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!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Anatomy of a Bad Race

This partiualar "bad" race took place yesterday, Sunday, August 9th, 2009 in Delta, BC (about an hour south of Vancouver). Here's what it was made of: 7:00 am - Arrived at race site,the Ladner Leisure Centre, and picked up my race number. Noticed firetrucks outside the building and wondered how this would affect the bathroom situation. 7:10 am - Listened intently as the race director announced that the bathrooms inside the rec centre would not be available due to a major flood inside. Not to worry, "A" port-a-potty was on the way. 7:30 am - Officialy start time delayed due to lack of potty. 7:35 am - Lined up for the long awaited potty. 7:43 am - Queued up at the start line. 7:45 am - Start of Race My goal was to run at an average pace of 8:45/mile. The first three miles I actually had to slow myself down as my pace was closer to 8:30. Felt confident this was doable. 7:53 am - Mile 1 in 8:46, average HR 169 bpm 8:01 am - Mile 2 in 8:46, average HR 178 bpm 8:10 am - Mile 3 in 8:47. average HR 179 bpm Between Miles 3 & 4 I felt I needed a walk break. Nothing hurt at this point, but I felt the pace was getting to me a bit. 8:20 am - Mile 4 in 9:10, average HR 178 bpm I don't recall what happened between Miles 4 & 5. I either took another small walk break or ran a bit slower. 8:30 am - Mile 5 in 10:03, average HR 172 bpm 8:39 - Mile 6 in 8:54, average HR 178 bpm I took a walk break after passing the Mile 6 marker, and when I started to run again my right knee FAILED. In other words, it hurt too much to run. At this point I changed my goal from a 1:55 finish to finishing upright. 8:52 am - Mile 7 in 12:44, average HR 157 bpm Started joggging super slow, then a bit faster, and after a few false starts I found my knee felt ok once I got up to a certain speed. Thought a decent finish time was still possible! Started "reeling in" all the folks who'd passed me while I was walking one after another... 9:01 am - Mile 8 in 8:50, average HR 177 bpm Got tired again. Took a short walk, started super slow jogging, got up to a sustainable pace. Gave up on catching all the people in front of me. Settled in for a LONG 4 miles. Thought about quitting, but decided it would build character if I continued. 9:12 am - Mile 9 in 10:49, average HR 166 bpm 9:23 am - Mile 10 in 11:21, average HR153 bpm Took comfort in the fact that I was now in the double digits. Knee felt OK, but I was bored with the scenery. Time slowed down. 9:33 am - Mile 11 in 10:03, average HR 162 bpm Overheard a woman behind me ask a volunteer if it was much farther. Tried to block out the answer. Succeeded. 9:44 am - Mile 12 in 11:27, average HR 156 bpm Ran by a volunteer cheering "you're almost there". Wanted to shout back, "No I'm not! It's over a mile away you idiot"! Didn't. Passed a family with a sign that read "YOU ROCK" on their driveway with big smiles. Sped up. Got back to familar territory, realized the finish was not too far away. Spotted Ian. Made eye contact and picked up pace more. 9:54 am - Mile 13 in 9:54, average HR 163 bpm 9:54 am - Finished in 2:10:51. (NOT last) Took a couple of minutes to take some photos of the bunnies which were ALL OVER THE PLACE. They seem to have taken over the grounds around the rec centre. Drove to my sister's house with Ian and on to a breakfast place where I ate a grotesquely large pancake, 2 paoched eggs, and a single slice of bacon sporting my finisher's medal.