General Blather

In Vein

I have had, since I was 14, a varicose vein on the inside of my left leg (90 degrees from my kneecap). It started as a 1-2 cm annoyance and then ended up about 4cm for a good long time. Somewhere in the last 5-7 years it grew and grew, and as I’ve come to realize that I am genetically likely to become my parents, I came to the decision to do something about it.

(Side note: in my thirties I amassed attorneys — family law, traffic law, estate law, construction law — and in my forties I am amassing doctors: cardiologist, vascular surgeon, physical therapist, etc.  Happy to give recommendations to any who need.)

I went on recommendation from my cardiologist (Dr. Maidan of Evergreen Cardiology) to go see Dr. Kathleen Gibson with Lake Washington Vascular. I like her because she’s direct and patient and answers all of the questions, and since we know I am the kind of person who showed up at the cardiologist with an Excel spreadsheet of my cholesterol metrics from the last 10 years, I had a few. She basically broke it down thus: there are two “tranches” of things I could do for my varicose veins* — I could get the problem child glued (the problem child vein is usually farther up the trunk, in this case my problem child was about an inch below my groin) or I could get the problem child lasered.

A woman after my own heart, she gave me a T-table of what to expect with each treatment. With laser treatment, I would be on antibiotics for two weeks. There would be local anesthetic but also a general “happy drug” for during the procedure (so I wouldn’t be upset by the burning smell that was me). There would be a 10% chance of DVT. I would have to wear a compression stocking for 2-3 weeks. I would not be able to work out for at least a week. It wouldn’t necessarily remove the visible varicose vein, just the problem child causing it, so I’d have to get a separate treatment for that.

With glue, there would be:

  • no antibiotics
  • <1% chance of DVT
  • no compression stocking
  • I could run the same day
  • no happy drug (just local)
  • and it would likely remove the visibility of the vein in about 3 months.

Why do people pick laser with how awesome the glue is? Well, insurance. Some insurances cover the glue. Most don’t, although I understand Medtronic (maker of the magic glue) is working with insurance companies on this.

I’m at the gym at least 4 days a week. I don’t like taking medicine (of any kind) if I don’t have to. And I have a luxury of being able to afford this procedure — so I went with glue.

Today was my procedure.

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Matt, prepping my leg. Glorious orange.

At 8am I checked in at the front desk, and was taken to a room to change. Shirt stayed on, so did undies; the rest had to go and I got to wear a standard-issue hospital gown (the kind that opens in the back) and a waffle-knit robe (which had me really warm). Coffee, iPhone, and bag in hand I went to the operating room (that’s right, I took my phone. There was no side table for the coffee but that was fine). After a brief discussion of music, Alice in Chains started playing and I was introduced to the crew: Megan, who was assisting during, Matt, who did prep (including betadining my leg, so it looked gloriously tan), and Pam who was on ultrasound.  Dr. Gibson was there, and Medtronic had two folks visiting as well including Monty who was part of the original company that developed this glue (out of Spokane, WA! Shout out!) which got acquired by a 2nd company which in turn got acquired by Medtronic.

 

At 8:30 I was prepped and Dr. Gibson took a time out to discuss the procedure so everyone was on the same page (including me), and at 8:35 I was getting local anesthetic applied. The needle was supposed to feel like a bee sting, but if so it was the gentlest bee I’ve felt. If you sew, and you’ve stuck yourself with a needle through say, just the top layer of your skin– so it’s annoying but not stabby– that’s about the range of pain. It lasted half a second and was gone, and short of pressure and the occasional tickling sensation that’s the last thing I felt, although I was completely awake and we were talking about the procedure, 90’s alt rock, and how Medtronic works with physicians and patients to solicit feedback.**

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the sharp, white diagonal line about 1/3 from the top is the needle in my vein. the rest is leg meat. 🙂

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Martha Stewart’s gun isn’t this cool. On the right is Dr. Gibson, that’s Megan behind her, and you can see Pam’s left arm on the left side of the frame.

The way it worked was this: a catheter was stuck into the side of my calf, about halfway up. Then, they put a super-long, flexible needle, and snaked it up my great saphenous vein . The glue was injected by what looked like the medical answer to Martha Stewart’s glue gun, and was held in place for 3 minutes. (At this point we all did a little sing along with Stone Temple Pilots). Then every 3 centimeters down the vein (so a slight tugging feeling, then pressure as they glued, plus 30 seconds wait for the glue to set) until they got to the injection point.

 

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All done. Very orange.

At 8:55 I was done, they put a band aid on the injection site, and washed most of the betadine off my leg. An ultrasound pass over the area to make sure there weren’t any issues, then I went to change and get my discharge instructions. No pain meds (unless I felt the need, in which case, Advil), be active (don’t sit on your butt), and if it’s going to be sore it will hit about day 5 to 10. Follow up appointment is January 11th.

 

 

 

 

Then we looked at my before pics, and took some afters, which I will share here. Note: full impact in terms of visibility would hit around the 3-month mark, so this is just immediate results.

As always I’m happy to answer any questions based on my experience and/or pass them along to the professionals, and will update with my results as we go.

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before

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after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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before

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after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*as can be expected, your mileage may vary. This post is meant to provide an example of what can be done about varicose veins based on my own experience : talk to your doctor. Also, look both ways before crossing the street.

**an awful lot like I work with my customers at work — a combination of “what features do you want” and “what problems are you having”, because we all know that you get two different sorts of very valuable answers to those questions.

 

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The Illusion of Control

It’s a testament that my Cardiologist remembers my father when he asks me why I’ve come to see him and I reply by saying “this” and hand him my laptop with my Cholesterol charted over the last 9 years. The chart was full-on Excel, broken out into the different types (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, and my ratio on a 2nd series). I am not the only one in my family to chart a bunch of things in Excel and come armed to a doctor’s appointment with data. “Ah,” he said, “You’re discovering that your cholesterol is going up in spite of what you do to make it not.”

I had explained about the diet and the exercise, I had explained about seeing it go down back in 2010 and in 2012 when I undertook larger physical activities (namely the Ride to Conquer Cancer and the STP), and how with Ragnar (last year and this) there was no downturn. With a restrictive diet there was no downturn.

I was prepared for him to tell me it is genetic (it is, both of my parents and their families have related histories) and I was prepared for him to tell me that short of “drastic changes” I wasn’t going to be able to make my LDL go down without help. I’m not a drastic person so I didn’t want to ask what “drastic changes” were, although I should have just for comparison.

Naturally, I expected him to whip out the ol’ prescription pad and prescribe a statin.

Nope.

“With young healthy people,” he said, and I could have kissed him for the “young” part except I had already figured by the waiting room that I was a good 20 years younger than his usual patient, “I don’t like to put them on statins.”

There’s another reason he’s not putting me on a statin, and that is because I have osteoarthritis in my joints. I’m able to run because I have a fabulous physical therapist, orthodic inserts in my shoes, and I use Hokas. But statins tend to cause joint pain, and I already get joint pain if I’m not careful, so statins, for me, right now, are not the magic bullet. The plan is to take 3 additional supplements, for 3 months, and come back for another round of lipid panels. The 3 supplements? Vitamin D (5000 IU, rather than the 1000 I’m already taking), CoQ10, and Cholestene.

(Can we just take a second to have three cheers for a Cardiologist who is Director of Cardiology for the hospital chain and has been practicing some 30+ years, offering an initial alternative medicine approach? Usually you have to seek that out. )

So, here we go. We’ll give this a try and see if it works; I feel like I’m in good hands.

Next up: The Great Protein Shake Challenge!

 

Choices and Consequences

I have struggled with my weight pretty much all of my life.  I remember being roughly eight or nine, seeing that I had skinny calves — what 8 or 9 year old doesn’t? — and despite my chubby belly, thinking I was skinny and resolving to eat *more* to fill out the calves.

I remember being in high school and feeling overweight and the solution then was to just not eat (or more accurately try to skip lunch or replace lunch with diet pepsi). What I wouldn’t give to have the body I had in high school (okay, okay, minus the acne).

I remember being just back from the student exchange, freshman year of college, and weighing 230 pounds and knowing that the reason the random guy in Statistics class asked me out was because he knew I’d be grateful. (Sweetly verified by his friend in a side comment).

I remember going to the gym with  my friend Colleen — the person who introduced me to gyms and I wish it had been sooner — and by virtue of a hairy-chested trainer named Vinny and a spreadsheet of exercises, losing all of that weight and getting into the best shape of my life.

I remember thinking that was that and I wouldn’t have to struggle with my weight anymore. Then I got married at 200 pounds. I remember getting our wedding pictures and crying for two hours.

I remember eating nothing but Slimfast and Lean Cuisine when my then -husband (USMC) would deploy, walking 3 times a week and thinking I’d finally kicked it.

I remember moving back up to Washington in 2000, having gained it all back.

I remember deciding that if I was going to have a baby — my son was very, very planned — that I was going to need to be healthy if not for myself then for him. And so before I got pregnant (2002) I lost the weight again, and for the most part have kept it off (I have fluctuated by about 10 pounds here and there ever since). I have been in and out of gym memberships (the current one is the longest lasting) and signed up for random events (half marathons, a triathlon, a couple of double-century bike rides and a couple of Ragnars), and for the most part have been doing okay, weight-wise.

Here I am at 42 and the issue is not weight. I recently lost a little and that’s fine, but my goal has been health — being able to run, and trying to be good about what I put into my mouth. At my annual exam in April I got my blood tested and my cholesterol had eeked up; having a family history of cardiovascular problems I took it as a warning bell and tightened up: I quit dairy (except for nonfat greek yogurt and lowfat frozen yogurt). I quit red meat (ok, I had red meat twice in 3 months). I kept up the running (training for Ragnar helped). I took fiber daily. I haven’t had anything to drink since May 1st. Protein shakes for breakfast nearly every morning, with berries and bananas using soy milk.

Three months later I’m back at the doctor’s office, back giving blood, and my triglicerides went down but my LDL shot up 20 points. I have been tracking every bit of food I eat since February (I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for about six years) and I couldn’t figure it out… until I looked at breakfast. My protein shake, the most virtuous thing about my day, has 25% of my daily recommended cholesterol. I wouldn’t have thought it — why would a *protein shake* have cholesterol (I mean, they engineer the crap out of the contents so why not engineer that out?). Vigilance, ever vigilance.

I have an appointment with a cardiologist this Wednesday. You know you get to sit at the big kids table at Thanksgiving dinner when you can not only chip in on the political debates and discussion about the markets, but you also have your own set of health issues to contrast and compare in on, and you officially have a Cardiologist (to go with your other specialist doctors).

So here I am: nearly 43. Weight-stable (losing a little still and that’s fine). Active. I have arthritis and high cholesterol, low blood pressure and Raynaud’s. I have three of those in check. Now I just have to lock down the fourth.

Once more into the breach, dear friends…

Type 1.5 Fun

Ok so we’ve visited on the Types of Fun previously; although my natural instinct is to be very black and white about things I really do think we need a Type 1.5 fun.

At this year’s Ragnar I ended up enjoying myself much sooner, and had already (mentally, if not publicly) committed to doing it again *NEXT* year (note to friends: let me know if you want to do it next year!). Even though I got lost halfway through my second run.

I think one of the things that made it much more pleasant was knowing what I was in for and training more. I am at my very core an impatient person and so training is really not my forte. Training represents the tedious effort that “wastes time” until I can get to the “fun stuff”, but training helps. Much like at work. It has been a year now since Firehouse left and it has taken every day of that year for me to feel like I have a handle on my platforms, and not constantly second-guess myself. A super-good dev manager helps, as did a super-good boss (true to form, as soon as I really liked my boss I get a new one. It’s like I’m training bosses).

However I spent all of that training time listing all of the things I’d do “once Ragnar was done”. Once Ragnar was done, I was going to do the pruning in the front yard. Once Ragnar was done, I was going to run a deprecation at work. Once Ragnar was done, I was going to start on a quilt, reorganize some personal spreadsheet sprawl, go back to weightlifting, catch up on my podcasts (running with podcasts is a mixed blessing — I tend to lose about a minute a mile), clean up my filing system, fix my reporting metrics, and evaluate my wardrobe. I was going to reach out to friends again (because whenever I sign up for one of these things I tend to fall out of social events) and catch up on correspondence. I was going to blog again (hey, check!).

It’s just once that you’re on the other side of “once Ragnar was done” you realize there’s another Ragnar, and there was just no good reason to put off things for “once Ragnar was done”. And now that Ragnar is approaching Type 1 fun, I can demote it from being a milestone of deferment.

 

 

Once More into the Breach

It’s happened again: I have signed up for an Event and it means I have to do training and let’s face it no one likes training. I will be participating in Ragnar Northwest Passage, this time with a different set of folks (albeit I know the same number of people this time as last: one). Interestingly enough I’m assigned the same runner legs I was last time, and so it shouldn’t be too rough.

Training is exasperating. As much as I default to Rule by Spreadsheet — checklists, things to do, etc. get almost maniacally followed — having one tell you exactly how many miles you must run is annoying. Some days it’s four, some days it’s two, some days it wants you to run fast and some days it wants you to run hills.  This means you may be feeling like a nice, flat four-miler, but the spreadsheet says you must run 2.5 miles of hills. The spreadsheet does not have any regard for your feelings.

In previous years the “long run” of the week was typically the most daunting, not because of the run itself but to find someplace, local and convenient, that fit the spec. I live on a hill. I live in an area surrounded by hills. You cannot, conveniently and within walking distance of my home, start a run that will be flat for longer than about a mile. So when the spreadsheet calls for 4 miles, “easy” (read – flat), then the spreadsheet is blowing you a raspberry. You must either get into a car to drive to someplace flat (which is ridiculous), walk however long to get to someplace flat (in my case, about 2 miles down a crazy steep hill, which means you get to walk back UP the crazy steep hill when you’re done), or deal with hills and try to tell yourself that you’re taking them “easy”. When it’s four miles that’s fine. When it’s seven that’s less fine.

Which is a long and whiny way to point out that this is the least fun part of Type 2 Fun, and I’m in the thick of it. On the flip side, the usual performance anxiety that comes with these things — questioning if I really can do it again, finding that joints hurt more than they ought to, fantasizing that if I really injure myself then I can bail and no one can blame me — has not happened.

At all.

This is unusual, and incidentally I am not exaggerating when I say that often in training, usually about 20% away from target, I get this fantasy that I will fall or trip or otherwise twist or jar my ankle or knee or hip, and then I won’t have to run anymore, and it will be okay because no one could blame me for quitting. We have a deep societal attitude towards quitting which merits further inspection (and an example can be found here). Rather than feel comfortable saying “I realized I said I’d run the Seattle Half/do a tri/bike 200 miles, but I’d rather stay home and read Nero Wolfe books”, I’d find myself running along the manicured suburbs considering the merits of air casts and crutches.

I can’t dismiss this newfound acceptance as “I’ve done Ragnar before so that’s why it’s okay” because the “I’ve done it before” didn’t work with training for 4 of 5 half Marathons, or the second of two double century bike rides.

The only thread I have to hang this on is that this time last year I was finally running again after having messed up my ankle good and proper – complete with crutches. I lost an entire month’s training, and still caught up and was able to run Ragnar. Not perfectly, not even at my desired pace towards the end; but I was able to do it and survive the sleep deprivation and questionable hygiene that comes with a two day relay race.  Instead of bailing when the opportunity was handed to me (in the form of tripping in a restaurant, of all places, in Beijing) I did my physical therapy, used my crutches, worked my way out of it and ran.

Maybe the fantasizing of what it would be like to quit — or, I think more accurately, to not have to train — was enough to keep my mind occupied while running. Maybe I don’t have that anymore and the tedium needs to get replaced with other things.

Maybe this is what I will try to figure out while I go for my next run. I’ll need something to distract me. There will be more hills.

 

Tweets from China

Surreal moment: Watching “The Countess from Hong Kong” looking out my window at the “Silicon Valley” of Beijing. BTW: awful movie.

The reality that your options for TV include the umpteenth review of the recent plane crash, “Freaky Friday” (the newer version), or soap operas in a language you do not understand (and the subtitles do not help).

There is a horrible, horrible movie out there called “Painkiller Jane”. Do not watch it. Life is precious.

China is a lot like Italy: they want you to eat their wonderful food to excess, they are gracious hosts, there are a million dialects, there is rich and comprehensive history, and five days is not enough.

You do not miss the freedom of your ability to blather inanities into the ethersphere until it is taken away from you. #notweetsfromChina

Graceful moment: walking out of a traditional Chinese restaurant, full of glorious cuisine, in the warm hearty atmosphere of my team, and missing a step and sprawling on the floor. #spriainedankle

MSN has come up with the top 50 countries to grow old in. The top 25 are all countries with socialized medicine and progressive education. #notacoincidence

Insomniacs tell themselves they will catch up on sleep as soon as they get the chance. When a business trip and insomnia collide, you feel like the Powers That Be are fucking with you. I felt like somehow jet lag would work for me this trip. I was wrong.

No one need fear a society in which you can leave your bike unattended, and unlocked, just outside your office building. For nine hours.

When you have to make six plane trips in fourteen days, 24/7 news coverage of a plane crash and a copilot with suicidal tendencies is no comfort.

It’s rare that I ascribe to the wisdom of Angelina Jolie, but she does have a point: we have an excess of news, but a dearth of action based on it.

Hot Yoga: Confessions of a Reluctant Convert

I had spent probably six years wanting to look down my nose at hot yoga, with all of its purported smelliness, its special gear, its special words (Namaste, indeed), and the trendiness of yoga pants that you could or couldn’t see through. How could it be real exercise when it’s just extrapolated stretching? How can anyone take it seriously in that gear? Then I took up cycling and the gear argument went out the door. After you shamelessly go to the Safeway in clippie shoes and chamois-padded bike shorts, any sense of dignity in costume is gone.

The kicker for me was about a six months ago when my dad told me he had taken up yoga and it did wonders for his back.

I have inherited many things from my father, good and bad. I am stubborn, I can be very black and white, I am very plain-spoken. I dislike mayonnaise, I can be extremely pragmatic, and my knees and back are increasingly problematic. I didn’t get the piano playing skills, but I got the good hair and straight teeth. When I got to my mid thirties we started comparing knee injuries, back injuries, and what color of therapy bands we were using.

So when my dad said yoga really helped him with his back, I listened. I didn’t march right down to the gym to go try a class, because that would take actual effort, but I did listen. And then I did attend a class at the gym and it was pretty much everything you think of when you think of “hot yoga”: a 15×15 room filled with various bodies in yoga-esque clothing, a calming instructor, seventeen or twenty painful poses, everyone dripping sweat, and I could tell who was a fan of garlic and/or cheese. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great.

I left yoga to its own devices; I didn’t look down my nose at it but I assured myself it was not for me.

My best friend and I were chatting a couple of months ago and, as I pointed out the new Hot Yoga place just down the hill from me, she pointed out she had been going and she found it better than meditation to calm her mind. As someone who also suffers from chronic insomnia, this sounded like a good idea. The new place had a deal: 6 classes for $10 in two weeks. For the price of three lattes I could scientifically test the benefits of yoga! That this coincided with the last week of my old job, and a week off, made for an excellent test bed. And so I signed up.

It’s been a month now. I haven’t had back pain in that time. I have had only two (2) nights of insomnia. I am inelegant in class, I am not the lean-and-limber yoga Barbie; then again there are many in my class who are not. I have seen progress in my flexibility and balance, but frankly, the fact that my back doesn’t routinely go out, and that I can run again without pain in my knees, is selling point enough.

Then there are the personalities: I try to go every Thursday night (for a variety of reasons) but it seems I’m of a minority with a regular schedule. In six weeks of attendance I have seen maybe one or two people in any two classes, the rest of the cast members change out regularly. There are a couple of yoga Barbies — and they know it — but hats off to them because not only do they look it, but they can do that one pose where you balance on the ball of one foot while in lotus with your hands up. Or the other one where you fold yourself in half, and bend over (I think it’s called “sleeping eagle” but for me it’s called “impossible”). Then there was Tatooed Yoga Jesus: a man who looked like the Oxford-Christian Jesus picture but in yoga pants, no shirt, and tattoos all over his arms, back, and chest. Again, the inclination is to mentally tease him, but Yoga Jesus knew his stuff too. Even the inflated, gym-rat-football-player-looking-dude could get some of the more difficult versions.  And then there’s plenty of people like me: not quite with-it, but improving; dripping sweat and forcing muscles to do things they aren’t used to, secure in the knowledge of a pain-free back and a good night’s sleep.

That is worth any amount of self-imposed awkwardness.

Ramp

As I have just recently changed jobs, which entailed leaving one job (and all of the transitory madness that is associated with that), having a purported week off (more about that later), and then starting the new job (I’m almost two weeks in), I’ve been a bit busy.

A prudent me would have curbed social engagements, extracurricular activities, and given myself some slack at the gym. But prudence is not one of the words that comes to mind when I think of me (although someone called me quirky the other day so now my quirky meter has gone up a bit and I need to see what *that* is all about), and I didn’t. One of the organizations I help with staged an intervention and dropped me from 2 of the 4 committees I was on, not because they doubted my abilities, but they feared for my sanity.

I spent my week off with a healthy checklist and a desire to make my son’s last Elementary School science fair something to behold. I think I marginally succeeded, given that the rules were simple: no fire, no liquids, no electrics. Naturally, we had all 3, including one experiment demonstration involving fire (that I had to forcibly shut down), one exhibit requiring not one but two extension cords, and a couple of suspicious watery areas on the floor of the gym (where the student exhibits were at). By the end of my week off, I was ready for a week off.

And then I started working at the new job.

Starting a new job is both exciting and sucks at the same time: exciting because everything is New And Different And Thrilling And Did I Mention New, and sucks because Guess What, I Don’t Know Everything — Or Possibly Anything– Anymore. It’s that awkward phase of not knowing a company, or any of your coworkers, or (in my case) your platform. My days are spent in Outlook, PowerPoint, and meetings; my evenings are spent learning a new language (when I so choose). There is more work to be done than can ever be done, and so the challenge of work-life balance rests solely in my court.

This sort of disciplinary requirement, plus the uncomfortable position of Not Knowing Everything, makes for an unsettling period. Throw in the end of the school year (6 weeks to go!), a couple of trips, a pending wedding (erm… mine), and a neglected garden, and you’ve got the recipe for an OCD breakdown. I may have required myself to wash the sink twice and empty out the dishwasher completely before I allowed myself to eat dinner tonight at 8:30 when I got home.

Which is all a very long and rambly way to say: I’m a bit swamped at the moment, and sorry I haven’t written. Fresh content is on the way, it’s just stewing in the back of my brain. Specific blurbs will include: The Sadness That is Washington State Education and Funding, Hot Yoga (the Opinion of a Reluctant Convert), and Woodinville Wine Country: You Aren’t as Witty as You Think You Are.

Stay tuned…

Cliché

Clichés, as a rule, bother me. This has to do with my innate dislike for anything that must “be accepted”. The absolute BEST way to get me to not read a book, not see a movie, not do something, is to tell me I MUST read XYZ book, I MUST see XYZ movie, I MUST do whatever. It just won’t happen. If I’m in “polite” mode I will dither, if you are family I *may* humor you, but otherwise it’s just not going to happen. This explains why I still haven’t seen the “Breakfast Club”, why it took some serious cajoling to read Lean In (yes, yes, blog post coming about it eventually), and why, at 40, I don’t know if I own a hairdryer because I simply refuse to use one.

Clichés are the verbal “you must”. It suggests that there is something out there you must do, or must allow, because it just *is*. The absolute worst one, in my opinion, is “Everything Happens For A Reason”.

Please. Just… don’t.

Things happen because they happen. There is little reason in someone going in to a school and shooting children, there is little reason in the antics of Congress (these days), there is little reason in Wall Street (as evidenced by a DOW nearing 16k whilst we have the hurdles we have. There need not be, and frequently there is not, a reason.

Saying “Everything happens for a reason” is a way of accepting a lack of control; it means “I can’t see a good reason for this to happen in a logical world so I will abuse this platitude and hope this changes the subject and/or gets the person who is trembling with doubt, pain, or hurt to stop it long enough for me to be comfortable”. Looking for “reason” where no good one is, is insanity. Or optimism.

I’m more of a fan of “It is what it is.” “Que sera, sera”, however sung by Doris Day, is accurate. Things happen: this much is true. Entropy increases. Time marches. But the notion that there is some underlying reason causing a typhoon to kill off five thousand people, or a tsunami and earthquake to hit the site of a nuclear reactor, is asinine.

OK: Point and counterpoint. Correlation and causality. That is to say, YES, ultimately there is a cause to every effect.  A ginormous typhoon hit the Philippines because global warming has warmed the atmosphere and waterways in that area to a devastating effect and the bomb that would go off there went off with a bigger bang; people tend to build nuclear reactors near waterways in order to easily flood the site to cool it down. But when people say “Things happen for a reason” they do NOT mean, “things happen because a series of events led to them”, they mean, “there is some good reason for this to have happened” and “good reason” usually infers somehow, somewhere, there is benefit.

You will notice that very rarely does anyone say “Things happen for a reason” where something happens that is obviously beneficial. “Things happen for a reason” is not applied to the lottery win, or the quick reflexes that get you OUT of a car accident, or the “A” you got on your Chemistry final. No, then you take the credit: you studied, you had quick reflexes, YOU picked the lucky number. So if it’s good, you controlled it with your abilities and your skills; if it’s bad there must be some better reason for you to have fallen on misfortune.

I have been in plenty of good circumstance that was of my own doing, and nearly as much malfeasance that was as well. I do not attribute this to “fortune”, I attribute this to the way things are. It is what it is.

But it may not have happened for a “reason”.

Tough (-ish) and Clean (-esque)

Today I went to the gym for three hours.

About three months ago a bunch of (well, call it four plus me plus some outside) people from work decided we should Do Tough Mudder. To which my response was “I’ve just posted how I’m not signing up for any large events, so really? You’re asking? Really? Okay.” And so I signed on. I proudly told this to my trainer, with whom I meet pretty much weekly, and tasked him with getting me ready.

For three months I met faithfully with David (trainer), each Wednesday cursing things like burpees and pull-ups and push-ups and other things whose Official Names I do not know but that doesn’t prevent me from dearly disliking. And about a month before Tough Mudder, we lost a team member.  A week later, we lost a second. A week after that, a third. And then there were four.

Four is not a big team, and four may-or-may-not have been successful in getting us over hills and walls and so forth. Add that to the fact that I was now the only female on the team, and certainly the slowest runner (hello, 10 minute mile!), I was uncomfortable. So I decided to see if I could pad the team. I checked in with my gym, and found someone willing.

Except he was signed up for the Saturday, and I couldn’t do the Saturday (hey, I was snack mom for the soccer game! Priorities!). OK, fine, I put an ad in Craigslist.

Now, I like reading Craigslist for entertainment, and have used it to sell many things, but not really to do something social. I got one response. It detailed the length of some male person’s phallus and an invitation to ride it. I did not respond.

On the Wednesday before my original Tough Mudder–which I have now bumped off to next year — I devised a plan with David. I would chart the obstacles and the runs, and create gym-equivalents. Running is fine (treadmill), but how many pull-ups do you figure equates getting over an 8′ high wall (somewhat assisted — say a push up or a pull up from a team member)? David figured 3 sets of 10. How do you replace swimming? David figured you’d use the same muscles as burpees and knee-bend deadlifts with weights, so 2 sets of 10 of those.  To simulate running in mud he added ankle weights. The only thing David did not compensate for was electric shocks (which I was to skip anyway) and an ice bath. On the flip side, instead of the cushy wait times in front of obstacles that my more mud-laden brethren got, I got one (1) three-minute break.

Two hours and 40 minutes later, I had run just over 11 miles (well, I had run about 9 and speed-walked another 2 because the knee was hurting) and done crazy crawling, push-up, pull-up, weight-lift, balancing obstacles throughout the gym.  I left the gym incredibly icky (not muddy) and wondering if an ice bath would have helped.

There’s a few things I can take away from this experience, and yes, a couple more goals:

1.  No, you don’t have to train running-wise as though you’re training for a half-marathon. But I probably should have run something over 3 miles recently.

2. If you do it alone, or in the gym, or both, you don’t get the event-based adrenaline rush.  You trade that for the “comfort” of controlling your environment.

3. I could have done it by myself in the mud. And I probably should have.

4. I’m training as though I WILL be doing it solo next year, because I don’t want to have to do it in the gym again.

Not that I don’t love David. I loooove David (in a totally platonic, he’s like an uncle kinda way). He is awesome and patient and inventive and he doesn’t let me slide. But next time I want him waiting at the end of the route, standing in the mud, with a beer. And I want that extra load of muddy, muddy laundry.