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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jazz Fest

A little damp, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. This is the first Jazz Fest I've been to since before Katrina!
Between the two Indians in white, you can see the tiniest Indian in green!
A touch bedraggled. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pre-run, post-surgery

For the longest time, my pre-run routine was "tie shoes, lock door". But when things started hurting (before diagnosis of labral tear(s)), I'd do Myrtles. They doubled as a warm-up and strengthening.

At first I was continuing the Myrtles, followed by some version of my hip PT exercises. I've recently changed that. It was taking too long for me to get out the door, and I felt like many of the exercises were more appropriate for the early recovery period. Instead, I stumbled upon Coach Jay's warm ups and post-run routines, and I've been using them.
Pre-run, I do a quick and simple lunge warm-up, and I'm out the door in just a few minutes instead of the 15 or 20 minutes my hip routines took. Then, when I return from the run, I do more strengthening (a post for later).
Here's Coach Jay's lunge matrix warm-up:

Does it work for me? Yes! I still have a little stiffness in the morning (is it surgery? Or old age?), and the lunges get rid of that, plus get my blood pumping a tad, AND activate my glutes prior to running. This gives me enough momentary muscle memory to remember to activate them while I run, too.

What is your pre-run routine?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Supplements for joints

Now that I am old and rickety and have the hips of a 75 year old, I have started taking some joint-supporting supplements.

The first is actually a bone supplement, which I am taking to strengthen bone after taking long-term NSAIDS twice in the past year. At the time, post-op, I wanted to inhibit bone growth to prevent heterotopic ossification, but now I want my bones strong again: especially my socket and femoral head, which both had bone removed in my left and right hips.
Bone-up is a multi-vitamin and mineral with a form of calcium that is best deposited in bone (heads-up: it's not vegetarian). It also contains magnesium, vitamin D, manganese, and zinc - required for bone and tissue health. A bottle of 240 capsules is $19; recommended dose is 6 capsules per day, but I actually take just 2 capsules. I think supplements should supplement your diet, not replace dietary intake.
Bone Up supplement facts

I also take glucosamine. There is a great deal of conflicting evidence regarding glucosamine, and the largest, highest powered, placebo controlled clinical trials generally show no benefit to glucosamine (read about it here, combined with chondroitin and with an endpoint of statistically significant pain relief, and here alone with an endpoint of joint cartilage loss).  Two things to point out, though. In some studies, including the first one linked above, glucosamine reduced joint pain in moderate-to-severe pain sufferers. And in the second study, subjects taking glucosamine alone experiences the least loss of cartilage to the joint (although only the knee was examined). So, I take glucosamine, mostly because if it DOES have a joint protective effect, I'd like to take advantage of it - even though I realize it may not. Glucosamine can be purchased cheaply on its own, especially on sale - usually they are $9 for 150, but buy-one-get-one free. I take 1000mg a day, although again - a higher dose is recommended.

Lastly, I also take Univestin, in the form of these pretty Joint Care Pearls. Univestin is a combination of herbs, a trademarked blend of flavans, shown to reduce joint pain. Univestin apparently acts on the COX 1 and 2 and LOX pathways, so a lot like an NSAID, which means that I'm basically taking it just for joint pain. But I'm also taking it for mobility - when compared head to head with celecoxib (Celebrex), only Univstin improved joint mobility, although both groups experienced improvements in pain. Since that could point to anotther mechanism with joint-protective properties, I take 2 capsules  day. Univestin is $10 for 90, and it is also usually buy-one-get-one-free at Walgreens.
Ingredients list

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weekend: Beethoven, long run, crawfish boil

We kicked off the weekend with a Friday night Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra concert, an exhilarating performance of Beethoven's Concerto Number 3 for Piano and Orchestra. It's a beautiful piece, but we were blown away by guest pianist Jon Kimura Parker. His emotional performance was completed with an orchestra he'd only rehearsed with briefly, and without a score, but was the best piano I've heard in years. And then the concerto was followed up by a dismal Shostakovich symphony that made me want to go jump off a bridge. Well, you can't win 'em all.

Saturday I was up early in the rain for a longish run. After my run, we headed to the church office for a really interesting presentation on the theology of cities. Our pastor is kind of big on cities, and our church tries to focus our missions on the city and neighborhood we are in. The main point of the talk was, "The church exists for the city, not for itself" - a far cry from "The church serves the needs of the saints", which I've heard taught before. It was really interesting and thought-provoking.

My afternoon was sucked up with chores and groceries, since we've been out of town. I stopped at the new Michael's. Normally I'm not a fan of chain stores moving into the city (see discussion about cities above...), but I was thrilled that the dilapidated, lonely, crack-house buildings on Claiborne Ave were razed for this shopping center: not only because they were a nuisance, but also because I really wanted a place to buy yarn!
I'm making another doll - this one for my cute niece, who is obsessed with "BABIES", her favorite word.
Then I headed to the gym, to practice swimming. It was a total disaster. The pool was full of fit, fast swimmers, and I waited for an empty lane because I didn't want to ruin someone else's workout. But then I was just totally intimidated. That is not like me! I guess I just didn't want to create a scene if I started flailing about and someone thought I was drowning - because honestly, I am such a poor swimmer right now, that it just about looks like I am drowning when it's my best effort. I ended up with just one swim across the length of the pool, after 15 minutes of breathing and stroke practice while standing in the shallow end. It was a complete waste of time.

Sunday's plans were up in the air because of the chance of rain. But I had a dry pair of shoes, so I got out for my recovery run. I'm still doing Soft Surface Sunday, which left me squelching through mud all the way around Audubon's outside dirt track, but it kept my hips feeling comfortable, so no complaints. Then it was church and - our church crawfish boil!
Photo courtesy of Ray Cannata
Luckily the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it turned into a beautiful day. I met another church member who is a big triathlete - we know a lot of the same people, so it was fun to talk to her.

Before the weekend ended, we wound down with a good documentary during dinner. We watched "The Thin Blue Line", which was a little unsettling for a number of reasons. Any recommendations for good documentaries for me to add to my Netflix queue?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Long Run Saturday

Ah, it's been a long time since I could say "long run Saturday"!
Post-long run breakfast: Coffee, muffin, and club soda. Followed shortly thereafter by eggs.
I decided that this Saturday would be a good time to take the distance up another notch. I ran 6.2 two weeks ago, then took a very easy week, with just 3 miles for my long run the following Saturday. This week was pretty easy, too (a few 3 milers and one 5 miler), so I decided I could jump up to 8 miles.
Our running group posts long run routes for the Saturday morning group run, and when I saw that there was an 8 mile option plus the start was at Audubon park near my house, I decided joining them would make sense.
They meet at 6:30, so to avoid an early wake-up I rushed things a bit and got up at 6. I had just enough time to have coffee, get dressed, and do my Myrtles routine before I had to head out. I jogged to the park in a light rain, and met up with the usual 15 or 20 smiling, eager faces.
The water is several inches deep in the backyard, but on the bright side, my plants have never looked more lush. 
Half the runners were already in Boston. The other half didn't want to face the rain (coincidence? I think not. Only tough people BQ, clearly). It was just myself and one other runner! He introduced himself, and said he was looking to do 8 miles, too, so off we went.
Our route headed straight down St. Charles Avenue, and normally we'd run on the soft surface of the street car tracks. But it had rained all week, and the tracks were a soggy mess. We took the sidewalks, instead, but in just a few minutes my feet were soaked from unavoidable puddles. I have no goals except "rehab and avoid injury", so I let my partner set the pace. He started out at a decent clip, probably 7:40, but settled into the 7:50's as the conditions worsened (these are estimates - I didn't wear a Garmin). Right about the time I would have turned around, he said, "Let's go to Lafayette Square for a water stop." That would add over a mile and a half to our run, so I hesitated, but because I can't say no to anyone or anything apparently, I followed him to the fountain. I shouldn't have done that - I should've explained my recent surgery and just told him 'bye there!
After we turned around, we slowed considerably, and I realized my partner was breathing really heavily, so I backed off a bit. It was also pouring at this point, which wasn't helping anything. As we neared the park again, we ran into another runner, who was lost! She was visiting from Seattle and somehow passed up the park. We led her back, and she complained bitterly about the rain: something I found amusing, since she was from Seattle.
When we got to the park, we took a picture for the Facebook page - the running group always posts a picture, and we thought it would be funny to have one of just the two of us.
One of us is taking this a lot more seriously than the other
Then I jogged home, for a scary total of 9.7 miles.
Thoughts from the run:
- The human body is an amazing thing. How does it remember how to run long(ish) distances after a long hiatus? Shouldn't I have bonked or something?
- I have been out of running for so long that I am forgetting the basic rules. One thing I really insist on for myself is at least 16 ounces of water before a double-digit run. This wasn't double digits, but it was close, and no water before = bad stomach pains later. Pre-run hydration is the only way I've learned to avoid this.
- It was stupid to run this far. I distinctly said I didn't want to run ten miles, then I almost did. I should probably avoid groups until I'm further recovered. So far I feel ok, but my left hip continues to stiffen later in the day.
- I felt like I had a lot of power in my stride, and I think I'm doing better maintaining my form.
- Cardiovascularly, I could have gone much farther, which is a good sign.
- Immediately post-run, I did a hip workout. I did not stretch. I have actually been backing off stretching - it's been making my hips feel loose, and that's the exact opposite of what I want. I think my hip capsule needs more time to heel and tighten before I stretch it.
- Right after the above picture went on Facebook, my former "coach" (the guy who ran our track workouts with Varsity) promptly emailed me to chastise me. I deserve it.

How was your long run this weekend?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Running in Louisville

I ended up running all three days we were in Louisville last week. Our hotel had a "gym", but it consisted of two treadmills, a stationary bike, and an elliptical, all nearly touching, and all permanently occupied. It actually had an indoor pool, but I didn't do my research on that score and neglected to bring a swimsuit.
So running it was. What I've been doing when I travel is packing a resistance band for hip exercises. I'll use it for clam series, monster walks, and side steps; then I'll add in whatever else I can do reasonably in my hotel room/guest room. We were in a Holiday Inn Express, which are usually pretty large rooms, and I could do my full hip routine, minus any weights (like, a dumbbell for deadlifts).
The sidewalk from the hotel lead to a series of neighborhoods down a long, gradual hill, so that became my running route. I wore a watch to estimate distance (I'd just run for 15 minutes and turn around and come back for about 3 miles).
One thing Louisville has a lot of is apartment complexes, and the run passed several. I don't know if this is a legitimate Louisville phenomenon, or if I'm just used to NOLA, which has maybe two or three complexes total, but man, it seemed like everywhere I looked were apartment complexes. I find them marginally depressing. Something about all the same-ness - I've been in New Orleans too long if I demand everything be unique! But it made for a good running route, because it meant I had sidewalks to run on, rather than the shoulder.

After surgery on my left hip (the first surgery), I noticed that it was hard for me to activate my glutes on that side. Now, after both surgeries, I have to pay attention to both sides. During this trip, I made that my goal - tight glutes throughout extension. It really protects the hip joint, but it is shortening my stride a little: I guess it's hard to stride forward with a tight glute, and I'm not quite coordinated enough to release the muscle as I move forward yet. So I am taking smaller steps. But I'm sure the gait will adjust in time. Meanwhile, my hip is feeling pretty good, although both sides are prone to weakness and fatigue now, and I often feel stiff later in the day.

Travel usually screws recovery up, so I was happy that I felt like I improved while traveling, and I'm still patiently following my slow recovery plan. Yes, I WANT to go run ten miles this Saturday, but I'm not going to. Instead I'll run short and use the extra time to work on my core, which I have neglected terribly over the last few months thanks to costochondritis. My ribs are actually still painful, all these months later, but I'm sort of able to at least hold a plank again.

And since I have nothing better to show you, here is a picture of my niece getting her first pedicure. She was pretty good about it for a one and a half year old! And no, I didn't ask her mom's permission first. Godmother prerogatives: spoiling kids and doing things without permission.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Family visit

Since we obviously hate spending any time at home, we traveled to Louisville to visit my brother and his family this weekend. We hadn't seen our niece and goddaughter since she was just ten days old, and we'd never met our new nephew! Now they are 18 months and 6 months.
This handsome kid! He wanted to do the slide like his big sister!

She always wants to hold my hand!

It's hard to visit them, because there are no direct flights to Louisville, and all the flights are insanely expensive. The drive is about 11 hours (last time, we drove). However, there is a new flight to Cincinnati on a budget airline, Allegiant, so we took that instead. It was brilliant. Our fights were just $64 each, and we rented a car for $56 total all weekend and drove 90 miles to Louisville. The total travel time was less than if we'd flown into Louisville, and about half the price, too.
These budget airlines charge extra for everything, so you only get one personal item - but that was fine. It was a lesson in packing light! And the very few carry-ons means that boarding takes about half the time. Altogether a very positive experience, and we're happy to have that option for future visits.

More cute baby pictures once I cull through the bazillion we took!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What's next?

Now that the Crescent City Classic is (ill-advisedly) done, I am actually going to back off, rather than move forward, with running.

For your viewing pleasure, the new CCC poster
A couple of reasons -
1. I would like to actually do a slow progression to advance distance, and kind of just regard that race as an aberration.
2. Ever since my trip to Atlanta, my LEFT hip has been feeling weak. I want to take the time to go back to strengthening both sides (I think I got lazy about that).
3. I have other stuff to do right now. I am actually taking swimming lessons! They are once-a-week private lessons, and they aren't cheap, but I think it's worth it. I really need to know how to swim, if only for safety reasons. I'm going to try to make it to the gym pool twice a week, too, for practice, although all I've done so far is kick and attempt breaths!
4. We have some traveling coming up that will also mess with my schedule, so why even bother right now? I expect to spend one or two months more continuing rehab and moving into running, and we'll see then what's next. If my left hip continues feeling weak, I'll have to reassess how much running versus strengthening I plan to do, since that may be my long-term hip condition. And extra strengthening cuts into running time. So time will tell.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crescent City Classic 10k: A well-executed race, except for pace.

Saturday was the city's biggest race, the Crescent City Classic 10k. I and 20,000+ others headed out to spend Easter Saturday running a 10k from the Superdome to City Park.
Getting ready. Enjoy the bed-head. 
Obviously, at three and a half months post-op, I was by no means racing this thing. Not happening. Too risky! But I wore my Garmin anyway, mostly to restrain myself if need be.
We picked up our neighbor Joseph and headed to the start. I parked in the Tulane parking garage, and we jogged less than a mile to the start - then I wandered around trying to get into my corral. There were ten corrals, and I finally discovered that the three seeded corrals were entered from the other side of the street, and I had to loop all the way around the back to get there. We'd arrived at 7:30, but by the time I got to my corral, it was 7:50, and I barely had time to say hello to runners I knew before the starting announcements began. Right before then, the volunteers dropped the barricades, and the front (seeded) corrals merged into one group: we all started with the gun, then each following corral started with an air horn at two minute intervals. This was new for the CCC, but it really smoothed the start out.
I didn't have much of a race plan, just wanting to run a strong effort, but avoid pain and avoid anything strenuous. It's too early to stress this hip. At the gun, the speedy runners next to me bolted, but I moved to the side and controlled my pace. I let everyone pass me, and before long, the colors of the bibs around me changed - from pink, to gray, and eventually to orange and green. No big deal. I relaxed. Or relaxed as much as I could: there was a cold headwind to fight. I hit mile one at 7:30 exactly (race clock) and, since that had felt slow, decided to bump it up a touch each mile. Garmin: 7:23.
But mile two wasn't the time for speeding up. The wind hit us strong in this section! It was tough going, and I could hear runners around me give a collective "Oof!" as we hit the wind. 7:22.
I noticed several young boys were running this race, and I talked to one of them at mile three. He was nine years old and told me that his goal was 46 minutes. Seriously cute. He told me, "I don't want to race too much, because I need to save some for high school. I think I'll be a beast in high school" - oh my gosh. Hilarious. Mile three: 7:18.
Mile four was the last mile along Esplanade Avenue. There was some wind cover on Esplanade as long as you ran by large houses; every cross street or a smaller home let the gusts hit you. But I still felt fine. I grabbed a beer from some firemen handing them out at mile four; it wasn't very easy to drink, though. 7:15.
I noticed now that I was indeed taking two or three seconds off per mile, and still felt like this was a very easy pace. We turned onto City Park avenue, and I struck up a conversation with a runner friend of mine taking it easy. He actually biked 100 miles the day before! So he didn't have a lot of juice in his legs - we chatted, and I felt like we slowed way down to talk, but actually this was the one small section with a slight tailwind, and I ran 7:13.
I decided to run mile 6 under 7:10, but not under any circumstances under 7 (an arbitrary recovery rule that prevents me from RACING-racing or doing speedwork unadvisedly), so I said bye to my friend and picked it up. Another runner friend came along side me and I urged him on - his goal was 45 minutes and I realized that if he really booked it, he could make it! I stayed at my sedate pace: 7:06.
Speeding up at the finish. I look so enthused. I promise I only straighten my legs when I'm speeding up...still,,,things to work on, right? That looks terrible. BTW the Crescent City Classic gives everyone one free race picture, as nice touch. But you can't pick which picture!

Then I hit mile 6 and decided I might as well kick a little. Just a little. I passed a few people at the last minute, even though it felt silly to do so, for a 6:30 final 0.2. Time: 45:16, but fun all the way.
Also fun: freezing to death in a garbage bag after the race.
If only I could race like that when I'm faster - gradually dropping the pace down. But no! Instead I bomb it every time!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

CCC - not the day I was expecting!

Crescent City Classic - my first race after right hip surgery - over and done with!
And it was not at all the day I was expecting. 
- We got up late: a luxury when you aren't actually racing for a PR. It didn't feel like a race morning.
- The weather forecast predicted gorgeous weather, perfect for racing - a crisp, low humidity 60 at the start; high of 70 during the sunny day.
Nope. Not at all. We woke up to rain, and the day started in the low 70's - misty and humid. The race began in a drizzle, with slick streets and a blustery headwind.
The afterparty? Misery! The temperatures finally started dropping, and T-shirt wearing runners lined up for beer in low 60's weather. The rain stopped, but the cold wind hung out for a few hours.
We resorted to wearing trash cans and garbage bags (David, our friend and neighbor Joseph, and I).
- The elite race was slower than I thought it would be. The winner was just under 29: John Muritu, an 18-year-old Kenyan, won the 10K in 28:55. I blame the weird weather. Three Americans were in the top five (that NEVER happens at CCC) and Abdi Abdirahman (American Olympian) was third.
- The Crescent City Classic has really gotten their game together as far as organization. This race used to be a HOT MESS at the start - crowds of strollers, crowds of people in the wrong corral, crowds of walkers - just terrible for a semi-fast starter. But this year the corrals were guarded by tough, no-nonsense volunteers who checked every single bib! The result was a very smooth, on-time start. Too bad I was slow today - it would have  been a great way to race.
- All three seeded corrals: A,B,C - merged 10 minutes prior to the start. This was actually good for me, although the A group was complaining, because we all know I didn't belong in B group today. Heck, I didn't belong in C group for that matter!
- My right hip felt stiff but okay. My left hip felt...kind of terrible. I think that hip will never be the same. Maybe I have arthritis.
- I got a poster for being a top 500 finisher. I mean...not so very surprised. If you're a female, you have a pulse, and you aren't pregnant, you can pretty much count on a top 500 poster. The cut off time is like 53 minutes or something. But still, nice to have. My last poster is getting old.
- By the way, day drinking? Not as fun as it was when I was 20. I now have a headache, a stomach ache, and no appetite. Also a bad idea? Three beers and a bloody mary after giving up alcohol for lent (yes, I know I quit a day early!). They're a lot more...potent after a break. I fell asleep on the drive home!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Getting ready for Crescent City!

The Classic is tomorrow! And I'm all set.
I picked up my packet Thursday after work. The expo is in walking distance from my parking garage, and I got off in time to head over before the bigger crowds arrived on Thursday. They had a decent-sized expo, but I didn't do a lot of browsing. I did see some clearance Kinvaras for $60, but I held off. For one thing, I have a pair I've never worn yet still in my closet; for another, I can usually find Kinvaras for $60 easily (sometimes less) so I waited.
I like how CCC does packet pickup: you give your ID to the volunteer, they enter your name in the system, and hand you whatever number is on the top of the stack. That simple. No hunting for numbers, checking you off numeric-order lists, etc. The only thing they have to match up is your corral, which is by color, and since the seeded runners have a separate pick-up line, that's easy. Of course, I had to get in two lines, because David isn't seeded, but both lines moved very quickly - there are plenty of volunteers.
Here's the T-shirt, featuring the iconic New Orleans sidewalk street tiles (rub it in, CCC. We still don't have streets, let alone street tiles). My bib is pink, for B-corral - my first pink CCC bib! Not, of course, that I'll do it justice.
Even my SHIRT has sidewalks. 
I did stop at the New Orleans Track Club booth to say hi, and get my yellow wrist band - it lets you into the CCC post-race tent, source of all the best beer.

My only other prep: charging my electronics (I am bringing a Garmin and ipod) and choosing my clothes.

My favorite Coeur shorts (fleet foxes!), a Varsity singlet from a prior year, socks that don't have holes yet, Kinvara I's (still rocking the first edition), and a terrible Fruit of the Loom cotton bra. Why not a Coeur bra WITH POCKETS? Two reasons:
1. Even though I love the Coeur bra (POCKETS), it has three layers on the top. This makes it slightly warmer than a one or two layer bra, plus adds about 0.00000002 ounces of weight. For shorter races, I've decided against them - I don't want any extra warmth, I don't need the pockets, and I have decided I don't want the extra weight, despite the fact that I'm a good 5 or 10 pounds heavier than my ideal racing weight myself (control what you can control, right? It's kind of late in the day to go on a starvation diet). They're still my go-to favorite for everyday running, though, because they are perfectly comfortable.
2. My ribs are actually still not better, and a bagged out crappy bra is a little more comfortable. Poor me, I'll never get well.

There you have it. All prepared to go humiliate myself tomorrow.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The drawings of Degas

One of the best-kept art secrets in New Orleans is Newcomb Art Gallery. It's part of Tulane's campus, and it hosts free art exhibits several times a year. Their current show is "Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist" but the subtitle explains the exhibit: "Works on paper by the artist and his circle".

The three rooms of the gallery displayed drawings, sketches, and etchings by Degas and his contemporaries - and some photographic portraiture.
Degas is seated. 

Degas hung with the artsy crowd. Here he is with two composers...the one on the right is Debussy!
I enjoyed some of his more classical drawings, and sketches he made off of works in the Louvre.

There were lots of etchings and prints, but most of them were off of his canceled plates! This kind of kills me - I mean, the whole point of canceling the plate is to prevent reproduction, and here we are not only reproducing it, but then putting the finished product in a museum.
Slashed! But still, isn't the face incredibly expressive, especially for a print?
Some of Degas' photography was included, too:

And graphite portraits:

One of two famous dancer sketches:

This charming painting from his race horse phase:

And some classic subject matter, like this performer. Don't you love how he captured the stage lights on her skin?

The best part is that we can walk to the gallery, so I can come back and make sketches or enjoy the art as much as I want until the show closes in May.