Heart on the Run

It’s my heart that’s on the run. Unfortunately, my heart is an overachiever when it comes to being fast, and that’s creating a problem.

I don’t know when my trek down tachycardia trail really started, but data-wise the first time I noted a high heart rate in my workout log was February 16, 2013, when I wrote off the much-higher-than-usual high heart rate I experienced in the last mile of the Flash 12K as a fluke.

Cardiac Issues

Though the ensuing episodes of high heart rate, the cardiologist visit (when I was initially cleared), the blog post about the 2014 Turkey Trot (after which Shannon Sullivan, Mary Jean Yon, and David Yon insisted I seek other answers), the electrophysiologist visit, the implantable loop recorder, the electrophysiology study, and the year of attempting to manage my symptoms with a beta blocker (because an ablation was contraindicated), I kept identifying myself as a runner, kept saying, “it’s a pain but as long as it’s confined to my running,” I just need to make adjustments.

It was when I was “just” walking a 5K on October 2 that I hit a physical and emotional wall on this trail, and I haven’t figured out a way around it.

Cardiac Issues

At the Stop the Violence 5K, BEFORE the race. Turns out Harper (the dog) and I each had our own struggles that day.

Besides the actual facts of what occurred over the hour which changed everything for me, my hesitancy to ask for help makes me want to kick myself in my OWN butt. I had not taken a beta blocker before the race because I’ve never needed one in a “walk” situation before. When my HR goes up precipitously, it does so with no warning. When it happened that day, I tried to stay calm, continuing to walk and do vagal maneuvers. I was passed by one couple who said “do you need help? And made some reference to one of them being qualified to help if I was having a problem.” Turned them down. I sat down on the curb (side note: I hate sitting down during races. I especially hate sitting down within sight of the finish line.)

I decided to walk back to the start area instead of trying to finish the 3.1 mile route. I walked past a man washing his car and made light conversation about his dog who was barking from the window rather than explaining I may be having a health issue. I was in a neighborhood where I know several people who probably would have come to help me if I had asked. During the attempt to walk back to the start area, my HR increased to an unhealthy rate again. I sat down on the curb, again. Throughout, I was texting my husband, explaining what was going on. I needed someone to be in the know.

I was participating in the race as part of a team, but I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone numbers I took my smartphone out and sent a message to the team’s event page on Facebook and one to our captain via PM. I explained that they should take their time (again, I might could have mentioned that I was possibly having a health crisis) but that I was going to need someone to pick me up. Eventually the race organizers sent a volunteer in a golf cart to come pick me up. Arriving at the finish line as a passenger in a golf cart rather than crossing it under my own power was so humbling (and, honestly, embarrassing).

Cardiac Issues

I didn’t share this publicly on 10/2, but this is the pic I sent my coach and team as I waited on my golf cart rescue chariot.

Here’s where things stand for me at this point:

This Is Not Just About Running Anymore

It was one thing to change my approach to running as the tachycardia issue got worse. Now that it’s affecting walking, the situation has gotten more serious as it impacts a proportionally larger part of my life. I’ve always had a sort of “I’m not fast but I can hang with pretty much anything endurance-wise” approach but now I find myself evaluating EVERY activity, not just the ones that are labeled as “exercise,” on its likelihood to be affected by my issue. When I was at a conference at Disney recently, my companions and I were running late to get to a dinner reservation in EPCOT because of some transportation changes (the Monorail to EPCOT was not running). We were under the gun to get to the restaurant before our reservation was cancelled and my credit card was charged. It’s a pretty long way from the admission gates of EPCOT to “Japan,” and I was praying I could keep up with their brisk pace, and popping a beta blocker hoping that would help me hang with them (it worked out fine).

I need to be able to walk a mile without stopping, both for exercise and because my life just involves a lot of “going.” 

Being Stubborn About Doing Things on My Own Can Be Dangerous

The double-pronged issue of a) loving doing things solo and b) being hesitant to ask for help is an issue that could just be classified as “that’s how I am” but now it impacts my health and survival. I’m grieving the limitations I feel now — I am not going to go out and spend an hour isolated on the Greenway — who would find me if I passed out? And although I would advise anyone in my circle to ask for help if they need it (and hopefully I would be the first to offer if they asked), I hate imposing. This is not an easy change to get used to.

We need each other. My biggest adversary here is myself, and I need to reach some detente with me.

The Exercise/Fatigue/Caffeine Cycle

Maybe none of this would be an issue if I had followed the cardiologist’s advice more than ten years ago and stopped caffeine altogether. I have tried a few runs without caffeine and still experienced problems, so I can’t say it’s the caffeine. But I am in a cycle (that I’ve almost always been in) of dealing with fatigue. I think some of it is low blood pressure — I’ve always struggled to stay awake … in meetings, singing in the choir (i.e., facing the congregation as a minister gives the message and dozing….THAT’S special). Lately I’ve had friends I’m conversing with say “you’re clearly tired” as I’m simply trying to stay with a conversation. Driving pretty much anywhere requires a cold brisk water, soda, or other beverage to keep me alert. One of the things I love about working from home is the ability to take a ten minute micronap when the fatigue hits — it makes all the difference and doing it in the privacy of my home doesn’t bring with it the indignity of getting drowsy in public.

If I don’t drink caffeine (or find some other way to not get drowsy/fatigued), my professional and personal life are impacted. I guess I should make a big summarizing point in this particular italicized sentence but: I love and need coffee and would find it almost impossible to break up with it. That is all!

The Gray Areas In Dealing With Cardiac Issues Are Vexing

It is irritating and a little humiliating to try to explain a health issue others can’t see. If I had a cast on my leg or some other outwardly obvious sign that I am working through something, that would be different, but as it is, many people start every conversation with “the usual”: “So when’s your next race?” “What are you training for?” Etc. Etc. Etc. My social  network is largely comprised of runners. My social media content is liberally filled with running. The first place I head when I walk into a store is the fitness/running section.

When Running Is Bad for Your Health

Although this post has been percolating in my head (I had lots of time to think about it sitting on that curb in Southwood waiting for the golf cart (sigh)), I hesitated because I do not want it to be a whining, “poor me” post. I guess in a way it’s an attempt to put down in words the fumbling around I do when conversing about this when the zillionth person says “when’s your next race?”

I feel more keenly aware of the fact that I’ve spent years throwing out platitudes to other injured/ill runner friends: “you’ll get back to it,” “every step matters,” “people understand.” I feel aware of the challenge my father in law must feel when he is feeling faint and I’m screaming at him “PUT YOUR WEIGHT ON YOUR LEGS” because honestly, there was a moment there at Southwood on October 2 when the 1 mile back to the start line might as well have been 10,000 miles. No amount of willpower on my part would overcome the fact that my heart was done. with. ambulating. for. that. hour. DONE.

It’s a pain when well-meaning relatives say things like “well now that you’re not running but eating like a runner, there’s a weight issue.” (Yes, there is. I weigh more now than I did at the max of either of my pregnancies and my food consumption, especially the stress eating, really needs to be separated out (by me) from my runner persona.) It’s a process.

The Finish Line

This is not a post with a nice neat ending.

I guess my best advice right now is …..if your health enables you to fully engage in what you love for exercise and an outlet, do it and don’t take it for granted. If someone in your circle drops off the radar, give them an opportunity to try to process it and know that they themselves may not really be capable of explaining it or responding to their personal challenges, but they do still need you.

Their heart may still be putting in the miles even if their race reports don’t show it.

Cardiac Issues

thoughtful-thursdays4

Four Heartfelt Takeaways From Running

Then, somehow, from a place beyond sense or strategy, she breaks forward, unpinned from her body’s flaws and marvels. It’s only courage that takes her the final distance. Only grit. ~Paula McLain 

As I was struggling through a 4-mile run last week, I was listening to Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. Horse racing is one of the main topics of the book, and the protagonist, a rare female trainer in the 1920s, needed her horse to win. The horse had started out strong, but was not in the lead as the end of the race approached. The passage above describes how the horse found her reserves and transcended what she was physically capable of in order to win. She became unpinned from her body’s flaws and marvels, buoyed by courage and grit.

My body’s flaws are winning over courage and grit, and I am trying to figure out how to get them all to make peace with each other.

Since April 2015, when I had an electrophysiology study after which my physician decided he could not do an ablation, the plan to deal with my multifocal atrial tachycardia has been to take a beta blocker a half hour before each run.

After having my procedure on April 6, 2015, I went on my first mile run on April 14. It took 14:06 to run 1.06 miles (13:17 pace). My average heart rate was 143 and my max heart rate was 153. On June 4, 2016, about 14 months later, it took 57:42 to run 3.16 miles (18:16 pace). My average heart rate was 138 and my max heart rate was 197. Both times (all times between now and then), I had taken my beta blocker a half hour before starting the run.

Although there have been a few brief visits to the sub-13:00 per mile speed over the past 14 months, it has been far more typical for my average pace to be in the 14’s, 15’s, or 16’s. For me, running on beta blockers is like running through mud.

I suppose my hope after the electrophysiology study, once I knew there had been no ablation and the ongoing plan involved medication before every run, that I could reach some consistent “status quo.” It has taken me the whole 14 months to begin to let go of my years-old goal of running a sub-30 5K, but as time passes the question becomes “where does running fit for me at all?”.

Is running still good for me physically?

Although I am fortunate to have an electrophysiologist with a great way of explaining things and a respect for the sport of running, he also says, “you know it’s not necessary to get your HR up to 160 (or whatever…) for it to be a workout,” right?

He’s right – I can get a good workout in a multitude of ways that don’t escalate my heart rate like running does.

But they are not running!

Nothing I have read online, no doctor I have spoken to, no one I know who has tried to combine running with an arrhythmia situation really has the clear answer.

Probably the best summary is: running while experiencing tachycardia is not generally as dangerous as it sometimes feels. BUT given that my EP thinks mine is likely to convert into atrial fibrillation (which increases stroke risk) over time, and the fact that I usually run alone, and the fact that I have to err on the conservative side because I want to be around to see my kids grow up, I think I have to assume that running to the point of abnormally high heart rate is not necessarily the healthiest choice for me. (Ironically, if it DOES turn into AF, I will be a candidate for an ablation again, and it is likely to work, but I can’t engineer that situation into being.)

What do people think?

If I had a dime for every time I have said, in all sincerity, to another runner or prospective runner, “you’re only competing against yourself,” “every mile matters,” or “you’re lapping the person on the couch,” I would be wealthy.

However, I would be totally lying if I didn’t say these are the thoughts that have dogged me over the past few months. At first, after the EP study, I thought I would reach that comfortable status quo, and just blend into the scenery at races, just log my usual refreshing and energizing training miles, just keep doing something good for my body (and mind) out on the roads and trails.

But that little “how can you still call yourself a runner?” voice in the back of my head will not stop its incessant pestering.

  • When I post my times to DailyMile and people see it took me 18 minutes to run a mile.
  • When I stop right before the finish line as I did at Gate to Gate and walk little circles off to the side while doing a Vagal maneuver to try to get my HR down from 197 so I am not running the risk of passing out in public as finish line adrenaline kicks in.
  • As I tell people “really, no, don’t wait for me. I’m going to take FOREVER.”
  • As I participate in races, trying to keep my feet running without my heart noticing they are while my head tries to mediate between the two
  • As I stopped logging my food and gained back 25 pounds I lost while training for a half marathon (and obviously my cookies-every-day habit has nothing to do with my tachycardia except for the fact that I know my mindset and my eating choices are inextricably intertwined right now).

You Can’t Trust Technology Blindly Without Listening to Your Body Too

Even when you have the best technology, you still have to pay attention to your body. Back in November-December of 2015, I was seeing “high” readings on my Garmin. These readings, for example, led me to run/walk the Turkey Trot rather than solely running it at a moderate pace. I decided maybe the batch of metoprolol I had recently been given was “bad.” I called the Publix pharmacy which had dispensed it, which said it was fine. I called my EP’s office, which confirmed the readings from my loop recorder were fine. It turns out my receiver on my Garmin chest strap was bad (oops!). I ordered a new one and the problem was solved. Now I follow the care instructions for my chest strap to the letter (it has to be cleaned often to prevent salt buildup).

How do I still contribute to the running community?

Running pervades every single aspect of my life. If I’m not dressed up, I’m almost always in a race shirt. If I am packing for a trip, the running shoes go in first. If it’s a weekend, my review of possible activities always involves which races are being run. I am a running groupie, and running people are my favorite people.

I have commitments as a Fitfluential Ambassador, a Charity Miles All-Star, and as a runner for Gareth through I Run for Michael. I know Gareth’s family “gets it” because he also has an invisible condition (a mitochondrial disorder). I know Charity Miles has my back – I can walk/bike and/or keep running 18 minute miles and #everymilematters still applies because the causes we love benefit. Fitfluential is a bit more challenging. I can only hope that my choices during this frustrating interim period help someone else who is struggling know they are not at all alone and you can have a love of fitness without looking like a fitness magazine model.

Running Cardiac Issues

While I suppose it would be an easier thing to discuss if I had a cast on my leg or some other outward physical sign of a health challenge, an invisible condition like a cardiac arrhythmia with questionable impact plays a different role in the multi-act play that is my running life.

I suppose I am at the intermission and the second act of this play has not been written nor rehearsed yet.

Running Cardiac Issues

Defining “Finish”

With about 10 minutes left Sunday night, I decided to pop in to #RunChat, even though it was Easter Sunday and I didn’t figure the chat was especially active.

“Especially active” or not, one transaction had me apoplectic within seconds. My husband, who develops the same type of apoplexy when one of his fantasy sports players is failing or some other sports-related travesty is occurring, was looking at me as though I were losing my mind.

What was the conversation?

Running Race Rules

Running Race Rules

There were a few more tweets in this back and forth but you get the idea (and I blocked the other individual’s name because although I disagree with her, I don’t want this to be an attack ON her — I’m just still hopping mad and need to rant a bit more!).

Do I agree that someone is a “DNF” if they did not complete a race by the cut-off time? If they completed the race distance, I absolutely do NOT agree!

Running Race Rules

Credit: Pixabay geralt

If you choose to register and participate in a race that explicitly requires you to agree to be “swept” if you do not meet a certain cut-off, then yes I think you are obligated to comply with the race directors’ request.

Otherwise: a finish is a finish is a finish! I understand that race directors may use their discretion in choosing not to list a finisher who arrives after the cut-off in the official results and that they may not award a medal, but the athlete has ostensibly done their best and most importantly, they have completed the distance!

While I could have a lively back and forth with my fellow #RunChat participant about what “finishing” means, it was the “train within the rules” part that had me scratching my head and ranting, especially since she states she is an RRCA Coach.

I would expect a coach to review my goals with me and help me find a goal that is achievable yet a challenge. If I told my coach I wanted to do a 50-mile ultra in four months, I am thinking she would talk me down, because given my current training level there is simply no way to do that distance without risk of injury or other adversities. A coach does so much more than schedule workouts; they help you as the athlete think through and choose your goals, then strive to meet them.

But even the best coaching in the world, combined with the most compliant athletes in the world, will not prevent the unexpected from happening. Ten minutes in the med tent for dehydration, a wrong turn because a volunteer provided incorrect direction, cramps, “bodily waste” issues, the simple fact of grappling with your mental state to push yourself through when it starts feeling impossible. None of those exceptions can be mitigated by “training to the rules.”

When I walked the United NYC Half Marathon in March of last year, my friend Mary Jane and I were within sight of the sweeper bus for much of the race. We watched water stop after water stop being dismantled before we had gotten there. We were “behind” the predicted cutoff. Honestly, I don’t know what the official race rules said about people who arrived after the cut-off. It did matter logistically, because a tunnel in lower Manhattan had to be closed for us and other accommodations had to be made. I was thrilled to get a mylar blanket and a finishers’ medal. I don’t think I have even looked up my official results. I was with my dear friend; I was making a difference via my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association, and I was making memories that were so more significant than the miles.

One More Story

My friend Maria set out in 2015 to do our track club’s ultimate challenge. The ultimate challenge involved doing a group of specific races throughout the year, culminating in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic in December. At the ultra, Maria missed the cutoff by about an hour but I and many others can attest that she traversed the entire 50 miles.

In January 2016, track club member Mike Martinez said this about Maria:

She has blossomed as a runner, faster times and an incredible range in race distances, from one mile to fifty miles.

(and he said a lot more, presented here for you to see the whole picture, as he presented her with our club’s Female Runner of the Year award!)

I was pretty familiar with Maria’s training and I feel quite confident that she “trained within the rules.”

But what happened at the end of her ultra was not a DNF.

I would call it more of a FWC.

Finished With Class!

Running Race Rules

Attacking the 50 Mile Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic! Photo Credit: Robin Bennett

 

Five Magical Motivations to RUN

So many conversations I have had about running over the past few months as I have made modifications to deal with my tachycardia issues have ended (on my part) with some variation of “but I am still grateful.”

My goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes is almost certainly not attainable at this point. Maybe if I checked in to a fitness retreat, ate 100% clean for an extended period of time, trained intensively, put my life on hold and went without the medication that slows my heart rate down and makes it feel like I’m running through mud long enough to pull it off it would happen. It’s not realistic, though, time-wise or budget-wise to put my life on hold. I’m doubtful it would be a good choice for my overall health, and the mere fact that cupcakes exist in this world is some type of evidence that it is possible to deny yourself too much!

Motivations For Running

Enjoying Baked by Melissa “Snowstorm” cupcakes after a run!

Jane Mahoney, a runner in the Kerri On: I Run for Remembrance group, a companion group to I Run for Michael in which members run in memory of people’s loved ones, said this today, after describing a run she and some friends had done in memory of a fellow runner and friend who had died of cancer:

Running is a magical thing, giving solitude, peace, friendship, honor and joy to life. ~ Jane Mahoney

In that one sentence, Jane captured the assets of running which have enabled me, one by one, to put a knot in the rope and hang on when I was almost at the end of my rope with running the last few months.

The Solitude of Running

I won’t lie. Despite the social benefits (discussed below), I still love running by myself. Especially since I am a primary caregiver for my father-in-law and almost never have the house to myself, I love being alone. The repetitive footsteps are like meditation for me; my thoughts have a chance to unfurl and wander, and the fresh air is rejuvenating. I also have the pleasure of listening to various Rock My Run mixes (read here for how you can benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by downloading this free app!).

Peace

We have a number of scenic running trails here in Tallahassee. A few weeks ago, I went out by myself and ran the Swamp Forest trail in preparation for last weekend’s Swamp Forest Quarter Marathon. It was just me, the trees, gorgeous views of streams, streaming sunlight; and a few animals skittering and fro. No screens to be stared at, no one who needed anything, just peace.

Motivations For Running

The Swamp Forest Trail. Photo courtesy of Robin Bennett.

Friendship

Everyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for working toward a measurable goal. Even though I had heard about groups running from a local running store every Monday and Thursday night, I had declined to join for several reasons. Once a member told me the group was trying to get to 2016 miles in 2016, though, I was in! I joined them this past Thursday night, and Chris (the leader) said “I’ll stay with you.” Now, I have been told “I’ll stay with you” before and many times that commitment, which was sincerely meant at the time, goes out the window when the individual realizes how slow I am relative to them. Not this time. Chris stayed with me every step of the way, and the miles flew by. Three miles later I had a friend and a reminder of why the running community is second to none.

Motivations For Running

The Capital City Runners 2016 or Bust Group.

Honor

I didn’t attend the Gulf Winds Track Club awards ceremony last night, but as the names of the awardees (which are kept a secret until the ceremony) started rolling in on social media, I was thrilled for so many runners I respect who were recognized for their achievements. Although I am happy for everyone, I am exceedingly happy for my friend Maria Matheu, 2015 Female Runner of the Year. Maria worked so hard this year as she ran every race in the Gulf Winds Track Club Extreme Challenge series. Six of the hard miles were the ones she ran for me smack in the middle of a scorchingly hot Tallahassee summer when we ran from Madison Social to Capital City Runners and back, all for a free beer (okay, it was for more than a free beer but still….). She’s another one who said, “I’ll stay with you” and actually did stay with me. She had already run 8 miles that day, and only someone with a bit of a crazy streak would have headed out in the 100 degree heat index day, much less with someone who is going to take FOREVER to get it done. Maria proved (to me) who she was that day. She was (is) a friend. She honored her commitment. No one in our club deserves this award more than she does.

Motivations For Running

2015 Gulf Winds Track Club Female Runner of the Year, Maria Matheu

Joy

So much of 2015  has been spent staring at the screen of my Garmin, trying to figure out if my heart rate was going to behave or not. Over the past two months, it was reading exceptionally high. Skipping past the frantic calls I made to the pharmacist (is this batch of beta blockers bad?) and my electrophysiologist (WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!), it turns out my Garmin sensor needed to be replaced. Everything is still not perfect, but the malfunctioning electronics had me in a misguided  mental (and emotional) spiral of “this is never going to get resolved.” I have a new strap/sensor which seems to be recording correctly. When I ran with Chris Thursday night, I didn’t look at my Garmin for the whole run. Not fixating on my HR allowed me to be more open to the whole reason we do this: JOY.

Lastly, in addition to those five reasons, my son has started joining me at running events again. This may be pushing me even farther away from a sub-30 finish than my medical issues have, but it has me speeding toward something much more important: miles, memories, and, like Jane, a magical thing.

Motivations For Running

Billy Bowlegs 5K. Photo courtesy of Fred Deckert.

Inspire-Me-Monday-2-graphic

December 2015 #RunChatHunt

You know what #RunChatHunt does?

It gets under your skin and into your head … permanently … that’s what!

Even though this item was several RunChatHunts ago, I don’t ever pass the pay phone at Tom Brown Park without thinking of RunChatHunt. The same is true for road kill, but I don’t think I am ever supposed to talk about road kill again or I may get kicked out of future hunts!

This year’s list was fun! The most challenging item (to me) was the leftover Halloween decorations.

Running Scavenger Hunt

The goal is to find the items listed then Tweet them with the #RunChatHunt tag. Each tweet (that complies with the rules of course!) qualifies the participant for a prize. The prize list  this year is one of the most prolific I have ever seen! Visit the link and check them out!

Here are my finds:

Running Scavenger Hunt

The hunt lasts through January 1, 2016, so there’s still time if you want to participate!

In addition, there’s a separate yet equally awesome (and someone easier to pull off) hunt underway on Facebook.  Click here to join.

While it is totally fun hunting for the various scavenger hunt items, I have to say the thing about running that has sustained my year the most has been my running friends. In our town, with these people, you don’t have to “hunt” too far to find the very best. And the prize is in the time, the sweat, and the shared miles.

Enjoying cupcakes after a Christmas Lights Run!

Enjoying cupcakes after a Christmas Lights Run!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

I am running into a definite “deja vu” moment right now!

I decided to blog about the Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt …

Which led me to decide on a title about the fact that the only thing I haven’t found is a garden gnome…

Which sent me back to last year’s Summer #RunChatHunt post …

In which I bemoaned the lack of a gnome.

HMMMmmmm…….

For this year, we were challenged to find the following items while running and tweet pictures of each one with the hashtag #RunChatHunt:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

And here is my gnomeless list of “finds” so far:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Body of Water: Wakulla Springs

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Statue: Unconquered!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Sunrise!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Something unique to your city: Our FSU Sod Cemetery! (Go ‘Noles!)

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Race sticker(s) on vehicle!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

American Flag!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Selfie with another runner: my awesome friend Lysa!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Empty beer/soda can!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

House Under Construction!

And last but gnot least:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

If you haven’t joined in the #RunChatHunt fun, there’s still time! It lasts through June 30!

Each time you tweet one of the scavenger hunt items with the hashtag #runchathunt, you are eligible for awesome prizes! You get a bonus entry for doing a blog post!

Here is the prize info:

For the “fine print,” rules, and all that fun stuff, visit the original post here.

Join me in the #RunChatHunt fun! I GNOW you can do it!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

 

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

One fun thing about being part of the fitness community is the constant flood of new things to eat/wear/use to make us faster, healthier, more effective. In today’s post, three items I have recently been introduced to and my assessment:

DBelt Pro

The DBelt Pro is part of the DBelt collection. Named after one of the company’s founders, Danielle Etienne Raphino, the DBelt was developed in an effort to “create a multifunctional fitness apparel accessory that was so sleek and modern it could be as comfortably, and confidently, worn outside the gym as in.”

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

What I liked about the DBelt Pro:

  • Freedom from buckles and clasps. The DBelt Pro has a velcro closure. There is plenty of velcro to secure the DBelt. Lack of clasps/buckles makes it lie flush against your body.
  • The colors. So many running/fitness accessories are black or neutral. My DBelt Pro is red. There are other vibrant color choices as well:
  • The compartments. There is a small zipper compartment, a second small compartment, and a larger compartment with a secure velcro closure that can accommodate an iPhone6.
Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

DBelt Color Options

Features of the DBelt Pro that weren’t a good fit for me:

  • Sizing. This isn’t so much a downfall of the product, but of the sizing for particular uses. I ordered a medium, which was a perfect fit if I used the product as pictured on their website, but when I wore it on my hips as pictured, it bounced too much. I moved it higher on my waist and secured it with safety pins. In retrospect, I should have gotten a small (or maybe even an extra small) for running purposes.
  • Velcro vs. Zipper for the phone compartment. I strongly prefer a zipper compartment for my phone. The velcro on the phone compartment is very grippy but a zipper is my personal preference. I can’t afford to take any chances with my phone.
  • Hand Washing Required. The tag says the DBelt Pro should be hand washed. Mine was so sweaty after my first three runs … I am not sure hand washing is really going to address the drenching a fitness accessory gets after a Florida summer run.
  • Durability. After three uses (during hour-long runs), the 95% polyester/5% spandex fabric on my DBelt Pro was showing significant signs of wear. As a result, I have some reservations about durability.

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

The DBelt Pro retails for $49.95. For more information, visit their website here, check them out on Facebook,  visit them on Twitter, or follow them on Pinterest.

Here’s a pic of the DBelt Pro in use:

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

ZIG

ZIG is a just-add-water portable protein shake. Each package has a single serving of premium whey protein powder sealed inside. The user adds water, shakes, and drinks. It is designed for use as a pre or post workout protein fix or a healthy snack between meals.

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

What I liked about ZIG:

  • Convenience. The ZIG packaging has everything you need (except the water) and is safety sealed to protect the ingredients until you are ready to prepare your protein drink.
  • Flavor. I don’t think I have ever met a chocolate “anything” I disliked! I tried chocolate and vanilla.They were both tasty, but I preferred the chocolate.
  • Protein. 20 grams of whey protein in one six-ounce drink is a plus!

ZIG features that weren’t a good fit for me:

  • Packaging. By designing packaging that weighs 80% less than many pre-packaged protein shakes, ZIG states that results will include reduced gasoline consumption and pollution, and reduced CO2 emissions. While that is true, the jury is still out for me on the environmental impact of the portable plastic packaging, including the “Mixing Mesh” enclosure.

ZIG is currently available on Amazon via this link. (Through June 30, use this code to buy 1 get 1 free: ZIGFF620.) For more information, visit their website here, check them out on Facebook,  visit them on Twitter, or double tap on Instagram.

I refueled with ZIG after a recent run:

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

Jabra Sport Plus Wireless Stereo Headphones

I won a pair of Jabra Sport Plus Wireless Stereo Headphones from a Verizon Wireless #ConnectedLife twitter chat MONTHS ago. I put them in my closet, honestly on the premise that I wouldn’t be able to figure them out.

In retrospect I don’t know why I hesitated!

These wireless headphones have quickly become one of my favorite running accessories (and, for the record, it took about five minutes to figure them out!).

Product Reviews: Trying New Things!

What I like about my Jabra Sport Plus wireless headphones:

  • Cordless. Seriously. Isn’t it amazing how a tiny little thing like the cord from your earbuds to your phone/iPod can be irritating as heck during a run? I love this freedom!
  • FM Radio. I took a quick walk Friday morning, and was easily able to tune in to NPR to listen to my usual Friday morning programming. Such a simple thing but so convenient!

Jabra Sport Plus Wireless Headphone FEATURES THAT aren’t A GOOD FIT FOR ME:

  • Zero, Nada, Zilch. I haven’t found a downside yet!

Jabra Sport Plus wireless headphones retail for $99.99 and come with a three month Endomondo premium subscription. For more information, visit their website here, check them out on Facebook,  visit them on Twitter, or follow them on Instagram.

Have you made any new discoveries that enhance your fitness life lately? I’d love to hear about them!

**Note: I was provided the DBelt Pro in exchange for my review. I was provided the ZigDrink products in exchange for my review, as a Fitfluential ambassador. The opinions here are totally my own.

Run With Your Friends

Over the past three years, I have become more and more distanced from my local running friendships, and a couple of Facebook conversations this week prompted me to share my conclusion that in-person running friendships are not something to take for granted, that despite your specific training plans which may make it hard to “lace up and go” together, it’s worth figuring out how to make it work.

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS

When I first started being coached, I began heart rate based training. The result was that my workouts were structured around lengths of time at specific zones. For example, as opposed to “run three miles,”  a typical workout may be “warm up ten minutes at Zone 1, run 20 minutes at Zone 2, 10 minutes at Zone 3, cool down 10 minutes at Zone 1” or “here’s a workout on iTunes — put it in your ears and do what it says” (not an instruction from my current coach) or “every 20 minutes, run at a higher heart rate zone for 3 minutes and then slow back down”). It was a little complicated to get my head around and I felt awkward telling people “even though I can run faster, I have to watch my heart rate monitor and stay within a zone so don’t pay attention to me.”

Run With Your Friends

A typical “with surges” workout in Training Peaks.

Related to this change, I began isolating myself from group runs I previously had participated in. In addition to the specificity of the workouts, my first coach did not want me racing as much as I had been (translation: almost every Saturday). The withdrawal from frequent racing made sense from a training standpoint but took me further away from the Saturday morning visit/run/sweat/eat routine.

My initial goal of being coached was to prepare for my first half marathon (September 2012) but after that I was single-focused on my goal of the sub-30 5K. That’s why I stuck so religiously to the “less racing” and “more following coach’s instructions to the letter” plan even though it meant being separated from my running peeps.

I vividly remember one friend saying of the Saturday morning group runs, “We’d invite you but we know you do your own thing.”

To be fair, a certain amount of my running has always been solitary. Early morning runs before work are sometimes more easily accomplished by just knocking them out in the neighborhood. I’m not always able or willing to meet a group at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I love running alone but I also love the people in my running community. The farther I got into my little training world, the more distance grew between my local running friends and me.

I can’t say exactly when I began refusing to accept the impact my coaching plan had on my local running friendships, but I saw a subtle shift about a year and a half ago, when I started meeting a group of Moms Run This Town (MRTT) runners on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30 a.m. for their runs. I was always the “caboose” and still running alone but it made a difference to start out with a group, to say hello to friends, and for someone to know I was out there (and to have a change of scenery from my neighborhood loop). It was a little silly to drive 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back, sometimes for a 40 minute run, but some actions that add quality to our running lives are not measured solely in minutes spent.

Run With Your Friends

The term “local running friends” should be broadly interpreted to include Miniature Pinschers, of course.

The more obvious shift came when I began experiencing challenges with my heart rate, leading to my April 2015 EP study and diagnosis of multifocal atrial tachycardia (MAT). Because an ablation was contraindicated (for now), I am currently taking a beta blocker half an hour before I run and, although I am sure there are plenty of runners out there accomplishing a sub 30 5K on beta blockers, I am dubious that is in the cards for me, so I am re-assessing my goal.

And it bothers me that before I got to the point of reassessing that goal, my path took me farther and farther from my local running friends, leaving me with a goal unaccomplished (I hate that!) and social bridges whose support pilings were on the verge of being washed out due to neglect.

That is why, when I got into those two Facebook conversations last week, I sent back responses that were hopefully articulately, sensitively, and diplomatically worded but were intended to say:

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

IT IS MORE COMPLICATED AND YOU’LL HAVE TO BE CREATIVE BUT …

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

I am not saying that coaching is a bad idea AT ALL (I LOVE my coach and my team at KR Endurance) and I believe in the effectiveness of heart-rate based training. BUT don’t abandon your local running friends.Whatever happens with your coaching journey and however many workouts you check off as complete in an online training system, none of that can replace:

  • Scrambling to make it to pre-race photos
  • Shared Finish Lines
  • Conversations over breakfast/coffee/beer/pizza (and Tuesday Post-Track Tacos of course)
  • Sacrificing your time goal on race day to help a friend who is struggling or has injured themselves
  • Sweaty hugs
  • The growth of trust and history with fellow runners that only accretes through being together regularly

Run With Your Friends

From Human Microchip to EP Study and Beyond

In the 24 hours leading up to my EP Study on Monday, I asked myself quite a few times if it made sense to go through with the procedure, especially since my high heart rate episodes only occurred when I was running. In other words, even though the risks are minimal, is it worth having a doctor thread a catheter up through my groin into my heart in order to figure out what was going on in there and to possibly “ablate” any problem areas?

For a recap of the history leading up to Monday, click here.

Now let's talk about EP studies.

Now let’s talk about EP studies.

To get to the point of today’s blog, we will fast forward past the referral process to get to the electrophysiologist, the initial appointment with the electrophysiologist, the implantation of my loop recorder, appointment number one with the electrophysiologist’s nurse, a between-appointments phone call with the nurse where I was instructed to begin taking two baby aspirin every night (I was already taking one) and appointment number two with the electrophysiologist’s Physician Assistant (PA), where I was given the choice of medication or an EP Study with Ablation. Because I was hesitant to settle for a medication-only option (I was concerned medication would make me more tired than I already am all the time and would not yield any answers), I agreed to proceed with the EP Study and Ablation on the premise that a) at least I would have answers and b) if I did get an ablation, I would be able to return to running with a likelihood of less risk, more satisfaction, and a relieved mind.

I reported to the hospital at 7 a.m. on Monday, and did a combination of laying around, prepping (there is some cleaning with grown up baby wipes to be done), having a baseline EKG taken, having baseline vitals taken, chatting with the anesthesiologist, a visit from the PA, and a final visit from the electrophysiologist before the process began.

From an anesthesiology perspective, the goal with an EP study (at least with this team) was not to keep the patient completely “out.” I did have them promise not to share any crazy tequila stories I told while I was in and out (apparently either I didn’t give them anything to work with or they are very discreet people!). I was given oxygen. I remember nothing of the actual insertion of the catheter. I remember significant parts of them manipulating my HR to try to replicate the issues I have been having. One of the cool parts of an EP study is that they essentially “GPS” your heart. I had stickers all over my chest that were a part of the mapping process (and is it a good thing when they say they don’t have much real estate to work with?!). The anesthesiologist told me that he could tell at a certain point that I was really getting anxious (and I was trying to stay calm but I guess “trying” is a relative thing in that situation) so he put me farther out.

Fast forward to the recovery room. and beyond. I remembered how still Wayne (my husband) had to be after his catheterization, and how we had to bring Wayne’s dad back to the hospital when he began bleeding from his insertion site after a catheterization so I was determined to be the perfect patient on that front. But I think the process and technology have both improved. Although you are told to remain very still, there wasn’t a nurse yelling at me when I moved my head a millimeter (as one did with Wayne).

All of that to get to this answer:

I do not have Atrial Fibrillation (this is mostly a good thing!). My issue involves SupraventricularTachydardia (SVTs). The good news is that SVTs, even though they feel totally bizarre and abnormal, do not usually lead to adverse cardiac events or fatalities.

Dr. Silberman chose not to ablate – he found two “hot spots” that activate at around 160 bpm, but they return to normal as my HR rate escalates and several other spots activate. It was taking so much medication (isuprel) to get my HR up enough to replicate the issue that they were afraid they would run out mid-procedure and apparently there is a manufacturers’ shortage of it so they couldn’t get more. One option is a different (more involved) procedure with a balloon that can discover/ablate more surfaces at once, but that is not necessarily that obvious route to go. For now, the recommendation is that I take a beta blocker before running and keep my HR to below my zone 4.

Here are the takeaways for now:

Technology is pretty awesome

I am still in awe at what medical professionals can find out via technology. From my Garmin which provided preliminary data about the patterns of my heart rate issues, to the loop recorder that provided more specific information, to the map of my heart and its electrical patterns, we have access to so much data.

Physicians with good bedside manner are pretty awesome

I am grateful for the way in which Dr. Silberman has explained everything at each step of the way. I appreciate the fact that he respects the role of running in my sanity (even though he does say, repeatedly, “you know, you don’t have to exercise at 170 bpm to be fit”).

dr-silberman-rotated

Good nurses are pretty awesome

I am a little fuzzy on my ability to evaluate the performance of some of the nurses, but all the ones I was “with it” for were great. They were patient, answered my questions, and provided plenty of attention (along with a nifty “discharge note” (below) and a follow-up phone call the evening I was discharged. My last nurse had an interesting mantra — “be assertive” — she said it ten times if she said it once. She’s right of course but it still struck me as interesting.

cardiac-nurses-rotated

 

Remember that post I wrote about how hard it is to get a wheelchair at TMH?

I have to admit, when I remembered (duh) that I would need one of those very same wheelchairs to transport me out of my room and down to my car, I was a little afraid the staff would see my name and all of a sudden develop a very lengthy d e l a y! But my complaint was never about the transportation staff themselves, just the challenging process of getting a wheelchair for my father-in-law, and I am happy to report my chariot arrived to sweep me away from the hospital relatively promptly.

Frequent naps and permission to “take it easy” are awesome

I was told to avoid running/exercise (sigh) and not lift anything heavier than ten pounds for a week. As much as I have missed my usual high-intensity, rapid-fire life, I have to admit having permission to take it easy has its bonuses too. I have probably taken more naps in the past week than I have in the past year (or five…). I think I needed the rest.

Not running is not awesome

Double negative that may be … but if you know me, or if you have had your own period of enforced non-running, you know what I mean. All of a sudden everyone’s off-hand remarks on social media about their “quick three-milers,” “couldn’t help signing up for another race,” and “awful run but I am glad I did it” seem like they are coming from a completely different universe. My paper workout chart, my Training Peaks, and my Daily Mile are all completely blank this week. So is my endorphin quota. It’s odd and not awesome.

So much of your running mojo is in your head

This has messed with my mental status. As much as I have advocated endlessly for the power of the back of the pack, for the fact that every mile matters, for the fact that runners should all support one another, the truth is that I have felt very close to the edge of being excommunicated from the runner fraternity (and I know if anyone else said all that to me I would immediately jump on them and tell them the thousand reasons why they still belong). I’m just keeping it real here. I have finally gotten a little tiny bit of traction and credibility as a Fitfluential Ambassador and am having to work hard to convince myself I still belong.

Not running messes with your nutrition

One beautiful thing about running combined with relatively clean eating habits was that I had a little wiggle room to treat myself to “fun food” occasionally. A few weeks prior to the procedure I announced to my coach that I was “tired of logging.” although I knew what to do to maintain my weight, I also know how easy it is to wander once you are no longer making yourself accountable. Logging and reporting my food logs to my coach every night incentivized me to, for example, have salads on hand for lunches, to skip bread in the evenings, and to keep the long-term goal in mind.

And I think that’s the rub now: there is no long term goal now that I have ditched the sub-30 5K. The things I run for still exist: Gareth, Charity Miles, my team at KR Endurance, my running friends, my health and my sanity.

The challenge is getting my head (and my heart) back in it.

EP Studies

****NOTE: I really hate talking endlessly about myself like I have ended up doing throughout this cardiac health  journey. I continue because I know it has helped me to read of other people’s experiences. It’s a scary and lonely feeling to feel like “the only one” facing this type of issue. A lot of people have helped me, especially Mary Jean Yon. While I don’t feel ready to be anyone’s lifeline yet, it is important to know you are not alone, and to be your own most assertive advocate when it comes to your health. That’s why I keep talking about it. Maybe next week I’ll post about dancing unicorn kittens or something lighter!

MedalGate

I ran the Springtime 10K race here in Tallahassee yesterday. It was my fourth time running the 10K race. It was also my slowest time running this race, not because I am inadequately trained but because I am in the middle of figuring out what is going on with my cardiac health.

After my friend Betty and I crossed the finish line, we walked past a lady standing there with a box of medals. Frankly, I had forgotten that there were medals for the 10K race finishers. When we saw her, I kind of said “oh yeah, medals,” and she explained that those were last year’s medals, that there were no more 2015 medals. I started not to take one, but since I often send my race medal to Gareth, who I run for, I went ahead and took one. Betty followed up on the woman’s admonition to “ask someone” about getting a 2015 medal and through Betty’s inquiries, we figured out that there were no more medals.

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I didn’t really think too much about the medal situation. I was happy to enjoy a gorgeous day, to be wearing the TeamRWB emblem as part of RunAs1, to find a compromise between the all-out runner I really want to be and the “keep things moderate” runner I have to be right now.

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TeamRWBTally

 

I did jokingly post a picture of my 2014 medal on my Facebook page, jesting that “And if you time things JUST RIGHT and finish toward the end you get to get on the race time machine and retrieve yourself a medal from the 2014 race from the special time traveler box.”

As it turns out, another runner who finished later than me along with her son was very unhappy about the 2014 medal situation, because she had paid race fees for four people, and it was her child’s first 10K. She posted that concern on our track club’s Facebook page, and what I deemed “medalgate” ensued. The entire thread has now been deleted but the categories of comments were roughly:

70%: people offering their medals to her and reassuring her that it would get handled

20%: people telling her to be grateful for the beautiful day and gracious to an all-volunteer operation

8%: combinations of the above

1%: responses from the race directors providing a brief explanation and instructions for how to pursue a resolution privately

0.5%: a response from the original complainant sharing a screen shot of a negative private message from someone who, to put it politely, disagreed with her stance

0.5% a meme

Our track club still has a members only Yahoo list (remember those?). After reading some of the chatter on there, I drafted a lengthy response. I am sharing it here.

Everyone, I have read every single word of the Facebook conversation started when [name] commented about being given a 2014 medal when there were no 2015 medals left today at the Springtime 10K. Some thoughts …

First of all, I think it is incredible (but very typical) of our club that so many people offered to donate their medals (and someone offered to refund her family’s entry fee).

Social media does make it possible to fire off a concern rapidly and publicly without giving an issue time to be resolved more privately. That pattern is here to stay, and I am writing to encourage you to remember that these situations present opportunities to bring someone into our fold.

I can absolutely understand the logic behind responses in the thread encouraging her to appreciate what a beautiful day it was, to cut volunteers a break (amen!), to use this as a teachable moment for her child, to focus on the positive. I agree with all of those statements.

But by the same token I encourage you to remember a time when you were a running outsider. If you are a back of the packer, the time(s) you wondered if you would be the last person finishing a race and therefore wondered if you should even show up at all. It may not be a medal but I am positive for all of us there have been days when we had to incentivize ourselves to get our butts out the door … maybe it was the thought of a glass of wine, the knowledge that we had to report in to our coach, or the hope that we would PR an upcoming race.

I am not a person who really cares about medals that much. I have kept a few from the races that are most special to me. Most of my others I give to the child I run for or donate. BUT for some people it really is “the thing.” For some parents (rightly or wrongly) they may have spent the last few weeks talking excitedly with their child about the anticipation of getting a medal. Adults, too, may  have seen the medal in their mind’s eye when they forced themselves to push one more mile, lift one more weight, pass up the second slice of pizza.

I do understand the challenges of an all volunteer operation, and how a plan which seemed failproof re: medal quantity didn’t work out that way. This year can help us better plan for next year.

I do think if we advertised the fact that every 10K runner would get a medal, we should try our best to make that happen (and I know the many offers to donate will undoubtedly take care of that). In the same way you wouldn’t ask for filet mignon at the grocery store and say “sure” if they said “you’re getting ground beef instead” it is reasonable for people to expect to get a 2015 medal.

I commend the directors on a FABULOUS and well-managed event. I haven’t ever directed a race but by now I am pretty familiar with the moving parts. As a volunteer, I have been chewed out by people when I didn’t have their tshirt size even though they pre-registered (it happens!).

I have been that obnoxious parent advocating too aggressively for my child. I have been the runner sending single spaced two page emails of “feedback” to race directors. Over time I got a broader perspective and learned a) how to give more succinct feedback b) when to give feedback and c) to remember to say thank you.

Do I wish [name] had held off on her negative post until she had tried to get a private resolution? I think it would have been in everyone’s best interests. For all I know, she is one of those people in the world who approaches everything from the negative, and no amount of offers to donate medals, refund her fees, or prove our goodwill can change things.

But I walked away from yesterday’s incident wishing that it had gone differently.

I want [name] and her family to come back to a track club sponsored event. The purpose of this lengthy reply is to remind us all that we can have a role in making that happen, via our words AND our actions.

Happy Running!