Thursday, May 23, 2013


How long do I have, doc?

Not an infrequent question. And one people of science strongly dislike to answer, because really, we cannot predict such things. We can give an educated guess, of course. And we do, as gently as we can. Hours to days. Days to weeks. Weeks to months. Months to Years.

Human beings do not like surprises. We like to have some idea what is coming. So things like earthquakes, tornadoes, cancer, and terrorist attacks can leave us untethered, floating in an expanse of internet news and Facebook posts which make us feel like we have something tangible to grab onto. I sometimes wonder if this world of readily available information and feedback makes us feel better or worse. No feedback makes it unbearable, I suppose. But shit just happens and somehow we go on. There isn't always a way to explain the why. Or the what happens next.

I am accustomed to disastrous things happening to people. It is the milieu in which I work. Tell someone they have a life threatening disease, eat lunch, respond to a code blue, figure out how to send the homeless, brittle diabetic out of the hospital safely, then take off the white coat and go home and hear about middle school and high school drama, toss the ball for the dogs, go for a run, eat dinner. Sleep. Repeat.

What I know for sure, is life is horrid and beautiful and unpredictable and that my garden always needs weeding. I also know that my marathon is coming up in 24 days. I have been trying to decide how many long ones to do before I taper. My last long run was not great. It turns out that weeding for 6 hours the day before a long run is not the best idea. At least not at my age. I wear my Garmin faithfully, and upload my workouts to Strava, without which it seems like I did not run at all. Strava is brilliant, but it is also a symptom of our general need to tether ourselves to something tangible. Like the tree falling without witness, if someone runs and doesn't record their route and miles, did they run at all?

I am not giving up Strava.

I do wish sometimes, in a vague and unreal sort of way, that I was independently wealthy. I could then just run and play piano and cook gourmet, healthy meals for my kids, not to mention keeping my garden well coiffed.

Truth be told, I would probably miss wearing my monkey suit and getting to meet all sorts of amazing folks, who have the singular misfortune of stepping foot (or rolling gurney, more likely) into one of America's fine hospitals.

Being a doctor really makes marathon training tricky. Trickier I should say, because the marathon thing is unpredictable no matter what. You can train perfectly and find yourself unable to run well on race day. You might not even finish. Or you might limp in to the end with your dreams of a personal best so out of touch with reality that you wonder if you've been possessed by some kind of alien who sucks the life soul out of human beings like yourself.

It is a funny thing to get upset about, not doing well in a marathon. I mean you are, after all, alive, able to run and likely to have scored some good booty in the expo bag you picked up prerace. It is not a tragedy.

24 days. That's a fact and it is indisputable. I may have a few bumps in the road along the way, but I suppose I will show up at the starting line just the same, shivering in the predawn air of San Francisco with a bunch of other loony tunes.

Till then, I will just keep following the path in front of me. Grateful. And be-Garmined, like a jeweled princess with a rapidly developing runner's tan.

The path in front of me, May 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Good Books and Frying Pans

A friend asked me if my legs were sore after yesterday's race.
Well, yes. And in addition to that, my entire body feels like it was beaten with a cast iron frying pan, said I.

Do you remember cast iron frying pans? This is something I remember because I am aging. Not yet aged, but definitely aging. My other proof of this is I am a few years into the "Masters" category at races. Once you get over the indignation of being a "master", it is pretty great. Because you get a special reward if you run well even if a bunch of under 40's kicked your ass. I mentioned to another friend that I had a good race as a master yesterday. She said, are we really masters? I am embracing it, I said.

Another award I recently received came when I tuned into the 3rd chapter of my 3rd book in 3 weeks on My iPhone screen had a little message, actually literally in quotes, "you have just received the officially obsessed with audible award" or something along those lines. First, I was disconcerted by my phone making judgements about what I am and am not obsessed with, and second I felt that I probably earned that. Third, I do feel a might bit guilty as I have often preached the importance of the independent book seller. But fourth, I am also officially obsessed with paper books and am probably one of the reasons we have such a successful independent bookstore in my town. And every town I visit.

I listen to my books on my iPhone while driving (you put your phone in your cup holder and it augments the speaker sound. I learned this from Jesse. Thanks Jesse). I listen to books on my iPhone when walking my dogs. And I listen to books on my iPhone when running. A recent 20 mile run just flew by while listening to Water for Elephants. Prior to that it was Life of Pi.

What struck me about Life of Pi was how much I hated the ending. I really really did not like the fact that the author threw into question the veracity of the whole story. I choose to ignore that and just go with Pi's version. The other thing about that book is it very much reminds me of my home life. My husband and I are Pi. Our teenagers are Richard Parker. Our home is the life boat.

Which is another thing that proves I am aging. I used to watch movies and read books and totally identify with the misunderstood youngster. Now I see Rebel Without a Cause and I wonder what is wrong with James Dean's character? Just get a job and stop whining, kid! Sheesh.

I still have a crush on James Dean though. Because although I am aging, I am not yet so aged as to wish it was still appropriate to plaster my walls with posters of cute movie stars. To be fair, husband of mine, I would let you put up an equal number of posters in that alternate universe.

Yesterday's half marathon did leave me sore. It will take me a few days longer than it used to to recover from the frying pan effect. I have a few days off from work, so I think I shall lie around, swaddled in ice packs and heating pads, and listen to books on my iPhone. I will occasionally throw some meat to the Tiger on my life boat. Then, in a few days, pick myself up and get ready for the next event. Which, being twice 13.1, will likely leave me feeling beaten with two cast iron frying pans.