Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rescue Me!

Oh, taper, how I hate thee.  Let me count the ways:

1. Everything HURTS.  Knees, calves, hip, TOES.  My hair even hurts.
2. Dead in, my legs felt better during the last run of my 75-mile peak week.  Out in Buddha.
4. I don't get to run much.
5.  3 + 4= I feel gross and fat and slow.
6.  Complete confidence collapse.  I go through my training log and convince myself I've not done enough.  Then I start catastrophizing about how I'm such an IDIOT for giving myself such a lofty goal.  And how did I ever expect to be able to run fast on THAT kind of training?'s as bad as it sounds.  If you don't believe me...just ask Tim.  That's the bonus:  We're both in taper!  I'm an anxious mess, and he's just trying to keep from getting sick (always happens to him during taper).

I've only ever tapered once before now--for my first marathon last May.  That taper didn't seem as bad as this one...but I hadn't run near the miles and, well, it was my first.  Not really any pressure.  All I know is that I loathe taper.  More on that later.

So, since I'm not running much (or writing much given the dissertation is done!), I've had time to look back through the training log.  Quite a training cycle...punctuated by...

-Two abdominal surgeries (one in May, one in July)
-10 20-milers (including two 22s and a 21)
-The hip-injury-that-would-not-die (still have it)
-Severe piriformis syndrome on both sides leading to some really bad sciatica=numb feet=hard to run.  Thankful for my piriformis injections!
-Pace runs...a handful of them, longest one was 10.
-Not much fast work:  one 8 mile run at 6:40 pace.
-Three 70+ mile weeks (70, 73, 75)
-A bunch of mid- and high- 60s weeks
-All of my miles were done on four days/week of running...which means I did a whole lot of doubles.

So, when I look at that...I notice a couple of things.  I still have issues with injury.  Not as badly as I used to, but it's still the one thing holding me back.  Second, I ought not expect to be fast right now.  I'm not...but I don't need to be. What I need to be is strong...and I think I AM strong (though I felt stronger going into my first marathon, but I think it's just because my legs weren't nearly this tired).  Finally, I still need to run more miles than I am.  The whole injury thing keeps me from it.  I have the drive to do it ( a fault) and a flexible work schedule which allows for early morning and mid-day running.  I just have to ward off the injuries.  I know that to do what I want to do in the marathon...I've got to be running way more miles way more consistently. 

Clearly, I need some help.  Some supervision.  So I'm taking a step...and hiring a coach.  I've been threatening to do this for a long time.  But I didn't know exactly who or when.  And then, by chance, I happened upon the name Conor Holt.  I didn't Google his name.  Rather, I found him via his wife.  His wife is Camille Herron--an elite marathoner whom I've been following quietly for a few years.  We have some mutual friends, but I've never actually met Camille.  I just knew she was really, really fast and exactly my age.  A week or so ago, I found her blog.  I never knew she had one (you can read it here), and it's a really helpful blog for female distance runners.  Anyway--I spent hours reading her posts, including the story about how she got started running, and then found a link to "coaching." 

By clicking on the link, I found that Camille's coach--her husband, Conor--coaches other athletes.  He's also the Oklahoma City University CC he's like..a COACH!  I read over his little bio, and I sent him an email.  He emailed me back.  A few days later, we spoke on the phone.

I was initially caught off guard when I spoke to him...because he's Irish.  I was unaware of this...I thought he was from Oklahoma.  Anyway, we hit it off.  Especially when he said "Now, if I coach you, you'll have to get use to not doing a normal taper."  SOLD!  Really, though, I had read enough about Camille's training before I contacted Conor to know that we would get along well.  One thing he's already convinced me that I'm doing is running too fast on my easy/recovery days.  Camille runs around 8:30-9:00 pace on these days...she is WAY faster than I am...and I almost always run faster than that. 

So I'm very excited about getting started with Conor--we'll start after Chicago.  Now if only I can survive until then!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Taper Madness

I'm becoming a victim of it.  While it hasn't struck in full force, I'm afraid that's coming.

For those of you who don't know what taper is, let me summarize.  The point of marathon training is to stress the body--the legs and the cardiovascular system.  In between runs, your body recovers and improves.  You get faster, stronger, etc.  Before race day, you need to maximize the recovery from all the beating up of your body that you've done.  So, typically two to three weeks prior to marathon day, you enter taper.  Taper=fewer miles..and the point is to leave you feeling fresh on race day.

I have completed one week of taper.  My peak mileage was 75, and so my first taper week was around 75% of that mileage (53 miles).  You'd think I'd be feeling pretty good after such a drastic reduction in mileage, right?  Nope.  My legs feel like absolute garbage.  Not anything injury-related (though the sciatica is still there a bit)...just completely trashed.  Tired.  Sore.  As in...not fresh.

I've only tapered once before, and I remember my legs feeling unexpectedly tired during the taper.  But this time it's a lot quads are just completely gone.  They felt better during my peak week than they do now.  So, of course, one starts to wonder "Will this go away by race day?  Am I doomed?"  I have asked these questions to Tim, Bill, and my dad.  All of them tell me it's a normal part of taper.  That, come race day, my legs will feel fresh and strong.

And I do believe them.  And I know that my legs felt unbelievably good on race day for Eugene.  But I can't help but worry (kind of my nature, if you follow this blog) that my quads are going to feel shredded on the start line.  This coming week is another drop in mileage--only 37 miles TOTAL.  After that, it just gets worse--the week of the race I'm only running like 11 miles the entire week before Chicago.  Here's to hoping the taper works (and it does...that's why they call it the magic taper), but it certainly can mess with your mind.

So..I ran 16 miles today with dad and Bill.  We took off at 7:00...which is way better than the 5:30 runs I've been doing lately.  It was cool and rainy, which is perfect.  From the get go, I knew my legs were going to feel tired the whole time.  And they did.  And by 10 miles, my quads felt like they had no shock absorption--very similar to what you feel at the end of a marathon.  Again, nothing injury-like...just extremely tired and sore.  We ran a very easy pace, but it didn't matter.  The legs just weren't there.  Other than that, it was a good run with great company.  One thing I really hate about taper and then time off after a race is that I miss running with my friends and family.  But that will come again soon.

Up to Indy tomorrow to deliver the dissertations.  Then a huge to-do list to tackle.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Yes, friends...that is the sound of a dissertation that has been signed, sealed, and delivered.  To the committee.  Out of my hands.  As more work can be done on it.  It is what it is.  And I actually think it's pretty good.  I finished writing it on Sunday night, but I've spent the rest of the week doing little things--table of contents, checking references, etc.  And I spent the last two days reading every single word of it.  I added a little, took nothing away, and finally decided it was time to let it go.

I have a little over a month until my defense.  It is necessary to get the dissertation out to the committee a month before the defense so that they can come up with lots of really hard questions to ask you.  So, this meant I had to get five copies made.  One for each committee member, and one for the graduate recorder (more on that later).  So I went to  I do my printing there because there is one really close to me.  I uploaded the pdf file, specified everything I wanted--what type of paper, binding, etc....and I just couldn't get myself to hit submit.  I found myself wanting to read it just one more time.  Let me check that table, that paragraph, the abstract...just one more time.  For as happy as I was to be officially done writing it, it was really hard to let go of.  I just sat there for several minutes, staring at the button.  And finally, I did it.  That document, in which I have been immersed for nearly two years, is now out of my control.

Those of you who have written a dissertation will understand what I mean.  When you begin your doctoral program, everything you do--every course you take, every paper you write, every article you read--is geared, in some way, toward your dissertation.  I can remember, during my first year in the program, viewing the dissertation as something that was SO far away....almost unreal and untouchable.  And now, I have one.  Like, a complete one.  WITH MY NAME ON IT.  Sure, it hasn't been defended...nor blessed by the graduate recorder.  But it's done.

I am very glad I did not track how many hours I put into writing it.  It would remind me of all the late nights, time away from my family, sleep deprivation, and all the multi-tasking I have done.  I've worked on it while breastfeeding, administering Amelia's spelling tests, watching TV, watching Rowan play outside, lying under the robot, and in the car (not while driving).  In other words, it has been a constant back drop in my life for a very long time.  And now it's gone.  I'm glad, of course.  It just feels strange.  But I can say that I am very pleased with the result.  Every single sentence in that 250+ page document is meaningful (at least to me).  The research I did is important, and I think the results will benefit many.  And it will serve as the base of my research career.

So I'm picking up the copies tomorrow (and not looking at them because I'll die if I find an error), and delivering them to the committee on Monday.  They already have electronic copies, but they need a hard copy to take notes, etc.  I also have one for the graduate recorder.  I've talked about her before.  Very nice woman, but a thorn in my side.  She will be reviewing, on Monday, my dissertation.  And she will likely give me a bunch of work to do--things I need to change.  But they won't be content-related.  They'll be margin-related.  And I have hired someone to help me with that.  So it shouldn't be too bad.

The actual defense is on October 27th.  After that, I can (mostly) count myself as done.  And, boy, will I be happy.

Okay...running.  I'm still in taper.  I'm still dealing with the piriformis syndrome, but I'm about 70% better since my injections.  I'm getting another round of them the week of the marathon.  That's about all I can do.  I don't know if my legs will be 100% by race day, but they'll be as close as they can be.

I (and all runners) always bad mouth taper, but at the end of my peak week...I was so ready for it.  And I still am.  This week, my legs have been SO tired.  I'm only running 52 miles...but my legs just feel trashed.  I'm hoping that next week's bigger drop in mileage will cure this.

Tomorrow is the Persimmon Festival 5K...and I'm running.  I'm not racing it (not worth the risk with all my hip/sciatica issues), but I'm happy to be pacing my friend, Heather, through her first 5K.  Heather is actually my ex-husband's wife. ex-husband's wife.  I'm good friends with both my ex (Yancy) and his wife, Heather.  They are both tremendously good people and we consider them part of our family.  It has worked out really well for Amelia--like she has one big, extended family.

Anyway--Heather used to be really anti-running.  She thought I was crazy for running all these miles.  Then, one day, out of nowhere...she started the couch to 5K program.  And she has been running very consistently ever since.  I don't think she's ever missed a run, and she's definitely got the bug (I've heard she even sneaks in extra miles--atta girl!).  She has run 3 miles several times, but tomorrow is her first time pinning on a number.  If you're a runner, you know that something magical happens when you shell out $20 and pin on a number.  It's different.  It's racing.  It's awesome...and we are lucky that God gives us the ability to do it.

So I'll be pacing her, and she's going to do a great job.  I'll run 7 miles early tomorrow morning, then 3 with me 10 for the day.  After that....hmmm...I can do pretty much whatever I want.  What I NEED to do is clean my house.  But that can wait.  I want to do something fun.

Oh...I almost forgot!  Tim is injured!  It's his back.  It's the same kind of thing he did like 6 weeks ago, but it's back now.  So he won't be racing Persimmon :(  He probably could, but it's not worth risking Chicago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finish line in sight.

The dissertation one, not the marathon one.  Which is, again, the reason for my blogging absence.

Let me catch you up on the running.  The last you heard from me, I was having numb and painful felt a lot like compartment syndrome.  Dr. W thought it was a slipped disc.  I kept seeing Penny for traction treatments, but I just kept getting worse.  Finally, an MRI was ordered.

My back is FINE.  Now, that's a good thing (one thing I do not need is chronic back issues)...except, what was with all the pain?  When I would start running, I'd be fine.  Within a mile...pressure, pain, and, finally, numbness would build in my calves (especially on the right one and especially on the outside).  You can see why it felt like CS.  The one thing that differentiated it, though, was that it got better as the run went on.  If you've ever had CS (and my sympathies to you if you have--it's brutal)...things get worse and worse the more you run.  You might have a quarter mile of pain free running, but the rest will be horrendous.  So I knew this wasn't CS.  Also because I've had the surgery and had my legs re-tested and they're good.

So what was it?  Dr. W didn't know, but thought it sounded like nerve damage.  So he ordered an EMG--which is a test that assesses nerve conduction (speed and force).  So I had a bunch of needles stuck into my legs, and it was determined that I do have bilateral sciatic nerve injuries.  So Dr. W had hypothesized that my bulging discs were pinching the sciatic nerve, thus causing my symptoms.  Turns out I do have sciatica, but not from my back.

From what, then?  The piriformis, my neurologist explained.  A tiny little muscle deep in your butt, attached to the back of your pelvis.  It's a hip stabilizer, and happens to be anatomically very close to the sciatic nerve.  When the piriformis gets tight or overworked, it can pinch off the sciatic nerve.  This leads to decreased conduction in that when my muscles are trying to run, the nerve impulses are delayed in getting to them.  So nothing works right, and it hurts.

He explained that injections to the piriformis muscle are generally helpful with this condition--cortisone injections.  Reduce the inflammation of the piriformis, unstrangle the sciatic nerve.  Fine, sign me up. wasn't that simple.  There are different ways of doing these injections.  Blindly or...well, not blindly.  Like I said, these things are DEEP.  Without going into too many details, let's just say that my cousin-by-marriage Tatiana came through for me and helped me get set up with an interventional radiologist who does piriformis injections under CT guidance.  That is, he puts you under a CT during the injections, injects you with dye so he can see the piriformis, and thus ensures that he goes deep enough but does not further injure the sciatic nerve with the needle.

His name is Dr. Staser.  He looks 18, but he's a really good piriformis injector.  He used spinal needles to do it (about six inches long), and "bathed" my piriformis muscles in cortisone.  He told me it had about a 60% chance of working and that I wouldn't know for 4-5 days.

The next morning, though, my run was a bit better.  Sunday morning?  It was a LOT better.  For 22 miles. Just a little tingling in my right foot.  None of the gripping pain.  So I'm counting the injections a success, and looking forward to them continuing to work over the next couple of weeks.

So I am officially in taper and I am, officially, injured.  But I think that taper with the injections will get me to race day on fresh legs.  If not?  Nothing I can change.  Still three weeks until race day...a lot of healing can take place.

So where did this injury come from?  Well...I'm pretty sure it came from my hip.  My hip injury has been really nagging, but not too painful.  So I've kept running on it.  It has stressed my piriformis into taking over its job, and so there you go.  True piriformis syndrome is rather rare....and so of course I got it.

The next time I blog, the dissertation will have been handed in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Getting closer...

To taper.  And, to my dismay, a bona fide injury.  I've had a hip flexor issue since May, but that's not the almost injury to which I'm referring.  I'm referring to my back.  Yes, my back.  It doesn't even back doesn't.  But it's making my right leg REALLY hurt at times.

As I mentioned previously, Dr. W suspects I have a slipped disc at L5/S1 which is causing pain in my butt, down the side of my leg, and into my foot.  He prescribed steroids (which haven't helped) and PT with Penny.  Penny did some traction on me, and it really helped at first.  But it seems that my pain relief is temporary.  I feel really good a few hours, then it's back.

Especially when I run uphill.  Pain shoots around the side of my calf and into my foot.  My foot almost goes numb, and it feels weak.  My foot drags at times.  Now, that might sound like an injury.  But it's not real yet.  Because I'm still running.

So today I had a lot of calf pain this morning...and some other weird symptoms...and so I called Dr. W's office.  I got in for an MRI this afternoon, but am awaiting results.  One part of me thinks it HAS to be abnormal (the MRI), but then I wonder why the traction and steroids aren't working the way that they should.  Penny is REALLY good at what she does.  I can't imagine that if that was the problem she couldn't fix it.

So what if the problem is actually lower down--in the piriformis, which can also pinch the sciatic nerve.  If that's the case, then the MRI should be pretty unremarkable. 

Anyway--of course I'm freaking out a bit.  Especially because I realized today that I HAVE had this pain before.  I had it in the third trimester of my pregnancy, and it's what caused me to cease running until after Rowan was born.  I would run (or even walk) and my right calf would feel like it was going to explode.  After five or six miles, it would let up.  This is exactly the same thing, only it's not quite as bad.  We never figured out what it was when I was pregnant...but I remember Dr. W saying he thought it was a problem with my back.  I also remember thinking "What?  My back doesn't hurt."  Well, maybe he was right.  Because this is the same pain.

So, what to do.  I know most of you would say STOP RUNNING!  Well, I'm not going to.  The only person who could get me to do that is Penny (and don't you dare FB message or email her and try to bully her into it).  I trust her..if she said "You shouldn't be running on this," I would have to stop.  And I'm also not going to because I know this is not a running injury.  Does it hurt when I run?  Yeah.  But I think I can make it to taper.  I think.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Disc/Sciatica Showdown

Ugh.  Sciatic pain is not fun.  While sitting, walking, or running, I have pain that travels down both legs (mostly the right), into my calves, and into my feet (where it bothers me the most). 

I ran 16 Saturday and 12 on Sunday.  Neither run was enjoyable (except for the company).  The nerve pain makes my legs feel tight and tired.  I've been on the steroids long enough now that I'd expect to see a result--but I don't.  I've had one traction treatment, and have another today.  I'm hoping something works soon.

I can run.  But it's just not very fun.  I'll continue to do it and hope that this issue is totally resolved by Oct. 9 (race day).  Even if it's not, I could still run...just not at my best.

So I'm trying to be proactive.  I'm seeing Penny for the traction, but I'm also thinking that I may need to have an epidural injection in my back.  This would have to be done at the Pain Center.  Remember that place?  I'm a patient there--and they kept telling me my abdominal stuff was all muscular.  Dr. Lysandrou would not listen to me and just kept injecting my abdominal muscles...with zero results.

There is another doctor who works there--Dr. Gettelfinger.  I've met him, and he even came in the room once to help Dr. Lysandrou with me.  So I called today to make an appointment a couple of weeks out assuming I'll need an injection.  I requested Dr. Gettelfinger.  I was told that I couldn't see him because I'd only seen Dr. Lysandrou.  I told her that wasn't true.  She, in not so many words, called me a liar.  And again told me I had no choice and that I'd have to see Dr. Lysandrou.

Um, really?  I have no say in the matter regarding who gets my money?  Who will be injecting something into my spinal column?  I asked her (politely) how I would go about getting an appointment with Dr. Gettelfinger.  She told me that Dr. Gettelfinger would have to authorize that--and followed that up by saying "But he's not going to do that."   I explained to her that I was not satisfied with the care offered by Dr. Lysandrou, and that I am a documented patient at the center, and wanted to see a different physician--I asked her what she suggested I do.  She told me there was no way I could have ever even met Dr. Gettelfinger, that I must have been confused, and that my only option was to make an appointment with Dr. Lysandrou.  She would write a note to Dr. Gettelfinger, but was sure he would not want to see me.

It's amazing how much power administrative assistants like that one have in our health care system.  She was making a decision for a physician without even asking him.  I explained to her that I didn't appreciate being called a liar (because I wasn't lying about having seen Dr. Gettelfinger once) and that I'd go ahead and make an appointment with Dr. Lysandrou.  When I see Dr. Lysandrou, I suppose I will have to tell him that I don't care much for the way in which he practices medicine, and I need him to transfer me to the care of Dr. Gettelfinger.  What's he going to do then?  Tell me no?

Here's the are allowed, as a consumer, to fire your doctor.  I've already done it with several.  I have a new GP.  I have private insurance...and I ought to have a choice in the matter of who oversees my care.  I had a horrible experience with Lysandrou, and I don't want him touching me again.  But I'm being told that it's IMPOSSIBLE for me to see someone else there.

It's not, of course, impossible.  It's just that systems tend to often treat patients like dirt.  Even if the administrative assistant didn't think it was possible, she should have said something like "I'll have to see if that is possible and I'll call you back."  Instead she degraded me, called me a liar, and forced me to schedule an appointment with a provider with whom I'm very uncomfortable.  This from a system that touts "patient satisfaction" as a major outcome.  I will, of course, be sending a letter to that system.  And will also ask to be sent, by my sports doctor, to a different group of pain physicians.  People like that simply will not get my business.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Home Stretch

This is an incredibly busy (though exciting) time in my life.  The dissertation is almost out the door.  My kids are growing and thriving.  I love my husband.  Running is going (mostly) well.  Hence the lack of blogging.

But let's catch up.  The Chicago Marathon is a mere four weeks away, which means I have only one week of actual training left.  Then I enter Taper Town.  If you're not familiar with marathons or marathon training, taper is what it sounds like--a reduction in mileage.  The point of training is to build up to a peak mileage/intensity, then back off so as to let your legs recover for the race.  It should also leave you feeling fresh on race day.  In other words, you're supposed to beat your legs to a pulp leading up to taper, then let them heal for the race, at which point they should be able to carry you 26.2 miles at race pace.

Runners are notorious for despising taper.  As much as we complain about tired legs during peak training...take that away from us?  We're crabby.  It actually makes us crabby and crazy.  Hence the common term "taper madness."  Taper (for me, at least) is three weeks long.  Throughout this time, my mileage goes down, down, down.  I will have a lot of free time on my hands.  I will also experience taperitis--new pains that pop up everywhere during taper.  It occurs because the body is in recovery mode, but to a psychologically-dependent runner...we're certain it's disaster.

I'm actually looking forward to taper.  I am so busy with work and school, and I've got some issues that I need to "taper out."  I have talked about my chronic hip/quad/butt/leg issues this cycle.  In my right leg, it started with hip flexor tendonitis in May.  That went away, but came back soon after...and brought piriformis pain with it.  Penny worked on those and they went away again.  Then they came back, and brought with them some weird quad pain (which I couldn't seem to stretch out).  That led to a bone scan regarding Dr. W's fear of a femoral stress fracture (negative, thank goodness).  So I was free to run and keep getting Graston.  But the pain in my right leg has been changing, and now it's spread to my left.  I knew that I had strained anything (it just felt different), so I went in to see Dr. W yesterday.

I told him that my right leg just feels weird...weak at times, and it hurts to sit.  And I now have some pain radiating down my left hamstring.  Subtle, but there. On top of all that, I have this pain also in my "crotch," for lack of a better word.  For those women who've had feels like the pressure you have when your baby has dropped and you're about to deliver.  I had been told by my friend, Mark Bowder, a long time ago that my leg pain was probably nerve-related, but I thought he was wrong.  But, as usual, Mark was right.

Dr. W determined that I have a trapped nerve/disc issue at level L5/S1.  Basically, that means a trapped nerve in my lower back.  That nerve turns into the sciatic nerve in the legs, and that is what is hurting me.  How did this happen?  Well, he couldn't explain it.  But Penny said it's due to my weak core...which I'm sure is the case because, since having Rowan, I've done zilch with my core.

Dr. W prescribed a prednisone pack, which I started today...the point of which is to relieve some of the inflammation around the nerve.  I'm also hoping it will help with my hip pain (which is actually a result of a strain/tendonitis).  And I'm getting more PT--but not Graston.  I'm getting something called traction.  I've never had it before.  Of course, as a nurse, I know what traction is for orthopedic patients.  But for sports medicine?

I saw Penny yesterday for my first round of traction.  She put me in this really weird "suit"...more like a vest and something around my waist.  It looked like armor.  Then she had my lie down on a table with my legs raised above my hips onto a stool.  My upper body was secured to the table.  She connected me to a machine at the end of the bed, and the machine pulled on my legs.  It didn't hurt at all.  The point is to relieve the pressure on the pinched nerve.

I didn't notice immediate effects, but I feel a bit better this morning.  However, as I sit here, I can feel the pain in my butt and between my legs, as well as on the side of my right leg.  I'm hopeful that the traction and steroids will take care of it.  If they don't, I'll have to have an MRI and then an epidural steroid injection.  I told Dr. W that, if that's necessary, it's got to be done before Chicago.

He also told me I should probably not run for two weeks.  To which I laughed.  I'm too close to Chicago.  Am I uncomfortable when I run?  Yes.  Do my legs feel tired and weak?  Yes.  But, according to him, I'm not doing anymore damage to myself...but I'm delaying the recovery.  That's fine, because after Chicago I'm not running for several weeks.  It can all heal then.

So that was a long-winded explanation of tapering something out--I'm hoping the reduced load on my legs (and back, apparently) will help with this.  And Penny can work her magic.  If I had a lot of money I would hire her as my personal PT, and I'd pay her like $500,000 a year to just work on me every single day.  I've seen a LOT of PTs.  Penny is the best in this area.  She has never given me that talk about how I should bike or swim instead of run.  Her goal is to keep me running.

The other reason I'm looking forward to taper?  It happens to coincide with the busiest time of my life in terms of school--getting the dissertation perfected, printed, and shipped to my committee.  This will take a lot of time and will keep me busy.  I met with my advisor this morning, and I have the green light to finish my final chapter of the dissertation.  This has been such an arduous process that I can't imagine it being done...but it almost is.  After I turn it in on Sept. 26, I won't know what to do with myself...and I won't even be able to run much!

As I'm preparing for my graduation from the doctoral program, I look back and realize that I have been in school a long time.  It is a rough way to go in some ways, but I'm thrilled with what I've accomplished and what I think I'll be able to add to the scientific literature during my career.  And I'm going to have my own office at IU.  Sometimes, when I've been in a dark place trying to manage school, family, and running, I kept myself going by fantasizing about decorating my office when I got my first job as an assistant professor.  I'd step away from whatever I was trying to write, and I'd think about what I'm going to put on the walls--pictures of my kids, pictures of me and my husband running, my diplomas, my favorite Bible verses.  And I want a couch in there, too.  And some candles.  I can picture the half-written grants and manuscripts on my desk.  And it makes me push on.

That may seem silly, but in my mind it signifies what I've been working toward for many, many years.  I never wanted to a PhD to prove how smart or brilliant I am (my blog does that all on its own...kidding :) ).  It's just the only way to get to do what I want to do.  It's not easy to become a scientist...they change your whole brain around, but for the better.  And now I can do things that are utterly satisfying and helpful to this society.  That seems grandiose, but it's true.  And I get to teach, which I absolutely love.  I'm almost there...home feels like mile 22 of a marathon.