Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Untold Secrets of a Dissertation Defense.

Just a very quick post to let you know I'm still here.

I'm here...but very, very busy.  Let me count the ways.

1.  Dissertation (which is becoming exceedingly stressful as the end nears...I swear it's like mile 24 of a marathon).

2.  IU is back in session, and I'm teaching again.  I love it, but it adds to the busy.  Things like getting my CPR re-certified and proving that I don't have TB also take up some time.

3.  Rowan turned ONE!  So I was, of course, obliged to have him a throw-down of a Mickey Mouse birthday party.

4.  Amelia is in fourth grade...and soccer...full-swing.

5.  You know, that running thing that I do.  We are almost into the peak training for Chicago, which means lots of early morning and late evening miles for me.  Again, it's something that I love, but it cuts into my time.

Once the dissertation is out of the way, I will be able to take a HUGE deep breath and relax.  But right now, it's stressful.  It's funny, every time I'm really stressed out and need to be super productive, I start thinking about all the non-school (or work) things that I want to do.  I want to re-do our kitchen.  I also want some new landscaping.  I need to update Rowan's baby book and organize Amelia's keepsakes from third grade.  And you know what?  I want some new siding....why don't I spend time online looking at the different colors of siding.  Oh, and we SO need a new mailbox.  You wouldn't believe the variety of mailboxes that exists online.  It's also the time during which you could email me a 3-hour survey on cat food and I'd happily answer every single question.  How could I not respond to the need of a friend?  Sorry, dissertation, I feel like I MUST answer these cat food questions.

I swear it's my brain's way of protecting myself from the task/stress at hand.  It's distraction.  Nay, it's escape.  At least I can admit that I have this problem.  It allows me to understand that mailbox shopping is not enhancing my productivity.  Now, if you're smart, (and I know you are), you're saying to the screen "Then why are you blogging?  Does BLOGGING enhance your productivity?"  Directly?  No.  But it's a coping mechanism of mine.  I feel so much better just getting it all out there.

So...anyway...I'm on the home stretch of the dissertation writing.  What they DON'T tell you about when you decide to get a PhD is that you're not done when the writing is done.  Oh, no.  Not only do you have to defend it orally, but you must then get past the Graduate Recorder.

What is a graduate recorder, you ask?  Sounds kind of archaic, doesn't it?  Well, it is.  The graduate recorder is the person who guards the gates to the PhD degree.  After you defend, he/she goes over your entire dissertation (which, btw, doesn't just include what you wrote...there are like fourteen different acceptance pages, abstracts, CVs, etc. that must also be attached) with a fine-toothed comb.  It must be on a certain type of cotton paper (yes, really).  It must be formatted exactly to the university's guidelines.  These persnickety (though, in IU's case, very helpful) graduate recorders...they know everything.  They have the APA and MLA manuals memorized.  They can look at your dissertation from 100 yards away and spot an inappropriately-bolded exclamation mark.

In short, they can really hold up the graduation process.  I always thought that you went through the oral defense, passed, and then went on a cruise or something to celebrate those three precious letters finally being behind your name.  I'm actually beginning to think the defense is the easy part, and the graduate recorder meeting may be the hardest thing I've done in graduate school.

So what's a girl to do?  Well, I talked to some of my colleagues, and they said "Hire someone to format it.  It's expensive, but do it." is expensive....but, yes, I've done it.  All I have to do is type my stuff.  And she will format it.  Hallelujah.

Of course, having a formatter doesn't guarantee first-time success at the graduate recorder review.  The formatter I've hired said that recorders will always find something that needs to be changed.

People often ask me about graduate school--should I go?  Do you like it?  Are you glad you did it?  Sometimes, when people ask me those things, I have to keep myself from collapsing on the floor and rocking around in the fetal position, begging for mercy.  What I mean is--graduate school is hard.  And it's made even more difficult when a document in which you've been immersed for the better part of a year is evaluated with a ruler and a magnifying glass.  I am really, really, REALLY tired of being in school.  I love my research, but I'm ready to start getting paid for doing it. 

I want this to be over.  I'm tired.  I'm never doing this again.  Three phrases which I've never uttered more than during child birth, the last six miles of a marathon, and while finishing my dissertation.  The former two were so worth it.  I'm having faith that this endeavor will be, too.  Plus, I can't afford a new mailbox or new siding until I'm working full-time.  Okay--back to writing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fast and Furious

I usually run at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays.  However, today I was scheduled to do 8 marathon pace miles.  And the running group was meeting at 5:15 to do some faster stuff.  They are not quite up to 8 miles, but were going to be running a pace similar to mine.  I chose to sleep in and run with them in the evening.  The only downside was that it was HOT at 5:15.

Tim came, too.  As did his stroller.  The whole group was not on board with the idea of running around a 7:00 minute pace.  They also wanted to warm up.  I didn't really need a warm-up, nor did Bill.  So we (along with Tim and Rowan) set out to do 8 miles at a 7:10 pace.  Bill didn't know how many he'd do, but he was going to hang with us as long as he could.

I started out WAY too fast, as I always do with pace runs.  Bill reeled me in.  And the first mile was 6:58.  Too fast.  Better slow down.  Second mile?  6:56.  After that one, I intentionally hung back.  Bill was ahead of me, and Tim was too.  But I knew that it would be suicide to continue that pace in that heat...for 8 miles and on very tired legs.  I was going by my Garmin, but it's notorious for saying you're going more slowly than you really are.

Bill has wheeled this course, and so he knows all the mile markers.  At the 3 mile mark, my watch said my pace was 7:02.  But it was actually 6:49.  Mile 4 was pretty much the same.  Too, too fast.  I don't know why I (we) do this.  Bill dropped off at this point, and Tim and I pressed on.  Tim was in front of me, and it made me want to push to catch him.  It resulted in a 6:40 5th mile.  This had to stop.  I was feeling good, but I knew the last couple of miles would be hard.

We also managed to make a wrong turn.  We were running a course with which we weren't totally familiar (we know the roads, but not which ones we were to turn on).  Bill tried to yell at us, but we didn't hear him.  The wrong turn put us in a very hilly area that was, ultimately, a dead end.  We hit the 6th mile at 7:06 (by my it was probably faster). 

We headed back toward Washington, and it was at that point that I realized a bad storm was on the horizon.  Now our minds changed from trying to hold pace to trying to get home.  Rowan was our main concern.  So we pressed on.  We hit the 7th mile at 7:04.

That's when the storm came.  The wind picked up, and then it gusted, throwing rocks and dust at us.  The sky was very dark, and we were a mile from home.  I was running as hard as I could, but against the wind I couldn't do much.  By this time, my legs were shot.  I told Tim to run ahead of me to get Rowan home.  I also figured that Bill or someone would come looking for us.

At that point, the wind became even stronger.  Tim was holding onto the stroller with all his strength because he feared it would be blown over.  I yelled to him to put the plastic shield over the stroller.  It was tucked in the bottom of the stroller.  As the wind blew around us and the rain started to come down, we got the plastic cover over the stroller.  Tim took off as fast as he could.

And then we saw Bill.  And Rand right behind him.  I knew he or someone would be coming to get us.  I got Rowan in the car, and they took the stroller apart (it doesn't fold well) and put half of it in Bill's car and another part of it in Rand's.  Bill drove us home, and Rand followed.  The storm was very bad at this point, and I am extremely thankful for Bill and Rand's help.  We run with great people!

So, in all, I got 7.58 pace miles in.  I was supposed to do a total of 12 with 8 at pace.  After the storm died down, I told Tim I was going out to do my remaining miles.  He told me not to do the remaining .42 at pace.  He knew I was considering it.  But with how fast we'd gone, I actually agreed with him.

So I went out for a little over 3 miles.  My legs felt AWFUL.  My right quad was tightening up the whole time, and my piriformis (which I've been dealing with for a while now) was bothering me.  None of things popped up during the pace run...only after.  Anyway, the 3 miles were quite dreadful.  But I got them in...a total of 12 today.  I'm going to try to get into my fabulous PT, Penny, in the next couple of days.  She can fix anything.

No running tomorrow...but a double (14 and 4) on Thursday.  It's a stepback week, so I reserve the right to cancel that second run if my right leg is still bothering me. 20 this week, just a 17. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kids on Display.

I had a good weekend of running, and I hit 73 miles for the week.  But tonight I'm blogging about something else.

We went out to see the BNL (my old high school) Stars, both boys and girls, run their first home cross country meet.  Kathy is the girls' coach (and she is an amazing coach...I wish more kids could have one like her), so I especially wanted to go.

Tim, Amelia, Rowan, and I hurried and got over there by 5:00.  Only to find out that they'd changed the start time to 5:30.  But that gave us a chance to walk around the course.  This was Amelia's first cross country meet, and the first time I'd been to a BNL meet since I used to be DRAGGED there by my mother to watch my brother, Wes, compete.  He always won...that's all I remember.

We picked our spectating spots, and saw a few familiar faces--Kathy, Rand, Mike, Jimmy, and even little KJ!  Tim had Rowan in the backpack (a backpack made for carrying babies...he was not stuffed in a backpack).  It was very warm out, particularly for Tim and Rowan, who were right up against each other.

Finally, the girls took off.  We watched the start, then darted over to around the half mile mark.  This is where runners encounter a couple of hills.  They aren't huge, but the footing is not good and it's just enough to hurt you when you're tired.  It's a double loop course, so they'd be seeing these hills a second time.

One girl was WAY out in front at the start, and I had told Amelia, who had exclaimed to me that "That girl's gonna win!," that the person in front at the beginning is rarely the person in front at the end.  Well, at the half mile mark, she was even more ahead.  Amelia said "See?!"  I told her there was still a lot of running to do.  But this girl looked strong.  I predicted right then that she'd sneak in under 20 minutes.  We cheered on the rest of the girls.  The BNL girls looked very good the first lap.  I was surprised how far up a few of them were.  They went out a bit fast, but weren't too spread out.  I could definitely tell I was at a high school cross country meet.  Coaches and parents yelling:  "Get up there!"  "Dig!"  "You better get that one in yellow!"  I loved it.

Then it happened.  I've been to a lot of cross country meets (as a teenager), and I never noticed this happening before.  I'm sure it did, but I was not aware of it.  Once the big pack passed, you started seeing the stragglers.  The kids with glasses.  The kids with funny strides.  The fat ones.  The ones with clunky, non-name brand shoes.  You know, the slow kids.  I looked around...everyone but Amelia and I had left.  They had all gone to watch the faster kids.

Amelia and I cheered for each of them.  Clapping and whooping and telling each of them to keep racing.  Amelia looked up and said "Where did everybody go?  There are still runners."  I explained that some people don't stay to watch the slower runners.  "But where are their moms?"  Their moms weren't there.  Nor their dads.  Nor their coaches.  Nor anyone.  Coaches who had been taking splits near us LEFT before all of their runners went by...they did not take the splits of the slower runners (BTW...this did not happen with either of the BNL coaches).  Had it not been for me and Amelia, these last few girls would have been running in absolute silence, save the crickets.

It really, really bothered me.  When the faster girls came around the loop a second time, spectators there cheered for them but NOT for a slower runner that was being lapped.  Now, don't get me wrong--I am not one of those people who thinks everyone ought to get a trophy.  Only the winners should get a trophy.  But good grief...I think all these kids should at least get some support.  No wonder people don't continue running.  When they did run, nobody cared.

Amelia and I saw the first finisher (who was, ultimately, the girl who was ahead the whole time...she ran 19:35) and then promptly darted back on the course to cheer for the slower runners.  We saw some of the main pack, and at that point coaches were still about recording splits and yelling encouragement.  Soon, though, they again left.  It was me, Amelia, and the crickets.  There were three or four girls left on the course.  They had no one there for them.  Not a coach, not a relative, not a team manager.  Can you imagine?  NO ONE.  This is a team sport.  And slower runners are part of that team.  So are girls without nice shoes.  And fat girls, too.  If they're on the team, they need to be acknowledged.

Amelia yelled her heart out at them, telling them how awesome they looked and to use the downhill to pick up speed.  We jumped up and down.  A couple of them smiled.  Now, you ought not be smiling in a 5K race.  Not if you're racing.  But at least they noticed us.

Next, it was time for the boy's race.  I wondered if the same thing would happen.  It did.  The fast boys went by, and I began to see boys in glasses.  Boys with chubby cheeks.  And as I did, I AGAIN found myself alone with Tim and Amelia.  I counted--11 runners went by us on the course and we were the only ones to see them.  Don't their coaches WANT to know where ALL the runners are?  They were so caught up in getting splits for the fast guys that they didn't even consider the slower kids, the ones who likely need the most encouragement.

I kept the cheering section going.  I cheered for every last one of them, including the curly-headed kid at the end who tripped and fell.  I then moved to where I could see the finish but still cheer for the stragglers.  There were lots of people here.  But you know what?  When the slower boys went by, they acted like they didn't even notice them.  Their efforts were completely unappreciated.  Except for by, of course, me.  I cheered like a banshee.

The next thing I knew, these people were picking up their lawn chairs and walking IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COURSE.  There was the last-place runner coming up and they were completely oblivious.  They did not have the decency to even look at the course so as to yield oncoming runners.  "RUNNER UP!" I shouted.  They looked at me like I was nuts.  "GET OUT OF THE WAY!"  They understood that one.

While everyone was packing up, this kid had over a mile to go.  He was fat.  But he was running.  Hard.  He wasn't faking it.  He wasn't walking.  It gave me the perfect opportunity to explain to Amelia that distance running is, for most of us, competing with ourselves.  He had no one to race, but yet he kept racing.  I walked to the other side of the course to give him a final boost, when I saw another kid, from another team, bent over vomiting profusely.  He stopped, then stumbled, then vomited again.  I went down the hill and said "Do you need help?"  He vomited again.  He told me he was dizzy and said he didn't think he could run anymore but that he'd just walk.  His coach, of course, was nowhere to be seen.  His coach had no idea where this kid was, or that he was in the need of help.  It was just me and that kid down there.

The runner previously in last place (now moved up by the vomiting boy) ran by and I cheered him on, and then walked back to the other boy who was still stumbling around.  He was over a mile from the finish.  When I got up to the finish area, the athletic director was announcing when awards would be given.  Teams were cooling down together.  Music was playing.

And two runners remained on the course.  One was running his own race, dodging completely oblivious and idiotic people who kept darting into his path with their stupid lawn chairs.  The other was ill on the other side of the course....and no one had yet even realized he wasn't in yet.  Hm.  That's nice.  That's great.  Be fast, or we don't give a shit about you.  That's the way to turn kids into great athletes...nay, great people.

Running is not like basketball or baseball.  Not that those sports aren't competitive--they are--but there is no hiding in distance running.  Maybe for a few minutes, deep in the woods, but these kids are on display for all to see.  If you're fast, people notice.  If you're not fast, though people ignore you, everyone knows it.  This sport is already extraordinarily unforgiving...I do not see why people have to make it far worse by rubbing the salt in the wound of a kid who may not be as talented or well-off as another.

I don't know where these kids' parents were.  But I do know where their coaches were.  They were taking down the splits of the top runners.  They did not bother to record the splits of non-scoring athletes.  How can these kids possibly be motivated to improve  if no one even monitors their progress?  It's absolutely inexcusable.  I wish they could all have a coach like Kathy. 

In the end, the BNL girls won (yay!) and I think the boys did, too (not sure on that).  They have two great teams this year.  As I was walking up the hill to leave, one of the fat, awkward boys came up to me and thanked me for yelling for him when no one else was there.  "It really was helpful," he said.  If only people would realize how much power they have to help another person.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Catch Up: School, Running, Dr. Casey, and High Rock

Yikes.  What a negligent blogger I am.  If I haven't lost you, my audience, let me try to play catch up.

Let's start with school.  That's why I've been negligent.  I'm working on--no, I'm finishing--my dissertation.  The study I was doing for my dissertation is done.  I've interviewed all my participants and I've pored over the data for the last couple of months.  Now it's just time to write it up.  The first three chapters are finished (more or less--waiting for comments on chapter three).  I'm in the midst of writing chapter four.

I just realized you may not be familiar with dissertation chapters.  Let me fill you in.  There are five chapters.  The first is an introduction.  The second is a review of the literature (a very long chapter).  The third describes the methodology used in carrying out the study (how did you get your participants, what did you do with them, etc.).  The fourth chapter contains the results of your analysis.  And chapter five is the discussion chapter--what do your findings mean in the context of existing scientific literature?

Chapter five is the most difficult.  I say that even though I have not yet written it.  I have it outlined, but not written.  It is in this chapter that you must compare/contrast your findings to those of other scientists.  And you must demonstrate what your findings mean and what should be done based on them.  Basically, you have to convince a lot of smart people that what you did mattered.

My dissertation must be finished by Sept. 27 so that I can defend Oct. 27.  I will do it.  And then I'm going to Disney World.

Okay...running.  Running has been going well.  I'm up to 72 (maybe 75, depending on how the weekend goes) miles for this week, and I'm not injured.  I have little aches and pains, but they go away.  I've not done any kind of speed or pace work this week, but I did a 6 mile pace run last week with Wes.  I averaged 7:02 for the six miles, and it didn't feel difficult.  My marathon pace is 7:15, so it should feel even easier at the beginning of the race.  I felt like I could hold the 7:00 pace for 13 miles...I could have kept going another 7 or 8.  It's after 22 or so that I ran into (very minor) problems in Eugene.  That's an endurance problem, not a speed one.

I have been doing a TON of long runs, including a weekly 20, this cycle.  My legs are good and tired but I feel like I could run forever.  I'm hoping this strategy pays off in October.  We'll see. to the meat of the post (took me a while to get there, huh?).  If you remember, Dr. Casey ordered an MRI of my spine, which was normal.  She then went to the scientific literature (bravo!) and thought that maybe I had something called abdominal cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome--a rare condition in which a nerve or nerves in the abdomen becomes "stuck" in the fascia over the muscle or in the cutaneous tissue.  The only way to diagnose it, though, is via a musculoskeletal ultrasound.

These are not done just anywhere.  She was sure someone in Indy probably did them, but she wanted to be there for the test and also wanted me to see Dr. Grant--a specialist at Northwestern who is the guru of this type of ultrasound.  So, this Wednesday, Tim and I headed up to Northwestern.

Whenever I go get these tests done, I feel famous.  They're all waiting for me and have all heard of me.  Everyone wants to be the one to figure out what the heck is wrong with me.  Dr. Grant was no different.  He couldn't wait to get that ultrasound probe on my belly.  Dr. Casey joined us (she doesn't even work there--she came over just to watch) and they began searching for some glaring problem.

There wasn't one.  There was no large nerve branch entrapped.  There was, however, a small area of abnormality located in the same line as my pain.  My pain is not just in one spot. It is sort of in a line...up and down.  This abnormality was in the middle of this line.  They assume it must be a nerve, but neither of them could figure out which nerve it was.

Dr. Grant injected the area with Lidocaine.  And then they sent me off to run.  I ran two miles and never had ANY right-sided pain (where the injection was).  I mean...none.  At all.  The injection worked.  But I still had pain on the left.  He hadn't seen anything on the left, but feels that whatever it is might be too small to see on ultrasound, as the one on the right was barely visible.

So it appears that I do have the rare condition of abdominal cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome.  It is usually caused by trauma to the abdomen or post-surgically when a nerve gets tied up into an incision.  In my case, it was pregnancy.  This is not documented in the literature.  But I'm sure it will be now.

The plan is to try injecting a steroid into the area and see if that relief lasts longer.  But Dr. Grant is the only one who can do it, and he's 5 hours away.  Another option is surgery to free the entrapped nerves.  This would be a permanent solution, and much like my compartment syndrome surgery.  The surgeon would go in, clear away the fascia from the affected nerve(s), and it should never bother me again.  I'm waiting for Dr. Casey's opinion on that.

So that's where I am right now.  I am so thankful for Dr. Casey, and I feel as though I have been led to her.  She is a wonderful, caring person who has taken an interest in me.  Only Dr. Kaeser shares her compassion.  Interesting that they're both in Chicago.

Oh, another thing I forgot to mention---Tim and I have begun attending High Rock church in Bloomington.  My friend Rachel goes there and that's how I heard about it.  It is an amazing place with wonderful people.  The teaching is intellectual with a mix of spirituality--it's perfect for an analytical mind like mine.  And, I must say, my life has improved since I've become committed to going there.  If you live in the Bloomington area, you should check it out.  Scott Joseph is the lead pastor and he teaches in a way I've never experienced.  All I can say is...he makes it all make sense.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Both physical and psychological/emotional.  That's the tune of my life right now.

Now, there is no need to be concerned.  All of this stress is expected.  It is all a result of my own choices.

The physical stress is, of course, from marathon training.  That's what training is all about.  You stress your body.  It recovers and improves (as in, it can cover the 26.2 miles faster).  That formula seems very simple.  And, in theory, it is:  Stress (as in, run more and/or run faster/harder), Recover, Improve.

But it's a tricky dance.

The more you stress your body, not only do you get more fit and faster, but you are also getting closer to injury.  My dad has always told me--the faster you are, and the better you're racing...the closer you are to being hurt.  And he's right.  I've had a lot of injuries, and three of them have been major (plantar fasciitis that ended with a ruptured fascia, bilateral compartment syndrome, and an obturator strain).  When each of those major injuries occurred, I was fast (for me, at least).  I was super fast, fit...and injured.

So runners are always playing this game--seeing how far they can push the envelope.  If we could all run 100 miles a week, with 60 of them fast, our race performances would drastically improve.  But only a very small percentage of us would make us to the starting line.

I'm getting into the meat of my Chicago training.  My body is stressed.  It's tired.  My legs are often very fatigued.  I have several niggles that pop up now and again--my left ankle, my right hip.  I have to undergo painful deep tissue massage.  I have to stretch and take ice baths.

But all of this stress and fatigue is by design.  This is what I had to keep telling myself during my early morning 14 miler this morning.  Not only was I really tired (it was 5:30 a.m.), but my legs were incredibly fatigued.  They did not hurt.  They just didn't feel like running.  This run was tough.

Tough runs are some of the best for you, though.  This is when the stress is happening.

So, what about the recovery?  Well, for happens three days a week.  I am (so far) only able to run four days a week and prevent injury.  Let's hope I can hold off injury and gain fitness until I get to taper...when the REAL recovery starts.

Now, as for the psychological/emotional stress.  That's called graduate school.  No, wait...that's called full-time graduate school while marathon training and raising two kids.  Again, this is totally self-induced.  I have not been afflicted with this situation, and I'd not have it any other way.

But it's stressful.  I have been in school pretty much since I was 5.  I'll have my PhD in hand at age 29 (which is really young in the nursing field).  I'm in the very final stage of the process:  the dissertation.  And I am very passionate about my dissertation.  I absolutely LOVED doing the study.  Meeting with the participants, poring over their experiences.  But I'm stressed about getting all the writing done on time.  I will do it.  But it's stressful.

So, I've got a double whammy of stressors going on.  But it's all worth it.  Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Madeline's Farewell Run and Tim's Butt.

Now, before Bill gets too excited about the latter portion of the title, let me just explain that I'm blogging about two separate runs here.  So Bill will have to scroll down to get to the good stuff.

Another weekend, another 35 miles done.  15 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday.  Believe it or not, this was a step back week.  A step back in terms of total mileage.  I only ran 10 miles Tuesday and 10 miles Thursday, giving me just 55 miles for the week.  It's a way of letting your legs rest without sacrificing the longer runs.  Next week, I'll run a shorter long run (17) but more miles total.  A way of letting your legs rest from the grind of the long runs without sacrificing total mileage.  Genius!

So, I had talked with Madeline and Rachel via FB and they definitely wanted to come down for another hilly run on Saturday.  Then I convinced my dad to come.  Then I convinced Kathy to come.  We had quite a group going by the time I was done begging everyone.  The only person missing was Jon, and he was off running a trail marathon.

We started a little after 7:00.  This was a special run because it would be my last one with Madeline before she heads out to California for graduate school.  I really, really hate that I didn't meet Madeline until two weeks before she was leaving.  We could have had a lot of good runs together.  Luckily, Rachel isn't going anywhere (that I know of), and I hope we'll be running together a lot more soon.

My legs felt pretty good given I'd taken it easy the first part of the week.  But it was really, really muggy.  We ran the same course on which dad faded near the end last week.  With the increased humidity, I was afraid he'd go out way too hard and fade worse.

I'm happy to say that he didn't.  He had a great run.  So did everyone else.  Kathy faded a bit at the end, but she looked very strong considering she hasn't run that far since APRIL and has not been out on that course in just as long either.  I am really glad she came, as she is one of my favorite people to run with.

I stashed water, so we all stayed hydrated.  I even stashed some water in a cooler down in the bottoms, so it was ice cold.  Unfortunately, when we went back to get the cooler...someone had stolen it.  Only in Bedford.  The hills were there, just like last week.  Madeline stayed with me on all of them, which is really, really impressive given it's only her second time out there.  I am going to miss her.

So I invited them all back for the 20 this morning, but no one took me up on it.  So it was just me and Tim.  One of the teachers from Rowan's daycare came to babysit him at 5:30 this morning so we could go run.  Yes, she came at 5:30.  What a good babysitter! 

We narrowly missed a very bad storm.  I had been awakened around 4:00 with thunder and lightning.  And I vaguely remember thinking "I'm still going to run."  It stopped just before we headed out.  It was dark, of course, and so we both had flashing lights and reflective stuff.  But we decided against a head lamp.  I was almost sure that there were street lights that went all the way out I Street.  Um, wrong.  It was really, really dark for about an hour.

Within the first quarter mile of this run, I knew (just like last week) it was going to be a long day for me.  My legs were dead.  They did not hurt, but they would not turn over.  Yes, this was a purposeful outcome.  But it's still not pleasant.

Especially when you're running with Tim.  Even though he raced yesterday (placing 8th overall in the Cicero triathlon), he was bounding along like an antelope.  I love my husband.  But I'm not gonna lie--as he floated up I-Street (just over 2 miles in, mind you--I was feeling this way WAY too early), I found it irritating.  Why does Tim have to be SO perfect?  Yeah, I was pretty tired.

We followed our usual route, and my legs never improved.  I mean I wasn't going that slowly, but speeding up anywhere near to marathon race pace on those hills (or even the flats) would have been impossible for me.

Which brings me to the issue of Tim's butt.  I saw it for the better part of 20 miles (eat your heart out, Deckard).  Again, I want to preface the next section of this post by stating that I love my husband immensely.  He is a wonderful man, husband, father, son, brother, and person in general.  But he is not actually perfect.

Tim occasionally engages in one of my very biggest running pet peeves.  And, as far as I know, he only engages in it in my presence.  I call it one-stepping.

If you've ever been one-stepped, you'll be shaking your head up and down vigorously when you read what is to come next.

First, a few ground rules.  One-stepping does not apply during races.  Nor does it apply when some pre-planned pace has been agreed upon (as in deciding that you and your running partner are going to run a 7:00 pace).  It also usually does not apply during a group run, so long as everyone has someone to run with.  Finally, it does not apply when running up a large hill.  This will all become clearer later.

So here's how it works.  For example, today, when Tim and I would finish at a water stop, we would start running together.  Within a minute or two, he'd pull about ten feet ahead of me.  When I'd speed up to join him (an enormous feat given how my legs felt), he'd, in turn, speed up to reclaim his 10-feet-ahead status.  We were talking most of the run, but it amounted to me shouting up to him, him turning around and saying "huh?" and me re-shouting what I'd already shouted.

No matter what I did, he kept that little bit of distance on me.  He did not do this last week, but he has done it before.  I do believe it's not done consciously, and it's certainly not done with any malicious intent.

But damn, is it irritating.  When a person says he/she wants to run with you, I'm sure that you, like I do, assume that the person wants to run, like, NEXT to you.  Or right in front of or behind you.  I do not find it irritating that he can hold a faster pace than I can.  I find it irritating that he wants to run together but then runs away from me.

Now, on the big hills, I am the first one to say to him "Go ahead and I'll see you at the top."  I don't like to run big hills any more slowly than I have to.  It just makes it last longer.  And I don't want to burden him with that.  But it's like he'd hear me coming up next to me and put on a surge.  Kind of reminds you of a race, huh?

Yeah, that's the purpose of racing.  Holding off other people.  It might also be beneficial if the two people running were trying to hit a certain pace, and one runner was falling off.  Seeing the other runner on pace would certainly serve as motivation.

But this was a long run.  Long runs are, in general, done at a very comfortable pace.  While I wasn't killing it out there, I wasn't running that slowly.  It wasn't like a pace that was uncomfortably slow for him--he runs with other people at a much slower pace.

Now, this is not about trying to see who is faster.  There is no dispute:  Tim is faster.  For us to race would be futile.  I did not say a word to him during the run.  For one, I was too tired.  I didn't want to discuss (i.e. argue) with him about how he was doing this.  And we were actually having a good time.  I was not fuming mad.  I was irritated and, mostly, I was confused.  But I just went with it.  Mile after mile, all I could see was his butt.  Rarely his face.  It was like chasing someone in a race--someone you knew you couldn't overtake.  If you sped up, the person would just leave you again until you'd burned yourself out and he still had gas in the tank.

So I asked him, later in the day, why he does this.  He paused a moment and gave me an answer he's given me before.  "I feel like if I slow down and run next to you then you will slow down, too."  Um.  Is this your first day here, Tim?  I've never gotten in trouble for running too slowly.  I've been told over and over to cool my jets or I'm going to get injured.  To make sure I run easy runs and take rest days.

In other words, motivation is not a problem for me.  At all.  And I asked him, based on his answer, why then did he speed up every time I had sped up in order to catch him.  He had no answer.  He doesn't know why he does it.  He doesn't really think he needs to run in front of me in order to keep me running.  He didn't even realize he was doing it.  He's sorry and he's just as baffled as I am.

My main question is--why does he do this with me and not other people with whom he runs?  It must be some sub-conscious alpha male thing. 

Again--this is not a slam at my husband (really, Tim, it's not).  It's about running etiquette.  If you invite someone to run with you and you do not specify a pace for the run, make sure that you run a pace that allows you to be next to each other.  Got it, Tim? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dr. Casey Rules.

She does.  She's the physiatrist I saw up in Chicago.  If you remember, she ordered an MRI of my spine, which I had done last week.

I talked to her today.  My spine is normal.  When I first heard that, I was deflated.  It seems bizarre to want something to be wrong with you, but anyone who's been through a journey similar to mine would understand--finding something wrong means finally finding out how to fix it.

She told me she's been doing a lot of research.  That she went to the medical literature and has been poring over articles relevant to my symptoms.  She began discussing articles that I have read over the course of these almost 12 months now.  These articles are hard to find.  She's been working.

She explained that she's been reading a lot about abdominal cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome (ACNES).  I have read a lot about it, too.  And I had asked my pain doctor about it, but he said it wasn't possible.  Not sure why he thought that because he wouldn't tell me.  Anyway, she thinks we have to at least rule out the possibility that something like that is contributing to my continued pain.

She agrees that my lingering pain is nerve pain.  The Neurontin helps it immensely, and that makes sense only if it's nerve pain.  If it's not coming from the spine, she said, it must be coming from the peripheral nerves that lie between the fat and muscles in the abdomen.

So how is this diagnosed?  Through some super-duper ultrasound study (I can't remember the exact name of it) that is not performed anywhere near where I live.  It is done, however, at North Western University in Chicago.  She spoke with an interventional radiologist there--one who has written national practice protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of this condition--to perform this test on me.  So, hopefully for the last time (except for races!), I'm headed back to Chicago.

Not sure exactly when yet.  But I'm hoping it's before October.

I'm going with a totally open mind.  I have long given up expecting them to tell me exactly what's wrong with me--for whatever reason, no one has been able to figure it out with any kind of certainty.  But I feel that I have to do this...because what if that's it and we didn't check?  If that's normal, I'm not sure what she would be able to suggest at that point.  I imagine that people will think that I must be utterly crazy, and that this pain is all in my mind.

All I can say to that is that it isn't.  What I feel is real, and I hate it.  I have absolutely hated going to all these doctor's appointments, trying to track down specialists, spending money from our savings account, and, most of all, running in pain.  I am not and have never been seeking attention--I get plenty of that from my husband and kids.  In favor of sitting in some doctor's office, I would much rather be running on the road, in complete solitude, daydreaming about my next race.  I would much rather be blogging about shin splints or runner's trots.  I am not a whiner.  I put up with pain to a fault.  And that is what I say to those doctors who have (and I know there are some) doubted that my pain is genuine.

If you remember--the reason that I chose Dr. Casey was because she is not only a physiatrist, but a researcher.  She did exactly what researchers do--she went to the evidence.  To the published, scientific literature.  What a concept.  None of the other physicians I have seen (to my knowledge) have done this on my behalf.  And it's likely because they simply didn't know to.

I am not saying that Dr. Casey has figured this whole mess out--she was very clear with me in saying that, if this is what I have, it would be quite rare.  But she has, at least, handled it the appropriate way.  What does the evidence say?  That's how she's guiding her diagnosis and treatment of me.

And that is why people with PhDs are so important.  They provide the scientific evidence upon which we base all types of things--health care, marketing strategies, etc.  They make the world go round.