Saturday, July 28, 2012

Master's Program and Running

I guess I have a couple of things to update my readers on today (though if you follow my Facebook you probably all ready know about these - if not, then some new news!)

First I guess I'll post on the education stand point.  I got accepted into the Master's in Health Administration program I was applying to!  I didn't THINK it would be an issue, but despite WHERE I went to school, my GPA wasn't stellar (in the middle of the class).  If I'd applied to a master's program at Harvard I doubt I would've gotten in, but this school has a pretty decent reputation around here and I've heard good things about it from other students (interns who I've worked with since I've been back stateside, actually).  And the class sizes are small, and so far my experiences with them has been good in helping me through the admissions process.  They've also shown up on a few top online school listings, though I'll get the same degree as someone who goes to face-to-face classes AND it's close enough that I'll once I can drive again (three more months... *sigh*), I'll be able to head down to the library on weekends if I need to do research and whatnot.  All in all, I'm really excited to start the program.  I'll be doing as close to full time as I can while I can.  Since I'm not exactly doing a real JOB right now, I have the time, and I'm going to take advantage of it to the best of my ability.  I'm also putting in for an internship at the clinic here on post so I can actually get some experience in the health care field.  It's too bad the military doesn't let you CHOOSE what field you want to go into as an officer, unless you're top of your class.  I did decent considering everything, but I wasn't in the top 10-20%, which is where medical service went out at (West Point's branch picking is all based on your class rank.  Top of the class gets top pick, and then from there it's basically whatever is left).  Of course, Finance isn't exactly a bad branch either, and I liked my job while I was deployed...   It's just not what I want to do for the rest of my life.  Anyway, to say the least, I am excited!  With the possibility of me having to get out of the military at some point sooner than I thought, I have to start actually thinking ahead as to what I want to do once I'm out.

Next up on the list of things to discuss is running!  Hooray!  I really do think I get way more excited over running than people who are significantly faster than I am... I know so many people who are actually fast who just don't even like running that much, it's just what they've always done, so they keep doing it.  I guess I'm decent considering I didn't run in high school and only ran a short time in college (yah for IT Band syndrome - stupid injury)... I usually place somewhere in the top three for my age group in smaller races, and even in bigger ones I do well for my age group, though I have yet to get top three overall for women :)  I think I need to stop being injured all the time so I can actually train enough to get faster.  Anyway, beyond that... I've been getting into much better shape again!  And I get really excited once I start getting in shape again!  (Hence all the exclamation points).  This evening's run was just under nine miles as this week is supposed to be a step back week, which basically just means I'm not doing a longer run and am sorta letting my body recover from the last couple of weeks of building up, though my runs have gotten faster this week, so I'm not sure if I'm "recovering" as much as doing different types of workouts (faster rather than longer).

I felt overall pretty good on today's run.  My average heart rate has been dropping for similar speeds and distances, so that is a plus.  The average for today was 159 according to my Garmin (I think it was a little faster than that, but who knows).  I was able to run the close-to-nine miles pretty easily, whereas a few weeks ago when I started building miles again, it was a struggle.  It also helped that it was cooler I guess.  Unfortunately, my right foot started giving me trouble toward the end, so I had to slow it down and walk a little more than planned in my last mile or so... I'm currently icing the area like crazy and wearing my compression socks to let them recover... Of course, I've had this injury before, and I was able to run through it without causing too many issues.  I also took along my brand new Nathan Intensity hydration vest (women's specific model).  I actually liked it quite a bit.  Once I got it all adjusted to fit me properly, it was great.  I like the pockets in the front, though I kind of wished it had a strap beyond just the waist strap, but it was designed for a shorter torso so it worked out pretty well.  Once I got it fit right, it didn't bounce around, which is a huge plus, as hydration vests/packs tend to cause a lot of issues with chafing if worn for a long period of time.  So for any of my girlfriends reading this who are looking for a good hydration pack, the Nathan Intensity is nice!  Tomorrow I think I may go for a decent-length bike ride, pending how my body is feeling (as much as cycling is okay for my feet, my IT Band doesn't like it much, so I have to be careful with it).

Alas, I should probably clean up and make some dinner :)  Good night and happy Olympics-watching too all my readers.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting back to marathon shape! And other random running thoughts

As I'm getting back into running regularly again in the marathon train-up, I felt the urge to share some random thoughts...

Yesterday I ran a little over twelve miles for the first time since the marathon I ran in April.  Training back up again has been a rough road.  And I certainly don't like the stage of getting back into shape after I've been out of shape.  It's slightly depressing to have twelve miles as my longest run and actually be SORE when a few months ago, twelve miles might have been a part of a step-back week.  And those twelve miles weren't particularly fast either!  Part of that was because of the type of terrain I was on.  This one was mostly trail, and the trails weren't graceful dirt paths either, they were bumpy, muddy type trails.  Perhaps that's why my legs felt it more :)  However, I WILL say that this was the first longer run where I felt good.  My legs were getting tired at the end, but it wasn't my breathing, or injury that was hard on this one.  It was normal muscle pain that people get when they run for long periods of time.

That's another difficult thing... getting back into the distance-running mindset withOUT getting hurt again.  It seems to be one extreme or the other.  Either I am too careful and make no gains because I'm afraid every little ache/pain is an oncoming injury, or I just ignore the pain until I can no longer ignore it.  I am actually still dealing with some remnants of my ITBS (Illiotibial Band Syndrome... i.e., pain the a** injury that affects the outside of my knee... it's the first real injury I'd had back my freshman year at West Point, and it's come and gone several times since then), and some tendinitis in my right foot.  The ITBS comes and goes as it pleases, and as I learned while I was at West Point, even taking months off doesn't seem to make it better, so I've learned to deal with it, and it's actually getting better.  I've been good about doing my physical therapy exercises (I wasn't so good about it the first time I got this injury because I didn't understand all of the biomechanical stuff that went along with that injury), and I take time off if it seems to be getting worse.  More than a couple of days doesn't seem to help much though...  I also got some Pennsaid from my doctor - it's a topical anti-inflammatory that is usually prescribed for Osteoarthritis of the knee, but can be used for other things too!  It seems to be working well.  Anyway, I digress.  Getting back into the distance mindset... I've found it really hard for me to want to keep going when I start getting tired.  Part of it IS me being cautious and trying to just build a base back up again (which should be mostly easy miles) and part of it is being unaccustomed to the pain that does come with distance running.  No matter how fit you are, when you push your body, it's going to hurt.  It's a good kind of hurt if it's just your muscles and maybe your breathing if your cardio system isn't in great shape yet (that's where walking a little comes in if you're really out of shape!)  Fortunately, I've been through all of this before and know that it does get better.  I like wearing my heart rate monitor and seeing how my average heart rate is dropping during my runs.  It's always a little high, but it's getting lower on my regular runs - hooray for progress! :)

This next week is going to be a step-back week for me, unless I feel really amazing next weekend, I don't plan on doing a long run.  I only did 27 miles this week (so far... I may go for a walk or bike ride later), but that's more than I've done since I did my marathon.  My cardio system is starting to respond better again, and I don't feel so out of breath anymore.  My runs are getting enjoyable again, so it's hard for me to "step back."  BUT, I have to keep reminding myself that it's always around the times I feel best that I get hurt because I tend to want to keep going.  And I DID feel some foot/knee pain yesterday.  It all went away when I was done, but it was definitely there more than some of the other days, which tells me that this next week should be a recovery week to let my muscles recover before I start building up again :)  If I wasn't so injury-prone I'd probably do more, but I'd rather be able to comfortably run this next marathon (as comfortable as a marathon is, anyways) than have to stop every half a mile to stretch out my IT Band.  I'd also like to be able to run the marathon in decent shape, not after having to stop for weeks at a time because I'm hurt.  I think I'll probably go into this one in better shape if I don't push too hard and can train consistently as opposed to pushing too hard and having to take a bunch of time off (I had to stop running for 2-3 weeks at a time twice in my last training cycle and only got in one 20 miler because of it).

Another random thought: running shoes!  I was thinking about how I used to sprain my ankles a LOT and I don't anymore.  Very very rarely do I hurt my ankles, even with trail running.  There are times that I will twist them, yes.  I did yesterday, and had to walk for a short period of time, but it wasn't a sprain, just some mild discomfort that went away.  That's normal on trails.  I think it has to do with the lower shoes that I wear now.  I realized that my shoes make a difference when I ran in more "traditional" higher-off-the-ground shoes a year or so ago and almost immediately hurt my ankle.  I tend to supinate (opposite of over-pronate), though it's funny because for years I wore shoes for over-pronation and was always hurting my ankles.  This, of course, was when someone would look at your arch height and say what type of shoes you need  based on your arch.  Of course I sprained my ankles on a regular basis - I had something on the inside of my ankles pushing my ankle out more than I all ready was naturally.  Even with completely neutral/no support shoes, all the wear on my shoes is on the outside portion near my forefoot (yay, no heel striking!)  Of course, over-supination isn't good either... I'm sure it has something to do with my constant knee issues, and that's where the physical therapy comes in to strengthen those weak muscles that aren't doing a good job controlling what my legs are doing.  I've also been working a lot on getting my "pose" technique down.  I've found I'm good at it for short distances, but once I move to longer distances, my form gets really sloppy.  I like the technique though, because it emphasizes a very quick turnover rate, and the quicker my legs turnover, the less time I spend on the ground, and the less things hurt.  That's how I overcame my tendinitis last year when I got the injury in my right foot... I focused a lot on keeping my feet off the ground, and it worked pretty well.  I do it now, too.  When I feel my tendinitis acting up, I focus on getting my feet off the ground quickly, and the pain goes away pretty quick.  It also helps with my IT band pain.  Though the ITBS is more related to motion than it is to impact (hence why I need to be careful with what types of cross training I do when I'm having an ITBS flare-up).

Anyways, another rambling post from the mind of me :)  I should probably do something productive now....


Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Today I got to visit a neuropsychologist!  Incidentally, that is what I am interested in pursuing whenever I figure out what is going on in my life in the next few years.  Initially I was applying to the USUHS graduate school program for a Ph.D. in either Clinical or Medical Psychology.  As that requires serving in the military, I don't think that is going to happen (at least not right now).  However, assuming I get into this Master's in Health Administration degree program, hopefully that will be a good stepping stone (according to the psychologist, he thinks it will be).  The neuropsychologist was actually enlisted Army, then became a naval officer, and now has a successful private practice, so even if I have to wait for awhile, I still stand a chance!  He started pursuing his Ph.D. at fourty, and I'm a bit younger than that, so we will see what happens.   

Anyway, I went because of issues with memory and whatnot.  I also brought up the fact I get lost sometimes and randomly have issues figuring out where I am/what I should be doing at things like intersections (haha, bring up the lost LT jokes now!)   We did some tests for cognitive functioning, and I'll know more after the official write up (which I will get on Monday), but currently I know that he confirmed a few things:  1) I have terrible visual/spatial orientation, 2) I also have terrible verbal memory, and 3) I apparently make up words, and there is a term for it called neo-something-or-the-other,  which is very likely a function of the left temporal lobe epilepsy that the neurologist suspects (we're still trying to figure out WHERE exactly in my brain the seizures are starting, but based on what I told the neurologist, and based on what just happened at the neuropsych's office, it seems pretty likely).  The neuropsychologist explained that people who generally make up words the way I did (I wasn't even aware that I did it enough for others to notice!) have some type of misfirings happening somewhere around the left temporal lobe.  Also my awful verbal recall.  He read me a short sentence that I had to repeat back... Yeah... about that.   I guess that would explain why I was awful at learning vocabulary in Russian, and memorizing terms and dates and whatnot for tests.  Oddly enough, I did a great job with remembering shapes that I saw on a piece of paper (visual memory is good... verbal memory is bad.  AKA, I can read and write, but I really suck at listening/remembering what I hear.)   Anyway, I find it all quite interesting, hence the reason I would love to get into something along these lines in the future.  Maybe long term future until I know what is going to happen in the next few years, but still the future.  Since the neuropsych knew I wanted to get into that field, he was educating me in the process.  Awesome!  He also said he'd make the write-up educational as well and told me I could ask any questions.  Maybe I can do my health administrative internship over there... That'd be pretty sweet.  Too bad I'd need to drive to get over there and that is still a no-go in my world :(  

Some of you may have been really bored by that write up, but again, this is really interesting to me, so actually getting to sit down and talk to him was interesting.  Plus, it's easier to learn stuff when you're experiencing it yourself.  Somehow, things are much more interesting when they pertain to ourselves I think :)  

On another note... My running is getting better again.  I still have a hard time breathing at the beginning of my runs, and don't feel amazing, but I'm getting it back.  Slowly but surely.  I'm trying really hard not to over-do it, as I am still struggling a bit with my IT band syndrome and my tendinitis in my right foot.  I've been able to resume the use of my Flector patches (voltaren gel in a patch form) because my skin is no longer as itchy and irritable.  At least, for the time being.  They help a LOT, but I'm afraid I'm not able to leave them on long enough for them to have a big effect because my skin goes into irritated, angry, inflamed mode.  I'm also nervous to start another seizure med (the one the neurologist spoke of) because of the rashes you can get.  I all ready have sensitive skin, so I'm not particularly excited.  Oh well, I'll figure it all out in time I guess.  It's better than being in a total brain fog.  

Alas, I suppose I will do something productive with my time now... 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Update on Life and Prayers Please! Family, epilepsy, etc.

I suppose I have not written in some time, and there may be people who I don't talk to on a regular basis who might be curious as to what is going on (or maybe you're just bored and thought you would check out my blog - that works for me too).  Warning: the post might be somewhat depressing at points, but I'll try to add in some light topics too :)

First, something really important to me.  Please keep my mom in your prayers.  She has been dealing with lung problems for quite some time.  She used to smoke, though smoking isn't what caused these issues - just exasperated them (remember they didn't know as much about how terrible smoking was back thirty years ago like they do now).  She has been quit for quite some time, but there were other underlying issues that she didn't know about until later.  She has something called pseudomonas, and it's a type of bacteria that has infected her lungs.  She gets sick with pneumonia frequently and has been in the hospital countless times to receive intensive care to bring her infections under control.  When I was home a couple of weeks ago she could hardly walk for longer than 5 minutes without having to stop because she was out of breath.  She was scared she would have to be admitted again, and she did go to the doctor, and she was admitted, and was taking vacation time for a week to get better.  It didn't get better the way it should have, so she went back to the hospital shortly after, and they admitted her again.  Now they said she needs to get a lung transplant because it's progressing quickly, and they need to do it before her condition gets worse.  The average life expectancy after a lung transplant is five years, though that's only AVERAGE - there ARE plenty of people who live much longer than that.  She is still fairly young - only 50, and once the lung issue is taken care of, she will be much better off.  PLEASE keep her in your prayers that a) she can get a transplant/funding for the transplant quickly (these things aren't cheap), and b) that her body takes the transplant well.

Second, I am training for marathon number two!  The Philadelphia marathon in November.  I am doing it for charity - the Epilepsy Therapy Project.  I've been posting all over Facebook about this, but I think most people tend to ignore those types of posts (plus I'm aware it's still a decent time away), SO, if you want to donate - even just a little - my goal is 1,000 dollars.  I'm partially there (about 15%), but not as far as I'd like to be!  If I had known about the transplant before I committed to running for this charity, I probably would have chosen to run for that.  But, I didn't know until a couple of days ago, and have all ready committed to this :)  Don't be surprised to see me posting about that as well though...  IF you would like to donate, please click on the link below:

So why would you want to donate to this cause?  And why would I choose to do this?  Well, epilepsy awareness for one thing.  I have learned SO much that I didn't know about prior to my diagnosis and doing research.  Most people think epilepsy is some type of weird disease where people randomly collapse and start shaking.  But there's much more to it than that.  Did you know that there is something called SUDEP - Sudden Death in Epilepsy.  Yeah, neither did I, and it scared me enough to make sure I take my medications, regardless of the side effects (which suck).  Nobody even told me about it after my first seizure because they thought it was induced by pills.  I was just kind of blown off.  That's why it's important for people to have epilepsy under control.  If you want to learn more about it the link below is actually from the organization I'm doing the marathon for:

It's also a progressive condition, something else I didn't know.  It explains why when I had my very first seizure a couple of years ago I hardly ever had auras (weird feelings/sensations/etc.) that I had prior to my first Tonic-Clonic seizure, and then in the past year or so they've gotten more and more frequent.  Auras are actually partial seizures (meaning, they only take place in one part of the brain), and those partial seizures affect things like memory/speech/etc.  So for those of you whose names I can't remember, well, now I have an excuse :)   I have mostly partial seizures that sometimes generalize (affect the entire brain).  Generalized seizures are what most people think of when they think of seizures.  You lose consciousness, might fall to the ground, get stiff, shake, etc. etc.  For more information on the TYPES of seizures, click here:

That website is a GREAT resource for anyone who has family members dealing with epilepsy, or people who are just curious.  Now, here's what these charity organizations help to do.  They help fund research into epilepsy to develop different types of treatment and raise awareness.  Let me tell you, the side effects suck.  I'm only on one medication right now called Keppra.  It's sometimes used in the treatment of bipolar disorder as well, which is kind of interesting because it can have the opposite affect on mood control on quite a few people.  Keppra is good in a few ways: it doesn't put you in the same type of brain fog that some of the others do, and if you're a woman who wants to get pregnant, it's one of the better ones that won't really affect the baby.  However, the moods.  Oh, the moods.  Some of you who are my Facebook friends will remember that when all this happened I was posting some depressing statuses on Facebook.  Part of it was situational.  Part of it was because of the medication.  Keppra can make someone cry at the drop of a hat, or might make someone get angry quickly.

 Fortunately, I've sort of adjusted to the medication, so it isn't so bad anymore.  But now they want to put me on another one because my partial seizures aren't completely under control.  No, I haven't lost consciousness and started shaking on the ground anytime since April, but I still get those auras I was talking about.  As my neurologist explained, once we get rid of the partial seizures, they won't have a chance to generalize.  I don't mind the partial seizures.  They actually feel kind of cool sometimes (like being in a dream), but knowing that they can lead to other problems, I need them to be under control.  While I don't mind the partial seizures, I really don't like not being able to drive for six months.  This other medication they want to put me on has other side effects (though more mild than some of the others).  Rashes, for one... Sometimes these rashes can be fatal. That freaks me out.  There are other medications that cause huge amounts of weight gain (Depakote), and cause issues with thinking.  An example of that is Topomax, which some people call "dopemax" because people feel like they're on dope.  That one makes people lose a ton of weight and all they want to do is sleep.  If you meet someone with epilepsy who seems like they aren't that smart, a lot of it probably has to do with the medication that they are taking.  Just keep that in mind!

The good news is that sometimes these medications can reverse the damage that epilepsy does to the brain.  Without the research they've done, people wouldn't know this.  Hell, I wish my first doctors would have done this research and kept me on medication for longer than two months, because I don't think I'd be having these issues now if they had (keep in mind, medication controls seizures, so it helps prevent the condition from progressing - at least most of the time).  My current neurologist really didn't understand why they took me off in the first place - his words were "I really don't understand what their thought process was."  And the one who I saw in Virginia told me those pills wouldn't have caused seizures unless there was an underlying problem.

Anyways, if you have read this far - congratulations :)  I wouldn't have expected you to do that unless you're interested in this topic.

Beyond the topic of the health implications of epilepsy... Right now, I've just been dealing with tests/etc. I have an MRI for next week to look at my brain (sometimes epilepsy can be caused by things like tumors), and lots of other fun stuff :)  I'm also applying to graduate school.  I feel as if my dreams to pursue my Ph.D. in psychology are going to be kept on hold, BUT, I'm still applying for my Master's in Health Administration at a local college (Utica College - an off-shoot of Syracuse University).  I'll be doing online courses, but I'm close enough that if I wanted to head down there and use the library, I could do that.  Of course, I need to be able to drive to do that, but HOPEFULLY by the end of October I will be able to drive again.  I THOUGHT I'd be able to drive by the end of THIS month, because Oregon state law (where I have my driver's license) is three months, but my neurologist said because New York law is six months, I have to wait.  So disappointing.  Oh well.  The positive to my current situation is that I'm not really working.  That actually sucks, but I'll be able to do full-time school work for at least a couple more months while I sit in waiting.  I'll also be able to do internships.  If I want to get into the health care field, I can walk across the street to the clinic and help out over there (according to one of the civilians here helping with transitioning soldiers).  I want to volunteer as well, but again, transportation might be an issue there, unless I can find someone else who wants to volunteer with me :)

So, this is life for me right now.  I know that was a long entry - lots going on right now!  Now  I need to do my long run for the week if I'm going to get back into marathon shape ;)  It will only be ten miles, but it's been since April at my first marathon since I've run that far!