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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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PREP #21:   CRS*  SYNDROME      April 12
 
"I like my bifocals,
My dentures fit me fine,
My hearing aid is perfect,
But, oh, how I miss my mind!"
-unknown
 


Bloodroot half-opened

Same flowers fully opened an hour later.  On the Trail near Tinker Cliffs in Virginia.    April 9, 2005

If you don't know what the acronym "CRS" means, ask anyone over the age of about 50. They'll tell you - if they can remember!

I don't know if I inherited CRS from my equally-forgetful mom or if it was environmental. But we definitely shared the trait.

Mom was 38 years old when I was born. With a two-generation age difference, she was about the age of my friends' grandmothers.

This never bothered me - she was a terrific mother and we were very close - but I always thought of her as "old" despite her lack of gray hair even in her 80s (no, she never colored it). 

Mom and I shared many traits, including the clumsiness I wrote about in Prep19. Another one is forgetfulness. We used to tease each other about our inability to remember names or where we put things or things we needed to do. We are/were both inveterate list-makers - if we didn't write it down, it probably didn't get done.

For one of Mom's birthdays when she was in her 60s and I was in my 20s, I made her an elegant framed and matted counted cross-stitch picture with the poem above. I knew she wouldn't be offended because she had a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at her foibles. I'm glad I inherited those traits from her, too.

Soon after that she began a series of moves into smaller and smaller residences within the retirement home she had chosen. Gradually she returned to me the numerous needlework pieces I'd given her over the years because she simply had no room to display them any more. But she kept this poem.

I think it was my brother, her primary caretaker, who retrieved it when it became clear that Mom was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. After all the years Mom and I teased each other about our absent-mindedness, it wasn't funny any more when she became senile.

Mom died ten years ago at the age of 84. My siblings and I had her autopsied, and discovered she did indeed have Alzheimer's Disease.

Nothing scares me more, not even cancer. If you catch most kinds of cancer early enough, there is a cure. Not so for Alzheimer's. Despite my athleticism, I can better handle the idea of growing old with a physical disability than with a mind that no longer functions optimally.

I want to be the first in my family to live to the ripe age of 100. Even though my maternal grandmother died only two months shy of 100, the odds are that I won't live that long. I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy mentally and physically so I don't die prematurely like my paternal ancestors.

This includes physical exertion. I'm by far the most athletic person in my (small remaining) family. Am I trying to run from an early death?

You betcha!

AGE SCHIZOPHRENIA

If you're a Baby Boomer like Jim and me, think back to when you were a teenager or in your twenties. What were your impressions of people in their 50s and 60s? They seemed really OLD, didn't they?

Fifty-six used to sound old to me. Heck, it STILL sounds old to me!!

I think Jim and I are pretty typical Boomers who act and feel a lot younger than our parents did when they were our age. We're definitely resisting the concept of " middle age."

Oh, there are days when we feel our 56 years. We can't run as fast as we used to, it takes longer to recover before the next hard run or race, our joints are stiffer from developing osteoarthritis. I won't even begin to talk about the effects of menopapuse, for fear of losing any remaining male readers!

And our memories are a bit less sharp. "Tell me again why we're taking ginkgo biloba, dear?"

But we still like to think of ourselves as 35-year-old athletes. How did those last 21 years go by so quickly??  Warp speed, I say.

We're a bit schizo about age, having young minds trapped in aging bodies. To illustrate our confusion, consider that two of our favorite comics are "Zits" (a teenager) and "Pickles" (a couple of "senior citizens"). I mean, we identify with BOTH cartoons. How schizo is that??

RUNNING AS PLAY

When I'm running, most of the time I do feel younger than I am. In fact, I revert to an impulsive 10-year-old when I'm running in the rain and mud. Why be glum when the trail's a mess and tippy-toe around the edges of puddles in a futile attempt to keep your feet dry? You're probably just gonna get to more and bigger puddles that you can't avoid and get all wet or muddy anyway!

Why not just stomp through those puddles and see how high you can make the water splash? Why not just have fun slipping and sliding around in the mud, and worry about the clean-up later?

(Some days I swear it takes us as long to clean ourselves, the dogs, our clothes and shoes, and the van - as it did to run!)

Even though running is often play to me, a la George Sheehan, I know full well I'm not 10 or even 35 any more. The fact remains that I'm a middle-aged woman whose CRS is getting worse. Names, especially, elude me. But I have a solution and it's related to running and this trek.

UTILIZE THOSE ENDORPHINS!

It's a well-known phenomenon that runners often come up with solutions to problems or other great ideas when they're running. It's tied in with the endorphin high, letting the mind free-flow. It works for both the left and right sides of the brain, too. Some people find the creative sides of their brains go into overdrive. Others can solve complicated math problems that eluded them earlier.

That often happens to me when I'm running in the woods. I'll think of the answer to something I've been pondering, for example, and it's like puzzle pieces that suddenly fit perfectly together. Those "ah-ha" moments are to be cherished.

But remembering them when I'm done is a different matter! By the time I get back to the car - or back home - the brilliant thought, the perfect phrase is POOF! gone. Occasionally it comes back, but often it never does. That's incredibly frustrating to me.

I've experienced that since I began running 25 years ago. When I'd want to write a race report, for example, I'd think of all sorts of witty or eloquent or descriptive things to write about my experience, but they'd be gone as quickly as they bubbled up in my brain while I was running.

One solution  used by some folks is taking a tape recorder on their runs. That's over-kill for my purposes, too much to carry on this trek, and would only encourage me to talk to myself more than I already do when I'm running! 

TAKE NOTE OF THIS, PLEASE

My solution is simpler, and probably one that other forgetful readers of this journal have already employed:  keep a little notebook handy when you're running so you can write down your thoughts right away before the synapses disconnect in your brain.

I've often thought about doing this after a good brain-storming run, and I included it in my list of gear and supplies in an earlier prep page, but it wasn't until recently that I finally employed the methodI got a tiny 25-cent spiral-bound notebook to use during my AT Adventure Run and I've already started practicing.

So far, I've used it to describe wildflowers I've seen blooming along the trail (if I didn't have my camera with me), to write down the names of a couple people I've met, and to record thoughts to incorporate into this journal. 

But anything new takes time to become habitual.

I had the notebook and pen with me Saturday when I was doing an "elevation" session on the Andy Layne Trail and up to Tinker Cliffs** on the Appalachian Trail (up and down twice for a total of about 7,000 feet elevation change in fourteen miles).

My first trip up, I met local ultra runner Neal Jamison going the opposite way with three friends I hadn't met before. If I'd written down their names as soon as we got done chatting, I would have listed them here - but I forgot to get the notebook out and record them!!! Before they were out of sight, I'd already forgotten all three names.*** <sigh>

On the adventure run, the notebook will come in handy as long as I remember to use it! 

*  OK, this is what CRS means:  Can't Remember Squat" (or your favorite "S" word)

** Historical note re: Tinker Cliffs

Since Jim and I are history buffs, I'll occasionally include a bit of history about places along the Appalachian Trail that I think might interest readers.

According to the AT Trail Guide to Central Virginia, Tinker Mountain was named for the legend that a number of deserters from the Revolutionary War hid here, making pots and pans - hence they were called "tinkers."

*** Neal kindly reminded me after reading this entry that his friends' names are Alison Steele, Steve Kerr, and a fella named Jay. Thanks, Neal!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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  2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil