No question. The way my body has responded is too profound for it not to be. Not only are my neuro/physical symptoms gone, I’m also experiencing unexpected bonus stuff I wasn’t prepared for. It’s shocking how fast and quantifiable these changes are. But what’s also shocking is that I had to figure it out on my own.
Nerve damage from B12 deficiency can become permanent. Considering how adamant I’ve been about not going back through the medical system unless things really deteriorated, coupled with my high folate level (folate masks symptoms of B12 deficiency while allowing nerve damage to continue) this could have been bad.
Head wagging aside, what matters is that normalcy has returned in a big way. But what’s curious to me is wondering, since it takes a prolonged period of deficiency before neurological symptoms appear, just how long was I running at a disadvantage? Boggles the mind.
What Supplementation Is Doing For Me
Mood & Energy: This has been as powerful as the disappearance of physical symptoms. The cloud of depression I’d been under, that I hadn’t even realized was so thick, just disappeared. It’s like I’m on Wellbutrin or something! Certainly, my happiness is compounded by the end of this insane situation, but it’s clear that a major chemical/brain change has occurred. Suddenly, I’m back to participating in forums and on FB and even wanting to see real humans again! Thank god, self-isolation is really not a healthy scene.
Energy and motivation’s up as well, I’m even singing to myself while I do the housecleaning crap I’d generally ignore till company was coming. If that’s not B12, I need an exorcist.
Diminished Appetite & Sugar Cravings: This came totally out of left field. A few days ago, I noticed I was a lot less hungry, an amazing feat unto itself, but add to this a dramatic drop in sweet cravings and that’s just remarkable. Research shows me it’s probably the addition of B6 doing this; B6 turns tryptophan into serotonin which is said to squelch cravings. Whether this means I was also deficient in B6 or it’s just an effect of not being depressed, no matter…it’s different and very welcome.
My coffee appetite has changed, too. This past year, my usual coffee intake had risen from 2 cups to 3. So it’s notable that this week, I don’t even finish 2 cups. This could be due to more deficiency-repair or it could be my diminished sweet tooth making coffee less interesting. Either way, I like these healthy improvements that happen without any attention from me. Better living through nutrients.
Running: I hadn’t realized how much was taken away until I had it back. I knew running used to feel a lot different but I honestly forgot just how great it could be. It’s as if I traded in an undependable clunker of a car for a Porche. I feel light and small as I used to, both my legs now equally transparent, unnoticeable. And what a delicious feeling to appreciate the smooth, comfortable flow that is once again mine.
Tuesday, near the end of a 12-miler, my friend Jeff rode by on his bike and slowed to chat. When I started to tell him, incredulously, “I can’t believe the run I just had” I choked up and couldn’t speak for a minute. In fact, I’m very emotional as I write this because it’s not just about running, which of course, is such an important thing to me, but it’s also about my life.
I was scared. And now it’s over.
Meanwhile, My Liver?
The liver doctors were right, it never was about blood stealing. Their doubt instilled doubt in me as well which, while quite the mindfuck, turned out to be a good thing because it kept me questioning. I’m not terribly unhappy that I had the hemangioma embolized, it could have been dangerous if I was in a car crash, but I could have done without all the wasted time and anguish. And moolah.
Yesterday, I called the hospital. I needed to know if perhaps I had been tested for B12 and it just wasn’t included in the results I’d received? But no, I have everything. How I wish I knew what my B12 levels were when my body was in full-on wacky mode. Alas, I never will.
For now, I still have lots of lovely repair to do on my cells. People who’ve exhibited symptoms generally don’t feel their best until their B12 levels are >1000 so I’m a work in progress. Considering how much better I feel already, this is exciting, can’t wait to see what proper body chemistry does for this ole bod.
And that, my dears, is the scoop! So far, no worse for wear, in fact, downright exuberant. And I’m just getting warmed up.
Hey folks, been a while, huh? I’m back for a bit with a very long, probably boring-to-you tale about what’s been going on and what will go on. Let’s begin with the day I left you last, a period I have affectionately named Utter Suck.
Utter Suck to Not Bad
The day I wrote that last post, I had an exceptionally miserable hot run that included a few episodes of the leg weirdness (usually, it’s only one episode in a run). I had to stop a few times in order to regroup and continue.
The next couple days were bad, weird runs that I cut short at 3 and 4mi. By day 3, it felt scarily like the beginning of the whole liver drama. After a good cry, I glommed onto the idea that perhaps it was really just a dehydration issue, that maybe I fried myself a bit during that hot run. I decided to stop guessing about hydration and instead, start measuring and really keeping tabs on it.
For 10 days I monitored my intake carefully and drank a lot…190 ounces/day. Even with all that, my pee never got completely clear, which is ok, they say light lemonade is better than clear but still, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking into a toilet bowel asking myself “Would I drink that?” Good times, good times. I’m still drinking more liquids than I used to, about 140 oz/day, but no longer compare my urine to a refreshing summer beverage.
Anyway, it seemed to be working, I felt much better as the days passed so for a while there I was all “Aha! It actually was a dehydration issue, I have found the answer!” till the next set of suck happened…
Not Bad to Double Suck
Double Suck was the following two-week period in which I was one big slogging ball of exhaustion. No matter how slow I went, I could not run comfortably: tiny hills wiped me out, slowing down made it seem harder to run, normal easy pace felt like I was working hard…it was pathetic. During this, I had some dark thoughts, realizing I’d probably never race again – even the idea of fartleks was beyond my comprehension, not to mention the unpredictability of my running, how could I count on this?
In the midst of it all, for the first time I can remember, I had a string of days where I just didn’t want to run. I made myself get out there, which I did out of fear, fear that my “running thing” had finally come to an end. Finding something positive during this time, I was grateful for having the new biz to concentrate on and wondered if maybe this was all just kismet, the way life changes and flows into something else.
Still, as philosophical and accepting as I tried to be, I thought about seeking medical help again, which was quite a turnaround for me since I’ve been so dead-set against it: lack of answers, copays, waiting rooms and referrals are like bamboo shoots up my fingernails on a good day. But now I was mapping out a plan that if I did, I should probably go to a different hospital for a fresh set of opinions but as I imagined wending my way through the system again, my complaints seemed so ridiculously entitled and small: “Boo hoo, I can’t do my high-level activity perfectly anymore.” “Can you run?” “Yes, but I’m slower and it’s not as fun.” Oh, c’mon. I shelved the idea.
The last thing worth mentioning about Double Suck is that during this time, I was cold. In order to change into my running shorts and tank, I’d turn on the space heater in the bedroom and close the door to heat the room…and it was 65 degrees out! Meanwhile, I was wearing longsleeves and 2 layers of fleece in my apartment. Sure, I usually have cold hands and feet but this was a bit much.
Finally, after the first week, I thought about exactly what was going on in my runs and realized that this wasn’t about leg weirdness anymore, it was about full-body fatigue. In fact, if another runner reported feeling like this to me, I’d have said in a nanosecond “check your iron”.
As it happened, I had stopped taking my iron pill for a couple weeks, nor was I taking a multivitamin and my last meal of red meat was in August. The one supplement I’d been taking religiously was calcium and that’s only because it’s disguised as candy.
So I started double-dosing iron and taking a daily multivitamin. In a matter of days, I began feeling better. I stopped dreading runs and instead, started extending them: 7 became 10, 8 turned into 14. It was like a switch got flipped.
B12 and OMG, This Sounds Frighteningly Familiar
Because there was such an improvement going on and I strongly suspected it was nutrient-related, I did some digging around of prior blood tests. All last week I studied the labs taken while I was in the hospital (they took blood every day so I had a lot of data) plus a couple other iron tests from previous years. Before, I had no clue what any of the values meant, but now I was determined to learn.
Initially, I was only concerned with the results that had an L or H by them, indicating they were out of range Low or High. With the help of lab explanation websites and researching old LetsRun posts where there are many educated opinions on bloodwork and lab results (even from Coach Extraordinaire Dr. Jack Daniels), I realized that my results were not optimal for a runner. My red blood cell count was out-of-range low, low hematocrit, barely-in-range hemoglobin and high MCH. Together, this pointed to a potential folate or B12 deficiency, the latter most plausible since my diet is mostly vegetarian.
But the stunner in all this was reading the neurological symptoms of B12 deficiency: lack of reflexes, loss of vibration sense, failing the “close your eyes and touch your finger to your nose” test (all of which had happened in the hospital), gait ataxia (my leg weirdness) and sensory ataxia (the proprioception problems I’d had going down hills). Not to mention muscle weakness which was the reason I went to the emergency room in the first place.
Unfortunately, despite all the tests they took while in the hospital, B12 is not there.
Baseline Blood Test
Dr. Daniels strongly suggests getting blood tests when you feel great so you have a baseline of what normal feels like. So I completely bypassed my primary care doctor (whom I still resent hugely…must get a new GP soon) and instead, independently got a set of anemia-related blood tests, which included Complete Blood Count with Differential Test; iron with TIBC; reticulocyte count; ferritin, serum; folic acid and Vitamin B12.
The whole thing was $58 with a coupon code and it was the easiest thing ever! I registered online, made an appt at the lab for the next morning, fasted for 12 hours, in and out of the lab in about 6 minutes and the results were posted online the following day. Not one shred of red tape, no cajoling a doctor to please, please let me be tested…I just did it. Worth every penny.
As for the tests, the CBC stuff was pretty much the same as in the hospital, low red blood cells, etc. but my iron & ferritin were interesting: serum iron, which in the hospital was below normal at 44 but normally 70ish for me, is now 96, smack-dab mid-range so that’s perfect. Ferritin was weird though, mine is usually 70′s and it was 156! Doesn’t make much sense since serum iron would be raised by taking iron pills but not the ferritin level, which takes months to increase. Dehydration can falsely raise ferritin levels but I was well-hydrated for the test so I know it wasn’t that. Maybe it’s something to do with the liver operation.
My previous ferritin tests all gave a top range of 300 but this particular lab’s top of range is just 150, so it was flagged as High, which gave me pause. But since my iron level, iron saturation%, TIBC and UIBC all came out as standard (as do my turds) there’s obviously nothing sinister. That said, I am getting re-tested in 3 months so it’ll be interesting to see if was falsely inflated.
As for folate, I’m apparently a veritable folate machine: normal is >3 and mine was >19.9 (no range given on my report but googling found upper ranges are 13 or 17). High folate can indicate B12 deficiency.
My B12 result was actually middling (518), which you’d think messes with my B12 theory except that A) a serum B12 test describes overall B12, not what’s stored in the liver, B) my daily multivitamin has B vitamins in it, so that’d be reflected in the result, but more importantly…
The US defines a normal B12 range as 200 – 900 pg/mL – that low end is where blood abnormalities are found (pernicious anemia). Japan and Europe, however, use 550 as their lowest normal because this is the level where dementia and memory loss can occur; Japan has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world. What’s more, I’ve been reading tons of case studies involving similar serum B12 levels as mine, so I’m not swayed at all by my “normal” result.
The Next 3 Months
B12 connection aside, there’s no denying a low amount of red blood cells does you no favors. As a runner, it’s elementary oxygen to muscle stuff: more red blood cells means more hemoglobin which has a direct effect on VO2max. This is, in fact, the whole deal behind blood doping, a subject I have always ignored because it bores the pants off me but thanks to all this Googling, I now inadvertently understand the mechanics behind it. Then again, I’ve also inadvertently learned about women’s hair loss (get your ferritin over 70, ladies!) and the importance of B12 for gastric bypass patients. Too. Much. Information.
Anyway, since I’m not into the Doping School Of Improvement, there aren’t a lot of things you can do to raise those values aside from fixing an absorption problem (not my plight) or righting a deficiency of iron, folate or B12. So I’m going to do a small, informal experiment. For the next few months, I’m taking a high-potency B complex along with my multi, iron and calcium. At the end of 3 months, I’ll repeat the blood tests.
If nothing changes, that’s cool, it was a harmless observational experiment, but if it has an effect, well wouldn’t that be frickin’ fantastic? The main effect I’m looking for, btw, would be weeks strung together where I have no signs of physical weirdness. The secondary effect would be to see training improvements again, like normal people have. You know, where you run harder and then get rewarded by becoming faster? I want in on that action again.
In the meantime, it seems like that string of feel-good weeks has begun, 10 days and counting. I’m also starting to think about marathons again and that’s just plain weird. Must be something in the water. Mmmm, lemonade.
The word “compelling” has been on my brain this week. It first appeared when I started thinking about what to do for mileage in the coming months. Without a race in the near horizon (Spring at the earliest and no clue as to what it’d be) I have no compelling reason to run big mileage. I’m in the 60s now, a pretty solid volume for jumping off into whatever training I end up doing.
Also, big mileage is super fun when you have a carrot in front of your face (aka goal race) but along with a lack of carrots, I’m not even thinking “big picture” anymore. To work towards aerobic rewards 2 years down the line (which is where high mileage shines, the accumulation) seems too fragile a goal. So no high mileage thoughts for this winter.
The word compelling has also been on my mind with regards to myself. I don’t feel at all compelling or interesting right now and with my running going fine, there’s really nothing to blog about. Without goal races and specific training stuff, it’s just going to be same old-same old.
So I’m going to take a break for a while, probably a couple months. I have to start back before Christmas because I got some free Drymax socks I have to review before the holidays. Of course, if anything tasty happens in the meantime, I’ll post, but I’m not counting on it.
Here’s what’s going to happen in the next few weeks: I’ll run between 40-70mpw, probably stick around 60. I’ll take days off when I feel like it, probably more than I have in the past because I’ve no compelling reason not to. I’ll have good runs and bad runs, do tons of easy stuff, occasionally adding fartleks and a few hillier bits. Might do a few tempos but then again, I might not. I’ll have to see how motivated I become.
My leg will be weird sometimes and sometimes it won’t, I’ll be totally used to it by the time I start blogging again. And maybe I’ll have a fire under my ass when I return with some exciting plans for racing, but maybe I won’t. I’ll be genuinely relieved to run without having to report anything but I’ll also feel sad for having lost that connection.
In the end, however, I think running under the radar will be a very good thing for me. I’ve been blogging about my running ever since I started in 2007. There have been short blogging breaks when I was injured but there hasn’t been a month where I didn’t have at least a few posts. We’ll see how long I last.
In the meantime, I wish you all beautiful runs, ones that make you feel amazing and fit and fast and leave you satisfied. I wish you great races and PRs aplenty…or not, if that’s not what your season is about. And thank you so, so, so much for sticking around and reading my shit. I’ll never be able to express the gratitude I have about that.
Until the next post, bye everybody. Be good.
Not sure if it was last week’s easy-run-race that brought out some dormant faster paces or the building of weekly mileage that’s finally kicking in (both, I’ll bet), but this week was great. Paces dropped and I can’t even credit the weather – been leaving the house later so temps are pretty consistent. Just kinda feels like everything’s working more like it used to. I still have occasional weird leg episodes – had one during last week’s “race” as a matter of fact, but that ended up being a positive, since I learned that I could run through it in more stressful situations.
I’ve also been thinking about weight lately. Been holding onto a handful of extra lbs for months now, but since I’m not racing till Spring, I haven’t been in a hurry to lose it. That said, it’s obviously an interference for speed. Plus, I’ve done enough boohooing over “that was the runner I was…this is the one I am now” ::sniff:: that it’s not doing me any favors.
So I figure I might as well act as if I’m that old runner instead of the special nutcase I’ve been identifying with these past months. I mean, I’ll always be at least a partial nutcase, such is my nature, but I don’t need to roll around in it like a pig in slop anymore. Thus, a little weight attention is on the menu. Nothing major, don’t need to be bona fide race weight, but I’ll split the difference.
My New Website aka “Flo Finds Her Niche”
So, a couple months ago I posted some design stuff I’d been working on and one of the designs was a retro travel poster of Philly. I was super happy with the way it turned out and knew that New Vintage (excuse the oxymoron) was an avenue I wanted to explore. Since then, I’ve messed around with a couple other unrelated design things but nothing was exciting me, I was just in the head to make a little extra dosh by throwing darts here and there and hoping something stuck.
But a couple weeks ago, I started messing around again with the vintage deal and within hours, I knew I had found a style and subject matter that I could conceivably remain busy with for years. Seriously. Think about it, it’s Travel…how many places are there in this world? Only about a billion zillion trillion. Not to mention state flowers, state animals and birds, the potential is crazy. Plus, I love the look: it’s fun 60′s type era stuff, yet pretty organic (at least I think they look authentic) that I can’t help but be excited by it.
The website is www.VintagePosterDesigns.com so I hope you check it out. The designs are on a lot more than posters (t-shirts, mugs, pillows, puzzles, etc). There are 4 categories: US, Parks, International and Misc. with about 81 designs so far but it’ll be double that by the end of the week and way more after that. I’m tellin’ ya, I’ve found a prolific wonderland.
Here are a few samples if you don’t feel like clicking in (yes, I will make you look at my shit!) hee…
The “This Is More Like It” Week In Review
While Sunday’s race/run felt General Aerobic at the time, my quads had not moved that briskly in months so they were bitchin’ a bit so Mon and Tues were recovery. Wednesday I was still playing it conservatively but Thursday was like Sunday’s run in pace – not something I’ve been doing at all this summer so a very nice surprise.
Saturday was hot, 78 degrees but still on the north side of 8:30s, so again, more happiness. And today I did my first 16 miler in over 6 months. Just like a normal distance runner! Can you say “super frickin’ happy”? Because that’s what I am.
Note: still only doing easy runs and will continue sticking to Easys for a while…because I’m lazy like that. Also, I took a couple days off last week since it’d been a really long time. One day because I should and the other day because I was in a crappy mood. So a 42mi cutback week.
1. Signed up for this race because of the free entry and novelty of being sponsored by Marathon Bars
2. Immediately regretted signing up due to being in crap shape after months of illness then injury
3. Tried to have a good attitude these past 4 weeks and rise above the fact that my running sucks
4. Failed abysmally at having a good attitude
The Night Before
My dear friend Kat came for a couple days of girly hanging-out and support. Upon her arrival, we immediately head out for dinner and because I’m in blatant self-sabotage mode, I down 3 giant margaritas and shovel an entire platter of nachos into my piehole. We were so drunk after we left the 2nd bar that we spent about 45 minutes on the street looking for her car. Not that we going to drive it anywhere, the bars are just a couple blocks from my house, but we had this pressing need to locate the car just to locate the car. We finally located the car and stumbled home.
In the middle of the night, I awoke a few times to acid sugar and onions roiling from stomach to esophagus. In the morning, more of the same. Excellent! My plan had succeeded, I felt like shit. Yet another reason to have to run slowly (like I ever had a choice). It cracked me up that I was happy to be in this condition until I got to the race area and realized I better do some kind of warmup. It was then I discovered the crack in my plan; I had neglected to account for the reality of bile traveling from stomach to mouth and back again while bouncing up and down in a jogging motion.
This would be fun.
Pre-hangover, the plan was to start with 9 min miles, progressing down to 8:30s. When I said I would make this a normal easy Sunday run, I meant it (didn’t even wear race shoes but wore Kinvaras with 400 miles on them). I originally had a soft plan of meeting my park friend Tracy in corral 6 but now, hungover, I went to corral 8 and hoped I could hang. I asked a girl in the corral what she’d put down as her projected finish time and she said 1:55. I wasn’t sure I could handle it.
The gun goes off and about 9 minutes later, we finally cross the mat. For the first time in my life, I am ecstatic for clogs of runners in my way. I’m thinking that I might just do this whole thing at 9:xx pace and OMG do I really have to run 13 whole miles feeling like this?
On the other hand, it was kind of wonderful to lack even a tinge of needing to hurry…luxurious, even. I could look around at other racers and booties (girls asses are so much cuter in the higher corrals…not that I swing that way but it’s totally something to look at) and I also found it interesting that nobody seemed like they were in that much of a hurry. I swear, it looked like most everyone was just out enjoying the day instead of racing which I found to be weird, but I guess effort is more of an internal thing.
Anyway, around mile 3 I started to feel quite a bit better and my focus went off my innards into enjoying the environment and reminding myself to abide by one simple rule: No Pushing Whatsoever. This would remain a relaxed jaunt through Philly if it killed me.
The first few miles take you through downtown – I never trust my Garmin readings there, they’re always all over the place, but around mile 4, I realized that the numbers I was seeing were accurate and that the pace was dropping yet it still felt like an easy run. For the last 8 miles, I was in the most bemused mood over this unexpected pace vs. ease ratio, so unlike anything I’d felt all summer. And with a hangover, no less.
My splits (synced at the mile markers): 9:11, 8:46, 8:19, 8:15, 8:21, 8:02, 8:08, 8:11, 8:02, 7:54, 8:00, 7:53, 7:35, :57. Finish time: 1:47:35
I was also able to remain anxiety-free through water stops, getting 3 full cups of water down with no choking and a minimum of spillage. I’ll try to replicate that unhurried feeling in my next real race.
For the most part, I came away from this experience satisfied with the outcome. However, on the not-so-happy side is to compare this to last year’s Philly Half when I finished in 1:32:10. I have to keep reminding myself that yesterday was a supported easy run, not a race, so it’s simply nonsensical to compare the two. But still, the mind can be a jerk sometimes and if I want to be a real asshole to myself, I can ask which runner I should now identify with, because that faster one seems eons away.
But life is a wave of highs and lows and I’m sure I’ve got more running highs ahead. For now, I think I’ll spend the next 4 weeks just running more and not thinking much about anything. I have time.
Ah, what a week. Thursday, I turned 51 (such an ugly number) but am none the worse for wear; same amount of gray strands and wrinkles – at least I think so, my eyesight is so crappy now I can’t really tell. But what I can tell, and joyously, is that it’s been 9 days since I had my last weird leg episode. While it would be helpful to know why I had so many the week before, I’m just relieved that it’s a temporary type deal.
On Tuesday, I had a fun sighting. On my run, a cute girl passing me asked “Are you Flo?” Turns out, it was SweatyKid, one of the few bloggers I follow, but up till a few weeks ago, she lived in Alaska! In totally Small World-dom, she just moved here, of all places. How cool to stop for a sweaty hug and a sweaty chat with SweatyKid.
In other rambly news, next weekend is the Philadelphia Half that I’m gonna run as a plain ole easy run surrounded by tons of people. I’m not even tempted to make it a tempo, seeing as how I haven’t run one mile approaching tempo pace in 6 months – why start now? My one goal is to get a passable running photo, which will be a challenge unto itself because I’m letting my hair grow out and it’s beginning to resemble a short mullet, god help me.
And I’m definitely going to revamp that short-sleeve top because it’ll be in the 60s to start. It’s going to be tiny when I’m through with it. Hope the Marathon Bar people don’t care (or read this).
The “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” Week In Review
Today’s run (OMG, 14! OMG) was mostly pretty sluggish due to lack of sleep but at mile 10, after a water stop and chat with park pal Tracy, I got a second wind and had a peppy last 4 miles. Gotta love it when things turn around.
Was a good week all in all, super sweet to see these distances again. I’ll probably take a rest day next week, just for the hell of it (it’ll have been 6 weeks since my last). Gotta say, I’m feeling perfectomundo, totally tweakless and much sprightlier than a 51 year-old artifact should, but my brain says it’s probably a good idea.