Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dear William (56 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 56 months old!

Making faces

 

You still love super heroes.

Up up and away

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And legos.

Master builder

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Sometimes when mommy is really tired, you pretend to drive.

I'll turn this car around

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You love reading stories.

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And having picnics.

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You like to draw and write.

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You helped me with my ankle injury.

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You say the sweetest things sometimes.

William, this month we had the first signs of spring after a very long winter.

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We took a trip to Dunlap to visit Grama Nan and Paw Paw.

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You saw the sights.

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And visited a playground. 

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You and your dad are goofballs :)


Faces

 

William, I love you so.

 

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 2014: Mileage, and... should I run that marathon?

My ankle injury turned out to be more of a big deal than I’d hoped it would be, and after I concluded my February post by stating, “March is going to be better, it’s got to be,” March ended up worse than February by far.

I moped around the house in abject pain for a while, and then finally conceded to see a “sports medicine” doctor (actually an orthopedic surgeon), who was about as helpful as I imagined he would be.  He agreed with me that this was a tibialis posterior tendon injury, although he hedged his bets by saying that there was a slight chance it could be a stress fracture instead.  Either way, the treatment was the same: don’t run until it stops hurting.  When it is finally safe to run, I should proceed with an extremely conservative comeback.  For example, run 2 minutes of a 10 minute walk.  If there were no problems, then the following week I could bump it up to 3 minutes of a 15 minute walk.  And so on.  Under this plan, it was going to be at least June before I could run as much as 3 miles.  He also suggested “custom made orthotics,” and I thought, my god—has this guy even read Born to Run?

I’m pretty sure the doctor knew as well as I did that I wasn’t going to follow his plan.

I did wait until I was at least moderately pain-free to attempt running again—10 days instead of the suggested minimum of 2 weeks—and I “conservatively” ran two 5-minute chunks of a ~22 minute walk.  It was fine but not great.

The doctor hadn’t mentioned anything other than rest to help this heal, but I kept up with very aggressive stretching and strengthening exercises.  I also did ice massage, which is basically like deep tissue massage with an ice cube.  This was the only thing that seemed to make the tendon feel better, although on a couple of occasions, I may have gone a little bit too deep and “zinged” my tibial nerve (not a terribly pleasant experience).

IMG 3037 Ice massage seemed to reduce the pain, but it may have led to the weird and unexpected “bruising stage” of the healing process.

I kept doing this very limited run/walk thing every other day or two, and while it wasn’t really painful anymore, something just felt off.  It was around this time that I read an Ellie Greenwood interview after her comeback win at Chuckanut 50K.  In the interview, she talked a little about the injuries that kept her sidelined for an entire year.  One of these was a “jammed up” tibialis posterior tendon, and I realized, that was it—the tendon didn’t hurt per se, instead it felt jammed, like the way your fingers might get jammed if you are as horrible as I am at playing volleyball.

I decided, in a last ditch effort, to try kinesiology tape in hopes that it would relieve some of the pressure on the jammed up tendon.  Theoretically, I saw no reason why this stuff should work, but it has become fairly popular in the distance-running world, and I thought it was worth a shot. A friend once explained to me that the way the tape functioned was sort of like magic or superstition. You know, you wear your favorite shorts, your lucky socks, and the hat you had on when you set a PR; then you put some kinesiology tape on an area that’s been feeling a bit dodgy, and you’re fine. Maybe it was like some of the weirder stuff we learned about in the doula workshop I attended last summer (i.e., auras).  The instructor made a point to tell us, “You don’t have to believe in this for it to work.  Just try it and see."

So I bought the tape, watched an instructional video on You-Tube, and got Will to help with the application.

IMG 3069

Magic.

I ran 2 miles and felt like I was floating on air. 

I waited a day and ran 4.  Still no pain.  I tried running 2 days in a row, and I was fine, fine, fine.

I began thinking, for the first time since things had gotten bad, what if I could run the St. Louis marathon after all?  I signed up for it on a whim back in October, and the goal with it had never been to PR—just to have fun.  I got to thinking, what if I cover the distance without caring about time?  And what if I do so while wearing a Wonder Woman costume?!

I started to feel happy about something for the first time in months.

So today I decided to go out and test myself: I taped my ankle into forced-supination and went out and ran 14 miles.  My last run of that distance was almost 2 months ago, and I’ve taken over 40 days of complete rest since then.  I was terrified that it would hurt, or that I would cause serious re-injury, or that any number of calamities would happen.  But I was fine.

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So the question remains.  Should I do it? There is a 6.5 hour time limit, which is a pace I’ve convinced myself that I should be able to manage.  There’s even a drop-out point, about 15 miles in, where I could jet off course if I needed to and go back home.  Plus, I have my Wonder Woman costume already in the stages of assembly.

I realize this is completely insane.  If someone asked me the same question, I would tell them absolutely not.  Do not do it.  It is not worth extraordinarily high risk of re-injury.  

But still.  Running.  This would be my 13th marathon.  Lucky 13.

We’re moving from St. Louis soon (god-willing), and running 26.2 miles through this city that’s given me mostly loss and sorrow would be a good way to gain closure.  

Plus, you know, I just need to feel alive.  These past several months have been just about the hardest months of my life.  I quit my job, I can’t run, most of the time I can’t even get off the couch.  I cry every day.  It sucks.  And to miss out on this marathon too?  That would be such a bitter pill to swallow.  Meanwhile, I still go to Rob’s races, cheer him on and watch him win or at least come in the top 5, and even though I am of course happy for him and proud of him, I’m just completely overwhelmed by my own mediocrity, or whatever is less than mediocrity.  It feels like a feast on scraps.

I guess I’ve just got to weigh the risks and benefits.  Would it be worth it?  Would I get a tiny bit of self-satisfaction from covering that distance?  And what if I tried but couldn’t do it— if exhaustion or injury got the best of me and I had to drop, maybe I’d feel worse than if I'd just made the “smart” decision not to start at all.  There are just so many uncertainties.  Getting re-injured would be a deal-breaker, but I don’t have a crystal ball.  Realistically, I know that attempting this distance might end up making the marginally-healed tendon even worse than before and require months of recovery.  But I’d like to believe that I could run the whole thing pain-free—soaking in the cheers of the spectators, finishing with a smile and then taking leave of this place, never to return.

30.16 miles this month. 257.06 year to date.

Feeling very overwhelmed right now.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear William (55 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 55 months old!  What a fantastic month it has been.

You continue to be enamored with all things superhero.  We took a little trip to Kentucky for daddy to practice for a trail race he would be running there later in the month, and on the way we passed through a town named Metropolis.  The sign on the interstate boasted that it was the “hometown of Superman," so we stopped.  You got your picture taken with what might be the largest Superman statue in the world.

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You were thrilled.

You continue to like to dress up in superhero costumes, sometimes while looking cross:

The Dark Knight

Sometimes while meditating.

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Sometimes while running at the park (you ran faster than the kids who were on their bikes).

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Or while swinging with your buddy.

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You enjoy breakfast in bed on occasion.

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And decorating me with stickers and then taking my picture:

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You like taking selfies:

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You love the movie Frozen.  We had several more cold, snowy days this month, and we passed the time by reenacting the movie.  You insisted on playing Elsa, while I played Anna.

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We visited Grama Nan and Paw Paw this month to celebrate Paw Paw’s birthday.  You had so much fun.  You love visiting Grama Nan and Paw Paw.  You helped Paw Paw blow out his birthday candles, and you got to play Uno, too.

Pa Pa's birthday

 

You and mama went to the Science Center.  You got to wear a lab coat and do some experiments (that didn’t actually work, oh well).

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You made a friend there, and the two of you played for hours and hours!

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At the end of the month, we went back to Kentucky for daddy to run his race. You got a kids' meal at Chipotle.

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We stopped in Metropolis again.

 

Supers

Phone

SUPERMAN STORE

During the race, you were in charge of cowbell.

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Daddy did really well! We are so proud of him.

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William, it has been a long, long winter. It seems like it has been winter forever. But the days are getting longer, and the sun is getting brighter, and hopefully the snow storms are done for a while. Spring will be here soon. We are all looking forward to that.

 

Love, Mama

 

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Friday, February 28, 2014

February 2014: Mileage (and Ankle-geddon)

The month started out great, running wise.  My left calf was a little tender after putting in a 42 mile week (which was odd, because that should have been no big deal), but I was fully confident that it was fine after a rest day.  I did a 4-mile run on the Monday following (it sort of hurt), and a 5 mile run on Tuesday (it really hurt), and then I had to admit something was wrong.

I was pretty calm at first because I still didn’t think it was a big deal. I’ve actually had this kind of calf pain on and off through the years— medial (on the inside) and distal (low) on my left leg.  It usually means that I need new shoes, except this time, I was running in fairly new New Balance Minimus WT 1010v2.  Sometimes this pain means that I am running too much, but a 42 mile week shouldn’t have been enough to trigger it. Either way, this has never been enough to slow me down.

I took Wednesday off, expecting it to be fine, but it wasn’t.  I took Thursday day off, too.  I tried running again on Friday, and that was a huge mistake.  I made it about 2 miles and then hobbled home in tears.  The crying wasn’t because the pain was excruciating, in fact, I could totally have run through it.  I was crying because I realized I actually had been running through it for kind of a long time, and therefore, it was probably a bigger deal than I'd thought. I’d just gotten used to the way my calf felt a little "off" most of the time, and besides, it was such a low-level ache that I could ignore if I thought about something else for a while. 

It dawned on me that I'd been going back and forth with this annoying calf pain at least since the middle of January, when I did an 11 mile run (that I’d intended to be a 15 mile run) and the pain had been bad enough to make me stop.  I iced it and put on compression socks, then the next day it was totally fine.  Or so I thought.

 

My big fear was that this was a stress fracture.  My calf hurt, but the pain was so medial and so low that it couldn’t be gastrocs or soleus—if it wasn’t muscle, was it bone?  

Tibialis1

This is pretty much where it hurt.  But what was this injury?

 

Ice, Ibuprofin, resting all did nothing.  It seemed to get worse the more days that I took off.  It hurt to walk, though strangely, impact didn’t seem to bother it nearly as much as lift-off.  And it especially hurt when I was going up or down stairs.  It didn’t help matters that during this time frame, we put our house on the market, and I was continually lifting heavy stuff—carrying things down to the basement and putting boxes in the storage room.  

My mileage for February was totally screwed.  Maybe my mileage for the entire year was totally screwed.  Nothing was helping.  Everybody told me to go to a doctor, but what was that going to solve?  A doctor would just say, stop running until it feels better.  And eat meat.  No thanks.  I don’t need a doctor.  I am a doctor.

I finally got out my old anatomy textbooks, and jackpot.  Tibialis posterior. That was totally it.  I had initially felt the pain in my calf, but the problem originated with the tendon, and that was why it wasn’t going away.

Gray442

I had all the symptoms of Posterior Tibilais Tendonitis spot on.  I started doing more targeted strengthening and stretching exercises that focused on the tendon, including massage and ice massage.  Prior to this, I had been foam rolling my calves, which was probably helpful in a general sense, but not doing much for the injured tendon.  When I first tried to massage the tendon, in the area right behind my medial malleolus, it was incredibly painful just to touch.  But little by little as I kept working the tendon and ice massaging that area, things started to improve.  By about 10 days out, I had more mobility.  12 days out, I could walk and go up and down stairs without pain.  

I finally tried running again (this time in Brooks PureCadence shoes) and at first it seemed okay, but then I couldn’t ignore that there was both medial and lateral pain in my calf and ankle.  It was pretty clear to me that the new lateral (i.e., outside of the leg) pain was a “companion injury” resulting from the altered gait pattern (way over-supinating) I used just to get around the house/get through the day during the worst of my tibialis posterior issues.  This does not worry me so much.  It will go away.  What is much more worrisome is that the tibialis posterior pain persists.  I am cautiously optimistic because at least walking does not hurt anymore, so that’s an improvement, but running is still not possible.  After 2 full weeks, I am wondering when.  When can I run again.

On the one hand, it shouldn’t really matter because I’m not really training for anything (except the Go! St. Louis Marathon in April, which I wouldn’t be that upset about if I had to pull out of).  But on the other hand, I just want to fucking run.  My entire life is on hold right now.  I have no job, I am living in a city I hate, I am waiting to sell the house, yet also I have nowhere to go once the house does sell.  There is absolutely no certainty in anything  right now.  I lay on the couch with ice on my ankle, thinking where did it all go wrong.  I am too exhausted to play with William, too exhausted to clean up the house so that it looks nice when realtors parade through more prospective buyers, who inevitably just turn up their noses because it is too small and doesn’t have walk in closets, or some other bullshit reason.

74.71 miles this month.  226.9 year to date.  Falling short of where I want to be, in every possible way.  But March is going to be better, it’s got to be.

Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Fort Collins?

Ever since we announced our decision to leave St. Louis, a lot of people have been asking us… why Colorado?  Why Fort Collins?

Good question.

Strangely enough, the answer begins around a year ago, when we went back to Nicaragua for Fuego y Agua.  Some big name runners were there, including a guy who Rob told me lived and trained in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Fort Collins?  It sounded horrible.  Like the kind of place where the air is too thin to breathe and everyone walks around wearing coon-skin caps, with rifles slung over their shoulders.  

“No, it actually seems pretty cool,” Rob told me.  He mentioned something about mountains and bicycling.  Whatever.  I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t think about it again until some 5 months later, in July, when somebody I follow on Twitter posted a link to this LA Times article:

 

Happiest Place On Earth

Fort Collins?  Happiest place on earth?

I was intrigued, because life in St. Louis was pretty freaking bleak at the time. My job was what was keeping us here, and Rob reminded me that he could work from just about anywhere the world (including rural Nicaragua, where we lived for a year while I was doing my dissertation research).  If we were really that unhappy in St. Louis, we could stop complaining about it and actually make a change.

I started doing a little research, and I found out that Fort Collins was no stranger to Major Awards.  It was ranked the 11th bike-friendliest city in the US, with some 300 miles of bike paths connecting the entire city and bike lanes on most roadways. In 2006, it was voted the Best Place to Live in the US, and it has remained at least in the top 10 since then. The indicators used to make this assessment include weather, commute times, access to park space, and incidence of stress-related diseases. Fort Collins, or Fort Fun, as some call it, was on the good side of all of these.  And, AND, in 2013, it was voted the safest driving city in the US— moving up from third place in 2012.

BUT WAIT.  IT GETS BETTER.

Fort Collins has on average, 300 days of sunshine per year, and it is the largest producer of beer in the state of Colorado-- home to at least 10 different breweries, according to my calculations.

OH AND DID I MENTION?  It is only about an hour away from Rocky Mountain National Park.

Things were looking pretty good for Fort Collins.  We had been thinking we’d try to go to the Grand Canyon for our summer vacation, but we quickly changed course and headed for the Rockies instead, with a list of things to check out in Fort Collins on the way.

The Rockies certainly did not disappoint:

Rocky Mountain National Park

 

But Fort Collins… was kind of… meh.

Where's my grilled cheese?

It was like Champaign-Urbana (a place we happen to love, but can never call home again), except bigger/hotter/drier, and every once in a while you could see some very brown, desolate looking mountains to the west.  

But true to expectation, everybody was on a bike.  I actually started sobbing when I saw kids riding their bikes home from school, because it is the kind of thing I want for Will so badly.  This would never happen in St. Louis.  Ever.  First of all, nobody goes to their local public school—everybody sends their kid(s) to a $20,000 per year, private, Catholic, college-prep school that you have to take 3 interstates to get to, in your SUV.  And second of all, the traffic in St. Louis is just too damn bad for anyone to ride their bike (safely, at least).  Fort Collins doesn’t have these problems.  Rob and I realized, as we were driving through the city, that people were actually following basic traffic rules.  Such as:  stopping at red lights, and going at green ones.  It really took all the terror and mystery out of driving.  And it was a beautiful thing, to be able to get from Point A to Point B without being sideswiped or run off the road, or suddenly encountering a vehicle driving towards you in your lane.

So there were a lot of things Fort Collins had going for it, but my assessment was, it wasn’t really as spectacular as the articles on the internet made it sound, and it certainly wasn’t the kind of place I was going to quit my job and move to.

Shit.  Back to square one.

After we got returned from our vacation, my work situation declined so completely that the only way I could deal with it was to make a spreadsheet entitled “Escape Plan,” where I compiled a list attributes important to us (Climate, Cost of Living, Schools, Running, Cycling, Public Transport, Airport Accessibility, Traffic, Politics, Altitude/Mountains) and ranked various relocation possibilities accordingly.

Eugene, OR: The public schools seemed okay and the cycling and politics were good, but it was too rainy, too far from the mountains, and would be hell of expensive for us to get back to the midwest to see our parents.

Ashland, OR: Closer to mountains but a surprisingly high cost of living and ditto on the difficulty of flying back to our families.

Bend, OR: Mountains and a little bit of altitude, but ditto, again on the expense and distance from our families.

Portland, OR: While I love Portlandia, I can never live in a big city again.  Also: rain.

“I think what neither of us is really saying here,” Rob said, “Is that we belong in California."

True.  But I looked extensively and there is no place in California where we could afford to live that would be a place where we actually wanted to live.  Plus: the political climate of northern California (that’s where we would want to be) is scary, and that’s saying something, considering that I currently live in the state of Missour-ah.  California never even made the list.

Some of the other places that we considered included Asheville, NC and Boone, NC.  I am intrigued by both, but I just don’t see us heading east at this point in our lives. We also mulled over Flagstaff, AZ. The city is the right size for us (not too big), it is at a decent elevation, is mountainous and supposedly beautiful.  Another draw is that there is some interesting stuff going on with ultrarunning in the region, but I don’t know— there are a lot of things about Arizona that kind of terrifiy me, and I’m just not sure if it is the type of place Rob and I belong.

Rob included a few suggestions of his own for the list:  Vermont, Maine, and Alaska.

Cold. Colder. Coldest.  I vetoed all three.

Was there no place to go?

I cautiously added Fort Collins back to the Escape Plan.  After all, it is affordable, has great public schools, and has a very active running and biking (and really any kind of outdoor activity) community. It's at almost 5,000 ft elevation and in the mountains.  Granted, these are not the beautiful snow-capped mountains of the Pacific Northwest; the mountains of Colorado’s front range are desert-brown and make you think of heartache and loneliness and panning for gold.  But it’s close to Rocky Mountain National Park, and even though it’s about 1000 miles from our families, that’s not as far as Eugene or Bend.  You could drive an hour to the Denver airport and get on a semi-direct flight to the midwest.  Plus, Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University, where I’m deluding myself into thinking that I might someday be able to find a job, if ever I could fathom working in higher education again.

But.

It snows 9 months of the year there.

Fort Collins Climate

And politically, it’s no Boulder (which we eliminated due to cost of living and an unexpected dislike for the vibe we experienced there during our brief visit); yet still, I couldn’t quite give up on Fort Collins.  If you line up all the variables on the spreadsheet I made, it is the perfect place for us.

By October, my job went from bad to worse to worst.  “I have to see it again,” I told Rob.  I wanted out of my job, out of St. Louis, but we had to have somewhere to go.  And it needed to be based on something a bit more concrete than a vague hunch that the bike paths and breweries in Fort Collins were the direction that our lives were supposed to be headed.

"Fort Collins is orthogonal to this situation,” Rob said.  “Quit your shitty job and let’s get out of this shitty city.” I couldn’t get past his usage of the word orthogonal, and I thought, Cara and Aimee, I wish you were here to drink a glass of wine with me right now.

So I bought a new, super-warm winter coat (it’s a game changer), and we went back to Fort Collins over Thanksgiving.  

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As soon as the mountains came into view, I felt like, my god, I am home.

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From the city, the mountains you see are the foothills: brown, raw, and heartbreaking.  It is more desert than montane, but then again, what makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well

Reservoir

Fort Collins

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What I came to realize on our second trip to Fort Collins was that the starkness of these mountains is exactly what I need.

It is what we all need.

Running

Horsetooth Summit

But actually making this happen would be far more difficult than just speculating about our imagined lives there.

I would have to quit my job and start all over.  I’d have to pull Will out of pre-school.  I’d have to move 1000 miles away from my parents just as my father was experiencing unexplained vision loss that turned out to be a brain tumor.  

It was all very overwhelming.  Could I really do this?  Was quitting my job the right thing?

Rob and I looked at some of the pictures from our recent trips.  He smiled softly, closed his eyes a little bit, and said, "Blue sky."

Horsetooth Reservoir

Climbing

Walking

 I sent a letter of resignation to my boss, and just like that, I was free.

IMG 0014 2

 

As it turns out, once you make the announcement that you’re moving to Fort Collins, everybody has a Fort Collins story or connection.

  • Fort Collins? Hey, that’s where I’m from!  It’s beautiful, you’ll love it.
  • My cousin played basketball at CSU!
  • Friends of ours just moved to Fort Collins from Seattle, they say it’s great.  
  • Oh hey, I’m moving to Boulder next month.  Let’s me know if you ever need anyone to babysit Will!
  • Fort Collins? I went there for a quiz bowl tournament once when I was in high school. It was pretty cool.
We also have a handful of friends and family scattered throughout the Front Range, many of whom have already helped us out during our visits, and all of whom have offered continued help and support as we move.  Let me just say: we’re going to take it.  We are going to take every little bit we can get.
 
Our house in St. Louis officially goes on the market February 22, and our realtor doesn’t think it will take long to sell.  I hope she's right.  I am ready for this, so ready.  My dad breezed through brain surgery with flying colors, and he’s going to be okay.  I’ve ordered my parents a guide to retirement and senior living in Fort Collins (surprise, mom and dad!), because they’re going to move out there with us, aren’t they?  I can’t really be 1000 miles away from them.
 
It’s going to be great, it has to be.  And I guess if for any reason it’s not, well then look out Eugene.  Or Bend, or Ashland.  Or Flagstaff.
 
Thanks for reading, and keep sending me stories about Fort Collins, or about how you once quit a shitty job and it turned out to be the best decision you ever made.  The thing that’s getting me through this is support and inspiration.