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? 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dream big!

Lululemon has started a new campaign: If nothing was stopping me, I would....

I'm not really good with fonts and stuff, but I had no trouble expressing what I'd do....

I'd keep running...but I know where I want to be.

2 more weeks.

What would you do if nothing was stopping you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Remember that black hole I wrote about a few weeks ago? The one that was threatening to suck me in? Well, it's back at it again. Life just keeps lobbing balls at me. Or lemons.

Good advice!

I was doing really well after my last post. Trying to keep a positive attitude. Really pushing myself to be happy and goofy, like I normally am. And being fairly successful at staying positive, too, if I do say so myself.

A few bumps in the road, including my father-in-law being admitted to the hospital last week, didn't shake my confidence. He's fine, by the way. Even though the doctors messed up and he had to stay an extra night. Smh. Mother Nature brought us more snow and cold. Hasn't she checked her calendar? But in spite of the bad weather, in the mornings the roads have been mostly clear and I have been able to run outside. The sun has been shining.

And then this....

Last week I got my new Garmin. I bought a low end model, the Garmin Forerunner 10, because I my iPhone running apps weren't very reliable. They kept quitting midrun, and I didn't trust the splits they were giving me. The Garmin performed beautifully, and here's what I saw:

I could not have been happier. This run was done in the cold wind, following a snowstorm...typical of our winter this year, and with splits like this, I feel like I've been doing a great job training. The Garmin does not lie, right? I was so thrilled with my new Garmin! Why was I resisting owning one all these years?

In my enthusiasm, I sent the picture to my family, along with a comment about how great I felt.

My sister responded with a snarky comment about her 3 miler on the treadmill, "steep hills". 

It was then I remembered a comment she made to me a week before when I was talking about running. A big sigh, followed by "that's YOUR thing...". In other words, "I don't want to hear about it". I realized then why she sent me the snarky text. 

Hurt, I let the text comment ride until the next day when I called her. She didn't pick up, and l left a message that I thought we should talk. Later she sent me a text message, which was not nice. She didn't want to talk to me, she said, and basically stated I needed to keep my running to myself. There was also a comment about me "needing to pat myself on the back" all the time. 


We runners tend to talk about running ad nauseum...because we are so passionate about it. Running has the power to transform our bodies and our lives, and I could write a book on what running has done for me. My family may not understand my passion for running, but with the exception of my sister, everyone has been really supportive. When I ran the Chicago Marathon, my mom and my youngest sister and her family were there. But not this sister. It bothered me at the time, but I let it go.

After this past incident, I'm having a little harder time letting it go. Over the years, she's told me multiple times that I'm her "best friend". I've supported her through her divorce, and other trials and tribulations. I've always been there for her. That's what sisters and friends do for each other. But I'm not feeling the love back. I can analyze why she says the things she says about my running, but I don't understand the venom behind the comments.

Maybe I shouldn't have sent the picture of my Garmin. But what about the pictures she sends of her new home, her new furniture, her boys...what makes that different? 

And is what we runners are doing in our blogs and facebook, twitter and instagram considered "patting ourselves on the back"? I enjoy reading everyone's posts on Facebook and everyone's blogs. I find them motivating. I love the encouragement I get from my fellow runners and I try to reciprocate. I do try not to go overboard when I talk about running with my family and friends because I know it isn't their "thing". I try to be sensitive when it is time for me to stop talking about it..the glazed look I get usually does it for me. When people ask me about running, I always joke "don't get me started!"

But my friends understand that running is my passion. I'm not sure what to do about my sister, but I'm not going to let her comments affect the my journey. 

Keep moving forward. 

Healing my bruised ego. My broken heart.

Are your family and friends supportive of your running? How do you handle those who aren't? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy Feet

I really wish I could dance.

I was just watching the news today and saw a couple demonstrating the tango. Oh my gosh, watching them move...I only wish I was that sure footed.

I can run, pretty quick at that, but my feet only move in one direction--forward.

It is funny how much coordination I lack. Becky, my trainer, has been teaching me a variety of crossfit moves. Several of them involve a hip thrust forward as you lift the weight up your body. Then a jump, or a burst of power, as you hoist the weight to your shoulders. One of them we've been working is the "clean" technique. I've just been using a bar without weights because I can't seem to get it right. Every time I see her, she has to re-demonstrate the entire sequence for me. She breaks it down. I feel stupid and uncoordinated. Becky is very encouraging and doesn't laugh at me. At least not where I can see it.

Full disclamer: This is NOT me. But this is a great picture of that hip thrust I was talking about! She's got some momentum going...that baby is going up!

But I bet if I was a good dancer, I would feel more comfortable in my body and be able to move through that sequence much more easily. Like that woman in the picture above.

I'd probably be able to navigate a lot of things more easily! Like hopping the curb from the parking lot into Target. Face meet bike rack...but that's a story for another blog post...

I've never been great at dancing. In kindergarden, I took dance class, and my mom took me out after I just couldn't seem to get it. An awkward, gawky preteen, my mom enrolled me in dance class again, not sure why--maybe to help me with my utter lack of coordination. After several lessons, the instructor took my mom aside and told her that perhaps dancing wasn't my thing. Funny thing, I was fine with quitting.

Even at our wedding, my husband and I did our slow dance rocking from side to side.

As I got older and more comfortable in my skin, I found that I could "move" to the beat and so dancing in large groups became more fun for me. But throw in a floor dance like the electric slide and I was in trouble. After my friends reviewed the steps with me, I still couldn't get it. They'd be going one way and me the other. After a couple of drinks, nobody cared and it was pretty funny. But still.

Thank goodness I can run. Forward, one step in front of the other.

Are you a good dancer? Do you think good coordination is essential to being a good runner?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Does size matter?

Have you seen this medal?

This is this year's medal for the Little Rock Marathon. I wrote this blog post before the race actually took place. I'm sorry to hear that it was cancelled half way through because of the weather. This post is NOT about that race. Or that particular medal. I'm writing about medals in general. Please don't flame me!

Maybe I'm a party pooper, but what the hell? That thing is ridiculous! It's bigger than my head! You could eat dinner off it! And yet people are going crazy for the bling these days. 

Don't get me wrong, I love a good race medal. I have a few myself. 

My favorite medal? This one, from the Madison (Wisconsin) Mini-Marathon:

Attractive, yet practical, with the bottle opener. But nothing extreme.

My least favorite medal? This one, from the North Shore Half Marathon:
This was the cheapest, crappiest medal I've gotten.  I'm really not in it for the bling, but if you are advertising as "the best goody bag ever", you better bring it. Plus this was one of the more expensive races I've ever run. I expected a little more for my money. Don't even get me started on the ugly man shirt that I got. Which went right into the Goodwill bag.

Run Disney has really upped the ante with bling. There is the medal for the marathon and the half marathon. It used to be if you ran both, you were considered "Goofy" and got a 3rd medal. Now there are medals for the 5K and the 10K. And if you run all 4, you've done the Dopey challenge and get a medal for that. 6 medals in all.

Ok, this is going to sound curmudgeonly but COME ON! My email is filled with messages from race directors beckoning: "best bling" "biggest medal" and so forth. While I'm not above being rewarded for my effort with a medal around my neck, I don't pick a race just because of the medal.

After seeing the Epic medal, I had to say something. My fellow blogger Marcia, at Marcia's Healthy Slice wrote about this a few weeks ago. You can read that post here. The comments were mixed. Some people LOVE the bling. And others, old school runners like me, would run for no bling or small bling.

I'd not discounting rewarding people for their accomplishments. Long distance racing is hard, requiring dedication and training. If the lure of earning a medal gets more people moving, that isn't a bad thing. I like when the volunteers put the medal around my neck and congratulate me at the finish line. But what do you do with the medals when you're finished showing them off? Where do you store all your medals? Are they on display? Or do they go in a drawer, like mine?

And think about this: the cost of the medal is included in your race fee. These medals aren't cheap. And race fees are going up, up, up! Those Run Disney Races? Start saving your cash now...

Last year's Chicago Marathon medal was small. I heard that people complained about it.
I don't know. Finishing a marathon is a pretty big deal in itself. And now Chicago is so popular, there is a lottery for entry if you don't qualify. So maybe the race promoters don't have to try so hard and sell the race with "bling". 

That's my kind of race.

I've seen the question come up before, and I want to bring it up here. Would you run a race if there were no medals? Do you choose a race because of the bling? Is bigger really better?

I'm linking up with MCMmamaruns, NoGuiltLife, and Run the Great Wide Somewhere for this one!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Waiting for spring...

Last week at yoga, I stopped to chat with one of the women in the class, whom I hadn't seen for a while. She is a runner too, and last time we talked, was suffering from a hip injury. I asked her how she was feeling, and she told me much better, that she had started running again. I asked her what she was training for.

She told me she's running March Madness, which is a half marathon in Cary, Illinois. This race is kind of the unofficial kick-off for the long distance running season in the Chicago area. Wildly popular, registration opens up on December 31, and usually fills within 30 minutes. I hear the course is quite hilly...the weather unpredictable...the runners FAST!

And then she told me she's running Boston.

I love this ad for the Boston Marathon.

Ah. Boston.

How many long distance runners would love to be training for Boston? And why is that? Is it because you have to qualify for an entry? One of my friends, who has run it in the past, met the qualifying time for this years' race, but because of the large number of entries, was denied, deemed to be 30 seconds too slow.

30 seconds? Aye!

I've always been a middle of the pack runner, not too fast, not too slow. Normally I finish in the top 25% of my age group, and I've always been pretty happy with that. I'm not saying I wouldn't love to qualify for Boston, but I know that I will never run that fast. Right now, my qualifying time would be 4:00:00. I'm a 2:00 half marathoner on a good day...when I ran my one and only marathon, it was on an 80 degree day and let's just say that at 4:00:00, I was nowhere near 26.2.

Besides having a slower BQ time, another benefit to being older, and we all joke about it, is moving into a new age group. I am now in the 50-54 year old women's group, and the ranks are starting to thin out. When I realized this, I had 2 thoughts. One was Yay! Podium! And the other was Oh crap! These old ladies are fast!

I love this graphic because you can see the spread in age groups at the big 3 marathons: MCM, Chicago, and NYCM. You youngsters have a lot of competition!

Anyways, I'm half marathon kind of gal. The half marathon is my favorite distance. Tough enough to have to train for, yet the training doesn't take over your life. I work almost full time, and yes, I did train for my marathon even with my job and my family, but it was a challenge.

I like to do 2-3 half marathons per year. This year I'm considering 4. I had considered the March Madness Half, but after the winter we've had, I began looking for a race in Florida that I could do while on our family spring break trip. As far as the rest of my races go, I can only hope that Mother Nature will have mercy on us poor midwesterners and let spring come.

For now here is my race calendar for 2014:

So tell me! What races do you have planned for 2014? What is your favorite distance? Do you have any goal races/distances that you would love to do?