Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Know that where there’s fear, there’s power

It's funny because on the drive into work I was thinking about fear. Thinking about how I am not afraid to die, I had to make peace with that when it was very unknown. My fear is that getting better is improbable, note I did not say impossible.

Then when I got into work there was an article about fear in my news feed. The article "A Simple Process to Turn Fear into Power" by Leanne Kallal over at Tiny Buddha, was a welcomed read this afternoon.

On November 3, 2008 I had written the following in my LiveJournal:
I am terrified and using humor a bit too much to make light of the situation. I had a few doctors appointments on Friday. I was just expecting simple things and maybe some tests for my back. But my eye doctor noticed that I had some swelling in my optic nerve of both eyes.Thursday at 2pm I have an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. I am getting pretty low because I am beating myself up over my weight. but i am also scared because I won't know if it's a brain tumor or not until later in the week. In the mean time I am in a lot of pain with my head and my back. I'm still at work and still trying to keep myself moving and doing things with people. but i'm scared. I know things will be fine in the end but it's this journey i am scared of and just may need a little support through it.
Look at those first words. "I am terrified".  Until January of 2010, I was in a doctor's office at least twice a week. I was taking upwards of 12 pills each morning. I was fearful of everything. I didn't know if I could survive through a night of karaoke with friends because it was so loud and I didn't know if I could act and sing because it might be too loud in my head and hurt, I didn't know how to answer friends when they asked if I was going to die. I was closing myself off from people, I was stressed out from work, I became sick of being sick. It's taken a lot of patience to be OK with having this disorder that causes me chronic pain. I don't talk about it much with people and often I can block it out on a daily basis, I've just gotten used to the pain. I've been stoic or humorous more often than honest.

After my last few long runs, where I was running over 2 hours or pushing myself up a giant hill, I could feel pain. There are many things that can cause the pain to be more noticeable. The change of the seasons, change in barometric pressure, stress, or just the disorder itself. I noticed it before the Bridge of Flowers run and quickly made a comment to my counterparts of what I was allergic to, just in case.

I forget that others haven't had four years to process this. When I explain what occurs for me on a daily basis and what things can potentially happen (due to them occurring in the past) it can be terrifying. Often, I am treated as a sick person. I no longer am Hollie, I am a liability or a burden to bare. I made the choice to be honest with my coaches. A lot of things happened afterward, some good and some bad but most based out of fear. Fear for my safety, fear for the liability of the program, fear that this was another thing that had to be handled.

I get it, I honestly do. I am very casual about the extremes I can go through because I went through my stages of grief after being diagnosed. I cried, got angry, and felt let down. As I learned more about my disorder and how to listen to my body, I was able to go off a lot of medicine and manage most of the pain through quitting my stressful job and taking nine months to rest (thanks car accident, I'll always be thankful for that) - but I didn't get to explain that, that I am a lot better than I was. Once again my perception became that, I was a sick person, no longer Hollie, a liability and a burden to bare.

It hurt me. I know that wasn't the intent. Believe me, I know it. Safety was the intent. Doing the right thing was the intent. So I took time off from work and scheduled doctors appointments. I was fearful of what they would say. I was fearful that they would tell me that I can't, couldn't, or shouldn't run. But they heard me, they heard me tell them everything I was doing to make sure I was being healthy. I was already doing everything they would have prescribed.

So now, I just have to wait. I have to hand in my doctors notes and wait. Is there fear associated with that? Yes, there is a lot of fear associated with that. I had made statements over the weekend, things like "I feel like my friends have been taken away from me in one fell swoop", "I feel like all my hard work is just being thrown out the window", "I feel like this is just something I can't talk honestly about", "I feel like someone else is making the decision that I can't run". Do I still have all those fears? Yes. Yes I do.

All that fear, it pushed me. To take action and responsibility for myself. To get all the information requested as quickly as possible. To handle things differently. That fear was with me when I attempted my 9 miles on Monday.  It's what drove me to prove I could do it on my own, that as long as a doctor said I wasn't hurting that myself, that irregardless of the decision from my running group - I could still make it to my half marathon, team or no team.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On my own?

No, I'm not talking  Les Misérables, nor am I talking about the Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald song. I am talking about something else. 

This weekend I had some things come up that caused me to make different choices. This time I chose time with friends over running. I had a really bad day on Friday. I felt let down, irate, and abandoned. Things that are not so great for someone who's survived abuse, anger management issues, and abandonment issues. 

I took my time that I needed, went to the batting cages and got out some of my anger.  But because I took care of myself, because I did the right thing, now I'm forced to look at some hard truths. 

I missed a 9 mile run. I need to make up those 9 miles. I need to make up those 9 miles on my own.

The thing that is hard about the run I am facing tonight is, that there is no one waiting for me to finish. It feels like going out for a hike in the woods without telling anyone what mountain you are hiking. For reasons lately, that's a little out of my comfort zone. 

I've been appreciative that each weekend I have had a spot for a finish line where these new friends are waiting for me. I have a great coach who runs with me almost every weekend, but she won't be running the half with me. I will be running that on my own. The group, well they'd send out a search party if I didn't make it in. For reasons lately, that has been a sense of comfort for me.

However tonight, I will run on my own. It sounds dramatic, I know. At the same time, it feels dramatic. I know the path I will take. I know I'll keep my runkeeper live! on (
I will have my phone on me and there are constant park patrols out. It just feels like my sense of safety has been taken away.  I know it's not true and I know I'm really not going into details, so I don't make much sense.

It's funny because I used to run on my own and scoff at group running. Now look at me, terrified to go for a run on my own. It's not the running part that's frightening, it's the distance. But i've got my plan. I've stayed well hydrated all weekend, I'm taking in a fair amount of salt today, for the run itself I've got 96oz of nuun, 40oz of water, a bag of some salt, and a gu packet. I've got my recovery beverage plan too.

Now, this post isn't to solicit partners in crime for my run tonight. It's to get some things off my chest, for myself, not for anyone else. That's why I'm running - for myself, not for anyone else. So tonight, there is no can't being said, there are only my have to's and want to's.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everybody's got a darkside

Saturday morning was my regularly scheduled group run with USAFit Albany. It was a 10 mile run that was scheduled. I had only run up to 9.3 miles before and that was the Boilermaker and I walked through so much of that race. I had been talking to Joel asking him about what he does for nutrition on his long runs and he mentioned he was more concerned with my hydration over food intake. He asked if I knew what my sweat rate was and if I was a salty sweater. I said I didn't know what my rate was but I knew that salt crusts on my face during a run. He suggested I do a sweat rate test and keep track of my data.

Thursday I was supposed to run a tempo run so I figured I could do a sweat test on that run. I was only drinking water, not nuun. I weighed myself, ran for an hour, then weighed myself again and measured how many ounces of water I had drank.

Starting weight: 247.4
Finish weight: 234.4
Difference of: 13lbs
13lbs = 208oz
Ounces drank: 14oz
total of 222oz

It seemed crazy. Loosing 13 pounds from sweating. I mean I know it's plausible but it still seems insane. Joel and I emailed back and forth about the data and he sent me back some stats.
So, 222oz lost. that accounts for 5.7% of your weight. A max of 3% weight loss is considered safe. So over the course of the half marathon, you need to maintain no more than 3% loss. So for an hour of running, you'll need to take in about 120 oz of water/electrolytes per hour. that's a lot, i agree. but that's what the math is telling us.
We agreed that I'd do the sweat rate test again because I felt there were too many inconsistent variables.  So we agreed on at least doubling the amount of hydration I do in an hour. Originally, I would carry my 20oz bottle and I'd be finished with that in an hour. So I was supposed to drink 40oz an hour. Which means I'd need to carry a second bottle, use a fuel belt, or a hydration pack. Joel was coming up to the area so he brought a fuel belt and a hydration pack for me to try out.

I settled in on the 60oz hydration pack.

On Thursday's run, my legs were cramped, I didn't feel strong, I was trapped thinking about some of my physical health concerns.

So Saturday's run was scaring the shit out of me.

I arrived at our start location and I could feel the angst and dread in me. I was publicly cranky and moody. Every fucking negative thought was winning that morning.

We started out running and the first thing I had to tackle was a hill. It was a cooler morning but it was still damp, which makes my lungs hurt more. I had my inhaler with me, I knew if I needed to use it I could. I just started hearing CAN'T. I prepared longer and better hydration and nutrition wise for The Boilermaker and this run was longer than that. I was trying new things, new foods, new flavors, using the hydration pack. I was trying to fight it all and I was getting discouraged and slower and then I just kept shaking my head - very ready to give up. Jenika kept looking back and checking on me, asking me what was going on. I can't even describe it. I know it was a panic attack. I know she was trying her best to get me to think about different things. I wanted the negative to win very badly. I wanted to stop.

After Jenika got me to slow my breathing down, she started asking what I did the other day, which I replied that I went grocery shopping. So she asked me what I got. Pantry items, I replied. So, what's in your pantry? she asked. I mean I knew what she was doing, it's the same way I get rid of people's hiccups by getting them to focus on something else. Little by little I battled up the hills, we started to throw out small personal conversations, and eventually we were at three miles. Every walk interval I was sipping out of the hydration pack and every run interval I was running. I didn't skip any (on purpose). In the Boilermaker I walked most of mile seven to mile nine. When I've been out on my own, I've let exhaustion win and I've walked additional run intervals. By mile 4.5 Jenika commented on my salt buildup on my face and I knew that when we were back in the Crossings, that if we stopped near the yellow trail bathrooms, I could eat a salt packet that I had in my bag and an almond nugget.

We continued on and went past Lisa at the water stop, who was shouting out great positive things. I had checked my hydration bladder when we stopped before and I thought I had enough. We were on mile 7.5, I thought I had enough in there. However at mile eight I tapped the bag. Was I worried? Yes and no. It was only two more miles, I thought about how I don't take water in a 5K so I should be fine. Yet, I was exhausted, depleted, and at the end of my run.

My watch didn't say 10 miles, Jenika's did but she heard me saying how I needed it on my watch, to know I could. So we kept going. My watch ended up saying we ran 9.6 miles, hers said we did 10.8. Jenika's watch has had better accuracy consistently, so I conceded and stopped.

Coach Jennie's parents made us some pancakes (from the batter blaster can's and they were great!) and I had chocolate milk, a salt packet, 20oz of Gatorade, and an almond nugget. I was exhausted and got in the car. My stomach didn't really want food but I knew I needed to put food in it. I was nauseous, and I was starting to get a head ache. When I googled later, headaches caused by salt depletion I certainly scared myself even more. Loosing that much salt puts me at a greater chance for a seizure. Seeing as my headache syndrome also has me at good odds for seizures, it's not a good game of chance. One thing I can control, the other I cannot.

Joel and I talked Sunday morning about what I was experiencing. So I have to increase the amount I drink on the run, by like a lot. I need at least 40oz each hour but honestly, probably more than that.  Our math from earlier says I need 120oz each hour. That's two full hydration packs! So it's crazy to me and scary. Also he wants me to increase my calorie intake during the run to 400 calories. And now I have a run recovery plan. A large V8, 20oz sports drink, 20oz water, and then some form of protein/carb (normally I do chocolate milk but that and V8 don't sound so great together) All of this needs to be consumed within 30 minutes of the end of my run. Then throughout the rest of the day, I need to be taking down a gallon of water baby sip by baby sip.

Knowing all of that and experiencing my second headache after a hard run just made me scared. I have been so happy lately, so it just feels like I'm trying to find ways to negate that happy. Being sick and being worried about getting sick, who sees it, who doesn't - it's just so hard for me. It's hard to say it out loud because it feels like you are loosing control and letting a disorder win.

But I am going to try. I made a promise to try. To let people know more about what happens when I have an attack. What to tell an EMT, where to tell an ambulance to go, having my emergency medical information on me.

It's just so hard. I am excited and proud that I ran 10.8 miles. I want to hold onto that happy. But it makes it that I am walking a fine line, dancing around diminishing odds. Something that makes me feel so strong also makes me feel so weak. Happy and terrified. Mentally, I am unsure of how to battle that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Give me fuel, give me fire.

What is my least favorite aspect of running? Nutrition. It's because it's so individualistic. No one thing works for everyone. Also, since I'm a heavier runner, I have different needs than the average runner.

The typical statement on calories burnt during running is that running one mile burns about 100 calories. However, it's based more on your own body weight. Net calories burnt while running is .63 x your weight in pounds (walking it's .30 x your lbs) So for me, I burn approximately 155 calories per mile. We've been doing some long runs lately, which leads to some large calorie burns. While, yes there are times it feels like "yeah, I can eat anything!" I know that isn't really the case.

Now, let's think about what my running schedule looks like. Saturday morning for these longer runs I will run starting at 6am. I try to have a bagel with almond butter before I leave the house, 30 minutes before I run. A Thomas' Honey Wheat Bagel is 250 calories. Justin's Maple Almond Butter is 90 calories. So that's 340 calories for my traditional pre-race breakfast. I will burn that off in 2.15 miles. If I'm running a 5K that's perfectly fine, it just keeps me on track and it let me have a very delicious bagel that morning. It's when I'm running longer than 3 miles that I have to contend with now.

So it's around every 45 minutes or 3.5/4 miles I need to have something small to give my body something to work with or replace the stuff I've sweat out. Larger runners sweat a great deal, so we are loosing a large amount of salt. I can't tell you how gritty my face is after a long run from all the salt evaporation on my face.

Nuun - Tri Berry Flavor
 I drink Nuun instead of water or Gatorade. It's not as sweet as Gatorade and it has less sugar but it has electrolytes that water does not. The only downfall is the Nuun comes in compressed tablets, when you drop it into water a certain amount of effervescence occurs. The effervescence along with the more air you intake when running hard (a.k.a. too fast too quickly) then the more belching occurs. It's not pretty.

I've been trying out all sorts of items on my long runs to help refuel and maintain. During the Boilermaker I used a Mocha Clif Shot and a Honey Stinger Shot. I should have tried the Honey Stinger first because it was too sweet. I've used the Cherry Lime Gu before and I like that too but if I take in too much gel at one time, I have a bit of a gaging reaction.

From stalking Rachel (a member of  The Brooklyn Boilermaker Team Hardcore) on Facebook, I saw the use of small salted potatoes. This had me intrigued, real food instead of synthetic gels, gummies or sport beans? The hard part is everyone's stomach is different and reacts different when you are running. I emailed her about them and she shared the preparation method. I'm going to try them out either this weekend or next weekend.

There are lots of other things to consider about nutrition too. We've been looking at recovery items and fueling options at group runs with USAFit. Uncrustables, "crack" otherwise known as peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets, chocolate milk, and cherry juice. I had tried the cherry juice (it's good for inflammation) after the 7 mile run and honestly, I felt better. So I figured this required more investigation. I walked across the street from work to the natural food store and looked around.

For Earth's Sake - Energy Nuggets
I found the cherry juice and then decided to look around because I had never been in there.  Then I saw these items listed as Vanilla Almond Energy Nuggets, and Carob Energy Nuggets. I talked to the sales women and we chatted about what I was looking for, which was different real food fueling options I could carry. She let me try samples of both items and I picked up a bag of the Vanilla Almond Nuggets.

I figured I'll give just about anything a good old fashioned try during these longer runs. If anything the nuggets were good little snacks that offered a slight sugary finish and a lot of nut power.

Still, there are lots of things to think about. Salt tablets and are those the answer to use along with plain water? Will real food be OK in my stomach while running? What will be the easiest thing to pack in my little pouch and access during these long runs and races? It's all a system that I just don't have figured out yet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The BoF

Over the weekend I did something that I had always wanted to do. I was asked if I wanted to go on a little running road trip with my running friends and tackle The Bridge of Flowers (BoF) 10K, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Now, I know what you are thinking "Hollie, The Boilermaker is a running road trip." That it is, but the Boilermaker started out as a running trip with friends I had before I started running. When I joined BeRunning, I saw these groups of adults making friends and doing stuff outside of BeRunning. I was super jealous.

When I was asked if I wanted to go, I said yes instantly. I actually think I stopped listening to the rest of the race description. As the weeks crept up towards the race, I would ask how some of the hills we were running compared to the giant hill. The word "worse" kept being repeated. Still, I pressed on thinking, really how bad could it be?
This is the elevation

I looked at the course elevation profile. I don't know why it didn't register with me. Perhaps those little stick figure men running at the top of the hill had me in disbelief.

It was an early morning as we headed out of Albany at 5:30am to get to Shelburne Falls by 7:30am for the race at 9am. It was a lot of normal pre race jitters that were going through my head. I made the comment several times that I thought I would be finishing in dead last place. Prior to getting our packets I was given the option to see the "hill". I am glad I said no, because if I saw it, I doubt my mind would have battled it and I would have given up too soon.

There is this thing that happens prior to races (of all distances) - hardcore runners do a little warm up run. I have never done a warm up run. Why? Because I am usually tired after .5 miles, so doing that before having to run 6.2 miles seemed counter intuitive. However, I was peer pressured into a little warm up run of the beginning of the race route, which has an incline. Hollie is not great at hills but I trucked along giving it a shot.

I'm on the right in the purple, camel back guy passed me later.
The race started and as usual the distance between the pack and myself lengthens very quickly. We ran up the incline and it "looped" around a neighborhood in town. It was at this point that camelback guy passed me and I could hear the faithful sounds of the diesel ambulance truck. I went up around the corner and the ambulance went straight. When I approached them on the loop, I waved and shouted "come on boys!"

The race volunteers were really great and very supportive. As we ran back through town to approach the hill, my name was shouted out from the announcer. I was last place and my name was still shouted out (it's the little things I love) The day was hot and very humid. My asthma was sure to flare up at some point, so my inhaler was in my little silver pouch.

I made it to the beginning of the Crittenden Hill. I haven't been able to effectively describe this to anyone. Even the video I took does not describe it. The amount of curse words that come out of my mouth when talking about the hill give you the gist. There were several points in the hill that I just kept pumping my arms with the notion that my feet would indeed follow. I used my inhaler several times. I doubted myself, several times. My calves were burning. Each level of the hill was followed by an even more abusive section. For fit and fast runners, it seems like I'm making up how hard this hill was. However, I challenge any fast runner to strap on the amount of weight needed to make them the same weight as me and try to run up that damn hill.

When I got to the top of the hill I was relieved. Until, I realized how much strength it would take for me to run down the angle of the hill. It didn't feel as steep as the incline but it was much steeper than the Boilermaker hill. It was also dirt/trail terrain, something I'm not used to. The police car was right behind me the entire hill with his silent siren on.I was glad I couldn't hear him but still aware that there was someone driving less than 3mph to make sure I finished the race.

I had to use my quads more in the last 3 miles of the race. My calves were so tired and heavy. My intervals were all way off base. We had to run on grass for part of the race (i don't like running on grass). There was one point of the race where I got to see Kim running towards me. It was after the hill, so I'm sure she was relieved to see I had made it through that.

Kim, Jenika, & Me
I kept saying, it's only 3 miles, a total of 6.2 miles, you ran 7 last weekend, why is this so hard? At this point, cars were let back on the race route. Some were nice and honked and shouted support, others flew by me very close to the orange cones. Race volunteers were applauding me and shouting out things like "I'm so glad you are running this race!" or "I wouldn't have even made it up the hill, I'm proud of you!" I kept checking my watch to see how many miles I had left. Somewhere around the last .5 mile I just stopped doing my intervals and I ran slowly.

I was coming back into town and I could see the Iron Bridge I ran over earlier. People who had finished the  race a long time ago and their race supporters just stopped and started clapping for me. This cause a surge of clapping to start at the finish line. I rounded the corner and there was the orange and the green! Jenika and Kim met me on the bridge and started to run me in. Then somewhere I found enough energy to pick it up to the finish line. The announcer fully shouting my name the entire time. It was like I was the first place finisher!

I crossed the finish at 1:45:10 - For me, that was an awesome time. My regular 10K time is around 1:35:00 so that damn hill only added 10 minutes.

We took a little time after the race and walked over the actual Bridge of Flowers. It's an old railroad bridge that the town decided to plant trees and flowers on. While we walked on the bridge people congratulated me by name. Like a miniature celebrity, I said thank you and smiled at them. Not going to lie, it was a really cool thing.

Actual view from the Bridge of Flowers
After the race, both Kim and Jenika were dedicated to running The Bridge of Flowers again next year. I could not make the commitment out loud yet. However, I fear it will be similar to The Boilermaker. How I sign up for it again but have no idea why and I curse at myself halfway through the race.

It was the toughest race I've ever run. For me it was tougher than the Boilermaker. Still, I finished it. The trip was worth it in so many ways.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Theory into Practice

Through out all of my education I have been slapped in the face by Theory. Literary theory, film theory, student development theory, adult learning theory, distance education theory. I find a form of solace in it now. Citing Lacan and Derrida in conversations about independent films I've seen, or are on my list; speaking about the Chick-fil-a news by citing diversity training and then talking about Cass's theory of diverse sexuality or how adults need to build their education on their practical experience.

So I wondered if there was a theory of the stages of becoming a runner. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across The Five Stages of a Runner from Galloway’s Book on Running, ©2002 by Jeff Galloway. Shelter Publications, Inc., Bolinas, Calif. Distributed in bookstores by Publishers Group West

 This paragraph in the "beginner" section struck me hard:
"Your running may also be threatening to your less active friends. Eventually you — the beginner — and your non-running friends work it out. The transition period, however, can be unstable and uncomfortable for both. If you falter, the old world — comfortable in many ways — is waiting for you to slip back in. If you’re lucky enough to make new friends who share similar fitness goals, you’ll probably find refuge in the “fit” world while you gain your “running security.”
This is something I am struggling with more than any of the physical challenges of running. When I'm making plans with non running friends, I'm making statements of "Monday's I can hang out after my evening run", "Wednesday's are off the table because of speed work", "Friday's I have to be home early", and many weekends are filled with the words "I have a race that weekend". 

I know that there will be friends who will hear all of this and still work with me to schedule some shenanigans. The hard part is knowing I can't do everything that I want to. I need to do speed work tonight, I want to see my friends for karaoke. I have planned on going to karaoke late but I know in the back of my head it's all based on how I feel after speed work. It's hard for me to stay out late, because I know Thursday morning I am in the gym doing strength training.

In the second stage "the jogger" these items jumped out at me:
"At first you probably needed a group or at least another person for motivation and direction. As a jogger you are a bit more independent. You’ll prefer company to running alone, but you’ll pick and choose your group with care. Most beginners seek anonymity within a group while joggers often enjoy identification with a group."
"As a beginner you may have attended a few fun runs or an occasional race. Joggers, however, mark the local 10Ks on their calendars. These are motivational stepping stones to keep the daily runs on track. There will often be one major race in the jogger’s schedule, like the Bay to Breakers, Peachtree Road Race or the Corporate Challenge. Although you’re not running competitively or for time improvement, a sense of competition may begin to develop. By piecing together a growing series of successful and non-threatening running experiences, you begin the transition into a more fit lifestyle."
My running family is growing and supporting me in many ways. Seeing running friends come to my show, knowing that several of them will listen to my dating woes, well... I look forward to seeing them week in and week out. I know they'll comment on my Facebook run-keeper updates, I know if I need to find a partner in crime to run with, that there will be several options. I value their new friendships.

This entire experience is changing who I am. Well, not so much who I am but it's allowing me to be the person I want to be. I want to be healthier. For me that means not drinking that often, eating out less or just having small plates. It also means that I am working hard physically and mentally, so when I've got a free calendar date, I'm excited to pile on ice packs and watch a movie in my apartment.

Yet in my head, the old Girl Scout camp song is in a constant round. "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." I'm having trouble holding onto every thing that is important and special to me. It hurts and there is a lot of grief and loss involved. I know my fitness and health is worth it. I know I am worth it. I just don't know how to navigate this, so I turn to writing about it. Because maybe someone else has gone through this too.