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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Recovery and moving on

 My surgery recovery actually dragged on a little longer than I'd hoped. I was feeling pretty out of breath and fatigued for several weeks, so I guess I was really in a hole with the anemia bit. But by now I am feeling much improved and ready to move on. 

If I needed proof that I felt better (and I do need proof, because I haven't been able to schedule a post-op because my doctor rudely up and moved clinics all the way to the westbank in Jefferson parish right after doing my surgery), I just have to look at my workouts. 

Workout #1, 12 days post-op on the city park practice track: Six to eight x 1000m at 10k pace with 400m jog. I did seven reps but was completely spent at the end. Splits:

4:00, 3:55, 3:55, 3:50, 3:54, 3:54, 3:57.

Workout #2, 26 days post-op on the slow (and slightly long! It's actually inaccurate!) cinder track at Pontiff: Six x1000m at 10k pace with 400m jog (not sure why we dialed this back in volume). I could easily have done two more. Splits:

3:59, 3:51, 3:51, 3:47, 3:48, 3:46. Note that the variability was due to changing up who was leading each rep, but effort felt on point. This was a tad faster than my true 10k pace, though.

The Pontiff track is a unique one. It's cinder, as I mentioned, which is not a surface that begets speed. It's also usually a really bad surface: the dirt underneath gets damaged when it's muddy, and then dried with huge dents, gaps, and ruts. And it's muddy a lot, because Jefferson Parish cleverly designated this park as emergency storm run-off. So when the parish starts to flood, the pumps dump into Pontiff park! The park has a lot of green space that absorbs the water, plus it is purposefully built a bit like a bowl to retain the pumped water. It's a smart plan, but it means that the track is in horrible shape all the time. 

Additionally, the track is well known to be a smidge long. The coaches in our group have actually wheeled it out to confirm this. There was a time when it was accurate, but during a park freshening up and track re-surfacing, that changed. I think what happened was that a new curb was added and it was built inside lane one. Anyway, it's a little off, and a little rough, but it's also rarely crowded, which makes up for its flaws! And the fact that I could run much better on a worse surface makes me confident that the improvement is real. I am ready to move on to regular training and I think I am finally well enough.

Monday, November 30, 2020

I finally had that surgery!

 You probably know I have been pretty miserable for a long time thanks to a large mass in my uterus. 

It all started when I ran a really bad race and couldn't put my finger on what went wrong. My friend and kick-ass runner Paige suggested I check an anemia panel, and bingo - I was not well at all. 

Things only got worse, and I realized that my "bad periods" were clinical hemorrhages, ha. In fact, I was losing so much blood that I couldn't keep up with production even of platelets, which compounded matters as I was bleeding internally and was covered in bruises. 

I finally insisted on an ultrasound and this weird mass showed up. No one could tell what exactly it was, but there was always a concern for a leiomyosarcoma, which is a dire diagnosis. My symptoms were like it was a bad fibroid, though.

I saw a surgeon and she read my US as either a carcinoma or a large polyp. Either way, I needed surgery. She scheduled me for surgery and a biopsy.

LOL for a million days, I didn't have surgery because I found out IN THE OR that I was pregnant! Biggest shock or my life and seriously, my doctor still insists it was not physically possible and that I am living proof God exists. She also jokes that she's the best doctor ever because she got me to stop bleeding without surgery. Haha. (She's not my doctor now because I chose to do my prenatal care closer to home, but I work with her still so we still talk!)

There were a ton of scares about this mass during pregnancy, and oh so many appointments, but really, it was all fine. Except during delivery. That did NOT go well. Despite predictions that the mass would not interfere with delivery, oh it did. The baby was fine - he was always fine, never in any distress or danger - but I almost died after he was delivered. But it's kind of too gruesome for a blog so if you REALLY want to know you can message me ;-)

Recovering with delicious coffee a
friend brought the day after surgery
And then, to my complete disgust, my symptoms came right back after the baby was born. I was doing ok as far as blood work went, because you generally have nice robust RBCs after childbirth, and I could tell. The pain and bleeding were bad, but not terrible, and although I saw a few specialists over the spring and summer, I opted to delay treatment. The issue always was that perfusion to the mass was so extensive that I could hemorrhage uncontrollably during surgery. 

However, that rosy outlook changed when suddenly symptoms got very, very bad. Blood work confirmed it was surgery soon or a transfusion. Amazingly, I had already taken off work for vacation, so I just converted that to a sick day and got added to the schedule! My doctor ended up combining two procedures: one that cuts off blood supply that is usually used for polyps, and then a regular morcellation such as is done for fibroids. I had some complicating factors and about a 25% chance that she'd need to convert the procedure to a hysterectomy, but actually the surgery went very well, blood loss was not as bad as expected, and my recovery has been astonishingly easy. I haven't gotten the pathology back on the mass yet, but I assume it's just a very large (larger than a softball, actually, and my doctor estimated several pounds) benign growth or fibroid or something. I will probably need a hysterectomy later, but for now I am already feeling a million times better. 

And that, friends, is the last chapter in the crazy story of how I felt like crap and ended up with a baby.

*Update*: I actually just got the path back and unfortunately it is inconclusive. It is classified as "cellular leiomyoma", which is benign, but two pathologists are concerned for a leiomyosarcoma, which is the type of aggressive cancer that the mass was suspicious for on my pregnancy ultrasounds. My doctor consulted with gynecology-oncology and the plan is ultrasounds every six months; at the first sign of any returning growth I'll have a hysterectomy immediately. I'm not happy that this is still hanging over my head! 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Old Highway 51 10-miler race recap


I definitely didn't expect to have a year go by between races, but thanks to pregnancy/new baby/COVID, I hadn't raced since last Thanksgiving. That's probably the longest break I've ever had between races. The last person to run a race in this house was actually David - he jumped into a little 5k his nephew was volunteering at back when the baby was only eight weeks old. The very next weekend we were in COVID lockdown! 

When I heard this race was happening, I really wanted to run it, but as it turns out I ended up having urgent surgery just nine days prior to the race. I decided to wait until the last minute to register to make sure I was up to racing. In-person registration and packet pickup was the Thursday before the race, and a week since I had surgery. I felt very bad that morning on my run, weak and out of breath, but I ran eight miles, so I knew I could do ten. It just wouldn't be a very fast race. I registered for the ten mile race and registered David for the 5k. 

The night before the race I realized the baby was coming down with a cold...again. He has been sick basically constantly since going back to daycare. He actually already had an ear infection, which has been simmering for a few weeks, so this was just added misery. Normally he is a great sleeper, but at midnight he awoke screaming in terror. He gets night terrors when he is sick, and I rushed in to comfort him. He was very uncomfortable, and when I tried to put him back in his crib, he cried. So I did something I never do, and will NEVER do again, and that is brought him to our bed. I didn't sleep a wink. He mostly slept, but he is a loud sleeper, he moves around a lot, and he also took up half the bed. He woke up at 4:30 and I gave him to David and told him I NEEDED a little sleep. So David took him to the other room and I got an hour! Thank goodness! 

Luckily, the restless night didn't phase Audubonbaby, and we managed to get out of the house on time. The race was 45 minutes away in Akers, Louisiana, which is the middle of nowhere. We arrived in plenty of time for a bathroom break and a warmup, except the race director abruptly changed plans on race morning. I had used the bathroom, then stayed with the baby while David used the bathroom, then handed him back to do my warm up. The half marathon started at 8, the ten mile - my race - at 8:10, and the 5k at 8:20. But as I was warming up, I passed the start corral filling with runners. Some of the other Powermilers were in the corral, and I knew they were running the 10-mile, so I asked them if the start time was moved. Sure enough, I hadn't heard the announcement, but the director decided to combine the half and ten mile start! With ten minutes fewer to warm up, I ended up with less than a mile before the race, but at least I didn't miss the start. 

I didn't know how to pace this race. I run my tempos in the 6:30s, and about a month ago I ran a four mile tempo at just under 6:30 despite that being the first continual tempo we'd run in many months (over the hot summer we do things like 3x1.5 at tempo). That was a confidence-booster, but it was followed by very bad anemia and symptoms and three missed workouts. I decided to stay true to my tempo pace/feel and see how I felt. I could always slow down. 

When the gun went off, I let the large group of faster runners go, and ran conservatively. By the half-mile mark, I was in the position I'd stay in for the entire race, with the exception of one teammate passing me and me passing one other runner! Mile one was uneventful, and I felt normal. I ran right around 6:30. Same with mile two. But during mile three, alarm bells started to go off. I started to feel a very recognizable sense of fatigue and breathlessness. It was exactly how I felt at the end of the Rocket City Marathon, the race that prompted me to finally check an iron panel (and how I found out I was HELLA anemic!). My pace started to slow, then dropped off precipitously. Around that point I passed another woman, which put me as the third female in our start. I was pretty sure I was second now in the ten mile, because I knew my teammate Michelle was first in the ten mile and Stephanie was likely running the half marathon to defend her title from last year (when she was pregnant, I might add. Both women are Olympic trials qualifiers in the marathon). But just in case Stephanie was doing the ten miler, I wanted to make sure I was top three. Miles 1, 2, 3: 6:31, :28, :30

But my glory didn't last long, because Tom came up rapidly behind me and passed me like I was walking. This was not thrilling to me because Tom and I are similar in ability and I can usually hang with him or even beat him. That day I had NO response. Basically I was toast. Miles 4, 5: 6:34, :34

Then we turned around and bam, there was that headwind. I laughed because the strong headwind meant we'd had a strong tailwind on the way out, and I STILL felt that bad! Now that Tom had firmly passed me, I was running totally alone, but I did get a bit of a boost from the other runners still heading toward the turnaround. Miles 6,7,8: 6:45, :48, :52. 

And then I was really alone, and really fatigued, and really miserable, and I kind of gave up. Miles 9 and 10: 7:04, 6:48. Total time with the Garmin extra 1:07:07. I can't believe I ran a "7" mile in there! But I really am not beating myself up. I had JUST had surgery, and I was able to run faster in tempo workouts recently and in The Speed Project in worse conditions, so I'm pretty sure this was just an off day due to surgery and anemia. I will be back and faster soon!

Meanwhile, David and the baby ran the 5k, and David was second in his age group! All that stroller running he is doing is making him faster! I was second female and won a plaque, a wooden spoon, and a big andouille sausage. David also won a plaque and sausage, and that is my kind of award. I don't want a trophy or something. Give me something edible any day! 

Post-race was a bit weird because of COVID - awards were rushed and then we all dispersed - but we really enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and seeing our running friends. I have to say I think David missed it as much as I did! Once I feel really recovered I will sign up for the next race I can around here. I got my rust-buster out of the way and I'm ready to run fast again.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Weathering Zeta

New Orleans was in the cone of uncertainty for SEVEN storms this season, which is simply unfair, and Zeta finally hit us. It came ashore as a category two, but it moved past us blessedly quickly, sparing us the flooding that New Orleans always worries about. It was really just a wind event. We stayed (very few people left for a category 2), and - as predicted - lost power as the storm hit Wednesday evening. 

David took this picture of our street in the eye of the storm.

The eye of Zeta passed directly over New Orleans. This was the first time in decades that a hurricane eye moved over the city, and it was my first experience being in the eye. We walked outside to calm, eery, orange skies. We could still see the sun overhead, but all around us were dark clouds and rain. The storm circled us, but we stood on the street with our neighbors in near-silence. When we felt the first licks of wet wind, we scurried back to the house, just in time for the other side of the storm to pass over. 

It was over in just a few hours, but it left close to 80% of the city without power. We have a gas water heater and stove, so we were fine: I made pasta for dinner, and we read books by candlelight. We didn't get our power back until Friday night, so we ended up staying at my in-laws on Thursday. They live in an area with underground power lines, and never lost power. David took the baby over there (his daycare was closed) so he could work, and since the storm brought a cold front, we decided to sleep over. Our house has no insulation at all, and it was low 50s, so we knew the baby would be cold. We were lucky to get power when we did: many people didn't get it back until the weekend. 

This old church lost a window.
I used some window shards to make a necklace pendant and earrings.

Damage to our street was minimal. The old church on the corner sadly lost a stained glass window (the church has been there since the 1860s when our neighborhood was part of the city of Carrollton in Jefferson Parish, prior to annexation to New Orleans in 1874. It has burned down twice and was destroyed in a hurricane once; the current building is from 1917) and - I am really most upset about this! - the wind absolutely smashed my hibiscus. I loved that tree, so I am very unhappy about that! 

This year has been absolutely bonkers with hurricanes and storms and I am appalled that storm Eta has the audacity to turn our way. Hopefully this week isn't a repeat! 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cruisin' the Coast, 2020 style

 Cruisin' the Coast is a classic car show and festival that moves along the coast of Mississippi. David and I have attended several years together (David is a big classic car fan: his first car was a '66 Mustang), and always had fun, so this year we dragged the baby along. We only did one day - no overnight stay in Bay St. Louis - mostly because earlier in the week we were still trying to figure out where hurricane delta was going to land before we made any plans. As it turns out, the storm moved far west of the area (hitting poor Lake Charles for the second time in weeks!) and we ended up with beautiful weather. 

We did our morning runs and treated ourselves to PJ's coffee for the road, timing the trip to leave at about 9:30am, just in time to let the baby nap in the car. Since it's a little over an hour to Bay St. Louis, it worked out pretty well, although he usually naps longer than that. Good enough! Once we got to Bay St. Louis, we headed straight out to see the cars. We are lucky enough to have David's parents' house to use as home base, and it's easy walking distance to the little downtown area along the beach. We walked over and were quickly overwhelmed: we hadn't seen this many people together in one place since Mardi Gras! Mississippi doesn't have a mask mandate, but the crowds were light, and were moving around and outdoors, so a low-risk activity. The bars, though - we could see inside, where the LSU game was on, and they were packed. Definitely different from the very strict life we're living in New Orleans! 

Audubon baby was in heaven. He is OBSESSED with cars and trucks right now, especially loud engines, and also adores people. He's very social, and crowds are his jam. To make things even better, many festers had their dogs with them, and he is also really into dogs! He was beside himself with delight! We looked at the rows of cars with sparkling paint jobs, shining engines under popped hoods, and refurbished interiors, and mostly we were just enjoying the atmosphere. I used to say I didn't like festivals and crowds, but darn it if I don't miss them! We grabbed burgers and beers from a street vendor, but since the baby ate half my burger (story of my life, he is a piggy wig), I was still hungry. Luckily there is now a Creole Creamery - a New Orleans favorite - in Bay St. Louis, and we stopped for an ice cream cone (the employees there were the only people I saw with masks all day: restaurant workers must still wear them in Mississippi). I got bittersweet chocolate torte ice cream and it hit the spot on a sunny day. We walked back in time for the baby's second nap, which we spent reading the morning's paper and having a cup of coffee. 

Once he woke up, we headed back out for more car-viewing. David is a member of Greater New Orleans Camera Club, which has juried photograph contests on a biweekly basis. Next week's theme is "festivals and fairs", and David really wanted to take advantage of the "golden hour" before sunset to get some good shots. I hope he did - I haven't seen them all yet - and I didn't take too many myself (sorry). I was too busy talking to dog owners, all of whom were laughing at the baby's reaction to their dogs - he goes absolutely ballistic over dogs, kicking, gasping, clapping, eyes wide with glee. One woman with two young black labs brought them over for him to play with, and he was thrilled. When they left, he tried to run after them (which brings me to part where I have to explain that my not-yet-nine-month baby is, while not truly walking yet, taking steps. He will take 2 or 3 steps, but then he gets scared! And I, clinging to my freedom, do nothing to assuage his fears!).  

We left at around 6:30 to make it home in time for bed, and I fed the baby dinner in the car. It was a really enjoyable day trip - something for everyone. We all like classic cars, Audubon Baby got to see dogs, David got photo ops, and I got to be around PEOPLE. It's a tad unnerving seeing life at near-normal in Mississippi, but since we are low risk we didn't mind (the only concern is that we do both go to work, but both our workplaces have precautions that should protect the others who work there). And actually, Louisiana is in phase three now, so not that much different - it's just that New Orleans has been stricter than the state. But I expect to see us returning to some level of crowd activity soon. Meanwhile, it felt kind of good to see people in the street. It was good for my baby to be comfortable around others and to get used to people! I really wonder what the effect of strict lockdowns will be developmentally for these kids! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

5k time trial: still pretending to race!

On Tuesday I was talking to my training partners at the track and one asked, "Are you doing the time trial?" And that's how I learned we had a 5k time trial on Saturday morning. 

Of course I wanted to do it: I am grasping at any chance to race, or pretend to race, or test my fitness. I didn't think I was in ideal 5k shape, after all the short repeats we had done for mile training over the summer (the Tuesday before the time trial we did a workout that included 800s, and I felt like they were so incredibly LONG for a repeat!). But with so few chances to "race", I was game anyway. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold (thanks, daycare!). I felt crummy enough that I almost skipped the time trial, but I knew I needed to take the opportunity to see where my fitness was at. So I dragged myself over anyway.*

A group of us - maybe 12 people total? - showed up at the park for the warmup. Rich and Will had just finished marking the course. There is a certified 5k course in Audubon park with precise measurements which made this easy. Many races run the course, so we all knew what to expect (I remember running a small race one time that mis-measured the course. It was long, and the turnaround cone was past where it should be, and I knew immediately the course would be long: I knew exactly where that cone should be!). We did a little under two miles to warm up, and I also found a convenient bush...bathrooms are still closed at Audubon (I have no idea why: even the playgrounds have reopened by now, and I think we would all appreciate a bathroom!). Coach Jimi came out to time us, and right as we lined up, he was about to call the start, it began to rain. This was entirely unexpected: the forecast said 0% chance of rain! 

Rainy conditions for a TT

I was in a funny position at the start: ahead of my normal workout group, and following Jeff, Pou, and Paul - but following pretty far behind. We were immediately spaced out, given the wide range of our abilities and the small size of the group. I wasn't looking at my watch, just trying to run by feel, and hopefully key off other runners in the group. I was hoping to be close to Jeff and Pou, but as we settled into position, I realized Jeff was a lot more fit than I was, and was definitely out of reach. Paul and Pou were close behind him, so I was alone. The first mile beeped at 6:03, and I realized I had let the faster group pull me to much; I would pay for that, now! 

It wasn't bad weather, but it was kind of warm, humid, and rainy, and footing was a bit slippery. We were, of course, dodging walkers and runners, but the rain actually kept the park a bit more empty than usual. So in a way, it helped us. As I approached the turn around cone, I saw Jimi was there calling out times. I missed mine because I was trying to navigate a sudden crowd of walkers, the turn-around, and my other teammates coming the opposite direction. Kir, local runner and marathon Olympic Trials qualifier, had come out to cheer and she was at the turnaround, too. I cheered on the teammates who were behind me, then re-grouped for the second half: the distance between Pou and I was shrinking. When my watch beeped for the second mile at 6:12, I realized I'd lost a lot of time at the turnaround point. Plus, I was letting those around me set my pace: they were slowing, and I was maintaining our relative positions instead of overtaking them. Bad racing! I'm out of practice! I picked it up and passed Pou, who didn't stay with me, and then worked on catching Paul, who was far ahead. At least I had Paul in my sights, because otherwise, this time trial was getting less and less like a race and more like a solo run in the park. I passed Paul before the three-mile mark, which I hit at 6:07, then leisurely jogged it in (well ok I picked it up a little, but not much). I definitely was out of gas, but I could see the cone up ahead and a glance at my watch showed that I was close to 19, and I definitely wanted to break 19. I sped up enough to hit my goal and crossed in 18:56. 

That would be a PR if it was a real race, but it's not - I don't ever seem to get a fast 5k in a race. I have run under 19 in a 10k, in a workout, and in a time trial, but never a 5k race! I was glad to get under 19, but I'd like to run closer to 18:30, which I think it totally doable. I only need 5 or 6 seconds per mile. Honestly, slightly better weather or an actual race would probably get me 5 seconds per mile! So next REAL 5k I run, I hope to be able to shoot for something even faster, depending on my fitness at the time. 

Next time I will also hopefully feel better. The cold I had got worse as the day progressed, and actually, I ended up taking a sick day the next week I felt so bad. Feeling crummy, plus being out of the racing habit, probably affected my strategy. I obviously made some mistakes pacing and following others. 

The rest of the group had mixed results - Tom, Paul, Pou, and Jonathon were disappointed; Will and Michelle killed it. Jeff ran 17:55, his first sub-18! 

Anyone else running any time trials during COVID times? Alone, or with others? How did you motivate yourself? 

* I felt totally crappy, but it wasn't COVID - I got tested (I have to for work!)

Sunday, October 11, 2020



Eating: NOT SUGAR OR ALCOHOL. Because I had a couple of baby pounds to lose and I wanted to be back to pre-baby weight by the nine month mark. Makes sense, right? Nine months to gain it, nine months to lose it! I tried a rather drastic fast last month and it was a disaster. I kept bonking on my long runs and workouts. So instead I just cut out my empty calories - sugar (I have a terrible sweet tooth) and alcohol ('bye, wine! Boo hoo!). This isn't long term, just to get back to normal weight. I was about ten pounds overweight this summer, and fasting took off five measly pounds; since then I have lost three or four more, so I am doing well. But I think the weight includes more fat and less muscle than pre-baby, which my total lack of strength work supports.

Cooking: I've been on a sushi bowl kick lately. I start with a bowl of rice and top it with avocados, asparagus, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and barely-seared salmon (or tuna, when the grocery store has a fresh catch). The night before I prep the vegetables and marinate the salmon in soy sauce, then make a siracha-mayonnaise sauce. We usually also add some more soy sauce on top. The crowning touch is these fun "seaweed snack" garnishes - they're the same as the seaweed wraps used for sushi, but sold in convenient bite-sized sheets. It's a fast, easy meal and tastes like a sushi roll! Normally I get my sushi raw, but since I don't buy sashimi-grade fish, a quick searing makes me feel like I'm slightly less likely to end up with a liver fluke. 

Reading: I just finished Into Thin Air by John Krakaur and I loved this documentation of his harrowing climb up Everest. This book is the subject of some controversy, as another climber disputes his version of events in his book, The Climb. I intend to read that next to get the full picture! I just requested it by interlibrary loan today.

Strengthening: My ankles and feet. I have had terrible tendon and ligament problems since pregnancy, and now I wake up very stiff and arthritic. I have to hobble out of bed. I've been trying to do some strength and mobility work to help with that. I actually wonder if I truly have arthritis, since morning stiffness is such a tell-tale sign. My feet have always been problematic, so it wouldn't surprise me if I had early osteoarthritis. 

Ankle tendinitis :(

Liking: It's McIntosh apple season, and I'm eating at least three a day. I love me some McIntosh!

Not liking: This hurricane season has seriously annoyed me. We have been in the "cone of uncertainty" for SIX major storms, wreaking havoc on work, weather, and plans. Every time daycare closes we have to scramble for childcare! Luckily, they have all shifted and spared us, but I can't believe we're on Delta already. What a busy storm year this was! 

Planning: Audubon baby's Halloween costume that he can wear *nowhere*. And I haven't gotten very far, honestly! I'm very uninspired this year! 

Wondering: What to do about my health. I saw an interventional radiology specialist about my uterine mass (still hanging out there!). The plan was to embolize the arteries feeding it, and thus allow it to die back by eliminating blood flow. He did an MRI and I am not a candidate for that treatment. His advice is that I may not even be able to safely have a myomectomy due to size of the mass - it is submucosal (in the muscle) and takes up nearly the entire uterus. He recommended complete hysterectomy but perhaps do the embolization procedure about three days prior to reduce the risk of hemorrhage during surgery. The mass is very well perfused and the concern has always been too much blood flow for a safe surgery. 

I have done nothing since then - no follow ups, no decisions. I just don't want to have a hysterectomy! And I also don't want the symptoms I am having! Argh, no good answer to this one! 

Since I enjoyed Into Thin Air so much, any recommendations for similar true adventure stories? Any ideas for easy baby costumes for lazy parents?