The Nitty Gritty

Finally we got to the bottom of it. My foot, that is. Gray442

My physical therapist discovered last Wednesday just how tight my calf muscle is. In fact, he brought on so much pain massaging it that I was whimpering. Auriel is usually a pretty funny guy, but that day I wasn’t laughing. At all.

The next day I felt better. I wasn’t sure if it was the Iontophoresis (small cortisone patch with electric or ionic diffusion) or the massage. But I was slightly better.

Today I told him that my plantar fasciitis felt little less horrible. His response? To go even harder on my calf. “Dude, I’m scaring all the other patients!” I cried. He laughed.

flexor
My flexor hallucis longus is NOT happy

Auriel did show me some neat pictures. He taught me about this muscle that wraps around my calf down to my foot, right where I’m feeling pain. Usually plantar fasciitis is caused by some sort of muscle or tendon tightness that causes the bottom of the foot to contract.

Great! I can add “Inflexible” to my self-descriptive words. After reading more about flexor hallucis longus pain, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have flexor hallucis longus tendonitis. But I’ll leave that up the experts and keep doing yoga, stretching and icing it.

I can tell you that I was in a lot of pain after that massage riding my bike home and up a small hill. My idea of going out to see the Brewmaster at the brewery which is about 10 miles out from my house was squashed. Pain. So much pain.

It’s 80 degrees almost, sunny, and the leaves are all turning color. I can’t wait to get out on the road and see the beautiful Iowa countryside in its fall splendor. But that is not for today. After lunch with Ibuprofen, I put on my orthopedic boot and hobbled around the grocery store. I bought stuff to make gluten-free pumpkin bars. Don’t put pumpkin spice in my drinks and don’t shower me with autumnal candles, but I do love some seasonal food.

Gluten free pumpkin bars
Gluten free pumpkin bars

They turned out really yummy, and I hope they will cheer up Ballet Boy who is also having foot pain today. It’s time to mama-fy and mummify (I’m going to wrap his foot before dance). If you have a lot of GF flours on hand, it’s a great recipe!

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2011/10/new-gluten-free-pumpkin-bars-recipe.html

Monday Muffins: Gluten Free Vegan Banana Almond

Today I had some sugar cravings even after eating a good breakfast of 2 scrambled eggs with spinach, so I googled some banana muffin recipes.

I came across this one and was intrigued by using flax instead of egg since that is one supplement I have been trying to incorporate into my diet to reduce breast pain and bloating in this lovely stage of my life called perimenopause.

http://minimalistbaker.com/banana-almond-meal-muffins-gluten-free-vegan-optional/

I whipped these up and stuck them in the oven while I put my yoga DVD on. I was already a little giggly before I started because in graduate school there was a Brazilian guy who couldn’t pronounce “focus.” It came out something close to, “Guyz, we really need to Fuck-us!” My “focus” got worse because my Gaiam A.M. Focus session was led by a toned guy with a long braid lying in the sand on one of Hawaii’s gorgeous beaches….in a Speedo! I wasn’t quite expecting that.

Honestly, I like this DVD as it is slow and uses a lot of meditation as well as slow careful movements that I know loosen up my hips and back, which are generally very tight from cello, running, biking (leaning over the handles) and swimming.

The muffins turned out ok, but I wished I had not spread out the batter to 8 jumbo cups and just made 6 as it didn’t rise very much. I took the author’s advice and added some home made peanut butter (no sugar) and raw honey made by my friend who I will call GPS (because she often gets lost). I swear that her honey cured my son’s sore throat this weekend in two days! The antibiotic/antiseptic properties of honey are scientifically proven and true.

The result was sort of like a warm, soft oatcake. Really delicious! Happy Monday, everyone. Breathe and stretch, and enjoy Fall and the beautiful colors on the maple trees.

Gluten Free Vegan Banana Almond muffin with honey and natural peanut butter
Gluten Free Vegan Banana Almond muffin with honey and natural peanut butter

From Blue to Green

“Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.” – Kara Goucher

It’s been hard to read anything about running recently since I’ve had plantar fasciitis, but this quote on the Runner’s World Facebook page rang true this morning.

I’ve been in a big bump in the road. My foot feels worse instead of better, and I’ve started wearing a boot in the daytime as well as a splint at night. My therapist has me doing eccentric exercises as well as stretching, ultrasound and massages. We just tried Iontophoresis at my request on Friday, and that felt pretty good.

But I know that I won’t be running for a while. I can’t even walk my dog! 10439431_10152228599141025_5643597651967761252_n

Being very goal-driven, I’ve struggled since my triathlon in August with NOT having a goal. I feel like I’ve been floundering. I’m not inspired to swim and have trouble getting out on my bike. Candy Ass reached out and suggested I borrow her yoga DVD after my last blog, and then I realized that I have several yoga and pilates DVD’s of my own.

After huffing and puffing through something I own called a Cardio Yoga workout, I almost died. This was supposed to be relaxing, but I felt weak and discouraged. Ballet Boy, who is also Mr. Flexible and incredibly strong in the lower body, commented that Cardio Yoga was nothing like any Yoga class he had taken. So I bought an easier DVD with six workouts, including two short meditation sequences. I’ve started doing Pilates and hitting the bike trainer on rainy days.

And I feel better. No more blues.

Ha, no surprise! The big revelation is that I’ve accepted my sleepier, less active state. I’ve accepted that this is a time of healing of my foot, and taking some time to focus on breathing and relaxation. I can look forward, because I’m enjoying the moment, or the bump in the road, and I feel less impatient to keep travelling.

This is coupled by the satisfaction that little by little I am going green. I’m trying to use up products before throwing them away since I can’t afford to buy a ton of new stuff, but last week I made my own vinegar and water spray for the kitchen counters. And it works! Next in line will be laundry detergent.Sustainability

I got some free samples of Origins facial oil and skin cream at Sephoras. I love the product, but it is quite beyond my economic means. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the samples of paraben free, plant-based cosmetics. We have a store in town called the Soap Opera that makes simple, unscented Vitamin E creams and other products that I may try next. I’d like to experiment with almond oil and my own mixes. I’m not having a lot of success with my Tom’s and Kiss My Face Deodorant. They just don’t last as long as Secret. But I will have to deal with that.

I wonder why I haven’t been more careful all my life, inspite of being part of a vegetarian Co-Op at Oberlin College in the 1980s.  I hope to raise my son to go green. It’s amazing how many chemicals and pesticides have been introduced into our lives. I’d like to eradicate as many as possible. I feel better knowing that I’m simplifying, preventing cancer and helping my hormonal balance by respecting my body and what I put in and on it.

Maybe my homemade cleaning supplies will balance out the cost of organic vegetables. I’m glad I grew kale, squash and tomatoes this year as I’ve been eating daily yummy meals out of the garden, like this Thai coconut milk butternut squash soup prepared by the Brewmaster.

10387615_10152409566386025_7753950721962906021_n

I’m counting my blessings (Ballet Boy, the Brewmaster, Rose and a happy home) and taking time to breathe.

What could be better?

Detoxing, Destressing

The cancer clinic at the UI is beautiful, full of colorful glass chandeliers, soft lighting and lovely images. There is an infusion therapy desk at the entrance, and tables and comfortable chairs seated in random patterns for families to wait and converse.

In spite of the calm and tranquility the decor inspires, as soon as I stepped foot in the clinic on Friday my anxiety levels shot sky high. Even though both a 3D mammogram and ultrasound were pronounced “normal” by the radiologist on Monday, the final nurse I saw in the breast clinic last week wanted me to do a fine needle aspiration just to make sure that the palpable lump she could see clearly on the mammogram was just fibrous tissue.

The breast nurse (a highly trained nurse who has taken a big interest in breast cancer and breast issues) had the most valuable information I have heard yet. She was very empathetic about my weight gain and immediately made connections between my thyroid deficiency, my endometriosis and my age. We all know that estrogen increases and progesterone decreases in perimenopause; that’s why women stop ovulating eventually. What I didn’t know is that excess estrogen basically can really slow down my metabolism and that my thyroid disease also blocks the receptors in my body and tricks my body into producing even more estrogen. estrogen

We discussed ways I could cut back on estrogen production, by eating even more organic food since chemicals in processed food and in sprays can cause increased estrogen production.  (There are xenoestrogens, or estrogens in food/meat that is injected with hormones.) We talked about parabens in cosmetics, and also stress reduction.

Stress reduction. With a forced smile I told her that normally running is my big de-stresser, but I can’t. And the plantar fasciitis doesn’t appear to be responding very quickly to therapy, so I’m not going to be running soon.

Of course, I could be biking and swimming more than I have. But somehow I’ve felt terribly lethargic and depressed this last week. It’s been a vicious hormonal cycle. The nurse explained a lot about cortisol. Our body’s normal response to stress is to produce cortisol to calm us down. Too much cortisol also makes fat cells stick to our bodies and not break down. It can cause depression, sleepiness and all the other symptoms I’m having.

cortisol
I have about every issue on this chart, except hypertension. UGH.

After reading about cortisol, I’m not even sure I want to be tested to see if I have excess cortisol. There no cure for it. Basically I need to reduce stress in my life.

My status as an adjunct faculty member and freelance musician does not make this easy. I know I can’t make money grow on trees, but it is a constant worry.  This summer my “fallback” job of online scoring has been very disappointing. In the last two years there was plenty of summer work, but this year almost none. It’s been a rough summer financially.

Sometimes I’m good at taking care of myself;  I take time to take a nap, or go for a run, or a long bike ride. I know the pool can be a tranquility tank, but some days it’s hard to get myself across town knowing how much time a shower afterwards will take.

Honestly, I can’t see myself meditating.Lotus position on the edge of a cliff

I’m sure it would be amazing, but I am both physically and mentally kind of hyper. I’m sure it would be good to clear my brain and do deep breathing. I’m just not there yet.  I would need someone to hold my hand and drag me to a session, and make sure that it wouldn’t be a friend that I would get the compulsive giggles with as I say “OMMMMMM.”

Yoga would be wonderful, but right now I am avoiding gym fees until my finances improve. I’m sure it would help my tight calves and tendons and help my plantar fasciitis disappear.

In the meantime, I will eat healthier. Yep, even healthier than before! I’m taking Vitamin E for inflammation and to fight stress. Vitamin E acts in a similar way to progesterone to  calm and soothe our bodies. I’m taking Flax Seed Oil or Evening Primrose Oil pills every night to  also help with hormonal balance. Both of these are supposed to reduce breast pain and swelling. In addition, she did commend my efforts to stop caffeine, although she says that research only shows that caffeine avoidance only helps with 50% of women studied. I always take a multivitamin that contains Vitamin C and D, which are also very important at this stage of my life.

The news after the fine needle aspiration was good; it confirmed that my lump is just a bunch of tough tissue. I still have a lot to live for and enjoy. I’m one of the lucky ones who entered the cancer clinic last Friday and I need to celebrate that.

Let the detoxing and de-stressing begin. It’s about time!

 

Truth Be Told

“It’s plantar fasciitis. You can run on it if you feel like it’s not hurting.”

Even though I was at the doctor because my foot hurt, especially after running, I came home overjoyed that he had mentioned that I could run. It wasn’t a stress fracture, after all.

Yes, I have painful flames coming out of the arch of my foot. OW!
Yes, I have painful flames coming out of the arch of my foot. OW!

 

Truth be told, it’s not a good idea to run on plantar fasciitis. That truth came from my physical therapist the next day as he suggested resting it “at least another week,” along with massage, ultrasound, and many different stretching and strengthening exercises.

The truth can be hard to hear. When I was talking about a half-marathon in three weeks as my therapist counseled me to do a “walk to run” rehab program when I was healed, I knew I was ignoring the truth.

One week later, truth be told, I am STILL super-tight. My hamstring is tight. My calf is tight. My plantar region is super tight. My achilles is tight. And I’m stretching almost always three times a day.

No running for me.

No coffee for me, either! “But,” you say, “You gave that up last year! You wrote a whole blog post about it!”

Truth be told, that addiction crept back into my life with the Brewmaster. It’s really hard to wake up in the morning and smell a freshly ground French press. The cravings took over, and this summer I was back to me 3-5 cups a day. And the fatigue that comes with the coffee crash.

This time, the truth was administered by my women’s health doctor. I was complaining about more booby pain and she asked if I consumed caffeine. Apparently that is the first thing that the booby doctor is going to tell me to give up when I see her today after doing more imaging. Caffeine, in coffee, tea or any form, is not good for the cystic masses I get.

Truth be told, I don’t really like the truth.decaf

But I’ve put my Big Girl panties on. I don’t pretend to love my weak decaf in the morning, but it helps me to pretend I’m sipping coffee with the Brewmaster. I’ve gotten to the pool three times and dusted off my mountain bike to do some commuting around town. I bike to PT, and walked a couple of 2+milers, although that sometimes aggravates the plantar.

Many mornings last week I got up with Ballet Boy at 6:30 and had a bleary-eyed breakfast with him. Many mornings I was fortunate enough to have time to go back to sleep virtually all morning. The headaches are getting better.

Although that particular half-marathon is off the books, I believe in these therapists I work with and I know if I listen, I will run again. It’s hard to have SO many come backs and rehabs, but it’s also better than becoming a couch potato.

Truth be told, it could be much worse. Just be aware that if I seem like Grouchy Sleepy Dopey all-in-one, I have a few lame reasons, but it will pass.

Goal keeping

Today I was sipping coffee around 8 a.m., thinking about a group of friends I have doing the “Pigman” triathlon series in Palo, Iowa. Many of them are doing a Half-Ironman, or 70.3 miles today. I couldn’t help thinking back to a week ago when I was struggling through my first real tri (not counting indoors) in several years, but I was primarily look forward to a bike ride with Ironcelloman who offered to go out on the “Sugarbottom loop”, a very hilly route that heads north from my house through the rolling country hills around the dam on the local reservoir. However, mainly I was very excited that Ballet Boy is finally on his way home today from one month at a dance conservatory in Florida followed by an immediate month in Southern France with his father.

Different jitters than my pre-race. Happy jitters!

Top of the hill after lots of construction. Tired? Glad to not have gotten side-swiped!
Top of the hill after lots of construction. Tired? Glad to not have gotten side-swiped!

We had a wonderful bike ride, in spite of a nasty construction zone with lots of cones. Early Sunday morning is probably the best time to attempt such a route. Ironcelloman got up the hills a lot faster and snapped some good pics.

It was fun to see a group of 200 cyclists riding in the opposite direction: they had done a big ride from Hiawatha, Iowa, to Riverside (home of a Casino) and were on their second day of fund-raising for cycling north of Cedar Rapids. I hope they influence the construction of the Cedar Valley Bike trail between Iowa City and Ely, Iowa, where the trail dies. If that’s completed, we could ride almost 100 miles!

This week I took a day off, swam once and then got into some major painting projects with the Brewmaster. He doesn’t joke around; when I told him that I’ve always dreamed of changing the bleak white walls of my basement into something cosier, he was on it. We are a great team; he does most of the cutting in and trim since I am a spazz, and I follow him with the roller. I did some cutting in, but mostly it was him. I did most of the sorting of junk and putting things out of the way so we could actually paint. I made some messes (think dripping and spattering paint), and he patiently cleaned up after me with a kind word or joke.

Mostly I took time off to rest my foot, which intermittently feels great and then will hurt. I’m anxious to see the doctors at the University of Iowa Sport’s Medicine and, more importantly, a therapist. 

Because I REALLY want to do a half-marathon this fall, or maybe two. I’d like to start training for an Olympic Triathlon, and I’ve been having funny twinges of “Maybe I Could Do a Half-Ironman, TOO!” Yikes. Honestly, after seeing me compared to the other ladies last week, the Brewmaster went from saying “You’re nuts” to “You’re still nuts, but I bet you could do a Half-Ironman!”

So, cross you’re fingers that this arch pain I have is something like plantar fasciitis and treatable, and not a stress fracture. In the meantime, I’ll keep making some little goals and working on my swim/bike. 

Gorgeous Iowa Countryside
Gorgeous Iowa Countryside

Racing with Women

Yesterday I completed my first Iron Girl triathlon, my second ever sprint triathlon outdoors. Iron Girl is NOT an Ironman, which is a much longer race. It is a trademark that bought the Danskin women’s triathlon series.

Sometimes I look back on what motivated me after 40 to start training and take on these challenges, and each time I think of specific people: A friend at my 25th high school reunion who was a high school swimmer had just done one, or Ironcelloman, my cello professor at the University of Iowa who went from sprint triathlons in his 40’s to Olympic to half-Ironman to complete the full Ironman in Madison the year he and his second wife had a baby.

People inspire me. I love reading about another man who went to junior high with me who does 7 mile swims, or a member of my endurance club, Iowa HEAT, who just placed 8th in her age group in Nationals. My bike friend who does really fast (30 mph average) rides shares them via Garmin video camera that he uploads to YouTube and those are almost as fun to watch as Le Tour. Or Candyass, who has completed two marathons since we started dragging ourselves through 2 mile runs four years ago. My brother-in-law, a Boston Marathon finisher and Ironman, or a friend who plays French Horn and knocks off Ironman races and ultramarathons as a hobby.

All of these people have day jobs and lives around their training, but they make time for their passion that is also a lifestyle. They motivate me, awe me, and give me a small idea of what I can strive to be.

Sunday as I swam 1/2 mile, biked 12 miles and ran 3.2 miles, all of these people were on my mind at different points.

As I waited on the beach for the swim start of the Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie tri, I met another inspiring woman. She was trying to give a pep talk to a stranger next to her who was very nervous. She showed her that she had a broken wrist, and got teary when she said that she had thought this would be her PR (personal record) race, but that she wasn’t going to be able to shift into more than 3 gears on her bike leg. She had to swim with a closed fist because of tendon issues in the broken wrist.

An all women’s race had never tempted me since I’m not intimidated by male athletes and count many of them as friends and training partners, but there was something very special about the race Sunday. Women are not afraid to congratulate and encourage each other. Our names were printed on our bibs, and as I struggled through the run which was not easy for me on Sunday, complete strangers would pass and say, “You got this, Amy!” or “You’re almost to the turn around.”  There were mother-daughters, friends from work, friends from running groups, lesbian partners and many women attempting their first triathlons alone in a “safe” environment.

What made a women’s race special was not pink or glitter, but the support. It was also the first race I’ve ever been to where there was a basket of tampons outside the port-a-potties! Very considerate.

On the bike women were cheering and yelling things like, “Nice work on that small hill (the course was VERY flat, yay!), Ladies!” or just “You go, ladies!” I went full out on the bike, knowing it was only about 12.2 miles and pretty flat. I was happy with my average pace of 18.75 mph considering that there were many types of cyclists out, ranging from people going faster than I on tri bikes with racing wheels, to mountain bikes weaving in and out of the bike lane. I even saw some very heavy Raleigh bikes out there, and I felt pretty awful passing a 69 year old lady. I found myself yelling out encouraging things like, “Nice age and nice outfit!” when I passed someone with my same age–47–on her leg wearing exactly the same pink top and black shorts I had on.

The women next to me in transition were also super friendly, saying “Have a good race!” as they took off.

Swim to bike transition
Swim to bike transition
Start of bike leg
Start of bike leg

 

All in all, I was very pleased with my race.  I was very nervous on race day and the day before, but when we passed Six Flags I decided I’d much rather do a triathlon then go on one of those roller coasters. My transitions were much faster, even though I had to rack my bike at the start of the transition area, far from the “out” exit.

My same swimmer friend from high school had invited me to meet up with her team, Team Turtle, from Bettendorf, Iowa and we had a nice dinner the night before the race.  I learned why they were doing their race in memory of a certain Paul. One of the women from the group had dated a man three years ago and he had asked if he could watch her do a tri since she had done some in the past. He died that winter and never got to see her. It took her a while to recover from her grief and get back on her feet, but she did great Sunday and I think that training group became a sort of support group for her. I wish they lived closer to me so I could train with them!1795787_10152324939266025_6856969005433455862_n

My race splits! Better transitions than last time.
My race splits! Better transitions than last time.

My goal was to beat my old time of 1 hour 51 minutes and do faster transitions. In practice my swims in open water had taken me from 25-30 minutes, but yesterday I swam the 1/2 mile in 23 minutes. I’m sure I can get faster, but mostly I was really happy that I put myself at the front of my wave so I wouldn’t get kicked. We went in waves of about 50-100 people every 5 minutes and they split my age group into two groups since it was so big. My only problem was that we swam directly into the sun, and although there was a lot of support at the start of the race, the buoys were hard to see for the rest of the course and I felt like I zigzagged a lot. Cheering on the opposite shore helped direct me and I was thrilled to see the shallow water at the end. My outfit kind of sucked; I felt my bra sloshing around under my top at the beginning of the swim and it was frankly not enough support during the run. I want to get  a tri suit and wear a better bra next time!

Of course, I tripped getting out of the water. Unfortunately the Brewmaster didn’t get a shot of that.

The only leg I think I could have done better on was the run, but my legs were lead and my breathing like Darth Vader for the first 1.5 miles. There was no water until then, and I probably should have drank more on the bike and grabbed my inhaler at T2 (transition two). Lessons learned. I will get faster on the bike, but with four turnarounds and some slight inclines, that was probably as fast as my current body will take me. Swimming, well, I’ll keep working on my kick and practicing in open water, but maybe not in E. Coli country. A wetsuit would be great, but I need sponsorship to afford all of the equipment I want. Zoot? Tyr? Aqua Sphere? Garmin? Bueller? Anyone out there?

The Brewmaster said a lot of women were talking to themselves at the finish. One was saying, “You can f*@#cking make it!” over and over again. Another was just yelling encouragement to herself. I guess I’m not the only one who does this, but usually I try to keep it internal during a race.10403167_10152324938056025_5339631248723815874_n

It was fun to hear, “Amy Phelps, you’re an Iron Girl!” and meet up with the rest of the gals from Bettendorf and see how proud the Brewmaster was. I finished 3 minutes UNDER my goal of 1 hr 45 inspite of my slow 5k, and I’m ready to train hard for another race.

As soon as I can get more money in my pocket book for race entries (the next tri in my area in September is up to $75  for a single entry now!), I would like to sign up for another tri and a local half-marathon. First I need to see sport’s medicine at the University of Iowa about this nagging left arch pain to see how to treat it and verify it’s not a stress fracture.

All in all, I would highly recommend an Iron Girl race. In spite of there being 1050 some people on the course, it went smoothly. We were not allowed to clear transition until the last cyclist came in. We were all waiting to go in when she came through, and everyone cheered her on like crazy. I hope that our cheers helped her as she was struggling and that she didn’t feel ashamed. She was a heavy woman and the Brewmaster heard her telling the support crew that she didn’t think that she could make it on the run, but I saw that the race page on Facebook posted a picture of her finishing. Kudos to a company that posts a picture of the last place finisher, because we all know that it was probably more of a struggle for her than anyone else. I know it was really hard for me carrying twenty pounds more than my last race.

The finish line
The finish line

It was great to see all the body types out there, and much more normal than looking at a women’s fitness mag. The good swimmers have broad shoulders, the strong cyclists had strong thighs and legs and the good runners tended to be quite thin. Some people are able to combine all of these attributes, but might only win in the triathlon arena, not in individual events.

I hope that I in turn can inspire people to be brave and strong. Choose a race and train wisely, and everything is possible. Find good support, like the Brewmaster who drove me all the way to Wisconsin and back and got up at 4:30 a.m. with me on race day. The Brewmaster also wore an awesome emerald green t-shirt with symbols for Eat Sleep Trumpet on it, making it easy for me to find him on the course all morning. Find training pals or groups through your gym like the gals from Bettendorf.

Then you can say, “I’m an Iron Girl!” just like me. And feel so strong and brave!10576922_10152324937731025_7592758018880408998_n

 

 

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