Tag Archives: training run

Well, Shut Mah Mouth

REST DAY, my body told me as I woke up this morning, keeping me firmly under the soft, warm covers. After yesterday’s 14-mile run and 55-mile bike ride, inactivity was reasonable, even logical. And my coach had put nothing on the schedule, so I was home free. And yet…I am training for an ultramarathon next month, so a recovery run was in order.

According to active.com, recovery runs build aerobic capacity and support muscles. It also promotes mental toughness; if you can get yourself out the door and run while fatigued, it will help you at the end of a race. I held out until after lunch, then out I went for five miles.

This is the kind of recovery my body had in mind fpor today.

This is the kind of recovery my body had in mind for today.

Recovery runs are supposed to be done at an easy pace, to avoid overtaxing muscles and negating the benefits. For me, that’s 9:00 per mile, give or take. After a day like yesterday, going slow should be welcomed by the body. Right? Not mine. When I can cruise comfortably at a 7:45 pace, doing steady 9:00 miles gets old fast. Before long I slip into a more “natural” pace, which is too fast for a recovery run. But I have discovered a way to keep things under control – by using my nose.

Bonus: Click here to see how my nose once earned a “black belt” by defeating a glass door.

Normally I am a mouth breather while running, as are the majority of runners. This time I kept my mouth closed. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you’re the type, as I am, who tends to generate mucus while running. But nose breathing has a couple of distinct advantages. Sometimes while running, I slip into shallow chest breathing, which is less efficient at getting oxygen into the lungs and clearing them of carbon dioxide. Nose breathing forces me to breathe fully from the diaphragm.

Definitely not the time to nose breathe. (Finish line, Road Ends 5 mile trail race.)

Definitely not the time to nose breathe. (Finish line, Road Ends 5 mile trail race.)

The other benefit is that it sets a ceiling on my pace. I can run comfortably at 9:00 while nose breathing. If my pace sneaks up to faster than 8:30, I have to switch to mouth breathing, which provides the signal that I’m going too fast for this particular run. For today’s run I didn’t look at the pace setting on my watch. I let my nose lead the way, letting it tell me when I could speed it up a bit, and when I had to slow down. I averaged a 9:05 pace, with a range between 8:50 and 9:10. Success!

So I have a new training technique when I need it. But does that mean that nose breathing is better than mouth breathing, as some have argued? The best advice I’ve read on that subject is: Just breathe, and do so in a way that’s comfortable for you. Sounds good to me.

The Cost of Healthcare: $2,000 Per Mile

ONE HOT TUESDAY EVENING IN APRIL 2010, I WENT ON A FIVE-MILE TRAINING RUN with my local running group. My assignment was an average pace of around 7:30 per mile, a challenging effort for me at the time. But I was training for my first half marathon and needed to build up my stamina. I got it done, gasping and sweating buckets at the end, as the return leg was mainly uphill.

Back at the running store, rehydrating and chatting, I suddenly got a bit woozy and felt some pain in my chest. Not sharp or strong, but persistent. Runners do not fool around with such things, and someone quickly drove me to the urgent care center. An EKG found nothing obvious, but I was referred to U-M Hospital for further tests. After Q&A sessions with several more nurses and doctors, blood work, an uncomfortable night with an IV stuck in me, and a chest X-ray and a stress test the next day, they found nothing wrong and let me go home.

This is my young intern, Doogie. He's going to ask you the same questions you've already answered to me and six other people, but no worries - his fee is only half that of mine.

This is Doogie, my intern. He’s going to ask you the same questions you’ve already answered with me and six other people, but no worries – his fee is only half that of mine.
(Cartoon from katscartoons – Photobucket.com)

The bills for my night and day in the hospital totaled over $10,000, or $2,000 per mile I ran. If I hadn’t declined the offered ambulance ride, it would have been even higher. I was fortunate; my health insurance covered most of it, and the rest was reimbursed through my company’s cafeteria plan. So the only “cost” to me was the inconvenience. In fact, I could argue I came out ahead, reassured there were no physical issues to keep me from running that half marathon, and beyond.

But many people are not so fortunate. A recent Time magazine article, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” reveals that in many cases, hospitals charge far more to individuals paying out of pocket than they receive from Medicare for identical supplies, medicines, and services. I will reserve my reporting of the statistics to a brief chart, as you can read the article for the eye-popping details.

Source: Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

Source: Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

Also according to the Time article, the U.S. is currently spending 20 percent of GDP on healthcare. In other words, out of every $5.00 our economy generates, $1.00 is being spent on healthcare-related expenses. Americans spend far more per capita on healthcare than citizens of any other nation, and yet our system isn’t measurably better. It’s pretty clear to me that price reform is urgently needed, especially for people who can’t afford comprehensive insurance. Those with the fewest resources end up paying the most, unless you count those with no money at all who the system must treat for free.

As for what actually caused my problem that night, I got a strong clue that June after running the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon. While cooling down I felt pain in my chest again, but this time it was in two places. I pulled up my shirt. My nipples were chafed and bleeding slightly from the rubbing of my synthetic shirt on them for 13 miles. A little Internet research revealed that this is a fairly common problem. Had I but known! I could have saved a lot of insurance money and highly trained people’s time with two strategically placed pieces of tape.

I thought that would be the end of it, but there was more to come, based on something else that happened at the hospital that night. And therein lies a cautionary tale for everyone. Next time – the rest of the story.