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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New shoes! Saucony Cortana

I like to have two pairs of shoes in rotation (three if I'm doing track stuff - I wear flats for that). I wear a lightweight everyday shoe most of the time, but for most long runs and for very easy recovery days I like something bigger and squishier. But not huge. Right now I wear Saucony Kinvara 1's a lot, which I adore, and my more bulky shoe is the Brooks PureCadence.
Problems with the PureCadence:
- Although it offers more support than the Kinvara, and it's heavier with a thicker sole, it's only marginally more bulky and squishy. I'm looking for more in between my foot and the ground, and the PureCadence lacks that a little.
- They don't fit me quite right. I am in a men's 8.5, which is absolutely necessary for the width, but is a little too long. They cause lots of toe blood blisters and lost toenails, and that's kind of annoying. 
Otherwise, they're fine shoes, but since my current pair is about to wear out, I went online shoe shopping.
Flat laces and fat feet
I ended up with the Saucony Cortana. They are very soft and cushioned, but not terribly heavy, so I'm excited to try them out. I've basically only tried them on at this point, since I still have 50 to 100 miles on the PureCadence, but as there is a 90-day return policy at the retailer where I bought them, I think I can wait.
I did just a couple of blocks to test for fit this morning. So far I noticed a few cons:
- Toe box could be wider. This might be a problem.
- They have flat laces. I foresee them coming undone all the time. I also noticed when I took a picture of the flat laces that they make my feet look short and fat, which is the opposite of reality (allow me to remind you that I'm wearing men's sizes).
- They are very warm!
But pros? So far it's obvious that they're very cushioned and comfortable. I think they'll work, but a real review will have to wait until I retire the PureCadence and get some miles on these. They were a deal, by the way: I got them at Running Warehouse on clearance, plus 15% off and free shipping, so my total was under $50.

While I was outside taking feet pictures I took a picture of my porch swing...David proposed to me on that swing (well, I was on it, he was on one knee like any gentleman). Immediately after I said yes the boys at the frat party down the street starting chanting "Chug! Chug! Chug!" so now keg stands make us feel all romantic.
The most romantic bench in New Orleans
And I have romance on the mind because today is our 8th anniversary!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A year later: a very honest hip labral tear surgery report

It's been over a year since I had surgery on my left hip. To briefly recap, I had had nonspecific, undiagnosed pain and hip/groin/thigh problems for almost two years. It got suddenly worse during a 5k, and after unsuccessful rehab attempts, I had the damaged hip labrum debrided and the femur and socket reshaped. It's been a year since that surgery, and over six months since I had my right hip repaired. I caught it earlier, so it was not as damaged.
Now that it's been a year since this whole surgery thing started, I'd like to share honestly how I am doing...and take any questions you may have!
How does your hip feel now, a year later? Is it pain-free?
No, it is not pain-free. It's nearly pain-free: but sometimes, it bothers me. It doesn't hurt to run, but I might perhaps wake up with stiff hips or feel pain when standing after sitting a long time. Sometimes I feel - not quite a pinch, but sort of an ache in the groin. But it is night and day from what it used to be: I was in so much pain with a torn labrum that I didn't want to put weight on it at all. Now, although I have to pay attention to it, I can almost run care-free.
What do you do to maintain a healthy hip?
I spend about 15 minutes a day on hip PT exercises and stretching, and I could probably do more. I have focused a lot more on good form, good shoes, etc. Usually once a week I do a longer hip-exercise routine as well.
How long did it take for your hip to feel "normal"? 
I was cleared to run at 8 weeks post-op for my left hip, and NO WAY IN HECK was that happening. I was not ready at all. In fact, I was sure my surgery had failed! But by 12 weeks, it was incredibly improved. Yet it felt stiff, off, painful, lose, weak - you name it! - until about 5 months out. However, I don't want to delude you - it never has since felt "normal". I can always tell I had surgery on it.
What feels different about your hip now? 
My hip extension is incredibly poor. Sometimes my hip clicks oddly. Occasionally - about once a month - it flares mildly and starts to hurt or pinch. A rest day usually takes care of that. My left hip moves smoothly, but sometimes my right experiences a lot of psoas hip-snapping syndrome.
What has your doctor(s) said about your running?
Both my doctors (My favorite surgeon  moved in December and I followed up with another doc, boo hoo) were favorable toward continuing to run. In fact, that was in my "goals" section of my chart - return to sport at same or higher level. However, Dr. Van Sice reminded me that because the labrum was debrided, I need to watch out for arthritic symptoms! I have not exactly achieved what I should have by this point, but I'd rather take things too slowly than too quickly.
What issues do you face post-surgery?
I feel like my left leg is weaker than the right. Because the damaged labrum was removed, not repaired, there will always be less cushion in that hip, and it shows. I have to fight a habit to rely more on my right side - that just causes other issues. I do have pretty significant scars on both hips, although the right is a lot worse; I also have a harder time running than I used to due to weight gain post-surgery and an altered gait. As I mentioned before, my hip extension is several inches shorter than it used to be, and it has made my running more in front of my body than behind.
Do you have to take anything for pain?
No, never.
Debridement vs. repair: which is better? 
One million times better: repair! My right hip was repaired, and although the initial recovery is longer and more painful, it feels almost brand-new. My left hip still causes me problems.
What activities are off the table now that you had surgery?
I can never treadmill run again, apparently. Possibly marathons. I would love to do one again, but I am sure it would require a huge amount of work to keep the hips strong, and I'm not sure I have the time!
Would you do it again if you had the choice?
Absolutely. Surgery was life-changing. It really was. I was in so much pain before surgery and was so limited - I walked with a limp, I couldn't climb up on a chair or high step, I couldn't do squats or lunges without pain, I even had to sit down to put on shoes. That's no way to live!

That's about all I can think of. Any questions for me? I'll be happy to answer them!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More hip routines

I am still toiling away at strengthening my hips, and I do some kind of hip routine a couple of times a week.
Here's a basic routine I use, with three options: 
1. A fast, easy routine I can complete on any weekday
2. Increased reps in parentheses for a longer routine
3. Additional instructions in brackets for a harder routine.

- Warm-up: Myrtle, 10 reps each exercise
- Lunge series: Forward, back, side, diagonal - with weights, 5 each (10 each) [add bicep curls]
- Squat series: 15 each (25 each)
Balance taps
     - regular
     - single leg [balance on cushion]
     - monkey squats
- Russian split squats: 10 (25) each side, with weights [add bicep curls]
- Deadlifts with weight: 25 each side [balance on cushion]
- Balance taps: 10 (15) each side. Stand on one-leg in one corner of a square with a small cone or item on the other three corners. Squat and extend both arms to tap the top of each cone in one direction, then return. Stand back up. That is one rep. [hold a light weight to tap cones with]
- Monster walks, forward and back, with resistance band (twice)
- Resistance-banded squat walk, forward and back (twice) 
- Resistance-banded ankle walk, forward and back (twice)
- Plank series: forward, each side, 1 min each 
- Side plank series: 10 each (25)
     - dips, leg lifts, reach under and rotate
- Resistance band steamboats, 10 (25) each direction on both legs [balance on cushion]
- Resistance band clams with lifted extension, 25 each side
- Quadruped bent leg lifts, 15 each side (25) with pulses, 15 each side (25)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Weekend: HOT!

We kicked this weekend off with wine and cheese at our house for David's law school study group. They still get together occasionally, and Friday night was an enjoyable evening of socializing over excellent wine. The funny thing is that it was a homecoming for one couple: they actually lived in our apartment before we did, and recommended David to the landlords when they moved out!
Before everyone arrived, my friend Patrick walked over from his architect firm down the street and helped me set up and "open" the wine, so really I had two wine and cheese parties.

Saturday was one of the first days in a long time that wasn't booked solid. I had a lot to do around the house, but in the afternoon we headed out to pick a friend's figs. We have a nice swap going: I pick their fruit; we split the preserves. Unfortunately, the figs were nowhere near ripe, but since we were already out, David and I decided to check out the newly-expanded Crescent Park. It's in the Marigny right on the river.
A tug pushing a barge in front of the Crescent City Connection bridge
And it was hot. So hot. The park is pretty long, and it's full sun. We walked down the concrete wharf (not a breath of breeze came off the water) and over a few sections of recycled rubber walkway. The heat radiated around us, and I (unprepared) started to burn. It wasn't until we left the park and met a friend for a wine tasting that I realized that the soles had melted off my shoes. It didn't surprise me: the temperature was 100F, and I'm sure the surface was much hotter. Luckily, those clouds you see in the picture finally reached us, but we only got a sprinkle of rain later in the evening. It was still enough to bring Sunday's temperature down, though, which I appreciated!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Little Free Library

I'm not normally a proponent of the Little Free Library, because really - libraries are already free.  But I've realized that there are situations in which the Little Free Library model - take a book, leave a book - is useful.
One of those situations is my workplace. Even though the main branch of the library is across the street from the hospital, many family members and even patients are not from New Orleans, and don't hold a library card. And many of them spend long, bored hours in bed or at a bedside that they could fill with reading.
Light reading for your hospital stay

So I started a Little Free Library in my pharmacy! I put the stack of books out last week, and already we've seen a nice turnover: four or five books taken; four or five donated. Hopefully it will make someone's stay at Tulane a little better!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baby speed work

I have, with trepidation, dipped my toes back into the waters of speed work (POETRY, people).
I'm no longer joining our Monday night track group...because it doesn't exist. While I was out with injury they folded and various runners joined up with another group that meets on Tuesday. I can't make Tuesday: I have Bible study that night; plus the track is a little further away than the one we used to use, and I'd be cutting it close to arrive on time.
With four on the fourth coming up, I decided I had to do SOMETHING. So I tried a few easy 400's in the park. I have to use my Garmin, which isn't a great way to do speed work, but the park itself is similar to a track - no stoplights, no traffic, and at least sort of a loop. As a benefit, you can run in either direction, so I can avoid straining my weak left leg too much.

Boy, is it hot for speed work. Add to that my new, slower pace, and I am suffering out there!
I completed four workouts prior to the race:
10x400 - averaging 1:37
8x400 - averaging 1:35
12x400 - averaging 1:36
8x400 - averaging 1:34

So you see, I'm not really getting faster: my times are super similar, with a slightly slower pace on days when I have more reps. Not exactly good news. And apparently (see race report) they did not give me finishing speed!
But at least I'm getting out there and working on speed, turnover, and heat tolerance. And so far, the intervals haven't irritated my left leg, which remains weak and easily "tweaked" despite my best efforts. I can only hope that I see improvement when the temperatures cool - this 90F with 90% humidity is misery!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Follow-up: Using Coach Jay Johnson's strength progression

A while ago, I posted that I had started using Coach Jay Johnson's strength progression after running. Now that I've worked my way up to the longest/hardest routine as a cool down, and used it for a while, here are my thoughts:
1. It doesn't take long to complete the routine, and it is not very difficult strength-work. I agree with Coach's assessment that it is essentially a cool-down.
2. It is not enough to take the place of regular strength routines - especially for me. Because it focuses a lot on the hips, I thought I might be ok using it as a substitute, but I wasn't. My hips started bothering me during runs. So I added the entire Myrtle routine into my warm-up, plus a long hip strengthening session a few times a week.
3. It seems a little unfocused to me. I think I just don't understand the science behind it well enough, but my perception is that I am doing a lot of different exercises for not long enough for anything to matter. I've thought about doubling the reps for everything, even - that seems more like your muscles would actually get fatigued.
4. The final routine is missing some components I'd like to include - namely, the full Myrtle routine, and planks. I added those in separately.
5. There is SOME, but not much, stretching in the routine.

My conclusion (totally personal conclusion, mind you) is that the progression didn't quite do it for me. I have limited time in the mornings, and since I have to focus on my hips and stretching problem areas, I can use my time better by doing targeted exercises. I do still complete one of the routines on occasion, but it's not something I've committed to doing every day.

Your thoughts on post-run? Have you tried these post-run workouts?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Not-even-close-to-four on the fourth

We love driving the hour up to Covington for the Fifteenth Street Flyer's annual Independence Day race. It's a fun four miler followed by beer, watermelon, bizarre feats of endurance (this year there was a push-ups contest and a donut-eating contest, among other offerings), and - the highlight of the day - the bikini beer mile.
I always forget how little traffic there is on a holiday morning: we got to Covington in 50 minutes, a good 15 minutes earlier than I'd planned. That gave us time to pick up our swag bags, which are still real, actual swag bags, the kind you just don't see at races anymore. Besides a tank-top (my favorite kind of race T-shirt), we got a flag, some notepads, two koozies, and sunglasses in our bags.

It was very muggy, but even being one hour north of the city brings a drop in temperature. It was in the low to mid 80's at the start and pleasantly overcast.
I did not really get a warm-up in. I waited too long, then I started talking, then I just did a short jog. I have been doing strides before races, which I like to do, but I skipped that today. I knew I'd just run 6:30's for 2 miles, so I thought 6:40's would be doable.
I lined up and looked around. I didn't recognize a lot of runners, since this is not a New Orleans race, but my friend Melissa was there. She's usually about my pace or faster. The "gun" for the race is string of fireworks, and soon we were off - ears covered!
Mile 1: It dawned on my as we started running that the course had changed from previous years and now the chatter I'd been hearing about construction in the area and course maps made sense. I'd prepared for an out-and-back with a strong headwind after the turn-around, but this was more a series of turns in the nearby neighborhoods. I was running 7:00 for the first quarter mile, and as the race thinned I picked it up a little. I started passing women. I didn't like how this was looking - I don't like being close to the front, but it seemed that most of these runners had started too fast. By the first mile, I'd caught up to Melissa, and was running close behind her.
Mile 2: I followed Melissa closely for the entire second mile. I didn't want to pass her, because I didn't want to lead, but I didn't want to breath down her neck, either. Because that's rude. We turned around a cone and she was now just steps ahead of me.
Mile 3: At the turnaround, I saw another young girl close to Melissa and I. I looked at my Garmin and realized that Melissa's pace was off now; I had to pass her. I ran side by side for awhile, then passed her quickly. Now we were seeing others running the opposite way, and I was hearing "First female!" but also, "Go ladies!" so I knew I had company. I didn't know how close, though!
When the mile 3 sign came up I was confused - it seemed way short. I scrolled my Garmin and yeah...that was not three miles.
Last part: The last part is the worst part. By the time I had passed Melissa, the race was almost over. I felt very good, and started thinking about speeding up. Then...I turned the corner and saw a finish line. No one was in front of me. And I was so confused. We were coming up to the park where the race starts on the right. Normally, with the old course, you ended the last quarter mile by looping around the park, and I thought surely that was the case here, too - we must turn right, go around the park, then finish. No way was this the end of the race - we weren't anywhere close to 4 miles! I started veering right and one of my friends, who'd already finished, was shouting, "Pick it up!" and I was all, "Huh?" Until a girl sped past me and across the line. That was the finish, right in front of me, no turning and looping around the park. The race was over, and I was second, with no time to even think about a burst of speed at the end. I finished confused, not at all out-of-breath, and kicking myself for not paying better attention.
The race was 3.75 on my Garmin - nowhere near 4 miles. If it had been 3.9 maybe I would have realized we were finishing,  but a full quarter short?! I was so sure we'd loop the park! Should have looked at the course map, and should have realized that a girl had been gaining on me. Totally the worst way to finish to be passed in the last seconds!
Post-race sweaty picture. Nice and overcast, at least! 
- My pace overall was 6:39, and I am happy with that, but in retrospect I could have gone faster. I didn't put enough effort into the race, and never felt tired, sick, or miserable like you should in a short race, haha. I think my 6:30's at the last 2-mile race were a little slow due to speed work that morning, so I should have aimed for 6:35 or even 6:30 for the 4-miler.
- I ran almost exactly even splits, slightly negative.
- Being passed at the finish sucks, but lesson learned - read the course map, and be aware of surroundings (hard to do when you are leading, btw).
- My age group award (they only do first and fourth overall and age group) was a bandana and a keychain made on a 3-D printer - they just churn out as many as they need! Kind of cool!
3-D printer amazingness. I bet we look back at this in a few years and marvel
at how bad the 3-D printing technology was way back in 2015.
- Everyone wears red, white, and blue to this race (in fact, there is a costume contest) but I did love my outfit! The new Coeur shorts are thinner material, which is great for summer. The tank top was actually perfect - light and cool. I'd wear it again for a race.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Creeped out

A few months ago, we were awakened in the middle of the night by someone trying to get into our house. He had opened our gate, entered our backyard, and was vigorously trying the back doorknob. Then he wandered the backyard for a few moments, during which time my foolish husband flung the door open and shouted, "What are you doing in my yard?!" To which the guy smirked, "Leaving" and David bellowed, "Then do it!"
Eventually off he slunk, after repeated attempts to get into our house, the landlord's side of the house, and the back shed.
It was pretty creepy, because he tried to enter our house for about 10 minutes. But we thought it was probably a disoriented drunk who ended up in the wrong yard and meant no real harm.
Totally creepy, though?
It happened again. Last night. The same guy.
This time David again stormed downstairs, but didn't go outside - I'd hollered at him last time because this guy could be armed. But he shouted through our backdoor window. "I see you! Get off my porch!" But the guy just stared back at him and rattled the knob, then tried prying the door with his fingers. He slammed the screen multiple times, and didn't budge off the porch. This time I persuaded David to call 9-1-1, but he could barely make a police report over the racket this guy was making with the door. It's a little scary to be upstairs in your own home hearing someone try to break in.
The police arrived in about 5 minutes and went straight to our yard, but he'd left minuets before. He left the gate open, the screen door ajar, and even opened our laundry room door. But he didn't steal a bike, which is funny, because I am TRYING to get one piece of crap bike stolen. It's not locked up, but it's so ugly not even an intruder will steal it.

I'm a little annoyed at this point. Twice? What does this guy want? He's not a neighbor, so it's not like he came home to a similar-style house on his street, too drunk to get the address right. David got a good look at him and didn't recognize him.

For now I'm being a little more vigilant about setting the alarm, but if it happens again I'm going to stay up all night with my shotgun.*

* I don't own a shotgun. I'd shoot my eye out.