Fuckin’ Fruit Flies

I am drunk. And wanting to write. So here we are.

Since my last post, I’ve

  • acquired some wonderful friends (a total surprise and one I’m oh, so grateful for)
  • been working away at Nifty Printables which continues to be a shocking success
  • celebrated my 1-year anniversary in Richmond (August 11th! my how time flew)
  • been diagnosed as Vitamin D deficient, which could 100% explain my constant shitty running of the past year (Vitamin D & VO2max are totally best friends)
  • had dinner at a restaurant all by myself for the first time in, oh…30 years, thanks to some fuckin’ fruit flies in my kitchen. That was tonight, and why I’m drunk

I don’t feel like explaining anything, just posting a little tidbit to get my keyboard clicking again, but things are so swell that even the fuckin’ fruit flies deserve my gratitude. Thanks to them I was too grossed out to cook, which meant I had to go to a restaurant alone, sit at the bar and chow down on nachos and margaritas while simultaneously flirting with the bartender. It was tough but I came out with flying colors (and a doggy bag). I could totally do that again.

As for the Vitamin D, this’ll probably take a while (like 6 months if the studies I’ve read are applicable) but hey, I’ve got all the time in the world. My running has been so annoying and disappointing for over a year so if that isn’t the reason, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

That’s it for now. I’m going to wander back into the kitchen and gleefully count the flies in the my traps. Because I’m creepy like that.

Later, kids!

A Change Of Fortune

God, I’m rusty at this, but it’s time for an update, if only to push the Gallowalking stuff down the page. The highlight of my life these days, however, has nothing to do with running, but I’ll start with that anyway.

The Running Scoop
I did the run/walk deal for 2 months. It worked well in that it got me extending my runs and allowed me to explore Richmond. Eventually, I started jonesing for continuous runs again and dropped the walk breaks. But it still seemed my runs were more laborious than should have been for the slow paces I was taking. So finally, I strapped on my heart-rate monitor (which I should have done months before). I wanted to see if there was a real reason it felt tough, or if I was just being a wuss.

Turns out, there was a very real reason…my current sluggish paces were producing the same heart-rate as my old tempo runs! Specifically, a 170bpm that used to bring me a 7:11 tempo pace was now reaping me 10+mi/min. Sobering as this was to see, it brought a sense of relief as well, because at least now I had an objective basis with which to deal.

Thus began my next experiment: Hadd Heart-rate training, where you keep your heart-rate at 75% aerobic zone throughout the run. Since my max is 193 bpm (maybe a couple beats higher but that’s what I’ve clocked a few times), 75% is 145 bpm.

It was quite a challenge at first; I initially had to intersperse random walking to get my HR back down – my pace during this time was over 12min/mi! The only time I’ve ever run that slowly (no offense to those who do, just relatively speaking from my old self) is when I began running for the first time in 2007, and that only lasted a matter of weeks.

Anyway, after about 10 days, the numbers showed improvement, though a couple weeks ago I regressed due to a stretch of icy weather; my growing mileage (a mere string of 30mi weeks) came to a sporadic putter.

I’m back at it now though, albeit annoyed with the heart-rate monitor, the regression was a little confidence-killing, making me want to run without thinking about numbers and not wear the damn strap [insert footstomp here], which I have done for the last couple runs if only to soothe the whiny child. But I can only fool myself to a point: if the heart-rate numbers are not good, ignoring them isn’t going to help. So back on the wagon I go.

I have a master plan beyond the day-to-day training though. I want to find out once and for all if my shitty running is due to low mileage or if my body has shifted permanently. No biggie if the latter, but resolution would be nice, giving me a break from being mean with myself “you lazy bum!” If I am just a lazy bum, that’ll be fine too, I’ll own it! But let’s give discredit where discredit is due.

So I need to run more mileage consistently to get a proper tell. Until I do that, I can’t fairly compare heart-rate data to previous years because when I began the sport, I added mileage at a rapid rate, so my current mileage needs to be near the same ballpark to make proper comparisons. Luckily, Spring is in the air so I’ll be able to manage it easily. I’m thinking 3 months of steady 40mi weeks should reveal the story.

FORTUNE! The Real News
Something so odd and unexpected has happened. Over the course of a few short months I have,  despite my penchant for being a financially-struggling loser, become a monetary success.

Remember the main reason I moved from Philly was for a lower standard of living? Because if something really was happening to me healthwise, I’d be in big trouble since I didn’t even have a savings account, while my retirement plan consisted of “La la la, I can’t hear you”.

Also remember, last April I started concentrating on & building Nifty Printables. The whole reason for doing that was borne out of desperation: I was going to move and without voiceover income to count on, I had to create another source of income.

From the moment I started, sales grew much faster than expected, customers were returning, I was having a blast adding new designs, that by August when I moved to Richmond, I felt financially confident enough to buy a new car and spend more on rent than I had initially planned. At that point, I was day-dreaming “Whoa, maybe I could make $72,000/year with this thing!”

Life moves rapidly sometimes. This January, I started making stupid money. I mean STUPID money (as in 5 digits a month). So, er…yeah, I’ll be making over $100,000 this year, all self-powered. And to think it was just a year ago that I was inquiring on Facebook for cities to move to where I could pay $700/mo rent and not need a car.

So that’s my story. I hope the next installment brings conclusion to the running story (improvements on the horizon? or is this all there is?) – either way will be fine. Life is pretty rich regardless.

Here’s What’s Happening

I’d been contemplating what to do with this blog. My thought was to write one last closure post about the move to Richmond before shutting it down. This is after all, a running blog and since I’ve barely been qualifying as Neighborhood Jogger these days, I’ve had nothing to say on the subject for over a year. I like writing though, and while I wished I could find another angle as compelling to write about, without running I’m somewhat speechless.

Life, however, in its infinite mystery, just managed to toss yet another twisty turn, delaying the end of this story.

Richmond
I’ve been here a couple months now. It would be no exaggeration to say my life has dramatically improved since moving. From a fantastic apartment complete with sunny office, to my pretty and close-to-lots-of-stuff neighborhood, my first brand-new car (bought right after moving…I barely use it but am glad to have it), to my business www.NiftyPrintables.com becoming a force of its own in such a very short time, it’s like I hit the jackpot; I feel lucky as hell almost every damn day.

And though it’s probably a product of age, this is the first place I’ve ever lived where I thought, “Yeah, I could stay here permanently.” The only thing lacking is that I don’t get out-and-about yet, which is really more of a feeling that I should, rather than an actual need since I’m intently focused on work and am a weird hermit anyway, but it is a bit solitary. I’ll get there though, all the more due to this unfolding story.

Running
I’ve been at it again since May, following that 7-month break due to weird body shit. In all this time, my runs have been very short (3.5ish) because there continues to be a level of labor/discomfort that keeps them from being fun. I sometimes stop for a few seconds to chill out despite the fact that I’m already traveling at a snails pace. I’m my usual non-racing weight and hormonally speaking, everything’s still working as usual, so there’s no obvious reason for it, but because my history contains stuff that has no rhyme or reason, I’m all, “eh…one more for the mystery door.”

Now, back in May 2013, I had stopped wearing a Garmin. That was the point where my runs had become increasingly difficult and I wanted to incorporate walking breaks without having to acknowledge exactly how crappy my pace had become. I’ve been freestylin’ ever since, oblivious to the time I leave the house in order to remain clueless of pace.

But in the past few weeks, inspired by several running friends who recently had great races and substantial jumps in their running after periods of difficulty, I’ve been motivated to run with the Garmin again, to face my paces and attempt to improve the situation.

It wasn’t a huge surprise to find out how slow I was going, so that part wasn’t really disappointing, but what remained troubling is the continuing lack of comfort in my runs. After 6 months, you’d think such small runs would at least feel somewhat commonplace.  I know that increasing the distance would certainly help, but I’m not about to go longer if I can’t at least feel ok with a 3-miler.

Over the past week, this stagnant situation came to a head with a string of dark days.  I missed the old Runners World forum participation and Facebook chatter, the race talk, the training banter, the excitement of having a goal to accomplish and the steps it requires along the way. While my design biz has been a substantial distraction, running has remained unfinished business. I’ve been waving off questions about it as “It’s cool, I just do it for exercise now, little runs a few times a week” but it’s not been cool. And when running is not fun to do, it’s easy to find excuses not to. “Oh look, a leaf is swaying, way too windy to run today!” (70 degrees, 6mph wind). Which just adds to the Reasons I Suck.

Starting Over
And then there was Friday.  Halfway through an aggravating 3-miler, I was on the edge of stopping to regather myself (when I do that, I pause my Garmin because I’m too much of an asshole to want that in my pace stats), but this time instead of stopping, I was all “fuckit, I’ll just walk and keep the Garmin going, what difference does any of it make at this point anyway?”  I ended up taking 3 walk breaks in the second half of that puny, pathetic run. Once home, I uploaded the Garmin into Sporttracks, feeling utterly defeated.

So how odd it was, after the upload finished, to see that my average pace (which included the walks) was one of my fastest I’d had since keeping track the last few weeks. Er…what? I sat there in amused surprise for a bit, and then did something I thought I’d never, ever, ever, ever do. Ever.

I looked up Gallowalking.

God, it’s so embarrassing just writing that. Run/Walking is for noobs! It’s for people who just want to “complete” a race! Blah blah, more judgmental blah.  But the truth of the matter is that what I’m doing now clearly isn’t working, something needs to change.

It seemed to me that if I decided breaks were not only allowed but necessary, then I could rid myself of the quitter mentality that plagues me, while recovery from the constant resets could surely get me over the distance hump and might even make the whole discomfort issue moot. Whoa.

So how to approach this run/walking deal?  I could do it like I did when I gave up the Garmin – running until it didn’t feel so great, then walking a bit – the only difference is now I’d record it on my Garmin and not berate myself. Pfft…like that could happen. Because if you walk due to having reached a point where you need to, you’ve already messed up. And I would never let such an opportunity to bitch at myself go by.

On the other hand, by doing it in a structured way from the very start of the run, you avoid reaching that crap point to begin with. The more I thought it about it, the more I realized I needed to do this for real: the Galloway way. sigh

But when I looked at his suggested ratios of running to walking, I balked. “3:1? 4:1? OMG, you must be kidding, I’ll do 8:1 or 9:1. After all, I’m a Real Runner!”  But then I remembered I’m currently a Truly Shitty Runner and if I’m going to do it, why not go all in? I have absolutely nothing to lose – certainly no existing fitness – and hell, I’ve regressed to a beginner state anyway so would it be so bad to leave my ego and expectations behind? 4:1 it is!

So yesterday I went for my first official run/walk and it was just as I imagined it’d be, only better. Pace ended up being irrelevant because I got to explore a trail I’d been dying to run but hadn’t had the opportunity because it’s 2.25mi from my house (I haven’t run farther than 4mi since October 2013). It turned out to be a one-person-wide, “geez, there are steep jutty rocks here, oh shit a guy on a bike, where am I supposed to go!?” trail with lots of ups and downs – huge fun!

In the end, I went 6.33 miles. A genuine blast of a run in a new environment, twice the length of my normal crap runs (ok, technically just 5.3mi of that was actual running, but that’s still more than I’ve done in a year), where I felt I was working but could “legally” recompose, and without once entering a bad headspace. Win!

So this is officially my new running experiment. Let’s see where it takes me.

The Circle Of Garmin
7 years ago, while in the midst of Couch To 5k (the venerable learn-to-run plan that turned this sloth into a runner), I bought my first Garmin. Though I was still in the thick of the run/walk phase, I already knew with certainty that I’d be into running for the long haul, so I happily plunked down a large chunk of cash for a Garmin 305.  I’ve since had two 305’s and a 205 due to their unexpected deaths and while Garmin stopped making both models years ago, my current 305 still works just fine.

But there I was yesterday, in an odd sort of deja vu, once again sitting at the computer making a similar purchase: the Garmin 220. The situation was tinged with irony because in 2007, it was bought with excited expectations of leaving the run/walk phase for continuous runs, whereas yesterday it was bought solely as a commitment for trading continuous runs in favor of run/walking. It’ll help because the newfangled Garmins have vibration alerts, so I’ll be able to avoid the immense amount of interval beeping required for all that ::snicker:: Gallowalking.

On a last and other note, as mentioned in the Richmond section above, I take alone-time to the extreme though I know it’s not the healthiest way to be. My hope was to eventually join a running club, but at the level I’ve been running at, I wasn’t about to pursue it. But now, with a little greasing of the wheels and motivation to get back in the game, it won’t be long before I’ll feel comfortable enough to join one of the many Richmond running groups.

In the meantime, look at what I’m doing right here…writing a blog post! Talking! sort of

So here’s to fresh starts, of which I’m guaranteed plenty due to a shitload of walking breaks ahead.

A Richmond Adventure

On Monday, I drove to Richmond, Virginia to find an apartment.

About a week before, anxious about what I’d find and how to find it, it occurred to me that for the same rent I currently pay in Philly, I could afford a luxury high-rise in Richmond.  So prior to leaving, I arranged an appointment at a building with great floorplans and amenities, plus lots of positive tenant reviews.  That was my first stop in Richmond, and I was so sure I’d love it that I imagined I’d be driving back the next day, lease in hand.  Alas, the apartments were just ok and the area wasn’t that great so I got back in the car, once again full of anxiety about what the next few days would bring.

Next stop was the AirBnB I reserved, which ended up being in a fantastic location (the area I would ultimately want to live: Carytown/The Fan) and my host, Fiona, turned out to be a gem, full of great advice. The funny story with that though, was when I drove up to her house the first time, there was an elderly black man on the porch who couldn’t speak (literally unable to form words) but who seemed bright, just extremely odd.  Fiona was picking up her kid so the door was locked though she said she’d leave it open for me.  So I’m standing there saying pleasantries to this man who’s grunting back, wondering if I’ve gotten the address mangled or what.  Turns out he’s some neighborhood guy that just sits on her porch every day.  I don’t know if he sits on other folks’ porches, too, but he certainly does like Fiona’s.

That night, I had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed a neighborhood walk with my new friend, Emily, who lives in this same area. That was so great because she’s also a runner and had so much valuable info to share but also, I just really like her!  I’ve reserved a place on her porch for wine guzzling after I’m permanently installed.

The next few days of apartment hunting were a serious emotional roller-coaster, made worse by the fact that I’m self-employed so my 1040 looks atrocious (such is life when you deduct large portions of your rent and utilites for a home office).  Because I knew that’d be a problem, I brought 3 months of bank statements, figuring that those, along with a fabulous rental history and excellent credit score, would suffice. But some companies require 1040s, no exceptions.

On top of that, there’s not a lot of inventory here for nice 1 bedrooms, probably helped by students already grabbing those up. If I was wanting a cheap apartment around $700, there are a good number of those (albeit small and dingy), but thanks to my business blossoming so beautifully, I could get something much nicer and larger…if only there were more to choose from though!  One girl I met at an apartment showing said she’d seen 23 apartments in the last month, which didn’t cheer me up any.  Several times I resigned myself to the fact I might have to suffer another Philly winter – a miserable prospect because I’m so over that place.

But hey, today I got an apartment. A GREAT apartment. On a gorgeous quiet block, 3rd/top floor so no footsteps above me, washer/dryer in the unit, an extra room perfect for my office, renovated kitchen and bathroom and the thing I wanted most…a balcony to watch the world go by. It even has a free reserved parking space so if I do get a car, that’s another bonus.  And it’s cheaper than my tiny Philly apartment!

So that’s it, I’m moving to Richmond mid-August!  I’m already counting down the days, so excited to begin my new life.

As for my perception of Richmond, I just love it.  People are so friendly and laid back, they say Hi and smile as they pass and I love hearing the accents, it’s a subtle yet distinct lilt.  The way I see it (or feel it) is that Philadelphia is a city of hard edges, whereas Richmond is a feather on your cheek.  So soft, so sweet.  I cannot wait to call it home.

Girl In Motion Once Again

A few months ago, I really thought I was doomed.  My mystery situation had reached a nadir: I couldn’t run, new symptoms had cropped up and I was convinced it was the entrance into something very bad. MS to be exact.

During that time, I changed. A lot. I wish I had the nerve to write everything I thought of and planned for during that period because it would make great reading, but I don’t have the guts.  My closest friends got some major earfuls (and a barrage of tearfuls) for which I feel bad to have subjected them but am incredibly grateful for having such loving friends who allowed me to drown them with such depressing shit.

Eventually, after a couple months of wallowing, I chilled out and got used to the whole idea, focusing on work and taking a true “que sera, sera” approach. I stopped imagining a scary future and instead, devised a plan to move to Richmond and change this life that I’ve been thoughtlessly coasting through for far too long.

May

After months of the bad crap that seemed to build and build, I recently started feeling noticeably better. The ferocious itching bouts lessened to nearly nil and the numb white toes thing (Secondary Raynaud’s) that had begun to accompany me during park walks stopped happening.  In my previous theorizing, I had assumed – since hot showers, exertion and getting under the bed covers would trigger the itching – that heat was causing it. Due to that, I really dreaded the coming summer.  So I was happily surprised to find that as the weather improved, so did these issues.

Today, when I went to my doctor to discuss the test results (which are all clear, yay!) I bounced the following idea off her and she said it could be. That it’s not heat per se, but the change in temp from cold to hot, because I was seriously freezing in my apartment all winter, swathed in layers but never actually warm, so any heating up would have been a marked difference from my norm.  Not that it makes a huge difference now, but maybe somewhere down the line, this delineation will matter.

Anyway, my doctor had me go over everything again and was very interested in the Raynaud’s photos which, at the last appointment, I’d only shown to the resident. She says it can arise from an auto-immune disease or a vascular problem but since MS is currently off the list, my tests don’t indicate the need for a Rheumatologist (which would be the next investigatory move), and since the itching and Raynaud’s has chilled out for the time being, I’m to “wait and see” until I see her again in August. In the meantime, she encourages me to get back to running.

For once, I am totally 100% cool with waiting and seeing.  Because even though I don’t know what’s up with me or what’s next for it, if anything, at least I know I am not a ticking time bomb and that things can get better! That’s sort of huge.

About Running

As mentioned in the previous post, last week I got inspired by a carpet of grass and ran a few yards.  I was elated.  Cautiously so, but really happy that I could do that at all.  Then I got totally scared by the thought of getting back to it.

Big props to my pal Lara, who I’ve mentioned here a few times.  We met soon after I started running in 2007 and she figuratively held my hand at my first race, the Clean Air 5K.  We used to run together sometimes until I got my sea legs and she went her cycling freak way.  But in a kooky “Life’s Full Circle” thing, she recently had a baby and has been out of the fitness loop and said she’d be up for some run/walking.  So last Thursday, she once again figuratively held my hand while I did my first official run/walk return. Bless that girl, it helped tremendously to have her there.

Since then, I’ve been out for a run/walk by myself once and did an exercise DVD on another day (yes, the same Walk Your Way Slim stupidity as on the “white numb toes” day, but this time with no ill effects save for mind-numbing “kill me now” boredom.)

I feel like I should admit though, that there’s a likelihood I’ll never be the same gung-ho runner I once was.  Of course, it’s too early to predict and I might find that as I get in the groove, the passion returns, but right now I’m still scared of it.  I’m not waking up thinking “Oh goodie, I can’t wait to get out there!” But that’s A-OK. It’s a new phase and the runner in me will reveal itself in time, or not.

No matter what happens, this whole mess ended up being a gift.  My life has changed for the better, all because I had to think of a Plan B for Life: What I was going to do IF.  But even without the IF, the Plan B remains sensible, fun and exciting.  In Plan B, I’ve got a whole new business model that is already making great moolah (shocking, actually) and I get to grow that business in Richmond!  To that end, I’ve got an Airbnb reserved for the last week in June for apartment hunting – I can’t wait to meet up with my new Richmond friends, Emily and Ingrid!

But the icing on Plan B’s cake was something I never expected…I get to run, too!  It’s not the end-all be-all of my life, it’s a too, but it’s a glorious, joyful, back in flight, I can run! Too.

The Girl, she’s back in motion.

I Ran. Sort of.

I’ve got a little update today.

Medical-wise, I still don’t have all the results yet.  The blood tests and cervical MRI results were posted online and everything looks fine with that. The MRI reports some degeneration but nothing I didn’t know about already. Most importantly, no lesions.

What’s left is the results of the spinal tap and the evoked potentials, and since I didn’t receive a phone call, I assume nothing weird showed up in either.  When I left the doctor’s office at that initial appointment, she told me she likes to talk about results face to face, so I’ve got a May 29th appointment, but I went ahead and left a message on her machine today to see if she’ll tell me over the phone.

But the thing I want to report, as the title of this post gives away, is that I ran today!  I mean, I didn’t run run but I did jog back and forth a few times on a grassy area.

I had closed off the possibility of even doing that months ago.  I’d do little tests by trying to jog across the street but always felt the weird gait before I reached the other side. Then, with the numb feet thing (which sometimes happens on walks now) I’ve been all “Why bother trying? I’m falling apart”.  But today I went for a walk and was wearing some old running shorts and a tank and saw a stretch of soft green grass and just had to try, it was inescapable.  And it wasn’t terrible!  It was kind of amazing, actually.

Of course, the second I finished today’s little joggette, I was immediately dreaming of doing Couch-to-5K again but I’m going to try my best not to get too gung-ho just yet.  I don’t ever want to feel the way it felt before, so if that means there’s a threshold I need to stay under by sticking to a few yards here and there, that’ll be just fine. I’m just so happy I was able to do it at all.

No matter what the future holds – and the future is really a useless place to devote all your mental time, take it from me – I’m feeling a lot more hopeful than I have in months.  Maybe I don’t have to bag up that pile of running shoes by the door. And maybe I shouldn’t empty my running clothes drawer, after all. Maybe I’ll use them all again.  For real.