Thursday, September 29, 2011

Going Viral

It is a tradition in our home that the kids immediately get sick upon the start of school, and then they share their sickness with their parents. The family virus this year was a combo platter of upper respiratory misery, head pounding despair, body-aches that could've been induced by an encounter with a Mack truck, and a sore throat one of my kids described as "swallowing a cactus". Actually, I usually don't get as sick as the rest of the family, which I attribute to many years of exposure to the astoundingly ill in close quarters at the hospital. But this week it all came crashing in on me. I finally succumbed to a 7 hour nap yesterday.

Is it wise to run through illness? Maybe, maybe not. Though I wouldn't have been able to run for a million dollars and a chocolate donut yesterday. Do runners freak out when they can't run? Um, Duh. And this week is a key one as far as I am concerned. I have just a handful of 20 milers left to do before the race. If I didn't feel so lousy, I'd be apoplectic. Fortunately, I just don't have the energy to panic.

As a scientist, I ought not anthropomorphize, but viruses are awful and mean and brutal and strong and clever. Which is pretty impressive for a thing that isn't even alive.

The Gu is on my dresser, my tunes are charging, my outfit picked out. So I think maybe I can run my 20 tomorrow. My husband says I oughta bring some tissues along. But I think that's what sleeves are for.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Cow, Long run 9/18/11

It is wooly bear season. You can hardly run down the street without almost squishing one of those little guys making its way to who knows where. On my long run the other day, I counted dozens of the red and black caterpillars. I also almost ran into a deer. And there was a black stallion, tossing its mane and looking more Hollywood than Humboldt County. But my heart yearns for cows.

Cows always stop what they are doing to look at you when you run by. Sometimes ALL of the cows in the field will look at you. They look vaguely interested and deeply wise. They can be scary in their intensity. One year when running the Foggy Bottom Milk Run, they were snorting and leaping and mooing alarmingly. Or is that alarmingly mooing?

I turned 42 today. I ran early this morning before work. I was nearly stung by a bee and almost mauled by a dog named "Pumpkin." But the run was otherwise perfect and it kept me going during my 12 hours of doctoring. I came home late to my pretty children (no, they really are pretty), who had made me perfect presents for my birthday. I must say, I feel blessed beyond belief.

And my husband of 19 years, anniversary just celebrated (with a house full of rhinovirus and a lot of drama surrounding algebra homework), gave me a bunch of beautiful roses. My son wants to wear one in his hair when he rides his bike to school tomorrow. I do feel blessed.

In about 40 some days, we will make up for the algebraic "romance" with a trip to NYC. Our first solo trip (i.e. without the offspring) for about 15 years. I will run my 26.2, then we will explore the great city and enjoy time with good friends. Blessed.

But I stray from the cows. There really is nothing quite like the deep green fields of Humboldt County, with the fog hanging on the hillsides and hovering above the grass. Sometimes the cows look like they are hovering as well, with legs cloaked by fog, invisible. Nearby an egret makes a stark contrast, dressed in white, and standing so still that I often wonder if it is a Zen master or just really, really bored. I almost always talk to the cows as I pass. They remind me of my teenagers at times, as they acknowledge my presence but at the same time seem to be considering whether I am from the same planet as them or not.

Cows. Not exactly pretty, but definitely pretty consistent. Dedicated eaters. Oddly midwestern, despite their coastal home. Calm and steady except when they are leaping, snorting and mooing. Deadpan. Lovers of all things dairy. Except for the decidedly sedentary lifestyle of the typical cow, we have a lot in common. They judge me for my obsession with running, but I love them anyway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"and the rest is silence."-Hamlet

To run or not to run?

Marathons are a strange process. The race day, of course, is very exciting and challenging and the run itself is long. 26.2 miles long, plus in NYC, the long walk to the UPS van that holds your stuff. Is it not miraculous that with over 44,000 runners, you can hand your stuff to a person who then heaves it into one of over maybe dozens of UPS trucks, then at the end you go to the truck and they give you your stuff back? Anyway, the day of the run is spectacular. Maybe heartbreaking. Maybe the best day ever. Maybe just a nice run on a fall day in  a great city. But it is all the days leading up to it that make the marathon something addictive.

Some of us follow a plan. For me, it is Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 which builds mileage every 2 weeks, then drops back for a week, which adds in speed and hills, which gives me a nice structure on which to hang my bandanna (my head gear of choice for long runs). But although I dream of running like Greta, in reality I am training because I love to run and because I am raising money for Livestrong. I might break my last PR of 3:29. I might not finish. I might finish but run like a clydesdale. I might skip through the streets of NYC and just groove on being one of the gang.

Runners get kind of obsessive about following their training plans. This can lead to trouble. For me, I have been noticing an ache on my foot. It is a tendonitis. It isn't horrible. But it is a reminder that my body is the boss, not Hal Higdon. Not my aspirations to be the next elderly olympian. So, I am learning to take days off. Yesterday after work I ran 10 miles, and I was really tired, though by mile 6 I started to feel good and was glad I had done it. Today, my foot said to me "I demand a long bit of icing, and you sure as heck better not even think about doing that 5 miler you and Hal had planned." I am going to listen to my foot. I have a 20 miler this weekend, and that is where the money is, if building up for a marathon is like putting coins in a piggy bank.

Mice and Men. Parents on a road trip with their kids. Rock bands on tour. Doctors who think they are God. Insane princes of Denmark. Runners. They make plans and then it all gets messed up.

No rest for the wicked, so I must be good.
The rest is icing, so I will have my cake and eat it too. With icing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pelican Bay

I was running along the bay the other day, and there were three pelicans flying low to the water as pelicans do. One kept going up in the air and nose diving then coming up scooping water, and presumably something tasty to a pelican, along the way.  It reminded me of a recent report on NPR about prisons in California, including one called Pelican Bay where apparently the most violent men end up. It was about solitary confinement, which is used surprisingly often, and for long periods of time. For me, about an hour in solitary might do me in. These guys are in solitary, meaning a little cell by themselves, for 23 hours a day, some for over a decade. That other hour they get to go to a concrete room by themselves to exercise.

Now one could argue about the humaneness of such punishment, but that will not be the driving force behind cutting down on solitary time. It will be money, because these fine little cells and concrete rooms come to about $70,000 per year. Which would be rent on pretty decent digs for the rest of us.

Anyway, the pelicans on the bay were so pretty. I wonder how the prison got such a nice name. San Quentin is a nice name too. Alcatraz sounds pretty prisoney to me, but its spectacular scenery sort of makes up for the name.

I was running on the treadmill the other day, which is like a runner's version of solitary confinement, and did 9 miles because it was my day to do 9 miles and I got out of work too late to run outside. I am quite thankful for my iPod in such situations. That day I listened to a podcast of This American Life (also NPR), then finished up with some raucous rock and roll. At one point I laughed out loud at This American Life and realized I laughed way too loud, with the under-headphones phenomenon. I like to think people were jealous of how much I was loving my workout.

I was running on the track this morning after my night shift and I had my iPod on this great app called Pandora, allowing me to listen to the radio. And yes, it was Morning Edition, NPR. When Democracy Now came on, though I admire Amy Goodman with all of my heart, I couldn't take the tragic truths of our world after a night shift full of human tragedy, so I switched back to my raucous rock. Some people find the track a form of torture, and though I do not condone torture of any kind, I actually LOVE the track. I think it is nostalgia for my faster days, and memories of spring finally being here after a long Wisconsin winter. And I nailed my 800's, exactly the pace I wanted, and each one a little faster than the last. It was a sweetly free moment in the sun.