Mommy School: Learning with kids About Persons With Disabilities

This week in “Mommy School,” Child of Mine (COM) and I are learning about Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), as well as preparing for Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, in a week – January 18, 2016. COM is already involved with PWDs, reading to “Therapy Dogs” at our library Paws n’ Pages program.

I have explained to him the meaning of “therapy,” and that therapy dogs help people who cannot help themselves —such as, guide dogs that help their owners cross the road, comfort dogs for companionship, emergency rescue dogs helping owners out of fires, running errands around the house, or notifying 911 in case of life-threatening emergencies.

COM and I picked up a book from the library entitled, Sometimes Mommy Gets Mad, by Learning About Persons with disabilities - Jan 11 16Bebe Moore Campbell  (Author), E. B. Lewis (Illustrator), which explores the subject of “Bipolar Disorder” to young readers. It is a story about Annie’s mom, who is bright as the sunshine, but sometimes does not smile and gets very angry. Luckily for Annie, she has an understanding and caring grandma, her fortress to lean on, when mommy is having her “bad days”. And Mr. Neighbor, who understands that Annie’s mom does not mean bad, when she snaps at him, just for saying hello to her. Most importantly, Annie knows that, even when mommy seems angry on the outside, she loves her very much on the inside.

I explained to COM the meaning of “Bipolar disorder,” emphasizing the parallels between Annie’s mom, and when I am angry and displeased with him. Luckily, for me, COM reminded me that, I am not like Annie’s mom because I get mad at him for not making “good choices”—when he does not stay focused on his homework, or when he plays in the bathroom, instead of doing his routine — brush, floss and rinse.

I thought it would be helpful to supplement our book reading by introducing him to a real PWD who overcame challenges to excel. I thought it would help him understand that PWDs are not always sick and underachieved. I did not want him to feel sorry for them, but make him realize that he is privileged and has the abilities to excel, if PWDs can become winners.

I immediately thought of Oscar Pistorius, a South African spring runner and Olympic medalists, nicknamed “Blade Runner,” who overcame double amputation to compete in field and track with able-bodied persons. But after, murdering Reeva Steenkamp (no, I do not believe his “self-defense” crap), I did not want to expose COM to a tainted personality; he is not a role model, anymore!

Thankfully, there is the WWW, and there is YouTube, with plenty of videos about athletes with disabilities breaking records, and disabled persons doing extraordinary amazing stuff. We watched three videos:

1) Marcel Hug, winner of the 2015 Boston Marathon Wheelchair from Switzerland. COM got to see a marathon competitor in a wheelchair, using his hands, instead of his legs to race and climb the hill around Newton on the Boston Marathon route.

2) A mom and her son born without arms, but not deterred from enjoying life to the fullest, as active persons —swimming, cooking, playing sports, writing, dressing up themselves and getting on with their daily lives with smiles. I told COM that he had no excuse for not doing and achieving greatness, if a child without limbs could do everything.

3) Video about a double amputee mom, who found happiness after an attempted suicide. She tried to take her life by laying under a train, losing both her limbs. After becoming a mother, she said she found new meaning in life, and realized that life was not all about her. Having a child helped her find happiness and a purpose to live. And her latter boyfriend, made her life easier, and supported her in raising her son.

I explained to COM the meaning of “Depression,” when some people feel so sad and incapable of finding happiness within themselves. Some people take their own lives/kill themselves or the lives of others. COM got to see artificial legs, and the mom putting them on and off.

Next on our agenda is a practical experience of “the life of PWDs”. We will practice using crutches and a wheelchair, play a game, where he tries to eat with his hands tied up, and write a story while blindfolded.

Have you have you introduced your little ones to the subject of Persons With Disabilities? Share your stories and strategies.

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Follow Your Body and Pace, Not Your Garmin

SteamtownWhile plenty of running apps guide you on how to run a marathon, how to achieve your target finish time, the target pace, average speed, and all sundry, the best advice I have received is “Follow your pace and your body, not your Garmin.”

Not from Garmin, but a buddy, with whom I ran my first marathon. After a couple of marathons, I now know more than ever what he meant. For, I have paid the price each time I did not take his words seriously.

Sometimes I have listened too much to the running app instead of my body. Yet running apps lie, lie and lie! Those moments their GPS locator fails! It did not occur to me [stupid as it sounds] that running apps timing is based on GPS availability!

Well, I had never paid serious attention, until that sweet-bitter race! My finish time was totally different from the official marathon finish time, I learned that my running app did not correctly record the time, in plac
es it was MIA! It just continued on from where it had stopped recording.

Sometimes, I listen to the paces of fellow runners, and either follow, maintain my pace or slow down. This could either be both a good and bad for achieving my race goal.

A week and a-half ago, I did my second marathon of this year, after Boston in April. For this last marathon, it was a great idea to strike a balance between holding back and following “the crowds”. For most the run, I decided my own pace; oh I take that back, MapMyFitness [and sometimes RunKeeper] decided my pace.

Then and again, I tagged onto a runner or a group of runners. About three miles to finish, I found myself a pacesetter who pulled me along to finish. If she did not come along when she did, I would have slowed down, especially at Mile 25. I did not expect that nasty hill near the finish. Let me just say, from mile 23, it was all uphill. But she was still running as fit as a fiddle, and had done this race before.Pacesetter

So, I just tagged along, and that helped me conquer the steep hills. In fact, she saved me from a would-be shocking terrible finish. I had no idea, my apps were not telling me correct timing! I was holding back, thinking I am running faster than my target pace. All wrong!

I know that going too fast can also be detrimental to a good finish. Boston 2015 comes to mind. I had a great time, running out there with lots of cheers, the weather was not too bad and my legs felt in the best shape ever. I was not listening too much to my running app, but my body.

But for the last six miles, particularly the last three miles, I experienced the most difficulty, staying the course. Plenty of times, I wanted to quit and walk. It was gruesome climb after climb. The course is a pain in the butt, plus the wind velocity of the day. Damn! It beat me so bad. But I am proud because I had great pace/mileage.

For my next marathon, I plan follow my body and legs more than my Garmin. Yes, I am going to invest in a Garmin again! You know, ever since I started running with my phone [which is kind of for security purposes] I put off buying another Garmin after my previous one broke. I thought, running apps work as good as a Garmin.

But there’s no better GPS technology than a Garmin to locate you, while mobile network provider sleeps off. Implying, the “security phone” is actually not secure the entire course. Your mobile network provider might not rescue you, if you run off in the thicket of the forest!

Above all, remember to have fun running a marathon, color your hair, read the placards and give a power touch whenever a spectator asks for one. High 5 the kids, stretching their hand out to cheer you on along the course. Respond with a “Thank You” to the spectators as much as possible. It means a lot to acknowledge those who have foregone their sleep, standing out in the freaking cold, the heat or pollen to fuel you up.

Next up, Chic-Town?Pacesetter too

Tapering For Real! Road to Boston Marathon 2015

Telling a runner that you cannot run after 21K, is like saying you cannot walk after a full marathon.

Who does that? Who listens to that? Not a runaholic. And I happen to be perfectly one of the brand.

On second thought, perhaps there is a time when enough is enough! When even a runaholic better go into “Tapper Zone”. For real, I might have said “Tapper Zone” two weeks ago, but never committed to it. Shh! Please don’t tell my Team Coach that I did not listen to his advice. Don’t even blame me for disobeying my coach, it is complicated!

See, I am training away from my fellow teammates, Tufts Marathon Team (TMT) for the Boston Marathon 2015. I am not sure when they started on a training plan, nor each individual projected finish time. My marathon training plan, from one of the run apps I use has me going on longer than my Team Coach’s recommended tapering period/date. So, I decided to follow my run app.

But I am done! Believe me, I did my last long run 20.66 miles this Friday, March 27, which I think is a safe moment to end the long runs, in preparation for marathon on April 20. I am aiming for a better finish time than my last marathon. The marathon plan I am training with has a lower finish time than my target finish time. I am not sure that is advisable? Is it? Hopefully I won’t burn out to d-day.

Talking about burning out, most marathon coaches and pre-scheduled training plans advice to take off the day after a long run. Trouble for me, I have to readjust my schedule to fit my life. A typical marathon training schedule plan goes like this:

Sunday – Long run (combination of fast and steady) Boston Marathon 2015

Monday – Off 

Tuesday – Fast (marathon pace (10miles<)

Wednesday – Slow (under 10)

Thursday – Fast (under 10)

Friday – Off      

Saturday – Slow and short

Looks like a great schedule, right? Except that I have a lil’ ‘handicap’. I cannot do long runs over the weekend because I am the sole CEO of my child, who is home from school over the weekend. When I have occasional help, I go out and do up to 13 miles, but that is not guaranteed. Which means I readjust my schedule to do most of my running during the week, when child is at school.

Monday – Off

Tuesday – Fast (marathon pace 5-8 mi) Sometimes Off

Wednesday – Slow (4-6 mil)

Thursday – Steady/Fast (6-11 mil)

Friday – Long Run Steady and Fast (8-20)

Saturday – Steady (4-8 mil)

Sunday – Off or Steady (8-13mil)

My schedule is a little intense, but it has kind of worked for me. If I have a chance to run on Sunday, then I take off Tuesday. Sometimes I run six days in a row, sometimes take off Wednesday, if I know I can run Sunday. There is no guarantee for Sunday, so I try not to risk a week day, when I am sure I can run.

Generally, I have done well with my schedule, although I have missed a couple of runs due to inclement weather or work schedules that did not allow me time off to run. Sometimes I have made up by running longer distance on the following days, otherwise, I put in a short run. Overall, I have put in quite an impressive mileage per week.

This week, I put in 56.7 miles, my most mileage in a week! I cannot believe that  translates to 91.2 Km. I feel strong at the end of the week. I also did all the scheduled runs for the week, and more. Plus, I did back to back running from Wednesday to Sunday. My long run was on Friday with 20.66 miles, mostly steady with eight miles fast. Ideally, I would have to rest on Saturday, but I decided to go out for a slow run instead, to stretch my legs and relax the sore muscles. Then Sunday, I went on a Steady/Fast eight mile run, and sealed off the week feeling strong again.

I am finally agreeing to go into “Tapper Zone”. I have put in enough long runs, I am not doing any more long runs until Marathon Day, April 20. Now on, I am going for speed and shorter runs. The longest run I have left is 13 miles next week, thereafter will all be under 10 miles.

I do not feel ready, though. I do not feel like I have done enough preparation. I still do not feel plenty of strength. Too much information coming in, is also making me a nervous wreck. I repeat, Ignorance is Bliss, sometimes! All the tips about running, preparing, tapering, nutrition, rest, and more are so much for me! I want to switch off, but then I do not wanna miss anything important.

Today, I received my “Runners Passport”, and all the info I need for Boston Marathon. Totally freaked out. Off to work on more strength, and off to keep the fundraising.

Now, this is the part where I ask you again, to please please support my pledge and responsibility to Tufts Marathon Team to fundraise for Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition, health, fitness and wellness. I would appreciate any donation you can add to support me at https://www.crowdrise.com/doreenlwanga for such a worthy cause. It would boost my running even more!