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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Run to Remember 5k

I have mixed feelings about racing pregnant. On the one hand, I want to continue to do things I enjoy, and that feel normal to me. But on the other hand, it seems kind of pointless...I'm only getting slower, and races probably won't benefit me in any way. However, this race definitely did have a benefit of some sort: it was a fundraiser for the Coast Guard Foundation, which cares for the families of fallen Coast Guard members. As a former Coastie brat, and teammate of the race director, I knew I should support.
My teammate Rachel is from the midwest, and therefore doesn't mind driving. It's a midwest thing, I tell you. You plan a visit with a friend from Ohio and start looking for flights, and they give you a startled look and tell you it's only a two-day drive, why fly?! So anyway, Rachel drives an HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES one way to join us for workouts on Tuesdays and Sundays, which never ceases to amaze me. So I figured I owed it to her to drive that distance once to come to her race! Actually, not race. Run. It was an untimed, bib-less run. But measured to a perfect 5k, so kudos to Rachel for that, which can be hard to accomplish for a small race run in neighborhoods!

The run began with a short memorial service at 10am, so we started running around 10:30. In Houma, Louisiana. In early September. In other words, it was incredibly hot. We had rain in the morning, and unfortunately it stopped shortly before we got going, and a brilliant sun poured down instead. Steam rose around us and we got the worst possible scenario: almost 100% humidity AND bright, hot sun! It was mid-80's, but it felt a lot hotter. I realized that my sunscreen was totally gone after my sweaty warmup, and I hadn't thought to bring more. Not surprisingly, I got a toasty burn.

I knew from my warmup that my legs were pretty tired. We had a tempo workout on Friday of 5xmile at tempo with 60-second jogs. I ran those miles faster than usual, and I was feeling it! I figured I could probably run around 7-minute miles, even on tired legs, but it turns out that the heat was a factor, too. We started  with a simple,"Go!", and were running on grass before moving onto the roads in a subdivision. This course was entirely within a subdivision, and there was absolutely no shade at all at any point on the course. We were being baked. Rachel was lead bike, and near her ran a fellow Coast Guard officer. She was joined by a few Power Milers, but no one was racing, since it was an untimed event. I ran a hard-tempo feel, and tried to keep the lead bike in my site: there were arrows on the course, but I could see myself missing one and spending the rest of my life wandering a subdivision in Houma, passing identical McMansions for days and asking if I'd already passed Garfield street, or was it Coolidge street? Indeed, the course was - well, boring. Just a lot of the exact same for the whole thing! The only change up was the start on grass and finish on gravel. I was surprised that my pace was around 7:10; I felt like it was a little faster, but eh. That's life these days. I ran almost exactly even, picking it up a little for the final mile, and ran 22:06 by my Garmin. The last 0.2ish was on a gravel drive, and I lost my footing and almost fell, but I caught myself. Thank goodness. I did NOT want to be the gigantic pregnant lady sliding through the gravel and creating a scene! Ha! It didn't feel like a 5k, but then  - it wasn't a real race, and since I was totally alone, sore, tired, and puffy, I think defaulting to a tempo was to be expected.
Power Milers represent! Rachel is on the far right. I'm the pregnant one on the ground.
I'm glad I ran, though. I have a few other races coming up: the Blue Doo (another cause I simply MUST support!) and the Jazz Half (I registered ages ago so now I'm on the hook for 13 miles in my 3rd trimester, lucky me). I needed a low-key "race" to rip the bandaid off and get back into the swing of things. Got to get used to pacing when you're slower and all that! It's actually harder than it seems! It was also great to see Rachel shine as race director: she's such a dedicated member of the Power Milers, balancing hard training with long drives and a military career, and we're lucky to have her. We always joke that she's the youngest and most mature member of our team! Putting on a race is a big endeavor, and I was pleased for her that everything went so well and that all the participants had fun.

Monday, September 2, 2019

UNO cross country opener

This year, the University of New Orleans did something pretty cool: it turned its first cross country race into an open event. Any team or individual could register. I hope they get more publicity the second year (first year events are always hard!), because that's such a good idea! When else do you get to race on a cross country team once you're out of college?
UNO's coach and assistant coach are both Power Milers, so our club put together a team. Mostly because I pressured them into it. It turns out that no other club teams entered, only college tams, but we can certainly work to change that for next year!
I had intended to run this race to support UNO athletics (it was a fundraiser - and cheap at that; $15 for an individual entry). We couldn't field a girls team: too many of us were busy that night. But I thought I'd trundle out there anyway. I wasn't worried about finishing last or something; it was just for a good cause! But unfortunately I had a really stressful and busy week, and the registration deadline passed without me even thinking about it. This is really not like me, so I'm blaming the baby. A baby is very convenient like that.
I still wanted to spectate, so David and I packed a snack and headed out. We got there just as the girls race finished and with plenty of time to watch the guys run.
Headed to the line

The cool thing about cross country races is that they tend to be on repeat loop courses for the sake of space. That also means good spectating. We joined some other team members and spent the race dashing from side to side of the 5k course!

Kenneth runs in Zoom Flys on the grass!
What was cool was watching their strategy. The college kids almost dropped our guys at the beginning, but after mile one, we were back in the mix. Slowly our guys - probably with the benefit of age - worked their way up; Casey finished thirteenth overall as our top finisher, and I was impressed to see Pat finish strong, moving well up in position from his place at mile one. Kenny also ran well in his very first cross country race...and not wearing spikes!

I know this had to be a tough race, because it was a million degrees out (ok, well, low 90's). And super humid. I was hot just watching them run! But our team ended up 5th out of 8, which I think is pretty impressive against a bunch of college kids. Next year I hope we can run a women's team as well!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The 2019 Power Mile

After my experience at Greek Fest, I knew a PR was out of the question for the Power Mile. My club puts this race on, and this year we moved it up to the first of June. We were hoping for cooler temperatures compared to the end of July, and maybe more crowds, but actually we just ended up with a less-acclimated field!
There were other changes this year, too: a new double-loop course on Carrollton Avenue, which omitted the sharp right turn at the finish that the old course had, and an afterparty at Rock 'n Bowl (a bowling lane/bar). I'd worked packet stuffing and early packet pick up the week leading up to the race, and on race day arrived early for day-of packet pick-up. I knew it wasn't going to be a good day for me. That morning, since I wasn't running early, I suggested to David that we go on a leisurely walk with our morning coffee. And I felt terrible. I was weak and faint and had to sit down. We cut our walk short, and I went to bed for some of the day. By the time the race rolled around, I was very happy it was only a mile!

The race has several heats, and I decided that it would be fun to pace David for the open mile. He wanted to run 7:00 and I was happy to help before my race started. Not something I would do before a real race, but totally ok under the circumstances of being 10 weeks pregnant and having been sick ALL day.
Sub-7:00 was kind of a lofty goal... and David wimped out, resulting in some on-course dramatics from the two of us hams.

Anyway, he pulled off a 7:10, which was still a huge PR, and we certainly had fun!

After the open race, I had a break before the "elite" heat. I jogged a little more to stay warmed up before scooting back into the starting corral. I politely got in a back row - I'm a little bitter about it, but I've accepted that I'm no front-packer these days.
I do love a good mile race! I knew I had to temper my expectations, but still - there was another runner I know who moved ahead of me by the first 400m, and I knew I should be faster than her, even pregnant. I ran the first quarter in 1:24 and told myself to hang on to that and I'd be ok. I rounded the corner at the halfway point and heard my split: 2:48. Great! I could sense I was slowing, though. I ran the next quarter in 1:25, and finally eased past my "competition", but struggled to hold the pace. I couldn't really find an extra gear, and ended up running 5:49 gun time. At first, I was disappointed. I ran 5:38 last year, and promised myself sub-5:30 this year. But I knew I couldn't compare and quickly shrugged it off.
Not as fast...but clearly working pretty hard nonetheless! 

The best part about this race was that I felt pretty good afterward, and could actually eat the race food with no ill effects. We had a great time at the after party! We're not sure if this race will live for another year, but I think the runners really enjoyed Rock 'n Bowl, and it was great to have an all-inclusive venue that took care of drinks, food, and music for us. It did increase the registration price - $45 for day-of registration, which is so high for a mile! - but I think it was worth it for a race, all-you-can-eat food, all-you-can-drink beer and wine, live music, and a race. Hopefully we can put this race on again next year, because we had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Getting some distance back

I am still coming off a long break, slowly working back to some running distance. Oof, July really took it out of me. Pregnancy complications and treatments for them made the "easy" second trimester start out pretty hard, and I took a while to recover. One of my problems lead to an electrolyte imbalance, with hypokalemia. This made me very weak, and it got worse because my blood volume suddenly expanded (normal in the second trimester). I spent a lot of July tired, with anemia and floppy muscles. Not to mention the catheter for part of the month...can't run like that! So there was a lot of not just missed running in July, there was also a lot of just feeling crappy.
THEN I was super slow when I could run, so altogether there just hasn't been a lot of distance over here.

Once I was feeling well enough to run again, and didn't have any crippling hamstring injuries, I stupidly jumped in the long run after just a week back. Not smart! Thirteen miles exhausted me, and I felt insanely sore, like I'd lifted heavy weights. I used the next week to build mileage gradually before attempting any distance again. The following week wasn't as bad. I did 14 miles, and I actually had a slightly better pace from the week prior. Still slow - I'm running mid-9's now. But the distance didn't beat me up like the week before.
Super glad I bought a few bigger tops and sports bras that somewhat fit!

Last week, I decided to throw in a midweek semi-long run. I think midweek longs are so important for a successful weekend long run: I try to always run at least half my weekend distance at some point during the week (usually Thursday). I was a little worried about joining a group due to my newfound slowness, but I met a bunch of ladies for about ten, and it ended up being fine. They were taking it easy, too, and I actually ran sub-9 average...this is so rare now!

I'll try to keep the mid-week distance up a little, but the limiting factor is time. Adding 10 or 15 minutes to my run due to slower pace does mean I have to plan a little better, get up when my alarm goes off, and not dawdle at the water fountain. Not a big deal overall, but just something to be aware of. Long runs, meanwhile, are still on the table for now, just done smartly and with some pre-planning!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Race recap: Greek Fest 2019

I signed up for the Greek Fest 5k in a moment of delusion, thinking that I'd somehow use the adrenaline of the starting line to rally for a good race, and hey - maybe even PR the 5k! While nine weeks pregnant and routinely barfing all day. Sure. Makes perfect sense.

The race is a Friday night race before Memorial Day weekend, and it looked to be a slow one, as it was one of our first warm and humid races for the year. This was an unusually long and pleasant spring for us in NOLA, so when summer temperatures hit, we weren't ready! By race day, it was quite clear to me that PRing was not at all going to happen, even though I'd had a surprisingly good workout that Tuesday. But Friday was not a good day. I took a gel to the start, hoping that 100 calories of sugar gel would make up for throwing up any solid food I'd eaten all day. Right.

(Insert race photo here, except the NOTC's facebook page got hacked and now it's a disorganized mess missing tons of information. But for a few hours, you could get addiction treatment for cheap, in Arabic!)

I warmed up for about two miles, and started the race actually not feeling too bad. But I quickly learned not to rely on pre-pregnancy pace assumptions. I ran the first mile in 6:06, only to rapidly fall apart. I just felt weak and slow all of a sudden. The race is an out-and-back and I saw I was in fourth place at the turn around. On a better day I could have maybe tried to catch up to third, but definitely not this time. I felt terrible, sick and exhausted, and my pace was around 6:30 for the last two miles. I ran 19:59 for fourth female. And then I got Greek food at the festival, and now I can never eat Greek food again.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Running: the past few months

Just to quickly let you know how running is going, here's a recap of what I've been doing during my long hiatus:

Terrible track workout the week I
found out I was pregnant!
May: The week of my scheduled surgery I had two TERRIBLE workouts. Tuesday on the track I felt horribly lethargic and slow, but I didn't know why, and I was honestly freaked out. I thought that maybe I didn't take off enough time after Boston and was showing signs of training fatigue. But I reminded myself that I was about to take off two weeks post-op, so I'd have plenty of time to recover. With that in mind, I moved Friday's tempo to Thursday morning - the morning of my noon surgery. Last workout before a ton of time off! But I felt SO bad. It wasn't because I was fasting; I never eat before I run (and I totally drank water - it was five hours before my surgery. I'm a little cheater like that). I actually stopped between my last two 1.5-mile reps and sat on a bench with my head down, feeling dizzy and nauseated. Well, a few hours later I found out why I felt so bad! And after that, I just started gradually slowing down more and more.
I was able to participate in all my workouts in May, even though I usually showed up minutes after pulling over to throw up! And for a few weeks, I even hung with my old pace group. My day-to-day running didn't change, either: I felt my best while running, and in May I hit 286 miles!

June: I kept it up in June, despite persistent nausea and poor (terrible) nutrition. I dared not skip a day running: it was the only activity that kept the vomiting at bay. Something about drawing blood flow away from the stomach really relieved my sickness. But alas, pregnant bodies don't work like non-pregnant bodies. Toward the end of June, I started having tendon and ligament pain that made some old injuries flare - specifically my left biceps femoris tendon. This is the exact same nagging injury that plagued me in the Boston build-up, except it was my right leg. I ran my last real long run on June 16th, a 15-mile progression run, completed at 7:34 pace. Right after that, I ended up taking most of the rest of the month off, trying to let my tendons and ligaments heal.
Early June: running with a baby bump! 

July: July was not a good month for me at all! It began with a week of almost no exercise at all. I started the month with an emergency room visit that left me wearing a catheter bag for the first week of the month, which obviously is not at all conducive to exercise.
This is how I spent July.
Once I was back to normal, I tried some test runs, but I was obviously limping, and I took another two weeks off. I ended up somewhere around 90 miles for the month.

August: So here we are in August. I gradually started to run again, but it was a huge shock after taking a few weeks off. I got much slower during that time! I knew I'd slow down, but I assumed it would mostly be related to weight and fluid gain later in pregnancy stressing the cardiovascular system. Nope. I've definitely gained a lot of weight (I can cram myself into a pair or two of my running shorts, and I've been in larger bras since May), but clearly something else is going on. My stride is incredibly awkward and uncoordinated, and I tire easily. I simply have no speed in my legs at all. I went out for my first long run in almost a month this week, and I ran 9:25's! Obviously, I'm going by feel now, but I have been wearing a watch or Garmin to keep an eye on the time - I am slowing down so much day by day that I might accidentally make myself late for work!

Suddenly slow and clearly preggers in August 
For now, I'm running some, at very slow paces, which are determined by feel. To give my ligaments and tendons a break, I cross train on some kind of low-impact machine on Mondays. I am still attending group workouts, but with modifications: like walking or standing rest when needed (and skipping reps - I don't have all night!). I think any type of exercise during pregnancy requires common sense; I know what's hurting me and what's not, and my body is making sure I know exactly my limitations! 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Baby on the way!

If you read my last post carefully...all the way to the end! you know that I'm pregnant! And how this whole story developed was, well, super duper dramatic.
Where I left off before my sudden silence, I was scheduled for uterine surgery to remove and biopsy a mass that couldn't be diagnosed via ultrasound. I had been in incredible discomfort for months, compounded by debilitating anemia due to the associated blood loss, and I was eager to have the surgery.
Curiously, my symptoms abated before the surgery. In fact, I called my doctor to wonder if maybe the surgery wasn't even necessary? "Maybe the intense marathon training was taking a toll on your body, and you've improved now that you aren't running," she suggested (this was during my week off after Boston). "But regardless, we have to biopsy that thing. It's a potential carcinoma." So, I dutifully prepped for surgery, and the morning of the procedure reminded myself that the post-op nausea would be worth symptom relief. But...I hadn't had any symptoms in weeks.

I was in my hospital gown about to get my IV when my doctor came in with the news. "I can't believe it, so I had them run the test twice," she said. "We have to cancel your surgery: you're pre-op pregnancy test came back positive!"

I was floored. I started hyperventilating. This was the last news I expected to hear! I have "known" for years that I could not get pregnant due to a combination of several health conditions. Well, amid the most challenging of circumstances, somehow this little baby succeeded! I have a hunch that the high-dose hormones I took in a failed attempt to control my bleeding this winter and spring actually worked like fertility treatments. But still - how one gets pregnant WHILE ACTIVELY HEMORRHAGING is still beyond me (and my doctor).

15-week baby bump in my Boston jacket...
pregnancy hormones are making me all
sentimental and I bought a jacket this year
after I realized I'd run the race pregnant! 
I had the super awkward task of calling David sheepishly and asking to be picked back up 15 minutes after he had dropped me off for surgery. So much for a cute way to tell your husband you're pregnant...we kind of spent the next day or two in shock, but then reality sunk in. This was a high-risk pregnancy. My uterus is...crowded. I don't just have a baby, I have fibroids and I still have the large mass! I decided to go quiet on social media and the blog for a while, to give myself time to tell friends and family: and for that, I wanted to wait until I saw my doctor to actually quantify my risks. As it turns out, you don't really see doctors early in pregnancy (I didn't know: it's my first pregnancy, and my mother never had a doctor for the six pregnancies I observed!). While I did an early ultrasound and requested my thyroid be checked right away, I didn't see my doctor until the end of June: which was also the beginning of my second trimester. So sorry for the silence.

At first, I was excited to hear that all appeared well, and I would be removed from the high-risk category. I mentioned some fairly alarming symptoms I'd been having, but my doctor seemed unconcerned and told me that they'd probably abate as the second trimester progressed. Unfortunately, just a week later, I proved her wrong; without going too far into it at this point, I have a very rare but dangerous complication called uterine incarceration that necessitated a visit to the ER, a catheter, and an emergency procedure. At my follow-up two days later, I showed improvement, but I'm not 100% out of the woods. The uterine mass (which my OB thinks is a submucosal fibroid) is to blame. This is frustrating and worrisome news, but some sort of complication is not unexpected given my age and health. Instead of letting that worry me, I'm focusing on the positive: I'm grateful that I have good healthcare and the prayers of many loved ones!