Monthly Archives: October 2011

My first trail race!

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Yesterday was my first trail race. It was in Huntsville, at Monte Sano state park. One of the reasons I decided to sign up to trail races was to get me to travel the local area and this was a wonderful indictment of that.  Monte Sano state park was breathtakingly beautiful. All my disappointment at the Samford campus was instantly repaid and more with joy at Monte Sano. It helped that the leaves were changing – fall colours in Alabama are incredible (as in other states, ‘tiz true). We were fairly elevated,  and indeed, elevated ourselves somewhat more on the course (ouch) but this lead to this incredible view.

View as I finished the run. Now there is motivation!

I *highly* recommend a visit there, and cannot wait to go back and hike.

So… the race. Well, despite proclaiming my intention to train for races, and not just throw them in my general running plan, I kinda failed. I managed only 1 trail run beforehand, which I took way too lightly and did not simulate race conditions for. I also did not check out the course: hence I was utterly unprepared for many very steep hills, and even a fair few steps.  But, OK, lesson learned.

I also learned to train ‘beyond’ your race. I had been running linger distances at ½ marathon pace, and for faster training, stuck to 5K. I think I would prefer going into a race used to running that pace for a slightly longer distance – I don’t know? Any runners got any thoughts on this?

That was not the only preparation mess up… we got up at the heinously early 4.30 am to get to Huntsville by 7.30 (allowing for gas stops, bathroom breaks and getting lost…). I prepared my usual oatmeal breakfast, but wolfed it at 5.30 am, leaving my hungry and chowing down on a larabar pre-race. I also, out of boredom, drank double my usual morning coffee, and instead of my fairly weak homemade stuff had the strong shop bought stuff, in double quantities. I also ‘didn’t feel’ like rehydrating. Let’s just say: unexpected fiber + a lot of caffeine + hard exercise does not make for a happy tummy on the trails. ‘Nuff said and lesson learned.

My only other mess-up was starting at the back, because I still think of myself as slow. There was a huge bottleneck, and I had to walk for about 3  minutes, before slowly picking off other runners to make my way to the front. I wish I had started near the front: running fast at the beginning and slowing down actually does not tire me out quickly on such a short distance, so next time up front I go.

Me cheerfully standing at the back. Fool.

That all being said, I came 3rd out of all the women, and very close to coming second:

End of the race - I was so close!

Why didn’t I come second? I felt it would be ‘mean’ and cheating’ to sprint past someone (I am actually a super quick sprinter, I just can‘t keep the speed up long) right at the finish line. The girl who tried (and failed – phew) to do that to me taught me otherwise. Placed, and should have done a little better.

Walter was so pleased to see me when I got back!

I loved the overall experience. I loved getting up and out and doing something with my Saturday.  I loved putting my all into a run. I loved seeing somewhere new and I loved placing. I also loved my free swag, which the race organizers where very generous with (T-shirts, drinking glasses, bananas etc). And my winning swag (super nice North face hat, plastic and aluminum water bottles, a medal and all sorts of samples of stuff).

Next? I considered an 8K in Atlanta, but it is 2 weeks away and (1) I can’t really train for it and (2) Alabama play LSU and my husband won’t come meaning much driving (3 hours) by myself and driving back sore and tired. So, I may well skip that, and just shoot for the 10K at lookout mountain in December.  Any takers?

 Tough Mudder training

Finally, my tough mudder training this week. It is going better.  I completed nearly all the DAMY workouts… and kept my long run in. That being said, I didn’t complete them all, and I think it was too much for weeks 5+ of DAMY to up the workouts, but slightly decrease the food. I also was utterly failing to recover – I would be sore for 4/5 days, rather ½ which I am used to. I think I need to support my recovery more. I am going to try to add glutamine supplementation, but I also noticed that when picking from the food lists, I am naturally picking a lot of the lower calorie options (what? I love apples!), so next week, I am going to try to choose higher calorie, permitted foods. Kinda scary, as I don’t want weightloss to stall too much, but if it means I can do more training, at better intensities, I think it will even out.

Tough Mudder training Week 5:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, (DONE!)

Friday – REST (yuck) – (DONE)

Saturday – Steady state 6 mile jog – (DONE! 6.3 miles, if you’re asking )

Sunday – Steady state cross train (30 min trail run; 2 hour hike); weights DAMY B – CHANGED – no run, the hike was too early. But I did hike for 4 hours…

Monday: 30 min interval run; Weights DAMY D (legs) – CHANGED: Did my DAMY B weights. Then did Interval training, DAMY workout B. This is TOUGH. But worth it.

Tues: REST – CHANGED – DAMY D (legs). Hurt for days

Weds: Steady state (4 miles); DAMY C. – DONE on the hated track, no less… done barefoot too – I am seeing if I can learn to run barefoot so that I can get minimalist shoes.

Tough Mudder training Week 6 plan:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state

Saturday – 5K, DAMY weights B

Sunday – Steady state 7 mile jog

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: REST

Weds:  DAMY D (legs); interval A

Thurs: Kickboxing (this is a good proxy for DAMY’s 6th ‘functional’ workout – lots of core stuff).

So, I am getting better at completing all the workouts. I am hoping some 200 extra calories a day, mostly in the form of whole grains, will spur me on to complete this without deviating!

Just after I decided that I wasn't going to puke...

Less food… more life…?

Very interesting talk on caloric restriction in rhesus monkeys at the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center yesterday from Dr. Rozalyn Anderson, Ph.D. an Assistant Professor, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I am super busy at the moment, I am not going to whinge, but I’m in those very exciting last 2 weeks of a grant submission, while trying to get at least one faculty job application off my desk per week, and maintain my papers submission (i.e. not piss off the co-workers whom will write my letters of reference). I refer you to Stella for a nicely scholarly and full discussion of the lecture. I’ll just give you a precis of my take home messages, focusing on the more surprising findings:

When rhesus monkeys were on 25% caloric restriction (without malnutriton) from their ad libitum weight maintenance diet:

*Death from all cause mortality was signficiantly reduced, after a period of ~10 years

*Death from age-related mortality was even more significantly reduced across the whole lifespan

*Almost all forms of senescence were significantly delayed. Interestingly Dr. Anderson really delved into depth here, showing for example how muscle fibres did not show age-related changes

*Fat mass was significantly reduced

*Despite caloric restriction: lean body mass did not decline

*Organ size did decline, but only as expected for a smaller animal

*Despite caloric restriction: basal metabolic rate did not drop. The CR monkeys only saw a drop in the amount of energy used to perform activities, i.e. they became more efficient

*The CR monkeys looked amazing to the naked eye. Their fur remained thick, and so luscious – I was amazed. They made the non-CR monkeys look like they had been rescued from a situation of neglect.

I was very interested in the discussion afterwards. Two points, specifically:

*Dr Anderson was asked whether the macronutrient that was restricted (fat / carb / protein) made a difference. She said that in the absence of malnutrition, and excluding some disease-specific effects, no. Her informal observations was if you were either ~25% under, or 25% over your caloric needs, it didn’t matter much what you ate. If you were under: your body would adapt and use everything. If you were over: you were going to cause yourself trouble whatever you were overeating. My personal experience with the latter backs this up (overeating protein as a ‘free’ food). It is just if you are somewhere in the middle; eating around your caloric needs, that macronutrient balance might make a difference.

I wonder if this could partially explain why some people can eat fast food endlessly, and remain metabolically well? These tend to be slimmer people, so I could guess they were eating less than their caloric needs: at this point, it doesn’t matter what they are eating. Then take individuals who eat around their caloric needs from junk food, and are suffering metabolic dysfunction: is it because they are in the ‘somewhere in between’ zone where what you eat matters? If you are going to always eat poorer quality food or fast food, do you need to calorically restrict to remain healthy? I don’t know – pure anecdotal speculation (it’s my blog. I’m allowed 🙂 )

*She didn’t recommend this for humans. Stella touches on this: she says the psychological harm from restricting herself outweighs any physical benefit. This was Dr. Anderson’s point: do you want to take away a glass of wine after a hard day? Something yummy to eat to look forward to? I don’t agree with these views. I think we have come so far from what is good for us, in terms of exercise and eating, that drastic measures are needed. My example: I need ~19000 calories to ‘maintain’ , given my lean body mass (I lift), and general activity level (possibly slightly more since I have been regularly practising HIIT, but let us be conservative). Throw in my daily activity, and I burn, on average, 2,200 calories a day. I currently eat 1,300 a day. It sounds  small, but I eat a large breakfast (oatmeal), a filling snack (Banana and PB or Larabar, sometimes apple and nutella.. mmmmm….), lunch (carbs, protein, veg, sometimes fruit), snack (fruit + nuts or veg and hummus) and dinner (protein, lots of veg, salad and a good whollop of MUFA e.g. 1/2 an avocado). I have energy for all my workouts (when I am not suffering allergies, but that doesn’t count 😉 ).  I am clearly building muscle. I am rarely hungry. It’s easy. I only exercise 20 mins – 1 hour 5 times a week. And I am on a 40% restriction. I can add in some wine, or a beer (I don’t like beer), or I can ‘eat out’ (with appropriate portion sizes), or I could have some cake or chocolate ontop of all this… and still be on 25% restriction or less. It is not that hard for me. I am not sure when we started touting that this sort of behaviour was so wildly out of the norm, or so crazy, or so hard to follow. And I am not sure that helps people who feel they want to follow a different dietary lifestyle, but find it daunting.

Just a thought. Just a thought from someone who recently put on 25 lbs 🙂 Take it with a pinch of salt and do respond honestly, but please don’t flame me 🙂

The seminar is likely to be posted here soon.

Allergy update

Allergy problems may well be solved. How you ask? Well, strangely enough… by doing what the doctor said.

If it was not for my stubborness, I would have all but given up hiking in Alabama now. 80% Deet all over me, the rest of the party bug free, and I am consistently the only person who gets bitten. 5 times out of 6 it swells out of control, and we head down the IV fluid, steroids and anti histamines route. I went to see my PCP and he asked why I was not using my Epipen. Well, mainly because I thought these were to be used in the ‘we have 5 seconds between life and death’ type situations, not my own body’s lackadaisical ‘well… I’ll swell up big really quick, and make you look all red and sunburned and itch like crazy, but then I’ll just hang around in this annoying state for some 24-48 hours, slowly the swelling… You can go take some anti histamine shots, but I won’t respond… I will, however, probably let it spread to other parts of your body… might not though…but eventually you’ll probably lose enough fluid to go into shock … depends on how much effort I make…”.

I am sure we all remember that my doctor warned me that if I wait until the 5-sec life or death moment, it may be a little late. Which was a wise point.

So, I got bitten on Saturday, but what ever was in David and Beth’s yard clearly didn’t trouble my old histamine receptors. Then I got bitten on Sunday on a hike (no, NO ONE else got bitten either time). I watched the area go bright red and start to quickly swell. I still hesitated, yes I did! I don’t know, fear of the unknown I guess. Using an epipen seemed so… dramatic somehow.

But… I am writing this in case anyone else is in the same situation. I jabbed it into my leg… none of the other hikers even noticed. I had a brief (and intense) sweat -lovely- and boom: zero reaction. All redness, all swelling, most itch just gone. Instantly.

Way less drama and fuss than the other option. So, people, anyone googling for allergy advice and unsure about using the epipen: use it. It is about as difficult as taking a Benadryl. I had almost no side effects. I understand that the more extreme your reaction, the less the side effects, but still – even if you were not having a reaction I am pretty sure you would have a fairly minor effect of racing heart and suchlike. I finished my hike and have been troubled no more.

Good times.

DAMY weeks 3&4, training week 4 and a new oatmeal. Oh my!

Clearly, it has been too long since I wrote, as there is much to update. As this is fairly self-serving, I am sweetening the deal with a new ‘Oatmeal of Awesomeness‘ at the end. I betcha can’t wait.

DAMY weeks 3&4

So.. DAMY weeks 3 and 4. These have been HARD! Week 3 I could not understand why I was feeling hungrier… why I really needed a late night snack… then along came TOTM. So, that would explain it, then. It made me flake out on one workout. Week 4 was hard for a different reason: I received some extremely sad news early on, which threw me a bit of a curve ball. Then, I got bitten by a fire ant and discovered I am extremely, anaphylatically allergic to such things. Even just one bite. 2 steroid shots (one not being enough, apparently), a Benadryl shot, several steroid tablets and an additional bottle of Benadryl later we can safely say: Ants: 1 Lekki:0. I HATE steroids. Yes, they let me live (which is indeed a benefit), but they also make me grumpy, paranoid and mess with my appetite and sleep (up the former, drop the latter. Boo). They also utterly inhibit my ability to repair from sports (just at a time when I need sports to chill me out).

Then work went crazy with my K99 score coming back ‘on the border of funding’ (the right side of the border for last year – but who knows what this year will be?). It was so anti-climactical, and disappointing, and frustrating and exhausting. So… it has been wonderful to be on DAMY (surprisingly). I have had 2 weeks of healthy, tasty meals planned and prepared that I have got to eat without thinking about them. No stress. I have also (due to a dip in sports – see below) been able to focus on the journey to a healthy body and mind, and look long-term, rather than focus on every day, and every minutiae. Huzzah!

So, those stats. Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks:
Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5

Chest: 38 / 37 ” / 37 ”

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″

So, I lost 3 lbs in the last two week, for a grant total of 8 lbs in 4 weeks and am very happy. I am much more toned and looking forward to starting on weeks 5-8 (phase 2).

Training for Tough Mudder – week 4.

Hmmmm…. in terms of achieving my goals, this was an utter disaster! With exhaustion, hospital visits, inhibited recovery and all the goal of: “To just do it and not stress about it” – i.e. follow the plan. Yeah. Well, plan and actuality went like this:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, 45 min kickboxing – DONE!

Friday – DAMY HIIT on the track (yuck) – Changed. Dropped due to TOTM exhaustion

Saturday – Steady state (5K, running for Diabetes) and DAMY weights B – DONE

Sunday – REST (double yuck) – Changed due to dropping Friday. Did a trail run: 1.5 miles uphill, jog back down. Stretch. Repeat. Took me about an hour and half (!)

Monday: Steady state cardio (5K run if knees OK, dreaded elliptical if not) + weights (workout C) – Changed Dropped due to allergy! Too many shots, too much need to recover. Like Friday, I sat on my lazy butt! I actually did this Tuesday.

Tues: DAMY interval training with bodyweight exercises – Changed, as was doing Monday’s workout. I did this Wednesday.

Weds: REST – changed as I was doing Tuesday’s workout.

So, I did not stick to the plan at all! And it has knocked my week 5 training plan out, as I tried to workout on Thursday, but dearly needed a rest. Hmmm. Actually, an accumulation of all the above: I seriously need some rest for body and mind. Tough Mudder is 4 months away: I have some wriggle room. As long as I keep my long runs up, I should not lose too much fitness. That being said, here is my

Week 5 plan:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, (DONE!)

Friday – REST (yuck) –

Saturday – Steady state 6 mile jog

Sunday – Steady state cross train (30 min trail run; 2 hour hike); weights DAMY B

Monday: 30 min interval run; Weights DAMY D (legs)

Tues: REST

Weds: Steady state (4 miles); DAMY C.

This is not ideal, as it misses out a lot of my HIIT. But, I think I have to sacrifice that for r ‘n’ r and hope it makes me come back stronger. Next week we have my first trail run 🙂

A new Oatmeal.

Mmmmm…. this is so good. Definitely worth listening to that one giant moan for 🙂

Apple crisp Oatmeal:

1/2 sharp green apple (like granny smith)
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 cups Water
1/2 scoop Vanilla protein powder (I use ON casein creamy vanilla)
cinnamon to taste
1/2 tsp all spice
toasted pecans

Bring water to the boil. Stir in oats. Grate in apple and stir. Stir in cinnamon to taste and all spice. Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring all the while. When cooked, stir in protein powder and add water to desired consistency. Top with walnuts. Enjoy the deliciousness. It tastes really like the artificially flavoured versions, but is pretty ‘clean’. The apple adds a nice texture too.

My allergy story (thus far)

I was in two minds whether to write this, because I normally like non moany posts about frivolous topics like dieting and exercise and naughty pets and baking. Occasionally, I *might* touch on some Science. Occasionally. But having spent about 3 hours trawling the net readings people’s stories, and being enormously helped by them, I thought I ought to share mine.

I was a sort of allergic-response kid. Many things would bring me out in an itchy rash: pine needles, sun, sand, fake whipped cream, grass, blah blah blah. It required nothing more than an occasional piriton (chlorphenamine maleate) – rarely even that. It didn’t stop me doing anything, except occasionally, and rather conveniently high school sports lessons (me? Roll around in the grass to get out of it? Scratch my arms for no reason so they came up in a rash that would last exactly 2 sports periods? Why yes. Yes I would).

Then, one day in my early-20s I was up a mountain in Romania and got some sort of sting. It blew up, itched like mad, but I ignored it. I had kids to teach dammit! Over the next 12-24 hours, it all got worse and worse: the welt got bigger, spread to other welts and my breathing got harder and harder and I coughed more and more. Until I blacked out. I got to the Dr, she infused me with liquid anti-histamines and steroids (shots and IVs), replacement IV fluids and told me to take it easy. It was terrifying. We were a long way from a hospital and the facilities were limited. My tourniquet was a broken hair band… my IV stand a scared pupil. But, it was 100% clean, new needles and all, and I was better… for about 24 hours, when it came back, so she repeated the process. And repeated it again. Until she was worried my veins would collapse and sent out for medications that arrived up the mountain the next day.  Kudos for good care in a remote part of a challenged country: This did keep a lid on it. And eventually my fear about it dissipated, and by the time I got home to the UK all tanned and jolly and full of Romanian Pizza, I had all but forgotten about it. I never followed it up, and wasn’t bothered by it for about 5 years.

Then I was in my mid- 20s when I was in the shower one morning and noticed few red, itchy welts on my forearm. “Odd”, I thought. I meant to take an anti-histamine but forgot. However, it was gone by lunch (maybe sooner) and I forgot about it until the next day when it arrived a few mins earlier, covered a larger area and stayed about an hour later. But again, it disappeared completely. This happened repeatedly over 10 days, starting earlier and earlier and staying longer and longer, and getting bigger and bigger welts, until it was really quite debilitating, as I couldn’t sleep. I should have seen a Dr, true, but I have seen them for allergies before and not had much joy.

Lovely hue of red my whole skin turned from the inflammation. Like a giant tomato 🙂

Eventually, when it was full body, and the welts were getting bigger and bigger, I made a routine Drs appointment for 3 days time. 2 days later… things did not go so well.

I was at a friend’s house for dinner, and the rash was all over my face, neck, everything. Everything was swollen and I felt RUBBISH. His mother offered me a sleeping pill + anti histamine pill, but she couldn’t find them and I didn’t want to make her drive all the way to a 24h pharmacy. You will soon see why this was the Best. Move. Of. My. Life. When we got home, I looked like this:

Also a delicious look. Especially the splotches on my face 🙂

and can felt what I have only (very accurately) heard of as an ‘impending sense of doom’. I didn’t care that is was after midnight and we didn’t have a car. All I know was that night bus or not, we had to get to ER now. In fact, the night bus would be too slow. We had to get a taxi.

By the time I arrived at hospital I was fading fast. They took my blood pressure and my oedema had gotten so bad, I had lost enough fluid to be dropping my blood pressure and in a serious danger zone. Luckily, one IV steroid shot, 2 bags of IV fluid (phew, talk about wanting to HURL) and 1 piriton shot later I was OK. I was sent home with steroids (on a schedule), lots of piriton (to take ‘like tic-tacs’) and the knowledge that had a taken a sleeping pill, given my slow descent into unconsciousness I probably would not have woken up. Lovely.

And all was sort of OK. The allergy bubbled under all summer.. I was on and off steroids and in and out of ER. Eventually I tried a low histamine diet, emoving all the allergens from my house (dust, flees everything) and fexofendadine (recently re-released in the UK. Allegra to US peeps) and that combo + regualr low level steroids kept me out of hospital. No allergy panel could fix it… everyone was at a loss. Then one day (while on holiday in Greece actually) I realised that it has just cleared up. Gone. And I didn’t see it again.

Bad hair? Check. Bad sunglasses? Check. Rash? Nay! Just the remnants 🙂

Until my 30s (ouch). Actually, I realise now that is only a couple of years later. I moved to Alabama and was fine for over 2 years. I got one bite (one in a long line)… and it blew up. I got a Benadryl shot, felt like rubbish, but thought no more of it, until I realised that breathing was not quite the ‘given’ it had been that morning. Yup, off to hospital and back on the anti histamine / steroid rounds. Tough break. And that has been my summer of 2011… get bitten, watch it swell up to bigger than my hand span, watch the swelling spread to legs… back… face (ick!)… sometimes have trouble breathing, sometimes watch my blood pressure fall. Take lots of steroids, take lots of anti histamines… get better, for about 2-3 weeks.

So… I thought I would share my story. I don’t know why. Because, I guess, googling other people going through this helped me in a Benadryl induced haze. Because sometimes when modern medicine has no answer it is nice to know you are not alone, and not making it up (I still half think I am being a drama queen, and hence am not very good at acting upon the problem and getting to hospital).

And the good news? My awesome PCP Dr. Kynerd came up with a plan to get off this steroid cycle: as soon as I am bitten, I use my epipen. No question. I thought it was dramatic, but he pointed out that 5/6 bites have landed me in hospital and the other one still had to be remedied with steroids. He said the time had come to go preventative, not curative and epipen when I am bitten. I said that I thought epipens were just for anapylaxis, but he said that I was getting closer and closer to that, and soon it would be too late (!) It would stop any reaction in its tracks, even hives and odema so must be done. So – if it helps anyone out there take to your PCP / GP about trying it. It might work.

In other good news, it also doesn’t really affect my life. I still hike, bike, run, work, chill have fun, love life 🙂 I lose a day or two of work here and there (but I also getting more and more up to date with Gossip Girl) because I feel so lousy on the drugs, and man… am I swelling up on the steroids. But, if you are going through this, or your child is, and you are scared: don’t be 🙂 And don’t think you are making a fuss about nothing, just react and deal with it and you’ll be fine 🙂

Stay well 🙂

Ahhhh... Greece. A little sunburn to hide the rash on my face 🙂

Step out to stop Diabetes!

Our team: Pink Lightning!

Today, I raced for the American Diabetes Association. It was just a 5K, and I signed up last minute to help an 11-year old friend. I was in two minds after doing it: half the time I thought it might be too tough (I was on the tail-end of a break for knee-resting purposes, and hadn’t run for some 7 days or so), and half the time I thought it would be too easy (everyone kept telling me an 11-year old could not go much faster than a basic trot and I’d be bored). Half the time I worried… half the time I wondered how I was going to fit an additional cardio session in before a wedding reception that night.

Samford's campus

I was wrong on both fronts. It was perfect, and it turned out to be one of the best learning experiences I had! It was held at Samford, a University campus I have not seen before. I have to admit, that aspect of the race was a disappointment. I was told that Samford was really beautiful, and I had to see it… well, I thought it was OK. I mean, it was clean and neat but kinda small, and I had thought I would see something like the colleges of my Alma Mata  Cambridge…

One part of Cambridge - where I hung out. Not my favourite part actually. For real beauty, see Corpus Christi

or the buildings of Oxford (which are nestled in a beautiful town imho).

Oxford

But it looked more just like one of the nice stately homes in England… Williamsbug-ish… quite modern and a little uninteresting. But very clean and nice, it is true. And nicer than UAB (and the hideous Warwick), I’ll give it that. Don’t flame me, I don’t dislike it, I just thought it was not worth paying a visit to, if you were hoping to see something memorable.

So, what did I learn from this race?

Ah Young One, so much to learn you have (not youngest one, you seem on the ball)

(1) You can definitely train for different types of race. Just because I can run a 10K pretty well, doesn’t mean I can run a 5K. Example: I am used to running 8 miles +. The first couple of miles are often warm-up, and then I hit my rhythm. There obviously isn’t time for that in 3.1 miles….

(2) Check the bleedin’ course. I had no idea that it would be all uphill for the first half!

(3) Sometimes, forget what you “know”. I turned to Sasha in the first couple of minutes and said “we shouldn’t run at this pace, there is no way we’ll keep it up the whole way around”. She looked at me as if to say “Lekki, you get such funny ideas, why on Earth not?”. And indeed, I really could keep that pace up.

(4) I definitely don’t know how to push myself. I was tired at the end, but walking about. Sasha needed to sit down before she could even celebrate her win. Respect!

Recovery

It was, all in all, an awesome experience. And not just because I got my 5K time down from a 29.5 min best to 26.5 🙂

(Cross-) Training for Tough Mudder – Week 3

This week has brought a whole load of new challenges, which I am taking as a good thing. I hurt my knee, and determined not to follow down my usual path which normally leads to 6-12 months off running, I decided that I should formulate a plan of action that involved cross-training, icing, myofascial release, and rest. I wrote about how hard the rest was, and indeed, that was the main challenge. The next challenge was to actually cross-train and do shorter ‘running’ activities where permitted. I hate the cardio machines (elliptical / bike), I hate the dreaded track at UAB (it is a great indoor track, but running around that like a hamster in a wheel when I am used to being out and about in AL? Nay thank you), and I hate ‘shorter’ workouts – I like to feel pushed and tired. It was also hard to keep eating a full diet when not working so hard (I need all these calories? Really? Who knows? But you need the whole grains to repair, and the fatty acids for anti-inflammatory, and the fruit / veg for the vitamins and fiber etc otherwise you won’t be back in finest form. Sigh). It’s a lot: designing a training regime that I won’t enjoy that much, and sticking to it, and not overdoing it, and not panicking at all the training advice I read online etc. So, I did what I did when I found I was unable to follow my own eating advice, and was 25lbs heavier: handed it over to someone else.

Amy Layne of course! My DAMY health diet plan comes with a workout plan, which I was semi-following. I decided just to follow it completely, for at least one week, and complete that, and only that. No more, no less, no excuses. As I was planning my exercise diary for the week, I realised that I was shuffling the days and workouts around to fit my life (meetings, social events etc), and I realised that while this may generally be a good tactic for getting exercise and training done, it is not what I do with my diet. I stick to that, and fit my life around it while in a weight loss phase. I don’t ‘shuffle meals around’ or move timings on the basis that ‘it all evens out’ – I eat what DAMY plans when it plans and feel good. So perhaps just for a week, I should prioritize my exercise / training like that. I don’t know – I don’t do it now, so maybe I will learn something.

That being said, it is not that easy to follow someone else’s exercise plan, especially when it doesn’t feel like *enough*. I thought about how I was going to get over that mental barrier, and decided I would get over it with the same advice I give people when they have to get over the mental barrier of starting a new plan that feel too much: I tell them to

(1) Plan, and write it down

~Well, that is easy enough

(2) Make space in their diary

~Well, I am doing the opposite, making sure my diary is too full to run for 1.5 hours a day (it helps that work is beyond busy at the moment)

(3) Make goals

~See below 🙂

(4) Focus on the changes in their body every time they complete a session: how good they feel, how they are toning up / bulking up / slimming down / doing more (whatever they delineated as part of 3)

~Similar, but I am focusing on different changes: on how rested I feel, on how quickly my knee stopped hurting, on how powerful my legs feel when they are not tired for running most days

(5) Think long term, think about the long term changes and don’t sweat the fact that they seem slow in coming. Focus on enjoying the journey

~Same deal. Don’t stress about a drop in fitness (which shouldn’t happen anyway) when I purposely left a long time between starting training and my race. Don’t sweat about slowing down weight loss when there was plenty of time to reach my 15 lb goal. Enjoy feeling rested and energized (in a different way to how exercise energizes me).

So…. long story short, this was supposed to be my training:

Thursday:  45 min kickboxing

Friday – am: Timed 5K. Goal: Speed Pm: 20 minutes weights (DAMY workout)

Saturday – light hiking

Sunday – 6 mile run. Goal: Endurance

Monday: am: 4 miles HIIT. Pm: Weights (20 min DAMY workout)

Tues: More rest.

Weds: am: 4 mile jog; 4 mile HIIT Pm: Weights (DAMY leg work out)

It became this:

Thursday:  45 min kickboxing – DONE

Friday – am: Timed 5K. Goal: Speed Pm: 20 minutes weights (DAMY workout) – DONE

Saturday – light hiking – DONE

Sunday – 6 mile run. Goal: Endurance – DONE

Monday: am: 4 miles HIIT. Pm: Weights (20 min DAMY workout) – CHANGED: Pm: weights and DAMY HIIT on the bike

Tues: More rest. – DONE. Hated it most of all the workouts 🙂

Weds: am: 4 mile jog; 4 mile HIIT Pm: Weights (DAMY leg work out) – CHANGED: DAMY HIIT, 20 mins of track (with 5 mins warm up cool & down), weights.

Next week looks a little different, as it is day-by-day exactly as DAMY ask! It goes like this:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, 45 min kickboxing

Friday – DAMY HIIT on the track (yuck)

Saturday – Steady state (5K, running for Diabetes) and DAMY weights B

Sunday – REST (double yuck)

Monday: Steady state cardio (5K run if knees OK, dreaded elliptical if not) + weights (workout C)

Tues: DAMY interval training with bodyweight exercises

Weds: REST

My goals are:

-To just do it and not stress about it.

-To not sneak in a ‘extra quick jog, shush no one will know’ while I am returning after resting my knee. 🙂

-To complete the (very boring) myofascial release three times this week.

R-E-S-T-T-T find out what to means to me…

“Runner have to understand that they won’t be fat by Thursday and or lose their fitness by Sunday”

~Janet Hamilton, exercise physiologist

 

Pain. Pain is what rest means to me. So, I went for my long run on Sunday (not that long… it’s only been a while) and loved it. I really wanted to continue, but decided not to. Came back feeling great, actually stretched properly (with my personal-trainer-certified husband guiding me no less) and ate some lunch. Then, up kicked the old knee pain. I blame my running schedule, which several people mentioned might be too much, but I stuck to because I downloaded it from a reputable source.

Knee pain has kicked up before, I have had custom orthonics made, scans, doctor visits, osteopath visits, painkillers, anti-inflammatory and so on. It has always defeated me, and my running, in the end.

Why? Because when I start to run again, things normally go like this:

-Start couch to 5K. Take it slowly (sometimes completing the 3 month program in 6 months).

-Mostly dislike the program, but stick with it, skipping the odd workout and adding in a few others (kickboxing, weights, boxing… whatever).

-Get to the end, run 5K. Love it.

-Get the bug.

-Scream ‘I am a runner’ and immediately start clocking up serious miles.

-Get painful knees.

-Try to run through them

-Don’t run for 6-12 months

Repeat.

 

“The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results.”

~Einstein (probably)

So, things have to change. I did some reading. OK, OK, I fairly obsessive, I did  A LOT of reading. I need immediate rest, with regular icings and NSAIDs, lots of stretching and myofascial release. Then I need to drastically cut back my mileage: running long runs only every other week, and being careful of too many sprint sessions. The lack of mileage means I need to cross train, which will have the additional benefit of giving me more workout time to build up my leg muscles to stabilize my hips and knees. I can do all this. I hate icing my body, but I can do it. I can cross train – I had a mental block about doing it, and using the bike not the track for my HIIT, but I did it (and was worn out), I can swim if I have to (I love it but the endless hair washing), I can even use the dreaded elliptical. I can remember to take my NSAIDs and I can (just about) suck up less long runs (especially if I get another bike and can go for long bike rides).

 

But. I. Can’t. Rest. Or, more accurately, I can, and I will until this seems healed, but I hate it. No more active rests (Just a quick hike! Just keeping a friend company for 20 mins on the track! Just a zumba class!). Nothing. But sitting, for a while day, with zero wear and tear on my knee. I literally spent ages yesterday staring forlornly out of the window thinking how nice a run would be. Today I had to restrain myself from ‘a quick 20 mins’ on the elliptical. I have no fitness goals I have achieved today, no nice tired legs, no remnant endorphins to love off. Meantime, I have seen all my friends’ status updates about their gym visits, their progress and how much they loved their run. I have read their blogs about how today was perfect.

Sigh. I do know that there is a positive spin on this: I have some more time to get things done. It is indeed a challenge to learn to enjoy rest and eat well for rest so that you do repair and recover. Mental fortitude is required for all the stretching, massage and rolling. It’s semi-fun to look up alternatives. I will probably end up a better athlete for more weights, and some more cross training.

But none of that compares to a lovely long run… Soon…. soon.

3 new races… and my first and truest love.

Geniunely. the shoes recommended for me, were bright pink. What could I say?

Ah… I knew you would never do my wrong. Every so often I would stray from you, be tempted by others… romanced by alternatives. These flirtations were fleeting as I always returned to your warm embrace and regretted my transgressions. I am, of course, talking to my shoes.

One of my all-time favourite pairs of shoes

I just bought a pair of proper running shoes and all I want to know is: why didn’t anyone tell me that they can freakin’ change your life? OK, so maybe a few hundreds thousands of you did, but I didn’t listen. Today I stopped running in Wally-world trainers (oh the shame), that were apparently a full size too small (Fleet Feet, who were wonderful and gave top notch service and advice, even begged me not to wear them out of the shop) and started running in proper-sized support trainers. What happened? Well, before it was hard for me to run a full 5K without walking. I could *just* about do it. But I would have to talk myself through it, keep motivating myself, and then walk-jog the rest of the distance. Not anymore. 10K, no walking, no batting an eye lid. Even felt I could continue (I REALLY wanted to, but didn’t as my tendons are a bit ropey). THANK YOU NIKE.

So, here is an update on my upcoming races. It all happened at once.

My friend invited me to run a 5K in December with her, for arthritis research. And as you have to dress up all Christmassy (let’s not forget that I spend the 1st – 24th December one year as the human advent calendar adding a bauble each day) I agreed.

Then I signed up for my first trail run. I want to try trail running, and am aware that unless I force myself to get off my butt and go to a trail, I won’t do it. Which requires significant motivation to do so… which requires a race. So, on October 22nd I am running the XTERRA MONTE SANO STATE PARK TRAIL RUN in Huntsville. Quite nervous for my first trail run! Also, it is at 8 am – 2 hours’ drive away. I’ll either get up early, or camp overnight at the park and road test the brankd spanking new tent and thermarest I have had since Christmas (!). I was nervous about getting there in time, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and certainly, you gotta stop making excuses.

Finally my friend Sasha emailed me fairly last minute to do a 5K road race next weekend. You can’t say no to (1) a dear friend, (2) a dear 10 year old friend, who I love like family and (3) a cause like Diabetes Research when your day job is… diabetes research. So, I am off to do that!

This is going to require some shifts in my training schedule, which is a good thing. My training goal for my next training week (starts on Thursday) is probably to work on being more flexible (mentally, although physically is not a bad thing 😉 ), and to take a rest from long distance running, subbing in swimming and cycling (if I can get hold of a bike after mine was stolen). This should help me step out of the injury zone (my old IT band syndrome is flaring up), should make me stronger mentally (I find it so hard to relax and no stick 100% with what I perceive to be the toughest training plan), give my body a chance to generally recover from a tough step-up in training, and finally, allow me to focus some on my strength training (although no squats!) which has taken a serious back seat, and hence, a serious dip in form.

Finally… a note on fundraising. I do not intend to fund-raise for many of my events… hardly any in fact. I will pay all fees myself and only raise money for causes that seriously close to my heart. That being said, 2 have come up:

Next week I am running for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). I am member of the ADA, attended their annual conference, and the last 2 years my research has been focused almost entirely on insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In December, I am running for Arthritis Research, which I am happy to fund-raise with my friend for as it is one of her main research focuses. Some great friends of mine at UAB head up a research group based on understanding arthritis. If you would like to donate to either (and PLEASE don’t feel obliged) you may click these links:

Diabetes Research (ADA)

Arthritis Research

I doubt there will be many more. Thank you for any help 🙂

AND… I would LOVE company on the trail run… it is only 5K, and you could join me in the morning, or camp out with me (UAB rent cheap tents and equipment people…). Email me if you’d like… or drop me a comment. The more, the merrier 🙂

Oh look, a picture of a pretty shoe I own. How did that get there?

A few thoughts on the new immigration law….

It is a sad day for me. There are so many things I love about Alabama, I even wrote a post defending it against the popularized view. But slowly, I have been faced more and more with the stereotypes, and I have had to give in. I no longer want to live here, and I certainly don’t want to raise children here. I have met many wonderful people here, and I have learned many wonderful things from them. But this new immigration law was the final straw, and here is why:

The new law states that if there is “reasonable suspicion” about someone legal status to be here, the police can stop them and request they show their immigration status, and can hold them “without bond”. All non US citizens are required to carry their immigration papers with them, at ALL times, by law. This overrides the previous requirement that we carried our passport; now we have to carry forms such as our DS-2019, which can only be replaced twice EVER.

Clearly this is deeply impractical (I go hiking in Alabama for several days and I know it is going to rain and I am supposed to carry this with me, when it will likely get damaged? I go to a music festival and I am expected to carry around several flimsy pieces of paper?), but I *guess* this could be circumvented if the US produced some card like the US State ID that was more practical. But, it is not about practicality to me. It is about making anyone who looks, or sounds ‘different’ a second class citizen.

Let me explain. Currently, in the UK and the US there are laws to protect individuals from law enforcers discriminating against them because of how they look, or how they speak (and actually for many other reasons, including in the UK, their sexuality and religion… the US is not universally quite so… enlightened). You cannot be stopped and searched, or detained for these reasons (hence in high areas of knife crime in the UK, where stop and search is legalized, law enforcers are legally bound to stop and search a racial distribution approximately equivalent to the racial distribution of the area. I don’t believe that has ever caused any problems). You are basically protected from the following scenarios:

“A policeman pulls over a pretty girl to tell her she needs to fix the tail light on her car. He likes her cute foreign accent. He asks her on a date. She says no. He takes offense and decides to make her life difficult. He asks her to show her papers… she can’t, so he detains her for 24 hours. Perhaps when she realizes what is happening, she will change her mind about that date?”.

“A policelady’s husband comes home, furious. An man of Indian descent has smashed into his car and didn’t have car insurance, so could not cover the damages. The police were called but the Indian man was here illegally, and so could not be prosecuted. He drove away (something similar actually happened to my husband with a different racial group). The car needs some $5,000 worth of repairs and the policewoman finds this out at she leaves the house to go to work. 10 minutes later she sees a group of young Indian men standing on the street. Her blood boils. Why are they just hanging around? Don’t they have jobs to go to? One of them drops a piece of litter. Ah ha! She pulls over and starts giving them a hard time, and asks them to prove their right to be there. She detains them for 24 hours. That will teach them a lesson”.

Whether these are far-fetched or not, the problem is that US citizens who are white, and sound American, are protected from this. Foreigners (and, admittedly any US citizen who does not) are not. Therefore, all legal immigrants have lost what I think of as a basic human right: To be free from persecution due to the colour of their skin or any other factors reflecting their origin. Why would I stay in state that mandates persecution because of how you look? We have become second class citizens, and why the heck would I stay in a place that has legally made me so? Why the heck would I stay in a place that does that to anyone?

What has disgusted me most of all, is the response of some Alabamians. Here are some examples:

-“Well, I don’t know why you worry, it’s not going to affect you [because you are white, blonde and female]”

They don’t realise that, in eyes, that makes it effing WORSE.

-“But our state really needs help with this issue”.

Then put something across the board. Instead of police being called when there is “reasonable suspicion” if someone wants to enter high school, make it a law that EVERYONE has to prove citizenship when they enroll. Make it that when the police come to the scene of a crime, everyone has to show ID that shows their citizenship. Yes, it would be a hassle, but if your so desperate to save help your state, you can do it. You are supposed to do it anyway, I believe, although the police have no enforcement method. And even more importantly, I strongly believe in the following quotation:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power” ~Benjamin Franklin. Often interpreted as:

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

-But, we need to save our state from The Mexicans. We need to keep ‘The illegals’ out.

I don’t think I even need to discuss these ones. If my child openly used language like that, without seeing anything wrong with it. I would think I had failed as a parent.

I will concede that this is not even the worst of the law. It is just what touched me. The law also says you can be prosecuted for transporting or helping an illegal immigrant. So, if a young child gets very sick, you can be prosecuted for giving him or her acute care. The cries of ‘oh, but you won’t be’ leave me cold in a state who is happy to sanction such actions by law.

How disappointing Alabama. And how tired I am of seeing people who are wary, or unsure, of me and my friends because many of us are foreign. How sad I am to go out and about in Alabama and find such insular people that they have never really interacted with ‘foreigners’. It may well not be their fault, but perhaps that just makes it all the sadder.It seems clear to me that Alabama needs much more integration. It breaks my heart what a segregated society it is (seriously, different racial groups hang out in different areas; I have had places described to me as ‘the black area’. I am not sure I have ever even seen an African-American in Whole Foods). Laws like this are only taking away an enriched and enlightened life from you and your children.

And you are losing some of the very brightest and best people. I know excellent scientists who are (American and) leaving because they don’t want to raise their children in such a climate. I know some amazing Scientists who don’t even want to move here because of it. You are shooting yourselves in the foot.

When I first commented on the segregation between blacks and whites here, I was once asked “well, whose fault do you think that is?” and I replied that I thought it was the fault of both blacks and whites. I now do not agree. The attitudes and responses I see from white Southern people (and yes, sorry, you have all been from The South), that I so far have not seen from black people, lay the blame squarely on one side of the divide.

I would say I have met some Southerners who are very sorry that this has been passed, and some who agree that a universal law (i.e. ALL show citizenship, regardless of race) is absolutely the only way forward, and some who simply want to reasonably discuss and learn. And I love these people. But that is not the majority. Let us not forget that I left my old church because at Bible study group, people went on a rant about foreigners and when someone said ‘but many of them are here legally’ I genuinely heard the response:

“Oh you don’t know. You don’t have to smell their cooking. They are not in your backyard”.

Sad.

I don't approve of this cartoon. But Alabama, this is how you are forcing the rest of the world to see you. http://theperplexedobserver.tumblr.com/post/6800089685/interfaith-march-planned-against-alabama