Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Faster than a lunar rover

Jeremy convinced me to return the expensive running shoes I bought at Fleet Feet. I hate complaining or returning things, but the Brooks stability shoe they recommended just didn't work for me. Plus, I think the shoes are what caused the bursitis in my hip. The sales dude took one look at my flat feet and said he would have recommended a stability shoe for me too, but admitted that he can't argue with what my feet say (apparently what my feet say is something along the lines of "Take a hike, stability shoe, you're not the boss of me!") He brought out some neutral shoes for me to try and I ended up trading the Brooks for Mizuno Wave Riders.

Definite upgrade. I love Love LOVE my new Mizunos! If I'm going to spend $100 on running shoes, this is how they should feel. They're light and bouncy and quick. The first time I wore them, they carried me through Saturday's 11 mile group run without so much as a blister. It feels like I'm not even wearing shoes.

My hip pain isn't completely gone, but it's getting there. I'm down from 3 Ibuprofens a day to 1 and I don't need the ice anymore. I think I'll keep going to acupuncture for a while. My hip is feeling better, though I don't know to what extent, if any, acupuncture contributed to the improvement. But acupuncture is alternately amusing (when there are other patients there) and relaxing (when there aren't or when I'm wearing headphones), and it's nice to have 45 minutes of scheduled rest/recuperation time a week. We're now in the tapering phase leading up to the race, and so much nervous energy is building up that I'll be needing all the reminders I can get to just relax and breathe.

So I just finished reading Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, from which I learned that lunar rovers average about 6 miles an hour. So now whenever I run faster than 10 minute mile pace, I picture myself outrunning a lunar rover.

Lyric of the moment: "How long before I get in? Before it starts, before I begin...Where to, where do I go? If you never try, then you'll never know..."

Friday, August 27, 2010

...the tough get...acupuncture?

My recent adventures in trochanteric bursitis led me to Rochester Community Acupuncture last night. I'd had acupuncture once before, years ago, so I had an idea of what to expect. But Rochester Community Acupuncture is different in that it operates on a sliding pay scale (you have the option of paying $15-$35, based on what you can afford, no questions asked) and the acupuncture treatment is performed in a communal setting rather than in a private room. You get your own big, comfortable recliner and personalized treatment, but there are other patients in the room at the same time.

The owner/acupuncturist asked me some questions about my hip pain and verified that I had gone to see my physician first (acupuncture is a complement to traditional Western medicine, not a substitute). Then she felt my pulse and asked if she could see my tongue (strange, but ok. when in Rome...). Later on, while reading about acupuncture, I found out that there are 4 diagnostic methods the acupuncturist can use, one of which, "inspection," includes analyzing the face and especially the tongue. After looking at my tongue, she wrote down some notes (which I was super curious to read but unfortunately I couldn't get a good look) and then inserted about 15 or so tiny acupuncture needles into my hands, arms, feet, legs and ear. You can feel a tiny prick when the needles are inserted, but there's no lasting pain.

Then I was supposed to lie back and rest for 40-45 minutes while the acupuncture got to work unblocking my qi or whatever. (Chinese philosophy postulates that illness can be caused when the flow of qi (energy) in the body gets disrupted, and that restoring the flow of qi balances the yin and yang forces in the body, keeping it healthy. Western science theorizes that acupuncture may work by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters, which can dull pain and strengthen the immune system). Frankly I don't really care how it works, I just want my bursitis to be gone so I can get back to running full speed ahead.

I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to be doing during the relaxation time. I closed my eyes and tried to relax and breathe, but I kept getting distracted by other people. First it was a phone call from a difficult customer who didn't seem to understand the sliding pay scale, judging from the receptionist's having to explain it multiple times before transferring the call to the owner. Then a new patient came in and was describing all her ailments: sleeping 10 hours a day, being tired all the time, experiencing back and neck pain, getting stomach cramps after eating at the Olive Garden.

By this time, I started to feel really lucky that I didn't have these peoples' problems. My bursitis was looking pretty minor in comparison.

The acupuncturist said the treatment has a cumulative effect so she wanted me to come once or twice a week at first. I made another appointment for Monday, and I am definitely bringing headphones. My hip actually does feel better today, but I don't know if that's due to the Ibuprofen, rest, ice, acupuncture or some combination. I'm just hoping the pain will go the way of socks lost in the dryer or ships vanished in the Bermuda Triangle, never to reappear.

Lyric of the moment: "I don't feel the way I've ever felt, I know. Gonna smile and not get worried. I try but it shows..."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When the going gets tough...

Once I stopped taking Ibuprofen, the hip pain came back with a vengeance. After reading about common running injuries online, I suspected I might have bursitis, which my doctor later confirmed. Or, as he put it after examining me "You have a problem." (Um yeah doc, that's kinda why I'm here). Evidently my problem is trochanteric bursitis.

According to the Cleveland Clinic's website, "Trochanteric bursitis is inflammation of the bursa (fluid-filled sac near a joint) at the outside (lateral) point of the hip known as the greater trochanter."

(Insert string of expletives here)

Ugh! I'm so annoyed at myself for getting injured. My training was going so well and now this crap. I suppose some sort of setback was inevitable, but I'm still irritated. No sense stressing out about it though. Per my doctor's recommendations, I've been taking Ibuprofen, icing my hip and resting. I'm supposed to cut down on running, which I will (albeit grudgingly), but I still want to do enough that I'll be prepared for the race on September 12th. Tomorrow I'm getting acupuncture, because I've heard that can help.

Fingers crossed that I'll be better soon.

Lyric of the moment: "But it was not your fault but mine. And it was your heart on the line. I really fucked it up this time. Didn't I, my dear?"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fitter, happier, more constructive

Change is funny. It can sneak up on you so gradually that you don't even notice it until all of a sudden it hits you and you think "Holy crap, when did I become this person?"

I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I find that lately I love running. I mean really love it. In fact, as much as someone like me can be passionate about anything, I would say I have actually become passionate about it. I mean, I always liked running, in the way that I "like" vegetables because they're good for me and all that, but let's be honest, if it provided the same vitamins and antioxidants, I'd choose dessert over vegetables any day. Somehow, running has transformed from the broccoli equivalent of exercise to the peanut butter cup sundae. I get excited about it, I look forward to it and after every run, I want more and more. I just want to keep going for as long and as far as I can.

Everything I see and hear and read gives me new ideas for places I want to go and things I want to do. (Insert Liz Lemon voice saying "I want to go to there.") I wish I could be a full-time explorer/adventurer.

And I think my inner monologue has become a surfer dude. The other day someone asked me what I was training for and I thought "Life, man." (Seriously? Who am I? Why does my head sound like a stoner?) Thankfully I caught myself in time and said "The half-marathon."

Update: I stopped wearing the expensive running shoes when my right hip and left knee started hurting. I can't be certain if the shoes caused the pain or if it's just the inevitable result of increased mileage, but I'm not taking any chances. I took some Ibuprofen, iced my hip with a bag of frozen berries I found in the freezer and bought a new pair of New Balance running sneakers from DSW for $30. I ran 13 miles in the New Balances on Saturday and my hip is feeling better, so I'm sticking with those shoes for the race.

Speaking of stoners...As if I needed any more TV shows to obsess over, I am now addicted to Weeds. I'm up to season 3 (Thanks, Netflix On Demand!). So Hilarious. I love it!

Lyric of the moment: "Oh, this is the start of something good, don't you agree? I haven't felt like this in so many moons, you know what I mean?"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Going the distance

I ran 13 miles (!) during group run on Saturday. It's the farthest I've ever run and I'm super psyched because now I can go into September's half marathon knowing that I've run that distance before.

I never thought I would run 13 miles and want more, yet here I am. I still don't look like a runner, but after 15 years I'm finally starting to feel like one.

So I'm excited to be going further and further each week, but I'm less than thrilled with my new fancy running sneakers. There was something hard poking out of the inside seam on the left shoe that gave me a blister, so I cut it out and put electrical tape over the seam. As for the inserts, I ended up throwing them away because they felt awful.

I'm reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and he talks about how the "best," most expensive running shoes are actually the worst for you and can lead to more injuries than they prevent. Apparently I was on the right track all along with my cheapo running shoes. I'm going to do more research into the barefoot running movement and maybe check out some Nike Free Run or Vibram Five Fingers shoes, which are designed for running with more of a barefoot stride (landing on the mid-foot and sweeping back) versus "high-tech" cushioned running shoes which encourage landing on the heel and rolling forward.

My immediate concern is to figure out which shoes I want to wear for the race and then once I survive that I can explore some other options for the long term. I'm going to give the new shoes one more week of use without the inserts and see how my body feels. Even if the new shoes don't work out, I'm trying to look at it, not as having wasted $132, but as having learned a lesson about what not to buy in the future. Life is a series of trials and errors. Keep what works, toss or modify what doesn't, and keep going.

Lyric of the moment: "But wherever I have gone, I was sure to find myself there. You can run all your life but not go anywhere..."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dog days of summer

I don't know why I persist in talking to Lucky as if she can actually understand what I'm saying. I'm basically talking to myself when I say things like "No, you can't go in that scary looking van. Didn't you learn anything from Criminal Minds?" and "Do you really have to find the nicest looking flowers to pee on?" Because to Lucky, I probably sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown. All she hears is "Won won, won won won." Unless of course I happen to be holding a treat. Then Lucky is all "I will sit, stay and high five like a champ. I will become a monkey typing Shakespeare on this typewriter if you will just give me that hot dog."

Lyric of the moment: "And I want you to know I feel lucky to know you. Cut open my heart and you'll see that it's true..."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Galapagos! Days 7 & 8: There's no place like home

Monday, August 2 and Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And so begins the 2 day journey back home. Monday we flew from the Galapagos to Quito, then woke up at 3:00am on Tuesday morning to catch our flight from Quito to Miami, followed by Miami to Chicago and then for me, Chicago to Rochester. Dear travel agent person who booked our flights, I think you may be partially insane because 35 minutes is not enough time in between flights. All day I was worried we would miss our connections. We did make it on time, but only just.

All in all, the trip was simply awesome. I know that I am ridiculously fortunate to have had this experience and I hope there are many more trips and adventures awaiting me down the road. I'm already thinking of the next 20 places I want to visit. It is possible that I have become addicted to travel. Back in the day, I totally would have been an explorer (most of their "discoveries" resulted from simply getting lost, and I have no trouble doing that).

For anyone thinking of visiting the Galapagos, DO IT! Seriously, it's incredible. We chose a land tour and stayed at the Red Mangrove hotels on 3 different islands: Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz. Each hotel was unique and charming and I was very pleased with the food and accomodations. Two thumbs up, Red Mangrove. Galapagos cruises are another popular option, but our guides explained that, with the land tours, the money you pay supports the local economy whereas when you pay for a cruise, the money goes to the foreign companies that own the cruise lines. Something to think about.

Good times, good times, but I'm glad to be back home with Jeremy and Lucky. Part of the fun of going away is coming back to share your stories.

Until next time...with love, from Robot.

Lyric of the moment: "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now. 'Cause there's too many places I've got to see..."

Galapagos! Day 6: "You have to try it"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our last day in the Galapagos was a little strange. It seems like the tour company doesn't know what to do with Emelyn and I since we're on our last day and the new people coming in are on their first day. We had a funny guide this morning who took us to Los Gemelos ("The Twins"), 2 collapsed lava chambers. We also saw a giant lava tunnel. The guide kept saying "I will take your picture over here!" and "You have to try it!" He was very enthusiastic to say the least.

Later we went with a different group and guide to Tortuga Bay. I had actually run there this morning when I happened to find the road leading to the trail to Tortuga Bay. It was a lot of up and down, but a really nice trail and I ended up running it both Sunday and Monday mornings for a total of 60 minutes each day.

Lyric of the moment: "People are strange when you're a stranger..."

Galapagos! Day 5: Adios Amigos

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This morning I went for a nice 45 minute run on the white sandy beaches of Isabela. The sand is deep and caves in under your feet, so it was like running in quicksand. I love running barefoot and this was a nice workout.

Today is our last day as a group with Alberto and Jimbo as our guides. We went to the "Wall of Tears," which was built during the 1940's-1950's when Isabela island was a penal colony. The guards forced the prisoners to build the wall as punishment and many died during the construction. We also went to Cerro Orchilla to see the view, then to a lagoon full of flamingos and a breeding center for giant tortoises (complete with a welcome sign depicting 2 tortoises getting it on).

In the afternoon, we took a boat back to Santa Cruz to visit the Charles Darwin research station. Lonesome George lives there now. He's the last survivor of his species of tortoise, originally from Pinta island. He lives with 2 female tortoises of a closely related species, but hasn't procreated. Poor George and his lady troubles.

Our guide Alberto explained that Ecuador is a third world country but always ranks first in terms of conservation. They are very serious about maintaining ecological balance here and trying to erradicate invasive species.

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the night. I've never been on a vacation where I made friends with fellow travelers before, so it was a neat experience. Wherever they go, I hope their futures are filled with many travels and much happiness.

Lyric of the moment: "Well you can cry me a river, cry me a river. I cried a river over you..."

Galapagos! Day 4: Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico

Friday, July 30, 2010

This morning, I ran for half an hour through the streets and trails of Floreana. The towns here are small so I don't have to worry about getting lost. We had an early breakfast, then drove up to the base of the Sierra Negra volcano. We hiked for 6 hours up Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico. Don't let its name fool you: Volcan Chico ("small") is no easy trek. But it was one of my favorite parts of the tour. The views were spectacular and just being able to hike a volcano is pretty awesome. And I'm totally counting this as my long run of the week. I was supposed to get in a 9 mile run this week, but I think half an hour of running followed by 6 hours of hiking over uneven terrain is enough of a workout.

Lyric of the moment: "And we've been trying, trying trying, to mix it up. We've been dancing on a volcano..."

Galapagos! Day 3: "No worries, it is nature"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. I ran for 45 minutes in the Floreana highlands, half of which was straight uphill. I've gotten so used to running in urban environments, so it's been nice to run on the trails here. It's so peaceful and the views are gorgeous. And seriously, when else will I have the opportunity to run past sea lions and volcanoes and cacti?

There are only about 120 people living on Floreana and they don't have electricity from midnight until about 6:00am (so that's why they suggested we bring a flashlight with us).

After a delicious breakfast, we went hiking in the highlands and saw giant tortoises and the pirate caves (Arrrgh!). Then we took a boat to Isabela island, where we saw iguanas and a sea lion nursery. We were watching baby black marine iguanas laying on the lava rocks and soaking up the sun's heat, when a heron flew by and looked like it was going to eat one of the iguanas. To which our tour guide Alberto replied "No worries, it is nature." Thankfully, the heron flew away and we didn't have to witness any nature vs. nature moments.

Later we went snorkeling. Today was warmer, but even with the wetsuits they gave us, I was still freezing. Still, it was totally worth it because I got to snorkel with white tipped reef sharks and sea lions. The sea lions are so playful and they will swim up right next to you. It was my first time snorkeling so I was worried I would have trouble with it, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. And when we got back to the Red Mangrove hotel on Isabela, Emelyn was there. Yay!

Read in a book: "For so long I had wanted this, and now that it was here, I didn't know what to make of it. I'd expected that I would expand to fit the experience automatically, that I would get my first glimpse of the person I was destined to be." I can't explain it, but the right words have a way of finding me at exactly the right time. I read this in one of the books I bought for vacation and it describes perfectly the feeling I have whenever I go somewhere or try something new. There are certain experiences that I know are going to change me, but I still expect it to happen instantaneously, even though I know that growth takes a little time and can often be uncomfortable at first. When I first get into an unfamiliar situation, my brain starts freaking out, listing all the reasons it will be hard or scary or lead to failure, but I've found that I just have to relax and jump in anyway.

Lyric of the moment: "And I don't know how, to slow it down. My mind's racing from chasing pirates..."

Galapagos! Day 2: Planes, ferries and automobiles

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I woke up a little before 6am and headed out for a run. I'm worried about keeping up my half marathon training during vacation because we have a full schedule of tour activities. I tried to stay close to the hostel but I have a terrible sense of direction and ended up getting lost. Crap. I kept going until I saw a Burger King that I remembered being somewhat near the hostel (I've never been happier to see a "Home of the Whopper" sign) and I found my way back. I only got in a 30 minute run, but didn't want to risk getting lost again, plus I had to get to the airport for my flight from Quito to the Galapagos.

I was too tired to notice last night, but the hostel has an armed guard out front watching the gates. During the trip, a bunch of people mentioned that Quito is dangerous and has a lot of crime, but I never felt afraid or anything. Then again, I have a tendency to be rather oblivious sometimes.

It feels strange and little lonely to be all by myself in a country where I've never been and don't know anyone, but then again venturing out into the unknown always feels a little unsettling at first.

Their airport in the Galapagos is on the island of Baltra, then you take a bus to the ferry dock, take the ferry to Santa Cruz and then drive to Puerto Ayora, which is the islands' biggest town. After lunch, it was back on another boat for a 2 hour ride to Floreana island. The rest of the group I was with went snorkeling but I was too cold so I explored a trail near the lodge. It's overcast today and the water here is chilly (that's why penguins can live in the Galapagos even though it has a tropical climate). Leave it to me to be cold even at the freaking equator. Also, everyone thinks I'm 22 or 25 and wants to know if I'm married. That's the thing about travel - the scenery changes but you're still the same person.

I did get as close as I've ever gotten to a sea lion though. The animals here don't run away from people at all. It's so tempting to pet them, but it's not allowed.

The food here is delicious. And the guides and other tourists are very nice, but for some reason I am always shy around new people. Plus I'm tired from 2 days of traveling. But as I fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean waves crashing on the beach right outside the lodge, I think I could definitely get used to this. I would so love to live on the ocean, especially someplace warm.

Lyric of the moment: "I climbed up a mountain, and looked off the edge. At all of the lives that I never have led. There's one where I stayed with you across the sea. I wonder do you still think of me.."

Galapagos! Day 1: This will be epic

Tuesday, July 27, 2010.

I have never been this nervous and excited for a vacation before. I still can't believe I am actually going to the Galapagos Islands. This is what happens when I get an idea in my head and the feeling in my gut that tells me to go for it. Then somehow everything seems to fall into place and I am off on another amazing adventure.

At the Rochester airport waiting for the first of 3 flights today (Rochester to Chicago, Chicago to Miami and then Miami to Quito, Ecuador), my anticipation of the impending awesomeness is accompanied by sadness at leaving Jeremy behind. I'm surprised at how weird it feels to travel without him. He has become my partner in adventure and my favorite traveling companion. But I'm so glad Emelyn volunteered to go on this trip with me, although I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into.

The trip is getting off to a rocky start. I get a message from Emelyn that her flight from home has been delayed so she will miss the connection in Miami and won't arrive in the Galapagos until Thursday. I feel like a jerk because the only bad thing that's happened to me so far is that I spilled water all over my carry-on bag. I feel bad being so lucky when others aren't. Finally I make it to Quito at 1:00am and fall asleep in the hard bed at La Rabida hostel. There's a sign in the room telling people not to let "Brownie," the hostel's pet rabbit into the rooms, but I didn't see a rabbit anywhere. It's too bad because that would almost have made up for the hard bed and lack of hot water.

Lyric of the moment: "It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here. What better time than now..."