Monday, June 25, 2012

Get Down With The Sickness!

I am supposed to be in beautiful San Diego right now for a work conference. My favorite place in the whole country to be! Instead I am sitting on my couch, legs propped up with lap top, iPad and iPhone, alternating among, Facebook, work email, and Greek episodes on Neflix. How did people ever survive being sick before the Internet and iPads?

Here is a progression of the events over the last week. I'm writing this more for my own benefit, so I apologize in advance if it lacks the typical excitement of a Racing Stripes blog post.

Monday: I woke up with a very minor sore throat, went for an easy run which felt great (and had a low heart rate) so I figured everything was good. In fact, the longer I ran, the better I felt! At work, the sore throat persisted, so I got some fruit and soup for lunch, along with Cold-Eeze. I figured I was probably coming down with a cold, but that I could fight it off or shorten it with these simple things. That night, I did not sleep well at all because my throat hurt.

Tuesday: I set the alarm for 5:00am, insisting that I go to my hill workout at Iwo Jima no matter what. I knew I was going to have to miss some of these workouts due to work travel and a July 4th race, so I wanted to make sure I went to every single workout I could. I was tired from not having slept well and it was really humid out. I purposely lagged behind my teammates during the hill workout so as not to overdo it. I felt really awful in the middle of the workout, but things turned around toward the end, and I did the last two at full effort. Probably a mistake. I haven't run since.

Public service announcement: if you think you are coming down with something, do NOT push yourself in a workout. Easy running only!

I showered at a nearby Golds Gym and headed into work. I attended a 9:30 meeting but went home afterwards. My throat was extremely sore and I didn't want to get other people sick.

Wednesday: I worked from home because the throat was getting even worse. It really hurt to swallow and I had to constantly be sucking on a Cepacol in order to feel decent. The rest of me felt fine, my energy level was normal and I had no congestion. Just a killer sore throat. I went to a Minute Clinic for a strep test because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of my doctor's office. It always takes forever when I go there and I always have to park far away. At the Minute Clinic, I was told there was a virus going around featuring a very sore throat, and I tested negative for Strep. She gave me Lidocaine to gargle with that was supposed to numb my throat.  The Lidocaine didn't do much because I later found out that the swelling went much further back than the Lidocaine could reach.

Thursday: I lost my voice. I was able to speak in a very low, dramatic whisper, but it hurt to do so. Even still, I went into work for a meeting. There was no way I could miss this meeting because I was the organizer, and had been planning it for weeks with an outside vendor. Thankfully, I didn't have to do much talking because others in the meeting had most of the knowledge that I did. I was just the one managing and coordinating everything. I spent the entire meeting alternating between Cepacol and warm water with honey. I think I looked ridiculous sitting there with a bottle of honey in front of me, but I needed it! At night, I took NyQuill, but that did nothing. The act of swallowing was so painful, that whenever I felt myself falling asleep, I would swallow, and the pain would wake me up. I was up in the middle of the night having Cepacol and gargling with the Lidocaine, because I couldn't sleep with the pain.

Friday: This was the worst day ever. Greg was trying to get me to go to my regular doctor, but now I didn't have any energy. I didn't feel like I could go anywhere. I was tired, I lost my voice completely (except for a whisper) and my throat was killing me.

I knew that I was in no shape to travel, so reality set in about me having to cancel my trip. I was so excited about San Diego. On a professional level, I had spent a great deal of time building a presentation that was going to be given and coaching the presenters, but now I wasn't even going to see it! I was supposed to be meeting with 5 different vendors (being wined and dined) most of whom I only know by speaking with over the phone. I was also going to meet a lot of the sales people who I work with over the phone but had never met in person. I had my running route all planned out. I had done that same route as a 20-miler back in 2008 and it was one of the most beautiful runs of my life. My hotel was conveniently located right on the route and I was really looking forward to it. I even made plans to meet up with some friends who live in San Diego who I haven't seen in years. Thankfully, there were plenty of other people from my company going so it wasn't like the world was going to end without my presence. I was going mainly for my own benefit. I'm new to this company and this industry and it would have been great for networking and understanding the industry.

Friday night was yet another night of not being able to sleep because I kept waking myself up by swallowing.  More Cepacol. More gargling with Lidocaine.

Saturday: My wonderful husband took such good care of me! He took me to urgent care where we spent about two hours. Maybe more? It felt like forever. At least I got my "airport" experience-- I had to show ID, I had to be X-rayed, and then I had to wait forever. But the end result was getting meds that made me go to a happy place!

Greg made this yummy soup!
I was running a fever, and my throat was so swollen that they had to x-ray to see further down. They ruled out Mono and Strep, and did a throat culture to see if it's a bacterial infection. I won't have those results until Wednesday. It's either a bacterial infection or a viral infection, but she started me on antibiotics just in case. I was prescribed steroids, which immediately helped the swelling in my throat. But it was accompanied by some severe sweating. Best of all was the Vicodin which meant I was finally able to sleep without pain.

As I mentioned before, Greg took such great care of me. He went to the grocery store and bought me everything on my list. He made a delicious healthy soup for us too. Best of all, he kept me company and gave me massages!

Sunday: I finally started to get my voice back and the pain in my throat had subsided immensely, although not 100%. I'm thinking it's because of the steroids. Congestion arrived, which I took as a good sign because at least my immune system was kicking in. I spent the day playing online chess, tracking my friends who were racing in an Ironman, and watching Netflix. Unfortunately, the Vicodin didn't help me sleep as well on Sunday night as it had on Saturday, but it was still much better than it had been earlier in the week.

Greg made asparagus soup from scratch, along with baked salmon. Both were delicious and very healthy!

Today: I have my voice back, but it still hurts to speak loudly. Now my main symptom is fatigue and dizziness. I am not sure how much of this is due to the illness or the side affects of the meds. I don't take Vicodin during the day, so it would have to be the steroids, which I took less of today. I am well enough to be writing this blog, so that is certainly a good sign!

Looking ahead: I haven't run since Tuesday, and the earliest I would think about running again would be Wednesday. Tomorrow I will be off of the steroids and the Vicodin, so if I feel better, then I might attempt something easy on Wednesday. But I am not going to push it. The last thing I need is to prolong my recovery time. Most of my co-workers are in San Diego, so it makes sense for me to be working from home. Today is an official "sick day" because I'm too tired to focus on work. I expect that I will have more energy tomorrow to actually be working. At least I hope!

On the plus side, I haven't been stressing too much about all the time off running I'm having to take. Yeah, it's annoying and I know I will lose some fitness, but I've accepted this. Thankfully I don't have any key races in the near future, so I can take as much time as I need to recover. I'm getting better at speed chess, but I have to stop moving so fast and letting people take my queen! Nothing kills your chess mojo like a queen loss.

Also on the plus side, I figured out how to get people at work to keep their distance from me during my taper and not get me sick. (I'm such a hypochondriac during my taper.) I just have to pretend like I am the one who is sick, and everyone will be sure to stay far away!

Anyway, hopefully I am on the mend. I'm so grateful to have such a wonderful husband who took me to the doctor even when I didn't want to go. I think I'll go have some leftover soup now.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lawyers Have Heart History -- In Pictures!

I thought it would be fun to take a look back on my race photos from this yearly Lawyers Have Heart tradition.

2005, wearing all cotton.

2006, looks more like the chicken dance than a race.

2007, getting into a groove

2008, my poor knee!

2009, approaching the finish, super hot!

2010, focused on the finish line!

2011, midfoot strike. The only photo they took of me.

2012, red face to match my red top! Nice background.

I shared my race report with my sports psychologist and he helped me see that I ran exactly the race that I needed to be running to advance myself as a runner. He asked me: "if you had set a ballpark goal before the race (not knowing what you know now) do you think you would have set a goal to run a course PR by over 2:30?"  I thought about it, and I probably would have set my goal to run a course PR of about 2:00, which would have been a 47:50.

Only after the fact did I start being hard on myself for not pushing. So in reality, I ran a faster race than I expected by NOT focusing on a goal time. I focused on my strategy, pacing and execution and in doing so, I ran negative splits and exceeded any goal I would have set for myself. And looking at the below photo, I do realize how hot it actually was, despite it being "good weather for this race".

He told me that if I run all of my races like this, where I accomplish everything I set out to do, then I am going to make a lot of progress as a runner. If I look for failure, of course I am going to find it. And my natural instinct is always to look for failure in myself.

So what did I learn by having some gas left in the tank at the end? Not that I need to push harder when I race, but that my capability level is higher than I expected. Which means great things for the next time I race!

Yes, 2012 was hot!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lawyers Have Heart 10K - Steady As It Goes

This morning I ran my 8th consecutive Lawyers Have Heart 10K.

This race holds a special place in my heart because it was the first large race I ever ran, and it encouraged me to get into racing instead of just treadmill running. That said, this race is always so tough. Every year it's extremely hot and humid and it's usually too early in the summer for me to be properly acclimated.

This year, the weather was rather pleasant, with low humidity and temperatures in the low 70's. Even though this is amazingly good weather for this race, it's still hot and sunny, which I have to keep reminding myself when thinking about my time.

I organized a Capital Area Runners team, which only had six members on it. However, there were at least 10 people from our group running. I think most of them had signed up before I created the team or were running with their law firms' teams. I ended up being the only female, which mean my time would count as being in the top four of the team. As a co-ed team, they have to score at least one female.

After seven years of doing this race, I know the drill pretty well. Get there an hour early so that there is time to park, walk to packet pickup and line up early for the porta potties. Go back to the car, put on bib, put shirt in car. I find it somewhat humorous that the race runs out of size small every single year. You would think they would learn! Every year I indicate "small" on my registration, but always end up with a medium. This year, I didn't even ask for a small. I took the medium and the volunteer informed me they were out of small. The shirt material is actually rather soft, and they make good nightshirts, so I'm actually okay with my collection of mediums.

After putting our bibs on, Greg and I warmed up for about a mile and a half.  I felt pretty good.

I didn't have a goal time in mind for this race, which worked both for me and against me. I had no idea how much the heat would affect me. Two weekends ago, I went out at a pace of 7:22 in a hot 5K, and I ran the last mile at 8:01. Clearly, I didn't adjust my starting pace enough for the heat. So I decided I would go out very conservatively and then try to maintain an even pace. It's good to not have a goal time because then you are focused more on the execution. But having no ballpark idea of the time I wanted to run also left me unmotivated to push to the extent that I was physically capable of.

Mile 1-- 7:57
My goal with this mile was to take it super easy. I always, always bonk in this race and I was determined to not let that happen. It's really crowded and I didn't want to waste energy weaving and it's also uphill. I just took it very easy.

Miles 2 & 3--  7:35, 7:38
I settled in here. I didn't look at my Garmin for awhile after mile marker one, but when I did, I was happy with a pace in the 7:30's so I told myself to just maintain the 7:30's. I fully expected that I would be in the 7:50's by the time the race was over, as usually happens in this race, so I thought that staying in the 7:30's would be a challenge.

Miles 4 & 5-- 7:35, 7:34
I was so happy to be past the turnaround and feeling strong. Usually this is where it all falls apart for me, but I felt myself getting a little faster! I was so thankful to be maintaining my pace that I didn't dare try and speed up. In hindsight, I think I could have sped up a little and I think I was just being too intimidated by past experiences. I wanted to play it safe, and I did. I started making my grunting and screaming noises in mile 5, which means I was working hard, so I didn't question the effort level. A nice woman ran next to me for about half a mile and told me to relax and focus on breathing. It's funny how I always sound like death when I put out a hard effort, even when I am perfectly fine. I've been known to let out some yelps on the track, and particularly during pool running.

Mile 6: 7:34
The sun was beating down on me here and it got a lot harder, but this mile is a net downhill, so I used it to my advantage.  The last 0.2 is under a bridge, so I don't have Garmin data to support my perceived effort, but I would say I was doing a solid 6:15 pace. I was passing people left and right and now that I was in the shade, I felt awesome. I kept thinking "wow- I have a lot in the tank here, where was this earlier in the race?"

I finished with a time of 47:18, good for 18th out of 364 in my age group.

I must have had the math wrong in my head because as I was running, I was sure that a 7:35 pace would land me somewhere in the 46's, but I guess that first mile worked against me. And yes, my math was wrong. I used to obsess over which pace would get me to which time, but I have stopped doing that (thank God). So, I was a bit let down that I was in the 47's.

Nevertheless, I was proud that I ran a consistent race. I executed my strategy perfectly. This is the first time in Lawyers Have Heart history where I ran a negative split.

Sports Psychology
One of the things I am working on with my new sports psychologist is the post-race "review". We've identified that I am very black and white in my thinking and that unless I amaze myself with my performance, then I'm extremely upset. There isn't any middle ground. So for practice, here are all of the thoughts and feelings that occurred to me once I heard that some of my friends had set PRs, and others weren't that far off:

- I'm two minutes off of my PR. Nobody else is that far off, so the heat must have just affected me more.
- But could the heat really have affected me more? No. I just wimped out. I didn't push as hard as I could.
- 47:18. Sure would have been nice to get into the 46's.
- This is the best weather this race has ever had, and I still couldn't break 47?
- Other people PRed in this heat! I was so far off of mine. Boo!!!!!!!
- It was a mistake to start off so slowly. I should have had more confidence than that.

I know these feelings and thoughts don't get me anywhere. They are counterproductive and they don't build confidence. They serve no purpose and I am being unreasonably hard on myself.  My sports psychologist recommended a much more effective approach to post race "reviews".

50% of the review: What went well?
- I had a strategy
- I executed the strategy exactly as planned
- I beat my course PR by over two minutes
- I ran negative splits and didn't blow up-- which was one of the key goals
- I was in the top 5% of my age group, and this is a competitive race
- I kept a positive mindset while running the race
- I had a really nice final kick, passing most people
- I enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy the pain of a 10K!)
- I ran the tangents
- I met my total weekly mileage goal by doing a warmup and cooldown.

30% of the review: What Worked? What didn't quite work?
- My nutrition worked
- I was well hydrated
- Focusing on my form worked
- Keeping a positive attitude during the race worked
- What didn't quite work: not having a ballpark goal
- What didn't quite work: being intimidated by my past performances in this race
- What didn't quite work: not asking myself if I could push harder during the race

20% of the review: What should I adjust for next time?
- Have a ballpark time goal, and know an approximate pace I want to run-- adjust that if necessary during the run.
- Don't let past performances affect my confidence for future ones.

Just as I have to make adjustments to my pacing and slow down if I underestimate the effect of the heat (like two weeks ago), I also have to learn to adjust my pacing to go faster if I overestimated the effect of the heat.  However, better to be safe than sorry, and I played it safe. Few things are worse in a race than a heat bonk!

And now the key is not view this is a "bad performance" and not let it feed negativity into other races. There were a lot of positive things that came out of today's race-- particularly in the area of strategy and execution. And a new course PR!  I am just a bit disappointed in my finish time and the fact that I let this race intimidate me. There are some good things to learn from here.

Finally, an important point that my sports psych makes is that once the review is over, move onto something else. Do not dwell on it all day. (Except I do get to write a blog!)

Team Results
Our Capital Area Runners team placed 3rd in the Open category:

  3. 2:49:02.1 Capital Area Runners                              (  42:15.6)
  1    37:30.9  Christopher Carney    M 
  2    39:51.7  Jamey Burden          M 
  3    44:21.1  Greg Clor             M 
  4    47:18.4  Elizabeth Clor        F 

Lawyers Have Heart History

 Date  RaceTimeComments
 June 2005  Lawyers Have Heart 53:09 
 June 2006  Lawyers Have Heart 53:32
 June 2007  Lawyers Have Heart 50:59
 June 2008  Lawyers Have Heart 55:25  Coming off of injury
 June 2009  Lawyers Have Heart 51:30
 June 2010   Lawyers Have Heart 49:50
 June 2011   Lawyers Have Heart 5K 22:43  Race was changed to a 5K due to heat 
 June 2012   Lawyers Have Heart 47:18