Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goals for 2017: Results


This year I decided to set only three goals and judge them by a percentage met rather than a simple yes or no. Unfortunately, I can't check a pure yes in any of them, though a lot of that had to do with mitigating circumstances.

Here's the goals, results, and commentary:

Goal 1:
Set a PR at the marathon distance.
  • This one was the most out of my control. My PR is 2:50:28, and I made two attempts at setting a new one this year.
  • In June, I raced Grandma's Marathon. While training for the race, I was dealing with some sort of gastrointestinal issue that had me running about half the mileage of what I'd normally run. I didn't come close to a PR, running a 3:04:26.
  • In October I took another shot at the Milwaukee Marathon. After the course was measured and marked incorrectly last year, the race organizers assured participants that it would be accurate this year. It was not. 
    • The course ended up being 0.8 miles short. Barring something strange happening, I would have almost definitely run a PR, running the 25.4 miles in 2:45:03. 
    • I was feeling great at that point, hadn't hit the wall at all, and was speeding up. My last few miles were under 6:20, giving me a big cushion for a PR.
    • If I had just maintained my average pace overall pace for the 0.8 miles it was short, I would have finished right around 2:50:15 -- a 23 second PR. 
  • Alas, two things totally out of my control led me to not meet this goal. There's two ways I could calculate this by percentages. At Milwaukee I ran a PR for 25.4 miles, putting me at 97% of a marathon, and at Grandma's I ran 94% of my marathon PR time.
  • I'll go with the Milwaukee time and say I met 97% of my goal this year.
Goal 2: Break 17 minutes in the 5K.
  • My first try at this goal ended in 17:38, so I was feeling pretty confident when I ran a 17:14 on a much hillier course.
  • Unfortunately, that was as close as I got. Due to being in the thick of marathon training for most of the fall, two lower leg injuries and recovering from the Milwaukee Marathon, I didn't get a chance to give this goal my best effort.
  • So, my 17:14 means I met my goal 96%.

Goal 3:
Set a new indoor mile PR.
  • I only took one try at this goal, and I ran a 4:55. I was going to take another shot at it this December, but my lower leg injuries kept me from racing.
  • For only racing the mile once, I'm pretty happy I made it to 99% of my goal.
Though I didn't meet any of these goals 100%, considering the outside factors I had to deal with, I'm pretty happy with how my year of running went. Overall, I was 97.3% of the way to meeting my goals.

Did you have goals this year, and if so, what were they? How'd you do at meeting them?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mental Illness Prevention: Mental Health Myths and Facts


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Myth: Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illness.

Like a lot of this myths, this one is mostly false, but there is some truth. One can do everything right in staying mentally healthy, and she or he can still end up with mental health problems. There is a major hereditary and biological component to mental illness, and everyone has their limit to how much stress they can handle. Combine a genetic predisposition to mental illness with stressful life circumstances, and one is bound to have mental health problems.

Though sometimes inevitable, mental health issues, mental illness, and the symptoms of mental illness can be prevented. I'm still learning more ways to prevent symptoms of bipolar along with ways to deal with those symptoms when they arise.

Now that I have an almost two year old, I think more about talking to him about mental illness. Obviously the conversation will change as he grows older, but as time goes by, I want to be honest with him about my mental illness. As I've said, there is a biological component to mental illness, so I want him to have a better set of skills to stay mentally healthy than I had growing up.

All the things I can teach him and the questions I can ask him as he grows older are beyond the scope of this post, but I do want to share some commons things that anyone can do to to help prevent mental health issues in themselves and in loved ones. Practice the following skills, and share these skills with your children or children you are responsible for:
  • Stay in a good sleep cycle. 
    • This means going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every day. 
    • Do something relaxing before bed. 
    • Get off screens and/or utilize programs like f.lux and night shift (on Apple products) within an hour or two before bed. 
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for sleep, a set of skills I learned in The Insomnia Workbook after it was recommended to me by a doctor, helps me keep good sleep hygiene and helped me cope with poor sleep.
  • Be mindful.
    • Instead of always listening to something/multitasking, take time to focus on exactly what you're doing. 
    • When you're feeling stressed, focus on external stimuli through your five senses to bring yourself into the moment. Thinking about the past can lead to anger, resentment, and depression, and thinking about the future can lead to anxiety.
  • Take time to relax. 
    • Meditate, take a walk (or a run) out in nature. 
    • Forget about your daily tasks for a while and try to bring your mind somewhere else. You can even take mini-relax breaks. I've found some simple breathing exercises such as breathing in for a count of four, holding for seven, and breathing out for eight can help bring down my anxiety level. 
    • There tons of resources out there to help with meditation/relaxation -- from videos on YouTube to apps like Headspace, find something that works for you.
  • Exercise. Exercising is a great way to improve brain chemistry, physical health, and mood. Find things to do that you enjoy, and try to stick with a workout routine.
  • If you're struggling or have struggled in the past, especially if you have a mental illness, keep your appointments for medication management, therapy, and/or any support groups. The best time to work on your mental health is when you're feeling well -- not when you're in crisis mode.

According to mentalhealth.gov, helping to prevent mental illness, especially in children, can lead to:
  • Higher overall productivity
  • Better educational outcomes
  • Lower crime rates
  • Stronger economies
  • Lower health care costs
  • Improved quality of life
  • Increased lifespan
  • Improved family life
What skills do you have to keep yourself mentally healthy and to prevent mental health difficulties?


Friday, December 29, 2017

I can't do anything to help: Mental Health Myths


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Myth: I can't do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

I don't know how many people actually believe this, but I'm guessing not many. I think the real issue is not that people believe they can't help someone who's struggling with mental health, but that they're not sure what to say or do for that person.

It's not an unusual to feel helpless when someone is dealing with mental health issues or even just common emotional difficulties. The loss of a job, a breakup, or the passing of a friend or family member are all things we see friends and family go through, and often we feel powerless to offer any help or comfort.

What I've found helpful is simply someone being there with me -- just to hang out. There's no need to try and say something profound. My experience with both the giving and receiving end of emotional support is that one of the best things you can say is, "What can I do to help?" You can leave it at that, or you can offer specific things. Would they like a meal dropped off? Some help with taking care of their children or some housework? Would they simply like to spend some time with you?

There's not one-size-fits-all approach to help someone struggling with mental illness, but I've never heard someone say they were upset by a general offer of support. I would encourage caution when asking the person specific questions about their situation. Some people would prefer not to talk about what they're going through, and especially consider the timing. 

No one wants to start crying at work or in school. It's fine to ask someone if they'd like to talk, but I'd avoid specific questions unless that person opens up to you. I know that sometimes when I've been dealing with symptoms of bipolar -- especially when they're more acute -- I don't want to about it. I'd rather just keep the conversation light.

That said, if someone is really struggling, you shouldn't worry about hurting her or his feelings. The Mental Health Myths and Facts article gives some advice for offering that person support:
  • Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help
  • Helping them access mental health services
  • Learning and sharing the facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn't true
  • Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else
  • Refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as "crazy"
Besides these things, I'd also remind you that if you think someone is in serious danger of hurting her or himself, you need to do whatever you can to get them help immediately. If you're on the phone with someone who's threatening to hurt herself, call 911 immediately and give them the person's location. If you're with the person, get them to a hospital in whatever way you can.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

C Tolle Run Podcast


With winter in full swing, lots of us spend some extra time indoors. Snow, darkness, and cold temperatures often has us spending more time on the treadmill. I usually listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts to make treadmill runs go by faster since a twenty minute run often feels like running an hour outside.

I'll be posting about some other podcasts in the next few days, but first I wanted to feature Minnesota Olympian Carrie Tollefson's podcast. Carrie worked on the webshow "C Tolle Run" for years, and the show has now shifted to a podcast format.

For the most recent episodes and to subscribe on iTunes, go to: C Tolle Run - Podcasts

I had the pleasure of asking Carrie some questions over email. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity:


What factors led you to switch from the videos to the podcast format?

We loved doing the video episodes, but felt it was time to try something new. The longer format interviews allow us to get to know our subjects better, and podcasts are so easy for people to listen to in the car, while they are making dinner, or working out! We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our listeners.

What are some things that have been rewarding when working on the podcast?

I think people are way more open on the podcast. Once the red light goes on with the camera, people usually freeze, and with the podcast it is just us chatting! Everyone has really opened up and let us into their world, especially on the running podcasts. People tend to forget we are recording and they just chat. Conversations have been very authentic and real, and I just love that.

What are some challenges you've faced on the podcast?

Scheduling can be tricky, but we make it work! We love doing the interviews on-the-run, but sometimes we have noise issues if we’re running near traffic or a construction site and the mics will pick that up.

What have been some of your favorite moments/interviews?

Oh that is a tough one! I really and genuinely love every interview. I feel like everyone has a story of how they Get After Life, and that is what our goal at C Tolle Run is -- to be inspired by whoever is on the other end and to hear how others make it happen. Life is hard, busy, fun, motivating, scary, happy and the list goes on and on. Hearing from others is what I find so rewarding. Some days I wake up and wonder how I will get it all done, and other days I am ready to tackle whatever is thrown my way. I have always surrounded myself with like minded, goal driven people, and those are the people I want on my show.

If I have to chose a couple of episodes I would say Gabe Grunewald's (episode link) and Justin Grunewald's (episode link) on the run episodes. Very open and honest about their life, marriage, running, and fight to overcome cancer again. To be able hear their own perspectives in their individual interviews was very real and honest. I am just so thankful running has given us all so much and especially the support that this community gives is amazing.

Tell me about the editing and production side of podcasting:

Well that is one thing I don't do for C Tolle Run. Julie handles the production and Tim handles the editing. I am so thankful to have their help and guidance and I think we make a really good team! There are times when I give my input and try give my creative ideas, but those two really are the reason we have a podcast. I just get to be the lucky one on the mic.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Therapy and Self-Help: Mental Health Myths and Facts


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?

I have some experience with this myth. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar around the age of nineteen, I’d just had a full manic episode — scary stuff. Still, after I came out of the episode and went back to college, I didn’t think much about how my behavior and ways of thinking that could exacerbate or lead to manic or depressive episodes. I figured my medication would be enough.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found it’s very important to have a toolbox of skills of which to draw from when coping with and preventing symptoms of mental illness. After my last major depressive episode, which led to a hospitalization, I picked up a self-help book on sleep called, “The Insomnia Workbook.” Using the cognitive behavioral therapy skills in it has definitely helped me manage my sleep, keeping me more mentally healthy.

After a previous depressive episode that also led to a hospitalization, I went to a skills group on DBT, or, “dialectical behavoir therapy.” The skills I’ve learned in that class have helped maintain my mental health and is especially helpful in managing anxiety, depression, and the racing thoughts

While medications are imperative for me to stay mentally balanced, using the skills I learn in therapy makes a huge difference. Therapy is not just me sitting and talking about my problems. Instead, I get homework on managing my thinking and my behaviors.

I could write for hours on the skills I’ve learned, how they help, ones that haven’t helped, and how I struggle when I stop practicing those skills, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Running and exercise have also been a huge self-help tool in staying physically and mentally fit.

There are two angles to look at about therapy, self-help, and medication — the perspective of the person struggling with mental illness and the friends and family members of that person.

First, for those struggling with a diagnosis of mental illness, whether newly diagnosed or not, be patient. Be gentle with yourself and work slowly at building skills to cope with mental illness. You.may need medication, and you may not. What’s important is finding a care team that you feel is working in your best interest and wants to help you reach your goals. This care team can include doctors, therapists, support groups, and close friends and family members.

It can take time to find that team, especially given the cost and access barriers in the mental health field, but again, be patient.

For those who need psychotropic medications, I would recommend finding a clinician who will take time to coordinate with your therapist, loved ones, and your family practitioner to do the best she or he can to get you on the right medication and the right dose. I’d also recommend seeing a nurse practitioner rather than a psychiatrist. There are definitely good psychiatrists, but I have found the nurse practitioners are more responsive and willing to be in partnerships with the patients rather than, “here’s your prescription and good luck.”

Second, for friends and family of a person diagnosed with mental illness, be patient. Don’t expect that your loved one should just take her or his pills and be fine. For one thing, psychotropic medications can take two weeks or more to be effective, so you won’t see a change for a while. Also, it often takes several tries to find the right medication for that individual. Remember that your loved one is going through a difficult time with their mental health. Instead of telling them what they should be doing, ask them what you can do to help.

In my previous blog post, I linked an article from MentalHealth.gov called, “For Friends and Family.” If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to read the whole thing. The article gives great advice on talking with someone you’re concerned about because of their mental health:

Medications for mental illness can quite literally be lifesavers. I shudder to think where I’d be had there not been medications for bipolar. However, while medications can be a godsend, they are not tiny white magic bullets. Therapy, self-help, and the support of a care team are vital in coping with and recovering from mental illness.

What types of self-help, therapy, and daily routines do you use to keep mentally fit?

Favorite Running Podcasts


Last year I shared a post on some of my favorite running podcasts. Winter is a great time to listen to podcasts as many people are spending more time working out indoors. As a parent, I also like to listen to running-related podcasts as I clean around the house, fighting the never ending battle of putting away toys and doing dishes.

Below is an updated list of some favorite podcasts along with an article from Competitor Running about five more podcasts I'm also supposed to be listening to.

C Tolle Run
In another post I go more in-depth about this podcast, but suffice to say, it is excellent. Carrie Tollefson is local here in the Twin Cities, and her podcast's topics range from running, health, life, and to all their intersections. Listening while running, especially on the episodes where she interviews her guests on the run, is like listening in on a conversation as you run with training partners.

Marathon Training Academy:
This is a great podcast with lots of interesting guests, race reports, and tips for running. Though it's called "Marathon Training Academy," there is still plenty of good information for non-marathon runners.  have incorporated some tips, especially from guests, into my daily runs. I've listened to a ton of episodes, and have enjoyed almost all of them.

Personal Best
Rodale used to put out The Runner's World Show and Human Race, but although those two podcasts are over, as of this writing you can still listen to back episodes. In their place, Runner's World is putting out Personal Best, a podcast that encompasses all sorts of sports besides running. I don't enjoy it as much as Human Race and The Runner's World Show, but I have so many things to listen to right now that after a few episodes it's no longer on my list.

For additional podcast ideas, check out 5 Podcasts Every Runner Should Be Listening To.

In a few days, I'll also be posting about non-running podcasts you may enjoy. I'm thinking about doing a post about audiobooks too, but only if any of my readers would be interested.

Have you listened to any of these podcasts? If so, what do you think?

Also, would you be interested in hearing about some of the audiobooks I've enjoyed listening to while running?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sharing Hope: Light in Darkness


Can darkness overcome light? It's an interesting question to ponder, and I'll come back to it from a physical science standpoint a little later.

At times it seems like darkness is overcoming the world. In Syria, Iraq, Myanmar,  Somalia and many other places, war rages. Violent acts, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and social injustice take place every day, many with seeming impunity.

Darkness is easy to find, and we can even find it within us. Most Americans fail to acknowledge the privilege of being the richest human beings on the planet — if your family earns even $10,000 a year, you are richer than 84% of the world's population. But instead of sharing our abundance of possessions and resources, we often continue to fill our lives with things we don’t need and spend our money and time on triviality. Instead of seeking understanding of those different than us, we often put ourselves in an us versus them mentality, protects what’s “ours” rather than seeing the needs of others.

In our own lives, darkness surrounds us at times. Work, relationship, financial hardship, emotional and health problems can make it feel as if darkness is closing in on us.

With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to see the world as a dark place that’s getting darker.

Let me tell you about a dark time in history:

A couple thousand years ago there was a king in the Roman territories ordered all the baby boys born in Bethlehem killed. Christians believe that Jesus was born into this dark time.

Whether this was an actual historical event can be debated, but what's not up for debate is how brutal and villainous King Herod was. Among other things, he murdered his own sons to solidify his position as king of Judea.

According to the book of Matthew, over 2,000 years ago, magi (or wise men) from the east, came to the court of King Herod, and asked to worship the King of the Jews (and they weren't talking about Herod). Herod told the magi to find this king, then come back, so he could go worship this new king too. The magi ended up finding a poor young couple with a baby, worshing the baby, giving the couple some gifts, and then, having been warned in a dream not to come back to Herod, headed back east.

When Herod figured this out, he decided to have all the children two years and under slaughtered. However, the young couple, Mary and Joseph, escaped and headed to Egypt.

This isn't the Christmas story we're used to. We like to think about all the light — angels singing, stars shining, and all the brightness that comes with Christmas.

And yet the darkness remains. We see it 2,000 years ago, and we see it today. We ask: how can a loving God let so much darkness into the world. I don’t understand it and don’t have an easy answer. What I do know, however, is that while there is a lot of darkness in the world, there is also light.

There is no scientific basis of a good and loving God. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. However, there is also evidence of light and hope all over. Christians believe not in a vengeful God quick to punish any wrongdoing. We believe in a God who became human and was born into poverty, spent a life showing how serving others, spending time with friends and family, and worshiping God is more fulfilling than the accumulation of popularity, possessions, and power.

Though there's plenty of darkness in the world, there is also so much light. Darkness in this world can be depressing, but darkness cannot overcome the light. From a pure mathematical standpoint, darkness is simply the absence of light. Because of what Jesus has done, creation is being filled with the Creator's light, and as Christmas approaches, whether you celebrate it religiously or otherwise, consider all the ways where light chases out darkness:

The light on the faces of carolers singing in a choir or on the streets or in a nursing home. The light on the face of a child who received a Christmas present from a stranger because her parents couldn't afford one. The light on the faces of friends and family as then spend some extra time together over the holidays.

And we can share that light. We can show our gratitude for the light by giving back — giving of our time, treasures, and talents to serve our fellow humans.

Will we ever be perfect at those things? No. But I believe in a God who became became human perfection for me. We have a God who offers unconditional forgiveness and still guides us to share our joy — our joy for the light. to do what we can in a short time to bring joy, to bring hope, and shine some light, however dim, into darkness.

If darkness is only the absence of light, then light cannot be overcome by darkness. Though it may be hard to believe in this dark world, light has come, and we can show our gratitude for the light by helping spread the light of hope into the darkness.

How do you, or how do you want to share hope and gratitude this holiday season?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hope for Mental Illness: Mental Health Myths and Facts


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Myth: There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.

This is a myth I often succumb to, and for me this myth is somewhat true. For the foreseeable future, and likely for the rest of my life, I will have bipolar. When times are good, sometimes I think that maybe things will stay like this. Maybe I’ll stay balanced. Maybe I won’t fall into a depressive state or have another manic episode.

Unfortunately, I likely will continue to experience the symptoms of bipolar to varying degrees. I’ll likely have more manic episodes. I’ll likely have more manic episodes and mixed states. Medications I take can or have stopped working. There’s a better than average chance I’ll end up in the hospital again.

These things may all sound depressing, but despite the likelyhood of relapse, that doesn’t mean there won’t be times that are good. There will be. There will be long stretches of recovery. Even during manic and depressive episodes, good can still come.

Depressive episodes can teach me to be more empathetic. The techniques I use to help manage and recover from them often help me see the blessings in my life. The kindness shown to me, my material blessings, friends, family, and employment — all things I can use to share with others.

It’s harder to see the good in manic episodes. I often do things that are embarrassing or that make my life more difficult. I overshare about my personal life, talk too much, and often interrupt others when they are talking. I write emails and post on social media things I normally wouldn’t, and at times I engage in communication that I don’t remember later.

I wish I could say with certainty that I will fully recover from bipolar, but I know that it’s likelier I won’t. Still, sometimes there is some good that comes from manic episodes. If I can manage to stay focused on one thing at a time, I can often accomplish more than I normally would — especially cleaning and writing.

Learning strategies that have helped me to not over communicate and stay focused on one thing at a time when manic is somewhat a recovery in itself. Having strategies to mitigate and reduce the length of a bipolar episode make my ability to function “normally” in my personal and professional life have made me feel better about my bipolar.

While some mental illnesses can be chronic, many with mental health problems will recover completely or go through long stretches of functioning “normally.” Family and friends can help loved ones cope with and recover from mental illness in a wide variety of ways.

According to MentalHealth.gov, support from friends and family is paramount in helping someone struggling with mental health problems. I encourage you to read the whole article, “For Friends and Family Members,” but I’ll share some highlights below, starting with the benefits of learning about mental health and mental illness (bullet points taken from MentalHealth.gov):
  • Improved recognition of early signs of mental health problems
  • Earlier treatment
  • Greater understanding and compassion
There are also many ways you can help support a friend or family member struggling with mental illness. Here are some ideas from MentalHealth.gov:

  • Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help
  • Expressing your concern and support
  • Reminding your friend or family member that help is available and that mental health problems can be treated
  • Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health problems come up
  • Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about him or her
  • Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks
  • Including your friend or family member in your plans—continue to invite him or her without being overbearing, even if your friend or family member resists your invitations
  • Educating other people so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate
  • Treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy
There is all kinds of other good information on the “For Friends and Family Members" article on MentalHealth.gov, and again, I really encourage you to read the entire article. Obviously not all the advice is appropriate for everyone and your approach to supporting friends and family should be tailored to their needs.

I've been incredibly blessed with supportive friends and family during the times I've struggled with bipolar. Calls and cards from friends, visits in the hospital, and friends and family sharing their struggles with mental health have all helped me get through some tough times.

How about you? How have you or how do you want to support a friend or family member struggling with mental health issues? Or, how do you want to be supported when you're struggling with mental health problems?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Character Flaws and Mental Health: Myths and Facts








This post is a continuation of my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Another common myth of mental illness is that if people just try harder they can overcome their mental illness. I see this one all the time. In fact, sometimes I believe this one myself. Sure, there are things in my control that can help me avoid or mitigate symptoms of bipolar, but I often blame myself for things I can't control. I think: if I just try harder, I won't feel depressed, or have a manic episode. I'm certainly not perfect, but sometimes it seems I'm doing everything right and I still cycle into a manic or depressive episode.


People saying: just take your pills, just go to therapy, just cheer up -- Definitely doesn't help. I take my pills. I go to therapy. I try to set up boundaries to keep when I cycle into a manic state. If there were a magic formula to make my symptoms of bipolar disappear, I'd've done my best to it and use it.


While some may not necessarily believe this myth, their actions make it seem that way. Mental illness is not caused by some defect of character or lack of effort. There's a fine line between supporting a friend or family member, and making her and him feel she or he is not trying hard enough.


Attitudes supporting this myth occur intentionally and accidentally. Clearly, telling someone to, "just get over it," would be crossing the line. Telling someone, "it's all in your head," is also crossing that line. While those things are obvious, there are more subtle ways you may make people think you believe this myth.


Telling a story about how you felt sad or anxious once but then did something about it and are now recovered probably won't be helpful -- especially if you don't have a mental illness yourself. Giving advice and how that person should deal with her or his mental illness may also make them feel like you think they are not trying hard enough.


The tough thing about this myth is that sometimes people succumb to it with the best intentions. They want to help. They want to see their friends or family members recover, so they offer advice they think will help them recover.


I'm not saying all advice is bad and that all those who offer advice believe that people with mental illness are victims of their own making. Some advice can be good and helpful, but I'd encourage those who feel the need to give advice to wait until they are asked for advice.


There are, however, some instances where giving advice is necessary whether the person is asking or not. You are not falling prey to the myth when you give advice to someone who is clearly in distress or, especially, if you feel they are in danger of hurting themselves or someone else.


I read a story about a young woman who was frustrated that her friends would give her advice about dealing with her anxiety. She wrote how she only wanted to cope with and talk about her anxiety with her therapist. A lot of what she said rang true, but I also got the feeling that she was being stubborn and possibly missing out on good advice.


She said that her friends would tell her to take deep breaths when she was losing control of her emotions and nearing a state of panic. She would not take deep breaths because she knew it wouldn't work. While she might not realize it, her friends were giving her good advice. If she was starting to hyperventilate from anxiety, she should be taking slow, deep breaths. It may not make her feel better right away, but there's a good chance it would keep her symptoms from getting worse.


But here's the rub: she'd probably received too much unsolicited advice, so when she heard good advice, she tuned it out. This is not uncommon for those who feel others are judging them for their mental illness. Mental health has both environmental and biological factors, so many people diagnosed with a mental illness will be dealing with the symptoms of that illness for their entire lives. No amount of advice, medications, or therapy is going to make those symptoms go away forever.


So, be careful with giving advice. Don't make people feel like you're judging them and that they are somehow to blame for their mental illness. And those experiencing mental health issues: be gracious. Ask for advice on occasion, and try not to get offended by unsolicited advice. Usually, someone just wants to help.


If you do feel like giving some advice for maintaining or improving mental health, what is it? I'm soliciting your opinion: What is something you do to stay mentally healthy?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Job Stress: Mental Health Myths and Facts


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

This one is tough for me to write about, so I'll going share some practical tips for managing workplace stress first, and my own thoughts and experiences at the end.

Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

You've likely said or heard someone say, "I'm taking a mental health day." Any job, from doctor to fry cook, can help or hurt our mental health. Difficult coworkers, supervisors, or expectations we put on ourselves can lead to too much stress and diminished mental health. For those with mental illness, these things can be even more difficult. Part of ending the stigma surrounding mental illness should make a "mental health day" just as valid as a sick day for a cold, headache, or stomach bug.

While mental illness can interfere with employment, people with mental illness are no worse at their jobs than other workers. Studies from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) show that workers with mental illness are as productive as other workers. In fact, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, those prone to anxiety can actually have an advantage in workplace performance.

There are many things you can do for yourself, and many things you can do for others, to help manage workplace stress. Keeping stress at a manageable level improves the environment not just for people with mental illness, but for all employees. When there's too much stress, the quality of work suffers. When there's not enough stress, employees can become lethargic and unmotivated.

Supervisors should help employees manage workplace stress, and employees should advocate for themselves when they are feeling overwhelmed -- especially when they are unable to work or their performance is suffering due to symptoms of mental illness.

Tips for Managing Workplace Stress:


  • For employees:
    • Take deep breaths
    • Talk to your supervisor when you're feeling overwhelmed
    • Focus on one thing at a time
    • Resolve conflicts
    • If possible, avoid people who are usually negative or stress you out
  • For employers, supervisors, and coworkers
    • Be approachable and open when an employee says she or he is overwhelmed
    • Try to look for signs that an employee is struggling
    • Show appreciation for employees' work, but try to tailor to individual needs
    • If an employ needs accommodations due to a mental illness, don't be judgmental -- treat them like you would treat someone who needed time off or accommodations is physically sick or injured


Websites for more Detailed Strategies:

If you deal with anxiety at work, don't overwhelm yourself with all the strategies out there -- that can make you more anxious! Instead, pick one to three strategies and try them for a week or two. If they're helping, keep using them. If they're not helping or not helping enough, consider adding a strategy and/or stopping one you started with.

I suggest starting with deep breathing. It takes a lifetime to master, but has be shown to reduce stress for almost anyone.

If work stress is really affecting your mental health, consider the following:
  • Find a therapist who can help you with coping strategies
  • Talk to a coworker who will encourage you and not drag you into further negativity
  • If you don't think your work environment will improve, start looking for a new job
  • If you have a diagnosed mental illness and you and your doctor feel you cannot continue your job, consider taking disability.  Everyone who has paid social security taxes is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and some employers give disability insurance to supplement SSDI.

My experience with workplace mental health issues:

Mental illness was the primary or secondary factor in my resignation from two teaching positions. In both of those positions, I started feeling very stressed, and as a result my work and my personal life started to suffer.

The positions felt like they were spiraling out of control because I was feeling both overwhelmed while at the same time suffering from symptoms of bipolar disorder -- "cycling" as we call it in bipolar parlance. As things got more difficult, my mental health continued to deteriorate; increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and lack of focus all led to a decrease in performance. In the first instance, several factors led to my resignations.

I knew work was getting unmanageable, but I felt that if I changed jobs I would be letting the students down. I ended up resigning both positions and going to a brief treatment program for bipolar and anxiety (my two mental illness diagnoses are generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar I) after the first resignation, and having a full-blown manic episode right before the second resignation.

I felt awful for leaving both those positions -- especially because I left them abruptly and didn't give them much warning. I wish I could have, but even in retrospect I know I would have left both schools in limbo even longer as I waited to recover from the episodes. In both cases, it took month or more to recover from the episodes, and while I would have liked to give more notice to both the schools, even after I'd recovered I couldn't see myself being able to go back to those positions.

So back to the myth: Although holding down a job can be difficult for those with mental illness, it's not impossible. I'm now in my second year of substitute teaching, and things have been going well. I'm not symptom free every day, and some days symptoms interfere with my performance. I do, however have a number of teachers who contact me when they need a sub, and I haven't missed any work due to mental illness since the school year started.

Thanks for reading. If you have a coping strategy you use to manage your mental health at work, I'd love to hear about it. Comment below or on Facebook.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Violence and Mental Illness: Mental Health Myths and Facts


I'm continuing on writing about my experiences with myths and facts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can read all of the myths and facts on the article, Mental Health Myths and Facts, from mentalhealth.gov. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from that article.

Myth: People with mental illness are often violent and unpredictable
This myth is still prevalent. I see it spread often when there is an act of mass violence, and there's also some huge double standards involved. When there is an act of so-called Islamic terrorism, the mass shooting is by and large blamed on radical Islam, and mental illness is barely discussed. However, when the perpetrator of a mass killing is white, all of a sudden we want to blame mental illness, not the fact that the shooter was able to get access to an extremely deadly weapon. Could it be that some people are just plain violent and not mentally ill?

As the U.S Department of Health and Human Services points out, people with mental illnesses are no more likely than the general population to commit violent acts. In fact, they are actually more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

The idea that people with mental illness are prone to unpredictable and/or violent behavior is a major reason why people are afraid to share that they have a mental illness. No one wants to feel like people around them are uncomfortable or on edge because they think their going to do something strange or scary.

Probably the biggest reason I'm not more open about having a mental illness is that I don't want to be treated differently. If people think I might become unpredictable or violent, they're definitely going to treat me differently.

While mental illness can be uncomfortable and even scary at times, people with mental illnesses should still be treated like anyone else. It's important to know that by and large the behavior of people with mental illness is the same as that of those without mental illness. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Running Poem: November

It's been a while since I've posted a running poem, so I thought I'd throw one up here. Although winter does not officially start until December, November kicks off winter weather here in Minnesota. We've already had several days of low temperatures below freezing, and several days when the high temperature didn't reach 40*.

While September and October are my favorite months for running -- cool temperatures, fall foliage, and trails clear of overgrowth -- November definitely is not my favorite. There will be a few nice days to run, but now there'll be more runs in the dark and in cold weather. So, here is my poem, "November."

November
November is the cloudiest month.
The leaves on the trees are gone,
their lack of foliage leaving them
as skeletons silhouetted by
a grey sky.

A return to long sleeves
and gloves
and running pants
on every run.

Running on the trail along the lake
dead leaves crunch underfoot--
a small, thin crust of ice
on the lake's surface.

Birds fly overhead
leaving for sunshine,
escaping the gloom
and the coming
of winter.

November says,
"The summer is long past
and the color of fall has ended.
Trees and flowers and plants
are past, and nothing will grow
until spring."

November is the cloudiest month.
Blue skies make only brief, short appearances.
The grey days grow shorter and shorter,
the darkness increasing
as winter approaches.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Children's Mental Health: Mental Health Myths and Facts


This post is a continuation of  my experiences with mental health myths and facts, All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from Mental Health Myths and Facts on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at mentalhealth.gov.

Myth: Children don't experience mental health problems 
This myth is becoming less prevalent. Schools especially have created more awareness about signs of mental illness in children and about how to get those children resources. Probably the biggest mental illness issue we hear about in children is ADHD. When I was in elementary school, ADHD wasn't commonly diagnosed, but now it isn't uncommon to have several students in a class with this diagnosis. 


Now, many experts in the field believe that ADHD has been overdiagnosed or mistreated. Numerous scholarly journal articles and research studies suggest that pharmaceutical companies have had undue influence on ADHD diagnosis and treatment. This isn't a post about the overdiagnosis of ADHD, but I do want to suggest that often behavioral issues in children are a mental health issue and not a mental illness.

Just like adults, students experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. And, just like adults, these problems could be mental health issues, or mental illness. If a child is experiencing persistent difficulty with emotions, consulting a physician or therapist is a good idea.

I remember experiencing frequent anxiety in childhood. Often I'd worry excessively, especially when I was alone. In middle school and high school I would frequently experience sleep problems because worry made it nearly impossible to shut off my brain and go to sleep at night.

While I don't think a diagnosis of a mental illness would have been appropriate for me as a child, I probably would have benefited from some kind of therapy. Going to therapy was definitely not as common or accepted when I was young. I think it's getting better today.

Children do experience mental health issues, and as adults in a children's lives, we are in a position to help those children when we see something wrong. Even asking a child if she or he would like to talk or saying something like, "it seems like you've been sad a lot lately," can go a long way. Be aware of when a child in your life may be experiencing a mental health issue, and be ready to offer some help.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Training Limbo

A rare Minnesota winter half marathon - Securian Half Marathon

This is the time of year when training becomes a bit of a no-man's land. Fall marathon season is over for most people, save those running the NYC Marathon and a few others. Granted, that's tens of thousand or runners, but according to Running in the USA there are only two marathons in Minnesota between now and April. Also, in all of our border states there are only four marathons between now and April. Of those six marathons, three are indoors.

There are a few more half marathons in Minnesota between now and April --  seven by Running in the USA's count. Still, even with a good amount of 5k, 10k, and half marathon races, most people shut down their serious training until 12 - 20 weeks from a spring race. That leaves the months of November, December, and some or all of January as a sort of training limbo.

These are months when I sometimes struggle. I do best at getting in a good amount (sometimes too much) of running when I'm training for a race. Even when I don't have a set training plan, I usually get into a routine when I have a race coming up. I like to do a tempo type run, a 5k pace run, and a long run every week, and I usually have an idea of how many miles I'd like to run in a given week.

A big downside to the training limbo of November and December is its timing. Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love Thanksgiving, and I really love Thanksgiving food. Reducing training volume and falling into taking too many days off can mean really putting on pounds over the holidays. I definitely have a little room, but as I get older extra pounds get harder and harder to shed, and that extra weight can throw a wrench in the spring training cycle.

Last year I decided I'd put in a bunch of extra miles over Thanksgiving so I could feel better about eating more than normal. While I was down visiting my family, I did reasonably long runs each day. I think I logged over 10 miles three out of the four days we visiting. I'm planning on doing it again this Thanksgiving break.

One thing I got going for me this year is that I still have two unmet goals -- breaking 17 minutes in the 5k and setting an indoor mile PR. In less than two weeks I'm going to start some real workouts, so that should help keep up the motivation until I start training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon.

Coming up I'll be writing more on mental health myths. For those who enjoy reading only about running, thanks for your patience with other types of posts.

Run well.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Destigmatizing Mental Illness: Mental Health Facts and Myths


I never could have predicted what an amazing response I received when I wrote about hospital stays for mental health reasons. Friends, family, and strangers offered words of support, encouragement, and gratitude. It's amazing to hear that my experiences with mental illness and hospitalizations has connected with others.

Reading all those kind words made me feel that we as a society are on the right track when it comes to how we talk about and deal with mental illness. Although there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health, things have definitely improved since my first hospitalization in 1998.

While there is still a long way to go, there are factors that have lead to the destigmatization of mental illness. Schools have taken steps to inform teachers and students about mental health issues. In Minnesota, teachers need to take a class every five years on recognizing early signs of mental illness in students. The internet has also broadened social circles, making it much more likely for individuals to know or read about someone with a mental illness. Additionally, the Web provides an easy opportunity to learn about mental health.

While awareness has improved, there's still a lot of work to do. Even though people may know someone with a mental illness, misconceptions and assumptions about mental illness persist. In my posts about hospitalizations, I linked to Mental Health Myths and Facts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you feel like you don't know much about mental illness, or if you feel like you don't know what to say or do around someone who has a mental illness.

If you, your families, or your friends believe any of these myths, that's OK. It's not until we recognize our beliefs, conscious or unconscious, that we can change them. The article above does a great job at explaining and debunking myths. I've had experience with each of these myths, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

After that long introduction, here's the first myth and my experiences around it (All these myths are quoted directly from www.mentalhealth.gov):

Myth: Mental Health Problems Don't Affect Me

This myth is really two myths rolled into one. First, mental health problems are different than mental illness. We all experience mental health issues. I can remember the first time feeling really guilty as a kid. I'd lied to my parents and started feeling really guilty. The guilt gave me a sick feeling in my stomach as I lay in bed, unable to fall asleep. I finally went to my parents' room and told them what I'd done. They forgave me, and I asked, "Did you ever lie to your parents?" My dad told me about how he'd broken a rake when he was young and lied to his parents about it, and I instantly felt better.

How is that a mental health issue? Guilt can be both a contributing factor and a symptom of depression. While guilt is a healthy emotion that often leads to more ethical or reconcilitory behavior, unresolved, unnecessary, or excess guilt can be a factor in depression.

I've often felt guilty about things out of my control. I can't help having a mental illness. I can't help that I'll be hospitalized at times. I can't help that I have to take medication to keep me stable. These are not things to feel guilty about, and when I do it only puts me in more of a downward spiral.

And guilt is just one of many emotions that can negatively affect mental health. Anxiety, mild depression, loneliness, and anger are things we all experience. When these emotions linger in an unhealthy way, problems with mental health can arise. An extreme, persistent excess of any of these emotions may indicate a mental illness or a need for therapy.

We all deal with mental health problems. It's healthy to recognize this, and to be supportive and encouraging of others who deal with mental health issues or mental illness.

If you're feeling like negative emotions are getting the best of you, tell someone. There's no shame is asking for help. And if you know someone who seems to be suffering, encourage them to find help. Untreated mental illness can lead to a downward spiral,

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Race Schedule: 2017 / 2018

2012 Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon
 I've been waiting for almost two weeks to see if and how the PNC Milwaukee Marathon organizers are going to adjust my marathon time based on the fact that the course was 4200' short. I've sent them an email, but haven't heard back. To take my mind off that debacle of a race, I decided to plan out my next season of races. I haven't finalized my schedule yet, but as of now here are some of the major races I've penciled in:

Eagan Parkrun:
I'm going to keep going at this one. I'm following a little training plan from McMillan Running to try and break that elusive 17 minute barrier. For a while I had the course record and then was tied for the course record at 17:14, but that was recently blown away by a runner who clocked 16:24, so a course record is definitely out of reach for me this season (and, let's be honest, probably ever). I thought about finding a flatter, faster 5k to aim for that sub-17, but the Parkrun is free and it'd be good to break 17 on a tough course.

I don't have dates set in stone for when I'm running this one again, but I'll probably shoot for the end of November and the beginning of December to aim for the sub-17.

Pensacola Beach Run:
My in-laws are renting a condo down in Florida for the month of January, so Laura and I are going to visit for a week and do a half marathon while we're down there. I don't have any set goals at this point, but based on the results of the last few years, it'd be cool to finish in the top five.

MDRA Races:
I'm hoping to get a good gauge of my spring fitness by racing several spring Minnesota Distance Running Association races: The Lake Johanna 4 Mile, the MDRA 7 Mile, the Ron Daws 25k, the Fred Kurz 10 Mile, and the Mudball Classic 4 Mile.  I'm not sure which all of these I'm going to run (I'd love to do all of them, but I doubt that'll happen). There are several that come free with the MDRA membership: The Lake Johanna 4 Mile, the MDRA 7 Mile, and the Mudball Classic 4 Mile. The others are are very reasonable -- the Ron Daws 25k is $5 with an MDRA membership, and the Fred Kurz 10 Mile is only $10 with an MDRA membership.

I'm mainly going to be racing these to stay in race shape and test my fitness, but it'd also be cool to set a PR at a couple of these distances.

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon:
I've been looking forward to doing this one again. I ran a 3:02 at Wobegon in 2010, my first Boston qualifying time. I've said that this past year was my last try at setting a PR in the marathon, so I'm not going to approach this one as hardcore as I have in the past. This winter I'm going to train for less time -- training for a PR marathon was putting me in the ten hour a week range between runs and core exercises. So, I'm going to be running significantly less, and am going to focus more on supplemental exercises and improving my muscle balance.

Afton 50k:
This will be my third time running this race. As of now I'm planning on camping with some running friends and doing the race the next morning. I'd love to set a PR at this one, but finishing a 50k is a decent accomplishment, PR or not.

Surf the Murph 50 Mile:
If I finish, guaranteed PR. It'll be my first 50 mile, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Since I'm no longer going to try to set a PR in the marathon due to the time it eats up, I'm going to keep my training for the 50 mile reasonable. I'm not going to commit as much time during the week as I did when I was training for a marathon PR. Instead, I'm going to bunch my training on the weekends when we have more free time, and get longer mileage in then.

I'm also planing on doing an indoor mile race this coming December -- I think the only one in the twin cities is the USATF Minnesota All Ages Indoor Track and Field Meet on December 17. I haven't given up my goal of setting a new indoor mile PR, but honestly the odds are not in my favor. I'll be coming out of marathon training where I never did workouts faster than 5k pace, and I'll only have about five weeks to get some mile specific work in before the race.

I'll probably also pace a handful of races. I really enjoy pacing -- not only do I get to help other runners reach their goals, I also get a long run in with the bonus of not having to carry water and/or sports drink with me. I'm thinking I'll probably pace two or three half marathons this year.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: Race Report


This race report will get at least one update, but it won't be a three-parter like last year's (read them here if you're so inclined). I'll just get most of the negativity over first, then write about how my race went.

First off, I talked with a speaker at the expo about how the course would be marked since I missed the turnaround last year. "On thing we learned from last year," he said, "is that we needed to mark the course better. This year there'll be way more markers." He wasn't wrong. There were a lot of cones marking the route, but unfortunately there were several spots where it wasn't clear which way to turn.

Around mile 8.5 the course came to a Y at the bottom of the hill. A right turn brought you on a sidewalk toward a bridge and a left turn brought you on a paved path along a river. I didn't know which way to go, so I stopped, turned around, and yelled, "Do you know which way?" to a runner twenty yards behind me.

"I don't know," he said. Then he shrugged and said, "maybe right?" We turned right, and fortunately he was correct. There was at least one other spot I had to guess. The route went through some city parks, and the trails would sometimes come to an intersection and you really needed to look ahead for the next cone since it wasn't always clear which way to go. There was also a spot where a volunteer had to yell at me that I was turning the wrong way.

So while the turnaround at least had cones and a volunteer this year, there were actually more spots with the potential to get a runner off course. I read on the PNC Milwaukee Marathon Facebook page that several runners ran off course. If getting enough volunteers to direct runners at turns was an issue, most places where it was confusing could have been solved by simply having an arrow pointing which way to turn. Although there were tons of cones, I don't remember seeing a single arrow to mark a turn.

OK, negativity over for now. The actual race went well. We started at 6:30 a.m., about half an hour before sunrise. It was a little chilly waiting for the race to start due to some very gusty winds, but the air temperature was almost perfect at right around 60*. Throughout the race the temperature dropped until it was down in the low 50s -- perfect for a marathon.

The tough part about the weather was the wind. The course was a loop, so there was a decent amount of tailwind, but at some points the headwinds were ridiculous. There was one section about half a mile long that went through some buildings and it was an absolute wind tunnel.

Despite the wind, I did enjoy the course. It's by no means a flat, fast course -- too many hills and turns, but there's a good amount of variety. Although there are a lot of hills, most are just rollers and the longer ones have pretty gradual inclines.

The course also does a nice job of going through the different areas of Milwaukee. There are some great views of the lake, some nature areas, historical neighborhoods, and landmarks like Miller Park, MillerCoors brewery, and Harley-Davidson.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this race. I hurt my right foot a few weeks previously, and had been dealing with some peroneal tendonitis in the opposite ankle that wasn't getting any better, so I finally went to physical therapy. Thankfully the physical therapist cleared me to run, but told me not to expect a PR. I definitely felt some pain in both the right foot and the left ankle, but I don't think they really slowed me down.

Although I knew my foot and ankle would hurt, I tried for a PR anyway. I went into the race with a plan to start out slower than goal pace and then speed up until I was on target by the half marathon point. My mile splits weren't perfectly even, but I generally sped up as the race went on. I got a nice pick-me-up at mile 21 where Laura and Calvin were waiting for me. They were at a great spot because they saw me right as I was headed on the out portion of the out and back section of the Hank Aaron trail, so I got to see them twice.

Blowing kisses to Laura and Calvin
I was feeling pretty good when I went by Laura and Calvin and headed for the turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail. Unlike last year's race, this year there were a ton of cones and a volunteer at the turnaround. I went around the cones, and despite being at the point of the race where the fatigue starts to set in, my legs still felt good and I was still on pace for a PR.

My watch ticked past mile 22 and I started to wonder just how far off it was going to be on the mile 22 marker. Last year the course was long, and I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case again. Finally, I saw a mile marker up ahead and looked down at my watch. I was almost at 22.5 miles -- I didn't expect to be that far off of mile 22. Then, I got closer and noticed that it was the mile 23 marker. I hadn't seen a mile 22 marker at all.

After that, things are kind of a blur. I don't remember the scenery much, and I know I passed two other runners, but I don't remember where. I hit the mile 24 and 25 markers and they were still half a mile short. I was holding onto hope that the final distance would be correct, but it was not. When I went through the finish, my watch read 25.69 -- not even close to a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

I was pretty chilly after finishing, so I put on some warmer clothes from my drop bag, found Laura and Calvin, took a couple pictures, then got my post-race beer. Later, I confirmed on the race's Facebook page that many people had found the course to be short.

Today I got a email from the race organizers confirming that the course was in fact short by about 4,200 feet. There was some miscommunication about the course map and markings, and the turnaround was placed in the wrong spot.

I did some math, and depending on how the organizers decide to adjust times, I may have a new PR. I ran 2:45:03 for the short course. If they adjust the times by simply adding on the 4,200 feet and multiplying by that pace ran through the finish, then my adjusted time will be about 2:50:14, a twelve second PR.

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you in the loop

Run well.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: It's Goal Time

After the 2016 Milwaukee Marathon

Last year I was aiming for a shiny new PR at the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon, and if the course had been properly marked and measured, I would have had it. I will say, however, that the race organizers did right by me and refunded my entry fee.

This year I'm giving it another shot. Here are my goals:

A. Set a new PR. That means running under 2:50:26

B. Run under three hours

C. Run under 3:05

D. Finish the race

This race is going to be interesting. There are several reasons why I feel like I can meet my "A" goal. First, my training went pretty well. I had a lot of solid workouts, and got a tempo run, speed workout, and long run in every week but one. My mileage was high, and I averaged over sixty miles a week from July 10 to October 1.

There are also several reasons why I might not meet my "A" goal. My speed workouts went well, but my tempo runs were a little slower than before I ran the Milwaukee Marathon last year. Also, I'm a little banged up after smashing my right big toe against a median, as well as having a little tendinitis in my left ankle.

So I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to try to go out at a conservative pace and slowly speed up to hit the half marathon split right around 1:25:00.

Thanks for all the support and well wishes.

Run well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hospital Stays

Twin Cities Marathon the day I was discharged
One year ago this week I was in the hospital (read about it here). It was frustrating because I had been hospitalized just over a year earlier, and before that I hadn't been hospitalized for over eight years. Late summer and early fall are often difficult for me as I tend to experience symptoms of bipolar disorder. Last year it was a depressive state, and in years past it's been mixed states, hypomanic states, and manic states. Read more about it here: Bipolar symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic.

It'd been a goal to stay out of the hospital ever since my first hospital visit when I was fifteen, back in 1998 when I was hospitalized with an unspecified mental illness. I made it from 1998 until 2002 without being hospitalized. Then, in 2002 I received an official diagnosis of bipolar I, and after being on a consistent medication regiment, I went from 2002 until 2007 without a hospital stay.

Two thousand and seven was my first stay for a major depressive episode. I didn't have health insurance, and I'd stopped taking my medication. At that time my medication cost over $300 a month, and I thought I could make it without it.

Sharing my hospital stays with others had always made me anxious and embarrassed in the past. I didn't want too many people to know about my condition, fearing they would think less of me or treat me differently. Now, I realize my amazing circle of professionals, friends, and family has been nothing but supportive. Instead of making me feel guilty or embarrassed, they've helped me feel loved, supportive, and accepted.

The stigma of mental illness is still real. Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, cries have gone up from celebrities and politicians to, "improve access to mental health care." While improving access to mental health care is important, we shouldn't do it because we're afraid of violence from the mentally ill. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
"The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population." - from MentalHealth.gov
I get it: mental illness can be scary. People with depression can wind up in a place where they are hurting themselves or threatening to hurt themselves. People with schizophrenia can hear or see things others can't. People with bipolar can talk nonstop or share delusions of grandeur.

Though these things can be scary (and in some cases it's appropriate to be scared), the illnesses and the people with these illnesses need not be stigmatized. Part of of stigmatization is silence. I was ashamed of being hospitalized for a long time. I felt I'd failed at keeping myself stable, and although there are factors I can control when it comes to mitigating, coping with, and preventing episodes of  hypomania, mania, and depression, some factors are out of my control.

Higher levels of stress, seasonal changes, and medications that just stop working are all things out of my control. Anticipating and planning for these times are in my control. I'm not perfect at managing, but I try. Still, as much as I work at it, there have still been times when I need to be hospitalized, and there's always a possibility I'll need to be hospitalized again.

Part of breaking the stigmatization for me is being more honest about my condition. It's a difficult balance between oversharing and staying silent when I need help or when I hear people talking about mental illness in a stigmatizing manner--especially when I'm dealing with a high or low patch.

Thankfully, I've been blessed beyond measure with people who love and support me. A year ago when I was in the hospital, I was visited by the pastor of my church, and my wife, and received many phone calls from friends and family.

Mental illness, along with hospital stays, need not be stigmatizing. While some people may create a distance in a relationship when they find out I've been hospitalized for a bipolar cycle, most offer nothing by caring, support, and prayers.

Are there times when I get well-meaning but unwanted advice? Sure. But for the most part all people have offered is a listening ear or asking what they can do to help. And that's usually all someone wants when they're dealing with mental illness -- someone to listen and to support them.

Thank you to all my readers. Knowing you read what I write and know me through this blog makes me feel listened to and appreciated. When I have strangers come to me at a race and talk to me about my blog, it always makes me grateful. And when I hear from friends, family, running buddies, and acquaintances commenting and offering encouragement, I feel supported and cared for.

No hospital stay this October.

Run well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Peak Week(s) Part 2 - Dances with Medians



I started writing about the second toughest week of my training cycle, but then I thought, who wants to read a glorified training log? What people really want is gore. So gore it is. I drew out the story a bit to give it some drama and stuff. Feel free to skip to the end if you're more interested in the workouts I did the two and three weeks weeks before my marathon.

My first hard workout of the week was on Tuesday. I wanted to watch the Burnsville High School Cross Country Team race that afternoon, so I decided to get my workout done before work.

My run started before 6 AM, and that means it's dark. It was also raining, so I didn't even get that predawn light. I put on a headlamp to deal with the darkness, and a hat to deal with the rain.

The workout involved running two 3.5 mile intervals at 5:55 / mile with one mile of easy running in between. I usually plan my routes to avoid as many stoplights as possible, so I ran an out and back that only had two intersections with lights.

The run was going pretty well when I came to the intersection of Diffley and Johnny Cake Ridge Road. I was about to run a section of Diffley known by runners and cyclists for its lung bursting hills. I needed to go east on Diffley, then south on Pilot Knob (don't we have awesome street names in Eagan?), so I had to cross Diffley.

I could have waited for the light at Johnny Cake and Diffley, but I was in the zone. I decided to turn left on Diffley since the light was red. Then, I could have just waited for the light at Pilot Knob and Diffley, but I figured there was a good chance that would be red too.

There was no sense in breaking my rhythm, so  when I came to a side street I looked back and forth for traffic before crossing. I turned right when I got to Pilot Knob, then turned around back toward Diffley. The light to cross Diffley was red, so I turned left again and figured I'd cross at side street again.

Halfway between Pilot Knob and Johnny Cake there was  a side street. Traffic was clear, so I started to cross. I looked across the street and noticed the side street didn't go through. There's probably a median, I thought, so I shined my headlamp in front me toward the street, but unfortunately my right foot found the median before my headlamp.

I was running fairly fast at that point -- faster than 10 mph, so I stubbed my right toe really hard. I fell face first, mostly on my right forearm, and landed flat in the street. I was able to get back up pretty quickly and resume my run. My foot hut pretty bad and I could tell I'd scraped my forearm and cut my hands.

Thankfully my foot stopped hurting after a few minutes and I was able to continue my workout. When I got home, Laura was in the kitchen. "I think I hurt myself," I said. I showed her my right forearm -- it was pretty torn up. Blood was oozing out of a patch 2.5" long and 1.5" wide starting from my elbow and then in another 3" X 1" section from the middle of my forearm to my wrist.

I also had some road rash on my thighs and scrapes on my hands, but miraculously my chin didn't get cut. My post-run shower was excruciating as I scrubbed street dirt from my wounds. The next day we discovered sand in the bathtub, and after some detective work we realized it had probably stuck to me when I fell in the street and had been rinsed off in the shower,

My running suffered a little the next few days. I did a little jogging at the cross country meet the evening after my fall, and my foot was really bugging me, which made me change my gait, which made my left knee start hurting.

I probably should have taken Wednesday off -- my foot hurt was sore that morning, so I skipped the run. That afternoon, however, my foot was feeling a little better, so I went for a very slow run pushing Calvin in the jogging stroller. I had a streak of over 80 days in a row of running, and I didn't want to break it.

The knee was bothering me through Friday, but fortunately it started feeling better by Saturday. The foot still hurt a little, but it wasn't affecting my running too much.

This past Sunday was my last hard long run of this training cycle. I made it 16 miles with the last eight at marathon pace.

Here's how my peak weeks broke down:

Week 1 Workouts

  •  9.7 miles with 10 minutes at 5:50 / mile, 6 X 400m at 5:25 / mile, 10 minutes at 5:50
  • 10 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile
  • 20 mile long run with a 5k race
  • 82 miles total for the week


Week 2 Workouts

  • 9.4 miles with 2 X 3.5 miles at 5:55 / mile pace and a trip and fall
  • 11.5 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile pace and 2 miles at 5:52 / mile pace
  • 16 mile long run with last 8 miles at 6:29 pace