So, how’s it going?

This is more a self-directed question than anything else, mostly to set me up to answer it. But, if you feel like telling me, I’d like to know how you’re doing, too.

Since my last post, I’ve:

– watched the Nationals beat the Phillies, 8-5, in a comeback win fueled by Jayson Werth’s 1,000th career hit;

– ran a good chunk of the Mount Vernon Trail near D.C., which was awesome because I got to watch planes take off from National Airport for a decent part of the run [Warning: gross thing coming up];

– tied my shoe too tight on that run and gave myself a zombie toe (wherein blood collects under the toenail; Google it if you really want to see what one looks like); I let it go for a week, couldn’t take the pressure any more, drained it, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and was pretty irritated when it flooded with fluid all over again the next day – so now, I just have a zombie toe full of dried blood that does not hurt but looks nasty;

– ran 15 miles in the rain one cool Sunday and – much to my surprise – really enjoyed it;

– went to the Central Virginia Craft Brewers’ Festival and tried several delicious beers, not that I can remember any of their names now (oops), but let me tell you, this part of the state makes some damn fine libations;

– in that vein, happily welcomed a new brewpub to town that I hope will continue to make delicious offerings, if their first go-round is any indication;

– began YET ANOTHER school year, in which I apparently will not have time to blog, but that’s okay – being busy with dissertation stuff is good;

– played a couple of rounds of golf / had some practice at the driving range, in which my shots were not terribly awful and in some cases even traveling straight and/or in the air;

– visited my family for Labor Day weekend, which was hot but full of beer and dancing and grilled meats and boat-time;

– aaaaaand last but not least [screech] [thump] caught a really nasty cold that has temporarily thwarted my MCM training.

I’m in that meaty part of marathon training composed of heavy-mile weeks, and this past weekend I peaked at 44 – which is the largest amount of miles I’ve ever run in one week in my entire life – and it’s interesting this go-round, because I remember how hard it was last year, when I was writing about this more often as I went through it for the first time. I don’t really feel the need to document all of that this time, because not much about it has changed. It’s still hard; there are still mornings when I want to give up and fling myself down on the concrete and take a nap [but I don’t because it’s 4am and I will probably get hit by a car], and there are nights when I wish I could go hang out with friends [but I can’t because I have to be in bed by 9pm], and there are aches and pains and sorenesses that won’t go away unless I just flat-out stop [which I won’t because, deep down, I love doing this]. But, it’s much easier to manage this time, because I’ve been through it before and I have a better idea of what to expect, and a better idea of how to recover and protect myself properly.

I also feel more confident about being able to finish this marathon faster. My pace runs have all been hovering right around the 10:00/mile mark, which is right where I want to be, though I’m not sure I can hold that pace over 22 or so miles. (My m.o. for any race longer than a 5k is to start out slow, excruciatingly slow, and then ramp up to race-pace and, with any luck, have enough left to hit negative splits in the second half.) It’s easy to hold for 8 miles, but 22? I don’t know. I feel like a better and stronger runner this time through, and I feel more mentally prepared and much less freaked out about the whole process, which I know will help me on race morning.

But this cold. This cold! I missed a workout for the first time ever in any of my training this morning, and I had to actively tell myself that it was and is okay for me to miss one stupid 5-mile run and gym session because missing one day is not going to completely derail my entire 18 weeks of training. It’s funny, given how much I tweaked last year’s marathon plan I was not nearly as freaked out about all of that messing around with the schedule as I was about missing this one stupid run. I think it’s because I’m a better and smarter runner now that I think, well, if I stick to the plan that’s been working for me, I’ll have a great race! Thing is, precisely because I’m better and smarter, I also am more willing to listen to my body when it tells me no no no please don’t today. And this morning was the first time that it said that, and I said, I will listen to you, because I know that it is you and not my trickstery brain trying to tell me I’m lazy or unwilling to do this. [Trust me,  I know the difference; that moment when the alarm goes off at 2:45am and my legs try to tell my hands hit snooze! We’re tired!, my hands, being closer to my brain, know that my legs are trying to usurp my brainpower and make me be lazy, so the hands win – the alarm goes OFF, out of bed I go.] What did it for me – and I’d suspected last night that this was going to be the case – was that this cold has moved down into my chest, and I now have the lovely death-rattle of crap skeeballing around in my lungs before it gets expectorated. I had nose- and sinuses-only symptoms starting Friday morning and going through Sunday evening, so I did my 8- and 18-mile runs on the weekend as normal, and I felt fine, even a little better because the running cleared a good deal of the congestion out. But when I finished Sunday’s run, I felt a tightness in my chest that I knew spelled trouble, and sure enough, Monday morning I woke up and knew what was coming. I did a shortened and very not-intense cross-training session Monday morning, and was prepared to back off and run just an easy, slow 5-miler this morning, but when I crawled into bed at 8:30 last night and set my alarm for 3am, I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to say nope! and turn back over for 2 more hours of sleep before work.

That’s exactly what I did, and it feels weird to have done so, but I plan to just pick up where I left off anyway, and do an easy 5-miler tomorrow morning, provided I feel better. This is a ramp-down week anyway, where I was only scheduled for 36 miles, so minus today’s run, I’ll still make 31 for the week, which is not bad. [Next week I get my first 20-miler of the schedule, which will be wheeee so much fun!]

But I just want this crap out of me and gone already. Not least because I’m going to a bacon and beer festival on Saturday and I REALLY want to be able to enjoy myself as much as possible. 😛

So, that’s how things are going here. How about on your end?

YAY more health and marathon stuff. (But: I think I figured out the weirdness!)

Health stuff first. If this makes you squicky, skip ahead to the Marathon stuff below. (this is when I miss Livejournal and its cut-tags!)

Right. so: at last post in, um, June I was on inhalers after an “all-clear” signal from the cardiologist. I gave them two weeks, and they didn’t seem to be helping; I had a couple of panic attacks that they definitely didn’t help, so I called my PCP I guess about two weeks ago from this Wednesday (July 10, if you’re counting) and said “hey, these aren’t doing anything, so what next?” He steered me towards a pulmonary specialist to make sure it wasn’t a lung issue, and then he said “at the same time, you may want to consult psychological services (called CAPS here at school) to see if they can’t refer to you someone to help you manage the physical symptoms that I think are pointing towards panic disorder”. So, I did those two things; the pulmonary folks got me in for July 15, and CAPS – well, CAPS works a little differently because they do a screening phone call to help figure out where they should best send you. I’ve had some not-so-great experiences with CAPS in the past, both for me and with other people (as in, hearing about their experiences), so I was not entirely looking forward to the process. But, at the same time, these panic attacks had been starting to interfere with my daily activities – and especially running! – in a way that made me say “okay, it’s time to do something about this already because I cannot handle this on my own anymore”.

CAPS dude called me on July 11, and instantly he was fantastic. He asked good questions, and seemed genuinely interested in my situation, and at one point actually said to me “I am going to follow up with you – and I want you to follow up with me – every week, because I’m going to be with you until we get a solution to this problem”. This was huge, because no one at CAPS has ever said anything like that to me, and it was such a relief to know that – even though my issues aren’t life-threatening or even really that big of a thing – this guy had my back. He gave me one referral, and I called her and set up an appointment with her for last Thursday (July 18, again, if you’re counting).

Fast-forward to July 15. I went to the pulmonary folks, and we did a bunch of tests to see if I had asthma, all of which I passed – as in, no asthma, completely clear lungs, no clots or fluid or weirdness or anything. The doctor did suggest that it could be vocal cord dysfunction, in which the cords don’t fold or unfold properly during inhalation or exhalation and can cause blockage of the airflow into the trachea and lungs. Since I’ve been having trouble inhaling, she thought it would be more this than asthma, especially since I came out of the tests asthma-clear, and the inhalers didn’t do anything (they’re more for lungs than throat). But, we left it at that, and I told her I was going to pursue other possible leads in my quest to figure this all out.

Before my July 18 appointment with the licensed professional counselor (LPC), I – somewhat at Saint’s insistence – returned to the idea that all of this could very well have been caused by the birth-control switch. I had an IUD put in at the beginning of May, before our trip to London; specifically, it was the Mirena IUD, which had a long list of side effects and, I noted while reading and asking around for others’ experiences, was one of the most hotly divided between “love it/hate it” among those who’ve had it put in. The first couple of days after the insertion, I felt meh, but not awful, and within a week or two I felt more normal. Then London, then the weirdness. Saint kept saying that the timing was just right – three weeks after insertion – for it to have been something about the IUD that was the root cause of all this. I didn’t discount that theory, but I wanted to rule out everything else first. Now that I’d done that, well, there I was.

One side effect that isn’t anywhere in the mound of literature that comes with a Mirena insertion is “panic attacks”. A quick Google search will lead you to an apparent army of women who never had a single panic attack in their lives who started having them after getting Mirena put in. You know that feeling when something so blatantly obvious finally goes click in your brain and you wonder why you didn’t realize it sooner? That was what it felt like, reading about all of these women who were completely derailed by this device. Another thing I didn’t realize about Mirena is that it is partly made of silicone; I’ve recently – as in the past month – had a very bad reaction to something else containing silicone, so I’m wondering if there isn’t some silicone allergy I never I knew I had that would be causing my weirdness. In any event, every instinct in my body was telling me “get this thing out of you, so I decided to sleep on it and see if I still felt the same way the next day (which was July 18).

I did, so I went to see the LCP and told her immediately that I wanted to rule out the possibility of the IUD/silicone allergy being responsible for my panicky everythings, and she agreed, and we had a very nice hour together talking about ways for me to cope with weirdness for the time being. I told her that if it did turn out to not be the IUD or silicone allergy, that I’d prefer the mental coaching / cognitive therapy approach first, and then short-term medication second, if that didn’t work. I’m in no way saying that I attach a stigma to being on something like Xanax – which is what she said would be prescribed – and I can hear my sister saying “You voluntarily turned down Xanax? Are you nuts?!”, but because my other sister is a somewhat-functioning prescription drug addict, I’m quite leery of being on prescribed medication if it’s not absolutely necessary. (I get irritated enough at having to take 4 horse pills per day for my ulcerative colitis, and I won’t even take ibuprofen for a headache unless I can’t see straight. I may also be slightly overreacting to the idea of taking medicine, yes, but we’ll save that for another day.) I’ve even taken SSRIs before – Lexapro – with good results, and I know plenty of people for whom SSRIs and similar types of medicines have worked. I just want to emphasize that I don’t know if these medicines are right for me at the given moment, is all.

Anyway, LCP and I had a really lovely time together and I felt bad that we might possibly not see each other after the 18th – I told her I’d get back in touch with her at the beginning of August – and as soon as I left I called the folks who’d put in my IUD to talk about getting it taken out. Things escalated rather quickly, and I found myself with an appointment the next morning (this is Friday, the 19th)  to get it taken out after I told my doctor there what had been going on.

So, that happened, and just like that! it was out. I got a prescription to go back on the Pill, and went on my merry way. Now, I should explain here that the gynecologist I saw in January for my annual exam noted that the Pill and ulcerative colitis patients tend not to mix, because the danger of blood clots caused by the pill is elevated with UC. But, my UC has been pretty darn well held in check for a while, and I’m – at my GI doctor’s word – a rather low-risk patient at the moment, and managing well. I also never had a single panic attack when on the pill, and never had any other issues with it. It was working fine for me, so why not go back on it? I talked to both the doctor who put in and removed the IUD and the gynecologist about this – specifically, whether or not I should try a copper IUD (no hormones, just a copper device) or an implant, or just go back on the Pill – and we collectively agreed that the Pill was still the best option. I’m a bit gunshy about getting another IUD put in me, and the implant is something I’m still considering – though, my thinking is that if I’m going to get a form of birth control that lasts 10 years, why not just get my tubes tied? (I’ve known I don’t want kids since I was 12. No, I am not ever going to change my mind. Yes, I have met The One, and he doesn’t want kids either. So, hush. :)) So, the Pill it is again, and we’re back where we started.

So, where am I now with the weirdness? I feel like I need to wait a few weeks to be sure that I can conclusively say that it was, in fact, the IUD that was the cause of all of this. I’m also going to try as best I can to eliminate the source of the silicone that may have also been the culprit. I also have the vocal cord dysfunction in the back of my mind, so I’m not entirely prepared to rule that out as a possibility either. In the short term, however, I can say that – and I hope it’s not the placebo effect – I feel rather better already. I’ve gone on two runs since Friday, and cross-trained at the gym today, and didn’t get the dizziness or numbness in my hands and feet at any point during or after exercise. I did have some shortness of breath, though a good deal of that can be attributed to a) going uphill b) the fact that I was doing a pace run on Saturday and AUGH I HATE THOSE because I always feel like I’m going to puke but that’s how I know I’m hitting my pace and c) the fact that we’re still dealing with dew points above 70F at 6am when I run in 75-degree weather, which makes it really hard to breathe normally. My heart rate has been much better about going down and – more importantly – staying down when I’m done running or working out, and it’s not racing when I wake up in the morning or am sitting still. So, I will keep my fingers crossed for the next couple of weeks, and be vigilant about monitoring symptoms and whatnot.

BTW, I feel like I should just print out a copy of all that and hand it to my dissertation advisor and say “This. THIS is why I haven’t gotten any work done in the last two weeks!” It’s been frustrating and time-consuming, for sure, but I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’ll soon be able to put it all behind me.

Okay, health stuff done! On to Marathon stuff.

So, yes: I’ve finished week 4 of training, and am on to week 5. I like this part of the plan because it’s when I start hitting 30-mile weeks and can justify an extra snack or beer or two or three in my diet 🙂 Plus, I really enjoy the double-digit long runs; not to say that 9 miles is nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s a mental thing – simply because it’s double digits, 10 or 11 miles feel so much cooler than  9 miles. When I do a 9-mile cutback long run two Sundays from yesterday – at the end of week 6 – that will be my last single-digit long run of training. After that, shit gets real. Woohoo!

This weekend I had a 6-mile pace run on Saturday and an 11-mile slooooow long run on Sunday. I’d done a 5-mile pace run last weekend in much cooler and less humid temperatures on a much flatter route (I was in Saint’s city), so I was a bit worried and irritated at the idea of doing a 6-mile pace run in warmer and much more humid temperatures and on a rather more hilly route in my own town. I even thought for a hot second about taking indoors to a treadmill, but then I remembered how much I absolutely hated every second of every pace run I ever did on a treadmill last year while training for my first marathon (plus, it’s too easy to bitch out and start slowing down on a treadmill). I also got mad at the humidity and decided that I was not going to let it take over my life like that. Armed with an abundance of caution – I was ready to take the necessary measures to slow down and cool off only if absolutely necessary – I set out early Saturday morning to get going.

Happily, it was overcast, so at least there wasn’t going to be any sun for my run. It was still grossly humid, so that by the time I was done I was completely covered in sweat (yes, even in those places). My time wasn’t as fast as I’d wanted – I was able to hit a 9:12/mile pace last weekend in the cool/flat run, and here I managed about a 10:10/mile pace – but, all things considered like hills and humidity, I was pleased. I was tired, sweaty, hot, but happy, and knew I’d set myself up well to have a nice slow long run the next day.

Sunday (hey, yesterday!) dawned with rather a lot more sun than Saturday, which I thought unfair because I had to run nearly twice as long and thus be outside for nearly twice as long. Happily, I accidentally mostly picked roads in the shade, and the first hour of my run was completely shaded because the sun hadn’t completely risen and I ran about 3 miles in a park down by a river 2 miles away. So, that was pretty awesome. I did hit some sun later, but it wasn’t too bad, and was never bearing down on me for more than .2/mile at a time. (No, I did not put on sunscreen or wear a visor. Why do you ask? :))

I did two things differently with this run than I normally would, and that was: 1) stop for water twice; 2) take 2 gels with me to consume. I’m at the point where I could probably slowly run a half-marathon without either water or food; I can do 9-10 miles without and still maintain a reasonable pace, but since it’s summer and I hemorrhage water and electrolytes like it’s my job, I decided to be smarter about replenishing stores during instead of afterwards. I also have an idea that I might need to take in more food-fuel during the actual marathon, because I’m not sure I ate enough last year. So, I’m going to start eating and drinking more on my long runs to get my body used to this idea. It worked like a charm on Sunday; I timed my consumption well, and I’d already been feeling pretty good prior to said consumptions. (Heh, that sounds like I had a really good experience with a medieval disease… not quite!) By the end, I was having to hold back a bit, because I was tempted to sprint the last half-mile home on my tired-but-feeling-gooood legs. I resisted, though I did accelerate somewhat ridiculously through the traffic light intersection closest to my house because I really just wanted to not have to wait to go the last 0.1 mile to get home. I actually laughed after that and thought, where the hell did that come from? And I was smiling like a good a couple of minutes later when I slowed down and ended my run. My average pace ended up being an embarrassingly slow 11:47/mile pace, but whatever – that’s what these long runs are for, to teach me to run long on tired legs. On fresh legs, that would have been at least 90 seconds faster; in less humid conditions, at least 2 minutes faster. So I like where I am now, but I know I have room for improvement, and plenty of time in which to get it done.

Long story short, MCM training is going well and I am pleased with my higher mileage and excited for the summer heat to eventually cool off and make things a bit less temperaturely-excruciating.

And hey! Bonus Food stuff.

I don’t have nearly as much to say here, but I had some absolutely amazing barbecue on Saturday from a local hole-in-the-wall that I am still thinking about and drooling over, and I also made some pretty awesome banana pudding (yes, the kind with Nilla wafers and whipped cream) on Saturday that I have tried very hard to not completely consume before today. I don’t think it’ll see Wednesday, but we’ll see. I swapped out Greek yogurt for the whipped cream and you can’t tell the difference, which is great, because it somewhat curbs my guilt at consuming all that sugar in one go.

Non-food stuff, but still fun.

I hiked to a swimming hole with some friends yesterday (sure, why not an easy 4-mile hike to jump-start the long run recovery?) and it was hot and humid and gross and then we got in the water which was deliciously cold and then it started clouding over and THEN we got torrentially thunderstormed upon as we were hurriedly packing up to leave. Normally I’d be irritated at getting completely soaked for a second time in one day (first time was after my run, yum!), but when you’re already swimming-hole wet, it just doesn’t matter. I did have to lay out my wallet, its contents, and my spare clothes to dry them out afterwards, but there was delicious beer and a hot shower afterwards so it was all good. A well-spent summer Sunday if ever I saw one, I say.

Thus ends the stuff! Carry on, friends, and be well.

 

A quick update on health stuff. Oh, and MCM training!

– because, you know, my many readers are wondering what happened at the cardiologist. I know, the wait was killing you! Here is your answer:

I got an echocardiogram (after having a normal EKG). It was *awesome* because I got to hear and see all of the ways my heart moves blood around and it was all sorts of colorful and squishy-sounding. A few pokes in the ribs, sure, but otherwise it was one of the neatest things I’ve ever had done to me in a doctor’s office. It turned out completely normal, save some very very minor regurgitation (I think that’s the word the cardiologist used) that isn’t supposed to be a Thing. So, I asked: what next? Off to see a primary care physician, to try a more general approach.

To sum quickly, what I’ve been dealing with is a month-plus of panicky feelings – near panic-attacks, but never having an actual one – plus difficulty breathing, dizziness, tingling in extremities, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, pain in lower legs, thumping-heartbeat feelings, elevated heart rate, aaand I think that was it. Blood clots in legs and lungs were ruled out, heart issue was ruled out, anxiety is still on the table as a possibility (but why? I’m not anxious about anything, really; could be hormones from switching birth control…), but PCP said hey, maybe it’s something in your lungs, which sound clear but let’s try inhalers to see if we can’t open up your breathing passageways. (Going up a flight of stairs puts me very much out of breath, and I run 20ish miles a week. Laying in bed makes breathing difficult too, regardless of how I am positioned.)

So, that’s where we are now: albuterol before exercise and every 4-6 hours, and fluticasone every twelve hours. I’m learning quickly that albuterol – known for causing the jitters – is not combining well with caffeine, so I need to watch that combination. I feel like I’m slowly turning into my mother, who used inhalers for most of my childhood and may still do so, for all I know. 😛  We’ll see how this goes for about two weeks, and then re-assess as necessary.

Anyway, yeah. This week is/was week one of MCM training. 24 miles, 11 of which I’ve already done – 5 tomorrow, 8 on Sunday – and I’m feeling okay about this. I wasn’t so jazzed a couple of weeks ago, but I feel better now. My runs have gone slightly better since then, and I have a feeling this training will be harder than the training for my first one, not just because of the breathing issues but also because it’s a more advanced plan. That’s intentional, because I’ve realized that running more miles in training = faster time on race day, and I want to break *ahem* 4:30 in this race, and I think I can do it.

One week down (mostly), 17 to go…

And with that, I’m off to teach and then off to South Carolina for the weekend. Woo!

In which I am annoyed. (Warning: poop talk ahead.)

But wait: yes, I am five (5) (V) days out from my first marathon and am entirely too cognizant of this. Yes, my last long run on Saturday proved to me that I am beyond ready to run this thing. Yes, it’s weird mapping out dinky (to me) 2- and 3-mile runs for this week. Yes, I am nuts for running in shorts in 35-degree weather this morning, but my legs are still forgetting that they’re really actually okay with this. Yes, I am sure that I am going to go insane – and drive all 5 of my readers insane – with the lack of running I will be doing this week. And yes, I am grateful that I have a lot of work to do this week to help keep the craziness a little at bay. I’ll probably address all of that later on in the week, but for now, you get a post-Halloween treat!

Yup, this is one of those NSFW posts I keep promising you, so if reading about other people’s rear ends and their troubles makes you squirm, get out now.

Okay, so if you keep reading you can’t complain about gross things any more.

Really.

Okay! So I know that in the grand scheme of Things That Are Bad in People’s Lives, this currently is astronomically low compared to what People Who Are Not Me are going through. But that doesn’t mean I’m still not irked by it. I’m irked enough to broadcast it on the Internet, if that tells you anything. My apologies if you stumble on this during your dinnertime; I think I put this off for most of the day because subconsciously I knew that fewer people would be reading at this time of day, at least on the East Coast of the U.S. where I am and where I think most of my readers are. But then I think: we have an Election tomorrow, so more people might be Internetting? I don’t know. Anyway, if you’re in the U.S. and you just read that, GO VOTE TOMORROW MORNING. Or I’ll poop on you.

Ahem. Anyway, I went to my butt doctor last week, as alluded to in my last post, and she gave me a different medicine to try, as I also alluded to in my last post. In case you don’t hang on my every word (tsk), I was nervous about switching to this medicine because it’s the oral version of the first butt medicine I started taking after my UC diagnosis last December. I don’t know why I stuck with those suppositories for so long, because they ended up being awful: my anus itched constantly, and only ever stopped when I cleaned it out with soap and water, so basically, it stopped itching once a day, for the merciful period in which I was showering. As soon as the next poop came, boom! Back came the itch. And I was pooping pretty much every time I used the toilet, and it was no longer the round, solid, dark toilet bombs I was used to flinging into the bowl. No no, this was much less formed and almost… orange, like I’d eaten nothing but carrots for weeks. Because it was soft and less formed, it started requiring much more TP usage to get myself clean, and even then I’d never feel like I got everything, which led to digging around, which over enough time led to irritation to the point of inflammation, and then an hour later I’d fart and think hmmm, was that a fart or a poop? and often have no way to immediately get to a bathroom to find out. And then I’d start thinking I’d just crapped myself, and with no way to fix it would just have to walk around smelling like poop for a while, the thought of which was superbly embarrassing, because sometimes I’d be doing things like teaching or meeting with students or driving people to work. Oh, and the gas? Mortifying. Silent farts became impossible. The constant stream of soft, orangey, stinky, reluctant-to-leave poo was frustrating as all hell, and within a month or six or maybe even ten or twelve weeks, I called my doctor and said, “We have to try something else because my ass is dying”.

So, she put me on a cortisone butt foam, which is a steroid and intended for short-term use. I’m not sure how short short-term really is, but the medicine she’d first had me on *is* intended to be for long-term use, so the hope was that I could try the steroids for a bit and then try the oral – pill – version of the original suppository. Within three days, the butt foam was working miracles. The first thing to go was the itching anus, and everything else followed suit within a couple of weeks. Christmas! I could fart and be confident that it was, indeed, made of air and air alone. I’ll spare you other details, but suffice it to say that it was a huge improvement.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so I was very, very gradually – over the course of seven, eight, nine months? – tapered off the butt steroids with an eye towards getting me on oral medication. That day finally came last week – Thursday to be precise, the day after my appointment with my butt doctor – and she told me I could keep the foam for maintenance purposes, and use it “as needed”, in her words; to my understanding, only if symptoms get so unbearable that I need a temporary solution until I can get in touch with her. I asked her if it was really such a good idea to be switching medicines so close to my marathon – runners have a long, storied, and not always pleasant relationship with poop, which both of us openly discussed – and she said I would be fine. I believed her, and on Thursday morning started the medicine.

Well.

Here it is, Monday evening, and I have to actively resist the urge to spend the rest of the evening sitting in my bathroom scratching my ass. It itches so damn much. Everything that happened with the suppositories is happening again, and I’m pissed about it. (there’s a joke there somewhere…) Now that I’ve compared the dosages, the four I take every morning are giving me four times as much drug as the one suppository I was taking last year. They’re extended-release, which I guess is maybe why I continuously poop soft and orange all day, and why the gas and the uh-oh-what-are-these-really farts keep going, and why the itching will. Not. Stop., except when I’m just out of the shower. Thankfully, the two runs I’ve had since I started taking the pills – on Saturday, and this morning – have passed without incident, but when I am in the middle of running 26.2 miles I want to be thinking about anything other than wow, my ass itches SO MUCH right now, can someone please kill me? Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but this is *exactly* why I was hesitant to start taking a medicine this week that has proven troublesome to me in the past. Maybe my doctor thought the pill form would be less awful? I don’t know.

So I’m torn between sending her a message saying “guess what, my old friend Anal Itching is back again with a vengeance, and he brought ALL OF HIS FRIENDS to the party”, and waiting a couple of days to see if things even out, so that I’ll have been on the medicine a week before saying anything. Maybe this just needs time to iron out the kinks? But I thought that last time, too, and suffered for no reason for like three months. There have to be other oral medicines out there I can use, right? But also, man, I spent 130 fucking dollars on this bottle of pills, and I still have sitting in my closet the mostly-full box of un-used suppositories from last year that I kept “just in case” the butt foam didn’t work, and I spent a pretty penny on those, too, and I would be doubly pissed if I end up having to just throw the pills – and all of that money – away and spend another $130 to try something else (my insurance has a really nice $100 deductible whenever you start a new medicine, and when you renew your insurance every year. It’s shitty, yeah, but what can you do? If I don’t have insurance, I get kicked out of school – it’s required for all students here!).

Errrrrgh. Arrrrrgh. Insert pirate noise here – it just sucks, and it’s frustrating, and it’s not a distraction I need this week. Or next week, really, when I start taking my major graduate exams that sort of determine whether or not I get a PhD (but no big deal, right?). ARRRRRRGH.

Okay, I feel better now, at least in my brain. My ass… well, that’s a different story.

Sorry. But you were warned. 🙂

Probably my shortest post ever!

Not much to do with running here. Well, maybe: my visit with my doctor yesterday was quite fruitful. I’m finally moving onto oral medication, but I’m a bit nervous about the timing since it’s the oral version of something that as a topical medicine bothered me very much and was generally quite disruptive. That I’m starting it a week and change out from a marathon isn’t… pleasing exactly, but my doctor thinks I’ll handle it just fine. I hope she’s right! 🙂

And this is a bit of a throwaway thought, but why does my doctor have to have the most unfair knack of working with hot internists? I can’t quite get over how difficult it is to talk about my poop with a straight face with a very, very, very good-looking guy. It’s really hard to not be embarrassed when you hear the words “my stool is usually bla bla bla but now it’s bla bla bla” (and that’s the very toned-down version) coming out of your mouth but all you’re thinking is “wow, you have got AMAZING eyes. and hands. and that smile!….”

Ahem. Anyway… nothing else to see here. 🙂

10 days out.

This is going to be a short post, because I have to scoot off to start dinner – which will be pumpkin soup, because dang it got cold quick. I guess having a cold front plus the western edge of a superstorm will do that to you. Sandy mostly left us here in central VA alone; we got steady rain and winds for most of yesterday and last night, and less so today, so I’m grateful that the two gallons of water I bought just in case will have to be used at a later time. My thoughts do go out to the people in NY and NJ, though, who were not so lucky. (I’ve had to stop looking at pictures of the damage; they’ve started making me quite sad.)

Okay then!

1) 10 days out from the marathon: yes, it’s taper time. I’ve been incredibly busy with school work, so I’m not going as crazy as I could be, which may or may not be a bad thing. I’ve only spent a couple of hours reading race recaps from years prior, instead of ten or twelve hours, like I thought I might be. However, check back with me in a week, and I might report that I am, in fact, climbing my walls.

2) I had my last long run this past Saturday. I know I’m a sick person when I casually tell someone, “oh, I only ran 12 this morning”. I feel like an asshole saying it, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point in my running when a 10-miler is now something to train faster for, and not just to finish. One year ago, I would not have seen that coming. Pursuant to that, my now-very-short-runs of 3 and 4 miles are more annoying than anything, since I get going and then have to stop, but I know I’ll remember that thought and laugh somewhere around mile 22, if my brain is still engaged at all by then.

3) One possible way for me to avoid climbing my walls next week is riding my bike. Still unnamed, she is, though for some reason I can’t get the name Matilda out of my head; we went on a long ride out in the country on Sunday, with a group of people I didn’t know save for one person (the kind soul who sold me my bike, who invited me to this ride). Normally that would be a situation that induces extreme anxiety in me, to the point where I’ll often just come up with some lame excuse and bail, but I sucked it up and went, and had a total blast spending seven hours rolling around foliage-covered apple orchards and horse farms and mountains with 30 like-minded souls. We stopped often, and for long periods of time; lunch was an absurd affair, with at least four bottles of wine, three cheese boards, two pies, and several six-packs of PBR and gallons of apple cider. These people know how to throw down, I tell you. They ride again in May, which I’m very much looking forward to.

4) The Virginia Film Festival is this weekend, which is something I always enjoy. I’ll let you know if anything truly awesome is shown that everyone should go see, like, now.

5) Cold-weather running. For some reason – mostly because I could, I think, having been stuck in the house for most of the past 2-ish days after officials said “DO NOT GO ANYWHERE” and I was happy to comply – I decided it was sane and normal to run outside in 40-degree weather this morning. In shorts and a long-sleeve shirt (and gloves – oh, I bought these fantastic waterproof lightweight gloves and boy, have they already come in handy! Ba-dum chhhh), when the other 10 people who were also crazy enough to be running outside were wearing pants and jackets. I kept telling myself it was because I need to start acclimating to colder temperatures, which is true, but when I couldn’t feel my knees for the first 2 miles I started wondering what was wrong with me. But, it was a great run; there was a spring in my step the entire time, and I felt strong and light, even though it was, um, really cold and oh, there was a nice 10mph headwind for most of the way.

6) Yep, 10 days. Shit’s gettin’ real. Which reminds me – I go to see my butt doctor tomorrow, which is good because we have some talking to do. Nothing horrible, but I’m not where I’d like to be in terms of feeling 100% digestively healthy, and by God I’ve waited three months for this appointment so we are going to have a nice chat.

But yeah. 10 days. That is all.

The Hangover Run, the Zombie Watch, the Lost Toenail, and the New Bike

Right, so: last Saturday I had probably the weirdest hangover run I’ve ever had. It was only 12 miles, but the longest hangover run – yes, this refers to a run done the morning after a night of a bit too much drinking – I’d done prior to this was 6 miles. I figured I could handle 12, especially since when my alarm went off I said to it “oh HELL no” and gave myself two more hours of sleep.

Well. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great, at first, when my head would not stop pounding (too little sleep + dehydration + exercise = hello lady!). Once I got into the first few miles, I stopped wishing for a swift death, and started enjoying the scenery around me. I’d chosen to run from a main road to an off-road that leads to a camp, and wends through the woods pretty well to do so, but is still paved. It was a clear, crisp, silent fall morning once I got out of earshot of the interstate nearby; a crystal-clear blue sky, birds twittering all around, chilly air kissing my cheeks, little springs babbling water a few feet away, the brilliant color of some of the changed leaves shining bright… AUGH. GORGEOUS. And my head was still pounding, but I had that moment where I realized I didn’t care. I had what a former professor calls her “autumnal yawp”: that strangely exuberant feeling that only a certain combination of light and color and temperature can spur that makes you want to jump in the air and explode. I only ever get it in the fall, for many reasons I won’t go into here, and I never know exactly when it will hit me, but this year it snuck up on me on that run and said “HEY HI LIFE IS AWESOME”. And so, on I went, with a spring in my step, outrunning that hangover one step at a time.

As it turned out, I had to deviate from my planned route due to construction, so I turned it into an out-and-back and had to add another mile and change when I got home. I’d randomly stopped into a coffee shop that’s on the way back to taste some coffee – they do tastings on Saturday mornings – so I thought for a hot second that it might have been bad to drink a bunch of coffee and then go run another mile, but I was so deep in my yawping that it didn’t matter. Didn’t care. I was actually sort of mad that I was only scheduled for 12 miles that day, since I felt like I could easily go 15-18 without a problem.

I should remember that feeling, when I’m at mile 24 of my marathon and want to die. 🙂

Anyway, Zombie Watch plays into this, as I had to leave it at home for this run because I thought the temperature might be a bit too chilly. See, Zombie Watch is my silly little Spongebob Squarepants digital watch that I got out of a cereal box some seven or eight years ago. As a running watch, it’s perfect because it does two things: tells me what time it is, and does not irritate my skin or fall off of me. It’s also never needed a new battery. It has, on occasion, stopped working when wet or cold or both, but has always magically started working again given enough time to dry out or warm up – usually a few hours, twelve at most.

Except for the half-marathon I talked about in my last post. That day was chilly and wet, and Zombie Watch succumbed to the elements. I set it aside until the Tuesday after the race (which was a week ago), but it still wasn’t working, which I assumed meant that it was, finally, Good and Dead. “Okay”, I thought, “this is where we have fun running without a watch and just enjoying what’s around us”. Which is what I did on Tuesday; I’ve run without a watch before by choice, so it was no big deal to do it one more time. But I kept thinking: how am I going to fix this in the long run (hahaha)? Buy another box of cereal just for the watch inside? Splurge on one of those fancy Garmin watches everyone seems to love so much? Just run watchless for the rest of my running life?

Wednesday arrived (still a week ago), and went, and Zombie Watch was still blank. Sigh. I did my 8-mile run as I’d posted about last time, watchless, and thought, “Hey, I could get used to this”. But I was still a little sad; Zombie Watch and I had been through a lot together, and I wanted it to at least live long enough to see me through my marathon.

Thursday dawned (yup, still last week), and out of sheer habit I’d put Zombie Watch in my bag before leaving for work. When I fished it out of said bag before my run, I was utterly shocked to see it display numbers. Legible, digital, time-telling numbers! Granted, they were the wrong ones, and when I clicked over to the date display, I learned that I’d fast-forwarded to December 1, but still – they were numbers. And the second hand was ticking.
Somehow, Zombie Watch had resurrected itself YET AGAIN.

I was simultaneously thrilled and vaguely terrified. On one hand, I had my old friend back! On the other hand, did this mean that the watch is imbued with some sort of evil magic that is eventually going to try to kill me in the middle of the night? (As Saint said in a text to me after I told him the news: “Keep that thing away from your head! It wants your brains!”) I shrugged off these thoughts, re-set the time and date, and set out on my Thursday 5-miler with a renewed sense of purpose. It was a fast one, too, and it felt great, which I though would set me up nicely for that Saturday’s 12-miler (the Hangover Run of above). When I woke up Saturday morning and realized the temperature was hovering around 50, I decided to leave Zombie Watch at home so as to not potentially expose it to too much cold (I was wearing gloves, but still: I’d just gotten my friend back, and didn’t want to lose it again so soon).

Zombie Watch came out with me on yesterday’s 5-miler, and while it now thinks that it’s yesterday still and is about 2.5 hours off of the actual time, the point is that it still works as a timekeeper, and – provided it’s not actually freezing outside – should, fingers crossed, be able to be there when I line up to start my marathon in (eeep) about 3 weeks.

WARNING: THE NEXT BIT IS POSSIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There aren’t pictures because I can’t bring myself to do it, so be grateful for that.

Okay, moving back to the Hangover Run. I’ve been tying my running shoes more tightly these days to prevent blisters, and by and large it’s worked pretty well. A side effect of this that I did not realize – in addition to me having cut too close to the quick when trimming before the half-marathon I ran in September – is that blood flow can get restricted in the toe box and in a sense cut off the blood supply to the toes. When something doesn’t get blood and all of the good things therein circulating to it, it dies. When this ‘something’ is a toenail, it will fall off.

When I started reading around various running fora online, nearly everyone who’s ever run any distance mentioned losing a toenail or ten at some point during their training. I had zero issues with toenails falling off through all of my training to this point; I started to feel like I wasn’t really a runner, even though I’d “achieved” the ‘you-are-a-runner-NOW!’ milestone of pooping myself while on a long run. [Sidenote: why do all of the milestones that make someone a ‘real’ runner involve gross bodily functions? Bloody nipples, poop going places it shouldn’t, bits falling off, blisters popping…] So when I cut this particular toenail too close to the quick last month, I was somewhat concerned when it started turning dark and darker colors. I left it alone, and only trimmed it the tiniest amount a couple of weeks later. But because I was the sort of kid who would, against all common sense to the contrary, take a loose tooth and wiggle it to the point of dangling in my mouth, I couldn’t resist touching the toenail to see if it would flex at all. One day, it gave a little. The next day, it gave a little more. The next day, I started to become very concerned that one day I was going to catch my foot on something (I wear flip-flops nearly year-round) and suddenly be down one toenail and in a LOT of pain. And then I thought, “what would that even LOOK like?” One toe with just… no nail on it. Huh. Weird.

Well, happily, I can now tell you that I won’t know for the near future what that does look like, because the human body is such a ridiculously good re-generator of its broken parts. Unbeknownst to me at the time, while the underneath-nail was turning dark colors and getting nasty, my body was growing an on-top nail to protect underneath-nail while it healed. Fast-forward to this past Sunday – a few days ago – and to me getting out of the shower after being at the gym. As I was drying off my feet, I felt a tug on one of my toes. “Oh no/Oh shit yes”, I thought, “this is it!” I peered down to the toe, and saw nothing unusual – except that it was clear that something flexible and nail-like was about to be dislodged from the top of that toe. I grabbed on and prepared for the pain. Sloooowly I worked it loose, but all of a sudden it just popped right off – yoink! – and wait, what? No pain? No blood? What the hell, is that a FULLY FORMED nail underneath the nail that just came off? HOLY CRAP THIS IS SO COOL.

The “new” underneath-nail is still dark in color, but I suspect that’s because I’ve still been tying my shoes too tight and have possibly permanently colored it dark red. Almost burgundy, if you look at it right, which makes me think I should just paint my toenails in the burgundy-and-gold of my beloved Redskins. (Ahem.) I’ll be tying my shoes more loosely from now on, but I clearly need to find the sweet spot between “too loose, causes blisters”, and “too tight, eats toenails”.

OKAY YOU CAN STOP READING THE GROSS STUFF NOW. Please come back, because this is exciting!

I’ve done a really good job of making short stories long in this post (and, really throughout my entire life), but I will not be doing the same for the last section of this post, which is The New Bike. I had been borrowing a friend’s bike for the past two years, but she took it back recently, and I grew increasingly despondent as the weather cooled off into Perfect Biking Weather and I started seeing people everywhere on bikes and it made me sad that I could not join them. So, I started shopping around for my very own, because, well, I have it in the budget and I really, really, REALLY miss having one. I contacted a friend who works at a bike shop, and we traded emails on the specifics of what I was looking for, and yesterday I went out to her store to see her and test-ride a bike or two.

Well.

The very first one she picked out for me I fell in love with. You know how sometimes you try on a pair of shoes and they immediately feel like you’ve owned them all your life? That was this bike for me. I couldn’t even let go of it when I was standing there talking to her about it, and about accessories and whatnots, and I kept asking if I could take it out for just one more, two more, three more little test rides. The shop was getting ready to close so I had to leave, so I told her I’d sleep on it for a night and make my decision in the morning. She nodded, and I immediately told her that if she couldn’t tell by my body language, I’d more or less already made up my mind that I was, in fact, going to go ahead and come in today (“in the morning” refers to this morning) and buy the bike. To make this very clear, I went ahead and bought a floor pump, lock, and tire lever, which she was kind enough to give to me at employee-discount prices (she’s also just GIVING me a tail light and an extra helmet that she has, which is absurdly nice of her, but that’s just who she is). She hung the bike up on the “do not sell to anyone but this person please” rack, and I bounced on home, fairly giggling at the prospect of being able to join her on a picnic ride next weekend.

It is this afternoon, rather after “in the morning” as I told her, and I am positively gleeful at the idea of leaving work in a few hours to go pick up my very own bike. Would you like to see her (yes, the bike is a ‘she’)? Here, I will give you a standard Google image (thank you to evanscycles.com):

SO PRETTY. And yes, she will be in black, and yes, OMG WHAT, she is a 2013 model. I’ve never owned the next-year-model of ANYTHING in my life, so this is pretty awesomely excellent.

If you hear any unexplained “squeeeeEEEEE!”-ing from my latitude and longitude this evening, now you know why. 🙂

This weekend I’ll be in New York celebrating the wedding of a dear friend, and trying not to get lost running 20 miles around Central Park. There are parts of my life that are fairly stressful right now, but I have a lot of good things too to balance them out, for which I am grateful. The four things mentioned in the title of this post I include among those good things – even the lost toenail! – and I feel like I’m headed towards making some pithy life-lesson statement about finding the positive in unexpected places, so I’ll stop there and instead just say: Excited. Stoked. Can’t Wait. Let’s Do This. ALL OF IT. 🙂