org/] an organization that works on refugee re-settlement. Their model of working with local groups has been so successful that it’s been copied at the national level in a program called Welcome Corps. IRIS makes a real difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. They also put on a great race. It’s the most diverse starting line you’ll find and this year the international post-race feast was back! In the past, I’ve always met or exceeded my performance expectations. Not this year. Womp, womp.

Back on December 9th, 2023, I ran the Niantic Jingle Bell 5K in 24:32. That was a fun race too! Lots of holiday-themed costumes. A beautiful beach venue. A mostly flat course, awesome family support, and a delicious post-race brunch. Also, a post-surgery PR, beating my 5K time from March by ten seconds. I was dealing with some niggles leading into that race so training had been a lot less focused than I had hoped. I had a decent result anyway and we had a blast at the race.

In the 8 weeks or so since the Jingle Bell 5K, I’d been able to put together a string of 50 mile weeks, albeit with a quick interruption for a stomach bug and a couple days off for an adductor issue. I’d also been able to do some real 5K training. ChrisNewCoach thought I should be able to run pretty close to 24 minutes flat (7:40 pace) at IRIS and I agreed. That’s not a PR but it would be a big milestone because that’s a lot closer to a pre-surgery 5K time for me. Spoiler alert: Final finishing time, 24:35. What happened?

There’s a whole lot of life going on right now. Mervus couldn’t come to the race because he needed to be up in Holyoke with his parents. Despite the life-craziness, Rose and I had an excellent weekend, going out Friday night to see Frozen in honor of her birthday. Saturday was pretty relaxed. She mostly did homework and I did quiet stuff around the house. We got to bed early to be ready for race morning.

This was my first race in my new singlet from the Organization for Autism Research. OAR is the group I am fundraising for for the London Marathon. It’s an amazing organization that provides great resources for autistic people and their families. Also, I love the singlet – gorgeous! I had never planned on fundraising with my running, but this is an organization I really want to support.

Here’s the link if you want to make a donation!


Race morning prep went really smoothly. We arrived just before 8:30am. I got bib number 9, which was very cool! We had time to take some pictures. Rose won a purple pom pom for cheering. We found Chewie, got our stuff settled, Rose wished me good luck and Chewie and I set off for our warm up. Chewie listened to my various woes. Warming up for Refugees is starting to be a therapy session with her.

The shakeout run the day before had gone well and the warm up felt pretty good too. It was a little chillier than I had expected. We went and lined up and I counted that I was about 8 rows back. I have never managed to line up close enough to the front for this race and I was determined to do so this time. ChrisNewCoach had told me “Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about where you line up” and that was great advice. Sometimes I am too shy to go near the front. Even in row 8, there was a woman next to me in a parka, and a teenager pinning his bib on with the make-your-own-I-heart-IRIS-pins they had at registration. For a lot of people, this is their first road race and I genuinely don’t care that they don’t understand that walkers should go near the back. I just want them to have fun and come back and do another race. Especially if I can figure out where to stand so that I don’t have to run around them.

The race always starts with some speeches from IRIS about what the organization does. Chris George, the outgoing Executive Director of IRIS, spoke. The incoming Executive Director of IRIS spoke. The Yale Gospel Choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The mayor of New Haven (who runs the race) talked about how someone had put down hateful flyers on the course but they were already picked up. Because this race is about being welcoming and kind. That’s what I love about it.

Then Rosa DeLauro got up to speak. Rosa is our US House Rep and I love her. She’s been in office forever, an old-time progressive. Surely one of the longest serving women in the House ever. She’s apparently 80 years old but you’d never know it. She dyes her hair with a purple streak all the time, not just for the IRIS race. And she takes time for photo opps with young constituents.

But, apparently she’s not in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza because when she took to the microphone, protestors started chanting at her about her position on the conflict in the Middle East. That went on for a bit before the race organizers put a stop to it and got ready to fire the gun. Rose was with a friend, who sent me a text reassuring me that she was managing it all just fine. It was a really tense moment. Whatever your feelings on the situation in the Middle East, it was not the ideal way to start a 5K and I suppose that was the point. Between the politicians and the protestors, the gun went off at 10:15 after we’d been standing there waiting for 20 minutes.

Maybe it was standing in the cold. Maybe it was the distraction and sadness of the protest. Maybe it was family life stress. Maybe it’s that I haven’t raced a lot of 5Ks lately. Maybe maybe maybe. Maybe I just plain didn’t run fast enough. My legs just didn’t want to go. I felt like I was running through Jello. At about half a mile into the race, I looked at my watch and it said 9:30 pace. 9:30?? That’s a warm-up pace for me!

I don’t think I was actually running 9:30, but I was definitely running quite a lot slower than the 7:40 pace I was shooting for. Someone was calling splits at the first mile marker and I heard 8:24 as I passed. A few thoughts flew through my head:

8:24 is much too slow.

That will be gun time. I’m a little faster than that.
Yeah, but not a lot faster. You’re still slower than 8 minute pace.

This is when you think about giving up. Because you’re wildly off your goal.

But this is also when you don’t give up. Because you didn’t come here to jog. You can still have two good miles and that’s a solid workout. You’ve had a result you’re happy with at this race even with a slow first mile. And you don’t give up.

I ran by where Mervus and Rose usually stand. Of course they weren’t there, but it was good to think about them. Then I remembered what ChrisNewCoach had given me for words for the race. You. Deserve. This. I hadn’t thought much about “You” during the first mile, but now I thought about “Deserve.” I deserve a good race. Deserve contains the word “serve”. IRIS is serving the refugee population. I am working to serve the autistic community. Deserve and serve. It was a big messy chant, but it kept me focused. I rounded the corner and thought, hmmm, I should be feeling quite terrible and I don’t. ChrisNewCoach thinks I can run 7:40 pace and I bet I am still slower. Maybe I can pick it up.

I rounded the corner at the bottom of the park and saw Rose with our friend. SO GOOD to see them! Just a mile to go and *now* I did feel terrible. Good! I started counting and remembered word #3: This. Just be in the moment, run hard, finish the race: This, this, this. Around the top of the park, past the yellow gate, up and over the stupid hill in the home stretch, turn the corner, run like hell. Finally, done. 5Ks suck.

Splits: 8:09, 7:47, 7:37. Final time: 24:35.

I did an in-depth private post-race analysis that pretty much boils down to: Run more 5Ks, be warmer at the start of the race, have less life stress. Noted.

I had to get Rose to her confirmation class so we scooted out of there pretty quickly, but we celebrated by going out to eat that night. Because every time you’re brave enough and healthy enough to step up to the line and race, that’s worthy of a celebration, even when the experience is complicated. Maybe especially then.

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Wineglass Marathon 2023 Race Report

Ready or not, here I come
I’m about to show you where the light comes from
Ready or not, hear I come
This is who I am, I won’t hide it
I’mma take it all over the world
To the young, to the old, every boy and girl
Ready or not, here I come
I’mma show the world where the love is
-Britt Nicole

Sometimes training cycles end up with a theme song. It’s been one hell of a year and it often felt like the dark times would never end. I’ve still got some health challenges and it’s likely that I always will. But the marathon is one of the best ways I know to let my light shine so, ready or not, here I come.

Wineglass Marathon 2023.

We left for Corning on Friday afternoon when Rose got out of school. The drive was pretty rough with a lot of very hard rain, but we arrived around 8:15, just in time for our dinner reservations at The Cellar. Downtown Corning is completely charming and I’d love to come back.

We stayed at the Econo-Lodge in Painted Post. It was not at all cheap, but it had a peppy and fun manager, another Sarah-with-an-H, who made us feel right at home.

On Saturday morning, I got up and did a short shake-out run and then we headed to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the expo is held. Every single person we encountered all weekend went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. Want to change the project you signed up to make at the museum? No problem. Would you like a cookie before bed at the Econo-Lodge? Sarah’s got you covered. Need to change the time of your dinner reservation? Of course, we can do that. It was remarkable. Friendliest marathon ever.

We kicked off our visit to the museum with glass making. This was a highlight of the weekend. So much fun. Once we’d made our projects, we hit the expo. By then we were starving so we had lunch in the museum café before touring the exhibits. Mervus and I actually put in our wedding vows that one reason we love each other is because we “take a long time at museums.” That’s true, but I also knew, I should get back to the Econo-Lodge to put my feet up before dinner so we breezed through the museum.

There is no way to do justice to this museum. It’s well worth a visit even if you aren’t running a marathon!

For dinner on Saturday night we went to Tanino’s. You could smell the garlic in the parking lot. It was packed but mostly with local families rather than runners. I had my usual pasta with tomato sauce and split some shrimp cocktail with Rose. Then back to the Econo-Lodge and off to bed.

Flat Sarah – Ready to go!

This is when things in Philadelphia started to go off the rails. Last November, instead of falling asleep, I had a panic attack. Of course that crossed my mind at Wineglass, but I was pretty sure I was going to be ok. I felt so much more prepared for this race. My body was a lot more ready to cover 26.2 miles. I had a solid calcium plan. I went into the race with more confidence than I’ve had in a long time. And in fact, I fell asleep, no problem. Thank God.

We got up bright and early for breakfast at 5am. Here’s my fueling report. My general goal was to get my calcium levels as high as might be reasonable before starting.

Night before the race:

430mg sodium [new addition to the regimen]
.5 calcitriol
1200 mg calcium [total]
400 mg magnesium

Morning of the race (5:30am):

1 cup dry oats plus Flavored PB
1200 mg calcium
1000 IUI vitamin D
.5 calcitriol
400 mg magnesium
430 sodium

1000mg powdered calcium at 7am just before getting on the bus

I didn’t want to mess around with transporting a little flask of powdered calcium but for races with a longer ride to the start, I would need to figure that out. One endocrinologist told me that the effect of powdered calcium peaks about 2 hours after you take it.

7:45am: Gu
8:15am: Start
Every 30 minutes during the race: Maurten gel plus 500mg calcium chew. I am sure I skipped at least one calcium at the end, maybe two.

Back to the race report:

Ready to take the shuttle to the start

A much longer line than expected!

We all left the hotel at 6:15am, right on schedule. Mervus and Rose drove me to Bath, which got me exactly what I wanted: Their company for as long as possible. When we got to the park, runners were lined up for the bus to the starting line. This part took a little longer than I expected but I still made it to the starting area before 7:15. The tent they had set up was already full but the race had opened a second location, a big garage, where they had chairs set up so you could wait sitting down and out of the cold.

Enjoying my cute hoodie at the start

Yes, the cold! It was delightfully chilly that morning! After a summer of truly awful racing weather, I finally got a (mostly) better day. So much better than 90 degrees at the start of the Blessing or mid-70s for the start of the New Haven Road Race. Or, for that matter, fog and a hurricane dramatically compromising one swimrun race and cancelling another. It’s all relative! We had three hours of good racing weather at Wineglass.

I sat in the garage for about 10 minutes and then went outside to do my warm up. One last trip to the porta-potty and then I decided to go line up. I didn’t want *any* stress. It was so easy to do gear check that I checked my throwaway clothes and kept my cute hoodie. That delicious chill in the air was already fading as the temperature started to rise.

I lined up near the 4:05 pacer. My race plan was dead simple. Run with that guy, Pacer Paul. Certainly if he was running stupid, then I would do my own thing, but a friend who was also pacing this race reported that the pacers were all good. I met a woman on the starting line who was running her second marathon at age 60 after running her first when she was 18! That was pretty cool. We all wished each other luck, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner, and off we went!

The race starts heading northwest, but quickly turns left onto….Geneva Street! I was so excited when I discovered this. In the lightly-disguised blog pseudonyms, my daughter goes by Rose but I suspect most readers know her real name is Geneva. So cool to run on her street! We had a nice little group around Pacer Paul and we compared notes on our kids – lots of parents of twins, including Paul, whose twin sons were both pacing the half.

I had broken the race into sections based on when I would get to see Mervus and Rose. This first section was only 3 miles long. It was mostly about settling in. Figuring out how the pace group felt. Really paying attention so I could experience Geneva Street and glue it to my memory. Mission accomplished! We wound around a little bit and then came through Bath and there was my family. Hooray! Stage 1 done and I was feeling good!

My word for this section of the race was “control.” You can’t really “win” a marathon in the first 3 miles, but you sure can lose it. I was looking to run about 9:15-9:20 pace. The first three splits came in at: 9:17, 9:08, 9:08. I thought, ok Pacer Paul. That’s a little hot. A 4:05 maration is a 9:21 pace. Then he explained that he needed to have 30 seconds banked and he wanted to have them all by the halfway point. Ok. That might not be my strategy, but it’s not a crazy strategy and I liked the advantage of being with a pace group.

My word for the second section was “rhythm.” I wanted to spend miles 3-13 with my brain turned off, just feeling the pace of the race. Splits here were: 9:13, 9:09, 9:15, 9:09, 9:18, 9:10, 9:15, 9:23, 9:23, 9:09. It didn’t seem like Pacer Paul was going to run the whole race at 9:08 so I decided to stay with him. It did feel like he was surging a little bit, which I didn’t like. It was also pulling me out of my good head space whenever I saw him check his watch because it made me wonder if he was worried. I didn’t like that so around mile 4 or 5, I pulled slightly ahead of the pace group. That felt much better. I didn’t feel alone but no one else was determining my pace. Every now and then I glanced back to be sure I wasn’t getting too far ahead.

This was my favorite part of the race. The course is really pretty. The leaves were starting to turn. I felt relaxed, really good, the running was easy. Around mile 9 I decided to turn on my music and that was excellent. I had made a playlist specifically for this race and I just relaxed into the music.

Cresting one of the few “hills” on the course

With a little distance from the race, I’d say miles 3-18 was the longest stretch of flow state I’ve ever experienced with the possible exception of the 2019 Boston marathon. I felt really good. I mostly heard music and my footfalls. I looked at the landscape, which was lovely. But most of it was passing over me. Many mile markers arrived before I expected them, always a wonderful surprise in the marathon. There weren’t many spectators, but I didn’t care. I was “in the zone,” running comfortably, with Pacer Paul just a bit behind me and the open road in front of me. It was fucking glorious.

We passed through the small town of Savona and then at mile 13, I spotted Mervus and Rose again! I had arranged for Mervus to send updates to ChrisNewCoach so I knew he would know I was feeling good.

Miles 14-18: 9:13, 9:17, 9:21, 9:09, 9:52. The magic had to end at some point and for me, it was mile 18. Nothing awful. It was getting warmer and I was starting to feel a little cramping coming on. I decided to take a salt pill. The calcium deficiency I am dealing with can cause horrific cramping so it’s worrisome. For my last 20 mile training run, I had gone straight to the lab for blood work as soon as I was done. Those results showed that serum calcium was fine, which gave me confidence in my calcium supplementation routine. That’s when I decided to start experimenting with salt pills. But since this has been a late-in-the-game idea, I hadn’t really practiced with them and they got stuck in their ziplock bag. While I was futzing with them, Pacer Paul sailed by me. DAMN IT.

I could have collapsed right then in discouragement but I didn’t and I’m really proud of what I did instead. I knew Pacer Paul was running about 30 seconds ahead of schedule. I had a lot of time left to catch up to him. I just needed to keep it together and run a tad faster than he was going. Splits from miles 19-22: 9:13, 9:08, 9:16, 9:18. I passed over 50 people during miles 19 and 20 and then I lost track! More than anything, chasing down Pacer Paul gave me something to do, a task to focus on. These miles were hard, but they would have been much worse without a target.

Through Painted Post, around mile 20

But then I missed a water stop. And it really was starting to warm up. When I’m running in the heat, I sometimes get a weird “exploding head” feeling, like my head is expanding in a highly unnatural way. It’s not a good feeling and I always pay attention to it. I either have to cool off or slow down. That was starting to happen. Around mile 23, I ducked into a medical tent and asked if they had ice. Ice will save your race on a hot day. They did have ice! But it was in a disposable cloth bag of some sort, not really cooling anything off. I stopped and fussed with the opening to get at the ice cubes. By the time I got the bag open, I knew I wouldn’t be catching Pacer Paul again. I dumped the ice down my bra and started running again. Mile 23: 10:32. Yuck.

The last few miles were hard. Really hard. I was very tired and I wanted to be done. I walked a few times, but each time, only for a few seconds. Each time I thought, no, get moving, start running again, even if it’s slow. Yes, I would have loved to run sub 4:05, which would be a BQ time for me as I am aging up. But much more important than hitting that BQ, I wanted to keep fighting the battle that comes at the end of every marathon. I thought about ChrisNewCoach, who has not been working with me long enough to know that I know how to hang tough at the end. I thought about the motto from High Power Running Mentor #1: This is what I came for. That horrible feeling at the end of a marathon is also the entire point of a marathon. To go to the edge and discover if you can still fight when you get there.

Mile 24: 9:26. I was still fighting. I couldn’t see Pacer Paul anymore. At this point, the course sort of zigzags around Corning. We were running around random parks with no spectators. At least there were more frequent water stops. I dumped water on myself at every single one.

Three miles to go. Two miles to go. I was counting to 100, trying to count people I was passing, just willing myself to be done. Mile 25: 10:11. It was hard.

Then someone yelled out “Just three more turns!” I remembered this race finishes with a Right on Bridge Street, Left on Market so we must be close. On the famous bridge, I walked a tiny bit but then saw the photographer and started running again. Hey, take your motivation where you can get it! Finally onto Market Street and I thought of ChrisNewCoach yelling “Go with her!” at New Haven. I didn’t even care if there was anyone to go with, I just needed to GO!





Mile 26: 9:45, last .2 at 9:02 pace. Boom!

Final time: 4:07:09.

I was SO happy to be done. I spotted Mervus and Rose who were at the finish line! I got my medal, a heat sheet, some water. I found Pacer Paul and thanked him.

Pacer Paul!

I went through the food line, got some chocolate milk and an apple, but nothing sounded that good. I really wanted to sit down. The medical folks found a seat for me and fetched my protein shake from Mervus’s backpack. They didn’t want to leave me alone but also didn’t want to supervise me so Mervus got to come into the runner area to keep an eye on me. I didn’t get into any further trouble. Eventually I texted my mom and called ChrisNewCoach on the phone. I got stretched out by the massage people. I went back through the food line and got some pizza for me and Rose.

We didn’t have any luck tracking down a place for a meal on Market Street so we collected our car – Mervus found parking ONE BLOCK from the finish line! We stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass to pick up our projects. They came out great! Then on to the Corning YMCA, which stays open so runners who have checked out of their hotel rooms to have a place to shower. I got cleaned up and we found some amazing ice cream and headed out of town.

Final Thoughts: I found so much joy at this race! I found myself again. This re-discovery had started to happen at Virginia Beach last spring but then it got shaken by the a-fib incident and strep throat in April and May. It’s been a really long road and I am not the same person or runner I was prior to surgery or frankly, prior to the pandemic. I’m not going to say “It all works out for the best in the end” because I am not sure this is the best and it certainly isn’t the end. But this race reminded me of what I can do. For that, I am grateful. Also for these guys, who mean the world to me.

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New Haven Road Race Race Report 2023

I’ve never run the New Haven Road Race 20K before, but this year it was four weeks out from my goal race, the Wineglass marathon. It’s the USATF National Champs for the 20K distance so lots of elites generally show up. It’s usually ridiculously hot and humid. This year was no exception. Training has been going well! It remains to be seen whether I am finally able to be more consistent post-surgery or whether this is one of those three month stretches without a medical crisis, but I have been feeling a lot better. Certainly getting past the afib incidents from the spring is a big deal. I also increased the amount of daily magnesium I am taking and I think that is really helping.

WARNING: Boring detour ahead. Skip the next paragraph entirely if you don’t care about calcium supplementation routines.

One of the trickiest aspects of my weird endocrine disorder is fueling for longer runs. The gland that tells my body to regulate calcium in my blood stream got damaged in surgery so I have to take oral calcium as well as activated vitamin D (calcitriol). This supplementation act is especially difficult when racing because the body uses up calcium faster than it can absorb calcium. This information is quite boring for regular people but for athletes with hypoparathyroidism, it’s critical.

Here is the supplementation routine I used for this race:
The night before the race, I took an extra .25 calcitriol and an extra 600mg calcium.

Race morning:
5:15am: ½ cup oatmeal, half an apple, cinnamon, maple syrup, Zipfizz, usual meds (600mg calcium, .5 calcitriol [.25 extra for race day], 1000 IUI vitamin D)
6:15am: 1000mg powdered calcium
7:15am: 500mg calcium chew [unwrapped prior to race, in a ziplock bag]
8:00am: 500mg calcium chew
8:25am (on the starting line): 1 Gu
4 miles: 1 Maurten plus 500mg calcium chew
8 miles: 1 Maurten plus 500mg calcium chew

After the race I had a Muscle Milk protein shake. Muscle Milk may have a lot of crap in it but it also has a really high level of calcium for an easily available protein shake. Then I had pizza and beer. Yay for pizza as a calcium delivery system! As far as I know, there is no calcium in beer. Some local brewery should get on that.

Back to the race.

I have been working with ChrisNewCoach since early July and it’s been going very well. He listens to all my medical crap, but then also says, Sarah, remember you are an athlete. Be sure to think like one. We had initially been targeting a 9 minute pace for New Haven, but a couple of strong workouts, some successful long runs – 9 minute pace started to feel on the conservative side. On the other hand, the weather was looking pretty terrible for racing. Ultimately we decided that maybe these things balanced each other out and I should aim for a 9 minute pace after all. ChrisNewCoach sent an early morning race day text (SO nice!) saying something like “It’s beautiful out right now!” He wasn’t fooling me, though I very much appreciate the positivity. It was “beautiful” for brunch at a café in a sundress, but pretty warm for a race.

I arrived about 7:15 and made my way over to the New Haven Green. The Manchester Running Company crew had a tent, so I could leave a bag there, which was super nice! I found Pippi and Badass Boomer and Badass Boomer and I warmed up together. We finished our warm up and snuck into the hotel for a quick pee in a real bathroom. I made it to the MRC pre-race picture! Then I went and lined up.

They were supposed to have some kind of markers for expected pace, but I didn’t see anything. I just looked for people who looked more or less as fast as I am and stood near them. Someone sang National anthem and then we were off!

This is my third race in New Haven this year so I am starting to recognize some parts of the city. The course for this race was sort of bow-tie shaped. I chunked it up in my mind into three parts. The first “bow,” then the long straight away, then the second “bow.”

The first mile clicked along and I saw friends cheering and running. Fun! My goal for the first chunk of the course was to run controlled and keep my mind quiet, almost blank. That apparently worked because I don’t remember much of this section of the course. It was quite warm so I dumped water on myself at every aid station. In other hot races, I’ve often been able to use ice to stay cool and that really helps, but I didn’t have anyone to give me ice here. If you’re a spectator wanting to help on a hot day: Ziplock bags full of ice are the bomb!

Somewhere just past mile 5, ChrisNewCoach found me. Yay! He had asked if I wanted him to run with me for awhile. Um, YES PLEASE! These miles flew by. We ran together on the stretch past the green. ChrisNewCoach knew a TON of people. Then we turned and ran through an industrial section that was exposed and hot. Running with him was definitely my favorite part of the race. Around mile 9, he said he had to go back to his family and told me I could finish strong.

I was pretty sure that that was true. A long race on a hot and gross day – it’s really easy to start walking. I definitely sometimes wanted to walk but not as much as I wanted to *not walk*. Some of the last four miles went through East Rock Park where the Refugee Race is. There was a nice downhill. I was extremely focused. I did a whole lot of counting. Finally the finish line came into view.

Just then ChrisNewCoach popped up again! I was pushing pretty hard but then a young girl with a blonde ponytail ran by me and he yelled out “Go with her!” I thought, oh, that’s crazy talk but then I did it! I didn’t stick with her the whole way but I did find another gear! Woot! Crossed the line in 1:55:08 on my watch. 1:55:47 gun time.

I finished like I always do, kind of hanging onto a fence of some sort. This time around, I just sat down on the ground next to the fence. Usually the medical crew doesn’t put up with nonsense like that, but instead of shooing me on my way, someone brought me a water. Then Badass Boomer came in! My voice is a lot better but not strong enough for her to hear me so a medical person went and fetched her. We watched more finishers and slowly got ourselves together and went to find friends. The post-race scene was SO fun. Lots of running chatter and hanging out with friends and then pizza and beer at the Bar bar.

Badass Boomer found a calculator that adjusts for conditions and we did some post-race analysis. I was aiming for 9 minute pace and I ran 9:11. But, adjusted for conditions, a 9 minute pace is 9:32 so I was quite a bit faster than that. A little reverse engineering says that my 9:11 adjusts to an 8:40 pace in good conditions.

I’m not one to make excuses. You run what you run. But I do want to know where I stand. I feel good about this race. The last year unfolded very differently from what I expected. I was more patient than athlete a lot of the time. Running with a chronic medical condition is complicated and I’m still figuring it out. But the athlete is coming back. That makes me smile.

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Casco Bay Swimrun Race Report – Part 2 – The Race

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30am. Not super well rested, but not exhausted. We planned to leave the AirBnB around 6:45am. Snarky Girl had brought her incredible coffee maker with her. Delicious espresso available at the push of a button! I had oatmeal with a banana and maple syrup. We expected the Casco Bay Swimrun would take us around 3 hours, maybe three and a half, but we weren’t planning to race it. We just wanted to finish – completing the swims would be enough of a triumph!

Swimrunners ready to go!

The regular ferry parking lot was full when we arrived but we found parking a block away. Swimrunners were walking quickly toward the ferry building. They took our drop bags right away so I put on the various lubricants, stuffed my stuff into a bag, and dropped it in the bin. I had a plastic bag for my paddles and other stuff but next time, I would just get a couple more carabiners and strap everything onto my belt, superhero style. We found seats on the ferry and off we went.

Now is the time to mention the fog. It was VERY foggy, total pea soup conditions. We were on the second ferry and shortly after launching, we could not see the first ferry, which couldn’t have been far in front of us. I got a little cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. We weren’t going to be able to see the islands we were swimming to. Not even close. Snarky Girl and I do not swim terribly straight even in perfect conditions. If we ended up swimming in circles, no one would be able to tell, not even us. Could we do this? Should we even try?

Luckily, the Coast Guard answered that question for us. Less than 10 minutes after we launched, one of the race directors got on the PA system. We were not sailing for Great Diamond Island, as planned. We were sailing directly to Peak’s Island, the last island on the course. The Coast Guard had pulled the plug on any open water swimming. The folks from Ödyssey Swimrun promised they were working on putting something together and they would let us know more when they figured out what it was.

My primary emotion at this news was relief. Thank God. Swimming in that fog would have been completely insane. I was so glad someone knew that. And now I wasn’t in charge of deciding anything. I relaxed and enjoyed the boat ride. We had some joking around. Eventually we got to Peak’s and walked over to the Lion’s Club. There was a lot of standing around. Every now and then a truck arrived with some gear and we all helped unload it. Every now and then the race directors gave us another announcement. They were fetching the folks off the long course and had to ferry them to Peak’s. They had half a course on Peak’s already marked. We would do a loop with two swims, no wait, one swim. The swim would be 1000 meters or maybe 500 meters. There would eventually be food and beer and they could at least offer a hot dog eating contest. We borrowed phones to text the husbands that they didn’t need to hurry. Eventually our families arrived and there was more hanging around. The race would start at 10am. No, 10:30. None of this bothered me at all. Everyone was in a good mood. As far as I could tell, all the racers were grateful to the race directors, who were clearly working hard to figure out “something.”

Happy to see our families! You should be able to see an island in the background of this photo. Note that you can’t even see all way to the edge of the field.

I was really hoping we could get in the water “a little bit” and that’s exactly what happened. Eventually they had a course together. The long course folks arrived and everyone started together. We had about a mile run, a short swim, and then a 3.5 mile or so run, for a total loop distance of 4.5 miles. Everyone could do the loop twice. We got good luck wishes from our families and walked to the start. We looked satisfyingly ridiculous. A big gang of swimrunners in different colored caps, some of us tethered together, running down the streets of Peak’s Island. Portions of the course were marked with swim caps, an ingenious idea.

Getting ready to swimrun at last!

The race directors had said to run to the beach and then run along the coast until we could see the yellow flags where we were supposed to exit the water. We had a pretty long beach run and then we spotted swimrunners heading into the ocean. And also getting out of the ocean. The weather app had said visibility was 50 feet. Now, the swim entrance and swim exit were (a little) more than 50 feet apart. But they were close enough together than many of us laughed out loud when we saw how short the swim was. I heard someone say “That’s barely worth getting wet for” and certainly that was an understandable sentiment. But still – we got to swim!

Swim portion circled in purple

Photo credit: Kent Mitchell. You can really see the fog here.

Despite having practiced transitioning from running to swimming many times, and in fact practicing it three times just the day before the race, I ran into the water and discovered that I had not engaged my pull buoy. Oops. We stopped and I got it properly settled between my legs. The first few strokes felt awkward and wrong. Something was up with my paddles. I called out to Snarky Girl to stop again. I looked the paddles but couldn’t figure out the problem so I showed them to Snarky Girl. I had them on backwards. Excellent! The shortest swim ever, but I still managed to fit in two serious goof-ups at the start!

The water was cold, really cold, and murky from all the swimrunners churning it up. It was such a ridiculously short swim that we could easily do it without getting our faces wet and I was pretty tempted to try. I got brave enough to put my face down for a few strokes and the swim was over. My watch says it lasted 3 minutes 38 seconds. Someone later said their watch measured 250 meters. I can believe that. We flopped ourselves out of the water, re-settled our gear, and started running again. We went up a fairly significant hill, wound around a neighborhood, then back down again.

After about a mile, we turned off the road and onto a single track trail. This was my favorite part of the race. For the first loop, we were completely packed in. You could only go as fast as the person in front of you. We were not itching to pass anyone and we didn’t. People were chatting and laughing. I could hear the Adorkables ahead of us and that was fun. I loved running on boards through tall grasses and along a path through a pine forest. We were all happy to be able to do *something*. At some point someone in the front of the line went the wrong way and a lot of people followed. The folks ahead of us noticed the mistake so then we were near the front of a smaller group. Eventually we came off the trail and back onto the road.

We were not pushing it. It’s HARD to run in a wetsuit, even a swimrun wetsuit! Plus our shoes were soaked and heavy. But mostly we just weren’t in any kind of hurry. Snarky Girl made some remarks about how one loop would be enough, etc etc, and I wondered if I could find the Adorkables and run with them if she decided to quit. But then the turn back to the finish was not really marked so we ran right by it and we were on the second loop before we even knew it. Snarky Girl sighed – she surely knew two loops was going to be her fate all along. We ran through town again and along the beach again but by now the crowds had thinned out dramatically.

The second swim went much better. Snarky Girl led and I was able to put my face in the water. She steered us further away from shore just to extend the swim a bit. Then – a real triumph – I figured out how to pee in the water! I hope the Adorkables are not mad that I peed in their suit. I think this is just part of the sport! We ran back up the big hill and down the other side. This time we were almost alone on the trail so it was a totally different feel. We popped back out onto the road, ready to pick our favorite beachside mansions where we imagined staying for next year’s race. Both of us picked up the pace a bit in the last mile and we passed a couple of teams, but that was really not the point at this event. Now the turn into the finishing area was marked and we ran across the grass and under the arch. Yay! We got some great pictures. It was a super fun day, though very different from expected.

We got some beer and some burgers. We got showered off a bit. We said hi to the other women from Miller’s Pond. Time to pack it up – the Wiliarty clan stopped in one more time at Standard Baking Co for some Fika for the road.

Post-race burgers – Yum!

It was definitely odd to have such a different race experience than expected. If the race had gone off as planned, the swimming would have been a major challenge for us. I like to think we could have finished. I give us maybe 75/25 odds in our favor. We would have been REALLY tired. Instead, we felt pretty good. We had a long slow run through a beautiful place and it was certainly an adventure. And, Team Mermatron snagged the last spot for Swimrun Cape Cod on Sept 16th. So, we’re giving it another go.

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Casco Bay Swimrun Race Report 2023 – Part 1 – Pre-Race

The idea:

It all started with a text from Snarky Girl a few years ago.

“Hey – we are in a park north of Berlin and people are running around with swim paddles! They look crazy. What do you think is going on?”

No idea, but it stuck in my mind. Time passed. I had surgery to have my thyroid out. I needed some kind of new adventure and started googling. Somehow I came across the Löw Tide Böyz podcast and the Ödyssey Swimrun website. Those people in the park had surely been swimrunning! Swimrun is a relatively new sport where teams of two run and swim together, usually through a beautiful natural landscape. A little more googling revealed a race in Portland, Maine, less than a four hour drive. Of course, we should do this! For more on swimrun, see this post.

The decision to do the race was easy. Choosing a team name took longer. Middletown Mermaids? Middlesexy Mermaids? Eventually we hit upon Team Mermatron. Rose let us know that the Mermatron is an actual creature. She’s a female siren mermaid dragon, who fights the Power Rangers. Perfect! That’s us in a nutshell. We registered for the Casco Bay short course, about 9 miles of running and 2 miles of swimming.




Swimrun training commenced as soon as I finished the Virginia Beach half marathon last March. At first “swimrun training” just meant “more swimming.” Snarky Girl and I could certainly handle 9 miles of running. We swim about once a week, but post-pandemic swimming workouts had topped out around 1200-1500 meters. We spent April getting used to being back in the pool on a regular basis and swimming longer distances.

We had essentially zero open water swimming experience, but that was about to change. Our “maiden voyage” was May 6th. We headed to Miller’s Pond, a beautiful state park that is only a few miles from where we live. Snarky Girl had a triathlon wetsuit. I had Mervus’s old sailing wetsuit. From high school. I could barely get it on and once in it, I could barely walk. The water was really cold. We swam about 150 meters across a little cove and we couldn’t put our faces in the water. At that moment, we both had serious doubts about whether we could complete this event at all!

But then we did an important thing. We ran back to where we had started swimming and tried again. The same 150 meters. The second time felt a lot more manageable. We put our faces in the water. We got across the cove a lot quicker. That 150 meters still felt really far, but maybe we could do this after all.

I have been learning about swimrun online. I know it’s popular to hate on Facebook but for niche interests, it’s ideal. I started posting questions in a swimrun Facebook group and suddenly another team, Team Adorkable, offered to lend us a set of swimrun wetsuits! Getting out of the sailing wetsuit and into the swimrun wetsuit was a major breakthrough. I could get the suit on! I could walk and even run! Things looked a lot more promising with those suits! THANK YOU Team Adorkable!

Swimrun training makes really cool maps!

From early May to mid-June, we kept at it. The next time out, we swam to Lizard Rock, much further than across the cove! We made friends in the middle of Miller’s Pond – two women who ended up signing up for Casco Bay! I swam almost all the way across Cedar Lake! A few days later, Snarky Girl joined me and we made it across the whole lake! It got warmer and we got braver and soon we were doing actual swimrun training sessions, running on the trails and swimming hither and yon across Miller’s Pond. Amazing.

Open water swimming has been…..Eye opening? Transformative? Maybe even life changing? I’ve heard that pool swimming is to open water swimming what treadmill running is to running outside. Now I understand that. You can go anywhere in the water! Seeing the edge of a pond from the middle of the pond is a completely different perspective. It’s like a part of the world that used to have a barrier around it suddenly opens up. I can imagine that people who are afraid to go in the woods and then get over that fear might have a similar feeling. At some point, we got good enough at open water swimming that it started to feel like we could just keep going. It feels like walking.

We did some swimrun practice so we could work on transitioning from running to swimming and back again. Mervus got me a very cool very big swimrun-specific pull buoy for Mother’s Day. We ordered our other required gear – a safety whistle and an Israeli bandage. Yikes.

A couple of weeks before the race, I took off for 10 days in Iceland. Interesting taper strategy. Luckily, Snarky Girl is highly tolerant. The one thing we didn’t find time for was going to Long Island Sound and swimming in the ocean.

The trip:

For the trip to Portland, we took along the husbands and the daughters. The sons both stayed home to work. We left in the early afternoon on Friday and arrived in Portland around dinner time. The AirBnb was great and we quickly headed downtown for dinner at the Green Elephant. Delicious!

The next day we had a decent agenda of swimrun activities planned. We started with a brunch with the Löw Tide Böyz at the Standard Baking Company. Swimrun originated in Sweden and swimrunners enjoy the Swedish tradition of Fika. There’s no English word for Fika (ALAS!) but it seems to mean coffee and treats with friends. Gotta love an event that includes a PASTRY phase! The Löw Tide Böyz is my favorite swimrun podcast – I am pretty sure they are the only swimrun podcast. I have worked my way through a decent percentage of the back catalog in preparation for this event and I was excited to meet Chipper and Chris in person. Rose was excited too! She got their autographs! We all enjoyed the Fika. Standard Baking Company is not to be missed!

Meeting the Low Tide Boyz!

Standard Baking Company

After Fika, we wandered around Portland a bit and then headed to East End Beach for a swimrun clinic. We got to meet the Adorkables in person! This was our chance to get in the water and see how cold it was. Answer: COLD. But not as cold as that very first swim at Miller’s Pond. We got past the temperature and put our faces in the water. Super grateful to Team Envol for organizing this event. I am not sure we would have been brave enough to go in on our own and it really helped to know what to expect.

Meeting the Adorkables!

Team BABS! Our friends from Miller’s Pond!

After the swimrun clinic, we headed to packet pick-up. Apparently so did every other swimrunner because the line was crazy. We waited a *very* long time, but it gave us a chance to scope people out and chat with the swimrunners in line near us. It was a mix of first-timers like us and folks with more experience. Even the long line didn’t make people grouchy. Rose had a chance to get her picture taken with the Adorkables so that was worth the wait!

Eventually we got our timing chip and collapsible cup and headed to the Great Lost Bear brewery for late afternoon lunch/dinner. The restaurant was really fun – you could easily do a week-long eating tour of Portland. Eventually we went back to the AirBnB, where we played a game, watched a nature show and ate a bunch of delicious bread. I got all my gear together, including a drop bag with a change of clothes. We went to bed.

I went to bed, but not to sleep. This race scared me. Not the running, which would be fine. But the ocean swimming, which would be cold and pretty dang long. For some reason, I like challenging myself. But it’s one thing to challenge a mostly healthy body to a running race. After all, you can always stop and walk. It’s quite another to challenge a body with a known calcium deficiency to a race involving swimming. What if something about the temperature swings or the length of the event caused some kind of severe calcium drop and I started cramping while in the water? That has never happened. I planned to supplement with calcium before the race. I have switched to a liquid calcium and I had little waterproof bottles ready to go. But still. What if this time in pushing to find some kind of edge, I pushed too far? How much of this anxiety was normal pre-race jitters and how much was genuine worry and how much of the genuine worry was justified? No way to know.

I turned on my favorite “Sleepcast” meditation on the Headspace app, “Cat Marina 2”. But the description of boats and cats just reminded me of the pre-race panic attack I experienced in Philadelphia. I tried “Cozy Farmhouse” but that didn’t work either. Finally “After Carnival” did the trick. I drifted off to a lovely voice describing a town getting quiet after carnival festivities. I got less sleep than would have been ideal but a whole lot more than I got before Philly.

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Health Update May 2023

After a few months of peace and quiet on the health front, the past few weeks have been difficult again. Not nearly as challenging as last summer and fall, thank God. But it’s been mentally difficult to wonder if all I will ever get is 10-12 weeks of stability.

In my last update, I reported that I had been able to drop another calcitriol pill. YAY! All was well until I got sick. On Monday April 23rd, I tested positive for strep throat. My endocrinologist assured me that antibiotics were fine to take and that an illness such as strep was not severe enough to cause issues with calcium. WRONG. I don’t know if it was the antibiotics or the strep, but my calcium levels noticeably dropped. When I returned to swimming on Friday, even pushing off the wall caused calf cramps. Saturday’s run set off bizarre calf twitching. Things settled down by Sunday. The first round of antibiotics was not enough to kick the strep so I started round two on May 4th.

By the weekend I was feeling mostly better. I had planned to run a 10K on May 7th and I decided to go ahead with that. Probably a mistake. It was a warm day and an hour or so after the race, I went into atrial fibrillation. I have historically had several incidents of afib, 2010-2013 and once in 2016, but then no more until the Philadelphia marathon last fall. I ran Philly under extraordinarily stressful conditions and went into afib about 12 hours after the race. I had very much hoped Philly would be a one-off event, but no such luck.

This time around, I came out of the afib 24 hours after onset, on Monday morning. I went to Quest for a calcium check Monday at lunch. Results came back Tuesday morning, calcium a tad lower than it had been, but still well within the range we are aiming for. So – just to be clear – The first time I could go for blood work was 24 hours after the onset of afib with results 24 hours after that. 48 hours between the onset of afib and information about the thing potentially causing the afib. This is why an at-home calcium meter would be SO helpful. There are companies trying to develop this instrument, but I am not that hopeful that it will be available any time soon, possibly not in my lifetime. Remember, only 80,000 cases of hypopara in the United States, so not that many customers. This is so clearly a case of the market not providing what people need that I am tempted to use it as an example when teaching political economy. After this incident of afib, I requested my endocrinologist put in standing orders for stat blood work at the hospital lab, which has longer hours than Quest. Hopefully next time around I can get information faster.

In other news, I had a long-awaited appointment with Dr. Michael Mannstadt at Mass General in Boston this week. Dr Mannstadt is one of the world experts in hypoparathyroidism. I’ll just summarize some takeaways from that appointment:

Many doctors say “I am so sorry” when they find out about the hypoparathyroidism. Dr. Manndstadt is the first medical practitioner to directly inquire about my mental health in the wake of the diagnosis. He is one of the kindest doctors I have ever met.

I am approaching the one year anniversary of the surgery. That will be a difficult day, not just because anniversaries are hard, but because the one year point is when hypopara officially gets declared permanent. Kevin is very good at reminding me that this is partly because humans check how things are going at the one year point. Bodies do not really care about time. But statistically speaking, the chances of full recovery at this point are very low, which Dr. Mannstadt confirmed, as expected. However, because I have been able to come off the calcitriol, he said there is “a small amount of hope.” I said I would take that. It’s a tricky balancing act between maintaining hope and working towards acceptance.

In obscure testing news, Dr. Mannstadt wants me to start checking albumin levels whenever I check calcium.

In other testing news, he is helping me think differently about the upcoming 24 hour urine test. This test checks how much calcium your body is excreting through your urine. I could take loads of calcium and probably feel physically much better. But if you take too much calcium without functioning parathyroids, it all exits the body through the kidneys, leading to kidney stones. The 24 urine test will help us assess the risk to my kidneys. Frankly, I have been avoiding this test because I do not want any additional bad news. Also, my endocrinologist recommended waiting until we see how much calcitriol I can drop. But Dr. Mannstadt said to think instead of the 24 hour urine test as a way of gathering information. If that test comes out okay, I have more wiggle room to take more calcium and perhaps feel better. This is a very helpful psychological shift. Will you eventually be getting pictures of pee collection? Almost certainly.

The other thing Dr. Manndstadt said that is really sticking with me is “My other athletes with hypopara…..” He has other athletes with hypopara!! It is extremely difficult to find other people with this condition attempting to engage in competitive sports. For many hypopara patients, just going about their day is already quite taxing. Lots of people find it difficult to hold down full-time jobs, let alone engage in sports. But I know there are hypopara athletes out there. If any of you read this and I don’t know you yet, PLEASE send me a message. I am trying to find you.

This is plenty long enough already, but a quick voice update. My amazing speech pathologists at Yale recommended that I switch to a practice at UConn that specializes in vocal performance. Even though the speech pathologists at Yale were outstanding, the otolaryngologist (this is the voice doctor) was not. She was horrible. She made me feel like my voice and my desire to sing were not important, which definitely made me feel like *I* was not important, and not worthy of care. It was one of the worst medical appointments in a year marked by some truly bad medical appointments. Voice injuries are so much more psychologically difficult than I understood. NEVER make someone feel like their voice does not matter. I still get angry when I think about that appointment. Doctors supposedly take the Hippocratic Oath – first, do no harm. A lot of harm was done to me that day.

Today’s evaluation at UConn was a totally different story! Dr. LaFreniere was wonderful. He was exceptionally kind. He apologized for every unpleasant aspect of the evaluation – having a camera stuffed down your nose and into your throat to film your vocal cords is not comfortable. Best of all, he referred to me as a “vocalist.” This practice specializes in rehabilitating the injured voices of singers. He said it was extremely likely that I have recordings of some of his patients at home. He has a lot of confidence that they can help me and so do I.

In further good news, when I had this examination by scope back in July 2022, my vocal cords were not stretching at all. That’s why my voice was so monotone. At the follow-up appointment in August, there was some minimal movement. Today’s examination revealed nearly normal movement! There are still some abnormalities. A little asymmetry between the vocal cords, some potential weakness, still far too much tension in my neck muscles. Also some evidence of a bit of acid reflux, possibly impacting the vocal cords. I will start therapy with the speech pathologists at UConn as soon as they can fit me into their schedule.

So, there you have it. I’ve learned that more people than I know are reading these updates so I will keep them coming. My main takeaway for today is the same as always: Be Kind. I met two new doctors this week, which is very stressful because I never what to expect. Both Dr. Mannstadt and Dr. LaFreniere were kind, took time to explain everything, and helped me feel valued as a patient and more importantly, as a person. Kindness isn’t always free. It might cost us time and patience. But it is priceless.



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