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Day 59/90 – Quasi-Mental Health Day

Day 59 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I took a quasi-mental health day.

This is how I looked after running 4 miles. I was covered with a film of sweat.

This is how I looked after running 4 miles. I was covered with a film of sweat.

I won’t deny that I’ve needed a break. I’ve been cranking hard on client work this summer. When I was a solo lawyer, my days were my own. I only went to my office when I had clients and otherwise I worked from home and my schedule was entirely my own. I had a day like that today.

I got up at my usual hour but instead of heading to the office, I headed out for a run. It felt so good to pound pavement in the middle of the week. After I finished breakfast and cleared email, I ran errands in the middle of the morning. The file server at work was fixed so I worked from the home office for most of the afternoon. It felt so good to break up the monotony of my every day routine. I need to remember to do that more often.

Having structure in my day creates security but it can also create a rut. I need to keep my energy moving by mixing things up periodically.

In case you missed it: Day 58 of the 90 Days of Awesome – My work played hooky on me.

Day 55/90 – Running with Gary Vaynerchuk

Day 55 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running with Gary Vaynerchuk!

This is an old picture but it embodies how I felt after riding 21 miles today.

This is how I feel after a good run.

And by that, I mean I went running while listening to is podcast on my iPod.

I’m still trying to figure out how running fit into my life in terms of my schedule. Yesterday, I took myself for a run/walk after walking Miss Rosie. I wanted to try out my new water bottle that straps to my hand to stay hydrated and test a new running route through Papago Park.

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

I started out thinking I would just walk my new route, but then I remembered that walking is boring so I started running.

My run/walk was a little over 4 miles and I did it with gorgeous surroundings and Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee podcast blasting in my ears. Every time he started a new question, I would switch from running to walking or vice versa. The timing was just about perfect in terms of not wearing myself out too fast. I love listening to him answer questions from entrepreneurs. He’s real, blunt, but loving with his delivery, and he gives good practical advice.

It took about an hour to do the whole route. I was so sweaty by the time I got home but I felt great. And my new water bottle is exactly what I was looking for regarding my hydration needs. It’s really comfortable.

In case you missed it: Day 54 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Just a Really Good Day.

Day 16/90 – Running in the Sun

Day 16 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running!

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

I’ve decided it’s time to get back in shape. I want to increase my stamina and get some more muscle tone in my quads, back, and arms. Plus, I feel better when I work out on a regular basis.

Here’s my challenge: I live in Phoenix. It’s freakin’ hot here. It’s coolest in the morning, but that’s also when I am most productive in terms of writing and professional work. I don’t want to give that up, so I either have to get up even earlier than my current 5:15am alarm, or suck it up and run in the evening.

So today I took myself for a run at about 5pm. I set out to do a 3-mile run. Working out in the summer is not new to me, but it was a little brutal to go from barely working out to running in 110-degree heat. I had my sunblock, clothes made out wicking fabric, and I was hydrated, but it was still hard.

I didn’t realize until I was out there that my regular route is mostly in the sun. Did I mention I overheat easily if I’m in the sun too long? I ended up running 1.5 miles and walking 1.5 miles home. I was so hot when I got back that I grabbed my water bottle from the fridge and dumped it over my head.

I think running will become a regular part of my life again, but I will be relegated to running at sunrise, sunset, or running in the shade. I also want to work on my tone and flexibility with push-ups and stretching.

In case you missed it: Day 15 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Rockin’ my Fake British Accent!

Still Don’t Officially Know What’s Wrong with Me – and I Don’t Care Anymore

I love my running shoes.

I love my running shoes.

I am officially over my medical mystery. I don’t even want to think how much time I’ve spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals or how much money I’ve spent on medical tests related to my chest pains, dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats. And we still have no idea what’s wrong with me.

My cardiologists (all three of them) determined I have a hole in my heart but it’s a congenital defect that shouldn’t be causing my symptoms. My primary care doctor drew nine vials of blood and ran every test he could think of – CBC, thyroid, hormones, Epstein-Barr, other random illnesses – and everything came out negative or normal.

I’m annoyed that trying to do the right thing and take care of myself yielded no actionable results. It disrupted my marathon training and left me unprepared so I couldn’t finish the race. I feel like I wasted my time and I am frustrated that I don’t have any answers except what’s not wrong with me. I’m done doing this process of elimination. I’m ready to call it and apply Occam’s Razor. I say I have reoccurring costochondritis, fatigue from the fact that I work myself into the ground on a regular basis and have depression, dizziness from low blood sugar from my eating disorder, and night sweats caused by anxiety. I changed my linens and took the blanket off my bed so I’m cold when I tuck myself into bed at night, but it seems to be decreasing my night sweats so that’s good enough for me.

My Race Shirt for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My Race Shirt for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

I’m ready to say “fuck it” and get back into cycling and running. When I go on The Undeniable Tour for two weeks, I plan to go running in every city I stay in. I am a much more balanced person when I work out on a regular basis.

Just in case some things really wrong with me and they just haven’t found it yet, I still don’t leave the house without my Road ID strapped to my left wrist. That way, if I collapse or something, my bracelet will contain the information the emergency medical team should know about my medical history.

Will I try to train for another marathon? I’m not sure. I workout more consistently when I have a race on my calendar and a training program to follow, so I’m looking for a race to train for – either a 10K or a half marathon. I’m contemplating doing a half marathon trail run in June. That could be really fun. We’ll see what happens.

Cleared to Workout Again

. . .and there was much rejoicing.”

For those of you who haven’t been following the drama related to my heart, I started having chest pain after long runs in November. After seeing to cardiologist’s and having two ultrasound, a stress test, wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, and getting a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), they diagnosed me as having a congenital heart defect called patent foramen ovale (PFO). However, my heart defect apparently is not the cause of my pain or the dizziness, fatigue, or night sweats I’ve been having.

My doctors aren’t sure what’s causing my symptoms but they’re pretty sure it’s not a cardiovascular problem so my first cardiologist said I was allowed to work out again and took me off the beta blockers. (Did you know that beta blockers are the only banned substance in archery?) I made an appointment to see my primary care doctor to run blood work to see what else is going on in my body. In the meantime, I’m working out!

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles - Feb. 14, 2015

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles – Feb. 14, 2015

And it feels so good to exercise again!

On Saturday morning, I took myself for a 3-mile run, probably at a 10-minute/mile pace. My body could definitely tell that it hadn’t worked out in a while. My chest hurt for most of it but not enough to get me to stop. My legs held up great. (I would be surprised if it turns out I have a bad case of costochondritis – which I’ve had off and on since I was 11 – plus another medical condition that’s causing the other symptoms. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the chest wall that hurts like a bitch that there’s not much they can do about it.)

I took myself for a bike ride on Sunday. I meant to do 10 or 12 miles but I ended up doing 14.5. My quads and butt muscles got a work out. I didn’t realize how steep Galvin Parkway is through Papago Park – thankfully I rode up the hill at the beginning of my ride so I can coast down it on the way home.

One of the best parts of working out again is it giving up my mind a chance to rest and let ideas flow through it. There is no way I can act on an idea while I’m running or riding – not even a chance to send myself an email – so my thoughts have an opportunity to tumble around in my brain and develop in a non-directed organic way. It’s the closest thing I have to being creative. It was very nice to have that mental respite again.

My return to running couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to the Dad 2.0 Summit this weekend in San Francisco (blogging conference for dads). I’ll be speaking with them about the legal dos and don’ts of having a blog. It looks like there’s going to be a group of us going for a run together one of the mornings. I hope our route includes at least one hill.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – DNF

I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon yesterday . . . well, more accurately speaking, I started the race. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it. As many of my friends suggested, this was not my race.

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – Probably my Happiest Moment of the Day (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

I needed to have an awesome day on race day to complete 26.2 miles. That’s what I had a few weeks ago when I ran 20 miles and I felt like I could easily run 5 more. Yesterday was a good day, not a great day. I didn’t feel particularly bad when I started the day just after 4am. I got up, made coffee, got dressed for the race, walked the dog, had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter, packed my gear bag, and walked a mile to the light rail station. I had an enjoyable chat with a guy from Minnesota on the rail who was the 3:40 pacer for the race on the ride across town. He said he was going to run the race with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest.

The starting line is pretty uneventful. I met up with my cousin AJ and we lined up in our corral. Just before the race started, I had my usual pre-race 5 Hour Energy and 2 ibuprofens. As our group started the race I tried to be mindful of the advice I heard from so many people – Don’t start out too fast. I tried to tell myself, “We’re just going for a jog.”

I never felt like I found a groove in this race. My music kept me going and I occasionally found someone to pace with. My hands started tingling around Mile 2, and I knew that couldn’t be good, but thankfully a cleared up after a few more miles. My right arch hurt starting pretty early on in the race and I had intermittent hip pain on both sides, but I pushed on. By Mile 9, I was pretty certain I would be losing some toenails after the race.

In terms of time, I had a great first half of the race. My half marathon time was 1:58 (9:07/mile pace). Around Mile 12, I started questioning if I really wanted to finish the race. At Mile 14, I really started to hurt and started slowing down. The 4-hour pacers easily passed me. After the turnaround in Old Town Scottsdale, my chest and my liver hurt so I decided to walk. I was surprised by how much my whole body hurt once I stopped running and how slowly I was walking, even compared to how slowly I had been running. I was done.

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

I promised myself I could stop at the next medical tent, which turned out to be at Mile 19. A friendly nurse gave me a chair, verified my identity, and asked what was wrong. When she discerned that I wasn’t in imminent danger or in need of significant medical attention, she gave me a bottle of Gatorade and called for the shuttle. Another nurse put a towel that had been soaking in ice around my shoulders. I felt like crap.

Gene, my kind shuttle driver, zipped me to the finish line where I pick that my bag from gear check and met up with my family. I sent out a handful of text messages to the people who I suspected were tracking me via my RFID chip who might be wondering what had happened to me. I was bummed I couldn’t finish the race but it was the right decision. I felt so weak, so lightheaded, and my stomach hurt like a bitch that my aunt took me home instead of going out with everybody else. After a few hours of rest, I started to feel human again.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along this journey to do this race and a special thank you to the crew and volunteers who work the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and my friends Karen, La Dessa, Valerie, Dannie, and Bill who cheered me on from the sidelines. You guys made my race a lot less painful.

Will I try another marathon? I’m not sure. The next thing on my to-do list is seeing my new cardiologist and getting my heart fixed. My new guy specializes in my type of heart defect so hopefully he can determine what’s causing my symptoms and how to fix it.

Marathon Training Week 18 Recap – Final Prep

Colts Experience by Valerie Everett from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Colts Experience by Valerie Everett from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The last week of marathon training was pretty uneventful. My marathon training program had me taper down so much that I ran less this week than any other week during training. I did a 3-mile run on Tuesday and a 4-mile run on Wednesday. I was supposed to do a 2-mile run on Thursday, but my chest hurt that afternoon so I opted to skip it. A lot of people, myself included, are wondering why I’m doing this race with my current health issues. The only real reasons I have are sheer determination and because I want to do it.

I got some great advice from my friends who have run a marathon previously. Some of the best tidbits were don’t do anything different on race day than you did during your training and trust your training. I was really nervous about the race a few days ago and I reached out to a friend who is done plenty of marathon and Ironman races for a pep talk. He told me that I’ve done a 20-mile training run and I’ve run a 10K. A marathon is just the opportunity to do them consecutively. That made me feel better.

My Race Shirt for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My Race Shirt for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My friend and I went to the race expo on Friday. We both ran the half marathon 2 years ago and I beat him by 67 seconds so his goal this year is to beat my half marathon time. He ran the full marathon last year and I wouldn’t mind beating his time of 4:30:16. But my real goal at this point is to just finish. We did a quick lap for the expo exhibitors, looking at products and grabbing samples, and I got taped up at the Rock Tape booth. (And for those of you who are wondering, yes I altered the race waiver and they accepted it.)

A few days ago I picked up my custom race shirt at Brand X in Tempe. I had them put “One More Mile” on the back of a highlighter yellow running shirt in silver lettering. It came out beautifully. I hope it will inspire anyone running behind me during the race.

At this point I’m enjoying carb loading and just trying to get everything ready for race day. I hope it will be a low-stress high-fun day.

Advice for First-Time Marathon Runners

Photo by Rich Kenington

Photo by Rich Kenington (Creative Commons License)

I’m running my first marathon this weekend at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona. I’ve done the half marathon four times, and now that I’ve fixed my shin splints and tweaked my running posture, I’m ready to go for the full.

Luckily, I have several friends who have run a marathon as a stand-alone race and/or as part of an Ironman. I asked them to share some advice with me and anyone else who is running their first marathon.

Absolutely nothing new on race day. No new shoes, no new clothes, no new foods, nothing.  Race day is not the time to find out those socks your friend recommended chafe and you don’t want to discover at mile 15 that orange flavored Gatorade makes you nauseous. If you didn’t train with it, don’t race with it. – Ben Schorr, Marathoner

Put your name on the front of your shirt.  – Peter Shankman, Marathoner and Ironman
(People will cheer for you by name if you do this.)

I would say to trust the training that you’ve done so far. Don’t overdo it the week before, but also be sure not to shut down completely. For me, I did an easy paced 5 or 6 mile run the day before the race with a long cool down and stretch. Get a long night’s sleep and make sure to hydrate well the morning of the race.  – Marian Grucky, Marathoner

If you look to the right, and you are standing next to a guy from Kenya, you are in the wrong corral. Okay, some more practical advice.  If you are feeling really good at mile, 5, 10, 15, or 20, DON’T speed up.  Just keep running your usual pace.  At mile 22 or 23, if you are feeling good, you can start to pick up your pace.  – Kolby Granville, Marathoner and Ironman

My advice for a first marathon is to go to enjoy it.  Go to feel out the distance and to see how your body responds to going that far. Stay well within your physical limits in the moment. Relax.  If you want to push wait until the last 6 miles or so when you have a sense that you will make it. Run with someone who has done it before and is not bound to a time. – Debbie Rubel, Marathoner

Assuming you have a target pace in mind, if the race has professional pace runners, stick with them or near them. Race day excitement usually makes me start too fast, and pacers keep you on track from the start, plus they put you in the starting pack at roughly the right place.  – Rick Ortmeyer, Marathoner

Thank the volunteers. The race would be much different without them out there to help us.  – Ben Schorr, Marathoner

Don’t worry about your time — your goal is to finish!  – Chad Belville, Marathoner

If you are reading this because you are preparing for your first marathon, have a great race! I hope you feel awesome when you cross the finish line.

Support your Runners at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015

If you live in the Phoenix area, especially if you live near the race route for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon or Half Marathon this coming weekend, please come out and support the runners. It matters that you’re there.

Photo by Tyler Hurst from Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Photo by Tyler Hurst from Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My sister came to Phoenix to do this race before I became a runner, and I drove her to the starting line, saw her start the race, cheered for her around Mile 8 and at the finish line. It was fun to be part of the excitement of the race and see all the fanfare, but I didn’t think it mattered that I was there.

I didn’t understand until I became a runner myself how helpful and encouraging it is to have people cheering for you on the sidelines, even when they’re strangers. It’s even better when you see a familiar face in the crowd.

When I did that half marathon in 2012, I knew my friends would be watching for me around Mile 8 and Mile 11. At Mile 4, I started counting down how far had to go before I would see my friends. It was so great to see my friend Tyler holding a sign that insulted me (per my request) as I ran by him and other friends. That kept my spirits lifted until Mile 11 when I saw my friend Barb who yelled, “Move your ass Bitch!” (I specifically asked my friends to insult me that year. It’s part of my masochistic nature.)

One of my Favorite Race Day Signs Ever - Photo by Jeff Moriarty

One of my Favorite Race Day Signs Ever – Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Even when I don’t recognize the people who are watching us run, it means so much that they came out to support us. I love reading all the funny signs that people make and seeing the volunteers who dress up in funny outfits. It’s mutual people watching. It’s fun to watch runners who wear costumes or running shirts with clever sayings on them. Quite a few people put their name on their shirt so you can cheer for them by name if you want. This year we had the option to customize part of our race bibs. Mine says “First Marathon.”

The 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona race routes will cross Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Wherever you live, you should be able to get to a portion of the race relatively easily. If you’re going to be on the marathon route and you want to make my race, make me a sign that says “Go Baby Duck!” Baby Duck was one of the nicknames my late coach called me. This will only be my second race since his passing. That would make me happier then having people insult me.

To everyone who has ever driven a runner to their starting line, made a sign, or cheered them on along the way, thank you for your support. It makes a big difference having you there.