Inflammation: long term vs. short term

When you are an runner with an inflammatory disease (asthma, RA, Crohn’s, etc) you (eventually) accept your limitations or accept the consequences of going into the hospital (or death).  In my case, I am incredibly lucky that I have a supportive pulmonary doc that enables my running rather than put me in a bubble.  While she will draw the line occasionally (see: Spartan Races) overall she supports me.

What does this have to do with running? When you do any kind of workout you create micro tears in your muscles which then get inflamed in order to heal them.  (See video here) The problem is when your body is already inflamed working out has a tendency to make your disease worse.  It’s a vicious circle.  The trick is finding the balance between working out to improve and your disease.

This week I had a very frank discussion with the Wonder Woman of PT.  We’ve been working on fixing some underlying chronic physical issues which. We’ve made so much progress, but I have been noticing as I’ve been ramping up my training for Twisted Fork that I’m already having some pretty massive swelling going on.  I’m not even to the hard weeks yet.  She’s not your typical PT.  She understands the impact of my asthma (inflammation) and allergy shots (more inflammation) combined with the increased impact from training (even more inflammation).  Notice a trend here?

I made her promise me that as we go along that if I start breaking down (beyond the normal level) that could potentially impact my long term running that she would tell me.  The last thing that I want is to sacrifice my long term running for the short term goal of the race.  She wholeheartedly agreed.  We then made some changes to my training plan enabling me to swap out one day a week of running for either swimming (resistance/cardio) and spin (speed work).  The hope is that if we swap one day of running that we might be able to continue to push training  without actually increasing the inflammation in my body.

While I will always envy those people who can throw down massive miles week after week and never experience any issues I know how incredibly lucky I am.  I hold every single mile close.  I am an asthmatic trail runner.   That I will be forever proud of.


2018: The Year of the Elephant

There is this very old joke/parable; how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!  2018 is going to be my year of the elephant.  He even has a name: Twisted Fork 64k. Hmm, maybe I’d better give him a nickname.

Last fall when I was out in Park City to running the 50k I got asked nicely/suckered into signing up for this race.  The good news is that it is at the end June which means no snow (hopefully).  The other good news is that I have multiple friends who are also doing it.  Granted they will be WAY far out in front of me, but knowing that they will be there when I’m done will be a comfort.

As I started putting in my training calendar as designed by the uber awesome Kayla I started to hyperventilate.  Holy crap this is a lot. What if I break.  What if my lungs don’t cooperate.  What if I have another major physical blowout?  What if, what if, what if.   I know I need to get out of my head, but when you are staring at the entire elephant to eat it becomes overwhelming.  I decided that I am only putting 30 days worth of training in at a time into the calendar.  That way I can’t get completely overwhelmed.

This week looks like this:

1 1/1/18 CF 5 m run (2 mi of speed) 3 m run CF Rest 8 = 16 total for the week Yoga 1/7

I keep telling myself I will take it one week at a time and one day at a time if need be.

North Face 50k: Just Jump

When I was out to sea on the USCGC Mellon we were lucky enough to have a couple of swim calls.  That is when the ship stops and they let everyone jump overboard to have a good romp.  (It’s also a great way to get everyone smelling better when your water gets contaminated and you’re waiting for the tanks to refill, but that’s another story.) By the last swim call all of the girls in my berthing had jumped off the O-1 deck.  It’s higher than jumping off of the main deck and depending on when you catch the swell of the ocean it can be a LONG way down.

I was terrified of jumping, but all the other girls had done it, I knew it was safe and there was nothing holding me back but fear.  As I stood with my back against the O-1 bulkhead hatch staring at the open abyss to the ocean, my knees were shaking, my insides had an entire rugby team of dragons (not butterflies), and I was seriously considering just chickening out and facing the wrath of being the only girl who didn’t jump and the only Navy person who didn’t jump.  Instead, took a deep breath, and ran off the edge before I could talk myself out of it.  The Senior Chief who was standing shark duty said, “I knew it was you jumping.  You screamed, you ran out of air, you took another breath, and kept right on screaming until you hit the water.”  Well, duh, I mean holy crap balls that was scary.

I’m currently sitting on an airplane making my way west to Park City, Utah to (theoretically) run the North Face 50k.  I say theoretically because, well, Summit County has already gotten snow this year and they are predicting 4-7 inches more of the white powdery stuff tonight.  Yet, as I sit on this airplane watching the ground go by while waiting for biostatistics code to get spat out of SAS all I can think about is how I am feeling the exact same feeling as I did that particular day, scared.

Why? Why am I so terrified of this race?  Well, let’s start with the physical stuff.  I came home from my summer in Utah a little beaten up and it’s taken a couple of months of physical therapy to get me strong.  I’ve made leaps and bounds and the witchy one says that I will be fine, but there’s that shadow that lingers there.

Then let’s talk about the weather.  The last time I attempted to run in the cold and snow I got hypothermia.  So, yes, I’m terrified that that will happen again and this time I don’t have ShooterGirl close by to come and rescue me.

Finally, let’s talk about the mental aspect.  I crawled all over this particular mountain this summer, on purpose.  I spent multiple days a week learning her quirks.  All that said, I haven’t been at altitude for 6 weeks.  My boss didn’t help any when he said, “Oh man, you’re going to fry your lungs.”

So, yeah, I’m terrified.  I’m hopeful that there will BE a race to run.  I need to run this race.  I need to treat this like that jump off of the USCGC Mellon only without all the screaming.  I’m just afraid if I chicken out and don’t run I may never sign up for another 50k again.


Bad asthmatic! Bad! 

Final week of classes! Hooray! However final week of classes means I’m stressed out. I’ve been super good this pollen season trying to not over do it. After almost getting my tush admitted last year this year I’m trying to be super well behaved. Ok, well behaved for me. 

Today I needed a run. Badly. The tree pollen has been off the charts for weeks now. I’ve been feeling like a caged animal. As much as I love my other forms of cross training I missed the dirt and woods. I was getting my allergy shot this morning anyway, so I figured if I was going to run I needed to do it before my shot and not after. 

I knew it was going to be bad when a mile in I felt my chest get tight. Crap. I was doing this run. Two miles in and I finally broke down and took my inhaler. By the time I hit the car I knew I was in trouble. Dammit. It was only 3 miles. Come on lungs get your shit together. 

When I showed up at my allergy appointment I’m always required to do a spirometer test.  That’s where you blow into a tube and it measures how much air your moving. My normal read is 550. That’s a great number. Today I blew a 490. For those that are statistically inclined that’s an 11% decrease in function in “just” 3 miles.  Totally worth it. Happy runner. Bad asthmatic. 


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.