Adventures in Acupuncture

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and these opinions are solely my own. One should always use their own judgment when seeking treatment for any kind of pain or injury and consult their physician as needed. 

We’ve all been there. Plantar fascitis. GI issues. Shin splints. Tendon and muscular problems. These problems for anyone, including runners, can not only be annoying but can be debilitating. Injuries are the worst, especially when you’re training for a race. Injuries are frustrating, painful, confidence shaking and as we’ve all learned they can derail our progress.

After having to take weeks months off of training due to a pretty serious case of shin splints, I was thrilled to get back to my workouts, now pain-free. I started slow, I listened to my body, I single-handedly drove up the stock price of various brands of kinesio tape. And then one blasphemous day in July, while stepping onto a curb, my right foot slipped and I came down very hard on my right foot. I felt like I tweaked my lower back but kept about my day, as it didn’t seem like a big deal. Just stretched a little more that day. The next morning I had an intense dull ache around my tailbone. As I would walk the area around my piriformis muscle began to ache and a tingling progressed down the back of my right leg to the bottom of my foot. This got worse the longer I walked and became intolerable to run. The only relief I would get was from sitting or bending over and taking some pressure off the nerve. Of course, no one can run that way. Unless you’re Phoebe Buffet.

Sciatica. I’ve heard of it. I know people that have had it. I’ve never personally experienced anything quite like it.  But I knew that’s what it was pretty early on. I don’t have time for this nonsense, I’m mid-season with TNT and I already lost 4 months last season and missed a race.

What is sciatica, anyway?  Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve — which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body. (Source: The Mayo Clinic. Click here for further information on sciatica)

I called my chiropractor, who is amazing and treated my shin splints. Had two visits, but my symptoms were not improving. Running was out, and walking was very uncomfortable. So I asked her about acupuncture, since there’s a practitioner in the same office. I made an appointment and saw her the following week. Now, I should say this, I’ve had acupuncture before and already swear by it. So I may be a bit biased. But I did it for relaxation, not for pain management, so I was hopeful, but not sold.

Visit number one was good. I always reach a deep state of relaxation, but my back muscles were so tight in my lower back that I knew it was going to take some time. Visit number 2 was two days ago. One of the needles was placed along my sciatic nerve relatively low on my hip. Bear in mind, I can’t see any of this because I was face-down. She told me this one placement was “going to feel really weird.” I felt nothing for a few seconds and then a deep ache in the same spot I’ve been feeling it. I had some needles along my lower back, back of my leg and inside of my ankles and then she turned out the light, left me alone (on a heated table which was awesome) and let me rest for about 30 minutes. I fell asleep.

When she came back the level of relaxation was ridiculous. I wasn’t tired. I was so relaxed I keep saying I was drunk with relaxation.  Luckily this was the evening and I went home and fell asleep for the night. When I got up, I wasn’t as stiff as I had been. Standing in the shower wasn’t torture, and running around at work wasn’t as irritating. This morning I still went out with my team, but I didn’t run, just walked. There were a few times that I had to stop to stretch my back out, but I got in about 5 miles and was not in any more pain than I was in when I started. I even took another walk later in the day. Today I am more comfortable than I have been in a few weeks.

Did acupuncture cure me? Too soon to tell. Did it help with symptom management? Absolutely.

Here are my general thoughts on acupuncture. I once was afraid of it, but the needles actually don’t hurt at all. Every now and then one might hit a sensitive spot, but in general, they don’t hurt and you can’t feel them when they are in. I have never done anything that can relax me the way that 30 minutes of acupuncture can. And the relaxation effects for me last several days. It’s non-narcotic, which means I don’t have to worry about side-effects. This approach has several benefits and I have found it to be extremely effective. I would definitely recommend it to others and suggest that if it’s something you’re curious about, talk to your healthcare provider and consult with a practitioner to see if it’s a good option.  I will continue to report on my progress with it over the next couple of weeks.

To read more about acupuncture check out the National Institute for Health National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Have you tried or ever wondered about acupuncture? What was your experience?

 

Happy Running!

Brie

 

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

I love dipping carrots and celery in something. Peanut butter is one of my go-tos, but that’s often too heavy, and I can’t really eat too much (I know, I know.) I’m also using greek yogurt in just about anything and as a substitute for sour cream or salad dressings. I finally found a healthified ranch dip recipe that you can brag about, not feel guilty about.

*Adapted from Center Cut Cook’s Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip Recipe.

1 container (8 oz) of Fage (or your favorite) plain greek yogurt. I like the 2% for this.

1/4 tsp dried dill

1/4 tsp dried minced onion

1/4 tsp garlic salt

ground black pepper to taste

 

You can alter the seasoning anyway you want. I only adapted from the recipe above because I didn’t have all of the ingredients. Center Cut Cook’s recipe would be AMAZING. In my opinion, if you’re missing a couple of things, as long as you have salt, pepper, garlic, dill and some onion (powder, diced, minced, whichever!), you’re going to love it.

 

Don’t be afraid to play with greek yogurt. Look up your favorite sour-cream recipes and switch the cream for yogurt. Almost anything will translate well!!

 

Team On Fire

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Many people know that for over a year I’ve been actively involved with the Greater Bay Area Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Last fall I trained for and ran in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon and raised $2700 for blood cancer research. I ran in honor of a friend, Maggie, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2012. I’ve made so many good friends through Team. I’ve met survivors; people who themselves survived blood cancer and people who were survived by someone who didn’t. I run for all of them. I met some very special people last Fall. Stephanie Waxman, who was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia 2 years ago; who walked the NWHM with Team Stephanie and crossed the finish line just over a year after being diagnosed and undergoing a life-saving bone marrow transplant; who is now running with us this season. Christine Attia, who joined our team in August (3 months before the race!) and just 4 months after she lost her fiance, Dave LaRiche to Acute Myeloid Leukemia in April 2013. He was just 27. These two extraordinary women touched me deeply. Their stories were so relate-able. We three continued on to subsequent seasons; Christine and Stephanie on the Summer Team and I on the Spring Team. Little did I know then what a monumental Fall season we were about to embark on.

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Christine and Stephanie had been throwing around the idea of forming another team with LLS/TNT to raise money directed specifically towards AML. “Wishful thinking” has resulted in a campaign that Christine has spearheaded called, Team on Fire. I went to an event honoring Dave on the 1 year anniversary of his passing and Christine told me that this was an idea in progress. I told her then, “I’m IN!”. (The survival rate of AML 5 years post-treatment is still only 25%). Well, our respective seasons ended. I signed back on to be a Mentor for our Fall season and I talked to Christine again. This time the campaign has grown and the goal of Team on Fire is to raise $250,000 aimed at funding research and treatment specific to AML, and she’s asked me to be the Team on Fire mentor. Of course I was so excited I actually almost burst. (And after I regained my composure I said YES!!!) 

And so we begin, with Christine as Captain, Stephanie and Lois Markovich (cancer survivor!) as Honored Teammates and myself as Mentor, Team on Fire as of today has 29 AML-fighting, run-spired members and we’re growing. This is a NATIONAL campaign through Team in Training, so anyone, anywhere can join our fight. We need to meet more survivors and our hope is that with more research and advancement specific to AML, we will. Our Dave, and our Maggie, and every other person diagnosed with a form of Leukemia will not be discussing end-of-life at age 27 or looking at a 5-year survival rate, because AML will be a cancer that has a high cure-rate. WE CAN DO THIS. WE WILL DO THIS.

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I am so incredibly proud to be a part of this team and to be surrounded by such strong and determined people. All survivors in their own right.

To give you an idea of the beauty, courage, strength and determination that has developed over the past year, please visit the Team in Training Homepage, where Christine was interviewed just after she rocked the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October 2013.

http://www.teamintraining.org/alumni/stories/christine_attia/

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My single hope is that everyone reading will take a look at my page, at our Team Page and learn about what we are going to do.  By raising enough money to fund a specific grant, this will make a difference in the recovery of AML patient’s and their families. I hope that you might follow our progress. Maybe come to an event. Maybe dig even a bit deeper and make a donation to me or our Team. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Here is the link to my personal page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/gba/nikesf14/bkellyj5jp

Here is the link to the Team On Fire team page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/gba/nikesf14/TeamOnFire

THANK YOU for reading. Happy Running!

Brie

Oh Hey, Here I Am!

Well hello again! That was far longer of a hiatus than I ever intended. Truth is, I was having a ridiculous pity party for myself after being derailed for months with some serious shin splints.  

After my great run in January at the Hot Chocolate 15K, my legs just never fully recovered. I was just beginning my training season with Team in Training for Spring, but never was able to get above 2 miles without significant pain. I was having bilateral shin pain that was fairly localized to mid-tibia. My right side was more painful than the left, and frankly, it hurt like a SOB whenever I so much as bumped it. So my training stalled, and then eventually stopped. I was hoping it would be somewhat limited to a few weeks. Unfortunately, they would get better enough to try running a short distance and would regress right back to where they were. SO. My coach recommended that I look into seeing someone that does the Graston Technique. I had talked to a few people that have done it and sworn by it. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to “a hot butter knife scraping over my injured shin” as it was often described, I also knew that FOR THE LOVE OF SHIN I needed to do something. With that, I found a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries and does Graston, ART (Active Release Therapy) and some other rehab techniques and so began my rehab.

I was seeing Dr. Randall weekly for about 2 months. I will say this. It wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable at first. That being said, I could see immediately why Graston works. We basically went a little Chuck Norris on my shins, between Graston, ART, some cold laser and some ultrasound. And it took awhile. My mood during my off time was spectacularly cranky. My motivation was worse. But staying off of my legs was necessary. I’m now seeing my doctor every other week. I’m back in a regular training schedule and have been for about three weeks. In the mean time, I had a touch of plantar fasciitis which is all but healed now. I’ve been able to run, for the most part, pain free. Yesterday’s short run felt great, but today my legs are a little tender, so I’ll back off of today and RICE instead. But I think that the hiatus was necessary. To think that I could have ended up with a stress fracture that would have likely been worse is kind of scary. I learned the hard way not to become overzealous with events and training and what the cues are when your body needs a break. Had I skipped that one race in January, I may have saved myself 4 months of rehab. 

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Looking forward, I’ve scrapped nearly all of my race calendar for the year and focusing only on my one half-marathon in October, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon here in San Francisco. This is an important event for me as I am doing it again with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raising money to fund Acute Myeloid Leukemia research (more on that soon).

Tell me about your running injuries. How did you get through them both physically and emotionally.

 

Until Next Time,

Brie

When Injury Strikes

MISSING POST IS FOUND!!! (Apparently I just never hit “Publish”…oops). April, 2014:

Where the heck have I been? Wellllll. I have learned a valuable lesson in running. Athletics in general actually. Dealing with injury physically, is one thing. Dealing with it mentally is another.

After my PR-ing at the HC15K back in January, I never totally recovered. My shins were always a bit more tender and I couldn’t get beyond a 2 mile stretch of running without needing at least a week to recover. I would rest for a week until I had no more pain, then I would start out again. Within another week, I was in pain again. This went on for weeks. I had been brainstorming different strategies with my coach, who eventually recommended that I look into some medical treatment. The two suggestions were the Graston Technique and Active Release Therapy (ART). It took some time to find a practitioner in my area. Unfortunately, time I did not have. I have a half marathon at the end of this month (more on that later).

About a month ago I had to stop running entirely. I couldn’t get within even several yards. But I managed to find an excellent Graston provider nearby who had immediate availability. This was excellent news. Unfortunately, during this time my mood took a major hit.

Running is my outlet. It’s become part of my routine. I’ve been training for the San Luis Obispo Half Marathon with Team in Training. I have a team that I train with 2-3 times per week and I really look forward to it. NOT being able to train is brutal. What was worse is that I lost motivation to do anything else. It was a pretty depressing month. I was never mentally prepared to be forced to stop. I can handle a day or two, or a week. A month was/is miserable.

But I learned a lot. (I sure better have!). First, I did way too much in the Fall/Winter. Too many races too close together too soon. I sealed the deal in January with my overzealous appearance in HC15K. (Which I loved, btw).
2), I learned that you have to consider that injury really can happen to anyone at anytime. I think I knew that inherently. 3) I learned that there is a certain point at which rest isn’t going to help, and then it’s time to see a professional.

I look forward to a future post about Graston and ART, which combined with come other treatment and some good rest have begun to get me back on my feet. I started with short runs this week. My race at the end of the month is out of the question, and I’m surprisingly okay with it. I’d rather heal know and be stronger later than end up with a stress fracture that sidelines me even longer.

What have injuries taught you?

 

Happy running,

Brie

You Know You’re a Runner When…

I’ve often thought about at what point I became a runner. Fellow runners might say that it was as soon as I started running. That may be true, but I don’t think that is when I knew I was a runner.

I started running for real with intent about a year ago. I didn’t know then that I was a runner. I ran three times per week with my Team. I didn’t know I was a runner. I did 1/2 mile repeats, but I didn’t think I was a runner. I ran 1 mile repeats. Still not sure I was a runner. I did hill sprints and long runs and it didn’t occur to me that I was a runner. I ran. Those to me were not the same thing.

I got a monster case of shin splints (these are my vice), and I thought, “Okay maybe I’m a runner, runners get these.” And then I had to stop running, so I most certainly couldn’t be a runner.  I went an entire season coming in last, moving slow, recovering slower. Actually, I grew to really embrace this. I knew I would never be a runner if I didn’t struggle through this part. After all, my body was not used to the schedule, the hours, the pounding. I knew though, that as long as I didn’t give up, there would come a point when it felt less like “work”. But it was hard. There were days when I cursed my shoes. And my calves. And my lungs. And my back, and my hand that went numb after an 8 mile run. I bought my foam roller shortly after I finished a round of physical therapy. I was buying runner-like things. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, right? Sometimes you just have to call a duck a duck. But I wasn’t yet willing to call myself a duck runner.

I lined up in my coral for my first half-marathon on October 20, 2013. It was dark, cold, crazy early (all of the things runners embrace about mornings). My head was ready, my body was as ready as it was going to get. And I ran. At this particular race, I ran for those who can’t. Those who will and those who won’t. I ran for those effected by blood cancer. And I ran hard. Perhaps a bit too hard because when I hit the Presidio hills I thought my legs were going to quite literally detach themselves and walk back down the other way. I most certainly am not a runner.

A funny thing happened between mile 10 and mile 12. As I was running through Golden Gate Park, I thought it was over. I must, somehow get to the finish line. The only way to be finished is to get myself to that finish line. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that at any time I could have walked off that course. I could have exited out (left, right, sat down, etc). But the thought of exiting out never, once crossed my mind. The only way this race was going to end was if I finished. And it was at that moment that I realized, that I was, in fact a runner. A runner doesn’t take the easy way out. A runner sees the finish line no matter how difficult the course. A runner goes the mile (or dozens of them) to claim that finish as their own.  A runner feels the pain, heals the pain and keeps on working. And the really funny part is that I had been doing that for months. I knew I was a runner when “FINISH”  was the only conceivable way. And now I know I am, and have been, a runner all along.

Tell me, when did you realize that you were a runner?

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K, San Francisco

Hot Chocolate 15/5K, America’s Sweetest Race. How can you not find this enticing?? I decided several months ago that I wanted to do this race for my birthday weekend. Thirty-five twenty-nine is approaching on Tuesday. It seemed not only like a reasonable distance for a mid-season (Team in Training) run, but a great birthday activity for my run-friends. I am bound and determined to make this year one full of activity, health, and accomplishing goals. I layed out my running-person with plenty of time to rest:

Great swag at this race!

Great swag at this race!

The Hot Chocolate 15/5K has awesome swag. We each got a really nice fleece-lined hooded pullover. I thought it would be sub-par, but it’s actually really nice! It’s embroidered with the race logo on the chest. The women’s one is black with purple-lined hood. The men’s is grey with blue-lined hood. This is one of my favorite warm up articles now. The gear back is nice sturdy nylon. I’ll use it for other races for sure. I took an Uber to pick up my friend and so we could get there together. When we arrived, the pre-race area was packed full of people. Oddly enough, the gear check lines weren’t that long. I was really impressed because right from the beginning this seemed like a very organized event.  We made our way to gear check, and just took it all in. I was super excited to run into Sarah, from runningandwine.com! I often hear about bloggers uniting at races, but this was a first.  So great to meet Sarah. (If you don’t already, you should follow her blog!).

We chatted a bit and then headed to the coral area. The one piece of feedback I have for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K organizers, was that they might consider changing the order of the races, or, having them start at the same time and then splitting off. It felt a little silly for there to be over an hour wait between the start of the 5K (which went first) and the start of the 15k. Plus it’s just odd to start a 15K at 8:20am. There was a lot of standing around shivering our butts compression sleeves off. But finally, it was our turn to head towards the start line.

Very eager to run (warm up).

Very eager to run (warm up).

These shoes are made for running and that's just what they'll do.

These shoes are made for running and that’s just what they’ll do.

The first 2 miles felt really easy. There were some very mild hills, but felt like a fair amount of downhill (my favorite). I noticed quickly that I was comfortable. This is a course in an area I run in frequently, so I knew what to expect. When we made our way out of Golden Gate Park I realized I should have worn a lighter shirt. I often forget that we can have wide open sunshine around here! But it was an absolutely exquisite day. The view along Ocean Beach was breathtaking. My pics just don’t do it justice.

Ocean Beach

I realized that I was plowing through my previous times. I just did a 2 mile time trial in track practice last week and I blew that away by a full minute. So I thought maybe I could beat my 5K time. BAM! -3.0mins. What the heck, let’s try to beat my 10K time. Bearing in mind, that my times are slow. I’ve only really been running for a year, so I don’t anticipate pulling improvements like this often. When I was about 5.4 or so miles in I realized I had a ridiculous amount of time to go to tie my previous best 10K time. I ended up clearing it by almost 6.0 mins. AWESOME.  I was so elated that I was able to clear these times that I’ve been stuck on that I stopped to actually enjoy a minute of fresh ocean air and a feeling of accomplishment.

YES! Personal Best, 2mi, 5K, 10K!

YES! Personal Best, 2mi, 5K, 10K!

For the past year as I have been trying to train my body to be able to take on running distances, something has always ached, pinched, cramped, etc. Most recently and right before the holidays it was a raging case of shin splints that I was beginning to worry about. I took two weeks over the holiday time to rest and ice like it was my job. This past week when I re-started, I had no pain. This particular day I felt awesome. I made a conscious decision to go slow and walk some for the last 2 miles though. I didn’t care so much about my overall time given the other accomplishments. I’m still really happy with my outcome (and ended up about on par with my Nike/Big Sur Half Marathon times.

Obligatory finisher selfie.

Obligatory finisher selfie.

The part that I find the most amusing is that when I finished, I really wanted nothing to do with the chocolate!  The finisher’s mug was pretty sweet (get it??). It had 3 wells: one with chocolate fondue, one with a mug of hot chocolate and one that had dippers (marshmallow, pretzels, krispy treat, wafer cookie and a banana). I ate the banana and a couple of pretzels but I really just wanted water. It was beautiful here in San Francisco, so I just parked on a bench and rested before heading to pick up my bag. Sidebar, I realized that I checked my bag in the 5,000s not the 50,000 like I was supposed to. The volunteer took the time to check every single box and still managed to find it. Super awesome.

So all in all, this was a great day. And a great race that I would definitely recommend trying if you get the chance. I’ll surely do it again at some point.  If you want additional information, head on over to the event’s website for all of the details and to find out when it will come to a city near you!!

Until next time,

Brie