Friday, September 12, 2014

Dear William (61 months)

Dear William,

The big news this month is: K I N D E R G A R T E N.

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1st day

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It has been kind of a rough transition.  There has been some crying.  I honestly hadn’t expected it to be that hard.  But overall, you are happy and excited to go to school everyday, and you are making lots of friends. 

Normally you ride your own bike to school, but sometimes, you persuade Daddy to take you on the new Surly.

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Your biggest concern with kindergarten (aside from the fact that they don’t give you a snack in between second breakfast and lunch) is that you don't have enough time to play with your Legos anymore.  We try to make sure that you get your Lego play-time in during the weekends and afternoons.

Back yard LEGO

We’ve gone to a lot of Fort Collins festivals this month, such as the Peach Fest, where Daddy placed 7th in a 5K and won a non-vegan peach pie that we gave to our college student neighbors.

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After the race you had fun playing in some bounce houses:

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And going down a really big slide:

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IMG 3893You look scared, but you begged to do it again. And again.

We also went to something called New West Fest, which I think was supposed to be about music, but we were just there for the rides and super heroes.

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Tour de Fat was this month too.  We didn’t ride in it, we just watched the parade, but we are already planning our costumes for next year.

Parade watchers


More bubbles



You went to your first USA Pro Challenge Bike Race in Denver.  You and mommy dressed alike.

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 You went for a hike with me up Horsetooth Falls on my birthday!  We didn’t see any rattlesnakes or anything.

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 You enjoyed a few nights out on the town  with the family.

IMG 3835 Dining at Cranknstein as Daddy tried to convince me we should buy the Surly.

You also enjoyed some nights in, cuddling with your bear (who used to be my bear) Corduroy.  

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You kept enjoying blue skies and mountains.

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Many more adventures await.


IMG 3925 My little so-big.

Love always,



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August 2014: How I got injured doing everything you're supposed to do

Before we left for Nicaragua, I’d begun feeling pain in my right fifth metatarsal (i.e., baby toe), and I was hoping that taking some time off for fieldwork would be all I needed to recover.  I only ran once the 11 days we were out of the country, but I did walk as much as 25 kilometers in the forest each day.  By the end of the trip, my toe didn’t really feel any better.

I tried to jump back into things as soon as we were back home but struggled with exhaustion, the lingering effects of 100+ chigger/sandfly bites, and a caloric deficit from lack of decent eating options while we were away.  The metatarsal pain became more noticeable, particularly when I ran on trails in my relatively new Altra Lone Peaks (0mm drop), which is what I did most often.  I wondered if there was something about the Altra toe box that was pressing on my foot and causing the problem.  To manage it, I switched to my Sketchers Go Run Ultra, a cushiony 4mm drop road shoe that our runner friend chrism42k recommended.  These shoes are what helped me recover from my stress fracture/tendon injury, and what got me through the Estes Park Marathon.  At this point, however, they are falling apart.  The tread is almost worn through on the mid foot, which is where I strike in these shoes.  Plus, they are good on the roads, but not good for trails—and trails are what I need to be training on, considering that the Bear Chase 50 miler looms in the not so distant future.

I iced, stretched, and got by.  On Friday, August 22nd, it was William’s first day of kindergarten, and I planned on going out for a 20 mile trail run after dropping him off at school.

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I was fine until one of the other moms started crying.  Then it was rough going for a while.  There was nothing else to do but leave for my run.

My foot was hurting from the get-go— not enough to make me stop, but enough to notice.  After 15 miles on a rocky, rooty trail that is a challenge for me, I decided to do the last 5 miles on the dirt path bordering the Spring Creek bike trail.  Easy.

Mile 18 and everything was fine.  One minute I was running, and the next minute, there was a blinding pain in my skull.  I was on the ground, but I had no idea how I’d gotten there.  I hadn’t felt myself trip, there had been no sensation of falling, no time to right myself in midair.  Just, *bam* and I was down.  

I picked myself up and felt totally out of it.  I wondered why there was blood on the trail.  God, my head hurt.  I looked behind me and there was a tiny tree root sticking maybe and inch above the dirt.  I must have tripped on it, but how?  It had happened so fast.  I saw a drop of blood splat onto the trail and realized that it coming from me.  I used my phone as a mirror and was surprised to see myself looking like this:

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The wind was knocked out of me, but I started walking.  This had happened at a very fortunate place:  there was a bathroom at the tennis courts about a half a mile away.  The front of me was covered with dirt and there was more blood coming from several scrapes on the back of my right hand, my right hip, left elbow, and left knee.  My brain felt jarred.  I wondered how hard you had to hit your head to have a concussion.  

I made it to the bathroom and washed myself up.  Now less than two miles from home.  I didn’t notice any pain in my little toe anymore.  I thought, how strangely fortunate it was that I’d hit my head instead of injuring my legs—this way, getting myself home would not be a problem.  

I arrived at our house shortly after Rob returned from collecting Will from school.  Will was having a snack at the kitchen table but stopped short and grew very solemn when he saw me.  “Oh no, mommy,” he said.  “You have bleed on your head."

I felt completely wrecked.  It was hard to tell how much of that was a result of simply having run 20 miles, and how much of it pertained to the fall.  My head hurt so bad, especially at the point of impact near my eyebrow.  It occurred to me that this unfortunate head-trail interaction might lend some additional evidence to the endurance running hypothesis of human evolution.  My fall might partially explain the mystery of why our endurance-running ancestors had protruding brow ridges (i.e., supraorbital torus)—  to help buffer their brains from injury when they fell while chasing down antelope on the trail.  We’ll never know.

Erectus Image from:


At some point during my state of possible concussion, I apparently agreed to let Rob go buy a cargo bike:

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We attended the Fort Collins Peach Festival, where Rob got 7th place overall in the 5K and won a probably-not-vegan peach pie (which we gave to our college student neighbors).

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We also went to Denver to catch the last of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which was Jen’s Voigt’s final race before retirement.


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By the end of the weekend, my head didn’t hurt anymore, but I could no longer ignore the persistent pain in my right metatarsal, which had nothing to do with the fall.  It didn’t take too long searching Google and my old anatomy textbooks to figure out that the pain was coming from the insertion point of the peroneus brevis tendon on the fifth metatarsal.  The cause of this kind of injury?  Forefoot striking.  


This is crazy.

Ever since Born to Run was published in 2009, “minimalist” running has been all the rage, and forefoot striking is thought of as a panacea that will prevent injury. Before Born to Run, we all over-pronated in our clunky 12mm drop shoes, we struck the pavement with our heels, and we suffered chronic injuries: plantar faciitis, chrondromalacia, iliotibial tract syndrome.  The way avoid all these things is to run barefoot (or in low heel to toe drop shoes, 0-4mm) so that you land on the balls of your feet as nature intended, and to leave behind the concrete jungle of sidewalks in favor of more forgiving surfaces, such as dirt and trails.  

So here I was, doing all of that.  In the past 5 years I’ve run mostly in 4mm drop shoes, but in late July, I switched to Altras— 0mm drops.  My gait has actually been pretty weird throughout this whole time—for years, you can tell from the wear patterns on my shoes that I was forefoot or midfoot striking with my left foot, but still heel striking with my right.  With this switch to the Altras, though, I think came an unconscious switch to forefoot striking in my right foot.  And a concurrent injury to my right peroneus brevis, which was strained too much with the sudden gait change.

I did some ice massage (seriously, this helps) and KT-taped for peroneus brevis, a method that actually forces your foot into pronation (maybe not as evil as we once believed) and takes the pressure/impact off your lateral metatarsal.  I also put the the inserts that my Skechers came with back into the shoe, converting it from 4mm to 8mm drop.  And then I ran.  It worked like a charm.  No pain more, so to speak, in my foot.

Now, to continue healing from the fall, keep other injuries at bay, figure out what shoes I’m going to wear for Bear Chase 50, and somehow ramp up my mileage enough that I’m able to run the race.

156.22 miles in August.  969.62 year to date.  I’m across between optimistic and terrified of the 50 miler I signed up for in September.

Thanks for reading.

August 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nicaragua 2014: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Simeon came out again with me again on Sunday (I think he skipped church for this), and I had high hopes of collecting data on two groups.  As I walked to his house in the dark, I could hear monkeys howling loudly from every direction.  Typically this means it's going to rain.  Although I didn’t look forward to a rainy day in the forest, rain would be a very good thing for the island because they were going through a pretty severe drought.  The sendero up to the monkeys should have been a river at this time of year, but it was parched.  I’d only seen one of the red/yellow spiders that are usually everywhere from June to October (Simeon told me these spiders are so poisonous that one bite will kill you, then he laughed and said, “Mentira!”).  There weren’t even a lot of mosquitoes.  

It turned out we only got a light shower early in the morning.  During the rain, Simeon found the group we were looking for, and we stayed with them for a few hours until I got enough samples.

Then we went down the volcano a little bit to try to find the North Group, which was (let’s be honest) my favorite study group during the year I did my dissertation research.  Simeon and I reminisced about Wrinkle Belly (who hasn’t been seen since 2007), and we found the group right along the camino just as we knew we would.  They were having an intergroup encounter with some other group (who I suspect swept in from a distant grove of mango trees), and they were pooping like crazy.  Score.  The forest began to make sense to me again, and we got our samples.  By 10am (after 5 hours of work), we had collected data on two groups.  Because it was a Sunday and we were exhausted and finally making some good progress, I decided we should call it a day.

When I got back to the hacienda, they told me that Rob and Will had just left for Ojo de Agua with some of our friends.  

Truck ride

It would probably be late in the day when they returned by bus.  For a split second, I thought, great: I will eat lunch, wash some clothes, and sleep.  But then I had a better idea: I will run over to Ojo de Agua (it was what… 12, 15 km away?) and meet them there.  This might be my only chance to run while in Nicaragua.

I put about 50 ounces of water and some Clif Bars in my pack and took off, in the heat of the day.  It didn’t bother me much, because the views were amazing.

IMG 3716 View of Concepción

IMG 3717 Playa Santo Domingo

When I finally arrived at Ojo de Agua, Rob said, “Oh my god, what happened to your legs?”  I looked down and saw I had dozens and dozens of bug bites covering my calves from knee to ankle.  I realized this must have happened while I was washing clothes on Saturday.  I often get one or two of these bites (chiggers maybe?) while doing laundry, but I’d never had anything like this before.  All of a sudden I didn’t feel so great.  I jumped into pool and the water helped a lot.

I’d put myself into the red zone quite a bit during the last few kilometers to Ojo de Agua, and although I’d drank about 100 ounces of water throughout the day, I’d only eaten less than 200 calories.  We went over to the restaurant and ordered the only meatless thing on the menu:  french fries.  Rob also found me some real, actual coconut water, which was both weird and great.

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The 4:00pm bus came at 3:42, but luckily we caught it.

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Bus ride home

I was so hungry I was about to cry, but dinner options were limited.  

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My legs got really inflamed during the night, and they itched so bad I felt like I was going to lose my mind.  I honestly wasn’t sure if I could make it to the forest in the morning, but I’d already arranged it with Simeon, and I needed the data.

We went to the Beach Forest—a little patch along the road where we’d heard monkeys the day before.  It is pretty dense in there, and we had trouble finding the monkeys, but eventually Simeon did.  

As we watched the monkeys and waited for them to do their business, Simeon’s phone rang.  He got the news that his cousin had fallen from a tree and was gravely injured.  The family needed money to get him to a hospital, fast.  Simeon didn’t want to leave me alone in the forest and seemed torn about what to do.  But seriously.  He was the only family member with money, and he needed to go. I handed him the rest of what I owed him and assured him I would be fine on my own.  He said he would come back as soon as they got a car for his cousin.

After Simeon left, I passed the time by counting the chigger bites on my legs and torso.  I lost count at 100 and didn’t really feel like starting over again.

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At last the monkeys pooped, and I managed to get the samples I needed.

I took one last parting glance at the monkeys, packed up my stuff, and began to tunnel out of the forest.  I hadn’t really expected Simeon to return but he did.  We met just as the forest gave way to road.

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By this point, Simeon and I had collected data on 7 groups (5 had been our target), and I had close to the maximum amount of samples I could ship back to the US under the current permit situation.  As far as I was concerned, this project was over.  I probably could have done a better job with it, but I was in desperate need of food and sleep and in searing discomfort from the 100+ chigger bites covering my legs.  This was it.

IMG 3744 There would be thunder and lightening, but only a few drops of rain.


IMG 3748 And then, sunset.

I went back to the hacienda and slept.  And slept and slept.  Waking up only to scratch my legs into burning, blistered, and horrifically swollen little infernos.

The next morning, I did not go out to the forest.  I ate breakfast (gallo pinto and fruit) and took Will to kindergarden.


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Then I went back to sleep.  I think Rob woke me up to eat something for lunch.  And then I went back to sleep again.

Before I knew it, the sun was setting, and I was still lying in the hammock.

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After a non-nutritive dinner of over-boiled white pasta drenched in oil, I decided I was done with Mérida.  I think my collaborators would have liked it if I went back out to get more data, but I just couldn’t face it.  My legs felt terrible, I was jagged-skinny from lack of eating, and above all, I was exhausted.  I decided that we were going to go back to Moyogalpa the next morning on the 8:30am bus (the only reliable bus of the day).  The eating situation was unlikely to improve there (I’ve never had much luck with food in Moyogalpa), but if I was too messed up to go back out to the forest, I just felt like I’d rather be in the “city” than on this side of the island.

We packed up our stuff and got ready to leave the next morning.  There was some confusion as to where and when the 8:30 bus would be coming (it arrived closer to 9), so this was a welcome sight when it finally appeared down the road.

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At last, Moyogalpa.  

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We got a room at Hotelito Aly, a place where I’ve had many uncomfortable nights (the power often goes out in Moyogalpa, so you’re in a 90 degree room without a fan), but is somehow still my favorite place to stay.  Then we did the gringo thing and got a hummus sandwich at the gringo place, Cornerhouse.  It came with a salad that included some dark leafy greens.  That was nice.

Rob tried to work for the rest of the afternoon, while Will and I went to a museum (it was kind of in somebody’s backyard; seriously, we had to walk past a bunch of women doing laundry at a wash basin).  The museum mainly had a lot of pre-Columbian funerary urns and things like that. Then I bought Will a clay bird (that is also a little flute) at a shop in town.

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IMG 3767 View of Moyogalpa from Hotelito Aly, Volcan Concepción obscured by clouds

I had a Victoria at dinner that night, but I didn’t feel too victorious.  Also: how did I used to like this stuff?  I guess once you’ve had Rocky Mountain IPA, nothing else can quite compare.

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We took the ferry back to the mainland the next morning and then a taxi to Managua.  I still had to do two big things for the project, which were: 1) ship the samples back to the US -and- 2) fill out some paperwork at the ministry of the environment.  I was really nervous about both of these things, so I made Rob and Will come with me.  It ended up fine, I think.

IMG 3775Running errands in Managua.  This is the Pan-American highway.

There was a Subway restaurant at the airport across from the hotel (my how times have changed since I first started going to Nicaragua), and even though I hate Subway, it was the closest thing we could get to fresh vegetables.  We ate it for 4 meals in a row out of desperation. 

IMG 3779Running across the Pan-American highway with Subway sandwiches for dinner.

I also got a text from Eduardo, who told me he was sorry that he hadn’t come back to go to the Cascada with me.  He was sick.  I didn’t know what that meant— like a cold?  Or like something really serious?  I hoped the former.  I was glad I got to see him for a little while, though sad that was all it ended up being.

The next day, I managed to connect with Leda, who lives in Managua with her husband now.  It took them 2 hours and numerous bus changes all within the city, but they came for a visit.

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After Leda and her husband left (it would be another 2 hour bus ride for them to get back to where they lived), Will and Rob and I went to the hotel pool.

IMG 3783 Nica Libre = rum + coke + lime

IMG 3787 More french fries.  And by this point, I could totally see how ketchup qualifies as a “vegetable."


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We woke up before 5am the next morning to catch our plane.  On the second leg of our journey (Houston to Denver), there was some bad weather.  The Denver airport ended up closing down due to severe thunderstorms, and we were diverted to Colorado Springs, where we sat on the tarmac for over 2 hours and then had to refuel.  We finally arrived in Denver about 4.5 hours late, then had to take a shuttle bus to our car, and then drive about an hour home.  It was after 11pm when we arrived.  What a day.


I’ve been out of the jungle for about a week now, and the jagged-skinny has gone away (yay, food!), but the exhaustion has not.  My legs are getting better too; the swelling has gone down and the itching is much more bearable.  At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll survive.  This trip took a lot out of me, but I am so, so glad that I had the chance to do it, and I am so thankful that Rob and Will could come along.  I am also grateful to Simeon for coming out to the forest with me everyday; none of the data collection would have been possible without him.

I’d like to go back to Nicaragua again soon, whenever we have the chance.  But maybe next time we could go to one of those fancy resorts on the beach in Santo Domingo.  I hear they’ve got a vegetarian restaurant there.

Thanks for reading.