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Saturday, June 24, 2017

A foray into acupuncture

As my calf pain continued into a second week of injury, I was getting miffed that it still hurt to walk. I wasn't healing very quickly. My body has been pretty resilient this year: I have not really had a break, despite running two marathons in three weeks, so I suppose I can't grudge my joints some down-time. But I want to get back out there for some of the short, summer races, so I looked for some help healing.
Naturally, I decided to go see Jimi at Crescent City Acupuncture. He's the talented fellow who writes the Power Milers workouts, and Allison recommended him; he'd treated her similar calf pain before.

I've never had acupuncture, but Jimi explained that he'd be treating the tissues near the bone to recruit healing cells to the area and stimulate muscle fiber reorganization. So... kind of like dry-needling, but if you say that in front of Jimi he'll probably have a stroke (and never speak to you again). AND. I have to admit that he is right. I've had dry needling before, and I thought it was effective, but acupuncture was much more targeted, and I felt results much more quickly. Dry needling non-specifically stimulated healing to a large area of affected muscle, and as a result, not only did it take longer for the damaged areas to heal, but it sort of gave me that not-quite-satisfied feeling, like when you just can't dig deep enough with the foam roller. Acupuncture hit exactly the irritated spot, and after 20 minutes of electrical current application, felt immediately better. I think a big difference is in the depth of the needle placement: I felt like dry-needling was very uniform. The same needles were inserted to the same depth all over, with varying success. But Jimi was able to insert the needles much more adeptly: he got some into the back side of the bone, and I could tell at once that he'd hit the right spot.
Waiting room full of Runner's World: always a good sign!

I am now a total acupuncture apologist. I walked up the stairs to my appointment with a limp. I walked out without pain. Amazing! That was last night, and the effects have mostly remained. I still have some pain when I stand on my toes or do heel lifts, and NO WAY would I tempt fate by running yet, but I am 75% better. I'm on my way back!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Series 2-miler

 I managed to work my schedule in such a way that I could run one of the Summer Series 2-milers at City Park this year. It was a hot night, and surprisingly windy, but I actually felt pretty good pre-race. That was unusual, since I don't always do well at night races (mostly stomach issues from lunch timing).
I chose that night to break in my last hoarded pair of Mizuno Mushas: I finally had to give up on the maroon pair I'd been wearing for years (they had under 400 miles, but for a flat, that's a lot). I parked about half a mile from the start and jogged around Big Lake to pick up my number...and immediately stepped into a puddle up to my ankles. So much for brand new shoes. I took them off and wrung out my socks and insoles, then continued my warm up.
Dirty new shoes :(

I did about 1.5 miles warm up two shorts strides - only because the ground was so wet that there was no room for anything else. I could have done strides on the race course, but everyone was lining up and I felt silly and self-conscious out there warming up with a bunch of fast people. Where this sudden abashedness came from, I do not know, but I'm sure it didn't do my race any favors. I also wandered several rows back for the start, for the same reason, and I'm really annoyed at myself for that, because a. I knew this course is on a narrow walking path and is pretty congested, and b. I JUST had a bad race start because I lined up too far back at the Greek Fest 1-mile. So what's wrong with me?!

Anyway. Back to the race. We started, and I was clogged up in a bunch of kids. Kids everywhere. Kids left and right. Kids bunched in front. So I struggled and fought through the hoards for at least the first half-mile (including a bunch of barefoot kids - I'll write more on that later). The rough start meant that I not only dodged and wove a lot in the first half, resulting in a slow first half-mile and too much energy expended, but also I (of course) overcompensated on the second half of mile one. By the time I hit the mile in 6:14, I was panting for breath. The second mile was definitely harder for me: I was really trying to keep my pace even, and that's tough when you are running my pace: I'm right at that pace sweet spot at which many people can run one mile, but may not be able to sustain two miles. As people around me gradually slowed, I had to make sure I was dialed in to my own pace, and not pacing off them. This is a problem I face in shorter distances, and I did ok this time. As I approached the final turn, a guy yelled, "First female!" and I realized that I didn't have a CLUE as to my place. I also couldn't remember who I'd passed, and when, and how close they may be to me: I was in such a crowd at the beginning that I couldn't remember anyone specifically. So I just gunned it to the finish!
At the finish!

12:29. The clock actually said 12:19, which is very close to my PR, but my watch read 12:29. That means that I've run two races this year in which the clock was wrong! What the! But anyway, it was a win for the women, and that's always fun, even if there aren't actually places/awards at these races (it's actually more fun. I love these easy, short, low-pressure summer races).

I am both happy with the win and a little annoyed that 1. I ran the second mile one second slower than the first and 2. I'm not under 12:20. I should be able to do that! So that's my goal for this summer IF my injured calf gets better in time for the free races. It's actually a little better today, so I'm hopeful!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Injured, by Jove!

Bah! I was doing so well, I thought, but then injury struck! I have...a thing...wrong with my calf. Or shin. Or something.

I just put support everywhere to see if that would help.
A week and a half ago, I'd felt a knot in my calf, and took a few days off to let it loosen up. But I didn't give it enough time, and after last Tuesday's workout, my leg started to hurt. By the next morning, it hurt to put weight on it, and honestly, that hasn't really changed. I'm not sure what's wrong, but I can feel a lot of inflammation around the insertion points of the posterior tibialis. Although I feel the pain up on my shin, it's somewhat relieved by wearing arch compression. That makes sense, since that's where the distal insertion point is (if my tenuous grasp of anatomy serves me right). I discovered this minor fix because my leg hurt a lot while running around barefoot at the beach this weekend with my charming godchildren. It felt better once I put shoes on, so I decided to try arch support.

I'm not sure what's next. It's unusual that the intensity and quality of pain hasn't changed a full week after the initial injury, with total rest, but I'll give it another week before I decide if I should see a doctor. I've had a similar pain before, but it went away with rest, so maybe that's all I need.

Meanwhile, I'm missing some of the  free summer 2 mile races, so that's the worst!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Searching for a speedy shoe

It's time to retire my Mizuno Mushas, the shoe I've been wearing for track workouts and the occasional race for the last five years. My pair is getting old, and I can tell - I'm getting shin pain whenever I wear them. Since Mizuno doesn't make the Musha anymore, I decided to try the New Balance 1400. At first, the 1500 appealed to me, since it is also touted as a stability shoe, like the Musha was (apparently, neither one really offers any stability). But the descriptions of the 1500 were of a heavier, softer shoe, and in fact, sounded more like an everyday trainer. I opted for the 1400.

Aren't they pretty? So was the price - $59 at 6pm.com. My immediate impression is that they are more cushioned than I expected, softer than the Musha. But I haven't run in them yet. Pre-run, my expectation is that they'll be a good shoe for races or fast stuff on the roads. They might be too squishy for the track - or, they might feel totally different while I'm running compared to just standing here admiring their color. I'm itching for a fast tempo in these babies!

What are you wearing on the track these days?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

PMTC long runs

Since I joined the Power Milers, I've been accompanying them on their Sunday long runs. This is quite the shift for me: I've always been a Saturday long run person, and I genuinely enjoy running in this beautiful city to kick my weekend off. Something about a long, easy (or not easy!) run through the streets and park as the city wakes up is very invigorating for me. I'm already one of those annoying happy people, but I positively love life after my Saturday long runs. 

To make the switch to Sunday, I tried doing just six on Saturday, but it wasn't the same. It felt just like a weekday. Instead, I've been doing an easy ten, which leaves me fresh enough for a not-at-all-easy fourteen at 6:00 am the next day. 

Six am.
The time is an adjustment, too, but going early is the only way I'd be able to make it to church, anyway. 

The group runs the well-known "city loop", a route that takes you from St. Charles to Carollton to Esplanade to Royal to St. Charles again, starting and ending at Audubon park. I've run the route before, but it's been years, and I'm enjoying the chance to see the city again (for local readers, there is another route also called the "city loop" that goes down Canal, but that is most assuredly a knock-off city loop. #fakeroutes).

Even though these guys are fast, I've always found a few people to run with, but here's my concern - they're running much faster than my typical long run. Even though I run the 1.5 miles to and from my house very slowly, I've been averaging 7:30's for fourteen miles. That's fast for me, especially in hot weather. When I was doing Hanson's, I was running 7:40 - 8:05 for long runs of up to 16 miles, because their plan does not call for "long slow distance". I liked that, because I don't believe in long slow distance, at least not for me. I've done that before, and I get slow and I get injured. I prefer my easy pace runs to be shorter, usually eight and six milers during the week. But I digress. The point is, these long runs are too fast for me. 

However! They are also easier than I am used to! And that is because the group takes long breaks. Now, I am not one of those runners who thinks you can never pause your Garmin, or has a problem losing ten or even fifteen minutes on a long run - sometimes I stop for traffic, sometimes I stretch or do leg swings, sometimes I need a bathroom break, sometimes I see friends, and ALWAYS I stop for water (in the heat of the summer, I sometimes stop on every loop around the park, and it's less than 2 miles around!). But these long run breaks are much longer than I'm used to. At the start and stop of the run, I wait around with the group a lot - we rarely start on time, and we wait for everyone to finish at the end - so some of the breaks are just before we start and after we finish, while I still need to jog to and from my house. I don't mind that. But during the run, we break at two firehouses for water. It's cool that we have a good relationship with the firemen, and they let us use their bathrooms and drink from their hoses. Man, though, those breaks run long. So many bathroom breaks. So many conversations. Every time I've run with the group, our two scheduled breaks have stretched to five minutes apiece!

Since I'm running at a pace that's a little uncomfortable for me, I notice the breaks. I catch my breath and rest, and that means that the breaks are too long. I'm turning these runs into intervals! And that's not the goal. I kind of want to say something, but I'm a new member and the slowest one, so I would feel kind of foolish. What should I do? Bring up the break length, or put up and shut up?How do you feel about breaks during your long runs?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Good news!

I wrote a few weeks ago that I was in a panic about a health scare a family member had. I am thrilled and relieved to report that I have good news! So since I am no longer discussing a potentially fatal diagnosis, the whole story is that my sister called me a month ago to tell me that she was on her way to an appointment with an oncologist. She had had her routine yearly check-up the week before, and got a call at work telling her that her lab work was very concerning, and that she had been referred to a hematologist for the next morning. She emailed me a picture of her lab results from the online portal while she was waiting to see her doctor, and I was stunned to see her white blood cell count at 0.2 (or 200 per microliter). Normal is 4.5-12. This was extremely concerning to me. Her neutrophils, of course, were very low, too; her red cells were normal in quantity, but she presented with ovalocytes and burr cells.
I was terrified that she had leukemia, but of course, her oncologist needed more lab work. In addition to more specific hematology labs, she also ordered hepatitis C and HIV tests, in case there was a viral cause for white cell death.

And thus began weeks of waiting. And praying. And anxiety. And worry. And sadness. I was convinced she had cancer! About a week before my sister's follow up, her doctor ordered another set of labs, which my sister dutifully had drawn. Finally, her appointment day came, and I was so relieved when she called to say her doctor had all but ruled out cancer. Her latest WBCs were up to 3, so...still low, but bouncing back. And her cells looked normal. If her numbers aren't in the normal range at a 3-month follow up, she'll have a bone marrow biopsy, but otherwise, her doctor thinks she was fighting a severe virus, perhaps an Epstein-barr virus.

What a relief! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Greek Fest 5k and surprise mile

The Greek Fest 5k is usually my worst race all year, so I was pleasantly surprised with Friday's good-all-things-considered race. David and I carpooled and got to the race together. We were cutting it closer than I would have liked - we got there at 6:30 for a 7 pm start - but it turns out I was worried for nothing: David had already picked our packets up, and there was no bathroom line, plus I read the site wrong - the 7 pm start was for the mile. The 5k started at 7:30. So I was standing around in 86 degrees waiting to warm up until closer to the race, and feeling nauseated. My technician keeps bringing bugs to work - or I'm harboring a parasite, who knows - all I know is, I've been sick to my stomach WAY too much lately. Luckily, a nice doctor hooked me up with a Zofran, but I still didn't feel too hot and hadn't eaten much (I actually ate a yogurt in the car on the way over - I thought it would be easy to digest and ready calories). As I waited, I heard them announcing the start of the mile race, and for some reason decided to run it as a warm up. I threw my T-shirt at David and was like, "Hold my shirt!" as I ran to the start.
Big mistake. I was behind a million kids. And I stayed behind them until almost the turn around. At about 1/3 of a mile in, I was at 6:20 pace! Help! I gunned it, and I was at 6:10 right after I made the turnaround point, and then I just ran hard to the finish. 5:57. Ack. Totally thought I could run much faster than that for a road mile! And I will someday - I just need to start, you know, at the line. Not behind every child in New Orleans (although I have to say, kids running the mile are super cute. I love how dedicated and tough they are. A mile is HARD for a little kid!).
Please ignore the bloated stomach and face of misery. 

The problem with that mile is that it was too fast for a warm up - it tired me for the 5k. And it wasn't fast enough to be a decent race on its own. I basically ruined both races!
Between the hard mile and the tough conditions (sick, warm out, not-totally-flat course), I expected little from the 5k. Even as I waited for the gun, my calves started tightening. I also realized that I'd forgotten to bring my iPod, and I've gotten used to using music in races. "Well," I thought, "It didn't bother me in the mile, so maybe I don't need it." When we started, I ran off too fast, although it was hard to tell because the mile one marker was way off and I wasn't glued to my Garmin. I pulled ahead of two girls, but I saw that one of them is a lot faster than I am, and assumed this was a workout for her or that she'd pass me later (she did, but it must still have been a workout - she's usually much faster than she was that night). The breeze on the lake wasn't murderous, but I could still sense the headwind when I turned around. As I headed back, I noticed that I was hunched and plodding, and kept reminding myself - pick up your feet! Pick up your pace! I started to tire a lot by the end, but I really perked up when I saw the clock. My tired 5k could still be under 20! I scooted in at 19:51. I didn't love that I fell apart at the end a little - 6:24, 6:31, 6:34, ten seconds between miles one and three! - but I did like that running a 20-in 5k didn't feel that hard. In fact, it felt like taking it a little easy on sore and tired legs.
I'm happy that the workouts we've been doing with the club seem to be helping my speed. Obviously 19:51 isn't exactly an Olympic time, and actually it's much slower than McMillan thinks I should be able to run for the distance, but to put it into perspective, I've only run sub-20 four times in my life. Two of those times were after I started training with the Power Milers. I'm sure my times will dip for the summer as the temps and humidity create challenges, but in the fall? I bet I've got my speed back!