Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Doing it right

Not much left!  #runningbadgeofhonor...also, time for new shoes :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dehydration causes uterine cramps. Science.

Every so often during my early morning treadmill hillwork, I get muscle cramps when running.  

No, not leg or back cramps or even a side stitch.  

I experience what feels like menstrual cramps- especially during a real tough workout.  I thought maybe at first it was due to my posture, or maybe a case of the Bubblies, but it happened again yesterday on my 3 miles of steep hillwork, where I was holding a pretty quick pace, the day after my PR 10K.  I thought maybe my rectus abdominis was sore from some ab work a few days ago, but no- this was exactly like a menstrual cramp, and it lasted a few minutes, but was so bad I had to stop running and drink water until it washed away.  The funny thing is, whenever this happens, it's never during that time of the month, it's usually in the week or two preceeding it.  I think. 

So I did some research into my chief suspect:

Turns out, there are lots of internet voices out there who have dealt with this same situation and unfortunately been sneered at by their primary care provider, with no help!

But I can help with what I've learned.  I hope!!

It's all in our brains, to begin with, well...sort of.  Here's our pituitary gland:  It's less colorful in real life. 
Not a scrotum, but yes, that's a uterus.  Grumpy one!
 The posterior pituitary produces 2 hormones as shown above: ADH (antidiuretic hormone) and oxytocin, and as they are made in the same factory, these chemical structures look very similar to our body.  

ADH is produced when we are dehydrated, and acts on our kidneys to help us stay hydrated by decreasing the amount of water we eliminate in urine, hence "anti-diuretic."  

Oxytocin acts on the uterine muscle.  It's primary purpose it to cause uterine contractions for baby delivery!  You may have heard of pitocin, or even used it to induce labor- it's based on the hormone oxytocin.  

When we are dehydrated, like during an especially strenuous aerobic workout, our uterine oxytocin receptors see the extra ADH and think it's oxytocin and commence cramping.  When we then drink water, our body no longer releases the ADH, and the spillover to our uterus stops.  Yay, no more cramping!  Save that for when it's actually my period please.  Actually, please don't save it at all :)

By this same logic, staying well hydrated during your period can ameliorate those cramps. 

This is exactly why pregnant women should stay hydrated, especially when feeling crampy!  And with the holidays nigh upon us and August and September the months with the most birthdays, I'm sure some gals out there might use this information in the near future :)

I also wondered why this cramping usually only occurred a week or two before my period, similar to what many of the anonymous gals found on some women's health websites- and this study here found that in nonpregnant women, during the pre-menstrual (the two weeks before your period) phase of the cycle, ADH is four times (!) more potent than oxytocin in causing uterine cramping. What a naughty little chemical this ADH is!

Wow, do I ever feel like drinking more water before heading to my early morning workouts- overnight dehydration certainly plays a role, too.  And I'm pretty sure this dehydration situation is why I felt these cramps yesterday.

I hope this helps those who have been turned away and made to feel that their pain was unimportant.

Of course, persistent abdominal pain should always be checked out with your health care provider.   

Please tell me I'm not the only one out there with this??

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weston Wright 10K: better than a PR

Yesterday I woke up early, hit snooze several times and then hurried to Roosevelt Park for the 5th annual Weston Wright "Lighting the Way" 10K.  

Several hundred people were there, and the race was professionally organized by iRun TexasSplit Second Productions with a great crowd of racers, supporters, volunteers and Lighthouse for the Blind staff.
Are there post-race scooby snacks?
 Lots of raffle prizes (multiple $100 and $50 gift certificates for running stores, restaurants, museums, movie tickets) and if I’d known about the used-shoe drive before leaving El Paso, I would’ve encouraged my entire Wave Rider collection to serve a better purpose.  

The race registration/packet pick-up began at 7.  Chip timed races (10K and 5K) began at 8.  I had not been to this park before but people held signs directing drivers to the race area (so helpful since I am not familiar with the neighborhood!) which set the tone for this extremely well organized race.  I arrived later than expected (Snoozy Susie) but I found parking, picked up my number and race shirt and visited the toilette all in about 30 minutes.  The only problem is that we used the park’s restroom facilities, which, while way nicer than a portapotty, meant there were only 2 stalls per gender for the entire crowd.  Still, there wasn’t a very big line.  I had to hurry from car to registration and back, but I also arrived 30 minutes later than I planned.  Planned.”

The race course is on the Riverwalk- but by Riverwalk, I mean the extension of the Riverwalk south of downtown and the Riverwalk you’re thinking of.  It’s the Mission Reach trail, heading quietly for the Mission San Jose and others. The gentle riverbank hills were very pleasant and the entire course is contained on the pathways.  The race organizers had placed mile markers and cautionary “Runners on Roadway!” signs to warn fellow trail users.  The aid stations were at mile markers 1.5 and 2.5 of this mostly out-and back trail.  The 5K split from the 10K just after the 1.5 mile aid station, with a little loop off the main trail, then joining up for the return trip.

I loved that at all turns and intersections, several people held large arrow signs pointing exactly where to run.  No confusion there!  

I ran the first mile too fast: 7:22.  At mile 2 I was at 14:48.  Then I became a reasonable person and slowed down, drank some water, and finished 48:27 meeting my goal of running (barely!) in the 7:40s.  I PRed and took home first overall female but I’ve got to hand it to the men’s race, those guys were incredible.  The top several guys were running 5 to low 6 minute pace.  Yikes!!  I am not in that league for sure.

Proof, because I don't believe it either!
 Weston Wright (bib number 1!) was there with his family.  He looks about 8 or 9 years old and he is blind, like many of the participants and volunteers.  This is his race and has been for the last 5 years, and it specifically supports the Blind Children's Education Fund.  The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind oversees this event with the support of their employees, members and board of directors who showed up in force to run the race and create the event.  Beamer, the stuffed lighthouse mascot was there too.  Yeah, I had to think about it for a sec, too :)

Beamer!  Or there's a barber at the finish line.
 In other news, despite what the race pictures probably show, I did not knock down a blind woman at the finish line!!  I just happened to round the final corner and come up behind a woman who dropped her red-tipped cane right in front of me.  I stopped to pick it up for her but she was able to recover herself but I am very nervous that the finish line photos show what looks like me, grabbing a cane and deciding to fell a blind woman to beat her to the finish line.

I met many great people and their families and this race has the cozy feel of a tight-knit family reunion.  The friendly folks at produced the event and invited me to come to their running store’s weeknight social runs – I’ll try while here in town.  I felt so personally welcomed that I want to check it out.  Runners in general are such a friendly bunch.  Except for me, per the finish line incident photos :)
I was inspired by a very nice large woman in her first 5K run/walk, huffing and puffing slowly up the inclines and walking much of the course but I tell you this race is a far bigger victory for her than me regardless of what the chip time says.  No I don’t think she is also visually impaired but if you really want to be extra inspired, we can just say that she is.  She is the reason why San Antonio wins.  

The price is beyond reasonable - $30 – and students get a $15 (50%!) discount.  I think an entire high school cross-country team showed up!  I consumed about $50 worth of coffee, bagels, donuts, fruit, beer, water so I should probably write Beamer a check :)

If I’m in town next year at this time, this race is on my MUST DO list!  5 stars!

It didn't rain but it wanted to
 Next up, I registered for a Turkey Trot 5K/10K nearby on 23 November: the Boerne YMCA Turkey Trot.  Boerne is hilly, so I’ll consider myself warned.  That’s my last weekend here in SA but I’m glad to have found a Turkey Trot held before Thanksgiving Day as I will be driving across Texas that morning.  I’ve done one every year since 2012 and I’d hate to miss my 2nd annual.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Working out with a significant other: yay or nay?

I already have my answer to this question.

Solid NAY.

Not that my marriage is in trouble, tyvm, but in my relationship, this is how things go, unspoken yet decided long ago.

When D and I first met a few years ago, we lived across the street from each other.  I'd come home from work, walk Nugget, run some errands, etc.  He'd come home from work and play Call of Duty.

Then at 6 or so I'd walk over, we'd spend a little time together, then head to the gym followed by a dinner trip to Central Market.  He still talks about Central Market and it might have been a big reason he came to visit me in San Antonio this summer...he's pretty well known in the deli section.

One of the first memorable things boyfriend-level D ever said to me was, "have you ever thought about joining a gym?"  - not the immediate reaction one desires from a romantic partner- but it had its intended effect and I joined D's gym and our daily gym push became a steady part of the relationship.

Mostly because we parted ways at the door.

I wanted a boyfriend with fitness priorities, someone who could be a built in gym-buddy who would encourage me to exercise on days when I'd rather gorge myself on Cheetos-- someone for whom I'd do the same.

I did not want a sweaty dude helping me benchpress a 45# bar.  I don't want him, or anyone, yelling "YOU GOT IT!!!! GET SOME!!!! UP UP UP!!!" and D certainly needn't spend his time at the gym doing that.  First off, I don't like to be scrutinized and I can't fathom the frustration I would feel at him.  His only interest in the sets/reps/weights or miles I run is that he wants me to meet my personal goals.  If I needed help, 100% he would be there.  But I go do my girlie things at the gym and he does his bicep things and we meet up at the end.  Sometimes I meet up with him in the middle if there are too many girls in his vicinity.  Also, by vicinity I mean "entire gym." :)

Shortly after we started dating, D got orders to Korea and left.  I still went to what was our gym, and I liked the memories of our gym time, reminding me he would only be gone a year. It's the same gym I go to now, actually, that we are once again in different time zones.

I don't want to make it sound like my husband is a gym rat, but it's part of the job, and a way we both eliminate stress.  We also eat a lot of ice cream and brownies and take naps and there's a whole lot of Candy Crush that gets played in our house.  And sometimes we even skip the gym, too.  Or go separately.  But in the same vein, if we both want to run at the gym, we do try to get treadmills next to each other and just maybe, maybe, I'm not above reaching over and pressing the "increase speed" button on his :)

Working out separately is just our personality style but also a way to cope.  We've been stationed apart often, so while keeping each other in mind, we do what we must, whether work or gym, and then come together at the end to enjoy each other's company; it's the way we live.  My feeling is that if I relied on D to be side-by-side with me at the gym, I'd be lost in the sauce all the times that we live in different places.

At the same time, I do see couples (successful ones, too, I assume!) at the gym who work-in sets with each other on each piece of equipment.  That works for some, but I'd go crazy.  I don't even like to chit chat at the gym, much less have to cooperate with D.

In other news, I successfully weeded out that pesky Call of Duty habit.  Other video-game widows out there, email me for advice, it can be done!!

What do you think?  Do you work out with your significant other?  Let me know!

Monday, October 21, 2013

How do you find your next race? Next up: Weston Wright 10K!

Just as the El Paso racing season kicks off with some fantastic local events, I'm headed back to San Antonio until Thanksgiving.  

So I found a race for next weekend, along the wonderful Mission Trail.

All the time that I've lived or worked in San Antonio, and I've never heard of this race before:
The 5th Annual Weston Wright "Lighting the Way" 5K/10K, to support the children's education arm of the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind.  I'm happy to support this organization and from the website, it seems like Weston himself, an 8 year old, might be there too.

Come run with me!  I signed up for the 10K.  It's on Saturday!  You can register on race-day, and I love that the registration website has a "sleep-in special" where you can donate even if you know that you won't make it to race morning-- it's a website that knows my husband better than I do! :)

I find most of my races on Road Race Runner or Running In The USA race calendar, but these are not all-inclusive. How do you find upcoming races?  I feel like I miss a lot of great local events...

Friday, October 18, 2013

McKelligon Canyon Run, 6 months later

Autumn in the high desert, as interpreted by my cell phone
 Oh my gosh, has it really been six, SIX!!! months since I ran this gorgeous route?  

Nah, but it's been half a year since I brought my phone on a run with me (hence the lack of race selfies, or really any race pix at all).  

I don't know if you've noticed, but iphones are expensive and you can't trust the weather (I have an 11 year old BS in meteorology, and that's the sum total of what I remember). 

I've been out of town for about 4 months, and intermittently before that since May, so I haven't been running this route as much as I'd like.  I had some time today to fix that!

Rounding the first bend, atop the first hill

Whenever I run here, I have to wonder why there's no official race held here in the Canyon.  The scenery and facilities lend themselves to a great event.  It's a well-known, low-traffic, centrally-located, and well-loved route with a built-in amphitheater along a 5-mile loop.  Perfect!  And there are myriad causes out there of which awareness must be raised, I'm sure.  For example, I'm very aware that there's no road race at McKelligon Canyon!

Who wants to encourage a race here?  Me!

Miles and miles of the ribbon of road...mmmm!

Have I mentioned the scenery?  It's not too different from the pictures I took in spring.  Though, to me, this October, El Paso looks richly verdant.  Well, for El Paso:

Looks pretty green to me!
And if you're picky, there ya go, some more fall splendor! Yellow aster-looking things!
In other news, I'm heading back to San Antonio next week for the remainder of the fall....!  Just when I was settling in, too....sigh.

Perhaps upon my return to the Alamo City I will do more running and less stopping-and-taking-pictures-ing.  It's good to have goals :)

Perhaps the race theme should be LITTER awareness!!  boo.

El Paso Transmountain Challenge 2013

I would love to be that skinny one day!
 I ran the 36th annual 2013 El Paso Transmountain Challenge half marathon on Sunday.  I liked it - just like last year- and when I finished, I had the same thoughts as the year before: I could be a whole lot better at this thing if I practiced!

Please note I only think that after the downhill portion, not on my way up-up-up the initial climb where I generally wonder if I can gracefully tumble down the side of the thorny mountain just to get out of the event.

No matter how often you drive this road, you will wonder, "how did this thing double in uphill grade overnight?"

The weather last year fought us runners- as if the terrain weren't challenging enough- with biting wind and an unseasonable chill in the air.  I was also glad that there was no baby stroller involved this year, but thinking of that, I missed my friends who have since moved to New York. 

Last Sunday at 7 am?  Warm, still air, only a breeze picking up as the path crested the mountains.  This time D was with me at the start and he too ran the race.  We don't run together at these race events.  That's a subject for another post though :)

Just like last year, the path is a one-way half-marathon, climbing 1300 feet in the first half of the race, only to descend, once midway, to the end.  It is a challenge indeed. 

The border patrol delegation ran in a nice tight formation again.  Lots of elite-looking runners, and lots of people who are new to fitness and have chosen a challenge up front.  That's what I like about this race, the terrain is intimidating yet so many people start and finish the course regardless.

I believe a 5K is also available, with a start and end point coinciding with the end of the halfsie. 

Aid stations were as great as ever, every 2 miles, with liquids and potties and medical staff.  Such enthusiastic volunteers- and I love forever the guy who coined the term that today was just another great "El Paso Sunday!" as we ran past his aid station, less thirsty and far more motivated than when we arrived.

I love that you can see the immense 50' x 100' flag at the Old Glory Memorial finish line from several miles out.  The silence as you run along, at a tenth of the speed you'd drive, allows the beauty of the Franklin Mountains and El Paso to impress and distract you from the uphill plod.  

After the descent, a sharp right turn along an almost flat frontage road leads you just over a mile to Diana Drive.  A sharp left- and ahead you see the cheering finish line corral and the taunting clock.  I crossed the line, with water and a medal and time to enjoy the Old Glory Memorial Plaza and all the post-race treats!  Such yummy burritos, from Crisostomo I believe? 

From the snack-filled finish, buses await to take you back over the mountain to the start, where we parked the car.  This is maybe the one day a year the entire Transmountain Road is closed- which we didn't know prior to the race- the only real hiccup of the day.  As compared to last year, though, the parking was much closer to the start. The bus situation is really no hassle at all.  It's nice to have a 15 minute ride to chat with the other racers and point out the spots along the course where we all felt miserable. 

The city of El Paso executes this race flawlessly and safely.  The road is closed, and there are no cars anywhere near the path, even along frontage roads toward the end. 

Anyone can do this race, and everyone should.  The prices, even at the last minute, are in the $40 range.  I am thankful again for the military discount this year.  The packet pickup is Friday and Saturday but not available on race morning.  It's fuss-free, and the shirt is pretty stylish for a race shirt, and a nice technical material in sizes from XS-XL.

I could've run faster, but I didn't.  I had a great race all the same.  I am back from San Antonio (6 weeks early, thanks to the shutdown) and waiting to see if I'll be called to return today.  

Always surprises!

And Turkey Trot season is nearly here!  I am ready!!!

Who else is excited for autumn racing?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reciprocal pain and injury

New Math

 I alluded to this problem earlier: running injury, err, pain in one place quickly migrates somewhere else.

In my case, I seem to trade sides and of course, my right plantar fasciitis has now manifested as left Achilles tendinosis.  This stinks worse than the original problem!

That is what I think of heel pain
 This happened previously with a right metatarsal stress fracture which morphed into left knee pain, culminating in right hip pain.

Now I see why physical therapists always check "one joint above and below" the site of injury.  The thighbone is connected to the leg bone, after all- and didn't we all learn that in nursery school?

It makes sense that pain on one side of your body affects your gait pattern, causing reciprocal problems elsewhere, especially as we compensate for the pain, weakness, instability, blah blah blah.

How to break the cycle?  And don't you dare say "rest!"  Strengthening and balance training is probably a good place to start.  One day I will learn that that should be done continuously and not only after the pain sets in...hmmm.

So far, my answer is to stretch, ice, take ibuprofen, ignore the pain, and be thankful that I am rarely injured.

Lately I've been doing more hill training since the Transmountain Challenge is next weekend.  This could be the culprit, too.

I'm not ready for the race, but I wasn't ready for it last year either and it ended up as such a fun time.  What's the big deal, it's just a 1300' elevation gain in the first 6.5 miles, and a 1300' foot drop over the last 6.5 miles....

Just have to keep the finish line burritos the main thing in your mind :)  Of course, it takes me so long to get over that Mountain, I could probably order a pizza on the course for a mid-race snack.  

You can still sign up for the race, and it's very value-priced, too, even at the last minute:
2013 Transmountain Challenge

Friday, October 4, 2013

Shutdown...yet still running!

So the government shut not good for anyone.  I am thankful that my job is intact, but we certainly haven't been spared the insanity.  Two days ago, we were sent home in the middle of our training course, just to be called back a day later.  We will likely be sent home in the next coming days, over a month early, only to have to return again later in 2014 or beyond.  This is frustrating, and yes, will end up costing our government even more, but it's all about timing and flavors of money and other things I understand only well enough to know that one ought not mix them up!

It's a mess- yes- a lot of important folks are furloughed, and that frustrates me on their behalf.  But I still feel that we have it really good in this country, which you know if you've traveled anywhere else.  We aren't living under an oppressive regime (though you may have thoughts otherwise!) and we live in relative safety and security.  I learned from others earlier this summer during the furlough, that you've got to keep more in your savings account than you think and that no job or retirement plan or anything is guaranteed.  I made some changes in these lean times, too-- I cut out going to Starbucks, foremost because it's way too pricey and I don't need it, and second of all because of their rumored idea not to allow firearms, carried concealed with a permit, in stores.  I'm a little confused, though, since at some point in the past, they were on the other side of the firearms story.  I just feel like if people are carrying gun, I want them caffeinated and alert to their surroundings.  Oh yeah and I also think we should endorse our Constitution.

This morning, we (well, 4,000 of my closest friends and I) met up at 0445 for a unique concept...the Brigade Run.  So despite being broke and shutdown, we are still running!  What a metaphor!  What is this nonsense, you ask?  A celebratory event?  Sometimes.  A way to bring local festivities to the post, albeit very early in the morning?  Oh yes.  A commemoration of the retirement of a distinguished individual?  Occasionally.  Super annoying to all those involved?  Always.  The good news is that in these broke times, this is a free event, powered only by tired Soldiers, too tired in fact to gripe much about it. 

If you like to stand around for 45 minutes, then sprint madly down a dark street, followed by walking and bumping into the lines of people in front of you for periods of time, then more sprinting, walking, stumbling, over a course of about 3 miles, then this is an event for you.  For the rest of us sane people, it's tolerable and amusing.  The best part is when you smell the bacon, because that means you're near the chow hall, and there physically isn't much road left at that point.  It also means that you can quickly replace both the calories burned, and then some.

Next up...the Transmountain Challenge 2013 in El Paso.  I signed up!  Hope you are's how it went for me last year.  I'm looking forward to a weekend home.  D promises to run this year too.  He is such a trooper and responds fairly well to my "guess what I signed us up for?" announcements.  Fairly

Who's doing more running now that the government's shutdown?  I sorta am!