Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Half marathon decision

Medical advice on the knee has been sought from 2 professionals.

They agreed.

I listened.

The taper has begun.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thoughts... and second thoughts

OK, I think I am crazy. And after reading Olga's latest race report, I also think I am a huge wimp.

This half marathon on July 8 - what the hell was I thinking signing up? I mean... This time last year I was not running at all... Started the walk/run program in the fall and did my first 30 minute run on Nov. 27 last year. Since then, I've added hill training, speed training and distance training.

That crazy 10-mile hill run (5 miles down and 5 miles up - on the way home) buggered up my knee again. It hasn't been the same since.

I did not run on Tuesday. And nothing stops me from running... except injury. Well OK, let's be honest, I had a hang-over from too much post-exam celebrating the night before... Thanks to the room mate for helping me polish off half a bottle of tequila.... and to my friends at school who dragged me to the Grad Lounge for champagne. But really, it was mostly the knee...

I confess, I'm scared... and slightly depressed. But mostly scared. I set this goal and now I don't know if I can do it...

What terrifies me more is that I know I WILL do it, even if I SHOULD NOT do it. Am I willing to do this race and have my knee messed up for another year - or longer - because of it? I don't quit. Even when I should. That's a character flaw I have not yet learned to overcome.

What to do? What to do?

Monday, June 18, 2007

A. B. D. is me

It's done. I passed!

The two hour oral exam was this morning. I fretted about it, of course... I fretted about what to wear, what to say, how to say it, how not to seem like an idiot, how not to ramble on... but mostly how not to sound like an idiot.

My supervisor gave me strict instructions:

  • I'd be required to give an introduction of myself and I was not to go over 10 minutes. Do not bore the committee!
  • Answer the questions. Don't talk around them. Don't ramble on and try and prove how smart you are. Just answer the questions they ask.
As it turned out, they thought I was a bit too concise and sometimes asked me to expand on my answers. Afterwards another committee member said, "You can just keep talking you know." So sometime before my thesis defense I'll have to work on that and find a way to make both the supervisor and this other committee member happy. But there's time for that.

As promised, here are the three questions I had to choose from for my written paper:

  1. Historically and currently, what are the major challenges faced by language program administrators who wish to market their educational programs to international audiences?
  2. What moral, philosophical and cultural perspectives influence the extent to which commercial business practices ought to be incorporated into public education?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of a critical theoretical paradigm when engaging in a new historicist approach to document analysis?
I chose the first question and that formed the basis for the 50-page paper that I turned in. That paper was what the committee then based the oral examination questions on.

The committee consisted of 5 voting members and 1 neutral chair who ran the meeting. And me.

Yes, I was intimidated. No, I did not throw up (yaay!)

I am happy it is over. If I understand this crazy system properly, I am now known as being A.B.D. (all but dissertation) and passing this exam means that I'm now considered qualified to start my thesis research.

I'll do that soon.

But before I get into that, there's a small matter of a half marathon to take care of... then some R&R time with the family in England.

I'm looking forward to that!

For now, it is off to the Grad Students Lounge for some... er... refreshments!

PS: The pills the doctor gave me for running helped somewhat. No nausea during the run. It came about an hour after finishing, which is still not great, but it's enough of a solution to get me through the race - hopefully.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grumpy gurging gut - be gone!

Now that my knees, hips and legs are strong enough to take the long runs, I have encountered another challenge. I don't blog about it much because it's not exactly a lovely topic of conversation.

And it's taken me a while to figure out that it just ain't normal... Other people run way further and faster than me and it doesn't happen to them. At least, not as regularly as it seems to happen to me.

It's what I have affectionately termed "grumpy gut". The nausea, the tummy that constantly threatens to rebel in a projectile way... and sometimes does.

I finally decided that I've had it with my grumpy gut and I asked my doctor about it. Told her that I could do this short-term while I train for the half-marathon, but that as a life style, it is not fun. Long term I am more likely to find reasons not to do long runs than to grit my teeth through the nausea for the next few decades.

Since I started doing long runs I have been experimenting with what foods to eat before the run, what to take during the run... How not to get dizzy or nauseous. I got the dizziness under control (eat protein before running), but I have been unable to convince my stomach that it is not, in fact, a whirl pool.

A few weekends back I did find a temporary solution. I more or less passed out on the bathroom floor for about half an hour after my long run. I didn't blog about it because I wasn't exactly proud of it... I remember thinking, "You've got to turn on your side. If you lose it and puke on your back, you'll die."

I woke up some time later. On my side... and luckily, not having been sick. From there, I made it to the couch for another half hour before getting up. Not good. But it was better than retching.

I love running. (I know, you non-runners just don't get it...) I'm slow and my knees knock together, but I don't care. I do it anyway. But the tummy troubles leave me trepidatious.

I just couldn't figure it out... These are somewhat long distances (10-15 miles), but not marathons, not ultra distances. And I don't go fast. I average about a 12-minute mile. If I try to go faster, the gut rebels even more, so I purposely do not try to speed up.

My doctor asked me a variety of questions. We figured out that yes, I stay hydrated. No, it is not an overdose of sodium, since I take water rather than Gatorade. And it is not a complete lack of sugar, since I do energy gels (with water) every hour, on the hour.

I'm strict about making sure I'm hydrated and fuelled. I don't want anything to make the situation even worse.

Being an Ironman athlete herself, she understands the delicate balancing act of nutrition and hydration. Her suspicion is that my stomach chemistry is off slightly... too much acidity. And it gets more unbalanced as the long runs get longer and more demanding. She said, "Yeah, you get going, and your stomach gets churning. The faster and further you go, the more it churns and then hurts... and you just feel awful."

I said, "Yes! You GET it!"

I walked out with a prescription for pills that should regulate the chemistry of my stomach. I am to take one the night before each long run... and if that doesn't solve it completely, I can take another one the day of the long run itself.

I'm not one much for pills, but at this point I simply do not care.

Part of me has been dreading these long runs... It's a bit of a paradox, really... loving an activity that literally makes you sick.

My next long run is on scheduled for Saturday. It should be 2.5 hours. For the first time in a long time, I am truly excited about it. Keep your fingers crossed for me that these little pills help.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Various countdowns

I have not been blogging much lately because life seems rather ordinary lately. That can be a good thing... and I've been enjoying it. I have needed the break.

There are, however, a number of things in the works.

In less than a week
I will have my PhD oral candidacy exam. It's a two-hour exam, conducted by 5 professors and one neutral chair. After that I find out if I passed. The big paper I wrote and the oral exam are a package deal... pass or fail both at once. And the examining committee's decision must be unanimous.

After that, I'll share the exam questions and tell you what the oral was like. Until then, I am doing more preparatory reading. The reading never ends, I tell you!

In less than a month
I'll do the half marathon. It's on July 8. I am totally stoked about it! So far, training with Kevin is going well. I look forward to each day of running with exuberance and bubbly anticipation.

Today I did interval training. God, I love intervals! I finish wanting more... and in a way that only runners would appreciate, feel a bit let down when it's over. I want to keep going, but I don't. I follow the plan.

I went a bit over the top last weekend with my long run and planned a route with some seriously tough hills on it. That was my idea though, not the trainer's. When I told Kevin about it, I got a gentle reply about not overtraining... Oh yeah, and Dr. Mike, the chiropractor, expressed both respect and concern in a similar manner. He said something to the effect that I was a "serious runner" but, "Maybe it's not a good idea to do that again."

Anyway, it was just shy of 12 miles, with half of it being up hill. I was happy that I did it. I like the gritty runs!

I went for my annual physical last week. My doctor was asking me how training was going. She got all excited when I told her about the half. She's an Ironman athlete herself and she likes to talk about training. She said, "Well, once you're done the half you can start training for a full marathon!"

I replied tentatively, "Well, um... you know... one step at a time."

She smiled and nudged further, "If you can do a half, you can do a marathon. No problem!"

I seem to be getting nudged from various directions about moving up to a full... and I haven't even done this half yet. And the only road race I have done since I was 15 years old was the Forzani's 5 km race in May. I think I need some more road race experience before I even think about doing a full marathon... Let's see how the half goes in July.

Oh, I do have a question for fellow runners out there. Has anyone found a lip balm that's good for running? Specifically, I'd like one that I can open with one hand, rather than having to fiddle with two hands. My lips get really dry on my long runs and the one I'm using just doesn't seem to work that well... and I'm always afraid of losing the little cap too. Anyway, advice is welcome!

Also in less than a month
I'll be in England visiting my family there. I have been looking forward to this for a long time! My sister and I will be travelling together. I haven't seen her in a while either, so it will be good to catch up all around.

I leave two days after the half marathon. I'm not sure that my legs will appreciate being stuffed into an airline seat for nine or so hours after that kind of run, but I'm sure I'll survive. There are times when having short legs is good... and travelling is one of those times!

So, there you have it... Many things are "in progress". I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Muscle cream blamed for death of teen runner"

I'm sure I am violating copyright laws by copying this article in its entireity , but hopefully I will not get sent to jail! I read this in Canada's national newspaper (online version), the Globe and Mail today).

Muscle cream blamed for death of teen runner
Associated Press
June 9, 2007 at 9:34 PM EDT

NEW YORK — A medical examiner blamed a 17-year-old track star's death on the use of too much anti-inflammatory muscle cream, the kind used to soothe aching legs after exercise.
Arielle Newman, a cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, died after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory found in sports creams such as Bengay and Icy Hot, the New York City medical examiner said Friday.

The medical examiner's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, said the teen used “topical medication to excess.” She said it was the first time that her office had reported a death from using a sports cream.

In addition to spreading the muscle cream on her legs between track meets, Ms. Newman was using adhesive pads containing the anti-inflammatory, plus an unspecified third product containing the chemical, Ms. Borakove said. The products were used and the chemical absorbed over time, she said.

Ms. Newman, who garnered numerous track awards, died April 3. She had gone to a party the night before, then returned home and spent hours talking with her mother.

Methyl salicylate poisoning is unusual, and deaths from high levels of the chemical are rare. "Chronic use is more dangerous than one-time use,” Edward Arsura, chairman of medicine at Richmond University Medical Centre, told the Staten Island Advance on Friday. “Exercise and heat can accentuate absorption.”

Dr. Ronald Grelsamer, of Mount Sinai Medical Centre, said Ms. Newman had a very abnormal amount of methyl salicylate in her body.

“She either lathered herself with it, or used way too much, or she used a normal amount and an abnormal percentage was absorbed into her body,” he said.

Her mother, Alice Newman, said she still couldn't believe her daughter's death was caused by a sports cream.

“I am scrupulous about my children's health,” she told the Advance. “I did not think an over-the-counter product could be unsafe.”

Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Bengay, expressed sympathy for the family and reminded consumers about “the importance of reading the label on this and all over-the-counter medicines to ensure safe and proper use,” in a statement released Saturday.

The label on Ultra Strength Bengay says the product should be applied no more than three or four times daily and consumers should stop and see a doctor if the condition worsens or symptoms persist for more than a week, spokeswoman Meghan Marschall said.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

2nd anniversary - forgot to celebrate

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you'll remember that last year at the end of May, I was ecstatic because I'd made it through an entire year of going to the gym on a regular basis.

I really wanted to celebrate by going for a run, but I was in absolutely no shape to do so. I'd been told by the physiotherapist that I likely would not run again. That prompted me to stop seeing him and to start seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Mike, who is also a distance runner. At the first consultation he said, "I think we can get you running again, but I can't make any promises. It will take time. At least six months. And I don't know what kind of distance you'll be able to do... I'd guess maybe 5 or 10 km, but I don't know about more. We'll have to see."

So, since my knee was still crapped out, so I celebrated my "one year fitness anniversary" by going wall climbing.

I remember a blog comment (from Michelle, I think) that said something to the effect of "I hope you have so many of these anniversaries that you lose track of them."

I just realized that the 2nd anniversary came and went, quietly and without notice.

Oh well. Not a bad thing, I guess.

I guess I kind of did celebrate this year by signing up for the half marathon. But it wasn't a conscious celebration. My head was too into my exams.

I've gone wall climbing once since then. But really... why would I want to do that... or take any more swimming lessons, or try to learn to ice skate, or embarrass myself on a bicycle, or anything else I did in that first year when I was in physio, desperate to find an activity I liked and could do without pain ripping through my knee, when now I can run?

I've spent so much time getting strong enough to do this that I don't give a rat's ass that I have thunder thighs that can hardly squeeze into a pair of jeans respectably. I've earned every inch of 'em, lemme tell ya. And if that's what it takes to keep these knock knees in line, bring on the squats, baby!

They're what allow me to run, so who cares?

And run I do (albeit slowly). 15 miles I did on Saturday. That's 24.3 km for us metric types.

That physiotherapist was an idiot. :-)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Time to catch up!

Well, folks, it's been a while, but I'm back now. I was in Saskatoon for a conference.

Here's me by the bridge close to campus.

I drove out from Calgary with my friend, Christine, who's a grad student in Linguistics and was also giving a paper. It was a total girls' road trip and we had a blast. It was a long drive (about 8 hours each way, once you factor in a few breaks along the way), and it was nice to have the company.

I presented a paper that's related to my thesis studies, met a few people and, best of all, got to catch up with a few classmates.

Last Monday there was a banquet, which I attended with my supervisor, Tim, along with his other two PhD students, Steamer and Amy. Here's a picture of us all at the banquet.

I came home on Tuesday and spent the rest of the week catching up. I returned to work after my month-long academic leave, too. I had to wrap my head around things I had completely forgotten about for those four weeks and it felt like pulling teeth! I like my job, but it was challenging to remember all those little things after that long!

I've started on a training program for the half-marathon in July. So far, so good. Kevin, the new trainer has me doing intervals for my speed work. I've decided that I love intervals, though I think they can lull you into a false sense of accomplishment. He has me going faster than I've ever gone before... but only for short bursts of 5 minutes at a time. Of course, there's no possible way to sustain that pace on anything longer than a sprint to a bus stop, but it does make you feel like a superhero for that very limited time.

And speaking of training, today I was a co-pilot with my room mate, Gord, on a trip to a nearby town called Cochrane. He wanted to mark a course for a long bike ride, using my Garmin ETrex hand held device that my brother gave me for Christmas. So, he drove and I monitored the Garmin.

Sorry... I should elaborate on that last line... He pulled his Alfa Romeo GTV6 out of storage for a spring run. And that's what we drove to Cochrane.

Here's a snap of me by the car:

Before we went to Cochrane, we took a spin by my friend, Ken's, since he was dying to see the car. Here are the boys at Ken's house:

Then we said good-bye to Ken and hit the road. While we were in Cochrane, we took part in a local ritual... going for ice cream. It's just what you do in Cochrane, because they have good ice cream there.

I had watermelon lime swirl and black cherry:

And Gord had Columbian coffee and blueberry:

We figured out that his cycling route is about 68 km. He was a bit disappointed, as he's logged longer distances on his bike computer. But this route, if he does it, includes a couple of killer hills that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Mind you, if you lived in Cochrane, you'd almost need to train on that hill to work off all the ice cream you'd be eating! Oy vey.

In any case, it's been busy... and fun!