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?
I’m sure you get more than enough advice on all this but I thought I would share what my mother does for a living. (she is not the author of this book but practices N.A.E.T.). I don’t know if insurance covers it at all but it might be worth looking into. My mother has helped hundreds of children and adults with this practice.
I’ve had my share of bad doctors (childhood of leaving the office in tears) so I can relate to the value of finding a good one! It wasn’t until I found one in the city that had a private practice that I love. She’s in the endurance running is crazy camp but still supports me and is worth holding on to. Just requires finding extra support in diabetic marathon training experience. Good luck searching!!
There is a book, “How Doctors Think” by J. Groopman, that I have found very helpful in ‘managing’ my interactions with the health care system. Having a sense of what is going on behind those medical eyebrows is the first step in becoming an equal (or lead) partner in the treatment process.
Also, older doctors became committed to a profession that was very different from the one they are trapped in now. Some are quitting and others have just become ‘cranky’ and shut down to the human side of the business. Younger docs chose the career knowing a situation that is much closer to the current reality and are happier with their lives. So, age is becoming a useful screening tool.
Finally, befriend a nurse. They know (or can find out) the real story on doctors and they are way more likely to be straight about it with you.
Love that lady who said she was going to become pregnant in order to gain control of the process. Pay attention to how that changes the flow of a discussion.
Great blog! You enrich the entire running experience. Thank you for taking the time and writing so well.
I’m so glad you’re looking at holistic options. Unfortunately, most medical professionals are of similar mindsets. Good for you for trusting your “gut” — no pun intended – or maybe it was 😉 and doing your own research and believing that what you eat can make a difference!
The first time I saw my PCP he had me at his office for 5 hours, checking all my levels, blood pressure, asking a ton of questions and establishing what “my normal” was. His schedule will never run on time, and I will never be in and out, but I just try to remember how hard finding a doctor who cares and remembers the little things really was. Best of luck in your search! Good doctors still exist, I promise!
I’m totally on my own team. All my runs are solo, and I usually race solo too (no BF at the finish line … or he comes, and then I PR so massively that he misses the finish!). It was great to have my parents, BF, and BFF at my first marathon, but I’m not getting used to it. I’ve always been a solo kind of gal.
I’m sorry to hear that your search for a GI doc continues – that is so not cool. I’ve had a few GI docs tell me that changing my diet wouldn’t matter either and for a long time I believed them. Thing is, when I started Weight Watchers and started to eat healthier things did change. So I call BS on that statement. I hope you find someone good who can take your lifestyle into account and prescribe the best treatment to fit with your life rather than making your life work around a treatment plan.
Lots of hugs Ali… 🙂
What about seeing a dietitian that specializes in GI issues? They’re not covered by insurance normally but cost a lot less…and a few sessions could get you started?!
I absolutely love that picture of your family running with you. It’s so wonderful how supportive they are!
Would you be willing to go to Westchester to see a doctor? I know it’s far…but I have a friend who is a doctor there and I can ask her for a recommendation at least! (or maybe she knows someone in the city…I’ll ask regardless just in case!)
Have you tried natural medicine doctors?? I haven’t myself, but I know some people who do and they swear by them.
Spot on! We don’t live in this world alone; the ones in our circle – family, friends, coach, trainers – are the best!
I’m sorry that doctor sucked. He had a different treatment philosophy than you’re interested in. It’s shocking he would just prescribe all that medication without first doing a thorough exam. I’m confident you’ll find a good doctor soon.
I’m excited that you’ve got your team lined up for your marathon training. Reading your blog last year and all your training adventures for the Hamptons Marathon really helped motivate me in my training for the NYC Marathon. Now, we’re going to run the same marathon!!!
Team Ali right here, yo!
You are 100% right about going with another dr. You can fix so much with nutrition, diet and exercise I wish modern medicine would get on board with that.
Keep looking, Ali – you’ll find the right one. Sorry it’s taking you so long!
wow the team does seem solid but the doctor hunt seems dreadful.
I need a team to be a runner too though. I find I need the motivation and the accountability of a group to keep me going and to reinforce my internal interest and will and confidence. (I’m taking applications…)
I’m not sure about living with Chron’s but what you eat DOES matter. It can and does have a huge impact. Most doctor’s aren’t required to take a nutrition class and obviously this guy never took one. Keep trying.
Just found your blog and am truly inspired. I’ve been living with Crohns and fighting a flare for the past year. My doc took me off 6mp while on Remicade because new studies are starting to show some pretty scary side effects. I used to live in NYC and loved my doc there (I’m now in DC). Let me know if you’re still looking for a rec.
I saw Dr. Kim at Mount Sinai hospital on the UES a few years ago and she was great. She has an in office nutritionist, tested me for Celiac, and seemed open-minded and thoughtful. I don’t know if she has experience with Crohn’s, but it’s worth a call. Numbers and address below. 🙂 Good luck!
5 East 98th Street
New York, NY 10029
I’m part of the cheese team!! This brings me joy.
I’m with you. I admit I cannot do it alone. I need support system and am pretty damn lucky to have an amazing one: a team (NYAC), a coach, parents, a girlfriend/agent/manager (Nicole!), and friends (like you!). If I didn’t have a coach for guidance and a group of people to train with daily, not sure where my running would have gone in the past year. Also, I mostly have to give credit to a girlfriend who puts up with my needy self. She is forced to deal with my going to bed early, get dragged around the entire country to watch me run on pavement, on grass, on mondo-surface in circles, etc etc. My journey with running over the past year has had a ton of ups and downs and I’m sure that will continue in the future. Similarly to Brian, I hope Nicole still holds/picks/whatevers me up along the way. Anyways, I’m extremely thankful for everyone on the support team. I think one of the single most important things to have in order to be successful. PS- I’m honored to be mentioned in your blog. I feel SUPER cool. I’m being 112% serious.
I gotta say, i’m more of a fly solo type gal when it comes to my training/races… well at least i always have been. but as i get older, life gets crazier, and my body hates me just a little bit more, i’m thinkin i may need to start leaning on a few other people as well.
love your game plan. keep looking for your doc, the last one sounds like a dbag
How could what you eat NOT effect a digestive disease? This guy sounds like a real bozo.
I do most everything on my own. I wish I could assemble an awesome team of people like you have. I hope you find a doctor that works for you.
Can you tell me more about Dr. Levine and what an ART doctor is? Good luck finding a new doc!
Great post! Support System/Team is a must! Not just running a marathon- in life for real!
It makes life more interesting, things are more fun because you have this net to fall back on!
That’s one stellar team you have there (to quote your parents’ sign). Mine includes my boyfriend (who cheers me on, even when it means a 5am wake up call), my parents, my runner bff (who runs races with me), and my chiro. LOVE my chiro!! I also like to think that running blogs like yours are on my team. I learn so much from them and they motivate me to kick my own butt and just run! Thanks Ali!
I wish you were here in Seattle. I have the best GI doc EVER!!!!! You need a good one, keep hunting 🙂
It definitely depends on the day! Sometimes I like to zone out & run solo – & on other days I doubt I would run if it weren’t for my husband pushing me to go out for a quick3 miler!
That Dr. sounds like a moron! Uhhh duh, of course what you eat matters! Good for you for knowing what you want in your Dr. and the direction you want to go with your treatment. I had the same problem with my previous Dr. (it was like his office was a gastro factory, just pushing patients thru) and I stupidly stuck with him for too long. Found a new Dr. and LOVE him! He started from scratch with tests and such, listens to all my crazy questions and worries, genuinely cares and takes the time, and bases my treatment on what we discuss, both with medecine and lifestyle choices. In case you’re interested, his name is Dr. Divyang Parikh and he’s on Staten Island. I know it would be a bit of a trip for you but maybe worth a try?
I am jealous of your team! How AWESOME!!!
That sucks about your doctor. Looks like he just doesn’t really care. 🙁
I met Meb a few years back at an expo. I was so nervous and didn’t say anything to him. I wished I would have. I do have a lot of medals that I don’t want anymore so I will definitely donate them.
Keep on running Ali!!
Finding the right doctor is a lot like finding the right husband. Keep looking! I’ll look for you when I’m out “running” in the park 🙂
I have a ton of supportive people in my life, but for the most part I am alone in my love to run and discuss all of the minor details! I’m fine with that because I’m happy that I have people in my life that will listen to me no matter how much information I share. I just try to share as little running, pain, etc. information as possible.
ugh. Very frustrating. I would look further into the holistic options. It doesn’t hurt. At the same time, I say cut your losses and try another dr. Obviously we see that this one gets alot of visits from drug reps.
Ugh, really sorry about that doctor. How frustrating.
Um, so, I TOTALLY sprint the end of my runs like it’s the final push to a finish line. Is that bad?!
I do, too. More so I can just be DONE!
Tyler needs an “I <3 sweat" onesie!!!! And then he can be your Team Sweat mascot.
the ones who read your blog! we are part of your team too! I will be supporting you from miles and miles away (Central America to be precise).
BTW I want to clon Coach Cane and make him move to my country to coach me! Send him my regards! Although omit the cloning part that might sound weird just tell him I am a big fan!
I’m so glad you finally saw a new doctor…even if you weren’t a fan. It’s a good first step! I am keeping my fingers crossed that you find a doctor who is a runner and understands your drive, is knowledgeable AND open minded.
Golly, the whole doctor situation is pretty dismal, isn’t it. Do you have others to look at?
I have a very small team – the Husband looks after our little boy so I can run, and I really appreciate that. And then there was the ridiculously handsome man who once did sports massage but he was so handsome I haven’t dared go back since.
I’m sorry Dr. Douche wasn’t able to get past his narrow treatment vision. I have no doubt you’ll find someone awesome though, someone who will work with you to treat your Crohn’s and hopefully get you feeling much better for all of the time (instead of just intermittently). And also this magical fantasy doctor will wear an I Heart Sweat shirt. Obvs.
My team is small but so wonderful. I just started running in February (doing my first half marathon in August) and I’ve been very lucky with my support system. My BFF Erin sends me encouraging texts in all capital letters (because caps lock is my love language). And then there’s my friend Will, who has become my running app, so we call him iWill. He’s run every race with me, lets me text him my silly questions at all hours, and is even getting me into trail running. Also he’s an Ironman and crazy fit and wants to do all the distances. We’re weird and we dream of running Western States together someday.
Good for you for telling the doctor that you didn’t agree. It can be very hard to stand up for yourself in those situations. I spent 10 years on a medication that was causing rather terrible side effects but I couldn’t find anyone who would agree that I should go off of it, because it was doing what it was supposed to. It also causes really bad birth defects, so I finally convinced a doctor that I wanted to get pregnant RIGHT AWAY (which was a flat out lie). It worked and suddenly there were other medication options available, but now whenever I see that doctor I feel like I have to explain why I am not yet with child . . . . Good luck finding someone new. Keep looking!
I struggle with finding the right doctor for my thyroid and endocrine issues. It’s a pain right now because my insurance sucks. Anyway, the only time I really want a “team” is on long runs over 15 miles. I recruit Josh to ride his bike along side me and carry my water and food. He loves riding his bike at an incredibly slow speed for 4 hours.
You’re team sounds awesome, but you’re right, you don’t have the doctor for you yet. Your first one sounds like mine, who told me for 2 years I have having a panic attack, but actually needed an organ removed.
And yes, holistic remedies and changing your diet will help. It won’t cure, but it’ll definitely help.
Oh man, I wish my friends would put up with running talk. They’ve stopped answering me on GChat 🙁 Boo. They don’t realize how lonely the West Side Highway and Bridle Path get whenever I have something like a forced running hiatus lol.
Where is Tyler?!
You’re so lucky to have Coach Cane. I was trying to spend money on a coach, but I can’t find a good one in my town. Or I don’t even know how to go about finding one that’s in my town.
Do you have a local running store? Usually the people there know coaches or can refer you to somebody.
There’s one big local running store. I asked them and they said they didn’t know individual coaches but that I was welcome to join their group runs in the afternoon. I might do that.
1) my doctor specifically took me OFF 6MP when I started remicade…she said there was no value added. she was right, I’ve noticed NO difference since coming off
2) is Tyler on your team??
1. Really?? We should discuss. This doctor said the opposite, that he wanted the Remicade and 6MP to work together. Let’s chat.
2. Tyler is the captain of the team. Duh. More photos, please. I’m coming to visit ASAP.
i know i don’t know you…but….i’m on remicade and Imuran right now. the GI says they work well together. i’m a little iffy on that, and would like to just come off the imuran, and stick with just the Remicade. i’m curious about this…
My GI doctor referred me to a rheumatologist, who also wanted me to be on remicade and methotrexate. I said no to the methotrexate (bc why would I want to be on a drug that CAUSES abortions and is used for chemo?) and switched over to Humira. I was on remicade for 11 yrs and was at the highest dose. I’m doing much better! I changed my diet and added acupuncture. I hope you start feeling better soon, Ali! I know your pain!
Life is all about the support team. Mine = social workout internet buddies, my parents and sisters who listen to me ramble about getting picked up in golf carts and needing more “stuff”, and pretty much anyone else who will listen. Also, included are accupuncturist, Mr Foam roller, and my weird neighbor who somehow is impressed with the fact that I am physically able to stretch
Wow, that doctor sounds like a royal douche. Makes me sad for the ones who don’t do the research on their own and are seeing him 🙁 Hoping you find someone fantastic (and affordable) soon!
It was frustrating because he actually seemed like a nice guy! He was polite, he didn’t seem ill-intentioned, of course. He just wasn’t thorough, and seemed like he knew one treatment for this disease and refused to stray from it, regardless of patient concerns. Oh well. On to the next!
Definitely proud to be a member of Team Ali. …although it saddens me that the most recent picture we have of the three of us is from January. I mean, that was well before I became a Buchonckedy. This needs to be fixed.
I hope you figure out the doctor situation soon. I know it doesn’t help for me to keep saying “hang in there” but…hang in there. You have an awesome support system to keep you going when things get frustrating. Now you just need to find someone who is going to help you “beat colitis.” BAM!