Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting back on track one half-mile at a time

Fall in love with fighting and I guarantee you’ll never lose another battle. – Corey, Fit to Fat to Fit

You know that feeling you get when you’re laying on the couch, cuddled up with a blanket, while watching TV and maybe sipping on wine? It’s great right? But you know what’s even better? Doing that after a nice hot shower or bath right after an intense workout. It’s luxury covered with accomplishment. That’s how I feel right now...with an added ice pack on my foot.

Earlier this week, I had so many things going on in my head that I needed to get out and share with the world and I decided that maybe I should start blogging again. But I felt that I needed some validation to go along with it. I mean, who wants to read a blog about waking up, going to work, watching TV, going to sleep and hitting repeat the next day?

I’ve been wanting to get back on track, but I’ve had some setbacks, physically, where I couldn’t work out, and for some reason I don’t feel accomplished if I’m just eating well and not working out. I know it’s all mental, since we all know that the balance is an 80/20 percentage of what you eat vs. your activity level.

I’ve been slowly doing a few things to try to get back on track, but nothing really made me feel accomplished. Until today.

Today, I ran a half-mile.

You read that right. The girl who hates running, voluntarily ran a half-mile. And when I say I ran the whole thing, I mean, no walking. Usually my running is a run/walk method because I can’t run that long or that far. But I ran that half-mile, one tenth of a mile at a time, with a break and grand plié squats in between. It was good enough for me. I feel accomplished.

A half-mile may not sound too fascinating to you, but it’s a big thing for me. I haven’t run in almost 8 months. I did the Runner’s World run streak in 2015 from Memorial Day to July 4th: a mile a day, every day for 41 days. I did it the year before and had great results, but I was coming off a broken ankle from October 2014, and hadn’t run in several months then either. I was plagued by plantar fasciitis and had trouble progressing at all. Since then I’ve just been discouraged to get back into running. The pain just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

Now I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m ready to step up and make things happen again. I’ve been taking baby steps to get myself started, but the lack of pain free days makes it really hard. I’ve tried literally everything for plantar fasciitis relief, short of surgery, and nothing has worked for me or helped. So, I’ve just got to stretch and ice my way through the pain, since I’m done with sitting around, waiting for it to get better.

In 2012, I attempted to run the Disney Princess half marathon and I got swept at mile 5. It was tragic. Today, 4 years later, thousands of women and a handful of men ran those 13.1 miles through the Cinderella castle that I missed out on. And I figured, if they could get up at 3 am to kick ass for a few hours, I could run a half-mile and mean it.  So I did. It was nowhere near the 13.1 they did today, but it was another start, and sometimes a start is all we need to become great again.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

3rd Annual Chunky Dunk Duathlon Race Report

This is one of my favorite races. I did the Chunky Dunk back in 2011 when it first started. I had an amazing experience due to the awesome event staff and race director, that I knew I’d be back. And I was. I did it last year, but never wrote a race report. I had kind of an off year with blogging.

This year was the 3rd annual Chunky Dunk Duathlon and as a new addition this year, they had a paddle board race and swim as an option. My friend, Alyson came and did the race with me for the 2nd year in a row and we did the usual swim/run race, but it was nice to see them branching out!

In usual race fashion, I set out my stuff the night before and aimed to get a good night’s sleep. And in usual race fashion, I didn’t go to bed until 2 am. Happens all the time. I know I’m not the only one!

After getting checked in and tatted up with my race number, I realized that I had gotten a T-shirt for paddle boarding instead of the Chunky Dunk. So I went over to exchange them. On my way back to the set up area, my posse informed me that I had gotten the wrong race number. Sure enough, I wasn’t Meredith... and I wasn’t number 33 either. That was disappointing. I was kind of excited that I was number 33 because that’s my age! It’s the little things that excite me, I tell you. Instead I was number 65. They had looked at my age instead of my race number when pulling my packet. Since I had already been written on in sharpie, I got block numbers on me to cover up the mistake. I calculated that it would come off in approximately 32 days. Turns out, rubbing alcohol takes of off in about 10 minutes. Maybe 2 for regular numbers. But with half my arm blackened, it was a bit longer. Holly, I’m looking at you on this one.

See? Not me!
As I was getting ready, I realized I was again breaking the cardinal rule of racing by trying out something new on race day. Goggles. I had been having issues with my goggles because they were old and fogged up really bad within seconds of starting a swim. So I bought a new pair. It was the same brand so I figured it would be fine. It wasn’t. I had issues with the straps pulling loose and not fitting into the bracket, resulting in loose fitting goggles. I actually used them for the first time at the Mass State Triathlon  and I had the same issue then too. You’d think I’d learn

They started race announcements and told us that because there were a bunch of different races going on at the same time they were going to have all the swim/run racers start in one wave together instead of in 4 waves as planned. Damn, I was hoping for a head start!  

We headed out on the half-mile swim and I realized I couldn’t see the buoys. So I just followed the hoard of people in front of me and figured I’d see the buoy when I got close enough to it. I was right. And it was fine. Got the swim done, hit the beach with my usual out of water pose and headed to the transition area to get my sneakers on for the run.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t run. This was my first running in a race since 2012 sometime and my first time running in at least a month. I was in no way shape or form ready to run. But I kind of did it anyway. I did a bit of running, or jogging really, but walked most of it.

A few people were behind me in the swim, but passed me on the run, no surprise there, so I was the last finisher of the swim/run. Normally being last place would bother me as it has in the past with my mantra of I don’t care where I finish as long as I finish, and I’m not last. But when I realized I could still feel accomplished even when I finish last, like I did at the Mass State Triathlon, I wasn’t so bothered.

I was however disappointed with myself for not training at all. I certainly had the time do some training swims and runs before this race, but I got lazy and just didn’t challenge myself. I like the fun of the races, but none of the fun of the training. All that does is build me up for disappointment at a race when I know I could have done better. Last year in the race, I shaved 4 minutes off my time from the year before. This year I added 3 minutes. I know I can do better. And I know I’ll do this race again next year, so I know what I need to do to swim and run a better race.

After the race, they were doing the awards for the top finishers in each age group. Instead of medals they were giving beer mugs with the Chunky Dunk logo on it. I jokingly asked the race director, Holly, where my award for last place was. She grabbed a mug and handed it to me. I told her I was only kidding!! Then said “Wait!” and grabbed a second mug then said, “You get two because you’re so awesome”. Well, THAT I can agree with! I went back to our transition area with my trophies and gave one to Alyson, because in my book, we’re both awesome!

We headed back to the house to change and take some pictures with our shirts, mugs and of course the infamous “We don’t skinny dip, we chunky dunk” sign before heading back into town to grab some lunch.

And the next day we celebrated with some wine with frozen grapes in our mugs.

If you live in the area, you definitely need to check out this race next year. It’s one of the good ones. I promise! Plus, I'm listed on their site as a "success story". If I can do it, you can do it!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mass State Triathlon - Aquabike Race Report

It’s been almost 2 weeks since the Mass State Triathlon and I’m still alive. I survived it. Never again, for sure. But I survived it. And not even the whole thing. I did the Aquabike. A 0.9 mile swim and 22 mile bike. The full tri was followed up by a 6.2 mile run, but I wasn’t crazy enough to add that on.

I was pretty much blah about the whole thing. I missed the Escape the Cape triathlon in June because I wasn’t well enough to race it. And from there, I just didn’t train. I’ve done squat challenges, arm workouts and ab workouts on a regular basis as well as a few runs, bike rides and swims but I’m definitely not in triathlon training mode. I’m lucky I got through the aquabike.

When I went to pick up my packet the day before the race, I asked about medals for the aquabikers, because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where or how the aquabike was going to end. I knew the runners crossed the finish line under the big Max Performance arch, but what about those of us that decided not to torture ourselves for a 6.2 mile run after all of that biking? When I asked at packet pick up, I was told that medals were for the top 3 males and the top 3 females in the aquabike category and there were only about 20 signed up for the aquabike, so I had a good chance. Obviously this lady did not know me. But that still didn’t stop me from checking out the list of aquabikers to see my chances. I had none.

But I was still fierce. My motto: Fake it til you make it!
I started the swim in the last wave with the relay group, the newbies, and the aquabikers. 

Gotta have fun right?

I clearly was going to be the last one out of the water. I expected it and thought that unless someone from an earlier wave dropped back and got passed, I’d be last. And I was right. Last out of the water.

I'm probably flailing because I'm glad to be done!
But I had fun. And I finished.

I knew I’d be the last biker too and with 22 miles ahead of me, I took my sweet time in transition. In addition to my tri shorts, I put on my bike shorts. If I had to ride for 22 miles, I was sure as hell going to make it as comfortable as possible.

So I sat right down and made myself at home.
And then I was off...
I had driven the bike course the day before and although the elevation map showed that it was a gradual uphill for about half the course, then a gradual downhill. No problem right? Except that was lies. All lies. The last half of the course had a fair amount of uphill as well. Dread.

The first half of the course was as expected: a gradual climb that was doable, but annoying. Not enough flat ground to get rest, but just enough to take the edge off of the hills. It was very tiring. The course description said “gradual rolling hills with small climbs at miles 7-9”.  Well, they lied. Mile 9.8 was the worst. I stopped once to catch my breath. Then when I got to mile 12, I decided I was wrong. Mile 12 was the worst. By this time I was already halfway there. I had no choice but to keep going. But the volunteers on the course were great. It was no secret that I was the last biker out there and each time I got to a turn or an intersection where traffic might be an issue, there was at least 2 volunteers, and sometimes more, plus a police officer waiting for me, ready to hold up traffic for me to let me go buy. I was definitely impressed with Max Performance’s dedication to their racers. They made sure all of us were safe out there.  When I hit mile 14.5, there was an officer there as well as a sign that said “bike course”. A guy was standing on the sidewalk getting ready to cross, but was held up because I was going by. He yelled out “Bike course? Is a race? Are you the leader? Are you winning?” And I yelled back “Hell yes I am!”. 

When I got to mile 16.3, there was a volunteer who told me that right around the corner there was a bit of a climb but once I hit the golf course it was downhill to the finish. Liar. That one was the new worst.

When I got to mile 16.9, I started doing math. I knew the course was 22 miles. I started figuring out how many more miles I had to go.  I did it again at mile 17.5 and 17.6 and 17.7. When I reached mile 18, I thought “Wouldn’t it suck if I got a flat tire right now?” Then I did math again to get my mind off of that.

Around that time, I passed a hospital. I contemplated going in there and playing dead, but the hill into the parking lot was undesirable so I just kept going. A little while later I passed a cemetery. I thought about just laying down on the grass next to a grave and letting the elements of nature cover me over eventually. But again, I kept going.

Finally I made it. And I was alive. It took me a minute to get off my bike in the dismount area, because sitting on a bike seat for 22 miles is a little bit like getting punched in the crotch. It hurts. Of course I stopped to pose for a picture. 

I like to entertain the volunteers.
Then I made my way to the transition area. And it was over. I had no idea where I was supposed to go or what to do. There was no finish line for aquabikers, so I assumed that after finishing the bike portion and crossing the timing mats into transition, I was done.

But, back to that medal thing. I wanted one. Even though I didn’t do the full triathlon, I paid the same amount as the crazy people did. And I finished my race too! I had to give them my timing chip back, which was over by the finish line, so as I was handing it over, someone from the relay race was asking about medals. It turns out, everyone got a medal for finishing. So I got my medal too!

And I posed by the finish line anyway!
After the race, I got a chance to talk to my favorite transition helper, Megan, about the confusion of the aquabike ending, and she said that it was their first year doing the aquabike and they were still trying to smooth things out. I trust they’ll get it straightened out for next year. They’re good about that stuff. It’s why I keep coming back. Thanks again for a great race experience, Max Performance! You're definitely a No Runners Left Behind approved race!

While I’m pretty sure I pushed myself to the limit and I’m definitely not ready for another Olympic distance triathlon any time soon, I have faith that I might try it again in the future, when I’ve had more training and I’m more confident in my health.

But for right now...I’ll stick to the sprint distances. In the meantime, I have the Chunky Dunk Duathlon that I’m doing tomorrow morning. In about 8 hours. I should get some sleep for that.

“Winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself.” – Meb Keflezighi

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The foam roller has won me over.

I take it back. Every mean thing I've ever said about a foam roller, I take it back.

I just finished the 30 day squat challenge and holy hell can that do some damage on the quads. Honestly, I was expecting more oomph in the glutes and hamstrings area, but it was more about the quads. The knees didn't feel so hot either. But the quads were a-burning.  Maybe I was doing it wrong. When you get up there in the squat count, it burns more. And without adequate stretching, it can cause some sore muscles for a few days afterwards. I learned early on that if there wasn't time for stretching, make time. 

Or, utilize the foam roller. There was one day that I could barely sit down because it hurt to get up and down from a sitting position. My legs were absolutely killing me. From across the room, my foam roller was giving me the eye. For a brief moment I forgot how much the foam roller caused me pain in the past. I decided to give it another try. It took less than 3 seconds for me to remember the pain. That ish is for real! I rolled twice and said "Eff this!", and went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, praise Jesus, it was a miracle! No pain. None at all. I squinted with one eye at my foam roller and said "So you DO work". And then I realized I was trying to converse with an inanimate object. It's okay, it's happened before and they haven't locked me up yet.

Now I'm slightly obsessed with these 30 day challenges. Next up, the abs challenge, but at the same time, I'm doing another modified squat challenge; ie: One I've made up myself. I was disappointed with the lack of glute firming that the 30-day squat challenge gave me, so I'm going to move onto sumo squats to help dat ass. Baby got back.

I've also noticed that in the past month, running has gotten easier. I know, gasp. My problem with running hasn't been the breathing, it's been the tiredness in the legs. I've been able to run longer since starting the squat challenge. So I suppose if I ever want to see results in running, I'm going to have to keep it up with the squats. Who am I?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Escape the Cape Non-Race Report

Usually I’ll do a race report for the races I do. Last year, I kind of disappeared and didn’t really blog about my races or training. I had a lot of distractions in my life last year. More on that later. Maybe. Moving on.

This year, I’d like to blog more about my races, training, and what’s going on with me. I’ll try. We’ll see.

So this is supposed to be a race report for the Escape theCape Triathlon. Instead it’s a Non-Race report. I’m also supposed to be doing the triathlon right at this very minute. Instead I’m writing this Non-Race report. Let me explain.

I signed up for the Escape the Cape Tri back in January. Along with an Olympic distance aqua-bike, the Chunky Dunk Duathlon and the Title 9 Triathlon. Then at the Tri-Mania Expo in March, I signed up for the Tufts 10K in October. Jesus, what is wrong with me?

Anyway, I created a training plan and started my training. Things were going well. I was swimming, biking, still trying to run, etc. Everything was falling into place. Then I got sick. Not the kind of sick that knocks you out for a week and then you’re back on track. The kind of sick that sneaks up on you, drains you of all energy, immobilizes you and ultimately lands you in the hospital for a week. Yeah, that happened.

I’m not a doctor-going, drug-taking, hospital type of person. I don’t even take anything for a headache. So this was a big deal. BIG deal.

It started on the day of the Earth Day 5K at Stonyfield. I was signed up for that 5K, but had been having joint pain the week before and couldn’t really walk comfortably, so running the 5K was out. Looking back now, it all really started back in February, but since it was slow going and snuck up on me, I didn’t see symptoms or feel anything was really wrong until I started getting joint and muscle pain in April. I went to the race with a friend and watched her race, but I felt crummy and really exhausted. When I got home, I spent the rest of the day in bed. The next day, Sunday, I was in bed all day too. On Monday, I wasn’t just tired and staying bed, I was physically unable to get up. I had joint & muscle pain, a rash, a fever, and severe dizziness when I got up. Tuesday was ridiculous. I wasn’t getting any better, and was progressively and obviously getting worse. I couldn’t move from bed, even to go to the bathroom without help. I couldn’t eat or drink because my throat was so sore and I couldn’t even sit upright without feeling like I was going to pass out.

I called my primary care physician (who I had never even met, since I don’t see doctors, and only had her name because I had to put down someone’s name on my health insurance packet) for an appointment because I knew I couldn’t even sit up in the emergency room for a wait. After almost passing out in the exam room, she called an ambulance to take me to the ER.

After 3 hours, they determined that my red blood cell count levels were dangerously low and transferred me to another hospital that specialized in hematology. Normal RBC counts are between 40 and 45 for women my age. Mine were 20 when I first went into the ER. When they tested me again after transferring me to the second hospital, they had dropped to 13. It’s probably safe to say, it’s a good thing I didn’t wait any longer.

I was in the ER for 24 hours. They pumped me full of all sorts of fun stuff and hilarious stories came from that. Apparently I was seeing things and kept talking about them. Even in my worst moments, I’m still good for a laugh. Except when they gave me Oxy. That was a disaster. Puke.

They finally moved me up to a room and started blood transfusions, more IVs – both saline and iron, and an array of meds to try and combat whatever it was that was going on with me. They tested me for everything under the sun. Thought maybe I had been bitten by a tick or, worse, had an autoimmune disease that was causing my Hemolytic Anemia.

Everything came back negative. Which was good, because I didn’t have whatever it was they thought I had, but also bad because they still didn’t know what I had. I had an entire army of Doogie Howser doctors, still in training, searching through every medical journal and website they could find to figure out what could be going on with me.

The only thing that came back positive was Epstein-Barr. But not positive as in, I had it. Positive as in I had it in the recent past. Most people have EBV in their bodies and it is most notably connected to Mono. Back in February I was really sick for about a week and had most of the same symptoms. So, I can only assume that’s where that came from. Other than that, they couldn’t find anything else. I had hematologists, rheumatologists, infectious disease doctors, auto immune doctors and interns and residents visiting me multiple times a day to hear my story and try to figure me out. They never did. I decided that I should have just taped myself telling my story of how things progressed so I could just press play when someone new came in to hear it. I probably told my story over 40 times. That’s not an exaggeration.

My blood levels finally raised enough for them to feel comfortable about me going home, and I felt okay enough. So after a week of searching, probing, and questions, they finally let me go home with a cocktail of meds to keep my RBC counts up enough. I’m finally able to wean myself off of them and get back to normal. But they still don’t know what caused the Hemolytic Anemia. I’ve always had anemia, but not as severe as this. And they are still driving themselves crazy trying to figure out what happened.

Since all of this happened from the middle of April until the middle of May, I wasn’t able to train, or even work out at all. Even taking a walk was hard for me. My first test walk on the treadmill when I was home from the hospital was at a speed of 2.0 for 20 minutes. I tried to up it to 2.5 and couldn’t do it. I’m very impatient and I get frustrated very easily when I can’t do something simple that I used to be able to do. I couldn’t even open a simple jar, package of crackers, or a gallon of milk without help. I was so weak and had no strength control at all. I hated it. I felt so helpless and as a very independent person, it was hard for me to ask for help. Even though it’s been a little over a month since I’ve been home, a friend just said to me the other day “Stop trying to lift things!” when I was helping carry a table across a room and was having difficulty. In my defense, it was a heavy table!

But onto better news, I’m doing much better. My RBC counts still aren’t what they want them to be. I’m getting blood taken every week for testing and as of this week my RBCs were at 29.4. Not the 40-45 they want them to be, but not at 13 either. I’ve come to the conclusion, that this is just my normal level. I’ve been around 29 for the past 4 weeks and I feel fine. I’ve been adding in exercising, taken a few runs and bike rides and tomorrow I’m planning on getting back into my Sunday spin & swim routine.

My next race is the Olympic distance aqua-bike at the Mass State Triathlon on July 14th, so I have a goal and a new training plan to get on with. I’ve started out slow and will continue to add to my training slowly. I definitely wasn’t ready enough for the triathlon today. As much as I wanted to do it and not race it, but just finish it, everyone was pleading with me not to do it. I am definitely stubborn enough to not listen to everyone and just do it anyway, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t ready and I really needed to skip it. But you can bet your ass I went and picked up my race packet for the “free” t-shirt and swim cap!!

Maybe next year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Put Your Best Smoothie Forward

I have issues with smoothies. I find recipes on Pinterest or magazines or health websites and try them and they are horrible. They always sound good. But they don’t work out.

I tried a green smoothie the other day. I so badly want to make a green smoothie that is good! I have so many recipes and they never work! What am I doing wrong?

The ones I tried had apple, pear, grapes, lime and spinach. Plus ice and water. I like all of those ingredients. But when I followed the recipe and blended it, it was very chunky. And I cannot chew a smoothie without gagging. It just isn’t possible. I forced down about 1/3 of it before I had to throw it away and find something else for breakfast. I later learned I should have added more water. Might have been a better smoothie. It tasted great! Just the chunks...ugh, the chunks!

A few days later, I tried again. I tried an oatmeal smoothie. I love oatmeal, so I was excited for this one. It had dry quick cook (not instant) oats, banana, strawberries, ice and skim milk. It was okay. Not great, but edible. And also boring. Wasn’t tasty enough for my liking. It was bland. I was able to drink it, but I wasn’t impressed. It might warrant a do-over, but I’d add some Splenda and cinnamon for more flavor. It might help.

Today, I tried another smoothie experiment. And it was a success. I loved it. It made 2 servings and I’m so very tempted to go get the 2nd smoothie and make it my lunch. It was that good.

I call it my Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie

1 cup strawberries
1 cup frozen blackberries
1 frozen banana
1 cup spinach
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 cup ice
2 cups skim milk

I started out with 1 cup of milk, but it was too chunky and there was no way it was going to blend together and be drinkable. So I added another cup and blended for at least 2 minutes. I wasn’t taking any chances.

Try it and let me know how you like it!

I’m still on the search for a green smoothie. If you have a good recipe - one that you’ve tried and loved, please pass it along! I’m looking for something that’s gonna give me energy in the mornings in lieu of a cup of coffee. I know greens do that! Just need to get it in.
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