RUN Walk limp …

7 Days

I’m watching vintage Anthony Bourdain — 2003 — and he’s in Vietnam and being very Anthony Bourdain.  He’s a fish out of water, but eager to learn; he’s caustic and classic but a much younger version of the person we see today. It’s fun to point a finger and say “ha, ha, isn’t he awkward!”, right up until he gamely eats the half-matured duck egg (complete with duck fetus) and can appreciate it as a culinary event instead of the classic “ew!” that 99.9% of folks I know would engender. Including yours truly.

It’s been a busy week.

A week ago tomorrow, I sat in a large dining hall at the Seattle Westin.  My brother and husband were there. My best friends were there. Some of my more colorful (and worldly) friends were there.  While I’d love to say they were there for me (and in a way, they were, and it’s wholly flattering), or that they were there for Team Read (and in a way, they were, and that’s wholly heartening), they were there for Nancy Pearl. Nancy Pearl was our guest speaker and let me tell you, it’s one thing to hear her on NPR. It’s quite another to see her in person. But of course, the real stars of the show were our teen tutors, who consistently impress me with their maturity and aplomb.  At that age I was snarfing pop tarts and hiding my grades from my parents. These kids are getting work experience and teaching 2nd and 3rd graders to read; they are looked up to not only by their tutees but also by a room of 300 adults, none with a dry eye at the end of their presentation. I’m proud to be a part of the Team Read team and looking forward to my next role as I step down from chair to secretary. And I’m eternally grateful to M who introduced me to this organization.

Last weekend, I had dinner with friends at my house — relaxing and informal; I also learned to do a gluten-free chicken parmesan (hint: garbanzo bean flour) and my sister’s banana nice cream (OMG coco whip is the secret!!)– and then on Sunday my best friend and I decided to do the Hot Chocolate 15k.

The Hot Chocolate 15k promises a lovely hoodie and all kinds of chocolate-based goodies along the raceway. It also sends you smack up the 99, up three hills, and back down them (and up them). We were walking (thanks to my recent injury) but it’s a small solace. It is 9.3 miles of sheer discomfort and as we got to mile 6 and saw the uphill slant of Aurora (the last uphill, right after you have shoved 3 or 4 chocolate marshmallows into  your face and you’re ready to play chubby bunny and you’re feeling pretty good and then you see the last, huge, uphill of Aurora and you want to say the F-word but your face is full of marshmallows) and remembered that type 2 fun doesn’t come easy. You cross the finish line, get your medal, and then get a cup of cocoa, some chocolate dipping sauce, and a bunch of stuff to dip into said sauce.

But Candie made it up to me, because we got to have breakfast at the 5Spot.

The 5Spot is in Seattle and I couldn’t find it on my own because every time I go to Seattle I get lost (this is not an exaggeration).  Our waiter had amazing purple lipstick and beautiful eyes and there’s a shirt there I like; the food was wonderful and the coffee was intense and I will go back. I also heartily approve of their attitude.  I ate and ate and ate and yet came home with leftovers (which the boy promptly ate).

Tired yet? I was, but it’s only Sunday in this chronology. Yeah, I’ll speed it up.

Monday and Tuesday was all day in an Economics class: take people whose WHOLE JOB it is to do research (with an economics or machine learning bent) and of course they are world-class (the class was run by Glen Weyl and Preston McAffee had a prominent course) and put them into a 3-day course (yeah, I only got three) and add in snacks and coffee and Q&A and stick a fork in me, I’m done. The syllabus alone is enough to make me jabber at the husband, who still gives me that little smile as he listens.

And so we find me at today. Wednesday.  I had an all-day conference on Leadership, full of those cringe-inducing group efforts that somehow were ok, and I find I am glad.  Still so much to do, but all in all a good week. There’s no big political missive here, or commentary on the state of things. Just gratitude.

Except for that friggin’ hill on Aurora.  I could do without that again. I don’t care how many chocolate marshmallows are in the offing.

 

 

Unilateral Butt Syndrome

 

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Headed back home in the eerie light.

This time of year, the road to Spokane from where I live (just a little east of Seattle) is moderately nerve-wracking; you have to take one of three passes (North via the 2, South via the 410, or the standard I-90) and two are typically closed (the north and south). The 90 itself has a history of landslides and closures, and since my PT appointment was at 11am in Spokane this meant I needed to leave the house around 4am and cross the pass at night. (Actually it meant I needed to leave at 6am, but I didn’t realize the South pass was closed and so drove all the way down to South Auburn before I figured that out and had to double-back).

 

Once you get past the pass, though, it’s eerily beautiful in these cold winter months, with snow on the ground and overcast skies. I pulled over to take a picture on the way back, both to capture the light and also to stretch the legs; otherwise five hours in the car is a bit much, even for those of us who enjoy driving.

The question you may have that I haven’t yet answered is why I was going to a physical therapy appointment in Spokane in the first place. I live in the Seattle area, surely there are good physical therapists here? Yes, of course there are. But the very best physical therapist I have ever had (who managed to get me off of regular knee injections and back into running in my 40’s) moved to Spokane and so for things like orthotics and gait analysis and exercises I go see her. (It’s Kit Vogel at Tailwind Physical Therapy, if you’re interested– she also does bike fittings.)  Yes, I will take a day off work and drive 600 miles roundtrip to keep myself active. Quite apart from all this Kit is a wonderful person and fun to hang out with.

My knee, sensing an expert appointment was at hand, decided to go out three days before my planned appointment. It was my first outdoor run in months (not including the Disney Half) and I was sore post run — and then the next day — and then really sore the next day. So off to Kit I went.

After marking on my legs (with green washable marker) and measuring my gait in slow-mo and reviewing my shoes and my orthotics, she pronounced my problem: Unilateral Butt Syndrome. In short, my right cheek has been doing all the work for both cheeks (when running and working out), and so my left cheek is lazy. Therefore over time my knee has had to take up the slack for my left leg when running, and as my orthotics and shoes wore out (I use Hokas but because it’s for knee cushioning they don’t last more than about 6 months with regular use) my ankles and feet stopped doing their part and sent the work up to my left knee.  The left knee will only put up with so much of that bullshit before it screams and so here I am, with a busted knee. Apparently UBS is a real thing, as I was explaining it to a friend at the gym and one of the trainers chimed in with, “Oh yeah, I have that!”.

I now have nimg_0506ew orthotics on the way and new shoes, and a new set of exercises I’m doing probably less often than I should but probably more often than Kit thinks I am; and kinesio tape on the knee. That the exercises are awkward (see pic) and difficult is not unexpected. It’s also hard to tell how quickly I will recover. I’ve stopped running for now and am walking (on the treadmill at incline, outside with my best friend) to keep moving. I’ve figured out (finally) that I will not be able to continue running without the routine of floor exercises to keep my butt from being lazy and shifting all the work to one cheek; this is not a case of “ok the pain is gone now I don’t have to do clams anymore”.

If you suspect you have UBS, talk to your PT, and I’m happy to share info on the exercises I have to do. Mostly it’s clams (for the glutes), bridges, push me/pull you (as seen above), hamstring work, and balance work. It’s not particularly fun and for those of us who are impatient and just want to go do the run or walk or whatever it’s an extra series of steps. Considering that impatience got me here, though,  I shouldn’t let it keep me here.

Side note: if you find yourself alone in the car for five hours each way, the Rich Roll podcast is particularly good. Thanks to my brother and Havi Zavi for the recommendation.

 

In Vein: The Vein Strikes Back

“If you’re going to see any reaction, swelling, or pain, it will happen somewhere likely between day 5 and 10.”

For me, it happened on Day 9.

Day 8 I had spent with the Sammamish Troop 571 Scouts in the annual Christmas Tree pickup event (you leave your tree on the curb with a donation, they take it away and chip it). As navigator my job was to sit shotgun and tell the driver where to go for a car with 4 scouts (who collected trees). Essentially I didn’t move much on Day 8.

On Day 9, my leg started itching. Not much. Just a bit. Around noon I got that naggy itch you get when there’s a hair or something in your pants leg, and you find it annoying. It wasn’t much until about 6pm, when it started to increase — first my calf was itchy, then my inner knee, and then up my thigh. Investigating, I found a thick red stripe from entry point to leg crease, and it started to hurt.

The on-call doctor informed me that I am/was now part of the 5% of the population allergic to the vein glue. They had asked if I had ever had acrylic nails and I answered yes, as there was a period of time in my life — roughly four years–where they were de rigeur. The ensuing fifteen years has provided plenty of time for me to formulate an allergy. The advice was to take some antihistamines and see how that goes.

That didn’t go so well. The next day I was on the phone with my doctor, and the day after that I saw Dr. Pepper (I am not making that up, that is his name, and he has four family members who are also Doctors Pepper), who took one look at my leg and said, “Yep, wow, that’s really bad, you’re having an allergic reaction.”

(For those who like data: my left thigh at its most swollen was 3.5″ thicker than my right thigh, and my calf reached almost 2″ thicker).

Onto the Steroids I go, which if you haven’t had a Prednisone Pack ever, are you in for a treat. It’s a tapered pack for six days, but on the FIRST day you take 6 doses. And if you get the pack at the end of the day, for the first day, you take all 6 doses at once, “before bed”.

I say “before bed” because you won’t sleep. In my case I got four loads of laundry done, some detailed analysis, updated some documentation, did some filing, did some housecleaning, emptied the dishwasher, reorganized part of my spice cabinet and half of a dozen other things I’m sure to remember later. For the record I was offered Ambien, but I’m not a fan and figured I’d make it productive.

The next day I had my regularly scheduled check up with Dr. Gibson, who indicated it looked like the steroids were working (Dr. Pepper had put a dotted outline to the swelling from the previous day, so I had a visual measurement aside from my tape measure), and I asked her if it was okay to run all or part of my half marathon. She asked when it was and I said “Sunday” (my time with her was on Wednesday). Verdict: I could walk the half marathon. Maybe run if I really really felt like it, for parts. She also cleared me to fly and did a quick ultrasound to ensure no DVT was present (there shouldn’t have been but hey I was in and the machine was right there).

Today is Day Four. The remaining days’ doses were a normal taper (1 in the morning, 1 at lunch, 1 at dinner, 1 or 2 at bedtime) and the swelling continues to go down, even though I spent most of yesterday afternoon walking around Disneyland.  This morning there isn’t any soreness, but I’m still a bit swollen. I think this little episode has passed, so I’ll check in with another update (for those of you interested in the process) in about a month (with pictures).

 

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.

 

Categorizing Fun: An Overview of My First Ragnar

“You know what Type 2 fun is, right?”

I was at M&K’s house talking about a then-upcoming Ragnar event, and how I was really, really tired of running. I was asking if it was worth it, as M&K have done some Ragnars, and I had heretofore done none. (I was also borrowing a sleeping bag based on the pack list M had given me.)

I replied that I did not know there were types of fun.

“Type One fun is that you’re having fun while you’re doing it. This is what everyone easily recognizes as fun. Type Two fun is you have fun when you talk about it later and reflect on the overall experience. Type Three fun is never fun.”

Fair enough.

As of that discussion I was certain Ragnar was Type Two fun and possibly Type Three. There are a variety of training guides to follow for Ragnar, including the one on their site; some folks I ran with basically added up their total mileage for the roughly 36-hour period and trained as though they needed to be able to run all of that in one block. I followed the training guide on the Ragnar site, more or less. It meant running 5 times per week, with alternating distances and speeds, and as we got closer to the event and before tapering started, the increased mileage meant increased time investment. My running playlists were well worn and I was finding it irritating that I’d “have” to run on a given day instead of being able to bike or swim or row or what have you. All but 2 of my training runs were outdoors, with some variation of hills for the most part. The most awkward part of this experience is of the 12 people in 2 vans, I had only met one.

For me, Ragnar started when two of those people (the one I knew (Tristan) and one of the ones I didn’t (Sonya)) headed up north to the starting point. We met up with Van 1 (we were Van 2) and drove to our first major exchange, Exchange 6. Ragnar starts the slower-paced teams earlier than the faster-paced ones, so everyone ends at roughly the same time. Our team started at 6:45am on Friday, with Van 2 starting at roughly 11:30am. At the major exchanges, it’s a festival of painted vans and themed running wear; we had vans named things like “Team Div/0” and “Will Run for Beer” and “Start Slow then Taper” and so forth. Some teams were dressed as superheroes, some teams were dressed in tutus or hula skirts, some teams dressed like Cirque members. Our team’s name was “Running Better than Congress” and for the most part we did that: showed up, talked with one another, kinda wore red, white, or blue, and one of our Vans was painted. We ran better than Congress only marginally.

I was Runner 10, but we had lost two runners at the last minute to injury, so we were shuffling extra runs among the remaining 10 of us. My first run was essentially a 5k, mostly flat, but at about 2pm in the sun, with no shade.  If you’ve spent 99% of your training runs running in tree-shaded areas or in the mid-60 degree early mornings, running in 85 degree heat is punishment. I did not enjoy my first run at all and was glad to hand the baton (a slap-wrist bracelet) to Chuck, our group organizer and the unfortunate benefactor of 2 of the extra 6 legs floating around thanks to drop-outs.

If you had asked me after Run 1 if I would ever do this again, I would have said definitely not.

Our group ran the remaining 2 legs and headed to the next major exchange, a high school with tents set up to catch some sleep. Unfortunately it was 5pm and there’s no way I can sleep at that time, so I pretended to and then gave up. We did get nice showers (there was heat!!) and headed into LaConner to get dinner. At 9pm we piled into the Van for our 2nd runs. That’s when I got tired.

My run was at 12:30am and was only 2 miles, but it was all hill. Still, the cool of night took away some of the unpleasantness from the earlier heat of the day, and while running with a headlamp took some getting used to, I managed to get done at my expected pace (given the fall in Beijing and the loss of 5 training weeks, plus my knee, I used my 10k pace of 10:30 — I know it’s slow, but I’d rather not run to injury, thanks).  Run 2 ended for me and I handed off to the next runner in our van, Joe.

If you had asked me after Run 2 if I would ever do this again, I would have said probably not.

While Joe and then Sonya ran, I tried to get some sleep — I think I managed an hour each, sitting in the front seat of our van (actually a Suburban). I have a messed up back and that wasn’t ideal, but I managed to brace it with a rolled up jacket. At 4am we finished and headed to our next stopping point on Whidbey Island, where we were told to park in a field. As it was light enough out, I could see where I put M&K’s borrowed sleeping bag to make sure there was no poo (long story) and racked out for two solid hours.

That’s right. Two hours. At 7am my eyes snapped open because of habit. I had 2 more hours before I had to get back in the van and I could not, for the life of me, sleep. No coffee needed (which was good, because there was none to be found), I headed off to shower, and change, and prepare myself for my last run: 6 miles, all up and down hills.

I should explain that I had the 2nd shortest distance of the 12 runners. This was by design as most of the people I was running with measured their experience in IronMans and Marathons (not half Marathons, those do not count), and all but 2 of us had done Ragnar at least once before. I was 3rd slowest pace (but hey, at least I was consistently pacing) and, I found out later, the oldest person in our group. That doesn’t mean anything though as there were groups consisted of people at least 10 years my senior, and possibly 15, and they were kicking butt.

As we piled into the van Chuck asked me if I could take leg 32 instead of 34, which was the same distance but instead of up and down little hills, it was up one big hill and down it.  I figured it was the same distance and I had trained for hills, so, sure. I took it.

Slapping the baton on and running along the trail, I had to stop twice in the first mile: my shoe was untied, and then at about the 3-quarter-mile mark I recalled I hadn’t kicked off my running program (that tells me how far I’ve run). Shit. I turned it on, turned a corner, and looked at a big hill. Shit.

I turned my volume up, stared about five feet at the pavement in front of me, and kicked in. Time to get this definitely Type Two fun run done. My van passed me and yelled out to cheer me on, only it wasn’t my van — it was someone else’s van cheering everyone on. They hadn’t done it in the middle of the night to respect the residents of the streets we were running, but everyone had done that, I reflected, the day before up in Bellingham.

And then another van passed and did the same. And then my van. And then a runner passed me (some call this “kills” — and that’s fine, you’re welcome to run by me as long as you’re not a jerk about it) and told me I was doing good work on the hill. He was easily 10 years my junior and his muscles were so defined you could have written in the creases with a sharpie and he would have looked like one of those comic-book super heroes.

The hill was about 2.5 miles of hill, and the “flat” at the top was a series of mini rolling hills. About halfway into the flat I took some Gu and water and started to get into a rhythm. And I started to enjoy myself. I picked up the pace a little — up the hill my pace had suffered and I wanted to come in at 10:30 again — and kept at it. Type 1 Fun had just been achieved.

This run had some shade breaks here and there — 10 foot patches of tree shade separated by 100-or-more foot patches of sun. It was 85 degrees on Whidbey. I finished the “flat” of the top and started descending the hill, first in a very gradual slope and then (in the last mile) at a super steep one. I rounded a corner, and looked down about a quarter of a mile to see the checkpoint. It then hit me that I was almost done, and I sped up. Slapping the bracelet on to the next runner (Chris), I pulled off and realized my knee hurt, my ankle hurt, I had acquired a sunburn in spite of sunscreen, I smelled like a yak, and I was happy.

If you had asked me after this run if I would ever do this again, I would say maybe.

We raced up to the next exchange point, but as we did so we saw a runner fall — and it looked like heat stroke (2 other runners had already been ambulanced off). We pulled over to the side and got him water, Gatorade, salt pills, etc.  — not heat stroke but definitely he was pushing too hard. He said he felt better and insisted on finishing his mile, so we made it a point to look for him at the next checkpoint (we did see him). As Chris came in and handed off to Chuck, we realized that we were almost done. After Chuck it was May, and it was Sonya who ran leg 36. We met up with her in the last turn to run in with her.

Hot, tired, sore, and smelly, we acquired our finisher medals (that double as bottle openers, apparently), our stickers, our T-shirts, our group pictures, etc. We congratulated each other, shook hands and did that hugging thing you do, and then Sonya, Tristan and I piled into the Suburban and took off for the ferries. We had a Dairy Queen craving that we exercised in the wait line for the ferry, we regretted it nearly instantly, and got home.

When my husband asked me after this if I would ever do this again, I said definitely.

Ragnar isn’t, actually, about running. If you think about it, you spend maybe 4 hours of the 36 (or, in our case, 32) hours actually running. The rest of the time you are talking with your van mates — and we had a good group — cheering your team (and others’) on, marveling at the creativity of names and costumes, attempting to navigate to the next exchange (because you sometimes can’t drive the course), eating snacks (lots of snacks spread over that time == only one real meal (dinner) eaten), drinking water and Gatorade, and looking to see who’s slapped what magnets on your car (tagging of vehicles is popular in Ragnar and now that they use magnets instead of stickers, it’s easier to clean up after). Pretty much anyone who knows me knows that I have to keep busy and in fear of 20-odd hours of “nothing to do” I brought my knitting and a book. I didn’t touch either except to move them out of the way as I looked for my solar charger, or Gu, or reflective vest, or ponytail holders. Naturally, I have a much better idea of what I will pack for next year.

Sticky

I freely admit it has been quite a bit of time since I’ve last blogged, a fact which was hammered home to me this morning when I logged into the site and had to hesitate a few times before remembering my login and password. I have already locked myself out of a bank account this morning for the lack of correct memory, and I’m having to wait until 8am Eastern Standard Time tomorrow to correct that, so you can see how there was some trepidation there.

“Things have been busy”, or words to that effect, come to mind; but that phrase and those circumstances are the point of a different post. Given how long it took me to write this one I think you can safely return to the site in April.

In the meantime, I wanted to talk about tape.

Up until yesterday late afternoon, I had spent some five days with an eighteen-inch strip of K-tape diagonally across my back, left shoulder to right kidney. Its purpose was to keep my posture corrected, as when I had gone to the doctor on Tuesday she discovered that if my feet/knees/hips were straight and forward, my torso and shoulders were not. They were angled slightly to the right. While this wasn’t immediately noticeable to me (nor, do I think, it was noticeable to those around me, otherwise I’m pretty sure someone would have mentioned it), it did mean that when I attempted to run I was doing so in such a fashion as to cause myself some pain and definite damage.

Yes, I’m running again.

Having once again signed up for an event (well, two now) because I seem to have a disconnect between what I want to do and what I can do, I set myself to the doctor with a clear and concise goal: Her job is to get me running again with little or no pain. My job is to do exactly what she tells me to, however ridiculous.

This has led to some uncomfortable and odd things, and an 18-inch piece of bright blue tape across my back was the least of them.

Up until now those exercise balls you see at the gym — or sometimes people at work sit on them, they’re supposed to help your core — have been something for me to toss out-of-the-way whilst I put down a mat and did “real” exercise.  Now, I have to do things like balance on them, on my shins. Currently this looks like me kneeling on the ball, with the ball under my shins, and my hands along the equator of the ball, so I am hunched over. One could forgive themselves for thinking I was praying, because there is quite a bit of muttering going on. My original goal was to reach 8 seconds (note to self: much safer than riding a bull) and then my next goal is to do this without hands to steady me. I though she was off her nut until an acquaintance of mine, who just had open heart surgery 3 weeks back, posted a picture of himself on an exercise ball. He was on his shins, but the rest of him was bolt upright. Touché.

I have also had to modify the way I run. The original method of running was to go to the gym, get on the treadmill, and set a speed. I’d zone out to some music and/or to the work problem of the day (I do better running if I don’t have to think about it) and the treadmill would effectively “run” me.  The problem with the treadmill running you is that it does exactly that — it forces you at a certain pace and it may be that your body wasn’t ready to take that next footfall at that particular split second. Ow. Ow. Ow.  So, I need to run outside now. In the Puget Sound Area. In Winter. (NB: today’s run was fine, thanks to an unseasonably warm patch, but I’m not looking forward to the typical mid-forties — or lower — cold and rain that will greet me Tuesday morning).

Then there’s another bit of tape I need to have every time I run: Leukotape, McConnell-taped across my lower left knee. Effectively it creates a pocket of the swollen, damaged tissue that is my left knee (viscosupplementation has not done that knee long-term favors — I haven’t had an injection in a year and I’m going to try to stay away) and smashes it into the space between my kneecap and the right of my left kneecap. It’s precisely that weird flesh color that band-aid uses and that no one’s flesh actually is, except possibly Speaker Boehner’s. It also leaves a very unattractive grey adhesive outline when removed, and if you do it too often you can get a nasty rash. It works well for hair removal, though.

As a result of all of this activity my FitBit and EveryMove think I’m awesome and are suitably praising me with little icons in the typical fashion of gamified fitness. I’m having to mark my actual success, however, in distance increase (now back up to 2.5mi after a small detour) and reduced visits to the PT.

Someday I won’t have to use tape to hold me together properly, either.

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.

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself

-FDR

Having nonchalantly signed up for Tough Mudder (NB: I didn’t actually yet sign up for it but I said I would so I will), I was initially apprehensive at the idea of a cold ice bath and a bout of electroshock therapy. But I spent a portion of this flight (greetings from 35k feet) actually looking at the event obstacles, both volume and detail, and see that there’s a whole lot of scary in store for my teammates and me.

Tough Mudder is aptly named, and aside from a couple of obstacles that include electrocution, and a couple (or 4) more that include ice baths, there are several that include enclosed spaces, and a few that involve heights. Oh, wonderful. It’s like someone gift-wrapped all of the things that freak me out and handed it over in one giant muddy package.

I can handle bugs, spiders, pretty much any liquid that comes out of an animal (thanks to a small child and a Zoology degree), heights that will kill me, the dark, speed, guns, knives, the unknown, and swimming with sharks. But while ice baths and electrocution are unsavory, confined spaces and heights that will only break a bone or two scare the high holy crap out of me. I have no idea how to train for this, except that this will be 10-12 miles of “suck it up and deal”.

Seemingly unrelated, but totally not, is a book I picked up recently that discusses (among other things) the value of “stuff” vs. the value of “experiences”. The bottom line is that we value the “experience” more than the “stuff” for the same dollar output. “Stuff” doesn’t necessarily make us happier, but “experiences” do; even people who do arduous, un-fun things reflect back on them and value the experience. (Anyone who has given birth or finished a physical event they weren’t really prepared for — cough — can testify to it having been a lot more fun AFTER it’s over).

I’m clinging to this. To be absolutely, perfectly frank, I want to quit this event before it’s even started, because I know not only what it will mean in terms of preparation, but that at some point I’m going to be stuck in a small, enclosed, dark space; I will be cold, I will feel useless, and I will want to quit, and the only reason I won’t is that I’m too stubborn to do so.

Here we go…

An Open Letter to My Personal Trainer, David

Well David, it’s that time again, where I’ve done something rash and signed up for something I probably shouldn’t do. There’s a timeline involved, and some frankly optimistic requirements; I figured I’d apologize now and get it over with.

You see, I let the Ms.Krieant sign me up for Tough Mudder, and I have a little under 13 weeks to get ready. It has some impressive obstacles, most of which have me scared out of my mind, but as you know once I’ve said I’ll do something, I’ll do it…

…as long as I get to whine a lot about it.

So I realize that up until now your charge has been mostly to try to get me stronger while avoiding the injury of the month; in our short tenure together this has meant occasionally avoiding my knees, my neck, my upper back, my lower back, or my right hip. Now we need to ignore all of that, because I will need all of those parts working and functional.

I also realize that this means that the chattiness of our sessions will have to reduce, that we can no longer freely evaluate others in the gym as you hand me five more pounds of something or have me do 15 more push-ups. It means that you’re likely to give me homework, that I will need to actually do weight work more than twice a week, and that I will be very, very sore these ensuing weeks.

But David, I’m turning 40.

I realize this isn’t much to you — I think 40 hit and flew by for you about a decade ago, not that you’d notice, being an ex-Marine and all. I realize this isn’t much to most of our early-morning compatriots, as I think the average age at the gym at our time of morning is mid-50’s. It isn’t technically even much to me in the sense that I’m not having a huge to-do over it, nor do I want to see black balloons, nor do I think the day after my birthday I will suddenly fall apart or feel older. The fact is, David, I’m tired of having my body feel older now.

Five years ago I entered into a half marathon, having never run, because someone told me I couldn’t do it. (Actually, he laughed and said, “yah, right”). Three years ago I entered into a 2-day, 160-mile bike ride because someone said I wouldn’t want to do it. Last year I did the STP pretty much under the same auspices. And each time, I injured myself either in training or in the event itself. But each time, I did the training without any professional help.

You’re here to fix that, David, because at 40, I’ve decided I’m tired of injuring myself. And this likely means I’ll have to do a lot of things I was heretofore unprepared to do, like go to the gym more than 4 times per week and maybe, actually, you know, stretch. Perhaps even do my regular PT exercises. I have a support group in my friends — one lent a very pertinent book (Supple Leopard, indeed), one gave me tips on how to deal with the electric shocks (or at least a realistic impression of what they’re like). But your job is to make sure I’m ready, and so I really do hope you’ll understand the bullet-pointed list you’re going to get when next we see each other.

I still reserve the right to whine, though.

Floating Along

I am, once again, at the airport. Can I just say how refreshing it was to NOT have an instant sense of direction once clearing security? I have a whole new world opened to me, and it’s a weird one. Item one: I checked email two hours after leaving on vacation and no work urgency or email had appeared! (What is this alternate universe I have travelled to?).

No, this is a welcome weird; I am semi-secure in the knowledge that nothing really truly awfully bad can happen, that my company can survive without me, and yet my (brief) absence will not convince them they should get rid of me. Nonetheless I am travelling with two laptops, which means I’ll be totally buff when I return.

Like every vacation, I have a laundry list of things I’m going to do (that I probably will not complete). Like every vacation, I have forgotten something (although the kindly Editor dropped by work earlier today and delivered my knitting, which was the item forgotten). Like every vacation, the boychild and I went to Anthony’s for pre-flight. Like every vacation, I am looking forward to in-flight WiFi.

I cannot sit still. I really can’t. I noticed it a few years back, and it was again brought to my attention when the Brit was in a meeting with me a year back. It has peaked since: hour-long meetings in conference rooms either must include my laptop so I can multitask *or* folks need to suspend their seismographs, because the leg or the hand or the pencil or the anything else will be rhythmically moving to the sound of whatever song is in the head.  So sitting on a plane for three hours is going to be less than pleasant. For those of you recommending wine: thought of that. But I’m going to 110-degree weather, and so dehydrating myself on purpose seems a bit stupid.

In four days I will return, and will have to text my PT and tell him about signing up for Tough Mudder, and will have to acclimatize myself to the notion that in 3 months I need to train myself to 1. withstand electric shocks, or at least grit my teeth over them, and 2. be able to pull myself up (all of myself) (by my own hands) (several times). Up until now the directive for the trainer has been much more mellow, much more “hey can you make sure you don’t re-break the parts of me that are broken?” and more “I have this specific set of criteria I must meet in 12 weeks.”

But until then I’m on vacation. Leave a message!