Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beach running

This morning, as I went for my morning run on this beautiful Florida island, I thought about a question I get asked a lot when we come here:

Do you run on the beach?

When I'm at the beach, I see people jogging on the sand and it looks so relaxing.

Notice that I used the word "jog". Because it's really hard to get moving fast when you're running on the sand.

I found an article in the New York Times about sand running. They say sand running is a really good workout. Low impact, and your legs have to work harder because you sink into the sand, even packed sand. Actually, one of the marathoners they interviewed likened it to running with weights around your ankles. That's the plus for beach running.

A lot of beach runners are barefoot too. Which could work well in the sand, provided the beach is soft and powdery. If there's lots of debris or shells...I'd advise shoes. Bloody feet and salt water are not a good combination.

I've tried running on the beach, and for a number of reasons, it never has been a pleasant experience for me.

Reason number 1: Increased risk of injury. Running in the sand puts more work on your legs, particularly your achilles tendons and feet (think plantar fasciits). And here on the Gulf coast, the hard sand is closest to the water, and it is graded pretty severely. This requires the leg closest to the water to drop down much further than the opposite leg. If this sounds like a recipe for injury, you are right. The times I've tried running on the beach, I've strained different muscles. The worst was when I (TMI alert) strained my...umm...ok, I'll just put it out there...hemorrhoids.. during a beach run. Let's just say it was bad. Don't tell me you don't have them. By the time I finished my beach run, I was in so much pain. This almost ruined my vacation. I was miserable. And that was the last time I ran on the beach. I'm laughing now but at the time it was not funny at all. I do believe there is a lesson to be learned here.

Moving on, I have other reasons besides injury for avoiding the beach run...reason number 2: you can't run LONG on the beach. Lots of effort on the sand; again the uneven surface really makes it tough and puts you at risk for injury.

Reason number 3: you can't run FAST on the beach. The uneven beach surface messes with an efficient leg turnover.

Reason number 4: lots of walkers on the beach. It is like running at the beginning of a race. Weaving in and out of slower traffic.

Reason number 5: A boatload of distractions and obstacles:
Fishing filament stretched out from their fishing poles. Ever been clotheslined? Or fishing lined?
Deep holes to China dug by young children.
Seaweed clumps.
Jelly fish.
Dead fish. I saw some dead baby sharks once.

I'll admit that I've never seen a beached whale.
Those joggers that make beach running look so inviting? They look relaxed because they simply aren't going far or fast. That's fine. But not for me.

If you live near a beach, and get to run it regularly, it would be beneficial. But on vacation? It's no fun being sore or unable to sit comfortably for the rest of the trip. I'm all about getting my runs in and like to get more miles and more runs on my vacation.

What I do like to do is walk on the beach. The distractions aren't a deterrent when I'm walking. As a matter of fact, I take it all in, and enjoy the beach for all it has to offer. I love the beach. I pick up shells, people watch, listen to the surf.

When I run here in Florida, I take it to the street, the sidewalk, or the path. I leave the beach for shelling, relaxing, and sunning.

When people ask me if I run on the beach, I just tell them no. No explanation. Non-runners wouldn't understand.

And that is ok with me.

Do you run on the beach? Do you train on the beach? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who loves ya baby?

How many of you remember the show Kojak? It was a detective show from the 1970s starring the bald headed Telly Savalas. I'm really dating myself here, aren't I?

Anyways, his signature line was "Who loves ya baby?" That's pretty much all I remember.

The whole point of this is, who supports you and your hobby/passion/obsession with running?

I started running about 20+ years ago to deal with debilitating anxiety attacks. I didn't want to take meds and found that running was a great outlet for all the negative energy I carry inside. Initially, my husband embraced my new habit. He was happy to see me become a calmer, functioning adult again.

But as I became more confident, I started to run races. Nothing big, mind you, just 5ks and 10ks. He didn't go to very many with me, and I was ok with that. He never stood in my way and let me do my thing.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago, when, after taking time off from racing to focus on raising my kids and pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, I took up racing again. I always kept running--it was my me time, my sanity time. But once the boys got bigger, I needed to set some goals for myself. I loved/hated the anticipation of the race, the training, and lining up at the starting line. But no more 5ks and 10ks for me. I decided to run a half marathon, the Door County half marathon. My husband, my boys, and my parents were all there for that race. Crossing that finish line was a personal victory for me, because I had never run that far in my life.

I liked long distance running so much, that I planned for another--the Disney half marathon the following January. My husband knew it was a "bucket list" item for me, and actually suggested it, combining it with a family vacation. I trained for it and was equally excited and nervous. The morning of the race, he got up at 330 with me while I ate breakfast. But during the race, he and my boys were no where to be found. I was kind of sad, seeing other families with signs along the course. After I crossed the finish line, I called him to tell him I was done. He and the boys were up and ready to head to Epcot, to get a start on the day. I told him I'd shower and meet them there. Inside, I was pretty sad. I tried not to let my disappointment show because I didn't want to ruin the rest of the trip for my boys. I wore my medal proudly that day and received lots of kudos from park employees and other runners. But I didn't forget that he wasn't there.

After that, I made the monumental decision to run the Chicago Marathon. I didn't tell him until after I signed up. He was not happy. "Don't expect us to be there", he told me. I asked him why he would act this way, and brought up Disney. We got in a huge argument about it and never did resolve the issue of why he wouldn't come to watch me run. He played the mom guilt card, that all my running was taking away from attention I could be giving the boys. My argument was that I was setting a good example for them, pursuing a goal and achieving it.

Regardless of what he said, he and my boys were at the finish line the day of the marathon. The night before the race, my parents held their 50th wedding anniversary party. I overheard him proudly tell several people that I was going to "knock it out" when he was asked about me running the next day. So I silently smiled to myself. With this guy, you take it when you can get it.

I've run plenty of other races since then, and I haven't asked him to come to any of them. I've gone to quite a few by myself. He always calls me on the way home, to see how I did. More recently, I've developed friendships with other mother runners and now I make plans to connect with them at my races.

And then there was my race this past weekend. When I first signed up, he told me I was going to ruin our vacation running this race. I pointed out to him how this was one I had wanted to do for a few years. I forged ahead. I know him now, and I knew he'd get over it. And he did. I had planned on driving myself there, when he came up with the idea of staying at a hotel close to the race. He drove me there, and when my boys wouldn't get up, he came back by himself and watched for me to cross the finish line. I thanked him and told him how much it meant to me for him to be there. 

I can't figure him out. I could analyze his childhood, his parents' marriage...but is it worth it? I believe at this point he's accepted my running as important to me. I take what I can get. I bought him this bumper sticker:

Which he proudly put on his car! And he's gotten a lot of attention for it, a lot of laughs, which is all good. Marriage is, after all, a compromise, right?

Does your significant other run? Support your running? Or is he kind of indifferent?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Florida Halfathon Recap

In case you didn't know...I ran a half marathon yesterday. In Florida.

I've been running all winter in Chiberia. The warmest temperature I've run in the last 6 months was 45 degrees. So running distance in Florida, I knew it could be a challenge.

Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear...I'm NOT complaining about the weather here in Florida. Actually, today isn't so great--it's pouring rain. Regardless, I couldn't be happier to be away from the brutal cold weather we've had in Chicago.

This race was a challenge for me, more than any half I've ever run. When we train for a summer race, we usually have a transition from cold to hot. Midwesterners often complain there's no spring, that we go right from winter to summer. It may seem that way. But that simply isn't the truth. But that is what I did by coming to Florida.

I came to Florida in good shape, well prepared for my race. In spite of the grueling winter, I trained well. Running my fastest splits in years, I figured on running a strong half. But I had a nagging concern about the Florida weather.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to 72 degrees and 88% humidity. My heart sunk. I was happy to see the heavy cloud cover, knowing that in those conditions, the sun would be a killer. I ate my prerace breakfast of cheerios and orange juice, and headed to the race. I also drank a bottle of water, made a last minute visit to the portapotty, and headed to the starting line.

As we listened to the national anthem being sung--beautifully, I might add--people behind me continued to talk. A man shouted "shut the f*** up!" and everyone turned to stare. The offenders said something back and one of them charged at the man, fists at the ready. A woman stood between the men to keep them apart. As all this was going on, we moved to the starting line and the gun went off. A fight at a race? It was a first for me...

We began to run. My first mile went just how I planned, slow but steady. I planned on easing into my pace and running strong as the miles passed. This strategy was successful for me at my last couple of halfs, culminating in a finish time of 1:58 at my last half in November. Mentally, I envisioned my race and had set a goal for this one of sub 2:00.

The 4 mile marker came up and I was feeling the effects of the heat and humidity. I started to feel pretty bad, with heavy legs and a nagging side stitch that wouldn't subside. I told myself to push it to the next aid station where I could take a gel and drink more water. But my legs told me no, so I stopped to walk and catch my breath for a minute. I shook my head. I knew then that there would be no sub 2:00 finish time and started the mental game in my head. I checked my phone and there was a text from my friend Karen, wishing me luck. I texted her back, telling her how badly things were going. She sent me an encouraging message back. Her words spurred me on. I began to run again, and shortly after the 5 mile mark was an aid station. I took my gel and water and resumed the race.

I slogged on for a couple miles. The gel kicked in and my legs felt better. I picked up the pace, thinking that I was going to make up some time.

But noooooo. My breathing became ragged again, and I had to slow to a walk again at about mile 7. It was there that I recognized the voices inside my head, telling me how hard this was, that I couldn't do it, that I should just quit. I've learned over the years to tell those voices to stop. But feeling as bad as I did, it was tough. I made the decision then and there that I would finish this thing no matter what. I've never DNF'd a race and I wasn't about to start. This is a race I've wanted to do for 2 years and to leave empty handed simply wasn't an option. Heck, I even bought the official socks!

Mile 8 and the beach, with a view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I stopped to take a selfie. I mean, at this point, did it matter? I started to run again. A woman that I kept passing and she kept passing me stopped suddenly and sat on the ground. She pulled her shoe off. I stopped to ask her if she was ok. She waved me on and I kept going.

Mile 9, another aid station, another gel and more water. I took my time. The paramedics were at this station and a stretcher was there. A little boy was laying on it, whining and crying. I laughed to the volunteer, "you'd think he was running this thing!". She laughed and told me she has always run it in the past but was so glad she didn't sign up this year. "The humidity is just terrible!" she said. Now that comment totally validated how I was feeling and gave me a push to continue on.

I continued down the path towards the fort (of Fort de Soto). I almost stopped to take pictures, but decided to keep going. There was a sign for bicycle rentals, and oh, how I wanted to do that! Meanwhile, I noticed a male runner in front of me wearing all white. He was completely sweaty and his outfit was transparent. Ewww! Already feeling really nauseous, I tried to get ahead of him. My sprint took too much energy and AGAIN! I slowed to a walk.

I'm not proud of all the swearing I did in my head. I'm really not much of a curser, but it was all I could do to hold it together. I kept running and walking. As did everyone around me. I kept seeing the guy in white, these 2 ladies wearing jerseys with a Canadian maple leaf on them, a non-descript guy wearing headphones, and the same woman I had offered to help earlier. Truly, my impromptu running group kept me going. Misery does love company!

Mile 11. I texted my husband to let him know where I was. I knew he would be waiting for me at the finish. Mile 12. I slowed to a walk again. The woman, who I had offered to help earlier, tapped me on the shoulder. "Come on," she said, "we've been pacing each other this whole race. Let's go in together."

And run in we did. That last mile, we talked like we were old friends. We could have been. She told me about her job and her training for the Alaska marathon this June. She has 3 sons in their 20s. A lifelong runner like me. A native Floridian, she told me these conditions were tough. Do you know how much better I felt when she told me that?

I spotted my husband and waved to him. He snapped a picture. "See you at the finish!" he called out.

Right before the last 100 yards, my partner slowed to a walk. "Go ahead," she said, "this was a training run for me. You've got this!"

I tried to sprint to the finish but my legs just wouldn't do it. I moved towards the finish line. They announced my name as I crossed and I got my medal. My husband was there, waiting. I bent over to catch my breath and was consumed with waves of nausea. I've never vomited at a race before and really didn't want to start now! Luckily it passed, and I got some chocolate milk. The beer was tempting but as bad as I felt, I didn't think it was a great idea.

My new friend, Carolyn, was sitting near the finish line. With her shoe off. Turns out she went paddleboarding the day before and cut her foot open. And ran 13.1 today. Now that's one tough mother runner! I handed her a chocolate milk and thanked her. And wished her luck on the Alaska marathon.

Every race is a new experience. And here's what I learned from this one: never underestimate the distance of a half marathon. It's still 13.1 miles. I trained for it. But the one thing I couldn't train for were the conditions. I've done a lot of halfs and this was my toughest.

Although my finish time (chip time 2:14) was my slowest ever, I feel completely badass. I didn't let the negative voices in my head undermine my effort. I feel like I did the very best I could with what the day handed me. I found inner strength to push me on through some very tough running conditions. I got the opportunity to run in a beautiful state park, Fort de Soto. This was one of the most well organized races I have ever run. And best of all were the friends, old and new, who carried me along the course and across that finish line.

Running isn't about the race. Running is about the journey and everything you learn along the way.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My toughest race

My worst race ever? Hands down, that race would be the Chicago Marathon in 2011. This was one of the biggest disappointments of my running life, if not my whole life. I put my heart and sole (pun intended) into this race, into my training, and was just ashamed of the race I ran. Now, I can live with the results of this first one, chalking it up to inexperience and lessons learned. When I look back, I reflect on what I learned--and I learned a great deal from this race--both about running a marathon and about myself. I learned to respect the distance. I learned that I could run long distances. I learned how to get a grip on my intestinal issues. I learned that I had the determination to finish, no matter what I was feeling.

But I also learned that I needed to get a better grip on my nerves. That I needed to develop more mental toughness. I learned that I had to do a better job fueling if I wanted to run long distances. I also needed to train differently in the future, because this race broke my body.

I ran Chicago in 2011. As a runner for most of my adult years, I felt incomplete not having gone 26.2. It was important for me to add a marathon to my list of distances. I signed up for this race in February of that year, when the race opened for entries. There was no lottery yet, but the race sold out in about 5 days. Imagine that!

I made the decision to run for a charity, to help me stay committed. My friend, Sandy, whose son has Down Syndrome, asked me to run for her charity, UPs for Downs, which is a parent support group for parents of kids with Down Syndrome. Of course, I said yes. I had no trouble raising the minimum amount required. Actually, this was the least stressful part of my entire experience!

For training, I followed Hal Higdon's novice 2 plan. His training plans are free on the web and are easy to follow. I had a higher mileage base than required for starting the plan, and so I kept doing my thing, jumping onto the plan as the miles increased. I found satisfaction in crossing off each training run on the plan, and I was amazed and proud as I tackled each distance. I threw in a couple of half-marathons during my training and learned to really love that distance! Throughout my training, I learned a lot about myself and my body. GI issues, which I have always struggled with, really peaked as I increased my mileage. I began to figure out what foods really bothered me and what worked. I also consulted with my internist (a wonderful woman who gets me), and we discussed options to help with my symptoms. I decided to try a new antibiotic, off-label, which had showed some promise in women with my type of IBS. And to my surprise and happiness, the medication worked! Of course, I continued to avoid trigger foods, and without having to worry about pooping my pants, I was able to train more confidently.

Although all of my training was solo, I registered for a 20-mile training run, scheduled 3 weeks prior to the marathon, aptly named the 20 miler, which was a real confidence booster. My 20-mile run was on a beautiful fall day. I ran that race in 3:18. It felt great! I figured at the very most, my marathon time would be 4:30. I was ready.

The only glitch, as far as I could see was that the night before the race was my parents' 50th wedding celebration. The day after I signed up for the marathon, I proudly announced it to my parents. My mom informed me that she was planning this party for the night before. I thought to myself that I don't normally sleep well before a race, so what would be the big deal, right? And being at the party would take my mind off of pre-race jitters, too. Right? My Irish uncle even gave me an Irish blessing! What could go wrong?

The morning of the race, Sandy picked me up at 5 am. She likes to talk and chattered all the way down to the race, which helped keep my mind off my anxiety. I met up with the UPs for Downs team for photos. After that, I was on my own. I wandered around the area and hit the portapotty. A bad omen perhaps, the person who was in before me did something really nasty in there and the smell almost overwhelmed me. I was already nauseous from my nerves, and that just about did me in.

It was THAT bad!
Of course, they say God laughs at people who make plans, and he must have been having a real laughfest on the day of the marathon. As the sun came up, the air began to warm. A lot. We were sweating before we even started. I lined up with the 9:30 mile pace team. The team leader had a giant pace sign he was holding up.  How do you run 26.2 miles holding that thing? Well, I wouldn't lose him, I thought. The national anthem was sung, the navy did their flyover, and we were off. Actually, about 20 minutes after the gun went off, we crossed the start line.

Yeah, I'm WAY back there...
About mile 3, I needed to pee. I hit the portapotty, and that was the last I saw of my pace group. Mile 8, through Boystown, I started to feel bad. It was early in the race and already I knew I was in trouble. It was so hot and humid, and I couldn't keep up with my sweating. I'm sure my nerves had a lot to do with this too. I started to walk. Another woman began walking with me and told me she was struggling too. My confidence sunk. I started to run/walk, and when I got to mile 14, the charity village, Sandy was waiting for me. She saw how bad I looked, and started to run with me. It was then that my legs started to cramp.

If you have ever experienced muscle cramps, you know the agony that I experienced. I have never had muscle cramps before that. We stopped to walk, and Sandy began massaging my calves. She also gave me a baggie of salt pills and instructed me to begin taking them. We continued on, and after 3 miles, she left me to return to the charity village. I pressed on. I saw people vomiting on the roadside. At mile 19, Pilsen, I called my husband in tears. I begged him to pick me up. He refused and told me to walk.

Which I did. If I saw a photographer, I picked up the pace and smiled. Then I walked. Chinatown was a blur. The worst part of the race is mile 23 to the finish. That stretch runs up South Michigan Avenue, and you think it is never going to end. You can hear the crowds as they build towards the finish, but you think you'll never get there.

Finally, I rounded the corner onto Roosevelt Road. There I spotted my mom and my sister and her family. I ran over to them for hugs and pictures. Then I ran up the final hill to the finish line. I staggered across the finish line and was handed my medal and a bottle of Gatorade recovery. I was done.

I met my family in the park adjacent to the finish line. I couldn't stand on my feet and I felt bad. I started sipping on the drink. Posed for pictures. And as I began to feel better, it all sunk in. I did it! I ran a marathon. Not the race I wanted to run. Not the race I envisioned. But I did it.

I couldn't stand on my feet!
Would I do another? I'd love to vindicate myself, to prove to myself that I can do better. But when people say "respect the distance", they aren't kidding. A marathon is HARD. It took me months to recover from that race. And several months later, I developed a stress fracture in my foot. I was sad after this race, disappointed in myself, and all the training I did.

But I did it. And learned a lot about myself along the way. And I can say I'm a marathoner...not one of those 5K marathoners, but a real 26.2 mile marathoner!

And my tummy didn't bother me once. So at least I had that!

Another great someecard from my friend Penny

Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting ready

My half marathon, the Florida Beach Halfathon, is less than a week away. 

Normally, I don't get too worked up before a race, but most of the races I run are local. I planned this race around a family vacation, and I have a lot to do this week before we leave. So the mental gymnastics begin...bear with me...

I'm trying to figure out the logistics for the race. We are staying on an island about 45 miles away. My husband, who never fails to surprise me, thought it would be fun to stay overnight at a hotel that is closer. While I think this is a great idea, it kind of threw me off. My husband rarely goes to my races anymore, and when I signed up for this one, he was a little upset at first--"you're going to run a race on our vacation?". In my head, I was planning on getting up early and driving myself to the race. No big deal. He rented a convertible and I pictured myself driving down the sunshine skyway bridge with the top down, medal around my neck, the breeze blowing my hair.

Well ok, maybe not this's a picture of the bridge today...
Driving over it never fails to thrill me!

Now he's all in and I'm excited but more nervous. He told me he's going to drop me off at the starting line. Then he said he might not make it to the finish line? Hello? You have to know him...

Anyways, I have to rethink everything. Most importantly, I have to rethink my fueling--because we are staying at a hotel--and hope I get a decent night's sleep. All the things I take for granted when I run races at home, for me, running a race somewhere else adds a whole new dimension to pre-race jitters.

We're currently "discussing" race packet pickup. I was planning on picking it up the morning of the race. But now that we are going to be in the area, I want to pick it up beforehand. That way I can get everything ready the night before, get dressed, eat breakfast, and show up. My husband would like me to just pick it up race morning.

The other factor that I'm overthinking is the weather. I have been training in cold, cold conditions all winter. We haven't had any of those "teaser" days that we usually get in the winter, you know, the days that hit 70 degrees in February? I've been checking the weather for Florida, and I have to admit, it does look ideal that day.

The race starts at 7 am, and the sun doesn't rise until 730, so I should get that 60 degrees for at least the first hour of the race. It will warm up pretty quickly tho. I'll have to plan my fueling accordingly. One thing that is different from races here in the Midwest is that they will have orange slices at that fuel stops! I've never had that before, but it sounds great to me! I have to remember to pack my Clif Raz Gels and slit the tops. I once lost a few minutes at a half trying to tear them open with sweaty hands--live and learn.

And most important, I have to decide what to wear. Since I've been dressing like an eskimo, I'll need to pull out the summer running clothes. It will feel great to run unencumbered by layers. And I want to pick something that will make me feel confident. 

Let's see..what else...I need to make my playlist. I may or may not listen to music, but it is nice to have for when I need a push!

A few other loose ends: the Garmin and Chamois Butr (for chafing prevention).

Of course, the race is 7 days away..the weather could husband could change his mind...arrgh, why do we do this?!

What do you do to prepare for a race? How do you deal with your nerves? Do you do a lot of mental preparation beforehand?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Good Luck!

This morning, while out for a quick trip around the neighborhood, I spotted a quarter on the ground. Even though I was running really well, I stopped to pick it up. I always stop to pick up money. Even pennies. One time, I found a $20 bill. Running pays.

"Find a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck." Will a quarter bring me 25 times the good luck? I guess you could call me a little superstitious!

Call them superstitions, call them rituals, most runners have them. For example, seasoned runners never wear a race shirt prior to running a race or at the actual event. Is it for luck or to be cool?

Do you plan your race outfit prior to the morning of the event? I do. I leave nothing to chance. I actually check the weather forecast the week before my race, so I can begin thinking about what I want to wear.

Do you think that a particular piece of clothing could bring you bad luck? I had a disastrous run at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, and the shirt I wore to that race will never touch my body again!
Leg cramps at mile 14! Oooh!
I don't always eat before I run, but when I do, I eat cheerios.

What about fueling during the race? Do you bring your own or leave it to chance? I always do Clif Razz Gel, walk through the water stations, and never drink the gatorade (a near disaster at one race for me).

Altho you may have to fuel with whatever is available on the course, like this guy!

I never wear new shoes to a race. Or new socks, for that matter. I have black champion underwear that I always wear under my tights.

What about music? Does a certain song bring to mind an amazing run? Do you plan your playlists around a specific race? For me, music can be the one factor that will make or break me, especially towards the end when I start to feel tired and self-doubt creeps in. About a week prior to a race, I begin thinking about what kind of songs I want to listen to. Most are culled from the current list of songs I am listening to on my runs. Right now, I will most certainly include Eminem's 'Till I Collapse, Fort Minor's Remember the Name, Fitz and the Tantrums' The Walker, and Pharrell's Happy.

Runners aren't the only athletes with superstitions. I read that tennis great Serena Williams wears the same pair of socks during an entire tournament. Michael Jordan wore his UNC shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform throughout his career. Hockey players are well known for growing beards during playoff season.

Do you avoid sidewalk cracks when you run? What if a black cat were to cross your path? What then?

I better stop here before I jinx myself! Time to go knock on wood!

In all seriousness, do you have any prerace or prerun rituals that you never miss? Are you superstitious?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gone viral

Last week, I was examining an ill infant. She had runny nose, cough, and vomiting. No fever, though, and as I checked her, I felt confident that this was a viral illness that needed to run its course.

Then she coughed in my face. I felt the mucus land on my cheek and in my eye.

Oh no.

Definitely one of the hazards of my job, I have become somewhat of a germophobe. I was my hands before and after I touch a patient. Before I eat. As soon as I get home. I clean my stethoscope before I examine every patient. And clean it with bleach wipes if I see someone who has been vomiting. Last fall I had a toddler vomit in my lap while I was examining him. It was as horrible as you might imagine. I felt it seep through my pants. Luckily, my clinic is connected to the hospital. Someone got me some scrubs to change into and I cleaned my legs with bleach wipes. I know I shouldn't have done that but ick. Washed those clothes in hot water. And prayed that I wouldn't get sick. Luckily, that time I didn't.

Most days this time of year.

I hate being sick. And who's got time to be sick anyways?

Two days after I saw that baby, my eye turned red and started to drain. I started antibiotic drops for pinkeye. Meanwhile, I had a scratchy throat and felt kind of blah but continued with work and running.

Today I feel yucky. My stomach is funky and my nose is stuffed up. The sun is shining, and normally I would have run outside, but I decided to try to do my treadmill speedwork. I figured I could stop if I felt bad. Plus I had ready access to the bathroom. Happily, with my bottle of nuun at my side, I completed those intervals without a problem. You never know unless you try, right? And I actually feel better now. Trying to fight the good fight!

I feel so much better now!

I use my ability to push through a run as a gauge for how sick I am. If I start running, and don't feel better after I get moving or have to stop in the middle of a run, I know I'm really sick and need to rest. Those are the days I call in sick. And luckily this rarely happens.

Most experts say that if your symptoms are above the neck, you are probably safe to hit the streets. Running may actually make you feel less stuffy, as your body releases adrenaline, which can open clogged nasal passages (source). But if your symptoms are below the neck, for example, in your chest, vomiting, or body aches then you should probably skip the workout. Seems logical to me. Take a day or 2 to rest and recover. You won't lose any training time.

Ha. Tell that to this type A++ runner!

Do you run when you are sick? What do you do to stay well?

Sunday, March 9, 2014


"You're so skinny". 

I hear this all the time. Meant as a compliment, I know, but it really isn't, if you think about it. And let's face'd never go up to an overweight person and say, "you're so fat!".

Plus, I'm not skinny. Full disclosure: I'm 5'5, 125#, BMI 22. This is considered healthy. Not skinny. But in the United States, our perspective is skewed, since >35% of adults are considered obese; >69% are overweight (source: CDC). We are so used to seeing overweight people and kids, for that matter. So when we see someone who is actually a normal weight, we may see them as skinny. In my practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I spend a lot of time trying to convince concerned parents (and grandparents) that their normal sized children are not too thin, that they are a healthy weight. It's a tough sell. Which is kind of crazy when you consider that being thin is a lot healthier than being overweight.

And in spite of the high rate of obesity in our country, women face enormous pressure to be thin. A visit with a teenage girl in my clinic last week prompted me to write about this. The patient came in for an evaluation because she passed out at track practice. When I reviewed her chart, I noticed that she had lost quite a bit of weight since her last visit 6 months ago. Her current BMI? 17. Now that's skinny.

Her exam and workup were completely normal. That didn't surprise me, since most teenagers don't have cardiac issues. When I talked to her about her eating habits, she told me she "doesn't have time to eat" or drink, for that matter. We talked about needing fuel for life and her activities. She nodded as I spoke, but at the end of our conversation, she just asked me when she could go back to track. During the visit, her mom sat there and smiled. She didn't say a word. To buy myself some time so I could talk with her father, I told the patient I was sending her to cardiology to be cleared to return to track. In the meantime, I called her father and shared my concerns with him. Used the words "eating disorder". He didn't buy it. He told me he'd watch her eat. I recommended a visit with our adolescent specialist, who is an expert with eating disorders. He told me his daughter was too busy for that. Sigh.

Everywhere you turn, there is pressure on women to be thin. And just being in shape isn't enough, you have to be ripped! Don't get me started on the "thigh gap" that was a big "thing" last year. When looking for running motivational pins on Pinterest and tumblr,  I've come across a lot of so-called "Fitspiration"pins. The women in these pictures have amazing physiques, with ripped muscles, large breasts, and flat abs. I don't find these pins especially motivational because to me they portray unrealistic body images. But at age 51 I've accepted my body. I'm strong and I can still run, although I'm not as fast as I used to be. I'm not very flexible but I do yoga to help with that. When I was younger, I wasn't as accepting of my body, and I can see why women would look to these pictures to be motivational.

 Here are some examples:

No matter how hard most of us do yoga, this pose is simply unattainable!

Last fall Lauren Fleshman posted on her blog a photo of herself from a runway show. She said out of the hundreds of photos taken, only a handful were actually good.

In response to criticism about her body looking so good merely 3 months after giving birth, she also posted photos which were unretouched, including this one:

I love that she did this. BTW, this blog post went worldwide! She definitely struck a chord with lots of women. Maybe if more celebrities did this, we all could let go of that perfect body image.

She also wrote about this for Runner's World, which you can read here. In this article, she encouraged women to post pictures of themselves for a project she's working on. 

So in the spirit of Lauren Fleshman, here's 50 year old me (I'm in the middle, with 2 of my friends at the beach last summer). Letting it all hang out.

And instead of re-pinning unrealistic Fitspiration pictures, let's embrace the Saucony "Find your Strong" project. There's a blog, inspiring stories, photo competitions (check out the March Muddiness competition) this is inspirational!

And when you see a fit person, don't tell them they're "skinny". 

Just tell them how strong they look.

How do you feel about your body? Do you bare it in a bikini or do you cover up? Do you look for fitness models for motivation?