Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Learning to Run with Asthma

Today on My American Life (Will you read this Ira Glass?)

Running with Asthma

Disclaimer: This post isn’t a study on runners with asthma or some science of running with asthma. This post is just my experience.

Upon being diagnosed with asthma in November 2013, I was under the impression I would only experience exercise induced asthma, specifically for my long runs. But my doctor cleared me up, telling me to use albuterol (the rescue inhaler) before every run and as needed. I also was put on a corticosteroid to help prevent asthma attacks.  After a couple weeks of use, I felt an improvement; I thought I was on the fast road to being normal. I’d wake up some days thinking I was cured, but it was more akin to falling asleep with your glasses/contacts on and thinking you no longer need vision assistance. Not so fast there slugger. How quickly I was reminded that I was human.

Running outside in the arctic temperatures is a challenge of will and want, but now also poses a health risk for me.  Typically, covering your mouth to keep the air warm as you run is more of an effort of comfort rather than necessity. I learned that when I’m told I now need to cover up… to do it. I had one run where the weather was around 0, and I uncovered my mouth for about 45 minutes due to feeling nauseous on my run and the cool air helped me feel better. Result? A few days of asthma kicking my ass, using my rescue inhaler as often as permitted, and calling my doctor to see if I should be worried. I was banned from running outside for a few days and was allowed to kick up my medicine temporarily… and reminded to keep my mouth covered in this rabidly cold winter.

In my efforts to keep my mouth covered during my runs for warmer air, I have had many times where I was challenged in getting enough air to feel comfortable at a faster pace through my balaclava. It becomes annoying; trying to constantly adjust the balaclava for your mouth, trying to loosen up my jacket, thinking it is too tight around my neck. In the end, I give up and just push through the run. Oddly enough this is not constant, I’ll go on to have a longer and faster run a few days later with my balaclava on and no issues at all with my breathing.  
Sometimes, I can take it off

I have done a few runs with my face uncovered for a few miles just to free up my body in a sense and gain a little speed and have felt fine. I don’t know what my temperature danger zone is yet, which is frustrating as it produces some anxiety whenever I breathe the freezing naked air.  

I have also learned that feeling normal in a respiratory sense will take a lot longer than I imagined. I’ll be on a high level of the corticosteroid until my symptoms calm the hell down, even when I am not exercising. At the workplace, people with intense and/or very chemically smelling perfume now cause me distress as well as gag. And sometimes stress can make it flare up as well.

Now you may be thinking, so your fitness sounds like it is crashing right? Well, not so much.

While I am not on a training plan for a race, I am trying to maintain a loose structure to my week.  A speed day, a day at my goal marathon pace, and a long run or two.  I’m trying to be as flexible and relaxed as possible with my running. Change my run to later in the day so it is a little warmer? Done. Run on the treadmill because it is a rough asthma day? Done.  And like right now, take a longer break due to a winter cold to avoid a combined attack of being sick and cold air on my lungs, done. 

I’m learning to be a little more patient. Some days I have to focus more on the effort I had to muster to do my run than just the raw stats. In the end, I have been able produce even stronger runs that I have in the last 6 months.

I’m running my intervals at a 6 minute mile pace and have yet to get hurt (last year I was doing them more around 6:05-6:10, and have lightly hurt myself doing them twice last year). I have been doing my long runs by feel, which has led to multiple runs from 14-16 miles in the pace of 6:58- 7:11 (and one near 8 minute mile, since I am human).

I feel happy with my progress. I’m getting back to how I felt before I got injured last July, just faster. Looking back at August to October training last year, the difference is night and day.  Maybe it is the reduction of pressure? Maybe asthma makes me better…

Next Episode:  Taking in the big city

Have a great one!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Invariably Human - Run Commute Update

I had trouble putting this post together, as my first few versions were pretty boring. Boring as in, I didn't even want to read what I just wrote.
Pretty photo running to work
Initially I wanted to get a week's worth of run commutes in to give my early review. I initially tried doing a review of my runs, but snoooozesville. If you want to follow my runs, jump on over to Daily Mile.

I decided to cut it down to the most valuable lessons you should learn if you ever consider a run commute.
  • Be organized and have an inventory of your food and cloths you keep at work. On Wednesdays at work, I check what I have left for clothes, how many of each, and write it down. I then write out all the clothes I'll need for the next four business days. I then bring the list home and go shopping in my closet or do a lot of laundry to bring it all in on Thursday, my mandatory rest day from running. Thursday I also check what food I have left and make another list of all the breakfast, lunch, and snack food I'll need for the next four business days. I use my lunch break to go to the grocery store up the street from work and get only what I need (hello limited desk space).
  • Trust your planning. I spent a good amount of time planning routes, alternate routes, timing out appropriate bus schedules, time needed to get ready, buffer time for delays and so forth. I just have to pick my distance and follow my spreadsheet instructions. I have had a few moments where I have mini panics if I set my alarm for the right time, if I wrote down the wrong bus schedules, but I have to stop myself and trust my previous work.
  • Be aware of the variables out of your control that could disrupt your run start time or pace (especially if you are running to work and trying to start work at a specific time).  The biggest variable so far has been the weather. I have had to adjust my run routes  and times a few times due to ice and intense weather in the pre-dawn hours.  I always consider how safe the run will be, not as much to run through, but are the risks of crossing out of control cars too high as I get off the running path. 
  • Have different run routes ready to switch to in case of weather, reroutes, or over sleeping. Even though I originally set 5 run routes, I have yet to use any of them due to partial path closures in the winter. No biggie, just made a few new ones and found areas to lap around. Also, in the comments of my last post Jennifer commented on wanting to be able to do a run commute, but the lack of showers preventing that from happening.  I started thinking what I would do? I started to think about doing run commutes home. Sounded easy enough. Just whip up some paths that end at home, get into work at 6am, leave at 2:45pm and still get home at a reasonable hour. I quickly liked the idea to throw in my rotation for days that I need to bring emergency cloths to work, weather doesn't permit a run at all in the morning, or I don't feel good in the morning.
  • And remember, you are human:  As I'm sure many of you can relate, you can become obsessive and stubborn about your runs. During this winter season, my hardest to deal with human frailty is my new gift of asthma. Upon initial diagnosis, I thought I would just have to deal with exercise induced asthma on my long runs. Reality, I'm not at that point yet. Last Wednesday (22 January) on my run to work, it was moderately cold out. I had on my balaclava, but I started feeling nauseous. I pulled the cover off my mouth to let the cold air help me feel better.  But side result? My asthma flared up hard for days (just feeling more baseline today). I had to call my doctor and was told to run inside and take my medication more often for a few days. Here is where my stubborn comes in, my immediate reaction,  I made this commitment to a run commute, I'm a failure if I run inside! Then the little common sense voice in my head breaks through and says, so emergency room or run inside and listen to your body when you need to. Lesson learned. As a result, I'll be using the treadmill during this polar vortex for a couple days.
I'm hoping once the winter turns into a more... normal Chicago winter, I can get in a good run commute rhythm. For now, just staying as positive as I can and remembering I am a squishy human.
Okay, back to what I was doing:

Cheers mates!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Adjusting for a Run Commute

For the last few weeks I had been mentally fiddling with how manage a partial run commute.

Wait Declan! You already are able to run in your lunch hour (also known as runch) at work, why wake up earlier to run?

I'm glad you asked!

  1. Limited time: I get an hour for lunch, and if I get into work earlier (as early as 6am), I can use my extra time to work out, rather than leave early. I can fit in 7-11 miles in this time frame if I run outside, but I have no time left over to stretch good after.
  2. I could do so much more: As mentioned in my end of year post, I looked back and thought how I could do so much more. I want to run my miles before work, then use my lunch hour to do core and hip work, and do use the weight room to build up my upper body strength.
  3. I hate treadmills: For a runch, I have two options, A) Run on the treadmill and maximize miles...but I always feel jankie for the next 24 hours, get bored, and just don't get my normal high. B) Run outside, but 60-80% of my miles are made up of getting to and from the lakefront path....and that means a lot of intersections and waiting for a pause in traffic to hopefully j-run. I end up losing about 10 minutes or so from my run time waiting for the lights.
So now, I will be doing part of my commute on foot. I live about 14ish miles from work via the lakefront trail to the S. Loop to  what I like to consider the Borderlands of Chicago.

Obviously I don't have the fitness to do this every day, so I mapped out multiple 5 different runs to do, 6.3,8, 10.75, 12.3, and 13.1 miles. Each run finishing at work, and the last 3 miles will have to suffer intersections, but I'm hoping to avoid traffic by being on the street before the normal commuting hours.

Mapping was the easy part, as this is largely papercraft (I still don't know what the emergency bathroom options will be) and it looks nice on an excel sheet.

The hard part, the logistics of making it work. I don't want to bring a full backpack of cloths and food every day. So here is what I did today.

I brought in three sets of work outfits, 3 sets of work out cloths for my lunch time work outs, bagels, carnation breakfast drink mixes, yogurts, silverware, bread, peanut butter, jelly, bananas, toothbrush, tooth paste, shampoo, (I already have soap here), deodorant, and an extra towel (two work outs, means two showers at work).  I had found an old duffel bag in my closet and stuffed it last night with all my goodies. When I was leaving this morning, I realized it had a nice rip on the side... duck tape it..

I get on the bus, and unzip it to get something out now, rather than at my work parking lot... and the zipper comes unhooked from one side and won't work now. womp womp.

I forgot to bring in my granola and cereal bars, and I brought in the wrong cream cheese.   I got into work early today, so I'll use a little of that extra time to run to the grocery store.. or stop on the way back all sweaty.. yes.. I'll do that.

So every day after work, I can wear my work cloths home..with my running sneakers on and use a plastic grocery bag to bring home sweaty cloths. I'll need to buy an extra belt (I only bought one two sided belt after losing weight) and bring in shoe polish. My rest day from my morning run will be Wednesday or Thursday, and use that day to bring in new food and work cloths.

This schedule should let me get a steady 60-65 miles per week average, with room to grow over time, help me strength my weak hips, keep up the exercises I would do at physical therapy, and not have gumby arms.

I still need to find easy things to keep at work for breakfast and lunch to feed the beast once it kick, and be reasonable about listening to my fatigue, as doing two a day work outs will require breathers from time to time.

And as I have no marathons on my agenda, I'll likely just jump in a training plan soon, do a 20 mile pace run at the end, do an easy week or so, then go again (or as much as baby #2 allows).

I'll follow up on this in a week or two with lessons learned.

Now you've read enough, here are some photos from my recent runch:

 What my desk needs to smell like:

And for those winter blues days:

 And your reaction right now to this post:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Where in the World...did my Blog Content Go?

This update is largely at the request of Mrs. Stop Running Dad, saying my blog misses me.

Post holidays, I have been pretty reserved in streaming my deluge of links, runs, and banter on the internet.  This action is not a result of being addicted to it or needing to go off the grid to enjoy life, but rather just a reset of objectives for the year.

Last year, my blog and connections were based on marathon training and subsequent characters whose life adventured I would join time to time. The year ended with rush of holiday gatherings and emotional highs. As with any extraordinary rush, comes the subsequent reaction the normalize once the stimuli are gone. This time period has had me thinking of what I want to do this year and how can I grow most as a husband, father, and friend. I haven't had any giant ideas or breakthroughs, but I am getting more excited every day for baby #2!

I haven't signed up for any races this year, which removes some pressure, but also some unity with the community I know. I am keeping June through the end of October clear for baby number two (in case he/she comes early, then the period of time where sleep will be short until sleep training begins at four months).  I briefly thought about a spring marathon, but I still need a longer period of time with more easy paces runs (and not on the treadmill) to get the kink out of my left leg. I feel the stress on the period injury flare up, and I know it isn't time to be freaking out about every run and goal time. I'll be restarting the activities I did at physical therapy soon during my lunch, and start doing a partial run commute to give myself more time to run.

The sad part about my run schedule, is that 5 out of my 6 runs a week will almost surely be done exclusively alone, as weekday runs have zero flexibility to them (and odd starting points), and who gets up super early on a Saturday?

But hey, nobody comes to this blog thinking they are reading the text from Live Journal, so here is some life for the post.

Highlights of the last six days:

On New Years day, I was able to squeeze in a short run at night (rare for me) and went out close to 8pm and traversed the snowy sidewalks of Edgewater, where snow drifts easily went from 2-4 plus feet high:
Only my steps went through here

Thorndale park area

The following day I spent a little extra time on the treadmill at work to get a few extra miles. As most of my runs happen during lunch, I am usually constricted to ~7 miles and a quick shower. I have skipped most of my post run stretches for that extra mile, but am paying for it slowly. I did 10 miles doing paces between 6:58 - 7:30. I still hate treadmills and always hurt after them, but enjoyed the satisfaction. But my legs are definitely still not anywhere close to normal yet.

On Saturday, I went for an easy 8.5 mile run at 5:30am. I got to see a bright shooting star on the first half of my run. It was pretty windy, but I enjoyed the run.

Sunday I wanted to do a long run, as the previous weekend's attempt was cut short due to ice and hazardous roads in Michigan. But it was snowing and very windy, plus I didn't have an limitless time frame to run in, so I set a roughly time limit of 1:30. Going south was pleasant..too pleasant. I knew the wind was at my back, but at least the lake front trail was plowed and salted. I ran to Fullerton, and it took me 47 minutes... return trip? 52 minutes. Wind and snow in my face, my balaclava got too wet and it was hard to breath, so I was forced to run with more of my face exposed. I ended up doing something like 11.5 miles. I was happy to have no pressure on missing a workout goal, so I had no feeling of letting myself down.
I have enjoyed watching the new Sherlock episodes...without giving away spoilers:

I'm pretty bummed the next episode of Doctor Who isn't until August...

But at least... the mountain is ready soon (Game of Thrones).

I'm still unsure as to the direction this blog will take, if any, but for now...
Just Dance
That's all I got. Stay warm my winter readers!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Run, Robot Run - 2013 You Beautiful Mechanized System of Chaos

(Sadly the song goes Rock, Robot Rock, but I pretend they say run)

I've been tossing around ideas for a year end post. Do I go the easy route and just do a recap of events and photos? I wasn't thrilled by just have an extended post with no value added to my blog. So instead, I'm going to share with you... lessons learned from the year. Be they for your own use or just to get to know me a little better.

If you have only a minute, this is my own little way of saying carpe diem,  run and take a chance.

In the theme of run, robot run, running in its most basic sense is a simple, repetitive exercise. You could program a robot run, but that wouldn't make it a runner.

You can transform your body into the idealized well oiled machine, knocking out every work out, which is also pretty awesome...And probably what most athletes aim for, but when you look down your scope for that one goal, you lose focus on so much else.

Try to find a balance between hitting your numerical goals and also set goals for your running soul.

Looking back through the year, I don't necessarily feel like I did anything bad, but more like..
More on this in a moment
Running, when embraced, pushes you through a myriad of emotions and often brings you many opportunities to grow as person.  Run enough, and your brain slowly gets rewired.  Embrace what makes you human. Every run may not have the digits you want to see, your body may not carry you to that daily goal, but that doesn't mean the day is a loss. Did you see, I mean really see, what went on around you? Every runner going back, facing their inner adventures, running by you with a stoic face covered in sweat. Where are you running? Will you force a path to exist to get your runs in? You are amazing.

I always feel like everyone else I pass running has their proverbial shit together and silently passes judgement on my effort. Obviously the world cares that much right? After a year of meeting many runners and having candid conversations with them, you aren't alone in your crazies. Embrace them, they ultimate define how hard you are willing to work for your goals.

Are you still following me? In short, your run is part of a much bigger picture, full of an array of emotions that can scare the shit out of you...and I highly suggest you embrace it all. I find it akin to reading a book through even know you will find tragedy and pain in it, you simply don't stop in the first third of the book before life shapes the characters and turns them into elevated characters. You push through the pain, you look for the light at the end of the tunnel, you finish the story and reflect on what happened.

Such is the trial of many runs. Physically you push yourself to the limit, dancing with your body's signal for an oncoming injury. Mentally you navigate your inner maze, never knowing what minotaur is awaiting you. You may be afraid of what makes you tick, or be amazed about what makes you tick faster. But you must find out how you really work, then you can really make a difference in your run and life.

Now, I'm not saying only running does this for you. Or for someone looking to achieve this..enlightened feeling, you likely won't get this for some time. Running is hard and not everyone will enjoy it. It takes time to move over the period of pain, physical adjustment, building a base of miles, and strength. After some time, running to me stopped becoming an exercise of purely maintaining body weight and keeping my doctor happy, but an exercise of meeting my mental needs as well. Your body can go on auto pilot when you take a mental adventure into no man's land.

I belabor the lesson learned, don't be afraid to do more in all aspects of life.

I have been afraid to put myself out there to other runners, to accept that I can be accepted. I have been afraid to develop friendships and trust in them. I have been afraid to be a fuller person for my wife and child. But you know what? I can accept this has all happened, and accepting this has made me want to do more.

Just like running goals, life is hard, and you have to trust in your training (social involvement) and take chances to really push for that awesome finish. As I used to often complain about the lack of involvement, I was never making an effort to be part of some greater community. I put myself out there.. and I do feel like I have some part to play it in all.

Many of you readers I have met and shared some sort of social interaction with, and I have yet to meet one of you that I don't appreciate and think proudly of ( of you are the wurst). To you all, thank you for sharing your time, be it over a sausage, a run, or dessert, for what is more valuable than time to us runners?

Some recent life events have really pushed my emotions to some different dimension, and experiencing them has been a wonder. While they can be distracting, I try to look at them as a new tool in my running/life tool box to use. I can't wait to be a father to a second child come next Summer, there is no greater love and meaning in life than your family. Without my wife and child, I would be a very hallow man chasing meaningless addictive activities I'm sure.

I also cannot wait to see where my new found friendships take me in 2014, and who knows who else I'll meet? The best lesson I want to share, someone you learn as a child..take a chance with people, be honest, be their friend. Yes, you can get hurt or feel exposed, but you are alive and you continue. It is better to have run with a friend, than to never have run at all right? I feel very fortunate to belong to several running groups that have embraced me so far, and I hope I can make you all proud.

I hope that these.. hopes are not just some holiday mental trend that I will put away like an unlikely new years resolution, but rather moment in time where I actually grow as a person.

2013, you have shown and taught me a lot. Everything old is new, and everything new is old. The lessons aren't some revelation, but rather an experience each person needs to really find on their own, this is just my story.

and oh yea, be patient with your training, or you could get hurt multiple times like me :) Follow your training plans people!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tis The Season for All the Emotions

I'm really not sure I know how to organize this post. This last week was emotion overload for me.

But first.. my runs.  As I mentioned in my last post, I saw I got my weekly miles up too fast (0,30s, 50). Last thing I want to do right now is get hurt AGAIN. So I took a little off my daily runs and took an extra day off.

Tuesday: 5 miles dreadmill run. My calves were shot and sore, I decided to stop early and just stretch for an extra 10 minutes.

Wednesday: Rest for my unhappy legs.

Thursday: Runch! The weather approached 40 and I NEEDED to run outside. I took my run during lunch at work out, and it was a bit slushy..well very slushy, and I didn't account for all the red lights on the street. I ran out to the aquarium and back. Here are some photos:
Non Tourist View of the City

View from the Shedd Aquarium
The Runch run felt great! I run so much more easily and faster off the treadmill, my pace was a lot quicker for the effort than what I do on a treadmill.

Funny note for the run: As I was waiting for a light to change (Note, I was wearing my tights) this old lady in her 70s with a walker, and her 13 year old grand daughter walked by me...then stopped. Old lady turns around, stares at me and says: mmhhhhmmmmm mmmmm that butt! turned back and walked away. The young girl turned and said, SORRY SIR! I'm not sure how to feel about it.. used? Awkward?

Friday: Rest again.

Saturday: Early morning 7 and change easy run outside, a little slick on the lakefront, so I just took some kick off my pace.

Sunday: 13 mileish run with Annabelle @ Fluency's Folly. I had a lot of fun with this run.

 The weather was fair (35 and trace wind) and we had a relaxing pace to just chat or just enjoy the peace of the run. We got to see Santa getting some cardio in before eating all those Christmas cookies!

Okay, now for the rest of life, where the emotions happened!

Wednesday... My wife and I finally let friends know we are expecting come July 1! A lot of you already saw this on Facebook and Twitter. I was elated that I could finally talk about it! The pregnancy frames largely what plans are come next year (especially for races, aka, none hah)
Face is up and it is totes waving at me
How we announced it:

 I'm happy :) We are much more relaxed this time around with the pregnancy.

Thursday: The Bootlegger's Running Coalition (BRC) Holiday Party. A fun evening! I got to meet some people for the first time that I only knew from our group page and some for the first time not in running cloths! I have so much to learn about them, but I felt very welcome! I can't wait to develop more friendships here!

Now the hardest part of the night, it would be the last time that I, and the rest of us Chicagoans, would get to see Erin (The Ruminator). I hated saying goodbye, she has been so good to my family and I, the city is losing a valuable person, runner, wife, and mother! Cheers to you Erin!

Next up... Saturday... the visit to see Santa Claus with my daughter.. My wife wasn't feeling well, so I was left to take my tot on a mall adventure..

1st stop- the BIG Macy's in the Loop... hell no... line was depression.

2nd stop - I meant to go to Bloomingdale's mall, which started at 11, but I went to Nordstrom mall instead (womp) and they started at 12...  It was now 11. Off to Bloomingdale's..

3rd stop - Bloomingdale's.. It is now about 11:30.. Line is long, but I thought it might move quickly.. At least it was pretty:

Two hours later we make it to Santa.. my daughter was a doll the entire wait. We had a LOT of play time to avoid melt downs. She was all excited to see Santa... until it was her turn to actually to see him.. melt down... Pictures later... Long day over all! We were wiped.

And there we go! I am a bit emotionally tired from the week, but that's what really stands out when you look back on life right?

Now hopefully my wife feels better by Christmas!
What say you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wow! So Much Blog, Many Run!

So I have done an amazing job staying current with my blog, even my wife has been putting on the pressure! So here goes a recap of the last week. (wait... I can barely remember anything I did)

Monday - Friday. Four runs on the dreadmill at work. They were usually 6-8 mile runs at easy paces. Although, even easy paces on the treadmill just don't have that soft fuzzy feeling of running outside. As there are limited TVs in the gym at work, I am usually at the mercy of a more senior employee's preference until they are done... So I typically am force fed some politically charged news station I don't care for or endless sports highlights.

Note for myself, I really need to re-start my stretching routines again, my legs ache!

Also, random photo of my offspring from last week!

Saturday: Group "Farewell Run" for Erin (Running Ruminations) ~ 12.5 miles (for me)

This run was probably the funnest run I've done in awhile.  The weather was chilly and snowing.. a lot! There was no expectation of pace or time we were trying to hit. It was relaxing and slightly challenging as I haven't done much running outside lately nor run double digit miles in over a month. Our group kept growing in size and I got to met several new people... and did I mention I PR'd in high fives?

I GOT 70!!

I won't forget the run or the people! I hope to have more weather gifted fun runs in the future!

Sunday: Recovery run. I meant to just go 6-7 miles or 1 hour. And again, I forgot to look ahead of time where I should turn around and ended up going about 7.5 miles.  If you asked me, I would say I was doing about 9 minute + miles, but turns out it was about 8:15.. So not as slow as I wanted.
Going for a run.. or mug someone... or both

 Looking back, I've amped up my miles a little faster than I wanted and hit 50 miles last week.. Keep me out of injury jail people! I'm going to try to tone it down a little this week.

Monday: Pint Night at Fleet Feet in Lincoln Square. Total miles about 6.5.

Details: Most of it is being censored out for this blog. But we had a lot of fun, and our ability to consume more wurst jokes looked like this: