Friday, February 27, 2015

OA and My Left Big Toe: A Love Story

Hi, friends!

It's been another crazy busy week at work and I haven't been able to post as frequently as I'd like but I wanted to give you a quick update on my left big toe.

As mentioned before, my big toe on my left foot has been giving me some issues lately. I was diagnosed with pseudo gout, but my primary care physician and orthopedic doctor were skeptical after reviewing my presenting symptoms and medical history. After some blood work, all things gout-related were ruled out.

So that left the orthopedic angle- I met with my ortho last week and he ordered an MRI to confirm what he suspected: Osteoarthritis, also known as OA. From the Mayo Clinic's website:

"Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.
Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.
Osteoarthritis often gradually worsens, and no cure exists. But staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and other treatments may slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function."

So basically, plain, old arthritis. At my ortho appointment on Wednesday, my ortho took lots of time explaining what this means for me. He believes that there are two things that helped to create OA in my left big toe: a genetic bone deformity (bunion deformity or hallux valgus) coupled with use- i.e., walking, running, kneeling, etc. In short, this was bound to be a problem for me at some point.
On the MRI and x-rays, there is some damage visible. Mainly, the development of subchondral cysts, narrowing of the joint space, and some osteophyte formation (bone spurs). The plan is to avoid surgery as long as possible- hopefully this joint will last another 30 years before we need to intervene at that level :-)

Images from my latest MRI.

What does that mean for my running? Not too much at this point. My doc says to back off when the pain flares up; keep swimming/cycling/strength training; and visit a podiatrist to talk about footwear and inserts. An important point he made was that I should absolutely keep moving and being active. One of the worst things a person with OA can do is to stop moving the affected joint: "If you don't use it, you lose it."
I've got an appointment with a local sports medicine podiatrist scheduled for the 16th to discuss shoes best fit for OA in the big toe and possibly getting new inserts for my shoes. I'm also going to check out some alternative therapies including acupuncture, yoga/tai chi, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. 
After a lot of thought, I'm also going to back off on the amount of running I am doing each week- instead of three runs a week, it may just be one or two. I am hopeful that I can still continue to train for half and full marathons by running less and doing cross-training a bit more.

That's the plan for now- as always, I'll let you know how and when it changes :-)

Anyone else have OA? What pain-relief strategies have worked for you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

AM: 2/24/15

Good morning! I hope your Tuesday is off to a great start! This is a longer, non-traditional Accountability Monday post. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in :-)

So, let's just start by saying this- last week did not go as planned. I ate all of my APs, all of my Weeklies, and maybe even dipped into the negative- and still felt ravenous, crappy, and out of control. I had a ton of stuff going on; both professionally and personally.

I performed in our university's version of The Vagina Monologues three nights (and had rehearsal three additional nights), hosted two different family members at two different times, had two doctor's appointments- including an early-morning MRI, and had a flat tire. And I ran ten miles. I was stressed- mostly for good reasons- but I'm learning that stress and anxiety bring out my emotional/binge eating habits unlike any other emotion/situation.

I was stressed about the show. I was stressed about my feet and the pain they were causing me. I was stressed about training. I was stressed about making sure the house was clean and we had enough to feed all our guests. So, I did what I used to do daily; I sought out food for comfort.

These past two years had been so full of growth for me. Finally, I felt like I had confronted my disordered eating habits; that I'd finally figured out a way to eat that wasn't connected with my emotions. I was able to eat like a "normal" person- only when I was hungry. I was making good choices 90% of the time. I had achieved what I thought was true balance.

But this week, I quickly felt like I was spinning out of control. I kept finding myself craving certain foods and then fulfilling (and overfilling!) those cravings- and they had nothing to do with my hunger level. Being busy and stressed and tired makes it easy to make the quick/easy/unhealthy choice. And then I feel like crap about not making good choices so I make more unhealthy choices. It's a vicious, sucky cycle that feels impossible to get out of. That's how I ended up over 200 pounds. I just stayed in that circle of crappiness and kept eating and eating and eating.

So, in order to pull myself out of this crappy cycle before it goes too far, I want to focus on the non-scale/non-eating things that did go well last week:

I got to spend time with my dad and his girlfriend and see an awesome Beatles tribute band, RAIN, in concert.

I was able to sneak three runs and a strength training workout into a very busy week.

My brother Adam came to visit for the weekend and we ran 10 miles together!

I performed on a stage for the first time in 13 years. And I didn't forget my lines once! :-)

I also gained last week- .8 pounds. I'm pretty confident I'll gain again this week. Not a big deal. It's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again. Here's the good thing- it's not 49 pounds. I can't undo all the hard work I've put in in just a week. I have control over what and how I eat. I know how to right this ship before I've sailed far, far away from the eventual destination.

That doesn't mean it isn't difficult. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. I'll always be an emotional eater. My first response when things are crappy will always be to eat. But I do have a choice. I can choose to keep my long-term goals in mind rather than succumbing to the instant gratification of unhealthy/large amounts of food. I can choose to remember that it's just food and that it doesn't have power over me. I can choose health over addiction. I can choose to deal with negative emotions in a healthy, healing way.  I can do this.

Today is a brand new day. And I can totally do this. :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jeff Galloway Says: Training & Motivation Tips Round II

Hi, friends! We're back with round two of Jeff Galloway's training and motivation tips! This time, I've included my two cents after each of his tidbits of wisdom. So, please enjoy this second "Jeff Galloway Says" post:


JG: The training journey for a marathon or half marathon raises your body's physical performance capability and your sense of what you can do in life.

SR: YES! Seriously, my confidence was boosted 1000% after completing my first marathon. Completing a distance race changes your whole idea of what you are capable of doing- in all aspects of your life.

JG: Running helps to bring body, mind and spirit together in a unique and wonderful way.

SR: I worship at the Church of the Long Run each week :-)

JG: In researching my book MENTAL TRAINING I discovered that running turns on brain circuits for a better attitude more vitality and empowerment better than other activities studied.

SR: I'd have to agree, running is the best mood booster I've found.

JG: In researching my book RUNNING UNTIL YOU'RE 100 I found numerous studies showing that runners have healthier orthopedic units than non runners even after decades of running.

SR: My wonky feet excluded- my knees, hips, back, and everything else are very happy with me for run- walking. 


JG: When a runner takes walk breaks early and often enough for the individual the muscles are strong to the end.  See RUN WALK RUN at for recommendations by pace per mile.

SR: My muscles are never "screaming" at me when I run, primarily because of run, walk, run.

JG: The "exhaustion wall" can be avoided by running longer long runs up to or beyond race distance-using the appropriate run-walk-run strategy.

SR: Yes, yes, yes! One of my mantras when I'm having a tough run is "you can do anything for a minute." Knowing I have a walk break coming up helps me get through the running sections and keeps me from getting too tired.

JG: Marathoners tend to improve time by an average of more than 15 minutes when they increase their longest run from 20 miles to 26 miles.

SR: I only have one marathon training cycle under my belt but I'll have a better idea of this after Pittsburgh in May. 

JG: To recover fast, run the long runs at least 2 min/mi slower than you could currently run in a marathon.

SR: Running the long runs at a slower pace really helps me to mentally prepare for the race. Giving myself permission to go at a slow pace takes some of the pressure and anxiety off and helps me enjoy the run a little more.

JG: The right run-walk-run strategy from the beginning of each run, gives any runner control over fatigue, injury-elimination, and recovery.

SR: Yup :-)

JG: In numerous surveys, runners improved over 13 minutes when they shifted from running continuously to use of the right run-walk-run strategy.

SR: Absolutely! When I started doing the run/walk, I was amazed at how much faster- and how much better I felt- than just straight running. 

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What's your favorite training tip?

Monday, February 16, 2015

AM: 2/16/15

Happy President's Day! And, it's my dad's birthday- so happy birthday, Pops!

I have to say- this week/weekend was tough. With both Valentine's Day and a birthday celebration, I used more weekly PPVs than I wanted to. Couple that with a pretty light workout week (trying to rest my toe) and I'm just feeling crummy about how the week went. But, the good news is- it's a brand new week and I can set the tone today for how I want the next seven days to go.

Monday- MOGA (kinda like yoga) class at Appalachian Running Company's Ladies Night Out. Loved it so much I signed up for four more classes!
Tuesday- 30 minute treadmill run- in Hokas! (more on that below), 1:1 intervals, 12:33 pace
Wednesday- Rest day
Thursday- Runner's World core workout
Friday- 30 minute treadmill run- 1:1 intervals, 12:30 pace
Saturday- 2 mile Love Run race, 30:30 intervals, 12:01 pace

6.79 total miles

So yeah, about the Hokas. As you may know, my PT thinks that the Hokas are NOT a good shoe for my foot. In fact, he thinks they led to my stress fracture. However, because of what I think I have in my left toe (Hallux Limitus), the best running/athletic shoe for that condition is a rocker bottom- just what the Hokas offer. I recently bought a pair of Altras (also with a rocker bottom) and will be taking them to both my PT and my Ortho to see what their thoughts are on how I might be able to wear these shoes without getting another stress fracture. Ugh. I just want to run pain-free in shoes that I know are helping me, not hurting me. Can't a girl catch a break?!

This week, my food intake consisted of chocolate-covered strawberries, Mexican AND Chinese takeout, and multiple, delicious raspberry cupcakes. To quote a favorite runner, Forrest Gump: "And that's all I have to say about that."

Who could resist these?

141.4 as of 2/11/15 weigh-in
-.6 from last week
-49 since January 2013
-60.6 from HW

Seeing another loss was such a blessing last week; here's hoping the downward trend continues.

I have an insane week coming up so I may not be blogging as much as usual though I'll try to update y'all on my toe situation as I can. Fingers (and toes!) crossed that I don't need surgery just yet or have gout/pseudo gout. I'll let you know as soon as I know.

Make it a great week! We're almost to spring! :-)

What's your favorite type of cupcake? If cupcakes aren't your thing, what's your go-to birthday treat?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jeff Galloway Says: Training & Motivation Tips

It's no secret: I love Jeff Galloway. Almost to a level of inappropriate. Almost.

His run/walk/run method is the reason I am a runner. There is no possible way I would have been able to accomplish any amount of distance running with Jeff's sage advice and wisdom. If you're a fan of this blog, you know that I've written about him and his training plans many times. Last week, I got the awesome news that I had been selected to be a Jeff Galloway Blogger! Jeff Galloway + Blogging = A match made in heaven! What this means is that I will recieve periodic information to share with all of you- straight from the Olympian himself. Cool, right?

This will be my first "Jeff Galloway Says" post- chock full of running wisdom from Jeff. Matthew always likes to tease me when we talk about running or training because I frequently am quoted saying, "Well, Jeff Galloway says [insert training advice here]" or "According to Jeff...." (yes, I like to think we are on a first-name basis). So that's what this series will be called- "Jeff Galloway Says!"

Jeff Galloway's Training & Motivation Tips

  • When paced correctly, running delivers the best attitude boost you can get. Sustain this by pacing yourself gently during the first mile or three.

  • A well-paced run enhances vitality for the rest of the day.  Start each run at least 30 seconds a mile slower than you will run at the end.

  • If you have a Run Walk Run strategy that is right for you on that day, it's possible to feel good after every run-even the marathon.

  • Running is the best stress reliever I've found. Research shows that running tends to activate the conscious brain which over-rides the emotional subconscious brain and manages the negative and anxiety hormones during and after the run.

  • Research shows that as runners get faster, their stride length shortens.  A quicker cadence is the mechanical key to faster running.

  • The finishing of a run that is longer than you've run in the last 3 weeks can bestow a sense of achievement that is unique and empowering-due to positive brain circuits that are turned on.

  • You can't run a long run too slowly or take too many walk breaks.  You'll get the same endurance based upon the distance covered.

I agree 1000% with everything he's mentioned above. One of my favorite "Gallowayisms" or mantras is this: "You can do anything for a minute." That has gotten me through many a long and tough run.

I hope you enjoyed this post and it's given you some tangible advice for your running and/or walking. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I'd be happy to help in any way I can.

Do you run/walk/run? 

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Monday, February 9, 2015

AM: 2/9/15

Howdy, friends! Welcome to another Monday. Apparently, that damn groundhog saw his shadow last week so it'll be another six long weeks of winter here in the north east. Ugh. I still don't know why I live here- every winter I try to talk Matthew into moving to Walt Disney World. But no dice so far :-)

Regardless of the cold weather, I've still got goals I want to accomplish this year. First and foremost- make it to goal weight (135) and achieve lifetime status with Weight Watchers. Secondly, feel good wearing a bikini- like a real one, not a tankini- on our Disney Cruise in May. And obviously, run a bunch of races. So, that means continuing the hustle and grind: moving more, eating less junk, and making healthy choices 99% of the time.

Monday- 20 minutes on the recumbent bike, circuit weight training, 10 burpees
Tuesday- 30 minute treadmill run, 1:1 intervals, 13:19 pace
Wednesday- Runner's World Lolo Jones Core Workout
Thursday- Rest day due to pseudo gout flare-up
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- Rest day
Sunday- 10.19 miles! Seven miles with Matthew: 30/30 intervals, 12:25 pace. 5k with Jen: 30/30 intervals, 11:16 pace.

So this pseudo gout thing is cramping my style- literally. I got a new medication at my doctor's appointment on Friday so hopefully that will keep the incredibly painful flare-ups at bay. We still don't know for sure what's going on. I have an orthopedic appointment next week to address the bone degeneration/arthritis in the big toe joint and to have further tests to determine if it is actually gout or pseudo gout.

That being said, the days I was able to get a workout in were great. I felt really strong this week- I think the core work and the weight training is starting to make a difference. And I was elated to be able to get in 10 relatively pain-free miles yesterday. And run a super-fast (for me) 5k after doing seven miles! Big thanks to Matthew and Jen for running with me- and kudos to Matthew for placing 9th overall and 2nd in his age group!

My other, speedier half.

Me, Jen, and the cutest little cheerleader at the race!

For the fourth week in a row- basically, a miracle- Matthew and I have kept up with meal planning and cooking at home. Honestly, it's been helping us both stay on track so much. By planning out meals and making extra servings for lunches, it's so much easier for me to stick to my daily PPV target. I feel like I'm in control and that empowers me to keep making healthy choices. And we are loving all the recipes in the Weight Watcher's cookbook, "Easy Mains and Sides." This is the cookbook that's included in the WW "Starter Kit" that I bought right after the new year. Figured I'd get back to basics for 2015 and so far, so good :-)

Turkey and cous cous stuffed peppers... and toothpicks to keep them upright.

Veggie, Bean, & Feta Bake. Super yum.

142.0 as of 2/4/15
-.8 from last week
-48.4 since January 2013
-60 since HW

I am so close to 50 pounds lost, I can taste it! Here's hoping it happens sooner rather than later. On a non-scale victory note, I compared pictures from the race I ran on Sunday to pictures from the same race last year and noticed some real differences. It's funny because sometimes I can barely notice how my body has changed because I feel like the same person, you know? Because the changes have been so slow, it sometimes feels like I haven't changed at all.  I don't know if I'm making sense but I was happy to compare the pictures and see progress. And then I saw that my time for this year's race was only about 25 seconds off of last year's. Not too shabby for this injured runner!

2/8/14 and 2/8/15

What are your goals for 2015?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Introducing... Gouty Foot?!

Well folks, it seems like my right foot, my "cranky" foot, was lonely and needed a partner in crime. Allow me to introduce to you.... "Gouty Foot!"

Yup, that's about right. Source.

Here's the back story on my left big toe:

A year and a half ago, I visited a podiatrist because I had some pain in my left arch and my left big toe- I assumed it was from wearing heels. The podiatrist diagnosed me with Plantar Fasciitis and said that I had a slight alignment issue with my big toe joint. He gave me custom orthodic inserts and said that it should clear up both problems.

I went on about my life with some lingering pain in my big toe- not when I ran, just a little soreness and a little achy after long runs. I noticed that I had some limited range of motion- my left big toe won't bend back as far as my right- but it's never been anything I really thought too much about. I trusted that the podiatrist was right and that as long as I wore the inserts I would be ok.

Fast forward to Sunday night. As I'm getting ready for bed, I get a sharp and severe pain in my left big toe. This wasn't all together new- over the past few weeks, I've been having 10 minute bouts of shooting pain in this toe, along with the inability to move it. It comes on suddenly, always at night. It only lasts for a few minutes and then it's gone and my toe feels fine. Well on Sunday, it didn't stop.

I woke up Monday and could barely walk. I couldn't get a shoe on my foot without excruciating pain. I decided to go to an urgent care facility that opened at nine. As I waited, I made breakfast and had a cup of coffee. About 45 minutes after I woke up, the pain was gone, just like that.

I still went to the urgent care where the doctor took some xrays and gave me a diagnosis of pseudo gout. Yup, fake gout. Did you even know that is a thing?! Basically, it is a build up of crystals in your joints that mimic the symptoms of gout. The doctor also said that he could see the beginning of a bone spur on the top of my first metatarsal and some bone degeneration- but he didn't think that was what was causing the pain. What the heck?! I'm only 30! My bones are degrading?!?!

Yeah, I might have freaked out a little.

But, I'm not going to full-on freak out just yet. I've got an appointment with my regular doctor tomorrow to run some tests to figure out if I really have pseudo gout or gout. I've also got an appointment with my orthopedic doctor to determine what the course of action is with a bone spur and bone degradation (also known as Hallux Rigidus or Hallux Limitus). There is a course of action that involves foot surgery to remove the spur and help create more space for the joint to move. There is also a last-ditch measure that involves fusing the joint forever- which sounds very scary to me.

Regardless of what the eventual diagnosis is, there is something going on with this toe. Hopefully, the solution is something that will allow me to keep being as active as I have been and stop the damage being done to my bones. And, fingers crossed, I can keep running.

I will post an update tomorrow after my doctor's appointment on facebook. If you want to send some good vibes my way, I'd greatly appreciate it :-)

Monday, February 2, 2015

AM: 2/2/15

Good morning and welcome to the first week of February! This is one of my favorite months because we are only 28 days from warmer weather- potentially. I don't know about you, but after the winter holidays are over, I am ready to fast forward to spring.

Monday- Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, Level 1
Tuesday- 45 minutes on the treadmill, 3.36 miles
Wednesday- Lunch-time walk with co-worker
Thursday- 30 minutes on the treadmill, 2.26 miles.
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- 30 minutes on the elliptical
Sunday- 3.25 miles outside in 40:33. 12:29 pace. This core workout from Runner's World.

8.87 total miles.

I played around a lot with intervals this week. Prior to the stress fracture, I was consistently running 1:1's or 2:1's. On the advice of both my orthopedic doctor and my physical therapist, I have been trying different intervals- all with a bit more walking than usual. 30:30 has felt the best during the short miles- three miles or less. 30:1 (running for 30 seconds; walking for one minute) has been the most kind to my foot when I'm running a bit longer. As my recovery continues, I suspect I'll still be experimenting to see what is going to feel the best on my cranky foot.

In continuing last week's trend- and one of our New Year's resolutions- we cooked all week and only ate out twice. It has been more fun than I thought it would be to actually plan out meals and cook them. And we've been able to experiment with new foods and flavors that we probably wouldn't have tried. My favorite recipe has been one I found in a Weight Watcher's cookbook: Moroccan Chicken Toss. It is so simple to make and is even better the next day for lunch.

I managed to stay within my points this week- only eating Activity and Daily Points and leaving the 49 Weekly Allowance Points. While it's been difficult, it hasn't been impossible. I am choosing to not eat the weeklies because I think this will help me to lose the last seven pounds to get to my goal weight. I believe that part of the reason my weight plateaued this fall/winter is because I was eating all of my APs and my weeklies. So we'll see if this strategy works to help get me to goal.

142.8 as of 1/28/15
+.4 from last week
-47.6 since January 2013
-59.2 since HW

Some weeks, you can do everything "right," get a lot of activity in, make great food choices, and still gain weight. But, I know enough about this weight-loss process to know that I can't always judge success by the scale. The scale isn't failure, it's just feedback. So I'll keep doing what I've been doing and hopefully there will be a loss on the scale next week.

I did have an awesome non-scale victory this week though. Matthew and I went to Old Navy and got a bunch of great stuff on clearance. I found a really colorful and cute running jacket for $26- in a size SMALL! A freaking small! Can you believe that?! I don't think I've ever been a small-sized anything in my adult life. It is still so unbelievable to me that my size has changed. I mean, I know logically that I am not the same size as I was two years ago but it's almost like I haven't processed that I really, truly can wear a smaller size. It's weird but so cool at the same time :-)

What are you most looking forward to in February?