Friday, December 28

Wine 101

Oh, a glass of wine is fine when you dine...

Sorry. I'll stop rhyming now. Ahem.

A friend posted this on Facebook and The Wine Bar itself says to share like wildfire, so here I am sharing with all you fine people.

This little graphic details several types of wine by name and where they fall on the scale of bold to light and fruity to earthy.

Who knew that mathematically-familiar x and y axes would be so useful to plot out the finer points of one of the finer beverages we enjoy?

wine chart

I learned by browsing their website that The Wine Bar is very sharp to point out that "you don't need a master's degree to enjoy wine." (And even if you do have a master's, well, you shouldn't feel silly about not knowing jack about wine... except for that little bit you absorbed on the wine country tour you took last summer while visiting San Francisco... like me.) They also offer pairings for snacks with wine and recipes with wine.

I like them already. Maybe next time I'm in New York, I'll see if my friend will take me to their leader. 

Thursday, December 27

Karissa's 2012 Race Recap

This was my first year as a runner. I started running in earnest in November 2011, hitting a trail near my home every day that I could. I loved it. When it got cold, though, my lungs didn’t love it and I was stuck indoors with no real way to keep going. After Christmas I decided to join the Anytime Fitness in my neighborhood. I know, I know: this is the New Year’s resolution of New Year’s resolutions… a gym membership. But my real resolution was to run a 5k. A few days into January I signed up for a race in April with a friend. The date was on the calendar and I now had a goal to work towards. 

I signed up to work with a personal trainer for a few sessions at a special introductory price and learned how to use the machines and free weights, and she also taught me some things about nutrition and what muscle groups to work in what order. I couldn’t afford to continue with personal training, but I took what I learned from those sessions and did my best to apply it as the months wore on.

I ran as much as possible. 

Friday, December 21

Appetite = Zero

This battle with food is hard fought, but I feel like I'm losing despite my best efforts.

It's probably the stress of the holidays combined with the difficulties I was already experiencing to make the perfect storm of absolutely zero appetite... But I have zero desire to eat. And when I do, I struggle to find anything that tastes good.

I've been trying to work with some of the solutions my friends gave me last month, but even these are becoming difficult. I had Thai food this past weekend and that was good. I've tired of all things in bar form. Smoothies are also losing their touch. I'm beginning to fear what I will have to do if this continues.

Last night I told my boyfriend about how I've felt and, naturally, he was worried. We had planned to eat dinner together anyway, but he said he'd help me go get groceries so I accepted. Going to the store right now is difficult because I end up leaving with either a) almost nothing or b) nothing but crap.

So he came with me. The cart was mostly empty. I had tried to get a few things like sherbet for smoothies, but he talked me out of it (read: stood in front of the freezer case and told me "no").

I know I need to eat. It is so hard. I hate choking things down.

We walked to the diet supplement aisle and I looked at whey protein. I bought "Designer Whey" in French vanilla. It was really the recipe for the orange dreamsicle smoothie on the back that took me in. I like that kind of flavored thing, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I made it this morning, but I had to choke it down too. I had toast for breakfast, but I know that's not really enough, especially if I'm going to try to ramp up my running...

I've felt ill since I finished the drink, though, too. Burping it. Feeling like it's in my throat. Sigh...

It's really upsetting to struggle with this. I'm trying to use reverse psychology to go against myself, but even that seems to be failing right now. Even some of the "crap" that I would normally gravitate towards isn't appetizing (Velveeta shells and cheese, microwave popcorn, freezer waffles).

I'm pushing onward, but this is really getting old.

Wednesday, December 19

Running Education: A Coach and a Team

In the throes of illness last week, I missed the informational session for the Training Academy run by Elite Runners and Walkers (Robinson Twp and Monroeville, PA), but my friend Eleanor hooked me up with the details and the contagious energy of the group while we drove to and from Columbus this past weekend. I was excited about the prospects of learning about running so I could be good at it. But I wasn't *quite* sold.

Last night was our first meet. After driving around the local high school's enormous campus searching for the track (which I had incorrectly assumed would be lit), I finally found my friend's car and parked next to it. Each of us in the small group is training for either the Pittsburgh Marathon or the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. It was hard to stand still because it was pretty chilly and kind of windy.

Our coach arrived. We talked about the program and how it worked, and then made our way to the exceptionally dark track. Somehow it seemed that the darkness got a little darker there. We walked quickly to warm up, and I found a few small patches of ice. That made me nervous... Coach taught us some really excellent stretches, most of which I had never even seen before. Then we ran around a few times. I was being extra cautious and I'm not fueled by lightning, so I was trailing behind the pack. We decided it was too dangerous to do any timed running there and made our way back to one of the myriads of parking lots.

Then the goal seemed simple. Run for ten minutes. I ran behind the group until we returned to the starting point and had to stop. Passing a half dozen idling diesel school buses in addition to running in the cold air sent my lungs reeling and I couldn't catch my breath. That was a little upsetting. But at least I'm being honest with myself. I want the coach to know where I am. Really. And to help me develop a plan to improve from that point. So while I was a little down about my performance, I was at least feeling okay about being real with both myself and the coach.

After everyone finished, we discussed lots of other aspects of the program and I began to see the merits of being involved in something so well organized. I get a coach, a training plan, education, and personal interaction. Not bad for such a decent price. Definitely cheaper than a semester of college (which is about how long the program runs).

I'm treating this as my investment in my future. My education as a runner. I'm hoping to learn enough and improve enough that I can take these lessons with me for the rest of my life (even if I end up going back to the program again and again, which is what they say many people end up doing).

Monday, December 17

The Weak, Sick, Less-Than-Awesome 5k

I learned a lot by running in Saturday's race. Sadly, most of it was learned in pain or discomfort.

Having had the flu earlier in the week, I had gotten myself well enough that I went to work on Thursday and Friday. (Surpassing "human" after feeling so violently ill earlier in the week was a significant victory for me and my immune system.) Surely, I thought, this meant that I was well enough to go run on Saturday.

No, not really. Big difference between going to work and running a 5k. On a scale of awful to fantastic, I was at "well enough to go to work." I had not yet reached "well enough to run." But ran I did.

The first kilometer wasn't bad. It was in the low 40s that morning (the race started after 10 a.m.), so my lungs were a little chilled, but I had done a decent warm-up, so I felt good about how I was breathing. I had taken both my inhalers too. I was good to go.

Unfortunately, my knee started to hurt a little. Enough to bug me to slow down. So I slowed down. And then my gut started complaining. Ugh. So I walked a little. When I started running again, the air felt different and I began breathing erratically. I took my inhaler to try to nip an asthma attack in the bud. I kept going. My friend stuck by me (she's awesome) and we ran on.

When I started feeling nauseous, the race felt interminable. I knew then that I wasn't well enough to run. (Who doesn't love hindsight?? Argh.) The goal became to just finish the race.

There were still people behind us, so my mental game was at bay. Thank goodness. One thing was going right.

We ran, slowed down, ran, walked, ran, slowed down... in a pattern until we sprinted for the finish line. I always want a strong finish. It feels good. After that, though, I needed to sit down with a bottle of water and I really, really needed something warmer to wear.

I wasn't thrilled with my time--37:27--but having had the flu and having not run for three weeks since I had a knee injury, I think I did okay.

It wasn't my intent to just go cold into running the race. Last week I had wanted to do a few easy runs a few days during the week to see how my knee felt and make sure I was stretched and ready. But with the flu, there was no way to do that. So the lessons learned are as follows: 1) don't rush to return from illness, 2) try to gauge how well you feel by being active before the day of the race, 3) don't return from an injury and an illness at the same time (ever).

This was the last race of 2012 for me. My next race with be on New Year's Day! I'll recap my 2012 racing season in another post, but I'm really excited that I completed this race. It wasn't easy because I wasn't well, but I finished.

Friday, December 14

Down with Holiday Food Guilt!

And so it persists, this problem with food. I've been eating better than I was when I initially wrote about my struggle--mostly thanks to suggestions of pure brilliance from friends--but I'm battling boundaries I didn't know existed here in my mental waywardness of edibles.

Having the stomach flu this week did nothing for my desire to eat nor my ability to consume food... Even though I feel 100% human today after a terrific night's sleep, I hesitated when I went to pack my lunch this morning. I had almost nothing to go on because I hadn't had time to get to the store... So I left my house a few minutes early to hit the local grocery before work. Now THAT was a stroke of genius. I bought Greek yogurt, burritos, fruit, and Odwalla juice because Lord knows I need more vitamin C.

But back to the initial pre-flu struggle. I've been concerned about how to handle the holidays since they're centered around food and tend to put eating habits on display for observation. At Thanksgiving I was able to make myself eat a plate of turkey and fixins without too much trouble. Christmas and New Years (and for those of you who celebrate other holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanza), though, brings lots of little celebrations to dot the calendar as people are able to gather together. I've been a bit nervous about any critical remarks I might earn with the evidence of my appetite or lack there-of.

Thanks to some good Twitter friends, I found Shape Magazine's 10 Responses to "Food Pushers". These are things to say when someone tells you to have some more, to take seconds, or something like that. Admittedly, Shape Magazine probably has in mind who its readers are, so the article is slanted towards people who are fit (or trying to be) and body conscious.

Note: most of the situations indicate that the person is skinny or could manage to gain a few pounds, or suggest that the person is eating unhealthily or has an eating disorder. But in our world obviously there is a blurred line between fitness and illness... This is not a perfect world, with none of us perfect.

The title of the piece is a little misleading because not all of the responses indicate that the other person wants you to take more food (i.e., food pusher). For example, there are responses to "Girls don't normally eat that much" statements (indicating you've eaten quite a bit, or at least more than this person expected) and "Should you really be eating that?" kinds of questions. These are definitely helpful to people outside of what I am assuming is the standard readership of the magazine. (Disclaimer: I'm human and make assumptions; forgive me if I'm incorrect.) Have a look at the situations and the responses. I think I feel better about going to dinner parties just having read that because I think I can intelligently respond to whatever quip someone lobs my way, whether about my appetite, my size, or my weight. (Which, quite honestly, I've been doing for years, but somewhat less gracefully. Mostly with silence.) At the very least, this article prompted me to think about the things I wouldn't want to say...

I can talk myself into changing my habits for just these few days, few hours, few minutes that I'm walking past cookie trays and passing the butter and complimenting the cook... But I'd be sick, uncomfortable, and unhappy, so it's not worth it. Besides, it's honest to goodness work that I'm doing in all the time OUTSIDE of the holidays that matters most. (Furthermore: here's more evidence that mindful eating is the eating that matters most when making memories of food.)

Enough with the guilt. I know what I'm doing for myself. I am going to do my best and I hope that you do your best. I am killing the guilt with knowledge about my habits and how to work on them. I know the cause of my problem and I am taking steps to help myself. I am taking down the guilt by staying strong when facing food pushers who urge me to eat more than I might be comfortable with right now.

How are you taking down the guilt? How are you staying strong? I'll lead the charge. Follow at will. :)

Monday, December 10

I'm a bird!

I've had a grin on my face for the better part of the day thanks to an email I received this morning.

Yes, I am at work, but this email was not connected to work. It was about running. Ah, yes, this email was from the Oiselle Racing Team manager welcoming me to the team.

I'm on the team!!! I'm a bird!!!

Ever since I learned about this brand and the team, I've wanted to be part of it. There are a variety of perks associated with being a member, but the greatest that I can discern from getting to know the ladies I've befriended are these: representing a truly awesome, women's running apparel company and being part of a nationwide network of running peeps.

If you're a lady runner and you haven't checked out Oiselle's apparel yet, I encourage you to do so. My "gateway drug," so to speak, was the Roga short: they're super cute, have a flat waistband, they're not poofy, spandexy, or clingy. And for gals who prefer a longer length, there's the long Roga. (I have both!)

Anyway... I'm still grinning because I'm so honored and so excited to be part of this wonderful group of really amazing women. I already admire so many of them and am learning from them, and I'm looking forward to even more fun and learning now that I'm officially part of the team.

Thursday, December 6

Surprisingly Awesome Salad

This salad was born from the "you bought it, darn it, now eat it!" meal plan. On Sunday I bought groceries at Aldi based on a shopping list from my emeals subscription. The one special thing I bought that wasn't on the list? An avocado. I didn't have plans for it, but it was a cheap thrill at 79 cents.

Here's how it came together...
-chopped romaine lettuce
-sliced Bosch pear
-half of an avocado, diced
-seasoned croutons
-balsamic vinaigrette


Layers of Difficulty

I'm finally officially calling myself a runner. And when I do that, people often say, "Oh, running is hard." Or something like that. It's usually followed by a story from when they were a kid, which just so happens to be the penultimate example of why a person shouldn't run. Sometimes there's a story of a record something-er-other or injured whatchamacallit and at the end I don't know if I'm supposed to feel like I bonded with the person or like I have learned my lesson.

Yeah, running can be hard.

But you know what else is hard?

NOT running.

At least it is when you're used to it, expecting it, wanting it, or needing it.

I've been trying to rest my knee ever since learning my official diagnosis, and it's really difficult to do! I walked my race on Saturday. I've been pushing myself to do the physical therapy exercises my doctor gave me. Lunch breaks on days without precipitation are spent walking around Pittsburgh's South Side (seeing the sights, doing some holiday shopping).

I'm trying to stay moving. I'm trying to stay motivated. I've had a tough time dragging myself out of bed in the morning. I'm guessing it's because the days are so short and my house is so cold that my body's impulse is to hibernate right where I lay. Yeah, I know you all have been there. It's a common human thing, I've learned.

Sometimes running is my stress relief after a long day. Other times it's what I do to make myself feel better about myself or life in general. It can be an escape (yes, even on a treadmill). Running's catharsis lies in every step, step, step, after step of hope that I'm getting better at something... improving my form, my breathing (with my asthma, a constant struggle), working on hills, or changing my gait. Or just running. I can just be getting better at running when I run. That's okay too. Superficial or deep, whatever I need, that's what running is in my life. I can fit it to that gap to fill that need, albeit temporarily.

But not running has made it tough to find a way to stay on top of my mood if I'm wishing I could just go pound pavement--where does that energy go? What am I choosing to do with it instead? It's really a challenge to pay attention to because these habits of *not* running aren't all that unfamiliar. I only started a year ago. It wouldn't be that difficult to slip back into non-runner status. But I'm trying to keep going, reminding myself that I want to come back. Staying mindful of what I'm feeling when I want to run and why I feel the urge to run is proving to be a very interesting experience. If you've never dissected it, I encourage you to do so. You will probably learn something about your own motivation.

My knee still hurts. I hope that I will be able to run next Saturday. (I'll even take a run, walk, run, walk pattern!) It's a 5k road race I've been looking forward to in Columbus and I've got two running pals coming with me. It'll be fun no matter what, but I'd really like to be able to enjoy the sporting part of it.

Monday, December 3

Get a Fire Extinguisher: A Public Service Announcement

We've all had some cooking mishaps. None of mine ever included fire. Not until last week, anyway.

I wanted yams--just like at Thanksgiving. The ones I put in the oven were perfect. Sweet and bound for greatness. I baked them and when the timer went off, I removed them from the oven and dropped the marshmallows on top one by one, creating a little layer of puffy clouds on top of my already delicious dessert-like food.

I did what my mom had said to do--I moved the oven rack up and turned on the broiler. I slid the dish into the oven and went about getting ready the remainder of my turkey leftovers.

I looked over at it and noticed that there was smoke coming from the back left burner, which is where the oven vent is located. I immediately went to the oven and opened the door.

After seeing flames, I threw the oven door shut.

I yelled, panicked, and was echoed by the smoke detector, but, having been trained how to deal with emergencies like this a few times in my life, I jumped into action without much thought. It was more reflex than choice...

Under my kitchen sink I found my fire extinguisher. I pulled the pin, checked the pressure, opened the oven wide, and sprayed. Once. Twice. The fire was out.

I took the wailing smoke detector down from the ceiling and hushed it.

Then, I couldn't breathe.

I got onto the floor and crawled to my kitchen door and onto the porch with my dog. I propped open the door. I fell into a coughing fit, but when I caught my breath, I knew I had to go back inside to open up the house.

Notice that everything in this picture is covered
in white dust. That's from my fire extinguisher.
The air was white with extinguisher chemical. The air wasn't fit to breathe. It burned my nose and throat when I breathed. I held my shirt sleeve over my mouth and nose so I at least didn't breathe in the particles directly... I was already having an asthma attack.

I went around the house opening windows and turning on ceiling fans.

When I got dizzy, I sat down, but I knew I couldn't stay there. I would just pass out because I wouldn't be able to breathe. I crawled back to the porch where my dog waited. She was frantic, but listened to me so well. Thank God, she listens so well. What a good girl.

I was a Girl Scout, my dad was a volunteer fire fighter, and I was a resident assistant for an upperclassmen dorm in college, so over the years I've learned a little about how to handle myself with a fire extinguisher. That doesn't mean I'm okay with fire. Quite the opposite actually. My family's home caught fire during my senior year of high school. It was devastating. I've never really been okay with fire. But putting out fire? I know a thing or two...

And now my Public Service Announcement...

If you do not have a fire extinguisher in your home, please go purchase one. They are not too expensive, but they could save you a lot of money (especially if you have no renter's/homeowner's insurance or a high deductible).

These are my sad yams. Half the marshmallows were
blown inside the oven when I used the extinguisher.
(See above photo.) Silver lining: the dish cleaned up
nicely and was not ruined.
There are different classes of fire extinguishers to handle different types of fires. *Note especially that there is a special kind indicated to handle grease/oil fires in kitchens (class K). Some extinguishers can be labeled to handle multiple classes of fires. Mine was labeled for ordinary combustibles (class A), flammable liquids and gases (class B), and energized electrical equipment (class C).

*Note that there is a special kind of extinguisher for electrical fires... (i.e., wire short-circuits, overloaded electrical cables). With these, water, foam, and other agents that have the potential to conduct electricity ("conductive agents") SHOULD NOT be used.

My fire was an ordinary combustible: marshmallows
But they were on fire in an electrical environment: my electric oven

Is it an electrical fire? No, but is it safe to dump water on the marshmallows en flambe?

I wasn't willing to take that chance. My extinguisher did the job.

After you use your fire extinguisher, no matter how little of the agent you used, it needs to be recharged. I used only two sprays. (I knew such a small fire didn't require me to empty the whole darn thing into my kitchen... besides, I would've just had all that much more chemical to breathe in! Yuck!) Your local fire department may be able to recharge your extinguisher for you, and if they can't, they will probably be able to tell you who can. Even if you have to pay to have it done, it'll most likely be cheaper than buying a brand new extinguisher.

It's also a good idea to have your extinguisher recharged when you inspect it regularly. Yeah, yeah, I know you're thinking that you'll do that about as often as you change your smoke detector's batteries... which is rarely or never, or only when forced because the dang thing starts beeping in the middle of the night... But maintenance is an important part of maintaining safety. If you want safety (who doesn't?), you have to work for it.

Friday, November 30

Patellofemoral pain syndrome = sad face

I was putting it off because I had hoped that if I gave myself enough rest that it wouldn't bother me...

After the Ohio Outside trail race on November 17th, my knee hurt pretty badly the next day. I took care of it the best way I knew how and eventually it felt normal enough for everyday life. But when I tried to exercise again, the pain returned. 

I tried running again this past Tuesday. I walked five minutes, ran two. Walked five minutes, ran two. I felt okay the whole time I was on the treadmill. 

Wednesday morning was a different story. Reluctantly, I called the doctor. 

I met with a physician's assistant instead of my usual primary care physician. Ryan was really helpful. I explained my running lifestyle a little, when the pain started, where it was, and when it seemed to appear. 

I allowed him to flex my knee, hip, and ankle joints, testing for abnormalities. He told me what many other doctors have mentioned: I have extremely "pliable" joints. They're loose. I sprain easy. I haven't slipped a shoulder or anything, but I commonly feel my bones slide around to the point that when I had X-rays once or twice the doctors have retaken them and had me flex different muscles to view the bone positioning.

I'm not a perfect human specimen. I know that.

Without question, I have runner's knee. Ryan didn't have to think twice about it. My pain is above the knee cap and fits all the other criteria like hurting more when I walk downhill or down stairs and feeling like it needs to "pop ." What's crappy is that I've learned that I have a number of criteria that make me more likely to have this and to get it again: 

  • I'm female (we tend to have wider hips, thus making the alignment of hips, knees, and feet a bit more challenging) 
  • I overpronate (i.e., I have flat feet; no arch to speak of)
  • I have weaker thigh muscles than calf muscles
So I can't not be female or not have overpronated feet... but I can work to strengthen my hip flexors and other muscles for alignment, and I can ensure I'm wearing proper footwear for running. And for those pesky thigh muscles? Well, quadriceps, you have met your match. You've got to stop letting those calves carry you.

I have a race tomorrow. The third trail race in the Ohio Outside trail series. I'm sorry to say that I won't be running it. I might walk it, if I'm allowed. I want to complete the series... I plan to rest, do some really gentle cross training (I'm thinking yoga), and do the stretches Ryan the PA gave me so that I *might* be able to run in the Doomsday Dash 5K in Columbus on December 15th. I reeeeeeally want to run that one... not only because it looks freaking awesome, but also because if I don't run it then I won't have run a race in December, which breaks a NINE MONTH RACE STREAK part of my goal to run a race every month, which would really tick me off. Oh, and I paid to run the race so I want to do it. There's that.        

Have you ever had runner's knee or another injury? How long were you sidelined? What did you do to help yourself get over the physical AND mental parts of being injured?

Thursday, November 29

November's End

I took my blog to the depths of purple for Epilepsy Awareness month and it's been fun to bring awareness to this important, but often overlooked, cause.

My sister goes into the hospital next week for a surgery workup for her epilepsy, to see if she can even have the brain surgery to help her with her seizures. If you wouldn't mind sending some good karma, energy, prayers, or whatever you feel is most helpful in her general direction, well, I'd appreciate it.

November is coming to an end, however, and I'll be taking my blog's color scheme and design back in another direction. Just a warning, dear readers. I don't want to frighten you away or make you think I got hacked!

Sayonara, violet, lavender, and purple. We'll see you again next year. As a parting gift, here's a photo of my mother's crocuses, which bloom every spring... even if it's still freezing outside. If these flowers don't say "Hope," then I don't know what does.

Wednesday, November 28

Suggested Solutions for the Problem With Food

Yesterday's post about my food problems garnered quite a response from my friends and readers--thank you!

I'm posting the collection of responses so I can not only keep track of them for myself, but to share them with you in case any of you experience some of the same issues. I will be brave and swallow my nausea and post your helpful suggestions. Here goes...

First, I received recommendations from the my Healthy Holidays Challenge group. These are great things I can do to get myself off the ground.

**The HH Challenge leader suggested I look to see if the foods I can handle have anything in common. An unnoticed link might show me a temporary solution.

**I listed things I'm okay with eating and noticed that meat was really not one of them. The HHC leader recommended that I try non-meat protein options like eggs and soybeans so I can get what I need in a way that won't make me feel ill.

**When asked "how veggies are treating me," I admitted that I'm not pushing them on myself like I know I should. (Fruit is easy; vegetables, not so much.) The same gal who recommended non-meat protein options suggested I try making frittatas or spaghetti squash with sauce. I freely admit that I do not know how to prepare either of those things.

**Another HHC person suggested that I rock smoothies whenever necessary--fruit, yogurt, vegetables, seeds, etc. He also mentioned burritos, which I champion right now because they are simple and I can tolerate, so I will need to pursue this.

Tuesday, November 27

The Problem With Food

Last night when my DSL was on the blink, I sat on my sofa and wrote in my journal for awhile. I'm trying to figure out what's getting in the way of my relationship with food right now. It's not a simple one-and-done answer, and I don't expect it to be, but I know that at least a few of my solutions have to come from me.

I'm just not hungry. My appetite tagged along when the dish ran away with the spoon, and it's been this way for quite some time. I had a brief reprieve during which my appetite was insatiable, but this was driven by a medication, so let's forget about that.

Mealtimes come and go, and I think that I ought to eat something. So I do. Let me get this straight--I am eating! I eat. I'm not toying with an eating disorder. (Preaching of any kind can be taken to a pulpit where it is welcomed, thankyouverymuch.) I do eat. Sometimes my choices aren't great though because before I eat food is generally unappetizing or downright nauseating.

So I pick up something easy. Something that I know will go down easy, that I don't have to think too hard about. These are things like bananas and other fruits, a can of soup, a PB & J sandwich, an English muffin, a grilled cheese sandwich, pasta, or

You know what, I just got disgusted even writing that list. This is the problem. There it is, folks.

I don't want a diagnosis...  But I wholeheartedly welcome suggestions on foods that won't make me feel ill, EASY prep foods that I can go to in a pinch, or good-for-you options that are likely to both not make me ill and be easy to prep.

Wednesday, November 21

Trail race #2 -or- Flirting with injury

I ran my second run on the Ohio Outside Trail Series this past weekend. Saturday was chilly and my friend Eleanor and I had driven through clouds on the turnpike to get there.

The race itself was better than my first experience with this trail, which had been my first experience with trail running altogether. We walked the hills (super steep) and ran as much as my lungs would allow. The course is two loops and for some reason the second loop was MUCH easier than the first. I actually enjoyed the second loop.

We ended up beating my time (yay!) and that put the rest of the day in a glorious light. We went about our day together, got lunch at Square Cafe (delish!), and even hit the Carnegie Museum. Yes, I was still in running clothes; no, I didn't care that some snobby girl made a comment about my choice of attire. I felt like asking her how many miles she ran that day. :-P

As the day wore on, however, my right knee started bothering me. It was tight, then it popped. Then it was tight, then it wouldn't pop even though it felt like it needed to. When I got home that night, I iced it and elevated it for awhile and went to bed.

The next morning I could hardly bend my knee.

What on earth happened? The worst injuries are the ones you don't remember happening. You can't point at some distinct point in time and say, "Yes, at that time, that thing I did, that is what caused this pain." Worse, it's usually my left knee that bugs me because I smashed it pretty good a few years ago when I fell skiing. (My middle name isn't Grace, okay?)

I did some easy stretching on the floor while my dog kept trying to lick my hands and face alternately, and eventually came to the conclusion that I was going to need R.I.C.E. to get this back into shape. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Yeah, standards of healing. So good.

I knew it wasn't good when I took my dog outside and could hardly get down the three stairs off of my porch. Yikes. To the couch! I propped myself up and got to knitting and watching a little SVU on Netflix (don't judge me). I took the ice off in intervals of 15-20 minutes.

I didn't feel any relief by late afternoon, so I took some ibuprofen. A little anti-inflammatory action helped me at least rest without as much pain.

I repeated the ice routine the rest of the night, wrapped my knee up with an Ace bandage for sleep, and by some magical healing miracle, my knee felt fine on Monday morning. I'm hesitant to declare myself fixed... especially when it hurt SO badly that day. I was ready to go to urgent care... I'm taking it easy this week, though, just so I don't do anything to make it worse.

No running--elliptical machine and bicycling only. That little flirt with injury was enough to make me hope and pray that I never incur an injury that will land me on the sofa for much longer than a weekend.

Friday, November 16

Listening to my body

Howdy. I've been MIA this week, I know. I don't know what it is, but I have been completely uninspired. I've got some stuff happening in my personal life that's taking time away from running, blogging, and such, but I really thought I'd get to blog about last Saturday's race sooner...

Last Saturday's trail race was okay. Not stellar, but not awful. I finished. I decided that trail running isn't my favorite thing. I also decided that I really, really need to work on hills. Not just for my legs, but for my lungs.

The first hill in the race was up a paved hill and, as predicted, I had to stop to begin attempts to *not* pass out. I had already taken preventative measures with all of my asthma medication before the race, but it was cold, the hill was steep, my heart rate rocketed, and I was a goner. My focus was just not passing out... I was listening to my body for cues of what to do next.

I often find that it's moments like this when my goals are whittled down to the very basics that I get stuck in my head and the race becomes a mental game more than a physical challenge. I'm learning quickly that I need to go through a really quick and dirty round of RADICAL ACCEPTANCE before I even take one more step.

The conversation I have with myself goes something like this:
body: *huff, puff*
mind: "Oh, great, you can't breathe again."
body: "Nope." *wheeze*
mind: "Okay, well, we can't run like this."
body: "Nope." *cough*
mind: "You're going to have to slow down to take care of yourself. And that's okay."
body: "Yes, because it's better to not die."
mind: "Right, that's in line with the goal of finishing the race. Not dying."
body: *huff, puff, deep inhale of medication* "Yep."
mind: "You have asthma and it's amazing that you even run. You're slowing down to take care of yourself."
body: "Yes." *deep breath*
mind: "How do you feel now? Ready to keep going? You're doing a good job. You're taking care of yourself."

If I don't take the steps towards acceptance in those critical moments that I am slowing down to care for myself, I slowly begin to criticize myself for being weak or slow, which is really unfair because I would never ever ever do that to someone else who was suffering like I am. So to get OUT of the head game and back into the race, I have to get that conversation going and accept the reality of my illness and what I need to do to treat it and care for myself, then move on with my life.

I am working with my doctors and a health coach to get my asthma under control. I yearn for the day when I can run free like so many of the bloggers and tweeters I follow online. I'm hoping to get things together soon, but I also know that I can't rush. I have to allow my body to get stronger, adjust to medications, and tell me what it needs. It's difficult to do sometimes, though, because I want to be better, faster, and stronger NOW. I've worked to get my body in shape... but my lungs just haven't gotten around to keeping up yet because of my asthma. We'll get there. I know we will because I won't stop till we do, but the struggle is real.

Wednesday, November 7

Damage control

I know I need to learn a thing or two about damage control and recovery when it comes to running... I've been athletic all my life, but only recently became a runner, so I don't know the nuances of soreness and aches like I did as a fastpitch softball pitcher.

When I pitched, I knew exactly what would hurt. And I could usually tell why, too. I would strain muscles lining my spine by overcompensating for the directional latitude of a change-up, later requiring a heating pad and a chiropractic adjustment or two. I would extend my leg too far as I lunged forward to deliver the pitch and end up needing some sports cream and ice. I was completely in tune with my pitching arm. It was often sore from throwing as hard as I could for long games. But generally I would rub it down with sports cream and be ready to go the next day. Given: this is all in high school when my body was repairing itself with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew. I don't expect to have that same recovery speed ten years later. (Gosh, was it really that long ago? (Yes.))

Runners World discusses the timing of soreness and aches: on the run and aftershock. I've experienced both, at this point, I think. On the run muscle soreness sets in, well, on the run because you're pushing yourself and even in your awesome running shoes, the cushioning isn't enough to handle all the impact of your body thanks to gravity. Body chemistry and a physiological response get pain going and leave the ache... Careful return to activity and sensible limits for dealing with the pain, if it persists. (And getting to a doctor if it's sticking around too long or getting worse.)

Aftershock is when soreness sets in a few days later. It's the much discussed Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). I've definitely experienced this from car accidents... Runners World says the soreness is from the muscles moving in some new way, despite training and practicing. Makes sense. But when your muscles get feeling better, they really are better than before. The muscle tissue grows back stronger than before. Build and repair muscle, baby!

This makes so much sense. Lately I've noticed some different pains coming on at different times. On shorter, faster runs, I've had some shin pain that feels a lot like my muscle is squished up into a little tube. I've tried stopping and stretching it out, but I'm thinking I may just need to strengthen my legs in that region to help myself. I had my first running-related shin splint right before Pittsburgh's Great Race. I freaked out a little, but did some online research and ended up learning about the wonders of compression socks. (I wore them the evening before, to bed that night, and during the race and I felt no shin pain. It was a miracle because I had been in pain the entire week!)

From my last race... well, I felt like I got hit by a fleet of trucks, to be honest, but to be a bit more specific, here's what hurt:
  • my shins
  • my calves
  • the tips of my toes ("middle" and "pointer" toes; my pointer extends beyond my big toe)
  • my right knee (probably from a dog park incident two weeks ago)
I'm glad to have at least a primer in damage control so I can try to make responsible decisions about when to keep going and when to have a rest day, whether I want to or not! And even if I rest, I'll probably try a little massage and stretching to keep things limber while I wait for my body's cell repair team to go to work.

Attacking my asthma

Sunday I ran 5K on the treadmill with nary a cough.

Monday I ran four miles without any trouble.

Tuesday, well, the workout was on my car, not at the gym... It had needed an oil change for awhile and my boyfriend was available, so that's all she wrote.

Tonight I plan to run again. Hopefully five miles. I have one hour to workout and I'm hoping to pop out the five miles I know I can run in an hour.

A month ago, I couldn't do any of this. My outdoor running was a struggle and my races weren't really going that well (my really difficult first group run--complete with asthma attack!, October 20th trail race, October 27th 10k nightmare) So what gives? I mentioned in an earlier post this week that I'm taking a different approach with my asthma medications. I think that's making the difference. Here's what has changed:
  • My allergist switched me from Pulmicort to Symbicort (2 puffs 2x/day).
  • I gave up on one of the inhalers I was supposed to use prior to exercise (Xopenex) because I didn't really feel it doing anything.
  • I started using a spacing chamber with my rescue inhaler prior to exercise.
What's a spacing chamber? It's commonly known as a spacer. It's a weird little tube with a valve. You plug your aerosol inhaled medication (inhaler) on one end, and there's a mouthpiece on the other end. You squirt the medication into the tube and it's just waiting there for you to breathe it in. No breathing coordination required.

My allergist explained that it's a 20/80 split. When you don't use a spacer, 20% of the medicine gets to your lungs and 80% of it is in your mouth. (!!!) But when you use a spacer, 80% of the medicine get into your lungs and 20% of it gets stuck in your mouth.

I may give the Xopenex another try... with the spacer. But I'm skeptical. I've been told it's the same medication as Ventolin (just formulated differently; it doesn't give me the shakes like Ventolin does). Right now, though, I'm thrilled to be able to be running like I was this summer!

Sunday I have a trail race--an 8K... roughly five miles. The autumn leaves are still wreaking havoc on my lungs, but I'm doing my best to endure and to use the tools I have to make sure I can still do the things I want to do!

Tuesday, November 6

I workout while I...

A few weeks ago, my schedule was crazy (and it had been for a few months!). I hadn't been working out like I like to, so I was beginning to devise ways to workout while doing other things. I felt like a genius. Here's what I came up with. Feel free to chime in with your own!

I workout while I...
  • blow dry my hair. I flip my head upside down and use a round brush to get the underside of my hair dried, so when I'm bent over, I do a few wall squats. Feel the burn! (But don't burn your hair!)
I workout while I...
  • brush my teeth. I usually just stand in front of the mirror looking at myself make goofy expressions as I move the brush around to attack any plaque. I decided that was a great time to do some ab and glute squeezes. 
I workout while I...
  • wait between puffs of my inhaler. I do two puffs twice a day of my Symbicort and I have to wait at least a minute between puffs. So for that minute, I do wall pushups in my bathroom. 
I workout while I...
  • wait in traffic. If I'm at a red light, I'll do some ab squeezes till the light turns green and I'm on my way.
I workout while I...
  • work. Because if I sit all day, I'll go crazy. I have a cube-like office (I have a door, but it stays open most of the time), so I usually just do a few wall pushups when I get up to fill my water glass, stretch my arms and legs really well, and challenge myself to maintain good posture when I'm sitting.I also try to get out to go for walks when I can.
How about you? When do you workout outside of your regular workouts?

Monday, November 5

Building blocks, goals, and recipe templates

This weekend I went shopping with a friend of mine. She's a list girl, like me, but she's very utilitarian with her purchases (not really like me; I like accessories and pretty colors... and lots of them). So the experience of us shopping together was a fun one. We run together, so we had a lot to talk about.

We initially talked about nutrition, then when we were in a clothing store we discussed winter running clothing and layering. Eventually we transitioned back to discussing food. I told her I was trying out eMeals. She liked the sounds of it, but mentioned that a friend of hers was making recipe "templates" that you just plug in ingredients and they should work. I admit that I'm skeptical, but I am willing to try it! I'll give one a shot and let you all know how it turns out!

My goals with the GroupOn-purchased membership are 1) get better at planning meals, 2) get better at planning shopping trips, and 3) get better at keeping staples in the kitchen (and learn what those ought to be--not Velveeta shells and cheese, as I used to think).

So far so good. I sat down with a few weeks worth of eMeals recipes this weekend and highlighted the ones I'd like to try. It's just lil' ol' me, so I don't need to cook every day (leftovers will sustain me just fine, thank you!). I decided on three recipes that are unlike anything I usually make for myself. I made a grocery list, put it in my purse, and went to the gym.

I worked my arms really hard (I can feel it today!) and then ran a good 3.1. I tried a different routine with my asthma medication and it seemed to work much better. (I used the stronger "rescue" inhaler before running instead of waiting until I felt out of breath and needed it.) I was able to keep running for the 30 minutes it took me to get through the 3.1 miles, and that hasn't happened in quite a while, what with the fall air. I was really excited about that. It's a small victory, but I'll take it!

At the grocery store, I stuck to my list. The only extra thing I grabbed was a bottle of Naked juice because it was on sale. I mentally checked it off as a "treat" to myself. The Blue Machine stuff is delicious. It's my breakfast drink for the week. The store was a little crazy (I forgot to check when the Steelers were playing--I unfortunately was in the store right before the game... ugh), but I made it through cheerfully.

First up this week is Sweedish meatballs. I may make those tonight or tomorrow. I'm not sure yet. But I'm excited to try something new!

Thursday, November 1

All is not lost

I finally got my race stats from Saturday's less-than-spectacular run to sync with Nike+. (I had been experiencing technical difficulties.) I am pleasantly surprised to learn that Saturday's race DID set a few personal records for me. They weren't the ones I was expecting, but they are PRs nonetheless.


You might have noticed that my blog is now PURPLE. Yes, I shed the green skin this month because November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. The official color is purple, so my blog and Twitter feeds will don the shades of lavender for all 30 days.

Can I have your attention? Please read these few short paragraphs and you will make me so happy...

Here's the deal: you have a brain. Forget the funny little things you might say about people being brainless or peabrained or whatever. If you're a human being living on this planet, you have a brain. And if you have a brain, you can have a seizure.Seems scary, doesn't it? It doesn't have to be. Learning more about epilepsy and educating others is the way to get rid of the terror and mystique surrounding this disease.

People have been afraid of epilepsy and seizures in general for what seems like as long as humanity has existed. In the middle ages, people conducted exorcisms on epileptics because they thought they were possessed by the devil. In World War II, Hitler's corralling of the "unfit" to sterilize or execute included epileptics. In the 21st century, there are many treatment options for epileptics including medication and surgery.

This is personal to me because my older sister has had epilepsy since I was an infant. She had her first seizure when she was two years old and since then she has had good periods and bad periods, but ultimately it's the epilepsy that runs her life... Right now she's exploring surgical options and, while that's scary in itself, it's scary that any seizure in the wrong place at the wrong time could seriously injure her or worse.

In October, everyone is talking about breast cancer. People have become pretty comfortable talking about breasts, and in "Movember" men have taken to discussing prostate cancer. These are both wonderful things. I'm glad that people are taking action to discuss, educate, and promote prevention, detection, and awareness of these diseases. HOWEVER, November is also Epilepsy Awareness Month and, quite honestly, it ought to be a bigger deal than it has been because while only men have prostates and women are most commonly affected by breast cancer (at least people are more likely to picture a woman when they think of it), EVERYONE HAS A BRAIN. Holy cow, can we please talk about epilepsy some more?

I have a few simple requests. I would love it so much if you could do any or all of them:
  1. Get purple - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog... Get some purple out there and tell everyone why you're getting violet.
  2. Talk about it - You probably either know someone with epilepsy or know someone who has had a seizure. (Think about the six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon type of thing--you're never that far from someone...) Open the discussion and talk.
  3. Get informed - Read a little bit about epilepsy, how it affects people's lives, how people cope with it, and what to do if someone has a seizure
  4. Visit my sister's new blog - she just started it, but she will be sharing her stories and I know she would love readers to cheer her on. 
  5. At the very least... have a look at this brief list of facts.

Tuesday, October 30

The challenge of perceived failure

I've been lucky with running so far. I've had good races, finishing in the middle of my age group, the middle of my gender, the middle of the pack of runners. It was nice to feel average especially since I only started running a year ago. Average felt like a real accomplishment. I've never kidded myself into thinking that I could win any of these races--I'm not an elite runner, like these awesome people who have wheels for legs and have been running since they were potty trained. My goal with every race is, as I've said before, to finish.

Well, it seems that just finishing races was enough for me until I started falling towards the back of the pack. Last Saturday's trail race put me in the last 5% of runners. I was happy to finish, but I was feeling bad about my performance. I bucked up and told myself that I was going to run that course two more times and that now I had a time to beat. Yeah. And I am going to beat it... But this Saturday I think I mentally put myself behind the eight ball before I got to the start line and I held myself there throughout the race.

I felt like the race could've been better organized. I'm not usually one to complain about venues or parking for races, but this was a little inconvenient. My boyfriend and I arrived at the park, parked the car where we were told to, and started walking towards the ice rink. When I realized it was about 15 minutes until the race started, I started jogging. I caught up with a few other runners who were having the same problem. We realized as we got closer to the ice rink that we had just jogged about two miles from where we parked.

Here I am as Fitness Barbie.
I got inside, picked up my bib and packet, and hurriedly prepped for the race--pin the bib, tie on the chip, secure the iPod, tie the shoes comfortably. My boyfriend handed me my water bottle, snapped a picture of me in my costume, and I rushed to the start line. I was already tired and feeling a little defeated. I kept wondering what I had missed in the race information about parking and the race start. I felt like it was my fault, even though there were others with the same problem.

The gun went off and we began to climb the first hill. The tagline for this race is "The first hill's a killer." They aren't kidding. I've never run up such a steep incline. Chalk it up to inexperience. I trotted up as long as I could handle and then walked. And walked. The hill just kept going. It felt like it should've been half of the race, for as much effort as it took to scale. I joked with one of the other runners that I had forgotten my rappelling gear.

After that hill, a brief reprieve, then another. And another. Even though these subsequent hills were smaller, they felt gratuitous and cruel. By this point, the pack had thinned out quite a bit and I knew I was in the back 10% without a question. I felt even more defeated.

I trudged along. When I saw the mile markers, they felt like lies. Surely I had run farther than that. I thought about quitting. I was having trouble breathing, my asthma inhaler felt completely useless, and it seemed like my chest couldn't expand enough to take in the air that I craved.

I'm pretty easy to spot in all that pink... I also appear to
dwarf everyone else in the photo.
I wasn't having fun anymore. I was plodding along for the sake of keeping up with other people, trying not to be last, feeling bad for myself because I felt so unqualified to run this race. I was embarrassed when, in the last mile and a half, the police officer at the barricade told me I could to it and I asked where the finish line was. He pointed and I swore aloud. I stopped running and walked till the finish line was a straight shot and pushed myself to jog across the finish line. My boyfriend was there and took a few pictures. I look angry.

Now that it's been a few days since that race, I've had some time to reflect. I'm not going to get all Pollyanna and say that I've learned so much from this experience, blah, blah, blah, but I have learned a few things.
  1. Plan the pre-race stuff better. Parking, bib pickup, and start line location should not be something I'm figuring out on race day. I *thought* I had this figured out for this race, but I should've confirmed this with a map or a phone call to the race organizers. Getting to the start line should not be a gauntlet in itself.
  2. If possible, run the course before the race. This probably wouldn't have been possible for this race, but the second best option would've been to talk to others who have run it and find out what it's like from them so I am a little better prepared for its challenges.
  3. Get out of my head. This is something I'm getting better at elsewhere in my life, but until this point I had felt like coaching myself through a run was helpful... not this time. My inner coach took on a menacing tone and basically berated me for most of the race. That is not helpful. Instead, I need to be mindful of my surroundings, my body, and my goal.
  4. Finish. Just finish. I keep telling myself that my goal is always to just finish, but that wasn't true on Saturday. I did finish, but that wasn't enough. IT IS enough. I did it. I am becoming okay with that. It wasn't my best race (in fact, it was my worst to date), but I still finished. I did NOT give up and quit, even though I felt like quitting several times throughout the race.
That is one ticked off Barbie. 1:15 was only 7 minutes on to
my first 10K time (1:08), but I was really upset.
I also need to work on my asthma maintenance, nutrition, performance apparel selection, and hydration (since I was praying for water stops that simply weren't there). But those will take more time and research. The list above is stuff I can and should do immediately.

The mental run is just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical run. To this point, I have been training my body. Now, I've found, it's time to begin training my mind to match.

Any suggestions? How do you stay focused or positive during a race? How do you avoid feeling defeated?

My dream race, and other potential future races

It's never too soon to think about my next race. I've realized that if I want to run a race every month that I need to plan wisely. Many of my races will need to be local (within 50-100 miles; daytripping!), but I'm okay with planning a few excursions to selected locations. If I have friends to visit nearby who can also house me, so much the better.

I'm also thinking that planning ahead more will help me keep the financial factor under control. Earlier this year when I just started signing up for races, I did so without thinking much about the costs. I'm tallying what I've spent on registration fees (not including fuel/tolls/other transportation costs), and I'm convinced I can budget better than this!

I've decided to set my sights on a dream race. With all the news about the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, I got interested in the half to be held in DC this spring. It's the weekend before the Pittsburgh Half... so I don't think I'll get to do it this year. But I went to San Francisco last summer with my very best friend and loved it. I would LOVE to work hard, train hard, and run hard to get to the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. It looks like an amazing event.  
I know that realistically I won't be able to make both races that involve travel... My dream race may have to wait until 2014.

Do you have a dream race? Do you have any other suggestions for awesome races that I should check out? Do tell!!

Friday, October 26

Health Holidays Challenge

Looking for someone to hold you accountable for your holiday eats?

Becki over at is hosting a Healthy Holidays Challenge. It's happening October 31 - December 31. If you want to lose weight or inches, or if you just want to maintain (like me), this might be the thing for you! Plus, Becki has some prizes lined up. (Who doesn't like prizes?) To win all you have to do is take a picture of certain things you're doing for healthy holidays and use these tags: #healthyholidays #proof @Fight4Wellness

I'm signed up and I'm excited to start. Thanks to Becki for holding this awesome event!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know... I know. But, wow, when things get busy, it's easy to start feeling unwell.

This week was a busy one for me in a number of ways. I'll spare you the boring details. Luckily next week I can switch my work schedule back to 9-5 (instead of the 8-4 I've been doing, which puts me in worse morning traffic, and everyone knows that's no way to start a day, no matter how good your attitude!).

Along with my work schedule, my workout schedule should be able to resume too. Earlier on this fall I was getting to the gym five days a week--three days for running, two days for cross training or weight lifting. I felt great! I've had to let this slide so I could take care of (yes, this is hard to believe) more important things.

I know that some of you might want to jump on my case and tell me that getting to the gym IS important... and I think it is too, especially if I'm paying for the membership! But sometimes life gets in the way. And that's what happened. So now that the other pieces of my life are falling into place, I can resume a fulfilling workout routine. Phew!

Monday, October 22

Motivation Monday

Things to motivate me:
  • Finishing 188th out of 206 people in the trail race on Saturday
    • Now I have a time to beat! (I still had fun.)
  •  Scale creep from medication side effects
    • I'm out to maintain--not lose or gain. 
  • New membership (via GroupOn)
    • I bought this in hopes that I will follow the shopping list, get better at planning meals, and begin cooking for myself more often. (I cook, but only when I have to. I covet leftovers.)

Things to motivate YOU:
  • People around the country are making a commitment to better health. Join them!

Sunday, October 21

Trail race #1

Trail racing is way more difficult than I thought. I run a few trails in my neighborhood when I can (when it's not 6 p.m. and dark already...), but I know those trails pretty well. On Saturday morning, I rode to Munroe Falls, OH with my brother and I competed in my first ever trail race.

The morning was cool. Clouds threatened rain, which I had driven through all morning. I was really excited to be there. It was my first race out of state. (That, of course, meant waking up at 5 to meet my brother at 6 to then drive a little more than two hours to reach the park where the event was held... but it was worth it.) puts together a nice event. The race packet swag included a solid drinking glass with the race date on it and a hooded sweatshirt. The atmosphere was quite friendly. I enjoyed chatting with a few other runners and learning more about the race scene in eastern Ohio. A few runners had dogs who would be joining us on the course. They were sweet, well-behaved pups.

The trail was challenging. There were some decent inclines, lots of bends and bumps, and the ever-present threat of tripping thanks to roots, rocks, and holes. I struggled with my asthma a little bit and I used my inhaler, but I ended up having to walk for a good portion of the course because I was coughing or couldn't breathe. I found a few people to pace with and kept up with them to keep myself moving. That helped a great deal. I met a nice woman who I chatted with for the remainder of the race. We decided that we should meet up before the second trail race in November.

People cheered for us at the finish line, even though we were far from the first to complete the race. The feeling of camaraderie grew stronger as we sipped cider and clapped for the winners in each age bracket. My unofficial finish time was 1:03:27. Not spectacular, but I finished. Since this race is part of a trail running series, I'll have two chances to improve my time. That excites me.

Today, one day later, I feel like I must have done the crab walk for the entirety of the race. My body is sore. Like I said, I've trained on trails at home... but this was much different. Different parts of my legs hurt, I'm guessing because I used muscles that aren't regularly strained like they were that morning. I'm hoping to run a little later today so I can get my legs stretched out and ready to run again for Saturday's race. For the 27th, I'll be in costume!

Thursday, October 18

Elusive asthma triggers: no allergies

Yesterday's trip to the allergist to talk about my asthma was rather uneventful.

I saw things going differently in my mind: I would walk in and talk with the doctor, get poked and prodded, and--voila!--we would find what I'm allergic to and develop a plan to treat it. I would walk out of the office feeling great that finally my asthma was going to be under my control (instead of it controlling me).

In reality, it went more like this: I walked in and talked with the doctor, he explained that I might not be allergic to anything but, instead, sensitive to environmental allergens. I was poked and prodded (oww!) and I didn't have a single reaction. (Good thing: I'm not allergic to my dog!) Since I didn't react to the allergens he tested, it seemed likely the environmental things--things like smoke, dust, pollens, or molds, things he can't possibly test me for since there are hundreds of pollens and molds--and that I would have to do some hard work.

First, we decided to switch up my daily inhaler. It's an inhaled steroid to help keep my bronchioles happy, open, and not irritated. I had previously tried the inhaler he switched me to, but I hadn't tried it with a spacer...

Let's talk about spacers. I had seen these before and always associated their use with really asthmatic people (I don't have a definition of that outside of the thought of them needing to use a spacer, this extra apparatus, with their inhalers). A spacer is a plastic tube with a rubber end where you plug in your inhaler and a mouthpiece end to, well, put your mouth on. The idea is that, with typical puffer inhalers, when you spray the medication into your mouth, most of the medication ends up in your mouth or throat, instead of being successfully inhaled into the lungs. With the spacer, you spray the medication into this tube where it is suspended in the air, just waiting for you to breathe it in. You get more medication in your lungs because you're breathing in medicated air.

So the doctor's thought was that I had tried this inhaler before and not seen results... but I hadn't tried it with a spacer! Trying the medication with the spacer will get more of each spray into my lungs, putting the medicine to work and (hopefully) showing results.

I've got this new inhaler and a spacer to use with ALL of my inhalers. (Yes, "all" of them; I have three--one everyday inhaler, one to use prior to exercise, and one rescue inhaler.) Sounds like enough to try to change the game plan, right?

Wrong. He also wants me to remove any perfumey things from my life. This is not going to be easy. I love scented lotions, body sprays, and air fresheners (right now I'm using "fall leaves" from Bath & Body Works... it's the best!).

He wants me to reconfigure my bedroom so there is less surface area for dust to settle. Meaning I should remove my bookshelf, my books, and my nightstand.

He also wants me to get a dust mite cover for my mattress and box spring. (Not cheap... but it's super icky to think about dust mites. I hate those enlarged photos they show you to prove that they exist. Microscopic bugs are still bugs and they still freak me out.)

He also wants my dog to not sleep in my bedroom. (She has her own puppy bed on the floor; she's not allowed on the bed, but now he wants her out of the room. I think this has a 0% chance of happening because my little dog won't sleep anywhere else if I'm home.)

He also wants me to thoroughly clean my house every week to keep dust to a minimum. (I'm gonna need a smaller house or a maid. I do not have time to do this... I clean my bathroom twice a week and change my sheets once a week, but outside of that I'm lucky if I get any laundry done in my spare time.)

He mentioned getting rid of carpeting, but then I said that I rent (I do) and that it's not my choice. He suggested vacuuming more often (and to have someone else do it since the dust is likely to bother me when it's stirred up).

At this point, the most do-able thing out of all of these is to use the darn inhaler with a spacer. Getting my environment under control is going to take some work. And that still doesn't address any environmental allergens/irritants OUTSIDE of my house. Pollen? Grass? Leaves? Oh, geez, who even knows. Hopefully (HOPEFULLY) in time I will feel better with the new inhaler and my new found control over my environment.

Asthma: you've met your match.

Tuesday, October 16

It's official! I bought my first domain name today and you're looking at it. will host my blog, sugarpacket collection, and running calendar... and anything else I decide to add later.

Give my newly minted URL some love: share with a friend, read some new posts, or leave a comment. Enjoy!

Dermatological hiatus

Dear fellow runners,

If you schedule an appointment with a dermatologist and intend to have a mole or other lesion removed, plan to be very unhappy.

You see, the doctor will tell you that you must cease running for THREE WEEKS in order to be certain that you don't tear out the stitch or bleed unnecessarily. I have two skin items to be examined that I could not have removed today. (Thinking about this is a little icky, but I'm sharing this experience for your benefit, so I'm sucking it up...)

Since I have races scheduled through the middle of December (and obviously the end of December is Official Holiday Crazy Time), I have scheduled my appointment for January. I won't be able to run for three weeks. This really means that I need to schedule my January race before my appointment so that I can be sure I'll even get to run a race in January...

I'm open to cross training activities that I can do while I'm healing... Share, please!


Monday, October 15

Resilience and my first ever group run

Yesterday I enjoyed my very first group run. I have always trained solo and ran races with hundreds of strangers. This was a wonderful change from my ordinary routine.

Because I’m signed up as part of the Animal Rescue Leagueteam for the Pittsburgh Marathon (5K, Half, Relay, and Marathon), I have the opportunity to attend informational training sessions along with the rest of the ARL team. Yesterday we learned about the way to build yourself up to run the half or the full marathon. The lady who spoke gave us a great calendar that included suggested mileage (for beginner and advanced), cross training days, and rest days. I was so happy to have this because I didn’t really know how to go about preparing and I wasn’t sure what advice to trust since the Internet is filled with resources for runners. 

After the info session, we gathered into groups setting out to run different distances—one 3.5 mile group, one 5 mile group, and one 8.3 mile group. My friend and I chose to go for 5 miles.
It was a gorgeous fall day—sunshine, blue skies, warm air, and cool breezes. We took off and the group settled into a line that obviously outlined our pace comfort zone. I know right now that I run about 11 minute miles regularly. I’m proud of this, considering I’ve only got one year of running under my belt, but I’m always looking to improve. I just know that speed isn’t going to come overnight…!

After about a mile and a half, I couldn’t get a deep breath. I started to feel drained as my breathing got worse. I’ve noticed that in the past few weeks that running outside has been really tough. Sadly, I think this has a lot to do with the leaves on the ground. They smell wonderful! It’s an irresistible autumn aroma that I look forward to every year, which now seems to be irritating my lungs. 

I had to slow down. Walk. My friend stayed with me and she jogged as I speed walked along the path. I don’t normally run in the city, so I think it’s possible that exhaust fumes irritated my lungs even more. I stopped to use my rescue inhaler. I was sad that I had to stop. I was ready to run! Why can’t I just run? My breathing was shallow and I gasped for air as we walked along. It took a while for my inhaler to work. I feel like I walked at least two of the five miles, unfortunately. 

I began jogging again when I felt that I could breathe, but each time I began to transition to running I found my cough worse, my throat itchy, and my fingers tingly. The tingle in my fingers is a bad sign—I usually experience that right before I get dizzy and need to sit down or I will blackout. It’s scary. I stopped again and sat down on the side of the road. I took some time to catch my breath, but I caught it nonetheless. When we crested that last hill, I did my best to keep my legs moving at a pace my lungs could handle, but ultimately I walked back to the community center where the rest of the group was waiting. 

My asthma was the worst it’s been in years yesterday. I’m disappointed that it’s bothering me so much. I’m going to meet with an allergist on Wednesday, and I’m hoping he will be able to help me figure out the other triggers for my asthma and what I can do about them. I realize that I might not be able to do anything about some of the triggers, which is frustrating. At the same time, I find myself getting angry about pollution, smoking, and exhaust filling the air that fills my lungs. 

The group run was still fun, despite my minor medical emergency, and I plan to do it again next month. I’ll begin my half marathon training in December like the training program suggests, but in the meantime I’ve pretty much racing every weekend from now till the middle of December. I will work my way through this asthma and I will continue running. No matter what.