Category Archives: health and fitness

Aspen Valley Half Marathon

Last month while we were planning our trip to Colorado, I was browsing through the Aspen Times  and found a little reference to a half marathon happening a week after we arrived.  The fact that it was going to be run at 9,000 feet didn’t quite register with me, because I saw the elevation map…

This is the whole marathon map, but the half starts at around mile 7 and veers off from the full marathon at around mile 17.  So my brain saw downhill and I signed up!  The fact that I had six days to acclimate to the altitude as well as the fact that I did not train for it didn’t cross my mind.

I started getting a little bit nervous four days ago, when we biked the course, and the “downhill” portion wasn’t as easy as I imagined.  The altitude was still doing a number on me.  Then I checked the results from last year’s half, and the slowest person was around 2 1/2 hours…yikes!  That’s about what I ran the Country Music Half in April.  Combined with the altitude and the lack of training, I convinced myself I was going to be in last place.  I know, I should be happy that I can run at all after my heart issues last year, blah, blah, blah…but last place? 

I fought off the urge to can it entirely, and decided to just show up and do what I could do.  If I had to walk part of the way, hopefully I’d finish before at least one full marathoner, since they only started one hour before we did.  I drove to the intercept lot where the bus was there to take us to the start.  A quick look around didn’t make me feel very good.  No old people (like me), and no fat people.  Seriously, I have run 9 marathons, and it is amazing the amount of overweight runners who run faster than I do!  I used the portapotty 4 times (yes, nervous much?), and eavesdropped on other people’s conversations.

No lines at the Portapotty!  Score!

I heard someone talk about a seven minute mile pace being slow, and the chick behind me was talking about doing a 500 mile Rocky Mountain bike ride.  Not good.  While on the bus I talked with the guy in front of me who has done this for three years, and he told me that 1) they took out the big uphill at the beginning (what?  I didn’t know there was an uphill at the beginning!), and 2) there were about 300 half marathon runners, which was more than double the number from last year.  That eased my mind a little.  Surely there would be someone else as dumb as me who signed up without training or acclimating to the altitude.   Then I saw this guy…he’s probably a really nice guy, but I thought, “Maybe I can beat him!”

I wore those shorts in my first marathon in 1995!

Notice the red white and blue shorts in front of me!

The course really is downhill, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.  It’s one of those deceptive downhills that seem flat, until you turn around and go the other way.  It was painful.  My pace was faster than I planned, which made me nervous for the end of the race.  But the views were amazing.  Around mile 7 my stomach started rumbling a little bit, the way it does when I usually duck behind a tree or find a gas station with a bathroom.  Unfortunately,  there were no trees to duck behind, and definitely no gas stations.  I was afraid to drink water at the water stops because I didn’t know what my stomach would do, but I made myself do it, because it is definitely dry here.  Then, after a rare uphill at mile 9, there was a water stop, and Glory Hallelujah…

Proof that there is a God!

That 5 minute stop did wonders for me…gave my legs a rest, too!  The next 4 miles were hillier than the entire course, but I made it!  And the second I crossed the finish line, my phone rang and it was H!  She had no idea I was running but it was the best prize I could have gotten.  I know, it really shouldn’t matter if I finish last, it should matter that I finish.  And I get that.  But for some reason, the thing that keeps me signing up for these things, even though I get older and slower, is that I’m not the only one.  I’ll never win a race, but hopefully I’ll always beat someone, even if it’s a 92 year old.  I think that’s a reasonable goal…until I’m 92.

Not my fastest, but not my slowest, and not LAST

Exercising after Ablation…YES!

We’re back in NC.  J’s birthday was yesterday, and we decided to do a quick trip up here to meet with the architect and designer for our new house, and hopefully see the beginning of the fall colors.  The fall here is my absolute favorite time of year.  We couldn’t have picked a better weekend.  The weather is crisp, the skies are clear and blue, and the colors are starting to peek out.  We can’t come back for a couple more weeks, so I hope we don’t miss the spectacular orange, red and gold that will probably really pop next week. 

I am 12 days past ablation, and I am absolutely amazed at the difference!  Not only do I sleep like a baby since the PVCs have disappeared, but from the minute I began to exercise again I am back up to the intensity I was doing before this all started, almost three years ago.  The only disappointment is that since I couldn’t run, but wanted a similar calorie burn, I was walking on a treadmill for 90 minutes at 15% incline.  Probably the dumbest thing I could have done, because I have done something to my hip.  Doing high impact things like running really hurts my hip, so I can’t run right now, but at least it’s not because I can’t breathe!  So now I’m stretching like crazy, and still doing the elliptical and stair machine, and today J and I biked the mountains here.  It’s a relatively short ride…about 10 miles, but the first hill is constant uphill for 3.5 miles (about 1200 feet rise in elevation), then we go off road on a gravel cut through for another couple of miles that seems like 20, and another huge steep hill that seems to go forever.  But it’s a beautiful ride and with the leaves changing the views just blow my mind.   Last time I biked with J I had to stop about every five minutes, in tears, because I physically could not do what I had done a million times before, and ended up having to turn around.  That resulted in my trekking to NYC to get tested, which uncovered the V tach, so it was all good, I guess.

Who knew that a simple catheterization could cure me?  I feel so lucky that the problem was finally discovered and it was completely fixable.  I probably should wait until I say “completely”, because it’s still early, and these things do sometimes fail, but so far, I feel like I traded in an old model for a brand spanking new heart!   J read a statistic somewhere that up to 40% of medical conditions are misdiagnosed every year.  In my case, I was lucky.  My condition wasn’t life threatening…I had no underlying heart disease.  In fact, if I wasn’t an athlete, I might never have even known I had it!  But it was definitely changing my quality of life.  When I think that three doctors (a cardiologist and two pulmonologists) missed it, and that I spent tons of money on asthma medications that didn’t work ($300/month!), it’s a little frustrating.  But the end justifies the means.  I am just so thankful that I am able to continue to run and bike.  Sure, I’m still 50 years old, with 50 year old joints and the aches and pains that come with that, but my heart is not going to stop me!

Now I just have to pick a marathon for 2012!

My Ablation Adventures…

Whew…what a crazy few months it’s been.  Updating this blog has had to take a backseat to family stuff, and some health stuff.  Hopefully things are settling down now so I can write more regularly.  I’ve had so many people ask about my health I thought I should just explain it all here…

Two and a half years ago, I started having trouble running.  One day I would run 9 miles with no problems, and the next I would have to stop several times to catch my breath.  The first time it happened I thought I just must have been having a bad day…maybe I didn’t eat right, was dehydrated, was getting old, or just in a funk.  But when it started to happen on a regular basis I knew something wasn’t right.  We had a trip planned to Colorado and I started getting a little nervous about going to high altitude if there was something health-wise going on, so I decided to get checked out.  My doc sent me to a cardiologist, who ordered a stress treadmill/echo cardiogram.  I passed with flying colors, except for some little thing the doctor wanted to take a closer look at.  (He told J it might be a Myxoma, a common tumor inside the cavities of the heart, no big deal).  Luckily, it was nothing, and he said I was fine to go skiing.

But in the following weeks my “exercise intolerance” continued, so we were referred to a pulmonologist who said I had “exercise-induced asthma“.  I began a $300.00/month regimen of inhaled corticosteroids as well as albuteral as needed, and was hopeful I’d get it under control.  J didn’t believe I actually had asthma, because after running 9 marathons and doing several triathlons over the years, I had never had so much as a cough or wheezing episode.  And I wasn’t wheezing then, either.  It was hard to really describe the sensation, but I felt my chest tightening, so I couldn’t get a good breath.  It felt sometimes like my heart was beating outside my chest.  The only thing I could say for certainty was that a few minutes into a run, I HAD to STOP!  I mean, had to stop.  I couldn’t go on.  But I never had to gasp for breath.  My doctor told me that asthma doesn’t always present itself the way you see it on TV, and he was certain that if I continued the medication it would help. 

Fast forward about two years to the beginning of this past summer, and it was worse than ever.  It happened every single time I exercised, no matter what kind of exercise I did.  Swimming, biking, running, stairmaster, elliptical, hiking, etc., all gave me the same symptoms.  As addicted to exercise as I am, I continued to exercise through it.  In pain, but way slower and less intense than usual.  I would just go twice as long.  J finally got frustrated with the whole situation when we were on a bike ride.  It was our loop around the neighborhood in North Carolina, very hilly and a great workout.  Typically I would loop him on the long uphills, but that day I couldn’t go five minutes without having to stop to catch my breath.  I was in tears.  So he called his cousin, who is the head of NYU hospital in New York.  He put us in touch with Dr. Frances Adams, one of the top asthma specialists in New York.  We decided to fly up for a quick visit with him.

I loved him.  He was very kind and understanding, even when I cried and blubbered through the whole consultation explaining how much I missed running.  He said we would figure it out and felt sure we could find a treatment that worked.  Heck, there was a list a mile long of olympic athletes with exercise-induced asthma, so if they could do it, surely I could.  So he ordered another battery of tests, which weren’t conclusive, so he sent me for another treadmill test, even though I told him I had passed one a couple of years before.

I had to go back to New York to drop H off at the airport for her trip to China this summer, so we scheduled it for that time.  J wasn’t with me.  I was hooked up to an echo, and started walking on the treadmill, which increased the incline and speed every 3 minutes.  I could see the EKG while I was walking, and it looked like a normal heartbeat to me.  I have lasted over 20 minutes in the past during this test, but about eleven minutes in, my EKG started going crazy!  It looked like someone took the needle and started scribbling up and down.  As soon as I got the words out, “Hey, what is THAT?”, he stopped the test and had me lay down really quickly. 

Long story short, I had a bout of Ventricular Tachycardia, where my heart rate went from 110 to 200 and started beating very erratically, originating in the ventricular area, not the atrium, where it normally does.  The doctor explained to me that that is likely what caused my exercise intolerance.

“Wait, WHAT?  I don’t have asthma?” were the first words out of my mouth.  The next, “Can we fix it?”  The answers were yes and yes.  I probably didn’t have asthma, and there was a fix, a cardiac ablation, where they go into your heart with tiny catheters, induce the arrythmia so they can map it, and then cauterize the electrical pathway that causes the irregular beats.

I was referred to a cardiologist in Nashville, at Vanderbilt, who ordered a zillion more tests to rule out the presence of heart disease: MRI, calcium screening, cat scan, and a short cardiac catheterization to check out my pulmonary artery.  Then he told me, “Well, I’m the plumber, and you need an electrician.”  So I was referred to an EP, who had me take a week of verapamil, then re-do my stress test.  The medication did not do anything, and my v-tach and PVCs showed up easily during the test.

The cardiac ablation is nothing short of miraculous, at least to me.  I had to spend one night in the hospital, but they didn’t have to completely put me to sleep, went in through my groin so they didn’t have to cut me open, went into my heart and found the short circuit and fixed it!  I was groggy during the procedure so I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember feeling a couple of the burns when they cauterized.  I was kind of moaning and I heard them say, “She’s feeling that,” and I don’t remember anything afterwards so they must have given me more sedative.  I woke up and they were ecstatic that they were easily able to induce the V tach, and fix it, and when they tried to induce it again they couldn’t!  I’m sure a lot of it was the medication, but I cried like a baby when they told me that.

I had it done on Monday, came home from the hospital on Tuesday, walked a little bit Wednesday-Friday, and yesterday I test-drove my newly ablated heart by going on a 3 mile run.  With NO issures at all!!  I felt like I could have run longer, but I wasn’t supposed to so I walked the rest of the six mile loop.  It’s now six days post-op and I am so optimistic that they really did fix it.  I didn’t realize that the almost constant palpitations I was experiencing, even at rest,  weren’t normal, but now that I don’t have them it’s an amazing feeling.   I will have to wear a monitor before my follow up with the surgeon in a couple of weeks, so they will know for sure, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I’ve spent too much time on the internet, reading about other people’s experiences with ablation, which is not a great idea.  There are lots of failed ablations out there, but I think the people who have good results probably aren’t on the forums looking for answers.  It’s a very common procedure, and I am going to stay positive that I’ll be back running marathons in 2012!

Where does your family’s food come from?

The summer I was six years old, my mom had abdominal surgery.  I was shipped off to stay with my grandparents at their farm in McMinnville, TN.  I remember several things about that summer, like fishing in the brook, and when Grandma taught me how to make homemade rag dolls.  We cut the basic shape out of scrap material, turned it inside out and hand stitched almost all the way around, except for one of the feet.  Then we stuffed them with small scraps of material and used the strings from the recently shucked corn from her garden to make hair.  Sewed on buttons for eyes, yarn for mouth, and voila!  A toy!  It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I also remember  going to the garden and apple orchard to harvest whatever vegetables were ready…tomatoes, corn, green beans, apples, okra, strawberries and squash are the ones I remember.  I also remember that I only ate some of those vegetables at Grandma’s house.  For some reason,   they tasted so much better there than at home.

They had lots of animals…cows (to be milked), kittens (to catch mice), and chickens (for eggs).  At least, that’s what I thought the chickens were for.  I loved gathering the eggs, and feeding them.  I had names for them all…Chuckie, Suzy, Betsy…and would call them by name as we threw the chicken feed all around their feet.  WARNING:  The next few sentences are not for the squeamish. One morning, Papa asked me if I wanted fried chicken for dinner.  “Sure!” I replied.  Never in a million years did I think he was talking about my little friends.  To me, chicken that you ate was the white slimy stuff my mom bought at the grocery store.  While I was busy feeding them,  Papa walked over to Betsy, the biggest, fluffiest chicken of them all.  He grabbed her by the neck, whispered, “Thank you, my friend,”  and before I knew what was happening, had slung her around in a neat little jerk, and popped off her head!  Her body fell to the ground and her legs kept going, like she was trying to run away from what had happened.  I don’t remember much after that…mostly screaming and crying and not understanding at all.  I think he tried to explain the circle of life to me, but I wasn’t having any of it.  It was a long time before I ate chicken again.

But I did…I ate chicken, steak, pork, bacon, and my favorite…Rudy’s Farm Sausage!  As I got older and became more health-conscious,  I ate less and less of it.  It became a treat, not a normal thing.  But for my parents, and their siblings, and countless others who grew up on farms and when meat was considered a luxury, the last few years of mass-produced, affordable animal products, have resulted in diets that centered around the meat.  I love to cook, and when I cook for family and friends, I never thought I could serve them anything without meat.  It wasn’t a meal, otherwise!  I understood that animals like chickens couldn’t live in the wild for very long, that they had comfortable, loving homes on a farm where they had plentiful food and places to run around in the sunshine.

Then I saw the movie, “Food, Inc.”  Actually, I watched most of it with my hands over my face in horror.  It showed that a handful of corporations control our nation’s food supply. Though the companies try to maintain the myth that our food still comes from farms with red barns and white picket fences, our food is actually raised on massive “factory farms” and processed in mega industrial plants. The animals grow fatter faster and are designed to fit the machines that slaughter them. The majority of mass-produced chickens are raised in the dark, their breasts becoming so  large that they’re unable to walk. But that’s okay, because they’re not allowed to. The antibiotics they are fed to keep them breathing in such conditions end up right there in every bite of your sandwich.  Even “organic”, grass-fed cows are slaughtered at the same slaughtering facilities as the ones raised in dark barns, eating a diet of corn that fattens them up but becomes breeding grounds for E-coli.  Those slaughtering plants stun the cows, hang them upside down by one leg, and slice open an artery so they quickly bleed to death.  Although the numbers are improving, there is a percentage of cows who are not completely stunned, and are slaughtered while awake.   Tomatoes are bred to be shipped without bruising and to stay edible for months. The system is highly productive, and Americans are spending less on food than ever before.  In the process, the food doesn’t taste like food anymore.  The tomatoes I buy at the grocery store bear no more resemblance to the tomatoes I ate on Grandma’s farm than an orange and an apple.

“Food, Inc.” is not trying to push vegetarianism.  It is just raising awareness about where our food comes from.  That a small handful of corporations are controlling not only our meat supply, but the seeds use to grow our crops.  They are methodically pushing the small independent farmers who are capable of producing food in a humane way that will safely feed us out of business.  Meat plants are “washing” beef with ammonia and chlorine to guard against E-Coli, even though just five days of feeding a cow grass could safely eliminate the risk.  Americans expect their meat to be cheap and plentiful, so there no easy solution.

My family is no longer eating meat.   Not that we have an objection to animals being eaten, but because we don’t see an easy answer to how we get it to our table.  When I entertain a group of people who I know don’t consider it a meal unless meat is served, I try to seek out grass-fed, locally produced meat.  There is a growing group of “conscientious carnivores” and a growing number of  farmers who are raising animals for meat and dairy in a humane way and offering concerned consumers a choice about what they eat.  The choices in my area are small…basically it’s Whole Foods, or sometimes I find small farmers at the farmer’s market.  Here’s a great website to find humane sources of food in your area. 

The upside is that more and more people are thinking twice about what they eat, and where it comes from.  The downside is it’s more expensive.  But  I think this is a win/win alternative: Eat less. Who needs a 24 ounce steak?

Flipping over Speed Bumps

Just got back from a week in Snowmass and Aspen, Colorado. I had to drag my husband, kicking and screaming, away from Lake Toxaway for our little visit to the mountains out west. If he had his way, we’d park it there and never leave. Don’t get me wrong, I love it in North Carolina. I love it so much I’ve agreed to build our “retirement” home there. We actually broke ground on it last week. If all goes as planned, we’ll finish building it when H graduates from high school, and we will move our “home base” to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But I’ve wanted to spend time in Colorado ever since I first visited in high school. The mountains, the crystal clean air, the activities both winter and summer, and the whole vibe…I just love it. There was a 75 year old man in line behind me at the grocery store in Snowmass, talking about his mountain bike race that weekend and his triathlon the next weekend. I wanted to be him. Being active and outdoors in Colorado is the norm, not the exception. I could definitely be comfortable there. But the extremes of weather make it difficult to live there year round, so we plan on spending a few weeks there in summer and winter, hopefully.

We met our goods friends from Dallas…T and P. They are so much fun and we love them so much, it was a really great week. We hiked, swam, did yoga, ate great meals and drank great wine. Our two hikes were incredible. The first day we did the Rim Trail in Snowmass…which ended up being 8.5 miles, but had incredible views, and enough flats to let us recover from the uphills.

After recovering from that one, we did the 6 mile round trip to Cathedral Lake…from 9,400 feet to almost 12,000 feet altitude. The altitude definitely did a number on us, but we made it, and it was spectacular.

After T and P left, J and I decided to do the bike ride we’d been looking forward to all week. We drove up to Snowmass Village and bought bikes, helmets and gloves, so we can store them here and won’t have to mess around with renting every time. We took off and made it about 200 feet to a parking lot with speed bumps. NOTE TO SELF: DON’T BRAKE HARD WHEN GOING OVER A SPEED BUMP!!

My bike stopped hard, but I didn’t. I flew over the handlebars, and my bike stopped, upside down, looking like I was getting ready to change a flat. J heard me fall, but no one saw it. (That I know of). Even though I feel SO stupid, I think it must have been hilarious and wish I had a picture. Since I don’t, here’s a few bike crash photos, so you can use your imagination.

Anyway, I survived, but my arm is broken. Bummer.

Vegetarian Meat Loaf…it’s delicious, REALLY!

Last month I downloaded the movie, “Food, Inc.” to my computer, thinking I’d watch it during spring break, but never got around to it and completely forgot I had it, until last weekend. I plugged in my earphones, and watched it on the balcony in North Carolina, mostly through my fingers as I had to cover my eyes for a large portion of it. I must admit, it has completely changed the way I feel about the food I eat, and the food I serve my family. I see my daughter’s point…she has been a pesca-vegetarian for almost a year (she eats no meat but does eat fish), basically because of the way they treat the animals they grow for our food supply. Even my carnivorous husband is coming around. He hasn’t even seen the entire movie, but after seeing the first hour and listening to my recaps, he hasn’t had meat, pork or chicken in over a week. That is monumental for him.

H really never liked meat very much, so it wasn’t such a difficult thing for her to give up. But the other day she mentioned that even though she never really liked it when she ate meat, she was craving meatloaf. I used to make a really good turkey meatloaf, but it had been years since I’d made it. I looked up recipes for vegetarian meatloaf and they were all over the board…made with lentils, black beans, or vegetarian ground beef. I decided to try the soy crumbles instead of beans, because I wanted to try to duplicate the flavor and texture of ground beef. I just tinkered with my old meatloaf recipe, and it smelled delicious while it was cooking. H loved it and even J said he liked it, and didn’t make me throw the leftovers away…so I would call it a success!

Vegetarian Meat Loaf

Click HERE for printable recipe

* 1/4 cup Bullseye Hickory Smoke Barbecue Sauce
* 3/4 cup Heinz Ketchup
* 1 (12 ounce) package vegetarian burger crumbles
* 1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 minced red onion
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
* 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan.
2. Heat saute pan over medium low heat, add 1 TBSP of olive oil and saute the onion, peppers, and garlic (seasoned with salt and pepper) until soft and translucent. 
3.  In a bowl, mix together the barbecue sauce and the ketchup. Mix 3/4 of the mixture with the vegetarian burger crumbles, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and egg.  Add the onion mixture.  Season with thyme, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the loaf pan (sprayed with olive oil), and press down to make it as compact as possible.

3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Pour remaining barbecue sauce over the loaf, and continue baking 15 minutes, or until loaf is set and sauce is heated.

I buy these crumbles at Publix, in the produce section where the Tofu is…other stores carry different brands and they’re all pretty similar.

Running with Asthma

I just found out I have a spot in the NYC Marathon on November 7 this year! It’s been five years since my last marathon…the Rock and Roll Arizona. I’ve done NYC three times, and have tried to get a spot through the lottery for the last three years, but until this year I wasn’t successful. I’ll be 50 in December, so this will be my last marathon before that milestone. This year might be a little more challenging than the eight previous marathons I’ve done.

About a year ago, I was in the middle of a 7-mile run that I did quite often, had done a couple of days before, actually, and suddenly I felt like I had been hit by a mac truck. My chest hurt, and I couldn’t get a breath. I actually had to stop, sit down, and put my head between my legs while I sucked air like a hoover vacuum cleaner for a few minutes. It was so weird. I had never had something hit me like that. I thought perhaps I was coming down with something. I sat there for a few minutes, caught my breath, and tried to start running again. I literally had to walk 3 1/2 miles home. The next day, I was on the stair machine and it happened again. We were planning a trip to Colorado the next week for spring break, and so I decided to check in with my doctor before we traveled to 14,000 feet altitude.

After hearing my symptoms…chest pain, shortness of breath, the doctor ordered a multitude of tests: chest xray, EKG, treadmill stress test, etc. One of the tests showed an abnormality that “could be a heart tumor” so I was admitted for a more invasive test, but all the results showed that my heart was fine. The cardiologist had no idea why I had shortness of breath, but sent me home.

The breathing issues cleared up for the most part, but once a week or so I would have an interrupted run or workout, and have to adjust the intensity. Finally, at the end of the summer I had such a strong attack while swimming in a race on Labor Day that I felt like I was going to drown. I jumped on the internet and plugged in my symptoms and out popped the diagnosis…Exercise Induced Asthma!

Now, the fact that both my internist and cardiologist didn’t suggest asthma is another story, but I called my doctor and went for another visit. I asked if it could be asthma, and he said that is what he was thinking! So, after getting it confirmed with a pulmonologist, I began my life as an asthmatic.

I’m taking symbicort (long acting inhaler), singulair, and use a “rescue” inhaler when needed. It seemed to be working (for the most part), until a couple of weeks ago, after I did an 18 miler with no problem. I had been training for the Country Music Marathon, and went out for a recovery run the day after my long run, and BAM…after 1/2 mile I couldn’t go any further! It was the worst I have ever had it. For the next week and a half, every time I went out for the run it was more of the same. I can WALK, but the minute I start to run, my lungs start to feel sticky and I can’t breathe. I was discussing it (whining about it) with a friend whose kids have asthma, and she said, “Well, of COURSE it’s bad now…the pollen is the worst it’s been in years!”

I had no idea, but when the air quality is bad due to allergens, asthma symptoms worsen. I haven’t been able to run outside more than a couple of miles in two weeks. But I found a cool website,, which gives a prediction of the air quality/asthma forecast for four days. It’s on a scale of 1-12, and Nashville has been almost an 8 over the last couple of weeks. This week it’s down to a 4.9, so I’m going to attempt to run this morning.

I have a couple of months to get my base back up before I ramp up the distance, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The good news is, we’ll be in North Carolina for most of the summer, and the asthma levels there are about half the levels here in Nashville. I’ll just have to deal with the hills there, and hope my plantar fasciitis doesn’t flare up.

30 weeks and counting…


Ran 7.6 miles today…VERY slowly. Had to walk up a few of the hills, and it didn’t feel easy, but it was the first time I’ve run over a couple of miles outside in two weeks.

Eat Less, Move More…

Years ago I found a really great computer program called Perfect Diet Tracker. It’s a really easy way to keep track of calories in vs. calories out. The program will take your age and weight and calculate your calorie budget for the day. If you want to take off a couple of pounds, you can enter that, along with the time frame you want to lose the weight and it will subtract calories from your budget. I think of the budget as a kind of calorie “checkbook”. I have a certain amount of calories that I can consume daily to either maintain or lose a couple of pounds. Over the years the program has been updated and now, instead of a finite number of foods in their database, it will search the internet for whatever food you put in. It certainly beats writing everything down in a food diary and looking up the calories and serving sizes to keep up with what I put in my mouth. It’s not a fun process. I prefer the “shove it in your mouth by the handfuls and forget you ate it” philosophy. But sometimes, that kind of catches up to you and you notice your clothes are a little too tight. So, I log onto the program, and start weighing and measuring my serving sizes. Gulp. I eat very healthy, but it’s the serving sizes that get me.

I’m also kind of an exercise nut. Not because I LOVE to exercise, but because I love what it does for me, especially when I’m logging what I put in my mouth. The endorphins from a good, hard workout can work miracles…make a bad day good, make food taste better, give me more patience and energy for the rest of my day, and sharpen my mind. It’s also great when I’m tracking my food…I can enter the exercise I do for the day and voila…the program ADDS the calories burned to my allotted calories for the day!! So I can eat more! Yay!! It even takes into account your Basal Metabolic Rate, or the number of calories you burn in a day doing nothing. All you have to do is enter the exercise and it does all the calculations for you

Years ago I found a calorie burn chart that showed the calories burned per minute for every exercise you could think of, so I’m well aware of the exercise that burns the most per minute and that is what I focus on. More bang for the buck. Running, jumping rope, and biking will burn almost 600 calories an hour. Back in the 90’s, when the cardio machines at the gym started showing the calories burned as you worked out, I became a slave to the number. I couldn’t stop until I had burned off at least 600 calories. If I were running, I could do that in an hour, but stationary biking took an hour and a half. The Stairmaster and elliptical trainer showed even higher numbers, so I loved those machines. I remember my disappointment when I found out that those machines typically overestimated calories burned. It gets more difficult the older I get. I can’t just jump on a machine for two hours a day and still function for the rest of my day. So I do a lot of cross training. Hard one day, easy the next.

Generally, I think this is a pretty healthy way to keep track of what goes in my mouth and what I’m doing to burn it off. It’s like a quarterly checkup with your supervisor…just an accountability thing. If I want to eat mixed nuts and drink a couple of glasses of wine, I have to budget for it. Or work out longer. For my weight, the charts show that I burn about 92 calories per mile, so on the days I do a longer run than usual, I can usually have an extra glass of wine. It’s like picking up an extra job to buy something special…You just exercise a little more and deposit more calorie burn in your “checkbook”. A 5-oz. glass of white wine has 105 calories, so I just run a couple of miles to burn it off.

The problems come as you age. Your BMR drops, so your calorie “budget” drops, just to maintain. If you want to drop any weight, the calories allotted for your day drop to almost dangerous levels, so if you want to eat enough to have energy to exercise, you have to exercise more! It’s a vicous cycle. Add to that the fact that as you age you need more recovery time between exercise sessions and your magic formula of just “move more eat less” gets much more difficult.

It’s a common sense kind of thing. Moderation is the key. One glass of wine, not three. Eat the dessert, exercise a little more for a couple of days to burn it off. The program is pretty good, but you have to rely on sound principles. If I plug in my height and weight, and enter a target weight loss of three pounds in two weeks, it gives me a calorie budget of 1450 calories per day. If I want to maintain my weight, I can eat 1900 calories per day. All pretty reasonable.

It doesn’t work miracles. If I put a weight loss goal of 6 pounds in one week, it gives me a calorie budget of NEGATIVE -1010 CALORIES per day! I think it actually forces you to be reasonable about your goals. When you shoot too high in the weight loss category (whether it’s # of pounds or the time you give yourself to lose the weight), you can immediately see that it’s ridiculous.

I’m a firm believer in moderation and making healthy lifestyle changes, not temporary diets, fasts or banning foods. But every once in awhile you just need a check up, to make sure that your “lifestyle” is still on the right track.

My experience with BHRT begins…

My girlfriends and I graduated from college in the early 80’s. Recently, my old college roommate went back to school to become a dental hygienist. We had a graduation party for her, because at this point in our lives, any excuse for a party is enough reason to get together! The last 25 or so years have brought many changes to our lives, jobs, careers, marriage, a divorce or two, children, and a few health scares for some of us. Needless to say, even though we feel like it was yesterday when we were in college, just a look in the mirror, reminds us that it wasn’t.

In my case, my running times are consistently slower and more painful, recovery times are longer, I can’t sleep through the night, my hair is thinning and my skin is dry and splotchy. I have hot flashes several times during the night and a couple of times during the day, at least, where I feel like if I can’t take my clothes off I’ll just melt away. This has played havoc with my youthful appearance, in other words, I feel like I’m looking older by the minute.

So when my friend Teri walked in to the party, she was a vision! She has always been beautiful, but like most of us, she has a lot of stress in her life. But that night, her hair was golden, shiny, and healthy, her skin was luminous, and she looked like she’d lost about 10 pounds. I just chalked it up to her taking good care of herself, but marveled at how beautiful she looked. We took a lot of photos that night and she looked like she was at least 10 years younger than the rest of us. The next day, I went on a 50 mile bike ride with my friend Syndi, and was complaining about my lack of sleep, lack of energy, hot flashes, blah, blah, blah. Syndi said, “You should go see the guy Teri saw…he put her on some kind of vitamins and hormones and she’s feeling like a new person!”

Now, I exercise daily, eat pretty good, and have NEVER been on the vitamin bandwagon. I don’t take anything. I’ve always said that I eat a balanced diet and should be able to get anything I needed from food. That taking supplements and vitamins makes for expensive urine.

Never say never.

When I heard that Teri had gotten relief from menopausal symptoms from this Doctor, I was ready to sign on. I called her to ask about him, and she had nothing but glowing reviews for “Dr. Mark”. He has an anti-aging practice, and I promptly called to make an appointment. I spoke with his assistant, who described the process to me. He would do an initial, hour and a half, “interview” session with me, and would order a panel of blood tests. Then I would get a personalized “dossier” with his recommendations for me. I was ready for some relief yesterday , so I decided to go ahead and get the blood tests done before my appointment.

He ordered so many tests, they had to draw FIVE huge vials of blood. I’m not good with pain, but luckily, the technician was very good and I hardly felt a thing. When I arrived at his office for the appointment a week later, I was anxious to find out what he would recommend for me. But he didn’t have anything specific to my needs yet. We spoke at length about my symptoms: Hot flashes, lack of sleep, irritability, poor exercise performance, slow recovery, bloating, loss of libido…it went on and on. I felt like I was a completely different person when I had to start labeling how I felt. When I told him that I knew I was getting older (49), and I realized this was probably just normal aging stuff, he promptly disagreed. He said, “With all that we know now about the aging process, there is no need for any woman to go through menopause.” He also feels like our children will never have the symptoms we have now.

So I left the office, anxious to get more information. It took a little over a week, but I received the packet of information. My “Personalized Client Dossier” was about 30 pages of information, from my projected lifespan (current: 116.7 years-potential: 133.7 years), specific measurements (height, weight, bodyfat, etc.), goals and problems, an overview of aging, hormones, and disease, to a ton of recommendations for increasing my well-being and life span.

First of all, I’m not sure I have any interest in living to be 133.7 years old, but eliminating menopausal symptoms, improving my athletic performance and energy level, improving my hair health, increasing libido, decreasing forgetfulness, etc. are all things that I would LOVE to have happen.

Last week I received the five medications from the compounding pharmacy (bi-est, progesterine, Thyroid (Armour), DHEA and Indole-3-carbinol. I bought a few of the things he recommended from Whole Foods: Vitamins B6, B12, C, D3, E, Coenzyme Q10, Omega 3, Rhodiola, Melatonin, and Calcium Citrate/Magnesium. Now every morning I’m taking a cocktail of supplements. The benefits of each range from antioxidents/disease fighting, to prevention of stress and fatigue and increasing sexual energy.

Terri says to be patient. It takes awhile. Patience is not really my virtue. Especially when I’ve added such a large arsenal of pills to my daily life. I can say that after taking the hormones for a little over a week, I slept last night without a single hot flash. That is the first time that has happened in over a year.

As far as the energy…still out for debate. I did stay up after midnight the other night moving exercise equipment around in the workout room, which was unlike me. I’m sleeping like a rock, due to the Melatonin. Crazy dreams, too.

I will keep you posted. I think I should start another blog just for the crazy dreams I’m having.

Change my World…VOTE!!

I haven’t posted in a while…
No reason, really, except that every time I sit down in front of the computer I’m playing Bridge Baron. Of course, I lose every time. Waiting until you’re an adult well into middle age is not the time to decide to learn to play bridge! But I’m going to keep plugging away. I’m taking a second 9 week course, “Play of the Hand”. Problem is, I don’t remember much of what I learned in the first course, “Bidding”. I need to find someone to play with who doesn’t mind me taking half an hour to decide what to do. That’s why playing a computer game is good.

I’m running again, carefully. My plantar fasciitis is cooperating as long as I only run about twice a week. So I’m still doing the stair machine way more than I would like, but hopefully it’s keeping me in shape. I’m running out to do 7 miles this morning, but first I want to share this music video from my cousin in California. Stephanie, you rock!

“Change My World” is a non-partisan effort to remind voters that while children may not be able to vote in this election, they still have a voice. They depend on us to do what is right for them, not just for today, but for tomorrow as well. …”

Great message:

And this, from the kids…