Monday, April 27, 2015


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?

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.”

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