The Last Entry In The Game

I wasn’t going to write again till I talked to a specialist but I found something I want to put out there as the final contribution to “Flo’s Theories Of What’s Going On”. I figure I’ll offer up this last piece of potential enlightenment so we can have fun comparing notes after the doc visits, the first of which is next week.

Before I do though, because this is a diary of sorts (and an invaluable one since I’d have forgotten everything otherwise) I must report that this month has been a real challenge.  I’ve had constant bothersome symptoms like itchy rashes that pop up and disappear daily, twitching facial bits and more memory weirdness, though I also had an entertaining nerve oddity a few days ago.  For about 20 minutes, it felt like I had a hair on my ring finger that I could not remove!  What made it particularly goofy was that, along with rubbing the finger to make the feeling go away, I also kept blowing on it as you would an actual hair, though I could see from the start that there was nothing there to blow. I thought that was funny; human nature and its habits.  The imaginary hair, btw, pairs nicely with an oddity I had about a year ago when I felt water dripping off my knee, though I was walking outside wearing jeans and hadn’t pissed myself. Crazy shite.

But the worst thing going on with me this month has been depression.  I’ve cried 26 of the last 28 days.  I’m not a depressed person by nature and have never had such an extended streak of Suck so I don’t think it’s entirely about being scared and feeling sorry for myself (though yes, of course I am doing that, too).  I think the constancy and depth of these feelings is actually borne of the thing itself – that it’s just another stupid neuro symptom.  So I’m remaining tearfully objective about it. But it does suck.

That said, today I feel much better because I found something last night, a potential name to attach to my movement oddity:  Extensor Spasticity (aka Upper Motor Neuron Syndrome). When I think of spasticity, I always imagine someone gnarled up in a wheelchair, but that would be its most severe form.  Spasticity is when you lose the correct mix of tension and relaxation to your muscles so they tense up tight, and here’s the kicker: it’s velocity dependent! “Spasticity is highly influenced by the speed with which one tries to move.  This means that the faster the message is to contract against the tight muscles, the stronger the signal is to keep them rigid”.  That would explain why it only happens when I run and also why, if I’m walking and attempt to dodge across a busy street (I don’t dare anymore) the feeling starts instantly as if I was stuck in quicksand, yet when I go for a run it doesn’t begin until I’ve gone a block or so.

Another interesting thing from the National MS Society’s page about gait is a passage that matches my suspicion concerning my left foot toe-landing: “Weakness can cause problems such as toe drag, foot drop, “vaulting” (a compensatory technique that involves raising the heel on the stronger leg to make it easier to swing the weaker leg through), compensatory hip hike, trunk lean, or circumduction (swinging leg out to the side).” Also amusing that in the last post I mention my spastic arm movement when it just might literally be that.

Anyway, the fact that my movement pattern might be a common thing in the neurological world and that running could actually be a sensible trigger instead of a frustratingly mysterious anomaly makes me a lot more optimistic about my upcoming doc appointments.  I’m now more confident that the video depicts more than an uptight chick with a choppy gait and a frowny face and is likely to be something a neurologist will recognize. Thanks again to Thom for taking it and to my friend Dr. Dan for suggesting video in the first place, it’s going to make a world of difference (and already has in my ability to describe and understand it better).

Speaking of doctors, I start next week: Infectious disease doc on Wednesday and then on January 3rd, a neurologist I’m pinning all my hopes on – his specialties are movement disorders and neuroimmunology. I actually tried to see him last year after November’s ER visit because he seemed like the perfect specialist for me, but his office required a written interview to get an appointment and…I failed. Which, incidentally, took the wind out of my sails for pursuing further medical help.  But I hold no grudge since “my legs do these weird, stiff baby steps but it only happens when I run”  probably wasn’t that convincing a problem.  A year later, with more symptoms and a ton more clarity to explain what actually occurs, they let me skip the interview process entirely.

Lyme, MS or Whatever
Back in March 2012 when it started, my neurologist told me that since my MRIs were clear, it definitely wasn’t MS, that visible lesions always precede symptoms.  But according to the National MS Society, “approximately 5% of patients with clinically definite MS do not show lesions on MRI at the time of diagnosis. Also, since many lesions seen on MRI may be in so-called “silent” areas of the brain, it is not always possible to make a specific correlation between what is seen on the MRI scan and the patient’s clinical signs and symptoms.”  And a few forum searches came up with many people who had clear MRIs at the start.

Not to say I’m now placing bets on MS, but I’m going to release my clutches a bit on the lyme idea because spasticity (if that’s what it is) is seen in 80% of MS patients but only a fraction of lymies experience it.  So, if the infectious disease doc says “nope, not lyme” I’ll believe it and trust that the neurologist will get to the bottom of it.  Whatever it is, I believe that the answer is ready to be found.

Video: What I Look Like Running

This weekend is the Philly marathon which I’ll be actively avoiding (sorry racing friends, I can’t handle spectating right now) but as a wonderful byproduct, my friend Thom, whom I’ve known online for years but never met, came for a short stay before joining his buddies for a long weekend of race festivities.  It was one of those “it’s like we’ve known each other forever” deals where you can jabber all day about the deep stuff.  He really couldn’t have come at a better time.

Aside from the sympathetic ear he leant, he helped me out in a huge way today:  I asked him to videotape me running and that is what he did.

I’ve known we were going to do this for 2 weeks and have dreaded it the whole time – dreaded seeing what I look like but also dreaded doing the running in the first place.  I tried to keep running the last couple weeks so there’d be no break in the routine before taping but my body and mind have given up for now.  I simply can’t handle the raw, crappy feeling anymore.  I tried twice and stopped after a few steps, turning them into walks. I’m done.

For frame of reference, here’s how I used to look:


Here’s how I look now (don’t worry, just looks like a shitty runner):

You’d have to slow it down to analyze what my feet and legs are doing but what’s interesting is that for many months, I’ve thought the weird gait was all about my right leg but the video shows me avoiding my left heel for the most part, toe-landing on the left foot only, of all things.  I’m thinking because the right foot scrapes a bit (footdrop, I guess…feels like the toe “sticks” sometimes) that maybe staying up on the left toe makes clearance for the right leg to follow through, like a compensatory leg-lengthening? Just a guess.

Aside from that, my left arm does a spastic sort of pump staying right in front to match the right leg that doesn’t go back much.  And there’s a complete dearth of leg swing and knee lift (the right knee especially appears to barely bend). The intense “smallness” of how my gait feels translates perfectly to how I actually look on the outside.  Again, all this is more apparent when slowed down so you’re probably going “huh? just looks choppy to me”.

The stride morphs a lot as the run progresses, btw.  We almost did 1/4 mile for the video but there’s no telling what I look like 2 miles into it, I know it feels different as it goes.

Doctor Visit
I went to the doc yesterday morning before Thom arrived.  The appointment started with an oddity: I always have very low blood pressure no matter the scene (doctor’s office, emergency room, hospital stay).  The last time I was measured at 92/60, at this appointment it was 155/100!  Granted, it’s been a particularly bad couple of weeks both physically and emotionally but those numbers are cray-cray.

The appointment was surprisingly ok, the doctor’s taking it very seriously and is upset with me for not coming in sooner.  The downside is she’s not that informed about lyme so the negative test means more waiting for me (it should be noted that she thought I had received both standard tests, though I knew I hadn’t since it’s such a predictable story with lyme. It wasn’t till I inquired about specific results that she realized they’d only done the Elisa test). So more blood was taken for a Western Blot which I’m sure will come out negative as well considering how long it’s been, but also some tests for other stuff, like thyroid function.

She won’t give me antibiotics yet, wants me to see an Infectious Disease doc first, but I can’t get in to see one till after Christmas.  She said they’d try to find someone who could see me in the next couple weeks.

As an interesting note, in looking through this blog, I was reminded that I went back to the emergency room last year in November. Lyme bacteria are known to love cool weather.  It keeps making more sense since things took a bad turn as October temps dropped.  Whatever.  November sucks.


My last post received a lot of comments on Facebook. One was from a friend of a friend that simply read “Get tested for Lyme disease.”  I summarily dismissed it because if lyme was a possibility, surely those smart doctors would have tested me when I was in the hospital.  But I gave it a peek anyway, just to properly confirm that it couldn’t be lyme.  Imagine my surprise to find all the symptoms I’ve been experiencing (including things I’d not thought of as symptoms but weird, passing happenings) were all in this list.

Before I go into it, it’s important to note that a few years ago, while living in the Blue Hovel, I found a huge-ass bite on my hip, it was a large red circle (I don’t remember if it had a “bullseye” because lyme hadn’t touched my psyche at that point in life).  I always assumed it was from a spider, which made very little sense since it was an urban apartment and I’d not seen any spiders.  But I’ve had a few visits to upstate NY where my friends have a house in the forest (and ticks are known to reside).  Or locally, Wissahickon or Fairmount (not my usual running route but outside that) could have supplied such a thing.  No matter where it came from, I do remember that bite.

Back to symptoms, the major ones I’ve been dealing with are all listed: reduced reflexes, muscular weakness and poor coordination, constant varied joint issues, noise sensitivity, temperature sensitivity (been especially crappy the last couple weeks…it’s 70 degrees in my apartment yet by the afternoon I’m in 2 longsleeve shirts, a fleece shell, fleece robe and sweatpants and yesterday wore a coat on top of all that…crazy shite), a recurring ocular thing, along with a few random symptoms that have been decidedly weird but haven’t lasted long enough for me to dwell on or talk about. But it’s the cognitive symptoms I’ve been sweeping under the rug that are closing the deal on this line of reasoning.

Word Switching
As soon as I saw that, I knew exactly what it was without having to read anything about it because I’ve just started doing it in the past 3 or 4 months.  What happens is I’ll be typing and the wrong word will emerge. It’s not a misspelling or the result of fatigue, lack of attention or typing in a flurry; it’ll be a word that’s sort of related but not what you planned.  For example, on Saturday I was typing “August or September” but what came out was “August or Wednesday”.  Until now, I’d pause for a sec and think “huh, that’s funny” but now I’m taking notes.

Then on Sunday, I was getting ready to go to Lara’s baby shower and pulled out my skinny jeans for the first time this season.  I’m not a clothes horse by any means – I basically have 3 pairs of shoes I wear during the winter.  Last year I always wore these jeans with a cute pair of North Face hiking boots I’ve owned for 5 years.

But that day, I pulled the jeans from the closet and wondered “now what shoes do I usually wear with these?”  I had a sort of shadow in my head and a B appeared that made me think “brown, brown shoes” but that’s as far as it went.  I saw another pair of shoes on the floor and put them on.

It wasn’t till the next day when, once again, I pulled the jeans out but this time saw those boots right in front of my face. Suddenly I realized how weird it was that the day before I’d completely forgotten their existence and secondly, that I had so quickly ditched the thought without resolution.  A normal Flo would not have left the closet without at least mentally identifying those damn shoes, if not wearing them!

Like I say, I’m just now starting to pay attention to this stuff but I guess it’s been building for a bit.  Just a few weeks ago I had a regrettably angry exchange with a dear friend over my shitty memory.  I got totally defensive for forgetting something (one of many things) he had told me earlier. I was embarrassed and stupidly got pissed off for feeling stupid.  I’ve always had a crappy memory anyway (I joke that it’s because I used to smoke so much pot, though it’s only a half-joke because I was a happy little pothead) but it seems to be morphing into something else.

Anyway, step one is done, I got the lyme test yesterday. I’m incredibly nervous for the results because it’s classic that the test gives a false negative (like 50% classic), especially the longer you have it since the little spiral bacteria will have settled into many hiding places in the body, which also makes it so much harder to treat.  Couple that with the CDC having some crazy crap about what constitutes “treatable” lyme thanks to the doctors on the lyme board who have a financial interest in the disease (watch this fascinating free documentary if you’re interested) forcing people to drive hundreds of miles to find LLMDs (lyme literate doctors) who don’t take insurance but will treat you with the proper combinations and amounts of antibiotics, it’s all so incredibly tense-making.

But I’m happy to have started the ball rolling, whatever it ends up being. I should have the test results in a couple days and have an appointment with my GP for Thursday morning. Cross fingers for me.


ETA: Doctor just called, tests were as expected…negative.

Tough Times

This blog is a strange thing, always in the background, a place I used to write a few times a week, so excited by running and training that I’d often formulate blog posts in the midst of a run.  Now it sits quietly, a little sad and lonely for having been nearly discarded.  I keep thinking I’ll get back to writing regularly when things get normal in my running life, but alas, I’m not sure that’s ever going to be.

I had a couple months of near normal running. It was great and I was even considering a half marathon in the spring. My decision would be based on whether I was running normally by January.  The way things were going, I had high hopes that it’d work out. But here I am on a setback again.

In a nutshell, I ran 79 miles in October.  I could feel the weird symptoms becoming more pronounced and regular so I did mostly 4-milers and took generous rest days.

But last weekend, I got a harsh dose of reality. It was Saturday and I was on the beginning of a run, nearly at the first mile, which is always hard for me (not in a normal “just need to warmup” way but in the “my body is an unrelated stranger” way – the crux of my situation).

Anyway, my friend Jeff rode by on his bike, though I didn’t see him till he stopped behind me and called my name. When I went over to him he said, “Are you ok? You looked really unsteady there.”  This shocked me.  Although self-consciousness has been a constant unwanted companion throughout this period, I always want to believe that I don’t actually look like it feels.  But I do.

I stood there when he asked the question and couldn’t even speak, I was so upset, my mouth sort of opening and closing like a fish. He asked if it was the same thing and all I could do is nod dumbly.

Flash forward to today, I was at his house (he’s the hubby of my pal Lara) and I asked him to replicate what he saw.  Man, that was tough but very important to see. It’s a choppy, odd gate, veering to one side.  Now, this isn’t how my entire run is, it always loosens up to some degree (those good weeks were normal for most of the run) and on grass it’s always less stilted, but still, this shouldn’t be a part of any run.

So it’s clear now, I need to see some doctors again.  Not emergency room stuff, but a methodical ruling out by whoever will see me. It’s simply too long to have been saddled with this. I’m sure it’s going to take a fat collection of copays to get to the bottom of it though, and since I’m a little broke right now, I’m going to wait a few months but I will get it done.

Until then, I’m at a cross-roads.  I’m considering quitting running for a few months.  There’s a psychological hurdle to deal with every time go out, especially when it’s bad like this, that just lacing up my shoes is anxiety-provoking. And then if the run is bad, it’s so frustrating and saddening. The relief I feel when I decide “maybe I’ll take today off” is like a heavy weight off my shoulders for the rest of the day. Imagine this for weeks and months at a time.

But the crazy part of it is that I can still get those wonderful portions of a run that make it all ok and give me hope that this thing is just a sometimes deal. In fact, those two near-normal months have left me even more confused than before.  If I take a few months off, it could very well be for naught and I might waste time from that improvement curve I was on.  What if this current period is just one step back for two steps forward? I just don’t know.

I think what I’ll do is keep on with a few more weeks of 4s, even 3milers, just to keep some fitness up and hope the general status improves. But if it doesn’t and running continues to evoke fear or dread in any amount, then I need to stop. Better not to do it at all.

Tough times, indeed.

A Short Update

I have so much to say that for once, I won’t say any of it, it’s just too much to write.  I do, however, want to thank each and every blister that plagued me this summer.  In seeking out the cause, I found answers I didn’t expect and ultimately, an understanding of some key aspects of running mechanics I’d often read about but was never able to grasp, particularly regarding stride length, dorsiflexion and footplant.  Now I can feel those things.  I get it.

I’m now on week 8 of solid, consistent running averaging about 50mpw.  A couple weeks ago, I started adding in more pavement which no longer feels jarring or uncomfortable, just a little different.  Turns out I didn’t really need a more cushioned shoe, just a more cushioned way of running.  A little attention to my calves, ankles & feet along with a huge cameo appearance from my ass have made all the difference.  Or maybe my huge ass is the star of this show. Either way, it’s all coming together.

Surface Matters (a.k.a. How I Got My Mojo Back)

Many moons ago (December) I mentioned that running on softer surfaces had become noticeably more comfortable than pavement.  Having said that, did I then seek out softer surfaces?  Nope.  I thought it was just a matter of my legs working themselves out, that eventually I’d find asphalt to feel as normal as before, so I continued to pound the pavement.

Plain stubbornness led me to resist, as if giving into comfort was a cheat. But also, I wasn’t convinced that I was actually experiencing genuine physical relief, suspecting that it had more to do with the distraction of focusing on the ground that made it feel so much better than pavement. Because before this crap happened I hated running on grass, found it to be a total pain in the ass so it was all very confusing.

Anyway, a couple months ago I stopped fighting the urge and began adding in a small stretch of grass on the way back from every run.  I came to depend on that luxurious “Ahhh” moment when I’d land upon that cushy green carpet.

Beyond the wonderful softness, grass is great for a number of reasons: you can’t shuffle on it so you have to lift your knees higher which gives your hip flexors a good workout; I was sore for a few days until I got used to it – it’s like doing mini-drills without having to actually do drills.  You also have to stay focused on where you’re going to avoid ending up in a divot and spraining your ankle so it’s a great exercise in concentration.  It also encourages you to open up your stride and personally, I feel braver about landing heavier on it – this supplies more energy return resulting in more “bounce” which is a great feeling. Hell, even a half-dead sparse layer of grass now feels about a zillion times better to me than pavement.

As an interesting aside, though it feels to me as though grass gives more spring and pavement is entirely thud-inducing, in reality grass actually has the least spring and the harder up the surface chain you go, the more spring the ground provides, which makes sense if you consider bouncing a ball off grass vs asphalt.

So our legs adjust to the ground to compensate: stiffer on soft ground and more relaxed on pavement.  This was a revelation since mine most certainly feel more relaxed on grass but this could be due to having lost some ability to adapt due to the stiff-legged weirdness.

Anyway, the addition of grass was heavenly until loose, sweaty shoes + morning dew created a giant blister problem that took nearly 4 weeks to shake.  Part of this was exacerbated by new insoles bought to deal with Blisterpalooza because the location (inner edge of right foot) indicated pronation was part of the problem.  I bought two types of Superfeet, green and blue, and while the blue ones went unnoticed, my first run in the greens gave me yet another huge blister on that same foot’s arch. In the end I averaging a pathetic 19mpw for 4 weeks.

Of course, now that the blister nightmare is over I know how to deal with it next time (generous layers of New Skin plus tape the shit out of your foot every time you run) but there it was, another stupid annoyance in my running life.

Luckily, I was busy with design work and also, knowing this was a superficial bother that would eventually pass kept my spirits positive, but a few days following the blister adventure I tripped on a branch, gouging a sizeable hole into my ankle (same side as the blistered foot, of course).  That was not a good day.  I stood there and cried like an idiot, wondering what the universe was trying to tell me because after a year and a half of travails, it sure sounded a lot like “STOP RUNNING!“.

As it turned out, the universe was only saying “Haha, we were just testing you one last time, get back to it already!” because after that, my running turned beautiful.

Some credit goes to A Muse/Adam because when I told him how much better I felt in grass he suggested I run on it as much as possible and after that’s commonplace to begin folding in more pavement.  Up until then I’d been doing all pavement with brief moments of grass, so what the hell, I went for it.

After two days it became apparent that this could be Big.  By the end of the week, I had experienced a remarkable change in my running. And I never use the word remarkable.

Turns out my legs never go wonky on grass and afterwards I feel like a million bucks; all that lateral skirting over uneven ground is giving my ankles, legs, and hips a far better workout than flat pavement or even trail can do.

I figure that I’m now on pavement for about 1½ miles max per run, the rest is grass and trail.  Searching out every little strip of green isn’t easy, mind you, I’m having to jump on and off curbs, dance around trees, roots, grates, ditches and benches, balance on crazy cambers and hope I don’t land in a hole but it’s worth the ankle-twisting potential because gosh darn it, I feel like a bona fide normal runner again.

Mileage-wise, I’m in heaven, I was instantly able to lengthen my runs and it felt like nothing, as if I’ve been running this mileage for months. My last couple weeks were 48 and 47 mi. with a day off each week.  I’m not attached to a schedule of rest days, it just worked out that way due to sensibility in the first week and busyness the next, but I do plan to stay at this mileage for at least a few weeks.

The other major thing I’m doing
This isn’t just about grass.  At the same time I did the big grass switch, I also introduced some serious cadence retraining, though not for the usual outcome which would be to increase turnover, rather to slow my frickin’ legs down.

Thanks to all those months of weird tense running, I developed a manically high turnover rate – not a problem if I was racing a 5k from my front door but at easy paces, all it does is create a running stride that is short, choppy and energy zapping. I’ve been aware of this for months but no matter how many different cues I tried (slow arms, adjust foot placement, make a larger “wheel”, pretend I’m running aside a slower friend, etc) I found it impossible to stop the roadrunner legs – it’s hardwired to my brain.

Because of this, I’ve really struggled to find the comfortable zone on my runs.  I’d constantly pine for one of those loping-type jogs where you amble for a few miles and return home, but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it. There were times I even followed other runners trying to emulate the rhythm of their stride – that’s how much I wanted it – but again…couldn’t.

It isn’t about pace, either, because I’ve been running slowly for ages now, it’s just that I cannot get my legs (and thus, arms, too) to stop churning. This, btw, was the source of why I wanted those walking breaks I spoke of in the last post, because I’d been unable to rachet down to a slog and regather myself, as any runner should be able to do, I had to resort to stopping entirely.

The fix is actually very straightforward, same as when I trained myself to increase turnover rate years ago: load up the mp3 player with 90/180 bpm songs and run to the beat.  FYI: 180 is anything but slow and loping, it’s what people work up to for racing, but it’s my starting point to at least reach something more normal.

It’ll take some time before it’s truly ingrained but already it’s made a big difference: my stride (and thus my entire body) is a lot more relaxed while fast bits are especially gratifying – I experience an increase in length and at the same time, a real sense of letting loose.  I’ve actually had glimmers of this over the past few months thanks to certain things I’d been doing (Alexander Technique and the hip work) but it wasn’t till now when I’m pinpointing cadence that it’s become repeatable.

Anyway, the big take-home for me is discovering that power and strength can emerge from relaxation.  It’s exciting, these moments, and I anticipate the day when it’s no longer a novelty but simply the way I run.

Last words on surface

Now that I’m able to think more pragmatically and less emotionally about this long period of running suckage and because I now appreciate just how much surface does indeed matter, I think the ground probably had a lot to do with my situation.  While anxiety fueled the fire, I suspect the actual physical combination that put me in the red zone was this:

Months of high mileage + 99.9% pavement + doing it all in lightweight trainers (and racing flats used as trainers)

I’ve been researching posts and articles about surfaces and high mileage and came across a great podcast from Alberto Salazar.  If you fast forward to -16:10 he talks about how fanatical he is about his athletes staying off-road and how top East African runners will do anything to keep off pavement, even if it means running on a 300m loop of grass for 1½ hours.

And it got a bit freaky for me when he said that even if you don’t get injured from pavement, it deadens the legs. He was talking about it in regards to speed so I’m probably projecting, but it does seem like an adequate description of my stiff leg deal.  He also says that if his runners run 100mi in a week, maybe 3 is on the road and the only time he takes his athletes to the road is to prepare for a marathon and sometimes a half.

Elsewhere, in a LetsRun thread, someone mentions an interview with El G’s coach “Someone asked him how much running on the road his athlete did. He gave a horrified look and said he did no running on roads whatsoever.” And of course there are more examples like that.

Not that I need to supply proof of my naivete, certainly nobody would ever advise 90mpw on pavement in the lightest shoes possible. Duh. In my defense, I felt bulletproof till I wasn’t anymore.  Live and learn.

I can’t change history, but one last adjustment I’ve made is that I’ve finally bought a more cushioned shoe: Brooks Ghosts.  They’re not especially heavy but at 10 oz. vs my usual 7+oz, that’s a substantial increase.  I’ve only worn them twice so far but am very pleased with the purchase.  The plan isn’t to wear them exclusively, but I think they’ll help a lot when I increase the pavement miles.

Incidentally, I would have bought heavier shoes months ago but I’d been swayed by the common sentiment proclaiming modern-day running shoes are evil with their pussyfied cushioning, encouraging runners to run terribly.  It’s an effective piece of propaganda but ultimately, kinda stupid.  I mean sure, in a perfect world we’d all be running like gazelles across the plain, but if a stinkin’ pair of shoes allows some guy to run uninjured rather than fix his crappy gait, is that so awful?

Anyway, in my case, with racing indefinitely out of the picture and a simple goal of consistently having a good time out there, the last thing I need to worry about is a couple extra ounces or whether I’ll feel an uncontrollable urge to start tromping on my heels, so screw it. Cushioning…come to mama.

I had to erase a gushing paragraph about how thrilled I feel right now, this thing is already too long as it is. Instead, I’ll let the next few weeks of running continue the story.

In the meantime, y’all be good and run wonderfully, ok? Muah!