Sick & Tired

Well, sorta sick. 2-3x/year I come down with a bout of vertigo/inner-ear infection. The most annoying thing about this is how unpredictable it is. It never seems to have a pattern, though I've never had it prove problematic for more than a day or two. The odd thing is that I woke up thirsty at 5am and got out of bed to guzzle water. I had no issues at this time, but a couple of hours later I rolled-over in bed and had that "stop the world, I wanna get off" episodes. After that I really couldn't sleep well, since every movement was met with major bed-spins and nausea.

Thankfully we have some Meclizine (Dramamine II), which is good stuff for vertigo/nausea. I had planned to do my weight and abs workouts, but the residual balance and pukey feeling don't really lend to those activities, so I'll just be doing my ankle PT stuff and can hopefully do my strength training tomorrow. I also want to start working with the wobble board, but that REALLY sounds like a risky activity with less than optimum balance, huh?

Not feeling too guilty about slacking today. My butt saw 101+ miles on my bike saddle during the previous 48 hours. On Monday DH had the day off and DS was at day camp, so we rode 71 miles. We'd hoped to catch up with one of his HS buddies who was vacationing in the area, but we were never able to connect. So we had lunch and headed back with a stop at our favorite bike shop so that Derek could get a new tire (his current front tire is getting pretty worn).

Last night I joined the women's cycling group for our Tues. night ride. Got in another 30+ miles. By the last 10 my ass was grass. I tried a new pair of shorts (in search of the elusive perfect short). Guess I am back to my Pearl Izumi Symphony/Symphony Cut shorts. The chamois is still a bit bulky, but the short and chamois shape has the best overall fit of anything I've tried--and no chafing. Some seams on the Craft shorts I tried were not compatible with my physique. They will be fine for short rides.

Read a couple of interesting cycling-related news stories this AM that are worth passing along:
Biking versus brisk walking: weight control for women
Phys Ed: What Exercise Science Doesn’t Know About Women (aka shower beer trumps chocolate milk post-workout!)

My sprained ankle is improving (and I can even rock a little black dress and red thong wedge sandals whilst wearing an ankle brace!). I think a run will be possible in another 10 days or so. I need to really work on the strength and flexibility now in preparation for the return to running.

In the meantime I am very thankful to have my bike. Had I suffered this injury a year ago--pre-bike--I think I would need happy pills to survive the recovery period. This would be one VERY long month without the ability to pedal away. And the timing really wasn't horrible. I had planned to scale back on the running miles this Summer, anyhow. Not to the degree that I have been forced to, but my fitness plans/goals for Summer have not changed all that much, really. And hopefully a month off from running will not put too huge a dent in my running fitness. I'm hoping that the biking will allow me to get back to a decent # of running miles and pace after a short time. On the bright side, all this pedaling should have me pretty well prepared for my first full century ride in 17 days. Next Monday we're hoping to do another long ride (maybe as far as 80 miles) while DH has a holiday day off and DS will be at day camp, again.


I'm a giver...

I share with you an 80s flashback...

I post this because it is apparently my current "theme song" (aside from the relationship themes in the song...and the running part. OK, so it really doesn't apply, but everyone should have to endure this earworm).

Last night I not only had the fastest 30 mile ride of my life (with the Tues. night women's group), but it was faster by about 2-3mph...wow. And on a bum ankle, nonetheless. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with being well-rested. During heavy race season I was usually dealing with low-level exhaustion from training. Or taking it easy in preparation for races, which for a while there were 1 every 2-3 weeks.

Because of the ankle injury I hadn't done anything remotely aerobic or taxing for 10 days. In the meantime I caught up on sleep, too, since school ended and there were no early mornings getting my rugrat out the door for 7:30 carpool.

During last night's ride my ankle felt mostly very well, too. Though I have found that unclipping my left pedal really is tough. My pedals are on the lightest resistance, but this is still quite tight and requires a good deal of torsion of my heel outwards to release. There were a few moments where I thought I might not get unclipped. It's truly astounding how weak that ankle is, now. I no longer have much in the way of pain...just some mild tenderness if I step a certain way. But it's quite stiff and at about 25% the strength that I feel from my right ankle.

So not being able to run is not the end of the world. And next month's century ride--my first--should be go! Monday DH and I are planning to ride 60 miles or so, again. By then I am hoping that my left ankle is that much stronger and unclipping my left foot will not require so much effort. That is my stop foot and trying to switch to unclipping my right at stops is asking for trouble. It would be kind of like trying to switch to writing with my left hand after all these years of being a righty--only with the risk of falling down on asphalt with a bicycle on top of oneself every time one attempted to switch hands.


*sings* I'm still standing...

...better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid...

Thanks, Sir Elton.

Yep, my foot is doing OK.  Sorry about the photo quality.  I'm too lazy to bother taking a photo with a decent camera and uploading it to the computer, and then online, when I can use my shitty camera on my shitty phone (seriously, the Samsung Alias 2 is a glorified paper-weight.  My previous Samsung Juke was a gem of a camera...and I ditched all to be able to text.  Meh.) and put it online via Facebook.

Heh, can you see why I struggle to find shoes wide enough?  And, you can't see it from that picture, but my heels are sorta narrow.  If I had webbed toes I'd wonder about some duck lineage...

The worst of the pain and swelling seems to be beyond me and every day it feels a little stronger.  It's still fairly stiff and weak, though.  Running isn't even on my mind.  I'm guessing it will be at least mid-July before I can even contemplate a return to that activity.  Bummer.  But I did a little test ride on my bike on Father's Day--with the father-of-the-house and our progeny along on our POS tandem (which we hope to soon replace with a $$$ non-POS tandem...this would allow us to do many long rides as a family, since the rugrat is still a few years away from being able to really handle a road bike on his own and for very far).  We went just over 11 SLOW miles with a stop for ice cream towards the end of the ride.  It went really well and has been a great confidence booster.

I had DH switch out a pair of platform pedals with those little plastic toe basket things, in place of my clipless SPD pedals.  I figured the twisting motion to disengage from my clipless pedals might not be such a good idea.  But, honestly, the running shoes and platform pedals were really less ideal.  The wide heels of running or street shoes can smack the chain stays (which happened at least once to me) and it's actually more awkward and clumsy trying to start from a stop with the tricky toe basket contraptions.  I think I would be at much greater risk of a fall without the regular clipless pedals and cleated shoes, since I have become so adept at using them.

I had less pain riding than I have walking...actually, I had 0 pain riding.  The sensation I mainly experienced was a cross between weakness and stiffness.  Everything from about halfway down my calf and further down was just...tight and jello-like.  A very weird sensation.  No pain, just discomfort--if that makes any sense.

So I think there is a very good chance that I will be able to do the upcoming Holland Hundred century ride.  I had hoped to get 2-3 longer rides in before this event, but for now I'm figuring that if I can get in 1 75-80 miler in in about 2 weeks that I will be good-to-go.  And if worse comes to worst I can always drop back to the 67 mile route on the day of.

Either way, I am very relieved that I am not having to miss much time on the bike.  I'm bummed that I am not likely to get much running in for a while and will probably see some marked loss of running fitness and have a long road back to strong--on that front.  But I have no more big running goal races until '11.  The Vegas Half-Marathon is more about spending time with friends and enjoying a fun vacation.  The race is just a good excuse to do so.  I was never really thinking this would be a PR event...and am definitely not entertaining that thought at this point.


Peer Pressure

So tomorrow I am planning to head to the hospital's urgent care center for x-rays of my bum ankle.  Not because I think it's anything more than a sprain--I really don't--but everyone and their grandma is telling me I should, just to rule out anything abnormal...so I will stop being stubborn and take their advice.  Plus a real doctor should hopefully be able to give me a timetable of what I can do and when based upon assessment of MY ankle and how my healing has been for the past week.

Swelling is greatly diminished, which is nice.  My foot and ankle looked about the way they did when I was late in my pregnancy, which was pretty significant and uncomfortable.  My pain is still minimal...mostly what I notice are stiffness and weakness.  I've been taking a couple of NSAIDs at bedtime as much for swelling as for pain.  Other than that my level of discomfort has not been enough to warrant any sort of pain meds.

I've come out of a sort of denial to accept the fact that this is not a mere grade 1 sprain (which typically involves no snapping/popping sound or sensation at the time of injury or bruising/swelling and generally involves no more than a week of down-time) and is almost certainly a grade 2 sprain.  How I managed to run 10 trail miles and stand around all day on said injury is still a mystery to me.  I guess I'm just more hardcore than my PRs would suggest, heh.

Yesterday I couldn't stand the cabin fever any longer and got out for a couple of hours to run errands.  While wandering the mall (looking for a handbag to use for DH's class reunion next weekend) and the grocery store I felt fine...actually my ankle felt really good getting out and moving.  But last night it was more tender and this AM was still pretty sore (though that could be from a certain 20# cat jumping up onto the bed and directly on my ankle...).

I've been doing basic ankle sprain PT exercises and those feel pretty good, too--especially the gentle stretching.  What a difference from how those same sorts of stretches feel on a healthy ankle, though--everything is so stiff, now.

I also ordered a highly recommended brace for when I get back to biking, and then running.  It should be here tomorrow or Sat.  I'm hoping that if my ankle's up to it (and with doctor go-ahead) that I can get out on the bike for a short ride on Sunday--with DH and DS along on the POS tandem.  That way if I have any issues they can ride home and get the car to retrieve me.  I foresee the biggest potential issue being clipping out of my pedals.  If this is the case we'd swap out my clipless pedals and put platforms back on temporarily.  I do already have my pedals set on the lightest resistance, but they still require a pretty strong twist of the ankle to unclip.

As far as running goes...I'm thinking that could be at least another 2-3 weeks before I will be up for that.  I'm OK with that.  As long as I can get out on my bike soon I will be a happy girl.


2010 NCTR by the #s

Elevation #s are off...Garmin elevation correction is not universally available.  First leg actually had about 1600 feet of climbing, IIRC.  I believe the second leg was closer to 300 feet of increase.

Leg #3:

Intervals (GPS Interval)
TypeDistanceTimeTotal TimePaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
Interval1 Mi13:11.0613:11.0613:12
Interval1 Mi11:18.2724:29.3311:19
Interval1 Mi11:42.8836:12.2111:43
Interval1 Mi13:12.4449:24.6513:13
Interval1 Mi12:20.061:01:44.7112:21
Interval1 Mi12:29.431:14:14.1412:30
Interval1 Mi11:29.471:25:43.6111:30
Interval0.09 Mi0:44.281:26:27.898:12

Leg #7:

Intervals (GPS Interval)
TypeDistanceTimeTotal TimePaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
Interval1 Mi10:36.4410:36.4410:37
Interval1 Mi10:36.3621:12.8010:37
Interval1 Mi11:08.7232:21.5211:09
Interval1 Mi11:01.443:22.9211:02
Interval1 Mi10:41.7954:04.7110:42
Interval0.38 Mi3:44.7657:49.479:52

Race Report: North Country Trail Relay v2.0

aka "It's going to take more than a sprained ankle to stop this running freak!"


June 12 dawned MUCH too early for 6 Michigan runners and their "hired" driver (my hubby, at right...he has some rather obsessive issues with LED lights, as this photo at right demonstrates).

3 runners and said driver shared a room at the Cadillac Days Inn.  At 4:00 sharp my cell phone alarm alerted us that it was time to rise and, uh, shine.  Thank heavens for adrenaline, as 6 hours of sleep would normally have me brewing a minimum of a quart of STRONG coffee to survive the day.

Eryn always showers before races...this I do not understand, but she doesn't do caffeine (this I also do not understand).  OK.  We ate a bit, dressed, and by 4:45 we met the rest of the team in the parking lot of the hotel to load the last few refrigerated items and our gear bags into "Ruby," the team vehicle (Heather's Honda Pilot).

By shortly after 5am we were on the road for the 20 minute trip to the race start at a roadside park.  It was a dark and FOGGY drive.  Luckily the fog cleared a bit by the 6am start, but it was still semi-dark, especially in the woods.

Don ran our first leg.  While he ran, the rest of us loaded back into the team vehicle to drive to the first exchange point.  While he ran most of us also looked for places to pee.  This is the one disadvantage of drinking coffee.

Don handed off to Jeff and we were off again.

At the second exchange point I readied myself for my first leg of the day--a 7.2 miler rated "gut buster +."  The ONLY leg of the race with a +.  That leg did NOT have a + last year and only recently (after I'd made all of the leg assignments) did I notice that little addition.  Sheesh.

Leg 3 was not really as difficult as I had anticipated...I think leg 4 (which I ran last year) was MUCH more difficult...it's also scary, as there is a section on top of a high ridge with STEEP ravine on either side.  I am afraid of heights and tend towards vertigo, so that section scared the bejeezus out of me last year.  This year I gave leg 4 to my best friend...heh.  With friends like me, who needs enemas? *snort*

What made leg 3 a gut buster + was the first mile.  Runners go a very short distance before going straight up a very steep hill.  At the top of the hill is another steep hill.  After this first mile most of the hills are more moderate and this leg really would have been fairly pleasant--had I not sprained my left ankle 2.75 miles in.

There were many factors that led to this sprain and I can't blame the roots and small stumps, alone.  It was very wet and fairly slippery from the rains of the previous night...with lots of wet leaves concealing foot-grabbing roots.  I also wasn't adequately warmed-up prior to this leg.  That first mile was so tough that I didn't have any chance to ease into the run.  I also didn't run the day before, which goes against my usual practice of running a few easy miles the day before a race; instead taking the day 2 days out off.  Friday was too busy with our son's last half-day of school, then getting on the road for the trip up to the relay area.

But the biggest factor working against me was likely my lack of trail-specific training (aside from the one 15k trail race I had done 3 weeks prior).  I have concentrated so much on biking that I didn't feel the ambition to drive to good training trails.  Plus I didn't purchase a state park sticker this year and kept putting off doing so.

So all of those ankle support muscles in my lower legs have been pretty neglected this year.  I have relatively strong, flexible ankles that I will roll from time to time, but have never suffered a sprain.  On this first leg I rolled it mildly once before the big roll that included an audible snap and instant swelling.

For a split second I believed I'd broken it...the pain was intense.  But the pain dissipated quite rapidly and I was able to bear weight.  After walking a bit I picked up the pace and gingerly finished the 4.5 remaining miles of the leg.  By the end the pain was really minimal and I didn't have much trouble walking on it.  After reaching the team vehicle I sat for a while with my leg elevated and an ice pack on the affected area.

The ankle was surprisingly not all that sore.  I did take a few 200mg ibuprofen to help bring down swelling and took it easy for the next couple of hours as others ran.  I had handed-off to my best friend.  By the time she finished her leg she had a sore foot (later we figured it was some irritated tendons), so I again handed-off to her--this time the ice pack.

My next assigned leg was #7 (5.4 miles) and I felt OK to run.  My ankle was tender, a little stiff, and somewhat weak, but runnable.  This leg went surprisingly well.  It was described as "challenging," but I didn't find it any more technical than my "easy" leg last year--just longer.  I took it fairly easy and finished this leg (my last of 2) with my hubby waiting for me, Oberon beer in hand.  YES!!!

The rest of the day passed quickly.  The first 6 legs take up about half of the race distance and comprise the most difficult legs of the course.  Towards the later part of the race my MIL (her sister and brother-in-law are the race directors) and my 9 year old son met up with us and followed us to the last exchange and then to the post-race picnic/party.  Dane really seemed to have fun.  He's pretty accustomed to attending races and hanging out and cheering for sweaty runners.  I hope I can keep doing this for a few more years and that maybe someday he will show an interest in running and want to be on the team.  Doesn't he just LOOK like a runner?  Unfortunately he has 0 interest in any sports, aside from biking.

After the final hand-off we arrived to the finish party and waited for Jeff (one of Derek's co-workers), our final runner to finish.  Jeff's wife, Nicole, was also on the team and was our fast chick.  It was really wonderful to replace last year's speedy couple with another fast couple.  Eryn and Heather and I are all a bit "velocity challenged" and can use all the help we can get to bring up the team's average pace over the course of the race.  Don is still quite the jack-rabbit, even for a guy who is nearly my parents' age.  In his day he won several races and has taken his age group at most races.  With 2 good knees he would be even more of a machine, which is saying a LOT.

(L to R: Eryn, me, Don, Heather, Nicole, Jeff)

Just like last year, we weren't the last team to finish (our main goal is to have fun, run a little, and eat a lot).  A few teams after us started doing some concurrent legs in an effort to finish before dark.  When we left the finish area we were told that there were still 2 teams left to finish.  I felt sort of guilty not hanging around to congratulate them upon completing the race, but it was already going to be about 9pm by the time we returned to the hotel (the finish is over an hour from where we stayed) and we all needed some time to float around in the pool.

After pool and hot-tub time (I kept my left foot out of the hot-tub, since heat is contraindicated for sprains and other sports injuries--and dangled my right foot in) we returned to our rooms for showers and sleep.  Sleep came easy.

After a good night's sleep and breakfast at the hotel (I love that even low-end hotels do this) we packed up the Pilot for the return to life.  I kept my foot up on the dash with ice for most of the way home and have been keeping it elevated as much as possible, with icing every few hours.  As of last night it looked like this.

The swelling and bruising look far more uncomfortable than the injury really is.  While my ankle looks like a 2nd degree sprain, my actual physical symptoms and relative mobility suggest a 1st degree sprain.  So I am hoping I'm only out of commission for a week or two.  I am not planning to run for at least 2 weeks and as long as I don't have any increase in pain or other symptoms I'm not planning to see my doctor.  In the meantime I am babying it and planning to start doing some gentle rehabbing exercises today...tracing the alphabet in the air with my toes and doing some toe-scrunching stuff with a towel under my foot.  Pretty standard PT things.

The timing of this injury is not horrible, either.  I had already been planning to scale-back a good deal on the running miles and substitute more biking and upper-body strength-training.  I have no running races on the agenda until late Aug.--at the earliest.  I'm guessing that I can carefully get back on the bike maybe as early as a week from now, assuming healing continues to go well (I'm already less swollen today and it actually feels good to be carefully walking around the house a bit).

After I'm well healed I'm thinking about doing some "barefoot" miles every week.  This should help strengthen my lower legs, too, as long as I don't overdo it, especially at first.

Next year I may assign myself leg 3, again.  Just as Heather had a score to settle with leg 12 after last year's race and re-ran it this year, I want to show leg 3 that it cannot be the boss of me!


Review: DZ Nuts "Bliss"

So I finally tried this chamois lube/butter/cream -- the women-specific version of the original DZ Nuts. Apparently the only real difference is the absence of menthol in the Bliss.

I had previously been using Paceline's Chamois Butt'r, but after reading some not-so-nice things about parabens I thought it might be a good idea to try something a bit more natural. Plus the Chamois Butt'r contains mineral oil, which isn't particularly good for the longevity of a chamois, anyhow.

DH recently got sample packs of both the DZ Nuts (DZ = Dave Zabriskie) and the Bliss. He tried the men's version on Saturday during his first century ride of the year and was pretty solidly raving about it (he especially liked the menthol tingle and the lasting power of the product), so I figured I would try the women's version on today's planned 40 miler.

Shortly before heading out the door for today's ride I used the entire contents of the packet (about a half TB) and found that it seems to spread much easier on my chamois than the Chamois Butt'r--good thing, since it's pretty damned pricey. A little seems to go a long way.

Disclaimer: As follows is a bit TMI. My fellow X-chromosome peeps will likely not flinch, but I'm aware that some guys can't tolerate any candid discussion of female anatomy or function of female genitalia that does not involve sex. The following account does not involve sex...you have been warned.

Not long after pulling up my shorts I noticed moderate tingling "down there." I thought to myself "OK, this is probably the tea tree oil in the product." I had expected this from earlier reviews I had read.

I got out on the road and found for the first hour that the tingling and general warmth was really not pleasant and actually very distracting. It wasn't painful, but it was uncomfortable and caused things to be overly sensitive. Not really a positive when one has no choice but to be bearing the brunt of one's body weight on a sensitized area.

After the first hour or so the irritation minimized...or I was just able to ignore it. Between wind, hills, and my annoyed hoo-ha I cut my ride short by about a half hour.

I showered and found that my nether regions were still feeling a bit inflamed, including my sit bones area, so this seems to go beyond simple mucous membrane irritation. Huh. It's nearly 9 hours since I applied the product and things are still a bit warm. Needless to say, my 2nd sample pack will be going to whomever wants it. I don't think I want to give it a second try.

On the bright side, at least I didn't drop a crazy amount of money (regular retail is $24 for 4 oz.) on a tiny tube of torture.

To test my hypothesis that it's tea tree oil causing my woes I am thinking of mixing a few drops in my next glob of Chamois Butt'r before a ride. If I experience irritation I will know not to purchase any future products with this ingredient. If I experience no ill effects, then I can assume that it was some other mystery ingredient in the Bliss that caused my privates to be pissy.

I might add that I think it's funny that this is called Bliss...when that was quite the opposite of my experience. It's also funny that "Bliss" is the mind-controller used by the "V" leader on her minions on the cheesy sci-fi series that I enjoy.

I have given some thought to eventually making my own chamois lube concoction. I could make quite a lot of it using simple ingredients from the health food store. Many chamois creams are hardly any different than body butter type products, sans heavy perfumes. Several include simple ingredients like cocoa or shea butters, glycerine, aloe, and vitamin E. I could also throw in some silicone-based lubricant, like the Sport Shield roll-on I use to prevent chafing while running (and this stuff is really no different than some high end, ahem, bedroom lubricants and would be easy to find from a variety of sources). Bliss and DZ Nuts both contain a silicone-based lubricant, which is likely the main reason it lasts so well. Sport Shield can actually be tough to wash off post-run...but it works REALLY well for this reason, even for triathletes.