Double Racing Weekend

I had back-to-back races this past weekend.  Pure Tap 5K on Saturday at the Louisville Water Tower and Downtown Doubler 15K/30K in New Albany, IN.

The weather was great both mornings, around 60 and no rain.  Saturday was overcast and a tad humid; Sunday was sunny, but it started an hour earlier, so the sun didn’t get too hot.  Or at least it didn’t get too hot for the 15K runners.

The 5K was a big race, over 1000 runners, and the first of the Fall Runathon series.  A large number of my women’s running group MRTT/SRTT (Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town) was there, so it was good to see all the friendly, supportive faces.  I was with a few portapotty stragglers from the group and a couple minutes before start time, after we started walking toward the start line, we remembered we needed to take some selfies (important things y’all).  Suddenly the bugler was playing the call to the post.  We hustled.

After the race we found out the race photographer took a picture of us taking a picture of ourselves.  Could be my favorite thing ever.  I’m the one in the grey top, blue running skirt.  Credit:  Marvin Young

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I felt mostly good during the race.  Course was flat, down River Road, with a little swing through one of the parks there.  It was congested in the beginning, necessitating weaving through all the walkers, but spread out and got better pretty quickly.  Skipped a few intervals.  For a three-mile run, I wasn’t worried about getting tired, though maybe I should have!  The finish line was after a small incline and I could tell I was getting slower and slower with every step…or at least that’s what it felt like.  Thankfully that was only the last tenth of a mile.  I didn’t really have a big goal in mind.  I would have loved my time to be in the 28:30 neighborhood, alas not meant to be.  My time was 28:58.  Fourth in my age group though!  I’ve never really worked on speed, no speed repeats, no sprints.  Maybe I should add that in to my running schedule if I want to get my 5K speed faster.

Sunday morning was Downtown Doubler; I opted for the 15K (9.3 miles for non-runners, non-metric-familiar folks).  A few weeks ago I considered bumping up to the 30K.  Soooo glad I didn’t.  For no reason other than not wanting to train more than I had already planned.  Yes, lazy.  But I’ve been tired lately (I blame the tamoxifen) and already running a fair amount.  NO INJURIES

The course started at the amphitheater in New Albany and went down the Ohio River Greenway for a little over 4 and a half miles.  Flat and rather beautiful in spots.  We started at 7:30, so we got to watch the sun come up in front of us.  Lovely.  The out and back thing was fun–seeing all the fast people pass by after the turn around, then seeing the runners behind me after I started going in the other direction.  Lots of encouraging, fun people, including a ton of women from my group.

I used Jelly Belly Sport Beans (hereby to be referred to as runner candy) for the first time during a race.  Don’t know if they helped or not, but they sure didn’t hurt!  I kept my pace up for every mile and was able to push it at the end.  I did my usual intervals, skipping one walk every mile.  I’ve been doing that lately on training runs, and it seems to be working without making me too tired.  I’m sure it’s helping with stamina.  I’ve also been cutting my walking time short, around 20-24 seconds instead of the full 30.

TMI Alert.  Feel free to skip the next paragraph.  Everything was great except the whole GI thing.  Y’all who poop regular better not take that shit for granted.*  I sat on the toilet successfully before I left home, so I thought I was in the clear.  Around mile 3 I had that pooping feeling, but I decided I would manage.  Not much I could do about it at that point, because one thing this course did not have a lot of is portapotties.  The feeling got stronger, still no big deal, until mile 7.  At that point I knew I would be going straight to the bathrooms after I crossed the finish.  At mile 9, I was worried I would be going straight to the bathrooms after I crossed the finish, having shit myself just minutes before.  Lucky for me, no pants pooping.  I did go straight to the bathrooms.  A stall was free and had toilet paper, which made me happier than actually finishing the race.  *See what I did?

Really fun race; saw lots of my running friends, including seeing some finish and seeing the women from the 30K club starting their second time around.  It’s so great to cheer for and be cheered on in person by the people you encourage and support via facebook group.  I can’t say enough about how wonderful these women are and how important they have become to my life.  I truly doubt I would still be running if it weren’t for them.

My time goal was 1:33:00.  That’s a 10 minute mile average.  Respectable.  My pie-in-the-sky goal was 1:30:00.  Like I didn’t think it was in the realm of possibility.  My typical pace for a longer run is 10-10:30 on a good day.  I hadn’t slept well the night before, so I was not expecting anything, just wanted to finish with a smile.  My chip time was 1:30:09!  I did the math–9:42 pace.  I was so surprised and so pleased.  And proud.  Fifth in my age group.  Not too shabby!  The thing I’m most happy about is I’ve got a half marathon in Indianapolis in just under 3 weeks.  This race gives me hope for a PR.  My time for Kentucky Derby Festival Half was 2:11:14.  Under 2:10:00 is doable.  Under 2:05:00 would be amazing.

Today was a rest day.  Tomorrow I’m back at it.

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I Suppose I Should Write About My Stupid Thumb

Hmm it’s been awhile.

What started as a cancer blog, quickly evolved into a running diary, and even more quickly died a quiet death once the race I was training for was over.

For several months I didn’t have any cancer news to share.  I see my oncologist every three or four months to make sure everything is still good.  When you’re NED (no evidence of disease), no news is the best news.

My running slowed to a crawl over most of the winter months, but I picked it up around February to start training for the Filly Women’s Half Marathon at the beginning of April and the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon at the end of April.  Currently training for the Indy Women’s Half toward the end of September and the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in October.

I started sewing more and hope to post lots of pictures of Finished Objects and Works in Progress.

The point of this post though is to finally talk about my stupid thumb.

I’ve been putting this off, hoping it would just get better and I could forget that I ever had issues, but it is apparent that my stupid thumb is my new-new normal and I should accept that.  Now I wish I had started posting back in April, back before it was a thumb problem and was only mild tightness in my forearm.  I wish I had been tracking and recording my progress, because now I have to rely on my shit memory to tell if it’s getting better or worse.  Anyone who has seen me recently and asked “how’s your summer?” has heard the whole story.

So it started the day after the Filly Women’s Half.  I was pulling weeds in the front yard when I noticed a little tightness in my right forearm and inner elbow area that hadn’t been there before.  Odd and random.  I recognized it as similar to the soreness I felt while recovering from the double mastectomy, though that was higher on the inside of my arm.  It had been more than 10 months since my surgery.  Almost 9 months that I considered myself pretty well healed up–little chest tightness, full range of motion, phantom pain calming down, scars shrinking and fading and becoming less itchy.  I totally thought I was done with having to worry about anything other than getting cancer again. 

A quick word about cording or lymphatic cording, also known as Axillary Web Syndrome.  It is a sometimes side effect of sentinel node biopsy or axillary node dissection.  Damage to the lymph system can cause scarring or hardening of the lymph and blood vessels, creating stiff cords just below the skin that are most commonly in the armpit but can travel down the arm too.  It’s not well understood, which is a little infuriating.  Breast cancer is not an uncommon disease, lymph node removal is the norm for breast cancer surgery, and studies suggest cording happens in up to 72% of patients who have had node dissection.

I had mild cording in the weeks after surgery, but the stretching I did as part of my recovery took care of it easily.  So I did the stretching I did back in June.  It didn’t go away, and maybe got a little worse, but not appreciably worse.  I had a one-year follow-up appointment with my breast surgeon’s office scheduled for the end of May already, so I figured I would just keep stretching and if it was still a thing, I would bring it up at that appointment.

I ran a 5 mile trail race on Mother’s Day, and afterwards, while I was taking a shower, I noticed that my thumb had gotten badly swollen and I couldn’t really reach the shower head well.  The tightness in my forearm was now painful, extending up to the under arm, and inhibiting my range of motion.  Great.  The trail race was muddy and slippery, but I hadn’t fallen.  WTF

The next day I called the hospital cancer help line wondering if they could hook me up with a physical therapist to get this under control.  The person I spoke with was spectacularly unhelpful, and I got off the phone frustrated and feeling like I just needed to deal until the end of the month.  The thumb swelling was worrying me though because of lymphedema.

A word about lymphedema.  It’s not the same as cording, though they may be related (again, lots more research needs to be done on cording).  It is swelling, happening in the hand, arm, and/or torso of a breast cancer patient, caused by lymph fluid build-up from surgical node removal.  It can get worse if not treated and cause permanent tissue damage.  Not cool.

Stuart and I were going to be flying to Las Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend, before my scheduled appointment, and my stupid swollen thumb was concerning.  Flying can make swelling worse, and I had always heard that women with lymphedema should wear compression sleeves on airplanes for that reason.  So I called the breast surgeon’s office directly and got a referral to the physical therapist who treats the lymphedema patients.

This whole thing was not a fun time for me.  I had spent 9 months feeling like a normal person.  It was what I wanted, and why I chose the surgery I did, a double mastectomy with no reconstruction.  I wanted to get back to living life with a minimum of doctor visits and procedures.  I wanted to carry on with my new normal.  Flat chest, daily dose of tamoxifen, but cancer-free, training for a half marathon, optimistic.  Now I felt like a cancer patient again.  I only had two or three nodes out, I was not overweight, I had not had radiation, I was NED, I had not had an injury, I had not had an infection.  And yet.

I felt like my body was betraying me again.

My physical therapist was awesome.  First she measured both my arms.  She was curious to see that my left arm was bigger than my right (I am right handed and it is my right arm that was the problem arm).  My explanation was I hold my dogs’ leashes in my left hand and they are extreme pullers, so every dog walk is like a one-hour session of resistance training for that arm.  Anyway.  The swelling, apart from the wrist and thumb, wasn’t awful.  The pain and tightness though was pretty bad.  I couldn’t really raise my arm above my shoulder.  She stretched my arm out, which hurt but in a good-hurt way, and did lymphatic drainage massage.  She also ordered me a compression sleeve and compression gauntlet (think fingerless glove) for the flights.   She told me that she wasn’t sure I had lymphedema, that the swelling may be related to the cording, but she was going to treat me as if I did have lymphedema.

I asked her why.  Why after 10 months did this happen?  Nothing seemed to have caused it.  The first symptoms showed up after a race and it got worse after a different race, but it’s not like I ran those two things in a vacuum.  I had run another half marathon in between without incidence.  And I had almost-as-long training runs in between as well.  There was no trauma.  Nothing new.  Why was I problem free for almost a year and within a month of the first tightness sensation I couldn’t reach a coffee cup on a shelf?  Her answer:  “Human bodies are weird.”  Okay, cool.  If I need to simply accept and be zen about this, I can handle.  A concrete explanation would have been nice, a behavior cause that I should avoid repeating, but I’ve long since learned that sometimes shit just happens.

After that one appointment and a day or two of doing the at-home stretches she gave me, the cording in my arm had resolved and I had full range of motion back.  Yay!  Unfortunately the cording was now in my wrist and into my hand and my stupid thumb was still swollen.  So that was my summer–twice weekly PT appointments for two and a half months, trying to get rid of the last cording and hopefully the swelling.  My PT taught me how to do lymphatic drainage massage on myself, experiment with hand stretches.  She taught me how to use Kinesio tape to help the swelling.  We even tried laser treatments.

My PT was stumped.  She had never seen cording go into the hand and up someone’s thumb before.  Why, after almost 50 years of not deviating from the norm (except for that cancer thing), was I suddenly a medical oddity?  Who the fucks knows.  The rotten thing is the way cording is treated is stretching and this weird manipulation-massage, but it’s really hard to stretch just your thumb and it’s really hard to pinch enough on your thumb to hit the cord there.  She consulted with her colleagues and none of them had any suggestions for treatment that she wasn’t already doing.  At the end of July she discharged me, saying to call her if I got worse.  I should wear my gauntlet when doing repetitive and/or stressful activities using my hand (like yard work and exercise), avoid lymphedema triggers, keep stretching and doing lymphatic drainage massage.

So now here I am.  The swelling and tightness in my arm is totally gone.  I have full range of motion in my arm, but my wrist is kinda weak.  There is one tiny spot of tightness at the base of my thumb on the back of my hand.  My thumb is still swollen.  I think it is less swollen than it was a few weeks ago, but I *stupidly* haven’t been documenting it, so I’m not even sure.  The fingers on that hand seem fine.  My thumb definitely looks worse at the end of the day, I think.  Who the fuck knows.  Some days are worse than others, and I’m eager to see what improvement comes with fall and cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

I have come to accept that I’ve got mild lymphedema and I need to be watchful.  Of what, I’m not 100%.  I know that I should avoid blood pressure cuffs and injections and blood draws on that arm.  I know that I should avoid tight sleeves and bracelets.  Keep the skin in good condition, avoid extreme temperatures of water, avoid extreme heat in general, no manicures, no cat scratches, no trauma, drink lots of water, avoid fatty foods, avoid sugar, avoid dairy, avoid salty food, avoid spicy food, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol, avoid MSG, whatever you do don’t gain weight, avoid sun exposure, wear compression garments when flying and on long car rides, avoid being sedentary, avoid overuse, don’t wear a purse on that arm, don’t carry heavy stuff for any length of time, don’t wear a back pack, don’t cut yourself, don’t burn yourself. 

A bunch of things are no big deal, things I’m already doing.  A bunch of things I’m not particularly worried about at this point because my swelling is mild.  But.  Before it was mild, it wasn’t there, so I know that things can just change.  For no reason.  A bunch of these things are not exactly avoidable.  Accidents happen.  I’m not going to stop cooking because I might cut myself or burn myself.  I’m not going to get rid of the cats or stop doing my cat shelter volunteer work in order to bring my risk to zero.  I confess, I have used my thumb as an excuse to not do yard work (y’all it’s bad but honestly it’s been worse and the reason then was solely my avoidance and procrastination), but I’ll get out there and pull weeds…any day now.  Yeah.

So that brings me to the real fist shaking, life-is-so-unfair feelings connected with my stupid thumb.  The I-am-willing-to-ignore-medical-advice vanity that probably says a lot about me.   

I want a chest piece.

I want a chest piece and my PT said she would advise against a tattoo because of the lymphedema.

A chest piece was a huge reason I was so on board and cool with my decision to stay flat after surgery.  Getting on with my post-cancer-surgery life without a bunch of new surgeries and complication risks was absolutely the main reason I chose not to get reconstruction.  I never had wanted one before, but the idea of an awesome chest tattoo covering my scars was icing on the quicker-surer-recovery cake. 

I have in the past year become rather fond of my scars.  Like, I think they are badass and sexy.  They have ceased signifying mutilation and now are the mark of me as someone who healed. 

My feelings about my scars are as complicated as my feelings about my cancer.  For a while I felt a kind of survivor guilt.  I know I had cancer and got a big, life changing surgery…but no radiation, no chemo–the things that fuck up life for a lot of cancer patients, I got to skip.  I recognize how lucky I was to get my diagnosis at an early stage.  I was crazy fortunate to be able to get a mammogram the same day I saw my PCP about a lump and get a biopsy a few days later and surgery within a month.  I was crazy fortunate we had plenty of room on credit cards for the high insurance deductible.  I was crazy fortunate my pathology report was about as good as it could be.  But the scars on my chest are not simply the path of least resistance.  I gave up my curvy, still-perky chest to get rid of a disease that I didn’t choose, and I think that should count for something.  I was lucky to be diagnosed at an early stage.  That doesn’t make me less of a cancer survivor. 

So anyway.  Not hating the scars.  Kinda liking them. Not liking liking.  I don’t step out of the shower and look in the mirror and think “thank god I don’t have breasts anymore because the pre-teen flatness of this rib cage and these long, gently curving pink lines are a big improvement.”  No one would think that.  What I do think when looking in the mirror is “I fucking overcame a deadly disease to stand here on my own two feet after just having run ten miles and I am going to keep going and keep running and cancer didn’t kill me now and I’m going to do all I can to make sure cancer can fuck itself forever.” 

Getting a chest piece was part of this.  I no longer want to cover the scars with ink, to hide them, but maybe work with them, make them pretty.  And now I look at my stupid swollen thumb and get a little sad.  Then I wonder what’s the worst that can happen? 

Nothing right now.  I don’t have a design or really any concrete ideas.  But I sure as hell am not ruling it out.

Morning Run 23 October

First run post Urban Bourbon.  Distance:  5.4, Time:  55 minutes, Pace:  10:09

Sunday I felt okay.  Knees were screaming at me when I went up and down stairs, but fine other than that.  Definitely no running for me that day!  Monday I thought about running and ended up doing a two-mile dog walk, then a three-and-a-half mile dog walk.  Probably a good choice, though I think I could have handled running fine.  I just didn’t feel like changing clothes.  Yes, I can talk myself out of running with hardly any effort.

This morning I met a couple people from my women’s running facebook group.  We met at 8am at the Big Four Bridge, went over to Indiana, then down to the Falls of the Ohio and turned around.  A bit over 5 miles.  The weather was perfect.  When we began it was 45 degrees, with the sun starting to come up and very little wind.  5 miles in before 9am!

Piece of toast, one cup of coffee.  Capri length tights, tank, long sleeve tech shirt.  I was a bit warm by the time we got across the bridge, but we weren’t going that fast and we were in the shade a lot, so I was mostly comfortable enough.  Glad I left my jacket in the car though!  Blue shoes.  2min/30sec intervals.

So now that my running goal has been reached, I need to decide what the immediate and long-term future is for me.  There is a series of short races close to home in the winter months called the Polar Bear Grand Prix.  I’ll probably sign up for them.  Then the Triple Crown of Running (5K in February, 10K at the beginning of March, 10 miler at the end of March) I will definitely do.  Already signed up for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (end of April) and the Indy Women’s Half (in September).  I really like the half marathon distance.  There is a half on St. Patrick’s Day that I may consider doing too.  So I think I will continue to run three or four days a week, maybe two 4-6 miles and a longer 8-10 miles.  Something like that.  I want to keep running as long as I’m feeling good and if I always have a race to look forward to, I will keep it up.

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

I finished!  That’s all I really wanted, but I kinda wanted to try for a sub 2:20.  My time was 2:12:02!  I kept my pace right around 10 the whole time, something I haven’t always been able to do.  I credit the cooler weather for not running out of steam.

Got up at 5:45, took care of the dogs, cup of coffee, carb loaded (English muffin and toast).  The weather was breezy and a little mist/drizzle, 52 degrees.  Capri tights, tank, and light jacket that I took off and tied around my waist a couple minutes before start time.  Black shoes.  Left a few minutes before 7 to get downtown while navigating traffic, utility work, and road closures in plenty of time.  All worked out well.

It was cold as fuck downtown with the wind, but once I got in the corral with all the other bodies, it was fine.  Then once the pistol went off, I was thankful for my light clothes within a couple blocks.

The course went towards Waterfront Park and looped around, then up one of those streets that connect downtown and Phoenix Hill, then down Lexington to Cherokee Park.  Yay home turf!  The course went around most of the loop, then out and down Cherokee to Grinstead, then toward Cave Hill, down Baxter, down one of those streets to the finish line, a block or so from where we started.  Lots of people cheering on the sidelines; Stuart went to watch with the dogs somewhere along the park road, but I think he got there right after I went by.

There was a post-race party right near the finish line, with bourbon tasting and pizza and burgoo (Kentucky stew).  I saw some old dance families, so we did some catching up and I had some friendly faces with whom to drink my bourbon.  Skipped the pizza and burgoo in favor of a bagel.

2 minute/30 second intervals.  I felt good for most of it.  A little twingy, but no big deal.  Around mile 10, the twinginess became something closer to pain and my right hip was pretty sore when I stopped running.  I stretched right away and that helped.  We took the dogs for a couple mile walk in the afternoon–slow and easy.  Right now, 10 hours later, I’m stiff and sore but not much worse than after my earlier long training runs.  I plan to take a nice epsom salt bath and get a good night sleep and anticipate feeling fine in the morning.

Thursday Morning Run 18 October

Last run before the half marathon on Saturday; I’ll probably go for a nice long dog walk tomorrow, maybe jog a few minutes with them, and stretch.

Distance:  4 miles, Time:  37:43, Pace:  9:26, Elevation Gain:  182

42 degrees at the start, didn’t check when I got home, but I imagine since I was only out for 40 minutes, not a whole lot changed beyond a degree.  It was sunny with a light breeze.  I wore long tights and long sleeve shirt with black jacket.  It seemed chilly when I let the dogs out; I should have just stuck with a tank and jacket.  I got quite warm after a mile.  Blue shoes (oops).

English muffin, one cup of coffee for breakfast.  Left at 9:45.  Good run!  I ran a little faster than I do for a longer run and it was fine.  Hard work going up hills though!  I took a new route, this time going into and out of a different park entrance and around the loop at Cherokee Park in the opposite direction as usual, the same direction as the race on Saturday.  I feel like the hills in that direction aren’t as bad.  I guess they are longer and not as steep.  Anything’s better than that damn hill at the golf course and luckily that fucker is not part of the race route.  Body felt good–no right leg twinges yay!  I listened to Eluveitie again, Slania, probably my favorite album of theirs.

2 minute run/30 second walk intervals.  I’m still not sure what I want to do on Saturday.  That or 90/30?  My goal is to finish and enjoy myself doing it.  No real goal on time, though sub 2:20 would be fabulous.

 

Tuesday Morning Run 16 October

Distance:  5 miles, Time:  49:38, Pace:  9:56, Elevation Gain:  119

Weather was decent—42 at the start, overcast, little wind, 45 at the end

Long tights, tank with black jacket were good choices.  Chilly when starting but got comfortable within a quarter mile.  Blue shoes.

One crumpet, one cup of coffee for breakfast.  Left at 9:30.  Not a bad run.  Normal huffy puffy at first and felt good at about one mile.  At about mile two, felt a tiny twinge on outside of right knee and a wee bit of twinge in right hip.  No big deal, though decided to do 5 miles instead of 6 because of it.  Didn’t get worse during run.  Could have kept going under other circumstances, namely no paranoia about right leg twinginess before half marathon on Saturday and general wanting to taper this week.

Down Bardstown Road and Baxter Ave past Feeders and looped around Main St by Home of the Innocents, then back up the way I came til Cherokee.  Only hill was way back on Baxter.  A lot of these sidewalks are in such sore shape, I could be trail running.  That and the traffic makes me love running in the park even more *shakes fist at hills*.  Listened to acoustic Eluveitie album.  I think I could listen to Brictom all day long.  Next run I will probably get back to their usual Death Folk Metal.

Eluveitie – Brictom from NORT85 on Vimeo.

Friday Morning Run 12 Oct

Last long run before taking it easy for Urban Bourbon Half, which is a week from tomorrow.

Distance:  11.5 miles, Time:  1:57:28, Pace:  10:13, Elevation Gain:  386

Good weather:  Sunny, no wind, 42 degrees when I started and 51 at the end

I left at 9am but had a wardrobe malfunction within a block, so I went right home and changed into pants that weren’t going to fall down.  I also realized I was overdressed, wearing long sleeves and a jacket, so I changed into just a tank under the jacket.  Good choice.  I would have been miserable, especially on the blocks where the sun was hitting me.  This was the first chilly morning I’ve run in at least a year, and there will be a learning curve on figuring out how to dress for longer distances.

Black shoes.  Two crumpets for breakfast; two cups of coffee.  I felt okay starting.  Huffy and puffy and not loving it, but by mile 3 I was in my happy spot and around mile 8 I was having a grand time.  Running in cooler weather is leaps and bounds better than hot weather.

Went toward downtown until the ballpark, then back around via Main St, up Baxter, down Grinstead into Cherokee Park, potty stop and water refill at mile 7, around the loop and out the way I came in, then down Cherokee Road and up and down Cherokee Parkway.  11 and a half miles! (I got a ride home the rest of the way from Stuart, who *happened* to driving by on his way home for lunch)  I was getting tired, but body wasn’t hurting.  I feel like I could have done another mile and a half without killing myself.  I would love to finish Urban Bourbon in 2:20 but really the goal is to simply finish.  I guess it depends on how hilly the course is and if I have to make a potty stop.  I will definitely not have two cups of coffee on race day.  Hills on this run:  up Baxter, hill by Cherokee golf course, up to Hogan’s Fountain, up Cherokee Parkway.  The whole second half was pretty hilly, but there were downs after the ups, so it all worked out.  I switched up the intervals and did 2 minute run/30 second walk.  It was fine, noticeably more difficult but not onerously.  I used the interval timer on the fitbit–really nice feature.  Just need to decide what to do for the race.