Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Weekend Miracle

Warning: A long post follows!

If you follow me on Instagram (storke103), you probably already know these last few days have been a complete rollercoaster.

Most of you have 'met' my adorable kitty, Eddie, in previous posts. He's my little darling and I absolutely love him to pieces. We've been best buddies for 10 years now. Eddie was a stray kitten that kept coming around my parents' house so I ended up adopting him. In a way it's kind of like he found me - there was an instant attachment and since the beginning he's been my baby. And he's been with me since I lived at home to when I moved to my first grown-up apartment to where I live now. 

Besties, always and forever

Eddie throughout the years

Even though it's been 10 years, it doesn't seem like it's been that long because Eddie still acts like the kitten he was when I first adopted him. He still small, does daily sprints around my apartment, loves to play fetch with his favorite toys and purrs like crazy when I give him a good belly rub. He's always there to greet me when I get home from work or the gym and I look forward to coming home to the little guy. 

Eddie's happy dance when Mom comes home

Last Thursday, I took Eddie to the vet for an annual checkup and to get treatment for some recent over-grooming of the belly area. The appointment went really well - the vet said Eddie is in excellent health and prescribed some medication for the belly licking. It was super routine. Eddie had even been on the medication once before in his life for the same issue. So we went home and I gave him his first dose. 

It was life as usual until Saturday morning. I woke up and immediately noticed Eddie's breathing was shallow and rapid. I called the vet and she said it might just be a benign side effect to the medication but I could bring him in for peace of mind. So I did. When we got to the office, the vet was immediately concerned and said his breathing was definitely not normal and whisked him away to take a few x-rays. When she came back she showed me the results - Eddie had a lot of fluid build up in his lungs and needed further medical care than the office could provide. She said he needed to go to the hospital and recommended Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists. They provide 24-7 care and have many specialists that can address critical medical issues. 

At that point I still thought it was something that could be easily addressed and that Eddie and I would go back home that afternoon. I was in for a rude awakening when I got to the hospital. They took Eddie back immediately and had me wait in a room to speak to a critical care doc. When the doc came in, he was very serious and said Eddie was in an oxygen chamber and they were still trying to stabilize him. Then he mentioned ... congestive heart failure. 

I nearly had a heart attack. Eddie had just been to the vet a few days ago and was given a clean bill of health. I couldn't understand how his health had deteriorated so quickly. The vet said they were still evaluating but it seemed like the likely cause for the lung and breathing issues. He also said Eddie's heart was enlarged - a sign of heart disease. It was clear they were doing what they could to stabilize Eddie but they might not be able to in time. The vet also said if it is indeed congestive heart failure Eddie would need to be on meds the rest of his life - and that his life expectancy would be a year at most. 

I was crying away by that point and could barely sign the papers for the recommended treatment plan. For the rest of the day, I continued to get updates on Eddie's status - the same - and went back to visit him a few times. Each time I saw him was so hard - he was in the oxygen chamber but still couldn't breathe. My heart was breaking for him - no one likes to see their baby in pain. 

Before leaving to go home in the evening, the critical care doc told me another vet was on the way to administer an echocardiogram to get more information about Eddie's heart and lungs. He said once they had those results they would be better equipped to move forward with a diagnosis and treatment. So there was nothing left to do but wait.

Around 9:30pm, the vet that did the echocardiogram called. I braced myself for the worst but ... she had good news! She said based on Eddie's health history, his recent physical exam, and the echocardiogram results, she believed he had a rare reaction to the medication he was prescribed for his belly licking. She explained in some cats that type of medication can cause a rapid fluid buildup in the lungs causing congestive heart failure symptoms. What's more, this reaction can happen even if the cat has taken the medication before with no reaction. She said he was on a diuretic and believed his symptoms would ease through the night after going to the bathroom a few more times to get rid of excess fluid.

Relief. Total relief. I was still worried since I knew his breathing wasn't better yet but the vet was hopeful and said she felt positive about the situation. 

The next morning, I got a call at 7:30am. The vet that cared for him through the night had more good news. Eddie was out of the oxygen chamber, breathing normally on his own and had even started eating again! The vet said she expected he would be ready to go home that afternoon as long as he continued to remain stable with no fluid buildup. 

I visited him in the morning and was finally able to pick him up late afternoon to take him home. He was pretty skittish that evening - I think the medications were still wearing off - and he couldn't relax or sit still. But by morning he was curled up and asleep on my bed. 

At home, at last!

These next few days I'm monitoring and logging Eddie's breathing every few hours and he has a follow-up appointment on Friday to review the log and also to get another echocardiogram to make sure there is no long-term heart damage. 

For now, things are looking good and I'm so grateful my baby's life was spared. I consider it a complete miracle. Eddie's breathing has been normal so far and he has been all purrs. He even started to play a bit this morning and bit my hand! I'm still afraid to leave him alone for very long but I know as the days go by he is getting stronger again. And will hopefully be at 100 percent again soon!

Eddie spent last night curled up in my arms

Tell me: How was your weekend and have you ever experienced a pet emergency?

- ST

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Countdown to Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k!

Over the weekend, Coach Matt emailed me to confirm the date for my next goal race, the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k. When I looked at my calendar to check when the race is I realized ... it's only one month away! It's crazy how fast this summer is going.

So these next few weeks, my focus is 100 percent on the Chicago race. I want a new PR so bad I can taste it. And I know I have a really good chance of achieving one, too, provided the next few weeks of training go well and weather conditions cooperate on race day. The Chicago course and big-race atmosphere play to my strengths so now's as good a time as any to take a chance and run as hard as my legs will allow. 

This week, however, is a down week in training - two rest days!! But even though I'm running fewer miles, I think the quality is still there with my Tuesday workout and Saturday long run. Here's the plan:

Monday: 4 glue miles + TRX + Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 5 repeats of 4 min @6:40 pace + 1 min @6:30 pace. No standing rest, all continuous work.
Wednesday: 3 recovery miles + Y-Fuse?
Thursday: 4 glue miles + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 14 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 32 miles

Along with putting more focus on running, I'm also being more careful about nutrition. Here's a sample day of meals for this week:

Breakfast: 1 Ozery Breakfast Round + 1 Tbsp PB + 1 serving plain low-fat kefir
Snack 1: 1 serving plain non-fat yogurt + 1/8 cup Bear Naked Fit Granola
Snack 2: 2 cups raw vegetables
Lunch: 2 cups Earthbound Farms Herb Mix + Tuna Rice Salad*+ Banana
Snack 3: Picky Bar
Dinner: Chicken Sausage Zucchini Pasta** + Steamed Spinach + 1 cup blueberries

My new favorite breakfast - one of these delicious rounds topped with PB!

I'm actually pretty excited about all the nutritious eats! I know I need to be as careful as possible most of the week since I'm going to a Brewers game and tailgate on Wednesday and Summerfest on Friday and it's likely I'll stray a bit from my plan on those evenings. But like I always say, everything in moderation!

My questions for you:
  • What are you currently training for? Are you doing anything different during this round of training?
  • What's on your meal plan this week? 
  • When you attend social activities (sporting events, music festivals, going out, etc.) do you stick with your eating plan or do you allow yourself a bit of leeway?

A final note - If you're interested in running a Rock 'n' Roll marathon or half marathon race this year, you can use the code RUNWITHSUN to save $15 off a domestic race or £3 off an international race. Hope to see you at a race this year!

- ST

*1 1/3 cup cooked rice + 5 oz tuna + 1.5 cups cannellini beans, rinsed and drained + 4 Tbsp favorite viniagrette dressing = 4 servings

**2 cups dry rotini pasta, cooked and drained + 5 chicken sausage links (look for ones that are 100 calories per link) + 2 zucchini chopped and diced + 2.5 cups marinara sauce (use one with no sugar added) + 1 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese. Cook chicken sausage and zucchini in a large pot. Add marinara sauce. Stir in cooked pasta. Add mixture to casserole dish and top with mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Yields 8 servings.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rock 'n Sole Quarter Marathon Race Recap

As much as I'd love to run strong and fast during every race, some races are just kinda ... meh.

With my recent calf issues, I decided to treat the Rock 'n Sole Quarter Marathon as a training run. I was okay with that. I knew I wasn't really in the best shape to crank out a speedy pace, plus whatever time I ended up with would be an automatic PR since this was my first time racing a quarter marathon.

The course map

 Coach Matt gave me a plan that seemed very doable - treat the first two miles as a warmup and then start picking up the pace. He said this would cut the race down to 4 miles and mentally make it seem more manageable. I thought this was smart and I liked the idea of working on a slower race start since lately I've been running the first half mile of races way too fast.

When I signed up for Rock 'n Sole back in December, I thought it would be a goal race for me so listed an ambitious finish time. I also used a past race result for a seeded start. As a result, I got to start in Corral A - the very front of the race. Since I wasn't planning on racing all out - especially not during the first two miles, I thought about moving back a few corrals. But ultimately decided to stay put. I would use this as practice to run my own race and not get distracted by how fast other people around me were running. 

During the first mile, I executed Coach Matt's plan perfectly. I didn't look at my watch a single time and my pace was right on. I got passed by a bunch of people but reminded myself to run my own race. 

Miles 2-4 is where my race started going downhill. Instead of getting faster after mile 2, my legs got locked into a slower pace and wouldn't get going. And instead of trying my usual tricks to run faster - insert surges, reel in runners in front of me, etc. - I told myself I was doing a training run and I should continue holding back. It was kind of like I mentally gave up during these miles, and even now I'm not quite sure why. I psyched myself out and chose the easy option. Very unimpressive. 

Mile 5 was the Hoan Bridge and my pace slowed quite a bit. To get up the bridge I avoided looking to see how much hill was left and instead repeated to myself that there would be no walking. Do not walk the hill!! During the downhill, my legs actually felt ready to take off but I purposely held back since I don't 100 percent trust my calf yet. Also, this downhill was the very place I really strained my calf a few years ago so I wanted to avoid a repeat of that race. 

At mile 6, I finally felt ready to run. Took me long enough, right? I latched on to a girl in front of me and followed her as the course wove through Summerfest grounds. With a quarter mile to go, I kicked past her - and two other ladies in front of us. Last mile split was 7:05 and the final 0.55 was even faster. 

Here are my race results:

Time: 49:43
Pace: 7:35 min/mile
Gender Place: 15/1,357
AG Place: 5/266

Mom also ran the Quarter Marathon!

I wasn't happy with my time but it did get me back into racing longer than the 5k distance again - my first longer race since last fall. Also, I know what I need to work on to race well at my next goal race, the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k in July. By the time that race rolls around I should be ready to lay it on the line again and run strong and fast. 

A beautiful finisher's medal!

My questions for you:
  • Do you ever use races as training runs? 
  • What types of goals do you set for races if not running for time?
  • Have you ever 'given up' during a race? If so, how did you get back on track after?

Remember - If you're interested in running a Rock 'n' Roll marathon or half marathon race this year, you can use the code RUNWITHSUN to save $15 off a domestic race or £3 off an international race. Hope to see you at a race this year!

- ST

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summer Run Style

After months of dark days and chilly weather, I think it's finally safe to say that summer is here to stay!

Which means it's time to pack away all those winter running clothes and put on lightweight summer styles. You all know that I run for Oiselle, so here are a few of my top picks for running through the warm weather months! In addition to buying online, if you live in the Milwaukee area you can check out some of these styles at Performance Running Outfitters!

Stripped Tank - Great for showing off your shoulders and I love the longer length!

Embossed Mac Rogas - When the temps rise, shorts get shorter ;)

Keyhole Tank - Great for showing off a cute bra!

Runway Bra - Ideal under a Keyhole Tank!

Lori Shorts - My all-time favorite Oiselle shorts are back!

Airy Tank - A cute layer when you don't want to show too much skin ;)

Roga Pants - Cute both on the track and off it!

Tell me: What summer run styles are you loving right now?

- ST

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the Mend

If you're a runner that's ever been injured, you know that every day you're sidelined feels like an eternity. So last week felt endless while I spent my days nursing an injured calf.

A recap:

Monday: No running - I think I overdid it a bit with all the walking on Sunday.
Tuesday: 5 slow miles - The run seemed okay. No discomfort during or immediately after. But later in the evening, pain and cramping kicked in.
Wednesday: No running.
Thursday: No running.
Friday: No running.
Saturday: No running, but a lot of walking.
Sunday: 4 slow miles! No discomfort during the run and everything seemed okay after.

Although I didn't get to do much running last week, there was a small silver lining - more time for doing other things, such as walks on the beach, going to happy hour, cuddling with Eddie, volunteering at a race expo, baking and eating all the food!

I had the beach to myself on Friday :)

The best blondies!

Mom and I volunteered at the Madison Half Expo for the MKE Running Festival!

Eddie likes me better when I'm injured ;)

This week should go a lot better. My main goal is to not get greedy. Since I don't want to re-injure my calf, I'm still taking things pretty easy. No strides. No sprints. No speedwork. I do have a workout planned but it will be a steady state run at half marathon pace. So nothing too crazy!

This week's training plan:

Monday: 4 easy pace miles
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 4 miles at half marathon pace
Wednesday: 5 recovery pace miles + TRX
Thursday: 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz (depending on how my calf feels)
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: 5 recovery pace miles

Total: 37 miles

Tell me: When injured, how do you keep busy?

- ST

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dead Last

As the saying goes, there's a first time for everything. And on Sunday, it was my turn to place dead last in a 5k race!

You're probably wondering - how did this happen?? Well, I'm so accident prone that I managed to strain my calf while walking down my apartment stairs. The initial pain was bad although initially I thought it might just be a cramp. The pain lessened after a few minutes and I managed to hobble down the rest of the stairs. But I knew something was off. 

As the day continued, I was able to walk but couldn't do a calf raise without discomfort. I went to bed hoping for a miracle and when I woke up Sunday morning and got ready for the race, I still thought there was a chance I could run. But doubt crept in as I drove to Mom's house and when I got there we talked it through. My main concern was making the injury worse by racing. Even though I wasn't planning to go all out, racing always takes a toll on the body - even when it's healthy.

I learned this lesson a few years ago when, similar to this situation, I had a mild calf strain the week of a race. But instead of skipping the race, I decided to line up and give it a try. I told myself I could always slow down if my calf started to bother me. And it did. But so suddenly that I had no time to remedy the issue. I can still remember the stabbing pain in my calf and how I could barely walk after, let alone run. Racing had made the injury worse and it took me out of training for a few weeks, effectively derailing any summer racing plans.

 No idea how I ran the rest of this race. I certainly paid the price after!

After listening to me go back and forth on whether or not I should try to race, Mom gently suggested it might be best to not run and that she would walk with me. As always, Mom knew best. I was having trouble letting go of the race, but once she suggested walking and offered to keep me company, it was an easy decision. 

Since there was no need to do a warmup or line up in just the right spot, Mom and I took a few selfies by the penguins (the race was at the local zoo) and went to stand at the very back of the pack. My heart still raced a bit when the race started but nothing like it would have if I had been running!

I heart penguins!

Even though Mom and I started at the back, I didn't think we'd actually finish last. But within the first mile it became apparent we were bringing up the rear. There were a few people in front of us that were run/walking but they were getting further and further ahead. Also, we couldn't walk very fast because of my calf. It didn't hurt during the race but was a bit stiff so I wasn't super mobile. At this event, there was a separate walk event - but only 3k distance - so Mom and I were two of only a handful of other walkers. And they were all moving faster than us!

About two miles into the race, Mom and I were all alone. We couldn't see anyone in front of us and didn't even know if we were going the right way. Finally we came across a volunteer and he looked shocked to see us. I guess we were way behind everyone else by that point and he assumed there weren't any people left on the course! He got my bib number and radioed ahead to volunteers on the course to let them know we were still making our way toward the finish. Ha! 

However, a lot of volunteers had already left the course and signs had been removed so Mom and I ended up taking a wrong turn. We had to do an extra loop of the course and by the time we got to the finish line, all the other 5k participants had finished and the timing mats were down. I guess when you finish dead last you don't get an official time! ;)

Although you might think finishing a race in last place would be a depressing experience, it was actually quite the opposite. Mom and I thought it was pretty funny to be so far behind everyone else and told ourselves someone has to be last in every race and it was our turn! It was also really nice to get to do the race alongside Mom and we shared a lot of laugh during the 1 hour and 15 minutes it took us to walk 4+ miles. 

My calf is still healing but I think I'll be able to get back to some easy pace running this week. I'll take it slow, knowing dead last is certainly not the worst that can happen :)

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever finished last in a race?
  • When injured, do you run, walk or call it a day and stay in bed?
  • What's a bit of wisdom you've recently received from your mom?

- ST

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In Honor of Newbie Runners

This Sunday, I'm racing the Block Melanoma 5k at the Zoo. This event holds a special place in my heart as it was my first 5k race attempt when I was a new runner. Before that race, I had done only one other 5k - but it wasn't for time and was more of a run/walk to see if I could actually finish a 5k. Back then, I thought it was a really long distance!

Anyhow, in honor of the newbie runner I was four years ago, I'm using this post to poke fun at a few of my running and racing mishaps. These things happen to the best of us as we're learning!

I overdressed for a race - At that first 5k race, I dressed like I was going to run in sub-zero temps. It was around 60 degrees but seemed super cold to me. So I layered up in tights, a long-sleeve top, a fleece jacket, a headwarmer and gloves. Needless to say, less than a half mile in I was ready to rip off every layer. I overheated so bad but learned from the experience. Never again will I make the mistake of racing in too many layers!

I did too much, too soon - While training for my first marathon, I had it in my head that more miles was always better. As a result, my hamstring gave out two weeks before the marathon. Looking back, I can see exactly what happened. In the month leading up to the injury, I ran a hard half marathon, followed by two 60-mile weeks and then another half marathon when the injury occurred. As a result, I had to walk/jog my first marathon with a still injured hamstring. Definitely not the race I had been training for all summer. 

This medal serves as a reminder that more is not always better!

Training meant trying to run one mile as fast as possible - When I first started running, I knew nothing about training plans, weekly mileage, workouts, etc. All I knew was that I wanted to get faster. So to this newbie runner, that meant hopping on a gym treadmill and doing a tenth of a mile walk warmup followed by running one mile as fast as I could. I did this several times a week because I didn't know any better. Over time, I was able to run a mile faster - but I also ended up with an achy knee from all of my 'speedwork'. A blessing in disguise, the knee issues forced me to slow down and eventually I started training like a smarter runner.

I missed the start of a race - This happened at a race that had both half marathon and 5k races. I arrived one hour prior to the start to make sure I could get in a proper warmup and have time to use the restroom, etc. However, I somehow missed the fact that the half marathon and 5k races were starting together. So when runners lined up at the start, I thought it was just the half marathoners and I stood at the side and cheered them on. Only after almost all of the runners had gone through the start line did I realize it was also the 5k start. I had to scramble to the start line and begin the race in last place. 

I somehow salvaged the race and won an AG prize. Mom also won a trophy!

I fueled all wrong - Every runner is unique so correct fueling for a run or race is really dependent on what works for that individual person. For me, I quickly learned I was not going to get by on a diet of Special K 90-calorie cereal bars and gummy candies. I also learned to never, ever hit the Ethiopian lunch buffet before an afternoon long run. Unless you like to hiccup and burp throughout your run ;)

Even though I still feel like a newbie runner at times, I know I've learned a lot these past few years. It's been a fun journey and I can't wait to learn even more as the years go by!

My questions for you:
  • How long did/will you consider yourself a newbie runner?
  • What newbie runner mistakes did you make?
  • What running wisdom would you share with a newbie runner?

- ST