Saturday, December 29, 2007

**Quick Update and...Happy New Year!**

Two days ago, I got a Blood Lactate Test done at Phase IV (, my future personal training facility. It basically is a test of my blood in various workout intensity stages on the bike, which shows what is happening inside my body during exercise, and provides the data to create accurate heart-rate training zones. This is supposed to allow for 100% productivity from my workouts and maximizes fitness outcomes. I decided to take this test because i have always had higher-than-average heart rate. The examiner suggested that I focus on training longer for now at low intensity. I'm supposed to wait a week to get all the nitty gritty of the exam, so I'll share that with you when i get it. I've decided to train smart and be injury-free in 2008, so this is my first step toward my resolution!

So.... today, for the first time in months I will do a semi-brick to add to my workout duration. I will do my running program (now doing 4 mins run x 2 mins walk, 3 times) and then jump in the pool for a 30 minute easy swimming (mostly drills). Then I will do nothing but rest and eat healthy for the rest of the day. It's always after the workouts when i overextend myself and run errands or go out with friends I turn into a pumpkin the next day. I know that i have plans to go out with friends both Sunday and Monday so I have to save my energy up for those two days. Planning ahead is one thing i learned from managing my energy levels...people take our daily activities for granted, but man do we (FM patients) know how hard it is to even get all our errands done on the weekends.

For the next week, my work out will be continuing the running program at 4'x2' 3 times (10 minute warm up and 5 minute cool-down, please don't forget warm up and cool down!), mixed with some spinning (upgrate to 60-75 minutes, easy) and swimming. And of course do the daily stretches and strength exercises. Hopefully, once I pass this level of running I will start 5 minutes of running 4 times next week, and on and on...

The year is coming to an end - and a new year is beginning. I wish you all very happy new year and continuing healing in your lives. Thank you for everyone that has been sending me emails to keep me encouraged and thankful. You all keep me motivated and inspired! I pray for your health, happiness and courage to keep fighting this nasty nemesis, but also remember that we have the power to control this illness even if it is to a limited degree.

Ok, off i go to the gym... Hope you are going for a walk around your neighborhood today!

*God Bless*

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

**Stretching, Strength Training and Run/Walking....**

For the past two weeks, I have been trying to manage all the stretching and strengthening exercises for my injuries, along with the progressive running program i've been prescribed, as well as squeezing in a bit of easy spinning and swimming in between. The workouts have been fairly easy, although finding the time to do everything has been challenging. Here's an example of my weekly workout plan:

Monday: rest day
Tuesday: Yoga/Stretch
Wednesday: Run/Walk program (10 mins walk - (3mins run x 2mins walk)X2 - 5 min cool down) Thursday: Stretching, strength training
Friday: Bike
Saturday: Run/Walk Program
Sunday: Yoga or Swim (or both but hasn't happened yet)

Next week my run/walk program will be longer in running minutes with more frequency, and it will keep moving progressively for the next 3 weeks. hopefully by then i can start running further distances, because I do have that half-marathon i signed up for (Feb 3rd). Yauuuza.

Once i start training for my triathlons full time (when will that be, i don't know yet), I know i have to still make time for all these stretches and the occasional yoga, because without them I will most likely get injured again. Right now I'm making my stretching and strengthening exercises a habit of mine so that i won't forget them later. We tend to overlook stretching especially when we're running around trying to get training done while working full-time, but now that i've learned my lesson i can't afford to really let that go in my daily training routine.

I'm learning that patience and persistence is key to a full recovery from an injury. It has been pretty trying lately for me, as I have been anxious to start training again and yet my body hasn't been following my desire to pick up the pace. I am looking at the progressive running sheet and going "ok, all i can run is a total of 6 minutes?" but i know i have to go by the rules or else i'll regret it later. my back and hips tighten up only after that short run, so i know i should be following the rules - and every time i feel more tightness or pain i get frustrated and scared but even that i have to fight and tell myself that it's just part of the process. I will get better. I will be done with my injuries. It will happen.

By the way, yoga has been tremendously helpful for me - i got a Yoga for Athletes DVD for $25 instead of going to those expensive classes - the clicking in the shoulders subsided greatly. my hamstrings have loosened up a lot too since i've started Yoga. Actually, the creator of this DVD, Kim Fowler ( is an amazing woman that overcame both a tragic accident and brain cancer and got back into racing again through practicing yoga. Read her story. Every time i start feeling tired of carrying around this injury, I think of her and shut up. :)

I can do this.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

**Babysteps and My First Magazine Appearance!**

Starting this week, I started a running program as advised by my physical therapist who has been advising me on my hip injury. My first week of workouts - 20 minutes of brisk walking, every other day. Obviously, this indicates how much I have been rushing to get the ball rolling in triaining whenever i felt that i have made an advancement in hip or shoulder injury recovery - for example, running 3 miles straight up whenever i felt *better*.

I did my 20 minute walk yesterday, and shockingly my right hip and back did feel extremely tight. I did my stretch exercises this morning, followed by 50 minutes of easy spinning on the bike, wrapping up with some stretching and, the key to all muscle recovery, icing. Wow, thank God for icing. I have truly learned the benefits of icing after a long hard workout. If anybody saw me wrapped in ice all around my hip and back and shoulders...and thank God that anybody is nobody but me. :)

I am really looking forward to this running program, because I believe it will surely build me up gradually and effectively, hopefully preventing me from further injuries! I declare 2008 as a injury-free year!

Another good news - East West magazine, an Asian-American targeted lifestyle and fashion magazine, featured a story on Fibromyalgia and yours truly. :) Yes, who would have thought - I'm featured in a magazine!!! The link to the article is The content of the article was very informative about Fibromyalgia itself and my story was interwoven nicely almost as a case study. The writer, Jennifer Kim, really did an amazing job and I commend her ability to build a cohesive and interesting story out of interviews from doctors, references and worst of all, my long interview of many many words. Thank you Jennifer!

Anyway, I am hoping and praying dearly that my current 20 minutes of walking will soon develop into the ability to run miles and miles....and 13 miles to be exact by February. I really want to do the half marathon race in February! I will have Fibromyalgia awareness phrases on my race singlet this time. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

**Bringing Healthy Back (well, sort of!)**

It has been a while since my last update. First of all, I want to share with you that after a tumultuous summer (health-wise), I am finally getting back to my base-level health. I stopped all the traveling and took advantage of the down time at work to focus on getting better over the past month.

Hip Injury – Back again, or time to get rid of it for good?
Starting mid-October, I realized that my hip injury has not completely healed, causing tightness and pain on my right hip every time I went biking or running. I was excited for a while to be able to run more than 3 miles – but a couple of weeks later the pain worsened. I went to a free lecture series at a personal training facility called Phase IV. The lecture was about achieving efficient and effective training for cyclists (it was amazing). The place also offered free injury evaluation at their physical therapy location, so I signed up for it. They quickly called me to follow up to set up an appointment, which was quite impressive. The evaluation indicated that my right hip was rotated (which I think is from my sitting position in front my desk at work) and muscles around them were weak due to prolonged tightness. The rotation caused a slight misalignment of one of my backbones, which have been causing the irritation in my back.

So – I’ve been back on physical therapy for about 3 weeks now, and I have been doing my assigned stretching and exercises every day, followed by 15 minutes of icing as if it were my religious ritual. I’ve been limited to 30-45 minutes of cycling until further instruction. Definitely no running. Ouch. But I have been diligent with it and I have been observing my therapist’s instructions (ie, my subjective opinions and feelings have been out of the question – but I did trip again, coming up in the later part of this entry).

I signed up to do a half marathon in February ( Perhaps that is the primary reason why I can be patient and do whatever my physical therapist is telling me to do J. I am praying that by December I will be able to start running. I am right now just doing my minimum biking and building my base (about 125 heart beats per minute), just thinking about being injury free.

My shoulder/neck injuries are getting much better, though. I went to a swimming clinic about two weeks ago, which helped me greatly with fixing my stroke and therefore relieving too much stress on my right shoulder. The problem I have been having was that I have been crossing over my arms instead of keeping my arms aligned with my shoulders – fixing that position changed everything!

Sleeping Better!!!
One of my (and most of FM patients’) biggest and perhaps most detrimental symptoms is poor-quality sleep, or what’s called sleep apnea. Basically, getting our REM sleep (deep sleep where growth hormones are developed and our muscles recover) is like getting a guy to ask for directions – or whatever that basically means “impossible.” Realizing that getting good quality sleep is probably one of the most important things I need for daily recovery from training, I asked my physician about ways to get better sleep. I have tried many herbal sleep enhancement supplements, and they seemed to help me for only the first 2 weeks, and then become practically useless.

My doctor recommended I try Amitriptyline. Having been off any kind of prescription medication for a while now, I was a bit hesitant when he mentioned it. I asked him exactly what the medication did, and he kindly explained to me that it was proven to help people with FM get REM sleep and enhance serotonin levels in the brain – perfect. Isn’t that we fibromyalgia patients lack the most anyway? It was a 10 mg pill, but the doctor advised that I start with half or a third of a pill first for two weeks, then increase the dose to 1 pill, before bed time. I figured I’d try anyway since I can immediately stop taking it if I didn’t like it while recognizing my craving for some solid, good RECOVERING sleep.

The first day, I couldn’t really notice the difference but the stiffness in the morning was less. After 3 days or so, I really started feeling so much well rested after a long-night of sleep! I was feeling fantastic. I was exercising regularly (every other day), feeling recovered every day. I was keeping up with my work schedule and the grueling 4 sessions of physical therapy (2 for my shoulders, 2 for my hip) every week and I was quite amazed by the way I can feel on a daily basis.

BUT once again, my biggest weakness reared its ugly head – and I abused my health and I had a pretty bad fall this Thursday and Friday. I worked long hours and cut down on my sleep to accommodate training while trying to make all my appointments before and after work – and finally my body gave in. WHY WHY WHY do I get so excited every time I am feeling better? I need to learn how to be moderate. I keep learning the hard way, over and over…ok people, I promise I will do everything in moderation. I will save my energy when I can, and the only time I will exert everything and beyond what I have will be on…race days only! It is Saturday afternoon right now and I only did my exercises and stretches I learned from physical therapy – that was still 30 minutes worth of work. I am so itching to get on the bike right now, but it is my first day in recovery after my two days of flareup so I KNOWWWW that I just have to build up slowly. Tomorrow I will go swimming focusing on my stroke. And that is all I am going to do. oh, and my physical therapy exercise assignments. :) BUT THAT’s IT!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Whoa, I'm featured on the National Fibromyalgia Association Website!

Thanks to the wonderful people at the NFA, I've been featured on the Member Spotlight section of their website.

I did a short interview with the organization's communications director - I was quite nervous and in hindsight there are things I should have or could have said better. However, I do hope that it reaches those people who need a bit of hope and encouragement.

I'm desperately yet cautiously searching for a race event before the end of the year. My physical therapist thinks that I can start being active again, based on my progress with my neck and shoulder problems. I have been running every other day or every two days (or is that three?), and i have been feeling pretty good. I ran more than 3 miles two weeks ago, which was the first in MONTHS. Definitely my hips have gotten stronger, and the recent physical therapy which focused on my posture and core strength, has made things even better. I feel my body moving more efficiently, and I feel stronger.

Also, although I am a huge Nike fan, and this is nothing against my favorite sports brand in the world - I'm one of those people who got sucked into buying the ipod nano with the Nike+ (plus) speedometer/receiver gadget. I ran on Nike running shoes for a while so that i could use the apparatus. However, i hate to say this, but for the safety and well-being of all runners out there, Nike running shoes are not the best ones for your comfort and support. If you are an advent runner, this is probably old news. so for the new runners out there - I switched to the new Asics running shoes ( and I noticed a huge difference in my running. I'm not in as much pain as i used to be! I believe i bought the Gel-Kayano product, with something called an "i.g.s." technology. Whatever it is, it is awesome and it has worked well for me. I highly recommend the product and therefore highly encourage you to go check it out in your neighborhood athletic store!

Anyway - hope some of you enjoy my first public online appearance on the NFA website!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Interesting Times – facing Reality yet imagining a better Reality in the Future.

Ok, long story short, let me go over some of my recent activities and that would make everything self explanatory.

8/19 – 8/23: Myopain Conference and Leaders Against Pain leadership training, Washington DC
8/23 – 8/26: New York trip (train ride from DC, back to LA on the 26th)
8/27 : back to work
8/31 – 9/3: Germany trip
9/4 : back to work, running errands to prep for the move explained below
9/7 – 9/8: Helped a friend move things out of storage and move stuff (like, big and heavy stuff) in 95 degree weather
9/10: Parents fly in from Korea to stay for 21 days.

I understand that I can’t even whine or ask for sympathy here. I’ve done all this voluntarily and I really thought that if I managed myself right, I’d be fine. I could be such an unrealistic optimist sometimes! Ha ha. This is what happened the following:

9/4 – 9/13: Feeling fatigued, barely surviving at work. Not able to train/work out. But keeping a good attitude and pretending to be “fine.” (I think I was trying to practice positive thinking, which ended up being more of a denial)
9/13: I couldn’t move my neck. The stiffness was unprecedented, and I was in pain. When I got home, I was in tears because I couldn’t believe how much my neck and shoulders were hurting. That combined with a really bad headache, upset stomach and chest pains, it was an all-in attack of my fibromyalgia symptoms. Bring it on.
9/14: I start religiously drinking Greenergy, dropped all other supplements. I don’t know exactly why I did that but I just wanted to have one thing working for me and see if Greenergy really helped, out of all my supplements. I was feeling better. Had heating pad on my neck all day long. Was able to turn my head half way on each side by the end of the day.
9/15 – 9/16: Trip to San Diego with my parents. It was still a stretch, but I had to do it. but we all went to bed really early, moving with my schedule. Thanks to their cooperation, I wasn’t feeling too fatigued. However, overall stiffness was prevalent and it felt like a piece of plank wood. I was stretching and doing yoga moves that would get me lubed up in my joints. Wow. Painful.

My body was screaming at me to stop. The level of pain this time was far worse than it has ever been in the past 2-3 years! Dang, I really was full of myself during the month of August – early September. I really thought I could do it all somehow. Lesson learned: NO, I CAN’T DO IT ALL IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.

So now…I can’t swim because I can’t really move my neck without screaming. My mind is constantly battling – would running help me or harm me right now? right now I’m thinking that it would knock me down again. However, not exercising might prolong my fatigue/pain. Don’t think stretching and Yoga are enough…or maybe it is. I’m just too used to going out there and doing more active things.

Back in June, I signed up for an Olympic-distance triathlon on 9/30. Doing that race seems unrealistic at this point. It’s discouraging and disappointing, but when I look back on the things I’ve done over the past month, there is not a single thing I regret. The fact that I was able to travel and help a friend really makes me happy – and if I had to, I’d do it again (it’s one of those things that I had to do because I really care about this person). My body could have easily broken down then – but it didn’t! This past week or two have been extremely tough and challenging. I don’t like feeling like I can’t even go for a walk outside. I don’t like feeling worn out like this again. BUT I know this is temporary. I know that in a couple of weeks, with good rest and nutrition and slowly easing myself back into exercising, I will get me back on the training routine again. How do I know? Because I know I HAVE TO get back on track. And I know I can.

We all have setbacks. I think our strength is proven by our ability to deal with setbacks, not when things are all good and easy. There are many more races before the end of this season – and I might end up having to resort to doing a half marathon (not that that’s easy) or a half-century ride towards the end of this year or early next year. My neck/shoulder problems might keep me from swimming for the rest of the season. I don’t know yet. I have to talk to my physical therapist.

On the bright side - Being the absurdly optimistic person that I am, I am even thinking, this is probably the worst that can happen before I start training for my half-ironman next year! Ha ha. And that would make my story even more meaningful – overcoming a tough setback before training for a completing a half-Ironman! Yes, a bit dramatic, but I will imagine the best. That is what is going to keep me going. It’s so easy to just get discouraged and hate myself for bringing myself to this. However, whatever – it’s a done deal, I had fun while doing all the things I’ve done, learned great things and I just have to rest for now! Who knows, maybe I’ll do the sprint distance on 9/30 instead! J oh well. I’m going to pray about it and think hard about my next steps. For now, I just have to keep up the effort to get my energy level back and move forward.

Next, I will finally get around talking about the amazing experience I had in DC during the Myopain Conference and the Leaders Against Pain leadership training program. I will also share a lot of the useful medical info I’ve acquired from attending the conferences. It’s great to have medical explanations to why I do what I do to battle Fibromyalgia.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thoughts as I am Forced to Take a Break...

8/4/07 UPDATE
It’s been a challenging past couple of weeks. My body was increasingly getting tired, I haven’t been sleeping well, and I have been achy a lot more frequently. That in and of itself has been tiring me out! Ugh. I know I have been pushing myself, and I still plan on doing so – but this weekend, I decided to take a break. I’m still in pain from my hip injury and even my back is tight. I felt burnt out. So before I get completely turned off by the grueling training routine, I decided to just take a break. Just rest, recover and re-gather and center my thoughts. For the past couple of weeks it has mostly been just fighting the pain and the fear that comes with it – I’ve been stressed about not sleeping well and just trying to survive the day without much sleep. It’s almost as if I’ve stopped enjoying what I was doing this for – I just got wrapped up in training and managing the pain. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, stay positive and feel well rested – so that I can keep going. This in and of itself is an endurance race – I need to pace myself.

It’s amazing how it’s so easy to forget to remember what it’s like to have setbacks. 2-3 years ago, I had set backs almost every other week. I used to have more bad days than good days. Now, here I am getting all discouraged and upset and frustrated because I’m having some setbacks after having like 3-4 great MONTHS. I know I don’t have to feel this bad about myself. I know that my desire to be healthier and stronger is great – and I have been striving for it for a while, but at the end…it’s all about living WITH FMS, right? I still have it, it’s not going anywhere, heck, I should be happy right now. Well, I am happy. I’m just tired – and that shouldn’t mean that I should be all upset and down in the doldrums. Does FMS have anything to do with moodiness? I wonder. Well, that’s probably just me – the last thing I want to do is to add “moodiness” to the list of symptoms of FMS. That wouldn’t be right.

Well, hopefully I should be able to post something positive next time…and I know I will. I will recover and I will do better. I always have. Hang in there everyone!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Working with the National Fibromyalgia Association!!!

Recently, I had the honor of meeting with the people at the National Fibromyalgia Association ( Have you heard of them? I found them on the website out of total chance, and that's when everything started to unfold.

I plan on working with the organization in every way possible - not only with regards to my racing efforts to raise Fibromyalgia awareness, but to reach out to those who would like to talk about their experiences with this illness. We shared a lot of visions and ideas going forward - and i cannot wait to work on each and every one of them with this great institution.

They have been kind enough to invite me to a global-level media and advocacy training conference in Washington, DC this August, to which I gladly agreed to attend. I will learn how to speak with the media about Fibromyalgia intellectually and correctly (all the fun medical terms, etc.), and learn how to deal with the media in general. I think it would be a great learning experience for me. I didn't expect this level of support and enthusiasm from them - I am so excited about the future!

There is a lot of useful information about FMS on I recommend that you read through it...if you are a patient or a family member, or a friend of someone with FMS, it's almost essential that you read it....they are still building out some sections but this site is set out to be the most comprehensive information and community source. This organization is constantly growing and they have a lot of amazing plans in the future to raise FMS awareness and give patients and their families education and hope. I am just honored to be a part of this.

I will keep you posted on all of this as we go forward....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Rather Strong Flare-Up...

Last Saturday (7/14), i did a 36 mile bike ride. I was quite busy running around all weekend afterwards. The following week, work was pretty intense and stressful until Wednesday. I was quite sore and my hips were pretty hurting from the bike ride so I didn't work out at all until Wednesday (swim, 1,100 meters). Thursday night when i got home from work, i started feeling quite tired. I lost my appetite and my head was just all clogged up. It was rather odd - because until Wednesday i was feeling fine.

Perhaps it was the fact that all the stressful events at work calmed down for the time being and all the pent up tension was being released. Perhaps also was the fact that i have been dealing with some of personal annoyances (people-related) that just got me irritated and stressed out. Perhaps all the long rides have been catching up on me. I have no idea what the real reason is. But then again, for us Fibro patients, we never know what the real reasons are for anything.

I passed out that night pretty early, slept more than 8 hours, only to wake up in the morning (after waking like 4 times during the night) with a pretty strong sensation of shoulder/neck tightness and pain. Now, I haven't had Fibro flareups like this in a WHILE. I'm talking almost a year. It scared the living daylights out of me because my immediate mental response was "my training season is over." Well, i caught myself in my own negative thoughts and shook my head. I was trying to get up, but also realizing that my ankles were achy, and felt hot - not literally hot, but it felt like they were burning. That was another sensation i haven't felt in a while to that degree. It was frustrating.

I had an acupuncture appointment later that morning, fortunately. So instead of going to work first i waited for some of the symptoms to dissipate until i had to leave for my appointment. It wasn't easy. During this time, my mind kept going in and out of negativity and the worst scenarios - my biggest concern was, of course, "did i do myself harm by training? Should i stop?" But it was too early to tell. i could still have the same flare ups without the workouts - and i used to! So I didn't believe in my thoughts - and just got up, dragged myself into the shower (usually helps with pain) and started getting ready for my appointment.

The rest of the day was rough. rough, rough rough. I did have an important meeting that afternoon at work so i had to show up - Acupuncture helped my pain, but i was still feeling so worn out.

I sat in front of my computer, and when i was not working, I was just going through my thoughts and checking out my mind - what have i been thinking lately? Am i being positive? Am i tired (mentally)? What is going on that's causing me the stress, if not the physical stress?

Most of the time, this kind of mental inventory check i find extremely helpful. I was kinda sorta meditating to take any discouraging, annoying or negative thoughts out of my head - no matter what they were or how justified i thought they were. I really believe that 70% or so of my flareups come from my mind - something in my mind triggers the pain switches. I needed to flat out the ripples in my mind...take it easy at work, be happy, be positive, don't stress and just get work done... i kept telling myself.

Towards the end of the day, i was better. I still had to rest the rest of the evening, but I was far better than i was in the morning. Improvement was all i was hoping for.

This morning (Saturday) - i had to forego my long bike ride and went swimming instead. 1,400 meters. slow and steady, over about 46 minutes, including some substantial rests between laps. I was not about pushing myself today. I felt good in the water, and i was happy that i wasn't feeling that head-blurriness i was feeling last week.

Right now I'm just relaxing after cleaning up the house, running some errands and talking to some people. I am happy that i'm back on track, about 90%. Ankles are still a bit achy, but i am just massaging them now. I'm taking my Greenergy, Overdrive tablets and a new herbal powder that my acupuncturist gave me for Fibro. Tomorrow is a long day, hosting a friend's baby shower, so I have to save some energy for myself. It is rather funny that i have to save energy for running errands, but during tough times energy management is everything. This is all a part of living well, despite my limits.

I will not let this incident get to me. I'm going to keep fighting with my mind. I'm going to keep experimenting, I'm going to be smart about this.

Hopefully in two weeks I will find out more about how my training is making me feel. I am sure it will be for the better, overall.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

**Training updates**

7/14 (Sat) Bike ride - This week, i inadvertently ended up riding about 36 miles with friends. I had to pick up a friend who didn't know how to get to our meeting point from where she lived, so I went to pick her up and drop her off half way, which added about 15 miles to the base ride. And of course after that, I was running around all day without much stretching and recovery fuel. However, when I got home in the evening I made it a point to just rest and eat well. Sunday morning i was tired and sore - and while I am not feeling as bad as I did last week, I am feeling worn down and "blurry." So the point of it all is that it is imperative that I rest a full day after long training sessions. I focus on hydrating myself, taking my vitamins and ginko pills (for the blood flow). I drink my FRS Plus (high on antioxidants), I eat fresh vegetables and lots of protein for recovery.

Usually Sundays are my swimming days, but I guess if I plan on riding this much every Saturday I might have to move my swim days to a weeknight.

Day 2 after 7/7 (Sat) ride – I had all these plans after a 25-mile bike ride (bbq party, meeting friends the next day, walking around in the hot weather in downtown LA, etc)…and starting Sunday evening I started feeling tired and felt strong chest pains, ones I haven’t had in years. That was strange. My shoulders and ankles were achy (but not as severe as the first years, still – which is a GREAT sign), and overall I was really worn out and the chest pain and headaches made me feel pretty grim, especially Monday morning. I was so upset at myself for overextending myself post-workout. I need to rest up – not just sleeping enough, but I have limit my activity level and just chill out. So after Saturday, I didn’t work out Sunday, Monday AND Tuesday…which made my heart rate go all over the place when I attempted to run Wednesday morning. Oh well. And I have been busy so I didn’t even have dinner the night before I went running. These are the little mishaps that I should not repeat. I can’t help certain circumstances (being busy) but I could have helped myself from feeling overexerted after the long ride. I tend to ride my adrenaline-high for a little too long. :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Training – It’s not always sunny….a couple of learning points to share

**(once again, these are based on my personal experiences…please consult your doctor before you engage in any kind of physical activities.)**

Not all training and racing experiences are rosy, and not all of them are successful. I am not completely free from flare-ups. But they have been less frequent and less severe. However, when I do push myself out of excitement from training, I can feel the quick change in my body – and not in a good way.

Here are some of the examples of my symptoms (besides the usual flare-ups) when I inadvertently overexert myself:
1. Blurriness of the vision: just last week, I went swimming the day after a considerably strong/long run. I hadn’t run that long in a while and I had tried some sprints during the run. I could have (and should have) rested the next day, but out of my eagerness I went swimming. 20 minutes or so during the swim, my vision went blurry and I felt out of balance, kind of numb to my senses. I went on for another lap or two, then as my head started feeling heavier, I got out, and went up on the sun deck and took a 15 minute nap. I drank an FRS Plus mix-drink and went home and rested. That was a close call.
2. Short spurts of tingling in the arm or wrists
3. Cramping in the foot – they say cramping comes from dehydration, lack of potassium, etc. For someone who is always conscientious of hydrating myself with electrolyte drinks, it happens way too often for me. I’m not sure if that comes from Fibro, but I have a feeling that something is not so normal.
4. Headache the next morning: it is almost like a head congestion – it feels like there is a big cloud over my head. No ibuprofen or coffee or anything would clear it – just time.

Training two days in a row has always been risky for me – now I do either every other day, or after a long day of training, I give myself two days of rest. Even when I think I have the energy to go for a short run or a swim, I just tell myself it’s not worth the risk.

Also, every time I start training for a new season, I take about two months to slowly build up my base. When others are picking up on their pace and start increasing their training level, I just need to focus on my pace, and not get discouraged by the feeling of falling behind. If I think where I was merely 3 years ago, I don’t mind where I am right now. :-)

Monday, July 2, 2007


On june 24th 2007, I finished my first race in 10 months! What a long hiatus that was. It was a sprint distance triathlon in San Diego. I was still recovering from my hip injury, but under my physical therapist’s permission, I went for it. At that time, after many months of lack of training and racing, I felt like I was losing my passion, or my healthy mindset. I wanted to just get out of the rut of being and feeling injured and defeated. Thanks to my attention to nutrition and lifestyle (mentioned previously), my health had generally improved by then.

Despite my fear of the hip pain coming back, I decided to go slowly and finish the race….I envisioned myself getting magically healed after this race, for some strange reason. I wanted to declare the end of my injuries and pain through this race. I went with my gut feeling…took my time, just enjoyed being back in the racing world. I think I was the slowest I’ve ever been, due to the very minimal level of training (this time it was because of my injury, not blaming on my illness), and just being cautious overall – but I really didn’t care. I finished!!! It felt great, or even better because this was my first completed race in 10 months, after having to fold because of a flare-up on race day morning in October.

Not only that – what I declared and envisioned came true. While my hip and back were tight from the hilly rides and run (just not used to the running), I felt NO PAIN. It was almost strange how I didn’t feel any pain at all, because the joint pain was still there the day before.

Believe in your mind. Believe how your mind works, how it can make you or break you. I am a believer now. It is the most amazing thing.

If I can do this, you can do MORE. I am still in disbelief sometimes that I am a triathlete. Slow or fast, short or long distance, once you cross the finish line of a triathlon race, you ARE a triathlete, and NOBODY can take that away from you. Every day, it is the memory of those moments, that joy in my heart, that helps me get up and get moving. On bad days, I think about that moment and promise myself that I’ll do it again soon. It keeps me healthy – both mind and body.


Ok, I admit, this is not a fun part to read. However, I think going through some injuries taught me a lot about managing fibromyalgia, as most of my injuries were related to joint impingement (shoulder) or muscle tightness leading to severe inflammation of the joints (hip).

Starting in October 2006 until June 2007, I suffered a shoulder injury and a hip injury. I am still going to physical therapy for my hip injury, which will hopefully end soon. However, I also learned that my injury could have been prevented had I known how to stretch more diligently and get massages regularly. As a fibromyalgia patient, I should have been wise enough to know this. If our muscles are more prone to tightening up, then I was supposed to stretch more and massage more. I almost quit the whole training thing because of this – and I am so grateful that I didn’t give up.

It was a hard recovery, which required a lot of patience and effort. But I learned so much about my body. I had to find a system to manage myself better… before and after training, stretch, stretch and stretch. Massage the tightest areas – hips, shoulders, neck, after training. Sit in a hot bath. REST UP.

There are some responsibilities that follow when it comes to training for activities like this – it requires extra effort, but it is so worth it. You will tell yourself that every time you finish another race. :-)

Post-Race Journal: Wildflower Triathlon 2006

Wildflower Olympic Distance Triathlon 5/7/06
Lake San Antonio, CA

Another year, another race. Earlier this year, I decided to take on the challenge of what's known to be one of the most challenging courses in the country. What makes it so tough? HILLS, both on the bike and the run courses. As I still cringe from the pain in my legs and back and a very very upset stomach as I write this, I also find a reason to smile at the fact that I have another completed triathlon under my belt.

For those interested, please continue to read on …

Bib number 7845. One of 256 in Women's 30-34 age group. One of over 2,600 participants. Ready. Set. Go.

Swim – 1500 meters, just short of 1 mile. The water is my friend. Not when it's in my eyes.
Ok, this year I really focused on improving my swimming skills – both in terms of technique and speed. I was more prepared than any other year. At the sound of the start horn, I slipped to the side of the pack and let the fast ones go, and then followed.

I started swimming slowly, to get a steady heart rate going in…that didn't last that long as I started hyperventilating after realizing my goggles were leaking. And for some reason the goggles just refused to say on right… that ordeal repeated about 3 times and every time I had to stop and adjust my goggles - which by the way, gave me no problems whatsoever during the entire training season - I was frustrated and discouraged, and even tempted to just throw in the towel. I wanted to stop and just say to myself, "hey my goggles were leaking and my contacts were bothering me, what's the point of continuing?" but I kept on, since quitting was really NOT an option at that point. On the final turnaround to return to the shoreline, I swam as fast as I could. No more goggle drama, no hyperventilating. I get out of the water. 48 minutes. Not bad! Last year I swam for 1 hr and 2 minutes, thanks to the leg cramps. This year, despite the 6-8 minutes of downtime I managed to finish much faster. I was psyched.

Transition 1: Out of the wetsuit, and on to the bike
When I got out of the water, as it usually happens I was a little dizzy and felt disoriented. As I entered the transition area (this is where I get changed to go to the next stage), I had no idea where I was going. There are about 2,600 bikes out there and i was totally confused. I ended up totally passing my area, so had to turn around and go back (at least a full 2 minutes wasted!) to finally change out of the wetsuit. Wow, that was just so frustrating.

Bike – 40 kilometers, 26 miles. Holy Hills!
Wildflower is well known for its hilly bike rides. Even the event website warns us that it's "extremely hilly." I knew it was going to be tough going in, so there were no surprises. The very unfortunate part of it, though, was the beginning – so I'm on the bike, dizzy from the swim, kind of hungry and tired already…as you start pedaling you get hit immediately by a mile-long steep hill. This hill goes up 800 feet + over just short of a mile… Even an atheist would cry for God on this hill and really want one to exist. It was hard to keep my bike going straight, as it was going all over the place, left and right, as I started losing speed at the tip of the hill. UUUGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!! Soooooo darn hard!!!!! Finally, after all the huffing and puffing and using profanity to release the anger (sorry, mom! But it was a tough hill), I started heading downhill. But not for too long.

Long, agonizing and painful story short, there were about 4 more similar hills in the course – long, steep, never ending hills that just makes you want to just stop and call for aid. All I could remember was to breathe, really move my legs in full motion, pushing down, pulling up….and NOT look forward. Looking forward made me anxious to get over the hills, making me impatient and sometimes hyperventilate…I just looked down to my pedals, and just kept going, pushing and pushing….and was happy to find myself downhill again when I was done pushing through the uphills.

I learned a great deal on the hills, just thinking about life as well (trust me, there is plenty to think about over 3- 4 hours of just battling with yourself) – if you are going through tough times, you can't be thinking about the end, because you just don't know when or how it will end.

All we can do is just do our best in the moment, with the hope that it will be over. next thing you know, once you past your worst point you'll start enjoying the results of your hard work!
The last hill down, which was the first hill up, was AWESOME – I didn't even have to pedal, as I was going 25-34 miles per hour straight downhill. Got off the bike, and started walking to the transition area again.

2 hours 11 minutes. No comment (sigh!).

Transition 2: nothing unusual. Extremely tired, can't feel my legs. Changed into running shoes. Refilled my camel back with gatorade.

Run: 10 kilometers, 6.2 miles. More hills!
Let me just put it this way: Whoever planned this course is a mean, mean, mean person. About 3-4 miles in (after a couple of rolling hills already in the mix), there was a 0.5 mile-or-so long uphill that really looked like a wall from far away. at the sight of that uphill, I just started laughing so hard out of disbelief. Other racers started gasping at it too. we were all just so tired and in so much pain we had nothing else to do but just laugh, and walk instead of running (yes, i was in the slow group, but i did hear that even the faster people just had to walk on that one). Thankfully, near the tip of the hill there were 3 kids standing with a water hose asking "you want to be hosed?" One of the rare moments in your life where you say "YES, I want to be HOSED." Did I mention it was 85 degrees and scorching sunny?

About 3-4 rolling hills later, finally we're on our descent to the transition area…that big arse hill from the bike ride, but just going downhill. I was pretty relieved that it was all "down hill" from there (once again, rare moments where "it's all downhill from here" translates to a good thing), but as I started running down the steep hill, I could really feel the pain in my legs, ankles and hips. At some point the pain was so severe that I could just feel tears welling up in my eyes! However, the tears made me stronger for some reason. I was soooooooo determined to finish this crazy race.

Towards the finish line...
At the sight of the transition area, I started to speed up a little, solely out of the will to be done with it. I could see the crowd, and I could hear them cheering us on. It was so awesome and encouraging to hear people scream "good job, you're almost there!" Finally, I see the finish line….and I hear the announcer talking about… me, yes, me!!!! "7845, we have Sangmin Minnie Lee, from Playa Del Rey, wearing the LA Tri Club jersey….and….she….finishes…!!!!" I lifted my arms and wore that one last smile (or could have been the only smile) as I crossed the finish line. I also knew that there were cameramen taking pictures at the finish line. Never forget that.

1 hr 28 minutes for the run portion. Had i actually run the entire course, it would have been much shorter….

Wrapping up
Volunteers gave me an ice cold wet towel at the end, which was like the best gift ever at that moment. Woooo!!!! I'm done! All the anguish, frustration, temptation to quit, complaints and regret ("why the heck am I doing this?") went away that very moment, and all I could think was that I'll be more prepared the next time around.
It's all about the finish, it's all about fighting it through and being DONE with it! It's all the more worthwhile when the fighting is harder!!! I really think triathlons are a microcosm of life itself. Don't quit, don't get discouraged, don't just tell yourself that it's hopeless just because there is something tough along the road - just deal with it, believe in good things, and just keep pushing through doing your utmost best!

Total time, including transitions and other stats: 4 hours and 38 minutes. Rank: some really high number...basically, there were only about 70+ people behind me, heh heh! Total calories burned: 3,251. Total calories taken: about 800 (fig bars, power gels and Gatorade). Average heart rate: 158 (~80% of my maximum heart rate…I know, it's a bit too high) Total sunburned spots: 4. Regrets: none.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

** Training and Racing – HOW??? WHY??? THE HISTORY, THE UPS AND DOWNS**

As previously mentioned (or in the **Living with Fibro – the first 2 years** section), I literally rolled into a world I had never thought I’d enter – the world of multisport endurance races.
It must have been not so soon after I was diagnosed with Fibro – I still didn’t know much about it and I really didn’t know how training for a triathlon for 5 months would affect me. In January 2003, I volunteered to race and fundraise for the Team in Training program as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I basically, all other reasons aside, did it to 1. Join my boyfriend at the time to celebrate his 2nd year remission, and 2. to get into kick-arse shape.
Little did I know that this event was going to change my life…eventually.

RACE 1: Maui King’s Trail Triathlon (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run). June 2003
At first, I followed the training program that was offered to all participants – a 6-day/week training regime. Not knowing what my body could handle or not, I went by the program. A couple of weeks in, I got sick, with aches and pains but also with some flu-like symptoms. I asked around and many people in the program were getting sick, because everybody was starting to exercise a lot and started to flush out the toxins in their systems (or that’s what they say..not sure if there is true medical evidence). So I didn’t think much of it, and dealt with it, thinking it’s just part of the deal that comes with training.
However, as most of the people progressed with their training, I didn't. I was very frequently ill, and they were no longer the cold or the flu. I was hurting and I was tired. I would have two good training days, which led to 5-days of pain and struggle for recovery. That’s when I started doing more research online about Fibro…and of course, I read how detrimental excessive physical exertion can be for fibro patients. Oops!

At that point, I was already about 2 months or so into my training, and I had done most of my fundraising. I really didn’t want to give up, given the fact that my friends and family have been supporting me. I started training about 3-4 days a week instead (I was forced to, naturally)…and definitely less than what the training plan suggested. Pacing myself and staying alert of my body condition helped me from the frequent flare-ups. I trained as much I could without getting terribly ill (still had days of suffering every so often), promising myself that I’d at least start the race and see what happens.

Long story short…I finished in 4.5 hrs. I really didn’t think I could ever finish – but something in me kept pushing. I walked many miles, and I even walked my bike up a couple of hills. Most of the people finished in 2.5 hrs-3.5 hr time. I obviously was one of the slowest. But when you cross that finish line, it really doesn’t matter…I became a triathlete that instant.

While I truly enjoyed finishing the race, the unanticipated and uneducated struggle I went through hindered me from training again after that race. I thought to myself that I was done with it for now.

RACE #2 - Maui King’s Trail Triathlon (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run) – AGAIN! June 2005
I had taken a year hiatus from any kind of training. I did some swimming and running very sporadically, until I finally decided to try the triathlon thing again. I don’t clearly remember why I signed up again, but I think it was because I was way too miserable so I needed a change in life. I was miserable because my fibromyalgia symptoms got worse, and I was dealing with work and life issues while I was trying to deal with my health. Stress was adding to my symptoms.

This time, I decided from the beginning to lay low and just go easy. However, I recall how I was giving myself an excuse to be lazy…blaming on the fibro to train less when I could have pushed my hard a little more. I was shy to join in on group training rides because I knew I was slow. I was pretty much training alone. Obviously, that was not as fun and it didn’t help me with the motivation. However, I really wanted to feel the joy of crossing the finish line again, so I just did the minimum training I thought was required to finish a race.

I finished the race, I felt great, but I felt like I could have done more. I was feeling like I was really letting fibro cut into my life … it was almost as if I wanted to fight it, but I let it become my excuse if I felt too scared to challenge myself. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

RACE #3 – Wildflower Triathlon. (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run) – May 2006
This was the hardest race I’ve ever done – to date. I recall training a bit harder than the year before, because I knew how hard the race course was supposed to be. Wildflower is known to be one of the hilliest courses in the country. I was still partially mentally victimized to fibro, but I started having more and more of this desire to keep doing these races despite my illness. After the toughest 4-5 hrs of my physical experience in my whole entire life, when I finally crossed the finish line, I felt so good that I immediately promised myself that I will do this as long as my health allowed me to. I’m including my post-race journal from that race, for those who are interested (in separate section)

Not all races I registered for after then had such a happy ending. For two of the sprint distance races (half-mile swim, 13 mile bike, 3 mile run), I couldn’t start because I was having one of my flare-ups. I mis-managed my energy level the day before the race – I either worked out too much OR I didn’t give myself enough time to rest and sleep well. For normal people, racing requires great level of attention on energy management, nutrition and rest…so imagine for people like me, we have to be extra careful. I learned from my lessons to think smart, not push myself but just be positive and stay hopeful before a race.

After some mishaps, I managed to do a couple of more sprint-distance races in the 2006 season, until my body met another challenge…INJURIES.

Personal Treatments and Preventitive Measures for Fibromyalgia


1. Acupuncture - I don’t think acupuncture necessarily heals “fibromyalgia,” but what it helps is the relief of muscle tightness. I have huge knots on my neck and shoulders, and they have subsided a lot through acupuncture. When my symptoms are bad and I’m in a lot of pain, I go twice a week for about two weeks. After that, I usually try to go once every other week as maintenance.

2. Massage – if you are active, massage is KEY. Normal people who work out regularly need massages to help muscle recovery, so people like us who have muscle tension issues must do even more. Definitely once a month, at least.

3. Supplements – I used to not believe in supplements. Now I’m finally a believer. Here are some of the things I take regularly (and making it a habit took me MONTHS). I think multivitamins and Greenergy have been the most important so far.
a. Multivitamins (2x /day, with a meal)
b. Glucosamine – helps with joint pain. 3x/day with meal.
c. FRS plus – I cannot emphasize how much this stuff has helped me with maintaining my energy level, stay focused on tough days at work, and just feeling good overall. Please read about it, and try a sample order.
d. Greenergy (from - the best “green” drink out there. One scoop of this mix contains 5 servings of our daily required vegetable intake. I take 2-3 scoops a day throughout the day.
e. Ginko pills (2x/day) – it says it helps with blood flow. It’s been helping with my muscle tightness problems, because I have been told by my acupuncturist that prolonged muscle tightness comes from lack of blood flow. Apparently we’re not supposed to take more than a certain amount of ginko per day. So I only take whatever my brand directs me to take – no more than that.

4. Sleep! - funny I say sleep is a treatment, but sleep is very important to me. I need my 7-8 hours a day. Once my sleep pattern is broken, it’s very hard to recover. Be selfish and try to keep your sleep schedule.

5. Eat healthy – I have stopped drinking alcoholic beverages. If I drink wine once in a while (because I love wine very much), I immediately feel that lousy, tired pull from the bottom of the earth. But at least I know what I’m up against when I choose to drink it. While I do indulge in steak and fries once in a while, I definitely eat them less frequently. Fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and chicken, legumes are my most frequented food list. I never used to believe in it – but we are what we eat. I still LOVE my sweets and I usually have my desserts after dinner. However, after a couple of bites, I am happy with my fill. Controlling the amount of sugar in my body has helped me feel healthier.

6. Exercise smart! – need I say more (i will have a dedication section about this one topic alone!)

7. Manage your stress level.

8. Be happy. Happiness is a choice! (i will have a section about this too, in the near future)

Living with Fibro - the first two years in short

** Living with Fibro – the first 2 years**

It took me a while – almost 2 years – to learn how to live with Fibro. When I said “how to live,” I mean “how to live well.” The first two years, I have to say, was just letting the illness just invade my life and make me miserable. I was living with it, but I was getting killed by it. Actually, let me rephrase - I was letting it kill me.

I was sick every other week, I couldn’t keep my social commitments, I was missing work quite often, I was spending more time in bed on my muscle relaxers than I did up and living like a normal human being. I accepted it as my “fate.” Needless to say, I was more depressed and negative than EVER.

In the midst of it, I had this crazy idea to join my boyfriend back then to do an Olympic-distance triathlon (0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) to fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He survived cancer and we were celebrating 2 years of his remission. I committed to train and fundraise just thinking that it would get me to shape. I think that’s when my life started to change. (it gets fun after this!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Theory on What Gave me Fibromyalgia

**I was healthy before, but now I'm not. What happened in between?**

I won't go into too much detail. This blog is not about my past, I'm not writing this to have a pity party on the web. I'll just put in bullet points some of the key events which I think may have contributed to my illness.

Stress – ENEMY #1. To me, the biggest contributor to my illness trailed back to stress. Family/personal stress that lasted for more than 5 years prior to my diagnosis; work stress that accumulated over my 3 years of investment banking days…and then I generally became a high-strung person that would get stressed over EVERYTHING. Obviously, I never had a specific health issue. After numerous tests, my doctor finally asked me if there was anything stressful in my life – I thought about it, and I went straight to a psychologist. It's still an on-going process.

Physical exertion – unlike my healthy past, I started getting easily tired, lethargic and achy after a long hike, walk or a night out with friends. Moreover, recovery took longer than usual (2-3 days vs. 1 day or less).

Unhealthy diet – I used to eat everything, mostly unhealthy foods. I always liked pasta, steak, fries, sweets etc…. vegetables were not a significant part of my diet. I really never thought of eating healthy. I also never took vitamins or other supplements. Just old habit of abusing and being unappreciative of my health.

Fibromyalgia, according to the articles out there, is highly related to stress. I would even say (and this is my personal opinion) fibromyalgia is 80% related to stress, and even depression. I do believe that for a while I was depressed – and all the years of stress and depression, unaddressed and unspoken, had been buried under my chest and started manifesting itself through actual physical stress. Who would have thought it.

It was like a slap in the face, the face (i.e, my own face) that used to blow off the theory that mental stress could lead to physical pain.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Discovering Fibromyalgia - definition, discovery and dealing with it.

**Fibromyalgia is....and I found out about it because... **

I was diagnosed with it back in 2002. I believe i had it before then, it just took me over 2 years to actually get a diagnosis. Starting in 1997/1998, i started having problems with my health - it was a shock to me because I always used to be such a healthy person. I never missed work from being sick, I really never had the flu or the cold too often... In the beginning, i just thought i had the flu, feeling so achy all over my body, which made it impossible for me to get up in the mornings. Then i started getting the "flu" a little too often as every other week! I was cancelling social engagements with my friends so often that my friends started making bets if I would make it to a particular event. I started missing work a lot more.

My life was being changed by these weird, frequent "flu"-like symptoms. I didn't know what was going on. Every time I was sick, I went to my doctor and whined about my symptoms. I must have gone through so many tests, including tests for Hyperthyroid (I was losing weight fast in the beginning, my heart was beating fast, or it felt like it was), liver disease, ulcers, migraine, name it, I got tested for it. Fortunately, i had none of those. But my symptoms were so frequent and not knowing what it was frustrated me so much that i had wished I was finally diagnosed with something. But no. Finally, my doctor suggested that i may have something called "Fibromyalgia." I had never heard of it back then.

I found a clinic in the UCLA Medical Center (East-West Medicine) that specializes and only treats fibro patients. I submitted my symptoms and they "qualified" me for my first appointment with them, the doctor diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. I was official then. Finally, something to blame. :-)

Although there may be something to blame on, fibromyalgia has no cure. It's not a disease per se, but it is more like a collection of symptoms, which as a bundle cannot be catagorized as any particular disease. According to various articles, it is more mentally triggered through stress (accumulated over a long period of time) and is even related to depression.

**My usual symptoms**

I read that fibromyalgia symptoms vary from person to person. My most frequent symptoms are severe achs in the ankle, wrists and tightening up of my shoulders. When i say they "tighten up" I mean the muscles really tighten up, knots just roll up together like rocks and i feel paralyzed. Usually my legs weaken and i feel like i can't use any of my leg muscles. Aside from the physical symptoms, I do tend to feel lethargic, almost to a depressing degree. On a normal day I am a very happy, active person. I'm positive, i'm social, i'm just ridiculously happy. However, when the physical symptoms kick in and i'm laying in bed in pain, it feels like the world is closing in on me and I just feel really really down on myself. It is both a physical and mental battle, as I wait for the pain to subside. It usually takes about a day or two for myself to feel better. On a good day, it just takes half a day. On a tough one, it's a two-day streak of misery.