Running During My Off-Season

I’m in-between half marathons currently, which means I haven’t been doing a whole lot of running. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been active, though. My last half marathon was in New Jersey and was my 40th state. Given that my next half marathon isn’t until November, that leaves a big chunk of the summer with no training plan. I’ll start training for my next race in a couple of weeks.

Now that I’m down to the final 10 states on my quest for a half marathon in all 50 states, I’ve gone from running a race every season to a race in three out of four seasons. After my race in November, I won’t have another race until May, which means my off-season will be during the winter months for the most part. Last year, I was training during the winter for my race in Utah in February. I was cursing my decision when I had to run my long runs in the cold last January and February, but I’m sure next summer when I’m training for a half marathon in August and have to do my long runs in the heat and humidity I’ll be cursing my decision to do a summer race.  Oh well!

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Although I haven’t been running a ton, I’ve been having fun biking with my family- here’s my daughter on a recent family ride

OK.  Back to my point, which is it’s kind of different having such a long break off of serious miles. Sure, I’ve still been running here and there, but the longest run I’ve gone on since the race in May is 4 miles. I’ll run 5 miles this weekend, but still, this is what many of you runners are doing for your mid-week runs. I’ve been working on strength training and some other things as well during this time off of race training, so it’s been a good time to do some other things like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which I’ll ease off of when I’m in the double digits for my long runs.

There’s also a mental aspect of taking a break from half marathon training. Running is such a big part of my life, when I’m not doing so much of it, I have kind of mixed feelings. I’m enjoying having extra time in my day but I also miss my time out on the roads and trails. I’ve been running my long runs on the same trail for the past couple of years and it’s quite scenic and not crowded, so I feel a sense of peace when I’m running. Even though parts of the trail are close to neighborhoods, there are enough trees and wooded areas that you feel miles away from everything at times.

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I haven’t missed this hill from my long runs!

Until recently I didn’t really have an “off-season” from training. I’ve always taken a solid two week break from every half marathon I run, sometimes a little more if I feel like I need it, but my next race was never more than 2 or 3 months away usually. I suppose I could have ran shorter distance races this summer, but honestly the idea of running a race in the heat and humidity we have here in North Carolina doesn’t appeal to me. That could be an option for next spring during my long break between races, though. I haven’t ran a 5k by myself (I ran one with my daughter a couple of years ago) since I first started running races so it would be interesting to see how I’d do.

How about you guys? Most of the running blogs I follow make me look like a slacker when it comes to running races! Do you guys ever take an off-season from running and/or racing?

Never Give Up! A Story of Inspiration Many Years in the Making

My daughter was 4 years old when she broke her arm. She was riding her bicycle, made too sharp of a turn in a cul-du-sac, fell, and broke her arm. I had a similar experience, only I was a few years older and broke my leg instead of my arm. Perhaps the biggest difference between my daughter’s experience and mine was I didn’t stop riding my bike once my leg was healed. For all intents and purposes, she stopped riding once she broke her arm.

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Elmo tricycle

That is, until recently. Yes, 7 years after breaking her arm, my daughter started riding her bicycle again. It had been so long she had pretty much forgotten how to ride so my husband and I paid for private lessons with REI, which I highly recommend. Within those two-hour-long lessons she was riding her bicycle, albeit a little shakily, but she was riding nonetheless.

We started going for family bike rides, starting out on the widest, flattest roads we could find near our house. My poor daughter’s calves were bruised from hitting them against the pedals. She would get spooked by a car coming or something else, hit the curb, and fall off her bike, but this time, she’d get back on. Sure, there was plenty of complaining, yelling, and frustration from her. Things weren’t all rosy, but I told her, yes, riding a bike is hard at first. It will just take time.

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Picking strawberries with a broken arm

The main thing is, she stuck with it this time. I’m extremely proud of her that she didn’t just give up, saying it was too hard. Truth be told, riding a bicycle after an injury is hard, mentally, as I know firsthand. You get nervous when you pick up speed or when you’re going around a sharp turn. You have flashbacks of when you were injured. But after a while, you realize that you are safe and the chances of getting badly injured aren’t that great. Sure, you’re cautious, but every good cyclist should be cautious, honestly.

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My daughter is also on a year-round swim team and runs 5k’s. I have no doubt that adding cycling to the mix will only enhance her swimming and running. Does she have plans to do a triathlon any time soon? No, but maybe in a few years. You never know, because just a few years ago, she would have told you she didn’t ride a bike, but now to look at her you’d think she’s been riding for years.

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She’s an inspiration to me and even though I’m her mother and am certainly biased, I’m extremely proud of her for not giving up. I guess her stubborn nature has its benefits at times.

When I let her read this post while I was working on it, her response was that I was making too much of a big deal out of it. I don’t agree, though. I think the fact that she didn’t give up learning to ride her bicycle despite everything she went through is a message worth getting out. If there’s something you’ve been putting off or too afraid to do, just get out there and do it. It’s never too late!

Health Update

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A sunset during my time in Chile because, well, it’s beautiful!

For those of you that don’t recall or haven’t kept up with my blog, I woke up with tinnitus the morning of June 5. The only possible thing I can correlate it to is multiple flights from Chile two days prior (you can read about SantiagoVina del Mar and Valparaiso, and Las Cabras). I felt like my ear was full of pressure or water and I couldn’t hear as well out of my left ear. My doctor prescribed a low-dose steroid (prednisone) and referred me to an ENT specialist.

The ENT doctor prescribed a high-dose steroid, which did nothing for my ear, so he prescribed a diuretic, with the idea that there could be fluid in my middle ear, which apparently is undetectable by exam. If I thought taking high doses of steroid was difficult, it was nothing compared to the side effects of this diuretic. I was exhausted, light-headed, and just felt terrible.

After I tried to go for a bike ride, I almost passed out. I started walking my bike home for the remaining half mile, but when I started to black out, I put down my bike and just laid in someone’s front yard until I felt like I could at least walk again. The next day when I was at work, my third day of taking the diuretic, I felt like I was going to pass out when I was just sitting at my desk, so I went to the health unit and the nurse had me lie down and drink water and eat some crackers. As soon as I got back to my desk, I called my doctor and told the nurse I couldn’t continue taking the diuretic.

An MRI was scheduled as the next step, to rule out things like tumors in my middle or inner ear. Holy crap that MRI sucked! I had to lay on a flat metal gurney-type thing, not much wider than the width of my body (and I’m not a huge person!), and the technician told me to lie absolutely still for the duration of the scan, about 30-40 minutes. The worst part was when they put a metal piece, best described as a baseball pitcher’s mask or hockey goalie mask, over my face, with only a few inches of space from my face. Then they told me to keep my eyes closed for the entire time, and the gurney thing slid back into the tube, and the scan began.

If you’ve never had an MRI, one thing about them is they are LOUD! Even with ear plugs in and padding around my ears, the noises the machine made were so loud, the sound seemed to reverberate through my entire body. At times, the entire metal thing I was lying on was shaking. Half-way through the scan, the technician came out and inserted a dye into my arm, so they could have scans with and without contrast. I tasted a metallic taste in my mouth and my arm hurt where the needle was inserted. Later, I had a massive bruise there and my arm was sore for more than a week.

And then I waited for the results. Waiting for news from your doctor is always the hardest part. Not knowing has always driven me crazy. I tried not to think about it, but it was always in the back of my mind until the nurse finally called.

And…my MRI results were normal! Hooray! No tumor! The bad part, though, is we have no idea what caused the tinnitus. It could have been the flights, or maybe that was just a coincidence and I would have developed it then anyway. Since there’s no obvious cause, I’ll never know. I have a follow-up appointment with my ENT next week, but I have a feeling we’ll discuss my MRI results then he’ll tell me there’s nothing else they can do for me. There’s pretty much no treatment for tinnitus when there’s no obvious cause.

So now what? I learn to live with it. I go on. I tell myself that I’m fortunate to be as healthy as I am and I appreciate all that I do have. I start training for my next half marathon next month, so I’m glad all of this happened when I was in-between training plans.

For those of you that haven’t connected with me through Twitter or Facebook, you can find me at both of those at runningtotravel and on Instagram at runningtotraveltheworld.  I’d love to connect with you there!  Donna

HIIT Me Baby One More Time!

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist! I’ve been doing a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout once a week that I’ve been loving. It kicks my butt, but I feel like it’s a great workout for runners. I know this is nothing new, and I’ve done HIIT workouts before, but this particular HIIT workout feels different from others I’ve done in the past.

Here’s what I do:

warm-up

  1. Burpee
  2. Squat
  3. Lateral slide
  4. Reverse lunge
  5. Mountain climber
  6. Scissor kick
  7. Spiderman

I do each exercise for 20 seconds at high intensity then 10 seconds of rest continuously for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, I rest for 1 minute then start the next exercise. Exercises are only done for 4 minutes, so I don’t cycle through then repeat exercises. It takes about 35 minutes not including the warmup and I am thoroughly wiped-out when I’m done.

I’ve done this workout twice and I was sore for days after the first time. I was only a little sore after the second time. I figure I’ll keep doing this series of exercises until I feel like it’s getting easier, then I’ll change out some of the exercises for others. For example, I could swap out scissor kick for leg lifts or something along those lines.

I feel like this will help me with running hills and just running in general. It should also help with dead butt syndrome. I think this workout is definitely helping to strengthen my core and my glutes. After the first time, it hurt when I would sit down or get out of a chair in particular. I probably would back off of this intense of a workout in the final couple of weeks before a half marathon, but since I’m in-between training plans, it’s the perfect opportunity for something like this.

Here are links that show how to do each exercise:

burpee

squat

lateral slide

reverse lunge

mountain climber

scissor kick

spiderman

How about you all?  Do you have a HIIT workout that you’re loving/hating right now?

An American in Chile- Getting Outside My Comfort Zone

After spending time in Santiago, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, we drove to Las Cabras in the O’Higgins Region of Chile. We quickly realized how spoiled we were in the first three regions in comparison to the O’Higgins region. Using our limited knowledge of Spanish, we could easily get by communicating with others in all areas except the last one. Here, even less people spoke English than before. We were pretty much on our own. This is a difficult and isolating feeling. Now I understand how other people that come to the United States from other countries with limited knowledge of English must feel.

I can read Spanish much better than I can speak it and can understand the spoken word even less. However, between my husband, daughter, and myself we can usually figure out enough to get by. If I was a solo traveler, I would have had much more difficulty getting around Chile. Now I see why total immersion works when learning a foreign language. It’s a whole different thing when you’re forced to speak and understand another language.

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Americans are catered to in so many other countries, especially European countries. For example, when we were in Greece, the highway signs and many business signs were in English as well as Greek. Many people spoke English as well as Greek so we really had no problems communicating. The same was true in Austria and Germany. We had no problems finding someone whose English was better than our broken German. However, in Chile, we found entire towns where no one spoke English, or at least that’s what we encountered. We were told by Claudia, a woman working at the resort area where we rented a condo for a week that no one else in the region spoke fluent English other than her. I have no idea if that’s absolutely true, but of all of the people we encountered, no one else spoke more than a word or two of English.

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One thing I learned from my vacation in Chile is this:  if your Spanish is extremely limited you should be OK if you stick to more populated areas like Santiago. If you want to venture out to less touristy, less populated areas, you had better make sure your Spanish is pretty good or you will be completely lost. You also have to have a sense of humor, sense of adventure, and be willing to go without some of the things you have in the United States. For example, when shopping in a market in the small town where we were staying, our options for foods to take back to the apartment and cook for dinner were not things we would have ordinarily bought back home, but here we knew we had to just go with the flow.

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Another thing I learned is that many Chileans are not used to seeing and interacting with Americans. It was obvious to other people, especially in the small towns, that my family and I were outsiders. They would give us curious looks when they saw us. When we spoke English to each other, people would turn around and look at us, even in Santiago and Viña del Mar. We found most people to be extremely patient and kind when we tried to speak Spanish. We were snapped at (in Spanish) only at the metro station in Santiago when we asked if the person at the ticket booth spoke English after we had trouble understanding her very fast Spanish. I understand why she was like that, because she’s got a fast-paced job to do, so I don’t fault her.

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After visiting Chile I now personally understand the term culture shock. I hadn’t fully experienced it before so I didn’t truly appreciate it. Previously when I traveled to foreign countries, I had been sheltered in resorts full of English-speaking workers, or I had been to areas of that world that basically cater to Americans.

I also completely understand why so many Americans travel to South America with a group led by a tour guide. It’s difficult to be in a foreign country with limited knowledge of the language. It puts you outside of your comfort zone, which many people don’t like. I think it’s good every now and then to go outside your comfort zone, though. It helps you grow as a person and shows you that you are stronger than you thought you were.

Dealing with Premature Hearing Loss

I’m sure this isn’t anything any of you that follow my blog would have guessed you’d be reading about here. It’s nothing I would have thought would happen to me in my 40’s. Most people have some form of hearing loss around age 65. I developed tinnitus and accompanying hearing loss 20 years earlier than most people. Less than 48 hours after flights returning from a two week vacation in Chile (I am home now), I woke up to the sound of a white noise machine (kind of like static or a fan running) and reduced hearing ability in my left ear.

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I spoke to some friends at work about it and was told I had tinnitus. I had to look it up to be honest. I always thought tinnitus was a high-pitched ringing sound that goes away after a few seconds or maybe lasts a minute. But apparently it’s much more complicated than that. If any of you are interested in reading more about it, here’s the link.

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Anyway, after it didn’t go away on its own I went to see my primary care physician three days after the tinnitus started. She prescribed the oral steroid prednisone for seven days and said if I still didn’t feel better in four days to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The prednisone did nothing for my tinnitus so I made an appointment with an ENT.

The first test the ENT did was a hearing test. I have some damage to my hearing, especially at higher frequencies, which correlated with what I had also been experiencing. There was no obvious cause, however. I hadn’t had an ear infection. I didn’t have a blockage anywhere. I haven’t been exposed to loud noises on a regular basis. At the end of my hour-long doctor visit I was sent home with a prescription for very high doses of prednisone and a follow-up visit was set for a week later. This was of course not what I was hoping for.

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Being on the high dosage of steroid has not been fun. With the lower dose, I had a constant headache and was extremely dehydrated despite drinking even more water than I normally do (which is a ton). I finally wised-up and started supplementing with nuun electrolyte tablets for the second week and that helped with the muscle cramps I had been having previously. Still, I’ve had trouble sleeping, I felt anxious, and nauseous at times, but I thought I could get through ten days of it if it made my ear better. I decided to take the week off from running or at least cut back drastically. Now was not the time to run in the heat and stress my already-stressed body even more. I need to focus on healing and recovery.

I am trying to be optimistic about it all and look on the bright side. At least the hearing in my right ear is perfect! At least I can still hear from my left ear, just not as well as I could a month ago. At least it’s not my eyes and my vision. At least I can still run.

For now, I’m going to wait and see what happens. I’m sure there will be more tests to come, to rule out other things such as tumors. And who knows, there’s always a chance it can just go away on its own, just as quickly as it began. I could wake up one morning and the tinnitus could be completely gone. Wouldn’t that be music to my ears!