Monday, December 7, 2009

The Case of the Mystery Pain: Part I

On October 24th I went out for a 7 mile speed workout.  It was my third run after having taken a week off with acute bronchitis.  The first two runs had been easy and uneventful.  During the run, at around mile 5 I felt a sudden and surprising pain in my left leg.  The weird thing was, I couldn't tell you where the pain was centered.  It was sort of global. 

Naturally, I ran through the pain, very pleased with myself for completing my workout in my goal time.  Then I walked home and laid down on the floor in agony.  For the next few days the pain did not improve.  It was worse when I took a step on the left side, but it never went away. 

I saw the doctor on the first day I could get an appointment, which was Oct.27th.  The first question I asked was, did I need an x-ray to rule out a stress fracture.  But because I couldn't precisely locate the epicenter of the problem, the doctor diagnosed me with 'fascial pain', gave me a prescription for some strong anti-inflammatories, and told me to walk when it felt fine to walk, and run when it felt fine to run.  She said I would not do any damage by running on the sore leg.

Two days later we jetted to New York City where we walked about 3-5 miles a day and where I managed a 6 mile run.  It was painful, but not unbearable until the last mile or so..  Every evening after walking all day my leg killed me.  But every morning it felt fine, so I figured it wasn't getting worse.

I went back to the doctor on Nov. 6th and reported the pain had not gone away as expected.  I also let her know that my hip seemed to be the worst area now.  At that she sent me to a chiropractor, suspecting my hip might be out of alignment causing issues all the way down the leg.

To be continued....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Running Bébé Takes Manhattan: Day 5

Today we headed down to Lower Manhattan to wander around and also to go look at wallets at Century 21. We don't have those in Canada (Century 21's, not wallets). The department store was super crowded, so we did a lot more walking around outside than in the store.

Ian sipping coffee with Trinity Church in the distance behind him

It was a perfect day for aimless meandering through the streets - not too hot, not too cold, and not raining.

New York Stock Exchange Me on the steps of Federal Hall , which was the original capitol of the United States
Back at our room we were treated to quite a show, as the USS New York docked right in front of our hotel (picture above taken from our room!). Apparently part of the hull is made from steel salvaged at Ground Zero. Being our last day I thought it was important to get some shots of our room, which was AWESOME. This images don't do the hotel justice, but they're better than nothing.

Fabulous walk-in shower

View from the lounge area into the bedroom beyond

We had a great time in New York, and we highly recommend the Ink48 Hotel. The service is amazing, the rooms are well-appointed, and since the hotel only opened in October - everything is shiny and new!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Running Bébé Takes Manhattan: Day 4

Today we had a lot of fun exploring the modern galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Upper East Side. We LOVE modern art. We also saw the important Vermeer exhibit, including the famous painting of "The Milkmaid":
To be honest I'm not really one for Dutch masters. This stuff is way more fun if you ask me:

"Spectrum V" by Ellsworth Kelly, ca. 1969

As usual I was obsessed with finding funny shots at the museum, like this one I took of Ian - which was not staged. He had no idea until he saw this picture.

The painting, "Mark" by Chuck Close ca. 1978-79
Me admiring Jackson Pollock's "Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)", ca.1950

The Mall

After fun at the Museum, we cut back to the West Side across the park. After some pleading on my part, Ian agreed to take a rowboat out on the Lake, something we never got around to the 2 years we lived in the city...

There's a video of me rowing here and one of Ian rowing here.

A good day all around.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Running Bébé Takes Manhattan: Days 2 & 3

Day 2:  Halloween

Halloween night in New York City we were, literally, the only people NOT dressed up in costumes.  Check out this group on the subway platform at 50th Street:

They were good sports, they even struck a pose

Naive as we were, we thought it would be easy to take the subway down to the East Village, where we were meeting our friends for dinner.  When we exited the train at West 4th, this is what we encountered:

Packed like sardines at the W.4th subway station

We were stuck in that crowd for a good 20 minutes, and then I realized we actually needt to TRANSFER, not exit.  So we had to go BACK through that mess (against the crowd)!

Day 3:  The New York Marathon

I got up pretty early to meet my friend (Fellow Runner, Jeannie) in Queens at Mile 14.  I got a HUGE thrill when I saw the lead women run by, especially my all-time-favourite runner, Paula Radcliffe.  She looked great!  And tough!  Click HERE for the video!

Later on we headed into Manhattan, and managed to see the elite men run down off the 59th Street Bridge onto 1st Avenue.  There was a lot of loud cheering going on there, and the runners were eating it up!

Next stop was Mile 26 on Central Park South.  The marathon was slower than I expected, so we were actually able to see the lead women AGAIN!  Paula had dropped back and she really looked like she was hurting.  Her face was the giveaway.  I cheered "GO PAULA" as loud as I could, hope it helped.

Next, we got to see the lead men, Meb Keflezighi was way out in front haulin' ass!  He looked quite relaxed and confident too!

Here's Meb in the lead with about 1/2 mile to go!

Amserican runner, Ryan Hall didn't look like he was lovin' life the last 1/2 mile

Here are Jeannie & I in our "Paual is NYC Marathon Royalty" crowns

Friday, October 30, 2009

Running Bébé Takes Manhattan: Day 1

We had a very full day today in New York.  I tried to log my miles walked on the Garmin, but I kept forgetting to turn it on and off and then it would sort of go to sleep on me.  I want to say I probably walked about 4 or 5 miles.  My feet are telling me that it was at least that.

Late this afternoon I headed back to hotel to meet Ian for a run.  There was a little map in our room showing a 2, 4, and 6 mile running route along the Hudson River on a path.  We headed out hoping to do the 6 miles, with a few walk breaks.  I've been having leg issues so I wanted to be conservative.

The leg hurt right away when I started to run - mostly around the hip.  After a few minutes it didn't feel too bad.  We ran 1 mile, took a little walk / stretch break, then started running again.  Last 2 miles we ran without a break.

It was breezy and cool.  I was happy to have the arm warmers.  We saw quite a few runners - and most of them were super fast. Not sure what that's all about.

Celebrity sightings:  1
I walked right past Kathleen Turner on W.70th & Broadway.

Rat Sightings: 0

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Experiences

I have to look on the bright side. I've been running consistently for just shy of three years, and before this month I had never been sidelined due to illness or injury.

That's pretty remarkable when you think of it. Ok, truth be told, I had to take some rest days after the Worst Hangover Ever last July. Anyway, I was back to running no time.

Injury wise, I've had the odd ache and pain here and there. I have to ice my knees and ankles regularly to keep myself going. There have been periods in my training when I may have abused Ibuprofin just a little bit. But I can honestly say that none of these problems have resulted in a visit to the doctor or a layoff from running. If anything, they've been minor inconveniences.

Well, things took a turn this summer when I became inexplicably sluggish and wiped out. Turned out I had an iron deficiency. A few weeks of iron therapy and I started to see improvements. I was feeling like maybe it would all work out just fine and I'd be in great shape for a December marathon.

Then, out of the blue, and without warning, a couple of weeks ago I was stricken down with a severe bout of Bronchitis. It was so bad, that when I went to the doctor to have it looked at, he said I was having an asthma attack and send me home with 2 inhalers and a course of antibiotics. I was out of commission for about a week.

What bronchitis does to your lungs

Finally, last Monday, I woke up before my alarm with a spring in my step and took a deep, invigorating breath. I was ready to run! I decided to start conservatively with an easy 3 miler. It was great to be back at it, and I felt fantastic.  My marathon advisor, John, had me run another easy 7 miles the next day, which also went swimmingly! Two days later I was ready for something more intensive.

I headed out for a 7 mile tempo run, with the aim to run an easy 2 miles, speed up a bit for the middle 3, and then run the last 2 miles at a fairly speedy pace. Just a little ways into the last 2 miles I felt a sudden pain in my left leg. I was determined not to fail this time, so I pushed past the pain and finished my run in the desired time.

But by the time I got home I was hobbling and was relieved to be able to lie down on the floor.

I am still struggling to figure out exactly what the heck is wrong with my leg. I can't even really pinpoint where the pain is. When I ran I could feel some achiness in my hip. Afterwards it was more mid-shin. After sitting all day it seems to be at the front of my ankle, where my leg meets the foot.

I'm heading to the walk-in clinic to see my doctor in a couple of minutes, and I'll update this after I see her. I doubt she'll be able to tell me much, but it's a first step...

Ok, I'm back from the doctor's office with good news.  Doc thinks it's "fascial pain" and NOT a stress fracture.  She thinks the fact that the achiness is migrating around my leg is a sure sign it's a nerve thing and not a bone thing.  This is great news!  The doctor wrote me a prescription for some heavy duty anti-inflammatories which I'm to take 3 times a day with meals.  She thinks the pain should go away when the inflamation dies down.  I am cleared to walk and if it feels ok to try running at any time.  As long as I'm pain free I can keep increasing the intensity.  Best of all, the doctor felt that I should be back to normal in a week!

So I better keep my cross-training up...Sounds like I'll be back to running soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Guest Blog: The Portland Marathon 2009 Recap

This race report was graciously provided by my fellow Team Point Two teammate, Donna, who was the first of the group to complete her goal marathon on October 4th. 

Starting with the Oct 3rd race bib pickup, and Sports Expo, Portland Hilton

Drove with my family and to Parents in-law to drop off our children for the night, and my husband I and were off to Portland Oregon. We drove through Goldendale and saw lots of Indian reservations and the wild mustang horses, beautiful fall colors just starting. Then over Sates pass to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, Dales Oregon.

The Gorge

We arrived in Portland at 6 pm and went straight to the Hilton Portland where we picked up my race bib and race chip barcode tag (new state of technology for me). We had about ½ hour to venture the sports expo before closing.


The biomechanic feedback station caught my eye, so I strolled over, put on a pair of their Nike racing flats on hopped on the a treadmill for a video analysis. The Physical Therapist studied my gait after playing it back in slow motion, she said I had a neutral foot plant with no signs of over pronation or ankles angling inward. She said, “Wow you have really strong feet”. “Thank you.” I replied, and chuckled under my breath.  Little does she know I train in racing flats and run barefoot in the sand and grass. So five stars for forefoot running, Chi running, and Vibram soles.

Race Day
Well, lets get to the Nitty Gritty of the race. Race morning Oct 4th came with a bang. We stayed at a La Quinta Hotel and they forgot to give us our 5 am wake up call. Thankfully I woke up at 5:35 screeching “Yikes, oh shit…. we gotta go” they never gave us a wake up call!” So 20 min. later, my husband and I drove to downtown Portland, a damp Dewey 40 degree morning perfect for racing. We found a parking garage for $5.00 a day. I put on sweats, earmuffs, and gloves, and then trotted in the parking lot while my husband Reidar put his Mt. Bike together.

Donna could've used one of these

We both started in the direction of 1st and Salmon Ave where the start was. We were amazed to see along the way how many runners were camping out inside Starbucks for their last minute caffeine fix.

Race started at 7 am and it was now 6:30. After finding where the runners with bibs could legally enter, I hung out with my husband until the final departure. We befriended a Father/daughter couple that was both very friendly. The daughter was 28 years old and was planning on qualifying for Boston by running a 3:40. Her father was there on his Mt. Bike as well in order to support her at various spots in the race. Hence, my husband Reidar had had a buddy to hang out with.

And they're off!

I kissed my husband and departed into the chute. I found my way in the cluster of wall-to-wall runners (believe me this was tough, since I’m so claustrophobic) to the 3:40 pace group. At 6:55 the National Anthem was sung by a retired Opera Singer, now running the marathon. The gun goes off at 7:00 am and the wheel chair marathoners are off, a minute goes by and we’re off. Lots of intense cheering, three miles into the race people are tossing this and that of various clothing to the sidelines. Gloves, hats, sweats, just a heaven for the homeless that roam the street afterwards. I was happy for them. 

Portland Marathon

The 9-mile mark was a turn around with bands playing. Felt amazingly well inside a pack of runners it was like being pulled along effortlessly. It reminded me of a long time ago back in the 80’s on the track running the 1500 meters and being boxed in. I never used my iPod, the entire marathon. I just soaked in the atmosphere.

An Unscheduled Stop

14, 15 miles? I was at the tail end of 3:45 pace group when a whistle blows! A freight train was coming. We had to be stopped as angry runners cry” This is insane! No way, not fair!” I was upset at first since it takes you off guard and off rhythm. So, we were told to stop our watches and account for the loss at the finish. I had a 2 min 23 sec. delay.

Example of a freight train

Pushing Through
At mile 16 I was feeling my right hamstring start nagging, right calf start twinging, then decided to wait it out. Sure enough it went away. Mile 17 was the famous ½ mile hill, up and over St Johns Bridge. I was starting to stiffen up a bit. By the 20 mile I knew the race was over for me. When I wanted to start to race and kick it in, it clearly was not going to happen. I was down to a 9 min pace, shuffling, and hanging on. I told myself if the pain is only this great and won’t get worse, then just maintain. I started to think of my teammates “TeamPointTwo.” I said now listen “D”, Susan, LJ, Chris, Jamie, Nicole, Tony and your coach John J. Ellis are pulling for you right now. So, come on girl, hang in there.

I took my first race GU from the aid table at mile 23, it was called liquid gold. It was an amazing!!!! Tasted like Amber Honey. It gave me an energy boost.

The last mile was definitely the longest and never seem to end, in fact my mantra at that point was, E.T. Phone home….. E.T. Phone home…. E.T. Phone home….

The Big Finish!

My finish was a blur muffled with cheering. My pained body hit the Finish Plate Sensor. The finished runners were guided through (what seemed to be eternity #2), wobbling another ¾ of a mile in order to get out. I asked myself, “So D would you do this again?” I answered…. Yep!

Finishing time without freight Train Adjustment: 3:59
With re-adjusted time: 3:56.23

Monday, October 5, 2009

9 Weeks to Vegas and a Lack of Motivation

Lately I've been feeling a certain lack of drive to run or to reach my running goals, the most notable being a 3:45 finish time at the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. I have been finding it harder, mentally, to keep running when I'm tired or sick of running. I've been tired and sick of running more often. I've been tired even when I'm not running. I've been sick of talking about running. This leaves me feeling: 1) Inadequate as a person and 2) SUPER guilty about not stepping up for the Team (Team Point Two) and my Running Advisor John Ellis. Why can't I just pull up my socks and go for it? Time and time again I find myself quitting or slowing down because it's easier than pushing through. This morning I had a stress test, which confirmed what John & I predicted: There's nothing physically wrong with me. A while back, when I was at the peak of my running "obsession", I was asked if I'd ever stop. I responded that I thought I'd stop when I stopped improving. I kind of feel like that's what's happened this year. I have been running consistently for almost 3 years now, with almost constant improvement in my race times. This was going to be my breakout year, when, with John's guidance and the support of a Team I would push my physical limits and find out what I was made of. I thought that would mean seeing big improvements in my race times and mounting enthuiasm as marathon day approached. Instead all of this training and guidance has left me with a constant feeling of inadequacy and a realization that maybe this is as good as I'm going to get. Maybe my problem is that I just don't enjoy pushing myself hard physically. I don't know. Anyway, I'm not looking for sympathy here. If anyone deserves sympathy its John, because he's doing his job week after week, and I'm not coming through. Going forward my plan is to take it week by week. This week all I can do is to try my best to hit all my targets and finish all my workouts. Oh, to end things on a positive note, I DID buy a SUPER CUTE new running outfit which I plan to wear in Vegas. I also made a groovy new playlist that should give me a bit of a lift when I'm running.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Mini-Vacation from Running

After last weekend's disheartening performance at the Peace Arch Rotary Half-Marathon, my running advisor, John Ellis, took pity on me and essentially gave me the week off.  My only task was to get in 4 good workouts. 

On Monday and Tuesday I rested, and on Wednesday I decided to try to swim 2000m nonstop.  I completed this workout at the Vancouver Aquatic Center during one of the busiest times of the day (5:30-6:30pm).  It was SO crowded you really had to pay attention to avoid crashing into people passing other swimmers!  I alternated between breaststroke and frontcrawl and completed the swim in about 52 minutes.

Thursday I rested again and on Friday I decided to go for a 5K run and see how fast I could do it.  I ran the first mile in 8 minutes, but then I hit some kind of wall and needed a walk break to catch my breath and get my heart to stop pounding in my ears.  I ran the second mile in about 10:30 and the last in close to 11:00.  There was a lot of walking in there.  I just felt like I couldn't run!  It was not very nice.

On Saturday I went for a really fun mountain bike ride with Ian on the Valley Trail in Whistler.  I didn't wear a watch or HR monitor, all I know is we went for an hour and a half and there were some big hills in there, here are a couple of pictures:

Ian ahead of me on the trail

Here I am on my rented Giant Reign Mountain bike

Here's a bit of trail that I WALKED my bike on (chicken!)

Here's Ian checking the map

On Sunday I ran the Whistler Spirit Run in the Whistler Olympic Park.  It's the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympic Nordic Skiing, Biathlon, and Ski Jumping.  The point of the race from my perspective was to:

1. FINISH a race
2. Have fun running in a race
3. Get a good workout

The setting was absolutely stunning, check out the pictures we took:

I don't know the name of this mountain but it sure is pretty

This is the Olympic Ski Jump.  Crazy.

First race I've been to with a Jumbotron

I'm in there somewhere

This is near the end, probably less than a mile from the finish

Here's me making a strong finish!

My final time was around 1:01.  I am pretty happy with it because there were some WICKED hils on this run!  I'm also happy because it was my first trail race ever, so in a way it's kind of like a new PR....

Onwards and upwards, this week I'm going to do the best I can and take it as it comes (no races planned for a while!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My So-Called Race Report

This SHOULD be a light-hearted description of a triumphant half-marathon performance. Instead it is another tale of failure. Yes, I dropped out of a race for the second time this morning after running all of 4 miles. It's the fourth bad race experience I've had in a row. I have to be honest. I'm not keen to sign up for another race at this point. Next week I get the pleasure of my annual performance review at The Office. I will be asked why I haven't finished my professional exams (which was my stated goal last year) and I'll be faced with the prospect of telling my boss I'm too busy playing make-believe-athlete to spend extra time on my career. In case you are really curious what happpend today I can't really say, other than that I felt fine in the morning. I arrived early to the race site. I warmed up and stretched dutifully before the start. I ran the first mile at my intended pace (8:33/mile) and expected to do so for all 13.1 miles. The pace felt a bit fast, but I kept telling myself I just had to get used to it. By around mile 3 I felt the need for a short walk break, hoping that just catching my breath would be enough to get me back on track. I started running again and noticed my time getting slower and slower. By the time I got to mile 4 it was clear that the only way I would finish would be at a 10:00/ mile pace. I was too upset to go on and decided I would rather not finish at all if that was the best I could do. Right now I'm not even sure I want to run any more, much less train for a marathon. I really wish I hadn't gone and told EVERYONE on the planet Earth I'm trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Who's idea was that?!? Am I feeling sorry for myself? Yeah, a bit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

X-Training: Second Beach Pool

On Monday, August 31st I took my last swim of the summer at the outdoor Second Beach Pool. Swimming at Second Beach was one of the hightlights of my summer this year.  After living in Vancouver for over 10 years I had never swum there until I was required to add cross-training to my marathon training plan - thanks to my TEAM POINT TWO marathon advisor John Ellis. It was so great to ride my bike on the seawall along the shores of Vancouver to Stanley Park, where the Second Beach Pool sits on the edge of the park, right along the Pacific Ocean.

As you can see, the pool temperature is kept at a compfortable 20C / 80F.
Here's a shot looking at the swimming lanes from the pool deck.
This was an unusually hot summer in Vancouver, with 2 days in a row setting all time temperature records.  That put the wildfire risk to EXTREME.
Here's another shot of the swimming lanes.  The pool is HUGE and there are fast, medium, and slow swimming lanes roped off.  The lanes are 50m in length.
Sunset on the pool and the seawall and ocean beyond.  There are a couple of slides for kids, one of which you can see on the far end of the pool.  Note the runners in the foreground.
Here's a shot on the waterfront side of the pool.  This is the Stanley Park seawall, which I frequently use as a running route.  The fence on the right surounds the pool.  There are a few freighters in the background, which are common in the English Bay area.
I'm sad to see this part of the summer go, but I do prefer to run in cooler temperatures and luckily there are plenty of indoor pools I can use.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pumping Iron

In recent weeks, especially during the month of July, I did not feel like myself at all.  Despite my best intentions I could not, for the life of me, stick to my training schedule.  Runs that were easy only a short time before seemed impossible.  Running at anything faster than a 10:00/mile pace seemed outrageously hard.  After a few days like this I started to take notice of a whole cluster of "symptoms", including:

1. Weakness (i.e. muscles felt tired, weak, powerless)
2. Tiredness (needing to take lots and lots of naps)
3. Dizziness (only on a couple of occasions, but still, it's not normal!)
4. Grumpiness (some might say this is not so much a symptom as a personality trait, but whatev)
5. Headaches
6. Paleness (especially my gums and the red part of my lower eyelids)
7.Shortness of breath (especially during workouts, but also climbing hills or stairs)
8. Trouble concentrating ("What was I going just doing?")
9. Loss of endurance (not feeling like I could finish a workout that was easy a couple of weeks prior)
10. High exercise heart rate (I mean, like running at a 13:00/mile pace with a HR of 153 bpm!)
13. Loss of interest in exercise (Do I HAVE to!?)
14. Poor appetite (this is SOOOO not normal for me!!)

A visit to my doctor, and a blood test or two later, and there you have it:  I was iron deficient!  Why, you might ask, would iron deficiency be such a big deal for a runner like me?

1.  Iron makes red blood cells.
2.  Red blood cells carry hemoglobin.
3.  Hemoglobin carries oxygen around to different parts of your body.
4.  If there is less oxygen transported through the body, your athletic performance drops.
Imagine the iron in your body is the steel that is used to build a ship. 
This ship is very important because it's carrying containers (hemoglobin) which are loaded with food (oxygen) to feed the city (your body).


If there isn't enough food (oxygen)  to go around, the the city (your body) will suffer from a famine (a drop in performance).
I'm not sure if this is a very good analolgy, but my point is, this explains why I've been feeling so rotten for the past several weeks!  Not enough oxygen! 
Once my diagnosis was confirmed, my doctor prescribed a course of iron therapy, which for me means taking a 300mg ferrus sulphate tablet once a day for 3 months. (Note:  Iron pills, if not needed,  can cause major issues like too much iron in your blood and irreversable damage to your body.  So don't take iron unless your doctor prescribes it!!)

I've been doing some reading up on iron deficiency, and it turns out that I was at particularly high-risk because of my low-fat, high carb, no red meat  diet, being a female of child-bearing age, and endurance training.
Here's what I am planning to do to prevent this from happening again:
1. The iron in red meat is more readily absorbed by the body than the iron found in plants, so I'll be eating it twice a week from now on.
2. Taking vitamin C with my iron pills or my iron-rich foods, which will help my body absorb it better.

3.  Tannins in red wine, coffee, and tea can allegedly make it harder to absorb iron, so I need to at least TRY to cut back on the wine with dinner and the caffeine.

4.  Use my cast-iron pots and pans more often. Iron in the cookware will leach into foods (especially acidic ones like spaghetti sauce).  Normally things "leaching into foods" is a cause for alarm, but in this case it's a good thing.

So far so good, I've been taking the iron for a few weeks now and am feeling way more like myself.  Hopefuly my NEXT race will be a raging success!  No more bad race reports!!!