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. πŸ™‚

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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! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

A post of many firsts. Also, 60 days out. Ack!

I like things in numbered lists. This post will be no exception, since it will cover a lot and will almost certainly make no sense if I even attempt to make it coherent. Wheee!

1) Last week: during my short-ish weekday runs I was feeling kinda ehhhh. Tuesday’s run was a nice 4-miler, during which I ran over a bridge and had this wonderful sense of nostalgic deja-vu wash over me. It was a bright morning, but there were impossibly large, billowing white clouds in the sky, some of which were tinted gray on the bottom – harbingers of the absurd amounts of rain we got last week that had, at the time, mercifully abated enough for me to catch an outdoor jaunt – and the way the wind was blowing combined with those things and the fact that I was running over a bridge instantly transported me back to St Petersburg. (The one in Russia, not in Florida.) In that moment I realized that ten years ago at this very time, I’d just arrived there for an academic-year stay, and I can so clearly remember the impressions that I had in the first few weeks I was there. Last Tuesday was a near-exact replica, sky- and wind-wise, of many a September day I had in St Petersburg, walking around, wondering how a sky could be so wide and full of color and clouds, going over the same bridge four or five times a day because it was really the only place to stop and just watch life move for a while. (St Pete is a city full of bridges, since they connect the various islands that compose the city proper. The bridges are somewhat iconic, and even the small ones didn’t fail to impress me.) I’ve gotten emotional while running before – sometimes merely because the pain in my whatever-it-is-that-niggles-that-day is almost too much – but this hit me like nothing I’ve ever run with before. I had to swallow a hard lump in my throat real fast, mostly because a gentleman passing by me said hello to me and I was not going to leave him hello-hanging, but also partly because it got me thinking about how much my life has changed in the last ten years, since that seminal year in Russia. So much that didn’t turn out how I thought it would, for both better and worse. So much that I never, ever expected would be true – and, of course, one thing I keep coming back to is this whole idea of running a marathon. I’d have laughed you stupid if you’d stopped me on one of those bridges and said to me, So hey, ten years from now you’re going to be about two months away from running 26.2 miles. But you know what? It’s true, and it’s not entirely laughable.

2) But it does sort of totally freak me out that the marathon countdown on the race’s homepage says 60 days. Two months to the day, exactly. WHATTHEFUH. I mean, I know time passes quickly and all, but it seems impossible that I will probably blink and that counter will say 30 days. And then 20. And then 10. And then I might start leaking from my pores all of the ridiculous excitement and nervousness I have.

3) Of course, a good deal of that nervousness is me constantly doubting that I can actually do this thing. When I have bad runs, I have every doubt that I will be able to recover and have a good run the next time out, even though that’s almost always exactly what happens. Wednesday and Thursday of last week are textbook examples of this. Because I am doing horribly at keeping to my training plan as written down – purely in the sense of doing week 9 during week 10 instead of week 9, for example, and switching around pace runs and easy runs according to the weather or my mood that day; the mileage is all there, not to worry – I switched weeks 9 and 10 and ran week 10 last week to run week 9 this week, so that I could do a half-marathon very close to where most of my family in North Carolina lives so they could come out and see me. That meant jumping up to an 8-mile pace run after only two 7-mile runs in the preceding two weeks, which did not please me, but on I went.

Well.

It didn’t go so well, and I ended up slowing down and jogging out for a lot more of the run than I’d wanted to, and finished not terribly far off my target pace, but far enough for me to be mad at myself. And then the doubts started creeping in, especially because the long run for the week was scheduled at 17 miles, and I’m at the point now where most of the long runs are at the point of running them the longest I’ll have ever run in my life. 17 miles was that – the most I’d done prior to that was 15, the weekend before. (I know, I know: 2 more miles seems ridiculous to worry about when the mileage is already that high, but (warning: profound statement coming!) 17 is really close to 18, and 18 is just unfathomable, right?)

So, I made a deal with myself: if, come Thursday, it was raining as much as the weather folks said it would be, then I would shelve my regular 4-mile run and take it inside to do a 4-mile pace run. The running gods must have heard my vow, since Thursday morning brought about a serious gullywasher that actually threatened some flash flooding. Okay then! I thought. Pace run it is.Β 

And thus it was. I decided to really push myself and run a (to me) torturously fast 4-miler, but I was helped by the fact that I arrived at the gym late due to circumstances completely beyond my control, related to the rain, and had to do the same amount of working out and showering in much less time than I usually have. The first thing of my routine that I can fix is how long I run for, so it was a happy coincidence that I was in a somewhat self-punitive mood. And you know what? I thought I was going to puke, but when I was done, I felt fantastic. Damn endorphins… they get me every time. Ultimately, I was feeling pretty good about the weekend’s 17-miler by the time I left the gym, entertaining approximately zero thoughts that it would a) suck or b) be impossible.

4) I carried those thoughts into Saturday morning when my alarm went off at the ridiculous hour of 2:45am. Even then, I was looking forward to the challenge, somewhat (maybe totally) because I had a breakfast date afterwards for all-you-can-eat pancakes at the peach orchard near where I had that spectacular 12-mile-run bonk last month. Also because my route, which I had broken down into loops to make it more mentally manageable, in pieces rather than in one giant 17-mile behemoth, took me past a Dunkin’ Donuts three times and actually into it twice (it’s open 24 hours, and I figured that if they wouldn’t give me free water, they’d at least be willing to accept 50 cents for some ice). I ended up leaving late due to mapping issues, but once I got out – holy cow. Holy COW. It was gorgeous. Only a mite humid, but the sky was clear and the stars were still out, since the sun wasn’t due to rise for another 90 minutes at that point. I was soon glad I had my headlamp, since the first loop was along several very dark roads, some of which were so dark I had problems seeing in front of me where my feet were landing, which was a bit disconcerting, especially since I’m clumsy enough to have fallen off of sidewalks before. On this first loop I ran into the same three people twice throughout – coming and going – which was amusing, but also encouraging, because the first few miles of a run always suck hard for me and I have to remind myself that they do, eventually, get much better. Having people to wave to gives a little pick-me-up that takes my mind off of the suck, so that was fun.

But the highlight of the first loop was definitely the sunrise. Somehow I planned it totally by accident so that I was looping back to come into town at the top of a hill and running on a long downslope for about a half-mile right about the time the colors were starting to peak over the horizon. In these parts, the horizon is made of mountains, and there was still a bit of lingering mist over them as the pre-dawn purples and blues gave way to the reds and oranges, and my heart caught in my throat as I was making my way down the hill and looking over to the skyline. There’s a lot I may not like too much about where I live, but God damn (sorry) if the sunrise in the mountains isn’t one of the things I will miss so hard when I finally move away from here. And not just any mountains – they call them the Blue Ridge mountains because they actually do look blue, and when they’re bathed in a misted end-of-summer-peeking-into-fall twilight, they’re just freaking gorgeous. I actually stopped and said, out loud, “Holy shit, that’s beautiful”, and of course had no idea that there was someone in an adjacent parking lot who heard me and made a noise at me like I was crazy. I didn’t care; I meant the words. It really was something.

And that got me going for the rest of the long run. Finish Loop 1, stop at the house for some water, carry on. The sun rose and then was osbcured by fog and clouds, which didn’t burn off until I was actually turning for home for the last time to finish my run and cool down, so not only was it not as awfully humid as it has been, but it was also not sunny, which pretty much ensured awesome running conditions. I eased into Loop 2, and before I knew it was making my first stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. Onward to Loop 3, and another stop at DD. Begin Loop 4, when it hit me that I’d been out for a really, really long time and was wondering when I would be done because damn, 17 miles is really, really far. I still had my headlamp on – it was acting as a great sweatband, which is the sole reason I didn’t take it off even though I knew it looked stupid – and not only was it not dark at all but it was also getting to be time for the football tailgaters to be in full swing, so I knew it was almost time to finish up. A mile from home, I got that stupid perk in my stride that says run faster, you’re almost home, so I did. The usual sore parts of me were sore and whining hey, can we go home and get stretched out now?, but I was so happy that I didn’t care that they were nagging at me, and by the time I made that turn for home I was booking it. And grinning like an idiot. Because it meant two things: one, that 18 miles was just one more mile than what I was doing and that, in the grand scheme of things, isΒ nothing, and two, 20 miles later on isn’t even that much farther than 18, and that suddenly seemed totally possible, which meant that the full marathon distance also suddenly seemed possible. For the first time in my training, it occurred to me: Hey dumbass, you’re actually going to DO THIS, and it is ACTUALLY POSSIBLE.

What a fucking feeling.

(Sorry for the cursing. Sort of. Not really. I was stoked. I’m GETTING stoked just writing about it…)

And then I was done and at home and walking it off and laughing like a fool. And then I stretched, rinsed off, and went to inhale peach-topped pancakes and catch up with a dear friend. And it was all fantastic.

5) I said this was a post with firsts, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t note (WARNING: GROSS NASTY THINGS COMING) that the 17-miler was not only my first run at that distance but also my first run in which I finally, FINALLY, got the runners’ shits. I’ve heard time and time again of people being out for long runs and being seized suddenly with the urge to poop, not to mention actually pooping themselves in the middle of these runs. Given my wonderful track record with all things digestive, I figured it was just a matter of time before I joined the club, especially also given the number of times I’ve farted on long runs and wondered whether or not it was merely a fart. I know it sounds ridiculous to actually want this to happen to me, but it’s somewhat logical: I’d rather it happen to me on a long run for the first time, instead of during the marathon, so I know how to deal with it should it happen during the marathon itself. Also, I’ve never puked on a run or even after a run, and I feel like I’m missing out on countless other milestones that make you a “real” runner.

Happily, the 17-miler did not disappoint me: 8 miles in, I was hit with the most inconceivably strong urge to fart that I’ve ever had in my life. I mean like all-hands-on-deck-situation-critical-evacuate-NOW-to-protect-loss-of-life-and-property strong. I gave a test toot, and immediately realized that this was no farting situation. Oh no, this was, in fact, It. I started laughing; I’d just left my house, and was now nowhere near a toilet. So then began the game of just how long can I hold this? I might add that Dunkin’ Donuts has a toilet, which I certainly could have used, but I wanted to tempt fate and see if I could make it all the way to 17 without pooping myself.Β  (I know this is not healthy. I know that if this happens again I will not be so lucky next time. Shhhh.)

You’ll be happy to know (if, dear God, you’re still actually reading this) that even though that turd indeed made a good and compelling case for its immediate dismissal from my bowels, my will triumphed, and I made it back to my house unscathed. (Unscatted?) However – and come on, you HAD to see this coming – as soon as I opened the door to my house and walked in, my brain shut off and my body screamed “GET TO THE TOILET RIGHT NOW OR THERE WILL BE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES”. How does my ass know I’m home every single time? Amazing thing, the human body is. This time I did not ignore it, and all was well with the world.Β  And I had a virtual notch in my belt as a runner – the only one that I really want, so I’m content to stop notching there.

okay, GROSS NASTY THINGS ARE OVER. Come back… please?

6) Okay, this is my last first thing and last bit of this post. This Saturday brings several firsts with it: first half-marathon outside of Virginia, first half-marathon in North Carolina, first race ever where I know nothing about the course other than the route map available online. I’ve never seen any of these roads or even been to where the race is, which is totally new to me and a little uncomfortable, but to the point where I see it as pushing myself outside my comfort zone and enjoying the simple experience of running someplace new. This is also the first time anyone in my immediate blood-related family will have seen me run a race, which I’m really excited about, not least because my nephew and nieces will be there with signs (so my sister threatens :)). I don’t think they know how much it helps to have support at any level, be it in the form of a note saying “way to go!” or a high-five at the end of a run; they think I’m crazy, and by and large they’re right, but it’s going to be pretty great having them there to support and love me anyway.

Except, maybe, if I fart on them.

Post-race report will come when it’s said and done! I hope you can enjoy the cooler weather this week as I will. πŸ˜€

The perfect end to a rough week.

To give you an indication of how this week went, Thursday was the night that I got more hours of sleep than the previous three nights combined. That I got 8 hours of sleep on Thursday should tell you that this was a trying week, indeed.

But – I survived it. Teaching for the summer has finished; I’ve got a couple of weeks off until the next teaching assignment starts – even though classes don’t start for nearly another month, I’m teaching something I’ve never taught before (academic writing, which is in our English department), and as such I’ll be getting a lot of training and mentoring before classes start, which is nice. The play that I’m in will be in final rehearsals this week and next, and then we’re running the weekend of the 16th-19th, and then I truly have a week off before classes begin for the fall.

I thought it would be nice to get out of town, so here I am in D.C. and presently on the tail end of a 9-mile run. It was HOT when I left at 6:30am – 81 degrees with 85% humidity – so it’s no surprise that I for the first time completely soaked through my running clothes to the point of being able to wring them out upon returning. Gross, and I lost 2 lbs in water weight in the process, which I’m presently replenishing (especially since I’ll be drinking copious amounts of beer later on) at a rapid rate. I also reached a runner’s milestone with my first bloody sock, but its source was surprising; I have a blister on my right ring toe that occasionally flares up and hurts, and today it was bugging me by the end of my run. So I was surprised to see that that wasn’t what was bleeding; apparently something had cut into my left middle toe – possibly the nail on my left ring toe, oops; I should trim that πŸ™‚ – and done so to the point of bleeding pretty well everywhere all over those left 3 toes. Eeeew, but I felt – and still feel – absolutely no pain from that. Huh.

Those of you who read this blog regularly and know of my penchant for getting lost in new running cities will be pleased to know that I wrote my route out on my hand in ink. This was a great idea until I started sweating and the words started blurring, and even more a great idea until I ran under some sprinklers behind the Capitol building to refresh myself, but I purposefully structured my run around the perimeter of the National Mall so that I’d always have at least two giant monuments as reference points in case I got turned around. Happily, my smudges were still legible enough, and I returned in good stead without any confusion. Woohoo!

I have to say, no matter how many times I do it, seeing the Capitol backlit by the rising sun never, ever gets old. Dawn in D.C. really is beautiful, even if it’s going to be a hot day; the city just reflects light so well. And once I adjusted to the absurd humidity, it was a good, flat, fun, fast run. I don’t hurt terribly much, if at all, which is good since I suspect there will be a bit of walking later on. Other-running-wise this week, I’ve learned that I can do 6-mile pace runs on 3 hours of sleep and not be too much the worse for the wear in that regard; since I was running on so little sleep in general I’d say this was the hardest week I’ve had so far in my training in terms of the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, but I pushed through and did it, and I’m glad that it’s behind me now. To say that I’ve been looking forward to this weekend would be a minor understatement, in more ways than one.
Okay then! Onward with Gatorade and a shower, and then I will wake my sleeping comrades, get some coffee and brunch, hit the museums, and then go to my second Nationals game (with Strasburg jersey in tow, even though he’s not pitching tonight) and surround myself with beer, fried food, and good company. And lots and lots of sleep tonight. Perfect, indeed.

Quick update!

I’m sitting here in my compression calf sleeves, which arrived yesterday, and giggling to myself about how silly they look on me. But, they feel fantastic; I’m going to bring them to work and wear them around there. (I’m out of the public eye, and few people are usually in on Fridays, so I feel totally okay doing this) I don’t think I’ll run in them just yet; I’d like to see how my legs feel when I wear them after running or on rest days before upping the ante, if you will.

My GI doctor appointment on Wednesday was actually a really good one; I went in almost immediately and only had to wait when I posed a series of questions that required my doctor (who was wearing really cute shoes) to scramble around to find some answers. Expected waiting I don’t mind; it’s when I have to wait for no reason that I get miffed. Anyway, she had some blood tests ordered for me because I expressed some concern about needing to pee all the time and being thirsty all the time; my UC seems to be holding itself in check just fine, and I’m continuing to taper off my butt-steroids, but given my family history of diabetes I thought it might be a good idea to ask why in the past several months I’ve been having these thirst and urination issues. I mean, it’s almost impossible for me to sleep through the night any more because I often have to get up and go, but I drink a ton of water because I exercise a lot, and especially now when it’s hot and humid outside.

So I got the blood tests done, and had great fun Googling the acronyms in the results. Everything was within normal ranges except my sodium, which was low, so I’m going to see a primary care physician next month to probably do some more blood tests and a urinalysis to figure out why that’s so. For now, my orders are to drink more Gatorade and see how that does me, which I’m fine with, and if I feel worse, I’ll move up the date of the PCP appointment.

Running-wise it’s been a good rest of the week. My abs are still sore from Wednesday, as are my arms from lifting yesterday, but it’s the good sore that comes from having pushed myself, which I’m totally okay with. I surprised my students with donuts and coffee this morning, which was a lot of fun because they had no idea I was coming, much less with treats; their reaction was pretty awesome. I bought myself a few donuts as well, and have just finished them and a tall cup of coffee while I catch up on the news. Mmm… donuts.

So that’s that! Happy Friday, y’all.

Just call me the run-killer. (Or the ab-killer, by tomorrow.)

*ahem* Allow me to brag on myself for a minute. I’ll wait for y’all to go scurrying away…

OK then. A couple of folks I’ve known for a long time are in New Orleans for a mixology conference, which loosely translated means that they’re spending this week eating and drinking and drinking and drinking and maybe eating some more and then Tweeting the whole darn mess. I’ve loved reading their tweets because they paint delightfully vivid pictures of their conference experiences, but the thing I’ve loved most is that more often than not they’re posting their “good night” tweets as I’m waking up to run. (Granted, they’re one time zone behind me right now, but still.) It makes me laugh because I’ve long since lost any ability to stay up past 1am unless I’ve had an ungodly amount of caffeine that day, and I admire these guys for their capacity to eat and drink and drink and drink and drink and eat and tweet for what seems like 18-20 hours per day. Not gonna lie, I’m a little jealous, too, since I wish I still had that capacity myself (oh, to be 19 again, which these guys are not- there’s the rub! :)).

Anyway, where I’m going with this is that lately I’ve been getting up at 3am to do my 5am runs, but today, due to a doctor’s appointment right after work that could take either ten minutes or two hours (the last time I saw her-Β  and this is my GI doctor, so it’s not like I’m going to walk out and find someone else – I was waiting over an hour in the examining room for her to see me; it was good that I’d brought a book that day), I decided that it would be best for me to just get my Wednesday run done before going to work at 7am. Today was a 5-mile pace run, which I was planning to do indoors anyway, so I was a bit miffed that it was actually nice and a bit chilly out when I left the house. But, that meant getting up at 2:30am in order to run at 4:30, because (yes, this is boring) it takes me about an hour to warm up, run the 5, and cool down, and then I always need at least 30 minutes for ab work and stretching. Which had me ending at 6am, but then I had to go back home from the gym (which is actually at my workplace, which is usually convenient) to shower and grab food. By the time that was said and done, I knew I’d be cutting it close to get back to work by 7, and due to an unforeseen traffic situation, I was a few minutes late – but I made it. Anyway, that’s why I was up at 2:30 this morning, in case you were wondering.

Being up that early and starting a run that early really made me question my sanity. Not that I don’t anyway, usually, but if you’d told me a year ago that I’d be doing just that, I’d have laughed at you. What sort of insane creature has this marathon turned me into? Some might say “obsessed”; I would say “determined”, because even though I haven’t been sleeping as much as I should have, and it would have been perfectly easy just to roll over and hit snooze and skip being awake at that ungodly hour, I got up and got myself ready because that’s just what I do. Now. It doesn’t even enter my mind to skip my run, even if I’m feeling crappy (unless it’s, like, actually crappy where I’m shitting myself or a chest cold or something more flu-like; then I give myself a pass). My lower legs have been ridiculously sore for the past two weeks – my calves especially – and they ache like no one’s business every time I wake up, so I could just as easily say “you know, I hurt, I’m out today”. But once I start running, that goes away.

And today I discovered that once I start running faster, that REALLY goes away. Usually my 5-mile runs go something like this: first 2 miles are slow-ish, I feel awful, but I know that if I slog through to the third mile, I’ll pick up, because it takes me a while to get going. Third mile I perk up and speed up; fourth mile I perk up even more; fifth mile I start to lose it and generally want to die by the time I’m done. This was not so today; I perked up quite nicely after the third, and even more through the fourth, to the point where I felt my form naturally adjust itself and engage my core – something I only noticed because the movement of running felt easy and free, which has never happened to me on a treadmill before. I’d already sped up from a 10:20 mile to a 10:00 mile, so when I hit the fifth mile, I knocked it down to 9:40. It’s hard for me to sustain that pace for very long when I’m tired, but today I was all-cylinders-go, no-looking-back. Half a mile out, I went down to 9:22. This isn’t fast by any means, but I felt like I was flying. And it felt so damn good! I finished the 5 at 50:10, which is a lovely 10:02/mile pace, which is right about where I want to be right now. I finished and thought, Hot damn, I just KILLED that freaking run. And it’s not even 5:30am yet. And then I went to do my ab work, which usually involves planks (ugh, but so necessary) and modified sit-ups and side-twists with a handheld weight. I started out using one of those medicine balls, but switched over to weights when I realized I could do 15lbs without a problem. Lately I’ve been using a 20lb weight, but today for some brain-fogged, runner’s-high reason I grabbed a 25lb weight and didn’t realize it until about two situps in. Well shit, I thought, may as well see if I can handle it anyway, since I’m too lazy to get up and get the 20lb one instead.

As it turns out, I can indeed handle that 25lb weight, though it was a struggle by the end and I am definitely, definitely feeling it now, and know that I will be feeling it even more tomorrow. But for fuck’s sake- why don’t I push myself more? I did twice today, and look at how awesome I did. I need to kick my own ass more often, and get myself out of my brain rut. I can handle more than I think I can. (Bookmarking this post right now for when my 20-mile long run is looming and I want to cry about it!)

So, yes, I’ve been awake for nearly 7 hours and I feel magnificent. I’m excited also because I decided to order some calf compression sleeves, seen here (obviously not on me, but I did order the black ones):

– and they should arrive tomorrow, which is great because it means I can start using them immediately. They’re supposed to help with circulation and soreness issues, which completely unscientifically I’ve decided is what’s going on with my lower legs, because the tree-trunk-feeling I get from not putting my feet up every half hour (and no, I’m not pregnant- there isn’t any swelling, either) is only getting worse, and I’m nearly at my last resort. So, I’m giving these a shot, and hoping that they a) are awesome and b) don’t look too stupid. (Haaahahahaha right.) I’ll post a picture of me wearing them, so you all can have a good laugh at my expense. Or, be jealous at my sartorial badassery.

I’m about to be late for that doctor’s appointment if I don’t leave now, so off I go. Wheee!