Thursday, February 02, 2017

2017 MIAMI HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

My Miami journey this year. I went ahead and shaded periods of walking in red. As you can see, it was at least 80% jogging.
Well, against all odds, there I was again, toeing the start line in Miami. Despite not running more than four miles since May (eight months), I was about to embark on a thirteen mile adventure. And you know what? I was kind of excited! I was able to fight through whatever knee stuff was going on and get a minimum baseline of fitness back, enough that I hoped would bring me through the finish. I had a total green light to walk if I had to and absolutely no time goal. Just finishing would be a huge accomplishment.

I flew into Miami on Thursday, as usual, but didn't get in until almost midnight as my second flight was delayed. I went to bed shortly after because we were going to wake up at 6am to drive up to the Kennedy Space Center. I ended up getting only about four hours of sleep (after four hours the night before the flight) but surprisingly I wasn't too exhausted. We had an awesome time at the KSC and it was very cool for a space enthusiast like me! The Saturn V was unbelievable!

The Space Shuttle Atlantis!
Saturday was lower key. I was able to sleep in and get my eight hours before we headed off to the race expo at Marlins Park. This was really cool. Instead of the typical convention center, it was held in the new baseball stadium, which was REALLY nice. The expo itself was all around the concourse, so by the time you had walked through it all you had lapped the field. Very cool. Too bad nobody goes to Marlins games. Anyways, other than that novelty, you've been to one expo, you've been to them all.

After the expo we went to Kurios, a Cirque Du Soleil show. That was very cool. I was disappointed in the last Cirque Du Soleil show I went to, the Michael Jackson one, but this one was really neat. A steampunk theme and, as usual, a lot of amazing stunts. We had really good seats too. The only thing I didn't like was spending $5 on a cardboard box of water. Their concession prices were ridiculous. The show is going to be in Portland later this year and I would highly recommend it!

Once the show was over we headed back to my friend's house and stayed low key until we went to bed. I got about four hours of sleep, like last year. With the good rest the night before it was enough though. We left his place about 4:30am and were near the start line by 5:10. Instead of taking a shuttle, this year we parked in a lot right by the start line. It was actually much slicker than the shuttle and cheaper too. So maybe we'll shoot for that again next year.

OVER THE CAUSEWAY (11:19, 11:13, 11:41, 11:01)


MacArthur Causeway
Like other years, I was placed in the "C" corral. Since there was no way I was running anything close to justifying being in that corral, I hung with my friends in the "I" corral. In fact, I decided to run the entire thing with my friend who was going to shoot for 2:30-2:45ish. That would be about 12:00/mile and perfect for the fitness I was in. I have to admit, it was kind of annoying waiting for corral after corral to go. It was almost 40 minutes by the time we started off. Normally I'm out of the gate within minutes of the first gun!

Anyways, this first part is always easy. The adrenaline of the race and the atmosphere of the start line really gets you pumped up. We made a plan to run to the bottom of the hill of the causeway and then walk up the incline. That's exactly what we did and when we were walking, it was a power walk to be sure. The walking parts toward the beginning averaged about 14:00/mile, while the running parts were more to the tune of 10:30/mile. We wouldn't be able to maintain those paces by the end of the race.

For the first five miles or so my friend was trying to stay ahead of the 2:30 pacer. We did a good job for a while, at one point probably opening up a 100 yard lead, but it just wasn't sustainable. It was good motivation for a while though. Also, I should mention the weather. About 56 and pouring rain. Felt like home to be honest. It was actually near perfect race weather, it just sucked when waiting to start and once we were done running!

TCB IN MIAMI BEACH (11:23, 12:13, 11:59, 11:59)

We took our first "defeatist" walking break at the mile five sign. Until then it was just strategic power walking up inclines and through water stations, but by mile five we decided we needed a short break. I certainly could have gone farther, but when my friend suggested it, I was more than happy to go along. Remember, I hadn't ran more than four miles since last May, so every step was already more than I had done in a long time.

Somewhere in South Beach (the 10k mat).
At this point in the race I was still feeling pretty good. Tired, but the energy of the race was still good and I wasn't having any major problems. I was happy with the way my body was performing in terms of energy and pain level. My legs felt pretty good and my cardio was holding up due to the slightly slower pace. All told, the pace I was going was just about perfect... maybe if I really wanted to kill myself I could have done a sub 11:30 pace, but it would have been tough. For this race, I just wanted to cross the finish line, and at this point I was pretty sure I could do it without issue.

This part of the course is always a little boring. Sure, you get to run on Sunset Drive, but it is 7am in the morning and the whole place is kind of dead. You can't see the beach or anything so really you might as well be running down just about any street. There was a slight course change this year that introduced a short out and back section... I actually enjoyed this. Something about out and backs is just so much fun... seeing all the people ahead of you, and then getting to see everyone behind you. Just something to mix it up.

REVENGE OF THE VENETIANS (12:19, 12:42, 12:52)

Unconvincing thumbs up.
The Venetian Island section is three miles long and boy did it feel like it! About mile eight the energy in my body seemed to just leave and all of a sudden an overall fatigue racked my body. It felt a lot like the "20s" of a marathon. At one point there was also a pretty strong headwind. By now, my gaze was strictly focused on the ten feet in front of me.

The last mile of continuous running also took place on this stretch. At mile 8.5 my friend remarks "let's run and not stop until 9.5!" to which some other guy says "why not 10.5!" To which we reply, "I like your style! 10.5 it is!" Well, let's just say, it took everything we had to make 9.5. Without that exchange we would have been walking earlier for sure. My watch hit 9.5 and I mentioned that we could walk, but no, my friend's watch wasn't there yet. So an agonizing .05 miles later we finally got our break.

Overall the two of us took turns getting exhausted and trying to encourage one another. There are times where I felt decent and there are times when I wanted to quit. Again, a lot like the 20s of marathons I actually trained for. At one point I ate about 15 Honey Stinger gummies in about thirty seconds. No joke. I was eating them two at a time prior but I was so exhausted I got desperate tanked every last one I had. I did feel a lot better, but it didn't last. By the time I hit the end of the islands I was back to being exhausted.

DOWNTOWN DOS (12:39, 12:28)

These final two miles downtown always seem like forever. This year was no different. At least this year I was able to eat the pineapple they pass out. I never have wanted to eat it flying by at 7:45ish a mile and near the finish. This year however, this year it was a treat for the senses! And gave a nice little energy boost that lasted two blocks.

Because the finish line is so close, these last two miles are manageable. You know you are almost done. I was doing some quick math on my watch to see if we could get in under 2:40. My calculations told me that, yes, yes we could. As long as we kept up our mid 12 pace, we should be golden.

By the time the split came with about a half mile to go I was so ready to be done. My body was starting to falter at this point and my jog had become more of a animated limp. Once the finish line was in sight though... I forgot all about this. I let my friend finish a few seconds ahead and then crossed the line myself. It was over!

THE WET AFTER PARTY

Overall, running a half marathon is no joke. This was probably the hardest half marathon I have ever done and it's pretty easy to figure out why. I wasn't trained at all. I'm glad I had the baseline fitness I did though. However, every other half I've run I've actually been trained for that distance. Not here though. It made for an interesting run.

In the end, it felt a lot like a marathon. The lack of energy toward the end of the race. The limping in the finish chute. The inability to go up stairs or lift yourself off the toilet. Mad respect for people who finish these things without training. Running thirteen miles is no joke. 90 minutes, 150 minutes, 210 minutes... whatever... it's an accomplishment. What a world removed from when I was from running 1:37 and winning that half though!

OFFICIAL RESULTS: 2:39:19, 12:10/mile. 10,193/14,133 overall, 5695/6982 male, 798/936 M30-34.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

READY OR NOT, HERE COMES MIAMI

Miami last year. Looks like I just remembered
that I accidentally left the stove on.
Quick update on my knees as we head into the Miami Marathon THIS SUNDAY! Yikes!

So after my snow run, my knees felt really good. No third day reckoning like the pattern had seemed to indicate before. My knees might have felt a little “worn” but nothing that approached the usual flare up. It’s not like they are healing or anything, they still lack any power should I need it and bending them in certain ways (aka much at all) is met with much concern. However, when I am able to walk around and use stairs without thinking about it, I count that as a win. So the time after the 4.3 mile snow run was a win.

Twelve days later (on the 19th) I decided to go for another run since my legs were feeling good and I wanted to make sure the previous run wasn’t a fluke. So I took off work a little early so I could do it in the daylight and went for it. It was tougher than the snow run funnily enough, but I was able to do four miles without too much issue. I took a hillier route than usual, my old 10k route cut short, and I could definitely feel that. I did power walk up one steep hill, but otherwise it was a solid jog at 10:45/mile. After I was done with the four miles I did another mile that was a combination of walking and jogging, just to get some more miles on my legs.

Overall, my legs responded well and it was encouraging. While I was sore afterward, again, it wasn’t quite as bad as before and the run itself didn’t totally smash me physically. It was doable. The half marathon is going to be hard and feel like marathons have in years past, but I think I’ll be able to do it. If I can do five miles without issue, what is another eight? After this run my knees also felt great. I’ve been wearing the knee braces and I wonder if that has made a difference at all. Yesterday, Sunday, should have been the day three “blow up” but it was nowhere to be found. I felt so good that I played catch with Brandon and was running around. This was without braces. And today my knees feel no so fresh. Ugh. Now, typically they blow up really bad if I’m going to have issues, going from red to green in a day, so hopefully this is just a small bump and they’ll feel better tomorrow.

It’s also hard to tell because when you sit around they like to stiffen up (one of the symptoms of what happens with psoriatic arthritis, whaddaya know!). So I’ve been sitting around all day at work and they are stiff. As I know from physical therapy, if I “warm them up” they feel pretty good and I can do things. So I don’t know. I would like to get another run in, but maybe I should just do cardio on the elliptical (although, my one test on there also resulted in a blow up). I’m not sure. Just want to beef up as much as I can cardio wise before the half, but cramming for the exam at this point probably isn’t the best idea. We’ll see. If anything I think I’ll just do three miles so I don’t push things.

UPDATE: Well, I didn't post this Monday as expected, so I'll report how I feel today, Tuesday. Okay. About the same as yesterday. Maybe a touch better. Both days would be a "yellow" on the old chart. So not bad. I might not do anything until the race. Don't want to chance anything. Excited for my trip though!

Monday, January 09, 2017

SNOW RUN! PART 2

Ever since running in the snow way back in February of 2014 I've been itching to do another snow run! Last winter we really didn't get any snow, so when it started coming down on Saturday I started to feel sorry for myself. It looked so magical outside and here I was all crippled and unable to get out there and enjoy it.

Well, after about an hour or so, I was like... wait. I'm actually feeling pretty good in terms of my legs and knees. So I decided to go on a run in the snow. There was probably only a half inch on the ground, so the footing was pretty good but everything was still pretty much covered. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, with the questionable knees and potential poor footing and lack of fitness, but I believe that is why "YOLO" was invented.

Anyways, I started to run and it felt pretty damn good. Really enjoyed myself. I didn't realize it had been 27 days since my last run. Crazy! I would have said like a half a month, not almost a whole one. Surprisingly, my fitness seemed alright. Maybe it was because I was going a little slower because of the snow (and it was slippery in a few places), but I was able to run pretty comfortably the whole time. Until this point, I hadn't run more than three miles since the Rum Run back in May. My last three mile run felt pretty killer. However, I did 4.3 miles in the snow without much trouble. I could have done five easy if I wanted. Felt great. So that was encouraging and frankly surprising.

According to the "schedule" I should be hobbling in pain tomorrow. It's so weird, everything felt great during the run Saturday, again the next day Sunday, and today Monday I'm fine. My legs are tired and sore, but that makes sense, and they are not weirdly sore. However, after activity it seems to be two days of "okay" followed by multiple days of a crippling flare up. We'll see if the trend holds. That's what makes this thing so frustrating, you feel fine and can do things without issue and then half a week later all of a sudden you're taking the elevator to the 2nd floor.

Thinking back though, it makes sense. I remember running hard at PRC on a Monday, then taking it easy on a Wednesday and then getting a flare up on Thursday. On Thursday, I'd wonder why in the hell my easy run caused a flare up when the hard run didn't do anything, but really it was probably just this same delay. I'd say if I'm hobbling tomorrow then the pattern is pretty clear. Anyways, just six weeks from the next doctor! Wohoo! And at this point I'm confident I can finish Miami. Not comfortably, but my two friends I'm "running" it with aren't in any better shape.

Lastly, I got the MRI results back. Basically my knee looked normal. He said there were a few small things, something about a "fat pad" and I forgot what else. Basically he said they didn't concern him and were common if the knee was inflamed. They also wouldn't explain both knees being jacked up, most mechanical issues are just going to affect one knee. Anyways, he said the rheumatology referral would be the next step so he is glad we went ahead and did that proactively.

Friday, December 30, 2016

IT'S NOT GETTING BETTER

An interesting experience. It's loud!
Let's catch you all up since we last talked. Not a ton has happened, my symptoms have remained and seem to be more persistent. I haven't have the periods of "green" that I had before. Most days are a "yellow" now with the occasional "red." I did go on a four mile walk Christmas morning and on the third day after that I had a flareup. Almost like clockwork. I can't even go on walks or use the elliptical or anything without triggering it. It's definitely worse than this summer when I was doing PT and is becoming more debilitating by the day.

Two weeks ago or so I had an MRI on my right knee. Nothing special about the right knee, they just have to do one knee so they picked the right once since it was slightly more tender to the touch. The orthopedic doc doesn't seem to think it will really show anything, but I had hit my deductible and with the end of the year approaching it was a good idea to just get it done and rule anything mechanical out for sure. So I actually don't have the results from that back, but I'm expecting that it won't show anything. He'll be back from vacation soon and let me know for sure.

I did see the orthopedic doctor again just a few days after my last post. I mentioned the psoriatic arthritis thing and he seemed to think that was a good guess. His next step was going to be to refer me to a rheumatologist, and confirmation that I had psoriasis made that decision even more clear. He was pretty confident that MRI would rule out anything mechanical and referred me along even without the results of that. Which is probably a good thing, because the waiting list at the rheumatologist is two months!

That is the next step though, on February 20th I see the rheumatologist. Ugh. So far away with increasing symptoms. I'm on the waiting list if anything pops up sooner. Anyways, it just sucks, because I know eventually permanent damage can be done to my joints. Based on what I'm reading, exercise can't really make things worse, but I don't know about that, because it often causes the large flares ups. I don't know. Anyways, my plans to be semi in shape for Miami are out the window. Hopefully I can get two or three more short runs in and then just call it good. That race is going to put me in a wheelchair. After that I'll just lay very low until the 20th of February.

So that's the update. I just really want to see the rheumatologist and get this fixed. Assuming it is psoriatic arthritis, I can go on drugs and it basically should go into remission. I should be able to walk around like a normal young person again and not feel like I am 80 years old and in constant joint pain. I just want that day to be here already.

Friday, December 09, 2016

I'M A DOCTOR - WebMD SLUETHING

Okay, so I think I have enough body of evidence now to come up with a better conclusion. Since I've been passed around the medical system with no answers, I decided to do a little digging myself. Based on the fact that physical therapy and orthopedic specialists haven't really solved anything other than ruling some stuff out and subtracting large sums from my bank account, I decided I should be a little proactive for my next "step."

What I know is that while running or any activity does irritate my knees, I still get flare ups doing nothing. So there is more to it than just resting. I rested a long time and nothing changed really. The knee braces aren't really doing anything, I got a huge flare up while using them just walking around (a non-activity flare up) and using them while running hasn't prevented anything either. So while they may come in handy later to lessen the chance of a re-occurrence in my knees once this is fixed, right now I don't think they are doing anything.

So it seems to be chronic. If it was something that could be treated away it would have been done so by now. I don't know what sparked the thought in my head, whether it was a TV commercial or just something at the back of my brain, but for some reason one day the words "psoriatic arthritis" popped into my head. I have very mild psoriasis on my skin, easily treated with topical steroids when it pops up. I don't know if that fact came up with my PCP, PT, or orthopedic doctor. It's really out of sight out of mind.

Those blood tests did test for arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is completely different. I checked my blood tests and none of them tested for it (I don't think a blood test can actually determine it). Hmmm. Digging into it a little more, the symptoms completely line up with what is happening with me. I've been having jaw pain (#) at the joint for years now too that flares up and down. I bet that is related as well. None of the exercises or stretches my dentist gave me did jack shit for that. Another symtom is a sore upper back... well, I had just chalked that one up to being thirty with shitty posture, but I have that too.

Needless to say, the more I read, the more I am convinced that this is what is going on. I think I'll go back to the orthopedic doc, summarize my results with the braces with him, mention this research of mine, and ask to be referred to a rheumatologist. They should be able to diagnose me with psoriatic arthritis, assuming that's what it is, and prescribe me treatment.

The good news is, it can pretty much be treated into remission. You can't cure it, but you can get it to the point where it doesn't affect you on a day to day basis. Basically feeling back to normal. Left untreated, it can actually cause permanent damage to your joints, so treatment is important. There are varying levels of treatment, hopefully my case will be considered more mild, because some of the stronger treatments are a little scary, but regardless, I should be able to treat it and get back to near normal.

This is all assuming my WebMD sleuthing was accurate. I feel confident on this one though, especially now that I've been passed around the medical system and lived with this crap for a year now.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

UPDATE - PUSHING A WEEK NOW...


Definitely the worst flare up in a while. Even though I haven't kept a log until just recently, I don't remember an episode this bad since I was still doing physical therapy. It seems fairly clear that activity is causing the bad flare ups, even though they can still happen during periods of relative inactivity.

It is just so strange that I can go for a three mile run on the 25th, feel awesome for two days, then be crippled for a week. It's mind bottling. Anyways, when I get another "green" day I'll go for another run and see what happens. If I feel good for two days and then have issues on the third day, I think that would be a pretty clear pattern.

I'd still like to complete the Miami Half Marathon with my friends, so I'm hoping I can juggle this all to get in decent cardio shape before that event. Unfortunately, based on my previous experience, the elliptical also flares my knees up, so that as a secondary option isn't the great. Maybe I'll try it again. Who knows. As long as can run a few miles without dying, I'll probably be able to bullshit my way through it.