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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Making running friends

Running is a very social sport considering that, you know, you pretty much do it by yourself.
Unless you're running on a team! NOTC team for Azalea Trail 10k. I'm in the middle, overdressed.

I've made good friends running, some whom I know through Varsity Sports, and some from various races or carpooling to races.
Jill, me, Celeste, and Dr. McClellan (who works at Tulane hospital) after The Wall last year . 
Today I have a throw-back running story. When I ran Baton Rouge Beach oh, a year and a half ago!, I made some friends. I mentioned in the recap that after I finished I got my 15 minutes of fame as people wanted to hear about my 27 mile race (As reality TV has proven, stupidity is entertaining...).  Well, when I was ready to head back to my car, I got on the shuttle with a group of three charming runners: Lenna, Becky, and Russ, half-marathoners from Ohio. They were so freaking cute. They told me that I looked like Ann Hathaway and that they had commented on that when I crossed the finish line - at that point they had been spectating. We chatted about running the whole ride, then when we got to the parking lot drop off they told me that they were about to drive to New Orleans to enjoy the rest of their visit from Ohio. Of course I offered a list of my favorite restaurants, and I left my cell in case anything came up. We parted cheerily and I hoped to see them again on another course!

Well, the whole drive back into New Orleans I was thinking about the restaurant I had put as #1 on the list: Luke on St Charles. I love that place and I was starving. Imagine my pleased surprise when I walked into the house and David announced, "I made reservations tonight at Luke"! Great minds think alike.

Luke did not disappoint. I was famished and was polishing off sour dough bread like it was my job when my phone buzzed. It was a text from Russ: "Thank you for your suggestion, we are enjoying a fabulous meal at Luke". I laughingly texted back, "So am I!" Turns out that they were seated in the back room and we were in the front. I went to the back to say hi, and before we left David and I went back in to say farewell...and then had a plate of oysters sent back to them. I figured they didn't get many oysters in Ohio!
Such a fun coincidence, and such nice people. I really hope to run into this trio again at a race some day!

Have you ever made running friends at a race?

Monday, June 24, 2013

What else have I been up to?

Besides running, I'm....

Toiling away at work training a new pharmacist. She's...sketchy. Very unsure of herself. I hate to leave her alone.

Listening to live jazz - John Boutte at DBA. His version of Hallelujah is my favorite.

 Trying new restaurants. We tend to go to the same 9 or 10 places in walking distance (I know, I know) over and over again. Our summer goal is to only eat from new places. This week we tried the Milk Bar. It was just average.
This terrible picture is from their Facebook page. You think they'd try turning the light on or something.

Experiencing a clog obsession. One day I woke up and decided that my wardrobe was seriously lacking in the Swedish clog department. Luckily Lotta from Stockholm featured the pair I was eyeing on their "seconds" sale page, and I can't wait for my package. Sadly shipping from Sweden isn't exactly express mail.

Painting sets for my church's VBS. I supervised a herd of 8 through 12 year olds doing backdrops. One of the kids walked through green paint in green crocks and I spent most of the afternoon perplexedly searching for the source of green footprints.

Listening to a beautiful, intimate violin and piano concert and experiencing the sweet, rich strains of the Grand Stradivarius. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear this instrument and it was painfully beautiful. The sound and color was so deep it almost evoked woodwinds. For the encore, Fedeli walked through the audience playing a love song as the violin filled the entire theater. We were breathless.

Painting cards for weddings. Everyone I know is either getting married or having a baby!

You can's see, but I used a SLIGHTLY sparkly base paint under all the colors on the shoes.
What are you all up to these days?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friends are for taking awful race photos

Got tagged in this one from Wednesday:

That was from Pat at Louisiana Running Company.
Eh, the end of a race never looks pretty.
I actually finished fourth in the women; the fastest girl ran 10:57.
Still feeling fresh with no pain in the injured area! Slow, small gains each day!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Free race? Sure!

Last night found me, once again, frantically changing into a jog bra and running shoes in the hospital bathroom (where I probably caught C. diff). I close my store at 6, and lately I've been rushing to get to track meets in Metairie at 7pm, track workouts at 6:30pm, and free races in City Park at 7pm! During the summer the New Orleans Track Club, bless their little hearts, hosts free (for members) 2 mile races on some Wednesday evenings. I managed to make it to the race in plenty of time to register (even though it's free, you have to register and sign a waiver) and even get a warm up in.
Part of the course. Best part? There are real bathrooms in that pavilion!

After last week's track meet and my no-warm-up mile, I knew I'd need more warm up. I ran a little under 2 miles at a slow pace on the grass. The race course is paved - actually, it includes part of an old cross-country course that's been paved over to make a walking path - but I ran on grassy areas to stay out of the way of everyone else warming up. All the high school boys were out for the race as part of their summer programs. Right before the start I did two 100-m strides to get my heart rate up.

I started far back, again, but I was much more comfortable this week than last: the weather was much much better. We had a surprise "cool front" and it was only 85 at the start: 11 degrees cooler than last week's mile race. I could tell right away that the weather was in our favor, and the first mile felt almost effortless. Unfortunately I was just pacing off others around me, because my Garmin decided to lose satellite briefly. It often does this in City Park, which is too bad, because many races are in, around, or end in the park! My first mile was 6:12 by the clock.

The second half of the race I slowed a little - partly from pacing off others who also slowed, but more likely because I was tiring! - and silly me, no push at the end. So here's the deal with that: the course has lots of twists and turns, and I saw the finish (marked with a flag), but from afar it looked like people were still running past the flag. I think it was the angle I was looking from. I thought I saw another flag that was the real finish, but actually that was the start flag! Then suddenly we were around the corner, and there was the clock, and I have such a bad kick that 30 yards isn't enough for me to build any speed up. 12:32.
Would like to take three seconds off that, grr. I was 40th finisher, behind a hoard of highschool boys and probably 5 other girls - I am nowhere near the top in these short races.

I took off 28 seconds from last week, but that was mostly the weather helping there. I'd like to work on a kick to the finish and pushing the pace a little.

After the race? Free hotdogs, beer, and chips and salsa! So I got all the sodium I could handle!

Ever run 2 mile races?
Are there free races in your area?
What's your trick for a kick?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Supplements for running injuries

I think I've gone on the record somewhere saying that I do not take supplements and don't believe they do a lick of good. Well, that's changed. I still think the best way to get balanced nutrients is by eating a healthy, well-rounded, non-exclusionary diet. But while I was injured, and while I'm slowly returning from injury, I've had to add in extras of vitamins and supplements that I need to rebuild.
So here's my medicine cabinet now:

1. Calcium with D. This should be pretty obvious: it's to maintain bone strength as I rebuild following a fracture. I will probably keep taking this, just out of fear of future fractures.

2. Magnesium. Also for bone strength. I will probably keep taking this as long as I am taking iron (see #3) because, ahem, it counteracts a particularly annoying side effect of iron supplementation.

3. Iron. I've made the decision to start supplementing with ferrous sulfate even though the dangers of iron overload far exceed iron insufficiency for someone like myself with normal iron levels. This is why: when I had blood work done recently, my anemia markers were all totally normal, though on the low end (bottom 5%) of the range. But this labwork was done during a period of complete inactivity, and when I am running distances I lose blood. I don't want to be disgusting, but I have always struggled with an upset stomach when I run, coupled with GI bleeds. I experience GI bleeding after speedwork and any run over about 10 miles - so basically, twice a week. Because of that, I could conceivably dip into the anemia levels while actively training. So I'm adding in 65mg of elemental iron daily just in case.

4.Fish oil. It's for inflammation and cardiovascular health. I will think about continuing, but I probably won't.

5. Turmeric. This was recommended by a reader not long ago! I added it in to help control inflammation from osteitis pubis. It might be working, because my symptoms have been very well controlled lately. I have also popped the capsules open and used them while making pickles...turmeric gives pickles that yellow tinge. Just as an aside.

6. Glucosamine. I've always taken glucosamine, on and off, since I started running. If I stop, my knees can tell. Note that I do NOT take chondroitin. It's not usable when taken by mouth, and it's expensive, so it's just a waste. I will keep taking glucosamine.

What do you take for your running?

Friday, June 14, 2013

You could fry an egg on that track.

Today I'm taking a rest day since
1. I've been doing a lot for a formerly-injured, just returning runner
2. I got suckered into picking up an extra shift today, which means that I will be working from 9 am to 11 pm, and that is enough workout for me.

But last night I ran in my first "track meet". It was a resounding success except for the parts where I lost my sunglasses and did very, very poorly on everything. I was the fastest woman out there, though. Coincidentally the only woman out there (except one other girl ran the mile, and one other girl ran the 2 mile).

We started out at 7 pm running the mile, straight off no warm-up and in 96 degree heat. The track was baking. It was unreal. The sun poured down on our heads - just awful. I didn't know what I could or should do for a mile, so I planned to run right at 6 minutes, and just hit it in 5:58. This is probably not the best track mile I can do - but now that I am more familiar, I will try to beat it next time.

It was kind of odd lining up with all these fast guys and high schoolers (lots of high schoolers do their summer workouts at these free track events). I knew to stay at the back, because with the exception of a half-dozen slower kids, everyone was way faster than I.

After the mile, I skipped the 100m (that would have been funny, though), and ran the 400, 800, and 2 mile. I did better at the 400 and 800, but by the 2 mile at 8:15 pm I was starving, hot and tired. Majorly sucked at that - 13 minutes flat. I took my overheated, dehydrated, low blood sugar self home and ate an enormous amount of Vietnamese food courtesy of my husband's ordering out skills.

So - would I do it again? Yes! Now I want to beat those times. I think I will have a better idea of what to expect and how to stay warmed up between events next time. It was actually pretty low-pressure, since I knew I was going to always be last place!
In other news, I think I am going to buy the Saucony Fastwitch to replace my very worn Mizuno Mushas.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to the track

This week I made it back to Varsity track for just the second time since coming back after injury. Last week, my first week back, we did some awful combination of 300's, 400's, and 800's in ninety degree weather. I was fumbling around, trying to get used to the track again, staring at that traitor Garmin telling me I was going terribly slow paces. I finished the workout, but bombed the paces.

This week I went back the Monday after my unlovely race Saturday night. In between, I had gone running Sunday morning before any race soreness hit, and I ended up doing ten miles after catching the train (actually, it was two trains going opposite directions, perfectly timed to prevent me from crossing the tracks for 20+ minutes. I ran back and forth for 3 miles!). The ten miles felt great, like a slow stretch for my race legs, but later in the day the fronts of my calves were sore thanks to the unexpected uphills Saturday. So I was a little worried about track.

Luckily, track was a little easier thanks to slightly overcast weather and a more reasonable workout. This week we did twenty 200's at mile pace or faster with 30 seconds rest. I was lucky enough to have Lauren, the girl who came in 2nd in Saturday's race, to run with me. I started the warm up feeling sore, but by the first 200 I felt much better. Actually, I started ticking them off too fast, running 38 and 39 seconds by the times we were at lap 12 or so. Lauren wanted to slow down, so we did some 40s and a few 41s, too. I was super conscious to let Lauren lead and not "race" her, because nothing is so obnoxious as losing to someone in a race and then running them down in a workout! That's a total jerk move to me, so I made sure Lauren was right with me or right ahead. I think she was a little tired out from Saturday, though, and probably felt as sore as I did.

I felt great after we finished. Granted, it was a short workout, but I felt pretty much full of pep after. I missed the track! And I think I missed it enough to do the free track races this Thursday. Yep, even though I will suck at it, I am totally going to show up with all the fasties and run 800m races. Ha! Get ready for some truly embarrassing recaps!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

DEXA scan bone density test

After two bone-related injuries, my sports doc threatened me with a bone scan. Actually, he insinuated that I could have a the female athlete triad, and perhaps an eating disorder!!!!!!!
Then he glanced at my thunder thighs and changed his mind. No eating disorder over here, not in a million years. He still wanted the bone scan, but bone scans are expensive, and I was tired of paying thousands of dollars over this lousy stress fracture. I deferred.

But wait! What have we here! Look at this flyer I found on my car after work! That, dear readers, is a flyer for a free bone scan. It is part of the Louisiana Osteoporosis study. I practically fractured another bone falling all over myself to rush to the testing site. After filling out a medical history and signing away all rights to my DNA (so much for ever committing the perfect crime...), I was cleared to participate in the study. 
It was pretty basic: I had blood drawn (to tag my results with my DNA), then my blood pressure, grip strength, height, and weight were measured. My blood pressure was unusually high that day, thanks to the 11 flights of stairs I climbed to reach the room where they test, but otherwise results looked normal. 
Next I got in the DEXA machine for my bone scan. The process doesn't take long, but you do have to lie still for several minutes.

Once the scan was complete, the technician provided me with a printout showing my fracture risk category, my Z and T scores (bone strength compared to your own age group and the age group with the strongest bone strength, which for a caucasian female is 21 years old, respectively), BMI, and fat and lean mass percentages. 

Fat vs lean%

My femoral neck: well into the "safe" category

Wow, full body composition!
Safe to say, my bones aren't the problem. They're strong and dense, just like me. All safely positive T scores.
Except the area of my spine that curves: still not a fracture risk, but T and Z scores are negative

It was also interesting to note lean mass and body fat percentage. It was divided by body part. My right leg is the fattest part of my body: 25%!!! But my trunk is a skinny 15%. I believe we call that a "pear shape", no?

Ever had a bone density test? Would you get one if you were fracture-prone?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Crescent Connection Bridge Run

Short and sweet: I'm out of shape, I can't run inclines of any sort, nice race with cute T-shirt.
Long version: Wow, my first race after actually healing my injury! Should have been wonderful, but I lost a lot of fitness being either out or running injured with reduced mileage for over six months.
The good news: NO PAIN! I've been feeling wonderful lately and even after a race on reinforced concrete up and down a bridge, I'm pain-free.
From a friend who also ran
This race starts on the West bank of the Mississippi River, crosses the Crescent Connection Bridge to the East bank, and ends at the Port of Orleans. Great after-party with lots of food and beer, and this time a great T-shirt, a cotton ladies cut shirt that I will totally wear. I am wearing it, actually. It's very difficult to take a picture of a shirt while it's on. I need like two more inches of arm.
See? Girl cut.

I do still have a head, btw

The race started at 6 pm. We took a shuttle from the finish, dragging along little brother Abe, and got in a very, very hot warm-up run before the start. It was in the 90's at the start and very humid. Because the bridge is shadeless and bakes in the sun all day, this is a hot race. And it isn't a fast course at all. I forgot that.
So, I started kind of mid-front pack, felt OK starting out, and ran the first flat 0.75 mile in about 6:20 pace. Then we started climbing the bridge. I thought slowing down would be fine here - catch back up when the bridge goes back down, right? So I kept slogging up the hill. I passed a million people. A kid next to me threw up. A guy oddly body-checked me (later begged for forgiveness: he said he was looking at the view of the Mississippi and just ran right over me - didn't even see me at all). I finally reached the top of the bridge, and I was right next to the #2 lady. To my surprise she was talking on the phone. I laughed - she was playing with us. I knew she'd win this one.
As I hit the peak of the bridge, I was already past mile 3. That's when I realized I wouldn't be doing any catching up. The bridge gradually ascends, but it descends in a steep half-mile corkscrew, too tight and dangerous to really use for much speed, then suddenly you're on flat ground again. So the race is about a quarter flat, a quarter steep downhill, and half uphill.

I tried to manage the downhill well, but I was spent, hot, and miserable. My stomach ached as I wallowed around the last turn in time to see #2 lady blow by #1 in the chute to win it.

Disappointed at the finish line. With Mark from Varsity Sports and Lauren, also a Varsity runner, who was 2nd.
I came in third, appalled at my 28:13 gun time (chip was 27:47, but gun time is recorded. And I need to start closer to the front). For the first time ever, I beat my little brother Abe! But he has not been running in months, to be fair. Varsity Sports women took first, second, and third in the race. Here we are by the stage:

Once I got over my grumpiness at how out of shape I am, I enjoyed the after party. Rain rolled in briefly, just enough to cool things down, and we waited for the awards ceremony. Overall winners got a glass aligator!
What the heck do I do with a glass aligator?

I'm glad I got back out to race, but I wasn't expecting to feel this out of shape. I'd be lying if I said I was happy with my finish. I'm not. But I need to remember that I was basically out for 6 months. It's going to take me that long to get back to my fitness pre-injury.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Foody Friday: best chocolate cake recipe

Last week it was my technician's birthday, and I made her her favorite: chocolate cake (this one with chocolate sour cream frosting, a perfect not-too-sweet option for a rich cake). Every time I make chocolate cake I try a different recipe. I'm on a quest for the best chocolate cake recipe.

This cake wasn't it. It was good, but it was too dense. I'm picky about my cakes.
The perfect recipe needs to be:
- Firm, dense, but light, with a completely even crumb and no large air bubbles (like a cake mix would have - yuck).
- Rich chocolate taste, not cocoa.
- Easy to make: no double boilers, no separating eggs, no changing oven temps half way through, no creaming butter.
- Good for layers: cake doesn't tend to stick to pans
- Contains ingredients I have on hand (so requires cocoa, not chocolate - but it has to taste like chocolate, not cocoa. Got it?).

So far the closest I've come is this recipe, with a few alterations. (Also, that particular recipe [with the buttercream and ganache] is heavenly and makes a beautiful graphic statement cake - amazing for celebrations that need something a little more grown-up than birthday cake.)

I always have two secret ingredients when I make chocolate cake: one addition, and one substitution.
The first is black pepper. Adding a pinch of finely ground black pepper turns cocoa powder somehow into rich and delicious chocolate.
The substitution is sour cream for all or part of the oil. Deliciously moist and no residual oil taste.

But really, I'm still hunting for the perfect recipe. So if you have one, please share!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My chiropractor is shady, but I win.

Remember when I quit seeing my chiropractor?
No small part of that decision was my concern over building medical bills. My insurance has a $1500 in-network deductible (no one is in network) and a $3000 out of network deductible (every provider is out of network). Because of this, I asked very carefully about charges for each procedure. I knew treatment was going to be expensive, but I wanted to be prepared.


I wasn't prepared. When I got my bill, each treatment I had (Graston, adjustment, ultrasound) was billed as "two units". There was no indication of what constituted a unit. Five minutes? One adjustment? One area of Graston? So basically, the bill was double what I expected (also, they charge $15 to apply ice, which I refused each time but was still charged for).

But I know that healthcare prices mean absolutely nothing. So I called the office. I briefly expressed my concern to the office manager and she immediately said, "We'll write off half your bill." Just like that. So while I think the billing was a little shady, I won that round.

If my insurance had paid, they would have disallowed at least 50% of charges, which is probably whyI was billed like that. I think the office is plenty happy to have half of what they asked for - and I'm happy to pay $500 instead of $1000!

Monday, June 3, 2013

My racing calendar

I can't believe I am finally, finally, FINALLY healthy enough to be planning my racing calendar!!!

I decided to go ahead and jump right in with a 4-mile race next weekend.

It's the Crescent Connection Bridge Run, a race notorious for being cancelled for hurricanes. That's because it used to be held in late August, about the time that storms like Katrina like to roll in. Now that it has been moved to June, we decided to race it this year and enjoy one of the few races in this area with any sort of elevation change. It also boasts beautiful sunsets and an unmatched view of New Orleans.
Next up? Not sure. The summers here make racing difficult, but I want to get in some shorter distances. It's no secret that my 5ks suck, and training for a few will help me get my speed back without killing myself with too many miles.
There are also some wonderful free 2-mile races that the New Orleans Track Club hosts, and I hope to do a couple of those over the summer months.
Something I'm contemplating but find rather scary are the "All-comers track meets" also hosted by NOTC. I love that they are open track competitions, but I am definitely intimidated. I've never raced on a track before, and I'm pretty sure that all the fast people will be there.

While I was injured I got suckered into registering for the Jazz half marathon in October. It's a race I love, and I missed it last year for our Paris trip. Other fall races I plan to do include the Turkey day 5-miler, site of my infamous 6+ month injury last year, and the Middendorf Manchac 10 mile race.

Winter: I still have a deferred entry to the Louisiana Marathon, so if all goes well and I stay healthy, I'll be racing that one again! Exciting!

Question for you - have you ever raced on the track? Was it as scary as it seems? Should I do it?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bumpy road

Returning from injury is a bumpy road. Almost as bad as St. Charles during a marathon (ow, my feet), but less enjoyable.

I'm tired. I'm slow. I'm frustrated with my aerobic capacity.

I have a shin splint on my right leg. Stupid. It's a sign to back off: shin splints to me mean I did too many minutes too soon.*

Preventing re-injury takes a lot of time and work: foam rolling, yoga, hip strengthening (you should try Jim's routine).

...And then the pain is back. A little. On the other leg.

I haven't had any pain during running, but while foam rolling I felt a familiar dull ache as I rolled the back of my right leg. And if I dig deep and apply a lot of pressure on my left (healed) leg, I can still feel an ache. Sometimes. If I'm paranoid enough.
Icing and driving

My doctor hasn't called me back yet*, but I am managing it by foam rolling before a run, stick rolling after, stretching key muscles, and icing while I drive to work. Basically I just grab ice packs as I walk out the door and sit on them for my 15 minute commute. So far the routine's working and the pain is at bay, but - why is it returning? What is the cause?

Well, I have decided that none of my health care providers have gotten down to the real cause of my two big injuries. I had osteitis pubis, then I had a stress fracture of the femur. The common factor? Both bone injuries are at the site of adductor attachments. I think my adductors are too tight and too strong. I need stronger hips and abductors to take the work load off of my adductors. The type of pain I am feeling now feels like I have "thigh splints".

The good news is that this is manageable. I am fairly confident that tight, overused adductors are part of my problem, because I notice a big difference from intense stretching. Hopefully I can start using my hips and glutes a little more while I run to take off some strain, too - I'm working on that.

Until then, luckily still no pain during the run, no nagging pain later, only the occasional ache if I dig deep and apply pressure to the bone and tissue surrounding it. I'm carefully keeping my mileage low and slow (well, ok, slow is not by choice, I'm a flabby mess right now) and I'll keep you updated on my progress!

*I wrote this post a week ago and forgot about it. Since then I backed off mileage a lot - low 20's per week I think - and have been doing very, very well. Not only has the "thigh splint" gone away, the shin splint has, too, and actually I haven't been feeling much of the osteitis pubis, either. And my doctor...still hasn't called me back. Loser.