Monday, April 27, 2015

Addicted?


I suppose each life is full of addictions.  We find something we like, it improves our quality of life and has a considerable impact on our physical and emotional well-being.  And when we find this something (or somethings), it’s only natural to do it again and again and again. 

There are many things in this meager little existence of mine that improve the quality of life and boost my emotional and physical well-being.  Things like internet access, hot water, cake, bike racks, caffeine, sunshine, snowstorms, books and itty-bitty moleskin notebooks. 

But of all the well-being uppers, Running, trumps them all.

I went to bed each day with hopes and dreams of the next morning’s run.  The anticipation of each morning run was alarm clock enough – no further motivation or stimulus was needed.  Each run started slowly, to work out and stiffness or fatigue, but then, after a mile or two, the methodical thump-thump of both feet and heart produced a “YES!  I am alive!” euphoria.  Each run was five (or six or eight or ten or twenty) miles of pure, clean crystalline dopamine, which, after finishing, guaranteed a cool, calm collection and an amped brain. 

Nothing compares to the post-run high.  Nothing.  The post-run high is emotional and physical bliss. My skin and all major organs, cells and bones would buzz with a gooey sort of electric current. I had more patience. I had more energy. I liked me more.

What’s wrong with that?!  Nothing!  Unless you can’t do it anymore.

The trouble with dopamine or other feel-good brain chemicals is this thing called tolerance.  The more you use it, the more you need.  So one might be able to run five miles, five days a week and be great for a while.  But soon that won’t be enough and you’ll need six miles, then seven, then ten, then twenty, then... you’ll run until your body can’t run anymore.

There’s a lot of talk about “healthy addictions.”  About how, “If you’re going to be addicted to something, it might as well be exercise. It’s good for you!” Or there’s also “As far as addictions go, it’s not a bad one.”  All of that addiction justification works really well, when you are able to run.  But when you can’t run?  The world crashes and it crashes hard.

I have spent the last two years in a vicious cycle of run-injured-crash-run-injured-crash.  Each crash sidelines me for days.  I cry, I mope, I feel like shit and my confidence and self-worth are shot.  After a few weeks, I feel okay again as my brain finally adapts.  But then a few more weeks will go by and I’ll think “I can run again, but this time I’ll stretch more…” or warm up more, or eat more broccoli, or blah-more-blah-more-blah.

They (the folks who wrote that one article that I looked at in my school library) say that running is similar to heroin in a lot of ways.  It utilizes opiate receptors in the brain and causes an intense withdrawal when one stops cold turkey.  You get the fidigets, you sweat some, you bark at people for no reason and you want to remove every square inch of your skin with a dull cheese grater.  I have stopped running cold turkey several times.  I know what this is like.  It’s horrible.  And after you do it a few times, a little fairy shows up and says, “Girl?  Yer addicted.”

But it’s a healthy addiction!  If you’re going to be addicted to something, it might as well be running!  As far as addictions go, running is not a bad one!

Running doesn’t get in the way (not counting the thousands of times in your life that you scheduled the family Saturdays ‘n vacations ‘n everything else around it) unless you can’t run any more.  And then when it stops suddenly, and you feel as if your first born pet was strung up and shot before your eyes, you begin to think seriously about hangin’ at the high school to see if you can score some smack.


So here’s my question for today: Is there such a thing as a healthy addiction?


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Transexy Transmedia


Get a load of my transexy transmedia! 


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The Story Has Changed


Last May I was sitting in a doctor’s office pulling tissue after tissue out of a box.  Minutes before this doc had explained that my lower extremity situation was symptomatic of something called Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome or CECS and that the only course of action was a relatively invasive “bilateral surgery” of which he explained was not worth it “just so you can run.”

Oh the tears.  So many tears.  ALL of the tears.  They gushed like a busted sprinkler line. “There’s a test,” he said, and continued the explanation of said test while my salty sprinkler spillage soaked up every last tissue in that box.

Let me back up and provide you with a quick ‘n dirty definition of CECS.  The human body has several muscle compartments that are held together with a cartilage-type sheath called a fascia.  The function of fascia varies, but for the purpose of this Story Has Changed story, I’m going to stick to the fascia that surrounds compartments.  The compartment fascia’s primary function is to hold the enclosed muscles within their intended location.  Without the fascia, you’d have random muscle parts floating around.

Fascia is super cool because it’s strong as steel yet elastic enough to expand and compress as blood flow changes.  As we age, our muscles and fibers and whatnot lose a bit of their elasticity.  Our fascias (fasciai?) are no exception.  As we age, or if we overuse, the fascia ditches the flexible part of its character set and subsequently loses its ability to expand and contract.  Therefore, when a runner is running, and the calf compartment fills up with blood, the fascia cannot expand.  Increased pressure in the compartment minimizes oxygenated blood flow and the muscle chokes. If the activity is continued, the result is often a strain or a tear.

Minor tangent: blogs are so cool.  My knee jerk reaction to that paragraph above was to go out and find the sources, cite the sources, quote the sources, etc., etc.  Then I realized Hah!  It’s a blog! I don’t have to do that! I’m really sick of citing sources…

The test for chronic exertional compartment syndrome is invasive. First, they jab a needle into all four of your calf compartments (times two calves, that’s eight jabs).  This is performed to measure your “before” pressure.  Second, you run on a treadmill until you tear something then run five more minutes.  Finally, they jab another needled into all four calf compartments (two calves, eight more jabs) to measure the “after” pressure.  If the pressure increases exponentially, it’s a CECS diagnosis in the affirmative.  All said done, that’s sixteen needle jabs and at least one torn calf.

The only cure for a positive CECS diagnosis is a surgical procedure called a fasciotomy (click the link for the gory details), which involves the filleting of all involved compartments. Most fasciotomies require 12 to 15-inch incisions; some cases require two such incisions on each leg.  Lots of recovery time. Lots of no walking. Lots of might-not-even-work. Lots of pain.  Lots of scars. 

The doc was explaining this to me over that box of tissues.  “It’s probably time to quit,” he said.  I looked up at him in disbelief.  Seriously, dude, is that the best you’ve got?  You’re throwing this news at me like a dollar-store Frisbee.  The only thing missing was “Here lady! Catch!” followed by a smack in the face. 

Normally, I understand that people who don’t run just don’t get it and I toss their remarks aside.  But this doc was an exception. I had just finished reading his epic sports-doc biography, one that boasted of his physical prowess ­– Cycling! Swimming! Running! Croquet!  Said biography, I might add, was also peacocking his plan to break 3:00 at his next marathon.

In the last year, I’ve grown to realize that this doc and so many other runners were not being insensitive.  You might think they should get it but they don’t. And by get it, I mean understand, empathize and relate to the loss of running.  I have lost something I love; something that can’t be replaced and the world seems to expect that I carry on as normal.

You’d think he and all the other runners would understand, having that same love affair, but in reality, they don’t get it because they are sure it will never happen to them. People won’t (refuse to) get it when they believe they don’t have to.  I know this because I was the same way.  I was grateful to run, that’s for sure, and thought I had empathy for those who were unable to.  It was a different sort of gratitude and empathy, however, because I was sure that I’d never lose it.  The irony of this whole ordeal, is that the running community (on-line, off-line, between-the-line, walking-the-line) completely sucks at empathizing with you when you can’t run.  We are cast out and left alone in the wind.  To walk! Of all things to do in the wind. 

So back to the doc and the empty tissue box and the test.  I had finally healed myself enough to hike and bike and was looking forward to the summer.  There wasn’t any way in hell that I’d subject myself to that dumb test – a test, no less, that would surely seal the no-running deal for the summer.  Maybe even forever. At this point, it had been a year since I had done any sort of running.

I drove home and could barely see because it was raining.  Wait… was it raining…?  No!  I was crying! And it looked like rain!  Even turned the wipers on!

Such a sad day.

The saddest part – and I remember this clearly – is that, in the midst of my blubber-fest and at the forefront of my woes, was this blog.  Thy thoughts were dire. It’s a running blog! I can’t write on a running blog if I can’t run!  Do I have to bury my blog now?! Prolly so.

So I buried the blog.  Sort of.  

I’m going to school now and it’s terrific.  I love it.  Right now I have this Digital Storytelling class, which has caused me to stretch and produce some really bad stuff.  It sure is a bonus when you stretch real hard and it’s still bad!  Oh the horror of my digital (image, audio, video) stories!  So bad! 

The final project for this Digital Storytelling class (aka Writing 3040) is a transmedia story, which as you might already know, is a story that goes across some media.  Trans means across, but each time I say “trans,” even in my silent mind, I think of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show singing that Sweet-Transvestite-Transexual-from-Transylvania song.  

As I’m brainstorming this final project, it occurred to me that I already have a home base for the transmedia story, ten whole years in the making, so why don’t I just dig it up?  And make it transexy with some transmedia? 

I was all over that idea.  Until I remembered (as if I ever forget) that I don’t run anymore. If I dig up the blog, then it means the story must change.  How do I do that?  Make an announcement or something?  Okay!

On this glorious April 22nd, it is with great pleasure that I announce “The Story Has Changed.”


Hashtag Notrunning


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Midlife Version 3.0


Somewhere around the ripe age of 25, I planned the midlife crisis.

I'm one who plans, so I figured it was best to preempt the event.  If I plan for trauma, and have a plan of attack, then I'll be one step ahead of the game.  Behold, my midlife logic!  Expect! Divert! Win!

(Ain't it funny that I thought this midlife business a game?  Super funny.  Har har.  Har!)

And so it was, that I planned to play tennis.  When the crisis crashed, I'd hire a coach, find a pal and play the tennis.  The problem, however, is that this plan requires that the player have calves that don't tear.  My current predicament of chronic calf-tearing is a primary problem among two groups of doers: 1) runners, and 2) tennis players.  I did not pick a winning plan. 

Averted! Destroyed! Sticks-in-all-the-spokes! Strings-not-strung!

So no running and no tennis.  Boo.  

I did the next best thing, and that was to see a therapist.  Sheryl the Shrink, I'll call her, because that's what she calls herself on her computer login.  "Sheryl the Shrink! Help!" I said.  On her couch. "I'm super sad because I lost my best friend named Running and now I mope about all the day long day and am miserable and have lost all of my mojo and I'm a total killjoy now and I need help and I feel like I need something I dunno maybe I should go to school but golly I don't know..."

Insert record scratch noise here.

"Hold on, hold on, hold ON!" said Sheryl the Shrink.  "I'm liking this idea of school. That's a great idea."

"Hold on, hold on, hold ON!" I said back.  "I was only kidding.  I don't know where that came from.  Mulligan.  That is not a great idea."

Sheryl the Shrink took her readers off (that is, her glasses used for reading) chewed on the corner of said glasses, entertained a smirk, and enlisted the silence.  

For those of you who have never been to therapy, I'll let you in on a little secret.  Most of this therapy discovery crap occurs during the silence.  The silence, you see, somehow gets you thinking and talking at the same time, and before you know it, you've solved your own problem.  Which makes me wonder why the hell this doesn't work when The Spouse gives me the same enlisted silence.  I think it's because I didn't pay him money for the silence in the first place, and maybe, just perhaps, that if I paid him for some blessed silence every now and again I could solve my own problems.  I can see it now.  Hand him a Benjamin and holler a vehement "Shut up so I can solve my problems!"  

Strangely enough, and as if my possession, I found myself retrieving transcripts, paying application fees, reading a University of Utah stationaried "hurray yer in!" and attending a transfer-student orientation.  It was July.  I sat down at a round table next to five young-ins, 18+ years my junior, and looked around.  I wasn't sure how I got there.  I don't even remember driving myself.  I slid into my chair, slowly, and began to curse the blasted silence of Sheryl the Shrink.

Orientation was the typical orientation, with the exception of the sex ed lecture from the health center services (or whatever it is they're calling themselves now).  For upwards of a complete hour, two finely dressed women, ten years my junior, proceeded to lecture us all on the definition of "consent."  I can sum up this whole business of consent with a few simple sentences: "say no when you mean no" and "when someone says no they mean no."  Also, "make sure your body language matches your no."

The funny thing about this sex-ed lesson – other than the fact that it was the only time anyone paid attention – was that I looked around and noted the number of married individuals in the room and snickered.  We married folk have no problem saying no.  Some of us even have one of those nighty housecoat wonders with a bold "NOT TONIGHT."  In Helvetica.

Three hours and two pieces of cardboard pizza later I had spoken to the advisor, toured the library, declared a major, and registered for three classes.  

What's my major, you say?  Writing and Rhetoric Studies.  Gonna learn to write fer reals now.  Made it through a whole semester.

I have stories.


Friday, May 09, 2014

In the which I Bare my Soul and Leave it Naked and Bleeding


Have I ever told you that one story, the story of how I started running?  No?  I don't think I have.  Now seems the time to tell that story.

As you might recall, I have this previous life.  And as you also might recall, I gave birth to its disgusting details on this here blog about three years ago.  It was a life of deception, despair, depression, drugs, druthers, doom, and desecrating debasement.  It was that life I had while living amongst the dirty deeds of a dude named David, known here discretely as "Jimmy."

(If you want the links to the story mentioned above, leave a comment.  For some reason I'm hesitant to dig them up for display and I plan to roll with that hesitation.  Or, if you want the throw-yourself-off-a-cliff-notes version, here it is: I was married to violent dude with a drug addiction and a girlfriend.)

I turned towards two things during this time: work and beer.  I'd work long, fierce hours, masking my woes with a truculent injection of all things software.  Then I would come home and ingest an invisibility cloak of sorts, my favorite being Mississippi Mud.

Did I have a drinking problem?  It's hard to say.  My job kept me from overdoing it, as the need to perform each day was essential for masking the woes and I wasn't getting trashed.  The need to numb was there, however, each and every dreadful day, and it seemed I couldn't make it without.  The duration of this little phase of life was roughly a year.

I've always tried to look at things squarely.  And when it comes to looking at myself squarely, I tend to over criticize and perhaps see my faults in a less than positive light.  (I'm just throwing this out there, to demonstrate that I ain't all that objective when it comes to me... since I'm baring my soul 'n whatnot.)

One night, as I was basking in the fuzzy afterglow of the evening's invisibility cloak, I thought, "I wonder if I have a problem.  I mean, here I am, drinking alone every night so that I can tolerate my living conditions.  And as those narc-anoners and al-anoners say, if you run to a substance for hiding (I know they say this because I went to the meetings instead of the dork, who really needed to go) then you prolly have a problem.  Addiction is in the genes, evidently, so maybe I should be careful?"

Two things came from this conversation with myself: the decision to run, and the birth of "prolly."  (Invisibility cloaks have a tendency to make the speech sloppy.)

So that's how it happened, fall 1996.  I traded my daily black 'n tan hiding place for a few miles on the road.  And it was glorious.  Ran the Moab Half Marathon in 1997 and was hooked.  Committed myself to the St. George full marathon (pre-lottery, imagine that) then ran my newly divorced guts right out of town!

Barring injury or pregnancy, I've been at it since.  Seventeen years, give or take.

So, why the sudden need to tell this story now?

Because a good story needs a beginning and an end; and because it looks like my running story has reached its final chapter.

"No!"  I hear you say.  "No, Rabid, No!  It's not over, don't give up, never quit!  Go! Fight! Win!"

Two years ago, I tore the left Achilles.  That, I suppose, was the beginning of the final chapter.  I nursed that for a year and limped my way back, but not without acquiring a few calf strains along the way.  (For the record, a few is more than two.)

A year ago, I was able to rehab considerably, and I ran the Utah Valley Marathon.  My sister came to watch.  That was the best part.  The second best part was that I took second in female 40-44.  The third best part was that I qualified for Boston.

Training went well last summer, until – dun, dun, dun – the end of August.  I'll spare the monotonous details and provide you with the jump-off-the-cliff-notes-version.

Injury-fest 2013-2014:  left hamstring tear in August, during the TOU half and had to walk in, that healed quickly, got back at it, left calf tear two weeks before St George (would have been #10,) one month off, two months on – increased mileage slowly, decide I'm in for Boston, buy tickets, tear butt cheek so bad I can't walk, nurse by taking one month off, then another month back on, more quickly this time, because, like, I want to go to Boston so bad it hurts, tear right calf again, cry furiously, cancel Boston, realize I've lost all of my friends because we only see each other when we run, take another month off, walked like a banshee and was bored to tears by it, then finally, another month on – increasing mileage slowly.

Things were up!  I'm running three days a week, slowly this time, and I was feeling pretty good.  Butt cheek still nags, but calves seem strong.  Monday, last, was the deadline to register for St. George.  I woke up with a tight and sore left calf, tight as a whatever-vulgar-coloquialism-you-wanna-insert-here.  I know this pattern.  I've been here for two years.  Me 'n the pattern are now very intimate. I have had five major injures in the last nine months.  Clearly, I'm falling apart.

In the last two years I have a registered and received a DNS (Did Not even freacking Start) on: Utah Valley Marathon, 2012; New York City Marathon, 2012 (there was a hurricane that year, but I was too injured to run anyway); St. George Marathon, 2013; Marine Corps Marathon, 2013; Boston, 2014; and now it's looking like the American Fork Half Marathon, 2014.

I've spent mega doses of moolah on massage, gadgets, supplements, physical therapy, and doctors. Evidently, the recurring calf strain is a common theme among runners and tennis players in their late 30s, early 40s, but no one has an answer.  Anyone in PT grad school?  Please use the recurring calf strain among athletes as your project! Somebody help us find out the why-the, how-the, and prevent-the!

Monday morning, last,  I was going to see how I feel and run.  If the run went well, I'd register for St. George.  Well.  I didn't register for St. George; this was not a good day.  I have nine St. Georges.  I want ten.  Now I know how Beethoven felt when he was pushing for ten symphonies and never made it.  Except for I am not dying and Beethoven was, so maybe I don't know how Beethoven felt.

No, I'm not dying.  Everything will be fine.  The world is moving around and carrying on.  The jobs for Spouse and me are good, the Yahoos are great.  Our lives could not be better.  Truthfully, though?   I am miserable.  I cannot go five minutes without my heart and my soul, yearning, aching, pining for, a run.  I would give every last dime I have, and everything I make for the next few years, just for the guarantee of five more years.

I suppose the worst part of it all is that I must go on.  I must pretend everything is fine.  When people ask how I'm doing I say, "Great!" because, like, what am I supposed to say, "Life sucks because I cannot run, I cry my weight in tears every three days, and it's all because I'm super healthy and my kids are healthy, and life is great, but it all sucks because I can't run?"  

Wah-freaking-wah.

What I really want, is for my family and friends to send condolences and listen to me cry and complain, and offer words of encouragement, and to don dorky pom-pons and cheer me on during this game called life.  I want them to look at me with empathy and understanding.  And maybe even to tell me that I'm fine the way I am and don't need it.

Being as the world is busy with real problems, my mid-life and final running chapter must be dealt with here.  I suppose I'll take notes so that when it happens again to someone else, I'll be there.  If you're there, or have been there, I salute you and ask that you salute back.  Leave a comment or call me.  I feel your pain!  I get it!

It's time I look at things squarely (because I try to do that.)   So without further ado, here we go with the final paragraphs of the final chapter.

Dearest self:

Running as you know it is officially over.  It's time to take the "runner" away and be just Rabid.

Hello, Rabid!

In the mean time, there can always be a sequel, right?  I parked www.rabidrambler.com.  Ramblers can do anything... bike, swim, read a book, hike, play piano, cook, donate, love the Spouse 'n Yahoos and friends – maybe even... nothing.


Friday, February 21, 2014

I need this...


... and the matching bumper sticker.



Have a great weekend!