Sunday, August 30, 2009

Racing season

I previously mentioned wanting to plan some races in the upcoming months. We have had some gorgeously premature early fall weather lately, and I am itching to get into the primo running months that are coming up. I may be getting a little greedy, but here goes:
  • Chile Pepper 10K: a challenging 10K on the local university cross country course in October. The goal here is to see how strongly I can run this. I have worked up to some double-digit-mileage trail runs, but am pretty slow. I want to see what kind of strength and speed I can get back. My PR on this course is around 45:00, I have no clue what a realistic expectation is this time around.
  • Thinking about going back to Memphis in December, which is the scene of The Last Glorious Running Day that I had last year during the marathon. This event last year felt Flowers for Algernon-ish... the last beautiful ray of sun bursting over the horizon before the world is plunged into darkness. Considering the half-marathon. Again, hopefully by this time I am able to do strong, fast, high-quality miles, rather than simply finishing the distance.
  • I have never done the Little Rock marathon. This might be a good one, since I don't see any marathon-distance races realistically happening before 2010. This is an early-March event, just in time to guage preparation for...
  • Boston. Mid-April. There were times this spring when I wondered if I would ever walk again. And here I am planning this thing. I can't believe it. I am using words like "speed" and "marathon" with all intents and purposes. This is where I feel a little greedy... my eyes might be bigger than my running shoes. I've been feeling good lately, getting in the groove. I'm asking alot here, this is a pretty ambitious list. Why not let myself get excited over it?

The recovery feels a little tenuous at times, especially when I consider how I've adjusted my goals farther than I often thought possible. Have I overstepped it? Am I setting myself up for another crash? I am nowhere near stability in remission... am still on a dose of steriods that isn't sustainable. The future is a toss-up as I try to lose my crutch of drugs. In the movie Cool Runnings, during that last run down the sled track, the Jamaicans are going fast. They are exceeding everybody's expectations, even their own. They are going fast, faster, faster yet. It's going too well. The runners come off of the track a little bit, the turns get harder to hold. And then we know what happens next...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another year

First day of the academic semester, 09-10. I'm glad to reach this point. If you don't know, I work at a University and can compartmentalize life & work into the seasons of the school year. I pretty much "lost" the Spring 09 semester: I went down hard with PM in January/February, and then spent most of March and April simply trying to become functional again with the basics such as walking, getting around my own house, and simple self-care. Over the summer, I slowly but steadily gained strength and functionality. I had hoped to feel full-strength and fully engaged by the time that the new school year came. I wouldn't say that I am 100%, but I feel pretty close in this context.
I still don't have much going on in the way of extracurricular activities... I can run several miles at a time, but my ability here isn't very consistent or dependable yet. Some days I feel strong and ready to go, other days an easy 5-miler is a hard day's work. I have lost a little bit of the fire that was under my seat with my training and physical work. At the beginning, I was so grateful to be able to increase my activity, and I could feel myself getting stronger. The pace of improvement has slowed as I have gotten closer to normal, so it feels more like work now, and is a little harder to keep at the grind. I find myself brushing off workouts much more easily now that I'm out of that honeymoon phase. I'd like to get that "edge" back at some point.
I am currently down to 20 mgs/day of prednisone. I have felt tired lately, and a little mentally dull. I am going to chalk it up to drug reduction, which has seemed to be the source of most of my physical tweaks. I am still walking the tightrope, and I often worry about where the disease is... how close the wolves are to the door.
This update is not very exciting, just a check-in. Things are going well. For the most part, I feel a sense of normalcy in life, which is really all that you want when things are so bad with your disease that you can't imagine a normal life again. That's not to say that it comes easily... there is alot of work and planning now that goes into performing daily roles. I still feel a sense of loss with the active, physical part of my self that I would love to get back. I have started to plan some races for the next year, and hope that I can see them through.
Next rheumatologist appointment is in 2 weeks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More Recommended Reading

I read Donna Jackson Nakazawa's book titled The Autoimmune Epidemic. She presents theory regarding correlation between increased toxins in our daily environments and increasing rates of autoimmune disease. The "barrel effect" is used to illustrate what happens in the body to set up a disease onset. Imagine a barrel filling with water: genetic predisposition fills it to a certain degree, estrogen fluctuations fill it even more, and toxins (referred to as autogens) fill it even further, to the point where the water is just holding at the very top. Then, an otherwise inconsequential trigger (often a common virus that confuses the immune system) provides the final drop that causes the barrel to dramatically overflow. There is also discussion of current lines of research, as well some tips to minimize the introduction of autogens into the body. The statistics presented were interesting: more people will battle an autoimmune disease than cancer and heart disease, yet autoimmune disease research receives a tiny fraction of available resources. Rates of autoimmune disease have spiked in recent years, and not due to better diagnostics. According to Nakazawa, we are poisoning ourselves with our modern environment, but we have yet to make the connection and work towards remedy.

The book is interesting. Some of the discussion regarding disease clusters and molecular dynamics was tedious, but the general explanation of mechanisms involved in autoimmune disease were well-presented. It seems as though we are still a long way off from making any inroads regarding predictors, preventions, or remedies. My onset of polymyositis has reinforced the worry that those of us who already experience one or more autoimmune issues are more likely to experience additional diseases. While living in fear is not the answer, I am acutely aware of my status as a ticking time-bomb. Visit for help understanding autoimmune disease, as well as how current issues like health-care and research legislation affect us. There are also tips on how to contact your legislative representatives for advocacy.