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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Once a runner

I don't usually say, "I'm a runner". I don't like to absolutely categorize; if I label myself as a certain thing, it means I have to live up to it. I owe it some expertise or dedication. I certainly don't have any expertise in running, and I am barely dedicated, so I usually say that I like to run or that I enjoy distance running, and leave it at that.
But sitting here injured makes me feel all the more like a runner - even though now I am not running. Oddly, it's only now that I realize I miss it and only now that I realize what my goals even were. I thought my goals were just numbers, but they were actually the hard work behind those numbers.
I'm not running now, but I am trying to: trying to heal so I can run again. That in itself amazes me. It is so wasteful and impractical to try to run again. The smart solution to this pain would be to stop running, to do something else with my time. But instead I plug away at physical therapy, take rest days, slather topical NSAIDS on my tendons. I am working to get back.

And that makes me feel like a runner: I will put in the effort to do something I love.

Oh and this title is, obviously, stolen from the book by the same name...which I just finished reading. It's a runner's cult classic, and the part about the warm up before the big race really feels like you're actually competing. I got butterflies reading it! But all the rest pertains to people who are fast, set records, win races, etc, so there was a lot less to identify with. Still, a recommended read if you can get past the too-meaningful prose.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pool running: getting a good workout

I've gotten my butt to the pool a couple of times recently for some really boring running in place. It sucks running in my gym's pool.

It's so ugly. 

I can barely look at it. 

Avert your gaze, it's repulsive.

Grossest pool ever. 

I've been loosely following the Pfitzinger plan I mentioned earlier - as in, when I feel like going to the pool, I do one of his workouts. At first I didn't feel like I was getting much done - just splashing around and sucking the frail old lady swimmers into my homemade whirlpool. But I finally realized that I should go by respiration effort, not "speed", which is impossible to gauge against the water resistance. So for my "hard" intervals, I make sure I'm gulping air a little; for my warm ups I'm breathing steadily, heavier than regular walking or rest, and for easy rests between intervals I just recover my breath naturally.

The first time I went, a nice old lady showed me where the buoyancy belts were kept, so I didn't have to buy one, after all. That's good: I hated the thought of buying and storing this big, bulky belt I'd rarely use.

I can only take about 35 - 40 minutes in the pool before I start going a little crazy, so I haven't been working out too hard, but I have been feeling a little wobbly in the legs when I get out. I think this is a rather good strength workout - almost like doing hill sprints, just easier aerobically.

And that's all I have time to say this morning, because I have to rush in to work early for a long and wretched day of meetings. This is a rough, rough week of work for me thanks to multiple deadlines and classes I am teaching coinciding with my store-wide inventory, plus a lot of meetings, so if I want to get any exercise done I better go hit the pool now!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tough enough to get over injury

Next month's Running Times features my hero Leo Manzano on the cover.

We all know he's tough enough.

But right now I'm trying to convince myself that I'm tough enough: to recover from this stress fracture! It's bad enough to be faced with a stress fracture diagnosis and know that you'll be out for several months. But it is way worse when you've already taken a ton of time off (or at a greatly reduced level) doing all the wrong things, like I did for five months. This small set back has become a huge detour in my running.
You know what, though? I think I can do this. It's just a few more months, and I can come back. See, when I initially thought this pain was muscular, and slowly returned to running after a couple of months rest as recommended, I returned to my previous level in about two months. I mean, I wish I was faster than a 41-minute 10k, but the truth is that that's a PR for me, so that's where I am. The day of injury last November I ran a 5-mile race in 33:30, a 6:42 pace. So my 6:36 pace at the Crescent City Classic actually shows improvement, and that on a stress fracture and only about 30 mpw!

My prediction is that my return is going to take longer this time around (I absolutely do not want to rush a fracture!) but I will still hit the same paces, and I'll be darned if I don't improve. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last week I had to attend a conference and spent at least part of the day sitting at my table. Lo and behold, the pain at the sight of the fracture waned, then vanished. What do you know: resting the darn thing helps it heal. So if I can work out a way to stay off this thing, it might be 100% in just a few months!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

French Quarter Fest 2013

Last weekend David and I took advantage of New Orleans' best free festival to enjoy some insanely beautiful weather, hot sausage poboys, draft Abita Amber, and live music.
David scarfing his poboy. At $6 for a juicy sausage it was a deal!

The food vendors were located in Jackson Square, so you could sit in the shade of the cathedral
Woldenburg park filling up

Some music was along the riverfront....

...the rest along various streets in the French Quarter
On weekends like this I don't know why anyone would live anywhere else!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Femoral Stress Fracture Recovery Time

Yesterday I returned to the doctor to have my MRI read and discuss a return to running. I kind of wish he would have just called me, since I have a $4500 deductible ($3000 out of network, which is everyone, and $1500 in network, which is not one single provider that I know of). But that's not how these things work, so in I went and paid my copay.
There is good news and weird news.
This is not my leg. And my fracture was  far more obvious than this on xray. But there aren't a lot of good examples on the Google. 

Weird news: The MRI showed more detail than the xray, and I had a complete fracture of the left femur. That means the fracture went all the way across the bone. How I ran several races on that I do not  know, but it explains why the pain was bad enough at first to keep me from even going down the stairs normally.

Good news: Even since the xray, I've progressed! Once I started resting the limb, it improved dramatically, and by the time I had the MRI the bone had started healing very well. There is thickening there (cell buildup - healing) but very little inflammation. Also good news: there is no current soft tissue damage at all: some of the insertion areas seem thickened, perhaps scar tissue, but no inflammation or acute issues.

The plan from here: Yesterday I had lab work done to rule out any unusual reason for this injury. Let's face it: distal femoral stress fractures are unusual and could be a problem with calcium levels or vitamin D. Plus, my doctor is pretty thorough, and he wanted to check my parathyroid hormone: it is integral to extracellular calcium regulation, and since I had a partial thyroidectomy about 10 years ago it makes sense to check those levels just in case.

I also have strict instructions to pay attention to discomfort and pain! Apparently, like all runners. I just ignore it. Then I end up with a fracture for 5 months.

As for a return to sport, I have already taken off two weeks. I have to take off another two weeks from any impact, although I am cleared to pool run, and I have to try to stay off my feet at work (fat chance of that happening - we talked about crutches or a sling cast but they would just be so impractical in my tiny pharmacy). After two weeks, I can start to incorporate cycling; after two weeks of that, I can start to incorporate walking/running. If anything hurts, I go back a week. This is a pretty short recovery time because the bone just looks good already. I think I just needed to finish resting it: it never totally healed this winter since I kept coming back to running too early.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wear a race shirt to work today.

There's not much to say this morning, so I will just share Varsity Sports' Facebook status: 

Varsity Sports
 · 7,717 like this
24 minutes ago near Madisonville, LA · 
  • Wear a race tshirt today in support of the Boston Marathon and Marathon Sports - a fellow specialty running store at the explosion site.

    I'll be wearing my Boston shirt from last year to work.
    Once I cut the tags off.
    Thank you everyone who let us know you were ok! And bloggers who ran and haven't had a minute to post - we know you are probably answering a thousand texts and calls. I understand. But please let us know you and your families are safe.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cross training with femoral stress fracture

I'm probably jumping the gun, but I've been looking for decent cross training while this pesky stress fracture heals. Right now I'm on rest from any impact exercise, and I won't see my doctor again until later this week, so I can't make any decisions on my own (thanks to my work schedule I can only make one appointment a week, on Wednesdays: healthcare workers always have the worst health care).

But still, I kind of want to know what my options are. There are only so many 30-minute core routines I can tolerate before dying of boredom.

Of course, there is deep water running. I've done it before (once), but my gym pool is crowded. And I would probably need a buoyancy belt, which is added cost and hassle. However, conventional wisdom recommends it as the best replacement for running, and Pete Pfitzinger even has a 9-week pool running program I could follow.
She looks silly.

I considered rollerskating: your legs can stay on the ground if you're careful, right? But when I Googled the idea, this came up:

So I'm going to go with NO on that one.

I could use the elliptical or exercise bike, but not yet. The elliptical hurts: when I bend my knee and apply pressure, like going down stairs, that is when I feel the most pain. I assume the bike would be similar, although I could consider a reclining bike. I'd have to try it to see.

Lastly, I've thought about the rowing machine. Has anyone had experience with this? Is there too much pressure on the legs? The push-off is what I'd be worried about.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

$20 coupon code Rock 'n Roll New Orleans

Come run the flattest marathon ever in beautiful New Orleans! 
Registration is open for the Mardi Gras marathon (ok, it's been renamed Rock 'n Roll New Orleans, but everyone still calls it Mardi Gras) and you can use this coupon code for $20 off: 


The coupon expires April 17th.
The race is February 2nd, 2014 - earlier this year, which means we're less likely to have temps in the 70's. Maybe my stress fracture will be healed by next year and I'll actually race that thing. Come join me! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What makes the Boston marathon special?

It's that time again - Boston time! Last year I was all caught up in the excitement, at least until I slammed my knee into the ground. Or at least until I read the weather report.
This year, no Boston for me. But I want to share some of the things that make the whole experience special.

In bullet points...thoughts on Boston.
- You are running with people who want to be there so much. They want this race to be successful; they want to enjoy it. They want to talk to you and tell you their story.
- Heartbreak Hill is not that bad. It just isn't. It's not a steep grade and you can easily run the entire thing, probably not even slowing significantly, even on tired legs.
- The Boston course isn't an easy course, but don't be scared of it. I'm not a hills runner, but it didn't bother me (keep in mind that I was running it slower than usual, though, so I could be full of crap). It's a net downhill course. Gravity is on your side.
- The Newton hills: actually easier than the proceeding downhill section, in my opinion. They give your body a break.
- The average BMI on our flight into Boston was about 19.
- I never saw so much compression gear in my life as I did on Sunday. The whole city was ready for this race!
- I was surprised at how many non-qualified locals run the race. It must be a huge charity resource for the area!
- The BAA has it together. I don't know how they manage an event this large so smoothly. Oh yeah, they're Yankees. That explains everything!
- I didn't buy the jacket. I love the tradition of it, but $100 for a wind breaker? Geez louise.
- If you write your name on your arms/bib/shirt, get ready to hear it a lot. And remember that your clever shirt or hat may be less fun if you hit the wall and end up walking.
- Basically it is acceptable to wear your medal for the entire day, even after changing clothes.
- For many people, this is one of the highlights of their life. For that reason, if no other, respect the race. Respect the history. Respect the honor of running where the best of the best have raced!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I love this: bakery-grade bread pans

Sometimes it's nice to buy really good, really expensive kitchen equipment if you are going to use it a lot. I bake my own bread, so I shelled out $15 apiece for heavy steel bread pans that create an unparalleled crust. I could have gotten glass pans for less than half the price, but these space-saving stackable bakery pans are easier to store and just make better bread.

I saved my old glass pan so that I can still bake quick breads like banana bread and pumpkin loaf (I'd rather not develop a crust on sweet breads), but having a total of four pans means I can bake in bulk without having to hand-shape loaves on a cookie sheet.

Right now my freezer is full of whole wheat and oatmeal molasses bread, and this afternoon I'll make a crusty white sandwich loaf. Worth the $45 for nice pans, I think!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sitting and sipping

I'm sitting here waiting for an MRI. I can't do anything that elicits discomfort (the word my doctor is using to replace "pain" for my small confused brain), but I'm not sure my doctor understands how much that limits me. I can't even go down stairs without feeling nagging pain, and walking still makes me wince.

So I'm doing a lot of sitting. Tonight I'm sitting at my computer watching "Alfred Hitchcock presents" and having a tasty cocktail. Life could be worse, right?

See ya after the MRI!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I have no ability to sense pain

It's official, I can't sense pain.
Two seconds into my doctor's appointment yesterday Dr. McNulty said, "You have a stress fracture." I laughed it off. I have a strained hamstring! I have a swollen knee! I ran two 10ks in two weeks! I said.
I see stress fractures every day of my life. I'm a sports medicine doctor, he said.
He made me get an X-ray.
I have a stress fracture.
Sadly, I've had it since November and that means healing it could be arduous. It also means there is almost certainly soft tissue damage, too (probably an avulsion, but I hope not) and I have to get an MRI.

My doctor told me that I am his worst patient because I do not have a normal response to pain. My pain sensation is very poor, and even when I feel pain (like I do now) it's hard for me to quantify or localize it. So I don't go to the doctor for 5 months.

In my defense, the location of the fracture is highly unusual for a stress fracture: distal femur, about 2 or 3 inches above the knee. The MRI should show if there is anything else going on and I'm sure there is; this whole time I've been treating soft tissue! Surely there is some soft tissue damage! Argh! Frustrating!

On the good news front, we checked out my Xrays for bone edema and sclerosis at the pubic joint from my ongoing osteitis pubis and it is actually looking pretty good: one side is markedly improved (yay!) and the other is the same or a little better compared to last summer.

I have no idea what's next, but maybe the MRI can help drive treatment. For now, no running, which is fine since I have no races coming up anytime.
Back to the gym. Boo. Wish I'd caught this back in November!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

AND back to the doctor!

First order of business: I found out that The Advocate ran a picture that includes me in their Crescent City Classic coverage. I found this out when another runner (unknown to me) called it out to me in the park as we passed! Funny. Small world. I love my "park friends" - runners I don't know, but recognize from our morning routines.
That girl in gray beat me :(

Second order of business: Going back to the doctor today. A hamstring tear/strain shouldn't be hurting five months out. Time to fork out serious cash for an MRI or something! So excited. But really, this crap needs to go away.

C'mon, leg, haven't you ever heard of a race calendar?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rubbing shoulders with the elites

One of the things I love about running is that you - and I, little ol' Gracie - can race the elites. You won't ever see a high school wrestler in the ring with an Olympian, or a 75 year old retired guy indulging his hobby by playing basketball against Lebron James. But last Saturday I raced a Kenyan who ran a 27:32 10k.

And then I met him, got his autograph on my bib, and Facebook friended him. Boom. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Crescent City Classic 10k

This year David and I changed our minds and decided to run the biggest road race in New Orleans, the internationally acclaimed Crescent City Classic. We never used to run this race, but we changed our minds because:
1. Small course changes made records possible, drawing a deep elite field.
2. Since the race is always Easter Saturday, this year's early holiday meant possibly cooler weather than usual (too many races have been in the 80's in years past!)
3. The race is under new management and FINALLY featured seeded corrals. The last few times I've run the Classic I did so as a jogger/occasional racer (actually I think the last time I ran it I was in full Cowgirl regalia, denim included) and even then, I was slowed and frustrated by the huge crowds of walkers and moms pushing strollers in front of me. This year was a big change: Runners under 45 minutes (proof required) were seeded in 3 front corrals, with additional corrals set up by self-reported time. There was a large walkers corral and even a stroller corral!

After racing last week, I felt confident that I could PR at this race. The 10k last week felt easy at 6:40 pace, so I thought I could take between 30 and 60 seconds off that time today. Well, things don't always go quite as planned.
Varsity Sports invited 30 of their most loyal members to ride in vans from the finish to the start (it is a point-to-point). After the first van left, David and I waited with some other runners for almost half an hour: no van. By now it was 7:20, we were 6.2 miles from the start, and the race started at 8:00! Another runner offered us rides, and we accepted. Luckily traffic was light and we parked 1/2 a mile from the start, but we barely made it to the corrals in time. I did not get a real warm up OR a bathroom break. As it turns out, I could have run to the potty: the race started a full 15 minutes late. But once I was in the corral it was too late - how could I know it would be delayed?
One of the Varsity runners sat this race out and took some great pictures of the group and many of the elites.

Then the race started, and I didn't race this one well. I forgot all about the 10-minute segment trick I used last race, my Garmin had terrible spotty reception (always happens downtown!), my ipod never worked at all, and I was on vomit-alert the whole time. I really wanted to throw up within the first minute and the feeling never went away.
But hey, that's racing. I had some too-fast miles and some too-slow miles, including one in which I was in the middle of a log-jam of runners colliding when someone in front stopped abruptly to puke (I very nearly joined him). The weather was low 70's, high humidity, sunny - not bad. I didn't have any idea what my pace was when I crossed the finish in 40:58 - a painful PR and not really what I wanted. Ok, but not great. This is the first race that I really had to mentally force myself to finish, I was so nauseated.  I don't know if it was my late meal last night or the stress getting to the start, but pushing through discomfort is always good training, so I will take it.

The CCC has a great tradition of offering event posters to the top 500 finishers each year. This year is the first time I've gotten a poster - the cut-off time was right at 43 minutes (about 20,000 runners participate in this race, but it is overall a slow field with lots of costumes and walkers). Now that I have a CCC poster I feel like a real New Orleans runner! David said it makes him nostalgic for his childhood: a neighbor he thought was "so weird" for being the only guy in on the street out running always had the most recent poster in his kitchen.

Loose end tie-up:
- Van driver Andrew Lilly had an "elite runner crisis" and sent out a message that it was every man for a bunch of people who did not have phones with them.
- Nausea, like it does, went away when I stopped running. Stupid. I hate that so much. I didn't throw up and my stomach settled once I ate some rice at the finish.
- David ran a 47:03!!! This man ran over an hour in a 10k last year!
- My ipod may finally be history. This is the ipod nano 3 we resurrected last year but now it keep failing me.
- I have a much, much better post-race story than race recap, but this is getting long - so I'll post that later!