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Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's it like to run on the Alter G?

When I posted about running on the Alter G, I got two questions:
1. What's it feel like to run on the Alter G? and
2. How does the Alter G compare to pool running?

Dolly asked the first question, and, lucky for her, she can imitate the effects at home. And so can you! All you need is:
- a pair of tight bike shorts
- a nylon rope
- the abandoned Golds Gym set from the garage
- a treadmill

Here's what you do: Put on the bike shorts. Hold the entire set of weights in your arms and start running on the treadmill. After about a mile or two, put the weights down and straddle the nylon rope. Start running, while simultaneously pulling upwards on both ends of the rope, until it almost cuts you in half. And that's what it feels like to run on the Alter G.

No, but for real. If you are at a light enough percent weight, you are being buoyed up quite a lot. And you're being buoyed up right there. Basically, once you zip your bike shorts into the Alter G harness, the treadmill calibrates to your weight. Then you set it to the percent body weight you want, and it creates positive air pressure to offset the gravity due to the reduced percent. In other words, if I want to run at 75% of my body weight, the gravitational force that the remaining 25% would incur is negated by air being blown upwards. And it can be forceful enough to blow you almost off the belt by your shorts. That can be, ahem, uncomfortable.

Otherwise, the Alter G feels much like you'd expect: it has the same treadmill feel of propulsion as a regular treadmill, but you can tell that there is less resistance. You feel lighter, and it's hard - at low weights - to actually get your heart rate up. In fact, me and my out-of-shapeness have been running at 8.5 to 9, and it feels like an easy jog. But that's only for 15 minutes, so maybe I'd be really struggling by 30. I did not notice that it in any way changed my stride or form, except as would be expected on a treadmill.

The only other consideration is that you are zipped in, and the whole get-up is a little awkward - you have the harness in the way when you run.

Next time I will get to question #2 - Alter G vs. pool running.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rock 'n Roll New Orleans: a miss

It's the first time I've missed this race since Competitor Group bought it 6 or 7 years ago. I can't believe it! The streak is broken!
It's also the first year they added a 10k, of which I was oblivious, much to my dismay. See, I wanted to walk out to St. Charles and catch some of the leaders before church, and I woke up late, threw on a sweatshirt, grabbed coffee, and walked as fast as I could to the turn-around. I was sure I'd missed the leaders. But nothing. Crickets. Finally, the lead car went by, sweeping the course. And more nothing. I pulled out my phone, found the website, and realized that the 10k started first, and the half and full were later by a whole half hour!
So I had some time to walk a bit further up the course. It was perfect running weather, cool and sunny, and I was happy to be out spectating. I knew I couldn't really cheer thanks to some terrible mouth sores.
I guess now is as good a time to tell you as any that I have been really struggling with awful oral ulcers due to my sulfonamide allergy. Ever since my bad reaction in the summer when I took Bactrim post-op, I've dealt with deep, painful ulcers on and under my tongue whenever I'm even slightly exposed to the drug. That's a huge problem, because at work, I'm exposed almost every day! Friday night I had to fill a prescription for Bactrim by myself, so I couldn't have one of my techs fill it - they had gone home. I gloved and wore a mask, but still, I woke up Sunday with a cut-up, bleeding mouth. Misery! I am sure I'll eventually figure this out, but for now, I could barely speak. So I was not actually able to do much cheering at all!
Finally, the men rounded the corner, and I picked out Ben Bruce, who I knew would be racing. He was neck and neck with another guy I didn't recognize; it turned out to be Mike Popejoy, who beat him by half a minute at the finish.

It wasn't long before I saw the women, and I was looking for Tia! I saw her name the week before in our paper's online article. She was listed in the elite field for the race. But first came Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, far ahead of any other women.

Then the pack started to get crowded, and before long, along came Tia, running with an incredibly smooth and long stride! I couldn't really cheer much, but I did get some terrible pictures (I didn't think to turn my auto-HD off, and the sun triggered it - it doesn't work well at all for action shots).
Tia in pink, on the sunny side of St. Charles!
I waited for a few more people I knew running, but since Louisiana Marathon was last week, not that many were racing, plus it just isn't that great to be out on course and not able to cheer or shout. I soon headed back home to get ready for church.
I really wished I was racing today! That beautiful course, the lovely weather (although I bet the full got warm in the sun as time passed), and many of my friends. Ah well, maybe another year.
I noticed that it seemed to be a slow race, despite the perfect conditions, and I think I'm blaming it on race saturation. I feel like we have so many races in our area (including, of course, one last week!) that our local competition is diluted. This year the women's race was won in 3:04, which would have barely gotten you in the top ten in other years. But another factor is the change to Competitor Group's elite program - without that, I don't think we'll a lot of women running in the 2:40's unless they are taking advantage of the course for a PR or a record.
Have you noticed your local races getting faster or slower? What's the cause? What's your theory?

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'm running!

In deep water!

But you know, it's not that terrible. I've run in the pool before, and it's dreadfully boring, but this time I did some asking and researching on making pool running workouts actually count. And it's been working. I actually feel a little sore today! Usually, pool running just feels like I'm sort of sloshing about in a bathtub.
What I've found helped:
1. Keeping my form correct. I tighten my muscles, stand up straight, and try to mimic running stride. I can't drive my leg back as far, but otherwise it's fairly accurate.
2. Increasing cadence like crazy.
With the faster turnover and better form, I actually feel like I'm getting a real workout, and the bonus is that I'm using some running muscles. Maybe I won't be as sore when I get back into running this time (my calves generally feel punished!).
The PT has a camera system set up behind and next to the treadmill, so you can watch your footstrike the entire time. I actually think my gait looks pretty good and even at this point!

Not only have I hit the pool a few times, I've been running on the Alter G at physical therapy. This is not really an area covered in any of the recovery protocols for hip labral surgery, so we are going out on a limb here, which does make me nervous. My concerns are that:
1. I'm running, albeit with reduced weight, very early in recovery; the impact is minimal, but it is repetitious.
2. Treadmills are basically banned forever following hip labral repairs.
3. I have no guidelines to refer to to determine what percent body-weight I should run at or for how long.

But, worries aside, I figured I'd try it (in the interests of science, of course. Not in the interests of actually running for a few minutes). I reasoned that I could always stop if it hurt, and I could start with a short period of time just in case I discovered that it started to hurt later. So, the first day I went for ten minutes total, but only six were running - I did 2 minutes each warm-up and cool-down. It didn't hurt to run, and it didn't hurt later, so I was comfortable with repeating it next week (I'm only doing PT once a week this time). Wednesday I increased time to 15 minutes. Both days I was set at 50% weight, which seems very, very light, but I'd rather be safe than sorry!
So far, I've had no repercussions. I can't say that it was pain-free, because I have baseline low-level pain, but there was absolutely no increase in pain or change in the type, quality, or location of the pain. That's the green-light to continue. My PT and I will gradually increase the weight as time goes by.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Louisiana Marathon weekend: spectating, volunteering, and burning

I volunteered for gear check this weekend at one of my favorite races, the Louisiana marathon. As usual, race day was incredibly beautiful and perfect temperatures for running.
The state capitol from the finish area
Actually, since it's a mostly sunny course, it might have gotten a little warm for some people. Since I wasn't running, I persuaded myself that it was probably too hot for racing. Yep.
I asked around on Facebook and found a few people heading up to Baton Rouge that morning, one whom I know well (doing a long run/race) and one whom I know only vaguely (spectating). I picked them both up, and in the wee hours of the morning we made great time.
DIGRESSION: Girl who was spectating is sweet and all, but whatever happened to the lost art of conversation? She talked in a sad sort of way about her life for an hour without taking a breath. And really, it was mostly navel-gazing. Things like, "I have to prioritize me-time. I just remember that when I give, give, give, I empty out my store of life and have nothing left for me." and a ten-minute diatribe about the importance of sleep, and how she was strict about 8 hours and 40 minutes a night, no more, no less. I was like, I think I know where your me-time went. You're sleeping through it. And btw she's single, owns her home, no kids, no student loans, and a teacher, so I'm not really sure what's taking up all her time anyway. 
Anyway. So Kim was running the race (although just as a long run), so I dropped her at the start and easily found free street parking. Then I headed to gear-check. I'd volunteered to do a middle shift, between drop-off and pick-up, to organize the dropped bags in numerical order. I was working with a nice little group of volunteers, including a large group of women from Black Girls Run, who combined cheering their friends on with volunteering. I think it's pretty neat for a running club to volunteer at an event as a group!
Once I was done organizing, the half-marathon was starting to finish. I walked to the finish just in time to see the women; second and fourth place were girls I know (one of whom moved away last year, so it was fun to catch up!). I stayed around the finish area until the men started coming in from the marathon - 2:27 something, NICE - then headed to mile 25 to spectate. Mile 25 is actually at the very top of a "hill" (ok, overpass. There aren't any hills), so I went to the bottom - maybe 24.7? to cheer. It was kind of funny to hear what people said as they rounded the corner and saw the looming overpass. Not very many were happy about it.
We'd agreed to leave by 12, so I didn't do much hanging around at the finish fest (even though I'm sure it was as good as it usually is). But I was out long enough to burn my lips to a crisp - the only place I forgot to use sunscreen.
It was fun to see my friends and celebrate their successes (one friend ran his second marathon after bone marrow transplant, and is mailing his doctor his medal; another ran a 3:20 - a huge PR for her - and was tenth female). And it was fun to volunteer: I need to give back to the running community more. But next year, I want to be running this one! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I should be running

After a few days of cold rain and drizzle, this morning was bright and cold. I stood in the kitchen with my coffee and watched the sunrise through my back door, and all I could think was, "I should be watching this from the levee track."
Of course we have iron bars. Where do you think we live, small-town Iowa?!

At four+ weeks post-op, I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to miss running. For the first couple of weeks, I was just in survival mode - get through the holidays with incisions still closed and no major damage to the hip. It was more about figuring out the best way to incorporate the exercise bike and PT into my days, managing work on crutches, and being a good party guest while in a brace and immobile. Now I'm off crutches, I feel pretty good, and I do wish I could get out there and run on a clear, cold morning like this!

I will definitely have race-envy tomorrow, too, because I'm volunteering at a race - The Louisiana Marathon. It's always a fabulous event, and I'm excited to contribute, but I'm sure I'll feel some pangs of jealousy, too.

I'm reminding myself, though, that I need two more months of healing. Last hip (haha, how pathetic that I can say that) felt great right about weeks 4 - 5. Weeks 6 and 7? Everything started to hurt. I'm expecting a big increase in pain when I discontinue my preventative naproxen (to avoid heterotopic ossificantion) next week, and I'm sure the aching will remind me that my hip still has a lot of healing to do.

Friday, January 16, 2015

It's for a good cause

I suppose my husband isn't too thrilled about the calendar I purchased for charity.

But with hot pictures like this in it, how could I say no?
Actually one of good friends at Tulane - he's a great doc and one of the funniest people I know. And he doesn't mind wearing a skirt for laughs. 

(The funniest part about this calendar is that one of the doctors - who's a little full of himself - totally missed the point of the self-deprecating humor of the poses, and in his picture he's totally into it: riding horseback with his shirt unbuttoned! I died laughing).

Work has been - kind of a roller coaster, I guess? After my visit with the vice presidents the week of my surgery, things calmed down for the holidays. Unfortunately, right around that time, I learned some news about contracting that will negatively affect my business. Part of that meant referrals were down, especially for the high-dollar drugs I've based my business model on. So I did some projections, and I decided to cut payroll hours at my store. It was a tough decision - I do need the help, but I can''t really pay a second full-time pharmacist and still turn the kind of profits I want. I reduced her hours to two days a week in anticipation of decreased volume/profits. I felt terrible doing it - I hired her, she's new, and she's good, but at least she'll still get full-time hours at a combination of stores. Meanwhile, I didn't reduce my hours budget, so I can add her back in if business picks up.

And of course, as soon as I talked to her about the hours reduction, I got three referrals for a pricey hepatitis C drug. The price of these three prescriptions would pay salaries for my entire store for over three months!
And then the company revealed that some errors had been made on the November profit and loss sheets released to stores. So all my decision-making had been based partially on erroneous data (prescription volume and expenses). My projections were off because I thought I saw a trend, but it didn't actually exist. At this point, I'm probably going to just play February by ear, and see how things go. I just hate the upheaval when it might have been for no reason.
And since I get boss-guilt, I guess I will buy them a king cake next week!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Right hip surgery vs left hip surgery

It sure seems like this surgery/recovery is easier than the first one. I know what to expect, I know what to avoid, and I was in better shape physically prior to surgery. Though similar in many ways, the surgery actually was a different procedure, so that is contributing to differences as well.

What's better:
- Hip labral repair has better outcomes than debridement
- I scheduled my post-op ten days out rather than 6 days out: I think they removed my stitches too early last time and the wounds didn't stay closed.
- No drainage drama this time (last time I dealt with copious drainage for over a week)
- And hence, no antibiotic drama (last time I had a severe reaction to the antibiotic I started to prevent infection when the wound was open).
- The surgery was shorter, so my hip wasn't in traction for as long. That means my whole leg feels better.
- And my hip flexor, especially, feels pretty healthy and strong. It was really weak and irritated for months last time (I couldn't live my leg without using my hands for several weeks post-op).
- Crutch pads...I don't know how I did it without them last time.

What's worse:
- Repairs are more delicate, so I had to use crutches for four weeks. Brutal!
- There is more pain in the joint this time, which is normal since it was stitched.
- Honestly, the timing was terrible with all the stuff I had going on at work plus holiday events, and I was exhausted for most of the first four weeks.
- Post-op anesthesia-related nausea, although better at first, hit me hard the next day and I was miserably ill for the whole weekend.
- Not using a continuous passive motion machine means I have to use the exercise bike every day, and that plus PT plus the incredibly time-consuming act of doing anything means that my days are packed. I actually have to get up earlier now to fit it all in, and walking on crutches to the gym took like 10 minutes from the parking lot!
- My scars are larger this time because a repair necessitates a larger opening than a debridement.
Top: Right hip (for modesty could only show the two large scars; there is a third portal as well).
Bottom: Left hip, so faded that you can only barely see the three scars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Autism: the gift with no return

I just wanted to share this article written by one of my running group buddies:
Autism: the gift with no return.
Ben, and his dad Sam, run with the Varsity Sports track group. It's probably hard for ben - his seizure disorder leads to uncontrolled hand movements, and his running can be awkwardly difficult. But I loved that he was always out there, difficult or not, completing the workout while holding his dad's hand for assistance. I don't know Ben well, because he cannot speak - only type. It's hard to get to know someone on the track when you can't speak to them. But we're facebook friends, and I've gotten to know him some more that way. Wow, how much this man has overcome! Despite his physical limitations and his barriers to communication, he's succeeding. Ben started college at Tulane last year on scholarship and is a guest blogger for Nolavie. His article above is an excellent glimpse into his life with autism.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Goodbye brace.

Torture device
No outfit pictures next week because I gave up on the brace. I just couldn't take it anymore, and I took it off four days early. Forgive me!

Part of the reason was plain old intense discomfort (the metal brace is heavy, hot, and presses on your lungs and stomach). The rest of the reason is that I bought a cute new skirt and wanted to wear it. You know, important reasons.
Other than that, I'm weaning off crutches now. I went to one crutch on Thursday, and I've been gradually spending time full-weight bearing. The second day on one crutch, for example, I went too and from the car and up and down stairs without crutches; the third day I also set them aside while cooking. I'll be off them totally by Thursday!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Embrace the brace!

Seven more blurry pictures of clothes with braces!
1. Friday. Blech. I thought work would be quiet the day after New Year's, so I gave my girls a "jeans day". Instead it was busy and my sweater and jeans looked dreadfully unprofessional. I had shoes at some point...
Used to have burgundy lug-sole flats. Took them off as soon as I walked in the door.
2. Saturday. I got called in to work an emergency shift on Saturday, which as you can imagine, sucked on crutches. I love this bright scarf and I had the cardigan over the brace. I like cream and white together: that was on purpose. Not a color-blind mistake.

3. Sunday: Jean and T with a scarf and those ubiquitous peep-toe booties everyone is wearing, which will be totally out of style next year. 

4. Monday: Cropped sweater over camisole. I like the sweater, but it was too short, so I cut it into a crop top. I don't know why I'm wearing khakis so much lately. I don't even like them. 

5. Tuesday. Huge fail. Supposed to be cute plaid on plaid, but the bulky sweatshirt looked awful under the brace, and lesson learned: dolman sleeves don't work with crutches. Tons of weird bunching. Smoking shoes...for anyone who is interested. 
This looks worse than I remembered it.
6. Wednesday. It was freezing cold, so I put on a wool sweater, much to my allergies' chagrin. The kids at my Bible study asked me if it was the Fourth of July. This is the dressing room at my PT's office. It's very convenient, so I don't have to cram into a dirty restroom at the hospital to change. 
Where are my crutches?
7. Thursday: For the coldest day of the year so far, I layered a sweater over a T-shirt - and the brace. With booties - they have a 1.5" heel, which was probably a dumb idea for my first day with one crutch. 


Friday, January 9, 2015

The state of my street

Out street's been under construction since November - and will be until the end of March. Just in time for crutches!

I've had to park on side streets and slide though mud to and from my car.
That's the edge of my car on the far right - we were allowed to park on the street over Christmas! 
See my crutch walking through this mess?
But on the bright side, when it's all done, we will actually have drainage on our street, and our pothole problem should be fixed (there's one that has flattened many a tire a block away). So as New Orleans streets go, we'll be on one of the nicer ones! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I should definitely sign up for a race.

Since I already had an established relationship with Christian, my newbie PT who helped me rehab after my left hip surgery, I set up care with him again for the right hip. Since my last stint in PT, he was promoted to the job he wanted: working at Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. It's good for him, but for me it means he's at the uptown office now, rather than downtown in my building. Still, I think it's worth it to stick with the same guy. He already knows me, my tendencies, etc.
Yay! More photocopied exercise instructions! 

Wednesday was the first appointment, which really doesn't involve much more besides a history. And since he already knows a lot of that, it didn't take long at all. We did some strength tests, some exercise bike, and - oh, joy - some massage!
I have been really tight in the right quad ever since surgery, and he did some Graston on the quad and around the surgery site. Oh my WORD, I needed it. It hurt just right, and now I am even more bruised than I was before.
I also took the steri-strips off my portals, and they look good: nice and healed, not draining or anything. I think they're actually going to stay closed this time.

While I was waiting in the PT's office, I got this email. It was from the Crescent City Classic - about a price increase on the CCC10k. Ack. What to do? The race is the first weekend in April, and I will be back running my mid-March. So I will in no possible way be "racing". However, I still feel like I should do it! For one thing, my husband already signed up (traitor). For another, it's a fun time, and I could get a top 500 finisher poster, which is always the goal. Getting into the top 500 used to be super important, and not easy if you were a woman - but over time they've adjusted the policy to be a little more girl-friendly. First they did "top 500 plus women under 45:00", then they did "top 500, plus next 100 women", then they finally changed it to top 500 men and top 500 women. This change really opened it up for both men and women - but the standards, of course, are WAY down. A woman running a 50 minute 10k can almost squeak in and get a poster. This has created some uproar in the local running community, but it has the advantage of probably allowing me a poster, even if I walk-run it.
I wants the seeded one, please

And the final reason that I want to run it is because I qualified for the darn B corral, and I want a B corral bib for once. So there.
So I bit the bullet.
I'm racing about 15 weeks post-op. My PT gave it the go-ahead, but only because "You'd do it anyway, and I like to feel in control" - he's so funny. My doctor probably wouldn't, but luckily, he's not my doctor anymore anyway! Ha!
If anyone wants to come race a fantastic 10k and make fun of me limping along at 9-min pace all at the same time, come join me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I winterized my crutches.
Gray flannel crutch pads. 

Much better. Cozy, even.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Exercise biking

The morning after surgery, I was up early to go to the gym for some time in the exercise bike. Moving the operative joint is important, and since I am not using a continuous passive motion machine this time around, I have to spend some time on the bike.

I was worried about getting there on crutches, the feasibility of actually climbing on the bike without help, where to stash my crutches while I biked, and if the gym would mind (I can understand them thinking I was a liability). But there is a reclining bike right by a pillar, and I was able to maneuver to it easily, climb on with no trouble, and prop my crutches against the pillar within arms' reach. 
My phone slides perfectly into the strap. Holy smokes, that thigh is swollen! '

This type of bike didn't have a ledge or rack, but luckily my brace has several Velcro straps that did nicely for holding my phone in place. I'm listening to podcasts...currently The British History podcast, which I'm enjoying. 

The goal is to do an hour of biking a day, no resistance (or light resistance if I feel my joint bouncing), but I just did 45 minutes the first day. No need to rush things - and we had lunch reservations! I will try to keep it up for at least while I'm on crutches.
So far, I've been pretty good - going 5 to 6 days a week (too hard to pull off on Sundays or holidays). I've been fitting in 45 minutes a day, all I can really handle. Two more weeks and I can start actually getting some exercise, not just spinning the pedals around!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Brace yourself

...For a week's worth of blurry outfits. This is post-op week #2 clothes-with-braces!
1. Friday, Dec 26: Blue sweater, cargo pants, very unprofesh shoes that are cute and comfy. Doesn't do much to hide the brace, but sweaters work well under the brace because they don't ride or move around as much as a thinner, more slippery fabric.

At work with oops, no crutches.
Then for a party right after work, I changed into bronze heels and a crop top with my new gold cuff bracelet. A crop top is a great way to camouflage the brace! Really, the best way: it sorts of covers it, and the brace blends in if you wear a black tank top underneath.

2. Saturday: Boring casual stuff: Yellow jeans, striped T, clogs, and a picture taken right at bedtime because I almost forgot! Baggy top bunched under the brace uncomfortably.

3. Sunday: Black jeans and babydoll top with a great scarf - it has warm browns, greens, and beiges, but incorporates black, so I can wear it with many outfits. My favorite leather wedges (because aren't they beautiful?). You can barely see the brace with all this black on black, and the scarf hides it, too. 

4. Monday, Dec 29: This didn't work well at all. I wore a boxy navy turtleneck that I normally like paired with slim trousers, but the boxy shape was ruined by the brace and it became an awkwardly gathered bustle in the back. With a big necklace and dark burgundy maryjanes.

Please excuse my toilet paper, which snuck into my photo 

5. Tuesday: Extremely average work outfit: Gray trousers, argyle sweater, awful gray work clogs, pearls. I have worn some combination of this outfit to work about ten thousand times. The brace stands out, but again - doesn't move as much against a sweater. 

For dinner with friends, I put on jeans and these insane boots, with have 3.5 inch wedges. And then I walked down my torn-up, muddied, under-construction street like that. I didn't fall and break my other hip.

6. Wednesday: Had to take a picture in the dark gym because I knew that right after work I'd be changing for PT. Since it was a little casual at work today (almost no one was there, really, it being a holiday and all), I wore bright green corduroy. They're a little tight, but that actually works best with the brace.

And then later, for two New Year's parties, I wore white pants, absurd white d'orsay wedges with a blue "racing stripe" up the back of the heel, and a sheer black top. I wore it over the brace, but it just ended up looking bulky. 
Bulky. I am so bulky. 

7. Thursday. New Year's Day! Just jeans and a sweater. Tank, then brace, then cardigan seems to work well to sort of keep everything in place.

Two weeks of brace left. I shall survive! I shall overcome!