Saturday, January 27, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

I was a slug all week. A coughing, mucousy, slug. Instead of doing what little bit of light exercise I could do without coughing, I decided to use the time for sleeping, in the hope that I would recover more quickly.

I have no idea if it helped or not, but by this morning, I was left with just an annoying rattle in my left lung. Since today was Indian food day and I hadn’t done a single thing all week, I figured my lung would have to fend for itself. I needed to burn some calories. It was raining, so I went to the gym and got on the elliptical machine. I did two hours, broken into four 30-minute sessions. I took things slow at first, but by the last hour I could handle 160-170 steps per minute. Not bad, considering. (Note: My usual pace is 190-200 steps per minute.)

After my workout, I cleaned up and went to have lunch with Dan. I was coughing a little, but it was “productive” coughing, and I’ll skip the more disgusting details. After lunch, I took a nap, expecting to wake up to more mucous rattling around in my lung, but to my surprise, it’s almost completely clear.

Dare I hope I’m recovered? TWO WEEKS since the stupid marathon, and maybe, maybe, maybe, I can soon run again! I almost wonder if these annual winter bouts of respiratory issues are my body’s way of making me take time off from hard exercise, because I seem to find a way around any other hints my body gives me, like overuse injuries. Kinesio tape, anyone? What a shame I can't put that stuff on my lungs!

In other news, I’ve been very busy at work. Sometimes I go nine or ten hours at a stretch on only coffee, oatmeal and a banana, because I scarcely have time to eat. But since I haven’t been exercising, I suppose that’s a good thing. If I’m truly on the mend, I think I’ll have to reconsider my work and training schedule. I’m used to being able to go in to the office early and leave early, but now it seems I go in early and end up having to stay late. This just won’t do. So maybe I’ll start doing my workouts early in the morning, go in to the office at 8:00 or 9:00 and work until 5:00 or 6:00 like everyone else. I need to think about it and make a plan.

But first I need to be sure I’m really well. I’m still taking meds, and I still have some ringing in my ears, but the stuffiness seems to be mostly gone. I’m a little short-winded tonight, but it seems to be just ordinary asthma. I sure hope so!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

May Cause Dizziness

That’s what the label on my prescription says.

I went to the doc this morning—a previously scheduled appointment to get my asthma meds renewed, and had her check out my respiratory infection while I was there. She found fluid in my ears and in my lungs... oh the fun!

She prescribed a decongestant called Entex, for which the pharmacy substituted something called Pseudovent. I don’t know that I want pseudo anything for my lungs. I want the real stuff, damn it!

The doc also prescribed antibiotics and corticosteroids, saying that she doesn’t like her asthmatic patients to go for very long with something like this—it’s pneumonia and bronchitis waiting to happen. But I hate taking antibiotics and she said I could wait a couple days to see if the decongestant clears it up. I sure hope it does.

She also said no running. Yeah, I had to ask. I haven’t been running, even though I want to, but I had been hoping maybe I was being overly cautious.

Well, if I’m dizzy from my meds, it’s just as well. I don’t want to end up in the bayou or flying off the back of the dreadmill, after all.

Being sick sucks, especially when you don’t actually feel sick.

Gonna go be dizzy now.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What’s Next?

Now that the marathon is over, the obvious question is what to do next.

In the immediate short term, I just want to get over this respiratory thing so I can train again. I’m trying to take things easy, but it’s hard when your body is ready to go. Everything I do has to be kept slow or else I set off a fit of coughing. It’s that deep, wet, choking coughing, too. It sounds so scary that I try to get away from people when it happens so they don’t think I’m dying. Nice.

So getting well is the top priority. That, and finishing Diana’s Diary. It’s been a fun project, good for my writing in so many ways. But it’s served its purpose, Diana is nearly to Kentucky anyway, and I’m ready to wrap things up and go back to my regular writing. It’s been tough to come up with a fictional diary entry for each day and photoshop illustrations for it. Sometimes I’m up until 3 am working on it, and that kind of time commitment takes away from other things I want to do now, like do the spring bike ride series this year, get my upper body back in shape, and maybe gear up for a long-course tri.

Oops. I just gave myself away, didn’t I?

Yes, my goals in a nutshell are:

• Get my bike tuned up and do the spring ride series
• Start swimming again
• Start doing upper body work again
• Do either Iron Star or the Woodlands Tri One O One this fall. Iron Star would be a repeat for me, so I’m leaning toward the longer distance in the Woodlands.
• Start work on a new novel and/or write some short stories.

And my long term goal is to work with my high school friend Brad Glendenning to put together a team for the Texas Independence Relay. It will take place in March 2008, so we’ve got plenty of time, but we need to start getting commitments from people now, so they can have a year to train.

And that’s it! I can’t get started on much just yet, but it’ll happen soon. Just as soon as I quit scaring others (and myself) with this cough, I’m hitting the weight room and the pool!

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 2 hours slow elliptical

Friday, January 19, 2007

Marathon Aftermath

The sinus trouble and beginnings of a dry cough that I had in the last days leading up to the marathon blossomed this week into a full-fledged respiratory infection. My head has been so stuffy that I’ve had pressure and ringing in my ears all week. My coughing brings up lots of nasty phlegm.

But I’m not complaining. Not too much, at least. It was the deal I made with the marathon gods—get me to the start line, and do your worst afterwards. Besides, so far I’ve been able to at least cough up the nastiness in my lungs. The bronchitis I had in ’05 and ‘06 was the kind where nothing comes up and you just go around for weeks, unable to breathe and unable to get any relief, short of going on steroids. At least with my current condition, I can open up my lungs for brief periods with my asthma meds, supplemented with guaifenesin and herbal tea.

The problem, though, is that I’m itching to run, and have been since Wednesday. I had two days of pretty bad pain and stiffness in my legs, but by mid-week I was no longer going down the stairs sideways, and by Thursday I could get in and out of chairs without holding onto anything. I’ve been on the mend from this cold since mid-week, too. I could feel when my immune system started getting the best of this thing, because my mood started improving, my personality started coming back, and I was feeling better almost by the hour. The only thing that’s holding me back now is my lungs. The rest of me is ready to go!

My plan for Saturday morning is to do some long, slow elliptical and treadmill walking. I’ll almost certainly be tempted to run. Maybe slow running is okay? Like really slow?

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 15 minute elliptical, 15 minute walk
Tuesday: 15 minute elliptical, 15 minute walk
Wednesday: rest (and try to get well)
Thursday: 30 minute slow spin

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Houston Marathon – Full Report

Dan drove me to the George R. Brown this morning in a light drizzle. I didn’t feel anything. No excitement, no nervousness, nothing. I think my ongoing sinus problems could be partly to blame, because for days I’ve been feeling like my head is in a glass jar.

Anyway, I went inside and went to the Houston Fit area. I haven’t run with them in years, but I still have friends in that group, so it seemed as good a place as any to park myself and get my gear together. I suppose it’s telling that Felix asked, “What brings you here?” then acted shocked when I said I was running.

Yeah, it’s been six years, don’t rub it in, dude.

My big dilemma of the morning was what to wear. All the weather reports were promising cold, wind, rain and even thunderstorms. I had two different rain jackets in my bag (my fancy Tyr transition bag—great bag!), but since it was only misting and foggy at 6:30, I decided to carry a trash bag with me instead, and see how things went.

There was a line at bag check, and it seemed to take way too long for just handing over bags and saying thank you. And I could find no lines for the port-a-cans that weren’t a quarter of a mile long. I needed one, too. The line I chose moved along fairly well for awhile, but then some slowpokes all got in there and we got our five minute warning with only one person in line ahead of me. So I waited and ended up having to run with another girl to the start.

The gun had already gone off, and of course we were in the back with the six-hour folks. It took me until Mile 2 just to work my way up to the 4:45 pace group, and I hung with them for a couple of miles, trying to find my pace in the crowd. By now I was able to think and do a mental check of how I was feeling, and it wasn’t good. My hips and IT bands felt tight and heavy, and my problematic right hip was hurting.

Hurting? Before mile 4? Great. And my asthmatic lungs were stubbornly refusing to open up, even though I’d had all my meds. I wasn’t in any huge difficulty with my breathing, but it was about 85% and it wasn’t going to be pretty if I had to deal with that the whole way. Luckily my lungs started clearing at around Mile 6, but I would deal with heavy legs the whole way.

I know the Houston Marathon course isn’t “new” to anyone who has run it in recent years, but it was new to me and I liked it. In 2001 they took us through downtown within the first three miles, but the “new” course goes through the Heights and up Montrose, which is a lot of fun. Crowd support is good, and I have a lot of positive associations with the area.

At the turnaround for the half-marathoners, I confess I got a little tempted. The way I was feeling, if I had been doing an ordinary training run, I wouldn’t have gone much beyond ten miles. My body just didn’t want to run long today. But the marathon is all about mind over matter. Or over common sense, take your pick. So I pushed on.

Outside the Palmer Church on Main, the priests were using branches to flick holy water onto runners. I figured I could use a little of that, but I declined the communion wafers they were handing out. It was a nice gesture on the part of the church and it made me smile.

The run through the Village and West University was crowded with supporters, which dwindled considerably once we got to the 59 feeder road. The Westpark overpass gave me no trouble, which surprised me. I couldn’t help thinking how awful it had been for me in 2001. But I hardly felt it.

By the time I got to the Galleria, I was ready to be done. The crowds were good, though, and helped me stay on pace. I was glad to get to Chimney Rock and Woodway and turn toward downtown. Now I was on a familiar training route, heading the right direction! I found Jill in this section and we hugged each other and ran together for a few minutes before I continued on my way.

Passing under Loop 610 was fantastic. I’ve lived inside the loop since 1986, and I always feel like I’m home when I’m back in the inner loop.

Home. What a troublesome thing, because from Memorial and Shepherd, I can see my apartment complex. Luckily Dan was waiting for me at this corner, along with a friend who wished me a happy birthday. Dan had a “special needs” bag for me, but I didn’t need anything but for the race to be over. I was getting a blister on my foot (WTF? I don’t get blisters in training!) and I was tired. I could no longer open my gel packs with my hands and was having to tear them open with my teeth. So I stopped for just a moment to talk with Dan. Or rather, he talked and I answered in the fewest syllables possible. And then I continued.

Mile 23. Underpass. More running. Passing Waugh Drive, then Montrose (another underpass). Mile 24, finally! A little further down, I stopped to stretch out, and had some trouble getting back to running. I walked more than I should’ve and it was this stop that probably cost me a sub-4:30 finish. Oh well.

From Mile 25 in, no walks, no stretching, no nothing. Just run. I crossed the mats with an official chip time of 4:32:21. Not great, but not bad at all.

I walked around outside for a minute, then went in and got my medal, shirt, mug and bottle of water. I got my bag and called Dan, who inexplicably had not already driven to meet me. He had stayed to watch for some of our slower friends, and I was annoyed. In retrospect, though, I was glad he wasn’t waiting because it gave me a chance to ice down. I had packed some chemical ice packs in my transition bag—smart, huh? But I was too tired to activate them by squeezing, and had to put them on the floor and stomp on them instead. Hey, whatever works.

So I iced down and marveled that my legs weren’t cramping on me like they had for my 21 and 23 mile training runs. And when the ice packs started losing their cold, I decided it was time to change my shoes and socks.

OMG. That blister I had been feeling was a HUMONGOUS, marble-sized blood blister on the ball of my foot! And there was another one that took up a dime-size area of my second toe! I couldn’t even get blister pads on these puppies, they were so big! I had felt some discomfort while I was running, but nothing to indicate the problem was this bad, or I would’ve stopped and put on a blister pad during the race.

I found a restroom and tried to clean up a bit, but it was too crowded to do more than change out of my wet top and put on a dry one. When Dan came for me, I changed into dry pants in the back seat. (Tinted windows. No, I didn’t flash anyone.) By the time we got to the Indian restaurant for my post-run meal, I was cleaned up as well as could be expected. I didn’t eat all that much, though. I guess my stomach was still full of Hammer Gel.

Tonight I’m getting around slowly, but the blisters are a bigger problem than my legs. Once I’m in motion, my legs do their job just fine. But the blisters hurt even when I’m just sitting here doing nothing! I’m tempted to lance them, but I know you’re not supposed to do that, so I’ll wait a day and see if they go down.

So that’s it. My birthday marathon. My first race in the Master’s Division.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Houston Marathon - Preliminary Report

Well, I finished, it didn't rain, and it wasn't even all that cold. It sure wasn't 52 with windchill making it feel like 48. It's enough to make you wonder what they're smoking at, wunderground, and all the rest.

It wasn't a good run for me. From the very begining my hips and IT bands felt tight, and my lungs didn't get clear until around mile 6. It usually happens by mile 4. And my mood was off. I know it sounds weird, but I just wasn't feeling this race. Not today. Maybe it was all these years of frustration at not being able to do this race, but there was just something anticlimactic about finally being here again. I couldn't get excited. It felt like just another job.

They haven't posted the official results, but I think my chip time was 4:32 or thereabouts. I looked at my watch as I approached the mats, but I didn't remember to stop it until several minutes later. I guess the results will be up by this evening.

I'm not unhappy about my time, given all the training challenges and the way I felt today. But on a different day, I could've done a lot better. I just wasn't "on," that's how it goes, and I'm okay with that. It wasn't my first marathon, so I had nothing to prove.

My tape held up very well, by the way. I need to find out who invented this stuff and send him or her some flowers.

Off to massage my legs and take a nap now.

Longer report to follow.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Off To The Races!

I had a low-key day today. I went to the Y, soaked in the hot tub and did some stretches in the sauna. Then I picked up some pasta and bread pudding to bring home and have been working my way through that the rest of the day. I spent the afternoon working on the next posting to Diana’s Diary. I’ll have that out before midnight so I can turn in early.

My lungs have been a little troublesome for the last two days, but I think it’s just allergies. The weather has been unseasonably warm and I’ve been having sinus issues, too. Maybe the coming cold weather will put a stop to all that.

My right foot and ankle aren’t 100%, and I still haven’t gotten completely over the hip/IT band issues I’ve been dealing with for the last two months. So I’m taping up tonight. That way the adhesive will have a chance to set before tomorrow morning. When I did my 23-miler, I taped the same morning and it wasn’t holding on too well at the end.

I’m getting my gear together tonight. It’s funny, but if I were running from my front door, I could have all my stuff together in about fifteen minutes, tops. But instead, I’m packing like I’m off for Siberia in the morning. Part of that, though, is the fault of the weather people. I still can’t get consistent weather reports— different sites contradict each other.

If I don’t get rained on, the plan is to change clothes right after the marathon and go straight to lunch. I’m packing my triathlon transition bag with that in mind. But if I’m chilled and wet at the finish, I’ll have Dan bring me home for a shower first.

But I’m rambling now. And I still have things to pack. Off to Siberia, you know. Or rather, off to the races.

See you on the other side of the finish line!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Expo Day

I’ve had a fun and busy day!

I took the day off from work, as I have for the past three or four years. Since my birthday always falls on marathon weekend, it’s a good excuse to use a vacation day, and I can avoid the Saturday crowds at the Expo.

I got to the convention center around 11:30 and made a beeline to packet pickup. Joy! It was my first time to claim my packet since 2001! I had a fine time wandering the expo, buying socks and caps and gels, getting a free massage and eating samples. Lots of samples. In fact, samples were my only source of food until dinner today. But hey—some of the samples were liquid vitamins, so it’s all good, right?

And then I went out to run some other errands. I went to one of my favorite thrift shops, where I did very well and *ahem* donated about $130 to charity. . . in return for clothes, books and other things. I’m always amazed at how many designer clothing items end up in the nicer thrifts, unworn and with tags still attached. I guess that’s the advantage of going thrifting a few blocks from River Oaks!

The rest of my day was filled with dumb little errands—pick up a bag of bunny litter, deposit my birthday check from my dad, go to a few shops in the Village, and things like that. I had to do some creative re-bagging to consolidate all my stuff so I could get it upstairs to my apartment in one trip, and then it was time to do laundry, since Friday is nearly always Laundry Day around here.

The weather forecasts for Sunday remain inconsistent. For awhile they were saying it would just be cloudy, not much chance of rain. But now is back to saying 30% chance of thunderstorms. The temps shouldn’t be too bad, though, and I have a new wicking rain jacket with plenty of vents, should it be a stormy day after all.

So now I wait. Wait and do what prep I can, with the weather still so uncertain. But I do know this much—if nothing goes drastically wrong in the next 24 hours, I’ll be running the Houston Marathon on Sunday for the second time, and after five years of being jinxed.

Crossing my fingers. . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So Far, So Good!

I’ve made it through a very busy workweek, with no signs of illness, other than some sniffles, which I think are allergy-related. I got my massage, I have no new aches and pains, and other than the continued threat of rain this weekend, things are looking good for the marathon!

I’m taking Friday off so I can go to the Expo and run some errands. I don’t want to be stressing about anything on Saturday, except where to go for pasta, and whether or not it will rain on Sunday. The weather reports still show a strong likelihood of showers or thunderstorms, but the temperature predictions have been going up, so that’s good. Rain is bad enough without it being cold, too. I’d much rather it not be raining, though. My kinesio tape is waterproof, but when I did my 23-miler, it wasn’t holding on too well at the end. Rain plus an additional three miles could get weird, since I’m at least 30% tape these days.

It won’t be much longer now! Just two more days of germ paranoia, then I can run my “little” 26.2 and celebrate having finally made it back to this race after so many years of something always going wrong.

Just two more days…

Recent Workouts
Monday: 30 minute elliptical
Tuesday: rest (massage day)
Wednesday: 30 minute elliptical
Thursday: rest (was supposed to be a workout day, but late day at the office instead)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Last Long Run!

Well, today’s run was only supposed to be between six and eight miles, but a couple miles into it, I decided the route was boring and I changed it a little. I ended up with 10.5 miles, instead. Oops.

It wasn’t a good run. My legs felt heavy and sluggish, and I had some new aches and pains. I think I’m still getting over my 23-miler before Christmas, and then there’s all those little things that come up during taper that are as much psychological as anything else. But my base is good and I need to relax and trust my many years of distance running to carry me through this. My high school band director was always heartened when our last rehearsal before a concert sucked. He considered it a sign that our next performance would be good, and he was usually right. So I’m going to hope that this theory applies to running, too.

My plan for the next seven days is as follows:

• daily stretching and use of foam roller (twice a day, if possible)
• massage on Tuesday
• no more running—just walking and elliptical
• okay, I might get on the bike tomorrow (Sunday)
• reduce calorie intake to match reduced exercise (soooo not fun)
• make time for at least two hot tub and sauna sessions at the Downtown Y
• get more sleep
• avoid germs and sick people

That oughta do it! It’s not a fun plan, especially the calorie-counting, but it’s only for a week.

I think, though, that I won’t try for the Houston Marathon again after this one. I seem to always get injured when the weather turns cooler, maybe because I’m so sensitive to cold that I tense up and get careless. And then there’s the whole issue of winter colds and bronchitis. It’s stressful to be surrounded by people going through their winter illnesses. I’m afraid to open doors, go to meetings, and even go out in public. It’s not a fun way to spend the holiday season or my first days back at work. But the threat of bronchitis is quite real for me, as the last two years have proven.

And then there's the whole holiday eating thing. Having a taper that coincides with one of the most fudge-laden times of the year is wrong, wrong, WRONG. I can't have any fun with the holiday goodies because I can't do what I need to do to burn them off. It makes me grumpy. I run for chocolate, after all.

In sum, I don’t need the stress and aggravation of getting ready for a winter marathon. I think I’ll stick with summer and fall events from now on, even if that means doing them in other parts of the country. My hometown marathon may be cheap in terms of dollars, but the physical and psychological toll it takes on me is more than I need.

With that said, here’s to a healthy week and a fantasic Birthday Marathon next Sunday!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 45 minute elliptical
Tuesday: 5.5 mile run – bayou trails
Wednesday: 30 minute elliptical
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: 10.5 mile run

Friday, January 05, 2007

It's Official!

I got my bib number today: 4059.

Still no signs of illness. Still no further aggravation of existing injuries or indications of any new ones. Got two new rolls of kinesio tape delivered this week, just in case. Weather looks like it'll be okay-- possible showers, but temps in the 70s, so a little rain won't be a big problem if it happens. I'm well-stocked on asthma meds, too, after having quite a time getting a refill on my Singulair over the holiday break.

After so many things going wrong in other years, from weather to tendonitis to bronchitis, it's starting to look like it might really happen this year. Maybe I'm fated to only be able to run this marathon when it falls on my birthday!

I'm taking another Airborne before I head off to a meeting this morning, just in case.

Nine days to go!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Standoff

Tagged Again!

Rachel tagged me, the meanie!

Here's what I gotta do:

1. Find the nearest book.
2. Name the book & the author.
3. Turn to page 123.
4. Go to the fifth sentence on the page. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
5. Tag three more folks.

As it turns out, the nearest book is one I got for Christmas but haven't read yet:

Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature
by Susan E. Davis and Margo DeMello

"According to primatologist Frans de Waal, "Culture simply means that knowledge and habits are acquired from others-- often, but not always, from the older generation-- which explains why two groups of the same species may behave differently." The classic example of these socially transmitted behaviors is found in the Japanese macaques' tradition of washing potatoes, in which one macaque named Imo began, in the 1950s, carrying her dirty potatoes to the water to wash them; soon the others in her group started washing their potatoes. Even after all the original potato-washing macaques had died out, the band continued-- and continues today-- to wash their potatoes."

Nothing at all about bunnies in these three sentences. How disappointing.

I can't think of anyone to tag, since I don't want to tag anyone who's already done this one, and a lot of my other friends are pretty overwhelmed right now. But anyone reading this who has a book within arm's length can consider themselves tagged. How's that?