Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sometimes you do things...

...when you're out of town that you wouldn't normally do. Yeah, I'll admit it. I got back to the master's swim practice at lunch again today, and they were already about halfway finished with the workout. One hundred yards or so was all the preparation I got before the first challenge. I dove off the blocks. Goggles filled, I stopped and emptied them. Haven't done that since college, and somehow in those races I managed to keep the seals tight, no leakage. Maybe it was the way I pulled those straps so tight my eyes were about to bug out of the sockets.

Next up, I demonstrated not only my breaststroke for the coach, but also my backstroke. He'd already seen my fly on Tuesday. Not many people get to see me do anything other than freestyle, much less all 4 competitive strokes. Thankfully there was no sidestroke or trudgeon requests. I'm sure it was quite a sight, seeing me struggle to complete my "weakest strokes," 100 yards at a time, on 2:20 (shut up! it was hard!).

I did get lots of tips from Dirk; probably more in 30 minutes than I've gotten in the last 3 years combined. He pulled his chair up to the end of my lane to coach, correct, and complement. "Joy, freestyle is NOT your worst stroke." I said, "thanks!" then quickly realized that I had just done most of a 100 of backstroke. "No, backstroke is." Hmmm, that somehow doesn't surpise me. "Your breaststroke isn't bad, and... I'm not going to judge your fly." Ok, two out of four is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since I only use one in races! I'm pretty sure he was laughing at me while I made my flopping attempt down the lane and back, but that's ok, because I was laughing at myself too! That didn't help the water stay out of my mouth.

Too bad I'm missing tomorrow's practice. It's Friday Relay Day. I can only imagine the potential embarrassment I could face there. Sounds like fun!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

adventures in dallas

Today was my second full day in the lovely Dallas, which I really haven't spent much time in before. I do like the city! Things in Texas really are bigger. The interstate, which I avoid, is about six lanes, but has a four lane frontage road all the way down each side. That's my choice for my short commute. (They are serious about their HOV lanes here. They put barriers between it and the other lanes!) The buildings are huge, the Galleria mall is enormous, and the flock of birds (partridges?) in the pear trees outside my hotel has a population of about 37,000. Really, it sounds like you're in an aviary right by the front door. Only in the evenings though. Apparently these birds don't catch the worms.

My classes are going pretty well, and it's always interesting to meet new people in similar career paths to your own. The guy who sits next to me in the course (in our voluntary assigned seats-- isn't that funny how you sit in the exact place each day? Except for that one girl who messes everyone up..), has already pegged me as the one who eats all day. How can you not when they not only provide free snacks, but they keep changing them on you? Every time I walk into the break room there's something new! Almonds, animal crackers, s'mores granola bars. Pretty exciting.

One thing that I'm not too fond of is group projects. I don't know why really. It seems so much time is wasted just discussing things, when really everyone should just do what I say! :) Today my group wanted to get a head start (dontcha hate those people?) on the project by working during lunch, but I had to be the one to opt out in favor of a swim. The swim was fantastic! I managed to get in on a master's practice in the outdoor pool. Dirk, the coach, was quick to give me needed tips and invite me back for the rest of the week. I enjoyed getting beaten by a bunch of old men!

One of my classmates noticed me running yesterday, swimming today, and started asking questions. Then my cover was blown. The marathon runner in class overheard, and now she defers to me, the "Ironmaner," when someone questions "why?" or "how many miles is that?" I showed them my stuff when we practiced racewalking technique (I have no idea what that was all about), and whooped up on the granny next to me. She came up beside me, trying to pass, so I gave her the elbow. :) No, no, kidding! I just tripped her. Must be reigning champion. Must be reigning champ...

Oh what will tomorrow bring?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Workout Dread

I don't dread riding my bike in the rain, if I use this definition of dread: verb 1. to fear greatly; be in extreme apprehension of. No, it's more like this one: 2. to be reluctant to do, meet, or experience. Another word comes to mind with the concept of riding in a summer downpour: ugh.

Yesterday evening, not being able to put off the workout any longer, Nancy and I saddled up under the threatening clouds to the west AND south of us (we had two out of four possible directions for the wind to be blowing covered). One mile out we passed Mary Cay on her way back in. "Take an umbrella," is all she said in passing. Approximately 3 minutes later, the rain came. It wasn't a light sprinkle that slowly dampens your back. No occasional large droplets splattering on your helmet and glasses. It wasn't raining one minute, and it was pouring the next. While I try my best to avoid riding in the rain for those reasons such as visibility (I like to see the potholes before I hit them, and I like drivers to see me before they hit me), or frequent flats (I had two last week already), or that soggy cold feeling you get in the late fall rides that causes you to shake uncontrollably from hypothermia, once you get soaked down and take off your glasses, it's really not so bad. Especially if you have a friend with you to commiserate.

Neither of us wanted to be the wimp who called the ride early. "What's your minimum mileage for the day?" I asked Nancy, or whoever that figure was that I could barely make out through my flooded eyes. "I have none," she responded (thank you!). "So how far should we go?" I had to be the first to pose the question. We decided to make it at least to the white church, and if it "stopped raining," defined as "we can actually see again," then we'd go a bit further. Well, the later happened and we had quite an enjoyable ride. See Joy? Nothing to dread. And it was waaaaaay better than riding the trainer. Talk about dread!

As I start real Ironman training, I know I'll dread some workouts. They never turn out to be as bad as you anticipate, though, do they? And as Laura keeps reminding me, don't write the book before it happens.

It could have been worse. Much worse.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And you thought your knees hurt.

My legs were killing me after the Degray Lake 1/2 Ironman last Saturday, which I survived for the 6th time. Everyone these days is raving over compression socks for recovery, and it makes sense, so I went out and bought some and wore them around Jenny and Tim's house all weekend after the race. Sunday morning Jackson came in to show me his outfit. "Look Joy!" He showed me his latest accessory: white knee socks, just like mine.

This may be one of those Tipping Point moments (you know that book? I've started it). A fad catches on with certain key people just before it becomes a major trend, or in this case, a fashion statement.

I only thought I was in pain this past weekend. Can you imagine having just turned 40 and facing a bilateral total knee replacement? My friend Melissa has probably just come out of surgery as I write this. She's going to blog about her experience, and the pain-free life she lives after surgery. Just last December when she was in town, she showed me how she had been relearning to jump. Several inches off the floor she hopped, and then she admitted that it caused her pain. She was surprised that I didn't feel any pain jumping. I take my joints for granted until I think of Melissa and what she has quietly suffered for so many years, not even knowing that most people don't go through that pain when doing what we consider "normal" activities. Here's to your fast recovery and our future training for the NYC marathon, Melissa!

Speaking of funny knees, little Jackson was fascinated when we saw the flamingoes at the Little Rock zoo on Sunday. "He broke!" Jackson exclaimed when he saw the birds standing on one leg, the other one tucked away into its feathers. After I explained it to him, he got good at imitating them upon request:

The only part he doesn't have down is the backward bend of the knee, like a real flamingo.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

DeGray Lake Half Story

(Edit/update: I realized as I rode my bike across this dam on Saturday that it's not the same one we run across. Thankfully.)

This weekend will mark the 7th anniversary of my first Lake Degray half Ironman. I haven't done it every year since, but it will be my sixth time. Wow, I can't believe I've been doing these things so long. The picture is of the dam that we will run across FOUR times during the 13.1 miles. Notice the lack of shade.

This race makes me a little nervous (see above), but makes my mom really nervous, and not because she's participating. She used to come to my early races to make sure I got out of the lake alive. Now that she's sure I can swim, she only really worries about this mid-August race in the middle of Arkansas. Right Mom?

It's all because of what happened that first time, in 2001, when I was attempting my 2nd ever 1/2 Ironman. It was the inaugural Lake Degray 1/2 that year; I'd learn later never to race inaugural anything again (after IMCDA '03). As stupid as it sounded to be doing a 5+ hour race when the temperatures wouldn't be below 85 at 6 a.m., several of us from Memphis decided to give it a try.

It was hot from the start, yes, but all went well until the run. You can only expect a hilly course in that part of the state (or any part west of Crowley's Ridge, I think), and we weren't disappointed. I recall only a few things about the run other than the hills. First, it was hot, and we had little shade. I know I peed behind a truck a couple miles in (this was important to me later). The water stops weren't prepared. There was no ice, nothing but ambient-temperature water and Gatorade. When you're trying to decide between 95 degree water and 95 degree Gatorade, you'll probably pick the water. At one point at about the 8 mile mark, I caught my teammate Jon who was doing the same shuffle I was. He helpfully gave me a push (literally), but I remember almost stumbling because my legs couldn't react that fast. And that's it; that's all I really recall from the run.

When I finished, I'm sure I didn't look so great, not unlike any of the other competitors out there. My friend Tim convinced me that I'd feel much better if I got an IV from the med tent, so off I went for my post-race hydration. I remember showering after that, in the spray from the fire hose set up near transition. I remember eating a chicken salad sandwich, since there was no pizza left by then. The next thing I remember was getting highly annoyed with the race director during the awards. I had received mine, and I was waiting for Tim to get his so he could drive me back to Jenny's house in Little Rock. But the dude decided to stop right before Tim's age group to give away t-shirts. "We don't want t-shirts, we want to get this over with!" I actually yelled at him, loud enough for him to very likely hear. Tim looked at me quizzically and told me to calm down, but by that time, the electrolyte imbalance had taken over my brain, and, apparently, my tongue. I think I made a few more comments to him, feeling unusually agitated (not that I usually am), before we finally got the awards over with and I headed back to the med tent for two more bags of fluid. By the time we finally left the race, I was uncomfortable just sitting in the car. I had an incredible headache, I felt bloated, and I just hurt. I know I called and left Mom and Dad a message on the way home that said, "I'm alive, but barely." I had no idea what was happening to me.

Memories are even hazier from the time I got to Jenny and Tim's. They very smartly tried to force feed me soup and chips, which I generally turned away with disgust. I took a nap. Tim thought I was fine, so he left. I think it was around 10 p.m., 9 hours since I finished the race, when I was still feeling awful, and really worrying my poor sister and brother-in-law. We called the race doctor (she'd given me her number just in case), who was a resident at the local hospital in Little Rock, and she told us to meet her in the ER. For how much it hurt, we may well have driven there completely off-road in Tim's car; I remember the bumping around and the pain it caused me.

In the hospital, I was quickly hooked up to an IV (good thing I have lots of visible veins), and asked lots of questions. The poor nurse would start a sentence, and by the end of it, I had forgotten what she asked. She gave me some anti-nausea meds, and very soon after, I threw up all over her. I apologized to the orderly who had to clean up the mess.

At some point they took my clothes, put me in a gown, hooked me up to an EKG and inserted a catheter. They asked more questions, like "What year is it?" I remember answering quickly so they wouldn't think anything was wrong with me. My answer: 1991. Actual year: 2001. "Who is the President?" Totally a trick question! I got Bush right, but then they asked "father or son?" Come on, they're both fathers and both sons! I should've gotten credit for that one! I knew Jenny and Tim's names, and what I was doing in Arkansas. Then came "how old are you?" "Four, I mean eight," was my response. (Wrong again. I was 24.) My little sister Megan was flattered by this response, because it refers to a story about her. When she was 8, someone asked her, "are you four?" and her response was, "no, I'm eight." Apparently, that's at the top of my subconscious.

At some point I developed tremors and got annoyed with the doctor for asking how long I'd had them. I didn't even notice them until then, plus I couldn't understand what she said when she asked how long I'd been shaking. "Tracing?" "Shaking." "Trekking?" "Shaking." "Oh."

Twelve hours, 2 CT scans, one ultrasound, 9 liters of fluid (18.5 pounds), 11 billion needle sticks, and one trip to LR by my parents later, I got discharged. When my shorts wouldn't button the next morning, my mom said, "Your face is a little puffy too." Little did I know that all this fluid would be excreted small amounts at a time, every 20 minutes, for the next few days. I'm sorry I don't have pictures. My normal outie belly button was a horizontal slit.

At the time I was about to start my second semester in grad school, working on my master's in exercise physiology. This experience obviously interested me for many reasons. I don't remember how I concluded that it was hyponatremia, but before I even got a copy of my labs, I had decided that my symptoms fit perfectly. Bloating, headache, irritability (yay! it wasn't just my personality!), and tremors are all symptoms. Vomiting in this case was due to the brain swelling that was caused by the sodium imbalance. Symptoms that I thankfully did not experience were grand mal seizures, coma, respiratory failure, and death. Unfortunately, at that same race the following year, a 27-year-old man died of hyponatremia. Jon, the one who had pushed me, remembers talking to him as he lay there in the grass and coughed (his lungs were probably filling with fluid, which would later cause respiratory failure). How sad that this is a preventable thing, when an athlete is aware of and careful about their electrolyte intake during long distance races. Unfortunately, race directors seem to be very naive about this condition. Last year at Degray, in fact, the race director stood up at the pre-race meeting telling us it would be hot, so "drink, drink, drink!" This is precisely what gets so many people in trouble. Medical personnel often don't have the knowledge to diagnose and treat exercise-induced hyponatremia properly.

The reasons why the kidneys are not capable of excreting this extra fluid is still not clear; it seems to be because of an inappropriate secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). Those who are most susceptible include women, smaller people, slower runners (hey! I wasn't running slow. ok, maybe..), and those who exercise over 4 hours at a time. This can include marathoners, as I'm sure you've heard. Normal sodium levels are around 135-145 mmol/L. Serious, life-threatening hyponatremia is usually <=125, but sometimes symptoms (and death) can occur at levels much higher, and sometimes not until levels much lower. Mine was 127 during my first set of labs in the hospital; a few hours later, and many ounces of normal saline later, it had fallen to 125.

I have recently read that people suffering from heat illnesses are sometimes the last to realize that they are having symptoms. So watch out for your friends (and me-- just kidding mom, I've got it covered) at races and make sure if you see any signs of hyponatremia or heat illness appear, you alert the medical staff!

And that's my story.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coffee Club To Go

Some mornings you can live without your car, but can't live without your coffee.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Not good enough, huh?

I love my car. I've had it now for 9 1/2 years, and it's treated me very well. But I can't figure out what about it screams, "Break into me! I have loads of valuables inside!" From afar, my little white Explorer seems a bit plain. No flashy rims, neon lights shining out from underneath, no fancy gold-chain-rimmed license plate, nothing. Getting a little closer, you'll see the headlights are held in place by little strips of clear packing tape. There are a few dings here and there, and the rear windshield wiper is all wacky and bent; it's never worked.
But peering through the untinted windows, you will see many items of value: an array of workout clothing and accessories, and even a couple of trophies. People, that's not real gold on the trophies, even though it shines. Not worth stealing. Two or three swimsuits hang from the hook over the back seat (size 30, if you're interested), the swim bag is on the back floorboard (yes, this is valuable, unless you don't swim laps, then you'll just look goofy), and there is a spare pair of running shoes, nice and dirty. If you're so desperate that you need my stinky trail shoes, have at 'em.

In the far back is a crate containing some spare bike tubes, a couple of water bottles, and an old sheet for bike padding. Now those things are of real value. If you know what to do with the spare tubes, you just might need a couple, given the large amounts of glass on the streets of Memphis. If it's the plastic water bottles you want, please keep in mind that they are trying to link increased cancer risk to the use of those things. But I know, they're so expensive! I only get one for each $150 race I sign up for. So go ahead, take those, I've got plenty. You might even get a little leftover gatorade in there if you're lucky.

Maybe it was something up front that caught your eye yesterday. I do have a nice pair of pliers next to my lipgloss in the cup holder. Or was it the pedometer that was the lure? People need to know how many steps it takes them to get from Mrs Winners to the Mapco, don't they? I can't blame you; I'd like to know, too. I figured out what you were really going for yesterday. It was the recyclables! I have quite a treasure of aluminum cans that you can get, what, 5 cents each for?

But none of the contents of my car was quite what you wanted, was it? Nope, once you busted the lock, opened the door, adjusted my seat, and took a look around, my personal possessions were just not quite worthy of your high standards. Ok, I understand. But I just have one request for you: next time, can you at least move the seat back to where you found it? Yeah, thanks.