blk: (running)
In a moment of questionable decision-making, I ran the Great Race (10k) on Sunday.

I love this race; it's a favorite of mine, despite the crowds and the lack of corrals and other issues. It's got a place in my heart, and it's convenient and cheap, and well, I just want to keep running it. So I signed up back in Jan every year. This year, it was early enough that I figured my knee and toe problems would have plenty of time to get worked out.

Well, 3 specialist visits and quite a bit of money later, my toe issues have improved from "regularly minorly painful and specifically irritated by running (among other things)" to "occasionally minorly annoying, and mostly ok if I treat it carefully and wear insoles." So, while it's not as fixed as I would have wanted, the expensive orthotic insoles do seem to be helping. My current theory is that it's inter-metatarsal bursitis, which fits with the "bone and foot structure is fine" observations of the doctors and mostly fits the pain symptoms I do have, but is also a "be nice to it and hope it gradually improves" injury, which I hate because it means I expect this is basically something I just need to learn to live with.

My knee, on the other hand, I'm pretty sure is "just" a flare-up of that old patellofemoral pain, i.e. a form of "runner's knee," i.e. my kneecap doesn't track properly under load, and there are definitely exercises I can do to help it (once I figure out what they are). And proper foot alignment helps a lot.

These stupid joint problems meant that I didn't run at all for 9 months, waiting for pain to go away; and when it did, there wasn't time to get back my mileage. So I didn't plan to run. But then I failed to give away my registration, and [livejournal.com profile] xuth picked up my race bib and a shirt that actually fits me (this is the first year they have women's-cut race shirts) and he was going to run it anyways, and I decided if nothing else, I could walk it just fine, so.....

I taped1 things up and made a goal to finish in between 1:15 and 1:30. Basically, no faster than a slow jog, and no slower than a fast walk. I ended up running slowly for the first 4 miles whereupon I hit a big downhill and my knee complained really loudly. I ran/walked the rest of the way, coming in at 1:24:29, which is my slowest race pace ever, but considering conditions, marks success. My knee hurt a lot at the end, but no more than in the past, and was more or less fine as soon as I stopped running.

Of course, the rest of my body took the brunt of that whole unprepared for running thing, and every other muscle in my legs has been SUPER sore since then. Stairs and desk job do not make things easier at all. However, none of that is anything more than overworked muscle, that will be fine within a few days.

The important part is that my toe never felt any worse than mildly annoying, which I consider not only success for this race, but a sign that I can (slowly) start running again regularly (combined with appropriate knee exercises). So that's my new plan. Er, as soon as I finish recovering.


1 I totally thought that the kinesiology taping fad was a total crock, and then my google searches brought me to something called McConnell taping for PFPS, and it actually WORKS. By "works" I mean it greatly reduces pain when I go about my normal activities. It obviously doesn't fix the underlying issue, and various online sites seem to disagree about exactly WHY it works, but some of my dubiousness has been turned into curiosity. And it turns out that if I don't care about pretty colors or brand names, and only use it occasionally, it's quite cheap and easy to acquire.
blk: (bike)
Bike log for June (first entry): 202 miles

In June I biked just over 200 miles (it might be 205, as I vaguely recall not setting my counter early enough in the day on June 1, but I don't remember clearly now, so I'll call it 202). This is my base for comparison, I guess. It didn't include much other than work commuting, a few trips downtown, and a couple appointments just across the river on the South Side. All of it in Pittsburgh, all on my bike.

No incidents, although I did watch a cop run a stop sign in front of me while he was talking on his cell phone (he slowed, but didn't give me my right of way). Plenty of deer, rabbits, and groundhogs spotted in Schenley Park.

Many compliments on my helmet, most of them while I was biking at Open Streets.

Got a minor brake tuneup from Kindred on a whim. Accidentally acquired the mechanic's greaserag in return. Oops? I suspect they don't need it back.

The hills on my now-regular commute route are no longer horrible (although they are still a good workout). In exchange, my growing thigh muscles are once again starting to stretch some of my pants. This is annoying. At least I started with super skinny legs, and so more muscular legs means they're only slightly more bulky than normal. I can still find clothes that fit; it's just a little harder. OTOH, I've started appreciating tights and skirts more.
blk: (avatar)
Well, another one, at least.

I like bodymods on other people, but not very many types of them feel like they belong on me. Possibly because I'm a very slow-to-change sort of person (heck, even cutting my hair from very-long to mostly-long was a pretty big decision) and possibly because my social culture is full of people who are mostly unadorned so it's not something I think about much. Heck, I don't even think I've had serious relationships with anybody who did decorative bodymods.

But while I haven't found any art I want on my skin, piercings appeal to me. I suspect in part because it's jewelry that I don't have to think about anymore, and the types that I get are generally ones that don't interfere with my regular active hobbies. I like the ones I have, and I've been pondering more for a while now, so today I treated myself to some nice pain to celebrate a birthday (and also graduating a kid successfully) and got another helix.

Some points of note, since it's been probably 15 years since my last ear piercing:

- Ear piercing technology has some great improvements! I like the options I have now. Specifically, readily available endless hoops without captive beads. I may switch out my existing ones for some of those. But even better, studs with flat backs that attach internally, so no more pointy bits to poke me or butterfly backings to get caught on things (the mechanism looks kinda like this). I ended up getting a stud since this place doesn't pierce with non-captive-bead-hoops and they were out of captive-bead-hoops, but since I don't have to deal with the huge pokey annoyance, this isn't a bad thing at all for now.
- A lot less pain than I remember. This could be because my pain tolerance has gone up in the last decade+ as I've had more exposure, or also because straight studs are significantly easier to get in than hoops, or probably some combination of both. But other than the initial pinch, it felt great. Hopefully I will remember not to bump it and it will continue to feel great.
blk: (feet)
For the last two years my left foot has been irritating me slightly. Not a lot, and not constantly, which is why i haven't pursued it more aggressively. For two years I cycled in trying to rest it and treat it gently, being pain-free for days or weeks at a time and thinking that I'd healed all up, and then doing something like running, or walking, or standing weirdly, and it would hurt again. I felt odd making a deal out of it, because it has always been at most a 1-2 on the pain scale, and what pain there is generally goes away after 10-20 minutes of sitting. Heck, that's normal life for a lot of people. But it's also keeping me from doing more physical activity, and things like running and volleyball are things that I really want to do again.

This month, with my latest big project wrapping up, I decided it was time for some action, and I called up UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and told them I wanted to see someone about my foot hurting, hoping to be able to find a doctor who would do more than just get me back to "daily activities" (since I'm already there) and also respect that "just stay off it" for a month really isn't an simple thing for me to do.

Last week, I saw a therapist (Pat Flynn) who put me through various strength tests and inspections and pokings and proddings. He commented on my very high arches and was unimpressed by some of my hip strength (but later amended it to say that it wasn't bad for someone who bikes and runs a lot). Nothing seemed amiss until he got to my second toe and bent it downwards and suddenly YOW THAT HURT. Unfortunately he didn't have an easy answer, although he theorized that it was a sprain, not a fracture, and recommended I see a physician.

This week, I met with a physician (Mark Sakr) who ordered x-rays. The good news is that the x-rays looked fine. The bad news is that it meant we still haven't really figured out the bug. He also commented on my high arches and suggested that was a contributing factor. His recommendation is that I try metatarsal pads for a few weeks to ease pressure on the area. If that doesn't help, he gave me a prescription for a custom orthotic. And if those don't help, we can get an MRI and look for more clues. He also suggested I primarily wear my athletic shoes while doing this, taking some regular anti-inflammatories for a while, and trying to do some running after a few weeks.

I like having a plan. This sounded good to me, so we shook hands and he sent in an assistant to give me a pad to try out. She came in and asked me where the pain was. I pointed to the top of my foot on the toe joint, and she went "ok" and stuck the pad on top of my foot. I went "uhhhh" and asked something like "how is that supposed to work" and she hrmmed a little and said "well, we are told to put it where the pain is, but most of our dancers report the pain on the bottom of the foot" so I looked at the package directions and she said "let's try the bottom" and switched it to there. We decided that would probably work better, so I put on my socks and shoes and headed into work.

Today I went online to learn more about met pads and realized that 1) the internet suggests wearing them differently a) stick to shoe, not to foot, and b) put it on foot in front of the pain, not right at pain, and 2) the manufacturer's website suggests a different size for me (high arch - M; she gave me S). I also had trouble finding more information about how to wear it properly for top-of-foot pain. So I am slightly disgruntled as I feel like I wasn't given enough information to make my experiment of wearing met pads a proper one, and since my pain isn't severe, I'm not sure if my trial-and-error is really going to work. I'm tempted to go head and get the orthotic done sooner just because I can, because it can't hurt to have one, because I have a script, and because then I can ask the therapist about how I should be properly wearing the met pads because he'll probably be more help than whoever that assistant was.

Damn bodies.
blk: (running2)
I almost didn't run the Filthy Four race this year. I was wavering about whether I would go out all the way up to the point where I was lying in bed at o'dark-thirty and would need to get up in 10 minutes if I was going. It was super cold (18F at 7am), my toe's been bothering me lately, I haven't done nearly enough running recently and was underprepared, I still haven't gotten any of my friends to join me, and, well, hills suck. And the bed was warm and cozy.

I finally decided that if I didn't go, I'd regret not even trying, and if I did go and things got to be too much, I could always stop part way and come home. So I went, and I did it. This year there were more overall runners (31, up from 24) and more women (5, up from 3), and once again I firmly secured my last place but got one point per hill because I ran them all, dammit. Overall I don't think I created any new injuries which is great, although my knees were pretty unhappy with the downhills and are still quite tender.

I am glad I ran, and I'm glad it's done, and I realized afterwards that this was pretty much the last big thing I was working for this year. It's quite freeing to be done. I also realized that I need to fail more often. Or give myself the chance to fail. To quit. To try something that's too much and not be able to do it and just deal with it. Because I'm much more likely to not try at all. It's much safer and less scary that way. Which is not the person I want to be.
blk: (house)
After posting about RLS last week, I got some suggestions and also did more reading about how to treat it. I decided to go for the carpet bomb approach and added to my daily diet: a banana yogurt smoothie with protein+vitamin powder, handful of almonds, antacid, less alcohol, and more leg exercise. I was going to do this for a week, but within two days all my symptoms were suddenly much better and I actually was able to relax in bed in the morning. Success! Now I start taking out the parts of that that I don't want to keep up long-term and see if I lose any benefits. I did not take quinine, sleep with a bar of soap, take hot and cold showers, extra dark chocolate, or massage (although maybe I should try those last two anyways, y'know, for science).

In recovery news, my foot is also much improved, thankfully enough to make it through an entire evening in a nifty Halloween costume that involved, um, shoes that were rather harsh on them. I forgot to get pictures, but I'm sure I'll get plenty at Arisia. This week, I'm planning to walk a bunch. Next week, I'm gonna start running again (carefully).

Now that my Halloween costume is done with and I suddenly have a bunch of free time, I decided to properly do my hair again. A couple months ago I found a yarn color I'm fond of, and have been waiting for an appropriately free day. 6.5 hours yesterday didn't quite finish it, but I think I only have another hour or so to go, so I'll finish tonight. Then pictures.

The yard still involves apples and leaves. After I did an apple sweep last weekend, we had another windy day, and poof, another 50 lbs lying in the yard. But I think this might actually be the end. Another batch of applesauce tonight.

The sidewalk apparently got several compliments from trick-or-treaters. I wasn't doing most of the door answering (as Jim had his coat on). Also this weekend I'm finding delayed effects from lifting heavy concrete stones, as the calloused skin on my fingertips has all started to peel off. Whee?

Yesterday Justin finished and submitted his CMU application! A huuuuge load of stress off of him (and me, by proxy). The essays were pure torture but he ended up with some decent quality ones. And now all his future college applications will be much easier.
blk: (fall)

It's definitely fall. Leaves are turning, rain is more frequent, temperatures are dropping, days are dimming, college applications are starting to be due.

I'm extremely happy to be finished with the Sidewalk Project; I have plenty of other things to spend my time on.  I did the first apple sweep in a long time, after ignoring them for about a month, and got another 10 lbs to turn into sauce.  I'm pretty sure this is the latest in the season I've gottten good apples.  I'm starting to fill leaf bags in preparation for the almost useless single fall yard waste pickup. I may as well get what I can out there.   After the sun sets, I've been reading, prepping my halloween (and later, arisia) costume(s), helping out the kid with his first college application, and trying to use up my farm share.

My foot, which got irritated (probably re-fractured) by the Great Race, has been hurting minorly all month, despite me not doing any running at all.  I suspect that the work of digging and walking around uneven ground of the Sidewalk Project stressed it out and delayed healing, as since I've been done with that, it's been finally starting to feel better.  Which is good, because I really miss running.  I also miss not wanting to kill people.  I don't really have a good substitute for a long slow run.  Although I have been biking a little more, as my new peaceful route into work is a little longer and hillier.  So my legs are still getting some workout at least.

Unfortunately, my legs are also annoying me, mostly at night, with a frustrating indescribable soreness that makes me wiggle and need to stretch out.  I.e., Restless Leg Syndrome, I'm pretty sure.  I've had periods of it off and on all my life, but it hasn't been major enough to be  a problem, or interrupt my sleep, until recently.  I'm currently loosely experimenting with some variables, such as making sure I eat well, take a multivit, less alcohol, more hydration before bed, etc, but  not having much luck finding definitive correlations yet.  It doesn't seem to be genetic for me, and I haven't ruled out low iron, although I haven't had other symptoms of that in many years.  Normally I would go run more to wear myself (and my legs) out more, but, well, still waiting for the foot to finish healing.  I suppose a doctor visit will happen if this doesn't resolve soon. 

Starting real soon now I'll be working to prep the house for omg thanksgiving visitors.  Goal is to (finally) get my bedroom into something more liveable.  Wish me luck.

blk: (sandwich)
"It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster" (Greg LeMond)

So what happens when it doesn't get any easier AND I don't get faster? Massive frustration is one. Along with a long search for different answers.

I started my current job 5 years ago this month, and started bike commuting (and running more) regularly about 6 months after that. That year, I made painful but positive physical progress, growing my leg muscles so that I outgrew all my pants in the quad, and getting better at the things I wanted to do.

The next 3 years felt like one big plateau. My commute was doable, but every day was still a big effort. Every hills ride pushed me to my absolute limit, behind everybody else. All my friends outpaced me. When I griped about it, the things people said boiled down to "just keep working at it and you'll get better!" and I hated that because I WAS working and I was NOT getting better. It wasn't just cycling, either. I had days I could run and days that I just slogged. Sometimes I could do a couple pullups and sometimes none at all. I tried working harder, more often, less often, eating more, eating less, and nothing much changed.

About 6 months ago something poked my brain with the idea that "can't put on muscle" is often a symptom of "not enough protein." I've always thought I've had a reasonably good and varied diet, but I HATE counting numbers so I never have. I decided to try a change that I could continue, which basically consisted of giving in to my love for eggs, snacking on nuts, and eating as much meat as I wanted instead of feeling guilty and stopping after a "serving" (i.e., 3oz). Then, since I don't actually need additional calories, finding other high calorie areas to cut back a little, which usually ends up being carbs and high-fat processed foods. My fruit/veg intake stays the same, which is "I seek them out fairly regularly" and my dairy is erratic but not heavy (some cheese, not much milk).

(Wait - lots of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and veggies? Minimal pasta, potatoes, sugary snacks, and dairy? Oh crap, I've accidentally gone paleo! Haha, not really. I still eat whatever I want, just in slightly different proportions.)

But back to the biking. Holy shit is there a difference. The changes weren't exactly like a light switch but it was really obvious within a month or two that I found the bugfix for this particular problem for me. 6 months later, my average commute speed is much faster. I started being able to do real hills without feeling like my legs would fall off, and faster than I ever could before. I hit more PRs in my running. I went from being able to do 3 pullups at a time (on a good day) to doing 8 at a time (and repeat it). But the biggest change is not even in what I can do but what it feels like to do it. It's the difference between "this thing is so hard; I cannot push harder yet I feel like I get very low output for high effort, and I can't sustain it beyond a few more seconds" and "this thing is hard; I'm pushing really hard but the output feels appropriate to effort, and I can sustain it and even have energy for a little more." It makes working out -fun- again.

Although I kinda hope I don't change shape too much again. I just finished stocking up my wardrobe with a nice selection of pants.
blk: (running)
If I ran races more often I probably wouldn't be doing race reports after so many of them, but I only do a few, and they keep being interesting to me, so I'm writing.

I ran in the Run Around the Square 5k last weekend, and the most interesting part was that it was the first race I've done with my new toy, the Garmin ForeRunner 225, which is the first ever GPS watch I've owned (thanks, Katy!). I have ALL the data! Data is fun.

First off, it told me I ran a great race (not The Great Race, that's next month) without needing to wait for posted results. My total time was 24:40, which is a 5k PR for me if I define the P as standing for "Pittsburgh" (my best 5k was on a super flat, straight course, which Pittsburgh does not have). It also told me that I got a new 1mi PR which I wasn't expecting. It took me over 2 years to "officially" beat my last 1mi PR, since all I had to go on was total race times (and I rarely race anything less than a 5k), but now the Garmin tracks my mile splits as well.

The course was mostly flat for the first mile, went up 260 feet in the next mile+1/3, and went most of the way back down in the last 3/4 mile. The first mile had my best pace, the second was slower with a few noticeable dips, and the last 3/4 I sprinted and sped up my average pace from 8:44 down to 7:57. Woo!

My heart rate averaged 184bpm with a max of 195, and although I was pushing reasonably hard, at no point did I feel like I was doing too much. I've suspected for years that my heart rate runs high (various age-based equation estimates give me "max" ranges between 183 and 174, but I can hit 170 while barely breaking a sweat), and I had been intending to look into stress testing for a while. These numbers feel like they represent my experiences better.

After the race there was wandering around collecting food and drink and goodies and looking for other people I knew (didn't see many). Stayed around to see if I placed in my age group (didn't, but got 7/90), then biked home. Nothing hurt, which is a major win. Or at least, nothing hurt that wasn't the expected lingering muscle soreness the next day that I consider normal and not actually an injury.

Nice race, I should do it again.
blk: (running)
I celebrated the end of the longest night by doing something ridiculous, difficult and exhausting - running the Filthy Four again.

The day dawned... oh wait, no, this was all pre-dawn. My day started cold but dry, and stayed just below freezing the entire time. Fortunately, I've spent the last month+ learning how to run in cold, and I managed to layer appropriately so that I was a comfortable temp the entire time. Well, except for my hands towards the end, because I don't have good running gloves that don't get my fingers cold when I sweat. But it wasn't awful.

I found the group easily, and once again I didn't know anybody except the organizer, as I had sadly failed to convince any of my friends to run it with me (despite trying!). There were more runners overall, including more women runners, but a worse ratio (1:8 down from 1:7). The more runners overall meant a larger differential between the fastest and the slowest of the group, which tended to cluster in a large pelaton up front and a very few trailing behind. Over the first 3 miles to the first hill I ended up falling somewhere between the two, which is an extremely unfortunate place to be when it's dark out (even with streetlights) and very difficult to make out people just a block away. After the second hill and a few times of almost losing the group and getting stressed about it I fell back to jog with the rear guard. We arrived several minutes later for the last hill but at least I had people to run with and didn't worry about getting lost.

My goals were to 1) finish, 2) without injuring myself. Well, I successfully made it up all the hills, albeit (relatively) slowly and painfully. My suspect foot was feeling pretty tender by the end, so I walked home carefully after the requisite group photo (fb), but it didn't bother me at all for the rest of the day, so I guess it's OK. The rest of my legs (muscles and joints) were pretty sore, but I think mostly in normal ways. Still hurting today, but in pretty manageable levels. Afterwards I had the best shower to warm up, and caught another hourish of lovely sleep so that the shortest day didn't inadvertently turn into my longest day (of being awake), as I had more things planned later.

But now I can stop my focus training and take a nice lovely break... ahhh, who am I kidding, I'll probably be back out on the trail by next week at the latest.

and i'm feeling good )
blk: (feet)
[livejournal.com profile] xuth and I went hiking in Laurel Hill State Park last weekend and it was fun. Cold, but fun.

Before the trip, I looked into possible things I could do to make my feet less sore when I hike, since basically the bottoms of my feet seem like they are always the limiting factor on how far I want to walk, even when I'm wearing supposedly decent shoes. They usually start getting sore within a few miles, although I can ignore it and go much further when I want to. Teh googles suggested different insoles for my shoes. Having never (ok maybe once) bought separate insoles, I decided I wanted advice, so I took advantage of a friend's trip to REI to visit the footware dept and see what they suggested.

The first associate put me in some high arch (green) Superfeet and had me walk around for a bit. I came back to report that it felt fine, but not a lot of difference, and being a newb, I wasn't really sure what I should be looking for. Another associate had me stand up just on an insole and reported "Well that's why you can't feel much. The arch of the insole isn't even close to touching the arch of your foot." Oh. Huh. So then he had me try the high arch Sof Sole and OH HEY there was something actually touching my entire foot. Weird. I walked around in some borrowed Keen hiking shoes for a bit and nothing felt uncomfortable, so decided to give them a shot.

I've figured for a while that I have a slightly-higher-than-average foot arch, although mostly just from looking at my footprints. But I've never noticed any negative side effects that come with that. I mean, sure I get sore from standing for like 20 minutes, but doesn't everybody? Slowly walking around museums is torturous, but that's probably just because I have no art appreciation ability. I always wear my sandals on the loosest setting, but I don't recall any not fitting. My multiple metatarsal stress fractures are probably just because I trained poorly. And my knee problems and lower back pain were already determined to be more likely related to my hip flexors. So, um, no, no issues at all. Hrm.

OK fine, I'll try out this ridiculously high arched insole. The first day I wore it to go walk around for a few miles running errands with some new (Keen) hiking shoes. I ended up with very mild strain on the outside of my ankles, which google said was normal. I rested a day, then took two days to wear them in my casual shoes (also Keens) around work and school, with no discomfort. Finally we went on our trip. The first day was expected to be wet and muddy so I put them in my mud/camping boots (still Keen; there's a trend here) and instantly the boots felt like they were hugging my feet affectionately, moreso than ever before. Hiking was good. By the homestretch my feet were still pretty sore, which was a little disappointing, until I got back and did measurements and realized we'd gone 8+ miles, which I'm pretty sure is an improvement. And the soreness went away immediately upon stopping, and my knees were mostly fine, despite a fair amount of downhill, and the next day everything felt fine. The next day we went another 4ish miles, this time in my hiking shoes, and I had no soreness at all.

Well that's pretty cool. Of course, now I'm wondering how much of the annoying pain in the rest of my life could have been fixed with something small like this. How many pairs of awesome boots did I give away because they weren't comfortable (I figured they just weren't broken in properly)? How many day outings did I not enjoy because I was just thinking about where I could sit down next? If this is really an answer, I want to keep it. I went ahead and ordered a different pair to try out and compare, and I'm thinking I will probably also see about putting something in my running shoes.

Oh, and here's a picture of the Jones Mill Run Dam.
dam )
blk: (ow)
Last April I became intimately familiar with what a metatarsal stress fracture felt like while training too hard for my half-marathon. I had a very painful couple days, then a very annoying two weeks in an orthotic foot-boot, then ran my race successfully, without re-injuring my right foot. Unfortunately, my left foot started twinging in a familiar way right after the race.

My left foot felt fine a day later, but I was happy to be done with running for a bit, and my knee wasn't terribly happy, so I decided to give everything a good long break. After the initial soreness wore off, everything felt fine.... except my foot would occasionally give me a really minor twinge every once in a while. A twinge that a year ago I would have shrugged off and ignored, but that now I'm pretty sure is another minor fracture. Well, OK, no running. It didn't hurt at all when I bike or climb or walk or stand or sit or... well, anything. I'd go for 3, 5, even 7 or 8 days without noticing anything at all, then out of nowhere (when walking) I'd get that twinge again. I kept thinking that if I could just be real gentle and go two weeks without feeling that, I'd be on the way to healing. I limited my long walks. I switched out of my sandals into more supportive shoes. I wore my stiff-soled bike shoes around at work instead of my flexible work shoes. I'd go days at a time - just long enough to think that my effort was successful and I'd beaten injury - and the twinge would be back. This went on for months, because I am stupid and stubborn like that.

Finally, I had a good week in August, and then a vacation to Seattle where I didn't do any biking or running AND the walking I did used had nice comfy hiking shoes and I did a lot of relaxing. Foot was just slightly sore at times but no pain! I did a very short test run around the CMU track when I got back, and nothing hurt! Yay! Today, we got back from another camping trip and I really needed to get out and move, so I did an easy 5k through Frick. Oh goodness it felt SO good to be out. Got home, put my foot up, waited, and....

OW. Helloooooo metatarsal painful flair-up. Definitely the same place, and not at all ignorable. Siiiiigh.

Sooooo I'm finally convinced my attempts at "being gentle" didn't work. What's left? Last time I had pain, my PCP said "stay off it for a couple weeks", and the ortho poked my foot, gave me expensive xrays and told me to wear a boot for two weeks. Well, I don't need expensive xrays to poke my foot and wear a boot, so I guess that's what I have to do. Except I haaaaate this idea and I'm stupidly still trying to find reasons why I don't have to, because wearing a boot full-time means a) I can't bike to work, but even more so b) everybody will see it and ask me what happened and talk about my foot and AAAAAGHGHH I cannot properly express how much I really really don't want that right now. I don't want that so much I'd almost rather just not run anymore. But I know that's stupid and I probably won't feel that way next week. Argh.

Last time at the foot doc's, he suggested I could still bike if it didn't bother me. So I think I will try to keep biking, but boot around in the evenings and at home for a couple weeks. I can probably tolerate that.
blk: (backlit)
Last year, after the half marathon, I wrote down some physical things I decided I wanted to work on. I've learned a lot in a year.

Knees. Last year I thought of my knee problems as mostly being general post-injury weakness. Over the summer, though, I realized that the specific problem I needed to fix in my running form was excessive external hip rotation, which puts lot of stress on my knees, and is likely a contributor to the patellarfemoral pain I've had problems with. And the likely root of -that- is poor internal hip rotation, from tight hip flexors, which (among other things) comes from.... sitting. Come to think of it, I knew hips were an issue from back when I did physiotherapy 1.5 years ago -- during my initial ROM tests, the therapist put my legs in a few positions and had to repeat the test because she didn't believe I'd scored that poorly. I've got good flexibility in many other areas. But apparently not ... somewhere in there. And that's the main problem with my knees.

My work here mostly has been to watch my running form and do plenty of yoga, focusing on the poses I am worst at (like warrior). Results: My running times dropped significantly, my knees hurt much less (almost none!) after running, and my yoga got better. In fact, except for the patellarfemoral pain after this year's half, I'd almost thought it licked. Probably pushed too hard somewhere in there, though. But a week of being gentle and regular stretching got it back down to normal, and now I have specific things to work on. Progress!

Abs. Last year I thought of my ab problems as mostly being general post-injury (childbirth) weakness. Progress was frustrating, though, because every time I'd try to do ab-specific exercises, my back would ache terribly long before my abs felt any workout. So I tried back exercises, which didn't seem to help either. Finally, after a session early this year with a student personal trainer where I'd try a thing, get two reps in, and go "wow, that really hurts," I googled around for the umpteenth time and finally found things that said lower back pain is often directly caused by tight hip flexors. Heeeeeeeeeey....

My work here was more yoga, including lots of planks and other various exercises I've learned which actually focus on abs that don't use hips much (i.e., not situps). Results: Definite progress, my yoga got better, and my abs are a little stronger. While I could definitely stand to improve them much more, learning why I -wasn't- improving was a pretty huge and satisfying hurdle to get over.

Shoulders. Last year I had problems with fingers tingling in some arm positions, an inability to hold various positions, and a strip of minor pain/discomfort along the right rhomboid when I would flex my shoulders back. I thought of it as being mostly lack of flexibility and strength, and also the result of years of poor posture/overuse. Unfortunately that was just guesses, and I had much less idea of what to do here.

Things I tried: I changed my mousing hand at work, changed my belaying brake arm, straightened up my posture, did more yoga, and started a bunch of shoulder flexibility exercises at home over the summer. Results: my ROM increased (in some areas), my posture got better, and my arms stopped aching during yoga, and the tingling mostly went away. The rhomboid discomfort was still there.

Finally in the late fall last year I went back to physiotherapy to see what they would say. I got confirmation of the sore spot (it was quite heartening when the therapist felt around and pushed right -there- and my back went *crunch* and he went "yep."), and through a combination of exercises, massage, adjustments/manipulations, and heat, we at least found the right things to target, and made some progress. But it wasn't until early this year when the student trainer started me doing some regular heavy lifting that I kind of woke up one day and the pain was totally gone. Huh. Several months later, slacking on workouts and doing more hard running started to bring it back, but a few good weight sessions pushed it away again. That makes me happy. My yoga has also gotten significantly better with stronger shoulders. I still have a few weird inflexibilities (like, my left arm can do the bottom of this pose just fine, but my right arm can't at all), but I think that's something I can just live with. I still get upper shoulder stress-knots, but regular massage is working wonders with those.

Ongoing. So now I know my -actual- weak point is my hips. And since I have a desk job and likely will keep having a desk job for the next 30 years, this is something I need to be actively working on, regularly and intentionally, just to not get worse. My knees and abs can definitely still use strengthening, although knowing where the pain was coming from and being able to target things better should make that easier. And I like being able to lift heavy things and put them back down again (and my shoulder likes it a lot), so I will likely keep doing that. I wish I could bike hills better, but I don't actually like doing it if I don't have to. Maybe I can run them instead, and that will help both hobbies.

Goal for this year: get faster, better, and stronger, and stay injury-free.
blk: (running)
The first big sign I had that something was wrong came Tuesday morning, when I got out of bed and stepped down and there was significant pain in my right foot. Some gentle poking revealed tender spots on top, but also places that were fine, and with a little care and practice, I was walking almost without noticing it. I mentioned it to my regular doctor (who I was seeing for something unrelated), and she poked it, said "stay off it for a couple weeks" and nothing else. I could wear my bike shoes with the stiff soles to walk better, so I went on in to work. More poking and internet research suggested a metatarsal stress fracture. I guessed third. I had my usual running planned (the first since Saturday), but by afternoon I decided that was not a good idea.

Overnight I woke up a few times from pain, and Wednesday it was worse. Again it felt better with the stiff bike shoes on, so I just wore those all day and tried to minimize walking, but it still hurt a lot in the wrong positions. I fixed up a foot pillow to sleep with, which helped.

The worsening alarmed me a lot, so Thursday morning I called a recommended podiatrist, stayed home from work, and did nothing but sit almost all day. By mid afternoon, it was feeling significantly improved, and by morning down to slight pain if I stepped wrong, which I've had before. I went to see the podiatrist anyways, and got X-rays.

The doctor came in after looking at my X-rays, took one look at my foot, pressed -there- and I went OW and he went "yep." Diagnosis: 4th metatarsal fracture (I was one off). A small one, I think, as I couldn't recognize it on the X-ray even after he pointed it out.

Things of note:
- On timing: He said that fractures like this generally take longer than a week to show up on X-ray. So while I had been assuming this was something that happened at the race last Saturday, it seems likely it was something earlier (like track speedwork the previous Tuesday maybe), and JASR just aggravated it, being the second hard run within a week. Then possibly biking further aggravated it, given that I biked Mon/Tue/Wed, and it got worse Tue/Wed.

- On cause: Obvious contributing factors we talked about included: 0. A specific injury (unlikely as I don't remember any), 1. Ramping up my running too quickly (likely), 2. Shoes that are too old / too minimalist (maybe), or 3. Having poor bone density (maybe). He said if I get any more, anywhere, I should get a bone density screening. Hrm. I'm fairly certain I've already had at least one in the past.

- On fixes: 1. Increasing my mileage more slowly. I thought I told myself last year: no more springtime goals. Argh. 2. New shoes. This is tough because although minimal runners do seem to be at higher risk for stress fractures, I'm positive that minimal shoes have helped my form a lot, and I love the light weight. Maybe I should look for something in the middle. 3. More calcium / Vitamin D supplements. It occurs to me that since I found out I was mildly lactose intolerant, I've cut down a lot on my dairy, which makes my stomach much happier, but might have other unintended effects, like getting less calcium?

- On activity: He prescribed a boot for walking for 2 weeks, then a slow return to activities assuming new X-rays look clean. So mostly running and biking and (maybe) climbing is out, and I'll try to stay away from long or arduous walks. Of course. Only the primary activities of my life.

On the bright side, as much as this comes at a bad time (is there ever a good time?), I'm doing OK with it. I don't have much on the calendar for the next two weeks that I can't get to by walking slowly or taking the bus. Carnival is next weekend, but most of my planned activities involve walking, standing, or sitting, all of which I can do. I will have to skip the Random Distance Run, sadly. [livejournal.com profile] xuth and I have a vacation to go hiking in MD planned for the days right after I (hopefully) get the boot off. I think that can still happen, as long as I'm careful. Doctor thinks the upcoming Half should still be doable, assuming I don't aggravate anything. Not sure if my goal time is achievable, but I guess just running will still be good. And I can still swim/yoga/lift while I'm waiting.

Guess it's time to dig out my somewhat-neglected ToDo list of Things I can do that don't need feet. Plus, bonus time to catch up on some reading. Silver linings and all.
blk: (avatar)
A couple years ago or so I discovered I am somewhat lactose intolerant. (The investigation process was pretty simple: drink a glass of milk, observe various intestinal distress. Take a lactase pill before drinking milk, no distress. Well, there ya go.)

It seems to be pretty minor, so I really don't know if it's been around for me for a while and I'm just noticing it now (what, regular stomach pain is NOT actually normal?), or if it's getting worse as I age and generally consume far less regular cow milk than I used to. It seems to be triggered by a serving size of (real) ice cream and by regular cow milk, but not by cheeses (thank goodness) or butter or other things with small amounts of whey.

I would be almost happy to simply stop drinking milk, EXCEPT that I absolutely love my tea with milk. Any non-milk tea I have tried has simply been entirely unsatisfying. And although the tiny glob that I generally add is little enough that my stomach doesn't notice it much, I decided recently that I definitely do notice it. So I started looking for substitutes.

I tried almond and coconut "milk," as I enjoy the taste of both of those, but they interacted with tea in entirely the wrong ways and the mouthfeel was just wrong. I tried coconut, soy, and non-dairy creamers, but they didn't quite taste right, and generally contained way too much sweetener. Making my own unsweetened non-dairy creamer just doesn't appeal. Neither does taking a lactase pill before each cup of tea.

After some more research, I tried goat milk. Success! A little more expensive and harder to find, but tastes and feels mostly like milk without the side effects. The kind I tried was a tad more bitter.

Finally, I decided to try an idea I'd seen while researching info on lactose intolerance: Adding the lactase pill (in powder form) directly to milk. I tried it first with an (expensive) powder-filled capsule, then by crushing a (cheap) generic caplet, adding it to a pint of our regular cow milk. Success! Since the rest of the house drinks a ton of milk, we always have it around, which means making my own this way and not buying something separate is cheap, easy, and convenient, and in a pinch, it can be drunk by someone else.

In lessons learned, if crushing the caplet with the house mortar and pestle, do make sure that the m&p is well-cleaned beforehand, otherwise risk ending up with rosemary-tinged milk. Which is... different.
blk: (lyra)
I'm super proud of myself for running and finishing my first half-marathon this past week. Not only that, I'm also super proud of myself for the entire combination of training properly, finishing strongly, and doing so without my knees giving me problems. While they were both sore after the race, they were less so than from previous races (even of shorter distances), and by the next day they felt close to normal. That's a definite improvement!

After injuring them both in the past few years, I've realized that healing from injury is neither a specifical goal point, where you reach it and then you're done, nor is it even a given at all. It's a process, sometimes one that just needs time, but more often also takes hard work. It's also very rare that being "healed" means "100% just like new" but more often means "can return to basic activities without significant difficulty."

Which points out to me that I have a few other "weak spots" that, while they don't interfere with my basic activities, they are clearly my "weak spots" with regards to any improvement. And if I want to do more awesome things, I'd be best off paying attention to them. So my plan for the foreseeable future: work on these things: )

This summer is enough time to make a difference, even a small one. So that's my next goal.
blk: (bike)
I've put a lot of time and effort lately into working out. The reasons fall into a variety of categories:
  • Some of it is functional (I commute to work by bike. There are Hills).
  • Some of it is for fun (I took a summer session of partner acrobatics with [livejournal.com profile] xuth, learning new and interesting ways to climb on him; I go out on occasional fun social bike rides; I like climbing rocks or rock-like surfaces).
  • Some of it is goal-oriented (I plan to run the Great Races this fall and want to be able to run faster).
  • Some of it is, for lack of a better description, general upkeep or therapeutic (started yoga classes to help reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility; sometimes I run or climb just to get out alone and be moving and wear myself out and calm my brain).

The thing with the biggest impact by far has been the biking. I started off barely able to get up some of the hills along the route on my lowest gear. Through cursing and crying and anger and pain every day, I've worked up to a noticeable difference in strength and endurance compared to what I had, and the ability to go up the same hills on a slightly higher gear with significantly less crying and anger and pain, and a slight reduction in cursing.

The conclusion that stands out the most to me for this is: Physical improvements (for me) are HARD. Hard and painful and frustrating. And slow. My biking has results because I've done it every day for over a year. Also unreliable. Hills still vary in difficulty depending on my mood, the weather, or my recent eating/sleeping habits. I went a couple months this summer feeling like I was making backwards progress before realizing that my iron levels had dropped.

And this is from me STARTING in reasonably good physical condition, from being reasonably active for most of my life, not having physical problems that prevent me from doing any of these activities, having a brain that enjoys being active, and being of naturally low weight and size. If I were starting from a more challenged point, I expect there would be a whole lot more work to be able to do the things I want to do now. If nothing else, this is definitely personal incentive for not letting myself get into any long-term inactive state.

Somewhat annoyingly, the biggest noticeable effect lately has been that my favorite brand of pants/jeans no longer seem to fit through my thigh, so I will have to go shopping for a new one. Grah! It is hard enough to find pants I like that fit my hip/waist ratio as it is. Well, excuse for a nice lazy thrift store outing soon, I guess.
blk: (blades)
I recently came across this series of ads from Nike, from several years ago, featuring women's body parts: butt, knees, shoulders, legs, hips, and thighs.

In general, I like the ads. Not because I identify with them, because really, I don't have the kind of butt or thighs or anything those pictures are talking about, except for the bruised knees. It doesn't make me want to buy Nike, but it does make me remember what one of my goals is when I workout, when I run, when I play hard, when I exhaust myself, and motivates me to work harder. Those are pictures of bodies that I admire, that I seek to imitate.

But by gum, I've got the tomboy knees, and I'm damn proud of those knees.

I have scars on my knees that tell stories. I have the wrinkled, stitched over cut from white water rafting. I have a faint, discolored circle of a scar where I tripped on a curb while running. I finished my run with blood running down my leg and my sock soaked with red, because it didn't hurt while I was moving. I have a notch just below, on my shin from where I fell on the corner of a bed, while wrestling with a lover.

I also have regular transient bruises, mostly from climbing. I used to be able to tell how frequently or recently I had gone rock climbing, by the number and color of the bruises over my knees. Multiple mottled marks meant I'd been working hard lately. Faded green spots meant it was about time to head back to the gym. Clean, pink knees meant I was long overdue.

Today while climbing I hit a rock on the way up and scraped up my leg. It was a minor cut, almost not even enough to draw blood. It stung slightly, but somehow also made me feel a little better, like See? I'm not afraid to exert myself. Thankfully, I don't have a mother that worries about me in that way, and even more thankfully, I have an awesome partner who loves me and my bruised knees. These scars and discolorations, I wear and show off with pride.

As long as I keep on wholeheartedly earning those badges.
blk: (running)
I've been working towards getting back into running again, in preparation for running a marathon relay next month. So I've been running, walking, biking, and swimming, in an much-needed attempt to build up my leg muscles more, which has had the really nice effect of making my bad knee bother me less overall. It doesn't really hurt so much as give me these little awkward twinges at mostly unpredictable times, a feeling that I suspect anybody with a past joint injury is probably familiar with, but I can't really figure out how to describe beyond that. Even just a few months ago, I would 'feel' my knee twinge between one and several times a day -- while I was walking on flat ground, stepping off a curb, going up stairs, or other movements. These days, I'm going whole days without noticing it much, if I'm not working it hard.

Running is something I'm happy to say I can do again, and it doesn't hurt my knee -- at least until I stop. It's not nearly as sensitive anymore, and I'm sure there is some reasonable physiological explanation for it, but all I can tell is that if I run, then I stop or pause, and try to start running again, I can't do it.

This evening I went to escape for a evening run before dark, and was doing great until I hit a red light at a crosswalk, not quite 2 miles in. I tried to keep my jogging going in place, but I must have slowed my movements too much, as after I crossed the road and picked up my pace again, my knee immediately started giving me these nervous-making i-don't-think-i-should-be-running-on-this twinges. I slowed but kept going, as carefully as I could, for a bit longer, but by the end of the block, I was still feeling these not-really-painful-but-definitely-uncomfortable feelings every few steps, so I decided I had better quit. As soon as I started walking, it felt fine again. I walked the rest of the way with no problems.

I'm split between feeling hopeful that my knee is clearly still improving (this happened last fall, too, except that it would continue to be sore, even when walking), pleased that I'm still making physical progress while knowing when to back off and not injure myself, and frustrated that I couldn't keep up my run.


I'm sure this could be made into some kind of allegory for the rest of my brain and life right now. I'm hopeful that I still have countless ways I can improve myself, pleased that in general, I am doing things that move me (slowly) towards those goals while usually recognizing when I need to take a break, and frustrated at so many of the glaring flaws I see in myself, that aren't going away anytime soon.

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