Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Expectancy of Agency, or, a Discussion on Mental Health

I started writing this post a couple of days ago inspired by what I'll call "mid training burnout" and a bad run on Sunday. A couple of years ago, I did my 4th marathon and it was precisely what people who think marathons are awful envision when they think of slogging 26.2 miles on your own two feet. Had I not had an Ironman on the books, Cleveland Marathon would have broken my spirit entirely. It was THAT bad.

It might look good, but it was utter shit.
It's taken a couple years, due to injuries and well, burnout, to even be tempted by a 5th (and final) marathon. My running career is rapidly coming to a place that's requiring me to reconsider my long distance dreams. And that's ok (ok, it's not, but I'm working on accepting that) but while I was writing that post about the disappointment of injury and the frustration of aging, something else happened:

I started writing about me and why I run and how it's helped me deal with my anxiety and depression and, in other ways, why it's sometimes an expression of my anxiety. Up front: this is a messy blog post that doesn't really succinctly tie everything into a bow in the end. But for reasons unknown, I feel like I need to talk about this with all 0 of you who read this blog.

A couple of years ago, I'd have been incredibly closed off about my mental health struggles. Even more recently, I'd be a self-deprecating, sarcastic jerk about the whole thing.
I'm fluent in meme sarcasm.
I, like a lot of people, have a general anxiety disorder (and the subsequent flirtations with general depression). I'm kinda over the stigma, totally aware I'm not alone, very clear that I'm a special snowflake on how I deal with it and how it materializes throughout my life. A while back, I saw an NIH post about anxiety and one of the "risk factors" for anxiety is - get this - being a woman. Haa.

I remember the first time I knew I needed to "do" something about my anxiety. I think I was 24. I got home from work, the house was dark, I lay down in bed and I felt nothing, just darkness and silence creeping in from every corner of the room. I could not get up. Chadd came home shortly after me and found me there, face down in bed, in a puddle of tears that happened without actually crying. Pretty sure, about 12 hours later, I had what is, to date, the worst panic attack I have ever had. Maybe because I had no idea why this was happening. There was no "trigger" or warning that these things can happen to people. This was 7+ years ago, the public discussion about mental health has made great strides since then. Anxiety? That's something you have before a big exam and it's normal.

Until it isn't, which is where I found myself that night face down on my bed, my cat trying to nuzzle his way into my face.

This fat pumpkin. Good nuzzler. 
While I sought out a bunch of different things over the years (some which have helped, some which have not), my relationship with running has been a persistent, important part of my mental health. Even when I hated it (who wants to run at 6am in an ice storm? No one.), it forced me out of bed or taught me to face the things I'd blown way out of proportion (14 mile training run on a gorgeous day).

My running partners have been critical in some of my worst moments by simply being present and good listeners. I'm sure there are studies talking about how running is similar to rapid eye movement therapy (EMDR). There are, of course, all the physical effects (endorphin production, serotonin increase, dopamine levels rise). I'm sure there are psychological reasons linking structure, endurance, and self-care through running with positive impacts on one's mental health.

But, like most endurance athletes, especially those with anxiety, sometimes the thing you're using as an aid becomes a security blanket, and, in my case, an excuse for not dealing with pretty much anything else in my life. So, I did some digging into the compulsion of endurance sports.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a BBC article about the Everest tragedies - inspired by the most recent earthquake and subsequent deaths on the mountain. The old, tired question of "what compels mountaineers" came up.

Instead of the usual (Thrill Seekers! Risk Takers!) The truth is that mountain climbing, much like many endurance sports, is a slog. It's a decision to push through because you have set your mind on one thing. In fact, the entire thing is almost entirely devoid of thrills, endorphins, and heart racing excitement. I learned three terms I've probably annoyed my therapist with:


Counterphobic attitude is a response to anxiety that, instead of fleeing the source of fear in the manner of a phobia, actively seeks it out, in the hope of overcoming the original anxiousness.
From the article: Rather than avoid the things they fear, they feel compelled to face-off with those elements. “It’s a misnomer that climbers are fearless,” Barlow says. "Instead, as a climber, I know I will be afraid, but the key bit is that I approach that fear and try to overcome it.” 
If you could have seen my shaking hands signing up for an Ironman. Or the sleepless nights before big races, or even had a brief view into my mind while I tried to sleep on Saturday night before my long run on Sunday, you'd see it there. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't fear running. I don't fear racing, but there's a slice of something nameless and dark in there.

Why is counterphobia so powerful? That, my friends, is called...

Transfer Effect/Transfer of Training

Transfer of training refers to the effect that knowledge or abilities acquired in one area have on problem-solving or knowledge acquisition in other areas
From the article: Like a junkie who’s got his fix, mountaineers usually report a transfer effect from their experience – a feeling of satiation immediately after returning from a peak...To continue to sate that desire, mountaineers thus set their sights on increasingly challenging peaks, routes or circumstances...
It's the basic mental bargaining we all do: well, if I got through X then Y must be a cakewalk. You hear people say this a lot about childbirth. Having absolutely no experience there, I can't confirm, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't occasionally say "I did an Ironman, how much worse could this be?"

If those weren't enough, I've saved the best for last:

Expectancy of Agency
From the article: A climber himself, Barlow suspected that sensation-seeking theory has long been misapplied to mountaineers. His research suggests that, compared to other athletes, mountaineers tend to possess an exaggerated “expectancy of agency”. In other words, they crave a feeling of control over their lives. Because the complexities of modern life defy such control, they are forced to seek agency elsewhere. As Barlow explains: “To demonstrate that I have influence over my life, I might go into an environment that is incredibly difficult to control – like the high mountains.”
I'm 31 years old. When I was 19 and first started running, I craved control but in such a different way. I was an adult, but not really. I didn't have a full-time job and I wanted desperately to get to a place in my life where I had more responsibility and influence.

Then I was in my mid 20's and running to somehow make up for all the things I wasn't doing in my life that all my friends were: having stable careers, getting married, having children, moving into houses and gardening or whatever you do when you have a normal, stable life. Taking up microbrewing? So, I kept running.

Somehow, my late 20's showed up and the career thing stabilized a bit, but nothing else did and I ran so much and so hard and because I still believed that I was immune to injuries, I, of course, managed to seriously injure myself during the thing I love the most: Ragnar.

The thing I used as an escape chewed me up and spit me out and gave me 6 months of limited mobility and coming up on a year of almost daily pain. A lot of my endurance and speed is gone, too. So my ego's pretty much been disassembled. And with it, a lot of the assuredness I'd created for myself through the ugly triumvirate of the above terms.

So here we are. I'm trying to train for my 5th marathon. And I don't even know if I can do it anymore. We'll get there in another post.

But for now, I leave you with five postscripts regarding mental health:
  1. I have a therapist and she's the greatest. It took me a LONG TIME to find the right one. She doesn't think my self-deprecating jokes are funny, but she's never once told me to stop running so she can stay. I recommend you also invest in a professional therapist. Why? I have spent thousands of dollars on physical therapy, podiatry, massage therapy, cardiology, and probably some other kind of health-related field in my 10+ year athletic career. It is ridiculous to not also invest in my mental health. 
  2. Mental health is far more precarious (for some people, like me) than physical health. I can take 2 weeks off running (even if I hate that). I can't back out of my life for 2 weeks (as much as I would like to.) And when I couldn't run, my mental health was impacted and in need of greater care so I could continue doing things like going to work, engaging with friends and family, and generally making it through the day feeling *something.* Invest - find the time, work with your insurance, seek out free resources. 
  3. Medication is not the only answer, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with medication. Personally, I have yet to find a medication that addresses my particular brand of symptoms without also basically removing my entire agency. So I don't take medication regularly. Instead, I have found that I can maintain a healthy balance with regular exercise (specifically running and powerlifting). On days when I get to run and lift (separate sessions), my body replicates the cool feeling of medication in my veins. Therapy has been revolutionary as has been doing this thing where I say what I mean (outcome of therapy). Whole body/mind approaches to mental health are incredibly important and effective. For some, this includes medication, for others, it does not. Be open. 
  4. Expect strange methods of processing. Often times, it's totally reliable but, sometimes, you find yourself crying in a gym shower for no reason. It's fun. Don't be hard on yourself.
  5. My GP was very very wrong. I wouldn't go to my GP to diagnose a bone spur that fractured and subsequently triggered redundant nerve pain. I'd go to her to refer to me a good podiatrist. I made this serious error a few years ago and allowed a GP to prescribe two very heavy medications for anxiety/depression after a 5 minute conversation. Why? I didn't know better. My PT took longer to diagnose me and come up with a treatment plan (for the foot) than my GP did (for my brain). Y'all, take the time. Find a good psychiatrist (with the help of your GP). But do not mistake a GP's legal ability to prescribe medication with their capability of accurately prescribing that medication. It has very serious, lasting consequences. 
And with that. Happy Tuesday.

(see what I mean? no good bow on this story)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Withdrawal Is Hard and Other Diet Struggles

I know I've talked about doing the Whole 30 before. I've cycled...twice? I've definitely taken "whole30 inspired" weeks to clear my head. When I get the chance, I try to stay close to a Whole 30-ish diet. Mostly - veggies, protein, healthy fats, and limited fruits. Why? It works - for me.

Everyone is different, but I can always hear my dad saying in reference to every diet fad that's ever come across the board: eat your veggies and meat. If it doesn't come in a package, it's probably good for you. Eat around your plate.

The program I'm following for these four weeks is pretty close to Whole30 with a couple of grains thrown in (oatmeal here and there, some quinoa). Something like The Zone meets Whole 30.

If you've done a Whole30 before, you may be familiar with the "What To Expect" timeline.

I was naive and thought I'd be JUST FINE this time around.

So, in case you're following a diet similar to this one, let me give you the first week days update:

Days 1: Everything is awesome. You are a superior human. Look at you, being responsible for your eating habits. Clean, good, real food! And...my gosh, there sure is a lot...of this food. Are you SURE I need all of this? Ok, well, if you insist, you say as you try to cram that last piece of sweet potato down your throat.

Day 2: I hate egg whites. And deli meat. Sure, you miss that peanut butter filled pretzel bite snack you get in the afternoon, but only for a few minutes and once you shove the remaining pieces of that bell pepper in your mouth, you're really full. This will be easy. Except for egg whites, which you have learned you hate.

Day 3: Creativity Bonus. You ace the egg white omelet and feel the need to apply for Top Chef. Pork knuckles and coco puffs? After making the egg white omelet look like something from a Michelin Star restaurant* - you'll win, hands down. Plus, that boring chicken breast - paired with avocado and salsa and some leafy greens - viva el pollo! Shaw Bijou my butt, Chez Rommel is ready for business.

Day 4: I've been hit by a truck. You sleep for nine and a half hours. You wake up and while you can't go back to sleep, why does it feel like every bone in your body weighs a million pounds. That pool workout you had planned? There's literally no way. You make it out of bed for five hours and lay down on the couch. You pray you never have to move again. Three hours later, you can move. Kind of. But going to see your favorite artist in the entire world play live with your best friend feels like you have to climb Everest. Food sounds gross.

Go to concert and rock out anyway. Sit until show starts because zzzz
Day 5: Second truck coming through. You sleep for nine hours. The world feels like it's under water when you wake up. You live through three hours of your day and fall asleep before carving pumpkins with your boyfriend. The cat thinks you are literally there for her sleeping comfort (and, let's face it, you are.) Working at the restaurant is akin to being killed slowly through rolling silverware.
You don't even care how terrible you look in this photo. How cute is that cat.
Day 6: It's not good. You're still tired and now you're sick. Please god let this end.

Day 7: Things are looking up. You wake up and man are you tired (but maybe it was 6 hours at the restaurant after a full day of work), but it's not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. In fact, you kind of happily eat your egg white omelet (avocados = bonus round) and your coffee tastes pretty good. You break the rules and step on the scale. 1.2 pounds down.

Next up - how to make your boring food not so boring.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Week Four: Food Focused

The broken workouts continue - much of the same. A lot of rowing, snatching, DB push press, and hang power cleans from my knees.

I went to the gym yesterday, hoping to modify my squats. The problem with a boot is the curved edge at the back of the boot. I’m sure it has some reasonable explanation for it’s existence, but I haven’t found it yet and it’s impossible to get full range of motion on my knee without running into it and rubbing the skin off the back of my thigh.

Coach Steve and I tried putting a target down for squats - no go, still too low. So, I was left with two options: floor press or strict press (but from the floor). While I’d immediately have chosen the floor press, my heel has been hurting a lot lately and that felt dicey.

My least favorite lift, instead: strict press. This time, from the floor. 

A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

As I’ve said before - if you’re getting to a 1RM in strict, you’re tempted to do a tiny little push at the end. Lifting from the bench does a lot to remove that small hip drive, but from the floor, you remove the ability to do that little kick that you’d get on the bench. I did have to sit on a plate to compensate for the lift of my boot when my legs were on the ground to remove the little back sway. 

Coach Steve is a saint. I was swearing up a storm about why everyone else got to squat and I was stuck doing strict press and blah blah blah. So I go to do RDLs (10 reps after every strict press set).

Considering I was lifting somewhere around 33% of my deadlift 1RM, you’d think this would be a walk in the park. The thing about doing 50 RDLs in increasing weight, albeit low, is that you have a sudden appreciation for how much your hamstrings want to help out. My left hammy is going I THOUGHT WE WERE STILL ON VACATION.

Pro-tip - a 10 plate is nearly equivalent to the lift in the a boot. 

On the other side of things is food. I decided to give the Four Week Challenge meal plan a go with one of my friends. It’s basically a mix of zone and paleo - but frankly, it reminds me of what my friends on the body building track eat. 

Full disclosure: I don’t like chicken. I just don’t. If I cook it, maybe we’re ok. I’ve had it prepared deliciously, but the big turn off for me is that horrible moment when you take a bite and it’s gristle, tendon or something and your entire meal is ruined. So when I looked at the menu and saw chicken and egg whites, I knew I was in for a ride.

So far, I think my desire to drop a few pounds to help my heel and eat super clean to speed up that calcium depositing has kept the cravings away. Also possible is that I've been eating so much damn volume in food that I don't care.

The hardest part has been for me, someone who cooks to relax, is to accept that sometimes food is fuel and that's that. I've been trying to "fix" a lot of the foods so that I'm not just eating lukewarm egg whites and feeling grumpy.

Thus, breakfast has turned into:
Egg white omelet with spinach and salsa and that very excited bowl of oatmeal with blueberries (actually one of the things I look forward to most.)

Please note my favorite mug ever.

And my chicken breast with greens has a little more kick thanks to some seasoning, more salsa and the all covering taste of fatty avocado.

Morning snack is easy - almonds and carrots. Afternoon snack is admittedly my biggest hurdle:
  • red peppers (easy! Love those)
  • plain hummus (not my favorite, but paired with red peppers - it'll do)
  • deli turkey meat (nope. nope nope nope.)

I don't know why I can't get around it, but I just....CAN'T.

Otherwise, it's been pretty easy:

Nearly 4 weeks down, two to go...I hope.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkins, Crossfit, and an Injury Update

On Monday, I was up at the cruel hour of 6:30 (ha. jk. it's like sleeping in compared to swim mornings) to go see my podiatrist.

Having tested out the walking with a boot theory over the weekend, I was hoping the update would be: you're doing well! Yaay, keep walking! My biggest fear was "hey, bad news, your foot is broken broken and now you need surgery."

Good news!
Look Ma! Spongey bone growth!

Apparently, my foot is healing "ahead" of schedule. You can still see the fracture across the bone spur, but as compared to two weeks ago, there's now a cloudy mass around it - apparently, little bone particles, taking their time to HTFU and join the bone.

With pain down this weekend, Chadd and I went to the pumpkin patch with Morgan and Simon to find the largest pumpkin possible (success). I couldn't resist a little adaptive crossfit with my natural surroundings, especially since I missed CrossfitDC's annual Smackdown intergym competition (I'm coming for you guys next year!)

A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

In other news, Crossfit has continued to be a significant part of my active recovery - and a great chance to work on form. I'd highly recommend - to anyone- that you spend a week doing adapted workouts. It forces you to think about form. For example, last night I stopped by the 6:30 class to work on push press, figuring I could work from my knees. Coach Chris had different ideas and set me to work on a strict press (my *favorite*) from a bench.

If you've ever cheated on your strict press - and let's be real, we all have - this is puts a very real end to that and quickly.

I did learn that my 1RM is, in fact, my 1RM (seated or standing).

A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

This week, with two weeks down, I'm focusing on smart, active recovery. It's temping to totally trash the crutches and move on with wild abandon. Instead, this week I'm trying all of my sports in equal measure. Swimming may still be off the docket (unless I use a buoy), but AquaRunning and some time on the bike trainer are in.

We're heading to Charlottesville this weekend for a much needed fall escape, but Week 4 will be all about nutrition. My partner in terrible fitness pacts starts a 4 week challenge with his Crossfit gym on Monday and don't tell him, but I'm thinking of following the menu.

The best part about this injury has been focusing on how strong I can be - not how weak this foot is making me.

Work hard. Accept no excuses. Be creative. Self pity is a waste of time.

Someone out there has it harder than you and they're kicking more ass.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Broken Workouts: Crossfit Calling

I love Crossfit more than the next person. So, when I finally decided my foot could handle the minor limping around the gym (yesterday morning), I packed my bags and skateboard and hoped for the best.

One of the best things about my gym is how awesome my coaches are. Chris did not seem surprised to see me in the least. While we got to work taking off the stops on my skateboard, Chris preempted my question and said he'd have some options for me for the workout.

Today's [unbroken] WOD:
3 Rounds through of

AMRAP in 3 Minutes
5 Pull-Ups
5 Box Jump Overs

Rest 3 Minutes

AMRAP in 3 Minutes
5 DB Hang Squat Cleans
25 Double Unders

Rest 3 Minutes

My workout looked a little different:

3 Rounds through of

AMRAP in 3 Minutes
5 Ring Rows
5 Box Arounds

Rest 3 Minutes

AMRAP in 3 Minutes
5 DB Hang Power Cleans
Row for 5 cals

Rest 3 Minutes

The result was a workout that was just as difficult as one with two legs. Those box spin arounds are no joke. They're apparently used for VERY pregnant women, but let me tell you, I cannot imagine doing it any months pregnant. My back and arms were aching shortly after the second round.

You can see the highlights of my first Crossfit Broken Workout below.

Broken Workout 1 from Mia Rommel on Vimeo.

Still on the high of being back in the gym, I headed over to Wilson and ran into Victoria, who let me know that - aside from that it's a bye-week - Tuesday/Thursday nights are horrible for using the pool since the damn aquarobics people are back, yet again, taking the leisure side of the pool. That said, I lucked out with the bye-week and completed a 45 minute pool run following the structure below:

10 Minute Warm Up
1 Length "on"
1 Length "recovery"
2 Lengths on
1 Length recovery
3 Lengths on
1 Length recovery
4 Lengths on
1 Length recovery

And back down to 1/1.

I did a couple of ineffective 1-leg kicking drills to try and even out all the work I've been putting my right leg through, but I gave up that effort after about 5 minutes since my foot was cramping. I guess 1 leg drills on the bike are where I'm going to end up.

Regardless, the not-very-cold pool water (it was seriously warm yesterday) was still good on my foot and I'm cautiously optimistic that I can keep up a normal training load.

I'm 1 week, 3 days in.
4 weeks, 4 days to go.

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Adapted Perspective - Why I'm Looking Forward to Recovery

I already talked about how I basically need plans I need air.

This week, while bemoaning the sadness of a broken foot and a lost season, my extremely talented friend posted on my facebook about one of the Crossfit athletes, Lauren Fisher, and her recent ankle surgery. I headed over to her Instagram account and what I found turned my entire outlook around.

Since I last regularly blogged, I fell head over heels in love with Crossfit. I also did an Ironman and fractured my foot in the process. My doctor thought that my lack of strength training during my training my have contributed directly to my stress fracture. With that notion and a total burn out on all things swim, bike, run, not to mention a new job right next to my Crossfit gym, I became an addict.

I love deadlifts.
A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

Cleaning is definitely for women.
A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

I'd squat for a living if you let me.<3 p="" squats.="">
A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

Want to see my snatch?

A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

Who doesn't love a jerk?

A video posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

Suffice to say: I'm crushed more about not being at the gym than anything else. I'm missing out on our annual intergym competition, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I have an awesome opportunity in front of me.

In the past few years, I spent some serious time and mental effort looking into joining the Air Force as a way to become a physical therapist, specifically focusing on prothetic use. As it turns out, that wasn't the path for me, but I've always been interested in working with athletes in unique circumstances. When I realized my PT dreams were not to be this life time, I started looking into something called Adaptive Athletics. While my knowledge base is still very limited, I feel very drawn to the subject and have set the life goal of becoming a Crossfit coach with a specific focus on adaptive athletics. You can learn more about Adaptive Athletics here.

A boot for 6-8 weeks is, by no means, as serious or as life changing as what adaptive athletes go through. But the opportunity to HAVE to adapt, even if just for 6 weeks, presents me with the butt kick to get started on learning what my potential future athletes may have to deal with. And that excites me.

My skateboard got here last night - which means, it's almost time for rowing! Look forward to the Broken Workouts.

A photo posted by Mia Rommel (@mrommel) on

My swolemate, gym buddy and Crossfit coach, Tess, will be by my side. I promise to document our adventures.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Broken Workout 1: The Aquajog

Yesterday morning, my alarm went off at 5:45. Sleepy cat removed from my side and hungry cat fed, I somehow got me and my gym bag down to the car. Ragnar Rachel met me at the car to start what I'll refer to as the Broken Workouts from here on out.

Victoria shared a couple of resources with me to get me kick started in the world of aqua running, one of them being this blog.

I arrived at the pool, grabbed a belt and jumped in the "leisure" lane since, in case you weren't aware, aquajogging moves you at about the pace of a snail. An aquarobics class was in the back half of the lane, but no worries, I thought, I could just use the half of a lane.

No dice. Two lifeguards and a manager came over to tell me I needed to move. Fine, I get it. In our ridiculously litigious society, their permit wouldn't cover me if I acted like an idiot and hurt myself and decided to sue. I was offered the therapeutic pool (which is just over 3 feet deep). When I declined, to the credit of the manager, he went over to the high school girls cross country coach who was shepherding in her 20+ girls to the far lane.

And just like that, I was invited to join the Wilson High School Cross Country Aquajog workout.

Mostly, I did my own thing and let me tell you, if you want something that simulates the heart rate you can achieve running, you can find it with a water belt and a deep enough pool. Occasionally, the coach would cheer me on, give me a few pointers and tell me to just push her girls out of the way if they were being slow.

It was kind of like a bunch of bobbing snails chasing each other, but in the end, I accomplished a 30 minute "shake out" run from the race this weekend and a lot of admiration for the Wilson High School Cross Country Coach.

Two notes:

  • I'm getting a lot of heat at the point of contact between my suit and belt. Victoria's suggested that the belt needs to be tighter than a weight lifting belt - hard to breathe kind of tight - prior to getting in the pool
  • I need to work on loosening my arms. While you are supposed to maintain fists when running in the pool, perhaps I was a little too anxious and wound up with sore forearms from squeezing for 30 minutes

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Planning for a Broken Foot

I'm a project manager. I'm my Ragnar team captain. I'm an endurance athlete with 6-9 month training schedules. I'm a crossfitter who works on 5 week cycles. I check into my TrainHeroic account all the time to watch my gainz.

In short: I need plans.

Do not get between me and my to-do list. God HELP you if you're throwing off my schedule. Organization, planning, to-do lists, check boxes - they're almost as soothing to me as walking into a whole foods.

As you can imagine, my lame foot (ba-da-ching!) has me in the throws of planning mode.

Now that I'm past the 24 48 hour window of grieving the loss of my season, so you won't hear any whining from me from here on out. I fully expect the sadness that comes with watching my friends race or cheering on my teammates from the gym at the Crossfit competition I was so looking forward to, but if a fractured bone spur is the greatest of my worries, I've got nothing to complain about, but it's time for a plan.

While I was crying over my foot Monday night, I pulled out every paleo cookbook I own and grabbed a notebook. I crafted a 6-8 week life improvement plan. Just because I can't ambulate normally doesn't mean I can't improve myself and my fitness in those 6-8 weeks.

Fitness Goals
Week One - Recovery and Base Line
  • 95% crutch compliance. Let's face it. I'm not using crutches in the shower
  • Testing out aquajogging
  • Getting TrainerRoad set up 
Week Two - Base Line
  • 95% crutch compliance
  • 2 Aquajogging or swim
  • 2 trainer ride
  • 2 Abs workouts
  • Testing skateboard rowing 
Yes, skateboard rowing:

Weeks Three and Four - Bye Bye Crutches
  • 50% crutch useage
  • 1 Aquajogging or swim
  • 1 Trainer ride
  • 2 Abs workout
  • 1 Crossfit workout 
Food Goals
  • Water
  • More Water
  • Vitamin Rich Veggies
  • Paleo Driven 
  • Even More Water
As with any good plan, I've got some flexibility and review time built in there, but we'll see.

What am I missing? The last time I had a broken foot I wasn't confined to crutches and I was pretty stoked to sit on my butt since it was fairly close after the Ironman. This time, I'm already counting the hours to freedom.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ragnover: It's a Bone Spur (and it's BROKEN)

On Thursday morning, I arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan along with 12 of my teammates, to start my 14th Ragnar Relay.

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has been reminding me of all of the races I've done in the past - from DC to Adirondacks to Vegas, Wasatch Back, and Great River. They've shown up in my feed. 6 years ago today, 4 years, 2 years.

Standing in my hotel room, looking around at my Ragnar family, I felt happy, warm, and entirely present. It's a beautiful thing to have for so long - people who have loved you that long. It seems like every time someone joins our team - I must have known them forever.

Lactic Acid Flashback: Ragnar DC 2010
Team Rated Ragnar: Ragnar Michigan 2016
After my first 6.3 leg, which ended with me bursting into the van screaming "HOLY SHIT I FEEL AMAZING," my left foot began to feel burning. I've had plantar fasciitis (PF here forward) nearly my entire life. I know that pain. It had been bothering me more recently, but I chalked it up to well, nothing. It just was what it was and I'd be fine.

Foam rolling, icing, bracing, KT tape, all those things - I'd done and had alleviated symptoms.

Before my second leg, I got out of the van, visibly limping, and dragged myself to the exchange point. It was raining and in the dark hours of the night.

"I can do this, I do not feel pain, I am fine, don't bitch out." I said to myself as I walked to that start line.

For 8 miles, my heart took over. If I stopped to see my team, my heel started to hurt, but I remained focused: my legs didn't hurt. My heart rate was resting at an active, sustainable pace. I was going to crush this one, too.

I racked up a few kills and felt the great peace of running fast as I crested a hill with a mile to go. This is the most beautiful moment in a runner's life - when you see your team, when you hear their voices, when your body supports those dreams you have to run like a mother fucker for what could be eons.

I handed off to Morgan and walked around, cooling off. I called Chadd to tell him how right he was - that the distance was nothing, that I felt great, that Crossfit was paying off in spades. My legs felt good. I could go on forever.

I jumped in the van and 10 minutes later, when ready to jump out and cheer for our runner, pain shot through my left leg. I know the drill of getting out of bed with PF. I tried to tenderly get myself to walk, shake it out. I just needed to warm up, right? RIGHT?

I took the entirety of Morgan's run to compress my legs.

Elevated Legs - Have Compression, Will Travel
I iced. I taped. I took ibuprofen. I stretched and rolled.

Teammate Stretching. That gorgeous wolf is my best friend.
By the time I'd woken up from my very brief nap, my team had decided how to split up my remaining 6.3 miles. If you aren't a runner, you can't understand what that heartbreak feels like. If you are a runner, then you'll understand why I was in the portapotty 10 minutes later crying hot tears.

The reality was that I couldn't walk more than 2 steps. 

Sometimes, you carry your team. Sometimes, they carry you
Without crutches, I couldn't even cheer for my teammates. I couldn't get out of the van. I couldn't experience those last few moments of Ragnar, running around the finish line area. When you're surrounded by people who are literally there to run, it's maddening. 

Crossing the finish line was made possible by one of my dear teammates, Simon.
Have teammate, will ride. 
With crutches, it was easier to spend time with my team. The next morning, with inflammation down, I could walk a little, but the pain was localized and still excruciating.

I tried some natural healing.
Very cold, very clear lake water.
I took the first appointment my podiatrist had. I expected a lecture about bad shoes, flip flops, appropriate stretching, and maybe some orthotics, a prescription for PT and some advice about taking time off.

Boy was I wrong.

Technology is cool, even when it's telling you bad news.
That, my friends, is an x-ray of my left foot. If you zoom in, you'll see that little sharp point at the bottom of my heel - that is a bone spur - made possible by years of PF. If you were to zoom in closer, you'd see a small grey line, indicating where I've fractured that. 

The good news is that it isn't separated, which would likely require surgery.

The bad news is that I have literally fractured a piece of my bone that isn't supposed to be there. 

The diagnosis is 6-8 weeks of recovery. At least 2 on crutches to ensure my bone doesn't separate. 2 more weeks of transition time off crutches. Then 4 weeks still in the boot to finish healing.

Things I'm missing:
- Crossfit DC Smackdown
- Petersburg Half Marathon
- Spook Hill 4 Miler
- Norfolk Nauti 5k and Half Marathon

I'm giving myself 24 hours to feel like shit over all of this, then I'm getting down to business. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Whole30 - Round 2 - Week 1

2013 sucked for me in many ways. Injuries, stress, family health, car accident, job market fun for me and Chadd. So now that I've said that, we can move onto the more positive things going on in 2014!

First, I started a new job. In general, I try to avoid talking about my professional life on this blog, so take it from me when I say I'm expecting to work a lot of hours and have to get creative with working out. Hint: it rhymes with shmearly shmorning schmorkouts....

Along with the greater blogosphere, it seems, I've decided to do another round of Whole30. If you want any information at all about Whole30, I recommend a) the Whole30 website or b) the past few posts on my blog, where you'll find resources I recommend, my experience, and my favorite photos of myself post Whole30.

I'm on Day 3 right now, and the only side effect I have right now is an incredibly stuffy nose. I've mentioned that I wanted to achieve "inexpensive" meals to prove that paleo is affordable. That information will slowly be added into the blog as it requires the maths and we all know how much I love numbers.

Here's a recap so far of what I've been eating, how I've been feeling, and all that nonsense:

Day 1: Monday, January 6
Breakfast: Quiche (almond flour crust, eggs, veggies, bacon filling) and half a Texas grapefruit
Lunch: Moroccan meatballs, grapes
Dinner: Chicken gumbo (which we think tastes more like pot pie filling, less like gumbo), broccoli, peach/cherry crumble for Chadd's "birthday cake"

I have never noticed how terrible and poofy I've felt until this day. I vaguely recall feeling similarly self conscious on day 1 of the last round. I went to bed feeling like 30 days was a long time - not because I couldn't do it...but because it felt like 30 days was so long to wait to feel so good.

Day 2: Tuesday, January 7
Breakfast: Quiche, grapefruit
Lunch: root veggie bisque, grapes
Dinner: Big salad with Chinese-style "peanut" dressing

Why can't I stop peeing? TMI. Why can't I sleep? My stomach feels horrible, but more like I was coming off a hangover (I wasn't).

Day 3: Wednesday, January 8
Breakfast: Quiche, grapefruit
Lunch: Root veggie bisque, cucumber "noodle" asian salad
Dinner: Shrimp with lizard sauce (red sauce), steamed veggies

Aside from feeling like I'd gotten hit in the head when I woke up this morning, noticeable improvements in poof factor. Track practice felt amazing, minus the constrained breathing from the cold.

Right now, my goals are pretty simple for the first 30 days of my job (along with Whole30):
- Make track practice every week
- Crossfit or strength workout once a week
- Yoga once a week
- Long run every week
- One swim or cycle workout/week

It's not a lot, especially as compared to what used to be my training schedule, but I know that at least once a week, I'll have to put the hours in at the office or I'll just want to be home, decompressing. If I do more than that, I'll be satisfied, but I won't stress it.

So. Who else is doing Whole30 with me?