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 June 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.

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.

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’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.

Just a quickie, nothing to do with body conditions or sports, but all to do with my latest design endeavors, of which I am completely enamored: customized invitations & stationery.

I’ve been curious about the realm of invites for a while but always considered it intimidating, especially because I don’t go to normal people’s gatherings much (hell, I went to my very first baby shower about 3 months ago). I mean, invitations have tons of words on them and they announce peoples’ very special event so they’re really important and it’s all so scary and mysterious and…  Well, screw that. I finally bit the bullet and got my toes wet. Once I made a couple, I realized that this is the perfect outlet for my skills. They’re a blast to make!

So I opened a new Zazzle shop for ready-made invites but last week I realized that I could do better by selling them digitally via my Nifty Printables shop. The major upside of that, aside from it being completely autonomous (no small thing), is that creatively, I get to keep my design vision from start to finish.  Because when  you make customized invites at Zazzle, you have to dumb them down to accommodate their weak selection of fonts and limited creation parameters.  Not saying my Zazzle invites aren’t cute, but the ones at Nifty Printables are exactly as I intend them to look. Of course, the tradeoff is that now I will have to deal with actual people (OMG, OH NO) but I’ll learn to adapt. Really. I will.

Enough jabbering, here are a few samples of my work:

4th Of July Invitations - Shabby Printable BBQ July 4th Invitations - Independence Day Party Invites - Flag Red White & Blue Chevron Stars

Casino Birthday Party Invitation - Playing Cards Casino Printable Adult Birthday Invites - Vegas Party & Casino Party Invitations

Surprise Birthday Party Invitations

Printable Anniversary Invitations - Pink & Gold Glitter Milestone or Any Year - Elegant Anniversary Party Invites - Pink White Stripes - PGL

Outer Space Birthday Party Invitations

Father's Day Cupcake Toppers - Black & Gold Glitter Fathers Day Printable - DIY Gold Dad Pop Favor Tags or Stickers - BGL

Printable Bachelorette Invitations - Black & Silver Glitter Invites - Digital Bachelorette Party Invitations

Beach Wedding Save The Date Invitation - Modern Nautical Beach Save The Date Card - Destination Wedding - Blue Ocean Beach Photo

Tons more where these came from, plus wall art, pre-made logos, assorted party printables and more, so check out Nifty Printables when you get a chance. Oh, and one last link (sorry for the voluminous promotion today but I figure I might as well get some Google spidering action out of this site while it’s sitting here) is for my House Of Flo site. I’m going to be posting there on a semi-regular basis, so if you’re ever bored, check it out.

To my Boston Marathon friends, have a great race, it’s almost here!

Ciao, folks.

 

 

I’ve been in a holding pattern the past few weeks, eagerly awaiting an appointment with an MS specialist. I’d scheduled two different doctors at 2 different hospital systems, playing the cancellation game for whoever would give me the soonest appointment.  So how wonderful to receive a call yesterday at 3PM from the doctor whose first available appointment was in July (I scheduled it in January!), asking if I could come in this morning. “YES!!!” And off I went…

The appointment was with a pair of doctors who were such a remarkable contrast to the previous doc that any guilt I had for thinking that guy was inept went out the window…that guy was seriously inept.  I walked out of today’s appointment with orders for a spinal tap, a cervical spine MRI, something called Evoked Potentials (it’s a collection of tests for nerve response that takes 3.5 hours) along with a boatload of blood tests.

These are all happening on April 24th though my follow-up appointment won’t be until May 29th. But despite this thing dragging on interminably, it’s an intense relief to feel I’m finally being properly investigated. Even if nothing definitive turns up (which could happen, the doctor said sometimes people just have stuff they can’t figure out) I’ll at least have a certain peace knowing all the bases were covered.

Interesting side note: today, March 28th, is exactly two years from the day I was initially admitted to the hospital for this thing. What symmetry is this?

In other news, I’m moving to Richmond, VA in the fall.  I had an epiphany while walking on my old river running route, which has become a bittersweet place for me now (more sad than sweet), that I don’t feel much of anything for Philadelphia. The only thing I really loved about it, aside from my friend Lara, was the river path and now that’s tainted, an ever present reminder of what I can’t do anymore, so it’s time to go.

Also, since I’m unsure as to how I’m going to progress physically, I’ve decided to set myself up to make all my income via the design biz. This way I can live anywhere as long as I have my desk and computer.  Add to that a cheaper city than Philly and I’m set.

Thus, I’ve been in turbo-design mode for weeks now, building up the business while having a great time doing it.  Because it’s fun! I get so excited by new ideas and what I’m finding is the more I work, the more ideas come to me. So this, along with the impending move, is a super bright spot in my life right now.

Back to the move, in February I posed a “where should I go?” question on Facebook with a specific set of parameters and got a wealth of great replies. Ultimately I decided on Richmond for a few reasons, it fulfills the “don’t need a car” parameter more than any of the other suggestions, rents are way better than Philly, the weather’ll be an improvement, and it’s a major river town (this is a huge bonus to me).  Not a deciding factor but a nice surprise, it appears Richmond has some voiceover work going on, though I’m not sure how much or how tight the scene is, it’s nice to know there are opportunities if I want to pursue it.

So that’s the story for now.  Moving forward inch by inch.

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