Sunday, December 30, 2012

Life update, medical purgatory, and fitting in (regular college/vs. West Point)

Well, it has been some time since my last update, so my thoughts/ideas might be a bit scattered.  I've been busy!  First, I visited my boyfriend in Europe, then I ran the Philadelphia marathon a couple of days later, and most recently, I visited my boyfriend AGAIN, this time in Spain.  Such a lovely country :)

I'm still in medical purgatory over here - not quite sure what will happen or what I want to do with myself.  I was supposed to be cleared to drive back in October, and then that didn't go through right away because I don't have a NY driver's license, so I had to wait for my state's forms, and when I gave them to the neurologist he decided that because I'm still having the partial seizures on a regular basis that he wants to wait until we do a three-day EEG (testing my brain waves for abnormalities, basically).  The criteria they were using over here to decide when to return me to duty was that I was able to drive again.  Well, now I will know the results in a few days.  But here's the kicker: now I'm questioning if I want to return to duty or not.  It's tricky.  On one hand, I worked hard through four years of college (and not your NORMAL college either) to commission.  I also enjoy putting on my uniform.  It's been a part of my identity since I was seventeen years old, and while I'm not afraid to leave, it's hard to just give that up.  Especially since I only graduated a little over a year and a half ago.  I guess I do have a choice with whether I want to stay in, as having seizures gives me the option (unless they can't be controlled, then I have no choice).  I wouldn't mind going into the national guard or reserves where I would have a bit less unpredictability, but being active duty, there are times when you have to be somewhere at three random times, sometimes with no warning.  You have to be ready to go.  Some units are different than others with more stability, but regardless of where you are, you're still a soldier, and the big Army doesn't assign people based on stability; though, if I were to go into another unit, I would be on the rear detachment - meaning no deployment.  But even then, you still need to be able to go at a moment's notice.  By go I don't necessarily mean deployment, but other important soldier skills.  Right now it's not so bad because I live where I "work."  I have no choice in driving, but even if I did, if I don't feel right I don't have to drive.  If I'm in a regular unit that wants me up and ready to go at random hours, and I'm not feeling right, what is going to happen?  How am I going to be able to do an officer's job if I have to constantly rely on others?  Now, granted, in the civilian world I'd still have to figure a way around possible transportation issues.  But I suspect with more normal hours and the ability to choose where I live (i.e., near SOME form of public transportation), it wouldn't be quite so difficult.  So I'm not sure.  I will probably just return to duty, as I did work so hard to make it this far.  It''s hard to give that up because some health issue pops up (that was all ready there for at least two years, just not as bad as it is now).

On another similar but different note, I just finished a book that has made me wish sometimes that I had chosen a regular college.  Not because I wanted to party all the time.  Rather, it has to do with the type of people or type of education from a regular school.  Now, don't get me wrong, I have realized since I started my master's program how much West Point's education really was good.  While I can't remember anything about physics (though I'm trying to correct that by using a teach yourself guide) or chemistry or other such areas, I did learn how to write a damn good paper and put my ideas into organized words in order to get my point across to my audience (my blog doesn't count!)  The big thing has to do with the type of free-thinking that I would get at a normal college and the variety in the types of people I might meet.  Don't get me wrong, I met a fabulous group of friends, and not everyone was the same.  However, because of the nature of a military academy, there was a similar type of personality that didn't fit me very well.  Actually, the military in general doesn't really fit my personality type very well, but sometimes that isn't bad.  As someone else told me when I was talking to him about getting out: "don't get out, we need officers like you.  You could actually make a difference."  That made me feel really good.  Granted, I am pretty competitive in areas that matter to me, and I like to perform at my best, so those are traits that help within the military, and they helped me get through West Point (though I was far from the top).

So what do I mean then?  Well, my love of music, for example.  Or rather, my former obsession with it, that moved to running, and then off and on with music.  My love of creative thinking, and looking at things in a different way.  Each of my close friends did not fall into the category "typical."  Most of them were artsy in some form - musical, artistic, and not afraid to be different.  All of us still had the competitive nature that was the trademark of West Point cadets, but perhaps thought differently.  I have no idea how to explain it, because I know that everyone is unique in their own way, and I didn't know every cadets dreams or hopes or how they thought outside of the classroom setting.  Just that I think I would have fit in better at a college where more students weren't afraid to express their eccentrities.  Where you blended in if you didn't fit into a certain mold.  Of course, this may be why I loved my major so much; while it was not artistic, it was very reflective and looked at different personality types, and how did one develop those types of personalities/thought processes/etc.  I am glad, however, that I found a group of close friends that have been accepting of the weirdest parts of my personalities (and my general klutziness, and occasional awkwardness).  I miss all of you like crazy :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Random Ramblings

Figure I should post an update... My first graduate class is pretty much done, so I don't really know what to do with myself.  I guess I could finish the last two chapters of reading, but sadly, I really don't feel like it.  I sure am hoping I did well on my final paper.  I need an A in this class!  It's kinda cool to think I'll have a graduate degree in a couple of years.  Assuming I make it through, of course.  Hmmm... I guess I could play my flute - haven't done that in a couple of weeks, since my tooth was very painful, and then I had root canal part one.  PAAAIIINNNN.  And since I need my mouth to play my flute... Yeah, not very compatible.  

What else, well, I'm flying to Germany in a few weeks to visit the boyfriend.  Oh, I am stoked.  We have all sorts of fun plans, and this time he gets to show me around :)  The last few times we saw each other, it was on my turf, so I showed him around instead of the other way around.  Well, actually, I've been to Germany, and have been to where he lives, but only a few times, and it's been YEARS (like seven years).  Very much looking forward to this trip!

Next up is my marathon, which is in less than five weeks.  Ah!  Aaannnd... the foot still hurts.  GR.  It's partially my fault, I'm sure.  I'm stubborn, and like to test my foot out to see if I can run on it.  Note to self: if doing the motion of running hurts when not actually running, then running isn't a good idea.  Fortunately, nothing else hurts, so I can use the stair-climber machine and the elliptical for an awesome workout.  I did thirty minutes on the stair machine on Sunday, and oh man, I was DRIPPING in sweat at the end of that workout.  I'm hoping this translates into SOME running fitness.  I have also done some bike rides and kept my heart rate around where it would be on a similar run.  Sadly, my IT band, while doing much better than it was, does not like cycling very much.  Less so than it liked running.  LUCKILY, the tightness from cycling usually goes away in a couple of days - ESPECIALLY if I apply heat to it to help loosen it up.  I don't know why I never thought of heat before... It works so much better than ice for that injury. Everyone says to ice, but ice just numbs the pain... I guess it reduces swelling too, but it doesn't help with tightness, and that's what caused my IT band to hurt!  Heat also seems to help my foot when I apply it to my calves (which I'm ASSUMING are pulling on the tendons in my foot, because stretching makes the pain go away COMPLETELY).  Also, rubbing my cayenne paper mix on my foot helps a lot too, followed by some soaking in epsom salts.  I'm sure if I keep this up WITHOUT trying to run until I'm pain free, then I'll be back to running soon.  In the meanwhile, the rest of my body is getting in better shape.  Lots of ab, leg, and arm workouts to make up for my lack of running.  Lunges, one-legged squats, calf raises (which also helped my foot, oddly enough), and other things that I hope will help translate into better running, and less future injuries (stronger hips = less injury for the most part!)

Also, random note: reading suspense novels before bed is probably not a great idea, especially if you are like me and tend to dream about whatever happened during the day.  I had dreams of flying from random brain controlling people (I like dreams where I can fly though!)  It wasn't a nightmare or scary dream, it was just kinda strange.

Okay, nothing else interesting to write about today.  I'm sleepy from staying up reading (I only went to bed around 10:30, but that's late for me)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Early Morning Ramblings

Well it's almost six a.m., and I have been up since around two!  That's when I looked at my clock, actually.  I was awake before that.  So I figure... what better thing to do than write a blog post?  Even if I don't really have anything relevant to say.  Nobody is awake, and I'm too tired to really work on the paper due Sunday - which is like half written anyway... It's a 9-10 page paper that needs 4-5 sources.  I've found like twelve.  This is why I did so well as a psychology major.  It's a lot of research, and I'm really good at finding research and making it relevant.  Heck anyone who knows me knows I research EVERYTHING - from the medications my doctors give me (who wants to be uninformed?) to the natural remedies, to psychological issues to... okay I guess I'm interested in health.  Maybe I should've tried to be a doctor.  Oh well - health care administration is close enough, right?  Okay, maybe not quite, but I figure I'll need some knowledge of at least the system (I'm still in services marketing right now, so I haven't covered much of the health care aspect, besides how to make the experience better for patients).  I suspect at some point I will attempt a Ph.D. in Psychology.  It's always been my passion, and I think it will continue to be that way.

Can anyone tell I haven't really slept yet?  I feel drunk.  You probably shouldn't write blog posts when drunk, or sleep deprived, but hey, it's okay.

I have an appointment with my neurologist today.  I'm HOPING HOPING he says I can drive at the end of the month.  I've still had partial seizures (a couple that I was SURE were going to end in full on seizures - aka - tonic clonic seizures - aka, grand mal seizures), but still no loss of consciousness that would get someone killed on the road, so I think I should be good!  Besides, I get like... two hours of feeling weird before I have a grand mal seizure anyways.  If I'm feeling weird, I won't be dumb, I won't drive.  I sure hope my next commander is understanding of this issue if I have to show up to work a little late, or I will probably end up back in a WTU to get med boarded out of the military.  But it's really not worth driving if I'm afraid I will have a seizure...  Actually, hopefully I will go somewhere where I can use public transportation, since this place has NONE.  That way if I have another seizure and can't drive again, I can still get around.  This would be ideal.  I wish 90% of army posts weren't in the middle of nowhere...  The cities AROUND Army posts usually have transportation, but unfortunately, unless you are somewhere like the Northwest or the DC area, there isn't usually a far-stretching transit system.  And because most places are like... ten miles from post if you want to live somewhere decent, it costs a lot to take a taxi.  I think taking a taxi everyday for a month would cost a ridiculous amount of money (more than gas!)

Next topic is, as usual, running related.  My foot and my knee!  Foot is doing even better today!  Stretching a bunch and using heat and epsom salt soaks, and rubbing my legs with that magnesium oil blend I talked about in last blog post are all helping a great deal.  I have also taken some Naproxen.  I wanted to avoid taking stuff, but if it will help heal it up faster, taking a little bit won't kill me.  Also, heat!  I have found heat to be significantly better for both of my injuries than ice.  I mean, it does make perfect sense.  I think this foot thing is caused in part by tight calves, so heating the calves helps relax them, hence pulling less on the tendons in the foot, and causing less pain!  Same with my IT Band, which has been a bit tight since my long bike ride on Sunday.  I've been applying heat to the leg above my knee (IT band and surrounding muscles), which helps loosen up the IT band, and takes away the pain.  Now I'm thinking... why would anyone say to ice these things?  It tightens everything back up.  Sure, it reduces swelling immediately after an injury and temporarily relieves pain, but once it's no longer acute, it doesn't make much sense, except maybe RIGHT on the spot of pain to reduce inflammation.  Since it seems as if most overuse injuries are caused by tight muscles surrounding the painful spot, it would make more sense to loosen them up than ice them... Just my thoughts and experiences.  I don't know why I didn't think to try this sooner... My heating pad is AMAZING!!!  Also, it is helping me deal with my post-strength training galore yesterday.  Did several lunges, single leg squats, double leg squats, other assorted leg exercises for the hips, abs, arms... pretty much everything.  Abs and arms aren't too sore, but the legs.  Oh man.  Those lunges will destroy!  I never do them, and the single leg squats are usually enough to leave me sore.

All right, I guess I'll finish getting ready for the day... Everytime I wake up too early I end up rushing out the door when it comes time to leave because I spend so much time doing other stuff (I mean, I have hours to go when I first wake up!)


Friday, October 5, 2012

RANT - People hating on healthy eaters.

I think I have posted similar rants to this one, but if I have, I'm going to post it again.  If not, then here goes!

One of my number one pet peeves is when people a) assume I eat healthy just to be skinny and b) people assume that anyone thin must just have a naturally fast metabolism...Or they are anorexic. Or they just don't eat enough.  Oh, and it's okay to taunt people for eating right and trying to be healthy, but saying something about someone being overweight would be awful.  Okay, I guess that was more than one pet peeve, but they're all related to the same thing.

When did our culture turn into this?  Can't we have a happy medium?  I'm guessing it has something to do with magazine covers and movie stars setting "unrealistic standards," so our culture has completely rebelled in the opposite direction.  Suddenly it's okay to be really unhealthy.  And yes, obesity is unhealthy.  You may not notice many issues at age twenty, but you will notice them when you are forty, or maybe in your thirties.  I can understand that not too many people can look like super models.  That's okay.  I can understand body acceptance.  If you're naturally built to be a little chubby, but you take care of yourself/eat right/exercise, then that's cool.  Even if you're not always the healthiest eater, that's not the end of the world either.  I'm not writing this to criticize other people's eating habits, but more to criticize people who criticize healthy eaters.  The same way someone overweight would be really pissed at me if I commented on their food intake and body.

Example of what I've heard about smaller folks... Apparently we only eat bird food portions and starve ourselves.  Not the case.  As a matter of fact, at somewhere between 105-110 pounds (depends on the day, but I don't own a scale), I am almost NEVER hungry because I eat healthy foods that fill me up for awhile (chia seeds, nuts, leafy greens, fruits, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc.).  Or very rarely if I forget to bring food with me somewhere and go too long without eating.  And I am training for a damn marathon.  My "secret"?  I eat healthy, natural foods and exercise (I KNOW I've posted this before).  But really, it's no secret.  I think the problem comes in when people don't want to put in the effort to get healthy, so to justify their own habits, they put down the people who do work hard.  Let me list the reasons why I do what I can to take care of myself, and why I switched to a more natural diet in the matter of a short time - especially after my diagnosis of epilepsy:

I am taking a bunch of medications that screw with me as it is as a result of the epilepsy, which, by the way, is somewhat influenced by food because food can influence hormones/metabolism/chemicals, which all have an influence on brain activity, and the side effects RELATED to my medication often result in vitamin depletion which causes other nasty side effects, so I try to eat right to avoid those side effects.  Type II diabetes is rampant in my family, and even at a healthy weight, I've sometimes been near borderline diabetes, so I don't need that on top of everything else.  I FEEL better when I eat healthy. I don't want to get cancer from ingesting a bunch of unnatural foods.  I prefer the TASTE of real foods - rather than chips, as an example, which are merely "addicting," and actually only taste good after the first few - but we all know how hard it is to stop once started (as an example of the change in my taste buds, I used to eat Compleat meals... aka, boxed meals you put in the microwave - I tried to eat one after changing over to healthier stuff and I almost gagged).  Oh, and because I'm at a healthy weight - and I know it's my healthy weight because it's where my body naturally fell once I started eating more natural foods and exercising - I think I look better too.  I still have my shape that I had before and definitely don't look unhealthy, I'm just a bit smaller with less "extra" weight in places I don't want weight, like the back and hips (which I still have, by the way).

Those are just a few reasons why I choose to eat right.  I don't feel like I should have to justify my healthier eating habits, but apparently our culture is so skewed the other direction that it's necessary if I don't people to assume I have some type of eating disorder, or I'm just some crazy health nut who can't enjoy life.  I also feel like I have to explain that yes, I do eat "tasty" food too, though nobody can understand how I enjoy eating salads or fruits.  I mean, what's not to enjoy in a green leafy salad with feta cheese, avocado, walnuts, various seasonings and other veggies and olive oil? Sounds pretty delicious to me.  I still eat chocolate, some ice cream, and I pretty much eat what I want when I go out to eat (which isn't often).  I just hate having to justify it to people who want to feel better about themselves because they don't take care of themselves, and I do.  I understand this isn't everyone, this is more directed at people who DO give me an attitude when I pick up organic foods, or tell me I don't need to eat healthy because I'm all ready thin, or to stop running because I'm going to get too skinny and blow away.  I can still maintain my weight when I'm not running... So I HATE when people say it's all related to "oh, you run so much!  That's why you're thin!"  Some guy said that the other day.  We were waiting for something or the other, and he's hurt so he can't run, and he says "See, she's lucky, she can run.  When I run, I cut weight so quick." (by the way, yes I do feel lucky I can run because I love it, but it has nothing to do wight weight).  Okay... you can still cut weight if you stop ordering out.  It just might take a little longer.  Most of the people I know who are overweight in the army attribute it to being hurt and unable to exercise like they could, and yeah, you might put on a little extra weight because you can't burn off that extra food you had yesterday, but sometimes just a little adjustment to eating habits can at least slow it down, or result in less extra weight.   I'm sure I would gain a few pounds if I stopped exercising, but unless I was eating a bunch of junk food, it wouldn't be enough to make me overweight.  But I constantly see these same people eating junk food, ordering out, or going to fast food restaurants... It's not just the lack of exercise.

I'm not trying to make myself sound like I'm some perfect, healthy eater all the time, and I look down on others, even if it sounds that way.  I know everyone has different reasons for their choices.  But I would get criticized if I looked at someone's chips or pizza and said "you probably shouldn't be eating that - you're all ready big."  It's the same as when I'm out on a run, or I pick up something healthy, and someone tells me "you don't need to do that - you're all ready thin."  It completely destroys all of the work I've done to make myself healthy, and makes it sound like it's all a ploy to either make others feel bad about themselves, or that I have some type of disorder that causes me to eat healthy even when I'm all ready thin.  Which, by the way, when I did have eating issues, I was hungry all the time, and reasonably heavier than I am now, so no, I don't have any eating disorders. I just learned how to take better care of myself, and that naturally resulted in a healthier me.

Okay, rant complete... for now.  I hope if you're one of those people who criticizes healthy eaters that it upsets us as much as it would upset you to be called fat, or criticizing your food choices.


On that note...Here are some pictures to a) prove that thin doesn't mean unhealthy looking, and b) showing what I love to do that helps with that :)  (all from Montreal) - the first one was during a run, hence the sweatiness, the third one was renting a bike to ride across a bridge (with a HUGE hill!), the fourth one is enjoying a very tasty chocolaty cappuccino, and the last one was walking through a park.  All quite fun if I do say so myself :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Natural Remedies for Pain/Tendinitis?

With my recent foot issues, I have taken to looking at natural remedies - which I've always been interested in anyways.  The first one I tried was DMSO, which I will admit, definitely helped with my initial foot pain.  I could barely walk without pain at first, but after a few applications of DMSO, I was able to at least walk mostly pain free.  Unfortunately, it is rough on the skin, so I have cut way back on that.  Plus, I would think after the initial anti-inflammatory response, it wouldn't do much.

The next thing I have tried, that I read about on the Pose running site from Dr. Romonav (founder of the method) was that using Apple Cider Vinegar was useful, so I've been doing that for a couple of days, and it definitely seems to be helping.  I've also been putting my foot in a little tub with magnesium and apple cider vinegar.  It smells bad, but I can tell you that the pain subsides with it.  I've also been taking magnesium supplements (in the form of Epsom salts).  From my research, I've found that a lot of anti-seizure meds cause depletions of a lot of key nutrients in the body, including magnesium... I've also read that exercise/running depletes magnesium in the body (the more running you do, the more magnesium you need).  Based on MORE research I've done, I've found that chronically tight muscles might be related to magnesium-deficiencies.  This does make sense to me, and I've heard it before.  Sooo, in addition to taking magnesium internally, I came up with an idea.  My calves are tight, and it's caused several issues in the past.  Part of my injury is supposedly caused by tight calves, so I've been stretching/massaging the calves, and immediately after, the foot doesn't hurt, but inevitably, the pain returns shortly, so I can see this as being a huge cause of my pain.  SOOO, what I did was concoct my own little "muscle relaxer" for my calves.  I put magnesium with a little warm water, coconut oil so it spreads easily and a TINY bit of DMSO to let it penetrate to the muscle more easily (but not enough to cause irritation).... AAAnnnnddd, what do ya know.  It hurt significantly  less after I applied it to my calves.  Oh, and I've also been using heat instead of cold, which also relaxes things and helps everything feel better.

So, I don't know, maybe it was a placebo effect,but I'm not so sure it was, as I do know that magnesium is really important to preventing muscle cramps/spasms. I have a little roll-on thing that is supposed to help cramps, and it does help relax my muscles (it's mostly magnesium), but it's really expensive, and my little concoction is almost the same thing, but WAAAYYY cheaper.

So, does anyone else use natural remedies for pain?  What do you think - do they actually help, or is it just a placebo effect?  I will try to keep everyone posted on my foot progress :)  Obviously, rest has played its role in letting the initial inflammation subside, but the past few days, the pain has stayed at about the same level, so I decided I need to be proactive in trying to make this stupid foot pain disappear.  I take enough medications, and I actually have prescription muscle relaxers, but I don't want to take more than necessary (and my doctors know I take a magnesium supplement - I'm just adding some extra to it), especially since the body becomes dependent on that stuff if you use it too frequently.

Alas, I will keep this one (relatively) short.  Hope everyone has a fabulous Wednesday :)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I Will Never Understand... A Post About Running Shoes and the General Weirdness of Runners

I cannot understand why people are so obsessed with having cute running shoes.  I know people who buy running shoes only because they like how they look, or they spend significantly more for the same shoe with a different color when they could get the same shoe on sale.  I guess I could understand if the shoe was really ugly (there are some that really do look ridiculous), but come on - functionality over looks here people!

Granted, this is coming from someone who has a running-shoe addiction, because I can never seem to find the PERFECT shoe, so finding good deals is essential to keeping up my addiction without sending myself broke (yay for and for fueling my addiction!).  I thought I had (Saucony Grid Type A4), but I'm afraid they were too tight...  I think the tendinitis on the top of my foot was caused by that, and my toes got all bloody from them rubbing together (though that didn't really hurt), oh, and I can't wear them on trails because they have drainage holes in them, which also means rock holes (haha).  Oh well, they were made for roads not trails.  I should say that I'm not completely impervious to looks - if there are two identical pairs of shoes (minus the color) and I can choose from both of them in my size, and they are on sale, I will take the ones with the color I like best :)

Of course, I can understand buying a dress shoe for the purpose of looks.  Isn't that purpose of dress shoes - to look good?  This makes perfect sense to me, though if I'm out dancing or something, I still make sure that my shoes are comfortable enough I can stand in them for a couple of hours.  I can always walk back barefoot - as I have done before :)  But if you're someone who runs for long periods of time, functionality is really important!  If I could just pick up barefoot running, I think I would be best off, but I don't have the patience to start from scratch (which you pretty much have to do).  *Sigh*.  I do love my Vibram Five Fingers, but again, I always overdo it.  Speaking of not caring how my shoes look... those are pretty ridiculous, but functionality over looks here!  Which is why I don't understand why the military (well, Army) cares so much about them.   I guess a lot of people go out and do too much (*cough* guilty) and end up hurt but they can do that when they aren't in uniform, and they get hurt in regular shoes too.  I also dislike when people comment on bright colored shoes in uniform.  I know, for one, if I can get a good deal on a pair of running shoes I love, and they happen to be bright pink, I will wear them.  Not because I want to make a statement, but because they are good shoes that I got for a good deal!

In retrospect though, I am also the weirdo running chick who will walk around barefoot for a mile if my shoes become uncomfortable (got lots of weird looks when I did that).  Or run back and forth next to my building because there is an awesome, smooth straightaway of about 200 meters that nobody is allowed to drive on except emergency vehicles.  Great for end-of-run strides and some barefoot running :)  Everyone who lives here is used to me by now, so I've stopped getting weird looks when I walk out of my place with my purple running fanny pack (woohoo - stylin!) and my Camelbak-esque running pack (okay, I don't wear those together).  For those of us who aren't very fast, we need to bring lots of water on twenty mile runs, or we will dehydrate and die.  Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I do feel pretty crappy when I don't bring water since there are around zero drinking fountains in this place (I guess they figure it gets too cold here in the winter - or we can just put some snow in our mouths when we need water).

In the realm of runners, I'm really not strange at all, and I really don't run as much as everyone thinks I do, but in the realm of non-runner people (or military people who run when they have to and not on their spare time), I am the strange running chick, and that means wearing shoes that might be ugly, walking around barefoot, and running with random straps on to help prevent/heal injuries while still training.  "Why don't you just stop?"  is something I hear frequently, but my addiction fuels me to keep going... Even if there are weeks where I can only do short distances.  Or zero distances.  It's always about getting back, despite the pain of joints, muscles, blisters, all sorts of random chafing that I didn't even know was possible until I step into the shower after a long run.  For some reason, there is something addicting about putting myself through the misery.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Typical Good and Bad News Post - mostly exercise related!

I have good news and bad news.  The good news first:  my knee is completely pain free, and my medium-long runs really do just feel medium.  Ten miles is no issue - meaning I'm finally back into pretty decent shape.  I guess after doing runs of 18 and twenty miles, ten miles really is pretty short.

Okay, now the bad news.  There seems to always be bad news.  I seem to have developed pain on the top of my foot after a ten-mile run on Wednesday with a 10k tempo run in the middle.  I felt pretty good, and I REALLY like my Saucony Grid Type A4 racing flats (though I can see why they are meant just for racing - the bottom is wearing out super quick!)  However, I think they contributed to this pain, as they fit rather tightly, and one cause of this injury is shoes that are too tight on the top that rub on the tendon. I also think it has a bit to do with changing my stride without doing it perfectly.  It helped my knee (a lot), but I wasn't doing a very good job of relaxing my calves, and I was probably running too much on my toes.  I noticed my calves being tenser than they should have been, and tight calves tend to cause this problem as well by pulling on the tendon.  This does not surprise me one bit as I've had a few different types of tendinitis in my foot due to my calves being too tight (particularly after switching to minimal shoes, but I've been running in them for quite some time).  Plus stretching and rolling my calves seem to help the pain.  I've had some pain on the top of my foot before, and I usually gave it a few days rest and it eventually went away.  This time is a little different, but there is no pain when I press anywhere on my foot, just when I flex it (particularly the big toe), which, based on my internet research, makes me think it's extensor tendinitis, and not a stress fracture.  Anyway, it wasn't feeling too bad yesterday after a couple of days off, so I did 10.5 miles.  Terrible idea.  It was hurting pretty bad yesterday, so today is another off day, and tomorrow I'm sure, and probably the day after that.

 The ONE time I probably won't want to run, we actually have mandatory PT (physical training) on Thursday.  Most of these people are here because they have all sorts of issues.  They are making people either walk or run for an hour, in circles (gah!!!)  depending on their injury.  Well, if this isn't better, I'll be walking!  I'm sure everyone will be surprised as they all know me as the crazy lieutenant who is always out running.  I don't run THAT much, but I run regularly, and most people here can't run, so I guess in comparison, I run a LOT.  Anyway, maybe by then it will be better and I'll get my run for the day out of the way.  I'm just gonna keep my laces super loose and keep dousing my foot in DMSO and other assorted anti-inflammatories, as well as staying off my feet as much as possible.  Looks like I'll be doing some cycling the next few days!  I will tell you that DMSO works pretty well.  I've put it on my foot several times in the past twelve hours and the pain has decreased a LOT.  I also have other anti-inflammatory topical solutions from my knee, one of which actually contains DMSO - not a high percentage of it, like 11 percent, but it's there, along with Diflucenac, an NSAID.  Goodness, I feel like an expert on injuries.  I should've gone for a degree in sports medicine or something.  At this rate, I'll be an expert on all running-related injuries in the next six months.  Okay, maybe not - my terrible memory probably wouldn't lend itself well to all the anatomy pieces I would need to remember.

Anyways I was REALLY hoping to avoid injuries as much as possible in the next two months so I could actually get a decent amount of training and maybe run a decent time on this marathon.  I guess if it comes down to it, resting and MAKING it to the starting line is probably more important than a good time, seeing as I've raised one thousand dollars for charity and I all ready got my sister a ticket to Philadelphia for the race weekend.  I guess in the grand scheme of things, I still have about a month before I'd start my taper, and if I have to take another week or so off or easy to let this thing heal, I still have plenty of time to do a couple more long runs.  Just less speed work I suppose.  We shall see.  I will try to play this by ear, and not freak out too much, or get too hopeful.  Restraint is so hard for me... In the meanwhile, cycling is good cardio, and I do have a nice bike, plus we have like three spinning classes a week right upstairs, and now that my knee isn't bothering me, I can take place in those (with ITBS, cycling tends to irritate it).  Let's hope I can keep that at bay as much as possible...

UPDATE:  After dousing my feet in DMSO off and on since I woke up (only like three hours ago), putting cotton balls between my toes, and putting on some stiff sole shoes (so I don't push off too much), I have zero pain.  None.  Of course, I'm still not going to run, but this is a very good sign.  Cotton balls helped last time I had top of foot pain as well.  I don't know why, but I think it has something to do with stretching the tendons.

On another note (I commend those of you who read my whole blog entries - I know they are long-winded!) I have managed to lose more weight.  At least... I don't really weigh myself often, but in my full uniform last week I was 111 pounds.  The uniform adds a decent amount of weight.  And this was after I ate... I just put on a pair of jeans I wore a month or so ago that fit and they are now loose.  It is very strange that I used to try and try to lose weight and couldn't do it, and in the past few months I have continued to lose weight without putting in much effort, besides switching to eating mostly natural type foods.

Sure, I still go out to eat, and I eat some ice cream sometimes, and chocolate (mmmm), but for the most part, my diet has changed significantly.  Breakfast usually consists of Better Oats Chai Spiced hot cereal with various types of healthy stuff (flax, buckwheat, etc.), chia seeds, walnuts, pecans and brown sugar/cinnamon (I put all that other stuff in there).  That keeps me full for awhile.  Lunch is usually a giant salad with avocado, more chia seeds, kale, spinach, feta cheese, olive oil, some seasonings, and whatever other random veggies I can find lying around in my fridge.  Dinner varies (I love Amy's organic black bean enchiladas), and I do still eat my Shin Cup noodles, lol.  Not the healthiest of meals, but I don't know if I could give them up completely!  Other random foods throughout the day include my organic English Muffins with butter (regular butter, though sometimes I use butter spread with olive oil), different types of fruits, cinnamon pecans (yummm!), and again, random stuff I have lying around.  I don't really buy junk food though, so that's not a problem for the most part.  I also don't really drink anymore, and I used to have a couple of glasses of wine a night (before deployment), though I sometimes just cut out dessert when I was doing that, so I don't know that that made a huge difference.  Anyway, it's been a slow weight loss... Maybe a pound or two a month, but it adds up, especially when you're not even 61 inches tall!  Yes, I'm quite short :)  I guess running more has also made a difference, but not a significant one, as I also eat more.  When not running a lot, I eat less carbs (consciously, because I don't need them as much), and don't really drink any calories.  I drink a Vegan protein shake after some runs, as well as other assorted recovery drinks because I have a hard time EATING right after runs, but you need to get something in you.   I also take in food during my long runs, and I eat more before my long runs, so while marathon training has probably played somewhat of a role in my weight loss, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

As for my medications and stuff, they seem to be doing the job for the most part.  Not much in the way of seizure activity lately.  I've had a few partial seizure type things, but they are shorter and less in frequency than they were.  The side effects also seem to be improving.  My dreams are no longer terrible (did I post that on here?) though they're still quite vivid, which is kind of annoying.  Last night I dreamt I was back at West Point, but as an officer, with my old roommate (hi Vanessa!) and we were getting inspected.  Weird.  Probably had something to do with the fact we're doing an in-ranks inspection here in our Army Service Uniforms  (which might be kinda interesting to see with all these people in crutches and boots, but such is life in the Army I guess).

Alas, that is my update on life for now.  There is more, of course, which is actually probably more interesting, but these were my thoughts for today... Probably because it's kind of hard to ignore foot pain and jeans that don't fit anymore... Both things that were pertinent to today!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Can Happen in a Year?

So I've been thinking about how much can change in just one year.  It's crazy - a year ago I had no idea what the next year would bring. At the time I didn't know if I was going to deploy, didn't even know where I was going to live.  I CERTAINLY didn't expect to deploy then return within two months.  I had no idea I would end up on the floor in my office and end up being diagnosed with epilepsy.  Heck, I had no idea that would happen within a day of it happening.

Now here I am, uncertain of what the next year will bring.  Will I still be HERE, or will I be somewhere else?  I may end up closer to home, or somewhere else.  I have no idea.  I kind of wish that I did have some idea.  I'm almost giving up on the whole transferring thing... It's one more thing that is adding to all of the other uncertainty.  I still don't even know when I will be "returned to duty" (aka, not in this transition unit).  It's sometime between October and February, and that's about all I know!  Of course if I am here until February, I will be assigned here, which means I'll be able to choose where I want to go next.  I'm almost at the six month mark here, and at that point, they have to assign me here (right now I'm merely attached - meaning I'm still on my original unit's roster, but where I am right now is responsible for me).  And who knows what else might change in the next year?  At least right now I pretty much know I'll be staying in the military, unless the medications I'm on don't do a good job of controlling the seizures, but right now they seem to be doing the trick, and my neurologist thinks I'll be good to return to duty after six months (from August).  That is where February is coming from.

Speaking of controlling seizures (sort of), I met my goal of raising $1,000 for the Epilepsy Therapy Project (ETP).  For those who haven't pieced it together from past posts, I am running the Philadelphia Marathon for Team ETP, which is a charity partner with the Philly Marathon.  By signing up to run with them, I committed to raising 1,000 dollars for the charity - and I did it!  Of course, not without the support of others!  I was really concerned because for awhile I was having issues meeting the goal, but once I contacted people personally, I got a decent amount of donations.  Some from my girl friends and a decent amount from family, plus some from other people who knew what I was doing.  One less thing I need to worry about :)

And speaking of running - I did my first twenty-miler in awhile on Sunday!  The knee is giving me a bit of trouble, but it's not too bad.  I am hoping to get in a few twenty-milers before this marathon - unlike the last one, where I was in the midst of deploying and could only get in one twenty miler, so my endurance was kind of sucking come race day.  I had a decent speed going for awhile!  The fact that I can hold an 8:05 minute pace for the half marathon, but can't hold it for the marathon tells me that I'm not lacking in decent marathon speed (to me that's a good pace to hold for a marathon - maybe not for a shorter race or a world class marathoner!), it has more to do with my aerobic fitness and endurance.  I think with more endurance training and hopefully less knee pain (hoping, hoping), I should be able to at least break 3:50.  To me that's a fairly modest goal, and I'd like to go faster.  My last marathon was in 4:03, and that included several stops, and a lack of real endurance training.

Anyways, I always get so off topic.  I should work on some homework and then go upstairs and run on the treadmill (I'm not keen on running in thunderstorms!)  Happy Tuesday!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Pose running! And how it's actually helping!

I'm going to post on this topic because I'm excited.  I sure hope I'm not getting too excited too soon!

Anyways, I've been working with a POSE coach online.  Pose technique, for those unfamiliar (though I think most runners are familiar), is basically this: "Pose, fall, pull" and repeat.  Your body should be aligned a certain way - the foot landing under the center of mass on the forefoot, and the back foot should be "pulled" immediately upon falling, and it should be pulled under the center of mass (not behind your body).  Basically, you're keeping your feet under your center of mass.  You also use gravity to help you "fall" forward, and the cadence is very quick.  I thought I had the technique, but I did not.

I've been working really hard at the drills and focusing a lot on form, and I'll tell you what: it seems to be working.  My knee feels the best right now that it has since April, and I haven't stopped running.  I cut back when I saw other injuries coming on, but now that those are gone, I've kept running.  After talking to the coach, I realized how much I've been doing wrong.  I put my foot out too far in front of me when I land, I pull up on my foot too late and allow my back leg to go straight, and I put it behind my body.  It's a lot to think about, honestly, which is why you do the drills, so it comes naturally.  I did several drills yesterday morning, then went for a short run in my Vibram five fingers, focusing a lot on form.  I didn't wear my IT Band strap, which I have been wearing for the past month or so, or any type of "assistance" and I ran the whole distance (of only 2.5 miles, but still) completely pain free.  I've also been focusing on how I walk.  The coach found all sorts of things with that, and told me to try to pay attention to how I walk as well.  It's felt kinda awkward, but I'm getting the hang of it, and that ALSO seems to be helping.  As soon as I start straightening/locking out my legs, the pain comes back, but if I focus on not straightening my leg, nothing hurts.  At all.

I'm sure there were other factors at play here.  I've been using anti-inflammatory creams and working a lot on strength.  But if you read anything about Pose, they do stress having overall strength because the whole body has to work together.  I've gotten stronger, and I've used stuff to help make the pain go away, and it wasn't getting worse, but it wasn't getting better either, so I knew there was something wrong.  And whenever I notice pain on runs, I pay attention to my form and can tell when I'm locking out my knees.  Even though I don't heel strike, I put my foot way out in front of me, and that totally disrupts everything.  I notice when I do it, my knee hurts again.  When my form is good, nothing hurts.

So, maybe I'm getting excited too soon.  I hope I don't have to post how everything hurts again.  I'll probably still use the IT band strap on my longer runs because I don't think I have the technique down well enough to maintain it for long periods of time (yet), and I DO need to do the longer runs because, well, I have a marathon in about two months!   I plan on doing twenty this weekend.  I did the 18.12 mile race without too many issues, I was sore for a few days, but was back to running pretty quick.  Anyways, I plan to walk-run the 20 this weekend.  One mile run, one minute walk.  Hopefully the mini-breaks will help me maintain my focus for that distance, and of course help me recover quicker.  I did the walk-run method for my last marathon and kept up with the marathon veterans for awhile, and actually ran pretty quick, but due to lack of endurance training and struggling with this same injury, I kinda died around 20-miles, but averaged about an 8:30 minute mile for those first 20.  It also doesn't help when you have to stop and stretch your IT band every half a mile for the last six miles :)  I hope that I can make it through this next marathon with a much better base of endurance and minimal knee pain.  Marathons are gonna hurt regardless,  but I want muscle hurt, not actual pain.

All right, there is my testimony of the short time I've been doing this.  I sure hope I have positive things to report after this weekend's long run!  It would be AWESOME if I could actually get in a few 20-milers before the marathon so I can actually sort of aim for a goal instead of just surviving!

Oh, and not to brag or anything, but I outran all the guys in our mini triathlon we did here and averaged a 6:59 minute mile pace.  Though it was a short distance (like 1.15 miles, lol) and most of the people here are here because they're hurt.  I'm still proud of myself!  Someday I WILL break fourteen minutes on my two-mile run.  I think a little more speed work and I'll be there.  My eventual goal is to earn the maximum score on the guy's Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) run at thirteen minutes.  It's a 6:30 minute mile for two miles.  I think I could do it with more specific training.

Anyways, I shall end here as I have a paper due on Sunday that I need to work on :)


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keep Going/Get started: a message to those who are new to exercise!

I figure I have been posting a lot of blogs about things pertaining to the fun that is epilepsy.  Which, by the way, it's still kinda weird to think that I actually have something long-term to deal with.  But I guess nobody is really completely healthy forever, and we all have things we have to learn to deal with as we get older.  Anyways! Onto positive topics.

I figure I will write this blog entry about running (surprise!)  More specifically, why it makes me so happy to see people get out and run - or exercise in general - even if they are completely out of shape, obese, whatever.  Some people, particularly those who are fast and have run their entire lives, tend to judge others who aren't as fast, or complain about the culture of running these days - how everyone is just trying to run a marathon to say they did it, even if it takes them six hours to finish.  You know what I say to those people: screw you.  Okay, I'll say it more nicely...  it doesn't really matter what you think.  I mean, as much as I'd like to be really really fast and win races rather than merely place in my age group, it isn't necessary to be fast in order to use running to improve your life.  I specifically say running because that's what I do, and it doesn't really require special equipment (though I really like all my little gadgets, lol).

I think it's awesome when people push their limits and try to make themselves better - whether it is to lose weight or just to feel better, or even just to push limits.  I will probably never be a world class runner (the chance of that happening is probably like... less than 1%), but I love pushing my limits.  I prefer pushing distance over speed, maybe because I don't need to be super fast to keep running further and further.  My limits are probably different than someone who has just started.  For me three miles is an easy run, but for someone else, running a 5k is the ultimate goal.  For someone who has never run or who is carrying 200 pounds, running a 5k is pretty awesome.  I say keep going.  You are putting in the effort that most Americans wouldn't bother with.  We all have to start somewhere.  Heck, when I have had a long lay off, three miles isn't easy for me either.  It takes time and dedication to improve, whatever your level of fitness.  Just having that dedication to make yourself more fit generally translates into dedication in other areas.  When I was at West Point I used to keep telling myself (very eloquently I must say) that "everything that sucks eventually comes to an end."  I think running helped instill that mindset in me.  Every race, no matter how terrible I feel, eventually has an end.  I think I told myself that on my most recent race of 18.12 miles.  I wasn't really prepared for the distance, but it eventually was over, and I felt great knowing I pushed my limits.  It doesn't matter whether it's 18.12 miles or 3 or 4 or even 1 mile, working hard and accomplishing your goals is one of the best feelings and confidence boosters.

So here's what I will say to those of you who are thinking of starting an exercise program but are too intimidated because you're out of shape:  just do it.  There's a reason Nike took that up as their motto.  Even if you have to walk at first, or you have to cycle at the lowest gear.  It doesn't matter.  If your lower body won't let you do anything, but you want to get fitter, try lifting weights.  Lift the lightest weight if you have to.  Your body will eventually adapt, and you'll feel amazing when you realize that suddenly the weight you first struggled with becomes too easty.   Don't worry about what other people will think, because in fact, most people will admire you.  The ones who are judging you will judge regardless, but it doesn't matter what they think.  It's your health and your body.  You may not be able to control everything in your life, but take charge of what you can!  You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remaining Positive (or trying, anyway)

I cannot focus on my homework right now, so I figured I would blog.  First, I am trying to stay positive about things.  It is working better now than it was earlier, lol.  Positive of staying here in NY instead of going back to the West Coast would include being closer to my marathon and getting to enjoy the winter sports.  Oh yes, and I will be able to actually visit the college I am currently attending online (it's about an hour and a half from here).  Also, I am finally making some friends in the area.  It's difficult to find people to hang out with when you aren't in a regular unit - particularly women!  Fortunately, I've found some runner people and have also started hanging out more with one of my friends from West Point.  I ALSO have to remember that once I start driving again, things will be better.  I won't be stuck.  And since I have no problem doing things alone, even if my friends are busy with work/family, I will still get out and explore - just like I did last year!  So, there are positives.  Of course I would love to be close to my family again, and I miss the Pacific Northwest, but I can deal with being here.  As long as I can drive again soon!  :p  My neurologist better clear me to drive next month!

Speaking of the neurologist, I just called his office to discuss changing dosing schedules or something along these lines.  The new medications I'm on seem to be helping quite a bit with seizure control, but the medications have affected my sleep and moods quite a bit.  I've been having really vivid dreams since I started increasing the dose of Lamictal, and now they are turning into nightmares.  Last night's was an awful bloody nightmare that woke me up at two in the morning, and I can't get the image of it out of my head.  I guess that's what happens when you take medications that alter your brain chemistry... Anyways, I'm hoping changing the timing of my dosage, or something, might help this stop.  I like that I don't feel brain dead during the day (apparently a lot of seizure meds make it really hard to think), and I like that my weight has stayed pretty neutral, since a lot cause a lot of these medications also cause a huge amount of weight gain.  I guess I'm still trying to sort through everything and realize that this is something that isn't going to go away.  Once everything is stabilized, I think it will be better and not something I think so much about.  Currently, it is hard NOT to think about everything.  I'm sure the fact that this is the only reason I'm in the U.S. instead of Afghanistan is not helping me forget!  BUT, eventually things will be normal again.  I guess the positive is I have actually been able to see my family - I was able to see my sister's college graduation, I've been able to see my boyfriend a couple of times, and I have been safe.

Of course, if I had stayed deployed, I would be over halfway done with my deployment.  That still bothers me - that I would be so close to being done if I had been able to stay.  It almost feels as if I've wasted the past four months since I've returned in the states.  Of course I haven't.  But sometimes it seems that way.  I SHOULD be over it, seeing that I've been back stateside longer than I was deployed, but it's hard.  I've become more and more adjusted, but again - it's not as if I was able to come back and just go back to my life pre-deployment.  Instead I was put in a medical hold unit, with a lot of future uncertainty, and a new health diagnosis.  BUT, I am trying really hard to stay positive, as hard as it is with all of this uncertainty.  At least I'm lucky that I will most likely get to stay in the military because my seizures seem pretty controllable with medication.  There are people whose seizures can't be controlled with medication.

Alright, well, I suppose I should work some more on homework... At least I have something else to focus on  - school!  :)  I have my first paper due on Sunday.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting my Groove Back (or trying anyway)

My title is referring to my running for the most part!  I've finally been getting back into everything and it feels awesome.  For those who don't know, I was supposed to run a half marathon on Sunday.  I was undecided whether to run it or not because I was worried about my knee and making it worse.  I decided if I could find a ride I would do it, and I got a ride.  Once I got to the race I talked to someone who switched from the 18.12 miles to the half marathon.  Oh I forgot to mention, there was also an 18.12 mile race option in commemoration of the War of 1812, the race was actually called the 1812 challenge.  Anyway, one of my Dailymile friends- who I got to meet in person, yay!  - had told me her longest run in the past few months was only ten miles, and she was doing the 18-miler.  Being the person I am, and regretting that I had signed up for only the half marathon, I found someone 15 minutes before the start of the race and switched from the half marathon to the 18-miler!

  I was completely unprepared to run 18 miles, though I had carbo loaded the night before, and ate a decent amount before the race.  My longest run since the marathon in April had been 13.5 miles.  My reasoning was I had only run 20 miles before the marathon, and that's a difference of 6.2 miles.  If I could do that, then I could definitely tack on less than FIVE miles for an 18-miler.  Besides, I've run over 18 miles four times, though the only time it was at race pace was during the marathon!  Speed does add another dimension to it all.  Anyway, did the 18.12 miles, and actually felt pretty decent until somewhere between miles 14 and 15.  I tried to go out slow, and kept my average pace in the 8:20-8:50 minute miles.  My half marathon pace is usually in the 8:05 - 8:15 minute mile pace, depending on the day and how much I've trained, so I was running slower.  My half marathon time during the race was somewhere in the 1:54 range (my garmin was sort of jacked up, so I'm not sure what the exact time was), which is slower than my "average" half marathon pace by 5-6 minutes (my best time is 1:46:05, or something like that - I can't remember the EXACT seconds, but it's in the low 1:46 range, and I've run around there twice), so I was definitely slower than I could have been.  Nonetheless, my pace sorta plummeted - as in, slowed down, not went up - around mile 15.  My miles went from being in the 8-minute range to the 9-minute range until the last mile, where I managed to squeek an 8:56, and then kick in the finish.  How I managed to find any energy to put in a final kick, I'm not sure, but I did.  Apparently I looked pretty beat up when I stopped running too - I think I was staggering a bit - because they had me go to the medical tent, hahaha.  I ended up coming in third in my age group, which isn't too bad considering the fact that I was completely unprepared and untrained to race 18.12 miles!  I'm pretty optimistic about the fact I did it with little pain.  Granted, I used an IT Band strap (those things are amazing, by the way), along with compression shorts and tights.  There was some knee pain at points, but tightening the IT Band strap helped.  I stopped a couple of times to adjust, but since I wasn't out to win the race, I was okay with stopping.  I had planned on treating the run like a training run anyway (though anyone who knows me knows that my training pace for that distance is a LOT slower than what I ran!)

  I am glad I did the run though - now I got my 18 miles out of the way!  I won't be increasing my long run distance THIS week though!  I'm still in recovery mode, even though it's been like four days.  I managed five miles today, though I've been throwing in walking up/down hills so as to give my legs a break.  I think the longest distance I'm going to do this week is around eight miles, probably on Sunday.  But I'm not going to put anything in stone, because that's how I end up hurting myself.  And since I'm still recovering from this whole IT Band thing... yeah... gonna be careful :)  Also, the medications I'm on.  I think they dehydrate me.  I've always kinda been prone to getting dehydrated anyway, but every morning when I wake up my mouth feels like a desert.  

  I am going to post some pictures once they are all up!  

I started that yesterday and never posted... typical.  Two nights in a row of terrible sleep.  I woke up so many times.  I thought I was over not sleeping well at night - guess I was wrong!  I think I need to watch out for what time I do my runs.  I did my run yesterday around 5:30, which means I finished sometime around 6:30, and I laid down for bed around 9:30.  Hm, either that or I'm running too much, and my body has having a hard time slowing down.  I know, that's funny, considering I only ran 37 miles last week total, and I've hardly run at all this week (seven miles so far, though it's recovery for me after Sunday's race!)  Well, either way, my heart rate has been pretty high lately - like, in the 80's.  That's kinda high for someone who runs a decent amount.  Ideally, it should at least be in the 60's.  Usually when I'm in good running shape it's somewhere in the high 50's.  Either way, the 80s are high.  At least my blood pressure is low... 98/66 yesterday.  The nurse who took my blood pressure was concerned.  I told her it's always that low, but she insisted on doing the other arm, which was 100/66.  She asked if I get dizzy and if I am tired frequently.  Well, dizzy, yes.  ESPECIALLY now with my medications - but I got easily dizzy in the past as well.

Now I'm rambling, so I shall end this post.   The initial point, though, was that I am so happy that I'm getting back into running regularly.  Ideally, my knee will be good to go without an IT Band Strap, but if it means I can run regularly, I will deal with wearing the strap until it heals.    Have a wonderful day readers :)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts on Change, Politics, and Other Controversial Topics

Based on a Facebook conversation regarding this article, I want to share some of my thoughts on change and this country, and people's impressions on change and our country's future.

If you want a quick synopsis of the article, it is written by a former West Point graduate complaining about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and what a shame it is that cadets are now allowed to be openly gay, and how West Point represents society, and basically America is falling apart because West Pointers are allowed to be openly gay.  When I first started reading the article it was so ridiculous that I thought it was satire until I got further into the article and realized this guy was serious.  Maybe I wouldn't have taken so much offense to it, except he also made a statement along the lines of "first women, and now this!"  I'm sorry, I didn't know that having women and gays at West Point was an indication of the eventual downfall of America. I didn't know that the only people who are good enough to represent American values were straight, white males.

This also sparked some other thoughts.  I am tired of hearing political parties complain about how the other party is going to destroy our great country (okay, I guess that is more the conservatives against the liberals).  Our country is still fairly new in the grand scheme of things.  Things have been changing since our country was established.  Actually, our country wouldn't even EXIST as we know it if the country's original founders didn't WANT change, so in short, our country was founded on change.  How can people expect that things won't change if that is what our country was founded on?  If nothing ever changed then several of these people complaining about it would probably still be peasants working on a farm somewhere under some land lord.  If nothing ever changed, everything would still be based on the class system, and if you weren't born rich, well then sorry... You were going to be eternally stuck in your position with some oppressive monarchy stopping you from moving ahead in life.  Hm... but I guess in THAT case, change was good.  Right?  Or, there's the whole issue of slavery.  Yeah, there were definitely some people who were against getting rid of THAT too.  Or how about when domestic violence was okay and legal because it was up to the family to deal with it because the man was the head of the house?  I realize I'm making some rather sweeping generalizations, but with every change, there have ALWAYS been people who have rejected the change.  I wish people would keep that in mind when they make generalizations about how our great country is falling apart with every new change that comes about.  Our country is new, was founded on change, and will probably continue to change, and that doesn't necessarily mean that it's coming to its demise.

I can see some merit in some of the arguments... I am a Christian - not a perfect one, but I am religious - and there are some things I see that do bother me, but that doesn't mean that I want everything to be the way it was back in the 1800s just because people were more religious back then.  I suppose I'm sort of a rare breed because I'm a Christian in the military, but I'm also fairly liberal in some areas, perhaps because of my own background.  I do not think that everyone who uses welfare is a drug addict or lazy.  I also don't think that having universal health care is a bad idea.  I know, I know, I'm against everything that most people in the military think is the right way.

I know from first hand experience that sometimes welfare is necessary for short periods of time.  Sometimes things happen that are out of someone's control.  It could be anything from leaving an abusive husband to serious health problems that have temporarily left you unable to work, and until you know someone, you can't really judge their situation.  Sure there are people who abuse the system, but the majority would rather feel that they are actually doing something productive for society.

Many, many people I know are very against universal health care.  To be honest, I don't know all of the details of it just yet - though if it all sticks around, I'm sure I'll learn all about it in my master's program.  But I do know that I don't think it's such a bad idea - despite the many opinions that President Obama is trying to turn our country into a socialist state.  Here is a news flash: part of how we came out of the Great Depression was with public assistance programs.  Just become something has always been a certain way doesn't mean that it can't be made better.  Maybe I am slightly biased on this because of my own family health issues, but I don't think someone should be denied health care because of situations that are likely out of their own control.  Without getting into too much detail, I have seen how not having health insurance can be a downward spiral, and oftentimes the lack of health insurance is not a willful choice by the patient (ever tried getting health insurance when you're too sick to work enough hours to get employee benefits?)  Just some food for thought.

I can see myself veering toward a little more than I intended this blog post to be, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. This is just some food for thought.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Facebook. And then medication side effects.

Rather than posting this on Facebook (where I know not everyone wants to know!)  I'll post here.  That way I know anyone who is deliberately looking at my page is actually interested in my random thoughts, rather than my thoughts posting on someone's news feed.

First, I was thinking about how weird Facebook really is, though it is something with which we are all accustomed.  I started thinking about it because I was thinking how I have had my "relationship status" blank for... well, awhile.  I remember back a few years ago when if I was in a relationship and I didn't have a status there, it would bother me.  Now I don't really care, even though I've been with my current boyfriend for over a year, and even that is hard to define because there was no "asking out", it just sort of happened.  Everyone who is close to me knows, and that really is what counts.

  That got me thinking about other Facebook/social networking things.  For one, how strange it would be to grown up as a child with Facebook being so dominant.  Yes, it has taken a lot of my time, and I'm still in the age group that uses Facebook regularly at the age of 26, and I just finished my undergraduate degree a little over a year ago, so I guess that also plays into my Facebook usage, as college students were the original intended audience.  But, regardless of that, I didn't have Facebook when I was in high school.  I didn't have a cell phone until I was eighteen.  I was reading a piece about how high school students now have grown up with their "profiles" presenting to the world, and every little mistake/flaw/anything is broadcast to their peers.  I can't help but think how awful that would be at that age.  It's bad enough that if something is wrong with you everyone can SEE it, but now there's evidence posted to the internet that you can't really take away.  When I was in high school the internet was starting to get popular, but we still had dial-up, and AOL and Yahoo were the places to be.  I had a Yahoo profile and a little webpage on Angelfire with some recordings of me singing/playing my flute, along with a link to some of my poetry.  Oh, I also had a blog (!) where I wrote more about everything personal and intimate than anyone should really know.  I've learned to tame that down a bit as people I actually know read my blogs nowadays :)

Anyways, to get back to my original point, I am not a Facebook-hater.  I like Facebook.  I like being able to keep in touch and share pictures with the people that matter.  The ones I'm not as close to can of course choose to not look at my page and unsubscribe to my updates, so it's a win-win for everyone.  It probably keeps me in touch with some people that aren't as important to me, and I will say that I probably wouldn't call quite a few of my Facebook friends with big news, but the ones who really are important to me would still hear from me if they didn't have a Facebook account (though everyone I'm close to has one, so that makes life easier!)  I also don't mind if some of my friends post constant updates... I know some people complain and complain about how people post everything on their page.  It's their page.  Get over it.  Anyway!

Next on the plate is these crazy medicines I'm on right now!  (If you don't really care, you can stop reading now, haha).  I still sometimes feel as if I'd be better off without them... I feel as if sometimes the side effects are worse than the condition.  Granted, if I wasn't taking them, there's a good chance the seizures would be getting worse, as they were beginning to do before I was on medication.  Actually they still aren't completely under control, but I can't help but wonder if they would be worse without the medicine... Would I be having more actual convulsions???  I've only had that happen a couple of times, but the partial seizures were getting a lot worse, and since my seizures "generalize" (meaning they spread to other parts of the brain), it's very possible I could be having worse seizures, so maybe the medications are better.  I'm on a new medication now, Lamictal.  This is in addition to the Keppra.  I'm finally up to the dosage the neurologist wanted me to stop at, though I'm not sure if he's going to increase it at my next appointment.  So far the side effects have been better than the Keppra side effects, but I still feel weird.

I have been having crazy dreams lately, which is actually listed as a side effect of the medication.  They aren't as bad as they were, but a lot of them were rather depressing/violent.  Not really the way I want to spend my sleeping hours.... I've also had a terrible time waking up every morning.  Most nights I've been sleeping early (before ten), and yesterday I slept twelve hours.  This morning I woke up around nine and had to push myself to get out of bed.  I wanted to run this morning (I'm drinking coffee/water and trying to feel more normal right now, actually), so I got myself up.  I feel hungover.  I've been dizzy every single morning/half the day.  Like, when I laid down on the ground to do a stretch the other day, the ceiling was spinning.  I'm hoping my body adjusts to this dosage soon, but I'm afraid I'll be put on an even higher dose at my next appointment, so then my body will have to adjust to THAT.

So this is why I say the side effects seem worse than the actual condition... I'll describe the symptoms I USUALLY have.  I get mostly partial seizures, which means I don't drop to the floor and have convulsions most of the time.  They take place in one part of the brain, which usually causes some weird sensations.  Mine are in the left temporal lobe, so they affect my memory/speech quite a bit.  When I'm having a partial seizure I may have different symptoms.  Usually I'll have a sense of deja vu, and then my stomach feels like it is rising (like maybe if you're nervous).  Sometimes I'll feel like I'm remembering a dream, or I'm not HERE, and I'm watching myself in another spot, and it feels real.  Sometimes it's hard to distinguish whether something really happened and I'm remembering it, or I'm having a seizure.  Usually I'll get nauseous when this happens, which tells me it's a seizure.  Usually these only last a really short time, like 1-2 minutes, and then I won't even be able to remember exactly how I felt, and it seems like the seizure never happened.  I have started writing these experiences down while they're happening, which is how I'm able to recall them so well.    Sometimes they will be longer, in which case my speech will be kinda messed up, like I'll have issues finishing sentences/finding the right words (my mom can attest to this as I've been on the phone with her when it's happened).  During these longer ones I'll get dizzy/light headed.  Sometimes I'll smell something "weird" that isn't actually there.  I guess that's the "generalization," as these are the feelings I had before my bigger seizures (when I had convulsions and lost consciousness).  Most of the time it stops at the 1-2 minute mark, sometimes it spread, but it has only spread all the way a few times.

So, in reality, it's not that bad, except now I freak out when I feel these sensations because I know it's possible I could have a Tonic-Clonic seizure (tonic means you stiffen up, the clonic phase is the convulsion phase - these used to be known as grand mal seizures), and I DON'T want to have those.  I was able to ignore the partial seizures for a long time.  Well, maybe not IGNORE them, but I thought they were never going to lead to another Tonic-Clonic seizure again (the first time this happened was a couple of years ago). Hence this is why I feel that sometimes the side effects of the medications are worse than the actual condition.  Of course, this may not be entirely true.  The longer untreated epilepsy continues, the worse it gets.   Your brain gets used to misfiring.  Kind of like if several people walk across a specific spot in grass all the time, the grass gets worn away and it turns into a kind of path that gets easier and easier to cross.  It's the same thing with the neurons in the brain.  The more often they misfire, the easier it is for them to continue misfire because the "pathways" are more open.  And where my seizures take place, that affects things like memory and speech.  My memory has turned to crap.  I also have a hard time focusing/listening.  These are relatively new issues for me.  If someone gives me directions, I'll probably forget them as soon as I actually try to go that way.  And somehow I managed to make it through West Point, despite the fact that my memory was getting worse!    Part of the memory stuff is medication side effects and part of that is the fact that this has gone on for awhile.  At LEAST two years, though who knows if I was dealing with it before.  Like I said earlier, I'll usually forget how I felt shortly after, and it's only been since I've started paying attention that I could remember.

Anyway, that was a long explanation, I know.  For most of my readers, it probably isn't all that interesting.  I actually find it really interesting, but then again, that's because I'm dealing with it.  Oh, and I was a psychology major, so I find the brain really interesting, and always have :)  Honestly, I would love to study neuropsychology.   When they sent me to the neuropsychologist for my memory issues (they also suspected mild traumatic brain injury - TBI - since I hit my head pretty hard during my last convulsive seizure) I was asking all sorts of questions.  I told him that I actually wanted to pursue that later in life, so he was educating me.  It was pretty cool :)  I guess I'm lucky that I still have some of my intelligence.  He told me IQ doesn't change, but processing speed can change and slow down.  I guess that's why I learn better with reading than listening.  I also like to write things down as I'm reading.

Blah, I'm rambling.  I'm still a little dizzy, but I'm feeling semi-normal now, so I guess I'll go try to do that run that I was talking about before it gets too hot :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Running Update and Advice Needed!

I'm starting to think it is impossible for me to run without injuries.  But, I love running too much to give it up... It's my drug of choice.  Besides, it's really the only way I can get out - with being unable to drive and whatnot.  I guess if I'm going to do something that may or may not have negative consequences, I'll take running.  Besides, it's not that bad... I usually give it a rest before it gets REALLY bad (unlike back in my marathon team days when I didn't even know what a chronic injury was because I never had one, so I just COMPLETELY ignored it and kept running six days a week).  Anyway, I did a long run on Saturday (did I all ready post about that?) and a recovery run/walk on Sunday that was like 3.1 miles, then I took Monday off.  I decided I was going to run fast'ish on Tuesday.  BAM.  Extra knee pain, despite the fact that I've been good about my physical therapy exercises/stretches and have awesome prescription strength anti inflammatory creams and whatnot (that ARE helping, by the way).  I think I've figured out that running fast is the worst for my knee, and I can't really figure out why... Maybe because I lift my legs higher when I run faster?  I don't know.  But I've noticed my knee always hurts the worst not after long runs, but after races or workouts where I'm running fast (last time it sparked was after a 5K run where I actually set a personal best, ah!)  So maybe I should cut out all speed work?  But it's so hard!  I LIKE running fast sometimes, just like I LIKE racing!  But maybe I should just work on distance ONLY while I train for my marathon.  I may see more improvements in my marathon speed if I can just CONSISTENTLY train and build mileage rather than running speedy sometimes then having to stop again for days at a time.  It's not even muscle soreness stopping me (I rarely get muscle soreness anymore, just IT band pain).  Though I do still need to run a two-mile for the Army Physical Fitness Test, and that DOES require some speed.  Also I'll be running a leg for a "triathlon" we're doing here (it will only be 1.5 miles).

 It's not my shoes, because it doesn't matter what shoes I wear... When I first got this injury, I was wearing bulky shoes.  Now I wear minimal shoes, and I still got this injury.  I have like six pairs of running shoes, actually, and it really makes zero difference in my IT band pain.  I'm fairly light too - under 110 pounds - so my weight has nothing to do with anything either.  Not running at all is just a band aid.  I can stop, and it feels better, but then it springs back up.

 Anyway, what do all of you runners think I should do about this nagging, irritating injury?  Anything I did not yet mention?  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Good and Bad News Updates

Just an update for my followers.  I have some good and bad (well, depending on how you look at it) news.  

I guess I'll cover the good news first.  I got to spend a fantastic weekend with the boyfriend up north in Montreal.  What an awesome city!  It reminded me a lot of Portland with all the coffee shops and whatnot.  And there were people protesting naked outside our hotel.  That reminded me of Portland because Portland hosts an annual Naked Bikeride.  Ah Portland, how I miss thee in all your weird randomness.  

Second good piece of news is I've been back to running again.  I took a week off which helped with some of my issues, though the knee still has tightness.  I got some weird patches (iontophoresis) with a corticosteroid for my knee to act as an anti inflammatory.  The patches basically push the medication into my skin in a way similar to an injection, except there's no needle, so no tissue damage.  Plus I can do it on my own at home a few times a week.  They seem to be helping along with the break I took, which is also helping with my performance (I feel a lot better than I did).  Went for a nice seven mile trail run in Montreal on Mont Royale, which ALSO reminded me a lot of Portland.  It was a lot like Forest Park for those of you familiar with the area.  I just realized recently that the half marathon I signed up for prior to my full is in less than three weeks.  I didn't realize it was so soon!  That means I need to try to get a longer run in prior to the race!  I have decided, however, that if my knee is giving me trouble then I will forego the half marathon... Right now the goal is the marathon, and I need to keep myself as injury-free as possible for that.  And races are always what do me in injury-wise.  I'd rather get more hurt running the marathon that I'm raising money for rather than get hurt in an intermediate race, ya know :)  Actually I'd rather not get hurt at all, but beggars can't be choosers (I don't know if that really applies here, but who knows).  

Now for the bad news.  I may be getting medically boarded for my epilepsy, since I have an actual diagnosis rather than random seizures... Now, they may decide that I can stay in, but it's a matter of a few things.  First they need to look at how well my seizures are controlled, would I be in danger if I was stuck somewhere in combat and didn't have access to medication, and if the Army really needs me or not.  My job isn't particularly dangerous, but I guess I could still get caught in a dangerous situation.  Fortunately I may get to transfer closer to home in the Northwest while they go through this whole process, which would be awesome because the process is nine months to a year.   I am pretty alone up here, and frankly it kind of sucks.  The few people I do know who I can hangout with actually have work and whatnot, and I don't like having to ask for rides constantly, as I still cannot drive.  At least where I might be going I would be close to family, and there is public transportation.  I wouldn't be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no support system.  I have the internet, but it isn't quite the same as having people nearby.  If I do move, I'll probably need to fly here for the marathon, which is a bit of a bummer, but I wouldn't be the first person to fly for a marathon :)  

Speaking of the marathon  - I'm sure everyone is getting tired of hearing about it, but I really need some more sponsors!  I'm up to 35% of my goal (350 dollars), and I need $1,000.  If you can get the word out to others or sponsor with just a little bit, I'd really appreciate it!  I still have a few months to go, so I'm not TOO worried just yet, but I'd like to get some more sponsors :)  If you can/are willing to help sponsor me, the link is here:

Alas, today is my off-day and I'm not sure what to do with myself, so I think I may read a book.  Everyone have a wonderful day!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Insomniac Thoughts: First marathon, Sleep, and Other Random Ramblings.

I have no real purpose behind this entry.... Other than it's 5:30 in the morning and I've been up for two hours and I can't think of anything else to do right now!  Might as well post an update.   Don't mind my rambling as I only got about three hours of sleep last night (this morning? I don't think I fell asleep til after midnight anyway...) :)

First thing to mention is my running, as it is what is most upsetting to me at the moment.

First, before I go into injury detail, if all else fails, this next marathon will not be my first, and I started training early, so I have no doubts I can finish it.  And it's for charity, so dang it, I'm going to finish it!   Plus, what circumstances can be worse than my last marathon?  I mean, I was deployed in Afghanistan, was injured to the point of no running for two weeks prior to the race (I was hurting worse at the start of that race than I am now and the marathon isn't until November), it started at three a.m. and I had woken up at nine p.m. after trying to sleep at five p.m., so I was going on just four hours of sleep... My pre-race meal was SPICY RAMEN NOODLES for breakfast at like midnight (mmm, Shin cups that I ordered on!)  And then I had to stretch every half a mile for the last six miles because my IT Band was hurting.  Oh, and let's not forget that I was carrying my ballistic eye protection with me just in case we had any type of indirect fire during the race (it started in the dark, so I didn't want to wear my sunglasses until the sun came up).  There was also a plan to in place where the clock would stop until we got the all clear if we did get indirect fire... Some people think doing a marathon while deployed is pretty stupid. Yeah, maybe it was, but I think it was actually pretty hardcore - especially for a first marathon!

Now to get into the fun details (you can skip this if you don't feel like reading about my ever-present injuries).  I am currently taking a short hiatus.  By short I mean around a week... Maybe less, depending on how things are feeling. Maybe more if things aren't improving much. My last run was Thursday, and my last bike ride was on Friday.  I can deal with one injury, even two, but when three areas are feeling weird, I think it's time to give myself a recovery period.  I have my left knee, my right foot and now my left hip (though I think the hip/knee are related as the knee pain is all IT band related, and the hip pain seems to be in a similar area).  I figure I should be okay and not lose much fitness that I can't regain quickly if I give myself a break now instead of waiting until it gets REALLY bad.  Last year and the beginning of this year I had a couple of forced breaks and they didn't hurt my fitness at all.  Wisdom teeth removed last year, and then after two weeks off I was able to go do 14 miles the first weekend back and then a very hilly half marathon a week later without any issues.  I also had a crown lengthening surgery earlier this year (or was it late last year - dang my time is all messed up!) and I was up and running again quickly.  Actually, I felt better after both breaks, so I am trying very hard to be optimistic.  I also realized that I was able to maintain a relatively uninjured state during these periods where I had forced breaks... Maybe it's not such a bad idea to take a week or so just completely OFF in the midst of training?  You really don't lose fitness in a week.  The problem is when you have to decrease miles for a long period of time due to injury and THEN end up taking a bunch of time off because you get fed up (this seemed to be where I was heading after last week of very little running and very little improvement, hence why I'm resting now).  Of course it's tricky because sometimes too much rest tends to make things worse... *sigh*  Maybe this is why I am not sleeping well.  Not enough exercise!  Actually, this isn't true, as I wasn't sleeping well before either.

So this brings me to my next topic of sleep.  Ah, sleep.  Ever so elusive, unless it's the middle of the day.  This is quite frustrating for me because prior to everything that has happened in the past few months, I was a morning person (pending coffee, of course).  I PREFER to spend my waking hours in the day light, where I am being productive, and running, and riding my bike, and of course drinking coffee (though I've cut way back on that).  Unfortunately, my body has said "no!"  I can't figure it out.  I am only thinking it may be my medications... What I really want to do is just flush all of them down the toilet and feel normal again.  One causes bad moods/depression, so I get pills for that, and another causes insomnia, so I get another for sleep, which causes dry mouth and headaches, so I get another for headaches... It's like an endless cycle.  I'll admit, I'm not taking all of them all the time... It's too much.  I'm taking the ones I NEED (the ones that will stop my seizures), but not so much the ones I don't need.  I haven't much wanted to take the one I got for sleep as it doesn't seem to be working that great anyways until after midnight, and then I just want to sleep all day the next day.  And the vicious cycle continues!  I know this is very normal for some people, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am not the type to sleep all day!  I am usually in bed by ten, haha.  I'm the type who will be awake by seven on weekends... Yeah, no longer.  Last night I decided to forego the sleep meds because I didn't want to sleep all day today, and I felt sleepy... could not fall asleep and woke up several times.  I finally looked at my phone at four a.m. (I had been awake awhile at this point), said I would give myself til five to try to fall back asleep for another hour or so, and that failed.  So here I am!

 I really need to get on a regular schedule again and have a job position.  I think that will help.  I can't wait to start my Master's program... I need a sense of purpose.  I've actually been reading the Feminine Mystique (yay for feminist books!)  I'll save my deep insights on that for another post because I could go on forever, but to say the least I've gotten from it that without a real sense of purpose, life just kind of sucks (in laymen's terminology).  I also have an interview with the DCA (I don't know what that stands for, but I'm guessing something like Director of Clinical Administration???) today to start interning at the clinic on post, seeing as my Masters will be in Health Administration.  This is assuming I get A's in my first two courses.  Yeah, I discovered that despite my acceptance into the program, it was conditional, I have to get A's on my first two classes.  I guess it makes sense as the minimum GPA was a 3.0 and I didn't have a 3.0... I was closer to a 2.9.  And I really have no health care experience (another thing they were looking at) besides some time as the assistant S-1 as cadre for cadet basic training, and some administrative experience in the military... I am a little nervous.    Though I don't really doubt I can get A's.  Before West Point, A's were pretty easy for me in the other college classes I was taking.  Heck, even AT West Point when I wasn't taking 20 something credit hours, I did decent (Dean's list last two semesters, woohoo!)  I am only concerned with my ever-worsening memory.  Fortunately the program is more centered on projects and papers.  I am good at those.  Mostly because they don't require me to memorize terms.  And at the moment, what else do I have to focus on?  It will give me something to do besides research everything on the internet and write long blog posts that were supposed to be short...

Alas, it's now 6:25 a.m., and I am sitting here in my ACU pants and boots (Army Combat Uniform, for those of you unfamiliar with Army terminology), my shirt, and a Mickey Mouse bathrobe with coffee.  It's cold in here... I guess it's time for breakfast.  Hope everyone has a wonderful day.