Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MCM Training, Week 5: A Setback

Date
Workout
Miles
Avg Pace
Monday, 8/11Regular Run69:33
Tuesday, 8/12Regular Run99:47
Wednesday, 8/13Rest0--
Thursday, 8/14Regular Run69:37
Friday, 8/15Rest0--
Saturday, 8/16Long Run169:45
Sunday, 8/17Yoga in the Park0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 37

My training runs are feeling better in some respects--endurance, mind set, time (sometimes)--but in another respect, I'm concerned about my ability to fully train for this marathon. My left foot, the one with bursitis, has been hurting again. It hasn't gotten so bad that I feel I can't run through it, and in fact the pain isn't the worst while I'm running--it's the days after when I'm just walking around that I feel the most pain. I just want to walk in giant, protective marshmallow shoes (perhaps I should try the Hoka One Ones). But the underlying issue would still be there. So what do I do? I've decided to take a bit of a break this week to see how much better I can feel. If my condition improves, I may go down to running only three days per week moving forward and see how that works. But I have a feeling that the long runs alone are going to aggravate my foot. So the goal will be pain management until I can no longer manage the pain and the end goal is not worthwhile. I don't want to throw in the towel now, but I want to be realistic about my options. I could also seriously revise my training schedule to include more break weeks and do either a run-walk or a slow run at the actual marathon. I'm also going to a sports massage therapist this week to see if he uses any modalities that can help treat bursitis. I will report back next week.

As for my actual training that I did accomplish, it went well. I was fortunate to have company on my 16-miler Saturday morning. My primary training partner for Steamtown, Nicole, is also training for Marine Corps, and we finally got a partner run in. We work well together because she keeps our pace down from the start (where I'd usually be sluggish), and I try to make it last toward the end. While I was able to get in to the Marine Corps Marathon through the lottery system, Nicole is raising money for a charity to gain her entrance. One of her very close friends was a Marine Corps Officer and recently passed away from cancer, far too young. You can read her touching story, and, if you're so inclined, donate to the very worthy charity Little Things for Cancer.

In place of a watch picture (which I admit I took also), here is the view from the parking lot where the Blue Shark training group meets, on Davis Islands:

Not too shabby, eh?

Because my foot pain had started to set in around mile 10, I started thinking immediately about picking up a bag of ice to bring home for my first ice bath of the training season. After successfully completing 16 miles at a slightly lower pace than I normally would have, thanks to Nicole, my foot was doing OK, but I knew more pain would set in after I took off my running shoes and started to walk around. So I prepared my ice bath as soon as I got home.

Does this look enticing, or what?

In the past, I've used the ice bath to alleviate pain and inflammation in my legs, so I usually left my feet sticking out of the water. But this time I submerged my feet, and holy cow did it hurt. I lasted maybe two minutes before I couldn't stand it anymore. Feet just aren't very fleshy, so there's not much barrier between the ice-cold water and all of the nerves that send pain signals to my brain, which I couldn't ignore, try as I did.

After this I resorted to my usual ice pack wrapped on my foot with an Ace bandage. Much more tolerable. Next, I was in for a treat. Tim's mom, who reports on community events for the Tampa Tribune, had invited me to be her guest at the Plant Based Bites in the Heights Pop-Up Brunch, a one-time event held at a rented space. The chef, Michelle Lyons Ehrlich, prepared an AMAZING array of vegan brunch food and drink for attendees. I was especially happy that she came up with creative plant-based food thats that did not include soy, which is in my opinion an overused product in vegan cuisine. There were vegans and carnivores and everything in between in attendance, and everyone seemed to love the food equally.

Vegan, organic, and 100% delicious!

The idea with this event was to try out some dishes and feel out the community's interest in a vegan restaurant in Seminole Heights. Based on the responses I heard and read, Michelle would certainly not be wanting for customers. I know I'd be a regular.

I'm currently on my second day of rest from running and am feeling a bit lazy. But I did go to yoga Monday, and I plan to go once more this week and then try one medium-mileage run. I still plan to do my long run this weekend, but it's a come-down run of 12 miles, so I feel I won't be overdoing it. Here's hoping I'm able to get some relief for my foot and continue training on an altered schedule next week!

Friday, August 15, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 4: Excuses, Excuses

Date
Workout
Miles
Avg Pace
Monday, 8/4Regular Run59:18
Tuesday, 8/5Rest0--
Wednesday, 8/6Regular Run99:50
Thursday, 8/7Regular Run69:35
Friday, 8/8Rest0--
Saturday, 8/9Long Run159:56
Sunday, 8/10Yoga in the Park0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 35

This past week of training was a tough one to get through--and it only marks a quarter of the way through my training plan. I had to spend a lot of time talking myself into running.

I don't know where Monday's speedier time came from; this is typically a "recovery"run from Saturday's long run, so I expect it to be a little sluggish. But that's what I was feeling that night, so I went with it. Perhaps it had something to do with running in the evening that day as opposed to the morning, which I've almost primarily been doing lately. And since I haven't made any real  efforts to do speed work, this can be my speed work for the week--especially because my faster pace didn't last.

I had planned to wake up early Tuesday to drive out to Bayshore for my nine-miler. I laid out my outfit the night before placed my water bottle by the sink to fill in the morning. I went to bed early. When my first two alarms went off, I disregarded them completely. The third one I gave some consideration to, and eventually I made it out of bed and into the bathroom to, er, empty my bladder. But while sitting on the toilet I felt an overwhelming need to close my eyes, so I rested my elbows on my legs, my head in my hands, and shut my eyes. Tim walked in and asked if I was going to be ready to go soon. I mumbled something about not being sure I wanted to go, hoping he'd talk me out of my toilet slumber, but then he didn't try any further. So neither did I. I went right back into bed while he left to run. (I later learned this wasn't his only effort; he had been up for a while and tried to get me up earlier, but I didn't remember it.)

My morning failure set in motion more excuses later that day. I thought I'd just make up the run that evening, but when I got home from work, I was too discouraged to go out and run. I just sat around, perpetuating a cycle of self-pity. Because I missed a day, I decided that perhaps I didn't need five days of running anyway. I usually only train four days per week, and there was no real need to increase my mileage, especially given my proneness to injury. So I took Tuesday's mishap as a sign to cut back, and I instead did the early morning nine-mile run Wednesday. It was not pretty. I had (very) positive splits, which is actually a bad thing. Most runners want to achieve negative splits, meaning the second half of the run is faster than the half. Mine just kept getting slower. But I did it. I still think anything more than six miles on a workday morning is a big success in my book.

Thursday morning's six-miler was pretty uneventful, and Friday was a welcome rest day. What remained was the hefty weight of Saturday's long run. I knew I'd be running alone, which is always fine with me, but the motivation to get up and run is harder to find when I'm deep in the most peaceful sleep I've had all week and my alarms go off at four something in the morning. And nobody is expecting me. At long last, though, I did drag myself out of bed and managed to get my pre-selected outfit on, my water bottle filled, and my watch around my wrist before heading out the door into darkness.

Because I needed 15 miles, my plan was to run three before joining the Blue Sharks group training run, which is a 9.5-mile loop, and then finish out the mileage afterward. But I dilly-dallied in bed a little too long, so I only had time for one mile. This meant I'd have to do 4.5 after finishing the main loop. In that one-mile warmup, I felt some pain in my left foot, which had been slowly creeping back in after some relatively pain-free months of running. At that point I was still so sleepy that I thought, maybe I should just stop now. Go back to bed. Save my foot. But I knew that was the defeatist voice talking, and I had to decide not to listen to it. And that's pretty much how my whole run went. The voice popped in and told me it was OK to quit. I argued with it. Sometimes I only got through the miles because I was arguing with myself for so long (not out loud--that would be weird). And when I finally got close to 10 miles, I knew there was no point in entertaining the idea of quitting; I'd come that far and may as well finish. And, eventually, I did.

There it is, slow pace and all.

The rest of the day, I took care to ice my foot and rest it (i.e., I hardly got up to do anything). I'm still experiencing pain throughout this week, and tomorrow I have 16 miles to log. I know that the problem is bursitis, and I knew when I received the diagnosis that it was likely to come back to haunt me. But, knowing what it is, I sort of know what I can get away with. I can run on it (for now), and I can do my best to treat it. And I can hope that it doesn't get any worse throughout training. If it does, I know I'll need to take a break. We'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday I returned to the Yoga in the Park class that I've neglected for far too long. I love the class, and I love being outside for it, downtown, among a great variety of other yoga enthusiasts or even newbies. It was good for my soul, so I hope to continue adding it in to my life, not just as "training" but as soul nurturing, which I could use a lot of these days.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 3: A Run Down Nostalgia Lane

Date
Workout
Miles
Avg Pace
Monday, 7/28Regular Run69:40
Tuesday, 7/29Regular Run89:45
Wednesday, 7/30Regular Run39:12
Thursday, 7/31Regular / Speed 59:30
Friday, 8/1Rest0--
Saturday, 8/2Long Run149:52
Sunday, 8/3Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 36

Last week was a pretty successful training week, meaning that I met my weekly mileage and didn't get hurt doing it (my standards for training success have lowered over the years). One change I knew I needed to make was leaving my Seminole Heights neighborhood for Tuesday morning's "medium"-length run (I can only circle the Sem Hi 'hood so many times), which meant getting up extra early to drive to Bayshore. I looked for many excuses not to do this run, even after Tim and I got to the start of it (it was very lightly sprinkling outside), but eventually I did the eight miles--every difficult step of it. And guess what? I got rained on, and I was thankful for it in the stifling heat. Also, I saw more dolphins than I'd ever seen in the bay--probably a dozen--which always feels like a magical experience.

The other runs were typical runs around the 'hood--encounters of the homeless man under the Hillsborough Ave. bridge, sometimes peeing in the river, sometimes washing himself with what looks like a bottle of Listerine; invoking the ire (and frightening speed) of the pit bull that lives thankfully on the other side of a fence along Highland Ave.; and wincing at the random honking and hollering from rude drivers-by (why do people feel a need to do this?).

This Used to Be My Playground

I was looking forward to visiting my family in Central Florida over the weekend, partly because I enjoy visiting my family but also because I like to run the Seminole Wekiva Trail, which both my mom and dad live roughly two miles away from (separately). The last time Tim and I ran this trail together, we sort of got lost (OK, I got us lost). But this time there was less pressure on the still early training run, so I didn't even worry about which direction to go in; I knew that if we ran out of mileage one way, we could go back the other way for more. So we headed north toward the underground tunnel that was locked last time (and seemed to disappear thereafter), hoping for a different result this time.

Fortunately, the tunnel was open, but Tim wanted to go back the other way (probably traumatized from his last experience), so I went ahead by myself. And this is when the memories from my childhood and adolescence came flooding in. This was a new part of the trail for me, so I wasn't entirely sure where it would lead. But after passing over a beautiful babbling brook and then past the softball complex, I came to Sanlando Park, the tennis park that various members of my family used to go to when I was young, while my sister Anna, cousin Tara and I hung out, and that my sister Anna and I went to (to actually play) when we were seniors in high school. We were never very good, and I was less good than she was, but what I recall most about our little matches is exhausting ourselves silly and falling into performance-hindering fits of laughter. I don't know if I could ever take tennis seriously because of this.

I was hoping to get to seven miles in one direction and then turn back for fourteen, and I knew I was going to get close going in this direction. But I could see the San Sebastian trail head when I was at about 6.5, so I figured I'd run to the end and see where I could get some extra mileage. When I reached the end of the road, I realized I was at a main road, State Road 436, near a shopping complex that used to house a Borders bookstore (remember those?) that I'd patronized many, many times as a teenager and for some years later. Anna and I used to go there some evenings prior to going out swing dancing--an activity we picked up also in our senior year of high school that turned into a life-changing experience. One of the last times I visited the store was after I'd moved away to Tampa. I was visiting family one weekend after I had recently gotten back in touch with a professor I had for less than a semester at UCF (I had a false start). She had helped me through a difficult situation, and I'd always remembered her kindness. So we arranged to meet up in person, and Borders is the place we met to reconnect. It's probably my last memory of the store.

I ran for a quarter-mile on 436 and turned around to hop back on the trail. For some reason, in the first half of my run I hadn't noticed another distinct part of the trail that grabbed me on the way back. The path cut through a neighborhood with a sign that read "Spring Oaks." I saw the sign and thought for a second about why I should know that name. Then I realized that I was only blocks away from the first house we moved to when we moved to Florida. And a few blocks in the other direction was my grandparents' house, where we spent so much time growing up. And directly to my left was Westmonte Park, the park that Anna and I "ran away" to as kids, that both sisters and I went to for day camp in the summer, that we swam at, picked fights with boys at, and where our mom attended Jazzercize classes while we got barbecue-flavored Fritos and Bleep Blips from the vending machines. I was tempted to pause my run so I could go check out the park and the old corner house, but I was too far along for a detour and wanted to get back before the sun became too oppressive. The memories were what mattered, anyway, and those would always be there.

Food, Family, and Blood Pressure

I finished my run without too much trouble, aside from the usual deterioration in the last couple of miles. I even picked up a credit card on the side of the road so I could call the bank to alert the owner (turns out the owner had already canceled it--so much for my heroics).

The guest room is overtaken by toddler toys.

After we cleaned up, my dad started making breakfast and my mom came over with her contributions. Although my parents have been divorced for over twenty years, they remain good friends and live not far from one another. I count this among my many blessings. We sat around for quite a while reminiscing about old family memories. And Tim endured it all like a champ.

Coffee, eggs, pastries, fruit, and . . . blood pressure cuff?

We had so much fun with this (obviously).
I learned that my blood pressure runs naturally low, around 94/70, just like my mom's. This makes us prone to occasional lightheadedness. Now I know why I've often felt that way with seemingly no other causes. Chronically low blood pressure can cause even more fun symptoms such as lack of concentration, nausea, fatigue, and depression--all of which I've experienced at various times throughout my adulthood without knowing why.

My life-givers.

The real  reason for the trip, however, was so that my dad, my sister Catie, Tim, and I could see the movie Boyhood playing at the awesome Orlando movie house, the Enzian (even though it was also playing at our own Tampa Theatre). What the Enzian lacks in architectural interest it makes up for with its table seating and acclaimed menu, which we ordered off of for lunch while we watched the film. And vice versa for Tampa Theatre--amazing architecture, lousy seating and food selection (but I love it anyway).

Older sis, Catie. We rarely spend much adult time together, so this was a treat.

After the movie, Tim and I headed back home to Tampa. It had been a long day, but a totally worthwhile one.

I'm (mostly) on schedule for training this week. In my next post, I'll discuss the speed work that hasn't happened, the time Tim didn't try hard enough to get me out the door for an early run, and whatever other fun or tragic things occur between now and then.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 2

Date
Workout
Miles
Avg Pace
Monday, 7/21Regular Run49:24
Tuesday, 7/22Regular Run59:21
Wednesday, 7/23Regular Run49:19
Thursday, 7/24Regular / Speed 4.38 / 39:26 / 9:17
Friday, 7/25Rest0--
Saturday, 7/26Long Run1310:02
Sunday, 7/27Mini Strength-Train0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 33.38 (that's .38 miles more than I needed!)

Normally, I would start a training plan with Week 1; however, given my special circumstances, I was pretty much out for the count during my first "official" week of training. So I started with Week 2 and tried really hard to catch up. To my own amazement, I did. At this point, I'm really just running the miles, hence all of the Regular Runs. Even my attempt at a "speed" run wasn't very speedy. But I forgive myself--for now. I spent a week after my surgery not doing any exercise at all and also eating less than usual because it was just too difficult. So when I tried to come back to a full week of training, I really felt the declined stamina. I decided I still wanted to aim to do the 13-mile long run on my training plan for Saturday, but I was prepared for how ugly it might be.

I planned to run alone, in case of any mishaps, but I knew other runners would be out with me. I decided to start at Channelside and run the main Davis Islands loop and back, which gave me almost 13 miles--I had to run a quarter mile extra at the end. I started extra early, a little past 5:30 a.m. I don't like being in the sun too much for my long runs, so the more I can do pre-dawn, the better. And based on the fact that I couldn't seem to run for longer than five miles earlier in the week (see Thursday's split runs), I imagined I would need to stop a lot or walk some, and I wanted to allow time for this. But the main thing that ended up plaguing me was a slight muscle pull on my inner thigh fairly early in the run. This just made me give a more concerted effort to slowing down--fine by me. I was able to complete the run without too much stopping, and no walking. My thigh was hurting pretty badly in the end, though, so I knew I'd need to take care of it so it didn't become an actual injury. This was the farthest I'd run since the Clearwater Marathon, before my foot injury and significant pain developments. So it was a rather nice milestone to achieve.

The obligatory watch picture.

This week I've been on track with my runs so far, and the leg thing doesn't seem to be anything major. I have a new foot pain, but it's manageable so far. I've learned that some pain will always be present in my body, and I just have to learn to either treat it or manage it.

I'd like to incorporate more strength-training and cross-training, but I just can't decide how best to do that. I feel like my needs have changed, and I want something less intense than what I was doing before, but more regular. If only I were the self-motivated type, I could just do my own thing at home--which I actually did on Sunday, but it was only about 15 minutes of calisthenic exercises with a bit of kettlebell thrown in.

Tim and I are looking at hotels in DC, which is making me excited about both the trip and the marathon. I want to do well, but I think I care less about my time than about coming away from it still in decent shape. So while a 3:50 marathon would be really nice, I can't say it's my main goal, and I'm certainly not going to get there without upping my training (i.e., that dreadful speed work I've avoided for years). Stay tuned for a recap of Week 3, currently in progress.

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.

Cheeese.

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.

Ingredients
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.