Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

So Young on a Snow Day
March 7, 2013

Since it’s a snow day in Northern Virginia, I thought I would post a snowy video to remember So Young. She relished opportunities to run under almost any conditions, especially in the snow wearing her Yaktrax. This video was taken in the winter of 2009. She had just completed a 2-mile run in about 12″ of snow. It’s great to hear her voice and see her whole.


Hope for the Exercise Intolerant(?)
January 23, 2012

From James:

This is our 100th post! Woo hoo!

We had another follow-up MRI today. We are having them every three months now, so we get a quarterly dose of drama. And of course when I say “we” I mean So Young, but I say that because it feels like we are both going through it. Here is So Young right before the MRI, illustrating how un-nervous/peaceful she was.

SY "Sleeping"

She’s a pro at this now, but I have to tell you, it is stressful every time. You wait for the doctor afterwards, and no matter how optimistic you started, you have this vague feeling that she has bad news.

That was not to be the case this time. The MRI “looks great,” according to our radiation oncologist, Dr. Kristin Redmond. Last time, as you may recall, there was a dramatic reduction in size, estimated to be roughly 30% or so. This time was less dramatic, perhaps to be measured in millimeters rather than centimeters, but nevertheless it continues to get smaller. So Young asked her to show us before and after images, and we agree that today’s tumor looks rather beat up compared to the plump, thriving version of July, just six months ago.

Dr. Redmond confirmed that So Young’s newly diagnosed hypothyroidism might be caused by the radiation, although she said that the timing is rather soon after radiation ended, so the tumor might be causing it. Either way, I don’t think it is a surprise, but it is a good thing that our family practice doctor, Peter Mendel, checked for it. So Young had a bunch of symptoms that would have been written off by a less attentive physician.

Dr. Redmond also said that “exercise intolerance” is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, which would explain So Young’s recent lack of desire to run. That is the funniest turn of phrase I’ve heard in a while. I might start using it myself!

The good news about hypothyroidism, if that is in fact an issue (it hasn’t been definitively diagnosed yet), is that to counteract it, you simply take a pill. Your energy level magically goes up, along with the other symptoms that were plaguing you, supposedly.

As I write, So Young is taking a “victory lap” (as she calls it) on the treadmill. She said she wants to try the Historic Half again this May. She’s going to “take it on faith,” she says. This is her first time running in a long while, and now I have to revise the FAQs again, since I corrected them last night to say she doesn’t run anymore.

So Young has really been enjoying some hymns as performed by Sufjan Stevens recently, and although he isn’t for everybody, she wanted me to post the lyrics from one here. It captures well how we felt on the drive home and have been feeling recently.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

On a more somber note, we ask your prayers at the passing of my step-grandmother Marie Gage. Pray especially for my grandfather, Bill Gage, now in his mid-eighties.

Many thanks to all of you for your countless prayers.

Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half 2011
May 17, 2011

From James:

Short version: Sunday was our first non-metaphorical race together. So Young has run many miles alone. On Sunday, she ran 13.1 long miles shoulder-to-shoulder with her best friend. And then fainted. And went to the hospital. (Don’t worry. She’s fine.)

So Young's Bib: 20/20

Long version:

This race started months ago. I figured out the day we needed to start: February 21.  That was just three weeks after radiation ended, but So Young had been walking or running throughout treatment, so she was ready. When training started, she ran three times per week, sometimes less if circumstances didn’t allow or she was too tired. Two short runs, one long run. We even ran together maybe two or three times, culminating in a 10 miler on May 8, one week before the race.

It is very difficult to run all of those miles exclusively on a treadmill. At first, I questioned whether she could run alone outside at all. Could she see cars if she had to cross the street? Would she trip and fall? What if something happened to her far away from home and nobody knew?

I took So Young on a couple of test runs.  I was extremely cautious at first, holding her hand most of the time in case she fell and calling out cracks and curbs before they came. This became very irritating to her. She would tell me to stop, she would stumble, and I would start again. We figured out that the key was for her to lift her feet more. The stumbling stopped, for the most part, although to this day she still trips on irregularities in her path.

So Young also passed the car test. She could see cars driving down the road with 100% accuracy. She just had to pause and look carefully. Finally, she was not allowed to leave the house without her cell phone.

I write the above as if she waited for my approval to run, but honestly, she did not. I would call home and she would be running without my permission many times before I had a chance to test her. She was ready to hit the road.

With almost three months of training behind us, we left for Fredericksburg Saturday morning. There was great complexity in the childcare this time. So Me, Laurie, and Mom and Dad juggled pick-up times and endured much inconvenience to cover for us.

On the day before the race, you go to the expo, get your bib number, and are plied with MCHH gear, fitness products, and sport food samples. There also always seems to be a pull-up contest that I can’t resist (and lose). So Young and I spent the rest of the day on an extended date, carbing and resting up.

We awoke at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. We ate a small breakfast — a bagel and a banana, So Young less so than me — and rushed to WalMart. WalMart is the epicenter of the MCHH. It is very close to the start line, so a lot of people park there and everybody (it would seem) takes a pre-race potty break there.

We didn’t plan to meet anybody before the race, but at WalMart we accidentally ran into many of our friends who were there to run with us or cheer us on: Tongil, KT, Alvin, Sungjin, and John. Paul (So Young’s brother) and Scott (a colleague from work) were also at the race. We saw Paul but never Scott, for reasons that will become obvious later.

Group Shot

The race, which was run by over 5,000 people, started at 7 a.m. So Young ran strong for the entire course but slowed down as it progressed because of pain in her feet that she has had for several years. I think that the after-effects of radiation slowed her down considerably as well. Still, she never walked and was in good spirits until perhaps the last three miles, when the pain became almost unbearable for her.

I have to admit that I was like a giddy tourist for most of the race. I have never run a race this large or this long. I have only seen the MCHH as a spectator (four times). I carried my camera throughout and took pictures so numerous that as I write I wonder what I was thinking while I was taking them. I’ve included a few of the better photos below. This is decidedly not a boring race.

Couple Shot

Looking Very Energetic Before the First Mile Is Done

Big American Flag

American Flag Above the Course Between Fire Truck Ladders


Tongil Rushing to the Finish for Reasons that Remain Unexplained

Tiny Pony

Miniature Horse Near the Halfway Point


Poignant Reenactment of Famous Hugh Mercer Statue

Marine and Reenactors in Old Town

A Marine and Reenactors in Historic Fredericksburg

Real Marine

A Real Live Marine Gives So Young Her Medal While Paul (Also a Real Live Marine) Looks On

We Made It

Bling! We Made It!

After the race, we met up with Sungjin, John, Paul, and Alvin. (Tongil had already left because — like a superhero — he was off to his next gig, which was leading his small group.) We had planned to spend some time together afterward, but we briefly parted ways.

Paul, So Young, and I took the very long walk to WalMart, limping along. I told Paul to stay with So Young while I went to get the car. Moments later, I saw Paul running toward my car. He told me So Young had passed out. I parked and came running. People were calling 911. She was still sitting on the ledge but was clearly disoriented. A woman who was standing there happened to be a nurse from Fairfax. She helped to get So Young to the ground and elevate her feet.

Very shortly, an ambulance arrived. So Young was conscious and now was more aware of her surroundings. They asked questions and examined her. The EMT said that, because So Young has a brain tumor, he recommended that she be taken to the hospital as a precaution. He didn’t think it was anything serious, but just in case. They drove her to the hospital in the ambulance (emergency lights off), and Paul and I followed.

We spent what seemed like an eternity at the hospital. The doctor took great pains to explain that we might be there for a long time, maybe even overnight. So Young underwent many tests: a chest X-ray, bloodwork, a CT scan of her head to check for bleeding, pulse and blood pressure monitoring, etc. Everything turned out normal. They pumped her full of fluids. She felt great. Meanwhile, Paul and I were pretty sure we were going to faint too from a lack of food and end up in rooms 24 and 25 next to her.

We were very surprised to see Dad in a short while. I had called him but didn’t expect him to come down. When I called, he was in church and passed a note to JP saying that So Young had fainted. The entire church prayed for her at the end of the service. 

Dad, if you are reading this, I want you to know how much you encouraged my wife — your daughter — on Sunday. She was very heartened that you cared enough to be there. We really needed somebody right then. Paul and I were pretty spent and useless at that point. You were the right man at the right time, as usual. So Young is still talking about how much that meant to her. Thanks also for the candy! We had run out of money for snacks and were starving.

When it was all over and we were on our way home, So Young remarked that it wasn’t great to go to the hospital, but it sure made for a more interesting story. We also continue to feel very loved by our family and friends through all of this. The many phone calls, text messages, and tweets we received proved it to us, as did the dear friends and family who prayed for us and even physically showed up to be with us.

When we arrived at home, there was a big poster on the door signed by all our neighbors, the kids, and Mom and Dad, along with a bunch of balloons. The poster said, “Way to go So Young! So brave. We’re so proud.”

Front Door

Our Beautifully Decorated Front Door

So Young jokes that she wonders if God is making her go through all of this to convince her that she’s popular, an answer to prayers she’d prayed in middle school. I think it’s more likely that He’s making us go through this long and difficult race to prove that, in the end, He loves us.

Finish Line Video
May 17, 2011

From James:

If you want to see a video of us finish, click the link below. You then have to click the video marked “Finish Line Videos 3:12 – 3:22,” which is the second video on the list. You can see us between 2:00 and 2:20 in the video. I am on the left in the yellow shirt, and So Young is next to me in the pink shirt.

Crossing the Finish Line Video Screenshot

Put a Fork in Me! I’m Done!
May 16, 2011

From So Young:

On Sunday, I carried each of you in my heart remembering every kindness, each prayer and word of support, loving my family with meals, etc.  It energized me to have my beloved James running this race with me. I was strengthened to know my friends were running the race with us. What an encouragement to be cheered on by Sungjin, one of my dearest sisters in Christ. 

So Young and Sungjin

I felt surprisingly strong until the last few miles. My aches and pains didn’t make it easy. Those hills made it difficult, too. But I do love those hills. My slowest of six half marathons, but it will certainly be my most memorable.

Half Marathon: Quick Update
May 16, 2011

From James:

I just wanted to write a quick post to let everyone know that So Young completed the half marathon yesterday and is fine. Many of you heard about the crisis that occurred, but I want to reassure you that she is alright. For those of you who haven’t heard, after the race, So Young passed out briefly and was taken to the hospital by ambulance as a precaution. They ran a battery of tests (blood, lungs, heart, brain, etc.) and determined that it was most likely dehydration or exhaustion and not a result of her tumor or anything serious. We are notifying Johns Hopkins of what occurred so they can evaluate the situation as well.

The incident was announced at church and many people were praying for her. Thank you for your prayers!

I am working on a longer blog post about the race, but for now I wanted to write this quick post so nobody will worry.

Regardless, she made it! It was an imperfect end to what was otherwise a great weekend and a great race. More to follow…


Marine Corps Historic Half on Sunday
May 13, 2011

From James:

I hope to post on Twitter on Sunday, ideally during the race, if I can. You can follow me @wjgage if you are interested. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us through this race, whether it’s by watching the kids, coming out to support us, running the race with us, or sending us your well wishes. It is truly a team effort!

Debby, I want you to know we got your card! So Young loved it! Thank you. Also, thanks for the big letters and high contrast. Anybody who looks out for So Young’s disability like that is great in my book.

We’re meeting with some people for lunch at Applebee’s on Saturday after the race (at least, that’s the plan right now) if anybody who reads this blog is going to be down there. We hope to limp to the restaurant by noon or so. It’s the one off Plank Road in Central Park, pretty close to the start and finish lines.

And away we go! We’ll be sure to post a race report next week with photos of us looking all cool and athletic.

A Dream
April 30, 2011

From James:

When So Young woke up this morning, she told me about her dream.

In the dream, she woke up from a night’s sleep and found that she could see perfectly. Her eyesight was restored. She ran out of the house and told everyone.

She went to see her friend Grace Oh and told her, “Grace! Your dream came true! I can see again!” (Grace recently dreamed that So Young could see again.) They screamed and embraced, jumped up and down.

She continued to tell everyone: friends and neighbors, people at church. She received a myriad of reactions, but overall everyone was amazed at the miracle.

So Young woke up early this morning, when it was still dark, and realized it hadn’t really happened. Her eyesight hadn’t changed. She was afraid of when the daylight would come, and she would encounter her profound loss of vision again in its fullness.

The dream affected her greatly. She cried as she told me about it. I gave her theological reasons why we suffer: for our sanctification, because of the Fall, because of the flesh. Jesus suffered, too.

She wanted to know why her in particular? I tried to explain there was no reason except to glorify God. She said she was losing patience with God. When would it end? My explanations didn’t seem to work too well, so I prayed for her.

This afternoon, So Young slogged a 9-miler. It really took a lot out of her. “I feel like somebody beat me up,” she said, resting in bed afterwards. But then she said she realized something as she ran. She realized that God’s Spirit was telling her, as she plodded along, that without this suffering, this loss of sight, she wouldn’t see as much as she has seen of Him.

20/20: A Coincidence or a Sign?
April 28, 2011

From James:

I went on the Web to get registration information about our half marathon, which is in about 2 weeks away, and found out that So Young’s bib number for the race is 2020.  (The bib is a piece of paper pinned to your clothing during a race to identify yourself.) That’s a pretty interesting number for a person whose eyesight is 4/200 at last measurement, vs. 20/20.

We’re thinking of good slogans for our T-shirts.

“I’m not slow… I just can’t see where I’m going!”

“Running/walking/crawling by faith, not by sight?”

So Young continues to train as best she can despite her tiredness and feelings of weakness. She is doing very well under the circumstances. As long as there’s no bus to pick us up at the back of the pack during the race because time has run out, we should be fine.

By the way, for any of you MCM Half runners out there: Do you know if there’s a bus for this race? We couldn’t find anything about it on their site.

Eat… Or Else!
April 17, 2011

From James:

For almost two weeks now, So Young has had a severely diminished appetite, but it is slowly getting better. At first, she was eating a couple of snacks a day (no meals) and drinking liquids. Now, I would say she is eating perhaps one meal’s worth of food each day.

This is likely caused by several things: adrenal insufficiency, Keppra (an anti-seizure medication), and late side effects from radiation. Adrenal insufficiency occurs when you are on steroids for a long time. Steroids cause your body to produce cortisol, a hormone that makes you hungry. When you stop taking steroids, your body can respond by ceasing to produce cortisol, so you lose your appetite. You are essentially unmotivated to eat.

So Young has something called “focal seizures” every once in a while. In her, they manifest themselves as mild visual and (less often) auditory hallucinations. Focal seizures can be precursors to more severe seizures, which is why So Young is on Keppra. One of Keppra’s side effects is a loss of appetite.

Radiation is well-known to make foods taste funny. So Young experienced this slightly during treatment, when she developed an aversion to chocolate, of all things. Now she thinks many more foods don’t taste quite right, although she has cravings that we have to keep up with as well and can be the only thing that keeps her eating from time to time.

The nurse threatened to put So Young back on steroids to jump-start her appetite if it doesn’t improve, so she’s highly motivated and gradually getting better.

So Young’s diminished eating has had an effect on her ability to run and on her already severe fatigue. (I don’t think that the Keppra and radiation help, either.) You can’t easily run 6 or 8 miles if you have no fuel to do so, but she is doing it.

On Friday, I tried to call her from work at our home number and her cell many times with no answer for an hour and a half, so I became worried. I called Mom and asked her to check on So Young. Mom graciously dropped everything and drove to our house. Meanwhile, So Young finally called me. She was doing her 8-miler in training for the half marathon. We were worried for the worst, but she was in fact exhibiting the opposite — very vigorous health, despite the circumstances.

Mom called and said she found her. She said So Young refused to let her drive her home. “You married a strong lady!” Mom said. Amen to that! Keep running, So Young!