Monthly Archives: May 2014

Finally, a decent run!

Sorry for all the long posts. I feel like I have to get some background info out there or else pretty much nothing I do or say makes sense. 🙂

Today, I set out for 6 miles. I planned to keep them slow to give my foot a break. I ended up taking a lot of walking breaks because of the heat, too – I haven’t quite acclimatized to the hotter temps yet. I didn’t quite complete 6 miles because I was already back at my house and my foot was throbbing.

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I actually ran around a 10:30 pace… This is just what all the walking did. But again – I meant to keep it slow and easy.

I felt better than I had in a while when I was running. Still some pain, but my energy level was pretty good all things considered. Maybe I’m slowly coming back?

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The 14 mile run that wasn’t

As I mentioned before, I am doing another race challenge at the end of this month – an 8K on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday. So, I *should* be some hardcore half training right now. Yeaaaah… ’bout that.

Thanks to whatever exactly I did that jacked my foot up last week, I am having a hard time running more than a mile or two without a lot of pain. I managed a 10 mile run and a 9 mile run last week, but I set out to do 14 today. I was mentally ready, my body was rested, I was all about this long run to deal with some frustration I’ve been having lately between work and my personal life.

It started out okay, the typical stiff legs that I am used to for the first mile or two. The heat wasn’t too bad yet. But by mile 3, I was moving at a snail’s pace and walking more than I was running. My foot hurt so badly. For as stubborn as I can be, I realized that this run was not going to make or break my next races unless I let myself get more injured than I already was. So I slowed to a walk and headed home. After a quick walk (yes, yes, I know) with this little one:
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I took some ibuprofen, showered, wrapped my foot, and settled down to eat some lunch.

*sigh*

I wouldn’t be so frustrated if the last week of bad runs due to my foot was an isolated incident. But my sore foot wasn’t the only reason I decided to call it quits today. I was exhausted. My energy level plummeted ten minutes into my “run.” This has been ongoing, and, while I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing it, I’m not sure how I want to handle it.

Since September, when I was really starting to hit the high mileage and intense training for my first marathon, my energy has been steadily dropping. I started missing runs from being too tired to get up with my alarm clock (I work second shift, so I only set an alarm to make sure I have enough time to complete a run before I need to go to work). I was tired all day, even when I would get 8, 9, 10, even 12 hours of sleep a night. Extra caffeine made me jittery. I chalked it up to just needing to sleep more to recover from the increased running and tried to get into bed as soon as I could after I got home from work. I struggled through the next two months and finally seemed to get a second wind.

In November, I changed jobs, and went from work an evening shift 4 days a week to a Monday through Friday, 9-5 type of job (only my new boss was a workaholic and made me work 7-6 5 days a week). I also had about 24 hours to go through this dramatic schedule change. However, after over 7 years as a nightshift medic, I was confident there was no schedule change I couldn’t handle with enough caffeine, and plugged on and completed the Richmond Marathon in mid-Novemeber. I was sore, so unbelievably sore, and even managed to twist my ankle around mile 16, but I bounced back and was back running 6 miles a day by the end of the week after the race. My foot (the right one) would randomly throb, but I ignored it and kept running.

Fast forward to December. I had been at my new job for a month. Without telling you who I worked for or what I did, all I can say is that I was in a lot of industrial settings and outside in all kinds of weather. Not good for your lungs, to say the least. Before all the snow hit, we would get pelted with heavy rains and just above freezing temps. One day at work, in the hour that I was at a particular site, I went from feeling fine to having a ridiculous sore throat, headache, and fever. I got through the rest of the day and felt a little better in the morning since my fever broke. I went to work, left early with my boss’s permission, and headed out to Virginia Beach for the Surfin Santa Ten Miler, my first race since the marathon. I still felt crummy, but I wanted to run this race. The next morning, it was cold and raining… great conditions for a ten miler less than 24 hours post-illness. I actually was pretty happy with my time, but by the time I returned home that night, I had a fever with a fabulous cough. This went on for over a week, fevers that would break with various upper respiratory symptoms. Probably the flu in retrospect – that’s what working in healthcare will do to you. Finally, I caved and got a prescription to treat the massive sinus infection that had now developed. I barely ran in December from all the sickness and exhaustion.

I felt better by Christmas, and sadly got a whopping 24 hours off from my new job to be with my family several hours away. Then it was back to work. I was exhausted every day, wanting to be in bed by 8pm and having no desire to get up with my 5am alarm clock. At this point, this tiredness was probably depression-related, as I had hoped this job change would be a good thing, but I had been lied to about every aspect (from hours to salary to working conditions) and I wanted to get out, back to my old job despite all the reasons I left it originally (low salary, crummy hours, boredom, etc). I trudged into the new year, but I finally got some good news – my old job was able to rearrange the schedule and take me back at the beginning of February (we function on minimal staffing there, so it isn’t as easy as you might think to rehire a former employee (although I stayed there part time when I left)). I perked up a little, stopped caring about following the rules this new job, got some more sleep, and did my best to get my runs in in-between all the snowstorms we were starting to get. Shamrock was in March – I couldn’t slack off anymore.

February – I struggled to readjust to the work/running schedule I had previous followed, as the weather would not cooperate. I was losing my endurance, and couldn’t run for hours like I used to during the summer. I was just tired. Even walking up stairs would wear me out. March – I struggled through Shamrock in 25-30 mph winds and 40 degree temps, just hoping to finish. Cold weather and more upper respiratory fun, followed by 2 bouts of the GI bug. Thank you, germy little kids that I take care of every day. I tried to get in miles on days I actually felt decent and there wasn’t snow and ice all over the roads, but those days were rare. April – I was hit by overwhelming exhaustion once again. 10 or 12 hours of sleep just didn’t seem like enough. Finally, mid-April, the sun started shining again, it had warmed up… and the pollen was here to play. If you live just about anywhere else in the country and suffer from seasonal allergies, don’t come to Richmond. You might die. Seriously – it’s not unusual to walk through clouds of pollen. I took my Zyrtec faithfully and managed to get a few good weeks of running in before we had the massive rains that I think were part of the storm systems that caused all those tornadoes a few weeks back. Which brings us around to the pitiful races from last weekend, my current foot situation, and today…

There could be several reasons that my running has suffered so much. The weather didn’t help, but multiple schedule changes made it harder to get motivated. Being sick and injured several times, I might have tried to jump back into high mileage too soon, forgetting how little running base I had anymore. It was a bad winter, I’ll make my peace with that. But the thing that concerns me the most is the sheer exhaustion that I’ve had for 8 or 9 months now. Some of it might be the sleep deprivation – between evening shifts for work and running squad at least one night a week, I don’t get to sleep like a normal person. It might be depression/anxiety over a LOT of personal/adult life things rearing its ugly head again. But these are issues I’ve dealt with for years and have never been so worn out before this past year.

While I would tell anyone else who has these symptoms to go to a doctor (do as I say, not as I do), I’m stubborn. There’s a chance it’s my thyroid, but I have a better idea. I have always had low iron levels and been anemic on some level. I supplement with some iron and usually I was fine. Well, then I became vegetarian, aka less iron intake. Then I started distance running, which is well known to lower iron levels in certain predisposed populations. Anyone else see where I’m going?

Again, I’m self-diagnosing here. DO NOT DO WHAT I AM DOING. These are conditions that can only be diagnosed properly and safely by a medical provider.

But there’s a really good chance that I am seriously anemic. Unfortunately, it can take months to rebuild iron stores. And I don’t like taking iron – it helps, but it can cause all sorts of fun side effects that I personally do not enjoy. I’m getting to the point where I probably have to start eating meat again. Not only is my iron likely low, but I often do not consume enough protein for my activity level (it has been tracked, it is something I am aware of). I know there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan athletes out there who do just fine, and I’m not saying not eating meat automatically makes you anemic. But with my personal health history and all my other factors, I am definitely more susceptible to rapidly depleting my iron stores and I do not want to get to the point of needing blood transfusions.

So I’m doing a trial run for the next month or two… I’m slowly adding meat back in. I know, I know, I know. It’s hard, mentally and physically (try not eating meat for several years and then suddenly eating it again… your body goes crazy!). But I have to do something. I am tired of being tired.

Anyone else ever return to eating meat after years of vegetarianism/veganism?

Rough 9 Miles

Richmond, like the rest of the country, has had some pretty crazy weather this year. It would be 80 one week over the winter, and then snow the next week. Yesterday, we went from lows 70s all the way up to 90 degrees. So my run today was rough on so many levels. I am doing another “race challenge” at the beginning of June, where I will run an 8K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. Hence, I’m in hardcore half training mode, especially after my miserable race last weekend. In preparation for my run today, I loaded up the Camelbak and grabbed some Shotblocks (I absolutely cannot stomach gels), my Garmin, and my music, and set out for what I had hoped would be a relatively easy 9 miles.

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Yeah, not so much. The weird limp run I did on Sunday has caused a lot of pain and some swelling in my left foot, and while I know the best treatment for that is rest, I need my runs or I get really grumpy at work. You don’t want a grumpy medic. Anyhoo, my run was pretty rough – very hot, very slow, lots of walking breaks because of my ankle. But I finished, and sometimes that’s what counts.

I’m trying not to get too frustrated right now. Because of the nasty weather over the winter and me being sick almost constantly, I really didn’t run consistently and I haven’t trained well at all this spring thanks to wonderful Richmond pollen. In addition, I’ve gained about ten pounds over the last year. 😦 I know some of it was marathon muscle, but not all of it, and that’s set off a whole other host of problems. I’m hoping to drop some weight before the Richmond marathon to cut some time off and create a killer new PR. The other thing that’s been a bit of a factor for me is sheer exhaustion for months… But that we’ll talk about another day. I just hope I actually have it in me to take some serious time off my marathon PR. Some days I’m not so sure. :-/

Flying Pirate Weekend in OBX

Last weekend, I went to the Outer Banks for the first time. I just happened to be running in a race (well, 2 races, really) while I was there. It was by far not my best weekend racing, but I learned a lot from it. I was planning to complete the Double Dare Challenge, where I would run the First Flight 5K on Saturday morning, and then run the Flying Pirate Half Marathon on Sunday morning. This was actually my first 5K (seriously!) and I was hoping to run the half in under 2 hours because it was supposed to be a flat course. “Supposed to be” is key here.

I arrived Friday afternoon in OBX and went straight to packet pick up. It was a lot of people jammed into a tiny space, so I hurriedly picked up my bib and t-shirts and zipped through the expo back to my car. Then it started raining and getting way too cold for my traveling choice of a tank top and shorts, so I hurried to my chosen hotel for the weekend.

Oh boy. To save money, instead of staying at the very expensive Hilton Garden, which I would have preferred, I stayed at an discount chain along the oceanfront that will be unnamed. I was told when booking my room that it would have an ocean view.

IMG_4132A tiny window that didn’t open and faced someone’s cottage. So much furniture crammed into a room smaller than my dorm room in college. And a bathroom with only a shower, no tub for a post-race ice bath. Well then. I was pretty peeved, especially as some of the rooms clearly had at least a balcony to make the room seem less claustrophobic. But I really just needed a place to shower and sleep, so it would have to do. On the plus side, I could walk out the back of the hotel and along a private entrance to the beach…

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The 5K would start at 7:30a, so I decided to just get some dinner and head to bed as I was planning to walk to the start line, which was about a mile from my hotel.

When I travel for races, I usually try to stay somewhere where I can walk to the start line, so that I don’t have the stress of sitting in traffic and finding a parking spot. However, I did not factor in that I would have to cross a busy highway to get to this start line. The next morning found me running across the street and climbing over barricades into the park where the 5K would take place, and hoping that this hill wouldn’t be part of the course:
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Thankfully, it was a flat, out-and-back course where I went out way too fast (7:30 pace!) and crashed during the last mile. *sigh* Still, I averaged an 8:51 pace and finished in 27:26, not bad for my first 5K. I collected my medal, guzzled a bottle of water and a few pieces of apple, and walked back to my hotel for a shower. This time, I followed a lovely sidewalk path that was clearly meant for pedestrians, versus the shady (as in sketchy and tree-lined) path I took earlier that morning.

After a shower and a change of clothes, I headed out to explore the Outer Banks. I went first to Jockey Ridge Park, where I found a lovely and peaceful beach along the Roanoke Sound and decided I want to move there and work for Dare County EMS.IMG_4141

I later explored the Wright Memorial Park, where my 5K had taken place that morning. All in all, I ended up walking a good ten miles after pushing really hard during the race. On top of a 4:30am wake up that day and knowing I had to be up even earlier the next day for the half, I decided to call it a day and went back to my room and heated up the pasta I had packed. Yes, I usually pack my pre-race food every time I travel. I have enough GI issues that I don’t need to add foreign food into the mix during the race.

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I was actually in bed around 5pm, but my alarm was set for 3:30am. I was planning to be out the door by 5am to drive to the parking near the finish line, in order to take a shuttle that left at 5:30am up to the start line, with a race start of 7am. Anxiety-inducing morning, much? Other than late-running shuttles, I made it to the start in plenty of time and sat down to shiver and wait. It was barely 50 degrees with decent wind, and I was dressed for the upper 60 degrees it was supposed to be during the race. I really need to start packing throw away clothes or a cheap towel or blanket.

Finally, the race started, and I discovered that this half was not going to be anything like my previous half marathons. My legs were tight. I had had shin splints all through the 5K, and sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 miles for my legs to really loosen up, but even my calves were tight. I kept having to walk and stop and stretch, which set me into a bit of a panic over how the rest of the race was going to go. Meanwhile, I had been placed into a pretty high corral based on where I thought that I was going to run that day, so everyone was flying past my slow self. I tried to resign myself to just enjoying the race and chalk it up as a learning experience. But I’m a stubborn perfectionist, and that mentality didn’t last long.

The race wound past some neighborhoods before running along the shoreline, and I finally fell into a comfortable cadence and after a few happy miles, I thought I might salvage this race after all. Then we passed the mile 9 marker.

And turned onto a trail.

Now, I read the course descriptions ahead of time. It mentioned a mostly flat course, and a short mile on a trail around mile 12 with a big hill. Nowhere did it say the final third of the course would be a trail run. I don’t do trail runs. I am a klutz. I trip on flat ground. But forward I had to go, and so I kept running.

For about half a mile. Then my left knee started to hurt. The one that had caused me to cut some training runs over the last several months short, unable to walk down steps without pain. I slowed to a walk, tried to rub the muscles around the kneecap while limping forward, then tried to pick up the pace again. By mile 10, I was starting to run with an awkward hobble in an attempt to not bear much weight on my knee. By mile 11, I had a rock of some sort in my right shoe that was rubbing my heel, but I couldn’t get to either exit my shoe or slide down under my foot where it wouldn’t irritate me so much. At mile 12, I heaved a sigh of relief that it was almost over. At mile 12.5, the “big hill” came out of nowhere and everyone stopped to walk up it.

I can run hills. My usual training routes are filled with hills, but this one was big, and I was beaten. I limped up and tried to make a few jokes to my fellow runners, who all laughed, perhaps out of pity, but at least I was able to distract them. After cresting this hill, a series of what could only be described as bunny hops followed. I was getting angry at this point. Angry that the course wasn’t as described, angry that I was hurting, angry that I slacked off so much in training (to be explained in a future post), and most of all, angry that I let myself lose the mental game that is distance running.

Finally, finally, I went up a final hill to see mile marker 13, and was faced with a steep downhill of mulch leading to the finish line. I pretty much frog-hopped my way down that thing and sprinted for the finish, reaching a 7:00 pace by the time I was done. I just wanted to be done and to be able to sit down and figure out how injured I was. After meandering through the finisher’s chute and collecting my race medal and my challenge medal, water, more apple slices, and my finisher hat (I am so not a hat person), I found an empty stretch of curb to plunk down on and inspect my beaten body: a bloody right heel from a burst blister (was that the rock that I thought I felt earlier?), a sore left foot from my awkward limp-run, and very tight calves. Could have been worse. And considering how bad I felt during the race, a final time of 2:20:40 wasn’t too shabby.

As I sat there collecting my thoughts and forming an action plan in my head for my 8K/half marathon challenge at the beginning of June, a guy came up to me and said, “Good job! I ended up using you as a pacer because you were running along so well and I PR-ed from it!” I smiled and congratulated him, and watched him hug his family. Then I limped off to my car.

I know the bulk of my issues this weekend was from not training enough. I hadn’t run over 10 miles at a time since Shamrock in March. But I learned my lesson, and I’m ready to take on my next challenge weekend in June. Still, it was a nice group of races in a beautiful area of the country, and I definitely plan on returning to run the Outer Banks Marathon next year or the year after.

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Where did you run this weekend?

Welcome!

Welcome to the blog of the Marathon Running Medic! My name is Rachel, and I’m a paramedic in Richmond, Virginia, that runs marathons. Highly original, no? Well, I decided to throw something different into the mix: I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon by time, and run it, before I turn 35. That means I need to run faster than 3:35 and my current PR is 4:33:56. So I’ve got some work to do. But, hey, I’m 27 – I have time. 🙂

In the meantime, I work full time as a pediatric tech-like person (long story), volunteer as a medic with a 911 EMS service, and try to have a life outside of these commitments that involves my sweet pup named Maddy, a healthy lifestyle, and finding myself (very philosophical, I know).IMG_0294

I intend to talk about running a lot (because everyone else seems to get sick of it pretty quickly!), but also about my job (without violating HIPAA), career goals (does anyone ever figure out the adulthood thing?), and my quest for a happy and healthy life. And of course, there will be lots of cute puppy pictures. Feel free to drop in when you need a laugh, a smile, or some healthy motivation!

And here’s a quick and dirty “get to know me” section:

Likes: running, EMS, puppies, bunnies, chocolate, wine, coffee, sleep, flip-flops, sunshine, travel
Dislikes: oversleeping, traffic, socks that slide down my feet, humidity