Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No to the Half, A Few Strong Workouts

After a lot of advice gathering and hemming and hawing, I finally decided to NOT do the half-marathon in May.  I'll go spectate for M. 

For me, it's not about just doing the distance.  I already know I can do the distance.  And what I want to do is to do the distance WELL.  And after a lot of reviewing my training journals, I had to accept that while I'm feeling better, I'm still rebuilding.  I'm not 100%.  And I don't want to pay a bunch of money just to get a medal.  I want to pay a bunch of money to get a medal for running something well. 

I still have a month so I can always change my mind, right?  But at this point, it's a 90% solid no. 

I have done a few longer runs, and I'm finding that: 

A) I'm several pounds over where I want to be for racing.  RIght now is the right time to work with the nutritionist to nail down the right nutrition for what I"m doing.  And as I discovered last summer, messing around with your diet while training is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable (and sick).  So I'll do it right this year.  

B) I'm much, much slower than normal.  While I'm picking back up, I think a few months of a training plan will help restore my speed to me.  In the meantime, I think I'd feel embarrassed in the races, and there's not a good way to let people know that you are rehabbing and that's why you are so slow.  I have a friend who did her first 1/2 with a broken hip- very slowly, and with a sign that said "OK to pass- broken hip!"  That's just pretty badass.  In my case, the sign would just say, "Fine, whatever, pass.  Gut rehab, OK?" which is both bad-tempered and TMI.  

In the meantime, I'm two days from the end of the strict heartburn elimination diet.  I've had a few slip ups, so at least I can say that mushrooms are not a trigger for me.  (Yay! I could not live without mushrooms.)  I can live happily without broccoli or cauliflower- I just don't LIKE it very much.  And the elimination of coffee really seems to have been huge.  I have had very few episodes of major heartburn since giving up coffee.  So now I wonder if cold-press will give me back the caffeine without the burn.  

I'll look forward to adding back citrus, and tomato, to see what happens.  

I've been VERY cranky about this elimination diet.  I feel like it was easier to have a good outlook on dairy (major impact, within a few days!), but at this point, I just feel like everything keeps getting taken away.  

I continue my experiments with grinding my own flour.  It's been fun.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Big Run and Thoughts on a Potential Half Marathon

Big Run!
Today I did my big run.  I wanted to see how I felt on a longer effort, because of my still-thinking-about-the-half-marathon as you'll see below.

Overall, it was slow, but not nearly as ugly as runs have been for a long time.  I didn't have the crippling heartburn, the hunger, the leg and back pain, or the heart rate issues that have been troubling me for so long.  So I think the treatment plan the doctor is trialing is working.

As far as RACE PLANS… I've been jonesing to do a half-marathon, for my 35th b-day.  I was originally planning one the day before my birthday, but pulled out because I knew I was just not healthy enough. Now there's another one in May that M is signed up for… and on one hand, I really want to do it.  After today's long run, I know I COULD do 13.1.  It's just a question of do I want to COMPLETE a half, or do I want to do a half WELL?

I know I can  complete it, because I have already done that distance.  And I'm feeling good enough now to do it.

I know I can't run it WELL or FAST right now because, while I'm feeling good, I'm also rehabbing.  I'm rebuilding speed and stamina.  

I feel that I could complete it and back off at the right times so I wouldn't hurt myself. 

I wonder if I want to wait until I can actually be competitive.  Or, like, at least not the slowest I've been in years.

I want the glory and thrill of yet another medal for my medal collection.

How much is that medal worth?  If this was, say, the Marine Corp Marathon, wild horses couldn't keep me from the start line.  But for a small race that's not a destination race, this early in the season, maybe it's a better idea to save myself.

Runners, please weigh in!  I need your advice.

Health Issues Update.  This is the boring part.  

So I've been taking my medication like a good girl and noticing some very positive reactions.  Among other things:

-I'm not freezing cold all the time.  I was sitting on the couch the other day, and my feet actually felt warm, without being in socks and ugg boots.  I guess this is what a metabolism is like, eh?

-My GI issues are finally going away.  Per the various doctors, the gnawing hunger and stabbing pains were actually heartburn, and the sharp carb cravings might have been because carbs can help calm stomach acid.  So my body was hurting, a lot more than I realized, and the carb cravings were its desperate way to put out the fire.

-My heart rate has dropped by about 25 BPM on long runs and hard efforts.  This is huge.  Since my body isn't retaining water constantly, my heart is a lot less boggy.

-My chest doesn't hurt.  I hadn't even realized it was hurting, until the last few workouts when I glanced at my HRM and noticed that my hard efforts were up at a 165 BPM, but I wasn't suffering in abject misery.  And that was when I realized that I'd been in a LOT of pain that I hadn't even realized was not normal pain.  Oops.

-Recovery is a LOT easier.  I don't have the extreme water retention, painful ankles and back, or puffy fingers that have plagued me for a long time.  In fact, I noticed just now that my fingers aren't swollen at all- I can't remember the last time I finished a run without swollen fingers!  Didn't exactly realize that that wasn't normal either.  I thought everyone had workout sausage fingers all the time, until I started taking medicine and my sausage fingers went away.

All in all, the working theory is that the e.Coli activated some stuff that I had kept in check just by being healthy- i.e., lactose intolerance and some endocrine-related disorders- making it much, much worse.  I do believe that general healthy living is the best medicine.  But I guess that right now I need a little more support from my friend, the pharmacy, to really get healthy again.

Psychologically, that is tough for me.  I really wanted my body to be able to heal itself.  I wanted to believe that if I just ate well and worked out, I'd get better.  I do feel that a mostly-vegetarian, high-vegan diet is gracious and healthy for us and our planet (with the occasional bit of ethically sourced animal protein being fine in my world), and I really wanted to be the person who cured her woes with green smoothies.

It's really tough to accept that I need medicine to get to be totally healthy again.  Boo.

The e.Coli also did horrible things to my stomach- basically, wrecking my gut.  (The primary symptom was the heartburn issues.)  The heartburn might also be behind the increased hoarseness in my voice that some of you have noticed.  (Heartburn bubbling up, burning the esophagus.  Ouch.)

Right now, I'm on a strict heartburn diet (bland as all heck, really) for three weeks, and can start adding things back in next week.  The doc wants to let my gut have a fair chance to really heal, and if my gut really heals at last, I might be able to address some of dairy allergy issues!  But that is still months away.   Right now, it's all about healing the gut.

This meant going off caffeine.  The first few days of withdrawal were misery.  I am one of the people who gets HORRIBLE withdrawal- headaches, nausea, wishing for death.  Oh, god, the misery.  I'm much better now, but wow.  I miss you, French Press.  It's not you, it's me, I swear.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Plan

I am ensconced upon my (uncomfortable) couch with two kitties who clearly haven't slept in a week.  (They started the night with me, but the Man shut them out of the bedroom.  Poor kitties.)  

The ultimate good news: I am totally cleared in every way with no restrictions on my activity.  If I feel good, I can go for the four hour bike ride again!  Yay!  The only thing holding me back will be me, myself, and I.  (As I regain my fitness and rebuild my stamina!)  No more time limits or 'keep your heart rate under this level' or don't-workout-two-days-in-a-row.

We have a busy Saturday set up.  Both our phones decided to enter the active-dying stage this week.  (We have three-generation-old, four-year-old iPhones.  I don't understand what the problem could possibly be!) So we have to go to the phone store and buy new phones.  I've agreed to try a non-iPhone- I really dislike iOS7- it's SO UGLY- so I'm going to try… something… different.  

I don't even know if I'm Episcopalian anymore. 

In other news, I also had my latest doctor appointment and we have some answers.  Finally, after more than a year and several rounds of treatment, all my tests are finally clear of e.Coli, and there's no other evidence of any things else wrong.  And my iron, B, D, and a bunch of other important vitamins are finally within normal ranges, after a year of being so low that I had to do special supplementation.  

As of yesterday, I have to continue with my probiotics (which I should just plan on for the foreseeable future), and my megamultivitamins.  We are rebuilding my regular system. 

Dietary changes?

I was really glad to hear that I won't have to do any major dietary changes.  She thinks my diet is pretty spot on, and changing it to anything like "low carb" or "paleo" or "low fat" or "low salt" or reducing any of the grains would be harmful.  As a slackertarian, I need to eat those grains to get my calories, and since I rarely eat much processed stuff, I need to continue to be careful to add in fat and salt to be able to absorb my vitamins and minerals.  

I told her about my friend's blog, Fueled and Focused, and she likes it!

I am going to do an elimination diet of certain heartburn-causing foods.  There are no food allergies (beyond the dairy problems), but my stomach, after a year of e.Coli and troubles, is just still really irritated.  So the elimination diet is just to give my tummy time to really heal.  She thinks this will help resolve the heartburn issue.  (Then, several months down the line, we might start talking about trying to increase my lactose tolerance! But that is several months off.)  

Why Thyroid (Probably) Isn't My Problem

The remaining weird "stuff" was my thyroid results, which were off.  The internets go bananas about T4 and TSH, and the Great Oracle insists that without thyroid treatment you are destined to be fat, slow, and miserable.  I came prepared with a journal of symptoms I'd been experiencing and when. However, she didn't think treating the thyroid was the right thing to do.  She doesn't think it's the root cause of my issues, so she dug a little deeper, and she has a theory: 

Knowing some of my past medical history, she thinks that the extreme stress of the extended recurring e.Coli activated something called PCOS.  It's female issues.  Among other things, hallmarks include slightly out-of-whack thyroid results, insulin resistance (which makes for very slow weight loss, very fast weight gain, and extreme water retention), and super-low exercise tolerance.  It can sometimes be treated with simple diet and exercise, but since I don't need to make any further changes there, it was time for a little help from the pharmacy.  

At the end of the day, I have a medication that we are going to try out for a month.  She had me do one more round of bloodwork, but she's pretty certain it will confirm her suspicion.  

What I Like, As an Athletic-Type of Person

The thing that most impressed me was how attentive she was to my (admittedly lousy this year) athletic endeavors.  She feels that I don't need to change my diet and exercise plans, and she wants me to be able to get back to my usual routine- even two-a-days as I get into the season.  She wants to let my body heal itself as much as it can.   

But when I pulled out my heart rate monitor log and showed her my before e.Coli running heart rate versus my after e.Coli running heart rate, she accepted that as evidence that stuff was wrong.  She listened to how I used to be able to run an 8:30/mile (blazing fast for me!) and now could barely hold onto a 12.  She validated my body's reaction, and she treated me like I was a legitimate athlete.  

This makes me feel confident that I have the right plan, going forward.  

What Should I Expect

If this medication is the right one- if I do have the issue she's theorizes- then pretty soon, I should start seeing rapidly stabilizing energy levels, better metabolism, much reduced water retention, and probably will experience healing of the muscle and joint pain that's been dogging me since the last few rounds of e.Coli treatment.  I should also experience a stabilizing metabolism, which should help me start feeling warmer (and not cold all the time).  

If it is the right medication, then I should start seeing my heart rate stabilize during workouts (instead of spiking to a high level and staying there).  This will mean I should be able to hold down a normal run again, instead of a painful shuffle.  It'll also mean I'll have better blood flow and metabolism, so I'll be able to eat a snack and feel energy from it.  I might even be able to ride my bike like a normal person again, instead of having to walk all the hills or granny-gear a 2% incline!  

I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014


It's been no secret around the house that I'm a little under the weather.  After the Return of e.Coli, Two Weeks of Antibiotics, and a Huge around of Tests, I'm worn out.  I feel a bit like I have a constant cold or a low-level not-quite-flu.  My lower back and legs are constantly achy and I'm whiny.  On the bright side, recent tests show the e.Coli is finally not showing up on my tests.  Can it be gone at last? 

I have a follow up with the doctor later this week to get the rest of the lab results and figure out a treatment plan.  We have some preliminary answers about the achiness and remaining issues, and what is going on is not unexpected, and very treatable.  

In the meantime, M has decided he would like to go back to vegetarian eating himself.  He went through a Must Have Meat phase the last two months.  I do think that some people just need meat to make their bodies function as well as possible.  So I'm not disturbed by his meat eating.  Occassional meat eatin' is ok by me.  I do wish he'd buy his meat from the crunchy market, M.O.M.'s, around here (it's a smaller, all organic Healthy food store), so he could eat ethically sourced meat.  In the meantime, you want vegetarian? 

I do believe I can do that.  

While M was grocery shopping the vegetarian list yesterday, I made vegan brownies.  If you get yourself a copy of the No Meat Athlete book, they are the bean brownies in there.  I don't have permission to copy the recipe out, but I can say... Wow.  My vitamix puréed up the beans so they aren't visible at all.  The batter was more liquid than my normal brownie batter, so I baked them about 12 minutes longer than the recipe called for, but I like fudgy brownies.  And I used raw sugar, and the recipe has no oil.  So it's basically beans, home ground wheat flour, cocoa, and an oven.  I can't wait to plug it into my nutrition calculator.   

Super duper dark chocolate goodness.  Oh my wow.  

I want to get the special brownie pan to make these again so every piece will have nice edges.  

Meanwhile, I wrapped them up In individual foil packets.  The better to put in lunches, my precious! 

Whoops. Hadn't realized how blurry that iPhone picture was.  Yes, replacing our camera is rising higher on our to-do list.