Poison ivy

This poison ivy has brought back the anxiety crazies.

I noticed the first spot on my arm on Wednesday, July 5. By the end of that day, I had a big patch on my right hip and some spots on my inner thigh. For the next few days, some smaller spots showed up all along my arms, stomach and upper thighs. Since the biggest spots were on my right hip and upper inner thigh, I figured that the poison ivy oil was on my shoes and when I put my shorts on, it transferred to the inside of my shorts and onto my body.

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I threw out those shorts (they were old and not good for running anymore anyway).

For the record, I always take my shoes off before I change my shorts. Except the Sunday before I hadn’t. Because I usually change out of my sweaty wet clothes in the woods at the trail head. But the day before I’d found a tick crawling on my shoe when I did that. And a few days before that, I’d found a tick attached to me. So I didn’t feel like changing in the woods. Instead, I pulled off the Blue Ridge Parkway at a picnic area to change. It was still fairly early in the morning though, so it was deserted. Ever since I’d read about the Seattle runner who was attacked in a bathroom, I’ve been leery about deserted restrooms. I really wanted to get out of my soaked clothing, though. So I went in and quickly checked all the stalls. I then changed as fast as I possibly could, while standing with my hand holding the main door closed. So I didn’t take my shoes off. Until I got back to my car. Then I put them on the floor in the back of my car. Then probably into an old grocery bag with the rest of my wet clothes to carry into the house.

It wasn’t until this Tuesday, a full week after finding the first spot that I started thinking about everything that I and my shoes may have come into contact with, though. I started thinking about this because after a few glorious days of not finding any new spots, some new patches showed up on my wrist and lower thighs.

Since my last major anxiety flare up, I’ve been doing really well! I can’t say exactly what I’ve been doing to get it in check, but I think the main thing was cutting way back on my training. I’m pretty sure that I was over-training last summer, trying to follow my half-ironman training plan. I also started doing gentle yoga everyday (that only lasted a couple of weeks) and cut way down on caffeine. I still make 6+ cups every morning, but I only use 2 scoops of regular and the rest decaf.

But dealing with this poison ivy is making me feel pretty crazy again.

It’s not helping that I’m not getting much sleep because the itchiness is keeping me awake. And thinking that everything I touch could possibly have urishiol on it is driving me mad.

Today I scrubbed down both pairs of my running shoes with technu, and then washed them in the washing machine. I also used the technu to scrub down my steering wheel and seat belt, and washed both of my backpacks and all of my reusable grocery bags, because any of them may have been on the floor of my car. The hairbrush that I keep in my car and my windshield visor are on the floor now, and since I don’t want to touch them, I just plan on leaving them there indefinitely.

Watching this You-Tube video initially made me feel a little better, but now I’m scrubbing my hands three times after I touch anything. Soon I may not have any skin left to scrub. The video said the Dawn dish soap works better than anything else, so I used some from a bottle that someone had left in my apartment long before I moved in. The date on it was 2009. After scrubbing my raw, open-sore arms with the stuff, I became paranoid that it was contaminated with god-knows-what and all of my sores were going to get infected, so I doused them with alcohol and went and bought a new bottle.

See? Crazy.

None of this has kept me from running in the woods, though. I’m heading to the mountains tomorrow. I’ll just be scrubbing like crazy afterward.

And searching for ticks.

 

When it’s all just a little bit too much

Tomorrow morning, I should be doing my first iron distance triathlon. I paid the exorbitant entry fee and spent the last four months training for it.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Last Friday, I threw my back out reaching for my water bottle on what was supposed to be my last long ride before the race. I spent most of last week lying in bed. It was Monday before I could go from lying down to standing up (or standing up to lying down) without crying.

My back still aches, but I can walk now. Yesterday I went for a short swim. But I still can’t bend down. There is no way that I could bike 56 miles and run 13.1. It’s possible that I could do the 1.2 mile swim, but I’d be worried that my back would seize up in the middle of the river and I’d drown. And I’d just be depressed that I couldn’t do the whole race, anyway.

On Monday (when I was still mostly bed-ridden), I found out that my divorce had been finalized the week before, which made me very sad. It also left me without health insurance until October.

The next day, I found out that Pignoli, my favorite little owl at the Wildlife Center, had died the day before (on the same day that I’d found out about my divorce). Pignoli had been Kurt’s favorite, too. We had “adopted” her once as a fundraiser for the center. The timing was more than I could take. I cried for a good long time. For Pignoli. And for my marriage.

Such a stressful time was probably not the best time to train for a half ironman. I think I was doing it as a distraction. The intense training didn’t leave much time to think about anything else. But, it has also taken a toll on me emotionally. I’ve been anxious, on edge, and fearful.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with for most of my life. But the feeling of being constantly on edge and fearful is new.

scaredy-cat
from http://www.sketchedout.com

A stranger knocked on my door the other night and I hid on the floor for a while, then put chairs against the doors.

I’m guessing that’s not normal behavior.

I’ve always gotten up early to go run. Usually by myself and in the dark. These past few months, I’ve been putting a whistle in my mouth and carrying pepper spray in my hand just to walk out to my car to go to the gym in the morning.

A really scary and presumably stray dog chased me on one of my long bike rides and ever since I’ve been on edge every time I ride, worrying that I’ll be chased again. The ride last Friday when I hurt my back was the first one I’d done solo since the incident. I was feeling pretty nervous about it.

dog

There have also been a few social engagements that have caused me anxiety for days in advance.

worthless
from http://www.akirakirai.deviantart.com

And then there was the time I thought I was being murdered on my run.

I’m telling you all of this because I can’t help but think that if I’d been a little less tense, I might not be missing my race tomorrow.

And because I don’t want to live like this.

I guess it’s time to slow down, take some deep breaths, and work on regaining my mental and physical strength. Maybe actually confronting some of the things I’ve spent so much energy avoiding.

For the next couple of months, I’m going to make reading, doing yoga, walking in the woods, picking apples and sitting on the porch my top priorities.

I’m hoping that’s enough to take the edge off.

Seen on the run (August 21, 2016)

I was leaning through the fence trying to get a picture when I heard two loud pops and was thrown back onto the ground. I was sure that I was being shot at. It felt like the bullets had hit my head. Surprised that I was able to run, I was nonetheless up and running as fast as I could, screaming “Help! Aaaaah! Help me!”. I 100% believed that I had been shot. When I was pretty sure that whoever had shot at me wasn’t following me, I searched for blood and couldn’t believe there wasn’t any. I was still pretty sure I was going to die.

Have you been reading the news lately? Several women runners have been murdered this summer. At least one was shot in the back of the head. I don’t need to read these stories.

Do you see that wire behind the fence in the picture? It’s electric. I didn’t know that.

I had unwittingly electrocuted myself.

Very embarrassing in hindsight, but absolutely terrifying at the time.

Finding Meaning

Lately I just can’t seem to shake a nagging feeling that there may be more to life than just running.

I came across an interesting article last week written by Charles Eisenstein, and while I’m not sure I agree with everything he says, I definitely think the man is onto something.

mutinyHere is an excerpt:

The unspoken goal of modern life seems to be to live as long and as comfortably as possible, to minimize risk and to maximize security. We see this priority in the educational system, which tries to train us to be “competitive” so that we can “make a living”. We see it in the medical system, where the goal of prolonging life trumps any consideration of whether, sometimes, the time has come to die. We see it in our economic system, which assumes that all people are motivated by “rational self-interest”, defined in terms of money, associated with security and survival. (And have you ever thought about the phrase “the cost of living”?) We are supposed to be practical, not idealistic; we are supposed to put work before play. Ask someone why she stays in a job she hates, and as often as not the answer is, “For the health insurance.” In other words, we stay in jobs that leave us feeling dead in order to gain the assurance of staying alive. When we choose health insurance over passion, we are choosing survival over life.

The article offers an interesting way of looking at how we are living our lives.

I’ve never been motivated by money. Working at a job I hate to buy things I don’t care about and don’t want has never made any sense to me.

But, if my goal in life is not to buy the best car and biggest house I possibly can, what is my goal?

To be happy?

Is that selfish?

Not any more selfish than making money to buy things is. But is it any better?

I can’t help but wonder if all of my “injuries” of late have been my subconscious trying to tell me that training like a mad woman for race after race isn’t getting me any closer to finding meaningful purpose in life.

Interestingly, while I was in the middle of writing this post, Erica D. House (who I follow on twitter) posted a link to a blog post she had written a few years ago, which seemed to go hand in hand with the “Mutiny of the Soul” article by Eisenstein that I was trying to write about.

In the post, she shows a graph from her Human Growth and Development textbook that illustrates the answers given by college students about what they value most in life. According to the chart, in 1966, 85% of the students polled said that developing a meaningful philosophy about life was essential. Only about 40% felt that way about being very well off financially. By 2006, those values had switched: 70% said being very well off financially was essential and less than half felt that way about developing a meaningful philosophy about life.

As a society, we seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

But what can I do to make my life more meaningful?

Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve got a few ideas. I’m hoping to put some of those ideas into action. I’ll be sharing them with you in a new category of posts which I’m calling “Simplicity and Meaning.”

And the diagnosis is: Certifiable

Well, not exactly, but it feels that way.

The weekend after the Frostbite 15K, the top of my foot started hurting. After a couple of painful runs, I started worrying that it might be a stress fracture, so I called and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Wilder.

My appointment was this morning.

He poked around on my foot and had me stand on my tip-toes and hop on my foot. Of course I felt no pain, which made me feel like a crazy person. Even though nothing he did elicited any pain whatsoever, he still wanted X-rays.

The X-rays showed nothing.

I was happy, don’t get me wrong, but a small part of me was just the tiniest bit disappointed. I wanted solid evidence that there was something wrong.

Even though there is a reasonable explanation for the pain, without proof, part of me still wonders if it’s all in my head.

Dr. Wilder doesn’t think it’s in my head. Although, if we’re being honest, he doesn’t know me very well. His theory is that lingering tightness and swelling from my sprained ankle is causing the irritation on the top of my foot.

He prescribed Meloxicam (a non-steroid anti-inflammatory) and told me to get an ankle brace and wear it all the time.

IMG_20150205_155950_431He wants me to take the rest of this week (and this weekend) off from running, but says I can do half my training volume for the next week as long as the pain doesn’t get any worse.

I went to Physical Therapy this afternoon. The therapist agreed with Dr. Wilder that my ankle is tight. He spent some time loosening it up, then gave me some stretches and exercises to do.

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I felt like I was being cautious with my training.

Here is what I was doing following the Frostbite 15K and leading up to my latest injury:

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Week Eleven (of my 24 week training program)

Monday: scheduled cross-training
Actual: rest day

Tuesday: scheduled rest day
Actual: easy 6 miles

Wednesday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: 6am cycle class

Thursday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: easy 8 miles

Friday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day

Saturday: scheduled 16 mile long run
Actual: 9.25 easy miles (with O-hill X 2)
I didn’t feel recovered enough to do a 16-miler.

Sunday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: 6.55
Pretty much as soon as I started running, the top of my right foot hurt. It was only about 15 degrees out and I really didn’t want to stop and deal with it, but after about a mile I had to do something. I tried loosening up my shoelaces. That didn’t help. I tried taking my metatarsal insert out. That didn’t help either. I ended up cutting the run short.

Week 12

Monday: scheduled cross-training
Actual: 6 am cycle class

Tuesday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day
I was pulled over by a cop on my way to work at 4:45 am (!!!) I ended up just getting a warning because one of my headlights was out, but it was NOT a very good start to an already stressful day. By mid-morning my throat was sore and I knew I was coming down with a cold.

Wednesday: scheduled 7 miles with 5 @ tempo pace
Actual: rest day
Between the hurt foot and the cold, I knew I needed a rest day.

Thursday: scheduled easy 6 miles
Actual: 6.2 virtually pain-free miles on the treadmill

Friday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day

Saturday: scheduled 20 mile long run
Actual: 5.1 miles
I was so frustrated that the pain was back after my run on Wednesday had gone so well. Both times I’d felt the pain I’d run outside wearing my trail shoes, so I decided to try wearing my regular shoes on Sunday.

Sunday: scheduled easy 7 miles
Actual: 2 miles
The pain came back 2 miles into my run and it was the worst it had ever been. It was 20 degrees out, but I walked the two miles back to my car.

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If I’m being honest, this last set-back has left me feeling pretty unmotivated. I’ve been stuck in a cycle of negative thinking for a couple of years now. It’s time to make some changes, but I’ll leave that for another post.