Trying to stabilize my asthma

A couple of weeks ago I had a regular appointment with my asthma doc.  You know the one that yells at me regularly when I do stupid shit.  It is in her job description (at least I think so.)  Anyway, we started having a discussion about my asthma, grad school, and how all of my papers have something to do on the impacts to respiratory issues.  That’s when she brought up the idea of immunotherapy (aka: allergy shots).

“There are no upper or lower limits to the effectiveness to shots, you know?”

I told her that I hadn’t considered it because her predecessor had said in adults they were only 25% effective.  She quickly dismissed this, told me to look at some of the studies, and then said that if I was interested we’d have to do a new round of allergy testing as my last test was 10 years old.

“Honestly, at your age your asthma should be stable.  It’s not.”

We covered the protocol required for me to have the allergy testing done and scheduled it for the following week.

If you’ve never had allergy testing done before, it starts with numbering of your back followed by a series of “scratches” done on your back with various items that folks are notoriously allergic to (cats, dogs, various trees, dust, etc). Then anything that shows some signs of reaction, but not enough to make a definitive call , they then stick more serum under your skin to see how it reacts.

I shared these pictures with a friend of mine.

“Ok, so what are you allergic to?” they inquired.  I rattled off all of the things.  They were appalled.  “Wait, aren’t you a trail runner?”

“Yep.”

“Don’t you do Spartan Races and CrossFit?!”

“Yep.”

“What???”

Pretty sure that is my asthma docs feelings on the whole thing too.  Now we wait for my serum to be developed. Hopefully, this will help because I am not about to give up any fun outside.

Asheville Half: 2016 vs 2017

Last year Jewel and I ran the Asheville Half together. It was such an amazing race experience that we decided almost immediately that we wanted to run it again.  We even managed to recruit GardenerGirl and one of Jewel’s friends to run it with us. What a difference a year makes on a whole host of levels.

IMG_2309Let’s start with the temperature.  Last year it was 60+ degrees out we were in shorts and tank tops.  This year it was only in the 20s.  For this little asthmatic who already suffered in the cold and now has massive issues in the cold this didn’t bode well.  I gave serious consideration at not running at all, and then at mile 8 when I got cold, due to the wind, I gave serious consideration to dropping.   There were just not enough layers in the world to keep that wind from biting through me.

Then let’s talk about the race experience.  The race last year gave us quite a bit of swag.  We got gloves in our goodie bag and a finishers blanket. This year, when we could use the gloves we didn’t get any and instead of a blanket we got a metal finishers cup.  Honestly, the swag was on the reasons why we decided to run again.  Have to admit I’m a little disappointed this year.  Even the expo didn’t have nearly as many vendors as last year.  I know it seems petty, but come on now.

As for the running I knew I was going to be on the struggle bus.  Grad school has been sucking the majority of my stress bandwidth making my runs challenging. Combine that with the temperatures and all I wanted to do was finish in one piece.  My time this year definitely showed the impact that school and the temperature had on me as I finished nearly a minute per mile slower than I did last year.  Given that I gave serious consideration to dropping at mile 8 the fact that I finished at all is a miracle.

Even though it was cold I have to say that the spectator support was amazing.  While not IMG_2337nearly as many folks were out this year as last year, the ones that were out really brought their A game in terms of signs.  My favorites made me laugh which is always a good sign, especially when you are on the struggle bus.

There are two things I learned from this race: 1.) Cold weather is definitely off the table for me.  Anything over 4 miles in below 40 degree temperatures is just completely off the table.  I just can’t generate the body heat to keep me warm nor are my lungs happy.  2.) Road running is most definitely not for me it just doesn’t make me (or my body) happy.

 

Escalante: Scientifically proven to improve my running

It’s no secret I’m an Altra Running girl.  The overflowing basket by my door is filled with Lone Peaks and Torins of many generations.  I have my running shoes, then they get down graded to my wear around campus shoes, then they get downgraded to yard work shoes with their final destination when they are well past worn to the recycle bin at the local running store.

Recently I acquired a pair of Escalante.  I’ve been doing more running on pavement lately and I wanted to try something beyond the Torin.  (Hey in my defense don’t ever knock a shoe that you love.) From the moment I put them on my feet I was in love.  The dreamy feel of the knit made me feel like I was walking on a cloud.  I’m going to have to buy another pair of these just for dashing across campus.

Then I actually ran in them.  My GPS watch tells me my per minute foot strike.   The running clinics I have participated in and many articles all say that same thing, as a runner you should aim for 180 as your number.  In my Torins even when doing “speed work” (I’m slow so speed is relative) my average number is around 162 plus or minus 5.  My first run in the Escalante doing the same speed work? 179.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

I took them out for a spin a couple of days last week and they were ever so dreamy.  My first run I was only going to do 2 miles and I wound up doing 3, including one down the shoulder of a 4 lane highway because I didn’t want to turn around at the 1 mile mark.  Then I took them out on the streets of Annapolis.  If you’ve never been there many of the streets and sidewalks are “paved” with brick.  Brick is awful to run on.  I finished a 4.5 mile run over mainly brick streets and felt great.

Overall, I’m highly impressed with this shoe.  I’d better go order another pair for school.  I don’t want to ever take these off my feet.  Now, if we could just fix my lungs….

 

Running on empty: School Edition

“Honey you really tempt me, You know the way you look so kind, I’d love to stick around, but I’m running behind. You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find. Running into the sun but I’m running behind.”-Jackson Browne

To quote the dear Jackson Browne, I’m running on empty.  School has been kicking my ass this semester.  It’s not just the five, yes five, classes I’m taking, but it’s the group projects and individual homework load.  There are a couple of classes I’m struggling with (one of which is BioStats, surprise surprise), but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling.  My classmates and I are all in the same stress filled boat (as sick as that sounds).  How does this relate to my running?

There is a limit to the amount of stress your body can handle. Once you’ve hit your limit you can’t handle any more.  You’re done.  It doesn’t matter the kind of stress that it is; your body doesn’t recognize that running stress is different than 4 hours of Biostat homework stress.  It just recognizes it as stress and because my system already is duct taped together (thanks asthma) I have to be even more careful as it doesn’t take much to take the whole system offline and no one has time for that kind of bullshit right now.  What this translates to is a change the direction and focus of my workouts.

For now, anyway, I’ve had to temporarily suspend any dreams of increasing my per mile pace or even training for another 50k.  Why?  Again, only so much stress to go around and since work is paying for me to go back to school (and I have to keep a B or better) my focus absolutely has to be on school.  School stress>running stress.

This does’t mean that I’m not running.  It also doesn’t mean that I’m not ‘racing’.  Although, to be fair, with my slow times I’m never racing; the only person I’m trying to beat is myself.  It just means that I need to be mindful in my workouts.  It means I run for the joy and not for the X number of miles or the X pace.   It means that since I’m already running on fumes I need to experience the joy of working out.   It means that if I want to go to yoga instead of running, that’s ok.  It means if I want to go climbing instead of running, that’s ok.  It means that if I need to sit at the dining room table for 6 hours and work on a paper instead of working out at all that’s really ok!

It’s hard because I like to push myself.  I like to improve over my old time.  I like to see and feel those tangible results.  However, I also realize school>running and breathing>not breathing.   I’m working on embracing this shift.  It’s a work in progress.

 

Joyful double digits

It’s been two months to the day since I’ve done a double digit run.  I’ve been trying to be super careful coming back in an attempt to, I don’t know, NOT break me again.  With the Asheville Half Marathon coming up I needed to start ramping up my mileage to ensure that I was going to be able to crush last year.  Ok, ok, crush may be a bit too harsh of a word.  Let’s try: I want to do better than I did last year.

Em is back and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.  I love running with her.  Not saying I don’t love running with all of my friends, but Em is my favorite (shhh, don’t tell anyone else).  When she asked if I wanted to go for a run I unequivocally said HELL YES!  I told her I needed to do 10 miles, but I wanted to go “my slow”.  Her slow and my slow are very different creatures.

We decided to do an out and back on the C&O Canal, but we parked further up river from Georgetown.  Fewer people and less hassle.  Today was one of those golden days of running.  Not too hot, not too cold.  My lungs were super happy.  Honestly, the miles flew by.  Even with a couple of stops along the way, one for a SUPER cute 9 week old puppy, we still managed to finish sub-2:00.

Today’s run was exactly what I wanted it to be. Joyful.  We gossiped, we laughed, we spoke of all sorts of winding topics, but at the end of it all I felt was happy.  That, my friends, is a good thing.


 

New science, old science 

“If you told me you were holding crystals I’d tell you you were full of shit. Acupuncture, though, don’t know how it works but holy crap it works.” -My brother the doubter

Ever since the nuclear meltdown 50k I’ve been struggling. Just getting out of bed exceeded my energy capacity. I’ve been foggy and sleeping all the time.  Definitely not generating any of my own body heat. Thank God I’ve been on break from school. Functioning on a daily basis became challenge.

I somehow managed to guilt myself into running and going to CrossFit. How? You know the typical Roman Catholic way: guilt.  You don’t want to be lazy, do you? You don’t want to get fat again, do you?  Yet my progress was not going forward but rather backward. Weight was coming off the bar. My heart rate was spiking and staying at 165 at a WALK.

I took a week off to see if rest would fix it. When I went back my HR was worse than before. Um, yeah, time to go see doc. As I sat in his office showing him the data (logs are super helpful) and described what’s been going on it wasn’t basic functionality that I craved. No. What did I cry? I just want to run again!! Ok, maybe basic functionality would be nice.

I went from doing all the things to none of the things. What was wrong with me??? Several vials of blood later he sent me on my way and we waited for answers.

While waiting for answers I went digging on scientific articles on iron and discovered there are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme (meat sources) has more bioavailability than non-heme (plant) sources. The nutritional recommendation for vegetarians and vegans is 1.8 times that of meat eaters.  I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m not a huge meat eater. Most of my protein comes from plants and cheese. Huh. Maybe I should start taking iron.

Meanwhile, I had an appointment with the acupuncturist. He and I also had a frank conversation about what was going on. He stuck some pins in new places (adrenals) and sent me on my way with a vitamin specifically designed for athletes stating that there was most likely a trace mineral or series of vitamins I dumped from my system. We also scheduled an appointment for him to do some testing on various energy fields for later in the week.

On Monday my bloodwork came back. Thyroid (part of your adrenals) a bit sluggish and SED rate high. SED rates show levels of inflammation in the body. More bloodwork scheduled for Saturday.  Huh, maybe that acupuncturist was onto something….

By Tuesday (day 3) of iron & vitamins I was feeling more clear in my processing. By Thursday I felt sassy enough (plus it was 70*) to try a short run to see what my heart was going to do. It still rocketed up but not nearly as high and I was able to run with it (granted not as fast) at 140. Progress.

Thursday night he did my readings. I didn’t tell him what my blood tests showed. I wanted to see what he was going to find. He laughed because he said that anything that he introduced it would hem and haw until he reintroduced it and then if it didn’t like it it would react strongly. Tolerant until pushed. Huh kind of like the rest of me.

His readings indicated disgruntled thyroid. (Confirmed by bloodwork) Also bacterial infection in sinuses. Lungs had fungus and bacteria. All of which would elevate my SED rate. The most interesting thing was, though, when working the heart he zeroed in on a CoQ10 imbalance. CoQ10 is an enzyme needed for ATP production (turning food into energy). Most folks get enough from their diet oily fish (allergic) and whole grains (allergic). Neither of these things he knew. SO, if I’m not eating oily fish or whole grains it would make complete sense I need CoQ10.

Tomorrow I go back to Doc to have further bloodwork done. We still need to figure out what’s going on.  In the meantime Doc has said if I feel like working out to go for it. I shall call that a GTG!

2016: I survived, barely

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”- Hunter S. Thompson

I set about this year with a plan.  I wanted to push myself.  I wanted to see just how far I could go.  According to the statistics I did 247 workouts burning over 125k calories, and moving 883 miles.  Now, those aren’t 100% accurate because I regularly forget my watch, but those are still numbers I’m proud of.   While, granted, I have other friends that crossed well into the 2k miles for the year each one of those 883 miles, for me, were hard earned.

What those numbers don’t portray is the amazing experiences that this year has brought about.  This year I completed my first Spartan Trifecta.  While I IMG_9132may have started the journey because of He Who Shall Not Be Named I found some amazing people along the course who have become wonderful friends.  I root for them, they root for me, but most importantly they are phenomenal humans I’m thankful to call friends. While Spartan Racing isn’t necessarily at the top of my things to do again, with the right company I could probably be persuaded. Maybe.

This year has also been a year of firsts for others in my life.  Bella’s first 5k.  GardeningGirl’s first 10k and her first 15k!   CrossFit Runner and ShooterGirl also got into the action with CrossFit Runner doing her first trail 10k race and ShooterGirl doing her one (and only) run longer than 800m. Windchime and I got to share time on the ECSUT 50k course, her first, and all done without training. I was lucky enough to be there for all of these huge mile stones.  I’m lucky that I have these amazing people in my life.
IMG_89202016 will be forever the year that I started doing back to back races (challenges).  Starting with Florida (Glass Slipper Challenge), North Carolina (Double Dare), and Colorado (Elk Double).  Pushing myself and my distance is something that I’m still working on as witnessed by my first and second attempts at a 50k.

This is also the year, though, where I truly learned that I am not like the other kids on the playground.  My asthma really reared it’s ugly head and has started to let me know where my limits are.  I also truly learned the lesson that I have some amazing friends in my life who will absolutely be there no matter what.  To those friends, you know who you are, I love you for who you are.  We make up one badass family.

2017 is going to be a year of change and challenge.  I may not be able to run the number of races that I ran this year, but that’s ok because the locations of where I do run are going to be AMAZING. My plan is to work within the box that I have on any given day vice fight against it.  I’m going to focus on getting stronger to help me hold up longer on the trails.  Finally, I’m going to be incredibly lucky to be able to train in some gorgeous territory in 2017.

 

 

She’s going down; I’m yelling TIMBER!

Let’s talk a moment about the autonomic nervous system.  It’s not something that we think about that often because, well, we don’t have to. However the ANS is critical to everything from breathing to pooping to blood pressure.  The sympathetic system  handles “fight or flight” response, and that parasympathetic handles normal day to day duties.  When you workout you are stressing your sympathetic system.  When you are stressed (school, work, etc)  you are aggravating the sympathetic system.  There’s a really cool set of videos from Crash Course on it, if you are truly interested, but I digress…

Have you ever driven through the countryside and witnessed a beautiful stone wall that’s being buttressed by wood supports?  You know that with one strong gust of wind that the  buttresses are going to give way and the whole wall is going to come down leading to a domino effect for miles?  In effect, that’s me on a normal basis, I’m being held together by a series of buttresses (super clean diet, extra Vitamin C, asthma meds, etc).  Throw in a stress (hypothermia, grad school, etc) and TIMBER….

Having asthma, which is an autoimmune disorder, already makes me unlike the other kids on the playground.  I have to be super careful with my diet (crap in=weak immune system=lots of sick days) and I have to be vigilant of when/where/how I exercise to try to minimize exposures to things that will give me an asthma attack because dying isn’t on my list of things to do, right now anyway.

However, ever since hypothermia I’ve been struggling.  My fingers have been experiencing Raynaud’s more than I’d care to admit.  I’ve been exhausted all the time.  Weight at CrossFit that is normally a piece of cake has gotten hard.  My heart rate has been spiking on runs when it normally stays very steady thanks to all of the Maffetone training.  My internal thermostat has decided to go on the fritz.  All of these individually are bad, but in combination and they are signs that I need a system reset.

With careful consideration, discussions with Doc and Sainted Mary it has been decided I’m going to take a week off.  Nothing.  No CrossFit, no runs, no anything.  I’m going to be upping my Omega-3s (chia, flax, walnuts) and antioxidants (leafy greens, berries) even more than their normal levels to help reduce the inflammation in my system.  After a week, I’m going to see how I feel.  If after two weeks off if I’m not back to normal, then it’s time for Doc to do some deeper digging.   Fingers crossed that just some time off is all that is required.  I just want to be like the other kids on the playground……

12 Days of Christmas: WOD

It’s all fun and games until they say 3,2,1, GO! 

Ah, CrossFit, you are a mean bitch aren’t you.  All week long I knew this workout was coming.  Yet, somehow, when I woke up this morning I was still looking forward to it.  Perhaps it is because I knew that, as with all chippers, it was going to wreck me.  Perhaps it was because I really do love a good chipper.  Or perhaps it was because this year, unlike last year, I was in a much better place mentally (and physically) to handle it; something about spending six hours out in the hills of Ohio.
fullsizeoutput_ee1What exactly is the 12 Days of Christmas?  Ah, just like the song you start with 1, then 2-1, then 3-2-1, etc.  Only unlike the traditional 12 days of Christmas where you wind up with an ass load of birds and people leaping and dancing in the CrossFit version you wind up with pain and death.  Ok, that may be a bit of exaggeration, or is it?

I had made plans ahead of time to do it with AntiRunner.  Hey, if I’m going to be suffering I want to be suffering with amazing friends.  When I saw what the movements were I had a mixed bag of emotions.  First, I was sad there were no double under, hey I’ve been practicing.  Second, I was terrified of all of the overhead work.  I already woke up extremely sore from yesterdays death by wall ball.  I had already decided when I saw folks running in the 39 degree rain that this little asthmatic would not be running.  Shocking I know.  Something about not having an asthma attack was first and foremost on my mind.   When I walked in and saw several of the coaches wrecked I knew this was going to be a doozy.

We went through a brief warm up with Mel and Alex  where they ever so graciously told us that it was 2 lunges with each leg (wait what???).  45 minute max time cap.  Oh boy.  The first few rounds went fairly quickly then I found myself at five and things start getting spicy.  By the time I hit rounds seven, eight, and nine I was absolutely convinced that the barbell is getting heavier and heavier every time.  The thought of;  are you sure that those coaches didn’t put extra weight on there when you were at the rig, ran through my mind.

img_1709Luckily, AntiRunner was facing me.  We were suffering together.  A random smattering of the thoughts that ran through my head;

-Good God this is a lot of overhead.

-Do I have to pick up the barbell again?

-Who the hell was the sick and twisted bastard that programmed wall balls AND thrusters?

-Fuck you, too, burpees.

To say that I was angry, pissed off, and motivated is an under statement.  I was GOING to finish this.  I was GOING to finish this under the time cap.  I was not going to have an asthma attack.

Grind, grind, grind.  Through each of the rounds.  12! Oh hello 12! I love and adore you 12. Okay, time for my big girl panties.  I sat on the rower and forced my mind to find a happy memory to focus on. I blew through the 550m row.  I made my way back down the ladder and was doing great until I hit 6.  Crap, this bar was getting heavy.   Ugh.  OK.  Finish this.

img_1718As I put the barbell down after the last deadlift I laid out on the floor.  My ass hurt.  My shruggers hurt.  Lifting my arms?  Yeah, not going to happen.  But I finished!  Take that you mean CrossFit bitch.  I’m going to go die now.  Merry Goddamn Christmas to you too CrossFit.

 

 

 

Weight loss: A ship out to sea

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for. -John A. Shedd 

I was raised in a very Catholic home.  Vanity is one of the seven deadly sins.  While there were mirrors in the bathrooms, small ones, there were exactly zero full length mirrors.  I was raised to believe that a full length mirror led to vanity, vanity led to sinning and, well, you see where this is going.  While now I am not super Catholic, heck, I’m not even a Christmas and Easter Catholic, some things just stick with you.

I don’t know how the conversation came up, but a couple of months ago I had this very  conversation with the AntiRunner.  She was stunned that I was 40 years old and had never in my life owned a full length mirror.  Then I explained to her why.   I also pointed out that didn’t help when I was fat I didn’t want to look at myself in any mirror let along a full length one.

“How do you get ready for work in the morning?”  she asked stunned.

“I just pick out clothes and put them on.” I said matter of factly.

“THAT’S IT! I’m know what I’m getting you for Christmas.” She decreed.

I laughed and proceeded to put the entire conversation out of my mind.

Today, Christmas Eve,  when I showed up at CrossFit AntiRunner handed me a folder.

“Inside you will find something you’ve been asking for, but it’s only one part of your present.  The other part is in my car.”

img_1720As I opened the folder, inside was the most beautiful piece of artwork.  I laughed because not only had I been bugging her to get one, but because of what it says.

“I want you to tape this to the other part of your present,” she demanded.

I was now worried, oh boy, what did she get me?

“I got you a full length mirror.”

I was touched, smiled, laughed, and felt like I’d been shoved out to sea all at the same time.  Oh boy.  No more hiding.

I brought her present home and hung it up on the closet door.  Baby TrailDog instantly img_1723decided that she didn’t like the new dog I brought home.  I laughed.  Then I stood in the mirror and she saw that I was in the mirror too.  She walked up to it, sniffed it, huffed, blew steam on the glass and then turned and walked away.  Yeah, baby trail dog, it’s going to take some getting used to for me too.  We can do this.  One step at a time.