Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lyrica is kicking my ass

Since I "graduated" from my back surgeon's office, I went to go see my primary care doctor to figure out a game plan for moving forward. We were on the same page with trying to put on getting more steroids injected into my spine, but something had to be done to try to reduce my pain so I could subsequently reduce the amount of pills I'm popping everyday. Now I'm trying a drug called Lyrica that (in theory) will reduce my nerve pain in my legs.

You can't (shouldn't?) just start taking the full dose of Lyrica right away and you also can't just stop cold turkey. It's one of those drugs that has to build in your system and my doctor told me to give it four weeks to see results. The fun part is that while it can take weeks to work, the side effects start right away. Common side effects include:



Mental confusion

Feeling "high"

Today is my first day of taking the full dosage and I'm a little concerned that I've been left in charge of two other human lives. I've never taken a medication that had "confusion" as a possible side effect, and I haven't been missing out.

"Huh, what?" is my new motto

I don't really feel "high" but I don't really feel like my normal self either. It's weird.

I'm already pretty sensitive to drugs that cause drowsiness so when you combine that with the baby's awful sleep, I'm really struggling to keep my eyes open.

The very helpful Lyrica website says that on average, the sleepiness symptom persisted in patients like me (who take the drug for a spinal cord injury) for only 1.5 weeks. I just have to gut it out and hope that the symptom subsides. For some people, the side effects never subside, which will really bode well for my children's future.

There is no real point to this post other than warning you to perhaps lower your expectations for my blog posts for the next week or so. I may just end up falling asleep at my computer like an 80 year old watching the 6pm news and only half write a blog post. That may or may not have happened yesterday.

If this drug actually works, this will all be worth it. If it doesn't, that will just fit in nicely with my luck so far. It would be just hilarious if I go through all these side effects and still end up needing another series of spine injections in the near future.

It's a really good thing I don't have an actual job where higher thinking or adult conversation is required. My kids don't even notice my diminished mental capacity and it actually helps me tolerate watching an episode of "Peppa Pig" with them. I don't understand why that pig has to be British. We didn't fight the Revolutionary War for our kids to grow up saying things with an English accent because of Peppa Fucking Pig.

Maybe I should rescind that statement about how I'm now tolerating that show.

What's the worst medication you've ever had to take? Before this, I would say the intense high dose antibiotic regimen I had to do when I had an infection in my stomach lining. That was no fun at all, but at least it was short.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Endless Summer 6 Hour Race 2014 Recap

For a while I was worried that showing up to an ultra with no intentions of completing the ultra distance and no intentions of actually running a step would make me feel like an outsider or loser. I guess in the last 8 months since I've done an ultra I forgot how these races are full of awesome laid back people who really don't give a shit. Whenever I was chatting with someone and told them "Yeah, I'm only walking today. I had back surgery in March and I'm not allowed to run" they would just congratulate me on my Grandma At the Mall speed walking skills and tell me that it's fantastic that I'm out doing something as stupid as walking for 6 hours in July so soon after back surgery.

Going into this race I had no idea how my body would react to a long distance walk. I still have significant nerve damage in my right leg and random muscle spasms so while I mentally wanted to do well, I wasn't sure my body would be on board with that.

I filled my minivan with local running friends who were also doing the race and we all drove up to Annapolis together. In retrospect we should have left a little earlier because we got to the race with no time to spare. I was pinning on my bib during the pre-race brief and hardly had time to put down my drop bag before lining up to start. The race seems to get bigger every year, but it also gets better every year too. This year we had chip timing for the first time so we didn't have to check in with a volunteer after every loop and every logistical aspect of the race was so smooth and organized.

Sweet swag (nasty diet beer not included)

I was so rushed to get to the start that I didn't have time to focus on trying to find a blog reader friend who was also walking the race and I ended up starting with my next door neighbor. She was running it but this was her first time doing an event longer than a half marathon, so she wanted an easy pace so she jogged the same speed as my walking. Walking with someone who was running ended up being really motivating for me to walk faster so we kept a really good pace for the first three loops (12 miles). After seeing the times for those loops (less than an hour each for a 4.1 mile loop) I started doing Race Math in my head. I never do math except during races, but when I race, I must do math.

I realized that if I kept the same quick walking pace for the remainder of the race, I could have a shot at a 25 mile distance finish. Once I came to that realization, all I could think about was how much I wanted to get to 25 miles. I haven't done a race in a long time and I forgot how freaking bullheaded and stubborn I can be. Do you know who didn't forget? Alyssa. When everyone was putting in guesses for my distance for the race, she was one of the only ones who guessed a longer distance. I asked her why and she said that she did some math and factored in my stubbornness and competitive inner Race Bitch and that's how she came up with her number. I guess all of those ultras that she ran with me gave her a little edge in the betting game.

By the time I hit mile 18-ish (I wasn't wearing a Garmin so that's a guess) my legs started to yell at me. My feet were screaming at me and every time I walked down a hill, as I could fill my blisters hitting the front of my shoes. I didn't really care though because my back felt fine and I was in my stubborn zone and refused to slow down or take a break because I knew I didn't have any time to spare. It's sad really because the aid station was awesome. I stopped just long enough to refill my Gatorade bottle and the aid station workers were so wonderful. You know how when you were a kid and you went over to a friend's house and their mom was just awesome and offered you snacks and drinks and tried to do anything to make you feel comfortable? Somehow they found those women to staff the aid station at this race. At one point, someone was filling up my Gatorade bottle for me, another was getting a cup of ice to add to my bottle, and another was putting a cold towel on my neck. Endless Summer is still the leader in my book for best aid stations! If that's not enough to encourage you to sign up for next year's race, then just consider this: at some point during the race (maybe even more than once if you're lucky!), you will see this:

Both the Race Director and eye candy

It got really hot by the end of the race. It was humid all day, but at least in the morning it was overcast. I started passing more people once noon hit (I actually ended up going further than 25 other people!). It was a lot easier to stay cool with just walking and I also didn't have any issues with chafing. The primary irritants for me were the growing blisters on my feet and the muscles in my leg screaming "WTF are you DOING to us?" I figured if I just didn't think about it, then I could keep pushing the pace and make my goal of 25 miles.

At the end, I was walking with a normally super fast runner who gave birth just seven weeks ago. I was a little concerned that at some point her uterus would just fall out onto the path and I'd have to help her carry it back, but she held it in and she was a damn fast walker. She helped me push it until the end and before I knew it, the air horn sounded and the race was over. I had a flag with my bib number on it to mark where I ended and just the simple act of crouching down to put that in the ground made my legs scream at me. That's a mark of a good race.

So, how far did I end up going? Did I make my ridiculous made up mental goal of 25 miles?

But I came pretty damn close. My official results are 24.97 miles.

I bet everyone who bet like 15 miles feels pretty stupid now, huh? I'm just kidding, that was a totally reasonable bet and I wasn't even sure I could make it ten miles until I started.

*Edited because I can't math on drugs*

The winner of the $100 with a guess of 26.9 miles, (26.9-24.97=1.93), is Alyssa!

The second place winner of $50 with a guess of 23 miles (24.97-23=1.97) is whoever guessed under the name of "Friends of the Marines"!

The randomly selected winner of $25 is Erika Blaska!

If you won, please contact me via email (kara975 at gmail.com) so I can give you the money! If I don't hear from you within 72 hours, I will donate your winnings to the Semper Fi Fund.

I want to thank everyone for making this fundraiser so successful! Currently I have raised $4,850 for the Semper Fi Fund and that's amazing. It was great to participate in this race that benefited the Semper Fi Fund along side other Semper Fi Fund athletes.

No, that dude did not run in a kilt. 

As far as how I'm feeling post-six hour walk, well...everything hurts and walking is awful and stupid.

My back is a little sore, but it feels the same level of sore as I would just being on my feet all day. The actual walking part didn't seem to irritate it. I felt like crap on Sunday morning but that was mostly due to starting a nerve pain medication (I went to the doctor on Thursday) and it has some pretty gnarly side effects until your body acclimates to it. I had nearly constant muscle spasms in my calf and hip area during the walk but that's not abnormal either. Life is pain.

If you lived close to Maryland, would you ever run this race? Have I talked you into it?

Out for a six hour stroll
Photo credit to Denise Hyde

Thursday, July 24, 2014


You guys are awesome! My goal for fundraising was $4,500 and currently we're at $4,695!!

If you still want to have a chance to win $100, $50, or $25 prizes, you can still enter the contest by guessing my distance for this Saturday's six hour race! The charity sure isn't going to complain about the additional donations and it could be an awesome win-win situation if you end up getting one of the prizes!

I'll accept distance guesses up until Friday evening and then I'll probably tweet about the race on Saturday if you can't wait until Monday to find out how far I ended up going. The weather is looking fantastic for race day with a high of just 81 degrees, which is really rare for late July in Maryland. It should be a fun day to walk (or run if you're able bodied like that) and I'm looking forward to it!

Here's the donation page if you want to see how 147 donations added up to something amazing!

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who supported the Semper Fi Fund!

As a funny parting note, the shortest distance anyone thinks I'll go is 13.1 miles and the longest is 29.5 miles. That's quite the range and I'm impressed that no one thinks I'm just going to walk two laps (8.2 miles) and say "Fuck this" and go watch DVDs in my van until everyone else is done.

How far do you think you could walk in six hours? I've never walked for that long so I'm interested if anyone has done it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I care about the cause

There are more worthy causes and charities out there than you can shake a stick at, and I'm asking you to care about one charity in particular. Why the Semper Fi Fund? Well, the easiest answer is that I'm married to an injured Marine. His injury changed his whole life and since I share that life with him, I feel close to this cause. Another reason is this:

That's my little brother and he's a Marine. He's on his second deployment currently so I don't get to talk to him as often as I'd like, but thanks to Facebook I get to see random pictures of his adventures. His first deployment was to Afghanistan and that was misery for him. This time he's on a boat tour, which he as coined "The Worst Cruise EVER" so he's getting a chance to experience misery in a wide variety of climates and settings.

Whenever I look at his pictures, I'm always struck by how young they all look. Whenever I see a picture of my brother near a gun, I'm always like "Who thought this was a good idea? He's just a kid!" even though I know he's 21.

I may not be entirely wrong in my statement

The bulk of the Marine Corps infantry is made up of these young kids and if one of them gets injured during combat training or in the line of duty, they don't have any work experience or higher education to fall back on to help them find a job. My younger brother knows how to use a mortar, which is really useful in a war zone, but not when he's applying for a job that could support him and his wife. He is planning on getting his college degree with the GI bill once his time with the Marine Corps is up, which is a pretty common course of action. The problem is what happens if something unexpected occurs, like a physical injury or a mental injury like PTSD. What then? What if one of these young guys loses a limb and is medically retired from the military and needs to find a way to make a living?

That's where the Semper Fi Fund comes into play: They can help with immediate financial needs and with long term issues like education and career transition services. Things like adaptive housing (with ramps and other modifications) and specialized vehicles can be extremely expensive and when you donate to the Semper Fi Fund, you're helping to give those things to an injured Marine. The Semper Fi Fund also provides canine and equine therapy for wounded Marines, as well as a kid's camp for the children of the injured service member.

From my back injury and surgery, I've had a taste of what it's like to have a life changing injury and you know what? It sucks. When I think about how an injury like a limb loss would effect a young guy like my little brother, it makes my heart hurt for them. One of the worst parts of being injured is not being able to do things for yourself and I'm happy that the Semper Fi Fund exists to provide adaptive housing and cars so these Marines can regain some independence.  The Semper Fi Fund often uses the phrase "Serving those who preserve our freedom" and I think it's fitting that many of their services are designed to give the injured service member more freedom in their new post-injury lives.

TL;DR version: Please donate just $10 to the Semper Fi Fund and make a difference in a life of an injured Marine. You have a decent chance at winning a sweet cash prize, so even if you're not feeling the cause, let the cash motivate you! We are less than $300 away from my goal, let's do this!

What's your preferred charity? Why did you pick it?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Forrest Gimp Walk Fundraiser

If you're a newer reader of my blog or if you have bad memory for the mundane details of other people's lives, you may have forgotten that I was once a runner. I haven't run since the end of January, with the only exception being a few running steps to stop the baby from toddling out into traffic. Since my back injury and subsequent back surgery in March, I've been told that I should never run again. Obviously that is horrible news for someone who loves to run, but I've been trying to maintain optimism about the situation. At least I can walk, right? There are a lot of people who aren't that lucky.

This weekend I'm going to combine that optimistic walking ability with the perspective of remembering those who are more seriously injured by completing the Endless Summer 6 Hour race for the Semper Fi Fund. Before I hurt my back, I was able to raise a great amount of money for this fantastic charity and now I want to see if I can raise a little more by having a fun contest to go along with my race on Saturday.

For more information about the Semper Fi Fund and the reasons why I picked it as my charity, check out this post! You can also read my husband's injury story here, but just ignore all the black magic spam in the comment section. I need to go through and delete it all but there are like 400+ comments about spellcasters for hire.

No one likes a complicated contest, so I'm trying to make it as simple as possible. To enter the contest, you need to do two things:

1. Donate at least $10 to the Semper Fi Fund
2. Guess how far you think I'll walk in six hours 

I made a chart for the guesses (I really made it, like I wrote the HTML code for it. I'm so proud of myself) and I will update it as donations and guesses come in and you can guess to the tenth of a mile. I will be going with the official results, not my Garmin time so it may be 2-3 days post race before I have my official time and can announce winners. Tell me your distance guesses in the comment section of this post or in the comment section of the donation page. 

Can I enter more than once or donate more than $10?

Absolutely! Just make sure you let me know if you want more than one entry in the contest so I can record it! Also, on the chart there is a space for you to tell me if this donation is in honor or memory of someone. I plan on writing down any and all names and wearing it during the race.

What if someone already guessed my lucky number?

Early bird gets the worm here, so you'll need to go up or down by at least a tenth of a mile. Example: You really wanted to bid on 22.2 miles but that's taken, so you can bid on 22.3 or 22.1 miles. If I get duplicate bids at the same time, I'll do my best to mediate that and if that doesn't work and that's the winning bid, then the two winners will just split the prize.

What are the prizes? Is it lame stuff like chia seed Gu and compression socks?

I spent a good chunk of time trying to think of kick-ass prizes for this and my husband suggested that cash is the best prize. Everyone loves money! This is all funded by the sponsored posts on my blog this month, so really you guys helped me earn it so let's put it to good use here.

1st place (closest guess): $100

2nd place (second closest guess): $50

3rd place (randomly selected from all entries): $25

The money will be mailed to you as a Visa gift card if you're a U.S. resident and if you live outside of the U.S, then it will be an Amazon gift card. If you live in the U.S. and you don't want me to know where you live, I can also do an Amazon gift card for you too.

Any hints on how far or fast you intend on walking?

The best part of this whole contest is that I have no freaking clue how far I'll end up going. I'm four months post surgery now but I still have a lot of nerve pain in my legs and I still can't feel sections of my right leg. I'm not walking with a limp and my muscle strength is good so my doctor was entirely supportive of this 6 hour race plan. I haven't "trained" specifically for this event so I'm pretty much just winging it here. I have been working out almost every day and even doing weight training now, so I'm not a total weakling. Also, July in Annapolis (where the race takes place) is hot, hot, and then really humid on top of it. Last year I ran the race nine months after having Cordelia and I covered just under 32 miles in 6 hours. I checked the results from last year and the last place person covered 16.6 miles, but I assume they were both running and walking.

The only caveat for this whole thing is that if I feel like I'm hurting my back during the race, I will pull myself out. Rest assured that I won't let things like bleeding blisters or vomiting stop me, just spine injury stuff.

My goal is to get over $4,500 raised for the Semper Fi Fund, so let's do this! Initially I thought of asking people to donate the amount of money as their guess (like if you guess 18.4 miles, then you donate $18.40) but I thought that would be both confusing and discriminatory to people who think I'm stubborn enough to push myself hard for six hours, so that's why I went for the flat $10 instead. If you want to go ahead and make your guess and donation match, that would be awesome!

Donation Page

Distance Guesses Chart

Endless Summer 6 Hour Race Distance Guesses

Endless Summer 6 Hour Race Distance Guesses

Distance Donor Name Donation request
1 mile Jane Doe In memory of her grandfather
2 miles Joe Plumber In honor of his main man John McCain
2.2 miles Dean Winchester In memory of John Winchester
3 miles Frodo Baggins In honor of Gandalf the Grey
4 miles Willow Rosenberg In memory of Buffy because she saved the world a lot.
13.1 miles Angelica Rohring
13.7 miles Claudia
14 miles Erika Blaska
14.3 miles Georgina Clarke
14.4 miles Nicole Nolen
15 miles Katie
15.5 miles Kathleen Hammett
16 miles Melody
16.1 miles Emily Genest
16.2 miles Newlyweds on a Budget
16.5 miles Katie
16.9 miles Christine Miller In honor of Peter and Jeff
17.5 miles Maureen D.
17.7 miles Team Lindsay In honor of all injured Marines
17.9 miles Christina Wood
18 miles Nick Miller In honor of his brother, Peter
18.1 miles Rachel
18.2 miles Erin Salbilla In memory of her grandfather
18.6 miles Kathleen Hammett
19.2 miles Elizabeth Etherton
19.5 miles Vicky Cook
20 miles Michelle Stulberger In honor of back gimpiness
20.1 miles Tai Fung
20.5 miles Sarah Giddings
20.7 miles Danielle Haslinger
21 miles Jaime
21.2 miles Erin Michos Celebration of her first ultra!
21.2 miles Sarah G
22 miles Melody
22.5 miles Danielle Fesler In honor of her deployed boyfriend
22.8 miles Emily Garnett In honor of Chunky
23 miles Friends of Marines In honor of all his brothers in the USMC
26.9 miles Alyssa Lindsey In honor of boobs
29.5 miles Michelle Bouchard
??? miles Jamie S In honor of Tyrion Lannister
??? miles Jamie Simpson
??? miles Catherine Knoll
??? miles Rachel Dolan
??? miles Katie Hall
??? miles Christina Denton
??? miles Paige Beck

Monday, July 21, 2014

If you say the word enough times, it loses all meaning

Growing up, I was always told that pie was a horrible dessert and it was never served at our house. I don't know why my mother had such beef with fruit filled pastries, but that's another story. As a result, I never even tried pie until I was an adult. I was a gullible kid and I wasn't about to to take my chances with potentially disgusting dessert options. At the ripe old age of 31, I've come to the conclusion that pie is awesome.

Since I've only recently realized that pie is the food of the gods, I am so behind on trying new kinds of pie. So far I've had blueberry, apple, and pumpkin. I've also tried pecan, but I didn't like that so I'm not going to let that bring down the average 10/10 dessert score for pies. Who wants nuts in their pie anyway? Freaks.

On Saturday night, my husband and I went out to celebrate our sixth anniversary. Our dinner was nice, maple glazed salmon for me and crab cakes for him, but I left room for potential dessert. The waiter brought over a tray of dessert options and none of them looked that tempting and then he started rattling off the list of options that their new pastry chef had to offer. He could have just stopped talking after he told me about the "delicate hand pie made with local blackberries and served with fresh whipped cream" because holy shit what can top that?

It could have been the rum laden drink I had with my salmon, but that was the best fucking pie I've ever had. I've been thinking about that pie since then so of course when I went grocery shopping on Sunday it was on my mind.  I didn't want to actually make my own pie because chances are that won't turn out well, so I figured that Marie Calendar must know her shit. The pie didn't even have a real name (Razzleberry? That's not a real berry) but it was some damn good pie. Not even close to the level of that fancy blackberry pie on Saturday night, but I got a bigger piece and I had it with ice cream, so that helped. I don't know what kind of witchcraft Marie Calendar uses to make her frozen pies so good, but it's probably somewhere in that long list of ingredients.

Yes, this is an entire blog post about pie. I don't know who should feel more ashamed of themselves, me for writing it or you for reading this far.



What's your favorite kind of pie? I need to prioritize my list for the next type of pie to try.

Are there any foods that you "discovered" as an adult? I have a long list that includes avocado, regular soda, salad dressings, and mushrooms...and pie of course.