Friday, December 21, 2012

End of year odds and ends

Usually we get out of school for winter break around mid-month, so it's been a longer haul to make it to the 21st, especially since Thanksgiving was on the earlier side.  But, when twelve o'clock rolls around tomorrow, I will not dilly-dally, as the expression goes, but will head home immediately, and then we will hit the road - Colorado bound!  We have some new gear for this trip - skis - which we found in September at a remarkable Labor Day sale.  I still can't believe the deal that we discovered, and I've never ever skied with such nice equipment.  We had a great time skiing last year, even though we just went to Eldora, the local ski place outside of Boulder which does not merit rave reviews.  Still, it was so fun to return to the slopes to ski - after ten years, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it, even if I just stuck to blue runs!  Keystone, where we'll meet up with my family, should offer more options, as long as the snow is good (which it hasn't been great, but good is better than nothing).  But tomorrow, the car loaded down with dogs in the backseat, skis on top of the car, plenty of crap in the trunk, we start the trek east!

I do wish that I were leaving all work behind, but that is not the case.  Sadomasochist that I am, I assigned essays and gave tests this week, so these will accompany in my travels.  However, all of my college recommendations due on January 1st are finished, so that is a huge relief.  And, having some work over breaks is par for the course.  Even with a bit of grading, the next few weeks will be filled with plenty of celebrations!

As I've kept this trip in mind as a starting point for the holiday season, I suppose I haven't felt 100% in the "holiday spirit".  By no means have I felt ba-humbug, but certain traditional gatherings and events have felt more like obligations than usual.  That said, I've also enjoyed a few recent discoveries which I'll share, in no deliberate order:

- Neruda once wrote a series of poems Odes to Common Things, and one is "Ode to Socks" ("Oda a los calcetines").  I would write an ode, quite different from his, to my now-beloved Strassburg Sock.  I do think that it is helping with my PF 'condition'.

- After a long absence, we returned to Mijares, a Pasadena Mexican restaurant/institution, this week and enjoyed the food, drink and company!  While we love Amigo's, especially the margaritas, it was nice to change it up.  Also, the food was excellent, and I may have to return JUST for the machaca (shredded beef) - so good!

- In recent years, I've become a huge dirty gin martini convert, but I recently discovered whiskey drinks.  A dangerous find, I know, but especially on the colder nights that we've had, whiskey, apple cider and bitters is a great combination!

- Finally, I stumbled upon this fascinating interactive media article yesterday.  NYTimes take on an outdoor adventure gone awry, a bit like Kraukauer's Into Thin Air. The article, "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek" is fascinating!

Anyway, it's now Friday morning, so everything that was supposed to happen 'tomorrow' will be happening quite soon!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In limbo

While the religious definition of limbo does not describe my condition, considering the in-between quality of not quite being able to run yet not being injured, "limbo" seems like a fitting description.  After a mere two weeks of dealing with what is probably a mild flare-up of plantar fasciitis, I hoped that a run yesterday would prove productive and possible.  I was, unfortunately, quite mistaken, so I'm back to waiting around while still trying to be thankful that I can continue to be somewhat active (walking, spinning, swimming, probably biking if I'd get my ass on the bike).

I have scoured the interwebs with information about plantar fasciitis and have found zero consensus.  Probably the most fruitful discovery was that PF is often called "the vampire bite" of running.  I suppose, like a vampire's bite, there is no quick and/or easy solution - at least not for most people.  I've read dozens of sites, half of which advocate minimalist running shoes or barefoot running, the other half  advising a shoe with more stability.  Some people have success with PT, some don't.  For myself, I have yet to go the PT route, but am using a tennis ball (thanks ChezJulie!) to stretch/work the foot muscles.  I also invested in the Strassburg Sock and try to wear it when I'm hanging around the house after work, over the weekend and to also sleep with it at night.  I still suspect that my running shoes are the culprit - or partly - so I did go out and buy new shoes (which I can't wear yet!).  Finally, I've forked over money for two ART sessions (active release technique), and that has helped, but I'm not yet convinced that it is worth the money.  

In the meantime, I'm trying to be patient and look at this episode as a reason to take a break from running, with the hope that I'll be able to bounce back fairly soon.  I had considered some sort of a race in February - a trail race or a speedy-for-me half-marathon - but I've reconsidered that thought because I don't want to force the issue.  Not running has brought me back to the pool, which is never a bad thing, and although I'm not as dedicated as I would like to be, I've had several nice early morning swims and have amped up my yards a bit.  It's also been nice to opt for some lazy weekends, as much as I like getting out and doing 'stuff'.  Today, I chose baking pumpkin bread over swimming, and I can definitely live with that decision! Ideally, I'd like to return to running in January, but if not, I'll continue to focus on swimming and might reacquaint myself with my bike saddle.  Ooh, such a concept!

It hasn't been TERRIBLE not running.  Not yet.  Ask me in another month, but for now, my quality of life hasn't suffered, even though I miss the ease and convenience of walking out the door to do a loop around the neighborhood.  I do hope that the PF won't interfere with skiing as, for the short-term, that is more important to me than running.  I'd rather be able to ski in Colorado in just a few weeks and again Mammoth in January than run right now!  

Come February and March, I'll have a dramatically different take on the situation if it hasn't been remedied in one way or another, and you might find me in both minimalist and crazy maximalist shoes, in a desperate attempt to heal.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wait wait!

I know that some people keep a "bucket list", but I've always hesitated to put to paper (or type out) a list of things that I want to have experienced before I kick it for good, partly because my preferences have changed so much in the last decade, so why try to dictate life experiences for the next 10 - 20 years, and even the years beyond.  However, I've been a huge fan of the NPR show "Wait wait don't tell me" for a while now, and if I had a bucket list, seeing a live taping of the show would be on the list.

Or it would have been on the list - because it is no longer a 'pending item'.  Michael and I went to Downtown LA last night to see Peter Sagal, Carl Kasell and 3 panelists as they recorded the show live!  We nixed birthday presents to each other this year, hoping to eliminate more "stuff" in our lives, but we remained open to the idea of celebrations.  His birthday was this week, so when we learned that NPR/KPCC would live tape the show at the Nokia Theater, we thought "Why not?! What a great way to celebrate."

So, we actually went out on - for me - a school night!  Living on the edge, I know.  Before the show, we went to The Edison, a swank bar also in downtown LA.  I appreciated the idea of the bar, trying to recall a bygone era, and it was a fun experience for an evening.  Cool interior, and our expensive drinks were really great, even though they were small!  I did enjoy the black-and-white silent movies that they played on different walls.  I was fixated on one wall which played movies by Georges Melies,  whose work the movie "Hugo" featured.

After that, we headed to the Nokia Theater.  Despite living in LA for 7 years, this was our first foray to the Nokia Theater (we've been to Staples all of one time).  We weren't quite sure where to go, but we completely judged people on their fashion sense and followed those who looked as though they listened to NPR.  Bingo!  I had no idea what to expect and was actually nervous that the live taping would somehow let us down, but it actually lived up to my expectations - and even exceeded them.  It was strange yet fun to see Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell and also the panelists on stage.  One of the main reasons that we (I) bought the tickets on impulse was because Paula Poundstone was one of the panelists, and she was a bit like she comes across on the radio - awkwardly rambling at times and razor-sharp at other times.  After checking out her website, I saw one of her most recent tweets:  'Congress just banned the word "Lunatic" from Federal Legislation.  They replaced it with "fuck wad."'  Yes, I'm immature enough to find that quite funny.

It was a really interesting experience which I'm not going to describe very well.  I thought that it might feel forced or stiff, but the panelists were definitely "on".  Also, Peter Sagal - he's the dude.  Okay, Jeff Bridges is "The Dude", but Peter Sagal's stamina over the 2 hours of the taping was impressive.  Also, he and Carl stood the entire time, at separate podiums, while wearing headphones and a mike.  Kind of crazy! Oh - they were also dressed professionally, coat and tie, which seemed so traditional of them.  Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the taping happened at the end, when he, Carl and the panelists had to retape certain parts that weren't "clean" (I know nothing of radio-speak, obviously).  After the taping, they took questions from the audience, but at that time, I was falling asleep (it was 10:00 pm!), so we hit the road.  My only wish or regret for the night surprised me in retrospect - the guest was Hugh Bonneville from the show "Downton Abbey", and I think that I like his character on the show more than I liked the actor on stage last night, sad to say.

By the end of the night, our faces hurt from laughing for almost 2 hours straight which is not a bad way to spend an evening!  I'm curious to hear the episode tomorrow (or the podcast - whenever) to find out which jokes make it on to the program and how they piece it all together.  I'm not sure if that will detract from the experience of seeing the taping - I'll find out.

And I'd definitely see another live taping again, and if someone is a fan of the radio show, I'd recommend the experience!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Conversations with my body

I'm not sure if other people "talk" to their body.  I hear/read about the importance of listening to your body, but most of my conversations tend to be pretty one-sided.  In fact, my gut reaction to the whole listen-to-your-body ethos is to roll my eyes.  Personally, I tend to talk, and I expect my body to listen.  This has probably been the case for a while, although the conversation has changed over the years (my adolescent conversations bemoaned typical adolescent themes, which I won't go into here).

As I've entered the almost-middle age period and try to maintain an active lifestyle, most of the conversations are bargains that I make.  They follow these lines: "Okay, just get through this training cycle and then you'll get a nice break!" or "I promise that I'll go to the chiropractor AND get a deep-tissue massage, so don't be angry with me!" or "Don't get a cold now, wait until it's more convenient, please!" or the biggie "Just get through one more month and then I'll go to the knee doc and get a cortisone shot".  So, yes, I wheedle, plead, cajole, and make deals so that my body stays functional.  Usually I follow up on the deals in one way or another, and it does seem that I have a nice team of people that keep me going.

I think, however, that 2012 has been a pretty high-intensity year for my 40-year-old body, and it's performed for me - with the exception of bonking on the 30K trail race, but that was a mental problem as much as it was physical.  At some point, I had promised myself to take a nice long break from running after the trail race, and I did take a week off before testing out my legs this past week.  The two runs went well - they felt slow but weren't terrible.  However, the aftermath of each run was not exactly pretty.  On Monday night, after a 5.5 mile run, my hip and back started hurting.  Hmmm....  So, I took a few days between and then went on a short run on Friday.  Again, I hammered out the miles without a big deal, but then the same weird hip/back pain flared up afterwards.

So, Friday night, I promised myself that I would get to the chiropractor within the next week and try to see what was going on, but I wasn't overly concerned.

That was until yesterday morning, when I woke up and could barely walk because of a stabbing pain in my right heel on the bottom of my foot.  What was this?!  Pain that continued throughout the day and allowed me to walk, but with a hobbled gait.  After checking out my symptoms on the interweb (always trustworthy), I self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, a common yet, from what I gathered, fairly debilitating condition.  I know several people who deal/have dealt with it, and I'm aware that it is no light matter.  Maybe it's something else, but I'm about as sure as I've been about any self-diagnosis thanks to internet information.

So, fine, I'm officially "listening" to my body.  Yes, I'll take a break from running, and I'll pay much closer attention to stretching and icing, and I have an appointment for Monday afternoon to deal with my body in general (hips, knee, ITband, foot issues).  I had already planned to spend more time in the pool this month, so this gives me a good push to do so.

Taking a longer-than-planned break from running does not make me a happy camper, but I'll take it if I can run pain-free in the long term!

And, yes, it seems that I'm finally listening to my body.