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Assembling The Team
As much as running is an individual sport, apparently I cannot actually survive this activity solo.
Instead, I require a team on stand-by at all times.
I’ve successfully recruited perhaps the most integral member of the team: Coach Cane.
With Coach Cane on my team (or I guess I’m on his team, but technicalities are silly), I have a solid training plan, I have supreme guidance, and I have a running expert ready to answer all of my stupid questions. Because yes, there is a such thing as a stupid question. Did someone tell you otherwise? I once emailed Coach Cane, presumably with a subject line saying “REALLY IMPORTANT,” asking him if I should finish all of my runs in a sprint to prepare me for mad-dashing across finish lines.
I don’t remember his response verbatim, but I believe it was something along the lines of “No, that won’t be necessary.”
(Fun fact: Sometimes I still do it. I picture a finish line, or maybe a bathroom, up ahead and I just go for it.)
While we’re on the subject of Coach Cane, check this out. I know some people are very attached to their race medals, while others find them to be silly or unnecessary. If you’re in the “medals are stupid and just take up space” camp, now you can donate your hardware to a worthy cause.
You may recognize my boy Meb Keflezighi here, both because he is one of my very best friends, and because he’s on Team USA heading to the Olympics at the end of the month. He won the Olympic Trials in the marathon distance in Houston earlier this year like it was no big deal (probably because my other BFF, Gian, basically paced him). And now, good old Meb is giving back through his charity, The Meb Foundation.
In short: Donate your medals to the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital’s Medals of Courage campaign, and they will go to cute kids in need of a smile. Meb is doing it, Coach Cane is doing it, and you can do it, too. It will make you cool. Click here to see when and where you can conveniently drop off your medals.
OK, back to the team discussion.
While Coach Cane will keep me running smartly, there’s always that chance I’ll experience aches and pains along the way. He once told me that was “par for the course and nothing to worry about.” See how good I am at memorizing what he tells me? Honor student, Ali Feller.
So when those pesky pains arise, I have Dr. Levine nearby to massage and work out any kinks. He’s a licensed ART doctor, and his office is near my office. I can get there, get beat up, get electro-stimulized or whatever, and return to my office in just 45 minutes.
This past spring I also saw a doctor at Manhattan Orthopedic named Dr. Dushey. Do you know why I love him? Because he told me I didn’t have a stress fracture or any serious injuries. He said there was “nothing structural going on,” told me to take a running hiatus, and boom, I came back feeling fine. So I’ve got him on my side, but hopefully I won’t have to go see him.
Then there’s my family, and they are great. They’re for sure on The Team.
What my friends Lauren and Conroy may not know is that the day they came to the Hamptons Marathon was the day they signed their lives over to become part of my family. Lauren even gets included on all family emails…and there are many family emails.
My family does not think running 26.2 miles “for fun” sounds, well, fun. They surely don’t see the appeal, but they’ve supported me big time whenever I sign up for a race or tell them I’m doing something that’s definitely a good idea, like flying across the country to run a marathon (J/K, that never even happened, stupid Eugene).
I try not to overdo the running talk with them, and I know that when I start talking about my splits or my chafing issues (um, yes, I have them), their eyes may glaze over. Still, they are the best, and knowing that what I’m doing is somehow important to them makes me want to succeed.
But for those days when Lauren politely asks how training is going and I know she would secretly rather talk about more exciting things like, oh I don’t know, her upcoming wedding (!!!), I have run-obsessed friends ready to pop up in my GChat window.
There’s the Early Morning Sweat Squad, there are my Wine & Cheese friends and there are the two girls who repeatedly tell me that doing a spin class the day before, of or after a hard run is not a swell idea.
Thank God I have so many like-minded friends, because I could talk about this stuff all day.
But you knew that already.
Really though, having people who get it — who understand that the days an 8:45 pace feels like a 10:30 will be a great day, and the days when an 8:45 pace feels like a 5-minute mile will make me question why the heck I run — makes the whole running and training experience more fun. And since most of them are even crazier than I am, they make me feel kind of sane sometimes. So thanks, friends!
So we’ve got the coach.
We’ve got the doctors.
We’ve got the friends and family.
We’ve got this guy:
Brian puts up with so much of my shit, it’s unbelievable. Sometimes when he comes home at night, I actually think to myself, “Whoa. He is still willing to date me. This is so awesome.”
He has witnessed post-race tears, mid-run bathroom freak-outs, excitement, disappointment and every single emotion in between. Now I’m not saying I’m high-maintenance here, but there is a slight chance he will disagree with that statement.
Now who’s missing from Team Ali Is Ready To Run A Marathon?
Ah, yes. The person who will keep me truly healthy. The person who will be on-call when that Crohn’s thing decides to visit.
We’re missing a doctor.
A good, smart, semi-compassionate, doesn’t-tell-me-to-stop-running doctor.
As you may recall, I was not a fan of my last GI doctor. His bedside manner was unpleasant, he told me “people with Crohn’s shouldn’t run marathons” and even after seeing him for three years, he never seemed to remember who I was or which disease I had. He also told me, more than two years after giving me a colonoscopy, that he “thought maybe I had colitis all along.” But he never thought to bring that up I guess.
So after much procrastination — and too many flare-ups — I finally got serious about finding a new doctor. It turns out, all the “really good doctors” people recommended don’t take my insurance, or seemingly any insurance. I had a difficult time finding someone with a great reputation who actually specialized in Crohn’s and who would see me for an in-network cost. Instead, the “good doctors” were going to charge $650 just for an initial visit. On top of that, should they prescribe Remicade treatment going forward, each 7-week infusion costs more than $12,000. My journalist salary does not like Crohn’s…or colitis.
I saw a new doctor — a GI, near my apartment, found through ZocDoc with good reviews — on Monday morning. I don’t think I will be seeing him again.
He reminded me so much of my last doctor, and without having my past records he already started prescribing me a ridiculous cocktail of medications. He wants to up my dosage of Remicade, he wants me to get the Remicade more frequently (every six weeks) and he wants to put me on a drug called 6 MP, which I was actually on a few years ago. I’d take two pills every day, in addition to the IV treatment, for the rest of my life.
Without getting into it too much more, I basically didn’t like that he was so ready to prescribe me a ton of stuff without doing a colonoscopy and without seeing my records. I told him that I wanted to start from scratch, and I wanted him to take a good look inside my failing body and then decide what to do, instead of just adding to the treatment I’ve had in the past.
I’m still looking for a doctor I really like and that I can stick with for a long time. In the meantime, I’m reading a lot. I’m reading about holistic treatments and non-medicine-heavy ways to try and feel better. I told this doctor I’d rather make a dietary or lifestyle change than be on a ton of drugs for the rest of my life, and he told me that “what you eat doesn’t matter.” He went on to say that “If you want to feel better, you need medicine. I don’t care what you read on the Internet, changing what you eat won’t make you feel better.”
I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that.
So The Team isn’t quite complete, but I think I’ve got a pretty solid crew ready to go for now.
CAN YOU DO IT ALONE? Are you a “leave me alone, I can do it myself” kind of runner, or do you have a support team like I do? Who’s on it?