Service Announcement:  My neurosurgeon, Dr. Hervey-Jumper, thought it was important enough to call me Monday morning, so I am going to assume it is important enough for this blog. In fact, he called because of my blog.

“A lot of people have been reading your blog.”

Uh-oh, where is this going? Can I have a HIPPA violation against myself?

A while back, I mentioned here that I ate after midnight prior to surgery. This is true, I violated my NPO status. I had a very calculated half a bowl of Cracklin’ Oat Bran at 2 AM. Given my body type, I am at lower risk for vomiting and aspiration during surgery. Also, I had insider information. I knew there was a surgical lecture Thursday AM at the University of Michigan, so my first case surgery would be a little delayed from the usual starting point. I was right, and I rolled back into the operating room at 9AM or so.  Dr. Jumper did not buy my excuses.  Nausea and vomiting is less than optimal during an awake craniotomy with screws in your head and brain exposed. Maybe those that believe alkalinizing pH for cancer treatment would appreciate the acidity of vomit directly on a GBM, but I do not recommend it (actually, this would be driving the pH the ‘wrong’ way). I officially do not recommend violating NPO orders. So I do not get into trouble again with my surgeon and anesthesiologist: NPO at midnight, clear liquids up to 2 hours prior to arrival. Do as I say, not as I did.

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I was a little tired of myself, so I needed a break from blogging. Blah blah blah Craig blah blah blah teamcraig blah blah blah #imwithcraig. Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about Craig (me).  What does the narcissist say on a date? “I’m tired of talking about me, why don’t you go ahead and talk about me for a bit.” Well, here we go again.

Figure: Images unrelated to surrounding text.  Left, made it to restaurant day at Breton Downs for Connor.  The menu was limited, but the service was excellent.  Right, I almost forgot to get my weekly CBC last week, so Mia and I needed to go down together before nap time for the blood draw.

2016 will be my 12th 25K Riverbank Run, but my first since the diagnosis of Glioblastoma Multiforme in October of 2015. I signed up for this year’s race days after the diagnosis, even prior to neurosurgical resection. I compete in a few races each year, but this has always been my favorite. I also do a couple triathlons, but the expensive equipment needed takes away from the purity of the sport in my opinion. There is a real showmanship in the transition area with thousands of dollars in wetsuits and bikes. However, you could spend less than $100 and have adequate equipment to win multiple road races. I’ve looked at a few bikes in the transition area, and knew I would see that set of wheels again flying by me on the road. I’ve never looked at a pair of shoes prior to a race and thought anything of the sort (unless they were high tops, and then I knew I should move ahead of him or her prior to the start).

I’m 39, and this is the 39th annual River Bank. Weird. Well, not really. I am a strong believer in coincidences. The River Bank was born in 1978; I was born in October, 1976. That made me 1 at the first race. The location, date, distance, and size of the River Bank Race are perfect. The date, the second Saturday in May, usually provides cool weather. The training period, essentially January to April, coincides with improving weather and longer days as Michigan wakes up from a dark, cold winter. It draws a big crowd for the national championship for the 25K (okay, nobody really cares about that particular national championship). But, there is prize money for the elite runners which in turn draws the good local runners to all come out. The distance is also very manageable. Long enough to require training, not too long that needs a big commitment (as would a marathon). I have run it through the rain, heat, and wonderful cloudy weather. I have run it with minimal training (less than 25K in total preparation) and a complete mental plan with a taper.

I have always enjoyed being active and exercising. I love to practice maybe more than competition at this point. Back in kindergarten, when I started swimming competitively, I preferred the practice race over any set competition with officials and crowds. Lucy Steinlage was my first and most influential coach. I do not remember any particular coaching tips on technique, just an unending and relentless enthusiasm to perform at one’s best. Maybe I’m biased because I met her so young, but she is just a light of positive energy. At my first swim meet, however, I needed a little more than positive energy. I was 6 years old and crying at the side of the pool (a very common sight at competitive swim meets amongst the younger swimmers). The bigger kids were warming up, and I just did not want to get in after looking at the crowd and officials. In this era, parents were free to roam the decks. My mom approached me on the pool deck and literally, and I actually mean literally in this case, pushed me in with her foot. Tough love, but I never looked back. She has tried to pull me back to the wall since, but it was too late.

“Oh, you don’t want to do that! Don’t push yourself too hard.” Too late, Mom. You should’ve let me climb into the stands that day. I have rebelled by continuing to push myself. Or maybe this is some ingenious, long standing reverse psychology she has pulled off over the years.

Figure: Left, Connor and PCP at Calvin vs. Hope basketball game.  Calvin is our neighbor, but a Hope player is the son of one of my great teachers growing up (Mr. Eidson).  Advantage Hope (despite Connor’s towel).  Right, MK telling Connor he does not need to try that hard.  The cycle repeats itself :).

I met many of my good friends in the pool or soccer field through the years. I think the first thing I said to Brian Schuring on his first day of swim practice was “you want to race?” And we kept doing just that for the next 10 plus years until high school graduation, through ups and downs, finally touching the wall our senior year at state meet. Those early years I learned the joy of pushing myself to the limit, having fun with racing, and being content with a personal best effort (especially as swim times started to plateau). I raced the River Bank run a few times, content going around the mid 1:50s. And then I saw a high school friend and lifelong competitor from high school drop a 1:45 in 2010 while I came in 10 minutes behind. I can do that. And the next year I did. And then went a bit faster until I reached my personal peak of 1:33.07. Thanks, Aaron Dean. You have been a delight to compete against through the years because you care. I don’t know what motivates you, but it is fun to compete against your fire. You certainly had the advantage on the soccer field, but the River Bank belongs to me (for now :)).

I placed in the top 50 the last two years, posting my personal best time in 2014 with 1:33:07, a 5:59 minutes per mile pace. In 2015, I missed a PR by 2 seconds, but placed 2nd in my age group. However, in 2016, I will be racing for more than a PR. I want to prove I can come back from brain surgery, radiation and ongoing chemotherapy. I feel like a senior in high school again with limited time to perform very well at my sport. Eventually, treatment for GBM (or GBM itself) will catch up. I may need a repeat surgery, or a more intensive chemotherapy at some point. However, I am going for a PR this year, maybe even sub 1:30. This is probably not realistic, but I am not afraid to fail. I thought the door closed for improvement 10/29/15, but now I want to kick it open in 2016.

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Couch to River Bank

First you need to decide whether you want to get off the couch. It is comfy, I know. But exercise has tremendous upsides on physical and mental health. Ask your doctor before you choose not to participate.

Just like there are a million diets, there are a million exercise plans and routines. I started writing out my daily exercise routine, and I couldn’t even stand reading it. Blah blah blah Craig blah blah. So I erased it, and decided to give some general principles (or secrets, if you like to pretend this is a mystery).

  1.  Find something you enjoy. If you do not like it, you will not do it unless you have a will power of steel. But if you need to read this, you don’t. Like TV? Exercise in front of it. Like audiobooks / music / podcasts? Put the earbuds in. Or like to be social? Exercise with a friend or group. Or do all of the above.
  2. Exercise is a good investment in yourself.
  3. You don’t have to run that much, but you have to something every day.  You can take a day off, but I prefer to just do a little less one day and call it recovery.
  4. Be flexible. If your legs or sore, lift weights or do arm exercises.
  5. One word: intervals (not plastic). Series of increased and decreased levels of exertion are much more effective than a straight, monotone work-out. Go for a walk – run, or run – fast run, instead of walk.
  6. Make long term (3 – 6 months) and short term (1 week) plans. I create a schedule in my head. I am not organized enough to write down a plan. I start increasing the emphasis on running in January for the May River Bank. On a week to week basis, I look at my schedule, and figure out what days are good for running, lifting, biking or swimming. I generally add to my longer run each week as January progresses to April. I need to take Temodar for 5 days of every 28. In my mind, that means I modified this year’s schedule to do a 3 week build followed by 1 week of recovery (as forced upon me by the chemo). Fortunately, this med has a lower side effect profile than most chemo regimens. Unfortunately, it is probably ineffective with my particular tumor profile. If it made me sick, I would not be happy.

Above is Allison training for the River Bank at age 6.  Okay, see you May 14.