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?  


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.


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.


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.


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


Fort Collins


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.


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



 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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dear William (54 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 54 months old.  That’s 4-and-a-half years!  Yippee!

It has been a month of costumes.

We started out with a birthday party for one of your old friends from school.  Her parents rented out the movie theater at the mall so that you guys could watch Wreck-It Ralph together, and then for the party afterwards, you got to wear top hats and mustaches.


You remain completely enamored with all things superhero.  I have made you many, many superhero costumes this month.  You must be wearing a superhero costume at all times.

First we have Captain America, complete with shield.

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And of course, your fave, Superman.

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Sometimes you make things easy on me by repurposing old Halloween costumes, such as Woody.

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Other times, you combine costumes to come up with your own cool superheros, such as this Super C3P0 Man.

IMG 2812


And Spiderman Buzz Lightyear.

Buzz Spider-year


You also decided to wear underwear on the outside of your clothes, like Superman does, apparently.

IMG 2891


And also Batman.

IMG 2896


You even got your dad (I mean Mr. Incredible) in on the action.

IMG 2840I’m not sure who you are supposed to be in this picture.  Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle with black mask, Superman logo, monkey gloves, and house slippers?


Aside from all our costume fun (and multiple costume changes each day) we re-enacted some movie scenes this month, including the Mr. Potato Head tortilla scene from Toy Story 3.

IMG 2834


You are a barrel of laughs. You said some funny things this month:

We got very creative with all of the home days we had this month. Check it out — we built a fake moon landing site. (Didn’t mama do an awesome job painting the stars and planet Earth?!)

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We tried to do some other educational stuff too, like with letters and shapes and numbers.  Play-dough helped make it more fun.

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We also worked on reading and writing.  I got really excited because I thought I taught you how to read, but then I realized you aren’t reading so much as you are just really, really good at memorizing things.

We finished out the month with a trip to The Butterfly House with your friend Baby Skye (we love him) and his mama.

IMG 2903


You were terrified of the eye-spots on this butterfly.

Butterfly House


You were terrified of all the butterflies, even though shortly before our trip (see above), you told me that butterflies were your favorite animal.

Butterfly House
Butterfly House


William, we have had so much fun this month.  I love being with you every day and playing all day long.  You are amazing.  You are the best there ever was.  In some ways you are so grown up and independent (You can fix your own snack! You can get yourself a glass of water! You can write the words Mom, Dad and Will!).  But in other ways you are still little.  You get scared sometimes (bad dreams about crocodiles or butterflies) and almost every night you come join us because you don’t want to be in your room all alone.

I don’t mind at all.  I’ll hold you close as long as I can.

Love always,


Thumbs up

Monday, February 3, 2014

You're Vegan, What Do You Eat: Pasta with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Greens

I have been craving very simple foods lately and in particular, eating a lot of spinach and mushrooms.  A couple weeks ago I came up with this dish while I was rooting around in the fridge, wondering what to eat for lunch.  We had some leftover lentils that I wanted to use up, along with some spinach, mushrooms, and bow tie pasta.  

So I heated some Earth Balance (vegan butter) in a skillet and sautéed several cloves of chopped garlic, then added the spinach and mushrooms.  When that was nicely cooked, I stirred in the lentils with a bit of sea salt and heated it through.  Then I put the whole thing overtop the leftover bow tie pasta.  It was A*MA*ZING.

I decided to recreate this meal tonight for dinner.  It was a bit of a risk, since Rob does not like mushrooms, and Will only eats his pasta plain.  Worst case scenario:  more for me.

IMG 2851

This time I decided to mix things up a little and use beet greens instead of spinach.  The reason?  I had just bought some beets and didn’t want the greens to go to waste.  Also?  Beet greens = super nutritious


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Will refused to eat any of the topping, so he (as per usual) had his pasta plain (drizzled with olive oil).  (NB: He also ate an apple and some broccoli and cauliflower).  Rob said it was okay but “a little heavy on the mushrooms.”  That sounds about right.

I could have eaten about 10 pounds of this in one sitting (it is that good), but I used restraint and there is enough left over for lunch tomorrow.  Yum.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January 2014: Mileage

At the end of December, I saw a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook posting their mileage totals for 2013, and it got me to thinking:

  1. Hopefully they thank the person who does their laundry.
  2. I have no idea what my own yearly mileage total is. 

I’ve never really kept track of my miles, other than when I was 22 and training for my first marathon, and even then, it was just for a ~3 month stint rather than the entire year.  These days, I tend to have a vague idea of what my weekly mileage is, but it has never occurred to me to record it on a month by month basis and then total it at the end of the year.

Usually the only time I concern myself with how far I’m running is on the weekends when I do a long run.  I use an app called mapmyrun to track my mileage, basically so I can just run around for as long as it takes to hit whatever target I was aiming for (ex: like that time I ran an accidental marathon with Libby).  But it actually stresses me out to use the mapmyrun app for daily runs, especially in the winter.  I use the app on my phone, which means I have to start it inside (before I put on my gloves) and then put my phone away in my waist pack or armband or whatever.  Then put my gloves on and go out and run.  There are two very long stop lights I have to wait at, for on average about 5 minutes total I would guess, during the first two miles (and then again on the way back).  The only way to stop the clock on the app is to take off my glove, unzip my waist pack, take my phone out of it, press “pause,” and then when I finally get a walk signal, I have to do the whole thing in reverse to start it back up again.  So I usually just keep it going, and what I end up with is Libby telling me that I am running something like 12 minute miles.  And that just makes me feel sad.

Well, for my first run of 2014, I happened to use mapmyrun to log my miles at Chubb Trail (I just wanted to see how far I went), and then during my second run of the year, I used it again because I wanted to see how far one of my typical routes was (I thought it was about 4.5, Libby calculated 4.7).  

I got to thinking, what if I just do this.  What if I just keep track of the miles.  I decided I wouldn’t pay attention to the pace.  Not even look at it.  And if it got to be too stressful to take my phone with me every time and use the app, I could estimate the mileage and log it online later.

The results are in for January:  I ran 152.2 miles.  


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That’s actually not a whole lot (less than 35 miles a week).  But considering that this month we had 2 polar vortexes, my dad’s brain surgery, and my general state of Exhaustion, I’ll take it.

The thing is, I would have assumed I’d have more time to run after quitting my job, but I’ve found I actually have less.  As a functional, working person, I used to get up at 5:45 or 6am, run between 5 and 8 miles, and be home by 7:20.  From approximately October through March, this is in complete darkness, and it kind of drives me batshit crazy.  I just can’t deal with that at the moment, plus The Exhaustion makes it difficult for me to get up before 6am.  So Rob has been running the “first shift" in the mornings.  He doesn’t leave as early as I used to, and he runs farther/gets back later, like around 8am.  I am still stumbling around the house like a zombie at that point and finally make it out the door around 8:15 or 8:20. Then Rob showers and starts working, and Will gets to sit in bed and watch PBS Kids on the iPad while I am running.  This thrills Will to no end, but it is actually a pretty bad pattern to get into.  I end up running shorter than I would like because I want to minimize the iPad time.  Starting out the day with TV tends to send us down a very bad road.  By the time I get home and shower, it is very difficult to pry the iPad from his little hands, and we just end up getting in a screaming match because all he wants to do is sit in his pajamas and watch TV all day.  Then The Exhaustion hits me in the early afternoon, and I pass out wherever I happen to be.  If I am lucky, Will sits next to me and reads books or decorates me with stickers/washable markers; if I am unlucky he does something dangerous (like leaping off pieces of furniture) that I probably don’t know about.

The Exhaustion seems to be making the situation worse, and I know what everyone is thinking: I should just stop running until I lock that down and feel better.


I took off almost a week in late December and several days surrounding my dad’s surgery in January, and it didn’t seem to matter.  In fact, I found I was even more exhausted on days when I did not run.  So, I figured if I’m going to be exhausted anyway, I might as well run.

We’ll see how this goes.  If recording the miles ends up stressing me out too much, I will abandon it.  I think that 150 miles/month is sort of a decent baseline but is something I will probably fall short of in many months (for example: February, which has 3 fewer days and perhaps as much as 15 fewer miles than January).  I will try not to fixate on hitting a certain target and know that it will all even out.  Some high months, some low months, some time off for inevitable injuries and hopefully for a move to Colorado, some more intensive months when I am actually training for something.  

So, there it is.  I don’t really have and end-goal with all of this; just kind of curious to see how far I run in a year.

Thanks for reading.