Sunday, 14 February 2016

Health Update

Been a bit quiet on the blogging front these days. Between work trips, work training, and just WORK; between so many ppl's bdays; my health issues and just life in general, there's been no time to think and reflect. Almost no time for fitness- and what little time I do have for fitness, has had to be dialed back in intensity, because my body physically could not cope.

Anyone who has ever seen me knows I'm 6 foot and solid aka not skinny. I look strong but I am not. Not currently.

In my last post, some of my health troubles were identified: anemia, unbalanced diaphragm, leg injuries. 

The leg injuries were new (hamstring on one, siatic nerve on the other), adding to my other woes (plantar fasciitis and everything else). Luckily, slowly, things are better although still tight. The worst was when I was out of town on course. Couldn't see the chiropractor, couldn't bring all the TP therapy tools I normally use, had to sit in a chair all day. Nevertheless I enjoyed the training.

I worked on my diaphragm exercises ever day. Even now, I do them. For the longest time all it got me was a lot of soreness. Sometimes on one side; most often on both. I still believe it interfered with my breathing and made it impossible to run for a while. Last week I was finally able to run on Tuesday and not suffer. Further on Friday I ran faster speeds on the treadmill and found my breathing could keep up! Could be my iron supplements, could be my diaphragm; either way, I'm excited to be able to run again!

Talking about iron, the transplant clinic had iron studies done on me in late January, right before I started taking iron supplements. When I saw my cardiologist for my follow up appointment, he was surprised that I had an "athletic" heart and only 5% iron levels!! He said 20% was normal. It is therefore no wonder I've had such a tough time running these days!!

I don't know my current iron levels but I'm guessing it's more than 5% these days, given I can run again and not suffer.

Not a moment too soon either, as I will need to ramp up my running for this year's Transplant Trot 10k on April 30. This is a charity run to raise awareness for organ donation and a fundraiser for its programs and especially the Canadian Transplant Games, this year held in Toronto. These Games are athletic events in which transplant recipients participate and it's amazing to see how far these patients (including myself) have gone from near death (for some) to running or cycling or other athletic events as a transplant recipient!

So I hope to continue to sort out my health issues and get on track to run decently. Fast would be nice but perhaps asking a little too much of myself right now.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Happy running!!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Health Issues at the Fore

Some days I feel like I just cannot get a break!

I thought I was on my way to some running breakthroughs, now that I can walk a few hours in running shoes without orthotics, getting into some core work and mobility exercises and finally beating that plantar fasciitis.

However, I have been struggling with the running for a bit. At first, I just chalked it up to sleep deprivation (of which unfortunately there's been a fair of that lately). Then my breathing started getting difficult. Finally, I tried to run with my usual pace group, which is aiming to run a half-marathon in 2:45 hrs or to completion.

They ran a 7:30 min/km pace 5k tempo run. I ran a 9 min/km pace tempo run. Granted, I was pacing another slower runner, but the problem is that I could barely keep up with her!! My heart was pounding and my breathing was laboured. This coming from a runner who was able to run sub-6 min tempos finally this past summer!

My 5k tempo run. I forgot to turn off the Fitbit, as you can see. Pace s/b 9 min/km.

The problem appears to be my hemaglobin. The levels have dropped precipitately in the last 2 or 3 months, and it is getting to the point where it is now affecting my running. Considering I just saw the cardiologist at Christmas and he told me that my heart appeared to be just fine, I can only conclude that it must be my hemaglobin levels.

The routine checkup of my kidney transplant this past Wednesday seems to bear it out. While I am "only" borderline anemic, the steep drop in the past couple of months has made it tough for my body to adjust this quickly to this lower level of hemaglobin when others may still feel ok.

I'm now on iron supplements, which I hope will help soon. I have other health considerations to consider; however, I am grateful that once the hemaglobin level is slowly resolved, I should be able to run better again, and not struggle so much.

The most interesting part of my post-transplant appointment was in seeing an exercise physiologist who happened to be in the clinic that day.

I talked about how I was seeing a chiropractor for my plantar fasciitis and to alignment my hip/SI joint. I didn't think my kidney transplant would affect it, but she informed me that scar tissue from the transplant plus having an organ transplant could affect the alignment/balance and a few other things I can remember. If these factors were not considered as part of the chiropractic care, the effectiveness of the treatment could be lessened. So far, my current chiropractor has made great strides in helping me with my plantar fasciitis and the rest of my lower body; so, the exercise physiologist said that continuing with his treatment was good. But if certain things seem not to work out after a while, she suggested finding someone who was familiar with "organ work" and scar tissue so that they can consider these factors. And she suggested a couple of ppl.

Then she assessed me. Turns out my diaphragm was all messed up, and I'm apparently a bit stiff on the one side...naturally, the side with the kidney transplant. But because it could also be the diaphragm causing it as well, she suggested twice daily exercise to do to "wake up the diaphragm" on the one side and to relax the other side.

I suppose I should go do it now. Looking forward to more energy and better runs! And finally getting back to walking stairs without stopping.

The stairs look insurmountable these days. But I'll get back to it.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

2015: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

2015 could be summed up in Dickens' opening line from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." I made breakthroughs in my running; only to find myself stopped in my in my tracks (literally while running), injured and unable to run. So elated and yet so frustrated.

January 2015 started not much different that it did last night: cold and snowy. I was determined to continue my walk streak after having had a stress fracture in my foot diagnosed, preventing me from running. So I dressed for it:


Because this was the kind of weather I was walking in. 

I walked to and from work, and walked about downtown to maintain some level of fitness during this time.

In mid-February, I began running regularly again after my stress fracture healed. I recall feeling stronger for the break. Maybe lighter, although I don't think I ever was. However, one thing was for sure, I was working towards a 30 minute 5k run. And while Spring Break vacation in Phoenix AZ, I somehow managed to run a sub 30 5k. A long held, long wished for goal since I started running in 2011 and I finally achieved it!!

I haven't achieved a sub 30 5k yet in Calgary (where the altitude above sea level is much higher than Phoenix) but I got pretty darned close!

It got so warm in March that I actually ran in shorts!!

But within 2 weeks or so, I went from shorts to winter woollies again as temperatures plummeted quickly.

That would be Icebreaker winter woolies. Run at Fish Creek Park.

I ran the Transplant Trot 10k and got a PB. 1:05 hr gun time finish, beating my previous PR at the Melissa's 10k race a few years ago. However, according to my Garmin, I finished in a record 1:02 hr as below:

Analyzing splits, went out too fast. What else is new?

This year my kid was into running and made sure to prepare for it, firstly by listing all the things needed to run a race:

There were more on the back page but didn't realize it until much later.

And also by stretching before she ran, as you can see below. She participated in the Kids' Marathon at the Calgary Marathon this year, as she did last year. In the Kids' Marathon, the kid runs 1 km a day until race day, when she runs her last 1.2 km at the Stampede grounds where the Calgary Marathon is located. And she did it!

Getting ready to run at Fish Creek Park. Stylin'.

2015 was the year I finally got into trail running and trail races. I really like the 5 Peaks trail race series, and bought a season's pass so I could enter all the Central Alberta races. In the end, I ran 4 of them. I participated in the orientation run for the 1st race at Sikome Lake and it was great, though exhausting. I was a slow runner, and most of them were fast! Someone at 5 Peaks got this great pic which they posted on Instagram and I love it:

Photo credit: 5 Peaks
To prepare for the trail races and just to get to know where there were trails within city limits to run in, I joined the trail running group at Strides Running Store. Here's a pic of me and a friend after a trail run to this beautiful viewpoint. However, to get there required running on trails which were on the edge of the hill...and I'm scared of heights! I survived never the less and did not regret running.

One of the favourite things about running the 5 Peaks trail race was the kids! There were kids' races and the kids were enthusiastic in participating at the races, such as giving high 5's to all the finishers as they were coming to the finish line. Unfortunately, my hubby couldn't get one of me being high fived by my kid, who joined in on the fun, but he did get this picture. I love it!

During summer vacation, I went to visit family and ran with my sister at the outdoor track near her place. Even my kid got into the fun of running around the track!

I trained for the half marathon while trail running which turns out to be way harder work and just way harder on my body. About two weeks before the Harvest Half Marathon, my plantar fasciitis flared up again and I thought that was it for my running. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Levi Irwin speak at the half marathon clinic, and went to him when I was injured. He treated me such that I was able to participate in the Harvest Half Marathon! I ran some and walked some and it took me and Cori over 3 hours in cold, windy sleet. However, my heart was so warmed to be able to catch up with Cori while run-walking this race.

Not only was I able to participate in the Harvest Half, but I also ran in the MEC Half Marathon two weeks later, which started and ended at the Telus Spark parking lot. I really enjoyed it, bc - despite my injury and dialed down training, I almost ran my half marathon PR of 2:30 hrs. But perhaps the best part of it all was having my kid wait and cheer me on, then run with me the last 100-200 m to the finish line. Even better, my running friend Carolyn was there to take pictures and took several fantastic ones of me and my daughter, including the one below.

Photo credit: Carolyn Kildare
After this last race, I was under my chiropractor's orders not to run more than 10k to allow my body to heal. However, I was still able to participate in the next half marathon clinic by becoming a pacer. Below is the group I'm pacing with another guy, who has lots of experience pacing clinic groups. I'm learning lots from him!

Running a beautiful Sunday morning with the 2:45 group!
All in all, though, 2015 might have been frustrating but still a wonderful year.

Me and hubby - Jan 2015. Happy and beautiful together.

Calgary - Dec 2015. Under a chinook sunrise. Also beautiful.
The most exciting thing about 2015 is that it holds so much promise for 2016. Looking forward to what this new year will bring!