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Yesterday began like a lot of Saturdays. I woke up after an evening of Pride and Prejudice watching, sipped some water, and slipped on my running shoes. The great outdoors awaited me, and with Al Letson’s passionate voice telling me tales of education from State of the Re:Union I wound my way up up up up up the longest hill route I know, about twenty minutes of almost only upness. Treating myself at the end of the run, I jogged through the Farmer’s Market and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the marketeers and shoppers just starting to come to life, noting one man who was in awe of the chicken-roaster’s “set-up” as he referred to it, the chicken roaster clearly bored with comments like these from dudes who just have a typical grill at home. An hour from when I left my door, I was back inside.

After a shower, I took a walk in hopes of hitting a friend’s garage sale — only, I had the wrong day. A mile and a half later, I was home again, attempting to do some writing.

Amara, my neighbor, and I had made plans to go hiking, and we hit the redwoods. She’d never been to the park, and seemed to be in awe of shady beauty. We talked almost non stop, not in a spitfire way, but in a lulling rhythm. Amara thinks before she speaks, and the redwoods seem to bring about a sense of mindfulness I don’t always find in urban walks. Everything seemed clearer. Easier. Zen-er (that’s a word, right?). I could feel the path sturdily beneath my feet, I could focus clearly on what Amara was saying. Typically, I enjoy hiking, but this hike was downright blissful. For two hours.

I attempted more writing, slowly making my way through just a few pages, not at all at the fever pitch finger dancing I’m accustomed to. Sooner than seemed possible, it was time to leave, again. My friend Jesse had offered me a ticket to a show. I had no idea who the band was or what sort of music they were going to play, and I didn’t bother to look it up. Walking to the train was another mile, and again I did so with that same overarching sense of peace I had in the redwoods.

Jesse and I were early. To entertain ourselves, we walked into a yellow-house-turned-bar for beer and a shared deep fried Twinkie (which came, to my delight, complete with sprinkles on top). We ambled into the show just as the opener was starting, and the music grooved but there wasn’t much remarkable about it other than it was “fine/good.”

And then. Then, the headlining band came on. GOAT. Four musicians, each wearing some variation of a mask, stood before us, playing slowly with a strong bass line. From almost nowhere, two women dressed in elaborate masks were on stage, dancing with tambourines, occasionally singing, and almost never not moving for the next 90 minutes. The crowd, from the older, bald man dressed in a suit, to myself and Jesse, were swept away in the movement.

Any remnants of the past and future fell away, and I was only me, this being right then and there. No expectations. Nothing but music, dancing,  and the sense of being that comes from newness. Post show, drenched in sweat, I walked outside and the cool SF air layered itself onto my face like a piece of lace.

Back at home, I lay under just one blanket, exhausted. My body was alive, tingling and humming, but my head and heart were still just relaxed.

-

At about minute 3:09 you’ll understand how the show simply became one big freaking non-stop dance party.

In 2012  I ran the Oakland Half Marathon, and went on to call the run “my love letter to Oakland” when discussing it in normal conversation. Though infused with several emotions, and mostly fueled by confusion for what it means to be human, I felt even more entwined with my city after the race. And I wanted to run the course annually, if only to incur the nostalgia of that love.

In 2013, I’d been too recently diagnosed with UPJ to run (for any physical activity was still giving me what I enduringly called “fruit punch pee”), and like many things in 2013, I put off the run and reminded myself that it was only one year of my life.

This year, I signed up months in advance, brimming with Oakland pride as I hit “Pay” on the website. When I came across a coveted Run Oakland t-shirt at Oaklandish I scooped it up, nerdily excited to represent running and Oakland during the race. I went to the run early to cheer on my friends at the 5K, and proceeded to cheer on a ton of strangers, including some of my favorite lake-running regulars who I only recognize when their faces are sweaty and their running shoes are on.

I wasn’t nervous about my race at all. I’d run this before, and even after the year of sickness and surgery in 2013, I felt ready to rock this run.

Mile one started off slow, as it will do based on getting thousands of runners in a tiny corral. Miles two and three were fine — I opted to turn on my iPod instead of eavesdrop on the runners chattering around me, as they were shrouded in silence. And then there was mile four.

At mile four, I noticed I wasn’t actually enjoying myself, and began to try and analyze why. At mile five, I gave up the analytics and tried to evoke the wisdom of The Power of Now, attempting to focus on the present, focus on the breath, and let go of the past and the future. At mile five and a half, I considered simply stopping running and walking home. Because oh my, did I want to be at home.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t run, though I admit this half marathon was probably the worst feeling half I’ve ever done. It was that I simply didn’t want to. I was simultaneously a shell of a person and overcome with heavy emotions. I was, as I later said to a friend, feeling both depressed and enlightened. Miles six and seven and eight were also spent in contemplation about stopping, my legs churning less, my mind trying to decide if the weaker action was to keep going against my own wishes or to stop.

At mile nine, I began to cry. I pulled the earbuds from my listeners and sidled up to the nearest runner next to me, a sweaty man in a green t-shirt with wild hair.

“I don’t know you,” I said to him, “but I didn’t know we’d be running down this street. And I’m not ready for it. Emotionally.”

He looked down at me and said, “I always think that everyone is either running away from something, or running toward something. Looks like today you’re running away.”

“Can we just run this street together?” I asked.

“Of course.”

So we did. we ran the rest of mile nine together, him telling me this was his first half marathon and how he hoped this would open doors to triathlon, us discussing if it would be feasible to turn Oakland into a walking/running city, and the joy we’d feel if we could jog to work over the Bay Bridge. And then he was gone at mile 10, and I was alone again.

There was only the lake to go at that point, three miles I am intimately familiar with, and I told myself to just finish. Weak or not. This was the choice. I ran slowly. I almost walked. I simply had ceased to care. Even the bluegrass band at mile twelve didn’t help.

About one hundred yards from the finish line, there was a small incline. It’s significant in the sense that “we just ran 13 miles (or 26, for those marathon kids) and now this!” but not in the grand scheme of inclines. I began chugging up it — not typically how I would describe my running style, but this was pure chugging.

An older man in a long blue shirt came up beside me.

“Let’s do this together,” he said. “Help me up this hill.” I matched his pace, and we crested incline.

“Sprint!” he said.

“You go,” I replied. I’ve never liked sprinting at the end of the race — I’m most proud of myself when I paced so well that I am going the exact right speed.

He darted ahead, and turned around at the finish line to wait for me with a high five.

I felt horrendously relieved to be done. After running into a few friends and exchanging pleasantries, I made my way home. Was the run not fun because of where my head has been lately? Was it not fun because truly, I don’t like the competitive feeling of racing, even against myself? I still don’t know.

 

 

Ed note: I wrote this mostly for myself, to reflect upon the why’s of being a vegetarian or not. It’s not a formal, edited piece with a purpose other than examining this personal issue from multiple sides. 

Come June, I’ll have been a vegetarian for 16 years – over half my life. Wow. I’ve been a vegetarian so long, I’ve never self identified on a social media site as anything but meat-free.

I’m thinking of changing my “food preference” status to omnivore, though.

There are a lot of reasons.

I’m not an animal lover. It sounds kind of horrible to say, doesn’t it? Don’t misinterpret me, I like animals. I enjoy spending time with pets, I get excited when I hear an owl. But I’ve never self identified as an animal lover, nor would anyone who knows me classify me as such. The most animaly I’ve gotten in recent memory is as follows:

1)   Thinking about getting a hamster

2)   Thinking about getting a bird watching book and identifying birds

I say all this because most people are vegetarians because they feel badly for the animals. And man, I mean this in the best way possible (if there is such a thing): but the treatment has never really bothered me.

It’s not right. It’s not humane. But the way we treat plants isn’t humane, either. The way we treat diseases (and the way they treat us) isn’t humane. The point I’m circling delicately is that whole “circle of life” Lion King thing. There’s no denying we’re part of a rhyme and reason that was decided before anyone reading this was born. And there’s no denying we get to choose what to do with that information – we can go veg, or we can not.

I became vegetarian for two reasons. The first is that all my friends were doing it. In high school, my “clique” would have been labeled the band geek hippies. The name pretty much says it all – and of course, at some point, one person went vegetarian, and everyone followed suit. Two went vegan. Of the initial five or so of us, who were some variation of meat-free, only two still are; myself, and one of the vegan girls.

The second reason is because my grandmother told me it would help me lose weight.

Being vegetarian is part of how I self-identify. It’s a touchstone for what I perceive to be me. And yet, I’m a vegetarian because of someone else’s opinion of me. Which seems, frankly, wrong. Which is sad. If I let this part of go of me, it’s going to feel like a loss – good reasoning or not, it really is part of who I am.

But there is something wildly liberating about the idea of eating meat. Of making a choice that is my own that was not suggested to me based on an extreme desire to be liked (both by being thinner and doing what my friends thought was cool). I’m a people pleaser to a relatively unhealthy degree, and vegetarianism is one interesting way I chose at a younger age to please, even though it was never asked of me.

When I watch people eat meat, I often joke about being excited for them. It’s not a joke. I remember liking meat: the chewiness of clams in chowder, the saltiness of tuna, the primal feeling that came from gnawing on a chicken leg, and sucking marrow out the bone from pork ribs. I also often joke about wanting to try exotic meats. Also not a joke.

I want to eat meat because I want the ability to make the choice as an adult. I also want to one day be able to give blood, and I am always turned away for lack of iron. I’m also a lot more tired that I used to be, and can’t help but wonder if meat would help in me just having more energy. I want to eat meat because I think it might be more true to my authentic self, and because it’s ridiculous to continue to not eat it because I have so closely tied my identity to food preference.

That said, I don’t want to eat meat because I am really good at not doing it, and at this point, it’s a source of differentiation and sure, a little pride.

Remember a month ago when I mentioned I felt like I had some PF? Yeah, apparently me either. Admittedly, I’ve been trying to run less often, and am even taking three day breaks from running, alternating in swimming, spin class, elliptical (does that count?) and sometimes a weird old rest day.

Except…

The PF-like thing (why can’t I just admit that PF is what this is? Why am I in denial?) is still going on…and not getting all that better. It’s about the same. Maybe worse? Like, last night I noticed it hurt while I was falling asleep.

Besides lowering my mileage, I also stopped wearing my oldest pair of running shoes (which are a few years old and probably have seen better days) and a pair of minimalist shoes I was trying out, leaving me with one pair of shoes that are okay, but not perfect. According to ye olde Google, one of the best things I can do is get a pair of running shoes with better cushioning and support — as someone who has been running in shoes with little of both of those things for years, this is an annoying change.

So two things:

1) This weekend, I’m going to go find me some better running shoes. I have a job. I can incur this cost. And it’s going to be worth it.

2) I’m going to take a week off from running.  I know. I’m not excited about it either. But the good news is, I’m already three workouts in — Thursday, Friday, and today (hence all that rain swimming I did. Dear lord, if I hadn’t rain run last weekend I would not have been able to control myself. I almost cried walking outside this morning to hit the pool). And the better news is, I’m having a wisdom tooth extracted early next week, meaning I was going to be out of commission at least one day, maybe two of the week long no-run.

Getting healthy from an injury has never been my forte. But I want to run the Oakland Half Marathon and feel good knowing I’m not destroying my foot.

And besides, rain swimming isn’t so bad. Even if it was indoor rain swimming.

 

At first, I thought it was my dreams that had woken me up at 3:00am last night.

See, in dreamland, I’d suddenly sprouted a new finger below my old finger, much like one gets a new tooth below a baby tooth. In fact, I also was suddenly sprouting a new tooth. Concerned, I tried to get a same-day appointment at a health center, but was told that I had to be there in ten seconds or would have to wait a few hours. With my old finger dangling precariously and my old tooth looser than a caught thread, I ran through the building’s doors…only to find that I had run into a mansion, and the fastest way to the hospital was to run through the mansion, opening doors as I went. So I did, and the mansion’s owner, who was in a wheelchair, seemed to know me and kept pace with me, saying he’d close the last door behind me. I got to the last door, which was through a closet, then turned around and said to the man, “Well, doesn’t this feel like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?”

“Go!” he hollered me. I unbolted the door and went through, trying to shut the door behind me but managing to catch the man’s nightshirt in the door. I tried to reopen the door but he was holding it shut. “Just go on, I’ve got it,” he said, muffled. I was in the middle of the hospital — apparently this guy had a secret access door he didn’t want people to notice, lest they think it was a bathroom or an office and constantly be trying to get into it.

Anyway. I thought that was the reason I woke up. But as I shuffled over to get a glass of water, I suddenly heard something glorious. It was the very light, very familiar yet not oft heard sounds of rain tapping. On the ground. On the building. On cars below me. I stuck my arm out the window and sure enough — there was a steady drizzle.

Let’s just say trying to sleep for the next few hours was hard. I kept waking up, making sure the rain was still pattering, and drinking lots of water because darn it if the kale and nutritional yeast fest I’d had for dinner hadn’t left me parched. At 6:30 I finally got out of bed and got dressed slowly, knowing I’d want to wait until it was light out to actually go running. On went the famed tight workout pants. On went a slim t-shirt. On went a jacket and a headwarmer.

At 7:00am, I left my apartment. The hallway smelled faintly of weed. “Someone is wake and baking on this rainy morning!” I thought gleefully. As I moved down the stairs, each floor the scent became stronger until I realized that the foggy-headed people were actually transients sitting on our stoop.

“Good morning!” I bellowed to them as I came outside.

“Heyyyyy,” they replied.

“Oh my god, girl, are you going running in the rain?” the woman said, while the man took another hit.

“Yep!” I said, getting ready to start my iPod.

“Don’t get sick! Oh, you’re crazy. I’m gonna worry about you!” she said.

I smiled, assured her I’d be fine, and thought about how freaking lucky I was  to be able to take a rain run and know I could come home and be dry. She didn’t seem to have that luxury. I said a small prayer of gratitude, then let Al Jackson and State of the Reunion lead me into an hour and twenty minute run.

It was glorious. The rain fell softly. The rain fell less softy and beat on my face almost like hail. The rain fell softly again. I dodged puddles. I grinned at the very few other runners who were out. I powered up hills as though I’d been given a turbo charge. I let the rain hide my tears when a story came on about the Sacramento Kings (seriously, if you like sports at all it will make you choke up). I let the rain cool me as I got warm. I thought about how I felt truly hydrated for the first time in as long as I could remember.

And back at home, I did indeed have a hot shower waiting for me.

photo (53)

A very happy, sopping wet, post-rain run me!

PF

No, that title isn’t missing a “Changs” at the end of it, though to be honest, I’d actually prefer it did — despite the fact that I loathe PF Changs. Which isn’t fair, as I only went there once, and there was definitely a monkey from the Build-a-Bear factory who joined Tami, Ryan and I at our table, wearing a sweater vest and everything. So, it’s been a long time.

In runner speak, PF is Plantar Fasciitis. It’s so common/dreaded, it has its own acronym. And honestly, though I’ve heard tale of PF, I never thought much about it. Even when I worked at the running store in Orange County, and PF was this thing that was hush-hush whispered about, complete with special shoe inserts. By “didn’t think much about it” I mean, “I actually had no idea what it was.” It had to do with feet. And orthotics. And maybe older people? Maybe not.

A few months ago, I noticed that I occasionally had a light pain in my heel. Nothing crazy. Nothing I even bothered to pay attention to. Until it occurred to me that it wasn’t clearing up on its own. The dull, barely-there, practically indescribable feeling was just…usually there for the first few steps of my run, sometimes even hanging out on my walk to or from the office.

I’m not even sure what inspired me to Google “Plantar Fasciitis” (and I’m sure the devs at my job could show you my search history and prove to you I couldn’t even spell the damn thing) but during a moment when I needed a break from copywriting, I looked it up. And what do you know…symptoms include:

  • The classic symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain when you take your first steps after getting out of bed or after sitting for a long period of time.
  • Pain at the beginning of exercise that gets better or goes away as exercise continues but returns when exercise is completed.

Um. Crap. Heel pain – check. Pain that gets better during exercise but then comes back? Check. Regardless of what the good old internet said, I consulted with Dr. Dad, just to be sure. I emailed him my symptoms and asked what he thought. Dr. Dad’s response:

It does sound like plantar fasciitis.  It could have arisen for no apparent reason.  It could be short term, or it could last a long time.  I had a recent experience that lasted for 6 months.  Initially, I could hardly walk.  It is not always that severe, however.  The best medicine is rest and ibuprofen.  I don’t think that you want to do a lot of resting, however.  A heel lift in your shoe may help.  I have some here, or sometimes, using some neoprene shaped to the heel of your shoe will work.  I suggest that you try to switch to biking for awhile.  I would not aggravate it too much.  There is my quick, off the top answer. 

Rest? Ibuprofen? Switching to biking?! Oy vey. Rest and recovery has never been my strong suit — and with the Oakland Half Marathon approaching, the last thing I want to do is take myself out of the running game.

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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