Training: Mar 27-Apr 2

What a weird week. I was sick all week with a cold that kept flaring up and then ebbing. On Tuesday I went out for a progression run that went okay (I was running 7:30 at around 86% effort — I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time since the summer), but my hamstring went nuts toward the end. That was annoying. And worrisome. I wish this thing would just work itself out, but I think it’s going to take awhile.

I rolled, stretched and massaged the living daylights out of it that evening. I’ve learned that this is what I must do now: tend to it. Usually, all is forgiven within the next 24-48 hours.

Wednesday was Zen on the Track Day. That was a good session.

I was supposed to do two 6 mile recovery runs on Thursday, but I questioned the wisdom of that plan. The first run went okay, but the second one was just painful. Since I could not see how running 6 miles on exhausted, aching legs was going to help, I cut the run short at 4 miles.

On Friday my cold peaked and I felt very low energy. I had a 9 mile recovery run scheduled but couldn’t imagine running a mile. So I took the day off. I do this now and I think it’s a good thing. I don’t worry about getting overtrained anymore and, in fact, I see some evidence that my training is actually going pretty well.

I was still dragging on Saturday, but I forced myself out to run anyway. I had 14 x 1 minute surges scheduled. I saved those for the last possible point in the run, doing them over the final 2.5 miles. It was windy. I was not into it at all. But I did all 14 of them and was pretty darned proud of that.

This week’s workouts have been surprisingly good. So much so that I am now worried about Sunday’s 10K. Things seem to be going so well — I expect some sort of cosmic payback this weekend. I am trying to push those worries aside. I will be trying for Zen in Central Park.

Finally, let me offer my apologies to the reader who submitted a comment on my March 30 post with some thoughtful observations about running without goals and, often, without a watch, and the potential for personal liberation in these decisions. It got flagged as spam and then in a spastic move I managed to trash it. Thanks anyway. It was nice of you to comment. If you want to try again, I’ll try not to screw it up this time.

Oh, also, yesterday I had a really good birthday, which included several phone calls from family and friends; a few really sweet cards; some snazzy new earrings; free money; and…flowers! And we had some leftover cake and wine from our weekend celebration. I got to make another wish. I don’t feel any older. Just happier.

Running moment to moment in lane 4

[Warning: A bout of confessional bloggorhea follows. There is a running pay off, though. And maybe other useful things.]

This past fall and winter were rough. When I think of 2010, I see a year that began with disappointment and frustration (following hot on the heels of a less-than-stellar 2009), then had a fabulous high point — a couple of extremely good and gratifying months in early summer — and then began a nosedive in August followed by a flap-rattling death roll through the rest of the year and into this one. The ups and downs (mostly downs) weren’t limited to running — there were work/career goings on, social stuff, financial stuff. You name it. It was a year of extremes in many ways.

While I’d hoped that 2011 would bring instant relief — I don’t know why, since it’s just a calendar page, or dropped Times Square ball, or new crow’s foot, or however you keep score — the hideous blob of sheer misery and distress that was laying waste to my psychic backyard was rapidly advancing toward my mental domicile’s shaky foundation in the new year in a most horrific way.

On this blog I have not made a secret of my history of anxiety, a problem that I still struggle with now. I’ve also got a long history of depression — a constant kind (called dysthymia) which sometimes erupts into major depression (a delightful sequence known as “double depression”). This glowing tinder of seemingly innate unhappiness has become a full on conflagration on several occasions in my life, lasting anywhere from weeks to more than a year. I’d gotten a reprieve for most of the 2000s and thought I was out of the woods. But it was back late last year.

Why did I get depressed this time around? In some ways, it’s an impossible question. Why does anyone get depressed? Normal people — meaning people who are not otherwise vulnerable to depressive states — will get depressed in reaction to some catalyzing event: extreme loss, for example. Again, this is normal. Others, like me, will get knocked slightly off balance by some event that is not on its face disastrous — in my case, it was a couple of things that don’t need detailing here, but [here's the tie-in] included my stress fracture and subsequent total layoff from running for about 4 months. It’s not an event in particular that’s causing the quick slide down off the mountain. The event may be disappointing, but it’s not the problem. The problem is the reaction to the event — or, really, the chain reaction of mental machinations, all of them harmful in their extremity and breadth, and based on ingrained patterns from previous death spirals, that cranks into motion after that single event.

And what’s feeding that engine of awfulness? For me, it’s anxiety. And feeling bad about the anxiety. Then the anxiety about the anxiety feeds the depression and then the depression, in turn, feeds back into the anxiety in a crescendoing feedback loop. Pretty soon the top flies off your Waring blender of distress (“Hey, what’s that burning smell?”) and before you know it your kitchen walls are covered in the worst parts of yourself.

Holy crap. I finally get this. For some reason, this was the year that I was able to step back and observe what happens. I couldn’t stop it from happening, mind you. But, once things lifted enough for me to think straight, I could somewhat recognize cause-and-effect/effect-and-cause. That small shard of perspective produced a glimmer of hope. That hope got me thinking. The thinking got me reading. The reading got me working.

It’s not fun to be me much of the time. I think I’ve established that. But I will always be me, so I’d better learn how to live with myself. What I suspect needs to happen is that, going forward, I need to focus less on fixing and more on just being aware of the pattern and movement of my own thoughts and feelings, with an aim to get out of my own way. Floating, not flailing. I don’t write all this because I feel sorry for myself. I write it because I’m a slow learner and I hope that someone else can learn from it a little quicker than I have. It’s also nice to share news about things that are working well.

I am now trying some things that are wacky, or at least they are to me. I gave up on psychoanalysis several years ago. I will not take meds for these problems, as that presents a host of other potential problems in the form of side effects and — let’s face it — masking rather than actually addressing what’s going wrong. I am taking a bunch of vitamins and supplements that supposedly help with moods. We’ll see what those do or don’t do. I don’t put a lot of stock in them, but I figure they can’t hurt. I’m off synthetic hormones. I stop at one drink now.

But the heart of everything else I’m doing is a twosome of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and “mindfulness,” areas I only just became aware of quite recently. I so wish my former analyst had looked at me in 1991 and said, “Julie, your habitual thought patterns are toxic and your perceptions are totally distorted. You need CBT for your anxiety and the depression it fosters, not years of analysis from me.” But Freudian analysis is at best a quaintly blinkered belief system and at worst a cult perpetuated by adherents who I believe only have the best of intentions, so I bear them no ill will. But given what I know now, I’m not surprised that our exchange never took a more practical turn.

Okay. So what does any of this have to do with running? Fair question.

Running.

Running.

Running has given me so much when it’s gone well, but has hurt me so deeply when it hasn’t. Or, rather, it has set me up perfectly to hurt myself deeply. This time around, it lit a fire of depression. When I was limping around with my stress fracture in the fall, my dad, himself a former obsessed marathoner asked, “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” By that I think he meant: “Why do you keep making this so important and setting yourself up for a fall in the process?”

The answer to that is because I thought in running I had found a source of pleasure and achievement that I could control. Boy, was I wrong about that! A sane person would have stopped caring so much about it after it went so wrong for so long. But I reacted by stubbornly caring about it even more. I devised new goals, goals that may or may not have been realistic. It doesn’t matter if they were or are. The problem is that I had goals.

Getting better. Changing myself. Fixing what’s wrong. Whether we’re talking about running or about my state of mind, these are all bad goals. They are all about forcing something to happen, denying what’s actually happening, giving potency to something that’s nothing, missing what’s real, and often good.

Edited: One book I’m reading quotes from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races — the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

One of the wackier things I’m trying — the “mindfulness” part — is meditation. I would like to say that I suck at it. But that would involve a judgment and I’m gathering that the whole point of meditation is to be, not to do. If you’re sitting there meditating and thinking, “I’m not meditating the right way,” you’re lost. You need to just sit there and be. If in one moment you realize that you’re thinking about what to make for dinner, then you’re doing it right; the work lies in the realizing and the accepting, not the thinking or the not thinking. Gaining an awareness of whatever’s going on in your head means you’re on the right track. Awareness of “mistakes” — and refusal to label them as such — is the success, not the failure.

Supposedly meditation can actually change your brain chemistry, affecting key areas like the amygdala, which is our brain’s bus driver for fear reactions (“fight or flight” — the core of all externally expressed anxiety)  and so-called “emotional memory” formation, and which comes into play in conditions like social phobia, depression and other problems that are near and dear to my heart and history. Working with the hypothalamus, the amygdala also regulates some aspects of our nervous system. Read up if you’re interested, since I’m sure I’ll screw something up if I continue here. I found it intriguing enough to pursue in addition to the more directed methods offered by CBT. This book, which was created by some of the authors of this study, in particular has been quite the mind- and eye-opener. Its approach works as well as happy pills, but doesn’t make you fat, dizzy or dullwitted in the process.

But back to running. All this other stuff I’m doing is having an effect on running, which is a welcome, and quite unexpected, side effect. I am starting to naturally run without goals, without expectations and without judgment. This is making running easier in ways I did not expect. For example, I had a very tough track session today. Since it’s unusual, I think Coach Sandra would consider it “proprietary,” so I won’t give details. But there was short stuff (a lot!) followed by semi-short stuff, followed by a long interval that was to be run “all out.”

I had never done this workout before. It frightened me a little, but I went in with an open mind. Stuff that normally would have bothered me didn’t today.

People were wandering chaotically around the track. I like running in lane 4 because it’s closest to 400m (the track in Bronxville is screwy because they shoved it into too-small a space, but the installers chose aesthetics over accuracy for the markers — so no lane is exactly 400m — inner lanes are shorter, outer lanes are longer). I did not let the dawdling interlopers get to me. I ran around them. I did not have to run in lane 4 at all times. Accuracy didn’t matter. The effort is what mattered.

I did not think of the many repeats/rests that lay ahead. I thought only of the one I was doing. I didn’t think of how far I was from finishing it. I didn’t think, with dread, “Oh, god, 300m to go…” or, with resentment, “This fucking wind is slowing me down” or any of the usual stuff I do when I’m doing track work. I just ran at what I thought was the appropriate effort at that point in time and kept the rest of the workout out of my mind. I would get there when I got there.

At one point I was running fast and realized that I was totally relaxed, watching my hands swing up, my right arm swing and wrist angle completely different from my left, something I now accept rather than try to correct, my flats eating up the curve. I enjoyed running in that moment. Thinking about it right now makes me happy. My splits were remarkably even — for 18 intervals (I did an extra by accident). Like within a second or two of each other. No watch required.

The last, killer interval was awful. It was slow, something I knew without looking at my watch. Then I realized that it probably wasn’t supposed to be fast. It couldn’t be. I had exhausted myself with the previous few miles of faster running; my legs were burning and aching. I realized midway through that I was now doing “get comfortable with suffering” training, something I’ve come to recognize in some of Sanda’s workouts. I made a mental note to ask her what the purpose of that horrible last big push was — mental, physical or both — and then I gently returned my attention to my hands, my feet and the metres unfolding in front of me.

What’s been going on, as presented in Warren Zevon song titles

I’ve been rediscovering Warren Zevon lately. If you have no idea who he is, then look him up and discover for yourself his uniquely sardonic yet humane — and always highly literate — musical take on things. He’s dead, by the way. Before succumbing to lung cancer in 2003, he produced one of my favorite quotes: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

So here’s a Zevonesque take on what’s happening in my life, running and otherwise.

Although we’ve had bits of snow and sleet lately, it is officially spring, even if the weather hasn’t gotten with the program yet. We’ve been able to run Backs Turned Looking Down the Path now that it’s clear of snow, although on many days we’ve also had to Hasten Down the Wind. For the most part I’ve been running in Splendid Isolation because, as I’ve said to Jonathan, “I’ll Slow You Down.”

We traded one lost hour for longer days last weekend. And one night last week They Moved the Moon. Or at least they claimed it was bigger than it would be in another 18 years. Does that mean it was closer? I’ve seen “bigger” harvest moons in the summer, so I was not impressed.

My workouts have spanned the spectrum from lousy to great. Maybe it’s Bad Karma, or just the usual training Turbulence, but I don’t quite feel like I’m training with the consistency I’d like. On the other hand, I can usually come up with reasons for why a workout Ain’t That Pretty At All. For example, I had a scheduled 13 miler in Central Park on Sunday that was, in hindsight, Trouble Waiting to Happen. After a ridiculously hard speed session Thursday, followed by ridiculous weight work and spinning the following day, my legs were dead. I was also at my hormonal low point, and always run like shit on that day. Not surprisingly, my planned 8:00s were rapidly turning into 9:00s. Then my right hamstring and adductor had tandem hissy fits. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. I cut the run short at 11 and told myself, “You’re a Whole Different Person When You’re Scared. So stop it. You no longer need to let one workout define things. It doesn’t mean you’re headed for a Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Don’t worry about it.”

So sure, My Shit’s Fucked Up on some days, but not always. On Wednesday, two days ago, I had a mysteriously great track session. We got up to find it sleeting. I packed my spikes. The Bronxville track was devoid of people and the sleet/drizzle/shizzle stopped. It was cold, but not too. And there was almost no wind to speak of. All I needed for a good session was the right attitude, because everything else was in place.

Attitude was important because I was assigned 1K repeats. Seven of them. How was I going to do seven when I couldn’t even do four of them two weeks ago? One thing I like about working with Coach Sandra is that she doesn’t assign paces. She trusts that I know the right effort to run and that my splits will just reflect where I am on that day. I may be “slower” or “faster” than expected. I may be running supernaturally well or running like dog shit. What matters isn’t the splits in one workout; what matters is doing the work every week and getting faster relative to effort over the course of an entire training cycle. And if that isn’t happening, figure out why and make immediate adjustments. Maybe that’s obvious already, but I think it’s pure Genius.

I ran the first conservatively, as I always do, to see how I was feeling. 4:15. But I knew I could do a little harder. The next six were: 4:11, 4:10, 4:12, 4:11, 4:11, 4:10. Rests were 1:28-1:50. I attacked those repeats like Boom Boom Mancini. This gives me some confidence that I’ll be able to fly over the Central Park hills like An Angel Dressed in Black in a couple of weeks at the Scotland 10K. If I can’t do that, I’ll be Looking for the Next Best Thing, which is just to put in an effort that I can be proud of.

Jonathan did the workout with me (although his splits were more in 3:30 territory) and had an equally good set. This made him into an Excitable Boy indeed.

It’s hard to know if my perceived gains in speed and endurance are Real or Not, but I’m trying to Roll with the Punches (like I did after my night spent hugging the Porcelain Monkey) and not be too much of a Basket Case about adhering perfectly to the schedule.

Later that evening we attended a A Certain Girl‘s birthday celebration in Manhattan and neither of us was too tired out to enjoy ourselves. It was a late night, but I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. My own birthday is in a couple of weeks. Will 46 be a Wild Age for me, or will I evolve into a Model Citizen? I think I’d like to remain a Renegade and work on turning Jonathan into more of a Mr. Bad Example and less of a Worrier King. We’ll be celebrating at home because MacGillicuddy’s Reeks.

Our home has become something of a Detox Mansion (“I’ve been raking leaves with Liza! Me and Liz clean up the yard!”). We’ve finished up all of our wine and booze, which I’m not planning to replace, and when the beer dwindles I restock with only a sixpack or two, which takes us forever to get through. This means I’m a total lightweight, something I shall have to be careful about when we head off to search for the Werewolves of London in May, shortly after we run the Long Island Half (please, Don’t Let Us Get Sick). I won’t be bringing Lord Byron’s Luggage; the fees are too outrageous. My Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded to visit us in April, so they’ll be here in June. That means we have to do something about the Disorder in the House before then.

Whoops. Laissez-Moi Tranquille. I Have to Leave. My Ride’s Here.

Heave ho!

I have now experienced food poisoning three times in my life. Three times is at least two times too many.

Let me start by saying that I hate throwing up. I know that no one actually enjoys throwing up, but I have always found the experience to go beyond being merely a bad physical sensation. I seem to experience throwing up as a kind of mental trauma as well. It verges on existential crisis, meaning I feel as if I will be throwing up forever. I cry a lot. It’s always very dramatic.

There have been times over the years when I’ve felt really bad after eating or drinking something and Jonathan has said to me, “Just go throw up. You’ll feel better.” Just go throw up? To me, that’s like having someone say, “Just take a professional-grade nail gun to your instep. It’s no big deal. You’ll feel better.”

I remember my food poisonings in exquisite detail, perhaps because of the whole “throwing up as trauma” thing.

1983: Sloppy Joe Explosion

My first episode occurred during my senior year of high school. It came as a direct result of my having prepared sloppy joes a little too hastily. Looking at the slightly undercooked hamburger meat I was shoveling into my mouth, I thought, “Eh. What are the chances?” The chances, as I would learn around 90 minutes later, were very good indeed.

I was in a rush so I could meet up with friends later on to aimlessly drive around, smoke cigarettes and other things, and probably end up drinking terrible coffee (unlimited refills!) at the Corte Madera Denny’s* to cap off the evening. Our little group was spread over two cars, one  of them driven by my best friend at the time, Johanna. I have a vivid memory of walking down a street and knowing something was wrong with me. The only signs, ominous rumblings in my gut, were subtle but insistent. I tried to keep a lid on things to avoid causing widespread distress or having to cut the evening short. But at one point I broke out into a cold sweat and I guess I’d gone all alabaster, because when I said to Johanna, “I’m going to be in real trouble soon,” my appearance precluded any need for further explanation.

Johanna snapped into action, hustling me into the passenger seat of her Volkswagen Rabbit (diesel!), which she called “Trudy.” The evening was clearly over for us from a social standpoint, although it was just starting for me from a physical one, an odyssey that would end with my having spent so much time lying on the bathroom floor that I had imprints of tiles on one side of my face. Our friend, Chieko, joined us in the back seat. The plan was to drop Chieko off at her house, which was fairly close by, then make haste to mine, which was about 10 minutes from there.

I made it as far as Chieko’s driveway. Not wanting to vomit all over Trudy, I bolted from the car and instinctively headed toward the first source of physical support that I could find. There, in the merciless illumination of Trudy’s headlights, I spewed forth a ptomaine rainbow. Just moments before letting loose, I could hear Chieko’s small, high voice say in a tone of sad resignation, “Oh, no. Not on the mailbox.”

1999: Bombay Barf Fest

My second attack was restaurant-enabled, as was last night’s. I rarely eat out, for lots of reasons. For one, I usually find restaurant food to be overly salted (I don’t cook with any salt and I don’t even give it credit for being a spice — it’s a crutch for unimaginative cooks and a commercial tool for selling more drinks). Also, during the many years in which I suffered from panic attacks (I don’t anymore), restaurants were my primary “trigger venue,” with large crowds and airports a distant second and third. So I just got used to avoiding them in general. Finally, because I’m not made of money, I know how to cook a lot of different kinds of foods, and I don’t think of restaurants as “entertainment,” it’s just not something I care about spending money on. The possibility of contracting a food-borne illness is just one more reason to avoid them.

Anyway. This time we were in London for a visit with family before heading north to Scotland for a romantic Christmas on the Isle of Skye. We were staying with Jonathan’s brother, Rob, and his then partner (now husband), Phil, in their house in the Clapham area. A few blocks down the road sat — for me, menacingly — an Indian restaurant called Bombay Bicycle. We ordered in one night and enjoyed numerous food items. One of mine came with something extra.

As with my first poisoning experience, this one came on with a vague sense that something wasn’t quite right. I got up and took a glass of Alka Seltzer and went and sat in their living room to wait for it to take effect. And take effect it did, although rather than settling my stomach it served to move the inevitable proceedings forward. A wave of nausea hit me and I raced up the stairs to their sole bathroom.

This time around, both ends of of my digestive tract were involved, although fortunately they were tag-teaming. Several hours of alternating purgings later, I collapsed into the guest room bed, where I stayed for two days. When I wasn’t in bed I was monopolizing their bathroom. They were so nice to me. The only thing I remember about those two days is reading Into Thin Air, John Krakauer’s account of death on Mount Everest, and thinking, “Well, this actually sounds a little worse than what I’m going through.”

2011: Don’t Order the Duck

While last night’s ordeal didn’t feature the socially distressing dimension of my first bout, nor the extended misery of my second one, I think it was probably the worst of the three. If you don’t have a strong stomach, then you should probably stop reading now.

Have you ever thrown up onions through your nose? I have. It’s not fun. Nasal expulsion of vegetables was just one of the new and novel experiences I had last night. We had dinner with my father and stepmother, who are moving into a new place on 92nd Street, and a couple of their friends whom we know very well from having spent many a similar evening over the years. It was a good time. But I should have had the coq au van.

We came home and went to bed. I felt okay at that point. An hour later, I awoke, feeling only a primitive drive to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. There was no prior warning this time. I didn’t even know what was wrong. Just that I needed to be in the bathroom. What happened next is a blur. I was not even awake, but I was aware of having a lot of trouble breathing and swallowing. Next thing I knew, my dinner was all over the bathroom rugs. I don’t know how it got there, but it seemed to be coming from my nose.

Why couldn’t I throw up the normal way? I still don’t know. Instead, an evening’s worth of cheese, snails, duck and vegetables — mixed with what felt like hydrochloric acid — was being violently sneezed in every direction. But that wasn’t all. My backside was also in on this party. At the same time. The mess was impressive. By this time I was fully awake, and fully horrified.

The weird part is that I didn’t even feel all that nauseated. This was a plus because it meant I was able to clean things up before heading back to bed. I thought that was it, but it was only the beginning. Like clockwork, I was up every hour or so for a new session of involuntary purging. Throwing up was bad enough, but by 4:00 in the morning there was nothing left to throw up, so I got to experience a few sessions of dry heaves. These were worse. Those abated at last as the sun’s rosy tendrils began to light the edges of our blackout shades. But my bowels were now working overtime. Jonathan was up periodically with me, doing what you’re supposed to do — applying compresses, murmuring soothing words, getting the hell out of the way — but what else could he do? He had to wait it out with me.

By 8:00 the crisis had passed and I was able to sleep for about three hours. I’m down over two pounds (yeah, it’s sick that I weighed myself, but I was curious). I can handle toast and honey. My insides feel as if they’ve been run through with the plumber’s snake I keep meaning to purchase. I had to cancel a meeting in Manhattan. I’m in bed, drinking tea and eating popsicles. My sinuses are still on fire. The day is shot.

I’m naming names. The source of my eight hour gastrotorture was a French restaurant on 98th and Broadway by the name of Aloutte. If you go there, the escargot is fine. But don’t order the duck.

*Reading the “reviews” I see that Denny’s remains a haven for bored and/or inebriated Marin County teens.

Google search oddities

“nasty ridgewood girls nj julie threlkeld”

Hmm.

Jumping on the ABC meme

But only because I’ve invested 45 minutes in watching The Girl Who Played With Fire and am bored out of my skull, yet not quite ready to go to bed. Hokay.

Age: 45, turning 46 next month. Oh my fucking god. How did I get here already?

Bed size: King, baby. We’re not big people, but we do like our space. Also, I tend to punch, kick and claw in my sleep.

Chore you hate the most: Cleaning the litter box.

Dogs: Grew up with them and loved them. But not ready for the responsibility or the strange, constant “ham smell.” You know what I’m talking about.

Essential start to your day: P.G. Tips tea, Frosted Mini Wheats and WeatherBug.

Favorite color: What are you, five? No. There are too many mindblowingly great colors out there to commit to just one.

Gold or silver: I will accept either one gladly.

Height: 5′ 5.5″

Instruments you play: If we use the term “play” loosely, then I will claim guitar and banjo. I have always wanted to play the drums. I will probably eventually buy an electric bass to supplement my bad electric guitar playing.

Job title: Freelance writer, content strategist, “journalist”

Kids: Let’s just say I’m glad my sister popped out a few so the pressure was off.

Live: I don’t understand this one.

Mom’s name: Sharon.

Nicknames: Real: Jules, Juliekins, Juki, Threlly. Fake: Cupcakes, Wowzy, The Brick

Overnight hospital stays: Adenoid removal at an early age; five years ago when one side of my face mysteriously exploded into full on Ted Kennedyosity.

Pet peeve: Drivers who do not use their turn signals. I experience several episodes of rage per week due to this problem. Also, telemarketers with autodialers who greet you with, “Hello? Hello?” Sometimes I like to fuck with them by saying, “Hello? Dad? Is that you?”

Quote from a movie: “This dress exacerbates the genetic betrayal that is my legacy.”

Righty or lefty: Righty, except when I eat.

Siblings: One. Sister. Older. She used to subject me to ritual humiliation. I used to beat the daylights out of her. I could also give her piggyback rides when I was in kindergarten and she was in the third grade. We get along really well now.

Time you wake up: Whenever the Zolpidem Tartrate wears off.

Underwear: Recommended.

Vegetables you dislike: Okra. An abomination. It’s like snot encased in frog skin.

What makes you run late: I get in the car. I’ve forgotten my glasses. I go inside. I’ve forgotten where I left my glasses. Half the time they’re in the car.

X-Rays: Lots. Mostly for dental work.

Yummy food that you make: Everything I make is yummy.

Zoo animal favorite: The last time I went to a zoo was during a visit to an awful “animal park” called “Paws and Claws” in Florida in 1988. I ran out through the gift shop, with tears streaming down my face, as a result of seeing the sorry state of the animals in that place. I don’t go to zoos anymore.

Google search oddities

Today’s highlight:

“cockatoo tail amputation”

I actually can’t think of anything clever to say about this one.

Running dreams? I got running dreams.

Early on Monday morning, around 3:30 am, I awoke with my heart thudding out of my chest. I’d been having a nightmare. I have nightmares rarely — maybe two times a year — so I know I’m particularly anxious about something when I do. In this case, I was out on a run, but it was at night. I was running through a nearly-empty parking lot when I spied, emerging from the bushes, a huge bear. It was lumbering right toward me. I hid behind a small car, peeping through the windows, only to see the bear coming closer and closer. As I was debating whether or not to try crawling underneath the car, the bear started coming around to my side of the car. [cue me waking up screaming]

Trust me. You do not want to have this particular dream.

While I’m not totally sure what that was about (I have so many sources of anxiety in my life at the moment!), I suspect it had to do with my long-delayed followup with an endodontist scheduled for later that day to discuss a suspicious issue with one of my lower teeth. I won’t bore you with the details, but it turns out that I have extra roots in my lower teeth, which can look like massive disease on an x-ray. She thinks it’s nothing and sent me on my merry way. I think she knew I was pissed off last time I saw her because she didn’t even charge me.

So, while sometimes the bear eats you, sometimes you eat the bear.

This morning I had another bad dream, but it hardly qualified as a nightmare. Nightmares are not usually funny. In this one I was competing in a huge outdoor track meet. The stadium was full and I was arriving with my team for the opening ceremony. One of my teammates was freaking out because she’d forgotten her inhaler. It was Shannon Rowbury. My first thought wasn’t, “What the fuck am I doing in a meet with Shannon Rowbury?” (which it should have been), but instead, “Shannon didn’t tell me she had asthma. I wonder why.” That was followed by, “I guess if I’m here then I must be pretty fast.”

I was wearing lemon-yellow sweat pants. Not snazzy track pants even. No, they were the awful, thick kind that you’d pick up at Wal-Mart to prepare for an eating binge, an extended bout with the flu, or to be vomited on by a baby. Or all three.

Yanking them down, I discovered that I’d neglected to put on my shorts. [cue crowd going wild]

Training: Feb 13-19

In which I worriedly, hurriedly prepare for a short race

I am quite aware of the fact that I have a 5K race looming on the horizon. I don’t like 5K races but, to be fair, I haven’t raced that many of them, and only a handful have been since I started running competitively. In two weeks I’ll cover the Coogan’s course in Washington Heights. I have been doing what I can to prepare for a short, fast race while also trying to not do anything that’s going to irritate the adductor injury that continues to hang on for dear life. But I feel I’ve turned a corner in that if I’m careful and do a shit-tonne of stretching and strengthening, it’s under control and on its way out, however slowly.

That said, this was another okay week, featuring two decent workouts and one half-assed workout. I did not hit the 52 miles I’d originally planned, but that’s life. I do, however, now feel pretty confident that I can handle real training. With that I will get back in touch with Coach Sandra (whom I’ve not wanted to bug during this period of testing the waters) this week to talk half marathon training.

I’m at the point where running 10 miles at any pace doesn’t feel like a 20 miler. But endurance at faster paces continues to be an issue and time’s a-wastin’. So I am trying to add in some substantial efforts at speedier paces. This campaign to not embarrass myself in two weeks began with Sunday’s trip into Central Park. This time I dragged Jonathan with me, who managed 12 miles with some discomfort in his foot. But, heck, he ran 12 miles, some of them on the faster side. So that’s progress.

We ran 6 miles together to warm up, then split up to do our little workouts. I did an inner loop, he did an outer loop. I managed three miles at sub-7:30 and a last one at 8:00 (me so tired). That was pretty good for that course, in wind, coming off a “big” week. Having learned last week that a longer recovery run on Monday is a no no, I split things up into two runs.

Tuesday was a big social day as was Wednesday evening. On Wednesday morning I decided to try a fartlek run again. There has been some slight improvement over last week’s fartlek in that I could do two sets and the speeds were slightly faster. I also shortened the between-sets recovery time from 5 to 4 minutes.

On Thursday I didn’t feel like doing anything, least of all running. I spent pretty much the entire day finding ways to avoid running. Then I forced myself to go to the gym to do some circuit stuff and figured I’d just try getting on the treadmill and if it sucked I’d climb off and call it a day. Mostly, I wanted to go there so I could use the sauna. After the first couple of miles I felt okay so decided to at least do something a little more productive than a 9:50 plod: a couple of miles at faster paces, if not stellar ones. At least the 20 minutes in the sauna seemed well-deserved.

Friday I was flat out exhausted, so I skipped exercise entirely. Saturday featured an evening run at home on the treadmill. For some reason I felt compelled to tack on a half mile to the planned 6. I think I felt bad about bailing on Friday’s run entirely. A half mile here, a half mile there. Pretty soon you’re talking, like, a whole extra mile.

Next week I may attempt some actual speed work if I can find a clear outdoor track or uninterrupted flat pathway to run on. That depends entirely on snow meltage. We are scheduled to get more snow this evening, so yeah, ha ha. It’s February, bitches. Have another cup of snow. I suspect I’ll being doing more fartleks on the treadmill. They’re close enough.

My training weeks begin on Sunday (or, put another way, end on Saturday). But I got in the habit of posting these training tomes on Sundays. So I’ll cheat and mention that I did my first outdoors tempo run since the summer today in Central Park. I basically tried to simulate a 5K more or less, but split up into three bits separated by 4 minutes. I managed to run my 7 minute segments at around 6:50 pace, which I’m pretty damned proud of because it was hellaciously windy today. I was running at harder than tempo effort much of the time, but whatever. I’m not going to be a purist about anything at this point. Waste of time. I need to get used to being really, really uncomfortable for around 21 minutes.

Groovy new Tempo Run playlist appears below.

In which I am uncharacteristically social

I spent all day Tuesday with a friend (and part of the afternoon with her five-year-old, who is smarter and more articulate than many adults I know) in Manhattan. She’s one of the few people I’m still in touch with from graduate school from way back in the (gulp) mid- ’90s, and by far the friend from that milieu to whom I’m closest. She’s moving out of the country indefinitely in July, so we’re trying to spend some time with each other fairly regularly before that happens. I’m happy for her, but it’s still a bummer to have to say goodbye. There’s virtually no chance I’ll visit her where she’s headed. That sounds ominous; it’s not meant to. She’s not going to prison or anything. She’ll just be very, very far away in a place I have no desire to visit.

On Wednesday evening I drove up to Rye Brook for dinner and conversation with my heretofore virtual friend, Cris/Darkwave of Well, I’m TRYING to Run fame. I have been trading training notes and amusing quips online with Cris for several years, primarily on this weekly thread on LetsRun (although I have been absent for many months during my injury odyssey). Cris was just as intelligent, interesting and warm in person as I’d expected her to be. It was a fun evening, although I worried I kept her up too late on a school night, since she was up here on a business trip and had to get up at 5:30AM the next morning and be a responsible adult. I, on the other hand, being an irresponsible adult, was free to sleep in late and then spend the day farting around the house.

In which I somewhat reluctantly show some team spirit

I bought a long-sleeved Harriers tech shirt this week, since it was easy enough to swing by Urban Athletics on my way to see my East Side friend. It’s a little weird to anticipate wearing it in a couple of weeks, not only because I don’t want to put further pressure on myself in a race at a distance that is not my forte. I’m not generally a joiner and uniforms of any sort always give me pause. But wearing a shirt in the points races seems to be what people do.

I will say that it looks pretty fetching on me (I look good in black — and somewhat menacing, I hope) and it was comfortable enough on today’s test run, for which I wore it as a base layer so I could continue to stealth train.

In which I go back to my artistic roots

I have more websites than is reasonable for one person. Especially since none of them are making me any money. But I can always launch another one, even as the current ones sit neglected. I expect to launch this newest creative venture pretty soon — probably next month or in April. Those who have known me for a long time know that I have a long history of drawing cartoons. I have had a dry spell of this activity for, oh, about 20 years, although I will sometimes make a painting when under stress.

Anyway, I have been besieged by funny ideas lately. That has led to sketching and frequent giggling. I should do something with these ideas and with the good domain I own but have not known what to do with (people have offered to buy it from me, but I had faith that a use for it would eventually emerge). Yes, I want to express myself. At least I’m not writing erotic poetry or making wallets out of duct tape.

So look for that soon.

———————————————————–

Mix: Tempo Run

Nobody’s In Love This Year – Warren Zevon
Change4Me – Bettie Serveert
No Matter What – Badfinger
1994 – Amberhaze
When I Wonder – Charlatans U.K.
Souls Travel – Bettie Serveert
Meet Me In The Basement – Broken Social Scene
Elephant Woman – Blonde Redhead
The Well And The Lighthouse – Arcade Fire
Sincerity – Charlatans U.K.
Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds
Changes Are No Good – The Stills
Bled White – Elliott Smith
Pop In G – Heatmiser
Gimme Animosity – Superdrag
Godspell – The Cardigans
Better Things – The Kinks
American Girl – Tom Petty
Something’s Out There – Freedy Johnston
Don’t Look Down – Lindsey Buckingham
Billoddity – Mojave 3
Swimming Song – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
My Favorite Mistake – Sheryl Crow
Finding You – The Go-Betweens
Cellophane – Creeper Lagoon
Dirty Secret – Grant-Lee Phillips
I Need Your Love – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Listen on Rhapsody

More random bloviations

Chicago was still open this morning at 8:00. Although I may as well have stayed up to register last night because I had insomnia. Because I was worried about not getting in. Damn you, Chicago Marathon. Anyway, we’re registered. I never thought I’d sign up for a big city race, but I’m doing what Coach Sandra says. Since it’s in October, and so far away, it feels completely abstract. That’s probably a good thing at this point. I’ll probably still hedge my bets with a New York registration as well.

It is now Snowing® (with Freezing Rain™!) for the ninth time this winter. My metabolic test, which has been cancelled twice already due to snow and once due to faulty equipment, is scheduled for noon today. At this point it is beginning to feel as abstract to me as the Chicago Marathon. The test was scheduled for 3 pm, but I rescheduled yesterday when I saw the latest weather warnings. I’m still not sure I’ll be able to negotiate the route given the dire warnings of impending death and destruction on the roadways.

But I will try. We live on a big hill and sometimes, if the crud is slippery enough, I can’t get my car up it. My wheels spin and spin, where I am usually trapped on a blind curve. Other drivers, who have four- (or front-) wheel drive, look askance and honk their horns. I can only reverse. Then I have to abandon our little jalopy in the church parking lot at the bottom of the hill. This is an experience I try to avoid if at all possible.

Also, about that test: I am not allowed to have any caffeine beforehand. That part’s probably harder than the actual test. I can already feel the headache coming on.

I skipped the Millrose Games on Friday. I have never been able to take that event seriously and it was just easier to sit on my couch and watch live coverage than it was to trek in on foot, then get home after midnight. I also knew I’d be spending all of Sunday in town and I can only take so much of Manhattan before I have to flee.

On Sunday I went to see this play, which my friend Michael’s wife wrote and has won a bunch of awards for. I confess that I don’t really like plays, which is odd because I love books, movies, and live music and comedy. But not plays. I don’t like opera or dance either. Notice a common theme? I am theatre challenged. I used to think it was due to a problem I have with the artifice of theatre, in that I can never suspend my disbelief. The weird, unnatural lighting; the sets that say “I’m a set!”; even the footsteps of the actors. I suspect that’s part of it, but it’s not all of it. I think I put my finger on why I can’t appreciate live theatre this weekend: I cannot help but empathize with the actors (the actors, not their characters) — meaning I feel embarrassed and worried for them, up there on stage, basically from the moment the lights come up.

Part of it has to do with my own mortification at being the center of attention in any way. I would not want to be up there (yet I know that’s precisely where they want to be). The real issue is that I find myself sitting there and obsessively speculating about their lives. Is he having trouble paying his student loans? What will she do after this play closes? Does he have health insurance? If she flubs her lines, will she get fired? So of course I’m totally distracted from what’s actually going on in the play. I have to continually guide my attention back to the characters and story, and away from the actors. I probably shouldn’t go to plays for this reason alone. I will say that I liked this one, to the extent that I am capable of liking a play, and admired the skill with which it was written, along with clever uses of various set devices, sounds and cultural ephemera. Coming from a theatre retard like me, I think that’s probably high praise.

For dinner I went out with my theatre companion and friend of 20+ years, Lisa, to this place (I like the genericism of its name). There, I learned that Turkish food is a lot like Greek food, except that it’s actually appealing. I had the lamb kebab.

Earlier in the day I had lunch with Pigtails Flying at this restaurant. I learned some things that I did not know about her. Here’s one: she’s a good lunch date.

Earlier in the week I made this:

And that was my week, plus 24 miles of running that are not worth going into detail about. This week I hope to run 40.

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