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Ready, set, go get a life.

One of the reasons I’ve slipped so often in the past on the way to my goal of a healthy lifestyle is that I slowly stop doing what was working. Sounds crazy but it’s so easy to do.

One week I’m running, biking and swimming and the next I’m biking and swimming because there was a meeting I had to get to or it was 95 degrees outside. Sounds reasonable and everyone in that meeting thought they should be the priority. Come on, you can’t do everything, right?

Then it gets easier to shave it back just a little further. I’ll work out on the weekends but in the afternoon so I can finally sleep in a little. Before I knew it I was idle again, had lost all of that muscle I’d put on and was starting to eat from the wrong parts of the grocery store.

Here are the questions I was forgetting to ask myself:

How much time have I gotten back because I’m not so tired or move far more slowly? Do those hours add up to more than the hours I’m working out? How much better do I feel about life in general because I feel better about myself and the way I look? How much easier has it been to keep on taking contrary actions and following my dreams because I feel better? Do I want to take a lot of medications when I’m older or do I want to still be running down the road? Do I want to be biking and chatting with some new friends at 6:30 in the morning, which means going to bed a little earlier or do I want sleep in because I was out at a loud bar the night before where I couldn’t hear anything and then walk around for the first few hours like I’m only half awake?

Fortunately, when the idea of slowing down struck me this summer my new biking friends like Ruth and Piper kept sending me annoying text messages asking me where I was and what did I think I was doing??!! Yes, there were extra question marks and exclamation points. They’re very hard to ignore and so, this Saturday there I was again standing in a parking lot at 6:30 getting ready to set out. Thank goodness. I’ve been told that this will continue in perpetuity. Now those are the kind of friends that can help me to really live. More adventures to follow.


Biking around Chicago

There was a time when I really wanted to not be in pictures. Please, leave me alone. However, that hasn’t really served me all that well. In its place was this desire to be perfect, or should I say obsession that led to binging and dieting, sometimes to the point of fasting. I became great at gaining and losing weight but was clueless how to be comfortable in my own body.

This summer, I’ve been eating right and working out with a triathlon team and I’ve been surprised at what a good time I’ve been having without worrying about how I look. It’s just been fun with no attachments about how I look or where this is all leading. I’m not signed up for any races, that was never my intention and as they’ve moved into race mode for the last part I’ve been substituting my own runs or swims or bike rides.

It’s weird to be so reasonable about the whole thing but I’m excited to see where it’s all going. One of the unexpected blessings has been that I’m simultaneously learning how to be reasonable with myself while still going for the bigger dreams, like getting the next thriller published. I think they call that balance.

After a swim in Lake Michigan

Is it possible that I might actually learn how to maintain an ideal body weight while having a good time working out? Stay tuned, I’ll let you know.


Picture by Dru Bloomfield

Tonight was another run with the Triathlon Group and Mo Wills, and it was as if that first run last week never took place. I was still the last one by at least half a lap and everyone else was on one regimen and I was on another running routine but my attitude had adjusted itself.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to call only one running friend of mine last week to rant about how unfair life can be. I didn’t use those words exactly but it’s what I meant. She listened patiently, found a break in one of my sentences and made some suggestions about how to address the issues. It short-circuited my rant and got me back on track, which is why I called her in the first place.

And, on the last lap when they time everyone – lo and behold, I had moved up from a 14 minute mile to a 12 minute mile. Imagine that, if I stick to something I might get better. Going to call it an early evening tonight.

Tomorrow, the bike awaits and a six mile ride with the group. Talk to you later.


Airborne Run - Photo by U.S. Army

I was supposed to be at a group run tonight. I was at the right location, pretty much on time and there was a group and I was running but I was never anywhere near the group – unless you count the times they lapped me to the left. One nice old guy kept saying, “Good job!” every time he passed me. Very annoying.

I was the only beginner who showed up and it was obvious after about 30 seconds that not only did everybody know each other really well, they knew each other from 100 mile relay runs. I have to run/walk a mile.

So, while they ran a mile as fast as they possibly could in order to get a time to challenge themselves so they could run even faster, faster – I chugged around the track trying to keep my head up and butt tucked. After three times around one of the coaches tried to insist that I already had done a fourth time and completed the mile, even asking me, “Are you sure?”

It’s going to take a little gumption to get me to go back and be the lone, beginner runner again but even now I have a feeling I’ll be pounding around the circle again next week hoping they don’t lap me quite as often. Tomorrow, I get on a bike for the first time in 30 years. Tonight, I wonder why I’m doing this at all. Thank goodness tomorrow’s a new day.


Look at that view - Diving in the clouds with tandem instructor, Rudy. Photo by AJ Gebhardt

There are these narrow points in any long journey where it takes courage to push through and keep going but the view from the other side is breathtaking and life unfolds in completely new ways that are unexpected, bold and sweet. I’ve been passing through one of those since October of 2009 when I was told I had melanoma, Stage II, Clark Level IV and this past Saturday was the postscript with an enormous celebration thanks to PROskydiving at Chicagoland Skydiving Center, Infinity Multisport, Sydney Owen, Doug Smith, Dave Smith and Mo Wills. That’s just the start.

First of all, the great doctors at Northwestern saved my life despite the early diagnosis that there was only a year left on this life. Then came the struggle, or at times battle to walk again normally. After the initial surgery that removed part of the left side of my left leg I had to learn to stride with a normal gait.

Frankly, standing in one spot for long periods of time or walking great distances became a great and often painful challenge. I was determined to push through though as far as I could but at the same time I was looking for grace to accept what might turn out to be my new limits.

Martha and Rudy skydiving

Thank goodness for Sydney Owen and Twitter. During my very first hour of figuring out how to tweet I said something about wanting to try a 5k to show my son that I’m okay now, still not really sure if I meant it and at the same time I commented on someone else’s tweet about skydiving. I said that I had done it once and after I landed I got up and wondered why I was doing anything that no longer served me.

My entire life changed after that, including finding out I had cancer five months later when a small mole was biopsied from beside my knee.

Sydney offered to have PROskydiving sponsor me in that 5K and then to come out and jump at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, IL that same day. Doug Smith is the owner and his brother, Dave, a triathlete got his trainer, Mo Wills from Infinity Multisport involved who showed me the art of chi walking. I picked the Champions 5K in Chicago on August 6th because it was a ways off on the calendar and I really wasn’t sure I could pull off one mile much less 3.2 long miles.

Thank goodness I’m wrong as often as I am. [click to continue…]


Martha Carr and Jenn Gibbons with an update on the 5K Project, running and recovery. Runners from Infinity Training and PROskydiving are going to run and then skydive at Chicagoland Skydiving Center on August 6th in celebration of life. Money will be raised for the Northwestern Dermatology Research on Melanoma fund.

Q: What are you doing this summer to move outside of your comfort levels?


Louie Carr talks about helping his Mom, Martha Carr recover from melanoma and the removal of part of her leg, to learn to walk and to live again and about the 5k Project. Runners from Infinity Training and PROskydiving are going to run and then skydive at Chicagoland Skydiving Center on the same day in celebration of life. Money will be raised for the Northwestern Dermatology Research on Melanoma fund.


My left leg after surgery for melanoma in October 2009

*Today’s blog originally ran as a column shortly after the second bout of melanoma in late 2009.

Lately, my sense of humor has been slipping just a little. Two bouts of cancer in six weeks have left me feeling a little snippy. I find it more difficult to make a joke over something serious or easily relax back into serenity when something doesn’t go right.

Thank goodness my halo has gone in for repairs. It is only when we are really exhausted and exasperated to our limits that our true self gets a chance to air out a little. My true self had a few cobwebs clinging to it.

It is so easy to know that the world likes me when I’m not asking anything from anyone. It’s especially true when I can give wise, profound answers to other people’s problems and can say just the right thing to bring a little comfort. However, that’s not always life and while being able to be calm, collected and witty is admirable, we were given the emotions of anger and anguish for a reason.

Each human being is so unique that asking others how we should lead our own life is a recipe for disaster. We don’t do things the same way because we all have different motivations. Therefore, we have to learn to trust ourselves in concert with the faith of our choosing. However, there are at least five times a week when I’m in a pickle about which way to turn and it’s then that the full array of emotions can come in handy.

A surge of anger lets me know my boundaries have been crossed or at the least that something’s not right and to question, question, question. Anguish tells me to slow down and recognize the loss. The deeper I feel either emotion the more I know I may need some help to get a better picture of what’s happening to me.

I’m not looking for someone to make a decision for me. That would be disabling and we can only give counsel through our own set of beliefs anyway. I’m looking for a different view at a time that I’m lacking clarity, that’s all.

But so many of us were raised to be independent to a fault and as adults we’re finding out that it’s not only a harder road, it was one we were never meant to take.

People who can ask for help and accept it are more likely to have lower stress levels, better health and live longer. That’s why the areas of the world where people live the longest, the blue zones, are full of interconnected families. Not necessarily low-fat diets or a lot of outdoor activity. [click to continue…]


Me in my Kigo shoes just outside of my back door on my way to run.

This has been the summer of running, so far. I’ve passed a couple of milestones, which makes me feel like I have a shot at actually getting somewhere this time.

The big one is my consistency has been up there without being rigid. There was a big thunderstorm rumbling through Chicago yesterday and I didn’t try to be a human lightning rod or feel terrible the entire day because I missed a morning run.

The second one is that I can now run a little distance without feeling like I ought to walk for a minute. Frankly, this is where all of those reality shows on weight loss that I’ve watched finally pay off for me. I would quit sooner but I’ve seen what that looks like and how much farther someone can go, so I keep running just a little bit longer.

I get it. It’s one more place that my will is trying to get me to go sit down.

Running is hard work. The hardest part is getting myself out the door on a consistent basis. It’s not that there’s something else I’d rather be doing.

I’d prefer not to find out that I can’t do something on a grand scale. Then I get to keep the idea that I could if I just tried to run or to write or to save money. There’s a list of things we all keep in the back of our minds of things we want to do.

It’s that immediate response we give whenever someone says, ‘What are your dreams?’

We know immediately the top three and if we’re given a few minutes we can pull out another five and start sorting them into big dream, little dream. [click to continue…]