Sunday, March 29, 2020

They Can't Cancel My Virtual Race

I didn't run for several months, so when I signed up for a spring virtual race in January, it was because I needed a no-pressure goal to get me back into running. Of course now that every race in the world has been cancelled, it is now the only game in town and I'm feeling pretty smug about being able to stay on my race goals.

Actually, I'm feeling heartbroken for everyone who has been training for races that were cancelled. I know how upset I've felt when I've had to miss races because of injury or they've been cancelled for weather, etc. None of them were goal races or races I'd been looking forward to for a long time. It has to be so distressing to have trained for a race, to still be able to train for the race, and then just not have it held.  If this is you, I'm so sorry.

In a way, I know how you feel though because until this month, I hadn't run since last June. I ran a 5K race (on my birthday no less) and had a great time, with the exception of the sudden ping in my left leg with about a mile left to go. I ran through it and then began my journey through eight months of injury.

Photo of me post-race. I am sweaty, smiling, and holding a glass of free beer.
Post race, pre realization of injury
At first I just limped and waited for it to get better. I Googled the difference between shin splints and stress fractures and was disappointed to discover that my pains more closely aligned with a stress fracture. Eventually I went to my orthopedist who sent me to get an MRI. Evidently I didn't have a stress fracture, but the MRI indicated damage that could have led to a stress fracture (or something; it was a long time ago, I'm foggy on details)

Photo of a computer screen on which is an MRI image of my leg. It's gray with white lines running through it.
I waited for the doctor to leave the room then took this photo of the MRI image that was on the computer. I don't know what it means, but look how cool it is!
I rested it for several weeks and then got another MRI at which point the ortho told me it was better but not healed and I should wait a few more weeks.

I waited for those weeks, tentatively started to run, and the leg pains jumped from the left shin to the right shin.

See, I had run a mile on my treadmill and took an entire week to recover. I ran another mile and based on my pain level decided that something was definitely wrong with my right leg, I was evidently made of glass, and I should probably go back to the ortho. He sent me for another MRI, which showed a slight meniscus tear and I don't know what else but the ortho—who by this point was just tired of seeing me, I think—told me to rest it longer.

So I did. I rested it, I stretched it, I did some ugly crying during the movie "Brittany Runs a Marathon." I developed a growing fear of never being able to run again. I asked my PCP about it. I went to a rheumatologist about it. I talked to my therapist about it. I started taking a joint supplement. I was aware of my pain level at all times.

In a fit of optimism based on waning pain in January, I signed up for a virtual race taking place in April and May. I figured that worst case scenario I could walk it and I'd at least be outside on trails again. But mostly I wanted to run it. I didn't want to sign up for a real race, worried that the pressure of an actual event might lead me to train too hard if I wasn't ready and knowing I wouldn't want to walk at an actual race.

Every doctor pretty much told me that I might not be able to run anymore. I grew to actively resent every person I saw running on sidewalks and trails, up to and including Alex, who is kicking the shit out of running, which is great and infuriating all at the same time.

Photo of Alex dressed in all black in a gym. He looks buff.
Look at stupid Alex with his stupid hardbody. Infuriating!
Alex, who had watched me mope for several months, was excited by my registering for my virtual race and bought me maybe the most thoughtful gift of our entire marriage.

Photo of a silver necklace inside a purple mesh bag. It is the silhouette of a female runner.
It even has my ponytail. *sniff*
I put the thing on and have worn it every day, even as doctors tell me I probably shouldn't run anymore. It reminds me that I am a runner. I also realized at some point that what I was talking about and what my doctors were talking about were probably two different things.

I was talking about acute pain that showed up when I would run. I think my doctors were talking about my shitty, deteriorating knees that have been shitty and deteriorating for years. I've been ignoring doctors talking about that for forever. I just wanted to be able to run without sharp pain that made me limp.

I was afraid to try running again. After waiting so many weeks for my left leg to heal (it now feels wonderfully stable) and then for my right leg to immediately crumble, I was terrified that trying again would end everything.

Early this month, I did some walking workouts and incorporated some running into them. When nothing hurt more than it did when I started, I took an outdoor run/walk. For a couple of weeks, I did one bootcamp workout with walk/runs and one outdoor walk/run. Yesterday I added another run/walk to my weekly routine. I think on a chronic level, my knees actually hurt less when I am running regularly. I remember thinking that years ago, but based on my experiences this month, I really think it's true.

I am slow as shit. Running is so goddamn hard. I am waaaay behind where I used to be. I am supposed to run my virtual race any time between April 28 and May 19 and am hoping that I can run 5K with no walk breaks by then—partly because, as I mentioned before, running is HARD, and partly because I am very intentionally increasing mileage incredibly slowly to prevent more injury. I really don't want to go through this again.

I'm doing the Zombies, Run! virtual spring race. They have an app with story missions, but the races are independent of that storyline. I've used the app for years. I love it. One of the sad parts of not being able to run for so long is that I am way behind on the story now. I'm excited to catch up.

I've done one other Zombies, Run! virtual race before and it was really fun, so I'm excited to do this one. There is a package to be opened at the end of my mission that is suspiciously medal shaped. Normally I wouldn't be too excited about a virtual race medal, but I have a feeling this one is going to mean a lot.

Until then (and even after), I have my own permanent medal that I get to wear.

Selfie of me post workout wearing the runner necklace and a necklace that reads "Stimey"

If you run, you are a runner. And I run.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Silver Linings

So. We're all at home now, yeah?

Alex still has to go into the office, but I think he spends time with fewer people every day than I do in my home, so he's okay.

We're hanging in. I've been writing and mostly keeping to a schedule with my kiddos so we don't lose our damn minds.

Photo of my whiteboard on which I've written a schedule for Tuesday: 8-10: morning ablutions; 10-10:01: look up ablutions; 10:02-12: hoomework/internship; 12-1 lunch and virtual escape romo; 1-3: Free time; 3-4 outside time - earn $$ for lawn mowing; 4-5 reading time or bassooon practice; 5 free time; 5:30 Jack oonline workout; Dad goes to office
I am a GREAT mom.
That was Tuesday. Things have deteriorated.

Same whiteboard: I've written Thursday What should we do today? and numbered 1-6 down the side. A kid wrote Animal Crossing :) on line one. The rest is blank.
I am a TERRIBLE mom.

If things are feeling a little rough right now, I wanted to try to cheer you up because there are definitely some silver linings and I am going to tell you about them.

The introverts won! This is probably not a silver lining if you are an extrovert, but as someone who doesn't really like to spend that much time with people, I feel like I have been ready for social distancing for my Entire. Goddamn. Life. I've been getting exactly the kinds of interactions I like: friendly, brief, from a loooong way away.

We get to sleep in! I could not be happier about this. Normally I have to wake up before 7 to make sure my kids are on their buses and out of my hair. These days I am waking up at a very civilized 9am. Or 9:30. Or today it was 10, but we already established that Thursday has gone downhill.

There is no end of time to work out! Usually I have to sit down every Sunday and figure out where I can cram in my workouts throughout the week to make sure they get done. Now, with no errands, a commute that consists of a trip down a staircase, and everything in the universe being cancelled, I pretty much have my pick of times to workout. I use my Peloton equipment, do some outside stuff, and do Peloton strength and stretching workouts. If you are lost about what to do, consider getting a free 90-day trial membership of Peloton Digital. You don't need a bike or a treadmill and you can stream all kinds of workouts on  your phone or tablet. And if you decide you want to buy the Peloton equipment because I told you it was awesome, use my referral code (CQDC58) and we both get free stuff.

We're working through the older food in our freezer and pantry! Hey, look! There's a frozen pizza from 2019! No need to go to the store—pop that shit in the oven! Etcetera.

Traffic is awesome! On the rare occasions I do have to go out, there is almost no traffic. In fact, I think I'm going to take advantage of this and have Jack do a ton of driving practice while this continues. I have to drive into DC once a week to do some work at my office and it takes half the time to get there. And there is parking right outside my building! And at the post office! And at the bank! It is bizarre.

I have cleaned and decluttered my entire house! Ha! Just kidding. I've thought about it, but...

I get to spend some solid quality time with Katie before she heads off to college! I love this one. She can't see friends. She doesn't have a busy schedule. At this point, I'm the best game in town and I am taking full advantage of it.

I get to spend a ton of time with my favorite people in the world! Along those same lines, I've gotten some pretty good time in with my other kiddos and Alex too. Thank God my kids are old enough to take care of themselves, but not too old to run away from me when I approach. I really like my family and I'm glad that I get to hang out with them.

People are good! I mean, not all of them, obviously. Most people are the worst. But I keep seeing examples of people doing good things. People are delivering cookies to sick people and leaving them on the porch. Artists and art institutions have hosted so many free, virtual performances and tours. People are looking out for each other and sharing what they can. Small example: One person in my neighborhood created a scavenger hunt featuring unique landmarks so people on their walks could have some fun. (Guess who's on the scavenger hunt?)

Close up of a carved wooden bear.
That's right! Claude the mailbox bear!
It could be worse! I've read all of the apocalypse books and usually with the pandemic comes the crashing of the infrastructure, anarchy, and eventually it all ends with people fighting each other with knives. We still have electricity, internet, gas, delivery services, and pretty much everything else we need. We haven't yet come to the point where we're looking for sharp sticks with which to defend ourselves.

I firmly believe in silver linings. I've had disappointments over the past couple weeks and will continue to have more in the coming weeks. I do acknowledge that this crisis has left some people in ruin. I am trying to do my part by safely patronizing local businesses and donating what I can and I know it's not enough. I hate that part. It's bad, you guys, but there are shiny edges.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Very Best Thing in the Whole Entire World

Graphic reading "That's DELIGHTFUL!" with multicolored silhouettes of an ice cream cone, mouse, smiley face, runner, cat, unicorn, and heart
Who wants some happiness? Welcome to my new series, "That's DELIGHTFUL!" wherein I tell you about things that are great in an effort to make you forget the shitshow in which we are living.

For my first installment, I am going to tell you about the best purchase I have ever made noreallythebestpurchaseIloveitsomuch!

Several years ago my family was on a trip. We were staying in a hotel and were sitting in the hotel restaurant waiting for food. Because my childrens were small and impatient and generally problematic at restaurant tables, a couple of us went for a walk through the hotel where we found the most delightful (That's DELIGHTFUL!) curtain made of tiny metal beads. Jack and Quinn and I kind of lost our minds. It was probably the most wonderful, stimmy thing we had ever been given tacit permission to play with.

Since then, I have run across the same type of curtain several times, almost always at hotels or cafes. I've badly wanted one, but was never able to find the cheapo version on Amazon that would make me happy. I also don't really have the type of house that lends itself to metal bead curtain decor. I mostly gave up on owning one and pinned my hopes on running across them in the wild.

A couple of months ago, however, I decided that if I really wanted one and had wanted one for, like, ten years, and I had a closet doorway in my bedroom that looked terrible, I should go goddamn ahead and buy myself the thing I wanted most in the world.

You guys. I am about to show you a photo of the door that used to be on my closet (we had to take a mirror off of it) next to a photo of my new double density steel ball chain curtain. Are you ready?

Side by side photos of a doorway in a green wall. On the left is a white door with errant mirror-hanging hardware and a non-painted square int he middle of it; on the right, the door is gone and a curtain of long metal bead strands covers the opening.
I mean, can you even?
In case you are like me and desperately want this in your life, you should know that I purchased this through Shop Wild Things. They answered all my questions via email and I ordered a custom curtain without having to speak to a single person. My door opening was two feet wide and the curtain they ended up sending in error was 20 inches and they handled getting me a free replacement and the original curtain return with so much ease and grace. I could not be happier with them.

Also, I get to walk through this thing every day. Multiple times! Alex asked me if I wanted hooks in case I wanted to hold the curtain back and I was all, "Why on Earth would I want to create a situation where I didn't touch the thing every time I go into my closet?"

Seriously, it is so heavy and tactile and wonderful.

Close up photo of my hand holding some of the beads.
It feels SO good.
Alex sent Jack up to our room to ask me a question the other day and I pointed out the curtain to him. Then he spent, like, twenty minutes playing with it. It is sooooo good, you guys.

I mean, the only downside to the whole thing is that the curtain is right next to where my upstairs cats (if you don't know this story, it's long and complicated) eat and they think the curtain is the first sign of the apocalypse.
Photo of two white cats eating out of bowls right next to the curtain.
I mean, they're not on a hunger strike or anything, but if you shake the beads, they'll abandon their food—and that is NOT something they do lightly.

Sometimes it's the small things. In this case, it is dozens of small things strung together and hung in a doorway. 

Photo of me standing behind the curtain. I'm smiling and there is a gap where I'm holding the beads aside.
Me in my happy place.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

It's Getting Weird Out There

It's been an intense week, huh?

I mean, honestly, that's really saying something considering the past few years, but shit has really ramped up since, say March 11, which was FOUR DAYS AGO. I mean, when your mindless iPhone game starts giving public health advice, things are getting weird.

Screenshot from my Candy Crush game telling me to wash my hands and stay safe.
Et tu, Candy Crush?
I've gotten emails from every store or service I've ever purchased anything from—or thought about purchasing anything from—letting me know how they're handling the Coronavirus. I mean, I just got one from the Ironman people today telling me about how they are handling my event and, trust me, I don't have any Ironman events.

It's pretty hardcore how fast things went from "we're kind of watching the situation" to "CANCEL EVERYTHING."

Last Saturday, at our weekly trip to the grocery store, Alex did some eye rolling at me suggesting we purchase some extra supplies. Cut to Thursday afternoon when he calls me from work to suggest I go to the store immediately to purchase stuff.

I have just one question for you: How do you panic shop for an emergency situation when you aren't really a cook in even the best circumstances? I got eggs because Alex specifically asked for those. Then I threw a bunch of stuff in the cart on top of them. I haven't been able to bring myself to double check to make sure they survived. Rice, pasta, and tuna seemed like good options, but I don't know who exactly is going to eat the tuna. I also bought cupcakes because it can't be all bleach and toilet paper.

[Here is an article on stocking up. I'm sure there are a million more online.]

I was smart that evening though when I was buying takeout pizza for my kids because I had an evening appointment—I bought TWO pizzas. I feel like hoarding takeout is different than hoarding hand sanitizer. I mean, if I'd really been thinking, I would have gone around to Five Guys and the Peruvian chicken place to buy ahead as well because, let's face it, social distancing isn't going to make me any more excited to cook than I am now.

I am definitely in the Cut Off All Contact Immediately camp. I mean, I saw Contagion. I know how it goes. But, seriously, don't watch that movie unless you want to freak the fuck out. What you should do instead is read some articles about "flattening the curve," and do your part to help.

[Here are a couple articles on why staying home and not having contact with other people any more than necessary is a good idea: Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day and Cancel Everything.]

As of today, we're not going to restaurants, not having people over, not going to people's houses, and not going to public places unless absolutely necessary.

It's super hard to not feel like you're overreacting, especially when your kid is all, "but I saw him yesterday so if he has it, I have it," and still say no, but I figure two weeks alone with my family won't kill us (although we may have to disband and start anew with different families after we're allowed out again). Hopefully social distancing will work and then we can all feel like we made a big deal out of nothing and feel silly about it but most of us will still be alive.

[What happens when hospitals are overwhelmed. You should read this.]

All this is pretty grim and scary, I know. But we aren't without silver linings. You know how the greatest thing in the world is when you have something on the calendar and it gets cancelled? We are living the goddamn dream, people. And frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't photos of empty racks of what used to hold sweatpants, because that is all I am putting on my body for at least the next two weeks.

Frankly, I've been training for this my whole life.

I am also aware that we are pretty much on Day Two of isolation and the two weeks that everyone has cancelled things could well extend longer. I am also aware that I am so fucking privileged that I can do this so easily. I know that shit might get pretty bad for me and extremely bad for the more vulnerable. I know that I carelessly wrote, "most of us will still be alive," a couple of paragraphs ago and if that didn't upset you, it probably should, because "most" doesn't mean "all."

I know that my sister and her wife are both doctors and they don't get to telework for the next two weeks like I do. I always say that they are heroes and they shrug it off because I think maybe they think I'm joking, but I'm not and I really want to say it again: My sister, her wife, and all the health care workers out there are heroes. (As are grocery store clerks and gas station attendants and subway drivers and I could go on and on.)

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Love your family. Love strangers. Let's take care of each other.

Now, because I am a glutton for punishment, I am going to go reread "Station Eleven" to hone my apocalypse skills.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Staying on Brand

Remember how in my last post I was all, "We are all connected and brought together by our community 7-Elevens and our shared need for Twinkies blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah?"

Well. That was before Monday.

Because Monday I made such a scene that I considered never going back to my 7-Eleven. I had refilled my soda. It was my seventh, so my app gave it to me for free and I the cashier made a dumb joke about me owing him $10 and I made a dumb joke about, "I am giving you nothing!" and there were eight hundred people in line and I went to leave the store and tripped on a tiny ripple in their rug and went straight down, face-first, fully stretched out, half-in and half-out of the 7-Eleven.

Bad Photoshop drawing of Jean falling out the door of a 7-Eleven, dropping her phone and Big Gulp.
I mean, thank God someone was holding the door for me so I didn't go through the glass with my face, but still.
There were gasps. Of course there were gasps. The man holding the door for me was agape. I registered four things immediately:

1. My soda was EVERYWHERE.

2. All the fingernails on my right hand were broken.

3. I was pretty sure my phone was smashed to smithereens.

4. Ouch.

I think the door holder asked me if I was okay and, me being me, I immediately insisted I was fine before I'd even assessed anything other than my fingernails, had a vague realization that my phone had exploded, and felt a dull throbbing from my knee.

"You're going to need a refill," the door holder said.

I pried myself off the ground, picked up my phone and now empty cup, and turned around to see about 12 people who looked exactly like this:

a stick figure drawing of a face with mouth wide open and startled eyes
EXACTLY like this.
All I really wanted to do was leave, but the crowd was now filled with two different factions: (a) those that wanted me to refill my Big Gulp ("get a whole new cup," said the cashier), and (b) those who were going to figure out exactly which ripple in the carpet had tripped me.

I did some muttering and refilled my cup with soda I really no longer fucking wanted and left for my car as fast as possible. Some kind soul had already balled up the carpet and put it to the side of the door, so fortunately I didn't meet the ground again.

I'm okay. Weirdly, my right tricep was sore for two full days, but it seems fine now. My knee, which is already a nightmare, seems to be no worse for the wear. The offending carpet is back in front of the 7-Eleven door (I went back the next day in the morning instead of the afternoon, when a different staff was on duty.)

My phone, however, didn't make it.

Photo of an iPhone with a super smashed up screen. There is some light running through the cracks.
I enjoyed the glass splinters it gave me.
That photo is with the phone on. The touch screen, weirdly, no longer works. I suppose that's what happens when you hurl it to the concrete. The alarm, however, did continue to work until this morning, which I know because I got to listen to it from 6 to 8am on Tuesday and Wednesday because there was NO WAY TO TURN IT OFF.

No, I don't plan on suing, because then where would I get my soda, huh? Did you think about that? That said, I will be high-stepping it out of the entrance from now on because I've learned my lesson about trusting the ground.

(That lesson? Don't. Don't trust the ground.)

Other than the weird satisfaction I get from embarrassing myself in public and then embarrassing myself again by telling everyone about it, I am posting this to assure you all that if you thought Stimeyland 2 was going to be different than the original, rest assured, I will be staying on brand.*

*Brand: Clumsy doofus with a foul mouth and a propensity to cause scenes.