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Things that Are Not Running

Because, you know, LOL.

This week, I wrapped up a big work project. I don’t write much about work on here, but while I generally enjoy my job, I loved this project. Like big-puffy-heart adored (almost) every minute of it for the past three and a half months. It was the kind of project I hoped I’d do when I joined my company three years ago, and getting to spend all summer doing it was a joy, even when it was terrible. (You probably know what I mean.) It’s the first time I’ve given a final presentation and been legitimately sad at the end of it — a little because there are some things I wish I’d done better but mostly because I don’t get to keep working on it. Part of why I’m a consultant is that I have a short attention span, and usually when a project wraps up, I’m like “YEAH! That was fun! Let’s get drinks and do something new tomorrow!” This time, I’m like, “Thinking about other things is bullshit.” Luckily, we already have plans to work with that team again, albeit in a slightly less all-consuming way.

{As I was driving to the presentation, it occurred to me that this project has spanned the entire timeline of my injury. Our kickoff was the week I hurt my heel. Now we’re done. If I could choose to keep one of these things and ditch the other, I’d really prefer to have it the other way around.}

Also this week, I got officially elected to the board of my triathlon club. (I say “officially” because I was running unopposed, as it turned out.) I got surprise nominated for Volunteer Director and happily accepted, so it looks like the clapping hands will have an official role on a race sideline near you* (*assuming “you” are a triathlete or runner in the San Francisco Bay Area) until November 2015. I’ll be honest: There have been times when it’s been legitimately hard for me to not just crawl into my hidey-hole, delete Strava and Dailymile, and forget that I was ever a triathlete. But the fact is, I love the sport and the people I’ve met through it, and I especially love helping newbies through their first races and generally making the sidelines a more fun and supportive place to be. The person who nominated me, it turns out, had no idea I was injured — but she probably couldn’t have done a better thing for me if she had known. I have no idea what my racing future is, but that makes it a good time to set up aid stations and coordinate volunteers and find other ways to hold a place in this community long-term.

Meanwhile, I’m sorta-kinda trying to stay fit-ish. I’ve been back at masters, and I’ve done some longer pool runs, 75 minutes or so, with an increasing amount of time beltless just for the hell of it. Most recently I’ve been passing the time listening to Serial, but one day I showed up and my Shuffle was dead so I had to make it through the whole session with nothing to amuse or distract me, which has got to be the best mental training I have ever had. Last weekend I had a whole long “workout” with a friend that was just kicking back and forth and chatting and then pool running and chatting and then kicking and chatting again for nearly two hours — the water equivalent of a long, leisurely walk. It’s not great, but it’s OK. (And then there are weekends like the upcoming one, where I’m going to a beer festival followed by a wedding, and I end up feeling relieved that I’m not training for anything.)

And … I’m going back to the doctor I like best next week for a follow-up, and then we’ll see where things are. I got one final opinion, REALLY the last one I’m getting unless a medical professional insists I see someone else, and it came down on the “just plantar fasciitis/get a cortisone shot” side of the equation. I am torn; I’ve just heard and read such bad things. But I also don’t know what the other options are at this point. (Just live with the pain and hope it gets better someday? I suppose?) So, we’ll see. If running isn’t a realistic option for me, I’d just like to get on with the rest of my life. Soon, I hope.


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about signs — of improvement, or of decline. I mentioned a while back that it’s been frustrating to have no idea about whether my foot is progressing, beyond trying to make it hurt and seeing if it still does. No x-rays; no images; no reliable way to look inside at what’s bothering me (because maybe I still don’t even know exactly what is). Just pressing and resting and standing and jumping and thinking, “Is that still how it was last week?” Just waiting for something to be different.

“How did you know you were getting better?” That’s what I’ve asked everyone I’ve talked to who’s recovered from a similar injury. “How did you know it was working?” And I hear a variety of things — from “I never really did” to “one day, it was just better.” But there’s no clear path. If there were a path, I’d follow it; oh man, would I ever follow it. But there’s nothing there to follow.


I saw a new doctor last week. Actually, I saw two. One lost me in his waiting room, wanted to talk about my digestion, said the bone issue his colleague saw on the MRI was a “red herring,” and offered a cortisone shot. The other spent an hour with me, watched me walk, examined my shoes, said she thought it was a bone bruise, and rejected the idea of a cortisone shot. Two very different paths, one very confused person. I picked the second path, because I liked that doctor better. (Probably not the way one should make a medical decision, but it seemed as good as anything.)

Anyway. The whole time we talked, she kept saying, “This takes a long time.” She said it a couple of times offhand, then said it again, slowly, staring me down so I’d really get it — “this takes a long time.” And I kept saying, “I’m not in any rush.” I’ve already missed everything I wanted to do this summer and fall. There’s nothing on the calendar, nothing I’ve paid money for, nothing I need to hurry up and do. I’ve got forever.

But I don’t have forever — not really. I’m supposed to volunteer at Ironman Arizona in six weeks, and as of today, I’d be fairly useless on my feet at an aid station. I want to book a trip — I don’t even know when or where, but I want the option to dream one up. I want to do things — normal life things — like walk around at a music festival or be the one to pick up the takeout or not miss a train that I can almost reach out and touch because I can’t jog the two steps to the doors before they close. I’m not in a hurry to race, or even to run again. But I would like a sign that at some point the rest of my life will be OK. I never would have thought after that one run in June that I wouldn’t be able to dance at a friend’s wedding in October or that I’d be debating canceling a trip in November, but that’s where I am.

Is this it? Is this standard now? I haven’t seen many signs otherwise.


Or maybe I have. Last weekend, I had to drive somewhere, and driving requires two normal shoes. So, for the first time in a month, I put on my other sneaker. On the way home, I realized I needed to pop into the library. So I walked in. And back to the car. And down the block to my house from the parking space I found. Maybe a quarter-mile, total. Nothing special, except that it felt normal. When I told the new doctor about my accidental experiment, she said to do that again — not much, and maybe not outside the house again for a while (whoops), but up and down the hallway. Down to the basement. To the kitchen. Just see what happens. Hope that nothing happens.

And then there’s the itching feeling. Michaela told me about this — is your heel itching? like just under the skin, where you can’t actually scratch it? — and while I don’t think I would have called it that, I do feel something. Not always, not reliably, and maybe I only feel it because she told me to, but I swear, it happens. Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe it’s not.


But then there are the other signs: the two sore spots that feel the same as they’ve felt since June. The nuh-uh, no, no, nope reaction I still have to someone asking me to rock back on my heels or — god forbid — try to walk on them. The flip of a calendar to another month.

You can get used to anything, I guess.


If you’d asked me, back in June, I would have said I’d probably do an Ironman someday. It’s not something I said aloud very much, but I believed it. Not soon, but not never.

I thought I’d do another marathon, obviously. I never honestly thought I’d qualify for Boston as a younger woman, but I thought I’d be a lifelong runner who would maybe finally pull out a BQ at 55.

I’ve let go of a lot over these past three months.

I would be happy doing those things, of course — but I could be happy enough with something less. I could be happy enough being able to run for an hour. I could be happy enough never going beyond Olympic distance again. Hell, I could be happy enough as an aquabiker if I could at least walk transition without pain.

I can’t tell if those are signs of maturity or desperation, that my “happy enough“s keep getting smaller. Maybe it’s both.


“So which thing do I listen to?” I asked the new doctor. “The thing where walking feels OK? Or the thing where pressing on my foot doesn’t?”

“Both,” she said. “You have to listen to both.”

But what do I do when they’re different?

Do I listen to the person who treats a bone injury or the person who doesn’t?

This shot or that shot or the really expensive shot or no shot?

Ice or heat or both or neither?

Crutches for three weeks?

“We’ll get you running again” or “some people recover and some people don’t”?

Maybe I’m not lacking for signs at all. Maybe I actually have too many.


Six Months of Bike Commuting

I’ve been commuting by bike semi-regularly for about six months now. “Semi-regularly” in this case means once a week, sometimes twice, with a few extended breaks during especially risk-averse periods like right before Vineman and a few spots of riding more often because of transit issues. I’m not completely converted to the wonders of bike commuting, and I still find it too psychologically taxing and logistically challenging to do it every day. But over the past six months, I’ve found it to be a nice change of pace and something I can even look forward to, with the right preparation.

I read a bunch of “beginner bike commuter” posts before I started riding, and they were helpful. But they were also generally written with the rosy haze of having conquered something: “I was scared to bike to work, but now it’s amazing!” I don’t necessarily feel that way. I’m happy to be riding to work, to have it as an option, but it’s also still a big deal and something I have to psych myself up to do. I feel like I’m still in the thick of learning and figuring out my process and dealing with my fears. Here’s where I stand six months in:

I do not find it relaxing. I do not feel about biking to work the same way I do about other exercise — e.g. that it’s a way to clear my mind, spend time with myself, or relieve stress. I do enjoy that I get to be outside more, and I do like not having to deal with the whims and frustrations of public transit, but I do not find the required constant awareness of cars/pedestrians/other cyclists/traffic signals/construction/the wind to be particularly lovely. It’s a way to get to work. Like all ways to get to work, it has its positives and its negatives.

It doesn’t take much more time than my transit commute. Door-to-door, my bike commute takes about 35 minutes in, 45 minutes home (home is both a longer ride and a hillier one). My train commute is closer to 30 minutes each way, but that doesn’t account for time spent waiting for trains, adjusting for missed trains, or simply coordinating my schedule with NextMuni’s.

It’s hardly a race-pace workout, but it is time in the saddle. My commute to work is almost entirely downhill, and I don’t do a ton of work going that direction. I do have to ride back up those hills on the way home, though, via a slow and steady gain over about three miles. It’s more of an interval workout (stoplight to stoplight) than a normal ride, but I know it’s made me stronger. I’m also more confident in my bike-handling skills. And I can’t really shrug off a 12-mile, 1:20 round-trip as nothing.

I am not trying to “win” my commute. I’m slow. I’m fine with letting other people jump the lights and lead out from the intersections. I prefer being toward the back of the pack. I take the long way around so I don’t have to mix with buses and streetcars. Sometimes I’ll hop off my bike and walk on the sidewalk for a little bit if things get shady. I can only do so much to make myself safer, and I know that behaving predictably is part of riding safely, so I’m always trying to find the line between “cautious” and “actually making it worse for myself.” It’s not easy. But I’d generally rather slow down and let the car make its move first than … not do that, I guess.

I have given up completely on commuting in work clothes. I’m a sweaty lady. I sweat because of exercise, and I sweat when I’m nervous, so the combination of exertion-sweat and fear-sweat makes me a particularly attractive specimen by the time I roll up to my office. My office is casual, so I tried commuting in jeans for a while, and I even bought some cheap spandex shorts at Target so skirts and dresses could be options. But the top half of me still required a full costume change for sweat reasons, and eventually I just decided I’d be happier biking in comfy clothes from head to toe. I don’t go full-biker for the commute — usually yoga pants and a tank — and I’ve acquired expert-level knowledge on which coffee shops near my office have bathrooms and which of those are best for a quick change while I wait for my drink. My gym has a branch about two blocks from the office, so showering and changing there could work, but I’d need to either not care about wet hair or carry my hairdryer with me, and neither of those options is great, so I haven’t gone that route yet. A quick freshening-up in a nearby Starbucks is usually sufficient, and these Purell wipes are amazing at removing the bike grease I inevitably get on myself.

my backpack. it is blue and pretty and holds EVERYTHING.

my backpack. it is blue and pretty and holds EVERYTHING.

How I carry stuff matters. I’m a one-bike woman (my commuter is my road bike is my racing bike), so I didn’t want to add pannier racks. That meant finding the right bag. For smaller loads, I love my Rickshaw Small Zero, into which I can easily fit a change of clothes, a pair of flats, and my wallet, phone, and U-lock. But I often have to commute with my work computer, a 15″ behemoth. I have a larger Rickshaw (Medium Zero) that fits my computer, but after a few test commutes, I realized that messenger-style bags don’t work for me with a heavier load. I’m short-waisted, and no matter how tight I made the strap, my computer would still smack the back of the seat when I got on and off the bike. So, I turned to backpacks. I loved the look of the Osprey FlapJill, but it felt bulky, and accessing my stuff by unbuckling the flap was a pain. Eventually, I settled on the InCase Compact, which I found for a steal on Amazon. I cannot say enough good things about this bag. It’s comfortable, it doesn’t create a “backpack blind spot” when I need to look over my shoulder when changing lanes, and it fits so much stuff. On Monday, I packed into it my laptop, my U-lock and cable, and full changes of clothes for work, a post-work swim in the bay, and an anticipated colder commute home — including my wetsuit and a camp towel. It’s unreal.

I’m a fair-weather bike commuter. For the same reason I don’t want to put racks on my bike, I also don’t have fenders. And even when I’m changing clothes later, the “water-shooting-up-my-ass” look is not really my favorite. If it suddenly starts raining while I’m out, I can get myself home, but I won’t choose to ride in anything more than a drizzle.

Everyone behaves badly. I get equally annoyed with drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists — and I’m sure others are constantly annoyed with me. Nobody is necessarily “more in the right” or “more in the wrong”; people using all modes of transit break the law (usually minorly, sometimes majorly) or just do dumb things all the time. That said, I am constantly stunned at the number of cars that don’t use turn signals — or that flip them on only after starting to make a turn. Using a turn signal is not a burden, people.

I’m braver about riding around the city generally. I’m much more confident looking at a bike map and figuring out how to ride to new places now. I can (often) get my bike on a rack without dropping things and looking like an idiot. I have a better frame of reference for what kind of hills I’m comfortable riding, and the idea of “Oh, I’ll just run to the store on my bike!” is no longer absurd to me. That’s nice.

I still get scared. Sometimes it’s for understandable reasons — cars turn without signaling, or I don’t know how to handle a particular traffic situation developing in front of me, or I remember partway through an intersection that oh crap, this is the one with the huge pothole, or a cyclist is hit and killed where I commute. And sometimes it’s totally random. About a month ago, I suddenly developed a mad case of the yips at a particular intersection that I’d been navigating cleanly since I first started biking in the city. All of a sudden, I could no longer start from a dead stop when the light turned green. I’ve come up with ways to navigate it (try to time the previous light differently so I have a green when I get to that particular intersection; let other cyclists go ahead of me; stop further to the right of the lane, where the pavement is more even), but it’s still iffy. On the other hand, embracing the fact that I might get scared makes me feel more OK when I do.


A Month of Biking

When I said the next race on my radar was Santa Cruz, that was a giant lie. That’s my next solo race. But there’s something fun before that, something that actually was one of the very first races to make my calendar this year. In just under three weeks, I’ll be biking along Lake Tahoe in an Olympic tri relay with two of my best friends.

I’m doing the bike leg as purely a matter of convenience: I’m the one of the three of us with a bike in the state of California. I know all I really have to do is survive it — we’re racing for fun, and for an excuse to travel somewhere fun and chill at a lake house, and for a way to do something physical together that I’m pretty sure none of us would have anticipated back in college. (I especially would not have.) But I also want to ride well and feel good about my effort on what promises to be a tough course.

How tough? Well, here’s Wildflower, definitely the toughest course I’ve done in a race, with just over 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 25 miles. Here’s Napa, the toughest course I’ve raced on this year, with just under 1,000 feet of climbing. And, uh, here’s Tahoe — 1,900 feet of elevation gain and six rated climbs, including a cat-3. Oh, and it’s at 6,300 feet.

I can’t say I’ve never done anything like that. I’ve at least climbed more. But the layout of the hills, and the fact that I have no idea how my sea-level lungs will react to elevation, is making me take it seriously.

So I’m taking this month to get cozy with my bike again — to ride more, and ride harder (though not necessarily longer), and to get back to hill repeats and computrainer classes, and to not take the easy (read: flat) way out.

My first week — and my first workout after Vineman — was a Paradise Loop ride with Courtney. We parked in the Golden Gate Bridge lot (because not taking the easy way out only goes so far; windy death-by-pylon is not something I relish nor require) and had a relaxed ride to Tiburon. The climb over Camino Alto was fine, but by the time we hit Alexander on the return, the wind was blowing so hard I swear I went backwards at some point. Ride totals: 32 miles, 1700′ gain.

The next weekend, I doubled up: a flatter, easier 22 miles with a friend new to San Francisco riding on Saturday, then 25 more on Sunday — 5 to a bike clinic with TAG, then another 20 including my second-ever climb up Twin Peaks. I was actually surprised to see the total elevation numbers, because the Twin Peaks climb felt fairly gentle this time around — save for one block of 15th Avenue where my choices were power up or fall over. Getting onto a calmer, residential road from the more heavily trafficked route I used on my first trip certainly helped. The trip down was another story, and with the wind banging around the street signs at the top of the hill, I think I descended almost as slowly as I’d climbed. ~2400 feet of climbing for Sunday’s ride.

Then, this past Sunday, Pete and I decided to ride down the Peninsula, eventually meeting up with the Sawyer Camp/Crystal Springs trails before taking Caltrain home. The route we picked promised a couple of good climbs, including one in the southwest part of San Francisco and another right after turning onto Skyline/Highway 35. I learned a valuable lesson on this ride, which is that if a route has Highway in any part of the name, it might end up feeling like riding on a highway. The wind (again…a theme of San Francisco “summer”) was pushing me around on descents, and I never settled into the climbs, what with being so afraid that I’d eventually have to go down. Skyline eventually plateaued and also stopped having 55-mph traffic, so I started breathing again and even threw in a ride up the Sawyer Camp hill just for kicks, though our route only required us to coast down it. We ended the ride with 34 miles and 2400′ gain, then capped off the day with another 5 miles and almost 400 feet of climbing home from Caltrain; that’s San Francisco living.

This week, I’m hoping to finally make my return to computrainer class; I went on a few Tuesdays during Vineman training, but I’ve been told the Thursday rides better simulate climbing, so I’ll be trying to hit those each week until Tahoe. And this weekend, I’m planning to ride some BART-accessible East Bay hills (to get a dose of real summer and not have to drive, as this is one of the weekends when parking in my neighborhood is at its most in-demand). I’m also sporadically riding to my office again and even trying to take some crazier routes home. If I’m going to roll through the city at 8 mph, I might as well get some hill work out of it.

I have no idea how well any of this will translate to 25 miles at 6,000 feet, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to show up on August 25 ready to find out.

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Dumb Adventures Abroad: Japan

The backpack is back.


I’m writing this from the airport, waiting for the short flight that will take us to Los Angeles, where we’ll catch the longest flight I’ve ever taken — to Tokyo!

We’ve been talking about taking this trip with friends for probably four years now, so it’s a bit hard to believe that we’re actually doing it. We’ll be in Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, and maybe somewhere else, depending on train schedules and weather and general attitudes toward taking random buses.

My Type-A usually shines the most during travel, but this time I’m going in with few set plans or goals. I’m not sure if that’s more because I’m the only one in our group of four who’s never been to Japan or because I’m expecting to be totally overwhelmed and so am practicing letting go. Either way, other than a moment last night when I PDF’d a bunch of train timetables, I’ve been happy to leave the details in other people’s hands.

Triathlon training will, uh, be on hold for the next 10 days while I focus instead on PRing in ramen consumption. I do have my running shoes, and I intend to use them in Tokyo at least, if only to check out the running stations — glorified day-use locker rooms — I’ve heard are sprinkled throughout the city. But while my tri group is getting its first open-water time of the season, I’ll be tracking down as many odd Kit-Kat flavors as possible and possibly eating Cup Noodle from a vending machine, and I’m just fine with that.

Off to the future!

Inside My Flailing Post-Goal Brain

Last night, I was syncing a workout to my computer and decided to check in on my yearly running mileage. Last time I looked, it had been in the mid-600s, so I was expecting maybe just over 700. Turns out, it was 756 — 760 if you count the one 4-miler I did in September that for some reason got labeled with a date in 2014.

I know that’s still … paltry, in the scheme of people who run. But 750 was also my goal for the year, one of the ones I’d pretty much written off making after getting injured in January and taking off all of May. Another one of the written-off goals? A sub-2-hour half-marathon. Ahem.

Meeting goals is awesome! It’s fun! Aaaand it’s really confusing, because I flop around uselessly without a goal, and I don’t have a new one yet.

My plan when I started doing Run Less, Run Faster was to train through the Kaiser Half (the first weekend of February), no matter what happened at Walnut Creek. But I also didn’t think that I was going to break 2 hours at Walnut Creek. I thought I’d run a 2:02 or 2:03 and be so close and so annoyed that I’d have no thoughts about doing anything but running hard for the next six weeks.

So now what do I do? Keep training for Kaiser, with my heart maybe less than 100% in it? Consider my goals met and stop thinking about running? This is one of the times I could really use a coach, but I don’t have a coach. Internet, be my coach?

On the one hand:

  • I intended to train through February, and I like keeping plans.
  • I wouldn’t mind a) proving that sub-2 #1 wasn’t a fluke and/or b) running sub-2 at sub-9 pace, which seems not out of the question on a course I think is a bit easier.
  • Kaiser starts practically in my backyard. Home-court advantage!
  • It’s only a few more weeks! I’ve worked to get this speed (back?) (at all?) and I don’t want to lose it before running necessarily falls into a smaller spot in my schedule during tri training.
  • I have never had a 20-miles-per-week base for this long (going back to July, I think? with peaks above that, but only a couple of weeks below) and I’m scared of having to start over … again.

And on the other hand:

  • I’ve been avoiding routes I’d like to run in my new neighborhood because I know they aren’t conducive to keeping my Run Less, Run Faster paces.
  • I have shoes to break in — I’m trying to switch to the new Adrenalines from the Ravennas I’ve been running in since Berlin — and that’s been challenging when I’m chasing a goal on every run.
  • I know my body could use a break that I didn’t really give it this fall. Given how quickly I threw speedwork in my routine, I shouldn’t be surprised that all the little parts of me that like to protest have gotten a bit grumbly.
  • I don’t want to do speedwork in the snow over Christmas, and I sure as hell don’t want to do it on a treadmill.
  • I need to ride my bike and swim more.

The one thing I know I don’t want to do is run Kaiser just for the hell of running Kaiser. Walnut Creek gave me the taste of capital-R Racing that I’ve been craving, and I don’t think I want to go back. If I don’t want to train hard, I also don’t need to be paying money just to run my regular route with a few thousand strangers. (I still have nothing against not-racing a race, but I would prefer to do it with some other goal in mind — trying out a particular pace, or running with a friend, or getting in a supported long run while training for something else, or enjoying the scenery somewhere new and fun. I wouldn’t have any of those for Kaiser.)

I was so close to bagging running until 2013, especially after seeing I was at my mileage goal, but I’m not ready to commit to that either. I’m about to go to Dallas for work, and I specifically booked a hotel near a running trail because running is my favorite way to see a place. And then we’ll be in Michigan over Christmas, and it’s my yearly chance to drag out all my winter running stuff, and I love it (…because it’s only once a year). Aaaand then there’s the 10-miler I’d been eyeing for January, the one I didn’t get to do last year, and I’d love to finally race that distance, and if I’m training for that, it’s only two more weeks till Kaiser, and and and and yes, this is what it’s like in my brain when I’m trying to make essentially inconsequential decisions.

Right now I’m leaning toward the middle road — run whatever I feel like a couple of times a week, do either track or tempo but not both, and do the 10-miler but not Kaiser. The middle road is also the easy road; 10 miles is a new race distance for me, so while I might have a time goal, I wouldn’t be eyeing it with the same fervor that I had for the half. It feels like a cop-out. But copping out isn’t always wrong … right?

Ugh, I don’t know. Is anyone else this indecisive and equivocating when goal-less?

15 Miles at my “Berlin Marathon Training Camp”

One of the things I've learned about by reading way too many blogs is the existence of the endurance event training camp. My understanding is that such things are aimed at Ironmen-to-be who spend several days doing crazy workouts at their race sites in order to get prepared for key elements of race day.

Luckily, my Berlin Marathon training plan afforded me the opportunity to do something along these lines, albeit on a smaller scale. For my next-to-last pre-taper long run, I:

  • Took a red-eye flight across time zones
  • Fueled with questionable food
  • Ran a long distance on an unfamiliar route
  • Followed up the run with Oktoberfest beer and sausage

So, basically just like race day.

A college friend got married in Madison on Sunday, and our flight left San Francisco just after midnight Saturday. I'm an excellent sleeper, a real champ, and so sleeping on a red-eye has never been an issue, but the flight from SFO to Chicago is just three and a half hours, only three of which ever end up being truly sleepable. I got my three hours, plus maybe a 20-minute catnap on the connection to Madison, but it wasn't exactly a proper night's sleep.

I also didn't eat enough dinner and so was starving by the time we reached O'Hare, and knowing I'd be running in a few hours, I fueled up right…with a McDonald's breakfast meal. Not the smartest decision I've ever made before a run, though I'm sure I've made dumber.

We got to our hotel too early to check in, so we changed and sunscreened in the lobby bathrooms, stored our bags, and were on our way to the Lake Monona path by 10 a.m. After not running all week, I wanted to get all 15 miles in if I could, but not at the expense of ruining any calf/achilles healing that might have happened. The route we mapped went all the way around the lake, so I figured I'd make a call after a couple of miles about how much I thought I could do, so as to not get stuck on the opposite side of the lake from our hotel with no choice but to walk it in.

We got lucky with the weather: overcast and not humid, and no warmer than 80 degrees. The wind was crazy in a few places, but the Midwest could have dealt us much, much worse. I had envisioned the route taking us right alongside the lake, but I suppose there’s a little thing called “valuable lakefront property,” so we were typically a block or so back, running through a smattering of parks and boat launches. We spent the first couple of miles consistently picking the wrong sidewalk but eventually noticed that the road was marked at each turn, and things went more smoothly from there.

I felt good from the start, and — except for a brief section of trail with uneven footing — my leg never complained. I’d never run 15 miles before, but as Ellen said, the neat divisibility of it is quite lovely. The first 5 was all about settling in and getting a handle on the path, the second 5 a series of rolling hills and a few great views of the skyline.


As we turned toward downtown, things got ugly — major headwind that blew my hat off three times before I finally decided to just hold it like a tiny hand-held sail; no-sleep legs that refused to push that wind aside any faster than 11:15 pace; stairs to street level (the indignity!). The path got us to the hotel just under 13 miles, and wow, was I ready to be done, but I thought: how many times in a marathon will I want to be done? I knew I could run the other 2 miles, so I did, albeit slowly while weaving through Taste of Madison and UW tailgating crowds.

In all honesty, I'm glad to have done these things before Berlin — one of my worries has been how I’ll react to jetlag, and granted, I’ll be crossing nine time zones then and not two, but I’ll also have another day to adjust, and now I know I can run a significant distance even while ridiculously tired. And eating non-ideal food before the run? Other than an ugly bathroom stop around mile 10 when a Shot Blok suddenly needed to be disposed of, it could have been worse.

And, then we drove to “America’s Little Switzerland” and ate sausage and drank beer. JUST like Berlin.



  • This is the point in training where I get excited about running “only” 15 miles and then wonder what aliens have eaten my brain. This is still my fourth-longest run ever!
  • My average pace worked out to 10:30/mile almost exactly, even with a slower final three miles. Averages are my friend.
  • As a hill snob, I way underestimated the hilliness of Madison.
  • Probably had 30-40oz of water with one Nuun tab over the course of the run, plus a Gu at 1:00 and the ill-fated Shot Bloks at 1:45.
  • Post-run craving: a slurpee. I actually spotted an Italian ice Taste of Madison booth, but it didn’t open till about 20 minutes after my run ended. It tasted just as good a few hours later, though.
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Random Friday Facts

Random pretty much sums up the level of order I can put to my thoughts right now, so let’s get to it.

1. I have a rule that I should spend at least as much time in a place as I spend traveling to and from that place. If I’m going to drive four hours one way, I need to spend at least eight hours at the destination. I am violating that rule so hard right now.

2. The strangest place I’ve ever run was Universal Studios, California, before it opened for the day. When I think back on that, I’m quite sure I wasn’t supposed to be there, much less running. But nobody ever yelled at me.

3. I have a strong sense of smell and a strong aversion to a lot of smells. It’s at worst minorly annoying in everyday life, but I really fear for what will happen if I’m ever pregnant.

4. One of the smells that makes me happiest, though, is chlorine in a hotel pool. We stayed at the same hotel every summer for years and years; that pool is where I learned to swim, and when I smell chlorine in a hotel hallway, it takes me right back there.

5. Speaking of learning to swim, I technically never passed Advanced Beginners, though I think I took the class three times. I forget which thing I wouldn’t do, but it might have been diving in or something having to do with treading water.

6. I already have my post-run lunches for my next two long runs picked out. Nevermind that I haven’t decided on the routes for those two long runs.

7. I have a fear of being stuck somewhere without food when I’m traveling. I brought one granola bar to the airport with me yesterday, but I worried it wouldn’t be enough, so I bought another. Obviously, I haven’t touched either.

8. My parents celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary yesterday. (Hi, mom!) I’m so grateful to have grown up with their relationship as my primary model for marriage.

9. Places I most want to go: Japan, New Zealand, Peru. Japan may happen in 2013, if everything falls right.

10. I’m a horrible singer. I’m just not-tone-deaf enough to know that I might as well be tone deaf.

11. I hate watching YouTube videos, unless they’re of adorable animals. In general, when anyone says the words, “Have you seen the YouTube video where _______,” I’m overcome with a strong feeling of dread.

12. I’m always late. I’ve tried all the tricks — make up a fake arrival time, set my watch ahead, etc. — but I’m still always late. I think it takes me less time to do things than it actually does.

13. I’m going through a hard-boiled-egg phase.

14. I gave up diet soda for a month last year, and it just made me crave candy.

15. Speaking of which, when I got to my hotel at 2 a.m. this morning after my work observation session, the only thing I wanted in the world was a Mountain Dew. I don’t even like Mountain Dew, but nothing but an ice-cold Mountain Dew was going to make me happy in that moment. Lo and behold, the hotel vending machine had Mountain Dew! But it was $1.50, and the machine didn’t take $5s, and I had exactly $1.49. I’m not proud of this, but I checked all the coin returns in the vending machines, just in case. No luck, no Dew. (I know — cool story, bro. Hey, I haven’t slept much over here.)


Not Done Yet

Now that I’ve gotten all that positivity out of my system, I’m going to whine about running.

As I mentioned, I accidentally took a week off running. Well, at least the first couple of skipped workouts were accidents. I had a great bike ride before work one day but underestimated how long it would take (calculating only the “ride” part of hill repeats, not the “rest/recover” part, when deciding when to leave the house will do that), so I skipped a transition run in favor of having more than three minutes to shower. Then I ditched last Saturday’s rainy group ride for a steamy hour on a spin bike and ended up doing my “run” on the elliptical (waiting for a gym treadmill didn’t seem like much of a transition, and I knew if I went home, I wasn’t going to go outside and get drenched again). And then my relay team ditched Oakland, and after Sunday’s swim, I decided I might as well just see what would happen if I took a whole week off and spent an hour getting cozy with the Arc Trainer instead of hitting the pavement.

And what happened?

Nothing. Absolutely freaking nothing.

A week of low-to-no-impact training, a week of ever-increasing sets of PT exercises and lacrosse ball torture, and my left lower-leg tendons responded with a resounding shrug.

The whiny post I wrote last Sunday — and am pillaging from here but won’t publish on its own, because lawd, the complaining — shows me at a turning point. I was thinking, if things never get better, can I deal with that? As I commented on Susan’s post about pain, I’d never call this worse than a 2/10, but enough days of a 2 and that 2 can become a 4. I have a high tolerance for specific, temporary pain, but minor but enduring pain turns out to be a different story.

Last weekend, I’d almost decided to quit running for an indefinite, but significant, period of time. I thought, OK, I’ll just do the swim-bike parts of the ICE Breaker and of Wildflower, and I’ll basically lay off running until the start of May if not June and then see if there’s any hope for Berlin. I still might decide that; parts of that strategy make sense.

But a few days — and a couple of runs — later, I feel like bailing now would be premature.

I tend to think, “Well, I’ve tried everything.” But realistically? I’ve tried rest and PT. There’s a much, much longer list of things I haven’t tried, and while I’m wary of initiating one of those wild-goose-chasing, relief-seeking expeditions that seem to be all over the Runner’s World forums (…yeah, I googled), it seems like there’s a lot left for me.

I don’t like the idea of a cortisone shot, but it’s been suggested to me twice now, and I’m at least open to talking more about it. I’m opposed to it in principle for the same reason I’m opposed to most medications in principle — I don’t like messing with what my body is naturally doing — but I drink diet soda and eat Oreos, so obviously I’m not that precious about my chemistry.

I wear custom orthotics, and they’re old — not so old that they should need to be replaced, but old in the sense that I was a very different runner with different goals, different shoes, and (I suspect) a different gait when I got them. My original podiatrist doesn’t take my insurance, my second podiatrist was terrible, and I never got around to finding a third — but really, I live in a big city where there must be a good, athletically inclined podiatrist who will take my insurance and can offer some useful insight into whether the orthotics are helping or hurting.

I could try other shoes. I’ve been down that road before, and I no longer believe I’m going to find the magic bullet pair in which I never get injured ever again. But I think there’s still work to be done in finding the right amount of stability; maybe orthotics + Adrenalines are too much for me, and Adrenalines with no orthotics or Ravennas + orthotics would be better. Or, maybe I need even more stability and will be running around in tanks for shoes before long. I don’t know, but I’m up for getting another qualified professional opinion on the issue.

I could investigate other means of getting arch support — tape? — if orthotics are no longer the answer.

I could see another orthopedic doctor. That’s tricky for insurance reasons (the one I see is the only “sports medicine doctor” I can see within a 50-mile radius, and all the regular orthopedic specialists are surgeons), but it’s not off the table.

I could try massage or ART. I hate massages and the expense of ART scares me, but I know others in my situation have had luck with one or both.

I could get an MRI, or at least a flipping X-ray, and make sure there’s nothing unseen going on.

And then, if none of that works, I can consider quitting.

For now, the time when I feel best continues to be anytime I’m running — even when it’s four miles in pelting, hail-like rain like it was today. And as long as every qualified medical professional continues to tell me I can run, I’m not quitting yet.

I’m sure I’ll be a bitter, jaded Runner’s World “don’t-do-what-I-did-which-is-everything” poster before long. But until that day, the goose chase is on.