Finding a Rhythm in the Blues

I’ve lost my rhythm, (and another toe nail, but that gives me great joy because it reminds me that even though I am not the runner I was last year, my body still thinks I am). It only took 10 weeks, but it is gone. I didn’t even realize how important it was  until now. I’ll get it back, that a guarantee, but in the meantime it does kind of suck. Rhythm is paramount in distance running.

I signed up for the Tacoma City  Marathon on May 5th, before my Physical Therapist gave me the green light to run. Anticipating that the race would fill up, I HAD to secure a spot. This is the 10th anniversary celebration of the Marathon Maniacs, and there’s no way I am going to miss THAT party. Now I have 9 1/2 weeks to be ready to run 26.2 miles, and the most I have run since mid December is 4 miles. Well, the other day I ran 2 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, so I guess you could call it 6. Have I mentioned I am also a member of the Idiot’s Running Club?

My foot is healing nicely, and most days I don’t even have pain; that is until I run.  I have a few twinges here and there. PT man says that’s ok, as long as it doesn’t hurt terribly the next day. I still wonder if I will ever run pain free again. I watch other runners effortlessly floating like gazelle down the streets and paths of Portland and I long for that blissful experience. Hell, at this point I long for a 6 miler! Now, more than ever I understand why runners panic if they take more than their “scheduled” day off. This whole “starting over” thing is the pits.

Last Fall, before I realized I was systematically ripping tendons and muscles in my left foot, I read an article about Bernard Lagat, an amazing Olympian runner and world record holder. This guy is FAST! He holds records in the 3000, 1500, and the mile. At 37 years old, he is still running and winning races. What I found interesting about him, outside of his achievements, was his training schedule off season.

Apparently, when Bernard is not competing, he takes off 5 weeks and does nothing! I was shocked to read this! I remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is nuts. Who has the discipline and confidence to do that every year and then get back into race form to go on and break records? Well, he IS just a child at 37. (Yeah right) Anyway, I thought there was no way I would take time off between races. When you’ve trained for 5 months for a marathon, why slack off? You’re already THERE for crap’s sake, so just keep running, right? Well, maybe for some people but not for those of us too stupid to see the signs of injury.

So here I am re-reading the article about my couch potato buddy Bernard, and learning that he takes time to be lazy. He rests for 5 weeks and pigs out, gaining up to eight pounds. HA! Of course if I gained eight pounds, there’s be no living with me, so while I may have shifted my flab during this sabbatical, it hasn’t amounted to more than two or three pound weight gain. The Wall Street Journal article goes on to say that when he starts his training again:

Lagat said it takes some time to work himself back into shape, but that is part of the process. A 30-minute jog on his first day back can leave him doubled over, short of breath. By week three, he can go for a 10-mile jog in 55 minutes. “I never push myself feeling like I should be in shape right away,” he said. “I know I have time.”

Now I know I have a friend in Bernard Lagat. For what it’s worth, I am trying to learn that I am not YET able to run a quick 10 miles before work whenever I want. My weekend “long” run might only be 5-6 miles this week. It might hurt. I might tire. I WILL curse. But I will continue to run, and like a good girl, I will ONLY push past the limits my PT gives me just a smidgen. Patience has never been one of my strong points. (see Patience from January 27,2013) I want it and I want it yesterday. Ho Hum. I will channel Bernard and all the other athletes that take time off due to shifts in training, injury, or personal preference. I will remember that it does take time to build endurance and muscle memory so that I can run injury free, strong, and with rhythm.

Besides the physical rhythm of running, or cadence, there is a rhythm of the mind that is a key component to distance running. If you can’t settle into a comfortable mental state while attempting 2-4 hours of running, then you are pretty much screwed. I had this NAILED last year. Now I am all over the place during my 30-45 minute runs. Getting this back will take some concentrated effort on my part. Maybe I need to switch to decaf.

The other rhythm that is a little off these days is my heart. I still don’t know what the scoop is, and I am waiting for the results of my recent 48 hour heart monitor test. Oh, that was fun. Check out the contraption I had to wear for two days. Can you just picture trying to hide that under clothes? And you can’t shower. I worked out three times while wearing this thing, and let me tell you, sponge baths are for the birds! So these days there are so many things that remind me of my age, and I’m getting really sick of it. Injuries, heart palpitations, grey hair, insomnia, and hot flashes can all kiss my ass.


I have been poked, pricked, and prodded, trying to keep this bod going, and a little bit of “distraction” will not stop me. I’ll plow through this momentary lapse and be back in no time running races in goofy costumes, and collecting finisher’s medals, because that’s what I do to keep my sanity and my dress size.

What have you done to overcome an injury and push through your mental challenges?

5 Do’s of Athletic Club Treadmill Etiquette

Have you ever noticed how the treadmills and other aerobic fitness equipment is positioned so closely together in athletic clubs that at any given time an errant sweaty elbow might invade the space of the next door participant? It has been a few years since I had a membership at an athletic club, because I prefer to run and bike outside where I can breathe fresh air and have Mother Nature’s scenes unfold before me. Now that I am rehabbing my foot, I am supposed to do repetitive short spurts of running, mixed with walking, on a stable flat surface, so I have ventured back into the community gym. It didn’t take long before I remembered why I prefer the outdoors. I have come up with 5 do’s of athletic club treadmill etiquette.

1. Manage your space. Most clubs have a row of several treadmills along a wall, window, or other area where you can watch the goings on of TVs, people, or traffic. Unless you are superstitious or have a favorite one, DON’T mount the treadmill next to the ONLY other runner that happens to be working out. This is creepy. It messes with their rhythm and disrupts their concentration. Runners have all sorts of rituals and for most of us, if we are running on a treadmill, we are miserable. We only want to get it over with and any slight change in our little world will send us into a complete psychic breakdown.

2.Manage your volume. OK, it’s awesome and wonderful that you love Flo Rita, and I’m so happy that you’re a Wild One, but, seriously, keep it to yourself. Turn down your ipod. You are not the DJ of the day, sent here to cure me of my treadmill boredom by spinning your favorite tunes. And while I’m at it, DON”T sing along with your music maker! I might have to punch you.

3. Stop grunting. What’s with the people that think they need to grunt, moan, and otherwise make obscene noises while working out? It’s a treadmill buddy, NOT the International Weight Lifting Championships.I think if you are in that much pain, you shouldn’t be running so hard. See a doctor or something. Better yet, shut up and slow down. You are not impressing anyone.

4. Check your odor. It never ceases to amaze me how I manage to end up next to the person that has eaten nothing but onions and garlic, hasn’t washed their work out clothes in weeks, and didn’t shower after the previous night’s alcohol and sex marathon. Seriously! It’s earth shattering how disgustingly nauseated I get while trying to continue breathing while inhaling your vile, fetid stink. Here’s a suggestion: if you notice the posters on the walls starting to curl, and people around you turning away and dry heaving, take a quick sniff of yourself. Go to the locker room and at least take some soap and wash your arm pits. While your in there, check your “undies” to make sure you are not carrying around some extra surprises, and when all else fails, take your work out OUTSIDE. Next time, consider some good deodorant, and clean clothes. You are rude and inconsiderate!

5.Tread lightly. I often wonder about people that relentlessly stomp on treadmills. Why do they do that? What is the logic? The other day, I was next to this guy who made so much noise hammering away on that poor machine, that I thought he was going to break it. The whole room was shaking. (See #3 above. OF course, this type of runner also seems to be guilty of making every noise possible as if he is running for his life from the mob!) How does that feel? How’s your back? Don’t you hear yourself?

I hope to take my running outdoors permanently very soon. In the meantime, I will endure the claustrophobic challenges of using an indoor treadmill. If you happen to see me on one, my best advice is to steer clear. I am not happy here. I am not well. I may be prone to sudden outbursts of tears. I may start yelling at the machine and accusing the time clock of being broken. But take heart, I will be gone soon and you can have your safe haven back. Then you can stink, sing, sweat, groan, and slam all over the place without me.

Have a Heart (But Don’t Take Mine)

On Valentine’s Day, hearts are everywhere. Chocolate mostly, although I did actually see a bacon heart this morning on Facebook. For the record, I think bacon smells good, but I would never eat it.

THIS is more like it.

The-heart-sign-dogSpeaking of hearts, I had an interesting thing happen to mine this week. It’s funny how, when you are in your 50’s, you start thinking about keeping yourself on this planet a little longer, and paying attention to “little things”. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I never thought about stuff like blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, and all those boring things old people talked about.

This past weekend, I was laying in bed and felt a strange sensation in my chest, like there was a fish flopping around in there. It lasted a few seconds and then stopped. A few minutes later, it happened again. Being the dutiful Catholic that I am, I said an Our Father, and an Act of Contrition, just in case I didn’t wake up in the morning. I didn’t really think I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. As it turned out, I did wake up, went about my day, and that was that. Until it happened two more times. Then once again, while watching TV the next night, that flounder was back in there, flopping around. I mentioned it to my husband, who, glued to the TV as usual, grunted something and held his blank stare at the flat screen. Deciding that I needed something to drink, I got up and wooohooo, the dizziness hit and I floated across the floor, like a drunk, all the while, watching the little stars blinking, and the blackness closing in. I managed not to pass out, and continued my evening of TV watching.

Just before bed, the old lady in me-the one that has turned into a hypochondriac, decided to email the doctor, just ‘cuz. I managed to wake up alive the next morning and received a call from the Dr’s office, telling me to come in today. Ho Hum. OK, sure, fine.

Fast forward to the appointment. My regular doctor was off that day, so I had the “pleasure” of seeing a first year intern. No offense to this guy but really? What, are you 12?

Doogie had the technician take my vitals sitting, standing, and laying down….three times. They did an EKG, and low and behold, aside from a First degree AV Block, which I already knew about from a previous EKG, there was nothing unusual or concerning.  The doctor asked me if there had been any changes to my life recently that might be a contributing factor to these episodes. Normally at this stage of an exam, with my regular fantastic doctor, I would have had a chance to discuss what is going on in my life, the stress issues, my injury that has prevented me from running for 9 weeks, female issues, daughter getting married stress, how my big toe hurts, the migraine I had last week; you know-normal stuff. But this guy didn’t want to hear any of it. For some reason he decided he wanted to focus on how much I drink and what kind of drugs I take. I told him that I regularly enjoy a glass of wine at night and that can mean anywhere between 1 to 3 glasses, but that several weeks ago, after the holidays were over and I was taking hold of my senses again, I had curtailed my alcohol intake by about 80%. He then said that “Sometimes in people with such excessive alcohol consumption, withdrawal can cause these symtoms. I looked at him like he had three heads. Then he asked me what type of stimulants I was taking. This is when I started getting pissed. I sat up and looked him straight in his teenage eyes and said. “One or two cups of English Breakfast Tea per day.” He didn’t seem amused and asked me to hold my hands out in front of me. He wanted to see if I was having tremors. Now, I have a good a sense of humor as anyone, but this was not funny anymore. Who IS this guy? I attempted to “gently” explain to him that I am not a heavy drinker, I do not take ANY drugs or daily medications, I work out 5-6 days per week, currently swimming a mile or more per week, bike 30+ miles per week, PLUS work out at a kettlebell gym twice per week. When running, I routinely run 35-40 miles each week, AND I run my own successful business. I eat primarily vegetarian and seafood meals, and don’t eat a lot of junk, plus I drink somewhere between 30-60 ounces of water each day.

At this time he suggested that I wear a 30 day heart monitor so they can track whether or not I have recurring symtoms, and evaluate them. He left the room and asked the tech to do my vitals again…sitting, standing, and laying down. By now, I felt like I WAS going to have a heart attack. For the record, my blood pressure was something like 90/60 and my resting pulse was <60. It didn’t change much in the three times they checked. I had a feeling by now, however that they were going to be higher. (They weren’t) 

While the tech was checking these things, she said the doctor wanted me to fill out a questionnaire, because apparently they thought I was crazy and suicidal.


After filling this out I asked the tech to go get the doctor and ask him if I could do a 48 hour heart monitor as opposed to the 30 day one. I was trying to imagine wearing this wirey, bulky contraption in the pool, or while swinging a kettlebel, while wearing my business clothes, or anything else for that matter. A short time later, the baby doc returns with a more mature, seasoned doctor, and I  thought, “Thank God she’s here to change his diaper and let me go home.”

She started out just wonderful! She explained my AV block in such a way that I fully understood it, and also explained the symptoms I was having, and how they are very common, bla, bla, bla. Just as I was about to pull out my car keys and leave, she stopped, got all serious, and said, “But more importantly, I want to talk to you about your excessive alcohol abuse.”  I really thought Ashton Kutcher would pop in at any moment with the “Punked” crew. I thought about arguing with her, but then she would probably think that was the alcoholic talking, so I just shut up and nodded. I had had enough. I guess they must have just had some kind of seminar on substance abuse and their reticular activators were on hyper alert!

I managed to leave there with a smidgen of dignity, WITHOUT the heart monitor, because they were out of stock, and went home. I vented my frustration with this experience to numerous people and went on with my life. I am waiting to speak with my regular doctor, to see if she wants me to wear the monitor. I will be a good girl and listen to her. I will not let prepubescent medical residents examine me in the future. I will continue to be an ADHD, running obsessed maniac. AND, I will find ways to manage my stress.

I think I will start with a nice Valentine Lobster dinner and a glass of La Crema ChardonnayDSCN0114

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope it’s a good one. Take great care of your health.

What Snot to Love?

I just love it when I am talking to someone and a bucket full of water and snot suddenly propels itself out of my nose. Now that I am swimming and training for a Sprint Triathlon, I am having flashbacks of my youth swim team and lifeguard training.

I am proud to have control over most of my bodily functions, but my “swimmer’s nose” just laughs at me and runs down my face at will. It’s one of the ways I am forced to be humble, I guess. Trust me, nothing says, “Consummate Professional”, like a spontaneous expulsion! If I were an Olympic swimmer, I’d be much more able to get away with it.

Poor Ian.

Oh well, back to me. So, now that I am training for my first Triathlon, I am spending two to three days working out in a pool. This increases the chance of my snot rocket surprises by up to 30% each week, for those of you that don’t have mad math skills. I am a very efficient swimmer. I know how to breathe in and out through my nose and mouth while swimming. So why does this happen, and what can be done about it? Experts vary on the reasons and remedies, but they all agree that irritants, allergies, and bacteria are among the common causes.

Germaphobe that I am, I shutter to think about what I am exactly ingesting while swimming in that community pool. I know people sweat, spit, and God knows what else in public pools, but I have always considered the chlorine (which of course is a poison) would take care of that. I recently read that Olympic swimmers admit to peeing in pools all the time. Nice. For the record I have never done this! You are safe to share a lane with me.

The good news is that, if I get all snotty while swimming or afterwards, at least I know that it is because I am working out. I am off my butt, making an effort to get this body moving, in any way that it can. It takes effort and dedication to convince yourself that it is a good idea to put on a bathing suit in the middle of winter when you are pasty white and it is cold, dark, and raining out, and drive yourself to a pool, so that you can take that first chilly plunge.

My advice? Get out there and do it. Swimming is one of the best ways to start or enhance your fitness routine. The first few days may be tough as you adjust to the water, the newness of your heart pounding, and the shortness of breath. In a few days, you will be amazed at how quickly your endurance improves. Just keep in mind that tissues should always be on hand. Or, buy a nose clip-I hear that can help.

See you in the deep end.



I Wanna be in the One That Leads to Awesome

I’m a sucker for inspirational speeches, books, movies, and people. My newest favorite is this one

I love the part where he says, “We were made to be awesome.” YES, we WERE.  Awesome!!! Feel it. Be it. Live it.

Some days we just need to hear it. Becoming runner has lead me to places of awesomeness that I never could have planned or imagined. As the saying goes, “You just can’t make this stuff up.” No way. Watching this video clip prompted me to go and Google Robert Frost. This poem could be the motto of my sport. Read it and tell me how it speaks to you.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.