Long Time No Blog

Wow. I just logged on to post something new and realized that it’s been ten whole days since I’ve created a new blog post. Yikes! Time really has gotten away from me.

I came back from Disney (loved it!) and the little tiny sniffle I had before Disney turned into something evil. A hacking cough, a stuffy nose, and killer sinus pain took over my body. I laid low for a while before admitting defeat and getting on some antibiotics for my obvious sinus infection. I guess the airport/plane/bus/expo/bus/marathon/plane combination was too much for my feeble immune system. My poor asthmatic lungs grab on to any and all germs within a 50 foot radius. After spending the weekend on my couch, doing nothing, I was feeling much better.

Just when I started to feel human again, it was time for the new semester to begin. Since I had been in Disney Training Mode, then sick, I hadn’t done anything to prepare for the semester and whole classes of students were expecting me to show up on Tuesday and do something. This led to a frantic scrambling process at work on Monday. Write syllabus. Copy syllabus. Learn new online class notes/grades system. Plan something to say on the first day. Try not to cough on too many students. I survived the first day of classes, only to have the undergrads point out that my dates were wrong on the syllabus for about half of the semester. Oops. I prevailed and managed to make it through the week sanity intact.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, I started teaching a new yoga class (yoga for athletes!) at a local studio. I love teaching yoga, but there’s always a new song to find, playlists to create, or asana sequences to build. I’ve kept pretty busy.

Now that I have emerged on the other side of both my major marathon goal and the first week of a new semester, I’ve been thinking about my goals. Normal people make New Year’s resolutions. I make new semester resolutions. I work on a semester schedule, so I plan my goals by semester. This semester I will…

  1. Try not to eat as many meals at my desk. Or maybe at least eat better quality (i.e. not all Lean Cuisine) meals at my desk. (My actual desk and actual to do list for those of you who wonder if I only run and never work)Meal at desk. :(
  2. Stick to my running schedule. Even when it’s been a long day. And it’s snowing. And my leg kind of hurts. Generally, try not to get sucked into work and preserve the work-life balance. Snow!
  3. Spend quality time with my running friends.
  4. Stick with my stretching and strengthening routines, regular massage, and chiropractic care to stay healthy and injury-free.
  5. Drink more water so I can be better hydrated.

I think it’s going to be a good semester. Fingers crossed.

Dr. Rachel Runs Disney

  Disney Marathon

I’m a Disney Marathoner! I bet you’re wondering how that happened. Never fear, a reasonably complete recap follows. Honestly, the whole thing was so amazing, so much fun, that I can’t remember half of the details I wanted to. I’ll do my best.

When we last left off, I had just finished the Disney Marathon Expo and was well on my way to the final two stages of Dr. Rachel’s Seven Stages of Race Preparation. To refresh your memory, they were:

6. Existential Questioning (at the start of the race – “Why did I think this was a good idea? This is very bad idea.”, “Running is really weird. Why do I do it?”) and 7. Euphoria (post-race – “I LOVE running!”, “That was amazing!”, “I can’t wait to race again. Next time…”, “Woooo hoooo!!”)

At the ridiculously early hour of 2:30am, mom and I awoke in our lovely hotel room at Pop Century (a great, reasonably priced resort, by the way). We had a 3:15am bus to catch, so it was time to rise and shine! I had meticulously laid out my supplies, so I got dressed and ready with relative ease. I taped up my pesky fibula with KT Tape and was as ready as I would ever be.

Disney Marathon Prep

I double checked everything and boarded the bus to Epcot to meet up with my marathon running friends (check out their blog!) and head to the start line. The wait for the bus was minimal and the ride was easy. On the bus, I questioning everything – my training, my decision to run, the stability of my only recently healed fibula. Stage 6 was in full effect. As the bus got closer to Epcot, I felt better and better. This was a great idea! I was going to have So. Much. Fun! Eeeeee! I still get excited just thinking about it. The pre-start area was organized chaos. Thousands of runners and families milled about, taking pictures, dropping off bags, and moving toward the runners-only start chute. Disney had done a wonderful job organizing everything, so finding our way around was easy.

Disney Marathon with Mom

In the runners-only area we walked and walked. They weren’t kidding about allowing 20 minutes to walk to the start – it was a long way. We finally arrived and had a few moments to rest in our corral before the 5:30am start.

Disney Marathon Start

At the start, there was plenty of entertainment. There were character visits, interviews, and even fireworks! Within a few minutes, we were off. We quickly settled into a nice, smooth pace and trotted along through the first few miles. There were screaming spectators, fans, bands, and all manner of supporters along the way. We passed Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Out front, spectators cheered. I couldn’t believe how many people were out to watch the race – even at 6am! Before I knew it, we had completed 4.5 miles and were entering Disney World. Knowing my mom was waiting near Cinderella’s Castle, I started looking for her. Imagine my surprise when I found her among the thousands of screaming and cheering spectators! We snapped a (really) quick picture and were on our way.

Disney Marathon Mile 5

The miles were flying by. I was having a wonderful race. The course was absolutely gorgeous and the characters, fans, and cheering spectators were amazing. We rounded the Castle (amazing at first light!) and came upon Cinderella and Charming. I had to take a picture!

Disney Marathon Cinderella

She was gracious, as usual, and the stop was perfectly timed. We all used the (clean!) porta-potties and got some water at a nearby water stop. Seven miles were done in no time at all. We were having a great time! At this point, my memory starts to get a little blurry. I usually have race amnesia and this race was no different. I know it was fun. I saw characters. I enjoyed the sights. Miles passed.

We entered the Speedway around mile 9. I liked the old one better. The classic and custom cars were super fun to see. We exited the Speedway just as the sun was gaining strength and moved into one of the not-so-great parts of the course. We wound along the backstage parts of the parks and past the Disney waste water treatment plant. Ew. It did not smell nice and there were very few spectators or characters. It was actually very much like a normal race. My standards were Disney-high, so it wasn’t as fun. It was started to get hot, and my leg was starting to give me trouble. I slowed a bit, but managed to stay just behind my friends (who deserve so much love for waiting for me and encouraging me! love you!). Finally, we came upon the backstage part of Animal Kingdom. There were animals and handlers for photo opportunities (so cute!). The camber of the strange pavement at Animal Kingdom did me in. My poor fibula was unhappy and I slowed again. At mile 13 I bid my friends goodbye and set off on my own. I had already calculated that if I could run 12 miles, I could walk the rest and finish under the time limit. So, I slowed way down and enjoyed the view. At this point, my priority changed. I was going to go slow, have fun, and keep the distress on my body at a minimum so I could return to training quickly. I was disappointed, and wondered what it might have been like had I not been injured a month before the marathon and could have trained fully, but I was having fun. And having fun is all that matters sometimes.

Around mile 15, I entered the toughest part of the race. Miles 15-21 were on the way to, in, and on the way out of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. The approach is on Osceola Parkway, a divided, four lane road. The trees are way back from the road. It was hot (about 80 degrees and climbing), there wasn’t much to look at, and there was no shade. I was hot, in pain, and not a happy runner. Somewhere in there, 17 maybe, volunteers handed out sponges and I think it was the single greatest gift I had ever gotten. I loved my sponge. It was amazing. Stupidly, I threw my sponge away. Next time I will keep my glorious gift. We wound through the Wide World of Sports (which, if I never see again, I wouldn’t mind so much) and finally exited. I couldn’t have been happier. Miles 16-19 were a real low point for me. I walked more than I had wanted, cursed some, and generally wasn’t feeling the Disney magic. There was no doubt in my mind that I would finish, but I was hoping to recapture the magic. That happened at mile 20.

Disney Marathon Mile 20

Seeing Mile 20, and the huge show at the mile marker, was amazing. It was just the boost I needed. The approach to mile 20 had wonderful characters and the marker had a platform with Disney favorites. I waited in the picture line, using the break as an opportunity to stretch and regroup. I would finish. I would do this. I pressed on with renewed vigor. I felt pretty good. Sure, it was hot (86 degrees by this time according to mom, who was waiting at the finish), sunny, and I was exhausted, but I was running the Disney Marathon! An honest to goodness dream was coming true. I pressed onward. I met some nice people, passed some characters, and before I knew it, I saw the sign for the turn to Epcot!

Disney Marathon Epcot Ahead

Having made the turn many times in my life, I knew just how far I had to go. And it wasn’t far! The course snuck us in the back way, through Hollywood Studios. I loved running past the Tower of Terror and through the costume shop. There were trees, and shade, and interesting things to see. Running through the fake New York City street was really fun. Disney cast members did a wonderful job of managing marathon and park traffic and the folks visiting the park cheered loudly. In what felt like no time, we exited Hollywood Studios and entered Epcot! Running around the Lagoon was both the longest and the shortest mile and a half of my running life. I wanted to capture every moment. Epcot visitors were cheering, characters were standing by for pictures, and everyone was upbeat. We were finishing the marathon!


After a short trek around the Lagoon, we passed into a backstage area and emerged moments later on the finish line approach. Spectators were several deep and they were all cheering. I could see the finish line! I passed my mom, and, within moments crossed the line.

Disney Marathon Finish

It was amazing! Everyone at runDisney was so helpful, so kind, and so supportive. Running the Disney Marathon was easily one of the best things I’ve done as a runner. It really is a race full of wonderful memories.

And, just in case you were wondering, I’m definitely in Stage 7. I can’t wait to do it again next year. Maybe this time I’ll be Goofy.

Countdown to the 20th Disney Marathon

Let me first say – Eeeeeeeeeeeee! I’m here. In Florida. The Disney Marathon is tomorrow! It’s so exciting that I can’t stand it. As training has progressed and it’s gotten closer and closer, I have been progressing at the expected rate through Rachel’s Seven Stages of Race Preparation.

  1. Confidence (“That training run wasn’t so bad. I can totally do this!”)
  2. Denial (“I have plenty of time to train. The race isn’t for weeks.” Truth – race is less than a month/two weeks/etc. away -or- “My leg doesn’t really hurt that much.”)
  3. Bargaining (“Gods of Running, if you let me survive this training run, I will give up candy.”, “Fibula, if you stay in place, I will never curse you again.”)
  4. Paranoia (*cough* “I am sure I have pneumonia, or Ebola.”, “I am sure that the cramp is the first sign of gangrene setting in.”, “Maybe I didn’t even sign up for the race. Do I have plane tickets?”)
  5. Sense of Impending Doom (“What the hell was I thinking?!”, “Something horrible will befall me and I won’t be able to race.”)
  6. Existential Questioning ( at the start of the race – “Why did I think this was a good idea? This is very bad idea.”, “Running is really weird. Why do I do it?”)
  7. Euphoria (post-race – “I LOVE running!”, “That was amazing!”, “I can’t wait to race again. Next time…”, “Woooo hoooo!!”)

Deep into the Paranoia stage of race preparation, I traveled to Florida earlier this week. I was sure my sore throat was the beginnings of this epic flu, or perhaps salmonella. Maybe malaria. I decided no homeopathic remedy was too weird to try. I have sprays and zinc lozenges and Airborne and vitamins. Luckily, I was distracted from my Chicken Little state by the expo. Yay!

Disney Marathon Expo

The expo was super fun. In typical Disney fashion, everything was well organized and every detail anticipated. There was one door and staircase to get in, one to get out. There were individual computers and printers that printed waivers for forgetful folks (I printed mine twice but left it at home). There were helpful and happy volunteers and cast members at every corner. Tons of great vendors were in the vendor space – SPIbelt, Runningskirts, Run Team Sparkle, The Stick, and many clothing vendors. Mom and I had a great time shopping and looking around. We even spied Jeff Galloway. There were great picture opportunities.

Disney Marathon Expo Pictures

Back at home, Paranoia gave way to Sense of Impending Doom. Luckily, there were plenty of distractions. I’ve been enjoying great Cuban food, fresh picked strawberries, and time with my mom and dad. Yesterday, the big task was putting the finishing touches on my costume (Cinderella) and developing a race-day plan. Mom made puffy cap sleeves for my Cinderella outfit and I sewed my tiara on my hat. The tiara is one my mom made for me when I was 6 or so, and totally in love with Cinderella.

Cinderella prep

Sense of Impending Doom wouldn’t be denied by daytime distractions. Last night, I had the most vivid dream that I woke up at 6:30am and missed the marathon start by an hour. It was so realistic that I woke up (at 3am) with a start. Being in my room at home didn’t reassure me. I thought that not only had I missed the start, but that I wasn’t even on Disney property. I had to look at my phone to check the date, and Twitter just to be sure that it was the half marathon today. Whew! Doom or not, tomorrow is the big day. Everything is done. All there is to do is run – and have a magical race!

Have a great race

A Resolution Rant

It’s that time of year, when the world resolves to lose weight, get fit, and be healthy. I love this time of year. I like the new energy and excitement around fitness. I don’t even really mind the newbies at the gym texting or resting while on a machine. Good for them. I’m glad they are at the gym and making an effort. I make an extra effort to be friendly at the gym this time of year. It’s my little way of encouraging people who might be hesitant or new to the gym.

What really bothers me about this time of year is the terrible “advice” that I hear at the gym.  This week, I hit the treadmill at my local gym with some friends. The temperature was in the single digits, so running outside was not an option for me. I don’t run outside in less than 15 degrees. So, I hit the treadmill. From across the way I heard the “trainer”, a certified personal trainer who I think is terribly unkind, screaming at his charges. He was urging them to work harder, push more, and keep going. Now, I love an in-your-face style of coaching. I like to be pushed. But these poor people were clearly gym newbies. One was wearing slip on casual sneakers. One was in jeans. None seemed to know what they were doing and not one was using the weights or machines with proper form. And all their “trainer” was doing was yelling at them. He use a condescending tone, and I even heard him belittle one woman for resting. Horrible. Later, I saw this same trainer with a group of folks doing what looked like an interval/circuit workout. One women stopped to take a drink of her water bottle. He accused her of “not wanting it”, “not trying”, and “not even working”. She looked close to tears. Horrible! Drinking water should be encouraged when working out and visibly sweating. Again, all his charges had terrible form and he was yelling at them to work harder. Forget that they were mere feet away, his voice was at a full-on yell. He mocked one woman, telling her if she had “abs of steel” she could “do better”. I was truly horrified. I made my second complaint about this trainer to the manager.

It bothers me when I see behavior like this because it isn’t what fitness should be about. Fitness should make you feel amazing. Your trainer should make you feel good about yourself. She should encourage you, cheer for you, and push you when you need it. She should push you in the way that you like to be pushed, which might very well be yelling, but it might not. Bottom line – I worry that the behaviors of bad trainers, unkind people at the gym, and other haters will deter fitness newbies. Fitness newbies, I hope that you realize that there are nice people, friendly trainers, and good groups out there. Find one and have fun. Fitness is really about having fun and feeling great.

My Poor Fibula

A lot of people have found their way to my blog recently by searching for “stuck fibular head”, “fibular head pain” or some variation. If you’re one of them, welcome. Now that my fibula seems to be done behaving badly, I thought that sharing my experience might help others. Here’s my injury story.

– Side note – the Dr. in DrRachelRuns is a PhD, not a medical doctor, so this post in no way represents medical advice. Talk to your own doctor. The medical kind. And read my disclaimer, below. –

A little over a month ago, I was suddenly struck with intense pain in my leg. The pain was in a weird spot, and it came on just as I was getting out of bed. I thought this was odd because I had run the night before and had a lovely, pain-free run. But, I woke up on Thanksgiving morning with a weird feeling in my leg. Right about here…

leg pain

Undeterred, I set off for my turkey trot. I could barely run the 5k. The pain was not joking around. The next day I tried a walk with my mom. No pain! I attempted a run and within a few steps the pain was back. Crazy, stabbing, tingly nerve pain that only happened when my leg was bent at the knee and my foot was in dorsiflexion. I figured some rest and a massage would be a cure. When that didn’t work, I saw my wonderful athletic trainer who I’ve been working with since I had my gait analysis. He deemed it a problem with my fibular head and suggested physical therapy.

At physical therapy, my therapist agreed with the fibular head diagnosis. Apparently a stuck fibular head is a common problem among athletes. It most often occurs following a high ankle sprain, but can sometimes come on suddenly. Physical therapy focused on mobilizing the poor, stuck head. My therapist taught me how to mobilize it myself, which I proceeded to do about 10 times a day. Here’s a neat video that describes exercises you can do at home.

When two weeks of physical therapy failed to cure me, I decided to try a chiropractor. He was amazing and adjusted the fibula and several bones in my ankle. After four or so chiropractic treatments, I felt cured!

Just to be on the safe side, I contacted KT Tape (makers of the wonderful kinesiotape that I love) about taping options for fibular head tracking problems. Their head taping guy, Joe, suggested a taping application. I tried it and it was very helpful to me. I’m now taping for most long runs just to be safe.

KT Taping

Overall, the injury wasn’t as bad as I had initially feared. I wasn’t too happy about taking an entire week of running, or about the decrease in mileage for several weeks, or the timing so close to the Disney Marathon, but I feel lucky. It could have been much worse. Fingers (and toes) crossed I can stay healthy for a while now.