Cake or pie?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I like to say I'm on an antibiotic tour over the past twelve months. Before my root canal, I was put on Penicillin VK, which worked to minimize the abscess on my gum underneath the affected tooth. For my strep throat infection, I was put on amoxicillin.

My latest foray into antibiotics for my sinus infection is Levaquin. My doctor gave me a $25 coupon to give to the pharmacy when she gave me the Rx for it. I have health insurance through a private PPO plan, and yes, of course the premiums are always going up, but perhaps I do not have the best prescription benefit, because even with the coupon the prescription was over $100. Ouch. One fun thing I like to do whenever I get a Rx is to look at the potential side effects. She explained some of the more major side effects in the office, like muscle & tendon soreness, possibility of tendon rupture, and she said, "some people say they feel like they have just run a marathon."

I had told her I just ran the Austin Marathon when I was coming off my strep infection, and she mentioned my lungs were clear, sinuses were a little tender/swollen, but not unbearably, therefore it was just a sinus infection with the post-nasal drip/drainage that was irritating my throat and causing the cough. We talked about the marathon a little bit, it turns out she has a personal connection to it, which was cool, and kind of laughed about the feeling-like-you-just-ran-a-marathon comment. I don't doubt the soreness side effect, I just doubt there was a control group who had run a marathon before and were asked about soreness, you know?

So far, so good though - I have no muscle or tendon soreness but then again I've only been on it for two days, and it's a q.d. Rx (once a day, from the Latin quaque die) unlike some of them that were b.i.d. (2x/day - the amoxicillin, from the Latin bis in die) or q.i.d. (4x/day - the Pen VK, from the Latin quater in die). I knew my Latin would come in useful some day, and now you know what those abbreviations on your prescriptions mean if you already didn't. Even though it's only been two days, I feel much better.

In regards to some of the side effects, here are some of the ones I read:
constipation, diarrhea (wow, would hate to have both of these at once!!), dizziness, gas, headache, lightheadedness, nausea, stomach pain; these next few are contact your doctor immediately side effects:
bloody or tarry stools (like meconium?), chest pain, decreased or painful urination, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, inability to move or bear weight on a joint or tendon area, mood or mental changes, seizures, shortness of breath, suicidal thoughts or actions (if you're successful, how are you supposed to contact your doctor?), symptoms of nerve problems e.g. change in perception of hot & cold or decreased sensation of touch or unusual numbness/tingling/burning/pain/weakness in hands legs or feet, etc.

Can I just say that I feel lucky I'm not the "lotto winner" on these potential side effects?

I looked up some Levaquin "testimonials" on the web, and some of them seem a bit far-fetched. Some people mentioned going into a deep depression while on Levaquin, insomnia, sporadic inability to concentrate. What's unusual though is people do not often list what else is going on, i.e. the person that experienced depression as a side effect, were they depressed to begin with? Was it under control with an SSRI or some other medication? The person that couldn't concentrate, do they have some other kind of chemical imbalance or disorder that isn't under control? I don't doubt they experienced those things, but it seems disingenuous to try and assign causality between a particular side effect and the new antibiotic you're taking. You never know what kind of pharmacological interactions are occurring between other medications they're possibly on or supplements they take. At least I didn't see one that said, "When I took Levaquin, I immediately rocketed up, up and away off the ground. - C. Kent, Metropolis, Kansas." That would be akin to what was above - the levaquin did not bring out the ability to fly, it was your Kryptonian heritage. Duh.

The only mild side effect I've had so far was with my ears. I had that feeling where you're in an airplane ascending to cruising altitude and your ears haven't adjusted yet, i.e. the pressure on both sides wasn't equalized. Even that was shortlived though, it only lasted for a few hours. Hopefully I only have a few more days of being sick and then my usually robust immune system will come back online.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Austin Marathon Recap

Note: Sorry about the delay in getting this posted. I wrote this over a week ago, but in the meantime I've been getting over that strep infection (yay amoxicillin!), getting ready for the three exams I had last week, and trying to get over the sinus infection I have now (yay levaquin!). - ASK


Austin Marathon 2/14/2010

I'm writing this aboard my express flight from Austin to Charlotte, and will do some copypasta to get it on the blog later. :)

The race was supposed to start at 7:00 a.m. The wheelchair and handbike participants were scheduled to start at 6:55 a.m., and I think they pretty much took off on their own after the National Anthem without being prompted. Speaking of the National Anthem, I wasn't paying attention to who was singing it, but they sounded an awful lot like Randy Travis. Maybe it was Randy Travis? I have no idea. I did take my hat off though, so kudos to me. They also made an announcement that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was going to be running, but I didn't hear if he was running the half or the marathon.

The hotel I chose to stay in is situated about half a mile from the starting line so I had a short walk when I woke up to head over there. It was about 0.7 mi from the finish line, so that wasn't a huge deal breaker either after having run 26.2 miles to get back to the hotel.

Sidebar: this was the fourth marathon I've run, and every time prior to this I set a new personal record (PR). I don't think of it as a badge of honor though, if anything I'm like that Russian pole vaulter who kept moving up the world record 1/8th of an inch at a time. What I am trying to say is that perhaps I have set the bar low for myself, and I know I'm capable of running much faster.

Okay, and we're back. I did not set a PR today. For the past several weeks I have been battling a strep infection and a general malaise, i.e. not sleeping well due to the strep, because of the coughing from the irritated throat. It seemed like leaning forward or laying flat exacerbated the symptoms, namely a chest-rattling cough. In the past, I rarely got sick, so I don't know what's up with me the last few weeks. I'm good about washing my hands, and not touching my eyes, nose, or mouth with my hands.

When I woke up, I was not feeling that well, and like I said I had resigned myself to the fact that I would just see how the race went, how I felt, and take it from there. I didn't want to get my first did-not-finish (DNF), which I think can be the SMART thing to do if it's needed, because you know your body better than anyone else. They actually made an announcement before the National Anthem in the morning that if you had diarrhea or were vomiting in the past 24 hours, do not run the race. Regardless of how I felt, I still headed to the starting line and ran the race, and decided it wasn't going to be a day to push myself, so I took it easy on the course even though I had been training smarter and faster than I had in the past. I wasn't disappointed in not setting a PR considering I didn't push myself and wasn't trying to, and in fact, I finished 7 minutes shy of my PR, despite "not pushing myself."

If anything, this tells me I am capable of so much more. There's another thing about this Austin course: boy, is it HILLY. I read race reviews on the marathon calendar site here: US Marathons Races Directory and Schedule, and several of them mention the hill factor. I love running hills but I did not work in a lot of hill training leading up to Austin. I didn't even look at the elevation chart until I was sitting in my hotel room. This is yet another example of my preference for wearing Bad Idea Jeans­™. I mentioned the hilliness in a FB status update, where I said, "if Samuel L. Jackson had run this race, by mile 11 or 12 he would have said, 'Enough! Enough! I've had it with these MF'ing hills on this MF'ing marathon course!'"

It was that bad. There were hills around every corner. It was so hilly that when we got to the flat sections of the course, you thought you were going downhill because it was easier and you had forgotten what flat looked like since it had been so long. The finish was nice, it was another short hill to the Texas State Capitol, where you looped around it and then headed downhill on Congress Ave. for the final 0.2 miles.

I ran in my old Asics, which not surprisingly have a ton of miles on them. The newer model I tried in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) gave me a sweet blister I had mentioned in an earlier blog entry, anterior and medial to the ball of my foot, so I went to the older ones even though they are worn down. Not surprisingly, my feet are a little sore, but I think the good thing about running in older shoes is that you can be confident in the fit and that they'll work well for you. After I started getting a little plantar fasciitis (PF) in my right foot, back when I switched to the newer shoe, I went back to the old one and it pretty much resolved itself. The soreness/tightness went away shortly after I started using the old shoes again. I think that when the midsole breaks down, you rely more on your foot to stabilize itself instead of relying on the cushioning, which possibly makes your foot weaker. I read something about it in Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, so I decided to try out the older shoes and it did help clear up the PF.

Here are a few notes about the Austin Marathon, and keep in mind the only other marathon I've run is the three times I've done the Marine Corps Marathon, and in my estimation the MCM is the marathon par excellence as far as organization and execution, which is to be expected considering it is run and staffed by the Marine Corps. Oh, one cool thing I saw: someone was recording video on their iPhone pretty early on, like within the first five miles, talking about so far so good with the race and stuff. I kind of wonder who that was, they most likely have a blog or Twitter. Here goes!

  • No food on the course. Really? At the MCM there are orange wedges, ClifShot gels, JellyBelly SportBeans, and of course the random spectators that offer up stuff like candy, goldfish, etc. There were no food stations along the Austin Marathon. I guess they decided to leave it up to the spectators, some of whom made beer available, champagne, orange wedges, Jolly Ranchers, even Valentine's Day candy. Much respect to the mom & young daughter that had gummy hearts, those hit the spot when I needed it. After I realized the lack of food stops, thinking about food and what I was going to eat after the race began to consume ME. I stopped listening to my body and started wondering how delicious a greasy cheeseburger and salty fries would be after I got my medal and finisher's shirt. And it's hilly.
  • The water stations were well-stocked and well-organized, volunteers offered encouragement along with the liquids, and were clear about who had water and who had Powerade. There was a water station at more or less every mile, usually not at the mile marker but between 0.2-0.6 miles into each mile, which was nice, and they alternated Powerade every other mile. There was also water at each Powerade station, which was nice for people like me who think Powerade is too "sweet" while running and opt to mix it with some water. The water stations were relatively flat, not hilly. One was even on a downhill!
  • I like how they will print your name (or probably anything, within reason) on your bib under your bib number. I can't tell you how many times I felt like crap or was dragging a little bit and a spectator would call out my name, tell me I was looking good or looking strong, or yelling "go go go," or "keep moving!" or "finish strong." I think that is a nice touch to put names on bibs. I'm sure this happens at other races too.
  • Speaking of crowds, several segments of the run reminded me of the Hains Point stretch in the MCM. The crowd support at MCM covers the route much better. I thought the route was fairly scenic but for a long stretch we were running around neighborhoods, I think this was between miles 18-24ish, before we ran by the University of Texas campus around mile 25, which was nice. I like architecture, but all the houses looked the same. I saw a lot of columns, craftsman bungalow-type houses with wide porches and chain link or wooden fences around several yards. People in Austin were great about bringing their dogs out--it seemed like everyone has a dog in Austin--and it worked out great, because if the people got tired of cheering, the dogs never got tired of barking. I guess that's what I would do if I were a dog and a bunch of lunatics decided to run by my house, or it could have just been their way of cheering.
  • The finish line was kind of a disorganized c.f. I think a little of that is to be expected since you may have a crush of finishers at once, so it's not the hugest deal. At the MCM, Marine Lieutenants and above place your medal around your neck and you get your "space blanket" to warm up. In Austin, I don't know if they went over what to do with the volunteers but the medal was just handed to me. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I did just run 26.2 miles and it would be nice to not cheapen it by handing me the medal instead of placing it around my neck. I think it's nicer to recognize the accomplishment by doing the whole bowing the head and placing the medal around the neck, instead of just of handing over the medal like it was a receipt at the grocery store. Maybe it's just me that feels like this? I saw it happen to other finishers as well. It was pretty warm this afternoon in Austin but I quickly cooled down when I stopped running. I didn't even get a space blanket handed to me. The nice thing about the finish was H.E.B. furnished a light post-run spread under white tents, so you could grab some mini-bagels, a banana, some Powerade or water, some chips and I think there were Snickers marathon bars as well. There was also food court outside of the finishers' area that had local places supplying the food, like mmmpanadas!
  • Oh, and another thing--the marathoners and half-marathons run the same course until it diverges around the 10 or 11 mile mark, when they told the half-marathoners to get on the right side of the road and the marathoners to go to the left side of the road. The marathoners headed to the west hills of Austin (hey, I mentioned it was a hilly course!), and the half-marathoners headed to their finish. The volunteers handled the bifurcation very well in telling the marathoners and half-marathoners which way to go. I think the half-marathoners party a little bit more than the marathoners do, at least before the race. I guess that's understandable. I'm not completely basing this on my own observations, one of the cab drivers I had mentioned it on Saturday night. I don't think it's a bad idea to have everyone run it together, but I will admit I was a little jealous when I realized the half-marathoners were heading down the relatively flat home stretch to their finish, aside from a similar hill prior to the Texas State Capitol, but on the other side before heading down Congress Ave. to the finish, and the marathoners were heading for the hills. Literally.
  • This is pretty shallow but the female spectators in Austin were a pretty attractive lot, especially around the UT campus. :)
So overall, would I run this course again? Yes. I would definitely do more hill work before running the race, and think about packing my own gels/some kind of food for the race considering they do not supply any. I probably could have found that out beforehand, and it would have been nice to enjoy the run more than to obsess over what I was going to eat when it was over... hmm, hamburger? NO! Cheeseburger! Maybe pizza? Nah. Empanadas? Possibly. Ooooh, maybe a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. YEEEEEAHHH! You get the idea.

If I think of anything else, I will add it later. Next race: TBD. There will be pictures incoming later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Austin Marathon - Day One

Let me preface this entire post by stating my amazement that the D.C. area got dumped on by consecutive snowstorms. For the first one, I was snowed in with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews Johnny and Christopher. Speaking of Christopher, can you guess his nickname?

If you guessed "Chris" then you'd be wrong. His nickname is Dino, as in "DINO-saur" not "DEEN-OH." His big brother Johnny has given him several nicknames, including Christo Dino, which got shortened to just Dino, and Baby Godzilla since he stomps all over and destroys everything in his path. Nicknames are great, the only bad part of course is you can't really nickname yourself, or at least most people cannot do that. I wonder at times though if Christopher will respond to his real name when he is a bit older, since everyone (Mom, Dad, Bro, uncle ASK) calls him Dino. It should work out okay though, he'll probably be a soccer player like his mommy and daddy and he can just put "Dino" on his jersey instead of his last name. That would be kind of cool, like the Brazilian players tend to do - Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, etc.

I'm getting way off track. So the D.C. area had these snowstorms, got around 30" of snow total, and I was snowed in with my sister's family for the first one for several days. I also happened to have a strep infection which I was taking amoxicillin for - I'm pretty sure I got it from my sister, my nephews had ear infections and my brother-in-law had bacterial pneumonia he was getting over, so it was essentially a house of people on antibiotics.

Here is one of the small bits of shoveling snow I did, and it was a damn important one: I cleared the path to the hot tub!

Mission accomplished, other than needing to clear off the cover to use the hot tub.

For the second snowstorm I got snowed in at home, but it was really a lightweight, fluffy snow, unlike the first storm earlier in the week. I think I remember reading somewhere that the Inuits have over 30 or 40 different words for snow. Virginia usually does not get this much snow, and we actually set a new record, with the most recorded snowfall since 1898 (or something, I didn't fact-check while I'm writing this, my bad).

Sorry if it seems like this post is a misnomer, it really is about the Austin Marathon. So I flew out of Reagan (DCA) into Chicago (ORD) this morning to connect to Austin (AUS). I ended up staying with my other sister in Shirlington to be closer to the airport, and got there without a hitch. Security is always fun, I got to leave my belt on at least. And my pants and shirt. The first leg of the trip to Chicago went well, I always worry I'm going to get seated next to some 350 pound sweating mouth-breather. Fortunately, I had the window seat to O'Hare and was seated next to a skinny 10 year old and her mom. Here's the approach to Chicago, which just struck me due to all the ridiculously tall buildings on the lake front and the sprawl of low-slung (comparatively, of course) buildings filling in the rest for as far as the eye could see.

Hello Chicago!!

I used to work with a woman from Chicago. She was absolutely in love with Chicago to the extent that I wondered why she left Chicago for D.C., but apparently it was because of love. I couldn't really fault that. I wish I had her number so I could have texted her when I landed like, "Guess where I am?" She was pretty much an awesome "bullpen-mate" at this job I worked due to the overshares she consistently let slip. One particular overshare that seared itself into my long-term memory after she got back from lunch: "Oooh I think I ate some bad fish, my stomach feel like a washing machine!"

I had a short layover in Chicago, went around looking for something to eat, found it at Wolfgang Puck Express, which ended up being a pretty simple chicken salad.

Got to the gate for the flight at O'Hare (K terminal?? WHERE THE HELL IS K ??) after quite a walk from the "A" terminal since my flight from DCA to ORD was on United, and the ORD to AUS was on American Airlines. After quite a hike I got there with 10 minutes to spare after lunch (plus reading the new Runner's World with Kara Goucher on the cover at Wolfgang Puck Express). Quite a few people were on standby trying to get to Austin from Chicago. I guess the snow screwed over a lot of people on a lot of fronts, but hugely on travel.

Ended up getting to Austin early, and the airport is a little farther from downtown than I had expected, the approach before landing is below.

Hello Austin!!

Since I didn't have any checked luggage, I was able to hustle out and catch a cab. I talked to the driver a little bit, told him I had come from D.C. where we had SOOO MUCH SNOOOOW, and he said it was unusually cold for Austin, and he had heard there was snow in Dallas. When we were pulling up to the hotel, he also mentioned I should go to 6th Street because that's where the girls from UT go, and I said, "MUCHAS GRACIAS AMIGOOOO" and he handed me some condoms and said "buena suerte" whatever that means.

(Just kidding about the very last part about the condoms and him telling me good luck).

Unfortunately, I am still getting over strep, and I do have exams the next two weeks for which I really need to study, so I am writing a blog to take a break from the studying and I figure maybe I will see some live music tomorrow. I talked to a friend that lives in Austin and she recommended I check out the Warehouse District around 4th Street, saying it was less of the college crowd than 6th Street is, and smells less like puke. So we'll see what happens. I wish I could stay in Austin a bit longer, it really is a great city.

Tomorrow I will head to the expo, get my packet, etc. Hopefully I am fully recovered from strep, and I won't lie, I have had to scale back both my training and my expectations for this race, but that's the smart thing to do. It's usually not a good idea to have unrealistic expectations for a race and set yourself up for disappointment. I do not want to have my first DNF, but my Dad reminded me on the phone that my health comes first, so I will run on Sunday but most likely I will not push myself too hard. I have heard this is a hilly course, and I am sure that will play a part as well.

The last few pictures I wanted to share were the ones I took from my hotel room on the 16th floor. The two pictures were both taken without flash at the same time of day, which can seem odd considering the Texas State Capitol is so well lit in one picture and the sunset-backlit buildings in the other seem so dark. I'll let you be the judge, I need to get back to studying, and of course I have the Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremonies on in the background. I thought it would have been way cooler if Robin Sparkles had sang "Oh Canada." :(

Texas State Capitol

Hidden Sunset

More to come...