In treatment

I had session 2 of myotherapy this morning. My next one is on Thursday to be followed by a fourth on Saturday. Sandra leaves town after that so I hope this gets me well enough to run since she’s not back until early September.

Since I did session 1 without any pain relief whatsoever, I decided to take a painkiller before this round. She’d said that was probably a good idea as she needs to get deep into the muscles and that’s difficult when I’m screaming and attempting to squirm off the massage table.

Today I revised my opinion of Percocet (Oxycodone), which I previously thought was the bee’s knees. This morning it made me feel like warmed over dogshit. While I know it killed some of the pain, it also made me nauseous and drowsy (sensations that don’t go well with driving), and, eight hours after taking it, I’m still incredibly fatigued even after an hour nap. Not just tired, but also dimwitted and hopeless. It reminds me of my occasional bouts with moderate depression, with a touch of flu thrown in.

Much as I’m tempted to take it again before Thursday’s mauling, I’d rather experience pain than lose the entire day to feeling like this again. I think these sessions are supposed to get easier anyway, since I’m getting used to it and with each one the knots and scar tissue are broken up a little more. In my next one I get heat and ultrasound.

It’s only been a week since my hip implosion, but this issue feels intractable. Part of the problem is that I still can’t even walk without pain. Every morning, I get faked out — I get out of bed and for the first few minutes I think everything’s fine. Then the pain comes back and settles over me for the rest of the day. If I try to do anything that puts significant weight on my right leg, the problem flares up and I’m screwed for hours, meaning I limp and grimace. On Saturday, after a few pain-free hours, it happened when I did just one dynamic stretch on the right side. Yesterday, again feeling relatively pain-free and hopeful, I took a few exploratory jog steps — meaning I just hopped across the dining room to assess if I could go for a short run. My hip complained bitterly about this latest transgression and there went the afternoon and evening.

I am walking like my dad did right before he had total knee replacement surgery. I list to one side and grab onto any available item for support. It’s pathetic and infuriating. How did I go from running an 82 second 400m repeat on the track to not being able to walk just a few days later?

The good news is that both Jonathan and I got into the Houston Marathon, which is using a lottery system this year. Houston in late January is my goal marathon. Even though I’m prepared to travel there alone, I registered Jonathan just in case he wants to train for it (assuming his fall plans are blown due to his own injury, which it looks like they are), or just run it for whatever reason. He is running again, with some pain. But, hell, he’s running. That’s after two months of not running — so he’s lost a lot of fitness despite having biked like a fiend.

The idea of running a marathon seems entirely theoretical now, for both of us.

One other piece of hopeful news is that I can ride our stationary bike without it making things worse. I did 90 minutes yesterday. If I can manage to tear myself off the couch, I’ll probably do 2 hours later on today. If I still can’t run this week I’ll also look into pool running somewhere. I can feel my fitness ebbing away. I’m glad my motivation is still there, at least.

Fuck. I really miss running.

I’ve used the word “hope” in this post several times in both positive (“hopeful”) and negative (“hopeless”) forms. Sandra said something to me this morning that made an impression on me, and which in an unintended way gave me hope: “You’ll never run faster if you don’t fix these problems.” That got me thinking about the possibility that one reason I may not have been able to run faster so far has been because of tight muscles. I like to think that all this painful work will lead to not only being able to run again, but perhaps — as a bonus — also running faster than I could have otherwise.

“So. Tell me a little about yourself.”

It’s funny that on the weekend that I am tasked with redoing my résumé in order to satisfy the procurement requirements of a creative agency that would like to hire me for some freelance work, I have also been offered the challenge of describing myself in the style of a Time Magazine cover article.

It’s 3:06 on Saturday and thus far I have managed to avoid touching my dusty CV with all manner of legitimate and illegitimate distractions. I did 90 minutes of stretching and strengthening exercises, people. I think that should more than make up for the fact that I was watching this at the time.

Just as I was about to fire up the teakettle and get to work, TK’s challenge arrived. You can read about the details here. But it’s basically like a sophisticated version of Mad Libs (I know; I’m dating myself.) Since writing funny shit about myself is much more enjoyable than trying to describe my dubious skills to an anonymous HR person, I’m going to answer her call (although I’m breaking form by not using all caps). I’ve still got all day tomorrow, after all. Or maybe I can kill two birds and just make this my résumé:

One of the humans admiring them is Julie Threlkeld. Threlkeld is a member of another perennially threatened species, the pessimistic, repressed introvert with no sense of direction. But she’s not as sanguine about it as others. She’s grateful to be smarter than a box of hammers. She’s a physically sturdy woman, 5 ft. 5 in., with linebacker shoulders and legs resembling tree trunks, but her posture is not so much hunched as unconcernedly collapsed. At 45 (she was 44 before her last birthday), Threlkeld gets carded regularly, which mystifies her given that her hair is as heavily salted as a large serving of fries from Arthur Treacher’s. For awhile her hair was blonde. But that was bankrupting her, financially and otherwise. Can we stop with the hair now?

Okay. Who’s next?

Chimps in the parking lot

I can’t sit quietly in a parking lot for five minutes without another human being engaging with me in a negative way. Why is this? I deliberately avoid engaging with strangers. But for some reason I’m weirdo bait.

Today was not the greatest of days. I spent the morning being therapeutically mauled, which was an exhausting and painful experience. As part of this process, I was given instructions for stretching and strengthening. Naturally, these called for more pieces of equipment: resistance bands and a medicine ball. Jonathan was told to try gel inserts. Fine. We’d go after lunch.

The first stop was CVS. Our destination? The foot care aisle. But upon getting out of the car I noticed a sticky substance along the floorboard of the driver’s side (I always drive; it works for us). A Hammer Gel, lodged in the door pocket, had exploded from the heat and leaked. So Jonathan went ahead while I took a few moments to clean up the mess.

I travel with paper towels, water and extra clothes in the trunk. Band-aids and a flashlight too. You’d think I’d been a Girl Scout, but I rejected that racket when I learned we had to sell cookies door to door.

Did you know that when you open the driver’s side door and then subsequently pull the trunk release lever on a 1997 Toyota Camry LE Sedan that this combination of actions will cause all of the doors to lock? I learned about this feature today.

There they were, on the passenger seat: my car keys, along with my bag containing my wallet, phone and iPod. I knew Jonathan had no car key because he never drives. I limped into CVS and gave him the bad news.

While I mulled over what to do (go to a pay phone and get a cab? Borrow someone’s phone and call Geico’s roadside assistance?) Jonathan was practically running away. Which was impressive since not only was he wearing sandals but he also has not been able to run for close to two months.

We were about 1.5 miles from home. He figured he could hoof it there and back with a car key in about 45 minutes. He was eager to solve this problem. I was experiencing mounting pain in my hip again, as I’d forgotten to take a painkiller. Off he went before I could think about alternatives. As I watched his retreating figure I wondered if he’d remembered to bring his house keys.

So now I had to kill 45 minutes. I had no money, no form of distraction and I was in pain. I made my way over to the edge of the parking lot, found a shady spot and sat on the curb. This was pathetic. I played with my watch and observed fat people going in and out of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Then, excitement. A kid, about 17, came blasting across the lot on one of those Razor scooters. He attempted to use a smoothed over section of curb as a ramp and proceeded to fall ass over teakettle right in front of me. He lay immobile on his back for a few seconds, then got up and looked at me with a combination of anger and sheepishness.

“Are you alright?” I said, more out of obligation than concern. Asking this made me feel old all of a sudden. Matronly.

He picked up the scooter and sulked off.

Three minutes later he returned, looking very agitated. He disappeared among the storefronts, then returned to the scene of his accident.

He asked me a question, which I thought was “Did you see me fall?”

Oh, great, I thought. He’s thinking of suing CVS and wants a witness. Why me? I also thought this was an incredibly dumb question. Of course I saw him fall.

“Uh, yes.” I offered.

“Well, where is it?”

This confused me.

“What? Where’s what?”

“My phone.”

“Oh.” This kid needed elocution lessons. “Your phone. No, I thought you asked if I saw you fall. I haven’t seen your phone.”

This enraged him. He raised the scooter and hurled it to the ground. “FUCK!!!!”

Okay, so now I know I’m dealing with a chimpanzee and not a bonobo.

“I lost my fucking phone!” He starts frantically looking under the shrubbery, continuing his rant. “The person standing next to me when I find it is going to get it. I’m going to shoot up everyone in this place.”

O. Kay. Time to get over to where more people are.

But I can’t walk without looking like a spastic. I lurch and wince. I suddenly have a reluctance to appear weak. I don’t want to be the injured gazelle that gets taken down.

So I just sit there, waiting to see what he’ll do next.

He stomps off again, searching for his phone.

By the time he returns for a third look around, I’ve managed to hop my way over to the Dunkin’ Donuts entrance, where I lean in the blazing sun. This he finds suspicious. I worry that he’s going to come over and demand his phone. I’m ready to tell him to fuck off because I’m having a worse day than he is, and let the chips fall where they may.

He leaves me alone. Minutes later, Jonathan shows up, now in running shoes, with keys. He’s run the 1.5 miles back. He says his legs feel very fresh. He’s not angry or annoyed, as I thought he’d be. He seems, if anything, perky. The day’s looking up.

Oh, how I wish I were a masochist

Today I hobbled up to Coach Sandra’s magic workshop in Ossining for something she’s been promising for several weeks — an examination for “weaknesses” (I have lots of them, but I don’t think she’s talking about vodka) and imbalances. But it got put off due primarily to her travels.

Because of my recent incident, however, this visit turned from one of mere examination to therapy. Or should I say torture? Sandra is a myotherapist. I think myotherapy should replace waterboarding as our nation’s preferred interrogation technique. It’s certainly less messy.

The good news is that I don’t have anything seriously wrong with my hip. The bad news is that I was compared to a kitchen sink that has for years gone unwashed. It takes a lot of scrubbing to undo that kind of neglect. The hip is just the tip of the iceberg that is the whole of my problems, it seems. In fact, Sandra was amazed that I haven’t had more issues given how totally fucked up I am below the waist.

To summarize, here’s what happened on Saturday. The hip issue was the final straw in a cascading series of events having to do with tight muscles in my legs. My right hamstring had been giving me trouble for days beforehand. During the race it tightened up to such an extent that everything around it went into spasm and seized up as well.

My hip is not actually the problem — it’s just where the problem is most acutely expressed at the moment. The most notable issue is a large muscle knot (two, actually — but one is much worse than the other) deep in the heart of my right buttcheek (gluteal muscle). It sits at the top of my iliotibial (IT) band, which is no great shakes either. The IT band is not only tight, but it has scar tissue all up the side of it (both of them do, actually, although the right side is much worse than the left is). Did I mention my calves? They are also tight enough to bounce quarters off of.

I got scolded for running on pavement all these years. And not stretching or getting proper massages (meaning deep enough to be painful) all this time. Who knew?

What does this mean for me? A world of pain, the intensity of which I can scarcely describe.

For close to 90 minutes Sandra dug into these problem areas and made me alternately shriek and weep. Lots of her athletes break into tears while she does this, so I was told not to feel bad about it. I was also told that since she is undoing years of neglect, it’s going to really hurt and take at least another few sessions. She said the muscle knots have been there for a long, long time, given their density and size.

I also have about around 50 (seriously) stretching and strengthening exercises that I am to do twice a week now, working up to three times a week.

I was also told that, when she was still running competitively, Sandra would go engage in this process for 10 days with a guy in Ireland who is the best at this in the world. It was basically a Torture Holiday. Myotherapy, then run, then check things and do myotherapy again. Khalid still goes to him for this treatment. She ended up studying under the torture master and forging a parallel career.

Here’s what happens in these sessions:

  1. Sandra picks an area to work on. She digs into it (often using her elbow with full weight on it). I scream and cry. She expresses sympathy, but also warns that she’s just warming up the area — loosening the surface tissue so she can get closer to the source of the problem (knots and scar tissue).
  2. She digs and stabs. Then checks the muscle or tendon. Then digs and stabs some more. Then asks me if that last round of digging and stabbing was any less painful. I am tempted to lie sometimes, but I don’t because I know that will only prolong the process.
  3. Then she focuses on another area, letting the first recover a bit. Then she goes back and works on the original area some more. In the meantime, neighbors call the police because it sounds like horrific crimes are being committed on the second floor.
  4. I go home and take an ice bath. I do my stretches. I go running and see how far I get before it becomes painful. Then we do this again a few days later.
  5. Repeat until knots and scar tissue are gone.

There are some bright spots in all of this. For one, it’s not a serious injury. I was worried about a hip stress fracture or that my award-winning left bunion was causing all of this and would require surgery. For another, if I get all this shit worked out and do my stretching like my life depends on it (and try to stay off of pavement as much as possible), I should never have to go through this “cleaning the kitchen sink” process again.

Some pointed questions about books

I heard on NPR the other day that Amazon’s sales of Kindle editions is now outpacing their sales of hardcovers. They’re predicting Kindle editions will overtake paperbacks as well sometime in 2011. Amazon controls something like 12% of the bookselling market (don’t quote me on this — I also heard this on NPR in an interview with an industry expert), so they’ve hardly cornered the market.

Yet other signs point to the demise not just of the printed word (Barnes & Noble being up for sale, for one thing; the New York Times’ struggle to staunch annual operating losses in the hundreds of millions for another) but of traditional publishing as well. Is this a bad thing?

Consider this: books used to get edited copyedited and proofread as part of the publishing process. I doubt that they do anymore, or at least with any care. It’s common to see horrendous typos, malapropisms or production mistakes (like entire paragraphs repeated) even in later editions of a book. So quality has dropped off at the page level. But what about at the book level?

If a publisher has decided to put the money behind a manuscript, does that mean it’s a book worth reading? Oftentimes, the answer is no. Publishers publish and market what they think they can sell.

If you self-publish a book, does that make you a total loser? Does it mean your book sucks more than a book that a publisher actually decided to pay to publish, market and distribute? Self-publishing has a stink on it that you can smell a mile away, with the books being the turds no one wants to touch, let alone to admitting having produced themselves. But I sincerely hope that this is a state of affairs that will eventually change.

I have read “legitimate” books that were no better (or sometimes much worse) than self-published efforts. I suspect there are probably some very good self-published books out there too. If I could just find them. That’s one big problem when traditional publishing goes away: the marketing and promotion. But with that also goes the hype for books that are, frankly, not worth the paper they’re printed on (or, if you prefer, the hard drive space they’re taking up).

On reason I think that the quality of so many books has gotten so bad is that publishers are focused on their cash cow books. A bio of Hillary Clinton can keep a company afloat and pay for all those debut novels written by Jane Q. Dontquityourdayjob.

Is there a reason not to self-publish? Isn’t getting 100 people to buy and read your book better than having it rejected by 30 editors, never to find an audience at all? I kind of wish more people would stop looking to the publishing industry model and just jump on the self-publishing bandwagon. Wouldn’t it be great if a bunch of great writers emerged from what has traditionally been viewed as the final desperate option for failed writers?

Why not make the process of publishing as democratic — and as ephemeral — as blogging is? Blogs and videos find an audience through word of mouth. Perhaps ironically, a blog’s popularity will often lead to a book deal! (See also: Smitten Kitchen, Alright Tit, The Oatmeal, James Lileks et al.) Books…magazines…blogs…increasingly there’s not a lot of difference. I don’t care about the medium or format. I just want to read something that’s original, has a distinctive and consistent voice, and is interesting. Increasingly, I’m finding this content online, on people’s blogs. If traditional publishing — and the books it produces — is dying, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. Maybe it’s just evolution.

Diary of a hipster

The hip issue marches on, as it were. After a few days of experimenting with various self-treatments and observing their effects, here are some conclusions I’ve reached:

My hip does not like leg pulls. A leg pull is when I lie on a bed and Jonathan grips my foot and leans backward as though attempting to pull my leg off of my body. It feels great while he’s doing it, but it seems to  exacerbate the problem in the hours following the leg pulling. So no more of that.

My hip likes Nabumetone, an anti-inflammatory. My hip gives me a piece of its mind when I forget to take one every 12 hours. It would probably also respond well to Naproxen, which is a little stronger than Nabumetone, but which wreaks havoc on my innards.

My hip’s enjoyment of a nice, long ice bath verges on sexual. The colder the better. Later in the evening, it likes relaxing in the recliner with a chilly bag of ice wrapped around it. Yes, my straight-laced hip has a secret ice fetish.

My hip’s appreciation for Hydrocodone continues unabated. I take half 1-2x a day. Oddly, sometimes the hip pain goes away completely but the hamstring pain becomes more pronounced after taking one. Or maybe I just notice it more. But one would think a painkiller would kill all pain sources in equal measure. This does not seem to be so.

My hip likes Voltaren, a topical anti-inflammatory. It likes it very, very much. I might have to use the term “love” in this case.

My hip has gotten hip to stretching. It especially likes this stretch a whole lot. Runner up favorite is this one. Despite its complaints, it also seems to like being rolled around on a tennis ball for long periods of time.

Sometimes my hip makes a popping noise, but this happens when it’s at its most obstreperous, such as after leg pulls or an hour of lurching around in the outside world. So my theory is that some very slight imbalance came into full bloom on Saturday when there was a lot of compensatory action going on during my lopsided racing. The result? Lots of angry muscles, connective tissues and perhaps even inflamed bursas. The major bone/joint areas are caught in the middle of all of this, being thrown this way and that, and are making their popping protests during the worst of the arguments amongst the other battling body parts.

For now, I’m giving it a few more days to see if it sorts itself out. I’m convinced the issue is inflammation and not actual damage, such as a stress fracture. If it’s inflammation, I’m just going to be prescribed all the stuff I’m taking already. If it’s something else, I’ll know when it hasn’t resolved itself after a week.


Injury update: I hate to even call this an injury. I refuse to think of it as an injury. Until I’m told by a trained professional that this is an injury, it’s a weird problem that has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Right now, I’m in the middle. I don’t need crutches, although a cane wouldn’t be a bad idea. But I don’t want to use one, because that would be giving this issue more credence as an “injury.”

I can’t walk properly. For now, I lurch around. I’m taking Nabumetone, an anti-inflammatory and half a Hydrocodone every once in awhile, which is an Rx painkiller that’s no stronger than what you can buy in any Boots in the UK. Percocet was making me a little loopy, plus I think I need to be somewhat aware of this thing’s progress. Meaning that rather than totally masking the pain, I need to track its severity/improvement.

I’m not that much better than I was last night, but I think walking around helps. I can’t imagine running yet. I think I’m a few days away from that. This evening I’ll see if I can hop on it.