Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Journey through Pain

Pain is life--the sharper, the more evidence of life.
--Charles Lamb

I've been experiencing a lot of "life" lately. For the past year, I've struggled to get a diagnosis for pain that I've felt on and off, and almost daily for the past seven months. I first noticed the pain around my left ear, and then on the back left side of my tongue and sometimes along my left jaw, and more recently into my head and sinus area. I went to my dentist, who referred me to an oral surgeon, who referred me to an ENT. Next, I went to three different ENTs who could not find anything wrong with me. I subjected myself to many frightening medical tests, halfway hoping to find something, halfway not. I did not. I decided after my last disappointing ENT visit that I had nerve pain, possibly a neuralgia (this was based on meager suggestions from ENTs, and the Internet, of course). I went to a neurologist, who ordered more tests, just when I thought there were no more that could possibly be ordered. After talking to my dermatologist at an unrelated appointment, she mentioned I could have had shingles, without the skin rash, which would have left only the nerve pain, which can linger for a long time. Meanwhile, my neurology tests came back normal, so the neurologist, who thought I might have a rare type of neuralgia--glossopharyngeal neuralgia--prescribed an anti-convulsant medication, which is one of the ways nerve pain is treated, as well as a medication commonly prescribed for shingles (per my urging). After more than a week, I didn't really notice a difference. I felt doomed with this undiagnosed pain. I tried hard to manage the depression and anxiety that had gripped me during the past months, but sometimes they won out. I turned to more natural treatments.

A Possible Solution
After several weeks of intense massages in my neck and specialized cranial-sacral treatments, I was not really feeling any better. In the meantime, my regular dentist retired, so I was referred to a new one. This new, young, high-tech dentist did a couple of quick digital x-rays, noticed my wisdom teeth were still present, and said very matter-of-factly that "those need to come out." Now, I had already had a consultation with an oral surgeon about the teeth back in December, and he said they were definitely impacted and may cause problems later on, but if they weren't bothering me at that time, I didn't need to have them removed. (I also saw this same doctor about a week later when the left-side tongue and jaw pain flared up--and he referred me to an ENT.) So I called that same oral surgeon's office and inquired about having my lower teeth extracted (my uppers never descended--see below, near my nose ). The office staff reminded me of the exorbitant cost, and I reluctantly agreed to schedule the surgery that same week. I knew it may not solve my problem, but at that point I was desperate and would try almost anything.


More Appointments, More  Meds
A couple days before my surgery, I had a follow-up appointment with my neurologist, who was a little skeptical of my decision to have my teeth extracted. She also thought that I may be suffering from migraines, without some of the the classic symptoms. It sounded a little wonky to me, but she's the learned one. So she prescribed more medication to treat me as though I had migraines. I only used the meds for a day or two because I knew I'd be going through the surgery soon, and I'd have yet more medication to take after that. 

On surgery day, I woke up with a massive headache that just felt like intense pressure squeezing my head from all around. But I wanted to get one more run in before I knew I'd have to take time off to rest, so I ran four miles despite the pain, and afterward I could not consume water because having any food or liquid in my system while under general anesthesia was a hazard. So on the way to my appointment, I felt awful, but I didn't care because I knew I'd be feeling nothing soon enough.

Post-Op Excitement
After I woke up from the surgery, I realized it had taken about 45 minutes longer than expected, and I could hear the doctor telling Tim that it had been a difficult procedure, which made me concerned. But I really just wanted to head home, pick up my prescriptions, and go to bed. Tim, by the way, was an angel throughout this process. He reminded me every 45 minutes to change my gauze (which I had to keep in my mouth to help the blood clot); he brought me my meds when it was time to take them; he prepared my food and helped me eat; and he changed out my ice packs that I had to keep wrapped around my jaw. I hadn't realized how useless I'd be that first day, and I'm so glad I wasn't on my own.

I'm only OK sharing this because I know how much uglier things got.

The next day, though, I was on my own, but I managed to do everything I needed to do for recovery. The third day, which I was warned would be my "puffiest" day, I decided to go out in public (I was not in the state of mind to make good decisions). I had a cranial-sacral massage, which I thought might actually help release fluids and decrease my puff, and then I had a haircut scheduled, which always makes me feel good, so I kept the appointment. But these appointments meant I had to drive myself around, so I didn't want to risk taking the narcotic (oxycodone) and operating a vehicle, per the prescription label's warning. This meant I was in a lot of pain. So by the end of the day, I really just wanted to knock myself out and sleep for many hours. So I took a double dose of the oxycodone and hit the sack.

Hours later, I still wasn't asleep, and my head was splitting again. I felt nauseated, and my body temperature kept fluctuating, leaving my skin clammy. Naturally, I called my mom, who does not live in Tampa, but she's a nurse (and a mom). I woke her up, as it was about 1:30 a.m., and frantically told her my symptoms. She told me very calmly that it sounded like I needed to go to the hospital. I said, "Are you sure?" despite knowing for myself that I needed to go. So I woke up Tim and told him I needed to go the ER. But just before leaving, I felt a strong bout of nausea and ran into the bathroom and knelt down by the toilet just in time to rid myself of the Chinese takeout I was only halfway able to consume anyway. Then we were able to leave for the ER.

We didn't have to wait too long before I got checked in, my vitals taken, and blood drawn for testing, but after that, we were sent back out to the waiting room until a bed became available. I was feeling rough. The headache would not relent, nor would the nausea. It seemed like we sat there for hours. Eventually a room was available, and as soon as we got in it, I knew I needed to make use of one (or two) of the blue bags available throughout the hospital for patients likely to vomit. I couldn't believe I still had that much left in me. When that episode was over, a nurse immediately hooked me up to an IV for fluids. Apparently I was pretty ghostly looking. Then the doctor came in and, after talking with me briefly and going over my recent meds, asked if I'd ever had a migraine. I said no. She treated me with what they call a "migraine cocktail" of medications through IV. And it helped very quickly. One of the meds made me very sleepy and loopy. After a while, the doc came back and told me that people who are migraine-prone sometimes react badly to certain narcotics, such as the one I took a double dose of earlier that evening. Ah. Good to know, but poor timing. Eventually I was released, around 5:00 a.m., and Tim drove us home so we could get some much-needed sleep.

Is It Over Yet?
I felt very unsettled after that experience, and what I wanted more than anything was to just feel normal again. I was still healing from the surgery--one side was healing a lot quicker than the other. I knew that if I didn't go into work the next day, Monday, I would just lie around the house feeling depressed, and in pain. Whereas if I went to work, at least my mind would be occupied while I was in pain, and I could start to get back to my normal routine. I got through the workday without any catastrophes, and I was really looking forward to the next day, when I had my follow-up appointment with the oral surgeon. I was almost sure something was wrong with my-left side extraction site. My fear was dry socket. So guess what I learned at my appointment? I had developed dry socket on the left side. I would venture to say that the pain of this condition is worse than the pain of having the tooth extracted. And I couldn't even take the narcotic. So I had to have a packing of gauze soaked in medicine placed down in the socket where my tooth once resided. That had to stay there until my next follow-up, two days later, when the packing was changed out for a new one. Then I had to keep that one in over the weekend until I could come back on Monday to have it removed. While the medicine helped immensely with the pain, it prevented the hole from closing because it had a foreign object in it. So I was glad to have the final packing removed so healing could finally commence.

Where I Am Now
You may be wondering whether the surgery in fact helped with the pain I had prior. Truthfully, it's hard to tell. I still have a good amount of pain from dry socket, which is in the same general area as the previous pain. But that will hopefully lessen throughout this week as I heal. Overall, though, I do feel better. I'm able to do more of my regular activities without being disrupted by pain or thoughts of pain or anxiety about pain. I think I probably had a combination of things going on. I learned that the left-side wisdom tooth was on the nearby nerve, which is what made the operation particularly difficult. So I think I had pain from that and just general pain that an impacted wisdom tooth can cause, and perhaps I am now susceptible to migraines, which can happen as hormones change throughout the years--especially in women. And perhaps I also have glossopharyngeal neuralgia, which may or may not continue to be a problem. But I feel like I have more tools to deal with what might come my way, and I'm relatively happy with the treatment I'm receiving from my neurologist. I'm pretty confident that once my dry socket heals up, I'll be feeling very close to normal. And it's about time. I have bigger and better things to concern myself with.

On a side note, throughout all of this I have been able to run (except for my week of recovery, post-surgery). I am proud of myself for keeping up with that part of my lifestyle, even when I felt too depressed to do much else. I am at the beginning of (although already a bit behind) my marathon training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I'm excited to get on track with that.

Also during this difficult time, I have had so much support from Tim, my family (and his), my friends, and coworkers. I realize how very fortunate I am to have such a supportive community around me. I can't imagine going through such a time without all of their love and concern.

Now, onward and upward (and more regular posting)!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Miles for Moffitt: Race Report

Last weekend I participated in the 9th Annual PNC Bank Miles for Moffitt race, which takes place at the campus I spend so much of my time at, the University of South Florida, Tampa. And even though I've spent roughly 40 hours a week for the past 12 years on campus, racing on campus is still exciting to me. It feels territorial, like it's somehow my race. But the thing about this particular race is that it's very much not my race; this race--or its proceeds, rather--belongs to everyone who can benefit from cancer research, and that pretty much means everyone.

The race itself was a good one for me. I haven't had the spring race season I'd hoped for; even though I started off with a great marathon, the ensuing injury and nagging pain from it have kept me in running flux--trying to maintain miles but not really able to push very hard. But this was a shorter race (shorter than the last "trial" race I did), and I felt I was ready to push. Of course, I hadn't run anything smaller than a half marathon since last July, so I had no idea what I'd be able to pull out pace-wise. Turns out, I hadn't slowed down as much as I'd thought. I came in 10th out of 116 runners in my age/gender group for the 8k (in previous years the race options were 5k or 5-mile, but I guess the "8k" is becoming a thing, which is technically 4.97097 miles [never mind the already-well-established 10k, which is a mere 2.3 miles more--how about a 9k?]).

Hey, I didn't have to scroll too far down to find my name!

The weather that morning was decent--fairly cool, but a bit humid, with a slight breeze. The 8k started at 7:30, so the sun was still rising in a mostly cloudless sky, meaning it did get hot in the last couple of miles. When I started out, I looked at my watch and saw that I was running close to an 8-minute mile, which is not something I've done for a while, so I knew it wouldn't last. But I still wanted to see how long I could keep it under 9 (there are a lot of seconds between 8 and 9 minutes, so I was being pretty loose with my threshold). When I saw my first couple miles were under 8:30, I was feeling confident that I could stay under 8:45 for the remaining miles, and I did--barely:

A typical short race for me: start out fast, progressively lose it.

This was a good, confidence-boosting race for me. And the very best part of it is that ALL of the race proceeds went toward the cause of cancer research, and the amount raised on race day was over half a million dollars! Of course, generous sponsors of the race (PNC Bank, the Rays, USF) made that possible. Plus, there were no race medals handed out to finishers, the registration fee was not necessarily cheap ($35), and post-race food was sparse and probably donated--but all of these factors are positive in my book if it means we as an athletic community can make positive changes by doing something we love anyway. And I should note that all participants had the opportunity to fund-raise, and many who registered as a group were able to raise a lot of money. Kudos to everyone who did that. (I did not. I still have a really hard time asking people I know for donations.)

I walked away from this race feeling good about my performance but even better about what the race as a whole achieved.

My left foot/right ankle still bother me some, but they don't seem to get progressively worse when I run harder or longer; they just hurt more afterward. I've mostly gotten back to running four days per week. I did 10 miles yesterday morning, and while the miles were tough, I recovered well. So I'm feeling optimistic.

I'm not currently signed up for any upcoming races, but I feel as thought I should get some more shorter races under my belt before and during marathon training, which begins late June (eek!).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Spoodles" with Spinach and Cannellini Beans

I was planning meals last week and thought the kale and cannellini-stuffed sweet potato meal I'd made before sounded good, but then I remembered a friend's recent Instagram post that showed a pan full of sweet potato "noodles," and I was reminded that I wanted to try that out. I'd had some success making "zoodles," or zucchini noodles, and I wanted to experiment more with alternative forms of pasta. So I basically decided to deconstruct the stuffed sweet potato meal and switch out kale for spinach.

2 medium-to-large sweet potatoes
2 bags baby spinach
1 BPA-free box cannellini beans
2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne

I used the same piece of equipment--a mandolin--as I used for the zoodles. I had a little more difficulty with the raw sweet potatoes, as they're much firmer than zucchini, so I had to press the potato across the blade with more force, which made me more likely to also slice a finger (which I did, but it was minor, but still required a bandaid break). The other drawback to this method is that I can only get my "noodles" a certain length--from the blade to the base of the mandolin, which is approximately four inches.

Slicing away . . . little bit of potato, little bit of  finger. 

In practice  (i.e., when I'm eating), this isn't a problem; if they were any longer, I'd cut them anyway. But appearance-wise, it bothers me just a little. Another friend who'd made zoodles told me she used the slicing disk on her food processor to get the form, and I thought, hmm, I wonder if that's one of those extra parts I've kept in a baggie when my dad gave me his food processor... So next time I may try that method.

Back to my meal. I soon realized it was easier to first quarter the sweet potatoes length-wise to get them to slice easier. And then I had a sort of core left for each quarter, because the thinner the quarters got, the closer my fingers got to the blade, so I had to abort and discard the core. Eventually, I got as much sliced as I possibly could without creating a blood bath, and I added them to my pan, which had been heated on medium with garlic and olive oil:

It looks like shredded carrots, I know.

The hard part was over. Once my noodles cooked down some and began to get tender, I added in TWO WHOLE BAGS of baby spinach. I started with one bag, but I knew from experience that one bag of raw spinach cooks down to about a child-sized handful (never ceases to amaze me), so I then added another. Once the spinach was all wilted (beautiful image, no?), I added the cannellini beans, and then some seasoning.

Looks good enough to eat!

I let it all cook for a few more minutes, until the noodles were the texture I wanted and the beans were warm. In the end, I probably spent no more than 25 minutes preparing this meal. The bulk of the work was in slicing the potatoes. And the final product was delicious:

This is not the portion I ate. I had one and a half more of these.

Sweet potato noodles, which I've decided should be termed "spoodles," are a winner. I'll definitely make them again, but perhaps using a different piece of equipment. I need my fingers intact.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Shoe Demo Tuesdays

I frequently mention the Tuesday night running group I attend, Four Green Fields Running Club, and I have continued to go to this club over the years, despite the fact that I don't really drink or socialize afterward, for several reasons. One is the location--the route is on Bayshore Blvd., where I often run, and close to the various places I've lived for the past six years I've been running; although now it's a bit farther away since I just moved, but not far enough away to keep me from going. Another is the people; even though I am not a social butterfly when I go to the runs, I love seeing running friends I've met over the years, even if just in sweaty passing. But one more reason I love this club is because they partner with my favorite local running store, Feet First, to demo different running shoes each week. A representative from the shoe brand comes out with Nikki from Feet First, and together they encourage the runners to try out the latest shoe models for their run.

I'm very picky about my shoes, as I think most regular runners are, so getting to do a trial run in a new pair is a great way to know if they're right for me. I've been running in Brooks Ghost for my past three or four primary training shoes. And while I'm still happy with them, I've been curious to see how something else might feel and whether a different shoe might enhance my performance. Also, once I get injured while running in a particular shoe, I'm turned off from that shoe, even if it wasn't the shoe's fault.

So I learned that Brooks had a brand new shoe, Transcend. I thought this might be a great option for me (knowing very little about the shoe--except that it was new and exciting). To my great fortune, these very shoes were demo'd at the run club two weeks ago. So of course I tried them out, despite the Pepto-Bismol pink color (sorry, just not for me). What I liked: they felt very cushy and bouncy; they were fun to run in. What I didn't like: they compressed my toes, like if the shoes were the bread and my toes were the filling, the bread was squishing out the filling. My toes felt like they were starting to go numb toward the end of my four-mile run. So those were a no, unfortunately. I need lots of room in my toe box.

Brooks Transcend. (I would've waited for a new color in June if I'd really wanted them.)

Yesterday I saw the Asics vehicle pull up just as I was getting to 4GF, as I've lazily come to call it. I haven't thought about Asics in a while. When I first started running (in proper shoes, that is; my very first pair was a pair of ill-fitting Newton trail shoes--totally inappropriate, but I liked the colors), I wore Asics Landreth. I ran through two or three pairs of these before they were sadly discontinued. So I thought I'd stick with the brand but try a different model. When I wen to a running store that was not Feet First (a friend of mine worked there, so I thought I'd check it out), I was told by a sales associate the Asics Nimbus was right for me. Well, I took the shoes for a probably too-long "trial" run (at the height of marathon training) and hated them. They felt clunky and stiff and dug into my heels. So I returned them, to the obvious chagrin of the store manager. From then on I bought my shoes from Feet First. I think I actually ended up in the Asics Cumulus next, which is the last shoe I wore prior to making the switch to Brooks. I ran my first marathon in them, and I got a lot of painful blisters during that marathon, so of course I was then turned off by the shoes (I also switched to Injinji toe socks immediately after, which helped my blister problem).

So interestingly, the Cumulus is what was being demo'd yesterday, and it turns out I loved them. They felt immediately comfortable and natural (probably because they're similar to the Ghosts I've been wearing; I never said I was very adventurous). I ran my four miles in a regular-width shoe (which is all they bring for demos), and the toe box didn't feel bad, but I wanted to order a wide, for when my feet swell or if I wear thicker socks, so I still have to wait to get them.

Asics Cumulus. My soon-to-be new training shoes.

Another cool perq is that runners who demo the shoes get a cool piece of gear from the brand rep. Yesterday I got this zipper case, and while I don't know what I'll put in it, I'm sure I'll find some use.

When I demo'd (and subsequently bought) the Sketcher Nite Owl shoes (they glow in the dark!), I got this bag, which I use all the time to throw my running, yoga, or boot camp gear into for use after work.

I've also gotten a sports water bottle, shoe laces, and other running accessories that I've found useful--even when I didn't end up purchasing the shoes I demo'd. (Luckily I'll never be an elite runner, so I can tackily display as many different brands as I want!) 

So if you're in the market for some running shoes but not sure what to get, come out to 4FG every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to see what's new. Hope to see you out!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Three-Day Juice Cleanse

A few weeks ago, a friend in the fitness community asked if I'd be interested in doing a cleanse through the company he and his wife started in exchange for a write-up of my experience. I received product for writing this review, which is my honest recounting of my journey into juiceland.

I was genuinely excited and curious to begin this new way of consuming calories and cleansing out built-up toxins in my body. But I was also apprehensive; I love food, and I use it to comfort me in stressful times. I knew this relationship with food was a bad one, though, and one of the things I sought to change through the cleanse was the way I view and use food. Logically I knew I would be getting enough calories each day with just the juices, and I tried to rely on that knowledge to convince myself that I could do this. The one thing I did not anticipate is that I would still be in the process of moving from one home to another, a highly stressful event (I had hoped to be done the day prior to starting the cleanse). I would caution anyone who wishes to take on more than a one-day cleanse to do so at a time when stressors are low and when a more contemplative, relaxed approach can be applied to the juicing period (i.e., do as I say, not as I do).

The Details
  • Juice Monkeys 3 Day Juice Binge/Detox
  • 6 16-oz. juices per day, for 3 consecutive days
  • Juices:
    • Juice #1: Lemon Banger--lemon, cayenne, filtered water
    • Juice #2: The Green Machine--kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger
    • Juice #3: Pineapple Express--pineapple, apple, lemon, mint
    • Juice #4: Beets by Nabs--beets, apple, lemon, ginger
    • Juice #5: The Detox--apples, cabbage, carrots, lemon, lime
    • Juice #6: The Big Green "O"--kale, green apple, lime, mint
Day 1
The juice monkey, a.k.a. Vinny, showed up at my door with a cooler full of my colorful liquid meals for the next few days. He stocked them in my fridge, reminded me of the process (he'd already emailed me a detailed instruction sheet prior to the delivery), warned me that I might experience classic detox symptoms (namely head and body aches)--particularly on the second day--and that if I could just get past that the third day would be much easier. I nodded along, thinking to myself that I eat a pretty clean diet so I shouldn't have much toxic waste built up; therefore I was pretty certain my symptoms would be minimal (see Day 2).

Behold the rainbow of juices.

I packed a bag with the juices I needed to take to work, one every two hours. But first I would have to consume the first juice, Lemon Banger. I'd frequently read about the benefits of drinking lemon water, so I knew this was an essential part of the cleansing process. And I've done the warm water and half a lemon thing in the morning before, but it was a smaller amount, less concentrated, and, most important, didn't include cayenne. But what I was taking on was more important: so down the hatch it went. I had full-on lemon face while drinking all 16 oz. The whole concoction was a little harsh to my mouth and throat, but I followed it with regular water to cool things off.

No pretense here.

Once at work, I had my permitted cup of herbal tea (it's no coffee replacement, but it's something I still enjoy). I had a busy, compressed day at work, as I had taken half the day off to "finish" moving. While at work I also drank the the Green Machine, which was the most vegetable-tasting juice of them all, but I didn't mind because I was pretty hungry by then and would have eaten anything.


And then the very welcome treat of Pineapple Express. This one was straight-up delicious. I downed it pretty fast.

Yum, yum!

I was feeling good. I was proud that I was doing something good for my body. Soon I was off to go finish up that move, with two more juices in tow and one waiting at home.

The rest of the day was spent packing, lifting, carrying, and generally being overwhelmed by how much we still had to move from one place to another. Throughout the process, though, I stopped to drink my juices and then carried on. The Beets by Nab juice was also pretty good--it was the most dense of them all (and therefore felt the most like food), and I think I really just liked the color.

Nabs is the other partner and I believe the primary juicer.

Before heading home, I picked up another cup of tea, with "a little bit" of honey (wink, wink), which was allowed. After getting home, it was time for dinner: the Detox, and later the Big Green "O." The Detox wasn't bad, but it tasted pretty cabbage-y.

Prepare to belch after this one.

The Big Green "O" was my second favorite; it was sweeter than the morning green drink and it was the only one that didn't have lemon (but it had lime), which was a nice break.

Almost forgot to take a photo of this one until the last day!

By the end of the night, I was feeling pretty cleansed. I noticed my bloating was all gone, though I still felt satiated. I was tempted to stop here, but I'd committed to two more days. I was also pretty exhausted, and a slight headache had started to set in. I just wanted to go to bed, and so I did.

This is what exhausted looks like.

Day 2
I woke up the next morning feeling well rested, but hungry. Unfortunately all I had to look forward to was a lemon cayenne drink. I tried to recall the advice a friend gave one time on how to open my throat without using my swallowing muscles to push food or drink down; I essentially wanted to bypass my tongue (I also thought of holding a large spoon over my tongue). But I couldn't do it. So I drank and swallowed, drank and swallowed, as quickly as I could until it was all down. And then I burped a lot. FYI.

This day was admittedly more difficult. And by that I mean I had a few emotional breakdowns. It wasn't as exciting as the first day because it wasn't as new, and it wasn't close enough to the end that I felt any sense of ease; I just felt this overwhelming barrier to what I really wanted: food. And in retrospect I think I worked myself up pretty badly. If I had just tried to focus on something else, I think it might have felt easier. (And let me say that having "only" fresh, organic, cold-pressed juices readily available to consume is a total first-world problem, I know.)

But this is the day that I also felt the worst symptoms, as I was forewarned. Aside from feeling tired, I had a pretty constant headache and was lightheaded. I again had a lot of work to do but couldn't focus very well; reading much at all made me feel dizzy and sometimes nauseous, which made me think if I could just eat something I'd feel better. But I didn't want to give in so soon. So I looked forward to the time passing so I could drink more juice.

Even though we had more stuff to clear out from the old place, Tim knew I was not feeling great and told me I could take the night off while he worked on finishing up the move. Again. I knew this meant we'd both have to go over the next evening to truly finish things up, as it was our last permissible day in the lease, but I was banking on feeling better that day, so I took advantage of Tim's offer and came home early and pretty much passed out.

This is when I started telling a couple friends that I didn't think I was going to make it. Beth knew what I was undertaking and very thoughtfully messaged me to check in. She gave me some encouragement and told me to try not to pass out (thanks, Beth!). My other friend, Nicole, who is technically my landlord now, stopped by the house briefly after work, so we got to chat for a while. But after standing up for 15 minutes or so I asked if we could sit down. I think part of the problem I encountered was that I wasn't really drinking much water. I already had to pee a lot, so I was reluctant to drink anything more.

I was pretty useless the rest of the night, even though I had a writing assignment that was due by the end of the evening. I had to do it in spurts, because looking at the computer screen for very long made me feel sick. I was feeling so bad, in fact, that I decided to contact Vinny (who had checked in on me a couple of times, but when I was feeling less desperate). I didn't want him to think I was failing, but I didn't want to eat something without contacting him first. I was really glad I did, because he told me I could have a small snack, like a banana or a handful of almonds. So not long after Tim had come home from moving more stuff out of the old place, he was headed back out to the store for almonds (I intentionally had no snacks at home in order not to be tempted). It was the best handful of almonds I'd ever eaten.

I had a pretty restless night of sleep; as tired as I was, it took me a while to fall asleep.

Day 3
I woke up groggy but glad it was the last day of the cleanse. This day did in fact end up being better than the previous day. I still had some of the same symptoms as the day before--easily lightheaded, fatigued--but without the headache, which made a big difference. Plus, my outlook was better, as I knew it would all be over soon.

I had a lot of work to bang out at the office, and I wasn't working as efficiently as I usually did. When I told my boss why I was dragging a bit, she told me about her experiences with juicing. She's a fairly avid juicer and had actually done a seven-day juice cleanse before (I couldn't imagine!). But she also said that it's a difficult thing to do when you're under any duress--and I was under lots. Hearing that oddly made me feel better about how poorly I'd seemed to handle the experience; perhaps under normal circumstances I'd have responded differently.

After work, I still had to meet Tim at the old place to clear it out once and for all. I was pretty cranky, I admit. The leftover odds and ends that seemed to have no place to go were weighing on me, but so was the knowledge that I was so close to being able to have food. I considered eating a meal that night, after the last juice. Technically I'd have finished all 18 juices, so I kept trying to justify to myself that I could eat. But I knew that the program was for three whole days, and Tim helped keep me accountable, even though I fought him on it. I did, however, have some more almonds when I got home.

* * *

After the cleanse, I bounced back pretty quickly. I was excited to eat again, but I also wanted to be cautious of what I put back in my body. I wanted to steer clear of refined sugars in particular, which I'd gotten lax about when everyone's extra Easter candy and end-of-the semester treats made regular appearances at the office.

What I Learned
  • Cleansing isn't for the weak-willed; it takes a lot of mental strength to push through. I tried to summon my marathon training mentality to help me get through it, and sometimes that failed.
  • I probably should have moved around with more regularity. Mild exercise helps push toxins out of the body. I sat for a long time at work without moving each day, and then I probably overdid it the two nights I spent finishing the move, which likely contributed to my fatigue.
  • I should have consumed more water. I realized this a little late in the second day and tried to take corrective action, but again, the peeing. 
  • Everyone can benefit from a cleanse. I maintain a pretty clean daily diet, and I still experienced some pretty intense detox symptoms.
  • Fair warning that this one may be TMI: the juice from leafy greens and beets retains its color all the way through the digestive process. (That's just bonus information for my readers.)
Juice Monkeys has a variety of cleanse programs, as well as other juices that weren't part of the cleanse (which I can't wait to try!). Hopefully I won't need to be cleansed again for a while, but if I feel I do, I'll be better prepared to deal with it, and I hope this helps prepare you if you're considering doing it, too.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon: Race Report

Ten weeks after I ran the Clearwater marathon, I returned to the same race site for the Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon. Of course, the plan was never to take all of those ten weeks off; in fact, I don't know if I would have even raced this past weekend's half if I hadn't been injured at BDR and gotten suckered into signing up for Iron Girl at the expo. But I did, and I'm glad.

I wasn't feeling wonderful in the days leading up to this race, and all along I said I wasn't going to "race" it. I really just wanted to prove to myself that I could push myself through the distance and not get hurt doing it. Also, I was adamant about going by myself; if I fell apart, I didn't want any invited witnesses present.

So on race morning, I got myself up, got dressed, headed out the door on time, and after driving away realized I'd forgotten my GPS watch. I panicked for a moment, as I've come to rely so heavily on my watch during both training and racing. I started to turn around, but then decided I didn't need it. If I wasn't really racing, it didn't matter whether I knew what my pace was at every moment. (On the other hand, not having the watch could have made me run faster than I intended, which could have caused re-injury, but I wasn't banking on that.) I parked relatively easily, in a parking garage whose fee had been lifted for the event (hooray for small victories!). I was a little chilly in my tank top, which was good; the only other time I'd raced Iron Girl was in 2010, and I recall that it was deathly hot. So I was glad for the nice weather; while I knew we'd spend some time in the sun once it rose, I also knew it wouldn't get too hot or humid.

I lined myself up in the starting corral between the 2:00 and 2:10 (finish) pace groups, to give myself an idea of what pace I was running, as I didn't have my watch. While waiting in the corral, I saw long-time runner, coach, and organizer Debbie Voiles (of Run Tampa) in line ahead of me, who took this shot of a still-sleepy Lee:

A peculiar thing about women's races: I get very emotional. Maybe it's the abundant estrogen floating around. I always think about Katherine Switzer, which makes me think about the Boston Marathon, which made me particularly sappy, given the close proximity to the anniversary of last year's horrific event. And then the "Star-Spangled Banner" played (or was sung; I couldn't see or tell), and I started thinking about the lyrics. Then I was reminded of when I learned about the lyrics and creation of the song in a middle-school history class, which made me think about war and triumph and inspiration. And I almost started sobbing, all before the horn blew.

But thankfully I was able to hold it together once we started. The course was basically an out-and-back, with two bridges, which we repeated (so four times running on a bridge). And these bridges aren't meager; especially the Clearwater Memorial Causeway (a.k.a. the Clearwater Bridge, 75 ft. high), which is where we started and finished the race. I started out feeling just so-so, which kept me from trying to go too fast--that simply wasn't an option. I was actually grateful for the bridges, because they gave me a challenge to focus on since I couldn't really focus on racing hard. I was feeling pretty stable in whatever pace I was at--I knew it was faster than a 9:55 min/mi, because I made sure to stay in front of the 2:10 pace group, but the 2:00 pace group was out of sight, so it was slower than a 9:23 min/mi.

See how there's lots of blue surrounding the green? That means BRIDGES.

After finishing the second bridge, Sand Key Bridge (65 ft. high), what felt like the longest part of the race ensued, which was mostly a straight-away on Gulf Blvd. During this part I was just anxious to turn around and go back over the bridges again. I guess they were giving me anxiety, just sitting there waiting for me. I didn't know how much energy I'd have once I got back around to them; I had barely trained for this race and was afraid I'd give out toward the end. But that didn't happen. In fact, I found some reserves to use, and because my foot and ankle were feeling pretty good, I decided to push a little bit once we did get back to Sand Key. I knew then it was a short distance over, and then the next and final bridge would be just around the corner. And once I got to the top of that one, I knew it was literally downhill from there. When I had the finish sign in sight, I gave a big final push and blew past a couple of other runners. I actually hate when other runners hold out throughout a race and then do that same thing to me at the very end, but because I was being cautious, it was the only chance I would allow myself to full-out race (so I forgive myself that lapse in etiquette).

I finished in 2:04:18, at an overall pace of 9:30 min/mi. I was very happy with that. It's a ways off from my PR of 1:53:29, but everything considered, I'm still proud of my effort. This was by no means a PR race for me. And on the plus side, I totally beat my time for the 2010 Iron Girl, which I ran, uninjured, in 2:13:41.

Other stats that I don't really care about.

I didn't waste much time getting back to my car, where I took this selfie in the parking garage to prove I survived:

I was as happy as I look.

In the few days that have passed since the race, I biked one day, rested (i.e., napped through my run) another, and did bootcamp last night. Because I blew off my run on Tuesday, I got up this morning to run with Tim (OK, Tim got me up). It didn't feel wonderful, but that was to be expected. It's also tough to run the morning after bootcamp. Plus, there was fierce wind. Etc., etc. I still have some mild pain in my left foot, but the more nagging problem now seems to be in my right ankle, which I think is from the time I spent in the boot, walking unevenly. I know I need to be careful and still take it easy when I do run. I've got a marathon to start training for in a couple of months, and I want to feel good starting out.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Joe's Oat Patties

I should note up front that I'm not getting reimbursed or anything for this product; I just happen to love it. I first discovered Joe's Oat Patties in pre-mix form at a downtown sort of "gourmet" grocery store. It was an easy solution to dinner -- nutritious, vegan, gluten-free (some flavors are, at least), organic, and fast and easy to prepare. Oh, and delicious! But then, last weekend while at Whole Foods (which I must say is less of a nightmare to shop at because of the new grocery-shopping nightmare that is Trader Joe's), I noticed the product in the freezer section., for even lazier people (like me) who don't want to go through the hassle of mixing a few things together in a bowl. So of course I bought them. And then on Tuesday night, after running at Four Green Fields, all I had to do was slice and season my potatoes, pop them in the oven while I steamed the green beans and put these pre-made patties on the stove for a few minutes each side, and voila! Dinner was served:

They really don't taste like meat burgers, and they aren't trying to (nobody likes a poser). So I'm not sure how much Tim (a meat-lover) liked them, but he seemed to enjoy every morsel. And one more great thing about the product is that it's local! Out of Apopka, actually, which is the little-known Central Florida town where I went to high school for four trying years.

That's the end of my unsolicited product plug. I hope you'll try them out!