Friday, May 31, 2013

McKelligon Canyon Run

It's no secret, I love El Paso.  The funny thing is, I didn't set out to, a year ago it was actually the only place my husband and I could both be stationed, and it started out as a well at least we will be in the same place for once and now it's home and a place I hope to stay for a while.

Not least of my favorite El Paso features is McKelligon Canyon.  
Every time I run this 5-mile out-and-back route, it's a completely different vibe.

Let me tell you a little about this beloved route!  I ran it this morning just to show it off!
Roadside flora

The entrance to McKelligon Canyon is on McKelligon Canyon Drive, just off of Alabama Street and across from William Beaumont Army Medical Center.  There are plenty of well-marked signs leading you to the Canyon and ample parking is available on the side streets. 
From my parking spot...McKelligon Canyon Drive ahead!
The road itself (McKelligon Canyon Drive) is well-maintained and has clearly marked bike lanes on both sides which are great walking/running paths.
Rounding a corner

It's a twisting, rolling run that transports you immediately out of the city bustle and into the open wilderness of Franklin Mountain State Park.  Don't let the very first hill scare you- that's the steepest climb.  Midway you will pass the 1500-seat McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater entrance on the left, where concerts, movies and other events are held.  Follow the road as it becomes a one-way turnaround lane.  The picnic shelters and trailheads that line the road and are good places to stop and stretch before the return trip. 
Initial steep climb - I took this pic on the way back so as not to lose momentum :)
Today, along the way, I explored the amphitheater a bit:

View from the entryway

Guess I'm a little early for the show
The road can be crowded (with runners!) between 0600-0800 as soldiers sometimes do PT in the Canyon.  Parking is a little more challenging on Friday mornings (today) which seems the busiest runner day in the Canyon, but I've always found a spot.  Also, be careful during evening hours as the street is not lit at night and during the summer on Thursday evenings I would advise reflective clothing and headlamp/flashlight: Cool Canyon Nights means more traffic on the road.

I have not yet come across the McKelligon Canyon Caveman, recently in the news.  He hasn't bothered me or anyone I know but as always and everywhere, be safe and smart when running, especially if you go solo.

If I visit your hometown, what running route do you recommend?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Knee pain(free)

I am thankful everyday that I am healthy and able to run at all, and every time I run without knee pain I am especially grateful because not long ago, this wasn't so.  This morning I ran 6.2 miles at an 8:06 pace - a good pace, and pain-free.  Felt alright, but not like I did in March when I was really mileaging-up.

At the clinic, I see "knee pain" patients all day long: otherwise healthy soldiers with a generalized, sometimes bilateral knee pain, which they can't pinpoint to a particular trauma or injury, but they know isn't getting any better.  If I had to pick a favorite type of injury, it would be these, because generally speaking, the fix is easy, non-invasive, and really improves the quality of life for people who love to run or otherwise use their lower limbs.

The typical patient usually describes pain medially and inferior to the kneecap - "inside my knee" they often say.  They tell me that the pain is constant but exacerbated with standing from a seated position, running, squats and going up/down stairs.  Sometimes the patient reports some swelling of the knee, sometimes not.
Dan's left knee, ouchie zones to scale

It's patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).  Jumper's knee. Runner's knee.  It has a million names.  It's knee pain, it's happened to me, and it stinks.  Luckily it can be fixed!

This PFPS is due to an imbalance in the quadriceps muscle as it yanks on the knee cap when you use your legs.  The quadriceps are 4 separate muscles each pulling like so:
1.  vastus lateralis 2.  rectus femoris 3.  vastus intermedius 4.  vastus medialis
and if they are not fairly well-balanced, the glide of a knee cap along a femur won't be so smooth or even.  Pain factory!  In general (sample population: my patients + some reading) it's the medial quadriceps that's the weakest - the vastus medialis. 

The army isn't as nice to knees as it should be. There is a lot of pressure to keep running and stay off of "profile"...but a patella is also putting a lot of pressure on a femur, which hurts, HURTS!! and can lead to softening of the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (read: more pain!).
Good lookin' right knee right there!

What do I suggest?  

RICERest (no running for sure! up to 30 days even). Ice.  Compression (eh, not really necessary here).  Elevate (sure).  Eating rice while RICEing - also ok.

Home exercise program for quad strengthening.  Here's a simple truth and a good start: to reduce knee pain, strengthen your quads.  All of them.  Equally.  We need to achieve balance between the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis.  So do those short arc quads, wall squats, leg presses, straight leg raises, seated leg extensions with a tennis ball between your knees, isometrically squeezing the same tennis ball.  I'm not a physical therapist by any means but you get the idea.  Stretch often.  And don't neglect the hammies either while you're at it!

I also like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).  These are great drugs with a good anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect.  I don't use them just when the pain is bad, I use and prescribe them for use everyday for a few weeks in order to enable a lasting anti-inflammatory effect.  I personally like ibuprofen.   

As always I recommend getting personal medical opinions from somewhere besides the internet...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mobility is motility...unfortunately

Every time I run, whether just a PT test, a training run or a marathon, the unspoken goal is really just not to poop my pants*.

Definitely not lady-like, nothing dainty about it, but $#it happens and based on my perfunctory Google search, The Running Bubblies is a common affliction- some consolation there, eh?

So what to do and what causes this anyway?

Per the Mayo Clinic, runner's diarrhea is loose stools during or after a run often occurring in long-distance runners.  The smart folks in Rochester think that this lovely condition can be caused by the sheer motion of running, impaired digestion due to reduced blood flow to the digestive system as blood is shunted preferentially towards muscles, and anxiety before big races. "The bowel weeps for tears unshed," Janelle once told me.

Suggestions to ameliorate include avoiding trigger foods (spicy, gas-producing, fiber-rich), artificial sweeteners, caffeine, alcohol, and keeping well-hydrated.  I started by avoiding my trigger foods for more than a day before a long run.

File:Sucralose2.svg nemesis
I've found some relief by fasting completely at least 3H before running.  I take particular care to avoid Splenda (sucralose) which is probably for the best- your body can't digest it- it's sugar with chlorine atom substitutions and likely a carcinogen anyway.  I also steer clear of pre-run high-fiber meals.  The two days leading up to a marathon, I eat a completely soft diet of miso soup, crackers, dry toast, jello and the like.  Early in the morning before a big race, I actually like to drink a big mug of black coffee which speeds things along wink-wink before the start.

Of course, if you are constipated,  I think we've just found you a good solution!  

Hope this helps!

*Which, for the record, has never happened despite some close calls/sprints home

Beat the heat: hydration for performance

Lots of "army places" are hot and dry and austere and as part of my training, I was lucky enough to participate in a course aimed at physical performance maintenance in hot and unsavory environments.  I would even lump El Paso summers into this category!  This overview is based on what I learned and I've cited the Human Performance Resource Center at the end of the article.  I love this stuff and I hope it gives you a new perspective on adequately meeting your body's hydration needs.

Basically, human thermoregulation is impaired when you lose 2% of your body weight (in water).  When you have lost 3-6%, you experience reduced muscular endurance and strength.  At more than 6%?  That's the heat cramps, exhaustion, stroke, coma threshold.Before any race or long run, I struggle with hydration (fantastic) vs. empty bladder (also quite nice).  My professor advised that we drink copious fluids for the 24H preceding an event and then an additional 14-20 oz 2-3H before exercise, leaving enough time for urine production and micturation and thus adequate hydration without having to tote a full bladder around town (or at least to the next aid station).
Dan is so thirsty he could not keep his eyes open
    During exercise, the key is to maintain this balance- and she suggested 6-12 oz every 15-20 minutes which is best adjusted by the individual sweat rate, a pretty common sense equation...try it on a training run and see how well you are maintaining your fluid balance!
  1. Weigh yourself before and after exercise
  2. Convert to ounces (by multiplying by 16)
  3. Add this to the number of fluid ounces consumed
  4. And divide by minutes exercised
  5. This gives you the volume per minute you need to drink to maintain hydration during exercise
As it turns out, after exercise, we recover best when we replace MORE than the amount of sweat lost- it's not 1:1, more like 3:2 or 2:1, let's just call it 24-32 oz for every pound of water lost.  In truth, the amount depends on the sodium content of the fluid with which you rehydrate after exercise.  Plain water?  You will find yourself hyponatremic and hypo-hydrated within 2H post-exercise.  Better beverages are tomato juice, sports drinks, milk, coconut water.  Or, if water's your thing, drink up but have a food snack with it.  I don't like most sports drinks but I do have Spicy V8, chocolate almond milk, coconut water in the fridge.  I guess it doesn't do me much good unless I drink it...something to work on this summer.

I wish everyone a safe summer running season!
More information: the Human Performance Resource Center
Source: My memory and MAJ R. Rogers, MHA, RD, CSSD, LD, CSCS "Fueling for Optimal Performance" lecture

Late add 5K (Saturday!) Join me!

Today I hope to recruit some friends (plan: pepper everyone with texts) for a last-minute 5K on Saturday benefiting the Lee and Beulah Moor Children's Home, an organization I would like to support as we pursue this process.  Dan's childhood was a messy transience in and out of foster homes and now that I've adopted him, supporting children's services and adopting a little buddy of our own are high on the priority list.  

The last official 5K I ran, the Ft Bliss Turkey Trot (T-giving week, 2012) was my fastest in recent years - I surprised myself with a 2nd place age-group finish.  Dan still gave me a ride home even though I wasn't fast enough to win the first-place Butterball turkey prizes.  And we had a great Thanksgiving dinner with friends even without a guess-how-I-earned-these-vittles story. 

Not expecting great things on Saturday but I'm curious to test myself as I have been focusing on distance running lately.  I use that term loosely of course, I mean, geez, 18 miles this week so far...woowee...I know you actual Distance Runners are doing that each day...half day...whatever...good for y'all :)

Race registration hereMuch appreciate the student/military discounted entry fee! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blah running, good eggs, fast math

3 miles / 23 min on the treadmill early this morning...felt blah!  Another 5.25 this evening...which was just another lesson in "mobility is motility" for my poor GI tract.  I've also been feeling lead-legged for the past few weeks.  I am going to stick it out by breaking up workouts into a morning piece and an evening leftover.  We are in the mid-90s now and the drain of the heat is only going to get worse.  I do not do extremely well in hot weather...gross understatement...I fade when it's over 70...luckily El Paso has 0.00413% humidity...thank you high desert!  My next race is the Mayor's Marathon in Alaska (June 22), not a coincidence :)  I'm doing the half with Dan and some friends who are lucky enough to still live in Alaska.
Meanwhile we are shopping for a new chicken coop as our girls have outgrown their current home, originally intended for bantams and not our two chunky seven-pounder free-rangers who are now 14 months old and still laying 9 eggs in 10 days each.  I did not grow up with poultry as pets but they are so easy to care for.  "What won't the chickens eat?" is a pretty popular game in this house, yes of course we avoid giving them foods or items that could be dangerous.  Nugget is completely uninterested save for their food/poop...which is a magic cycle between dog/hen...guess how that works before you let Nugs lick your face.

I warn you, invite me to your home and I will show up egg-handed.  I would love to overnight eggs to anyone curious about organic fee-range eggs and their crazy golden/orange yolks!  With just 2 hens we no longer need to buy store eggs, not that we expect these chickens to start paying for themselves.

Actually, a few days ago I wondered if/when we could expect to break even on our hen friends here (they are strictly egg layers for us, not meaties) and surprise of surprises, we are in fact losing $1.00 per month per bird!  However, we derive at least a dollar a day in chickentainment so hush hush or they'll shove a bill under the back door.

So to bide my time and soothe my miserly side, I am still looking for good egg recipes... Also looking for neater handwriting, faster miles, and some discipline to do some studying!  Oy!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Race Report: Elevation Crazy in ELP (Transmountain Challenge)

My friend Janelle, what a gal.  She is an El Paso girl, born and raised and returned, and though she recently moved to Upstate New York, she continues to change my life in a positive way.  We used to cross paths in the mini-gym built on the first floor of the hospital for staff to use for the ol' odd hour of the day workouts, and there she was, each morning.  She never ran too far, and never too fast, but I admired her dedication.  We also share the same Red Bull addiction so we were kindred spirits from the start.  

On this day, Janelle, her 1-year old daughter, her husband X and I all found ourselves in the cool October morning at 0530 on the far side of the "southern tip of the Rockies," the Franklin Mountains, that divide our fair town of El Paso into East and West.  We were about to embark on something called the Transmountain Challenge Relay, but soon arose the question of what to do with Baby...the only obvious answer to which is, of course, if you are Janelle, to canx the reasonably apportioned individual relay segments and do the whole 13.1 together, taking Baby with us on this half-marathon run for which none of us had been training, much less with a baby stroller, much less in those wall-like gale-force winds that blow across our high El Paso desert, much less with an elevation profile like this:

Not the best screen capture- so to explain, this is a 13.1 mile course with a 1345 ft gain in the first half, and an equivalent drop on the flip side.

Somehow I had become enamored with Janelle's early am plan and instead of heading like wise people for the closest breakfast establishment (Crave, a favorite, would've really fit the bill) I followed X and Janelle to the starting line, put an extra race number on Baby, tucked her in to protect from the wind and pushed that little girl up and over the mountains.  Janelle and X (who is NOT, per himself, a runner) were in great spirits and I caught their enthusiasm too.  The stroller turned out to be a great contraption for holding phones, car keys, outerwear, snacks, Red Bull, and music thereby enabling us to sing Bon Jovi together and entertain all the folks passing us.  The downhill part was no easier than the uphill, and far more treacherous if you think about it from Baby's POV.  I was so proud of myself for not overturning or injuring or handing off Baby to strangers at any point and as a bonus I found a new respect for those mommas and kiddos out there, getting it done with running strollers each day.  I got nothing to complain about when I get my sleepy self out the door!

This was a great race.  For the addicts, one can achieve "Half and Half" status by additionally running the Flying Horse Half Marathon a week later in Sunland Park.  We were all too busy.  Even Baby.  Maybe next year!
I actually felt great afterwards despite the wind and babywindbreak and I wore my race shirt under my scrubs the next day.  I wasn't the only one :)

Of course, the surprise ending to our burrito-filled post-race stupor, where we all thought we were doing awesome and felt like winners...ended when we saw my BF Leah (of Jim and Barb fame!!):
Here she is pushing 2 little people each under 2 years old!  And that is the downhill stretch of a *&#$&%^ huge mountain!  So proud!

This event was great- well organized for a race with separated start and finish.  Be prepared to walk about 8/10 a mile from designated parking area to the start- it's a good warmup.  Designated buses (timely and frequent!) will deliver you from finish area back to starting line/parking lot.  The race was not overcrowded, but without long empty spaces between runners.  Beautiful scenery.  All skill levels.  Fantastic aid stations with local middle school cheerleaders, scouts, families, music, water, snacks.  Port a potties every few miles, but the road is lined by open BLM land if you needed to water a tree in between facilities.  We were blessed that the city provided for Transmountain Road closure all day for the event.  Delicious burritos at the end.  Motivated soldiers and DHS folks from Border Patrol carried flags and ran in formation.  Some costumes.  One crazy guy pulled a tire, strung to a backpack harness, the whole way.  I didn't see him or his tire at the end but I assume he finished either alone or with help from a brother.  That's just the El Paso way; that's this race.

Janelle and X

Memorial Day and some time on the treadmill

...there are lots of people I remember today.  Thanks to everyone for their service.

Today I'm repeating yesterday's workout, stolen a while ago from Running Times, I believe:
It's called "Minutes" and I can zone out and let my mind wander, and think, and remember.

And it takes me a tidy 40 minutes on the 'mill.

1 min "on"/1min "off" x 20

Yesterday I did my "on" minutes at 7.2 mph and my "off" minutes at 7.8 mph, same today.
So it's a 5 mile workout for me, but it's infinitely adjustable for good/bad/rest days and I particularly like it when I know it's going to be a long day ahead at work.  Sometimes I compete with the stupid stupid LEDs on the treadmill as they countdown and it can make for a lot of pushy workouts that leave me burned and angry-hungry-grumpy by 0600, making me a day-long Captain Crabbykins.  This workout holds me to a reasonable session and leaves me more time to shower (bonus for everyone!).

I am trying to watch my sun exposure as we approach summer so I am doing more time on the treadmill.  Not my favorite thing but neither is a sun burn or its nefarious sequelae. 

Four workouts and a trip

I recently returned from a week in Milwaukee, my first trip ever to Wisconsin.  I loved it.  It was May, and it was refreshingly cool outside, which is not true of most of the places the army sends me.  

First of all, the descent into the airport reminds me so much of going home to Cleveland, but with a ninety-degree tilt to it, what with the lake to the EAST of the city, but still, I maintain a soft mushy midwestern spot in my heart for the Great Lakes, what with their zebra mussels and walleye and memories of my childhood.  

My week was spent in intensive preparation for the board exam I am taking on 17 June.  To write any more about that would jinx me, and to write any more about that is also evidence that I should be studying instead of...writing...but be that as it may, Milwaukee was wonderful.  For the airport alone!  Here, the evidence:
  1. There is an officially labelled "Recombobulation Area."  For reals.  Where one recombobulates with one's footwear and other belongings after passing through security.  Don't think it's a real word but it certainly should be.
  2. There is a second hand bookstore, Renaissance Books, in the airport, which is so great, because the prices are reasonable, the selection astounding, and the place was just massive, not one of those crowded places with bestsellers/self-helpers only.  This place had rare books/first-editions, too.
  3. Ping-pong table in the middle of the terminal.  Awesome.  Sorry to the kid and his dad who were playing, I ran into you not knowing of the table of greatness ahead of me.
  4. Cheese, real cheese, for sale in the airport gift shops.  To include cheese curds.  I had quite the snack.  Did not manage to save any for Dan, or the 3H delay I had in my layover in Las Vegas.
I did manage 4 running workouts while in Milwaukee, thanks to the well-appointed workout center in the hotel.  I was also combating a super-annoying ulcer, so the workouts weren't too energetic or pretty (a good match for my digestive system) but I got up and did them and I am plenty happy with that.

Workout 1: 6 miles at 8:12 min/mile
Workout 2: 2 miles, alternating slow/fast for each 0.25 mile.  totally subjective workout.  love.
Workout 3: 4 miles, good pace for me at the time, just about 8:30 each mile
Workout 4: 1 mile.  I felt like death. Did some squats and arm workouts in the weight room.  Mostly just felt like death though.

Happy to be home!

Race Report: Fort Bliss Army 10-Miler Qualifier

This is easy for me to talk about.  This race was 10 May, aka too soon (3w) after the SLC marathon.  I finished in 1:20 and some change but my L knee was nagging the whole way as it has been for about 6 months. I ran this same qualifier last year the week I first arrived at Fort Bliss and "made it" (top 3 in each age group by gender) so I felt compelled to do it again, plus it earns points for the Commander's Cup plus I'm just one of those people who would feel like doodoo if I didn't do it again plus I think my boss was expecting me to run as well.  So, in sum, I ran faster than last year, felt worse, still made it to work in time, and earned some unit "points" for the hospital.  I feel like the hospital just runneth over with excellent runners, which in my age group (30-39, women) is totally true- the two girls ahead of me were RATHER MORE THAN SLIGHTLY AHEAD.  But try I will- the re-qualifier is in August (oh my the heat, the heat!) and I hope I am in town to defend my position and I hope those other gals are not.  My excuse is that I am a student, and soon I won't be, and once I pass The Big Test (17 June!) then the running and training shall truly begin.  Here's hoping.  In other news, I ate this today.  All of it. Browned butter will change your life.

Race Report: SLC Marathon (10th annual!)

For me the 2013 Salt Lake City Marathon was an exercise in atonement, as I failed to make it to the February  El Paso Marathon start, (easy to do when sick in bed, they say) and after some research Dan and I decided to jet out to SLC for the marathon weekend, a weekend I will try hard to replicate each year.  There is a race here for everyone, a full marathon, a half, a 5K as well as a marathon bike tour.  Wheelchair division too.

First of all, a Saturday race is great for our work schedules.  We were able to enjoy a post-race day with our friends Barb and Jim (parents to BF Leah) and fly home leisurely on Sunday without the if-I-don't-run-the-next-10-miles-in-under-8-apiece-I-will-miss-my-flight stress.  

I saw a smattering of vendors at the expo but we barely made it from the airport on Friday night before the expo ended so no shoppie-shop time for me.  There is no race-day packet pick up.  Dan and I enjoyed a pre-race pasta dinner for two at Caffe Molise, across from the Salt Palace Convention Center/packet pick up.  Had it not been for the marathon in <12H, I would have destroyed my plate of penne with goat cheese, but I wisely stopped with only a slightly distended abdomen instead of going all in. On the to-do list for next time.
Marathon morning, I awoke to the fun game of figuring out what I'd packed that could get me through an unseasonably (and suddenly!) rainy and chilly few hours.  Bright side: no chance of overheating or sunburn...I added an old thermal LS shirt under my usual short sleeves and shorts getup.  Jim had black coffee brewing for Dan and I and luckily he was able to take us the the starting corral at the University of Utah, cozily surrounded by the stylish academic buildings and Olympic Legacy Bridge, from the 2002 Winter Olympics.