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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Don't burn your bridges

This week I joined a few managers to conduct interviews at a pharmacy school career fair. It was a packed couple of days full of anxious students in their newly-purchased suits, hands shaking as they thrust their $1-per-sheet vellum in front of me. Of course, you meet all kinds of students: the highly involved, hardworking student with stellar grades; the student who volunteers for multiple charities every month; the student who is a published co-author of several papers; the student who never worked in a pharmacy; the student who has never worked at all, anywhere; the sociable student who is a member of every organization but is clinging to a low B average; the student who wore jeans and a sweatshirt - all types.

A few months ago I had a student at my site named Tiffany (not her real name). I am a preceptor, and take one or two students a month from our local pharmacy school. Upon entering the first morning, Tiffany announced, "I just want you to know that I really hate Walgreens. I think the system is stupid and like, everything is dumb. I begged and begged to get out of this rotation, but they wouldn't switch me, so - here I am!" (Dramatic giant shrug). This bitter attitude continued throughout the rotation, which made it hard to teach this otherwise bright girl. She constantly put Walgreens down, and did the bare minimum to pass the rotation. On her last day, she turned in a short assignment that was printed straight offline - no citation, no original work: in other words, plagiarism. Normally I would fail the rotation for that, but I'd submitted her grade that very morning! So instead she got a very stern reprimand, which she responded with the least penitence and grace possible.

So there I sat yesterday, whipping through an interview every 30 minutes, as our interview coordinator brought each student in and - who should be led up to my table? Yeah. Tiffany. She saw me and her face just FELL. Of course I conducted the interview with total tact and professionalism, but the conclusion was foregone. I was co-interviewing with another manager at that point, and he sensed my change in approach: I went from vocal and conversational, guiding responses, to flat reading the suggested interview questions (normally I just use those as a very loose guide). The interview was wrapping up in only a few minutes. "Is there anything else you want to ask?" he questioned me in surprise. "Oh, no," I said. "I think I know everything I need to know."

Moral of the story: Don't burn your bridges. Pharmacy is a small world.

Monday, October 26, 2015

I didn't go to the doctor

Last Saturday I was doing jump squats when my yoga mat slipped beneath me. I wrenched my knee a little bit, and by that evening, the inside back of my knee was pretty sore. I tried running on Sunday, and threw in the towel early - something was wrong. I consulted my handy dandy Jordan Metzl book, The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies, and determined that I had an MCL strain. The book also said that I should see a doctor, because any knee injury should have a doctor's attention. I decided to do as I was told, so I made an appointment to see my sports medicine doctor (the one who took over for my surgeon after he moved) on Wednesday.
I held off running at the moment, because it was bothering my knee, and because I had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason I strained the ligament was because my hamstring on that side was still tight and bothersome. By Monday I was much better, and by Wednesday really quite fine, but why skip the appointment? At least I could discuss the fact that my right leg keeps falling out of socket (seriously. How annoying).
Turns out that one of my bosses was in town last minute and wanted to see me. He emailed about this on Tuesday - so unfortunately I had to explain that I wouldn't be at work that afternoon. My appointment was at 2, and he was going to be available at 2! So I canceled plans with him, got up and went in to work early to make up for leaving early, left at 1:30, drove to my appointment, checked in, and...Sat there. For an hour. After waiting an entire hour, I asked the receptionist for a time estimation. She told me they were waiting on a room. Then the assistant (an exercise physiology student) came out and brought me back "for x-rays". Now this irritates the heck out of me about Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. Without ever seeing a doctor or other qualified health professional, and without anyone reviewing your chart, you are always immediately x-rayed. It's basically insurance fraud. I declined x-rays (duh, they would be useless in this complaint) and now had to wait in the imaging waiting area.
At 3:10, I got up and went to reception and asked to see the clinic manager. Well, the manager that day was actually in administration at the hospital, spending time at the sports medicine clinic that day because they were short staffed. So that was awkward, because I work with her downtown at the hospital. She explained that they'd overbooked the doctor and were running 1:30 behind. Seriously?! So call and tell me! Tell me and I will reschedule, cancel, see another doctor, come in later...anything. But to make me wait over an hour without a single word of update or explanation is unfair. I rearranged my whole schedule for nothing, because I left. I told her that I simply did not want to be treated like that as a patient, and I would transfer care elsewhere (now that my doctor is no longer there, I have no reason to go there  - it's not even convenient to my work since it's not at the hospital where I work, but offsite).
Since my knee doesn't hurt now - oh well. No big deal. But I am irritated at the waste of time. And I have to admit - I won't be recommending this clinic to my patients. I've had multiple bad experiences there: the wait is always very long, and this is the second time I left without being seen after over an hour. Twice I've scheduled an appointment that wasn't entered into the system, meaning that I left work and drove all the way over for nothing. So I'm over it. I'm switching care back to the doctor I saw before, even though YES he did misdiagnose my labral injuries for a good while. Hopefully I won't need to see him for a long time anyway!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Probably not.

Last week I hurt my MCL doing jump squats (I think Dr. Jordan Metzl's Iron Strength workouts are great in concept, and I'm really intrigued by the number of people who say that following his strength plan kept them injury-free, yet every time I start following the workouts, I get hurt!). So I'm probably not going to race next week. It's ok to run on after several days of ice alternating with heat, but I think the fact that it's my left leg points to an underlying issue - my tight hamstring. I probably wouldn't have hurt the ligament if my muscles were limber. That, or my squat form just sucks!

I did an abbreviated long run today - 10 miles - and taped the ligament before the run. It was miserably hot and humid today, and I sweated the tape loose in less than a mile, but once I warmed up it felt ok. Not 100%, but it wasn't really bothering me. Still, my gut says don't race. I have until the 27th to make a final decision.

Lately, I've been adding hills into my long runs. Since all of NOLA is totally flat, if we are ever in Bay St. Louis for the weekend (where we often meet friends), I run the Bay Bridge to get some elevation in. And when I'm home, I have been jogging the levee. My normal ten-mile route takes me over four hills: I get on the levee (hill 1), then I run downhill when the levee path dips down to ground level in front of the Army Corps of Engineers building (hill 2), then I go uphill when the path climbs back up to the top of the levee as I enter the Fly (hill 3), then finally downhill to exit the Fly and head to Audubon Park (hill 4). At each hill, I do five repeats - easy up, easy down. The Bar Harbor Half showed me how weak I am at climbing hills, and my hamstring strain was due to pulling with my left leg. So I'm keeping the reps very easy to prevent hurting my clearly weak hamstrings.

Other things I've been doing lately:
- Decreasing water breaks. Now that it's not deathly hot, I do one or two breaks. Today I drank water twice, even though I ran only ten miles, because it was mid-80's and humid (C'mon, fall, get it together!). I stop my Garmin for water breaks, because I usually have to wait for another runner or a biker, and I don't want too many breaks because then your pace is so off reality!
- No music. I stopped listening to music while I run a while ago, but kept it for long runs. But ever since my surgeries I only rarely listen to music. I have no real reason why! Just fell out of the habit!
- Fast finish. I've been trying to either fast finish (according to my training plan) or at least negative split long runs. This has not been hard to do, because for some reason my first mile has been super slow. Like, at least a minute slower than overall pace. I'm old and it takes me some time to warm up.
- Wearing those stupid Kinvara 6's. I guess I just have to deal with the smaller toe box. I was wearing Saucony Cortana's on my long runs over the summer, but I no longer like that shoe. It feels too heavy and too squishy and unstable.

How are your long runs lately?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wal-mart running shorts review

Since I have this secret addiction to Walmart brand coffee, I occasionally have the need for a few dollars' worth of merchandise to get me to the $50 required for free shipping (or I could go into the store, but NO. NEVER.).
This time, I threw in a pair of running shorts, on sale for $3. They are the Danskin Now Woman's Woven Running Short with Built In Liner. 

This is the color I got. 
I thought these would be awful shorts, because the material felt thick and unbreathable to me. But actually, they aren't the worst in the world. They have a mesh side panel, so they don't feel too hot, and the wide waist band stays in place. They have an itty bitty pathetic key pocket. 
But they're pretty nice for a cheap pair of shorts, and they aren't too balloon-y or too tight. 
My biggest complaint is that they're, obviously, cheaply made. They second time I wore them the key flew out as I was running, and I realized that there was a HOLE in the key pocket. It wore through with just one use. I can sew, so I firmly reinforced it, but that's really annoying and almost not even worth the time.
Other than that, they haven't fallen apart yet, so I would recommend them. As you can see, I set the bar very high on quality so you can totes trust me. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Work: it needs to go away

I'm kind of over my entire job. My new manager (post Spring restructuring) is a sweet and rather clueless man. For example, I needed #64 tablets of a backordered drug to complete a patient's prescription. He already had enough for 3 weeks, so no rush. I sent an email out asking if I could borrow 64 tablets, and no hurry because the patient had plenty. Then I closed my store for the weekend. Meanwhile, the emails were flying fast and furious, with my manager sending emails that there was an emergency shortage, and could we help Grace out, patient's life on the line, etc. I came back to work on Monday to over 1,000 pills transferred to my store (I will NEVER use that many tablets - this is the only prescription I've ever gotten for this drug).
Huge waste of time sorting back through all the emails and begging people to take their drugs back.

Then, we've been having conference calls in which twice we've been encouraged to do something that is no longer condoned by the company. It's a sticky little legal matter, and something our company used to espouse, but the fact is that two years ago our stance on the matter changed and the company issued a very clear policy on the subject. After the first conference call, I politely forwarded the policy to my manager with a reminder that this policy had changed, and a recommendation for a legal-approved way to handle it. He ignored it, and we were told to do the same exact incorrect procedure the next week.
I emailed him again, once again pointing to the P&P. He replied, "Well. I'll have to ask legal to clarify that."
THERE IS NOTHING TO CLARIFY. The policy is a clear as glass. It could not be more forthright. One more push to do something that is against company policy and considered, by our lawyers at least, to be illegal and I'm done being cute. I'm calling the ethics department. This is absurd.

Then, all my patients are crazy, and that's just getting exhausting.
We have this guy who has rapidly progressed in his hypochondria, and now he's veering toward paranoia as well. Today he drove to the hospital, went to his routine appointment, and came to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. While there he told me he had a question to ask me, and proceeded to tell me that he was pretty sure someone was putting poison in his house that was making his mouth taste funny. I asked if he'd had repairs done, or his house cleaned, or yardwork done. "Oh, no," he whispered. "It's people intentionally spreading poison. I know, because this guy was in my yard in a mask with a spray can. And I jumped out with a knife and told him to get out of my yard or I'd call the police. AND HE RAN. Would he run if he wasn't guilty?" Um, perhaps it was the knife that made him run?
So anyway, his question. He wanted to know if he should go to the emergency room after this incident. Yep, after coolly driving himself to the doctor, seeing his doctor, seeing me, and having no symptoms whatsoever, he wants to go to the ER because someone was spraying RoundUp in his yard. Seriously. No wonder our healthcare system is floundering.

And then there was the tantrum over our registers. We recently switched over to using a chip card reader, and a woman refused to use it because she was sure it was the mark of the beast referred to in Revelations. She would not insert her card. So I had to manually key the numbers in and call her credit card company for authorization. Next time you wonder why your prescription is taking so long, blame the antichrist.

Over it. Time to retire.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

To race or not to race?

The half-marathon I've been training for is coming up in two weeks. I still haven't registered for it, despite the whopping price increases, because I try not to register early given my recent injury history. In the end, late registration averages out to less money than skipping races or dropping to shorter distances!
Now I'm wondering if I should go through with the race. I don't feel like I'm any faster than I was a month ago at the half in Bar Harbor!
I missed several days when I first strained my hamstring, then the following week I mostly slowed my pace and shortened distances. Those were two key weeks of important workouts missed or edited. I really only got back on the training plan this past week; even then, I'm a little hindered by my hamstring, which is still healing. As long as it feels pulled, I am running with a shorter (slower) stride. As a result, I feel like I'm almost exactly in the same place as I was for the last race, which ended with a disappointing 1:37.
So I'm wondering if the race is worth it, or if I should count this training plan toward base building, and refocus on some upcoming shorter distance races in our area. The local race calendar features the Crescent City Fall Classic and the Middendorf's Manchac Race; since Middendorf's now offers a 10k in addition to a 10 miler, both the Fall Classic or Middendorf's could be used as qualifiers for next year's Crescent City Classic. I want to run a qualifier, but I'm faced with a debate: the 5k, which distance I dislike? Or the 10k? I enjoy the distance, but I love the 10 mile option, too, and I'd hate to miss it!
If I run the half marathon anyway (which I'm still leaning towards at the moment), I'll have no time at all to train for a 5k or 10k, and the 5k is just the next week, so a fast race probably won't happen. Lots of factors to consider for this decision.

Thoughts? Should I stick to the plan and do the Jazz half, or move on to other races?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Questioning Hal

Far be it from me to pretend I know more than the revered Hal Higdon.
Yet there are some parts of this half-marathon plan I'm using that I just don't understand.
For example:
- Every single week, from week one on up, there is a day with 3 to 5 miles at goal half-marathon pace, either stand alone or at the end of a long run. Yet speed work on week 8 and week 10 includes 3x1600 and 4x1600 at race pace. Makes no sense to me at all. I can see 3 or 4x1600 at race pace the final week (week 12) as a way to get a feel for the pace, but otherwise? That's not very impressive speed work when the very same week you have to run 5 miles straight at that pace.
- Every single week includes two easy 3 mile runs. I don't know what these are supposed to do. I don't understand their function. I wouldn't even be running 3 miles easy if I was training for a mile race.
- Most of the speed work seems too short to me: 6x400, 5x800, etc.
- The overall mileage, as the plan is written, is in the low to mid 30's. If I were faster, I could get more miles in the timed long runs (they are either 1:30, 1:45 or 2:00 long), but even then, it's not a lot of miles. I really wonder if this is enough miles...but not as much as I wonder why I have all these easy 3 milers.

Of course, I modified the plan. I would much rather run an easy five to seven miles than an easy three. So some of those I've lengthened. That bumps my weekly mileage up, too, although I still think I won't get over 40 for the duration of the plan. Or maybe once or twice.
Other than the occasional increase on easy runs, I've stuck to the plan, since I do still think Hal Higdon must know more than I do! My half marathon is on Halloween weekend, so I will know soon enough if it worked. So far I'm not feeling especially strong or fast, but part of that could be because I reduced intensity / miles slightly due to my hamstring strain (poor timing). It is still bothering me a little, but it gets a smidge better each day.

Besides those tiny modifications, I've been pretty good about following directions. I'm going to stick to the plan for the duration, and we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Saints game at the Bay

We did it! We finally realized a dream and watched a Saints game while kicked back at The Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis. It was our good friend's idea - the breeze blowing through the windows right on the beach while the Saints defense proudly stood their ground, the offensive line let Drew Brees do his thing, and the offense played penalty-less, clean, concise ball.

Er. As you know, none of all that happened. But we did have drinks by the water with friends, and the setting was really perfect. The bar is all open-air and right on the bay beach, and the weather was sunny and low 80's - ideal. If only the Saints had won...or, like we said in the old days, just lost with dignity. I think it's time for the Ain'ts again.

We had our godchildren for the weekend at the Bay with us, and had a lovely time, although no pics for you since I haven't asked mom's permission yet. But we flew kites, made personal pizzas, read lots of books, and painted pumpkins. A nice break from work!

Oh, and I took advantage of the Bay Bridge for a hilly 12 miler. Got to get "hills" where you can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reality check

The Bar Harbor half marathon was a running reality check for me. It brought home a few factors that I ought to be aware of:

- I am old(er) than when I was a little faster.
- I no longer have a good, strong distance base. I ran distance consistently for several years before ever running a half marathon under 1:40 the first time. Right now, a half marathon is the farthest I've run in almost two years.
- I, um, have gained weight. This is a tricky issue to talk about, because I'm still a healthy weight, I was just faster when I was lighter. After my first surgery, I gained ten pounds. When I was able to exercise again, I lost five. The other five stayed. I repeated that performance after the second surgery, and now I'm dragging an extra ten pounds around the race course. It's not easy.
- I have a changed stride. One frustration from the surgeries is that my extension is shortened.
- I have been running my workouts too fast. I was basing my workouts off about a 1:34 half marathon, which is what I guessed (loftily hoped?) I was capable of, but I'm nowhere close. Time to slow it down a little!

Now I need to figure out how to get some speed and endurance back. I think I need:
- Slower workouts
- Probably fewer hard runs. I don't do well with lots of tough runs.
- I should probably try to lose these extra pounds - ugh, boo. I love my food.
- More distance

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bar Harbor Half Marathon race review

Race website:

Pre-race info, registration, and logistics:
You can register online up until Tuesday of the race week. Website is unclear and hard to read; information was hard to find. There is no race day registration. Packet pick up was the night before (where? Who knows? It wasn't listed. The website just said, "packet pickup on Friday at x:xx". I finally found it under the FAQ's); however, you could request race morning pick-up, which I did. Cost at any time was $100 for the half, which is...steep. Just like the hills. But it supports the YMCA, so I guess that's ok. Speaking of the YMCA, if you bring your own soap and towel, you can shower at the Y after the race, which is exactly what I did since we continued on from the race straight to the airport to fly home.

Lodging and transportation:
This is a race far away in the corner of the world on an island, so I assume you'd only run it if you were staying on Mount Desert Island! No roads are closed, so you can get to the race easily. 
That is hideous.

Swag: The worst race shirt I have ever received in my life and a bottle of vinegar from a local store, plus lots of coupons and fliers. The shirt is advertised as "long sleeved tech T" and instead it is a terrible shapeless short sleeved nightmare with a neckline so tight that I can't actually get it over my head. The medal is unique and lovely, one of my favorites, and I will certainly be turning this into a Christmas tree ornament.
Non-metal medal in the shape of Mt. Desert Island

The course is a "challenging" (as the website describes it) loop course comprising streets of Bar Harbor and 9 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park. I found the course to be quite hilly, but take it with a grain of salt, since I run only flats usually. But for comparison, the week before I ran my regular long run of 12.5 miles at the same pace as the race! The park is incredibly beautiful, especially as you circle Eagle Lake, but it is lots of ups and downs and it's on gravel paths. They are generally fine for running, but you have to run where the path is more packed down - the gravel is looser and deeper on the sides, and it's a waste of energy to try to run through it. 
Entering the gravel carriage roads (and grabbing water)

Not much is actually on the roads, and Bar Harbor at this time of year doesn't have crazy traffic, but I still didn't love that the roads were not closed. The race course wasn't even coned off or anything. It was just me and the highway traffic. 
Plus side to the hilly course: it ends with a steeply downhill mile. Odd part of the course: you head into a playing field to finish and have to make a sharp left turn at like, 13.05. Weird and poorly planned IMO.
Interestingly, Joan Benoit Samuelson holds the women's course record in 1:17:06!

Aid stations:
There are six; two have Gatorade in addition to water. 

 Gun-timed. First three overall and first three in age groups. The director was nice enough to let me get my AG award early, and allow me to swap a restaurant gift certificate (we were leaving ASAP) for a box of locally-made blueberry tea. Plus the ubiquitous Road ID coupon, which I sold on Ebay.

- The race is capped at 400 runners, and I think we got close to that number, so sign up early. 
- Remember the gravel when choosing shoes (I was fine in Kinvaras, but for you racing flat types, that might hurt).
- There are few, if any, spectators, so if spectators are your thing, I wouldn't do this race. 
- There are no cars on the carriage roads, but there are bicyclists and regular runners and walkers to watch out for.

Monday, October 5, 2015

No wonder that hurt.

I am seriously questioning this Hal Higdon half-marathon plan I have been loosely following. I actually have a more detailed post about that half-written, but what really jumped out to me as I nursed my sore hamstring this week was the week following my half marathon. Here's what the plan looks like:

(Instead of a 10k race, I ran a half-marathon)
So you see, the plan calls for some tapering prior to the race, which I was happy to do since I was on vacation that week anyway. That makes sense, but the week following the race - not only is there no recovery period at all, the intensity increases!
- The speed work intervals jump from 400m to 800m for the first time
- The tempo goes back to 45 minutes, which it's only hit once before in the entire training cycle
- The long run extends to an hour and 45 minutes from 90 minutes
- AND it's a 3/1 run, which means the final quarter of the run is run at fast finish
- The day before the long run is switched from "easy" to "pace" - which means race pace miles, usually reserved for weeks when the long run is not fast finish
- AND the "pace" miles jump from 3 miles to 4 miles.

So let's see - the week after a race I'm increasing speed workouts, intensity, and distance? No wonder my hamstring hurt.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hamstring is so much better

This week went like this:
Sunday: ran 3 miles (day after long run; realized my hamstring hurt)
Monday: took off to rest hamstring
Tuesday: Felt great and ran 5.5 including 1 mile repeats at race pace (which I estimated around 7:00 to 7:10?). But by end of the run, hamstring hurt; I was limping by that evening. So...
Wed and Thurs: off. Gradual improvement.
I didn't want to skip my long run, but I won't be able to run this Saturday because we're doing a volunteer activity that morning (7 am to 10 am - and any time later than that, and my run will automatically suck).So I got up a little earlier this morning. I checked my hamstring out, and it was just a little sore. I put on some KT tape and headed out. It was nice out! Cool weather! I was a little slow at first because it was still dark and our sidewalks are very uneven. And then I was a little slow even after the sun came up, because I'm determined to make hills a habit. So this time, I worked in 4x5 hill repeats.I don't run the hills fast, just same effort up and down. These are short hills: a tenth of a mile or shorter. I can't believe how hard this is for me: definitely a weakness! My hamstring most certainly bothered me on the uphills, but it was much, much better. I should be back to normal in no time.
Friday: 12.5 miles in gorgeous weather with 20 short hill repeats.
Saturday will be off (again!)

Hopefully I'll be 100% by sometime next week.
Anyone with any hamstring strain success stories have any advice for me? I'd appreciate it!