Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Physical Therapy, or Why I Wimped out of the Traveller 100

All talk, no dance.  Yes, I am injured.  Yes, I also chickened out.  A little from column A, a little from column B.

I hadn't actually signed up yet, but I really wanted to.  Sign up, that is.  What I ended up not being sure of, though, is that I actually wanted to run the race.

The main problem is that I told everybody I know that I was going to attempt the AT100 this year.  My running friends, my co-workers, random people from across the state that I happened to run into during training... it's hard to keep that kind of training under wraps.  Bailer-outers earn questionable reputations.  On the other hand, folks got their own lives to worry about. We'll all get over it.

And here I am nursing a bit of ITBS.  While it is frequently sore (in a low-grade, general way), it seemed worse and more acute than usual one evening while out for a powerwalk in my neighborhood.  Same story the next morning when I tried again.  So I stopped.  I decided that I was injured, set up physical therapy, and shifted gears completely.  And I felt...


I'm glad that a sense of relief has settled on me, rather than disappointment. But I'm also concerned about the wimp factor. Why can't I pull the trigger? What would have happened? Nothing? Everything?? 

Instead, I'm back on the road for shorter distances and quality speed (which isn't really what we would call "speed", but hopefully that changes). PT seems to be helping. It's not cheap, but I'm happy with the decision so far because my own ill-devised treatment protocol is pretty ineffective, (which is the understatement of the year... see my 37 past posts about ITBS).  If I can get some good, biomechanically-sound advice, perhaps that will help me long term. 


I've taken a good, hard look at my nutrition during the last 2 weeks.  It had gotten bad.  Training for a hundo meant that I practiced eating as much as possible before and during the run, and practiced burning that fuel as slowly and efficiently as possible. And as it turns out, I'm pretty efficient at storing fuel. So, a few pounds that settled in need to come back off, and I need to get as un-inflamed as possible.  Just take a little break, lay low, and re-set.  Get right, get healthy, and look forward to the next one.  We got this.

Make friends with the BOSU, and you'll never be alone.  


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Somewhere around mile 30 on an Arkansas summer day

Scene:  FSR 132C, Ouachita National Forest. Early afternoon. Enter runner from foreground.  Runner comes to a screeching halt and stares intently at a stick in the road.

Runner:  Hello, Mr. Stick.
Stick:  Hello.
Runner:  Are  you a snake?
Stick:  No.
Runner: Are you sure?
Stick: Yes, I'm quite sure.
Runner:  Yes, you're sure you're not a snake?  Or yes, you are a snake?
Stick: Yes, I am sure that I am not a snake. I'm just a stick. This is very obvious.
Runner: Oh, ok. I'll go around, then. Please don't bite me.
Stick: *slaps forehead*

Later on down the road...

Runner: Don't kick that rock. Don't kick that rock.
Rock: Don't kick me. Go around.
Runner: Don't kick that rock. Whatever you do.
Rock: You can do this.
Runner: *thud* F@#k! What the ***? Ow!
Rock: *shakes head*

Good to have trail friends out there. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Midnight 50K

July in Arkansas, and it's hot. Part of the charm. A quintessential July-in-Arkansas experience is the Midnight 50K, now called the Full Moon, but it's hard to break the habit of the old days, so I'll keep calling it whatever I want to.  I have done this run since 2005 or so, when it consisted of a few idiots and some Christmas lights in the parking area at Lake Sylvia.  It has exploded in participants, being a user-friendly way to get into ultra distance (dirt roads, gentle hills, short drive from Little Rock, etc.).  I have missed it the last 3 years because, for some reason, I have had increased inflammation and disease activity during the summer.  Is that a common autoimmune pattern?  It was great to line up and head out for a long night run under a Ouachita Forest sky that I have seen so many times before, that feels like home to me.
Ouachita night sky

My friend AJ and I arrived at the campsite, set up, drank 2 beers each, and headed over to the start/finish at the girl scout camp, which was already a party in progress. I immediately made the rounds, hugs and smiles with so many of the folks that I have gotten to know over the years.  So good for the soul.  A 7pm start meant that the first few hours were very hot, with full sun for a little while. I had no expectations for this run, and was really happy just to be starting. My IT's (both) had been getting sore, and I have been wondering if I am going to have another typical summer mini-flare. I was prepared to drop to the 25K, or walk for a significant portion.  This run goes by pretty fast, because it's a straight shot up a dirt road with convenient 8-mile chunks... one aid station at 8 miles, then the turnaround, then the 8 mile station, then the finish.
The course is made up of constant rollers, although nothing with a grade so steep that it isn't runnable.  If it weren't so hot, this course would be very, very fast.

Glow stick and Copperhead juxtaposed. Photo: Will Landreth

I took it pretty slow from the start, and really wasn't comfortable on the run until I got through the first aid station 8 miles in.   I ran with Stacey, Jason, Cliff, and James pretty much the whole way to the turnaround, leapfrogging each other as we altered our walk breaks, and conversing about the running world.  I got into the 8-mile AS at 1:30, and into the turnaround at 2:55.  I have never done this event and not thrown up at some point during the run.  It's a joke at this point.  Well, my stomach was uneasy early.  By the turnaround at 16 miles, I had some mild nausea and stomach discomfort, and hoped for the best on the way back.  I pulled ahead of Stacey at this point and hoped that I could hold it, although I wasn't running as fast as I wanted to. My stomach discomfort reached a moderate level for pretty much the entire back half, although it was never so bad that I had to stop running for more than an occasional quick break or uphill. Around mile 27, it finally happened.  I felt the familiar urge, leaned over into the ditch on the left side of the road, and heaved whatever it was in my stomach that wanted out.  At that point, Stacey passed, asking if I was ok, but mercifully not dwelling.  That's always embarrassing, but we understand when to stop with concern and when to let the person deal with their issue in peace. I'm glad it was her who witnessed the vomit session, and not the group of 25K walkers that I had just gone flying past.  I could see their headlamps coming around the bend, so I cut myself short and scurried on to avoid a scene. It wasn't long after that I passed PT, who was walking a downhill. I asked him the same question that Stacey had just asked me, and he remarked that he needed new legs. I didn't feel so sorry for myself after that, as I was still running. I had to repeat the vomit sequence again just past the 5K to go mark.  This time, I was a new person after the upchuck.  The nausea was gone, I felt amazing, and I was ready to go.  So, I did.  That last 5K felt awesome, coupled by my love for that section of the course... it's where the Traveller course merges, the dirt road flattens out, the pines part overhead, and you can usually see a sky full of stars.  This night was too hot and hazy for stars, but the locusts in the pines were singing, and I enjoyed coming home to this stretch of the road.  As it turns out, I finished only a minute behind Stacey, and 2 minutes behind Deb. If my puke break had come sooner, I might have been able to catch up.

This finish line was a full-on party, and we stayed until the race clock read 7:30 elapsed, about 2:30am. A hot breakfast provided by the Williams Junction fire department hit the spot.  I had a really great time.

I'm happy that my body allowed me to run that event decently. I'm curious to see what is in store for the next several weeks.  I have a few events planned for the long-term, but nothing else that is coming up for the next couple of months.  Have a great summer-

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Little Rock 2014

Holy Cow, where to start?

Saturday morning:  ran my warm-up in shorts and a t-shirt.  Roasted.  Pacer breakfast.  Easy livin'.

Go! time

Saturday night:  got interviewed by the local news about winter weather apprehension for the next day.  Scoffed and said that we could handle it.

Sunday morning in the hotel:  multiple people are bailing out of the race to get home for fear of getting stranded.  Fayetteville folks are already posting Sleet-mageddon pics and dire travel warnings from Northwest Arkansas.  No going back now. We have a job to do.  Still deceivingly warm and comfortable outside, but radar confirms that we will be getting socked.

Pacers still warm and dry. For about 1 more hour.

Gun time:  Starting to get chilly.  Wind is really kicking up... conditions are about to change, and fast. Kept jacket on for the start. Excellent decision. Rain came as we waited on the starting line. Temperature dropped 30 degrees in 3 hours. By the finish, the rain was sleet.  Hard sleet.  Hands defunct by mile 20... can't open gel, can't re-tie shoe.  Still trucking at the 3:55 pace that I was assigned on the pace team with no fuel and an untied shoe.  Had a couple of eager finishers who were going to make it, and I was happy for them. We ended up just a couple of minutes ahead of pace, thanks to the urgency of the course closures happening just behind us.  Thank God for the VIP tent, space heaters, and hot chocolate.

 4 hours later. So. Cold. Wearing at least 3 coats. 
And that's it.  I stayed a few hours too long at the after-party and had a hair-raising drive to Conway, where one of my best college friends was prepared to host me for the big snow-in.  I finally made it home on Tuesday afternoon.

The only way in/out of NWA. Pretty much one consecutive 45-mile overpass. Impassible in winter weather.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The long winter

February 5.  The 3rd snow day in a row for those of us in education.  I don't mind it, but it throws havoc into my syllabus. 

I'm gearing up to lead a pace group again in the Little Rock marathon.  I was sick last year, and it killed me to miss it.  I feel a sense of responsibility on this one.  Every other time, I'm running for myself; and even if I've built the event up a bit, the only person that it ultimately affects is me.  The pacing gig is much more externally focused.  I am expected to enhance the race experience of hundreds of participants, and the pressure is exhilarating!  Any little pain or any break in training makes me hope and pray that I'm not going off the rails at the 20-mile mark.  I'm so looking forward to it. 

That said, my pesky left IT band let me run through the fall, building up to some decent mileage, although I'm nowhere near the kind of shape I have been in for previous seasons.  I ran the 25K ascent up White Rock mountain last weekend, and I'm afraid to say that my IT has been a little sore since.  It was fun to throw caution to the wind and hammer away at those hills without having to turn around, but now I'm holding my breath a little. 

White Rock 2014 start. I ran the ascent in 2:30. 

It's been a cold winter, too.  We've had quite a bit of pesky frozen precip that keeps refreshing itself with a fresh glaze of ice every morning.  (so it seems).  With the sore IT, it's just as well.  I'm going to say that my training is in the bank, and a little bit of an extended taper will probably be ok. 

Snow run at agri park Feb 2.  5 inches!

Nothing new on the PM front, although I had a bone scan to celebrate 5 years of being on Prednisone with no break (except a brief one that sent me into a flare a couple of years ago).  I was confident, but it came back on the borderline low side of normal.  I immediately went out and bought calcium chews, even though I have pretty good nutrition and do plenty of weight-bearing exercise.  On the other hand, my liver continues to flirt with the borderline high side of normal.  Hm.  I always feel like I'm squeaking just under my doctor's approval threshold.  I'm still on Arava, which still seems to be working.  I switched over from Methotrexate a few years ago after a series of flares that indicated a decreased effectiveness.  So far, I have not had a flare on Arava, although I have small fluctuations in my CPK every so often. 

I've been curious about digestive enzymes lately.  I don't think I've blogged this, but about a year ago I started taking probiotics, and it has made a difference in my hair growth.  I have a two-thirds head of baby-quality hair... not enough to look normal, but a definite difference between the alopecia totalis that I have had for so long.  I have been considering enzymes as the next step in approaching autoimmune disease from a digestive system angle.  I'll keep you posted...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Arkansas Birthday Fun

I turned 36 on Saturday.  Where is the time going?  I celebrated with two very fun and very, very different races:  The Chile Pepper Festival and Arkansas Traveller 100. 

(aside:  I had some kind of unidentified and undiagnosed flare back in July/August.  It was acute and very painful, rather than gradual and lingering, and was over and done with by the time school started.  I was very, very uncomfortable, and completely freaked out, but it turned out to be a false alarm.  The neurologist said that it could have been a random bout of Guillen-Barre.  The specific tests that I had for inflammatory markers were clear for anything more serious... not to say that there aren't other problems elsewhere.  A huge relief, although I apologize to my friends for taking my "alarm" so seriously.  Thank goodness for my support system.)

I heard reports of snakes in the water.  Snakes!
Back to the birthday.  I have always enjoyed either running or working the Chile Pepper.  It's a huge college, high school, and junior high cross country meet that has an Open 10K before the other races start.  It's one of the bigger community events, and so much fun.  Looking back at a spring/summer dominated by injury and illness, I haven't been running much, and was in no mood to register, which turned out to be a good decision.  I got up at 5:20 to get out the door for my 6:00am shift, and could see the lightning start to flash in the west as I rode my bike there.  We were just ahead of a strong front, and the 73 degree low was going to be the high for the day. Sure enough, 30 minutes before gun time, the storm hit and we were in a wait-for-it delay for the next 3 hours.  The 10K was shortened to a 5K, and I have never seen so much mud and water on a race course.  I have no idea how the rest of the day went, but I'm sure that it was a long one for alot of people.  I worked until about noon, and headed home to get warm and dry before setting off on adventure #2 for the day. 

MV taking care of biz at AT100
By 1:30pm, I was on the road to the Arkansas Traveller 100, a 100-mile footrace through forest service roads in central Arkansas.  My purpose was to meet a friend from grad school, run the last 16 or so miles with him, and then be a designated driver back to Fayetteville.  We (a friend from F'ville who was doing the same thing for another runner) shot for Copperhead Aid station, mile 52 and 64 on the course, giving an opportunity to see runners twice within a few hour period.  We spent the time chatting with friends who were crewing other runners that we knew... Mark DenHerder's whole family was there supporting his race, and he would go on to finish 5th.  Scott Rogers appeared soon after we did, crewing his wife Eunika, who finished her first 100 that day.  Ultra-friends are good for the soul.  Around 7:30pm I saw my buddy head through inbound looking very strong and making good time.  About then, the same system that had gone through Fayetteville that morning was bearing down 200 miles to the southeast.  I felt bad for my friend who was driving me down remote roads in the pouring rain to meet my runner at the last crew access point at Lake Winona.  It's not easy to get there, and she was going to have to go all the way back only to find that her runner had dropped.  I was at Winona for maybe an hour and a half, when Matt came in wearing every article of clothing that he had packed.  We took off, and he was moving purposefully.  Once his inertia got in motion he was ready to run, and there were a few times when I felt that I was downright pushing it just to stay with him.  Every time he dropped something (a much-needed glove that I never could find), or I lingered behind to finish up at an aid station, it was a tempo run to catch back up.  After the uphill jeep road to Electronic Tower aid station, the road smooths out and tilts down for some really smooth running.  There is one more technical section before the final 2-3 miles, and we just put our heads down and concentrated on minimizing rock-kicking and staying smooth.  Once we hit the final run-in that passes Lake Sylvia and eventually turns to pavement, I estimate that we were doing 8:30 miles.  He let me know that he was hurting, but I tried not to let him dwell on it, and he willinglly engaged whenever I would change the subject.  His words once we hit the pavement:  "Let's see what I've got left."  He finished in 22 hours, good for 10th place. 

It's good to do something totally out-of-routine.  How often do you run through the night with everything you need on your back?  I heard coyotes in the forest at 2:00am while completely alone.  I saw stars that I have probably never seen before.  I felt like the world was so much bigger than me and the petty structures that I allow my life to revolve around.  The world seems so large, and yet things seem so simple.  Pack light, stay warm, watch your step, and keep moving.  Ponder the absurdity of running through the forest at 2:00am.  Feel the cool night air on your skin and in your lungs.  See where the treetops open up to a clear sky full of stars that you've probably never seen, and realize that you would be missing it all if you were in bed back home.  Monday comes soon enough, along with the other 364 days of the year. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shakeup in the symptom log

Well, caught in the limbo between "not a big deal" and "potentially life-changing".  Which, as you know, is a huge variance.  At this point, I have no diagnostics.  I wish they were easier and/or quicker.  I hate the parade of specialists.  I also hate the process of ruling out everything else under the sun before you pinpoint that yes, you are more susceptible to autoimmune disorders and whatever you are experiencing is probably related. 

So before I even start...
Yes, I am doing yoga.  No, I don't need a new mattress.  No, I didn't herniate a disc in my back.  No, I didn't do this to myself by running too much. 

Symptom Log:
July 8:  Wake up in the early a.m. with back pain/discomfort.  Too severe to comfortably go back to sleep.  Thought it odd.
July 9-14:  Nighttime back pain gets worse, to the point where I am not sleeping at all during the night.  Up, down, pacing, stretching, yoga poses, crying, cursing from about midnight to 7am every day.  Feel crazed with pain and exhaustion.  Pain shakes off during the mid-morning hours, and aside from being tired and worried, lead a fairly normal day.  Sunset feels like a death sentence.
July 15:  Start to feel some leg weakness, walking to work gets harder.  Skin on legs and torso feels tingly, itchy.
July 16:  See rheumatologist.  Do full blood panel, urine, and back x-rays. 
July 17:  Feel like my lower half has less feeling than my upper half.  Can feel the dividing line of sensation/strength somewhere around my belly button. 
July 18-23 (present):  Nighttime back pain has stopped.  Loss of sensation in legs and lower half is as strong as ever. Tingly fingers, tingly skin on legs/torso.  Altered walking gait.  General discomfort. 

Of course I'm googling like crazy.  I've narrowed it down to some self-diagnoses, but haven't confirmed any.  Have not heard from my rheumatologist, which makes me question the inflammatory nature.  I would imagine that I'm headed to a neurologist.  I'm scared, but trying not to jump to wild conclusions.  Although I'll punch the next person who asks me, maybe I did herniate a disc and pinch a nerve.  But in my experience, if it looks like autoimmune disease, walks like autoimmune disease, and smells like autoimmune disease, why would it not be the first guess?  My rheumatologist told me once that there's really no benefit in piling on the diagnoses, unless it alters the treatment plan.  Makes sense to me, especially with the nature of health insurance these days.  However, I think one benefit is mental... knowing what I'm dealing with, knowing where my fight lies. 

Seriously, what next?  I'm starting to feel like Calamity Jane, here.  Trying to balance Type I and Type II error in my sensitivity to health changes is a serious mental game.  Friends tell me that it's fine, that I have every right to freak out, but I feel like I'm starting to bog down the environment with my issues. 

Have a good week.  Be nice to your friends who are working their way through hardships.