Things I Miss

8-mile Mondays

Track Tuesdays

Morning crew Wednesdays

Strength double Thursdays

Recovery Fridays

Long Run Saturdays

Weight sessions Sundays

The nervousness of racing

A finishing kick

The track

Settling into the clip of a tempo run

Sweating so much during a long run that you can wring out your socks

Summer afternoon doubles

The tingly, satisfied tired after some heavy squats and deadlifts

Calculating lap splits ahead of a workout

Stressing about a workout

Waking up anxious for a workout

Finishing fast in a workout

Writing out post-workout splits

Writing a novel for a log entry

Exploring trails because it doesn’t matter if you get lost – you’ve got a lot of miles to run

The smell of a rubber track on a hot and humid morning

Lacing up flats

“One more ’til one more”

Pushing through another interval when your legs are already shaking

Lactic acid

Being tired

Sleeping like a rock

Planning races/training months in advance

Thinking about a marathon

Talking about running

Talking about racing

Meeting other people to run

Doing workouts

Being in shape

Feeling committed

Eating a giant bowl of ice cream on Saturday night

Splitting my watch

Adding up miles

Running without thinking

Training

Pinning a number on a singlet

…just to name a few

And if you made it this far, read this: What Happens When We Take a Break from Running?

Halfway through 2018

I’ve started this post many times and abandoned it out of frustration. But now it’s been far too long since I posted anything and something about the looming date of July 1st and the second half of 2018 has me ready to ship this thing.

2018 has not gone as planned to put it mildly. To get an accurate picture of why it’s been so hard, I have to back up to 2017.

2017 was da bomb. I accomplished almost everything I set my mind to. I started the year coming back from a slight hamstring/adductor injury and busted out a giant 10k PR in March, squeezing under my goal time of 39:30 by a little over 5 seconds.

Then I headed into track season and eked out an 800 meter PR without specifically training for it. I had a solid summer and ran a 5k in August that indicated I could actually meet my lifetime goal for the 5k in Macon next month.

Breaking 18 minutes for 5k has been my goal since 2008. It’s always been something that I mostly considered just out of my reach but would be really freaking cool if I accomplished. It wasn’t unrealistic, like trying to go to the Olympics, but it wasn’t so easy that I did it in college which is when I was in arguably the best shape of my life.

The Macon Labor Day 5k is a screaming fast 5k course, and I’ve been known to run the first mile of that course faster than a flat out mile on the track. It’s a certified 5k distance, but it’s much faster than any other courses, especially in hilly Atlanta. I know that running a sub-18 at Macon doesn’t make me a consistent sub-18 runner elsewhere, but I just want to cover the distance in under that amount of time.

Between my August race and Labor Day, training went full bore, and I was attempting some of the hardest workouts of my running career. I say attempting because I often fell off the assigned paces, but I was doing so with the full confidence that I was close and could get there.

Labor Day rolled around and I ran 18:01.93. Even though I missed my lifetime goal by less than 2 seconds, I was ECSTATIC with the PR. I haven’t had much of a breakthrough since college, and I was ready to celebrate my success rather than mourn the fact that I didn’t accomplish my goal.

Given the extremely fast nature of the course, I set my eyes on September of 2018 for my next realistic attempt at sub-18. I finished out my fall racing season despite the hamstring/adductor issues cropping up again, and then took some time off around the holidays to try to get that under control.

Ok now finally back to this year

2018 began with planning and goal setting for the year. I wanted to essentially repeat 2017, only do everything faster. I’ve learned to be more selective with races and wanted to pare it down even more for 2018. I even started researching a late fall marathon for after my Labor Day focus!

Hamstring/adductor issues continued. I diagnosed myself with high hamstring tendinopathy and started doing bridges every day. This gave me some relief, but honestly it became “normal” for my upper hamstrings to hurt when I run…or when I sit too long…especially in the car.

February 2018

At the end of the month I noticed my left knee was also hurting as I started to run. This plus both hamstrings made for some awkward, jolty steps to begin with before getting into a normal rhythm. I iced it and would foam roll/use the lacrosse ball on my lower quads, right above my knee cap, and kept on with my training. And my lifting! I was doing squats and grimacing through them because “no pain, no gain” right?

March 2018

Ok so both of my knees hurt now? And still having hamstring/adductor issues. At least my knees hurt differently. My left knee is swollen and hurts in a vertical pattern and is EXTREMELY painful with hyperextension, and my right knee feels like pretty normal patellar tendonitis, probably from overcompensating for my left knee.

It’s a weird pattern because there will be days when I finish running and feel fine and days where 30 minutes after I’m done, it feels like my knee is going to fall off.

I take it really easy the week of my 10k, wear KT tape, and run the race…about 75 seconds slower than last year. Feeling like you need to limp after a race is NOT worth it to run that slow, so I take some down time and go see a physical therapist at the end of the  month.

Side note: I think physical therapists are the best and have only had really positive experiences with them. If you’ve ever had a bad experience at a doctor’s office (like 90% of the time when I go), imagine your ideal situation of someone listening to you and forming a long term plan of action for healing, and that is physical therapy.

April 2018

I’m in PT twice a week getting dry needled and doing exercises with the blood flow restriction cuff (BFR). I now have an elaborate warm up routine to do before I run every morning, and I’m restricted to 4-5 miles at a time as we try to get everything calmed down.

Near the end of the month, the PTs evaluate my running form again by filming me on the treadmill and suggest I try to lean forward just a bit and/or engage my lower core. I run very upright and heel strike, and apparently this prevents the glutes from firing at all, meaning my hamstrings and adductors have to work overtime and get irritated.

I tried my new running form a couple of days later and found out that leaning forward makes me go super fast which was pretty fun! I also started having 90% pain free runs (for hamstrings/adductors) and could sit in the car without squirming around. It was like magic! Engage your glutes, and the rest of your muscles are happy. Got it.

Side note: leaning forward while running also led to me taking a tumble and skinning my right knee which was almost funny but mostly annoying. 😉

May 2018

For the first half of the month, I’m on cloud 9. I graduate to only 1 PT appointment each week, and I’m cleared to increase my mileage a little bit. The swelling in my left knee and pain with hyperextension has never improved, but it doesn’t actively hurt while I run, so I focus on the positives like that I drove over an hour in the car and didn’t want to scream about my hamstrings when I got out.

I also incorporated a little speed back into my life. Strides had been a major point of pain with my hamstrings/adductors, and now I could do them without that wrenching, resistance to changing speed. I even did “long” runs of 8 and 9 miles!

And then I relapsed. That’s what I’m calling it at least. While my knee had never seen much improvement, I went from pain free hamstring/adductors back to how I felt in March before I even started PT. Running with my leaned over form, working my glutes with rehab exercises, nothing helped. I would get a slight relief from dry needling at PT every week, but I was back to laying on my stomach instead of sitting and wincing through my jolted first steps of a run.

I was incredibly frustrated. Renewed pain plus the fact that my knee was still a little puff ball led me to make an appointment with a sports medicine doctor.

June 2018

At the doctor’s office I had X-rays which were normal and performed some tests for the doctor. The he had me lay on the exam table and felt both of my knees. He had the great quote, “Your right knee clicks a little bit, but the left one just grinds!”

He recommended an MRI since I had swelling for so long and had already been in PT for 8-10 weeks.

Luckily with all of the PT I’ve done, I already hit my deductible for the year, so the MRI was cheap. I got in 2 days later and then had to wait until the following Monday for him to give me the results (because MRI techs can’t tell you anything).

The results were:

These findings are consistent with a partial tear of the origin of the patellar tendon. This is most pronounced on the medial aspect. Edema is seen in the adjacent superior aspect of Hoffa’s infrapatellar fat pad.

I was convinced I had fat pad impingement, so I was happy to hear I was partially right. But not actually happy because that sucks! He said if I didn’t have a traumatic moment of knowing I tore my tendon, it could also be tendinosis, which reads very similar on an MRI.

I was highly irritated at the results being “tendinosis” because I thought it was just a fancy word for tendonitis which is (in my mind) not serious at all. But after some Googling and calming down, I learned that tendinosis is the advanced stage of tendonitis, where there isn’t an inflammatory response anymore, and you’re actually doing damage (that is my unscientific take).

The recommended treatment is the same whether it’s a partial tear or tendinosis – an injection. I had the choice between Amniofix and PRP, 2 types of regenerative medicines.

Amniofix

Amniofix had a full recovery time of 4-6 weeks with a warning that the 2-3 days following the injection are “extremely painful.” Like, prescription pain meds painful. It comes from donated placentas, and the growth factors get to work inside your body to repair your tendon.

PRP

Platelet rich plasma had a full recovery time of 6-12 weeks and an easy immediate recovery from the injection. They draw blood from your arm, spin it down to separate the plasma, and then inject that for the growth factors to work on repairing your tendon.

 

I went with the Amniofix. I loved the idea of my body working to repair itself from my own plasma, but I thought the “extreme pain” was probably overhyped and wanted that faster recovery time.

I got my injection later that week.

They start my using an ultrasound to look at your tendon. He showed me the part of my patellar tendon that was thickened due to the injury, which I pretended to see because it looked exactly the same as the undamaged side to me. Then they spray your knee with cold spray and you get some numbing injections.

The numbing injections were pretty uncomfortable. The needle going in wasn’t so bad, but moving around to inject in all the areas for the Amniofix injection wasn’t great. But the good thing is that it starts to work quickly, and I didn’t feel the second needle with the Amniofix at all.

I was really achy and swollen for the rest of the day. They said I’d stay numb for 2-3 hours, but I had a deep ache in my knee by the time I was driving home. And I definitely laid on the couch for the rest of the day, only hobbling out to Publix to get my pain meds.

I took a pain pill before going to sleep and expected to wake up in “extreme pain” the next morning. To my pleasant surprise, I was FINE. I still had a lot of swelling (that’s what happens when you get needles jabbed in you), but the pain I felt pre-injection and yesterday was gone. The swelling only got better over the next few days as well.

The injection came with 10 days of no running. I thought this was a small price to pay for a hopeful quick recovery of my knee, so I went for walks, I cut the grass, I swam, etc. I kept myself busy and looked forward to Monday the 25th when I could run again. I planned to start with some run-walk to be careful.

Monday morning I did my pre-run routine and headed to the river for some soft surface running. Much to my absolute horror, my hamstring/adductors felt just as bad (worse actually) as before my 10 days off. 10 DAYS! I haven’t take that much time consecutively off in who knows how long. And to not feel any improvement at all???

My knee feels fine, by the way.

I’ve joked with some people who ask how I’m doing that “I’m fine! I just have a breakdown every 3 weeks or so.” My latest was on Tuesday, so hopefully I’m good for a bit.

After another attempt at running going slightly better than the day before but still bad, I’m taking a longer break. I love running, but it currently is only hating me, specifically my hamstrings/adductors, so we need some time apart.

I’m still going to run-walk Peachtree next week. My PT agreed that it’s not going to set me back and the mental/emotional toll of not being there could be worse than the physical toll, so I’m looking forward to trying again then and maybe seeing some slight improvement after another week.

Answers

The most frustrating part of my “relapse” is the lack of a clear answer. Everything made sense for a while:

Exercise the quads, knees feel better
Exercise the glutes, hamstrings feel better
Change your running form, everything feels better

And it’s an oversimplification that I just got back into running too fast. If that were the case, I would see improvement with the time off that I took.

I have a new theory, and since clinging to an answer seems to help my emotional state, I’m sticking with it.

Part of PT has been working on my thoracic spine mobility and my cross-body stabilization. I’ll never forget my appointment where I did an exercise of pulling across my body that I could only do on one side. When I switched directions, it’s like I was frozen, unable to will my body to pull the rope across.

I think the breakdown of my cross-body stabilization started with my knee. I’ve been sub consciously and consciously favoring my left side for months. When I engaged my glutes for the first time, my hamstrings and adductors felt the relief they’d been wanting, but when I upped my mileage, the relief didn’t last as my stabilization breaks down when I get tired. Then it was exacerbated by my knee getting worse and ultimately being heavily favored post-injection.

I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s what I’m sticking with for now. I have some killer core exercises now that work on my stabilization, and I’m continuing my long list of rehab exercises and well as new forms of cardio to keep me sane.

The Second Half of 2018

I don’t know what I have planned. This injury has been a long process of letting go of my goals and plans for the year. The marathon was the first to go, and as we’ve gotten closer and closer to September, I know that I won’t be in shape (heck, might not even be fully training then), and that has been hard.

“All frustration in this world comes from unmet expectations.” So what’s the plan for Q3 and Q4 of 2018? *shrug emoji*

Guest Post: My Dad’s Final 100-Mile Race

I come from a running family. A number of years ago, my dad decided that marathons were “too short” and embarked on ultra marathons. Ultras are technically anything longer than a marathon, so they range from 50k (31 miles) to 100+ miles, usually on trails. In fact, they usually call races 100-milers even if the courses run a bit long. What’s an extra mile or 3 when you’re already going that far?

Last weekend was my dad’s final 100-miler as the opportunity cost of training for them has gotten too high (his words as a fellow econ nerd). It was a 103.7 mile course on a mountain trail in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with over 18,000 feet of climbing. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a party, it also rained the entire week leading up to the race and during the race (as you’ll read).

Please enjoy the race recap below, written by Michael Walcott. 103 miles for his 103rd marathon/ultra marathon.

Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 (really 103.7 miles)

Executive Summary:  I finished. Placed 98th out of 128 finishers.  190 started the race which means 62 dropped. Total time was 34:25, far beyond my expected time of 28-30 hours, but given the entirety of the event, I’ll take it.

The gory details:  In Sunday school we used to sing, “The rains came down and the floods came up, the rains came down and the floods came up…..”  It should have been the theme song for this year’s MMT.

Before I describe the race, let me thank Jim Perkins for his outstanding support.  He met me at every crew accessible aid station, had the gear laid out, and did everything he could to keep me moving.  He was out there the entire 35 hours making sure I had everything I needed. I could not have done it without him.

It rained a lot in the days leading up to Saturday morning.  We went to get my race packet on Friday afternoon and the parking area was off limits due to standing water.  Given a 4 am Saturday start we intended to camp at the starting line Friday night. I checked the forecast and it was supposed to start raining in the early evening and rain solid all night and into the next morning.  I found a hotel room. It was a dump, but it was the best $100 I spent on the trip.

When the alarm went off at 2am I checked outside and it was pouring down rain.  We packed up and set off for the start. They wouldn’t let Jim park so I jumped out of the van and walked the road to the starting line and big tent.  The rain had quit and everyone was milling around waiting for the start. A few minutes before 4 a light rain started. One minute before 4 we get called out of the tent to the starting line, and at 4 we started.  So did a steady rain.

We began by running across a water-soaked field to get to the road.  Feet wet. They wouldn’t be dry again until I finished. Understand, I’m not wearing cotton socks and canvas tennis shoes.  My trail shoes drain well and my socks are a high quality merino wool that do very well in wet conditions, but it was wet feet nonetheless.

The first 4 miles were slightly uphill on a paved road that turned to high quality dirt after a mile.  There were two bridges on this road that were designed for water to run over the bridge if the creek was too high.  Both bridges had fast running water over the road. After four miles we turned on to the first trail, and I got my first look at what I was facing for the day.  They did not lie about the rocks. There were big rocks, little rocks, round rocks, flat rocks, sharp rocks, angled rocks, embedded rocks and loose rocks, every kind of rock.  Not always, there were sections pretty much clear of rocks, but those sections were full of mud and running water.

The course is a big figure 8.  About a 70 mile upper loop, clockwise, with a crossover at Gap Creek to make a smaller counterclockwise 30 mile loop back to Gap Creek.  We would ascend to the ridge line, run along it, descend to an aid station and do it again. 11 major climbs plus lots of smaller ones. It became clear the lower sections would be ridiculously wet and muddy, but the higher one got on the trail, the dryer it got and the ridge trails were in pretty good shape and fairly runnable at times with minimal rocks.

All went well early on.  The rain quit by 9 or so and it wouldn’t rain again for the remainder of the race.  It stayed cloudy and foggy almost all day Saturday which ruined the views off the ridges, but kept it pretty cool.  I had fallen pretty far back on the first climb, but now I was moving up playing leapfrog with a number of runners but eventually leaving them behind.  The only incident was a creek crossing that was raging. I misstepped and lost my balance and started getting dragged downstream only my head above water.  Fortunately I was crossing with a few others, and two grabbed me before I ended up in the Shenandoah River 20 miles downstream.

Sidebar – Here’s a story that epitomizes what I love about the ultra community.  When I was rescued from the raging creek, my right shoulder got wrenched. Once out of the creek I was rotating my arm to check the damage and Alexandre Benoit, a runner from Canada, asked if I was ok.  I had been playing leapfrog with Alexandre for a couple of hours. Earlier in the day he had done a face plant into a rock. His face was bloody and his upper lip was held together with a bandage. He offered me Biofreeze for my shoulder.  I declined, but I was struck by his kindness. He was willing to stop, remove his pack and get me, a total stranger, some Biofreeze. When I’m not running I’m cycling. Cyclists are not like runners. A fellow cyclist’s goal is to inflict pain and drop you. Ultrarunners care for one another.

Ok, back to our exciting story.  Around 30 miles the stomach decided to go south, and I got sick.  For the next 3 hours I fought the nausea and other problems, but I’m no longer eating or drinking enough.  The battle of the mind and body begins.

By mile 54 I’m 3 hours behind my target time and only 90 minutes in front of the cutoff.  I gear up for the night, and I’m not feeling good. It doesn’t get better. The next section was 10 miles, and it took me 3.5 hours.  I stopped several times and turned off my headlamp and did a 360. Nothing but pitch blackness. I didn’t know where I was, and there was no one else around.  I couldn’t even run the downhills, and my stomach was a mess. I finally get to Camp Roosevelt at 64 miles.

I had read and been told that the section from Roosevelt to Gap Creek was the wettest part of the course.  I wondered how much wetter could it get? Turns out, a lot. A runner earlier in the day told me the first 2 miles out of Roosevelt was in a creek bed.  The trail is a creek, and it would be wet. She did not lie. I’m climbing a creek with 6 inches of running water coming down. It wasn’t steep, but it was wet.  What she forgot to tell me was the wall I had to climb after the creek bed, and the nasty descent after the climb. At 1:30 AM I staggered into Gap Creek. I was beat both physically and mentally.

Perkins meets me and sort of catches me as I wobble to one side.  An aid station worker holds me up from the other side as they discuss whether I should sit.  I don’t want to sit. Then God sent Heather. I’m standing in a daze, the other two are discussing what to do with me, and Heather appears with energy that belies the time of day (1:30am) and a smile on her face she asks, “Do you want a pacer?”  Addled brain or not, I know a good deal when I see one. If a pretty, 30-something wants to pace me, there is only one correct answer, and I reply, “Yes I do.” Certain logistics are discussed (like how to get her back to her car), the deal is made. I had a pacer.

While I was still suffering physically, having Heather as pacer made huge difference in my mental state.  After a tough climb, we got to the first runnable section and like a good pacer Heather suggested we run a little.  I tell her I can’t run, but I can shuffle fast. So she said, “Let’s shuffle.” So we did. Turns out Heather is from Michigan, so am I.  Heather is an alumna of University of Michigan and a fan of the Wolverines, so am I (a fan of the Wolverines – Go Blue!). Heather has only sisters, I only have brothers, well you get the picture.  Words cannot adequately express what an important role she played in getting me to the finish. If she’s not at Gap Creek, I don’t make it. Perkins told me on the way home he thought I would quit at Gap Creek.  I looked that bad.

We get to the next aid station, and Heather asks if I want her to keep pacing.  I tell her she can take me all the way to finish if she wants, but I’m grateful for what she’s done.  She decides to keep going. We climb Bird Knob and get there at sunrise. We take a moment to appreciate the view, it was spectacular (it’s not like I was going to win).  We head for the Picnic Area aid station, the next to last one, but it’s a haul. We were on that one section for as far as we could see, and we could see pretty far down the trail, it was a muddy river.  Heather said, “They should call this the 100-mile river trail.” We stop on a downhill section to let a couple runners by. I tell Heather I don’t think I can go much farther. I’m falling asleep standing up, and I can feel my stomach is totally empty.  I’m moving on fumes. We keep thinking the aid station has to be close. I’m hallucinating. I see the fence line, a road and a picnic shelter around every corner only it’s just more woods when we get there. Even Heather is hallucinating the aid station.  Eventually, it is the aid station and not a hallucination.

Picnic Aid is the breakfast station.  The staff recognized my plight, sat me down and force-fed me pancakes, bacon and Coke.  Force-fed might be a bit strong, but they were insistent on getting some calories into me before they kicked me out.  It made the difference. With some calories and Heather’s part command, part question, “Time to shuffle?” we made the 9-mile trek (with a 4-mile nasty climb) back to Gap Creek in under 3 hours.  Heather didn’t need a ride back to her car, she ran back.

Sidebar – About 2 miles out of Picnic the trail crosses a main highway.  As we approached it, I noticed someone sitting by the trailhead. It was Perkins.  He said he thought I might want my sunglasses – I did. That’s an example of the kind of great support Jim provided all during the race.

When we hit the road leading into Gap Creek I finally knew I was going to make it.  I had 4 hours to cover less than 9 miles and over 5 miles of that was on a gravel road going downhill.  Short of breaking a bone I was going to finish. I said goodbye to Heather and started off on the last section.  I passed 8 runners coming home and even ran, not shuffled, a good bit of the last road.

So ends the rambling tale of the MMT 100.  Thanks to all for your supportive comments before and after the race.  If you ever want to try the race, let me know. I’ll gladly be your crew.

It’s Never Been Easier to Find a Lost Pet

I love cats. Anyone who knows me well probably rolled their eyes at that sentence.

A small stray cat showed up on my back deck a few weeks ago, but I only got glimpses since she would immediately run away if either of us went outside. After seeing her for nearly a week, I broke down and put a plate of food outside. Then it only took a day of feeding her for her to tentatively approach me for some chin scratches. I promptly named her Molly.

When I was able to get close enough to her, I took her photo and posted on the app Nextdoor to see if she was missing from a nearby home. While no one on the app claimed her, a few comments gave me new information. First, that she was a “tortie siamese” and second, it introduced me to Pawboost.

Pawboost is a site for you to post about lost or found pets. It automatically makes a flyer for you and shares posts to nearby shelters and social media groups. I made a Pawboost flyer for Molly and searched the Lost pet section but didn’t find any matches.

I was convinced Molly was 6-12 months old due to her petite figure. My 11-pound fluff ball Venus is neither trim nor obese, but she looked like a giant compared to maybe-5-pound Molly. Obviously some of that was from being a stray and not having a consistent source of food, but it also led me to believe she was a younger cat.

I made a vet appointment for her thinking I would have to rehome her, therefore it would be good to know if she had any diseases or heaven forbid if she was pregnant. Cats can get pregnant as young as 4 months old!

I also asked the vet to check for a microchip, and she had one. I was thrilled! I also learned that this “adolescent” cat was nearly 10 years old! She was clear of disease and got a new rabies vaccine, and I went home with the name, phone number, and address of the owner.

Unfortunately, the number was out of service and the address was from Birmingham, Alabama. I wasn’t deterred, though, since I pride myself on being an expert Googler.

Zillow.com was my first stop. I searched the Birmingham address and found the public record of the sale in 2011 matched the name of the owner I had. Unfortunately it was a for sale by owner, so there was no real estate agent or company involved that I could contact.

Then I turned to Facebook. I found a number of women with that name and sent them messages. I wasn’t too hopeful about this since these messages would end up in their “Message request” folders that they probably wouldn’t see.

I also searched white pages, searched the phone number, phone number plus name, etc. There are plenty of website that offer to give you a “full report” on someone and make you jump through 17 hoops and have a “progress bar” on each page telling you how close it is to being ready only to ask for $20 at the end.

Public records was the best bet. I was able to find the woman I was looking for and a list of her “possible relatives.” One of the women I found on Facebook had a daughter that matched a name on that list, so I thought it might be her.

Then I posted in a Lost and Found pet group on Facebook with the full amount of information I had – the name of the owner, the cat’s name, the fact that the contact information was out of date, and that she previously came from Birmingham. This proved to be the most helpful since the people in these groups are highly motivated and awesome. One of the women was able to get her friend request accepted by the daughter who said the cat had been missing for nearly 7 months!

Armed with the knowledge that I had the correct person, I again messaged the owner and searched the company she worked for. I found her website and sent an email to both her and her husband. The phone number listed for her was the one that was out of service, and Josh told me it wasn’t acceptable to call her husband at 8:15 am on a Saturday morning, so I waited until 10:30 to give him a call.

Success! After some phone tag and texting, I reached the daughter – it was actually her cat – and we met up. The best part: the cat’s name is Mollie!

On the way to meet her owner!

The power of the internet is real, and there are lost & found pet groups all over the place with stories of pets being lost even longer than Mollie. It doesn’t hurt to get your pet microchipped as well. It definitely convinced me!

 

The Significance of the 2018 Boston Marathon

This year was the most excited I’ve ever been to watch the Boston Marathon. Sure, I’ve followed the updates on Twitter and would track the small handful of people I knew who were running, but ever since they announced the elite field in December (you can read my analysis of that here), I’ve been anxiously awaiting Boston Monday.

The US had the deepest field of elite women I’ve ever seen, and there was plenty of hype around breaking the 33-year drought since the last time an American woman won. The depth of the field fed the hopes of running fans everywhere as we had not one runner to pin our dreams on, but four. Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, Jordan Hasay, and Molly Huddle all had a realistic shot at the crown. Having a “team” to count on certainly spread some of the pressure off of those individuals as well. Kara Goucher recounted that pressure in her blog.

The depth of the field certainly helped when Sunday evening Jordan Hasay withdrew from the competition due to a stress reaction in her heel. While I was certainly sad for her, it wasn’t nearly as devastating a blow as it would have been if she was the only contender.

Now, to set the scene for the race:

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It was the coldest start in 30 years. 30 degrees at the start with 20 mph winds and driving rain. Normally you see women running marathons in bun huggers and crop tops, but the race director printed a second set of numbers, so everyone could keep on their jackets and discard them along the way if they warmed up. Most of them didn’t. It looked miserable.

The race started off relatively slow – 19:17 for the first 5k. Whoever was brave enough to lead was subject to the pack squeezing in behind her to try to escape the wind. At one point, the leader started zig-zagging across the road in an effort to annoy and/or shake off the drafters.

At 12 miles in, Shalane Flanagan did the unthinkable and ran off the course for a bathroom break. Someone posted that they timed it at just 13-14 seconds, so it was a quick stop, but still a crazy move. Des Linden dropped off the back of the lead pack and kept looking over her shoulder until Shalane caught her, and then together they caught up to the main pack.

This was the first of many tearful moments for me. We found out later in post-race interviews that Des told Shalane early in the race – just a few miles in – that she wasn’t feeling well and might not finish, so if Shalane needed anything to let her know. These women are teammates only in nationality and run for different clubs/sponsors. They are competitors in every sense of the word. To see the level of class and sports(wo)manship was touching.

Back to the race – apologies for the vagueness ahead but I don’t remember exactly when/who did what besides Des. At some point (I believe after halfway), one of the lead Ethiopian women took off and broke open a nice gap between herself and the field. She had 27 seconds on the chase pack which Des was leading.

Side note: announcers never know how to talk about Des Linden. The woman is a metronome who sticks to her race place regardless of the whims of the other athletes. Sometimes this makes it look like she’s falling “off the pace” when really the pack has just surged some, and she catches them later when they slow down. Her confident, charging stride while leading the chase pack (which was stringing out) was awesome to watch, and all the announcers had to say was how she seemed to be “back from the dead.” Lots of eye rolls.

5km later and we still have the Ethiopian with a 25 second lead on Des and another one with a 2 second lead on her just ahead. I am worried at this point because she only made up 2 seconds over that 5km, and there wasn’t that much of the race left (maybe 10-15k?).

Then you see Des catching second place and leaving her in the dust. She’s severely closed the gap on first. Is this really happening?

Des catches the lead runner and is in first with about 10k to go. The lead runner doesn’t respond at all, Des pulls away, and it looks like as long as she finishes, she’s got this race wrapped up.

The real crying starts now. I can’t help it. The woman who got 2nd place by 2 seconds in this race back in 2011 is dominating the field and is about to get her first Marathon Major win. The crowds are losing their minds as she makes her way right on Hereford and left on Boylston to the finish. She crosses in 2:39:54 and the first American woman to win in 33 years.

That is significant. That is inspiring and heartwarming and all sorts of other feel good adjectives. But to add to the significance:

  • American Sarah Sellars placed 2nd
  • American Rachel Hyland placed 4th
  • American Jessica Chichester placed 5th
  • American (and Georgian!) Nicole Dimercurio placed 6th
  • American Shalane Flanagan place 7th
  • American Kimi Reed placed 8th

You might notice that none of those names except Shalane were in the elite field preview. Heck, Jessica Chichester wasn’t even part of the elite field and started with the first wave of runners! The significance of the day came from the fact that the US put 7 in the top 10 including a champion and absolutely dominated the field. A lot of these women aren’t professional runners and work full time. That’s unheard of!

On a day with less than ideal racing conditions (to put it lightly), American women persevered, and it paid off. Big time.

 

 

ALL THE THINGS about Lasik

I got Lasik yesterday. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s one of those things that is expensive and it’s not medically necessary, so I would always think, “maybe next year.” I finally did it, though!

Since I’m a research-aholic, I wanted to write a post detailing every step of my process in case it helps someone else in the future.

Getting Approved

To know if you’re a candidate for Lasik, you have to get approval from your eye doctor and the doctor at the surgeon’s office. At this appointment they check your prescription (has to be stable for at least a year) and dilate your eyes to get a clear view of the back. Dilation is inconvenient to a nearsighted person like myself because when I’m dilated I can’t see close up OR far away very well. I was playing on my phone in the waiting area waiting for the drops to work and had to start holding it further and further away from my face (like my parents do with restaurant menus).

Shopping Around

Once I got the ok from my eye doctor, I set up evaluation appointments at 2 different surgery centers in Atlanta – TLC and Woolfson. With something as important as your eyes, it’s a good plan to get more than one quote and to know what you’re paying for. Both TLC and Woolfson had multiple offices, high ratings, and offered a lifetime guarantee on their surgeries – something the places that advertise on the radio at $250/eye don’t offer.

The worst part about the evaluations was having to be out of my contacts for 3-5 days prior to the appointment. Since contacts affect the shape of your cornea, they want to get the measurements as close as they’ll be on the day of surgery (where you’ll have been out of contacts for 2+ weeks).

My first appointment was at Woolfson, and they did the tests to measure your corneal thickness (what determines if you get Lasik or another procedure called PRK) which mainly involved me looking into machines that flashed lights at me. I probably saw 4 different techs or eye doctors before I finished up in a lady named Ann’s office to talk prices and scheduling.

Something I wish I would have known ahead of time: Surgeons only work in that location on certain days, usually up to once a week. I had in my head that I would try to get surgery on a specific day (or week if I had to be flexible), and neither of those were an option, making my possible surgery date almost 2 weeks later than I wanted. It was disappointing, but since I had another evaluation in a couple of days, I didn’t let it get me down. I might not even go with Woolfson!

My evaluation with TLC was 2 days later and was the complete opposite. The first thing we did was discuss scheduling and pricing. They only do procedures every 2 weeks, and I wouldn’t be able to get in until April. This was really disappointing but then became moot when they wouldn’t match Woolfson’s price. The lady actually originally said they would match it and then later came back with a quote $500 higher saying it was the lowest they could go. At this point, going through with the evaluation seemed like a waste of time, but I did it anyway to be extra cautious and because I probably would have just sat in traffic with the extra time anyway. The doctor was super nice and asked me about running, so it was fine.

Later that day I called Woolfson to confirm my surgery date and managed to get an additional 2.5% off as well. I was pumped! And since my surgery was so far out, I got to go back into contacts for another week.

Leading up to surgery

My least favorite part about getting Lasik has been other people’s comments about it.

Oh I could never do that.

Aren’t you worried?

I heard you have to watch a video of the procedure before they let you do it.

You can smell your eyeball burning when the laser cuts it.

etc, etc, etc. These people are the worst and usually uninformed.

My second least favorite part about getting Lasik was wearing glasses for 2 weeks. I’ve always hated wearing glasses which is why I got contact at age 10 – the youngest my eye doctor would allow. I remember spending hours at the doctor’s office when I got them because you have to be able to take them out and put them back in twice before they let you leave.

Since I spend all of my insurance money on contacts each year, I have some cheap glasses from ZeniOptical that don’t fit quite right. They constantly slide down my nose, so I push them up ever 5 seconds. Thankfully I found these babies on Amazon for $4! They were game changers for wearing glasses while running.

Surgery prep

The morning of surgery I was anxiously excited. They give you a multi-page consent form to sign that talks about the possibility of going blind numerous times, so that has the ability to put a damper on your excitement. Then there’s lots of waiting.

They measure your prescription and corneal thickness again before you go to the pre-op waiting room. They also mark your eyes. When they told me this, I assumed they would write “right” and “left on my eyelids or below my eyebrows or something. Nope! After giving you numbing drops, they take a pen and literally make two dots on each eye. I giggled and messed up the doctor as she was trying to mark my first eye because it’s so unnerving to have someone come at your eye with a pen.

These marks somehow help the doctor. I was unclear about all of that, but they let me keep the pen, so that was cool!

The pre-op waiting room is essentially an assembly line of eyeballs. The chairs closest to the door are going in next and they snake around the room. I was the first person from the second group of the day, so I went to the end of the line.

David was in charge of the pre-op room and he was both hilarious and a little scary. He was an older British gentleman who kept things like with both kind and unkind jokes. He knew how to read the room, though, and noticeably softened when a younger girl came in for PRK later and was visibly nervous.

This is the room where we got our hair nets, booties, and forehead stickers. David would give instructions every few minutes, so each person got to hear them multiple times. He told us how when the suction applied to our eye, the pupil would contract, so we would lose vision for 10-15 seconds and not to scream because it’s normal. Then we had lots of post-op instructions as well – mainly to not touch our eyes – and a goodybag with a stuffed wolf, our eye shields, and written instructions.

I realized early on that my wolf only had 1 eye. At first I panicked thinking it was a bad sign for eye surgery, but then I found the humor in the situation. It didn’t last long, though, because David found out about my one-eyed wolf and said, “That won’t do!” and switched my bag. I then said the most millennial thing I’ve ever said, “But I already put him on Instagram!”

After the first group finished up, Dr. Woolfson came into our waiting room to address us together. It was fun to learn more about him as he conversed with other patients – grew up all over the place including South Africa and Zimbabwe, speaks 5 languages, etc. Then he went over our charts with us individually, and the surgery assembly line started up again! I was second, so I had a short wait before it was my turn.

The Surgery

A nurse gives you your first set of numbing drops before you walk in, and then you get another set as you lay on the table. They have a nice prop to go under your knees, so laying on your back isn’t so bad. They had me confirm my birthday and social security number, and then they slide you back to where you’re under the machine. There were 4 sets of white lights that were SO BRIGHT and then a single green light. I knew getting my eye held open was up next, but I was having trouble even opening my eye on my own with the brightness. He turned it down a little for me, and then put the lid opener on the top lid followed by the bottom lid. I would say that 10 seconds was the worst of the entire surgery. The feeling of pressure on your lower lid with that thing sticking in it bordered on the edge between uncomfortable and pain. He told me I had small eyes, so it was a tight fit. Then came the suction thing.

I don’t know what the suction thing is, but it does take away your vision for 10-15 second and it relieves some of the lid holder pressure, so it wasn’t too bad at that point. Then the actual surgery is very brief. Sometimes you can see the green light above you, and sometimes everything looks like this:

I thought to myself that I wanted to try to re-create what I saw in MS Paint. It was harder than I thought! I tried to concentrate on blinking my covered eye since David told us that would help our held-open eye relax, and I just counted. Having something to focus on helps me when I’m nervous, and I like counting.

The laser makes a rumbling noise, and there is a smell from the gases it uses (not from burning your eyeball), but it doesn’t smell like burning hair like David told us. Then he has to smooth down the flap he made on your cornea, so you can actually see him wiping your eye with what looks like a tiny squeegee. I thought this was funny but not enough to laugh. When he wipes closer to your lid or eye lashes (which aren’t numbed), it’s quite the interesting sensation. Your eye gets some more drops, more wiping, and then everything comes off. Getting the lid opener out of my right eye was almost as painful as him putting it in.

I would highly recommend getting both eyes done at the same time, but I definitely had a heart rate spike in between the two. Even though the first eye took about 3 minutes, knowing that I had to do it all over again made me feel panicked. I started breaking in through my nose and out through my mouth and counting to 10 and starting over. Thanks, Kimmy Schmidt!

Dr. Woolfson gave me more numbing drops for my left eye because he knew the lid holder was so bad for me. Didn’t feel a thing on that side! Then the suction thing to make your vision disappear for a bit, then the back and forth of trying to focus on the green dot or everything being red and splotchy, then the smoothing of the flap, then I was done!

They slide me out from under the machine, and a tech came and helped me sit up and put a pair of sunglasses on me. Then the obligatory social media photo (Woolfson is big on social media) before David led me to the recovery chairs. While I’m glad to have been somewhere that takes your photo after surgery (and lets your spouse watch if they want!), I didn’t appreciate that David asked me if I was interested in going on Facebook Live at that moment. Even though the surgery went great (according to Dr. Woolfson and me by not being blind), I was visibly shaking and felt that was a bit too aggressive of an ask. But he didn’t ask again – just the once.

I would describe my vision at this point as – better than it was without glasses but still blurry. I also had a ton of drops in my eyes. I managed to text Josh and was able to see a few things on my phone but mainly just closed my eyes.

Another doctor took me to an exam room and gave me more drops. Then another doctor looked at my eyes with the microscope, then more drops, then I was all done! I was at the office for a little over 2.5 hours and was in surgery for under 10 minutes. Crazy!

Post Surgery

The best thing you can do after Lasik is to sleep for 3-4 hours, and they give you some sleeping aids, so I was excited about my prescription nap. They need to be taken with food, though, so I started making mac and cheese when I got home. Even though making mac and cheese takes about 10 minutes, I felt like I was going to pass out. I spent a lot of time leaning on the counter closing my eyes while the noodles were cooking, and my right cheekbone felt like someone punched me from the lid holder. After I got a bowl in my stomach with my sleeping pills, I went to bed.

I have some eye shields I need to wear today and tomorrow, so I taped them on my face with surgical tape and laid down/ I thought for sure I would pass out in minutes, but my anxious heart was still beating wayyy too fast for that. I eventually felt the pills kick in because I started caring a lot less and felt closer to drifting away.

I slept for about 2.5 hours before waking up the first time. I wasn’t able to sleep anymore, but I was committed to 4 hours with my eyes closed, so I put on a podcast and laid back down.

The rest of the day I was up and moving but pretty lethargic. My vision was still improving to the point that I almost felt like I had contacts in. I can remember thinking “I need to take my contacts out” multiple times as I was getting ready for bed. Then on with the eye shields again and more sleep.

One Day Post Surgery

I woke up with one eye shield in my hair and the other down the side of my face, so there’s that. I don’t seem to have touched my eyes in my sleep, though, because I can see really well this morning! My vision has actually reversed some – I’m having a bit of farsightedness right now. I went to my day after appointment this morning, and the doctor told me that is normal and likely due to some swelling.

Things are going swimmingly, though! I try to keep up with what time it is, so I can do all of my drops (there are so many drops), and I keep my new sunglasses on, and I haven’t experienced any pain or discomfort. As of right now, 10/10 would recommend.

 

 

TIL: Spring Phenomena are a Hoax

Facebook’s “On this Day” has been an entertaining and nostalgic feature that I enjoy. Today’s post was educational, though!

This is from 2012 at my apartment. I have no memory of this, but I thought it might be fun to repost it with something silly like #notamuggle since the new Fantastic Beasts trailer has Harry Potter on my mind. First I decided to check the comments.

Well isn’t that cool! Since the spring equinox is just a few days away (hence the “on this day”), I decided to try it and was excited that it worked after just a few attempts!

My mind jumped ahead to how this would be a cool blog post. I wrote one about the winter solstice, so a post on cool things about the spring equinox would be a nice follow up.

I decided to do a little research first and found out…this isn’t true at all! Brooms (or eggs) standing up have nothing to do with the spring equinox or planetary alignment or anything like that. You can stand up a broom any day of the year.

So this is now a different blog than I planned. Instead of telling everyone how the spring equinox can allow you to do phenomenal things, I am dispelling the myth. Thanks, Google!

 

Valentine’s Day 2018: My Glimpse into Modern Dating

First, let me start with my story. I met my husband working at a Christian summer camp when we were 19. We dated long distance for a little over 4 years before getting married at 23. I never experienced the whole “go to a bar to meet someone” occurrence during my dating years and have mainly learned through entertainment and social media. Plus, if I wasn’t currently married, I would be Liz Lemon.

I went out with a group of single women on Valentine’s Day this year and got a small glimpse into modern dating and found it both fascinating and entertaining.

To set the scene, I was visiting a friend from college (Anna) in Austin prior to a work event. She’s a travel nurse, so it was wonderful timing for her to be in Austin at the same time I was going to be there! The plan was to go dancing, so we loaded up the car with Anna, her mom, Carol (her mom’s friend), and Allie (her neighbor) and went to The Domain.

Unfortunately, the usual dance class was having some sort of Valentine’s special for couples. When we got there, the pairs were learning the choreography to “Time of my Life” from Dirty Dancing. As entertaining as it would have been to see them get to the lift at the end, we decided to find another hangout spot for the evening.

We ended up at The Punchbowl – a bar/restaurant that also has arcade and table games. The table games (foosball, ping pong, virtual reality games, etc) you had to pay for by the hour, so we opted for some arcade games. While we were racing Mario characters, Anna’s mom and friend gained an admirer at the bar named Mark. He offered to treat us to foosball, so we accepted.

It was a giant table – 4 people per side, so we played the 30 & unders versus the over-30s. This is when I got to observe Mark trading his attention between Anna’s mom and her friend Carol. During a “team huddle” I asked Anna about this. “Wait – which one does he like? Is he eventually going to pick one? This is so fascinating to me!”

We proceeded to lose at foosball after keeping a relatively close game for the first half and then switched sides for a rematch. At some point during our rematch, we gained some onlookers. After losing the rematch (still bitter), our onlookers introduced themselves as part of the IT department for Amazon and said they wanted to play as well. They looked to be in their 20s and 30s, and this is when Mark turned into who I like to call Macho Mark.

He grabbed the foosball and told the group that the current game was on him, but he’d be happy to turn the ball back in if they wanted to get the next game. I definitely understand not wanting to pay for someone else’s game, but the way he made a show of it seemed unnecessary.

We contemplated leaving at this point. It was quite late (again – I’m Liz Lemon), plus it was Central time, making it even later for me.

But then it seemed rude to leave when they had just paid for another round of foosball, so we stayed. We were contemplating a guys versus girls matchup when Macho Mark came over and named himself the captain of our team and assigned each of us which section of the field we were responsible for. Apparently not paying for the game meant he was still playing?

Three of the four Amazon guys were not good at foosball. In fact, they were really bad. The one good guy switched to defense after we built up a substantial lead, or else the game would have been over much faster.

At some point, the Amazon team called Mark “Old Yeller.” Macho Mark, not to be outdone, retorted with, “Hey – you’re 4 single guys hanging out together on Valentine’s Day, and I’m with three chicks. I’ve already won.” Then he went on to mansplain to us how to play foosball. Cue my numerous eye rolls.

After we defeated the Amazonians, we declined to stay for another game even with bribes of drinks. Again – I’m Liz Lemon. Those carrots don’t work on me. We did stay long enough for a group photo, though! By this point I had already told Anna I would be writing a blog post about this evening, so I wanted a photo for posterity.

All in all, the evening was a very tame look into a life I’m not familiar with. I realize “glimpse into modern dating” is a bit exaggerated considering the events of the night, but I like it. It’s entertaining – just like my Valentine’s Day.

 

T’was the Night Before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas, and all throughout Workplace

Every participant was posting at a furious pace.

Daily Blog Posts was booming, each submission full of wit,

Sharing wisdom and tips, hoping for a massive traffic hit.

Today I Learned, blowing up just as much

With people sharing about bitcoin and diet and such.

All Participants and Alumni, the lobby if you will

Holds photo of Praxis Swag & Christmas traditions. This group is never still.

Then from my Slack window, there was the notification knocking

(When you work remotely, this is our form of talking)

Over to Slack I turned my attention

To see what message had my name mentioned.

The #random thread had messages streaming in

Typical team shenanigans, maybe influenced by holiday gin.

I watched as the story continued to unfold

A new take on Santa and his reindeer, breaking the mold.

For Santa, the clear choice was our fearless leader.

The competition Isaac faced for claiming the spot was meager.

The team were the reindeer, making this company fly

First up is TK, what a swell guy.

He listens to Christmas music all through the year

Only having people to share it with when the holiday draws near.

Then there’s Cameron, our resident grump.

Don’t let him fool you, he’s usually only acting down in the dump.

You can find Derek writing content at the speed of light,

And if you want to defend Bitcoin, he’s down for the fight.

Chuck is our resident expert on almost anything you can think:

Websites, books, cocktails, or how to make a sausage link.

Ryan is from Canada, which is apparently still a country.

He’s a World Wanderer, going on adventures, at times including bungee.

Laurie is a customer service and Instagram pro.

She also writes killer blog posts that make you say “Woah!”

Brian is our Joseph, an interpreter of dreams.

The amount of paper needed to write his life story would be reams upon reams.

Hannah is a creative: writing and photographing her life.

Her works saves participants and staff countless strife.

I am happiest when playing with data.

Even though Salesforce and Excel have many a hater.

That is our team, the best the land,

And I challenge you to find a group anywhere that is as grand.

Add in our participants and alumni, and the competition becomes sparse.

And to think the program was initially thought to be a farce!

I am thankful for this group, during the season of all things merry and bright.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!