Thursday, July 13, 2017

Down and Out? NO! Out and Up(beat!)

“70-74 Female, First Place in the 5K goes to Carrie Slayback!” the announcer called out. I hurried up, snatched my ribbon with quick thanks, and happily melted back into the crowd. The 70 to 74 places were announced, then—I heard, “80-84, Female First Place, goes to… ” Didn’t catch the name, but spotted a petite runner, with strong legs make a dash to grab the ribbon. I felt an immediate connection. Shoving aside my self consciousness, I ran in front of the stage to catch the 84-year-old’s retreating form.” I do not ordinarily grab and hug complete strangers, but I hugged her.

“Congratulations,” I told her, looking into a youthful face with stylishly side-rimmed red glasses. 
“I’m right behind ya,’” I said.

How old you?” she asked.

“73, I answered.”  

She accepted my hug graciously, and said, “I’m thankful for every day I’m out running.” 

And that is why I had to make contact with her. The next ten years will slide by like a fast mile. She’ll be a 94-year-old runner, and I plan to be in her shoes, accepting my award. 

Speaking of age 94, a gray haired lady in a wheelchair sat beside my group during the award ceremony. As the oldest participant, she received a crystal vase, and an ovation from the crowd. Her daughter, standing by the wheelchair, teared up watching her mom arise from the chair and walk slowly, to accept her award, flashing a radiant grin that sparkled more than the crystal.

Well aware of what caregiving entails, I said to the daughter, “That award belongs to both of you.” 

“It’s teamwork,” she admitted, reseating her mom. They rolled off.

For me, running this race had been questionable. Saturday morning was the first day I awoke without a wracking cough. I’d been down and out for ten days.  Whether it’s the virus or inaction, I developed a sore back. The occasional cough, hurt.  

Some would stay home, but The Scenic 5K is a local race where I could pal around with four close friends—Couldn’t resist. Getting out proved, again that activity is the best medicine.

I routinely run nine-mile work-outs so a three-mile 5K is a jaunt. Because the mileage was well within my abilities, I registered. Ambling together to the start under blessedly overcast skies, my friends and I awaited the horn. I looked around for my competition but found nothing but youngsters within sight. “Darn,” I thought, I don’t want to get a first because I’m the only grandma on the course.” The horn sounded and we were off, 

My friend, Laurie later described the breathlessness accompanying the first running steps. The start is exciting and we take off, never learning to start slowly nor remembering to breathe for the first quarter mile. So it was the second quarter mile when the rewarding rhythm of the step/breath finally relieved my panicked gasp. Then the voice in my head said, “focus on the truth: “Every step counts. Keep rhythm. Keep eyes clear of distractions such as other runners, homemade signs, spectators.” PASS MILE ONE.Timer called out 9 minutes, 58 seocnds.  

My friends, a decade younger, passed me. “Do not try to overtake them.This is my race, nobody else's. I’m in charge of hard work and endurance.” My knee hurt. I have confidence that I can run through it. I did, three times in this race. My back hurt, confidence that the pain won’t stop me. Fleeting thoughts that I could go faster without the back and knee pain. Toss them out. Keep the rhythm. PASS MILE TWO. 

Only one mile to go. Pass another runner, an experience I have less now that I’m  older.  Climbing hills, I say to myself, “This is what I train for, this is why I do Tuesday morning ‘hill repeats.’” I climb the hill. Circle the park, smell the finish. MILE THREE. I sprint the last .1 MILE to the end and watch the finish line advance to meet my footfalls. 

I’m deeply happy. I passed another endurance test, triumphed over pain and finished with more energy and bounce than I had to start the morning. 

My friends and I line up for photos and the generous servings of restaurant food presented to every runner. All other races, even 26.2 mile marathons, hand runners an orange, half banana, bag of crackers, and an energy bar. The Scenic 5K stands out for a platefuls of food from big-name Newport Beach restaurants, tables with table cloths and an awards stage with an announcer. 

Corona del Mar’s Scenic 5K stands out in another way, and perhaps a scolding is the reason. A few years back, I accepted my award, and stood near the stage when a determined gray haired lady accosted a race organizer, “We older runners take racing seriously. We work hard for our times. Why do you stop awards with the 70-74 Age Group? 

And so, today I had the privilege of hugging a kindred spirit, that energetic 84-year-old and congratulating our friend in the wheelchair, in her 90’s. 

This is a community race, but not just the cozy community of Newport Beach runners. People came from Arizona, Alaska and New York. What the race organizers provided was recognition for runners/walkers who love to be out early Saturday morning, moving alongside ocean views and though quiet neighborhoods—a community of competitors from four to ninety-four.

Thursday, February 23, 2017



“Snarky.” That’s what my friend Peggy called  2/4/17 Lazyracer blog entry. I’d emailed Surf City Half Marathon organizers, “I’m flattened by fever, chills, headache…I’ve placed in your last 5 events.”  I asked refund of the $147 paid for the February 5th race. NOPE. Not even “Sorry.” “They don’t care about me and I don’t care about them.”

Five feverish days—freezing under piles of blankets are over! 
Saturday, collapsing into a nap, I awoke, recovered. “I can race,” I said.

Time healed the body, but the brain? Scrambled! Overslept through Saturday class; screwed up date of a cherished friend’s birthday party, missing it. Arriving at the race, my friend, Evelyne, pointed to my running shoes. “Where’s your timing chip? Forgot it, flunking “elementary race-prep.”

Got a new chip. Lined up with 40,000 other lunatics who’d paid $140+ to run along Pacific Coast Highway, Super Bowl Sunday morning.

I know this racecourse, my sixth Surf City. I’d spent the last weeks, rolling into bed, rehearsing every step—a nightly visual video. The rhythmic remembrance of footfalls on asphalt is relaxing, meditative, sleep inducing.

In running, the brain’s importance matches the feet. As a beginning racer, I longed for each mile marker, worrying over the distant finish. Now, retreating to my nightly fantasy run, I “go interior,” allowing feet to carry me, sweeping away emotional resistance.  

Also, strong parental messages of welcome acceptance of fellow humans are hallmarks of my everyday life. But the devil takes over when racing. “Get a haircut,” I snarl, as the guy with dredlocks passes. “Out of my way, weirdo,” I think, dodging around a lumbering runner. Reading a shirt: “I Run Because I Like Beer,” I whisper nastily, “You look like it.”

Being quietly cruel steals energy from forward motion, so my rule is, “Don’t look at people/read shirts.” Instead, I repeat, “Fast, Fast, Fast!”  Though I look at the road ahead, my radar hones in on “senior” female runners. I accelerate past.

So 7:30 this morning, pressed between runners—all shapes and heights, I awaited the start. Our moose-horn sounded, bidding me to move stiff legs, knocking against moist marine air.

Struggling though that first long mile, I piled up three more rapidly, leaving Pacific City, Main Street, PCH stores, beachfront condos. Ran along the oilfield fence, watching my timing device. A pace of  ten-and-a-half minute miles slow to 11:50 then 12. RUN!, I commanded, turning up Seapoint, the race’s only hill. "Faster." “Nothing hurts, you’re not tired.” 

Working hard to ignore a port-o-potty visit, I thought, “I can wait til the finish.” But could not—jumped in. 

Never before needing a potty stop, I lost minutes. However, a world of relief opened as I worked to regain time lost.

Salty ocean smell rewarded as we crossed the bridge over Bolsa Chica Estuary..
Approaching the Mile 8 turn-around, I was chagrinned. The expensive race ticket didn't include a chip reader at the turn. I've experienced cheaters in my age group who didn’t run the entire race. 

Bringing it on home, not tired, I raced, hard. A gray haired lady sent me into a sprint at Mile 11. Friends yelling, “Carrie!” at Mile 13 motivated a surge to the finish.

My sick week? My daughter’s scolding text sums up the reasonable question, “What are you doing racing? You’re still recovering!” 
Never felt weak, never had that dreadful dead-legged syndrome. I’ll go with my brother’s comment, “Comes a time when you get better by getting out.” Time was today.

And here is why I sat down to write:  A feeling of gratitude overrides the hard racing effort, previous illness, hostile responses to runners, profit-making marathon organizations. Today, my slowest half marathon, is the first time I have not made the top three in dozens of races. Potty stop put me in fourth, two and a half minutes behind third. However, my memory of the race is infused with light and joy and an acknowledgement of my mastery of the distance. 

I am so lucky to be capable of picking myself up and racing 13.1 miles. At 73, post flu, I did it.  I did it smiling. That is the point.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


I bought a $145 Surf City Half Marathon entry.

I’ve been flattened by fever, chills, headache, ETC.
Last time I was sick was….so far back I can’t remember. 
So, bad timing collided with a 13.1 mile race effort. 

Yeah, I signed their disclaimer. 

However, as I wrote them, I’ve run five Surf Cities, formerly Huntington Beach Half marathons. I’ve placed in the top three every single time, first place, twice.

Wouldn’t you call that a loyal competitor? Even a serious competitor? 

And why wouldn’t they, at the very least, transfer the $145 fee to next year’s race? Nope.

It would make goodwill for their organization if they would step forward with some refund of their exorbitant $145 fee. 

They don’t care and I don’t care for them. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016


But maybe I’m on the edge of a break-though.

In the past few weeks a gray-haired lady in a sedan pulled up beside me near the end of 8 miles and asked if I needed help. I was limping.

I greeted a kid, passing me on a crosswalk with a cheery “hello,” and he replied, “You OK?” I was limping.

Yesterday, my neighbor told me  he’d seen me coming home but before he could finish, I said, “I know, I was limping.”

Left knee is gimpier than usual.

For the first time in my life, I’m going to the chiropractor. He’s working on knee and piriformis. 

To his credit he asked, “ How will I know if I’m helping you?”

“When I stop running 15-minute-miles and get back to 11:30’s—-even 10:30’s. AND when I stop dragging my heels and get some spring in my step.” 

Right now my knee hurts, but yesterday, I got it all back. I ran the sand from Newport Pier to Balboa Pier and back. Returning home on the sidewalk, I felt free. Looked down at my Garmin, “11:30,” then “10:30!”  

Was the sand-running might be rehabilitative? Maybe the chiropractor’s addition of work on the piriformis made the difference. He’d previously focused on the knee as I’d been diagnosed years ago with a small tear in the meniscus. 

Spoiled by years pain-free, my 73-year-old knee should be teaching me humility. Instead, I’m learning impatience. I’m ready for a solution. 

Monday, October 24, 2016


My group of retired teachers stood to leave our spring get-together at Mitzi’s. Mitzi sat, planted in a chair, leg propped. Awaiting knee replacement surgery, she grimaced in pain, but called out gamely, “We’ll have our usual teacher’s retreat at my cabin but I’ll sit. You guys do all the work.” In 2008, my family’s Green Valley Lake cabin burned to the ground but teachers continued August gatherings, crowding into Mitzi’s cabin. 

Next day Mitzi emailed,  “SORRY!!! Mountain trip’s off. Can’t manage stairs up to the cabin.”
Exiting my Saturday class, I fell into step with a lady who complimented me on a recent column, then said, “I won’t be here next week, having a knee replacement.
Running too fast to keep up with speedy Evie, a guy on a bike, pedaled up, “I’ve been watching you,” he said, “You’re limping. Are you thinking about a knee replacement?” He told me his doctor’s name.

Yowzers, is “knee replacement” the new appendectomy?

I count half dozen friends who’ve done one, or two, and no, none are runners.

Should I join the crowd?

Yep, it’s a “crowd.”’s Courtney Humphries, 2012, “Do you really need a knee replacement?” says “…knee replacement surgeries are skyrocketing…attributed to many factors: growing rates of obesity, an active population of baby boomers now facing osteoarthritis, and the continuing improvement of artificial joints.” 

Dorothy Feltz-Gray at writes that, “People younger than 65 are the fastest-growing age group opting for total knee replacement. Overall demand for the procedure is rising as well, with numbers expected to increase.” 

Both authors caution us to think long and hard before signing-up. How to decide? Here are just three considerations.

Gretchen Reynolds of NY Times well.blogs, 11/13/14, in “Think Twice Before Choosing Knee Replacement, cautions the youngsters, 45-65 for whom knee replacement surgery “soared by 205% between 2000 and 2012.” Among 65 and older, the increase was only 95 percent, yet, surgical replacements were better suited for the older group because implanted materials wear out after a couple of decades—possibly necessitating a second surgery for the 45-65’ers

Furthermore, older people who had “really bad knees,”  benefited substantially from knee replacement surgery, gaining 20 points on a scale of improved knee function, while those with slight arthritis reported more pain and physical impairment, gaining only 2 points.

What is meant by really bad knees? Reynolds quotes, Dr. Daniel Riddle, Virginia Commonwealth professor and study author who says, “If you do not have bone-on-bone arthritis, in which all of the cushioning cartilage in the knee is gone, think about consulting a physical therapist about exercise programs that could strengthen the joint, reducing pain and disability, losing weight helps, too,” Riddle says.

By “no cartilage” in Riddle’s definition I may qualify. In 2007, an orthopedist glanced at my knee X-rays, and said, “You have no cartilage in your knees.” “End of running,” I thought. “Reading my mind, the doctor, said, “Lots of runners have no cartilage, keep running.” I went on to complete six marathons. 

So, “bone on bone” doesn't necessarily mean “really bad knees.” The deciding factor is daily serious pain. I don’t have knee pain unless I run too fast. No knee problem at my new slow rate: 12 to14-minute-miles. At the gym, I’ve given up weight machines which pain my knees, in favor of exercises learned at former physical therapy sessions. In short, I’ve altered lifestyle. 

Globe’s Humphries offers the concept of “decision aid” to patients considering knee replacement. She quotes James Jacobsen who, like me is in early 70’s and had a “bone on bone” X-ray. His doctor recommended replacement, but handed him a pro/con video and brochure. He studied the materials: “I know right now that I’m not going to have a knee replaced until it’s absolutely necessary. If I didn’t have the [video and  brochure]  I wouldn’t [have known] how to make a decision.”

I’m not considering knee replacement. With lifestyle changes, my knee does not hurt with daily activities. 

Mitzi, waiting in line for hers, says, “Dr. X did my left knee. I can’t wait for the right. If it goes like the last one, I’ll be pain-free for next year’s cocktails at the cabin.”

Monday, October 10, 2016


Want to feel euphoric?

Run your guts out.

Work hard, (NEVER to the point of injury.)

Complete a challenging work-out.

Today I completed the Long Beach Half Marathon. However, for the first time in my running life I ran:

—without proper preparation due to a 17 day vacation and grandma duties

—ten days after being in serious pain due to sitting in a car for vacation-sightseeing, as well as a 15-hour return plane ride.

I sent in my $120.00 to Long Beach Marathon because I wanted a reunion with the “Saturday Runners,” a group I used to race with, completing full marathons in New York, Chicago, Portland. I’ve almost dropped out of the group due to family demands, but I’m not willing to lose contact altogether. 

Catherine, a social worker and Caroline a scientist, are the indisputable leaders. Catherine soft and wise and Caroline, tough, and exacting. 

A knock on the door at 5:20 a.m. got me out before I gobbled my favorite pre-race food--a peanut butter sandwich. But when Caroline says, “Lets go!” we move—fast!

The dark Sunday morning yielded a nearly empty 405, so we sailed into strategic marathon parking, close to the start. 

Runners routinely use extra pre-race time to head for the port-a-potties. Happily, we were early enough to make two visits. Sadly, the potties were already out of toilet paper. I remembered too late how another runner packs a roll of toilet paper for every race. 

So without the benefit of peanut butter or toilet paper, I said bye to friends whom I was sure were faster than I, and lined up for the start. 

I like to race alone, an usual state for me. I’m gregarious. Not in races. I do not want to chat, worry about friends, or high five spectators. 

My wave of runners moved up to the starting line. The horn sounded. I started my run to the mantra, “This is easy,” and it was.  My watch read 10:45 pace. 

My race rules were:

—No reading signs or shirts. (takes energy)

—No looking at other runners. (I surge ahead when I spot a senior female. Without prep, so recently injured, I did not think I could afford a surge.) I place first in races, but gave up the idea today.

—Keep visor low and eyes down. ( Not in top shape, I don't lift my feet high enough off the ground to avoid ruts in road or sidewalk. I fall DOWN.)

For weeks before the race, I put myself to sleep visualizing each step--a clear fast race. “I’m in my dream,” I told myself, running my race at a comfortable pace. 

I popped a Shot Blok (gummy electrolytes and caffeine) into my mouth and decided to pop another every second mile. Mile 2: water, shot block, and back on the course. Repeat at Mile 4.

My strategy worked until I dropped my Shot Bloks at Mile 8. So, I fished a chocolate bar out of my fanny pack. Still running without pain, I felt continuous energy but noticed my pace slowed to 11-minute-mile. By then, I left my early mantra and adopted the strategy of rhythmic counting steps between lane lines in the road. “One-two” steps on blacktop between lines and “one” on the line. 

Momentarily sneaking a look at a a senior female, I broke my rule. Left her behind. Spotted another walking and took satisfaction, running past her. However I felt I was running at my old pace—nine minute miles. I secretly hoped to regain my 2-hour-half marathon time. 

Then the 2:20 pacers holding their prominent signs breezed past me. I did not keep up with them. 

In most of life, I am reflexively self-critical but not racing. I raced my race, keeping a steady pace, never sinking into the dreaded “used up feeling.”  “I’m doin’ it,” I told myself.

At Mile 11, I began the countdown. Shoving chocolate into my mouth, remaining spry, passing runners who bonked. 

A hot morning, I had dumped cups of water over my head and when a guy on the course gave out baggies of ice, I emptied the cubes down my shirt. 

So, all wet, I came though Mile 12 and 13. Thrilled to see "The Finish," I crossed the line as my name was announced. 

Yeah, I was glad to stop, but also elated—thirteen miles under my belt and still standing. 

Found Caroline and Catherine in the complimentary beer garden sitting with our group. My stomach wouldn’t allow me to drink beer but I celebrated. I hugged the fastidious Caroline, who recoiled. “You’re WET,” she said, “Get away from me!” Gentle Catherine was more charitable, “Get in line to get us some beer,” she told me. 

My official pace was 11:14 mile. My finish time, slowest ever by almost half hour, was 2:27:19. I got an age-group first place. No speedy 70-year-old overtook me.

Later, I read that the average female pace for the half-marathon was 12:45 and that includes everyone decades younger than I. 

I could grieve over my slowing but at nearly 73, I’m a minute and a half faster than the average lady. 


None of the statistics or first place mattered upon completing the race. My happiness had to do with achievement. Smart runners advised me not to run, unprepared and recently injured. I wanted to join old friends for a good race and finish strong. 


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ten minutes ago, I paid $129.00 to run the Long Beach Half Marathon this Sunday, Oct 9, 2016. 

Crawling off the plane after 15 hours in the air just 12 days ago, I asked my husband, “Do you think I’ll ever be able to move again?

My back buckled, behind burned, knees knotted, quads quavered. Run? HA! I could neither sit nor walk without wailing.

I rolled with the Rumble Roller, splashed in the pool and jacuzzi, stretched, had my first-ever chiropractor visit. So, I’m back to abnormal, just a gimpy knee or two. 

Is it smart to run a race so soon after regaining a thin layer of fitness? No.

Have I been running in preparation for the race. No, nothing for weeks—been out of the country.

Did I get off the plane and do at least one thirteen as I’d planned, NO!

However in the last week, I’ve been back on the road, cutting work-outs in half. Today did six miles of hills, blistering 14-minute miles. At that pace I’ll do a 3-hour half marathon. I’m used to finishing under 2 hours or more recently, two hours plus 5 minutes.

So, lets see what happens.

NOTE: I committed to running this race months ago to support my friend’s niece who planned to run her first half marathon…she since decided not to do it. 
Now I’m running to support her aunt, I guess. 
Her aunt, my friend Catherine who will finish ahead, assures me she will be in the race’s beer garden waiting for me to cross the finish line. Our speedy friend Caroline will be there, too. HOPE not too long.

Hey, they have to drive me home. 

Wish me luck.