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I haven’t been able to run for the last two months.  Anyone who has had any amount of contact with me (in person or on the internets) will no doubt have heard about this before.  I don’t respond well to having one of my favorite things taken away.  It affects my sleep, my energy level and my overall attitude and though I tried to sub in other types of cardio, I haven’t really had a good adrenaline rush in a very long time.

I’ve been to the doctor, got a proper diagnosis (grownup alert!), got some pills, took them, did the recommended PT exercises, and actually went running pain-free on Friday.  Now I have to conquer The Fear.

When I was working at the library one night, a student came up to the reference desk and spent a tremendous amount of time with my co-worker.  I was busy myself, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but after the student left, my co-worker turned to me and asked, “Do you have any ideas on this one?”

It seems the student has a friend who was always athletic.  A while ago, she got inured, something like an ACL tear, and ever since then has been terrified of hurting herself.  I blinked at my co-worker, “Is that really something you can write a psych paper about, or is that just learning and conditioning?” If the stove is hot, you learn not to touch it; in figure skating, the first thing they teach you is how to fall safely.  Likewise, and I don’t really know anything about ACL injuries, but most sports injuries come from overuse, or from doing something wrong–so you try not to do something wrong.

Torn adductor, I blame yoga

In my case, I can’t quite pinpoint what I did wrong. I’ve had torn muscles in the past, and usually you can actually feel the muscle tear.  You take a step, and there’s a popping feeling followed by a tremendous amount of pain.  I never felt a pop for this one, which was why is was so hard to diagnose and treat properly.  I’d rest for a week, my leg would feel ok, and then I would try to go for a run often barely making it across the street.  When I was able to go for a longer run/walk, I ran about 1.5 miles and walked 4.5.  When I felt a slight twinge, I backed off and walked, which is something that this particular injury had left me unable to do as well.

The next morning after that test run, I woke up feeling fine.  I rested a few days, and went out for a four mile run/run (with a minimal amount of walking).  It felt great, I was maintaining a great pace (for an injured girl), and the act of running actually made my back pain go away.

The next day was race day.

If this had just been a normal race, I probably would have skipped it.  If this had been a 1/2 marathon, I would have known I wasn’t ready, but this was the Jamestown Bridge 10k, which is not only a really, really awesome race, but a distance I could actually handle.  So I had to do it.  Also, I was such a geek about this race that I was actually the first person to register for it–yeah.  Numbers 1 and 2 are reserved for last year’s winners, but I was number 3.

I ran over that–over and back.

Of course, running up and down that steep of an incline is a bit taxing, but I was prepared to take it slow and steady.  I met up with a friend and her mother before the race, and we made the plan to stick together and plod our way through the course.  She was also recovering from an injury, so at the start line, her 60-year-old mother took off like a shot, and we starting plugging our way down the on-ramp.

What ended up being strange and interesting about this experience was the fact that I was struggling.  My back had a ridiculous twinge, my leg felt stiff, and the previous day’s four miles just seemed like a beautiful dream as I hobbled along and eventually walked sending my friend ahead of me.  Near the end of the race, I saw the 6 mile marker meaning that there were only .2 miles ahead.  So I started running, tentatively at first, and then settled into my natural (if a bit slower than usual pace).  It felt perfect.  It felt like the previous day’s run instead of the plodding and drudgery of the first four miles of this race.

What I realized is in my terror of re-injuring myself and pushing too hard, I really hadn’t pushed hard enough at all.  It is harder on my body to run at an unnaturally slow pace than it is to run faster.  I used so much effort to slow down, that I wore myself out.  If I had attempted this race at a 10 minute mile pace, not only would I have finished with a much more respectable time, but I might not be so sore today.

Therein lies my conundrum: How can I know how much I can handle, unless I try and risk re-injury?  This conundrum sucks.

My next race is May 6th and it’s a 1/2 marathon that  I’ve run twice before.  My plan is to just not overthink it.

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I’m a laid back person, I’m a bit proud of that fact, but I’m finding more and more that it gets in the way because I have little-to-no experience in standing up for myself.  It kind of goes along with the way that I cannot get deals from people in retail either when I complain about something defective, or just when I ask nicely, but extends into the rest of my life where I just cannot complain about anything and get satisfaction.

I was raised on the ethos of hard work–nose to the grindstone, take care of yourself and you’ll go far kind of thing.  Well, maybe you won’t go far, since my parents seemed to never want me to be anything more than middle class (perhaps not even comfortably middle class), but that should be all you want!  Ask for too much and you’re just greedy.  Because this is ingrained in me, I just stiff upper lip my way through life not letting things get to me, and now I’ve gotten to the point where when I try to get worked up about things and stand up for myself, it really comes off insincerely.

About five years ago, I had just started running semi-regularly.  I bought a pair of proper shoes, and was up to about three miles on the treadmill.  I was feeling pretty smug about it.  Then one day, I felt an incredible amount of pain in my left foot.  I stopped running, started walking and it subsided a bit, but as soon as I tried running again, it became unbearable.  I switched to the elliptical machine and used my heel rather than front part of my foot, and it seemed to work out.

Later that night, I went to Target, and my foot started hurting so badly, I could barely make it out of the store.  The following morning, it was completely swollen and a lovely shade of greenish purple.  Because I never go to the doctor, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the situation, so I called my father.  My rationale was, he’s been running marathons for 20 years, certainly he must have had or seen something like this in his life before, he’ll advise me.  Basically what he ended up telling me was, “quit complaining, just keep running.”

This is not the first time my father has given me terrible advice, and my protestations that I couldn’t even get a shoe on my foot much less run in this condition were ignored in favor of repeating the same few words over and over “quit complaining, just keep running.”  So I decided to take my mangled foot to the doctor in the hopes that if nothing else, he or she would give me good painkillers (which usually give me a headache, but it’s worth a shot).  The doctor determined that it was a stress fracture, said there’s nothing he could do about it, and sent me home with a bill.

This is why I don’t go to the doctor.

Despite these setbacks, I’m trying to keep up with my quest to be a little less laid back and a little more assertive, but the problem is that I just keep forgetting.  A while ago, a car was parked illegally in my street, blocking part of the road in a way that was both unsafe and annoying. I remembered Jewish Friend telling me that she frequently calls the police for vehicular complaints, so I tried to do the same.

“The car is in the middle of the street!” I asserted.

“It’s not pulled over to the side?” the police man asked.

“Well, it is pulled over, but it’s a really narrow road.”

He just sighed, “We’ll get it when we ticket at 2am.” Then he hung up on me.

Are the police supposed to hang up on you when you’re not a deranged, hysterical person?  It seems wrong, and it hurt my feelings.

Last night at work, there was a huge booming sound on the roof followed by a power outage in half the building and a post-apocalyptic hum.  We lost the phones, and one of the children’s librarians came running down the steps saying, “we need to evacuate, there’s a smell.”  So my co-worker told me to call the fire department.

I scanned the phone book looking for the fire department non-emergency number.  Turns out that there is no such thing, and if you need the fire department, you call 911, which does make sense when you think about it.

So I made my first 911 call, feeling like at any moment I would be arrested for tying up an emergency line, and almost apologizing to the woman on the other end for wasting her time.  It was an emergency, we had a building with 100 people in it and no idea what was going on, but I still felt like well, I don’t actually see flames/no one is bleeding from the eyes, surely this doesn’t warrant a 911 call.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the other day, where he discussed a couple very famous plane crashes and determined that a lot of the crash could have been avoided had the pilot in contact with the tower been a little more assertive and emphatic about the state of emergency.  While reading it, I scoffed at the pilots, amazed that while a plane runs out of fuel before crashing into John McEnroe’s dad’s house they would nonchalantly tell the tower “We’re low on fuel” instead of “We’re out of gas!  Emergency!”

I would never make it as a pilot because I probably would have done the exact same thing.

I’m a work in progress.

My boss asked me last week if I had anything fun planned for my three- day weekend.

I’m running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday,” I told her, “So really, all I’ll be doing is eating a lot of protein, and getting plenty of sleep.”

“This Sunday!??!” She asked, “But it’s supposed to be hot! 80 degrees!  You can’t run in that!  It’s too hot!”

I thought about this momentarily and remembered that the first 1/2 marathon I ran was in 95 degree weather with about 90% humidity, my second one was 38 degrees, and third was torrential rain and gusting wind.  I started to perk up realizing that I technically would have ideal conditions for this race, and therefore, may actually be able to meet the personal goal I set of two hours–cutting of 33 minutes from my best time.

And then there were hills.

I live and run in Providence, and I looked at the course elevation map before:

but I was still ill-prepared for how much those hills suck.  I’m from the prairie; Fargo is possibly the flattest place in the world, and even though I did hill training in preparation for this race, I never ran up and down ten large hills in a single day. That was my undoing.

At first I was enthusiastic, none of the hills were terribly steep, so I practiced my lean forward and shuffle up the hill technique, which was working just fine.  Once I reached the longest hill known to man, started my shuffle, and then glanced up to realize that I couldn’t even see the top of the hill, I lost it, I walked, and I walked on the next one too.

Even though I loved the convenience of walking to and from the start line of the race, and seeing all kinds of new scenery in my own town (and neighboring Pawtucket), this race left me a bit underwhelmed.  Around mile 10, I just wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t get my running euphoria going.  It just wasn’t my day.  I think it might had have something to do with the fact that this was my first big run since my injury-plagued winter, and in the two days that I took off before the race, my leg was really stiff.  That made me more nervous than I’ve ever been, or again, it just wasn’t my day.

Overall, I’m disappointed in my performance since I had planned to do no walking of any kind, but I still cut at least 22 minutes off my previous best time, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much, but I feel like a bit of a pansy.  Am I a running wimp?

At the finish line, I had a free beer (the 5K was sponsored by Harpoon), and a couple slices of pizza, then walked home.  As I was trudging up the hill to my house I passed an old man loading stuff into his car.

“You look beautiful!” he yelled.

“I don’t believe you!” I told him, “I don’t feel beautiful, but thank you.”

Then I got home, took off my shoes and socks, and found this.

That is the twinge I felt around mile six.

I’m sorry you had to see it, but popping it was pretty awesome.

1452 ANDRIA  30 F 4312 PROVIDENCE RI 2:12:20.9 10:07 2:13:25.6

woman_running_bannerWhen I was in Junior High, my overly-chatty and track-obsessed history teacher asked me if I was going out for track.  No one had ever suggested that I take on a sport at any other time in my life (in fact, my parents, though supportive, were never upset when I quit all the various sports I played growing up) so I found this shocking and very odd.

“I don’t run.” I told him, then went back to my book.

A few weeks later, I had to go to the Principal’s office for something, and the school Superintendent cornered me and demanded to know if I was going out for track.  I had been going to this school for about four months, had played no sports, and was mostly concerned with reading during class and not getting caught.  I was not sporty in the least.

“No.” I told him.

“Why not?” He asked.

“I have weak ankles.” I told him, and left the office.

It seemed like making up a medical reason was the only thing that would get these people to leave me alone.  I still am not 100% sure why all these grownups wanted me to be in track.  The only reason that makes any sense is that they knew my dad is a runner, but it seems weird that they would think I was too.

I didn’t actually start running until I was about 25.  I was working at tv station and got a discount on a gym membership, walking on the treadmill one day got a little boring, so I ran.  I didn’t like using the machines because there was always some bitchy woman staring you down, or some little old lady just sitting at one watching tv–so I just ran every day.

My friend and former co-worker/fellow gym-goer, Danie (who is presently training for her first 1/2 marathon), used to surreptitiously follow the personal trainers around as they were doing sessions, and nab free training advice.  When she told me this, I was quite impressed and remarked that I should do the same.

She scoffed, “You just run like someone’s chasing you.”

I used to run to my piano lessons pretending that I was being chased by wolves, so really, she wasn’t far off.

While I was participating in my recent medical study, I was required to have a physical.  I haven’t really had a lot of physicals in my life because I never played the sports that required me to get one, and I don’t like to go to the doctor.  I dislike going to the doctor primarily because I often don’t have insurance, but also because I always feel like I’m wasting his/her time since there’s never really anything major wrong with me.  Unless I’m bleeding from the eyes, or have an obviously dislocated body part, I feel like I should be able to just wait out whatever I think is wrong with me.

This time I had to get a physical because they wanted to make sure I was fit enough to get drunk.  The doctor came into the room, asked a few routine questions, and took my blood pressure.

“You’re resting pulse rate is very low.” He told me, sounding slightly concerned, “Do you run a lot?”

Something inside my head went zing, and I realized I have finally achieved low resting pulse rate–tangible evidence that all of my hard work has paid off.

The deal with the low resting pulse is that it’s basically a measure of fitness.  The lower the better because if your heart can pump as much blood as you need with fewer pumps, that means that your heart is stronger.  Lance Armstrong’s resting pulse is 30, as is Dean Karnazes‘–the man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  Average is 65-75, mine is about 53.

“I do run a lot,” I told the doctor, “Actually, my dad’s resting pulse is so low that they won’t allow him to donate blood.”

At this the doctor got excited, “So it could be genetic as well!  And his father?”

I just shrugged, “He never went to the doctor.”

Then the doctor took my pulse manually, and because I was so excited about this news it had sped up.

I have a new nemesis.

My old nemesis was a girl I went to college with.  She was the girl who only spoke about herself and who pretended that everything she said was amazing.  She spoke very slowly as if to take up all of the conversation time, and would then interrupt other people.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation we once had:

I was talking to another friend who also drinks a lot of coffee about coffee I had had earlier in the day (something like that, it was a conversation about coffee, anyway).

Nemesis: “Oh, you drink coffee?”

Me: (glance at another friend who looks just as perplexed as I feel) “Yes, doesn’t everyone?”

Nemesis: (self-important tone) “I drink tea.”

Me: “Yes, I too drink tea, I’m just not talking about it right now.”

Nemesis: “Except this morning I let it steep too long and it was bitter” (sad, pouty face)

I ask you– what the hell kind of conversation is that?  What am I, or anyone else involved supposed to say?  “I’m sorry that happened to you”, “I hate it when that happens”, “Perhaps you should invest in some kind of timer”?

This is not an interesting conversation to have, and this was a girl who would constantly say things like this and expect… I don’t even know what.

Well, she’s been out of my life for years, and I’m better for it.  Though I keep expecting her to crop up somewhere and just suck.  Now, I had a new person who is driving me bonkers and I’ve never even spoken to him.

I go to the gym to run.  I could run outside, as many people have pointed out, but I really don’t like to.  My neighborhood is not the safest, the sidewalks are narrow and uneven, and I just don’t like to be outside that much.  I want a treadmill, some kind of 24-hour news channel, and a place to put my water bottle– then I’m content.

Lately, when I go to the gym, I keep seeing this guy.  I’ve been going there a year, and I’ve never seen him before this month.  Now he is always there.  That’s fine, good for him, however, he is rarely working out.

I show up, and find him on the treadmill directly in front of the TV that usually has CNN or MSNBC on it.  There are only two TVs in front pf the treadmills, so to avoid having to turn my head and crane my neck to see, I have to stand right next to him.  He wears a gray hooded sweatshirt, and gray sweatpants, and always smells sweaty.  That could be explained away as this is a place where people work out, except, he does very little.

I was at the gym for an hour and a half yesterday, and he spent most of that time standing on the treadmill reading the paper.  Standing, not moving, standing.  Occasionally, he would start it and walk at 1.9 mph (frame of reference, I can walk quite comfortably at 4.2). He would shuffle along for about four minutes, stop the treadmill, and stand and read for another fifteen.  There is no reason for him to smell as badly as he does if he’s not getting a workout of any kind.

Yesterday, he moved from the treadmill to the weight machines, which are right in front of the treadmills.  He then sat at one, staring at the ground for about ten minutes before putting him arms in place and half-heartedly doing half a rep.  Then he moved to another machine, and stared at the ground.  Without doing any reps on this one, he got up, and stood under another television and stared at it for about fifteen minutes.

I should not be as bothered by this as I am, but the last two times I’ve been at the gym, and have been running next to him as he stands there, people have gotten onto the treadmill next to me and asked if I’m watching the TV. Then they seem irritated with me when I say yes and they can’t switch spots with me.  What I want to say is, “maybe ask the guy directly in front of the TV reading the paper if you can run on the treadmill he’s using as a platform instead of asking me when I’m clearly watching the TV so intently that I don’t even see you trying to get my attention.”

bah!

Some in the blogosphere tend to do a Year in Review type of thing this time of year.  To them I say– I have an entire years worth of blogs that people should spend time re-reading, I will compose no list of the noteworthy events, there are just too many!  Actually, I feel like that’s something I should have done yesterday, and I didn’t, cause I am lazy and on vacation from school.

Instead I will look to the future rather than dwelling on the past.  This is how I try to live my life (insert grandiose tone here), and as the past is past and unchangeable, the future is the thing!  Resolutions tend to be trite, predictable, and annoying, and rarely pan out, so instead I’m going to call these goals.

1. Graduate from grad school and not reapply for more grad school.

I’m not going to plan to get a real job because I’m aware of the economic climate, but I’m not going to bury my head in the sand of academia anymore unless that academia is paying me for a change.

2. Run 700 miles.

My father spent the last year running 1000 miles, and last time I spoke to him on the phone he referred to his little goal as “just trying to get this thing done”.  I think 700 is much more manageable, especially since after I graduate, I probably won’t be able to get a job– lots of free time.

3. Read 150 books.

Last time I challenged myself to read a certain number of books, that number was a mere 100.  That’s because I didn’t start til May.  Starting in January means I only have to read 2.88 books per week– I scoff at that number.

That’s all, those are my only read concrete goals. Although I do plan on getting a lot of other stuff done, it would be boring to write down and read about.

Among the resolutions I’m not making are most of the list of the top 10 New Years Resolutions obtained by doing a quick google search.

1. Spend more time with friends and family.

I moved 1800 miles away from my family, and we’ve never gotten along better.  I already spend plenty of time with my friends, and will continue to maintain that.

2. Fit in fitness.

Well, that kind of is one of my goals, but it’s not a new thing.  I will not be among the thousands of Americans visiting the gym for the first time in years, I will be among the Americans that were there all along and find these people annoying.

3. Tame the bulge.

I don’t own a scale, and I’m certainly not going to spend money on one.  The bulges I already have are probably there for good, and too much work to get rid of.  I say they give me character.

4. Quit smoking.

I’ve quit smoking 1/2 dozen times– it’s no longer an issue.

5. Enjoy life more.

My life is already the envy of many, and I like it too.

6. Quit drinking.

No.

7. Get out of debt.

Not possible in one year’s time, especially since I’ll be borrowing more money for school.

8. Learn something new.

I try to do that every day already.

9. Help others.

Meh. That really doesn’t sound like me, although I am going into a rather altruistic profession.

10. Get organized.

I accomplished this one by moving across country with only what fit in my car, and then remaining in poverty thus unable to buy things. Done.

I recently finished reading The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes us Fat, if it Matters, and What To Do About it. It was interesting enough, and I’m not really sure why I enjoy reading books like this, but I just can’t get enough.

It was interesting until the author got to the “What To Do About It” part.  Most of the responsibility was put on the shoulders of employers to have a gym on site or to give discounts for off-site gyms, to have healthy snacks in the vending machines etc.  Then the author admitted that if there was an on-site gym, it would most likely attract people who were already going to a gym on their own, and really be no more help to the people who actually need it.

Then he got into the system of rewards.  Being an economist, he was trying to create an incentive for people who hadn’t previously been exercising and eating right to want to make the change.  That’s all well and good, but I can’t help but notice that the people who elect to keep themselves healthy and at a moderate weight always get completely screwed in this.

There are no cash prizes for doing what you’ve always done, and if you don’t need to lose any weight, you can’t collect the $7 per pound of loss that he proposes.  Perhaps we’re winners already because losing weight is a trying and difficult process, but if everyone else is getting paid, I want to too.

Same thing goes with The Biggest Loser.  The winner gets $250,000 for losing the highest percentage of body weight on national tv.  Perhaps watching me eat a sensible dinner and go running isn’t as exciting as watching someone slim down from 500 pounds to 180, swearing, crying, and throwing up along the way, but still,  that’s more money than I will ever see in my lifetime.

Over the years I’ve paid thousands of dollars for gym memberships, “activewear”, shoes, and for the privilege of running long distances in front of people.  This is insane.  My father ran six marathons last year, driving all over the Midwest, paying for hotels and taking off work.  A few years ago, he ran out of marathons to run and almost flew to Norway for one– mostly for a change of scenery, instead he went to Iowa.

You could say, “oh Andria, you don’t understand, you’re just lucky, you have good genes.”  To that I say: my brother is morbidly obese, and all the people on The Bigggest Loser seem to lose weight with diet and exercise, so really, it’s not like I’m magic.

This is a complaint I’ve had for a long time, and it’s only exacerbated by the fact that I need to buy new running shoes right now, and can’t really afford them– oh bittersweet irony.  So I will continue to read books like this, shake my fist and complain to anyone who will listen.

When I ran the Walt Disney World half marathon a year and a half ago, my dad kept pestering me over and over for what I thought my time would be.  It really does make sense that if you’re going to run in a race, your official time is important, but he just wouldn’t shut up about it.  In trying to organize the relay for the grog and dog job, team: The New Hotness needed to figure out how fast we could all run/eat a hot dog and chug a beer (well, we didn’t need to, but when you get a bunch of overachieving academics together, it’s just inevitable).  Yesterday was our dress rehearsal.

In preparation, I ate two hard-boiled eggs and did some deep knee bends.  We mapped out a course beginning and ending at Canadian Male Friend’s house where Wise Lawyer Friend would remain with the stop watch, and where the food and drink would be ready for each runner as he or she came back.  Having run a lot and quickly the previous weekend, I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to get around the loop in a timely way– less confident about my ability to eat and drink while winded.

Chinese Religious Scholar Friend went, and did very respectably; Early Christianity Religious Scholar Friend went and surprised us all with her speed despite having little legs, and Canadian Male Friend (Judaic Studies) ran the 1.25 miles before we even had a chance to get his hotdog and beer out onto the porch.

I got lost.

One of the streets on the route was not marked, and I added on an extra block plus minor backtracking and the extra time of standing there and looking for a familiar landmark, making my time the most pitiful of the bunch. My eating speed was adequate, but not enough to erase the shame of coming in dead last.

Later that evening, my parents called, and I let it go to voicemail.  I listened to my dad’s rambling and somewhat nonsensical account of his weekend running the Twin Cities Marathon, “Best time I’ve had in two years, Annie, so I’m real proud of that.  I feel good about it.”

Seriously, what are the odds?

Next weekend, I assume, the course will be clearly marked, so unless some local punks re-route things, it should work out fine.  I’m confident that if I get to the gym a couple times this week, I can work on my sprinting, and when the times comes, The New Hotness will win the day.