Sunday, September 22, 2013

Losing weight, winning the obesity war: San Antonio.

San Antonio, according to Men's Health, is the 7th fattest city in America.  

Texas in general maintains 5 of the top 10 fattest cities:

1.  Corpus Christi, TX
2.  Charleston, WV
3.  El Paso, TX (yikes!!)
4.  Dallas, TX
5.  Memphis, TN
6.  Kansas City, MO
7.  San Antonio, TX
8.  Baltimore, MD
9.  Houston, TX
10.  Birmingham, AL

But unlike these other cities, San Antonio has dumped a lot of money into overcoming this stigma and in August, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District announced that the obesity rate in San Antonio dropped from 35.1% to 28.5% over the past 2 years, per the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.  The big (little?) deal here is that San Antonio is now below the state obesity rate, which has actually increased over the past 2 years.

I moved away from San Antonio a few years ago, and returning this summer I can absolutely see the difference that this money made in the city's fitness emphasis.

There are salad bars in schools.  And at even the most authentic restaurants, I see lighter, lower-fat options highlighted.
This morning, the first cool morning of the season, I ran the Salado Greenway and stumbled on a sign at the Tobin Trailhead indicating "Free fitness classes here!" sponsored by the Mayor's Fitness Council.

The trail system itself has been expanded for miles.  It's well-groomed, superbly maintained, and a haven for fitness enthusiasts and wildlife.  I plod along with walkers, runners, cyclists (even ellipticyclists!) of all levels and body compositions there. 

Along the Riverwalk, I now see bicycles for use- free for 30 minutes, after that a nominal fee- which can be turned in at various locations around town.  If you're smart, you could bike all over town for free, relaying from bike turn in to next bike turn in.

The city buses (VIA public transport Bike and Ride) have bike racks on the front.  No extra fee to pop your bike on the bus!

All this comes to a total of $15.6M.  That's a lot of money in these tricky economic times, but what a savings in terms of easing our future healthcare cost burden.  I'll call it a victorious battle in the war on obesity, which is now classified as a disease.  And what a triumph for the 70,000 San Antonians who can now call themselves free of obesity.   

Though the city of San Antonio fights on, the larger problem remains that the Texas obesity rate itself is just far too high.

What is your city doing about this epidemic??  I'm not sure what El Paso plans.  I saw several new trails under construction last I visited, but sadly there isn't the overall metropolitan fitness gestalt that I feel here in San Antonio.

Read more here:
City of San Antonio Obesity Rate Drops Below State Average
Mayor's Fitness Council: a citywide 8-week challenge

Monday, September 16, 2013

Plantar fasciitis...I haz it

Anyone else out there walk like a zombie first thing in the morning?  And I don't mean just because you haven't yet received your coffee infusion.  The arch of my right foot aches-angrily-in the morning but it usually gets better after a few hours.  I've been getting by with stretching and some insanely poignant and painful massage directly where it hurts, here:

Yep, a gross foot, clearly I run and wear boots all day
but I might start taking ibuprofen more often.  And I was just getting over several months of knee pain, so I feel a cozy familiarity with this, never straying too far from a nagging pain while I run...argh...

The pain is just bad enough to sometimes convince me on rainy and early mornings to hit snooze and not run.  It's hard to get up early, harder still when thunderstorms lurk outside, and the morning run is a complete casualty when you add a pesky pain into the mix.

If stretching and ibuprofen and some relative rest don't help, then I might try those dreaded night splints, you know, the ones you see in Sky Mall.  And after that, there's always a corticosteroid injection but I will never let it come to that...pointy needle into the arch of my foot, why no thank you.

The plantar fascia itself is kinda cool, and not just because I see a lot of foot and ankle problems so I'm pretty familiar with the anatomy there at the business end of our legs.   There is actually more to plantar fasciitis than you'd think, it's not just an inflammation of the bottom of a foot, in fact, lots of studies would hint that it's not really inflammation at all and it might just be little tears in the plantar fascia there along the bottom of our feet.  As we get older, or fatter, or increase our level of activity the overuse and overstress causes the tears and hence the pain.  Though the PF spans across our feet, every time I've seen someone with PF, and in my own feet, the pain clenches down on the same spot- along the medial surface of the arch, but also close to the heel.  I try to massage the area, violently, but that seriously hurts.  Some folks roll a tennis ball under their arch while seated in a chair, and damn, that hurts too.  Just a warning.  

Some smart people think it might not even be a fascia problem at all, but a muscle that's irritated.  Hard to say.  

Maybe it's just time for new boots?

I wonder if my knee pain caused me to run out of my normal gait pattern and somehow I've brought this nonsense on myself?  I seem to collect lower extremity pain in seasons and constellations.  If history proves itself, right achilles tendinosis is up next...I'll keep ya posted!

Any tips or remedies for helping me out of this plantar fasciitis/fasciosis mess?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Race review: Gruene 10K and a bonus victory

 Gruene Hall is such a great Texas landmark.  It's the oldest continuously-operating dance hall in the state.  It oozes with real charm, the ambiance and wall-memorabilia the utter envy of artifical places like TGIFs and Applebee's.  I love that George Strait got his start here in the 1970s and the creaky wood floor just melts my heart.  Most nights, live music performs on stage at the Hall.  I love the cash-only bar and the sound of the screen doors creaking shut around the building.  Even more, I love that the town of Gruene, for the 4th year in a row, hosted a 10K race today.  

Nice shirt!
 I'd been here before for the Tour de Gruene cycling event, in a November a few years past.  This morning was mildly cool, with sunlight easing in by about 0830.  Make no mistake, despite the gentle setting this is hill country and this race will surprise you with its hill teeth!

I arrived at about 0700 for the 0800 race start.  There's no other race than the 10K and the simplicity is nice.  Packet pick-up is within Gruene Hall itself.

 The race starts in a grassy knoll across the street from the Hall, the same starting area as used for the cycling events.

I loved the course.  I loved hearing roosters along the way especially in light of recent events.   The scenery is hilly, farmy, and the course winds over the Gruene River and under a few railroad trestles.  Just lovely, and a few degrees cooler than the city.

There was a good crowd for the event and a very nice post-race gathering on the grounds of the Hall.  A live band played, massages were available, so too beer, sausage wraps, water, fruit, etc.  The German roots of Gruene seemingly dictate that a sausage or wurst is involved with most every event held there.  Fine by me!

I met my goal and squeaked in just under 8min/mile. I'm happy with it and those hills (when will I learn that Hill Country is hilly?!) tested my courage, which I like every now and then.

A great morning race and a perfect start to my weekend!

And now for the real highlight of the day...

After the race, on my 30-minute drive back to San Antonio, I needed a lift from my good friend caffeine.  I stopped at an on-the-way Einstein Bros Bagels.  I won't tell you where.  But I needed the loo.  Before coffee.  

Just in time, I arrived at the shop's lovely and clean one-seater.  All was well, la-di-dah, and another person had barely knocked on the door as I was about to exit.  Good timing!  Time for coffee, I tell myself, and I'm a flush and a hand wash and $2.99 away from my delicious beverage from a magic bean.  

But what happens next forever changed my flushie...try flushie...uh-oh.  And though my first instinct is to low-crawl out of there, I have one exit only and I just cannot leave the commode as-is for the next waiting lady.  What to do?!  My husband's in a different time zone and I'm not sure our relationship is up to these sort of situations anyway.  I can't feign death plausibly, so I'll tell you what I did.  I pried open the tank, evaluated my patient, diagnosed the situation, ran a few tests and I fixed that thing in about 15 seconds. 

I maybe have opened a toilet tank once before.  


So I'm calling it right now:  this is the most amazing thing I have ever done and I will take this victory even over meeting my pace goal at the 10K.  I AM A TOILET SURGEON!!  You cannot imagine the unspoken pride with which I held the door for the lady after me.  Or the celebratory manner in which I purchased and drank my coffee (why yes, I will go for the vanilla syrup today, tyvm!).  I called D immediately and shared with him the fantastic news, which he said I should share with you as well.  I am aware of the yuck factor.  I apologize.  But this is my real life.  You just have to play pick-up plumber every now and then.  One's dignity deserves it.  And if you've ever doubted the existence of God, take this lesson as proof that He is there and watching over everything :)

I hope I am just as good with my [human] patients.

Also, toilets are less complicated than I previously thought.

Happy running all!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dodgeball Day

I was never much of a standout in gym class.  I really suck at gym class games.

Today I re-confirmed that dodgeball is just as scary now as it was in elementary school.  I could've used D's help for sure.  Or at least his silhouette, to cover and conceal me :)

This morning my peers and I played a few rounds with the folks at the Center for the Intrepid (CFI).

In case you don't know, CFI is a revolutionary place where unprecedented things are happening for the people who deserve them the most.  It's too earthshattering for me to merely describe, so feel free to look into it and all the people it touches.

One of these legs is not like the other
Today our opponents included a group of people who are currently receiving therapy at CFI.  These folks are not only undergoing several phases of recovery and therapy but many also have prostheses and braces and other orthotic devices of all sorts.

$#!&'s about to get real
 It was a strange feeling, to try and bean a guy missing an arm and leg, but that's also the pith of my experience today:  people are people, regardless of the pieces and parts, whether original or replacement.  And yes they merit dodgeball-beaning just as much as anyone else.  It's a lesson we intellectually understand but can't fully grasp until facing an amputee about to gun one's self down with a terrifyingly powerful and speedy rubber ball.   But it's the same lesson my 12 year old stepdaughter helps me learn, too.  To me she's a goofy and quirky and splendid tween, just as she should be, despite cerebral palsy.

At the end of the day, I wish I was better at dodgeball.  Each and every person I attempted to knock over caught the ball, forcing me out, just like in 4th grade.

Read more here:
The Center for the Intrepid
The IDEO Brace

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Off topic: In trouble with the law!

Two days ago, a letter arrived at my home:

I never even got a detention as a kid, now this??

It looks like the authorities have caught up with us!

To me, when I take on the responsibility of a pet, even a farm animal, that means I am committed to taking care of their needs.  This absolutely includes $6 chickens.

Luckily my husband indulges my values.

El Paso ordinance prohibits our chickens from living within 30 feet of our neighbors houses.

To do this in our tiny backyard, we broke out some my 8th grade math teacher, yes, you were right after all...and we found the one spot where we can set a coop for our chickens.

D reports that our chicken reinvestigation (today) went like this:

"You only have these two hens?"
"No roosters?"
So only these two hens?"
"Are you planning on getting any more hens?"
"And you only have these two hens?"
"No roosters?"

It's a good thing I'm out of town as I might have gotten a tad crabbier than D is physically able.  Bless him!

The odd thing is, we have some very noisy people in our neighborhood.  And some pretty quiet hens.

And we have several other families in our neighborhood who collect EVERY DAMN LAWN ORNAMENT EVER PRODUCED for full display, full time, in the front yard.  Some other families believe that "lawn ornament" is another word for "nonoperational vehicle."  Oy.

If you slice it like I do, D and I are running a glorified bird feeder.  This arrangement reduces our kitchen waste, provides entertainment, reduces the number of insects, and provides a great organic protein food source while preventing us from spending money on eggs from battery hens, who are raised in certainly miserable conditions.

But yeah, in El Paso, apparently two people and their two hens are the real criminals...not the raging drug problem or even the punk kid who smashed in four of our windows with a hammer several months ago.

We've had these hens for 18 months and if I find out who decided to call the authorities and complain (it's not our neighbors, who on all sides find the gals entertaining and love the free fresh eggs, and no, there is no smell), I would like to pelt this person with my organic free range eggs.  And to anyone who thinks that our hens are lowering property values, my gals can't even be seen from the front of the house.  I would also refer you to the piles of trash in some people's driveways or the aforementioned lawn ornament hoarders.  I'll take this leap, chicken keeping is part of our American way of life, and a link to my heritage.  And a hen or two can really class up the, well, our neighborhood in fact.  I may be sightly prejudiced and also reaching a tad, with that American way of life bit...but hey, what would pioneers do?  Raise some damn hens, that's what.

The total penalty for our eggregious chicken lifestyle is that we bought a new, larger coop big enough for them to exercise and lounge around in since their free-range days are over.  I admit, though, I am still going to let them free-range in the evening and on weekends.  They deserve it.  

I suspect D's initial instinct included returning the chickens to the farm where I purchased them.  I would've understood this, especially since we are going to be apart for 2014 as well, but he knows how much I love raising them and how much I love my Chicken TV and I love him even more when he, in addition to being Pack Leader, became Chicken Defender on my behalf while I'm away.  Even though the chickens are not his favorite thing in the world, he does a large portion of the coop-cleaning.  100% of it if you want to be exact.

El Paso Environmental Services, nice to know you have your $#!& together.  You might be the only agency in the city about which that can be said.  Thanks for keeping long-distance marriages strong by providing chicken challenges.  El Paso, I still love you...knuckles...

Of note, the local Walmart and pet store both sell 40# bags of chick starter feed, laying hen feed, and sunflower seed as well as egg wipes, chicken waterers and egg cleaning solution.  Hmmm....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When did races become so pricey?

While doing some booooring online training this morning (all morning, rather, which is about to morph into an all-day) I again failed to find the end of the internet but I did register for another race from the Running in the USA online race calendar.

During my search for local races, I stumbled on the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon and Half, scheduled for November 17 and I was all ready to sign up until I found this nonsense:
And now I have many questions.

Most of all, when the $&@!*$ did road races become so expensive?

I know nothing about race direction or organization but I am very curious about how the race fees are broken down.

Let's do the math: if I signed up today for the half, that's $120/13.1 miles or $9.16 per mile. Does this seems prohibitively expensive to anyone else?  I measure everything in plane tickets these days, and that's a plane ticket home for me.  Roundtrip.  

Or maybe those are fair prices nowadays and I've just been lucky enough to stumble on races that are more inexpensive.

I ran my first marathon (Cleveland, OH) in 2002 and I solidly remember the price in the $40 range.  Today, it's increased to $95 for the full and $80 for the half (if I register two to three months out).  We all know that the RNR series is more expensive than other races, but $120 for a half marathon is too steep for me.

So to satisfy my urge for another morning race I signed up for the Gruene 10K instead of the RNR Half.  I love Gruene Hall and the environs.  And I like the $30ish pricetag, which is $5.65 per mile, not that that's a useful measure of anything other than my inability to register for a race early, ever.  Cost aside, I'd really rather support a local club than the megawatt Rock and Roll series anyway.  And the race is next weekend.  

Happy Saturday running...back to my online training...zzzzzzzz

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pub run pre-cap... AND confessions of a running shoe hoarder

I hate to do this to you...

But after I raved about the Mizuno Wave Rider 16s

I am going to wear an old pair of running shoes to the Pub Run tonight.

Good thing I brought a collection of Wave Rider 15s with me when I came out to San Antonio for the summer! 

My shoe cycle goes like this:ones with high mileage (yellow) are phased into the "for Army training" pile and the newer ones (purple and red) are for longer runs, and the newest (the 16s) are saved a third category, races and race-specific training.  It's just common sense, I don't have a shoe problem!  I promise!

A reflective belt really brings the picture together
I will upset myself if my new shoes get dirty too soon, I'm serious!!

Ridiculous, yes, but this is the real world where running shoes don't show up without $$ and I love to keep them somewhat clean and in good repair as long as I can.

Of course, I'll still run the $#!% out of them rain or shine or meatballs or whatever.

Just without assorted pub gunk stuck all over them.

So the uniform of the evening includes:

I've never even been to Nebraska
A shirt that the most generous friend in the world purchased for us gals since we somehow eked degrees out of the good ol' U of Nebraska! Not sure about the peace and love portions but hey hey it's a good looking shirt!

Hope to see you there!  And if you can't make it, I'll be sure to post some pictures tomorrow.  But it'd be better if you attended...just sayin'.

Happy Friday!  Where are you on the shoe life cycle?  And are you doing a pub run tonight?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bikram Yoga Benefits?

During my foray into Bikram Yoga, I googled "Bikram Yoga health benefits" repeatedly (remember the definition of insanity, anyone?) in a vain attempt to find something specific.  I found things like "reduced anxiety" (a tad subjective, I think) and "body detoxification" (so is pooping) and "blood thinning" (scary, quite scary...and nebulous).  

These intangibilities bother me no end!

In my yoga stint, I didn't feel particularly thin of blood (or thin at all, really) but I did sleep better.  Nothing is as comforting as evidence so I did a literature search and found one salient article by some great neuromuscular scientists, Brian Tracey and Cady Hart, out of Colorado State.  I love that these guys admit in their abstract that there really hasn't been much in the way of high-grade yoga research.  Hence their study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research!

After 8 weeks of 3x weekly 90 minute Bikram yoga classes (and for anyone just joining us on our yogavestigation, that means hot hot hot hot yoga), the study group of 32 young and healthy but mostly sedentary adults had stronger and more flexible hamstrings, stronger glutes, and increased shoulder flexibility as compared to their non-yogi counterparts.  Of course, these are not facts and science, merely "facts" and "science" dusted with the stink of statistical magic.

Feel free to read the study, but be aware of the limitations--we already could surmise that physical activity of any variety is a boon to anyone who is mostly sedentary.  This study did not dwell on blood thinning or inner peace, but still demonstrated that Bikram Yoga has a positive impact on flexibility and strength, two key components of physical fitness.

So what is my takeaway?  Yoga is fun to do with a friend.  It's a nice break.  It's nice to relax in a hot room in the evening.  But it's not going to increase my VO2 max or transform me into a skinny mini any time soon.  So I'd better keep running.

Good thing the Pub Run is for (TOMORROW)...more on that in a bit!

Who wants to argue with me about the benefits of yoga?  I liked it, I really did, I promise...but I'm not sure I'm a Bikram devotee...

Race review: I know why they call it a WHINE run now!

 The 2013 San Antonio Road Runners Labor Day 5 Mile Whine Run...
Figure 1.  Graph is to scale.

My earlier guess was unfortunately correct.

Well, umm, sooooo....AFTER the race we had fun at the Dry Comal Creek Vineyard.  Shady lawn, live music, vendors and club tents, hot dogs, wine, wine glasses, cheese, crackers, grapes, sodas, water, plenty of places to sit and relax and drink in the natural (and grapey) beauty.

I was not well prepared for the hills, but I loved the challenge.  Whining was in full force by, oh, 3 minutes after the start (see Figure 1).  

On a positive note:

Good swag: Chilled towels at the end, great after-party at the vineyard proper.  Nice purple technical t-shirt in men's and women's sizes.
I leave town and he starts wearing purple...oh my!

Great Support:  water and carb beverages every mile or so, also chilled soaked sponges.  Some families and neighborhood residents cheered outside with cowbells, but mostly a drawn out internal monolog with myself, wondering how much D would tease me if I bowed out of the race at various points. (The answer is quite a bit, not that he was faring any better :) )  Plenty of port-a-potties along the course if you knew where to look*.

The course itself was about 1/2 mile removed from the winery/vineyard, in a new subdivision.  It almost felt like we were either in the Truman Show or running through a road race-based advertisement for a hilly and up-scale housing development, but with a $25 entry fee and a chance to challenge myself on some hills, I would do this race again.

I would visit the winery/vineyard again too, even without the race!

There is a 5-mile walk option that begins 30 minutes before the 5 mile run.

We had so much fun we forgot to take pictures and sample the wine, which, I was told, was quite tasty.

The San Antonio Road Runners put on a great event- and I hope to be able to attend another SARR race.  I am not a champion runner but I do appreciate my health and the time I spend on the road or treadmill and I feel like the SARR is a welcoming club for all aficionados, regardless of natural ability.  I am as always very thankful for the military discount.

*Which I didn't.  In other news I definitely had The Running Bubblies midway through and I am very sorry to the owners of the back yard I surreptitiously visited.

Product review: Mizuno Wave Rider 16

In the summer of 2010 I made a big-girl decision and for the first time bought running shoes at a dedicated running store in Warner Robins, Georgia: Run Fit Sports

Before that, I bought all my "running" shoes online or at close-out sales, without much thought beyond price and color scheme.  I suffered shredded ankles and horrendous blisters for my naivete.

As evidenced in the header picture, for the past three years the only running shoes I wear are Mizuno Wave Riders (the 13s, 14s, 15s and now 16s), for no other reason than the perfect-for-me fit.  I do my best to buy them on sale or to buy older versions.  

I never thought any new shoe would supplant my love for the Wave Rider 15 until D gave me the brand new Wave Rider 16 for my recent birthday.

So I have a completely non-technical and biased review for you!

I love anything orange, err, apricot?!

I ran 5 miles in them so far and I love the semi-soft smooth ride already.  As compared to the Wave Rider 15, I feel that they are lighter,  constructed of a more flexible sole, and with great arch support but maintaining the same roomy toebox that I love.  The heel seems identical.  Sizing is true to older versions of the Wave Rider.  I feel weightless in these puppies!  

I am "meh" on the colors available, but I am about to buy another pair to have in reserve...I must really love them!  For Wave Rider fans, the 16 will not disappoint pains to me to admit that I enjoy the 16-level ride more than the Wave Rider 15.  

My only concern is the revamped construction of the upper - it's a stretchy mesh fabric now without the buttressing leather framework as in previous Wave Riders.  As I walk I can see my toes pressing through.  If it holds for the next several hundred miles, I'm fine with it and it surely is the reason the Wave Rider 16 is noticeably lighter, even to my uncalibrated legs.

Purchased from Running Warehouse for ~$104.00 (aka more than I've ever spent on a running shoe!).  Love their 2-day free shipping policy.

Other colors include a pink-ish variant and white/purple.  I like the bold men's color options better.

Any other Wave Rider fans??  Who else has transitioned to the 16?