Where The Girl Has Been – Part 2

There are 2 main types of thyroid medication. The most commonly prescribed is synthetic T4. The other is natural dessicated thyroid hormone (NDT). It’s derived from pig thyroid and provides both T3 and T4. That’s the one I wanted.

Not a lot of doctors prescribe NDT but I found one in Richmond, a D.O. which, in the thyroid world, is generally recommended along with functional doctors over endocrinologists, since endos are known to treat by numbers rather than symptoms.

I made an appointment, thrilled that at long last, my nightmare was coming to an end.

The Appointment
After recounting my long tale, I hand over a timeline of previous TSH results along with the thyroid lab report. I mention a thyroid nodule found on a cervical scan last year but he dismisses it. He does, however, confirm I have Hashimoto’s.

He goes on to tell me that because some of my symptoms don’t fit, I’ve probably got an additional autoimmune disease (when you have one, you’re susceptible to more). I am surprisingly unfazed by that, my relief at finding someone who seems ready to get to the bottom of it all eclipses everything.

I’m a little taken aback though when, upon my mentioning something I’d read in my online thyroid travels, he rolls his eyes before making a disparaging comment about those “sites” (he actually said it like there were quotation marks around it).

Now, dear readers, due to an enormous amount of crappy or non-existent treatment, the online thyroid world is a sizable presence. Between discussion boards and advocacy sites, there’s information, experiences and data out the wazoo. I’ve been lurking on several sites for 4 months straight, and from the lab interpretations and discussions I’ve seen, I have a huge amount of trust and respect for the people who devote their time to analyzing and advising others in such a consistent fashion. And it is consistent from site to site, which lends more credibility to that information.

So when he tells me the dosage of NDT he’ll be prescribing is 1/4 grain, and that I’ll stay on that dose for 5 weeks before reevaluating, I recognize instantly that this is bad news.

Thyroid dosing is a slow process, taking months to find the correct dose, but common wisdom from all those “sites” (I sneered as I wrote that, because it’s fun to do) is that starting on too low a dose or staying on a starter dose longer than 2 weeks is likely to make you feel worse than not taking anything at all. What he was prescribing was both too low and too long. But he was adamant, “This is the way I dose NDT”.

I left with mixed feelings, unhappy about the dosage but reasoning that at least he was going to find out what else was wrong with me. For that alone, I could handle feeling like shit for a few weeks.

12 days later
I call the doctor’s office, beseeching him to please raise my dose to 1/2 grain. This, because I’m shivering cold to the bone, depressed as hell, my purple feet are now turning white, my fingers are twitchier than ever and I’m experiencing air hunger. Misery.

No reply for a couple days. Then I get a phone call from his receptionist – she has called to recite the doctor’s notes concerning labs I took the previous week – tons of tests actually: food allergies, sex hormones, complements, celiac, lyme, thyroid, ANA and more. Some stuff was fine, some was out of range, and for those items, the doctor’s notes were “I don’t deal with that” or “it’s inconclusive”.

Then the receptionist tells me the doc has agreed to raise me to 1/2 grain, but it’s accompanied with an admonishment, “Remind Ms. Karp that this is a long, slow process and blah blah blah”. And even more punishing, due to the dose increase, he makes me reschedule my next appointment 2 weeks later than originally planned. That meant I would remain on a shitty little dose for 7 weeks straight.

Over the next few weeks, I felt way better than on 1/4 grain but still crappy. I had to gave up run/walking completely, sticking to brisk walks for exercise instead. But I also made a wild discovery, one I was SURE would help the doctor figure out my troubles.

Another Crazy Symptom
When taking thyroid medication, there are a couple ways to monitor the effects: heart rate and temperature. I had started taking my temperature throughout the day – my usual waking temp is around 96.9 and during the day is 96’s-low 97s. That’s not unusual, hypo people are cold. But in my special snowflake case, it gets a little more interesting.

One day, when I was still run/walking, I get back into the apartment and think, “hmmm, I’m hot and sweaty, my temperature’s gotta be around 98.6, let’s see!” I stick the thermometer in my mouth, which takes an unusually long time for its “done” beep. And the result is: 92.5.


Thinking the thermometer must be broken, I take my non-digital thermometer and stick it in my mouth for 4 minutes. The faux mercury doesn’t even approach the first number (the thermometer’s lines start at 95). Shit’s real.

From that point on, I take my temperature after any activity, whether it’s a walk to the grocery store, housework, anything…without fail, it’ll be weirdly low and then, over the next 15 minutes it’ll inch up till it’s normal again. This happens every. single. time.

Of course I searched the web for explanations, but all I found was a random forum thread indicating adrenals. But as my doctor said in the first appointment concerning adrenals, “I don’t believe in adrenal fatigue, either it’s working or it’s not”. I didn’t have a big opinion on his viewpoint, adrenals are considered important on those “sites”, but I figured that if not adrenals, he’d have an explanation for why this was happening. I was confident he’d find this new clue super helpful.

I carefully graphed out these low activity temps and anxiously awaited the next appointment. I also rehearsed how I’d request more reasonable dosing. To that end, I printed off the prescribing information for my NDT (Naturethroid) and its competitor product, which both state initial dose is 1/2 grain and dosage should be increased every 2-3 weeks. (Note: on those “sites”, 1 grain is a common starting dose, but I was pushing the conservative route, the better to get him on board)

In my spiel I’d make it clear that he needn’t fear me going hyper from overmedication, that I would be monitoring heart rate and temperatures. Nothing would catch me by surprise!

The 2nd Appointment
Because I was convinced that my low exertion temps were a major clue in whatever else was ailing me, the first thing I did was present him with the cute graph I made. In my imagination, he jumps up and says, “By Jove, That’s It!”, explains what it means, gives me the cure and I live happily ever after.

What happened is he snorted and said, “That’s odd”. I ask what it indicates and he says, “No idea.” When I ask if any of his other patients have experienced anything like that he says (snorting again, because I’m obviously psycho to have taken my temperature a bunch of times and put them on a graph), “I don’t know, I don’t think anyone’s taken their temperature like that.”

Then I make the mistake of saying, “The only thing I could find about it online mentioned adrenals” and he replies, “I told you before I don’t deal with adrenals”. I ask what kind of doc would know how to deal with this, an endocrinologist? He gives me a doubtful look and says, shrugging, “You could try a naturopath or some other alternative doctor….”

Seriously? Mainstream medicine can’t be bothered with unusually low body temperatures? That’s “alternative”?  But what I said is, “If I had a fever, a regular doctor would consider that worth treating, how is this different?”. Another shrug.

Then we go over my latest test results and of course, just as the “sites” foretold, all my thyroid numbers were worse. And a couple of the “inconclusive” results from the previous tests were still out of range. One of these, low Complement C3, didn’t have much online about its significance when paired with normal C4 & CH50 (I’m pretty sure I don’t have malaria), so I asked what it indicated thinking he could explain more than Google. He just said, ‘it’s an immune marker”, so I ask what that means, as in, “Ok, what will you do with this information?”. Crickets.

Then it came time for “May we please dose me per the manufacturer’s prescribing information?”, to which he replied, “You know how I dose NDT, if that doesn’t work for you, you should find another doctor”. Defeated, I asked, “If you were prescribing me synthetic instead, would you dose so conservatively?” His answer, “I dunno…depends.” Asshole.

He wasn’t going to figure out anything. And at his rate, it would be Spring before I’d land on a stable dose of medicine. I left in tears, having wasted 2 months when I could have been getting better.

On My Own
I had a plan in place before that last appointment, now I would implement it.

Forget wasting valuable time shopping for a new doctor, begging for dose increases, or being made to feel as though I have an unnatural thermometer obsession. I did what so many others do: I ordered NDT from Thailand.

Here’s the skinny on my current status: It’s a few weeks now that I’ve been self-medicating* and it’s going well! I’m tracking my temps and heart rate daily and will get blood tests in 6-week intervals to stay on top of it, just as I would with a doctor. But I don’t need no stinkin’ doctor.

Then in February, after dosing has stabilized, I’ll bring all my test results to the new primary care doc I just chose (seems like a great guy, tons of positive reviews).  At that point, the next step will be clearer, thanks to symptoms abating (or not), and I’ll be happy to be referred to a specialist.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll hand over the self-treating reigns. As mentioned in the last post, my healthcare confidence is at an all-time low, so if things continue to improve as expected and I feel settled and satisfied, then I’ll stick to my DIY regimen, regardless of endos in the midst.

I’m no longer pining to be cared for by a white coat, just pining to get this health albatross off my back. And to that end, I will not waste another moment.

*On self-medication: I don’t advise anyone to follow my footsteps unless you know what you’re doing and have thoroughly educated yourself. I’m also not the one to ask how-to or where to get it, there are resources online that are easy enough to find. I’m just telling my story.

Where The Girl Has Been – Part 1

It’s been 7 years since my first race collapse, 3½ years since that crazy 9-day hospital stay, and a veritable eternity wondering what’s wrong with me.

By the time I left Philly, I had given up looking for answers. All the researching, doctors appointments, tests, the strange symptoms coupled with the fears that this was all in my head, and the loss of my running as I had known it…it wore me down in a big way. So I decided to stop pursuing it completely and just get on with life, which I did for a year.

Then July happened.

July 2015: General Checkup
I was happily avoiding all things medical since moving to Richmond, but I needed a mammogram referral (normal check-up), which necessitated seeing a doctor. I wondered before the appointment if I should tell this new primary care doc about my health mystery but when I started to tell her, it became clear how pointless it would be, so I sputtered out early with a “nevermind”.

Some good did come out of that appointment, however! She ordered some general bloodwork and it was revealed that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. That was unexpected and hopeful, in a way, because (always the runner) Vitamin D and VO2max are close companions, so I wondered if that was the reason my running was worsening as time wore on. And if I have one deficiency, maybe I have more – what if it all boiled down to something simple?

With that, my investigative energy returned. The first thing I did was order a couple more “runner-centric” blood tests on my own dime: B12 (low) and iron/ferritin (perfectly normal).

Then Things Got Weird
Back in health detective mode, I immediately started paying attention to anything odd my body was doing (beyond the usual weird stuff that I was now accustomed to). It’s kind of amazing how I managed not to notice these things up to this point, but I think it was a denial sort of deal.

First off, my feet.

Back in 2013, I wrote a post describing my first noticeable attack of Secondary Raynaud’s, complete with photo and hugely embarrassing lack of pedicure. While I had a few random episodes in the months following, I hadn’t thought about it since then.

Now that I was paying attention, however, I noticed that while sitting at my desk, throughout the day, my feet would feel strange (tingly and cold). I’d mindlessly move my toes around to make the feeling go away.  But since I was on the hunt again, one day in July, I finally took off my little sockies to see exactly what was going on. And it was this:


My hand is there for color comparison. This happens every single day, throughout the day, as long as I’m sitting in a chair.

I assume it’d been happening for quite a long time because my big toenails have horizontal ridges on them (called Beau’s lines) that are related to Raynauds, which is what this is, same as in 2013, but more and constant. Some days, the cold and color would travel halfway up my shin!

Next, my crazy fingers.

Again, I’ve no idea when it started, I just noticed it in July once I started paying attention. It’s all on the left hand (though very occasionally a teensy bit on the right).

You might remember I posted about the crazy itch attacks I’d get in a hot shower (which still happen, though not as ferociously). Turns out the finger tremor is also guaranteed to occur with a hot shower, though it also happens intermittently throughout the day and I’ve no idea what triggers it then.

Another, more interesting side note: While searching this blog to see when I’d first mentioned “itching” (because I was compiling an outline for the doctor I’ll be telling you about), I landed on an old post from 2009 a few months after my first race collapse. It mentions my left index finger twitching intermittently for 4 days straight, which I’d forgotten completely. Apparently, ’twas a harbinger of things to come!

What I Did Next
Because I’m done panicking when it comes to my health mystery, I didn’t freak about these symptoms. I was actually grateful for them, since photographic proof is so much more useful than “I used to run 8min/mi easy runs but now I run 11-12 minute miles”, though the latter being infinitely more gut-wrenching.

Even with photos and video, I still wasn’t anxious to go to a doctor about it, my confidence in the medical world having been trampled and kicked to the curb. But the foot problem seemed worth tending to since, if this was happening in the midst of July, what would happen with them in winter?!

So in DIY fashion, I initially attempted to fix it with supplements, hoping the magnesium I’d been taking to accompany my Vitamin D would build up and help, then adding ginkgo, both known for circulatory effects. But weeks later, neither made a dent.

Next, I went back to Dr. Google, researching Secondary Raynaud’s in earnest – which led me to one cause of it that I’d previously glossed over: thyroid issues. My TSH tests had always been in normal lab range – albeit on the high side.

What I didn’t know until I started reading about thyroid, is that lab ranges for TSH can be virtually useless. That if symptomatic, you need a few other tests (most importantly free T3 and free T4) to determine whether your thyroid is actually working correctly. But the catch is that if your TSH is within lab range, most doctors won’t consider investigating further despite the wealth of symptoms you might have.

I don’t want to spend many words on it, but in a tiny nutshell: your thyroid controls your metabolism, how much oxygen gets sent to your cells and how much energy you get to have, among other things.

I went back over my TSH results through the years (I had 6, starting from 2009), and noted that each one increased over the previous. None of them were in “optimal” range, and my last one was at the very top of range.

Birthday Present To Myself
On September 6th, I turned 54. The Friday before my birthday, I bought myself a full thyroid panel. That means blood tests for TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPOAb, TgAb along with 5 other thyroid tests. The whole thing cost me $208 – infinitely cheaper than a week-long hospital stay, or an unnecessary liver procedure, or a few lost years wondering what in hell is wrong with me.

Bitter much? Yeah, I get to be pissed off. I wasted a lot of time and tears.

Because a few days later, my results came back. My TSH was 5.39 (officially High), my Free T3 and Free T4 were both on the low end (gee, no wonder I can’t run), and most telling: high TPO antibodies.

High TPO antibodies are the marker of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: an autoimmune thyroid disease. Coupled with my high TSH, FT3 and FT4 results, there was no interpretation about it. It was.

That’s it for this installment, stay tuned for an even weirder symptom in Part II. Because the fun just gets funner. sigh

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.

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.

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.


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.