Eight weeks out!

My half-marathon is eight weeks away, technically from Saturday, but I won’t be near a computer then so I have to make note of it now. I’ve been training for six weeks now – two weeks longer than the actual program I’m following – and, overall, things are going really well. It’s funny; I’ve read a lot about how the best way to improve your running is just to do more of it, and who knew? – that’s exactly what’s been working for me. By “improve” I mean being able to run faster for longer periods of time; being able to relax and run properly in order to minimize injury; being able to increase mileage safely but still be able to push myself at the end of a run – to ‘leave it all on the pavement’, as they say. I can feel myself turning into one of those people who gets… not sad, not upset, but a little pouty, I guess, on days when I’m not supposed to run. I’m grateful for the rest days, don’t get me wrong!, but by the time my long-run-day rolls around I am ready to GO.

Today will be the run of 7 miles, which makes me happy. I’ve had a rough week mentally, and am really looking forward to the hour-plus of total “brain-off” that I’ll get from it. I’ve had to push my schedule back a day for this week because I’m going skiing this weekend*, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run on Saturday or Sunday, so it fell to making Friday my long-run-day. There’s something a little delicious about peeling off a couple of hours to devote to a run and a nice, long shower and a cup of coffee on a workday, which, I’m not going to lie, makes this run just a little bit sweeter.

I had my first run with my sometimes-running-buddy (depending on when our schedules mesh) on Tuesday and it was pretty excellent. No matter how much I like getting lost in my own blank brain when I run, it’s sometimes really nice to be able to talk to someone and totally forget that you’re sore, you’re tired, you’re feeling slow or need a push, etc. – I completely lose track of time if I’m running with someone, and it helps a run go by soooo much faster. We have a date again next week for one of my short 3-milers – the one at the end of the week – which is good because that tends to be the running day that I feel the most blah and tired and over it.

ICKY GIRL THINGS COMING UP; WARNING On a gross note, it’s period week and I’ve been a bit crampy and bloated, but nothing as bad as what I experienced last month, which is quite nice. I’ve had a few moments of stabbing pain here and there, but they came and went and then stayed away, for which I was grateful, especially since one of those moments came while I was teaching. Speaking of teaching, I have a damn good group of students this semester. I was in a really bad mood for most of yesterday, and trudged off to class thinking that it was going to be an arduous 50 minutes, but by the end I had such a big smile on my face. I love it when teaching actually makes me feel good to the point that it completely erases a bad day – what a gift! ICKY GIRL THINGS DONE; KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

So that’s that. Eight weeks out… I feel myself starting to get ready for this thing. I’m eager, but I know I’ve got a ways to go yet. Physically and mentally I feel really good about my training, and I’m excited to keep progressing. And dreaming about more half-marathons during the summer…

Have a good weekend, err’body. Or else!

*So totally needed: I’ve been thinking, Man, do I need a vacation, and lo and behold, a chance to take off to West Virginia for a couple of days presents itself! Fingers crossed that my knees can handle it, since they’ve historically not done too well with me skiing and running in close proximity to one another. I foresee a lot of ice on my legs on Saturday night!

And yes, I will do the dumb thing and go tree-skiing. This is the only chance I’m going to get to go slopeside this year, so I’m skiing every damn acre of that mountain that’s open. And, um, a few that are not…

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Frustration.

This happened Saturday, January 7, 2012.

Well… it finally happened, and probably not for the last time. I was out with friends and had the “I can’t stay out; I need to get home and curl up into a ball and die right now moment”, and it sucked. Hardcore.

Earlier in the day I’d gone out for a quick 4-mile run, and felt great afterwards. I made some coffee and eggs, did some stuff around the house, caught up on emails, had lunch, and left to go out for a “run” with the Hash House Harriers* in town. Before I left I was feeling a little crampy, but didn’t think too much of it – nothing I’d eaten had ever caused me pain before, so I chalked it up to maybe dehydration and had a few extra cups of water before actually hashing.

The hash came and went, and by and large I felt fine. It probably helped that we only had two beer checks, which minimized the chances of further dehydration – and let’s be honest, the Miller High Life we were drinking is closer to water than beer anyway. (I love High Life, so don’t go getting all uppity on me now.) After the hash, while enjoying another beer, I felt fine. Encouraged by all of this feeling fine, I decided to join the other hashers for dinner and drinks elsewhere while we watched football.

I don’t know what happened between points A and B, but as soon as I sat down at the gathering place I started feeling stabby-in-the-gut like I had the day after my colonoscopy. Stupidly, I stayed to have a couple of beers and dinner; I chose something I figured was non-offensive – a chicken salad wrap with potato salad, helloooo mayonnaise – instead of a burger or chili or wings, which I thought might be questionable. So I don’t think this was a food issue per se, but I felt even worse as the football went on. I could barely finish my second beer, which is telling; I am not one to leave a beer unfinished, unless under extreme duress. I mean, I was sitting there folded in half really wanting to go out, but knowing that it would be better for me to go home and have some tea and curl up under some blankets on the couch and hope for the stabbing to subside. So that’s what I did. The tea helped the stabby-ness abate, but more than anything I was pissed that it’s now a reality that I might have to suddenly take off from a social gathering in the name of digestive sanity. Which sucks.

Okay, pity party over. More likely than not what happened was that it’s pain related to my menstrual cycle; I’ve read that flare-ups and worsening symptoms often occur in women when they’re on their periods, and this week is when that happens for me. I don’t start until Wednesday (January 11), so if this is going to be one of those things where I have this stabby pain starting on Saturday and lasting until then and through the end of said period (usually Saturday, meaning an entire week of knifesides), I am not going to be one happy kitten. So, we’ll see. Sigh.

*In short, a drinking club with a running problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_House_Harriers

Now what?: part three

Warning: this might get gross. You’ve been warned, though I’ll try to euphemize myself.

One of the great things about UC is that already sensitive areas of one’s life become a total guessing game that gets played seemingly on the whims of the bathroom gods. I saw a commercial on TV the other day advertising something dealing with Crohn’s disease, and the crux of the ad was that whatever product was being sold had the solution that could help sufferers of Crohn’s stop asking “what if?” – as in, “what if I’m at a party and suddenly have to use the restroom?” or “what if I’m giving my job-saving presentation and I suddenly have an intense flare-up?” Ten years ago I’d probably have made fun of the woman in the commercial acting out those scenarios, and even three years ago my grad school friends and I joked about leaking orifices during our masters’ exams, but not any more. I get it, and it sucks, because you really, seriously never do know when a flare-up is going to occur.*

I’ve read that for women with UC, their symptoms tend to worsen during their periods, and that flare-ups can be more common at this time. I was hoping it wasn’t true, but you’d think that the fact that I first noticed all of this starting during my period would have been a big red flag (no pun intended. Honestly, I swear – you’ll know when I’m trying) to the contrary.  Until my diagnosis, I didn’t pay too much attention to my periods, because they’ve never caused me much trouble in the eighteen years I’ve been experiencing them, especially after having gone on the Pill many years ago. Sure, I’ll get the usual cravings for red meat and chocolate about a week out, and for a 48-hour window of time will have temper tantrums only fixed by yet more chocolate, but I’ve never experienced the debilitating cramps and bloating that some women go through every single time they menstruate – and often for a week or more. If there are cramps, they’re minor; some foods make me bloat, so I’ve started taking care to avoid them. But by and large, I’ve been doing okay as far as periods go.

I’m nervously happy to say that that hasn’t really changed in the past couple of months, but I’m two days away from starting and have been having cramps and stabby-pains for two days. Last night I had a rotten headache that could have been the result of dehydration, and today my cramps have moved from my ever-dependable left side – the usual scene of the crime – to my right side. They’re nowhere near as bad as the stabby-pains I was having on Saturday (for more on that, see the post “Frustration”), but they’re still enough of a thing to make me uncomfortable.

The worst part of the pains, though, has been the gas that’s been accompanying them. While it could just be something in the past couple of days that I’ve eaten – whole-wheat pasta, a negligible amount of ground beef, a couple of spoonfuls of mayonnaise are the immediate culprits that spring to mind – I’m nervous that it’s just the kind of gas I’m going to get around this time of the month. I work in an office with several other people, and I can’t exactly run out into the hallway and fart, mostly because the trail would follow me back in. So I have to either wait for most people to not be around, or go to the bathroom, or just cross my fingers and let it go and hope that nobody notices. My inner 12-year-old boy would be delighted at this, but it’s a bit embarrassing; heaven forbid it happen to me when I’m teaching, you know? And have you been around me and noticed me laughing less? It’s because I’m afraid to, too hard, for fear that I’ll let something slip by accident.

A double bonus of this gas is that I’m not always sure if it’s just gas, or possibly something a little more… solid. THAT’s a fun game to play: Gas or Solid or maybe even oops it’s Liquid? It really is the “what if?” question every single time, because I’m never really sure.

I also have had to start allotting myself extra time to go to the toilet, because try as I might, I cannot go without using both door #1 and door #2. Well, okay, if I try extra hard I can avoid door #2, but it feels pretty bad to give it a pass (okay, that WAS intentional) and I’d rather not do it unless I’m trying to keep my medicine in.** This means that a simple sit-down is no longer just a simple sit-down, and that I will have to spend some additional time cleaning up, if you know what I mean. Couple this with the fact that I’m now going much more frequently because a) I feel like I have to investigate what’s behind door #2 at least once per hour and b) I drink so much more water than I used to, which if you know me was a lot; well, it’s more, because I feel constantly dehydrated possibly due to the thing in part a), or as a side effect from my medicine, or who knows. Anyway, couple those things – frequent toilet-hopping plus an increased need for cleaning materials – and I start to wonder why I’ve not yet taken out stock in Charmin or Snugglebutt or whatever. Seriously, I go through so much paper that I’m starting to feel really guilty at the environmental footprint I’m leaving (not to mention all of that flushing I’m doing, which I really do try to resist until the point of no return. Literally.). I could probably keep a CVS employed all by myself through sales of the Paper Goods aisle alone, and that’s to say nothing of what I went through during the preparation for my colonoscopy.  But, I mean, what if – here we go again! – I’m a houseguest and I have a particularly bad experience with door #2, and I clog their workings, and then have to explain myself? It’s not the worst thing, no, but I also don’t want to be that person constantly running off to spend time with the porcelain god and possibly missing out on lots of good times.

Which, I guess, brings me to a fairly logical transition into the next part of the “now what?” posts: the intangibles, or things I might be sacrificing in the name of digestive health. I’ll also discuss other ephemera and random thoughts.

*I’m pretty sure I can’t use all of this as a way to get out of my PhD exams, nor do I exactly want occasion to do so. But I can see this now: “So, K, tell us what you know about War and Peace”. [five seconds pass] “…pfffffffft.” [everyone looks around awkwardly and stifles faces of extreme displeasure] [finally, one of the professors speaks] “Well?” Me: “No, that actually is what I know about that work.” “…Oh. Okay then. Should we move on?” (I’ve never read War and Peace, though I’m made to understand that it’s somewhat compulsory reading for seekers of a PhD in Russian language and literature. Ever the stubborn one, I’m valiantly attempting to prove otherwise…)

**Yes, you can deduce from that that my current medicine is not orally administered. I call it my “magic bullet”; if you’re curious, the name of it is Canasa, and in my head I’ve started calling it Canasta because it sounds like much more fun if you think of it in terms of being a card game, or a musical instrument… that you wear on your fingers. Damn. Well, it’s still a party for someone, anyway.

EDIT: I wrote the draft of this post on a Monday, so it’s ever so slightly outdated at its time of publication. Whoops…