Friday, January 9, 2015

My kind of town...

As I sit inside, under a heap of blankets, snow and wind whipping outside, my mind wanders ahead to the upcoming race season. With the exception of the Sarasota Half Marathon (Florida), I haven't firmed up my race plans for this year. People who know me well know that I'm not a big planner when it comes to choosing races. Last year, I planned ahead and I had my first DNS due to injury. That did not make me happy. It was a streak of sorts, really! Plus, I don't like to eat the high cost of races. So I kind of like to wait and see how I'm feeling. But one thing I know for sure is that the majority of my races this year will be run in my hometown, Chicago. Today I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta aka EatPrayRunDC, You Signed up for What?, and Mar on the Run to talk about my 5 favorite races I've run in Chicago!

North Avenue Beach, with the Chicago skyline in the background. This is the "preview" day for the Air and Water Show. We used to go with a bunch of neighbors every year! 
I grew up in a really small town about 60 miles northwest of the city, but my grandparents lived in Chicago and we spent a lot of time visiting them. They actually lived right across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo! My sisters and I visited them a lot and my grandparents took us all over the city, fueling my love for Chicago. After I graduated from college, I got a job in one of the big hospitals on the near West side and moved to a Rogers Park, on the north side. Eventually I took a job as a home health nurse and traveled all over the city to see patients. I got to learn a lot about the city and neighborhoods. A few years later, my husband and I moved to Edison Park, which is located on the far northwest side of Chicago. I loved that neighborhood, but when I had my first son, we decided to move to the suburbs to raise our kids. Believe it or not, I had never lived in the suburbs and it was a bigger adjustment than I expected. To this day, I still love to go to the city and I still get a thrill when I'm heading in on the expressway and see that beautiful skyline. Some mornings as I'm driving to work, I can spy the Willis (aka Sears) Tower in the distance. Amazing, really, because it is about 25 miles southwest of where I live now.

The boys and me, 2 years ago, playing tourist on the skydeck of the Willis Tower
This is why I will be running the Chicago marathon again this year--provided I get in the lottery! I love the Chicago marathon. The race meanders throughout a large portion of the city, and runners really get a flavor of the various neighborhoods. Since I had all that experience traveling the city in my home health days, it's really like coming home for me. I'm happy when I run in the city. Chicago is a great city for runners. The people come out in droves to cheer on the runners and it is an amazing experience.

One of the biggest assets the city has to offer is its lakefront. Chicago's lakefront is loaded with beaches, parks, golf courses, and of course, the lakefront path. A lot of Chicago's races are run on the lakefront path. One of my favorite races, the CARA Lakefront 10 miler, which is considered a "kick off" to the race season, is run along the lakefront. The race also takes you through the harbors, which are somewhat empty this time of year. Since this race is in April, the weather can be unpredictable. But that's all part of the fun of living and running in Chicago. 

Broken foot and all...the weather was perfect for a PR!
Another race, the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, is run on the Lakefront Path as well, but runs south to Burnham Harbor. Technically, I didn't actually run this race but if I had, it would be a favorite and so I've included it. This was the race I couldn't run, due to my broken foot. I did go down there to spectate and cheer my friends on, and I'm glad I did. I had never run a race on that end of the Lakefront path, and it was really beautiful. I was able to experience a race on that part of the path later in the summer when I ran Zooma Chicago. I also learned what a**holes some cyclists can be, as they raced by us while we ran. It was really dangerous. 

Chicago Half Marathon running on Lake Shore Drive
Several years ago, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. This fall race starts in Hyde Park, which is the home of President Barack Obama. Hyde Park is also the home of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. This part of Chicago was developed during the Columbian Exposition/Worlds Fair in 1893 (there is a great book, Devil in the White City, that takes place in this era). The parks in this part of the city are hidden gems, truly. Besides running through this area, part of the race is run on Lake Shore Drive, which is closed to traffic. I thought that was very cool and I loved this race but I didn't love the logistics, as getting there and finding parking was a challenge. Still, given the chance, I'd run it again.

Chicago Half Marathon 2011
There is one other race that I used to love, but haven't run in years, and that is the Shamrock Shuffle. This is an 8k, which is another distance that I love. The race is run through downtown Chicago and ends in Grant Park. It usually sells out, reaching a max of 40,000 runners. I don't normally like to run such big races, but the Shuffle is organized by the same group that puts on the Marathon, and so it is a really well run race. I haven't run it in years because it usually is held in late March, and that is when we take a family vacation to Florida. Hmmm...Florida vs Chicago....

One of the reasons I love to run in Chicago so much is because I just love the city. We've talked about moving back to the city once the boys are grown. Besides all the great races and places to run and play, we have theater...great restaurants...culture....if only we could get a Cubs World Series...or another Lombardi trophy....well, at least we have the Hawks! 

Wrigley Field and the iconic scoreboard, 2013
As we say in Chicago, "there's always next year".
BTW, both these boys are taller than me now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ode to my treadmill

Today, for the first time in 10 months, I fired up the treadmill. After 17 years of moderate use (less the last couple of years), I'm always surprised, amazed, and relieved when it starts up. My geriatric treadmill has seen thousands of miles and is on belt #2. I'm not shy about my dislike for running inside. But there are days when safety must come first. Today was one of those days. The temperature was -2F, there were 3 fresh inches of snow on the ground, and my run needed to be done by 730am. My biggest concern wasn't the cold or the snow, but my safety. I was worried about a car sliding into me while I was running. So I stayed inside. It was boring as usual, but I got it done.

I listen to music when I run on the 'mill, just like I do when I run outside. I've tried watching TV, but I had trouble concentrating on both activities. Plus, to me, I felt like I was cheating on my workout. I know a lot of people watch movies while they run inside, but one thing I like to do when I run is really focus on my workout and how I'm feeling. Today I felt bored. I also felt winded, running 9 minute miles. I read a couple of articles on comparing treadmill running to outdoor running and learned that there may a couple of reasons for this. #1: boredom. #2: my treadmill might not be calibrated correctly. #3: I'm using longer strides to run. I'm pretty sure it's #2.

This guy! Is 17 years old now. Sigh...
The treadmill was a gift to me from my mother-in-law after the birth of my oldest son. My birthday was a month after his birth, and she asked me what I'd like for my birthday. I joked that I'd love a treadmill, so I could keep running. Surprisingly, she gave me a wad of cash and told me to buy one. I went to Service Merchandise, which at the time was THE store where you could get anything. They had a ProForm treadmill. There wasn't much of an internet at the time and checking product reviews wasn't a thing back then. This baby was a fold up model and had a digital display. I bought it on the spot and we brought it home. I remember running on it, with my oldest son in his bouncy seat next to me. I'd sing to him to keep him entertained while I pounded out the miles. There were times when he let me know that he'd had enough and cried while I tried to eake out one more mile. I pleaded with him to let me finish. Poor kid. No wonder I'm having issues with him...scarred for life...

We got a hamster when my oldest was in second grade. His first grade teacher had a class pet, the hamster, and we watched him over the summer. Both of my boys loved him so much that they begged me for one of our own. Against my better judgement, we headed over to PetSmart to pick out a rodent hamster. The first one we brought home we named Scabbers, after the pet rat that Ron Weasely had in the Harry Potter books. Scabbers gave my son a lot of scabs--he liked to bite--and so back to the store he went. The next one we brought home was a screamer. He was white and we named him Stuart Little. After a few months with him, we realized we should have named him Houdini. He kept escaping from his cage. Even wrapping the cage in duct tape wouldn't stop him. At the time I was working evenings, and when I got home at midnight, quite often Stuart Little wouldn't be in his cage. Usually, I'd find him sitting in the middle of the family room, nibbling on crumbs. "Hellloooo", I imagined him saying. "How was your shift?". Then I'd have to pick him up and put him back in the cage. Ewwwww. One night he was no where to be found. I was so tired, I just went to bed. We searched the house but we couldn't find him. I figured he was gone and felt guilty to feel so relieved. About 2 weeks later, I needed to run on the treadmill. I pulled the bed down and stood on it, ready to push start. I heard a scratching sound coming from the motor. Oh no....I got my husband and when he took the cover off of the motor, yes, there was Stuart Little, covered with black grease. Next to him was a pile of dog food. Oh my.

A few years later, the belt started to fray. I headed to the internet and found that I could order a replacement belt for my ancient treadmill! I was so excited. And now, it became a quest. A quest to keep the 'mill going. My husband replaced the belt. At first, the belt would occasionally slip. I had to be on my guard at all times. Last winter, it started spitting out pieces of plastic at me. I don't know where they are coming from. But let me tell you how unnerving it is to have a piece of plastic shooting out from under you when you least expect it! The other thing that the mill does is randomly speed up and slow down. There is no warning. You just have to be prepared for it. Certainly helps with the boredom factor.

Today, though, the mill behaved. I set it to 6.6. I don't know what that means, in treadmill speak, but it usually translates to 9 mins/mile.  I listened to my music. A couple of songs were the perfect cadence for my pace and that was fun. I mean, as much fun as you can have running on a treadmill. I looked at the numbers on the panel. Oooh, 12.34 minutes! Oooh, I'm running 6.6, its been 16.6 minutes and 1.66 miles. Lots of 6s! The windows started to get steamy. And at the end of 36 minutes, 4 miles, I was done.

I hope the 'mill keeps going for me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Staying positive in the winter

Let me just start this post by saying: I'm not, by nature, a positive person. I think that I'm genetically programmed to be negative. Seriously, if there is a negative personality gene, I'm a carrier. After all, I come from a long line of negative people, on my dad's side. I kid you not. Growing up, surrounded by negativity and self-pity, I thought that it was normal for people to complain about everything and feel sorry for themselves. As I got older, I learned that this negativity isn't really socially acceptable, nor is it appropriate. There are so many people who have it worse than me and still have a smile on their face. How do they do it? Awareness is the first step to fixing a problem, and my change in attitude is a continual work in progress. 

One thing I have going for me is that I have a sense of humor. I laugh at everything. Maybe too much! I work at a job where a lot of bad things happen to good people. Not funny, and it can kind of wear on you if you let it. But I also encounter a lot of funny and/or odd situations. When you work with the public, you walk away shaking your head a lot of the time. I'd say that you need a sense of humor to survive in the medical field. Also known as "gallows humor", humor that treats serious or grim subjects in a light or satirical way, it is common to professions that deal with difficult situations. Kind of a coping mechanism, if you think about it...

What are some other coping mechanisms that can be used to promote positivity? Especially in the dark days of winter? It's hard to stay positive when the skies are gray and the temperatures are below freezing. 

Take your run outside!

Winter is here, and that just seems to exacerbate my negativity. It's a lot easier to feel positive and happy when the sun is shining and the air is warm. Truth. A month ago, we had a streak of cloudy days that never seemed to end. As a matter of fact, December 2014 went down on the record books as the cloudiest December ever in Chicago. We saw only 16% sunshine. Sure, it was warmer. But is was gloomy. Lifelong Chicagoans will tell you that if you want to see the sun in the winter, you have deal with the cold. We did have a few sunny days around Christmas, and I could just feel my mood lift. It wasn't that cold either. Getting outside for a run on some of those sunny days really helped put me in a more positive frame of mind. This is one of the reasons I run outside all year long. There is something to be said for being outside in the natural light, even if the sun isn't shining. Actually, research backs me here (there are more studies listed on the page if you chase the link). Light therapy has been mentioned as a possible treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies comparing light therapy to outdoor light exposure show the benefits of natural, outdoor light to help lift one's mood. This is no surprise to me. I always feel better after a run outside, even in the snow or pouring rain. 

And then there's that...

Start having more positive thoughts!

Christine Felstead, whose yoga video, Yoga for Runners, Intermediate Program, I do on a regular basis, addresses the use of positivity when pushing through a tough pose. "It helps, "she says, "to have more positive thoughts". Think about it. If you are holding a pose for a long time, and you tell yourself how hard it is, yes, it feels hard. She also suggests focusing on breathing through the tough poses. What about those runs where you are having a tough time and you start feeling tired? Tell me you haven't started thinking about how tired you are, how hard this is...and you start to slow down. Maybe you even tell yourself that you can't do it. Maybe even stop. Berate yourself for being a wimp. Now turn that around. Instead of telling yourself how bad your run feels, remind yourself of another tough run that you pushed through or a race where you pulled it out for a PR. Remember that your body listens to what your brain is saying. Or you can do what Becky made me do last summer during marathon training. "For every negative thought you have or word that comes out of your mouth," she proposed, "you have to do 10 burpees." And she meant it. Everyone knows I hate burpees, with a passion. So this was a really good incentive for me. During my training runs, if I started to feel bad, I reminded myself about the punishment. And that reminder turned my thoughts around. Mile 23 during the Chicago marathon, when my hamstrings were yacking at me, I had a mental image of me getting down in the middle of Michigan Avenue and doing 10 burpees. That image made me laugh, and the rest is history.


Wear bright colors.

Vogue magazine had a great article on wearing bright colors to lift your mood. Now that I've stunned all of you into thinking I read Vogue (I don't), let me just say that this article was preaching to the choir. It was fun to read because the author talked about what various colors do for your mood. For example, orange (hello sunshine!) helps with being social and helps bring you out of your shell. Orange is the best color for helping you adapt to change. As if I need any help getting out of my shell, according to the author, orange will do it for me. I love my orange running tops and instinctively pull them out on a gloomy day. Bringing my own sunshine, as I like to say. And what about my favorite of all colors, red? Red, she says, is energizing! Well, ok then! What better color to put on for a long run on a gloomy, cold day? Green is "balancing". Pink is "the color of love and kindness", and yellow is a "joy ray"! Thinking I need to get some yellow tops. What about black? While black can be "a security blanket", black has "a depressive quality" to it. Think about that the next time you are shopping for running clothes, especially for the winter! 

Bringing my own sunshine!

Listen to positive music

I'm guilty of being a fan of rock and roll to push me through my runs, especially songs with heavy guitar riffs. But have you ever listened to some of the lyrics? For example, a song that I like by Velvet Revolver, Fall to Pieces, has lyrics like this: "Every time I'm falling down, all alone, I fall to pieces". Not exactly inspiring! Or this one, from New Politics, Everywhere I Go, which is a gem to run to but also not exactly inspiring with lyrics like this: "Downtown hopping fences, I smashed a window on a Lexus, now 5-0s on my tail but they movin' like a snail, I got some shit to sell but everybody's gotta get by..." you get the drift. I take those songs with a grain of salt. But how about some positive songs to lift your mood? Like Pharrell's Happy? Doesn't it just make you want to clap while you're running? How about an oldie but a goodie, ELO's Don't Bring Me Down? You can't help but smile with that one and it's got a great beat to run to! Sunlight by The Magician is a new find for me, and another positive one! The video (click on the link) will put a smile on your face, too...

Hang out with positive people

This is easier said than done. But I noticed over the holidays that my family tried to zap my mojo. My dad is generally negative and when I talk to him, trying to turn the conversation around is an exercise in futility, although it does force me to be positive in my responses. It's just exhausting talking with him sometimes. My teenage sons had way too much free time on their hands and I had a few sleepless nights, although as far as I know, they stayed out of trouble. There were some tense moments with my younger sisters. I came home from the final family gathering and told my husband that I refuse to let them make me feel bad about myself.  On New Years' Day, I met my running friends for a planned run, and it did my heart good. 

I love these ladies!

Say it, forget it; write it, regret it

Before you hit send on a post, re-read what you wrote. Is it something you'd want to read in your feed? On a blog? I follow a lot of pages, and I've noticed that some people's posts are always negative. No matter what they've done for the day, they're complaining. I get it, it's hard to stay positive when you've had a bad run or you're injured (been there!) but I believe there is always something positive in every situation. One of the page admins I follow on Facebook has a broken ankle, but she's started a New Year's challenge and posts ab workouts and a different yoga pose for people to try every day. I know it can't be easy for her, but sometimes forcing yourself to present your thoughts in a positive way can turn it around for you too. In December, when I was feeling so overwhelmed by the holidays, work, and life, I tried really hard to keep my posts positive. It was a challenge, for sure, but it was almost therapeutic, trying to figure out a way to put it out there without turning people off. It's ok to have a bad day and vent about it, and we all do it, but don't make a habit of it. It will bring you down.

And those selfies I post on my Facebook page? They force me to put a smile on my face. And that always lifts my mood! You can't smile and be crabby at the same time, right? 

Red. Energizing for a snowy, blowy day!

Linking this post up with Jill Conyers The Fit Dish!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Come on man!

And this pretty much sums up the Bears season with Jay Cutler. They fired all the coaches and kept Cutler, the highest paid player in the NFL. Come on man!!
Any football fans here? There's a great pregame feature on ESPN called "Come on Man", where the commentators show boneheaded plays during the previous week and follow each clip with a resounding "Come on man!" Pretty funny, these clips provide fodder for some pretty interesting discussions regarding rules, behavior, and sportsmanship.

I have a few "Come on man!" moments for running this year. Without further ado, let's start with the cheaters. I have to do it, but let's get it out of the way. Apparently there are plenty of cheaters in the sport, but for this post, I'm going to call out the 2 women's Chicago marathon winners cheaters. That's my hometown race you're messin' with!

I called out Rita Jeptoo for alleged doping prior to his year's Chicago marathon. Looks like she's been doing it all along. And then there's Lilya Shobukhova, winner of the Chicago marathon 3 years in a row, 2009-2011, who last April was stripped of her titles. Ok, you won it once. Cheated, sure. But to come back and win it again? Why not, right? What does that feel like, knowing you took a banned substance and won? Went home with the big prize purse. Do you get to a certain point where you forget that doping is cheating? Is everyone doing it, so it seems ok? Maybe it's easier to accept as you get away with it. Help me to understand this.

Come on man!

Tabatha Hamilton at the Talladega half marathon earlier in the year

And what about that woman who ran that marathon in record time? Tabatha Hamilton? Who ran the Chickamauga marathon in 2:54? First half was 2:00 but the second half....54 minutes? I wrote a post on this last fall. I tried to find a follow up on the story but there was nothing, except that she was DQ'd and another winner, the real winner, was named. Lillian Gilmer, a Nashville attorney and marathon veteran, crossed the finish line in 3:21:33. She didn't recall ever seeing another runner, which made Hamilton's story all the more interesting. Did Hamilton really think she could get away with it? I can't help but feel sorry for her, because how do you save face after telling such a big whopper? I wonder what will happen to her now. How's she's feeling about all this? Will she run again?

Come on man!

HIgh heel drag queen race in Key West, FL
Road races may be a thing of the past in Lancaster, Ohio. As of January 1, the city passed an ordinance that states they will no longer approve race permits "nor provide support services to these events, citing increasing costs, lack of city resources, and multiple citizen complaints". The ordinance also states that "roads shall not be closed and/or blocked by non-law enforcement" personnel. This seems like an invitation to disaster. Think: running on sidewalks or running on roads alongside with cars. I won't deny that road racing has gotten a bit out of control. It isn't enough to just have to be sprayed with paint, foam, or run in high heels. Why not do what other cities are doing--restricting the number of races that can be held during the year? Or limit the number of participants in a particular race. Makes sense to me...

Come on man!
At 2 pounds 12 ounces, this thing will probably cause some neck strain for finishers!
Can I do another Come on man! to the race promoters who are providing over the top medals and bling? I wrote a post on this last March when the Little Rock Marathon revealed the finisher's medal. The thing was ridiculously huge. Interestingly, the race was cancelled halfway through because of severe weather. I wonder what they did with all those medals? Anyways, they've revealed the medal for the 2015 marathon. It isn't enough to have a finishers' medal, its' an "award winning medal". Runners' World wrote an article on this phenomenon as well. I blame Disney and their over the top medals. Now everyone has to do one better than Disney....

Come on man!

Yeah right. I still ran. Was the path really closed? Or was it made up?
On the local front, the woman who claimed to be stabbed by a random man while running in the Cook County Forest Preserve MADE THE WHOLE THING UP! The story was that she was running with a friend on the path when a man jumped out of the bushes, stabbed her in the abdomen, and then ran away. She ran to a nearby home where she called police. When I heard this story, I knew something was fishy. Not that you wouldn't be accosted at this forest preserve. I run there, and there are plenty of unsavory characters around. Sadly. I even wrote a post last spring about this. But the woman's story just sounded weird. Luckily, the police thought so too. 

Come on man!

Lululemon, which makes some pretty expensive awesome running and yoga gear, tried to revolutionize running fashion this year by coming out with the Runsie--aka a running onesie. A one piece romper designed for runners, apparently it "flew off the shelves" when it came out. BTW, the back is open, so you can feel the cooling breezes. Personally, a one piece garment would just not work for me, since I need to make potty stops when I'm out on a long run. Runner's World did a hilarious video product review which you can see here. Some cynics are speculating that Lululemon is circling the drain. In 2013, there was that see-through yoga pants debaucle and the CEO's response, in which he blamed certain sized women for the problem. BTW, a search of Ebay revealed quite a few Runsies for sale from $75-$150. Supply and demand, I guess....

Come on man!

Anything I missed? Can't we all just run?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome 2015! Goals, plans, and stuff...

This is the time of year when everyone posts their list of New Year's resolutions. I've never been much of a resolution kind of gal. If that were the case, I would never have run that Chicago marathon last year. I had a couple of halfs on the agenda for the year, but that was it. After I bombed my first marathon, I always said I would never do another marathon. But as this year moved forward and I got stronger and more confident, I decided to go for it.

And that's kind of how I live my life. I've never been much of a planner. When I went back to school to be a nurse practitioner, it was something I'd been thinking about, but never really made big plans to do. But when I decided to do it, I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Same with the marathon. I won the entry, and said, what the heck?

Worked out pretty well for me, didn't it? I had been training anyways, so it wasn't like I just went from the couch to the road....

Anyways, on to 2015. I have some ideas and things I'd like to accomplish. I do. I just haven't worked out all the details. But here goes nothing...

1. I'd like to stay injury free this year. Don't laugh. This includes continuing to work with Becky and my weight training. I'm convinced that the work she gives me--the heavy lifting, the HIIT--that is what kept me injury free and contributed to the success I had on the road this year. I'm going to stick to the relatively low mileage that I always do because it seems that everytime I ramp up my miles, I start to hurt. 

Hopefully not with my eyes closed!
2. I'm going to run another marathon. It was pretty funny, besides this picture, after I ran Chicago, my husband (who isn't always supportive of my running) made a comment about "the next one". I almost fell over. Who is this man? But when asked, he commented on the training I did, that I didn't complain about having a tough time, that I didn't get hurt, and that my training didn't interfere with any family activities. Ok, then! I'd like to do Chicago again, if I get in the lottery this year, and I'd like to best my finish time. If I don't get into Chicago, there's always Fox Valley, Milwaukee, and Prairie State. Dare I even hope for a sub-4 hour marathon? Ok, it's a goal. Wouldn't that be something? A girl can dream, right?

3. I feel the need...the need for speed! Along those lines, I'd like another sub-2 hour half marathon. I've had a few. The last one was in the fall of 2013, a spur of the moment half that I signed up for the week of the race. See how that lack of planning worked out for me? Regardless, I'd like another one, and I need to get my head around the whole heat and humidity thing, because those summer and Florida halfs aren't bringing me speedy finish times. Hopefully, as I continue to get stronger, that will be less of an issue for me. We'll see.

4. I need to do a better job of managing my mama drama. I write this as my 17 year old is pondering his options for New Years Eve. This year showed me that raising teenagers is way more difficult than running a marathon. I have to keep reminding myself what good boys I have. Even when they do stupid things. Remind me of this the next time I'm sitting in a courtroom with one of them. I'm working on getting my husband on board with shouldering some of the worry and disciplining.... this is a work in progress. He needs to stop waking me up in the middle of the night to share his angst with me. Deal with it, mister man! I will say that running really helps me manage my stress, though. And so back to #1. I can't not run. It's my therapy.

5. I want to continue to grow my blog. I love to write. Can you tell? As a matter of fact, I was a journalism major in college before I changed my major to nursing. Writing is such a great outlet for me. I wish I had more time to spend writing. Blogging has also introduced me to some of my new running friends, many of whom I've met and spent time with in 2014. I hope to meet more of you this year!

So what's up, running-wise, for 2015?

So far,  I've registered for one race, the Sarasota Half Marathon. I've got a couple local spring halfs in consideration: Great Western Half marathon, Springfield Half Marathon. There's that awesome CARA Lakefront 10 miler in April.  I'm looking at running another late summer/early fall half and a fall marathon. I don't want to run too many races, because I don't want to risk injury. Plus I'd like to continue to work on speed. I wouldn't mind doing that Fall 50 in Door County, as a relay. Anyone interested?

Quality over quantity.

Regardless of my goals, what I really look forward to the most is more running!

What are you planning for 2015?

I'm linking this post up with the DC Trifecta for Friday Five! 
And with Jill Conyers for her Friday Blog Hop!
And with MCM mama, My No-Guilt Life, and Run the Great Wide Somewhere for Tuesdays on the Run!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dr Google is NOT your friend

Last night, I tossed and turned, thinking about something I saw on my friend's FB feed. After being sick for a couple of weeks, She posted that she still wasn't feeling well. She talked about needing another round of antibiotics. A few of us posted the usual "feel better soon" and gave her lots of sympathy. I mean, who likes to be sick?

And as I scanned the other replies then I saw this one:

"Sounds like adrenal insufficiency to me"


My NP radar went haywire. Does this person even know what adrenal insufficiency is? Do you? You can chase the link to learn more. But I can tell you that my friend's symptoms do not even closely resemble adrenal insufficiency. As a matter of fact, as an armchair quarterback, I'd say that her symptoms are most likely left over from her bout with influenza. The residual cough and nasal stuffiness can be just as rough as the illness itself.  Luckily, my friend is a nurse, and smart enough to know that she doesn't have adrenal insufficiency. And she did the really smart thing, and saw her personal physician for evaluation and management of her illness.

But what about the general public? Can you imagine a less educated person reading this? And thinking that they have some horrible illness? And who would post this? But judging by what I see in my feed, everyone has an opinion on medical questions.

Parents show up in my clinic all the time with their children, having Googled their symptoms. According to the Pew Research Center, 1/3 of Americans have turned to the internet to learn more about their medical condition and/or symptoms. The parents of the children I see report to me what they have learned from Google. And it's up to me to undo the damage done by what they have read.

A swollen lymph node (gland) in the neck? Leukemia, according to the presenting mom. The mom is tearful and worried, so I order a CBC to reassure them. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a child in the office with this.  With a concurrent fever, I'll swab for strep and treat with antibiotics.

I've experienced this in my own family as well. My mom, who just loves being a junior doctor, gave up her Mayo Clinic Health Manual for Google. She searches stuff she and my dad are experiencing all the time. I will never forget the day she called me to tell me she thought my dad was having a stroke. When I asked why she thought that, she told me she Googled his symptoms of headache and visual changes. And where was my dad? Sitting next to her....Ayyyyy! (BTW, turns out it was a migraine...after she DROVE him to the ER...didn't want to bother the paramedics...but that's a whole other issue...).

But back to runners. I see a lot of advice seeking in my FB feed with runners posting questions about injuries or pains they're having. As a medical person, I'm often stunned and amazed at what I read for responses. Even my favorite mother runners, Dimity and Sarah, used to post reader questions about injuries. I used to read these posts but I started to get frustrated and upset about the responses. So many times, I typed a snarky response but hit delete. I haven't noticed these kind of posts lately, so I wonder if they've gotten away from that. I hope so. Smart move, in my opinion.

Enemas. The cure for all that ails you.
The problem with obtaining medical advice from a blog, from a friend, from Facebook, from the internet, is that you have no way of knowing how reliable the information is. A lot of what you read is word of mouth. The other issue is that the person you are asking isn't getting the big picture. There is no substitute for a good medical history and exam. Friends and family curbside me all the time with medical questions. I rarely give an answer because when I have, inevitably, there is some piece of the puzzle missing from the story--and I've gotten burned. I've become cautious, and no, I don't give out medical advice anymore. Sorry.

Who do you trust?

Know your sources. Anecdotes--"what worked for me"--can be useful and reassuring, but I like science to back what I do and say--in the office and on the road. Go to reliable sites--the ones that use evidence based medical information: the CDC, WebMD, and MedlinePlus are a few examples. This website has a list of 100 reliable websites for medical advice. While not comprehensive, it's a good place to start. Dr Oz? Not so much. Good resources for running injuries include Runners Connect, Runners World magazine, National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases,  and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

You should rely on your personal medical provider, sports medicine physician, orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist, and certified trainer. And do rely on your gut. If it doesn't sound right, doesn't feel isn't right. If you don't like what you're hearing, get a second opinion. But don't count on the general public or your next door neighbor who used to be a nurse or Dr Google to steer you in the right direction. I'm not saying you shouldn't do your own research. But be careful what you read.

I didn't get my diploma from Google University. And neither should you.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's a free-for-all!

I'm linking up with the DC trifecta--Cynthia, Mar, and Erica--once again for Friday Five. This week there was no specific topic, so I get to talk about anything I want! To people that might actually want to hear it? Oh, man, I feel like a kid in a candy shop runner in a running shop!

Today I'm writing about random thoughts that I've had--stuff that has run through my mind, possible ideas for blog posts. I've been jotting them down over the past couple of months, and because they're just random, odd thoughts, you get an extra holiday treat of silliness.

Today I have the perfect excuse to put them all out there. Because....

"When in doubt, I whip it out, I got me a rock and roll band, it's a free for all..." (Ted Nugent)

1. Why do non-runners think all runners know each other?

Actually, this is a principle you could apply to just about any group with a common factor. I'm a nurse--really, a nurse practitioner, but there are even nurses who don't make the distinction. (A topic for discussion at another time and another place. This is a running blog, after all.) Anyways, my father-in-law's lady friend has a daughter who is a nurse. They automatically assumed we'd be best buds because we are both nurses. Seriously. Even though I work in pediatrics and she takes care of adults. Um no. Not a thing in common except that we are nurses.

A while back, a woman stopped me while I was out running. At the time, I had my earbuds in and was rocking my run, and as I passed her, I noticed her talking to me. I tried to keep going but she wouldn't stop trying to get my attention. Slightly annoyed, I took one headphone out, stopped my Garmin, and stopped to see what she wanted. She told me she sees me running all the time and asked me a bunch of questions about running, how far I go, how many days/week I run, etc. Then she asked me if I knew "the realtor". What? Who? "Do you run with her?" What? Why? Once I figured out who she was asking about, yes, I do know who "the realtor" is. She's the mother of a friend, who is about 70, sells homes in the neighborhood, and runs several days/week. Why would this woman assume that I run with "the realtor"?

Don't all runners run together? Don't we all know each other? I didn't even explain to her about running alone. I didn't think she'd get it.

I'll never forget the time the neighborhood weirdo (yes, you have one too), the recluse in the mint green house with the big cross made out of rocks in her front yard, was in her driveway and approached me as I ran by. She came out into the road and stupid me, I stopped. She asked me if she could run with me sometime. Because why? I backed away slowly and mumbled some response. I avoided her street for a while after that.

2. Why do non-runners tell runners how hard it is to run?

The other frustrating aspect of this conversation was when that woman who stopped to ask me 100 questions about running told me how "hard" it is for her to run, wanting to know how I motivate myself to get out the door. But why do non-runners feel the need to tell us runners how hard running is? How it just "kills" their knees? Is it to make themselves feel better because they don't run? And then we runners are put in another awkward situation having to explain why we find enjoyment beating ourselves up by participating in such a difficult activity. Ay.

This woman also told me how inspiring I am. Which was nice to hear, after being asked all these questions. I don't consider myself inspirational by running. Did you ever notice how non-runners assume we all run marathons? Way back before I ever ran a marathon, I was asked about this. When I replied that I hadn't run one, she asked me why not? After all, she said, "didn't I want to share my running with the world?"


Apparently, to non-runners we runners are gluttons for punishment. Because the idea of arthritis and heart disease are just so much more appealing than a few miles around the 'hood.

And no, she didn't ask if she could run with me.

3. Name the runners you see on the run

Ok, this isn't an original idea, Angela at Happy Fit Mama did a post on this a while ago. Her post made me think about the other people I see when I'm running. Like a guy I've mentioned before, The Windmill? He's the one who spins his arms while he runs. There's The Jogger, whom my husband I named way before we knew about the whole jogger vs runner thing. He's another neighbor who used to run, then jog, and now walks. Slowly. Still makes those jogging motions with his arms though. I do believe there are some "issues", since he's in his 50s and still lives with his mom. Has bad 80s hair and wears a leather blazer when he's not, ahem, jogging. The Gazelle is a runner I see quite often when I'm out running. He runs with really long strides and exaggerated arm motions. I can't help but think about all the wasted energy in that stride. There's a guy I see all the time who runs really slow and doesn't bend his legs at all, aka The Shuffler. I've talked with him a little. Seems like a really nice guy. Runs a lot. Finally, I used to see a woman at the retention pond who had a really smooth stride. I used to call her The Smooth Runner. Really original, right? But I saw her at my first Chicago Marathon, and yes, she crushed her run. So much for being judgmental.

I guess I'd call him the Streaker! (Will Farrell in Old School)
But tell me you don't do this. Name other runners, that is. There are runners who are streaking--but not like Will Farrell. Certainly, there's a lot to think about on a run. But with all that time on your hands, thoughts do wander...

4. James Bond-esque self defense for runners

In light of all the recent threats to the safety of runners at all my running hot spots, I've spent some time on the run thinking about self-defense should I be attacked on the run. The safest thing would be to not run at all, but that's not an option. Or to run on the treadmill. Again, not a viable option, for me at least. Mace? Pepper spray? What if it's windy and I'm facing the wind when I spray? I wouldn't be able to defend myself with burning, watering eyes, would I? A gun? Not my thing. I'm just not comfortable carrying a gun. If he's reading this, Ted Nugent is shaking his head right now. Maybe he'll make me take his video out of my post.

I do think my fists would be a viable option. Even more effective? Brass knuckles. You could easily run with them, right? Maybe with spikes embedded in the knuckles? Hidden spikes until you press a button, releasing them? The spikes could be embedded with some poison that would be injected into the attacker upon impact! Someone grabs your arm, you swing back and bam! Bye bye creepo!

I've actually given this a lot of thought!

Even better, how about combining them with the already existing Knuckle Lights? Then if you run in the dark, you'll be visible and protected! I'm waiting for the Knuckle Light people to contact me to discuss this idea further. You know where you can find me....and yes, when I become wealthy from this idea, I'm retiring from health care.

Or a jog bra equipped to shoot...this could work too!
5. What constitutes a good running song?

Is it motivating lyrics? A pounding beat? Something you can sing to? All of the above? Right now I'm tweaking my running playlist. Some songs, I'm just sick of. Spotify makes it easy and guilt free to delete songs.  Other songs never get old. I'm trying out some new songs too. I just love to listen to music when I run, which is why #4 above is so important.

In heavy rotation right now are:

Sunlight--The Magician;
Dreamworld--Midnight Oil (an oldie);
World on Fire--Slash and Myles Kennedy;
Jungle--X Ambassadors; and
Holdin' On--Monsta.

We'll see if any of them make the cut for my next race in March.

And no, Ted Nugent isn't on my playlist.