Virtual

I am looking at a medal for the Tenacious Ten event for 2020, sitting in a plastic wrapper on my desk.  I did not participate in this event.

I was going to, and then the current pandemic shut it down.  It also shut down the Mercer Island Half (at which I was going to run just a 10k), and the Vancouver BC Half Marathon (the date for which was this weekend).

It’s interesting how the different events chose to address the situation.  They all pivoted/cancelled around the same time; the Tenacious Ten (at which I was going to run 10 miles, on April 11th) has sent me a medal and a shirt, and basically said “go run this virtually and send us pics!”  The Vancouver Half not only pivoted to virtual but offered to just send you your shirt if you couldn’t run and/or left it to you if you wanted your medal.  I’m still waiting to hear from Mercer Island — the one that would have been first, incidentally, back in March — as to what they are doing.

For someone who is very, very good at getting things done, I am not good at getting things done virtually.  I sign up for races as a forcing function, much as I work with a personal trainer as a forcing function.  Since my gym closed I have done one (1) round of push ups and that’s about it.  The thing that keeps me running and doing any kind of aerobic exercise, apart from the fear of gaining back the thirty-plus pounds I have lost, is my health tracker telling me that I have to do N minutes or Y activities. But it only cares if I do so much, and none of that adds up to a 10k (or 10mi or 1/2 marathon), and my longest running distance since the Great Stay Home Project has been about five miles.

Accountability for me is a mixed bag.  I put all sorts of accountability on myself for work — working from home has actually made me *more* productive, and current circumstances personally — I lost my mother to complications from vascular dementia about ten days ago — mean I am pouring myself into productivity; the house is very clean, the garden is very tidy, the backlog is very organized.  I risk irritating my coworkers with this enhanced level of checking boxes but I have asked them to be frank and let me know.  They are either cutting me slack (entirely possible) or, awash in their own productivity gains (and losses) they’re too busy to care.

I can’t seem to drive that same accountability into physical exercise; I leverage external drivers like fitness apps and “points” — I’m a sucker for points-for-points-sake — and events.  But “virtual events” do nothing for me — I need to know that some brisk, cold and possibly rainy morning I will find myself out somewhere in a series of shut-off streets, watching people stretch in ridiculous ways while a loudspeaker blares incongruently happy music while I ask myself why I do these things, and a chipper emcee counts down the corrals until it’s my turn to run through the start line and pound away at the pavement, occasionally taking time to walk it out or grab watered-down Gatorade in a small  flimsy paper cup.

Yet since receiving this medal (yesterday) that I did not earn, it bothers me.  It’s a reminder that there is a thing I signed up for and have not done, have not completed.  And maybe this irritation will drive the accountability I need to get going again. Not right now, though. It’s raining too hard.

Un-Stuck

About five weeks ago I gave myself permission to reduce the amount of running/weights I do in a week. I gave myself permission to loosen up on my diet — which isn’t terribly strict in the first place but if you are having doughnuts twice a week you know it has loosened up, even if your pants don’t — and I stopped doing most of my hobbies (knitting, gardening, random acts of sewing, etc.).  I did this because My Product Was Shipping, and it was Kind Of A Big Deal, and I had only been in the team for something like six weeks when that happened.  My function is a weird one: I don’t write code (or at least not for this role).  I don’t spend a lot of time in Power Point.  I don’t go into meetings and wave my hands around and drop some Very Important Sounding Names and so forth. My job title is flexible enough to let me do what I want to do (which is to Facilitate Other People Getting Things Done  and then of course for me to Get Things Done, which I’m kinda good at). But I dropped all of the aforementioned balls because I had to pay attention to *this particular ball*, because I feared if I didn’t that it might break.  (Note: not one word about giving myself permission to slack on mom-ness.  That is because when you are the mom of an almost 16 year old you don’t get to slack. Ever.)

As a result, when the Product Shipped and things calmed down, I found myself heavier (thank you for the brutal honesty, scale), but drastically less inclined to actually run (in the waning weeks I told myself that walking 2 miles on a treadmill at a reasonably fast walking pace and on an incline counted as much as running 2-3 miles, and if you believe that then I have some data for you). I had a backlog of projects that I had started and not finished.

While I was able to finish off most of those (and pre-plan the next ones), I found getting back on track dietarily and getting back into running– really running– was not happening.  I was stuck. I had no motivation.  Earnest morning plans about prudent food choices were shot by 4pm; earnest evening plans about early morning runs were dismissed with the snooze button. The days I made it to the gym, I was literally going through the motions. (ha). All of my workout music seemed old and overplayed, all of my dietary planning seemed dreary.  I had given myself permission to de-motivate under the assumption that if I hadn’t something would break (probably me), and ironically in the process I managed to break myself. Oh, not to injury — I do have a history of getting to about two weeks before an event and fondly hoping for a sprained ankle or some lovely tendonitis to give me “permission” to Not Do The Event — but in this case I managed to break something I found harder to deal with: my motivation.

I tried all of the tricks.

I switched to caffeinated coffee (caffeine and I shouldn’t be a “thing”). Historically I mostly drank decaf and then would use caffeine sparingly (Say, once a week or every two weeks) to give myself an extra boost.  I tried it for two weeks straight this time in an effort to kickstart something.  I was literally bouncing in my seat in a meeting last week (I know this because someone pointed it out).  But I wasn’t running.

I made some dietary tweaks in hopes of giving myself more energy and getting myself kicked into gear. That didn’t happen.

I researched articles about getting back into running, finding your motivation; considered getting a workout buddy (I don’t like to run with other people so while this felt like a good forcing function it also seemed detrimental).  I made public comments about how I was going to run so I would have the “hey I said I was gonna do it so I better do it” enforcement. (This kind of worked when I was at my mom’s and ran by the graveyard, which is full of history and a worthwhile visit).  I cut back (waaaaaaay back) on Diet Coke. (Full disclosure: I have “quit” Diet Coke two other times — no, three — and for me it’s largely a concern of quantity).

No dice.

I began to have some of those thoughts that are oh-so-tempting when motivation is gone: hey, I’m 45.  I’ve been running for 10 years, maybe it’s just “time”.  Lots of people get more sedentary as they age, they get a little freer with their diet, as long as my weight and measurements don’t go drastically up it’s all good, isn’t it? (Speaking as someone who has weighed 230 pounds unpregnant and once ate an entire box of pop tarts — that’s 12 for those of you counting at home– no, it’s not good).

I got lucky.

I was at breakfast with my son – we go out to breakfast on Friday mornings, just some mom and son time – and the breakfast counter had oldies playing.  Specifically Steve Winwood’s “Gimme some lovin‘”.  The song came out in 1966 — it’s 7 years older than I am — and my first exposure to it was in “Days of Thunder” (yes, the Tom Cruise movie). And at that breakfast counter, eating my Responsible Choice Wheat Toast with Fruit Cup, and drinking my Please Please Kick In Caffeinated Coffee, I found myself looking outside and realizing with the time change I could run outside — not on a treadmill.  We finished breakfast, I took my kid to school, and I went for a run by the lake.  I listened to this song over, and over, and over again over 3 miles. I didn’t hurt. I didn’t plod. I had one of the fastest miles I’ve had in years.

And I did it again today, just to see if it was a fluke. It’s not.

I am Un Stuck!

 

 

 

Ragnar, Continued

‘”A wizard is never late… ” he arrives precisely when he means to.’ The first half was emblazoned in chalk pen on the back of a van. I spent many minutes reading the rear end of vans this weekend.  There was the “Team which Shall Not Be Named” with full Harry Potter references, and “Worst Sleepover Ever”.  There were ultra marathoners (where instead of one van of 6 runners for this 200 mile relay race, they only had one of 6 (or 2 of 3)).  There were Unicorns and tutus and T-rex outfits and Nacho Libre vans. There were Runners Against Humanity (a play on Cards Against Humanity) with unique magnets (a Rangar tradition of tagging other vans with magnets about your team) for everyone. There were missed directions, weird road closures, and trains of chalk-painted vans between Blaine and Langley, WA, this weekend. This was my third Ragnar.

I didn’t do well.

I didn’t do crap, either; but having thought I was in better shape for the event I was disappointed when on my first leg I had to walk one of my miles (I had trained in heat. I had trained hills. I hadn’t trained in heat and hills and full sun, and so I had to walk). Fortunately, I was in a van with people who were supportive and encouraging without being condescending or smarmy.  I was able to text for help and get Gatorade, wet wipes, and body glide on demand. (Those didn’t happen all together. Different stories, and all). (Wet wipes for sunscreen that had sweated into my eyeballs — not fun at all. Gatorade because I hadn’t chugged enough and found myself dizzy on run 1 about halfway through.  Body Glide because my shorter shorts had only been with me on a 3-miler and apparently at 4 miles things start chafing).

I enjoyed it, for the most part (not the chafing, the event).  Our van was a homogenous blend of analyst-program managers with a penchant for the same podcasts and excel spreadsheets, decent food and a discreet understanding of what happens when six adults get into a van and run… and get back into the van. Wet wipes and deodorant were our dear companions. We attempted to sleep in LaConner (shoutout to LaConner Marina where the bathrooms at dock B are locked but the ones at dock F are not) and Coupeville High School (where the south side of the basketball court is shady in the morning if you need some sleep… watch out for the goose poo). We had local support (shoutout to the many Whidbey Island residents who had their sprayers out along the course — when it’s 85 degrees and full sun and you’re running, an open hose sprayer is amazingly wonderful). I was introduced to the magic of Cloud City Coffee in Seattle (before we departed), Port of Subs in Bellingham, where my turkey avocado sandwich was more than I could eat in a sitting and helped fuel the day; Panera Bread Company in LaConner with their Orange lemonade. Special shoutout to Coupeville High School and their flushing toilets.

I believe I ran the fewest aggregate miles in my van (more than a half marathon, but only just); you wouldn’t know it by the support and encouragement (and regard) of my teammates. I kept apologizing for the stretches I had to walk.  They kept being supportive. This sort of thing usually serves to make me feel more guilty but in this case it made me feel supported, and made me try harder. K-tape, Ibuprofen, and Gatorade all helped, too.

I want to do this again. I want to do better at it. And I want to do it with the same team.

 

New

It’s been three and one-half months since I last blogged. I know this because I forgot my password to this blog and my computer didn’t recognize me as its author and so it sent me to my own front page, which was about Tough Mudder. It seems fitting, because Tough Mudder was a Thing that I did to challenge myself and was new for last year.  I know I said I wasn’t doing it again, but…

GUESS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR?

Yeah. I did.  And Ragnar.  And CC and I will be running the Dark Side Challenge in April in Disneyworld.  I’m considering doing the Seattle Half this year, because it would be the ten-year anniversary of my first Seattle Half. It’s official, I’m doing these Things.

I know that the new fashion is to not have New Year’s resolutions, because after all if you’re resolute you can as easily be so on October 1st or April 4th or September 23rd as you are on January 1. As human beings, though, we tend to like starting new things at the arbitrary start of things: new weeks, new months, new quarters, new years. Some of my resolutions for “this” year I figured out and started on early (better eating, etc.), but I saved one to truly start on a Monday, 1st of the year, 1st of the month, 1st of the quarter: I’m not going to complain.

My good friends know that I don’t actually genuinely complain a lot — mostly because genuine complaint doesn’t seem like a useful thing to do. Since becoming a Real Adult™ I’ve been one to go do something — anything– than sit and whine. (Although on reflection yesterday I publicly whined about my inflight Wi-Fi being slow. So maybe I’m not as virtuous as I’d like to believe). It’s mostly a superficial whine, like that irritating hum your fridge makes but you’re not going to call the warranty repair because it’s not bad enough to warrant the inconvenience to call someone and deal with them.

At any rate, I have a tendency to gripe while training — any kind of training. Weight training. Running. Spin class. That I signed up for a bunch of events and then have to train for them. That it’s too cold out. Too wet out. Too hot out. Too dry out. Too hilly. Too far. Too boring. It’s not limited to voluntary improvement training; I whine during PT, the train of which I’m back on (remember Tough Mudder? that shoulder injury came back to bite me in a really crappy way).

Mostly the bitchy whining has been to myself — an inner monologue that drills through my head, making the training that much more hard or boring or arduous.  When I work out with my Weight Dudes (yeah, they won’t like that moniker either) I cheerfully whine; it’s all part of the hour (sometimes hour-plus) experience of lifting with David the Trainer and T and J.

It’s ceasing to be cute, for me. (I have no idea how they feel about that but they keep inviting me so it can’t bother them too much. Or maybe they find it entertaining. Or distracting from their own inner monologues.) And it doesn’t make sense: these things are voluntary. No one, absolutely no one will be let down if I stopped tomorrow.  I would probably have to watch my diet more, but I already got that news courtesy of genetics and ageing. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.

One day has become day One.

Tough Mudder: “How are we doing this?”

-me, after looking at pretty much any one of the climbing obstacles in Tough Mudder, of which there are several.

Yesterday I “did” Tough Mudder. I write that “did” in quotes because I skipped four obstacles of the 24 on the course, and it’s a coincidence that there were two planned skips (arctic enema and electroshock therapy were listed verboten by the doc) and two were unplanned skips (Everest and Stage 5 Clinger).  Arctic Enema is where you dive down a tube into water that has floating ice in it and is shockingly cold, and have to swim under an obstacle to get out of said water — so you are completely submerged.  Electroshock therapy is walking through about 15 feet of dangling electrical wires that will zap you.  Everest is a 20′ high slippery slope that you have to run at, run up (hope you don’t slip), and grab your team’s hands so they can pull you up.  Stage 5 Clinger is an inverted ladder (so the base is farther away from you than the top) that you have to climb and then pull yourself up and over.

I tried Everest. I tried it three times, and the third time I landed square on my right shoulder, and told my self enough was enough.  I’ve got an impressive welt and a jammed feeling; I can lift it but it hurts when I lift it just so.  I should have tried Stage 5 clinger more than the bit that I did.

My pull up game is *not* strong, although it’s getting better, and I struggled with many of the other obstacles that required me to do various forms of lifting my body weight with just my upper body.

Which gets me to this point: unless you are the kind of person who can do 25 effortless pull ups from hanging on your fingertips to pulling yourself up and over something with  no foot support, you will have to rely on other people in Tough Mudder.

This is hard for me (and others), and there’s usually one of two competing reasons behind it:

  1. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t find others reliable.
  2. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t want to inconvenience them.

I don’t have the first problem and once you finish your first few TM obstacles you won’t, either.  Random strangers will pull you up, grab your leg to help you get over an obstacle, come to help you, and encourage you to overcome your fears.  Yes that was me whimpering at the top of an obstacle because I couldn’t get a toehold and some completely strange person came up and coached me where to put my foot and reassured me he’d catch me if I fell.  Your team will also be there for you; I had only met one of my team members before this but every single one of them gave me a folded hand or a leg up at one point.  This was not my problem.

My problem is that I kept feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight (no pun intended). I’m still not sure I did.  The Abseil and similar exercises– where there’s at rope or rope ladder — were no problem.  But anything that required team-provided-footing left me to feel guilty, like I hadn’t trained enough.  And in theory I had “trained” more than my team — following the guidelines, doing the runs (mostly — I only got two 8-milers in), etc.  As mentioned previously I can’t do a pull up but I was doing weight-assisted ones in the gym; that proves to not have been enough.

I can say with absolute and utter confidence that I would NOT have signed up for Tough Mudder if I  had known the volume of obstacles around heights.  Heights for me — particularly ones where I’m sure I’m going to injure myself but not die — are a trembling phobia that surfaced about twenty years ago and hasn’t gone away.  (For those of you worried about enclosed spaces: there’s a few of those, too, but they aren’t bad at all– not even MineShafted).  Had someone walked me through the course in advance I would have bailed, then and there. But having spent the last 3 years regretting the Tough Mudder I didn’t do, I’m very glad I didn’t talk myself out of this one. I’m glad I had to work through a series of heights challenges, I’m glad I had a supportive team and was reaffirmed in the kindness of strangers, and I’m glad to be back in “regular” training again. Except this time maybe I’ll do some more upper body work.

Those who know me are probably shaking their heads because they think this means I signed up again for next year: NOPE. This was one of those beautiful, shining days that sits on its own. My legs and forearms are thoroughly scratched and bruised, I have the aforementioned shoulder welt and a matching one on my hip. I have met new and awesome people. I have my orange headband.

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Yes that’s a massive bruise on my right shin. A lot of our course had berry bushes and straw packed in to the mud.

I’m good.

 

 

Intermezzo

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and there’s a few reasons for that.  I’ve been busy (well, who hasn’t been?).  I’ve been without useful ideas to share (maybe untrue, but…) I’ve been censoring myself (yeah, that).

As to self-censure: there isn’t anything I can add to the yowling atmosphere of today that someone hasn’t already said, and so I’m doing the “actions speak louder than words” thing and redoubling my efforts in the places that I think I can help and letting much more eloquent people say much more specific things to much greater effect.

But Happy Pride, everyone :). And Happy Ramadan.  May you find joy in the celebrations of things that encompass your values and in the Italian-Argentinian spirit of “do what makes you happy” — which is the way I was raised — be happy and move forward.

I’ve been trying to do that.

I went to visit my mom this weekend; she lives south a bit from me in a small town that’s bordered by other small towns.  If you want to go to Starbucks it’s 2.5 miles away, and I know this because I run it occasionally.  I ran it today.  It’s a nice, flat run, past a firehouse and many farms and one big intersection.  They are just as busy and popular as any other Starbucks anywhere.

There are no sidewalks on the way.  If you run, you run on the side of the road, and if you’re smart, you run opposing traffic.  The beautiful part is everyone moves waaaaaaaaaaaay over for you.

Everyone.

Big semi trucks, regular trucks, SUV’s, vans, motorcyclists, people driving Hondas and Kias.  Folks in vintage cars taking them out for a sunny day (at 9am it was already 85 degrees) and folks in their beater cards headed wherever a Sunday morning took them. Every single one moved well over the meridian for me.

As a 5’10”, more-than-150-pounds-but-less-than-200-pounds woman, my personal meatsack existence would do nothing to their vehicle at the current speed limit (35-45, depending). Their vehicle, on the other hand, could do quite a lot to my meatsack.  Unpleasant. They weren’t moving over for themselves, they were moving over for me. I like that.  That was nice.

I’m running again.  Real running.  From about November to about two weeks ago, my running was almost exclusively indoors and on a treadmill (with the exception of a two-month break for injury and two outdoor events).  You know what you get when you run on the treadmill? You get the treadmill running you.  I’m fast (for me) on a treadmill. I go at like a 9:30 pace. Go me!

You know how fast I run in the real world, on real pavement? 11:15 ish.  There was a time where 9:30 happened in the real world. I lost it, and I need to find it again.

So I found myself running in the early morning heat, out in small town Washington, waving to each and every car and bike and truck that made way for me (and most of them waved back), because that’s what I need to do. I need to do more, and I will.

That’s what I’ve been doing, mostly. See the goal, focus on the goal, follow the goal. And this was a check in from that goal.

Let’s see where I’m at in a couple of weeks ;).

 

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.