February 27, 2013

Healed at Last

It's been a while since I've blogged, and even longer since I've updated about my daughter. I have no excuse except that I've been busy....and when I've had free time I haven't been in the mood to sit down and write.  Last week the kids were on vacation all week; this week I'm trying to catch up on any training I missed.  I'm also in the throes of helping to plan my school's foundation's annual silent auction/gala, which is what I'm doing most of the time when I'm on the computer.

My daughter, A, is doing great!  She broke her neck in mid-October; you can read all about that here.  I am happy to say that after only 4 1/2 months, she is healed!  She had on one of those awful halos for 2 months. That was the worst; in addition to having the halo literally screwed into her head in 6 different places, it was attached to a vest that could never be removed. We had to have special clothing adapted to fit over it, and couldn't give her a bath (she had sponge baths during this time).  In mid-December, she graduated to a hard neck collar.  Getting the halo off was awful---very bloody and painful for her--but well worth it.  I was able to give her a bath for the first time in months---words can't express the joy I felt in pouring water all over her.  She was able to wear regular clothes again. She had that one for a month, and then transitioned to a soft neck collar. This soft collar just came off on Monday, two days ago.

The orthopedic surgeon is thrilled with her. She has healed beautifully, and while she has lost some range of motion due to the fusion he did, she is still able to turn her neck and nod her head.  New bone is growing, and he expects lots more to grow.  She is still limited on some activities---for example, he doesn't want her falling from a height, with velocity, so she can't go on playground equipment, etc.  And things like roller coasters may always be off limits, which is a huge bummer because she is a roller coaster maniac, like me and her brother (with roller coasters, he's not concerned about the fusion breaking, but more about putting unneeded pressure on other parts of her spine).  It's all good though. I know what a gift we were given.  Where the break was in her neck (C1/C2) is where people become quadripalegic.  Her spinal cord was never touched. I am eternally grateful, and know she has angels looking after her.

Something that I don't think I've written about are the GI issues A has been having.  This started back last spring, probably around April or May. Suddenly she started having very loose stools, and was unable to control them, resulting in lots of accidents soiling her pants. At first I got mad at her (she'd been potty trained for a year at that point) but then I realized she couldn't help it.  I tried different diet modifications (completely dairy-free; cutting out grease/oil) but still no effect. My step-mother recommended a pro-biotic drink/yogurt, but that didn't help.  We ended up seeing a GI doctor last summer, and after lots of blood and stool sample tests, she determined that she couldn't see a cause for the loose stools.  She DID see a slight infection, and thought that an anti-biotic would clear it up, but after a round of medications A still had the same loose stools.  The new plan was to put her on Immodium to bind her up (which worked) and to schedule her for an endoscopy/colonoscopy to see what was going on in her stomach and intestines.

The procedure was scheduled for November, which I dreaded, but then we had to cancel it because of the broken neck.  In the meantime, I had questions about scheduling, etc and tried to contact the GI doctor, but never heard back from her.  I got really frustrated with not only her, but her office staff (schedulers and nurses) who I found lying to me in subsequent emails....I felt that A's care was slipping through the cracks. So I requested a different doctor, and was able to get a referral to see the same GI doctor who we used to see.  This particular doctor was the one who scoped A 3 separate times, and was the one who eventually removed her feeding tube in 2010. I tried to see her last summer, in fact, but at that time she wasn't taking new patients. I lucked out in getting to see her now. (For the record, this is the 4th or 5th doctor that we've "fired" and gotten a new one. I am not a difficult patient, but I am A's best advocate, and I won't tolerate sub-par health care, especially when we live in a city with some of the the best doctors and children's hospital available).

In the meantime, a few weeks ago A had a bad cold, and I ended up taking her to the pediatrician to get checked out because I wanted to make sure her lungs were clear.  We saw the nurse practitioner, and briefly talked about the GI issues that were going on (it came up because when she asked what medications A was taking, I had to respond with "Immodium".)  She asked if we had tried probiotics before.  I replied that we had tried probiotic drinks the previous summer, but they didn't help. She recommended an actual probiotic powder. I decided to try it, thinking it couldn't hurt.  I started her on it last week (I waited until last week because she was off of school for the week; in order to know if the probiotic worked I needed to take her off the Immodium, and I wanted to have her home in case the loose stools happened again. What a nightmare that would be for the school staff).

Well, it's now been 10 days, and she's been fine. 10 days of the probiotic (I just put a teaspoon of the powder on her waffle or in her oatmeal every morning) and 10 days of no Immodium. And 10 days of no accidents, just nice solid poops every days.


This morning was the GI appointment with her old doctor. She hadn't seen A in 2 1/2 years, since she removed the g-tube, and it was great to see her.  I explained all that happened (she had already read the chart and was up-to-speed) and she agreed with me that there is no reason to scope her right now, as long as things seem good!  A main reason for scoping would be to rule out celiac disease, but since she's already scoped her 3 times,  plus the blood tests were negative, she knew she didn't have celiac. She said sometimes our gut environment just changes.  So, the new plan is to keep her on the probiotic, and if she ends up with the loose stools again to put her back on the Immodium, email the GI doctor and we'll make a plan from there.

So, lots of good updates!  A healed neck and hopefully (and I really hope I'm not jinxing us by writing about this) a healed stomach.  Additionally, she's going great in kindergarten, is reading beautifully, has made friends at school, and remains a delight and the light of my life.

February 14, 2013

Puppy Love 5k Race Recap

Last weekend I ran yet another race, this time the Puppy Love 5k.  This was my 6th race of 2013 (yes, only 6 weeks in). I have never raced so much in my life in such a short period of time. Frankly, and I can't believe I'm writing this, I'm sick of racing! I'm sick of pinning on the bib, going to packet pickup and getting up early. While I never get tired of running or the running community, for me 6 races in 6 weeks has been too much.  In my defense, I wasn't supposed to run this race.  My best friend signed up to do this with his boyfriend, D  (my BFF ran his first-ever 5k with me in December, and this was supposed to be his boyfriend's first 5k). I was going to go and cheer them on at the finish line.  However, my BFF ended up having surgery scheduled just a few days before the race, and obviously couldn't run. He asked me to run in his place, and keep his boyfriend company on the run.  How could I say no to that?  We got the bib transferred to my name and everything was settled.

This race benefited the local animal shelter, the Helen Woodward Animal Center.  People had the option of running with their dogs, or even walking the race with their dog. I considered bringing my dog, Padfoot, but decided that would be too much, especially with D running his first race.  There was some good swag in the goody bag at packet pickup, including a knit ski cap from Iams and a frisbee.  All dog oriented!

The morning of the race I got to the race site early, as usual. The start line (and race course) was in Solana Beach, right along the water. After I parked I found my friend, Angi, sitting in her car with her mother (and precious dog, Itzy). They always dress up for races, and were dressed like a cheetah and a zebra (with the dog dressed as a safari guide!)  I sat in their car for a while, chatting and trying to stay warm. It was a cold morning, though I ended up shedding my long-sleeved shirt I had under my t-shirt and leaving it in Angi's car. Even though I was then just wearing a t-shirt, running shorts and a sparkle skirt, I knew once I got running I would warm up fast. I added in my puppy paw print knee-high socks that I wore during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. It was great to get another use out of them!

There were SO many people with dogs there!  I couldn't believe it!  Dogs of every size, shape and breed.  Once the race started, it was fun to see people running with their dogs.  The course was gorgeous, largely along the ocean. It was kind of a T-shaped course---we had to do the "right" loop of the T twice, and the "left" loop of the T once.  However, the course was long. VERY long. My Garmin measured 3.79 miles---about 0.7 miles more than the advertised 5k (which should have been 3.1 miles). Having a race course over half a mile too long is unacceptable to me.  Besides the fact that some people may not have been ready to run that distance, there is the timing issue. Runners had the option of having their runs timed or not (you had to pay extra for the timing chip; ours were timed). For timed runners, the time would reflect a 3.8 mile run, not a 3.1 mile run, which skews their personal race results.  However, for me, it was fine--I had to run 6 miles that day, and planned to run more after the 5k, so this just cut down on what I had to run on my own. But I felt bad for my friend, D, who had trained for a 5k. He rocked it though, and did great! I was so proud of him, and honored to be part of his first race experience.

(After the race, I contacted the race director and told her how long the course was.  She immediately apologized, and wrote that they are trying to figure out what happened. They think maybe the traffic controllers might have moved the cones, and assured me that next year will be a true 5k. I really appreciated this, and this sold me to look into the race for next year. Great customer service!)

from the Puppy Love Facebook page. Source. Look at all those dogs running around me!

I can't write enough about how fun the run was---besides the gorgeous view of the ocean, it was so fun to run with all the dogs!  There were even doggy bowls filled with water at the water stations, so the puppies were able to drink too.  They thought of everything!

After the race, we check out the booths---there was a decent sized expo there, most of which were dog related. I got lots of samples of dog food for Padfoot, a free personalized shirt from Naked Juice, and some food for me.  I said goodbye to D, then ran another 2.32 miles, making my run 6 miles for the day.

I truly had a lot of fun, and after the promise that next year will be a true 5k, I think I'll do it again. It benefited a great cause. Next year, though, I will bring Padfoot; I think he would really enjoy the race!

February 7, 2013

Xterra Mission Gorge 15k Race Recap

As I wrote in a previous post, my athletic goal this year is to do things that scare me. Ever since I completed my first half-Ironman in September, I've come to realize I'm capable of doing pretty much anything, as long as I train for it. I don't know why it took me so long to come to that realization---I mean, before that I had completed many races, including a full marathon, several half marathons and several smaller triathlons. But in my head, doing 70.3 miles was a different beast altogether (and in reality, I was right---it was!).  After successfully completing the race, I had a new confidence. I may not be fast out there, but I know I can complete a distance if I train.

This year, I am not planning on doing a triathlon. I *may* do a few this summer with the Tri Club, but those would be just for practice, and are free for me as a Tri Club member. If I do another 70.3 triathlon it will be in 2014.  But this year is the year to do things that scare me in every sport. I will be attempting my first century ride for cycling; an Ironman-distance (2.4 mile) ocean swim; and a trail race. This past weekend was the trail race.

Why does trail racing scare me? Well, for starters, I don't really trail run.  Sadly, I live in an area with an abundance of beautiful trails to run on, and I don't take advance of them. I do sometimes run on horse trails but that can hardly be counted as real trail running. I am kind of clumsy, and trail running is fraught with danger--tree roots to trip over, dirt to slip on, rocks to twist an ankle on. I did a trail run back in 2003, as I was training for my marathon. I don't think it was a long run, maybe 3-4 miles, but I twisted my ankle during it. That put me off trail running for a long time---a decade, I guess! Also, I've had a life-long fear of going down steep hills, especially ones made of dirt.  Asphalt hills I can handle running down...but put rocks and gravel and dirt on it, and it's slip-and-slide city for me.

My friend Mihael convinced me to give trail running another try.  (He's done it the last 2 years in a row and wrote a great recap last year, with more technical information than I could ever give). After much persuading via text, twitter and a phone call, I signed up for the Xterra Mission Gorge 15k.  This is part of a series Xterra puts on, and by many accounts it's one of the hardest.  Here is the elevation profile. Gulp. Per Mihael's report last year, it's 1,980 feet of climb (with 1,219 from two hills alone). I'm too lazy to plug in my Garmin to get my elevation reading, so I'll rely on his report and the official elevation profile:

9.3 miles of hell
The night before I had the Electric Run 5k with my son, but we walked a lot of course, so my legs felt pretty fresh.  Mihael told me to prepare for this race like it was a half marathon, so I packed up my Nathan fuel belt with what I would normally carry on a half mary---32 ounces of Gatorade, a few Gus, a Honey Stinger Waffle, etc.  I do not own trail shoes, and wore my usual road running shoes.  On Mihael's advice, I bought a pair of fingerless gloves (used for weightlifting) to protect my hands in the event that I fell.

The race started at 8, but I got to the area early, at 6:30, in order to get a space in the parking lot---we were advised that parking would be limited. I picked up my bib and timing chip, which was unusual for me as most races I do I need to pick the packet up prior to race day.  The vibe was very relaxed, very laid back. I told someone it was my first trail race, and he was incredulous that I chose such a hard one for my first one. Thanks for the vote of confidence, buddy!  I got back in my car, pinned my bib on my shirt, tied the timing chip to my shoe, and waited until Mihael came.  Soon enough it was time to head to the start line. (All photos courtesy of Mihael).

It didn't exactly inspire confidence that they have the Sheriff's Search and rescue on hand.
start line

We crossed the start line, and within about .2 miles most of the runners were far ahead.  There was a small hill close to the start, and that's when I started walking. I didn't want to burn myself out, knowing the elevation ahead, and also uphills really hurt my sciatic nerve these days, so I wanted to be cautious.  Soon we got up to the first BIG HILL.  This picture doesn't do it justice....it was amazingly long and steep.  The hill never ended.  The people around us were all walking up...I have no idea how the front-of-the-pack runners ran up it.  Mihael showed me how to walk backwards for segments to save my calves, which were already tight and burning with the effort.  I thought I would never get up, but somehow I did. There was an aid station at the top, and the volunteers looked like angels to me.

It's MUCH steeper than this photo shows!

As hard as it was going up, I knew the downhill afterwards would be awful for me. Like the uphill, it was long and steep.  Not only that, it was very slippery, full of gravel.  I walked very slowly down, side-stepping the whole way.  Even then there were times I was slipping and sliding, but I never fell.  At times I almost cried (remember, this was my big fear) but I didn't.

Look, I'm trail running!

The next part was fun for me.  Pretty flat, nice trails, just rocks to leap over. Here is where I felt I was in the zone....this was fun.  It was also getting hot (which I wasn't expecting in February). With my increased efforts going up and down the hills, I had gone through more than half my Gatorade by mile 5! Usually all 32 ounces lasts me most of a half marathon!  Luckily I was able to refill at the aide stations.  I seem to recall some rolling hills here, and Mihael showed me how to gallop down like a horse, which I was finally able to do, albeit very slowly.

Next we got to the part I dreaded---the Thousand Steps. I was told that there were only a few hundred actual steps, but no matter---this was super-steep, a real climb. On some parts I literally I had to use my hands to pull myself up on from the rocks. I was glad I was wearing gloves here.  Although my legs were screaming with the effort, and it was really hard, I felt strong on the steps. I stopped a few times to catch my breath, but was able to do it. Like the other huge hill, it seemed never-ending, but suddenly the steps were behind me.

At the bottom of the Thousand Steps.

Climbing a technical section.

After the top of the Thousand Steps was another steep downhill section. Again with slippery gravel. Again, I side-stepped down slowly. Again, I tried not to cry.  Again, my fears were crushed.

Soon we were on the home stretch.  We ran by a creek, and I did my second creek crossing of the race. As Mihael said, it's not an Xterra race unless you are soaked and exhausted. I had no problem splashing through the water; in fact, it felt good.  Around this part of the course we began to see other people. Not too many other runners (although we saw one or two) but families and people out enjoying nature. I was happy to see them, as for much of the race we saw literally no one else around us. Civilization!

One of the creek crossings.

The last mile was flat, but by then I was done. My legs were shot.  It was hot. I was happy to see the finish line ahead, but I was surprised--according to my Garmin, we had gone 8.9 miles, not the 9.3 that would make up a 15k. But I didn't care. I was happy to cross the finish line. I got my medal, and we went and got food and drink----they had a vegetarian breakfast burrito, score!  After some rest, we were ready to leave. We weren't the last place finishers, but close---it took almost 3 hours to finish. Considering I can do a half marathon (13.1 miles ) in about 2 1/2 hours, it was humbling that it took me half an hour more to do 4 miles less!  But I was ecstatic---I had finished!
Proud finisher!

Although this was definitely the hardest run I've ever done, I had so much fun!  It was tough, and I was on the verge of tears at times, but I saw some of the most gorgeous views out there. I have lived in San Diego since 1987 and have never seen views like that.  And I conquered my fears of the trail. I can go down a steep downhill.  And up a steep uphill.  It doesn't matter how slowly I go---what matters  is that I complete it.  And complete it I did. I can definitely see myself doing more trail runs (and races) in the future.

February 5, 2013

The Electric Run 5k Race Recap

This weekend held yet another race for me. Not just one, but two.  I have raced every weekend but one this year....I'm actually relieved that all that is over, and I only have a few races left spread out over the rest of the year.

I signed up for the Electric Run months ago. Per their website, "The Electric Run is a 5k run/walk at night with amazing lighting effects that are synchronized to music! Participants are encouraged to get their glow on by dressing up with neon attire and glow accessories". It looked like so much fun, and I really wanted to do it with my son, D.  These days there are so many themed 5k runs out there---color runs, mud runs, zombie runs, etc---and while it's not something I would necessarily do by myself, I'm all for doing it with my 8 year old!

I was a bit concerned about the size of the race.  Ten thousand people signed up!  For a 5k! There were two days for packet pickup (at two different locations) so I went as early as I could on Friday to get ours. Luckily, I got there at 2:15 (it opened at 2) and walked up with no problem and had no wait at all. I heard they were expecting 5,000 people so I'm glad I got there early. The website states that in addition to the race t-shirt, we would also receive a glow necklace, glow sunglasses, and an LED bracelet. We only received the bracelet and glasses in our packet.  No big deal, as I had gone to Michael's and bought lots of glow-in-the-dark gear (bracelets, necklaces and swords/wands to carry) but still, I was disappointed.  Also, the shirts, while cute (black with "Electric Run" on it) were so small!  They had women's cut, which I appreciated, but I couldn't believe how small they ran. I am pretty much a true-to-size medium in shirts, and I ended up getting an extra large--and that was tight on me!

We were advised to get to the race very early as there a huge shortage of parking at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (where the race was) and, as I said, ten thousand runners.  Since the race started at 7:00 p.m., they were recommending we get there at 5:00.  So we did.  We brought dinner with us, got a close parking spot, and hung out for a few hours. Luckily the car next to us had some boys around D's age who were running around with their glow sticks, so he got to play. The time passed quickly, and soon it was time to line up. We put on all of our glow gear, and headed over to the corrals. They were having first-come, first-served waves of 1,000 people each, for a total of 10 waves.  Although we got in line pretty early, we were in the third wave.

start line

The race started promptly at 7:00, and I think we got underway at around 7:15.  Running, I had a strange sense of deja vu---I am not someone who usually runs in the dark, but here I was, running in the dark for the third time already this year (at night at the New Year's Race Los Angeles, and before sunrise at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon).  We took it really slowly, and actually walked much of the race.  It was untimed, and since I had a big 15k trail race the next day, I didn't want to burn myself out.

arches to run through

As it turns out, this race was so fun! Amazing!  There were lots of dark stretches, but then there would be the glow-in-the dark stuff.  Some were lit up arches to run through. Other places had lights displayed on the wall. Still others had displays of lit-up balloons, lanterns, or umbrellas.  At the lit up sections great music played.  At one part, I told D "I can't run this part, and I can't walk this part. I need to dance this part!" The music was so contagious, and there was such a disco vibe, that he and I danced our way down that section of the course. It was also fun to look at the other runners, all of whom were lit up. Some, like us, simply wore glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets, but others had full-on lit, blinking costumes, and everything in between. People really had fun with the theme.

One thing I liked about the course was running on the racetrack. Most of the race was around the actual fairgrounds area, but we did a portion of it on the track where the horses run. That was cool, something I wouldn't normally get to experience. Too bad it was so dark and I couldn't see much!


lit umbrellas in a palm tree

I've never been to a rave, but I'd imagine that this is what it would be like.  Lots of music, glow-in-the-dark, and fun.  We finally approached the finish line (decked out in disco balls) and headed straight for the car.  It's hard to believe, but the last wave left the start line just before we finished.  I can't believe how many people were there, and I'm so thankful we got there early! The water at the end (and at the aid station mid-way) was served in neon-colored plastic cups rather than paper cups.  Of course, D kept ours to take home.

 The only negative was that because of where we parked (where we were directed to by the parking attendants) we had to wait about 30 minutes in the car after we were done in order to leave, as otherwise we'd be driving onto the course. They had to wait for that part to clear of all the runners.  Other than the parking situation at the end, I loved this race. It was so fun to run it with my son, and the vibe was definitely PARTY!  The only change I would make is to still get there early (to ensure parking and an early wave start) but to park in a different place for an easier exit.

finish line