Category Archives: Assorted Adventures

Year in Cities 2014

I can’t say 2014 was my favorite year. I can’t say it was a year where things worked out the way I wanted them to. I can’t say it’s one I’ll treasure or reflect on with great fondness.

But. Here’s what I CAN say about 2014:


I got the opportunity to travel to see friends as they grew into new phases of their lives — be that marrying their best friends, parenting new babies, or becoming Ironmen.


I ate wonderful food in favorite cities — Portland, Pittsburgh — and discovered a surprising fondness for Phoenix and Atlanta. I drank wonderful beer. I sat in hammocks and swam in rivers and saw unbelievable landscapes from the windows of airplanes.


And, in the end, I can’t complain about a year with all of that.

Year in Cities 2014

Santa Rosa, CA
Sonoma, CA
Monte Rio, CA
Bradley, CA*
San Francisco, CA*
Aptos, CA
Chico, CA

Phoenix, AZ
Atlanta, GA
Miami, FL*
Chicago, IL*
Kalamazoo, MI
Frankfort, MI
Portland, OR
Indiana, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

A plane somewhere over the United States*

About Year in Cities: All listed cities are those in which I spent at least one night between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2014, with * denoting those cities in which I spent multiple non-consecutive nights. 2009 here, 2010 here, 2011 here, 2012 here, 2013 here. This is all Lydia‘s fault, via long-ago Kottke, and I thank her for bringing it to my attention.


Spectating Ironman Arizona

Right around the time Michaela signed up for Ironman Arizona last year, I started threatening to show up. In fact, I remember paging a year ahead on my calendar and filling in Ironman weekend with “Go to Arizona?” All year it sat there, and as the months passed, that question mark became more of an exclamation point. Michaela was going to be an Ironman, and I was going to watch.

Any trip that long in the making is sure to go through a bunch of changes, but this one was fairly ridiculous. For a while, a friend was planning to register for 2015, so we all signed up to volunteer together. Then, I discovered that Phoenix and Tempe are basically the same city — not in wildly different parts of AZ as I’d thought — and we’ve got good friends in Phoenix, so Pete said he’d come along since we could crash with them. Then Pete had to travel for work, my friend decided not to do an Ironman, so it was just me. Then another friend appeared, and we briefly dreamed of going to New Mexico together before she chose a beachfront yoga retreat over me. (I do not blame her one bit.) Then I got really angry at my dumb foot and almost cancelled the whole shebang because I wasn’t really in the mood to hang around an endurance event feeling sorry for myself.

But how many times do you get to see your friend become an Ironman? And how many times do you get to see a new city through the eyes of friends you don’t see enough as it is? So I sucked it up and booked my ticket, and I am so glad I went.

I got in late Friday night and caught up with my friends in Phoenix over frozen pizza and beer — already exactly what I needed. Saturday morning I headed into Tempe for the volunteer meeting, where I met up with Layla and managed to run smack into Michaela and Arvan just as they finished their practice swim.

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(I’ve hung out with Arvan a total of maybe four times now, and each time we end up in a picture sort of like that one. Below, a case in point.)

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While the racers dropped off their gear bags and bikes, Layla and I wandered around the Ironman village, spotting some faintly disturbing things …

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And then we headed out to Scottsdale for an afternoon of sports-watching, chip-eating, and obsessive spectator-strategizing.

Back in Phoenix that night, my friends took me for beers on the patio at Angels Trumpet — which I put in the top 5 of beer bars I have ever visited, and um, it’s a long list — and dinner at the adorable Tuck Shop. And because mostly what I do is eat, we started the next day at Phoenix Public Market with an incredible egg sandwich, cold-brewed iced coffee, and a patio. Yes, that’s two out of three meals eaten on patios.

Oh, and at that point, my racing friends had already been racing for about six hours. Kinda puts things in perspective.

I made it into Tempe just in time to see Arvan come through for his final loop of the bike course. It was a windy day, and my athlete tracker was showing everyone going slow on the “out” and incredibly fast on the “back” of the course — like 9 mph for the out, 28 mph for the return. (An unsolicited plug for IMTrackr, the app I used, which had one big advantage: it showed total race time at every checkpoint, which we could convert to time of day.) Michaela came through maybe 20 minutes later, and I think she tried to tell us something about being stressed about the cutoff, but we cheered so loud we couldn’t hear her. I stayed on the curb long enough to see Katie-from-the-Internet and Paul-from-my-first-triathlon-group finish their rides, and then I started the hike out to my volunteer post.

I was at the first aid station on the run course between 4 and 8 p.m., which turned out to be a pretty fascinating window of time. All the winners and pros and super-crazy-fast people were almost done with their races, but there were plenty of age-groupers finishing their first run loop and heading out for their second, plus all the people just entering the run course. I gave out sets of clapping hands to my fellow volunteers and settled into my spot on the line. I barely missed seeing a speedy GGTC friend come through but then in short order spotted Tami, Arvan, and Michaela. I shouted something at Katie’s ass and figured out the racer in the cute Coeur kit was Heidi just in the split-second required to yell something awkward. I somehow missed Paul coming through and was selfishly bummed out about it until I realized it meant he was running strong enough that he didn’t need to stop for Red Bull.

Right: My job at the aid station was to hand out Red Bull. More specifically, it was to shout out “RED BULL!!!!!” for four hours while 90% of racers looked at me like I was a crazy person and 10% gratefully swarmed me like I was handing out vials of pure life force.

After about 6 p.m., the crowd slowed down a bit. Everyone who was going to finish that day was running by then, and the volunteers were just trying to stay warm and happy and encouraging. It was chilly — by the end of my shift, I was wearing legwarmers, two sweatshirts, and gloves — and there started to be a divide between the runners who’d put warm gear in their special needs bags and those who hadn’t but wished they had. Our aid station didn’t have any of the warm things (no space blankets, no broth), and I hope everyone who came by asking for them found them before too many more miles had passed.

I’ve volunteered at 70.3s before, and I’ve always taken a late shift, so I know what it’s like to see racers come through toward the back of the pack at the end of a long day — but Ironman was a whole different thing. Most people looked fine, tired but moving along according to plan. Some people looked really good, like tearing-through-the-field good. And some people looked truly not good. There was this weird dead-eyed look that some people had, this just-get-me-to-the-finish-line-now-oh-my-god look, and it was haunting. I always clapped my clapping hands a little harder for those folks, and I hope it helped, though I imagine they actually wanted to grab the clappers and crack them over my skull.

Just as Michaela came through the second time — and I got to say “you’re doing some massive volume today” like I’d been plotting for literally two hours — my shift was done. I walked back toward the finish line with racers heading to the finish on my right and those starting their second loop on my left, and in that space between aid stations, it was quiet. There was the crunch of gravel for those heading in on the path, and the occasional brief snippet of conversation, and the beeps of Garmins for pace and time and distance. But there was no cheering crowd, no music, no distraction — just dark. I clapped the clapping hands a few times but honestly, it felt more eerie to break the silence than to just be in it.

Back in Tempe, I thawed out at a Starbucks with Layla and the rest of the Michaela/Arvan cheer squad. Everyone around us had either just finished racing or was waiting for someone out on the course, so there was a lot of “SHE’S AT MILE 18!” and “HE JUST HIT 23!” chatter. Just after 9:30, we headed to the finish line, and mere minutes after we claimed a sweet vantage point in the last quarter-mile of the chute, Tami came through. Then, not too far behind, Arvan.

Then, for a while, I just watched the stream of strangers. But they didn’t feel as much like strangers now that I’d seen them all at the aid station. There was Nebraska woman, Coeur woman (holy crap! the internet found Coeur woman for me!), guy who chugged a Red Bull, guy who left his special needs Cheetos at the aid station for the volunteers to share, woman with the brightest neon calf sleeves, woman whose makeup somehow still looked impeccable, guy in the Mountain Hardwear snowsuit with an ice axe. I’m sure they had no idea I even existed, but I remembered them, and I clapped the clapping hands and teared up every time I saw one of them tear up realizing what they were about to do. I think it was a PR in crying (and that’s saying something).

Then, out of the darkness, Michaela came into the chute. When I realized it was her, I was definitely ugly-crying. She’s an Ironman. Holy hell.

Because of how things shook out after Michaela came through, it made sense to wait through the midnight finish. So we made our way further into the chute, near the jumbotron, and we waited and watched and cheered for the final 20 or so finishers. Every so often, there would be an update about racers on the course — the last one was three miles away, then 2.5, then 2. And the remaining time was getting shorter and shorter — though because the finish line clock had stopped at some point, nobody in the chute seemed to know exactly when the race would end. It was exciting, sure, but it was also stressful.

And — well, this is the one part of the weekend that was a lot different than I was expecting. I’d heard so much about midnight finish, how inspiring and amazing it is. That was not exactly my experience. Some people looked thrilled and happy and strong. But some were really struggling. Some were wobbling and weaving in a way that made me say not “this is so inspirational” but ”holy shit, nobody should ever, ever do this.” Because of the finish clock glitch, there seemed to be a moment when it wasn’t clear if the last finisher was a “real” finisher or not, and all I could think about was how horrible that would be, to be standing there as the time ticked from 12:05 to 12:06 while you stood waiting to make sure you really were an Ironman. And when it was over, it was well and truly over — within one minute, the music was off, the giant screen was gone, the Ironman banners were coming off the finish line arch, and the barriers were knocked down and stacked in the street. It was this crazy, amped-up, fraught moment, and then it was gone.

People have asked me since I came back if being in Arizona made me want to do an Ironman, and I can honestly say “hell no, it did not.” I have a greater respect now for what it means — what it really looks like, up close — to take on that distance, and instead of getting fired up, I wanted to retreat. Given the state of my foot, this is probably a blessing in disguise, but it’s still … uneasy. I’ve said before that I thought, sure, probably I’d do an Ironman some day. Now — even if that becomes physically possible for me — I’d have to want it on a whole different level. I suppose I’m glad to have learned that lesson now.

But — I want to be clear: I am so happy for my friends, and I am so grateful that I got to be there for a small snippet of their adventures. It was an amazing, overwhelming, astonishing thing to see.

How About Some Product Recommendations?

I can’t run and hell, I can’t really walk, but I sure can shop!

I bought these things (with my own money). I like them a lot. If you are looking for things like these things, you might like them too!

AquaJogger Traveler pool running belt — My gym is bring-your-own-belt, and I spent a ridiculously long time agonizing over which to buy. I am so, so happy I picked this one. First of all: the segments are removable, which is awesome; I’ve taken off the big back piece and just run with the two little bits on the side now. Second: It folds up into a little bundle, much easier to carry around than a semi-circular piece of foam. It’s also a good bridge between running belted and beltless (which I’ve been experimenting with recently).

Alite Hikari Pack — Kind of obsessed with this bag. It can be a backpack or a tote bag; it has an open top so I can just throw all my stuff in there, but the straps cinch it up so nothing falls out. It has more pockets than I know what to do with, and I love pockety bags. And old colors go on sale for stupidly small amounts of money. It’s completely replaced a traditional gym bag for me.

Starbucks cold brew — This just rolled out to the Starbucks nearest my train station, and I’m thrilled. It’s not my favorite iced coffee; hell, it’s not even my favorite cold brew available in San Francisco. But it is the best iced coffee available within a block of my office for less than $3, and it has a really wonderful, clean, nutty flavor. I’m not always the biggest Starbucks fan, but they got this one right.

eoGEAR top tube bag — My beloved Nathan bento box started routinely ejecting food earlier this year — I guess two years of stretched-out mesh and worn-down velcro will do that — so I started hunting for another bag with similar specs. My requirements: at least one exterior pocket; at least one zipper pocket; big enough for lots of food; not too tall, because my short handlebar height doesn’t leave a lot of room to work with; attachments on both the bottom and the front. The Timbuk2 bento box was the other one I found that met my setup requirements, but it was HUGE, way too big for my tiny bike. This one is just right.

Nike Rival 4″ shorts — So the theme of this post is “pockets!” These shorts have a hidden interior waistband pocket in the front, another in the back, and an exterior zip pocket. As someone who has spent more money on Lululemon shorts than I care to admit entirely because they have interior waistband pockets, I am thrilled to have an option that can be found (on sale, but yeah, they’re always on sale somewhere) for literally half the price. Also in 2″ and 6″ lengths for your leg-baring pleasure.

Now, who needs a personal shopper?

A Giant Pile of Meh, or: A Halfhearted Attempt to Find Silver Linings

I don’t have much good to say.

The first two weeks in the boot came and went without much (any?) noticeable improvement. (It’s honestly hard to tell, since part of being in the boot is premised on taking away the daily discomfort I was feeling. To see if things are better, I have to seek out that discomfort, which is counterintuitive and something I’ve been trying not to do.) Since my insurance changes Oct. 1 and a whole new world of medical care opens up (…and a whole new world of expenses, but that’s another story), I opted to just stay in the boot for now and pursue a raft of second/third/fourth opinions at that point.

I probably should have stopped there. However … yesterday, I ended up getting in earlier than expected with a doctor who was going to be one of those additional opinions. His take: two weeks in the boot never would have been enough; six wouldn’t be unusual; and he’d recommend that I be on crutches for at least the next two (and possibly three or more) of those weeks. That seems pretty dramatic, and it would require significant lifestyle modifications*. If it’s actually my only option, I guess it’s … my only option, but it also seems like a big leap considering the actual level of pain I’m in, even when my foot was at its worst. But what do I know?

{*To take one tiny example: The parking lot at my gym is permit-only, which is why I currently bike the mile there and back. Public transit is not a reasonable option (I’m talking, turning a 4-minute drive into a 30-minute, three-bus fiasco) and I’m loath to spend money on cabs just for that. If I drive, there’s no telling how far away I’d need to park, and this gym happens to be located smack in the middle of a large and (to my eye) relatively un-crutch-able hill. I may be able to buy a six-month pass for the permit lot if I can get a California temporary disabled permit, but I need a doctor to do the paperwork for that, and I didn’t know any of this yesterday, because just about the last thing I was expecting was to be told I needed to be on crutches. Also, even getting a disabled parking permit seems like massive overkill — ACTUAL PEOPLE NEED THOSE — so I’m tempted to just say screw it and sit on my couch rather than swim for the sake of, if we’re being honest, vanity.}

That doctor’s compromise suggestion was to keep me in the boot for three more weeks, until mid-October, and if I still had pain at that point, then I’d need to be on crutches for, um, who knows how long. I’ve been sitting with that info for almost a day now, and I’ve even tracked down a pair of loaner crutches, but … I don’t know. I’m hesitant to upend my life even further, but on the other hand, why delay the inevitable? It seems hard to believe that the six blocks I walk per day could be the difference between healing and not, but I’m not really in a position to judge. As of now, I *think* I’ve decided to use crutches only if I need to walk beyond my daily work and pool commutes, at least until after the two additional appointments I have scheduled for October 1 and 2. That gives the boot another week to be magic but doesn’t delay the process by three full weeks if it isn’t working. I guess. I think. I don’t know. But that’s where I am today.

My biggest frustration is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to check progress other than waiting to see if I stop having symptoms. It’s weird; people I know who have had foot stress fractures have had X-rays taken at various intervals to see if there’s been any healing. Maybe heels are different? Maybe because it’s just (“just,” ha) a stress reaction, it would never show anyway? I don’t know, and I keep forgetting to ask, because at every appointment the news gets a little bit worse, and then I’m too busy trying not to cry to think with a clear head. (That is extremely embarrassing but also extremely true.) I know these things are finicky and not even doctors can see the future, but … I’ve already seen two weeks in the boot turn into probably six. Why wouldn’t I suspect that two weeks on crutches would also turn into six? Then again, the boot hasn’t been that bad; I guess you really can get used to anything.

One more moment of venting: I swear, I did not try to run through this injury. I felt no pain during the run where it (apparently) happened. When I still thought I was feeling normal post-20-miler soreness, I tried one run, then shut things down for a week; one more run, then shut things down for two more; and then one final run, at which point I stopped for good. At various points throughout, both a doctor and a physical therapist told me to try running, and I was the one who said no. It didn’t “get to a point where” it got worse — it was not an issue, and then it was — and it wasn’t something I ignored or was cavalier with — at least not within the realm of the medical advice I was seeking and getting. I’ve done dumber things. Maybe this is karma for all of my previous transgressions, but this thing wasn’t dumb. I take a tiny bit of solace in that, but I also do wish I had a moment to point to to say “Oh, well, if I just hadn’t done that…”

And, just so this isn’t a total downer and in an attempt to get me focused on the positive out there, here are some things I can do:

I can get all my ducks in a row and plan for the worst cases. For example: I can research what I need for a DMV temporary handicapped placard and print out that paperwork and take it with me to my next appointment, so I’m not taken by surprise and it’s there if I need it. I can actually write down all my questions so that the next time I’m face-to-face with a doctor, I don’t get so emotional and overwhelmed that I forget how to think. I can learn how to use the crutches I’m borrowing, so that if I do need to use them full-time, I won’t fall down the stairs.

I can still swim and pool run, for now. If one of the doctors I see in early October wants me to stop, I will, but until then, you will have to pry those away from my shriveled, chlorine-scented hands. (And, to be clear, nobody actually wants me to STOP those activities. It’s more that I have to find an un-objectionable and un-ruinous way to GET to those activities.)

I can do core work. Like, come ON. The only excuse I have for not being better about this thus far is that I’m lazy. I can do it in my living room. I can do it lying down. Not doing it is stupid. I am not stupid. I know some basics, but I also emailed my last physical therapist to see if he can send me some ideas.

I can do easy, non-invasive things to try to heal. The doctor I saw yesterday recommended contrast baths — ice water, then hot water, then ice water. Buckets of water. In my living room. Sitting down. It might not work, but so what? Buckets. Of. Water. Once again, come ON.

I can read a lot of books. Anyone want to be my friend on Goodreads?


True Injury Confessions

All I notice are people’s shoes. Cute flats. Heels I could never have walked in anyway. Grubby sneakers. Sparkly sneakers. Running shoes that I can identify — brand, style — on sight. I don’t even usually care that much about shoes, but these days I can’t stop looking at people’s feet.

I smell like chlorine all the time. I have to swim with masters at least twice a week to keep my membership. (I’m swimming in the “old-people swim,” as my lane-mate pointed out yesterday, which is a little weird, but I’m also not fast enough for the “young-people swim,” and anyway, I’d rather get up at 6:15 than 5:15.) I’m swimming other times on my own or with friends. And I’m pool-running on days I’m not swimming. I think I’m actually excreting chlorine.

I can’t walk more than two blocks without a break. My heel doesn’t hurt in the boot, which is nice, but my arch cramps like crazy. I gave up and threw an arch support in there today, which maybe is a terrible plan, but I can’t imagine how it would make things much worse. Also, walking a block takes five minutes.

Also: Even trivial walking is non-trivial. At minimum, for daily life, I walk 1.5 blocks from home to my train and 1.5 blocks from my train to work, and then I reverse it in the evenings. Back in the spring, when I had two working feet and was wearing my Vivofit, my daily walking was barely a step up from sedentary. Now it seems overwhelming.

I have never been on time for more things in my life. I’m a problematically, perpetually slightly late person. Most people I’m close to know that when I say 9:15, I mean 9:20. But I’m making peace with having to build cushion into my day. I aim for the train before the train I really have to take. If I think something is five minutes away, I give it 10. I can’t hurry, so I end up being on time — or early. Hashtag life lessons.

I don’t think this is working. Obviously, I did not want to be saying that. Today is day 6; I have my check-up on day 12. The first six days have led to no noticeable improvement (and some frustrating new symptoms, like the aforementioned arch cramping). Yes, the boot lets me walk (heel-)pain free, and I shouldn’t discount that. But the tender spots are just as tender as they were last Friday, and the week before that, and the week before that. I don’t know if this is just going to take more time, or if we still don’t have the right diagnosis, or what the next move is from here in any case. I’m mentally preparing to stay in the boot at least till October 1, when my new health insurance kicks in, because I can’t imagine the next six days being much different from the past six. But maybe they will be. There’s my level of optimism.

I can’t quite stop making goals. I originally wrote “I’m done making goals,” but that’s a damn lie and I might as well admit it. I do have two goals. I’d like to think they’re achievable, but the past two months have taught me that I might need to underestimate what’s achievable. The first is that I want to be able to go on a rock climbing trip with friends at the end of October. (Climbing causes no obvious pain, but walking or hiking to a climbing site might be a challenge.) The second is that I want to be able to run pain-free — I don’t care how far — on my birthday in January. Six weeks for goal #1; four months for goal #2. It sucks to acknowledge that I might have to miss them both, but it seems worse to have no goals at all.



After a week of visiting various doctors and receiving further strange and contradictory opinions, on Friday, this happened:


It has seemed inevitable for long enough now that I’m not upset. I just hope it works.

The immediate precipitating events: On Wednesday, my podiatrist told me to go for a run. Instead of being happy, the way a runner would theoretically be happy upon receiving this news after a six-week break, I wanted to cry. I heard it as “there’s nothing else I can do for you.” On Thursday, on my way to the chiropractor’s office, I had to run two blocks for the train, and that was enough to know that going for an actual run would be a wildly bad idea. I thought I’d need to go to another podiatrist, since the chiro’s office doesn’t take my insurance, but they figured out a way for me to just buy a boot for roughly what my insurance would have charged me anywhere else, and, that was that, for the next two weeks. (Except not exactly, because they were out of my size of boot on Thursday, so I had to wait till Friday, LOL LIFE. At least that gave me time to get my attitude into the right place and also do things like paint my toenails and stockpile snacks for the weekend.)

I have doubts about this strategy — I still don’t have a definitive diagnosis, for one thing, and maybe I never will. I also know that doing what I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere, and I’m tired of flipping the calendar and waiting for magic. If this works, great! If it doesn’t, I have new insurance starting in October and can start over if I have to. (But I really hope this works.)

There have been times in the past couple of months when I’ve thought, you know, maybe I’m really not supposed to be a runner. Maybe the people (two of them, and for the record, both were doctors) who have told me I don’t look like a runner, that the issue is my build — maybe they’re right. Maybe I could be content with just swimming and cycling, maybe the occasional hike. I sit with that for a day or two, and then I realize I’m not there yet. I might have to get there, but I’m not there yet. (I really hope this works.)

So, I’ll do this. Honestly, it’s not that different from what I’ve been doing, just with one sneaker instead of two. I can swim, I can pool run, and — after a little coercing on my part — I can bike to and from the pool (and “other flat places,” so, you know, basically to and from the pool). I paid my dues for the masters group, but I didn’t quit my neighborhood gym yet, so I have maximum options for the next month. (I hope this works.)

I won’t miss running, at least not more than I already do. I will miss driving and open water swimming — too logistically complicated — and climbing. But with any luck, I’ll only have to miss them for two weeks. And, it’s not like I was signed up for any more races this year. It’s a good time to do this right.

(I hope it works.)


Oh, let’s just grab-bag it.


The week after the century, I flew to Atlanta for work. It was my first time in the city — outside of many connecting flights and that one time I took a cab to Woodfire Grill during a layover so I could fangirl Kevin Gillespie when he was still cooking there — and despite spending most of my time from Friday night-Thursday morning in a hotel conference room, I managed to get out and see some things. And eat some things. Like: grits at Flying Biscuit, grits at Silver Skillet, grits covered in a blanket of fried cheese at Thumbs Up, a burger with green pepper jelly and chipotle cream cheese at The Vortex, a shrimp po’boy at Villains, lobster ravioli at Seven Lamps, this insane thing with crispy rice and corn puree and a farm egg at Empire State South, polenta cakes at Argosy East, and all of the food — but especially the Jamaican hot pockets and steak frites — at Gunshow (where, sadly, Kevin Gillespie was not present for me to fangirl again). I also ate a vegetable now and then.

In Atlanta, I felt the most bummed I’ve felt yet about not being able to run — um, and given the above, I should probably make it clear that it wasn’t because of the food. Running is my favorite way to get to know a new city, and my Midtown hotel would have been a great home base — close to the Olympic Park, close to a big city park, and an area worth exploring more in its own right. On the other hand, I didn’t squeeze much time for exercise in between all the working, and while I might have been slightly more serious about making time if I’d been able to just throw on running shoes and go, I also might have spent longer feeling guilty about not running. (How’s that for a twisted positive?)

I did take a wander through the Olympic Park one day and managed one fairly lame hotel gym workout. The only thing I wanted to do was swim at the Georgia Tech pool — the 1996 Olympic pool! — but it’s only open to university affiliates, so that dream died pretty quickly. Instead, I got my one proper workout of the week at a Flywheel spin class, during which I officially decided that spin classes really aren’t for me. I never feel comfortable, the bikes don’t seem to fit me right, and I spend the whole time feeling grateful that riding outside doesn’t feel that awkward. But the music was good and it put me closer to my planned diner breakfast, so I’m still glad I went.


I think the whole reason I survived the Atlanta work schedule was knowing I had a long weekend trip to Pittsburgh coming at the end of it. I flew directly there from Atlanta and spent four days mostly going to the US Gymnastics National Championships, a scheme my mom and I cooked up approximately five minutes after realizing the event was going to be in Pittsburgh. The two of us got an all-event ticket package — thanks, mom! — and we saw every competition session besides the junior men. Highlights for me were the Friday night men’s preliminary round — which felt mostly like watching any college sporting event, with a slightly older crowd of spectators than we saw the rest of the weekend and lots of hollering and cheering and high-fiving between the competitors — and Saturday’s junior and senior women’s finals, even though the results were never that close in either.

I also stood next to Kim Zmeskal for about three seconds, watched Marta and Bela Karolyi interact and rekindled my dream of writing the unauthorized biography of their marriage, and generally had a weekend that my 12-year-old self would have only dreamed of. And now I follow a bunch of 16-year-old gymnasts on Twitter, because, sure.

My heel


Quick recap: Podiatrist diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis in July and sent me to physical therapy. Not much improved. Podiatrist and physical therapist started to disagree, pretty dramatically, on causes and treatment strategies. Podiatrist ultimately ordered an MRI. I saw him for about two minutes before leaving for Atlanta — and I think he’d had the MRI report for about two minutes before that — and was told the results showed nothing torn or broken and confirmed plantar fasciitis. I was sort of relieved, but also annoyed, because it seemed like something should have improved after PT, six weeks of no running, being at least a little more careful about my everyday shoes, etc.

At that point, I decided to get a second opinion from someone at a combo chiropractic/medical practice many friends swear by. They don’t take my insurance, but their private-pay rates for seeing someone on the chiropractic side were manageable (we will not speak of the rates on the medical side), so I booked an appointment there, assuming I was just going to get new ideas and strategies for treating plantar fasciitis. Instead: at appointment one, the chiropractor told me he didn’t think it was plantar fasciitis at all but either an injury to the fat pad in my heel or a stress fracture. (To which I confidently replied: “I had an MRI, and there’s no stress fracture!”) At appointment two yesterday, he said that in fact, having seen the MRI and the report, there’s not a stress fracture, but there is a stress reaction, which probably could have benefited from someone, you know, noticing and treating more aggressively (e.g. with a boot, probably) several weeks ago, and which there’s a good chance I’ve been making worse, or at least not making better, for the past two months while following the advice from a doctor and a PT who were treating a different problem.

So, I’m pissed — at my podiatrist, for shrugging off any idea that maybe it was a stress fracture the very first time I walked into his office, and at myself, for not deciding to just treat it like a stress fracture anyway. I mean, no, I haven’t run — OK, I jogged three blocks in Atlanta when I was running late, I did, I admit it! — but I also have tried using the elliptical, going back to Burn, doing the century (the chiro said biking might be OK as long as it wasn’t very hilly, so I’m guessing that had I been seeing him at the time, 5000′ of climbing wouldn’t have been what he had in mind), occasionally wearing flats instead of sneakers, and so on.

If I were a normal patient at this practice, I’d have one more appointment with soft-tissue work (mostly Graston so far) and then I’d get referred to the medical department. But, I’m not going to pay out of pocket for their medical department, especially not when I have insurance that other places do take. So I’m not really sure what the plan is — go back to the podiatrist who doesn’t think there was anything significant on the MRI and be all “sorry, buddy…”? Find another podiatrist in my network for yet another opinion? The soft-tissue work does seem to be making some difference, but it’s obviously not going to magically heal a bone if that’s the root of the problem. And compared to the first appointment, the second was much more downbeat; he seemed — maybe I’m reading too much into it — fairly sure that this was a ticket to bootville. Honestly, if that’s where we are, I don’t want to waste even more time with “one more round of Graston” and “one more week where you just wear sneakers every time you’re out of bed and only swim but don’t push off the wall.” I just want to get it over with. I actually want to go back in time and get it over with in July, rather than losing two months doing all the wrong things.

So next week, I guess, I’ll be figuring out my new strategy. But only after…

The Oakland Triathlon

Wait, what? Well: I signed up for the Olympic last November and switched my registration to the aquabike about a month ago. I fessed up to the chiro yesterday that I was still planning to do it, and his verbatim response was “oh, that’s fine.” I did swear to leave shoes at the swim exit and spend as little time barefoot as possible, but the bike course is pancake-flat and the swim is a swim, so he saw no reason for me not to race.

Er, sort of race. Before yesterday, my goal was to see how close I could come to a podium spot for the women’s aquabike (top 5 overall). But since I’m now going to be putting on shoes and then walking the quarter mile from the swim exit to transition, that seems pretty unlikely. My new goal is to try my best to enjoy myself and not hate being there. It’s my last race for who-knows-how-long, maybe my last time on a bike for a while, so I might as well at least try to have a good time. A lot of friends will be there, which is good and bad — I’m not really in the mood to interact with triathletes right now — but I think once I’m actually there, the energy will lift me up a little. And there are burritos at the finish. So how miserable can it be?

This is what I do when I’m not running

So, I’m still not running. Some days my foot feels better, some days it feels the same. I’m beginning to venture back to some activities I’d dropped — I very, very cautiously went to Burn the other day, skipping all the impact cardio, and seemingly emerged without consequence — but running still feels a long time away. My doctor and physical therapist have wildly different opinions of what’s going on and how to treat it, with the end result that I’m getting an MRI on Wednesday and hoping that will give things more direction.

This is the first time I’ve been injured on a multi-week scale since my first triathlon season in 2012, and it’s taught me that becoming a triathlete is the best thing I ever did for myself. Thank goodness I still have swimming and biking; thank goodness I’ve got reasonable ways to do both of those things from my front door now. I’ve actually caught myself thinking, “When I can run again, I’m not sure when I’ll fit it in!” There’s the century ride this weekend; I’m one mouse-click away from signing up for an Alcatraz swim in September; I’m curious to find out if I can make the podium at an aquabike at the end of the month. Setting new goals has kept me reasonably entertained.

That said — I feel completely divorced from whatever identity I once had as a runner. I can’t in any way connect with the version of myself who was training for a marathon six weeks ago. It doesn’t make sense to me that I, relatively recently, ran 20 miles; it honestly doesn’t feel like a thing that happened in my life. When Michaela was in town last week and asked if I was running after our swim, my immediate response was, “I don’t run ever.” I’m not happy about this; it just is. It’s a weirder emotional response that I’ve had before, and I’m not really sure what to make of it.

I’ve been rock climbing again recently, and it’s been wonderful. Of all the times I’ve stepped away from that sport and returned, this time has been the smoothest — maybe because swimming has kept at least some of my climbing muscles in shape, maybe because I finally have my head on straight when it comes to my expectations of myself as a climber. I’m still far from where I was at my best, but I’m climbing at a totally reasonable level with lots of room for improvement. And I have been enjoying the meditative aspect, the fact that when I’m climbing the only thing I can think about is climbing.

In other news, I should be starting to swim with USF Masters soon — the tryout was hilariously simple, to the point that I think the ACTUAL test was about showing up at 6:45 am, but I have some logistical things to wrap up before I can officially join.

Frankly, the most exciting sports-adjacent thing I’ve accomplished recently was organizing all our gels and blocks and sportz foodz. I had mostly stopped using Gu in favor of a combo of Picky Bars, Bonk Breakers, and gummies, but a few recent volunteer gigs landed me literally dozens of packets. And THEN Gu came out with a bunch of flavors that were just catnip to me, like salted watermelon and root beer. So there were little foil packets on basically every flat surface in the house, and our cats were getting aggressive about throwing them onto the floor, and it was just a mess. And now it’s a slightly more organized mess:


Not pictured: the entire case of vanilla bean Gu I found myself bringing home from something. That’s just going to sit in its own box for a while.


If a blogger stops training for a marathon and doesn’t tell the internet, is it really even happening?

(Is she even really still a blogger? Heh.)

OK. Catching up:

I’m not running The San Francisco Marathon tomorrow. Training was going really well, until, of course, it wasn’t. After the 18-miler I ran before my last post, I raced an Olympic-distance triathlon (more on that later), then ran another even more awesome 18-miler, then ran a 20-miler that felt really smooth. Until a little later that day, when I realized my right heel was a pretty sore. That was June 22. I’ve run four times since then. And that pretty much brings us to today.

I’m still trying to figure out the heel thing. I thought it was a stress fracture, my doctor thinks it’s plantar fasciitis, my physical therapist (whom I finally saw today after a multi-week wait; thanks, healthcare system!) thinks it has something to do with a lack of flexibility in my heel and/or ankle. Sometimes I think it’s getting better, sometimes I don’t. SF Marathon was the last running race on my calendar, and that ship obviously sailed, so I’m willing to take my time to fix whatever it is; I just wish I had a better plan, but I’m working on it. My dream right now is to be able to race the Olympic-distance triathlon in Oakland that I’m registered for at the end of August, but I might drop to the sprint or the aquabike.

I did work at the expo today as part of my ambassador duties, which, truly? Was a damn blast. It turns out I prefer working at expos to attending them as a participant. The best thing I did was describe the course neighborhoods and corresponding elevation changes in great detail to a group of 7 Pakistani runners visiting San Francisco for the first time. The funniest thing I did was try to answer a question about how foggy it would be on the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 a.m. The most common thing I did was answer questions about parking and public transportation, sometimes down to specific walking routes through Golden Gate Park for spectators.

After my shift wrapped up, I went Gu shopping (spotted the elusive Salted Watermelon, finally), bought a Sweaty Band with whales on it, and came home to start prepping for my massive cheering spree tomorrow. I’m planning to bike to four different points on the marathon course, armed with the famous dollar store clapping hands. If I can’t run, I might as well be as obnoxious as possible.

Meanwhile, I’ve been occupying myself by, mostly, getting really into other sports and buying things:

I’m doing a century in two weeks. I actually registered for this when I still thought I was going to run a marathon, which might have been TOTALLY insane. It might still be totally insane. My longest ride before it (and longest since the ride to Santa Cruz in March) will be about 60 miles, but I’ve been routinely riding 50 on the weekends and trying to hit 100 total bike miles a week, and I’ve been promised that it’s a relaxed ride mostly involving eating peaches from the organic farms that serve as rest stops, so I hope it goes OK.

I’m trying out for a masters group. The one closest to me requires some sort of audition. I do not know what this tryout will be, other than that it’s happening at 6:45 a.m. on Monday. The only other time I’ve tried out for anything athletic was in junior high softball, and that’s really best not recalled. I hope I do not have to swim a) well or b) fast. (I’m less concerned about (b) — the program explicitly splits itself into “fast” and “slow” — but (a) could be a challenge.)

I finally have a heart rate monitor I don’t hate. I bought a Mio Link recently, and while I haven’t (obviously) gotten to use it on many runs, I’ve taken it on a few bike rides. It’s the first time I’ve had heart rate data — after the Sports Bra Chafing from Hell, a chest strap was strongly unappealing — and I’m just in exploration mode right now, but I’m wondering if my next running comeback, whenever that might be, might be the right time to transition to heart rate training.

I did a race. This was the Vineman Monte Rio Olympic tri back at the beginning of June, better known as how to torpedo what could have been a goal race in three easy steps. (Step 1: do it in the middle of marathon training; Step 2: miss your swim wave start completely; Step 3: know literally nothing else about the course and get surprised by rough road on the bike and a tough hill at the end of the run.) It was a blast, though. I had a rental house on the river with a ton of friends, I PR’d my Olympic-distance bike, and I finished in 3:06-ish, which considering I spent 3 minutes walking in a shallow, rocky river desperately trying to get to the swim start after the horn had already blown is not too bad at all. I’m really hungry for a sub-3 Olympic tri right now, though, and I’d hoped to do it in Oakland. The whole not-running thing is casting some doubt on that, so I’ve started to think about maybe going back to Santa Cruz at the end of September instead.

And, well, there we are. More regular updates, and I hope more regular running, coming soon.

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2014 Has Been…

It’s been weird. January typically passes quickly for me (I think it’s the mid-month birthday) (and it makes the slog of February even more painful), but this month has seemed exceptionally speedy.

For a while, I just didn’t have much to say. Sports-wise, 2013 was a great year for me — but it was fairly frustrating in some other respects, and I can’t say I was sad to see it go. I intended to spend January figuring out how to make 2014 better, and I’ve made a small amount of progress there, but, well, it’s hard to see anything tangible coming from that just yet. And then, finally, when I did have some things to say, I spilled a pint glass full of water on my computer keyboard. (It miraculously worked again after several days of drying out, which is good, because after a few false starts, I think it’s safe to say I’ll never blog regularly from my phone.)

All of which is a long way of saying, while I find “here’s what I’ve been up to” posts sort of silly — because really, who cares? — I’m going to write a “here’s what I’ve been up to” post now, as a way to reset and move forward.

So. In 2014, I’ve been:

Getting Addicted to a Boutique Fitness Class

If my friend Jess is reading this, she’s certainly either laughing or gloating or both, because she’d been telling me for years about Burn. I am not, generally, a group fitness person. I’m not even a gym person. Group fitness in particular is not motivating to me as an introvert; god, what if someone wants me to socialize? Plus, while I’m sure I look plenty goofy while running or riding a bike, I typically don’t have to look at myself doing those sports. Busting out “Vertical Mountain Climbers” in a room wallpapered with mirrors is just, urgh, gross, no thank you.

And yet, I was inclined to trust Jess’s opinion on Burn because our dispositions are not terribly dissimilar. Besides, there is a Burn studio 1.5 blocks from my house; it’s closer than the gym or pool. It’s practically the same thing as running in terms of the prep required.

The workout is part ridiculous group fitness cardio moves, part weights (similar, I think, to the way barre classes handle weights — I’m talking 3- to 12-lb dumbbells, not power lifting), and part Pilates springboard class. The cardio makes me feel silly but is fine if I manage to get a non-mirror-adjacent spot, and the weights are actually about at the right level for my lifting right now; sure, there are moves I could be doing with more than a total of 16 pounds of weights, but for good form and focus, I maybe shouldn’t be.

But all of that is nothing compared to the springboard. I like it for arm work (and the bonus core work it takes to stay upright during those arm sequences), but I adore it for leg springs. Leg springs give me this amazing hamstring-burning, strength-and-stretch combo, and I leave feeling both totally worked (like after lifting) and also way more flexible than usual (like after yoga). Plus, we lie down for leg springs. I love lying down!

This tells me I’d probably be well-suited to finding some actual Pilates springboard classes, but there aren’t any of those within a 90-second stroll from my front door, so for now, I’m sticking with Burn. I bought a 30-day unlimited deal and have been going twice a week all month. I’ll probably dial it back to once a week in February, because the cost will be about the same and I’m sure there’s something to be said for doing some more traditional lifting at the gym that I’m, y’know, already paying for, but I’m glad to have it in my routine.

Biking Outside Again

We’ve had a supremely dry winter, and while this is bad for a whole host of reasons, it’s great for cycling. I’ve been biking to work about once a week fairly consistently, and I’ve started to add a few long rides back into my schedule. This past weekend, I rode the cheese factory loop for the first time since last February, finishing just over 41 miles in just over 3 hours (and I mean “just over” like if I hadn’t gotten stuck at the final stoplight, I would have rolled in at 3:00:00), which is not bad for me on a course with a few substantial climbs.

I realized, on that ride, that the last time I rode that loop, I was still not consistently biking in my big gear. That seems nuts now — man, I wish I had cadence data from back then, because I imagine my little legs in my little ring must have just been like “pew-pew-pew-pew-pew” the whole time — but it’s also a nice, tangible sign of progress.

Judging what that progress means, though, is always the trick for me with cycling. I have my eye on a pretty substantial bike adventure, but I’m still not convinced I can hang. More about that later.

Hunting for Running Shoes

After more than a year and close to 1000 miles, the Brooks Ravenna 3 train has pulled permanently into the station. One pair of blue-and-grays, two pair of yellow-and-grays, and a handful of PRs later, I am on the hunt for something new. My newest pair just hit the 200-mile mark, so I actually have a while to settle on something, but I’ve traditionally been able to feel the wear on Ravennas right around 300, so I’m hoping to have new daily training shoes before these hit “only for rainy weather or desperate circumstances” status.

Currently in the running (har har):

  • Ravenna 4s. I went to a new-to-me running store hoping they would have the 5s for me to try. They didn’t, but they did have the 4s … at full price, which was kind of a bummer since I knew they were already being replaced. I tried them on anyway and, at least for a couple of jogs up and down the block, they felt about the same as the 3s. I then had a dramatic moment of clarity and drove several miles out of my way to forage through Sports Basement, where I was rewarded with a deeply discounted pair, discounted even further in their 20%-Off-Till-It-Snows sale. So, I’ve got those.
  • Saucony Guide 6s. The new-to-me running store recommended these as well. My first proper running shoes were the first-edition Guide, and I’ve been curious about the newer models, since Saucony made some pretty substantial changes to their shoes a couple of years ago. (I think? I was looking for an article to link but couldn’t find one, so maybe I’m wrong, but my memory was that they lessened the heel-to-toe drop in a lot of their shoes and committed to making them substantially lighter, even on the support end of the spectrum.) I took them on one test run — three miles, because the shoe fitter warned me that I’d notice the flatter platform — and while I didn’t feel anything unpleasant in my calves or Achilles tendons, I got the deepest, nastiest, most sudden blister on my right arch and it’s kept me from wanting to run in them again at all. I should give them another try, but honestly, they may just go back. I also found out that the 7s were out when I paid full price for the 6s, so I feel like a sucker anyway.
  • Kahru Flow 3s. These will never be my everyday shoes, but I am hoping to make them short run/track shoes. I was fitted for them nearly a year ago during a TAG gait analysis session, but I stalled on buying them till they came up on a daily deals site. I have worn them once, for two miles, and I will probably keep them to that or even less for the foreseeable future, because my legs were d-o-n-e after 20 minutes. My theory is that, while I never show wear on the heels of traditional stability shoes, I’m also not a true, natural midfoot striker; I’m kind of an “all-foot” striker, and the foamy heel in most shoes helps to balance out the fact that my feet would prefer to just flop down wherever-the-hell. In the Karhus, I had to work a lot harder to land anything close to lightly/efficiently/appropriately. That said, I got them specifically because I was prepared to do that work, so I hope to try some shorter track workouts in them soon.
  • Brooks Adrenaline 13s. I bought them a while ago and never really liked them, but hey, if I’m starting from scratch, I should probably throw them back into the mix, since they have all of about 10 miles on them.

As always, any shoe hunt is fraught with peril for me, plus the standard hand-wringing over orthotics and the like (e.g., when I use those online shoe finders, I never know if I should be describing myself with or without orthotics — without, I’m an overpronator, but in theory, with them I’m neutral … right?). So, this should be interesting.

Writing This Post for Too Long.

The whole point is to get this out there and move on. So! Onward.