Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Can and Can't

What I can't control:
  • The weather and other natural forces
  • The passage of time
  • Gravity
  • Other people's behavior and choices
  • The sound of my upstairs neighbor's vacuum
  • How other people drive
  • My genetic makeup
  • The eventual decay of food in my fridge
  • The price of gas
  • Mortality
  • The air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow
What I can control:
  • My own behavior, choices, and reactions to the list above.
Sure, one can mitigate against that which one can't control.  I own a big warm jacket because while I can't control the weather, I can make the choice to stay warm in my jacket.  I can't control how other people drive, but I can behave in a safe and alert manner on the road and wear my seatbelt.  I change my oil in my car to prevent the deterioration of the mechanical parts of my car engine.  I go to the doctor's and work out to slow the eventual breakdown of my body and organs.

Unfortunately, mitigation can often give the illusion of control.  Wash your hands, wipe down every surface with bleach, don't touch anyone, wear a mask, and you won't get sick.  But you can still get sick.  The illusion of control lulls us (ok, me) into a false sense of security: Do this and you can prevent that.  Exercise and good diet can keep a person healthy longer, but no one will live forever.  This false sense of security, placation, really, is in place to keep people from panicking on a daily basis.  Even with mitigation, people still panic.

I'm very comfortable thinking that I can control things.  The flip side of that is how completely uncomfortable I am not being in control.  If you've ever had me as a passenger in your car, notice that I don't pay attention to the road.  Or if I am paying attention to traffic, my legs are stiff, my right hand is gripping the handle, and I'm braced for impact.  I may also (likely will) make fearful gaspy noises when you or other drivers do things I don't expect.  This is not a testament to your driving (well, it may be, but I'd never tell you that), but an example of how much I hate not being in control.

In the final death throws months of my relationship with The Boy, when I was going to therapy to learn how to be in a relationship with someone with anxiety and depression, Therapist told me something that I've found valuable in every aspect of life.  I relayed to her a particularly bad fight we'd recently had, which included some more than harsh remarks verbal abuse from him.  She was shocked to hear what he had said, and when I told her that he was going through a particularly low time in his depression cycle (basicly "excusing" him), she said "He can't control his mood, but he CAN control his behavior."  Wow.  It seemed so obvious when she said it...

In that moment I knew The Boy and I were destined to be done. I realized that if he can control his behavior, by extension I could control mine, and that my behavior had lead me to stay in an unhealthy and unhappy relationship for years.  Only by changing my behavior could I change my situation. Her statement changed my entire paradigm.  I'm sure I've heard similar things said to me over the course of my life; either I wasn't ready to hear them or I didn't fully understand it as I did in that moment.  Not only could the boy control his behavior, that's all ANYONE can really control.  Mitigation against bad things happening is behavior.  Reacting to forces beyond our control is behavior.  Inaction is behavior.

So now when I feel the world is spinning out of my control and I feel like I'm floundering in a stormy sea, I remind myself: I can't control the world, only my own behavior towards it.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

FatAss 50K (on a bike) Part 2

I check back on my group when I'm in front - everyone's looking good, so I ride ahead up this hill, challenging myself and knowing that they're alright.  Occasionally I see us from an outsider's eye: two or three runners on a cold winter day, and a biker with a silly striped hat.  I find it alternately absurd and fantastic.  I know there are people driving by in their SUV's, kids plugged in to the DVD player in the back, looking at us like we're crazy.  I know this because I used to be those people (sans SUV, DVD, and kids).  It's ok.  Either something will move them and they'll come around, or they won't.  I'm glad I came around.

One of the fun parts of going on any kind of trek, especially one that puts you in immediate contact with the world (as opposed to behind the window of a car or train, etc.) is seeing things you would never have seen otherwise.  Gross things, like riding over freshly killed chippies; random things like a glove stuck in a snow bank; awesome things like a FOUR TIERED SNOWMAN (seriously, that this was kickass).  I personally cherish those little sights and experiences.  Like cairns, they remind me that I'm on a path, creating mental landmarks and a framework for the journey.

Side note: Henniker must have an awesome sign maker, because almost every business, office, or establishment had a carved and painted wooden sign hanging out front.  It was very "old timey" looking, and I'm sure someone in the Henniker planning department is super proud of him-or-her-self for making businesses get them.  Mr. or Ms. Planning Department Person, well played.

Avoiding traffic in Henniker was a challenge.  The roads are narrow, there's a big long hill, and for some reason EVERYONE was out in their cars on Sunday.  Actually, traffic was pretty heavy almost half the time, even in Hillsboro.  The runners could move to sidewalks when they were available, but that wasn't a great game plan for me - the ice and snow was too unpredictable under my wheels, and (because I am stubborn) I wasn't wearing a helmet.

Entering into the Gould Pond area the second time, all the runners are tired.  I'm cold, my quads are a little stiff, and my butt is totally saddle sore, but I'm still feeling pretty good over all.  It was unspoken, but everyone could feel the mood dropping.  Instinctively, we all took turns doing our best to keep things light, keep everyone moving forward, keep minds off of hurting feet or aching legs.  Sherpa exclaims that the last 6 miles in Hillsboro to be the LONGEST SIX MILES EVER and he's not wrong.  I knew I was feeling better than these guys, but good GOD it took forever to get through that neighborhood!

That last turn back onto Bog Rd. was magical.  One final hill, and at the top is the house.  We all wearily trudge up the driveway, looking forward to warmth (I *didn't* get frostbitten toes, thankfully), bathrooms (whatever moves you forward, right?), couches and kittehs.  Beef stew, "Turkey Beans," tea, water, chips, and an assortment of other belly warmers were consumed over the next few hours.  We said goodbye to Sherpa as he went home to his fiance, and gladly sank into the comfy cushions in the living room.  I've never been so content to drink tea and watch football in my life.

With all the fun I had, all the things I saw, there's nothing quite like the joy of completion.  I can never really relax until the job is done.  Even though I was stiff and cold, I felt great.  The state of my body was a testament to my day: completing 32 miles on my bike, however slowly, spending the day with friends, being out doors in this beautiful state, challenging myself.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FatAss 50K (on a bike) Part 1

My Runner had originally signed up for the Boston Prep Race this weekend.  Always frugal, he decided to save the entry fee and create his own run.  Thus the Fat Ass 50K was born: two 16 mile loops in Hillsboro and Henniker.  Since I'm convalescing, I rode it on my bike.  Sherpa joined us from the Seacoast, and Puma Girl on the second loop.

The forecast had predicted 37* temps and rain for Sunday.  Thank you, nature, for holding off on the rain, though the temps were low.  My Runner, Sherpa, and I on my cycle headed out at 9:30am in a crisp winter day with the sun shining through a few clouds.  The loop is beautiful, starting out on packed dirt roads and paved back roads of Hillsboro.  We cross under the highway and turn onto a road following the Contoocook River (ask Sherpa how it got it's name... )  In Henniker we cross over the highway again, following a rolling path back east, leading to the neighborhoods around Gould Pond and back to the start.  As the day moved from sunny to overcast, the landscape remained beautiful: country roads, downtown Henniker, a highway overpass with views of the mountains all around.

I love being out with My Runner.  It wasn't until we couldn't run together that I really knew how much I loved it.  I missed my running partner.  Sure, I miss running, but I mostly miss running with him.  Honestly, it's a great time for us.  We talk and laugh and catch up, we challenge each other, and sometimes it's the easiest time to say the hardest things.  Being out there with the bike wasn't the same, but it was close enough.  32 miles is a loooong run, even for an Ultra Runner, in the off season, and I'm glad I could be there with him through this challenge.

Sherpa seemed psyched to run Sunday morning.  If you haven't read his blog, I encourage you to.  While I don't agree with every opinion he has (and he's got a few...) I do agree with his core philosophy about human potential.  Hell, I've experienced it.  When I first met Sherpa at the VT50, he asked if I ran.  I'm pretty sure I laughed at him and at the thought of me EVER being a runner.  Well, shows what I know.  Anywhoodle, Sherpa was a frickin' riot on Sunday, catching My Runner and I up on some gossip, telling dirty jokes, sacrificing his gloves to the defecation gods, dancing down the road to Led Zepplin....  Not that there weren't quiet moments, but if you're gonna spend 6 hours in the cold, having a good time makes it much funner.

After a bit of food, bathroom breaks, and (for me) warmer socks, we were back out on the road.  Puma Girl joined us for the second lap.  Puma Girl has been training hard for the Peak Snowshoe Marathon and was nursing some heel pain, but luckily found that was not an issue today.  It's always great to see someone challenge themselves, and Puma did just that and came out on top.

A fresh addition makes a difference in a group.  Granted, I felt somewhat removed the whole time since I'm on wheels and they're on feet, but I could still observe the dynamic.  Actually, I could probably see it clearer.
I often had to choose to bike on ahead or slam my breaks and steer to the side to avoid traffic.  I preferred going behind the group rather than in front if I had to.  I liked seeing everyone, making sure they were all ok.  Still, even in front I had time to think about the day - we were out for 6 hours - and the group.  I remember when I was in high school in Venture class, Coach K would tell me that leading is harder than following.  I always knew that to be true when one is the lead in planning, on a group project, etc, and I was comfortable with that kind of risk.  But leading on a trail was frightening for me.  What if I'm going too slow?  Too fast?  What if I miss a marker and get us lost?  What if someone behind me sees my ineptitude and calls my dumbass on it?  Eventually, with the help of that class, I pushed my self to lead more often on the trail and let others lead more often in the planning.  I still find it challenging to be in the lead on excursions, but the combination of that experience at 18 and my subsequent years in this world have enabled me to let go of the anxiety and the questions.

Part 2 posted soon!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Therapy of the Physical Kind

You'd think with a family of medical professionals (and some working towards it) I'd be smart when it came to physical ailments.  Turns out I'm merely sophomoric.  And there's a reason I went into the arts and not the sciences.

I misdiagnosed my injury owie.  After my evaluation with Effie, my PT, today, she pinpointed the pain better than I or my doctor did and found that the rotator muscles, the ones that keep the ball in the socket of my hip joint, are actually the problem.  After a thorough session of stretching and flexing and pushing, she determined the cause to be high flexibility in my hips (I actually saw her eyes get wider when she was rotating my legs) but weakness in the adductor and abductor muscles (the in and out ones).

Effie also found that my quads were crazy tight.  She had me lay on the table with one knee at my chest and the other leg hanging off, with the edge of the table at butt level.  Apparently, one's leg should hang at a 90* angle.  Mine was more obtuse - closer to 120*.  Whoops.  She guessed the tightness was a combination of not stretching and my glutes compensating for my hips.

I walked out with homework and hope.  I have several stretches that I have to do daily, plus strengthening exercises.  She told me I was allowed to ride a stationary bike, but I should refrain from running until the pain goes away.  Effie will be doing my overall plan, though I'll meet with her and Laura, another clinician, twice a week.  Monday is my next appointment, and I'll be doing more exercises and getting new homework.

Obviously it's too early to tell if I'll be able to train at all or even run the half marathon.  I did let her know that I signed up for it and am going to VA, regardless of progress, but I'll be advised by them on if I should attempt it.  

It's nice to finally feel something other than frustration.  I felt like Effie really heard me.  She knew that being active was important to me.  She treated me like an individual, and took the time to help find stretches that worked for me, correcting my form in some cases.  It was everything I hoped for.  

The real challenge?  I've never been one to do my homework.  Of course, I was never as motivated by trigonometry as I am now.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

I've got a bad case of.... tendinitis. 

I ran for the first time in over a week on Sunday.  2.2 miles, mostly dirt.  My hip was bothering me a bit when we were done.  Ten minutes after it was bothering me a lot.  An hour later, I was limping.  The next day, pain still.

The worst part about being injured is the total lack of control I have over it.  Sure, I can keep from injuring it further, mostly, but really I can't do anything to help.  And I hate it.  I hate that it slows me down.  I hate that I walk like an old lady if I've been sitting on it too long.  I hate that I think about it when I'm playing hockey or want to go running or snow shoeing.  I hate that it makes me cry, not from the pain but from the frustration.  Mostly I hate that it's keeping me from spending time with My Runner doing what we love. 

So I did the only thing I have control over.  I called my doctor on Monday to follow up.  A week of rest, ibuprofen, and ice and/or heat had not improved anything.  My pain was mostly gone during that week, but it often felt stiff or sore.  And obviously running aggravated it again.  The answering service took my information (yeah, they were open, they just screen calls with a service - how bureaucratic of them...) and I started looking for Physical Therapy offices. 

My Dad had a great suggestion - call a local running club for suggestions.  My Runner, taking it a step further, suggested I contact the local running store, as the local running club operates through them.  His suggestion was spot-on; they had several referrals for me.  Ultimately I chose a place that was relatively close by, and one of the staff is acquainted with My Runner.  Hopefully I won't feel as anonymous as I do at my doctor's office.  I called to ask if I needed a referral or prescription from my doctor (I did), and asked them to fax over any new patient forms I'd need to fill out (they did).  The nurse from my doctor's office called in as I was finishing that conversation.

She confirmed what I had told the answering service (seriously?  why bother?), and I spoke to her about PT.  She said, "Sounds like tendinitis to me.  There's no cure for that."  ::pause::  Yeah, ok, well I'd like to keep it from recurring.  "Well, it's not like we can perform surgery on it.  It doesn't go away."  ::more pause::  Yes, I understand, but I lead an active life style and I would like to work with a Physical Therapist so I can learn to keep this in check and avoid the pain.  "Oh.  Well, I'll have to go talk with the doctor."

Really?  Jeeze... ok.  Already diagnosed it as tendinitis (coulda told you that a week and a half ago when you said ibuprofen and ice, but ok), and now we need to "talk" to the doctor to see if it's ok if I go to PT?  Fine. 

"The doctor wants to see you before she gives you a prescription for PT.  Would you like an appointment next week?"  No, I want your next available appointment.  "Ah.  Tomorrow, 9:15am?"  Yes.  See you then.

Tuesday morning I arrive at the office at 9:10am, wait the customary 15 minutes, am ushered into an exam room where the medical assistant takes my pulse (51 bpm, not bad) and blood pressure (82/174 - is that good?  I don't even know....), and asks AGAIN what's wrong.  As she's writing it into the computer I wonder how many other entries they have with the EXACT SAME information.  You know, what I've told the answering service twice, the nurse twice, and now the medical assistant?  She leaves, the doc comes in, and asks me THE SAME DAMNED QUESTIONS.  And guess what?  She types them into the computer.  ::sigh::  I feel like some sort of typing test - who can type my complaint the fastest with the least amount of missed keystrokes?

She has me take off my pants (hottt, yeahh) and pushes around my hip a bit asking where it hurts.  I know this is a formality, but seriously, I pointed to my hip flexor tendon, and said, "It hurts here."  Guess what?  That's the only place she found where it hurt.  Then she had me push my leg around in different directions, I suppose to see WHICH hip tendon hurt when I was using it.  Ready for the big surprise?  Yeah, there's not one.  Same result.  Good job doc.  I'm sure she just had me in to collect the fees from Anthem.  Awesome.  Way to be a part of the big machine.

She tells me she's gonna send me to PT (duh - would have walked out and taken my insurance card to another office right then and there if she hadn't), and that they would help build up the muscle in my legs and lower torso to take some of the strain off my tendon.  Sure, whatevs, hon.  Just get the script and let me put my pants back on. 

At checkout I tell the nurse what PT office I had chosen.  She assures me she'll fax them my info and they'll contact me.  I'm an impatient sort - I ended up calling them that afternoon and set up an appointment for tomorrow.  I faxed in my patient information forms, and hopefully, starting Thursday, I'll be on the road to recovery.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Hockey Squared

Coming off my week of rest, I'm about 3 weeks behind in my half-marathon training and starting the new hockey season on Monday.  Followed by Tuesday.

Yep, thanks to the ever zealous Cap'n Mop, I (along with his wife Face) are now playing hockey TWO nights in a row.  Initially I was trepidatious, to say the least.

ok.  Initially I was totally stressed.  I had just cleared most of my calendar and am still recovering from an injury owie.  Now all of a sudden I was committed to not 10 games of hockey but 20!  I started to hyperventilate as I filled out my calendar through March....

Taking deep breaths, counting slowly, I calmed down and thought about it.  I really enjoy playing, even when I'm not playing well.  I knew my playing suffered last season from lack of practice; here's a built in "practice" opportunity.  Even better, I'd be playing with different people both nights, which would help me learn to adapt.

While I still get the heebs looking at my calendar and its very few empty spaces, I feel much better about my commitment to playing hockey.  It's fun, I've wanted to improve, and when it stops being fun I will stop playing.

ps... don't worry, cap'n, it'll never stop being fun.  ;-)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Sure it's mid-January, but it's never a bad time to affirm one's goals. Especially when one's friends can hold you accountable once those goals have been stated. So, dear friends, hold me accountable.

There are several goals on this list. It's ambitious, I know, but I often bite off more than I can chew, so your support is welcome and appreciated.

Complete Dolphin Challenge
Be ok with saying "no" to invitations
Crew and support others in their goals
Cook at least one new recipe a month
Begin Goalie training
Use my brand-spanking new snow shoes until they don't look new
Build up savings account
Become a strong enough runner to pace
Realize I'm not a failure if I fail to meet any or all of these goals - only if I don't try

Monday, January 11, 2010

I have an owie.

I'm hesitant to call it an "injury" because I don't feel like I'm "injured." It's not like I sprained an ankle or cut myself or even got a bruise. I just... hurt.

About a week ago my left hip flexor tendon (the one that helps you raise your leg forward) started hurting. It would bother me when I ran, or when I went snow shoeing, and then for a bit after. Then it started bothering me all the time. I tried to run 4 miles on Wednesday, but could only make it 2. My hip bothered me for the rest of the night and all of the next day.

Like a good girl, I called my doctor. Now I know why people don't do this - they tell you things you don't want to hear. She recommended I ice my hip, take ibuprofen 3-4 times a day to reduce the inflammation, and not run/snowshoe for a week at least. AT LEAST.

In typical me-fashion, I mostly ignored what she said. I took the ibuprofen, I didn't run on Friday like I had originally planned, but I did snowshoe on Saturday. We were out for maybe an hour, on a hill where trails were already broken, and I could feel it long before we got back to the truck. And for most of the rest of the night. The next day, I iced it, took ibuprofen, and cleared my week of running or snowshoeing.

This puts a serious cramp in my training. I mean, I don't want to make it worse - then it would... well, be a worse problem. As of today I have 9 weeks and change before the half-marathon. It seems like a long time, but I'm working up from 4 miles to 13 miles, fighting an "injury" and trying not to injure myself more. My doctor did tell me I could do some weight training, but there's not a lot of exercises I can do that don't involve stressing that tendon. Anything core- or upper-leg-related would stress it. Still, I hope to hit the gym a few times this week and at least do some upper-body and calf exercises just to pass the week and keep my metabolism from completely collapsing.

I'm also hoping to get my doctor to refer me to a Sports Medicine specialist. This issue has plagued me off and on for years now, but it's never been an issue because I've always been able to give it plenty of rest. I'd like to see what I'm doing that might be causing this, and what I can do to avoid it. If you have a recommendation, I'd be happy to hear it. I'm not overly fond of my doctor, so I don't really trust her to send me to the best person.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Whoops! Uh.... Hi!

You ever get that call? It goes something like this:
You: Hello?
Them: Oh! ... um.... HI! Hey!!!! How are ya???
You: Good! Great to hear from you, it's been a while!
Them: Yeah, heh... actually I called you by accident... I meant to call You Smith... hah... weird how you have the same first name...
You: oh... ha... right. Well, catch you later.

I've been on both ends of this REALLY awkward situation. This morning my phone rang at 8:30am. Since I was at work (and actually doing work - yes, it does happen), I silenced my phone and let it go to voicemail. It was my Dad; weird for him to call since we had just talked on Sunday, but we had been in the process of making plans for a visit. Listening to my voicemail my dad starts out laughing, "Oh, good morning my Favorite Daughter (he likes to call me this since I'm his only daughter. That we know of.) I didn't really mean to call you, but... uh...Hope your day is going great!! Uh..... Bye!"

A one-sided awkward conversation. Who knew?

On the flip side, I used to do this to Seacoast ALL the time. Seacoast and Golden Girl share the same first name, hair color, and (un)lucky fate in having been my roommate at one time or another. I would make a call to (I thought) Golden Girl:
Me: Hey, can you pick up some milk on your way home?
Seacost: Uhh.... sure... not sure how I'm gonna get it from Portsmouth to Brooklyn, though.
Me: OH! Heyy...... uh, how ya doin? (etc.)

Luckily Seacoast had a great sense of humor about it (or she was really, REALLY kind). It was always nice to catch up with her, of course. It was kind of like both of us were getting that unexpected phone call from a distant friend. I always felt kinda guilty afterwards, though.

But Seacoast is a long time friend. What about when you make a call to someone you don't want to talk to? You know, those folks you keep in your phone so you know to ignore the call (not any of you, of course... all those other crazy bums). Like, you mean to call your Dentist, but you end up calling Dennis, the wicked annoying guy from your previous job who wouldn't stop hitting on you even though you were VERY clear that NOTHING would EVER happen. EVER. How does one handle that?

How would you handle that?

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