I haven't provided an update in a while, so I'm going to do a short one now because I'm procrastinating doing real work.
A week and a half ago I ran an ultramarathon (50k) at Lake Tahoe. It was gorgeous. It looked like this:
It was fantastic and wonderful and I'm moving there again as soon as I can, much to certain people's likely chagrin.
I have another ultra in another week and a half. I'm hoping to run 40 - 50 miles (65k - 80k), as it's a 12 hour challenge rather than a set distance. Two weeks after that race I have a back to back Sprint Triathlon and Half Ironman Triathlon (Sprint on Saturday, Half on Sunday) on a course that is supposed to be one of the hardest in the United States. This is part of the bike course at 34% grade:
If you make it to the top without falling, they put your name on a brick in the road.
Then after THAT race, I have a four part race over three days - a 4.3 trail run on Friday, a 5k and 10k on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday.
And then finally, three weeks after that one, I have an ultramarathon (another 50k) in Kentucky with an insane amount of climbing. The course elevation map looks like this:
There's my two second update. If this actually generates any interest, I'll put up race recaps after. Vicarious suffering FTW.
On Sunday, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon - my second marathon. Over the last few months, I've been trying to fight off the tendonitis I developed back in April, so I was sorely undertrained. As assumed by my unfortunate lack-of-training-ability, this race absolutely trashed me. Things fell apart that haven’t fallen apart in years, and things that I expected to fall apart (my feet, mainly) stayed blissfully perfect. I did manage to partially recover from this trashing before the race was over, which was an unexpected surprise. Anyway –
Pre-race was fairly normal, for what was expected. Our group came out of the subway at around 5:45AM and made our way to the security checkpoints. They had increased security this year, and had a full perimiter around the start line. You had to go through checkpoints where you would be searched in order to get in. Jason, myself, my mom, and my dad got through with no problem - my hydration vest was searched, Jason’s backpack for our stuff (that my parents would be holding) was searched, my mother’s purse was searched, and my dad walked straight through because he didn’t have anything. For some reason though, they didn’t want to let my sister in over her tiny little Vera Bradley clutch that she had her phone and ID in. Luckily, one of the head guys there noticed she was with two runners, and told them just to let her through. …Okay then! We hung out for a bit and used the port-a-johns before the lines started, until it was time to head to the corrals. Jason was in the first corral after the elites, and I was in the very last corral to be sent off. As usual. We offered our ‘good luck’s and lined up in our corrals. After a delayed start, my corral was finally walked up to the start line around 7:45AM. They shot the starting pistol, and we were off! ….at our speedy 10 minute pace.
Mile 1 was my ‘winging it mile’, and wing it I certainly did. I tried my best to just focus on what felt comfortable and not look at my watch or the mileage. I read all the signs I passed, checked out all the buildings, took note of all the flags – the things I don’t normally notice when I’m running the beginning of a race. Around a half mile (a freaking half mile!@#$%!!) my hip started hurting. My brain was screaming, ‘SERIOUSLY? A HALF MILE IN?!’. I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with hip pain until at least mile 13 or 14, so this was a bit of a pain. From that point on, I had to do my stupid crescent kick every mile or so to pop the ligaments in my hip back into the place they should be, where they wouldn’t hurt. Annoying.
Other than my hip, miles 1-7 felt amazing. Sometime during this stretch, I ran my fastest mile, at 9:59 pace. The buildings and shops were so cool, and the crowds were awesome – the guys at mile 3-ish handing out the tissues were certainly my MVP’s of the race. I have never been happier to get a tissue. There were so many great race signs in this stretch, like ‘You’re running better than the government’ and ‘hurry up, the Kenyans are drinking your beer’. I passed so many awesome restaurants that Jason and I had been to, and was thinking about all the delicious food that we needed to come back and eat. By the end of mile three, I was trying to figure out pace and timing, since I was feeling so great other than my hip. Luckily, mile 4 came at a great time, and I remembered that I was simply focusing on having fun that day, and not PRing or finishing in any certain time. I spent all of mile 4 telling myself this whenever I’d pop pace or average times into my head, and eventually quashed those thoughts completely. This was a big thing for me, since normally, math is what keeps me going during races. But, it also keeps me distracted – distracted from my body, distracted from whatever hill I’m running on, distracted from the runners around me. I wanted to experience a race without being distracted, so no math (other than miles down and left) it was! This was an enormous help to me over the whole race, since I know I would have become extremely discouraged later in the course if I still had an ‘I need to do good’ goal in my mind. I focused instead on what was around me and saying thank you to every person that cheered for me.
Miles 7-10 started rolling terrain on our trek from University City over through the Please Touch Museum area. I hit the hill at mile 7 and started my walk to the top, as I knew I didn’t need to be pounding up hills in my under-trained state with 19 miles to go. Somewhere along this stretch I heard my name and saw my friend Amy and her daughter Morgan cheering on the sidewalk. I was totally surprised! I waved, said hi, and kept heading up the hill, a little more pumped up than I was before. The downhill at mile 8 was awesome, but I couldn’t seem to get my legs to open up as much as I wanted to. This wasn’t much of a concern for me though, because we were running alongside the Philadelphia Zoo! I spent most of my time looking at the walls of the zoo hoping I’d catch a glimpse of an animal, and listening to all of the different noises that were coming from behind the wall. I passed a door that said “Rhino Enclosure”, and spent the next few minutes wondering what else was behind the wall next to me. Mile 9 brought the last big hill to walk, at which point we were at the highest point on the course (just under 150 feet – save your oxygen!) – the Please Touch Museum. They had some fun bands and drummers up top, which were awesome to run to as you headed around to the start of mile 10. While I was walking, I pulled my phone out to check Jason’s splits – he was doing amazing! I started getting excited for each time I could check my phone to see his tracking updates, and hoped I would see him on the out-and-back section on Kelly Drive.
Just before mile 11, we made the turn to start heading back down Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard towards the Art Museum and passed a fantastic cheer station – trippy music, people in costume and drag dancing… It was super awesome. They seriously pumped me up and my pace quickened for the start of mile 11. By the time I hit mile 12, the wheels were starting to come off a little. My feet hurt, but not my tendons – just the beginnings of soreness from being on them for the time I had been so far. My legs were starting to feel heavy. My hip was getting worse. It was at this point that I realized I was soon going to hit the split for the marathon and half-marathon, and that I could tap-out half way if I wanted to. The second I thought it, I instantly told myself, ‘you can’t!’, because I had dedicated mile 13 to Jason, and I wanted to make sure I made it to the end of that mile. I walked up the hill to the Art Museum, and stayed to the left for the Marathoners, watching the half marathoners speed past me to their finish line. At the top of this little hill, I saw Amy and Morgan again! In that moment, I wasn’t quite sure how they got from University City to the Art Museum in that short amount of time (it wasn’t actually that short). I smiled for some pictures and headed on my way around the museum to the half marathon mark on Kelly Drive. I hit the half mark at 2:45:40 – not too shabby for me, considering I had walked some hills. I hoped that I’d be able to hold that kind of effort for the rest of the course, but (spoiler alert) that wasn’t in the cards, as I would soon find out. Shortly after the half way mark, I saw a bright orange and yellow shirt running towards me. It was Jason! He was running down mile 25. I yelled his name, and he saw me just as he was about to pass me. He cut across the course (sorry random guy he ran in front of!) to stop on the yellow line and give me a hug. As he hugged me, he said, “Can’t stay too long, I’m on track for a PR!” (personal record), to which I said something like, “OMGWHYAREYOUSTOPPINGRUNNOWGO!”. I was so, so, so excited to hear he was doing well, got a little emotional over it (oops), and ran-walked the rest of the mile to try and get myself back on track. I was really starting to feel the mileage. Just at the end of Boathouse Row, I heard my name again – it was another friend, Marty! He walked with me for a bit, and we talked about the rest of our runners. Once we hit the Marker for the returning side’s mile 25, Marty headed over to hang out on the curb, and I ran/walked my way through the rest of mile 13 and 14. 14 was much more walking than running. I started to get nervous.
Mile 15 is when I crashed. And I crashed hard. I could only run for short sections. My other hip had started acting up. I would pop my left one, and the pain would come back within a quarter mile. My feet were sore. I tried to put it out of my mind and keep run/walking my way down the course. But by 16, I knew I couldn’t keep running. I was in too much pain. I sat down on the curb and tried to stretch my hips out. I got some relief from it, and decided to walk mile 16 (a gradual uphill) so I could try and loosen them up and not put too much uphill stress on them. I got to the top of the Falls Bridge, crossed it, and saw (what I thought would be) a blissful downhill on the other side. I started up into a run… and felt a horrendous pain in my left knee. My IT band. An issue that I haven’t had for almost two years. All I could think was, “Really, this too!?”. Luckily, I couldn’t feel it at all while I was walking. I speed walked the rest of the downhill, turned around, speed walked the uphill, and tried to run again over the bridge. The pain shot through my knee and I drastically limped. Nope. I realized that I had a lot of walking in my future.
I spent the next four miles walking. Other than that short attempt at running near the falls bridge, I ended up walking all of miles 16-20. Instead of getting discouraged, I tried to look at the scenery around me and think about how close I was to the turn around. Once I turned around, I knew I’d be able to make it back, one way or another. I allowed myself to do some quick math and realized that even if I had to walk the whole rest of the course, I would still finish within the 7 hour cutoff time. I relaxed. Closing in on mile 18, a man caught up to me that had my same hydration vest on. Because of this fact, he decided that we were going to be best friends. This guy was a chatterbox on legs. I’m usually not a very chatty person in the first place, but at this point I was deep in the pain cave and did. not. want. to. talk. He told me all about his friends that were running, what he did for work (IT Implementations), the projects he had coming up, the conferences he had, the different companies he implemented systems in…. He wanted to tell me everything. He began noticing other people passing that were part of his running group, and he started talking to me as if I knew them. He seemed to point out people every quarter mile and tell me things like, “Bob’s test last week went great! Which is really fortunate for Susan”, while I had no idea who Bob, what this test even was, or why the hell it was so awesome for Susan. He let me know that the leader of his group had told him to train to 28 miles as a first-timer for the marathon. He had done it successfully, but had done something give out in his leg around mile 16, and now could not run without pain. He was content to walk the rest of the course, but was hoping he could run it in for the finish line photos. He walked with me for the next three and a half miles. I started to feel obligated to walk with him, because I thought it would be rude to try and start running again in the middle of someone’s life story to you. I didn’t like the feeling.
By the time we got to Manayunk, I was listening to my fourth description of a company IT software installation (all of which I understood exactly none of), and was desperate to get away (sorry dude, you were quite nice, but I throw things when I even need to CALL IT, and listening to stories of it for an hour during late miles of a particularly painful marathon were a very polite form of torture). In addition, I had seriously started feeling like I developed some sort of Alzheimer’s during the past few miles - this guy had pointed out SO MANY PEPOLE as if I knew them, and I was partially wondering if I actually DID know them, and they were all somehow connected to Montco (they weren’t, this guy was just a chatterbox). At this point, and I realized we were at the top of a hill with a long downhill in front of us to the turnaround, where we would be three quarters through mile 20 and headed on our way back to the Art Museum and finish line. This was my chance. I told my new BFF4lyfe that I was going to run the downhill, stretch at the bottom, and then walk the uphill. He said he’d catch up to me while I was stretching. I was selfishly hoping for my own sanity that he didn’t. I told my knee to STFU and ran probably my fastest quarter mile in the course. I stopped at the bottom to stretch as promised, and began walking up the hill once I was finished. I passed him before he hit the turn, and he let me know he was going to stop at the port-a-johns at the bottom. “I’ll catch up with you if I can!”. He was stopping for a bit. Oh thank god. In a way, I’m slightly glad I met this guy, because he was my motivation to keep pushing forward and run as much as possible to stay ahead of him catching up to me. However, my knee was still really bothering me. Once I got to the top of the hill, I ran for another tenth of a mile or so, limping along. I decided to walk for a bit longer and figure out how I could get myself ready to run. Around this time, I happened to hit the beer stop at the end of Manayunk. A guy handed me a cup of Yuengling and told me, “You got this, and you definitely want this!” I figured Beer couldn’t hurt by now. I grabbed the cup from him, said thank you, and heard, “Get moving, Potts!”. It was friends from my traithlon team, JJ and Kimberly! I waved and said hi, feeling boosted by seeing familiar faces. I drank half my beer, threw the rest out, and started my limp-run towards the 21 Mile marker. Just before I hit it, I realized, WAIT A MINUTE! I KNOW HOW TO FIX THIS! Duh. It’s fitting that at the end of the mile I dedicated to doctors, I finally realized that I had the skills to fix my IT band. I plopped down on the ground and did some ART and hand combing on my IT Band. While I was down there, I chided myself a bit for not thinking of this four and a half miles ago. I finished up, stood up, started to run, and viola! I was fixed! I beamed ear to ear, mentally thanked my Doctors, and started on my way through my last 5 miles.
Miles 21 through 25 were fairly uneventful. I ran/walked most of the miles, and drastically lowered my pace compared to miles 16-20. I had a conversation with a woman about my hydration pack, and stopped every mile to do my routine stretches and ART/comb out my IT Band. I mainly enjoyed the scenery, relished in the fact that my knee wasn’t in exploding pain any more, texted my family when I got to each mile marker, and tried to ignore the aching pain my legs and feet. My tendons still felt fantastic, and I was becoming more and more thankful for that with each step, but also more and more nervous that the tide there would turn. There were very few spectators left, but each one of them cheered for me by name and told me that I had it in the bag. I thanked every one of them.
Just after starting Mile 25, I saw a familiar orange and yellow shirt on the side, waving at me. It was Jason again! I ran up to him and gave him a hug. He let me know that he had gotten a PR! I was so excited. I asked him if I could give him my hydration pack, since it was starting to hurt to carry, and he wonderfully said yes. He couldn’t keep up with me on the way back (probably the only time I will ever type that), so he let me know he’d meet me there after I finished, and that my family was waiting for me. I walked/ran to the top of the long but gradual hill, until I could see the Mile 26 flag off in the distance. At this point, I stopped for a bit and really laid into my IT Band to make sure I could run the whole rest of the way in. A woman on the sideline noticed me grimacing and got nervous, and kept telling me “Slow! Slow!”. I could tell that she didn’t speak much English, and didn’t think it was the greatest idea for me to run it in. I smiled at her, said thank you, and took off at a run for the finish.
After 6 hours, 16 minutes, and 11 seconds, I finally crossed the finish line for the Philadelphia Marathon. I finished all smiles, happy that I was about to be able to sit down and relax. No more pain cave. Just hobble cave to get home. A volunteer put a finisher’s medal around my neck (arguably the coolest finisher’s medal I’ve ever gotten), and I slowly made my way over to my family, who were waiting at the chute exit. Our running group friends caught up with us shortly after, and Jason hobbled back to us in one piece. After some group time, we all headed back to our respective homes, where Jason and I went to dinner with my family and then promptly fell asleep at 6:30PM.
An afterthought - I’m TENTATIVELY saying this because I believe in repeat verification…. but… my new medicine worked! At NO point during the course did I have breathing issues, even when I got emotional (which usually sends me gasping for air). My breathing felt fantastic the whole way through. I’m hesitant to declare it a full victory, however, as it was only one occasion and I wasn’t pushing myself to my hardest potential. But still – I comfortably ran a 9:59 mile somewhere in there with no breathing issues?! That’s amazing. I’m intending on using the same med combo for a 5k this Thanksgiving, and if it works just as well there at a higher intensity, then I’ll declare it a victory, accept the Mast Cell Activation Disorder diagnosis, and see will talk about where I go from there. Here’s hoping!
Hope you guys somewhat followed along and enjoyed the recap.
First of all, I got married!
Second, IM 70.3 Lake Tahoe (my honeymoon race) Recap:
IM 70.3 Lake Tahoe was an absolutely amazing race. It was quite different in terms of set-up (compared to other races we’ve done), but I’ll get into that in a bit. I’m going to cover everything, beginning with the first day we checked in for the race.
On Thursday the 17th, we had check-in at Squaw Valley early in the morning. We were surprised to see that they had a TON of vendors at this event, as well as free ART (Assisted Release Techniques). Jason (husband) and I headed over and got our legs loosened up for the race, as well as buying some raw food bars and some Base Performance Salt (we forgot one of our tubes… oops). We checked in, got our things and our plastic wristbands that designated us as racers, and two awesome vouchers for $25 at a ton of local restaurants. We were pumped! $50 to go eat? Best goodie bag ever. After check-in, we were headed to the Corporate Office/Warehouse of WetsuitOutlet.com in Minden, NV to get Jason a full wetsuit, and to Lover’s Leap for some climbing. Half way to Minden (a two hour drive on its own), we realized we forgot our climbing rope. Oops! No Lover’s Leap for us. We decided to change up our plans and attempt to hike Mount Rose instead (10,778 feet - probably not the best idea three days before a 70.3… but vacation). We ended up getting Jason a bangin’ new full suit, got some vegetarian In-N-Out Burger, and made it to the trailhead for the Mount Rose summit. The hike up Mount Rose was absolutely beautiful. After a round trip of 9 miles, we made it back to the car and headed back to town for dinner.
Friday morning we headed out for some mountain biking around and in the (former) Prosser Creek Reservoir (current mud puddle). It was absolutely crazy to see how much water is missing out there. Afterwards, we headed up to Kings Beach to do some swimming in Tahoe and get used to our full wetsuits in the 60 degree water. Tahoe was the same story, water wise. It’s down a few feet, which the beach much longer, and the drop off much more shallow. We walked the start and finish of the swim waves, and realized that there would be a lot of foot time in the beginning and ending portions of our swim, though not as much as Eagleman had. I was most pumped about the clarity of the swim. Ever since I worked in Tahoe, I have been spoiled. Their water clarity reaches for 75 feet, unfettered. I was so excited to show this to Jason, and have him experience what swimming in crystal clear water is like. We swam out a few hundred feet, still being able to see the bottom. It’s a very surreal experience to see a rock under you, think you can easily stand on it, and then reach for it and just keep sinking… and sinking… and sinking. No worries about swimming into someone in the cloudy water here. After our swim, we grabbed some fresh food and California pomegranates (seriously, take me back just for California Poms… I miss them), and headed home to cook up a nice dinner.
Saturday – the organization and drop off day. Here’s where it gets quite different. Lake Tahoe was the first race I’ve done that had two transition areas. The first area, for the swim to bike transition, was 18 miles from the bike to run transition. Therefore, you had to bring all your stuff for transition the day before. I already had my bike bag and run bag all packed up. We headed to load them into the car and take the bikes out for one small test spin before dropping them off in transition for good. This is where I encountered my first huge issue, and arguably one of the two largest for our race.
To get a little bike techy for a moment – before we left, I had my front chain rings on my Tri bike changed. I previously had a set-up on there that was meant for moving quickly across flat courses. Whoever had my bike previously either thought he/she was going to be the next Andy Potts (see: Triathlon Superstar), or actually WAS Andy Potts, because the setup was ridiculously large (54/42), and was terrible for climbing hills. Knowing that we needed to bike over the Sierras, I had it switched out for a much more hill-climbing-friendly set of chain rings (50-38, unfortunately the smallest they could go with my 130BCD crank arm). We got my bike back 32 hours from our wedding, and a little over 48 hours from the start of our honeymoon trip. Not idea. Okay, end bike tech speak.
So I take my bike out for a test spin, and notice immediately that it’s not shifting. Cue instant panic. I take it back to Jason, we test it a bunch more times, and it’s just flat not working. Jason tries to do some adjustments, and it’s still not working. We decide we somehow need to get it to a shop and get it worked on, knowing that the bikes need to be dropped off within the next few hours. Luckily, I picked the right shop to stop by at. The mechanic saw how desperate we were and stopped working on the bike he was tuning up to try and get my shifting working. After a few changes, he managed to get it shifting, though not as cleanly as it had been before getting my chain rings changed. I didn’t care – I’d take it, as long as it worked. He let me know that my issue was because of my front derailleur – it happens to be the first SRAM Red front derailleur ever made, and is engineered specifically for giant chain rings… which I no longer had. The shop we had the work done at didn’t catch this, and I didn’t have time in the nuts-ness the night before the wedding to test-ride the bike. Gah. (It’s also possible that the shop we had it done at had it in the exact perfect position and the derailleur somehow shifted or moved out of place in the week it spent driving around the country on top of our car. Who knows). I thanked the guy profusely for, what I thought was, getting my bike fully working (foreshadowing!), and we headed up to Squaw Valley to drop off the run transition bags.
Dropping the run bags was an interesting experience. When you have the bags, you don’t set up your transition spot like you do for other races, you just… leave it in the bag. Similarly, we didn’t have a spot at a bike rack. Instead, we lined the run bags up in numerical order in a giant, open parking lot. We talked to a volunteer and she explained to us that this race basically used ‘Valet Bike Service’. When you finished the bike portion of the race, you simply handed your bike to a volunteer (who would take it over to the rack area and make sure it was placed in the right spot), and you simply grabbed your run bag and ran into the women’s (or men’s) changing tent. …Cool? After dropping the run bags at Squaw Valley, we headed to the other transition area in Kings Beach to drop our Bikes and Bike Bags. Here, we lined our Bike bags up in numerical order on the beach, and racked our bikes alone in the huge transition area. I said goodbye to my bike, arranged it so nothing could touch it and screw up my painfully-precise-and-barely-working derailleur, and we headed to Sand Harbor to do some Stand Up Paddleboarding for the rest of the day (we were in full taper mode… can you tell?). That night, we agreed that we were going to race together, instead of racing individually. We really wanted to cross the finish line at the same time for our first race as a married couple. There was a TON of logistics to be worked out for this, and we spent the rest of the night working them out.
Sunday – Race day! Our alarm went off at 4AM, even though our race didn’t start until 8AM. We grabbed our swim stuff and threw on the warmest clothing we had (it was in the 30’s outside), and headed to the finish line at Squaw Valley so we could catch a 5:30AM shuttle to the start line. Once we were there, we watched the sun come over the lake and huddled in the conference center (they got us a conference center to stay warm and change in!) for warmth. At 6:40AM, the full Ironman athletes went off. At 8AM, it was our turn! We took off our warm clothes and shoved them in our morning bags to get shipped back to the finish line, and wrestled our wetsuits on. The swim was a ‘start when you feel like it’ swim, Jason and I had decided that I would start a few minutes ahead so that he would be able to catch up to me on the bike, where we’d do the race together from that point on. It’s WAY too hard trying to keep track of another person while swimming in a mass of people. I crossed the timing mat shortly after the gun, high fived the race director (coolest guy ever – him and the Mayor of Truckee wouldn’t let you go past without high fiving one of them), and started wading out for my swim into the 60 degree water. At this point, it was in the 40’s out, so the water didn’t feel nearly as cold as it did Friday and Saturday. I solidly believe this will probably be my favorite race swim ever, until I do another Tahoe race. I swam looking straight down, watching the lines in the sand, the rocks, the fish, and the old tree logs 20-60 feet underneath me. When we hit the turn to come back, I had just lost sight of the bottom of the lake (water was about 80-100 feet deep). After a few more strokes, it was back. I watched it slowly come up to meet me, following the sand lines until it was time to put my feet down. At the end, it faked me out – my hands felt like they were just about to hit the sand. I figured I was in about three feet of water, and that it was time to start wading. I stopped swimming, went to stand… and promptly sunk under the water. Oops! Not three feet. I went back to swimming and kept going until my fingers ACTUALLY hit the sand so I wouldn’t be faked out again. With the swim unfortunately over, I jogged to the beach, grabbed my bag of things out of the sand, and headed to the appropriately named ‘wetsuit peelers’. I had planned to take my suit off myself, but when I got to the top of the beach, a woman instructed me to wash my feet off in a plastic baby pool filled with water, and walk over to a peeler. Before I could tell the two peelers that I was okay to take my suit off myself, they had it down around my knees and yelled, ‘hurry, sit down!’ in the nicest, most authoritative tone I’ve ever heard. Haha. I sat down and they pulled my suit off of me before my butt even hit the concrete. They handed it back to me and I headed into the women’s changing room in the conference center, which was a huge room with a ton of chairs and close to 60 volunteers. This, along with the wetsuit peelers, was probably the weirdest moment for me in an Ironman race. Ironman is usually very strict about a race being ‘only under your own power’, and you’re not able to receive any help. When I walked into the conference center, it was almost like I was instantly assigned a volunteer. A woman zeroed in on me, took my bag, and immediately emptied it on the floor to sort the items in it. She grabbed towels for me, found my socks, gave me each item in order, and repacked everything I took off so it wouldn’t get lost. It was so awesome. At one point, I told her I was good, and that she could help someone else. As soon as she left, I had two more volunteers asking what they could do for me. When I was ready to leave, a woman grabbed my bag and my towel and told me to go, and that they’d pack it away and tie up the bag for me. It was a super awesome environment, and it made you feel so supported! However, the full change (absolutely necessary because of how cold it was outside) along with heading through the conference center made for a super slow transition for everyone. 12 minutes and 30 seconds, for me – a 12 minutes I would have loved to have had at the end.
Once I was out of the conference center, I jogged out to my bike and headed out to the bike course. On my way out I noticed that Jason’s bike was still racked in transition – at least I knew he didn’t kick my ass in the swim and was already out there for me to chase down. I crossed the mat, hopped on my bike, and started the bike course, which to me was three parts: the bike course up to the base of Brockway (the 5 mile long hill/mountain pass we needed to bike up), the actual climb up Brockway, and the portion after Broadway (i.e. the ‘sit back and relax, because you don’t need to bike over the damn mountains again’ portion). While I was rolling along, I was appreciating my new gearing and hoping that my new granny gear (easiest gear) was low enough to get me up Brockway. Fingers crossed! At a tiny out and back 4 miles in, Jason caught up to me. Apparently he only started a minute behind me on the swim, and we hadn’t created as much of a gap as we’d thought. Oh well! Jason slowed his pace to hang with me and we kept peddling through the course towards Brockway. At mile 12, my bike-nightmare revealed itself to me – we turned a corner on the course to see a short, steep, kicker hill in front of us. I down shifted in my granny gear and got out of my seat to push my way up it…. And my chain instantly popped. My bike chain has NEVER popped, and I instantly knew it was because of the way my derailleur was adjusted. Because it was adjusted to give me enough room to get into my big ring up front, it now didn’t have enough pressure to keep the chain on while being in the little ring up front, and the big ring up back (having the chain all the way to the left). I was instantly panicked, but also took note that there was nothing I could do about it without making my shifting worse than it already was. I walked the bike to the top of the hill, and put it in my second easiest gear, where I tested it out up the next small hill – no pop. Thank god. Unfortunately…. It meant I had to do all the hills in my second easiest gear, and had lost my granny gear. Brockway was becoming a nightmare in my mind. In addition, I had to guess where my second easiest gear was. I was too nervous to accidentally shift into my easiest gear for fear of the chain popping and jamming, so I would try to peak back at my rear gears to make sure I was in the right spot. At one point, I accidentally went up another short, steep hill in my third lowest gear, missing the fact that I could have gone down another step. It ended up wearing my legs down a lot more than they should have by the time Jason and I got to the base of Brockway. Then… the climb started. By this point we were 28 miles in, and we had 5 miles of a 1400 foot elevation gain in front of us. I’m proud to say that I made it 95% of the way up Brockway before I needed to walk the bike. It was so frustrating rotating my legs so slowly and with so much effort, when I’d see others making their way up in their granny gear, rolling freely with a moderate to hard effort up the never-ending 10% grade. With the summit not in sight (I didn’t realize how close I was), I made the decision to walk the bike instead of getting of the saddle for the last quarter mile – the steepest part of the hill. During this time, Jason had been rolling ahead of me (being able to move much easier in a much lower gear), waiting, and then rolling on again once I caught him. When I hit the top of the hill, I noticed he wasn’t there. I was certain I hadn’t walked past him, so I hopped on my bike and started down the screaming descent back into Tahoe, while trying to keep my eyes on the road, the offshoots, my breaks, etc. I tried to keep my speed under 40mph so I could avoid any road hazards and keep my eye out for Jason, but people easily blew past me doing 60 miles per hour. I finally hit the bottom of the hill a few minutes later… and still didn’t see Jason. I kept biking for three more miles, and hit an out-and-back on the course… and still didn’t see Jason. I started wondering – was I wrong and I missed/passed him on the hill? It seemed terribly unlikely. Did he think we were only riding together to the summit of Brockway and decided to kick up the speed after the hill was done? As I started to get… admittedly emotional about the prospect of Jason ditching me mid-honeymoon-race, I noticed a bike hanging out in a pull off a quarter mile ahead of me. I rode up behind it… and it was Jason! He thought I would be coming down the hill a bit faster and was riding slow to let me catch him, but made it further than he thought he would before I caught him. Back together again, we rode the final 10 miles into Squaw Valley to hit our run transition and head out on the part that I was (for once!) looking forward to. By this point, it was a balmy 75 degrees.
At transition, I felt great. I handed my bike off to a valet volunteer (I still think it’s funny I got valet bike service in a race), grabbed my run bag, and headed to the women’s changing tent to get all my run stuff ready and take off my bike stuff. The transition here was much like the first – I had my own volunteer to help me unpack, change/swap, and repack my bag – but not fully changing saved me a lot of time: only 5 minutes for this transition. Having to pull everything out of the bag still took up a decent chunk of time. I walked my way out of the tent knowing I transitioned faster than Jason, and loitered at some sunscreen bottles until I saw him making his way out. We started jogging on our way into the run course, when I finally noticed some persistent chest discomfort, my breathing became labored, and I got dizzy. This immediately threw me into the dumps. I didn’t feel it at ALL on the bike, so I thought I might be in the clear for this one – or at least in the clear for a few miles of the run before my allergy would pop up and my medicine would stop working. I tried to push through it in the first mile by walk/running, but it only flared it up further, and I was wheezing and gasping just walking up hills by mile two. Jason and I agreed to majorly slow it down and walk… which is outrageously frustrating when your legs still feel good and fresh, but other parts of your body can’t handle the rest of the load. For the next two and a half miles, we did nothing but walk, and I pounded grapes and redbull to try to help break up the junk in my chest, open up some of my airways, and get some adrenaline and caffeine buzz going. At four and a half miles, I was finally able to run again, albeit shortly. Jason and I realized that we were very close to the cutoff time, and would need to run 12 minute miles to get back on time. I took stock in my current condition and realized that, while I could normally smash 12 minute miles for the 7.5 miles we had left, it would be dangerous for me to push myself to attempt that now. I promised I would try to run as much as possible, but we agreed to be smart. After every run portion I would be left gasping and dizzy, and we would walk for a while again to get my breathing and heart rate under control. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t be making the 8 hour and 30 minute cutoff time because of my breathing issues. By mile 10, we were already over 2 hours and 45 minutes into the run course, and the cutoff was only 20 minutes away – and still 3.1 miles to go. with my 5k PR being 29:55, I knew it wasn’t possible. I tried to convince Jason many times to go ahead and finish so he didn’t get the ‘paper’ DNF (Did Not Finish), but to his credit, he refused and still wanted to finish together. With that, we set our sights on finishing under 9 hours. We knew we’d still get our finisher’s hats and medals, as they had announced the day before that since they cutoff for the Full Ironman was midnight, any Half athlete that got out on the run course before a certain time could finish any time before midnight and still get a medal and finisher’s hat for the Half. I thought that was pretty cool. We saw many other athletes out with us with Half bibs on that we knew didn’t make the official time cutoff as well, and I’m sure they were appreciative, too. When we started mile 12, adrenaline finally kicked in and my reaction started to lessen (adrenaline is a natural anti-histamine). With that, Jason and I ran the rest of the way into the finish, and were able to complete our goal of finishing together. Once we got our medals, we walked into a beautiful conference room that had a full hot buffet up and fresh baked cookies. Yes – they got Squaw to cater this. The food was absolutely wonderful. Jason and I were totally floored by it.
Afterthoughts – This was an awesome, supportive, hard race. I had decided prior to this that I was not doing another Ironman branded race until they ironed out (pun intended) some issues that they have in their organization in terms of equality (see: #50womentokona), ego, and the insane entry fees. This race was the first one where I felt like the race may have been worth dealing with all of that. I seriously enjoyed the amazingly beautiful and challenging nature of the course, and Jason and I began talking the next day about coming back for our anniversary to actually race it individually, instead of taking the time to race together. Of course, the day after we decided that… they discontinued the race, citing ‘unpredictable weather’. Bright side is - at least I won’t have the temptation to not stick to my guns. No Ironman branded races for the future, for me. Second, I absolutely need to get my condition under control, and I have no idea where to turn with it. I’m going to try out carrying Benadryl with me at all times during races, but I’m not convinced this is just an allergy problem. I also don’t want to have to take Benadryl that frequently, as this doesn’t just impact my racing – it severely hampers my training as well, and prevents almost any kind of progress. It’s outrageously frustrating to work at something year after year and have no progression on it. So if anyone has any suggestions or avenues, I’d love to hear them. My doctor kind of stopped answering my calls and the entire Rothman Organization in Philadelphia refused to see me because they don’t have anyone that ‘treats my kind of condition’ (Uhh, I don’t even know what my condition IS). The only thing I can think of is to try an ENT. Other than that…. I’m stumped. Because of all this, I’m going to try to hold back on racing as much as possible until I can get it figured out. I don’t want to do what I did this year and race every month, just pushing myself from reaction to reaction. I want to take the time to try and get a handle on this, and actually start seeing improvement from the effort I’m putting into it. Of course, I still have 5 races to get through before the end of the year (Runners World 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Perfect 10 Miler, and the Philadelphia Marathon), so I’ll be putting that Benadryl theory to the test sooner than later.
Final thoughts: This really was an awesome race. I honestly can’t wait to go back to Tahoe and race again. Luckily, there’s an independent Lake Tahoe Triathlon that runs there every year! So LTT, I’m coming for you!
I get a lot of questions about what my training plan looks like, since I seem to be always doing... well... something. My comments of 'heading out for a run/bike/swim/climb/yoga/etc is usually met with, "Didn't you just do that, like... yesterday?" And in most cases - yeah. Pretty much. I develop all my training plans myself, off of plans and research that pros and coaches publish. I also put together all my own workouts, mainly for swimming - they range anywhere from just under a mile to almost 3 miles. It's really awesome to be able to write up your own schedule instead of just downloading one from the internet and trying to plod through it. That sucks. Believe me. So with that intro, here's a look into my next two months, prepping for IM Lake Tahoe in September, four races in October, and a marathon in November.
Now... normally I would get crucified for the lack of rest days in this schedule. You normally want at least one per week. Luckily, climbing has become sort of an active recovery for me. I boulder, which takes very little leg work and utlizies mostly upper body, so my legs can rest without getting tight. I consider it an active rest day. Writing up a training plan while trying to work around additional races can be a challenge - especially with back to back races, like I have in the beginning of August. You need to make sure you rest enough to prepare for the races, but you also need to make sure you're still growing your training to prepare for the next races you have coming up after them (which in this case, is 6 in the following 3 months). My schedule ends in November with a blissful two weeks of doing nothing. And I seriously mean nothing. I will sit on my couch, eat popcorn, and watch netflix. It will be glorious.
The races coming up:
The Krista Greisacker Adventure Race was kind of a last minute addition. This will be my first adventure race ever... and I probably didn't pick the best one to start out with. It's a 12 hour race, and ranges from 50-80 miles. Your mileage depends on how many checkpoints you get and how lost you end up. The idea of an adventure race is that you start at one location with no idea where you're going. You have to navigate using a bit of checkpoint data they give you to try and make your way through the course. We're going to be trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, and even possibly some climbing and rappelling depending on where we end up. It's all self-supported (no aid stations), so it should be interesting. This one is a total wildcard for me and I don't really know what to expect. The good news, is that I'll be able to write up a fantastic race report afterwards, as I am going to screw it up so bad. Really.
The Steelman Aquavelo is my copout (kind of?) for feeling like I'm not healthy enough yet to run long distances (which is horrendously ironic since I will literally be trail running anywhere from 8-20 miles the weekend before). An Aquavelo is just a race that is just swimming and cycling. This particular one is a .9 mile swim and a 24 mile bike. If I can clear up my tendonitis in my foot (which will not f$%king die), then I may bump back up to the Olympic tri. Not sure yet. I basically just don't want to FUBAR myself for my remaining races this year. That. Would. Blow.
This entry wasn't necessarily as exciting as the others, but hopefully it gave some kind of insight into the work and mild dedication it takes to (decently) complete the races I've been posting about. Similarly, if you need help or get interested in how to develop your own training plan for something, let me know.
tl;dr:... Basically, send me snacks. Please. My legs are hungry.
This past weekend, I raced Ironman 70.3 Eagleman in Cambridge, Maryland. For those of you that aren't aware, a 70.3 distance is a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. First of all, I'd like to offer my condolences to anyone that races anything in Kansas. I imagine that racing in Kansas feels exactly the same as racing in eastern Maryland, except for the fact that Maryland has trees, which are frustratingly far away and offer absolutely no shade. Seriously, screw those trees.
For race start, I was in wave six (out of like…. 22), so I started pretty early in the pack. Most of the fast people were behind me, including my fiance, who started almost a full hour behind me. There were strong benefits and drawbacks to this, which I’ll detail some other time. When it came time for our wave, they were running a minute or two behind, so they decided to rush our wave. It was horrendous. To get to the swim start, you walked down this enclosed boat ramp, waded out into the water, and walked another 100 yards or so to the start buoys. When they set off the cannon for our wave, most of us were still on the ramp, in shin deep water. A woman looked at me, panicked, and yelled “WAS THAT FOR US?” and I said, “… I actually think it was”, and we all rushed over each other to try to get into the water enough to swim. It probably added at least 2 or 3 minutes onto my swim time. Oh well. The swim was the most enjoyable portion of the race for me. I took it at an easy and calm pace, and punched a jellyfish half way through for good measure (I’m not kidding on that – I seriously punched a jellyfish by accident. Oops).
The bike course is something that I feel Ironman could probably market to Gitmo as an alternative to unethical torture. It was honestly the most mind numbing bike I have ever done in my life. 56 miles of excruciatingly flat roads and fields… and a swamp. Then more fields again… then hey! Another swamp. No elevation change, just 3.5 hours or so in the hot sun, with the same scenery over, and over, and over. There were no landmarks to gauge yourself off of, no prominences to get any kind of recovery on… if you stopped pedaling, and you stopped moving. Period. It was about 10 miles into this bike that I realized that my watch never started. I have no idea how this happened, since I started it on the swim and watched it start counting. The only thing I can think of is that it somehow got kicked and reset while I was in the water. I don’t know. Around mile 24 of the bike, I passed an aid station and grabbed a bottle of water from them. They were handing out huge Aquafina bottles, with the cap tops, and you would grab one from a volunteer while you road through at a slow enough speed. Their trash drop zones, however, were miniscule. If you were holding a pace that was barely enough to fall over, you could get about two drinks out of these things before you needed to throw them. I didn’t have any other space on my bike to carry them, so I was trying to get it in and chuck them before I passed the sign. The first one, I stopped, used the rest of it to fill up my bottle, and was good. When I hit the stop at mile 24, my bottle was still full. Instead, I was positively baking in the heat, and wanted to dump it over my head to get cool. So I grab this bottle, wrestle the cap open, take a swig, and close my eyes for a second to dump it over my head. It must have been in this three second window of my eyes being closed that I passed the “last chance drop” sign…. Because I opened my eyes, saw a sign about two hundred yards up, assumed it was the drop sign, and tossed my bottle off to the side into an obnoxiously large pile of bottles next to a trash bag. I was maybe 50-100 yards from the aid station, at the very most. The second it leaves my hand, one of the refs (who could probably win an award for meanest ref ever) is literally screaming my number out and flashing a blue card at me. I’m baffled, and asked what in the world I did. She tells me to pull over at the penalty tent ahead and she’d explain it to me. Apparently I must have JUST passed the sign when I tossed my bottle, and she hit me with a littering penalty and lectured me for ‘harming the integrity of the course’. I was livid and kept telling her that I didn’t see the sign, and thought the sign ahead was the ‘last drop sign’ (it wasn’t, it was the penalty tent sign). She sends another guy over and he hands me a stopwatch and tells me to sit for 5 minutes. So, I sat there for my 5 minutes with about 20 other people they’d called for various reasons, all waiting out our 5 minutes or doing our check-ins before we could go. While we’re sitting there, a dude literally cycles by and throws his open bottle AT THE PENALTY TENT. Like… threw it directly at the ref. Water splash at all. My instant reaction was ‘that guy is so screwed’. And… they just let him cycle on by. Cue frustration rise. Just before this happened, I was considering just calling it quits because I wasn’t feeling the race so much. This whole incident didn’t really help, but I was so eager to get away from that woman that I cycled away as soon as my five minutes were up and just kept going. My pace dropped a bit, but oh well. This same ref later called six or seven people in a row for drafting (including my fiance) and sent them all to sit for 5 minutes as well. They got a ton of people on the new drafting rules, since they lengthened the amount of space you’re supposed to leave, and shortened up the time you have to pass. Basically… I have never been so excited to get to the run portion of a race, ever. It’s usually my least favorite part. Not this time! Though it was certainly the most difficult. Last bike tidbit – around mile 40, an older gentleman cycled up along side of me, slowed down to the same pace and said, “Looks like we only have a few miles to go and we’re doing great!”. He looked completely fresh and seemed like he was just out for a Sunday ride, but was probably pulling close to 20-22 miles an hour before he slowed down to match me. After I responded, he picks up speed back up and speeds ahead of me, and I look at the age on his left leg – 85 years old. I was completely in awe.
When I got back into transition, I decided to totally disregard time and sat there for a good, comfy 5 minutes taking my time, stretching, relaxing, and contemplating how ridiculously hot it was. One person’s bike computer registered the temperature high in transition at 106 degrees (and around 80-90% humidity). Once I got up and started to walk (my lack of urgency was at an all time high) I realized that I was having issues in my chest. For those of you that aren’t aware, I am actually medically allergic to exercise. My body is allergic to one of the chemicals your body produces during strenuous physical activity. I take medicine for it that usually blunts my reaction, but – oh joy! – my medicine loses its effectiveness with heat. So by the time I got to the run portion and it was in the mid 90’s with a heat index in the 100’s, my medicine was fairly non-existent, and I was starting to feel the beginnings of an anaphylactic reaction. My chest was extremely tight, I couldn’t get that much air in, and my heart rate was in the 130’s to 140’s just walking at a normal pace. So… I walked. The first three miles were spent calming my heart rate down, trying to stretch my chest and lessen the reaction, and dousing myself with all available ice water to try and cool my core temperature. By mile 4, I was able to jog a bit, but it was a very on/off kind of thing. Much more off than on. My fiance caught me around this time and asked me how I was doing, to which I shrugged. He looked at me and said, “Do you hate this right now?” and I said, “… Yeah, kind of.” and he goes, “Yeah, it’s okay, I hate this too”, and laughed (which was music to my ears – I was worried it was just me). At mile 11, a woman at an aid station offered to dump an entire bucket of ice water over my head. It was an absolute godsend, and shocked my system back to some kind of normal. I spent the last two miles running through every sprinkler and hose I could find, and finished the race running and completely drenched. I was probably more soaked when I finished than when I came out of the swim.
Final thoughts…. I saw so many people taken off the course in ambulances from heat stroke, so I’m just happy I finished. I was way, way slower than my goal time of sub 7 hours, but with the way my run (or lack of run?) went, I knew it wasn’t possible. Similarly, watching 85% of the racers walk the majority of the run course made me feel like I couldn’t really have done any better. I will probably never do this race again, but I’ll give the 70.3 distance a few more shots before I write myself off as a shorter distance triathlete. That heat was just absolutely killer. Next 70.3 up is the exact opposite – cold, mountainous Tahoe in September. And if you hung in this long... I owe you one. Moral of the story is - do a 70.3 race. You might just get to punch a jellyfish.
The last time I checked in, it was just prior to the Love Run Half Marathon and I had a calf injury. Luckily, that injury cleared up the day before the race, and I PR’d (Personal Record) by almost a half hour. My finish time was 2 hours, 28 minutes, and some change. I felt great. This is a summary of the past two months’ experiences - tendonitis, cardiac arrest, nose bleeds, an amazing trip, and future plans.
The next race I had on my plate was the Broad Street 10 Miler on May 2nd, which is the fastest and most populated 10 miler in the country. I ran this race with 45,000 other people. It was insane.
While I was training for this, I was also training for the Vermont City Marathon, which I had coming up just three weeks after, on May 24th. My mileage was getting pushed higher and higher… and two weeks before the Broad Street run, I went out for an 18 mile run on some of our favorite trails. 14 miles in, I started to feel some discomfort in my left foot. Like an idiot, I convinced myself I needed to get all 18 in, and continued slogging through the miles to hit my mark. I finished, and my foot immediately started to stiffen and swell. I had problems putting weight on it for days afterwards. I hoped it was just sore from use and that I wasn’t dealing with another injury.
Two days before the Broad Street run, two large box trucks went missing in Philly. The local police instantly became worried that these were going to be used for terrorism purposes during the race, and the FBI was called in to provide race assistance and protect the event. This most likely saved one dude's life, so thanks box-truck-stealer-guys.
May 2nd came around, and my foot felt decent for the race. We walked our way to the finish line… or at least as close to the finish line as we could get. The amounts of people were insane. The start line was two blocks away, and it took my fiancé over 45 minutes just to get there. I started further back in the pack, which stretched over a quarter mile away from the starting line. Again… nuts. The race itself was awesome. You run through what is stereotypically the ‘worst’ parts of Philly (Olney, Fern Rock, Northern Philly) but hundreds of people from the neighborhoods were out cheering on runners and handing out orange slices, cookies, and carrying awesome signs like “Don’t Trust a Fart Past Mile 5”. The temperature climbed and became swelteringly humid, so I took every opportunity to pour cups of water on my head and run through opened fire hydrants and sprinklers. Overheating sucks.
At mile 2, I passed an ambulance where EMT’s were loading a 35 year old male runner. He had suddenly collapsed and gone into full cardiac arrest. Luckily, one of the aforementioned FBI Special Agents was watching the man when he collapsed. He ran over and did CPR until the paramedics were able to get him into the ambulance and off of the course. The guy ended up fully recovering. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one that had to be evac’d from the course. Philly’s Police Chief Inspector was hanging out at the finish line congratulating runners when a 27 year old male crossed the line, finished running, and instantly collapsed. He similarly went into cardiac arrest. Luckily, the medics were able to rapidly get him to Temple Hospital, and he fully recovered as well.
For myself, I finished the race in 1:49:32, 28 seconds under my goal. I was happy. My left foot was aching again, so I decided to go to the medical tent and get checked out once all of the above had quieted down. They told me exactly what I didn’t want to hear – I had both posterior tibial tendonitis and pereoneal tendonitis. The pereoneal tendons travel the outside of your calf and foot, and connect to the outside of your arch. The tibial tendons do the same, but on the inside of your leg. I had aggravated both of them – an injury that normally takes 8-12 weeks to heal. I had a marathon in three weeks. $%#@. They suggested I run in only stability shoes, so I pulled out an old, crappy pair and decided they would be my marathon shoes. Bummer.
I wasn’t able to run much in those weeks before the Vermont City Marathon, as every time I’d go out for a decent run, I’d start to feel pain in my foot, and it would become stiff and painful for days. For the final two weeks, I decided the best thing to do would be to not run at all. I started to become very nervous about finishing the race. Who does a marathon with almost no training the three weeks prior? Ugh. In this time, I also decided to radically change my diet to become closer to a fat adapted lifestyle (a post for another time). Another thing you’re really not supposed to do before a marathon.
On the day prior to a race, you usually go to a specified area to pick up your race information and walk around a vendor expo – usually running shoe companies, wholesalers, nutritionists, sports chiropractors, etc. While walking around the expo for VCM, my foot started to hurt. I was totally demoralized, and figured it was certain that I wouldn’t finish. Until… we stopped at a shoe wholesaler and I tried on a pair of new Brooks Adrenaline 15’s. It was like god enveloped my foot and all my pain disappeared. I bought them on the spot and decided I was going to break another race rule and run in brand new shoes. This was going to be interesting.
Race day came, and it was perfect. High 50’s to low 70’s through most of the race, cloudy, and beautiful. I love Burlington, VT so much. And the views of the Adirondacks (a mountain range I spend most of my winter in) were spectacular.
Myself, Jason, our friend Stacy, and our pup Ridley just before the marathon start.
The new shoes gave me a nasty blister on my pinky-toe, but carried me otherwise pain-free through 26.5 miles (I swear that course was long). I also had the most kick-ass outfit ever.
Happiest Marathon finisher in all the lands.
It was probably my favorite race I’ve ever done, and I’d love to do it again in the future.
Once I finished (at 5:49:45), I saw my friend Stacy… who was covered in blood. Seriously - it was everywhere. She looked like she fought off a Moose somewhere during the course. Apparently, Stacy had gotten a wicked nosebleed half way into the course. She pushed it off, just to get another nosebleed at mile 23, just before the finish. Medics saw her and tried to make her stop, which she of course refused (Stacy is currently working on running a marathon in all 50 states. This was her 4th or 5th), and they were forced to follow her for three miles while she ran, bleeding everywhere, waiting for her to pass out. Luckily, she didn’t pass out, and did finish, even though she lost a ton of blood out on the course. It was pretty gnarly.
After the race, our group met up with KahlanRahl at a local brewery and had some awesome food, beer, and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. It was a fantastic time. I did learn that Ben and Jerry’s is practically half the cost in VT compared to PA. Shenanigans.
I spent this past week recovering from the Marathon (which was last Sunday), and luckily felt fantastic by Wednesday. I got a short track workout in yesterday in prep for my race this weekend, the Independence Triathlon. This marks the start of Tri season! Here’s hoping the tendon pain stays gone, I don’t flat on the bike, and I don’t swallow too much water on the swim. If I do….
Well, it happened.
This past Sunday, my fiance and I headed out for our last long run. He was headed for 14 miles and I was heading for 11. He wanted to push it, as his goal for tomorrow's race was to finish in under 1:20:00 for 13.1 miles. That's barely over a 6 minute mile pace. I had a much more reasonable goal of finishing in under 2:45:00, with a stretch goal of under 2:30:00 (I'm not a very fast runner).
I caught up to him at mile 4.5, which was my first indication that something was wrong. Because of the ridiculously fast pace he runs, he's usually lightyears ahead of me on any run we go out for. As I got closer to him, I could see he was slowly shuffling back, limping along the way. Calf injury.
We walked the 4.5 miles back to the car and sped off to an Orthopedic Urgent Care. They let us know that it wasn't torn, was most likely just a pulled soleus muscle, and gave him some anti-inflammatories. Over the week, it started to feel a bit better for him, and the likelyhood that he was still going to be running the race was improving. We decided on Thursday that it would be a good time to test his leg out and head out for a short 1-2 mile run. We head out... and he calls it 2/3rds of a mile in. He feels it pop/ping again, and decides he's not going to push it.
Meanwhile, I decide to finish the 2 mile run. I had a small pain in my right calf that I thought would work itself out as I ran, but by a mile and a half it starts to feel pretty significant. By the time I finish my two miles, my calf is swolen and I get a sharp pain whenever I attempt to stretch it. I realize that I've now injured the same calf, in the same spot as my fiance has.
Last night became a fun friday night of off-brand Bengay and kinesiology tape.
A wild and crazy Friday night at our household.
We're both feeling better today, but 13.1 miles definitely isn't going to come as easy as we hoped it would. We're similiarly trying not to think about the fact that our Marathon is 8 weeks away, as well, and training for that just got a lot more difficult. We've definitely started injury season early this year.
For the race, we're both planning on winging it. I'm going to try to muscle through the pain (both literally and figuratively) and meet my goals. We'll both be taping up, and getting some pretty effective (and pricy) compression socks to hopefully support whatever muscle isn't feeling that great.
Race is over and we kicked ass! I finished in 2:28:22 and the fiance finished in 1:34:54. PUMPED! Screw you, calves.
Most of you have seen that I've returned. If not - hello.
I stopped being an active CN player the summer of 2011. In mid 2012, while I was deep in the woods of West Virginia on a climbing trip, my nation deleted. I had forgotten to collect. Oops. I had a twinge of regret at forgetting about it, but for the most part, I was happy that the burden was finally gone. It was time. It had been time.
My blog has never really been an IC one, and I don't intend for that to change now. I frequently talked about my climbing, my cat, my hobbies, my poetry - just general life. When I left the game, I was in a period of turmoil in my life that was fairly consuming. It was a period in which I had the opportunity to completely change most of the aspects of my life, and I did so enthusiastically.
My immersement into the real world took my activity and goal list and made it explode like a kid's 4th grade science volcano. I finished my Bachelor's Degree and got my Master's Degree in Human Resource Management. I moved four times. I spent an absurd amount of time outdoors. Previously, I rock climbed...and that was about it. I've expanded that to rock climbing, running, cycling, swimming (triathlons), snowboarding, mountaineering, ice climbing, and mountain biking.
On top of Algonquin Peak, Adirondack High Peaks. Mount Marcy and Colden in the background
This year is a big one for me. I have a lot of races that will be firsts for me, including my first marathon, first half Ironman, and first full Ironman. So basically... I'm going to be turning my blog into a race blog. Hopefully that won't be too boring. So far, these are my races for the year that I'll be talking about:
3/29/2015 -Philadelphia Love Run (Half Marathon)
5/3/2015 - Broad Street Run (10 Miler)
5/24/2015 - Vermont City Marathon
5/31/2015 - Independence Sprint Triathlon Nockamixion, PA Sprint
6/14/2015 - Eagleman 70.3 Half Ironman Cambridge, MD Half Ironman
7/12/2015 - Steelman 3 Mile Open Water Swim Race
8/9/2015 - Steelman Olympic Triathlon
9/20/2015 - Lake Tahoe Ironman
10/17/2015 - Runner's World Festival 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon
10/25/2015 - Perfect 10 Miler
... Most likely to be added to. I also got engaged. Fun fact - the Lake Tahoe Ironman is my honeymoon. We also figured out after we registered that it's considered the hardest Ironman in the world. Oops.
I also added one to the family. My fiance and I adopted Ridley in 2013, and she's the biggest bundle of joy ever, which helps balance out my diabolical cat.
Coming back was a mixed bag for me. I had pretty much sworn off ever returning to cybernations. I saw no use - I'm rarely home, constantly training, and still have the same laptop I used 5 years ago (AKA - this thing barely works). I got rid of my TV, my video game systems, my desktop... I figured if I would return to the world of the internets, it certainly wouldn't be for CN. I was apparently a little wrong.
I don't have any plans or expectations for my time here - other than to coast along and hopefully not stray too far away from my training schedule. It's been interesting to return and see how different and alike the community is so many years later.
Of course, I'm still climbing - Just definitely not as frequently as I had been before. Though certainly with a lot less hair - I abandoned the lion's mane for the first time a few months ago.
much muscle. such pull.
Hopefully you'll find my attempts at fitness worthwhile for a glance every now and then. If not, that's perfectly fine - for me, writing about them will hopefully be motivating enough to keep me off the couch or out of that pint of ice cream (which I just finished eating, damn you snowstorm) and out on the road or trail. Maybe if I'm lucky, you'll find some motivation or interest in it as well.
The ones that break our hearts are always the best. That one person that understands you more than anyone, that seems so perfect. So wonderful. They give us the best songs, write us the best words, send us the best pictures, and speak the best lines. They show us what love feels like, and suddenly we understand that the world looks so much more beautiful from the passenger side of someone’s heart. They ignite the deepest desire in us, and a constant thought of ‘If I could have this perfectly for just one moment, just hold you and hear you say you love me for one second, my life would be complete’. They understand how to look at you, hug you, speak to you at the perfect instant. These people are all we’ve ever dreamed of. When we think of perfection, we define them. They are nothing but wonderful to us. They are all we need.
There are reasons that our hearts are broken. Why our stories are so unique, yet so identical. Our ex literary lovers, our distant heart breakers, they are nothing but piles of what if’s and possiblys. We spin our untold futures into love songs that don’t exist. To us, they are as beautiful as the wind shaping the Earth into ripples of feelings. We call them ‘wonderstruck’. They call us ‘not quite yet’. The passion that breaks your heart comes from biting reality of unreturned love. And maybe they did love us, but they never loved us the most. We were always second place in a one man race. Our love, our passion, only intensified by the fact that this person might just love us tomorrow, might just come around. We stay, and we fight, and we spend too many nights with tears that are better saved for softer sorrows. We believe that if we can move at just the right frequency, they will realize that we are beautiful human beings that would deliver the moon to them in a bottle, if only we could.
We are the back ups, the second choices, the rebounds, the time passers. We are the temporary obsessions, the affairs, the long term lost lovers. We are everything but good enough. We make them feel as if the world was created to make only them smile, but we still never see the gold medal.
We never truly win the race.
We fill a gap. They want our words, our hearts, but not our souls. We are a dispensary system for the things they need, but we are never what they want. And when they are finished with us, we are left cold, crumbled, and calloused. We build our castles of mortar and brick and swear never to let down the bridge.
Until one day, the castle crumbles.
At some point, we must realize that second place is not enough. That the moon can’t be contained in a bottle. That we’ve never seen the passenger side of our love’s heart, because we were always locked in the back seat. Our past loves are past loves for a reason – in a chain that’s necessary to support love, a link was broken. A piece missing. We cannot force those these people to love only us. To want only us. While we spent days memorizing the way the lines on their skin fit with ours like puzzle pieces, they spent days thinking about the ways to explain to why there was two people running a one man race. We were never their dream.
We are worth the stars. We deserve the passenger seat. We will find real love. A love that wakes you at six in the morning to tell you how beautiful you are. A love that believes you are the best thing that has ever happened to them since recess in the third grade. A love that is comfortable. A love that is honest. We deserve to hand the world to someone and have them paint it into a galaxy. They may not give you the best music. Or say just the right words. Or keep you up at night praying that maybe tomorrow, they’ll be yours. Because real, true love will never make us wonder. It will never be unconfident. It will never make us feel like we are molding to the whim of a person that is as yielding as a runaway train. We will understand that a heart is only complete when you can look into the eyes of the person that completes your world and know that there is honestly no place on Earth that they would rather be.
A love like this is worth waiting for. The ones that break our hearts open our eyes to understand what it will look like. We love, we hurt, and we learn. And by understanding what it is like to love a person so completely, we understand how a person should love us in return. Never settle for being someone’s second place. Because sometime, somewhere, we will create something beautiful.
...that are quite hard for me to admit:
Hang with me here. If you're not in the mood for something like this, please, discontinue reading.
1. I am a categorical 'saver'. This is a great frustration not only to me, but to most of the people I confide in.
2. Road trips, moving, and traveling are my way of trying to escape situations in life that I feel I can't handle.
3. People have taken advantage of me, and I can't hate them for it. Hating them would mean acknowledging that something terrible happened to me. It's not actually because I'm such a nice person.
In saying that, I'll be on the West Coast all next week.
Why post this here?
It's the only place where I won't have to deal with the awkward looks, ridiculous lectures, and pathetic gestures from those that will read it.
Caveat: I'm not such a nice person.
Since my last update in February, a lot has changed. I guess I'll start off with the topic most people follow.
In May, I was able to add another question or answer, depending on how you look at it, to my repertoire of medical problems. While out climbing some cliffs near my home, I got a call that I had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Because of the fact that I was leaving to drive cross country again in three days, I wasn't able to see a specialist. And I still haven't been able to. The good news with it is that my numbers for the Rheumatoid factor are pretty low. When my mother spoke to the nurse, who has RA, she said that my numbers were around 50, and 37 is positive. Her RA factor tests around 115. So mine is still low. Whether it will get higher, I have no idea. The Rheumatoid Factor test also tests for more than just RA. So, I could have something completely different. I'll have to go to a specialist and they'll have to start playing the guessing game for us to figure it out.
I'm not sure if I'm seeing any symptoms of anything yet. I have felt some weakness, stiffness, and pain in my fingers, but I'm not sure if that's because I was out of climbing for a month or two and have started back up. I spent all of Sunday bouldering with friends, and even though I didn't climb much, I had much, much more stiffness in my hands than the others, including new climbers. I'm staying optimistic for now and saying it's just because I've been out of climbing for a while.
But just like last summer, this summer I drove out to Reno, NV again to live and work there. It turned out to be one of the best decisions ever, because I now have a six month old baby girl. She may be a little small, and a little fuzzy, but she's perfect to me.
This is Nala. When I got to Reno, I decided my apartment was a little too lonely, and I wanted to adopt an animal. I was going to adopt a cat off of Craigslist, but when I went to respond to it, the ad was deleted. Nala's ad was the one directly underneath it. I clicked it and decided to go for it. It had no picture or description. When we finally met the woman, we learned that her mother had found Nala under her car, way out in an Indian Reservation. She was 5-6 weeks old. The woman put her in her trailer with her other cat, and left, since she wasn't living there anymore. When we came to pick her up, it was a week after they had found her. The other cat in the house didn't really like Nala, and would hiss whenever she came near her. She had very little human contact, since she was left alone in this trailer with the cat for almost the whole week. When we took her home, she was 6 to 7 weeks old, and so tiny. But she's been the perfect cat. She acts like a child. When she's scared, she wraps her paws around my neck. When she's had a hard day, she won't go to sleep unless I'm holding her paw. If I'm watching TV, she'll crawl up into my arms, curl up, and watch it too. Her favorite show is the Daily Show. Her favorite music is Bon Iver. If either of those two are playing, she's instantly on my lap. She's truly the most wonderful thing in the world to me.
After being out in Reno for a little bit, Bakamitai made the wonderful trip out and spent some time out there with mhawk and I. During his time in Reno, we went up to Tahoe to show him the amazing scenery. It was 65 degrees, drizzling, and there was still quite a lot of snow on the ground. For some reason, I got the wonderful idea to jump in Tahoe.
I don't know if anyone here has ever done something called the Polar Bear Plunge, but let me tell you: When you jump into water that's 45 degrees on the surface, it hits you like a brick out of a cannon. You can't breathe, and your body is instantly screaming at you, "WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?!" It was probably my quickest swim back to shore, but also one of the most exhilarating things I've ever felt. I would totally do it again. Plus, I had the wonderful oppertunity to wear Baka's extra jeans for the rest of the day, which fit me perfectly.
And of course it wouldn't be an entry if I didn't throw some climbing stuff in. Not only did Baka and I climb some awesome stuff, but my Roommate from all the way back in Pennsylvania hitchhiked his way out to Reno to do some climbing with me.
If you can see the absolute pure concentration on his face, you can tell that he's an amazing climber. And a pretty awesome crusher. I did try to get Baka to climb this cave roof...
...But he couldn't get his butt off the ground. Next time, Baka, next time.
At the end of the summer, right before I left, I managed to cross one thing off my bucket list. There is a place in Reno called the Little Shop Of Horrors. It's a 120 foot cliff, that I have never, ever gotten to rappel. Well, I pulled it off right before the end of the summer. Setting this up, then climbing over the edge was truly nerve wracking.
You can't tell, but the rock is a little overhanging. So once you're past the first ten feet of the top, you're just hanging in open air. It's an amazing feeling. So amazing that I rappelled it twice to make sure I'd remember it.
My friend Seth moved to Colorado this summer while I was away. Two days ago he just free soloed the Third Flat Iron, a 1,200 foot cliff. He did it with no ropes, and no protection. He said it was the most peaceful feeling he's ever felt. That's my new goal. Someday, I will free solo that cliff.
And lastly, I'll finish this off the same way I usually end these updates off. It doesn't matter if you have a disease. It doesn't matter if you have depression. It doesn't matter if you feel completely bogged down. Go out, and find beautiful places. Do beautiful things. Even though I have conditions that try to limit me in a lot of ways, I get around it, and I do what I love. Last year, I only found one amazingly beautiful place: That cliff in South Lake. I'm happy to say I found three this summer. So, I present to you, this year's beautiful places.
Arches National Park, Moab, UT.
Carson City, NV in the background, and the Sierra Nevadas.
Washoe Lake, NV, and the Sierra Nevadas. Tahoe is right behind that mountain.
It's been a year and a half now since I've posted an update to the condition I have. For those of you that haven't read my first blog entry about this, I have a disease called Tietze's Disease. As I said in the last entry, I was diagnosed shortly after Christmas in early 2008, though I developed it many years before. Tietze's disease is a very rare disease. In basics, everyone has an underlying tissue, called the myofascial tissue. Think of it like a giant net around your body. For most, this stretches and moves, however, for Tietze sufferers, the tissue tightens up and doesn't stretch much. It's extremely rare but very commonly misdiagnosed, and sometimes masks tumors, heart attacks, heart dysfunctions, and lung problems.
As I said before: because of this, my rib cage doesn't move much, which limits the oxygen I take in. But I know a lot more about it now then I did before. For example, my skin in general doesn't move as much as normal people's. When you touch the skin on your arm right now, it should have an inch or two of give to move around. Mine skin moves maybe a half an inch. My muscles don't develop as fast as others. It takes me a few months to get strong enough to climb a grade above, when almost all other climbers can train for a few weeks. If you press hard and run your fingers up my shins or forearms, you can feel tight tissue balled up, like small hills. Same along my breast bone. You can't see them, but you can feel it. They've been causing random pains throughout my arms, legs, and chest.
The biggest new symptom, however, is my memory. I forget enormous amounts of information. I can't remember valentines day last year. I can't remember my schedule from last semester, even though it was only two months ago. I can't remember almost all of my junior and sophomore years of high school, including the two year relationship I had with my first boyfriend. Sometimes, I'll even forget what my best friends or family looks like. My memory problem has been a recent issue, that started very slowly just before the summer and spiked the past six months. Of course, this coincided with when I got back from Tahoe and became active on IRC again. Many people have messaged me to talk about old stories, past events, or just say hi, and I've had to tell many of them that I didn't know what they were talking about (and in a few cases, that I didn't even remember who they were). I'm really very sorry for this, and I'm hoping you guys will stay patient with me while I try to get this issue under control or see where it goes. It seems to ebb and flow: just when I think it's getting better, it turns around on me. It's created an entirely new obstacle with school.
These issues are not ones that are thought to be commonly associated with Tietze's. If you read most definitions of the disease, it's mainly thought to only affect a certain part of your ribcage joints. Because of this, I've reached a new thought...
I'm pretty sure I've been misdiagnosed.
When I was diagnosed with Tietze's, it was by a physical therapist in her 60's at Hershey Medical Center. I had been there for fifteen minutes. It seemed like a miracle at the time, but now I wonder if it was just an easy label. She spoke of seeing many people with this problem, but most research says there's only been slightly over a hundred correct diagnoses of the disease in the past fifty years. I'm all set to believe that number is very low, but I can't believe that an extremely rare disease blossomed overnight. Also, I've seen my medical charts. Tietze's isn't listed on it. Even though most doctors in the United States have no idea what Tietze's disease is, I would think it would at least be listed on my medical charts if I was diagnosed. I always have to remind the doctors that I see that I have it. Being misdiagnosed holds a different set of worries for me though: One, do I have something worse? And two, I'm going to have to go through all of those horrid tests again if I want to challenge this. With it taking two years of neverending doctors just to get a Tietze's diagnosis, I'm not thrilled about that idea.
I mentioned in the last entry about this that most people grow out of Tietze's, and a handful don't. It's supposed to be a short duration syndrome, that clears up after six months to a few years. With this going on six years now and only getting worse, I think it's safe to say that I won't be growing out of it. Unfortunately, there's still no treatment, and the research on it is still non-existent. Nevertheless, I still know that it could be worse. I'm alive, I'm functional, and it doesn't prevent me from doing things I love, it only gives me more obstacles to work through. Is it a little intimidating and worrisome? Yeah, it is. But it's pointless to think negatively about it when I can't change it.
I made a major achievement this summer. I climbed a 80 foot, 5.10a route (up there in the hardness level) at 6,000 feet. My house at home is at 200 feet. It was a huge event for me, and I didn't even realize the grade of what I had done until I got home. We had thought the climb was much easier. It was longer and harder than anything I'd ever climbed. So no matter what, nothing's holding me back.
“When you reach the top, keep climbing.”
The Left Seam - 5.10a
I know it's been a while, but I wanted to throw this small thing in here for people to comment on. I'm really interested to see what people say.
Today my friend showed me a video by Bergsten to their song Supertime. If you've ever had a traumatic experience with a car crash, I wouldn't suggest watching this video. Anyway, my friend and I can't see any meaning in this video other than it being significantly disturbing. Some people are trying to say that the victims are laughing by the end, but I don't think they are.
What do you think the meaning of the video is?
You know, I've sat down to write a blog about seven times in the past few months, and each time I never actually did it. I think it was because I had some things that I was thinking about, but none of them were really long enough to constitute a blog entry. So I'm going to take all of those thoughts, split them up, and write about them. Here we go.
The Remnants of Snowmageddon
For those of you that remember, the end of January and most of February brought us Snowmageddon I, II, and III. Whatever name you subscribe to (Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, Snowzilla), the storm was pretty crazy. My college got 26 inches just from the first two, and my parents got around 18. Only about a third of it was melted when the third hit. So with the outrageous amounts of snow, what would be the thing most damaged? No, not houses, not trees, not roads.
Most of the street signs that I have seen in Pennsylvania look like they were hit by a Tractor Trailer. And while it's very possible that some of them were, most of them were brought down by Snowmageddon. How? I have no idea. All I know is that on my way back to college that weekend, most of the signs were either hanging on one side or completely gone. The kicker? They're still that way. Everyone's so preoccupied with the road projects that the street signs are littered around like kicked cigarettes. Either way, if you were looking to steal your favorite "Speed Hump", "Dips", or "Slow Children" sign, Snowmageddon was your heaven.
As of yesterday afternoon, I am all moved out of my dorm room, back home, and done with my Sophomore year. I get a week or two of a break, and then my online summer classes start up. I'm lucky enough to be working hard enough to graduate early, (in December 2011, a few weeks after I turn 21) which will save me a couple thousand dollars, and I can have a few months to rest before I start my Masters. I still have to figure out where I want to go for that. I've been trying to get so much school work done in so little time that I've been lagging with TSI, so hopefully now that summer is here, I can fit it more into my schedule and get lots of work done. I'm fairly optimistic.
Adios to the East
If you haven't heard, for the summer I'll be moving to the west coast and lifeguarding at Lake Tahoe. Conveniently, mhawk lives an hour away from it, so I have a free room, but a long commute to work each day. Oh well. So, on Wednesday I get to pick his furriness up from the Philly airport, and on Saturday we'll start our 2,600 mile drive out to Nevada. We'll just be following rt. 80, so if anyone has any suggestions on what to stop and see, I'd be happy to hear them. I'm going to be in the heart of a major climbing area, working at one of the most beautiful places in the world, and four hours from San Fransisco, so I have high hopes for the summer. I'll miss being close to NYC and my family, but I'll be back in three months for school again. Oh, and did I mention I'm terrified of flying?
More Disease Stuff
So, the only part that worries me about this summer is the job requirements. You see, to be a beach lifeguard, you need to be able to sprint 500 yards, run 500 yards, and swim 550 yards in a glacial lake (that currently has four feet of snow). I haven't been able to run in years, since I don't get enough oxygen. I tried lap swimming the other day, and made it three laps (I need to make it 20) in a row. Well, that kind of scared me and I started going to this place that does myofacial therapy (google it). After I got it done, I went to the pool and made it 14 laps, and literally cried in happiness after. Yes, I know, I'm such a chick. However, 14 is still not 20, and it's very hard to find a myofacial therapist. Plus, I'm currently at 400 ft above sea level, while Tahoe is at 6000. Tons of fun. So, I'm going to start jogging at night, and trying to eat a diet of foods that loosens inflammation. The diet, by the way, sucks. Basically, all types of preservatives encourage inflammation, so I haven't been doing too well so far. But here's to hoping I run like the wind come late May. I'll keep ya'll updated.
Well, that's all for now. It's absolutely windy as hell here today. I'm craving teriyaki noodles.
I have a disease called Tietze's Disease. I was diagnosed shortly after Christmas in 2008, though I've had it for a few years now. I am sure that, unless I've told you about it, you've never heard of Tietze's Disease before. It's a very rare disease, where your rib tissue (the costal cartilages) inflame, and prevent movement of the ribs. It's very commonly misdiagnosed, and sometimes masks tumors, heart attacks, heart dysfunctions, and lung problems. I can't really decide if I want to have the disease, or have something else.
Here's a basic run down: Because of my this, my ribs don't move. This means that I can't really exercise at a hard cardio pace. I rock climb, yes, but that doesn't get your heart pumping like running. I used to be a swimmer, and had to stop, because my limbs were getting so weak that I couldn't walk after races. I used to run around a lot, but now I'd be lucky to run a hundred meters. Basically, if my heart starts pumping hard, it needs more oxygen, and because of the limits on my lungs, I can't supply it. Because of that, I get oxygen deprived and eventually pass out. I've never actually ever passed out before, because I always know when to stop. When this first showed up however, I got pretty close a few times.
I've been through every test on the planet for this disease. The pain of it is often said to be the same as having a heart attack... constantly. Because of the tightness of my ribs, the tissue pulled on my spine, and my spine now not only does a small S curve, but it also twists to the left about ten to fifteen degrees. This, of course, gives me extreme, chronic back pain. My stomach has also been pushed around by my tissue, and is located a little closer to the front of me than it should be. The result? I can move the entrance of my stomach around with my hand. Odd? You bet. When I didn't know this, I would sit in weird positions, and suddenly feel sick after a few moments. We thought I had a bunch of different problems. We never knew that my back, my exercise limitations, and my stomach were all from the same thing.
The disease started manifesting around age thirteen. I was always an outrageously active child, and I started realizing that I could do less and less as the months would go on. I attributed it to growing up, and just thought that I was losing some of my energy. The summer of 2005, I was 14, and swimming a 100 meter major race against our top competitor in the league. They were killing us, so they had put me in with the 15 and over swimmers, because they knew I was possibly fast enough to win it. We needed the win. I swam as fast as I could, and at the end of my third lap, I started to feel dizzy. I was in first, so I kept pushing. Suddenly, it hit me like a freight train. I slowed down, my arms went weak, and I started gasping for breath. The pain in my chest was amazing. The girl in second was gaining on me fast, and I pulled the last of my adrenaline to finish the race. I think I finished second, but I don't really remember. I got to the wall, and hung on, gasping for breath. They needed to start the next race, so I used the last of my strength to pull myself out of the pool. I got up, walked three steps, and felt my legs giving out. I tried to get to the fence behind the starting blocks, to catch myself, but I only succeeded in falling between their storage shed and the fence, where no one could see me. I sat there for a good fifteen minutes, mainly because I couldn't move. I wasn't all that concerned, I just thought I had really used myself up in the race. After my heart slowed, and I stopped feeling as dizzy, I tested out walking and found that I could if I moved slow. I made it back to my parents, and told them what happened, mainly for selfish reasons. I didn't want to have to go to practice the next day. My mother immediately made a doctor appointment, and told me I wasn't allowed to swim anymore, unless they were relays and short distances.
After this, the doctors become a blur to me. I remember going to my Pediatrician and having him tell me to start taking an over the counter medicine, a pill, that started with a P. I forget what it was. Needless to say, it didn't work, so I stopped taking it. After that, I was sent to the Asthma doctors. They tested my lung functions, took x-rays, and did breathing tests. Everything came back normal, but they put me on an Albuterol inhaler anyway. After my mother and I found out that I am one of the few people that get high off of Albuterol, they did more tests, which were still normal, and put me on a Zopenex inhaler. That still did nothing. After that, I was sent to the Cardiologist. They thought I had a bad heart. I had EKGs, Stress tests, Ultrasounds... everything you can think of. They were considering putting me on a constant heart monitoring machine, something that I'd have to wear to check if I was having miniature heart attacks during exercise. My Cardiologist told me that before we started me on equipment, he wanted me to see a special physical therapist. I thought he was stupid, but nonetheless agreed. By this time, I was seventeen, and had had a year and a half of constant medical tests. I was apathetic, and mostly willing to do anything. We went to the Physical Therapist in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and she spent 15 minutes with me, and told me I had Tietze's. I was amazed that I finally had an answer, and didn't necessarily believe her at first. After my second visit, I was convinced, mainly because everything that she did worked.
I saw her a few times more, and then stopped, mainly because gas went over four dollars a gallon, and it was over an hour drive. We didn't have the money to keep going. She told me I should grow out of it, and it should stop soon, which I hoped for. It didn't happen. When I started college a year ago, I called Hershey Medical again, since she was on Medical leave for the entire summer. Of course, she was still on limited hours, and they couldn't accommodate my college schedule. I was out of luck.
Since then, I've tried accupuncture, and a general Therapist. While my general Therapist, which I just finished up with last week, was a nice guy, he really had no clue how to treat my disease. So once again, I'll have to hunt down someone who knows the special kind of therapy that is needed for my disease. Hopefully I'll be able to manage it myself, without needing one for a while. That would be nice.
Because of my disease, I sound like rice crispies. I can put my shoulders back, and my spine pops. Sometimes I can reach for a book, and my rib will crack. I swear, I'm the only person that I know that can crack their ribcage. It sounds like little taps. I went to get out of my car this morning, and my back popped three times just lifting up my bag. It makes me laugh that I sound like a cereal.
One of the interesting things that this has given me is a horribly high pain tolerance level. I wake up with scratches and have no idea how they got there. I don't really feel my back pain that much anymore, unless I sleep badly. I get cuts and they don't really hurt. I woke up Monday morning with a big chunk of skin missing from my the knuckle of my pinky, and I have no idea how it got there. For some things, it's nice not to feel that much pain. My back feels like a rock. Giving me a massage is like trying to move the earth. My physical therapist had to use all of his body weight at first, just so I could feel it. For other times, it sucks. I don't necessarily like waking up looking like I've been beaten with forks in my sleep. Sometimes the random scratches get old.
Will I grow out of it? God I hope so. Most cases of Tietze's don't last longer than six months. Mine has lasted four or five years now. I know someone who is going on twenty years with the disease now. I hope that won't be me. Soon, I hope, I'll be normal again. That would be nice. Until then, if I have a heart attack, I'm screwed, since that's what normal is to me. I've realized that a lot of people with diseases play this game, so if you're perfectly health, enjoy it, and we all hate you. When it comes down to it, I can't change what I have, and I'll deal with it fine. I look normal, I think normally, I'm okay. I won't let it limit me. So if you're ever looking for me, it's best to look to the cliffs...
Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.
- Michael Jordan
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
but I’ve had nothing to drink
No alcohol, no
none of that !@#$.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
this room’s moving
Circles like a racetrack
I’m not a fast driver and
I can’t keep up.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
there’s nobody here
A room, I’m all alone
The party must have ended and
I didn’t notice.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
man, did I $%&@ up
Just you, and me, and this headache
I’m not too good with speaking so
I hope you’ll read this.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
There’s tracks in my head
My brain ran
in too many circles.
Let me tell you lover
It’s 3 AM and
I’ve got nothing left to say.
I changed gears today, and wrote a poem. It's been a while since I've written any poetry, and I miss it. If you think poetry has no meaning, then don't bother commenting on this. It has more meaning than regular words could ever write. Yes, I know it censors. But I'm not about to get warned by filter evasion. Use your imagination, I'm sure you know what it says.
I found out yesterday that my Uncle has end stage lung cancer. My mother had known for a day, but had forgotten to tell me when I came home from work. Now by Uncle, I mean Great Uncle, my Grandmother's brother. My family is known as being very close. My Great Uncle Teddy, however, is an anomaly.
My Uncle is only a few years younger than my Grandmother, around 60 years old, but has seen more of the world than I could ever dream of. He has a military history that I'm not allowed to ask about, and I believe he's not allowed to talk about. He could tell the most amazing stories you've ever heard, but only when he wants to. He would bring us lottery tickets for Christmas when we were small children, and cans of green beans and sauerkraut for our birthdays. He was definitely someone interesting.
If you would have looked at my Uncle, you would have never believed he had had such an interesting military career, or even an interesting life. He owned a junk shop in the Poconos, married and divorced once with a son that only showed up every now and then for money. He lived with his friend, and drove a van that broke every other week. It was a red van, with a grey driver's side door. I will never forget his arrival last Christmas. The van's radiator had been leaking, and the water to cool it was dripping out the bottom in a quarter sized hole. So, instead of getting this problem fixed, he simply got 30 different gallon containers, filled them up with water, and kept them in the back of the van. Every ten miles he would get out, lift the hood, and empty a gallon back into the tank. That same Christmas day, it happened to be raining in the Poconos, and his windshield wipers were broken. His solution was to get a sturdy umbrella from his junk shop, and drive 45 miles an hour the whole way to my grandparents, while holding this umbrella over his windshield. I would have loved to be another car on that highway that day. To see a man, driving on the highway in his multicolored van, holding an umbrella over his windshield, and stopping every ten miles to dump a gallon of water in the front of it. Priceless.
Since I've lived, my Uncle has smoked. I don't think I could ever remember him without a cigar in his front shirt pocket. It was his eternal smell, and I know that any normal cigar will always make me think of my Uncle. My Grandmother would yell at him every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Vacation at the lake, but he never stopped. Until about three weeks ago. He hadn't been feeling well, and was losing weight rapidly. We saw him at Easter, and fought with him for hours to go to the Hospital. A week later, he did. He stayed for a few days, where they wouldn't let him smoke. After three days, he checked himself out and spent the day at the Casino. That was my Uncle. He told us that he had a cigar at the Casino, and he just couldn't take it. After a few days of being off it, he completely lost the urge. However, his condition didn't improve. He went back to the Hospital a few weeks later, where they began tests again. Three days ago, they found the cancer.
It's a large tumor, and inoperable. One of his lungs is completely not functioning. I'm an Optimist, but I'm a realist too, and I realize that his chances of coming out of this are near to nothing. He knows that too. He says he's fine with dying, but I find it sad. This man has been in multiple wars, traveled across the globe, and he'll die confined to a hospital bed, a frame of his former self. It's hard to think that something so simple will kill him when he's survived so much.
Before everyone gets all sentimental on me, I'm not crushed about this. I'm upset, and in no way happy, but we all saw it coming. When it comes down to it, I know that if he's okay with it, then I'm okay with it. And once he goes, I'm sure it will hit me. But for now, he's alive, and happy, so I am too. There's no use being upset when he's not. He says he's had a good life, and I'd agree. He's seen places that I wish I could see. Hopefully, I'll get to see maybe half of what he has. I think it's fairly ironic that he quit about a month before this diagnosis. It just came too late. But my family is categorized for its stubbornness, and I wouldn't expect that to change now. But when it will happen, and he'll go, then I know I'll be upset, and despite how infrequently I saw him, I'll still notice when he's not there.
I know I'll miss my Uncle Teddy, and he's definitely a person that I will tell stories about to my children. But mostly I know that the smell of an old cigar will always sweetly remind me of him, his grey hair, and his goofy smile. As Kahlil Gibran once said, "The lights of stars that were extinguished ages ago still reaches us. So it is with great men who died centuries ago, but still reach us with the radiations of their personalities."
He'll always be with me.
He wasn't amazing, but he is extraordinary. My Uncle will always be a great man to me.
If you haven’t been reading or are completely, blaringly oblivious, then you’ll be surprised to know that I’m female. Most of you, however, already know this. Most of you also know, that I spend my time as an Electronics worker in a local Target – the only full time female Electronics worker on staff. As always, the Electronics section is a man’s world. Women will temporarily visit, find what they need, and get the hell out of there. The men, however, linger. Let me begin with some stories.
A few months ago, I was the only worker in Electronics (The other was on break) when a British man nearing his mid 50’s approached with his younger son, about four years old, seated in the cart. The man began to look at our new 50 inch Plasma Panasonic TV, and eventually motioned me over. “Does this have an SD slot?” he asked. I explained to him that it did, showed him where, and included some other tidbits about the TV. Suddenly he responds, “Wow.. thanks.. It’s not often you get good looking help in Electronics.” As this man says this, he reaches his hand around, and begins rubbing my back. While I could have dropped him to the floor in seconds with my black belt level training, I was more stunned than pissed off. Here, a man that is obviously married, with his son right there, and he has the balls to approach a girl in such a way. I quickly stepped away, told him where to find me if he had more questions, and conveniently placed myself at a spot well seen and well guarded. Now was this Fifty some year old man a threat? Probably not. He was older, out of shape, and with his son. But I certainly could never say this was an isolated incident.
Working at Target is usually the only time I get out in a social setting where I am vaguely alone. If I go to the mall or stores, I usually only do so accompanied. Throughout my time at Target, I’ve had older men ask me if the service plan number is actually my cell, tell me to ring up their condoms first with a wink, if they get any ‘special benefits’ with certain expensive products, and so on. (Note to Reader: Sexual Harassment is not usually the best pickup line, and will not really get you the type of girl that you'd like to keep around.) But of all the things that anger me, that isn’t the top.
While women have no problem approaching me to ask me a question, men will walk completely around the department to the other Electronics worker, obviously male, to ask him about a certain Television or Camera. If I happen to be the only one there, they’ll walk around for a bit, and then ask, “Do you work in this department?” (No, I just stand here for the tan off of the LCD TV’s, leik, so awesome!) . A lot of times when men are forced to ask me the question, some of them will be begin with, “Well, I don’t know if you’d know the answer to this,” or, “You probably won’t know, but,”. What makes me laugh is that when these men avoid me to ask my coworker, my coworker will most likely find me and ask me anyway. It’s Target, we don’t employ rocket scientists, and I’m one of the most knowledgeable we have. When I give these guests their responses, they’ll quickly look back to the male worker that brought them there, as if asking if it’s okay to believe me.
I’d love to say that this problem stays at work. However, that’s far from true. As a girl on Cybernations, I’m probably one of maybe a hundred active female players on a twenty nine thousand player game. Cybernations is also a Man's world. It’s IRC that’s finally introduced me to the concept that some men enjoy sending pictures of their penises as a nice ‘hello’. Now, I’m sure that not many of our players would ever say ‘hello’ to another male player by broadcasting the thing between their legs (though I’m sure exceptions exist). I can say that in this game, I’ve already had four people randomly link me to a picture and follow up with, “Like it?” Usually, since I sometimes feel like a nice person, I brush the question off and let you keep your fragile ego, however, it’s not cute, and it’s not attractive. Similarly, I’ve learned that when bringing a male player down politically, you go after their faults, exacerbate situations they’ve been in, and spread rumors of distrust. However, when bringing down a female player, the best offense is usually something concerning her looks, her obviously slutty nature (sarcasm), or the blatantly simple comment that she can’t rule an alliance because she’s a woman. It’s painfully obvious why most women that reach a powerful position while still fully intact started out role playing as guys. I’ve had rumors spread about me, I’ve been sexually harassed, and the kickban feature has become a necessary tool in my every day IRC use. I’m sure that if I talked to any female player online, they’d say something similar.
I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree that electronics and online simulation games have always been associated with men. But what about the women trickling through? While I’ve certainly met my share of horrible males, I’ve met quite a few nice ones from both of the locations I’ve talked about above. While some women will shop, get their hair done, and giggle during pedicures, I choose to spend my time reading Time Magazine and setting up programs for an online game. I wish I could change behavior that I’ve specified above, but with every amount of good comes the bad, and I accept that wholeheartedly. The good is worth it. So while women will go the mall and chat about the newest hot actor, I’ll be answering questions to men who’ll be shocked that I know something. And later, I’ll go write a speech to a few hundred people that will hopefully gain enough respect to avoid penis pictures for a month.
But hey, that’s just being a woman in a man’s world.
If I could chose one thing that I dislike about Cybernations Politics, or one thing that I wish I could impress upon other leaders, it would be the treatment of their members. Now, for some, member treatment isn't a problem. These alliances generally flourish, or stick together in the hard times. These are the alliances that grow. But other leaders, ones that play favorites, manipulate their Government, and use their members as a militia for their own wants are, in my opinion, people who should have never taken a leadership position in the first place.
I privately talked with a member who had been sent into a protectorate by his leader a few weeks ago under the guise of, "You can help lead." When confronted, the leader explained, "I just don't want you here anymore." I do not understand how people can act like this, and still have followers. Maybe people just don't talk like I think they do. This same person threatened to fire his second in command when he disagreed. I could never imagine acting in such a manner. In my opinion, every member is important, and must be treated as a one friend treats another, or as a mother treats a child. It is the responsibility of the leader to see that their members grow and learn. Any person that is not willing to see such a responsibility through should never take responsibilities on.
However, there also comes the responsibilites of the member. I don't understand why some members stay around in situations like those above. As the aformentioned player, I would have told my former leader to screw, and left to find a new alliance conveniently not affiliated with my previous. If I was ever shown blatant disrespect and complete apathy by my alliance leader, I don't understand how I would find the resolve to stay and contribute. Maybe that's simply just me. However, I believe that when alliance leaders truly show care for their member's actions, that's when activity and productivity maintains itself.
This leader, mentioned above, has ruled for over two years now. He's not a top player, but he is fairly known. And his alliance numbers have stagnated for almost a year now. Member discord is at an all time high. And still, he sits on his throne and barks orders that he feels are in his best interest. I would love to ask him what happened to the best interests of your people, but I'm sure that would be simply disregarded, and someone from his alliance would conveniently 'accidentally' nuke rogue me. But still, he has followers, and not exactly few of them. What type of person does it take to bend over and take such abuse and lack of care from a leader? Or even better, what type of leader does it take to treat their followers like tadpoles in the Erie Great Lake? If I ever did such a thing, I'd hope someone with more worth would coup me and throw me to the bottom of a pit filled with prussic acid.
Maybe dictatorship just isn't my style.
As a Target Electronics Worker, I am charged with making everyone's experience fast, fun, and friendly while they look for their new Television, Camera, or random Video Game. While I twist my face into a smile, random shoppers in cowboy hats and short shorts open boxes, rip apart game cartridges, and ask me if their new converter boxes can pick up their neighbors cable. While everyone knows that Retail is about as fun as the lowest levels of Hell, I think Target, excluding Wal-Mart, might take the cake for the worst.
First of all, to the guests: No, I do not understand your cable set up when you say, "I have those rabbit ears with those cables, and I need more cables." Second, no, our Target TV channel is not on cable, and we cannot change the channel to put on the sports game. Third, yes, I am a female working in electronics, and no, I am not the 'token cashier'. I am actually one of the most knowledgeable workers that you will find in my store, and if you ask the boys, they will most likely ask me anyway. Fourth, no, we do not match prices with Wal-Mart. Deal with it. Fifth, if we carried everything on our website, we'd need a store the size of Delaware. It's online, and our website will not steal your credit card. I don't care how paranoid you are. And last, but not least, I don't care if you want to act all snooty and tell me you'll go to Best Buy instead. I will gladly write you directions so you can cause them problems instead of me.
The best thing about Target has to be the workers. Your store manager will likely be a man that could care less if you got struck by lightning tomorrow, but if you pull in enough sales, he might say hello. The Team Leaders are all out to kiss $@! and become an Executive, so they'll be nice to you, as long as an Exec isn't around. Your coworkers are as apathetic as you are, and will probably answer the phone in a different indian accent every time someone calls. When it comes down to it, your coworkers are what keeps you going. Every time they bounce a kid's ball through the ceiling tiles, it gives you another week that you feel you can hang on. And every time that woman with the huge purse accidentally discharges your fire extinguisher, it makes you laugh just a little more as your lungs fill with the yellow dust.
So come on down to Target, and we'll ask you through our fake, plastered smiles, "Can I help you find something?"