Adapting to my anti-running medicine

Problems (L) and problem solved (R)

Today’s run (track): 3.3 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 2.2 miles

I’m coming up on the nine year anniversary of The Emerging Runner and there’s a certain irony that, for different reasons, I’m running at about the same performance level as I did back in 2008.  I started the blog as a public journal to record my transition from exercise walking to running. By my first post I was running more than walking, but my distances were fairly modest. Due to some unexpected medical issues involving my eyes, I’m now experiencing challenges that are similar to what I was dealing with all those years ago. However, I am making progress.

Back in September I needed eye surgery to address a couple of problems. This procedure is routine and performed about 4 million times a year in the US. Most go perfectly well. Mine only went okay and I’m dealing with a couple of issues that require medication, at least for now. Some of this medication addresses ocular pressure with a residual effect on heart rate.

One medication that is used for my condition is also the go-to drug for high altitude sickness. The first time I took it I felt extremely dizzy. I questioned why this drug would be a good choice for mountain climbers who really should not be woozy negotiating a couloir at 25,000 feet. I mentioned that to my ophthalmologist who also climbs mountains. She said the dosage for altitude sickness is half of what I’m taking. Good I guess, but I’d stick with Dramamine.

The net effect of a post surgery running layoff and all these medications has resulted in a performance setback. I had adapted somewhat to a couple of the post op drugs and was covering 3 to 4 miles a few weekends back with decent results. Last Saturday, with the addition of the altitude drug, I couldn’t run a fifth of a mile without stopping. I recognized the problem and filled in the blanks with a lot of walking, but I really hoped I would be able to adjust to the new medication.

I worked from home on Friday and set a goal of running a mile or two before I started my work day. After last week’s experience, I didn’t know what to expect. I decided I would try to run as easily and efficiently as I could for as long as I could. If I only made it through a half a mile it would still be progress.

Most runners have a good idea about how their run will go within a minute after they start. Last Saturday I knew I was in bad shape before I lost sight of my house. Friday morning was cool and clear and once the middle school buses had wrapped up their routes, I took off through the neighborhood. I felt okay and made my way past the quarter and half mile marks with no thoughts of stopping. By the time I reached my first mile I knew I could manage two and probably three. I kept it to a little more than two miles and my pace was slow, but I was very pleased with the run.

Knowing that I could run, I set the bar a little higher for this morning’s workout. I set off to the local high school to cover about three miles on the track. I left just after sun-up to avoid the crowd and to avoid the humiliation of being the slowest guy running. That was a bad plan because, when I arrived, there were two speedsters, another slowster and a couple of walkers. I lined up in lane 4 and took off at an easy pace that I knew I could maintain. Like clockwork, the speedy guys passed me about once a quarter. I picked up the pace as I progressed, which meant their passing orbit grew increasingly longer as time went on.

Besides running over a mile longer today, I paced 6% faster than on Friday. Still slow, but edging toward pre-surgery speed. I was told by my ophthalmologist that my new medication requires a high degree of hydration with electrolytes, especially potassium. There’s something to that because when I do hydrate properly, the effects of the drug are minimized. I’ve been consuming a bottle of Drink Melon Organic Watermelon Water daily which contains 980 mg of potassium (compared to Gatorade which has a paltry 37 mg). It’s pure watermelon juice and only 80 calories a bottle. 

I hope that I will fully adapt to all my medications soon and get back to running as usual. Last weekend was a setback but today was very encouraging.

Heat, treadmill and potassium

Electro-like

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

Fall isn’t here yet, but it might as well be. The pool’s been closed and the kids are back in class. The morning had a different feel with new early schedules and I’m already feeling more energy coming from the business side. As for the fall bringing better running weather, it looks like that will have to wait for the real fall.

The morning was surprisingly busy. By the time I wrapped up my early work, a thunderstorm was moving through the area. If I was going to get a run in, it would have to be on the treadmill. It felt extremely humid and I was glad to have the big fan. I set the speed high from the start and hoped for the best. The first mile went by quickly, with little problem from either the heat or the pace.

Pretty soon after that, the humidity started getting to me. My wife thoughtfully turned down the AC, but the heat was draining. I told myself, “Less than two miles to go” and focused on CNN to distract myself from the tedium. The trouble with the treadmill is that there’s no place for subtlety in your pacing. You’re locked in and unless you play with the speed controls, it’s a monotonous experience.

I thought I’d never reach my targeted “distance” but finally it came and I recovered with a tall glass of water and some dried apricots. I noticed the other day that they’re high in potassium so I thought, why not? That seemed to work and now I have a nice alternative to gels for those long weekend runs.

A couple of products I wish I could buy

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

After yesterday’s difficult run that capped a week of tough workouts, I decided to give myself a couple of days rest in the upcoming week. Since today is Sunday, I couldn’t resist the chance to go out for a run without the time constraints that I face on workday mornings. You’d think that I’d take it easy today and ease into my upcoming rest period, but that’s not the way it went.

I’ve had some tweaking around my left knee and I felt some soreness when I got up today. I noticed that the pain came from lateral, not straight-ahead, movements. That meant I could run, so I put on my running gear and headed outside.

I thought about my current stamina issues and popped a couple of Sports Beans before I left. I’m not sure if they helped, but I did feel more energy at the start than I did before yesterday’s run. It made me think about two products I’d like to see: a time released carb/electrolyte supplement and an electrolyte drink that is neutral-tasting like water.

Right product, wrong geography

I used to buy electrolyte-enhanced water at Whole Foods after runs in the city, but it only solved part of the problem. I looked online and found a product called CNP Pro-Energy bars that supposedly release energy over time. The website is from the UK and I don’t know if the bars are available in the US. I think both of these ideas would find a market here.

Today’s run went very well. I didn’t plan to cover a long distance, so I ran harder than I did Saturday. My speed improved 2 minutes per mile over yesterday’s pace. That was good enough for me, and when I finished I was breathing hard but happy to take a break over the next couple of days.

I need to get in at least one 6+ mile run next weekend as I continue to build my base for May’s half marathon. In the meantime, I’m hoping to recover my fitness with a little R&R.

Runners: know thy enemy!

Today’s run: 2.6 miles

Hoping to keep my cool

Like most runners, my performance degrades with a rise in temperature. Adding humidity makes it worse and it all makes sense scientifically. If your body needs to cool itself, it will deplete your body’s fluid level through sweat. This leads to a loss in plasma volume and a reduction in oxygen to muscles because blood low is being pushed to the surface of the skin. Humidity prevents efficient evaporation of sweat that dissipates heat and helps regulate body temperature.

It seems like every running magazine I read has an article or two about running in the heat. They all say basically the same thing — that proper hydration (including electrolyte balance) is key. They are also pretty clear that running in extreme heat can drive your body temperature up to dangerous levels. At that point it goes from bad to worse.

I’m thinking about this because I’m two weekends away from the Dirty Sock 10K trail run. It’s a great race that goes through the woods and around a lake. It’s always held the third weekend in August and the two times I’ve run it conditions ranged from high heat and humidity to high heat, humidity and rain. Last year I drank 24 ounces of water after I finished and still felt depleted. It wasn’t until my daughter brought over an electrolyte drink that I finally felt restored and balanced.

This morning’s run did not feel humid (though it was) and I appreciated the temperatures that were still in the 70’s. I had a decent run and by the time I came home I was drenched with sweat but I didn’t feel overheated. I’m looking for a singlet to wear on race day. Despite the “wife-beater” look that I’ve always avoided, that may be a good tool for keeping my body temperature down. One thing I’m counting on is that Dirty Sock will fall on a hot and humid day.

Tough connexin at Stillwell Woods

Electrolytes delivered painfully

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3 miles

I was on the fence about running this morning. It’s been busy week between Thanksgiving related activities and seeing friends. I’d run every day since Tuesday including Thursday’s 5K. I talked all morning about whether I should go for a trail run or take a rest day. After lunch I was still talking about it and my exasperated wife finally said “Oh, just get into your running clothes and go for a run!” I had received a sample package of Sport Connexin electrolyte capsules in the mail this morning that I’d agreed to try.  I took three before my run, per the directions, and headed over Stillwell Woods.

I’ll start by saying that I had a bad run and I’m not sure why. It could have been due to over training this week, running after a big lunch, the electrolyte supplement or a combination of all three. I followed my usual route into the main woods and quickly came upon markings for tomorrow’s Rob’s Run, a 5K XC race that is held there each November. I’ve already raced three times this month, including two Turkey Trots, so I decided to forgo Rob’s Run even though it happens so close to home. As I made my way along the course I felt far more tired at the one mile mark than I thought I should. My legs felt heavy and the supplements, that contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and sodium, were backing up on me and providing a burning sensation in my throat and nose that reminded me of the effects from a highly carbonated beverage. Not pleasant. It may have been because two ingredients (potassium and sodium) are supplied as bicarbonates that may have reacted to stomach acids. No matter what I’m not going to use them again before a run.

By the time I reached the two mile mark I decided to continue only one more mile before calling it a workout. I’m still planning a long distance run tomorrow and I didn’t want to push myself when I felt below par today. I may have been better off skipping today’s run but you never know how things will go until you try. Hoping for a better experience tomorrow…