Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October running recap (so I don’t forget)

Finisher's medal
  • Ran my first race in nine years
  • Got new running shoes—this is my first time wearing Saucony shoes (I got Kinvaras). They are ridiculously big but that’s what it took to not smash my toenails because I have long toes. But they are big everywhere else—heel to the ball of my foot, side to side and top to bottom. So I’ve got inserts in them to take up space, and I am wearing my thickest Baluga running socks just to take up some of that room. I’d love to find running shoes for narrow shallow feet with a long toe box but the current fashion is wider shoes with super wide toe boxes, and those just hurt my feet.
  • Ran my first ever 10 mile run. I was pretty pumped up about that.
  • Ended my mile a day streak on October 25 (I started on August 11). I ended it because (a) the streak was becoming the master of me, and (b) my son is right and I do need a rest day. 
  • Ran 114+ miles in October and had my most miles ever in one week (37.8).
  • I decided to run a half marathon. I would have loved to run it this month but I’m out of town for every local half in my area. So I am aiming for the Hangover Half on January 1. The only reason I would not run it is if it’s below 20F (I have some lung issues) or if we have a lot of snow and ice on the ground. I’m not interested in slipping and breaking any bones. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Where did the week go?

I was in Corpus Christi TX last week for work. I left Sunday and got home about 9:30 last night. I don’t know about you, but when I end up working on the weekend like that (and I do count traveling for work as work), I get all sorts of confused on what day it is. I mean, I know what day it is, but I always have to deliberately remember. I guess that’s partly because I lose the rhythms and habits of my normal daily life.

I found a Thai restaurant about a block and a half away from my hotel, so Monday night I got take out green curry. It was fantastic, very spicy (which I like) and came with the rice, vegetables and pineapple you see in this photo. I had a fridge in my hotel room, and where I was working had microwaves, so I had half for dinner and the rest for lunch Tuesday.

It was so good, I went back Tuesday night and got the red curry. Well, it was even better! So I did the same half/half split. I briefly thought about trying the yellow curry Wednesday night but honestly, that red curry was amazing. So I got it again.

I ran on the seawall four of the five mornings I was there—even in the dark, it was lovely. I ran up toward the bridge and then back down to Cole Park. I could sort of see the USS Lexington in the dark but never had enough free time to tour it. 

Not all the damage from Hurricane Harvey has been repaired. In the photo from my hotel room, you can see that the hotel next to mine still has room damage. And I don't know what the building is in the next photo, but it looks like the damage was severe.

View from my room.

I don't know what this building is but you can see the damage.
Sunrise from my hotel.

The USS Lexington model in the airport.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It gets in your head

Since getting that original melanoma diagnosis, I’d wondered if I would be freaking out over any new blemish or spot on my skin. See, the problem is I don’t actually know what that melanoma looked like. It was on my back, basically between my shoulder blades and centered on my spine. That’s not a spot I see every day. Plus, my dermatologist warned me that the normal A B C D E signs of melanoma wouldn’t really apply to me because of my moles, and I guess because of how the one spot looked. So I’m not at all sure of what should be flagged and what shouldn’t.

When I put on make-up in the mornings, I use a small magnifying mirror. I wear reading glasses but of course you can’t actually wear reading glasses and put on eye make-up, or if you can I haven’t figured out how that works. Two weeks ago, I noticed a small dark spot at the lash line on my right eye lid. Hmm, I thought, maybe I didn’t remove my eye make-up thoroughly enough . . . I decided to scrub harder the next morning, and check again. The spot was still there. So I thought OK, this is a little alarming—I’ll scrub harder one more morning and check again. Still there.

I called my dermatologist that morning, and they squeezed me in that day. Fortunately, the spot is benign, but until I got that news I’d been wondering how on earth it would be removed and then reconstructed if it had been melanoma? After all, the eye lid isn’t very big—seems like a wide local incision would remove the whole thing. That was not a pleasant thought.

As I told my mother yesterday in our weekly phone calls, the thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it leaves this invisible “what’s next” cloud over anything. She herself has cancer, and as she told me years ago when diagnosed, having one kind doesn’t preclude developing another kind. So there’s that bit of fun to contemplate. Plus, at least for me, this has disrupted the way I’ve always thought I’d end up going. There’s a pretty strong history of blood cancers in women on my mother’s side of the family. I figured I’d end up with one of those, and I guess I still might. But for now I have this melanoma to pay attention to, and to watch for. Only I don’t know what it looks like on me.

I go back in February for my next screening. I’m going to ask for any examples of what he removed from me. And if he needs to do any scrape biopsies, I'llask to see what it looks like before he removes it. That’s all I know to do.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

WW1 Museum & Memorial 8K Double

Originally I was supposed to be flying to Utah for work today. That trip got canceled, which meant I could run in this race. Unfortunately, because I made the decision so late, my normal runs were probably not ideal in terms of coming into this double race all fresh and ready.

But that’s OK. I haven’t run any race in 9 years and sort of feel like those two don’t count because I’d never run any races before and didn’t have any clue on how to prep. This time, though, I asked my younger son’s advice. Ben’s one of those people who dives deep into whatever topic catches his interest, and he’s been an avid runner for a while now. He comments on my runs on Strava and always has an encouraging word to say.

We talked this last week and I asked him how he’d run a race like this:

  • 9 AM: 5k race starts
  • 10:15 AM: 3k race starts

While I regularly run hills, the hills around the Liberty Memorial are no joke: they are steep and long, or super steep and short. So I knew this course would be a challenge. (Fun note: my Garmin marked enough rapid elevation changes and decided I'd climbed 49 flights of stairs . . . during this race!)

He suggested running a negative split on the 5K—in other words, go out faster than normal so that when I hit the hills, the bleed off of speed would be offset by the faster start time. And that’s what I did. I could also tell that the hill running I do every day paid off because I passed a lot of people on those uphill portions.

For the 3K, Ben suggested going all out, which is also what I did. Too bad the first mile of that 3k had an elevation gain of 58 feet. Ouch!

It was fairly chilly this morning and raining lightly, and also pretty windy. I wore the long tights and long sleeve hot weather shirt for bug mitigation (no more oak mite bites please!) and of course to keep the sun off me. Then the sun broke through during the intermission, so I swapped to a short sleeve shirt. I was pretty happy with the gear, but I should have brought a different pair of sunglasses since those slid down my nose all the time.

For this race, I’d set three average pace per mile goals: 8:45, 8:55 and 9:05. I didn’t meet that goal at all in the 5K (pace was 9:12), but did well in the 3K with a pace of 8:48. I’m a little surprised at the 3K pace, since I tend to have my best speeds on longer runs. Then again, I was taking Ben’s advice and I wasn’t leaving anything on the table.

Pics or it didn't happen:

5k start

5k finish--I tried to motivate that guy behind me
but he was flat out of gas
3k start but after that freaking long hill at the beginning
3k finish

All in all, I had a blast and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do. Also, check out the WW1 Museum and Memorial's site. If you are ever in Kansas City, consider going to this museum. It's truly amazing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Oak mites, ugh—what are they good for?

(With apologies to Edwin Star) Absolutely nothin’ sing it again.

If you haven’t heard of oak mites, you probably don’t live in the Kansas City area. We had a terrible outbreak of them last year only somehow I never got bitten. That’s not the case this year. Oh my word, those bites are wretched.

You can read about the nasties here and here and here. Unfortunately, they can’t be killed, bug spray has no effect, you can’t see them (they are too small), and can't feel the bite until hours later. At least that was the case for me.. The only defense is to stay covered up and shower as soon as you get inside.
The cellulitis ended up
covering most of my inner arm

In my case, the bites aren’t itchy, oh no. They burn and hurt like crazy and I’ve developed cellulitis around each and every bite. That’s why I ended up going to the convenience clinic at my PCP’s practice, and I’ve been on antibiotics since last Sunday. I’ve also been wearing long tights and long sleeve running shirts on my morning runs. Fortunately, it’s been a little cooler but whew. I’ll be glad when we get a good hard freeze and kill those suckers. Until next year.

Edited to add a photo of my bug and sun mitigation running clothes. These are Cool-Tech, and are supposed to keep me cooler.

Also, a bonus music video:

Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm with the big dog

Years ago, Kent had a dog named Max. Max was part basset hound, part cocker spaniel, sized more like the Cocker Spaniel, but with the barrel chest of the basset hound. He was super sweet but not the brightest dog around. We knew he was getting old, so we got a second dog, Molly, thinking that we’d have two dogs for a while. Molly was mostly German shepherd and pretty big, about 75 pounds.

About a week after we’d gotten her, we took both dogs on a walk. Oh you should have seen Max—he practically strutted with his tail way up in the air, so pleased to be out with Molly. If he could have talked, we were sure he’d have been bragging to everyone: “Look at me, I’m walking with the big dog! Isn’t this the coolest?”

Anyway, last weekend when my sis was in town, she ran with me. Now you have to know this about Amy: she’s always been a hero of mine in the way she’s stayed active, climbed crazy high mountains, gone ice climbing, run marathons. She’s just amazing. I don’t know anyone else who could go run a marathon at the last second when a friend asked her to.

So there we were out running last Saturday and all I can think is “I’m with the big dog! Look at me getting to run with her, isn’t this the coolest??” I was so proud and so happy to be out there running with her.

Before we ran

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Please get checked

TLDR: I had two places on my back biopsied in August during my annual screening with my dermatologist. One was diagnosed as melanoma. I don’t fit the typical profile, which goes to show even if you don’t either, you should get a skin cancer check every year. Also, while I am generally very private about my health, if my story motivates even one person to start getting checked, then it’s worth feeling a little uncomfortable about sharing this outside my immediate family.

Ever had a sunburn?


Or do you have moles?

Then you should get an annual skin cancer screening by a dermatologist.

I’ve been getting screened every year since we moved back from Boston. Well actually, I got screened for the first time at 34 when one of my absolute favorite college professors, one who had a huge positive impact on me, died from melanoma. Because of his illness, I read up on melanoma and learned that your risk goes up for every sunburn you’ve had (it’s cumulative and there are no backsies on that kind of skin damage); you also have a higher risk if you have blue eyes, fair skin, fair hair and burn easily. I don’t fit that last bit at all, so I’ll be honest and tell you I truly never thought I would end up with melanoma. I figured it would be my red-headed husband who only burns, not me. Clearly I was wrong.

When I had my first ever scan at 34, everything looked fine. To be honest, I put the screenings on a back burner and didn’t bother again until 2013 when we moved back to Kansas. Since then, I’ve had something biopsied every single year:
  • 2013—a mole on my hip (no issues)
  • 2014—a spot near my collar bone (no issues)
  • 2015—a spot on my left arm (no issues)
  • 2016—a spot on the same arm but higher up (no issues)
On August 9 this year, my dermatologist biopsied two moles on my back. One scrape was about the size of a dime, and the other was more like a quarter. Both were above my bra line and in toward my spine. On August 17, my doctor called and let me know that the bigger biopsy came back as melanoma, stage 0 in situ. I was scheduled for outpatient surgery on August 24.

I’m lucky. Because I get these screens every year, my dermatologist is confident the change occurred in the last 12 months. And because we caught it early, he did what’s called a wide local excision and took a football shaped section of skin, then stitched me up. The incision is nearly three inches long, mostly parallel to my spine and sort of on my spine. I think this incision is going to end up as less of a scar than the original scrape biopsy was. If you're curious, the reason the excision is football shaped is so that when the edges are pulled together, the incision lies flat rather than puckering.

Last Friday, I got the pathology report; the margins of the removed tissue came back clear. This is good news and means my doctor got everything plus a bit to spare. You want clean margins because this particular cancer can be truly nasty when it grows down below the skin level. That’s when it often turns into the fast spreading killer kind of cancer, and that’s what happened to my professor.

Going forward, I will have screenings every six months for the next five years. If I don’t develop any more melanoma, then I will go back to annual screenings. But I’m realistic—since my body has done this once, I’ve got an increased risk (8 to 15 times according to this site and also my dermatologist) that it will happen again. As he pointed out, now we know my body will grow melanoma. Catching them really early will be the key to me continuing to survive this nasty cancer.

Please get checked. If I weren’t getting checked, then my diagnosis wouldn’t be nearly so positive.