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Hal Higdon

I Still Have a Defective Heart

Atrial Septal Defect - Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Atrial Septal Defect – Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Let me start this post with a correction: I misheard my cardiologist last week. I thought he said I have a ventricular septal defect. He actually said I have an atrial septal defect. Today when we went over the results of my tests, he told me I have, not 1, but 2 holes between my atriums.

The human heart isn’t that big. How is it possible that I have 2 holes in one little area?

The rest of my tests were unremarkable. Nothing unusual showed up when I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours and my stress test looked good. Overall, my doctor is unsure what’s causing my symptoms – the chest pain, the fatigue, and the night sweats. He prescribed me a low-dose beta-blocker and said I can go back on ibuprofen for pain. (Yay!) My beta blocker dose is so low my pharmacy had to special order it. Since I’m so small, my doctor’s having me only take half a pill every other day for the first five days to see how I adjust to it. (He said it could make me tired.)

My cardiologist also referred me to another heart specialist to evaluate whether my heart defect is causing my problems and whether they should be surgically sealed. Apparently this guy specializes in these types of defects. I hope it doesn’t take weeks to get an appointment. If my defect should be patched, they go in through the groin, not open heart surgery. That was good to hear.

My doctor said I’m allowed to try running again. I was pretty nervous to see how my stamina is after not running for nearly 3 weeks. I was slated to do 5 miles today and I opted to do it on the treadmill where I could control my speed. I ended up doing a run/walk combo and finished in 53:58. I think that’s a good start. My chest hurt a little bit at first but settled down by mile 3.

I’m scheduled to do 14 miles on Saturday and I think I’ll do it on the treadmill again where it will be easier to manage speed, take breaks, and have snacks. For now, my plan is to keep following my marathon training program, but modify it by walking and running my miles as needed.

Marathon Training Week 11 Recap – Geez that Hurts!

11 by MaretH. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

11 by MaretH. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I am 11 weeks into Hal Higdon’s 18-week marathon training program. It was mostly a good week of training until this weekend when the excruciating pain started. I switched up my aural entertainment from podcasts to mostly music and it made a big difference.

Here’s the recap of the last week:

Monday: Monday is usually a rest day, but I knew I’d be hiking on Thursday so I did the 4.5 miles I was scheduled to do on Thursday today. I entertained myself with my race day playlist. It’s easy to zone out with good music and just run in time with the rhythm. It was a little chilly but it felt good towards the end. I didn’t have any real pain until Mile 2 or 3 when I started having a little discomvfort in my hip, left calf, and left shin/post-tib. I was pretty sure I was going to need KT Tape on my left shin and post-tib for Wednesday’s 8-mile run and Saturday’s 16-mile run.

Tuesday: I accidentally slept in today so I ran my 4.5 miles in the afternoon. It was an uneventful run – just my standard pain in my left shin and right hip.

Wednesday:  I ran 8 miles early morning and watched a beautiful sunrise. It had hip pain from Mile 1, but it wasn’t that bad. I wore KT Tape which helped but it didn’t stay in place very well. I ordered Tuf-Skin when I got home. That stuff makes tape stick like glue.

I’m stepping up my push-ups this week: 5 sets of 25.

Thursday: Today was the Annual No Guilt Thanksgiving Hike with my cousin Marian. We hiked 5 miles up Shaw Butte. It was a good trek with good conversation, and as a bonus, I felt no pain.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I had a Forrest Gump moment during today’s 16-mile run. I started my run just as the sun was coming up and I was running next to a park that has some beautiful red rocks. There weren’t any cars or people around and I could just begin to see the sun peaking up over the horizon. It was very peaceful and gorgeous.

The run went well. I listened to Profiles with Malone and Mantz followed by my race day playlist. I put KT Tape on my left shin and post-tib and I was annoyed that it wasn’t staying on even though I followed all their directions – and then I realized that I got this roll of tape almost 2 years ago. The adhesive is probably drying out.

I felt good after my run until the evening when my entire body started to hurt – especially my chest. I felt like someone stomped on my sternum and kicked me in the ribs.

Sunday:  Holy crap my chest hurt this morning – but some ibuprofen helped take the edge off. Instead of biking, I went hiking with my friends at the Wind Cave Trail. It was 4 miles with a lot of rocks to climb. Toward the end, my legs and glutes could definitely feel it. After the hike my chest was killing me. Some of the people on the running Subreddit suggested that I might have a posture issue. I definitely plan to hit the Runner’s Den injury clinic this week to get their opinion about this.

After a nap I felt much better and cranked out 4 sets of 25 push-ups.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  33 miles (130.6 miles total for November)
Hiking:  9 miles
Push-ups:  225 push-ups

Marathon Training Week 10 Recap – Masochism Begins

under 10km/h by kssk from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

under 10km/h by kssk from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I am 10 weeks into Hal Higdon’s 18-week marathon training program. I needed KT Tape last week and after a few days, my leg felt well enough to run without it. Yay for that! I’m still having ongoing hip pain but my physical therapist friend suggested a stretch that helps a lot.

Here’s the recap from last week’s training:

Monday:  It was a chilly 46 degrees this morning. I didn’t feel like running in the cold and I definitely didn’t want to take the time to find my cold weather running gear. So I ran on the treadmill for 4.5 miles, and I ran my face off. I was done in 37.5 minutes. I wanted to be done so badly I cranked the speed up to 8.5 for the last few minutes. Hat tips to The Creative Giant Show and The #AskGaryVee Show for keeping me distracted and entertained.

Tuesday: Rest day.

Wednesday:  I ran 7 miles today. It was 52 degrees outside when I started so I ran in long pants and long-sleeved shirt. I was warm enough that I could have been in shorts and t-shirt by the end. I was entertained by an episode of the Dr. Drew Podcast with guests Anna David and Mike Carano. I laughed out loud several times.

When I got back from my run, I cranked out 100 push-ups: 4 sets of 25.

Thursday: It was another chilly morning, and since I worked from home today, I waited until 9am to run my 4.5 miles so I could run in the sun. I made the mistake of listening to my Christmas playlist today. Although it has some awesomely powerful songs, there were way too many ballads in the mix to be good for running. Plus it made me sad because it reminded me that I’m away from my family on Christmas.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I ran 15 miles today – the longest run I’ve ever done. Ever. I filled the 2.5 hours by listening to episodes of The Dr. Drew Podcast, The Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart, and a repeat of Profiles with Malone and Mantz featuring John Hughes. My hip handled the pain pretty well but it still hurt, as did my foot and my knee by the end. I started hating myself around mile 11. The last few miles were not pretty, but they got done and that’s what matters. It takes a true masochist to voluntarily run this far “for fun.”

Sunday:  I did a 19-mile bike ride today for cross training. It was only about 50 degrees when I started and I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so it was pretty chilly. On the upside, it was like I was icing my body as I was inflicting pain on it. I can definitely tell that my quads are getting stronger and have more definition.

When I got back, I finished my push-ups for the week with 4 sets of 25.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 31 miles
Biking: 19 miles
Push-ups: 200 push-ups

Marathon Training for the RnRAz 2015

My training program for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 begins this week. I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon every year for four years (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013), (PR: 1:52:04), but then I had to sit out 2014 due to shin splints. Now that I’ve finished physical therapy and learned a new running posture, I’m ready to do another long race.

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 - Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 – Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

I will be using one of Hal Higdon’s marathon training programs for the next 18 weeks. I’ve used his half marathon training program for my previous races with a lot of success. It’s easy to lock in to his program of how far to run on what day. I’m a little worried about how fast the mileage climbs on the long run days.  I’ll be running 10 miles by week 5. In his novice half marathon program, 10 miles is the longest run you do before the race and that’s in week 11 of a 12-week program. I hope my legs and feet can handle the stress.

I am grateful to be in the best running shape I’ve ever been in heading into a training cycle. I’ve been consistently running and stretching since March as part of the rehab from my injuries. I’m currently running 22 miles a week (2 4.5-mile runs, 2 6.5-mile runs). For previous races I was barely working out so the first 3-mile run of training was painful.

Since I’ve been running so much, I’m slightly modifying Hal’s program for the first 13 weeks. If the run in Hal’s program is less than what I would have run on my own, I’ll run the longer distance. For example, the first run in Hal’s program is 3 miles. I’d normally run 4.5 miles that day so I’ll do that distance instead.

I’ve also heard that the route for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon has a decent hill around Mile 20. So right when I expect to really hate myself, I have to climb a hill. (This will be awesome for a masochist like me.) My training will definitely include some hill work to prepare for this. There was a small hill in the last Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon I did and I could easily tell whose training included hills and who only trained on flat ground.

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Hal’s program adds 1 day of cross training to the mix. I’ll probably bike 12-20 miles on those days but there may be some hiking and other fun on those days. I think I also want to add some upper body and core strength training by doing push-ups 3 days a week – just push-ups, not the 100 Push-ups Challenge.

The real challenge in doing a race is staying dedicated to the training program. I don’t know if non-runners appreciate how much time and dedication goes into preparing for a race. The race itself is filled with excitement, fanfare, and comradery with your fellow racers. Race day is easy – if nothing else you have adrenaline to get you through it. The training is hard – long hours of pounding pavement rain or shine (most likely by yourself), scheduling your life around your runs, potentially living with perpetually sore muscles, and taking care of minor injuries. (I literally lived in KT Tape my last two training cycles.)

I’m looking forward to training for my first full marathon and being able to share the journey with you.

Running and Head Games

My friend asked me to write about the head games when it comes to running, in particular how do I keep going when it comes to training for a race, not quit, and accomplish a goal. For me, once I’ve paid the race registration, not doing the race is not an option. The only exception has been the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix when I was in a car accident three weeks before race day.

Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr

Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr

I don’t train for 5Ks. I rarely ever do 5K races because I think it’s wrong that I will spend more time getting ready for the race and driving to the starting line than I will actually spend doing the race. But on the rare occasion I do one, my performance may be completely pathetic if I haven’t been training because I forget that 3.1 miles will be painful if I haven’t been running.

For long races like half marathons, I lock in to a training program very easily. I like Hal Higdon’s half marathon training program for novices. Even though I’ve done the half marathon four times, I stick with this program because it gets me ready for the race without causing too much leg pain for my ex-gymnast body.

I’m really strict about sticking to the training program. I put it on my calendar and not doing a run is not an option. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it doesn’t have to be fun; but it does have to get done.  It’s just one foot in front of the other. I plan out my route in advance so I know where my turns are and I just crank it out. There are almost no excuses for not doing a run.

  • I’m tired: Suck it up. The faster you run, the sooner you get home.
  • It’s dark: Wear a reflective belt so cars can see you and a headlamp so you can see where you’re going.
  • It’s cold: Bundle up.
  • It’s below freezing and there’s ice on the sidewalk: Wait until the ice melts but you’re still going.
  • It’s hot: Run before sunrise and put on some sunblock.
  • It’s raining: Leave your iPod at home.
  • I’m traveling: Pack your sneakers.
  • I’m sick: Would walking your miles interfere with you getting better?
  • I’m sore: Stretch more.
  • I’m hurt: Take it easy or walk.
  • I’m injured: Stay home and get better.
  • I’m busy: Make it work. If something’s important to you, you make the time.

One tactic that works well for me is running first thing in morning. I lay out all my clothes and gear the night before so I can get up and out the door before I fully realize that I’m awake. Once I’m on the road, I’m fine, but getting out the door sometimes the hardest part.

And I take comfort in knowing that running isn’t always fun even for the die-hard runners. I was at Runner’s Den getting new shoes last year and it was comforting to hear a clerk say that the first two miles are always painful for him. That’s me too, especially on the longer runs. It takes 10-20 minutes for my body to get used to pounding the pavement and find a rhythm for that day’s run.

So how does this translate to setting and achieving goals the real world that require a long term commitment?

  • Have a plan of action that makes sense for who you are and your goal.
  • Commit to following the plan. No, really commit to the plan.
  • Set yourself up to succeed.
  • Confront your excuses.
  • Adjust your plan when sticking to it will likely keep you from achieving the ultimate goal.

Goals should be hard to achieve. That’s part of what makes them worth pursuing. Accept that it’s not always going to be a fun time and take comfort that everyone who’s working towards a goal isn’t happy all the time along the way.